Festive Left Friday Blogging: Presidential selfies, LatAm style

Call them the anti-Kardashians. These are the people whose selfies we actually WANT to see, precisely because they’re not vapid and self-absorbed, seeking all the eyeballs all the time. They’re too busy doing great things for their countries. Like this guy here:

pepe-mujica-selfie

Yup, that cool dude is none other than Pepe Mujica, the president of Uruguay, playing a cameo role in a selfie by Ramón Farías, a Chilean parliamentary deputy, at the inauguration of Michelle Bachelet. Wrote Farías on his tweeter: “How are we with this little photo. With President Mujica. My idol.”

Here he is with Evo, “the president who didn’t want to be absent”:

evo-selfie

Jeebus. Even those crappy little cellphone cameras can’t make Evo look bad. Nothing can.

And here’s another president who always looks amazing:

correa-selfie

Rafael Correa…demonstrating how he came to be known here as El Ecuadorable.

And here’s Dilma:

dilma-selfie

Meanwhile, in Venezuela, another head of state was also getting in on the trend:

maduro-selfie

Yup, that’s Madurito, getting into it with Sean Penn…and the prime minister of Haiti, Laurent Lamothe. Glad to see him having fun, it’s been a rough month for him.

(Thanks to Anthony for alerting me to the Farías selfies. PS: Give Ramón Farías a follow on the tweeter, he follows back!)

Music for a Sunday: I photographed you with my Rolleiflex

João Gilberto sings “Desafinado”. The title means “Off Key”, and it’s actually supposed to sound like that. But meticulous artist that he is, João is in fact perfectly on, even when he sounds a little off. He seems off-beat, too, but listen carefully — he meant to do that. “This is bossa nova, this is totally natural.” Indeed.

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Fidel among friends

Leaders from all over Latin America and the Caribbean converged on Havana this week for the CELAC summit. And some of them made time to pay a visit to an old friend who is no longer president himself, but still very much a leader:

fidel-friends

I see at least three familiar faces in there: Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua), Rafael Correa (Ecuador) and Evo Morales (Bolivia). And look who else stopped by:

dilma-fidel

Yes, that’s Dilma! And even the president of Mexico was all agog at the prospect of meeting Fidel:

For nearly an hour, Cuban leader Fidel Castro evoked for Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto his time in Mexico during the 1950s, when he was preparing there to make revolution in his land.

“It was a very cordial conversation, recalling fundamentally what for him was Mexico’s relationship to Cuba, his time in Mexico, and recalling various moments from his stay here,” said Peña of the meeting with Fidel.

At three o’clock on Thursday, upon returning from Cuba after attending the second summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), Peña spoke of his impressions of the encounter, during which he met and conversed with the Cuban commander.

“I saw him at an already evidently very advanced age, but very well, very lucid. And yes, tired too, because I understand he had already met with other heads of state. For me, as I said, it was my first experience, the first time I was in Cuba, and had the opportunity to meet with a personage of Latin American history and the history of humanity in recent years,” Peña said.

He also denied the rumor that during the chat, Fidel Castro had made some kind of petition to him with reference to the return to power of the PRI in Mexico, or the deterioration of bilateral relations with PAN governments.

“There was absolutely nothing. Really, it was a very cordial chat, of remembrance, about what Mexico represents and has meant to him, his experiences and relations with Mexico, but referring more to several years ago,” insisted Peña.

He commented that for his part, he shared with Castro his impressions of CELAC and above all, emphasized to him the sense of his presence in Cuba to reaffirm the ties of fraternity and friendship which have historically united the two countries.

After the meeting, Peña Nieto paid an official visit to president Raúl Castro, who received him with honors in the Palace of the Revolution.

Regarding this final point of his agenda on the island, Peña said that the two governments have committed to exploring greater rapprochement and Mexican investments in Cuba, amid the process of economic and social reforms “which they are bringing about there”.

Translation mine.

So, how about that? Even a right-wing Mexican head of state couldn’t pass up the opportunity to meet with the old barbudo. And why would he? Fidel’s relationship to Mexico goes back longer than Peña’s been alive. He did his planning and recruiting in Mexico City, and launched the Cuban revolution from there when he and 80 others cast off on the Granma. And he is legendary there.

As well he ought to be.

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Lula’s back!

lula-speaking

It’s been a while since we heard from this guy. But it’s nice to see that Lula is still active and involved, despite his recent brush with cancer. And get a load of what he has to say:

Former president of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, expressed his support for the protests of the social movements in his country, and emphasized that these demonstrations are the expressions of a people demanding more in that South American country.

“Long live the protests, that’s how things get done; it is important to improve healthcare, and many other things,” said the former head of state.

Lula said that, unlike in Europe, where citizens are mobilizing so as not to lose basic services, in Brazil the demonstrations are taking place in order to demand more healthcare, education, and investment in social services.

During his speech, Lula opposed only the position of the youth who reject politics and parties.

“The worst thing that can happen in the world is that the people reject politics; there is nothing in the world’s experience in which the negation of politics led to a better result,” Lula pointed out.

He also stated that the movements are reflections of social successes, both economic and political.

“It’s completely natural that the young, especially those who have obtained things that their parents never had, want more — above all, cleaner and more transparent public institutions,” Lula said.

The former president, who governed from 2003 to 2010, joins the current president, Dilma Rousseff, who has also expressed support for the demonstrations, and who has committed to deepening the social changes the population demand. Lula also supported Rousseff’s proposal of a plebiscite, so that the people can express opinions on the most important topics of political reform. The plebiscite is to be held in 2014.

Translation mine.

So while the media moan gloom and doom about “riots” in Brazil (and remember, a riot is just a protest that the cops showed up to break heads in), Lula is looking forward. And he’s urging others to do the same, and work in that direction. Considering the strides Brazil made under him (and Dilma, too), the prognosis is good. Remember that the next time you hear yet another horror story out of the largest country in South America, folks.

International prostitution ring busted in Spain

prostitution-ring-barcode

A human-trafficking victim’s wrist, crudely tattooed with a “bar code” and the “debt” her traffickers claim she “owed” them, used to force her into prostitution. Yes, this happens in Spain.

It’s an all too familiar story of human trafficking: women lured to western Europe with promises of jobs, and not allowed to return home until they’ve paid off their “debts” to the mobsters who brought them there to be prostituted in brothels and “nightclubs”. We’re already familiar with horror stories of women from Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe being trafficked. This time, the victims are from South America:

A network dedicated to the sexual exploitation of Brazilian and Venezuelan women in Galicia, Spain, was designed to siphon off profits and send them to Brazil without arousing suspicion, and owned properties worth 3 million euros.

Ten persons have been arrested, six of them in the provinces of Orense and Pontevedra, who were the most responsible in the network, and another four in Brazil, by the Spanish and Brazilian federal police forces. Three of them are now in prison.

The network operated out of nightclubs in Orense and Pontevedra, exploiting women between the ages of 20 and 30, from Brazil and Venezuela. They were offered jobs in Spain where, in order to force them into prostitution, their passports were confiscated, and they were subjected to threats and pressure, not only upon themselves but also their families, according to the Ministry of the Interior.

The nucleus of the group was a family whose head was married to a Brazilian woman. The subject, a native of Orense, was wanted by the judicial authorities for pimping. Brazilian authorities have requested the crime boss’s extradition for pending charges.

The prostitution network was directed by the man, his wife and two sons, and included the woman’s mother.

Translation mine.

The pattern, as we can see, is universal. To keep the women from escaping, their passports were stolen from them. Threats of violence to not only them, but their families back home, ensured their compliance. And since the network had tentacles in two South American countries, it’s quite possible that the thugs could have made good on their threats to the women’s families back home.

And the destruction of the Spanish social safety net no doubt exacerbated the women’s plight, too…even if they could escape their captors, it’s unlikely that they would have found shelter and social welfare adequate to their needs. Most likely, they would have ended up back in prostitution. The demand for prostitutes is so ravenous in western Europe that the few local women who work in the sex trade voluntarily are grossly outnumbered by foreign women…most of them definitely NOT in the trade by choice.

This bust was undoubtedly just a drop in the bucket. And until the demand for prostitutes is brought down, networks like this one will just keep popping back up like mushrooms after a rainstorm.

Music for a Sunday: For the Brazilian Revolution

Posted in Brazil is the Bomb!, Music for a Sunday. Comments Off »

Radical breast cancer preventive surgery common in Brazil

rita-lee

Brazilian pop star Rita Lee knows what Angelina Jolie is going through; she’s been through it herself. And so have many other Brazilian women:

Actress Angelina Jolie caused a great sensation on Tuesday when she announced that she had undergone a double mastectomy to prevent breast cancer. But the procedure is common in Brazil as well. In 2010, singer Rita Lee had her breasts removed, on the advice of her gynecologist. Her mother had died of cancer, and the risk of developing the disease was very high.

“My gynecologist advised me to have my breasts removed, which didn’t make much difference, since mine were already small,” said the singer, interviewed by Istoé magazine, in September 2010. “I prefer to be without breasts and at peace, rather than still have them and be paranoid,” said Lee, who decided not to have reconstruction surgery.

Plastic surgeon and breast specialist João Carlos Sampaio, director of the Brazilian Institute for Cancer Control, said that he performs at least one preventive or prophylactic surgery a week. According to the specialist, the number of such interventions has grown in recent years, as a result of improved surgical techniques and of early diagnostic procedures.

“I recommend it. The result is the same as a breast enlargement,” Sampaio explained, stressing that the scar would be quite small. Before, the patients would ponder more, with fear of suffering some type of mutilation or for esthetic reasons.

João Carlos Sampaio says that he knows of other cases of famous women, including patients of his, who opted to have their breasts removed. He refused to give names for ethical reasons.

Before recommending a preventive surgery for breast cancer, the doctor performs genetic analyses, a genealogy, and pathologic exams to determine if there are pre-cancerous cells. With results in hand, a patent can decide whether to have her breasts removed, take hormone treatments, or only medical follow-ups.

“It’s not obligatory. It’s one option. I always converse with my patients. It’s very important that she understand the risks and the options. Any choice needs to be conscious,” Sampaio emphasizes. “If she has an 87% risk, it’s almost certain that she will have breast cancer,” he says, speaking of the case of Angelina Jolie.

João Carlos Sampaio has developed, and uses in Brazil, a technique more modern than the one used on Angelina Jolie. The actress’s procedure was performed in two phases: first, removal of the breasts, and second, nine weeks later, reconstruction.

Sampaio’s patients have preventive surgery in just one phase. Instead of using an expander, as in Jolie’s case, for weeks, to create space for silicone prostheses, the surgeon lifts the patient’s muscle partially and inserts a type of screen. Then, he implants silicone prostheses and adjusts the size so that the breasts have a natural appearance.

“I was surprised to read that she used the older technique,” Sampaio says, adding that many doctors in the United States use the technique created in Brazil.

The method developed by the Brazilian specialist was published in the 1990s, and has been refined since then.

“I’ve haven’t been using the expander for nearly 20 years. There is no more need for that type of surgery.”

Angelina Jolie’s mother died of cancer at age 56, after nearly a decade of fighting against the disease. The actress had an 87% chance of developing breast cancer, and a 50% chance of contracting ovarian cancer.

Translation mine.

Like Angelina Jolie, Rita Lee lost her mother to breast cancer. Unlike her, she chose not to have reconstruction, as there wasn’t much to rebuild in the first place. Here she is as a teenager in the late 1960s, with her then boyfriend and his brother, as the wildly popular rock-tropicalist trio, Os Mutantes:

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Here, have my earworm.

This has been in my head all day, for reasons understandable if you’ve been reading me lately. Now, let it infiltrate YOUR head:

Oh, you want lyrics too? All righty then:

Working Latin America

The Yankee is afraid that you’ll rise up,
Working Latin America,
I don’t know, why don’t you do it?
The Yankee is afraid of the Revolution,
The Yankee fears the call:
Yankee go home!
Yankee go home…

And rising up over the Amazon,
Comes the rebel cry of the Carioca*,
And comes to unite with his brother,
The Venezuelan worker…

Working Latin America,
Working Latin America,
Latin America…

Lift up in your hands the flag of the Revolution
Working Latin America,
and shout, forcefully:
Yankee go home!
Yankee go home!
Yankee go home!

“Gringo, go home.
The workers of Latin America are telling you:
Gringo, go home!
Yankee go home!”

Lift up in your hands the flag of the Revolution
Working Latin America,
and shout, forcefully:
Yankee go home!
Yankee go home!
Yankee go home!

Translation mine.

*A Carioca is a native of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Since the Brazilian Amazon region borders on Venezuela’s own Amazonas state, there is a geographic connection between the two lands. Alí Primera is making the case for unity between the workers of these two and all other Latin American countries, as well. And I like to think he’d smile if he saw how Chavecito’s election paved the way for Brazil’s Lula and Dilma, who are from the Workers’ Party, and both strong allies of Venezuela…and its workers.

Music for a Sunday: A prayer for Latin America

Maria Bethânia, Caetano Veloso’s sister, puts her unforgettable voice to some powerful lyrics. Here’s my translation:

Grant, my God, grant
That all that separates us
Never bears fruit, never counts
Grant, my God
Grant, my God, grant
That all that binds us
Will be only love of a rare knit
Grant, my God

Grant, my God, grant
That all that separates us
Never bears fruit, never counts
Grant, my God
Grant, my God, grant
That all that binds us
Will be only love of a rare knit
Grant, my God

Grant, my God, grant
That our love will declare itself
Much greater and not stop within us
If the waters of Guanabara
Run down my face
A nation in solidarity won’t stop within us

Grant, my God, grant
A nation in solidarity
Without prejudices, grant
A nation like us

Grant, my God, grant
That our love will declare itself
Much greater and not stop within us
If the waters of Guanabara
Run down my face
A nation in solidarity won’t stop within us

Grant, my God, grant
A nation in solidarity
Without prejudices, grant
A nation like us

A sentiment surely not confined only to Brazil, where this song originates. And by now, that “nation in solidarity” is surely growing throughout Latin America.

Posted in Brazil is the Bomb!, Music for a Sunday. Comments Off »

The “mysterious” death of João Goulart

joao-goulart

It is well known that João Goulart, the popular left-liberal president of Brazil, was overthrown in a military coup that ushered in twenty-one years of fascist military dictatorship, replete with political prisoners (among them, the current president of Brazil, who was a Marxist guerrilla at the time), exiles, murders, tortures and mysterious disappearances. And it’s also well known that he died in exile a dozen years later. But HOW he died has been under dispute ever since. The official version is that he died of cardiac arrest, no doubt despondent over his misfortune, and that was that. But now, we finally see hints that his death, which occurred in the same year that another military coup put generals in charge of Argentina, was no coincidence after all:

For the first time, a Brazilian government has admitted the possibility that the former president, João Goulart, who was deposed by a military coup in 1964, might have been assassinated during his exile in Argentina as part of Operation Condor, the co-ordinated repression by South American dictatorships.

So says the minister of Human Rights for Brazil, Maria do Rosario Nunes, during a public audience of the Truth Commission, which was created by president Dilma Rousseff to investigate the crimes of the military dictatorship (1964-1985).

“There are indications which must not go unrecognized of the responsibility of Operation Condor in something to which we must not close our eyes, which is the very clear possibility that President João Goulart was assassinated,” said the minister of human rights.

Officially, Goulart was declared dead of a heart failure on December 6, 1976, during his exile in the Argentine province of Corrientes, but his family has always maintained that the death had to do with a military conspiracy.

“The case must be investigated in depth,” said Nunes.

The Truth Commission has heightened interest in the mystery surrounding the death of the leftist president Goulart, who was ousted on March 31, 1964, by a military coup.

In 2007 and 2012, a Uruguayan former intelligence agent, Mario Barreiro, said that he had been ordered to spy for four years on Goulart in his exile, and that the Brazilian dictator, Ernesto Geisel, considered Goulart a threat to his reign.

Attorney Rosa Cardoso, a member of the truth commission, affirmed that there is “a conjunction of conclusive indicators” which favor the likelihood of a crime.

Senator Pedro Simon, of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), informed that there had never been an autopsy on the body of Goulart.

Translation mine.

Goulart, a “threat to the reign” of a dictator? Certainly. After all, he was only living a little way across the Argentine border; Corrientes is a northern province, largely devoted to agriculture, but also home to a great deal of leftist campesino agitation. Goulart owned land not only there, but in Uruguay as well, where he was agitating as early as 1966 for Brazil’s return to democratic rule. And after the military seized power in Argentina, copying the “success” of the fascists in its big neighbor to the north, that campesino agitation would have increased exponentially…as would “anticommunist” efforts to snuff it out. The presence of a leftist like Goulart, who was popular with Brazilian workers and peasants particularly, would have been intolerable to the junta.

But it wouldn’t do to ship Goulart back to whence he came; the Brazilian generals wouldn’t have that. The reasons could hardly have been clearer: Goulart, the people’s choice, back on home soil, would have spelled mass revolt against a régime the people’s enemies had worked more than a decade to prop up with violence and bloodshed. So Goulart had to be disposed of in some other manner, one that could be passed off as natural causes. (And of course, without any pesky autopsy.)

And since there was plenty of Operation Condor activity afoot in Uruguay too, and Uruguay lay conveniently wedged between Argentina and Brazil, it’s not so far-fetched to assume that the same Uruguayan intelligence agent sent to spy on Goulart for the last four years of his life would have been privy to a thing or two about his death.

In short, a lot of old Condor guano is about to be severely disturbed.