Saturday, September 13, 2008

Today's Video: Bolivian divisions continue

As the following video news clip from Reuters shows, the situation in Bolivia continues to deteriorate:

There is a sliver of hope, however, in that Bolivian president Evo Morales met tonight with a key opposition member.

Leaders throughout Latin America will meet on Monday to seek a peaceful solution to the diplomatic crisis involving the governments of Bolivia, Venezuela, and the U.S.

Sources- Reuters, Al Jazeera English, New York Times, The Latin Americanist

Daily Headlines: September 13, 2008

* Venezuela: The White House has added more fire to the growing diplomatic crisis with Venezuela and Bolivia; yesterday, the Treasury Department has accused the Chavez administration of trafficking drugs and funding Colombian guerillas.

* U.S.: Fear of raids and deportations have led illegal immigrants to stay behind in areas under danger from an incoming hurricane. Sound familiar?

* Spain: Actor Javier Bardem is trying to backtrack from supposedly disparaging comments he made over his countrymen which he claims were mistranslated.

* Mexico: Carlos Santana and Rob Thomas’ 1999 duet “Smooth” is the second-most popular song ever according to Billboard? Really?!

Image- Al Jazeera English
Sources- The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg, Christian Science Monitor, Guardian UK,

Friday, September 12, 2008

Honduras joins the spat

Honduran president Mel Zelaya has decided to temporarily postpone the official acceptance of the new US ambassdor to Honduras, Hugo Llorens, in solidarity with Boliva and Venezuela.

Zelaya has stated in the Honduran press today that this in no way suggests anything negative with US - Honduran relations, and that such postponements are common practices for a variety of reasons. Llorens arrived to Honduras earlier this week.

The Honduran action follows an intense week in US - Latin American relations, one which has already already resulted in the return of four ambassadors. The leftist governments of Ecuador and Nicaragua have yet to respond in kind, though both Presidents Correa and Ortega, as well as the more centrist President Lula of Brazil, have already expressed solidarity with Bolivia.

Sources: CNN, Reuters, La Tribuna

Today’s Video: “Venezuela: crown jewel of the Adriatic”

Note: We’ll be blogging some news and notes over the weekend.

It’s hard to figure out what is the funniest part of this “Mystery Science Theater 3000” clip poking fun at a 1960s short film on Venezuela:
  • The visiting gringo practicing his broken Spanish with a seemingly disgruntled airport employee.
  • The protagonist’s joy at seeing the “familiar sights” of a Sears department store and used car lots in Maracaibo.
  • The “Leave It to Beaver”-like mom and kids looking for Venezuela on a map.
  • Tom Servo and Crow’s sarcastic, wise-ass remarks such as the title to this post.
Check it out:

Sources- YouTube

Evo Morales Creates Three Indigenous Universities

The media's focus inside Bolivia and Evo Morales is on the U.S. Ambassador being told to leave and the violent protests. In the midst of all this, about a month ago President Morales authorized the creation of three indigenous universities, where courses would be taught in Aymara, Quechua and Guarani - the country's three most widely spoken Native languages.

The three new educational institutions will be located in the regions of La Paz, Cochabamba and Chuquisaca. Funding for the universities will come from monies collected through the Direct Hydrocarbon Tax, which will go to the Indigenous Fund that as of August held $366 million Bolivianos (approximately $52 million U.S.). Fifteen percent of the Indigenous Fund will go directly to the new universities.

''For what is the indigenous university?'' Morales asked at the Aug. 2 press conference at the Warisata Normal School, the first indigenous school in Bolivia. ''It is to decolonize Bolivia. ...
Wow, that's a pretty intense educational goal.

Source : Inteligentaindigena Novajoservo

Daily Headlines: September 12, 2008

* U.S.: HIV infections among Latinos is growing at an alarming rate according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control; Latinas are four times as likely to be infected as white women while “male-to-male sexual contact “ made up 72% of new infections in Latinos.

* Cuba: Ex-Cuban leader Fidel Castro was given the Ubuntu award by the National Heritage Council of South Africa as a result of his “humanitarian values.”

* Puerto Rico: Three people have been acquitted in animal cruelty case where over 80 pets were thrown off a bridge and to their deaths.

* Guatemala: Authorities detained 56 migrants on a ship off the Guatemalan coast.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, AFP, BBC News, Xinhua, New York Times, Reuters

Bolivia and Venezuela send US diplomats packing; US returns the favor

On Thursday, diplomatic envoys from the US in Bolivia and Venezeula were ordered to return to the US, and the US followed suit in the case of Bolivia, though has yet to return the favor in the case of the Venezuelan ambassador to the US.

Among other comments, Hugo Chavez, late Thursday evening, said:

"When there's a new government in the United States--a government that respects Latin America--we'll send an ambassador."

While the declaration on Thursday of the Bolivan ambassador to the US as "persona non grata" may seem like a reactionary response to the equally short-sighted explulson of the US ambassador in Bolivia, it was evidently in accordance with the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations. It remains to be seen when and how this particulary escalated case of diplomatic bullying will be resolved by cooler heads, but one would hope that it will be de-escalated and and that the ambassodors will be returned as soon as possible.

By my own view, two "wrongs" tend not to make a "right" -- but in this case, it appears that two lefts have made a wrong that they will shortly need to make right again.

Source: AFP, Reuters, Bloomberg News, Wikipedia (deal with it)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Catholic Church enhances AIDS response

The Catholic News Service has a story about how the Catholic Church in Latin America is reacting differently to the AIDS and HIV epidemic.

The article says despite the Church's opposition to some methods of prevention, the Church community has made a point to address the problem in conferences and conversation.

Last month, bishops released a letter during the international AIDS conference in Mexico City urging people to fight discrimination and judgment against people with AIDS.

Mexican bishops especially prompted a fight against the stigma and discrimination associated with AIDS, according to the article.

Read the article here.

Russian planes land in Venezuela

The Scotmsan is reporting that two Russian bombers landed in Venezuela last night.

The bombers are in Venezuela for training flights over neutral waters, the Scotsman said.

Russia Today has a video of this on YouTube.

Earlier this week, Venezuelan President brought up the idea of Venezuelan and Russian ships holding joint naval exercises in the Caribbean. This was scheduled to happen in November or December.


Daily Headlines: September 11, 2008

* Venezuela: “It's a show. The trial is fixed,” declared President Hugo Chavez as he blasted the “Maletagate” trial currently underway in a U.S. federal court.

* Mexico: Telecom billionaire Carlos Slim- reportedly the world's second-richest man- purchased a 6.4% stake in the New York Times Company.

* Guatemala: A U.N. report called for Guatemalan authorities to do more in eliminating the “illegal bodies and clandestine structures encrusted in many public arenas.”

* U.S.: A federal appeals court denied Jose Santos-Lemus’ request for asylum despite his claims that Salvadoran gangs killed his brother and threatened his family.

Image- (“Guido Antonini Wilson was detained with nearly $800,000 in cash. (Marcelo Hernandez - Associated Press).”)
Sources- The Latin Americanist, MSNBC, Middle East Times,, New York Times, Reuters

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Event: “Estômago” at Latinbeat 2008

The Latinbeat Film Fest is currently going on in New York City. Twenty-eight films from ten Latin American countries will be featured between now and September 25th and includes panel discussions on topics like films in Chile and a tribute to Puerto Rican director Jacobo Morales.

One of the movies being screened is “Estômago: A Gastronomic Story”; this award-winning 2007 Brazilian film will be shown today and tomorrow at Lincoln Center.

(Video Link):

The predictive nature of U.S.-Venezuela relations

U.S. government criticizes the Chavez regime in Venezuela. The Venezuelan government shoots back. (Sometimes it’s the other way around). Another government official replies and the opposite government responds to that. And so on, and so on.

Take the following example:

* Last month, U.S. drug czar John Walters blasted the “failure” of Venezuelan counternarcotics efforts for a reported increase in cocaine from that country.

* Venezuela’s government denied Walters’ allegations and threatened to boot the U.S. ambassador.

* Venezuelan authorities burned down over three tons of drugs last week yet Walters replied by criticizing them for “not doing a better job.”

* Chavez then denied that Venezuela has become a "paradise" for smugglers and Walters again responded by claiming that Venezuela’s drug policy is a "global threat" against Europe.

Earlier this week, the Transportation Security Administration advised travelers to avoid taking nonstop flights from Venezuela due to allegedly unsafe airport conditions. You can imagine what happened next:

Venezuela's aviation agency is criticizing a U.S. travel advisory informing travelers that the U.S. can't vouch for the security of flights departing Venezuela.

The National Civil Aviation Institute insists Venezuela's airports are in full compliance with international standards set by the U.N. agency overseeing civil aviation.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

AP, Forbes, Jerusalem Post, Wall Street Journal,

Global poll shows most choose Obama

A poll conducted for the BBC World Service by the international polling firm GlobeScan showed that most people around the world want Barack Obama to be the next U.S. president.

The survey of 22,531 adults across 22 countries showed that on average 49% prefer Obama to 12% for Republican rival John McCain. In addition, pluralities in all 22 countries polled chose Obama over McCain, albeit by differing margins.

An interesting caveat is the notable percentage of those polled did not prefer either candidate (40%). Also of the 22 countries involved in the poll, three- Panama, Mexico, Brazil- were from Latin America.

The survey also revealed what people thought on the future of U.S. global relations:

In 17 of the 22 nations, people think America's relations with the rest of the world are likely to improve if Obama becomes president. If McCain wins, the most common view in 19 of the 22 countries is that relations will stay about the same.

On average, 46 per cent say relations would improve under Obama, 22 per cent say they'd stay about the same and just seven per cent think they'd worsen.
The BBC poll emulated the results of a previous survey carried out in the spring by the Pew Research Center. Respondents in Brazil and Mexico preferred the Democratic candidate by margins of 23% and 11%, respectively.

In the end, it will be the voting citizens of the U.S. who will choose the next president. Recent polls show a virtual dead heat between Obama and McCain.

Image- ABC News
The Latin Americanist, AHN,, Reuters, IHT, BBC News

Daily Headlines: September 10, 2008

* U.S.: Should any of us be surprised that the border fence being built along the U.S.-Mexico border could be facing delays and will likely need extra funds to be finished?

* Caribbean: Hurricane Ike moved into the Gulf of Mexico but not before sweeping twice through Cuba and causing widespread damage.

* Latin America: Could a possible “Cold War II” center itself around Latin America? Columnist Andres Oppenheimer thinks so.

* Venezuela: Opening arguments began yesterday in the “Maletagate” money smuggling case.

Image- Fox News (“Utah National Guard help build part of border fence in Arizona.”)
Sources-, Bloomberg, The Latin Americanist, Reuters UK, MSNBC,

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Today’s Video: Golf, “cholita” style

On the surface, the video below is reminiscent of this one on Bolivia’s cholita wrestlers. In this case it focuses on four women in their traditional indigenous garb playing golf at one of the country’s premier golf courses. Yet the story loses its luster in that these cholitas are paid to do back-breakingmanual labor at the golf club and are given free privileges to play. With an $8000 membership fee and a $75 monthly rate, entry into “the world’s highest golf course” is a distant luxury for most of the hard-working blue-collar cholitas in Bolivia.

(Video link):

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Reuters

Recalling Horrific Paramilitary Massacre in Colombia

The following video contains a graphic retelling of a 2000 massacre in the Colombian town of El Salado, Bolívar near Cartagena. According to witnesses the killers were paramilitary members who cut off ears, shot, choked, and stabbed people because they were involved with the guerilla. One witness said that with each death came the playing of music.

For a complete English language transcript of the witness statements see La Guayabita.

Free trade remains key need

The Wall Street Journal has an article by Mary Anastasia O'Grady arguing that Latin America's main desire is free trade.

O'Grady says free trade is the "single most important policy issue in the campaign."

McCain has steadily promised to expand free trade with South America. Obama, she said, argues more for a protectionist policy.

She said protectionism will further isolate Latin America from the United States, blocking imports and ideas from the region at an important time.

The article also brings in some history of free trade. Read it here.

Different countries will win after November

The Latin Business Chronicle has another story about how important the U.S. election will be for Latin America.

The article ranks Mexico and Colombia as the winners if McCain succeeds, because of his friendship with Uribe and the promise of more focus on Mexico from Washington.

In contrast, if Barack Obama wins, the Chronicle suggests that Cuba will be a big winner. Obama has publicly chastised the lack of dialogue with Cuba and other rogue nations, and he has said he will meet with these countries' leaders. Closer relations with Cuba could continue into better ties with Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia.

Read the article here.

Daily Headlines: September 9, 2008

* Colombia: The New York Times’ Simon Romero takes a look at the reality of Colombia; one where the usually safe cities are at “a disconnect” with the continued armed conflict in the rest of the country.

* Brazil: Days after declining an invite to join OPEC, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva promised to use revenue from recently discovered offshore oil fields to combat poverty.

* Honduras: A court convicted a former jail official with over 1000 years in prison for his role in a 2003 massacre that killed 69 inmates.

* Dominican Republic: International press group Reporters Without Borders denounced Dominican police for posing as journalists in order to infiltrate into “grassroots movements.”

Sources- The Latin Americanist, BBC News, Thaindian News, Reporters Without Borders, IHT

Monday, September 8, 2008

De Musica Ligera: New Juanes song hits radio

A new single from Colombian rockero/humanitarian Juanes was released to radio on Monday. The tune entitled “Odio por Amor” will be released as part of an upcoming album according to an e-mail sent to us by his PR team:
Recorded in August and set for inclusion in a planned special/expanded edition release of La Vida… es Un Ratico in November, “Odio por Amor” is an instantly classic Juanes anthem in the vein of “A Dios Le Pido”. The just released track finds Juanes giving a heartfelt appeal that we re-evaluate our approach to relationships – whether it be an exchange between lovers, family or even nations. The universal need for this simple but vital reminder to exchange love for hate is reinforced by Juanes, for the first time-ever, singing the song’s chorus in both Spanish and English – with the engaging refrain of “Es tiempo de cambiar / It's time to change.”
The song can be heard here via Juanes’ lone English-language lyrics don’t sound out of tune with the rest of the song, while the tune itself is more “pop” than “rock.” All-in-all it’s a good song.

Have you listened to “Odio por Amor”? If so, what did you think of it?

Image- New York Daily News
Sources- The Latin Americanist,,

Venezuelan Justice Minister quits

Venezuelan Minister of Interior and Justice Ramon Rodriguez Chacin (image) tended his resignation earlier today. Rodriguez Chacin mentioned that he quit due to “personal reasons” though he still remains loyal to President Hugo Chavez’ “Bolivarian Revolution”.

As Reuters noted, Rodriguez Chacin was a vital member of the Venezuelan Cabinet:
He recorded successes early on his post by flying into Colombia's jungles to receive hostages from leftist rebels whom he hugged and called "comrades." But his reputation was tainted in the following months.

Media reported that rebel computer files seemed to link him to illegal activity with the guerrillas. Then Chavez rescinded a spy law Rodriguez drafted, saying it would have forced Venezuelans to snitch on their neighbors.
Rodriguez Chacin’s resignation comes after Chavez announced that a series of joint military exercises with Russia will take place later this year; a move which U.S. officials tried to “play down.”

Image- BBC Mundo
The Latin Americanist, El Universal,, Reuters UK, Xinhua, Al Jazeera English

Mexico: Child kidnappers/killers nabbed

Police in Mexico City have nabbed the kidnappers and killers of the son of a prominent businessman. Local prosecutor Miguel Mancera admitted that the plan to kidnap 14-year-old Fernando Marti involved “complex logistics” and that the gang’s leader used to be a Mexico City detective.

The arrests come on the heels of massive nationwide antiviolence protests throughout Mexico which were inspired by Marti’s death. Over 200,000 protestors demonstrated at Mexico City’s main square recently as part of the “Illuminate Mexico” rallies. Mexico’s World Cup soccer qualifier on Saturday was even used to protest against violence:

Tens of thousands of Mexican soccer fans dressed in white at an international game in the Azteca Stadium on Saturday to protest rising crime and a brutal drug war that has killed more than 2,700 people this year.

At least three-quarters of the 100,000 fans answered a call by Mexico's soccer federation to dress in white. The Mexican team also wore white in the World Cup qualifier against Jamaica rather than its traditional green uniforms.
Image- Time (“A stack of corpses, part of eleven decapitated bodies bearing signs of torture, lie in a suburb of Merida in eastern Mexico.”)

The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg, Sky News, AP, Guardian UK

Today’s Video: Ike ravages Caribbean

After Hurricane Gustav caused massive material damage on Cuba, Fidel Castro compared the destruction to that of the nuclear bomb that hit Hiroshima in 1945. That comparison may be more appropriate to describe Cuba in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike which cut a path of destruction through the Caribbean:

Nearly 1 million Cubans were evacuated from coastal areas as high winds and tidal waves destroyed residences. In Haiti alone Ike and previous storms have officially killed over 600 people as aid officials estimate that at least 600,000 people in the country sorely need humanitarian relief.
As we mentioned on Saturday, there are numerous charitable groups which you can donate to; if you know of any others please mention them in the comments below.
Sources- The Latin Americanist, Reuters, MSNBC, AFP, Bloomberg

When crime becomes a political hot potato

Often times anti-immigration advocates cite serious crimes committed by illegal immigrants to justify the need for harsh, strict immigration measures. Yet these voices become oddly silent when an undocumented immigrant becomes the victim, not the perpetrator, of a major crime.

Case in point: the murder case of 25-year-old Luis E. Ramirez. Ramirez- an illegal immigrant from Mexico and father of two- was brutally beaten and murdered in northeastern Pennsylvania last July. According to court records six white teens assaulted Ramirez though so far three of them have been charged as adults in his death. (A fourth teen was charged on Friday with “aggravated assault, ethnic intimidation and other offenses.”)

The unfortunate reality is that these cases like Ramirez’ death becomes extrapolated into the debate on immigration. Situations like the aforementioned become focal points for excessive bloviating on “sanctuary cities” or finger-pointing at the media. In the end, the discussion drowns out the true victims of these crimes: the families of the deceased who are morning and whose spirits are wounded. Having their cases politicized is disrespectful to those who are truly suffering.

Image- ABC News
Sources- The Latin Americanist, Reading Eagle,, USA TODAY, Fox News, York Daily Record

Daily Headlines: September 8, 2008

* Latin America: Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and Michelle Bachelet (image), the presidents of Argentina and Chile, are among the world’s most powerful women according to Forbes magazine.

* Mexico: The country’s highest court ruled that Wal-Mart acted illegally in paying part of workers’ salaries in vouchers redeemable only at Wal-Mart stores.

* Cuba: The U.S. trade embargo against Cuba won’t be dropped just yet said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday.

* U.S.: The Christian Science Monitor examines an afterschool program in Connecticut designed to encourage Latino youth to avoid dropping out of school.

Image- Time

Sources- Reuters India, IHT, Voice of America, Christian Science Monitor