Saturday, July 12, 2008

Today’s Video: Julieta “en vivo”!

Back in June we mentioned six free concerts in New York City that feature extraordinary Latin American musicians who are worth checking out. One of them is Mexican songstress Julieta Venegas who will grace the Central Park SummerStage this afternoon. Along with fellow countrymen Plastilina Mosh and Chile’s DJ Bitman the concert should be an unbelievable experience. (Despite the massive hype revolving around tonight’s Bon Jovi gig!)

Here’s Venegas performing live last year at Coachella:

By the way, if you are going to the concert and see Maegan or I don’t hesitate to come over and say “hi!”

Sources- Vivirlatino, The Latin Americanist, YouTube, Huevos Pericos

Daily Headlines: July 12, 2008

* Colombia: According to a communiqué by Colombia’s FARC rebels, the guerilla commanders overpowered in last week’s rescue mission “betrayed their revolutionary ideals.”

* Mexico: The country's National Human Rights Commission denounced the military for an increase in abuses including arbitrary arrests and torture.

* Brazil: Police raided the home and offices of Brazil's richest man who is being investigated for possible fraud and tax evasion.

* Cuba: The economic situation of the island “could worsen” and “key reforms” may be postponed according to a speech given by Cuban president Raul Castro.

Image- Los Angeles Times (“Military police escort FARC commander Gerardo Aguilar Ramirez, alias Cesar, left, who was in charge of the hostages, and another guerrilla” last week)

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Monsters & Critics, BBC News, Bloomberg, Guardian UK

Friday, July 11, 2008

Today’s Video: “Los Cadillacs” are back!

Last month we mentioned how seminal rock en español group Los Fabulosos Cadillacs ended their six-year hiatus and will go on a brief tour of Latin America this fall. Earlier this month the popular Argentine band performed a surprise gig on their native soil, a portion of which is shown in this video:

So far, no tour dates in the U.S. or Europe have been set though we certainly hope that changes soon!

Sources- The Latin Americanist, YouTube,

Daily Headlines: July 11, 2008

* Venezuela: Will Alvaro Uribe’s visit to see Hugo Chavez today lead to renewed diplomatic ties between Colombia and Venezuela?

* Panama: A legal battle has continued over the will of an “eccentric American millionaire” who bequeathed $50 million to combat child malnutrition in Panama.

* Cuba: According to officials less foreign investment projects have taken place on the island since Raul Castro first took over on an interim basis in July 2006.

* El Salvador: Over 300 hundred new cases of HIV were found after a “National HIV Test Day” was carried out two weeks ago.

Image- AFP

Sources- The Press Association, The Independent, Reuters, Xinhua

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Today’s Video: Calexico

Arizona-based rock band Calexico will come out with a new album this September. Entitled “Carried To Dust”, the album carries the group’s distinctive musical style; one that has been described as “part country-folk, part jazz and part rock with surprising touches of Afro-Peruvian music, traditional Portuguese folk and even surfer rock” according to NPR.

The following is a very brief promo video for Carried To Dust” which showcases the band’s sound:

A quick word of thanks to Quarterstick Records for informing us of Calexico’s upcoming album.

Sources- Casa de Calexico, NPR

Wal-Mart pulls “racist” comic book

Wal-Mart has removed from its shelves a Mexican comic book which some have deemed as racist.

"Memin Pinguin" features a dark-skinned protagonist with exaggeratedly thick lips and “bug eyes.” Wal-Mart recently started offering the comic in areas with large populations of Latino customers such as Texas and Miami. Yet one African-American patron was shocked when she found the caricatures:

“They are calling him names. They call him an animal in one section. His mom is spanking his butt and it looks like they are drowning him,” said (Shawnedria) McGinty, who went so far as to buy a Spanish dictionary to better understand the comic books.

As Guanabee observed, this isn’t the first time "Memin Pinguin" has been controversial in the U.S.:

“Memin Pinguin” caused a stir in the States a couple of years back when the Mexican government issued a postal stamp commemorating the character. The comic book was then reissued after not having been published for a number of years. So it’s a wee bit surprising, given the blacklash those stamps received, that Wal-Mart would decide to carry it in its stores. In the United States nonetheless! Now they are feeling the wrath of the African American community.

Image- CNN

Sources- CNN, Dallas Morning News, Reuters, Guanabee

Nationwide protests hit Peru

Tensions rose as tens of thousands of protestors took to the streets in Peru during a 24-hour national strike. Their ire stemmed from the government’s economic policies which they argued were insufficient to reduce poverty despite an economic boom.

The government declared the strike as illegal and claimed that 93% of the country’s workforce made it in for work. Yet the unions which organized the strike had declared it a success:

Marchers in Lima, the capital, carried signs urging Garcia to quit and calling him "right-wing" and a "traitor"…

"This is a government of the rich and of multinational corporations," said Mario Huaman, the leader of Peru's largest labor confederation. "The economic model must change ... people need higher wages."

Yesterday’s rallies coincided with a two-day farmer’s strike; farmers demanded that President Alan Garcia do more towards combating the rising cost of living in Peru. Copper prices grew earlier this month during a miners strike.

Image- BBC News

Sources- Reuters, Living in Peru, BBC News, Bloomberg,

Ex-dictator tried in Suriname

The trial of Desi Bouterse, the former dictator of Suriname, began last week in Paramaribo, the capital city of the small, Dutch-speaking nation on the northeast coast of South America.

Bouterse, now the leader of Suriname's National Democratic Party, and a potential presidential candidate for the 2010 election, is charged with ordering and personally overseeing the executions of up to 15 political prisoners, known as the "December murders" of 1982.

Eyewitness testimony at the trial confirms his presence at the killlings, though Bouterse denies his personal involvement - yet has expressed acceptance of his "political responsibility" for the killings.

Bouterse has been a leading military and political figure in post-indepence Suriname since 1975, though his history is checkered and includes at least one drug-smuggling conviction.

From Radio Netherlands:

"Bouterse seized control of northeastern South American state of Suriname during a military coup in 1980, five years after the country achieved independence from the Netherlands. He stepped down in 1987 in the face of international pressure and briefly seized power in 1991."

The trial is expected to continue through June, and if convicted, Bouterse faces up to 20 years in prison.

Sources: AFP, AP, Radio Netherlands, Amarillo, Reuters

Daily Headlines: July 10, 2008

* Latin America: A historic colonial Cuban town and a Mexican butterfly reserve were two of the 27 sites added to the list of World Heritage Sites by the U.N.

* Brazil: The G-5 group of developing countries- which includes Brazil and Mexico- did not see eye-to-eye with their wealthier counterparts during this week’s Group of Eight (G8) summit.

* Chile: Authorities continue to seek the world’s most wanted Nazi fugitive – Aribert “Dr. Death” Heim- who may be hiding in Chile or Argentina.

* Bolivia: A “special edition” of Che Guevara’s journals with forewords written by Fidel Castro and Evo Morales will soon be issued by the Bolivian government.

Image- Sydney Morning Herald (“A migrating monarch butterfly”)

Sources- Monsters & Critics, MSNBC, World Heritage Center, BBC News,

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Ecuador: Gov’t seizes businesses over debts

Nearly 200 businesses including three television stations were seized by Ecuador’s government yesterday. The 195 seized firms had been owned partially or entirely by the Isaias Group and the government claimed that it was owed $661 million after the collapse of the group’s Filanbanco bank in 1998.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa claimed that the raids were justifiable in order to collect debts from “still extremely prosperous bankers” whose actions had crippled the country’s economy. The move was met with resistance from the former chiefs of the Filanbanco bank who currently live in Miami and are wanted by Ecuadorian prosecutors. Meanwhile one of the heads of the seized TV channels claimed that the government had engaged in censorship:

"This is an attack on freedom of expression," said Gamavision's manager, Carlos Dassum, who called on President Correa to rectify the situation.

"They're talking about Filanbanco's debts... we (Gamavision) don't owe anyone anything, we're an independent channel, we report and will continue to report the truth," he told the Spanish news agency Efe.

The incident, along with the subsequent resignation of the country’s Finance Minister, led to Ecuadorian bonds dropping by its steepest rate in almost three months.


Sources- BBC News, McClatchy Bureau,,

Obama, McCain talk politics at LULAC forum

Both of the main candidates for the U.S. presidency- John McCain and Barack Obama- spoke yesterday at the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) conference.

The Republican senator praised Latinos for their contributions to his home state of Arizona and reflected on the bravery of Latino veterans of war as well as Latino soldiers serving overseas. McCain also touched on the failed immigration reform proposal which he strongly backed and emphasized the need to “secure our borders first” regarding the immigration debate.

Meanwhile, the Democratic legislator touched on some of the same issues as McCain such as education, health care, and foreign policy. Yet Obama accused McCain of abandoning “his courageous stance” on immigration reform as he was campaigning for the GOP nomination. “America has nothing to fear from our newcomers,” added Obama as he vowed to make immigration reform a key priority if elected president.

A piece in today’s San Francisco Chronicle noted the problems with each of the candidate’s remarks on immigration:

McCain finds himself pinched between his sponsorship of a major immigration overhaul that failed last year in the Senate and his need to disown his own immigration bill that was loathed in his party…

When the bill came up for a vote, McCain largely left the fight to others as he devoted his time to running for president. He finally said in a Republican debate this year that he would not vote for his own bill now but would work on border security first…

Obama, who struggled to win Latinos during the primaries and played a minor role in the immigration debates, said he had "reached across the aisle in the Senate to fight for comprehensive immigration reform." In fact, while Obama sponsored some amendments, he was not a key negotiator and mainly stuck to the party line. If anything, his amendments and others he supported undermined the fragile bipartisan coalition backing the bill.

Image- The Telegraph (“Barack Obama addresses the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) convention”)

Sources- Washington Post,,, The Age, The Trail, Chicago Tribune

Death threats force ex-hostage into exile

A former hostage who was held by guerilla captors in Colombia for nearly seven years fled into exile earlier today. Since being freed by the FARC in February, Luis Eladio Perez had campaigned hard for the liberation of hundreds of other captives and even attempted to meet with world leaders like U.S. President George W. Bush. Yet the death threats grew in the days after last Wednesday's mission which freed fifteen hostages:

“(The threats) are related to comments I made recently about those two (guerillas captured during the mission) but also based on my experience related to the FARC. I have been absolutely clear on how I lived,” said the ex-senator. – [ed. personal translation]

An interview given to the Colombian press shortly before he boarded his flight, Perez vowed to continue working hard for the freedom of all those held in captivity. Earlier this week, Perez told CNN that the hostages at times argued with each other and he blasted his guerilla captors for “treating people like animals.”

Image- BBC News (Image of Luis Eladio Perez during his time as a hostage)

Sources (English)- CNN, The Latin Americanist, Reuters Africa

Sources (Spanish)- Caracol Radio, El Tiempo

Today’s Video: Juana Molina’s backstory

What makes Argentine singer Juana Molina tick? What led to her becoming a musician despite being a successful television comedienne? How can her music be “hard to follow” and “beautiful” at the same time? Find out the answers to this and more in the following 2006 interview:

Molina will be the opening act for some of Feist’s concerts including tonight in Brooklyn. Her next album is set to come out in October.

FYI – Later this week we’ll look into the Latin Alternative Music Conference which started yesterday in New York.

Stay tuned!

Sources-, Wikipedia, Brooklyn Vegan, YouTube, LAMC

Daily Headlines: July 9, 2008

* Latin America: Cervical cancer has killed 33,000 women in Latin America and without prevention the figure could rise to 70,000 by 2030 according to a recently released medical study.

* Puerto Rico: Controversy has erupted after Governor Aníbal Acevedo Vila proposed constructing a natural gas pipeline on the southern part of the island.

* Chile: Police and protestors clashed again in the capital Santiago over a government-backed education reform bill.

* Mexico: More causalities (so to speak) of last month’s deadly nightclub raid in Mexico City: the city’s police chief and top prosecutor resigned yesterday.

Image- ABC News Online (“Cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil is injected into a volunteer in Sydney, August 28, 2006 (AAP)”)

Sources-, BBC News, Caribbean Net News, The Latin Americanist, MSNBC

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Players' salaries jump

Baseball officials estimate that players from Latin America will gather bigger salaries.

An article from The Arizona Republic offers the example of Dominican Michael Inoa, who signed with Oakland Athletics for a $4.25 bonus last week.

Teams could spend more than $30 million on players from Latin America this year, one baseball official estimated.

The change is attributed to more teams scouting in the region and increased scouting budgets. New academies also signal more income.

"There's no doubt: It's changing," Oakland Assistant General Manager David Forst said. "I don't think you see the A's as a player for a talent of this caliber a few years ago, but in order to compete and in order to maintain the health of our farm system, you have to be financially competitive in Latin America."

Expensive players include Enrique Burgos, a Panamanian who got a $295,000 bonus Rossmel Perez and Jose Jose also received bonuses above $100,000.

Source: The Arizona Republic, Photo: Inoa,

Left lauds captive release

Leftists in Latin America are happy that the hostages were released, according to their recently released statements.

Former Cuban president Fidel Castro said he rejoiced at the news "out of a basically humanist sentiment." He went on to say,

"The civilians should have never been kidnapped, neither should the soldiers have been kept prisoner in the conditions of the jungle. These were objectively cruel actions. No revolutionary purpose could justify it."

Venezuelan president said he called Colombian president Alvaro Uribe to congratulate him. "We are still ready to help until the last hostage of the Colombian guerrillas is released," he said.

Read the statements here.

Article: World War 4 Report, Photo: MoonBattery

Daily Headlines: July 8, 2008

* Peru: A magnitude 6.0 quake rattled Peru this morning; the quake occurred nearly one year after a deadly tremor killed hundreds in the country.

* Venezuela: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez suggested that OPEC subsidize some of the oil exported to impoverished countries.

* Mexico: Mexico City Attorney General Rodolfo Felix blamed the police for abusing and mistreating the survivors of a deadly nightclub raid last month.

* Colombia: “(The FARC) are not a revolutionary group. They are terrorists,” said one of the U.S. contractors freed last week from his guerilla captors.

Image- TIME (“Members of a church inspect the ruins with a firefighter in Pisco, Peru, August 19, 2007.”)

Sources- AFP, The Latin Americanist, Reuters, CNN

Monday, July 7, 2008

Today’s Video: Deterrence

And now a word from our pseudo-sponsor:

Ingrid Betancourt – the movie?

The tale of recently freed Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt could soon be shown on the silver screen according to AFP. The report cites Colombia’s RCN who claimed that a film based on her rescue along with 14 other hostages will be produced "jointly by a Hollywood production company and under RCN-Cine supervision." (Perhaps Meryl Streep could play Betancourt while her eldest son Lorenzo can be played by Zac Efron?)

What about other forms of entertainment? Over the weekend Betancourt admitted that she has plans to write a play based on her time in captivity. In remarks made to Le Journal du Dimanche:

"I shall return to Colombia in a few days. Meanwhile I want to see France, all of France. But I also want to be alone with my children ... I want to give this time to my family, to the father of my children whom I adore, who fought an extraordinary fight for me."

Asked whether she would write a book about her experience, she replied: "I'll write a play."

In other developments:

  • Colombia’s government denied reports from Switzerland that a $20 million ransom had been secretly paid to guerilla captors and has even accused a Swiss diplomat of funding the FARC.
  • While Betancourt has been open in her praise of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, she also warned him and others to “change the radical, extremist vocabulary of hate” they engage against the guerillas.
  • Could Betancourt receive the next Nobel Peace Prize? Chilean President Michelle Bachelet will try to make it so.
  • “There were daily incidents and conflicts” among hostages including the threat of sexual abuse against Betancourt according to former hostage who spent four years in captivity at Betancourt’s side.
  • Lastly, the following is video from the Colombian government (as reported by Al Jazeera English) of the operation to free the hostages:

Sources- CNN, ABS-CBN News Online, Canadian Press,, AFP, YouTube, the Telegraph, ABC News Online

Ortega threatens clampdown

Over the weekend, in celebration of the 29th anniversary of the Sandinista uprising that led to the end of the Somoza dicatorship in Nicaragua, President Daniel Ortega delievered a speech that suggests he is gearing up for a conflict with the growing opposition to his government.

From Reuters:

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega warned his political adversaries on Saturday that he would not allow them to depose him as opposition groups planned street protests against his government. "We love peace, but we are also ready to use the steel of war if they try to bring down this" government, Ortega said in a speech.

From La Prensa:

El Presidente nicaragüense se declaró dispuesto a dar batalla en todos los flancos, en lo que calificó como una defensa del “poder del pueblo.” “Donde nos busquen nuestros enemigos, allí nos van a encontrar, donde nos busquen los vende patria, allí nos van a encontrar, donde nos busquen los traidores, allí nos van a encontrar, donde nos busquen los financiados por la embajada yanqui, allí nos van a encontrar, dispuestos, como decía nuestro gran poeta Rubén Darío, a levantar el acero de guerra o el olivo de la paz”, añadió Ortega.

Ortega's remarks are seen by some as a direct response to the mounting opposition against him and what the opposition claims as a string of recent policies that are unconstitutional and anti-democratic.

Sources: Reuters, La Prensa, AFP

Daily Headlines: July 7, 2008

We’ve been busy the past few days reporting on the liberation of fifteen hostages in Colombia and some news stories from the Americas have fallen under the cracks. To makeup for it here’s an extended edition of Daily Headlines.

* Latin America: John McCain ended his mini-tour of Latin America last week where he emphasized his disagreement with Barack Obama over free trade and praised the center-right governments of Mexico and Colombia. Yet according to BBC News, the differences between the two presidential hopeful on Latin America is minimal.

* Chile: Could a “fruit-bearing cactus” be the key to easing Chile’s energy problems?

* Peru: Mine workers ended a week-long national strike late last night according to government officials.

* U.S.: Conservative stalwart/ultra bigot (depending on your opinion) Jesse Helms died last week; he co-authored a law strengthening the embargo of Cuba and backed Argentina in the Falklands War.

* El Salvador: Heavy rains and flash floods have claimed the lives of at least 15 people.

* Cuba: A “top rights activist” claimed that the island’s government cracked down on over 30 dissidents in anticipation alleged protests.

* Ecuador: Lastly, congrats to LDU Quito who won the Copa Libertadores soccer tourney after a thrilling match against Brazil’s Fluminense:

Sources- BBC News,, Reuters UK, Bloomberg,, AFP,, Time, YouTube, The Offside