Dead Presidents

Exhumation of Brazil’s João
Set for Month of John in the U.S.

It’s just a coincidence, but as the U.S. President John Kennedy’s assassination 50 years ago this month spawned the mother of all conspiracies, the exhumation of João Goulart, Brazil’s last democratically elected president before the 1964 military coup, is indeed spooky.
We’re not making light of what’s pretty much one of Brazil’s first attempts at exhuming its own past. Goulart’s death in Mercedes, Argentina, on Dec. 6, 1976, has been the subject of popular suspicions that he was poisoned, not felled by his heart, ever since.

After all, the dictatorship that had deposed him was at the peak of its most ravaging efforts to eradicate from the national memory his leftist legacy of populism. Plus, less than four months earlier, his predecessor, Juscelino Kubitschek, had also died in mysterious circumstances.
Earlier this year, the National Truth Commission, which has a mandate to probe human rights violations during the military rule, said it’d been Continue reading

Assembly of Errors

Rulers of Poor Nations Come for
U.N. Support, Stay for N.Y. Luxury

Most New Yorkers don’t mind the U.N’s annual General Assembly. Sure, security armies and traffic jams clog the city, and the east side’s all but lost for the count. But what’s that compared to what the organization stands for as symbol of dialog and peaceful resolution to conflicts?
So we may get annoyed with its sluggish politics, but we’re used to it. Now, shopping is a whole other story. And when rulers of some of the world’s most miserable countries are caught on a spree at the city’s most expensive retail joints, well, then forget all about ‘peaceful.’
Never mind the illegal parking. It’s nothing short of criminal to watch their entourages spending public money on luxury items for themselves and their hangers-on. And yet, year after year, such depressing spectacle plays on right under our jaded, despising noses.
The phenomenon is not new, or unique to New York, or even represents too much of a surprise. Two recent worldwide events have only asserted such glaring inequity: the near collapse of the world financial system in 2007, and the Arab Spring that swept north of Africa and Middle East countries less than a year ago.
When the banking structure failed and caused millions to lose their jobs, homes, lifetime savings and even their sanity, it also exposed the inconceivable amount of personal wealth those who caused the crisis had, and still have, access to. So far, no one of that rarefied income bracket has been held accountable for their crimes.
It was not much of a difference with the ouster of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh: the personal wealth of these three dictators amounted to huge percentages of their countries’ GDP, which all have some of the lowest per-capita income, even among Islamic regimes.
As with the bankers that almost bankrupted the world, these deposed rulers still managed to keep large parts of their personal wealth in Continue reading