Saturday, June 7, 2008

Baseball draft excludes Latin Americans

All 30 Major League Baseball teams picked from amongst the top amateur talent this week as the 2008 MLB draft draws to a close this weekend. None of that talent comes from Latin America, however.

According to the official MLB draft rules, only residents of the US, Canada and US territories (including Puerto Rico) are eligible for the amateur draft. All foreign residents are eligible for signing through a number of independent processes.

According to one blogger, who cites Steve Perry from Citypages, this exclusion implicates a number of pitfalls for Latin American players:

1. During its' role out of PED testing, Latin American players were
testing positive at a 2-1 rate over the rest of the players. 2. Often
times, players are denied help. In addition to a language barrier, there are no
agents, players are hidden in academies and sold to clubs, money is given to
parents, and the average signing bonus is 3-5 thousand dollars. 3. These players
that are hidden in academies are often times, targeted at the ages of 14-15
years old. They are trained and sold. These "go betweens" get a finders fee + a percent of that signing bonus.

While an estimated one third of the players on MLB rosters in 2008 are foreign-born—the majority of whom hail from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela— this number could rise to nearly 50% in the next few years, according to the Sporting news.

Sources: Sporting News, Major League Baseball, NY Times

Friday, June 6, 2008

Today’s Video: “Soledad Is Gone Forever”

We’ll return for a few posts this weekend but before wrapping things up today a tipster e-mailed us about the following:

"Soledad Is Gone Forever" is a psychological drama that explores the chilling consequences of political persecution through the eyes of Soledad Gonzalez, a young Chilean photographer living in San Francisco.

This mesmerizing film was a strong competitor for the Sundance Film Festival and is the likely winner of the upcoming "From Here to Awesome" Film Festival on June 6, 2008.

Is the movie really as “mesmerizing” as it’s claimed to be? Judge for yourself with the following video including clips of an interview with the film’s director:

(My p.o.v. - the film seems intriguing and I would probably go to a theater and see it).

Sources- YouTube

Cuban Five Convictions Upheld but Sentences Were Vacated

Yesterday, a three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the convictions but vacated the sentences of the "Cuban Five", Cuban intelligence agents who were accused of spying in the U.S.
Writing for the majority, Judge William H. Pryor concluded that “that the arguments about the suppression of evidence, sovereign immunity, discovery, jury selection and the trial are meritless, and sufficient evidence supports each conviction.” The court also rejected claims that their federal trial should have been moved from Miami because of widespread opposition among Cuban-Americans there to the communist Cuban government. The decision included the life sentence for Gerardo Hernandez, who was convicted of murder conspiracy in the deaths of four Miami-based pilots shot down by Cuban jets in 1996. The panel split 2-1 to uphold Hernandez’ life term. The pilots had flown planes that were part of the Brothers to the Rescue organization, which dropped pro-democracy pamphlets on the ground.

The panel vacated the life terms of three other pilots’ 19-year sentences, agreeing with their contentions that their sentences were improperly configured because no “top secret information was gathered or transmitted.”

The five acknowledged being Cuban agents but said they were not spying on the U.S. They said their focus was on U.S.-based exile groups planning “terrorist” actions against the Castro government.

Source : WSJ Blog

Who really “found” Machu Picchu?

The ruin of Machu Picchu is one of the greatest testaments to pre-Columbian civilization and a symbol of the importance of the once thriving Inca Empire. It was honored last year as one of the new “Wonders of the World” and it had been recognized that Hiram Bingham found the site in 1911 hundreds of years after the Incas were vanquished.

Yet a group of researchers believe that Bingham was not the one who “rediscovered” Machu Picchu:

Paolo Greer, a retired Alaska oil pipeline foreman, says otherwise. Thirty years of digging through files in the United States and Peru led him to maps and documents showing that a German businessman named Augusto R. Berns got there first.

Berns purchased land across from Machu Picchu in 1867, and an 1887 document even shows he set up a company to plunder the site, Greer told The Associated Press.

Greer’s assessment was presented publicly yesterday in conjunction with a French archeologist and British historian. Their claim is that Burns was a greedy adventurer who set up shop in the area of Machu Picchu and plundered Incan artifacts for sale to European museums.

Peruvian officials have recently tried to reclaim thousands of pieces originally from Machu Picchu that were pilfered by Bingham and are currently owned by Yale University.

Sources- MSNBC, AFP, BBC News, The Latin Americanist, Reuters

Image- The Telegraph (“An 1874 map showing Machu Picchu”)

Oil spill threatens Argentina, Uruguay

An oil spill near the Rio de la Plata estuary has threatened several parts of Argentina and Uruguay including Buenos Aires. The spill occurred when Greek and Maltese ships collided near Argentina and Uruguay and the oil slick has grown to approximately 12 miles.

Workers have been trying to chemically dissolve the oil before it reaches the shore though there’s still a great danger that the spill could soon hit land:

"The spill is in the middle of the river and the wind is carrying it in the direction of southern Buenos Aires. We hope it doesn't get there," the official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"There's less impact as long as the spill stays on the river, but if the fuel reaches land, the harm is greater," the source said, adding that officials were working to dissolve the fuel oil into the water.

Sources- BBC News, UPI, Reuters UK

Image- The China Post (“Greek merchant ship ‘Syros’ leaks fuel after colliding with Maltese vessel ‘Sea Bird’ 20 km (12 miles) off the Uruguayan coast Wednesday.(Reuters)”)

Daily Headlines: June 6, 2008

* Cuba: Two children of famed revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara denounced the “embarrassing” commercialization of their father’s image.

* Brazil: Military police arrested an army sergeant who recently revealed his homosexuality in a magazine article.

* U.S.: Officials in Massachusetts are suing H&R Block for “unfair and deceptive conduct” against black and Latino mortgage borrowers.

* Mexico: Yesterday we mentioned that some Mexican officials are disappointed with possible human rights conditions to be attached to the Merida Initiative. Turns out that President George W. Bush wants Congress to drop those clauses which he believes are “unreasonable.”

Sources- MSNBC, Los Angeles Times, The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg, BBC News

Image- is it just me or is everything shit?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

News Briefs: Immigration

* A U.S. federal judge granted a temporary injunction against a controversial immigration law that included all employers to register with a federal data base.

* Meanwhile, South Carolina passed yesterday a tougher immigration law which goes beyond Oklahoma’s by barring illegal immigrants from receiving public assistance or attending state colleges.

* A report from the Pew Hispanic Center claims that Latino unemployment, especially among illegal immigrants, has spiked higher than the general population.

* A senior Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) official told Congress that the government plans to release more data on detainees who die in U.S. federal detention centers.

* Speaking of ICE, agents reported that 491 people were detained in raids in New York and New Jersey in May alone.

Sources- WJBF, JURIST, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post,

Today’s Video: Wrong on so many levels

It is England roughly twenty years ago.

You’re at home, bored, and looking for something interesting to watch on the telly.

Something finally catches your attention on the BBC:

Yes, those are comely young ladies sashaying with guys in blackface wearing sombreros and signing on “The Black and White Minstrel Show.”

Those were definitely different times.

(Hat tip: Metafilter).

Sources- YouTube, Metafilter, Wikipedia

Bill Richardson for VP?

With the Democratic presidential race all but over speculation has run rampant on who will join Barack Obama as the party’s vice prudential candidate. Some pundits have hypothesized that Obama should pick defeated candidate Hillary Clinton and run on a so-called “dream ticket.” However, there are other experienced and qualified Democrats who could be a good fit as V.P.

One of the frontrunners to be on an Obama ticket is New Mexico governor Bill Richardson. Richardson- who is the head of a border state and failed in his long-shot attempt to run for the White House- endorsed Obama’s presidential bid last March. Though Richardson tried not to emphasize his Mexican heritage, analysts believe that his Hispanic background could sway the Latino electorate towards the Democrats. While one of the main critiques of Obama is his lack of experience in office, Richardson is a seasoned diplomat with an extensive foreign policy background. Richardson is also slightly younger than other top V.P. candidates like Joe Biden and Jim Webb though he is of the same age as a pair of leading female names. (Clinton and Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius).

Richardson does have some disadvantages, however. As we noted in 2007, the American public doesn’t know very much about him (and still don’t) and the Wen Ho Lee scandal could serve as fodder against him. During his bid for presidency he had trouble during the debates and his call for an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq could serve as a liability with voters on the right.

British oddsmakers William Hill have given Richardson 7/1 odds in being picked to run with Obama. Those are pretty good odds though ultimately the decision rests with Obama himself.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Crooks and Liars, Fact Checker, Monsters and Critics,, BBC News, Globe and Mail, Foreign Policy Passport, Casino Beacon

Image- TIME

Daily Headlines: June 5, 2008

* U.S.: Rest in peace Mel Ferrer; the Cuban-American actor, film director and producer died Monday at the age of 90.

* Peru: The human rights trial of ex-President Alberto Fujimori was suspended yesterday so that he may undergo surgery.

* U.S.: Prosecutors are presenting their appeal in a U.S. court against a 2007 decision freeing Cuban militant Luis Posada Carriles.

* Mexico: Some Mexican officials are disappointed with human rights conditions added by U.S. legislators to the multibillion dollar counterdrug Merida Initiative.

Sources- Los Angeles Times, AFP, The Latin Americanist, Associated Press

Image- China Daily (“In this Jan. 24, 1993 file photo, Mel Ferrer is shown at the funeral for his ex-wife, actress Audrey Hepburn in Tolochenaz, Switzerland.”)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Bloggers of the world unite!

Sources- The Daily Dish, viva El Salvador!, Voices Without Votes, Photoshop Disasters, Small State of Mind, Bloggings by Boz

Image- Photoshop Disasters

Hillary May Thank Puerto Rico, But Is Puerto Rico Thanking Her?

Last night I counted Hillary Clinton mention Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican vote a few times. She wants votes to count, including the primary voters on the isla del encanto who chose her over Barack Obama 2-1. Thanking Puerto Rican primary voters is one thing, acknowledging their tough political situation is another. After all, Puerto Ricans voted in the primary last weekend(even though record low turnout was reported), they cannot legally have any say (vote) as to who will be the president of the U.S. in November.
Not reported widely in the aftermath of the Clinton Puerto Rico win was the thousands of people who marched in Old San Juan against, not one candidate or another, but rather, against a system, that uses Puerto Rican votes when it is convenient, dismisses them the rest of the time.

Thousands of Puerto Ricans flooded the streets of San
Juan to demand their right to independence, repudiating the US Democratic
Party primary elections held in this “freely associated state” won on Sunday
by Hillary Clinton. Her rival, Barack Obama, still remains posed to win the
party’s nomination for the November general elections.
“We tell Ms. Clinton and Mr. Obama that the poverty here is due to the
exploitation of our country, where more than 50 percent of the population
lives in poverty” after more than a century of US occupation. “This is a
colony and where there is a colony there is no democracy. Until we obtain
our national independence there won’t be democracy in Puerto Rico,” said
Edwin Irizarry, a leader in Puerto Rico's pro-independence party (PIP)

Source : Granma
Image Source : Reuters

Today’s Video: Has Terry McAuliffe lost his mind?

Is he serious or is he crazy?

Does he mean what he says or is there some pitiful ruse he’s playing?

Should we be feeling queasy?


(Video link):

Update: Speaking of queasy, here's the man in question shilling for his preferred candidate while drinking Puerto Rican rum earlier this morning.

That probably explains the light, pastel-like wardrobe.

(Hat tip: Wonkette).

Storms brew in Central America

Storms continue to ravage both coasts of Central America, the AP reports. Last week, Tropical Storm Alma swept through the Pacific coast, making it the first such storm in recent history on the eastern side of Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Costa Rica.

Near-hurricane like weather has continued throughout early June in Belize and Honduras, which has resulted in major flooding further inland and the death of at least nine people.

Sources: Reuters, AP, San Jose Mercury News

Daily Headlines: June 4, 2008

* Mexico: After weeks of speculation Sven-Goran Eriksson was introduced yesterday as Mexican national soccer team coach.

* Chile: A judge is reopening the investigation into the “Dirty War” death of legendary folk singer Victor Jara.

* Peru: Are the Shining Path guerillas experiencing a resurgence?

* Bolivia: A gas pipeline company was nationalized on Monday by President Evo Morales.

Sources- Los Angeles Times, the Latin Americanist, MSNBC, BBC News, People’s Daily Online

Image- Times Online

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

“Latin America policy” reduced to stances on Cuba, Venezuela

In popular press and media, the campaign positions on Latin America of both presumptive nominees continue to be defined by their views of Cuba and Venezuela.

While The
LA Times reports evidence that Senator Obama has been “studying up” on the region’s headlines, his speeches on the region still tend to default to diplomacy with Cuba’s new leadership.

Senator McCain, in turn, has consistently directed his comments on the region to “
the growing threat of tyranny” and has pledged that his administration “will be prepared to stand up to the thugs in Latin America,” citing the Castro family and Hugo Chávez as chief among them.

Sources: LA Times, Campaign Websites,

Tavern on the Green settles lawsuit

The New York Times reports today that Tavern on the Green, the famous restaurant in Central Park, will pay $2.2 million to settle a discrimination lawsuit.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accused the restaurant of sexual and racial discrimination.

This accusation included harassment of female, black and Hispanic employees, the Times reported, in incidents dating back to 1999.

Specifically, the lawsuit says a top Tavern manager had ridiculed Hispanics as "ignorant immigrants" and made fun of their accents.

Source: NYT

Obama must battle for Hispanics

As Hillary Clinton's campaign continues a back-and-forth on whether she will concede tonight, Bloomberg has a story about how Barack Obama will have a "fight on his hands" to garner Hispanic voters.

The article reports that statement from Antonio Gonzalez, president of the William C. Velasquez Institute to increase Latino voting.

A May Gallup poll showed that 62 percent of Hispanics support Obama, compared to 29 percent who support McCain. Although Hispanics have fallen away from their support for the Republican party, McCain remains a popular figure.

Source: Bloomberg, Photo:

Daily Headlines: June 3, 2008

* Venezuela: Venezuela joins Brazil and two other countries that have filed appeals against an international standard for Microsoft Office documents.

* U.S.: The Puerto Rican Day in New York City is this Sunday and some neighborhood businesses are making their usual preparations. (Note the sarcasm).

* Brazil: Aircraft firm Embraer will sell several planes to the U.S. government for use in Iraq.

* Colombia: The Organization of American States will examine claims made by Colombia over Ecuador’s alleged ties with the FARC guerillas.

Sources- PC World, MSNBC, Gothamist, Reuters

Image- BBC News

Monday, June 2, 2008

Today’s Video: Hillary’s secret weapon

Update: Please note that this post was meant as a joke!

Why did Hillary Clinton win so easily in Sunday’s Democratic presidential primary in Puerto Rico? Three words: Ricky Martin’s endorsement.

“These elections will have historic repercussions both in the United States and the world. Senator Clinton has always been consistent in her commitment with the needs of the Latino community. Whether fighting for better education, universal health care and social well-being, as First Lady and Senator from New York — representing millions of Latinos –she has always fought for what is most important for our families,” said the 5-time Grammy award-winning artist.

(At least he didn’t dance with her during her victory speech, unlike back in 2001 with a certain president.)

Anyway, here’s Ricky and some terrible VH1-like commentators bashing him:

Sources-, CNN, YouTube, New York Times

More Bolivian provinces opt for autonomy

Voters in a pair of Bolivian provinces chose increased autonomy during referendums held on Sunday. Much like the vote in Santa Cruz last month, the Beni and Pando referendums were declared “illegal” by President Evo Morales yet an estimated 80% opted against the federal government.

For Bolivia, the results of the plebiscites highlight the tensions between the majority indigenous population living in the west and the wealthier minority mainly in the eastern provinces. Yet the results indicate a growing opposition to several left-leaning populist governments in the Americas according to the Christian Science Monitor:

In many cases, the opposition in Latin America has been stunted because they have not "come to grips" with the deep-seated shift under way in the region, says (Inter-American Dialogue analyst Mike) Shifter.

Yet, in part spurred on by (Hugo) Chavez’s ideological war against the traditional elites, the opposition has moved into defense mode…

To opposition leaders in Bolivia, this is proof enough that they must start acting. "Chavez owns the Bolivian government, and is the biggest threat to democracy in Latin America," says Jorge Quiroga, a former Bolivian president who heads Bolivia's main opposition party.

Sources- Christian Science Monitor, AFP, CNN, Monsters & Critics, the Latin Americanist

Image- BBC News (Bolivian woman wearing a pro-autonomy shirt)

Mexico: Indigenous needs unmet by gov't

Indigenous people in Mexico are not receiving the proper help from the government according to the head of the Senate’s indigenous affairs commission. Andrés Galván Rivas- from the officialist PAN- criticized the government for failing to properly match public policy with the needs of indigenous peoples. Still, the legislator praised the government for making inroads in dealing with the indigenous community.

Yet it appears as if government programs recently created to help the indigenous community have failed to do so. One local indigenous leader showed his dissatisfaction at the federal “Opportunities” job program:

(Rafael Díaz Bermúdez) indicated that peasants do not choose self-employment or seek work (under the program). Rather, they are tied to their regular subsidy or, even worse, they consume alcohol which explains the high levels of alcoholism in (certain indigenous) areas. - [ed. Personal translation]

Sources (Spanish)- El Universal, Milenio

Image- MSNBC (Indigenous leaders gathered at a conference in Mexico)

Spain to examine alleged ETA-FARC link

Authorities in Spain will examine alleged ties between the militant Basque separatist group ETA and Colombia’s FARC guerillas. According to a report on Monday by AFP, Spanish prosecutors will send an “investigative commission” to check on any claims between the FARC and ETA as well as other Basque separatist factions.

An article last week cited a Spanish daily that claimed that Venezuelan authorities were conducting their own investigation into possible ETA-FARC links. Last Friday, Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos claimed that the FARC had sought to “forge an alliance” with ETA:

Santos said ""the FARC's contacts with ETA and drug traffickers exporting cocaine to Europe are not new, and when they are secure in Colombia, they try to do harm overseas,"" which, he claimed, was the rebels' goal.

The accusations made by Santos mirrors those made by Colombia’s defense minister based on the laptops seized during a controversial military strike in March.

Sources (Spanish)- El Tiempo, Univision

Sources- Tehran Times, Typically Spanish, BBC News

Image- BBC News (Graffiti sympathetic with ETA)

Daily Headlines: June 2, 2008

* Jamaica: Congrats to sprinter Usain Bolt who became the “world’s fastest man” by setting a new world record in the 100 meter dash on Saturday.

* Brazil: A U.N. representative has accused Brazilian police of committing “thousands” of extrajudicial killings.

* Venezuela: Will Venezuelan gas stations become the next industry to be nationalized?

* Mexico: A poll reveled that most Mexicans believe that drug cartels are winning against the police.

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

Image- CNN

Meet our newest contributor!

Before we start our usual slate of posts this week, we want to welcome our newest contributor: Michael Lisman. He wrote a trio of posts for our blog two weeks ago and now he’ll do so on a permanent basis.

According to part of his bio from Inter-American Dialogue:

Michael C. Lisman is an associate with the education program, and coordinates activities in Central America for the Partnership for Educational Revitalization in the Americas (PREAL). He has worked at LASPAU: Academic and Professional Programs for the Americas, as well at the Harvard Initiative for Global Health, where he coordinated a large-scale evaluation of social security programs in Mexico.

Welcome Michael and good luck!

Sources- Inter-American Dialogue, The Latin Americanist