City Voices: The Word from the Street

Spanish Cities Far From Sustainable

Though Vitoria-Gasteiz, capital of the Basque Country, was elected the European Green Capital of 2012 – an award presented by the European Union to promote and reward efforts to mitigate climate change – Spain still has a long way to go to earn the label of ‘sustainable’ for others cities around the country.

"I think my mural is the best," says Caridad Acosta.  Credit: Patricia Grogg/IPS

CUBA: Mural-Lined Street Transforms Neighbourhood

Forget about finding Cantarrana on a map or travel guide to Cuba. "Nobody knew about us; we didn't exist," said one resident of this working-class neighbourhood on the west side of Havana.

EL SALVADOR: Giving Young Slum Dwellers a Chance

In a country where hard-line policies have failed to make a dent in soaring levels of violent crime, Salesian priest José María Moratalla has produced good results by offering educational and vocational opportunities to juvenile offenders and young people at risk of falling into crime.

BRAZIL: ‘Pacification’ of Favelas Not Just a Media Circus

The "take-over" of Rocinha, one of Rio de Janeiro's largest favelas, by heavily armed police and military units was seen by some as a media spectacle and by others as part of a successful strategy of regaining state control over an area ruled by armed drug gangs.

Pediatrics waiting room at the Albert Schweitzer hospital in Rio de Janeiro.  Credit: Agência Brasil Marcello Casal Jr/EBr

Brazil’s Health System Inspires Abroad, Frustrates at Home

News that the government of South Africa was inspired by Brazil's health system in setting up its own universal coverage scheme might meet with scepticism in this South American country.

"Occupy Rio" protesters camping out in Cinelândia square.  Credit: Fabíola Ortiz

BRAZIL: “Occupy” Movement Rolls to Rio

Inspired by the movement for real democracy and people's power that has spread to hundreds of cities around the world, young Brazilians in Rio de Janeiro have created their own version of "Occupy Wall Street", dubbed "Occupy Rio".

IPS's Fabiana Frayssinet interviews Brazilian state legislator Marcelo Freixo in Rio de Janeiro. Credit:  VincentRimbaux

BRAZIL: Reality of Militias Is Fiercer than Fiction

When state legislator Marcelo Freixo received death threats for combating militias made up of off-duty police in Rio de Janeiro, his real life took on the form of the character portraying himself in the Brazilian Oscar hopeful "Tropa de Elite 2".

Bike sharing system in Changwon, South Korea.  Credit: City of Changwon

EcoMobility Gaining Ground, Step by Step

Berlin is a big capital city of a country famed for making excellent automobiles, but it can no longer afford roads and is now moving people by transit, bike and especially through walking.

EGYPT: Bumpy Ride to a New Human Rights City

The upheaval of the Arab Spring has provided fertile ground to plant the seed of a new framework for human rights that moves beyond monitoring violations. Rights advocates want to integrate human rights into the fabric of daily life and are working at the community level to establish the first Human Rights City in the Middle East.

Emmanuel Joseph lies on a piece of cardboard in Accra Central. Paralysed from the waist down, he comes here every morning at 7am to beg. Credit: Paul Carlucci/IPS

GHANA: Woes for Disabled Persist Five Years After Act

Emmanuel Joseph and George Amoah, two disabled Ghanaians, occupy different ends of the spectrum. The former lies on a piece of cardboard in Accra Central, his half-naked body twisted and mostly paralysed, the sun beating down on him while he waits to collect three dollars, the average proceeds of a day's begging.

"Indignados" protest home repossessions in Málaga.  Credit: Inés Acosta/IPS

SPAIN: ‘Indignant’ Protests Heat Up Election Campaign

"Ex dockyard worker, now a beggar" reads the sign displayed by a man in a spotless shirt who is panhandling near a square in this southern Spanish city where dozens of demonstrators are chanting: "The bank always wins and I'm against this!" and "What's going on? We have no homes!"

"Indignados" in Málaga protest cuts in health and education.  Credit: Inés Benítez/IPS

SPAIN: Protest Movement Chalks Up Victories

"I want to thank the 15-M. I will not forget them," Algerian immigrant Sid Hamed Bouziane, whose deportation order was revoked after a group of activists from this burgeoning Spanish protest movement held an 11-day demonstration on his behalf, told IPS.

Sandra Sánchez, right, with a group of seniors at lunch time in the Oasis.  Credit: Helda Martinez/IPS

COLOMBIA: Women Make an Oasis in Violence-Wracked Neighbourhood

In one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the Colombian capital, 26-year-old Sandra Sánchez has created an oasis that offers meals, recreational opportunities, company and much more to hundreds of children and elderly people, in an example of solidarity and leadership that has transcended borders.

CUBA: Summer’s Legacy: Trash-Strewn Local Beaches

People are packed like sardines on the sand and in the water. Like every summer in Cuba, tens of thousands of Havana residents seek to escape the heat and worries of city life every day along a 12-km stretch of popular beaches to the east of the capital, known as Playas del Este.

Memorial to murdered Judge Patrícia Acioli draws little attention from passersby on the beach in Niteroi.  Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

BRAZIL: Organised Crime Raises the Stakes

The assassination of Brazilian Judge Patrícia Acioli, who was investigating militias made up of off-duty police and death squads, points to a new stage of organised crime, which is expanding into the vacuum left by the impunity surrounding 90 percent of murders in the state of Rio de Janeiro.

The oil-refining municipality of Carirubana is banning plastic bags.  Credit: Yanethe Gamboa/IPS

VENEZUELA: Caribbean Town Declares Plastic Bags Non Grata

A Venezuelan municipality where the main industry is oil refining, and that has an import-export "free zone", is set to become a plastic bag-free area.

ARGENTINA: Needs Outstrip Efforts to Build Affordable Housing

The Argentine economy has grown steadily since 2003, and hundreds of thousands of social housing units have been built. Nevertheless, the protests and conflicts that periodically break out make it clear that the solutions have failed to keep up with the need for affordable housing

Turks Police Own London District Amid Rioting

As London simmered under a heavy police lid last night, there were some areas of the city that had no need for flashing blue lights and riot shields to maintain the ragged sense of calm.

Restored local parliament building in historic centre of Cienfuegos.  Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Restoring the Cuban City with a French Colonial Air

The city of Cienfuegos, known in Cuba as the "Pearl of the South", is unique for its spotless cleanliness, the orderly grid pattern of its streets, its 19th century architecture and its air of "Grande Dame" elegance. Now its past splendours, ravaged by time or left to deteriorate because of economic difficulties, are being restored.

Margarita Barrientos, left, with a family that frequents her soup kitchen.  Credit: Marcela Valente /IPS

ARGENTINA: One Poor Woman Who Feeds Thousands

The endeavour gave a deeper meaning to her life and turned her into an internationally recognised community organiser. Nevertheless, the real wish of Margarita Barrientos is that there would be more need for soup kitchens for the hungry, like the one she founded in the capital of Argentina.

PORTUGAL: Food Aid for “New Poor”, Extra Wealth for Nouveau Riche

"The crisis is only for some of us" has become a commonly heard phrase in Portugal, following the drastic fiscal adjustment policies imposed in May by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund as the condition for a 112 billion dollar financial bailout.

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