Friday, February 10, 2006

Op/ed article in NYU student newspaper on “Killer Coke” campaign

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. An op/ed article in the Washington Square News points out the lack of “sustainability” as to why the ban against Coca-Cola at NYU, has been ineffective in causing real change. “The core of the ‘Killer Coke’ campaign isn’t murders in Colombia, but the insanity that a cost-benefit analysis could justify having workers killed to keep others from demanding better working conditions. That central principle needs to be generalized and made explicit” according to the article. (NYUNews)

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Costa Rica: Recount begins of dead-heat presidential election

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Costa Rica’s electoral board began a recount on Tuesday to see if either ex-president Oscar Arias or rival Otton Solis won outright or will face each other in a second round. Though exit polls indicated Arias won easily, it is believed that a winner will be announced in two weeks. (ABC)

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Venezuela’s state oil company will pay off debt

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Petroleos de Venezuela SA will pay off its multibillion dollar debt traded in U.S. markets in order to avoid filing financial reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission. "We should not be in the Security Exchange Commission, and when we pay off our private debt we will leave," said the president of Petroleos de Venezuela SA on Wednesday. (Business Week)

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El Salvador will continue sending troops to Iraq

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. El Salvador’s government will send another group of troops to serve in with coalition forces in Iraq even though President Tony Saca mentioned last year that the decision would be up to coalition officials. El Salvador is the only Latin American country to have troops in Iraq. (Mercury News)

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Halliburton subsidiary wins contract to build U.S. immigration detention centers

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Kellogg Brown & Root won a contract worth nearly $400 million in order to build temporary immigration detention centers. A government spokesman noted that these centers are useful in emergency situations, though Representative Henry Waxman critiqued that “with Halliburton's ever expanding track record of overcharging, it's hard to believe that the administration has decided to entrust Halliburton with even more taxpayer dollars.” (New York Times) (Registration required).

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Foot-and-mouth disease hits Argentina

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Officials in Argentina have identified an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in cattle located near the border with Paraguay. Argentina was hit with a serious outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in cattle five years ago, while Brazil was hurt by it last year. (The Latin Americanist)

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Flores continues leading Peru presidential race

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Center-right candidate Lourdes Flores holds a near double-digit lead over her nearest rival, Ollanta Humala. Humala has been hurt by recent accusations that he committed human rights abuses as a local police chief in the early 1990s. (Angus Reid)

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Amerindians from five South American countries seek their own nation

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Thousands of Amerindians belonging to the Guarani nation are demanding lands taken by 18th century European colonialists. "Without land, we cannot live, there is no health, there is no education. And we need our full land, with forest, rivers and air," according to a Guarani from Paraguay. (WAPO)

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U.S. to slash military aid to Bolivia

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. The United States plans to cut military aid to Bolivia by 96% nearly a month after the election of Evo Morales in Bolivia. The U.S. State Department claims that this cut may be necessary since Bolivia has refused to ratify an agreement avoiding extradition of Americans to the International Criminal Court. (IHT)

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Lula in Algeria as part of tour in Africa

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. On Wednesday, Brazil’s president started a four-nation tour of Africa in order to improve business ties and lobby for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council. "We want to build cooperation in (economic) sectors and prove to Algerians that in choosing Brazil they have made a good choice," Lula told the Algerian press. (CNN)

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Cuban government ups the ante in visual display battle with United States

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. A “memorial” was erected in front of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana on Tuesday. The display consists of over 100 black flags raised high enough to block an electric ticker on the fifth floor of the U.S. mission that transmitted anti-Castro messages. (CBS)

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Cops to screen for illegal immigrants in North Carolina

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Under a new program announced on Monday, 10 Mecklenburg County deputies will receive training to become certified immigration officers.
North Carolina has seen a huge boost in illegal immigration over the past decade that has angered some residents fearful of increased crime, yet immigration has changed and helped the state’s economy. (Reflector)


Haitian presidential election: vote-counting continues

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Ballots from Tuesday’s first round of Haitian presidential elections continue to be counted under the auspices of United Nations troops. Though the secretary-generals of the UN and Organization of American States praised the massive turnout and relative lack of violence, four people were killed on Election Day and some voters complained that they were unable to cast their votes. (CNN)

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Cuban exiles protest Bahamas’ treatment of refugees

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Members of Miami’s Cuban exile community protested alleged abuse of Cuban refugees recently detained in the Bahamas. In addition, several Cuban-American congressmen have condemned Bahamian authorities via a letter written to Condoleezza Rice. (CBS)

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Former President likely winner in Haitian elections

With just under 10% of the votes counted in Haiti's election former President Rene Preval is leading the pack at 61.5%. (Washington Post)

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Thursday, February 9, 2006

What is an American?

-Taylor Kirk

The debate in Congress over how to approach immigration issues varies from an attack on 'aliens' and the audacity they have to invade our country to a discussion on how to accomodate guest workers once they are here. An article in today's Washington Post, noting that our Olympic Team in Turin will be the most diverse ever, should remind us once again that the word 'American' (as distasteful as it may be in other parts of the Western Hemisphere) is not an ethnic or racial identification, but a signal that one adheres to the basic ideals that the United States is supposed to espouse. People of European descent in the United States conveniently tend to forget that their lineage on U.S. soil has existed at most for 500 years (a tiny dot in the timeline of human history), and that parts of what is now the United States were once happily settled by people of other races.

Of course, none of this information is new, nor does it add anything particularly refreshing to the immigration debate. However, we should be prepared to examine the nature of that debate and how it came it came to be. We show a schizophrenic response to simple questions on immigration, overwhelmingly telling pollsters that immigration is a good thing overall for our country, while saying in the same breath that more should be done to curb it. Some might say that the first question recalls an earlier period of immigration from European countries, while the question referring to 'curbing' immigration refers to current immigration patterns from Latin America and other parts of the world.

If this is the case, we have some serious questions to answer about what an American is. Since millions of people have immigrated to this country to produce the population that exists today, how can we call people that now want to be part of this country 'aliens'? Their desire to come here exhibits a willingness to be part of the American dream, whether or not that ideal is attainable. Our instinct to build a wall or fortify our borders may come from a fear that the America that will exist 50 years from now may be very different from the one we live in today. Racial majorities today will no longer be such, which has caused considerable anxiety in places like Miami and my home state of Texas.

Our Olympic Team this year should remind us that those fears existed years ago when many questioned the wisdom of allowing African-Americans to be citizens and receiving immigrants from Japan. That we eventually did both produced world-class citizens and stellar representatives of our country. We should keep this in mind when we formulate policies that will determine the nature of our country generations from now.

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Photography: Elections in Haiti

The Washington Post displays terrific photography from Ron Haviv of Tuesday's elections. (Washington Post)

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Tom Daschle has it right

Former Senator Tom Daschle contributed an op-ed piece to the Miami Herald that has some very sane policy recommendations for the United States in Latin America. Among them 1) accept the election of leaders whose beliefs do not match our own, provided those leaders accept the rules of the democratic road, and 2) make it cheaper and safer to remit money from the United States, even if that means regulating wire-sending operations, and 3) reform our immigration laws so that hard-working and law-abiding immigrants from Latin America can earn the opportunity to become U.S. citizens. Shame on South Dakotans for booting Daschle from office in 2004, only to elect this man, who somehow managed to misspell the word 'borders' on this page of his website (third line).

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Monday, February 6, 2006

The election that noone noticed

-Taylor Kirk
Strenuous U.S. efforts to encourage free-trade agreements in Latin America would lead one to believe that the election of a pro-CAFTA Nobel Peace Prize winner in a friendly Central American country would merit an article or two in the main stream U.S. press. One would be mistaken.

Today former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias returned to power with 45% of the vote, enough for him to avoid a runoff. So far (I write this at 10:15pm) Reuters is the only English-language source covering the event, and I was only able to find that article after Googling Costa Rica in the news section. The very next article that sprang up was on luxury condos in Guanacaste.

Of course, anyone that can read Spanish could visit La Nacion (CR) for the latest results, if they were even aware that the election was taking place today. However, U.S. coverage of Latin America is dominated by Hugo Chavez' latest antics and the threat of Daniel Ortega returning to power in Nicaragua.

One of the effects of 9/11 was that U.S. citizens began to notice the world beyond our borders, and to take a greater interest in foreign affairs. Though primarily focused on events in the Middle East, the consumption of public radio, international publications, and television coverage of world events skyrocketed, bringing new perspectives and information about world events to our living rooms. This also brought a hope, however tentative, that increased international awareness might make the U.S. a smarter nation that might develop a smarter foreign policy.

As I write this, the three headlines on's section for the Americas are 'Brazil: 3 Crushed in Rush to Get Autographs', 'Washington: U.S. Kicks Out Venezuelan Envoy', and 'Venezuela: Hamas to Tour South America'. Apart from being almost comical, "The World's News Leader" has demonstrated that U.S. public interest in Latin America is confined to the sensational. Perhaps if Arias were a militant leftist, or if the elections were marred by violence, CNN would find it fit to cover. As it stands, the U.S. public will remain unaware that a successful election in a marvelous Central American country just changed the course of that region's history.

Update: Today coverage of the event is much more extensive, especially focusing on the closeness of the election. While La Nacion still has the candidates separated by almost 9,000 votes and a quote from Arias que 'confia en la victoria', the Reuters syndication has Arias saying that he 'cannot claim victory yet'.

Update II: Looks like I and the rest of the world called it too early, but I'd like to make it clear that my original point still stands. I was very disappointed Sunday to see the lack of coverage while the election was ongoing. The latest from La Nacion says that with 88.11% of the votes counted, Arias' lead has narrowed to 3,647 votes. I like the quote from Solis that 'qualquier cosa puede ocurrir' en la eleccion, as if we were not aware of that :D. I would also like to make everyone aware that the "World's News Leader" has finally posted the (now outdated) circulating Reuters article, though it comes AFTER the headline about how Cuba is planning a massive anti-US rally. Sensationalism anyone? Congrats CNN.

Update III: Costa Rica is on the main page of Wikipedia today. I love the wikis.

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Mexico hires public relations firm to improve image in the U.S.

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Mexico’s government hired a Dallas-based PR firm to help project a more positive image of Mexico within the U.S. The aim, according to a representative from the PR firm is to focus on ''the good things that are happening in Mexico'' and ``correct some of the myths and misperceptions that are out there.'' (Miami)

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Latest reality show: gang members gone straight

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Former Guatemalan gang members will be transformed into community leaders in a reality show set to air next month. The program will air in Central America and will be partially produced by the U.S. Agency for International Development. (The Star)

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New law in Guatemala aims to decrease high birth rates

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. A new law passed last week by Guatemala’s legislature forces the government to provide sexual education classes and encourage the use of contraceptives. Still, Guatemala’s president and Catholic Church officials plan to appeal the congress’ decision on a supposed voting technicality. (BBC)

IMF’s role in danger due to Brazil and Argentina

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. The early repayment of Brazil and Argentina’s massive multi-billion dollar debt to the IMF has led to problems within the global lending body. The IMF is facing a growing amount of critics who feel it should cut back its lending practices. (Chronicle)

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Cuba: Embargo interferes with trade conference; rescued refugees sent to Bahamas

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Meetings in Mexico City between U.S. energy executives and Cuban officials had to be moved from a U.S.-owned hotel due to U.S. government pressure. Meanwhile, the U.S. Coast Guard will return seven of eight Cuban “balseros” rescued from a Bahamian island to Bahamas’ immigration authorities. An injured refugee airlifted to a Florida hospital will be allowed to stay in the U.S. due to the U.S.’s “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy. (Sun Sentinel)

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Panama and Chile agree to free trade deal

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Panama and Chile signed a free trade agreement on Saturday after more than a decade of negotiations. According to the deal, most Panamanian goods will not have to pay tariff when entering the Chilean market. (Xinhua)

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Ecuador gets apologies from Colombia over border dispute

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Colombia’s defense minister apologized to Ecuador last week over an “accidental” military incursion into Ecuadorian territory. Colombian aircraft trespassed Ecuadorian airspace during a battle with left-wing guerillas. (BBC)

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Lula gains in polls, yet trails chief opponent

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. A poll published on Sunday shows that Brazil’s resident has gained popularity since December even though his administration has been rocked by a serious corruption scandal. Still, the poll showed that Lula would trail in a head-to-head match up with the opposition politician he defeated in the past presidential election. (Reuters)

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Rummy: Chavez is like Hitler

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. In the latest salvo in a diplomatic war between the U.S. and Venezuela, Donald Rumsfeld claimed that Hugo Chavez “is a person who was elected legally - just as Adolf Hitler was elected legally - and then consolidated power.” Chavez replied by comparing President Bush to Hitler and threatened to cut off Venezuelan oil exports to the U.S. (BBC)

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The pause that refreshes? Brit schools may ban Coke

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Several British universities are considering banning all Coca-Cola products from their schools over allegations that Coca-Cola endangers labor leaders in their Colombian bottling plants. Coke has already been banned from U.S. schools such as New York University and the University of Michigan. (Independent)

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Evo to Bachelet: We want a coastline

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Landlocked Bolivia will request access to the sea from Chile after Chilean president-elect Michelle Bachelet takes office next month. Bolivia has been without a coastline to the Pacific Ocean since Chile beat Bolivia in the War of the Pacific over a century ago. (Xinhua)

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