Saturday, February 2, 2008

Daily Headlines: February 2, 2008

* Tens of thousands of farmers marched down the streets of Mexico City in protest against the elimination of tariffs on corn.

* Baseball’s “Series Del Caribe” (Caribbean Series) starts today with teams from Mexico, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic.

* Panama and the Caribbean are two possible sites where sand could be imported to fill Miami Beach’s shrinking coastline.

* One of the world's most wanted drug traffickers- Colombian Wilber Varela- was found dead in western Venezuela.

Sources- International Herald Tribune, Bloomberg, Monsters & Critics,

Image- CNN

Friday, February 1, 2008

Weekend blogging

Just a quick note that we’ll be blogging a bit over the weekend on several topics including our weekly music post and the way overdue results of our top headlines of 2007 poll. Thus, please tune in to this blog on Saturday and Sunday!

U.S. Army suicides keep rising

In a worrying trend, the rate of suicides by U.S. Army troops has risen over the past four years. Officials confirmed that last year 89 soldiers killed themselves though are 32 “suspected cases” of suicide within the ranks. In comparison, 60 soldiers committed suicide in 2003, 67 in 2003, and 83 in 2005.

Despite increasing efforts to treat affected soldiers, Army officials claim to be baffled by the increase in suicides:

“We have been perturbed by the rise despite all of our efforts,'' said Col. Elspeth Ritchie, psychiatry consultant to the Army surgeon general.

Those efforts include more training and education programs, the hiring of more mental health professionals and the addition of screening programs launched after a succession of studies found the military's peacetime health care system overwhelmed by troops coming home from the two foreign wars.

``We know we've been doing a lot of training and education,'' Ritchie told a Pentagon press conference. ``Clearly we need to be doing more.''

The increase in Army suicides coincides with a boost in recruitment efforts of Latinos into the armed forces. In 2004 Defense Department data showed that the recruitment of Latinos grew 15.2% while the number of new black and white recruits decreased by 7.6% and 4.6%, respectively.

The ability to make a career in the Army and the acceleration of the naturalization process for non-citizens in active duty has served as viable reasons to enter the armed forces. Yet more needs to be done to protect the lives of the rising numbers of Latino youth valiantly serving on the frontlines.

Image- TIME

Sources- New York Times, Guardian UK, MSNBC, Reuters,,

Rabanita : Lays Green Eggs but no Jamon

The latest superstar out of Mexico is Rabanita, a green egg laying hen. The likely reason for her colored egg laying skills, which doesn't make the eggs taste any different, is genetic.

Source : Boing Boing

Ecatepec, Mexico a Sanctuary City

With all the fury about sanctuary cities and churches in the United States, one Mexican town is taking an open arms approach to immigrants from other countries. Jose Luis Gutierrez , the mayor of Ecatepec, a place where Hondurans, Guatemalans, Salvadorans and others begin their march on North towards the U.S. border, understands the immigrants and in fact sees their movement as protected.
He has ordered his police officers and city officials not to arrest, extort or otherwise harass the migrants. He's also ordered them not to cooperate with Mexican immigration agents.
"Let them go and guard the borders," he said. "For Ecatepec, migration is not a criminal act. It's a universal right: the right to seek work and the right to travel freely from one place to another."
Right on.

Source : The LA Times

Daily Headlines: February 1, 2008

* A Brazilian judge has barred the use of a Carnival parade float depicting models of Holocaust victims.

* Mexican director Guillermo del Toro may be behind the lens of two upcoming films based on J.R.R. Tolkien's “The Hobbit.”

* The Argentine government punished two retired admirals and a former navy captain for their roles in the country’s “Dirty War.”

* In an interview, Colombia’s police chief said that a former police cornel fired for helping a drug capo should be extradited to the U.S.

* Follow-up: Ex-Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega cannot be extradited to France until all of his appeals have been exhausted, according to a U.S. magistrate.

Sources- Guardian UK, BBC News, The Latin Americanist, MSNBC, New York Times,

Image- CNN (“The Viradouro samba group has been ordered to remove mannequins representing Holocaust victims.”)

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bloggers of the world unite! - 2008 Bloggies finalists

Today is the last day to vote for the winners of this year’s Weblog Awards. There are numerous categories that one can vote in such as “Best Weblog in Music,” “Best New Weblog”, and “Weblog of the Year”.

The 2008 Bloggies also includes a category for “Best Latin American Weblog;” five finalists were selected:

Denken Über is a blog dedicated to technology and information on the Internet. The site’s motto is “un simple weblog” (a simple blog) though its detailed entries belie such an insignia.

Venezuela News and Views is a staunch anti-Chavez blog (and seemingly proud of that). Whether one agrees with the blog’s viewpoints or not, the blog provides an insightful look into one side of a polarized country.

Bibi’s Box is a potpourri of different topics including art, animation, and literature. The blog is a refreshing look into the author’s interests and innate curiosity.

El Espacio de la Omnipresente Chela dedicates itself to “alternative entertainment” and includes critiques of music, animation, and video games. Posts are short and the author definitely knows his chops.

The Wired Blog is a team effort that focuses on geek-ish things. Entries vary from comics and video games to oddities.

Voting ends tonight so don’t delay in choosing your crème de la blog crème!

Sources- The 2008 Bloggies, The Wired Blog, Bibi’s Box, Denken Über, Venezuela News and Views, El Espacio de la Omnipresente Chela

Image- iStockphoto

Major human rights report condemns Americas

Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued its 2008 World Report today criticizing numerous governments for their substandard human rights records. For example, the report claimed that “established democracies” (e.g. U.S. and most of Europe) have impeded the progress of growing democracies in other parts of the world. The report also blasted autocratic governments like Kenya and Pakistan and critiqued the United Nations for being “too soft” on Sudan.

The HRW account also focused on the lack of progress in human rights in several Latin American countries. Here are just a few of them:

  • Brazil - Police brutality in favelas and their impunity.
  • Haiti – Attacks against human rights activists and journalists.
  • Colombia – Violence against labor leaders and paramilitary influence in politics.
  • Venezuela – Impeding freedom of expression and influencing the judicial system.
  • Mexico – Obstacles to freedom of the press and denying reproductive rights.
  • Cuba – Incarceration of political prisoners and travel restrictions.
  • Guatemala - Impunity against leaders from the civil war.

Sources (English)- Human Rights Watch, Al Jazeera, Guardian UK, Reuters Africa

Sources (Spanish)- Human Rights Watch

Image- BBC News (“HRW said Kenyan leaders believed the US would tolerate electoral fraud.”)

Costa Rica boasts unemployment numbers

Costa Rica has the lowest unemployment rate in Latin America and the Caribbean at 4.8 percent, according to the United Nation's International Labor Organization and reported by

The drop from 6 percent unemployment in 2006 is attributed to a boost in construction jobs.

Mexico follows with 4.9 percent and then Argentina with 7.1 percent.



U.S. apathetic about Americas

Hardly any U.S. citizens consider Latin America an important region for the United States, according to a new Zogby poll on

The Middle East came in with 43 percent of respondents considering it most important, but Latin America only received 7 percent, following Southeast Asia with 20 percent and Europe with 12 percent.

The regions U.S. citizens seem to care least about seem to be directly north and south.


Daily Headlines: January 31, 2008

* Nearly 22 years after the infamous “Hand of God” goal, Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona apologized for the handball which caused the controversial tally.

* Mexico's Treasury Department estimates slower economic growth due to a possible recession in the U.S.

* Heavy rains and flooding have killed about 40 people in Bolivia since November according to government figures.

* A deal is being finalized that would allow the European Union to provide medical equipment to Nicaragua as long as the Central American country destroys 1000 of its missiles.

*Follow-up: Ecuador and Nicaragua may reject a regional military pact proposed by Venezuela according to this report.

Sources (English)- AFP, YouTube, Reuters, Associated Press, The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg

Sources (Spanish)- Milenio

Image- BBC Radio 1

Cuban voters prefer Raul over Fidel

Official results of Cuba’s recent local elections showed that interim president Raul Castro was the most preferred candidate. Both Raul and ailing brother Fidel were easily elected to the National Assembly with Raul winning 99.3% of the ballots in his race while Fidel won 98.2%.

Still, could the election’s outcome mean that the Cuban populace does not want Fidel to return as head of state? As the AFP observed:

Some speculate Raul Castro might become president on a permanent basis or that another top regime official might move up the ladder technically ending Fidel Castro's official dominance of the regime. Few, however, doubt Fidel would remain influential in the latter case.

While Fidel Castro appears to be in better health than a year ago, many Cuba-watchers believe he will not be able to resume the full, wide-ranging powers he used to wield.

Ultimately, it will be up to the 614-member National Assembly to decide on February 24th whether Fidel will be selected as president.

Sources- AFP, Associated Press, Reuters

Image- CNN (“Raúl Castro leads a Havana march Sunday for the 155th birth anniversary of Cuban national hero José Martí.”)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The New Republic: Globalization drives immigration backlash

A recent article in The New Republic looked at what are the causes of anti-immigrant sentiment in the U.S. More specifically, the piece from John B. Judis claimed that immigrants are seen by some as scapegoats for the effects of globalization on a faltering U.S. economy. In addition, the Wall Street Journal’s analysis of the article observed that:

Along with economic grievances, the movement against immigrants also reflects “a loss of confidence in the cohesion and resilience of the American nation,” says Mr. Judis. Polls show a rising number of people think the U.S. is headed in the wrong direction and that sense of decline makes the backlash against immigrants even stronger, says Mr. Judis. The fear is that immigrants will undermine national unity just when it is needed most.

So what do you think? Is Judis spot-on or is there more than meets the eye with anti-immigrant views in the U.S.?

Image- World Maps Online

Sources- Wall Street Journal, The New Republic

Video of the Day: Obama en español

It was bound to happen:

In the above ad, Congressman Luis Gutierrez does most of the Spanish-language narration calling Obama a “leader of immigration reform” who will “construct a better future”.

Obama isn’t the only hopeful to issue Spanish-language ads; Hillary Clinton aired a radio ad last year and soon-to-be former candidate Rudy Giuliani issued this commercial.

(Hat tip: The Daily Dish).

Sources- The Daily Dish, The Border Line, Associated Press, Guanabee

Try and Try Again : Immigrants Face Red Tape Nightmare

While the U.S. government has taken a it's broke but we won't fix it attitude towards the immigration situation in the United States, the fact remains that the system is set on screwing immigrants even when they try to do right.
Immigration bureaucracy plagued by delays. It will take an average of 18 months to process petitions from legal immigrants applying for citizenship between now and 2010, compared to seven months or fewer in 2007.
Pro Inmigrant hits the nail on the head when they write:
There's a recurring refrain among some immigration critics questioning why new immigrants don't work harder and faster to become U.S. citizens. The truth is that many of them are doing everything they can, but our government manages to erect obstacles in their path.
Source : ProInmigrant
Image Source : Wired Blog

Florida Latino Republicans Choose McCain

Republican Senator John McCain won the Republican Florida primary yesterday, taking all of the state's 57 delegates. Mitt Romney came in second, and former NYC Mayor Rudolph Giuliani came in a sad third, despite focusing all his recent campaigning there.
With 73 percent of precincts reporting, McCain had 36 percent of the vote, compared to 31 percent for Romney.
With it's large Cuban community, all eyes were on the Latino vote. Half of voters who self-identified as Cubans voted for McCain and 10 percent voted for Romney. The Latino vote made up 10 percent of the vote in the GOP primary.

Source : CNN

Daily Headlines: January 30, 2008

* Colombian guerrilla leader Ricardo Palmera was sentenced to sixty years in prison by a U.S. federal court.

* Famed Uruguayan novelist Mario Benedetti is gradually recovering after having been hospitalized last week according to doctors.

* Six members of Argentina’s Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo ended a protest where they had barricaded themselves inside a Buenos Aires church.

* Soccer teams in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America will soon compete in a new tournament similar to Europe’s Champions League.

Sources (English)- Reuters Canada, New York Times, Wikipedia

Sources (Spanish)- Milenio, El Pais

Image- BBC News

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Video of the Day: “The Pyramids of Capal”

Below is a BBC documentary on the ancient pyramids of Capal, Peru. Scientists believe that Capal was the earliest known urban settlement in the Americas. Moreover, archeologists think that Capal was one of a series of “cities” in the Supe Valley whose population may have been roughly 20,000 people.

The film is about 50 minutes long but definitely a must see.

(Video link):

(Hat tip: Smashing Telly)

Sources-, Wikipedia, Smashing Telly,

Dems seeking Richardson’s endorsement

The leading Democratic presidential hopefuls are actively seeking the backing of New Mexico governor Bill Richardson.

In an entry to the Washington Post’s politics blog, Richardson admits that he’s torn between endorsing Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. On the one hand, Richardson served many years in the Clinton White House and said that Hillary Clinton “always seems very genuine.” On the other hand, he admits to being influence by Senator Ted Kennedy’s support of Obama as well as a personal anecdote from one of the Democratic debates:

"I had just been asked a question -- I don't remember which one -- and Obama was sitting right next to me. Then the moderator went across the room, I think to Chris Dodd, so I thought I was home free for a while. I wasn't going to listen to the next question. I was about to say something to Obama when the moderator turned to me and said, 'So, Gov. Richardson, what do you think of that?' But I wasn't paying any attention! I was about to say, 'Could you repeat the question? I wasn't listening.' But I wasn't about to say I wasn't listening. I looked at Obama. I was just horrified. And Obama whispered, 'Katrina. Katrina.' The question was on Katrina! So I said, 'On Katrina, my policy . . .' Obama could have just thrown me under the bus. So I said, 'Obama, that was good of you to do that.'"

Richardson dropped out of the presidential race earlier this month after lackluster performances in the primaries and dwindling funds. Despite being half-Mexican, Richardson downplayed his Latino background and tried not to make that a major issue during his presidential run.

Image- MSNBC

Sources- Washington Post, TIME, The Latin Americanist, ABC News, Wikipedia

Venezuelan bank standoff ends with arrests

Venezuelan police arrested four bank robbers who were involved in a tense standoff for over 24 hours. After botching an attempted robbery in the city of Altagracia de Orituco, the would-be thieves panicked and held approximately 30 people against their will. They were able to negotiate a deal where they would leave with five hostages in an ambulance, yet police were able to soon capture the robbers.

Thankfully all of the hostages were freed safe and sound though things got dicey at times during the standoff:

One of the hostages, Carlos Gil, said things got tense inside the bank when the robbers shot at a bank guard.

Gil added that the hostages inside the bank were given little food to eat.

"They decided they would not worry about us, that a little morsel was enough," Gil told AFP.

Interior Minister Ramon Rodriguez Chacin said the critical moment was when one of the robbers was infuriated at seeing his mother together with the minister just outside the bank, and fired his gun.

Sources (English)- Associated Press, Bloomberg, AFP

Sources (Spanish)- El Universal (“Hostages inside the bank…hold posters asking for food and help”)

Image- Al Jazeera

Wanted: Nuclear submarine

Brazil's Defense Ministry has announced they are trying to buy military technology from France that would enable their country to have a nuclear submarine, the Associated Press reported.

Purchasing a diesel-powered Scorpene class sub would "serve as a model for the development of a nuclear submarine," said Defense Minister Nelson Jobim.

A Brazilian paper reported the exchange would be $600 million, paid over 20 years, which Jobim would not confirm.

Brazil, which already has five conventionally powered submarines, would be the first Latin American country to have a nuclear submarine.

Source: Associated Press

Photo: Nuclear submarine,

Chavez plans military union

Venezuela and Nicaragua are considering a joint military pact, ABC News reports.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez also is encouraging what he calls the "Bolivarian Alternative," Bolivia, Ecuador and Cuba, to join the pact with anti-U.S. sentiment. reports that Chavez encouraged defense ministers at a summit for each country to form a Defense Council for the Bolivarian Alternative.

Daily Headlines: January 29, 2008

* The Los Angeles Times looks at Latin Americans hired to serve as private security in Iraq and Afghanistan.

* Tourists are returning to Oaxaca nearly two years after chaotic violent protests.

* Unemployment in Latin America dropped for a fifth straight year in 2007 according to the International Labor Organization.

* Much like last year, the Brazilian Catholic Church is adamantly opposed to free condom distribution during the Carnival season.

Sources- Los Angeles Times, San Jose Mercury News, the Latin Americanist, Reuters, Canadian Press

Image- Journal Peru (“Latin American mercenaries in Iraq.”)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Illegal immigrant seeks refuge in Chicago church

Remember the case of Elvira Arellano? After residing in the U.S. illegally for several years and facing an order of deportation she barred herself in a Chicago church along with her U.S.-born son. She stayed in the church for a year until leaving it last August where she was subsequently arrested and deported. In the process, she was seen as a pariah by some and as a martyr by others.

Now another illegal immigrant has sought refuge in the same church as Arellano had:

Flor Crisostomo, 28, who was arrested two years ago in a raid on the Chicago firm where she worked, was ordered to report to federal authorities Monday for deportation, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Instead, Crisostomo on Sunday entered Adalberto United Methodist Church to pray and consider her options. Church leaders said she planned to follow the lead of Elvira Arellano who lived at the church for 12 months before being arrested in Los Angeles and deported.

A statement from the Chicago office of the U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement said that Crisostomo (image) was given ample time to legalize her immigrant status and warned that she would be considered as “an immigration fugitive.” Yet she claimed that “immigrants are not terrorists” and that she is taking such an extreme measure for the good of her family.

Sources- Daily Herald, International Herald Tribune, Chicago Tribune, Associated Press,, UPI

Image- WBBM 780

Indigenous rights activist ends hunger strike

Chilean activist Patricia Troncoso stopped her 110-day hunger strike on Monday and will soon eat solid foods for the first time in over three months. Her fast ended with the mediation of Chile’s Catholic Church who helped her gain several concessions from the country’s government:

Patricia Troncoso ended her fast after Chilean officials agreed to transfer her to a special, rural prison and allow her home leave on weekends — benefits often granted for good behavior, said Bishop Alejandro Goic, who represented her in negotiations.

Presidential spokesman Francisco Vidal confirmed the agreement…

Two of her four cohorts received the same concessions she did on Monday.

Troncoso has been jailed since 2005 after being convicted of arson; a charge she vehemently denies and claims arose from harassment of the indigenous Mapuche community.

Troncoso’s fast has led to more attention being paid to Chile’s indigenous rights activists who seek some self-determination and settlement of land disputes. In recent weeks, human rights groups increased the pressure on the Chilean government to intervene on her behalf.

Sources (English)- Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, The Latin Americanist,

Sources (Spanish)- La Nacion

Image- La Tercera

Commentary: Three-piece suit vs. the guayabera

An open letter to all the U.S. presidential candidates:

With the primary season heating up it’s understandable that you are trying to go the extra mile in appealing to the many different voter groups in this diverse nation of ours. The Latino vote is certainly not an exception to that and one can appreciate most of the efforts you set forth.

However, there is a thin line between endearing yourself to a constituency and shameless pandering:

According to this post, the snapshot of a guayabera-clad Mitt Romney “was taken at a rally in a heavily-Cuban section of Miami-Dade (County)”.

One understands that it’s a very tight race in the Florida primary, and candidates are more prone to risk-taking and possibly underhanded tactics. Yet the above example gives the impression of a candidate far too desperate for attention. It looks tacky, sad, and silly.

Would it be acceptable for Hillary Clinton to travel to Spanish Harlem clad in a Taino nagua? What about John McCain sporting a sombrero and huaraches while in East Los Angeles? How about Barack Obama dressed as a gaucho while visiting Florida’s Argentine-American communities?

Please, dear candidates, refrain from the ethnic wear. Your words and policies are more than sufficient and the ultimate sign of respect.

Sources-, AHN, Palm Beach Post, Wikipedia,, Migration Information Sources


Video of the Day: Hugo’s hunger

“Coca is not cocaine” declared Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez as he bit and chewed a coca leaf during a summit conference on Saturday. In the following video, Bolivian counterpart Evo Morales provides him with the coca leaves as Chavez adds that it is the “sacred leaf” of the indigenous:

In other actions taken during the summit of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, Chavez:

Sources- Canadian Press, YouTube, International Herald Tribune, Monsters & Critics, BBC News

Daily Headlines: January 28, 2008

* Is missing four-year-old British girl Madeleine McCann in Chile?

* An anti-inflammatory drug banned in several Latin American countries such as Guatemala is still being sold in pharmacies.

* Thirty-five Cuban political prisoners are “in a deplorable state of health” according to one human rights group’s report.

* Puerto Ricans are one step closer to voting in a referendum designed to strengthen the commonwealth’s ban on gay marriages.

* Follow-up: Bill Richardson may’ve dropped out of the presidential race but that has not stopped him from meeting with Mexican president Felipe Calderon.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Las Cruces Sun-News, Sunday Mirror,, USA TODAY,

Image- BBC News