Tag Archives | South America

Jonestown: Paradise Lost (documentary)

This is a hybrid documentary about Jim Jones, Peoples Temple, Jonestown, and the victims. This includes the words of some of the survivors and dramatization of the real events. Please feel free to share your thoughts and recommendations.

via Top Documentary Films

An evangelical preacher led nearly a 1,000 followers from the United States deep into the jungles of South America. They would build a new community free of oppression and violence and it was to be their paradise on Earth, but outsiders threatened to expose the dark side of their leader. In one day two worlds collidedand paradise was lost. In November 1978 reporters around the world broke the news that Jim Jones and more than 900 of his followers died.

By the late 1960s and early 70s the streets of America erupted in violence and civil strife. War in Vietnam, civil rights marches and political assassinations played out on television.

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The Incan Empire: Wealth Without Money

picchuFor students of economics and ancient civilizations alike, the strange economy of the Incan Empire is fascinating. Annalee Newitz writes for io9:

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the Inca Empire was the largest South America had ever known. Rich in foodstuffs, textiles, gold, and coca, the Inca were masters of city building but nevertheless had no money. In fact, they had no marketplaces at all.

Centered in Peru, Inca territory stretched across the Andes’ mountain tops and down to the shoreline, incorporating lands from today’s Colombia, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina and Peru – all connected by a vast highway system whose complexity rivaled any in the Old World. The Inca Empire may be the only advanced civilization in history to have no class of traders, and no commerce of any kind within its boundaries. How did they do it?

Many aspects of Incan life remain mysterious, in part because our accounts of Incan life come from the Spanish invaders who effectively wiped them out.

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AP Reports: Hugo Chavez Wasted Venezuela’s Money On Healthcare Instead Of Building A Giant Skyscraper

The western media can’t comprehend why Hugo Chavez used Venezuela’s oil wealth to pull his nation’s population out of poverty, when he could have built an indoor artificial ski mountain like in Dubai. Earlier this month from Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

One of the more bizarre takes on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s death comes from Associated Press business reporter Pamela Sampson (3/5/13):

‘Chavez invested Venezuela’s oil wealth into social programs including state-run food markets, cash benefits for poor families, free health clinics and education programs. But those gains were meager compared with the spectacular construction projects that oil riches spurred in glittering Middle Eastern cities, including the world’s tallest building in Dubai and plans for branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums in Abu Dhabi.’

That’s right: Chavez squandered his nation’s oil money on healthcare, education and nutrition when he could have been building the world’s tallest building or his own branch of the Louvre.

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On The Legacy Of Hugo Chavez

This past fall, the Independent‘s Owen Jones wrote that Hugo Chavez’s towering feat was “proving it is possible to lead a popular, progressive government that breaks with neo-liberal dogma”:

Even opponents of Chavez told me that he is the first Venezuelan president to care about the poor. Since his landslide victory in 1998, extreme poverty has dropped from nearly a quarter to 8.6 per cent last year; unemployment has halved; and GDP per capita has more than doubled. Rather than ruining the economy – as his critics allege – oil exports have surged from $14.4bn to $60bn in 2011, providing revenue to spend on Chavez’s ambitious social programs, the so-called “missions”.

But when it comes to his relationship with his opposition, Chavez has arguably been pretty lenient. Many of them – including [recent presidential opponent] Capriles – were involved in a US-backed, Pinochet-style military coup in 2002, which failed only after Chavez’s supporters took to the streets.

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“Reverse Brain-Drain” Benefits Brazil as Europeans and Expats Alike Set Their Sights on South America

Picture: Klaus with K (CC)

As Europe continues to struggle with austerity, native Brazilians are returning to their homeland and bringing their European peers with them. Are we witnessing more signs of a shake-up in the global social order? Who is a “first world” country now?

Via the Christian Science Monitor:

Golden age migration is palpable, says Helion Póvoa Neto, a migration expert at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. “There is this sensation of Brazil as a new land of opportunity. There is something new happening.”

Today, Cariocas navigate subways and buses to a din of Greek- and Spanish-accented conversation; they plow into heaps of lunchtime beans and farofa in downtown Rio restaurants alongside Portuguese workers; and Rio hillside favelas (slums) are being gentrified by foreigners daunted by the pricier beachside enclaves.

Many foreign newcomers are just trying to get ahead in careers stalled at home. But their very presence is changing Brazil.

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The New Cocaine Trade

Coca leaf in Bolivia. Photo: Marcello Casal Jr./ABr (CC)

Coca leaf in Bolivia. Photo: Marcello Casal Jr./ABr (CC)

John Lyons reports on some seismic shifts in where cocaine is produced, for the Wall Street Journal:

In the dusty town of Villa Tunari in Bolivia’s tropical coca-growing region, farmers used to barricade their roads against U.S.-backed drug police sent to prevent their leafy crop from becoming cocaine. These days, the police are gone, the coca is plentiful and locals close off roads for multiday block parties—not rumbles with law enforcement.

“Today, we don’t have these conflicts, not one death, not one wounded, not one jailed,” said Leonilda Zurita, a longtime coca-grower leader who is now a Bolivian senator, a day after a 13-piece Latin band wrapped up a boozy festival in town.

The cause for celebration is a fundamental shift in the cocaine trade that is complicating U.S. efforts to fight it. Once concentrated in Colombia, a close U.S. ally in combating drugs, the cocaine business is migrating to nations such as Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia, where populist leaders are either ambivalent about cooperating with U.S.

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Chavez Suggests US May Have Caused Cancer In Political Enemies

Hugo ChavezConsidering the many bizarre attempts to poison Fidel Castro, it’s certainly not beyond the realm of possibility that the CIA would try to engender a terminal disease in Hugo Chavez and sympathizers. From Bloomberg News:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez hinted that the U.S. may be behind a “very strange” bout of cancer affecting several leaders aligned with him in South America.

Chavez, speaking a day after Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, said the Central Intelligence Agency was behind chemical experiments in Guatemala in the 1940s and that it’s possible that in years to come a plot will be uncovered that shows the U.S. spread cancer as a political weapon against its critics.

“It’s very difficult to explain, even with the law of probabilities, what has been happening to some of us in Latin America,” Chavez said in a nationally televised speech to the military.

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Burundanga: The Drug Against Free Will

BurandangaIt turns out that ‘free will’ is a brain process that can be shut off. Wired UK explores the plant-derived drug — currently all the rage in the South American criminal underworld — that does this:

Burundanga is a scary drug. According to news reports from Ecuador, the last thing a motorist could recall, after waking up minus his car and possessions, was being approached by two women; in Venezuela, a girl came round in hospital to find she had been abducted and sexually assaulted. Each had been doped with burundanga, an extract of the brugmansia plant containing high levels of the psychoactive chemical scopolamine.

News reports allude to a sinister effect: that the drug removes free will, effectively turning victims into suggestible human puppets. Although not fully understood by neuroscience, free will is seen as a highly complex neurological ability and one of the most cherished of human characteristics. Clearly, if a drug can eliminate this, it highlights a stark vulnerability at the core of our species.

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Cryptotourism: On The Trail Of A 40-Foot Anaconda

A common anaconda. Photo: he (CC)

A common (non-giant) anaconda. Photo: he (CC)

Joshua Foer of Slate.com reports:

PACAYA SAMIRIA, Peru—Of all the crazy mythical creatures that starry-eyed monster hunters have gone in search of—the Yeti, Sasquatch, Nessie, the chupacabra—South America’s giant anaconda would seem to be the least implausible. None of the Amazon’s early explorers dared emerge from the forest without a harrowing tale of a face-to-face encounter with a humongous snake. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, it was practically a requirement of the jungle adventure genre. English explorer Percy Fawcett (of Lost City of Z fame) reportedly shot a 62-foot anaconda in 1907 while on a surveying mission in western Brazil. Cândido Rondon, who led Teddy Roosevelt’s famous journey down the River of Doubt, claimed to have measured a 38-footer “in the flesh.” In 1933, a 100-foot serpent was said to have been machine-gunned by officials from the Brazil-Colombia Boundary Commission. According to witnesses, four men together couldn’t lift its head.

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