Saturday, July 28, 2007

Video of the Day: Joe Vasconcellos in concert

Let’s end this week's posts on a high note, shall we? Here’s video of Chilean musician Joe Vasconcellos in a 2005 concert singing his song “N’Olviden” which he dedicated to his country’s Mapuche natives (video link):

Sources- joevasconcellos.com, YouTube

Quote of the Day: Latin American views on the free market

“People are backing the idea that the market does still embody a sense of aspiration, entrepreneurship, and access. The idea that there are two diametrically opposed options, support for the poor and support for free markets, is false.”

---Chris Sabatini, senior director of policy at the Council of the Americas.

Sabatini referred to the results of the Pew Global Attitudes Survey which was released earlier this week.

Yesterday we linked to a blog article from the executive director of the Latin America Working Group Education Fund who gave her conclusions on the survey.

Sources- Bloomberg, The Latin Americanist, Plan Colombia and Beyond

Image- physorg.com

Daily Headlines: July 28, 2007

* Follow-up: Passenger safety will be given more importance than comforts and amenities, declared Brazil’s new head of aviation Nelson Jobim.

* Another opponent to free trade in the AmericasAustralian flower growers.

* The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved a measure to add $3 billion to border security.

* Cuba’s “active” foreign debt grew by almost $2 billion last year according to statistics released by the island’s government.

* “The project is cold,” said Hugo Chavez on the suspension of plans to build a major gas pipeline between Venezuela and Argentina.

Sources- USA TODAY, Guardian UK, Reuters, International Herald Tribune, ABC Rural

Image- tribunadireito.com.br (2005 image of Brazil’s current defense minister Nelson Jobim)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Quote of the Day: The paradox of safety

"The paradox of Colombia is that we have good urban security and good tourism infrastructure while the rural areas are crowded with rebels, paramilitaries and drug smugglers."

--Pablo Casas, analyst at Colombian think tank Security and Democracy.

As Reuters reported, tourism in Colombia has achieved record levels despite ongoing violence between the armed forces and rebel factions.

Source- Reuters

Image- Personal photo (Panoramic view of Bogotá, Colombia during a personal trip in 2005)

Bloggers of the world unite and take over

  • Guanabee - Tom DeLay: immigration and abortion expert. (*sarcasm*)
  • Latina Lista - Speaking of immigration, is it wise of Democratic congressmen to not touch the issue of immigration reform until 2012?!
  • Plan Colombia and Beyond – Guest commentator Lisa Haugaard observed the increasingly unfavorable views In Latin America towards the U.S.
  • Foreign Policy Passport & VivirLatinoBoth blogs had entries earlier this week on a special program where eight U.S. students graduated from medical school in Cuba.
  • Gothamist – Following in the steps of New Haven, Connecticut, a New York City councilman proposed a municipal ID card for all residents regardless of legal status.
  • La Gringa’s Blogicito – Will Honduras ever emerge from the poverty holding most of its people down? One blogger doesn’t think so.
  • Tim’s El Salvador Blog Tim sheds light on an organization working to steer Salvadoran gang members away from a life of crime.
  • IntelliBriefsThe nitty-gritty of political aid from the U.S. to Venezuelan “pro-democracy” groups.
  • Corruption Chronicles - Did the U.S. and Mexican governments conspire behind the scenes in the conviction of two Border Patrol agents?
  • Global Voices OnlineBrazilian bloggers have had plenty to say over the deadly accident of TAM Flight 3054 last week in Sao Paulo.
  • Two Weeks NoticeGreg Weeks informs of a federal court decision striking down an anti-immigrant law in Hazleton, Pennsylvania.
  • Bloggings by Boz This has not been a good week for several political figures in the Americas who have resigned from their posts.
  • Who Ate All the Pies? – Lastly, a soccer blog has video of Argentine star Lionel Messi running circles around opponents and scoring great goals…at the age of five years.

Sources- Plan Colombia and Beyond, Foreign Policy Passport, VivirLatino, Gothamist, Guanabee, La Gringa’s Blogicito, IntelliBriefs, Corruption Chronicles, Two Weeks Notice, Tim’s El Salvador Blog, Latina Lista, Global Voices Online, Bloggings by Boz, Who Ate All the Pies?

Daily Headlines: July 27, 2007

* Visitors to the remote Salar de Uyuni area in southwestern Bolivia may be amazed to find a hotel of salt being built there (image).

* Mexico’s president and Mexico City’s mayor are blaming each other for flooding in the Mexican capital.

* A Guatemalan detective was arrested in the murders of three Salvadoran legislators in February.

* Follow-up: Raul Castro exalted the Cuban resolve against what was “expected by our enemies” during a speech commemorating Revolution Day.

Sources- International Herald Tribune, The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg, National Geographic, Yahoo! News

Image- National Geographic

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Video of the Day: Fidel wants beer

It seems a little far-fetched that there can't be a decent beer in Cuba, but apparently that's the case in this satirical late-1980s ad for a relatively unknown brand of U.S. beer (video link):

Argie first lady isn’t Evita, but what about Hillary?

Argentine first lady and presidential candidate Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has tried to reject any comparisons between her and Evita Peron. “I don't want to inherit anything from Eva or from (husband Nestor) Kirchner. All that I have done has been through my own achievements and even my own mistakes,” said Cristina on Tuesday during a campaign tour in Spain.

There has been a crescendo of comparisons between the current senator and Evita and U.S. presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. Some commentators doubt the links between Christina and Hillary, though this recent clip from Argentine television looks at several possible similarities in their campaigns (video link):

Sources- International Herald Tribune, MSNBC, Telegraph.co.uk, MSNBC, Slate, YouTube

Hackers strike Peruvian gov’t website

This is just too funny.

Pro-Chile hackers attacked the website of Peruvian president Alan Garcia several days ago. The replaced Garcia’s image on the site with that of Chilean independence leader Bernardo O'Higgins and wrote the phrase “Viva Chile, mierda”! (Viva Chile, shit!”)

This is not the first time in recent memory that an unusual pro-Chile protest has taken place; back in March a lady covered only in body paint stood in the fountain of the main square in Lima, Peru. (The incident turned out to be a PR stunt by a Peruvian firm).

Peru and Chile have some resentment against each other due to territorial disagreements stemming from the War of the Pacific in the late 19th-century.

Image- Chemistry Daily (Image of Bernardo O’Higgins)

Sources- Times of India, Living in Peru, onwar.com

Report: More landmines placed by guerillas in Colombia

A report released yesterday by Human Rights Watch (HRW) blames Colombia’s largest leftist guerilla group for an alarming increase in deaths and injuries due to landmines. As an HRW press release on the report points out:

“Antipersonnel landmines are easy to manufacture from cheap, readily available materials. The FARC has invoked the low cost of building them as a justification for their use, calling the landmines the “weapon of the poor.” While the majority of landmine casualties are military, the mines are also injuring hundreds of Colombia’s poorest, most vulnerable citizens every year.

Human Rights Watch’s report also describes the FARC’s use of other weapons, such as gas cylinder bombs, in civilian areas. The bombs are impossible to aim accurately, and regularly hit civilian targets such as houses and churches, injuring or killing civilians. “

Jose Miguel Vivanco- HRW's director for the Americas- has often been in disagreement with the policies of Colombian president Alvaro Uribe. Vivanco remarked yesterday against Uribe’s insinuations that HRW is biased in their accusations against paramilitary groups.

Earlier this week, Vivanco called for authorities in Oaxaca, Mexico to investigate reports of supposed police brutality against anti-government demonstrators.

Sources- Reuters AlertNet, Human Rights Watch, International Herald Tribune

Image- BBC News

Daily Headlines: July 26, 2007

* Coffee chain Starbucks will open its first stores in Argentina and expand operations in Chile.

* Raul Castro, not his ill brother Fidel, will preside over the Cuban government’s Revolution Day speech today.

* Venezuela plans to spend $631 billion in fixing over 60 public hospitals this year.

* The legislature in the Dominican Republic is considering the possibility of decriminalizing some types of abortions.

Sources- SignOnSanDiego.com, International Herald Tribune, Bloomberg, Dominican Today

Image- Answers.com

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Quote of the Day: Heeeeeeeey Hugo!

“Another parrot of imperialism appeared, this time dressed as a cardinal. That's to say, another imperialist clown.”

--Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez had a few choice words for a Honduran Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga. In a recent interview, Maradiaga said that Chavez “thinks he's God and can trample upon other people.”

Sources- SignOnSanDiego.com, International Herald Tribune

Image- Answers.com

McDonalds isn’t lovin’ quarterly loss

Fast food chain McDonalds will post its second quarterly loss ever as a result of selling 1600 restaurants in Latin America and the Caribbean. Though company CEO Jim Skinner emphasized the firm’s “best quarterly comparable sales growth in three years”, McDonalds would have posted a quarterly gain had it not been for selling most of its Latin American restaurants to a “developmental licensee organization”.

Sources- BBC News, Forbes

Image- BusinessWeek


Lula fires defense minister in wake of air crash

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva fired Waldir Pires from his dual post as defense minister and head of the country’s air traffic control as criticism of the government continues in the aftermath of an air crash that officially killed 199 people. For instance, a recent poll shows that only 43% of Sao Paolo residents blamed the government for problems with air travel.

Pires was the head of a chaotic air traffic control system in Brazil over the past few years:

  • An air traffic controllers’ strike in March and April paralyzed almost all flights throughout Brazil.
  • Four air traffic controllers and two U.S. pilots face criminal charges in connection with a September 2006 crash.
  • Hundreds of flights in and out of Sao Paulo were cancelled this week due to similar inclement weather and runway problems that affected the deadly TAM Flight 3054.

Retired Supreme Court judge and ex-justice minister Nelson Jobim has been tapped by Lula to replace Pires.

Image- Al Jazeera

Sources- Al Jazeera, NNC News, The Latin Americanist, International Herald Tribune, Reuters

Colombia: Paramilitary leaders quit demobilization process

Jailed right-wing paramilitary heads have quit the demobilization process with the Colombian government due to a recent Supreme Court decision. "We can't allow our fighters to be treated like common criminals," said a paramilitary spokesman in reaction to the Court’s decision to try paramilitary soldiers without special privileges.

President Alvaro Uribe disagreed with the ruling and believed that it treats paramilitaries unequally with leftist guerillas. Yet as Supreme Court Chief Justice Julio César Valencia clarified:

“The President has made a mistake in his interpretation of the Court’s ruling. I believe that the sentence signaled a series of general features that affect not only the process with paramilitaries but also any other process with illegal groups such as guerillas.”

In the meantime, victims of paramilitary crimes will be hurt more than they already have in that senior paramilitary members will not voluntarily testify to a special judicial commission and a reparation fund for victims is now in jeopardy.

Sources (English)- CNN, BBC News

Sources (Spanish)- RCN, El Tiempo

Image- TIME

Daily Headlines: July 25, 2007

* Controversy surrounds remarks made by Barack Obama (image) over possibly meeting with leaders of nations like Cuba and Iran should he be president.

* Real estate investors in Spain and Mexico have invested in what will be Latin America’s tallest building to be located in Mexico City.

* The lack of a constant power source to a vital gold mine has shed some light on the serious energy crisis in the Dominican Republic. (Pun not intended).

* Costa Rica – area of increased importance in the illegal drug trade.

* Follow-up: Republican and Democratic senators accused Attorney General Alberto Gonzales of being weak and dishonest during hearings yesterday.

Sources- Yahoo! News, Reuters India, The Latin Americanist, Caribbean Net News, Miami Herald, People’s Daily Online

Image- MSNBC

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Quote of the Day: Immigration Spam

As a quick public service to our readers the below quote is the content of message that was sent to us allegedly from the U.S. Department of State. Obviously, it's a spam message since it claims that we "won" the special lottery for visas to the U.S.

Note the timing of this message (six days until massive increases in U.S. immigration fees take effect) and that the request for money should be sent to a source in Britain!

These spammers are nothing but bloody wankers!

"U.S. Department of State
DV LOTTERY.STATE.GOV
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW Washington, DC 20520
www.dvlottery.state.gov

Dear Winner,

It is my pleasure to congratulate you on your success
in the AMERICAN DV2008 VISA LOTTERY PROGRAM which was
applied and processed by our agency. You were selected
as one of the lucky winners on our internet screening
machine,for the DV2008 USA national visa lottery
program. Your visa lottery winner's identity is
ID-6200DV and your serial net visa passport with us is
SNVPh700IU. In this respect, you are directed to
forward the following requirements:
l. Your present contact address (for correspondence)
2. Your recent passport photograph .
3. REGULAR MAIL.
You can also send your photo(s) by regular mail. The
photo must be between 1 1/2 by 1 1/2 and 2 by 2 inches
(37-50 mm) square, with the applicant's,spouse's, or
child's name printed on the back. Please mail
the photos to:
Immigration Services:
PA/PL, Rm. 3206
U.S. Department of State
2301 C Street NW Washington, D.C 20720
Or preferably, you can scan them and send via email
for faster processing.Clearance/acceptance fees
is($989.67).Details of requirements:Your present
contact address should be forwarded strictly to our
receiving correspondent through his email address.
We accept Western Union MoneyTransfer/Money Gram as the
ONLY payment method due to some reasons from our past
experiences. (Credit card is not acceptable,please.)
For information on how to send across the fees,please contact
the Clearance Officer with your contact address attacted to it.
Mr.Trevor Blair through his
email(cooffice_stategov@yahoo.co.uk). Your payment
confirmation shall be sent to you as soon as
clarification is done on your payment.Providing the
above requirements will assure you of getting your
Visa Lottery Acknowledgement Card and Visa Lottery
Security Code which we shall send to your email
address.Important notice: Please make sure you report
and forward your Visa Lottery Code and Acknowledgement
,Card to the USA embassy in your individual country
for your Green Card and other necessary
claims.According to the United States of America's
Code of Conduct and Constitution Vol176/866:Act690SN
guiding all immigration,and Green Card permit
Agencies, Non-Response,14 days after you receive this
message to your winner's status shall reveal "No
interest" and we would in return, refer your lottery
code and acknowledgement card back to the USA
Government/Immigration Service Center.
We shall be anticipating your reply soon.

CONGRATULATIONS ONCE MORE.

Mr. Matthew Brooke
Coordinator"

Daily Headlines: July 24, 2007

* U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales affirmed that he would not quit his post before he faces the Senate Judiciary Committee later today.

* Fidel Castro blamed the lure of wealth from U.S. professional boxing as the impetus behind the possible defection of two top Cuban boxers from the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro.

* Thousands of people marched in Oaxaca, Mexico demanding that the state governor resign.

* The Chinese government is investigating how a batch of toothpaste exported to Panama became tainted and killed nearly a hundred people.

* Follow-up: In the aftermath of the TAM Flight 3054 accident, the president of an international air controllers' group urged that Brazil allow foreign experts to oversee the country’s air traffic system.

Sources- Guardian UK, The Latin Americanist, USA TODAY, Houston Chronicle, SI.com

Image- MSNBC

Monday, July 23, 2007

Commentary: “Becks” and the Latin American impact on American soccer

It’s easy to dismiss Major League Soccer (MLS) as a terribly inferior soccer league in a country where the game is of little importance compared to baseball or American football. Even with the arrival of David Beckham to the States some people doubt that his presence will have any sustainable impact to the league and to soccer in the U.S.

Despite the hoopla and hype surrounding Beckham, MLS has a card up its sleeve that may be very valuable for the league: the Designated Player Rule or “Beckham Rule.” The rule allows MLS teams to obtain at least one expensive (read: high-caliber) player without it affecting their salary caps and was created to avoid the bidding wars that led to the demise of the old North American Soccer League. The overall impact of the rule remains to be seen, but so far it has shown some promise in two Latin American players:

  • Colombian Juan Pablo Angel (image) takes up one of the two DPR slots for the New York Red Bulls. (The other slot filled by a U.S. player of Argentine background- Claudio Reyna.) The former star for River Plate and Aston Villa was named MLS player of the month for May and June as he has tallied nine goals in only eleven games. Angel’s efforts were even rewarded during the MLS All-Star Game last Thursday where he received MVP honors.
  • Mexican star Cuauhtémoc Blanco showed the promise anticipated by fans after he played in his debut with the Chicago Fire last night. "We saw a lot of his skills, his vision, his creativity” observed teammate Calen Carr as Blanco scored the Fire’s lone goal in a 1-1 tie in a friendly against Scotland’s Celtic FC.

“Beckham Rule” aside, several notable players from Latin America have made a serious impact on MLS since its inception over a decade ago from Carlos Valderrama and Raul Diaz Arce to Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Carlos Ruiz. Given MLS has problems to contend with, yet the impact of Latin American players in MLS along with the “Beckham Rule” could easily pay long-term dividends for the league.

Sources- Al Jazeera, MLSNET, Wikipedia, sover.net, Metrofanatic, SI.com, FOX Sports

Image- infobae.com

AIDS expert warns against patent breaking

Mixed news has come out of the AIDS Society conference in Sydney, Australia. One of the claims being made is by French immunologist Michel Kazatchkine against governments that break patents in order to provide inexpensive generic medicine. Kazatchkine- an expert on the matter- warned that combating AIDS is affordable even in undeveloped countries:

"Don't tell me this is unaffordable. Yes, everyone needs to put more money on the table, but the message is we should be able to win the battle."

One of the leading governments pushing towards generic drugs has been Brazil where the government provides free anti-AIDS treatment for its people. In April the government broke the patent for an antiretroviral drug made by Merck, while earlier this month a deal was reached to provide a discounted anti-AIDS drug.

Yet in June Roche Pharmaceuticals recalled several tainted batches of one antiretroviral drug; its effects were felt around the world including in Venezuela where several thousand people had been without medicine.

Last week we mentioned the worry over increased AIDS cases in Mexico due to migrants crossing the border from the U.S.

Sources- Sydney Morning Herald, The Latin Americanist, International Herald Tribune, BBC News

Image- IADB

El Salvador: Campaign for Oscar Romero’s sainthood

Members of the Salvadoran government confirmed that they would advocate for the sainthood of Archbishop Oscar Romero. Yet the odds of Romero’s beatification are slim since he espoused liberation theology, a doctrine denounced by Vatican leaders including Pope Benedict XVI. In addition, some have criticized the government’s move as a “smoke screen” since they refused to accept responsibility for Romero’s murder:

“The state can't accept responsibility because there was a clear person responsible for the killing, and that person was tried,” (Security and Justice Vice Minister Astor) Escalante said.

Romero spoke out against social injustice and the heavy handedness by the Salvadoran government during his brief time as archbishop. He was much beloved by the people, yet on March 24, 1980 he was assassinated in a killing planned by senior government officials.

Sources- Yahoo! News, Wikipedia, Catholic Herald

Image- CathNews

Colombia free of paramilitarism says president

Colombian president Alvaro Uribe claimed that his administration had "overcome paramilitarism'' in the country. In remarks during a televised speech commemorating Colombian Independence Day on Friday, Uribe asserted that:

“Today paramilitarism no longer exists because combat against leftist rebels is now, in practice, the exclusive work of our democratic institutions.”

Apparently Uribe forgot to mention of the expanding “para-politics” scandal that has implicated political and military allies to right-wing paramilitary groups. Senator Mario Uribe (the president’s cousin), the current Vice President and Defense Minister, and the brother of an ex-foreign minister are just a few of those being investigated for their links to paramilitary groups.

President Uribe is in the U.S. trying to drum up support for a bilateral free trade agreement. Over the weekend he was in New York and New Jersey where he attended several Colombian Independence Day festivals and also denounced the involvement of several labor union members in a leftist conference held in Ecuador.

Image- NDTV.com

Sources (English)- Guardian UK, The Latin Americanist, NorthJersey.com

Sources (Spanish)- RCN, Caracol

Chavez: Expel foreigners critical of Venezuela

Foreigners critical of the Venezuelan government will be persona non grata according to comments by President Hugo Chavez. Said Chavez during his weekly TV program (“Hello President”) yesterday:

"No foreigner, whoever he may be, can come here and attack us. Whoever comes, we must remove him from the country. I'm talking about some gentlemen who come here for conferences."

Chavez’ remarks came after Manuel Espino- the head of Mexico’s ruling National Action Party- severely criticized the Chavez administration as a threat to democracy during a conference in Caracas.

Espino also criticized an upcoming constitutional reform that would include removing term limits for the president. Yet Chavez assured that any future reforms would respect individual rights such as the right to private property.

Sources- BBC News, Al Jazeera, Kommersant, Xinhua

Image- PRESS TV

Daily Headlines: July 23, 2007

* Congrats to Argentina’s under-20 soccer team who won the FIFA U-20 World Cup over the Czech Republic yesterday.

* A delegation of labor members from around the world will converge in Guatemala today to seek justice in the murder of a union leader.

* The family of Jean Charles de Menezes- a Brazilian mistaken for a bomber and killed by police in the London Underground- solemnly commemorated the second anniversary of his death.

* The former president of Ecuador’s state oil company has been selected to become the country’s next energy minister.

* California health officials warned against eating possibly tainted candy imported from Mexico.

Image- BBC Sport (Argentina’s Mauro Zarate celebrates his game-winning goal scored minutes from full time in yesterday’s U-20 World Cup final)

Sources- FOX Sports, BBC News, Reuters UK, Guardian UK, SignOnSanDiego.com