From Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.
Brazilian President Focuses on Investments in Cuba, Haiti
President Dilma Rousseff visited Cuba on January 30 and flew to Haiti on February 1 in a bid to expand economic ties with the two Caribbean countries. In Cuba, she discussed an $800 million renovation project of Havana’s Mariel port, largely funded by Brazil’s development bank and Brazilian company Odebrecht, as well as signing a number of science and technology agreements. Rousseff rejected invitations to meet with Cuban dissidents and human rights groups, despite requests that she address the issue, given international condemnation after the death of dissident hunger striker Wilman Villar last week. She did not meet with blogger Yoani Sánchez, who pleaded with Rousseff via a YouTube video to intervene on her behalf regarding an exit permit from Cuba. Sánchez received a visa to travel to Brazil but is still awaiting an exit permit from the Cuban government. While Rousseff did criticize the U.S. prison base at Guantanamo and the U.S. trade embargo against the island, she said human rights are a universal problem that need to be debated on a multilateral basis.
Hackers Attack Brazilian Banks' Websites
The Brazilian arm of international hacker group Anonymous brought down several banks’ websites this week, including those of Bank of Brazil, Bradesco, and Itaú Unibanco. Hackers say the weeklong cyberattacks intend to protest Brazil’s social inequality. On January 30, Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court announced a new round of public “hacking” in March to test the security of the country’s electronic voting system.
Rio’s Building Collapses Linked to Lax Inspections
Rio Real Blog looks at the collapse of a 20-storey building in Rio last week and reports on the surprising lack of building-code infrastructure in Brazil. The collapse of the building was apparently due to unreported renovations. The blog notes that while inspections are de rigueur in many countries, Brazil only inspects new constructions, placing responsibility for compliance during renovations with building owners and project engineers.