Friday, November 10, 2006

Contest: win a CD of Colombian music!

With the weekend upon us we have a contest for you; we’ve made a deal with Chonta Records in order to promote the “Encuentro of Colombian Musicians” concert at New York City nightclub S.O.B.s on Sunday night. The giveaway is simple- a CD entitled Nueva Colombia which is a compilation of Colombian music in genres ranging from jazz to traditional to hip hop. We’re willing to give the CD away before its scheduled release next week and in order to win all you need to do is the following:

In 100 words or less, describe what you like most about music from
Latin America and why.

The “best” answer will get a copy of the Nueva Colombia CD so go ahead and submit your entry to our e-mail address- . Please note that we will accept only one entry per e-mail address (we don’t want too flood our inbox with multiple entries!), and the contest ends Monday at 5:00 pm.

We thank Chonta Records for helping us with the contest. If you want to attend the “Encuentro...” concert here’s what you need to know:

What…“Encuentro of Colombian Musicians” concert

When…Sunday, November 12th. Doors open at 4:30pm and the show starts around 5:00pm.

Where…S.O.B.s, 204 Varick Street (on the corner of West Houston Street), Manhattan, New York

Tickets…Available through Ticketmaster and S.O.B.s box office

News briefs on Mexico

* Mexican Presidency Vicente Fox made another verbal gaffe last week by saying that he would be free to “say any nonsense” now that his presidency is coming to an end.

* A huge victory for homosexuals as Mexico City’s legislature voted to legally recognize gay civil unions. The law- which was fiercely opposed by conservatives, the Catholic Church, and members of President Fox’s political party- will allow gay couples access to inheritance and pension rights if they register their union with the local government.

* President-elect Felipe Calderon met with U.S. president Gorge W. Bush in Washington on Thursday and both admitted to speaking cordially about bilateral issues such as free trade and immigration. Calderon also met with leaders of the Democratic Party including Vermont governor Howard Dean (link in Spanish).

* California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger met with President Fox at Fox's official residence on Thursday and denounced a proposed 700-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. Schwarzenegger’s trip will end today when he travels to the northern industrial and technological city of Monterrey.

Links- Reuters, Univision, CBS News, BBC News, KCBS, International Herald Tribune, the Latin Americanist (blog)

Image- LNX1070 Newsradio

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Latin American military training by the U.S. about to resume

According to an article written in today’s USA TODAY, the Bush administration is quietly granting a waiver against a ban on U.S. training of Latin American armed forces. The waiver affects 11 Latin American countries and was created to counter the recent surge in left-wing leaders in the region (which is either advantageous, hyped by the media, or a shift towards “despotism” depending on who you read).

Links- USA TODAY,, International Relation Center, The Examiner (U.S.)

Image- George Washington University- National Security Archive (U.S. military advisors assisting the Guatemalan army in 1965)

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Global opinion is mixed on Ortega

Nicaraguan president-elect Daniel Ortega gave a speech to his supporters on Thursday vowing to promote free trade with the U.S. while promising to improve social services and maintaining close relations with Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. Meanwhile, the Washington Post’s blog on world opinion analyzed editorials on Hugo Chavez’ influence on the elections as well as how Ortega compromised with the Catholic Church and rival parties in order to regain the presidency. One of those opinions includes an article from Time magazine mentioning how “’yanqui’ politicking” from the U.S. backfired. (I wonder how he feels now about Ortega’s victory).

Update: Conservatives in the U.S. are pointing fingers at each other as to who is to blame for Ortega's victory. The article from the New York Sun includes a quote from Ollie North who says that the election results have been "very painful in a personal way."

Links- Washington Post- World Opinion Roundup (blog), Indian Express, The Latin Americanist (blog), Time

Image- BBC News

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Daily briefs: October 10th

* A pair of black eyes against soccer in Argentina as players brawled with Uruguayan footballers after being eliminated from the Beach Soccer World Cup, while players for soccer club Gimnasia-La Plata claimed to have received death threats to lose a key game against Boca Juniors (image).

* London’s city legislature is calling on Mayor Ken Livingstone to reveal the costs of his trip to Cuba and cancelled trip to Venezuela.

*The chief spokesman for Colombia’s largest guerilla group have called on celebrities including Oliver Stone, Noam Chomsky, and Jesse Jackson to help negotiate a deal to free hostages.

* Ecuador’s bonds fell to a 3-week low because presidential candidate Alvaro Noboa’s running mate said that the next government should renegotiate the country’s interest rate on its debts.

Links- Guardian UK, The Australian, Bloomberg,, The Latin Americanist (blog),,

Image- Milenio (argentina)

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Thursday, November 9, 2006

Democrats in Congress: major change for L. America or more of the same?

The past 48 hours have marked a major change in U.S. politics with the Democrats taking control of Congress for the first time since 1994. Speculation has run rampant on what the Democrats will do and if President Bush will work with Congress or if divisiveness is going to continue.

Part of the speculation revolves around possible changes to U.S. foreign policy; in particular the conflict in Iraq. Yet it is unknown what will happen to U.S. policy towards Latin America and the Caribbean. Let’s take a brief gaze into the crystal ball at the different issues surrounding policy with the Americas and how they may change between now and the 2008 presidential election:


The need for immigration reform was placed on the back burner by both Democrats and Republicans in the weeks leading to Tuesday’s elections but that will certainly not be the case once the new Congress is sworn in this January. As the head of one pro-immigrant group observed “our chances in the next Congress are better than they have ever been. The public is still frustrated and upset about the issue, and wants its leaders to lead.” The new Congress will certainly shy away from strong anti-immigration measures like those proposed and passed by the House of Representatives. Keep in mind, however, that Democrats will support moderate measures on immigration such as the bill passed by the Senate last month that proposes building a 700-mmile fence along the U.S.’ southern border. For instance, one of President Bush’s ideas- the creation of a guest-worker program- may receive sufficient bipartisan support to be passed.

Anti-immigrant supporters- as shown in this article for conservative magazine National Review- are in panic mode and expecting the worse (amnesty and open borders: oh no!) but the reality should not be as dire as they anticipate. Perhaps anti-immigrant factions will aim at pursuing their agenda on the local and state level where four measures against immigrants were passed by Arizonan voters on Tuesday.


Diplomacy in the Americas has been dominated by the playground antics between the Bush administration and Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez. Chavez- who was giddy at the Republicans’ massive loss in the midterm elections- will surely not diminish his inflammatory anti-U.S. rhetoric. Republicans have been hysterically preoccupied with Chavez and his impact on Latin America and worried over leftist leaders in the region. Democrats are also concerned with Chavez and are expected to put a strong front against him though not as much as a Republican-led legislature. Meanwhile, a Democrat-controlled Congress would certainly warm to moderate leftist heads of state like Chile’s Michelle Bachelet, Uruguay’s Tabare Vasquez, and Lula from Brazil. This may mean changes in foreign aid and U.S. ambassadorships abroad.

Free Trade

This may be the biggest area of change with a Democrat-led congress. Democrats are displeased with the negative aspects of free trade in that jobs are leaving from the U.S. and going abroad as well as disproportionate trade deficits with countries like Japan and China. Some have speculated that Congress will start a push for economic isolationism and away from unilateral free trade deals with Latin American countries. The futures of recently-created free trade packages with areas like Central America, the Dominican Republic, and Colombia now hang in the balance though the rest of the Caribbean may get a boost in trade from a strengthened Congressional Black Caucus.

Anything else?

Most Democrats and Republicans agree on a hard stance against the Castro regime in Cuba. Hence, it would be safe to say that the embargo on the island will keep its current course. As we mentioned in a previous post on Colombia, Marcela Sanchez described the pluses and minuses of billions of dollars of aid to combat the drug trade in Colombia. Democrats have emphasized the minuses over the past few years and will look towards placing more accountability on the Colombian government and shifting some money towards economic and social development.

Most Latin Americans, while gleeful at the changes in congress, anticipate little to be changed in terms of U.S. relations with the region. If that pessimism will occur remains to be seen, however, and the next tow years could be pivotal in creating significant change in the hemisphere.

So what do you think? Is change in policy towards the Americas coming up or will there be more of the same? Will Latin America continue being a secondary concern in comparison to other regions? Have any disagreement with what was mentioned above? Please feel free to comment and tell us your opinion!

Links- New York Daily News, Foreign Policy Passport (blog), Yahoo! News, TPM Café, Reuters, The Latin Americanist (blog), National Review Online, Houston Chronicle, Al Jazeera Magazine,, USA TODAY, Miami Herald, Foreign Policy in Focus, Washington Post, International Herald Tribune, Vivirlatino (blog)

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News briefs on Colombia

* Columnist Marcela Sanchez analyzes the mixed results of Plan Colombia: while funds have aided in improving security social and economic development has taken a back seat to strengthening the military.

* Colombian president Alvaro Uribe’s popularity has fallen as rebel attacks and allegations of corruption have grown since his reelection in May.

* Colombia leads the world in land mine victims and the country is ill-equipped to help its populace.

* University student leaders traveled to Norway to receive a prize for their efforts in representing students in the face of increasing violence on campuses.

Links- Reuters AlertNet, The Latin Americanist (blog), Hamilton Spectator (Canada), Washington Post, Universitas (Norway)

Image- (Colombian landmine victim holding his daughter)

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Immigration main concern during L. American and European summit

European and Latin American leaders blasted U.S. and European policies on immigration during the 16th Iberian-American summit (image) in Montevideo, Uruguay. Mexican president Vicente Fox called plans to build a 700-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border “clumsy, not intelligent, and obviously political,” while Colombian president Alvaro Uribe expressed doubt over Europe’s tight immigration controls.

Image- EiTB

Links- International Herald Tribune, EiTB, Monsters & Critics, The Latin Americanist (blog)

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Daily briefs: November 9th

* After being placed under house arrest on October 30th, ex-Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was granted bail for his trial on human rights violations.

* Peru’s attorney general started an investigation centering on corruption charges during the administration of former president Alejandro Toledo (image).

* As if there weren’t enough problems in Oaxaca, the area was hit on Wednesday by an earthquake measuring 5.3 on the Richter scale.

* Brazil’s defense minister refuted charges that air traffic controllers were to blame for a major air crash in September.

Links- The Latin Americanist (blog), The Age (Australia), International Herald Tribune, San Jose Mercury News, Houston Chronicle

Image- Washington Post


Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Follow-up: “Comeback kid” Ortega to be Nicaragua’s next president

Daniel Ortega is well on his way to becoming Nicaragua’s next president since he has a seemingly unassailable lead with over 91% of votes counted. Ortega’s main rival- conservative Eduardo Montealegre- conceded defeat yesterday and Ortega was congratulated by left-wing leaders from around Latin America. An editorial published today in the Guardian UK emphasized the need for George W. Bush and Hugo Chavez to “have the good grace to give (Ortega) a chance” since he claims to be a “changed” leader who has renounced his revolutionary past.

Read the original blog post on Nicaragua’s elections here.

Links- Monsters & Critics, BBC News, Wikipedia, Guardian UK, The Latin Americanist (blog)

Image- CNN (Supporters of Daniel Ortega celebrating in the streets of Managua)

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Rumsfeld replacement played minor role in Iran-Contra scandal

President Bush’s choice to succeed Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense was implicated in the Iran-Contra scandal which involved secret arms deals in Iran in order to fund anti-Sandinista forces fighting in Nicaragua. Ex-CIA Chief Robert Gates (image) had been investigated by an Independent Counsel in 1991 and the Counsel was unable to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Gates lied to Congress or knew of the secret arms deal during his time as a senior CIA official.

Links- CNN, PBS, Wikipedia

Image- Dallas-Fort Worth Star-Telegram

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News briefs on Puerto Rico

* “Brain drain” is hurting Puerto Rico in that skilled workers tend to move to the U.S. mainland and this is leading to a shortage of laborers in some professions such as doctors.

* A U.S. federal judge convicted two members of ex-governor Pedro Rosello’s New Progressive Party based on extortion charges.

* Drug maker Pfizer will lay off over 200 workers from several plants around the island.


Links- International Herald Tribune, San Jose Mercury News, MSN Money

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Schwarzenegger goes south of the border to Mexico

Fresh off an easy reelection victory last night California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger starts an official two-day visit to Mexico today. The aim of Schwarzenegger’s visit will be to promote trade and he will travel with 63 business delegates including a third of whom contributed to his campaigns. No word on whether Schwarzenegger will repeat statements made last month on Mexicans and assimilation.

Links- San Fransisco Chronicle, Contra Costa Times, ABC News, Vivirlatino (blog)

Image- Presidencia de la Republica de Mexico (Schwarzenegger meeting Mexican president Vicente Fox in california earlier this year)

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Telesur expands across the Atlantic and into Spain

The Telesur television news network expanded its coverage into Spain as four Madrid TV stations aired news stories packaged by Telesur. Telesur- which started in July 2005 and backed mainly by the Venezuelan government- broadcasts all over Latin America and had plans to transmit into the U.S.

Links- International Herald Tribune, The Latin Americanist (blog)

Image- Espoir Chiapas

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Daily headlines: November 8th

* With Election Day less than a month away, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez leads Manuel Rosales by 22% according to one poll.

* Chilean president Michelle Bachelet (image) inaugurated the Socialist International conference by urging left-wing leaders to embrace globalization and fight those who “seek an accumulation of wealth that excludes many.”

* Police in the Dominican Republic fought with protestors upset at a planned transportation tax that forms part of a tax package advocated by the International Monetary Fund.

* Forty of the world’s top banks are in the hunt to finance the expansion of the Panama Canal.

Links- Bloomberg, Guardian UK, MercoPress, MSN Money

Image- BBC News

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Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Panama elected to U.N. Security Council

It took 48 ballots and over four weeks of voting but Panama was formally elected today as Latin America’s second representative to the U.N. Security Council (UNSC). Original candidates Venezuela and Guatemala dropped their bids last week and reconciled to give their support behind Panama. Both the ambassadors of Venezuela and the U.S. tried to spin the results of the vote with Venezuelan ambassador Francisco Arias Cardenas noting that “for the big countries, it should be clear that they cannot impose”, while U.S. ambassador John Bolton observed that “the defeat of Venezuela certainly accomplishes our principal objective.”

Numerous editorials from the world press have viewed this ordeal as a major setback for Hugo Chavez. The only thing Chavez succeeded in doing was to “deny Guatemala its turn in the international spotlight” according to International Herald Tribune, while an editorial via Scripps News Service deemed the stalemate as a “humiliating and well-deserved defeat” for Chavez. Other editorials ask if the ordeal at the UNSC marks a decrease in Chavez’ appeal internationally and perhaps the beginning of the end for Chavez’ presidency. Nonetheless, India’s Frontline magazine rebuked the Bush administration tactics supporting Guatemala’s bid such as bullying small countries with “with punitive economic measures if they did not switch their support to Guatemala” or threatening to withhold the sale of military aircraft to Chile.

Image- BBC News

Links- Bloomberg, The Latin Americanist (blog), Voice of America, Al Jazeera, International Herald Tribune, Scripps News Service, Gulf Times, Hamilton Spectator, Frontline

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Haiti tops list of world’s most corrupt countries

Anti-corruption watchdog group Transparency International (TI) rated Haiti as the world’s most corrupt country. “Corruption traps millions in poverty,” said the chair of TI and Haiti is the most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere. TI’s findings also showed that most Latin American countries have become more corrupt in the past year.

Links- BBC News, OhmyNews (South Korea), Latin Business Chronicle

Image- Deutsche Welle (Germany)

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I love you sugar kane – Brazilian sugar in high demand

Increased demand for ethanol in the U.S. and Brazil along with the rising costs of gasoline has forced Brazilian sugar farmers to increase supplies of sugar for use in biofuels. Demand for ethanol in Brazil, for instance, is expected to double over the next 6 years which should be met by the Brazilian sugar industry despite a few doubts. Still, that has not stopped plans for land to be purchased in Nigeria for sugar and yucca farming.

Click here for a clue as to the musical reference in the title of this post.

Image- (Brazilian sugar cane field)

Links- Miami Herald, Bloomberg, The Tide News (Nigeria), YouTube

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Cubans greet gay soap with curiosity and controversy

Cuban telenovela “The Hidden Side of the Moon” introduced a homosexual character several months ago and has been met by high ratings as well as derision from the Catholic Church. Moreover, it seems like the telenovela has broken some cultural and political barriers against gays in Cuba as one homosexual noted that “when I was 18, people on the street used to shout, ‘Hey, faggot!’ That doesn't happen anymore”. Yet not all gays are pleased with the tactic taken by “The Hidden Side of the Moon” since the gay characters on the program contract AIDS.

Links- United Press International, Miami Herald

Image- BBC News (Cuban family watching state television)

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Daily headlines: November 7th

* Over the weekend, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez threatened with stopping shipments of oil to the U.S., while tens of thousands of people marched through Caracas in support of the main opposition candidate for president, Manuel Rosales (image).

* Chilean police arrested four supposed hackers who infiltrated government websites from the Americas and Europe.

* One of Latin America’s premiere opera houses- Buenos Aires’ Teatro Colon- closed last week and will undergo 18 months of renovation.

* Petroleum giant Royal Dutch Shell began development of a massive offshore oil block located off the Brazilian coast.

* Mexico’s top electoral court and a Canadian-owned bank were two of several targets hit by small bombs on Monday.

Links- FOX News, Channel NewsAsia (Singapore), Seattle Times, Houston Chronicle, Reuters



Monday, November 6, 2006

Mixed economic figures on L. American economies

Recent figures from the International Monetary Fund praised Latin America’s responsible economic growth and has an optimistic look for the region over the next year. Not every country has had equal amounts of success, however. Though Venezuela has the third-biggest economy in Latin America, its inflation rate may grow to be one of the highest in years by December according to financial analysts. On the other hand, inflation in Peru has continued to go down to the very low figure of 1.89%.

In addition, a government survey in Costa Rica showed that economic inequality in the country has increased despite a slight drop in the poverty level. Also, Jamaica signed a multi-million development aid deal with the U.N. that would provide aid from 2007 to 2011.

Links- Bloomberg, People’s Daily Online, Jamaica Gleaner, BBC News

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“Red Ken” under fire for Cuban visit and remarks

Ken Livingstone- the Mayor of London- has been caught in controversy due to his visit to Cuba this weekend as well as comments he made while on the island. On Saturday, Livingstone (image, gentleman with sunglasses on) praised Cuba’s health care and education services while criticizing the U.S. for problems with its electoral system as well as the embargo against Cuba. Livingstone will meet later this week with Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez (who visited England in May) in order to broker a cheap oil deal for Londoners.

Update (9:15pm): Livingstone cancelled his trip to Venezuela since the possible oil deal with Venezuela will be delayed for some time. (Link via BBC News).

Links-Gulf Times, Guardian UK, NDTV, The Latin Americanist (blog)

Image- BBC News

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Nicaragua: Ortega ahead in first round (including updates)

With about 15% of votes counted Daniel Ortega is in the lead for Nicaragua’s next president. Certainly, Ortega’s past as a revolutionary leader was on the minds of most voters though he may have enough to avoid a runoff election.

In an interview with NPR, former U.S. president and election observer Jimmy Carter noted that no major problems occurred on Sunday inasmuch as there were minor problems with voting precincts unable to accommodate large crowds.

Official real time results can be seen here.

Update (1:45pm): Here's a thought- the Sandinistas may end up as the big winners when all is said and done not only if Ortega wins the presidency but if the Sandinistas also gain control of Nicaragua's Congress. As it stands now, the conservative Liberal Constitutional Party has 40 seats, 2 more than the Sandinistas. The Nicaraguan right could be in serious crisis if they lose the presidency and legislature to the Sandinistas. (Links via RTE (Ireland) and Monsters & Critics).

Update (4:30pm): Early, unofficial prognostications have Ortega winning the presidency in the first round with 40% of the vote and about 7-8% ahead of his nearest opponent. (Link via Bloomberg).

Update (8:30pm): With 61% of the votes officially counted, Daniel Ortega leads with 38.66% and by 7.66% over center-right candidate Eduardo Montealegre. If those results hold, Ortega will win the presidency outright. Montealegre has yet to concede due to allegations of voting irregularities. (Links via Consejo Supremo Electoral and Guardian UK).

Links- NPR, Reuters AlertNet, Monsters and Critics

Image- Washington Post (Ortega voting on Sunday along with his wife)

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Brazilian upsets favorites to win NYC Marathon

In his New York City Marathon debut Brazilian Marilson Gomes dos Santos shocked the field and won the men’s title. Thus, dos Santos became the first South American ever to win the prestigious race and was able to end nine straight years of African dominance in the men’s division. dos Santos pulled away from the field with about a quarter of the race to go and built a 38-second lead before winning by approximately 10 seconds ahead of Kenyans Stephen Kigora and Paul Tergat.

Links- ABC News (U.S.), Monsters & Critics, The Herald (U.K.), Guardian UK, USA TODAY

Image- Voice of America

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Daily headlines: November 6th

The following are several news stories from Latin America that have appeared in the news over the past couple of days:

* Non-government organizations (NGOs) decried a proposal approved by Peru’s legislature that creates a government agency to oversee all the financial information by NGOs working in Peru.

* Brazilian air controllers may be at fault for causing a September airplane collision that killed over 150 people.

* A group of Canadian veterans who served in U.N. peacekeeping missions- including Haiti- are suing the federal government for tampering with medical records in order to avoid providing benefits to injured personnel.

* Jamaican police have charged two men with the gruesome October 28th murder of former heavyweight boxing champion Trevor Berbick. One of the accused is Berbick’s 20-year-old nephew.

* UNESCO condemned Mexican authorities for the death of U.S. journalist Bradley Will in Oaxaca last week.

* Free trade negotiations between the U.S. and several Latin American countries will be modified if Democrats gain control of Congress after Tuesday’s midterm elections.

* Via community blog Metafilter: meet Miguel Caballero, a Colombian who specializes in “bulletproof fashion” for political leaders, business executives, and others who desire safety with a flair for style.

* Serious disruptions on the soccer pitch in South America have been mostly met with a lack of appropriate punishment for the offending parties. Also, a slightly belated rest in peace to Ecuadorian soccer legend Alberto Spencer who was integral to the golden period of Uruguayan club Peñarol in the 1960s

Links-, CBC (Canada), Kuwaiti News Agency, The Latin Americanist (blog), BBC News, Metafilter (blog), ESPN Soccernet, Reuters AlertNet, Toronto Star, Newsweek (U.S.),

Image- University of Texas- Austin