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Posts Tagged ‘Brazil’

Today in Latin America: November 6, 2015

16 Feared Dead, Hundreds Displaced After Mining Dams Burst in Brazil

Top Story — Two dams holding iron-mine wastewater broke in the southeastern Brazilian state of Minas Gerais on Thursday, flooding the nearby town of Bento Rodrigues with water, mud and potentially toxic mining tailings. Authorities have confirmed one death, though some local news sources report as many as 16 dead and many more missing.

Rescuers continued the search for survivors in the decimated town this morning. Officials said Thursday that 600 residents are being evacuated to higher elevation, but there are also concerns about more enduring effects of contamination to the local water source because of the dams’ proximity to a river.

The incident is likely to reinforce public concerns about Brazil’s expanding infrastructure projects. Estado de Minas, a newspaper in the state’s capital city Belo Horizonte, reports that in 2014 the Minas Gerais State Foundation for the Environment found that 8 percent of structures containing toxic mining tailings in the state are unsafe.

Thursday’s episode echoes controversy about flooding and watershed contamination associated with other mining and hydroelectric projects in the country, some of which have also resulted in mass displacement. At least four similar accidents have occurred in Minas Gerais state since 2001, leaving many dead and causing large-scale environmental damage and homelessness.

A statement issued by the Samarco mining company, which operates the Germano mine where the dams are located, said the cause for the break is still unknown.


North America

Pope Francis is expected to travel to the U.S.-Mexico border in February, according to a top advisor to the pontiff, in a move that would be in line with Pope Francis’ emphasis on immigration reform.

During a rally Thursday in the Puerto Rican capital of San Juan, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called on Congress to ensure Puerto Rico gets its “fair share of Medicaid dollars,” saying the situation on the island was “a humanitarian crisis in the making.” A number of New York politicians, including state Governor Andrew Cuomo, took part in the rally, which called for Puerto Rico’s equal treatment on federal health care.

A 2002 transparency law in Mexico has allowed journalists to expose corruption scandals and investigate the disappearance of the 43 student from Guerrero over this past year, contributing to the Mexican public’s perception that their media is reliable, according to a piece in the Christian Science Monitor.


Haiti’s electoral council announced Thursday the two candidates that will advance to a runoff presidential election on Dec. 27: government-backed candidate Jovenel Moïse and former state construction chief Jude Célestin. Several major candidates, however, have alleged fraud in the days following the Oct. 25 primary election.

Authorities in Haiti have closed St. Joseph Home for Boys, an orphanage in the capital city Port-au-Prince that was founded thirty years ago by a U.S. citizen currently facing accusations that he sexually molested boys under his care.

The Associated Press takes a close look at the recent wave of migration from Cuba to the United States, which has brought some 100,000 Cubans to the United States since 2013, when the Cuban government eliminated the need for exit permits to leave the island.

Billboard interviewed Robin Pedraja, a young Cuban who created his country’s first music magazine, discussing how he navigated loopholes in existing state policy, as well as the current trends and opinions of young people on the island.

Central America

Guatemala’s Congress raised the country’s minimum legal age for marriage in a Thursday vote following pressures from children’s rights groups. The new legal age of 18 was increased from the previous age of 14 for girls and 16 for boys.

Belize’s newly elected Prime Minister Dean Barrow said Thursday that he is confident a territorial disagreement with neighboring Guatemala can be resolved once Guatemala’s President-elect Jimmy Morales assumes office.

El Salvador’s former President Francisco Flores appeared in court Thursday to face charges of embezzlement and the misappropriation of $15 million that Taiwan donated to El Salvador following a 2001 earthquake.

Nicaragua has approved the HKND Group’s environmental and social impact studies for its controversial interoceanic canal project, allowing the Chinese firm to begin the construction process.


Bolivia’s Supreme Court justices voted Thursday to make Justice Pastor Mamani the court’s president, making him the first indigenous person to hold the office.

U.S. carmaker General Motors has announced plans to invest some $100 million in Colombia over the next four years, with plans to export cars to Brazil.

Southern Cone

Argentina’s exchange-traded stock fund is experiencing a boost in investments amid optimism over a potential change in government and its promises to increase growth and check inflation rises.

Eduardo Cunha, Brazil’s speaker of the lower house, will be facing a hearing led by the country’s congressional ethics committee over Cunha’s secret Swiss bank accounts, an investigation that forms part of the greater probe into a large kickback scandal.

Chile’s Interior Ministry acknowledged in a statement Thursday that it is “highly probable” that leftist Nobel-prize winning poet Pablo Neruda was killed in the wake of the country’s 1973 coup, which brought the right-wing dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet to power.

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Bike Angels

Riding a bike is a great way to get around. But sharing the road with cars and trucks is dangerous, especially through the busy streets and highways of Brazil’s cities. Meet the Bike Angels: a group of Brazilian cyclists who teach people how to safely navigate city biking.

Photo by Melaina Spitzer

The Rolezinhos Take Over Brazil’s Malls

If you are a teenager and you live in one of Brazil’s urban informal settlements,or favelas, there’s not a lot of places you can go to hang out with your friends. Recently, teens have taken to organizing rolezinhos – mass meet-ups in upscale shopping malls, organized via social media.

Over time, these innocent gatherings have become something more. As protest movements grow in Brazil in the lead up to the World Cup, the rolezinhos have taken on a political character – a forum for combating the racism and social exclusion that pervades Brazilian society.



Melaina SpitzerMelaina Spitzer is a freelance reporter living in Brazil.  Based in South America since 2008, Melaina has reported from Ecuador, Argentina and Brazil on the environment, human rights, and social conflicts. Her radio reports have aired on the BBC/PRI’s The World, NPR’s Morning Edition, and APM’s Marketplace.  In addition to her work as a journalist, Melaina is the Director of the Academy of the Sea, a non-profit dedicated to socio-environmental education and innovation in Brazil’s coastal communities.




Feature photo by Melania Spitzer

Brazilians Go To The Dogs

If you walk around Manhattan’s Upper East Side, you’ll see many dogs along with the walkers hired to take care of them. You may also notice that a majority of them are speaking Portuguese. Reporter Matt Draper set out to investigate why this niche market is dominated by Brazilians.

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Matt Draper is a multimedia journalist. Draper, who has worked as a freelance writer and editor for many years, has covered a range of subjects: He’s written about senior athletes competing in an ultramarathon in Costa Rica; reported on the financial impact of the World Cup; and covered subway protests in New York City. He received his master’s degree from the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. Draper’s work has been published in the Huffington Post, The Daily, New York Post, Competitor magazine and Sports Business Journal, among other publications.


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