Friday, November 21, 2008

Today’s Video: Colombia’s indigenous protest

Earlier this month we touched on the latest march by thousands of Colombia’s indigenous peoples. Their protest is highly critical of the government and centers on several topics like land reform and free trade.

In the video below from Colombian television, a reported 12,000 marchers have arrived in the country’s capital and are camping out in the main plaza. Their leaders remain hopeful that their demands can be met and that more people will help their cause.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, YouTube, RCN

Bill Richardson accepts Cabinet nomination?

Rumor has it that New Mexico governor Bill Richardson has reportedly accepted a position in President-elect Barack Obama's cabinet. Despite his extensive foreign policy and diplomatic experience, Richardson won’t be tapped as Secretary of State:
Sen. Hillary Clinton, New York Federal Reserve President Tim Geithner and former Energy Secretary Bill Richardson have all accepted posts in President-elect Barack Obama's cabinet, according to media reports. Clinton accepted the position of secretary of state, the New York Times reported. Richardson is in line to become Commerce secretary and Geithner was picked to be Treasury secretary, NBC News reported.
Richardson- who is of Mexican background- is expected to be officially announced as the choice for Commerce secretary on Monday. The media buzz around him had been strong over the past few days, especially after so much hype was made over Senator Clinton’s possibility of being Secretary of State.

Richardson had previously served as Ambassador to the U.N. and Secretary of Energy under the presidency of Bill Clinton. Richardson was one of the prominent Latino politicos to back Obama’s presidential run as far back as the primaries, a move that peeved off some of Senator Clinton’s closest allies.

The Latin Americanist, ABC News, Huffington Post, MarketWatch, MSNBC, AP, Wikipedia,

Brazil could be global power says intel report

The National Intelligence Council (NIC) released its quadrennial report on future global trends. The intel report prognosticates that U.S. global dominance may deteriorate by 2025 as the world enters “an increasingly unstable and unpredictable period”.

However, the NIC account also predates that a major “power shift” will occur around the world with one of the main beneficiaries found in Latin America:
The current trend of global wealth and economic power shifting roughly from West to East, described as "without precedent in modern history", will continue.

Brazil, Russia, China and India are picked as countries which might benefit, boosted by rising oil and commodity price rises that have generated windfall profits for the Gulf States and Russia, as well as a shift in manufacturing and some service industries to Asia.
Aside from Brazil’s increased strength, the rise of China will likely have strong repercussions throughout the Americas. As we’ve mentioned before, China is increasing its political and economic influence throughout Latin America in a way that could significantly impact the region. (Could the days of U.S. dominance over Latin America soon be over?)

Image- BusinessWeek (2007 photo of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva visiting a Petrobras oil platform).
The Latin Americanist, Guardian UK, AFP, BBC News, CTV

Argentina: Senate backs pension nationalization

Argentina’s Senate approved a government plant to nationalize roughly $26 billion worth of private pension funds. The plan was approved by an ample margin as one opposition senator confessed that the privatization of pension funds “didn't work at all these past 14 years.”

The plan is expected to be singed by President Cristina Kirchner who has faced increasing problems with the country’s faltering economy. Though polls show that most Argentines are in favor of the plan, critics worry that the package will hurt Argentina’s finances:
“It’s a substantial blow to the capital markets,” said Eduardo Costantini, the 62-year-old chairman of Buenos Aires- based real-estate and asset management group Consultatio, the sole Argentine company to go public this year. “The only long- term investor with characteristics of the pension fund industry disappears with this”…

Argentina’s index is down 60 percent this year, compared with the 51 percent decline in Brazil’s Bovespa index and 38 percent slide in the Mexican Bolsa. Argentina’s economy, which slipped into a recession after the government defaulted on $95 billion of debt in 2001 before recovering, is headed for a slowdown. That may lower tax revenue and hurt its ability to meet debt payments, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. economist Pablo Morra.
Image- Al Jazeera English
The Latin Americanist, AFP, AHN, Bloomberg, Al Jazeera English

Mexico: Ex-drug czar accused of corruption

The Mexican government’s attempt to curb rampant violence has led it to look into the widespread corruption of former senior law enforcement officials. The latest case involves the country’s former drug czar who has been accused of accepting $450,000 worth of bribes. According to the office of Mexico’s Attorney General, Noe Ramirez received the payments from drug cartels in exchange for leaking police information.

Ramirez’ arrest has even caught the attention of Interpol who suspects that their information systems in Mexico may have been compromised.

Mexican president Felipe Calderon has aggressively tried to combat his country’s deadly violence yet it has been an uphill battle. As the Council on Foreign Relations’ Stephanie Hanson wrote today:
Calderon has moved aggressively against Mexico's drug cartels. He has deployed over thirty thousand soldiers across the country, purged several police forces of corrupt members, and pushed a judicial reform package through Congress. But the violence has only mounted. More than four thousand people have died in drug-related violence this year, up from more than 2,500 deaths in 2007. The escalation is so great that drug gangs are widely suspected of causing the plane crash in early November that killed the interior minister, though the government says pilot error was the cause (NYT).

The drug cartels' infiltration of the police, judiciary, and political parties has severely compromised the government's ability to fight the drug cartels, some experts say. As Alma Guillermoprieto writes in the New Yorker, the end of one-party rule in Mexico precipitated the need to run expensive election campaigns, which the drug cartels are reported to now fund. The Mexican army is considered relatively clean, but its deployment has presented new opportunities for corruption, and causes tension with local security forces.
Image- ABC News (“Federal police officers guard a house after a shooting in Tijuana, Mexico, Saturday, Oct. 25, 2008.”)
The Latin Americanist, BBC News, AP, CNN, Council on Foreign Relations, New York Times, New Yorker

Venezuela prepares for elections

In less than 48 hours local elections will be held in Venezuela as voters gage their support for President Hugo Chavez.

According to recent polls most Venezuelans back Chavez as he has four years left in his second term. Yet some reports said that opponents are expected to make electoral gains with one cited poll claiming that Chavez’ party will lose approximately one-third of the states. As a result, Chavez has been actively campaigning for his allies and has also been accused by his detractors of campaign intimidation.

Several of the electoral races have been a family affair for Chavez. In the state of Barinas Chavez’ older brother is running for governor, a post currently held by his father. Meanwhile, Chavez’ ex-wife Marisabel Rodriguez is running for local office and has not shied from critiquing her former husband:
"They've tried to minimize our candidacy, make it seem as if we don't exist ... because the government is not interested in having it go forward ... (But) the people accepted our proposal immediately and spontaneously," she added.

According to Rodriguez, "radical sectors" of the governing party have tried to demonize her as a traitor "without knowing that many people disappointed by Chavism are in the same situation as me because of so many unfulfilled promises."
Image- AP (“A public bus stops next to a campaign poster depicting Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, left, and Aristobulo Isturiz, candidate for Mayor of Caracas for the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, PSUV…”)
Sources- Reuters, Latin American Herald Tribune,, National Post, Bloomberg,

Daily Headlines: November 21, 2008

* Cuba: A U.S. judge ordered the liberation of five Guantanamo detainees who were reportedly under illegally detention for over seven years.

* Chile: Health officials may need to use a police database to contact over 500 people who have AIDS but were not informed that they had the disease.

* U.S.: Someone was asleep at the post as it was discovered that a man with Alzheimer's disease wandered twice into Mexico before being discovered.

* Peru: Chinese president Hu Jintao continued his Latin American trip by signing a free trade deal with his Peruvian counterpart Alan Garcia.

Image- AFP (“A watch tower at the detention center, in Guantanamo.”)
Sources- Bloomberg, Houston Chronicle, New York Times, BBC News

Thursday, November 20, 2008

U.S. blasts Nicaragua over elections

U.S. officials sternly criticized the Nicaraguan government of voter fraud during local elections this month. "The election was not transparent, and there were many problems," said U.S. Ambassador Robert Callahan who echoed claims made by Nicaraguan opposition candidates. On Thursday, the U.S. representative to the Organization of American States (OAS) called for an outside audit of the electoral results and implied that President Daniel Ortega rigged the election.

Nicaragua’s ambassador to the foreign body replied by accusing the U.S. and OAS of interfering in his country’s affairs:
"It is unheard of that the (OAS) secretary-general would usurp the state's authority, when neither the government nor the people of Nicaragua have given him that authority," (Nicaraguan OAS ambassador Denis Moncada) said.

He went on to say that Insulza had joined the U.S. campaign to "delegitimize Nicaragua's municipal elections and destabilize President Ortega's government."

He asked the council to call on the U.S. government to "cease its meddling in Nicaraguan affairs."
Tensions over the electoral results have resulted in “low-scale violence” all over Nicaragua including attacks on candidates. One report accused government supporters who “snuffed out opposition protests earlier this week, leaving dozens injured.”

Image- Guardian UK (“A masked supporter of the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front party, FSLN, holds a homemade mortar during a protest in Managua. Photograph: Esteban Felix/AP”)
The Latin Americanist, Guardian UK, AP,, Bloomberg

Report: CIA lied over downed Peruvian plane

According to several sources, a top secret report alleged that the CIA covered-up the downing of a 2001 missionary plane in Peru.

Veronica Bowers and her 7-month-old daughter were killed after their plane was shot down by a Peruvian air force jet. The missionaries' plane was first spotted by a U.S. reconnaissance flight who claimed to have tried to stop the Peruvian jet from shooting down Bowers’ plane. Peruvian officials disputed that version and insisted that the Bowers’ plane accidently flew into Peruvian air space from Brazil. Both governments were contradicted by the Bowers’ missionary church who said that the plane was shot down despite being in constant contact with Peruvian air traffic control.

U.S. Rep. Peter Hoekstra released a report by the CIA inspector general that alleges of a massive cover-up. According to the report, CIA officials possibly lied to Congress and withheld information to the Justice Department over what really happened in the Bowers incident.

Hoekstra was chair of the House Intelligence Committee during the investigation of the tragedy though he now believes that the CIA deliberately misled him:
"What's most disturbing is what led up to the Bowers incident," Hoekstra told reporters. "If there had been accountability in the program, if there had been respect for procedures and adherence to the law, the Bowers (family) never would have been shot down.

"It was the senseless killing of a family, done by an agency that wasn't following the rules."
Image- New York Times
New York Times, CNN, BBC News, MSNBC, Fox News,

Eric Holder’s controversial LatAm links

Eric Holder could be chosen by Barack Obama to serve as the next Attorney General, yet his Latin American ties could obstruct his congressional approval.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, the former senior official in the Justice Department in the Clinton administration is expected to be grilled over Clinton’s presidential pardon of 16 convicted Puerto Rican nationalists. Holder acted as a “Clinton administration point man” in the aftermath of the controversial pardoning which some critics viewed as political posturing for his wife's Senatorial bid.

Furthermore, there are questions over Holder’s work for Chiquita Brands. The company was accused of hiring paramilitaries in Colombia to serve as “private security”. Holder negotiated the 2007 plea deal that forced Chiquita to pay a $25 million fine yet absolved execs from having to serve any jail time. (Chiquita still faces a class action lawsuit brought up by the families of paramilitary victims).

Holder’s possible nomination as top cop is hypocritical of Obama, according to CounterPunch’s Mario Murillo:
The disappointment in Obama's pick for AG should stem from the President-elect's strong words during the campaign in defense of human rights, particularly for those of workers in Colombia. On several occasions, including in the last presidential debate held at Hofstra University just three weeks before the election, the Democratic Candidate said he opposed the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement precisely on the grounds of the human rights violations carried out consistently against trade unionists in Colombia, and the ongoing impunity that has followed in most of those crimes.
Image- New York Times
The Latin Americanist, Christian Science Monitor, Huffington Post, CounterPunch, CNN

Costa Ricans are the happiest, says IDB

An interesting new survey titled Beyond Facts: Understanding Quality of Life, was released this week by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) . Designed and collected in conjunction with Gallup, the survey spans 24 countries in the region and over 40,000 respondents from 2005 to 2007. Among other indicators of relative satisfaction, it measures a composite indicator called "life satisfaction," on a scale from 1 - 10 (10 being the most satisfied).

On this indicator, Costa Rica topped the chart with a score of 7.4, followed by Panama and Mexico, with 6.8 and 6.6, respectively. Not surprisingly, Haiti is at the bottom of the list, with a score of 3.8, and the neighboring Dominican Republic is not far behind with a score of 4.9 (tied with Ecuador and Nicaragua).

Nonetheless, the survey data suggest that satisfaction and income are not necessarily tied. Guatemala scored above both Chile and Uruguay, and Belize was just barely a notch above Jamaica. Using comparable data from world surveys, the study explains, on average, Latin America displays higher levels of satisfaction than most other regions of the world, including for satisfaction of jobs, housing, and health.

IDB president, Luis Alberto Moreno,
summarized these results as follows:

“Overall, Latin Americans are satisfied with their lives, but interestingly, people in some of the poorest countries are the most optimistic while citizens of some of the most-developed countries are the most pessimistic... Not surprisingly, people with higher incomes are more satisfied with their lives than those with lower incomes, but economic growth actually breeds discontent rather than greater happiness, at least in the short run.”

Click here to download the full report (PDF).

Morales rounds out two-day Washington tour

Bolivian president Evo Morales wrapped up his two-day Washington visit, the first of his presidency, with a speaking engagement at the OAS on Wednesday, where he sought international support for Bolivia's soon-to-be new constitution. Speaking in the Hall of the Americas while a crowd of protesters jeered outside -- mostly Bolivian immigrants -- Morales told diplomats: "our intention is to refound the nation with a Constitution that benefits all, to be approved by the people on January 24."

Morales has also stated that his visit is meant to indicate an interest in a "fresh start" with President-elect Barack Obama's incoming administration, though he did not have any meetings with the President-elect or any members of the transition team.

In the past few months, tensions have run high between the US and Bolivia, which within the last several months has expelled the US ambassador, USAID teams, the Peace Corps, and most recently the DEA.

Other stops on Morales' DC visit included a sold-out Tuesday night speech at American University and a stop on Capitol Hill, where he met privately with Senator Richard Lugar.

Will relations get better with Bolivia after January? It seems like the ball may be Obama's court, to some extent. Depending on who Obama appoints to the key positions in his cabinet and as diplomatic envoys, Morales may be willing to start by, say, letting a (diplomatic) ambassador, USAID and the Peace Corps back into Bolivia. It will be up to Obama to convince Morales that the DEA is no longer (or never was) tapping his personal phone before we can talk seriously about joint drug enforcement programs or other serious matters of common interest.

Sources: Washington Post, National Geographic Blogs, Media Newswire, OAS, Plenglish

Daily Headlines: November 20, 2008

* U.S.: Actor and director John Malkovich said that he plans to make a documentary entitled "Triple Crossing” which will focus on migrant children who illegally cross into the U.S.

* Venezuela: According to this AP article Venezuela’s government is planning to strengthen economic ties with the pariah state of Zimbabwe.

* Brazil: Ten government and airline officials have been blamed for a deadly 2007 accident that killed 199 people.

* Dominican Republic: Ninety Dominican migrants are feared dead after the U.S. Coast Guard called off rescue operations near Puerto Rico.

Image- VH1

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Today’s Video: Hope via stem cells

It was revealed on Wednesday that Spanish doctors successfully performed the transplant of human windpipe with the use of stem cells.

The operation, performed in June, was the first of its kind and was done on a 30-year-old woman originally from Colombia. Though the controversy around stem cell research centers on embryonic cells, doctors took adult stem cells from the bone marrow of the patient.

Al Jazeera English has more information on the pioneering medical procedure:

Sources- Catholic Online, BBC News, NPR, YouTube

Elderly passenger “accidently” traveled to Puerto Rico

Yet another reason why the passenger airline industry is going down the tubes:
An 83-year-old woman from Tampa, Fla., found herself in Puerto Rico after confusion at an airport led her to board the wrong flight, her daughter says.

Vera Kuemmel said her mother, Elfriede, had been flying from Tampa to New York this week, when her flight changed over in Philadelphia using the same gate as a flight headed to Puerto Rico, the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times said Tuesday.

That was when the senior Kuemmel accidentally boarded the wrong flight, leading her daughter to wonder how such a travel mistake could be allowed to occur.

“As much as they make you go through, I just don't understand it," Kuemmel told the Times of her mother's travel misadventures on Monday. "Not that she needed to be hand-held, but you'd think someone would take her under their wing. It's just unbelievable."
Update: As the Consumerist blog observed "US Airways ended up buying Elfride dinner, a hotel room, and a flight back to Florida. First class."
Image- BusinessWeek
Sources- UPI

"Futbol": Maradona wins in coaching debut

Diego Maradona’s first game at the helm of the argentine men’s national soccer team started on the right foot. Maxi Rodriguez’ 8th-minute tally was the lone goal of the match in Argentina’s victory over Scotland in an international friendly.

In other news briefs from the world of soccer:
  • Mexico is on thin ice and is obligated to win under what will be harsh circumstances in Honduras. A loss and a blowout win by Jamaica over Canada could force Mexico to embarrassingly miss qualifying for the World Cup for the fist time since 1990.
  • Over a year ago, we wrote about soccer club Universidad de Chile who had fallen on hard times despite being one of the country’s most popular teams. Since then, the team’s fortunes have slowly changed and earlier this week the team raised nearly $15 million via an initial public offering. “La U” became the county’s second team to be on the Santiago exchange behind Colo Colo (a.k.a. Maegan’s favorite club!)
  • Will Brazilian striker Ronaldo retire? The rumors that he will hang up his cleats intensified today after he rejected offers to play for mid-level Italian club Siena.
  • Lastly, it’s never fun when the “beautiful game” becomes marred by violence yet that’s precisely what occurred in Uruguay on Sunday as fans of Danubio and Nacional engaged in fisticuffs:

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg, Vivirlatino, YouTube, BBC News, Guardian UK, Los Angles Times, Reuters, FOX Sports

Taiwan struggles to maintain LatAm influence

In anticipation of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation this weekend in Peru, Chinese President Hu Jintao is continuing his visit to several Latin America countries. His tour of countries like Costa Rica and Cuba is symbolic in showing off China’s increasing clout in the region.

Taiwan is desperately trying to preserve its strong diplomatic ties in the region in the face of increased Chinese activity. Approximately two dozen countries around the world recognize Taiwan though that list includes most of Central America. Yet Taiwan’s political connections to the region have been weakened by the temptation of trading with China’s vast markets. (Last year, Costa Rica broke off six decades of ties with Taiwan.)

As the DPA news agency reported earlier today, Taiwan is bankrolling several Central American initiatives:
Taiwan has donated 18.2 million US dollars to the Central American Integration System (SICA) to be spent on cooperation projects, Taiwan's Central News Agency (CNA) said on Wednesday…

Quoting Honduran Foreign Minister Angel Edmundo Orellana Mercado, CNA said the pact covers improving agriculture and fishery, wiping out livestock diseases and promoting social developments…

Taiwan has offered generous aid to its diplomatic allies to prevent them from switching recognition to China, which sees Taiwan as a breakaway province.
With several deals expected to be signed this week between China and several Latin American states, Taiwan’s foothold in the area may erode at a faster clip than expected.

The Latin Americanist, UPI, Monsters & Critics, AFP, IPS

Alberto Gonzales, Dick Cheney indicted

A Texas grand jury indicted former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Vice President Dick Cheney for the supposed abuse of prisoners.

According to the indictment filed yesterday, both men engaged in "organized criminal activity" based on the supposed abuse leading to the 2001 death of an inmate. As a Reuters article mentioned:
The grand jury in Willacy County, in the Rio Grande Valley near the U.S.-Mexico border, said Cheney is "profiteering from depriving human beings of their liberty," according to a copy of the indictment obtained by Reuters.

The indictment cites a "money trail" of Cheney's ownership in prison-related enterprises including the Vanguard Group, which owns an interest in private prisons in south Texas.

Former attorney general Gonzales used his position to "stop the investigations as to the wrong doings" into assaults in county prisons, the indictment said.
The indictment also laid blame at Democratic state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. His lawyer claimed that Willacy County District Attorney Juan Angel Guerra was “settling political scores in his final weeks in office.”

Gonzales has been under fire for aledgedly abusing his power during his time as Attorney General including the accused partisan firing of eight federal attorneys. A recent Justice Department (DOJ) probe blasted Gonzales for “abdicating his repsonsibilty” as top cop; ironically, the DOJ agreed to use taxpayer funds to pay for his private counsel.

The Latin Americanist,, Houston Chronicle, Reuters, CNN

Papa as Arte

The year is almost over, pero it is still the año of the papa, so it makes sense that the Peruvian Agriculture Ministry set up an exhibit at the International Media Center (IMC)in Lima, Peru of the most widely cultivated crops around the world.

Source : Xinhua Net

Daily Headlines: November 19, 2008

* Ecuador: About 30,000 mostly peasant farmers in Ecuador’s Amazon region are hoping that oil giant Chevron pay for the “health and ecological nightmare” caused in the rainforest.

* Puerto Rico: With so much distrust between the FBI and Puerto Rico’s independence movement, is it a wise move for an FBI agent to be tapped as the island's next police chief?

* Paraguay: Indigenous tribes in Paraguay claimed that Brazilian cattle ranchers are invading their territory.

* U.S.: The owners of a Massachusetts factory involved in a massive 2007 immigration raid will be forced to pay current and former employees $850,000 in overtime.

Image- San Francisco Sentinel (Contaminated water in Ecuador’s Amazon region).
Sources-, New York Daily News, Brazzil Mag, Los Angeles Times, The Latin Americanist,

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Today’s Video: An Andean lynching

Per Reuters:
At least two Bolivians have died and nine others were seriously injured in an act of vigilante justice against alleged thieves.

Eleven people were targeted in the Achacachi municipality of the La Paz department for allegedly stealing.

The victims were doused in petrol and set on fire at the local soccer stadium as hundreds of locals watched. Two died before police broke up the lynching and three remain in a grave condition.
Some scenes in the video below are not for the faint of heart and some discretion may be necessary. The video is Not Safe for Work!

Sources- Reuters

Mexico City: Free Viagra, anyone?

Some stories speak for themselves:
Beginning December 1, Mexico City plans to hand out free medicine to elderly men with erectile dysfunction, the local government said.

"Everyone has the right to be happy," said Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon, governor of the federal district that encompasses the Mexican capital.

"We have to protect people -- senior citizens above all," he said in a statement Thursday. "Many of them are abandoned and lack money. They don't have medical services, and a society that doesn't care for its senior citizens has no dignity."
Aren’t there better ways to “care for senior citizens” then facilitating boners in elderly men? (Don’t answer!)


Poll shows immigration views in U.S., Europe

The U.S and Europe coincide and differ in their notions over immigration according to a recently conducted poll. The survey conducted by the non-partisan German Marshall Fund found some interesting revelations on immigration on both sides of the Atlantic.
  • 50 percent of Americans and 47 percent of Europeans view immigration as more of a problem than an overall benefit for society.
  • Concerns about illegal immigration are very important though most in the U.S. view it as an economic problem while most Europeans are anxious about crime.
  • Barely over a quarter of those surveyed backed temporary worker programs while most agreed with granting legal immigrants the same political rights and social benefits as citizens.
  • In terms of notable differences, respondents in the U.S. and Europe disagreed on the meaning of citizenship as well as how much cooperation should be done with immigrants' countries of origin.
What can we conclude from the poll? For one, politicos cannot continue burying their heads in the sand and pretend that the immigration debate doesn’t exist. The issue of illegal immigration is of special importance and must be tackled in a fair manner beyond the tired platitudes of racism and name-calling. (In other words, quit being scared of compromising if it’s for the greater good). Lastly, the line between legal immigration and citizenship appear to be blurred in this increasingly globalized world.

Obviously, the above personal analysis is oversimplified. Do you have anything else to add?

Image- (The aftermath of a U.S. citizenship ceremony).
Sources-, Foreign Policy, German Marshall Fund

Jesús Moroles receives arts honors

Sculptor Jesús Moroles was one of several figures honored with this year’s National Medals of the Arts and Humanities. Along with the likes of actress Olivia de Havilland and comic book legend Stan Lee, Moroles received his recognition during a White House ceremony yesterday.

The Texan-based Moroles is best-known for his granite sculptures and monuments including the "Floating Mesa Fountain" for the Albuquerque Museum in New Mexico and the "Houston Police Officers Memorial." According to the National Endowment of the Arts, Moroles’ artwork is renowned worldwide:
Moroles has more than 2,000 works in place in China, Egypt, France, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, and the United States, in museum, corporate, public and private collections. To date Moroles's work has been included in over one hundred and sixty one-person exhibitions and one hundred and ninety group exhibitions worldwide. Among his distinctions, Moroles is a member of the Board of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC, and recipient of the 2007 Texas Medal of the Arts Award for Visual Arts by the Texas Cultural Trust.
Moroles’ work is a family affair according to his official bio; his parents, brother, sister, and brother-in-law serve as “integral parts” of the Moroles Studio in Rockport, Texas.

Image- Ovation TV
Sources-, New York Times, National Endowment of the Arts,

Eric Volz could be retried for murder

The “Dostoevsky-like” tale of Eric Volz has taken another turn.

Originally from Tennessee, Volz was convicted and sentenced to thirty years in jail for the rape and murder of his former girlfriend in Nicaragua. His case created controversy between supporters including family and friends in the U.S. and detractors who strongly believed he was guilty. Ultimately Volz served fifteen months imprisoned after his conviction was overturned last December.

Volz may soon have to return to jail, however, after Nicaragua’s Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal on his case. Volz could be tried in absentia, a tactic that he views as unconstitutional:

In a YouTube video posted Monday, Volz, 29, said there are two likely outcomes from the Supreme Court review: Either the appeals decision to clear him will be overturned or the justices will order a retrial. Both are unconstitutional given his absence, Volz said.

"Either way, once again I will be a wanted man in Nicaragua," Volz says on the video.
Volz added that the review of his case was due to Nicaragua’s contentious elections. As we noted yesterday, tensions are still high and have included acts of violence.

Image- CNN
The Latin Americanist, WSMV, The Tennessean, Global Voices Online, NPR

Goodbye G20, hello APEC

As one major world summit another one is about to begin.

Leaders from 21 nations and four international organizations met over the weekend during the Group of 20 (G20) summit. The G20 representatives signed an agreement pledging to “combat the current global economic crisis, based on ‘closer macroeconomic cooperation.’”

Analysts and politicians are divided on the impact of the G20 summit. Indeed, the global press reactions vary from calling the forum’s results “more than just diplomatic blather” or “a disappointing failure.”

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva praised the G20 summit in remarks he made during his weekly radio show yesterday. Lula viewed the conference as vital in providing increased economic clout to developing states:
"The meeting is important because it changes the logic of policy decisions," Lula said in his weekly radio address. "It's no longer the G8, now the G20 has an important role"…
The meeting strengthened a spirit of multilateralism on economic decision-making, he said, adding: "Finally, all the countries agreed that we need to make collective decisions to avoid policies taken by one country hurting another."
A test of this “spirit of multilateralism” will surely be seen during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference this weekend in Peru. Peruvian deputy foreign minister Gonzalo Gutierrez hoped that the APEC forum would act as “a supplement” to the G20 meeting.

The APEC summit will also serve as a test of China’s increasing influence in Latin America. In anticipation of the conference, Chinese President Hu Jintao is visiting several countries in the region including Costa Rica and Cuba.

Image- BBC News (Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva met with his U.S. counterpart George W. Bush during the G20 summit.)
The Latin Americanist, Xinhua, AP, Reuters, AFP,, The Telegraph, The Economist

Daily Headlines: November 18, 2008

* U.S.: Congrats to Dominican slugger Albert Pujols who won his second National League Most Valuable Player award yesterday.

* Puerto Rico: Governor Anibal Acevedo Vila signed an executive order barring government agencies from discriminating against same-sex couples.

* Mexico: Famed director Guillermo del Toro will reportedly become the executive producer of an upcoming remake of “Pinocchio.”

* Haiti: A Canadian aid worker pled guilty to sexually assaulting eight Haitian orphans.

Image- AP
Sources-, New York Daily News,,

Monday, November 17, 2008

Today’s Video: “Guerilla knitting”

Magda Sayeg tagged Mexico City and covered a bus in her version of graffiti –- only she’s using knitting, not spray cans, to do the job.

The 34-year-old Texan, founder of the guerrilla knitting collective, faced her biggest challenge yet last week in Mexico City when she covered a whole bus in, well, knitting.
Sayeg’s projects have stretched worldwide including New York and Los Angeles. Yet it’s her artwork in mexico that may be her pièce de résistance.

(Video link):

(Hat tip: Guanabee).
Sources- Los Angeles Times, Time Out New York, LAist, Guanabee

Basque separatist leader caught in France

The alleged military head of designated terrorist group ETA was nabbed by French police on Monday. Garikoitz Aspiazu, alias Txeroki (image), is beloved to be the mastermind of numerous murders including the 2006 bombing of Barajas airport which killed two Ecuadorian immigrants.

French and Spanish officials celebrated Aspiazu’s arrest as a massive blow against the violent Basque separatist group. Some experts claim that ETA may be weakened yet will continue its attacks on the Spanish populace.

It has been rumored that ETA has connections to Latin American armed groups, especially Colombia’s FARC guerillas. On Friday, Spanish prosecutors sought five suspected ETA members for allegedly conspiring with the FARC to assassinate Colombians in Europe. Convicted ETA member Iňaki de Juana Chaos is fighting extradition to Spain; he was previously convicted by a Colombian court for training FARC rebels.

Image- AP
The Latin Americanist, Guardian UK, BBC News,, CFR, AFP, Times Online

Maradona, Argie celebs back internet censorship

Several Argentine court decisions have promoted online censorship at the request of paranoid celebs.

Over one hundred “major public figures” in Argentina including soccer legend Diego Maradona have won temporary injunctions pertaining to local search engines. Since last year, Argentine judges have ruled that local search engines are held accountable to the pages they index. As a result, search results from Yahoo Argentina and Google Argentina have been filtered to only include major news sites.

As asinine and ludicrous as the injunctions are, what is more appalling is the obvious conflict of interest by some plaintiffs:
But it's not only Maradona and other celebrities who are looking to protect their image by joining Leguizamon's suit; the litigants also include three important judicial figures, among them high-profile judge Maria Servini de Cubria, many of whose rulings have been questioned in the blogosphere and even in the mainstream media. "She is a public official," said the Google Argentina spokesperson. "Where do we draw the line...? Her presence in the list of lawsuits has made this a political question concerning freedom of information."
Furthermore, the esteemed justices overlooked one vital loophole to their dimwitted rulings: users can access the barred information via the international versions of Yahoo and Google.

Other countries have placed restrictions on search engine finds in other countries regarding neo-Nazism. Hopefully the argentine judges can see the error of their ways and reverse the pathetic kowtowing of egotistical public figures.

Image- AFP
The Latin Americanist, CNET News, World Cup Blog, Time

Chilean capital paralyzed by public strike

Activities in several major cities in Chile including the capital Santiago have slowed down considerably during the first day of a nationwide strike. Garbage has started to pile on the streets, school has been suspended and hospitals are only serving emergency cases as a reported 500,000 government workers are on strike.

The main sticking point appears to be the 5% pay increase proposed by the Bachelet administration which labor leaders rejected as too low. Today’s actions come on the heels of a two-day work stoppage last week.

Union leaders and government representatives have both been reportedly willing to have negotiations. Yet both sides are prepared for what could be a prolonged strike:
“For the government this strike is unfair because at the end of the day hundreds of thousands of Chileans are paying the price,” said (government spokesman Francisco) Vidal to Cooperativa radio.

The spokesman also affirmed that “the claims of government workers cannot trespass the rights of citizens”…

Meanwhile, ANEF (labor union head) Raul de la Puente said that “we want is an ethical salary…” – [ed. personal translation]
Image- La Tercera
Sources (English)- AP, IHT, CNN
Sources (Spanish)- La Tercera, La Nacion

Salvadoran archbishop doubtful over massacre probe

Last week we mentioned how activists have campaigned so that those responsible for a 1989 El Salvadoran massacre are brought to justice. Among those accused of wrongdoing includes former army officials and even ex-president Alfredo Cristiani.

Though six Jesuit priests were among the eight murdered in the massacre, several religious leaders in El Salvador are not throwing their support behind seeking prosecution. According to an AP article published yesterday:
The Roman Catholic archbishop of San Salvador opposes reopening the prosecution of Salvadoran officials in the 1989 massacre of six Jesuit priests, the cleric said Sunday…

Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle called the killings at the height of the country's 1980-92 civil war "a frightful crime," but said he was sure that former President Alfredo Cristiani was not involved.

"Opening this case in another country's courts won't help the process of domestic reconciliation," he said. "El Salvador's affairs should be resolved in El Salvador."

The Jesuit order in El Salvador also decided not to participate in the Spanish case, Jesuit university rector Father Jose Maria Tojeira said.
El Salvador’s civil war may have officially ended in 1992, yet for many the wounds remain deep. Though the hope remains that the perpetrators of the 1989 killing pay for their crimes, it will be very difficult to overcome the suffering that continues nearly two decades later.

Image- AP (“People hold candles during a march to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the murder of six Jesuit priests in 1989, in San Salvador, Saturday, Nov. 15, 2008.”)
Sources (English)- The Latin Americanist, AP, IHT, BBC News
Sources (Spanish)- El Faro

Montealegre caravan attacked in Managua

Tensions continue to rise in the aftermath of what most observers consider a fraudulent number of municipal elections, and this week the attacks are getting personal.

Nowhere was the controversy sharper than in the capital city of Managua, where former boxer Alexis Arguello upset the front runner and FSLN opposition leader Eduardo Montealegre of the PLC, who claimed victory despite the contested official numbers showing he had narrowly lost. Last week, FSLN supporters threw rocks at the PLC headquarters in Managua.

Over the weekend, Montealegre's protest caravan, en route from Managua, was attacked by angry mobs, resulting in the injury of several
PLC supporters. Similar controversy is playing out in the
contested city of León.

More coverage on the impact for democracy in Nicaragua in
Sunday's Washington Post.

Sources: Tico Times, La Prensa, Xinhua, Washington Post

Daily Headlines: November 17, 2008

* Latin America: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced plans to visit several Latin American countries later this month including Cuba and Venezuela.

* Dominican Republic: A pair of Cabinet officials rejected the misconception that Haitian migrants are all criminals.

* Peru: A lawyer representing former President Alberto Fujimori said that his client “plans to remain silent” if he’s called to testify at the trial of ex-intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos.

* Chile: The country’s legislature passed a bill allocating funds for the construction of a Holocaust memorial.

Image- Javno
Sources- Xinhua, AP, IHT, Dominican Today, Voice of America