This Latino Week

Marielle Franco Assassinated, Romario Seeks Governor Post, American Cubans Start To Return To Their Homeland
Jim McKenna

Marielle Franco Assassinated 

One of Brazil's leading gay politicians was shot dead this week, leading to widespread protests and international condemnation. Franco, who died at the age of 38, was returning home after attending a woman's empowerment event alongside her driver, Anderson Pedro Gomes, when she was shot by two men in a murder that was believed to have been coordinated beforehand. 

Her political career had been a rare feelgood story for a country that has saw its politics dragged through the gutter in recent years, with Operation Car Wash implictaing a wide range of politicians, and leaders such as Dilma Rousseff and current President Michel Temer among the most unpopular public figures in Brazilian history. She first made major headlines in 2016, when she was successful in her bid to obtain a council seat in Rio in the country's Municipal Elections, as a representative of the small Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL). As a black gay figure passionately interested in defending the rights of minorities and prejudiced groups, her election was an important moment for various communities in Rio.

Since 2016, she chaired the Women's Defence Commission and worked to create a day of lesbian visibility in Rio, as well as being a visible ally of the LGBT community. Her dedication and support for causes that were often unpopular in Brazil led to her being praised and admired by a wide range of groups. She was also one of the major opponents of politice brutality and federal intervention, something which emerged in the past year following President Temer's decision to deploy the army in Rio alongside the existing police and security forces.

Her death has reignited a debate in Brazil, about the role of racism and brutality in daily life, as well as a distrust in traditional politics and the role of the state in many areas. Her coffin was carried through Rio where it was watched by thousands of mourners. As a champion of minority rights, an opponent of violence, and one of the most popular politicians across the political spectrum in Brazil, Marielle Franco will be greatly missed.

Romario Seeks Governor Post

World Cup winning forward and legendary Brazilian figure Romario has declared his intention to run for the position of Governor of Rio in October, with an explicit focus on ending violence and solving the financial issues which have ravaged the state in recent times. 

Representing the centrist Podemos Party, which takes it name from its counterpart in Spain, Romario is hoping to use his experience in the Chamber of Deputies to run the state, which he was elected into in 2010 on the Brazilian Socialist Party ticket. His focus in politics, unsurprisingly, has often been on football, and he has been praised from a wide range of sources for his challenging of FIFA and domestic Brazilian football over corruption and money laundering. 

His main challenge in the coming months will be to convince voters that he is not merely a celebrity with a particular strength in football, but a potential governor who can balance the books and help a region that has been devestated in recent years by economic collapse and gang warfare. He will also have to be careful about an investigation into alleged concealing of assests. Although Romario denies all accusations, such matters will not help a man who has fought against corruption and traditional politics over the past eight years.

American Cubans Start To Return To Their Homeland

Thousands of Cuban exiles based in America have started to take advantage of Cuban reforms designed to "repatriate" people who left the country for the United States and Canada, leading to a range of people questioning whether their lives would be better off returning to their original homes. 

The issue is not a simple one, with many cases involving people leaving the country in response to the political climate of Cuba over the past few decades. The government often confiscated property and possessions left behind by exiles, and it is notable but Raul Castro's 2013 policy that allowed Cubans in America to apply to return did not include the ability to recover possessions that were took by the state. 

But a wide range of people who have stated their preference to return have given a wide range of reasons for applying, with many justifications making for fascinating reading. In terms of demographics people applying cover a wide range, although many are over 50. Older applicants have stated a desire to return home to retire or spend their last years with family. Others have declared a need for medical assistance, or a wish to buy property as something to pass down to future generations. However, younger individuals have also been interested in the lower cost of living and the ability to engage in politics, with a belief that Cuba's politics has improved in recent years.

On the other hand, this process does allow for certain economic benefits, and it is alleged that many people exploring this option do not intend to actually permanently move to Cuba. Such benefits include cheaper passports and an ability to avoid paying import duties, which could potentially cost Cubans living in America thousands of dollars a year if they commonly ship goods between Cuba and the North American mainland. Either way, the process of "repatriation" has opened up many interesting stories, and people returning to Cuba from the United States may increasingly become commonplace in the future, especially as original emigrants grow older and Cuba becomes less of a pariah state in the eyes of America.