Friday, May 11, 2007

Music soothes the savage beast: Checkin’ the news

Despite publishing 5-6 posts a day over a variety of topics there are some stories that fall through the cracks. Here are a few of them, along with some accompanying tunes:

* Juan Forego looks at the Eric Volz case and believes that Volz is wrongly imprisoned in a Nicaraguan jail.

* Local communities along the U.S.-Mexico border clash with federal officials over the possible economic harm caused by the construction of a border fence.

* Jamaican coffee growers are turning up the pressure against the government to pay emergency compensation for crops ravaged by hurricanes in 2004.

* Is it me or is crime in Mexico absolutely out of control?

* Reuters’ Brian Homewood examines the nuances in the relegation systems for several Latin American futbol leagues.

Links- Washington Post, YouSendIt, CBS11, Radio Jamaica, Monsters & Critics, USA TODAY, Reuters AlertNet, Guardian UK

Event: Ibero-american Films @ High Line Festival

As part of the High Line Festival in New York City, a film fest starts tonight airing several classic movies from Spain and the Americas. Curator David Bowie (yes, that David Bowie) selected several top-notch films which range from silent movies like 1931 Brazilian film “Limite” to more contemporary fare such as the award-winning 2004 drama “Machuca.”

As Bowie himself admitted in a recent interview:

“For this festival I chose…namely Latin American and Spanish film of the last 100 years—and what a fortuitous one it has been! It's so exciting to dive headfirst into this world. Such talent, and there’s great innovation going on. Like many people, I was really only aware of the most obvious work, Almodóvar, Buñuel, Saura and a few others. But being thrown in at the deep end—this is how I like to find things. And I really make the effort”.

Here is the important info for this can’t miss film fest for movie buffs and the curious alike:

What - “10 Latin American and Spanish Movies from the Last 100 Years”

WhenFriday May 11th to Thursday May 17th

WhereQuad Cinema, 34 West 13th street, Manhattan

How much - $35 for tonight’s Opening film/concert. Otherwise, $10 for adults and $7 for seniors or children.

More infoOfficial website here, but also check out these blog entries from VivirLatino and Moon in the Gutter.

Links- TicketWeb,, Wikipedia, Time Out New York, High Line Festival, VivirLatino, Moon in the Gutter

Image- High Line Festival

Bolocco’s boobies could cost marriage to Argie ex-prez

Cecilia Bolocco- Miss Universe 1987 and wife of ex-Argentine president Carlos Menem- might have some explaining to do after paparazzi caught her sunbathing topless in the company of an Italian businessman. The photographer who snapped th photos alleges that he has “more compromising images” of the 41-year-old Chilean celebrity.

Meanwhile Menem has gone in hiding in his native province of La Rioja while rumors surround his reaction to the photos and a possible end to the Bolocco-Menem marriage.

Links (Spanish) – La Nacion, Clarin

Link (English)- Wikipedia

Image- El Pais (Cecilia Bolocco in a revealing dress during last February’s Viña del Mar music festival)

From glory to the struggle for survival – U. de Chile’s soccer troubles continue

A memorable 1996 Copa Libertadores run. Twelve time Chilean First Division champions. Notable ex-players such as Marcelo Salas, David Pizarro, Faustino Asprilla, and Flavio Maestri.

These are a few of the distant memories of the Universidad de Chile soccer team which is currently going through its lowest moments. Despite its history, “La U” has put up with dismal results, bankruptcy, and even a cancelled match due to termite infestation. Uncertainty now roams the club after zero bids were placed yesterday to buy the beleaguered club. Creditors are undergoing intense negotiations today in order to seek a resolution before a June 12th or the club will be dissolved.

Links (English)- Wikipedia, ESPN Soccernet, The Latin Americanist

Link (Spanish)- El Mercurio

Image- La Nacion (Players of “La U” seek the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel)

Foul play alleged in deadly Haitian migrant journey

The few Haitian survivors of a boat capsized in the Caribbean that killed 61 migrants claimed that they were rammed by a patrol ship from the Turks and Caicos Islands. According to one survivor’s account to the Associated Press:

“‘When they hit us the first time, water rushed into the boat and everybody screamed,’ (survivor Dona) Daniel said. The patrol boat crew ordered the migrants to lower their sails, threw them a line and began towing them into deeper water. The boat then capsized, he said.”

As we mentioned several times last week, the ship was eventually found by the U.S. Coast Guard (image) and the death toll gradually increased. The incident reflects Coast Guard worries that record numbers of Haitian migrants trying to cross the Caribbean towards the U.S. will not let up.

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

Image- CNN

Congress, Bush reach deal on trade with several L. American countries

Yesterday the Bush administration and Democratic leaders in Congress reached a deal on free trade pacts with several states including Peru, Colombia, and Panama. U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab deemed the compromise as “a historic bipartisan breakthrough,” that would allow environmental and labor concerns to become key parts of free trade agreements.

Democratic legislators emphasized that the deal would only ease the ratification of free trade pacts with Peru and Panama. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that a “difficult revision” is needed on the trade deal with Colombia partly due to concerns over violence against trade unionists, (e.g. Chiquita banana). Earlier this week, Colombia’s vice president warned that the country may have to “reevaluate its relationship with the United States” if the trade agreement is not approved.

Links (English)- MSNBC, ABC News, CBS News, The Latin Americanist, Guardian UK

Links (Spanish)- El Tiempo

Image- El Tiempo (Negotiations for a free trade pact between the U.S. and Andean states)

Pope canonizes saint, blames media

Earlier today Pope Benedict XVI canonized Brazil’s first saint during an open-air mass in Sao Paulo attended by approximately a million followers. Saint (nee Friar) Galvao was an 18th-century Franciscan monk who was believed to have made “miraculous pills” out of prayers inscribed on bits of paper.

Reuters reports that aside from exalting Galvao, the Pope also criticized Brazilian media for “undermining family values and glamorizing sex”. Said he:

"It is necessary to oppose those elements of the media that ridicule the sanctity of marriage and virginity before marriage."

Meanwhile, remarks the pontiff made over excommunicating Mexico City politicos that back decriminalizing abortion have reverberated north of the border. U.S. presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani has tried to clarify his stance on abortion in order to “avoid a head-on confrontation” with the Pope.

Links- BBC News, CBS News, Monsters & Critics, The Latin Americanist, Newsday, Reuters AlertNet

Daily Headlines: April 11, 2007

* Former Colombian soccer star Freddy Rincon (image) was arrested in Brazil after being wanted for money laundering charges in Panama.

* Nationalization continues in Venezuela as the government purchased a controlling share of the country’s largest electric company.

* Via Hispanic Tips: A study found that Long Island, New York’s Hispanic community has been largely beneficial to the area.

* Crime has become one of the main topics in Guatemala’s presidential elections.

* Air travel on Chile’s main airline went up by nearly 30% in April, while sales in Wal-Mart’s Mexican stores rose by 0.5%.

* Brazilian authorities blamed two U.S. pilots for the country’s worst airline crash which killed 154 people.

Links- International Herald Tribune, Hispanic Tips, Newsday, BBC News, Reuters, Reuters UK, UPI


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Bloggers of the world unite and take over

  • Via sports blog Deadspin: Behold the power of Shakira over soccer!
  • Mexican comics from the perspective of MIT Professor Henry Jenkins.
  • Being physically disabled in the Americas has its challenges (trust me, I know!). Case in point: the difficulties in maneuvering in a wheelchair around Santa Cruz, Bolivia. (Hat tip: Global Voices Online).
  • Maternity wear from “an American expat” living in Argentina.
  • Plan Colombia and Beyond informs of us of the visit to Washington by the governor of violence-wracked Nariño, Colombia.
  • PostGlobal correspondent Miriam Leitao gives her views of monarchy through the prism of Brazilian society.
  • Now we can add a fourth official political party in Puerto Rico for the first time in nearly 25 years.
  • Compare and contrast: one blogger’s ten reasons why he doesn’t like living in Uruguay vs. a video of dally life in Montevideo.
  • If this makes Lou Dobbs a “Hispanic journalist” then writing an op/ed letter to the Washington Post makes me a columnist.
  • Yankees vs. Red Sox, Ecuador style.
  • Mr. Trend at Alterdestiny wonders why non-religious Brazilians seem to have been “left out of the discussion” regarding the pope’s visit.
  • A writer to conservative political commentator Andrew Sullivan’s blog clarifies that anti-immigrant does not equal racist.
  • Looks like Brazil’s president has learned a thing or two from George W. Bush, according to one blogger’s observations.
  • Death and taxes aren’t the only two sure things in life. Try problems with your local phone company; in this case, the setting is Santiago, Chile.
  • One blogger argues on why RCTV should not be shutdown in Venezuela.
  • Lastly, we agree with Wonkette who called it “one of the strangest things we’ve ever seen.” Presenting U.S. presidential candidate Bill Richardson’s ads:

Links- Too many to mention!

Bombs in Colombia Kill 19 in Two Days

Today 1o Colombian soldiers were killed and 13 were injured after a bomb exploded in Valle de Cauca. This follows a similar attack yesterday in Santander province where nine Colombian policemen were killed. Colombian officials say the bombs were detonated via remote control and they are pointing the finger at the leftist FARC. Today's bombing is the deadliest one in Colombia so far this year.

Links : El Diario / La Prensa , BBC News

Image : BBC News

New York Joins New Sanctuary Movement

Yesterday, New York and other cities joined the New Sanctuary Movement. The movement, with its roots in the 1980s movement in which churches harbored Central American refugees fleeing wars in their home countries. The Rev. Donna Schaper of Judson Memorial Church located near Washington Square Park clarified what this meant:
"...providing spiritual, moral, sometimes material and sometimes legal assistance to people who are either unjustly detained or deported."
Churches in the Los Angeles area are taking the idea of offering sanctuary very literally, by offering physical safety to at least two undocumented immigrants. The feeling is that Immigration officials will not go into houses of worship to arrest people. Take for example the case of Mexican immigrant Elvira Arellano, who has been inside a Chicago church since last August with a deportation order over her head.

Image : El Diario/La Prensa

Links : El Diario/La Prensa, Sign on San Diego, VivirLatino

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Pope takes on abortion before landing in Brazil

Pope Benedict XVI arrived this afternoon in Brazil (image, along with Brazil's president) but not before shying away from remarking on abortion. During the flight to Brazil, the Pope agreed with Mexican Church officials who want to excommunicate any Mexico City politicians that supported the decriminalization of first trimester abortions.

A Vatican spokesman tried to clarify the Pope’s remarks but did not discount the possibility of excommunicating politicos:

Father Federico Lombardi said that "legislative action in favor of abortion is incompatible with participation in the Eucharist" and therefore "politicians exclude themselves from Communion".

Meanwhile, Brazilian Health Minister Jose Gomez Temporao supported remarks he made last month on abortion by arguing that the choice to abort should be “up to each person’s faith.” Currently, Brazilian law permits abortions in the first trimester only if the mother’s life is at risk from being pregnant or if rape caused the pregnancy.

Note: Don’t forget to either comment on this week’s debate examining the Pope’s visit to Brazil and voting in our poll located on the sidebar.


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

Italian arsonist extradited from Mexico

Mexican authorities extradited Enrico Carella to Italy for his role in the 1996 fire of Venice’s La Fenice opera house (image). The 37-year-old electrician was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison in 2003 and was a fugitive until he was arrested in Quintana Roo earlier this year.

Links- Monsters & Critics, Guardian UK

Image- BBC News

News briefs on Venezuela’s government

* Argentine president Nestor Kirchner has directly intervened in the Venezuelan government’s attempt to buy the country's largest steel maker. Sidor-Ternium is controlled by Argentine firm Techint.

* Venezuela’s government rejected White House remarks criticizing the country’s anti-drug efforts, but not before accusing the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration of helping drug traffickers.

* Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said that the government will still seek the extradition of Luis Posada Carriles after he was freed on Tuesday.

* The government’s stake in Venezuela’s largest telecom company increased to 86.2% after having purchased millions of dollars worth of stocks.

Links- International Herald Tribune,, Prensa Latina, CNN, The Latin Americanist, MSN Money


Follow-up: Posada Carriles indictment tossed out

If Fidel Castro wasn’t sufficiently peeved at Luis Posada Carriles before, then this will really stick in his craw:

Yesterday a U.S. federal court dropped the immigration charges against Posada Carriles. Jury selection was supposed to begin on Friday in the trial against he suspected bomber, but U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone blasted the prosecution for "fraud, deceit, and trickery" in the way it ran the case.

So far, Fidel has been publicly mum over the court’s decision. However, an article in official newspaper Granma bemoaned the “predicted impunity” of the court’s decision, and an official at the Cuban Interests Section in Washington accused the Bush administration of protecting Posada Carriles.

Links- The Latin Americanist, Guardian UK, BBC News, Miami Herald

Image- Miami Herald (Luis Posada Carriles leaving federal court last week along with his attorneys)

Panama: No responsibility taken for contaminated med deaths

Blame has been passed around for the manufacturing and selling of tainted medicine that killed over fifty people in Panama. Chinese government officials claimed that the company which made the diethyl glycol that was placed in the medicine was not subject to oversight by state medical inspectors. Additionally, the owner of a Spanish firm claimed innocence for his company which received the diethyl glycol and subsequently distributed it to a Panamanian drug company.

In the meantime, families of victims poisoned by the fake medicine have increased pressure on the Panamanian government to “seek justice and lay blame on those responsible.”

Links (English)-, MSNBC

Links (Spanish)-, El Siglo


Daily Headlines: May 09, 2007

* Copper prices continue to reach record highs despite the resolution of a Peruvian mining strike.

* An Argentine businessman who became one of Mexico’s main construction owners was recaptured on bribery charges.

* The Mercosur bloc began parliamentary sessions on Monday with talks over how to strengthen the economic integration of the organization’s four member states.

* President Nestor Kirchner is expected to win reelection after Argentine electoral authorities established the country’s presidential and legislative elections for Sunday October 28th.

* Brazil’s largest private bank- Banco Itau- reported high first quarter profits after increasing its lending to customers.

* Rest in peace Diego Corrales; the former champion boxer of Colombian and Mexican parentage died on Monday after being involved in a motorcycle crash.

Links- Reuters UK, CBS News, People’s Daily Online, Monsters & Critics, Bloomberg, The Irish Times

Image- Mining Journal Online

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Weekly Debate: Pope Benedict XVI‘s visit to Brazil

Last-minute preparations are wrapping up in Brazil in anticipation of Pope Benedict XVI's arrival there on Wednesday. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will meet with the Pope to address social issues, though protests are planned by several groups dissatisfied with Vatican policies.

The Pope will face several daunting issues during his five-day trip to Brazil which were announced in February. They include:

So what do you think of the Pope Benedict XVI's sojourn to Latin America? Will he be successful in addressing some of the religious problems facing the region or will it be all for naught? Will Catholicism experience a revival in the Americas or are the problems facing it being blown out of proportion?

Feel free to leave a comment to this post and/or vote on our poll located on the sidebar. (Poll closes on May 14th, which is the last day of the Pope’s trip).

My take- Unfortunately, the Vatican has been largely ineffective in addressing pressing social issues and was shortsighted in selecting a conservative German cardinal to replace Pope John Paul II rather than one from the “Third World.” As a Catholic I applaud the Pope’s effort in visiting the Americas and hope that it may bring about a fruitful debate over religion, yet I seriously doubt that his presence will cause significant change.

Previous “Weekly Debate” polls:

Who is your most popular Latin American leader?

Which candidate do you support the most on the issue of immigration?

Links- Globe and Mail, CNN, Monsters & Critics, Zenit News Agency, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Wikipedia, International Herald Tribune, The Latin Americanist, PollDaddy

Image- (Front of Sao Paolo Cathedral)

Fidel links Posada Carriles to botched hijacking

Fidel Castro has used the freeing of Luis Posada Carriles as the reason behind an attempted airline hijacking last week. Fidel blamed “the impunity and material benefits that…have been the reward for any violent action against Cuba” such as the freeing on bail of Posada Carriles as the impetus for the failed hijacking in Havana.

In the article published today in Granma, Fidel goes on to blame a “system (that) had been designed for exploitation and plundering” as to why underdeveloped countries are so impoverished. Fidel’s diatribe also took a jab at U.S. President George W. Bush by calling him an “apocalyptic head of empire (who) is not satisfied with the death, the torture and the uprooting of millions of people to seize their natural resources and the product of their labors.


Links- Bloomberg, The Latin Americanist, Monsters & Critics, Granma

Peru to join “One Laptop per Child” project

Peruvian Education Minister Jose Antonio Chang said yesterday that Peru is about to join the “One Laptop per Child” project which would provide $100 laptop computers to schoolchildren. The plan- which is run by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology- has been successful in other countries in the Americas such as Brazil and Argentina.

Links- Living in Peru, One Laptop per Child Foundation, The Latin Americanist

Image- Living in Peru

Kung fu goalkeeper faces long suspension

Gaston Sessa may be suspended for up to six months from international matches due to a heinous foul committed last week, according to Argentine sports magazine Olé, Sessa- the goalkeeper for Argentine soccer team Velez Sarsfield- is currently serving a current season-long suspension handed down by from Velez’ directors.

Here is a YouTube video of the karate-like high kick he committed against Boca Juniors forward Rodrigo Palacio during a Copa Libertadores quarterfinal match:

Links (Spanish)- Olé

Links (English)- Reuters UK, YouTube

Daily Headlines: May 08, 2007

* The price of development- Peru’s indigenous people fight with the government over energy projects in the rainforest.

* Mexican president Felipe Calderon seems to be doing a good job, according to’s Allan Wall.

* Car sales in Brazil plummeted by over 7% in April, while Chile’s GDP grew by 6.5% between March 2006 and March 2007.

* Follow-up: 54 Haitian bodies were found dead in the Caribbean after a boat capsized last Friday.

Links- Christian Science Monitor,, Reuters, Bloomberg, Reuters AlertNet, CNN

Image- BBC News (Tropical birds in Peru’s rainforest)

Monday, May 7, 2007

Saúde!- Brazilian beer tester receives compensation

Alcoholism would seem like an obvious occupational hazard to the job of beer taster. Yet one Brazilian man who held that position won a lawsuit against brewer Ambev after claming that the company did not have adequate health measures to avoid his alcoholism.

The court ordered Ambev to pay $49,000 to the defendant who used to drink over 1.5 liters of beer per day as part of his job.

Though lawyers for Ambev argued that the employee was an alcoholic to begin with, the judge on the case countered with the obvious:

“Judge Jose Felipe Ledur said the company still was negligent because an alcoholic should never have been made a beer taster.”

Image- Ambev (Brahma Bier, distributed by Ambev)

Links- BBC News, International Herald Tribune

Drug arrest could jeopardize Orlando Cepeda’s future

While the return of Roger Clemens currently has the baseball world agog, another story is brewing which may be bigger.

Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda was arrested last week in California for drug possession and speeding. Though the attorney for the former San Francisco Giants star has argued for his innocence, there is the possibility that he would lose his current job with the Giants as a “community representative.”

There is also the outside chance that Cepeda could be expelled from the Baseball Hall of Fame if charges are pressed against him and he is found guilty. His entry into the Hall had been delayed due to his 1976 conviction for involvement in a marijuana shipment. Furthermore, the director of the Hall of Fame in Cepeda’s hometown of Ponce, Puerto Rico said that he is in danger of having his status revoked in that institution.

Links (English)- New York Daily News, KCBS, Forbes, San Francisco Chronicle, Wikipedia

Links (Spanish)- El Diario/La Prensa


Sarkozy lends support to Ingrid Betancourt

France will not abandon Ingrid Betancourt” proclaimed French president-elect Nicolas Sarkozy during his victory speech on Sunday night. Sarkozy’s words were met by “hope” from Betancourt’s mother who also commented that President Alvaro Uribe should accede to a prisoner exchange between kidnapped victims and the government.

Ingrid Betancourt was captured by Colombian rebels in February 2002 while she was campaigning for president. She holds dual citizenship in Colombia and France and her capture was a topic during the French presidential election.

Links (English)- BBC News, Wikipedia, The Latin Americanist, International Herald Tribune

Links (Spanish)- El Tiempo

Image- BBC News

Follow-up: Elite LAPD cops off streets after post-immigrant march violence

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) removed from active duty approximately 60 police officers who were involved in a chaotic encounter with protesters after an immigrants rights march last Tuesday. The officers were from the LAPD’s Metropolitan Division which is “made up of experienced officers who have extensive training in crowd control” (according to the AP).

The incident in MacArthur Park has drawn widespread condemnation in Los Angeles including from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and LAPD commissioner William Bratton:

"Things were done that shouldn't have been done," Bratton told a group of journalists who gathered at the KTLA-TV Channel 5 studios in Hollywood. "I'm not seeking to excuse it…. This was my best, and that was what was extraordinarily disturbing about this."

Links- FOX News, The Latin Americanist, CNN, TIME, Los Angeles Times

Image- CNN

Daily Headlines: May 07, 2007

* Boobies! Now that I’ve got your attention, approximately 18,000 volunteers stripped down to their birthday suits in Mexico City’s Zocalo (image) for a photo shoot by Spencer Tunick.

* “There are so many intelligent filmmakers working in Latin America,” observed Colombian actress Catalina Sandino Moreno in a great interview with the Guardian UK.

* The always informative Global Voices Online gives the reactions of Chilean bloggers to a new political faction that will start on May 12- Chile Primero.

* Archeologists in Bolivia uncovered the remains of a 1300-year-old skeleton who may have been a priest in the ancient Tiwanaku civilization.

* Wedding bells loom for the former leader of Peru’s Shining Path rebel group.

* "Believe in the police service and do not pay a ransom" advised Colombian police to Trinidadians at a conference last week. (Easier said than done, paisanos!)

Links- Global Voices Online, Chile Primero, MSNBC, Guardian UK, The Latin Americanist, BBC News, Trinidad Express, CBC