Crazies and Craziers

Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell is reputed, in a book written by the BBC's James Naughtie, to have called the key figures surrounding George W. Bush in the run-up to his invasion of Iraq "f***ing crazies". Mike Pence, Trump's Vice-President, certainly has a track record that places him squarely in the same camp … Continue reading Crazies and Craziers

Does the Mexican government really want to make Dr. Mireles a martyr?

Dr. José Manuel Mireles Valverde was one of the original leaders of the autodefensa movement in Michoacán that played a central role in confronting the Caballeros Templarios drug cartel (for the history, see my book The New War on the Poor). He was the leading Mexican protagonist in the award-winning US documentary Cartel Land. Mireles … Continue reading Does the Mexican government really want to make Dr. Mireles a martyr?

Brazil’s prison crisis

This first week of January has seen two massacres of inmates in Brazilian prisons. The first took place in Manaus. Fifty-six inmates died, the highest number to be killed since the Carandiru prison complex massacre in São Paulo in 1992. But in that latter case it was the police who did the killing. In Manaus … Continue reading Brazil’s prison crisis

After the Olympics

Despite hysteria in some sectors of the international press over Zika, raw sewage pouring into Guanabara Bay, and security threats facing athletes and visitors, the Rio Olympics proved successful as a sporting event. So, in the end, after initial lack of sponsor interest and slow ticket sales, did the Paralympics, which ended up beating Beijing … Continue reading After the Olympics

Nunca más?

During a recent visit to Buenos Aires, I visited the site of the former Navy School of Mechanics (ESMA), used as a clandestine torture and extermination centre under the last Argentine military dictatorship (1976-1983). The government of Néstor Kirchner turned the ESMA into an educational facility dedicated to the memory of the victims of the … Continue reading Nunca más?

Michoacán: an update

It is now some time since I last reported on developments in the Mexican state of Michoacán, so here is a note on what remains, overall, a less than happy panorama. The new state government that entered office in October 2015, headed by Silvano Aureoles of the PRD, promised to get a firm grip on … Continue reading Michoacán: an update

The Olympics and Rio’s crisis

The interim federal government headed by Michel Temer of the PMDB has now responded to the declaration of a state of financial catastrophe by the heavily indebted state government of Rio de Janeiro, which has been in the hands of the PMDB since 2003. It has provided a 2.9 billion reais emergency cash injection. This … Continue reading The Olympics and Rio’s crisis

Cartel land, again

The analysis of the relationships between criminal organisations, autodefensas and the three levels of government in the Mexican state of Michoacán offered in my book The New War on the Poor was completed before the Federal Special Commissioner for Security and Integral Development, Alfredo Castillo, was removed from this post in January 2015 (to be subsequently … Continue reading Cartel land, again

Violence in Bahia

5,450 people were murdered in the state of Bahia in 2014. In terms of absolute numbers of deaths, this is the highest level in the country and far higher, for example, than São Paulo. Bahia's capital, Salvador, is now the sixth most violent metropolitan city in Brazil according to the Federal Justice Ministry. It is … Continue reading Violence in Bahia