Friday, January 18, 2008

Video of the Day: "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!"

Just for the heck of it:

Sources- YouTube

Witness: Peruvian prez assassination target in 1992

Peruvian president Alan Garcia was ordered to be assassinated during a 1992 self-coup by then- leader Alberto Fujimori, according to testimony during Fujimori’s trial. Prime Minister Jorge Del Castillo took the stand today, and told that Garcia and he were targets of the army on the night of April 5, 1992:

Del Castillo revealed that Garcia told him years after the coup that “a close person informed him that he was the target of an assassination plot.”

“I am convinced that the (army) group which entered my house did so in order to physically eliminate Garcia” claimed Del Castillo who added that he received “information” from Susana Higuchi. [ed. Higuchi is the now-divorced wife of Fujimori.]

“That’s the information I received; she warned us of the threat via a liaison.” – [ed. Personal translation]

Del Castillo was secretly detained for five days after the autogolpe while Garcia fled to Colombia.

Fujimori is on trial for human rights abuses during his decade of rule and faces a maximum of 30 years in prison if convicted.

Image- BBC News

Sources (English)- Associated Press, Wikipedia, The Latin Americanist

Sources (Spanish)- La Republica, El Diario/La Prensa, El Expreso

Venezuelan MPs support guerillas' political status

Venezuela’s National Assembly approved a measure backing the granting of political status to the Colombian FARC and ELN guerilla groups. The proposal’s text recognizes Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez’ declaration last week that the guerillas are "armies" and should be taken off international terrorist lists:

The Assembly agreed with the president’s position “by requesting that the Colombian government recognize the belligerent character of the insurgent movements…as a sign of good faith towards a political status that would create faith in future negotiations…” according to the approved text…

The legislators also rejected the existence of “unilateral lists imposed by the imperialist U.S. government and other colonizing countries which consider freedom movements and other insubordinate states as terrorist.” – [ed. Personal translation]

The Colombian government has yet to reply to the Assembly’s statement though a pair of political analysts interviewed by RCN said that the measure could lead to the FARC and ELN establishing “embassies” on Venezuelan soil.

Image- BBC News

Sources (English)- BBC News

Sources (Spanish)- Clarin, El Tiempo, RCN

Huckabee pledges against immigrant “amnesty”

Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee signed a "No Amnesty" pledge touted by anti-immigrant groups. The former Arkansas governor added his signature to an oversized document where he promised that if elected president he would:

“fully implement measures that over time will lead to the attrition of our illegal immigrant population and…also pledge to make security of our borders top priority in my administration.”

Huckabee has increased the rhetoric on immigration while campaigning in South Carolina. During an appearance on Tuesday, he advocated ending all immigration from countries that harbor or sponsor terrorists.

A new poll in South Carolina released yesterday showed that Huckabee and Senator John McCain are in a statistical dead heat.

Sources- Baltimore Sun, FOX News, Washington Times,


Daily Headlines: January 18, 2008

* A three-hour shootout between armed men and police in Tijuana ended with the execution-style deaths of six hostages.

* Latin America could be heading for an arms race according to this article from the Christian Science Monitor.

* A human rights group study found that violence in Venezuelan prisons went up in 2007.

* Follow-up: Chile recalled its ambassador to Peru one day after Peru filed a demand against its southern neighbor at the International Court of Justice.

Sources- Christian Science Monitor, Bloomberg, The Latin Americanist, Al Jazeera, Associated Press

Image- Guardian UK (“A Mexican policeman guards children during a stand-off against hit men in Tijuana.”)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Video of the Day: Immigration reform lecture

The following video is longer than the average YouTube clip but worth checking out. It is a video of a panel discussion held on Monday entitled “The Future of Immigration Reform in America.” The lecture may be dull at times, yet there are numerous interesting views presented about the immigration debate.

(Video link):

Source- YouTube

Brazil: U.S. couple indicted on abuse charges

A Brazilian court indicted a U.S. couple on charges of sexually abusing children while at a nudist colony. The couple has been jailed since December and the indictment was extended to include a Brazilian couple and the parents of three boys who were allegedly abused.

Brazilian police claimed to have sufficient evidence to back their suspicions of the accused:

According to police inspector Juliano Ferreira, the parents "received money in exchange for allowing their sons to be sexually abused by the American and Brazilian couples."

Ferreira said such photos were found in both homes and included images of children allegedly victimized by the couples. He said police have identified 12 of those minors…

All of the boys lived in poor neighborhoods near the colony, police said.

Ferreira said that police found "DVDs and CDs containing hundreds of photographs of young boys posing nude or having sex with each other."

Sources- Associated Press, MSNBC

Image- Greenwich2000

Report examines Cuban human rights

There’s been a recent decrease in Cuban political prisoners but state repression continues according to a report from a human rights group based on the island.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights study on 2007 said that there were 82 fewer political prisoners since Raul Castro took over in July 2006. Nevertheless, the group claimed that there has been no improvement in Cuba’s human rights record during Raul’s rule:

"This sort of provisional government has done nothing to change the very bad situation of civil, political and economic rights that has exited in Cuba for more than four decades," the commission said, adding that authorities still deny freedom of expression, assembly and travel…

"Through its enormous repressive apparatus, the Cuban government continues to silence dissident voices and employs all forms of intimidation against militant opponents or ordinary citizen who speak out," the group said.

On a related note, journalism watchdog group Reporters Without Borders demanded the prompt release of 24 journalists jailed in Cuba.

Sources- Reuters, Reporters Without Borders,, The Latin Americanist

Image- BBC News (“Cuban government supporters (R) chant pro-revolutionary slogans as a group of political prisoners' wives known as Ladies in White (L) march in Havana.”)

U.S., Mexico top cops meet

The head law enforcement officials of Mexico and the U.S. met yesterday in order to discuss issues like human trafficking and organized crime. U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora emphasized the need for greater cooperation between both countries and Mukasey announced the creation of a special database designed to stem the illegal arms from crossing the border.

In addition, Mukasey talked about a topic we mentioned last month: the use of tear gas and pepper spray by Border Patrol agents.

"We're trying to deal with it. We've talked to the Mexicans about it, and they're trying to deal with it," Mr Mukasey said.

"What happens is that there is organised rock-throwing to divert border guards, who then become involved in whatever exchanges they're involved in, then you get a bunch of backpackers running across the border with backpacks full of marijuana," Mr Mukasey said.

Image- USA TODAY (“Mexico's Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora, left, shakes hands with U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey during a news conference in Mexico City, Wednesday.”)

Sources- The Latin Americanist, BBC News, Monsters & Critics, New York Times, Reuters

Peru Takes Chile to Court

Yesterday Peru filed a demand against Chile in the International Court of Justice in the The Hague, Netherlands. Peru is claiming that it's maritime border with the Southern Cone nation has never been defined and is requesting that the international court intervene in the dispute. Chile rejects Peru's claim, citing multiple treaties made with Peru in the 1950's.

At least it's not about who rightfully claims pisco.

Source : CNN
Image: Peru's President Alan Garcia addressing lawmakers on the issue yesterday in Lima.

Eagle Pass, Texas: 0 Vs. Border Fence : 1

Eagle Pass, Texas has lost in a round of fighting against a border fence.
Yesterday the U.S. Justice Department ordered the border city to temporarily give up 233 acres of land (for 180 days), the first step in paving the road for a fence creating a physical barrier between that city and Mexico. The Feds had to sue the city for access because local landowners and politicos refused to handover the land. Right now, the land handover will allow government surveyors to begin assessing sites for construction of the fence.

There are hundreds of other lawsuits against other landowners in Texas, California, and Arizona who refuse to give up their lands to the Feds.
The DHS (Department of Homeland Security) is under a congressional mandate to have 670 miles of fencing in place by the end of the year to toughen security on the porous southwestern border. The plan calls for roughly 400 miles of new fencing that will be added to existing barriers.
Source : The Seattle Times

Daily Headlines: January 17, 2008

*Actor Sean Penn criticized the “increasingly lamebrain” San Francisco Chronicle for publishing an article critical of celebrities close to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

* Stocks throughout Latin America have taken a tumble amidst the global anxiety over the U.S. economy.

* Chile’s legislature approved a proposal to provide pensions for all the country’s workers.

* French firm Alstrom was chosen to build Latin America’s first high-speed rail line in Argentina.

Sources- AFP, Reuters, Associated Press, Bloomberg

Image- Sydney Morning Herald

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Video of the Day: Lula and Fidel

The following is video taken from Brazil’s O Globo which showed Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva meeting with Fidel Castro on Tuesday in Havana. The news clip also included public comments made by Lula asserting that “Fidel Castro is lucid, healthy and ready to return."

(Video link):

Sources- YouTube, Bloomberg

Migrants missing in Caribbean waters

Between 10 and 14 migrants have gone missing after their boat overturned in turbulent waters between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. A Coast Guard spokesman said that four survivors were found clinging to the capsized boat, yet two dead bodies were also located near the vessel. In addition, the Coast Guard said that most of the passengers were Cubans and Dominicans.

The Mona Passage is an 80-mile strait that separates the Dominican Republic from Puerto Rico. It’s a popular route for some migrants and is as an alternative to crossing the U.S.-Mexico border:

The migrants come through the highly traveled Mona Passage between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Over the last year, 4,300 illegal immigrants have been caught. [In 2006], almost 3,000 have been taken into custody. Most are Dominicans, but increasingly the migrants are Cubans — some 660 [in 2006]…
No one knows for sure how many have died trying to cross the treacherous, 3000-foot deep channel, but it's estimated that as many as 10,000 people attempt to cross it every year.

Image- Georgetown University (“Dominicans crossing the Mona Passage in a yola.”)

Sources- Canadian Press, Dominican Today, Wikipedia, CBS News

WaPo blasts Hugo Chavez

An editorial in Wednesday’s Washington Post harshly criticized Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Entitled “Ally to Kidnappers”, the editorial touched on several topics stemming from including Chavez’ suggestion to remove Colombia’s FARC guerillas from international terrorist lists.

On Chavez’ recent comments on the FARC:

In short, Mr. Chávez was endorsing groups dedicated to violence and other criminal behavior in a neighboring Latin American democracy, and associating his agenda with theirs…Latin American leaders who until now have seen in Mr. Chávez a crude populist who buys his friends with petrodollars are faced with something new: a head of state who has openly endorsed an organization of kidnappers and drug traffickers in a neighboring, democratic country.

On international support of Chavez:

Some in Washington, London and Madrid where kidnappings are rare, are happy to embrace Mr. Chávez -- former congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II, for example, can be heard in radio advertisements touting his alliance with the Venezuelan leader. The FARC may think it can similarly find allies. Filmmaker Oliver Stone is already sold: He recently called the FARC "heroic."

On Colombia’s president:

The answer to this logic (by Stone and Kennedy) was provided by the press office of Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, who has been waging what is, in fact, a heroic battle against the brutal gangs that for decades have plagued his country. "The violent groups of Colombia are terrorists because they finance themselves through a business that is lethal to humanity: drug trafficking," the press office said.

So far, neither Chavez or the Venezuelan government has replied to the strongly-worded editorial.

Image- Caribbean Net News

Sources- Washington Post, El Universal, BBC News

Uruguay: One-ton rat fossil found

Scientists discovered the fossil of a prehistoric rodent that may have been about ten feet long, nearly five feet tall and weighing 2000 pounds. Two Uruguayan paleontologists “stumbled upon the” fossil which would have belonged to the world’s biggest rodent.

One of the scientists told CNN:

"We can give an educated guess that the rodent would have been 3 meters long -- assuming that it was similar to a Capybara (the largest rodent alive today) and taking it into account that large mammals generally have relatively smaller heads. It's tail probably was closer to the one of capybara or guinea pig (very short) and not like a rat," Ernesto Blanco says.

It’s believed that the rodent, named Josephoartigasia monesi, was an herbivore and existed between two and four million years ago.

Image- BBC News

Sources- Guardian UK, Associated Press, CNN, Reuters

Daily Headlines: January 16, 2008

* In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

In 1493, Columbus may have brought Europe a new VD.

* Citigroup will be selling its share of a Brazilian credit card company as the U.S.’ biggest bank faces mounting losses.

* Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa unveiled plans to decentralize the federal government and grant more power to provinces.

* Three senior police officials were among the six killed in a series of “linked shootings” in Tijuana, Mexico.

Sources- Wikipedia, Reuters, Bloomberg, Monsters & Critics, BBC News

Image- FOX News

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Wikilengua debuts

Tuesday was the seventh anniversary of online resource Wikipedia and as of last month over 9 million entries have been filed in the Wikipedia network.

Last week a new site created in the style of Wikipedia was presented with the aim of teaching the correct use of the Spanish language. Creators of the website, called Wikilengua, have high hopes that their project will be a success:

"The first cyberspace forum that is open and dedicated to bringing together honestly all knowledge about the Spanish language was born today," said Alex Grijelmo, president of the Spanish national news agency Efe, part of the foundation that created the site.

"Wikilengua aims to serve as a place for reflection on language, the grand instrument of human intelligence," Grijelmo said at the presentation.

Grijelmo may be on the right track; according to an Efe report, Wikilengua received roughly 35,000 hits within 24 hours after its public unveiling.

Image- InfobaeProfessional

Sources (English)-, Wikipedia, CBC, Wired

Sources (Spanish)- Wikilengua

Brazilian cows worry Swiss sausage eaters

The Swiss take sausage seriously and a unique kind called Cervelat is the country’s most popular sausage. Yet Cervelat consumers in the alpine nation may face a shortage of their favorite meaty treat. Why?

A joint "task force cervelat" composed of scientists, bureaucrats and industry representatives has been convened to tackle the crisis caused by a shortfall in Brazilian cows' intestines used to encase the nation's favorite sausage, the Swiss meat association said…

But now the lightly smoked sausage has fallen victim to European Union restrictions on the import of cows intestines from Brazil because of fears over mad cow disease — bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE.

Swiss sausage makers are considering suppliers from other countries like Uruguay and Paraguay though they may not enough to cover the quantity that would come out of Brazil. With the possible windfall of selling sausages to droves of hungry tourists during the summer’s Euro 2008 soccer tournament, cervelat makers may have to rely on South America to save their industry.

Image- BBC News

Sources- Associated Press, BBC News, AHN, Wikipedia

Cuba plays host

Something to tide you over on what seems to be a slow LatAm news day...

Cuba will soon host a variety of visitors, including Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, who wants to meet with Raul Castro in February, and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who will speak with Raul Castro this week during his visit to the country.

Bertone is the Vatican's most senior member after the Pope. Reuters reports his trip is partially related to the timing: It's the tenth anniversary of the late Pope John Paul II's 1998 trip to Cuba.

The Brazilian president will "sign important agreements in areas of shared interest," according to the article on Granma International's Web site.

Brazil is Cuba's second-largest trading partner.

Sources: Reuters, Granma International

Photo: Reuters, Raul Castro

Daily Headlines: January 15, 2008

* “I'm convinced that by giving to those who have the least, we will all have more” declared Alvaro Colom who was inaugurated as Guatemalan president on Monday.

* Care to find out what “socialism smells like?” Then why not try the new perfume from Spain’s Catalan Socialist Party.

* Less cocaine was intercepted by the U.S. in 2007 from Latin America than the previous year according to new data.

* Follow-up: Less than a week after freeing a pair of high profile hostages, Colombia’s FARC guerillas allegedly kidnapped six tourists.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Xinhua, MSNBC, Guardian UK, Bloomberg, AHN

Image- (Alvaro Colom celebrates winning Guatemala’s presidential elections last year)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Peru: Fujimori’s daughter for president?

Keiko Fujimori could run for Peru’s next president after supporters of her father created a new political party. Ex-president Alberto Fujimori faces up to 30 years in jail over human rights abuses during his mandate, yet his backers hope that a new political faction would help clear his name:

"For seven years, some of the media and several political sectors have already sentenced Alberto Fujimori. It is important for us to show how much people support him and we will do it with democratic weapons," said Congresswoman Keiko Fujimori, Alberto Fujimori's daughter...
"We are going to collect one million signatures throughout the next year and prove that people do not agree with the lynching of Alberto Fujimori that is taking place," affirmed Keiko.

So far Keiko has denied running for president in 2011. However, she is a very popular figure in Peru as evidenced by her getting the highest vote nationwide in 2006 legislative elections.

Sources- Associated Press, Living in Peru, Xinhua, New York Times

Image- People’s Daily Online

Retirees to handle immigration delays

The massive backlog of immigration applications in the U.S. has affected different groups such as those who want to gain citizenship before November’s elections and people who hurriedly filed their paperwork before a fee increase last year.

In order to try to lessen the load of the millions of applications, the Bush administration approved an “emergency plan” last week. The program would involve rehiring several hundred retired government workers to cut the delay. However, according to one immigration official in an Associated Press article:

Linda Springer, director of the Office of Personnel Management, said Citizenship and Immigration Services estimates it needs 2,500 additional employees over the next few months to meet workload demands.

Though a quick fix is certainly better than nothing, much more will need to be done soon to diminish delays.

Image- MSNBC (“People line up outside the Immigration and Naturalization Service office in Detroit in Jan. 2002”)

Sources- Los Angeles Times, MSNBC, New York Times, Associated Press

From Slough to Scranton to Santiago

The BBC has signed a license deal with a Chilean television network so that the South American country can produce its own version of “The Office.” Though the show has been remade in countries like the U.S. and Germany, the Chilean adaptation will be the first to be done in Spanish and by a Latin American country.

Ricky Gervais- creator and star of the original “The Office”- told British daily The Sun:

“We stopped making The Office in 2003 but the rest of the world didn’t.

“I won’t be happy until I have seen an Inuit doing David Brent’s dance.”

Casting is underway for the Chilean series though the character of David Brent/Michael Scott will be played by Luis Gnecco.

Sources (English)- The Sun, Guardian UK, Chortle

Sources (Spanish)- El Periodista

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Brazil and Cuba to sign oil deal

The governments of Brazil and Cuba are planning to sign several agreements this week during Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s visit to the island. One of the main pacts would allow Brazilian energy giant Petrobras to search for oil in Cuban waters.

Lula’s visit to Cuba is designed to strengthen economic ties between Brazil and Cuba that have grown closer since he became president:

Higher growth rates have led to a surge in imports into Cuba, which almost tripled to $8.92 billion between 2002 and 2006, according to the Brazilian Foreign Affairs Ministry. Cuba's trade deficit widened to $6.35 billion in 2006 from $1.49 billion in 2002.

Brazilian exports to Cuba increased almost fivefold in the same period, reaching $343.8 million in 2006, the Brazilian Trade Ministry said, or about 0.2 percent of Brazil's total exports. Brazil's main exports to Cuba are electrical equipment, sugar, candy and meat products.

It is unknown if Lula will meet with “close friend” Fidel Castro during the visit which starts today.

Image- The Trumpet

Sources- Reuters, Bloomberg, MercoPress, Granma International

Video of the Day: Mother and child reunion

Three days after being freed from her captors in the Colombian jungle, Clara Rojas was reunited with her three-year-old son, Emmanuel. The following video was taken from the Colombian news last night and shows a precocious Emmanuel with her overjoyed mother:

The aftermath of last Thursday’s rescue operation has not been without controversy, unfortunately. Several politicos viewed unfavorably the sympathetic comments made by Venezuelan representative Ramón Rodriguez Chacín to the FARC guerillas during the handover. Even more controversial was a speech made by Hugo Chavez on Saturday calling for Colombia’s main rebel groups to be labeled as “armies” and not as terrorists.

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

Sources (Spanish)- El Tiempo

Daily Headlines: January 14, 2008

* U.S. First Daughter Jenna Bush traveled to Peru “to work with U.N. children's assistance programs”, according to one source.

* Puerto Rico’s pro-independence movement is not pleased at subpoenas handed down against three activists.

* Italian prosecutors are seeking 139 people involved with several South American dictatorships during the 1970s and 80s.

* Follow-up: First it was Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. Now roving reporter/supermodel Naomi Campbell talked politics with Argentine President Cristina Fernandez.

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

Image- MSNBC (“Jenna Bush reads from her recently published book "Ana's Story: A Journey of Hope," before a book signing”)