Saturday, September 30, 2006

Brazil: Electronic voting machines may cause problems in tomorrow's elections

Thousands of Brazilians will head to the polls on Sunday to vote for the country’s next president. Incumbent head of state Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva appears to be well on the path for reelection though controversy over corruption and fighting within the Workers Party may prevent him from avoiding a second round against his closest rival.

Tomorrow’s elections will rely heavily on Diebold electronic voting machines (image) that Brazilian electoral officials are hoping will prevent fraud and a slow vote count. However, there is worry over the ease in which Diebold machines can be hacked as has been shown by Princeton University researchers and testimony provided at the U.S. Congress a few days ago. Similar types of Diebold machines raised eyebrows during the 2004 U.S. presidential election.

Links- Irish Examiner, Angus Reid Consultants, Fox News, Endgadget, ZNet, Mother Jones

Image- Bonde News (Brazil)

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Friday, September 29, 2006

Strange bedfellows in the border fence debate

By now most of us are aware of the usual suspects involved in the debate on placing refurbishing fences along the U.S.-Mexico border. But did you know that some environmentalists are being involved in the discussion? They, along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, warn that adding walls to the border will impede the migration routes of several animals including jaguars and rare species of birds.

On the other hand, perhaps those in favor of increased border security may rally in favor of “border volleyball.” “Why not use this no-man’s land as a real beach and see if we could strike up a friendly pickup game?” said one participant shortly before playing an impromptu match against a pair of Mexicans on the other side of the 50-foot high fence straddling the border.

Links- ABC News (U.S.), International herald Tribune, Washington Post, LA Weekly

Image- LA Weekly

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Caribbean headlines

* Tourists who typically head to Puerto Rico are increasingly choosing to take their vacations in nearby countries like Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

* A new museum opened in Trinidad and Tobago that celebrates the Indian heritage of Caribbean people.

* Jamaica’s main opposition part has accused the ruling party of being divided by communist infiltration.

* A U.S. bill which may provide trade benefits to Haiti may not come to fruition. (Previous post on the proposal here).

Update (30 September): Representatives pulled the bill before a vote could be made due to pressure from congressmen representing textile-producing U.S. states. (link via Charlotte Observer).

* Spain’s largest money laundering case has a Caribbean connection in that funds may have been transferred illegally to the Dominican Republic.

* Tickets for next year’s Cricket World Cup are being sold illegally via eBay; the tournament will be hosted by the first time in the Caribbean.


Links- USA Today, Zee News (India), Jamaica Observer, AlertNet, Dominican Today, The Daily Telegraph (Australia), The Latin Americanist (blog)

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More Latin Americans in business learning Chinese language

Latin Americans involved in finance and business are eager to learn the Chinese language as China becomes a major player in Latin America affairs. “It’s fundamental to communicate in their language when you go there” said a business executive who takes night classes to learn Mandarin. Trade between Latin America and China has grown by $40 billion since 2000 and Latin America’s natural resources (e.g. Venezuelan oil) has helped fuel China’s rapid economic expansion.

Links- The Latin Americanist (blog), The Economist (U.K.), Indian Express (India)

Image- China Digital Times (Meeting between the Chinese and Venezuelan head of state).

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Gov’t may use force as “last resort” to control violence in Oaxaca

As violence in the Mexican state of Oaxaca intensifies, Mexico’s government has warned that it may need to use force but only as a last resort. What had originally been a teachers’ strike has mushroomed into protests against Oaxaca’s governor and this has even led U.S. Embassy in Mexico to issue a warning against traveling to Oaxaca.

Links- CNN, People’s Daily Online,

Image- BBC News

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

“Betty”-ier than the original? Critics review “Ugly Betty”

After several months of hype and anticipation the English-language adaptation of “Betty la Fea” debuts tonight at 8pm (Eastern Standard Time) on ABC. Dubbed “Ugly Betty”, the series stars America Ferrara and boasts Salma Hayek as executive producer. Here are excerpts of some reviews of “Ugly Betty”:

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: “In spite of the series' Colombian origins, and the fact that its format has been successfully imitated in Germany, Greece, Russia, Spain and Mexico, ‘Ugly Betty” encompasses much of the can-do, up-by-the-bootstraps spirit many would claim as uniquely American. That could prove to be its main source of attraction”.

Chicago Tribune: “Those who can identify with Betty's plight -- anyone who has ever felt like the ugly duckling among swans, any veteran of battles fought not with fists but with cutting remarks and exclusion -- should find a lot to like”.

The Boston Globe:
“Ferrara and ‘Ugly Betty’ are bound to become media darlings if the series takes off, which it undoubtedly will…then it will be interesting to see…if the show succumbs to the very superficiality it is knocking”.

New York Times:
“So who is Betty? She’s meant to be nothing but smart and good, though in life the two traits rarely fit perfectly together. And because she’s also “ugly” she’s assumed to have made the ultimate personal sacrifice in our vain world, and her intelligence and wholesomeness are meant to be not only absolute but perfectly compatible. This improbability causes some problems in characterization”.

“This isn’t a telenovela simply translated into English…this is a warmhearted comedy-drama, which gushes charm and family appeal.”

Houston Chronicle: “The pilot made me laugh and cry. If ‘Ugly Betty’ can maintain its quality, it will be a miracle.” “By all rights ‘Ugly Betty’ shouldn’t really work. Here’s the thing though: thanks to smart writing and a tremendously winning performance by America Ferrara…‘Ugly Betty’ does work, really well.”

USA TODAY: “In the long run, charm can be far more appealing than beauty. And if there’s one thing ‘Ugly Betty’ has in near excess it’s charm…but that affection may waver if ‘Betty’ can’t give Ferrara the scripts and support she deserves.”

p.s. Sorry if the title to this post is too corny!

Links- Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe, New York Times, Reuters, Houston Chronicle,, USA TODAY

Image- CNN (America Ferrara as “Ugly Betty”)

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Mexican gov’t peeved at Rice’s comments

Mexican government officials expressed disdain at remarks made on Monday by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Mexico’s political system. Rice suggested that Mexico is “just now maturing in a kind of two-party system” which prompted a spokesman for Mexico’s president to remark that “it’s only up to Mexicans themselves to voice those opinions.”

Link- International Herald Tribune

Image- BBC Mundo (Rice visiting Mexican president Vicente Fox in 2005).

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Christian Science Monitor revisits issue of Hispanics converting to Islam

Today’s edition of the Christian Science Monitor re-examines an issue we touched on last February: the growth of Hispanics in the U.S. converting to Islam. The article notes how the number of Hispanic Muslims has grown over the past several years, and how some commonalities between Muslim worshippers and Hispanics are pushing the trend forward.

Image- Islam for Today

Links- The Latin Americanist (blog), Christian Science Monitor

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Morning briefs

* More Panamanians are supporting the plan for Panama Canal (image) expansion.

* Russian Prime Minister Mijail Fradkov starts a 2-day visit to Cuba.

* A coalition of refugee groups is calling for Canada to grant permanent residency to thousands of refugees from several “troubled countries” like Haiti.

Links- The Australian, Globe and Mail (Canada), Prensa Latina (Cuba)


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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Plea deal leaves family of Colombian drug capos immune from prosecution

As part of a plea bargain with U.S. prosecutors Gilberto and Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela (image)- once responsible for over 80% of the cocaine entering the U.S.- will each spend 30 years in jail and will give up their business assets in Colombia which total over $2 billion. Though U.S. attorney general Alberto Gonzales considered the agreement as the end of the Cali drug cartel, the plea bargain allows family of the Rodriguez Orejuela brothers to be both immune from prosecution and to keep assets supposedly untainted from drug profits.

Links- (U.K.), (India), Sydney Morning Herald, Bloomberg (U.S.)

Image- BBC News

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Recent opinion articles on Latin America

Over the past few weeks many op/ed pieces have appeared in the press regarding Latin America. Here’s a small sample of some of them starting with a negative stereotypical view on the region:

Links- HVG (Hungary), OC Register (U.S.), Christian Science Monitor, Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Times of India, Andrew Sullivan (blog)

Image- Zona Latina (Newsstand in Mexico City).

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Follow-ups on Uruguay mill controversy and Chilean birth control plan

In the latest twist to the ongoing tension between Argentina and Uruguay over the construction of European-owned paper mills near a river, one of the companies decided on Friday to move the mill away from the border and towards the interior of Uruguay. The president of Spanish company Ence denied that argentine protestors had anything to do with their decision to move the construction of their mill and the Uruguayan government doesn’t believe this will have a strong impact on Argentina’s appeal to the International Court of Justice.

In the meantime, Chile’s government started supplying birth control pills to young girls this week after a Chilean appeals court overturned a court ruling that would have banned the government’s contraceptive plan. “This seems correct” said a government spokesman, though an opposition politician refuted by calling it “a slap in the face to parents and families in Chile.”

Links- The Latin Americanist (blog), Reuters AlertNet, Independent Online (South Africa), People’s Online Daily (China)

Image- Center for Human Rights and Environment (Argentina) (Finnish-owned paper mill being constructed in Uruguay).

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Morning briefs

* Peruvian coca farmers are ready to protest against President Alan Garcia’s administration in response to plans for stricter counternarcotics measures.

* Study shows that the average price of gasoline in the Dominican Republic is more than that in the U.S.

* The German version of the Financial Times describes Daniel Ortega’s run for the presidency in Nicaragua and highlights the Bush administration’s desire for Ortega to lose.

* 47 people died in a bus crash in Ecuador.

Links- Reuters Alertnet, The Latin Americanist (blog), Dominican Today, Financial Times (Germany), RTE (Ireland)

Image- Bolivian Geographic

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Mexican prez-elect to tour Latin America; rips U.S. border plan

Felipe Calderon- the president-elect of Mexico- plans to use a trip to Latin America next week in order to promote Mexico’s role in the region and provide a counterweight to Hugo Chavez’s influence. Calderon (image) will visit five countries but will skip Venezuela and Bolivia, whose president is viewed as a strong ally of Chavez.

Yesterday, Calderon also repeated his staunch opposition to U.S. plans to erect additional fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border. Calderon echoed comments he made in July which were met with disapproval by the Bush administration.

Links- The Latin Americanist (blog), Washington Post

Image- CBS News (U.S.)

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Costa Rica rebuffs Chinese diplomacy

Chinese government officials are hoping to normalize diplomatic relations with Costa Rica, especially after Costa Rican President Oscar Arias met with China’s Foreign Minister last week. However, Arias has denied Chinese advancements towards reestablishing diplomatic ties and affirmed that Costa Rica will continue to be one of a handful of countries that recognizes Taiwan instead of mainland China.

Links- Shanghai Daily (China), Monsters and Critics (U.K.), China Post (Taiwan)

Image- Yahoo! News France (Presidents of Taiwan and Costa Rica meeting in May 2006).

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Uruguayan soccer star loses leg in auto accident

Doctors amputated the lower right leg of Uruguayan soccer player Dario Silva after he was thrown from his car in an auto accident in Montevideo. Silva- who made 49 appearances with Uruguay and played for clubs in Spain, Italy, and England- is said to be in serious yet stable condition.

Links- The Australian, Sports Illustrated (U.S.)

Image- Fox Sports (Silva playing for Uruguay in 2004).

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Event: “El Norte” (film)

The New York University Center for Global Affairs will air a screening of the 1983 U.S. motion picture “El Norte.” Directed by Gregory Nava and compared by Roger Ebert to the “Grapes of Wrath”, the film shows the experiences faced by a Guatemalan sister and brother who yearn for the “American Dream” but instead face countless obstacles in their journey across the border into California. “El Norte” is the first of several movies that will be shown this fall as part of the Center’s “Politics and Art in Cinema” film series and will include a brief discussion with the consulting editor of Cineaste film magazine.

What…. Screening of “El Norte”

Where…NYU Center for Global Affairs, Woolworth Building, 15 Barclay Street (between Broadway and Church Street), 4th Floor, Manhattan

When….tonight from 6:00pm to about 9:00pm

Links….. (PDF document)

RSVP…. (212) 992-8380

Links-,, Wikipedia

Image- Rotten Tomatoes

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Morning briefs

*U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton (image) dismissed the brouhaha over the detention of Venezuela’s Foreign Minster by calling it “street theater”. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the U.N. Secretary-General said that the international body will investigate the matter.

*7 prisoners were killed when Guatemalan police stormed a prison controlled by inmates for a decade.

* Did you know that Buenos AiresJorge Newbury airport boasts the world’s first permanent in-airport center for people scared of flying?

Links- Reuters, BBC News, Al Jazeera,

Image- Houston Chronicle

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Remittances to Mexico illegally seized, says Western Union

Western Union alleged in a court filing that Arizona seizes money transfers of $500 and above from 29 states to Sonora, Mexico. According to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Arizona illegally seizes remittances to Mexico in order to search for drug smugglers and illegal immigrants.

Link- Rocky Mountain News


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U.S. proposal cuts Brazilian trade benefits but helps Haiti

A Republican legislative bill would drop vital trade benefits to Brazil but would grant additional trade benefits to Haiti. The president for Oxfam America called the proposal “troubling” for developing countries like Brazil though the bill would reflect Democratic representative Charlie Rangel’s desire to help Haiti.

Meanwhile, stocks in developing markets took a hit on Friday partly due to anxiety over a slowdown in the U.S. economy.

Link- Washington Post, Reuters South Africa

Image- the Globalist

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Are you ready for “Pimpeando”? MTV Tr3s goes after Latino audience

It is called “Latin-themed hybrid programming” wherein television channels like SiTV and Mun2 expand their programming to cover a wide range of topics affecting Latino youth. Now MTV is throwing their hat into the ring by reinventing its Spanish-language U.S. channel MTV en Español into MTV Tr3s. The modified channel will include programming in Spanish based on original MTV shows such as “MiTRL” (based on “Total Request Live”) and “Quiero mis Quinces” (based on “My Super Sweet Sixteen”). In their chase for high ratings channels like MTV Tr3s seem to understand that “the core of feeling Latino is not just about language…it really is about identity.”

Links- Reuters, New York Times (subscription needed)

Image- New York Times (hosts of “Pimpeando")

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State Dept. to Chavez: Sorry for detaining your Foreign Minister

A U.S. State Department spokesman apologized on Saturday to Venezuela’s government for briefly detaining that country’s Foreign Minister. Nicolas Maduro denounced the U.S. for “violating international law” after he was detained for 90 minutes at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport for a security screening.

Image- BBC News

Links- Reuters, The Australian, CBC News (Canada)

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Week in Review (news and blogs): September 18 to September 24

It was a very busy week with lots of news such as Hugo Chavez’ controversial discourse at the U.N., more allegations of rigged elections in Mexico, and multi-billion dollar contracts for U.S. border security. Unfortunately we cannot report on every single thing that happened last week so here’s a list of events that we did not post on covering a wide range of subjects:

Monday September 18

Tuesday September 19

Wednesday September 20

Thursday September 21

Friday September 22

Saturday September 23

Sunday September 24

Image- University of Manchester, U.K. (Upside down map of Latin America).

Links- The Latin Americanist (blog), CNN, Gridskipper (blog), Living in Peru (blog), Houston Chronicle, Fox Sports, International Herald Tribune, Brooklyn Vegan (blog), ESPN,, Gothamist (blog), Bloomberg, Reuters The Kansas City Star, Voice of America, Prensa Latina (Cuba), Newshounds (blog)

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