Saturday, June 9, 2007

De Musica Ligera: Que bonita bandera!

In honor of tomorrow’s National Puerto Rican Day Parade, this week’s music post will show several YouTube videos of famous boricua musicians such as parade “king” Ricky Martin. The event itself brings out strong emotions amongst Puerto Ricans, and this can be noted in the energy behind the different music clips we’ve highlighted. Boricua music also represents the richness of the island and is certainly a pure treasure to enjoy.

Ricky Martin – Perdido sin Ti

Ednita Nazario featuring Ivy Queen - Te He Querido, Te He Llorado

Don Omar – Vuelve

Hector Lavoe – Triste y Vacia

La India – Seduceme

Ray Baretto – Cocinando

Sources (English)- Gothamist, MSNBC

Sources (English)- NYRemezcla.com

Friday, June 8, 2007

“Vamos a Cuba” – to ban or not to ban?

Earlier this week, arguments were heard in a federal court over the appeal by the Miami-Dade County School District to ban a children’s book on Cuba. Lawyers for the school board want to overturn a July 2006 decision to return the book- “Vamos a Cuba”- from public school libraries.

Blog Critical Miami has an excellent synopsis of the differing arguments in the case:

“The ACLU is all like, “All a publicly elected body has to do to ban a book is utter the word inaccurate? If that’s the case every library administrator and library association in the country should be worried.” And the judges are all like, “[what about] a book about Adolf Hitler that would credit the Nazi leader with creating the Volkswagen and bringing Germany out of the depression — but not mention the Holocaust.”

Image- New York Times

Sources- South Florida Sun-Sentinel, The Latin Americanist, MSNBC, Critical Miami

House arrest for ex-Peruvian prez Fujimori

One day after Chile’s main prosecutor backed the extradition of Alberto Fujimori to Peru, the Chilean Supreme Court ordered the ex-Peruvian president to be put under house arrest. According to a court statement (via CNN):

“Judge Urbano Marin said he had taken the decision at the request of the Peruvian government.

‘This measure is designed to stop [Fujimori] fleeing,’ the court said in a statement, adding that Chilean police had been told to arrest the former president immediately.”

The sixty-nine-year-old Fujimori has been detained in Chile since 2005 after returning from a self-impose exile in Japan. He has been accused by Peru’s government of several human rights violations and corruption during his time as president between 1990 and 2000.

Sources (English)- Monsters & Critics, CNN, The Latin Americanist, BBC News

Sources (Spanish)- La Tercera

Image- People’s Daily Online (Photo of Alberto Fujimori, circa 2006)

Colombia: Chiquita faces “terror” lawsuit

U.S. banana firm Chiquita Brands is a defendant in lawsuit brought up by the relatives of family members killed by Colombian paramilitaries. Earlier this year, Chiquita agreed to pay a $25 million fine in a plea deal where the company admitted to hiring paramilitary groups to provide security on its Colombian facilities. This is expected to be used as a key piece of evidence against Chiquita, according to the relatives’ main lawyer:

Given that Chiquita has pleaded guilty to the criminal aspects of this case, it is going to be extremely difficult for them to say they are not responsible in any other way for what happened down there.”

A spokesman for Chiquita confessed that he has not seen the lawsuit, but affirmed that the company hired rebels “to protect the lives of employees and their families.”

Image- Al Jazeera (Colombian paramilitary troops)

Sources- BBC NEWS, The Latin Americanist, CNN, Edmonton Sun

Bloggers of the world unite and take over

Image of Elvira Arellano wearing “this summer’s hottest tee,” via Guanabee. (Hat tip: Blabbeando).


Note: Thanks again to all the tipsters who’ve recommended blogs for our blogroll. We’ll be updating the list over the weekend so please don’t hesitate to keep sending us tips at ourlatinamerica@yahoo.com.

* Bloggers in Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana believe that the media may be overreacting over the thwarted plot to allegedly blow up fuel lines at New York's JFK International Airport.

* I would hate to see what the cricket version of this inventive Brazilian soccer ad would be. (Warning- possibly Not Safe for Work).

* Via Latina Lista: Not content with Congressional hemming and hawing over immigration reform, a group of undocumented college students will travel in a political caravan from Texas to Washington, DC.

* The role played by Puerto Rico in the development of the birth control pill, via The Last Caribbean, Bohemian Artist.

* Foreign Policy Passport goes into more detail over Costa Rica cutting diplomatic ties with Taiwan, and disagrees with the notion of televised Spanish-language presidential debates.

* Shakira goes Hollywood?

* Insight into the economies of Cuba and Argentina from The Cuban Triangle and The Banker, respectively.

* Did you know that the Department of State relaxed the passport rules for raveling from the U.S. to Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean?

* Via Gothamist: New York State judges ruled that the Department of Motor Vehicles has the right to deny illegal immigrants from obtaining driver’s licenses.

* Brazilian police give a pair of grenade-toting Palmeiras fans a deserved red card.

* Adam Isacson gives a few pointers to Bill Clinton regarding his awards speech at this month’s “Colombia is Passion” ceremony.

* This piece of info gives new meaning to the term “Killer Coke.”

* BoRev.net links to an article claming that Radio Caracas Television was “a white supremacist channel.”

Sources- Global Voices Online – Americas, The Offside Rules, Latina Lista, The Latin Americanist, Foreign Policy Passport, VivirLatino, The Banker, Gothamist, Deadspin, Plan Colombia and Beyond, Latina Viva, BoRev.net, The Cuban Triangle, The Last Caribbean, Bohemian Artist

Immigration reform bill on the ropes

As we mentioned in yesterday’s “Titulares…”, the Senate voted against ending debate on a bipartisan immigration reform bill; thus, putting the bill in danger of being defeated before it even gets to a yes-or-no vote. Congressional leaders for both the Democrat and Republican parties have resorted to blaming each other for the proposal’s continued delays:

“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he hoped to pass the measure eventually, but he devoted much of his post-vote comments Thursday night to accusing President Bush of doing too little to obtain Republican support. ``This the president's bill,'' Reid told a hushed chamber. ``Where are the president's people helping us with these votes?''

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., defended the administration. ``The White House has worked like a dog,'' he told reporters. Indeed, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff lobbied senators inside the Capitol right up until Thursday's showdown vote”.

The bill is comprehensive and allows for the creation of a visa for certain illegal immigrants, a “points system” based on factors like education and language skills, and increased border security. So far it has survived several attempts to amend it such as this one from Wednesday.

Image- USA TODAY (According to the photo’s caption “Sens. Harry Reid, center, Richard Durbin, right, and Charles Schumer brief reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Thursday”)

Sources (English)- The Latin Americanist, Guardian UK, BBC News, Reuters, CNN

Sources (Spanish)- La Opinion

Daily Headlines: June 08, 2007

* In response to Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega’s visit to Iran, a pair of Floridian Congressmen criticized him as well as Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Iran’s Mahmud Ahmadinejad as a “new trio of tyrants.”

* The Panama Canal’s expansion will commence in August, said a top canal official Wednesday.

* Canadian energy firm Sherritt International signed a deal to invest over $1 billion in Cuba.

* Hugo Chavez alluded to expanding the role of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas trade bloc to develop “a joint defense strategy.”

* The Christian Science Monitor focuses on Colombia’s chief prosecutor and looks at how far he will go in investigating politicians’ ties to paramilitary groups.

* Follow-up: Mexican community groups in New York City have questioned claims made by recent study suggesting that there’s a “baby boom” of kids born to Mexican parents residing in the “Big Apple”. (Original story in this post).

Sources (English)- New York Times, The Latin Americanist, El Universal, Reuters, CNN, Christian Science Monitor

Sources (Spanish)- HoyInternet.com

Image- Fox News (2006 photo of Daniel Ortega after winning Nicaragua’s presidential elections)


Thursday, June 7, 2007

Titulares de las Americas

Bolivia

Brazil

  • Over three million people are expected to congregate in Sao Paulo as part of a “March for Jesus.”
  • More details are emerging from the supposed involvement of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s brother in an illegal gambling scheme.

Colombia

  • President Alvaro Uribe confessed that he would not reach all his goals regarding foreign aid and free trade during his visit to Washington, DC.
  • Lead by France, the members of the G8 agreed to back the Colombian government’s efforts to “find a humanitarian solution” to the country’s civil conflict.

Mexico

  • Hundreds of teachers protesting government reforms blocked access to the Mexican Stock Exchange this morning.
  • President Felipe Calderon urged the group of underdeveloped states invited to the G8 summit to debate over “global topics that especially affect developing countries.”

Paraguay

  • The Supreme Court determined as unconstitutional the expropriation of lands formerly belonging to the Sun Myong Moon-led Unification Church.

Peru

  • Disgraced former president Alvaro Fujimori is close to being extradited from Chile to Peru after a recommendation from Chile’s attorney general. Fujimori’s daughter- a Peruvian senator- said that her father was “in good spirits” and proclaimed his innocence.

United States

  • By a vote of 63-33, the Senate voted to continue debate on the bipartisan compromise bill on immigration despite optimism yesterday that a yes-or-no vote would occur on Friday.
  • In Chicago, several Mexican American community groups have pitched in to help a Rumanian couple in the U.S. seeking medical help for their daughter.
  • Immigration authorities detained 29 illegal immigrants in New Haven, Connecticut only one day after the local government approved a measure to provide identification cards for immigrants.

Uruguay

  • It may be presumptuous to start planning soccer’s 2030 World Cup, but that has not deterred a group of Uruguayans from proposing that their country host the tournament a century after the first World Cup was first held.

Venezuela

  • Ten student leaders at the forefront of the protests in favor of Radio Caracas Television (RCTV) voiced their ire during a National Assembly session.
  • Speak of RCTV, Venezuelan news channel Globovision agreed to transmit programs still being produced by RCTV that are currently aired online and through a few foreign TV networks.

Sources (Spanish)- El Tiempo, La Tercera, El Comercio, Granma, Globovision, Clarin, El Diario/La Prensa, La Raza, La Opinion, Hoy Internet, Diario ABC, Jornada, Sol de Mexico, RCN

Sources (Portugese)- Folha Online


Daily Headlines: June 07, 2007

* Brief follow-up #1: Soccer legend Pele and the Organization of American States have expressed their support to the leaders of several South American nations appealing FIFA’s high altitude ban.

* Brief follow-up #2: Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez claimed that Washington was masterminding an “imperialist conspiracy” and denied criticisms against his government (such as those by U.S. president George W. Bush that we mentioned in yesterday’s “Daily Headlines.”)

* The U.S. Senate turned down an amendment to the compromise bill on immigration that would have placed the proposal’s emphasis on reuniting families rather than job skills.

* Brazil’s Foreign Minister said that the group of developing nations invited to the G8 summit in Germany (such as Brazil and Mexico) will be unified and will “agree on a common position”.

* Costa Rica will break its diplomatic ties with Taiwan and reestablish relations with China.

*Colombian president Alvaro Uribe traveled to Washington yesterday in a bid to convince Congressional Democrats not to cut aid to Colombia and to ratify a free trade bill.

* Traffic was blocked briefly yesterday afternoon along the U.S.-Mexico border as demonstrators protested Mexico’s pension reform plan.

* Is Major League Baseball’s steroids investigation unfairly going after Latino players? Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen thinks so.

Sources- Monsters & Critics, International Herald Tribune, CNN, ESPN Soccernet, The Latin Americanist, Guardian UK, FOX Sports

Image- BBC News (Bolivian president Evo Morales plays a pickup futbol game high in the Andes Mountains as part of a campaign versus FIFA’s high altitude ban.)

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Follow-up: Soda Stereo reunites!

According to Argentine news agency Télam, legendary rock en español group Soda Stereo will get back together after being split up for a decade. The article goes on to note that they will perform in comeback tour visiting several Latin American nations including their home country of Argentina.

Neither Soda’s official home page or Wikipedia entry have been updated with this new piece of information, which is supposed to be made official soon.

Rumors of the group’s return to the stage intensified last month after Soda’s bassist Hector Bosio and frontman Gustavo Cerati alluded to a comeback.

(Hat tip to Jennifer at VivirLatino who nearly gave me a coronary when I read her blog post!)

Sources (English)- Wikipedia, VivirLatino

Sources (Spanish)- El Comercio, sodastereo.com

Image- rock.com.ar

Disarray over AIDS funds in Puerto Rico, says NYT

A recent article originally published in the New York Times (NYT) alleged that funds destined for HIV/AIDS patients in Puerto Rico have been woefully mismanaged. As a result, “hundreds of HIV and AIDS patients are not receiving vital medical care” including getting antiviral drugs weeks late and having clinics cut needed services.

Despite Puerto Rican officials denying any misuse of funds and advocates calling on the federal government to play a more active role:

“"The state of HIV treatment here is a catastrophe," said Dr. Jose Varga Vidot, director of Community Initiative, a private group in San Juan that provides primary care to 1,600 patients including drug addicts, prostitutes and homeless people. He said he knew of at least 75 people who were unable to obtain all their drugs from government clinics for up to a month”.

Blogger

International Herald Tribune

Image- New York Times (According to the photo’s caption: “Six times in the last year, Rolando Warren Gonzalez said, he has suffered two-week periods with no AIDS drugs, undercutting the life-prolonging benefits of modern therapies against HIV.”)

Univision proposes presidential debates en español

While Democrats and Republicans debated this week on CNN, Univision proposed moderating Spanish-language debates for each of the major political parties. The debates would have English-language translation available, occur in September and would be held in Miami- home of Univision‘s headquarters and an immigrant-rich area.

Political blog Daily Kos wonders about the “quandary” that the debates would have on Republican candidates but also observes that South Floridians of Cuban descent make up a strong voting bloc for the GOP.

Image- Univision – Foros (Univision news anchor Maria Elena Salinas prepares to co-moderate one of the 2004 Democratic presidential debates)

Sources- International Herald Tribune, BBC News, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Daily Kos

Mexico: Court invalidates “Televisa law”

In a unanimous vote, Mexico’s Supreme Court invalidated part of a 2006 law that loosened restrictions on TV and radio broadcasters. As part of the court’s decision, magistrates ruled that granting twenty-year concessions was too long and that auctioning off broadcast licenses to the highest bidder offered unfair advantage to Mexican media conglomerates. (E.g. Televisa and TV Azteca).

According to one justice’s opinion:

“Why should we prefer colorful better-quality broadcasts at the cost of the monochromatic monopoly of the television companies?”

In the meantime, Televisa has slowly made inroads into the Chinese market by signing a deal with to produce Chinese versions of popular Televisa programs.

Sources (Spanish)- El Universal, Jornada

Sources (English)- Bloomberg, International Herald Tribune

Image- Montano

Fidel Castro appears in TV interview

Cuban television showed an on-air interview with Fidel Castro last night where he discussed topics such as politics as well as his health. In the interview which was taped on Monday, Fidel admitted to “doing all the things that needed to be done” to improve his health though he gave no indication as to whether he will return since ceding power to his brother Raul last July.

According to a report by MSNBC:

“(Fidel’s) train of thought was often harder to follow than it had been before his illness. And the most notable thing about the hour-long interview with Randy Alonso, host of the government’s nightly “Round Table” program, was how much stronger and healthier Castro appeared than in previous glimpses of him”.

Here’s the first four-and-a-half minutes of the interview with Fidel where he talked about a weekend visit from Vietnamese government officials (via YouTube):

Sources- Monsters & Critics, BBC News, MSNBC, YouTube, Yahoo! News

Daily Headlines: June 06, 2007

* Two dozen new species of animals- including a purple fluorescent frog (image) and six types of fish- were discovered by scientists in the South American country of Suriname.

* Evo Morales: movie star.

* In a speech yesterday, U.S. president George W. Bush warned that Hugo Chavez was encouraging a “shallow populism" in Venezuela.

* Colombian flower growers and other exporters are facing difficult times due to the strengthening peso.

* The brother of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been accused of involvement in an illegal gambling ring.

Sources- MSNBC, Bloomberg, BBC News, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Yahoo! News, Guardian UK

Image- Xinhua

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Chicken bones link Polynesia to Chile

Thor Heyerdahl’s historic 1947 voyage on the Kon-Tiki showed that people from the Southern Cone of South America may have traveled to the south Pacific in the pre-Columbian period. Yet a recent scientific report believes that the opposite may have been true.

Scientists have recently discovered a DNA mutation in the bones of a species of Chilean chicken that has only been found in Polynesian chickens. The discovery is significant in that chickens may have been brought to the Americas before Spanish and Portuguese explorers landed on the continent in the sixteenth century. According to the Belfast Telgraph’s Steve Connor:

“Until now the evidence in support of a direct cultural connection with Polynesians has been circumstantial…Alice Storey, a doctoral student in the department of anthropology at the University of Auckland, and her colleagues suggest that Polynesian seafarers could have used the reliable trade westerlies of the southern hemisphere to carry them and their cargo of living chickens to Chile”.

Image- CBS News

Sources- CBS News, Reuters, Belfast Telegraph

Brazilian model blasts Bush, backs women’s rights

Brazilian model Gisele Bundchen criticized U.S. President George W. Bush in an interview with Brazil’s Folha da Sao Paulo. As Monsters & Critics reported:

“'He was awful. It's enough just to look at what is happening nowadays because of him, how so many people came to hate the United States,' she said”.

Bundchen also spoke in favor of legalizing abortion in Brazil and “a woman’s right to choose what she wants do with her body.”

Brazil was the site of a visit last month by Pope Benedict XVI; during his trip, the pontiff spoke out against loosening anti-abortion laws in Latin America and blamed the media for “glamorizing sex.”

Sources (Portuguese)- Folha da Sao Paulo

Sources (English)- Monsters & Critics, The Latin Americanist

Image- Deutsche Welle

De Musica Ligera: Obama and reggaeton

Quick, name the campaign theme song of any U.S. presidential candidate since 1996?

Couldn’t think of one? Despite your forgetfulness, some presidential hopefuls still believe in the importance of campaign themes. (See: Clinton, Hillary).

A group of Barack Obama supporters called Amigos de Obama decided to create a song for their preferred choice for president with a reggaeton beat. (According to Wikipedia, reggaeton is “a form of dance music (that) blends Jamaican music influences of reggae and dancehall with those of Latin America...as well as that of hip hop”).

With help from fellow contributor Maegan la Mala, let’s all sing along with this small excerpt of the “Obama Reggaeton”:

They say we don’t count…
That we are invisible because we don’t vote…
But here we are and all this is gonna change …
We did the rallies and now we gonna vote.
Listen to me people, it’s time for something different.
What we need is a new president…
How do you say it… What’s his name?
OBAMA! OBAMA!

Got any ideas for possible campaign themes in español? Here’s a few that may work out:

Have any further suggestions for theme songs?

Sources- Wonkette, Vivirlatino, Wikipedia, YouSendIt

Image- Wonkette

Daily Headlines: June 05, 2007

* Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa has asked the international community to come up with a plan to compensate Ecuador from drilling for oil in rainforest areas (image).

* So what do you think of this headline: silly or stupid?

* A man was killed by a tiger and lion kept on the roof of a Mexico City wholesaler.

* Colombia’s government said that it would repay ahead of time a $500 million debt with several international financial entities.

* Pope Benedict XVI and Mexican President Felipe Calderon met at the Vatican City yesterday, though it was a group of invited children that stole the attention of onlookers. (Hat tip: Hispanic Tips).

* Despite a decline in births in New York City, new data is showing a “baby boom” amongst children born to Mexican immigrants there.

Sources- Christian Science Monitor, Guardian UK, Catholic News Service, Hispanic Tips, New York Times, Sportsnet.ca, Reuters

Image- Telegraph.co.uk


Liveblog: “Today” in Cuba, the final hour

Just as my arms are about to give out we enter into the last hour of the “Today” show in Havana. While the first hour focused on politics and the economy, the second hour looked at cultural issues and seemed weaker than the first. Will the final hour end strong? Let’s take a look.

9:30am- Now that Lauer’s given his farewell I might as well end the liveblogging. (I already changed the channel to “How It’s Made”).

A few parting shots:

  1. I almost forgot to mention that in the previous hour Matt Lauer briefly went over the travel restrictions from the U.S. to Cuba, and gave a quick update on Elian Gonzalez.
  2. Just found a pair of blog posts on the coverage by “Today” that are worth looking at aside from the ones already mentioned.
  3. Here are the links to the first and second hours of this morning's liveblogging.
  4. Personally, I would’ve liked to have seen the program focus more on the island’s dissidents, and interviews of the common people and families on the island. The coverage didn’t rock the boat too much and I doubt it will change anybody’s previous conceptions on Cuba. It was okay and sufficient enough for the casual viewer.
9:15am- Remember the guayabera comment I made in the first hour (“7:05am”)? Lauer opens the final hour by interviewing one of Cuba’s top guayabera designers and even sizes up for one of the shirts!

It looks like the final hour won’t be ending “strong” as Lauer signs off from Havana. But not before saying that the Cuban people bear no animosity towards the U.S. people. A nice gesture to end his reporting from the island.

9:00am- Jeez, I need coffee. It’s times like these that I miss living in Miami just to drink some deliciously strong café Cubano. That java makes Red Bull seem like tap water.

Liveblog: “Today” in Cuba, the second hour

We continue our coverage of “Today” show host Matt Lauer and company from Havana, Cuba.

To reiterate what we said before, the coverage so far has been pretty thorough and provides a balanced viewpoint of many issues facing Cuba. Will that change in the second hour? Let’s find out.

8:50am- As cuban salsa dancers perform, we find yet another blogger that is peeved at the coverage by “Today”.

Before I get accused of being a right-winger (ha!) how do those on the left feel about the coverage? Do you agree with how the reporting is walking the tightrope (so to speak) or not?

8:30am- Upon returning from commercials, a Cuban band is shown by Lauer playing salsa. The lead dancer has a slight resemblance to Celia Cruz, which is kind of eerie.

Soon after he interviews a member of the Buena Vista Social Club who emphasizes the importance of music to Cuban culture and deflects a question from Lauer on artistic freedom since the Cuban revolution.

8:20am- Baseball, boxing and ballet (“the three Bs”) serve as basis for the next segment. The importance of sport on the island is addressed including an odd, but brief part where Lauer tries to gauge whether the Yankees or Red Sox are more popular by giving away a few caps in Havana’s colloquially named “Baseball Park.” From there, a Cuban ballet dancer is interviewed who believes that “the three Bs” can serve as tools for closer dialogue between the U.S. and Cuba. (The more delicate issue of how to go about doing so is conveniently left out of the discussion).

8:10am- While an creepy interview of the daughter of the "Crocodile Hunter" is conducted from New York, we find a dissenting view of the coverage by “Today”:

“No mention of dissidents, of political prisoners. Lauer briefly stated (and I mean briefly), that dissent is not tolerated in Cuba, but that was quickly followed up by a mention of the Cuban resolver spirit. He finished the segment by stating that Cubans wear their "no es facil" (it's not easy) attitude as a source of pride.

Tell that to those that have decided that a trip through shark-infested waters in a makeshift raft is better than having pride in "no es facil".

8:00am- Lovely shots of some of the colonial Cuban buildings, though from where Lauer’s located it’s somewhat isolated from the populace.

Liveblog: “Today” in Cuba, the first hour

Good morning everybody. NBC ‘s “Today” show host Matt Lauer is in Havana, Cuba today and we’re going to liveblog as much as we can from the program. So pull up a seat, join me for a cup of coffee, and let’s find out how Lauer and company do from Cuba.

7:53am- Even in cuba sign-toting tourists surround Matt!

7:30am- Now a report from correspondent Kerry Sanders on the Cuban embargo, and those who want it either kept or lifted. He opens by showing several items he purchased at a Cuban market including Heinz ketchup and Windex window cleaner.

He ends the report by noting how Cuba’s oil reserves may be a key factor in the future of the embargo and the island.

Next, Lauer interviews a Cuban businessman who notes how the island’s economy has expanded despite the embargo as well as the head of a U.S. trade group opposed to the embargo. Congressman Bob Melendez, who is of Cuban decent, gives a contrary view and observes that while the embargo may have its problems it is still a necessary tool of U.S. policy on the island. He says that despite increased tourism the island government has not become more democratic and the Castro regime continues repressing opposition activists and journalists.

Note that Melendez, a Democrat representing New Jersey, was interviewed for the previous segment rather than the other legislators of Cuban decent who are Republican and represent districts in southern Florida. (The political center of the Cuban exile movement).

7:20am- “You can’t believe what you hear because the government controls the information.” With that, another report opens that describes historical pop culture perceptions of Cuba, then segues into recent achievements such as the burgeoning tourist industry and the health care industry. However, several negatives are also mentioned such as the island’s massive poverty, very low wages, and lack of housing.

Thus far, the reporting has not been skewed too far to the left or right. It’s obvious that the program is trying to walk a thin line by portraying the island via a relatively centrist view.

7:15am- a report on “Cuba’s future after Castro” centers on the U.S. embargo on the island and a possible transition from power in the near future. The report includes an interview with National Assembly head Ricardo Alarcon who claims that conditions on the island are “normal” yet says that the embargo as hurt the island. Also interviewed was U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, a Cuban exile himself, who noted that the Cuban government has been a failure. The report wisely ends by noting that stuck in the middle of U.S. and Cuban government policies are families on the island.

Both Lauer and correspondent Andrea Mitchell observe that the Cuban people are worried if exiles living in the U.S. return to the island, though acknowledge that part of that “fear” is drummed up by the government.

7:05am- the program opens with a rather stunning view of the Caribbean from what appears like a colonial Spanish fort where Lauer is located. Though I was afraid he would come out in a guayabera shirt, he is well dressed in a business casual style.

Amongst several bits of information told by Lauer is the video that will be shown tonight by Cuban state TV of Fidel Castro being interviewed.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Video: “Guantanamera”

In anticipation of waking up at the crack of dawn tomorrow to watch the “Today” show’s transmission from Cuba, (which we might be liveblogging), here is a video of the incomparable Celia Cruz and the Fania All-Stars performing “Guantanamera”.

Absolutely lovely, no?

Sources- YouTube,Vivirlatino

Colombia: FARC rejects possible gov’t hostage deal

Colombia's largest biggest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, (FARC) rejected the government’s proposal to free jailed guerillas in a possible exchange with hostages. Via a statement through Colombia’s Anncol news agency, FARC leaders claimed that freeing of 200 imprisoned guerillas is a smokescreen set up by President Alvaro Uribe:

“The FARC reject the false promises of those who seek to convert the national clamor for an exchange into propaganda to cure the wounds caused by the neoliberal and terrorist policies of an illegal regime like Uribe's.”

The statement also called for the creation of a demilitarized zone for possible negotiations, which is something Uribe has always ruled out.

In the meantime, France’s government has increased its pressure against the FARC to seek an amicable solution to free kidnap victims including French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt. Despite this and rumors of Betancourt’s “imminent release”, Betancourt’s husband told Chilean radio that he doubts that the Colombian government “will ever sit at the negotiation table with guerillas and work out a humanitarian plan to free kidnap victims.”

Sources (English)- BBC News, Reuters AlertNet, SignOnSanDiego.com, New York Times

Sources (Spanish)- Anncol, RCN, El Tiempo

Image- El Tiempo (Government officials greeting a small group of guerillas that were about to be freed from a Colombian prison)


RCTV, energy top concerns at OAS summit

Several topics will be discussed during the 37th Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly conference being held in Panama City. One of the most divisive issues will be the debate over Radio Caracas Television; Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro has warned against a possible rebuke by the U.S. against the Chavez administration. The Miami Herald’s Pablo Bachelet reports that:

“(U.S.) Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who arrives today, and foreign ministers of several countries like Canada and Costa Rica are likely to complain ''in very explicit terms'' in their speeches, said one OAS diplomat who asked to remain anonymous in order to talk freely about delicate issues. Other nations like Chile might make ''generic'' pronouncements over the need to preserve basic human rights like the freedom of expression, the diplomat said”.

During the opening session of the summit yesterday, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon praised the development of biofuels in the Americas as well as creating “stable energy supplies” as a tool against the region’s deep economic inequality.

Other topics that will be examined include border issues (e.g. Bolivia’s claim to a coastline) and the need to strengthen democratic institutions.

Update: Maduro's warning may come true; Condoleezza Rice requested on Monday that the OAS look into "alleged violations of freedom of the press in Venezuela." (Link via Monsters & Critics).

Sources- The Latin Americanist, International Herald Tribune, People’s Daily Online, Miami Herald, Voice of America, Earthtimes.org

Image- George Washington University

Wild weather hits Americas

Tropical storms, torrential rains and other weather phenomena have wrecked havoc for several Latin American countries over the past few days. For example:

Sources- CBBC, Earthtimes.org, Reuters UK, Washington Post, People’s Daily Online, Bloomberg

Image- CBBC