In a weird turn of events, FIFA — whose top officials are embroiled in a huge corruption investigation — has fined five Latin American countries for homophobic chants by the audience during qualifying matches for the 2018 World Cup.
Argentina, Peru, Mexico and Uruguay will have to pay around $18,000, while Chile will have to pay the highest fine, around $69,000, for the “insulting and discriminatory chants.” Honduras might also get fined.
“Disciplinary proceedings alone cannot change behaviour by certain groups of fans that unfortunately goes against the core values of our game,” said Claudio Sulser, chair of FIFA’s disciplinary committee. “FIFA and the entire football community have to be proactive in educating and inspiring a message of equality and respect across all levels of the game.”
Moral of the story: being homophobic is expensive.
Two of Latin America’s most important ingredients – staples of cuisines across the region – are in danger of possible extinction thanks to climate change. Tomatoes and chilies both make up a huge part of traditional recipes from Mexico to Brazil and Argentina to Cuba – and they’re close to disappearing from grocery stores everywhere.
We know that tomato and chili are two fundamental ingredients in Mexican cuisine. Due to the threats suffered by its main pollinator, the bumblebee, these basic ingredients could disappear forever.
Climate change is wreaking havoc on the planet. But one of the most at-risk species is the humble bumble bee. These often feared insects are a vital source of pollination for thousands of plant and flower species around the world – if they disappear so too do the species of plants that depend on them.
Pollinators are species of great importance for a healthy environment. They are responsible for the the diversity and health of various biomes. Across Latin America, the bumble bee is largely responsible for the pollination of modern agriculture and this could have a major impact on the production of tomatoes and chilis.
Unfortunately, bumblebees are currently threatened, resulting in the possible extinction of different vegetables, including tomatoes and chili.
But why does the tiny bumble bee matter at all?
The bumble bee belongs to the insect family Apidae, which includes hundeds of different species of bumblebees. In fact, the bumble bee can be found on every continent except Antarctica and plays an outsized role in agriculture. The insects are often larger than honey bees, come in black and white varieties and often feature white, yellow, or orange stripes. This genus belongs to the Apidae family that includes different species commonly known as bumblebees. They’re almost entirely covered by very silky hairs. An adult bumblebee reaches 20 millimeters or more and feeds primarily on nectar from flowering plants. A curious fact is that females have the ability to sting, while males do not.
Bumblebees are epic pollinators of the tomato and chili plantS. Together with different species, the bumblebee helps produce many staple foods that are part of healthy diets around the world. If these become extinct the eating habits of all Latinos would suffer drastic changes as several vegetables would disappear.
So why are bumblebees in danger?
The main threat of these insects is the pesticides used in modern agriculture. That is why it is necessary to avoid consuming food produced in this way. We can all help the bumblebee planting plants, protecting native species and especially not damaging their natural environment.
But climate change is also wreaking havoc on the breeding patters of bumblebees – leading to colony collapse. With fewer colonies there is less breeding and therefore fewer bees around the world to pollinate our global crops.
Can you imagine a world without tomatoes or chilies?
Salsa. Moles. Pico de gallo. Ketchup. Chiles rellenos. Picadillo. All of these iconic Latin American dishes would be in danger of going extinct along with the bumblebee – because what’s a mole without the rich, complex flavors of dried chilies?
Several groups are already working hard to help fund programs that would work to conserve the dwindling bumblebee populations. While others are working out solutions that could perhaps allow tomatoes and chilies to self-pollinate – much as other plants already do.
For months now, Latin America has been facing a political crisis as country after country has seen massive populist protest movements that have destabilized the region. From Chile to Puerto Rico, Bolivia to Ecuador, governments have struggled to respond to growing inequality – which has forced millions of Latinos to take to the street.
Many of these protest movements lack obvious leadership but they do share a few common threads. For one, they want to see more government accountability and actions against corruption. They also share a desire to fight growing income inequality which has stifled economic development for the region’s most vulnerable populations.
Now, a new report has tied many of these massive protest movements to Russian bots – which are seen as instigating and magnifying the region’s unrest.
The US has reportedly tied Russian bots to increased protest movements across Latin America.
Although the protest movements across Latin America share a few common threads, the majority of them are overwhelmingly different. In Chile, protests started over a planned increase in public transport fares. In Bolivia, it was against alleged voter fraud by then-President Evo Morales. In Puerto Rico, it was to fight back against alleged corruption and to hold leaders accountable for homophobic and misogynistic texts.
According to the US State Department, however, they’ve identified one theme they all seem to have in common: Russian interference.
In Chile, nearly 10 percent of all tweets supporting protests in late October originated with Twitter accounts that had a high certainty of being linked to Russia. While in Bolivia, tweets associated with Russian-backed accounts spiked to more than 1,000 per day – up from fewer than five.
And in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia and Chile over one 30-day period, Russia-linked accounts posted strikingly similar messages within 90 minutes of one another.
Senior diplomats from the US believe that Russia’s goal may be to increase dissent in countries that don’t support Maduro’s presidency in Venezuela.
Russia’s alleged campaign to help tap support for Maduro’s regime has resulted in mixed reviews. It’s not obvious how successful the campaign has been.
With the support of more than 50 other countries, the Trump administration has imposed bruising economic sanctions against Mr. Maduro’s government in Venezuela over the last year. The coalition is backing Juan Guaidó, the leader of the Venezuelan opposition, whom most of Latin America and the rest of the West views as the country’s legitimate president.
Russia is working to expand its presence in Latin America, largely at Washington’s expense.
The US State Department frequently keeps tabs on Twitter traffic worldwide to monitor for potentially dangerous activities, like the proliferation of fake pages and user accounts or content that targets the public with divisive messages
“We are noting a thumb on the scales,” said Kevin O’Reilly, the deputy assistant secretary of state overseeing issues in the Western Hemisphere. “It has made the normal dispute resolutions of a democratic society more contentious and more difficult.”
Souring attitudes toward the United States throughout the region over trade and immigration issues, the rise of populist candidates, and the deepening internal economic and social challenges facing many Latin American countries create favorable circumstances for Russia to advance its interests.
About a decade ago, it became obvious that Russia was launching an online campaign to destabilize the region using new technology and social media.
There are Spanish-language arms of two Russian-backed news organizations that have been found to spread disinformation, conspiracy theories and, in some cases, obvious lies to undermine liberal democratic governments.
According to one state-financed group, RT Español, they’ve reached 18 million people each week across ten Latin American counties and have more than a billion views on YouTube. This is huge liability for the truth.
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