Friday, March 27, 2009

Today’s Video: Feliz cumple Charly Alberti!

Today is the 46th-birthday of Argentine musician Charly Alberti. Alberti is best-known as the drummer for groundbreaking rock en español band Soda Stereo. Aside from Soda, Alberti has also launched several Internet projects designed to promote music throughout the Americas and co-founded the rock group MOLE along with his brother Andres.

Nostalgia for Soda aside, we pay tribute to Alberti one his birthday by featuring the music video for “El Bote” by MOLE:

Online Sources- YouTube, myspace.com

News Briefs: Human Rights

* A report released by Amnesty International USA concluded that human rights violations are prevalent in the U.S. immigration system. The types of abuses are numerous according to the study including excessive periods of detention and substandard detention centers.

* A former Cuban political prisoner has undergone a hunger strike that has lasted over a month. 'We are conscious of the risks and dangers to the human body… But you are talking to a person who spent 17 years in prison in a country where there are no legal channels to pursue,'' said Jorge Luis García to the Miami Herald over his protest on the island.

* The National Security Archive obtained declassified security documents showing that U.S. knew of Guatemalan rights abuses in the 1980s. "Government security services have employed assassination to eliminate persons suspected of involvement with the guerrillas or who are otherwise left-wing in orientation," read one 1984 State Department report obtained via the Freedom of Information Act.

* Earlier today we mentioned how a Mexican court upheld a ruling that exonerated ex-president Luis Echeverria over the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre. Local human rights activists have decried the decision with one politico calling it “an insult to the Mexican people.”

Image- Reuters (“Mexican immigrant Antonio Lemus waits at a processing center in Santa Ana, California, September 13, 2007.”)
Online Sources- miamiherald.com, AP, Scoop, The Latin Americanist, MSNBC, Monsters & Critics, boston.com, AFP

Death of a lucha wrestler

Contributed by Sir Jorge Orduna

It seems that drug coverage takes precedent in many news posts these days, and that's a real shame sometimes. While the news outlets concentrate on all things border related, no one really cares about our heroes. Case in point? The lack of coverage surrounding Lucha Libre star Abismo Negro's death. Abismo Negro, real name Andres Palomque Gonzalez, was found dead in a river in Mazatlan on a Sunday afternoon recently. Sources claim that he suffered a panic attack and forced a bus driver to pull over, and that was the last of the information we have at this point.

No one knows exactly what happened.

Lucha Libre is too big of a sport to have such little information about this. Meanwhile, last week Andrew "Test" Martin, a former WWE Wrestler, passed away overseas. Test was found dead in his hotel room. Once again, the news was swept under the rug for more favorable content amongst media searches.

The saddest thing of all is not so much the lack of coverage over the death of a lucha libre star, but moreover the lack of respect with dealing with a human being. That being said, it is no surprise that rumors are spreading about foul play in both cases; and these are our heroes.

Image- esmas.com
Online Sources- examiner.com, TWNPNews.com, PWTorch.com

Mainstream Media Finally Talking About Human Rights Violations in Immigration Detention

Cross Posted at VivirLatino



It's been talked about for years. It's been documented for years pero suddenly when it's a huge mainstream human rights organization or the mainstream media saying it, it's real.

I guess we should be happy that the issue of human rights violations in immigrant jails (detention facilities as they say in fancy speak) are getting any play at all. The real important point though is if all the attention leads to some real action on the part of the U.S. government. This means an end to raids that help fill up these jails until the current immigration system is overhauled.

No, I'm not holding my breath.

Source : Citizen Orange

DREAM Act introduced in Congress (updated)

A key bill designed to help promising young people define their immigration status was reintroduced to Congress yesterday.

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act was presented once again to the Senate by the bill’s co-sponsors- Republican Sen. Dick Lugar and Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin. “This measure will provide these young people with an incentive to move towards permanent residency while pursuing an education or other worthwhile service,” said Lugar of the proposal.

Update: The DREAM Act was also presented to the House of Representatives by a pair of legislators on both sides of the aisle: Reps. Howard Berman (D-CA) and Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL).

Under the bill, undocumented immigrant children would obtain citizenship by fulfilling certain criteria. They must have come to the U.S. before the age of 16, cannot be older than 30, have lived in the U.S. for five years minimum, graduated from high school or obtain a GED, have “good moral character” and either attend college or enlist in the military for two years. Despite all the details for eligibility, the Migration Policy Institute observed that 715,000 undocumented youth between 5 and 17 would be eligible for “conditional legal status” under the proposal.

The DREAM Act is a bill that should be backed as it provides promising youth the opportunity to become fine citizens of the U.S. Their potential should be nurtured and encouraged rather than demonized and left unrealized.

The pro-DREAM Act website Dreamactivist.org provides several ways to help support the proposal:
1. CALL - The National Council of La Raza has a page to help you call your congressional representatives in support of the DREAM Act.

2. FAX - America's Voice has a page to help you fax your congressional representatives in support of the DREAM Act.

3. EMAIL - Change.org has a page to help you email your congressional representatives in support of the DREAM Act.
Image- daylife.com (“Students and immigrants march toward the Federal Building carrying a sign that calls for passing the Dream Act...Tuesday, May 1, 2007.”)
Online Sources- Dreamactivist.org, Hispanosphere, San Diego 6, wane.com, The National Council of La Raza, America's Voice, Change.org, Vivirlatino

Daily Headlines: March 27, 2009

* Venezuela: Eleven people including eight police officers face several charges related to the vandalizing last January of Venezuela’s main synagogue.

* Mexico: A high court upheld a ruling that denied the involvement of ex-President Luis Echeverria in the infamous 1968 Tlatelolco massacre.

* Latin America: Peru, Bolivia, and Chile continue to quarrel over territory gained and lost over a century ago.

* Puerto Rico: Hundreds of teachers may soon go on strike to protest Governor Luis Fortuño’s economic austerity plans.

Image- BBC News
Online Sources- MSNBC, Caribbean Net News, New York Times, Xinhua

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Today’s Video: Obama en español

U.S. President Barack Obama taped a brief message that aired on Univision Thursday night. He dabbled in a little Spanish and overall didn’t sound too much like a fish out of water. Oddly enough, however, his remarks didn’t air on a news program but instead on the chintzy, made-for-TV "Premio lo Nuestro":

Said the AP:
He wished the viewers good evening in Spanish and he celebrated the diversity of Latin music. The president closed by offering another line in Spanish. Translated into English, the president said, "And for all those nominees wondering if tonight is their night, let me just say, yes, you can!"
Obama could've picked a better scenario to appear on Univision:
  • Pretending to be the annoying “Chacal de la trompeta” alongside the more annoying Don Francisco on “Sabado Gigante.”
  • Analyzing the Mexican soccer league while flanked by the booby-tastic “senadoras” on “Republica Deportiva.”
  • Making a guest appearance on hit telenovela “Las Tontas No Van al Cielo” as Candy’s secret gringo lover.
  • It’s too late for this but I would’ve loved to have seen Obama smack the smug, nauseating look off Enrique Gratas’ face on “Ultima Hora”.
Online Sources- YouTube, AP, truveo.com, Google Video, Wikipedia

Lula: “White, blue-eyed” bankers caused global slowdown

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown met with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Brasilia on Thursday where they discussed economic issues ahead of next month’s G20 summit. Eyebrows were raised during a press conference between both leaders as Lula gave his views on what caused the global crisis:

“This was a crisis that was fostered and boosted by the irrational behavior of people who were white and blue-eyed, who before the crisis they looked like they knew everything about economics, but now have demonstrated they know nothing about economics,” he said, mocking the “gods of wisdom” who had had to be bailed out. “The part of humanity that is responsible should be the part that pays for the crisis,” he added.
Brown was reportedly “mildly uncomfortable” at Lula’s comments.

The Brazilian leader also spoke out on the multimillion dollar bailouts of banks by Britain and the U.S. Lula also remarked on other issues like immigration and noted how “prejudice is a factor against immigrants in the most developed countries."

(My quick take – though they were a poor choice of words it’s important to figure out how the economic crisis emerged so as not to repeat it. Lula’s comments on immigration were spot-on and highlight the sometimes poisonous nature of the immigration debate in the U.S. and Europe).

Online Sources- YouTube, Guardian UK, ABC Online, Times Online

Child agency blasted over immigration case

A Floridian foster care program has come under fire after they reportedly turned over an entire family to local immigration officials.

In early February, the two sons of 19-year-old Karen Arriaga had been removed from her care over allegations of neglect. Officials then asked her, her husband, and her parents to come in to see the children. It was there that authorities inquired about their immigration status and subsequently arrested them for being undocumented.

Child welfare officials claimed that they found out about Arriaga’s immigration status due to the investigation over her reported child neglect. Yet the family claimed that they were unfairly set-up and immigration advocates accused a private foster care agency of helping turn in the Arriaga family.

The incident occurred as part of the controversial 287 (g) program where local law enforcement officers are deputized to serve as federal immigration agents. According to one immigration attorney, the supposed steps taken by the foster care agency sets a dangerous precedent:
John de Leon, a Miami attorney representing both the Mexican and Guatemalan consulates, said the actions of the foster care agency will have a chilling effect on the state's ability to protect children, because migrants will hide from authorities rather than seek or accept help.

''They are putting their very mission in danger by these actions,'' de Leon said. ``Given the demographics of the state of Florida, this sends a very dangerous message. Hispanics not only live in South Florida, they live in all areas of the state and work in all areas of the state and raise families in all areas of the state.''
Image- cbs4.com (“Victor Arriaga's wife and daughter were separated as they visited his grandsons. One of the boys is pictured here.”)
Online Sources- New York Times, miamiherald.com, The Latin Americanist

Alaska to get cheap Venezuelan oil

Despite the falling price of oil, Venezuela’s government has continued to provide low-cost heating oil to the U.S. The program had been suspended in January after three years of selling inexpensive heating oil though it will be renewed. The latest area to receive help is, ironically, the oil-rich state of Alaska:
Millions of dollars in free heating fuel will flow through Alaska villages early next month courtesy of a controversial giveaway program paid for by the Venezuelan government.

The sooner the better, say many villagers and rural nonprofits who appear more concerned about their towering energy bills than international politics.

"The whole town, we've been waiting all winter," said Margaret Schaeffer of Kiana, an Inupiat village of about 380 people where heating fuel costs $6.64 a gallon.
The program is run by CITGO which is owned by Venezuelan state-run oil company PDVSA. Critics of the plan allege that it’s all a “political ploy” and propaganda run by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. (“Mister Danger” may be out of the White House, for instance, though that hasn’t stopped Chavez criticism of the U.S. government).

To some Alaskan community leaders, however, the program has helped defray expensive heating costs especially in light of the current recession. “Some have written thank-you notes for last year’s free fuel, saying things like the program ‘saved me money so it was the first year I was able to purchase extra fishing nets’” mentioned Alaska Inter-Tribal Council director Brad Garness in one local daily.

Image- Marketplace
Online Sources- adn.com, newsminer.com, The Latin Americanist, IHT

VP Biden travels to Latin America

There has been a strong focus on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Mexico. Not to be outdone, however, is Vice President Joe Biden’s upcoming sojourn to Latin America.

Biden is expected to leave today for Chile where he’s expected to attend the Progressive Governance Conference in Santiago. The meeting of international leftist leaders will include several Latin American presidents like Cristina Kirchner from Argentina and Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. One of the main topics to be discussed will be the international economy in anticipation of the G20 summit next month.

Biden will subsequently stop in Costa Rica over the weekend where President Oscar Arias will be hosting a meeting of Central American leaders. The conference is expected to be attended by most presidents of the region as well as Salvadoran president-elect Mauricio Funes. One notable absence, however, will be Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega who cited “previous engagements”.

Biden’s stops in Chile and Costa Rica should help President Barack Obama ahead of his attending the Summit of the Americas next month. Obama will hear several regional concerns that will first be addressed to Biden:
Central American leaders say they want to discuss U.S. immigration policy when they meet with Vice President Joe Biden in Costa Rica next week.

El Salvador President Tony Saca says 200,000 Salvadorans in the U.S. are in danger of being deported - an issue he hopes to broach with Biden on Monday…

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega says colleagues also passed a resolution asking that the U.S. not attach strings to its aid packages.
Image- UPI
Online Sources- Voice of America, Mercopress, Bloggings by Boz, Taiwan News Online, MSNBC, AHN, People’s Daily Online

Daily Headlines: March 26, 2009

* Mexico: Authorities captured one of Mexico’s most wanted suspected drug capos hours before U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit.

* Latin America: McDonald’s may’ve gone largely unscathed by the global economic recession but that may soon change according to Latin America’s largest franchise owner.

* Venezuela: President Hugo Chavez has cut the government’s budget and boosted borrowing in order “to protect social programs, the people and the workers."

* Cuba: Fidel Castro denied reports that his presidential brother fired two revolutionary stalwarts who were part of the government’s cabinet.

Image- BBC News (“Hector Huerta Rios is accused of working for the Beltran Leyva cartel.”)
Online Sources- MSNBC, The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg, Reuters, Al Jazeera English

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Today’s Video: Drugs, demand, and violence

U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton visited Mexico on Wednesday one day after the White House presented a comprehensive plan to combat violence spilling over into the U.S. Clinton vowed that the U.S. will help in Mexico in combating drug violence that has become an increased security risk to the U.S. and has cost the lives of over 6300 people last year.

As the video below from NBC News shows, Clinton observed that the “insatiable appetite” for narcotics in the U.S. has helped fuel the conflict in Mexico. Nevertheless, some analysts say that more needs to be done:

Online Sources- MSNBC, The Latin Americanist, Reuters

Conviction upheld vs. FARC t-shirt makers

A Danish court upheld the conviction against six people convicted of selling clothes with profits destined to Colombia’s FARC guerillas.

An appeals court last September found that shirt company Fighters + Lovers was guilty of breaking Denmark’s antiterrorism laws by pledging to donate 75 cents from each sale of $33 shirts to the FARC and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Today’s Danish Supreme Court ruling concurred with that ruling which said that both groups are "terrorist organizations that have committed acts aimed at destabilizing a state or a government and have attacked civilian targets". (Indeed, the FARC and PFLP are considered terrorist organizations by the U.S. and E.U.)

The accused rejected the court’s claims and argued that their aim was to support "humanitarian projects" conducted by “legitimate resistance movements.” One of those convicted- Katrine Willumsen- tried to partially justify the FARC’s actions:
"A lot of the accusations [against Farc] are not true," she said. "But we are aware that Farc sometimes does stuff that is not OK. We do not believe that the Farc are angels, but they are not demons either. People must see the difference between terrorists and people fighting for freedom, and Danish law does not make that distinction."
Colombia continues to be submerged in a maelstrom of violence by the FARC and other rebels, rightist paramilitaries, and the Colombian state. Euphemisms cannot hide the suffering of millions of Colombians whose lives have been irreparably changed by forced exiles, massacres, and kidnappings. Rather than trying to help the FARC, Fighters + Lovers should assist the many legitimate Colombian groups and NGOs who have worked hard for meaningful social justice. The brave and peaceful actions of these groups have been hurt by Willumsen and her cohorts who have foolishly decided to help destructive rebels instead.

Image- Copenhagen Post
Online Sources- Guardian UK, The Latin Americanist, Al Jazeera English

Vandals strike Venezuelan mosque

Nearly two months ago, the oldest synagogue in Caracas, Venezuela was ransacked and anti-Semitic graffiti was painted on the temple walls. Unfortunately on Monday another Caracas religious venue was also vandalized:
Representatives of Venezuela’s Muslim community complained that a group of unknown thieves broke into the country’s main mosque, stole assorted objects from the administrative area and vandalized sacred texts housed there, the local press reported on Tuesday.

Mohammad Ali Bokhari told reporters that the thieves trampled on sacred books, broke windows and stole computer equipment.
The Ibrahim Al-Ibrahim mosque was opened in 1993 and is Latin America’s second-largest. Unlike the January synagogue incident, there has yet to be any international repercussions due to the mosque attack.

According to Venezuela’s El Universal, Caracas’ Islamic community numbers approximately 50,000 and is mostly of Arab background.

Online Sources- El Universal, LAHT, MSNBC, Bloomberg
Image- Letralia

Another Brazilian minor is raped and impregnated

The debate over abortion in Brazil may heat up again after another raped girl was impregnated.

As originally reported by the Brazilian press via the Catholic News Agency, a 13 year-old girl is four months pregnant after being raped by her father. The girl and her legal guardian appealed to allow her to give birth and it seems as if officials will permit her to do so.

Earlier this month a firestorm developed when a nine-year-old girl aborted her twins after doctors deemed the procedure necessary due to her very weak health. Despite the extreme circumstances surrounding her pregnancy (e.g. she had been abused for years by her stepfather) the Brazilian archdiocese and the Vatican strongly condemned the abortion.

In the face of a backlash the Vatican began to backtrack from its overly harsh and unfair criticism. Some local Brazilian priests tried to downplay the Archdiocese's reaction though they also blasted the girl’s abortion:
The pastor, Father Edson Rodrigues, “making use of his pastoral care, when he heard the news in his residence, immediately went to the house of the family, in which he met the girl and lent her his support and presence, before the grave and difficult situation in which the girl found herself. And this attitude continued every day, from Alagoinha to Recife, where the sad event of the abortion of the two innocent babies took place.”

Therefore, the priests wrote, “it is quite evident and unequivocal that nobody thought first of all of ‘excommunication.’” We used all means at our disposal to avoid the abortion and thus save all three lives,” they said.
Image- The Telegraph
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Catholic News Agency

Latinos hit harder with job losses


This likely comes as no surprise, but the layoffs are happening disproportionately to Latinos and blacks, the AP reports.

These two groups are losing jobs at a faster rate than the rest of the population, partly because of the concentration of blue-collar or service-industry jobs that are evaporating in the economy's recession.

Since December 2007, Latino unemployment rose 4.7 percentage points to 10.9 percent, and black unemployment rose 4.5 percentage points to 13.5 percent. White unemployment rose 2.9 percentage points to 7.3 points in the same time period.

Read the full story here.

Source: AP

Photo: marketplace.publicradio.org

Border Patrol to burn bushes in battle against smugglers

The Border Patrol (BP) plans to poison bushes and shrubs near the U.S.-Mexico border as a measure to combat human smuggling.

The pilot program is expected to last three months and calls for the herbicide of dense foliage along more than a mile of the Rio Grande riverbank in Texas. According to a BP spokesman the plant eradication will help eliminate hiding places for smugglers crossing the border from Mexico. If successful, the program may be expanded to other areas along the border area.

Critics of the program cite the possible environmental damage cased by the manual and aerial application of pesticides. Mexican officials worry that the important water supply may become tainted though the BP said that the chemicals would be safe.

In addition, the $2.1 million price tag for the program may be better spent on more efficient security measures. According to a Tucson Citizen editorial:
If smugglers and illegal immigrants are hiding in dense foliage there, then by all means eradicate the flora.

But why not do so with manual labor, which is faster and far more effective than herbicide?

As any gardener knows, pulling weeds and other plants out by the roots is a sure way to eliminate them. And with unemployment skyrocketing during this recession, the Border Patrol could hire Americans to do this work, thus providing at least temporary jobs…

It's a terrible precedent that likely will cause far more harm than good. Buy some Weed Eaters and hire some workers. But pack away that poison.
Image- USA TODAY
Online Sources- Tucson Citizen, AP, USA TODAY

Daily Headlines: March 25, 2009

* Ecuador: The Ecuadorian air force worked out a deal where they would receive 24 Super Tucano combat planes from Brazilian manufacturer Embraer.

* Dominican Republic: A Canadian father-and-son business has been accused of running a Ponzi scheme in the Dominican Republic that has cost investors over $100 million.

* Colombia: A labor union spokesman claimed that operations in Colombia by mining firm Drummond “are paralyzed” due to a strike demanding better safety conditions.

* Honduras: A Floridian women was convicted of illegally selling weapons to Honduran drug gangs.

Image- Danger Room
Online Sources- Guardian UK, LAHT, Sun-Sentinel.com, Latin Business Chronicle

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Today’s Video: Garotas Suecas

A little bit of garage rock. A little bit of soul. A little bit of funk. A lot of Portuguese. The end result is Garotas Suecas.

The group comes out of Brazil and recently played some shows at South by Southwest (SXSW). On the surface they sound like Os Mutantes though their music is a little more varied than that. I hadn’t heard of them until stumbling upon this Brooklyn Vegan post a few minutes ago. I’m glad I did!

Listen/watch for yourself:

Online Sources- Garotas Suecas, YouTube, Brooklyn Vegan

Brazilian survives record waterfall drop

Some stories speak for themselves:
A Brazilian man has descended a 127ft waterfall in a kayak, breaking the world record.

Pedro Olivia took just 2.9 seconds and hit speeds of 70mph as he hurtled down the Amazon's Salto Belo falls.

The 26-year-old shattered the existing 108ft world record with his drop into the Rio Sacre...

The descent was almost double that of Niagara Falls on the US border with Canada. Despite being 176ft high, the actual drop is only 70ft because of rocks at the bottom.

Olivia, 26, said: "It's a story that I will be telling for the rest of my life."
(Hat tip: Deadspin).

Image- Daily Mail
Online Sources- Deadspin, ITN

Bank of the South to soon start operations

A Latin American regional bank designed to serve as a counterweight to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank is expected to begin operations in May.

The Bank of the South will be launched with $10 billion in startup capital, according Venezuelan Finance Minister Ali Rodriguez. "Several pending items were resolved," added Rodriguez after finance representatives of the seven member countries met yesterday in Caracas.

Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela pledged $2 billion each for the Bank while Uruguay, Paraguay, Ecuador, Bolivia will each allocate $1 billion for the new institution.

The Bank of the South was created in December 2007 and at the time was both praised and panned by political analysts. Shortly before the Bank was launched, Nobel economics laureate Joseph Stiglitz enthusiastically backed it:
(…) "One of the advantages of having a Bank of the South is that it would reflect the perspectives of those in the south," he told a media conference. It would boost Latin America's development and provide a useful alternative to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

"It is a good thing to have competition in most markets, including the market for development lending," Prof Stiglitz said.
Image- El Clarin (The heads of state of several South American countries launched the Bank of the South in 2007).
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, WSJ.com, Prensa Latina, The Economist, Guardian UK, Center for International Policy, IHT

White House presents Mexico anti-drug strategy

The Obama administration revealed today a comprehensive plan designed to stem drug-related violence in Mexico.

The plan presented at a press conference by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Deputy Attorney General David Ogden distinguishes itself in the increased deployment of officers to the U.S.-Mexico border and a stronger effort to combat arms smuggling across the border. According to Napolitano, the $700 million strategy under the Merida Initiative would aim to help the Mexican government break up drug gangs and subsequently decrease their access to weapons from the U.S.

The plan was cited by one report as “extending or expanding” plans created under Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush. Yet Napolitano differed from the Bush administration by emphasizing that a lengthy border wall "is not the best way" to prevent drugs from being smuggled into the U.S.

The plan includes many additional details such as:
  • committing the White House and Congress to the Merida Initiative;
  • increasing intelligence efforts under the FBI by creating a Southwest Intelligence Group and working with Central American countries to combat gang violence;
  • using the Treasury Department to investigate money laundering by drug gangs;
  • pledging more funds for narcotics treatment including “integrating substance abuse services into national healthcare systems”.
Image- Reuters
Online Sources- MSNBC, BBC News, ABC News, El Universal, boston.com

Honduran prez proposes constitutional vote

Several Latin American countries from Ecuador to Bolivia have held nationwide votes in order to modify their country’s constitutions. Even in nations whose leaders are not populist, constitutional reform has become a hot topic.

Honduran president Manuel Zelaya suggested that his country have a national referendum by June to decide on a constitutional assembly. He did not give specific details as how Honduras’ Magna Carta would be modified though he emphasized yesterday that "substantial and significant changes" were needed to the constitution.

The Honduran government cited that the current constitution formulated in 1982 near the end of military rule does not accurately reflect the “national reality”. Zelaya’s sentiments were not shared by the political opposition who deemed a referendum as illegal:
“The president is mistaken since such a vote...lacks any judicial legality. He can put as many ballot boxes he wants to calculate his popularity but they are null and void. Anyone who dares speaks against the topic risks being in danger by the authorities,” claimed National Congress president Roberto Micheletti. [ ed. – personal translation]
Image- La Tribuna (Image of Honduran president Manuel “Mel” Zelaya).
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, La Prensa, El Heraldo, etaiwannews.com, AP

Guatemala: War orphans sold says gov’t

Another dimension has been added to the troublesome aspect of adoptions in Guatemala when the government revealed yesterday that civil war orphans had been placed up for adoption.

According to the government investigation, there has been at least one confirmed case of two children illegally put up for adoption after their parents were killed in Guatemala’s civil war. Evidence suggests that hundreds of other orphans from the country’s 36-year war were put up for adoption and were likely taken in by U.S. families said the director of the government’s Peace Archive, Marco Tulio Alvarez.

Alvarez added that the final report is expected to be revealed by next month. Yet what they uncovered was reminiscent of “Dirty War” orphans illegally adopted in Argentina:
“In the analysis carried out, patterns of activity can be established that show the ease with which the adoption procedures were handled to hide the violation of rights of Guatemalan children through forced disappearance,” he said.

Alvarez did not rule out that members of Guatemala’s police and armed forces could be implicated in the selling of the children.

He said that during the civil war, the children of people “disappeared” by the security forces were sent to government-run orphanages, and that some of those youngsters were then sold to adoptive parents.

“In these cases, many human rights of the children were violated” and all the indications found so far “make one think that the business was very profitable”, Alvarez said.
Guatemala had been one of the main sources for adoption by U.S. parents for many years with nearly 5000 kids adopted in 2006. Yet the State Department put a halt to Guatemalan adoptions last September citing the lack of “regulations and infrastructure necessary to meet its obligations under the convention."

Image- ABC News
Online Sources- AP, thandian.com, BBC News, Washington Times

Daily Headlines: March 24, 2009

* Puerto Rico: Activists in Puerto Rico and beyond have expressed outrage over the possibility that the U.S. military may return to the island of Vieques.

* Mexico: The government has offered a $2 million reward to those brave enough to provide information leading to the arrest of 24 suspected drug capos.

* Brazil: Workers for Brazilian state energy firm Petrobras began a strike on Monday that partially affected the company’s output.

* Cuba: A report released by the U.S. Justice Department faults a Florida law for making it more difficult for travel agents to book trips to Cuba.

Image- Navy Times (“Unexploded ordnance is blown up in a controlled demolition at the former Vieques Naval Training Range.”)
Online Sources- Time, miamiherald.com, latina.com, Bloomberg

Monday, March 23, 2009

Today's Video: The Amazing Messi

Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi keeps finding more and more ways to impress with his phenomenal skills. Case in point: his great individual effort led to Barcelona's second goal in their 6-0 blowout of Malaga on Sunday:

(Hat tip: 101 Great Goals).
Online Sources-sapo.pt, 101 Great Goals

Argentine farmers strike against government

Tensions rose during the third day of strikes by farmers upset with the government over export tariffs.

Over 100 roadblocks have been set up all over Argentina while striking farmers have impeded the sales of grain, oilseeds and cattle. A few agrarian leaders denounced threats against them and a few skirmishes have taken place at some roadblocks. Labor leaders said that the strike will continue for seven days and also accused the government of President Cristina Kirchner of raising tensions.

Kirchner has staunchly defended the tariff plan where revenue from the taxes would be destined for an emergency fund to the country’s most impoverished provinces. For her, it’s a necessary step to help the country’s poorest people to combat a weakening economy though farmers claim that the measures will choke Argentina’s agrarian sector.

Argentines hope that the consequences from last year’s strikes don’t repeat themselves when massive food shortages happened nationwide. Sadly, Argentines may have to brace themselves for the worse:
Farm leaders have said they plan to keep meeting with government officials in talks that have centered on drought relief, domestic wheat prices, and beef and dairy exports.

But La Nacion daily newspaper on Sunday quoted an unnamed, high-level government official saying the talks would be suspended as long as the farmers are on strike.

"There's a perceivable and disturbing climate of hate emanating from those who govern and from the farm sector as well," respected political commentator Joaquin Morales Sola wrote in La Nacion.
Image- BBC News
Online Sources- AFP, ABC Rural, AP, TVNZ, Guardian UK, The Latin Americanist, La Nacion, Clarin

Notable Quotables: From the Murray River to the Rio Grande

"We had folks send an email saying, in good Australian fashion, 'Hey mate, we've been watching your border for you from the pub in Australia'," he said.
---Executive director of the Texas Border Sheriffs' Coalition Don Reay comments on people as far away as Australia who monitor webcams along the U.S.-Mexico border.

According to Reay over 100,000 web users worldwide have registered to become “virtual border patrol deputies.”

In a CBS News video we posted last month, the border cameras have something of a cult following though its minor efficacy doesn’t justify its major price tag.

(Hat tip: FP Passport).

Online Sources- FP Passport, The Latin Americanist, Guardian UK
Image- BBC News

Dominicans in Spain protest injustice

The murder of a young Dominican in Madrid has helped galvanize that immigrant community.

23-year-old Luis Carlos Polanco Peralta died last Friday after being shot twice in the neck. Madrid police arrested the alleged shooter who is of Spanish decent who worked as a private security guard. The exact motive for the murder is unknown, though police said that the assailant confused Polanco Peralta with a drug dealer.

Several hundreds mourners held a silent vigil for Polanco Peralta and clamored for justice to be served. Among those who took part in it where his widow who is expecting their child to be born next month and his mother who said that he “never messed around with anybody.” Some even compared Polanco Peralta’s murder to that of Lucrecia Pérez- another Dominican immigrant who in 1992 was murdered in an ugly bias attack.

Polanco Peralta was killed in an area of the Tetuán district lined with bars and frequented by Latin Americans migrants. The neighborhood itself has been the scene of tensions between the growing immigrant community and traditional residents. As one old-timer callously observed:
“There are daily brawls among them. They do not respect anyone. All they want to do is boss around. Now they cry out for justice over the death of that boy. What more do they want if, for starters, the shooter has already been detained! ” grumbled an elderly resident walking down the street. – [ed. personal translation]
Image- La Opinion
Online Sources- ABC.es, soitu.es, elconfidencial.com, larioja.com, elmundo.es, elpais.com

Schedule sketched for Clinton visit


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will arrive in Mexico Wednesday of this week.

She'll have a busy week.

As Mexico's drug violence reaches higher and higher levels, Clinton will arrive to speak not only about this but also trade and the economic situation.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, both Clinton and Obama highlighted the North American Free Trade Act, saying it needed to include better protections for U.S. workers.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder also have visits scheduled to Mexico next month, and Obama is due in the country April 16.

Source and Photo: USA Today, Mexican soldiers in an operation against a drug cartel leader

Chavez calls Obama "ignorant"


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez continued his habit for insulting U.S. presidents, calling President Barack Obama "ignorant" in his Sunday address to the nation.

Reuters translated this as an "ignoramus."

Chavez said that after Barack Obama insulted him by saying he is an obstacle in Latin America, he will not yet be appointing a new ambassador to Washington.

“At least one could say, ‘poor ignorant person,’ ” Chávez said on his weekly radio address.

Read the AP story here.

Source: NYT, Reuters

Photo: Reuters

Daily Headlines: March 23, 2009

* Venezuela: Venezuela bowed out of the World Baseball Classic after getting outplayed and overmatched by Korea in the semifinals.

* Cuba: Speaking of the World Baseball Classic, two Cuban ballplayers defected according to Fidel Castro.

* Brazil: The country was invited to join the OPEC oil cartel but is likely to reject it according to Brazil’s Veja magazine.

* El Salvador: President-elect Mauricio Funes promised that El Salvador will pay back $9 billion in foreign debt to various multilateral organizations.

Image- AFP (“KimTae-Kyun (C) of South Korea is congratulated by Park Kyung-Oan after sliding safe at home.” Venezuela lost 10-2 against the Koreans.)
Online Sources- The Peninsula On-line, AHN, LAHT, The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg

Sunday, March 22, 2009

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