Friday, June 27, 2008

Today’s Video: A mental health break

The Pinker Tones: the perfect way to end the work week.

(We’ll be posting over the weekend, nevertheless).

(Video link):

Sources- YouTube, thepinkertones.com

Attorneys For Rican Activist Will Try to Quash Grand Jury Subpoenas

Today attorneys representing two young Puerto Rican independentistas subpoenaed to a federal grand jury in New York will present a motion to quash the subpoenas.

"The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigations) should state whether the subpoenas and the grand jury questions are the product of illegal electronic interventions," the press release indicated.

More than once, the grand jury proceedings have been postponed, leading many to think that they have no legal basis, but rather are a tactic meant to intimidate the Puerto Rican independence movement.

The attorneys also allege that the United States government has politically "repressed" independentistas since the decade of the 1930's, and that U.S. law requires that "the federal grand jury must respect the freedom of association guaranteed by the First Amendment" of the U.S. Constitution.
According to the movement Table of Solidarity, legislators of the City of New York Melissa Mark Viverito, Leticia James and Rosie Méndez have rejected the grand jury subpoenas.
It was also announced that the organization Hostos One Eleven Grand Jury Resistance Coalition
will convene a demonstration of support for those subpoenaed to the grand jury on Friday, while the motion is presented in court.
Source : Personal email

Bloggers of the world unite!

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Babalu Blog, Bloggings by Boz, BoRev.net, Guanabee, Latin America News Review, Latina Lista, Plan Colombia and Beyond, Vivirlatino

Image- Advanced Associates

Daily Headlines: June 27, 2008

* Mexico: More fall out from last week’s deadly nightclub stampede as at least 30 females alleged that police forced them to strip naked and took photos of them.

* Haiti: A report has accused the U.S. government of using political motives to withhold drinking water to Haiti.

* Venezuela: A global diamond trade group has called for a boycott of Venezuelan diamonds over the “blood diamonds” controversy.

* Latin America: The region may be “resilient to the global credit crunch” though that hasn’t stopped many analysts from worrying over rising inflation throughout the continent.

Image- CNN

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Monsters & Critics, MarketWatch, New York Times, Guardian UK

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Today’s Video: Happy birthday Manu Chao!

On Thursday several birthdays were celebrated throughout the Americas including Brazilian musician Gilberto Gil and the late Chilean president Salvador Allende. June 26th also happens to be the birthday of eclectic singer Manu Chao; thus, in honor of his 47th-birthday here’s a live performance of “Rumba de Barcelona.”

(Video link):

Earlier this week we also wished a feliz cumpleaños to ex-Mazzy Star vocalist Hope Sandoval.

Sources- YouTube, Vivirlatino, New York Times, The Latin Americanist

Border laptop searches raise eyebrows

Complaints from travelers and privacy advocates has led some politicos to question U.S. Customs policy allowing agents to search laptops, cell phones and other electronics devices at the border.

While the federal government has argued that such extreme measures are needed for national security, critics alleged that Border Patrol agents are engaging in racial profiling and are overstepping their authority. “Congress should not allow this gross violation of privacy” said Sen. Russell D. Feingold during a subcommittee session on Wednesday as testimony was given for and against the Customs measures.

One senator was caught in a bind when he embarrassingly contradicted himself:

As the hearing began, Senator Brownback, a Republican of Kansas, said the rationale for border searches is "obvious." He noted that a conspirator in the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center, Zacarias Moussaoui, kept information on his laptop "that, if discovered, might have prevented" those strikes.

However, later in the session, Mr. Brownback acknowledged a visceral discomfort with government agents rifling through his digital assistant when he crosses the border. "I don't like the idea of coming across with my BlackBerry and somebody saying, 'I want to root around in your whole BlackBerry.' I got a lot of things on there. I don't know what all is on there, in some cases. I don't want people looking at that randomly," the senator said.

Sources- PC World, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, New York Sun

Image- Think Progress

Chile: Protests continue against education reform

Approximately 35 students were detained by police after the latest round of protests against the government’s education reform plan. Several previous marches against the General Education Law (LGE) have led to unity between students and teachers unions opposed to the program:

"The quality of public education is very poor in this country, and does not stand a chance against the interests of the rich," said Jaime Gajardo, president of Chile's National College of Teachers…

Demonstrators want President Michelle Bachelet to withdraw an education bill from Congress that replaces a law in place since the end of Chile's 1973-1990 dictatorship.

Students and teachers don't like the existing law either, but they say the new bill does not go far enough to meet their needs, and are demanding the government draw more on funds from coffers bursting with revenues from a four-year copper bonanza.

Chile’s education minister has argued that changes are necessary in order to fix inequality within the school system.

Sources- Reuters, Xinhua, Prensa Latina, earthtimes.org

Image- The Valparaiso Times (“Police disperse student protests in Santiago.”)

Another corruption scandal rocks Colombia

First it was the “para-politics” scandal which linked Colombian politicians and government allies with right-wing paramilitaries. Then came the FARC-politica brouhaha where opposition figures had been accused of close ties with leftist guerillas. Now the latest Colombian corruption scandal revolves around accusations by a former senator over the buying of votes by the government.

Yesterday Colombia's Supreme Court sentenced ex-legislator Yidis Medina to three years and four months of house arrest after she confessed that she was bribed in order to pass an amendment permitting presidential reelection. The Yidis-politica affair has led to the investigation of numerous senior government members including an ex-Interior Minister and a top advisor to President Alvaro Uribe (image).

According to Medina’s testimony, she was offered quite a prize by the government for her support:

On another occasion Medina was called to the presidential palace and met with (ex-Interior Minister Sabas) Pretelt De La Vega, President Uribe and members of the presidential staff. In that meeting “they expressed their concern about my vote and asked what I wanted in return for supporting the bill,” Medina claims.

During that meeting, Medina says, Pretelt De La Vega explicitly mentioned the possibility of offering her a consulate.

Despite mounting evidence of government corruption and malfeasance a poll released today showed that most Colombians in the five largest cities would grant Uribe a third term in the presidency. The results reflect Uribe’s high popularity throughout the country and shows that he’s untouchable in the eyes of most Colombians.

Though Colombians have mobilized en masse to march against violence it’s too bad that there isn’t a widespread protest against the fraud that has hurt the country.

Image- BBC News

Sources (English)- Colombia Reports, The Latin Americanist

Sources (Spanish)- Caracol Radio, RCN, El Espectador


Bush headlines Hispanic conference


President George Bush is the keynote speaker for today's convention of the largest Hispanic evangelical network in the United States.

The 2008 National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast, held this morning, brings together more than 750 Hispanic religious leaders to talk about issues in the Hispanic community.

"It is a blessing and an honor to host President Bush at the Prayer Breakfast," said Rev. Luis Cortes, Jr., President of Esperanza. "This year, more than ever, we have come together in a special way to pray, celebrate, and advocate for Hispanics everywhere."

Bush joins Panama's First Lady, Vivian Fernandez de Torrijos, and Israel's Tourism Commissioner, Rami Levi.

This is the sixth time Bush has participated in this event.

Regional education study released

The results of UNESCO’s Second Regional Comparative and Explanatory Study (SERCE) on educational inputs and outputs in Latin America are now released and were presented in a 200+ page report in Santiago, Chile late last week.

UNESCO, in collaboration with the Latin American Laboratory for the Assessment of the Quality of Education (LLECE) carried out the study over the past 4 years in 16 Latin American countries.


While the highly-anticipated report was covered in press across the hemisphere, the results may be inconclusive, as may be the major findings.

IPS reports from Santiago:

"A total of 196,040 primary school students in the third and sixth grades were assessed, from 8,854 classrooms in 3,065 urban and rural schools in 16 Latin American countries and the northeastern Mexican state of Nuevo León.

The subject areas reviewed were reading comprehension, mathematics and science, focusing on "life skills." Student performance was evaluated, as well as factors that might contribute to the differences between their scores."

... and continues to summarize the findings:

"According to the study, school ambience explains between 40 and 49 percent of the variation in students’ learning attainments, while characteristics of the students themselves explain most of the remaining difference."

"When comparing schools, the "school climate" is the major factor determining student performance, followed by the average socioeconomic and cultural level of the institution."

As usual, Cuban education comes out high on top of the rest of the hemisphere, a strong point the Castro regime has long touted. The Dominican Republic was found on the bottom rungs in the most performance areas, qualifying it as the "least successful" in the region; this week, the Dominican secretary of education made no excuses and responded with a call to arms:

"...conocer (esta) realidad nos anima a trabajar mucho más para ir acercándonos a los estándares internacionales."

It is not yet clear what education experts and other politicians will make of the report, which provides many rankings, but fails to tease out any particularly revealing trends, or suggest any significant differences amongst the majority of the participating countries. The full data set has not yet been made publicly available, either.

Sources: UNESCO, IPS, LLECE, PREAL, El Hoy, Reuters

Daily Headlines: June 26, 2008

* Brazil: According to Merrill Lynch there are more millionaires in Brazil than in any other Latin American country.

* Mexico: First it was people crossing the border into Mexico in ordered to buy cheap gasoline. Now it’s Texan real estate firms trying to beat the housing slump by selling property to Mexicans.

* U.S.: Police in a South Carolina town are investigating who set fire to a Puerto Rican flag that hung off a private house.

* Cuba: The country’s first ever Gay Pride parade was abruptly canceled after it did not receive the green light from the island’s government.

Image- New York Times (“Inside the Daslu department store in São Paulo, Brazil, where the wealthy gather to mingle and consume.”)

Sources- GreenvilleOnline.com, Queerty, People’s Daily Online, Bloomberg, The Latin Americanist

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Today’s Video: Ecuadorians strikes first in Libertadores final

The first leg of the final in South America’s most prestigious soccer club tournament- the Copa Libertadores- was held Wednesday night. Ecuador’s LDU Quito took advantage of playing at home and scored a flurry of first-half goals to beat Brazilian side Fluminense 4-2.

The Rio de Janeiro team came in as the favorites after blazing through the group stage, and beating 2007 tournament champions Boca Juniors in the semifinals. The team from Quito managed several upsets in order to reach the finals such as beating 2007 Copa Sudamericana runners-up Club America in the semis.

The last leg of the final will take place next Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro’s legendary Maracana stadium. A tie or a one-goal loss would be sufficient for LDU Quito to be the first Ecuadorian team to capture the Libertadores title. (The only previous time an Ecuadorian team made it to the final was ten years ago when Barcelona SC lost to another Rio de Janeiro side- Vasco de Gama- by a 4-1 aggregate score).

The following are highlights of the six goals scored in the first leg:

Sources- YouTube, Wikipedia, The Latin Americanist, People’s Daily Online, Reuters UK

Mexican drug capo to be extradited

Mexican officials approved the extradition to the U.S. of suspected drug kingpin Benjamin Arellano Felix. The alleged head of a Tijuana drug cartel will go on trial with several charges against him including drug trafficking and money laundering.

The decision by Mexico’s Attorney General overturns one made by a judge in May barring Arellano Felix’s extradition. Authorities suspect that Arellano Felix’s brother and sister currently control the Tijuana drug cartel.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon recently praised the police efforts to combat crime yet the deaths caused by violence between gangs and against the police has escalated:

Suspected drug hitmen killed six people in Ciudad Juarez in northern Mexico on Tuesday, the latest in a killing spree that has left 41 people dead in the city since the start of the weekend, police said…

Tuesday's murders take the death toll to over 500 people in Ciudad Juarez since the start of the year, making it the most deadly city in Mexico's drug war, despite a large deployment of well-armed troops and federal police.

Not even the family members of U.S. legislators are immune from the violence; a relative of Rep. Silvestre Reyes who was living in Ciudad Juarez was kidnapped and then released according to “an internal ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) memo.”

Image- New York Times

Sources- El Paso Times, CNN, AFP, Reuters UK


Report: Global warming could boost immigration

Yesterday we mentioned how the Supreme Court threw out a case brought up by environmentalists against the Department of Homeland Security regarding a barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border. Another news piece emerged today regarding the environment, immigration, and national security:

Global climate change is likely to trigger humanitarian disasters and political instability that will have a major impact on U.S. national security, a top intelligence official told Congress on Wednesday…

"Logic suggests the conditions exacerbated [by climate change] would increase the pool of potential recruits for terrorism," said Tom Fingar, deputy director of national intelligence for analysis, who testified before a joint House committee hearing Wednesday.

Fingar’s testimony was based on a comprehensive yet confidential study regarding global warming and future political situations. Regarding Latin America, Fingar said that the region is expected to see more rain yet between seven and seventy-seven million people (!) could be affected by water shortages. Moreover, possible global instability caused by climate change could lead to increased immigration into the U.S. from regions worldwide.

The study received bipartisan criticism from legislators; some Democrats asked that the report be declassified and blasted the Bush administration’s environment policy while some Republicans doubted the information in the study with one calling it a “waste of resources.”

The dangers of climate change have the potential to create bigger problems worldwide than what we currently face. It is vital that leaders around the world seek viable solutions and place petty politics aside.

Image- ABC Western Queensland

Sources- The Latin Americanist, CNN, AFP, Xinhua, NPR


Marcelo "Chino" Rios Beats Pete Sampras

I don't know much about tennis, but I do know that Chilenos love them some Chino Rios. Late last night, Marcelo Rios, former number one tennis estrella, beat another former number one tennis star, Pete Sampras, in a match in Santiago.
The score looked like this: 3-6, 6-3 y 7-6 (4) and the match was won in an hour and 43 minutes.

Sampras and Rios have faced off numerous times in their tennis careers, but last night was the first time Rios won.

Source : El Mercurio

Daily Headlines: June 25, 2008

* Central America: An operation conducted in the U.S. and El Salvador led to the arrest of 26 people accused of being part of the notorious MS-13 gang.

* U.S.: Communicable diseases common in certain regions like Latin America have increasingly infected people in the U.S. according to a scientific study.

* Venezuela: A heavy-carb big breakfast could be the key to cutting cravings and losing weight, says one scientific study led by a Venezuelan doctor.

* Haiti: Could a woman by the country’s next prime minister?

Image- CNN (“Police arrest a suspected MS-13 member during an April operation targeting the gang in El Salvador.”)

Sources- AFP, Bloomberg, Monsters & Critics, ZDNet Healthcare

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Mexico City cops under scrutiny over deadly stampede

Authorities of Mexico’s capital fired 17 officers as more and more blame has been placed on the police for a deadly stampede last Friday. At least twelve people died while trying to flee a nightclub as police launched a surprise raid on underage revelers. One eyewitness claimed that the police overstepped their authority:

The owner announced the raid over a loudspeaker and asked everyone to leave, promising free entrance the following week. But witnesses said they quickly found themselves trapped amid stifling heat.

"The police told us they were not going to let us leave and closed the doors," 16-year-old Rebeca Mohzo, told the Televisa network. "Everyone was desperate because there was no air."

A video showing the club before and after the raid was taped by police and distributed to local media outlets. However, the “heavily censored” footage did not show the stampede itself nor did it depict the bodies of those injured or killed:

The actions by police have come under fire from numerous sectors including from Mexico City Marcelo Ebrard who deemed the raid and its consequences as “ethically unacceptable.”

Sources- washingtonpost.com, chron.com, Monsters & Critics, YouTube

Paraguayan president quits early (updated)

Update: Paraguay's Senate rejected the president's offer to resign after not enough legislators were present to conduct a vote. (Thanks for the tip, commenter!)

Paraguayan President Nicanor Duarte offered his resignation with less than two months before his term was to end. Despite being the outgoing president, Duarte (image) won a seat in the Paraguayan Senate and he wanted to be out of office before legislators are sworn in next Tuesday.

Duarte’s move was highly criticized by opposition politicos as well as members of his own party:

But other opposition members and even some of Duarte's own Colorado Party members oppose his bid, arguing the constitution does not allow the president to hold another position. Several others said they would not show up, thereby denying him the quorum needed for approval. They contend the constitution does not allow the president to occupy two offices at the same time, a rule intended to ensure the chief of state does not give short shrift to the job.

Both legislative chambers will vote today on whether or not to accept Duarte’s resignation.

Meanwhile, most Paraguayans are optimistic that president-elect Fernando Lugo will do a good job after he takes office on August 15th. According to a poll conducted earlier this month 86% of respondents are optimistic over Lugo, who recently returned from a political trip to Venezuela.

Image- Mercopress

Sources- CNN, People’s Daily Online, Angus Reid Consultants, Prensa Latina, The Press Association

Supreme Court rejects border fence case

The U.S. Supreme Court tossed out a case brought up in order to stop the construction of a 670-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. The case was brought up by environmentalists who argued that part of the barrier built in Arizona’s San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area would harm wildlife habitats. Furthermore, the litigants argued that environmental assessments were supposed to have been conducted under the National Environmental Policy Act before the fence was built.

Yet the court’s decision, made without comment, acknowledged that Homeland Security's authority to waive laws such as the environmental tests was more important. Since the Real ID Act of 2005 was passed, Homeland Security has been authorized to waive over 30 laws.

Naturally, differing sides of the case had distinct reactions to the justices’ edict:

"This decision leaves one man -- the secretary of the Homeland Security -- with the extraordinary power to ignore any and all of the laws designed to protect the American people, our lands and our natural resources," (Sierra Club spokesman Oliver) Bernstein said…

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), a proponent of the law, called the court's action "a victory for the American people" and a milestone toward finishing the barrier.

There are still other legal challenges pending against the fence including one by the government of El Paso, Texas.

Image- ENS

Sources- SignOnSanDiego.com, Los Angeles Times, Dallas Morning News, Voice of America, New York Times

Daily Headlines: June 24, 2008

* Argentina: The Argentine Congress will debate a controversial tariff plan that has pitted farmers vs. the government and threatens to plunge the country into economic chaos.

* Mexico: Mexico City's police have come under fire for their role in a nightclub stampede which killed twelve people.

* Ecuador: The country’s constitutional assembly chief resigned after claiming that there’s not enough time to rewrite the constitution.

* Colombia: In a video released over the weekend, a Colombian hostage blamed both the government and guerillas for their “cruelty and barbarism” in not reaching a humanitarian agreement.

Image- Los Angeles Times (“Argentines protest in Buenos Aires last week. Middle-class people worried about rising prices have sided with farmers in their dispute with the government over the tariff.”)

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg, chicagotribune.com, Reuters, BBC News

Monday, June 23, 2008

Today’s Video: Happy birthday Hope Sandoval!

Hope Sandoval: soothing voice, Mexican-American singer, pensive lyricist. In honor of her forty-second birthday here’s a music video from her post-Mazzy Star days – “Suzanne.”

(Video link):

Sources- YouTube, hopesandoval.com

Yet another Bolivian state opts for more autonomy

An estimated four out of five voters in Bolivia's Tarija province opted for more autonomy in a local referendum yesterday. Tarija thus becomes the fourth province this year to seek more local control and at the same time reject the policies of President Evo Morales.

Much like the previous votes in other eastern regions, Morales declared the plebiscite as illegal and pro-government supporters have urged a boycott. Nevertheless, autonomy backers celebrated the result and have declared that the rest of Bolivia will join suit against Morales:

“Today it is clear that Bolivians must construct a new Bolivian state based on autonomy” said the prefect of Tarija- Mario Cossio- during a speech where he also blasted the central government…

Beni prefect Ernesto Suarez said that the referendums in the four provinces signaled to the government that “autonomy is an irreversible process and it will not end in Tarija…until it becomes the norm in all nine departments.” – [ed. personal translation]

The division between the indigenous, impoverished western regions and the wealthy, energy-rich eastern provinces will come to a head in less than two months. A nationwide referendum will be held to decide the fate of Morales and the nine provincial governors.

Sources (English)- AFP, The Latin Americanist, Reuters UK, BBC News

Sources (Spanish)- La Razon

Image- Al Jazeera English (“Tarija has joined Santa Cruz, Beni and Pando in voting for autonomy")

Miami protest against Obama’s Elian connection

“A few dozen protesters” congregated in Miami to show their disapproval of the role two of Barack Obama’s top advisors had with the Elian Gonzales case eight years ago. As Obama met with leaders during the U.S. Conference of Mayors this weekend, the demonstrators were upset that Greg Craig (a representative of Elian’s father during the 2000 custody dispute) and Eric Holder (deputy U.S. attorney general under the Clinton administration) were both members of Obama's campaign team.

When reporters on Friday asked about the connection between his advisors and the Gonzales case, Obama chose to emphasize his planned policy towards Cuba:

"That was eight years ago, and obviously it was a wrenching situation for the families involved," Obama said. "But I’m running for president in 2008, and my focus is on how do we create a US-Cuba policy that will create political freedom on that island and allow the people who live there to prosper. That’s not what we have right now and I outlined just as recently as a month ago an extensive approach that I think can lead to liberty in Cuba."

Meanwhile, the now fourteen-year-old Gonzales (image) continues to live in Cuba and last week was officially inducted as a member if the island’s Young Communist Union.

Image- BBC News

Sources- La Plaza, The Swamp, Political Punch, CBS News


Amazonian tribe not so “lost” after all

Remember the isolated Amazonian tribe which was “discovered” by Brazilian officials last month? Apparently it was all a hoax:

But it has now emerged that, far from being unknown, the tribe's existence has been noted since 1910 and the mission to photograph them was undertaken in order to prove that 'uncontacted' tribes still existed in an area endangered by the menace of the logging industry.

The disclosures have been made by the man behind the pictures, José Carlos Meirelles, 61, one of the handful of sertanistas – experts on indigenous tribes – working for the Brazilian Indian Protection Agency, Funai, which is dedicated to searching out remote tribes and protecting them.

According to Meirelles, he was justified since indigenous peoples have come under increasing encroachment by the outside world. Furthermore, he claimed that the images of the tribe proved that the government policy of not forcing isolated tribes to integrate with society was working.

Yet do the ends justify the means? It is important for these indigenous tribes to be protected and allowed to live their lives in the dense rain forest. Yet Meirelles’ actions may backfire and lead to a backlash by certain windbags.

Image- BBC News

Sources- Al Jazeera English, Guardian UK, AHN, The Latin Americanist, Gawker


Is McCain two-faced on immigration?

A closed-door meeting with Latino leaders has raised some suspicions that Republican presidential hopeful John McCain is hypocritical on immigration. Contradicting versions have surfaced of the meeting between McCain and over 100 Hispanic leaders on Wednesday:

In the meeting, attendees said McCain promised that, if elected, Congress would pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill. That's anathema to people like Rosanna Pulido, the director of the Illinois Minuteman Project, who attended the event. Pulido said McCain used the phrase "comprehensive immigration reform" three times. "To me, it's a code word for amnesty" for illegal immigrants to gain citizenship, she said…

"He's one John McCain in front of white Republicans and he's a different John McCain in front of Hispanics," Pulido said…But (Democratic Illinois state Sen. Martin) Sandoval said Pulido's comments and the resulting fallout over his own meeting with McCain were an "overreaction" and that he told the Republican contender the same thing he would tell Obama--"Nobody should take for granted the Latino community."

After the meeting, Pulido- who is of Mexican background- told one journalist that she was “appalled” that McCain said that “did you know Spanish was spoken in Arizona before English?”

Democratic challenger Barack Obama’s communications director said that the meeting is the latest flip-flop by McCain which includes reversing his original stance on an immigration reform proposal he used to support.

Sources- Across The Pond, The Swamp, Political Punch, The Latin Americanist, Political Intelligence

Image- Canada.com

Journalist's lead grows in El Salvador

Mauricio Funes, El Salvador’s journalist-turned-presidential candidate has become entrenched as the likely victor in next year’s election, though spectulation is growing as to how sturdy his lead will remain as he moves from underdog to front-runner.

The recent UCA and UTEC polls in El Salvador report that the 48 year-old Funes, a one-time CNN reporter, now holds a lead of nearly 20 points over the ARENA candidate, Rodrigo Avila, a former police captain. International speculation also continues to grow as to what kind of president Funes would be.

On one hand, he is media-savvy, centrist, and pro-business – and even considered by some to be the Salvadoran Barack Obama. On the other hand, he represents the leftist and formerly revolutionary Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) which has been the opposition to the ruling ARENA party since 1989. The Washington Post, which produced two articles on the Funes campaign last week, reported on the political maturity in the new FMLN leadership:

The FMLN has moved closer to the political center and now has the largest bloc in El Salvador's national assembly. "Choosing Mauricio is a reflection of the changes in the FMLN," said Gerson Martinez, an FMLN lawmaker and a rebel during the civil war that killed 75,000 people.

Not everyone is convinced that times have changed, however. Some have compared Funes to the string of recently-elected leftist leaders under the presumed influence of Hugo Chavez.

Jaime Darenblum, of the DC-based Hudson Institute, wrote a recent op-ed entitled "Losing El Salvador", warning not only against Funes’ own intentions, but against the Trojan horse his candidacy represents for a Marxist reprisal in the FMLN:

Here's the problem - while Funes cuts a relatively moderate figure, he does not have any real sway over the FMLN's structure and ideology, which are inspired by old-fashioned Marxism-Leninism. The FMLN is a party that continues to defend the leftist narco-terrorists in Colombia, and refuses even to call them terrorists. Many analysts question how much its core beliefs have really changed. "If it flies like a duck, swims like a duck, and eats like a duck, it's a duck. The FMLN is a communist party," President Saca said recently.

While citing a lame-duck president’s views of his rivals may not be the most convincing argument, it seems clear that Funes and the FMLN have their work cut out in convincing the electorate that they are offering a change El Salvador can believe in.

Sources: Washington Post, La Prensa Gráfica, Weekly Standard

Daily Headlines: June 23, 2008

* Latin America: From Colombia to Nicaragua – a look at how protest movements have appeared due to Facebook.

* Cuba: Fidel Castro called last week’s decision by the European Union to drop diplomatic sanctions against Cuba an “enormous hypocrisy.”

* Haiti: A UNICEF report found that kidnapped children in Haiti have been “raped, tortured and murdered.”

* U.S.: Has the immigration crackdown in the U.S. led to “a modest positive impact” for job seekers?

Image- economist.com (February 2008 protest in Colombia which arose from a Facebook entry)

Sources- washingtonpost.com, The Latin Americanist, AHN, Christian Science Monitor, CNN