Saturday, March 10, 2007

Dubya south of the border – Bush talks trade in Uruguay as protests rage on

Notice how the Latin American tours of George W. Bush and Hugo Chavez are happening at the same time, yet they will each travel to different countries. (Image via BBC News).

Note: Links that are in English are in bold text while links that are in Spanish are in italicized text.

Links- Observa, El País,, BBC News,, International Herald Tribune, Clarí,, Houston Chronicle, La Nacion, The Latin Americanist, Monsters & Critics,, RCN,, El Tiempo

Friday, March 9, 2007

Mexican Senate deals setback to president’s proposals

President Felipe Calderon suffered a big blow when Mexico’s Senate rejected his nominee for deputy governor of the Bank of Mexico. Opposition parties- including the leftist PRD and the ex-ruling PRI- united against Calderon in what can be seen as “part of a wider power struggle” that may jeopardize proposed reforms to immigration and the justice system.

Links- Bloomberg, Forbes, Taipei Times, International Herald Tribune

Image- CNN

Follow-up: Bachelet tells Transantiago users to keep their hand to themselves

As part of her plans to help “fix” the public transportation system in Chile’s capital, President Michelle Bachelet proposed serious penalties for anyone caught groping passengers. “I have given the necessary instructions to prevent this kind of behavior and to severely punish all those guilty,” said Bachelet during a ceremony yesterday to celebrate International Women’s Day.

Patience has run thin over problems with the Transantiago system; so much so that vandals torched a bus terminal late last night.

Links- The Latin Americanist,, El Mercurio, VivirLatino, La Nacion

News briefs on soccer

* In Copa Libertadores group phase action this week Paraguay’s Libertad continued its unbeaten run, Peru’s Cienciano thrashed Bolivar from Bolivia, and a pair of tournament favorites- Argentina’s River Plate and Chile’s Colo Colo- each lost their matches.

* Brazilian coach Dunga named his squad for a pair of friendlies this month against Ghana and Chile; notable absences from the team include Ronaldo and Adriano.

* Guess who’s in trouble with taxes again? You're correct if you guessed Argentine legend Diego Maradona.

* Julio Cesar Uribe was named as Peru’s new head coach; let’s hope he fares better than his previous stint between 2000 and 2001 when the squad was only able to win 3 of 15 games.

Links- International Herald Tribune, Guardian UK, VivirLatino, Eurosport, FOX Sports, Living in Peru, ESPN Soccernet

Image- Clarí (Caracas F.C.’s Iván Velasquez and César González celebrating their team’s 1-0 upset win over River Plate)

Colombian prez willing to give immunity for companies that benefit from ‘dirty money’

In an interview with the Associated Press, Colombian president Alvaro Uribe (image) said he would give amnesty to companies that serve as fronts for criminal organizations like drug traffickers and paramilitaries. Uribe justified the amnesty proposal by arguing that it would help compensate victims of violence around the country.

Also during the interview, Uribe also pleaded with the U.S. public to support an extension to the multimillion dollar aid package known as Plan Colombia, and was on edge when asked about the growing “para-politics” scandal.

On a related note, the Colombian government is peeved at an internet cartoon criticizing the problematic paramilitary demobilization process. Does the government have a valid point? Cheek out the cartoon here.

Image- Zee News

Links- CNN, Guardian UK, Wikipedia,, ABC News, Amnesty International

Dubya south of the border – U.S. prez arrives in Brazil to start tour

Note: All links are in English unless otherwise indicated.

Links- NPR, Monsters & Critics, BBC News, CBC, Reuters, Clarin, CBS News, People’s Daily Online, Guardian UK, RCN,,, Voice of America, Wikipedia

Image- BBC News

Daily headlines: March 09, 2007

* U.S. First Daughter Jenna Bush will (image) write a non-fiction book based on her time as a UNICEF intern in Argentina, Paraguay, and Panama.

*Several U.S. agencies conducted mock drills this week in preparation for a possible mass exodus of Cubans after Fidel Castro dies.

* Health workers from several countries including France and Cuba have gone to Paraguay in order to deal with the country’s dengue outbreak.

* Only Iraq and Russia surpass Colombia in a list of the world’s deadliest countries for journalists according to a report by The International News Safety Institute.

* Canada’s Scotiabank may open investment banks in Peru and Chile.

* Mel Gibson’s next film project may take place in Panama along with the help of singer Ruben Blades.

Links- ABC News, International Herald Tribune, Guardian UK, The Latin Amercanist, Bloomberg, Los Angeles Daily News


Thursday, March 8, 2007

Mistaken identity could be a costly error for the NYPD

This is not the type of news one wants to read on International Women’s Day- Pennsylvania resident and Latina mother Margarita Santiago (image) claimed to be the victim of a wrongful arrest and filed paperwork that may lead to a lawsuit against several New York City agencies. While visiting Manhattan last December cops pulled over the car Santiago was riding in and arrested her since they cited an arrest warrant for an East Harlem resident named “Margarita Santelises.” Although Santiago spent less than a day in police custody, her 3-year-old daughter was placed in foster care for 4 days before she was returned to her mother!

It’s quite clear that Santiago was the victim of negligence by the NYPD. (Because it’s so common to confuse two names that differ by 5 letters). Anyone care to guess how much money she’ll be awarded if a lawsuit does come about?

Links- Newsday, Gothamist, NY1, The Latin Americanist

Image- 1010 WINS

International Women’s Day – The good, the bad, and the ugly

Today is celebrated as International Women’s Day; an occasion which is a holiday in some countries, and where we acknowledge the accomplishments women have made. What gains have women made in the Americas and what still needs to be done? Let’s take a look.

Lo Bueno

Much like we highlighted last year, women continue to hold positions of power in Latin America and the Caribbean. Female heads of state are leading in Chile and Jamaica, while several countries such as Ecuador and Uruguay have female defense ministers.

Aside from government, women have mobilized to be more active in their communities and to take action. Women on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques have urged for more research by the U.S. government on the health impact of previous Navy bombing exercises. Bolivian women that have been part of the push towards urbanization have created neighborhood groups that promote unity while female-led groups in Mexican border towns have been organized to ensure the safety of women.

Lo Malo

Unfortunately, gender inequality has hindered the progress of women not only in Latin America but around the world. A recent Gallup poll showed that approximately 3 out of 4 Latin American women do not feel they are on an equal status with men.

In addition, policies that favor women’s rights have been difficult to come by in several countries. In Chile, for instance, divorce was legalized only a few years ago and opposition grew against government plans to provide contraceptives to young girls. The move to legalize abortions in Colombia was met by widespread protests while Nicaragua’s legislature reversed a law allowing for some types of abortions.

Women have also been on the short end of the stick in issues like immigration with one of the best examples being the separation of families due to raids on undocumented workers earlier this week in Massachusetts.

Lo Feo

What can be worse to a woman’s dignity than being attacked against her will? It is nothing short of degrading, cruel, and unnecessary. Sadly in the Americas it is far too common; approximately 1 in 5 Mexican couples have experienced domestic violence according to the United Nations. In Colombia 71% of sexual violence victims last year were teenage girls. Such statistics will continue unless women keep moving forward to make gains like the ones we mentioned above.

Links- Wikipedia, VivirLatino, The Latin Americanist, Voice of America, Washington Post, Woman’s ENews, World Bank,, Inter Press News Agency, International Herald Tribune, Law Professors, Latina Lista,, Xinhua, Prensa Latina

Image- San Francisco State University

Media barred from Gitmo hearings

The Pentagon announced on Tuesday that the media will not be allowed to attend hearings for 14 suspected terrorists jailed on the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Instead, the media will have to put up with heavily edited transcripts provided by the military at their discretion.

Legal experts and human rights advocates condemned the government’s decision; one legal observer noted that:

“What the Pentagon is really concerned about is that ‘these 14 will open their mouths and say what was done to them,’ said Scott Horton, chair of the international law committee of the New York City Bar Association. ‘They were tortured and mistreated, and that fact is classified secret, which just shows you the perversity in which this whole process is traveling.’”

Welcome to the age of no habeas corpus. (I wonder if Abraham Lincoln would have accepted it).

Links- Guardian UK, Reuters AlertNet, FOX News, Andrew Sullivan – The Daily Dish,

Image- CBC

Ecuador: debate intensifies over constitutional referendum plan

Tempers have intensified in Ecuador with politicians in favor and against the government debating over a plan to have a constitutional referendum. Earlier this week, Ecuador’s top electoral court set a date for a national referendum and on Wednesday voted to ax nearly 60 legislators that were deemed to have interfered with the referendum measure. In response to that, critics of the government in Congress fired the head of the tribunal court and will try to impeach pro-referendum judges.

Ecuador’s president (image) vowed to support the electoral court and will continue to push for a national referendum.

Links- The Latin Americanist, International Herald Tribune, Reuters, BBC News

Image- BBC News

Daily headlines: March 08, 2007

* Rest in peace Bishop Ivo Lorscheiter (image) – vocal critic of Brazil’s military rule from 1964 to 1985 and champion of liberation theology.

* Compare and contrast- the U.S. has sent over $1 million in aid to flood-ravaged Bolivia, but Venezuela has sent $15 million in assistance.

*Argentina’s Supreme Court ruled that the country’s ruling soccer body must pay compensation to a man that lost his sight during a 1996 riot.
* Brazil’s government rejected a U.S. government report on human rights since information may have been “politically motivated.”

* Communism should end in Cuba once Fidel Castro dies, said U.S. President George W. Bush to the press on Tuesday.

* Venezuelan police arrested a retired National Guard general accused of plotting a coup against Hugo Chavez.

* Member states of the Rio Group agreed to several things during their summit earlier this week including further aid to Haiti and backing Argentina’s “legitimate rights” to the Falklands.

Links- Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Wikipedia,, China Post, The Latin Americanist, ESPN Soccernet, International Herald Tribune, CNN, Caribbean Net News, MercoPress

Image- Terra – Brasil

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Wal-Mart’s expansion into Mexico continues

Political strategist James Carville said it best when he helped coin the phrase “It’s the economy stupid” during Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign. That saying is fitting in describing how retailing giant Wal-Mart is enjoying success in Mexico despite criticism. Wal-Mart has become Mexico’s largest employer, and February sales skyrocketed due to price cuts on basic goods. The bottom line for Mexican consumers is that they want to buy cheap goods regardless of criticism related to the environment or globalization.

It really is all about “the economy, stupid” (except, perhaps, if you work for Wal-Mart).

Links- Wikipedia, Wal-Mart Watch Blog,, The Latin Americanist, Reuters, BBC News,, CNN

Image- El Universal

Saudis plan oil refinery in D. Republic

Saudi Arabia, may build an oil refinery in the Dominican Republic, according to Dominican Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso. Saudi Arabia would use a Dominican oil refinery as an easier way to access the U.S. market while the Dominican government hopes to lower gas prices and end fuel shortages.

Here’s a thought- is Saudi Arabia trying to cut off increased Iranian incursion into the Americas or does that sound like a silly conspiracy theory? Inquiring minds would like to know.

Links- Prensa Latina, BusinessWeek, Farsi News Agency,

Image- The Tribune (India) (Indian oil refinery)

Chilean prez promises to fix transportation snafu

Chilean president Michelle Bachelet assured Santiago residents that she will work hard to fix the capital’s new yet problematic public transportation system (image). Last month’s debut of the centralized Transantiago system was plagued by technical difficulties, traffic congestion, and commuter confusion. Bachelet’s approval rating has fallen slightly due to the difficulties with Transantiago.

Links- Bloomberg, VivirLatino, Angus Reid Global Consultants

Image- TeleSUR

Report condemns human rights abuses in L. America

A State Department report published yesterday criticized Latin America’s human rights abuses, especially in Cuba and Venezuela. The 2006 Human Rights Report accused Venezuela’s government of “harassing its opponents and ‘engendering a repressive attitude toward a free press,’” while Cuba has had “no noticeable improvement in human rights” since Raul Castro became the island’s leader. Other Latin American countries such as Colombia, Chile, and Haiti were also scrutinized by the report which concluded that 2006 was not a banner year for respecting human rights around the world.

Links- U.S. Department of State, WTOP, Voice of America,

Image- Human Rights Watch (Overcrowded Brazilian jail cell)

Verbal diarrhea affects legislator during immigration debate

Guess which U.S. area this legislator is from based on this quote:

“Legislator Elie Mystal said he ‘would load up my gun and start shooting’ if dozens of immigrants were congregating along streets in his neighborhood looking for work.”

No, not the deep South or a “red state.”

Try Suffolk County, New York. A proverbial stone’s throw from New York City.

Hispanic Tips clues us in to a contentious debate on an anti-loitering bill yesterday that was considered by critics as an anti-immigrant measure. Apparently things became so heated during the debate that Legislator Mystal- who emigrated from Haiti several years ago- made his irresponsible remark over immigrants which he later apologized for.

Suffolk County (and Long island, for that matter) has seen a boom in its immigrant population-both legal and illegal- over the past decade. County legislators have advocated strong anti-immigrant measures such as placing federal agents in the County jail to facilitate deporting illegal immigrants. In response to the politicians, a wide range of local groups such as the Catholic Church, Latino rights activists, and business groups have expressed their strong opposition to such proposals. Ultimately, the status quo wins out and this benefits nobody regardless of what they feel about immigration.

Note: the above image comes from the 2004 documentary “Farmingville” which discusses the immigration debate on Long Island. It is a must-see film if you’re interested on what is (and isn’t being done) on immigration.

Links- Hispanic Tips, Newsday, WNYC, amNY

Image- PBS

Daily headlines: March 08, 2007

* Recent data from the Inter-American Development Bank revealed that money transfers to Haiti were about $1.65 million during 2006 and made up nearly 1/3 of the country's GDP.

* Mexico may join Canada in a complaint to the World Trade Organization against U.S. corn subsidies. (Wasn’t NAFTA created to avoid problems like these?)

* Indigenous leaders in Costa Rica have formed a network designed to improve the socioeconomic conditions of indigenous peoples.

* Bloggers look at the difficulties facing Bolivian president Evo Morales’ efforts in trying to export products derived from coca.

* Coca-Cola’s operations in Venezuela were suspended for 3 days by the government as a penalty for breaking tax laws.

* Approximately 100 families were evacuated from their villages in central Ecuador due to the risk of eruption from the Tungurahura volcano.

* Four Caribbean countries are making last minute preparations for hosting the Cricket World Cup starting in nearly 3 weeks.

Links- The Latin Americanist , Reuters AlertNet, Reuters Canada, Wikipedia, Prensa Latina, Global Voices Online, Bloomberg, Washington Post, Khaleej Times


Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Dubya south of the border – President Bush prepares for a trip to L. America

In approximately 48 hours U.S. President George W. Bush arrives in Latin America for a 6-day tour of 5 countries. In anticipation of his journey we’ll take a look at what different news outlets, analysts, and blogs have to say:

  • The Council on Foreign Relations provides a comprehensive background to the president’s trip that really is a must read.
  • VivirLatino rightly wonders what strings will come attached to President Bush plan to spend millions of dollars on education, health care, and housing in Latin America.
  • Not to be outdone, Democrats will announce an alternative plan for Latin America this afternoon.
  • Professor Greg Weeks focused on a different angle of Bush’s speech and compares his plan to the Alliance for Progress enacted by John F. Kennedy in the 1960s. One of the main reasons the Alliance failed was as a result of Cold War politics getting in the way of promoting democracy and economic development. Could history repeat itself?
  • Speaking of JFK, Bush will be the first U.S. president to visit the Colombian capital of Bogota since Kennedy in 1961. Expect Bush to mention that when he cozies up to embattled Colombian president Alvaro Uribe on Sunday.
  • Compare and contrast: National Security Advisor- Bush’s trip is not anti-Chavez. Bush’s advisors- Yes it is.
  • Some analysts worry that the trip is a case of right place, wrong time.
  • “What Latin America needs is order, not free elections… we should have rigged, or influenced, past elections in Bolivia thereby preventing Evo Morales from gaining power”. Or how about immigration creating “a New America…which our founders sacrificed and our grandfathers fought to pass on.” Is this how the right-wing really thinks about Bush and Latin America?
  • If the president is serious about “cozying up to moderate leftists" like Brazil’s president, then it doesn’t help to promote a U.S. tariff on Brazilian ethanol.
  • Will the people of Latin America welcome President Bush with open arms? I’m not a betting man, but odds are the answer seems to be “yes.”

Links- White House, Council on Foreign Relations, VivirLatino, CNN,, Wikipedia, Two Weeks Notice, John F. Kennedy Library, Reuters, Chicago Tribune – The Swamp, Forest Fire, jillosophy, ABC News, Pravda, Daily Kos, New Zealand Herald, Monsters and Critics, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Image- International Herald Tribune (President Bush speaking to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce yesterday)

Feliz cumpleaños Gabo! – Gabriel Garcia Marquez turns 80 today

Famed Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez celebrates his 80th birthday today and celebrations are being held in his honor in the town of his birth, throughout Colombia, and around the world. Gabo– as he’s affectionately called- is currently residing in Mexico and is taking a “creative pause” from writing.

Gabo’s won the 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature yet his contributions to the world of literature are immeasurable. He championed the genre of magical realism in texts such as A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, and One Hundred Years of Solitude. However, his previous background as a journalist and his political views were highly influential in The Autumn of the Patriarch, News of a Kidnapping, and The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor.

Gabo’s friendship with Fidel Castro has been a point of controversy though he has often shied away from the political spotlight (with a few exceptions).

Links- BBC News, El Tiempo, Reuters Canada, Prensa Latina, Sydney Morning Herald, Wikipedia, The Modern World, Brunei Times,

Image- CUNY - Baruch College

You're the one for me, fatty - obesity taking a toll on Latin Americans

In a report published in medical journal Circulation, researchers have found increasing amounts of obesity in Latin Americans partly due to more consumption of junk food and the prevalence of smoking. According to a Reuters article on the report:

“’Latin America differed from other regions studied in INTERHEART by having a larger proportion of heart attack risk due to high blood pressure, abdominal fat and permanent stress,’ the American Heart Association, which publishes Circulation, said in a statement”.

This does not come as a surprise at all to me; during my recent trip to Bogota, Colombia I was noticed a boom in fast food restaurants, especially foreign ones like Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s. The U.S. and European tobacco industry have expanded into Latin America and smoking isn't going to slow down despite harsher antismoking measures. Unfortunately it seems like the problem of rising obesity will continue in a deadly direction.

Links- Circulation, Reuters AlertNet, Huevos Pericos, UCSF Today, Zona Latina, The Latin Americanist

Image- Fundacion Diabetes

Daily headlines: March 06, 2007

* A new trend in Mexican tourism- offering taxi tours of areas beset by drug violence.

* Exceptional article in the town of Cabrera, Dominican Republic which serves as “a microcosm of the remittance phenomenon growing throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

* Fifty-five Haitian gang members were arrested last week by U.N. peacekeepers.

* A new law was passed in Peru that would stiffen the penalties against attacking tourists.

* Brazilian police suspect a death squad was behind the execution style killing of five people who attended a kids party outside of Rio de Janiero.

* Argentina’s inflation rate dropped to its lowest level in over two years.

Links- Reuters, Kansas City Star, Monsters & Critics, MSNBC, CNN, Bloomberg

Image- (Aftermath of a shoot-out in the border town of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico)

Monday, March 5, 2007

RBD member comes out of the closet

Christian Chavez (image) publicly announced he was gay after a gossip website revealed photos of his 2005 marriage to a Canadian hair stylist. Chavez apologized to his fans in a message he posted on RBD’s message board, and admitted that he would have kept his sexual status secret had it not been for the publication of his wedding photos:

“I don't want to keep on lying and lie to myself because of fear. I feel bad for not having shared this with all my fans before, as they are the ones that worry and it is because of them that I decided to be honest… (The photographs) show a part of me, a part that I was not prepared to speak of in fear of rejection, of criticism, but especially for my family and its consequences. Although I'm scared and filled with uncertainty I know that I can rely on the support of my fans. Their love is bigger than all of this. I ask them from the bottom of my heart, not to judge me for being honest and to feel proud of who they are and never make the same mistake I did. Tolerance to diversity!”

According to the Associated Press, Mexican fans are mixed at Chavez’ admission of his homosexuality though it is unknown if Chavez’ words will slow down the RBD juggernaut that has seen them become one of Latin pop music’s top groups. (Normally I would support any reason to stop RBD, but I really hope Chavez’ homosexuality doesn’t become one of those reasons.)

Links- Arizona Star,,,, VivirLatino

Image- TV Guide

Courts okay Ecuador constitutional referendum

Ecuador’s highest electoral court ruled that April 15th would be the date set for a national referendum to modify the country’s constitution. President Rafael Correa has pushed for changes in the constitution that would limit the power of traditional political parties that have held power in the country. Opposition politicians claim that Correa wants to change the Constitution and consolidate power like Hugo Chavez, yet polls show most Ecuadorians approve changing the constitution.

Links- Reuters, International Herald Tribune, The Peninsula, The Latin Americanist, Xinhua

Image- Univision (Supporters of changing Ecuador’s constitution celebrated last month)

Cuba: Gov’t claims victories in “war on drugs”

The Cuban government revealed data that support its claim that counternarcotics efforts on the island have been successful. Cuba’s anti-drug plan- called “Coraza Popular”- has “impeded the sustainable entrance of drugs to the country” and led to the lowest amount of drug seizures since 1995. Cuban anti-drug efforts were generally praised in the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report released by the U.S. State Department last week.

On a related note, the Venezuelan government refuted the State Department’s report and accused the Drug Enforcement Administration of clandestinely cooperating with drug traffickers.

Links- Washington Post, Prensa Latina, The Latin Americanist,, North County Time

Image- BBC News

Montoya gets controversial first NASCAR victory

Rookie Juan Pablo Montoya (image) won his first career NASCAR race on Sunday in Mexico City, but not without plenty of controversy. Montoya was accused of driving dirty by several drivers, chiefly his teammate Scott Pruett who lost the lead to Montoya after the Colombian bumped Pruett’s car with eight laps to go. Montoya was apologetic after the race though Mexican fans were thrilled that he became the first Hispanic in history to win a NASCAR race.

Links- ESPN, Washington Post, Edmonton Sun

Image- Washington Post

Daily headlines: March 05, 2007

* Argentina’s government rejected a British invitation to participate in an event later this month commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Falklands War.

* Colombian prosecutors ordered the arrest of Alvaro Araujo Noguera- a regional political boss and father of recently resigned Foreign Minister Maria Consuelo Araujo.

* Dissidents in Cuba are not too happy with the supposed improvement in Fidel Castro’s health.

* Chile’s Supreme court may decide by May on whether to extradite disgraced ex-president Alberto Fujimori back to Peru to face charges of corruption and human rights violations.

* Ex-presidential candidate Eduardo Montealegre wants the return of a pair of manuscripts by famed Nicaraguan poet Ruben Dario that were given as a gift to Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

* “Human error” is to blame for the helicopter crash that killed Ecuador’s first female Defense Minister in January.

* German drugmaker Bayer AG will cut 1200 jobs in Canada and Latin America.

Links-, Reuters AlertNet, The Latin Americanist, Business Day, CNN, Living in Peru, Guardian UK,CCTV International, Canadian Business

Image- (Sign in Argentina claiming that “The Falklands belong to Argentina”)