Small Island, Big Problems

Some of Easter Island’s famous Maois. Source: Arian Zwegers, FlickrEaster Island, or Rapa Nui, as it is called by the locals, is the most remote inhabited region in the world. It is located in the Pacific Ocean, more than 3000km from the Chilean mainland. Easter Island makes up the south-eastern point of the Polynesian triangle, which consists of islands in the Pacific, including New Zealand and Hawaii as the south-western and northern points. One might expect the 5000 islanders to lead a happy and peaceful life on their tropical island. Unfortunately, this is far from being true – Rapa Nui has quite a troubled history.

By Christina Welpelo

Chronic Clientelism, Brazilian Style

Brazilians protesting corruption. Source: Metrix Feet, FlickrWith the FIFA World Cup only a few months away, Brazil will soon be the center of world’s attention. The country has made some enormous investments in preparing for the event, yet these investments may not serve the Brazilian population itself. Last June people took to the streets with the trigger being an increase in public transportation fares. This is just the surface of all the issues that underlie the outcry. While a huge amount money is spent on the World Cup, the population has poor access to opportunities within education and healthcare. Brazilians are well familiar with the corruption that continues to prevail in their country and the unequal societal structure has led to clientelism gaining a strong foothold. A particular form of clientelist politics observed in Northeast Brazil gives insight into the complex political environment in the country.

By Ronja Hård

Chile: Unanswered Questions, Missing Reconciliation

Supporters offering their condolence to Pinochet in 2006. Photo by Ryan Greenberg, FlickrSeptember 11th is a day full of history. Not only in the United States, but also in a country in South America: Chile. On the 11th of September 1973, a violent military coup, supported by the US government, brought down the democratically elected Marxist regime led by president Salvador Allende. Augusto Pinochet assumed power and became president of a military dictatorship. A period of horror and fear started for the Chilean people. During the dictatorship from 1973 until 1990, approximately 40,000 people became victims of the dictatorship, more than 3000 people died, another 3000 disappeared and thousands of people were imprisoned, tortured or had to leave the country. In 1990 there was a referendum in which the Chilean people voted against another eight-year term with Pinochet as president. Chile held free elections and returned to democracy.

By Christina Welpelo

Bolivia’s Constitution: A Shift in Power

President Evo Morales has added 411 new articles in the constitution. Source: Sebastian Baryli, FlickrIn 2009, Bolivia held an election that would deeply change the country’s future. Not only did its outcome make the previous republic into a plurinational country recognizing the indigenous people’s rights, but it also made the country drop its catholic attachments to become a secular state. As the first indigenous president of the country, Evo Morales is breaking new ground on how to open up for decentralized freedom, the cultivation of coca, and Amerindian traditions.

By Riccard Andersson

Backbreaking boobs and big butts: Dangerous beauty in Venezuela

The inflated ideal? Photo by: Paul Lowry, Flickr“Inner beauty doesn’t exist. That’s something that unpretty women invented to justify themselves.” This statement comes from a man with huge influence in the beauty industry in Venezuela: Osmel Sousa. He is one of the most prominent men concerning female beauty and body image in Venezuela and is the leader of the immensely popular Miss Venezuela pageant. His vision of beauty is all about gigantic boobs and butts, but how that “perfection” is accomplished is of little importance. As he himself puts it: “If it can be easily fixed with surgery, then why not do it?”

by Lotta Herz

Evicted for Entertainment: Brazil’s 2014 World Cup Prep & Beyond

Rocinha Favela: One of Brazil’s largest slums, lying in prime location next to Rio’s city center. Photo: Wikimedia commonsWith the 2014 FIFA World Cup right around the corner and the 2016 Summer Olympics shortly thereafter, the city of Rio de Janiero in Brazil has been making significant strides to clean itself up and prepare for the estimated 79% increase in international visitors for the games. These preparations include over USD $25 billion to renovate Rio’s Maracana stadium, build a futuristic Olympic Park, improve tourism, and intensify police and security. The poorest areas of Rio have seen significantly positive changes such as the reduction of crime, increased tourism, and the development of restaurants, music venues, and dance clubs. However, as seen in prior instances of global-event preparation, there are always cases of neglect, where the most vulnerable areas of society bear the burden. In the case of Rio, the poorest of the poor are the focal point in preparation for the events, for better and for worse.

by Sofia Murad

Colombia – Glimpses of a Brighter Future.

With the second highest number of internal refugees in the world after Sudan, commonly being referred to as the heart for narco-trafficking and with an armed conflict containing no less than four separate players, the portrait of Colombia in media tends to be rather grim. The man whose job it is to turn this dire situation around is president Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, a diplomat by nature and part of one of the most influential families in the country. Some say his feet never strayed far from the path to the presidential palace and others say he is the optimal successor to previous president Àlvaro Uribe Velez. One fact that stands indisputable, however, is that expectations of him are high, possibly even higher than the mountains surrounding his high seat in Bogotá. If Santos wants to go down in history as the second liberator of Colombia after Simón Bolívar, unprecedented measures need to be taken.

Building Belo Monte

Brazilian President Dilma Vana Rousseff. Photo: Pablo Manriquez. flickr– One of the Amazon’s most controversial development projects  

The Brazilian government is moving ahead with plans to build what will be the world’s third largest hydroelectric project – the Belo Monte Dam. The Belo Monte project is highly controversial, and has been challenged by indigenous groups and environmental organisations for more than twenty years. Nevertheless, it is now one of President Dilma Rousseff’s most prestigious projects – but what are the costs for the region and its inhabitants?

The original plans for the Belo Monte project date back to the 1980’s, when Brazil was ruled by the military. Ever since, the following governments have unsuccessfully tried to speed up the project by creating various types of national investment programs. However, the project has begun to move forward more rapidly over the past two years.

The Belo Monte project as a whole includes the building of two dams, two canals, two reservoirs and an extensive system of dikes along the Xingu River, located in the northern state of Pará. With an estimated cost of over 16 billion USD, proponents of the Belo Monte project call it the most competitive alternative for generating electric energy and present it as a clean, modern way of addressing climate change.

Hugo Chávez

HUGO CHÁVEZ IN PORTO ALEGRE, BRAZIL. PHOTO: AGÊNCIA BRASIL. WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Yesterday, Today and Beyond

– A Portrait of the Charismatic President of Venezuela

Closing down radio channels, passing laws confining the liberty of the press, and being accused of an alliance with the FARC guerrillas and squandering Venezuelan oil money like it was his own possession. Still he is the most well known president of the Latin American countries and is compared to the sainted Evita Perón. How is this possible?