Saturday, August 5, 2006

Mexican court rejects recount request

Mexico’s Federal Electoral Tribunal denied presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s demand for a vote-by-vote recount. Instead, the court ordered a partial recount of approximately 9% of the voting stations registered in last month’s presidential election. Supporters for Lopez Obrador (image) were upset at the court’s decision, as protestors in Mexico City yelled claimed the Tribunal’s verdict was “a total fraud.”

Friday, August 4, 2006

Evening briefs: ‘Banco de Wal-Mart’ coming soon to Mexico?

*Wal-Mart’s Mexican division started filing paperwork in order to open its own banking unit.

*Venezuela ordered its diplomatic envoy to Israel to return to Caracas.

*Workers at the world’s largest copper mine (image) in Chile are close to going on strike.

*An ex-policeman was sentenced to 25 years in jail for human rights abuses during the Argentine dictatorship between 1976 and 1983.

, , , , , ,

Cuba: Have you seen Fidel lately?

*Cuba’s government says that the country is “prepared for the defense” of their country and prepared for any form of U.S. intervention.

*Dissident Cuban activist Oswaldo Paya advocates that any changes in Cuba have "to be by Cubans and not the U.S. and also claims that “the hardliners in Miami…don't represent most of the exiles now.”

*There seems to be a difference of opinion among the Cuban community in the U.S. as to how the U.S. should change its policy towards the island. The difference is based on age with older exiles tending to be more hard line than younger generations, which are “far less political.”

*Several leaders of Cuban exile groups have called on President Bush to ease travel restrictions to Cuba that the president severely tightened in February 2004.

*The media is running rampant speculating over the state of the Cuban economy; was it doing well under Fidel, will it do better under Raul’s rule, or will it be the “future land of opportunity” in a post-Castro era?

*Listen to a podcast of Julia Sweig, senior fellow at the Council for Foreign Relations, being interviewed on Fidel’s break in power.

*The U.S. government is looking into adding more broadcasts into TV and Radio Martí, though one official acknowledged that “the emphasis (is) on ‘let's get the message there the best way,’ not say ‘it has got to be this mechanism or that one.’”

*Is it any surprise that the Bush administration’s point man on Cuba is staunchly anti-Castro and that the Cuban government refers to him as the “Paul Bremmer for Cuba”?

, , , , ,

Haiti needs to curb violence, says visiting U.N. chief

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan visited Haiti and called for the local government to be more active in combating violence. Annan, who met with President Rene Preval, said Haitian police are “inadequately trained” and “infiltrated by criminal elements.

Annan arrived in the Dominican Republic a few hours ago and will meet with President Leonel Fernandez.

, , ,

Thursday, August 3, 2006

Colombia ready for Uribe’s 2nd inauguration

President Alvaro Uribe will be inaugurated for a second term this Monday after easily winning reelection in May. Though crime rates have diminished across the country, Uribe still faces daunting challenges ahead of him such as leftists insurgents that do not want to go down quietly, high numbers of displaced people in the northern and southern parts of the country, and an uneasy peace process with paramilitary factions.

(Image depicts campesino supposedly killed by paramilitaries in the 1980s).

, , , ,

AMLO supporters blockade stock exchange

Hundreds of sympathizers of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador blocked the entrance to Mexico’s stock exchange earlier today. The demonstration comes as Mexican stocks are plunging and calls by President Vicente Fox insisting that protest camps in Mexico City be removed as soon as possible.

, ,

Bolivia: Evo pushes land reform while keeping high approval rating

*President Evo Morales has urged Congress to pass land reform plans

in spite of fierce opposition by landowners.

*Bolivia’s government backs down from a proposal to remove religion courses from public schools.

*The latest poll shows President Evo Morales’ approval rating steady at 75%.

*Brazilian energy company Petrobras announced that it would reduce its dependence on oil from Bolivia due to disagreements with Bolivia’s government.

, , ,

‘Fidel’s okay’ says his exiled younger sister

Juanita Castro claims that her brother Fidel is “very sick, but not dead”, thus echoing statements made by Cuban officials over the past 24 hours. Juanita, who has been exiled in the U.S. since the 1960s, also expressed her disappointment at the excessive celebration by Cuban exiles in South Florida.


Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Evening briefs: Gov’t salaries cut in Peru; Chavez tour nears end

*Peru’s president slashed government salaries including his own.

*Buenos Aires (image) is in the middle of a property boom led by foreigners.

*Hugo Chavez is in Benin as he wraps up a tour that has taken him to countries like Iran and Vietnam.

*Felipe Calderon’s campaign coordinator for international affairs sounds off on last month’s Mexican presidential elections.

, , , ,

Music: LAMC begins in NYC; Hip Hop Hoodios gain broad appeal

*The Latin Alternative Music Conference begins today in New York City. One of the main topics of discussion will be the impact of reggaeton on the Hispanic music scene and if the popularity of that genre has definitively propelled it out of the alternative music realm.

*VivirLatino posts on a New York Times article that looks at a small group of Latino Goths that live in the South Bronx. It reminded me of the strong cult-like following Morrissey has among Mexican-Americans living in Southern California.

*The RBD bandwagon continues (for better or for worse).

*The appeal of the Hip Hop Hoodios cannot be underestimated as their eclectic style has been highly praised by the Jewish, Hispanic, and hip-hop communities. (Link via Hispanic Tips).

*The music division of media giant Univision has been sued by a Mexican regional label citing breach of contract.

*MTV Latin America will hold its next awards show in Mexico City.

(Image from Os Mutantes’ concert a few weeks ago in New York via Brooklyn Vegan).


Mixed reactions by Latin American leaders to ailing Fidel

The heads of Bolivia and Venezuela, Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez respectively, were enthusiastic in their hopes for a full and speedy recovery by Fidel Castro. Other regional leaders were more muted towards Fidel, such as Mexico’s president wishing Fidel “a rapid recovery,” though some worry over the possibility that Cuba might enter civil war if Fidel dies.

, ,

Border insecurity: agents cross U.S. borders with fake IDs

Undercover agents were able to cross nine border checkpoints on both the Mexican and Canadian borders by using false passports, according to the Government Accountability Office. A spokesman for the Homeland Security Department says that “agents sometimes cannot verify more than 8,000 different kinds of currently acceptable IDs without significantly slowing border traffic”.

, , ,

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Evening briefs: Fidel’s allegedly feeling fine, while Argentine court rules in favor of rape victim

-A statement read a few hours ago on Cuban television and supposedly written by Fidel Castro claims that his health is “stable” and calls on Cubans to continue their daily activities.

-The Christian Science Monitor wonders if Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (image) has gone too far in having supporters set up protest camps along one of Mexico City’s main roads.

-Sixteen people were killed in an ambush and a separate car bomb in Colombia.

-Finally, two brief follow-ups on stories we’ve covered. The Telesur news network (which we discussed on in this post) has plans to expand into the U.S. (2nd note down). Also, an Argentine court ruled in favor of a mentally disabled rape victim in a case that had pitted the government against the Roman Catholic Church.

, , , , , , , , , ,

Cuba: Fidel’s health and passage of power to his brother on the minds of a lot of people

Update (04:00pm): Miami Herald columnist Andres Oppenheimer gives three reasons why Fidel handed over power to his brother. Meanwhile, this picture is ironic in so many ways.

*Unlike the
raucous joy in Miami Monday night (left image), Cubans on the island met the news of Fidel’s handover of power with stunned silence and tranquility.

*Politicians such as Senator
Mel Martinez and Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (both Cuban exiles) are guarded in their optimism for a positive change to occur in Cuba. Meanwhile, Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez are closely monitoring the situation in Cuba in order to ensure the public safety of people in South Florida.

*So how should the U.S. react if Fidel dies and there’s a regime change? The obvious point is that the U.S. needs to promote a “pro-democracy” agenda. Will it involve a direct intervention welcomed with open arms by the Cuban people? Or perhaps things will be chaotic and will lead to a legitimate political opening. Or maybe U.S. intervention will hurt more than help and make the situation in Cuba worse. Then again the U.S. could “finagle some way to gain control and grant it statehood”. Mind you, this could all be moot and irrelevant if Raul Castro really is the “far more radical” leader some believe he is and he’s able to successfully consolidate power for himself.

*Speaking of the new leader of Cuba, here are a few biographies on Raul Castro (right image).

*Remember the Bush administration report released three weeks ago discussing regime change in Cuba? Here it is (in PDF format).

*The calm after the storm- people of Cuban decent in South Florida ponder what would happen in Cuba if Fidel were to die.

*Here’s a thought: could oil be the factor that overturns the U.S. embargo on Cuba?

*An English-language translation of Fidel’s letter that was read on Cuban television last night.

*Wonkette sarcastically wonders if Fidel has the power to “change other people’s birthdays” beside his own.

*Finally, a few anti-Castro jokes which aren’t too bad.

, , ,

On this day in Latin American history: August 1st

-1498: Christopher Columbus became the first European to visit Venezuela.

-1808: Slaves from Trinidad and Tobago were emancipated via an act of the British parliament. Thus, today is a national holiday in Trinidad and Tobago- Emancipation Day.

-1902: The U.S. finalizes purchasing the rights to construct the Panama Canal (image) from France.

-2004: Over 400 people die when fire rages through a supermarket in Asuncion, Paraguay.


Monday, July 31, 2006

Fidel Castro undergoes surgery and temporarily leaves power for his brother

For the first time since the Cuban revolution in 1959, Fidel Castro left power while he underwent surgery for intestinal surgery tonight. Fidel ceded power temporarily to his brother Raul, according to a letter read on live television in Cuba.

Final Update (02:15am): Quick check at the news stories before I call it a night-
*Key facts on Cuba and a timeline of Fidel's known illnesses via Reuters

*Cuban exiled community in Miami await with baited breath the possible confirmation of Fidel's death

*the New York Times gives a brief bio on Raul Castro

*the White House is "monitoring" the situation in Cuba

Update (02:00am): Some more blog posts on Fidel include-
*a transcript of the statement made on Cuban television signed by Fidel (link in Spanish)

*a Republican blogger from Miami notes how President Bush just so happened to be visiting Miami on Monday

*worry that chaos will engulf Cuba once Fidel's death is confirmed

*a look at how this may affect Hugo Chavez via a Venezuelan blogger (link in Spanish)

Update (01:15am): The dual views on Fidel Castro, via Reuters.

Update (12:50am): Some bloggers are happy at the possibility of Fidel's death while others warn against premature celebration.

Update (12:30am): Newsweek analyzes what could be expected from a Raul Castro regime. Key quotes from two different, anonymous U.S. intelligence sources:

"Raul is a reluctant, unpopular leader. He has prospered by being his brother's brother, surrounded by those who he sees as competent and loyal".

"Raul will seek consensus. He built the party, built the military and built the government. He is Mr. Cadre, Mr. Personnel, Mr. Talent Scout."

Update (12:25am): Very detailed and updated post by Babalu Blog, a Cuban exiliado(?), who happens to be in Miami and is very closely following this developing news story.

Some key quotes:
he public will not be informed until all elements of the government are in place to keep the Cuban people under strict and total control (if Fidel dies)."

"I feel I must urge everyone to take this news...with a grain of salt. castro has "died" many times before, only to then reappear like genital herpes."

"Congreswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is urging all Cubans in Miami with boats to NOT attempt to go to Cuba to bring family members over or for any other purpose. All vessels will be intercepted at sea".

Update (12:15am): Univision's national news interviewed former mayor of Miami Alex Penelas who discussed Miami's public safety plans and preparedness for any sudden change in news in Cuba. Penelas notes that the situation has yet to get to far out of hand and advises leaders of the Cuban exile community to encourage sympathizers to go "beyond the bounds of the law." Penelas assumes that Bush administration officials are trying to analyze intelligence in order to verify what's going on in Cuba.

Speaking of the Bush administration, Univision informs that White House spokesman Tony Snow that the administration is being cautious while they figure out what's going on in Cuba.

Update (12:05am):
Univision's national news showed how the streets of Miami (Little Havana?) have flooded the streets in jubilation at the possibility of Fidel's "death." Some of the people interviewed are certain that Fidel is dead and that the Cuban media are not disclosing all information.

Apparently some bloggers seem to be getting a little too far ahead of themselves and believe that Fidel is dead.


Commentary: Is the political left really losing in Latin America?

The New York Times certainly believes that any vast movement towards the political left has been stymied by recent electoral results in Peru and Mexico. As the editorial mentioned “the left has been losing ground in recent elections, and there are signs that just being associated in voters' minds with (Venezuelan president Hugo) Chávez is a liability.”

However, the Times’ editorial falls into the same trap that a Reuters article did about a month ago- it assumes that the political left is monolithic and represented by the populist rhetoric of Chavez. Any moderate leftist leader is labeled as “moderate social democrats” that have “more in common with the center-right” than Chavez. It sounds like a statement that could delegitimize moderate leftist leaders like Lula or Michelle Bachelet?

Contrast the Times’ editorial with the following quote from a different article:

"One must differentiate and classify these new governments, rather than use

a broad brush when describing South America's turn to the left."

The quote comes from an article looking at the impact of the left on the Jewish minority residing in South America. Here we see a fair examination of the political left by acknowledging the presence of moderate leftists and populist leftists.

So ultimately is the political left dead in Latin America? Not yet. Leaders that are center-left tend to have reasonable amounts of popularity as well as growing and stable economies. Populist leftists are not a dying breed as the Times’ editorial notes since Ollanta Humala remains as a major politician in Peru and Hugo Chavez is certain to be reelected in December.

The more operative question is “can moderate leaders on the left and the Latin American right-wing co-exist”? The Times’ editorial seems to allude to this notion, and the lack of an extreme right throughout the region lends credence to such a view. On the other hand, possible presidential victories later this year by populist politicians in Nicaragua and Venezuela could signal a resurgence in the populist left. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.

, ,

Latin America strong in fight against AIDS, says journal article

An article to be published in this week’s edition of Science will praise the efforts of countries like Mexico, Peru, and Brazil to find innovative ways to combat AIDS. “Poorer countries have greater challenges and by and large are doing worse. But there are so many exceptions” according to the article.


Comic for president in Venezuela

Another candidate has launched a bid to unseat Hugo Chavez. No it’s not a seasoned politician or a businessman or a former rebel. It’s popular Venezuelan comedian “El Conde de Guacharo” (image) (real name- Benjamin Rausseo) and he’s seeking help for creating a “Plan of Action” via his campaign website. Venezuelan bloggers are split between delight at El Conde’s run for the presidency, while others are disgusted with the idea.


Late morning headlines: Thousands support AMLO in Mexico City; “queso majico” dupes Chileans

-“The people are rising” yells massive crowd during weekend rally (left image) for Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

-Murdered U.S. priest remembered in Guatemala 25 years after his death.

-Colombian government to pay $1.4 million compensation to families of mid-90’s massacre victims.

-More than 25,000 Chileans were fooled in a scam to buy a supposedly rejuvenating “magic cheese”.

-British American Tobacco posts high profits due to sales in Latin America.

-Iranian prez gives medal of honor to Hugo Chavez and calls him his “brother and trench mate.” (Right image).

-Wal-Mart to focus more on China and Latin America.

-Mexico changes “sexist” wedding vows.

, , , , , , ,