Saturday, October 13, 2007

Video of the Day: “El gran chaman”

There are numerous reasons why the Amazonian rainforest needs to be preserved; one of them is the large number of medicinal plants found there and can be used to cure diseases in the developed world.

In the following clip from the National Geographic Channel, a Paraguayan shaman shows how he seeks one type of plant that is used to treat various ailments.

(Video link):

(By the way, here’s the song that is referenced to by the title to this post).

Source- YouTube,

Nobel winning economist backs Bank of South

Joseph E. Stiglitz- 2001 Nobel Prize winner in economics- supported the idea of creating a new development bank for the Americas. The idea behind the Banco del Sur (Bank of South) was propelled by the Venezuelan government and Stiglitz gave defended it after meeting with Hugo Chavez:

"One of the advantages of having a Bank of the South is that it would reflect the perspectives of those in the south," he told a media conference. It would boost Latin America's development and provide a useful alternative to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

"It is a good thing to have competition in most markets, including the market for development lending," Prof Stiglitz said.

In addition, Stiglitz praised Venezuela’s economic growth though he warned Chavez that measures need to be taken to “support” growth.

The Banco del Sur will be initially established by seven South American countries and is scheduled to be inaugurated on November 3rd.

Speaking of the Nobel Prize, the campaign to grant the Nobel Peace Prize to Bolivian president Evo Morales ended on Friday when that honor was bestowed on Al Gore and the U.N. panel on climate change.

Image- International Herald Tribune

Sources- Prensa Latina, International Herald Tribune, Bloomberg, Guardian UK, Columbia University, AHN

Peru: Problems continue with earthquake relief

Monday will be the two-month anniversary of the deadly Peruvian earthquakes which officially killed over 500 people and left tens of thousands homeless. Despite the best intentions of celebrities and charities problems remain with relief efforts and assisting survivors.

Last week, the head of Peru’s civil defense organization admitted that only a quarter of earthquake debris had been cleared partly due to a lack of heavy machinery. Meanwhile, aid groups in Peru have finished the “emergency phase” though some survivors were getting impatient with the achingly slow clean-up and lack of government support:

Nationally, Garcia's approval rating jumped almost 10 points after the quake. The president rushed to Pisco and spent days on national television directing the initial disaster response.

People in Pisco are bewildered by such polls.

"He's not doing anything. He just came down here, worried that dust wouldn't fall on his shoes," said retired cotton farmer Vidal Melgar, whose walls were severely cracked.

Despite the problems we continue to call on you to please donate to charitable groups that are assisting earthquake survivors. Here are three links you can check out if you want to help:

Image- BBC News

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Living In Peru, American Red Cross, CARE, Oxfam America, International Herald Tribune

Puerto Rico: Anger over pet massacre

Puerto Rico's housing department has started an investigation against animal control workers who allegedly threw dogs and cats off a bridge and to their deaths.

Tenants of several public housing units in the city of Barceloneta had been threatened with eviction by workers of Animal Control Solutions (ACS) unless they gave up their pets and many complied with them. Yet these pet owners were grief-stricken and outraged after learning of the possibly cruel end to their animals’ lives:

“It was barbaric” said (tenant Elvira) Tirado, 56, who wept Saturday as she described caring for the seven-year-old dog. “This has been a really hard blow for all of us… I have been crying so much I can barely sleep.”

Julio Diaz- owner of ACS- claimed that the animals were treated humanely before being euthanized at company-owned shelters despite some eyewitness claims that dead and live animals were tossed over the 50-foot bridge.

Image- MSNBC (Cat trying to get free from a Mississippi animal shelter)

Sources (English)- BBC News, Guardian UK

Source (Spanish)- Primera Hora

Daily Headlines: October 13, 2007

* Last month the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp commemorating the 60th anniversary of a groundbreaking school desegregation case brought up by Mexican immigrant parents.

* Pro-immigrant groups have voiced their concern to the U.N. over Canada’s increased reluctance to accept refugees from the Americas.

* Fidel Castro “is lucid, extremely lucid” said Honduran President Manuel Zelaya after visiting Cuba last week.

* Chilean President Michelle Bachelet introduced a proposal that would grant women increased political power.

Sources- Washington Post, International Herald Tribune, Canadian Press, People’s Daily Online

Image- U.S. Postal Service

Friday, October 12, 2007

Posting this weekend

Just a quick FYI for you all - this Saturday we will be posting in order to make up for the lack of articles this past week.

Also, we have a surprise set up for music lovers which we will announce this Sunday.

We thank you very much for reading this blog whether this be your first or hundredth time visiting us!

Video of the Day: Coming soon – “Hoy Rogers”

A few days ago we mentioned how Taco Bell will expand into Mexico after a disastrous attempt in 1992 and how some were not pleased with the notion of “Americanized” Mexican food being sold in Mexico.

“The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart commented on Taco bell’s return south of the border and how:

“At last Mexicans will have access to Mexican food.”

Yes, finally authentic Mexican food will be enjoyed be Mexicans.

(Video link):

Links- Comedy Central, The Latin Americanist

Daily Headlines: October 12, 2007

* Is Venezuela involved in mining “blood diamonds”?

* Urbanization in Latin America has skyrocketed over the past thirty years, according to a recently released U.N. report.

* Popular video site YouTube launched its own portal for Mexico yesterday which would highlight videos uploaded by Mexicans.

* Follow-up: Closing arguments were heard in the case of thirty Nicaraguan laborers who claimed became severely sick after working with a banned pesticide.

Sources (English)- Xinhua, AFP, San Jose Mercury News,, The Latin Americanist

Sources (Spanish)- El Diario/La Prensa

Image- MSNBC

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Quote of the Day: Mundo de novelas

“Through their soap operas we are discovering the similarities that exist between Latin America and Asia, we are all Third World countries.”

--Amanda Ospina- editor of television magazine TVMas- commented on the increased popularity of South Korean soap operas around the world.

Though Latin American telenovelas are among the most viewed worldwide, Middle Eastern TV programmers are especially keen on South Korean soaps since they’re more conservative content is easier to censor. South Korean telenovelas have even expanded into Latin America with three soaps currently airing in Bolivia, Colombia, and Mexico.

(By the way, the post’s title is a play on words from this Soda Stereo song).

Sources- AFP,

Image- The Honolulu Advertiser (Ad for South Korean soap opera "Emperor of the Sea")

Neo-Nazis vandalize Andres Serrano exhibit

A pack of Swedish neo-Nazis ran amuck at a gallery last Friday and destroyed several photographs taken by artist Andres Serrano. Serrano- a New York-born photographer of Honduran and Afro-Cuban background- was “shocked and horrified” after the masked hooligans crashed the gallery in Lund, Sweden and ruined some of his work:

"No guards were on duty in the gallery, said Viveca Ohlsson, the show’s curator...By the time the masked men had finished, half the show — seven 50-by-60-inch photographs, worth some $200,000 over all — had been destroyed. The men left behind leaflets reading, 'Against decadence and for a healthier culture.' The fliers listed no name or organization."

However, one of the members of the group videotaped the incident and posted it on YouTube. The ruffians claimed to “express the opinion of normal people,” before showing how they entered the gallery and used picks and crowbars to ruin some of Serrano's images.

Click here to watch the video mentioned above.

Serrano’s works have been the subject of much controversy. His most infamous moment was over “Piss Christ” (image)- a 1989 photograph of a crucifix immersed in his own urine.

(Hat tip: Metafilter).

Image- The City Review

Sources- Wikipedia, Queerty, Towleroad,, Metafilter

Fake “clergymen” caught traveling to Cuba

A pair of south Floridians pleaded guilty after posing as religious leaders in order to fly to and from Cuba. Aside from traveling under false pretenses, the U.S. government accused Victor Vazquez and David Margolis of making nearly $1 million by selling fake travel visas.

According to, the defendants had a sort of missionary work in mind during their trips to the island (double entendre intended):

“Vazquez, who is living under house arrest with his mother in Delray Beach, got married last year to a young Cuban woman who is trying to come to the United States, court records show.

''He became an additional member of our family. To such an extent that on the day he proposed marriage, neither I or my family hesitated in accepting,'' his bride, Dayana Betancourt Mojena, 21, wrote in a letter to the federal judge presiding over the case.

Margolis, a Fort Lauderdale real estate mogul with serious heart problems, made arrangements for his Cuban girlfriend to come to South Florida in September.”

Religious travel licenses are one of the few travel exceptions allowed under the U.S. embargo on Cuba. Yet some religious groups are disappointed with recent restrictions enacted by the Bush administration against humanitarian work on the island.

Last August, presidential hopeful Barack Obama called on easing travel restrictions on Cuba.

Sources- UPI,, Find Articles, NPR, The Latin Americanist


Follow-up: Dida suspended and fined

A.C. Milan goalkeeper Dida was suspended for two games and fined over $50,000 following his theatrics after being lightly slapped by a Celtic fan during a Champions League match last week. Europe’s governing body on soccer- UEFA- ruled that the Brazilian goalie’s actions were not “according to the principles of loyalty, integrity and sportsmanship.” A lawyer for the Italian club side said that an appeal might be lodged based on the “excessive” punishment:

“It seems to us a very, very unbalanced sentence. It turns Dida into the protagonist of the incident, whereas the protagonist was someone else, and that's not right from a logical point of view.”

Celtic was not exempt from culpability, however; the club will have to pay a $50,000 fine for lack of security in permitting a fan to intrude during the game.

Was UEFA correct in its punishment? This video of the incident seems to show that while the fan was stupid to enter the pitch Dida overreacted after being touched:

Sources- AFP, Canadian Press, Times Online, The Latin Americanist, YouTube

Daily Headlines: October 11, 2007

* Follow-up: Apparently Michael Chertoff was wrong; a federal judge temporarily halted construction of a 1.5 mile part of a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border due to “environmental concerns.”

* Ex-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will not go gentle into that good night; he hired a “high-powered Washington lawyer” to defend him against accusations of political partisanship in the Justice Department.

* During a visit to Haiti, U.S. Congressman John Conyers denounced the “double standard” against Haitian migrants attempting to enter the U.S.

* Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya attempted to improve bilateral relations with Cuba during his visit to the island.

Sources- Associated Press, Guardian UK, USA TODAY, Forbes, Voice of America

Image- Washington Post

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Quote of the Day: Food for “fresas”

"It's like bringing ice to the Arctic."

--Mexican “pop culture historian” Carlos Monsivais is none too happy over restaurant chain Taco Bell reopening in Mexico for the first time since 1992.

Taco Bell execs presented the reintroduction of the brand in Mexico as “a new fast-food alternative” though Monsivais bemoaned that the “absurd idea…may just be successful in upper-class areas.”

(Click here in case you didn’t understand the meaning of the post’s title).

Image- Green Brooklyn

Sources- Canadian Press, Urban Dictionary

Brazil: Strong reply to U.S. critique on global trade

The U.S. is acting “unfair, unreasonable and irrational” in its demands during the Doha Round of free trade negotiations, declared Brazilian Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Roberto Azevedo.

The U.S. is trying to force Brazil into taking a larger role in discussions and convince lesser developed countries (LDCs) to make concessions. Yet Azevedo accused the U.S. and other advanced industrialized nations (AINs) of being uncooperative with LDCs:

“The U.S., the EU, the other developed countries are picking and choosing the provisions of the agriculture text they can live with. On the other hand, they are asking the developing countries to take the (industry) text as a 'take it or leave it' business which is frankly unfair, unreasonable, and irrational…

I can imagine that what they are essentially trying to do is put the blame on the shoulders of others if the round doesn't go forward.”

Brazil is not alone in its criticism of AINs like the U.S. and E.U.; a group of developing countries including India, Argentina, and the African members of the World Trade Organization issued a report rejecting massive cuts in industrial goods tariffs.

Thus, the impasse that has hampered global free trade talks for years appears to continue with no end in sight.

Sources- International Herald Tribune, Reuters, MSNBC, The Latin Americanist

Image- ABC News Online

Report: LAPD used excessive force during immigrant march

A Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) report pointed the finger at itself for a violent melee at the close of a pro-immigrant rally on May 1st. The blame lay squarely on the LAPD for the incident and was caused by shortcomings in training, planning, and policy according to the report.

Excerpts from the study were damning in criticizing the LAPD rather than the overwhelmingly pacific marchers and media who were gathered in MacArthur Park:

“The failing leadership, breakdown in supervision and breakdown in personal discipline caused those without full situational awareness to take action without understanding how their decisions might affect the final outcome.”

Much like in the immediate aftermath of the May 1st incident, LAPD Chief William Bratton expressed “regret” and also apologized for the department's actions.

The entire 94-page report can be accessed here as a PDF document.

Sources- BBC News, The Latin Americanist, AFP, Associated Press, LAPD Online

Image- New York Times – The Lede (“A local cameraman was forced to his knees during the sweep on May 1, 2007”)

Bush urges against death penalty for Mexican killer

As Governor of Texas, George W. Bush denied clemency to 152 “Death Row” inmates who would eventually be executed. In 1999, Bush said the following months before a Canadian national was executed in Texas:

“Foreigners can't expect to get away with murder in the state of Texas.”

Yet as he nears his last term as president, Bush is interceding in the legal case of a convicted killer from Mexico. Bush has asked the Supreme Court to prevent the execution of Jose Ernesto Medellin on the basis that his execution would violate international law.

Texas solicitor-general Ted Cruz- a “close political ally” of the president- argued on Wednesday that the president cannot use executive privilege to override state law after the International Court of Justice ruled in 20004 that Medellin should receive a retrial. However Medellin’s attorney will contend that lawyer said the president had the power to issue the order under the U.S. constitution.

The legal status of nearly 50 other Mexican nationals awaiting execution in various states would be affected by the high court ruling.

Naturally, conservative commentators are up in arms against Bush’s involvement; as Ramesh Ponnuru concluded:

Critics of executive power have cried wolf many times during the Bush administration. This time, however, President Bush really has gone too far, and the Supreme Court should not cooperate.”

Sources- The New York Review of Books,, Guardian UK, BBC News, MSNBC, Reuters, CNN, National Review Online

Image- Jurist

Daily Headlines: October 10, 2007

* The U.S. should “hold up its end of the bargain” and ratify free trade pacts with Colombia, Panama, and Peru, said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

* Seven South American countries will create a new development bank- Banco del Sur- set to be headquartered in Venezuela and opened next year.

* A controversial Colombian game show where contestants where asked intimate questions while being hooked up to a lie detector machine has been cancelled.

* Brazil received the second-most nominations for this year's International Emmy Awards with seven nods.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, International Herald Tribune, Associated Press, Bloomberg

Image- el Pais

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Quote of the Day: Overzealous media or commentator?

For the record, I'm not for unregulated immigration, nor do I think we should condone littering along the border.

But the growing cable television and radio talk show hysteria claming undocumented workers are security threats (despite the fact that not one single of the 9/11 terrorists entered the United States through the Mexican border) or environmental threats (despite the fact that those of us who live legally in America are by most standards the biggest polluters on earth) is ridiculous.

--Miami Herald columnist Andres Oppenheimer (image) blasted U.S. Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff’s assertion that illegal immigrants “degrade” the environment along the U.S.-Mexico border.

In his latest piece, Oppenheimer believed that Chertoff’s remarks were part of the “anti-Hispanic immigrant hype” pervasive in the media and concludes that “greater economic integration” in the Americas would alleviate migration into the U.S.

By the way, Oppenheimer is not a writer on the extreme left by any stretch of the imagination; previous articles by him show a deep dislike of Hugo Chavez as well as strong supporter of free trade.

Sources- Associated Press, Miami Herald

Image- Oppenheimer Presenta

Video of the Day: Morrissey’s Latino devotees

While we recommend that you check out this interview of former Mexican president Vicente Fox on “The Daily Show” last night, today’s VOTD focuses on music.

As we mentioned a few months ago, English crooner Morrissey enjoys a cult status amongst Latinos in the U.S. (including yours truly). On Sunday “Noticiero Telemundo” delved into that and examined several issues such as Moz’ connection to the Latino culture. Morrissey himself was briefly interviewed for the report as well as Jose Maldonado- lead singer of The Smiths cover group Sweet and Tender Hooligans.

Most of the video is conducted in Spanish so we’ll try to transcribe it later.

(Video link):

Sources- Comedy Central, The Latin Americanist, YouTube

Daily Headlines: October 9, 2007

*“It's impossible to try to stop (illegal immigration) with a fence,” said Mexican president Felipe Calderon in an interview.

* Could Alberto Fujimori be the first of numerous ex-Latin American leaders to be put on trial for human rights and/or corruption charges?

* Despite heavy religious opposition a Colombian court last week ruled to grant gay couples the same social security rights as straight couples.

* Follow-up: Europe’s governing body on soccer is investigating Brazilian goalkeeper Dida for his theatrics after being touched by a Celtic fan during a Champions League match.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, AFP, Bloomberg, International Herald Tribune, Reuters

Image- MSNBC

Monday, October 8, 2007

Daily Headlines: October 8, 2007 - PM Edition

* Follow-up: Despite controversy over a supposed “dirty” campaign” a slim majority of Costa Rican voters backed a free trade pact with the U.S.

* Are you a gringo seeking a cheap dentist? Then head to Mexico.

* Nearly 10,000 Cubans are attending a ceremony at the mausoleum of Ché Guevara commemorating the 40th anniversary of his execution.

* The widow and five children of ex-Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet were freed on bail two days after being arrested.

* November 26th is the scheduled trial date for former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg, International Herald Tribune, BBC News,
AFP, Reuters UK

Image- Al Jazeera (Costa Rican president Oscar Arias voted in yesterday’s free trade referendum)

Video of the Day: Kermit and Columbus

Later today we'll delve into the controversy surrounding honoring Christopher Columbus with his own holiday including which historical figures may be more deserving of the honor.

In the meantime, we have a quasi-exclusive video of Columbus departing from Spain (video link):

Amazing how one could find a talking frog with a microphone in 15th-century Spain, huh?

Sources- Vivirlatino, YouTube

Daily Headlines: October 8, 2007

* Follow-up: Argentina’s increasingly popular rugby squad moved on to the semifinals of the Rugby World Cup after holding on to beat Scotland 19-13.

* "We have contingency plans for a possible massive exodus," said Caleb McCarry- the U.S. Cuba Transition Coordinator- last week.

* According to data obtained by AFP, famous Marxist rebel Ché Guevara was the target of an operation headed by right-wing Latin American dictators.

* The International Court of Justice is expected later today to rule on a maritime border dispute between Nicaragua and Honduras.

* The new U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela expressed a conciliatory tone to the Chavez administration. How long that lasts is anybody’s guess.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, CNN, AFP, International Herald Tribune,

Image- Al Jazeera