Saturday, February 7, 2009

Today's Video: Happy birthday Amon Tobin!

On February 7th the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba entered its 47th year, Boricua rapper Big Pun died in 2000, and the Caribbean island of Granada gained its independence in 1974.

Today, however, we wish to celebrate the birthday of Brazilian electronic musician Amon Tobin. Born in Rio de Janeiro, Amon Adonai Santos de Araújo Tobin is best known for using all sorts of samples in his repetoire such as guitar strumming and classical music. Mainstream audiences may have heard his music incorporated to films like "The Italian Job" and "21".

"Slowly" comes from Tobin's 2000 album "Supermodified" and is a song that illustarates Tobin's prowress for mixing diferent sounds in order to create exceptional music:

Sources- Wikipedia, YouTube, BBC, New York Times,

Weekend Headlines: February 7, 2009

* Costa Rica: Sudan’s U.N. Ambassador called Costa Rica a "banana republic" after his Costa Rican counterpart justly defended any future war crimes indictment of the Sudanese president.

* Peru: A mayor has suggested the legalization of illicit drugs in order to combat “hypocritical” federal drug laws.

* Cuba: Fidel Castro’s latest article blasts U.S. President Barack Obama’s economic plans and questioned what will happen to the U.S. within the next four years.

* Venezuela: Security tapes of the recent attack on a Caracas synagogue have been recovered and will be examined by investigators according to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

* Latin America: The global economic downturn could cause poverty to rise in the region by as much as 15% according to the U.N.

* Argentina: Ex-President Carlos Menem has refused to testify at his trial where he’s accused of secretly trafficking arms during his time in power.

Image- AFP (“Sudanese refugee children from Darfur pictured at the Farchana refugee camp in Chad, June 2008.”)
Online Sources-Reuters, CNN, BBC News, AP, MSNBC

Friday, February 6, 2009

Today’s Video: Nicaragua’s economy - stable or the next Iceland?

Last month, Foreign Policy (FP) examined five countries that could follow Iceland’s recent path of financial and economic ruin. The article looked at Nicaragua and blasted President Daniel Ortega’s increasingly authoritarian tendencies. The article added that the U.S. recession, declining remittances and the falling price of coffee serve as a heavy double whammy against Nicaragua’s economy.

In sharp contrast to FP’s assessment, a report from Worldfocus surmises that Ortega’s pro-business policy has buoyed the Nicaraguan economy. A recent piece shown on the program concludes that growth in tourism and increased investment from the U.S. has helped Nicaragua. (In all fairness, reporter Lynn Sherr also describes the political instability that has rocked the country).

So is Nicaragua’s economy on the rise, on the brink of collapse, or is the glass half-full/half-empty? What do you think?

Online Sources- Foreign Policy, Worldfocus, BBC News

NYU overturns Coca-Cola ban

New York University’s thirty-seven month ban on Coca-Cola products will soon to come to an end.

By a 28-22 vote the University Senate overturned the ban which had been put in place due to the soft drink giant’s suspected involvement in the deaths of Colombian labor representatives.

One of the main sticking points behind the ban was that Coca-Cola refusal to allow an independent review of worker conditions in Colombia. Yet opponents of the ban were aided when Coca-Cola agreed to an assessment of its Colombian business practices by the International Labor Organization (ILO). Supporters of the prohibition argued that the presence of ILO member and director of global labor relations Edward Potter would taint the investigation.

Since 2005 approximately forty other universities aside from NYU enacted bans on Coca-Cola products. Yet a recent Washington Square News (NYU student newspaper) poll of 132 students found a 50-50 split over whether or not to keep the ban.

Coca-Cola vehemently denies the allegations of worker abuse in countries like Colombia and India. Nevertheless, the “Killer Coke” campaign has alleged that Coke’s Colombian subsidiary has ties to rightist paramilitaries:
Isidro Segundo Gil, an employee at a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Colombia, was killed at his workplace by paramilitary thugs. His children, now living in hiding with relatives, understand all too well why their homeland is known as "a country where union work is like carrying a tombstone on your back"...
(In a 2001) lawsuit, Gil's union, Sinaltrainal, the International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF) and the United Steelworkers of America assert that the Coke bottlers "contracted with or otherwise directed paramilitary security forces that utilized extreme violence and murdered, tortured, unlawfully detained or otherwise silenced trade union leaders."
Image- BusinessWeek
Online Sources- Washington Square News, Killer Coke, Time, BusinessWeek

Mormons gain more members

More Latin Americans are joining the Mormon church, according to a Reuters article that followed a Mormon church in Buenos Aires.

Latin Americans make up 5.2 million of the 13.5 million people worldwide in the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints.

The article attributes an increase in membership to "stability." A second temple is planned for Cordoba, Argentina, which will add to one of 33 temples in Latin America for Mormons with restricted entry permits.

Read the story here.

Source and Photo: Reuters

Will Madoff scheme have impact on Latin America?

The Madoff scheme has cost investors billions here in the States. The Latin Business Chronicle reports that Banco Santander, headquartered in Madrid, had clients who lost $2.1 billion in relation with Madoff's alleged scheming. But how might this scheme affect Latin America?

The article offers an array of input. Santander was the largest finanicla group in Spain in Latin America, where the bank managed $200 billion in funds.

Also, many in Latin America probably invested with Madoff but are hesitant to file a suit against him in fear of facing their own countries' tax authorities, the article says.

One source said the Madoff losses should have no impact on the bank's "operating assets and capabilities," particularly if the bank can retain its client base.

Read more here about what advisers had to say.

Source: Latin Business Chronicle


Daily Headlines: February 6, 2009

* Peru: According to one report, thirty-three countries- including Peru- are “highly vulnerable” of having their fishing industry suffer due to climate change.

* Mexico: While Mexico has its first bilingual state, parents in Virginia are calling for continued funding of bilingual education classes.

* Brazil: A federal judge has refused to toss out a tax evasion case against race driver Helio Castroneves.

* Haiti: Eleven U.S. legislators have signed a letter calling for an investigation of the Bush administration's role in the 2004 coup d’état in Haiti.

Image- (“Hundred of "Guanay" birds fly around a fishing boat next to Asia Island in Peru, Friday, July 4, 2008.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, BBC News, UPI,,

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Today’s Video: “El Norte”, 25 years later

This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the widespread release of “El Norte”. The groundbreaking film by Gregory Nava looked at the trials and tribulations of a pair of Guatemalan siblings emigrating to the U.S. The movie shined a light on the immigration debate back when it wasn’t the contentious issue that it is today.

Aside from highlighting immigration, “El Norte” was influential in other ways:
As novelist and (Los Angeles) Times columnist Héctor Tobar points out in an essay in a program booklet accompanying the (25th anniversary) Criterion release, in the early 1980s Hollywood produced a handful of films examining these conflicts, such as "Missing," "Under Fire" and "Salvador." But their protagonists typically were non-Latinos. "El Norte" broke from this pattern by making the young siblings played by Mexican actors Zaide Silvia Gutierrez and David Villalpando the center of the action.

Another factor in "El Norte's" success was the rise of a new wave of U.S. independent filmmakers. Nava was one of several young independent directors, such as Spike Lee, Jim Jarmusch, John Sayles and David Lynch, who, Nava says, felt "there was a need at that time to deal with different sorts of subject matter, different things the Hollywood film was not dealing with."
"El Norte" continues to be as relevant today as it was first released. The movie has been a personal favorite since I first viewed it spellbound and awe over a decade ago in high school. Even to those who oppose legal/illegal immigration, the issues raised by the movie make it a must-watch:

Online Sources- Los Angeles Times, YouTube,, Wikipedia

Massive settlement reached in “May Day melee”

Remember the excessive force used by Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers after a peaceful immigrants’ rights march in May 2007?

An LAPD report later concluded that “the failing leadership, breakdown in supervision and breakdown in personal discipline” led to the unnecessary show of force by officers.
Repercussions have still been felt nearly two years after the “May Day melee”:
Demonstrators who sued the city in the wake of a MacArthur Park May Day melee in which Los Angeles police fired about 12 dozen rubber bullets into the crowd will receive $12.85 million under a settlement approved Wednesday by the City Council…

Attorney Carol Sobel with the National Lawyers Guild said the $12.85 million payout is the largest single settlement in a demonstration case anywhere in the country.
Hopefully the settlement can heal some of the wounds that emerged between Los Angeles’ Latino community and the city’s police. (Obviously the settlement isn’t a cure-all but it’s a just decision after unjust actions by the police).

Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, MSNBC

GAO questions Radio and TV Marti

A report issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) questioned the efficacy of U.S.-funded radio and television broadcasts to Cuba.

The report concluded that less than 2% of Cubans have heard or watched TV and Radio Martí over the past year. In addition, the GAO suggested that the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) significantly improve its programming and journalistic standards in order to justify its $34 million yearly budget.

OCB director Pedro Roig questioned the report's surveying methods and claimed that the data doesn’t “fully reflect the difficulties in broadcasting to a closed society."

The GAO report also found other interesting nuggets of information such as some watching habits Cubans:
_U.S. officials have little information about how Cuba jams the signals and where its equipment is located. The most recent data indicates most jamming takes place around Cuba's capital, Havana.

_Problems remain with journalistic standards of objectivity and balance on some Marti programs. Sometimes unsubstantiated reports from Cuba are included in news programming.

_ More than 90 percent of the telephone survey respondents say they watch Cuba national TV broadcasts, including such popular U.S. shows as "The Sopranos" and "Grey's Anatomy." Cuba also regularly rebroadcasts portions of CNN on its stations.
Image- (“Pedro de Pool, left, Roberto Bermudez, center, and Aristides P. Quinteros, right, are shown during a live broadcast of Radio Marti News magazine "En Directo" to Cuba in Miami, Friday, June 22, 2007.”)
Online Sources- The Swamp, Riptide 2.0, Denver Post, IHT

Research: Latinas delay seeking breast caner treatment

Research revealed yesterday indicates that breast cancer may be harder to treat in Latinas since they wait longer to seek treatment.

According to information disseminated at the Science of Cancer Health
Disparities Conference, two-thirds of Latinas detect breast cancer via self-exam yet on average wait for over a month to seek medical attention. In addition, the study found that screening mammography rates were 83% among U.S.-born Latinas and 62% among Latinas born outside of the U.S. Another set of research concluded that U.S.-born Latinas were more likely to have a number of risk factors for breast cancer such as obesity and a family history of the disease.

Why do Latinas delay seeking breast cancer treatment? Part of it has to do with a lack of health care but there are other factors:
"We asked what the reasons were," said Rachel Zenuk, a graduate student at the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, who spoke about the study. "A third cited they didn't have insurance or were unable to afford medical care. Or they thought it was not important to report the medical finding to a professional."

Other factors included fear of the results and difficulty scheduling an appointment, she said…

"(Latinas are) not getting more breast cancer than other women, but they're less likely to survive as long," said Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, a member of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation's National Health Advisory Council and chairwoman of the Komen Foundation National Hispanic/Latino Advisory Council. "The reason is they're diagnosed at a later stage of the cancer."
Image- Associated Content
Online Sources- CNN, U.S. News and World Report

Mexico: Molesting priest accused of fathering child

A Mexican cleric who founded an influential Catholic religious order has been accused of secretly having a child.

In 1941 Rev. Marcial Maciel founded the ultra-conservative Legionaries of Christ, an order that has grown to include about 800 priests and 70000 lay affiliates. In 2006, he was given a slap on the wrist by the Vatican after it was discovered that he molested and former seminarians. (Maciel died in 2007 at the age of 87).

Recent blog posts emerged claiming that despite his strong Catholic teachings Maciel fathered at least one child. The late priest’s double life was said to have lasted “for many years” and included having an affair with a mistress.

The hypocrisy of a priest who couldn’t practice what he preached has rocked the Vatican beyond the Pope Benedict XVII’s controversial de-excommunication decision. The scandal over Maciel’s secret doings has undoubtedly hurt the Legionaries of Christ, which at times appeared to be a cult of personality:
“Father Maciel was this mythical hero who was put on a pedestal and had all the answers,” (Rev. Stephen Fichter) said. “When you become a Legionarie, you have to read every letter Father Maciel ever wrote, like 15 or 16 volumes. To hear he’s been having this double life on the side, I just don’t see how they’re going to continue”…

Father Fichter added: “As Legionaries, we were taught a very strict poverty; if I went out of town and bought a Bic pen and a chocolate bar, I would have to turn in the receipts. And yet for Father Maciel there was never any accounting. It was always cash, never any paper trail. And because he was this incredible hero to us, we never even questioned it for a second.”
Image- Catholic News Agency
Online Sources- The Telegraph, BBC News, New York Times, Catholic Online, Reuters, IHT

Daily Headlines: February 5, 2009

* Latin America: Scientists have discovered the fossilized remains of a massive snake that lived sixty million years ago, was over forty feet long, and weighed about 2500 pounds.

* Cuba: A poll revealed that most Cuban-Americans prefer keeping the trade embargo and travel restrictions on Cuba.

* Mexico: According to the International Federation of Journalists Mexico is one of the world’s deadliest countries for members of the media.

* Peru: Officials celebrated the first shipping container sent from Peru to the U.S. under the recently passed bilateral free trade pact.

Image- MSNBC (“The extinct giant snake (shown in an artist's reconstruction) would have sent even Hollywood's anacondas slithering away.”)
Online Sources- Marketwatch, BBC News, AP, Living in Peru

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Vatican offices targeted in Venezuela

Days after the vandalizing and desecration of Caracas’ oldest synagogue, assailants have targeted the Vatican mission in the Venezuelan capital:
Tear gas canisters were lobbed into the Vatican's diplomatic compound in Caracas on Wednesday, the head of the mission said, days after armed men vandalized a synagogue in the capital...

Venezuelan media said two canisters landed inside the compound and two fell outside.

"We totally reject these actions, they cannot be permitted," Giacinto Berloco, who heads the mission, told Reuters.
A spokesman at the Israeli Foreign Ministry insinuated that Venezuela’s government was behind the attack on the synagogue though that was vehemently denied by Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro. Pro- and anti-government factions have accused each other of perpetrating the attack on the Israeli Association of Venezuela on Saturday.

The incident has caught the attention of several U.S. legislators. A group of sixteen Republican and Democratic congressmen wrote to Hugo Chávez and urged him to "end to the intimidation and harassment of the Jewish community" in Venezuela.

Image- AFP (“Men look on at the damage caused by an unknown group inside the main synagogue of Caracas.”)
Online Sources- Reuters, Bloomberg, Xinhua, Guardian UK, MSNBC

Report: ICE raids target nonviolent offenders

A report released on Wednesday by the Migration Policy Institute concluded that nearly three in four immigrants detained by Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agents were nonviolent offenders.

The study found that in 2004 teams on ICE’s National Fugitive Operations Program were given a quota of nabbing 125 fugitives; yet two years later the quota skyrocketed to 1000. According to the report, this led to the increased use of raids even if those detained lacked criminal antecedents (aside from being undocumented). Some of those detained didn't even have deportation orders against them.

An ICE spokesman tried to downplay the report:
"This report seems to suggest that law enforcement should not arrest any immigration fugitive who does not have a prior criminal conviction, even though they have ignored a judge's order to leave the country," said Ivan Ortiz-Delgado, an agency spokesman. "We disagree."
Despite his best efforts, Ortiz-Delgado’s spinning of the story is off the mark. The report really suggests that ICE’s job to catch “dangerous” criminals is not working well. Immigration officials claimed that the program needed so much funding in order to nab potential terrorists. Yet the results of the program contradict such claims. Why should millions in taxpayer dollars be wasted on such an inefficient program instead of being used for meaningful, fair immigration reform?

In short, who is ICE trying to fool?

Image- ABC News
Online Sources- AP,, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, New York Times

Chilean with HIV denounces forced sterilization

A Chilean woman infected with HIV has petitioned the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) over being forcibly sterilized.

According to the petition submitted by the Center for Reproductive Rights and Chilean-based HIV/AIDS service organization Vivo Positivo, the 27-year-old woman was sterilized against her will at a state hospital immediately after she gave birth. The woman- identified by the initials F.S.- contended that doctors operated on her after they found out she had HIV and despite her never granting consent for such a procedure.

Apparently cases like the one F.S. had to go through are not rare in Chile:
Her case represents a country-wide problem within Chile, according to a 2004 study conducted by VIVO POSITIVO. The study found that, of the women living with HIV who were interviewed who had been sterilized, 29% of them had been pressured by medical staff to do so and 12.9% did not consent to the procedure at all. In addition, the study found that the majority of women had received biased counseling promoting the idea that women with HIV should not become pregnant, irrespective of the fact that, with the appropriate interventions, the risk of transmitting the virus to newborns can be reduced to less than two percent.
The case was brought to the IACHR after a local court ruled that the hospital’s actions were not criminal. Rather, the court mistakenly ruled that it was as a result of an “administrative omission”.

Online Sources- Times of the Internet, El Maule, Houston Chronicle,

Tamaulipas becomes Mexico’s first bilingual state

The Mexican government recently rolled out a program designed to teach English to schoolchildren around the country. The inspiration for such an ambitious plan can be tracked to the northern border state of Tamaulipas.

Over the past seven years, state officials have gradually implemented the teaching of English in schools. While English is mandatory in all Mexican schools from seventh through ninth grade, authorities in Tamaulipas have expanded their language program so that all public school children will be taught conversational English. Thus, officials in Tamaulipas have declared the state as Mexico’s first bilingual state.

The bilingual efforts in Tamaulipas has even caught the attention of north of the border. Could the neighboring U.S state of Texas follow Tamaulipas’ example?
(U.S. ambassador Tony) Garza, who plans to split his time between Dallas and Mexico City, later said he was impressed with the program and suggested a similar effort in Texas to teach students not just Spanish, but English, too. Garza said Texas is home to an estimated 800,000 children with limited English proficiency. They come not just from Mexico but also from places like South Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East.

"I think the focus in our state needs to be on giving Texas schoolchildren what they need to compete, and that's English," he said. "And then allow for a robust program in languages that provides English speakers the opportunity to learn a second language, and my guess is for many that would be Spanish."
Image- Maps of Mexico
Online Sources- Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, Milenio

Daily Headlines: February 4, 2009

* U.S.: Students at Georgetown University protested the school’s contract with apparel manufacturer Russell Corporation due to the company’s use of Honduran sweatshops.

* Brazil: Approximately 230 police have occupied a Sao Paulo favela in one of the largest operations in years.

* Mexico: Could the 2018 or 2022 soccer World Cup be hosted by Mexico?

* Argentina: The governor of Buenos Aires province claimed that drug traffickers have issued death threats against him.

Image- BusinessWeek
Online Sources- The Hoya, BBC News, Bloomberg, CNN

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Misleading anti-immigration ads air on TV

Coming to a television near you: scare tactics (and we’re not referring to a mediocre reality show).
In an advertisement the Coalition for the Future American Worker (CFAW) says: "Last year 2.5 millions of Americans lost jobs ... Yet with millions jobless, our government is still bringing in a million and a half foreign workers to take American jobs."

The TV spot, aimed at US workers threatened by a further downturn in the economy, concludes with the question: "Could your job be next?"
Apparently the CFAW is a coalition of anti-immigration groups whose spokesman is the founder of NumbersUSA.

The CFAW had previously run ads in the 2004 that, according to, was factually accurate though those facts were distorted by a political message. Such was definitely the case with the vaguely worded, fear-mongering ads the CFAW started airing this week.

In order to minimize the problems related to immigration. The complexities of the immigration debate cannot be solved by oversimplification or misleading the public. Thus, the CFAW’s ads do nothing but detract from meaningfully discussing the pros and cons of immigration.

Image- (2007 CFAW print ad that tried to equate immigration reform with African-American economic hardship).
Online Sources-, Wikipedia, AFP

Another hostage freed by Colombian rebels

Ex-governor Alan Jara was freed this afternoon after being held nearly eight years hostage by Colombia’s FARC guerillas. Jara rejoiced his liberation after being transported by a Brazilian military helicopter along with Senator Piedad Cordoba and a trio of Red Cross representatives. “I’m free!” declared Jara after he reunited with his wife and now-teenage son at the Villavicencio airport.

In a press conference shortly after he was freed, Jara thanked all those who helped in his liberation and also declared his support for the hundreds still held hostage. “You cannot change the country through kidnapping” said Jara in criticism of the FARC though he also emphasized that negotiations “are the only solution” to Colombia’s armed conflict.

Jara was the fifth hostage released this week by the FARC and appeared to be absent of the controversy surrounding the liberation of three policemen and a soldier on Sunday. Former lawmaker Sigifredo Lopez is expected to be freed this Thursday.

Could these series of liberations signal a change in the FARC’s strategy? According to
Camilo González, an analyst with the Indepaz peace studies group, said the rebels' decision to do this is part of a FARC effort to regain political relevance. "It is the
FARC's way of trying to recover some political initiative after a disastrous year," he said…

"They may have finally realized that it is politically counterproductive to hold civilians," (political analyst Gérson) Arias says...

But Mr. González argues that the concept of swapping civilian hostages for jailed rebels – which had been central to the FARC's strategy and negotiations for years – has lost relevance.
Image- El Espectador
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, El Tiempo, RCN, AP,, AFP

Prince William to Falklands? Argies aren’t happy

Argentina’s government is none too happy over the possible deployment Britain’s Prince William to the Falkland Islands. An article in Britain’s Sunday Telegraph claimed that the second in line to the throne would be sent to the Falklands once he finishes his Royal Air Force training later this year.

The Argentine press has reported that already delicate affairs between their country and Britain would worsen significantly if “Wills” goes to the Falklands. According to Argentine foreign minister Jorge Taina:
“This circumstance only serves to once again highlight Britain’s ongoing military presence in land and sea areas that are part of the Argentine Republic’s national territories,” he said.
British officials have denied the allegations made by the Sunday Telegraph. “The story was a result of misinterpretation by the UK press, and no arrangements have been made regarding him coming to the Falklands” said a Foreign Office official to Falklands media yesterday.

The Falklands War may have been done 26 years ago but there are still hard feelings between Argentina and Britain. "The sovereign claim to the Malvinas Islands is inalienable," declared Argentine President Cristina Kirchner last April as Argentina keeps claiming ownership of the islands it calls the Malvinas.

Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Mercopress,, Radio Netherlands Worldwide, AFP

Cardinals Super Bowl loss is Nicaraguans win

On Sunday the Pittsburgh Steelers captured their sixth Super Bowl crown after a thrilling 27-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals. While both teams played brilliantly the true winners may be Nicaraguan children.

Much like last year, clothes printing the losing team as Super Bowl champions will be donated to charities for distribution in Central America. Dozens of Nicaraguan children will soon be wearing t-shirts and caps emblazoned with "Super Bowl XLIII Champions" and the Arizona Cardinals logo.

Those clothes should go well with the 2007 BCS National Champion Ohio State University t-shirts:
Because (the Cardinals) lost, licensing agreements forbid Roberts from ever selling the shirts in the United States.

So, he's giving them to charity. One Life at a Time, a non-profit started by Roberts' neighbor, will distribute the clothes to needy schoolchildren in Honduras and Nicaragua. The group did the same thing with about 600 BCS National Champion T-shirts branded with the Ohio State University Buckeyes' logo, printed before the 2007 game at University of Phoenix Stadium. The team was defeated in that year's bowl game by the University of Florida Gators.
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Los Angeles Times,

Today’s Video: We still miss you, Ritchie

Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of "The Day the Music Died". On this day in 1959 a plane crash in Iowa claimed the lives of musicians Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson.

Valens’ professional career lasted a mere eight months before his life was cut short on that snowy, windswept day in Iowa. Yet as la Macha wrote in Vivirlatino, his legacy extends far beyond the world of music:
His legacy (especially as it was remembered by the movie, La Bamba) represents all the tensions that so many Latin@s go through--growing up in extreme poverty, dreaming of assimilation AND retaining your cultural identity, being forced continuously to admit those things can only happen to a certain degree, the tragedy of lost potential.
(Video link):

By the way, did you know that Buddy Holly’s widow- Maria Elena Holly- is originally from Puerto Rico and owns the rights to Buddy’s name, image, trademarks, and other intellectual property?

Online Sources- Vivirlatino, Paste Magazine,, YouTube, Wikipedia

Daily Headlines: February 3, 2009

* Latin America: Could we soon enter a post-Monroe Doctrine era in U.S.-Latin America relations?

* Cuba: The Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation said that political detentions continue to slowly decline yet there’s been an increase in “short-term arbitrary detentions."

* Bolivia: Will Bolivia’s government or foreign multinationals win the battle over who gets to control the Andean country's vast lithium reserves?

* Paraguay: Two policemen were killed when a piece of the roof of Paraguay’s main soccer stadium collapsed during a game.

Image- Boston College
Online Sources- IHT, MSNBC, Foreign Policy in Focus, CNN

Monday, February 2, 2009

Senate confirms Eric Holder

On Monday night the Senate confirmed Eric Holder as the next U.S. Attorney General. The career federal prosecutor, judge and Washington lawyer thus becomes the country’s first African-American Attorney General.

Holder’s links to certain Latin American-related affairs was a point of controversy after he was picked by Barack Obama last December. In confirmation hearings last month, Holder was grilled over his role at the Department of Justice (DOJ) during the Clinton era including the 1999 pardons to sixteen convicted Puerto Rican nationalists. Holder’s views during the hearings against torture and waterboarding were later criticized by ex-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

In addition, several lawmakers questioned Holder’s role at the DOJ during the Elian Gonzales saga and his work for negotiating a plea deal over Chiquita Bands’ hiring of Colombian paramilitaries.

Despite doubts by some Congressman, Holder won bipartisan support and backing from law enforcement groups:
Even though 21 GOP senators voted against him, Holder’s nomination was never in danger. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee and one of Holder’s biggest critics, announced last week he was backing the nomination, and that sealed the deal...

Holder also had widespread support from outside advocacy groups, including law enforcement associations. Former FBI Director Louis Freeh and other prominent Bush DOJ officials backed him as well, undermining any potential GOP opposition to his nomination.
Image- AFP
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist,, ABC News, Vivirlatino, CNN

Brazilian banks face tough times

On Monday U.S. President Barack Obama has warned that more U.S. banks are likely to fail due to the economic crisis. Coincidentally, he could’ve said the same thing about Brazilian banks:
Banco Bradesco SA, Brazil’s second- largest non-government bank, posted a 27 percent decline in fourth-quarter profit, the biggest drop in two years, as the company increased provisions for bad loans.

Net income fell to 1.61 billion reais ($692 million) from 2.19 billion reais a year earlier, the Osasco-based company said today in a statement. It was the biggest decline in profit since an 85 percent drop in the third quarter 2006. Adjusted net income was 1.81 billion reais in the quarter, compared with 1.85 billion reais a year earlier. The adjusted result missed the 1.86 billion reais average estimate of four analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.
Over the past few years Brazilian banks have made most of their profits by expanding loan services. Yet the default rate has jumped and banks are less likely to make loans. "The crisis has spread in way that has never been seen before," Chief Executive Marcio Cypriano said in an article by Reuters.

Nevertheless, Bradesco execs said that they will open 170 new branches this year. The move is necessary in light of the soon-to-be completed merger between Banco Itau SA and Unibanco Holdings SA.

Image- O Globo
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg, Reuters, IHT,

Mexican peso hits rock bottom

Over the past week the value of Mexico’s currency has fallen precipitously. News on Friday of a continually weakening U.S. economy caused the peso to reach a record low of 14.4 against the U.S. dollar. "Each day we are hit with new surprises," one Mexican broker was quoted as saying; sadly, today was no exception:
Mexico's peso fell sharply on Monday, buffeted by more bad economic news in the United States where consumers cut spending for a sixth straight month.

The U.S. Commerce Department reported that consumer spending fell by 1 percent in December and that income dropped by 0.2 percent. Data for November were also revised lower.

The United States buys approximately 80 percent of Mexico's exports.
Mexico’s economy has been hurt by the global economic downturn, especially by the recession north of the border. Despite the economic problems, however, some analysts believe that a “healthy internal demand, fueled by credit growth, is key to Mexico weathering a global downturn in 2009.” We’ll have to wait and see if that's right.

Image- BBC News
Online Sources- IHT, Reuters

Sen. Gillibrand changes tune on immigration?

Kirsten Gillibrand- New York’s newest senator- has announced that she will ease her hard-line stance on immigration.

As we mentioned last month, Gillibrand came under fire from immigrants rights groups over her conservative views on immigration during her time in the House of Representatives.

After meeting with several New York City Latino politicos yesterday, Gillibrand said that she would change her mind and oppose mass raids and deportations of illegal immigrants. In addition, she announced that she would be in favor of a path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants and would back funding for the DREAM Act.

Gillibrand has not changed her mind on all issues regarding immigration, however; she said that she would keep pushing for English to become the official language of the U.S.

Gillibrand’s apparent about face was met with cautious optimism by pro-immigrants groups and local Latino leaders. "I'm not saying that I'm convinced…She is asking for a chance to demonstrate where she is going to be when it comes to immigration" said Assemblyman Peter Rivera after meeting with her yesterday.

An editorial in New York City’s largest Spanish-language daily expressed hope that Gillibrand’s words turn into actions:
Gillibrand showed a willingness to engage communities that have not been on her radar. She also understands the doubts people have about her. The best way to get people over that skepticism is for her to deliver on the pledges she made and stand firmly for vulnerable families.
Image- New York Daily News (“Vice President Joe Biden swears in Kristen Gillibrand as the junior senator from New York in a mock ceremony.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, New York Daily News, NY1, WNYC,, El Diario/La Prensa

Colombia: Accusations launched over hostage rescue

Update (1:00pm): Sen. Piedad Cordoba announced that the rescue of ex-Governor Alan Jara which was originally scheduled for today will be done on Tuesday. (Link via El Tiempo).

Update (12:30pm):
Red Cross spokesman Yves Heller said that the planned rescues for today and Wednesday will be delayed indefinitely. (Link via RCN).

Update (10:30am): President Alvaro Uribe reinstated Sen. Piedad Cordoba to continue assisting rescue operations. However, he refused to extend the favor to Colombians for Peace (Link via El Tiempo).

Yesterday should’ve been a joyous day to celebrate the freeing of four Colombian hostages from their rebel captors. Instead, accusations and finger-pointing have come about in the hours after the liberation.

Three police officials and a soldier were handed over in a deal led by the Red Cross and with the use of Brazilian military helicopters. Jorge Enrique Botero- a journalist with rescue group Colombians for Peace- said that military flights took place during the handover and nearly caused the operation to be aborted. That claim was initially denied by a government spokesman though it was later partially acknowledged by President Alvaro Uribe.

At around midnight, Uribe spoke at a press conference with the freed hostages. The former captives spoke of their mistreatment in the jungle including being chained and lassoed to trees, having their radios removed and being forced to follow scripts during taped video messages for their families.

Uribe then spoke and accused the FARC of a bombing last night in Cali that killed three people. As a result of that (and seemingly in reaction to the brouhaha over the military flights during the rescue mission), Uribe removed the peace group from participating in the planned liberation of two more hostages today and Wednesday.

What does this all mean? For starters, the freeing of the two other hostages may be delayed or suspended altogether as it gives the FARC an ideal (albeit unfair and pitiful) alibi for them to halt unilateral liberations. The accusations flying in all directions shows that petty political differences take more precedence than humanitarian efforts. Uribe permitted Brazil and the Red Cross to continue within the planned liberations though his decision to exclude Colombians for Peace may hamper further rescue attempts. (The FARC had previously said that they would only work with the group and its leader- opposition senator Piedad Cordoba). The bickering between numerous actors could further difficult any pacific end to the conflict between guerillas and the government.

Hundreds of Colombians remain held against their will by the guerillas. They deserve to be freed as soon as possible and returned to their loved ones. Sadly, that reality appears to be deferred due to the intransigence of some.

Image- AP ("Former hostage, police officer Alexis Torres, gives a thumb up in Villavicencio, Colombia, after he was released by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, Sunday, Feb. 1, 2009.")
Online Sources- Bloomberg, El Espectador, El Tiempo, Voice of America, Al Jazeera English

Daily Headlines: February 2, 2009

* Venezuela: President Hugo Chavez condemned a recent attack on Caracas' oldest synagogue while Israeli officials insinuated that the vandalizing occurred with government approval.

* U.S.: A Mexican newspaper reporter seeking political asylum in the U.S. was freed after spending seven months in a detention center.

* Peru: Did the country’s navy really have plans to stage a coup d’état against Peru’s’ government?

* Cuba: Hundreds of Spaniards demonstrated for and against the Castro regime during a pair of marches commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Cuban revolution.

Image- MSNBC (“A member of the Jewish community views a vandalized tabernacle in a synagogue at the Israeli Association of Venezuela headquarters in Caracas on Saturday.”)
Online Sources- IHT, El Paso Times, AP, LAHT, Bloomberg