Saturday, October 11, 2008

Today’s Video: Haiti’s hope in the next U.S. president

The Caribbean country of Haiti has been mired in poverty, hit hard by tropical storms, and suffering from violence. Nevertheless, some Haitians have their eyes on the U.S. presidential elections with the hope that a new leader can be beneficial for the country. Al Jazeera English recently looked into the views Haitians have of the U.S. and what they anticipate the future could hold vis-á-vis John McCain and Barack Obama.

(Video link):

Sources- The Latin Americanist, YouTube

Daily Headlines: October 11, 2008

* Mexico: Hurricane Norbert hit the Baja California peninsula today with 105 mile-per-hour winds and torrential rainfall.

* Latin America: Currencies throughout the region dropped in value yesterday with the Chilean peso hitting its lowest point in over 16 years.

* Argentina: Former “Dirty War” ruler Jorge Videla has been transferred to from house arrest to jail where he will serve his life sentence for human rights abuses.

* Puerto Rico: A magnitude 6.1 quake shook Puerto Rico this morning as reports claim that there were “no immediate reports of damages.”

Image- AP (“Maria Espinoza covers himself from the rain at a local shelter during Hurricane Norbert in Puerto San Carlos, Mexico, Saturday, Oct. 11, 2008…(AP Photo/Guillermo Arias)”)
Bloomberg, CBC, IHT, BBC News

Friday, October 10, 2008

Today’s Video: Brazil’s fantastic futsal footwork

Note: We’ll be posting on Saturday and Sunday in order to make up for the lack of entries this week.

The FIFA Futsal World Cup is currently taking place in Brazil and the host team has been merciless in outscoring the competition. As The Offside blog noted:
Futsal is typically, compared to it’s grass-based counterpart, high scoring, but the samba boys are currently out hitting opponents 49-1. Forty-nine in four games is quite a bit. And as far as pure scoring goes, Russia, in the same group, has done one better, scoring 50 in 3, even after being shutout 7-0 by Brazil. (Group A being very fortunate to draw the Solomon Islands; SI having conceded 69 in 4 and probably due for a bit of post-traumatic stress syndrome when they return home.)
Below are highlights from Brazil’s group match victory against the minnows from the Solomon Islands by a score of 21-0! To say that Brazil dominated the game would be understatement; Falcão was the leading goalscorer with six tallies as he and seven others found the back of the net.

Sources- The Latin Americanist,, The Offside, YouTube

Lights Out at Venezuela's Golden Arches

Hugo Chavez's government is hitting those yanquis where it hurts, right in their extra value meals. Venezuela's tax enforcement office shut down all McDonald's in the country for 48 hours as punishment for alleged tax irregularities. There are 115 Golden Arches in Venezuela.

Source : Reuters

Daily Headlines: October 10, 2008

* Latin America: Stocks throughout the region continued to tumble yesterday while Mexican President Felipe Calderon announced emergency measures to combat the growing financial quagmire.

* U.S.: The New York-based Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund will change its name and mission in order to better help the city’s Latino community.

* U.K.: Testimony continued in the trial of a Brazilian man killed by London police who allegedly mistook him for a terrorist attacker.

* Argentina: Argentina will soon join Brazil, Bolivia, and Chile in charging visitors 21 countries including the U.S.

Image- AP (“Specialist Justin Bohan holds his head as he works at his post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Thursday Oct. 9, 2008…(AP Photo/Richard Drew).”)
Sources- Voice of America, IHT, New York Times, BBC News, San Jose Mercury News

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Today’s Video: Remembering Ché

On this day in 1967 famed rebel Ernesto “Ché” Guevara was shot and executed by Bolivian forces.

The former Argentine doctor’s legacy lives on all these years later; to some, he was a revered revolutionary who fought for the rights of the oppressed. Yet others will claim that he served as Fidel Castro’s puppet and represented the anti-democratic virtues of communism.

Love him or loathe him, the myth of Ché soldiers on; an example of this will be an upcoming biopic directed by Steven Soderbergh. The trailer to the film- which stars Benicio del Toro in the titular role- can be seen below:

Sources- The Latin Americanist, YouTube, Time, BBC News

Hard core rock to headline Los Premios

It's the news you've been waiting for:

Who will headline Los Premios?

Metallica will be the performance of the night at Los Premios MTV Latino America 2008.

The Oct. 16 show will be the band's first performance in North American television this year.

"Metallica is the biggest hard rock band in the world — period," said MTV Latin America vice president Jose Tillan. "We are honored to have them play at Premios this year."

Find out more here.

Source and photo: MTV

Violence kills more than AIDS

More information from the Organization of American States' report:

The report says that the number of people killed from gun crime is four times the world average. Central and South America have a homicide rate of more than 25 per 100,000 people.

According to United Nations estimates, in parts of El Salvador, Guatemala and Venezuela the rate is more than 100 per 100,000.

The report blames the violence on a variety of reasons, including: poverty, inequality, cocaine trafficking, civil wars, guns and corruption and ineffective state institutions.

Countries like Costa Rica are relatively untouched by the violence, the reports says.

Read a press release about OAS concerns regarding violence here.

Source: Guardian

Photo: istockphoto

Daily Headlines: October 9, 2008

* Mexico: Rest in peace Jose Luis Garza; the 992-pound Mexican died yesterday of heart failure.

* Latin America: Organization of American States head José Miguel Insulza warned that violent crime in the region is on the rise and kills more people than AIDS.

* Haiti: U.N. peacekeeping troops will likely remain in Haiti for another year according to one U.N. official.

* Colombia: "Let them (the hostages) rest assured that we will not stop, we will not give up in silence and we will never, never stop taking action until they are freed," pleaded former hostage Ingrid Betancourt at the European Parliament yesterday.

Image- CNN
Sources- Times Online, AP, MSNBC, Guardian UK

L. da Silva: South-South Summit in Salvador

Just weeks after the emergency UNASUR meeting held in Chile (which, by definition, excluded US participation), plans are underway for another meeting in Bahia, Brazil in mid-December.

Brazilian Foreign Minister, Celso Amorim, told press this week that the meeting can be seen as another key step towards regional integration, which he deems "necessary," adding that international crises such as those underway "demand integrated solutions."

Other leaders are less coy about the promise for integration. Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque called the summit a chance for the region to "speak with its own voice," and sees it as the start of a longer "process toward unity, integration and cooperation among the Latin American and Caribbean countries."

While the topics of the summit purport to be large and wide-ranging, what is clear is that the summit will be infused with an urgent spirit based primarily on the external and international crises on money, energy, and food.

Particularly interesting is the enthusiasm that foreign leaders have shown for the summit to be held in Brazil, and for the leadership that Lula is showing in the region. As Lula faces the nearing of the end of his mandate, the question of his legacy may well be on his mind.

Also of interest--to me, anyhow--is that a google news search (English, all dates) of "summit" + "Brazil" + "December" yields only news sources from Cuba, China, Brazil (and one random one from Italy).

Sources: IPS News, Granma, Xinhua News Service, Bloggings by Boz

Peru’s purr-fect meal

Some stories speak for themselves:
Animal rights groups are fuming about the annual festival near the Peruvian capital that serves up hundreds of fried cats to locals.

The Gastronomical Festival of the Cat features people in Canete, near Lima, eating the fluffy creatures because they believe that eating cat burgers – and fried cat legs and tails – can cure bronchial disease.
Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to nosh on some delicious Peruvian cuy (a.k.a. guinea pig).
Image- Time
Sources- The Latin Americanist, The Herald Sun

Brazil's Bovespa still sinking

It may only be Wednesday yet this week has felt like an eternity for Brazilian stock traders.

On Monday, action in Brazil's stock exchange had to be suspended twice as stocks nosedived by as much as 15%. Tuesday was more of the same as the Bovespa stock index kept tumbling and Brazil’s currency continued losing value. The Bovespa closed Wednesday at a loss despite emergency measures taken by several central banks worldwide:
The Bovespa index of the Sao Paulo Stock Exchange tumbled for the fifth straight session, ending 3.85 percent lower at 38,593.54 points after falling as much as 6.3 percent. With the losses, the Bovespa has now plunged 48 percent since hitting an all-time high of 73,920 on May 29…

"The coordinated actions by the central banks is not going to have a convincing effect on the credit crisis," said Jose Francisco de Lima Goncalves, chief economist at Banco Fator.
Image- AP (“Traders work on the floor of the Brazilian Mercantile and Futures Exchange in Sao Paulo, Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2008.”)
Sources- The Latin Americanist, Reuters, Guardian UK, New York Times, Bloomberg

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Hugo Chavez and Spanish king on the outs?

It was roughly a year ago that King Juan Carlos of Spain and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez faced off during the infamous “¿Por qué no te callas?” tiff. Both leaders kissed and made up in July during Chavez’ visit to Spain. But could a photo-op hurt their relationship again?
A top aide to Venezuela's president criticized Spain's King for rubbing shoulders with owners of Venezuela's privately-owned and often anti-government media — even as he insisted that Venezuelan officials support free speech.

"Be careful who you pose with, King Juan Carlos," Information Minister Andres Izarra said, referring Venezuelan private press photos that showed the king posing with some of President Hugo Chavez's most outspoken critics.

Izarra dismissed concerns raised this week at a meeting of the Inter American Press Association, where Venezuelan newspaper and television network owners accused Chavez of harassing and intimidating the media.
Thus far there has been no official reaction from Spain. One hopes, however, that the king’s snapshots doesn’t result in a diplomatic spat between the European nation and Venezuela.

Image- CBS News (“Spanish King Juan Carlos gestures towards Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez as Chavez got involved in a heated verbal exchange with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, during the last working session of the XVII Iberoamerican Summit in Santiago, Chile, Nov. 10, 2007. King Juan Carlos said to Chavez, "Why don’t you shut up?"”)
Sources- The Latin Americanist, IHT

Today’s Videos: Ads on the “I-word”

Immigration has been a seemingly taboo and ignored subject during the presidential debates. Yet that hasn’t stopped the candidates from issuing negative attack ads on that topic.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain issued a Spanish-language ad last week blaming the Democrats for torpedoing an immigration reform proposal last year:

The reality is not as clear cut as the ad claims; as we noted, politicians on both sides of the aisle proposed all sorts of amendments which effectively killed the bill.

For their part, the Obama campaign issued their own ad attacking McCain and the GOP including the claim that he “caved to the anti-immigrant crowd”:

Much like the aforementioned McCain ad, the piece from the Democrats leaves out vital information; for example, since taking control of Congress the Democrats have virtually ignored the subject of immigration reform and have irresponsibly allowed the fractured status quo to continue.

Both ads are running in key battleground states with a sizeable Latino electorate such as Colorado and New Mexico.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Colorado Independent, The Trial, The Caucus,, YouTube

Fugitive Former Guatemalan President Alfonso Portillo Found in Mexico

For the last four years, former president of Guatemala, Alfonso Portillo, has been hiding from corruption charges in Mexico. Pero, that is about to end. Portillo was extradited to his home country.

Portillo certainly has an interesting background, that includes a shooting. That hasn't stopped some from thinking that he is the best thing that ever happened to Guatemala while others celebrate that he will face justice.

Sources : Global Voices, Wikipedia, Off Topic Tigre 007, Mega Chapines

Daily Headlines: October 8, 2008

* Venezuela: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied that planned military exercises between Russia and Venezuela are designed to provoke the U.S.

* El Salvador: President Tony Saca continued his country’s commitment to maintaining troops in Iraq.

* Brazil: World Bank head Robert Zoellick proposed scrapping the G7 in favor of a “steering group” of nations including Brazil.

* Peru: The Andean country’s energy minster quit his post amidst a growing scandal over “alleged oil kickbacks.”

Image- (“The Pyotr Velikiy, Peter the Great, Russian nuclear-powered missile cruiser seen in the Barents Sea, Russia, in this July, 2004, file photo. The Peter the Great cruiser accompanied by three other ships of Russia's Northern Fleet was to sail from their base in Severomorsk…on a cruise which will include a joint exercise with the Venezuelan Navy, Russian Navy spokesman Igor Dygalo said on Vesti 24 television. (AP Photo/File).”)
Sources-, AFP, The Latin Americanist, IHT

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

We'll return on Wednesday

We apologize for the lack of posts today. Unfortunately there have been other more important obligations for us aside from blogging.

We anticipate resuming regularly scheduled posting on Wednesday. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Daily Headlines: October 7, 2008

* Cuba: “The population's food is guaranteed” said Cuban Finance Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Garcia who denied that the island could face famine.

* Peru: Scientists from Italy used satellite images to discover a hidden pyramid in the Peruvian desert.

* Ecuador: President Rafael Correa threatened to push out foreign oil firms if they do not increase output soon.

* Nicaragua: U.N. General Assembly president- Nicaraguan Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann- claimed last week that “there are members of the Security Council right now who have done things infinitely worse than Iran could ever do.”

Image- CNN (“Vendors await the arrival of agricultural products at a green market in Havana, Cuba, on Thursday.”)
Sources- Reuters, MSNBC, Monsters & Critics, IHT

Monday, October 6, 2008

Today’s Video: Have you registered to vote?

The voter registration deadline in most U.S. states ends this week. Here’s a quick list of them via Rock the Vote:

Monday, October 6 (there’s still time!):
Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia

Tuesday, October 7:
Illinois, New Mexico

Wednesday, October 8:

Friday, October 10:
New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma

Saturday, October 11:

Please check out this link for more details on how you can register to vote. Don’t forget that you can register for absentee ballots if necessary. (This is an option I’m pursuing in my home state of New York since I’m physically disabled).

Today’s featured video is a brief PSA by Latina actress America Ferrara for non-partisan voter group Declare Yourself:

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Rock the Vote, Declare Yourself, YouTube

Lip don’t lie – Shakira endorses Obama

Eat your heart out Daddy Yankee:
Colombian superstar Shakira says Democrat Barack Obama is the best candidate for president, citing his leadership skills.

In a statement Saturday, the Grammy-winning pop artist said Obama can restore peace and the world's confidence in the United States. Obama faces Republican presidential nominee John McCain in the Nov. 4 election.
Daddy Yankee recently came out to endorse McCain yet both he and Shakira have one key element in common: nether singer has the right to vote in the U.S.

(Hat tip: Guanabee.)

Image- USA TODAY (Shakira performed at an ALAS benefit concert in May 2008.)
Sources- The Latin Americanist, AP, Guanabee

Is the media’s “Maletagate” coverage sexist?

In the latest development in the “Maletagate” case (previous posts – 1, 2, 3) ex-Argentine airport agent Maria del Lujan Telpuk gave her testimony on Friday to a U.S. federal jury. She recalled discovering the suitcase of Venezuelan businessman Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson completely full of money which prosecutors alleged was illegally destined to fund the campaign of Argentine president Cristina Fernandez.

Telpuk’s testimony has caught the media’s attention, but what angle do you think they focused on: how she did her job as a security officer responsibly? Or perhaps that her testimony may’ve linked Venezuelan intelligence agents to illicit campaign smuggling? Guess again:

* Guardian UK - "Pin-up girl tells how she spotted suitcase stuffed with cash"

* AP - "Argentine pinup testifies in suitcase scandal case"

* - "Playboy pinup tells her side in Venezuela suitcase trial"

The media has every right to discuss how Telpuk’s been milking her quasi-celebrity status by posing in Playboy and other “lad” mags. Yet for her fifteen minutes of fame to be the primary focus by the media in such a vital case is misguided and possibly sexist.

The judge in the “Maletagate” case warned prosecutors to maintain “a certain amount of decorum” in discussing Telpuk. Pity the press cannot do the same.

Image- BBC Mundo
Sources- The Latin Americanist, Mercopress, Bloomberg, Guardian UK, AP,

LatAm stocks continue sinking

Stock indices worldwide have been hit hard during trading today; the Dow Jones industrial average fell below the 10,000 mark for the first time in almost four years while Europe’s Stoxx 600 index tumbled by 7.6%.

Much like in advanced industrialized nations, shares in “emerging markets” from Russia to India to Latin America have also nosedived. Mexico's Bolsa stock index fell be nearly 10% while the country’s peso dropped to its lowest point since 1997. Currencies in countries like Chile, Colombia, and Argentina depreciated by as much as 4%. The lowest point in Latin American trading occurred in Brazil’s stock market which had to be suspended twice today as the Bovespa index plunged by a whopping 16%.

Why is today turning out to be yet another dark day for the financial markets? BBC News cites analysts’ worry that massive bailouts will be insufficient to turnaround the global economic crisis:
Investors fear that official action might not be enough to stem the crisis.

This was despite a $700bn (£398bn) US bank bail-out being passed late last week, and efforts by several European countries including Germany and Denmark to boost confidence in their banks. "The fact is people are scared and the only thing they're doing is selling," said Ryan Detrick, senior technical strategist at Schaeffer's Investment Research.

"Investors are cleaning out portfolios and getting rid of everything because nothing seems to be working."
Image- New York Times (“A trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Monday.”)
Sources- The Latin Americanist, Marketwatch, Bloomberg, Guardian UK, BBC News

Central American presidents gather in Honduras

Presidents Oscar Arias, Alvaro Colom, Daniel Ortega, Antonio Saca, and Manuel Zelaya gathered on Saturday in Tegucigalpa, Honduras for a special summit of the Central American Integration System (SICA). Presidential envoys from Panama, Belize and the Dominican Republic attended, as well.

The summit was designed to forge a regional response to pending issues of mutual import, such as fiscal responses to the US economic crisis, integration efforts to increase intra-regional commerce, and new alliances with international actors aside from the economically-shaken US.

The meeting of presidents, which followed a technical meeting of ministers and experts on Friday, resulted in a
special declaration, signed by each of the heads of state, which stipulated 7 main agreements:

1) Defend and strengthen intra-regional commerce, which is currently on the rise

2) Seek concrete mechanisms through the SICA and national economic ministries to support continued growth in intra-regional commerce.

3) Urge the SICA's banking entity (BCIE) to extend credit lines of up to $200 million to national central banks, as well as the same amount to private lenders, in order to combat the negative effects of the international economic crisis, as well as the onset food security crisis.

4) Urge the SICA to continue its push for increased regional integration where possible in order to shore up individual / national vulnerabilities.

5) Encourage the SICA's council of ministers to design a regional plan (in the next month) that will help mitigate the effects of the international economic crisis on the region's employment rate, agricultural production, and overall economic productivity.

6) Seek concrete mechanisms for national ministers to stimulate agricultural production and social and public investment in social and economic programs.

7) Encourage the SICA's council of ministers to seek alliances with countries in thee South, Asia, and the Caribbean.

Popular reaction to the meetings was mixed; some officials noted that the summit represented a concerted and solid first step towards a regional response, while others considered the meeting and its resolution devoid of any substantial or action-oriented measure.

Sources: El Heraldo, AFP, Prensa Latina, Xinhua Net,

Daily Headlines: October 6, 2008

* U.S.: This week’s sign of the apocalypse – “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” was the highest grossing film last weekend.

* Haiti: Officials estimate that nearly 800 people died as a result of a series of storms which hit the country over the past two months.

* Venezuela: President Hugo Chavez offers to his countrymen – trade in your “gas-guzzler” and receive a free car that runs on natural gas.

* Brazil: The ruling Worker’s Party made several notable gains in local elections yesterday according to exit polls.

Image- Los Angeles Times
Sources- Reuters, MSNBC, BBC News, Al Jazeera English, The Latin Americanist