Friday, July 6, 2007

José Conde contest ends today!

As we mentioned last week, we’re holding a contest where one lucky randomly-drawn entry will win a free CD of “(R)evolucion” by José Conde y la Ola Fresca.

All you have to do is correctly answer the following question:

On August 9th José Conde y la Ola Fresca will be in concert in New York City. What two other bands will be playing at that concert?

Send us your reply to ourlatinamerica@yahoo.com before July 10th.

In the meantime, here’s the music video for one of the songs in “(R)evolucion” entitled “Ride la Ola” (video link):

Don’t be shy; send your entry ASAP!

Bloggers of the world unite and take over

Image- Personal photo of the mountain valley roughly forty kilometers north of Bogota, Colombia

It’s been weeks since we’ve examined what the blogosphere has been saying about the Americas and issues relating to the region. Let’s take a look, shall we?

Sources- Adpunch, Biopact, Bloggings by Boz, BoRev.net, Finally Serious, Guardian UK Sport Blog, Latinista.net, Latina Lista, NYRemezcla.com, Plan Colombia and Beyond, Q++ Worldwide Public Holidays News and Analysis, Ricardo’s Blog, The Corridor, Two Weeks Notice, Vanishing America, Venezuela Llora Venezuela Sangra!!, Video Store Blues, Vivirlatino


Amnesty Int’l: Labor unions under fire in Colombia

According to a report released by human rights group Amnesty International, Colombia is the world’s most dangerous place for trade unionists. Though the report acknowledges that the number of unionists killed has decreased, “strong evidence” links the armed forces to illegal right-wing paramilitary groups and the government has been inadequate in protecting workers’ rights:

“‘By failing to adequately protect trade unionists, the Colombian authorities are sending a message that abuses against them can continue, while companies operating in Colombia risk being held accountable for human rights abuses for which, through their conduct, they may bear responsibility’ said Susan Lee, Amnesty International’s Americas Program Director.”

The Colombian government responded to the report’s accusations via Interior Minister Carlos Holguín who emphasized the “substantial reduction” in assassinations and murder attempts against labor union members.

Sources (English)- BBC News, Amnesty International

Source (Spanish)- El Tiempo

Image- US/LEAP (2005 protest by labor unions in Bogotá, Colombia)

Happy birthday Frida Kahlo!

Today is the birthday of renown Mexican artist Frida Kahlo; she would’ve celebrated her 100th birthday had she been alive (she died in 1954).

Kahlo’s work is being prominently featured in museums around the world:

  • Mexico City’s Palacio de Bellas Artes museum is highlighting an exhibit of nearly 350 pieces of Kahlo’s work.
  • Museums in Philadelphia, San Francisco, and other U.S cities are displaying paintings and related works by Kahlo.
  • Even Kahlo’s home-la Caza Azul- will display items including personal correspondence between her and her lover, artist Diego Rivera.

Undoubtedly, Kahlo is still viewed as one of the 20th century’s preeminent artists and the breadth of her work has been even more appreciated since the 2002 film “Frida” starring Salma Hayek. Kahlo’s work provides a keenly introspective look at herself as well as her Mexican heritage. Surely her work will be enjoyed for many decades more.

Image- BBC News (“The Two Fridas” by Frida Kahlo)

Source (Spanish)- El Diario/La Prensa

Sources (English)- IMDB.com, Wikipedia, Scotsman, International Herald Tribune

Live Earth concert in Brazil will go as planned

A Brazilian judge reversed his own order and will allow Saturday’s Live Earth concert in Rio de Janeiro to go on as planned. Denise Tarin had said on Tuesday that the concert would be cancelled due to security concerns, yet he relented yesterday.

The Live Earth concerts will be taking place tomorrow over 24 hours at several venues worldwide including London, Johannesburg, and New Jersey but only the Rio gig will have free admission.

Macy Gray, Jorge Benjor, Pharell Williams, and Lenny Kravitz are expected to perform at the Rio concert.

Sources- Voice of America, VivirLatino, Guardian UK, BBC News

Image- Guardian UK


Daily Headlines: July 06, 2007

* Rice is nice, except when it’s "unfit even for animal consumption” and shipped as foreign aid to Haiti.

* Coming soon to Brazilian television – Brazil’s Next Top Model.”

* Trial just started against an Argentine Roman Catholic Priest accused of being involved in “Dirty War” killings.

* Follow-up #1: Several million Colombians participated in marches yesterday in solidarity with kidnapping victims and against violence.

* Follow-up #2: Rescuers called off search efforts in Puebla, Mexico after 32 bodies were recovered from a bus buried by a landslide.

Sources- Taipei Times, Buddy TV, BBC News, The Latin Americanist, Monsters & Critics, CNN

Image- Appon’s Thai Food

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Quote of the Day: Manuel Rosales – amateur psychologist?

“If we analyze (Hugo) Chavez’ thought process…we must come to the conclusion that, being someone with violent thoughts and obsessed by death…he must be more careful with his actions”

--Venezuelan opposition leader Manuel Rosales discuses about president Hugo Chavez.

Rosales- who lost in last year’s presidential election to Chavez- made the remarks on Wednesday during a conference.

Source (Spanish)- El Diario/La Prensa

Source (English)- The Latin Americanist

Image- MSNBC

Copa America vids: Adios Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, and U.S.!

Despite there being one more group game to go, all the quarterfinalists in this year’s Copa America have been defined. Peru, Chile, Uruguay, and Brazil will move on along with Mexico, Paraguay, Argentina, and host country Venezuela. Thus tonight’s matches in Group C are practically moot with Paraguay facing Argentina to see who will in the group and the U.S. will play Colombia in a swan song for both squads. (Bummer!)

Here are the links to YouTube videos of the matches played on Tuesday and Wednesday:

--The following is Claudio Pizarro’s game-tying goal with less than five minutes to play against Bolivia. Besides watching the well-executed free kick, listen to the Peruvian TV commentators scream with joy (video link):

Source- YouTube

Report: Repression in Cuba continues

A report released today by a human rights group says that repression of political opponents in Cuba remains widespread while Raul Castro has led the island. The report from the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation also concluded that there has been a decrease in political prisoners since Fidel Castro ceded power to Raul nearly a year ago.

The report also said that the prison complex run by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay is the only prison in Cuba “under permanent scrutiny”, yet should be shut down immediately.

Sources (English)- Guardian UK, Reuters Canada, The Latin Americanist

Source (Spanish)- El Diario/La Prensa

Image- iisd.net

Colombia: Mass protests against kidnappings and violence

Hundreds of thousands of Colombians have taken to the streets in government-led protests calling for the liberation of kidnapping victims held hostage by the FARC rebel group. In the capital of Bogota, President Alvaro Uribe headed the march while wearing a shirt saying “Freedom Without Conditions, Now!”, while acclaimed singer Juanes took part in a march in Medellin.

Yesterday the FARC released a “proof of life'” video with several hostages asking for the government and rebels to negotiate. Colombians were outraged last week when a FARC communiqué revealed the deaths of eleven regional legislators who had been held captive for over five years.

Sources (English)- Guardian UK, BBC News, Bloomberg

Source (Spanish)- RCN

Image- El Tiempo (Approximately 100,000 protestors gathered in Cali’s main plaza earlier today)


Brazil to receive discounted anti-AIDS medicine

Brazil’s government and U.S. drug manufacturer Abbott Laboratories reached a deal that would discount a vital anti-AIDS medicine. The drug- Kaletra- will be sold for 68 cents per unit next year instead of $1.04 per unit, and the move is expected to save Brazil’s government nearly $11.5 million yearly.

Brazil has provided free AIDS treatment to its citizens since 1997 and the country’s Health Minister- Jose Temporao- praised Abbott for its willingness to offer Kaletra (image) at a cheaper price:

“Abbott created a positive atmosphere of discussion and cooperation with the government, which allowed us to reach an agreement. Other laboratories should follow Abbott's example.”

This is not the first time Abbott has agreed to cut the price of Kaletra; in 2005, Brazil and Abbott agreed to lower the price of Kaletra by almost 50%. Two months ago, Brazil broke the patent for an anti-AIDS drug sold by Merck and instead opted to sell a cheaper generic version.

Sources- Reuters, BBC News, Boston.com, Bloomberg, The Latin Americanist

Image- aegis.com

Mexico: Landslide buries dozens in bus

There is little hope that survivors will be found after a landslide yesterday buried a bus with approximately forty to sixty passengers. The governor of Puebla said this morning that so far fourteen dead bodies were found in the front part of the bus. Over five hundred people have joined in the rescue efforts despite the risk of another landslide occurring in the area.

Sources (English)- Guardian UK, Xinhua

Sources (Spanish)- El Universal, Sol de Mexico

Image- Milenio

Daily Headlines: July 05, 2007

* Venezuela agreed to sell gasoline to Iran after the heads of state for both countries met in Tehran earlier this week.

* “In terms of a short term response, it is quite remarkable how Cuba, under its economic conditions, managed to solve (their energy) crisis,” declared a U.N. official yesterday.

* Poachers are believed to be behind the deaths of eight endangered tortoises on the Galapagos Islands.

* U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza said that he will not quit his post to run for governor of Texas.

* Striking Bolivian miners refused to negotiate with the government.

* Follow-up: In a close final vote in Guatemala City yesterday, Sochi, Russia was selected as the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Sources- CNN, International Herald Tribune, Houston Chronicle, Reuters AlertNet, The Latin Americanist, Canada.com

Image- BBC News (Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez meets with his Iranian counterpart, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, earlier this week)

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Weekly Debate: El Sueño Americano

Today being Independence Day in the U.S. I ponder about the idea of the “American Dream.” From a personal standpoint, I think back at the stories my dad used to tell me when I was a child regarding the ups and downs of leaving his family behind in Colombia, immigrating to New York, and trying to acclimate to a new culture. One of the main things he would emphasize in his anecdotes was that the main reason he left for the States was to provide the “American Dream” for his children and grandchildren. This notion has served as a strong impetus for my brothers and I, and we hope to fulfill it. This hope and faith is something I see with first- and second-generation American friends of mine, though making it is not always the case.

Is the “American Dream” a realistic concept or just a pipe dream? If it does exist, will future generations have an easier or more difficult time obtaining the “dream”? If it’s a myth, then why bother discussing it?

So what do you think?

Give your opinion either by commenting to this post or by voting on the poll located on the sidebar.

Source- Wikipedia

Quote of the Day: National pride

“She was moved to tears... She commented about how much she loved this country.”

--Matthew Kolken, the attorney for Yaderlin Hiraldo Jimenez.

Last week, Jimenez- whose husband is a U.S. soldier missing in Iraq- received a green card and legal residency status from immigration authorities. She had previously been threatened with being deported and kept out of the U.S. for a decade due to her status as an illegal immigrant before government officials recanted.

Image- Bostonist (U.S. army soldier Alex Jimenez has been classified as “missing/captured” in Iraq)

Sources- Guardian UK, AHN

Daily Headlines: July 04, 2007

* Follow-up: Remember the incredibly shrinking Chilean lake? Scientists believe that global warming is to blame for its disappearance.

* Mexico’s Carlos Slim: world’s wealthiest man.

* Colombian guerilla group FARC released a video showing several hostages.

* The pitfalls of the U.S. asylum system have hurt the Haitian community, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

* Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is caught in a bit of a problem after confessing to being in a relationship with a reporter while divorcing his wife.

* Osvaldo Romo died in jail earlier today; he was one of the main members of Chile’s intelligence/torture operations during Augusto Pinochet’s rule.

Sources- BBC News, The Latin Americanist, Guardian UK, Christian Science Monitor, Yahoo! News

Image- International Herald Tribune (According to the caption “Large pieces of ice and some areas with water at the bottom of a lake in southern Chile that was discovered dried up in late May. Experts believe water flowed to a nearby fiord through a hole in a glacier at the northern end of the lake.”)

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Quote of the Day: From beignets to chilaquiles

“It's better than Taco Bell. I can tell you that.”

--New Orleans resident Michael Gould.

Since being hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, New Orleans has seen a massive influx of Hispanics who bring several changes to the area like lunch trucks serving Mexican and Central American cuisine.

Sources- Yahoo! News

Image- In These Times (A pair of immigrants work on a construction project in New Orleans)

Copa America: Mexico, Paraguay, Argentina, Venezuela move on

Four teams- Mexico, Paraguay, Argentina, and Venezuela- will move on to the quarterfinals of the Copa America despite there being only one group game remaining. The remaining four spots are mathematically up for grabs by the remaining eight squads though the best odds are for Uruguay and Peru (Group A) as well as Brazil and Chile (Group B).

Group A will be decided tonight as Peru faces Bolivia, then Venezuela versus Uruguay.

Click on the links below to check out video highlights of this weekend’s games:

Sources- Bloomberg, Soccerway, YouTube

Image- Gulf Times (Mexico’s Omar Bravo runs to celebrate his goal against Ecuador on Sunday night)

Guatemala site of major Olympics announcement

Guatemala City is serving as the site of a reunion being attended by several heads of state like Russia’s Vladimir Putin, but it’s not a political summit or economic negotiations. Rather, it will be from there that the winning city of the 2014 Winter Olympics will be announced on Wednesday.

The winning bid will be chosen from three finalists, none of which are from the Americas: Sochi, Russia, Salzburg, Austria, and Pyeongchang, South Korea. According to one source, the main issue will be choosing between economics and sports:

“Russian deputy prime minister Alexander Zhukov said that the massive bid costs estimated at more than 40 million dollars (almost 30 million euros) were no problem because "we see it as an economic bid.”

At the low end of the spectrum is the Austria's Salzburg, whose estimated 13 million dollars for the bid is modest…The Austrians say they have what money can't buy: a beautiful alpine setting, venues which have seen hundreds of World Cup events and major championships, and a long tradition as a passionate winter sport nation.”

Of the three final bids only Austria has previously hosted a Winter Olympics (Innsbruck in 1964 and 1976).

Sources- ESPN, Reuters, Jumalo, Wikipedia

Image- ESPN (According to the photo’s caption “Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer greets students at an Austrian school in Guatemala City, Monday, July 2, 2007)

Immigrants caught in green card limbo

In the wake of the defeat of a compromise immigration reform bill last week, Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff observed that the next step is to enforce the laws currently on the books.

But what happens if those laws are flawed?

Case in point: yesterday the government abruptly issued an edict barring new applications to obtain green cards until October 1st. the State Department said that a massive backlog exists with visa applications, but immigration lawyers believe that the government’s decision does more harm than good:

"There are people who flew to the United States so they could apply and had their families fly back. They paid attorney fees," (Crystal Williams, associate director for programs at the American Immigration Lawyers Association) said… Williams said several workers within Citizenship and Immigration Services told her and other lawyers that the agency had staffers working through the weekend to resolve pending cases…A spokeswoman for Citizenship and Immigration Services, denied the weekend work occurred or that there was a push to use up the visa numbers.”

This is not the first time the State Department has suddenly changed rules regarding immigration; last month travelers were confused over modifications to passport requirements.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Christian Science Monitor, Yahoo! News

Image- WVVA

Modern-day slavery in Brazil

Officially, slavery in Brazil was abolished in 1888 yet that has not prevented forced labor from continuing on ranches and plantations especially in the northern rural parts of this country. Thousands of Brazilians face inhumane living and working conditions laboring over products that are usually exported abroad:

“(Former laborer Jose) Silva was a modern slave, working with 46 other men and a boy to clear jungle with machetes, chain saws and tractors from sunup to sundown in the tropical heat, seven days a week, for no money. He and the others got one meal a day of rice, beans and a little chicken or beef, which they were made to eat standing up to discourage resting. There were no toilets or latrines at the workers' camp, only bushes.”

Brazilian president Inacio Lula da Silva vowed to eradicate forced labor and this has led to several crackdowns. In 2005, over 1000 workers were found abused and mistreated on a plantation in Mato Grosso, while authorities said yesterday that anti-slavery officers freed approximately 1100 workers from a sugar cane plantation owned by the country’s biggest ethanol producer.

Despite government efforts the problem of modern-day slavery in Brazil continues without a plausible end in sight:

“Frei Henri des Roziers, a French Dominican who has worked in the region for more than 30 years and has frequently received death threats from landowners, says this is not enough.

‘If they think that only a small minority is committing this kind of crime, why do they not denounce these people openly - I've never heard any of the landowner organizations saying anything of the sort…If these workers have no possibility of leaving, if they are prevented from doing so by armed guards, if they live in miserable conditions, and if they are charged more than they earn, then that to me is slavery,’ he says.

‘And they return to these jobs because there is absolutely nothing else they can do in the region,’ insists the friar.”

Sources- Wikipedia, mongabay.com, International Herald Tribune, Reuters AlertNet, BBC News

Image- BBC News

Mexico’s next reform – drug testing in schools

Last week we mentioned that Mexico’s government is planning to institute a “trust test” to police officers as part of a series of reforms by President Felipe Calderon. Yesterday Calderon proposed a new measure that would bring drug testing for public school students. The pilot program would run in 8000 schools and Calderon assured that the testing would need parental consent and would not “punish students.”

The testing is a part of the government’s anti-drug campaign called “Clean Up Mexico!” which was praised by an editorial in Mexican newspaper El Universal:

”The ‘Clean Up Mexico!’ program is made up of a recuperation program, another of safe schools, and yet another of attention towards addicts and mental health. Clearly, the action does not give the impression of being repressive but we must be attentive that it does not occur. Addicts will be attended to and rehabilitated, not punished.”

Sources (English)- The Latin Americanist, Yahoo! News

Sources (Spanish)- Nuevo Excelsior, El Universal

Image- The Global Perspective

Daily Headlines: July 03, 2007

* Congrats to 105-year-old Jose Temprana (image), a Cuban exile who became a nationalized U.S. citizen last week.

* Could Peru’s Machu Picchu be one of the new Severn Wonders of the World?

* The residents of a Guatemalan village rioted over the supposed kidnapping of two children.

* The European Union and several Central American states will begin free trade negotiations this fall.

* Follow-up: Pope Benedict XVI condemned the deaths of eleven Colombian legislators held captive by leftist rebels.

Sources- Globe and Mail, Living in Peru, Yahoo! News, The Latin Americanist, International Herald Tribune

Image- USA TODAY

Monday, July 2, 2007

Daily Headlines: July 02, 2007

* Answer: $3 million. Question: What will be the cost to fix a 1.5-mile barrier inadvertently built along the Mexican side of the U.S.’ southern border?

* Could Argentina’s next president be the current First Lady? Nestor Kirchner hopes so after he said that he would not seek reelection.

* Republican presidential hopeful Fred Thompson is backtracking from remarks suggesting that illegal immigrants from Cuba pose a terrorist threat.

* Melgar, ColombiaPopular resort town, tourist destination, and now a place to avoid according to the U.S. Embassy.

* A U.S. firm purchased the rights to a wind farm in Baja California, Mexico whose energy will be exported to California.

* A study concluded that Sao Paulo’s stock exchange is the largest in Latin America.

* Follow-up #1: Remember this quote over Africa being "under attack” by the drug trade from the Americas? Several drug traffickers from three South American countries were arrested after more than 1.25 tons of cocaine was seized in Senegal.

* Follow-up #2: As one might expect after being the target of numerous assassination attempts, Fidel Castro ain’t a happy camper.

Sources- People’s Daily Online, Boston Herald, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Yahoo! News, The Latin Americanist, Guardian UK, SignOnSanDiego.com, People’s Daily Online, BBC News

Image- sandiego.edu (Tijuana border checkpoint, circa 1950)