Friday, October 26, 2007

The one and only Moz

We end our week with a tip of the hat to English singer Morrissey whom we’ve covered in several blog posts.

I confess that I really wish I could go to one of this weekend’s gigs in New York but the tix are a little too pricey. (Also, I’m holding out for opening night of a rumored Morrissey/The Smiths Broadway musical).

Anyway, here is a video of Moz singing “First of the Gang to Die” at last year’s Glastonbury Music Festival. This song is known as the tribute song to his cult Latino fan base. (Video link):

Have a great weekend!

p.s. Oh who am I kidding. If anyone has a spare wheelchair accessible ticket for either the Saturday or Sunday gigs pretty please contact me!

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Huevos Pericos, Wikipedia, YouTube

Chile: Court drops charges against Pinochet family

A Chilean appeals court dropped corruption charges against the widow and four children of ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet. The court’s ruling extends beyond the Pinochet clan and includes charges being revoked against nine former aides of the deceased ruler.

One of Pinochet’s accused daughters- Lucia- felt indicated by the today’s ruling, according to La Nacion:

“I never worked for the government and I cannot be charged as a public servant. It is a silly case.”

Though the government refused to comment publicly on the case, Prosecutor Alfonso Insunza said that the ruling will be appealed before the Supreme Court.

The five accused members of Pinochet’s family were arrested earlier this month over their possibly connection to Augusto Pinochet’s diverting of public funds to the Washington-based Riggs Bank.

Sources (English)- Monsters & Critics, BBC News, Associated Press,, Bloomberg

Source (Spanish)- La Nacion


Explosion at Mexican consulate in NYC

The New York Police Department is looking into a small explosion that took place today at the city’s Mexican consulate. Nobody was injured from the action that took place in the early morning hours though the consulate was evacuated around 9:30 and subsequently cordoned off by police.

According to one news source police are investigating one particular lead:

The suspect, who investigators believe was riding a bicycle, tossed two replica grenades filled with explosive powder onto a walkway between a fence and an entranceway of the consulate at about 3:50 a.m., (NYPD Commissioner Ray) Kelly said. The explosives detonated, causing three windows to shatter, police said.

Witnesses saw a potential suspect on a bike near the consulate, which is located on 39th Street between Madison and Park avenues, at about the time of the explosion, Mr. Kelly said.

Kelly added the today’s incident was similar to one at New York’s British Consulate in 2005 when two grenades were thrown by a person on a bike.

We recommend you check out Guanabee which has an excellent post on the incident including news video.

Sources- Reuters, UPI, BBC News, New York Sun, NY1, Guanabee

Image- Reuters

Brazil: 27 years prison for U.S. nun killer

A Brazilian jury upheld the conviction of the gunmen who murdered nun and activist Dorothy Stang in 2005. Rayfran das Neves argued in his retrial that he shot Stang in self-defense, yet prosecutor Edson Cardoso said that das Neves’ alibi was a weak attempt to absolve the intellectual masterminds behind her death:

"No half-way intelligent person is going to believe that an elderly person -- and (das Neves) confessed she reached into her bag for a bible -- could have threatened him," said Cardoso.

Stang spent the previous four decades of her life defending the rights of poor settlers in Brazil’s rainforest area from wealthy landowners. Prosecutors have linked two ranchers who paid das Neves $25,000 to kill Stang yet it's believed that there was a wider conspiracy against her.

Sources- BBC News, ABC News, Associated Press, The Latin Americanist, Reuters

Image- BBC News

Ecuador returning to OPEC; Mexico running out of oil?

Ecuador will be rejoining global oil cartel OPEC as an active member according to the country’s government. Ecuador has been a member of the organization despite not paying its dues for 25 years yet that will change next month during an OPEC summit.

According to the Associated Press, Ecuador's president is anticipating vital gains from active participation in OPEC:

The Correa administration has said several times it wants to rejoin OPEC for strategic reasons, ranging from technology support to access to loans from other member countries.

On a related note, Mexican President Felipe Calderon declared that his country is running out of oil. "Our oil reserves have been consistently falling," said Calderon during a September speech that was reported on this week by the International Herald Tribune.

Sources- International Herald Tribune, Xinhua, Bloomberg

Image- MercoPress

Video of the Day: Phil Collins is a "naco"?

It's hard to figure out what's worse:
  • Phil Collins' heinous Latino accent which is worse than Frank Zappa's on "Miami Vice."
  • The Yirah Aparicio look-alike at the beginning of the video.
  • The band wearing sombreros and huaraches.
  • Lyrics like "I've got a sister who'd be willing to oblige/
    She will do anything now to help me get to the outside"
  • The cheezy 80's synth in the backgrround.
  • The infantile comments made on YouTube.
  • All of the above.
Presenting for your ear-shattering enjoyment: Genesis' "Illegal Alien"

(Video link):

Daily Headlines: October 25, 2007

* Could the price of a barrel of oil surpass the $100 threshold? Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez thinks so.

* The massive wildfires that have ravaged through Southern California may have claimed the lives of four people at a migrant camp near the U.S.-Mexico border.

* Salvadoran president Tony Saca continues backing his country’s deployment of troops in Iraq, according to this insightful interview with Univision’s Jorge Ramos.

* FIFA inspectors have given their stamp of approval for Brazil to host the 2014 soccer World Cup.

* Follow-up: The man accused in a heinous assault of an Ecuadorian girl in the Barcelona metro was released yesterday after being arrested for a second time over the incident.

Sources (English)- The Latin Americanist, International Herald Tribune, Guardian UK, Voice of America

Sources (Spanish)- El Diario/La Prensa


Thursday, October 25, 2007

CFR: Debate over “Plan Mexico”

Yesterday’s Video of the Day looked at a debate over the “war on drugs” between two policy wonks.

Today we want to clue you in to a discussion over at the Council on Foreign Relations’ website on “Plan Mexico”. Armand Peschard-Sverdrup- senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies- and Jorge Chabat- professor at the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas- delve into the pros and cons of the multi-billion dollar U.S. counternarcotics package to Mexico nicknamed “Plan Mexico”.


Sources- The Latin Americanist, Council on Foreign Relations

Ché Guevara’s hair up at auction

Got several hundred thousands dollars to spare? Want to woo guests at your next cocktail party or itching to buy an early holiday gift? Then why not buy a lock of Ché Guevara’s hair (image).

A Dallas, Texas auction house is going to sell tonight a 3-inch snippet of the famed revolutionary’s hair which was supposedly cut just before he was buried in 1967. Extra security will be on hand due to harassing e-mails from individuals of “a left-leaning political persuasion”, according to a spokesman for Heritage Auction Galleries.

Politics is the alleged reason behind the auction of the piece of hair along with other artifacts that belonged to the collection of Gustavo Villoldo- a Cuban-born former CIA operative:

“(Villoldo) doesn't like the way Che has become a political icon, so he's anxious to get the whole story out,” (Heritage Auction Galleries’ Tom) Slater told AFP. “He feels that Che was a murderer and a bandit and it was appropriate to hunt him down.”

Previous posts on Guevara's legacy have looked at the revolutionary’s connection to his image in Iraq and Benicio del Toro’s portrayal of Guevara in an upcoming movie.

Sources- BBC News, The Latin Americanist, International Herald Tribune, Tehran Times

Image- Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Quote of the Day: Kirchner’s her own woman

“I don't want to be compared with Hillary Clinton, nor with Evita Peron, nor with anybody…There's nothing better than being yourself.”

--Argentine first lady and presidential candidate Cristina Kirchner tried her best in a radio interview to brush off comparisons between her and the Senator Clinton. As we noted in July, some political commentators have even gone so far as to compare the jewelry worn by Kirchner and Clinton.

The latest polls indicate that Kirchner will easily win in the first round of elections this Sunday. In an encouraging sign for female politicians in the region, opposition politician Elisa Carrio runs second in the polls.

Sources (English)- CNN, Bloomberg, Reuters, The Latin Americanist,

Sources (Spanish)- Clarin


Bolivia: Prostitutes on hunger strike

Prostitutes in a city near the Bolivian capital of La Paz have sown their lips shut as part of a hunger strike. Though prostitution is legal in the Andean country, sex workers in El Alto are protesting at a health center against the closing of bars and brothels by the city’s government:

"We are fighting for the right to work and for our families' survival," Lily Cortez, leader of the El Alto Association of Nighttime Workers, told local television.
"Tomorrow we will bury ourselves alive if we are not immediately heard. The mayor will have his conscience to answer to if there are any grave consequences, such as the death of my comrades," she said, surrounded by about 10 prostitutes who had sewn their lips together with thread.

The shutdown of El Alto’s bars and brothels came about after those businesses were ransacked and destroyed by an “angry mob” last week.

Sources-, Reuters, AFP

Image- (“Sex workers cover their faces in a health center, where they are holding a hunger strike in El Alto, October 22, 2007”)

Venezuela: Unique look for new currency

The Venezuelan National Bank introduced a new look for a new form of currency set to take effect in January 2008. The new money- dubbed the Bolivar fuerte (“strong Bolivar”)- will prominently feature Venezuela’s flora and fauna as well as national heroes of female, African, and indigenous descent:

The 5 bolivares bill will be dark yellow with the image of the Lieutenant Pedro Camejo, as known as Negro Primero, due to his participation at the Independence War. On its back it will have the image of two Giant Armadillos with the Venezuelan plains on the background…
The twenty bolivares bill tributes Venezuela's women with the addition of the image of Luisa Cáceres de Arismendi, who was the wife of the military patriot leader Juan Bautista Arismendi. On its back, it has La Restinga National Park with two Hawksbill Turtles.

The “strong Bolivar” will simplify detonations by removing three zeroes from the current currency of Venezuela- the Bolivar. Much like the Bolivar, the “strong Bolivar” is expected to retain a fixed exchange rate with the U.S. dollar.

Sources-,, International Herald Tribune

Image- (Venezuelan Bolivar coin)

Daily Headlines: October 25, 2007

* Follow-up #1: According to Chilean newspaper El Mercurio, Chile’s government will reopen a military base in the Antarctic. The move comes as part of a campaign by that country, Argentina, and Britain to retake claims in the Antarctic area.

* Follow-up #2: The U.S. Senate voted against debating over the DREAM Act- a proposal which would have provided a path for legalization of hundreds of children of immigrant parents who have done at least two years of post-secondary education or military service.

* Spanish musician Alejandro Sanz postponed a November concert that was to take place in Venezuela due to controversial anti-government remarks.

* Congrats to Mexican journalist Lydia Cacho who was one of the co-recipients of this year’s "Courage in Journalism" awards from the International Women's Media Foundation.

* Puerto Ricans are one step closer to deciding the commonwealth's political fate via plebiscite or constitutional assembly.

Sources (English)- The Latin Americanist, Reuters, Associated Press, Voice of America

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

Image- PBase (Arturo Prat military base run by Chile and situated in the Antarctic)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Video of the Day: Debating the “war on drugs”

Via Foreign Policy magazine: a four-part video series analyzing the pros and cons of the “war on drugs”. Below is the first part where drug policy is debated between Ethan Nadelmann- executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance- and David Murray- head scientist at the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy. The discussion is enlightening, and raises questions over the efficacy and usefulness of the “war on drugs”.

(Video link):

Sources- Foreign Policy, YouTube

News briefs – Immigration

* The U.S. Senate is expected to vote today on the DREAM Act; the proposal would grant a path for legalization of immigrant children who have completed a minimum two years of military service or post-secondary education.

* Representatives of a labor union representing construction workers in the Dominican Republic have denounced the “quiet invasion” of Haitians into that industry. Of the approximately one million Haitians live in the neighboring Dominican Republic most work in the construction and sugar industries.

* Los Angeles police chief William Bratton and a former White House antiterrorism czar have publicly backed a New York plan to provide driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Meanwhile, a bill that would overturn the license plan was passed in the state Senate but is unexpected to be approved by the Assembly.

* Chile’s government has offered amnesty to about 20,000 illegal immigrants residing there. In addition, Foreign Minister Alejandro Foxley announced a plan that would allow migrant laborers in Spain, Portugal, and Latin America to shift their retirement benefits to their home nations.

Sources (English)- St. Louis Post-Dispatch, USA TODAY, New York Times – City Room, Gothamist, BBC News, International Herald Tribune

Source (Spanish)- El Diario/La Prensa

Image- NPR

Daily Headlines: October 24, 2007

* Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa made an interesting offer to the U.S. government: let us open a military base in Miami and we’ll let you keep using your base in Manta, Ecuador.

* Happy slightly belated birthday to o Rei do futebol Pelé who celebrated 67 years of life yesterday.

* It was double duty for about sixty Mexican firefighters who volunteered to put out wildfires in California before returning home to tame growing forest fires.

* Are educational standards in Latin America too low? Columnist Andres Oppenheimer thinks so.

* Follow-up: Should we believe U.S. Ambassador to Colombia William Brownfield’s claim that U.S.-Colombia relations will be unharmed despite the close relationship between Alvaro Uribe and Hugo Chavez?

Sources (English)- Reuters UK,, The Latin Americanist, Salt Lake Tribune, MarketWatch, International Herald Tribune

Source (Spanish)- El Diario/La Prensa

Image- El Universo

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Spain: "Racist" attack against Ecuadorian girl

Condemnation has resulted from the shameless assault of an Ecuadorian girl on the Barcelona metro earlier this month. Immigrants rights groups in Spain have asked for justice to be served and Spain’s government has spoken out against the assault. Meanwhile, Ecuador’s government sent a letter of protest to the Spanish Embassy in Quito since the assailant was released on bail.

According to a report from the Spanish police via EFE news agency:

“After insulting her and shouting in hear ear to go back to her country, (the aggressor) started to strike her with increasing aggressiveness until the train stopped. He got off while screaming racially-charged insults at the girl.”

Twenty-one year old Sergi Xavier Martinez Martinez did not deny that the assault occurred, though he said that he was very drunk and impaired during the attack.

The assault was captured by video cameras mounted on the train. Part of the video can be seen below as part of a Spanish television news report on the incident.

(Warning: Not Safe for Work)

Source (English)- YouTube

Sources (Spanish)- El Universo, Hoy, El Tiempo, La Hora

From the trashcan to the auction block for lost Tamayo painting

A painting by Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo which was stolen in 1987 and found in the garbage four years ago is expected to fetch up to $1 million in auction.

The 1970 piece- entitled "Tres Personajes" ("Three People")- had been nicked from a storage facility twenty years ago and inadvertently discovered by a New Yorker in a pile of trash:

Elizabeth Gibson did not know anything about the brightly colored abstract work she spotted on her morning walk four years ago on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Sotheby's auction house will be selling the work next month for the now-widowed original owner.

"I would say it was an appointment with destiny," Gibson said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "I just knew it meant something. ... It was extremely powerful, and even though I didn't understand it. I knew it had power."

"Tres Personajes" will be auctioned in Sotheby's Latin American Art auction which will be held next month. The piece can be viewed at Sotheby’s Manhattan locale from November 17 to 20.

According to Tamayo’s biography on Wikipedia his work was influenced by Cubism and Impressionism yet “with a distinctly Mexican feel.” He died in 1991 and has a museum named after him in Mexico City.

Sources (English)- Bloomberg, International Herald Tribune, Sotheby’s, Gothamist, Wikipedia

Sources (Spanish)- Museo Tamayo

Image- Washington Post

State Dept. to Congress – Pass free trade pacts or Chavez wins

Congress needs to approve several free trade deals with Panama, Colombia, and Peru or Hugo Chavez will score an important public relations victory, said a senior Department of State official yesterday. U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns tried to put the pressure on the Democrat-controlled legislature with his comments:

"If we turn away (from approving the pacts), it's going to embolden someone like Hugo Chavez that he can make hay out of that crisis," said Burns. "We certainly don't want to see someone like Chavez gain a public relations benefit if it doesn't get through, that's surely what he'll try to do."

Burns' words is the latest pro-free trade rhetoric made this month from the Bush administration:
  • “(The free trade deal with) Colombia should be voted on ... as soon as possible.” - Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez.
  • Peru, Colombia and Panama are among our best partners in the region. Their governments have put themselves on the line and made strategic commitments to us through these trade agreements.” - Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.
  • As Congress debates, people across the hemisphere are watching to see if America will uphold its commitment to free and fair trade.” – President George W. Bush.

Sources- Associated Press, Reuters, MSNBC, BBC News

Image- Gotham Gazette

U.N.: More L. America AIDS cases due to "demonized" condoms

A senior official of the United Nations AIDS program claimed that the Catholic Church’s ban on condoms is making it easier for the virus to spread in Latin America:

"In Latin America the use of condoms has been demonized, but if they were used in every relation I guarantee the epidemic would be resolved in the region," said Alberto Stella, the UNAIDS Coordinator for Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

Despite the growth of Protestantism in Latin America, Roman Catholicism continues as the dominant faith in the region. The Church has used its political clout to influence issues relating to health such as condom distribution and decriminalizing abortion.

Sources- Reuters,, The Latin Americanist

Image- New York Times

Daily Headlines: October 23, 2007

* Follow-up #1: Puerto Rican pet owners whose cherished animals died after being thrown over a fifty foot bridge filed a $22.5 million lawsuit in federal court.

* Follow-up #2: Peruvian president Alan Garcia’s reached an all-time low after enjoying a spike in popularity in the aftermath of August’s deadly tremors.

* Travelers at crossing points along the U.S.-Mexico border are becoming increasingly upset with rule changes designed to strengthen security.

* Will Robert Rodriguez’ fiancé thwart the remake of 1960s cult film “Barbarella”?

* Two people were killed in Brazil after clashing with the security guards of a Swiss-owned biotech farm.

Sources- Bloomberg, Reuters, The Latin Americanist, International Herald Tribune, Empire Online, MSNBC

Image- MSNBC

Monday, October 22, 2007

Event: "“Monetary Policy in Chile"

I recently received an e-mail from Columbia University informing me of a very interesting lecture tomorrow. Here it is:

Date: Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2007
Time: 12:30pm ­ 2:00pm
Location: 1501 IAB
Columbia University, Morningside Heights Campus
Event: Lecture: “Monetary Policy in Chile: The Lessons”
Speakers: Vittorio Corbo, Governor of Central Bank of Chile

Summary: Please join us for a lecture with
Vittorio Corbo, Governor of the Central Bank of
Chile. He will mostly speak about Chile, as well
as draw lessons for other emerging market
economies and focus on the recent financial turmoil.

Bios: Vittorio Corbo has been the Governor of the
Central Bank of Chile since May 2003. He has been
Professor of the Economics School of the Catholic
University of Chile since 1981. Professor Corbo
graduated in business studies from the University
of Chile in 1967 and received a Ph.D in Economics
from the MIT in 1971. He is author of nine books
and over a hundred articles published in books
and international periodicals specialising in economic affairs.

Quote of the Day: The “shame” in migration

“Our aspiration is to create a homeland where nobody has to flee and those that left can return. Immigration has become a national shame.”

--Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa expressed sympathy for Ecuadorians living abroad during a visit to Napoli.

Correa met with approximately two hundred compatriots in the Italian city where he also blamed past “failed policies” as the reason why Ecuadorians are “obligated” to migrate abroad.

Image- Travel Blog

Source (Spanish)- El Diario/La Prensa

Dominican bank execs convicted for fraud

Three banking executives were convicted yesterday for their roles in a 2003 fraud scandal that greatly hurt the Dominican Republic’s economy and political establishment. The former president of Banco Intercontinental and two others face ten years in prison and multi-million dollar fines for their roles in the bank’s collapse due to sweetheart deals with corrupt politicos.

How bad was the “Baninter” collapse to the Dominican Republic? Very bad:

“The defendants, who denied all the charges were charged in May 2003 when then Central Bank governor José Lois Malkún made a speech in which he informed the country about the discovery of the RD$55 billion peso fraud…

The Central Bank took over Baninter in April 2003. The “Financial Hole” (hoyo financiero) created by the bank’s collapse totaled 11% of the country’s GDP and plunged the Dominican economy into a serious crisis.

After announcing the fraud, the government guaranteed Baninter client’s savings, leading to the Central Bank’s so-called quasi-fiscal deficit, which according to official figures exceeds RD$100 billion (close to US$3 billion).”

Sources- Reuters, Dominican Today, International Herald Tribune, Wikipedia


Mexican state official says 24 migrants dead

A member of Oaxaca’s government said that 24 Central American migrants died after their boat capsized in the Pacific Ocean last week. Though previous reports said that 10-15 people died, a statement by the Oaxaca government claimed otherwise.

The shipwreck allegedly involved Salvadoran migrants trying to make the long journey to the U.S.:

Survivor Noemi Martinez, 29, of El Salvador, told authorities the vessel left Guatemala with more than 20 migrants aboard and capsized Tuesday.

The shipwreck suggests that migrant smugglers may be increasingly turning to boats to transport Central Americans through Mexico, avoiding highway checkpoints.

Image- CNN

Sources- Xinhua, BBC News, Associated Press, International Herald Tribune

Bolivia: Opposition politico calls Chavez a “monkey”

Bolivia’s government strongly criticized the governor of Santa Cruz province for making “racist and xenophobic” comments against Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Presidential spokesman Ramon Quintana denounced remarks by Ruben Costas calling Chavez a “macaque (monkey)”:

It is improper that a democratically elected authority insulted anther politician as a macaque (monkey). These remarks are incomprehensible.

Costas remarks came after thousands of Santa Cruz residents overran and forced the temporary shutdown of the province’s main airport on Friday. The takeover was the latest clash between the Morales administration and opposition forces centered in Santa Cruz.

Sources (English)- BBC News, Reuters

Sources (Spanish)- El Mundo, El Diario

Image- BBC News

Daily Headlines: October 22, 2007

* Polls show that Argentine first lady Cristina Kirchner is the clear favorite to win next Sunday’s first round of presidential elections.

* Coca-Cola posted a higher than expected third-quarter profit partly based on increase demand for its products in Latin America.

* Millions of Cubans were expected to vote yesterday in municipal elections.

* A U.N. study blamed the lack of “human development” in the Dominican Republic on “the law of ‘hooliganism’”.

* Cuban-American senator Mel Martinez quit as general chairman of the Republican National Committee after being in charge for only ten months.

Sources (English)- Dominican Today,, Guardian UK, People’s Daily Online

Sources (Spanish)- Clarin

Image- BBC News