Kathleen McCaul Moura
Six months after a peace accord was signed between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, coca production in the country is said to be at its highest level in two decades. Rafael Alcadipani, a public safety researcher at FGV university in Rio de Janeiro, says that the Colombian peace process could make Latin America less stable. ‘It has a definite impact in making the connection between Colombian and Brazilian gangs stronger and the illegal drug trade stronger,’ he told me. ‘We’re getting information from intelligence services that the Farc and the PCC’ – the Primeiro Capital Command, a São Paulo gang – ‘have been in touch. There are some particular drug routes in the Amazon where the two groups meet and negotiate. My understanding is that the war is ending in Colombia and a war is starting between drug gangs in Brazil, so retired guerillas could be hired.’
São Paulo is for sale. João Doria, mayor since 1 January, is planning to auction off South America's biggest city piece by piece: not only the racecourse, football stadium and carnival centre, but lighting, transport, health services and even the public funeral system. The glitzy promotional video is full of glass towers and night shots of glittering avenues; there’s no sign of the heaving lanes of traffic that blast and fume among concrete towers as far as the eye can see. There are few green or public spaces in São Paulo; the biggest, Ibirapuera Park, is now up for sale.
This time last year, Indian-administered Kashmir was welcoming tourists to its lakes, Mughal gardens and mountain meadows. The state tourism board reported 300,000 visitors between July and September 2015, numbers helped by various foreign governments lifting travel bans. Today, Kashmir is once more plunged into chaos and violence. Burhan Wani, a commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen, was killed by Indian security forces on 8 July. Protests broke out across Kashmir the next day. The official crackdown was severe. Dozens of people have been killed and thousands injured. Shops, hospitals and schools have been shut, mobile phone and internet services cut, property destroyed and local newspapers closed.
Athletes are now arriving in Rio for the start of the Paralympic Games next week. The predictions of unfinished stadiums, Zika outbreaks and rampaging crime at the Olympics last month proved largely unfounded. Brazil won more medals than ever before, with some powerful symbolic victories for its ordinary citizens. The men's football team avenged their 7-0 World Cup defeat against Germany. Brazil's first gold of the games (for judo) was won by Rafaela Silva, a black lesbian from the City of God favela. Maicon de Andrade Siqueiro, who got a bronze medal in the taekwondo, trained around his work as a builder and a waiter. El País described him as a fighter not only in the stadium but, ‘like so many Brazilians’, in life.
The interim president of Brazil, Michel Temer, didn’t win the bid to host the Olympic games in Rio or organise the event. But he could regard the opening ceremony as a personal triumph. All over Rio last Friday there were protests against his leadership, which many are calling the result of a coup d’état. The words ‘Fora Temer’ – ‘Temer Out’ – could be seen on the beach, outside the Maracanã Stadium, painted on people’s bottoms. But the billions of viewers who tuned in to watch the beginning of the Olympics did not see this outcry, and the booing which accompanied the president's official opening of the games wasn’t obvious over the television.
'Tomorrow, are you ready to die?' Fadil asked me. He was the chain-smoking owner of the hotel in Jordan I stayed at 13 years ago, soon after the fall of Saddam Hussein. I was 22, had just finished university and was waiting for a ride across the desert to Baghdad, where I would begin working for Iraq's first postwar English language newspaper, the Baghdad Bulletin. I wasn't ready to die and thought I should maybe go home, but gave a watery smile, took a gulp of Fanta and fixed my eyes on the flickering TV, tuned to CNN.
A dead man lies on the floor with arms outstretched, his legs crossed. Beneath him are the words: ‘seja marginal, seja herói’ (‘be an outlaw, be a hero’). The image, created in 1967 by Hélio Oiticica, became an emblem of the resistance movement against the military regime that ruled Brazil between 1964 and 1985. When they displayed the picture on a flag at a concert in Rio, the musicians Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil were arrested, jailed, then sent into exile in London. But the word marginal does not only mean outlaw, it also means, simply, ‘from the margins’. Oiticica’s dead hero demands status for the marginalised in a country where the poorest have always been exploited by those in power.