Category Archives: Brazil

State of Emergency in Peru

Frigid temperatures have been chilling South America over the last couple of weeks. Now the Peruvian government has declared a state of emergency in 16 of Peru’s 24 regions  after temperatures dropped as low as -24 Celsius.

Lima, the nation’s capital, recorded the lowest temperature in 46 years at 8 degrees Celsius. Temperatures were as low at 9 degrees Celsius in Peru’s usually humid Amazon region.

Hundreds of people, including many young children, have already died from cold-related illnesses such as pneumonia. The mountainous south, including poor, rural populations living 3,000 m above sea level, have been the hardest hit by the cold.

The state of emergency in Peru comes in the wake of severe cold weather throughout Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia, Paraguay and Chile. If you are traveling to South America in the near future, be sure to bring extra layers for unusually cold weather.

Latin American News Briefs: Titi Monkeys, Tomb Discoveries, and Temperature Drops

Compiled by Jen O’Riordan, Eli Mangold and Libby Zay.

Every Friday, Viva Travel Guides combs the presses to round up the most relevant and recent Latin America news stories. Here are the Latin American news stories our office talked about during the week of July 11th to July 23rd. For more up-to-the minute news, follow us on Twitter!

News footage of the monkeys that were smuggled.

Man in Airport Found with 18 Endangered Monkeys Under His Clothes

[ Mexico / Peru ] A Mexican national was detained at Mexico City’s airport by customs officials after he was seen acting suspiciously in security. When officials pulled the 38-year-old aside they found 18 Titi monkeys hidden underneath his clothing in a girdle.

The man, who had arrived on a flight from Lima, Peru had previously kept the monkeys in his luggage but had later attached them to his person because he didn’t want the baggage x-ray machines to damage them. Two of the 18 monkeys had already died during the journey from Peru.

Titi monkeys, found in South and Central America, are regarded as an endangered species and protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The man had paid $30 per monkey in Peru and expected to sell them in Mexico for between $775 and $1,550 each. In Mexico, having a wild animal as a household pet is a deep-rooted tradition, and animals smuggled to the US from Central or South America often come through Mexico. [Huffington Post]

1,600-year-old Royal Tomb Discovered in Guatemala

[ Guatemala ] Last week, Scientists in Guatemala revealed the discovery of an ancient, Mayan tomb that could have been the final resting place of a Mayan king. The discovery was made on the 29th of May, under the El Diablo pyramid in the city of El Zotz.

The archaeological team thought that ‘something odd’ was happening during the dig and eventually discovered the 6 feet high, 12 feet long, and four feet wide tomb after they lowered a light bulb through a small hole. The tomb was filled with carvings, ceramics, textiles, and the bones of six children, who might have been sacrificed at the time of the king’s death.

Scientists say they have a lot more work to do before they can confirm their suspicions, but findings such as an elaborate headdress and a sacrificial blade with what appears to be blood on it indicate that it may be the tomb of a king, only previously mentioned in hieroglyphic texts. [National Geographic]

A shortage of resources in Argentina means only two of 15 prison guard towers could be staffed. Photo courtesy AP.

Two Argentine Inmates Bust Out of Jail Right Under a Mannequin’s Nose

[ Argentina ] Due to budget shortages in the Nequén Province of Argentina, the local jail has had to substitute mannequins made of a football and an officer’s hat for actual guards. Two prisoners, Walter Pozo and Cesar Andres, must have noticed the shortcoming and climbed over the fence unopposed. Officials are hoping that this embarrassment will bring much-needed resources to the province. [Independent]

Honduras Returns to OAS, SICA

[ Honduras ] At a summit in El Salvador, Central America leaders decided to allow Honduras to continue participating in two major regional groups. Honduras had been expelled from both the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Central American Integration System (SICA) after President Manuel Zelaya was ousted in June 2009. [PeopleDaily]

Penguins Mysteriously Washing Up Dead on Brazilian Shores

[ Brazil ] Over 500 penguins have washed up on the beaches of Brazil, and scientists are trying to figure out why. Autopsies strongly suggest starvation, but they are still unsure why there is such scarcity in fish and squid. Some hypotheses include changing ocean currents, overfishing and colder water, which affect the penguins’ primary sources of food. [CBS News]

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Courtesy AP

Hugo Chavez Opens Remains of Simon Bolivar, Announces it to the World on Twitter

[ Venezuela ] On Friday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez tweeted that he was opening his idol’s remains to look for proof of foul play in his death. The eccentric head-of-state believes that Bolivar was murdered, and did not die of tuberculosis as history claims. He briefly displayed the remains on national television and passionately orated, “that glorious skeleton has to be Bolivar, because his flame can be felt. My God…it’s not a skeleton. It’s the Great Bolivar, who has returned!” [ AP ]

Venezuela Cuts Diplomatic Ties with Colombia

[ Venezuela ] In a bold move, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez severed ties with Colombia on Thursday just before the Colombian Ambassador, Luis Alfonso Hoyos, presented evidence to the Organization of American States (OAS) that Venezuela is currently harboring about 1,500 leftist guerrillas behind their borders. Colombia’s accusations against Venezuela caused Chavez to force the closure of Colombia’s embassy in Bogotá within 72 hours. The OAS stated that it could not investigate the sites without Venezuela’s consent. [BBC]

Cold Front Causes Death Across South America

[ Argentina / Bolivia / Chile / Paraguay / Peru / Uruguay ] South America is having a particularly hard winter, with some parts reporting the lowest temperatures in 29 years. In several countries, the mercury has dropped below freezing. Fatalities due to the cold have been reported in Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina. Livestock is threatened in all of these areas, as well as in Chile and Peru. [].

Watch a news report on the Mexican gun battle.

Border Clashes Along the Mexican / U.S. Border

[ Mexico / U.S. ] A gun battle went down in the rural town of Madera, about 230 kilometers (145 miles) south of the U.S. border. As the story goes, gunmen reportedly opened fire on an army patrol and eight men were killed—however, the U.S. Defense Department is not offering any information. On Wednesday, late-night gun battles broke out in the border town of Nuevo Laredo, which could be heard across the border in the U.S. In Nuevo Laredo, a gang forced people from their cars and buses to use the vehicles as barricades along the roads. Witness reports said several gunmen were killed, but no official number has been tallied by Nuevo Laredo officials. [AP]

Seventeen Die in Birthday Party Massacre

[ Mexico ] The bodies of 12 males and 5 females were found in a bloodstained party hall, along with at least a dozen injured, after a tragic gun attack on a birthday party in Torreon, Northern Mexico. More than 200 bullets were fired indiscriminately into the bar full of young party goers enjoying some birthday celebrations.

The massacre is the third such attack this year on bars in Torreon, an industrial city in Coahuila state. Coahuila Attorney General, Jesus Torres says the perpetrators, a prominent drug cartel, have been identified but he refused to identify the group publicly.

Mexico’s northern border has been the worst hit by the recent drug wars that have seen almost 25,000 killed since President Felipe Calderon launched a military crackdown on organized crime three and a half years ago. [LA Times]

US to Send Troops to Mexican Border

[ Mexico / U.S. ] 1,200 troops will be sent to the border next month in an effort to tackle illegal immigration and drug-trafficking in the four border states. Arizona will receive 524 troops; Texas 250, California 224 and New Mexico 72, while 130 will be part of a national liaison office.

In May, President Obama announced that he wanted to assign $500m (£350m) to new funding for the initiative and deploy US troops to help secure the border.

The soldiers will be armed but only permitted to fire in self defense and their main task will be to observe suspicious movement along the border and report it to Border Patrol agents.

A controversial new state law is due to come into effect in Arizona on 29 July making it a crime to be in the state without immigration papers.

Several lawsuits, including one by the federal government, have been filed against the legislation. The US justice department is challenging the law, arguing that it undermines the federal administration’s authority to set immigration policy. [BBC]

Did you miss last weeks news? Click here to read Latin American news stories from last week.

Brazil's Christ the Redeemer Statue Re-Opens

By Jen O’Riordan, Viva Editorial Intern.

After a $4 million restoration project, Brazil’s iconic Christ the Redeemer statue has been re-opened. The restoration took four months for over one hundred workers to repair cracks and water damage on the 125 ft statue.

Named one of the new Wonders of the World back in 2007, the statue has looked out over Rio de Janeiro for almost 80 years and attracts almost two million visitors annually. The statue had been cut off to the public last April when devastating landslides hit the region killing more than 250 people.

In order to ensure that the right color stone was used in the restoration, more than 60,000 pieces of stone were sourced from the very same quarry from where the original stone for the statue came.

The unveiling also celebrated Brazil’s World Cup ambitions, as the statue was lit up in green and yellow in the team’s honor. A mass was also held during the re-inauguration by Archbishop Orani Jaoa Tempesta, who said it was “a beautiful and important moment, not only for Rio de Janeiro but for Brazil.”

Rio Largo, Brazil, Swept Away by Flood

The death toll remains at 44, but the devastation continues after severe floods washed through the states of Alagoas and Pernambuco in northeastern Brazil leaving over 40,000 people homeless. The town of Rio Largo, located in Alagoas, has been almost completely swept off the map.

Rescuers rushed to get food and water to stranded residents by any means possible. They used helicopters and boats to access areas cut off by the flooding. Many roads, railway tracks and stations have been either damaged or destroyed.

Rio Largo was one of the hardest hit towns. Residents are still searching for survivors after a dam broke, causing water to surge through homes and streets. With more rain predicted, many locals who feel they have lost everything risk losing even more.

Some areas have reported over 40 cm of rain in the last four days, with more expected to fall. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has allocated $56m for relief efforts and sent 20,000 baskets of food for the two states, as well as mattresses and bedding for the many homeless.

Fear of further damage continues throughout northeastern Brazil. If you plan to visit this area, stay tuned for news updates and contact your hotel/hostel before you leave.

Flooding in Northeastern Brazil

Over 600 people are missing, 42 dead, and thousands homeless after a week of heavy rainfall caused flooding in northeastern Brazil. The coastal states of Alagoas and Pernambuco have been hit the hardest.

According to the state civil defense office, over 20,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed in Alagoas and 40,000 people have been left homeless or displaced in the neighboring state of Pernambuco.

Mudslides and torrents caused by the heavy rains have mangled infrastructure and swept away homes. The death toll is feared to be rising.

Governor Teotonio Vilela Filho has declared a public calamity in more than 30 municipalities. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will tour the damaged areas tomorrow.–fbintl_ro-donovan062310.html

South America's Oktoberfestivities

While Munich nurses a hangover from its Oktoberfest, which came to a close yesterday, kegs are being rolled out all over the world this month in order to celebrate the planet’s third most popular beverage. A number of beer festivals take place in South America. Some cities have been putting on lederhosen and dirndls in October for quite some time, while others are only just beginning to tap Germany’s premium party export.

In Brazil, Brahma, local and craft beers flow at Oktoberfest Blumenau from the 1st to the 18th. Last year nearly 600,000 people drank 374,000 liters of beer at what has become the biggest beer festival in the Americas. Most everything that you’d find in the Bavarian version can be found in Blumenau, from traditional food-Kassler and Eisbein-to oompah (blasmusik) bands. There are also nightly drinking contests and even a bierwagen that distributes free beer.

Every year the small alpine-esque Villa General Belgrano, in Argentina’s Cordoba province, swells with beer drinkers and orchestras. It kicked off its 46th annual Fiesta Nacional de la Cerveza on the 2nd with a traditional ceremonial keg tap, and the party will play out in Parque Cervecero until the 12th, featuring dances, a parade, and the election of a beer queen.

More than 25,000 people are expected in Malloco, Chile, when it celebrates its fifth Oktoberfest Fiesta de la Cerveza from the 29th to November 8th. Revellers congregate in a German restaurant, Der Müncher de Malloco, as well as in the city center to guzzle more than 100 different types of beer. There is also a home brew contest, where you can sample the competing blonde, amber, dark and specialty beers from hobby brewers. *January is also a hopping month in Chile, with a two-day beer festival taking place in Llanquihue, and a Kuntsmann Cervecería-sponsored bierfest in Valdivia.

Lima, Peru’s Oktoberfest Cusqueña runs from the 15th to the 18th,  serving up plenty of sausage, pretzels and massive mugs of Cervecería Backus’ exclusive festival edition of Cusqueña. Peruvian beer festivals also take place in Chiclayo, Huancayo, and Cusco.


Severe Flooding in Brazil Affects Travel

If you’re looking for straightforward travel in Brazil, the northeast probably isn’t the best place for you to be. Severe flooding has left 19 people dead and 186,000 homeless. The flooding comes after several months of heavy rain in the Amazon, where 7 states have been affected. The worst hit of these is Maranhao, which is located along the Atlantic coast and south of the mouth of the Amazon River. Sao Luis, the state’s capital, is a popular tourist destination.

Emergency shelters have been set up to house displaced families, and residents are using boats to get around the many underwater towns and villages.

The northeast has been declared a natural disaster zone, so any travel in the region should be done with extreme care and patience. Six major highways have been affected by the flooding, as well as train lines and bus routes. The best thing to do is check the situation at local bus stations to determine which routes are still possible. Getting from Jericoacoara to Sao Luis, although not easy in the first place, is now even harder as many of the towns usually traveled through are cut off. Mudslides are also frequent. Upon arrival, expect Sao Luis to be hectic as humanitarian aid arrives to be flown to smaller towns and villages that have been affected by the floods. If in doubt, it may be better to avoid this region all together.

Abigail Foulkes, V!VA Staff Writer