Category Archives: Latin America and Caribbean

TOP STORIES, Latin America and Caribbean

Vogue Brazil exec quits over ‘slave party’ criticism”:


Donata Meirelles has apologised after photos from her 50th birthday party were criticised for “evoking slavery”

Vogue Brazil’s fashion director has resigned after photos from her 50th birthday party were criticised for “evoking slavery.”

One image, now deleted from Instagram, show fashion boss Donata Meirelles sat on a throne with two black women in traditional dress stood either side of her.

Critics on social media have accused her of being racially insensitive,

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Ms Meirelles has apologised and denies the images were linked with slavery.

The image first emerged in a now-deleted Instagram post by Brazilian journalist Fabio Bernardo.

It has been suggested that the black women’s clothes were similar to those worn by slaves, while the throne resembled a cadeira de sinhá – a chair for slave masters.

Other pictures from the party in Salvador de Bahia in northeast Brazil, show traditionally-dressed black women welcoming and ushering guests.

TV presenter Rita Batista, posted the party picture with another photograph, taken in 1860, of a white woman sat next to two slaves.

“Think about how much you can hurt people, their memories, the plight of their people, when you choose a theme to ‘spice up’ a happy moment in your life,” said Brazilian singer Elza Soares in an Instagram post.

Ms Meirelles apologised in a now-deleted statement on Instagram. She added that the women’s clothes were traditional Bahian party dress and the chair was a relic from the Afro-Brazilian folk religion candomblé.

On Wednesday, she announced her resignation in a separate post.

“At age 50, it’s time for action. I’ve heard a lot, I need to hear more,” she said.

Vogue also issued an apology for the incident, saying it “deeply regrets what happened and hopes that the debate generated will serve as a learning experience.”

The fashion magazine also said it would form a panel of experts and academics to address concerns about inequality at the publication.

This is the third racially-charged incident Vogue has apologised for this years.

In February, it again misidentified two actresses from the movie Crazy Rich Asians.

Venezuela crisis: Maduro condemns ‘extremist’ Trump.


Maduro: US ‘warmongering’ in order to take over Venezuela

Venezuela’s embattled President Nicolás Maduro has called Donald Trump’s government a “gang of extremists” and blamed the US for his country’s crisis.

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Maduro said he would not allow humanitarian aid into Venezuela as it was a way for the US to justify an intervention.

“They are warmongering in order to take over Venezuela,” he said.

The US and most Western governments have recognised opposition leader Juan Guaidó as interim president.

Mr Maduro is under growing internal and international pressure to call early presidential elections amid a worsening economic crisis and accusations of widespread corruption and human rights violations.

Meanwhile, Mr Guaidó has called for new anti-government protests later on Tuesday.

Maduro on Trump: ‘Extremist group’

Relations between the US and Venezuela were already fraught before President Trump’s administration became one of the first to back Mr Guaidó as interim leader.

Venezuela broke off diplomatic relations in response while Mr Trump said the use of military force remained “an option”.

In a rare interview, Mr Maduro said he hoped “this extremist group in the White House is defeated by powerful world-wide public opinion”.

Speaking in the capital, Caracas, he told the BBC’s Orla Guerin: “It’s a political war, of the United States empire, of the interests of the extreme right that today is governing, of the Ku Klux Klan, that rules the White House, to take over Venezuela.”

The US, which accuses Mr Maduro’s government of human rights violations and corruption, has led the international pressure on the Venezuelan president to step down.

It has imposed a raft of economic measures on the country, including against the state-owned oil company, PDVSA, aiming to hit Venezuela’s main source of revenue.

In recent years the US has frozen Mr Maduro’s US assets, restricted Venezuela’s access to US markets and blocked dealings with those involved in the country’s gold trade.

It has also criticised Mr Maduro’s increased use of the courts and security forces to suppress political opposition.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called the government a “disastrous dictatorship” while National Security Advisor John Bolton said Mr Maduro was holding an “illegitimate claim to power”.

When asked, in response to his Ku Klux Klan comment, if he believed Mr Trump was a “white supremacist”, Mr Maduro said: “He is, publicly and openly… They hate us, they belittle us, because they only believe in their own interests, and in the interests of the United States.”

Maduro on humanitarian aid: ‘A charade’

The president has rejected allowing foreign humanitarian aid into the country, a move that is being organised by the opposition. He said Venezuela had “the capacity to satisfy all the needs of its people” and did not have to “beg from anyone”.

Venezuela’s President Maduro to BBC: US aid trucks are a charade

But for years Venezuelans have faced severe shortages of basic items such as medicine and food. Last year, the inflation rate saw prices doubling every 19 days on average.

Three million people, or 10% of the population, have left the country since the economy started to worsen in 2014, according to the UN. And Mr Guaidó says more than 300,000 Venezuelans are at “risk of dying”.

Mr Maduro, who has blamed US sanctions for Venezuela’s economic woes, said the US intended to “create a humanitarian crisis in order to justify a military intervention”.

“This is part of that charade. That’s why, with all dignity, we tell them we don’t want their crumbs, their toxic food, their left-overs.”

Maduro on calling elections: ‘What’s the point?’

Mr Maduro, in power since 2013, was re-elected to a second term last year but the elections were controversial with many opposition candidates barred from running or jailed, and claims of vote-rigging.

Head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, Mr Guaidó declared himself president on 23 January, saying the constitution allowed him to assume power temporarily when the president was deemed illegitimate.

Desperate Venezuelan women are selling their hair at the border

Mr Maduro – who still has the support of Turkey, Russia and China and, crucially, of the Venezuelan army – said he did not see the need for early presidential elections.

“What’s the logic, reasoning, to repeat an election?” he asked.

He also said only “about 10” governments supported Mr Guaidó – in fact, more than 30 have announced their support for the opposition leader

and that they were trying to “impose a government that nobody has elected”.

“The extremists of the White House have taken it upon themselves to carry out a coup in Venezuela.”

Venezuela crisis: Guaidó vows to open aid routes with volunteers


Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó has vowed to open humanitarian aid routes into the country in defiance of the government.

Mr Guaidó, who has declared himself interim president, called on volunteers to help with distribution and said his plans would be ready next week.

Footage shows soldiers blocking a key bridge at the border with Colombia.

A government official called aid “a Trojan horse” and said the country had a duty to defend its borders.

“According to our constitution, we have the right and the duty to defend our borders peacefully,” said Freddy Bernal.

Maduro warns of civil war: Venezuela crisis:

He accused US president Donald Trump, who has endorsed the opposition leader, of just wanting to exploit Venezuelan oil.

Why is aid needed?

Millions of people have fled Venezuela as hyperinflation and other economic troubles render food and medicines scarce.

Since the outbreak of the current political crisis, Washington has announced sanctions on the Venezuelan oil industry,

A Venezuelan army member stands guard at the entrance of the Tienditas cross-border bridge between Colombia and Venezuela in Tienditas, Venezuela, February 8, 2019.
Venezuelan troops are guarding the border bridge in Tienditas

President Nicolás Maduro, who has the support of the army, has rejected letting foreign aid into the country.

Last week a tanker and cargo containers blocked the Simon Bolivar International Bridge, which links Venezuela to its more stable neighbour to the west.

The blockages were still there on Friday, and many soldiers were seen standing guard.

Mr Guaidó does not control any territory in Venezuela so, instead, he is planning to set up collection centres in neighbouring countries to which Venezuelans have fled.

He said he wanted to set up an international coalition to gather aid at three points, and press Venezuela’s army to let it into the country.

Food and medicine organised by the US federal government’s USAID agency arrived on Thursday and have been stored at a warehouse on the Colombian side of the border.

The agency has been bound up in international politics before Russia expelled it in 2012 citing “attempts to influence political processes through grants); and Bolivia expelled it the year after accusing it of seeking to “conspire against” the Bolivian people and government.

Both Russia and Bolivia are allies of President Maduro in the current crisis.

How far will Guaidó go?

Mr Guaidó has warned many Venezuelans are in danger of dying without international aid.

Speaking to AFP news agency, he said the groups he was putting together would “make a first entry attempt” at the blocked bridge when they had gathered enough supplies. He said he expected this to happen next week.

It would be “almost wretched at this point of huge necessity” for the military to block any convoy entering, he said.

A number of Venezuelan leaders have also appealed to the military to allow aid lorries to cross into the country.

Asked whether he would authorise the intervention of foreign military forces, Mr Guaidó said: “We will do everything possible.

Mexico pipeline blast kills 71 and injures dozens more

“This is obviously a very, very controversial subject, but making use of our sovereignty and, within our jurisdictions, we will do what is necessary.”

What’s the background to the crisis?

In January, Mr Maduro was sworn in for a second term following disputed elections which many opposition leaders did not contest because they were in jail or boycotting them.

Why Venezuela matters to the US... and vice versa
Why Venezuela matters to the US… and vice versa

Mr Guaidó, who is head of Venezuela’s National Assembly, declared himself president on 23 January.

He says the constitution allows him to assume power temporarily when the president is deemed illegitimate. On Saturday he said protests would continue until his supporters had achieved “freedom”.

Map shows where countries stand on Venezuela presidency

Flamengo football club: Young players die in Rio fire


The blaze is reported to have started in an accommodation block

A fire has engulfed a dormitory at the youth team training centre of one of Brazil’s biggest football clubs, killing 10 people.

The victims have not been named but are said to include young players staying at Ninho de Urubu, the training ground of Flamengo football club in Rio de Janeiro.

Three teenagers were also injured, one of them seriously.

The cause of the blaze is being investigated.

However, one young player said the fire started in an air conditioner in his room.

“The air conditioner caught fire, and I ran out,” said Felipe Cardoso, a player with the under-17 side. “Thank God I managed to run and I’m still alive.”

Flamengo is one of Brazil’s biggest and best-known clubs internationally. They play in the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A league where they finished in second place last season.

People wait for information in front of the training center of Rio"s soccer club Flamengo, after a deadly fire in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil February 8, 2019
Friends and family face an anxious wait for news outside the ground

Brazil football legend Pelé described the club as “a place where young people pursue their dreams”.

“It’s a very sad day for Brazilian football,” he tweeted.

Mexico pipeline blast kills 71 and injures dozens more

Former Brazil star Ronaldinho offered his condolences for the “terrible tragedy” in a tweet on Friday morning. He published the club’s crest in black-and-white alongside the message.

What do we know so far?

According to the G1 news portal, the fire began at 05:10 (07:10 GMT) and was extinguished by 07:30.

None of the victims has been identified but the youth players are said to be aged between 14 and 16. One of the three injured, a 15-year-old boy, suffered severe burns and was transferred to a specialist hospital, reports said.

A civil defence vehicle transports a body after the fire in the training centre of Flamengo football club, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 8 February 2019
Bodies of the victims have been transported away from the training centre

The area has been hit by severe storms and heavy rain in recent days and the weather may have left the facility without water or electricity when the fire struck, G1 reported.

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Flamengo’s pride in youth academy

Analysis by Fernando Duarte, BBC Brasil

Flamengo is one of the few Brazilian clubs that can boast an expressive national fan base in Brazil. A poll released last April suggested they are the first team for 32.5 million Brazilians.

The club owes a great chunk of this support to an incredible run of four Brazilian titles and a victorious Copa Libertadores campaign (the South American version of the Uefa Champions League) in the 1980s.

Brazil ‘faith healer’ John of God surrenders to police

It has also produced arguably one of the greatest all-time Brazilian players – Arthur Antunes “Zico” Coimbra, a member of the 1982 World Cup squad that failed to win the titles but won worldwide plaudits for its slick style.

The club is also proud of the tradition of its youth academy – their motto is “we make our star players at home” – which will make this tragedy even sadder.

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Who are Flamengo?

The club’s most prominent former players include World Cup winners Ronaldinho, Bebeto and Romario.

As well as being one of Brazil’s most successful football clubs, Flamengo also has basketball, rowing, swimming and volleyball teams.

In a tweet on Friday, the team said it was “in mourning”.

The Ninho de Urubu (“Vulture’s Nest” – so named because the symbol of the club is a vulture) centre underwent a major expansion last year, with the club spending 23m reals (£4.8m, $6.2m), Reuters news agency reports.

BBC map

The site features accommodation for young players, several pitches, an aquatic park, a gym, a medical centre and a mini stadium.

The club were due to play their rivals Fluminense on Saturday. The game has been postponed, and other clubs have expressed their condolences.

Real Madrid player Vinícius Júnior, who also played for Flamengo, tweeted a crying emoji, writing, “Such sad news. Pray for everyone. Strength strength, strength.”

A fire truck is seen in front of the training centre of Rio's soccer club Flamengo after a deadly fire in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil February 8, 2019.
The facility was said to be state of the art

Just over two years ago, Brazil’s football world was rocked by disaster when a plane carrying top football team Chapecoense crashed in Colombia.

Contact Email (BBCNEWS.CO.UK@bbcnewslight.co.uk) or (emmanueljustice@post.com)

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Venezuela crisis: Military ‘blocks aid corridor’


Thousands of people are fleeing the worsening economic crisis in Venezuela

Venezuelan soldiers have blocked a bridge on the border with Colombia ahead of a shipment of humanitarian aid, the opposition says.

The aid is being arranged by opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who declared himself interim president last month.

But it is not clear how the aid will be distributed. President Nicolás Maduro, who has the support of the army, has rejected letting it into the country.

Venezuela is in the grip of a worsening humanitarian crisis.

Venezuela crisis: White House ‘will respond to threats against diplomats’

Mr Guaidó is head of Venezuela’s National Assembly and says the constitution allows him to assume power temporarily when the president is deemed illegitimate.

He has secured the backing of over 40 countries, including the US and most Latin American and European nations. Mr Maduro still has the support of China and Russia.

What is happening at the border?

Military officers used a tanker truck and a cargo container to block access to the Tienditas bridge, which links Cucuta, Colombia to Urena, Venezuela, opposition politician Franklyn Duarte told AFP.

Peru landslide kills at least 15 at hotel wedding party

“Troops from the armed forces are blocking the pass”, he said.

Handout picture released by Colombias Migration press office shows director Christian Kruger (C) on the Tienditas Bridge on the border between Cucuta, Colombia, and Urena, Venezuela
Opposition leader Juan Guiadó claims up to 300,000 people face death if the aid is not delivered

Other opposition leaders appealed to the military to allow aid trucks to cross the border.

“You know there’s a red line, you know well there’s a limit, you know that medicines, food and medical supplies are that limit,” said lawmaker Miguel Pizarro.

Juan Guaidó: Venezuela’s opposition leader ‘detained’

Pictures shared on social media appeared to show residents confronting military officers in Urena.

Mr Maduro said humanitarian aid would be the start of a US-led invasion, insisting that “no one will enter, not one invading soldier.”

How will the aid scheme work?

Mr Guaidó does not control any territory in Venezuela so, instead, he is planning to set up collection centres in neighbouring countries where Venezuelans have fled to.

He said he wanted to set up an international coalition to gather aid at three points, and press Venezuela’s army to let it into the country.

In a tweet on Sunday, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said plans were being advanced.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump said in an interview the use of military force remained “an option”.

In his State of the Union speech, he reiterated his support for Mr Guaidó saying “we stand with the Venezuelan people in their noble quest for freedom.”

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Maduro warns of civil war: Venezuela crisis:



Miraflores press office shows Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro during an event with members of the military, in Turiamo, Venezuela, 3 February 2019
Nicolás Maduro has retained the support of the Venezuelan military

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has said he cannot rule out the possibility of civil war as pressure mounts on him to stand down.

In a TV interview, he warned that US President Donald Trump would leave the White House “stained with blood” if he intervened in the crisis.

He also defiantly rejected the EU’s Sunday deadline to call snap elections.

Opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself interim president last month and won US backing.

He said on Sunday he would build an international coalition to deliver humanitarian aid to Venezuelans but Mr Maduro has accused him of organising a coup.

What did Maduro say?

In the interview with Spanish television programme Salvados, broadcast on Sunday, Mr Maduro was asked if the crisis in Venezuela could result in civil war.

“Today no-one could answer that question with certainty,” he said.

Masked anti-Maduro protesters in Caracas, 2 February
Masked anti-Maduro protesters could be seen in Caracas on Saturday

“Everything depends on the level of madness and aggressiveness of the northern empire [the US] and its Western allies.

Peru landslide kills at least 15 at hotel wedding party

“We ask that nobody intervenes in our internal affairs… and we prepare ourselves to defend our country.”

President Trump has told US broadcaster CBSthe use of military force remains “an option” .

But Mr Maduro warned the US leader he risked a repeat of the Vietnam War if he intervened.

Who is really in charge in Venezuela?
Who is really in charge in Venezuela?

“Stop. Stop. Donald Trump! You are making mistakes that are going to stain your hands with blood and you are going to leave the presidency stained with blood,” he said.

“Let’s respect each other, or is it that you are going to repeat a Vietnam in Latin America?”

Sunday saw the expiry of a deadline set by several European countries – including France, the UK, Austria, Germany and Spain – for Mr Maduro to call early presidential elections. They said that they would recognise Mr Guaidó as interim president if no such pledge was forthcoming.

On Monday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Mr Guaidó had the “legitimacy to organise presidential elections.”

“People are on the streets, people want change,”he told broadcaster France Inter.

But Mr Maduro responded: “We don’t accept ultimatums from anyone. It’s like if I told the European Union: ‘I give you seven days to recognise the Republic of Catalonia, and if you don’t, we are going to take measures’.

Venezuela crisis: White House ‘will respond to threats against diplomats’

“No, international politics can’t be based on ultimatums. That was the era of empires and colonies.”

What is the situation in Venezuela?

Thousands took to the streets of the capital Caracas on Saturday for protests in support of both President Maduro and Mr Guaidó.

Mr Maduro retains the support of the military, but ahead of the demonstrations Mr Guaidó received a boost when an air force general – Francisco Yanez – became the highest-ranking military official yet to pledge support for him.

Mr Guaidó says he has held private meetings with the military to win support for ousting Mr Maduro. He says he has also reached out to China, one of Mr Maduro’s most important backers.

What is Guaidó’s aid plan?

He does not control any territory in Venezuela, so instead he plans to set up collection centres in neighbouring countries where Venezuelans have fled to.

He said he wanted to set up an international coalition to gather aid at three points, and press Venezuela’s army to let it into the country.

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido waves to supporters in Caracas, Venezuela February 2, 2019
Juan Guaidó is head of Venezuela’s National Assembly

US National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Twitter that plans were being advanced over the weekend.

Mr Maduro has rejected letting aid into the country, telling supporters on Saturday “we’ve never been nor are we a country of beggars”.

What’s the background?

Venezuela has suffered economic turmoil for years, with hyperinflation and shortages of essentials such as food and medicine. Millions have fled.

Why Venezuela matters to the US... and vice versa
Why Venezuela matters to the US… and vice versa

In January, Mr Maduro was sworn in for a second term following disputed elections which many opposition leaders did not contest because they were in jail or boycotting them.

Mr Guaidó, who is head of Venezuela’s National Assembly, declared himself president on 23 January.

He says the constitution allows him to assume power temporarily when the president is deemed illegitimate. On Saturday he said protests would continue until his supporters had achieved “freedom”.

Map shows where countries stand on Venezuela presidency

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Venezuela crisis: White House ‘will respond to threats against diplomats’


US National Security Adviser John Bolton has warned Venezuela that any threats against American diplomats or opposition leader Juan Guaidó will be met with “a significant response”.

John Bolton warned against the intimidation of US diplomats in Venezuela

Mr Bolton tweeted on Sunday that any such “intimidation” would be “a grave assault on the rule of law”.

His warning comes days after the US and more than 20 other countries recognised Mr Guaidó as interim president.

They accuse President Nicolás Maduro of rigging last year’s election.

President Maduro was sworn in for a second term earlier this month after an election marred by an opposition boycott and allegations of vote-rigging, triggering large protests.

Peru landslide kills at least 15 at hotel wedding party

Brumadinho dam collapse: Many feared dead in Brazil

The political crisis in Venezuela now appears to be reaching boiling point amid growing efforts by the opposition to unseat Mr Maduro.

Earlier on Sunday, Venezuela’s top military representative to the US, Col José Luis Silva, defected from Mr Maduro’s government, saying he recognised Mr Guaidó as president instead.

Later, Mr Bolton took to Twitter to reiterate Washington’s position, warning others against any form of “violence and intimidation”.

What happens now?

On Saturday, several European countries including Spain, Germany, France and the UK said they would recognise Mr Guaidó as president if elections were not called within eight days.

But Mr Maduro has rejected this, saying the ultimatum must be withdrawn.

“Venezuela is not tied to Europe. This is complete insolence,” he told CNN Turk on Sunday.

Mr Maduro added that he was ready to “engage in comprehensive dialogue” with those who opposed his presidency, and that he had sent Donald Trump “many messages”, but that he thought the US president “despises us”.

He later appeared at a military exercise in Venezuela’s central state of Carabobo, where he called for “union, discipline and cohesion” to overcome what he described as an “attempted coup d’etat” by Mr Guaidó.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro and Venezuelan Minister of Defence Vladimir Padrino (R), during military exercises at Fort Paramacay, in Carabobo, Venezuela, 27 January 2019
Mr Maduro attended military exercises in Carabobo on Sunday

Mr Maduro broke off relations with the US last Thursday over the country’s support for Mr Guaidó, and ordered US envoys to depart Venezuela within 72 hours.

However on Saturday evening, as the deadline was due to expire, Venezuela’s foreign ministry said it would withdraw the expulsion order, and instead allow 30 days for the two sides to set up “interest offices” in each others’ countries.

Interest offices are used when countries do not have formal diplomatic relations, but want to have a basic level of contact to represent their interests.

Washington has previously said it does not recognise Mr Maduro’s authority to order its diplomats out.

Meanwhile, Mr Guaidó told the Washington Post that he was in talks with “sympathetic military” officials in Venezuela with the aim of building support for his presidency.

Who supports Maduro?

Who’s really in charge in Venezuela? The BBC’s Paul Adams explains

Russia, China, Mexico and Turkey have publicly backed Mr Maduro.

At a UN Security Council meeting on Saturday, Russia accused Washington of plotting a coup.

However, more than a dozen Latin American countries and Canada have backed Mr Guaidó as president.

In Europe, Greece’s left-wing ruling party has backed Mr Maduro.

Why is Maduro so unpopular?

Venezuela is in economic crisis – hyperinflation and shortages of basic essentials has hit its population hard and caused millions to flee.

Mr Maduro has faced internal opposition and ongoing international criticism for his human rights record and handling of the economy.

He was re-elected to a second term last year – but the elections were controversial, with many opposition candidates barred from running or jailed.

Supreme Court judge

Christian Zerpa fled to the US in January telling journalists the election “was not free and competitive”.

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Peru landslide kills at least 15 at hotel wedding party


NATIONAL CIVIL DEFENCE INSTITUTE (INDECI)
An image said to show the aftermath of the impact at the Alhambra hotel in Abancay

At least 15 people were killed when a landslide crashed into a hotel during a wedding celebration in south-eastern Peru, officials say.

The impact of the mud and rocks forced the building’s walls and roof to cave in while guests were inside dancing.

Twenty-nine people were injured and had to be pulled from the debris following the incident on Sunday in the Andean city of Abancay, officials said.

Local media report that the incident occurred during heavy rain in the area.

About 100 guests were present at the Alhambra hotel at the time of the incident, the head of Peru’s National Civil Defence Institute (Indeci), Jorge Chávez, told local media.

Some 50 people were believed to have been close to one of the walls that collapsed, he added.

Images posted on social media by Indeci showed rescuers searching through the rubble and carrying people on stretchers.

Peru country profile

The mayor of Abancay, Guido Chahuaylla, said that every effort was made to ensure that rescuers were able to reach those trapped in the rubble. The wounded were taken to a local hospital, he added.

Local media report that the Alhambra hotel is situated close to a steep slope, and the wall that collapsed into the building was built to protect it from mud and rocks.

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Brumadinho dam collapse: Many feared dead in Brazil



Survivors were pulled from the muddy torrent after the dam collapsed
Survivors were pulled from the muddy torrent after the dam collapsed

Many people are feared dead after a dam collapsed at an iron-ore mine in south-east Brazil.

Scores of people are missing and local officials are reporting casualties but no official casualty announcements have been made.

The dam break caused a sea of muddy sludge to spread across rural areas of Minas Gerais state.

Rescue teams were dispatched and officials said a number of residents close to the dam had been evacuated.

Venezuela crisis: Guaidó hints at ‘amnesty’ for Maduro

Juan Guaidó: US backs opposition leader as Venezuela president

A helicopter flies over a dam owned by Brazilian miner Vale SA that burst, in Brumadinho, Brazil
Many people are feared dead and scores are thought to be missing after the dam, which is owned by Brazil’s largest mining company, Vale, gave way on Friday.

What do we know so far?

At around lunchtime, local time, a dam near Feijão iron ore mine burst its barrier.

It was used to hold residue from the mine and is owned by Brazil’s largest mining company, Vale.

The dam, built in 1976, was one of several in the area and had a volume of 2m cubic meters, according to Vale.

It is not yet known how much waste was released from the dam or why.

Footage broadcast on local television shows mudflows sweeping over roads and destroying buildings in its path.

General view from above of a dam owned by Brazilian miner Vale SA that burs
President Jair Bolsonaro will visit the region on Saturday. Brazil’s environment minister and its national secretary of civil defence are travelling to the scene.

Vale and local authorities said that leaked tailings from the mine had spread into the nearby community Vila Forteco, close to the city of Brumadinho.

The mayor of Brumadinho, Avimar de Melo, told Reuters that seven bodies have been recovered.

Earlier he told local newspaper Hoje em Dia that “at least 50 people” had been killed.

General view of the devastation
Rescue teams have been sent to the areas of Minas Gerais affected by the mudflow

“We do not have more details because everything is happening very fast,” Mr de Melo said.

Local and national government agencies are co-ordinating rescue efforts and five helicopters have been deployed in the area to help recover survivors.

President Jair Bolsonaro said in a tweet that he would visit the region on Saturday.

He added that Brazil’s three ministers for the environment, mines and energy, and regional development were travelling to the scene. They will be joined by Alexandre Lucas Alves, National Secretary for Civil Defence.

What does the company say?

Helicopters sent to help recover people caught in the sludge
Helicopters have been sent to help recover people caught in the sludge

Company chief executive Fabio Schvartsman has called the incident an “enormous tragedy.”

He told reporters that 300 Vale employees were in the area at the time, and 100 have been accounted for.

The firm has said it is monitoring all its other dams for any risk of collapse.

General view from above of a dam owned by Brazilian miner Vale SA that burst, in Brumadinho, Brazil
Officials say that leaked tailings from the mine have spread into the nearby community of Vila Forteco, which is close to the city of Brumadinho.

Has this ever happened before?

In 5 November 2015, a dam – also owned by Vale, along with BHP Billiton – burst at a Samarco mine in Minas Gerais.

More than 60m cubic meters – enough to fill 20,000 Olympic swimming pools – spilled over into the surrounding area.

The incident killed 19 people and is considered Brazil’s worst environmental disaster.

After a lengthy court case, BHP Billiton and Vale reached a settlement worth at least 6.8bn reals ($1.8bn) with the Brazilian government,

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Venezuela crisis: Guaidó hints at ‘amnesty’ for Maduro


By emmanuel Justices

Who’s really in charge in Venezuela? The BBC’s Paul Adams explains

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó has said he would consider an amnesty for President Nicolás Maduro if he cedes power.

Mr Guaidó, who declared himself interim president on Wednesday, said he was reaching out to all sectors including the military to end the crisis.

Mr Maduro began a second term after polls marred by an opposition boycott

and vote-rigging claims.

The global community is split on whether to recognise his government.

But so far, Mr Maduro retains the crucial support of Venezuela’s military.

Who is backing whom?

The US, more than a dozen Latin American countries, Canada and the UK have backed Mr Guaidó – who is leader of Venezuela’s elected National Congress – after he said he was the legitimate president.

Juan Guaidó: US backs opposition leader as Venezuela president

But Russia has condemned foreign support for Mr Guaidó, saying it violates international law and is a “direct path to bloodshed”. China, Mexico and Turkey also back Mr Maduro.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has requested a UN Security Council meeting be held on the issue on Saturday.

At a meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) on Thursday he described Mr Maduro’s government as “morally bankrupt” and “undemocratic to the core”.

Presentational grey line

Venezuela’s crisis explained

Juan Guaidó: US backs opposition leader as Venezuela president

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US National Security Adviser John Bolton has said the Trump administration is working on a plan to funnel funds to Mr Guaidó.

President Trump has said that “all options are on the table” in response to the unrest.

What did Guaidó say?

Mr Guaidó and his allies accuse Mr Maduro of usurping power through a fraudulent election.

“Our challenge is to secure free elections, and we want them as soon as possible. But we are living in a dictatorship,” Mr Guaidó told US Spanish-language TV station Univision.

He previously told the Financial Times: “No one wants to live like this, whatever their politics: people going five or six months without running water in their houses, without medicines, without enough money to buy food.”

Discussing a possible amnesty for Mr Maduro, Mr Guaidó said a similar move had played a role in Chile’s democratic transition.

“These amnesties are on the table for all those who are ready to… restore the constitutional order,” he said.

Juan Guaido, President of the Venezuelan Parliament, greets a crowd in Caracas after announcing he was assuming executive powers on 23 January 2019
Mr Guaido (C) is offering an amnesty for Venezuela’s military and civilian leaders

He vowed to hold free elections to “move forward rapidly to overcome this crisis”.

He has previously said articles within the country’s constitution allow him to assume power temporarily because the election was a sham.

How did the row develop?

Large protests were organised against Mr Maduro on Wednesday – as well as some in support of him.

At one demonstration in Caracas, Mr Guaidó declared himself the country’s interim leader.

Within minutes, Mr Trump recognised Mr Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate head of state. A number of South American nations, as well as Canada and the UK, followed suit.

Thousands attended a rally in Caracas on Wednesday against President Maduro

Mr Maduro has labelled the US comments a “big provocation” and broken off diplomatic relations.

On Thursday, he ordered the closure of Venezuela’s embassy and consulates in the US. However Mr Guaidó has urged Venezuelan diplomats in the US to remain at their posts.

The US state department has ordered non-essential staff to leave Venezuela.

A Caracas-based NGO, the Observatory of Social Conflict, says that at least 26 people have been killed in demonstrations so far this week.

Presentational grey line

What could Mr Trump do next?

Analysis by Natalie Sherman, BBC News Business Reporter

The US has already imposed a raft of sanctions in the past two years, which target officials in the Maduro government, restrict Venezuela’s access to US debt markets and block dealings with those involved in the country’s gold trade.

But so far, the Trump administration has not taken action directly against oil imports, which are a key source of cash.

A stand-off over US embassy personnel could push the White House to take that step.

But analysts cautioned that oil sanctions would likely have limited effect on the Maduro regime, which could redirect shipments to allies such as China and Russia, while blaming the US for any additional hardship.


Why are people protesting?

Mr Maduro has led the country since 2013 and was sworn in for a second term earlier this month. His re-election in May 2018 was marred by an opposition boycott and vote-rigging claims.

The president has faced ongoing criticism international and internal opposition for his human rights record and handling of the economy.

What drives someone to cross South America on foot?

Despite having the world’s largest proven oil reserves, Venezuela’s economy has been in a state of collapse for several years.

Its industry has suffered mismanagement and oil revenue has dropped significantly.

How Venezuela’s crisis developed and drove out millions of people

Guatemala expels UN-backed anti-corruption commission

Hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicine have hit the population hard, causing millions of Venezuelans to flee.

Strategic partners including China and Russia have invested deeply the country’s ailing economy – ploughing billions into trade deals and loans.

Moscow sees Venezuela as one of its closest allies in the region.

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