Saturday, September 5, 2009

Weekend Headlines: September 5-6 2009

* Mexico: Mexico's Health Department will start a new program designed to push immigrants in the U.S. to provide health care for their families still in Mexico.

* Cuba: Cuban state daily Granma released a photo reportedly taken on Thursday of an ailing Fidel Castro meeting with a visiting Chinese senior official.

* Argentina: U.S. and Argentine officials are not pleased with Iran’s approval as defense minister of a man accused of the deadly 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires.

* Peru: In light of June’s deadly protests the United Nations blasted president Alan Garcia for violating the rights of Peru’s indigenous population.

* Uruguay: Despite having “a reputation as the least corrupt nation in Latin America” Uruguay has been shaken up by a series of corruption scandals regarding the government-owned telecom firm.

* Puerto Rico: In another sign of the commonwealth’s weakened economy, the head of the local Home Builders Association said that over 40,000 construction jobs have been lost.

Image- New York Times (“Edy Patricia Rodríguez, 18, an illegal immigrant, recovered from childbirth last month at the JPS Health Network hospital in Fort Worth.”)
Online Sources- Voice of America, Reuters, The Latin Americanist, LAHT, ABC Online, MSNBC, Xinhua

Friday, September 4, 2009

Most misleading headline of the day goes to...

.. the editors of the Trinidad and Tobago Express. Thinking that the civil war was set to erupt in Honduras, my heart skipped a beat when I saw this headline today:

Honduras charging up for clash with Warriors

Turns out it was the hook for a preview of the soccer match between Honduras and Trinidad and Tobago (nicknamed the Warriors).

Shamlessly playful wording or naive irony? You be the judge.

Daily Headlines: September 4, 2009

* El Salvador: Rest in peace Christian Poveda; the filmmaker best known for his 2008 documentary “La Vida Loca” was found dead in El Salvador. (Above is the trailer for that film which focuses on gang life in Central America).

* Mexico: Hours after Mexican president Felipe Calderon praised the country’s counternarcotics efforts gunmen killed at least eighteen people at a Ciudad Juarez drug rehab clinic.

* Chile: Arrest warrants have been issued to over 120 former agents and soldiers accused of human rights violations during the “Dirty War” dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

* Peru: The country’s resurgent Shining Path guerillas downed a Peruvian air force helicopter which killed at least three people.

Online Sources- Washington Post, Times Online, BBC News, CNN, MSNBC, YouTube

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Daily Headlines: September 3, 2009

* Latin America: Mexico's Baja California peninsula was hit yesterday by the heavy rains and 90 mile-per-hour winds of Hurricane Jimena (image) while meteorologists believe that Tropical Storm Erika will weaken as it travels through the Caribbean.

* Cuba: China strengthened its ties to Cuba by giving the island $600 million in loans and grants for items like improving Cuban telecommunications and investing in agriculture.

* Mexico: Remittances to Mexico dropped by over 19% in July compared to the same month in 2008 according to government figures.

* Brazil: Felipe Massa will miss the rest of this year’s Formula 1 season but should return in 2010 according to his Ferrari racing team.

Image- BBC News
Online Sources- Al Jazeera English, Reuters, Guardian UK, Miami Herald, LAHT

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Yet another anti-Latino incident in Patchogue

The Long Island neighborhood of Patchogue has been rocked by another anti-Latino incident.

Local detectives said that vandals broke into the Iglesia Evangelica Refugio de Salvacion last night and left notes filled with "anti-Hispanic comments." The allegedly hateful scribes have been reported by one parishioner as “in Spanish (and) out of a dictionary” yet boasting that “saying that Hispanics didn't rule but white people ruled here”.

Patchogue has been the site of several biased attacks against the area’s growing Latino population. Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero was killed last November in a suspected hate crime while anther Latino was beaten last month by a trio of teens.

It was this nervous climate that was highlighted by a Southern Poverty Law Center report released yesterday. The study blasted Suffolk County chief executive Steve Levy for engaging in "verbal immigrant-bashing" since taking office; for example, he insensitively compared the fallout from Lucero's murder to "the discomfort of undergoing a colonoscopy." The report also criticized local police for stoking the flames of fear:
Many immigrants told the center’s investigators that the “police did not take their reports of attacks seriously, often blaming the victim,” the report said. “They said there’s little point in going to the police, who are often not interested in their plight and instead demand to know their immigration status”…

The center’s report urged local officials to adopt several measures — including halting “their angry demagoguery” about immigration, promoting educational programs that encourage respect for diversity, and training police officers to take seriously all allegations of hate-motivated crime.
Image- Gothamist (November 2008 Newsday cover of a vigil held after the Marcelo Lucero murder)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, New York Daily News, New York Times,,

Zelaya does DC

Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya met with OAS officials yesterday, where he was assured that members states would not recognize the November elections unless he presided over them. This morning he gave a speech at the George Washington University. Tomorrow he is slated to have his second private meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in nearly as many months, one which media is reporting may prove pivotal in determining whether the US decides to cut off more aid to and deepen sanctions against the Honduran interim government.

The video of the GW event will be available here shortly.

All in all, not a bad whirlwind tour of DC for the heretofore down-on his-luck Zelaya, who was shown actionable support by essentially every constituency in DC he could have hoped for (foreign government representatives, the highest US diplomatic officials, and left-of-center civil society / academia). Will it be enough to get him back in power? Probably not. But it will most likely be enough to make life particularly miserable for a lot of Hondurans for quite some time.

Daily Headlines: September 2, 2009

* Guatemala: In a historic decision, a former Guatemalan paramilitary was sentenced to 150 years in prison for the disappearances of six campesinos during the country’s brutal civil war.

* Dominican Republic: While Muammar al-Gaddafi celebrated his fourth decade in power, Dominican and Libyan representatives agreed to establish diplomatic ties.

* Cuba: Amnesty International urged the Obama administration to drop the “immoral” embargo on Cuba which has deprived Cubans of receiving “vital medicines and medical equipment essential for their health."

* Venezuela: Venezuelan composer and National System of Venezuelan Youth and Children's Orchestras creator Jose Antonio Abreu received Sweden’s top music honor along with musician Peter Gabriel.

Image- BBC News (Investigators continue to dig the presumed graves of dozens of Guatemalans who vanished during the civil war from 1960 to 1996.)
Online Sources- Reuters, BBC News, Guardian UK, Boston Herald, Press Association

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Japanese pair wins world tango title

Some stories speak for themselves:
A Japanese married couple has danced to victory in Buenos Aires, knocking the reigning Argentines out of the top spot at the World Tango Championships.

Hiroshi and Kyoko Yamao placed first in the traditional Tango Salon category of the seventh edition of the international competition at Luna Park stadium this weekend.

After earning the highest point score during Friday's semifinal, the couple was praised by the jury for the "dexterity and feeling" of their final performance Saturday evening.
Judges gave second-place honors to a pair from Colombia followed by the host Argentines in third.

Image- AP ("Hiroshi Yamao, right, and Kyoko Yamao, from Japan celebrate winning the Salon category of the 7th Tango Dance World Chamopionship, in Buenos Aires, Saturday, Aug. 29, 2009.")
Online Sources- CBC, AFP

Latino astronaut "tweets" from space

We recently received the following e-mail from NASA regarding Mexican-American astronaut Jose Hernandez:
NASA Astronaut Jose Hernandez to Tweet From Space

HOUSTON - NASA astronaut Jose Hernandez, set to fly aboard space shuttle Discovery on STS-128, is providing insights about his mission on Twitter in both English and Spanish. He is the agency's first bilingual Twitterer.

Hernandez, whose Twitter account is astro_jose, can be followed at:

Hernandez, who considers Stockton, Calif., his hometown, grew up in a migrant farming family, travelling each year between Mexico and California. He did not learn English until the age of 12.

It will be the first shuttle mission to feature two Latino astronauts. Danny Olivas, who also is of Mexican descent, is among Hernandez's six crewmates.

For Hernandez's complete biography, visit:

For more information about the STS-128 mission, visit:
Hernandez’ venture has even caught the attention of Mexican President Felipe Calderon who congratulated him and invited him to dinner at the presidential residence after returning to Earth.

The space shuttle Discovery docked with the International Space Station on Sunday where two astronauts from that vessel will return to Earth. The Discovery astronauts are scheduled for a spacewalk today in order to perform outside maintenance.

Image- CNN
Online Sources- E-mail message, AP, CBC

Ecuadorian judge accused of bribery in Chevron suit

Oil giant Chevron has accused the Ecuadorian judge presiding over a major environmental case of misconduct and bribery.

Chevron spokesmen claimed that the video and audio secretly taped showed Judge Juan Nunez admitting that he would rule against the company for environmental damage in the Amazon region. Officials for the firm also claimed that he would be part of a $3 million bribe scheme.

Attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the multibillion dollar case dismissed Chevron’s accusations. Lawyer Steven Donziger said that the video shows Nunez rejecting the supposed bribe despite being pressured from one of the former Chevron contractors who taped the discussions. He also called for an "investigation" into the "sting operation" by the oil company.

The footage is the latest salvo in Chevron’s PR offensive regarding the trial in Ecuador. In February, Chevron's general counsel claimed that a geological engineer serving as a court advisor had acted “biased”. Last May, Chevron execs blasted the suggestion by some stockholders to create an environmental protection report related to the case.

The following is a 20-minute edited video released by Chevron of the meetings secretly taped with Nunez. We’ll let you decide for yourself if the firm’s claims are correct or propaganda:

Online Sources- Forbes, Reuters, YouTube, The Latin Americanist

Daily Headlines: September 1, 2009

* Mexico: Residents of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula are gathering supplies and officials are preparing evacuations ahead of the Hurricane Jimena to hit land tonight.

* Venezuela: Venezuela’s economy may be sagging but the country’s stock market has been pretty bullish this year.

* Argentina: According to a local Jewish group the number of anti-Semitic attacks in Argentina has gone up this year.

* Cuba: The Castro administration is none too pleased that a group of European Union diplomats visited the home of an imprisoned dissident last week.

Image- ABC News (“In this satellite image released by NOAA Monday, Aug. 31, 2009, Hurricane Jimena is seen off the coast of Mexico. Jimena, a dangerous Category 4 storm, could rake southern Baja California by Tuesday evening, forecasters said.”)
Online Sources- Reuters, BBC News, LAHT, JTA

Monday, August 31, 2009

Today’s Video: Chau Soda…again

Anyone hoping that Soda Stereo would continue their reunion after their successful tour nearly two years ago should think twice. That bubble was emphatically popped by lead singer Gustavo Cerati:
"I don’t feel like doing it. Don’t bother trying to bust my balls. Forget about Soda! It’s gone. There won’t be another reunion. It’s gone. I’m serious,” he said in an interview with (Argentine daily) Clarin.
Sad Soda news aside, Cerati will launch tomorrow his latest solo album entitled “Fuerza natural” (Natural force). The following is one of the songs from that work called “Déjà vu”:

(Hat tip: The always awesome and informative Guanabee).

Online Sources- RPP,, YouTube, Guanabee, The Latin Americanist

World Watch: Sunset, sunrise

* Japan: After nearly 54 years of nearly unbroken rule, Japan’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party was defeated as most voters tired of political scandal and the country's weakened economy.

* Europe: Turkish and Armenian officials agreed to negotiations that could resume bilateral diplomatic ties after nearly a century of bitterness.

* Rwanda: Proceedings began in a trial against the accused mastermind of the massacre of 2000 Tutsis who were killed while seeking refuge from war.

* U.S.: White House spokesman Robert Gibbs launched the latest salvo in the war of words between the Obama administration and ex-vice president Dick Cheney over torture and national security.

Image- BBC News (Democratic Party of Japan “leader Yukio Hatoyama says he is ready for the challenge”).
Online Sources- Los Angeles Times, AFP, BBC News, MSNBC

OAS rejects Honduras’ Micheletti plan

The Organization of American States (OAS) refused to accept a compromise plan offered last week by Honduras’ de facto President Roberto Micheletti.

Micheletti’s plan had several points; chief among them was his own resignation from the presidency on the condition that ousted President Manuel Zelaya would not be reinstated. It was this point that led OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza to reject the deal and insist that Micheletti accept the San Jose Accord brokered by Costa Rica’s Oscar Arias. Micheletti himself appeared to shy away from his own deal after reneging over the clause that would’ve granted Zelaya political amnesty upon returning to Honduras.

Micheletti’s deal was problematic from the start; it was similar to a compromise that had already been rejected by the Zelaya camp. Furthermore, as this New York Times piece noted, the new interim president wouldn’t exactly be a neutral party:
(…) Mr. Micheletti, in his latest plan, said he would resign only if Mr. Zelaya agreed to resign as well, leaving the presidency to the next in line. That would be Jorge Rivera, the president of the Supreme Court, which supported Mr. Zelaya’s ouster. Mr. Micheletti made an identical offer last month, and it went nowhere.
In the meantime, the international community is turning the screws on Micheletti. For instance, the White House is considering placing sanctions on Honduras by deeming Zelaya’s June ouster as a “military coup”.

Image- New York Times (“A supporter of the ousted Honduran president, Manuel Zelaya, at a rally in Tegucigalpa.”)
Online Sources- New York Times, Monsters & Critics, Voice of America, CNN, Xinhua, The Latin Americanist

Postal service to resume between Cuba and U.S.?

Direct postal service between Cuba and the U.S. may be restarted after being suspended for nearly five decades.

According to this Reuters article, unnamed “Western diplomats” said that negotiations will take place in Havana in several weeks. So far there has been no official confirmation from either Washington or Havana of the claims made in the piece.

The possible discussions would represent another sign of the thawing in relations between the U.S and Cuba. Cuban and U.S. officials agreed in May to resume discussions over immigration as well as openness to resuming direct postal service. The current postal arrangement involves mail going through a third country while U.S.-owned firms like UPS and FedEx are barred from making express mail deliveries. (German-owned company DHL can, however.)

Today’s news comes on the heels of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson’s visit to Havana last week where he called for improved relations between the island and the U.S.:
"There is a good atmosphere [between the two countries]," he said at a news conference in Havana on Friday. "It is the best atmosphere I've seen in many years."

Richardson called for "concrete steps from both sides," but noted a "lack of flexibility in their positions" and reciprocity from the Cuban government.

He also called on the United States to "pay more attention to the Cuba issue, though acknowledged more urgent U.S. priorities like health-care reform have drawn attention away from normalizing relations.
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, CNN, Reuters

Colombian rebels release hostage videos

In a developing story, Colombia’s FARC guerillas released video of nine hostages held against their will.

The three soldiers and six policemen were kidnapped between 1997 and 1999 by the rebels and little had been known of their condition until today. The information was presented at a news conference currently going on by the head of a local group representing the families of some of the hundreds of those kidnapped and held hostage deep in the Colombian jungle.

The videos of the nine hostages come on the heels of information recently released by the FARC of two other soldiers kidnapped in 2007 and 2008, respectively. Those videos (image) and today’s footage were publicized via opposition Sen. Piedad Cordoba who has previously worked to broker hostage releases by the FARC.

Speaking of the FARC, it’s worth checking out this article in the Huffington Post of a teen who had previously served as a guerilla. The eye-opening interview describes the horrors of war as well as how easily the now-19-year-old former rebel was recruited at the age of eight:
(…) The FARC banks on the fact that many children in the poor rural areas of Colombia dream of the security, adventure and thrill of being in a military force. Schooling is difficult for poor rural children (Maria had to walk three hours to get to school), and food, nurture and comfort hard to come by. Family abuse is also typical: Maria's own father had beat her.

"I wanted to be a guerilla," Maria told me smiling, her hair pulled back neatly in pink barrettes. "I dreamed of holding a gun. Then a FARC guerrilla came to recruit me, offering me an iPod, so I left my father and stepmother."
Image- BBC News
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, CNN, El Tiempo, Canal RCN, Huffington Post

Daily Headlines: August 31, 2009

* Mexico: Another day, another case of a disabled U.S. citizen getting inadvertently deported to Mexico.

* Latin America: Colombian president Alvaro Uribe joins his Costa Rican counterpart Oscar Arias as the latest regional leader to get the swine flu.

* Puerto Rico: How bad is Puerto Rico’s economy? The pay gap between the island and the rest of the U.S. has nearly doubled according to recent figures.

* Chile: First swine flu was recently found in Chilean turkeys and now nearly 1000 sea lion pups were found dead off the country’s northern coast.

Image- MSNBC (“A youth stands in the gates at the U.S.-Mexico border in late May awaiting his deportation at the San Ysidro port of entry in Tijuana, Mexico.”)
Online Sources- New York Times, UPI, BBC News, LAHT, AHN, Bloomberg