Saturday, May 24, 2008

Bloggers of the world unite!

* A creative yet freaky-looking ad campaign by an Ecuadorian plastic surgery office. (See the above image of an altered Shakira).

* Speaking of ads, is this ad campaign by a Brazilian business magazine creative or tasteless?

* Andres Oppenheimer vs. Jose Miguel Insulza.

* Mexican or Colombian? What’s the difference?

* John McCain’s backing of last year’s immigration reform bill has been a liability according to this blogger.

* The title of this post says it all: “Immigration myths on cable TV.”

* Is Jamaica’s Prime Minister homophobic?

* A look at the award-winning Youth and Children Orchestras of Venezuela.

* Are Colombian guerillas in cahoots with Salvadoran politicos?

* Lastly, a brief debate on whether or not there should be a national museum for Latinos in the U.S.

Sources- MetaFilter, Global Voices Online, copyranter, Overheard in New York, Gothamist, Michelle Malkin, Bloggings by Boz, Two Weeks Notice, Tim’s El Salvador Blog,

Image- Ads of the World

Daily Headlines: May 24, 2008

* Colombia: At around 3:30pm EST an earthquake measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale rattled central Colombia including the capital Bogota. (More details on that as well as this vital piece of news on Monday).

* Chile: As if volcanic eruptions weren’t enough now parts of Chile have been hit by major flooding.

* Ecuador: Is the U.S. too racist to elect Barack Obama as president? Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa thinks so.

* Brazil: Hundreds of natives swam down the Xingu River in protest against the construction of a dam project.

Sources– Reuters, Bloomberg, The Latin Americanist, BBC News, CNN,

Image- USA TODAY (“A neighborhood in Colombia lies in ruin after the 1999 earthquake.”)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Today’s Video: Obama talks Cuba, LatAm in Miami

Note: Much like last weekend we’re going to post a bit tomorrow and Sunday.

The following video is excerpts of a speech given earlier today by Barack Obama in front of the Cuban American National Foundation. The video from the Associated Press shows Obama bemoaning the “injustices” over several decades in Cuba and how he would change policy towards Latin America if he were elected president.

The Democrat presidential hopeful also countered criticism made against him on Tuesday by John McCain and added that “we've heard enough empty promises from politicians like George Bush and...McCain.”

Sources- The Swamp, Lynn Sweet, The Latin Americanist, YouTube

Mexico: Historic education agreement reached

Contributed by Michael Lisman:

An historic agreement was reached last week between President Calderón and Elba Esther Gordillo, the head of the most powerful Mexican teachers’ union, the SNTE. The agreement, referred to as the “Alliance for Education Quality,” commits massive infrastructure improvements in exchange for the implementation of teacher competency tests, which are unprecedented in the region.

An article in this week’s The Economist assesses the prospects for impact, noting:

The reaction of educational experts to the deal has been muted. Many find it hard to believe that the union will concede its power over hiring and firing in a meaningful way. They also note that Ms Gordillo has a knack of co-opting reforms to serve her own ends. Yet Josefina Vásquez Mota, the minister of education, is one of Mr. Calderón's more able political operators. If she can make the agreement stick in practice, the quality of Mexican schooling should gradually improve.

Sources: El Universal, The Economist


Colombian Prosecutor Wants Piedad Cordoba and Other Colombian Lawmakers Investigated

Is Colombia engaging in a witch hunt? Some may suggest that, especially after Colombian prosecutor Mario Iguaran called yesterday for an investigation into 12 people for alleged ties to the FARC.
Among those he wants investigated include lawmakers Piedad Cordoba (pictured left), Wilson Alfonso Borja and Gloria Ines Ramirez.
The call for an investigation is based on information obtained from those infamous laptops that were seized by Colombia and allegedly belonged to Raul Reyes.

Source : CNN, The Latin Americanist
Image Source : Venezuela Analysis

Daily Headlines: May 23, 2008

* Brazil: State-run oil firm Petrobras found more oil near a massive offshore field discovered last year.

* Mexico: Bad news for the economy - foreign direct investment plummeted in the first quarter this year by 36%.

* Venezuela: Is the U.S. spying on Venezuela? Hugo Chavez thinks so.

* Argentina: Authorities have accused two brothers, age seven and nine, of having “no mercy” in the murder of a two-year-old girl.

Sources– The Latin Americanist, Associated Press, Reuters, Bloomberg,

Image- (“Brazil's state-run Petrobras P-40 oil platform undergoes maintenance as it floats in the Guanabara Bay of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in this Wednesday, March 21, 2001 file photo.”)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Today’s Video: Children in the crossfire

The following video is a segment from tonight’s NBC Nightly News which discussed the violence in northern Mexico near the border with the U.S. The report focused on an especially vulnerable group- the children who cross the border daily to study in U.S. schools.

Sources- MSNBC, The Latin Americanist

Critics mixed over “Che” film

Steven Soderbergh’s biopic on famed revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara was previewed for audiences at the renowned Cannes Film Festival. The Los Angles Times entertainment blog gave the opinions of several critics who discussed items like the film’s near five hour length and Benicio Del Toro playing the titular role.

Most of the reviews by the press of the film were mixed, as was evidenced by Guardian UK film critic Peter Bradshaw:

Perhaps it will even come to be seen as this director's flawed masterpiece: enthralling but structurally fractured…

This is all about Che the warrior, the ideologue, the public man. It is big, bold, ambitious film-making. Yet I was baffled that Soderbergh fought shy of so many key things in Che's life. Maybe he felt the spectacle of revolution incarnate was more compelling: a secular Passion play. Whatever the reason, Che is never boring and often gripping.

The “Che” biopic isn’t the only Latin American film making waves at Cannes. “Motorcycle Diaries” director Walter Salles has his own entry for the judges to watch, while a documentary on Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona is also being shown.

Sources - The Latin Americanist, Los Angeles Times, Guardian UK, The Offside

Image- New York Times

Guatemala: Fifteen adoption cases voided

Guatemalan authorities annulled fifteen adoption cases due to suspicions of fraud or similar problems. Officials have not ruled out that more cases could be voided after a government measure earlier this month placed all potential adoptions on hiatus.

Nearly 5000 Guatemalan children were adopted by couples in the U.S. in 2006, making Guatemala the second largest source of children adopted in the U.S. Nevertheless, hundreds of prospective parents in the U.S. worry that that the adoption process from them will never be renewed:

Sienna's crib waits for her, but Jacki and her husband, who also have a two-year-old daughter named Isabella, said they fear the child may never get to use it.

"We've held her," Jacki said. "We've bonded with her. She is our daughter."

Sources - The Latin Americanist, BBC News, MSNBC, WFAA

Image- TIME

U.S. removes Cuba cell phone ban

In a speech made yesterday, U.S. president George W. Bush lifted a ban on sending cell phones to Cuba. “If the Cuban people can be trusted with mobile phones they should be trusted to speak freely in public,” said Bush as he also called for the Cuban government to enact deeper economic reforms.

Recently, the Castro administration has enacted several changes including owning cell phones, staying in hotels, and access to farmland.

Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque reacted by calling Bush’s speech a “ridiculous act of propaganda and bad taste.” Perhaps more importantly, leaders of Cuban exile groups viewed the measure with mixed feelings:

"The more people in Cuba have access to cell phones, the more they'll be able to be connected with the outside world," said Marcibel Loo, a spokeswoman for the Miami-based Cuban Democratic Directorate.

But Francisco "Pepe" Hernandez, president of the Cuban American National Foundation, called Bush's mobile phone initiative "nothing new". Hernandez said the foundation has sent mobile phones to Cuba in the past and that what the dissidents on the island need is money.

Sources - The Latin Americanist, Guardian UK,, International Herald Tribune, CNN

Image- BBC News

Tribe king kicked out

One of Latin America's last tribal kings has been exiled after approving a hydroelectric project that tribal members say will disrupt the environment and way of life in their pristine jungle home.

Reuters reports that Tito Santana, tribal chief in Panama, was exiled by the tribe and his uncle Valentin Santana took over.

King Tito is one of the few tribal kings recognized by a government as the maximum authority of the Naso tribe.

Source: Reuters

Photo: DreamTravelPanama, Tribe children

Daily Headlines: May 22, 2008

* Mexico: Could less corruption in the structure of Mexico’s police benefit the country's counterdrug offensive?

* Panama: Former president Manuel Noriega has issued a new legal appeal so that he could be spared from being extradited to France in September.

* Puerto Rico: New Mexico governor Bill Richardson is expected to be on the commonwealth today in order to campaign for Barack Obama.

* Nicaragua: Apparently, citizens are split over the government’s plan to create local “Citizens Power Councils.”

Sources - The Latin Americanist, Christian Science Monitor, Seattle Times, MSNBC, South Florida Sun-Sentinel


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Today’s Video: Shakira and ALAS

In a video clip (via the Los Angeles Times) Colombian singer Shakira explains what Movimiento ALAS is all about and why musicians like Miguel Bose, Alejandro Sanz, and Paulina Rubio have helped the foundation.

On Saturday, nearly 400,000 people attended a pair of concerts in Buenos Aires and Mexico City in order to raise attention to the plight of impoverished children in Latin America.

(Hat tip: La Plaza).

Sources- Los Angles Times, The Latin Americanist, Reuters, La Plaza

Chile's Press Cares More About Dancing With Stars Than About Michelle Bachelet

My Chilean partner wanted to watch Dancing with the Stars, before Kristi Yamaguchi won, all because there was a Chileno on it, Cristian de la Fuente. Seems he wasn't the only one. According to the website Recoleta Ciudadana, the Chilean National Press payed more attention to Cristian and his "injuries" than it did to their own President Michelle Bachelet who was named one of TIME Magazine's 2008 Most Influential People.

Could this be because of Bachelet's not so great ratings within Chile?Is Bachelet looked at more favorably outside of the Chile than inside it. Certainly many people I have spoken to from Chile in recent months, prefer Ricardo Lago's style.

Maybe Bachelet needs to get on Rojo, Chile's answer to American Idol crossed with Dancing with the (non) Stars.

Sources : AP, TIME, Recoleta Ciudadana, The Latin Americanist, You Tube

Wyclef Helps Hungry in Haiti

Contributed by Michael Lisman:

This week, Wyclef Jean, a Haitian-born rapper launched the “Together for Haiti initiative” through his own US-based NGO Yéle Haiti, in collaboration with the Pan-American Development Foundation.

Jean’s representatives report that the new initiative will aim to “work with a number of non-government organizations and community groups to address the food crisis by repairing damaged soil and helping farmers to produce larger crops.”

Few countries in the western hemisphere have been hit as hard by the global food shortage as has Haiti. In April, the crisis led to the ousting of Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis.

Sources: Yéle Haiti, Inter-American Development Bank, VOA,

Image: CBC ("Wyclef Jean gives a gift to a girl during a Christmas gift distribution to about 600 children sponsored by his foundation, Yele Haiti, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Nov. 29, 2006. (Ariana Cubillos/Associated Press)")

Daily Headlines: May 21, 2008

* Latin America: A new study found that cervical cancer kills 33,000 women yearly in Latin America and the Caribbean.

* Argentina: Farmers upset with government economic policies plan to stop their second national strike since early April.

* Mexico: Authorities are on high alert after the recent murders of a Canadian and possibly four U.S. citizens in separate incidents.

* Peru: A local paper alleged that former president Alberto Fujimori is enjoying numerous luxuries while he sits in jail.

Sources (English)- New York Times, Bloomberg, The Latin Americanist, Reuters, Vancouver Sun

Sources (Spanish)- El Tiempo

Image- Sydney Morning Herald (Photo of an Australian woman receiving a cervical caner vaccine)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

News Briefs: Energy

* The price of oil hit $129 per barrel today; thus, hurting stocks in many countries such as Mexico.

* The head of OPEC and Venezuela's Energy Minister issued a joint statement claiming that oil markets are “well-supplied.” Yet that hasn’t stopped U.S. legislators from approving a proposal to take OPEC to court.

* Bolivian President Evo Morales has threatened to nationalize natural gas fields if foreign firms refuse to increase their investments.

* The governments of Peru and Brazil agreed to build a hydroelectric plant in southern Peru.

Sources- AFP, Reuters, Reuters UK, Times Online, International Herald Tribune


Today’s Video: McCain blasts Obama on Cuba

In a speech given earlier today, Republican presidential hopeful John McCain accused Barack Obama of being too lenient towards the Cuban government. The following video clip from the Associated Press shows McCain speaking in Miami and emphasizing a hard-line stance against the Castro administration:

Though McCain blamed Obama for changing his position on Cuba, the New York Times politics blog noted that McCain also modified his opinion; during the 2000 presidential campaign he advocated for normalizing conditions with Cuba under certain conditions.

Aside from Cuba, McCain criticized Obama and Hillary Clinton for opposing a U.S. free trade pact with Colombia.

Sources- AFP, YouTube, The Caucus, The Latin Americanist, Reuters UK

Inflation remains economic culprit

According to a Christian Science Monitor article today, inflation is the top issue for Latin American economies.

In Venezuela alone, inflation is at 25 percent, second only to Zimbabwe, the article said.

Argentina and Nicaragua also were hit hard by inflation. Countries like Bolivia are combating the problem by prohibiting exports of cooking oil.

Source: Christian Science Monitor

German leader concludes visit

After visiting four Latin American countries, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is headed back to Germany today.

Merkel met with leaders of Mexico, to discuss investment and the environment. She also attended a summit of European Union and Latin American leaders in Lima.

At the summit, Mexico attained "strategic partner" status with the European Union. Germany is Mexico's top trading partner.

"We are determined to push for privileged relations with Germany," said Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

Source: AFP

A man, a plan, a new grant

Contributed by Michael Lisman:

Bill Gates' well-endowed Microsoft Research last week held its annual Latin American Academic Summit in the “Ciudad del Saber” in Panama City Panama – home to the former Clayton US Military Base and the epicenter of the Panama Canal. The conference featured speeches by President Torrijos, Gonzalo Rivas of the Inter-American Development Bank, and Rick Rashid of Microsoft Research. reports that:

During a keynote address, Rashid, who is the head of Microsoft Research’s six global research labs, announced the company’s second round of funding to the Latin American and Caribbean Collaborative ICT Research Federation (Virtual Institute). This funding of $150,000 (U.S.) will help continue the expansion of research opportunities across the region.

The LAAS in Panama City on May 14th is the first held in a Central American country, where ICT in education issues are markedly behind the rest of the region.

Sources: Microsoft PressPass,,, Inter-American Dialogue

Image: Microsoft (Bill Gates and Rick Rashid)

Daily Headlines: May 20, 2008

* Colombia: A female guerilla commander who surrendered to authorities said that the FARC was “decimated” but also mentioned that “they accuse me of a lot of things I wasn't part of.”

* Venezuela: A State Department spokesman admitted that a U.S. military aircraft “accidently” strayed into Venezuelan airspace over the weekend.

* Chile: Is the world’s most wanted Nazi war criminal hiding in the southern Chile?

* Paraguay: Relations could get heated between Paraguay and Brazil over the Itaipu hydroelectric dam.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, International Herald Tribune, Al Jazeera English, Reuters, Los Angeles Times

Image- CNN (“Nelly Avila Moreno, center, alias Karina, is escorted by soldiers after surrendering.”)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Today’s Video: The specter of AIDS in Jamaica

This Tuesday is a somber anniversary; twenty-five years ago, a French team of researchers published their findings of a “suspect virus” which would later be identified as AIDS. According to charity group AVERT, the stigma of AIDS persists in Latin America and the Caribbean with roughly 1.6 million people infected throughout the region.

The video clip below looks at the impact of HIV/AIDS in Jamaica. The video is based on a project form the Pulitzer Center which we mentioned last month.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, YouTube, AFP, AVERT

News Briefs: LGBT

* The Roman Catholic cardinal of Monterrey, Mexico- Francisco Robles Ortega- said that while marriage is a union exclusively for a man and woman, such a view “should not justify hatred much less disgust” towards gays.

* Speaking of Mexico, the country’s first transgender wedding took place on Saturday with the couple hoping that their marriage could lead to expanded rights for transsexuals.

* In Cuba, First Daughter Mariela Castro is spearheading an anti-homophobia campaign launched by the government.

* A case overturning a ban on mixed-race weddings in 1948 was cited in last Thursday’s landmark decision to legalize gay marriage in California. The “Perez” in Perez v. Sharp was a Mexican-American plaintiff who won her case in wanting to legally marry an African-American man.

Sources (English)- Reuters, MSNBC, Andrew Sullivan, Wikipedia

Sources (Spanish)- Milenio

Image- Queerty

U.S. plane crossed into Venezuela says gov’t

Venezuelan officials have claimed that a U.S. Navy aircraft crossed into its territory on Saturday. Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said today that he would ask for an explanation from the U.S. ambassador regarding the alleged incursion of the military plane into Venezuelan airspace in the Caribbean.

This incident occurs days after the Venezuelan government sent a note of protest over allegations that sixty Colombian troops illegally crossed the border. The Colombian government has denied that claim.

Sources- BBC News, New York Times, International Herald Tribune, El Universal

Image- CNN

Brazil: Government talks tough over environment

In the wake of last Tuesday’s controversial resignation by Brazil’s environment minister several cabinet officials have strengthened their rhetoric on the environment. Marina Silva quit due to difficulties with “implementing the government's environmental agenda” and her disappointment with President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva. Since then, the Lula administration has tried to show that they are taking environmental problems very seriously:
  • Newly-appointed Environment Minister Carlos Minc proposed increasing the use of the army to protect the Amazon rain forest, national parks, and native lands.
  • Justice Minister Tarso Genro criticized foreign countries for exploiting “the Amazon as a global reserve for big multinationals.”
  • Planning Minister Roberto Mangabeira Unger argued that the government would show that conservation and economic development “could be achieved side-by-side.”

Whether the rhetoric can transform itself into strong actions (such as a recent crackdown on illegal logging) remains to be seen.

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

Image- New York Times (“Brazil sees a need to stem deforestation, as in shutting a clandestine sawmill.”)

Daily Headlines: May 19, 2008

* Latin America: The Andean Community and the European Union reached agreements over trade negotiations as a Latin America- E.U. summit ended on Saturday.

* U.S.: A Haitian woman who accused her adoptive family of “repeated beatings…and compelling her to perform forced labor” won her case in federal court.

* Colombia: Army officials have denied Venezuela’s accusations that Colombian troops illegally crossed the border.

* Cuba: Cuban officials claim to have documents proving that the U.S. government is secretly funding dissident groups on the island.

Sources- MSNBC,, New York Times, Bloomberg, The Latin Americanist

Image- Al Jazeera English

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Do you want to write for our blog?

Are you interested in writing for our website? Is there something newsworthy that you want other people to be aware of? Do you want to provide reviews of different books, films, music?

We’re looking for another member to join our team of contributors. Our blog registers hundreds of views daily and we hope to get more readership after our site redesign later this summer. Moreover, out blog could provide a prime platform for your perspective to be viewed and analyzed.

If you’re interested in becoming our newest contributor then please write to us at . (Writing samples are recommended).

Have a great rest of the weekend!