February 20, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Carnaval: pagan debauchery?

While the beleaguered but high-spirited folks in New Orleans whoop it up in Mardi Gras, Latin Americans are celebrating Carnaval. Carnaval constitutes a large portion of Brazil's annual economic activity, with huge colorful parades, loud music, gaudy costumes, and all-night parties, in preparation for Lent. These days, however, the observance of Ash Wednesday and Lent pales in comparison to Carnaval, so one might say that the pagans are prevailing over the Christians, at least in that part of the world. In Rio de Janeiro, which is the cultural heart of Brazil, the Carnaval celebrations go on for days. The grand prize for this year's parade contest was won by the samba group Beija Flor (literally "flower-kisser"), which is the Portuguese word for "hummingbird." Not everyone in Brazil goes along with all of the hedonism, however: "Outside the Sambadromo stadium, members of Youth With a Mission played Christian rock music and told passers-by that Carnival is the "'fruit of sin.'" Right on! It's another sign that evangelical movement is gaining strength in Latin America, getting people to become more serious and reflective about their professed Christian faith. See CNN.com, or for a first-hand report from Rio, O Globo.

The festive exuberance is offset by the steady rise in violence and banditry in various Brazilian cities.

Militias and Colombian politicos

The Washington Post has uncovered more signs that right-wing politicians in Colombia are collaborating with the AUC militia forces, which are known to be involved in drug trafficking. This puts the Bush administration in a very difficult position, because President Uribe is one of the only friendly leaders in that region, and if his party is tainted by drug corruption and even murder, it would be a huge blow to the war on narcotics in that region.

Assassination in Guatemala

Three politicians from El Salvador were assassinated yesterday, along with their driver; their bullet-ridden, burnt car was found by police outside Guatemala City. They were serving as deputies to the Central American Parliament, a largely symbolic body. They belonged to the conservative ARENA party, which currently holds a majority and were deputies to the Central American Parliament. Among the victims was the son of a controversial former president, Roberto D'Aubuisson. See BBC.