Despite President Dilma Rousseff’s assurances that Brazil will “fully guarantee people’s security” during the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the international community has repeatedly questioned the ability of the government to protect the estimated 600,000 fans due to attend the tournament. Crime levels in Brazil, particularly those related to violent crime, are very high by international standards. Naturally, this poses the most obvious threat to foreign visitors. However, the build-up to the tournament has also been marred by protracted strike action and mass demonstrations in many of Brazil’s major cities. It is important to consider the impact that these unpredictable protests will have on the safety of World Cup fans.read more
Analogies of Frankenstein’s monster have been invoked as Mexican federal forces descend on Michoacán state to prevent vigilante self-defence groups from confronting the Knights Templar drug cartel in Apatzingan city. A threat to security which both the previous and current administrations had a hand in creating, the sudden advance of the self-defence groups has presented Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto with a complex challenge that puts his ambitious plans for reform in jeopardy.
Fuerzas autodefensas – self-defence forces – have featured in rural Mexico for decades, but began to emerge and spread with disquieting frequency in the latter half of 2013. The phenomenon has drawn increased attention, both from the Mexican government and the international community, in the early weeks of 2014, as the rapid vigilante advances seen in Michoacán state have raised concerns that the groups will tip the region over the edge from simmering violence into all-out war.read more
Uncertainty about the future of the government in Honduras was rife the day after the country’s general election was held on 24 November 2013, as both of the main presidential candidates claimed victory after only around a quarter of the votes had been counted. Over two weeks later, despite the official declaration by the country’s electoral tribunal that the ruling Partido Nacional candidate Juan Orlando Hernandez had won, his main rival Xiomara Castro maintains her claim that she is the true president of Honduras. She, along with her husband, former President Manuel Zelaya, led thousands of protesters on 01 December 2013, to demand a full vote recount. The following day, the electoral tribunal agreed to begin a recount of the vote tally sheets compiled at more than 16,000 polling stations, but stopped short of agreeing to a full recount of votes. Castro has since filed a formal request for the election to be annulled.
For over fifty years Colombia has been ravaged by civil war. Triggered by the 1948 assassination of popular socialist leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán and the violent repression of rural communist movements in the 1960s, the conflict has killed at least 220,000 Colombians since 1964 according to a government report. Unofficial statistics place the number as high as 600,000, with an estimated three million people displaced. Although the influence and scope of Colombia’s two largest rebel militias, the ELN and FARC, has significantly decreased since a US-supported government offensive in 2002, both organisations continue to carry out attacks hindering both the economic and human development of the Latin American country. Whilst peace negotiations between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the country’s largest rebel group, are currently being conducted, violence continues to be part of daily domestic interactions. Amid this, the prospects of the peace talks are looking increasingly fragile.read more
As tens of thousands continued to demonstrate in cities across Brazil on 27 June 2013 despite the introduction of a series of government concessions, questions regarding the extent, duration, and future of the protests have materialised at the forefront. With the general elections and major international events, including the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games, all approaching, Brazil’s current domestic situation has placed perceived certainties in flux and attached considerable ambiguities to the Latin American country’s outlook. Whilst it remains difficult to accurately assess the long-term economic and political implications of the protests, given the spectrum of demands and the current infancy of government responses, the demonstrations are looking to promise far-reaching alterations as domestic institutions have been left severely rattled.read more
One adage that often comes to mind when discussing the relationship between Angola and Brazil arises from the legendary words of an old friar by the name of Gonçalo João. According to historical tradition, in 1646 João, a Jesuit missionary, announced quite simply that “there is no Brazil without Angola”. Sadly, however, João was not referencing the “special relationship” in the vein of the purported economic, security and cultural ties described between that of the British and the Americans. João’s words were largely alluding to the horrific trade of human beings, taken from local villages in what is now modern day Angola, and shipped to the South American nation during the Portuguese Empire’s ascension to the Atlantic Slave Trade at the end of the 15th century. To be sure, the abhorrent sale of slaves from Angola became so prolific that at one point, the country was exporting human beings at a rate of “10,000” per year, the vast majority of whom eventually made their way to Portugal’s Brazilian colonies.
Thankfully, in the centuries since, the world and its norms have changed. Slavery is, of course, illegal in both Lucophone nations. Neither Brazil, nor Angola is a colony of Portugal. Indeed, given the influx of Portuguese migrants to both nations, some have even joked that the opposite may be true. Despite such significant developments over the years, the general meaning of João’s statement has not withered away. In fact, by most accounts ties between Angola and Brazil appear to be stronger than ever. Today, both countries have been glowingly labelled by financial wizards as “emerging economies”, with Angola and Brazil each enjoying sustained growth amid a global downturn. Both nations have also struck major security and infrastructure deals, with Brazilian companies in particular investing billions of dollars into developing the Angolan mining sector, among other industries. The two nations are even planning to establish the “South Atlantic Cable System” (as shown above), which, if implemented, would speed up data transfers by bypassing Europe altogether.
Meanwhile, in what some might describe as another bit of economic “revenge”, both countries have been buying up shares in languishing Portuguese companies, with Angola infamously purchasing the formerly government-run Banco Português de Negócios for a measly 30 million Euros (US$39 million). It is these and other financial and political manoeuvres that have led their respective leaders to remark on their nations’ “brotherly” ties. But, as with every brotherly relationship, there comes sibling rivalry.