Friday, August 8, 2008

Today’s Video: The massacre at Tlatelolco

After the murder of eleven Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists during the 1972 Olympics, then-International Olympic Committee president Avery Brundage supposedly said that:

“They violated one of the basic principals of the Olympic Games. That politics play no part whatsoever in them.”

With all due respect to the late Brundage, that statement is BS. For better or worse, politics and the Olympics are intertwined; whether it is the aforementioned Munich massacre, the Cold War boycotts in 1980 and 1984 or the current controversy over the Beijing games.

The 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City were no exception to the connection between the Games and politics. The most famous image of those Games was the Black Power salute given on the medal podium by African-American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos. On the eve of the Olympics, the heavy hand of Mexican authorities led to the Tlatelolco massacre which killed an estimated 200-300 protestors along with the illegal detention of hundreds during the Games:

In 1968, the Mexican regime was in the 40-year-grip of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) despite elections. It wanted to make a good impression with the Olympics.

'The whole world would have its eyes on Mexico, but behind the screen of Olympic buildings there would remain extreme poverty, the stratification of a society that was hostile to those usually forgotten, the cruelty of a government willing to pretend anything,' said Mexican author and journalist Elena Poniatowska.

With the focus on Beijing, some Mexicans have referred to the Tlatelolco massacre as “Mexico's Tiananmen Square.” October 2, 1968 turned out to be a dark day for both Mexican and Olympic history as this video by Deborah Bonello for the Los Angeles Times demonstrates:

Sources-, Monsters & Critics, thinkexist, The Latin Americanist, Wikipedia, Google Video,,

Event: “Rooftop Films” at El Museo

The Rooftop Films Summer Series continues tonight with a screening tonight at New York’s El Museo Del Barrio. The museum (one of the most underrated in the Big Apple, I believe) will feature music by “Puerto Rican electro-pop quartet” Balun, then feature the movie “Up With Me”.

According to Rooftop Films’ website, the film looks at several dilemmas:

“In school, they taught us about great civilizations. But one day, they’ll count Harlem as one of them, and they’ll count us...” But when Francisco, a teenager from Harlem, is admitted to an upstate boarding school on scholarship, he is torn between his life at home—his loyal girlfriend and his jealous best friend—and the new environment.

In tough and disadvantaged neighborhoods, people always face a dilemma choosing between local pride and worldly desire, between staying loyal and seeking a better life. How do you improve yourself (or even define “improvement”) in ways that don’t alienate your friends, your loved ones, your community?

Interested in tonight's event? Here are the details:

What: Cielo Abierto: Rooftop Films at El Museo

Where: El Museo Del Barrio, 1230 Fifth Ave. (at 104th St.), New York, NY

When: Doors open at 8pm. Film starts at 9pm

Price: $9, advanced purchase “highly recommended” due to limited space

Weather: In case of rain the film will be shown indoors at the museum.

Image- El Museo Del Barrio

Source- El Museo Del Barrio, Rooftop Films, NYRemezcla, Urbanite

Paraguay's Lugo refuses to back land invaders

In this morning’s “Daily Headlines” we linked to an piece that examined where soon-to-be Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo will fit in “the spectrum of Latin America’s leftist presidents.” Earlier today, he provided a clue as to which way he will lean:

Paraguayan president-elect Fernando Lugo says he does not support landless peasants who plan to invade farms in three northern states of the South American country…

"There are no radicalized peasants among my main collaborators, and those who have been encouraging or carrying out farm invasions in the last few days are not justified," Lugo said.

Lugo’s rhetoric has been to walk the tightrope between the needs of peasant leaders and wealthy landowners. Land reform is a very delicate topic in a country where, according to a 2004 government study, about 17 million acres ended up in the hands of just 1,877 people.

With one week to go before inauguration, it would behoove the “bishop of the poor” to create a comprehensive, pragmatic program that would fairly distribute land and help in the prosperity of all Paraguayans.


Sources-, The Latin Americanist, Associated Press

Athletes sign petition condemning China

The Summer Olympics may’ve commenced today under pomp and circumstance though that hasn’t stopped a group of athletes from criticizing China’s human rights violations.

As part of the “Sports for Peace” campaign, over 100 athletes signed a letter urging the Chinese government to “respect human rights in China.” The petition- which was signed during an international track meet in June- also called for an end to the death penalty and a “peaceful solution” to the conflict with Tibet.

Several Latin American and Caribbean athletes signed the letter including Brazilian pole vaulter Fábio Gomes da Silva and Jamaican sprinter Ricardo Chambers. One of the most prominent signatories was Dayron Robles of Cuba; Robles holds the world record in the men's 110-meter hurdles and is a favorite to win gold.

The Chinese government responded to the controversy over its lackluster human rights record:

"The Chinese government puts people first and is dedicated to maintaining and promoting its citizens' basic rights and freedom," (foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang) said. "Chinese citizens have freedom of religion. These are indisputable facts" [ed. Oh really? Do the words “Falun Gong” ring a bell?]

The Chinese government says human rights have improved, with fewer death sentences, increased numbers of religious worshippers and a temporary relaxation of travel restrictions for foreign journalists.

Protestors have recently highlighted the situation in China; a pro-Tibet banner was briefly unfurled near the Olympic stadium yesterday while the torch relay became a fiasco in several cities.

Image- CTV Toronto (“Fireworks over the National Stadium during opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics”)

Sources- Times Online, Wikipedia, The Latin Americanist, Sports for Peace,, BBC Sport, Guardian UK, TIME, Palm Beach Post

Native Amazonians Deal with Coming Out

Blabbeando has a fascinating post about the coming out and living situation of Indigenous people in the Amazon, on the Brazilian border with Peru and Colombia.

Three Ticuna tribe members from the Umariaçu village, including 22 year-old Natalicio Ramos Guedes (pictured) say that at least twenty of the 3,600 village members - including them - are gay.
Ramos Guedes, whose brother Marcenio is also gay, participates in a local folk dance group. Both dress up like women and perform traditional dances at different social events throughout the region.

Both brothers say that it hasn't been easy to be so open. Marcenio says he left home when he was fifteen because he could not stand the constant fights with his father and moved to neighboring Tabatinga where he worked as a domestic servant. Now 24, he is back home and says that his family now supports him and backed him in launching the dance troop.
In Latin American culture and media it is rare to see a positive story of coming out, much less among Native Peoples.

Souce : Blabbeando

Daily Headlines: August 8, 2008

* Paraguay: analyses where Paraguayan president-elect Fernando Lugo (image) will fit in “the spectrum of Latin America’s leftist presidents.”

* Colombia: The Colombian government is considering sending troops to fight alongside NATO soldiers in Afghanistan.

* Ecuador: Support for Ecuador’s new constitution has gone up but still lacks a majority according to a recent poll.

* Guatemala: The country’s growing congressional corruption scandal has claimed the head of the legislature’s president.

Image- Guardian UK

Sources-, Prensa Latina, Reuters, Reuters UK

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Today’s Video: Cuba’s prepubescent pugilists

In the world of Olympic boxing, Cuban fighters have dominated time after time. Greats like Teofilo Stevenson and Felix Savon have won gold though their careers were stunted by a ban on professional boxing on the island.

This year’s Cuban Olympic boxing squad has been more vulnerable than previous teams, however. For the first time in forty years, Cuba did not qualify a boxer in all eleven Olympic weight categories. Last year, a pair of highly-touted fighters defected while critics claim that the talent heading to Beijing is “young and inexperienced.”

So what is that makes boxing such a dedicated discipline in Cuba? The following 2007 video clip from the PBS documentary series “Wide Angle” looks into the “young athlete revolutionaries” who fight as “a duty” aside from personal glory:

Sources- Guardian UK, Xinhua, The Latin Americanist, YouTube

Model defends using Peruvian flag as dress

Last month, a Peruvian model/attention seeker faced massive public scrutiny over posing naked on top of the Peruvian flag for a magazine cover. The exaggerated outrage led to a tearful apology from Leysi Suarez who was threatened with jail time for her racy yet patriotic snapshots.

The shit may hit the fan again (if you’ll pardon my language) after Peruvian model Karla Casós wore her country’s flag as a dress during a fashion show in Santiago, Chile. Chilean fashion designer Ricardo Oyaizu claimed to have made the dress in order to “find unity between our countries”. Casós, meanwhile, tried to defend herself via the not-so-subtle art of passive/aggressiveness:

“I don’t want to criticize Leysi’s choice but it’s something I would not have done. I have nothing against her but what I did was absolutely different. I was in a high fashion show and I didn’t sit on a flag draped on top of a horse.” [Ed. personal translation]

Anyone care to bet that by year’s end Suarez and Casós will be sharing a cell in a Limeño prison?

Image- Living in Peru

Sources (English)- Living in Peru, BBC News, The Press Association

Sources (Spanish)- Agencia Orbita de Peru, RPP Noticias

Honduran executed in Texas

A convicted Honduran murderer was killed by lethal injection in Texas roughly 48 hours after a Mexican national met the same fate. “God forgive them, receive my spirit” 29-year-old Heliberto Chi reportedly muttered before he died in front of a small audience including his relatives and the sons of the man he was convicted of robbing and killing in 2001.

Chi was scheduled to be executed last year though that was delayed while the U.S. Supreme Court (USSC) decided on the constitutionality of death via lethal injection. (Their verdict allowing lethal injection was announced in April.)

Much like the defense behind Jose Medellin- who was executed on Wednesday- Chi’s lawyers tried to argue that international law was broken. They argued that local authorities neglected Chi's rights; that notion was ultimately nixed by the USSC:

Chi's lawyers argued in a final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court that he should be granted a stay because he had not been notified of his right to consular services.

The court denied the appeal, paving the way for Chi's execution by lethal injection in the state's death chamber in Huntsville…

In Chi's case, separate from the World Court proceedings, the state argued that upon his arrest, Chi had not immediately identified himself to police as a foreign national.

Chi thus becomes the second foreign national to be executed by Texas this week despite interventions by the International Court of Justice and President George W. Bush.

Image- BBC News (“Chi was the 411th Texas inmate to die by lethal injection.”)

Sources- New York Times, Reuters, The Latin Americanist, JURIST, MSNBC,

Inaccurate Puerto Rico data in AIDS study

Latino health advocates have blasted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recent study on AIDS for excluding Puerto Ricans on the island as Hispanics. The CDC’s decision also leaves out Latinos living in overseas territories from being accurately counted. According to one source, the number of Latino AIDS cases jumps from 17.3% to 22% when island-based Puerto Ricans are counted.

The CDC’s inaccurate count of Latinos with AIDS in the U.S. has several serious consequences like affecting public finding in HIV/AIDS prevention. The lack of precise information in the AIDS report also creates confusion for a community where it can be difficult to have proper health care.

Unfortunately, it has been worrying to see the delays by the CDC in releasing a report showing a 40% increase in estimated AIDS cases in the U.S. These problems are shameful as the International AIDS conference continues in Mexico.

As the head of the Latino Commission on AIDS observed:

"The decision to exclude Puerto Ricans from the Hispanic incidence analysis is perplexing. The CDC made a positive step forward in its original decision to include Hispanics, but has subsequently taken two steps back by again excluding Puerto Ricans from the Hispanic incidence rates. We will never have accurate estimate of HIV incidence in the Hispanic community if this discrimination continues", said Dennis deLeon, President of the Latino Commission on AIDS.

Image- AFP (“Activists and delegates hold a protest against HIV policies of many governments.”)

Sources- El Diario La Prensa, International Herald Tribune, FOX Business, New York Times

Update: Mexico denounces Texas execution

The Mexican government, along with UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon, have denounced the state of Texas' Tuesday execution of Jose Ernesto Medellin, the Mexican national convicted for his involvement in the 1993 gang rape and murder of two teenaged girls.

From a
prepared statement by the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Relations yesterday:

"The government of Mexico sent the U. S. Department of State a diplomatic note of protest for this violation of international law, expressing its concern for the precedent that it may create for the rights of Mexican nationals who may be detained in that country...The Ministry of Foreign Relations reiterates that the importance of this case fundamentally stems from the respect to the right to consular access and protection provided by consulates of every state to each of its nationals abroad."

In Mexico, muted outcries followed Medellin's execution, mostly in his hometown of Nuevo Laredo. One Texas news station's coverage of reactions in Mexico City depicted interviewees that suggested many Mexicans are upset by rampant violence in interested by the adoption of the death penalty by Mexico.

For details on the case and it's controversial proceedings, see Erwin C's post earlier this week.

Sources: CNN, All Academic, SCOTUS Blog, Amnesty USA, KHou

Daily Headlines: August 7, 2008

* U.S.: Is there racial profiling involved in the tipping off of 59 Chicago motorists with Latino surnames to federal immigration authorities? Some local activists and politicians think so.

* Latin America: Mexico’s America Movil and Spain’s Telefonica each announced that they will start selling the 3G iPhone in Latin America later this month.

* Argentina: Looks like soccer star Lionel Messi is going to be prevented from playing in the Olympics.

* Chile: Scientists discovered that a chemical found in the Martian soil coincides with one found in Chile’s Atacama Desert.

Image- Guardian UK

Sources- Chicagoist,, Reuters, BBC Sport, Reuters India, The Latin Americanist

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Today’s Video: Peru’s greatest Olympic moment

We continue our look at Latin American athletes and the Olympics with Peru’s finest moment.

In the entire Olympics history, Peru has only won a minuscule four medals. According to Foreign Policy, such a dismal medal count has come about due to “poverty and lack of infrastructure.” Yet twenty years ago, Peru was on the cusp of one of the greatest upsets in Olympic history.

Throughout the 1980s, the Peruvian women’s volleyball team grew to be an emerging player on the international stage. Their zenith came during the 1988 games in Seoul when they upset such powerhouses as China and the U.S. to reach the gold medal match. Gabriela Perez del Solar, Rosa Garcia, and company faced the world’s best squad in the Soviet Union. Despite a valiant effort by Las Incas the Soviets would comeback from being two sets down. The Peruvians would lose the deciding fifth set by a razor-thin 17-15 score.

Ultimately, the Peruvian women’s valiant effort was not in vain as they graciously received the silver medal and were given a massive heroes reception after returning home. The team’s amazing performance is still remembered fondly in Peru, as the following 2005 newsmagazine report shows:

Sources- YouTube,, Wikipedia, Foreign Policy, The Latin Americanist

Evo emphasizes positives as Bolivians remain divided

Bolivian President Evo Morales emphasized the progress made under his administration as part of the country’s Independence Day celebrations today. During a rally in La Paz, Morales said that the nationalization of several industries helped Bolivia’s economy and social programs helped the country’s poor. In addition, he claimed that he “doesn’t fear” a recall referendum set to take place on August 10th.

Tensions between pro-government and opposition factions in Bolivia continue to simmer in the prelude to Sunday’s vote. A planned summit between Morales and Presidents Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Cristina Kirchner of Argentina was nixed after police and protestors clashed in southern Bolivia. Morales’ speech today was supposed to be done in the city of Sucre, but that was prevented by “road blocks, opposition hunger strikes and other protests.”

Morales is expected to easily win the recall vote though that may not be the same for several opposition governors according to analyst Eduardo Gamarra:

(…)The president is basically running a riskless election. In fact, it is a referendum that can only work in his favor. Now, having said that, at the same time the governors or the prefects…have more to lose than the president and largely because the way in which the law that convokes the referendum is written. To lose, the president needs the majority of people to vote against him. To lose, the prefects do not need a majority; a simple minority could end their terms. The president would then have the right to name the successor rather than calling for a new election. In the case that the president loses, there’s a need for an immediate call for a new round of elections. It is relatively complicated but the point is that the president is risking very little and the prefects have much to lose.

Sources (English)- Prensa Latina, Reuters UK, BBC News,, Council of the Americas, Bloomberg, Angus Reid Global Consultants

Sources (Spanish)- Milenio

Image- TIME ("A man walks past political propaganda endorsing Bolivia's President Evo Morales in Warisata.")

California warns of tainted Mexican candy

First it was worry over Mexican tomatoes carrying salmonella. Then it was a similar worry over salmonella-tainted jalapeños. Now health officials in the U.S. have issued a warning on a particular candy from south of the border:

Monterey County Public Health Officials are warning consumers not to eat Huevines Confitados Sabor Chocolate candy imported from Mexico and Ego Hao Jin Bang candy imported from Malaysia. Tests by the California Department of Public Health have found levels of lead that could cause health problems.

Consumers in possession of either product should discard the candy. Pregnant women and parents of children who may have consumed this candy should consult their health care provider to determine if medical testing is needed.

Next thing you know, they’ll say that something as innocuous as Mexican vanilla is dangerous.

Oh wait

Image- San Jose Mercury News

Sources- The Latin Americanist,

Follow-up: Red Cross condemns logo misuse

A brief statement issued by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) slammed the Colombian government for apparently misusing the logo during a July rescue mission. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe apologized last month to the ICRC over a “nervous soldier” who used the ICRC emblem during the mission. Yet a video leaked this week to the local media on the preparations for the operation revealed that the military purposefully used symbols of entities like the ICRC and Venezuelan-based TV network Telesur.

According to part of the communiqué from the Swiss-based ICRC:

"If authenticated, these images would clearly establish an improper use of the red cross emblem, which we deplore," said the ICRC's deputy director of operations, Dominik Stillhart. The use of the Red Cross, Red Crescent and red crystal emblems is governed by the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols. These emblems may not be used by bodies or persons not entitled to do so under international humanitarian law. "We are in contact with the Colombian authorities to ask for further clarifications as to exactly what happened," said Stillhart.

The debate over the ICRC symbol has heightened already tight tensions between the Colombian and Swiss governments; last month, the Uribe administration accused Swiss diplomat Jean-Pierre Gontard, of giving a $500,000 ransom to the FARC guerillas. Swiss officials have flatly denied the charges and have backed Gontard.

Image- AFP (“Colombian TV footage showed a member of the army sporting the Red Cross emblem”)

Sources- AFP, Bloomberg,, BBC News, The Latin Americanist,

Is “Operation Scheduled Departure” turning into “Mission: Impossible”?

Answer: One, zero, and zero.

Question: How many undocumented immigrants have registered for the U.S. government’s “self-deportation” program yesterday in Phoenix, San Diego, and Charlotte?

The “Operation Scheduled Departure” pilot plan set up by U.S. immigration authorities for illegal immigrants has gotten off to a very slow start. (Surprised? You shouldn’t be). News outlets have reported that only a handful have signed up for the program that allows those eligible to avoid arrest and have three months to prepare before leaving the country.

The program is being run in five U.S. cities for the next three weeks; thus, there’s ample time for things to turnaround. Yet if such a tepid response continues and the program falls through, then politicians may have to (gasp!) actually consider meaningful, comprehensive immigration reform.

Alas that would only be a dream as legislators and our esteemed presidential candidates won’t touch the topic with a ten-foot pole. The nightmare of a flawed system continues chugging along.

Image- (“Aug 5: A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office advertises Operation Scheduled Departure in Santa Ana, Calif.”)

Sources-,, Reuters, The Latin Americanist,,,

Double Speak Rules in Video On How You Can Own the Amazon

The critical issue of the deforestation of the Amazon Rain Forest is one that requires a solution that so far hasn't been found by the governments who control the land, organizations, or private landowners. It is the last class of people who are offering an expansion of an old solution, more private ownership! International investment! Can you hear the double-speak of colonial capitalism at work here from a biotech company?

Source : Global Voices, Mundo em Movimientos

Daily Headlines: August 6, 2008

* South America: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called for a regional alliance to be made with Argentina and Brazil as the heads of state for those countries met for an “impromptu” summit on Monday.

* Latin America: Countries throughout the region must do more to prevent crime, according to this op/ed piece by a senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution.

* Dominican Republic: Speaking of crime in the Americas, seven people were found killed execution-style on a Dominican beach.

* Caribbean: Medical schools in New York City are none too please over a contract signed between city-owned hospitals and a school on the Caribbean island of Grenada.

Image- AFP (“Presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela” after their meeting on Monday.)

Sources- UPI,, Reuters, Xinhua, AFP

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Today’s video: The comeback "mami"

We continue this week’s video theme of the Summer Olympics with a look at U.S. swimmer Dara Torres. At the age of 41, the Latina mother of one qualified against all odds to the Beijing games after breaking several U.S. records during qualifiers. Torres will become part of an exclusive group of athletes to compete in five Olympics and she will be the oldest swimmer ever to compete in the Games.

(Video link):

On Monday we looked at the Argentine men’s basketball team who will try to defend their gold medal in Beijing.

Sources- AFP, TIME, The Latin Americanist, ESPN

Video reveals further misuse of Red Cross logo

Last night, Colombian television network RCN revealed a video showing the preparations made for a liberation mission conducted one month ago. The sixty-minute video (including the brief clip shown below) shows the details, planning, and practice missions as a prelude to the operations that led to the rescue of fifteen hostages.

One of the video’s most controversial portions was the purposeful misuse of several international entities including the Telesur network and the International Red Cross (IRC). An earlier video of the mission showed a rescue member wearing a shirt with the IRC symbol was met with regret by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. With the revelations of the new video, Uribe and Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos were forced to backtrack and claimed ignorance:

“We very much regret that this had happened,” said Santos during a press conference…

“That was the truth that we were told when the president and me informed the public of what occurred. The reality was different with yesterday’s video in that the (IRC) logo was used from the beginning.” [Ed. personal translation]

The misuse of the IRC symbols is against international law and may endanger future IRC operations according to officials with the entity.

Uribe and Santos also went on the offensive with Uribe calling the leak “treasonous” and Santos claiming that whoever in the military “clandestinely” leaked the video to RCN would be “severely sanctioned”.

According to political experts, Santos- who was one of the main faces of the government during the operation- has endangered his possible campaign for the presidency with the revelations in the video.

Sources (English)- Prensa Latina, The Latin Americanist,

Sources (Spanish)- Caracol, RCN, El Tiempo

Death row Mexican to be executed

Update (11:45pm): Despite the Supreme Court's intervention, Medillin was executed by lethal injection on Tuesday night.

Update (10:00pm):
Medillin's execution was halted at the last minute as the U.S. Supreme Court considers his appeal.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles unanimously voted yesterday against a reprieve for José Medellin- a Mexican national whose death row case has complicated U.S.-Mexico relations.
Medellin is scheduled to be executed tonight despite appeals from his lawyers and a recent International Court of Justice (ICJ) request to halt the executions of Mexican nationals on death row.

At the heart of the matter is the argument that the executions of Mexican nationals in Texas violates international law; even U.S. president George W. Bush attempted to intervene by using executive privilege. However, that claim has been denied by Texan officials as well as by a March Supreme Court decision.

One of the biggest Spanish-language dailies in the U.S.- La Opinion- gave its two cents on the issue:

The execution in Texas of Mexican national José Medellín scheduled for today violates international treaties…

The core issue is the violation of a treaty that has been in effect for decades, under which, when a foreigner is arrested, the authorities are obligated to notify the consul of that person’s country. The idea behind this process is to prevent local authorities from committing procedural abuses against a detainee…

Federalism is important, but international treaties ratified cannot be ignored. Other states of the Union have respected the ICJ’s decision. Texas should do likewise and cease acting as if it were independent. Its refusal to review the case is an aberration and affects the credibility of the United States as a country.

Image- Wall Street Journal

Sources- The Latin Americanist, La Opinion, AFP, Guardian UK,

Salvadoran troops to continue in Iraq

Salvadoran president Tony Saca announced that his country will send a new contingency of troops to Iraq. The 11th Cuscatlán Battalion will be deployed to Iraq in order to replace nearly 300 troops “involved in humanitarian activities and reconstruction work” said Saca in a radio address on Sunday.

Thus, El Salvador will continue to be the lone Latin American country with troops currently in Iraq. Opposition in the country his increased to pull the troops out permanently and five Salvadoran troops have been killed in Iraq thus far. Yet El Salvador’s legislature gave Saca permission to continue deployments until the end of this year and Saca has pledged to keep troops stationed there.

Meanwhile, a group of thirty Salvadorans will soon go to the U.S. to train to become mercenaries in the Middle East. According to a local press report, each person will be paid between $1020 and $1500 to train at the Blackwater-run base with an additional bonus for those that pass and work as private security abroad.

As we noted in 2006, the high pay attracts Latin Americans from countries like El Salvador and Peru though the firms have been criticized for unfair pay and exploitation.

Image- PBS (“In San Salvador on Wednesday, March 29, 2006, El Salvador's President Tony Saca decorated soldiers of contingent five of the Cuscatlán Battalion, who recently returned from Iraq.”)

Sources (English)- PRESS TV, The Latin Americanist,,

Sources (Spanish)-, La Prensa Grafica

Spain gives green light to Venezuelan bank takeover

Spain’s government will not oppose the planned nationalization of the Banco de Venezuela- a subsidiary of Spanish firm Banco Santander. We will not intervene” Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa de la Vega said last week as Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez tried to assure creditors that the bank’s nationalization would “strengthen the Venezuelan financial system.”

It’s unknown if further bank takeovers will occur in Venezuela; several foreign firms like Citigroup and Spain’s BBVA have units in the South American country.

Chavez’ plan was met with opposition by Venezuela's largest business chamber- Fedecamaras- who also rejected numerous presidential decrees enacted last month:

The new laws includes measures which would set up neighborhood-based militias, move the country towards a socialist economy and increase state control over agriculture.

The decrees met with opposition from Fedecamaras, the Venezuelan federation of chambers of commerce.

Jose Manuel Gonzalez, a business chamber leader of Fedecamaras, said: "We ask the president: Why does he fear democracy?"

He said that the package of laws included socialist concepts that voters rejected last year as part of a proposed overhaul of Venezuela's constitution.
"We are sure that this is nothing more than imposing the reform project that was rejected in December," Gonzalez said.

Image- AFP

Sources- The latin Americanist, International Herald Tribune, Al Jazeera English, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Canadian Press

Daily Headlines: August 5, 2008

* Nicaragua: An estimated $100 million in damage was caused by a massive fire which consumed Managua’s Oriental Market.

* Latin America: Stock markets throughout the region dropped yesterday with Brazil’s Bovespa dropping 3.5% and Argentina's Merval falling 3.9%.

* Mexico: A clash between Mexican border police and Central American smugglers left two people dead.

* Peru: Public hearings began over a controversial magazine cover depicting a nude model sitting on the Peruvian flag while riding a horse.

Image- (“People risked their lives Friday as they sought to gather up as many goods as possible before fleeing the fire at the Oriental Market in Managua, Nicaragua, considered the largest market in Central America. No fatalities were reported.”)

Sources- Living in Peru, BBC News, Guardian UK,, Monsters & Critics

Monday, August 4, 2008

Today’s Video: An Olympic buzzer-beater

With the Summer Olympics about to begin on Friday this week’s videos will look at several historical moments involving Latin Americans.

The evening of August 28, 2004 was a magical one for Argentina since it was on that date that both the men’s basketball and soccer teams clinched the gold medal. The soccer side had been one of the favorites to win gold after romping through most of its opposition. The basketball team was another issue as they upset several teams including Greece and the U.S. to claim top honors.

One of the hurdles overcome by the Argentines was a victory over world champions Serbia and Montenegro in the group stage. In the brief clip below, Manu Ginobili scores the winning play with 0.7 seconds to play and sends his teammates and fans into delirium:

Sources- BBC News, Sydney Morning Herald, YouTube

Attorneys for Canadian Gitmo detainee want dismissal

The lawyers for a 21-year-old detainee at Guantanamo Bay want his case to be dismissed. Omar Khadr’s defense team accused Pentagon lawyers of “unlawful influence” by impeding evidence in his favor. In another motion, attorneys for the Canadian detainee alleged that a senior military official engaged in “excessive interference” of commission cases.

Last month, a secretly taped video of Khadr’s interrogation by Canadian officials was revealed where he claimed to have been tortured while under custody. Khadr’s lawyers claimed that the video would cause “outrage” among Canadians, and his treatment led to several demonstrations Toronto and Ottawa.

Still, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that Khadr should still go on trial while a recent poll revealed that only 78% of Canadians “did not change their opinions of his case.”

Image- Al Jazeera English

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Globe and Mail, CBC,, Guardian UK, National Post

Russian military return to Cuba?

Rumors of renewed ties between Russia and Cuba resurfaced today after news reports cited remarks allegedly made by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. “We need to reestablish positions on Cuba and in other countries,” news agency Interfax quoted Putin as saying during a meeting of government ministers.

Furthermore, a former senior official of Russia’s Defense Ministry's department told the local press that his country could possibly reestablish a military presence in Cuba:

"It is not a secret that the West is creating a 'buffer zone' around Russia, involving in the process countries in central Europe, the Caucasus, the Baltic states and Ukraine," said Leonid Ivashov, the former head of the Russian Defense Ministry's department for international cooperation, and currently president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems.

"In response, we may expand our military presence abroad, including in Cuba Ivashov said, commenting on the recent visit of Russian Security Council chief Nikolai Patrushev and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin to Cuba on July 30-31…

"Cuba has convenient harbors which may host Russian reconnaissance and combat ships, and a network of forward landing airfields. With the Cuban leadership's consent and our own political will we may also consider resuming the work of an electronic listening post in Lourdes," the general said.

So far neither the Russian or Cuban governments have replied to Putin’s supposed statement though that didn’t stop a U.S. State Department spokesman from saying that “we don't see dealing with the Cuban government as particularly productive.”

Russian officials have expressed disdain at U.S. plans to create a missile defense system in Eastern Europe. Last October, Putin declared such a strategy as similar to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. However, he added that Russia and the U.S. were “not enemies anymore... we are partners.”

Image- UPI

Sources- AFP, RIA Novosti, Canadian Press, The Latin Americanist, Reuters, BBC News,

Global AIDS conference opens in Mexico

The 17th International AIDS Conference commenced today in Mexico City with numerous appeals for increased efforts to combat the spread of HIV worldwide. A UNAIDS study released last week concluded that several gains were made in HIV prevention, yet U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon observed that we are still facing a huge shortfall in resources.” World Health Organization chief Margaret Chan warned that “we dare not let down our guard” and become complacent against the global AIDS pandemic.

The conference was preceded by a march yesterday where thousands of protestors called for better worldwide access to anti-retroviral drugs as well as less discrimination against those with AIDS. As this video notes, “cultural stigmas” serve as a massive barrier for those infected with the disease:

The conference will last six days and is expected to have over 20,000 attendees from around the world. This figure does not include certain groups who had their petitions to be at the forum rejected such as Mexican sex workers.

According to UNAIDS, 1.7 million people in Latin America are infected with AIDS and overall levels of HIV infections in the region have changed little in the past decade. In the Caribbean, AIDS is one of the main causes of death in adults between 15 and 44 years old.

Sources- AFP, BBC News, YouTube, The Latin Americanist, Reuters, Al Jazeera English

Honduras: Nine killed over land dispute

Nine people were killed in the northern Honduran town of Colon during a clash between farmers and landowners. The incident- which occurred yesterday- involved 79-acre farm cooperative which had been occupied by about 400 families. Investigators are looking into the deadly dispute.

According to a campesino leader, there may be as many as fourteen dead from yesterday’s incident, and a local policeman has been blamed as the “chief instigator”:

On Sunday, armed men firing guns stormed into a farming cooperative at Silin. The cooperative's members chased the men into a home and lit it on fire, burning six people to death, leftist lawmaker Rafael Alegria said.

It was unclear if the home's occupants were among those dead. Three men were also found stabbed along a nearby road.

Reuters claims that “conflicts between peasants and landowners are frequent” in Honduras; in 2006, a human rights group claimed that one community leader was forced to sign over lands after being threatened at gunpoint.


Sources (English)- MSNBC, Human Rights First, Reuters UK

Sources (Spanish)- Milenio

Subcomandante Marcos returns to public spotlight

The head of the Zapatista rebel group- commonly known as Subcomandante Marcos- emerged publicly over the weekend for the first time this year. According to Mexican daily La Jornada, Marcos received “a caravan” of foreign sympathizers in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas. During his appearance, Marcos was reportedly flanked by pair of commanders and criticized the state of the political left in Mexico:

“In Mexico, no. There is still talk of that expectation; that it’s possible if the left comes into power then they will not abandon being left.” Yet all the countries of the world notice that it’s the opposite, said Marcos. “Those on the left who are not necessarily radical leave their ideology once they get into power. The speed and the depth which they do so vary, but they ultimately transform themselves. That is the ‘stomach effect’ of power” either it digests you or turns you into shit. – [ed. personal translation]

Marcos also added his admiration of the Zapatistas who “chose to fight” instead of merely “winning or losing.”

Marcos is best known for leading the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) in a revolt on New Year’s Day 1994. Marcos and his cohorts received sympathy worldwide yet he has kept a lower profile in recent years, especially after the contentious 2006 presidential election.

Image- La Jornada (Subcomandante Marcos along with one of his commanders during a reported public appearance on Friday).

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

Sources (Spanish)- La Jornada, Union Radio, RCN

Daily Headlines: August 4, 2008

* U.S.: Immigration advocates and health care officials debate over the “little-known but apparently widespread practice” of repatriating infirm illegal immigrants.

* Colombia: Should the “war on drugs” be included in the campaign against global warming? Colombian President Alvaro Uribe thinks so.

* Dominican Republic: NPR takes a great look at the masters of classical bachata music.

* Costa Rica: Another casualty of the U.S. mortgage crisis – fewer gringos are buying Costa Rican beach homes.

Sources- Reuters, NPR, Xinhua, International Herald Tribune

Image- New York Times (“Luis Alberto Jiménez, an illegal immigrant injured in a car accident in Florida, was treated at a community hospital, which eventually sent him back to Guatemala. He spends most of his days inside a one-room house; only the presence of visitors, who can help him into his wheelchair, gives him the rare chance to get out of bed.”)