North America

Time for a clean-upMORE than 75 people have been killed, and more than 100,000 left homeless, as Peru’s coast has been battered by the strongest rains seen in decades. Millions are without running water; more than 2,000km of roads and at least 175 bridges have been destroyed. The devastation has been caused by a “coastal El Niño”, a localised version of the global El Niño weather cycle that brings warm currents from Australia to the Pacific coast of the Americas. Peru had been braced for...
THE hills surrounding Sinaí, a village in south-west Colombia, are blanketed in a green patchwork, ranging from the bright chartreuse of coca-plant seedlings to a darker clover colour that indicates the leaves are ripe for picking and processing into cocaine. It is areas like this that have helped to boost Colombia’s estimated cocaine output 37% since 2015 to an all-time high of 710 tonnes in 2016, according to America’s government. Some 188,000 hectares of land is now planted with coca, up...
IT IS Saturday lunchtime, and about 30 trucks are parked at each of the customs posts on either side of the bridge across the broad Uruguay river that marks the border between Argentina and Uruguay. Both countries are members of Mercosur, a would-be customs union that also embraces Brazil and Paraguay. In theory, internal borders should not exist in Mercosur. In practice, customs, sanitary inspections and other paperwork mean that the trucks are delayed for up to 24 hours, says Oscar Terzaghi, t...
NORBERTO MESA, a 66-year-old grandfather, stands in the hot sun 11 hours a day, six days a week, guiding cars in and out of the parking spaces in front of a bustling farm stand. The 4,000 Cuban pesos ($170 at the official exchange rate) he earns each month in tips is more than ten times his monthly old-age pension of 340 pesos. Without it, the retired animal geneticist could not afford fruit and meat, or help his children, who work for low salaries, to feed his four grandchildren.Though revoluti...
EVEN amid Brazil’s pungent stew of recent big corporate scandals, the latest is particularly stomach-turning. On Friday March 17th, in time for a traditional weekend churrasco, or barbecue, the federal police accused some of the country’s biggest meat producers of bribing health inspectors to turn a blind eye to grubby practices. These include repackaging beef past its sell-by date, making turkey ham out of soyabeans rather than actual birds and overuse of potentially harmful additives. The ...
WHEN Andrés Manuel López Obrador winds up a stump speech in the main square of Jilotepec, a small town in the eastern state of Veracruz, the crowd surges forward. It takes him 15 minutes to pass through the commotion of backslapping, selfies and jabbing microphones to reach the car parked outside the tent where he spoke. The point of the rally is to promote Mr López Obrador’s party, Morena, in municipal elections to be held in Veracruz in June. But his main goal is much bigger: to win Mexic...
TO THE deafening beat of big bass drums and the occasional firecracker, tens of thousands of banner-waving trade unionists marched through the heart of Buenos Aires on March 7th, in protest at job losses and inflation. “We’re up to here,” said Silvia Blanchoux, a hospital cleaner, gesturing with a hand across her throat. “My rent has gone up, and my daughter is unemployed.”The protest coincided with a strike by teachers. This stirring of opposition comes at a delicate time for Argentin...
How protesters showed the horrorON MARCH 7th a team from an international human-rights group arrived in Guatemala to evaluate state-run institutions for disabled people. One stop on their itinerary was the Hogar Seguro (Safe Home) Virgen de la Asunción, a shelter for indigent children, which had been the subject of reports about sexual abuse, violence and overcrowding. The team arrived too late. That night, a fire engulfed a girls’ dormitory, killing at least 40 adolescents and...
MOST presidents in Michel Temer’s situation would be called “embattled”. Brazil has yet to recover from its worst recession on record. Some of the president’s closest associates face accusations in the country’s biggest-ever scandal. His approval rating is below 30%; many Brazilians regard his presidency as illegitimate.Yet, in an interview with The Economist, on a Saturday in a nearly deserted presidential palace, Mr Temer seemed anything but embattled. Collar unbuttoned, sleeves roll...
HUGO CHÁVEZ owed much to Raúl Baduel. When in 2002 Chávez was forced to step down as Venezuela’s president following a massacre of protesters in Caracas, it was General Baduel, an old political ally, who restored him to power after an opposition junta had illegally suspended the constitution. In gratitude, Chávez made General Baduel defence minister. But in retirement the general dared to oppose Chávez’s drive to abolish term limits. He was accused of stealing $10m and jailed. Two days ...
WHEN Anthony Carmona, the president of Trinidad and Tobago, showed up in a Carnival parade last month wearing a head cloth, white shorts and beads like those worn by Hindu pandits, he was not expecting trouble. Nothing seems more Trinidadian than a mixed-race president joining a festival that has African and European roots. But some Hindus were outraged. “[O]ur dress code has never been associated with this foolish and self-degrading season,” huffed a priest. Trinidad’s cultures blend easi...
THE Estela de Luz (“stele of light”) is not one of Mexico City’s glories. The 104-metre (341-foot) tower, built from panels of quartz, was supposed to celebrate the bicentennial of Mexico’s independence from Spain in 2010. But it was inaugurated in 2012, 16 months later than planned, and cost 1.3bn pesos ($100m) to build, more than treble its original budget. The federal government paid the bill. Eight former officials involved in the tower’s construction were arrested after its comple...
THE annual Manning Centre conference in Ottawa is popularly known as Woodstock for Canadian Conservatives. It is not obvious why. At this year’s edition, held from February 23rd to 25th, booths manned by clean-cut millennials offered pamphlets on such subjects as child discipline and taxing carbon emissions. A few delegates sported “Make America Great Again” caps. Not a man bun was to be seen.The main business of this year’s gathering was to help decide which of 14 candidates should lead...
What makes forgiving hardTHE threat posed to Peru’s democracy by the Shining Path, a leftist guerrilla army, has ended, but memories of the war it waged against the state in the 1980s and 1990s are still raw. Nearly 70,000 people died or disappeared during the conflict. A truth and reconciliation commission issued a report in 2003, apportioning guilt roughly evenly between the government and the Maoist rebels. It did not foster understanding between the vast majority of Peruvians who despise t...
FOR months before elections, Latin Americans are bombarded by campaign publicity. In Brazil an obligatory nightly hour of political broadcasts sees a succession of attention-seeking pledges from presidential candidates and local hopefuls. In Peru walls and even mountain boulders are painted with the names of candidates. Although social media are increasingly important, many of the region’s politicians still line the streets with posters and hold rallies, plying supporters with food, T-shirts a...
Red hide, black beltRANCHERS in Colombia’s Meta department can be vengeful folk. From time to time jaguars emerge from a clump of forest, streak across the savannah and attack one of a panic-stricken herd of cows. When that happens, ranchers hunt the offender down and shoot it. That practice is endangering the cats’ survival. Panthera, a charity that manages “corridors” for jaguars that stretch from Argentina to Mexico, guesses that just 5,000 of the cats are lef...
LAST year ended triumphantly for Andrónico Luksic, head of Chile’s richest family. On December 23rd he won a slander suit against a politician who had called him a “criminal” and “a son of a whore”. But his sense of vindication was clouded by pain. Four days earlier, as he left the courthouse, a mob, angry about a hydroelectric project in which he had invested, threw stones at him. One struck him on the head; police whisked him away.Plutocrats are unpopular in lots of places, but Chil...
THIS month police in the Brazilian state of Espírito Santo went on strike for ten days, during which 143 people were murdered and all hell broke loose in Vitória, the state capital. In Reynosa, on Mexico’s border with the United States, two alleged robbers were beaten, bound with duct tape and dangled from a footbridge, with a message from a drug baron pinned to them. On February 17th a gunman killed five people and injured nine at a shopping centre in Lima. A day later in Flores Costa Cuca,...
THE faded modernist façades along Copacabana’s beachfront hark back to Brazil’s optimistic past. The seaside promenade, where walking sticks outnumber G-strings, offers a glimpse of its demographic future. A quarter of the inhabitants of this part of Rio de Janeiro are 65 or older, making it one of the oldest places in Brazil. But the rest of the country is catching up fast, thanks to a drop in birth rates and rising life expectancy. Over-65s, who make up 8.5% of the population now, will re...
A PRESIDENT is swept into office after whipping up a wave of grievance and resentment. He claims to represent “the people” against internal exploiters and external threats. He purports to “refound” the nation, and damns those who preceded him. He governs though confrontation and polarisation. His language is aggressive—opponents are branded as enemies or traitors. He uses the media to cement his connection with the masses, while bridling at critical journalism and at rebuffs to executi...