News from Mexico, Brazil and Colombia

Tuesday's World Events   —   Posted on September 24, 2013

MEXICO – 100 killed by landslides

La Pintada

La Pintada, where a landslide swept through the centre of the village into a river. (Photo: Zuma/Rex)

More than 100 people have been killed and scores are missing in landslides and flooding caused by heavy rain in Mexico.

The death toll stood at 101, with 68 people missing following a massive mudslide that swallowed half of the village of La Pintada, in Guerrero state, according to Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, the interior minister.

Mexico was hammered by tropical storms Ingrid and Manuel, which left a trail of destruction that damaged tens of thousands of homes, flooded cities and washed out roads.

After regenerating into a hurricane and hitting the northwestern state of Sinaloa late Thursday, affecting 100,000 people and killing three, Manuel finally dissipated over the mountains.

The state of Guerrero was the hardest hit, with at least 65 deaths and its Pacific resort of Acapulco left isolated after the two roads to Mexico City were covered in landslides on Sunday. …

image1056

People walking on a collapsed bridge in Acapulco.

Thousands of tourists trapped in flood-stricken Acapulco for almost a week packed into cars and buses on Friday after authorities reopened the road link to Mexico City following the storms. Traffic piled up as police allowed cars to leave in groups of 50 to avoid huge backups on the “Sun Highway.”

The highway department warned travellers that the trip north, which usually takes around four hours, would last nine to 10 hours, with only a single lane open in some stretches and a diversion to another road. “Thank God we’re leaving, even if there is traffic,” said Imelda Cuéllar Ramirez, a Mexican holidaymaker who was driving out with eight relatives.

More than 40,000 tourists, mostly Mexicans seeking sun during a three-day holiday weekend, were left stranded when the storms struck five days ago. Half the city was flooded, while rising waters brought out crocodiles. Looters ransacked stores.

image1057

Around 24,000 tourists left in airlifts organized by the military and commercial carriers, but tempers flared as they stood in long lines to get one of the precious seats.

While tourists drove out of Acapulco, hundreds of troops and civil protection workers dug with shovels and pickaxes in La Pintada, the coffee-growing village west of Acapulco swamped by a massive mudslide. Officially, 68 people are missing in the village and two people were killed – their bodies were pulled out of the debris – but villagers fear that scores have perished.

The mud collapsed on the village of 400 people during independence day celebrations last Monday (Sept. 16), swallowing homes, a school and church before crashing into the river.

The soldiers and civil protection workers, many wearing surgical masks, removed pieces of broken homes and chopped up fallen trees with machetes.  Helicopters evacuated more than 330 villagers to Acapulco, but a few families decided to stay back, waiting for news on the missing.

BRAZIL – Rousseff calls off state visit to U.S. over spying

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff with President Obama in 2012.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff with President Obama in 2012.

BRASILIA | Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has called off plans for a state visit to Washington in October because of revelations that the United States spied on her personal communications and those of other Brazilians.

Rousseff’s decision, which came despite a 20-minute telephone call from President Barack Obama on Monday night [September 16] in an attempt to salvage the trip, is a big blow to relations between the two biggest economies in the Americas.

Both the White House and Rousseff’s office billed the decision as a mutually agreed postponement, and said a state visit could take place at an unspecified later date. However, two officials with knowledge of Rousseff’s decision told Reuters that such a visit was unlikely to happen anytime soon.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the presidents agreed on the phone the disclosures of alleged U.S. intelligence activities could overshadow their meeting so they decided it would be best to postpone. But U.S. moves to address the surveillance complaints may take months.

“As the President previously stated, he has directed a broad review of U.S. intelligence posture, but the process will take several months to complete,” Carney said.

Ties between Brazil and the U.S. had been improving steadily since President Rousseff [a socialist and former Marxist guerrilla] took office in 2011 and before the revelations that the U.S. National Security Agency had snooped on emails, text messages and calls between Ms. Rousseff and her aides. The spying revelations came from documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

“Illegal surveillance practices intercepting the communication and data of citizens, companies and members of the Brazilian government constitute a serious affront to national sovereignty and individual rights, and are incompatible with democratic cooperation between friendly nations,” the Brazilian government said in a statement.

In the absence of explanations and a “commitment to cease such surveillance activities, the conditions are not in place for the visit to go ahead as previously scheduled,” it said.

U.S. officials said the NSA surveillance was aimed at tracking suspected terrorist activity and did not pry into personal communications, but Rousseff was not convinced.

The trip was expected to be a platform for deals on oil exploration and biofuels technology, and Brazil’s potential purchase of fighter jets from Chicago-based Boeing Co.

A defense contract worth more than $4 billion that Boeing is seeking for the sale of 36 F-18 fighter jets to the Brazilian Air Force could be the main victim of the spying affair. Brazilian officials have said Brazil cannot buy such strategic aircraft from a country it cannot trust.

The spying revelations sparked a political uproar in Brazil that Rousseff could not ignore. A senior government official told Reuters that Rousseff’s top advisers, including her mentor and predecessor as president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, encouraged her to scrap the state visit.

COLOMBIA – Former president Uribe to run for senate

santos_uribe

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos (left), who was former President Alvaro Uribe’s (right) defense minister.

BOGOTA | Former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe, revered by many for crippling the power of the country’s guerrillas, announced Monday [September 17th] he is returning to politics with a run for the Senate, saying the country is a mess and he wants to help fix it.

Uribe, a 61 year old conservative and lawyer by training, served two terms from 2002 to 2010 and left office with high approval numbers after cracking down hard on the leftist terrorist guerrilla army FARC. He has since been a fierce critic of his successor and former defense minister, President Juan Manuel Santos.

He is constitutionally barred from running for another term as president. He will now seek a senate seat in legislative elections in March 2014.

In announcing his bid, Uribe described Colombia under his former defense minister and successor – Juan Manuel Santos – as crime-ridden, a turn-off for investors, mired in bureaucracy, wasteful with taxpayer money and on the verge of yielding to the FARC.

Uribe is vehemently opposed to peace talks the current government is holding with the FARC rebels.

“In this country, authority, the legitimacy of institutions, the trust of the people and business leaders are fading, and social discipline is being lost,” Uribe said.  “We want to help confront the deterioration in security, growing uncertainty for investment, stagnation in a bureaucratic social policy, the waste of official resources …,” he said, adding there was a risk of “delivering the nation to terrorism.”

(The news briefs above are from staff reports posted at London’s Daily Telegraph on Sept. 21 and Reuters and the Global Post on Sept. 17.)

Questions

1. For each of the 3 countries, give the following information: 
a) capital:
b) location/the countries that share its borders:
c) the religious breakdown of the population:
d) the type of government:
e) the chief of state (and head of government if different) [If monarch or dictator, since what date has he/she ruled? – include name of heir apparent for monarch]:
f) the population:

[Find the answers at the CIA World FactBook website. For each country, answers can be found under the “Geography” “People” and “Government” headings.  Go to worldatlas.com for a list of continents.]

NOTE: Before answering the questions below, read the info under “Background.”

2. For MEXICO:

a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) How many tourists were trapped in Acapulco for almost a week?
c) How were approximately 24,000 tourists transported out of Acapulco?

3. For BRAZIL:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) What negative economic impact will the Brazilian president’s cancellation of her White House state visit have on private business, and the government?
c) In March 2011, President Obama went to Brazil for a two-day state visit (before flying to Chile, a close U.S. ally, and then El Salvador). White House officials cast the trip as a way to renew relations with a region that is an emerging market for U.S.-made goods. In a Reuters analysis: “President Rousseff’s decision to call off her upcoming state visit to the White House is an embarrassing setback that will probably stymie cooperation on trade, regional affairs and other issues for years to come. Despite other priorities, namely Syria, Obama spent 45 minutes with Rousseff at a September 5th summit in Russia to try to ease her concerns. He also made a last-minute plea by phone for 20 minutes on Monday.”  Do you think the cancellation of such a high-profile visit, despite two last-minute personal appeals to Rousseff by President Obama, is a negative reflection on Obama’s foreign policy skills, or just an unfortunate result of Snowden’s NSA spying revelations? Explain your answer.

4. For COLOMBIA:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) Read the information about FARC under “Background” below (for more details, visit the link under “Resources.”)  Should Colombia’s president negotiate a truce with FARC guerrillas, or is former President Uribe right to denounce this? Explain your answer.


Free Answers — Sign-up here to receive a weekly email with answers.

Background

MEXICO:  The storms affected 24 of Mexico’s 31 states and 371 municipalities, which are the equivalent of counties. More than 58,000 people were evacuated, with 43,000 taken to shelters. Nearly 1,000 donation centers have been set up around the country, with nearly 700 tons of aid delivered so far. Nearly 800,000 people lost power across the country, though the Federal Electricity Commission said 94% of service had been restored as of Saturday morning. (from London’s Guardian news)

  • BRAZIL:  “Dilma Rousseff became a socialist during her youth, and following the 1964 coup d’état joined various left-wing and Marxist urban guerrilla groups that fought against the military dictatorship. Rousseff was eventually captured and jailed between 1970 and 1972. (from wikipedia)

  • COLOMBIA

    • FARC is a leftist guerrilla organization, self-proclaimed Marxist-Leninist.  The FARC is considered a terrorist group by the Colombian government, the United States, Canada, the Latin American Parliament, and the European Union. (from wikipedia.org)
    • The FARC continues to wage a war of words devoted to Marxist principles, despite the fact that many of its battles are fought with the less idealistic motive of controlling the illicit drug industry. (from tkb.org)
    • FARC is responsible for most of the ransom kidnappings in Colombia; the group targets wealthy landowners, foreign tourists, and prominent international and domestic officials. FARC stepped up terrorist activities against infrastructure in cities before Colombia’s May 2002 presidential election. (from cfr.org)
      (Read about FARC at cfr.org/publication/9272/.)
  • MAP OF LATIN AMERICA:

    image1053

    Resources

    COLOMBIA: Read about FARC at cfr.org/publication/9272/

    MEXICO:  Watch a news report below: