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Frustration with Latin America’s Left on the Rise

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In this Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, file photo, Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto attends a ceremony promoting housing for low income families, single mothers and members of the armed forces at Los Pinos presidential residence in Mexico City. Pena Nieto has also seen his pro-business agenda derailed by allegations of corruption and the disappearance of 43 students after they were handed over by police to local drug traffickers. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte, File)

In this Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, file photo, Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto attends a ceremony promoting housing for low income families, single mothers and members of the armed forces at Los Pinos presidential residence in Mexico City. Pena Nieto has also seen his pro-business agenda derailed by allegations of corruption and the disappearance of 43 students after they were handed over by police to local drug traffickers. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte, File)

JOSHUA GOODMAN, Associated Press

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela’s socialist government is struggling to put food on the shelves amid runaway inflation. Brazil’s president is facing calls for impeachment. And even Cuba’s communist government, an iconic touchstone for generations of leftists, is embracing closer ties with the U.S.

Whether it’s because of corruption scandals or stagnant growth, the popularity of the crop of leftist Latin American governments that have been running the region since the start of the millennium appears to be waning. Voters who embraced what became known as the pink tide that swept away the pro-Washington, free-market policies dominant in the 1990s are increasingly turning against the populist firebrands they once rallied behind.

Across the region, polling numbers are tanking and street protests are on the rise.

Triggering the growing disenchantment are some serious economic headwinds. Most leaders came into power just as China’s economy was soaring and with it demand for South America’s abundant natural resources. Now that the world’s second-largest economy is cooling, the commodities boom that allowed governments to spread the wealth and endear themselves to the poor is ending.

“It’s not easy to govern in Latin America right now,” said Raul L. Madrid, a University of Texas at Austin professor and co-editor of a 2010 book on leftist governments in the region. “Many of these governments rode frustration with high levels of inequality and corruption to power. But you can’t rail against the establishment as effectively as you once did when you are the establishment at this point.”

No leader has been harder hit than Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

When his mentor, the late Hugo Chavez, took power in 1999, the international price of oil — which funds the bulk of spending in the oil-rich nation — was under $10 a barrel, and its rise to $100 created a boom that lasted several years. But prices have plunged by nearly half since July, exacerbating shortages and the world’s fastest inflation as the government tight-fists dollars needed to pay down debt and import basic goods.

Maduro’s approval ratings have tumbled to 28 percent, near the lowest in 16 years of socialist rule, and while there’s no sign the sometimes violent street protests that overwhelmed the country a year ago will return anytime soon, polls indicate that the opposition will coast to victory in legislative elections expected to take place by year end.

Perhaps sensing the troubles of his closest ally, Cuban President Raul Castro in December agreed to talks with the U.S. aimed at normalizing relations, a move expected to fuel growth in the communist-run economy. Currently, Venezuela provides Cuba with the bulk of the oil it consumes at subsidized prices.

A string of headline-grabbing corruption scandals are also exposing the ethical breaches that befall many parties after more than a decade in power.

In Chile, the region’s best-managed economy but one highly dependent on copper exports, President Michelle Bachelet reshuffled her Cabinet recently to stem the fallout from revelations that her son used his influence to secure a favorable loan. It’s one of the scandals that have prompted widespread outrage at the sway of money over politics, both for her Socialist Party and the opposition.

When Bachelet, who served as president previously, left office for the first time in 2010 she enjoyed a whopping 84 percent approval rating. But now support has plunged to around 30 percent, a record low, and analysts say an ambitious agenda including a proposed constitutional reform and overhaul of the university education system are at risk.

“When the economy is growing nobody pays attention to corruption,” said Patricio Navia, a political scientist who teaches at New York University and Chile’s Diego Portales University. “But when the pie stops growing, and voters see others profiting, they start to ask ‘where’s my piece?'”

The first major test of the shifting public mood will take place in October, when Argentines head to the polls in the region’s only major presidential election this year.

President Cristina Fernandez’s Peronist party is facing a tough battle to elect her successor as 30 percent inflation and a restriction on dollar purchases erode support. The president’s credibility has also been tainted by her sometimes erratic response to the shocking death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman as he was investigating an alleged cover-up deal between her government and Iran to shield the Islamic Republic from prosecution in the 1994 bombing of Jewish center. Nisman’s accusation was recently dismissed by Argentina’s top Cassation Court.

To be sure, it’s not just leftists. Incumbents across the ideological spectrum are facing the heat.

In Colombia, Harvard University-educated President Juan Manuel Santos’ approval rating is at the same level as Maduro’s as frustration builds over the slow pace of peace talks with leftist rebels. Mexico’s Enrique Pena Nieto has also seen his pro-business agenda derailed by allegations of corruption and the disappearance of 43 students after they were handed over by police to local drug traffickers.

The growing frustration with the left could prompt several leaders to moderate their policies and pivot toward the center.

Already in Brazil, the region’s biggest economy, President Dilma Rousseff is starting to roll out a more conservative message of austerity, including cuts in unemployment and welfare benefits, to tame a record budget deficit widened by the biggest economic slowdown in 25 years.

With approval rating in the low teens just five months into her second term, Rousseff’s also struggling to win back the public trust amid Brazil’s biggest corruption investigation, an inquiry into a massive kickback scheme at state-run oil company Petrobras. Rousseff served as chairwoman of Petrobras’ board as the graft took place, though there has been no evidence to show wrongdoing on her part.

Navia says moderate governments that are more flexible will have an easier time attracting foreign investment and boosting savings while those pursuing a more transformative, ideology-driven agenda, like Argentina and Venezuela, will face a rougher time making adjustments.

Still, it may be too early to write the left’s political obituary, according to Madrid. While fatigue with the left is on the rise, many of the region’s charismatic leaders have a connection with voters that their right-wing opponents, who so far have failed to present an alternative vision of the future, are hard-pressed to replicate, he says.

Mario Toer, a professor of Latin American studies at the University of Buenos Aires, says many of the scandals are being hyped by opposition-leaning media and that corruption, long rampant in Latin America, has actually been on the decline in the past decade. However he recognizes that the left is at a crossroads.

“It is something inherent to the process,” says Toer. “But the global crisis and media offensive add a dimension that goes beyond the real difficulties governments are facing.”

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AP writers Peter Prengaman from Buenos Aires and Bradley Brooks from Rio de Janeiro contributed to this report.

___

Follow Goodman on Twitter: https://twitter.com/apjoshgoodman

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Bay Area

Sept. 11, 2001, 20 years later: ‘Remembrance’ held aboard the USS Hornet Sea, Space & Air Museum

The USS Hornet Sea, Space & Air Museum, moored at the City of Alameda, hosted a “Remembrance” ceremony of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, on board the ship on the 20th anniversary, Sept. 11, 2021.

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U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard, 23rd Marine Regiment: Sgt. Tristan Garivay, Sgt. Michael Her, Cpl. Adrian Chavez and Cpl. Quentavious Leeks. Photo by Russell Moore, USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum, Community Events & Outreach

Quintin Jones, Colonel, USMC, Commanding Officer, 23rd Marine Regiment. Photo by Russell Moore, USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum, Community Events & Outreach

The USS Hornet Sea, Space & Air Museum, moored at the City of Alameda, hosted a “Remembrance” ceremony of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, on board the ship on the 20th anniversary, Sept. 11, 2021.

The ceremony recognized the impact and consequences of the series of airline hijackings and suicide attacks committed on 2001 by 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Queda against targets in New York City and Wash., D.C. Nearly 3,000 people died that day and 6,000 were injured.  This was the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil in U.S. history. 

The ceremony aboard the USS Hornet began with the presentation of the colors by the U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard, 23rd Marine Regiment. (Pictured above.)

Leon Watkins, co-founder of The Walking Ghosts of Black History, was the Master of Ceremonies. He spoke about the extensive death and destruction which triggered the enormous U.S. effort to combat terrorism.

Daniel Costin, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, spoke of the lasting impact of 9/11 terrorists attack on first responders. He recounted incidents where first responders rushed into the scenes of the attacks, many at the sacrifice of their own lives. More than 400 police officers and firefighters were killed that day: 343 members of the New York City Fire Department and 71 members of their law enforcement agencies.

Quintin Jones, Colonel, USMC, commanding officer of the 23rd Marine Regiment, spoke about the recovery efforts at the Pentagon following the terrorists’ attack where 125 people perished. He reflected on the actions of three first responders who recovered the U.S. Marine Corps flag from the commandant of the Marine Corps’ office at the Pentagon. This flag was still standing after the attack. It was a symbol of America’s resolve.

At the end of the formal presentations, the Marine Corps Wreath Bearers went to the fantail of the Hornet. After the playing of ‘Taps,’ they tossed a wreath into the San Francisco Bay to give final honors.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Community

Many in Black Communities are Choosing Vaccination 

Inequities in health outcomes have always been with us. COVID-19 morbidity and mortality rates among African Americans rival or exceed those in heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses. Blacks sit atop most bad lists and at the bottom of most good lists. 

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Vaccination/Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock

The trail of illness and death left amid the spread of COVID-19 in Black and African American communities should come as no surprise.

Inequities in health outcomes have always been with us. COVID-19 morbidity and mortality rates among African Americans rival or exceed those in heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses. Blacks sit atop most bad lists and at the bottom of most good lists.

COVID-19 vaccinations offer us an opportunity to better balance the scale.

Unfortunately, even with widely available testing, highly effective vaccines, and extraordinary efforts by health departments to educate and encourage people of color to get vaccinated, many Black Californians remain skeptical.

We can only hope that the FDA’s full regulatory approval of the Pfizer vaccine on August 23 for those 16 and up convinces more to get the vaccine.  It’s worth noting that emergency-use authorization also remains in place for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots, as well as Pfizer’s for 12- to 15-year-olds – and that all of these vaccines are safe and effective in protecting against COVID-19 and its highly contagious variants.

Eddie Fairchild and Steph Sanders were skeptical about the COVID-19 vaccine but came to understand why vaccination benefits our entire community.

Fairchild, a Sacramento insurance agent, said he knew of research that found Black and white people are often treated differently for the same health conditions leading to poorer health outcomes.

“I was hesitant,” he said. “I was going to wait and see how it panned out with everyone else.

But when a Black friend in the health care field told him he’d opted to get vaccinated, Fairchild asked him why.

“He said, ‘Risk-reward, and the risk is death.’ At that point I didn’t have to ask him what the reward was.”

With a finance degree and a belief that numbers don’t lie, Fairchild looked at the data. He learned that until 2020 the average number of Americans who died each year was about 2.6 million, but in 2020 that figure was 3.4 million. There was only one possible explanation for the death rate surge, he said.

“COVID is absolutely real,” he said, adding that three of his cousins died from the virus. “Taking all that into consideration, I decided that it’s risky to engage in the world and not be vaccinated. It made sense for me to get it.”

Racial gaps in vaccination have thankfully narrowed in recent weeks. But as of September 1, while Black people account for 6% of the state’s population, they account for 6.6% of COVID-19 deaths, which is 11% higher than the statewide rate, according to state department of public health data. Only about 55% of Black people in California have had at least one dose of the vaccine.

Reasons for the discrepancies run the gamut, from conspiracy theories like Black people are getting a less effective vaccine than whites or that the vaccine will eventually be deadly, to challenges in health care access. 

Mostly, it’s based on a lack of trust in medical and scientific institutions, which have a long history of racism and mistreating Black people.

So even when it comes to good things like vaccines, which are scientifically proven to be good for the community, it always comes back to trust.

Sanders, a Vallejo school principal, was hesitant because of the Tuskegee syphilis studies in which Black men who had the disease were intentionally not treated with penicillin. And he was dubious that an effective vaccine could be developed so quickly. 

In fact, the science and technology enabling development of the COVID-19 vaccines was in development for a more than decade before the virus emerged in 2020. The FDA authorized three vaccines for emergency use after they underwent a rigorous process and were proven through trials to be safe and effective at preventing severe COVID-19, hospitalization, and death.

He decided to get vaccinated when his school board decided last spring to bring students back into classrooms.

Today, he’s a fervent vaccine advocate. He holds “lunch and learn” forums for educators, encouraging vaccination.

“I’m a leader and people are relying on my knowledge,” he said. “I tell them, ‘Don’t make this about you, but about the people you love and care about. It’s about protecting them.’”

There is still a long way to go before Blacks achieve true health equity, but vaccination against a virus that is taking a terrible toll on our communities is a critical step in the right direction.

 

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Community

Humanitarian Organization in Vallejo Supports Developing Countries with Access to Water and Education

Founded in 2007, Water and Education International (WEI), devotes its time and resources to providing water and education to villages in developing countries like Haiti.

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Water and Education International Logo, Photo courtesy of Organization’s website.

Founded in 2007, Water and Education International (WEI), devotes its time and resources to providing water and education to villages in developing countries like Haiti. 

Based out of Vallejo, this global humanitarian organization rallies together volunteers to provide food, medical aid, and spiritual knowledge to communities in need. These projects include water well and shower installment, wall repair, and education expansion, development and improvement for schools in communities of Haiti. 

For the past 12 years WEI has made 20 volunteer trips to communities in Haiti, completed two projects that include construction of a water cistern and a toilet, and provided over 425 scholarships for these communities.

To support their mission of combating poverty by providing education and water to underdeveloped communities, WEI partners with indigenous organizations and asks for the help of people like you and businesses alike.

Moreover, they have begun numerous projects that benefit the overall health and education of themselves as well. WEI was founded by Ricky Nutt and is now under the direction of  President and CEO Renee Box.

For more information on programs and services, ways to donate, or how to get involved, you can contact their direct line at (707) 649-4154, e-mail them at info@weihumanitarian.org, or visit their website. For frequent updates, you may also follow their Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

All information directly sourced from https://weihumanitarian.org/

The Vallejo Post’s coverage of local news in Solano County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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