Saturday, September 16, 2006

French periodical: Guatemala’s violent past should disqualify its U.N. seat bid

French magazine Le Monde Diplomatique examined Guatemala’s violent past from the “scorched Communists policy” of Efrain Rios Montt to the current state of gang warfare and high numbers of women killed. The article written by Paola Ramírez Orozco-Souel concludes that these factors should exclude Guatemala from its bid for a temporary seat on the U.N. Security Council in spite of its support by the U.S. and “discreet approval” from the European Union. (Image via this site).

Update (21 September): Thanks to a commenter who said that the original article is now subscription-only. The best I could find was this Canadian article with some quotes from Orozco-Souel's article.

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Mexicans celebrate their Independence Day

The traditional “Grito de Dolores” was yelled at midnight earlier today by President Vicente Fox as Mexicans everywhere (including Los Angeles, Texas, and Missouri) celebrated Mexican Independence day. Though the “Grito de Dolores” is traditionally celebrated in Mexico City’s Plaza de Zocalo, government officials moved it to the town of Dolores Hidalgo as a precaution against “violent threats.”

So why is today the date that Mexicans celebrate their country’s independence? It was on this day in 1810 the parish priest in the town of Hidalgo ran into his church and repeatedly rang the church bell while declaring Mexico’s independence from Spanish rule. (Hence, the “Grito de Dolores” which can be seen here via YouTube).

Unlike popular lore in the U.S., Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army’s victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla and is not Mexico’s Independence Day. (Image via Voice of America).


Friday, September 15, 2006

Afternoon briefs

Here are a few news briefs from around the Americas. Stay tuned this weekend as we will publish on Mexico's Independence Day celebrations, an op/ed piece on Guatemalan violence, and our weekly posts on blog entries and the week in review.

* London mayor Ken Livingstone is under fire for planning a deal that would import cheap oil from Venezuela. (Image from Chavez’ visit to London in May via BBC Mundo).

* Haiti has been added to the list of “fragile states” compiled by the World Bank which has gone from 17 countries n 2003 to 23 this year.

* Peru’s government is going to make several changes to its counternarcotics policy since the country is the world’s number 2 producer of cocaine despite receiving $330 million in U.S. aid.

*Russian gas giant Gazprom is considering taking part in a pipeline that will connect Panama with gas from South America.

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Colombian president’s approval is high, but has dropped since reelection

A recent poll showed that the approval ratings for Colombian president Alvaro Uribe slipped to pre-reelection levels. Compared to June his overall approval rating fell 5 points to 72%, while his handling of corruption dipped a whopping 11 points to 61%. The Uribe administration has been hit by several recent scandals including problems with coca eradication, alleged human rights abuses, and corruption in the army. (Image via BBC).

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Congress okays new fences along U.S.-Mexico border

By a vote of 283-138 the House of Representatives approved a border security plan that includes building new fencing and fixing old fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border. Voting was along party lines, though one notable exception was Democratic representative Brad Miller (North Carolina) who is up for reelection this November and voted for the bill. (Image via USA Today).

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Don’t vote for Ortega, sez U.S. ambassador

Paul Trivelli, the U.S. ambassador to Nicaragua, issued a stern warning against leftist presidential candidate Daniel Ortega. Of Ortega, the former leader of the Sandinistas, Trivelli said that he would “distort and manipulate democracy for partisan and personal benefit” if elected as president later this year. (Image via Granma).

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Kirchner and Bachelet meet to ensure strong ties

The presidents of Argentina and Chile met on Tuesday in order to discuss stronger political and economic ties between the two countries. As a step towards integration, presidents Nestor Kirchner and Michelle Bachelet agreed to reopen a cross-Andean freight and passenger railway that had been closed since 1984. (Image via La Tercera (Chile)).

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Burn, baby, burn – Mexico presidential ballots to be torched

Mexican electoral authorities said that they would oversee the burning of the ballots from Mexico’s contentious presidential election. Even though activists and Mexican president-elect Felipe Calderon argued that the ballots should be preserved, Mexico’s top electoral court ordered the ballots to be destroyed according to laws that “protect voters’ privacy”. (Image via Sign on San Diego).


U.N.’s Annan off to NAM summit

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan confirmed his presence later today at the summit of non-aligned countries taking place in Havana, Cuba. A U.N. spokesman added that Annan will speak at the summit on Friday about the need for impoverished countries to have a louder voice in global affairs.

Earlier this week, a spokesman for Colombia’s largest leftist guerilla group urged the Nonaligned Movement (NAM) to assist in finding an end to Colombia’s civil conflict, and Haiti was admitted as one of the two new members to NAM. (Image via CBS News).

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Evo’s tour of the U.S. bypasses White House

Bolivian president Evo Morales (image via Argenpress) started a three country tour on Tuesday by visiting Guatemala and talking with indigenous rights groups. Later this week he will travel to Cuba for the summit by the Nonaligned Movement and next week he will be in New York for the U.N. General Assembly meetings. Morales has expressed his disappointment in not being invited to the White House where he would tell President Bush “some truths about human rights, (and) about social and economic problems.”

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Central American coffee farmers disappointed with results

Some coffee growers in Central America have been disappointed with the miniscule profits they’ve received in order to produce environmentally-responsible, organic, or fair-trade coffee. The costs of producing premium coffee- such as increasing wages, constant inspections, and reducing chemicals- are quite high though fair trade and environmental advocates emphasize that there are other benefits aside from receiving a healthy profit. (Image via this site).


OPEC warned by Chavez admin to avoid increasing oil prices

Venezuela’s government urged OPEC to keep a sharp eye out for factors that could boost oil prices even though the price of a barrel of oil hit its lowest mark in months. In the meantime, the discovery of possible energy reserves off the coast of Cuba has pitted multinational oil companies against the U.S. embargo on Cuba. (Image via Washington Times).

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Soccer in Latin America gets a red card

The past couple of days have not been particularly good for soccer in Latin America. On Sunday an Argentine ref called off a game at halftime due to his being physically threatened by a club president while a Brazilian ref faces suspension for awarding a goal tapped in by a ball boy. Meanwhile, FIFA vice-president Jack Warner (from Trinidad and Tobago) may be fired since he sold World Cup tickets for up to three times its face value and in doing so netted nearly $1 million.

Last month, Mexican soccer club Santos Laguna was fined due to racist fan chants during a match while Chilean authorities investigated allegations of match-fixing by players. (Image via this site).

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Radio show to explore issues in Latin America

Academics, lawmakers, and business leaders have joined to create a weekly one-hour radio show that will cover contemporary topics in Latin America. Broadcast from Washington D.C., the content will also be available on their website (under construction). Press release here.

Bolivia hopes to be recognized for anti-drug efforts

Bolivian government officials have said that they are optimistic about receiving recognition from the United States for its anti-drug efforts, which may lead to a renewal of the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA). The agreement gave Bolivia greater duty-free access to US markets in an effort to provide alternatives to drug producers. (AdelaideNow) The text of the ATPDEA is presented on the US government's website here.

Afternoon briefs

* Univision news anchor Maria Elena Salinas (image via Washington Hispanic) gives her opinion on the aftermath of Felipe Calderon’s confirmation as Mexico’s president-elect.

* A “crime of passion” maybe behind the murder of the police cornel behind the infamous Carandiru prison massacre in 1992. Ubiratan Guimaraes was shot dead in his Sao Paulo residence over the weekend.

* The Miami Herald reported last week that 10 journalists were fired for accepting payments from the U.S. government in exchange for writing and planting anti-Castro articles.

* Colombia’s president publicly disputed reports alleging that soldiers planned a series of bombings in order to collect reward money.

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Posada Carriles may be set free

A U.S. judge recommended releasing alleged Cuban bomb suspect Luis Posada Carriles from a Texas detention center. Posada Carriles (image via BBC) is wanted by both the Venezuelan and Cuban governments for actions like the bombing of a plane in 1976 that killed 73 people.

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Democrats seeking support from Hispanics in South Florida

In order to counter the Republicans and their overwhelming support amongst the Cuban exile community, the Democratic Party in South Florida has been courting other Hispanic communities such as those from Venezuela, Peru, and Colombia. Obstacles include lack of faith in politics and distrust of other nationalities, yet Democratic activists still hope that they can break the Republican hegemony in South Florida. (Image via MSNBC).


The other 9/11 – Chile’s 1973 coup

While many people associate the date of 9/11 with the 2001 terrorist actions in the U.S., others also remember 9/11 as the date in 1973 when the Chilean government headed by Salvador Allende was toppled by a military coup led by Augusto Pinochet. Since then, Chileans have been divided over the effects of the coup and the subsequent Pinochet dictatorship; some praise Pinochet’s leadership against communism and in favor of free market measures whereas other denounced widespread human rights abuses and political persecution.

Though sporadic violence erupted yesterday, millions of Chileans domestically and abroad peacefully commemorated the 33rd anniversary of the coup. At a ceremony in the La Moneda presidential palace attended by Allende’s family, President Michelle Bachelet insisted that her countrymen “work for a better and deeper democracy.” Pinochet had his immunity stripped last week and may be prosecuted for human rights violations committed during his 17-year dictatorship.

For a few people, both anniversaries of 9/11 are viewed in nearly the same light.

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Debate: 9/11 and Latin American relations

No doubt today is a day of reflection and remembrance due to the five-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The changes in U.S. policy since 9/11 have inevitably changed the relations between U.S. and Latin America. Domestically, measures like the Patriot Act have led to a climate of fear amongst immigrants though at the same time numbers of illegal immigrants entering the U.S. has not diminished significantly. In terms of foreign policy, Latin America and the Caribbean have been shunned for the most part except for anti-Chavez and anti-Castro rhetoric as well as the mixing of the “war on drugs” with the “war on terror.”

With that said, here is your chance to speak out on the issue. Have the events of 9/11 improved or hurt relations with Latin America and Hispanics residing in the U.S.? Please feel free to leave your opinion as a comment to this post. (Image via this site).

By the way, we have not forgotten about the other 9/11- the 1973 coup against Salvador Allende's government in Chile. We'll discuss that tomorrow.

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Amnesty Int’l: Human rights activists unduly harassed in Colombia

Human rights group Amnesty International condemned Colombia’s government for turning a blind eye towards threats and harassment against human rights workers. Most of the activists that are hassled have been very critical of the negotiations of the Uribe administration with right-wing paramilitary groups. (Image via this site).


NAM summit starts in Cuba without Fidel

Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque (image via CBS News) inaugurated the summit non-aligned nations (Non-aligned Movement or NAM) earlier today. Representatives from over 100 countries, including the heads of state of Syria, Pakistan, and Iran, converged in Havana with the goal of creating unity amongst developing countries against “aggressions of more powerful nations.” The United States declined to take part in the summit citing its frosty relationship with the current Cuban regime.

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Doubt raised on journal article on Haiti

A study published in British medical journal The Lancet has come into doubt due to a conflict of interest of one of the authors, Athena Kolbe. She co-wrote the article alleging that over 8,000 Haitians were killed since early 2004 and that Canadian peacekeepers in Haiti constantly threatened the locals even though she used to write advocacy articles under an alias and once worked in an orphanage founded by Jean-Bertrand Aristede.

In the meantime, the Council on Foreign relations examined Haiti’s current state of social and economic instability. (Image via this site).

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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Week in review: September 4th to September 10th

Listed below are several news stories from the past week. If you want to find out more please feel free to check out previous posts on this blog. (Image via this site).

Monday September 4th

Tuesday September 5th

Wednesday September 6th

Thursday September 7th

Friday September 8th

Saturday September 9th

Sunday September 10th

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