Tuesday, January 21, 2014

South America News Roundup May 11, 2012: Dignified Death in Argentina, Quinoa in the Andes, Floods in Paraguay, Water Cannons in Chile

article from May 11, 2012
by Julie R Butler

Argentina: Dignified death law

The Argentine Senate has approved a “dignified death” law by a vote of 55-0, with 17 abstentions. The law was already passed in the Lower House last year. It eliminates the need for family members to find a judge who would sign a court order to refuse treatment or put an end to life-support.

Medical ethicists assure that removing feeding tubes is more humane than force-feeding the dying because the human body naturally shuts down its systems and can even induce feelings of euphoria that make the passing more calm and comfortable. Euthanasia is expressly prohibited by the new law, and the patient or representative must have signed document stating their wishes before a notary and two witnesses.

The Andes: Quinoa exports soar

Quinoa, a grain-like member of the spinach family, has been grown for food in the Andean regions of Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia for thousands of years. It is high in protein and has an excellent amino acid profile and good amounts of calcium, iron, and phosphorous. Like many indigenous foods, it was once looked down upon as “Indian food,” fit only for the poorest of the poor. But now, it has become a profitable cash crop for Peru and Bolivia, with a growing market in industrialized nations.

While this is good news for the farmers of these countries, it also raises several concerns. Suitable land is scarce in regions of Bolivia, causing violence over land claims. Another issue is that all of this nutritious food will be exported, leaving none left for the poorest of the poor.

Paraguay: Widespread flooding

Devastating floods began to hit the Chaco region of western Paraguay in mid-April. Some areas could not even accommodate emergency helicopters because of a lack of dry land.

The Paraguayan Chaco is nicknamed “Infierno Verde” (Green Hell), due to its extreme weather. The heat in the summer is intense, and the agriculture in the region has been plagued by extended droughts in recent years.

Heavy rains there continued through the end of the month, causing the affected area to spread to the capital city of Asunción, the latest region to have been declared a “state of emergency” due to flooding along the banks of the Río Paraguay.

As of April 29, 1,000 people had to be evacuated in Asunción and about 500 in Concepción, 570 km from the capital, while some 70,000 have been displaced in the Chaco.

Chile: Piñera, polls, and police

Recent news out of Chile serves as the perfect follow-up to the point I made recently in my article about the "Red Diaper Baby."

First, there is the recent polling that has Piñera’s approval rating dipping lower than it has ever been since he became president of Chile in 2010. This, despite the healthy economy, as food and fuel prices have fallen over the past few weeks. Political scientist Jose Viacava says that Chileans want more than good economic indicators; they are pushing for deeper reform in the country’s political and economic model. At least the president can take solace in the fact that the Concertación, the center-left opposition party, fares even worse in the polls. Perhaps part of the reason for so much discontent is that the carabineros spent US$6.7 million on 10 new riot control vehicles equipped with water cannons, feeding directly into the point that education reform activist, Camila Vallejo, was making in her response, as reported by The New York Times, to Piñera’s comment that “nothing in life is free. Someone has to pay”:

“Obviously someone has to pay, but there’s no reason why it must be families financing between 80 and 100 percent of it.” Why not the state — through taxes on large corporations, the nationalization of resources, a reduction in financing for the military? When yet another march ended in violence, Vallejo and her fellow students collected hundreds of tear-gas shells and brought them to La Moneda. “Here are more than 50 million pesos worth of tear-gas bombs,” announced Vallejo, money, she said, that could have been spent on education. Students formed the shells into a peace sign on the plaza, and Vallejo crouched in the center. The resulting image was published all over the world.

Julie R Butler is a writer, journalist, editor, and author of several books, including Nine Months in Uruguay and No Stranger To Strange Lands (click here for more info). She is a contributor to Speakout at Truthout.org, and her current blog is Connectively Speaking.
email: julierbutler [at] yahoo [dot] com, Twitter: @JulieRButler