Saturday, September 15, 2007

Colombia: Snafu nearly frees jailed ex-paramilitary leader

Colombia’s government is red-faced after a security breach yesterday that could have led to the escape of a major drug baron captured about a week ago. Diego "Don Diego" Montoya and another high-security prisoner were supposed to be transferred to a navy ship were they would be held before extradition to the U.S. Yet the massive security contingent inadvertently transferred ex-paramilitary leader Diego "Don Berna" Murillo for several hours before the mistake was noted and corrected.

In the meantime, senior U.S. and Colombian law enforcement officials have been elated over the capture of “Don Diego” (image) and have deemed it the most significant accomplishment since the death of Pablo Escobar in 1993. However, some analysts of the “war on drugs” do not share such optimism:

"This will cause internal fights over the redistribution of power and money. But will the flow of drugs diminish? Probably not," said Alvaro Camacho, a sociology professor at the University of the Andes in the Colombian capital, Bogota, and an expert on drug trafficking.”

Sources- The Telegraph, Monsters & Critics, Reuters Africa, Los Angeles Times, Wikipedia

Image- The Telegraph

Daily Headlines: September 15, 2007

* The world’s largest pot of soup will be a sancocho (i.e. traditional Latin American chicken stew) to be prepared in Caracas later today for over 60,000 people.

* Mexico's attorney general claimed that the rising price of cocaine proves that the government’s anti-crime policy is working.

* Is the decrease in Cuban internet access due to "technical problems" or censorship?

* Follow-up: Argentine environmentalists protested in front of Finland’s embassy in Buenos Aires against a paper mill being constructed near the Argentina-Uruguay border.

Sources- Wikipedia, Bloomberg, People’s Daily Online, The Latin Americanist, Chicago Tribune

Image- BBC News

Friday, September 14, 2007

Video of the Day: Los Pericos

NOTE: We will be posting over the weekend to make up for the lack of entries this past week.

By far one of my favorite programs is a travel program entitled "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations." We have written before about the journeys of the renown chef and author author to Peru and the U.S.-Mexico border area. The most recent new episode had Bourdain travel to Argentina where he explored the country's frigid southern tip, accompanied gauchos, and explored Buenos Aires.

It is in the Argentine capital where Bourdain hung out with the members of well-known ska band Los Pericos. Aside from enjoying a spread of meat, cheese and wine the band regaled Bourdain and co. with their own signature music.

Hence, below is the music video for one of Los Pericos' best known songs - "Pupilas Lejanas." It's a perfect song to start the weekend with (video link):

Sources-, YouTube, The Latin Americanist, Huevos Pericos, Los Pericos (official site)

Peru: Blood banks closed over HIV infections

All of Peru’s 240 blood banks have been closed in the wake of worries over HIV transmission in blood transfusions. Peruvian Minster of Health Carlos Vallejos urged people not to panic over reports that in less than six months four patients contracted HIV after getting blood transfusions in a Callao clinic.

Despite Vallejos’ assurances, BBC News noted that Peruvians are afraid of going to public hospitals over the HIV scare as well as the recent revelation that thirty people became infected with Hepatitis C after receiving dialysis treatment.

Furthermore, the poor state of blood banks is a problem not only in Peru:

“Jose Cruz, an adviser on blood and laboratory safety for the Washington-based Panamerican Health Organization, called Peru's blood banks "worrying."

He said Peru is the organization's list, along with Bolivia, Colombia and Mexico, of countries that fail to perform preliminary disease screening all blood collected in blood banks.

The organization's most recent figures show almost a quarter of the blood Peru's banks receive is not properly screened, Cruz said.”

Sources- AFP, Living in Peru, BBC News, MSNBC


Argies lose heartbreaker in Women’s World Cup

Argentina tried to bounce back today against Japan after an embarrassing 11-0 loss in Monday’s opening game in the Women’s World Cup. Las albicelestes gamely held on to a scoreless tie for over ninety minutes after countless attacks by Japan’s offense. Yet in the final minute of the match argentine goalie Romina Ferro mishandled a low shot and Yuki Nagasato tapped in an easy rebound to give Japan a slim 1-0 victory.

Hence, Argentina is virtually eliminated from the tourney after two losses and a -12 goal difference.

Ironically, argentine coach Carlos Borrello chose the veteran Ferro as the starting goalie after netminder Vanina Correa’s shaky performance on Monday including knocking in two own-goals.

Meanwhile, the tournament’s other Latin American representative- Brazil- had no troubles in beating New Zealand 5-0 in their first match. Much like their male counterparts, Brazil is one of the tournament’s favorites to become champion.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, USA TODAY, BBC Sport, The Sports Network

Image- AFP (Yuki Nagasato celebrates her game winning strike against Argentina)

Daily Headlines: September 14, 2007

* Follow-up: Newly released documents in the case against a Mexican priest accused of child abuse suggested that Mexico City Cardinal Norberto Rivera (image) tried to cover up the allegations before transferring the priest to California.

* The head of Puerto Rico’s pro-independence party claimed that U.S. politicos will soon approve a plebiscite on the island’s political status.

* Colombia’s top cocaine capo offered a $5 million bribe to his captors after being caught earlier this week.

* The publisher of Nicaragua’s largest newspaper lashed out at president Daniel Ortega after being forced to pay nearly $2 million in back taxes.

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

Source (Spanish)- El Diario/La Prensa

Image- Catholic News Service

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Rodrigo y Gabriela cancel September gigs

Mexican rock duo (and personal favorites) Rodrigo y Gabriela announced earlier this week that they have cancelled the rest of their September concerts. According to a message on their official website:

“Gabriela is suffering from exhaustion after a hectic summer/fall tour schedule and is left with no choice but to cancel the remaining shows in September. Advice from doctors is to take a few weeks off to relax so she can build up her strength...Gabriela will be taking a month off to get back in shape for the October tour.”

The cancelled concerts includes one on Sunday at the Austin City Limits Music Festival.

The pair’s autumn tour will continue starting in October with appearances in cities like Miami, New York (CMJ Festival), Seattle, and Los Angeles.

(Hat tip: Brooklyn Vegan).

Sources- Wikipedia,, Austin City Limits Music Festival, Brooklyn Vegan

Image- BBC Radio 2 (Gabriela Quintero gestures to the audience during Rodrigo y Gabriela’s appearance at the 2006 Cambridge Folk Festival)

Quote of the Day: Intrusive or fair game?

“The father was testifying and one of the lawyers asked him to name all the women he’d had sex with. What type of crap is that? Someone asks me that and I’ll tell him to go fuck himself straight up; from the witness stand if that’s where I’m sitting. Seriously, isn’t that the kind of intimidation questioning they’d use in Cuba? I mean, if there’s a child in the house and you want to know what’s going on, ask for a number or something, but names?”

--Blog Critical Miami comments on the ongoing custody case of a girl who emigrated from Cuba to the U.S.

Custody is being disputed between the girl’s Cuban father-Rafael Izquierdo- and the child’s Cuban exile foster couple living in Florida. Yet unlike the Elian Gonzalez situation this custody affair is much more complex.

In the latest developments, several blows were dealt against Izquierdo when the judge nearly dropped the case after she admonished his testimony on the stand.

Sources- Critical Miami, The Latin Americanist, International Herald Tribune,

Image- AFP (“Rafael Izquierdo arrives for the start of a court hearing to determine who will gain custody of his daughter”)

Diplomat’s typo on Mexico more than meets the eye

A column in Monday’s Financial Times by ex-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nancy Soderberg made a critical error. Her piece on the need for Argentina to repay its debts mistakenly named Vicente Fox as Mexico’s current president. (Obviously that title belongs to Felipe Calderon; Fox was Calderon’s predecessor).

(For the record, this blog has had its share of errors, too. Check out the comments to this recent post, for instance).

However, the Foreign Policy Passport blog noted yesterday that Sorderberg’s piece raised suspicion over her ties to a “lobbying group” functioning in Argentina- the American Task Force Argentina:

“The ATFA, in case you were wondering, is a lobbying group funded by creditors, some of them so-called "vulture funds" or investment firms who bought millions of dollars worth of Argentine bonds when the country defaulted on its debts in 2001-2002. Whatever you think of the debt issue and the swing toward economic populism in Latin America that Soderberg denounces, doesn't The Financial Times owe its readers more context when it turns over its editorial page to a lobbyist for debt collectors?”

Speaking of Fox, he expressed his frustration over the lack of U.S. immigration reform during a public appearance he gave on Monday.

Sources- Foreign Policy Passport, Financial Times, The Latin Americanist, Mexico-Presidency of the Republic, San Jose Mercury News

Image- MSNBC (2004 image of Vicente Fox)

Daily Headlines: September 13, 2007

* Another name to add to the list of 9/11 conspiracy theorists: Fidel Castro.

* Some people take this whole “North American Union” b.s. a little too seriously.

* Paraguay’s government declared a state of emergency for thousands of acres of forestland decimated by wildfires.

* Brazil's economy grew at its fastest pace in three years according to government figures.

* Follow-up: The U.S. Senate voted 74-24 to block a pilot program permitting Mexican trucks to travel on U.S. highways.

Sources- Guardian UK,, BBC News, Bloomberg, Monsters & Critics, The Latin Americanist

Image- Guardian UK (“Smoke billows from the Pentagon in Washington after (the 9/11) attack”)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Daily Headlines: September 12, 2007 – PM Edition

Here’s a list of several important and not-so-important news stories that have made the rounds over the past few days. We’re doing this in order to make up for the lack of posts over the past week. Enjoy!

* Here’s a thought on last weekend’s Guatemalan presidential elections: Granted, a runoff will be held next month between Alvaro Colom and Otto Perez to determine the country’s presidency and much has been made of the poor sixth place reached by Rigoberta Menchu.

However, nobody seems to realize that in such a close race the support of losing candidates could make a huge difference. Twelve candidates were eliminated in Sunday’s election and though most of them only reached single-digit percentages they can be one of the keys to deciding who Guatemala’s next president could be. In other words, Sunday’s losers like Menchu could end up as November’s winners.

* Don’t cry for me Argentina! – FIFA president Sepp Blatter complained after Germany whipped las albicelestes 11-0 in the opening match of the Women’s World Cup on Monday. "Definitely I did not like this result, I can honestly say that," said Blatter who in 2004 caused an uproar by advocating the use of skimpier uniforms by female soccer players.

* Court documents showed that a member of uber-popular Mexican pop group RBD was arrested earlier this year for drug possession. Christian Chavez- who in March publicly announced of his homosexuality- was caught by police buying marijuana while in New York’s Washington Square Park. (Every NYU student like yours truly knows that you need to go uptown to make such transactions. Jeez Chrisitan!)

* Colombia’s government rejected an offer by Hugo Chavez to meet with the leaders of the country’s largest rebel group. Despite offers by the Venezuelan president to serve as a mediator, Peace Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo said the government "does not consider appropriate" a meeting between Chavez and FARC leaders in Colombia.

* Brazil banned all imports of toys by U.S.-owned firm Mattel due to controversy over items manufactured in China with lead paint. “The goal is to halt defective toys in the company's worldwide recall list from entering Brazil,” said a statement from Brazil’s government over the prohibition that took effect last month.

* Surely some people will make a mountain out of a molehill over this story – three Mexican police officers were arrested in Arizona over the weekend at a gun show. The policemen were detained after trying to buy guns at a gun show due to a law stating that noncitizens cannot purchase firearms.

Sources (English)- The Latin Americanist, BBC News, International Herald Tribune, Associated Press, Forbes, Bloomberg, People’s Daily Online, BBC Sport, AFP, Guardian UK

Source (Spanish)- El Diario/La Prensa

Image- Xinhua

Video of the Day: "Southsourcing"

Satirist/comedian Stephen Colbert gives his two cents on a story we linked to yesterday: the outsourcing of U.S. farm jobs to Mexico. Colbert advocates for increased "southsourcing" of labor to Mexico with the hope that "they don't put up a border fence":

Daily Headlines: September 12, 2007

* In retaliation for strict U.S. visa rules, Bolivia’s government will obligate U.S. tourists visiting the Andean country to obtain visas.

* U.S. government to illegal immigrant: “Thanks for volunteering to the 9/11 rescue efforts. Now get ready to be deported.”

* Spanish authorities arrested a con man who duped dozens of Cuban exiles into buying false plane tickets to the island.

* Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is promoting biofuels in Sweden as he continues a tour of Scandinavia.

* Opposition politicos in Mexico are increasing the pressure against a tax reform bill pushed by President Felipe Calderon.

Sources (English)- Monsters & Critics, CNN, Bloomberg

Source (Spanish)- El Diario/La Prensa

Image- Jobs and Visas

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Weekly Debate: 9/11 – 1973 and 2001

In terms of tragedies the date September 11th is most closely associated with the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in the U.S. Nothing can erase the images in our collective conscience on that day; whether it is recalling the skyscrapers falling, seeing people jump hundreds of feet to their death, or the acrid smoke rising into the sky. As we observed one year ago, the consequences of those attacks have been far reaching and have led to major social, economic, and political changes in the U.S. as well as around the world.

Yet lost amongst the grief and commemoration of the incidents in 2001 is that on this day in 1973 Chile’s democratically elected government was toppled in a coup led by Augusto Pinochet. President Salvador Allende was one of thousands who died during the insurrection and the recently-deceased Pinochet would become Chile’s leader for sixteen years.

The effects of the coup would be felt in Chile and the Americas; for some the coup was needed and the new government signaled the start of economic growth and stability for Chile:

“Emilio Humarez, a self-proclaimed “Pinochetista”, was a member of the extreme right-wing political party, Patria y Libertad, when Allende won the election in 1970. During that time, his mother was national secretary of the Christian Democrat Party, which came to oppose Allende during his presidency.

Humarez claims that he and many others with similar political beliefs, suffered harassment and violent threats from leftist radicals during Allende's presidency.

When asked if the violence of the military coup was justified, Humarez answered, ‘Yes, I saw so clearly that we needed a change. In the years of Allende we were terrified. When Pinochet arrived we were very relieved.’”

For others like Alvaro Acevado the coup was the beginning of a dark period of repression, suffering, and injustice:

“Our neighbours and us celebrated after we knew what happened, but my grandfather was a socialist doctor, who spent all of his life working in poor rural areas. He told my mother, "There is nothing to cheer about, soon you'll regret this coup". He died from cancer a week later.

After all these years and having spent all my youth under Pinochet, I know he was right. My parent's generation was lost. No matter what their political creed was at that time, illusions, dreams and friends died in 1973. And the wounds still hurt us.”

Several questions come to mind in retrospect of the events six years ago in the U.S. and in 1973 in Chile:

  • Who is most to blame for the events of those days?
  • Could they have been avoided or where they inevitable?
  • What lessons have we learned from those two days?
  • Are coups justifiable? Was the 1973 coup right?
  • Can coups be classified as “revolutions” despite their support not coming from the grassroots levels?

What do you think?

Please feel free to leave any concerns, comments, and/or replies to this post via the comments section. If you wish, you can also vote in our poll located on the sidebar to the right.

Your opinion counts!

Image (left)- BBC News (“In New York, the families of those who died after two planes ploughed into the World Trade Center paid their respects once more”)

Image (right)- La Tercera (Chilean president Michelle Bachelet lays flowers at the memorial for Salvador Allende)

Sources- BBC News, Australian Green Left, The Latin Americanist, International herald Tribune, Monsters & Critics

Daily Headlines: September 11, 2007

* On the one hand, dozens of U.S. truckers protested against a pilot program allowing their Mexican counterparts to drive along U.S. interstate highways. On the other hand, U.S. farmers are increasingly expanding their operations into Mexico.

* Have “death squads” returned to El Salvador?

* The leaders of Bolivia and Venezuela reached several economic agreements yesterday.

* Follow-up #1: The official number of deaths in Nicaragua caused by Hurricane Felix has increased to 65.

* Follow-up #2: Legal appeals continue to obstruct the extradition of ex-Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega to France.

Sources (English)- Guardian UK, International Herald Tribune, El Universal, Prensa Latina, The Latin Americanist, Monsters & Critics

Source (Spanish)- El Diario/La Prensa

Image- (Truckers protest last week against an experimental initiative regarding Mexican trucks traveling on U.S. highways)

Monday, September 10, 2007

We return on Tuesday

Hi everybody.

Sorry for the lack of posts today.

Two years ago today my father died from an unexpected heart attack. Hence, I haven't been in the right mindset to blog today.

Tuesday we should return with regularly-scheduled blogging.

See you tomorrow.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Watch tonight's Democratic presdential debate!

If you're a politics wonk like me then you'll probably be tuned in to Univision tonight for their Democratic presidential debate. This debate will start at 7pm EST from Miami and will include the participation of all the Democratic presidential hopefuls (except Joe Biden).

The debate is also available as live streaming video online, and can be accessed here.

We'll be back a little later to provide our own observations and comments.