Saturday, June 20, 2009

Today’s Video: World Refugee Day

Saturday commemorates World Refugee Day, a date in which we think about the over 42 million displaced people worldwide.

The topic of displaced people is a pressing issue throughout the Americas. As we mentioned earlier this week, Colombia is the country with the most internally displaced people in the world with over 3 million refugees. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) refugees in Mexico and Central America are at risk, especially migrants who venture northward. Yet there are some bright spots such as the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants naming of Brazil, Ecuador and Costa Rica as the best countries for refugees.

Below is a 2008 video from the UNHCR that examines the heartbreaking experiences of a few of Colombia’s internal refugees:

Online Sources- UPI, The Latin Americanist, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Voice of America, YouTube

Weekend Headlines: June 20-21, 2009

* Peru: The UN's Special Rapporteur for Indigenous People has called for an independent investigation into suspected abuses during recent clashes between police and indigenous protesters.

* Brazil: The government issued an amnesty against dozens of peasants who were jailed and tortured during a Dirty War-era uprising.

* Venezuela: General Motors suspend its Venezuelan operations until September after blaming the government for not helping pay its $1.2 billion debt.

* U.S.: After being criticized for belonging in the Belizean Grove, Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor quit from the all-female club.

* Latin America: Several countries throughout the region reported at least 87 new cases of the swine flu on Friday.

* Colombia: This editorial in the Los Angeles Times supports the Colombian Supreme Court’s recent decision not to extradite FARC rebel Martin Sombra.

Image- New York Times (“Ashaninkas and Machiguengas, indigenous peoples of Peru, protested against the government's plans to open large parts of the Amazon for drilling, logging and dam building.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, UPI, BBC News, Los Angeles Times, LAHT, Reuters, Xinhua

Friday, June 19, 2009

Today’s Video: The art of Basquiat

Before we return for a few posts over the weekend, we wish to end Friday highlighting another extraordinary person of Puerto Rican background.

Jean-Michel Basquiat was born in 1960 to a Puerto Rican mother and Haitian father. Though he died at the age of 27, he became one of the most famous graffiti and neo-expressionist painters in U.S. history. His legacy lives on in via the critical recognition of his work and through the 1996 film “Basquiat” directed by Julian Schnabel. His star burned out far too soon yet his influence continues to this day.

The below video is a brief interview of Basquiat circa early 1980s:

Online Sources- Wikipedia, YouTube, The Latin Americanist

Argentine Court Upholds Junta Members' Sentences

This week Argentina's highest court upheld a lower court's ruling to let the life sentences of General Jorge Videla and Admiral Emilio Massera stand.

Videla and Massera, part of Argentina's repressive military regime that ruled from 1976 to 1983, were charged with crimes against humanity in 1985. However, President Carlos Menem issued them a pardon in 1990. The new ruling declares those pardons unconstitutional.

Online sources: Página 12, EFE
Image: Página 12

Dole unhappy over documentary on Nicaragua

Dole food company is pretty peeved over a documentary highlighting a case brought up by Nicaraguan plantation laborers.

Entitled “Bananas!” the film by Sweden’s Fredrik Gertten is what he calls a “classical David-Goliath story” between downtrodden workers and a massive multinational firm. Representatives of the company vehemently disagree and are flexing their muscle to make sure the documentary is kept under wraps:
In the eyes of Dole Food Co., Gertten's film is an egregiously flawed document based on what Dole lawyer Scott Edelman calls "a phony story" that has been discredited by the allegedly fraudulent conduct of the L.A. attorney, Juan J. Dominguez, at the film's center. Dole, the world's largest producer of fruits and vegetables, is vowing to sue both the filmmaker and the Los Angeles Film Festival for defamation if it screens the movie this week.

In the view of the festival, which plans to host the movie's world premiere on Saturday, "Bananas!" is an intriguing object lesson that raises important questions about the conduct of U.S. companies abroad, the practices of American attorneys representing foreign workers and the ethical choices facing a documentary filmmaker who has been told after finishing his film that some of his material may be shaky, if not outright false.
In 2007, a federal judge awarded $2.5 million in damages to the plaintiffs though another justice would later dismiss that ruling. The Nicaraguan workers claimed that Dole knowingly used a banned pesticide, yet the courts are attempting to toss out the case.

While Dole may’ve won this case, there’s another one pending whose plaintiffs are Colombian workers accusing the firm of hiring illegal paramilitaries.

Is “Bananas!” a propaganda piece or a legitimate film? You be the judge:

Online Sources- Forbes, Los Angeles Times, The Latin Americanist, YouTube, Wall Street Journal

Salvador Allende's Widow Passes Away

Hortensia "Tencha" Bussi, the widow of the late Chilean president Salvador Allende, passed away at her Santiago home on Thursday.  She was 94 years old.

Bussi accompanied her husband on the political campaign trail and, as first lady, was active in many social programs.  During the military dictatorship she fled to Mexico, where she was very active in campaigns against the dictatorship.  She returned to Chile in 1990 when civilian rule was restored.

For Bussi's 94th birthday, President Michelle Bachelet sent her a card where she expressed appreciation for Bussi's "enormous commitment, yesterday and today, to our democracy."

Online sources: Associated Press, Latin American Herald Tribune

Daily Headlines: June 19, 2009

* Brazil: Brazil virtually assured themselves of a semifinal spot in the Confederations Cup after embarrassing the U.S. by a score of 3-0.

* Haiti: Did U.N. troops act too harshly when they killed one person after firing into a crowd of protesters who were mourning the death of activist Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste?

* U.S.: Three illegal immigrants- two from Mexico and one from Ecuador- will receive $3.85 million in settlements after being injured in separate construction accidents.

* Guatemala: A group of about 100 parents marched in Washington to bring attention to the problems related to adopting Guatemalan children.

Image- New York Times (“Felipe Melo, right, and Brazil, defeated an undermannned and overmatched U.S. team on Thursday in the Confederations Cup in Pretoria, South Africa.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, New York Daily News, Reuters, Miami Herald, CNN

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Today’s Video: Versatility, grace, and charm

Undoubtedly one of the most famous actresses of Puerto Rican background is the versatile Rita Moreno.

Born in 1931 in the town of Humacao, Moreno’s career has spanned nearly six decades in the worlds of film, music, television, and theater. Some of her best-known roles included her portrayal of Anita in the 1961 film adaptation of “West Side Story” as well as being a regular in the 1970s version of “The Electric Company.”

In this clip from the 1975 Tony Awards, note the unapologetic enthusiasm and pride in Moreno’s background upon being honored for her portrayal of Googie Gomez in “The Ritz”:

Online Sources- Wikipedia, YouTube, The Latin Americanist

Peruvian MPs repeal controversial land edicts

After roughly two months of protest including days of ugly confrontations, Peru’s Congress overturned a pair of controversial land laws decreed by President Alan Garcia:
The decrees had been issued by Alan Garcia, the Peruvian president, in 2007 to give him powers to implement a free trade pact and outlined plans to regulate investment in the Peruvian Amazon.

However, indigenous groups said they were not consulted on the laws and that the decrees would affect their ancestral lands…

The measure was approved 82-12 after a five-hour debate in Peru's single-chamber legislature, attended by about 30 Amazon native Indians of the Ashanika community.
"This is a historic day for all indigenous people in Peru," said Daysi Zapata- director of the indigenous rights group Aidesep- though she also acknowledged that seven of Garcia’s decrees are still on the books.

Peruvian Prime Minister Yehude Simon- who has come under fire for his handling of the protests- said that the changes wouldn’t put at risk Peru's free trade pact with the U.S.

In the meantime, Peru's foreign minister and Bolivian President Evo Morales have engaged in a war of words that included recalling Peru’s ambassador in La Paz. Also, Peruvian indigenous leader Alberto Pizango arrived yesterday in Nicaragua days after the Central American country granted him political asylum.

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

Report: U.S. lax in preventing gun flow to Mexico

“The Second Amendment was never designed to arm criminal groups.” These comments were made by Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora to “60 Minutes” earlier this year reflected the ire Mexican officials have over how easily drug gangs obtain weapons from the U.S. Medina Mora’s concerns were surely strengthened by a U.S. government report released today:
The General Accountability Office investigation released today (pdf) cites Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives data that approximates 87 percent of firearms seized by Mexican authorities and submitted to the U.S. for tracing in the last five years came from the U.S., and found that roughly one quarter of the guns seized are high-caliber, high-powered assault style weapons, including AK-47s and AR-15s.

Most of the illegal weapons that cross the border are intended to support Mexican drug cartels, lending added firepower to an already lethal Mexican drug war.

Investigators concluded that uncoordinated government efforts have hampered efforts to stop the gun flow.

"Individual U.S. agencies have undertaken a variety of activities and projects to combat arms trafficking to Mexico, but they are not part of a comprehensive U.S. government-wide strategy for addressing the problem," according to the report.
The report acknowledged that it’s difficult to collect accurate data from the U.S. and Mexico yet blasted the ATF and Immigration and Customs Enforcement for ineffectively coordinating their efforts as well as corrupt elements in the Mexican government. The study also cited the southern border states of Texas, California and Arizona as supplying most of the arms to Mexico; according to the New York Times, over 500 guns confiscated in Mexico last year can be traced to Arizona.

In 2008 over 6000 Mexicans were killed due to violence related to the country’s drug gangs. That amount may be surpassed this year as there have been 2900 deaths so far this year.

Image- BBC News
Online Sources- CNN, The Latin Americanist, UPI, Christian Science Monitor, New York Times

Ché Guevara’s “nieta” campaigns for PETA

Animal rights organization PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) will launch a pro-vegetarian campaign in Buenos Aires later this year. Who better to be the spokesperson for the “vegetarian revolution” than the offspring of one of the most famous Argentines ever? *
The granddaughter of revolutionary Ernesto “Ché” Guevara will be the spokesperson of a campaign by PETA to promote vegetarianism…

“After discussing it with my family I decided to participate in this campaign. As a vegetarian I will use my grandfather’s name for a just cause I believe in,” she said after a PETA photo shoot on Wednesday…

“PETA’s fight for animal rights was one of the reasons I became a vegetarian. This lifestyle has become a true revolution that catches the attention of more people and that is a healthy alternative for the planet” [ed. – personal translation]
An English version of the campaign is said to also be in the works; I wonder if PETA will place a billboard of Lydia and her carrots in Miami?

(Hat tip: Gawker).

* Yes, I’m being sarcastic.

Online Sources- Gawker, Miami New Times,

Colombia tops in internally displaced says U.N.

Which country has the largest amount of displaced people according to U.N.?

It’s not war-torn Iraq.

It’s not the conflict-ridden Sudan.

It’s not the divided Pakistan.

Guess again:
With three million people displaced throughout the nation, Colombia continues to have one the largest displaced populations in the world, according to an annual report released by the United Nation High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

The 'Global Trends 2008' report said that Colombia has one of the highest incidences of internal displacement in the world, along with Iraq (2.6 million), the Congo (1.5 million) and Somalia (1.3 million). Globally there were 26 million people [internally] displaced in 2008.
Despite some improvements in Colombian security, the armed conflict has certainly not gne away quitely. The report pointed out that "longer-term internal displacement" continues and will keep being a problem in the Latin American country. In terms of total displaced people Colombia is outnumbered by Thailand and Iraq, yet there are nearly 400,000 Colombians forced out of their country and mostly living in neighboring states like Ecuador and Venezuela.

According to the UNDCR there are over 42 million displaced people worldwide and this number is expected to grow due to increase conflicts. The report also pointed out that the clampdown in immigration by some industrialized countries has made it more difficult for refugees to seek asylum.

(Hat tip: Foreign Policy Passport).

Image- CNN (“Displaced children at a camp in El Barrancon, Colombia, earlier this year.”)
Online Sources- Al Jazeera English, BBC News, Xinhua, Foreign Policy Passport, Colombia Reports

Reprieve granted to three deported minors

In a rare moment of clarity, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reversed its decision to deport three teens on their way to school.

The three minors between the ages of 15 and 17 were nabbed last month in San Diego while waiting at a trolley stop. The minors were not engaging in any crime at the time of arrest and their parents were living in the U.S. Yet immigration officials claimed that they couldn’t find the teens’ legal guardians and thus sent them to Mexico.

After uproar by the community and immigrants rights activists, DHS granted the kids a “humanitarian parole” and allowed them to return to the U.S. Though proper procedure was not followed by immigration officials, DHS claimed that “authorities took into account the totality of the circumstances and what was in the best interest of the minors and their families.” The three former deportees will be granted the chance to appear in front of a judge to argue their case and could be sent to Mexico again.

The above case demonstrates one of the main fallacies if the current immigration policy: the agenizing splitting of families. Yesterday, the nonprofit American Fraternity reiterated its plans to sue President Barack Obama to halt the deportations of the parents of 150 children until immigration reform is passed. Until Obama and the rest of the politicos get their collective heads out of the sand, however, heart wrenching tales like that of Ronald Soza will continue:

Online Sources- MSNBC, AP, Los Angeles Times, San Diego Union-Tribune

Daily Headlines: June 18, 2009

* U.S.: During a hearing yesterday, some Congressmen criticized the mismanagement and a minuscule audience of U.S.-government funded broadcasting to Cuba.

* Colombia: The country’s top court refused Washington’s extradition request of a FARC guerrilla accused of being behind the kidnapping of three now-freed U.S. contractors in 2003.

* Brazil: Autopsies of the few body parts found floating in the Atlantic from Air France Flight 447 indicate that the airliner somehow broke apart in the air.

* Uruguay: Montevideo-based Nacional became the first Uruguayan side to reach the Copa Libertadores semifinals in twenty years after upsetting Brazil’s Palmeiras.

Image- MSNBC (The U.S. government has spent almost $600 million on TV and Radio Marti since the mid 1980s).
Online Sources- Voice of America, Los Angeles Times, ESPN, MSNBC

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Today’s Video: Ballplayer, pioneer, humanitarian

This week’s video theme of notable Puerto Rican figures continues with undoubtedly one of the greatest Latino baseball players of all time: Roberto Clemente.

The outfielder played eighteen years with the Pittsburgh Pirates in a career filled with honors including twelve Gld Gloves and two Worlfd Sreies titles. Due to his being a dark-skinned Latino, Clemente faced the same racism and vitriol aimed at African-American ballplayers. Through it all Clemente forged ahead and even reached the 3000 hit plateau in his final regular season at-bat.

Clemente spent most of his off-season doing charity work and it was this humanitarian spirit that led him to help Nicaraguan earthquake victims in December 1972. Tragically, he died on New Year’s Eve of that year as a passenger of a plane overloaded with relief supplies. About six months after his passing, Clemente became the first Latin American ballplayer to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Clemente’s legacy lives on today as one can see in this video clip:

Online Sources- Baseball Hall of Fame, YouTube, The Latin Americanist

Immigration agents to get expanded powers

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said on Wednesday that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents will receive expanded powers to make drug arrests.

Holder announced the changes to the Senate and the actions are particularly targeted towards Mexico. Furthermore, the move was also done to quell a “long-running turf dispute with the Drug Enforcement Administration:”
In the past, when ICE agents wanted to work on their own drug investigations, they had to seek the permission of the DEA and make sure that the ICE agents involved had Title 21 authority. ICE maintained this scenario hampered their ability to work cases, especially on the border where ICE has such a large presence. DEA fought back, claiming that ICE agents did not have the expertise to handle narcotics investigations.

A real world example would be when ICE agents raid a safe house full of illegal immigrants and discover that it’s really a drug operation. Under the current regulations, the ICE agents would not be allowed to make any drug-related arrests unless the DEA was called to the scene.
With such an escalation of crimes near the U.S.-Mexico border, the plan will also try to contain any spillover of violence into the U.S.

Holder is expected to formally announce the move at a news conference on Thursday.

Image-Voice of America
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, MSNBC, AP, Washington Post

Next haven for Gitmo detainees: Spain?

Earlier this month, members of the European Union (EU) agreed to a framework allowing individual states to take in Guantanamo prison detainees. Despite reluctance from some countries like Germany, Italy reached a deal with the White House on Monday to take in “three specific inmates.”

Reports out of Spain, in the meantime, claimed that the Iberian country could take up as many as four detainees from the controversial prison camp:
The United States has asked Spain to take four inmates from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and Madrid will study the request case by case, Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said on Wednesday.

"We will study each case one by one and respond once we understand the implications of the decision and in what way we can help the United States close Guantanamo," Moratinos told a news conference.

"There may be more cases presented in the future," he said.
According to Spanish daily El Pais, officials in that country are negotiating who would pay for the detainees’ security. Furthermore, the paper said that the transferred prisoners would most likely be Syrian and Turkish and that they would have freedom of movement within Spain.

France, Ireland, and Portugal have previously expressed interest in taking in detainees.

Image- AFP
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Reuters, AFP, BBC News, USA TODAY

Eric Volz files petition against Nicaragua

A U.S. citizen who was jailed for thirteen months in Nicaragua has accused the Central American country for trying to reinstate his conviction.

In 2007, Eric Volz was convicted and sentenced to thirty years in prison for the 2006 rape and death of his former girlfriend- Doris Jimenez. His case stirred up plenty of emotions in Nicaragua as critics viewed him as a foreign gringo murderer while his supporters claimed that he was convicted by a kangaroo court. Last year, Volz was freed by an appellate court and has since been in hiding while working on his upcoming memoirs.

Yesterday Volz delivered a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights alleging that the Nicaraguan government will restore his conviction. In a press release issued by his representatives, Volz accused Nicaraguan officials of trying to exploit him as a political pawn:
“I believe in justice and the word of law,” said Volz. “I lost over a year of my life due to a crime I didn’t commit and the Nicaraguan courts know I didn’t do. What happened to me shouldn’t occur to anyone. Courts exist to protect the innocent which is why I hope the Inter-American Commission takes action.” – [ed. personal translation]
What do you think?

Image- MSNBC
Online Sources- New York Times, NPR, The Latin Americanist, WHNT
E-mailed Source – Press release via Friends of Eric Volz

Miercoles Musical: Summertime fun

A small bit of summertime bliss via Spain's El Guincho:

Daily Headlines: June 17, 2009

* U.S.: Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor defended her membership in the all-female Belizean Grove group against allegations that she breached the Code of Judicial Conduct.

* Latin America: Are the Andes Mountains shrinking? A team of Argentine researchers think that’s a possibility.

* Costa Rica: Chinese and Costa Rican representatives have entered the latest round of free trade negotiations with China requesting that Costa Rica open their markets.

* Argentina: One day after an Argentine baby became the country’s first swine flu fatality three more people died as a result of the disease.

Image- CNN
Online Sources- BBC News, AFP, Reuters, Guardian UK, MSNBC

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Today’s Video: The good reverend

We continue our look this week at exceptional Puerto Rican figures with poet and playwright Pedro Pietri.

Pietri was a key member of the “Nuyorcian Movement”- a group of artists and intellectuals centered in New York City that promoted Puerto Rican culture. Along with Miguel Piñero and Miguel Algarín, Pietri co-founded a venue for Latino creative expression that still stands today: the Nuyorican Poets Café. Pietri's nationalistic views on Puerto Rico led him to give out fake Boricua passports and he called himself “Reverend Pedro Pietri” due to his outlook on religion.

Some of Pietri’s best-known poetry includes “Puerto Rican Obituary”- a tribute to the politically-motivated Young Lords and the nationalistic “El Spanglish National Anthem”. The following video is of Pietri reading the latter work; he passed away in 2005 from cancer.

Online Sources- Wikipedia, YouTube, El Puerto Rican Embassy, Nuyorican Poets Café, Monthly Review, THe Latin Americanist

NYT: Sammy Sosa failed drug test in ‘03

According to a report in the New York Times, Sammy Sosa tested positive for banned drugs in 2003.

The report cited “anonymous sources” that said that the Dominican slugger failed the drug test two years before denying doing so when testifying under oath in front of Congress. The article neglected to say which drug Sosa allegedly tested positive for as well as why his name was the only one leaked to the Times.

The reaction to the report in the clubhouse of Sosa’s former team- the Chicago Cubs was mixed; Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez said to the AP that "nothing surprises me anymore." Team general manager Jim Hendry viewed things differently:
When asked how Sosa will be remembered, Hendry said: "I hope it's still more positive than negative. He played well for a long time…

In my early GM days, he was a guy who played every day. He didn't want days off. He certainly put up numbers and performed for the fans here in high fashion in the '90s, where -- except for '98 [when the Cubs made the playoffs] -- there were some lean years. He had a lot to do with helping the franchise and certainly helping our fan base. I hope the game still remembers him for the good things he did."
Several superstar ballplayers this year have received scrutiny over taking drugs; Alex Rodriguez confessed to having taken performance-enhancing drugs years ago while Manny Ramirez continues to sit out after being suspended for fifty games.

Image- AP
Online Sources- AP, The Latin Americanist, ESPN, New York Times, Bloomberg, Washington Post

BRIC states including Brazil call for greater clout

A summit of four of the world’s main emerging powers ended with a call to having a greater say in global economic decisions.

Leaders of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) alliance agreed to greater cooperation within the bloc but also urged economic reform and allowing developing economies to have more influence among wealthier states. They attempted to emphasize this in a carefully-worded statement emitted earlier today:
"We are committed to advance the reform of international financial institutions, so as to reflect changes in the world economy. The emerging and developing economies must have greater voice and representation in international financial institutions, and their heads and senior leadership should be appointed through an open, transparent and merit-based selection process…

We urge the international community to keep the multilateral trading system stable, curb trade protectionism, and push for comprehensive and balanced results of the WTO's Doha Development Agenda."
At the conference held in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, Dmitri Medvedev, Manmohan Singh, Hu Jintao and Luis Inacio Lula da Silva also discussed how to diversify their assets away from the U.S. dollar as well as opposition to protectionism.

Despite the BRIC’s veiled critique of bodies like the World Bank and the U.N., Brazil along with Russia have announced plans to purchase bonds from the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Rights.

Image- Deutsche Welle
Online Sources- AP, Guardian UK, Reuters, Hindu, MarketWatch

Peruvian Prime Minister Planning to Quit

The Prime Minister of Peru, Yehude Simon, stated today that he is planning on quitting, Reuters reported.

His announcement comes as opposition leaders are calling on President Alan Garcia to fire Simon for failing to stop the recent clashes between police and members of Peru's indigenous communities. The unrest began after the Peruvian Congress passed two laws that would make it possible to increase foreign investment in the Amazon. On Monday, Simon asked Congress to revoke the new laws.

At least 34 people have died after police raids tried to break up blockades.

"Obviously, I am going to go for sure as soon as all is calm, in the coming weeks," Simon told RPP radio, a day after apologizing to indigenous leaders and saying the government failed to win their support before passing the laws.

Online sources: Reuters

Report: Thousands of migrants kidnapped in Mexico

Most of the time, the discussion of Mexico and immigration centers on migrants crossing its shared northern border with the U.S. Yet it’s worth noting that the country’s lengthy southern border is also a gateway for migrants.

An estimated 500,000 Central Americans cross the border yearly and either settle in Mexico or attempt trek hundreds of miles to the U.S. Despite the weakened global economy, abuses by Mexican security officers and drug-related violence, the numbers of migrants entering Mexico illegally continues to grow.

A report released this week by Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) highlighted the dangers faced by Central American migrants. 9758 of them have been kidnapped between September and February according to the NHRC, often by drug gangs though sometimes corrupt officials are involved. The study added that the average ransom was about $2500 per person and that 70% of those abducted were Hondurans.

The NHRC report portrayed a chilling picture of how no migrant is safe from the hands of kidnappers:
"The kidnapping of migrants has become a constant practice, on a worrying scale, generally unpunished and with characteristics of extreme cruelty," said the commission's head, Jose Luis Soberanes, on presenting the report…

Fifty nine minors and 157 women were among those abducted, including four pregnant women, of which two were killed, it said.

Many were also raped, the report said, underlining the lack of official figures on the issue and slamming the "inefficiency" of the justice system in preventing and investigating the cases.
Image- (“Illegal immigrants travel in a train heading north, on their way to the U.S. in Arriaga, southern Mexico, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2008.)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, ABS-CBN News, AP

Daily Headlines: June 16, 2009

* Mexico: Rest in peace Carlos Pardo; the NASCAR Mexico Series driver was killed in this horrific accident on Sunday in a race that he posthumously won.

* Latin America: An Argentine baby became the country’s first swine flu fatality yesterday while visitors have been temporarily barred from visiting the Krome immigrant detention center due to three infected detainees.

* Brazil: A ninetieth minute penalty converted by Kaka proved to be decisive as Brazil eked by Egypt 4-3 in its opening Confederations Cup match.

* Dominican Republic: Venezuela’s state-owned oil firm PDVSA will buy a 49% stake in a Dominican Republic refinery days before Hugo Chavez is to visit the country.

Online Sources- BBC Sport, Reuters, UPI, Guardian UK

Monday, June 15, 2009

Today’s Video: We miss you Hector

In honor of last Sunday’s Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York, this week’s video theme will highlight extraordinary figures from la isla del encanto.

One of the great salsa vocalists of all time was the Ponce-born Hector Lavoe. His much too short life was filled with many peaks (e.g. working with legends like Willie Colon and Fania All-Stars) and numerous lows (drug addiction, depression, contracting HIV). Thankfully, his spirit lives on through his music like this 1983 performance of the aptly titled “Triste y Vacia” (Sad and Empty):

Online Sources- Wikipedia, YouTube, NY1

Peruvian PM proposes scrapping controversial laws

Could a series of controversial land laws passed by Peru’s government soon be cancelled? Apparently that may be the case as the controversy still lingers over a series of fatal clashes in the Peruvian Amazon:
Peru's prime minister said on Monday he would ask Congress to revoke two laws that aim to increase foreign investment in the Amazon rain forest after deadly clashes between police and indigenous groups.

Yehude Simon signed a pact with tribal leaders in the jungle city of San Ramon that included a promise to present a bill in Congress by Thursday that would strike down legislative decrees 1090 and 1064, state news agency Andina reported.
Simon added that he would back removing a state of emergency placed in the Amazonian city of Bagua were some of the deadliest disturbances took place.

Though President Alan Garcia previously deemed the demonstrators as “barbarians” and ignorant to economic progress, Peru’s government seems to be taking a softer tone. Congress voted to suspend the controversial land use decrees last week as pressure mounted domestically and internationally.

Nevertheless, the Garcia administration has been accused of backing the repression of residents from the Amazonian region. Officials recently shutdown a Bagua radio station for allegedly spreading “unofficial information” while the government continues to reject negotiating with the region’s main indigenous group. No wonder that recent U.S. Spanish-language daily “La Opinión” blamed the government for its “lack of respect and sensitivity to the indigenous population, by
not establishing a consultation process involving them in decisions about their lands.”

Image- AFP (“Indians of the central Peruvian jungle continue blocking a main highway in Andahuaylas.”)
Online Sources- La Opinión, The Latin Americanist, AFP, Stamford Advocate

Top court rejects border fence, “Cuban 5” cases

The U.S. Supreme Court (USSC) rejected hearing a case regarding the “virtual wall” being constructed along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Several southern Texan communities along with environmentalists and the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo indigenous tribe brought up the lawsuit alleging that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) overstepped its authority. The order to expedite barrier construction by then-Secretary Michael Chertoff' under the 2005 REAL ID Act “would constitute an unprecedented expansion of agency authority to preempt state and local law without clear congressional authority-and without any oversight by any court" according to the plaintiffs’ brief.

Yet the USSC decided not to hear the case of County of El Paso v. Napolitano; thus, making it the second recent lawsuit related to the border fence that was rejected by the high courtover the past year. In addition, as the lawsuit winded it’s way though the lengthy legal process most of the 670-mile barrier had already been built.

Aside from the border fence case, another lawsuit that got the short end of the stick from the USSC involved the “Cuban Five”:
Five Cubans convicted in 2001 of spying for the Castro regime had their appeal tossed out Monday by the Supreme Court.

The men had sought a new trial in a politically charged case that has attracted international attention. Lawyers for the "Cuban Five" said their trial in Miami was unfairly prejudiced by the larger community.

The justices without comment denied the request, leaving the convictions in place.
Image- AFP
Online Sources- AFP, AP FOX News, CNN

Back to the old house

If there was ever an example for the need for immigration reform look no further than that of Maria Martinez.

The nineteen-year-old will soon graduate from her local high school in the town of Harrisonburg, Virginia where she took advanced classes and volunteered as a translator at a local elementary school. Her aspirations included going to college much like her classmates and doing something positive with her life.

Maria Martinez will be deported in August to El Salvador.

At the age of twelve, Martinez was smuggled illegally into the U.S. by her mother. The journey to Virginia was harrowing yet once she settled down she was able to assimilate into a new culture. She was never comfortable with her status as an undocumented migrant and tried to rectify the situation. It would turn out to be a noble yet ultimately hurtful choice:
Maria's mother was legal and so were her half brothers and sisters who were born here. So, in 2006, as a 16-year-old, Maria applied for citizenship.

Her mother admits some regret now for that decision. Maria was denied and, by applying, the U.S. government knew, officially, she was here illegally.

On her 18th birthday, she would need to return to her grandmother's home in El Salvador, or immigration officials would force her to leave the country. If she was forced to leave, Maria could not apply to return to the United States.
[Maria’s mother] Olivia paid $1,300 for a lawyer who was able to defer Maria's voluntary deployment until after she graduated from high school.
Perhaps you may be thinking “if Maria were to emigrate legally she would’ve avoided this mess in the first place” and ideally that would’ve been a viable option. Yet as Reason Magazine noted last October, Martinez would’ve had to wait at least six years for citizenship under the best case scenario. (More likely at least ten years). Maybe she would’ve had a fruitful life in El Salvador had she waited but the odds of her living well in the midst of abject poverty in a country fractured by civil war is pretty slim.

In the end she decided to sacrifice herself via voluntary deportation so that her family could continue moving forward in the U.S. There’s the chance that she can be reunited with her loved ones after departing for El Salvador only if politicos can get their act in gear and tackle immigration reform. Until then, Martinez will be on the outside looking in with the hope that her new life in El Salvador is not as difficult as it was during her childhood.

Image- The Daily News Record (“Maria Martinez poses a few days before graduating from Harrisonburg High School. When she was 12, her parents had her smuggled into the United States to join them. A failed attempt to gain citizenship led immigration officials to have her deported.”)
Online Sources- Reason Magazine, The Daily News Record

Daily Headlines: June 15, 2009

* Cuba: Cuban neurosurgeon and dissident Hilda Molina reunited with her family in Argentina for the first time in fifteen years after being given permission to leave the island.

* Nicaragua: The Venezuelan government has pledged to give Nicaragua $50 million of the $62 million in aid which was cut days ago by the U.S. via the Millennium Challenge Corporation fund.

* Bolivia: Fidel Castro “feels very well, and as always is concerned about health policies, social policies, economic policies,” according to Bolivian President Evo Morales who visited him in Havana last week.

* Argentina: Has the Argentine government led a campaign of “economic warfare” against residents of the nearby, British-controlled Falkland Islands?

Image- AFP (Hilda Molina is seen pictured with her grandson after meeting yesterday in Argentina.)
Online Sources- BBC News, The Latin Americanist, LAHT, Guardian UK, CNN