Saturday, August 29, 2009

Weekend Headlines: August 29-30, 2009

* Cuba: While visiting Cuba, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson called for the Obama administration to do more to improve ties with the island and also backed musician Juanes’ plans for a Havana peace concert next month.

* Nicaragua: On a related note, a group of graduating Nicaraguan med students received a congratulatory phone call from Fidel Castro.

* Mexico: Hurricane Jimena may become a “major” hurricane by the time it hits Mexico’s Pacific coast but will it be enough to combat the country’s water woes?

* Dominican Republic: Despite the global economic woes officials claim that tourism rates in the Dominican Republic will go up this year.

* Peru: Villagers in the southern Peruvian town of Ayacucho commemorated the 25th anniversary of the massacre of 92 people at the hands of army soldiers.

* Colombia: The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights will be part of the investigation into the deaths of twelve indigenous Awa last Wednesday.

Image- AFP
Online Sources- CNN, Reuters, Bloomberg, The Latin Americanist, LAHT, AP, Dominican TODAY

Friday, August 28, 2009

LatAm leaders blast Colombia-U.S. military pact

The deal to expand the U.S. military presence in Colombia has been the main focus of the Union of the South American Nations (UNASUR) extraordinary summit today in Argentina.

Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez- who has been the most vociferous opponent of the pact- claimed that the deal is part of a U.S. plan of “global domination” in Latin America. Bolivia’s Evo Morales claimed that the sovereignty of states cannot “be brought or sold” and proposed that UNASUR signed a declaration prohibiting foreign countries from establishing a military presence. UNASUR president pro-tempore and Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa questioned the reasoning behind the pact that could be exploited for increased U.S. interventionism.

More moderate leaders also expressed their displeasure with the pact whose reported purpose is of combating narcotrafficking in the Americas. Argentine President Cristina Kirchner warned that "tomorrow, another country might want to do the same thing (with another foreign power)." Ahead of the summit, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva urged that his Colombian counterpart Alvaro Uribe “make written guarantees at the summit.” Chile’s Michelle Bachelet claimed that she has not read the agreement since neither officials in Bogotá or Washington have released the plan’s details.

For his part, Uribe defended the deal by claiming that its Colombia’s sovereign right to combat narcotrafficking. Uribe refused to explain the plan in more detail and instead choose to launch salvos against Colombia’s leftist guerillas.

Much like Uribe, U.S. officials have been mostly mum over the intricacies of the pact that is expected to soon be signed:
(The US deputy assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs, Christopher McMullen) asserted that the US military had enjoyed access to Colombian bases "for many years" and the planned deal was just an expansion of a longstanding accord.

He noted that under a current cap imposed by the US Congress, the number of US military personnel in Colombia was limited to 800. There have been only around 270 deployed over the past three years, he said.
Image- Al Jazeera English (The presidents of Colombia and the U.S. recently met for discussions at the White House.)
Online Sources- AFP, Colombia Reports, El Tiempo, El Espectador, AP, NPR

Daily Headlines: August 28, 2009

* Uruguay: Despite opposition from the Roman Catholic Church Uruguayan legislators approved a landmark gay adoption bill that is expected to soon become law.

* Cuba: A weakening Florida economy and politics in Cuba are possible reasons experts cite for a massive dip in the number of Cubans migrating by sea to the U.S.

* Chile: Some scientists worry that the strain of swine flu recently found in Chilean turkeys could spread the virus more easily to humans.

* U.S.: New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson will reportedly be cleared of corruption charges from a supposed pay-for-play deal.

Image- Queerty
Online Sources- Reuters, AP, BBC News, CNN

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Another Latino targeted in Patchogue “hate crime”

Police arrested a pair of suspects accused in an alleged bias attack against a Latino in the Long Island town of Patchogue. If the name of that locaation sounds familiar it’s because it’s the same place were Marcelo Lucero was slain in a hate crime last year.

In the latest case, two teens were charged with assaulting a man who- much like Lucero- was originally from Ecuador. The victim claimed that he was beat up earlier this month while walking on the street around midnight. According to police, the victim was attacked without provocation and the assailants uttered racial slurs like calling him "a *** Mexican".

Last week, authorities arrested another teen suspected of the attack; oddly, that suspect was of Hispanic background.

Lucero’s death along with the latest beating has raised fear and anxiety among Long Island’s growing Latino immigrant population:
Authorities said some of the teens had attacked local Hispanics in a series of incidents stretching back a year, prompting an outcry from Hispanic residents who said police hadn't taken the earlier assaults seriously.

Police have emphasized that since Lucero's death, they have been particularly sensitive to crimes against Hispanic immigrants.
Image- New York Times (A girl at the makeshift memorial for Marcelo Lucero last year.)
Online Sources- AP,, UPI 1010 WINS, The Latin Americanist

Daily Headlines: August 27, 2009

* U.S.: South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford remains defiant in the face of increased pressure to resign over his affair with an Argentine mistress and possibly using state funds illegally to travel to see her.

* Costa Rica: Search parties continue to look for a Chicago man who has been lost for two weeks while hiking in Costa Rica.

* Mexico: Six men were arrested in Tijuana trying to steal parts of the U.S.-Mexico border fence to sell for scrap metal.

* Colombia: Were leftist guerillas or right-wing paramilitaries behind the massacre of twelve members of the indigenous Awa yesterday?

Image- AP
Online Sources- MSNBC, UPI, Guardian UK, CNN

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Today’s Video: Remembering Teddy

Tuesday’s death of Sen. Edward Kennedy has brought out all types of emotion from his allies and adversaries. To some, he was a “liberal lion” who championed the rights of the poor and underprivileged. He was also viewed by other as an advocate of “big government” and an enemy to conservatives.

Many bloggers have expressed their views on the scion of the Kennedy clan who passed away due to brain cancer at the age of 77. Yet the two posts that have most caught my attention come from La Macha at VivirLatino who highlighted Kennedy’s record on immigration as well as the brilliant “Ten Things Ted Kennedy Did For Latinos” by Guanabee’s Cindy Casares.

Kennedy was certainly a controversial figure whose viewpoints could polarize some while uniting others. For my part, I choose to remember him as a great speaker like in the emotional eulogy for his brother Robert or his brilliant 1980 Democratic Convention speech. On other occasions he knew how to act light-hearted in order to play to a crowd as was the case last year:

Since his death, Kennedy earned praise from his political foes and friends alike. He will truly be missed.

Online Sources- VivirLatino, New York Daily News, Houston Chronicle, Guanabee, YouTube, Los Angeles Times

Venezuelan considers violent videogame ban

According to Mexico’s Citizens Council for Public Safety, Ciudad Juarez is the most dangerous city in the Americas followed by Caracas, New Orleans, and Tijuana.

Regarding Venezuela, some steps have been taken to combat the increasingly rampant crime that has hit large cities like the capital. Actions like reforming the Venezuelan police are necessary and should hopefully alleviate urban violence. Yet there are other moves which are purely cosmetic and unrealistic. The bill to ban the sale of violent videogames is one of them:
Venezuelan lawmakers are moving to outlaw the sale of violent videogames and toys in an attempt to fight rampant crime in the country.

A bill to ban sales of violent games passed its first hurdle in the National Assembly on Tuesday evening, the legislative chamber said in a statement issued on Wednesday…

Opponents of President Hugo Chavez say 100,000 people have been murdered since he assumed office in February 1999. The government says its opponents and Venezuela's private media exaggerate the problem…

Some countries ban violent videogames and many restrict their sale to children. Although few studies have shown that such games cause aggressive tendencies, they have often been the subject of controversy.
Image- The Age (“Still from Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories.”)
Online Sources- El Tiempo, Reuters, LAHT

Exports to LatAm expected to plummet says U.N

It’s no secret that Latin America has been hit hard by the global economic slowdown; from Mexico to Peru, the region has experienced diminished growth, lower exports, and contracted foreign investment. The region’s grave economic woes where confirmed this week in a report by a U.N. agency:
The region's exports are expected to shrink in volume by 11% in 2009, says the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Eclac).

If the prediction proves accurate, it will be the worst drop since 1937…

According to Eclac, Latin America and the Caribbean are feeling the impact of the global economic crisis on four fronts: foreign direct investment, remittances from citizens abroad, commodity prices and trade.
The ECLAC study said that the biggest losers would be Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia and Bolivia since they rely on “exporting commodities, oil and minerals.” Yet the silver lining according to the ECLAC is that global recovery is expected in "two or three years" and this should include Latin America and the Caribbean.

On a related note, the Inter-American Development Bank estimated that remittances to the region will nosedive by 11% this year as money transfers from the U.S. are done in smaller amounts and less frequently than 2008.

Image- BBC News (“Oil exporters such as Venezuela have been hit by the trade slump.”)
Online Sources- BBC News, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Xinhua, The Latin Americanist

Deadlock continues in Honduras

This Friday marks two months since the ouster of Honduran president Manuel Zelaya and despite pressure to find a negotiated solution the Central American country continues to be torn between two presidents.

The latest failed stab at peace came this week with a two-day visit by an Organization of American States (OAS) delegation to Honduras. The group discussed with de facto President Roberto Micheletti (image) the possibility of accepting the peace plan drafted by Costa Rica’s Oscar Arias about a month ago. Yet the OAS group returned to Washington empty-handed after Micheletti remained defiant of the main points of the San Jose Accord including permitting Zelaya to finish his presidential term.

OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza claimed that “there's still a climate for making one final effort” before presidential elections are held on November 29 yet admitted that the odds of a compromise are increasingly slim:
With each passing day, Insulza said, the margin for solving the crisis gets slimmer. Attention to the coup will not disappear, he said, but it will be diverted by the election campaign season that begins Sept. 1.

Many in Honduras, Insulza said, raised concerns about Zelaya's reinstatement and an amnesty for his alleged offenses, both part of the San Jose Accord.

The officials the delegation met with, Insulza said, appeared more interested in discussing the events that led to Zelaya's ouster. "We wanted to get back to the agreement of San Jose, which was our goal in being there," he said.

On Tuesday, Honduras' interim leader, Roberto Micheletti, acknowledged the country would suffer consequences for refusing to reinstate Zelaya, but he suggested that nothing short of armed intervention could change the situation.
The OAS delegation visit seemed to be futile when Honduras’ Supreme Court- which played a key role in ousting Zelaya- ruled the day before the group’s visit that Micheletti is the “legitimate” president. Nevertheless, the U.S. has offered its support of negotiated efforts by “suspending non-emergency, non-immigrant visa services in the consular section of our embassy in Honduras”.

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

Daily Headlines: August 26, 2009

* Cuba: A Maine woman a $21 million default judgment against the Cuban government for the death of her dad during a 1963 “covert mission.”

* Brazil: Have you seen presumably missing Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Gomes Belchior?

* Puerto Rico: Gov. Luis G. Fortuño publicly backed New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s bid for a third straight term.

* Bolivia: Sergio Jauregui faces a maximum ban of up to three years after walloping an opponent with a Bruce Lee-style flying kick at a Bolivian league soccer match:

Online Sources- Guardian UK, AP, New York Daily News, YouTube, Canadian Press

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Argentina Decriminalizes Personal Marijuana Use

Argentina's Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that it is unconstitutional to prosecute cases involving personal marijuana use as long as it does not harm others.  It did not, however, set a weight limit for what it considers personal use.

The judges' decision urges the Argentine government to "create policies against illegal drug trafficking and adopt preventive health measures, with information and education against drug consumption directed at the most vulnerable groups."

"It seems quite clear that drug policy based primarily on interdiction and enforcement has failed," said Robert Pastor, a Latin America national security advisor for President Carter.  "Therefore, it is natural for people to stand back and ask, 'Is there a better way?'  What Argentina and Mexico are doing in many ways is blazing a new path."

Online sources- Reuters, Associated Press, CNN, New York Times

Today’s Video: Parched in Mexico

Mexico is undergoing its driest spell in nearly seven decades. But how bad is the drought in that country? Enough for one official to wish for hurricanes:
From the beginning of the hurricane season to date, seven storms have formed in the Pacific and three in the Atlantic. But none has come near enough to Mexico’s coasts to dump a significant amount of rainfall and thus alleviate the drought.

“Despite the destructive force of these phenomena, Mexico can’t live without them. The country would be nothing but desert,” the Conagua official said.
I’m not a meteorologist or a water expert, but I don’t think the solution to having too little water is to hope for too much of it at once. Then again it may not be such an odd notion when cities are rationing water usage, reservoirs are running dry, and small farmers are suffering due to hundreds of dead cattle.

(Video link):

Online Sources- Reuters, LAHT

Daily Headlines: August 25, 2009

* Latin America: Brazil and Bolivia confirmed their close economic ties as presidents of both nations cordially met in the province of Cochabamba.

* Chile: While tensions are still high between the Chilean government and the Mapuche, prosecutors are seeking ten years in jail for the policeman accused in the fatal shooting of an indigenous protestor last year.

* Guatemala: Activists have accused the Obama administration of preventing access to more affordable drugs in developing countries including Guatemala where supplies of AIDS drugs have diminished.

* Mexico: Students in the state of Chiapas will have to wait a little longer to return to school due to the swine flu.

Image- New York Times (“From left, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina and President Evo Morales of Bolivia at a meeting” in February 2008.)
Online Sources- Mercopress, LAHT, The Latin Americanist, Los Angeles Times, CNN

Monday, August 24, 2009

World Watch: Hot Hot Heat

* Greece: Firefighters claim that a series of rampant wildfires on the Greek islands including near Athens are starring to be under control.

* Middle East: Will Israeli and Palestinian representatives soon return to the negotiating table? State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said that it’s moving in that direction.

* Scotland: Despite vociferous opposition, Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill defended the move to free Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi due to health reasons.

* U.S.: Lt. William Calley- who was convicted for the infamous 1968 My Lai massacre- reportedly gave his first public apology last week.

Image- AFP (“A firefighter works amid a thick smoke in Pikermi, an eastern Athens residential area on August 24, 2009”).
Online Sources- Xinhua, AFP, BBC News, Voice of America

Venezuela takes Miss Universe

For the second year in a row, a Venezuelan woman was crowned Miss Universe in the international pageant.

Stefania Fernandez, a teenager, will get a $100,000 scholarship to study acting, a five-day vacation in the Bahama, jewelry, a complete wardrobe and bragging rights for the next year. She also receives a monetary prize of undisclosed amount.

Last year, Dayana Mendoza, another Venezuelan, won the crown.

Last night's judges included actor Dean Cain and Andre Leon Talley, American Vogue's editor-at-large.

Read more about Miss Universe here.

Source and Photo: AFP

Drug war tensions continue

Now that carrying small amounts of drugs is legal in Mexico, let's check in on the general drug war atmosphere.

Bloomberg has a story today about continuing tensions in response to a plan to allow U.S. troops to use Colombian bases to fight drug traffickers.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has criticized the plan, characterizing it as more attempts from the United States to wield influence in the region. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe disagrees.

The two leaders might have a chance to talk it out in person this week.

Twelve presidents will meet in Argentina Aug. 28 at the Union of South American Nations.

Read the Bloomberg story for more.

Sources: NYT, Bloomberg

Photo:, Chavez and Uribe in happier times

"Which Way Home" premieres on HBO tonight

Tonight, a new documentary premieres about Honduran children traveling through Mexico via freight trains on their way to the US. The film follows critically acclaimed feature film Sin Nombre with a similar theme (though with fictional plot and actors), which I reviewed earlier this year. Thanks in advance to anyone who watches it and wishes to leave their comments (I don't have HBO so I'll be curious to hear your thoughts!)

From HBO's documentary films series:"Each year, thousands of Latin American migrants travel hundreds of miles to the United States, with many making their way on the tops of freight trains. Roughly five percent of those traveling alone are children. As the United States continues to debate immigration reform, the documentary WHICH WAY HOME looks the issue through the eyes of children who face the harrowing journey with enormous courage and resourcefulness. "

Check out the review in yesterday's NYT, too.

Daily Headlines: August 24, 2009

* Cuba: Fidel Castro appeared “healthier and rested” in footage shown on Sunday of the reclusive former president meeting with visiting Venezuelan students over the weekend.

* Puerto Rico: The island’s economy has fallen on very hard times including shrinking by 5.5% at the end of the 2009 fiscal year and a whopping 16.5% unemployment rate.

* Brazil: Rubens Barrichello moved up to second in the Formula 1 standings after winning yesterday’s Grand Prix of Europe.

* Haiti: A Swiss court ruled that the assets of former strongman Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier should continue to be frozen from his family.

Image- The Telegraph (The Cuban press published a photo yesterday of Fidel Castro meeting with Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa on Friday).
Online Sources- MSNBC, Guardian UK, Reuters,, Voice of America

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Weekend Headlines: August 22-23, 2009

* Argentina: Argentina’s government along with Jewish groups are angry that Iran’s choice for defense minister is Ahmad Vahidi- a suspect in the deadly 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires.

* Mexico: A deal has reportedly been reached between Volkswagen and workers at its Puebla plant who went on a five-day strike.

* Chile: Chile’s government is reevaluating its plan to buy lands and redistributing to indigenous Mapuche communities in light of recent deadly clashes between police and demonstrators.

* Haiti: Authorities claimed that about 140,000 tons of emergency food has been stockpiled in preparation for possible hurricanes and tropical storms.

* Peru: Peru’s national men’s soccer team has rescinded a boycott of September’s World Cup qualifiers after several player demands were met.

* Cuba: The manager of Colombian singer Juanes said that he will go ahead with a planned September 20th peace concert in Havana despite receiving death threats.

Image- BBC News (Argentina has accused Iran’s government of masterminding the 1994 AMIA bombing that killed 85 people and injured hundreds.)
Online Sources- CNN, Wikipedia, Bloomberg, The Latin Americanist, LAHT, UPI, USA TODAY, BBC News