North America

IN WEEKS of almost daily protests, opponents of Venezuela’s authoritarian regime have found different ways to express their anger. They have held raucous banner-waving marches, a silent demonstration and a sit-in on Caracas’s main roads. At least 29 people have died since March in the worst unrest in three years. Many of these were killed by armed gangs that support the government, called colectivos. The protests persist because the government has made life intolerab...
Looking for places to hang a gardenTHE phrase “concrete jungle” might have been coined for São Paulo. Brazil’s megalopolis has 2.6 square metres (28 square feet) of green space for each of its 11m inhabitants, a tenth as much as New York and a fifth of what the World Health Organisation recommends. As with wealth, greenery is unequally distributed. Rich central districts, many with jardim (garden) in their names, have more trees than residents. In Itaim Paulista, on the poor eastern perip...
IF YOU need a pretext for a political climbdown in Latin America, they don’t come much better than a plea from the pope. That was the excuse that Horacio Cartes, Paraguay’s president, used to drop his plan to run for a second consecutive term in 2018, which required changing the constitution. He was inspired to desist, he wrote to the archbishop of Asunción this month, by Pope Francis’s call for peace and dialogue. An attempt to ram the change through congress had provoked a riot in which...
“CANADA, what they’ve done to our dairy-farm workers, it’s a disgrace,” snapped Donald Trump from the Oval Office on April 20th. Mr Trump had just heard complaints from American producers of ultra-filtered milk, used to make cheese and yogurt, who said they were shut out of the regulated Canadian market after a change in the rules. “We will not stand for this,” Mr Trump tweeted a few days later. Ron Versteeg, who along with his brother milks 120 Holstein cows at their farm near Ottaw...
THE latest revelations of wrongdoing in high places struck Brazil with the force of a Netflix release: they are riveting, but so far have left the real world undisturbed. On April 12th Edson Fachin, the supreme-court justice who is overseeing a vast probe into corruption centred on Petrobras, the state-controlled oil company, authorised prosecutors to investigate eight government ministers, 24 senators, 39 deputies in the lower house of congress and three state governors. He sent dozens of cases...
ONE of the odder pieces of evidence turned up by investigations of Javier Duarte, a former governor of the state of Veracruz, was an exercise book with his wife’s scrawl. “Sí merezco abundancia” (“Yes I deserve wealth”), she had written, over and over. During six years in charge of the state on the Gulf of Mexico, Mr Duarte allegedly did his best to acquire it. He was arrested at a resort in Guatemala on April 15th, after six months on the run. Five days earlier Tomás Yarrington, an ...
A LONG dictatorship ended in a negotiated transition to democracy. The centre-left took office with a moderate programme, reassured the right by pursuing pro-market economic policies, added better social provision and reconnected the country to the world. Power later switched to the right, which persuaded the country that it had become democratic. Then the centre-left returned, this time as a new generation critical of the compromises of the transition. It veered further left but faced economic ...
ARGENTINA’S national colours are instantly recognisable. The flag’s sky-blue stripes and golden sun adorn everything from football shirts to fridge magnets. A huge monument in Rosario, a port city, marks the site where Manuel Belgrano, a founding father, raised the first flag in 1812. On the anniversary of his death, June 20th, schoolchildren pledge to honour the “white and sky-blue” colours.But are they saluting the right shade of blue? A study published in a recent edition of Chemistry...
But is it locally spawned?DOING business across Canada is not for the impatient. Its ten provinces and three territories see themselves as quasi-countries. They set standards and write laws with little regard for what their neighbours are doing. In Ontario petrol must be at least 5% ethanol; Manitoba insists on an 8.5% blend. Each province has its own ideas of how much grain dust people can be exposed to, and what sort of packages coffee creamer should come in. Ontario requires that toilets at c...
Not going round fast enoughTRANSANTIAGO, the Chilean capital’s public-transport system, had its tenth birthday in February, but no one celebrated. Launched with much fanfare, the scheme was supposed to integrate bus and metro lines and speed up traffic. Smog-spewing yellow buses disappeared. Smart cards replaced cash.But Transantiago is sputtering. Fare evasion is rampant, journeys are getting slower and the state has spent billions of dollars to prop up private bus operators. Passengers somet...
BRAZILIANS who remember the hyperinflationary 1980s cheered the news on April 7th that prices rose by just 4.57% in the year to March. Inflation has not come that close to the central bank’s target of 4.5% in seven years. In a fitting coincidence, on the same day one of the architects of the Real Plan, which tamed inflation in 1994, donned the gold-and-green livery of the “immortals”, as members of the Brazilian Academy of Letters are known.Edmar Bacha is just the third economist to join t...
IN THE early hours of June 28th 2009 a unit of the Honduran army stormed the house of the president, Manuel Zelaya, disarmed his guard and spirited him onto a plane bound for Costa Rica. The army sent tanks onto the streets, silenced radio and television stations and cut off electricity and water to parts of Tegucigalpa, the capital. A fake letter of resignation from Mr Zelaya was read out to Honduras’s congress, which approved his ousting. It was Latin America’s last real coup.As a general ...
“THE world knows this is a dictatorship,” jeered masked students confronting a rank of national guardsmen on April 4th in Caracas. With tear-gas swirling around Avenida Libertador, one of the capital’s main streets, what had begun as a march to parliament became a stand-off between youths with stones and soldiers with machineguns. One placard bore the image of a military boot trampling a map of Venezuela.Protests against the authoritarian regime, which has ruled since 1999, are no rarity. ...
IT SHOULD have been a public-relations triumph. The annual meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), held in Asunción from March 30th to April 2nd, was a chance to boast of landlocked Paraguay’s economic achievements. It is the world’s fourth-biggest exporter of soyabeans and number seven in beef. On the opening night the president, Horacio Cartes, unveiled the results of a national branding exercise: a logo of flora, lorries and silos in soothing blues and greens.A day later, ...
IN THE anxious days before Donald Trump was inaugurated in January the outlook for Mexico seemed bleak indeed. Mexicans worried that the president-elect would do what he said: tear up or drastically revise the North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA), build a wall on the United States’ southern border and deport millions of their countrymen. Between election day in November and mid-January the peso lost 15% of its value against the dollar.Now, 11 weeks into Mr Trump’s shambolic administra...
IT WAS hardly a ringing endorsement. With nearly all the votes counted, Lenín Moreno, the political heir of Ecuador’s left-wing president, Rafael Correa, won the presidential election by barely more than two percentage points. That victory brings to an end a series of defeats for left-wing governments in Latin America. Mr Moreno will try to continue Mr Correa’s free-spending populism, but he will have less money and will exercise less power than his predecessor did during more than a decade...
 EVEN before Venezuela’s supreme court seized the powers of the legislature, the last branch of government that is independent of the “Bolivarian” regime, the country was on a path towards dictatorship. The judiciary, which slavishly carries out the government’s bidding, had already invalidated or ignored all the laws passed by the legislature since the opposition won control in an election in December 2015. Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s deeply unpopular president, had the supreme ...
“DECENCY now!” That slogan, on a banner at a demonstration in São Paulo on March 26th, sums up what Brazilians want from their politicians. They have come to expect the opposite. Rodrigo Janot, the chief prosecutor, has asked the supreme court to open 83 investigations into politicians whom he suspects of taking part in a scheme to extract billions of dollars in bribes from construction firms, which in turn benefited from inflated public contracts. Eight ministers in the cabinet of Presiden...
TOURISTS whizz along the Malecón, Havana’s grand seaside boulevard, in bright-red open-topped 1950s cars. Their selfie sticks wobble as they try to film themselves. They move fast, for there are no traffic jams. Cars are costly in Cuba ($50,000 for a low-range Chinese import) and most people are poor (a typical state employee makes $25 a month). So hardly anyone can afford wheels, except the tourists who hire them. And there are far fewer tourists than there ought to be.Few places are as natu...
ONE of the worst dilemmas soldiers face is what to do when they confront armed children. International law and most military codes treat underage combatants mainly as innocent victims. They offer guidance on their legal rights and on how to interrogate and demobilise them. They have little to say about a soul-destroying question, which must typically be answered in a split second: when a kid points a Kalashnikov at you, do you shoot him? Last month Canada became the first country to incorporate ...