Friday, November 30, 2007

Video of the Day: Evidence of hostages’ survival

Earlier today, the Colombian government released videos of sixteen kidnap victims held hostage by the FARC guerilla army. Amongst some of the high-profile captives shown on the tapes included politician Ingrid Betancourt and three U.S. contractors. The hostages appear to be thin and frail on the videos which where supposedly obtained during a military operation.

The following YouTube video was taken via a newscast from Colombian TV:

Relatives of those kidnapped expressed relief of seeing their loved ones for the first time in years but were also sad and distraught over their condition.

Colombian senator Piedad Cordoba- who helped negotiate with the FARC along with Hugo Chavez- told the local press that more video evidence will be coming soon, while Chavez was alleged to receive the tapes by this weekend had he not been removed as mediator last week.

Sources (English)- Reuters, CNN, BBC News, The Latin Americanist, YouTube

Sources (Spanish)- RCN, El Tiempo, Caracol Radio

News briefs – Venezuelan referendum

With Venezuela’s constitutional referendum coming up on Sunday numerous news stories have recently made the rounds. Here are some of them:

* A TIME magazine article on President Hugo Chavez decided to ditch the dictionary and create a new word: “democratator”; def. “a democratically elected dictator”.

* An estimated 100,000 people marched in Caracas yesterday to express their opposition to the constitutional changes backed by Chavez. However, tens of thousands of Chavez supporters attended a pro-government rally in the Venezuelan capital today.

* Some economists believe that Venezuela’s economic growth will greatly slow down if the referendum passes. Yet as we mentioned last month, 2001 Nobel Prize winner in economics Joseph Stiglitz had backed Chavez’ policy during a visit to Caracas.

* On the political front, one of the main opposition groups that originally called for abstentions on Sunday has now changed its tune. Meanwhile, Chavez said that he would “start to pack my bags” should the “No” vote win.

* Polls vary on which side will win the referendum; a survey conducted by Datanalisis concluded that voters prefer “No” by a 10% margin yet a poll by Consultores 30.11 showed that “Yes” would triumph by 7%.

* Lastly, Venezuelans have been hoarding items like toilet paper based on rumors supposedly spread by “a group of business leaders (who) are…playing dirty.” (Pun definitely intended).

Sources- TIME, Voice of America, USA TODAY, Bloomberg, The Latin Americanist, Reuters UK, International Herald Tribune, Reuters Africa

Image- CNN (“A banner in Caracas supports the constitutional reforms sought by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez”)

Uruguay: Bill to allow gay civil unions

Uruguay’s legislature is close to passing a proposal that would equally recognize some gay and straight civil unions in that country. Uruguay would be the first Latin American country to permit such legislation if the bill becomes law, which according to one legislator will take effect by mid-December:

“This recognition of the legal status of couples ... recognizes the legal status of homosexual couples, which gives it a completely new dimension,” said Edgardo Ortuno, a member of the center-left ruling party.

While President Tabare Vazquez has sympathized with the civil union proposal, he has vowed to reject the legalizing of certain forms of abortion despite approval by the senate earlier this month.

Sources-,, LifeSiteNews, Reuters

Image- International Herald Tribune (A group of men hang out in the “chill out” zone of Buenos Aires first luxury gay-friendly hotel)

Ecuador: Congress suspended by constitutional assembly

Ecuador’s constitutional assembly voted yesterday to put the country’s legislature “in recess” until a new constitution becomes approved. The decision was made by the body during its opening session and pits the government-friendly assembly versus the opposition-led Senate.

As the AFP reported this morning:

The assembly is expected to work for six months in drafting a new constitution, with which (President Rafael) Correa aims to increase the role of the state in the economy and broaden social policies in the impoverished country.

The congressional recess, the assembly said in its statement, "is not susceptible to any interruption and cannot be contested by constitutional or judicial actions."

In the meantime, Correa declared a state of emergency in the Amazonian province of Orellana after domestic oil production dipped by 20% due to protests.

Sources- Reuters, International Herald Tribune, AFP

Image- BBC News

World AIDS Day on Saturday

Tomorrow is World AIDS Day, which has been observed yearly on December 1st since 1988. This year’s theme concentrates on leadership and how leaders globally must step up to combat the spread of HIV and AIDS. As Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu remarked:

“This is not the time for complacency nor apathy…It is the time for compassionate leadership.”

  • Some Jamaican dancehall musicians promote the notion of safe sex despite songs with risqué lyrics. “Young people gravitate towards the dance and AIDS is more prevalent among that set, so we have to push (safe sex),” said singer Aidonia to the Jamaica Observer.
  • Researchers at the University of Miami are examining a plant from the Amazon rainforest that had been used as a cure-all in several Andean countries against ailments like AIDS.
  • The government of Uruguay will soon start an ad campaign aimed at women and young adults to promote safe sex and decrease the spread of AIDS.
  • Human rights group Survival International released a report warning of an increase in HIV/AIDS among indigenous communities including the spread of gonorrhea and syphilis to women of Brazil’s Yanomani natives.
  • Previous posts on this blog on AIDS in the Americas includes the theory that HIV was spread into the hemisphere via Haiti, Brazilian government efforts to distribute discounted antiretroviral drugs, and how migration into Mexico may be causing a spike in AIDS cases there.

Sources- AFP, The Latin Americanist, Times Online, Jamaica Observer,, Xinhua, Wikipedia, UNAIDS, World AIDS Campaign


Daily Headlines: November 30, 2007

* Wealthy nations ought to pay underdeveloped countries for environmentally friendly policies, argued Brazil’s government on Wednesday.

* Japanese whale hunting is similar to Nazi medical experiments on humans, declared a Chilean senator.

* The state of New York earns over $229 billion from its immigrant population, according to a Fiscal Policy Institute study.

* The foreign ministers of Brazil and Mexico expressed their support for reforming the U.N. Security Council.

* Follow-up: Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney will be two of the presidential hopefuls attending Univision’s Spanish-language Republican debate on December 9th.

Sources (English)- UPI, The Latin Americanist, ABC Online,

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

Image- (Portion of the Amazonian rainforest located in Peru)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Video of the Day: Rudy vs. Romney

Wednesday evening’s CNN/YouTube Republican debate featured a contentious quarrel over immigration between presidential hopefuls Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney. Conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan observed the exchange as “great theater” and bemoaned “the anti-illegal immigrant anger - the tone of it more than anything else.”

(Video link):

Sources- Associated Press, The Daily Dish, YouTube

Mighty quake shakes Caribbean

An earthquake measuring 7.4 on the Richter scale rocked through the Caribbean Thursday afternoon. The epicenter was off the coast of the island of Martinique and lasted approximately twenty seconds.

Despite the brevity of the quake, the tremor set off false alarms as far away as California and caused panic among some Puerto Ricans who felt the ground shake:

University student Samuel Donato told that a building…at the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras was evacuated…

“There were people with tears in their eyes and others impressed since we’ve never experienced something like this.” [ed. personal translation]

So far there are no deaths or casualties though the AFP is mentioning unconfirmed reports of collapsed buildings in Martinique's capital of Fort-de-France.

Sources (English)- BBC News, International herald Tribune, Monsters & Critics

Sources (Spanish)-, El Vocero de Puerto Rico

Image- BBC News

News briefs – Free trade

* El Salvadorian President Tony Saca showed his support for free trade with the U.S. during a meeting with President George W. Bush on Thursday. In addition, Saca said that the Central American country will send a new yet reduced contingent of troops to Iraq.

* Israel and the Mercosur trading bloc are close to agreeing to a free trade pact according to Israeli officials. “It is something very important because it will be the first trade agreement for Israel in South America,” observed Israeli ambassador Itzhak Levanon over the possible agreement with what BBC News considers as the Americas’ leading trading bloc.”

* Trade between the members of North American Free Trade Agreement (U.S., Canada, Mexico) grew by almost 6% in September. The U.S. government report also said that U.S.-Mexico trade was worth over $24 billion during that month.

* Much progress has been made in the latest round of free trade discussions between Peru and Canada admitted a top Peruvian trade official. Meanwhile, economists with a major U.S. manufacturing group asserted that a U.S.-Peru pact being debated in Congress is “a waste of time and a diversion from more pressing issues”.

Sources- Voice of America, AFP, Associated Press,, BBC News, Living in Peru, Western Farm Press

Image- USA TODAY (Mexican trucks cross into the U.S.)

New Immigration Study Out But Can It Be Trusted?

The New York Times today is citing a new immigration study that shows that immigration is up and at least half of that growth is due to undocumented immigration.
Immigration over the past seven years was the highest for any seven-year period in American history, bringing 10.3 million new immigrants, more than half of them without legal status, according to an analysis of census data released today by the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington.
One in eight people living in the United States is an immigrant, the survey found, for a total of 37.9 million people — the highest level since the 1920s
The Center for Immigration Studies, led by Steven A. Camarota, advocates reduced immigration. The data itself is said to be good but not the analysis of that data.
The survey focuses on public costs associated with the new generation of immigrant workers. It does not, however, analyze contributions they make by paying taxes and taking undesirable, low-income jobs — an omission criticized by some immigration scholars.
The study is especially focused on how much public assistance undocumented immigrants receive, especially in terms of health care. Another study recently released, states that undocumented immigrants are not the burden on the health care system anti-immigration advocates make them out to be.

So which study to believe?

Sources : The New York Times, VivirLatino

CNN en Español Kills Chavez Then Apologizes

Hugo Chavez has people left and right apologizing for him and against him, not that he has ever apologized for anything. First his ex apologized for the role she played in promoting the Venezuelan president and his policies. Now, CNN en Español is apologizing for killing Chavez off via a technical error.

CNN en Español, the Spanish-language version of the round-the-clock cable news program, mistakenly ran a photograph of Chavez on Tuesday next to a caption that read, "Who killed him?"CNN apologized and blamed the snafu on a technical mixup.
The caption referred to a story about Washington Redskins football star Sean Taylor, who died after being shot this week in his suburban Miami home, but it was shown during a CNN story on a spat between Chavez and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.
Of course, Chavez went to town with the mix-up, saying it was more proof that there is a U.S. conspiracy to kill him.

Source : The NY Daily News, VivirLatino

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Taiwan head plans Caribbean visit

For all those hoping for increased Taiwan-Latin America interests, this might be your chance. Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian will visit Latin America and the Caribbean in January to attend a Guatemala inauguration and visit a few islands.

During his campaign, Guatemala's President-elect Alvaro Colom pledged to preserve diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

These are some of the 24 small countries that recognize Taiwan.

Guatemala, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Lucia and Haiti are among the 24 small countries which recognize Taiwan. China, which sees Taiwan as its breakaway province, is wooing Taiwan's allies to drop Taipei and recognize Beijing.

Finding Americanism in Latin America

First of all, apologies for only a smattering of posts. Still getting back into the post-Thanksgiving groove!

Here's an interesting blog about the opinion of America from a Latin America perspective.

Among the interesting notes, they say the farther away from America, the more they like the country. Hmm.

It's from the "Combating Anti-Americanism and Populism with Education in Latin America" symposium in Indinapolis.

Daily Headlines: November 28, 2007

* Puerto Rican singer Noelia said in an interview that she has become a stronger person after a sex tape scandal broke out months ago.

* Bolivia’s Water Minister was fired after photos revealed him supposedly in the embraces of a prostitute.

* Seven people were killed, forty were injured, and thirty continue missing after an Ecuadorian mine explosion.

* Mexican officials have received a request from the U.S. to extradite recently captured drug smuggler Sandra Avila.

* Brazil's petroleum agency headquarters were entered by a land right’s group upset at the auctioning of oil exploration blocks.

Sources (English)- Latin Gossip, Xinhua, Reuters, Bloomberg

Sources (Spanish)- Voy Music, El Diario/La Prensa


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Video of the day: Fujimori’s “auto-golpe”

Yesterday, Peru’s Supreme Court sentenced ten ex-ministers for their role in a 1992 coup against the government led by then-president Alberto Fujimori. The “self-coup” was a severe blow to Peruvian democracy though Fujimori justified it as a “necessary” move.

Today’s VOTD comes from a 2005 documentary entitled “Fall of Fujmori”; it is a small portion recalling the 1992 “auto-golpe” and includes interviews with key actors such as Fujmori.

(Video link):

By the way, Fujimori remains in a Peruvian prison where he is awaiting trial for human rights violations and corruption during his decade-long rule.

Sources- Associated Press, BBC News, Fall of Fujimori, YouTube, Bloomberg

Detained mother barred from breastfeeding baby

In the alleged words of Yogi Berra: “It's like déjà-vu, all over again.”

Earlier this month we examined the case of Sayda Umanzor- a mother who was detained by immigration authorities in Ohio and separated from breastfeeding her nine-month-old daughter. A similar incident has occurred in North Carolina.

Danielle Ferreira- a nursing mother originally from Brazil- was barred from supplying breast milk to her less than two-month-old son after being arrested on a non-immigration charge on Friday. Mecklenburg County jail spokeswoman Julia Rush claimed that inmates cannot provide breast milk without a court order which was why prison officials refused her husband from giving her a breast pump.

Ferreira was temporarily released this afternoon and reunited with her son. Unfortunately her case was not an isolated one, according to one local immigration activist:

Angeles Ortega-Moore, executive director of the Latin American Coalition, said she has heard before of nursing moms not being allowed to express milk while in the Mecklenburg jail.

"That seems to be inhumane for anyone whether they are in this country legally or not. Experts will tell you this is a very difficult time for a mom to be separated from her baby," said Ortega-Moore. "Regardless of what the mom has done, we are putting the health of a young child at risk."

In the aftermath of the Umanzor case, U.S. immigration authorities enacted a new policy to meet the needs of nursing mothers. However, Rush said that prison officials were unaware of the new guidelines until Monday night.

(Hat tip: Guanabee, Vivirlatino).

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Guanabee, Vivirlatino, International Herald Tribune, Charlotte Observer, WCNC,

Image- Pan American Health Organization

Cuban economy growing says gov’t

Cuban state media reported today that the island’s economy is expected to jump by 10% this year. According to an article by Reuters, Cuba’s economy minster said on a speech aired today that:

“This year's plan is 10 percent and we are going to come in around that figure,” Economy and Planning Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez said at a meeting of economists on Monday, parts of his speech broadcast on state-run radio on Tuesday.

Rodriguez gave few details, simply stating “there is an important jump in industrial and agricultural production.”

An “industry source” also attributed Cuba’s economic expansion to the burgeoning tourism sector which averages approximately $2 billion in yearly gross income. If the government’s claims are true then the Cuban economy would have strengthened despite the U.S. embargo against the island as well as growth in the number of Cubans caught trying to enter the U.S.

Sources- Guardian UK, Xinhua, AFP, UPI

Image- Havana Journal

Arctic cruise crash concerns Argentines

Argentina’s Environment Secretary has called for placing limits on tourism in the Antarctic after a cruise ship sunk off the continent’s coast last Friday. After flying over the site of the wreckage Romina Picolotti remarked her concerns to the local press:

She told Argentinean news agency Telam, "The purpose of the Antarctic is not tourism. Nations must make a greater effort to impose stricter controls." She pushed for reducing the number of ice tourists which had doubled over the recent years.

The recent boom in tourism to the Antarctic has been seen by some critics as increasingly dangerous and harmful to the environment. For instance, the sinking of the M/S Explorer over the weekend created an oil slick nearly 5 miles wide.

Sources- Associated Press, Mercopress,, AHN, Bloomberg

Image- New York Times

Follow-up: Chavez recalls ambassador to Colombia

Earlier today, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez ordered the country’s ambassador to Colombia to return to Caracas. According to a communiqué by Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry (as reported by Reuters):

"The government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, due to recent events and in order to carry out an exhaustive evaluation of bilateral relations, has recalled its ambassador from Bogota," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

relations between the neighboring countries has deteriorated since Colombian leader Alvaro Uribe removed Chavez from serving as a mediator for hostage talks with the FARC guerilla group. Over the weekend, Chavez said that Uribe’s gesture was akin to being “spit” upon and added that political relations between both states were put “in the freezer.”

Meanwhile, Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba- who assisted Chavez in his negotiations- was offered political asylum in France according to the local media. Cordoba was set to appear before a session of the Colombian Congress today after pro-Uribe legislators suspect her of wrongdoing during the negotiations.

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

Sources (Spanish)- El Tiempo

Image- Al Jazeera

“Spray-on” condoms about to start production

Much like in this post the following story is not exclusively related to the Americas yet it’s still caught our attention.

A German scientist has perfected a special “spray-on” condom that is touted to fit any sized penis. How does it work?

The condoms…are applied with a special applicator. Men insert their assets, press a button, and an aerosol canister sprays on a fast-drying latex liquid. 25 seconds later, the condom is dry and ready for use. It is then rolled off and disposed afterward.

The greatest advantage of the system is the “one size fits all” approach though the director of the Institute for Condom Consultancy admitted that applying the spray may interfere with the “romance factor” of lovemaking. The cost of each application will be roughly double that of conventional prophylactics though the system is nearly ready for production.

Will the “spray-on” condom system achieve widespread use? Perhaps, though it will surely take time to catch on in underdeveloped countries.

(Hat tip: The Daily Dish).

Image- Inventor Spot

Sources- The Daily Dish, Spiegel Online, Switched, The Latin Americanist

Daily Headlines: November 27, 2007

* Time to put on your tin foil hats and examine the hoopla behind the North American Union theory.

* Beauty is skin deep, except if your makeup is laced with pepper spray.

* Latin American stocks tumbled to their lowest points in two months after trading ended on Monday.

* Follow-up: Bolivian president Evo Morales claimed that paramilitaries killed an anti-government protestor while the country’s constitutional assembly met over the weekend.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Monsters & Critics, International Herald Tribune, CNN, Bloomberg

Image- Jones Report

Monday, November 26, 2007

News briefs – Soccer

* Brazilian star Kaka will win the former European Footballer of the Year award, according to the Italian media.

* Meanwhile, FIFA president Sepp Blatter warned of the “real danger” of Brazilian players nationalizing their citizenship to play for national teams worldwide.

* Argentina kept its number one FIFA ranking as the world’s top soccer nation.

* The World Cup qualifying draw for several regions was held this weekend including CONCACAF. Mexico earned a tough draw according to soccer analyst Ives Galarcep, while the U.S. might have to play against Cuba.

* In qualifying action in South America last Wednesday Paraguay tops the table after its 3-0 shutout of Chile, Brazil came back to beat Uruguay 2-1 (image), and Ecuador walloped Peru 5-1.

* Seven fans were killed in Bahia, Brazil after part of a stand collapsed in the middle of a game.

Sources- Xinhua, Soccer by Ives, New York Times, Bloomberg, Sports Network, Guardian UK, BBC News

Image- International Herald Tribune

Calderon: Machismo continues in Mexico

Mexican president Felipe Calderon spoke out against what he perceives as a culture of machismo that’s pervasive in Mexican society. Calderon’s remarks came during a ceremony earlier today to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women:

Earlier this year, Mexico enacted a law obligating federal and local authorities to prevent, punish and eradicate violence against women. Yet only a handful of states have formally adopted it, Calderon said.

At fault? A culture still dominated by "the false premise of subordination, submission and even inferiority of women with respect to men," he said. "This is a cultural obstacle that we have to reverse."

Mexico has promoted women’s rights via recent measures though activists and the government don’t always see eye to eye. For instance, a proposal to decriminalize abortion nationwide was not seen favorably by Calderon and it was eventually defeated by conservative members of Calderon’s party.

This past Sunday was the annual International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women; a day established by the U.N. in 1999.

Image- CNN

Sources- The Latin Americanist,, International Herald Tribune, New York Times, Xinhua

Uribe “spat” at me, says Chavez

In the aftermath of being removed as mediator in Colombia’s civil conflict, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez criticized his Colombian counterpart Alvaro Uribe. According to the New York Times:

The Venezuelan president, speaking on television, described Mr. Uribe’s attitude as the equivalent of a “brutal spitting in the face,” and called him a “liar.” Mr. Uribe, the Bush administration’s top ally in South America, responded by accusing Mr. Chavez of legitimizing terrorists and advancing ambitions of “assembling an empire.”

Chavez added that relations between the neighboring countries have been put “in the freezer” and that he has also lost trust in Uribe.

In the meantime, a videotape of a policeman held hostage by leftist rebels was released over the weekend. "Tell my family not to lose hope," said police captain Guillermo Solarzano in the video which police Chief Oscar Naranjo accused of being manipulated by the journalist who taped it.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, New York Times, AFP, Associated Press

Images- BBC News

Bolivia: Constitutional draft approved

Bolivia’ constitutional assembly agreed to a new draft constitution yesterday. The legislature met yesterday at a military school in the colonial capital of Sucre amidst high security and boycotts by opposition politicos. Meanwhile, clashes between protestors and police in the street became deadly after one person was killed.

During a televised speech to the country, president Evo Morales called for calm as well as respect for what will likely be the country’s new Magna Carta:

In a speech delivered in La Paz, Bolivia, Morales said the violent demonstrations in the past two days in Sucre were worrying and that further action was needed to prevent an escalation of the violence.

Morales also ordered an urgent investigation into the clashes in Sucre, and pledged that "those who were guilty of violence would be investigated and brought to justice."

Sources- Xinhua, AFP, Associated Press, Voice of America

Images- BBC News

Video of the Day: Jose Reyes’ offseason "workout"

Will this music video will be playing at Shea and Yankee Stadiums during the seventh inning stretch next season?

(Video link, Not Safe for Work):

At least that made me forget about this for just a few minutes.

(Hat tip: Deadspin).

Sources- YouTube, The Musings and Prophecies of Metstradamus, Deadspin

Daily Headlines: November 26, 2007

* On Sunday, the Chilean military ended its airlift of a passengers and crew from a shipwrecked cruise off Antarctica.

* The National Latino Officers Association of America criticized a Rand Corporation report released last week supporting the New York Police Department’s “stop and frisk” practices.

* Brazil’s government may create a firm that would provide free Internet service to public schools.

* First it was workers in Colombia. Now it’s laborers in Panama who have denounced Chiquita Brands for abuses.

* This article will probably be the only time the words “fake” and “Spice Girls” have ever appeared in the same sentence without referring to their singing.

Sources- BBC News, The Latin Americanist, Prensa Latina, NY1, AHN,

Image- ABC News