Tag Archives: Latin America

World’s driest desert hit by snow, rain

Image: Children play during an unusual snowfall in the Atacama desert, near Copiapo, Chile, Sunday, Sunday.

Alex Fuentes

Children play during an unusual snowfall in the Atacama desert, near Copiapo, Chile, Sunday.


8/2/2011 4:52:56 AM ET

This has been the wettest winter in decades for Chile’s arid northern desert, where fractions of an inch of rain have done major damage in some areas and set the stage for spectacular floral displays in the weeks to come.

July came and went with major storms that together dumped more than five times the annual average of rain and snow on parts of the world’s driest desert.

The past weekend’s precipitation blocked highways, forced the cancellation of a top Chilean football match and damaged the homes of 1,800 people, said Vicente Nunez, chief of the Interior Ministry’s national emergency office.

A similarly wet stretch in early July dumped four years’ worth of rain in one day on coastal Antofogasta.

That was just a quarter of an inch but it was still enough to cause collapsed or leaking roofs in homes and businesses that usually have no reason to protect themselves against even minimal precipitation.

Three feet of snow

That storm also brought as much as three feet of snow to mountains that normally receive zero precipitation during the southern winter.

Soldiers helped rescue 400 people including busloads of foreign visitors who were trapped in snow drifts and 50 mph winds, said Ernesto Figueroa, chief of Chile’s emergency agency in the northern Tarapaca region.

Some copper mines in the region, including the massive Collahuasi operation, temporarily halted production because of snowfall.

Further south in Copiapo, dry riverbeds became torrents, trapping people who tried to drive across. The government helped out by delivering plastic sheeting to shantytown residents.

Video: Snowmageddon hits southern Chile (on this page)

Article continues at msnbc.msn.com

Security in Colombia: New names, old games | The Economist

HAD Joaquín Tordecilla, a leader of a community of displaced peasant farmers, been at home on the afternoon in February when armed men rounded up the group, stripped them of their mobile phones and forced them to watch the murder of another of their leaders, he would have probably been gunned down as well. But Mr Tordecilla was in the city that day, filing a complaint about threatening demands they had received to vacate their land. He, his wife and 12 children are now crowded into a small home with a dirt floor in Montería, the capital of the northern department of Córdoba.

His fate is a familiar one in Colombia. Over the past three decades between 3.5m and 6m hectares (8.6m to 15m acres) of farmland have been seized by armed thugs, according to estimates by officials. The chief villains were right-wing paramilitary groups, whose motive was in part to wrest territory from the left-wing guerrillas of the FARC.

When a security build-up under Álvaro Uribe, Colombia’s president from 2002 to 2010, reduced the FARC to smaller bands in remote areas, some 30,000 paramilitaries demobilised, formally at least. So who evicted Mr Tordecilla? He rattles off the names of several armed groups, new and old. “Who knows?” he concludes.

Continue reading at economist.com

LATIN AMERICA: Violence in the Age of Innocence

Violence in the Age of Innocence
By Marcela Valente

ASUNCION, Apr 29, 2011 (IPS) – The countries of Latin America are working slowly to overcome barriers in the fight against the often brutal violence suffered by children and adolescents in their homes, schools, workplaces or juvenile detention centres.

Five years after the release of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children in 2006, a new study presented Thursday in Paraguay, focused on South America, reports that progress has been slow.

Abandonment, exploitation and corporal punishment are some of the ills that remain part of the day-to-day reality of too many children and teenagers in the region. The new report states that six million children in the region suffer serious physical abuse, and 80,000 die every year as a result of abuse at the hands of their parents.

In the English-speaking Caribbean, nearly 43 percent of girls under 12 who have already had sex admitted that the first time, they were raped.

Governments have failed to protect children against all kinds of violence, and the poor and the marginalised are the hardest hit, says the study carried out by experts at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, based on data provided by countries in the region.

The authors also express concern about increasing bullying among peers, aggravated by the use of the Internet and the rise in emotional abuse by parents and teachers, which is largely invisible but causes a great deal of harm by undermining the self-esteem of youngsters, they say.

Continue reading at ipsnews.net