Friday, July 13, 2007

Quote of the Day: Let the Games begin!

"This will leave a tremendous legacy for Rio not just for the 16 days of competition, but for decades to come, for many generations who will benefit from this legacy. And I think in this aspect is it socially warranted and responsible."
--International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge on the Pan American Games which open today Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Problems have emerged such as insufficient bathrooms at some venues and three athletes suspended for drug use. Yet over $2 billion has been invested in security, infrastructural improvements, and other areas to ensure that the Games are a success.

Sources-
Voice of America, BBC News, International Herald Tribune, MSNBC

Image- 680 News

Bloggers of the world unite and take over

Image- All aboard Mexico City’s “Fridabús”! (Via VivirLatino)

Sources- VivirLatino, Hispanic Tips, Chileno, Latina Lista, The Latin Americanist, Plan Colombia and Beyond , Babulu Blog, Beautiful Horizons, Two Weeks Notice, Deadspin, Wikipedia, Bloggings by Boz, Chile from Within, YouTube

Worry in Americas over decrease in remittances

Remittances are a vital source of income throughout Latin America and the Caribbean; they outnumber all foreign aid and direct investment into the region and totaled more than $60 billion last year alone. However, economists are worried over the impact of a recent slowdown in money transfers to the region:

“Remittances will definitely suffer a slowdown. We cannot depend only on remittances. We must increase our productive base, especially our exports," Honduras' central bank president, Gabriela Nunez, told Reuters this week.”

The development is nothing new, mind you; last May we said that the Inter-American Development Bank noted a decrease in money transfers in the beginning of the year. However, the slowdown in remittances can be traced to two very closely related factors - stronger anti-immigrant measures and a housing slump in the U.S.:

“Some data watchers think Latin America may be footing the bill…“It appears that job losses among undocumented workers, principally from Mexico and other Latin American countries, have been serving as a buffer against job losses by resident or documented U.S. workers," Deutsche Bank economist Peter Hooper and his colleagues wrote in a recent report.”

If the trend continues then several countries could face serious economic problems. This seems to lend credence to a post we published last year on the region relying too much on money transfers.

Sources- BBC News, Wikipedia, Reuters, The Latin Americanist

Image- Overseas Development Institute

Mexico: Ex-president exonerated of 1968 massacre

A Mexican federal court halted the trial against former Mexican president Luis Echevarria over his role in the infamous Tlateloco massacre. “My client was the victim of political persecution” said Echevarria’s attorney who also blasted ex-president Vicente Fox for creating a special judicial commission which brought up charges against Echevarria.

Echevarria was Interior Minister at the time of the 1968 massacre where hundreds (if not thousands) of unarmed protestors were murdered by military officers. Mexico carried its own “dirty war” against leftists during his time as president between 1970 and 1976.

Several days ago an architect claimed that the bodies of three students killed during the Tlateloco massacre were secretly buried under a Mexico City hospital.

Image- Jornada (According to the caption: “Tlateloco’s dead in an ambulance. ‘Those bodies are giving a bad image, toss them underneath the plaza’ ordered a official to a soldier”)

Source (Spanish)- El Diario/La Prensa

Sources (English)- BBC News, Wikipedia, The National Security Archive, International Herald Tribune

Copa America vid: Fallin’ for Messi

In anticipation of this Sunday’s Copa America final between Argentina and Brazil we present to you how one fan fell head over heels for Argie wunderkind Lionel Messi. (video link):

(Hat tip: Who Ate All the Pies?)

Sources- Who Ate All the Pies?, YouTube, Reuters India

Daily Headlines: July 13, 2007

* Striking miners in Bolivia reached a tentative agreement with the government.

* Microinsurance plans may help thousands of Mexicans get out of poverty.

* Haitian jails are dangerously overcrowded and conditions are “inhuman” according to prison officials.

* Eager to maintain some presence in Central America, Taiwan will donate $30 million to Nicaragua.

Sources- People’s Daily Online, Christian Science Monitor, Caribbean Net News, international Herald Tribune, Monsters & Critics

Image- BBC News

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Quote of the Day: Cristina Kirchner’s weather forecast

"The horizon holds some clouds for her. In the short term, everything seems sunny. But the forecast has to be that of a high probability of storm clouds, especially if the economic situation stagnates."

--Graciela Romer, Argentine political analyst commented on Cristina Kirchner.

Kirchner- congresswoman and wife of president Nestor Kirchner- has been thrust onto the spotlight after he announced that she would run for the presidency. Despite being constantly compared to Hillary Clinton, Cristina’s time as First Lady differs from Hillary.

Sources- BBC News, Slate, MSNBC, International Herald Tribune

Image- Clarin (Cristina Kirchner, on the left, met in 2005 with Chilean president Michelle Bachelet)

Hispanics claim to be target of Virginia anti-immigrant resolution

Legislators in Prince William County, Virginia passed a strict anti-immigrant resolution which has been viewed by critics as targeting people of Hispanic background. “The ordinance has shown a complete failure of understanding an immigrant community as diverse as the open in Prince William County” said a political analyst for the National Council of la Raza. One resident expressed a more personal worry:

"How are we supposed to survive here?" asked Gregorio Calderón, a legal U.S. resident from El Salvador who said he worries that police will harass him because of his ethnicity. "They're going to pull me over just for being Hispanic."

The resolution will attempt to deny government services to illegal immigrants including emergency medical care and access to public libraries though it is a slightly weaker version of the original proposal. (That would’ve forced officers verify the immigration status of every person they stopped and requested Homeland Security to deputize cops so they can enforce federal immigration laws). Yet criticism of the stripped-down version of the ordinance came from the county’s police chief who deemed the measure as stigmatizing the area “as a racist community intent on driving out a single population.”

Prince William County joins several other communities in states like Pennsylvania and New Jersey that have passed anti-immigrant resolutions.

Source (Spanish)- El Diario/La Prensa

Sources (English)- Washington Post, USA TODAY – On Deadline, Forbes, Newark Star-Ledger

Image- USA TODAY – On Deadline (Large crowds were drawn to yesterday’s hearing in PrinceWilliam County, Virginia)

Venezuela: RCTV to transmit on cable TV

Marcel Granier- owner of Radio Caracas TV (RCTV)- said that the network will air domestically on cable TV starting this Monday. "Venezuelans want RCTV and they will have it," said Granier though RCTV programming has been available via YouTube and from Colombian network Caracol.

In response to Grenier’s comments, Venezuelan Ambassador to the European Union Alejandro Fleming said that RCTV had been lying over having been shutdown last May. "RCTV did not leave Venezuela, it has remained in Venezuela growing and airing through multiple signals. Its nationwide coverage will be at the same level as before, and it will be extended abroad," said Fleming yesterday.

In the meantime, RCTV has continued its appeal to Venezuela's Supreme Court over having not having its broadcasting license resumed by the government.

Source (Spanish)- El Tiempo

Sources (English)- BBC News, The Latin Americanist, El Universal, International Herald Tribune

Image- Tal Cual (Crowds protested in Caracas over RCTV’s “shutdown” in May)

Colombia: President’s cousin investigated for paramilitary links

Colombia's Supreme Court stared an investigation against a cousin of President Alvaro Uribe over alleged links to right-wing paramilitary groups. Senator Mario Uribe (image)- who is also head of a political party loyal to the president- was signaled as having met and allied with the paramilitaries according to former leaders.

The “para-politics" scandal has been a massive thorn in the side of president Uribe and his allies. Approximately a month ago, the president was caught on video meeting with a former paramilitary leader, while the government recently admitted that thousands of demobilized paramilitary members have formed new criminal groups.

Source (Spanish)- El Tiempo

Sources (English)- Canada.com, The Latin Americanist, International Herald Tribune

Image- El Colombiano


Copa America vids: Argies shutout “el Tri” on the way to the final

Make that nine wins out of ten. Los albicelestes are on their way to the Copa America finals after beating Mexico 3-0 last night.

For approximately 44 minutes both Argentina and Mexico were evenly matched yet it was all Argies after opening the score with a volley by Gabriel Heinze at the stroke of halftime. Argentina followed with second half strikes from Lionel Messi and Juan Roman Riquelme as el Tri was outplayed despite a good run in the tourney.

--All three argentine goals were absolutely splendid and things of beauty and can be seen in the following video from argentine TV (video link):

--Argentina will face Brazil in Sunday’s final in Maracaibo. It will be a rematch of the previous Copa America final in 2004 which was one by Brazil via a penalty shootout (video link):

In other Copa America news:

Sources- NDTV, The Latin Americanist, BBC News, International Herald Tribune, YouTube, Christian Science Monitor, Guardian UK, ESPN Soccernet

Daily Headlines: July 11, 2007

* The multiple facets of race in Brazil, according to a commentary in today’s Guardian UK.

* Scandal in Ecuador as the parents of a pair of recently reunited identical twins is suing the doctors who separated them fifteen years ago.

* The lawyer for ex-Panamanian ruler Manuel Noriega said that his client must return to Panama upon release from a U.S. jail in September.

* Canada and Brazil may come together for biofuel production in Haiti.

* Follow-up: Several factories owned by multinational groups in western Mexico shutdown yesterday after another pipeline explosion supposedly by a small guerilla faction.

Sources- Guardian UK, Reuters, The Latin Americanist, CNN, CTV.ca, BBC News

Image- latinamericanstudies.org (Brazilian high school students in a classroom)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Quote of the Day: Bill Richardson’s verbal faux pas

“I believe that Bernard, yes – he’s a faggot if he thinks that I am not Hispanic.”

--Remarks by presidential candidate Bill Richardson on the “Imus in the Morning” radio program in March 2006.

Richardson is trying to backtrack from those comments and recently issued an apology.

Conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan and not-so-conservative blogger (and The Latin Americanist contributor) Maegan la Mala each give their two cents on the issue.

Image- NHPR (Bill Richardson on new Hampshire Public Radio in 2007)

Sources- USA TODAY – On Politics, Andrew Sullivan – The Daily Dish, Vivirlatino

Chilean judge rejects Fujimori extradition request

Chilean Supreme Court Judge Orlando Alvarez ruled against extraditing former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori to Peru. Lawyers for the Peruvian government said that they would immediately appeal Alvarez’ decision on the "weak" evidence accusing Fujimori of corruption and human rights abuses.

Last month, Fujimori (image) was placed under house arrest and he has been detained in Chile for about two years since he retuned from a self-imposed exile in Japan.

A family member of one of the victims from the 1992 La Cantuta massacre (which Fujimori has been accused as the mastermind) said that:

“Judge Alvarez’ ruling comes from pressure by the Japanese government, and the Chilean government does not want to fight (with Tokyo) over a case regarding Peru”.

Source (Spanish)- La Republica

Sources (English)- The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg, International Herald Tribune, Wikipedia

Image- Javno

Copa America vids: Brazil squeaks past Uruguay into the finals

--After the four quarterfinal winners- Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and Uruguay- outscored their opponents 21-2, it seemed fair that the first semifinal end in an evenly matched affair. That’s precisely what happened last night as Brazil edged Uruguay via a penalty shootout after ending regular time tied 2-2. Two was the operative number yesterday as los charruas came from behind twice in an exciting match from steamy Maracaibo, but also missed two times in the penalty shootout (video link):

--Brazil awaits the winner of tonight’s match between Mexico and Argentina. Despite Argentina's favorable record in the series, (8 wins in 9 games), the match is expected to be another hard-fought, thrilling scrap between both sides. Tonight will be the fourth consecutive year that these teams will meet in an international tournament and the first since their 2006 World Cup match that was won by this majestic strike from Maxi Rodriguez (video link):

Sources- FOX Sports, BBC News, International Herald Tribune, Los Angeles Daily News, Bloomberg, YouTube, Guardian UK, Xinhua

Poll: U.S. not ready for a Hispanic president

A poll conducted earlier this month and published in Newsweek showed that only 39% believe that the U.S. is ready for a Hispanic president. This stands in contrast to majorities of 59% and 58% who feel that the country would embrace an African-American or female president, respectably. However, over four of every five respondents said that they would vote for a Hispanic candidate if nominated by the political party they are inclined towards.

While this may seem like bad news for Bill Richardson (image), for the most part his campaign rhetoric has downplayed his Hispanic background.

(Hat tip: Hispanic Tips).

Sources- Angus Reid Global Consultants, TIME, Hispanic Tips

Image- Salon

Mel Gibson meets Oscar Arias over possible donation

Mel Gibson took time away from yelling at Central American studies professors to meet with Costa Rican president Oscar Arias on Monday (image). Gibson- whose previous experience with Central America also includes the 2006 film Apocalypto- discussed a possible financial pledge to Costa Rican natives and told reporters that he brought a house on the country's Pacific coast.

Last word on the story goes to celeb blog Defamer:

“We imagine Gibson's new Costa Rican neighbors will be eager to pitch projects to the high-profile resident and benefactor. Still, aspiring local screenwriters may be disappointed to learn…that the last thing Gibson is interested in exploring is "a native Costa Rican take on What Women Want," having his heart set instead on a 9-page treatment outlining a 90-minute, real-time flaying to death of a single Indian by Spanish Conquistadors.”

Sources- Defamer, The Latin Americanist, IMDB, MSNBC

Image- USA TODAY

Mixed results for Americas in World Bank report

Latin American countries are either improving or failing in their governance according to a report released by the World Bank. Despite little change in average global governance the report praised Chile whose rating nearly equaled that of the U.S. Also, the report noted Colombia has having improved significantly, and high marks for Costa Rica and Uruguay in several categories.

On the other hand, the report claimed that Venezuela and Bolivia have undergone “significant declines” in governance, thus echoing comments by then-nominee for the World Bank presidency Robert Zoellick.

The World Bank’s “Worldwide Governance Indicators report can be read here (as a PDF document).

Sources- Guardian UK, International Herald Tribune, World Bank, The Latin Americanist

Image- Beerkens’ Blog

U.S. gov’t rejects Cuban elections

The Bush administration rejected Cuban leader Raul Castro’s decision to hold elections for the National Assembly in late October. Despite Raul’s comments several months ago on a change of leadership on the island, State Department spokesman Tom Casey doubted that the elections would be “free and fair”:

“If Castro-lite, meaning Raul Castro (image), wants to hold elections-lite, meaning the kind that they have held in the past -- single party elections that don't allow the people to have a choice and only allow them to ratify the rule of the current dictatorship -- whether its Fidel Castro's name that is on top of the ballot or Raul Castro's doesn't really matter much.”

Reuters deemed the National Assembly as “a rubber-stamp parliament which meets only twice a year for a day or so,” though the more vital issue is whether or not the electoral process indicates a political transition away from the ailing Fidel Castro.

Sources- Caribbean Net News, Earthtimes.org, New Zealand Herald, IOL, The Latin Americanist

Image- BBC News

Daily Headlines: July 11, 2007

Hooray! It's our 2000th post!!!

* Follow-up: Now that Peru’s Machu Picchu (image) is one of the world’s new "seven wonders", tourism officials will increase the fees to visit the site.

* Want to have a pro-immigration rally in Bridgeton, New Jersey? Try paying $1500.

* Venezuela’s government will create a special anti-drug police force.

* Guatemala’s only train service will shutdown in September due to problems with the government.

* A U.S. federal judge sentenced a sports agent to five years in jail for smuggling baseball players out of Cuba.

Sources (English)- The Latin Americanist, International Herald Tribune, Forbes, MSNBC

Sources (Spanish)- Clarin, El Diario/La Prensa

Image- NASA

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Video of the Day: Snowing in Buenos Aires

The following YouTube video shows Monday’s historic snowfall in the Buenos Aires area (video link):

It was the first major snowfall in Buenos Aires since 1918, and was part of a cold wave affecting several South American countries.

Sources- YouTube, Guardian UK, BBC News

Follow-up: Record attendance at Live Earth Rio concert

Remember a few days ago how we mentioned that a Brazilian prosecutor temporarily pulled the plug on last Saturday’s Live Earth concert in Rio de Janeiro over security concerns?

Take a guess as to what happened:

“More than 400,000 people packed Copacabana Beach on Saturday for South America's Live Earth concert, waving Brazilian flags and dancing at the global music festival's only free concert to raise awareness about climate change.

There were no immediate reports of violence after a prosecutor tried twice this week to shut down the event, saying authorities would be unable to provide adequate security for an expected crowd of 700,000, police Col. Ricardo Pacheco said.”

Several well-known musicians shared the stage of the free Live Earth Rio gig including Macy Gray, Lenny Kravitz, Jota Quest, and Jorge Ben Gor.

(Hat tip: Latina Viva).

Sources- The Latin Americanist, International Herald Tribune, Latina Viva

Image- Monsters & Critics (The Police performed at one of the Live Earth concerts last Saturday in New Jersey)

Mexico: Could rebels be behind pipeline blasts?

Mexican authorities are investigating the claim made by “a small, leftist rebel group” regarding explosions at several energy pipelines. A statement from the “People’s Revolutionary Army” (EPR) claimed responsibility for several blasts over the past week, including one earlier today which caused the shutdown of an oil pipeline run by government-controlled firm PEMEX.

A 1998 article from France’s Le Monde Diplomatique sheds some light on the EPR:

“Born in the 1960s, this very secretive Maoist-oriented organization "has more than a bad reputation", in the words of Enrique Avila in Mexico City, one of the leaders of the Zapatista National Liberation Front (FZLN) formed in civilian society at the instigation of Subcommandante Marcos.

On 30 August 1996 the EPR went on the offensive in seven of the country’s states…At the end of October, there was a renewed campaign killing about ten members of the security forces. Sporadic actions followed…In early 1998, a guerrilla spokesman, "Manuel", admitted that they were just at a stage of self-defense.”

Sources- Le Monde Diplomatique, Washington Post, Reuters

Image- Periodista Digital


Follow-up: Mistrial declared in “Simon Trinidad” case

In today’s “Daily Headlines” post we mentioned that a U.S. jury convicted a Colombian guerilla leader on kidnapping charges. Yet that same jury earlier today declared a mistrial on terrorism charges against Ricardo Palmera, a.k.a. “Simon Trinidad.” In doing so, the jury was unsure if Palmera was directly involved in the kidnapping of three U.S. contractors in 2003, though yesterday’s conviction did find him guilty of being the mastermind of that kidnapping.

Palmera will soon face trial over drug charges relating to his time in charge of the guerilla faction known as the FARC.

Sources- Guardian UK, The Latin Americanist

Image- BBC News

C. American pesticide victims seeks justice

For several decades, U.S. pesticide companies sold chemicals that had been banned in the U.S. to undeveloped countries. Such was the case in Central America where plantation workers suffered the ill effects of using dangerous substances.

Today jury selection in Los Angeles commenced on a landmark case brought up by thirty Nicaraguan laborers who claim that they became severely sick after having worked with a pesticide known as DBCP. A spokesman for one of the defendants- Dow Chemical- said that no scientific studies have found that DBCP causes sterility. Yet according to the Environmental protection Agency’s website:

“(DBCP) was used as a fumigant on more than 40 different crops in the U.S. until it was largely phased out by 1979.

Long-term exposure to the pesticide causes male reproductive problems, including decreased sperm count, according to the site, which lists DBCP as a ‘probable human carcinogen.’”

A favorable verdict for the plaintiffs would open the door for more claims in the U.S. were penalties are stiffer than in Central America. Yet there exists a strong possibility of a settlement before a verdict is found, much like a case last April regarding DCBP’s effects.

Sources- Yahoo! News, The Latin Americanist

Image- Angry Toxicologist



Daily Headlines: July 10, 2007

* Victor Toro (image)- a well-known New York City community activist and former political prisoner during the Pinochet period- may be deported to Chile.

* Allegations of racism forced the temporary closing of an upscale restaurant in Lima, Peru.

* Citing increased criticism of the conflict in Iraq, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates cancelled a visit of Latin America that was supposed to start today.

* The Colombian guerrilla leader known by the nickname of “Simon Trinidad” was convicted by a U.S. jury on kidnapping charges.

* Follow-up: Nearly a month after Mexico’s government tossed out a legal complaint against the Catholic Church, religious officials are creating a proposal to strengthen the archdiocese’s role in political debates.

Sources- BBC News, International Herald Tribune, The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg, Guardian UK, Newsday

Image- Canal 13 Chile

Monday, July 9, 2007

Quote of the Day: Money down the drain

“I was naive, clumsy. It was a mistake... there could have been negligence but I am sure I haven't committed any crime.”

--Argentine Economy Minister Felisa Miceli.

Miceli attempted to defend herself after police recently found $64,000 stashed in the bathroom of her office.

Image- Guardian International Currency (Argentine 100 peso bill)

Source- BBC News

Poll: Most Colombians prefer hard-line against guerillas

A poll released today showed that nearly 3 in every 5 Colombians in the country’s four main cities back President Alvaro Uribe’s hard-line policy against leftist guerrillas. Over the weekend, Uribe repeated his call to not cede to the rebels’ demands for a demilitarized zone where peace negotiations could take place.

In the meantime, a spokesman for the International Red Cross said that the FARC guerilla group contacted him over the possibility of giving the bodies of eleven regional legislators killed while being held hostage. It was last Thursday when millions of Colombians took to the streets marching against violence and for the liberation of hundreds of kidnap victims.

Sources (Spanish)- El Tiempo, RCN

Sources (English)- MSNBC, The Latin Americanist

Image- RFI en Español

Peruvian, Mexican, Brazilian locales amongst world’s new "wonders"

The winners of an online poll to select a new version of the Seven Wonders of the World was revealed on Saturday and three of them can be found in Latin America. They are:

Over 100 million votes were submitted via text messaging and the internet according to organizers of the poll. Yet spokesmen for UNESCO criticized the list as limited and “sending a negative message” to countries whose sites were not picked such as the Timbuktu, the Eiffel Tower, and the statues on Easter Island.

Sources- Wikipedia, Canada.com, Telegraoh.co.uk, the Australian

Image- New 7 Wonders

Maria Felix’s treasures up for auction

She was one of the most famous Mexican actresses of all time working with the likes of Jorge Negrete and the recently deceased Antonio Aguilar.

She was immortalized in song by Juan Gabriel and in art by Diego Rivera.

She was a diva granted the nickname of La Doña (The Grand Dame).

She was Maria Felix (image).

Next week, New York auction house Christie’s will have a public sale of over six hundred items from the late Felix’s estate. Amongst the many pieces of jewelry, fashion, and antiques Christie’s will auction off:

  • A surrealist portrait of Felix valued at over $600,000
  • An ivory cocktail dress created by Christian Dior
  • Several pieces of jewelry she designed for Cartier

Some of the proceeds of the auction will go to charitable causes like the Mexican Red Cross.

Sources- Wikipedia, The Latin Americanist, The New Yorker, Guardian UK

Image- am.com.mx

Daily Headlines: July 09, 2007

* A severe blow was dealt to the impetus behind a strict anti-immigrant law in Hazleton, Pennsylvania when homicide charges were dropped against two Dominicans (image).

* The failed promise of Salvadoran sweatshop being transformed into a unionized factory run by laborers – this is the story of Just Garments.

* Days before the start of the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, the United States Olympic Committee apologized for a not-so-smart joke comparing Brazil “to the Congo!”

* Pope Benedict XVI said that he will sanctify an Argentine lay worker and a Venezuelan nun.

Source (Spanish)- El Diario/La Prensa

Source (English)- International Herald Tribune, Baltimore Sun, MSNBC

Image- Wilkes Barre Times-Leader