Kenneth Maxwell , the founder of the Brazil Studies Program at 
Harvard’s David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, is currently 
a weekly columnist for the Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo.
 (August 2015)

Brazil: The Corruption of Progress

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin before the final match of the FIFA World Cup, Rio de Janeiro, July 2014
Dilma Rousseff of the Workers’ Party (PT) was narrowly reelected president of Brazil in the second round of the presidential election on October 26 last year. She won with 51.6 percent of the votes. Aécio Neves, her opponent from the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), received 48.4 percent of the …

Brazil: Lula’s Prospects

I arrived back in the US from Brazil on election day, Sunday, October 27, when 115 million voters peacefully went to the polls, pressed the keys on their compact electronic voting machines, and by a huge margin elected a former factory worker, Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, universally known as …

The Dirty War

A Lexicon of Terror is a searing account of the Argentine Dirty War which claimed over 30,000 lives between 1976 and 1983. The author, who teaches writing and literary translation at Harvard, spent six years of harrowing research among those who survived unspeakable mental and physical torment in the military …

Pirate Democracy

The first books about pirates appeared surprisingly soon after the piracy they described. The most successful of all the early pirates, Henry Morgan, who sacked the Spanish colonial city of Panama in 1671, was portrayed as a monster of depravity and cruelty in Alexander Exquemelin’s best-selling Buccaneers of America, first …

The Road to Kisses

In 1544 Dominican friars took a delegation of Maya nobles to visit Prince Philip of Spain. Among the presents they brought to his court, together with various kinds of chilies, beans, sarsparilla, maize, liquidambar (a plant of the witch hazel family), and 2000 quetzal feathers, their most precious offering, were …

¡Adiós Columbus!

Columbus was mugged on the way to his own party. The American quincentennial year drew to a close with barely a mention of the Admiral of the Ocean Sea and would-be “Viceroy of India.” Even the advertising agencies found him too hot a potato (the potato of course being one …

The Mystery of Chico Mendes

On December 22, 1988, Francisco “Chico” Mendes, a Brazilian union organizer, was murdered at his modest house in Xapuri, a remote rubbertrading outpost of five thousand people in the Brazilian border state of Acre. Mendes was a plump, agreeable, talkative activist who had tried to protect the livelihood of his …

The Tragedy of the Amazon

If 1989 was the year of revolution in Eastern Europe, 1988 was the year of drought and fire in the Americas. It was a year of growing public concern about global warming, with dire projections of melting ice caps and ozone depletion. It was a year of dramatic images of …

Postscript from Portugal

Soares gave the Portuguese revolution two months. Since he spoke, four weeks have passed. And while he directs his barbs at Cunhal he remains reticent about the formidable threat from the right that, if it does not reunite the Socialists and the Communists, could soon topple them both. When the …

Portugal Under Pressure

The struggle in Portugal during the past year has been over ends and means. No one doubted the necessity for action when the old regime fell but there was very little agreement over what that action should be. With the establishment of the supreme military revolutionary council in March 1975, …

The Hidden Revolution in Portugal

Marcello Caetano, the deposed former prime minister of Portugal, and the exiled stalwarts of the old regime gathered recently in Rio de Janeiro with some satisfaction. Their nemesis António de Spínola was being shuttled from Spain to Brazil to Argentina to Brazil again, while his modest home in Lisbon was …

Portugal: A Neat Revolution

The collapse of fascist Portugal was sudden and paradoxical. After forty-six years of authoritarian rule, aborted coups, and quixotic gestures of opposition, a meticulously planned putsch by junior officers deposed the old regime in less than twelve hours. In Lisbon and Oporto, hundreds of thousands of people pouring into the …