Friday, April 17, 2009

Comcast Targets Latinos

Breaking news isn't always nuclear missiles being stockpiled, murder, death and the rest of the awful truth we have to search through to get a decent story. Sometimes it's the swindling of Spanish Speaking consumers that gets a 5 minute time slot on the news.
According to the screencast the user made, English-speaking Comcast customers in the Miami area could sign up for 12 megabit per second internet service for $42.95 per month or 16 Mbps for $52.95. When he clicks over the Spanish version of the site, the packages become 6 Mbps for $42.95 and 8 Mbps for $52.95.
Oh yes, I know the pain too well. My parents were consistently over charged when we first got to the United States, many years ago. I quickly learned math and English and soon, I started catching these companies trying to swindle my parents, and was the spokesman on their behalf many times. It's saddening to see companies taking advantage of people.

Could this be an isolated incident? A typo? Some say no, others just don't care.

Src - The Consumerist

Today’s Video: “What Is The Summit of The Americas?”

The Fifth Summit of the Americas starts today from Trinidad and Tobago and will unite leaders from most of the Western Hemisphere. A myriad of issues will be addressed during the conference including regional relations with Cuba as well as the U.S.’s role in the Americas.

But what is the Summit of the Americas all about? provides this brief and informative overview of the international conference:

Online Sources- Xinhua, Reuters, YouTube, Al Jazeera English

Blame The Mexican Drug Wars

I was troubled to hear a recent news story on the AM radio dial in my fair city of Seattle, Wa. It was about the East Coast drug problem amongst teenagers. Because Heroin is now cheaper than a six pack of beer, more teenagers are getting hooked and overdosing.

Some say that America should legalize all drugs, since the drug war isn't working. Others just blame The Mexican drug war, and point fingers. Of course that makes people fight harder for more "border control" which is a joke at this point, right?
Law enforcement officials say heroin has spiked in the northeast. More than half of heroin arrests nationwide happen there. Twice as many heroin users seek treatment than all other regions combined.

On Long Island, it's luring middle class kids like Natalie.

"She was really something else," Doreen Ciappa said.

A straight-A student, a cheerleader. Kids like her are attracted to this cheaper heroin because they don't think its as dangerous as the heroin you shoot into your veins.

"I think we skipped a generation in education. The young kids don't see the perils with heroin." said Nassau County Police Department Det. Lt. Peter Donohue.
My problem with the news is not so much that these people that are living in these communities on the East Coast blame the Mexican drug cartels, as much as it is that they are NOT blaming themselves or their children at all.

It might sound insensitive, but I do not hear a lot of remorse in the voices of people that have children that are "victims" of overdose. These people do not say that their children chose to do drugs, they don't say they were lousy parents, they just blame the Mexican Drug War. I'm tired of hearing scapegoats, and I would prefer to hear someone stand up and say that the teenagers are choosing to do drugs.

There is a serious problem brewing with the American drug influx. It is not that Mexico is solely to blame, it is that we are to blame too. We choose to drink, smoke, and do drugs. We empower the drug cartels more by denying the fact that we have the ultimate power in an easy word; No.

src - ABCnews,

Not All Americans Welcomed at the Summit of the Americas

Cross-Posted at VivirLatino

A poet friend of mine invited me to join a Facebook Group called , "AMERICA" is not U.S.A. AMERICA is the name for a whole continent". This US-centrism has been a peeve of mine for at least ten years now, specifically from when I lived in Chile and found myself in the very difficult position of defending my Latina/Puerto Rican identity (Yes, Kai I'm talking about being Rican again, sigh).

Now the idea of who is "America" comes up again against the context of The Summit of the Americas, which started yesterday in Trinidad. Love him or hate him, President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua raised a good point at the start of the Summit, saying:

“It is not of the Americas , because Cuba is missing, Puerto Rico is missing,”

So how can you have a Summit of the Americas without two nations facing important challenges rooted in colonialism?

Daily Headlines: April 17, 2009

* U.S.: “Bless Me, Ultima” by Chicano lit author Rudolfo Anaya is fifth on the list of the most frequently challenged books of 2008 according to the American Library Association.

* Chile: Thousands of Chileans marched yesterday demanding better job security and more help from the government.

* Brazil: President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said that stricter regulations are needed to prevent a future global economic slowdown.

* Puerto Rico: According to a study from The National Low Income Housing Coalition, Puerto Rico is one of the least expensive territories and states to live in.

Online Sources- Xinhua,, Reuters, Guardian UK, Wikipedia

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Today's Video: Obama in Mexico

We'll (hopefully) discuss U.S. president Barack Obama's trip to Mexico in more detail on Friday. In the meantime, the following CBS News report briefly examines some of the issues being raised between Obama and Mexican counterpart Felipe Calderon such as the drug trade and arms smuggling:

Online Sources- UPI, YouTube

Police thwart plot to kill Evo Morales

Bolivian police were involved in a dawn shootout against a gang planning to murder president Evo Morales.

Morales- who is in Venezuela for a summit of the ALBA trade bloc- said that he ordered today’s raid after intelligence reports warned of the plans against him and other senior officials. Morales added that two people were arrested and that three foreign members of the gang were killed.

Bolivia’s police chief would later add that two Hungarians were among those who were gunned down while Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera said that Irish, Croatians, and Bolivians were part of the gang.

Bolivia has gone through several bouts of violence between supporters and detractors of Morales. It should be no coincidence that today’s operation took place in the opposition stronghold of Santa Cruz where one of Morales’ opponents expressed his doubts:
Santa Cruz Governor Ruben Costas, in remarks on La Paz- based Radio Fides, said the operation was a “show” staged by the government so it can eventually blame him and other members of the opposition for threats against Morales.
Image- AFP (“Alvaro Garcia Linera (L) and Evo Morales.”)
Online Sources- BBC News, CNN, Bloomberg, UPI, The Latin Americanist, Reuters

Colombia: Soldier kidnapped since ’97 to be freed

Colombia’s FARC guerillas announced that they would free a soldier held captive since December 1997.

The communiqué to the “Colombians for Peace” group said that the rebels would “unilaterally free (Corporal Pablo Emilio Moncayo) and personally turn him over" to his father, Gustavo, and leftist Senator Piedad Cordoba. (Cordoba has brokered several hostage handovers in the past.)

The letter also claimed that the rebels would be willing to have talks with the government though both the FARC and President Alvaro Uribe disagree strongly on the conditions for negotiations.

The elder Moncayo- a schoolteacher- has been nicknamed as the “peace walker” due to his freedom marches throughout Colombia. As to be expected, he was enthused over the news of the planned liberation of his son:
"I give thanks to God for a moment so infinite, so big," Moncayo said. "There came a moment when the emotion is so big that it clouds my mind, it clouds my feelings. I won't be at peace until I hold my son in my arms".
Image- (“In this television frame released by Venezuela's Interior Ministry in Caracas, Friday, March 7, 2008 , Colombian soldier Pablo Moncayo, who has been held for a decade as a hostage of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, is seen during a proof of life recorded message, that was sent to Venezuela's government.”)
Online Sources- Reuters, Colombia Reports,, Semana, The Latin Americanist,

Saint Death Killed by Drugs

man smokes into death
It surprises me that for whatever reasons, Latin America likes their idols no matter what. Seriously, think for a moment about how many Latin American Catholics exist, then narrow down into Mexico and consider how many saints are worshiped by Mexican Catholics. It begins to boggle the mind how Latin America is so lost, or at least headed towards being lost, while their neighbors to the north finish off Easter celebrations this past week. I'm sure I was making a good point here, until I realized that Jose Luis De Jesus over in Florida has convinced much of Florida into believing that he is the incarnation of Jesus Christ.

With such a terrible introduction, you're bound to get a few gold gems in here right? Yes. Saint Death is in the cross hairs of the Drug War participants. At least that's what Saint Death's followers are saying, as they try to protest the destruction of a shrine dedicated to the relatively unorthodox saint. Over 5 million followers are claiming that Saint Death is not some fringe believe branch of Catholicism, they truly are citing that this destruction of their shrine is nothing more than disrespect for their religion.

Maybe it's not the religion so much as it is what has happened around the shrines that is getting targeted for destruction. For instance in 2007 gunmen shot and killed three men at a Santa Muerte altar in Nuevo Laredo. At another shrine, in Tepito, a growing black market is booming selling contraband, drugs, and so much more, creating a police nightmare.
"They link her with criminals because many of the people they arrest bear her image. But there are a lot of hard-working people behind her," said protester Ernesto Hernandez, 40, who said he owns a furniture shop on the edge of the capital.
Sounds like a mixed bag of cultural animosity. Whether people are being socially targeted for discrimination, or being persecuted for their beliefs is a topic of debate. However, it seems that wherever the Saint of Death has a shrine, trouble, violence and yes, death seems to follow.

Src - The Guardian, Reuters

Image source - The Guardian

Spain considers dropping case vs. ex-Bush officials

Spain's top prosecutor rejected going ahead with a criminal case against six former Bush administration officials including ex-attorney general Alberto Gonzales.

Spanish Attorney General Candido Conde-Pumpido said that the case against Gonzales and co. for their role in torturing detainees at Guantanamo Bay had "no merit" and that the case should be directed at those “who physically carried…out" the abuses. Furthermore, she warned that the case could easily become a “toy in the hands of people who are trying to do a political action."

The ultimate decision on whether or not the case moves forward rests on the shoulders of investigating judge Baltasar Garzon. He is best-known for bringing charges against former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998 though he has also led investigations against abuses in Argentina and El Salvador.

Politics may come into play since Spain is eager to strengthen ties with the U.S.:
Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is seeking to improve U.S. relations, which have been strained since he pulled Spanish troops out of Iraq in 2004 after al-Qaeda bomb attacks in Madrid. Zapatero, a Socialist, met President Barack Obama on April 5 in Prague, where Obama said he was happy to call Zapatero a “friend.”
Image- BBC News (“Some (Gitmo) inmates were subjected to controversial interrogation techniques.”)
Online Sources- BBC News, CNN, Bloomberg, AFP, The Latin Americanist

Daily Headlines: April 16, 2009

* U.S.: Jury selection began this week in the case of Allen Ray Andrade who is accused of the hate crime murder of a transgendered Latina, Angie Zapata.

* Mexico: Newly appointed U.S. “border czar” Alan Bersin is anticipating the “magical opportunity, north and south, to actually strengthen security for both sides of the border."

* Venezuela: President Hugo Chavez and the media are at loggerheads after he accused the press of trying to “subvert and destabilize” the country.

* Peru: After nearly two years of rapid growth, Peru’s economy has come to a screeching halt according to the latest figures.

Image- ABC News (“Allen Ray Andrade, 32, is accused of killing Angie Zapata, who was born Justin Zapata but lived as a young woman.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist,, UPI, Reuters, LAHT

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Today’s Video: The bubbling cauldron

Are a weakened economy, the election of a black president, and illegal immigration factors in an increase of right-wing extremism in the U.S.? The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) thinks so in a confidential report leaked this week:

As the above video showed, rightist commentators are peeved at the report. One of them has even called for the resignation of DHS chief Janet Napolitano. Also upset are some veterans groups like the American Legion whose president called the study "incomplete, and, I fear, politically-biased".

Napolitano released a statement emphasizing that “we are on the lookout for criminal and terrorist activity but we do not -- nor will we ever -- monitor ideology or political beliefs.” In addition, the Obama administration issued a warning months ago about some far leftist groups and the previous Bush administration issued published several reports on “left-wing extremism”.

There are terrorists abroad who target the U.S. and foolishly wish for the country’s destruction. Yet there are also domestic fringe groups on both sides of the ideological spectrum who for different reasons have the same objective: to spread fear, violence, and anarchy. Monitoring all of them should not be an easy excuse for the country to become an overbearing surveillance state yet we must be alert against the danger these groups pose.

Online Sources- CNN, AFP, UPI, BBC News, Guardian UK, Think Progress

Colombia, Mexico crack down on drug gangs

A pair of major blows against drug gangs took place over the last 24 hours in Colombia and Mexico.

Colombian police captured one of the most wanted drug capos this morning: Daniel Rendon Herrera (alias "Don Mario"). Herrera was arrested in a clandestine police operation along with between twenty to thirty men at a farm where they were hiding.

A former right-wing paramilitary, "Don Mario" allied himself to a recently-formed criminal group and had offered a $1000 bounty for each police officer his gang killed. Herrera could be extradited to the U.S. for supposedly smuggling tons of cocaine in the 1990s.

In Mexico, meanwhile, authorities arrested a 20-year-old woman guarding a massive arsenal allegedly for use by the Beltran-Leyva drug cartel. An anti air-craft machine gun, five rifles, and part of a grenade launcher where some of the weapons confiscated by police during a routine patrol.

Yesterday’s actions come as the Mexican government claims that nearly 90% of the 12,000 pistols and rifles confiscated from drug gangs last year came from U.S. dealers.

Image- AP (“Anahi Beltran Cabrera, center, who was arrested guarding an arsenal, is presented to the media at a police base in Mexico City, Tuesday, April 14, 2009.”)
Online Sources- BBC News, Sky News, AP, UPI, The Telegraph, Colombia Reports

Tepid reception for Obama at T & T summit?

What awaits U.S. President Barack Obama at the upcoming Summit of the Americas? Guest contributor Lauren Conover had this to say:

As President Obama heads to Trinidad and Tobago this weekend for the Summit of the Americas, he may not get a very warm reception. It will be the first time he has met leaders such as Hugo Chávez, Evo Morales and Daniel Ortega. It is also likely that some of Latin America's heads of state will blame the United States for the world's economic crisis. "You have to be willing to accept that Latin Americans, who are experts in crisis after creating many of their own, will say 'We didn't create this one,' " José Miguel Insulza, secretary general of the Organization of American States.

While Latin America leaders are expected to push Obama on lifting the embargo on Cuba, Venezuela's Chávez has declined to comment thus far about the recent relaxing of travel and remittance restrictions for Cuban-Americans and Brazil's Lula has made it clear that he does not wish to see President Obama embarrassed about the issue. For his part, President Obama has stated that his main goal at the Summit to listen and bring a message of partnership.

Image- Guardian UK
Online Sources- AP, Mercopress, UPI,

Donors pledge helping hand to Haiti -- but is it enough?

Donor countries from around the world gathered in Washington yesterday, wined and dined throughout the day by the likes of Ban Ki-Moon, Hillary and Bill Clinton, and high-profiles academics like Paul Farmer, Jeffrey Sachs and Paul Collier.

The sum total of money -- $324 million -- represents a third of what Prime Minister Pierre-Louis had hoped would be raised. While it is unclear that the billion dollar mark was a realistic expectation in the current global economic climate, the jury is still out on whether this 2-year aid package is likely to make a lasting difference.

Official donor country pledges have not been publicly released, though sources indicate that the US has pledged roughly one-third of the aid total. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit Haiti tomorrow before attending the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, where the subject of aid to Haiti will likely be a cause for camaraderie amongst the US and other Lain American nations.

Links to all the keynote remarks at yesterday's IDB conference can be found here.

Sources: Miami Herald, AFP, IDB

Daily Headlines: April 15, 2009

* Latin America: Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez and Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe met yesterday in Caracas and signed several bilateral economic deals.

* Mexico: Pop singer Gloria Trevi- whose 90s pop superstardom was derailed by her implication in a sex scandal- sued Mexico’s TV Azteca for libel and defamation.

* Panama: The Council on Hemispheric Affairs examines if the Panama’ Canal’s expansion will be a boom or bust.

* U.S.: Lawmakers have called for posthumous honorary citizenship to immigrants from countries like the Philippines, Haiti, and Brazil who were killed in this month’s shooting in upstate New York.

Image- El Universal
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, CNN,, Council on Hemispheric Affairs, LAHT

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Today’s Video: “Dia de Luz”

According to the video’s caption:
DAY OF LIGHT (Dia de Luz) chronicles an epic celebration of life in La Chureca, the trash dump community of Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua, captured by six filmmakers in March 2008 over the course of one day... from sunrise to sunset.
Please watch this unbelievable video for yourself:

Day of Light from Love Light & Melody on Vimeo.

(Hat tip: The Daily Dish).

Online Sources- Vimeo, The Daily Dish

Bolivian president halts hunger strike

Bolivia’s president Evo Morales ended his five-day hunger strike after the country’s Congress approved an electoral proposal.

At a public ceremony in La Paz, Morales signed into law the bill which allows him to run for reelection on December 6, grants 14 congressional seats for indigenous candidates and permits Bolivians abroad to vote. Legislators reached the compromise in the pre-dawn hours after days of negotiating.

After signing the proposal, Morales thanked domestic supporters as well as foreign followers that held their own hunger strikes in solidarity with him:
Morales, a husky Aymara Indian, looked exhausted and a few pounds thinner as he formally enacted the law before a crowd that chanted "Evo, the people are with you!"

Morales, 49, had spent the weekend reclining on a mattress in the presidential palace, drinking chamomile tea and chewing coca leaves, a mild stimulant that helps suppress the appetite.

"The people should not forget that you need to fight for change. We alone can't guarantee this revolutionary process, but with people power it's possible," the leftist leader said before dawn, flanked by 13 union activists who joined him in the fast.
Last week Morales claimed that he was going through his eighteenth hunger strike and that he once went eighteen days without eating when he was a union leader protesting the eradication of coca.

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

Mexico debates legalizing marijuana

Mexican Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan appeared on CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday and spoke about the need for greater cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico to combat drug-related violence. When asked about the possible legalization of marijuana, Sarukhan emphasized that it “is a debate that needs to be taken seriously… both in producing, in trafficking, and in consumption countries.”

(Fast forward to the 8:00 minute mark to view Sarukhan’s full reply):

Sarukhan’s comments come at a time when the Mexican Congress is considering some form of legalizing marijuana. "What we don't want is to criminalize youths for consuming or possessing marijuana," said opposition lawmaker Javier Gonzalez regarding the debate on permititng marijuana for personal use.

The White House has yet to comment on the specific debate even though President Barack Obama will visit Mexico on Thursday. It’s worth noting that Mexican President Felipe Calderon suggested last year that penalties against the personal use of some illegal drugs such as marijuana should be relaxed.

Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, UPI, Ottawa Citizen, YouTube, Huffington Post, Voice of America

Fidel Castro pushes Obama to drop embargo

Cuban ex-President Fidel Castro blasted the U.S. trade embargo in reponse to the White House’s decision yesterday to ease travel and remittance limits.

In an article written in the Cuban press, Castro seemed to be pleased that President Barack Obama scrapped "several hateful restrictions" enacted by the previous presidential administration. Castro briefly struck a conciliatory tone when he wrote that the Cuban government would be willing to normalize relations with the U.S. Yet he also blasted the forty-year long blockade which he labeled as a "truly genocidal measure". “The conditions are there for Obama to use his talent for a constructive policy to put an end to what has failed for almost half a century,” mentioned the ailing former leader.

Yesterday’s move to removing limits on travel and money transfers by Cuban-Americans to the island was seen with mixed eyes by different members of the Cuban community in the U.S.:
"So many people have been calling," said Ofelia Gutierrez, a Cuban immigrant and the manager of Costamar Travel in Union City, N.J. "They are really excited about it, asking 'Is it true we can go?'"

Gutierrez does worry the Cuban government will skim off any increased money sent home to family members…

"We hope that the administration will reserve (dropping the trade embargo) for future steps when conditions on the part of the Cuban government have changed and political prisoners have been freed," said Francisco Hernandez, director of the Cuban American National Foundation in Miami…

“President Obama has committed a serious mistake by unilaterally increasing Cuban-American travel and remittance dollars for the Cuban dictatorship," (U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart) said in a statement.
Image- BBC News
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, UPI, AP, Bloomberg

Daily Headlines: April 14, 2009

* Paraguay: President Fernando Lugo admitted to several shocking allegations and confessed that he had a relationship and fathered a child during his time as a Roman Catholic bishop.

* Puerto Rico: Police suspect that the scheduled redeployment of a soldier to Iraq was a factor in his recent suicide.

* Brazil: The global economic slowdown has hit Japanese-Brazilians hard and several thousand have returned to Brazil.

* Bolivia: The government has opened three indigenous universities which “will have as their mission recovering the culture, languages and knowledge of the indigenous peoples.”

Image- AP (“Paraguay's President and former Catholic bishop Fernando Lugo gestures during a news conference at the government palace in Asuncion, Monday, April 13, 2009. Lugo admitted Monday he had a relationship with Viviana Carrilllo, 26, and the paternity of her son Guillermo Armindo, 2, born when he was still the bishop of San Pedro, 400 kms northeast from Asuncion.”).
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Voice of America, LAHT, AP, Reuters

Monday, April 13, 2009

Today’s Video: An olive branch to Cuba?

According to senior White House officials, U.S. president Barack Obama is expected to announce the relaxing of travel and remittance restrictions to Cuba:

The expected changes to U.S. policy are to also include permitting U.S. telecom firms to apply for licenses in Cuba. Yet the decades-long trade embargo is to remain intact as well as “sending gifts or other items to high-ranking Cuban government officials and Communist Party members.”

The anticipated diplomatic actions come four days before the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago. U.S.-Cuba policy is expected to be a hot topic at the summit; most hemispheric leaders have recently called for eliminating the trade embargo on Cuba.

Congress is currently considering whether travel restrictions to Cuba should be removed for all U.S. visitors.

Online Sources- YouTube, USA TODAY,, CNN, Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg, PoliticalPunch, The Latin Americanist

Angel Cabrera wins Masters thriller

It took 74 holes but in the end Argentine golfer Angel Cabrera was the man wearing the iconic Green Jacket at Augusta.

Cabrera won his second major golf tournament with a thrilling Masters victory on Sunday. The Argentine became the first Latin American to win the fabled major after beating beat Kenny Perry and Chad Campbell in a play-off.

The 2007 U.S. Open champ was co-leader with Perry after three rounds yet had an inconsistent Sunday. Perry bogeyed the final two regulation holes, however, and Cabrera hung on to force the playoff. Despite nearly being eliminated in the first extra hole, Cabrera played the second impeccably and became the lowest-ranked Masters champion since the world rankings began in 1986.

Cabrera received plenty of inspiration from fellow Argentine Roberto DeVicenzo who was achingly close to Masters glory in 1968:
"This moment, and also Oakmont in 2007, are the happiest moments of my life," he said before being helped into his Green Jacket by 2008 champion Trevor Immelman of South Africa.

"When I won the U.S. Open (compatriot) Roberto De Vicenzo gave me a nice picture and there was a green jacket in it, making me go for it," added Cabrera through an interpreter…

De Vicenzo came close to Masters glory in 1968 only to submit an incorrect scorecard, giving American Bob Goalby a one-shot victory instead of sending the year's first major to a playoff.
Image- AP (“Defending Masters' champion Trevor Immelman of South Africa helps 2009 Masters golf champion Angel Cabrera of Argentina with his Masters' green jacket at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., Sunday, April 12, 2009.”)
Online Sources- Guardian UK, UPI, The Latin Americanist, Reuters, BBC Sport, Times Online

Women's groups guide spotlight on Juárez

As international attention dribbles toward Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, some advocacy groups are upset with what they consider misdirected attention.

For years, Juarez has been a setting for the disappearance and murder of scores of young women, something relatively unnoticed in international media, say women's groups. Now that the country's escalating drug wars are attracting world attention, the city is becoming a spotlight for street battles between drug cartels and government forces.

This attention isn't enough, say groups like Ciudad Juárez-based May Our Daughters Return Home. These activists say as many as 500 women have been killed since 1993. Many of the murders have not been solved. The Times reports today that these women are expressing their anger by protesting the appointment of Mexico's ambassador to Canada, Francisco Barrio Terrazas.

“He doesn’t represent Mexicans,” said Marisela Ortiz, founder of May Our Daughters Return Home, a coalition of victims' families.

Ortiz and others say Barrio Terrazas did not do enough while governor of the state of Chihuahua during the 1990s, when the regular Juárez killings began.

Canada's Embassy magazine reported that protesters greeted Barrio Terrazas as he arrived in Quebec to begin his new position.

"I was never, never indifferent," Barrio Terrazas said in the Embassy articlce. "Never insensitive towards those cases. Those were happenings that affected me extremely, there was a huge concern from me."

In related news, two members of the Mexican Army are accused of torturing Juárez residents to find the name of a local drug dealer. Also, an El Paso man was arrested last week for the alleged rape of 19 young women in Juárez.

Sources: NYT, Embassy, El Diario de Juárez, LA Times, AP

Photo: Francisco Barrio Terrazas with Francisco Garrido,

"Sin Nombre" offers realistic look at migrant routes north

Cary Fukunaga's first film, the fictitious "Sin Nombre" (now in select theatres) may offer one of the most authentic portrayals yet of the north-bound migrant experience. I wouldn't know, of course -- but Fukunaga would. The director spent several years researching the film through extended visits on the Central American and Mexican railways, interviewing migrants, coyotes, neighboring townspeople, and gang-members -- lots of gang members.

The beautifully shot movie, which focuses on the unlikely bond between a young girl and an exiled gang member who are both hoping to cross the border, is actually made by its un-plotted moments; brief forays into the countryside, the scenes of reposed mareros, and the all-too believable cast of characters that one encounters along the way-- the downtrodden, the desperate, and the hopeful.

Shot with only a handful of professional actors, the performances are each outstanding and surprisingly nuanced -- even the most inhumane characters are given their due humanity (a heavily tattooed and brutal gang leader burps his newborn on a couch, or a cross-dressing addict-cum-candy salesman offers chillingly rationale advice to some young gang-wannabes). I believe that this movie will be a reference point in the genre for years to come, following in the footsteps of "El Norte" and "Maria Full of Grace."

For more reviews:
- La Times
- Variety
- Washington Post

Cuba: Bloggers keep speaking out vs. gov’t

Last week’s news of several Congressional Black Congress members meeting with Fidel Castro may’ve been a key step in the thawing of frosty relations between the U.S. and Cuba. For that meeting to be a step in the right direction, however, major changes need to be enacted in both countries even if it causes heavy debate.

As we’ve mentioned before, the Castro administration and Cuban bloggers have had a fractious relationship. The government has severely restricted access to the internet and affording a personal computer is out of the reach of the common person. The police have also harassed some bloggers and warned that their activities “run afoul of the law”.

During last month’s Havana Biennial art show, artist Tania Bruguera set up a particular installation. Residents were granted the chance to go speak for one minute at a podium with a microphone. Well-known anti-Castro blogger Yoani Sanchez took her opportunity to speak against the government:

Bruguera’s installation was approved by the government who ran the art show. A government communiqué shortly after Sanchez’ performance implied that she is a "professional dissident" employed by the U.S.

Sanchez remained defiant in an entry written to the Huffington Post earlier this month:
I confess to you that I do not want them to allow me to travel as if it were a gift. I have a feeling that I will travel from Cuba when everyone can do it freely, but in the meantime, I will continue besieging them with my demands, my posts and my questions.
The Cold War may’ve been over for years yet the U.S. and Cuba have permitted such a farcical political and economic rift to continue. While the U.S. can relax travel restrictions and possibly drop the decades-old trade embargo, Cuba needs to relax its restrictions on personal freedoms. The end of the government’s ongoing conflict with the island’s bloggers would be a very welcome step.

Online Sources- Huffington Post, AP, The Latin Americanist, Reuters,

Daily Headlines: April 13, 2009

* Peru: The White House’s diplomatic offensive ahead of this week’s Summit of the Americas continued on Friday when President Barack Obama spoke with Peruvian counterpart Alan Garcia.

* Mexico: Mexican immigration agents caught 88 Central American migrants trying to illegally cross the border.

* Chile: In order to counteract the worst economy in nearly a decade Chile’s central bank cut its benchmark interest rate for the fourth time this year.

* Latin America: Days after being placed on a tax haven blacklist by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Uruguay, Costa Rica and two other countries were removed from it.

Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Voice of America, LAHT, Bloomberg, BBC News