what happened last week - WTF did you do in Brazil, Volkswagen?

what happened last week


Hey, this is Sham, your very own news curator. Sorry for my delay. It's been a very hectic but personally fulfilling June so far: A podcast came out, one that I have been working on for the past year almost. It's called Memento Moria – Was heute an Europas Grenzen passiert (it's a Spotify Original, so you can only listen to it on there, but hey it's for free). If you understand German, give it a listen. I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Issue #306 includes all the bad stuff Volkswagen did in Brazil and Australia's Mabo Day aka when white people legally recognized that they were not the first people living there. Plus: More good news than bad ones! Bolivia's ex-president is now in jail, Malaysia's laws won't automatically kill you for using drugs anymore, Thailand is getting friendlier with marijuana, Algeria's not friends with Spain any longer and Türkiye's internet freedom is not doing well, and so much more.
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Australia remembered that they were not the first people on the island

On Mabo Day on June 3, the country celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Mabo Decision

I have no clue what any of that meant. Please explain.
Lol. In other words, last week,
Australia celebrated that 30 years ago, in 1992, the (white part of the) country legally recognized for the first time that there were, in fact, people living in Australia before British settlers came to the island, and – this is the important part – that this land belongs to the Indigenous people of Australia. The decision is also known as ‘the Mabo Decision’. On Mabo Day each year, the country celebrates this part of Australian history.

Who are the Indigenous people of Australia?
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. They are the world’s oldest surviving culture.

Did you know that, before the European invasion in 1788, there were more than 250 Indigenous nations in ‘Australia’? If you want to know more,
check out the map of Indigenous Australia on The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies website.

Why is it called Mabo Decision or Mabo Day?
It's named after an Indigenous man named Eddie “Koiki” Mabo, a Meriam man from the Torres Strait.
Watch him talk about his people’s history.

Together with four other Meriam people – Reverend David Passi, Sam Passi, James Rice and Celuia Mapo Sale – Eddie Mabo began legal action in the High Court of Australia in 1982, and continued their struggle for recognition for 10 long years. (Tragically, Eddie Mabo passed away five months before the High Court’s decision.)

Mabo Day is part of National Reconciliation Week every year. Mabo’s grandson on SBS recently was like, ‘
make it a public holiday.’

What is National Reconciliation Week all about?
During that week, the country focuses on “building respectful, positive relationships between the broader Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” or so it says on the State Library of Queensland’s website
in a How-To-Share-NRW-With-Your-Kid article.

Okay, cool. I want to know more about Eddie Mabo though.
I got you. There’s a whole podcast about him:
Hi, I'm Eddie was launched last week on Mabo Day 2022. In this series, host Rhianna Patrick takes you on a journey to get to know Eddie Mabo and the case to understand the legacy he left behind.

If you want to know more about his people, the Torres Strait, check out
ReTold, a collection of some myths and legends of the Torres Strait Islander people, retold by none other than community members themselves. I recommend the story of Doker told by Isaac Charlie in the language Kala Lagaw Ya on Badu Island.

Why this matters: Unfortunately, things just didn’t get magically better for Indigenous people in Australia after the Mabo Decision. Today, the country still makes laws that are detrimental to Indigenous people. Structural racism is still a huge thing, as Dechland Brennan writes for Vice. For example, Indigenous kids there are 24 times more likely to be imprisoned than their non-Indigenous classmates.

Good news: Linda Burney was recently sworn in as the first Aboriginal woman to serve in federal cabinet and the first Aboriginal woman to become Indigenous Affairs Minister,
as ABC News reports. Brielle Burns for Mama Mia writes about all that she knows about the new minister.

Brazil is looking into whether Volkswagen enslaved people in the country way back

La Prensa Latina reports: Brazil is currently investigating whether German automaker Volkswagen has committed serious human rights violations at a cattle ranch they owned during the military dictatorship between 1964 and 1985.

What kind of violations?

At a cattle ranch? What was Volkswagen doing there in the first place?
Well, the military leadership back then was worried that foreign powers might want to occupy parts of the Amazon. So, to counter that, they promised land to unemployed people and offered tax breaks, ‘good’ loans and other investment goodies to businesses. Volkswagen was like, ‘sweet. Since we’ve been operating in this country for a long time, could you give us a good deal? We want that 140,000-hectare ranch up there in the north, in Pará.’ And that’s how Volkswagen got into the cattle ranch industry for a few years.

What happened in Pará?
A lot. Brazil says that they have proof that, between 1974 and 1986, Volkswagen forced poor, illiterate people (unclear how many but at least 300, maximum 1200) to work in extremely humiliating and slave-like conditions. Guards with guns prevented them from leaving the ranch. People were punished, imprisoned and shot under their control. The sick were not treated, and Malaria was running wild. And sometimes, they were tortured and even beaten to death.

Who knew what was happening in Pará?
That’s the million-dollar-question. Some say, ‘yes, top managers at Volkswagen were “fully aware” of the conditions at the ranch. And Volkswagen? “We will contribute to the investigations in a very serious manner,”
they told g1 (Portuguese).

How come they’re looking into it now?
First, there’s a lot of evidence. Second, they’re finally coming out. Anthropology professor Ricardo Rezende Figuiera has been collecting testimonies for more than 40 years. Rezende works at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and is one of Brazil's leading experts on slavery and human rights policy. Rezende had worked as a priest somewhere close to the farm. One day, three workers escaped the ranch and turned to him, telling him everything.

Now what?
There was a first hearing in Brasilia yesterday. Some expected them to reach a settlement between Volkswagen and victims that day. But it didn’t happen. Instead, as
Reuters reports, Volkswagen was like ‘we need more time to review the accusations.’ A second hearing will take place on September 29. To be continued.

Why this matters: As EL PAÍS reports, Volkswagen worked really closely with Brazil’s military dictatorship. The question now is: Will there be any consequences?

More you might have missed 

The bad
Brazil: Dom Phillips (a British journalist) and Bruno Pereira (Indigenous leader) went missing on June 5. 10 days later, their killers (two brothers) confessed to killing them somewhere in the Amazon, as Clarin reports (Spanish). As Gabriela Moncau for Brasil de Fato said, 'there are more people who have disappeared while defending the Amazon, like Sarapo Ka'apor, Zezico Rodrigues Guajajara, Paulo Paulino Guajajara or Ari Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau.'
Turkey: You can access fewer websites if you are connected to a Turkish IP address. The Free Web Turkey 2021 Annual Report funded by the Netherlands shows that at least 11,050 URLs were blocked in Turkey in 2021 (53 percent of them were about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan or his political party AKP).
Republic of Kiribati: The government declared a 'state of disaster' due to severe drought in the country, as RNZ reports. Kiribati, an island country in the Pacific Ocean, is amongst the most vulnerable nations to climate change on Earth. Some 119,000 people live here.
The 'We'll See'
Algeria: Algeria is pretty pissed at Spain. The country banned all imports from Spain because of Western Sahara, as Reuters reports.
Belgium: BBC reports that King Philippe of Belgium visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo, gave back stolen art and said ‘yeah we f*cked up. we killed a lot of your people’ (but didn’t apologize). This is messy on a lot of levels. *wishing Swedengate becomes Belgiumgate*
The good
Bolivia: elDiarioAR reports (Spanish) that former President Jeanine Áñez, who planned the 2019 coup that brought her to power, is (probably) going to go to prison for ten years. She says she’s innocent and will appeal to international courts to “seek justice”.
Japan: The Mizunami Fossil Museum found more than 80 percent of a skeleton (probably) from an extinct marine mammal called Paleoparadoxia. We don't know much about it (yet) but it is an ancient creature that lived in the period between 28 million years ago and 11 million years ago, as Asahi Shimbun reports.

Malaysia: Malaysian law minister Wan Junaidi said that the mandatory capital punishment will be abolished in the country. Yay! Amnesty International reports that as of February 2022, Malaysia had 1,341 people on its death row, with 905 having been condemned under mandatory death sentences for drug trafficking.

Thailand: Washington Post reports that Thailand decriminalized marijuana for medical and industrial use last week. I repeat: This is a decriminalization, not a legalization. You are not allowed to use marijuana recreationally. However, it is the first country in Asia to decriminalize it.

On a funny note

Prison officials in Michigan, United States have banned dictionaries in Spanish and Swahili, as NPR reports.

They’re saying “if certain prisoners all decided to learn a very obscure language, they would be able to then speak freely in front of staff” and could organize without their knowledge.

Busu matako yangu, shenzi.
That's it from me. 

Have you checked out this newsletter's very own Spotify playlist Go Global Weekly yet?

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