The week at a glance...Americas
The right to a veil: Thousands of Quebec residents, mostly Muslims and Sikhs, protested in Montreal this week against a provincial proposal to bar public sector workers from wearing religious symbols. Under Quebec’s proposed charter of values, teachers, doctors, police, and government officials would be allowed to wear discreet jewelry with small religious symbols (such as a cross pendant or Star of David ring) but not a headscarf, yarmulke, or turban. The cross that hangs in the Parliament Building in Quebec City would stay, though, and town squares could still put up Christmas trees. Some protesters said they would leave Quebec if the law passed. “I’m here in Quebec 40 years,” said Kashmir Singh, a Sikh community leader. “Am I Québécois, or not?”
Floods strand thousands: The beach resort city of Acapulco turned into a disaster scene this week after Tropical Storm Manuel sent a huge flood coursing through the region, killing dozens of people. The airport was clogged with mud, leaving 40,000 tourists stranded. With power cut off and ATMs out of commission, people quickly ran out of cash and began trying to barter their jewelry for food, while those with children were desperate for sunscreen and diapers. Thousands of Mexican families, vacationing in Acapulco during the country’s long Independence Day weekend, were stranded because landslides blocked the highways heading inland. “We’re cooking here, burnt. We’re tired, desperate,” said Irma Antonio Martinez of Mexico City.
Farmers unhappy: Ecuador has agreed to drop a lawsuit against Colombia after receiving $15 million in compensation for the damage done by herbicides dumped on its territory. Colombia sprays suspected coca crops from the air, and some of the -glyphosate—the main ingredient in the herbicide Roundup—wafts across the border, where it kills Ecuadoran crops and is inhaled by people and animals. Farmers in the border region say the money is insufficient. Daniel Alarcón, president of a regional farmers federation, said that as a result of the contamination, Ecuador’s border lands have “deteriorated, and the people are now more fragile because of diseases they did not previously have.”
Kids make bank: Peru has overtaken Colombia as the world leader in the counterfeiting of U.S. dollars, thanks partly to the skilled labor of children. After police arrested one 13-year-old with a sack of $700,000 in fake $100 bills and euro notes, he showed them how he hand-finished each bill, adding professional touches. “It’s a very good note,” said a Secret Service officer at the U.S. Embassy. “They use offset, huge machines that are used for regular printing of newspapers.” Peru is also catching up to Colombia in cocaine production, but counterfeiting is proving more profitable.
Staying home: Furious over alleged U.S. spying on Brazilian government and private communications, Brazil’s president has canceled a planned state visit to the U.S. next month. Documents leaked by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden show that the U.S. intercepted phone calls and emails from President Dilma Rousseff as well as data from the state oil company Petrobras, which has been preparing a sensitive auction of oil rights. Rousseff, who called the alleged spying “industrial espionage,” was to have been the only world leader honored with a state visit this year. The White House said that President Obama “understands and regrets the concerns that disclosures of alleged U.S. intelligence activities have generated in Brazil” and would work with Rousseff “to move beyond this issue.”