Saturday, December 13, 2008

Event: Vigil for Jose Sucuzhanay

There will be a vigil for the recently deceased Ecuadorian migrant who was assaulted in Brooklyn. Jose Sucuzhanay passed away a few days ago in what police suspect was a hate crime. He was the blank of an alleged anti-Latino, homophobic attack.

Here are the details of the vigil according to an e-mail and apparently corroborated by a local New York blog:

Vigil for Jose Sucuzhanay
Victim of anti-gay and anti-Latino violence died Tuesday.
Date: Sunday, December 14, 2008
Time: 2:00pm - 4:30pm
Location: Myrtle Ave. and Grove St. to Bushwick Ave. and Kossuth Pl.
City: Brooklyn, NY

Sources- The Latin Americanist, NY1,
Image - New York Daily News

Raul Castro takes landmark trip to Venezuela

Raul Castro started his first international trip since permanently becoming president by visiting Venezuela.

"It is an honor to have you with us,” declared Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as he welcomed Castro at Caracas’ Simon Bolivar International Airport on Saturday morning. Both leaders would later lay a wreath at a statue of South American independence hero Simon Bolivar at Caracas' Plaza Bolivar.

Castro and Chavez are expected to discuss strengthening political and economic ties between both countries before Castro moves on to attend a Latin American summit in Brazil.

Energy, especially oil, will be a prime subject during Castro’s stops in Venezuela and Brazil. As Simon Romero noted in the New York Times:
Cuba’s potential in developing alternative forms of energy also figures high on Brazil’s efforts to cultivate warmer ties with Cuba, with Brazilian sugar and ethanol producers seeking to interest Cuba in Brazilian ethanol technology and investment, possibly as a way to circumvent an American tariff on imports of Brazilian ethanol if Washington’s embargo is altered…

But while Brazil has emerged as Cuba’s second-largest trading partner in Latin America, its influence in Cuba is still dwarfed by that of Venezuela, whose subsidized oil exports to Cuba were valued at $3.01 billion this year through November, according to a new study by the Center for Hemispheric Policy at the University of Miami.
Image- BBC News
Sources- Xinhua, CNN, BBC News, New York Times, ABC News (Australia)

Violence and women in Mexico

Millions of Mexicans celebrated the Day of the Virgen de Guadalupe on Friday. Yet as Mexico’s female patron saint was venerated several events brought to light the dangers faced by Mexican women.

Silvia Vargas had gone missing since September 2007 and her kidnapping symbolized the anguish felt by thousands of families throughout Mexico. “I have cried. I have begged... Find my daughter. Find my Silvia,” pleaded her father- Nelson Vargas- last month as he angrily denounced police incompetence in finding his daughter.

On Thursday, Nelson’s worse nightmares came true as prosecutors said to have found Silvia’s remains. “We ask everyone to pray for her and all those people who have suffered the same pain that we have felt” the family said in a written statement. Silvia was buried today at a funeral attended by dignitaries including Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

Vargas’ death was tragic but so have the unsolved deaths of nearly 400 women in the border city of Ciudad Juarez. Despite lip service by the federal government, these deaths continue and have gone largely in impunity.

It is in that light that a women’s rights activist from Ciudad Juarez won Mexico's National Human Rights Award. For over a decade Esther Chavez has run a campaign to bring global attention to dangers faced by women:
Chavez says women continue to be murdered in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, and the city is now also in the grip of a wave of killings linked to the drug trade.

"Events of extreme brutality define the daily life of my city," Chavez said. "Law enforcement, even with the necessary police investigations and punishment for crimes, will never solve the root problem, which is social inequality, poverty (and) a lack of educational opportunities."
Image- CNN (“Silvia Escalera stands next to a banner asking for the release of her daughter in Mexico City in August.”)
Sources- AP, CNN, Univision, Amnesty International USA, Javno

Daily Headlines: December 13, 2008

* Colombia: Authorities extradited alleged drug capo Diego Montoya to the U.S. where he’s expected to face trial for drug trafficking and murder.

* Chile: First there was the retired Roman Catholic cardinal who gave a “lofty homily” to ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet. To add insult to injury, Pinochet’s allies yesterday opened a museum “honoring” him.

* Latin America: The region’s economy will grow next year at its slowest rate since 2002 according to an analysis by Credit Suisse.

* Guatemala: Over 1500 people took part in the lynching of five suspected kidnappers in Guatemala.

Image- BBC News
Sources- Reuters, The Latin Americanist, MSNBC, Latin American Herald Tribune, Bloomberg

Friday, December 12, 2008

Today’s Video: A beautiful ballad by The Breeders

Note: We’ll be back for a few posts over the weekend including the unveiling of our “Top Stories of 2008” poll.

The dynamic duo of Kim and Kelley Deal has always been two key members of alt-rock group The Breeders. Though they’re best known for mid-90s songs like “Cannonball” and “Divine Hammer”, the group released their latest album- “Mountain Battles”- last April.

One of the tenderest songs on the album (and perhaps in The Breeders’ entire repertoire) is Kelley’s cover of the timeless Mexican ballad “Regalame Esta Noche”. Though Kim admitted that her sister knows little Spanish, both Deal sisters have a great appreciation for the song. (you’ll see what I mean if you watch this clip of a 2002 documentary on The Breeders and skip ahead to the 3:45 mark).

The Spanish isn’t perfect and there are better versions of the song by the likes of Javier Solis. But the following version (fast forward to the 4:45 mark) has a wonderful melody and Kelley’s passion makes the song worth enjoying:

Sources-, Pitchfork, YouTube, Rolling Stone

Open verdict returned in de Menezes trial

A British jury issued an open verdict at the trial of a Brazilian killed by London police in 2005.

The jury’s decision found that officers acted unlawfully in killing Jean Charles de Menezes as he sat aboard a subway train. Scotland Yard tried to argue that their officers acted in self-defense when they confused de Menezes with failed suicide bomber Hussain Osman. Yet the jury rejected that in a verdict which was the strongest permitted by the coroner.

(For those unfamiliar with common law, a jury under an “open verdict” establishes that a violent crime occurred yet refuses to disclose the cause).

The verdict serves as a heavy blow against London’s police which faced an uphill battle during the trial. For instance, prosecutors accused the police of manipulating de Menezes’ photo to make him appear more like Osman. The claims of the cop who said to have warned de Menezes before shooting him were contradicted by several eyewitnesses including other officers.

The acting head of Scotland Yard reacted to the verdict by admitting that the police “made a most terrible mistake” yet emphasized the "unique situation" faced by officers.

The family of de Menezes was mostly unhappy with the verdict, especially after the trial’s coroner denied the jury from permitting a verdict of unlawful killing:
The family of Jean Charles de Menezes declared the inquest into his death a "whitewash"…

A family statement, released through the Justice4Jean campaign group, said: "After three months of evidence, 100 witnesses and millions of pounds, the coroner, Sir Michael Wright, has presided over a complete whitewash. He has failed on every count of the purpose of an inquest investigation"…

Maria Otone de Menezes, Jean Charles's mother, thanked the jury and said that she had been "reborn" by the verdict. Her reaction to the decision was read out during a press conference held by De Menezes's family.
Image- AP (“Patricia da Silva Armani, centre, cousin of Jean Charles de Menezes who was shot by police in London in 2005 listens to an interpreter, left, with Asad Rehman from the Justice for Jean Campaign in front of a picture of her cousin at a press conference in London, Friday, Dec. 12, 2008.”)
Sources- The Latin Americanist,, BBC News, Guardian UK,, Reuters

In Mexico Cell Phones To be Linked With Fingerprints

Mexico has taken some extreme measures that will allegedly combat kidnappings and extortions in which gangs often use untraceable mobile phones to make ransom demands. Phone companies are now required to get the fingerprints of everyone who buys a phone.

The law also extends to people buying phone memory chips.

Source : Boing Boing

Daily Headlines: December 12, 2008

* Peru: “Yale has no right to demand certain things in order to return” objects it doesn’t own, said Peru's foreign minister regarding artifacts taken from Machu Picchu over a century ago.

* Ecuador: Authorities set a $50,000 bail for a visiting Ecuadorian priest accused of sex abuse in New York.

* Guatemala: Police are “missing” over 2000 firearms including AK-47 rifles and Uzis.

* Chile: European astronomers in Chile have discovered that there’s a black hole in the center of the Milky Way galaxy.

Image- Brisbane Times
Times Online, Latin American Herald Tribune,, AP

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Today’s Video: “Llamame”

I don’t know what else to say except that this song has been buzzing around in my head for the past 24 hours. It’s the New Wave classic “Call Me” by Blondie sung in Spanish by Debbie Harry:

Neat, huh?

Sources- YouTube

Chilean cardinal: Boo Madonna, hooray Pinochet

Talk about misplaced priorities.

On the second anniversary of the death of former Chilean dictator/strongman/[expletive deleted] Augusto Pinochet a retired Roman Catholic cardinal gave mass in his memory. Roman Catholic Cardinal Jorge Medina “began his homily in lofty praise of General Augusto Pinochet” despite his infamy as the mastermind behind the torture, deaths, and disappearances of thousands of Chileans.

Rather than criticize Pinochet, Medina decided to foolishly aim his wrath elsewhere:
Madonna is causing "crazy enthusiasm" and "impure thoughts" on her first concert visit to Chile, a prominent retired cardinal complained on Wednesday, as he paused in a tribute to a late dictator to denounce the pop star…

"This woman comes here and in an incredibly shameless manner, she provokes a crazy enthusiasm, an enthusiasm of lust, lustful thoughts, impure thoughts," said Medina, the cardinal who was chosen to announce the election of Pope Benedict XVI…

Medina said that some of those who claim to seek justice for violations of human rights under the dictator are actually seeking revenge.
Putting aside the nauseating tribute to Pinochet, Medina’s remarks may have been appropriate…twenty years ago. Much like the recent comments made by an Egyptian cleric on Shakira, Medina did a fantastic job at making an utter fool of himself.

Coincidentally, Madonna’s concerts at Santiago's Estadio Nacional also served as the venue for dozens of executions shortly after Pinochet’s ascension into power. (Of course, it’s far better to have thousands attending concerts instead of thousands awaiting their untimely torture and demise).

Image- Guardian UK
Sources- The Latin Americanist, Guardian UK, BBC News, Monsters & Critics, Reuters

Venezuela: Manuel Rosales under indictment

Venezuelan opposition leader Manuel Rosales was placed under indictment over alleged charges of corruption.

Local prosecutors based their accusations of “illicit enrichment" after a two-year investigation into his former governorship of Zulia. In addition, a Congressional committee “found evasion, omission and influence peddling” in the contracting of a private firm to run Zulia’s lottery during Rosales’ time in power.

Rosales’ allies denied the charges with one opposition politico calling the charges “absolutely ridiculous”. Rosales- who was recently elected mayor of Maracaibo- was adamant (and hyperbolic) in proclaiming his innocence:
"Today we've come to confront this political lynching that they are trying to do, a terrorist trial, a political trial," said Rosales, a former presidential candidate who last month was elected mayor of Maracaibo, Venezuela's second-biggest city.

"The only thing missing is for them to investigate me for the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy," Rosales told a news conference.
Image- AP (“Opposition leader Manuel Rosales, center, surrounded by bodyguards, arrives to the state prosecutor's office in Caracas, Thursday, Dec. 11, 2008.”)
Sources- AP, El Universal, Voice of America, Reuters, Bloomberg

Deal ends sit-in at Chicago factory

A deal was reached on Wednesday to end a sit-in at a closed Chicago window factory.

According to U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez each of the 240 laid-off laborers of Republic Windows & Doors would receive approximately $7000. The $1.75 million loan from Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase will give each laborer eight weeks salary, all accrued vacation and two months paid healthcare.

The sit-in lasted six days after over 200 workers protested being laid off a mere three days after the factory shut down. The mostly Latino workforce participated in the protest which- as Guanabee brilliantly observed- was reminiscent of actions taken during Argentina’s 2001 financial meltdown.

The Chicago workers’ sit-in could have serious long-term effects in labor-management relations, according to a piece in the
Besides owed benefits, the protesting workers won a public-relations battle and drew a new line in the sand of labor-management relations, say some labor experts. In the past, workers would have filed a class-action suit to get severance, accrued vacation pay, and healthcare benefits. But the sit-in put the issue front and center and made it – and potentially other actions like it – a cause célèbre for people worried about job losses.

"Of course it's going to increase pressure on companies," Dr. Safford says of the sit-in. "What I'm impressed with is this union and these workers. They were thinking way ahead of the game. This is about political pressure being put on companies."
Image- AP (“Demonstrators march through downtown Chicago Dec. 10, 2008 in support of members of Local 1110 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America.”)
Sources-, AP, Guanabee, New York Times, Reuters, Bloomberg

DHS head Chertoff hired illegal immigrants

Pardon my French but you have got to be shitting me:
The nation's top immigration cop unknowingly used a company that hired illegal immigrants to clean his home for about three years, starting in 2005.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff hired the Maryland-based Consistent Cleaning Services to clean his home in the D.C. suburbs every few weeks for the past three years until an investigation conducted by one of his department's agencies discovered the company hired illegal workers.
Naturally, nobody wants to eat humble pie and take blame for the snafu; a Homeland Security spokesman claimed that it was the contractors fault for having undocumented immigrants work at the Chertoff residence. The head of the cleaning firm, meanwhile, has pled innocence and blamed the laborers who reportedly deceived him.

The above incident is indicative of the error-ridden status quo on immigration policy and serves as a damning indictment of delusional officials and politicos who pretend that all is well.

For the head of the agency which overlooks immigration in the U.S. to be caught up in such an affair is embarrassing though sadly not the first time he’s goofed.

How can one aspire for meaningful and fair immigration reform when such incompetence occurs? Hopefully this can change with a new administration though I’m increasingly more disillusioned with government doing anything serious on immigration.

How pathetic.

Image- Seattle Times
Sources- The Latin Americanist,, AP, CNN, Time

Reminder: “What are the top stories of 2008?”

Before we get to our daily posts we want to remind you that on Sunday we will publish our yearly poll of the main headlines of 2008. However, we want to hear your suggestions for what they could be. Perhaps it involves politics, the arts, or sports. Whatever it is we would like to know.

If you have any ideas of what we can include in the poll please comment to this post or e-mail us at We’re always glad to hear from you; don’t be shy!

Image- BBC News
Sources- The Latin Americanist

Daily Headlines: December 11, 2008

* Mexico: Drug-related murders have doubled this year to almost 5400 and are expected to continue rising according to Mexico’s Attorney General.

* Brazil: Is there a serial killer targeting gays in the Brazilian metropolis of Sao Paulo?

* Argentina: The bones of hundreds of people killed during the country’s “Dirty War” were found at a former detention center.

* Latin America: “Free trade and open markets remain the surest way to economic growth,” claimed U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at a trade conference in Panama yesterday.

Image- BBC News (“November was the bloodiest month to date (in Mexico) with 943 murders.”)
Sources- Voice of America, AFP, BBC News, AP

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Today’s Video: Human rights for all!

Today is International Human Rights Day but also the 60th anniversary of the passing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

All of the treaty’s goals have yet to be reached and countless number of people globally suffer from human rights abuses. Despite the criticism the UDHR is a landmark covenant, a key to international law, and a necessary tool to combat some of the world’s evils.

As part of today’s anniversary, Amnesty International distributed a music video on human rights with the likes of Yerba Buena, Julieta Venegas and Arteciolepados:

(Hat tip: PBS).

Sources- Guardian UK, United Nations, YouTube, Deutsche Welle, PBS

Mexican official tries to downplay murdered journos

One group of victims in an increasingly violent Mexico is journalists. The death of Bradley Will in Oaxaca two years ago comes to mind though those killed are mostly locals like “top crime reporter” Armando Rodriguez who was gunned down last month. Is it any wonder that in 2007 Reporters Without Borders named Mexico the second-most dangerous country in the world for journalists?

Thus, it’s disheartening to read that some Mexican officials are trying to sugar-coat such a dangerous situation for journalists:
Only three of 25 reporters who died violently in the last two years in Mexico were killed because of their work, the country's special prosecutor for crimes against journalists said Tuesday.

Octavio Orellana said most of the reporters who died were bystanders in attacks against other people, were killed in accidents or committed suicide. He said several victims who worked with media outlets were not reporters.

The motives behind most reporters' deaths "are similar to what affects the rest of Mexicans," Orellana added, referring to sharply increased murder rates across the country.
The reaction from the Committee to Protect Journalists was to justifiable blast Orellana for “cherry-picking statistics” rather than effectively combating those who target journalists.

While Orellana feels it’s his duty to be a lame spinmeister, Mexican journalists and their families continue to live in fear of threats and being killed. Just ask Rodriguez’ 8-year-old daughter who sat with her dad as he was riddled with bullets.

Image- (“Police technicians tend to the body of journalist Armando Rodriguez after he was shot outside his home in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso.”)
Sources- Committee to Protect Journalists,, AFP, Gothamist, AP

ICE accused of abuse in Miami raid

U.S. immigration officers used excessive force during a series of raids in Miami according to several advocacy groups.

The raids targeted a suspected sex trade ring, a fact that was praised by some Florida-based immigration advocacy entities. Yet these groups also accused Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents of gross misconduct and racial profiling:
At the conclusion of the raid, ICE announced that it had arrested four suspected sex traffickers and rescued nine women who had been forced into prostitution in several brothels.

But the groups say too many innocent people were roughed up. ''The sum actions of these raids, meant to protect victims of trafficking, have victimized many in the Homestead community and created a climate of fear and mistrust,'' the coalition of groups wrote in a letter...
The raids culminated in the arrest of 77 illegal immigrants, mostly of Guatemalan and Mexican background. Yet it has been alleged that “agents had relied on vaguely worded warrants to invade people’s homes and arrest nearly anyone who looked Hispanic.”

An ICE spokeswoman responded to the allegations by claiming that officials are “obligated” to arrest any illegal immigrants they encounter regardless of the circumstances. (In other words, the old "collateral damage" excuse.)

Image- Fox News (ICE agents during a 2008 raid in New York.)
Sources- UPI, South Florida Sun-Sentinel,,, New York Times

American Academics for the Frente?

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) today sent out an interesting, 4-point open letter signed by dozens of Latin Americanist university professors from US universities; the letter forewarns against US interventionism and the possibilities for fraud in the upcoming Salvadoran elections (legislative in January and presidential in March 2009)

The full letter and list of signatories can be viewed here. A cursory view of the list will reveal the political leanings of the majority, though the list includes enough well-respected and apolitical names not to be discounted.

Personally, I'm not quite sure what the context or impetus for this letter are -- does anyone know more details?

My initial thoughts are: ok, there is a new US administration coming in January, but (a) the four problematic issues laid out in the letter, while not invented, are a far cry from the sort of meddling we all know the US used to be involved with in Central America, and (b) the timing still seems off; the statements referenced are from months ago and there is no indication in there that now -- a month before the legislative elections (and 3 before the presidential) -- that there is any new cause for concern, or even if there were, that there is much that anyone in the US could do about it now.

In any event, all signs point to Mauricio Funes' becoming the first ever FMLNista president in El Salvador, though there remains a wide debate on the type of presidency and administration he will foster.

Sources: COHA, The Latin Americanist

Argie prez talks politics, energy in Russia

Argentinean President Cristina Fernandez signed several agreements with her Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev earlier today.

As part of her official visit to Moscow, Kirchner was able to secure Russian support for Spanish-Argentine oil firm Repsol. In addition, both countries agreed to allow Russia’s largest private oil company- Lukoil- to invest in Argentine energy projects.

Medvedev and Kirchner also commented on their belief that the world cannot be dominated by “powerful states”:
Both leaders agreed that international financial institutions should be reformed so that they can act more promptly and efficiently, according to a joint statement issued after the talks…

"Both Argentina and Russia are convinced that the world should be built on the basis of multi-polarity. The unipolar world that emerged in 1989 did not lead many countries to positive solutions either in the economic or security areas," she said.
(Ironically, Medvedev ended his tour of Latin America last week where he tried to expand Russian influence in the region).

Both leaders also expressed their support of a peaceful resolution to the dispute between Argentina and the U.K. over the Falkland Islands. “The call said the resolution should take place "in accordance with a U.N. mandate" — referring to a 1965 U.N. resolution that called for negotiations between the two countries,” according to an AP report.

Image- AP (“Argentine President Cristina Fernandez wears a silver fox fur hat presented by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, left, during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008.”)
Sources- The Latin Americanist, ITAR-TASS, AFP, IHT, Xinhua

Daily Headlines: December 10, 2008

* Panama: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice traveled to Panama yesterday in order to attend hemispheric trade talks.

* Venezuela: Hugo Chavez’ push for additional presidential terms is “something very dangerous” according to Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa.

* Latin America: According to a U.N. study poverty levels throughout the region could rise next year due to the global economic crisis.

* Brazil: Protestors yesterday tried to call attention to the reported 9000 people disappeared since January 2007.

Image- AFP
Sources- Reuters, IHT, CNN

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Today’s Video: Ros-Lehtinen can work a pole

Remember the tidbit last week regarding Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen hanging up twice on President-elect Barack Obama? Monday evening’s “The Colbert Report” poked fun at the incident. The video below is 04:45 long but it’s best to skip ahead to the final 45 seconds to view Ros-Lehtinen’s recent stunt on a Miami vacilon radio show.

Sources- The Latin Americanist,

Ex-hostage Betancourt thanks Hugo Chavez

Former hostage Ingrid Betancourt met with Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez as she came to the tail end of her tour of Latin America.

During the meeting on Monday she thanked Chavez for his previous mediation in the conflict between the Colombian government and the FARC guerillas. Despite his removal as liaison last year, Betancourt said that his aid was vital in securing the freedom of several former hostages.

Betancourt had more to say on Chavez during a press conference on Tuesday:
"President Chávez is a leftist, revolutionary president who has conducted a peaceful revolution in Venezuela. Obviously, I do not share some things. For instance, a square in Venezuela was named after (deceased guerilla chief) Manuel Marulanda," said Betancourt, AFP quoted.

"I think that the fact that President Chávez has these feelings of ideological proximity to the FARC is a blessing after all, because somebody is to talk to the FARC," she added.
Betancourt also called for other global leaders to be more active in finding a peaceful solution to Colombia’s armed conflict and demanded that the FARC lay down there weapons.

Betancourt- who was liberated in a rescue mission last July- is heading for France. She will be accompanied by an ex-FARC rebel who fled camp in October along with an elderly politico held hostage.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, El Universal, BBC News, Voice of America, AP, Xinhua

Deportations to Haiti resume

There’s a Spanish saying: llover sobre mojado (rough translation - raining where it’s already wet). Such a cliché applies to Haiti.

Haiti’s one of the most impoverished countries in the Americas and in the recent months the country has had to face additional troubles. A wave of summer storms and a food crisis have led to more misery and suffering in that Caribbean country.

As a humanitarian gesture the U.S. government placed a moratorium on deportations to Haiti three months ago. Starting this week, however, the suspension was removed and deportations have resumed.

''We determined that it was appropriate to resume based on the circumstances in Haiti,'' declared a U.S. immigration spokeswoman to the Yet leaders of the Haitian community in Florida denounced the measure based on the country’s ongoing humanitarian crisis. Meanwhile, some politicians have entered the fray and have called on the federal government to stop the deportations:
(Reps. Alcee Hastings and Robert Wexler)…took the opportunity to call for granting temporary protected status to Haitians in the United States. That designation, generally bestowed upon countries experiencing severe economic or political problems, allows noncitizens to live and work in the United States for a limited period of time.

“Haiti has long met the qualifications for TPS, and it is now more urgent than ever that the United States provide them with this much needed, long overdue, temporary assistance,” they said.
Image- Voice of America
Sources- The Latin Americanist, Voice of America, Palm Beach Post, AP,

Update: Ecuadorian dies after brutal attack

Yesterday we mentioned how a pair of Ecuadorian brothers was the targets of a cowardly attack in Brooklyn. Sadly, the incident has taken a fatal turn:
One of the two Ecuadorian brothers beaten in Brooklyn while their attackers screamed anti-gay and anti-Hispanic slurs has died, the New York City Police Department confirmed today.

Investigators say Jose Sucuzhanay, 31, was walking home with his brother Romel at the intersection of Kossuth Place and Bushwick Avenue early Sunday morning…

According to police, that's when four men jumped out of a burgundy Ford Explorer and began attacking the brothers.

Police say the men were beaten with a bottle and a baseball bat while the attackers yelled anti-gay and anti-Latino slurs.
Jose Sucuzhanay’s murder marks the second death of an Ecuadorian in the New York metro area in recent weeks. Last month, Marcelo Lucero was beaten to death by a group of teens on Long Island.

As more information has emerged of what will likely be treated as a hate crime, so have details of the deceased:
The victim…the co-owner of Open Realty International, a real estate agency in Bushwick, was described by family members as a gentle, generous man, a father of two children who live with his parents in Azogues, Ecuador, his native town…

Diego Sucuzhanay said that his brother, one of 12 siblings, came to New York 10 years ago “because there were job opportunities.” He said Jose worked as a restaurant waiter for seven years, and founded his real estate agency several years ago. “He helped this community,” he said. “He loved Bushwick.”
An immigrant; a hard worker; a dreamer; an entrepreneur. And now a dead man in a heinous attack.

Image- New York Daily News
Sources- The Latin Americanist, NY1, New York Times

Belize - Guatemala border dispute goes to the Hague

Guatemala and Belize signed an agreement overseen by the OAS yesterday (and negotiated earlier this year) that serves as the first step in the reconciliation of an age-old border dispute between the neighboring Central American countries.

Belize, formerly British Honduras until 1974, shares a large border with Guatemala to the west and a much smaller with the Mexico to the north. Because of lingering border questions, Guatemala became the last nation in the world to officially recognize Belize in 1991, though the border issues remain unsolved to date.

For those curious about the otherwise benign dispute, a
website devoted to Belize-Guatemala relations -- by the Belize government -- offers an interesting timeline of a dispute that has played a (small) role in nearly 150 years the region's turbulent past (as well as a link titled "international support" and "the Belize position.")

The agreement signed on Monday will cede
jurisdiction the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague, Netherlands, which will determine the final border lines between the two countries. While it appears that Guatemala has been loathe to cede jurisdiction of the border decision, most analysis suggests that Belize has the most to lose in territory.

Sean McCormack, of the Dept. of State, also issued a
statement congratulating the negotiators from both countries.

Sources: Amandala, Mercopress, Dept. of State

Daily Headlines: December 9, 2008

* Caribbean: During a one-day summit yesterday, the fourteen–nation Caribbean Community called for an end to the U.S. embargo on Cuba.

* Bolivia: Approximately 20,000 families have been hurt by a months-long drought according to Bolivian officials.

* Dominican Republic: A clerk at the Dominican Consulate in New York has been accused of illegally smuggling people into the U.S.

* Peru: Remember the diplomatic spat caused by a Peruvian general’s misguided remarks about Chileans? Gen. Edwin Donayre was replaced as Peru's army chief on Friday.

Image- BBC News (Antigua Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer standing next to Cuban president Raul Castro)
Sources- Reuters, Xinhua, New York Daily Times, IHT, The Latin Americanist

Monday, December 8, 2008

Today’s Video: Haiti’s continued suffering

Normally I say the following in a facetious tone but this time I’m serious – some stories speak for themselves:
The poorest nation in the Americas is hit by hurricanes and (a) food crisis.

Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, is still recovering from four tropical storms and hurricanes that killed more than 800 people and destroyed 60 percent of its crops in August and September.

Sources- Reuters

NYC Ecuadorians assaulted in possible hate crime

It was approximately one month ago that an Ecuadorian immigrant was killed by a group of teens on Long Island. The murder of Marcelo Lucero brought to light the dark side of racism being faced by the growing Latino population in New York City’s eastern suburbs.

Now comes word of another sickening assault on Ecuadorians; this time, it was in New York City proper and allegedly involved homophobic and anti-Latino insults:
Investigators said 31-year-old Jose Sucuzhanay was walking home with his brother Romel early Sunday morning when one of them stopped to give the other his coat at the intersection of Kossuth Place and Bushwick Avenue.

That's when investigators said a group of men jumped out of an SUV and beat them with a glass bottle and baseball bat while yelling anti-gay and anti-Latino slurs.

Romel was not seriously hurt, but Jose was taken to the hospital where he is on life support.

"My brother is in critical condition. He has to go through brain surgery. He's okay there. But right now he's not moving, he's not talking, he's in very critical condition. And we hope he will recover," said Sucuzhanay.
Hate crime charges could be leveled against the attackers though that will be the least of their problems should Jose Sucuzhanay die.

It should go without saying that such heinous, cold-blooded assaults are inexcusable whether it be in such a diverse metropolis as New York City or in outlying suburbs. We’ll keep an eye out for any further developments.

Image- The China Post (“People file past the open casket bearing the body of Marcello Lucero at the Congregational Church of Patchogue in Patchogue, N.Y., Saturday, Nov. 15.”)
Sources- The Latin Americanist, NY1, City Room,

U.S. immigration snafus…

Or: How I learned to stop worrying and love the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
A senior U.S. border patrol official was charged on Friday with hiring illegal immigrants to clean her home and advising one of them on how to avoid detection by the authorities.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security charged Lorraine Henderson, port director for southern New England, with employing an illegal immigrant from Brazil in her Salem, Massachusetts home, following a sting operation.

Henderson, who worked for the department's Customs and Border Protection arm, continued to pay the woman for more than two years, even after a colleague warned her not to, according to court documents.

When the unidentified Brazilian woman asked Henderson for advice on her immigration status, Henderson told her, "You have to be careful, cause they will deport you."

Henderson also advised the woman, "don't leave (the country) ... cause once you leave, you will never be back."
I don’t know whether to call it hubris, stupidity, or what. Assuming the charges are true, stories like the one above are yet another example of why we need comprehensive, and fair immigration reform.

Sadly, those with the power to do something about it prefer to live with their heads in the sand and allow the same broken system to continue. There’s the hope that that could soon change, but the cynic in me doubts it. Such is the sad reality of the immigration debate.

(Just in case you didn’t catch it, here’s the inspiration for the title to this post.)

Image- (Freight ship traffic at the Port of Boston)
Sources- AP, Wikipedia, Reuters

Do a tourist’s “Confessions” go too far?

Earlier today on the Vivirlatino blog, fellow contributor Maegan la Mala found what she called “a disgusting piece” in yesterday’s Sunday Times (UK). In the latest installment of the “Confessions of a Tourist” series, the author describes his visit to the “dirty, tawdry stinkpot” that is northern Mexico. “Mexico is a great big beautiful country” starts the piece before the author dives into a night of drunken revelry before being part of “hot Mexican love.”
Maegan did not mince words in her opinion on the article:
This piece of shit article published in the travel section of a mainstream media source may have been published as some sort of hipster style joke which is usually just racism with alleged "style" by a man who didn't use his real name, but the message is clear, Mexico and it's women are dirty, primitive and meant to be used by white tourists.
Maegan has a point; after reading other stories in “Confessions of a Tourist” they come off to me as a backpacker’s lame Penthouse Forums. Generally the tales from around the world involve an unexpected situation between a local and a native leading to some degree of shagging. Some of the stories are relatively innocent and could’ve been written in any locale around the world. Yet others like the one cited by Meagan take on a condescending tone that can turn off a reader (so to speak).

Last October alone “Confessions of a Tourist” highlighted stories from Latin America; one involved a “spontaneous, passionate, hot” tryst in Havana after tango lessons. Another involved a tourist who was alone with a Brazilian man after her bus broke down. You can probably figure out what happened next:
The next morning, exultant and a little hungover, I woke to a blazing sun - but no coach. It had gone, with all the other passengers. I was alone in the Amazon with a beautiful Brazilian man. We spent the next few days thoroughly exploring parts of the forest - and of each other.
What do you think? Are “Confessions of a Tourist” racist, sexist stories presented in the guise of a travel article? Or are they fun pieces that shouldn’t be taken too seriously?

Image- Yahoo Travel
Sources- Times Online, Vivirlatino

Obama's Hispanic appointees monitored

The speculation continues over which, if many, Hispanic advisers Barack Obama will appoint.

Organizations that have encouraged Obama to appoint Hispanics -- including the National Association of Latino Elected Officials, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus -- say they're optimistic about his appointments.

Obama's pick for commerce secretary is New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, and other lower-profile posts will have Hispanic heads as well.

Richardson spoke up on Friday about Mexico and the Hispanic community while in Mexico City.

Obama "is well aware of the importance of Mexico and the Hispanic community because it was very important in his victory," Richardson said.

Read his list of appointees so far here.

Source: El Paso Times

Source and Photo: AFP

Leaders mull banana tariffs

Banana suppliers might get a break this week as European Union leaders plan a meeting of world trade ministers to address their complaints of high tariffs.

Reuters reports that suppliers in Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica and Ecuador have long complained they do not have enough access to Europe's fruit consumers. They blame high import duties and Europe's dependence on Africa and the Caribbean.

Read more about the history of banana tariffs here.

Source: Reuters


Daily Headlines: December 8, 2008

* U.S.: Coming to a television near you – a reality series for Homeland Security. (Migrants not included).

* Paraguay: The hunger for meat in the developed world has led to the widespread clearing of land in Paraguay according to this Guardian UK article.

* Colombia: Could Colombia’s failed pyramid schemes put the kibosh on President Alvaro Uribe’s possible plans for a third term?

* U.S.: A quick piece of advice for pugilist Oscar De La Hoya – please retire now.

CNET News,, New York Daily News, Guardian UK