Friday, January 9, 2009

Today's Video: Cool and cooler

With sub-freezing temperatures and a winter storm about to hit around The Latin Americanist headquarters, the below video from Los Amigos Invisibles is just about perfect:

Much like the opening lyrics of the song, I too would love to be at a "Playa Azul" ("Blue Beach") right now!

Online Sources- YouTube, weather.com

Peru: Lori Berenson transferred for treatment

A U.S. citizen imprisoned since 1995 for supposedly aiding Peruvian rebels has been allowed to transfer to another facility due to her pregnancy.

Peruvian prison officials permitted Lori Berenson to be relocated in order to treat a back ailment brought on by her pregnancy. According to Reuters a media frenzy surrounded her transfer today as she underwent a health examination before being taken to a Lima jail.

The 39-year-old is currently five months pregnant and, should she successfully give birth, will be allowed to raise the baby until its three-years-old. The father of the child is a paroled former guerilla she met in jail and married in 2003.

Berenson’s imprisonment has been a source of controversy with her supporters alleging that she was unfairly punished by a kangaroo court. Berenson’s prison sentence was originally life in jail yet that was reduced in a retrial to twenty years in prison.

In a 2000 interview with CBS News, Berenson professed her innocence:
"The charges against me are preposterous and they're obviously false," Berenson said. "I am not a terrorist by any means; quite the contrary I do not believe in any act of terrorism"…

"I believe in human beings," said Lori Berenson. "I believe in the rights of justice. I believe that everyone has the right to live with dignity"…

Mario Cavagnario, chief investigator in the Berenson case, claimed she was part of the (Tupac Amaru guerilla) organization. "All the people around her in Peru belong to the MRTA. In Spanish we say: Tell me who you run with and I'll tell you who you are."
Image- AP (“Lori Berenson, of New York, is escorted in handcuffs by police as she is transferred to a different jail before undergoing a medical exam in Lima, Friday, Jan. 9, 2009.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, New York Daily News, Committee to Free Lori Berenson, Reuters, CBS News, MSNBC

Major restructuring at One Laptop Per Child

The faltering global economy and increased competition are partly to blame for the restructuring of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program. Half of the staff have been cut and salaries for remaining employees will be lowered according to a statement from OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte.

The OLPC program was launched with the purpose of providing simple and inexpensive laptops to underdeveloped children. Governments in several Latin American countries- mainly Uruguay and Peru- have purchased hundreds of thousands of units for use in schools. Yet the restructuring plans at OLPC will hit the Americas especially hard:
Negroponte said the foundation also will spin off its operation in Latin America and would no longer work directly on further development of the operating software used on its own computer. He described the moves as a restructuring that would refocus the group's mission on distributing its laptops in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Northwestern Pakistan and on creating a second-generation computer.
Image- boston.com
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, boston.com, wired.com, bostonherald.com, Reuters, endgadget

U.S. rejects TPS for Haitian immigrants

In a recent post describing the deteriorating situation in Haiti we evoked the Spanish cliché llover sobre mojado (roughly translated as “raining where it’s already wet”). Sadly, things continue to worsen, particularly for Haitians seeking a better life in the U.S.

Haiti has been ravaged by a series of storms that have further impoverished the country, yet Department of Homeland Security (DHS) chief Michael Chertoff refused to grant temporary protected status (TPS) to Haitians. In a letter sent to Haitian President René Préval last month, Chertoff said that “after very careful consideration, I have concluded that Haiti does not currently warrant a TPS designation.”

Chertoff’s correspondence claimed that DHS has been trying to ensure humanitarian efforts get through to Haiti. Yet the resumption of deportations to Haiti along with Chertoff’s intransigence has not sat well with some politicos and immigration advocates who hope things can soon change:
Randy McGrorty, director of Catholic Charities Legal Services for the Archdiocese of Miami, said advocates have already met with the transition team. With a stroke of the pen, President-elect Barack Obama can stop deportations and give Haitians here the permission to work, he said.

"What we need now if for Obama administration to step up to the plate," said Steven Forester, a spokesman for Haitian Women of Miami.
As some bloggers noted, it isn’t only Haitian immigrants that are feeling the squeeze from Chertoff and his cohorts; U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey declared on Wednesday that all immigrants involved in deportation proceedings do not have the right to legal counsel or due process.

Image- daylife.com (“Paulette Simeanil originally from Haiti raises her arm during the naturalization ceremony conducted by the Immigration and Naturalization Service at the Miami Beach Convention Center December 20, 2007 in Miami Beach, Florida.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Vivirlatino, Latina Lista, Jamaica Gleaner, miamiherald.com

Obama Urged to Change U.S. - Latin American Relations


Friends of Brad Will, named after the independent journalist killed in Oaxaca, called on President-elect Obama to move away from decades of failed "war on drugs" policies that have served to fund and arm corrupt police and military powers, like the one that killed Will.

Let's see if Obama really will be about change.

Friends of Brad Will today called on President elect Obama to take note of the failures of the "war in drugs" in Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean and to reject funding corrupt security forces there. The advocacy organization established when the U.S. reporter Brad Will was murdered by Mexican security forces in front of witnesses in a crime still unpunished also urged the President Elect to call for the release of Juan Manuel Martinez Moreno, wrongly accused by Mexican government officials of the murder of Mr. Will in Mexico in 2006.
"Mr. Martinez was framed by Mexican authorities to cover-up for officials from the State of Oaxaca who were filmed shooting into crowds during the 2006 teacher's strike." said Miguel Rivera, of Friends of Brad Will. "We demand his release and call on the Obama Administration to cease the proposed funding of helicopters and Blackwater and Dyncorp mercenaries through Bush's Merida Initiative to the Mexican and other Western Hemispheric militaries."

In a letter today to President Elect Obama, the respected Washington DC-based Witness for Peace stated, "Instead of spending billions in a failed "supply-side" strategy that funds human rights abuses, destroys the environment and fuels a decades-long armed conflict, end military aid and invest in real alternative development abroad and drug prevention and treatment at home."

The growing call to stop the Merida Initative builds upon the opposition of the AFL-CIO, US Steelworkers, and many others.

About the investigation of the murder of Brad Will, Rep. Manzullo (R, Illiinois) wrote to outgoing Secretary of State Rice, "Why should the U.S. Government give money to a government to "fight organized crime" when the very Mexican officials trusted with spending this money, including the Mexican Attorney General, refuse to cooperate with officials of the U.S. Government concerning a U.S. victim of a Mexican criminal act?"

Friends of Brad Will also called on the Mexican government to vacate the arrest warrants of others wrongfully accused of the death of the American journalist. Their names are: Hugo Jarid Colmenres Leyva, Octavio Pérez Pérez, Miguel Cruz Moreno, Leonardo Ortiz Cruz, Edgar Santiago Navarro, Gualberto Francisco Santiago Navarro, Marco Antonio Rojas Lazaro, Gustavo Vilchis Ramírez.
Source : Friends of Brad Will

Daily Headlines: January 9, 2009

* Mexico: Free trade, immigration, and counternarcotics are expected to be some of the main issues to be discussed by Mexican president Felipe Calderon during his visit with U.S. President-elect Barack Obama on Monday.

* Venezuela: According to the Jerusalem Post Venezuela’s Jewish community is “preoccupied” with the government, particularly in reaction to the events in Gaza.

* Puerto Rico: Could the election of Luis Fortuño to the governorship serve as an example for the Republican Party to rebound or is that merely wishful thinking?

* Panama: Courts in three different countries are trying to decide the fate of former Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega.

Image- Time
Online Sources- MSNBC, Jerusalem Post, The Latin Americanist, Reuters

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Quake rocks Costa Rica (includes several updates)

Update (January 9, 9:45am): According to local rescue officials the death toll has shot up to fourteen and is expected to rise as at least ten people have gone missing. (Link via MSNBC).

Update (10:15pm):
The death toll has increased to two: a pair of girls trapped in their house after a landslide swept it. (Link via CNN).

Update (5:30pm):
One fatality- a small child- has been reported as a result of the earthquake. (Link via MSNBC).

Update (4:30pm): A Reuters article on the tremor mentioned that "Costa Rican radio said there were some reports of landslides and damage to a highway in a rural area." Otherwise there has only been light structural damage and no fatalities.

An earthquake measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale hit Costa Rica approximately one hour ago. The epicenter was in the country's second -largest city, Alajuela, which is roughly forty miles away from the capital city of San Jose.

There are no reported deaths or serious injuries though images on CNN en Espanol show some material damages to office buildings and residences.

We'll have more on this breaking news should any major developments occur.

Image- Lonely Planet
Online Sources- AP, stv.tv

Today’s Video: Benicio Del Toro on Ché

Actor Benicio Del Toro appeared on last night’s “Colbert Report” to promote his biopic on iconic revolutionary Ché Guevara. Del Toro touched on his brief meeting with Fidel Castro in Cuba and also received some criticism via the faux-rightist rants of Stephen Colbert.

Sources- colbertnation.com

Daily Headlines: January 8, 2009

* Colombia: Thin-skinned execs at the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation are planning a multimillion dollar lawsuit against cartoonist Mike Peters for the above comic strip.

* Venezuela: The country’s state-run oil firm PDVSA announced that it would reverse a decision which would’ve halted a program supplying cheap heating oil to underprivileged U.S. neighborhoods.

* Dominican Republic: Officials in Haiti are none too pleased with their neighbors after the deportation of over 500 Haitians seeking refuge in a Dominican church.

* Ecuador: Legislators in Ecuador condemned Israeli attacks on Gaza and called them “crimes against humanity.”

Image- Colombia Reports
Online Sources- Dominican Today, Bloomberg, Reuters, The Latin Americanist, Ynetnews, AP

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Today’s Video: Messi wows Madrid

Can Argentine soccer wonder Lionel Messi do no wrong?
Lionel Messi hit a hat-trick as Barcelona triumphed 3-1 in their Spanish Copa Del Rey last-16 first leg tie at 10-man Atletico Madrid on Tuesday…

Messi completed his treble 10 minutes from time before leaving to a standing ovation with record 24-time winners' Barcelona facing a comfortable task in next Wednesday's return leg.
Receiving a standing ovation for a stellar performance is lovely. But getting it from the opposing team’s fans is something truly special.

(Hat tip: The Offside).

Sources- The Offside, YouTube, CNN

Mexican masticators decide - spit or swallow?

Apparently Mexico City’s government is giving up on its efforts to curb kidnappers and murderers and is instead targeting the real criminals: gum chewers.
Now Mexico is responding with innovations ranging from expensive sidewalk steam-cleaners to natural chewing gum that breaks down quickly. It's even telling its citizens (gulp!) to swallow their gum.

The general in the war on discarded chewing gum is Ricardo Jaral, Mexico City's director for conservation of public spaces. He bemoans the blackened gobs that mar the newly restored 700-year-old downtown area and litter the lovely but porous hand-chiseled sidewalks along the city's main boulevard.

He has purchased a fleet of German machines that clean sidewalks with steam and chemicals, and is looking at launching a public-awareness campaign.
Methinks señor Jaral is trying a little too hard to emulate Rudy Giuliani’s campaign against “quality-of-life” crimes during his time as New York City mayor. (Is it no coincidence that Giuliani served years ago as a consultant in a mostly failed attempt to lower crime in the Mexican capital?)

Image- Univision
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, MSNBC, CBS News

Critics blast Homeland Security reality show

Last night was the debut episode of a reality show that looks at the work of Department of Homeland Security officers. The show may turn out to be a hit, yet critical reception to “Homeland Security USA” has been largely negative. Here are a few choice quotes from some critics:
It's doubtful that very many viewers will feel more secure after witnessing that and other Keystone Kop-like operations; there's little about "Homeland Security USA" that's warmly reassuring in the post-9/11 world …Even if it's better to be safe than sorry, however, "Homeland" still seems a sorry excuse for a television show.
If a TSA agent cries after making you take off your shoes or throw away expensive makeup, will you still be mad at him?
Not particularly exciting, and it does occasionally feel like a commercial for the government agencies that helped produce it. But it is nominally instructive and engaging.
While we're all used to these sometimes silly, sometimes humiliating, often over-the-top but usually necessary security measures imposed since 9/11 that are about as much fun as a two-hour MRI…But are these measures worth a whole series? Not really.
At first, the show has the feel of a glitzy public service announcement or a fast-paced recruitment video. But within minutes, the feverish pitch slows slightly to show off the unprecedented access given to ABC's producers.
While “Homeland Security” displays the dedication of agents, it also quite inadvertently could be giving tips to train a better class of criminal.
Did you watch “Homeland Security USA”; if so what did you think of it?

Image- New York Times
Online Sources- Washington Post, Gawker, Newsday, New York Post, NPR, Boston Herald

Bill Richardson’s advisors under investigation

This hasn’t been a good week for Bill Richardson.

On Sunday the New Mexico governor withdrew his nomination for Secretary of State under incoming president Barack Obama. Richardson cited an ongoing federal investigation over a possible “pay-for-play” scheme with California firm CDR Financial Products.

Now it's been reported that a former Richardson top advisor is also being investigated for his ties to CDR:
A witness who testified before a federal grand jury in Albuquerque last month said he was asked if David Contarino, the former chief of staff, ordered New Mexico Finance Authority officials to hire Beverly Hills, California-based CDR Financial Products Inc. Another person familiar with the investigation said Contarino, 47, is a subject of the inquiry and that prosecutors are looking at whether he solicited contributions from firms that worked on finance authority bond deals.
On top of that, the AP cited “longtime friend and political adviser” Mike Stratton who worked as a consultant to CDR and earned nearly $1.5 million in fees for helping the firm secure contracts in New Mexico.

Whether the investigation clears Richardson remains to be seen though eyebrows are certainly being raised over the actions of some of his confidants.

Image- AFP
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, AP, Bloomberg

Barcelona to feature atheist bus ads

Atheist groups in Barcelona plan to emulate the example of their British counterparts and pay for ads on city buses. "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy life," will be the slogan running on a pair of Barcelona buses starting on Monday. Officials in other Spanish cities like Madrid and Valencia are considering whether or not to permit similar campaigns.

As you might imagine, not everyone is thrilled with the atheist ad campaign:
The campaign has provoked a reaction from the Catholic archbishopric of Barcelona. "Faith in God is not a source of worry, nor is it an obstacle for enjoying life," it said in a statement…

"It is an attack on all religions," said Javier Maria Perez-Roldan of the church's Tomas Moro centre, blaming the socialist government for the privately funded campaign. "The government has created an atmosphere of belligerence."
Despite Spain’s strong Catholic tradition a 2006 Harris Interactive poll found that 11% of Spaniards are atheist and that slightly less than half believe in God.

The British Humanist Association and book author Richard Dawkins recently launched a massive atheist ad campaign that includes posters on hundreds of London buses and subway cars.

Image- The Age (“Author Richard Dawkins, who wrote The God Delusion, lends his support as the London bus atheism advertising campaign is launched.”)
Online Sources- AHN, Monsters & Critics, Guardian UK, Harris Interactive

Israel to boot Venezuelan diplomats?

Israel’s Foreign Ministry is reportedly considering expelling Venezuelan diplomats in retaliation to a similar move from the South American country. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said that the government will decide later today whether or not to make the tit-for-tat gesture with Venezuela.

Venezuela’s decision to boot Israeli diplomats was taken hours after Israeli attacks killed over forty people seeking refuge at a Gaza U.N. school. "The Israeli army is cowardly attacking worn-out, innocent people" said Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as his country becomes the first to take such actions since the Israeli offensive began in late December. During a visit to a Caracas children hospital, Chavez also added that Israeli military strikes constitute a “Holocaust” against the people in Gaza.

The Israeli army claimed in a statement yesterday that “among the dead in the school were members of the military wing of the Hamas terror organization.” Yet U.N. investigators denied that with one official saying that he was "99.9% certain" there were no Hamas militants in the school.

Several Latin American governments continued to condemn the ongoing violence in the Middle East:
"Mexico condemns the excessive use of force associated with the Israeli army operation in Gaza,” a statement from the Mexican Foreign Ministry said late Tuesday.

It also condemned "the continued launching of mortars into Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip"…

The governments of Chile, Nicaragua and Peru have also officially condemned the bombardments.
Image- BBC News (“An Israeli attack on a UN-run school killed more than 40 people who were seeking shelter there from the fighting.”)
Online Sources- BBC News, Bloomberg, CNN, Al Jazeera English, Reuters, PRESS TV

Daily Headlines: January 7, 2009

* U.S.: Univision could lose millions of dollars in ad revenue from programs like prime-time telenovelas should it be defeated in a royalties trial with Mexican media giant Televisa.

* Guatemala: Rescue workers have called off their search efforts for victims of a large landslide that killed at least 35 people.

* Venezuela: President Hugo Chavez stopped a three-year program that supplied cheap heating oil to underprivileged U.S. neighborhoods.

* U.S.: Ex-Florida governor Jeb Bush has declined running in 2010 for the Senate seat vacated by Mel Martinez.

Image- Los Angeles Times (“A Televisa crew shoots an episode of the telenovela "Un Gancho al Corazon" ("A Hook to the Heart") in Mexico City. Ads from Televisa programming generate a significant chunk of Univision's TV revenue.”)
Online Sources- Voice of America, Bloomberg, Reuters, New York Times, The Latin Americanist

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Today’s Video: Salma on the small screen

Note: I sincerely apologize for the lack of posts on Tuesday. I've been battling a pretty bad stomach bug and, as you might imagine, blogging was pretty low on the list of priorities.

Regular posting will resume bright and early on Wednesday. (Hopefully!)

In the meantime, the following is a snippet from the AP highlighting Mexican actress/producer/activist/Latina extraordinaire Salma Hayek's guest stint on "30 Rock." Her role opposite Alec Baldwin showcases her many talents (double entendre not intended!) and serves as another feather in her cap.

Sources - YouTube

TSA agents ill over Honduran-made unis

Some stories speak for themselves:
Some Transportation Security Administration workers are reporting severe skin rashes, lightheadedness, swelling and redness in and around the eyes and lips as a result of the blue uniforms TSA officers started wearing this summer, according to the union representing the workers...

According to workers who have seen their doctors, the problems are caused by the formaldehyde used in the manufacturing process of the uniforms. Formaldehyde is also used by clothing makers to prevent mildew and keep fabric stain-and-wrinkle free.

Workers have noticed that uniforms imported from Mexico do not seem to cause rashes, as opposed to uniforms from Honduras. [ed. Emphasis added]
After hearing the news, a coalition of weary travelers sick of having to constantly remove their shoes and being manhandled by TSA agents has sent thank-you cards to thousands of Honduran uniform makers.*

*No, not really. But if you've ever been hassled at a security checkpoint you may wish it were true.

Image- Chicago Sun-Times
Online Sources- Chicago Sun-Times

Happy Three Kings Day! (Now go shopping)

Today is the Christian feast of the Epiphany were it's said that God revealed Himself in the form of Jesus Christ. This day is celebrated in several Latin American countries as Three Kings Day. Particularly in Mexico and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, the holiday is celebrated with the giving of sweets and gifts to children (instead of on Christmas Day).

Much like the commercialization of Christmas, Three Kings Day has gradually turned into an occasion for shopping. Wal-Mart has led the push this year with a nationwide promotional campaign. Yet smaller retailers are also trying to recoup losses in the midst of a recession as well as take advantage of Latino consumers:
"It used to be that after Christmas, everything was pretty much dead," says Ignacio Hernandez, CEO of MexGrocer.com, which began offering the traditional Rosca de Reyes (King's cake) five years ago. "Now it's still busy.”

For the first time, actors dressed as the three wise men began wandering through Florida Mall in Orlando on Sunday and posing with children for photos on a repurposed Santa display. "Now we have three thrones," laughs general manager Brian Peters.
If you're in New York City and not in the mood for crass shopping the 32nd Annual Three Kings Day Parade will be held in East Harlem. Several prominent politicos will be there honing their broken Spanish but more importantly it will be a celebration with floats, festivities, and even camels.

The Three Kings Day Parade starts at 11 a.m. at 106th Street and Third Avenue. The parade’s “three kings”/grand marshals will be New York Secretary of State Lorraine Cortes-Vazquez, Hispanic Federation founder Luis Miranda, and Nuyorican poet Jesus “Papoleto” Melendez.

Image- daylife.com (“Men with large masks representing kings lead the annual Three Kings Day Parade (Dia de los Reyes), 05 January 2006, in the East Harlem section of New York.”)
Online Sources- Gothamist, El Museo del Barrio, New York Daily News, USATODAY.COM MyDesert.com, elboricua.com, Wikipedia

Daily Headlines: January 6, 2009

* Haiti: Thousands of shoes mysteriously dumped on a Floridian expressway last week will be given to Haitians.

* Guatemala: Dozens of people reportedly died after a large mudslide covered a heavily trafficked road in northern Guatemala.

* Cuba: Cubans are now permitted to legally construct their own homes according to an edict by President Raul Castro.

* U.S.: Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in Texas are preparing to butt heads over several immigration measures.

Image- AP (“Thousands of shoes were dumped on the Palmetto Expressway causing significant traffic delays in Miami, Friday, Jan. 2, 2009.”)
Online Sources- cbs4.com, Voice of America, UPI, chron.com

Monday, January 5, 2009

Today’s Video: Bourdain’s Mexican odyssey

I’m not a foodie or a gourmand but I love Anthony Bourdain No Reservations”! The new season starts tonight with the chef/author traveling to Puebla and other areas of central Mexico. Accompanying Bourdain will be the Mexican head chef of the restaurant where Bourdain used to work (Les Halles in New York).

Below is a very brief preview of tonight’s episode including Bourdain noshing on authentic, mouthwatering tacos:

Sources- Huevos Pericos, Travel Channel, YouTube

Hugo Chavez: Rock superstar?

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez is not afraid to sing during his weekly television show and his “growling baritone” was even featured in an album released last year. Perhaps that’s not enough and he’s seeking a larger stage:
Mongrel frontman Jon McClure says he wants to record the band's second album "in Venezuela with Hugo Chavez"…

"The Mongrel thing is just going to roll and roll," he told 6Music. "We've got plans to go and do a second record out in Venezuela with Hugo Chavez. Their culture's kind of exploded, and Chavez has put a lot of his wealth into restoring the indigenous culture and stuff"…

"We're going to do a kind of Buena Vista Social Club-style thing out there with some of their drummers, and hip-hop people and horn sections and stuff. It should be fun man. Venezuela is like the new Jamaica, or Brazil, or Cuba, it's kicking off."
Mongrel is described by the Guardian UK as an indie rock “super group” that includes members of Babyshambles and the Arctic Monkeys. In other words, don’t be surprised if we see Chavez performing at Coachella in a few months.

Chavez follows a rich tradition of Latin American presidents* fronting musical groups like Chile’s Michelle and the Bachelets or the jazz/fusion of the Tony Saca Six.

* Yes, that’s a joke.

Image- BBC News
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Guardian UK, YouTube, NME

Ballooning priest receives Darwin Award

Remember the Brazilian priest who died after his makeshift ballooning stunt ended in tragedy? Father Adelir Antonio de Carli has been posthumously honored for his misadventure, albeit for all the wrong reasons:
Sitting for more than 19 hours in a lawn chair is not a trivial matter, even in the comfort of your own backyard. The priest took numerous safety precautions, including wearing a survival suit, selecting a buoyant chair, and packing a satellite phone and a GPS. However, the late Adelir Antonio made a fatal mistake.

He did not know how to use the GPS.

The winds changed, as winds do, and he was blown inexorably toward open sea.
De Carli’s voyage was well-intentioned yet his error earned him the name of “balloon buffoon” by one daily. (Compare that to the second place “recipient”: an Italian whose car was stuck on train tracks and who, in desperation, ran towards the train).

(Hat tip: Neatorama).

Image- Montreal Gazette (Adelir Antonio de Carli flying in his makeshift balloon contraption hours before his fatal crash in April 2008).
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Darwin Awards, Neatorama, Metro.co.uk, The Sun

Politicos clamor for more Hispanic leadership


We told you about Richardson's exit from the nomination process.

Now, Latino leaders are leading the call for more Hispanic leadership in the Cabinet.

The League of United Latin American Citizens provided 10 names of Latino officials and CEOs they say will go to the Obama transition team.

“Let’s face it: In terms of political appointments, Bill Richardson’s was the most important for the Hispanic community,” said Coalition for Fairness for Hispanics in Government chairman Gilbert Sandate, later adding, “It’s kind of back to the drawing board in terms of political appointments.”

Read the story here.

Source and Photo: Politico

LatAm figures angry over Israeli offensive

Last week we mentioned some of the reactions by Latin American leaders to Israel’s air strikes on Gaza; some were angry while others were more reasoned. Now that Israeli troops have invaded Gaza more reactions from the Americas have come forward.

Mexican Zapatista rebel leader "Subcomandante" Marcos blasted U.S. president-elect Barack Obama for not emitting an official statement on the Gaza situation. Obama’s lack of a statement implies that he implicitly "supports the use of force" against Palestinian people, Marcos said last Friday during a ceremony commemorating the fifteenth anniversary of the Zapatista uprising.

(According to his advisors, Obama’s low profile is in deference to current president Gorge W. Bush who remains in office until the 20th).

Meanwhile, the Nicaraguan head of the U.N. General Assembly criticized the defeat of an immediate cease-fire measure in the Security Council. "Once again, the world is watching in dismay the dysfunctionality of the Security Council," said Miguel D'escoto Brockmann after Saturday’s vote was rejected by an alleged U.S. veto.

Protests over Israel’s actions have taken place worldwide including the Americas. Marchers rallied outside of the presidential palace in Santiago, Chile and have called on the government to review its relations with Israel. Colombia’s Arab community has also spoken out:
Hundreds of people from the Palestinian community in the Colombian capital city of Bogota on Friday protested outside the Israeli embassy against Israel's bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

The protest came at a time when the Colombian government condemned, in a statement, the Israeli airstrikes on Gaza and expressed its solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of cooler heads to prevail; Hamas’ military attacks on the Israel are without justification. Yet the heavy handed Israeli response is a shortsighted solution that does little too calm rampant violence. In the end, those that suffer most are the civilians on both sides of the border whose lives are turned upside down.

Image- BBC News
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Xinhua, AP, The Age, PRESS TV, Reuters, LAHT, Prensa Latina

Daily Headlines: January 5, 2009

* Argentina: Heeb Magazine gives a mixed review of the upcoming biopic on famed revolutionary Ernesto “Ché” Guevara.

* Peru: Peru’s Minister of Defense announced that strengthening the country’s military will be “one of the priorities for 2009.”

* U.S.: Another example of why immigration reform is sorely needed: police in Arkansas are having trouble finding out information over a string of arsons since the victims are illegal immigrants who are worried that they will be deported to Guatemala.

* Mexico: How bad is violence in Mexico? Texan charities are increasingly reluctant to lend a hand south of the border.

Image- Times Online (Benicio Del Toro stars in the titular role in the Steven Soderbergh film on “Ché” Guevara.)
Online Sources- AP, Living in Peru, NWAnews.com, Heeb Magazine

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Bill Richardson withdraws Cabinet nomination

New Mexico governor Bill Richardson withdrew his candidacy for the Secretary of Commerce under incoming U.S. president Barack Obama.

In a statement issued today, Richardson said to have dropped out due to a federal investigation against him. "I have concluded that the ongoing investigation also would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process," said Richardson who also insisted of his innocence in the inquiry.

In a joint statement issued with Richardson, president-elect Obama expressed “deep regret” at dropping out yet added that “I look forward to his future service to our country and in my administration.” (Does that imply the possibility that Richardson could serve in an Obama Cabinet should he be cleared of impropriety?)

As we noted last month, the grand jury probe against Richardson has to do with a possible “play-for-pay” deal during Richardson’s gubernatorial bid in 2004. As the Wall Street Journal’s online site detailed:
The grand jury is investigating how the company won more than $1.5 million in work advising the state of New Mexico after making contributions to Mr. Richardson's political action committees. The "pay-to-play" investigation is trying to determine whether the governor's office had any role in the contracting decisions.

The focus is on fees paid to the Beverly Hills, Calif.-based CDR by the New Mexico Finance Authority in 2004 soon after donating $100,000 to Mr. Richardson's voter registration effort. CDR has denied any wrongdoing.
Richardson’s alleged wrongdoing is small potatoes compared to the brouhaha surrounding Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, yet the timing of Richardson’s probe couldn’t be worse.

Richardson hasn’t been the only prominent Latino politico to withdraw from a Cabinet nomination. In 2000, Linda Chavez withdrew her nomination from Secretary of Labor after being chosen by then-president-elect George W. Bush . The right-wing commentator dropped out when it emerged that she housed an illegal immigrant from Guatemala and helped her find work.

Image- The Fix (“President-elect Barack Obama announced New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson as Commerce Secretary during a press conference at the Hilton Hotel in Chicago, Illinois, Dec. 03, 2008.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, WSJ.com, New York Times, CNN, Voice of America, AFP, politico.com, Reuters