LIMA, Peru — Latin America’s new oil rush may delight the region’s treasury ministers, but the extra greenhouse gases it will unleash will only deepen the world’s climate crisis.
With the region’s existing oil and gas wells gradually running dry, and global demand growing strong, the Latin American governments are now seeking to exploit unconventional deposits that were previously too difficult, expensive or just plain polluting to extract.
Among the biggest is Brazil’s Libra deep-sea oil field, in the southern Atlantic, which was awarded to a consortium including Shell and two Chinese firms in October.
President Dilma Rousseff’s administration estimates Libra holds between 8 billion and 12 billion barrels of oil. The highly technical and energy-intensive process of extracting it is expected to cost some $185 billion over the next three decades.
As a result, the Brazilian government expects to pick up $400 billion in royalties over the lifetime of the reserve.
But according to Greenpeace Brazil, burning the oil from Libra will result in a staggering 5 billion tons of carbon dioxide being dumped into the atmosphere — roughly equivalent to the United States’ entire annual output.
Latin America’s oil rush means more climate change
Photo by AFP/Getty Images
SAO PAULO, Brazil — Dernival Albuquerque pins pictures of Mickey Mouse on the plywood wall above his thin mattress, and scribbles the iconic mouse ears in the corners of his ramshackle room.
Why the Mickey fetish?
“He’s just so … perfect,” said Albuquerque, 18, known to everyone as “Drix.”
The squeaky-clean cartoon may seem an odd emblem for a self-professed teenage rebel, who said he joined the first wave of massive street protests that rocked Brazil earlier this year.
But the young man’s predilection for perfection makes some sense, considering his surroundings. Perfection isn’t something Drix gets to see much.
His family shares a tiny apartment on an alley in one of the rougher areas of the Paraisopolis favela, or slum, in Sao Paulo.
A few weeks ago, his best friend, 17-year-old Silvana Silva, showed up. She’d been kicked out of her parents’ home. Now she shares his room, sleeping on an old piece of foam in one corner.
At night, they can hear rats scurrying around on the tin roof.
Despite Brazil’s boasted low unemployment and more than a decade of economic boom times, this country’s crowded, expensive megacities remain harsh places for the young and under-qualified.
Teenage rebellion, on a Brazilian budget
Photo by AFP/Getty Images
SAO PAULO, Brazil — The cows were dying of hunger.
Months of drought in northeastern Brazil left 34-year-old Natanael Melo and his 22-year-old wife, Vaniele Costa, with no option. They had borrowed money to buy food for their small herd, but that cash withered away like the crops.
It was time to leave.
That was six months ago. Today, the young couple’s vista is very different from the brittle cattle country they still consider home. Along with their 5-year-old, Nicolas, they live in a tiny apartment overlooking a trash-strewn alley in a large favela, or slum, in Sao Paulo.
The favela’s called Paraisopolis — which roughly means “paradise city.”
“I just want to go home,” Melo said, his eyes bloodshot from the big-city pollution. “I just want things to be like they used to be.”
Going home isn’t an option, at least not in the near future.
Brazil’s almost paradise: Here’s why they ask for more
→ The shame of a 'dirty name' in credit-crazy Brazil
SAO PAULO, Brazil — The dreaded default notices come in two forms: postcard-size white envelopes, unassuming in their diminution, and letter-size dark gray ones. Gray like storm clouds. Or gunmetal.
In the Paraisopolis favela, or slum, in Sao Paulo, Edivaldo Ferreira collects the letters for his neighbors. His small pet store is a de facto sorting office for local mail carriers wary of ducking into the slum alleys. They give the letters and bills to Ferreira, who stacks them in an old birdseed box behind the counter.
Increasingly these days, the mail consists of default letters.
Everyone in the favela is up to their neck in debt, the pet store owner said. Sometimes people don’t check their mail for a few days. They scurry past quickly, avoiding his shouts about the envelopes waiting for them.
In the heyday of Brazil’s so-called economic miracle of the 2000s, the country gorged on debt. Brazil’s banks lowered their underwriting standards, making credit suddenly easily available to new segments of the population.
And, as millions rose out of poverty, they turned to plastic and alluring installment plans to finance new homes, cars and goods.
Then, as the South American dynamo retreated in 2011 and 2012, consumer credit defaults spiked, rising by more than 20 percent in the first six months of 2011, according to Seresa Experian, a ratings agency.
Teachers’ march in Brazil
Thousands marched in Rio de Janeiro to support teachers seeking pay hikes before masked anarchists turned to violence, setting fires, breaking into buildings and smashing a City Hall gate. (AFP)
Click to see a full slide show of the protest on Yahoo News
NEED TO KNOW
Lampedusa has had enough tragedies. The death of more than 230 African migrants aboard a boat headed for Italy’s now infamous island has finally given Europe its “never again” moment. European Union ministers are due to meet in Luxembourg today to thrash out a plan of action on how to prevent more deaths like these — starting by sending EU search and rescue boats to patrol the entire Mediterranean on the lookout for migrant ships.
Such ships are, it’s no exaggeration to say, death traps. Divers scouring the wreck of the one that went down last week say they have “unpacked a wall of people,” finding corpses so tightly entwined that it was a struggle to pull them out. The alleged skipper is in custody, facing multiple counts of manslaughter. But it’s round the negotiating table in Luxembourg that the lessons from Lampedusa’s latest disasters most sorely need to be learned.
Riots in Rio. Thought things were all quiet in Brazil after the massive street protests that flared there in June and July? Think again. The Brazilian winter of discontent is showing signs of becoming a Brazilian Spring, and a violent one at that. More than 10,000 marched in Rio de Janiero and Sao Paolo last night in support of teachers who have been demanding better salaries for two months now. Things turned violent — apparently due to the arrival of hundreds of masked anarchists — and firebombs were thrown, buildings broken into, buses torched and banks ransacked. Riot police fired tear gas to bring the crowd under control.
What’s making Brazil seethe, still? That’s going to take a longer answer. In an in-depth series, GlobalPost will investigate how Brazil’s harsh household economics spurred a mass protest movement and still bubble under the surface of Latin America’s biggest nation. Let’s start with Brazilians’ mountain of consumer debt.
WANT TO KNOW
Go home, malaria, you’re preventable. The disease, killer of hundreds of thousands of people each year, should be on its way out: drug maker GlaxoSmithKline announced today that it’s seeking approval of the world’s first malaria vaccine.
The vaccine, known for now as RTS,S, has already been trialed on almost 15,500 children in seven countries across Africa — where it was found to have cut the number of malaria cases in young children in half compared to their unvaccinated peers. It’s not perfect yet, but GSK hopes to apply for a license for the vaccine in 2014, and have it recommended for use by the World Heath Organization from as soon as 2015.
Heads and hearts. Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is due to undergo brain surgery today, days after doctors diagnosed her with hematoma — blood on the brain — and ordered her to take a month off work.
The procedure is as minor as any head surgery can be, but it comes at a fraught time in her second term: with her popularity at just 34 percent, Fernandez de Kirchner had been expected to campaign hard ahead of legislative elections on Oct. 27. And if her party loses control of Congress, as it now seems likely it will, the hopes she held of changing Argentina’s constitution to allow her to run for a third consecutive term will be dashed. Here’s why a medical mishap could change the course of a presidency, a government, and a country.
We saw that one coming. Even if it’s, er, invisible to the human eye. Scientists Peter Higgs and Francois Englert have won the Nobel Prize for Physics for their work on the theory of the Higgs boson, the so-called God particle that’s the key to why the fundamental elements of our universe have mass.
We all remember the excitement that greeted the discovery that the particle did most likely exist via experiments with the Large Hadron Collider last year. So we’ll just leave you with this insight into the man for whom it’s named: the jury was an hour late making the announcement this morning, apparently because Professor Higgs has gone on vacation without a phone and couldn’t be reached. He’s as elusive as his boson.
STRANGE BUT TRUE
NEWS FLASH: Iranians wear jeans. Blue ones, black ones, white ones, even the stone-washed kind. In fact, we hear they even — whisper it — have skinnies over there.
This may sound like a bulletin from the department of the bleedin’ obvious to most, but to Benjamin Netanyahu, this is hot off the press. (Because he’s so out of touch he still remember the days when news came from presses, am I right?) The Israeli prime minister has made himself the internet’s latest object of scorn with his statement, in a recent interview, that: “I think if the Iranian people had freedom, they would wear jeans, listen to Western music, and have free elections.” The problem is, er, they already do — at least, the jeans and Western music part, as hundreds of Iranian Twitter users have taken it upon themselves to demonstrate. None of which has done much to boost the credibility of a man who regularly claims to know more about Iran’s nuclear program than what’s contained in US or multinational intelligence.
Let Netanyahu’s denim debacle be a reminder to middle-aged world leaders (we’ll also extend this one to teachers, bosses, parents and general bystanders everywhere): if ever you catch yourself talking about “the young people,” their dress sense and, heavens save us, “the hip hop,” just — don’t.
NEED TO KNOW
Some proof is better than others. Two days after the United Nations presented its report on the use of chemical weapons in Syria and made the strongest case yet that complex posion-gas missiles were fired there less than one month ago, Russia has announced that it has some evidence of its own. Courtesy of the Syrian government. And — surprise! — it shows it was the other guys who did it.
Fresh from a meeting with President Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle in Damascus, Russia’s deputy foreign minister said he had been handed “material evidence" that supports the — it’s fair to say, less common — belief that Syrian rebels obtained, hid, positioned, fired and then re-hid sophisticated missile launchers, all right next to known Syrian military bases. Moscow hasn’t yet revealed what Damascus has found that UN inspectors haven’t, but has called for it to be analyzed as a necessary rejoinder to the UN’s “politicized, biased and unilateral” report.
That seems a harsh assessment, given that the report’s authors strenuously refrained from assigning any blame for the Syrian attacks. You want a unilateral account, try — oh, I don’t know — one given by a government single-mindedly pursuing its own interests. Just ask the US and the UK: they wrote the book, or rather the dossier, on cherry-picking the evidence for or against war. And they could tell Russia: it might help you get what you want, but it doesn’t convince anyone.
WANT TO KNOW
Guess who’s not coming to dinner? Clue: She’s Brazilian, she’s pretty important, and the US intelligence services have been spying on her for months. That’s right, President Dilma Rousseff has confirmed that she is cancelling her state visit to the US next month in response to the revelations that she and other Brazilians were placed under National Security Agency Surveillance.
The trip was to be the first official visit to Washington by a Brazilian president in almost two decades, and would have set the seal on recent improvements in the two governments’ relations. Now, no new meeting has been scheduled. The White House says it understands, but hopes to “move beyond this issue” with Brazil. That’s easier for the spier than the spied upon.
Down in Acapulco… is definitely not somewhere you want to be right now. Mexico’s most famous beach resort is pretty much underwater after the double whammy of Tropical Storm Manuel and Hurricane Ingrid. Thousands of people have been stranded by torrential rain, flooding and landslides, even as the government sends in troops to begin airlifting hapless tourists out.
In total more than 50 people have died since the storms reached Mexico last weekend. Around two thirds of the country is said to have been affected, and forecasters warn that eastern Mexico is still at risk of severe floods and mud slides that could cost yet more lives.
Myanmar emerges. Under half a century of dictatorship in what was then Burma, dissidents used the arts to express the outrage that would otherwise bring them long prison sentences. Now, as the government tentatively democratizes and other countries try out lifting sanctions, Myanmar’s creative critics are speaking out again.
In part three of GlobalPost’s in-depth series on a changing Myanmar, our reporters track the effect of new freedoms — and the legacy of old repressions — on everyone from dissidents to musicians to children.
STRANGE BUT TRUE
Stares of a clown. Does anyone actually like clowns? We know they’re meant to be funny and all, but show us the kid who laughs at a grown adult dressed as a deformed tramp with a perma-leer and we’ll show you a future sociopath. That’s just our theory, of course, but to judge by reactions to a mysterious clown who’s taken to hanging around street corners in one UK town, it’s one that most people would back us up on.
The creepy “comic” bears an eerie resemblance to the demonic clown in Stephen King’s ‘It,’ and has been showing up at random places and times all over the town of Northampton. There, he stares. Just stares. And sometimes — the horror — he’s carrying a clown teddy bear. We’re sorry to say it, Northampton, but this is one staring contest it’s best you lose.
NEED TO KNOW
I say intervention, you say diplomacy… let’s call the whole thing off. US President Barack Obama has postponed a vote by Congress on whether to authorize the use of force in Syria, while the world examines whether there isn’t a less air-strike-y solution to the crisis. In a televized address to the nation last night, Obama said he was willing to wait and see if a Russian proposal to oversee the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons produced verifiable results — but would be keeping the military on standby nonetheless.
The thing is, there’s not much to verify right now. The closest thing to a concrete proposal so far was the draft UN resolution submitted to the Security Council by France, only to be shot down by — you guessed it — Russia. Apparently Moscow didn’t like the clause about Syria declaring its full chemical stockpile within 15 days or facing consequences. So how else can we be sure that the Syrian government will comply? And what would Russia rather see instead? As the world clings to the magic solution that has yet to prove it’s not just illusion, GlobalPost rounds up who wants what — and what they’ll do to get it.
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The worst anniversary. For 11 years, September 11 was the day that Americans remembered the deadliest terrorist attack on US soil. But in 2012, the day acquired an extra, terrible weight: when armed militants assaulted the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, it also became the day of one of the worst — and most divisive — terrorist attacks on Americans abroad.
Twelve years after the World Trade Center attacks, and one year on from the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, the region so closely bound up with both events and their aftermath, the Middle East, is in turmoil. (Just this morning, a car bomb targeted a Libyan foreign ministry building in Benghazi.) It’s no coincidence. On America’s darkest day, GlobalPost traces the long shadow from 9/11 to today’s Syria, and remembers the man who would have understood it better than anyone: late US Ambassador Chris Stevens.
The Delhi four await their fate. The men convicted yesterday of fatally gang-raping a 23-year-old woman aboard a Delhi bus are in limbo. Hate figures for most of India, victims of a miscarriage of justice according to their lawyers, the four are waiting to learn what their punishment will be. Sentencing hearings began today, and adjourned with the judge saying their fate would be pronounced on Friday.
It is, quite literally, a matter of life and death: the prosecution has, as demanded by the victim’s family, demanded that they be hanged. The next hearing is due on Friday afternoon.
Save the rainforest. Please. There’s added urgency to the plea now that newly released satellite pictures suggest that Brazil’s deforestation of the Amazon has rocketed in the past year. If the data is confirmed, it’s proof that more than 1,000 square miles — an area more than twice the size of Los Angeles — was stripped of trees between August 2012 and July 2013.
That’s particularly worrying since Brazil was meant to be a good news story: just last year, Amazon deforestation was shown to be at a record low after a concerted effort to rein in the loggers, farmers and miners who value land over trees. If Brazil has dropped its guard, that achievement will prove short-lived.
STRANGE BUT TRUE
Need to escape a hungry polar bear? There’s an app for that. We’re not sure what one lucky Canadian did with his cellphone to make a looming predator scamper off but whatever it was, someone patent it, quick. Garett Kolsun, 40, claims to have fought off a 300-pound polar bear in the streets of Canada’s “bear capital” of Churchill, Manitoba, by whipping out his device just long enough to distract the beast and make a run for it. (Beat that, iPhone 5S.)
Kolsun indeed escaped, though not unharmed. “I heard he was bit in the ass,” one laconic Churchillian said. Hey, what do you expect if you whoop a polar bear at Angry Birds?
NEED TO KNOW
Egypt’s retro revolution. Reports say that an all-too-familiar figure will be back on the streets of Egypt before the end of the week: Hosni Mubarak. The second-to-last president the country deposed, back in 2011, is expected to be freed from jail within 48 hours, according to his lawyer.
While we wait for further confirmation, the bodies continue to pile up. The latest death toll comes not from Cairo but the Sinai, where police say 24 of their officers were killed in an ambush by suspected Islamist militants. It’s not clear whether the attack is linked to the tumultuous events of the past five days; but it’s sure to set the alarm bells ringing in neighboring Israel.
Further West, the European Union is holding an emergency meeting today to discuss its response to the crisis — namely, whether it continues to send the millions of dollars’ worth of aid that’s supposed to help Egypt build a new government. One, presumably, that doesn’t include its old president.
WANT TO KNOW
Getting the scoop can get you in trouble. British police are facing some uncomfortable questions after detaining, for no good reason they’ve yet told us, the partner of the journalist who broke the National Security Agency surveillance story at a London airport. Police invoked counterterrorism laws to hold David Miranda, the boyfriend and sometime colleague of Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald, for a full nine hours yesterday as he attempted to board a flight back to his native Brazil.
According to Greenwald, officers didn’t ask Miranda a single question about anything related to terrorism — rather, they wanted to know all about which revelations from Edward Snowden they should be expecting next. The Brazilian government has complained and British lawmakers are demanding an explanation. For Greenwald, at least, it’s obvious: intimidation, bullying and “depotism.”
The trial of Oscar Pistorius. South Africa’s once beloved Blade Runner returned to court for the first time in months today to be formally indicted for murder. Pistorius was charged with deliberately killing Reeva Steenkamp, a model who would have turned 30 today had her sprinter boyfriend not shot her multiple times through a locked bathroom door in the early hours of February 14. Pistorius, of course, claims he mistook her for a burglar.
Under the stares of Steenkamp’s friends, his family and dozens of journalists, the Paralympic champion was told that his trial would begin on March 3, 2014. It was clearly an emotional hearing; there’ll be more, and worse, to come.
There’s one thing China’s missing: a truly global brand. The country may be the world’s second biggest economy, but it doesn’t have an Apple or a Samsung it can call its own. And it needs one. Many, in fact, if it’s going to succeed as an economic superpower.
GlobalPost investigates how long is left until “Made in China” becomes a badge of pride.
STRANGE BUT TRUE
Come home. Please? Kim Jong Un is showing his softer side when it comes to persuading defectors that North Korea ain’t so bad, after all. Where escapees once faced hard labor or death if they chose — or were forced — to return, the latest Kim is said to be offering safe passage, cash rewards and even a spot on prime-time TV to those who venture home.
Of course, that doesn’t mean North Koreans are free to flee in the first place: Kim has also been beefing up security along the border with China to make sure his loving citizens stay put. Behind every carrot, a stick.
NEED TO KNOW
The assassination that wasn’t? Syrian state TV is pointedly broadcasting pictures of Bashar al-Assad looking chipper, after rebels claimed to have scored a hit on the presidential motorcade. Rebel fighters in the Free Syrian Army announced this morning that they had fired multiple shells on Assad’s convoy as it wound through central Damascus, and at least some of them had found their target.
The government, however, said the claims were “dreams and illusions.” Its media mouthpieces have since been full of accounts of the president’s visit to a mosque to celebrate today’s festival of Eid, throughout which, they assure, he remained very much alive. Even so, rebels insisted, what may just have been the closest shave Assad has had in more than two devastating years of civil war is bound to have “rattled” a president who still insists he’s entitled to stay.
Grounded in Nairobi. Flights are gradually resuming at Kenya’s Nairobi airport, the day after a massive fire closed the entire transport hub down. Domestic and cargo flights were given the go-ahead yesterday and the first international flights began landing this morning, even as salvage crews picked through the charred debris.
Officials say a domestic terminal will be used as a makeshift international one to allow the regional and long-haul air traffic that makes the airport one of Africa’s biggest transport hubs to keep moving. But it will be only a fraction of its usual service — and meanwhile the thousands of passengers, airlines and businesses who depend on the airport will find themselves facing severe disruption. Here’s how a four-hour blaze could do long-lasting damage to Kenya’s economy.
WANT TO KNOW
Myanmar remembers. Today the country are looking back to the time when it was Burma, when its government was a military junta, and when opposing it could cost you your freedom, or even your life. It’s the 25th anniversary of the darkest day in the 1988 pro-democracy uprising that would leave more than 3,000 dead — and this year, for the first time, partipants are commemorating it openly in Yangon.
Even as activists marched through the former capital, police ordered them to stop, and photographed their faces when they refused. Aung San Suu Kyi, who cut her teeth in the 1988 protests and a quarter-century later leads the opposition in parliament, is due to speak at a memorial ceremony later today. We’ve come far, she can say with no exaggeration, but not all the way.
Too much rap will kill you. At least in Brazil: last month, 20-year-old MC Daleste became the seventh hip-hop artist to be murdered in Sao Paulo in the past three years. All the killings remain unsolved — and civil police investigators haven’t ruled out a connection to death squads that crime experts say enlist rogue military police.
Could it be that rappers’ hard-hitting lyrics about the crime, corruption and injustice of the favelas that made them is a tune the authorities don’t want to hear — or be heard? GlobalPost investigates who’s killing Brazil’s MCs.
STRANGE BUT TRUE
Oh, snip! Hirsute Venezuelans, invest in a heavy-duty hat: thieves are after your hair. Dubbed “piranhas,” they’ve been stalking the streets with scissors, ready to lop off an unsuspecting ponytail and sell it to beauty parlors where it’ll end up woven onto someone else’s head.
Lesser-locked lovelies will pay big bucks for several inches of high-quality hair, which is what makes snipping it off passers-by such a lucrative trade for these bandits. It’s a pretty canny business model, if you think about it: every lady shorn is another customer for extensions.