Brazil's Amazon wilderness at risk from organised crime

We are flying low in helicopter formation over the Brazilian Amazon with agents from Ibama - the state-funded institute responsible for environmental protection.

No country has done more than Brazil in recent years to tackle the previously rampant levels of deforestation but there is a good reason the agents have their guns drawn - we have seen statistics which show that rates of Amazon destruction are again on the rise.

There are big profits to be made from illegal logging and the fraudulent clearing of rainforest for valuable cash crops and these helicopter patrols are often shot at.

Trying to locate illegal logging operations in the midst of this dense jungle from the air is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Destroyed on the spot

There are probably thousands of small illegal logging camps across the Amazon. Men armed with machetes and chainsaws, cutting down valuable Brazilian hardwoods are the foot soldiers in a highly profitable and dangerous trade.

Ibama agents are at the forefront of the campaign against illegal deforestation
Bulldozers illegally destroying the forest openly operate during the day
Greenpeace is calling for a ban on wood exports from Brazil
Locating illegal logging operations in dense jungle from the air is like looking for a needle in a haystack

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The real losers in Brazil's Petrobras scandal

Aldemir Bendine attends the presentation of Petrobras' 2014 results in Rio de Janeiro on 22 April, 2015.
Petrobras President Aldemir Bendine said the company was ready to do business

"We are coming clean and we are being open about mistakes made with company's resources," said Petrobras President Aldemir Bendine.

Mr Bendine was announcing almost eye-watering losses which the Brazilian oil giant has finally had to admit writing off against corruption.

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Michael Bloomberg fights big tobacco in Uruguay

Michael Bloomberg is a man on a mission. This, of course, isn't the first "noble cause" he's latched on to but the "evil" of tobacco is something he feels particularly strongly about.

In co-operation with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Mr Bloomberg has just launched a multi-million dollar fund to help smaller countries fight legal battles with tobacco companies, among them the small South American country of Uruguay.

Read full article Michael Bloomberg fights big tobacco in Uruguay

Rio losing its battle to clean up waterways for the Games

A beach in Rio
The International Olympic Committee stipulated that 80% of the sewage entering the Guanabara Bay be treated

With just over 500 days to go before the 2016 Olympic Games open in Rio de Janeiro, work is continuing around the clock to complete the sporting venues. But the BBC has seen startling scientific evidence which suggests a requirement to clean the city's polluted waterways in time for the Games will not be fulfilled.

From the air you can see Rio's Olympic Park, in the Barra zone to the south of the city, taking shape.

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Uruguay bids farewell to Jose Mujica, its pauper president

Whatever your own particular "shade" of politics, it's impossible not to be impressed or beguiled by Jose "Pepe" Mujica.

There are idealistic, hard-working and honest politicians the world over - although cynics might argue they're a small minority - but none of them surely comes anywhere close to the outgoing Uruguayan president when it comes to living by one's principles.

Read full article Uruguay bids farewell to Jose Mujica, its pauper president

Rocky road ahead for Argentine leader over Nisman case

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in Brasilia on 16 July 2014
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was first elected in 2007 and won a second term in 2011

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has been president of Argentina since 2007 but this, the last year of her presidency, is undoubtedly the most difficult period she has yet had to face.

Cristina, as most people here colloquially call their president, is occasionally flamboyant and is naturally politically combative.

Read full article Rocky road ahead for Argentine leader over Nisman case

Death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman highlights Argentina polarisation

A woman holds a sign during the funeral of prosecutor Alberto Nisman, January 29, 2015.
On the day of Alberto Nisman's funeral, a woman holds a sign reading: "My job was to look for justice for you and it cost me my life"

We still may not know exactly how or why Alberto Nisman was killed in his luxury Buenos Aires apartment, but the special prosecutor's death has opened a window on Argentine politics and society.

The 51- year-old had been about to reveal more details about his report into the 1994 bombing of the Jewish cultural centre in Buenos Aires, in which 85 people were killed.

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Alberto Nisman: How and why did Argentina prosecutor die?

Argentina's populist President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner could not have had a worse start to the new year.

Her final year in office - she is not allowed to stand for re-election - already looks like it will be dominated by ongoing economic uncertainties and a political scandal involving the apparent murder of a former state prosecutor.

Read full article Alberto Nisman: How and why did Argentina prosecutor die?

Moment of Truth for Brazil's military past

DOPS cell
A cell at the Orwellian Department of Political and Social Order or DOPS

The Department of Political and Social Order or DOPS. It is a place as Orwellian and as sinister as the name suggests.

Right in the heart of the modern metropolis of Rio de Janeiro, the former police administration centre, prison and torture chamber has remained largely untouched since the end of the dictatorship in 1985.

Read full article Moment of Truth for Brazil's military past

Brazil drought: Sao Paulo sleepwalking into water crisis

Mud in reservoir
Levels in the Cantareira reservoir system remain dangerously low

In Brazil's biggest city, a record dry season and ever-increasing demand for water has led to a punishing drought.

It has actually been raining quite heavily over the last few days in and around Sao Paulo but it has barely made a drop of difference.

Read full article Brazil drought: Sao Paulo sleepwalking into water crisis