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Political Unrest Shakes Two South American Countries

Periódico Resumen
A demonstrator runs near a burning barricade during a protest against President Michel Temer and the latest corruption scandal to hit the country, in Brasilia, Brazil.

Over 100 Venezuelans have died during the protests across the country in response to President Nicolás Maduro’s moves to consolidate power in the executive branch. Last week former Brazilian president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was found guilty of corruption and money laundering charges and sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison, and last month the current president Michel Temer was charged with accepting a bribe of over $150,000. Both countries have seen rampant turmoil as their governments and people have clashed in the streets.

Credit Gerry Popplestone / Flickr
Demonstration against actions of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Pedro dos Santos, assistant professor of political science at Luther College and political science professor Lynda Barrow of Coe College about recent political and economic events in Brazil and Venezuela.

Barrow says that for the last 100-plus days, violent protests continue to erupt across Venezuela, especially in the capital city of Caracas, in response to the president's plan to rewrite the country's constitution on July 30.

“These clashes with police have been amping up, the police have been using tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons, on occasion even plowing into protestors. The government has been bringing in the military, the national guard, paramilitary, and so on.  In addition to the death last week, there have been dozens of other deaths, unfortunately, hundreds—probably over a thousand injuries, and a few hundred people who have been detained essentially as political prisoners.”

Dos Santos says both countries have felt a disenchantment with the leadership in government, and adds that the recent measures to hold Brazilian officials accountable offer some hope to protesters seeking reform to the widespread corruption.

“We’re finally punishing and arresting the people that were not being arrested 10-15 years ago. The Petrobras kickback scheme that was discovered [recently] really has been going on since the 60s—it’s just the scale that has increased many-fold in the last 40 years.”

Dos Santos, who joins the conversation from Sao Paulo, says the economic connections between Iowa and Brazil are now more clear than ever. After tapes were released to the public, it was revealed that President Temer accepted bribes from Brazilian company JBS SA. This company is the largest meat processing company in the world and has plants in Marshalltown and Ottumwa.

Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River