Friday, August 21, 2009

Daily Headlines: August 21, 2009

* U.S.: Six European Union nations have privately committed to taking in Guantanamo detainees according to unnamed White House sources cited by the Washington Post.

* Mexico: Mexico passed a law decriminalizing the "personal use" of certain narcotics like marijuana. cocaine and LSD.

* Venezuela: Finance Minister Ali Rodriguez said that Venezuela’s financial industry needs to be reformed in order to improve the country’s economy.

* Argentina: The country’s soccer body and the Kirchner administration reached a deal permitting the soccer season to start after a one-week delay over finances.

Image- AFP
Online Sources- MSNBC, Al Jazeera English, Bloomberg, BBC News

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Today’s Video: Karma

Not every Brazilian soccer player has the greatness and skill of Pele, Socrates, Bebeto or Kaka. If you don’t believe me then ask Everton who tried to showoff and failed instead:

(Hat tip: The Offside).

Online Sources- The Offside, YouTube

Hispanic trio makes Forbes most powerful women list

Three women of Hispanic background were among those selected for Forbes magazine's annual "100 Most Powerful Women" ranking.
  • Argentine president Cristina Kirchner was eleventh on the list. Despite being ranked higher than the chief executives of major firms like Xerox and Avon, the magazine mentioned Argentina’s recent economic troubles. The magazine cited dismal midterm election results that may lead Kirchner to pull a Palin and resign before the end of her term in office.
  • Chilean president Michelle Bachelet has been on the list before and this year was no exception. She was placed at 22nd on the list with Forbes praising Chile’s numerous trade pacts as well as Bachelet’s role as head of the UNASUR bloc.
  • She has yet to listen to her first Supreme Court case but Sonia Sotomayor earned the #55 spot on the list just ahead of Securities & Exchange Commission chair Mary Schapiro and Health & Human Services chief Kathleen Sibelius. Forbes highlighted her extensive judicial experience and Ivy League background while also acknowledging the stiff opposition during her nomination process.
German Chancellor Andrea Merkel topped this year’s "100 Most Powerful Women", followed by FDIC chair Sheila Blair and PepsiCo chief exec Indra Nooryi.

Image- La Nacion (2007 photo of the current presidents of Chile and Argentina).
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, AHN,

Mexican economy continues to shrink

The swine flu outbreak and a decline in exports to the U.S. led Mexican officials last May to declare the country in recession. Later it was revealed that Mexico’s first quarter GDP dropped by over 8% though some analysts believed that the worst was yet to come. Their predictions, unfortunately, have come true:
Mexico's economy plunged 10.3 percent in the second quarter, its deepest contraction on record as withering exports forced factories to slash production and cut jobs.

The year-on-year decline in gross domestic product reported by the national statistics agency on Thursday was the deepest decrease in quarterly GDP in records dating to 1981.

With a downturn in the United States choking off demand for its manufacturing goods, Mexico is on track for its most severe recession since the 1930s. The economy is expected to shrink about 7 percent this year.
The silver lining to Mexico’s current economic woes is that it has not been accompanied by the high inflation, devaluated peso, and banking pitfall’s of 1995’s “Tequila Crisis.” A few economists even believe that Mexico’s economy will slowly recover despite the negative statistics. Nevertheless, today’s news does not bode well for a region that is trying to weather the global economic maelstrom.

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

Usain Bolt wins again in world record time

On Sunday Usain Bolt broke his own 100-meters record with a 9.58 second sprint to win gold at the world championships in Berlin. The Jamaican was almost equal to the task earlier today as he won the 200-meter dash in record time:

Bolt shattered the previous 100m and 200m record by 0.11 seconds; his speed and relative ease in winning has brought up rumors of possible doping. Yet track and field’s ruling body said that he tested negative in a drugs test taken after his 9.58 second run.

Bolt’s double win raises Jamaica’s gold medal tally to five in a world championships dominated by the island’s sprinters. Bolt will hope for a third gold this Sunday 4x100m men’s relay.

Online Sources- CNN, BBC Sport, Washington Post, AP, Herald Sun, YouTube

Death threats made against Juanes

Colombian musician Juanes has come under plenty of fire over his plans to hold a “Peace Without Borders” concert in Havana, Cuba. Despite receiving support from some musicians and Cuban dissidents, others in the Cuban exile community have blasted the planned September 20th. One group of Cuban expats in Miami publicly smashed Juanes CDs as a sign of protest last week.

For a few opponents of Juanes, however, the anger against him has become hatred:
Colombian pop star Juanes filed a complaint at the Miami police department after having received threats over his planned concert in Cuba, Telemundo reported Wednesday…

One of the threats said "I hate what you are saying, but you will die defending your right to say it," an alteration of a sentence of French philosopher Voltaire who originally wrote "I do not share what you say, but I will defend until death your right to say it."

According to Telemundo, the singer is now considering suspending the controversial concert. However, in an interview with Spanish newspaper El Pais, Wednesday Juanes said the concert was still on.
Despite the paranoia against him, Juanes said that he would like to hold another peace concert along the U.S.-Mexico border. In a message written on his Twitter page, Juanes mentioned that “I want to tell you that, after Cuba, the idea is to go to the U.S.-Mexico border, between Ciudad Juarez and El Paso, in 2010.”

Image- AP
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, YouTube, LAHT, Colombia Reports,

Daily Headlines: August 20, 2009

* Argentina: Families of the near 200 victims of 2004’s deadly Cromagnon nightclub fire were outraged at the moderate sentence given against the club’s manager as well as the absolution of the band whose fireworks caused the blaze.

* Mexico: Mexico City’s progressive government has gone ahead and banned stores from using environmentally harmful plastic bags.

* Ecuador: French oil company Perenco and Ecuador’s government continue to be at odds in a heated tax dispute.

* U.S.: Five people received sentences ranging from 30 to 40 years in jail after being convicted of forcing Guatemalan women to work as prostitutes in Los Angeles.

Image- AP (“A relative of a victim of a nightclub fire leaves a courtroom in Buenos Aires, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2009. Concert promoters, a police supervisor, city inspectors and a band manager were convicted and given prison terms in the 2004 Cromagnon nightclub fire that killed around 190 people. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko).”)
Online Sources- BBC News,, UPI, CNN

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Daily Headlines: August 19, 2009

Before we give today’s headlines, I wish to apologize to all of you for the late time of this post. It’s inexcusable and hopefully won’t happen again anytime soon.

* Chile: A police officer was indicted by authorities for the shooting death of an indigenous Mapuche last week.

* Honduras: Police brutality in Honduras has been rampant in the seven weeks since President Manuel Zelaya was ousted according to a report released today by Amnesty International.

* Mexico: Workers at the Puebla Volkswagen plant have gone on strike and are seeking higher wages.

* Caribbean: Days after running a world record 9.58 seconds in the 100-meters at the World Championships, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt is aiming for another top performance in the 200-meter dash.

Image- El Ciudadano (The colors of the Mapcuhe flag fly in Chile)
Online Sources- LAHT, The Latin Americanist, CNN, Reuters, BBC Sport, YouTube

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Today’s Video: Puppy chow

Welcome to Mexico City where, if you have the means, you can take your pet pooch to an upscale bistro and nosh on gourmet delicacies:

We’ll let you decide if the “Bow Wow Deli” concept is cute or cringe worthy.

Online Sources- YouTube

Latino detainees among unreported deaths

Yet another reason why immigration reform is needed ASAP:
U.S. immigration officials say they have discovered the records of 10 previously unreported deaths of immigrants detained in U.S. custody since 2003. Eight of the dead were Cuban nationals, one was from Ecuador and one from Mexico. The American Civil Liberties Union says deficient medical care is believed to be a leading cause of death among immigrant detainees.

The 10 newly-discovered deaths bring the total number of immigrants who have died in U.S. immigration detention to 104 since October 2003. One additional detainee, Huluf Guangule Negusse, a 24-year-old Ethiopian, died on Friday in a Florida prison from the effects of a suicide attempt earlier this month. His death has not yet been added to the official roster.
No further comment necessary.

Image- Houston Chronicle (“A detainee awaits processing at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in north Houston.”)
Online Source - Voice of America

Interim Honduras gov’t cuts ties with Argentina

In a tit-for-tat move, the de facto government of Honduras ordered Argentine diplomats to leave the fractured Central American country.

After meeting with ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya, Argentine officials insisted that Honduran ambassador to Argentina Carmen Ortez Williams refuse recognizing the interim government led by Roberto Micheletti. The Argentine government subsequently expelled Williams though without severing ties to Honduras.

In his decision to cut ties with Argentina, Micheletti continued showing defiance against his regional detractors:
"If Argentina decided to expel us then we will do the same thing," Micheletti said. "We have to act the same way they are acting with us."

Argentine Foreign Relations Secretary Jorge Taiana dismissed the expulsion order. "We maintain diplomatic relations with the legitimate government Honduras and ignore any deadline about anything," Taiana told reporters in Mexico, where he is on a diplomatic visit.
Micheletti has previously ordered Venezuelan diplomats to leave but they’ve refused after citing the “illegitimacy” of the de facto regime.

On a related note, State Department officials met today with a delegation representing the Micheletti government while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for a “negotiated solution.” The U.S. has faced criticism over backing the return of Zelaya as well as accusations of supporting Zelaya’s removal last June.

Image- CNN (“Riot police stand in front of marchers supporting ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya on Tuesday.”)
Online Sources- Xinhua, AFP, AP, The Latin Americanist,, BBC News,

SanFran “sanctuary city” policy revisited

Since 1989, San Francisco has deemed itself as a “sanctuary city” for undocumented immigrants. The designation carries little legal weight yet it has been a source of indignation by anti-immigrant groups, right-wing commentators, and others. Their anger will likely to be reignited when the city’s reexamines the immigration policy this week.

Mayor Gavin Newsom has come under fire over the “sanctuary city” status yet he received additional heat last year when he partially changed the policy. (He permitted illegal immigrant minors suspected of convicted of a felony to be taken to immigration authorities including possible deportation). Yet a new bill introduced to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors would make it harder for convicted undocumented youths to be handed to immigration agents.

The “sanctuary city” policy came under increased scrutiny last year over a crime committed by an undocumented immigrant accused of murder that was allegedly”shielded” from deportation. Yet according to one of the backers of the new measure- Supervisor David Campos- the bill is a needed compromise:
(…) Campos, along with a majority of supervisors, said the stricter policy is too reactionary. The new law would find a middle ground by establishing guilt before being reported, he said.

“This is about letting a court decide whether or not to report a juvenile to ICE,” said Campos, a Guatemalan immigrant. “If you’re reporting them right away, you’re essentially being judge and jury to that child.”
Image- National Geographic
Online Sources- San Francisco Examiner, The Latin Americanist, Time, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Examiner, Mercury News

Daily Headlines: August 18, 2009

* Colombia: Proof-of-life videos of two hostages held by the FARC rebels were released yesterday with the possibility of more videos to be given later this week.

* El Salvador: The amount of remittances sent to the Central American country dropped by 11% this year according to central bank figures.

* Cuba: A group of Catholic bishops are visiting Cuba this week with the hope of improving relations between the island and the U.S.

* Latin America: Mexican president Felipe Calderon urged local and Brazilian business interests to back a proposed bilateral free trade pact.

Image- BBC News
Online Sources- BusinessWeek, MSNBC, Bloomberg, Reuters

Monday, August 17, 2009

Today's Video: A superb classic

Just for the heck of it:

Online Source - YouTube

Peruvian quake victims peeved at Garcia

It has been two years since a major earthquake shook Peru and cost the lives of at least 500 people. The city of Pisco was left in ruins as thousands of people were homeless. Relief efforts were slow to come by with the exception of some political propaganda/foreign aid.

Since then, rebuilding in the affected area has been woefully slow despite promises by the Peruvian government. "We get lots of promises from our government, but nothing happens" said one local who symbolizes the growing anger in the area against President Alan Garcia. Tensions came to a boil last week when anti-Garcia protests became violent:
On Saturday, riot police used tear gas to disperse protesters who had blocked a section of the Pan-American highway leading to Pisco.

Demonstrators pelted police with stones…

Only 25% of the planned reconstruction has taken place in Pisco, the worst-hit town in the area, our correspondent says.

Some 40,000 people in the region are still living in tent cities or one-room pre-fabricated shacks.

Many local residents say millions of dollars in reconstruction funds have never reached them, accusing officials of corruption and inefficiency.
Garcia’s folly has turned into an advantage for Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Pisco residents have praised the Venezuelan leader after his government paid for the construction of 100 three-bedroom homes which were subsequently distributed for free.

Image- Christian Science Monitor (“Making do: One-year-old Augusto Martin Hernandez plays near a tent on a soccer field where he now lives with his grandmother.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Reuters, Los Angeles Times, BBC News,

Mexican consul fired over passport scheme

Earlier today, we mentioned how the Mexican government shook-up the country’s customs agency in order to root out corruption. A snafu at one of Mexico’s consulate in the U.S. has some observers calling for a diplomatic shake-up, too.

Enrique Hubbard- the Mexican consul general in North Texas- will be removed from his post after an internal probe revealed financial irregularities at the Dallas consulate. Authorities alleged that consulate staff skimmed personal profits off of passport fees for about seven years. Hubbard has not been directly implicated in the passport scheme though one Mexican official claimed that "he proved to be too tolerant."

The wrongdoings in Dallas (along with the infamy of Mexican corruption) have led some Mexicans to call on investigating all the country’s consulates in the U.S.
"We have had a problem of years and years and years," said Jorge Navarrete, a legal immigrant from the Mexican state of Guanajuato.

Navarrete said Mexican consulates around the U.S. should be investigated for potential scams involving the skimming of feeds for documents such as Mexican passports and identification cards.

Alfredo Castañeda, a naturalized U.S. citizen, called for the Mexican government to provide more transparency in its public accounting of funding to all consulates.

"Public officials, public accounts," said Castañeda, who is from northern Mexico.
"This investigation shouldn't be just for North Texas, but should be much greater and in all the consulates," he said.
Image- MSNBC (2007 image of “Mexican citizens with freshly taken passport photos walk toward a line to enter the Consul General of Mexico in San Francisco.”)
Online Sources- Dallas Morning News, MSNBC, The Latin Americanist, UPI, Houston Chronicle

Are Uribe and Correa ready to bury the hatchet?

The presidents of Colombia and Ecuador may be ready to bury the hatchet over a year after diplomatic relations were broken off between both countries.

Colombia-Ecuador relations have been stuck in a rut since the March 2008 Colombian army strike on a FARC guerilla camp located just over the border in Ecuador. Plans by Colombia to permit an expanded U.S. military presence have made relations worse not only with Ecuador but across the Americas. Even as recently as last week Colombian president Alvaro Uribe denied claims by a FARC commander that he didn’t provide funds to the 2006 campaign of Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa.

Over the weekend, however, Uribe tried to strike a reconciliatory tone by “apologizing” for the military incursion into Ecuador. "Our objective is making an end to terrorism: this is the bandit. Ecuador and Venezuela are our brothers," Uribe added.

Correa gave his conditional acceptance to Uribe’s gesture and proposed negotiations between the neighboring states. Foreign minister Fander Falconi added that the restoration of diplomatic relations rests on Colombia pledging not to incur into foreign territory:
According to Falconi, Colombia must “say convincingly” that it will abstain from “intervening in third countries if it thinks there’s a security risk”…
Falconi said that the public rejection of the theory of extraterritoriality would be the…“beginning of any form of dialogue”… [ed. personal translation]
Image- Buenos Aires Herald
Online Sources- El Espectador, The Latin Americanist, Colombia Reports,, AFP

US accused of complicity in Zelaya exile

Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and his closest aides accused the US military over the weekend of being complicit in the decision to remove him from the country on June 28. Zelaya aides claimed that after the military detained Zelaya on the morning of June 28, he was taken first to US air base Palmerola before being carted off to San Jose. Venezeulan President Hugo Chávez has echoed the accusations, though offered no further evidence to support the claim.

The US Southern Command has since denied the allegations, claiming they had no knowledge of the layover. Others have commented that Palmerola routinely serves as a refueling station for aircraft with little or no authorization by US military. No specific names of US military leadership in Honduras have yet been accused of making or supporting the decision to send Zelaya to Costa Rica.

The claims, while unlikely to be verified, will most certainly serve to undercut the US' claim to the role of unbiased mediator. Tensions were already high between the US and the interim government. Interim President Roberto Micheletti, hearing over the weekend that US Ambassador Hugo Llorens is on personal leave,
commented that he hopes "he doesn't come back."

Meanwhile, low-grade violence continued over the weekend in Honduras as pro-Zelaya marchers continued to take to the streets. Striking school teachers, hospital workers were recently joined by
striking municipal police demanding back pay in San Pedro Sula in the first real signs that the strapped government budget is not able to makes ends meet.
Sources: AP, El Heraldo, La Tribuna, Reuters, PressTV

Daily Headlines: August 17, 2009

* Chile: A recently declassified document showed that U.S. President Richard Nixon offered Brazil’s military regime “financial support” in order to help overthrow Chile’s Salvador Allende in 1971.

* Uruguay: The government is expected to soon pass a bill granting $17.4 million in reparations to victims of the 1973-1985 “Dirty War” regime.

* Mexico: A major-shake up of the country’s customs agency took place yesterday with the goal of cleaning up corruption.

* Bolivia: According to the local press it will cost about $800 million to develop the promising lithium industry at the salt flats of Uyuni.

Image- BBC News
Online Sources- Los Angeles Times, AP, MSNBC, The Latin Americanist, LAHT