Friday, March 13, 2009

Today’s Video: Marta

Over the past few days we’ve featured videos on interesting Latin American women from the fields of literature, journalism, and politics. Tonight we look at another field (so to speak): sports.

Her real name is Marta Vieira da Silva but she is best-known simply by her first name. Marta is a phenomenal Brazilian striker who is the reigning FIFA Women's World Player of the Year since 2005. She has won a pair of Olympic silver medals for Brazil in women’s soccer and was named the best player in the 2007 Women’s World Cup. She will play for the Los Angeles Sol of the inaugural Women's Professional Soccer which begins later this month.

The following is likely Marta’s best goal which she scored against the U.S. during the ’07 World Cup. The Brazilian announcer was on the nose when he screamed that “there are no words to describe the goal by Marta”!

Online Sources- Women's Professional Soccer, Wikipedia, USA TODAY, The Latin Americanist, YouTube

Chespirito to fans: I’m not dead

Mexican actor and writer Roberto Gomez Bolaños, (a.k.a. "Chespirito”) denied rumors claiming that he passed away this week.

According to Bolaños’ son, the false alarm was spread by a spam e-mail claiming that the man best known for portraying the comical “El Chavo del Ocho” died due to cardiac arrest. The message asks readers to play an audio clip in homage to Bolaños, yet the download is really the deadly “Trojan horse” computer virus.

Last Saturday, Bolaños celebrated his eightieth birthday away from the public eye. Several days later, however, he was spotted attending a Mexico City showing of “The Diary of Anne Frank” where his granddaughter lays the titular role. “I’m doing well for a guy my age and to live in this country” Bolaños mentioned to the press.

Online Sources- LAHT, El Tiempo,, Cadena 3, El Sol de San Luis

Colombia: Pyramid scheme victims to get pittance

Thousands of Colombians who invested nearly $700 million in a massive pyramid scheme will face further insult to injury.

The collapse of some pyramid operations late last year led to outrage, protests, and riots in several cities. These faux-financiers specifically targeted lower-class people and promised as much as 150% return. One company in particular- DMG Holdings- was even accused of being a money laundering front for Colombian drug gangs.

In the case of DMG, the firm was able to operate for three years under lax government supervision and alleged corruption. It was for this reason why some investors duped by the company defended DMG founder David Murcia as a Robin Hood-like figure.

Resentment and anger which still persists among those who lost their savings in DMG are likely to be peeved off at a government decision made today:
Thousands of investors who lost savings, big and small, in a Colombian pyramid scheme will receive just $96 apiece in compensation, the government announced Friday.

Maria Mercedes Perry, the official named to oversee DMG Group Holdings SA, said the government so far has recovered just 52 billion pesos — about $20.5 million — largely in cash found in the company's offices.

She said it would be divided equally among the 214,000 investors, regardless of how much they had deposited.
Granted, something is better than nothing. But for those whose goals of buying a new house, and investing for their future children (like some in my family) $96 does little to repair their shattered dreams.

Image- AFP (“A man holds a sign reading "what about my money?" in Popayan, department of Cauca, Colombia.”)
Online Sources- AP, Americas Quarterly, Council on Hemispheric Affairs, The Latin Americanist, Plan Colombia and Beyond, MSNBC

Mexican gov’t peeved at Forbes wealth list

Forbes Magazine published this week its annual list of the world’s wealthiest people. Mexican telecom magnate Carlos Slim may have lost a sizeable chunk of his fortune ($25 billion down from $60 billion) due to the global recession. Yet Slim was placed at third on the Forbes list behind Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.

Aside from slim another notable Mexican was placed on the Forbes list: drug capo Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. The head of the Sinaloa drug cartel has en estimated net worth of $1 billion, making him the world’s 701st wealthiest person said Forbes.

Mexico’s government is desperately trying to improve the country’s image in light of rampant drug-related violence. Thus, you can imagine the reaction by senior officials to Guzman on the Forbes list:
President Felipe Calderon said Thursday that "magazines are not only attacking and lying about the situation in Mexico but are also praising criminals."
Mexico's Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora said Forbes is defending crime by "comparing the deplorable activity of a criminal wanted in Mexico and abroad with that of honest businessmen."
There’s a Spanish-language saying: no se puede tapar al sol con un dedo. (Rough translation – “You can’t block the sun by holding up a finger to it”). Calderon and Medina Mora should’ve remembered that cliché.

Image- CNN (1993 photo of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.)
Online Sources- BBC News,, AP, The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg

Lula nudges Obama toward Latin America

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva will meet with U.S. President Barack Obama Saturday to push for more open talks with the governments of Venezuela and Cuba. Both countries' leaders continue to be a thorn for U.S. diplomacy.

"What I want is for the United States to look at Latin America and South America with a friendly eye," Lula said. "We are a democratic and peaceful continent and the United States should look at production and development, not only drug-trafficking and organized crime."

Lula also wants Brazil to have a bigger role and voice on the world stage.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez reportedly gave Lula permission to speak on his behalf.

Read the full story here.

Source: Reuters

Photo:, Chavez and Lula

Obama faces Andean diplomacy problems

Speaking of strained relationships, more than a few ruffled feathers have affected U.S. diplomats in Latin America recently.

Francisco Martinez, the second secretary of the U.S. Embassy, was ejected from Bolivia Thursday, for allegedly meeting with "political opposition and spies," according to this Washington Post article.

Bolivia also threw out Ambassador Philip S. Goldberg and Venezuela expelled Ambassador Patrick Duddy in September.

The list goes on: Bolivia banished 38 Drug Enforcement Administration agents and requested to move U.S. Agency for International Development from coca regions.

The U.S. State Department denied any misconduct in any of the cases.

Read more about the situations here.

Source: WashPost

Photo: Reuters

Daily Headlines: March 13, 2009

* Chile: Several U.S. banks are being sued by Chile’s government over allegedly helping the late dictator Augusto Pinochet embezzle public funds.

* Cuba: The country’s government continues to repress independent journalists despite the emergence of bloggers critical of the Castro regime according to Reporters Without Borders.

* Ecuador: The government will formally default on a bond debt of $2.7 billion that is due in 2030.

* Dominican Republic: Hundreds of health professionals demanding higher wages went on a 24-hour strike yesterday.

Image- CBC
Online Sources- Reporters Without Borders, IHT,, CNN

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Today’s Video: Rosalía Arteaga

In honor of International Women’s Day we’ve so far featured Chilean author Isabel Allende and Mexican journalist Elena Poniatowska. Today we look at one female politician whose historical feat has been largely forgotten.

Slowly but surely women in Latin America have ascended the political ladder and have become leaders, ministers, and heads of state. Argentina’s Cristina Kirchner and Chile’s Michelle Bachelet are two women who are currently presidents of their respective countries.

In February 1997, Rosalía Arteaga was named as Ecuador’s first female president. Amidst great political instability, however, her achievement was diminished since she served one of the shortest terms ever for a head of state: two days.
On February 6 1997…President Abdalá Bucaram was declared unfit to govern by Congress. Arteaga and congressional leader Fabián Alarcón became locked in a dispute over who should succeed Bucaram, as the constitution was vague on the issue…On February 9, however, Arteaga, who had insisted as vice-president she should become president, was sworn in instead…Two days later, however, on February 11, with the support of Congress and the army, Alarcón was sworn in again and Arteaga resigned.
The Spanish-language video below shows Arteaga interviewed a decade after her 48-hour presidency. After failing to regain the presidency via election in 1998 she left Ecuadorian politics. Arteaga is currently a member of the editorial board of the Encyclopædia Britannica as well as the secretary-general of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization.

Online Sources-, Wikipedia, PBS, The Latin Americanist, YouTube

”Independence icons” as Venezuelan toys

Who would win a grudge match between G.I. Joe and Simon Bolivar? We may soon find out:
Inspired by socialist President Hugo Chavez, a father and daughter are hoping to launch a line of action figures from Venezuela's history to counter the popularity of "imperialist" American superheroes like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.

Joyce Parra and her father, Angel, have drafted drawings for action figures they call "Venezuela's Heroes," including independence icons Simon Bolivar and Francisco de Miranda, as well as Antonio Jose de Sucre, a general who helped Bolivar free Venezuela from Spanish rule.

"The idea isn't to get rich," Joyce Parra, 26, told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "What we want to do is make them available for the children whose parents cannot afford to purchase such toys."
Parra is hoping for funding from the Venezuelan government in order to manufacture at least twenty action figures. He may get his wish after Chavez praised the toys on his weekly program for symbolizing the “battle against Superman, against Batman, (and) against Robin.

Not all of the planned action figures are men; one of them includes Manuela Sáenz- Bolivar’s mistress who’s seen as a revolutionary hero.

Image- AP ("An action figure in the likeness of Venezuela's independence hero Francisco de Miranda, created by Angel Parra and his daughter Joyce, is displayed in Caracas, Wednesday, March 11, 2009.")
Online Sources-, Los Angles Times, Wikipedia

Adolfo Carrion under fire

Recently chosen White House urban affairs director Adolfo Carrion has come under controversy for several actions during his time as Bronx borough president.

Local prosecutors are examining the circumstances behind Carrion not paying architect Hugo Subotovsky for renovating his home in 2007. While that may seem like small potatoes, eyebrows have been raised since Subotovsky was also working at the time on a major housing development in the Bronx.

In addition, Carrion has been accused of accepting thousands of dollars in donations from developers in return for approving or funding their projects.

A watchdog group has admonished Carrion’s possible conflict of interest:
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder in response to several Daily News reports about Carrión's dealings while he was Bronx borough president.

"If the era of pay-to-play politics is over, Adolfo Carrión did not get the message," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of the Democrat-leaning CREW.
Carrion- who is of Puerto Rican background- oversaw the construction of over 40,000 new housing units as Bronx borough president. The former urban planner was accused of being heavy-handed, however, in helping push the plan to build a new Yankee Stadium.

Online Sources-, Latina, MSNBC, New York Times, New York Daily News

Nicaraguans hit by mass hysteria?

Several Nicaraguan indigenous communities have been hit by mass hysteria according to an article in New Scientist magazine. The brief piece said that 43 people in the northern part of the country have been afflicted by mass hysteria.

Oddly enough, cases of hysteria have occurred several times in Nicaragua over the past decade. Over thirty schoolchildren felt symptoms of nausea and hallucinations of being chased in one 2007 incident. In 2004, worries about being taken over by boogie man led some kids of another town to carry copies of the Bible wherever they went.

In a 2006 issue of Canada’s The Walrus Magazine, Nicola Ross wrote about the bouts of mass hysteria in Nicaragua:
The Miskitus, a group indigenous to the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua and Honduras, don’t have a word for mental illness. Instead, ailing people are thought to be out of balance with the spirits. Grisi siknis, the Miskitus’ best attempt at a phonetic spelling of “crazy sickness,” causes those afflicted—mostly young Miskitu women—to alternate between a trancelike state of semi-consciousness and periods of frenzied behavior. During the latter, victims often rip off their clothes, flee into the forest or the murky, fast-flowing river, and appear to develop superhuman strength. In such a crazed state, these women are difficult to stop. With their eyes closed, and armed with machetes or sticks, they think nothing of attacking whoever or whatever stands between them and the mysterious force that beckons.
Ross noted that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV of the American Psychiatric Association includes a glossary of twenty-five culture-bound syndromes including bulimia and anorexia.

Another recent case of mass hysteria in the Americas happened in 2007. Hundreds of locals in southern Peruvian claimed that they were sick due to a minor meteorite strike.

Image- New Scientist ("A previous outbreak of mass hysteria, in 2003, affected at least 60 people in Raití, northern Nicaragua.")
Online Sources- The Walrus Magazine, MSNBC, BBC News, New Scientist, Radio La Primerisima, El Diario Nuevo

Chileans recuperating from Florida shooting

It was two weeks ago today that a pair of Chileans were shot dead in Florida in a possible hate-motivated murder. Sixty-year-old Dannie Baker remains under arrest after indiscriminately shooting at a nearby house party held by over a dozen exchange students. The crime “caused commotion in Chile” according to the Chilean consul.

Three other young adults wounded from the shooting have fortunately been recuperating. Two of them were released from the hospital earlier this month after being treated for their gunshot wounds. Despite being struck in the head and the neck, 25-year-old Francisco Cofre has been listed in fair condition according to hospital authorities.

The physical wounds may be healing for those injured by Baker’s attack yet the psychological wounds still remain fresh:

A fund has been established to help the students affected by the shooting. Prospective donors may call 1-850-244-9900 for more information.

Online Sources-,,, Northwest Florida Daily News

Daily Headlines: March 12, 2009

* Peru: According to the World Bank, Peru may be the only Latin American country to avoid being hit by recession this year.

* Venezuela: Former senior State Department official Otto Reich denied being involved in the failed 2002 coup against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

* Argentina: Juan Roman Riquelme quit the country’s national soccer team and declared that he will never play under new coach Diego Maradona.

* Brazil: Police arrested 72 people accused of participating in a wild animal trafficking ring.

Image- ABC News (Tourists visiting the ancient Incan ruins of Macchu Pichu)
Online Sources- Voice of America, Reuters, IHT, AFP

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Today’s Video: Elena Poniatowska

International Women’s Day may’ve passed yet we continue our homage this week to exceptional Latin American women.

On Monday, we featured an enlightening interview with Chilean author Isabel Allende. Today highlight Mexican writer, intellectual, and award-winning journalist Elena Poniatowska.

Poniatowska is best-known for 1971 book on the infamous 1968 Tlatelolco massacre. In the lengthy clip below she reads from some of her works and discusses topics like Chicano literature and her childhood. (Her remarks start at the 12:45 mark after the intro).

Online Sources- Wikipedia, The Latin Americanist, YouTube

Obama, Congress relaxes Cuba restrictions (includes update)

Despite calling it an "imperfect proposal" President Obama signed the spending bill which includes easing certain restrictions to Cuba. (Link via FOX News).

Original Post
Congress passed a $410 million omnibus spending bill that includes relaxing travel and importation restrictions to Cuba.

The bill’s provisions don’t go as far as scrapping the decades-long trade embargo against Cuba. Yet it would allow Cuban-Americans to visit their families on the island once a year; thus, reversing a Bush administration rule limiting travel to once every three years. In addition, the bill would make it easier to import medicine and food to the island.

The proposal had faced stern opposition from a pair of Cuban-American Senators (Mel Martinez and Bob Melendez) representing both of the major parties. Yet their disagreement seemed to have been dissuaded after Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner promised that the embargo’s main parts would remain in place. Furthermore, Geithner promised tight oversight of the eased limitations.

The bill is expected to be signed very soon by President Barack Obama. During his presidential run, Obama promised to ease travel restrictions to Cuba with the possibility of improving relations with the island. Yet one Cuban government representative recently considered relaxing the provisions as committing “the same mistake previous administrations have made".

How have Cubans reacted to the news? According to Reuters, it’s a mixed bag among those living in exile and seen as a positive among those living domestically.

Image- CBS News
Online Sources- Reuters, U.S. News and World Report, USA TODAY, AFP, The Latin Americanist, BBC News, Radio Netherlands Worldwide

”Lost” Roberto Bolaño manuscripts discovered

Chilean author Roberto Bolaño passed away in 2003 at the age of 50. Since then, however, the literary world has fallen in love with his work; his critically acclaimed novel “2666” is a favorite to win a National Book Critics Circle Award this year.

Now comes word from the Spanish press of the discovery of previously unknown Bolaño manuscripts. Literary nerds will surely like this:
Two new novels by the Chilean author Roberto Bolaño have reportedly been found in Spain among papers he left behind after his death. The previously unseen manuscripts were entitled Diorama and The Troubles of the Real Police Officer, reported La Vanguardia.

The newspaper said the documents also included what is believed to be a sixth section of Bolaño's epic five-part novel 2666.

The Wylie Agency, the literary agency, which recently took over the Bolaño estate, declined to comment about the reports. The novels apparently came to light when piles of documents, notebooks and diaries left behind by Bolaño were being sifted through.
One of Bolaño’s diaries reportedly confessed that “I am sure I will die unpublished.” If only he knew.

Image- New York Times
Online Sources- The Telegraph, NPR, Guardian UK, The Latin Americanist

Report: $7M Merrill bonus to LatAm banker

Former executives with Merrill Lynch has come under fire for the granting of multimillion dollar bonuses shortly before the firm was acquired by Bank of America.

The bonus controversy has garnered more attention due to the investigation by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. He has looked into why so much money in bonuses were given out while the company asked for (and subsequently received) roughly $45 billion of a Wall Street rescue package.

The latest chapter in the bonus debacle reportedly involves the distributing of one Latin American banker who got a hefty check from Merrill:
Merrill Lynch & Co paid Latin American investment banker Alexandre Bettamio, whom it poached from UBS AG (UBSN.VX), at least $7 million in guaranteed bonuses for 2008, the Wall Street Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter.

The firm's investment bankers in Latin America, including Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, earned revenue of about $50 million through late December, while piling up at least $100 million in expenses, most of them compensation-related, one person familiar with the results told the paper.
Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Image- The Telegraph
Online Sources- Gothamist, Huffington Post, AFP, Reuters

Dominicans ousted from World Baseball Classic

On paper the Dominican Republic was one of the favorites to win this year’s World Baseball Classic (WBC). With a team including superstars like Hanley Ramirez, David Ortiz, and Pedro Martinez, it should’ve been a formality for the Dominicans to advance out of the tournament’s first round. Yet twice wasn’t nice as an underdog yet very resilient Netherlands beat los quisqueyanos to eliminate them from the WBC.

Last night’s game was an absolute nail-biter that was decided in extra innings. The Dominicans broke the scoreless game in the 11th inning after Jose Reyes scored on a fielding error by Eugene Kingsdale. Facing elimination, the Dutch rallied to score two times in the bottom of the eleventh. An RBI single Kingsdale led to him advancing to third base on an error, and then scoring the winning run of a Sidney de Jong bloop single.

As to be expected, the mood in the Dominican clubhouse was grim:
“These guys, they did it,” David Ortiz said. “They beat us. I tell you, the whole world is shocked now. Even in Japan, they’re like ‘What the heck?’ in Japanese”…

“Oh, God, thank God I don’t have to go back home for a while,” Ortiz said. “I’m telling you right now, in the Dominican, there had to be a blackout right now”…

“Of course, we’re disappointed,” (Dominican manager Felipe) Alou said. “We have been called the Republic of Baseball.”
Image- FOX Sports
Online Sources- New York Times,, Reuters,

Brazilian actor says “não” to Sean Penn

Actor Sean Penn has come under fire for his visits and chats with Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. This recently earned him the wrath of Maria Conchita Alonso who came out of the woodworks to claim that Penn “has no clue at all” about Venezuela.

In December, an article in The Advocate claimed that Penn is a hypocrite for his Oscar-winning portrayal of pioneering gay politician Harvey Milk. The piece by James Kirchick criticized Penn for coming “to the defense of thugs” like Chavez and Castro who have been accused of stifling the rights of the LGBT community in their respective countries.

In the latest Salvo, Penn has been critiqued by the man who usually does his voiceover in Brazil. Unlike Alonso and Kirchick, however, Marco Ribeiro’s reasoning is more religious than political:
Marco Ribeiro, who dubbed Penn in "21 Grams" and "All the King's Men," isn't just a local film voice. As a pastor, he's also the voice of the conservative protestant God's Assembly Church in Rio.

And that posed a conflict.

"I did not feel comfortable with the job," the 38-year-old Ribeiro told local press. "My voice is involved with other causes, and for the same reason I have refused to work on certain types of advertising."
The person in charge claimed that Ribeiro accepted the job yet he rejected it when he “learned more” about the movie “Milk.” (Perhaps Ribeiro mistakenly thought the film was on lactose intolerance?)

What do you think? Is Penn being rightly criticized or is it much ado about nothing?

Image- Guardian UK
Online Sources- Variety, The Independent, The Advocate, The Latin Americanist, Reuters

Daily Headlines: March 11, 2009

* Mexico: Visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy pledged counternarcotics aid to Mexico, while police suspect that drug gangs were behind the decapitations of five men whose heads were stuffed in ice coolers.

* Costa Rica: According to official data over 4000 girls between the ages of 10 and 14 became pregnant between 1997 and 2007. This stands in sharp contrast to the 22 underage fathers they identified over the same period.

* Chile: During his royal visit to Chile, Britain’s Prince Charles insisted that “we must act now" on the issue of climate change.

* Venezuela: Authorities dismantled seven drug labs located near the country’s border with Colombia.

Image- CNN “(Police in Jalisco, Mexico, discovered five heads beside a road to Guadalajara on Tuesday morning.).”
Online Sources- BBC News, Xinhua, LAHT, AFP

Posting resumes on Wednesday

As you might have noticed, posting was very light on Tuesday. We deeply and sincerely apologize for the inconvenience. The rodent that powers this blog- Hector el Hamster- decided to take the day off without asking.

As punishment we've replaced the water in Hector's bottle with Red Bull. Therefore, regular posting will resume on Wednesday and will be extended into this weekend.

Again, sorry for the off-day. See you later.

Image- Wonkette

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Daily Headlines: March 10, 2009

* El Salvador: With days left until El Salvador’s presidential election it appears as if leftist Mauricio Funes (image) is the favorite to win.

* Mexico: The mayor of Vancouver, Canada claimed that the city has been hit by a local gang war related to Mexican narcotraffickers.

* Puerto Rico: Will the weakened U.S. economy cause decreased migration of Puerto Ricans to the mainland?

* Venezuela: President Hugo Chavez and Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos are butting heads over issues of sovereignty and combating guerillas.

Image- BBC News
Online Sources-, MSNBC, Voice of America, Hispanosphere

Monday, March 9, 2009

Today’s Video: Isabel Allende

In honor of International Women’s Day (which took place on Sunday) our daily video posts this week will acknowledge exceptional Latin American women.

Tonight, we feature Chilean author Isabel Allende. In this 2008 video, Allende engages in a very enlightening interview conducted by David Frost:

Online Sources- AFP, YouTube

Bolivia ejects U.S. diplomat

Earlier this month, the Bolivian government proposed improving fragile political relations with the U.S. That diplomatic gesture may be overshadowed by events today, however:
Bolivian President Evo Morales on Monday ordered the expulsion of a senior U.S. diplomat in the country, accusing him of participating in a "conspiracy" against Bolivia's far-left government.

Francisco Martinez, the second secretary of the U.S. Embassy in La Paz, was "persona non grata," Morales said in a public address at his official palace.

Martinez, he said, "was in permanent contact with opposition groups during the entire period of the conspiracy," which he said caused anti-government unrest that rocked much of the country in September 2008.
A spokesman at the embassy at La Paz didn’t comment on the specifics of Martinez’ expulsion though he did say that Martinez was a secondary-level career diplomat.

Morales’ today is one of several expulsions over the past year; Morales had previously ordered out counternarcotics DEA agents while U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg was booted out in September.

Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Ottawa Citizen,, Reuters

U.S. Supreme Court limits minority voting provisions

By a slim 5-4 decision the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to limit minority voting provisions under the Voting Rights Act.

The case presided on by the magistrates referred to the creation of some election districts designed to maintain African-American and Latino voters. The decision thus reverses a North Carolina redistricting plan that aimed to preserve minority voting power in a district where racial minorities made up 39% of the electorate.

Speaking for the majority (all of whom are conservative), Justice Anthony Kennedy said that the Voting Rights Act did not warrant the creation of a new district where less than half of the electorate consist of minorities. The four dissenting, liberal judges decried the decision with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg urging Congress to work diligently to clarify the law.

Today’s ruling has a significant effect on the Latino electorate:
The ruling may make it harder for minority candidates to win election in some voting districts. The court under Chief Justice John Roberts has repeatedly shown skepticism about governmental considerations of race in voting and other contexts.

The court in April is scheduled to hear arguments in a potentially more far-reaching Voting Rights Act case, one challenging the requirement that the Justice Department give advance approval before district lines or other voting rules can be changed in many parts of the country.
Online Sources- Bloomberg, IHT, Reuters

Vatican backs Brazilian abortion excommunication

Last week we mentioned the case of a nine-year-old Brazilian girl who underwent an abortion after she was impregnated by her abusive stepfather. Though abortion is illegal in most cases in Brazil, doctors decided that the eighty-pound girl’s life was in danger by her being pregnant.

Despite the extreme circumstances of the case, local Catholic officials excommunicated the mother and the doctors who performed the abortion. "The law of God is higher than any human laws,” declared local Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho.

Over the weekend a senior Vatican authority defended the excommunication decision. "It is a sad case but the real problem is that the twins conceived were two innocent persons, who had the right to live and could not be eliminated," said Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re to a local daily. Re- who is the head of the Roman Catholic Church's Congregation for Bishops- acknowledged that “life must always be protected” yet did not say anything over the girl’s life being in danger by her pregnancy.

Aside from excommunicating the girl’s mother, Sobrinho also had the gall to disparage the raped child:
The stepfather was not excommunicated because the church said that his action, although deplorable, was not as bad as ending the life of an unborn child.

"It is clear that he committed a very serious sin, but worse than this is the abortion," Sobrinho said.
Sobrinho’s lack of compassion for a raped nine-year-old girl instead if her accused attacker is reprehensible and sickening. The child’s stepfather has been accused of:
  • Raping a nine-year-old girl
  • Impregnating her with twins
  • Violating the girl since the age of six
  • Paying her off to stay quiet
  • Abusing the girl’s disabled sister
As a person, I’m deeply saddened that a parent could rape and impregnate such a young girl. As a Roman Catholic follower, I’m enraged that Church officials have acted so empty-hearted and callous in order to adhere to their black-and-white dogma.

Image- Al Jazeera English (“The church said the abortion was worse than the alleged rape by the girl's stepfather [EPA].”)
Online Sources- Al Jazeera English, Belfast Telegraph, New York Times, The Latin Americanist

Latino assaulters in possible hate crime

In recent months, Latinos like Marcelo Lucero have been the target of heinous crimes on Long Island due to their race and nationality. The Hispanic community rallied around his death and correctly criticized the increasingly hostile climate against Latinos on Long Island.

Nassau County authorities may bring up hate crime charges against a group of Latinos who attacked an African-American man yesterday. One of those accused is an off-duty New York City cop who reportedly used racial slurs while attacking the victim:

Any assault motivated by anger, hatred, and/or intolerance should be condemned regardless of who the aggressors are. Whether Latinos are the victims or the perpetrators, attacks like the one described above are idiotic and sickening.

Online Sources- The Latin Americanist,,

Daily Headlines: March 9, 2009

* Venezuela: Could the government’s threatened takeover of a local food conglomerate affect the country’s arepa production?

* Argentina: A former investigator of the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires claimed that he was “kidnapped and tortured”.

* Mexico: Three people, including a U.S. citizen, were found decapitated near the border in Tijuana.

* Colombia: Approximately 500 people marched on Friday in protest of military corruption and human rights violations.

Online Sources-, JTA, LAHT, Bloomberg