May 22, 2013
AP/ABC News, 05/21/2013
A Truth Commission investigating human rights abuses under Brazil’s military dictatorship says that those it finds guilty of torture could be brought to trial.
A 1979 amnesty law protects civilians and military personnel from liability for politically motivated crimes committed during the 1964-1985 military regime. But commission coordinator Rosa Cardoso says they could be tried by the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
She notes that “there are no statutes of limitations for crimes committed against humanity.” And adds, “Amnesties are not valid under international law.”
May 21, 2013
Fabiola Ortiz – IPS, 05/20/2013
In contravention of international law, in Brazil trafficking in human beings remains invisible and unpunished, which encourages the practice of trafficking for sexual exploitation, forced labour, illegal adoption and the trade in human organs, according to experts.
Local laws punish drug trafficking more severely than human trafficking. The sale of drugs carries penalties of between five and 15 years, while trafficking of persons for sexual exploitation is punished with a maximum sentence of eight years, with work release allowed.
“Human trafficking is still an invisible crime. What we have here now is real impunity,” judge Rinaldo Aparecido Barros, a member of the National Council of Justice’s working group on human trafficking, told IPS.
May 21, 2013
Paige McClanahan – The Guardian, 05/21/2013
Biofuels have long been hailed as one of the potential answers to climate change. Their environmental credentials are controversial, but a handful of countries are now looking at them from another angle entirely: they want to use biofuels to try to reduce poverty among rural smallholder farmers.
Such efforts are in full force in Brazil, a country that is home to both a sizeable biofuels industry and about 4.1m small-scale family farms. But while some of the country’s biofuels policies have fallen short, others have proved a boon to the rural poor. Smallholder farmers have seen their incomes rise thanks to the introduction of more progressive standards and new rules on contract negotiations.
“The numbers show that the farmers in Brazil … have been earning far more than they were before – not only in absolute quantities, but also as a percentage of the whole value of the [biofuels production] chain,” says Mairon Bastos Lima, a PhD researcher at the Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Amsterdam and the author of a recent briefing paper (pdf) that looked at the social impacts of biofuels polices in Brazil, India, and Indonesia. Bastos Lima describes the Brazilian biofuels policies as “the best example” he has seen.
May 15, 2013
Andrew Downie – The Christian Science Monitor, 05/14/2013
A decade after Brazil tightened rules on weapons sales and two years after a lone gunman shot 12 people dead at a Rio de Janeiro school, Brazil’s Congress is trying to loosen legislation on gun ownership that critics say could cause the number of homicides to rise sharply after a period of relative stability.
The number of homicides in South America’s largest nation fell by 2,000 in 2004, the first such fall in 12 years, thanks largely to the Disarmament Statute, legislation that made it harder to buy guns and slapped tougher penalties on those caught in possession. The number of gun deaths fell by a similar amount the year after, as well, Brazil’s Justice Ministry said.
However, with the government focused more on growth and infrastructure issues and preparing the country to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, gun control has ceased to be a priority says Antonio Rangel, a researcher who coordinates the Arms Control Project at Viva Rio, a well-known NGO.
May 15, 2013
Brian Winters, Caroline Stauffer – Reuters, 05/14/2013
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has ordered her government to stop confiscating farmland to create new Indian reservations, government officials say, a policy reversal with major implications for one of the world’s top agricultural producers.
Brazil has in recent decades set aside about 13 percent of its territory for indigenous tribes. Vast additional areas, including prime territory for the production of soy, beef, sugar and other commodities, are under consideration for possible transfer.
That policy has been hailed as one of the world’s most progressive but had caused mounting clashes in recent months as thousands of farmers were evicted from land they had been cultivating, in some cases for decades.
May 6, 2013
The Economist, 05/04/2013
The biggest building site in Brazil is neither in the concrete jungle of São Paulo nor in beachside Rio de Janeiro, which is being revamped to host the 2016 Olympics. It lies 3,000km (1,900 miles) north in the state of Pará, deep in the Amazon basin. Some 20,000 labourers are working around the clock at Belo Monte on the Xingu river, the biggest hydropower plant under construction anywhere. When complete, its installed capacity, or theoretical maximum output, of 11,233MW will make it the world’s third-largest, behind China’s Three Gorges and Itaipu, on the border between Brazil and Paraguay.
Everything about Belo Monte is outsized, from the budget (28.9 billion reais, or $14.4 billion), to the earthworks—a Panama Canal-worth of soil and rock is being excavated—to the controversy surrounding it. In 2008 a public hearing in Altamira, the nearest town, saw a government engineer cut with a machete. In 2010 court orders threatened to stop the auction for the project. The private-sector bidders pulled out a week before. When officials from Norte Energia, the winning consortium of state-controlled firms and pension funds, left the auction room, they were greeted by protesters—and three tonnes of pig muck.
Since then construction has twice been halted briefly by legal challenges. Greens and Amerindians often stage protests. Xingu Vivo (“Living Xingu”), an anti-Belo Monte campaign group, displays notes from supporters all over the world in its Altamira office. James Cameron, a Hollywood film-maker, has chimed in to compare Brazil’s dam-builders to the villains in “Avatar”, one of his blockbusters.
April 29, 2013
The UN has appointed a Brazilian general credited with bringing a Haiti slum under control to lead peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Gen Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz will lead 20,000 troops, including a new combat force charged with targeting rebels in the east of the country.
This is the most offensive mandate given to any UN peacekeeping force.
April 15, 2013
Shasta Darlington – CNN, 04/15/2013
Brazil has delivered only four of the six stadiums that will be used in June’s Confederations Cup, considered a dress rehearsal for next year’s World cup, on time.
One of the venues — Recife’s Arena Pernambuco — opened just a day before FIFA’s April 15 deadline, which comes precisely two months ahead of the start of the continental competition.
The other three cities that succeeded in delivering arenas before the deadline are Fortaleza, Salvador and Belo Horizonte, which are all now scheduling games to test the facilities.
April 15, 2013
Joao Fellet – BBC Brasil, 04/14/2013
In the heart of a shelter packed with immigrants in the Brazilian state of Acre, about 30 men try to concentrate despite the noisy crowd.
Sitting on their mattresses, they read and pray quietly.
“Every day we ask God to shorten our stay here,” says Ahmadou Thiao from Senegal.
April 4, 2013
Al Jazeera/Agencies, 04/03/2013
Jose Claudio da Silva and his wife Maria do Espirito Santo had for years campaigned against loggers and ranchers who force slave labour to clear-cut large swaths of the Amazon.
The couple were killed in a May 2011 ambush near the Amazonian town of Maraba.
Antonio Filho, a member of Brazil’s Catholic Church-affiliated Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) who is monitoring the trial, said Wednesday’s trial would last until the following day.