Saturday, August 23, 2008

Olympics Spotlight: Down the homestretch

The 2008 Beijing Games will soon come to an end but before they do let’s check out some recent medal winners from Latin America and the Caribbean.

* A few of the gold-medal matches in team sports were decided between the U.S. and Brazil:

  • Brazil won their first ever gold in women’s volleyball, by beating an upstart U.S. team by 3 games to 1. Helia Souza, Marianne Steinbrecher and company led Brazil to a perfect 8-0 record and only conceded one set throughout these Games.
  • Carli Lloyd's tally in extra time was enough for a 1-0 U.S. victory to clinch gold in women’s soccer. Yet the Brazilians’ performance throughout the tourney was exemplary including the work by the dynamic duo of Marta and Cristianne.
  • Brazil and the U.S. will meet once more in a battle for the gold in men’s volleyball on Sunday.

* Mexico achieved a pair of gold medals in taekwondo. Guillermo Perez won in a tight decision over Yulis Gabriel Mercedes of the Dominican Republic in the -58kg class, while Maria Espinoza triumphed in the women’s +67-kg category.

Sadly, not all has been fair play in taekwondo; Cuba’s Angel Matos and his coach received lifetime bans after Matos kicked a referee in the face in a bronze medal match.

* Argentina was the pre-Games favorites to win the gold in men’s soccer and they proved it by winning 1-0 over Nigeria. Angel di Maria’s chip shot 58th minute stood as the lone goal as Argentina successfully defended the Olympic crown with this year’s unbeaten run.

(Honorable mention goes to Brazil for assuring them the bronze by shutting out Belgium 3-0).

* As Miguel mentioned this morning, Cuba’s baseball team “lost another nail-biter” 3-2 to South Korea in their gold medal game. Despite a 6-2 record in the tourney, Cuba couldn’t overcome the plucky Koreans in what was (for now) the last Olympics baseball game ever.

* Dominican pugilist Felix Diaz clinched gold in an upset over Thailand's Manus Boonjumnong. The light-welterweight won 12-4 and claimed his country’s first ever gold in boxing.

* Jamaica’s track and field athletes have exceeded expectations throughout these Games. Usain Bolt added a third gold medal to his personal tally after his country won the 4x100 men’s relay in world record time. Though the women’s 4x100 team stumbled, their 4x400 team performed well and captured the bronze.

Tomorrow we’ll wrap up our Olympics coverage with a look at some voices of dissent, varying medal counts, and the possibility that the Games could soon be held in South America.

Image- AFP (“Brazil's team captain Helia Souza is thrown into the air as the team celebrates defeating the US”)

Sources- CBC, USA TODAY, The Australian, the Latin Americanist, Reuters, Heavy Medal, RTE,, Xinhua, Guardian UK, China Daily,

Cuban Baseball takes silver in Olympic showdown with South Korea

The Cuban baseball team, which narrowly defeated a highly-touted US team earlier, lost another nail-biter today by a score of 3-2 in the gold-medal game against South Korea.

After eight Olympic rounds this year, the Cuban team finished 6 -2, batting a combined .312 -- tops in the games.

In an earlier interview, U.S. reliever Jeff Stevens noted: "Cuba's a very good team, and there's a little history there." Stevens was referring, of course, to Cuba's prior defeat of the US baseball team in the 2000 Olympics -- nothing else.

It's a safe bet that Fidel Castro, a former aspiring pitcher himself, was watching from his sick bed -- but no Castro quotables have surfaced on the net as of yet. Also of note:
  • According to VOA news: "Only a small number of fans knew to stand up and sing along to "take Me Out to the Ball Game' during the traditional seventh inning stretch."

  • Today's game is also the last Olympic baseball game for the forseeable future, since the the sport has been cut from the roster for London 2012 games.

For an enjoyable read, see the NYTimes live blog of the gold-medal game.

Sources: VOA news, NYTimes, Miami Herald, Granma International

Barack Obama taps Joe Biden for VP

Update: It's official now; Biden will be Obama's running mate.

According to several news stories over the past hour, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has chosen Joe Biden to be his running mate.

The longtime legislator from Delaware is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and this counters criticism that Obama is too inexperienced in international affairs. Yet he’s also prone to verbal gaffes like when he allegedly “dressed down” Obama last year.

What effect does Joe Biden’s supposed vice presidential candidacy have for Latin America and the Caribbean? A search through Biden’s official website provides some clues:

  • Biden claims to have “the bully pulpit of the Drug Caucus” to fight against illegal drug use and illegal trafficking. He said that he was “a strong advocate” for the comprehensive aid package known as Plan Colombia and has “exerted pressure” on the Mexican government to combat trafficking.
  • In a June 2007 statement, Biden backed debate on a bipartisan immigration reform bill since the “immigration system is broken and we have an obligation to work on it until we fix it.” (That bill would eventually be defeated).
  • Took to the floor in 2006 to recognize “ten extraordinary women” as part of International Women’s Day; one of them was Mexican actress/producer Salma Hayek.
  • Pointed out “China’s growing soft power in Asia, Africa, and Latin America” during a May hearing on the growing global role of China.
  • After Raul Castro took over the Cuban presidency, Biden issued a statement calling for the trade embargo against the island to stay while also advocating the loosening of travel restrictions.
  • In a 2006 speech, Biden warned about the “Axis of Oil” which includes several countries he believed were a “grave danger” to the U.S. including Venezuela.

In addition, the very resourceful lists several of Biden’s viewpoints on foreign policy including his 1995 vote to strengthen the trade embargo against Cuba and his resolution condemning Venezuela for pulling RCTV’s broadcast license.

Assuming that the reports are true over an Obama/Biden ticket, what do you think about it?

Image- Wall Street Journal

Sources- Joe Biden – Senator for Delaware, CNN, MSNBC, Reuters,

Friday, August 22, 2008

Raided Postville plant faces new charges

Iowan officials have issued new citations against a meatpacking plant which was the site of a massive immigration raid in May. The Iowa Division of Labor Services proposed over $100,000 in fines for new and repeat safety violations committed at the Agriprocessors plant.

The citations come on the heels of a guilty plea by a former supervisor who admitted to have knowingly hired illegal immigrants, while earlier this month plant management was accused of employing underage workers.

Of the nearly 300 people arrested in the May raid most were undocumented and came from countries like Mexico and Guatemala. One Iowan newspaper suggests that more could’ve been caught:

Nearly 70 percent of people targeted for arrest in a May raid at a meatpacking plant in Postville escaped prosecution, according to a copyright story Friday in The Des Moines Register.

The Register also found that immigrants prosecuted after the raid used Social Security numbers stolen from people in at least 25 states…

Of the 697 people identified in federal warrants, the documents used to justify the raid, only 220 were arrested. Another 85 immigrants prosecuted by the federal government were arrested after being discovered through the raid.

As we noted last month, one of the court interpreters for the arrested workers alleged that the plea agreements most of them signed were “coerced” despite language problems and illiteracy issues.

Image- New York Times (“After nearly 300 illegal immigrants were taken into custody in May in Postville, Iowa, they were tried, convicted and sentenced, based on scripts prepared by the court and prosecutors.”)

Sources- Chicago Tribune, Newsradio 1040 WHO, Guardian UK, BBC News, The Latin Americanist

Cemex “polluted” Venezuela says Chavez

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez had some harsh words to say over Mexican cement firm Cemex. Days after he nationalized the Venezuelan division of Cemex, Chavez criticized the company’s management:

“Go see the pollution not only along the coasts and in the trees, but in the lungs of the children,'' Chavez said on state television. "Everything is full of powder. Cemex never invested in technology to eliminate the powder because they took all the money abroad.''

Chavez also said company executives acted in a ``disrespectful'' manner to Venezuelans and have a ``superiority complex.'' Cemex spokesman Jorge Perez declined to comment.

Cemex execs have fought against the nationalization move and have pushed for international arbitration to decide the affair. A company statement issued on Wednesday called the move a "flagrant violation" of Venezuela’s constitution.

Unlike Cemex, the Venezuelan divisions of foreign-owned cement firms Holcim and Lafarge agreed to nationalization and have already made deals with the Chavez admin.

Image- BBC News

Sources- AFP, BBC News, Canadian Press, Associated Press, BusinessWeek

Daily Headlines: August 22, 2008

* Mexico: Vicente Fox continues his outspokenness in his post-presidential career; in an interview with the Miami Herald, he blasts the Bush administration over immigration and criticizes Barack Obama on free trade.

* El Salvador: The Council on Hemispheric Affairs analyzes the numerous issues that continue to divide El Salvador.

* Panama: The government is backing the creation of a controversial new intelligence agency it claims will cut down on crime.

* Paraguay: Recently-inaugurated President Fernando Lugo is trying to fulfill his campaign promise of reform by dismissing the head of national police as well as sacking the armed forces commanders.

Image- PBS

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Associated Press, BBC News, Council on Hemispheric Affairs, Miami Herald

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Today’s Video: R.I.P. Dorival Caymmi

“Olympic Highlights” will return on Friday and will include Brazil’s hard-fought match against the U.S. in the women’s soccer final and Dayron Robles’ gold-medal run in the 110m hurdles.

In the meantime we want to note the recent passing away of Brazilian musician Dorival Caymmi. Once called a “universal genius” by the legendary Antonio Carlos Jobim, Caymmi was instrumental in the establishment of Brazilian bossa nova. Three days of mourning were declared in Rio de Janeiro in honor of Caymmi who can be seen in the following clip performing with Gal Costa in 1981:

Sources- UPI, YouTube, Washington Post, Voice of America, Xinhua, BBC Sport

Puerto Rico: Wal-Mart warned over cheap milk

Wal-Mart may have had its second-quarter profit up by 17% with the help of “people…eating more sandwiches in Puerto Rico”. Yet authorities on the island warned the retailing giant of breaking the law regulating milk prices:

Rican regulators say Wal-Mart was offering milk for $1.46 a quart.

That's 36 cents below the price set by the U.S. territory's government to protect its milk industry. Milk regulation agency Director Juan Pedro says Wal-Mart was in violation with the ultra-high-temperature Great Value brand…

Wal-Mart said in a statement Thursday that it is committed to following all local laws and that it corrected the listed price as soon as it was alerted to the situation.

Earlier this week, Wal-Mart officials announced plans for a major expansion in Brazil which would add between 80 and 90 stores to the over 300 already in the country.

Image- BBC News

Sources- BBC News,, The Age, Reuters

Lopez Obrador blasts Mex. Prez over crime

Ex-presidential candidate and leading opposition figure Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador harshly criticized a “crime summit” led by Mexico’s government. According to Milenio, Lopez Obrador claimed that Thursday’s meeting of the National Public Security Council was “pure demagoguery” and added:

“The problem will not be resolved with more police, more soldiers, a heavy hand and harsher laws nor can it with demagogic and propaganda-like meetings…

“(The government) cannot resolve the problem nor can they do anything about it because (President Felipe) Calderon is a puppet and his chiefs aren’t willing to change anything in the country and lose their privileges.” - [ed. personal translation]

The conference is set to unite Calderon’s allies and foes to discuss additional measures to cut crime such as permitting anonymous judges to head trials and stiffer penalties against kidnappers.

Sadly, crime in Mexico is seemingly out of control; on Wednesday alone fifteen people were killed in the state of Chihuahua including two minors. For the country’s wealthy, the wake-up call on crime was the kidnapping and murder of a 14-year-old businessman’s son.

Image- BBC News (“A billboard displays a mother's appeal to find her kidnapped son”)

Sources (English)- AFP, BBC News, Sydney Morning Herald, San Diego Union Tribune

Sources (Spanish)-Milenio

Follow-up: Madrid air crash kills 153

More details are gradually emerging from yesterday’s deadly Spanair crash which officially cost the lives of 153 people in Madrid.

Airline officials refused to guess at the cause of the crash; nevertheless, they did admit that a first attempt at takeoff had been scrapped when an indicator showed that “overheated air” entered the aircraft. Yet according to Time, a “source in Spanair” claimed that the problem was fixed; subsequently, flight 5022 crashed after one of the engines allegedly caught fire.

Both black boxes were recovered and will soon be examined by aviation authorities.

Of the 172 passengers on the flight bound for the Canary Islands only 19 survived including three children. Most of the passengers were Spaniards though officials acknowledged eighteen foreigners from eleven countries were onboard.

According to one story in the Spanish press, a passenger on the ill-fitted flight had been refused exit from the plane after the aborted takeoff:

Spanish media said that an unidentified woman at the hotel told reporters that her husband had texted her at 12.30 pm - almost two hours before the accident - saying: "My love, there's a problem with the plane."

She phoned him back and told him to get off the flight, but he said: "They won't let me off."

The woman's son, who was with her at the hotel, said that the cabin crew had told the man to get back in his seat.

Spain’s government has declared three days of mourning in memory of those deceased in the crash. Meanwhile, King Juan Carlos is expected to visit grieving families at Barajas airport while Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is expected to visit those recuperating in hospital.

Image- CBC (“A part of the fuselage of the Spanair jet that crashed on take off at Madrid airport is lifted by a crane on Wednesday. The airliner bound for the Canary Islands at the height of the vacation season crashed, burned and broke into pieces Wednesday while trying to take off from Madrid, killing 153 people on board, officials said. (EFE/Associated Press)”).

Sources- AFP, Voice of America, IHT, BBC News, Time, Guardian UK, Times Online, The Latin Americanist

Chertoff’s immigration indifference

Allegations recently surfaced regarding the health of a Chinese illegal immigrant who was detained and died while in custody. Attorneys for the relatives of Hiu Lui Ng claimed that he was denied vital medical care while in custody and because of that Ng’s fatal cancer had gone undetected.

While Ng’s ordeal is pretty harrowing, what has caught my attention is the reaction to Ng’s case by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff:

You know I hate to see any detainee die in prison. And I always believe if there is negligence or misconduct that ought to be punished. I also recognize that the population of any detention facility, whether it’s a state prison, federal prison, you’re going to get a certain number of deaths.

That’s it? An answer which can be translated as “it stinks but shit happens”? Chertoff’s reply is flippant and irresponsible, devoid of any emotion beyond a lame verbal shrugging of the shoulders.

This type of attitude is disturbing in someone holding such an important post as Chertoff; a little sympathy can go a long way.

I wonder if he would react similarly if:

Image- Fox News

Sources- City Room, Vivirlatino, Gothamist, Associated Press, The Latin Americanist,

Former Dominican Union head takes public education helm

Melanio Paredes is a jack of all trades. As of this week, his resume now includes leading the Dominican Republic’s ministry of education, a role that will bring him full circle from his roots as a public school teacher and former leader of the Dominican Association of Teachers (ADP)--a move which makes him (as far as I can tell) the only former teachers’ union head in Latin America to serve as a country’s principal education minister.

Paredes, also a highly respected economist and former minister of Industry and Labor in the Fernandez administration from 2007 – 2008, has already
received a resounding endorsement from the teachers’ union. He has taught in both public and private schools, served as a university professor, and worked in the private sector before entering the government last year.

While a former union leader landing getting the country's highest education post is a first, it underscores what Denise Vaillant, head of the
PREAL Working Group on the Teaching Profession, sees as a new trend in ministries of education across all of Latin America: more ex-gremialistas are switching sides and accepting high-level ministry positions, in large part, with the hopes of achieving better and more integrated relations between the the regions’ governments and powerful teachers unions.

Sources: Listin Diario, El Caribe, PREAL, EdWeek

Daily Headlines: August 21, 2008

* U.S.: In a worrying trend affecting the general population of the U.S., a study found that obesity rates have increased in 37 of the country’s 50 states. Meanwhile, a report released last week by the Pew Hispanic Center concluded that roughly 1 in 4 Latinos don’t receive regular health care.

* Brazil: The country’s Justice Ministry said that they had approved the extradition of detained Colombian drug capo Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia to the U.S. for trial.

* Mexico: The governor of one of the most violent states in Mexico advocated for “a new strategy” in the seemingly losing battle against organized crime.

* Ecuador: Catholic bishops issued a statement expressing their displeasure with the draft constitution backed by President Rafael Correa.

Image- ABC News (No, it's not a picture of my gut though it's not that far from the truth!).

Sources- The Latin Americanist, UPI, Catholic News Agency, Houston Chronicle, ABC News, Las Vegas Now

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Olympics Spotlight: “Lightning” Bolt strikes twice

* Twelve years ago, I sat in my bedroom and watched the TV in awe as Michael Johnson ran like the wind and captured the 200m in world record time. With his ubiquitous gold shoes covering his feet, Johnson won a unique double after having been crowned “World’s Fastest Man” in the 400m a few nights before.

All these years later and once again I sat in that same cramped bedroom with jaws agape after viewing Jamaica’s Usain Bolt capture the 200m gold in magnificent style. Much like his victory in the 100m, Bolt won with ease and in world record time. “This was an incredible performance,” said Johnson after Bolt’s historic victory; despite his own unique double gold in Atlanta, Johnson recognized the immense talent of Bolt.

Is it any wonder that Bolt was referred to as a “man from another planet” in the Spanish TV’s call of the race?

* It is rare to have athletes from two different Latin American countries fight for a gold medal. Yet that was the case earlier today when Mexico's Guillermo Perez won top honors over Yulis Gabriel Mercedes of the Dominican Republic in men’s 58kg taekwondo. Perez triumphed in a hard-fought match that was decided by the judges after both athletes were tied. Perez’ gold is Mexico’s first in these games and the country’s first gold medal since 2000. Mercedes’ silver puts the Dominicans on the medal board.

* In other medal-winning performances:

  • Melaine Walker joined Bolt on the medal platform after triumphing in the women’s 400m hurdles. The Jamaican pulled away from the U.S’ Sheena Tosta in the final quarter of the race and won in an Olympic record of 52.64 seconds.
  • Cuba's Yipsi Moreno won the silver in the women’s hammer throw with a toss of 74.7m.
* In men’s basketball, defending Olympic champion Argentina squeaked by Greece 80-78 and set up a must-watch semifinal match against the U.S. Another defending Olympic champion- Brazil­­- beat China in straight sets in the quarterfinals of men’s volleyball and advances to play the Italians.

Sources- IHT, TVNZ, Los Angeles Times, Guardian UK, YouTube, BBC Sport,, Reuters UK

Spanish radio: 145+ killed in air crash

The latest reports out of Spain said that at least 145 people died when a Spanair MD-82 aircraft broke up and caught fire after skidding off the runway at Madrid's Barajas International Airport.

According to Spanish Development Minister Magdalena Alvarez only 26 people survived the crash of the flight which was destined for the Canary Islands. Alvarez alluded to the crash being caused by “an error in takeoff”, and indeed the aircraft had aborted a previous takeoff attempt where it had been reportedly taken to the maintenance shed.

Assuming that the death toll is accurate, today’s accident would be Spain’s deadliest air accident in twenty years.

The crash occurred hours after Spanair's pilots union blasted parent company SAS for creating “organized chaos” at the airline.

A Spanish government spokesman said that Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was cutting his vacation short and was en route to Madrid. Meanwhile, a passenger onboard another plane landing at Barajas gave his eyewitness account to BBC News:

As we landed and the plane turned off, from my seat I could see smoke coming up from the end of the runway…

There was a small mushroom cloud, as you might expect after an explosion…

The problem was that after the plane crashed, the area around it was engulfed in flames. The firefighters could not get to the plane.

That is why the helicopters came with their water tanks - they were putting out the fire.

There must have been about 80 or 90 ambulances on the scene by the time we got into the terminal.

Image- BBC News (“At least 100 people were killed and dozens injured when a plane with more than 170 people on board skidded off the runway during take-off at Madrid's Barajas airport.”)

Sources- AFP,, Press Association, The Telegraph, MarketWatch, BBC News,, Reuters

Coming soon: Google for Latinos?

Will identity based search engines catch on with the part of the general public? A man named Johnny C. Taylor thinks so and he justifies the creation of RushmoreDrive- a search engine tailored for African-Americans:

"Someone said to me, 'We don't have a white Google, why do you need a black Google?'" he said during a visit to the Times today. "And I said, 'Of course you do -- It's called Google.'"

Though the idea of race-based search engine may seem racist and half-baked, ZDNet senior editor Sam Diaz observed that search engines like RushmoreDrive could provide worthy competition for Google:

When it comes to search, going head-to-head with Google - as Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, Ask and others have tried - may not be the best approach. Maybe the better way is to nibble away at Google’s share of the pie via one targeted group at a time. This thing with isn’t about race. It’s about meeting the search needs of a subset of the population. It just so happens that this subset is African-Americans. Could the next nibbler go after women or bicyclists or senior citizens?

Could a search engine aimed at Latinos be useful or unnecessary? One the one hand there has been a steady growth in the online use by Latinos so a specialized search engine may do well in that market. Such a tool could serve as a logical a next step beyond web portals like

Conversely, the notion may backfire in that users could be pigeonholed into specific sites based on the search engine’s findings. Furthermore, a specialized search engine may be unable to cater to the needs of the diverse Latino populace.

What do you think?

(Hat tip: Metafilter).

Image- SBI

Sources- Los Angeles Times, Post Chronicle, ZDNet, Metafilter, Latin-Know

“Operation Scheduled Departure” = Failure

Recently we wondered if the U.S. immigration “self-deport” plan entitled “Operation Scheduled Departure” was turning into “Mission: Impossible.” According to the Houston Chronicle the answer is an emphatic “yes”:

In the weeks since Immigration and Customs Enforcement director Julie Myers revealed in a TV interview that officials were planning to offer a new "self-deportation" program, the story has been picked up by media outlets worldwide.

ICE paid for newspaper and radio ads in test cities, trying to entice the estimated 457,000 fugitive immigrants in the U.S. to turn themselves in with promises they could "avoid detention" and "manage your own return." Since the program's launch Aug. 5, Operation Scheduled Departure has attracted a half-dozen participants.

Yes, six. – [ed. emphasis ours]

Jim Hayes- acting director of detention and removal office at ICE- tried to spin this by saying that there’s “an indication there is at least some interest.” But how can one justify a pilot program with such a terribly low number of participants? Do such a minuscule number of applicants justify spending $50,000 on ads and many hours of ICE man-power better served elsewhere? Why are officials and politicos so content with sticking their heads in the sand and avoid much needed immigration reform?

Let’s put it this way: what does it tell you when Lou Dobbs and immigrants rights groups can actually agree that your idea is rubbish?

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

Sources- Associated Content, Guardian UK, New York Times, The Latin Americanist, AlterNet, Houston Chronicle

Daily Headlines: August 20, 2008

* Puerto Rico: Nearly five months after being charged with possible electoral fraud and corruption, boricua Governor Anibal Acevedo Vila faces a new set of indictments of wire fraud and money laundering.

* Venezuela: Mexican officials are hoping that Venezuela’s government will negotiate with cement firm Cemex after President Hugo Chavez ordered its nationalization.

* Chile: Chilean stocks dipped in trading on Tuesday and the country’s currency also fell in value.

* Caribbean: The tropical red lionfish has somehow invaded Caribbean waters and is “wreaking havoc on an ecologically delicate region.”

Image- Los Angeles Times

Sources- Los Angeles Times, IHT, Guardian UK, The Latin Americanist, UPI

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Olympics Spotlight: A mighty win for the "future of wrestling"

* The “future of (U.S.) wrestling”- Henry Cejudo- captured the gold medal in freestyle wrestling in the 55 kilo weight class. Cejudo‘s mom immigrated illegally from Mexico when he was an infant, and as a single mom raised him along with his five siblings in abject poverty. “We always moved forward. We always moved forward,” said the gold-medal grappler who dedicated his medal to his beloved mami. (For the record, she is now a “resident alien”).

Click here for a brief video of Cejudo’s road to the gold medal, one he shares with his loved ones.

* Earlier today, we pointed out yet another ridiculous “slanty-eyed” photo; this time it was from members of Argentina’s women’s soccer team. However, not all was negative for los albicelestes on Tuesday:

  • The duo of Juan Esteban Curuchet and Walter Fernando Perez surprised the pundits and won gold in the men's Madison cycling discipline. “We've been keeping a low profile, but you can never rule out Argentina in a race like this” said Perez who won with the 43-year-old Curuchet despite placing eighth in this year's world championships.
  • Argentina emerged victorious in their men’s soccer semifinal battle against fellow South American heavyweights Brazil. Argentina came out with guns blazing after a scoreless first half and won 3-0 thanks to a pair from Sergio “el Kun” Aguero and a penalty converted by Juan Roman Riquelme. The argentines move on to the gold medal match against Nigeria in a rematch of the 1996 Olympics gold medal game (which was won by the Africans).

* Lastly, congratulations to Shericka Williams of Jamaica took the silver in the women's 400 meter dash. Williams ran a personal best of 49.69 seconds to give her country its fifth medal of the Games.
Sources- AFP, Sports Jamaica, New York Times, IHT, Xinhua, TVNZ, Guardian UK, TIME, Sports Network, Los Angeles Times,

Bolivia: Opponents rally behind strike

Bolivian president Evo Morales may’ve kept his post after a recent recall referendum yet his foes have not let up the pressure against him.

Governors of the provinces of Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, Tarija and Chuquisaca helped stage a 24 hour anti-government strike on Tuesday. The strike virtually shut down all economic activity in those five provinces which are wealthier and more energy-rich than the country’s four other states. Unfortunately, there were some disturbances as strikers and pro-government demonstrators clashed.

Despite the strike, opposition leaders and Morales continue to be staunchly deadlocked and unwilling to cede:

"Our regions need to recover these resources," protest leader Branko Marinkovic told reporters in Santa Cruz before calling Morales "a dictator."

After a recent, failed meeting with the opposition governors, Morales charged they "only want money," while his foes accused him of trying to strangle them financially.

The impoverished country's first indigenous president, Morales draws most of his support from Aymara and Quechua Indians living in the western Andean highlands.

But his political rivals in the wealthier eastern regions, home to the country's vast natural gas reserves and rich farmland, oppose his policies and fear his ultimate goal is to turn Bolivia into a Cuban-style socialist state.

Image- BBC News

Sources- AFP, Xinhua, The Latin Americanist, Reuters UK

Mexico: Church faults women for wearing “provocative clothes”

The unsolved murders of Ciudad Juarez, alledged police abuse, and the specter of machisimo. Rather than focus on these difficult problems facing Mexican women, the Catholic Church feels that lesser issues deserve higher priority:

The outrage is directed at the Roman Catholic Church for warning women that the skimpy clothing can provoke sexual violence.

Rev. Sergio G. Roman sounded the alarm against miniskirts in an online publication to prepare Catholics for a church family-values forum next year in Mexico City.

"When we show our body without prudence, without modesty, we are prostituting ourselves," wrote Roman, a Mexico City priest.

Roman’s message also questioned “the lack of modesty” in the media for showing “naked women as if it were the most natural thing”, and even suggested that women avoid “spicy jokes or conversations.”

The Mexican archdiocese has claimed that Roman was trying to “morally orient the catholic community,” yet the Archbishop of Durango agreed with him and added that Mexican women dress provocatively in order to “arouse men.”

Women’s rights advocates have expressed their ire with Roman and the Church; “it’s machismo’s fault, not my miniskirt” was one of several placards used during a small protest held on Sunday in front of Mexico City’s Metropolitan Cathedral.

Sadly, there are other examples that reflect Roman’s way of thinking. In the aftermath of the brutal gang-rape of an 8-year-old girl, a senior Jamaican police official blamed girls' use of skimpy clothing for an increase in rapes on the island.

This all reminds me of a terrible miscarriage of justice when an Italian high court ruled a decade ago that women wearing jeans cannot be raped since the victim had to consent to taking them off. (That decision was mercifully overturned).

Image- La Cronica de Hoy

Sources (English)- The Latin Americanist, AOL News, Associated Press, BBC News

Sources (Spanish)-Milenio, La Jornada, El Universal, Pueblo en Linea

Yet another “narrow-eyed” photo emerges

If it wasn’t annoying enough now the whole “slanty-eyed” photo thing is bordering on jump-the-shark status:

The image shows (Argentine women’s soccer) players Maria Potassa, Eva Gonzalez, Fabiana Vallejos and Andrea Ojeda smiling broadly as they pull back the skin on the side of their eyes, in a crude impersonation of Chinese people.

The photo was published - without provoking controversy - in the Argentine sports newspaper Ole on Aug 5, to accompany a preview of the team’s first match of the tournament against Canada.

While it’s debatable that images like the one above are “racist”, they are nevertheless offensive and disrespectful. Photos like the one above are stupid and are giving the impression of a “heroic absence of political correctness” among Ibero-American athletes.

An interesting caveat to this issue is that the image was supposedly discovered by a Facebook group entitled “Kick racist Spain out of the Olympics.” With the increased popularity of social networking more offensive images could be easily disseminated worldwide. (Though we hope there aren’t any more; this is getting far too irritating.)

Note: Later today we’ll have our Olympics Spotlight including more positive news in soccer and cycling for Argentina.

Image- The Telegraph

Sources- The Telegraph, Guanabee, Who Ate All the Pies?, The Latin Americanist, CBC, New York Times

Venezuela to launch telecom satellite

Space, the final frontier will soon be explored by Venezuela:

Venezuela's first satellite will be launched by China in November as part of an ambitious space program with the communist space giant.

The Chinese-made satellite, Simon Bolivar, named after Venezuela's independence hero, is for broadcast and telecommunications purposes and is due to be launched on Nov 2, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said.

Chavez also remarked over his desire to build and launch a second satellite in order to map Latin America. “Who has got great multicolored maps of Venezuela? The Yankees,” said Chavez who added “Now we are going to have our own.”

Do you hear that crumpling sound? It’s the noise of one too many tin foil hats being placed on the noggins of conspiracy theorists.

Image- AFP

Sources- The Hindu, Reuters, Press Association

Daily Headlines: August 19, 2008

* Brazil: Police recovered a missing Pablo Picasso print that had been nicked from a Sao Paulo art museum in June.

* Paraguay: Ache tribal chief Margarita Mbywangi was selected by newly-inaugurated leader Fernando Lugo to be Paraguay’s minister for indigenous affairs.

* Puerto Rico: Trial proceedings started against three people accused of illegally disposing of pets by tossing them off a bridge and killing them.

* Colombia: For once, Colombian president Alvaro Uribe and Human Rights Watch can agree on something: to condemn the FARC guerillas for allegedly detonating a deadly bomb during a local street festival.

Image- Associated Press (“The Picasso print entitled "Minotaur, Drinker and Women" is shown to the press during a news conference in Sao Paulo, Monday Aug.18, 2008. Police recovered the print, the last of four artworks that were stolen from Sao Paulo's Estacao Pinacoteca Museum last June. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)”)

Sources- Human Rights Watch, Reuters, The Latin Americanist, BBC News, MSNBC, Xinhua

Monday, August 18, 2008

Olympics Spotlight: A golden leap for Panama

* Irving Jahir Saladino Aranda of Panama leapt into the history books on Monday after winning the gold medal in the men’s long jump. Saladino’s countrymen celebrated in the streets of Colon after his winning jump of 8.34 meters gave the country its first Olympics gold medal ever. (Honorable mention goes to Cuba's Ibrahim Camejo's who earned bronze with a leap of 8.20m).

* In other medal-winning prefaces on Monday:

* Lastly, our video of the day highlights Brazilian female soccer juggernaut Marta who tallied twice and had an assist in her country’s 4-1 victory over Germany in the semis. Despite being down 1-0 early the Brazilians played exquisite attacking soccer to overrun the Germans and set up a gold medal match on Thursday against the U.S.

Here are the highlights of the Brazil-Germany match as covered by Brazilian TV network Globo:

Sources- AFP, CBC, AHN, Xinhua, TVNZ, Fox Sports, YouTube, BBC Sport, Reuters

More rights granted to Argentine gays

Little by little, gays are earning more rights in the Americas in areas like marriage, health benefits, and even for prisoners. Despite a few setbacks, homosexuals throughout the region have gradually gained more freedoms afforded to heterosexual people. Such was the case in Argentina:

Starting on Wednesday, Argentine same-sex couples will have the right to obtain pensions based on age…

In a press conference, (Social Security director Amado) Boudou explained that “the president ordered a resolution to be carried which would recognize the right to old-age pinions to same-sex couples…without the need to go to the courts.” [Ed. personal translation]

The genesis of the government’s decision cam on the heels of a Supreme Court verdict in favor of a gay man seeking his lover’s pension. 81-year-old Alfredo Pascale lived for 47 years with José Castro and had tried several times to claim Castro’s pension since his death in 1996.

The next step for Argentine gays may be the legalization of homosexual civil unions, a measure that has been backed by most countrymen in a recent poll.


Sources (English)- The Latin Americanist

Sources (Spanish)-Milenio,, Quilmes Presente

Deadly tropical storm ravages Caribbean

Tropical Storm Fay is en route to Florida and may hit the state with hurricane force winds, but not without having unleashed itself across the Caribbean.

Nearly sixty people are confirmed dead after the storm pelted several countries with heavy rains and winds:

In Haiti, a bus plunged into a river swollen by rain from Fay, killing about 30 people, officials said.

"It overturned as it was crossing a bridge on the river Glace," Silvera Guillaume, a local civil protection coordinator, said.

In the Dominican Republic, more than 2,000 people were evacuated to shelters as the storm felled trees, damaged hundreds of homes and damaged power lines, cutting supplies to more than 15,000 homes, according to reports.

Five others were killed in Haiti and the Dominican Republic in flood-related accidents

Reports have mentioned that there are no deaths in Cuba though there has been some material damage and flooding. Nevertheless, the risk exists that one foot of rain could fall on the island along with warnings of flash floods and mudslides.

Though numerous oil rigs in the Caribbean were evacuated as a safety precaution, the storm appeared to have avoided causing major damage to oil platforms.

Image- Al Jazeera English (“Roads were flooded as Fay lashed the Dominican Republic [EPA]")

Sources- AFP, BBC News, Al Jazeera English, Reuters, Reuters UK, Bloomberg

Russian naval fleet to visit Caribbean?

Russia is interested in sending a naval fleet to South America and the Caribbean, according to remarks made by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. “We've been informed that the Russian government wants to visit Venezuela…If they come, they'll be welcomed,” said Chavez who also reiterated prior criticism of the reestablishment of a U.S. Navy fleet in the Americas.

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe mentioned that Chavez’ remarks were “curious” and criticized him for ignoring “the problems that the people of Venezuela are having.”

Chavez continued to emphasize his country’s deepening ties with Russia by condemning Georgia in its dispute with Russia over the province of South Ossetia.

Could this all lead to a Russian military alliance with Venezuela? PostGlobal commentator Carlos Alberto Montaner explains:

The Kremlin's next step in its confrontation with the United States could be the establishment of some sort of military alliance with Cuba and Venezuela…

Nor is the idea of a Russian military base in Venezuela harebrained. As reported by the German news agency DPA, President Hugo Chavez mentioned that possibility during his recent trip to Moscow, although he later denied saying it. To Chavez, that would be another way to strengthen his power as the leader of what he calls "21st-Century socialism," a Third World political family whose principal foe is the government of the United States.

Image- (“The Venezuelan President met for the first time with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev” last month)

Sources- AFP,, PostGlobal, Bloomberg, The Latin Americanist, MSNBC, Economic Times

3000 families flee border violence says “expert”

Approximately 3000 families have fled the border city of Ciudad Juarez and crossed the border into the U.S., according to a “border expert.” Antonio Payan- professor of political science at the University of Texas- claimed that the exodus consisted mostly of middle class families who have left for El Paso, Texas due to “safety reasons.”

According to one Mexican news article, businesses in Ciudad Juarez are forced to spend quite a lot for safety:

(...) businesses have spent more on security by hiring private guards, bulletproofing their vehicles, installing alarms…and demanding increased action in order to feel safe against so much violence. [ed. personal translation]

Despite an increased police presence the rampant violence in Mexico continues to be unabated; 23 people were killed in Chihuahua during a single 24-hour stretch last week while more people have been slain by drug gangs this year more than all of 2006 or 2007.


Sources (English)- AFP, Xinhua, The Australian, Radio Netherlands Worldwide

Sources (Spanish)-Puente Libre

Three-peat for Dominican president

Dominican President Leonel Fernández was sworn in over the weekend for his historic third term in office – a feat which will place him among the top 4 longest-serving presidents in the country's history, along with Ulises Heureaux and former caudillos Rafael Trujillo and Joaquin Balaguer. Fernández, by contrast, has never lost a presidential election nor been accused of any serious electoral fraud in any of his 3 presidential victories.

In his inaugural address, Fernández warned of the
looming threat of a faltering world economy the likes of which "has not been seen since the Great Depression.”

He also used the opportunity to
shuffle key members of his cabinet, including Education, Labor and Commerce, and Interior and Police.

Several foreign dignitaries were on hand, and there was some international speculation that Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez would make the visit, though he ultimately sent a diplomatic representative in his place.

: AFP, Listin Diario, Dominican Today, El Caribe, DR1

Daily Headlines: August 18, 2008

* Chile: Have Chilean authorities unfairly harassed foreign documentary filmmakers researching the indigenous Mapuche community?

* Latin America: “It is high time for the United States to redefine its approach to regional aid, not merely in the name of friendship but also in its own interest,” said Costa Rican president Oscar Arias in a must-read op/ed piece from the Washington Post.

* Paraguay: After meeting with newly-inaugurated leader Fernando Lugo, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez promised to provide Paraguay “with all the oil it needs, right to the last drop”.

* Panama: A U.S.-led military exercise involving several countries of the region focused on defending the Panama Canal “from an attack by a fictional terrorist group bent on damaging the world economy.”


Sources- Upside Down World, Washington Post, Reuters, The Latin Americanist, Reuters UK

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Olympics Spotlight: One more week to go!

With the halfway point of this year’s Beijing games behind us, let’s check out how several Latin American and Caribbean athletes have performed:

* A few competitors from the region have gained the ultimate achievement: a gold medal.

  • The island of Jamaica can claim to have the “World’s Fastest Man and Women” after sweeping the top spots in the 100 meters dash. Shelly-Ann Fraser took Olympic gold for the women with a time of 10.78 seconds, while compatriots Sherone Simpson and Kerron Stewart shared the silver medal. Meanwhile, Usain Bolt obliterated the rest of the field with a world record time of 9.69 seconds and thus becomes the first Jamaican to win gold in the men’s 100 meter dash. (Honorable mention goes to silver medalist Richard Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago).
  • Brazil’s Cesar Cielo Filho became the first from his country to win an Olympic swimming gold medal after excelling in the men's 50 meters freestyle. “It was my best race ever,” said Cielo Filho whose 21.30 second finish was 0.02 seconds off the world record mark.
  • Cuba can also claim a gold of its own after Mijain Lopez won the Greco-Roman wrestling 120-kg division after a hard-fought battle with Khazan Baroev of Russia.

* In other medal-winning performances:

  • Fernando Gonzalez of Chile fought gamely yet could not upset Spaniard Rafael Nadal in the men’s gold medal tennis match on Sunday. Gonzalez can still be proud of his efforts especially after overcoming three match points against him to beat James Blake in the semis.
  • Ecuadorian race walker Jefferson Perez- gold medalist at the 1996 Atlanta Games- ended his illustrious career after winning the silver medal at the men's 20-km walk.
  • In the under 48 kg women’s judo competition, Cuba’s Yanet Bermoy and Argentine Paula Belen Paretto shared the medal podium with a silver and bronze medal, respectively.
  • The poetry in motion of Mexico’s Paola Espinosa and Tatiana Ortiz led them to win the bronze medal in the women’s 10-meter synchronized diving.
  • Weightlifter Diego Salazar and wrestler Jackeline Rentería earned silver and gold medals for Colombia.

* The accomplishments of several Latinos representing the U.S. cannot be overlooked:

  • While most headlines regarding swimming have focused on Michael Phelps, 41-year-old Dara Torres performed marvelously and earned a trio of silver medals. Torres- the oldest female swimmer in Olympic history- was key in the 4x100 freestyle and medley relays, and missed out on the gold by 0.01 of a second in the 50-meter freestyle.
  • The U.S. water polo squads have been spearheaded by a Latino presence; Brazilian-born Tony Azevedo scored a hat trick in upsetting world champions Croatia by a 7-5 score. Meanwhile, Mexican-American Brenda Villa helped lead the women’s water polo team into the semis after winning their prelim group.
  • Softball will not be a part of the 2012 Olympics though that hasn’t stopped the U.S. squad from dominating the competition. Crystl Bustos and Jessica Mendoza hit home runs in Sunday’s 8-0 shutout of the Netherlands. That win was the team’s fourth shutout in five games including an 11-0 victory over Venezuela.

* In other competitions:

  • A showdown of South American heavyweights is coming up this Tuesday as Brazil and Argentina face each other in one of the men’s soccer semis. Argentine wunderkind Lionel Messi netted a goal and an assist in the extra-time quarterfinal victory of the Dutch, while Brazil beat Cameroon with a pair of extra-time goals from Rafael Sobis and Marcelo.
  • Not to be outdone, the Brazilian women’s soccer team faces a rematch of last year’s World Cup; FIFA world player of the year Marta and the Brazilians play champions Germany in the semis on Monday.
  • Lastly, Cuba’s boxers have mostly buckled the criticism that they are too “young and inexperienced”. Three boxers from the island are assured medals after having qualified to the semis in the heavyweight, welterweight, and light welterweight classes. (Honorable mention goes to Dominican pugilist Felix Diaz who will earn his country’s first boxing medal since 1984).

Image- Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Sources- Too many to list!