Things That Matter

MYSTERY: Brazilian Beaches Overwhelmed With 600 Tons of Crude Oil

For nearly two months now, thick black sludge has been washing up on the shores of northern Brazil, and nobody is any closer to determining, and stopping, the leak at its source.  Brazil had deployed 1,500 troops to aid in the cleanup process, but without much effect. The oil is just below the surface, which renders typical tracking and cleanup measures useless. In response, troops and volunteers’ only option is to clean up the oil as it washes ashore. Still, experts predict that 600 tons of crude oil have washed ashore since September, killing wildlife and threatening already precarious coral reef systems.

Vice President Hamilton Mourão announced Monday that an additional 5,000 troops would be deployed to aid in the cleanup process.

Over 200 beaches have been affected, making it the worst oil spill in the country’s history.

Senator Humberto Costa, who represents one of the affected regions, has accused President Jair Bolsonaro of neglect in public statements, tweets, and even memes. In a tweet, he said, “The price of neglect is very high. And the Northeast is paying this bill.” He’s even gone so far as to say, “This government is an enemy of the environment.” 

Many other environmental groups agree that the federal response was irresponsibly slow. The government effectively sent one troop per mile of the affected coastline. Nearly two months later, it has sent an additional 5,000 troops.

Even soccer players are using their field time to demonstrate against slow federal response.

During a soccer match this week, both competing teams altered their uniforms in protest of the oil spills. Bahia opted to wear their typically bright blue and red striped jerseys with black oil spill streaks along the side. Ceara wore black gloves, to represent the black caked gloves thousands of Brazilians have worn in lieu of paid federal employees. Some had even used their bare hands, a major health risk.

Images from the scene are heartwrenching.

Countless numbers of wildlife have perished in the last seven weeks of ongoing oil pollution. Sea turtles are washing ashore with thick black oil coating their bodies. Brazilian volunteers rush to remove the oil from their airways, and under their fins while the turtles helplessly wait for the ordeal to be over. The Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources reported at least 24 sea turtles having washed up covered in oil. The spill couldn’t come at a worse time for sea turtles. 

Scientists are expecting roughly 800,000 baby turtles to hatch and make their way into the vast ocean. Some have already started hatching, and researchers from Projeto Tamar are trying to catch thousands of baby turtles as we report this. So far, they have released 1,000 olive ridley baby sea turtles 15 miles off the coast into clean ocean water. Scientists don’t know if they’ll be able to return to the beach to lay their eggs without having “imprinted” their walk into the ocean. 

Volunteers have found dead seabirds, fish, turtles and even dolphins … all covered in oil.

Otherwise pristine Brazilian beaches are now scarred with thick black streaks that display their dead. A nearby coral reef, which had just recovered from a near ecosystem-shattering bleaching event, is now covered in black oil. While the efforts to clean up beaches are a band-aid for the root cause, Brazilian officials have no other option. They don’t know where the oil is coming from.

Oil forensics are pointing toward a Venezuelan source.

Regardless of political governmental boundaries, oil comes from the earth, and carry distint chemical fingerprints that allow scientists to determine the geologic origin. That said, the oil washing up on Brazilian shores has already been exposed to water and UV rays, which can alter the chemical makeup, making it more difficult to identify. 

Still, independent labs have corroborated Brazil’s claim that the oil is likely from Venezuela. That, however, doesn’t mean the criminal activity is stemming from Venezuela. “This oil is Venezuelan. Its DNA is Venezuelan. This is certain. It’s a certainty, not speculation,” Ibama President Eduardo Bim announced at a Senate hearing. “Does that mean that Venezuela is responsible? No, that is a separate question.”

In the aftermath of slow response to quell Amazon rainforest fires, many are suspicious of Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro had publicly declared his ambivalence toward protecting the Amazon rainforest for both indigenous people and environmental purposes. Since his presidency, Bolsonaro has rolled back environmental protections in favor of Big Ag development instead. One Twitter user exclaimed, “This is crazy, first the Amazon rainforest burning down to ashes now this … Something is not right here!”

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People Have A Lot Of Opinions About The Argentina Episode Of Netflix’s ‘Street Food: Latin America’

Culture

People Have A Lot Of Opinions About The Argentina Episode Of Netflix’s ‘Street Food: Latin America’

Manuel Velasquez / Getty Images

Netflix has a new food show out and it has everyone buzzing. “Street Food: Latin America” is bringing everyone the sabor of Latin America to their living room. However, reviews are mixed because of Argentina and the lack of Central American representation.

Netflix has a new show and it is all about Latin American street food.

Some of the best food in the world comes from Latin America. That is just a fact and it isn’t because our families and community come for Latin America. Okay, maybe just a little. The food of Latin America comes with history and stories that have shaped our childhood. For many of us, it is the only thing we have that connects us to the lands our families have left.

The show is highlighting the contributions of women to street food.

“Street Food: Latin America” focuses mainly on the women that are leading the street food cultures in different countries in Latin America. For some of them, it was a chance to bring themselves out of poverty and care for their children. For others, it was a rebellion against the male-dominated culture of cooking in Latin America.

However, some people have some strong opinions about the show and they aren’t good.

There is a lot of attention to native communities in the Latino community culturally right now. The Argentina episode where someone claims that Argentina is more European is rubbing people the wrong way right now. While the native population of Argentina is small, it is still important to highlight and honor native communities who are indigenous to the lands.

The disregard for the indigenous community is upsetting because indigenous Argentinians are fighting for their lives and land.

An A Jazeera report focused on an indigenous community in northern Argentina who were fighting to protect their land. After decades of discrimination and humiliation, members of the Wichi community fought to protect their land from the Argentinian government grabbing it in 2017. Early this year, before Covid, children of the tribe started to die at alarming rates of malnutrition.

Another pain point in the Latino community is the complete disregard of Central America.

Central America includes Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Belize, and Panama. Central America’s exclusion is not sitting right with Netflix users with Central American heritage. Like, how can five whole countries be looked over during a Netflix show about street food in Latin America?

Seems like there is a chance for Netflix to revisit Latin America for more food content.

There are so many countries in Latin America that offer delicious foods to the world. There is more to Latin America than Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Colombia, and Bolivia.

READ: This Iconic Mexican Food Won The Twitter Battle To Be Named Latin America’s Best Street Food

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Brazil’s Remote Indigenous Communities Are At Risk Of Covid-19 After Healthcare Workers Test Positive

Things That Matter

Brazil’s Remote Indigenous Communities Are At Risk Of Covid-19 After Healthcare Workers Test Positive

Michael Dantas / Getty Images

The Coronavirus pandemic has been ravaging Brazilian cities for months. In fact, Brazil is number two in the world when it comes to both deaths and infections. Cities like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo have struggled to carry on as much of the economy and the health care system has collapsed. Many have attributed these dire conditions as consequences of President Bolsonaro’s failed policies.

Now, Brazil’s remote Indigenous communities are facing a similar crisis – although one that could be even worse thanks to a severe lack of access to medical care. A team of medical workers sent to protect the country’s native populations has actually done the opposite – as more than a thousands workers test positive for the virus and have spread it among remote tribes.

For months, as the Coronavirus tore through Brazil, Indigenous tribes across the vast country have tried to protect themselves by strictly limiting access to their villages. Some have setup armed roadblocks and others have hunkered down in isolated camps.

But it appears that all of that may have been in vain. According to interviews and federal data obtained by The New York Times, the health workers charged by the federal government with protecting the country’s Indigenous populations may be responsible for spreading the disease in several Indigenous communities. More than 1,000 workers with the federal Indigenous health service, known as Sesai, have tested positive for Coronavirus as of early July.

As news of the infections spread across the villages, communities became alarmed. “Many people grabbed some clothes, a hammock and ran into the forest to hide,” said Thoda Kanamari, a leader of the union of Indigenous peoples in the vast territory, home to groups with little contact with the outside world. “But it was too late, everyone was already infected.”

Health workers say they have been plagued by insufficient testing and protective gear. Working without protective equipment or access to enough tests, these workers may have inadvertently endangered the very communities they were trying to help.

Now, news of the region’s first deaths linked to the virus have started to emerge and there’s fear it will get much worse.

Credit: Tarso Sarraf / Getty Images

The remote villages that dot the Amazon region have also started to report their very first deaths linked to Coronavirus. Despite raging out of control in Brazil’s cities, remote Indigenous villages have faired quite well. That’s all beginning to change.

The Amazon region, which Brazil’s government says is home to greatest concentration of isolated Indigenous groups in the world, is now seeing an outbreak of Covid-19 – one that many fear will be hard to stop. Experts fear the new coronavirus could spread rapidly among people with less resistance even to already common diseases and limited access to health care, potentially wiping out some smaller groups.

So far, more than 15,500 Indigenous Brazilians have been diagnosed with the Coronavirus, including at least 10,889 living in protected territories, according to Instituto Socioambiental, an Indigenous rights organization. At least 523 have died.

The alarming news comes as Brazil continues to struggle in its response to the pandemic.

Credit: Michael Dantas / Getty Images

With nearly 2.1 million confirmed cases and more than 80,000 deaths, as of July 22, Brazil’s Covid-19 catastrophe is the world’s second worst, after the United States.

And now an illness that has ravaged major cities like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo is at risk of spreading unchecked in some of the county’s most vulnerable communities. Health care workers, Indigenous leaders and experts blame major shortcomings that have turned Brazil into a global epicenter of the pandemic.

Robson Santos da Silva, the Army colonel at the head of Sesai, defended the agency’s response during the pandemic, and brushed off criticism as “a lot of disinformation, a lot of politics.”

Complicating the outbreak in Brazil’s remote villages (and even in the large cities) is that tests have been in short supply and often unreliable, which means some doctors and nurses with asymptomatic or undiagnosed cases have traveled to vulnerable communities and worked in them for days.

Criticism of President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic, within Indigenous territories and beyond, is mounting.

Brazil has largely struggled to contain the pandemic thanks to the policies of its populist right-wing president who has denounced the pandemic as nothing more than a “little flu.” Within a couple of months of the initial outbreak, Bolsonaro lost two health ministers – who were physicians – and replaced them with an Army general who has no experience in health care.

And the backlash to Bolsonaro’s failed policies seems to be growing. Early this month, a judge on Brazil’s Supreme Court ordered the government to redouble efforts to shield Indigenous people from the virus by coming up with a comprehensive plan within 30 days and setting up a “situation room” staffed by officials and Indigenous representatives.

More recently, another Supreme Court judge generated consternation in the Bolsonaro administration by warning that the armed forces could be held responsible for a “genocide” over their handling of the pandemic in Indigenous communities.

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