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Posts Tagged ‘latin america

[LINK] “Killer of Chilean folk singer Victor Jara to face US justice”

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Al Jazeera America’s Alfonso Serrano reports.

More than four decades after Chilean folk singer Victor Jara was tortured and executed in Santiago’s Chile Stadium, in the wake of the military coup that brought dictator Augusto Pinochet to power in 1973, an army lieutenant accused of killing the musician will face a civil lawsuit in the United States.

A U.S. district court in Florida agreed this week to hear the case against Pedro Barrientos Nuñez, the former lieutenant now residing in south Florida, who is alleged to have assassinated Jara, the poet and songwriter who became an iconic symbol of the struggle against Pinochet’s regime and one of Latin America’s most prominent protest singers.

[. . .]

Jara was assassinated five days after the U.S.-backed Sept. 11, 1973, coup ousted democratically elected Salvador Allende from power. Jara, a member of Chile’s Communist Party, had served as Cultural Ambassador under Allende. He was also a professor and theater director at Santiago’s State Technical University when it was overrun by military troops a day after the coup.

Jara, along with hundreds of other university teachers and students, was loaded onto a bus and transported to Chile Stadium (subsequently renamed Victor Jara Stadium) before he was recognized by military personnel and separated from other prisoners.

In 2009, former soldiers told a Chilean court that Jara was placed in Barrientos’ custody. Soldiers under the lieutenant’s command tortured Jara before Barrientos allegedly shot Jara to death. A Chilean appeals court in 2009 determined that Jara was killed on Sept. 16 as a result of 44 gunshot wounds.

That same year, Chilean prosecutors indicted Barrientos and seven other men for Jara’s death. Barrientos, however, fled Chile in 1989 and currently resides in Deltona, Florida, and is beyond Chilean court reach. However, Chile’s Supreme Court in 2012 approved an extradition request for Barrientos, and the former lieutenant could one day face a criminal trial in his native country.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 20, 2015 at 9:54 pm

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

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  • blogTO examines the nature of Toronto’s abundant consumption of electricity.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a study of the atmosphere of Wasp 80b.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that Russian rocket manufacturer Energomash may go out of business as a result not of sanctions but of threatened sanctions.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money does not approve of Kenya’s plan to deport Somali refugees.
  • Mark MacKinnon shares an old 2003 article of his from Iraq.
  • The Planetary Society Blog looks at the new Vulcan rocket.
  • pollotenchegg maps, by province, the proportion of Ukrainians claiming Russian as their mother language.
  • Registan argues that NATO and Russia might be misinterpreting
  • Spacing Toronto shares a screed on cyclists.
  • Towleroad notes that Chile now has same-sex civil unions.
  • Transit Toronto notes that the TTC has hired an external corporation to manage the problematic Spadina subway extension.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy argues that libertarians do exist as a distinguishable political demographic.
  • Window on Eurasia examines turmoil in Karelia and terrorism in Dagestan.

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

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  • blogTO shares vintage photos of Weston Road.
  • Centauri Dreams features a guest post on the fast radio bursts that had all astir.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper about the circumstellar disk of AB Aurigae.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes problems with Russia’s development of a stealth fighter.
  • Language Hat links to an examination of the way the words “chikungunya” and “dengue” are used to describe the same disease.
  • Languages of the World takes a look at one dying Russian dialect of Alaska.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money is surprised anyone is surprised Britain is spying on Argentina.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that demand in China and India is already driving research and development.
  • Peter Rukavina looks at the mechanics of the Internet presences of Island political parties.
  • Savage Minds announces the return of the intermittant online anthropological journal Anthropologies.
  • Transit Toronto links to a collection of Greater Toronto Area transit news.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy reacts at length to the finding of the report on Rolling Stone‘s mistaken rape story, noting that the fraternity in question has a good case for libel.
  • Window on Eurasia notes Crimean Tatar news outlet closures and notes that Ukrainian government ministers widely speak English.

[LINK] “Water, Fire, and Costa Rica’s Carbon-Zero Year So Far”

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Wired‘s Lizzie Wade examines the reasons why Costa Rica was able to run of non-fossil fuel electricity for nearly three months this year. Good luck has something to do with it.

Costa Rica’s energy utility hasn’t burned any fossil fuel this year. None. The country of nearly 4.9 million people ran on nothing but renewable power for 75 days, a goal that many richer countries—including and especially the United States—can only dream of. So how did Costa Rica do it? Smart infrastructure investments and an assist from an unlikely ally: climate change.

Like Paraguay, Colombia, Brazil, and many other Latin American countries, Costa Rica gets most of its energy—about 80 percent—from hydroelectric plants. Damming rivers has environmental consequences too, obviously, but the energy from the resulting power plants is carbon-free. Hydropower is also more reliable and easier to scale up than existing wind and solar technologies.

So in that sense, Costa Rica’s 75-day streak may be impressive, but it isn’t surprising, says Juan Roberto Paredes, a renewable energy expert at the Inter-American Development Bank. On average, the country’s energy matrix was already nearly 90 percent renewable, making it the second most “renewable country” in Latin America (after Paraguay, which gets nearly all of its energy from just one dam).

But a reliance on hydropower still puts you at the mercy of the elements—just different ones than solar or wind. The key to hydropower is rainfall. Less rain means less water behind the dams, which quickly translates into less power. Just last year, Costa Rica declared a state of emergency in the country’s northwest because of an El Niño-fueled drought, and hydro’s contribution to the country’s electric grid dropped, forcing the utility to switch on some diesel generators. (Brazil is currently experiencing a similar crisis, with a catastrophic drought endangering many of the hydroelectric plants that power São Paulo and the rest of the country’s populous southeast.) But this year, Costa Rica’s four largest hydropower plants have enjoyed unusually heavy rains—so far.

Here’s where climate change comes in. Almost all climate models predict that “one effect of climate change will be a concentration of rainfall, and as a consequence of that, longer periods of drought,” explains Walter Vergara, a climate change specialist focused on Latin America at the World Resources Institute. Especially in tropical countries like Costa Rica, more rain will fall in less time. That’s great for hydroelectric plants, but terrible if you worry about, say, flash floods and mudslides. Plus, rainfall now might just mean drought later. Costa Rica’s rainy winter won’t last, and comparable levels of precipitation might not return for a long time. “Only El Niño and La Niña can tell us how much longer we won’t need fossil fuels to generate electricity,” says Julio Mata, an energy expert at the University of Costa Rica.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 1, 2015 at 10:29 pm

[LINK] “Socioenvironmental Catastrophe Emerges from the Ashes of Patagonia’s Forests”

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The Inter Press Service’s Fabiana Frayssinet notes how some forest fires in southern Argentina were so devastating that they undermined the chances of the forest’s recovery.

In the wake of the fire that destroyed more than 34,000 hectares of forests, some of them ancient, in Argentina’s southern Patagonia region, the authorities will have to put out flames that are no less serious: the new socio-environmental catastrophe that will emerge from the ashes.

The worst forest fire in the history of the country will take a while longer to fully extinguish in the area surrounding Cholila, a town set amidst the lakes, valleys and mountains in the northwest part of the southern province of Chubut. Its 2,000 residents are longing for the start of the rainy season in April in this region that borders Chile and the Andes mountains.

[. . .]

The blaze destroyed forests of cypress, Antarctic beech (Nothofagus antártica), lenga beech (Nothofagus pumilio), coigüe or Dombey’s southern beech (Nothofagus dombeyi), Chilean feather bamboo (Chusquea culeou), and giant trees such as the Patagonian cypress (Fitzroya cupressoides).

It also killed, or drove away, endemic fauna such as tiny pudu deer, lizards, birds and foxes, and endangered species like the rare huemul or south Andean deer.

Kitzberger explained that these ecosystems are home to plants that are “relatively well adapted to fire like species that grow in scrubland and on the steppes, which are resilient and quickly put out new shoots after a fire.”

Written by Randy McDonald

March 27, 2015 at 11:05 pm

[LINK] “Venezuelan doctors face tough choices as economic crisis worsens”

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MacLean’s hosts Hannah Dreier’s Associated Press article noting that one casualty of Venezuela’s ongoing economic collapse is modern medicine.

Oncologist Gabriel Romero performs hundreds of life-saving surgeries a year, but he no longer takes pleasure in his work.

That’s because he believes that many of the mastectomies he does on some of Venezuela’s poorest women wouldn’t be needed in a normally functioning country. Doctors say they are being forced to return to outdated treatments because the socialist country’s economic problems make it impossible to ensure the proper running of radiation machines in public hospitals, where patients receive free treatment under Venezuela’s universal health care.

“You don’t feel comfortable with it, because you’re making a decision that goes against your professional judgment,” Romero said recently after seeing patients in the grubby basement clinic at the Dr. Luis Razetti Oncology Center, at the foot of a Caracas slum. The hospital’s only linear accelerator machine, the more modern of the two kinds of radiotherapy devices used in Venezuela, has been broken since November.

“We’re practicing medicine from the 1940s here, and we know that’s not right,” Romero said.

The challenges facing doctors are just one reflection of an economy battered by widespread shortages. The recent crash in global oil prices, which account for 95 per cent of Venezuela’s exports, is creating a cash shortage that makes it difficult to buy imported goods, such as parts for medical machines. Also depressing economic activity is 68 per cent inflation and a currency crisis that has seen the value of the local Bolivar plunge 46 per cent this year on the closely-watched black market.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 26, 2015 at 10:29 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Why Do Severed Goat Heads Keep Turning Up in Brooklyn?”

New York Magazine‘s Adrian Chen takes a look at the phenomenon described in the title. The goat heads may, or may not, have connections to any number of Latin American and Caribbean folk religions. Chen’s engrossing investigation on the ground is fascinating journalistic ethnography.

At the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Ninth Street in Brooklyn, the heart of Park Slope’s tree-lined prosperity abruptly gives way to grittier windswept blocks that march south to Sunset Park and west to the Gowanus Canal. Trucks and cars speed down Ninth Street as dusty construction workers, sharply dressed professionals, nannies with strollers, and roughhousing teens hustle across Fifth Avenue, all on their way to somewhere else. Perhaps this neither-here-nor-there-ness explains why two skinned goat heads that appeared without explanation above the intersection last November remained there for days. The heads were tied together at the base of the skull with twine and slung over a light pole on the intersection’s northeast corner. After at least four days, an employee from a nearby car service knocked the goat heads down with a pole and threw them in a garbage can.

Or maybe the sluggish reaction to the Park Slope goat heads signals the extent to which such discoveries have become a routine occurrence in the area. Severed goat heads keep turning up in nearby Prospect Park. Last year alone, readers sent the blog Gothamist photographic evidence of three goat heads found in the park. (In all of these cases, the goat heads had their skin still attached.) Gothamist seems to be experiencing something like goat-head fatigue, judging from the increasingly nonchalant tone of its goat-head coverage. Pretty soon it will probably take a cow head to get them excited. “It’s New York,” one spectacularly unimpressed passerby told DNAinfo. “I’ve seen the towers come down, so beyond that, nothing really stings that bad.”

But while repeated exposure to goat heads may have inured some local residents, others have sensed an unsettling trend. Many news reports about the Park Slope goat heads suggested a dark link to the goat heads discovered in Prospect Park. “Residents have questioned whether the incidents could be connected to religious animal sacrifice,” The Wall Street Journal wrote. The specter of Santería was invoked. The Drudge Report picked up the story. The goat heads went global. As I read all this in my apartment a few blocks from the site of the hanging goat heads, I was riveted. A mysterious flood of goat heads is the only interesting thing that has happened in Park Slope since I moved to the neighborhood three years ago. Yes, the rush to blame a little-understood religion practiced largely by immigrants smacked a bit of lazy xenophobia, but the idea of Park Slope as a hotbed of animal sacrifice, in addition to child-friendly bars, was undeniably intriguing. In a city where everyday occurrences are casually weighed against the events of September 11, 2001, it was shocking to find that so many of my neighbors and I were actually shocked. The goat heads seemed to rear out of some shadow New York City that was even gnarlier than the pre-Guiliani version I’d seen in the movies, and at the edge of Brooklyn’s most thoroughly gentrified neighborhood, to boot. When New York asked me to investigate the goat heads, I leapt at the chance. I wanted to see if the world they hinted at lived up to the hype.

I quickly learned that any answers would not be forthcoming from official channels. The NYPD opened an investigation into the hanging goat heads back in November, but a public information officer with Park Slope’s 78th Precinct informed me that “no further information has been found out.” A spokesman for the Prospect Park Alliance said, “I don’t think anyone in the park is going to have that much to say about it.” A FOIL request I filed with the New York City Parks and Recreation Department (for “all records related to reports of decapitated animal corpses and animal heads found in New York City parks between the years 2010–2014”) didn’t seem to be at the top of their list of priorities.

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