Friday, November 3, 2006

Headlines on Cuba (most of them not having to do with Fidel Castro)

* A senior fellow at the Council for Hemispheric Affairs examines how Cuba is using its bevy of doctors and advanced health care as tools for medical diplomacy around the world.

* Cuban-American exile groups are none to happy over the planned unveiling of a giant sculpture of Fidel Castro in New York’s Central Park. Perhaps they should save their ire if the rumors are true that Steven Soderbergh will direct two biopics on Che Guevara.

* Ramón Castro- Fidel Castro’s older brother- said that Fidel is doing fine and relaxing before a possible return to work. He echoes remarks made in August by another sibling not involved in Cuba’s political echelon: Fidel’s exiled younger sister.

* Fidel Castro appeared in a brief video on Cuban state television last weekend (image) where he showed to his “compatriots and friends” that he is alive and in a fair state of health. Cuban government figures were delighted at the images though Cuban-American Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said that Fidel’s television appearance meant little for Cuba’s future.

* Cuban newspaper Juventud Rebelde claimed that the U.S. impedes internet access on the island as part of the U.S. embargo.

* Approximately 800 companies from 48 countries have gathered this week in Havana for an international trade fair that has been promoted by the Cuban government as a sign of the U.S. embargo’s failure.

* The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights condemned the Cuban government for widespread human rights violations against dissidents and also left the door open for reparations if there should be a change in government.

* Cuba’s ambassador to Spain warned the U.S. not to execute a military invasion of Cuba and cited a July report from the Bush administration as evidence of a “secret plan” against Cuba’s government.

Links- Council on Hemispheric Affairs, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Xinhua (China), International Herald Tribune, The Latin Americanist (blog), Prensa Latina (Cuba), Bradenton Herald (U.S.), New York Daily News, Guardian UK

Image- EiTB (Spain)

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Smile! You’re on border camera!

A pilot program began yesterday where people can go online and view border surveillance cameras set up along the Mexican border with Texas. The website- – will cost $5 million and even includes an option where viewers can e-mail authorities if they see criminal activity along the border.

Links- KTEN (Texas),

Image- flickr

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Cuy: it’s what for dinner

Farmers in Peru have increased the exports of guinea pigs to the U.S. and other nations but not for use as pets or for lab experiments. Rather, they are fried and enjoyed as a popular delicacy by Peruvians and Ecuadorians both domestic and living abroad, as is shown on the image on the left. Just in case you’re getting grossed out, guinea pig (or cuy) is very healthy in comparison to other meats, as blogger Peru Food observed. Besides, if Chef Anthony Bourdain can give roast guinea pig a thumbs up then why can’t you?

See Bourdain eat cuy approximately 6:30 into this video:

Links- Christian Science Monitor, Peru Food (blog), YouTube

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Salvadoran family risks deportation from Canada

Baseball great Yogi Berra once said “it’s déjà vu al over again” and that’s definitely the regarding an immigration case in Canada. Back in July we told you of the case of the controversy surrounding the Lizano-Sossa family who had been deported from Canada to Costa Rica even though one of the children was Canadian-born.

Now comes the case of an El Salvadoran family who is in danger of being deported from Canada after living illegally there for 5 years and raising two Canadian-born children.
German Melgar fears that “if we go back I am afraid they (government) will take my children (Anderson, 3, and one-month-old Kimberly) and torture or kill them…we cannot expose our children to a life of running, if we run we will have no chance of winning”. Appeals to senior Canadian immigration authorities have thus far been denied leaving Melgar and his family facing a difficult ultimatum: leave Canada by November 30th or face arrest.

Links-, The Latin Americanist (blog), Penticton Herald (Canada)

Image- (Canadian passport)

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Daily briefs: November 3rd

* A judge ordered former Uruguayan dictator Juan Maria Bordaberry to stay in his homeland, and face corruption and human rights abuses charges stemming from his rule in the 1970s.

* A Canadian-owned mining project in northwestern Argentina is having trouble starting since it first requires a $2 billion investment.

* Paraguayans of Japanese descent excitedly welcomed Japan’s Prince Ashkino who is visiting the country on a goodwill mission.

* Violence continued in Oaxaca, Mexico (image) as riot police are having trouble establishing order after nearly half a year of protests against the local government.

Links- Reuters AlertNet, Reuters, BBC News, International Herald Tribune

Image- Monsters and Critics

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Thursday, November 2, 2006

Latin Americans celebrate Day of the Dead

Today is the Day of the Dead- a holiday of remembrance to one’s deceased ancestors. The origins of the Day in Mexico stem back at least 3000 years to the days of the Aztecs and Mayas. In Haiti, thousands of followers of the Voodoo religion journeyed to the country’s largest cemetery to observe the holiday. Meanwhile, Mexicans domestically and in the U.S. commemorated the Day of the Dead in traditional ways such as building altars to the dead at home and by eating special foods like the bread of the dead.

Update: El Salvadorans also commemorated the Day of the Dead, yet with a notable pall from the country's civil war that lasted between 1980 and 1992. (Links via International Herald Tribune).

Image- Pravda (Russia)

Links- Wikipedia, CBS News, Reuters AlertNet, Houston Chronicle, Oregon Daily Emerald, The Arizona Republic, OC Register, Iowa State University

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Follow-up: Panama chosen as Security Council compromise candidate

Guatemala and Venezuela have mutually agreed to drop their bids for one of the temporary seats on the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) and will back Panama as a compromise candidate. Neither one of the original candidates was able to gain a minimum of 2/3 majority from U.N. member states since voting began on October 16th. Though Bolivia and the Dominican Republic were nominated as possible compromise candidates last week, Ecuador’s foreign minister announced the deal after two rounds of talks on Wednesday between officials from both Venezuela and Guatemala. The deal hurts both and the U.S.; the former was keen on being an obstacle towards U.S. interests on the UNSC whereas the latter hand had picked Guatemala as its candidate four years ago.

Links- MSNBC (U.S.), BBC News, The Latin Americanist (blog), Xinhua (China), San Jose Mercury News

Image- China Daily (Guatemalan and Venezuelan Foreign Ministers shake hands after reaching the deal)

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Daily briefs: November 2

* Tourism over the past year has decreased in Costa Rica which has led to losses of $100 million to the country’s economy.

* Blame has spread around Barbados as to whose fault is it that the country suffered a blackout lasting more than 12 hours on Tuesday.

* Ecuador’s government may complain to the World Trade Organization against the banana tariffs imposed by the European Union.

* The U.S. government placed sanctions on a second-division Colombian soccer team based on supposed ties to drug capos.

Links- Prensa Latina (cuba), Guardian UK,,

Image- Manuel Antonio Park (Costa Rican tropical park that specializes in ecotourism)

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Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Op/ed briefs on Latin America

* Marcela Sanchez looks at the lack of consensus in filling Latin America’s seat on the U.N. Security Council as a metaphor for the difficulties of political and economic integration across the region.

* Sujatha Fernandes describes how Cuba’s artists, intellectuals, and activists have played a major role in creating change on the island.

* Carlos Alberto Montaner bemoans the lack of political ethics in the Americas and how voters have not held corrupt leaders accountable.

* An editorial in the Toronto Star calls for changes in Canada’s immigration system in order to avoid the “brain drain” of skilled workers from Latin American states.

* Lastly, Andrés Oppenheimer praises Panamanians voting in favor of expanding the Panama Canal by noting that “America's Hispanic-allergic isolationists are often more influenced by their prejudices than by reality”.

Links- Washington Post, ZNet, Miami Herald, Toronto Star, Arizona Daily Star

Image- Voice of America (Newspaper stand in Mexico City)

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New ad campaign blames Europeans for funding narco-terrorism

In an attempt to change attitudes towards drug consumption, Colombia’s government will launch a new anti-drug ad campaign blaming drug use in Europe for deaths caused in Colombia. Vice president Francisco Santos singled out supermodel Kate Moss by saying that “when she snorted a line of cocaine, she put land mines in Colombia, she killed people in Colombia, she displaced people in Colombia”. The campaign- entitled “cocaine curse”- includes a website as well as television and billboard advertising throughout Europe.

Links- International Herald Tribune, Newsweek (U.S.),, BBC News

Image- Channel 4 News (U.K.)

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Nicaragua: Campaigning ends with Ortega in the lead

Public campaigning for Nicaragua’s president ended on Sunday with the latest polls showing Sandinista candidate Daniel Ortega (image) ahead of several conservative candidates. The Nicaraguan right- which have recently aired negative attack ads against Ortega- has been divided that may lead to a first round loss without the chance of a runoff.

In the meantime, conservatives in the U.S. are terrified at the prospect of Ortega returning to be Nicaraguan head of state. Iran-Contra figure and syndicated columnist Oliver North sounded the alarm several weeks ago and even made a surprise visit to Nicaragua in support of Liberal Party candidate Jose Rizo. On Monday, columnist Robert Novak warned of the possibility of “a Nicaraguan tragedy” if Ortega wins the election, while one expert observed that the Bush administration’s reaction to Ortega’s presidential bid “sometimes borders on the hysterical.”

Links- China Post, Angus Reid Consultants, Reuters AlertNet, Reuters, The Lain Americanist (blog), ABC News (U.S.), Washington Post, Guardian UK

Image- The Economist (U.K.)

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Daily headlines: November 1

* Federal immigration officials charged a sports agent with illegally smuggling Cuban athletes into the U.S.

* Critics are calling for U.S. Representative Jerry Weller to step down from his post based on a conflict of interest from his marriage to the daughter of ex-Guatemalan strongman Efrain Rios Montt.

* A dozen people were arrested Monday night as they protested outside the Mexican consulate in New York City.

* Mexico’s government permitted the extradition of former Guatemalan president Alfonso Portillo to his home country so that he may be going on trial for embezzlement charges.

* The U.S. men’s national soccer team accepted an invitation to play in next year’s Copa America tournament hosted by Venezuela.

Links- ESPN, Chicago Sun-Times, Gothamist (blog), International Herald Tribune

Image- BBC (Cuban baseball team celebrating their title in the 1996 Olympics)

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Canada and U.S tell travelers to stay out of still chaotic Oaxaca

Both the governments of Canada and the U.S. have issued travel advisories urging visitors to avoid visiting the Mexican city of Oaxaca. The situation in Oaxaca has not improved inasmuch as federal police have fought since the weekend to control the city against protesters who vowed to keep up demands for the state’s governor to resign.

Image- New York Times (Vendor trying to sell ice cream to federal police in Oaxaca)

Links- Globe and Mail (Canada), Seattle Times, CBS News (U.S.), The Latin Americanist (blog), Houston Chronicle

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Colombian rebel groups push for negotiations while White House calls for continued aid

Colombia’s two largest rebel groups have recently pushed for negotiations with the government in spite of the ongoing armed conflict in the country. The largest group- the FARC- said on Saturday that it was willing to exchange hostages for jailed rebels even though the government closed the door to possible talks after President Alvaro Uribe blamed the FARC for a car bombing earlier this month at a Bogota military college. Meanwhile, the second largest guerilla group- the ELN- agreed to formal peace talks with the government after having held several rounds of exploratory discussions in Cuba. Families of hostages advocating negotiations have protested several times against the Uribe administration, while the White House will call on Congress to continue providing hundreds of millions of dollars in military and counternarcotics aid to the Colombian government.

Links- ABC News (U.S.), The Economist, People’s Daily Online (China), Washington Post, International Herald Tribune

Image- Human Rights Watch (ELN guerillas in Colombia)

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Government investigates Chavez’ “Trojan horse” that may influence U.S. elections

One month ago we examined the controversy over Diebold voting machines being used in Brazil’s federal elections including the glitches associated with those machines. Now comes word that California-based voting machine manufacturer Smartmatic is willing to cooperate in a federal probe over its possible ties to Venezuela’s government. The investigation by the U.S. Treasury Department is looking into the possibility of Smartmatic being manipulated by the Venezuelan government where “Smartmatic could be a ‘'Trojan horse'’ designed to advance Chavez's anti-American agenda.” Smartmatic's four largest stakeholders are Venezuelan and the company's machines will be used in 17 U.S. states during next month’s midterm elections.

Links- Miami Herald, Smartmatic, BBC News, El Universal (Venezuela)

Image- (Smartmatic voting machine)

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Court to Pinochet: Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

Ex-Chilean strongman Augusto Pinochet was placed under house arrest on Monday based on human rights violations during several years of his rule. In his ruling, Judge Alejandro Solis declared that “Augusto Pinochet (image)... has been arrested as a danger to society given the grave charges against him. But due to his age ... he has been granted house arrest.” Indeed Pinochet’s lawyer said that he will use his client’s advance age and deteriorated health as tools to appeal Judge Solis’ edict.

Image- Irish Examiner

Links- Independent Online (South Africa), Al Jazeera, Guardian UK

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Daily headlines: October 31

Links- Angus Reid Consultants, PopMatters, The Latin Americanist (blog), International Herald Tribune, NPR (U.S.), The Australian, BBC News, Miami Herald, Irish Examiner, MarketWatch

Image- Great Buildings Online (Brasilia’s Metropolitan Cathedral, designed by Oscar Niemeyer and built in 1958)


Monday, October 30, 2006

Mexican prez-elect compares border barrier to Berlin Wall

During a press conference in Canada last week, Mexican president-elect Felipe Calderon compared the defunct Berlin Wall to a proposed fence along 700 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. “Humanity made a huge mistake by building the Berlin Wall and I believe that the United States is committing a grave error in building a wall on our border,” said Calderon who warned that the fence issue will “complicate” his visit in November to the White House.

Links-, BBC News, Washington Post


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Federal police try to take back battle-scarred Oaxaca

Mexican federal police have tried to take over Oaxaca, Mexico (image) after five months of protests and ongoing violence. It has not gone smoothly, however, as a spokesman for the protestors claimed to have a dozen policemen under their control. The demonstrations began in May by a teacher’s union against the state government and have escalated since then.

The attempted stop to the chaos in Oaxaca comes on the heels of the shooting death of a New York freelance journalist supposedly by paramilitaries. Bradley Will was killed along with two others as he covered the situation in Oaxaca for Indymedia.

Check out Mark in Mexico for one person’s eyewitness account of the goings on in Oaxaca.

Links- ABC News (U.S.), The Australian, Christian Science Monitor, New York Newsday, Gothamist (blog), Mark in Mexico (blog)

Image- BBC News

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Vitória for Lula in presidential runoff

Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (image) easily won the runoff presidential election on Sunday with approximately 3 out of every 5 voters selecting Lula over challenger Geraldo Alckmin. Lula emerged as the winner in spite of a corruption scandals surrounding the ruling Worker’s Party and negative campaigning by both candidates. Brazil’s growing economy and investment in social services were both main factors behind Lula’s reelection.

Links- The Globe and Mail (Canada), swissinfo, Guardian UK, Reuters, BBC News

Image- EiTB (Spain)

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