Saturday, January 12, 2008

Bloggers of the world unite! – Road to the White House

* Bill Richardson’s “exits as a classy guy” even if “he lost in a country where he’s not even a citizen.”

* Hillary Clinton and her seeking the Latino vote.

* An analysis behind the Mexican government’s “borderless campaigning”.

* In this post, Caribbean bloggers opine over Barack Obama.

* Lastly, Rudy Giuliani wants your support…en español:

Sources- Latina Lista, Wonkette, The Daily Dish, Guanabee, Bloggings by Boz, Global Voices Online

Daily Headlines: January 12, 2008

* Follow-up: “It was so obvious that I was innocent,” said Eric Volz whose conviction for murder was recently overturned by a Nicaraguan court.

* Can the U.N. help reform Guatemala’s justice system?

* Brazilian health authorities are on high alert over a possible yellow fever outbreak.

* Approximately 700 people were evacuated from the area around the active Tungurahua volcano in Ecuador.

* Immigration into Peru grew by nearly 9% in 2007 according to recently released data.

Sources- Los Angeles Times, CNN, The Latin Americanist, Living in Peru, AFP

Image- MSNBC

Friday, January 11, 2008

Video of the Day: Hope Sandoval

Hi everyone.

Sorry for the lack of posts; we'll make up for it on Saturday. (And this time I better stick to it unlike last weekend!)

In the meantime, here’s the video for “Flowers In December” by 90s alt group Mazzy Star. Vocals are provided via the duclet voice of Mexican-American singer Hope Sandoval.

(Video link):

We previously featured Mazzy Star in this post.

Sources- Wikipedia, YouTube, hopesandoval.com, the Latin Americanist

Daily Headlines: January 11, 2008

* A record $4.1 billion in remittances were sent to Guatemala in 2007 according to newly released figures.

* Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega proposed transforming the country’s legislature into a parliamentary system.

* A study that examined Bolivian infants concluded that a simple set of health guidelines would save the lives of thousands of babies in impoverished countries.

* Follow-up: Ex-Haitian paramilitary leader Emmanuel Constant faces 25 years in jail on mortgage fraud charges in New York.

Sources- Reuters, Bloomberg, The Latin Americanist, New York Daily News, AFP

Image- banknotes.com

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Colombia: Clara and Consuelo are free!

Image- Consuelo Gonzalez is reunited with her daughter and sees her grandaughter for the first time after arriving in Caracas, Venezuela on Thursday. (Photo via BBC News)

Update (9.30pm): Colombian president Alvaro Uribe gave a televised speech where he thanked his Venezuelan counterpart and expressed his joy at the liberation of Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez. Uribe also read the names of the 43 people still held hostage by the FARC guerillas and urged them to negotiate with the Colombian government. He backed the country's "policy of democratic security" for effectively "combating terrorism" and bringing a "peace process to the paramilitaries".

Earlier tonight Uribe talked with Rojas and Gonzalez according to eluniversal.com.

Uribe's speech echoed comments made earlier in the day by Vice President Fransisco Santos. Santos asked for people to "maintain perspective" by remembering those who are still held hostage by the FARC.

According to RCN Radio, "Clara and Consuelo are resting with families and friends in Caracas' Hotel Melia...(according to a correspondent) Clara and her daughter have not stopped hugging each other...after being separated for 6 years."

An article from El Tiempo quoted a Colombian child welfare official who said that Clara can "have her son as soon as she wants."

We'll finish our today's of coverage Rojas and Gonzalez with this article from teleSur.tv. The mother of kidnapped U.S. contractor Marc Gonsalves said that she "cried an ocean because it gave me hope that I will see my son again."

Update (6.00pm): Reunited and it feels so good:


Update (5.15pm): Clara Rojas, Consuelo Gonzalez, some of their family members, and other diplomats were welcomed to the Miraflores Palace by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. The Colombian and Venezuelan national anthems were played as they stood at the steps of the president's residence. Chavez is holding a child in his arms as he's flanked by Rojas and Gonzalez who's holding her own granddaughter.

Venezuela's eluniversal.com reported on the international reactions to today's events. "France is profoundly happy" said the country's president, Nicolas Sarkozy, while Spain's government urged the FARC to free all their hostages. Government representatives in the Americas from Mexico to Argentina expressed their joy while also giving their support to future negotiations.

New Mexico governor and former presidential hopeful Bill Richardson commented on the Colombian hostage situation. In an interview with CNN en Espanol, he called for the liberation of the three U.S. contractors being held by the FARC as well as the other hostages. He said that Rojas and Gonzalez need the chance to recover after being kidnapped and warned that they may have Stockholm Syndrome.

Richardson also noted that he quit from the presidential race due to lack of funds, did not endorse any of the other Democratic candidates, and blasted the Republican candidates for their "destructive" viewpoints on immigration.

Update (4.30pm): At the top of the hour, Rojas and Gonzalez arrived safe and sound at airport outside of Caracas. They were met by several of their family members holding flowers and wearing t-shirts saying "Freedom for all now". Gonzalez held her granddaughter for the first time while Rojas tenderly embraced her elderly mother. It is an emotional scene as smiles and hugs abound.

Noticias Caracol said that Rojas and Gonzalez will be transported to Caracas where they will undergo a medical examination, spend more time with family, and then be received by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

El Tiempo reports that Rojas and Gonzalez are in possession of letters from 16 hostages still held by the FARC.

Caracol Radio interviewed Rojas who commented over the birth of her son, Emmanuel, in April 2005 while she was being held captive. She said that the birth was "bad" and an impromptu C-section had to be done. The boy was born with some sort of fracture or injury in his arm according to Rojas. Ingrid Betancourt- a French-Colombian politico kidnapped along with Rojas- helped obtain Emmanuel's first set of baby clothes. Rojas ended up being "injured for 40 days" yet her recuperation was facilitated by a female guerrilla. She was with Emmanuel for 8 months before they were separated. She expressed hope that she will soon be reunited with her son.

Update (3.40pm): TeleSUR news network has shown video of the handover of Rojas and Gonzalez to the international commission. They appeared in high spirits and held a calm demeanor. They spoke briefly to Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez via satellite phone and thanked him for his intervention. "I feel like I'm born again" said Rojas to Chavez while Gonzalez urged him to "keep working" to free the other hostages held by the FARC. Later, both thanked the Venezuelan government and people while on the helicopters traveling to Tachira.

Colombia's Noticias Caracol reported that the families of Rojas and Gonzalez are overjoyed now that they're both freed. They also noted the Department of State's response to the news by expressing their relief at the liberation of Rojas and Gonzalez while emphasizing the efforts of the Colombian government.

Speaking of the Colombian government, Vice President Francisco Santos was happy with today's developments yet strongly urged the media and people to "keep things in perspective" by remembering the "people that have spent years kidnapped and held captive" by guerillas.

Original post: After years of being held captive against their will by the FARC guerilla group, Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez were freed a few hours ago. The handover to the commission headed by the Venezuelan government along with International Red Cross (IRC) was done roughly four hours ago in a designated part of the Colombian jungle.

Approximately fifteen minutes ago, the IRC helicopters carrying Rojas and Gonzalez landed safely at an army base in the Venezuelan border state of Táchira. After landing both were whisked away in jets to Caracas where they will be medically examined and then reunited with their respective families.

We will stay exclusively with this story today and we’ll post updates throughout the day.

Sources- El Tiempo, Reuters

Daily Headlines: January 10, 2008

* Chile and Argentina have offered to host the 2008 Dakar Rally which had been cancelled due to worries over security.

* Take off your tin foil hats; the North American Union will not become reality anytime soon.

* Honduran President Manuel Zelaya wants to reopen cases of officials involved in massacres and “disappearances” during the 1980s.

* Follow-up: Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen denied a November 2007 report claiming that she demands getting paid only in Euros.

Sources- snopes.com, AFP, Reuters, The Latin Americanist, BBC News, Associated Press

Image- New York Daily News

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Video of the Day: Bye-bye Bill?

According to the Associated Press, New Mexico governor Bill Richardson will drop out of the race for U.S. president on Thursday. Despite having “one of the most wide-ranging résumés of any candidate ever to run for the presidency (and a) unique role as a freelance diplomat”, his fate was sealed with poor single-digit showings in the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary.

If Richardson does drop out, one of the things that we’ll miss are his quirky campaign ads such as these:

Click here to read a March 2007 Weekly Debate on Richardson’s candidacy.

Sources- Associated Press, MSNBC, UPI, YouTube, The Latin Americanist

Manuel Noriega’s extradition appeal rejected

A U.S. federal judge turned down the request from former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega to avoid extradition to France. Noriega should be sent to Panama upon his release in September according to his lawyer and sending him to France would be against the Geneva Conventions. Yet U.S. District Judge Paul Huck disagreed:

The ruling from U.S. District Judge Paul Huck, which followed three earlier court decisions approving the planned extradition, addressed concerns raised by Noriega's attorneys over France's refusal to formally designate Noriega a prisoner of war.

"Without that status of being declared a prisoner of war, there is no guarantee he will continue to receive those benefits," said Jon May, one of Noriega's attorneys.

Huck disagreed, saying he was satisfied with France's commitment to treat Noriega, 73, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.

"What more could Noriega ask for or be entitled to?" Huck asked. "It's the benefits. It's not the nicety that he's called a prisoner of war."

French courts convicted Noriega in absentia on money laundering charges though he may face a retrial and possibly by sentenced to ten year in prison.

Noriega was captured during a 1990 U.S. invasion of Panama and convicted two years later.

Sources- AFP, Associated Press, CNN, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Wikipedia

Image- BBC News

Colombia: Rescue mission could occur on Thursday

Update (10 January): According to Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez have been freed and are en route to Caracas where they will reunite with their families.

Yesterday we commented over the uncertainty of a rescue mission to free two high-profile Colombian hostages despite the efforts of an international commission and the International Red Cross (IRC). However, the operation appears to be back on track based on several developments over the past twelve hours.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said that he received the coordinates in the Colombian jungle for the handover of Clara Rojas (image) and Consuelo Gonzalez from the FARC rebel group. According to El Tiempo’s website:

“We have received from the FARC the coordinates in the Colombian mountains where Clara and Consuelo are located because, thank God, (Clara’s son) Emmanuel is safe and in Bogotá” declared Chavez. – [ed. Personal translation]

In response to Chavez’ announcement, the Colombian government gave permission for Venezuelan helicopters to be redeployed in Colombian territory and for the IRC to oversee the rescue mission.

Rojas and Gonzalez could be freed as early as tomorrow, and it may be possible for Rojas to be reunited with her three-year-old son, Emmanuel. (According to RCN, a Spanish lab confirmed that a boy handed over to child welfare authorities in 2005 was Emmanuel Rojas. It was previously thought that he was in his mother’s custody after being born while she was kidnapped).

Sources (English)- Bloomberg, Monsters & Critics, Reuters, The Latin Americanist

Sources (Spanish)- RCN, El Tiempo

Image- CNN

Elvira Arellano Revisted

With the U.S. presidential primaries in full swing, it's easy to lose the humanity behind the rhetoric of the policies discussed. Thankfully Colorlines remind us how the struggle continues via one of the living patron santas of the immigration issue, Elvira Arellano. Revisiting her case, that we all know too well, brings up issues of process on both sides of the border. For example, the fact that Elvira never had an immigration hearing , that Mexican President Felipe Calderon refused to grant her a diplomatic visa, and that the presence Elvira's son, Saul, a U.S. citizen, wasn't considered when she was arrested and deported. In that deportation, when Elvira left the sanctuary of a Chicago church, other rules were broken, including the Vienna Convention, which required the U.S. to inform the Mexican government of her arrest and obtain permission to send her back.



Source : Colorlines
Image Source : Racewire

Chile Shuffles its Cabinet

In what is actually not that uncommon, Chilean Presidenta Michelle Bachelet fired and replaced five ministers in her cabinet. The five positions were economy, mining, public works, agriculture and planning ministers. A new interior minister was also named after a surprise resignation last week. All of the new ministers have long histories in the Chilean government. The move was made in part, according to some analysts, to boost Bachelet's sagging approval rating which suffered a huge fall after the failure to implement a new public transport system in the capital, Santiago and the lack of economic benefits to the general population linked to a growth in the copper industry (Chile is the world's #3 copper producer).
"I have decided to introduce changes to the Cabinet to face the second half of my presidential term," Bachelet said in announcing the new ministers.
Sources : El Mercurio, Reuters, Canada.com

Daily Headlines: January 9, 2008

* A Venezuelan political party thinks they have the perfect motto: Hugo Chavez is nuts.

* Bolivian President Evo Morales will meet with opposition governors next week in order to try to reconcile their differences.

* Lou Dobbs for president? (Hat tip: Wonkette).

* Follow-up: About $56 million worth of artwork that was robbed from the Sao Paulo Museum of Art in December was recovered according to Brazilian police.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, BBC News, Monsters & Critics, Wonkette, Wall Street Journal, BBC News

Image- MSNBC

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Video of the day: Jingles

Last week, Chicago Tribune journalist Oscar Avila had this to say:

In Latin America…songs become part of the candidates' political biography, a less offensive way to trumpet themselves. And for voters who don't have the education or access to read detailed platforms, the music is a convenient shorthand.

The best jingles burrow into the consciousness….

In the U.S., maybe it has come time for candidates to take a chance and pen an original song instead of simply relying on the inoffensive and predictable radio staples. No fewer than three U2 tunes, for example, are part of this year's campaign soundtrack.

A group called Amigos for Obama wrote a reggaeton tune for Barack Obama last year though none of the other presidential hopefuls have yet to take up Avila’s suggestion. (Despite our own ideas of a few tunes they could use).

Not every song works well, however; take for instance the following used by losing Guatemalan presidential candidate Otto Perez Molina:

For some odd reason that ad reminded me of the 1980s commercials for Mistolin with Johnny Ventura.

Sources- Urban Dictionary, YouTube, The Latin Americanist, Chicago Tribune, Vivirlatino

Colombia: Uncertainty over hostage talks

On New Year’s Eve, negotiations for a rescue mission to free three high-prolife hostages in Colombia came to an abrupt halt. One of the main sticking points regarded the custody of three-year-old Emmanuel Rojas who was thought to be in the hands of the FARC guerilla group yet was most likely secretly handed over to child welfare authorities.

Since then, it is unsure if any other hostages under FARC control will be freed. Colombian foreign minister Fernando Araujo declared Monday that the government would not allow any future international missions. However, Peace Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo contradicted him on Tuesday and mentioned that any international missions would be permitted under specific guidelines. Later that day, defense minister Juan Manuel Santos said that no “clandestine” missions would be allowed but noted that international missions would only be permitted under the auspices of the International Red Cross.

Despite the uncertainty of any future hostage missions, Emmanuel’s grandmother still hopes that her daughter (image) will be freed soon and safely:

“I beg the FARC to free our loved ones…what we should be interested in is the liberation of those still held captive” said Mrs. (Clara) Gonzalez de Rojas.

“My dearest daughter, I hope that soon we will be reunited. Please be sure that your baby is safe…and that God is good with your child, whom He protected!” - [ed. personal translation]

Sources (English)- International Herald Tribune, The Latin Americanist

Sources (Spanish)- RCN, El Tiempo

Image- BBC News

Young Brazilians out of work, school

Young Brazilians who neither work nor attend school make up nearly 20 percent of the country's residents aged 15 to 24, the Inter Press Service News Agency reported Jan. 8.

This number reflects a growing trend of Latin American youth that experts fear are not substantially integrated into society. Seven million Brazilians and nearly 800,000 Argentineans do not work and are not in school.

Experts attribute this to a limited labor market and decreased quality of public education. It is a worrisome factor, they say, because this high number of unattached youths contributes to greater violence and poverty.

Implementing long-term education plans must be a top priority, said Jorge Werthein, director of the Latin American Technological Information Network, which commissioned the report on youth development. Creating more jobs and other policies to bring young people into society also will alleviate the problem.

Read the IPS story here.

Source: Inter Press Service News Agency

Candidates collect endorsements


As the Nevada primary looms, presidential candidates are scrambling to collect the last few Hispanic endorsements.

Hispanic Business reports that Democrats have an edge with these leaders, although Republican candidates like Mitt Romney have prominent endorsements including the country's first Republican state party chair, Al Cardenas, and the first Republican Hispanic Congressman from Texas, Henry Bonilla.

Democratic candidate Bill Richardson, who is part Mexican, has endorsements from former housing secretary and San Antonio mayor Henry Cisneros and Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina. Barack Obama is endorsed by former energy secretary and Denver mayor Federico Pena.

Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton pocketed Sen. Bob Menendez, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and California State Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez.

Only a few major endorsements are still up for grabs, like Congressional Hispanic Caucus chairman Rep. Joe Baca, who is uncommitted.

Full story is here.

Source: Hispanic Business

Photo: NPR, Democratic candidate Bill RIchardson

Iran nurtures interest


The Tehran Times reports that Iran ambassadors and representatives in Latin American countries met to plan more cultural activities.

The Islamic Culture and Relations Organization agreed on proposals including scientific meetings, inter-religious dialogue and handicrafts exhibitions.

ICRO director said Iran shares views with Latin American nations and considers potential expansion of relations promising. Media relations with the region also have improved, he said.

A news analysis from the Party for Socialism and Liberation reported that Iran also will open an embassy in Bolivia.

Read more here.

Source: Tehran Times

Photo: Party for Socialism and Liberation, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Daily Headlines: January 8, 2008

* The killings of indigenous people in Brazil grew by a whopping 63% last year accosting to a human rights group linked to the Catholic Church.

* Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney "apologized" over the weekend for accusing John McCain of supporting “amnesty” for all illegal immigrants.

* The 15-nation Caribbean Community (CC) may pledge to cut taxes on food imports according to one CC official.

* “Maletagate” update: Two of the defendants accused of acting as “illegal agents of Venezuelapled not guilty in a U.S. court.

Sources- Bloomberg, Houston Chronicle, MSNBC, Monsters & Critics

Image- Sydney Morning Herald (“Members of Brazil's Assurini do Tocantins tribe, wearing their traditional "Cokar" headgear”)

Monday, January 7, 2008

Weekly Debate: the Anne Frank musical

A musical based on the “Diary of Anne Frank” is set to open in Madrid next month. The adaptation of the Holocaust text into a musical may be interpreted as in poor taste, yet The Anne Frank Foundation supports it:

Having been rewritten for films, plays and TV dramas, the story of the Jewish girl hiding out with her family in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam has never before been made as a musical. The Anne Frank Foundation, which jealously guards the rights to the diary - it once turned down Steven Spielberg when he wanted to make a film - has given its support. Jan Erik Dubbelman said: "This production respects the message of tolerance, within the tragedy, that we want to keep alive. Being in Spanish, it can also help to take the message of Anne Frank to Latin America."

The director of the play told BBC News that “the thing we want to do is through the music, to understand the story better.” In addition, the title character will be played by 13-year-old Isabella Castillo; Castillo’s mother was a Cuban refugee who fled to Belize before settling in Miami.

What is your opinion on the musical? Is it tacky and in bad taste or will it help promote the legacy of Anne Frank? Will the play’s “message” really make an impact on Latin Americans? If you could, would you go watch the musical?

Please express your point of view via the poll located on the right-hand column and/or as a response to this post.

Image- Boston Globe (“Isabella Castillo, who plays Anne in a Spanish theater troupe's version of "The Diary of Anne Frank," sat in the office of Otto Frank, Anne's father, at the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam. (Peter Dejong/Associated Press)”)

Sources- Ynetnews, BBC News, Guardian UK, New York Times


Chile: Anger over Mapuche death by police

Indigenous groups in Chile have protested against last week’s killing of an activist by a police officer. According to The Santiago Times:

“We, as Mapuches, are not going to just calm down. We’re got a lot of rage to let out. We’re very angry. The state, cowardly and at point blank, killed our brother, who was unarmed,” Raul Cariñe of an organization called Meli Wixan Pau (Of the Four Points of the Earth) told members of the international press Friday afternoon.

Little is known over the exact circumstances of the death of Matias Catrileo though the Associated Press noted that it occurred during clashes between activists and police over a piece of farmland.

Some Mapuche activists have fought to recover land that they claim is theirs, and this has led to disagreements with Chile’s government and Italian clothing firm Benetton. A pair of legislators has even called for the Organization of American States to intervene. Unfortunately, the situation may be getting worse after police are investigating a radical Mapuche group for its role in the attack of a Chilean business executive.

Sources (English)- The Santiago Times, Associated Press, UNPO.org, The Latin Americanist, IPS

Sources (Spanish)- La Nacion

Image- mapuexpress.net

Hugo Chavez interviewed by supermodel Campbell

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

Supermodel Naomi Campbell.

GQ magazine.

On the surface the above items seem like an unusual mix, but the latest edition of the men’s mag will contain an insightful interview of Chavez conducted by the British model. Campbell- who is a “contributing editor” to GQ- emphasized that she “simply went to interview Hugo Chavez the man” and not for personal political reasons.

Though politics was the main topic of conversation, Campbell was able to get Chavez to reveal his views on other things:

Elsewhere, Chavez found time to defend Venezuela's human rights record and vaunt his country's oil reserves, but also gave his views on less weighty matters like fashion, pop music and the British royal family.

Cuba's Fidel Castro was the world's most stylish leader, he said ("His uniform is impeccable. His boots are polished. His beard is elegant"), he was aware of the newly-reformed Spice Girls and admired Britain's Prince Charles.

He also refused to rule out following Russian President Vladimir Putin's example and posing for topless photographs. "Why not? Touch my muscles," he reportedly told the supermodel.

Sources- AFP, Bloomberg, Independent Online

Image- Guardian UK

Daily Headlines: January 7, 2008

* Congrats to Elsa Murano; on Thursday, she became the first female and Hispanic president of Texas A&M University.

* Coming soon to the Canadian market: Mexico’s Corona beer.

* South Korean auto giant Hyundai is looking at Brazil for the site of its first South American factory.

* El Salvador will continue being the only Latin American country to send troops into combat in Iraq.

* Follow-up: In December, Colombia’s newest tourist attraction was launched – a theme park at the former estate of dead drug capo Pablo Escobar. Not to be outdone, Bogotá opened a “museum of laziness” last week.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Independent Online, BBC News, AHN, Canadian Press, Houston Chronicle,

Image- Texas A&M University