Friday, April 10, 2009

Today’s Video: Cultura Profética

Oye Nuyorquinos! Puerto Rican Reggae band Cultura Profética will be in concert next Tuesday at SOBs. Check it out if you can; in the meantime, here’s their music video for the very groovy "Ritmo que pesa":

Online Sources- SOBs, YouTube

Notable Quotables: Drying up

“People don’t realize that we’re at five minutes until the clock strikes twelve. We will have a hydrological problem of historical proportions in ten years if we don’t act now.” - [ed. translated text]
---So-called “water expert” Luis Manuel Guerra warns on the danger of having insufficient potable water for the megalopolis of Mexico City.

Water service is expected to resume tomorrow to all parts of the Mexican capital. The city’s main pipeline serving 20% of the populace has been temporarily shutdown due to record low reserves and to fix leaky pipes.

Officials have warned that this summer may be one of the hottest in years and have urged people to severely ration water use.

Mexico City isn’t the only major world city with water shortage problems; Beijing is drying up while authorities in Los Angeles are considering imposing a rationing plan.

Image- BBC News
Online Sources- Milenio, El Universal, ABC Online, Al Jazeera English, UPI

“Wall of Discord” divides Argentines

The building of divisive barriers has been a hot issue for several communities whether it is along the U.S.-Mexico border or to separate wealthy areas and favelas in Rio de Janeiro.

The latest barrier battle is ocurring near the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires. Gustavo Posse- the mayor of the wealthy suburb of San Isidro- announced plans to construct a one-mile wall between his area and the neighboring impoverished town of San Fernando. Much like the aforementioned case in Rio de Janeiro, Posse claimed that the wall is meant to combat crime. Posse’s counterpart from San Fernando replied that Posse’s plan is "discriminatory" and a judge yesterday ordered a stop to construction.

While the political bickering continues, residents of San Fernando have taken measures into their own hands against the so-called “Wall of Discord”:
Dozens of people pulled down metal poles and pummeled concrete blocks with sledgehammers on Thursday to destroy a wall being built to separate an impoverished neighborhood from a well-heeled district on the outskirts of the capital…

Congressional candidate Francisco de Narvaez compared the blocks of concrete being raised to the Berlin Wall — in this case an expression not of political divisions but of class tensions in a growing city where shantytowns spring up alongside wealthy neighborhoods…

The spat in Argentina comes as the country wrestles with a crime rate that has nearly doubled in the past two decades. One in every 32 Argentines reported being a crime victim in 2007, according to the Justice Ministry.
Image- AP (“A police officer stands on guard in front of a half-built wall, meant to separate an impoverished neighborhood from an upscale one on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Wednesday, April 8, 2009.”)
Online Sources- MSNBC, Reuters, LAHT, Buenos Aires Herald,

Why the Easter Bunny?

On Sunday, Catholics around the world will commemorate the holiday of Easter- the day Jesus resurrected from the dead. Yet there’s also the view of Easter as one filled with eggs and a certain ubiquitous bunny. (And yes, it’s possible to celebrate both as I recall my childhood Easters going to church then decorating eggs after returning home!)

There has always been one detail that has nagged me: how did the Easter Bunny come about? Thankfully, the always informative mental_floss blog explains the origins. Much like the Virgen de Guadalupe, the Easter Bunny was born due to a combination of spiritual beliefs:
Many pagan cultures held spring festivals to celebrate this renewal of life and promote fertility. One of these festivals was in honor of Eostre or Eastre, the goddess of dawn, spring and fertility near and dear to the hearts of the pagans in Northern Europe. Eostre was closely linked to the hare and the egg, both symbols of fertility.

As Christianity spread, it was common for missionaries to practice some good salesmanship by placing pagan ideas and rituals within the context of the Christian faith and turning pagan festivals into Christian holidays (e.g. Christmas). The Eostre festival occurred around the same time as the Christians’ celebration of Christ’s resurrection, so the two celebrations became one, and with the kind of blending that was going on among the cultures, it would seem only natural that the pagans would bring the hare and egg images with them into their new faith (the hare later became the more common rabbit).

The pagans hung on to the rabbit and eventually it became a part of Christian celebration. We don’t know exactly when, but it’s first mentioned in German writings from the 1600s. The Germans converted the pagan rabbit image into Oschter Haws, a rabbit that was believed to lay a nest of colored eggs as gifts for good children.
So now you know!

Image- Guardian UK
Online Sources- mental_floss, Wikipedia

Citizens caught in broken immigration system

This week reports circulated that the White House will present its immigration reform plan as early as next month. It would certainly be a step in the right direction if it’s true. But as I mentioned in a previous post “I’ll believe it as soon as I see (President Obama’s) signature signing a fair and ample immigration reform law.”

In the meantime, mistakes continue in an immigration system in dire need of repair. Case in point: several U.S. citizens have been arrested and even deported.

According to a Los Angeles Times article published yesterday, citizens and legal residents held for suspected immigration violations may be held under detention for hours or even months. “Americans seldom carry proof of their legal status” the article noted which hinders verification of legal status. The probability of error is increased by the “fast-track” deportation system which bars legal representation for detainees (though that could soon change).

Oftentimes, however, it is incompetence by authorities that leads to the deportation of U.S. citizens. In 2007, a mentally disabled U.S. citizen was erroneously deported to Mexico and spent three months missing before being reunited with his family. Then there’s the case of Rennison Vern Castillo- a U.S. citizen who spent several months in detention:
(In 2005) Castillo was handcuffed and whisked off in a van to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. A federal officer said records showed he was an illegal immigrant.

"Your records are wrong," Castillo said he replied. He said he told the officer that he was a citizen but that his naturalization certificate had never arrived. It was sent to the wrong address, he later learned.

Castillo went before an immigration judge, who appeared via video conference, a common procedure in the crowded immigration court system. Again, he claimed citizenship. The judge didn't believe him. He was ordered deported on Jan. 24, 2006…

The Board of Immigration Appeals blocked Castillo's deportation, noting proof of his military service. A month later, he was released without further explanation. It turned out Castillo was the victim of a paperwork mix-up: His name was spelled wrong in immigration records. And he had been assigned more than one "alien number," causing further confusion. – [ed. emphasis added]
Image- The Daily Weekly (Immigration officials conducted a raid last month in Washington).
Online Sources- Los Angeles Times, CNN, The Latin Americanist

Daily Headlines: April 10, 2009

* Bolivia: The country’s legislature approved a government-backed electoral law hours after President Evo Morales started his hunger strike.

* Argentina: Health groups worry that there have been over 20,000 cases of dengue in an outbreak that has so far killed three people.

* Panama: Former president Manuel Noriega may be extradited to France where he could face a retrial for money laundering.

* Chile: Presidential frontrunner and billionaire Sebastian Pinera placed his investments in a blind trust rather than possibly be forced to sell some of them.

Image- LAHT
Online Sources- LAHT, The Latin Americanist, Reuters, BBC News, MSNBC

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Today’s Video: Yehuda Glantz

Thursday was the first day of Passover, the Jewish holiday commemorating the exodus from Egypt. In honor of Passover, the following Spanish-language news report highlights the Latin American/Jew musician Yehuda Glantz. His unique music combines South American and contemporary rhythms together with traditional Jewish sounds:

Online Sources- Wikipedia, YouTube

U.N.: Colombian indigenous hurt by violence

Colombia indigenous communities have been hurt by the armed conflict that continues to rear its ugly head in mostly rural areas.

Tensions have grown against a government that some indigenous leaders feel has abandoned them. Meanwhile, leftist rebels continue to displace indigenous peoples and also massacre those who are foolishly accused of being army informants.

Sadly, the country’s natives are not immune from new criminal groups that emerged from demobilized right-wing paramilitary armies. According to the UNHCR, a new paramilitary group entered the territory of the Embera community about a month ago. Aside from being used as pawns by the criminals, the Embera have suffered from “systematic sexual violence":
"I was washing clothes in the river when they arrived," a young indigenous woman recounted. "Two men grabbed me by the neck, but I managed to slip through and they were left with just my shakira [a traditional beaded necklace] in their hands. I grabbed my baby and ran into the jungle."

UNHCR strongly condemns these acts as violations of international humanitarian law and calls on the Colombian government to strengthen interventions to protect local populations, and to prevent more forced displacement of indigenous people.
A UNHCR spokesman mentioned last month that over two dozen indigenous communities are “at risk of extinction” unless swift action is taken. Hopefully this situation of Colombia’s indigenous peoples can soon improve and they can live in the peace they deserve.

Image- BBC News
Online Sources – Voice of America, The Latin Americanist, Reuters AlertNet, Colombia Reports

Attorney for Bradley Will claims harassment

The attorney for slain journalist Bradley Will claimed that he has endured harassment from Mexican authorities.

Miguel Angel de los Santos said that he has faced “intimidation” due to his criticism of the investigation of Will’s death. De los Santos said that he had been called to the Attorney General's Office several times after being accused of leaking material to the press yet he hasn’t been charged with any crime.

The 36-year-old Will was killed in 2006 while covering unrest in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. It was initially reportedly that he was shot by “plainclothes paramilitaries” though his family doubts that assessment:
In September, the Mexican National Human Rights Commission ruled that state and federal police failed to interview witnesses, collect relevant evidence or complete an autopsy when investigating the shooting. It also urged prosecutors to re-examine their findings that Will was shot by an anti-government protester. Will's family believes pro-government forces were behind his death, AP reports.
Image- NYC Indymedia
Online Sources – Journalism in the Americas, The Latin Americanist, WTOP, Gothamist

Evo Morales goes on hunger strike

In the annals of history, the hunger strike has been employed as a tool for political change. From Bobby Sands to Gandhi, activists have used hunger strikes to bring attention to a particular cause or to fix an injustice.

The latest figure to go on a hunger strike is Bolivian President Evo Morales. Morales is upset over a proposal that he backs but is deadlocked in the country’s legislature:
Bolivian President Evo Morales went on a hunger strike on Thursday to demand Congress pass an electoral law that could make it easier for him to win control of the legislature in December's general election…

"Faced with the negligence of a bunch of neoliberal lawmakers, we have no choice but to take this step (hunger strike) ... they don't want to pass a law that guarantees the implementation of the constitution," Morales told reporters at the presidential palace in La Paz.
My concern is not whether Morales’ proposal is correct or if opposition senators are right. Rather, it seems disturbing that someone in such a position of power like Morales would do something as extreme and unnecessary. Admittedly sociopolitical divisions in Bolivia run very deep but it would be far easier to engage the public in meaningful debate or seek a compromise in the legislature. Morales’ hunger strike appears like an empty gesture to me.

What do you think? Let us know in your comments.

Image- AP
Online Sources- BBC News,, Wikipedia

Lupus awareness campaign launched

Lupus is a deadly immune disease that attacks the healthy cells and tissues in the body. Sadly, lupus tends to be more common in women especially in racial minorities. Worse is the overall lack of attention to the disease despite it affecting one of every 200 people in the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Ad Council Launch recently launched a national lupus awareness campaign. “America's Next Top Model” runner-up and lupus spokeswoman Mercedes Yvette has joined the vital campaign:
"Despite its prevalence in the United States, lupus is rarely discussed and often misunderstood among women in our country," said Dr. Wanda K. Jones, deputy assistant secretary for women's health at HHS...

Without intervention, lupus can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, disability, and in many cases, death. The disease can have a wide range of symptoms, including fatigue, hair loss, painful or swollen joints, fever, skin rashes and kidney problems. However, in the majority of people who are living with lupus, early and effective treatment can minimize symptoms, reduce inflammation and pain, help maintain normal functions and prevent the development of serious complications.

"I took my symptoms seriously and was able to get diagnosed and start treatment early. As a result, I've been able to lead a healthy life," explains Yvette, a Lupus Foundation of America spokesperson.
Several PSAs started being run this month both in English and Spanish. Here is an example of the latter:

Online Sources- YouTube, Ad Council, WebMD, National Institutes of Health

Daily Headlines: April 9, 2009

* U.S.: Ex-CIA operative and militant Luis Posada Carriles will be retried in August on immigration fraud charges.

* Colombia: Economist Nouriel “Dr. Doom” Roubini may be mostly in the news for blasting Jim Cramer yet he also warned that Colombia will face a “difficult year” financially.

* Chile: Experts worry that the rumbling Llaima volcano could build up pressure and renew its eruptions.

* Venezuela: “China is the biggest engine that exists to lead the world beyond the crisis,” said President Hugo Chavez during a stop in Beijing.

Image- New York Times (Luis Posada Carriles is accompanied by his daughter in this 2007 photo).
Online Sources- Globe and Mail, The Latin Americanist, Reuters, Bloomberg, Prensa Latina

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Today's Video: Legião Urbana

A blast from the past courtesy of Brazilian rockers Legião Urbana:

Online Source - YouTube

Notable Quotables: You can run but you can’t hide

“The verdict will also send a powerful message to current heads of state who may be tempted to use abusive tactics to resolve their political problems. As Fujimori discovered yesterday, crimes they may be able to get away with while in power can come back to haunt them years later.”
---José Miguel Vivanco- executive director of the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch- gave his two cents on yesterday’s historic verdict against Peruvian ex-president Alberto Fujimori.

Peru’s Supreme Court convicted Fujimori for human rights abuses during his decade in power and subsequently sentenced him to 25 years in jail.

Image- AFP
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, CNN

Paraguay prez in baby mama drama

It was eight months ago that ex-Roman Catholic bishop Fernando Lugo broke sixty years of one party rule to become Paraguay’s president. Since ascending to the post, Lugo has faced some tough problems though his biggest obstacle may've just emerged:
A woman filed a paternity suit against Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo on Wednesday, alleging that a son was born to the former Roman Catholic bishop five months after he abandoned the church for politics. Lugo's spokesman said the claim "must be false."

Lawyer Claudio Kostinochok said he filed the complaint in the southern city of Encarnacion on behalf of Viviana Rosali Carrillo Canete, who claims to have had a relationship with Lugo.

"We turned to the courts after conversations between my client and the president failed to reach an amicable settlement on recognizing paternity," Kostinochok said.
Will Canete’s claims explode into scandal or become quickly forgotten? We’ll have to wait and see.

Image- BBC News
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, MSNBC

Ecuador: Polls show reelection win for Correa

Ecuador’s Rafael Correa is likely to win reelection according to the results of several domestic polls.

With Correa needing a minimum 40% to hold on to the presidency, a poll by Cedatos-Gallup showed him having between 49 to 52% of support. His closest rivals are over forty points behind, though the 31% undecided may be vital in possibly forcing a second round.

Another poll conducted by S.P. Investigación y Estudios found Correa with 51% support followed by 13% for opposition candidate Lucio Gutiérrez, 12% for business magnate Álvaro Noboa, and 9% for socialist Martha Roldós. A third poll by Market Asesores gave Correa an almost 45% cushion ahead of Noboa and Gutiérrez.

Election Day is on April 26 but under Ecuadorian law today is the first day of a blackout on public polls.

Correa may end up being the big winner not only if he’s reelected but polls show that his political party will continue having a strong majority in Ecuador’s legislature.

Earlier this month, Correa praised the G20 summit deal:
The agreement, reached at the G20 Summit to tackle the world financial crisis, was "important," Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said…

"If U.S. and Europe are boosted, it means that they will buy more U.S. and European products, but also foreign products, so there we can place our exports," Correa said.

This means that they will have more saving, financing and investment capacity.
Image- AFP
Online Sources- Reuters, Xinhua, Angus Reid Consultants, El Tiempo,

Juarez serial rape suspect nabbed

Mexican police arrested a suspect accused of raping nearly twenty women in Ciudad Juarez.

43-year-old Texas native Jorge Alberto Mendez Navarro was nabbed after being accused of violating nineteen women ranging in age from 13 to 32. The arrest was part of a year-long investigation by Mexican police after a fifteen-year-old girl reported being raped in the crime-ridden border city.

Local prosecutors strongly believe that Mendez Navarro often crossed the border into Mexico just to commit his crimes:
The suspect, a 42-year-old chemical engineer who lived in El Paso, was a "probable serial rapist," said Alejandro Pariente, deputy prosecutor of Chihuahua state.

The suspect had committed sexual attacks on young women for at least two years in the violent border city of Ciudad Juarez, staking out victims by day and entering their bedroom windows at night, Pariente added.

The prosecutor said that the suspect was also on a register of sex attackers in Texas.
Ciudad Juarez has become infamous for the unsolved deaths of nearly 400 women. The murders of so many ladies have garnered the attention of celebs like Peter Gabriel and the tireless work of women’s rights activists like Esther Chavez. According to Chavez, widespread police corruption and a climate of impunity have served as two huge obstacles against properly investigating the femicides of Ciudad Juarez.

Image- (“Women walk past a cross in Ciudad Juarez April 10, 2008, put up in memory of women murdered in the city since 1993. Activists and relatives of disappeared and murdered women in a string of murders in Ciudad Juarez are demanding justice for the crimes.”)
Online Sources- Newspaper Tree El Paso, Times of India, LAHT, The Latin Americanist, AP

Retrials ordered in Dorothy Stang case

It may have taken longer than expected but justice might finally be served in the murder of Dorothy Stang.

Originally from Ohio, Stang was a nun and environmentalist who strongly defended the Amazon rain forest from illegal logging and encroaching land developers. In 2005, she was brutally killed by gunmen who prosecutors believed were hired by local ranchers. In 2007, Rayfran das Neves and supposed mastermind Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura were convicted for murdering Stang yet a court shockingly overturned de Moura’s punishment last year. That decision led to outrage from Stang’s family and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Yesterday a Brazilian tribunal ordered the arrest and retrial of das Neves and de Moura. The judges found irregularities in the previous decisions and officials are confident they will be definitely convicted:
Three judges voted unanimously on Tuesday to have a jury retry both Moura and Neves, the gunman who confessed to killing Stang.

The judges annulled the acquittal on grounds that the jury voted contrary to the evidence, according to a statement from the Para state judiciary.

They also said that defense lawyers had presented illegal evidence attempting to show that Neves acted alone and did not receive orders from Moura. Neves originally admitted to having been hired by Moura but later changed his story.
It remains to be seen if the other accused mastermind in Stang’s murder- rancher Regivaldo Galvao- will soon stand trial. In the meantime, the retrials of das Neves and de Moura will be a welcome step in the right direction.

Image- BBC News
Online Sources- BBC News, LAHT, Reuters, The Latin Americanist,

Daily Headlines: April 8, 2009

* Mexico: Singer Manu Chao was nearly kicked out of Mexico after he criticized the federal government for “state terrorism” during the 2006 uprising in San Salvador Atenco.

* U.S.: One out of every two naturalized citizens in 2008 was Latino according to National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

* Haiti: A group of Congressmen has just finished a visit to Haiti where they discussed politics with President Rene Preval.

* Venezuela: Authorities have seized over twelve tons of illegal drugs so far this year according to interior minister Tarek El Aissami.

Image- New York Magazine (Manu Chao performing at a 2007 New York concert).
Online Sources- LAHT, AP, The Latin Americanist, MSNBC, Guardian UK

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Today's Video: Being counted

With the 2010 Census coming soon, NBC Nightly News examined its importance as well as worries from some Latinos:

What do you think?

Online Sources- MSNBC

Congressmen report on meeting with Fidel Castro

On Tuesday, three members of the Congressional Black Caucus discussed their historic meeting with former Cuban president Fidel Castro.

Castro “was very engaging, very energetic, (and) discussed a wide range of issues," said Rep. Barbara Lee. Rep. Laura Richardson observed that Castro “looked directly into our eyes, quite aware of what was happening, and said to us 'how can we help President Obama?'"

Lee, Richardson, and Rep. Bobby Rush met with Castro in Havana on Monday as part of a visiting group of seven congressional Democrats. The conversation was said to be political in nature and touched on possibly normalizing relations between the U.S. and Cuba. "Fifty years of foolishness is over," said Rush in opposition to the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba.

The meeting may end up being much ado about nothing or (hopefully) the first step in thawing decades of icy relations between the U.S. and Cuba. As the BBC News said:
President Obama is expected to announce soon that he is easing restrictions imposed in 2004 by George W Bush on travel and remittances for Cuban-Americans.

Last week, a bill was introduced to Congress which would allow unrestricted travel to Cuba for all Americans.

Meanwhile, in an article published on Sunday, Fidel Castro said his country was not afraid to talk to the US.

But no-one is yet expecting the lifting of America's 50-year-old trade embargo on Cuba, our correspondent adds.
Image- AFP
Online Sources- First Read, The Telegraph, FOX News, BBC News, Reuters

Study: Latinos apprehensive of police

Latinos have very little confidence in police and the criminal justice system according to a study released today.

The report by the Pew Research Center found that 61% of Latinos feel confidence in their local police; 17% less than whites though 14% higher than blacks. In addition, 45% of Latinos surveyed expressed confidence in being treated fairly and a slightly higher number (49%) are sure of being treated fairly by the courts.

The data on Latinos comes from a survey of over 2000 people conducted in mid-2008. Thus, the survey’s timing came at a particularly sensitive time in Latino relations with law enforcement:
The report… highlights a widening disconnect in racial justice: At a time when Hispanics are interacting more with law enforcement due in part to their growing population as well as stepped up immigration enforcement, they are showing skepticism…

The survey was conducted in mid-2008, when immigration prosecutions were rising due to tighter enforcement during the Bush administration. Citing minority distrust of government workers, Hispanic and other groups are urging the Obama administration to push through immigration reform or temporarily halt raids during next year's census to ensure a more accurate count.
Image- ABC News
Online Sources- UPI, AP, Pew Hispanic Center

Guilty verdict in Fujimori human rights case (Updated)

Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori was sentenced to 25 years in jail for human rights abuses while he was president from 1990 to 2000. (Link via Bloomberg).

Original Post:
Peruvian high court convicted former President Alberto Fujimori for numerous human rights abuses during his decade in power.

The “mega-trial” took place over fifteen months and Fujimori became the first democratically elected Latin American leader convicted of human rights violations in his own country. The judges were firm in their verdict against the figure who now faces a thirty-year jail sentence:
"The charges have been proved beyond all reasonable doubt," said Cesar San Martin, the chief judge…

The verdict related to two massacres, the first committed on November 3, 1991 when a group of armed and masked soldiers burst into a party in the Lima suburb of Barrios Altos, killing 15 people, including an eight-year-old boy.

Several months later, nine university students and their professor were rounded up by the same "La Colina" squad, taken to a deserted area of the city and executed with shots to the back of the head.

Fujimori was also found guilty in relation to the kidnapping of a Peruvian journalist working for a Spanish newspaper and a businessman, both critics of his government.
The trial was filled with intrigue and controversy including Fujimori being reprimanded for napping during proceedings and facing the testimony of former right-hand man Vladimiro Montesinos.

Ironically, one of the main beneficiaries of today’s guilty verdict could be Fujimori’s daughter, Keiko, who may garner support from her father’s sycophants and possibly launch her presidential bid. Yet the big winners today were the justice that has been served against someone who arrogantly thought he was above the law as well as the victims of the massacres and murders during Peru’s armed conflict.

Image- BBC News
Online Sources- BBC News, Al Jazeera English, The Latin Americanist, Reuters

Ecuador demands return of “kidnapped” inmate

Ecuadorian officials have sought the return of a businessman currently on death row in Florida.

66-year-old ex-businessman Nelson Serrano was convicted and received the death penalty for the murders of four people in 1997. Ecuador has no death penalty yet the problem is not his punishment, according to Deputy Ecuadorean Interior Minister Franco Sanchez. Rather, the point of contention is over Serrano’s arrest which occurred while he was living in Ecuador:
"The issue is not his guilt or innocence," said Deputy Ecuadorean Interior Minister Franco Sanchez. "This is called a kidnapping, not an arrest"…

Ecuador maintains Florida officials bribed police there to help capture Serrano, and that he was kept overnight at the Quito airport in a dog kennel to avoid detection. They also say he was beaten so badly a flight attendant tried to stop him from boarding the plane until an assistant state attorney and a law enforcement agent from Florida intervened.
The allegations on Serrano’s alleged mistreatment were denied by Floridian authorities. "We made sure we did everything by the book once we got there…We didn't want anything to go wrong," said Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent Tommy Ray. Ray admitted that $300 was paid to Ecuadorian police in Serrano’s arrest but claimed that it was a “reimbursement” rather than bribery.

Image- AP (“Francisco Serrano, son of Nelson Serrano, who was convicted in Florida of first degree murder in 2007, speaks at a news conference Monday, April 6, 2009 in Miami.”)
Online Sources- The Ledger,, The Latin Americanist

Daily Headlines: April 7, 2009

* Venezuela: President Hugo Chavez’ trip to Asia continued with the signing of several major energy deals with Japan.

* Latin America: Stocks throughout the region slipped yesterday partly due to fears of a Brazilian recession.

* Chile: Could ex-President Eduardo Frei regain the Chilean presidency in December’s elections?

* Costa Rica: Chinese police broke up a human trafficking ring after noticing a surge in visa applications to the Costa Rican embassy in Beijing.

Image- AP (“Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, left, shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso at the latter's official residence in Tokyo Monday, April 6, 2009. (AP Photo/Kazuhiro Nogi, Pool)”).
Online Sources- CNN, The Latin Americanist, Reuters,, Javno

Monday, April 6, 2009

Today’s Video: Tragedy in Italy

According to Italy's government the death toll has increased to 207 people though that number is expected to rise. (Link via Guardian UK).

Original Post:
It only took a scant twenty seconds. But in that brief span of time the earth shook violently today in central Italy and has thus far cost the lives of 150 people:

Several groups have established relief efforts where you can help those affected by this terrible tragedy. Here are two organizations which would appreciate any help you can provide:
If you know of any other ways to help the victims of the earthquake in Italy please mention them in the comments to this post. (We will subsequently add them to this post.)

Online Sources- MSNBC, BBC News, GlobalGiving, National Italian American Foundation

Notable Quotables: Stay

“If I were they, I would think carefully before setting foot outside the United States. They are now, and forever in the future, at risk of arrest. Until this is sorted out, they are in their own legal black hole.”
--- British human rights attorney Philippe Sands remarked in reference to the six former White House officials indicted by Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon.

As we recently mentioned, ex-attorney general Alberto Gonzales and five others have been named in a criminal case regarding human rights abuses at the Guantanamo Bay prison.

Garzon is best-known for issuing an arrest warrant against former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet several years ago. Garzon’s tireless crusade has earned him the wrath of supporters of the late Spanish fascist strongman Francisco Franco as well as criticism from Venezuela’s government.

(Hat tip: The Daily Dish.)

Image- Der Spiegel (Alberto Gonzales testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2007).
Online Sources- The New Yorker, The Latin Americanist, Guardian UK, The Daily Dish

Follow-up: Garcia Marquez denies retirement claims

To paraphrase Mark Twain: “reports of my retirement have been greatly exaggerated.”

As we mentioned last week, the agent of Gabriel Garcia Marquez said that he will retire from writing. "I don't think that García Márquez will write anything else", mentioned Carmen Balcells to Chilean newspaper La Tercera on the possible future of the famed author.

“Gabo” subsequently denied the rumors that he was putting down his pen forever. According to a very brief interview published in Colombia’s El Tiempo:
El Tiempo: Maestro, could you answer some questions for El Tiempo?"

Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Call me later; I'm writing,

We called him later at his Mexico City studio and he accepted answering only two questions.

Is it true that you will no longer write?

“Not only is it untrue but the truth is that I do nothing else but write.

But it has been said that you will not publish any more books?

My job is to write, not to publish. I'll know when the pastries that I have in the oven are ready to be eaten. – [ed. personal translation]
In retrospect, as the Guardian UK noted, Balcells’ comments are “somewhat galling for her, given that she also revealed García Márquez represented 36.2% of her agency's income.”

Image- Reuters
Online Sources- El Tiempo, The Latin Americanist, LAHT, Guardian UK,

Chavez lauds Arab-LatAm union

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez spoke out in Qatar about a two-day summit of South American and Arab countries, supporting what he said is the "coming together" of the two regions.

Chavez blamed the U.S. for creating Al Qaeda in an effort to "impede the unity of the Arab world."

At the summit, Chavez proposed a few ideas, including creation of the "petro," or currency backed by oil and gas reserved, and creating an OPEC bank.

Chavez also swung by Russia and China.

Later, he offered to "reset" relations with the U.S., and specifically said the upcoming Summit of Americas in Trinidad and Tobago -- which U.S. President Barack Obama will attend -- will be a nice place to "reset relations of all kinds between the United States and Venezuela. . . I am inclined to push the reset key."



T & T Summit nears; Obama's regional rep on the line

Todays' piece by Abraham Lowenthal in the Boston Globe synopsizes the rising chorus of experts calling for Obama's unique opportunity at the April 17 - 19 Fifth Summit of the Americas. "Above all else," Lowenthal implores, Obama should take the opportunity to "listen."

Little doubt exists that Obama will be able to do this much, and do it well.

The speculation abounds, however, on whether Obama will use the opportunity to make any major proclamations. It seems unlikely that he'll give more than passing mention to Cuba (which will not be sending official envoys) -- though he may announce something beforehand. How much he'll devote to regional powers Mexico and Brazil (with whose leaders he's already met) over reaching out to smaller countries or less amenable leaders remains to be seen. It will be interesting to gauge his inevitable mention of immigration policies and hints at what he would like to see changed (though will probably have little power bring to fruition).

The media will be on the lookout for the chance handshake (or the money shot -- a hug) with Chavez -- Morales or Ortega, would do, however.

A number of other recent entreaties on how Obama should approach the summit are available below:
  • VP Joe Biden's take.

  • Undersecretary of State Tom Shannon's take.

  • Inter-American Dialogue President Peter Hakim's take (and testimony).

  • A Trinidadian skeptic's take.

Daily Headlines: April 6, 2009

* Bolivia: "It's like giving money to the wolves, or to entrust the care of the flock: the wolf is not going to keep the sheep, it will devour them,” said President Evo Morales in opposition to last week’s $1 trillion G20 deal.

* Argentina: Tens of thousands of people lined the streets of Buenos Aires on Thursday and bid farewell to recently deceased ex-President Raul Alfonsin.

* U.S.: Thousands of protestors rallied in south Florida and called for the granting of temporary protected status for Haitians.

* Colombia: A former commander of Colombia’s rightist paramilitaries claimed that he “never felt pursued by either the army or the police or any other state institution.”

Image- BBC News (Thousands of people took to the streets of the London last week to protest during the G20 summit).
Online Sources- LAHT, PRESS TV, Palm Beach Post, The Latin Americanist, Reuters