Friday, December 26, 2008

Please vote in our poll!

We’re off for the weekend but first we would like to remind you to please vote in our top stories of 2008 poll.

So far we’ve received only a fraction of the almost one hundred votes that were made in last December’s year-end poll. Thus, we’re extending the poll deadline from Sunday to this Monday at 5:00pm.

If you haven’t done so please make your voice be heard and participate in our poll. You can only vote once but you can choose as many options as you want and even write in your choice. We’ll reveal our results in a series of posts on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Don’t be shy! Vote today!

Sources- The Latin Americanist

Editorial praises Venezuelan elections

A recent op/ed piece in the Seattle Times claimed that Venezuelan elections are more free and fair than those in the U.S.

The article- penned by a pair of electoral observers- noted that the U.S electoral process is improving but could learn a lot from Venezuela. “Believe it or not, we found a system far more transparent, inclusive and accountable than what we observed in the past as monitors in the U.S.” claimed Larry Hildes and Karen Weill who served as observers in Florida four years ago and November’s local elections in Venezuela. The pair praised a public education campaign in the weeks before the election, the lengthening of electoral hours to accommodate long lines of prospective voters, and the use of a “paper trail” to backup electric voting machines.

The article concluded with the following:
The truth is hard to find, unless you can go search it out on the ground, as we did in Venezuela. From every attempt we made to assess the conduct of the government, we found a process that was trusted and reflective of the will of the people. We in the U.S. can still stand to learn some lessons about how to run a fraud-free and protected election, if only we are willing.
What do you think? Is the opinion piece fair and accurate or are the authors off the mark in their observations?

Image- Xinhua (“People line up to cast votes at a polling station in Caracas November 23, 2008.)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Seattle Times

News Briefs: Immigration

* Attención Salvadoreños: You have until this Tuesday to complete applications for temporary protected status in the U.S.!

* According to a university study published last month recently arrived immigrants to the U.S. tend to learn English quickly.

* What can regional unemployment rates tell us about immigration trends in the U.S.? Professor Greg Weeks explains.

* Earlier this month, IFCO Systems North America agreed to pay the largest settlement for a workplace immigration bust: $20.7 million.

* On the one hand, this New York Times editorial hopes that the incoming Obama administration will significantly change the “moral… (and) strategic failure” of current immigration policy.

* On the other hand, controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio claims that he “plans to continue crime sweeps and raids aimed at illegal immigrants and businesses that employ them” regardless of the presidential change.

Image- New York Times (“Jose Rosa, left, an immigrant from El Salvador living in Manassas, Va., (at the 2007) National Capital Immigrant Coalition Rally.”)
Online Sources- New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Standing FIRM, CNN,

Pedro Almodóvar caught in Madoff fraud

As we mentioned several days ago, numerous financial firms in Latin America and Europe have suffered embarrassing losses after being caught up in Bernard Madoff’s pyramid scheme. For instance, Chilean brokerage house Celfin Capital SA will have its slim 2008 profits cut in half after its clients invested millions of dollars with Madoff (image).

As the outstanding Guanabee blog noted today, several celebs who did business with the Wall Street huckster have also felt the pinch:
Pedro Almodóvar and his brother Agustin had invested their production company, El Deseo, in Oyster Investments, which was itself invested in one of the funds affected by the Madoff fraud, Lux Invest. So luckily for Almodóvar, his company was only affected tangentially, although significantly. Other casualties from the fallout include Steven Spielberg (who reportedly lost “millions”) and Uma Thurman’s fiancé, businessman Arpad Busson, who lost around 160 million in the fraud.
Image- AFP
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Guanabee

Today’s Video: Ciao Eartha

This isn’t Latin America-related per se, but we want to observe that Eartha Kitt passed away yesterday after a long battle with cancer.

Kitt was best-known for her very distinctive singing voice and in pop culture for her being one of the actresses to play Catwoman during the campy 1960s TV series “Batman.” Yet she was never shy in her political views which cause her some controversy such as speaking out against the Vietnam War during a 1968 White House luncheon hosted by “Lady Bird” Johnson.

At this time of year perhaps it would be best to remember her fabulous rendition of “Santa Baby”, yet for my money her top tune would be her French accent in “C’est Si Bon”:

Sources- YouTube, Time, Reuters, CNN

Daily Headlines: December 26, 2008

* Brazil: The New York Times and BBC News (among other media) examined the legacy of environmental activist Chico Mendes on the 20th anniversary of his murder.

* U.S.: Is Florida’s elderly Cuban-American community being exploited as tools for Medicare fraud?

* Peru: U.S. diplomatic officials are facing a confusing situation over a recently issued travel warning on Peru.

* Dominican Republic: Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez is peeved over the pre-Christmas pardons of five convicted embezzlers.

Image- AP (“In this Feb. 1988 file photo is seen Francisco "Chico" Mendes, an internationally acclaimed ecologist and advocate of the preservation of the Amazon Jungle in an unknown location in Brazil. Mendes was shot and killed at his home in the remote Amazon jungle twenty years ago on Dec. 22, 1988.”)
Online Sources- IHT, AP, Living in Peru, New York Times, BBC News

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Today’s Video: Feliz Navidad!

One of my most heartfelt memories of childhood is gathering with my family on Christmas morning around the dining room table. Our yearly tradition was to get together- my parents, brothers, and me- and eat homemade Colombian-style tamales and drink hot chocolate for breakfast. It was a moving occasion when we got together as a family, enjoyed one anothers company, and forget about our troubles. As we listened to scratched vinyls of Christmas carols and villancicos, we were united and grateful for being together.

This morning the tradition continued in my household. My father may be with us in spirit and the years may have changed our attitudes somewhat. Yet we came together in peace and harmony to break bread and enjoy the Christmas tamales. At the breakfast table I couldn't help but ponder on the cliche - the more things change the more they stay the same. In this case, the feeling of togetherness with loved ones is a quality I wouldn't change for anything in the world.

May you and yours have a very Merry Christmas, and a festive and wonderful holiday season.

See you tomorrow.

Daily Headlines: December 25, 2008

* Vatican City: Good thing - Pope Benedict XVI’s Christmas Midnight Mass highlighted the abuses faced by children around the world.

Bad thing – The Pope gave a speech on Monday blasting gays and compared the defense of heterosexuality to “saving rain forests from destruction.”

* Costa Rica: President Oscar Arias suggested that business execs should give up their salaries in order to improve the nation's economy.

* Ecuador: Foreign Minister Fander Falconi said that Colombia must satisfy “minimum demands requested by Ecuador” in order for bilateral diplomatic ties to be reestablished.

* Argentina: Former president and current presidential hubby Nestor Kirchner is being investigated on alleged corruption charges.

Image- CNN (Pope Benedict XVI blessed several children during Christmas Midnight Mass.)
Online Sources- Xinhua, BBC News, AHN, AP

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Today's Video: The Christmas donkey

Posting will be light tomorrow, Christmas Day.

In the meantime, why don't we have a sing-a-long?

Online Source- YouTube

Cuba: Yay buyers; boo bloggers

There is a clear case of mistaken Internet priorities by the Cuban government.

Authorities on the island have allowed a Spanish-based firm to run an online shopping site on the island during the holidays. "It's a good business but it's also a way for Cubans (overseas) to help their family members here," said one of the executives of to the AP. Though the site has been around since 2006, Cuban officials have been heavily promoting it during the holiday season. certainly helps with the flow of goods on the island for those Cubans with the luxury of shopping online. But what about the flow of information through websites such as personal blogs? Unfortunately, the island’s authorities haven’t looked as kindly on bloggers as they have on shopping sites:
Police have prohibited Cuba's most prominent blogger from attending an independent cyber-workshop and warned that her activities ran afoul of the law, her husband said.

Yoani Sanchez and husband and fellow blogger Reynaldo Escobar were summoned separately (on December 3rd) to a police station near their apartment in Havana's Vedado district and reprimanded, Escobar said in a telephone interview.

Authorities told the couple they could not travel to the western province of Pinar del Rio for a two-day blogger's workshop…

Another Havana blogger, Claudia Cadelo, was also called into a meeting with police, but failed to appear because she is in the hospital, Escobar said.
Cubans can ostensibly purchase a computer via (with the government’s complicity) yet cannot express themselves freely once they go online.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Image- Mother Jones
Online Sources- Toronto Sun, AP

Report: Staten Island assaulters sought minorities

What is it with this rash of Latinos being targeted by young bigots in the New York City area?

First there was the anti-Latino attack and murder of Ecuadorian migrant Marcelo Lucero by a group of Long Island youths. Then there was the heinous assault and killing of Jose Sucuzhanay a few weeks later.

Now there’s this disturbing piece of news:
Two white Staten Island teens already facing hate crime charges for attacking a Muslim teen the night Barack Obama was elected have been linked to another bias attack that left another victim in a coma…

Ronald Forte, 38, the father of five children, was wearing a hooded sweatshirt because it was raining on the morning of Nov. 5 when he was spotted by Nicolleti and Garaventa, according to sources.

The pair was allegedly trolling a predominately black and Hispanic Staten Island neighborhood looking for victims, sources said.

They targeted Forte because with his head covered with the hood, they thought he was a black man. Forte was run down and left in the gutter on Blackfort Ave. around 2:30 a.m. – [ed. emphasis added]
To slightly paraphrase the words of Shakespeare “what fools these mortals be.”

(Hat tip: Gothamist).

Image- Daily Intel (The ubiquitous Staten Island Ferry).
Sources- The Latin Americanist, Gothamist, New York Daily News, Quotations Page

Madoff scheme costly for LatAm banks

The recently uncovered pyramid scheme run by Wall Street huckster Bernard Madoff has led to massive losses by clients worldwide. Those fooled by his elaborate ruse has included several major European banks, one of the world’s richest women and charities who will be forced to shut down. Despite warnings made as far back as 1999, Madoff’s fraud grew to an estimated worth of over $50 billion.

Among those customers fooled by Madoff and liable to lose a boatload of money is Chilean brokerage house Celfin Capital SA. The investment firm may have its 2008 profits slashed in half and will try to pay back approximately $10 billion to clients tied into the Madoff scheme.

Celfin isn’t the only Latin American firm feeling the pinch over Madoff’s ruse:
Among Latin American companies, Peru’s Credicorp Ltd. said Dec. 16 that it had $1 million invested with Madoff. Peru’s largest financial-services company also had $3.5 million at risk in transactions secured by investments with his Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC firm.

For Celfin, the losses come after the firm fired as much as a 10th of its workforce this quarter amid an economic slowdown stemming from the global credit crunch.
Image- AP
Online Sources- Fox News, The Telegraph, Bloomberg, BBC News

U.S. diplomat warns about Russian presence

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon warned of a potential arms race and security threat because of Russia's increased presence in Latin America.

Shannon, who is in charge of Western Hemisphere relations in the State Department, linked the Russian Navy's visits to Cuba and Venezuela with the August war in Georgia.

The diplomat traveled to Moscow to discuss how the U.S. and Russia can cooperate in Latin America.

"The two countries are too important not to be talking to each other and not to be finding ways to work together on important issues in the region," Shannon told the AP.

He said Washington would wait to form conclusions until future actions from Russia.

Cuban president Raul Castro met with Russian Vice Admiral Vladimir I. Koraliev Dec. 23 in Havana.

Sources: Reuters, AP, escambray

Photo: Escambray, Cuban and Russian officials meeting

Daily Headlines: December 24, 2008

* Mexico: Mexican officials vowed that there “will not be the least concession” to drug gangs after the recent discovery of eight decapitated soldiers.

* Venezuela: Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro rejected reports alleging that Iran has shipped missile parts to Syria via Venezuelan flights.

* Bolivia: "If I were (Barack) Obama, the first day of my presidency I'd lift the economic blockade on Cuba," said Bolivian President Evo Morales who added his hope that U.S. relations with the Americas could soon improve.

* Dominican Republic: Free rides will be offered over the next two weeks on the country’s new costly subway system.

Image- Times Online (“The bodies of 13 men were found with their hands tied this month” (in Mexico).)
Online Sources- Reuters, Canadian Press, AFP

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Today’s Video: Feliz Chanukah!

Wednesday may be Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) but we would be remiss in not observing other holidays taking place around this time of the year.

To best celebrate Chanukah (which enters its fourth night on Wednesday) what better option is there than the music of the Hip Hop Hoodios:

Sources- YouTube

Mexico: Beauty queen is a gun runner?

Some stories speak for themselves:
A Mexican beauty queen and international pageant winner has been detained by police along with suspected drug traffickers who had assault rifles and cash.

Laura Zuniga, the 23-year-old Miss Sinaloa from the marijuana-producing Mexican state, was held with seven men at a military checkpoint in Guadalajara, police said on Tuesday…

Zuniga won the Miss Sinaloa title in July and was to compete in
the Miss International 2009 pageant next year in Asia. She was named "Queen of Hispanic America 2008" in a contest in Bolivia.
For better or worse, young girls throughout the Americas look up to beauty queens as role models. Let’s hope that’s not the case with Miss Zuniga.

Then again, there have been other beauty queens outside Latin America that have done worse.

Image- BBC News (Controversial dress celebrating the violent “cristero” period that was nearly worn by Miss Mexico at the 2007 Miss Universe pageant.)
Sources- Javno, Reuters

El Salvador to withdraw from Iraq

The last Latin American contingent to have troops in Iraq will leave the country by the end of this month.

According to remarks made today by Salvadoran President Tony Saca, troops will withdraw from the country on December 31st. "Considering the lack of a United Nations resolution, the government of El Salvador decided to end our presence in Iraq," Saca said.

Saca’s announcement came hours after the Iraqi parliament approved the continued presence of non-U.S. troops.

Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic were the Latin American nations who used to have troops as part of the coalition force and then withdrew in 2004.

The current (and final) Salvadoran contingent contains 200 troops. Five Salvadoran soldiers have been killed in the over five years they’ve been stationed in Iraq.

Image- BBC News
Online Sources-, CNN, Wikipedia, MSNBC, Jerusalem Post

Venezuela could join possible gas cartel

Venezuela is currently one of the members of the OPEC oil cartel and could be part of a planned natural gas alliance.

The new group could expand on the already existing Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) and include countries that are also part of OPEC. During the GECF meeting hosted in Moscow, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin suggested that the groups be headquartered in St. Petersburg and would receive diplomatic status.

Several dignitaries denied that a gas cartel would be created and instead emphasized the need to formalize the GECF. Other representatives differed:
"A very important thing is to have the cooperation, to agree some policies in matter of the price, in matter of development," Venezuelan oil minister Rafael Ramirez told reporters. "And in the beginning these will be the objectives of this organization."
Image- BBC News
Online Sources- Voice of America, CNN, Reuters, Al Jazeera English

Report: Immigrants benefit New Jersey

The following should come as no surprise to anyone even remotely familiar with the state of New Jersey:
An analysis by the Eagleton Institute Program on Immigration and Democracy says that New Jersey's 1.7 million foreign-born population has no negative impact on the Garden State's economy overall.

Immigrants account for 20 percent of the state's population, but make up a higher percentage of the work force because more of them are of working age…

The study finds immigrants contributing at both the highest and lowest ends of the economic spectrum. The foreign-born account for 40 percent of all advanced degree holders in New Jersey, and immigrants also occupy some of the lowest-earning jobs in the state.
One of the reports co-authors observed that “it's impossible to imagine our economy functioning without them” though warned that the report’s results shouldn’t be extrapolated to represent national immigration figures. Yet one advocate observed that the report overturns false myths on immigrants like “they get a free ride, free education, they don’t pay taxes, they don't do anything except take out of our economy.”

The report comes on the heels of a statewide immigration crackdown which, according to this New York Times editorial, has led to numerous abuses.

Image- (“Alexander Alaca holds an U.S. flag and a sign calling for immigration reform as he marches with others to an immigration rally in Jersey City, N.J., Tuesday, May 1, 2007.”)
Online Sources-,, New York Times

Brazil deserves permanent U.N. seat says Sarkozy

As we mentioned this morning, France and Brazil will sign several key agreements today during Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit to Rio de Janeiro. One of them is a defense agreement that will make Brazil the first South American country to own a nuclear-powered submarine.

In addition, Sarkozy advocated an increased role for Brazil in global affairs. Sarkozy said that he will help bring more attention to Brazilian proposals at the next G20 summit in April. The French president also discussed about the U.N.:
Sarkozy…earlier backed Brazil's claim to a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, saying the country had a vital role to play in global decision-making during the financial crisis.

"I'm being honest when I say we need Brazil in world governance," he said.

“I think we need Brazil as a permanent member of the Security Council."

(Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva) has made obtaining a permanent council seat for Brazil one his major foreign policy goals.
Image- BBC News
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, TVNZ, CNN, Reuters

Daily Headlines: December 23, 2008

* Argentina: First it was the “emos” in Mexico. Now it’s the “flogger” youth in Argentina who are being harassed and abused for their lifestyle.

* Peru: Good news - President Alan Garcia’s approval rating has hit a six-month high. Bad news – It’s at a paltry 25%.

* Honduras: According to a U.N.-backed report drug violence has spiked in Honduras most likely due to spillover from Mexico.

* Brazil: France and Brazil will sign several agreements including one that would make Brazil the first Latin American country to have a nuclear-powered sub.

Image- DERF
Online Sources- Bloomberg, MSNBC, CNN, The Latin Americanist, LAHT

Monday, December 22, 2008

Today’s Video: Spain’s lucky numbers

If you thought that shopping on “Black Friday” was wild then that’s nothing compared to Spain’s “El Gordo” (“The Fat One”) holiday lottery:
Economic woes eased for thousands in Spain on Monday as the Christmas lottery — billed among the world's richest — dished out some €2.32 billion ($3.23 billion) in prizes.

The top prize of the lottery...went to holders of tickets bearing the number 32365 — which appears on 1,950 tickets, each winning €300,000 ($418,000)…

In the central town of Soria, Ricardo Jimenez's bar sold all 1,950 of the third prize tickets, spreading some 97 million euros ($135 million) among customers, family and friends…

"I'm still shaking," said Jimenez, who bought 15 tickets worth €750,000 ($1 million) for himself. "But I'll keep on working. I'll share this with my three children."
Here is the moment when the lucky numbers where selected; notice the chanting children as part of the lottery protocol:

Online Sources- IHT, YouTube

Mexico: Eyebrow plucking = future lesbians?!

Some stories speak for themselves:
The Tamaulipan Youth Institute (Itjuve) is demanding action against a high school principal in Matamoros, Mexico, who suspended fifteen female students for plucking their eyebrows arguing that the practice was "unique to women or youth with a homosexual tendency."

Efraín Hernández
, director of Itjuve, told La Jornada...that the sanctions taken against the students on December 15th by principal Rubén Reyes Urbina were discriminatory ("Matamoros: High school principal suspends fifteen alumna who had plucked eyebrows").
“No one can be denied the right to enter an institution simply because they look different to the rest of the alumnus or because they decided to make a change in their person," Hérnandez said, "we clearly see a discrimination that is worrisome since it is a center that shapes individuals which is not in the best of hands."
It’s stunning to read that such blatant sexism and homophobia exists in this world, especially among educators like Reyes Urbina.

Then again, such backwards thought shouldn't be surprising when the Catholic archdiocese publicly condemns women for wearing skimpy clothing.

(Hat Tip: Vivirlatino).

Image- (“A man, dressed in the traditional costume of a Zapotec woman, plucks his eyebrows at the town of Juchitan in southern Mexico, November 22, 2008. Anthropologists say the tradition of blurring genders among Mexico's indigenous population is centuries old but has been revived in recent decades due to the gay pride movement.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Vivirlatino, Blabbeando, La Jornada

Argentine court reverses controversial order

Last week we briefly mentioned the outrage in Argentina over a judge’s order to free fourteen men convicted of “Dirty War” atrocities. Though the leader of the human rights group Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo deemed the decision as a “slap in the face," the court decided that the men were held for several years without facing trial.

Only hours after the court’s asinine decision, another Argentine court prevented the travesty of justice:
An Argentine high court Friday suspended a controversial decision to grant bail to high-profile defendants accused of torturing and killing dissidents during the 1976-1983 dictatorship.

The court instead sent the cases to the Supreme Court after prosecutor Raul Plee appealed the ruling. The decision will keep the suspects behind bars until the Supreme Court ruling, at a date still to be determined.
One of those originally to be freed on bail was Alfredo Astiz, known as the "Blond Angel of Death" (image). Astiz had been held over the disappearance of two French nuns, a Swedish adolescent and the founder of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo.

Image- BBC News
Sources- The Latin Americanist, BBC News, AP, Reuters, AFP

The consequences of not being legal enough

Today’s New York Times highlighted the plight of Bronx resident Olga Berroa who came legally to the U.S. with her two daughters in 2002. Despite her background as a teacher in the Dominican Republic, she labored in several menial jobs in New York for the next four years. In July 2006 she slipped and fell down a flight of stairs and received multiple injuries. Though Berroa received disability leave she was unable to incur more aid during her time of most need:
She applied for welfare for herself and her daughters…

But when she applied for disability assistance, Ms. Berroa found out that as a legal immigrant who was not yet a citizen, she had not paid federal taxes long enough to qualify

She covered most of her rent with a federal housing subsidy. But when the rent went up and her share increased, she realized that she could not pay the rent anymore. – [ed. emphasis added]
Let’s summarize:
  • Immigrates to the U.S. legally, not undocumented.
  • Works for four years apparently without resorting to public aid.
  • Has an accident that costs her her job.
  • Is not a legal enough immigrant to receive welfare when she needs it most.
  • Is about to be evicted with the rest of her family.
There are those who will grandstand and declare that the current immigration system is doing well. (I’m looking at you Mikey Chertoff). Yet Berroa’s case is indicative of a broken system that needs to be fixed ASAP.

How can it be that someone who has proved her worth to her family and community be treated so flippantly? How can one believe that immigration reform is unnecessary or that the solution involves either mass deportations or a general amnesty? How fair is it for legal immigrants to have to jump through so many hoops like a circus act in order to reach citizenship? How much longer must we wait for politicos to get their heads out of the sand and enact just, well-meaning changes to a rubbish immigration status quo?

Despite the obstacles, Berroa was able to receive help mostly from the Catholic Charities along with a little public aid. Yet for her to have to face the burden of not being a sufficiently legal immigrant speaks volumes of a system in dire need of repair.

Image- New York Times (“Olga Berroa with her daughter Eliana Lozada, 18. They came to the Bronx from the Dominican Republic in 2002.”)
Online Sources- New York Times, Washington Times

Bolivia’s Morales target of assassination plot

Bolivian president Evo Morales was the target of an assassination plot according to one of the country’s top officials.

In a press conference this morning, Government Minister Alfredo Rada, Bolivian intelligence was told that members of the “extreme right” masterminded the plot. Rada added that a “peasant or common person” was paid to be the hitman during one of Morales’ trips to Bolivia’s rural regions.

The supposed plot was publicly unveiled on Sunday by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez:
Chavez said the Bolivian president called and told him that authorities in the Andean country had uncovered the plot.

The Venezuelan leader said during a radio broadcast that he wouldn't go into details — leaving that to Bolivian officials — but he said he told Morales to "be careful."
Despite voters choosing to keep Morales in a recall vote in August, deep political divisions in Bolivia have led to several violent uprisings.

Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg, AP

Colombia’s Uribe rejects int’l help in rescue

Yesterday we mentioned of alleged plans by Colombia’s FARC guerillas to free six hostages including several politicos and policemen. As part of the exercise to be supposedly done next month, leftist legislator/close Hugo Chavez ally Piedad Cordoba will serve as the liaison.

Colombian president Alvaro Uribe publicly rejected any foreign help (except for the Red Cross) in the possible hostage release. "The government will not permit our foreign relations to be put at risk by involving personalities from the international community," Uribe said in what can be inferred as a veiled threat against his Venezuelan counterpart.

Chavez’ previous gestures helped free several hostages yet relations with Uribe soured months ago over the Raul Reyes diplomatic snafu. Uribe’s comments could also jeopardize gestures made by other world leaders such as French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

The families of the presumably soon-to-be-freed hostages reacted to Uribe’s remarks:
“The president is on call to provide all the guarantees to ensure that there are no errors and our loved ones can safely return home” said Patricia Nieto, wife of hostage Sigifredo Lopez.

“The president has a responsibility to fulfill this humanitarian act and this is what we plead for”…
Image- AFP (“Alan Jara's son Alan Felipe shows to the press letters and pictures of the kidnapped ex-governor.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, El Tiempo, El Espectador, Reuters, AP

Daily Headlines: December 22, 2008

* Ecuador: Amidst much grief and sadness, the body of hate crime victim Jose Sucuzhanay was buried in his hometown of was buried in his native Cuenca, Ecuador.

* Latin America: What is the world's most southernmost city - Tierra del Fuego, Argentina or Puerto Williams, Chile?

* Mexico: A gruesome discovery was made in the city of Chilpancingo when the decapitated heads of nine men were found in a plastic bag.

* Latin America: "The expansion of ties with Latin America is a priority of Iran’s foreign policy," reportedly declared Iranian First Vice-President Parviz Davoudi.

Image- AP (“Relatives of Jose Oswaldo Sucuzhanay carry his coffin draped with Ecuador's flag during his funeral in Cuenca, Ecuador, Saturday, Dec. 20, 2008.”)
Online Sources- New York Daily News, Times Online, Xinhua, Monsters & Critics

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Today’s Video: “Please be patient”

For the next few days we’ll highlight videos with a Christmas theme.

Tonight’s clip is not Latin America per se, but it’s too damned hard to resist a cherubic Feist:

Sources- YouTube

Spain to undergo immigration crackdown

The Spanish government proposed harsher immigration laws reputedly designed to counter a faltering economy. "In our difficult current situation, decisions have been taken to adapt immigration levels to the labor market," mentioned labor minister Celestino Corbacho on Friday.

Pending approval by the Parliament, the measures are wide-ranging and will especially affect families:
The Spanish government on Friday approved plans to tighten the conditions for immigration, lengthening the maximum detention of undocumented migrants from 40 to 70 days. The planned law will also make it more difficult for immigrants to bring family members to Spain, allowing them to bring parents only if they have lived in Spain for at least five years and if the parents are more than 65 years old.
Over four million legal immigrants (including hundreds of thousands from the Americas) live in Spain along with an unknown number of undocumented immigrants. Spain’s immigration policy has been generally liberal though the new proposal would certainly change that.

Image- (“An anti-immigration protest by an ultraright Spanish political party.”)
Online Sources- Guardian UK, Reuters,, New York Times

FARC: We’ll release six hostages

Colombia’s FARC guerillas will release six hostages according to a statement emitted on Sunday. Among those who will allegedly be freed are former governor Alan Jara and regional legislator Sigifredo Lopez who were kidnapped in 2001 and 2002, respectively.

As reported by the AP:
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia said in a statement that the release would happen soon but did not give a date, the ANNCOL agency said…

"As an irrefutable demonstration of our good will and as a gesture aimed at creating conditions favorable to a humanitarian exchange, we announce the upcoming release of six prisoners, in two stages," read the statement, which was dated Dec. 17 but not released until Sunday.
The statement also mentioned that leftist congresswoman Piedad Cordoba would serve as intermediary for the liberation. Cordoba has assisted in other hostage negotiations at times with Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez; thus, her role that has landed her in plenty of controversy.

Image- AFP (“Alan Jara's son Alan Felipe shows to the press letters and pictures of the kidnapped ex-governor.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, CNN, AP, Reuters, CNN

First U.S., now Dutch cut aid to Nicaragua

In the aftermath of Nicaragua’s recent local elections, U.S. officials decided to withhold aid from the Central American country. Up to $175 million in aid could be lost due to concerns over alleged fraud, violence, and political intimidation by the Nicaraguan government.

Last week the Dutch government joined the U.S. in not giving aid to Nicaragua. “I find it irresponsible to give direct aid to the Sandinista government which has sabotaged the free and fair elections in all possible ways,” the Dutch Minister of Development Aid said on Thursday after his government decided to withhold over $17 million in assistance.

Naturally, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega was not too pleased with either government’s decision. Earlier this month, he ordered the U.S. to pay Nicaragua reparations owed to them via a 1986 International Court of Justice decision. Ortega also spoke out during last week’s Rio Group summit:
"A Latin American nation is under attack ... (by) the decision of the Yankee (US) government and the Europeans to suspend financing for Nicaragua," Ortega told a summit of regional leaders in Costa do Sauipe, Brazil.

Ortega said Nicaragua has been singled out because it does not accept orders from the "capitalist tyranny."

"Since when are we slaves of the Europeans? We broke off our chains some time ago," he said.
Image- AFP (Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega during his visit to Russia this week.)
Sources- The Latin Americanist, Radio Netherlands Worldwide, AFP, Bloomberg

Daily Headlines: December 21, 2008

* Peru: A U.S. judge ordered that a Venezuelan man receive $8.3 million in reward money for the capture of infamous Peruvian spymaster Vladimiro Montesinos.

* Mexico: "My government does not and will never negotiate with criminal organizations," declared Mexican President Felipe Calderon as his country is overrun by violence.

* Argentina: The country’s Senate gave the green light for the renationalization of Aerolinias Argentinas.

* Dominican Republic: The global economic slowdown has cost over 4000 laborers their jobs this month alone in the Dominican Republic.

Image- BBC News (Photo circa 2000 of now-imprisoned Vladimiro Montesinos)
Online Sources- AHN, Dominican Today, AFP, AP