Saturday, October 24, 2009

Weekend World Watch: Gesundheit

* U.S.: President Barack Obama has declared the swine flu a national emergency aimed at a possible surge in new cases.

* World: Several thousand demonstrations from hiking atop Antarctica’s tallest mountain to diving off the Great Barrier Reef were held in order to raise awareness on climate change.

* Palestine: Tensions have gone up between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas selected January 24th as Election Day.

* Africa: A U.N. report found that cell phone usage has boomed across Africa by a whopping 550% between 2003 and 2008.

Image- BBC News
Online Sources- CNN, Voice of America, Guardian UK, Reuters

Weekend Headlines: October 24-25, 2009

Video link:

* Puerto Rico: Thousands of residents near Bayamon have been urged to evacuate after a fuel storage facility explosion yesterday spewed massive columns of toxic smoke.

* Latin America: According to the International Monetary Fund the global economic slowdown will cost Latin America over $150 billion in lost output.

* Colombia: Time is running short on whether or not President Alvaro Uribe will run for a third consecutive term.

* Mexico: Suspected leader of the Sonora drug cartel Miguel Caro Quintero pled guilty in a U.S. court to charges of marijuana trafficking.

Online Sources- YouTube, AP, LAHT, Reuters, UPI

Friday, October 23, 2009

World Watch: Crossing the DMZ

* Asia: According to the South Korean press representatives from that country and North Korea met secretly last week to negotiate a possible bilateral summit.

* Pakistan: At least 27 people were killed in several attacks today as part of a Taliban offensive that has left over 200 dead in the past three weeks.

* U.S.: 106 banks have failed so far in the U.S. this year; the highest number since 1992.

* Italy: Over 100,000 women have signed an online petition against Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi after he made a sexist remark to a former minister.

Image- MSNBC (“Two North Korean soldiers on the lookout in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that has separated the two Koreas since the Korean War”.)
Online Sources- AFP, Guardian UK, MSNBC, New York Times

Peru new epicenter of abortion debate

In recent years, Latin American countries from Mexico to Brazil have gradually decriminalized strong laws banning abortion. Though there a few exceptions to the trend, it appears as if the region has entered a new era in promoting reproductive rights.

The latest country considering loosening the penalties on abortion is Peru where the procedure is only allowed if the mother’s life is in danger. The country’s legislature is considering modifying the 85-year-old law to permit abortions in cases of rape or fetal deformity.

While congress debates the proposal, some Peruvians have rallied this week either for or against the bill. Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani has led the charge against all forms of abortion and declared that abortions are a “death penalty” to the embryo. Local women’s groups, conversely, claimed that about 376,000 illegal abortions are done in Peru yearly and that 22% of women in the capital city of Lima are victims of sexual abuse.

Meanwhile, a recent poll shows that Peruvians are mixed over the issue of abortion:
Many people in Peru are in favor of allowing a woman to terminate her pregnancy in some special cases, according to a poll by Ipsos, Apoyo, Opinión y Mercado published in El Comercio. 58 per cent of respondents agree with allowing an abortion when the life of the mother is in danger, while 38 per cent disagree.

Additionally, 46 per cent of respondents would allow an abortion when the fetus has defects, and 41 per cent would consent to the procedure when the pregnancy is the result of rape.
The abortion decriminalization bill faces a rocky road; the ruling American Revolutionary People’s Alliance party (APRA) opposes the bill while Justice Minister, Aurelio Pastor believes that the proposal will be defeated.

Image- BBC News
Online Sources- AFP, The Latin Americanist, BBC News, CNN, Angus Reid Consultants, Living in Peru

Today’s Video: “La Nana”

What happens when a veteran maid is forced to work with a younger counterpart? This is one of the questions raised in “La Nana” (“The Maid”), a Chilean film currently generating some buzz in U.S. indie film circles.

The movie is partly autobiographical claimed director Sebastián Silva who hated being bossed around in his youth by the family nanny. “My attitude was to says things like ‘Who do you think you are to tell me what to do?’” Silva said in one interview though he admitted to gradually changing his attitude. His admiration for the often unsung and occasionally exploitative profession was demonstrated with this film:
Earlier this year, Silva held a screening of the film in Santiago for some 300 maids, all part of a profession that doesn't seem to receive the attention or respect it deserves in the South American country.

"It was a touching, amazing screening," Silva says. "They were like crying, laughing. . . . They were extremely emotionally involved. The maids loved the film."

They weren't the only ones. "Even the president of Chile sent me a personal letter acknowledging the work of the women who are such an important link in Chilean society," Silva says.
“The Maid” won the World Cinema Jury Prize at Sundance and actress Catalina Saavedra’s performance as the drama’s protagonist has received high praise.

Please check out the trailer below of what appears to be one of the top films coming out of Latin America this year:

Online Sources- Heeb Magazine, New York Daily News, Los Angeles Times, Indiewire, YouTube

Daily Headlines: October 23, 2009

* Cuba: In what appears to be a major shift in attitudes a recent poll found that most Cuban-Americans favor permitting people in the U.S. to travel freely to Cuba.

* Latin America: The presidents of Peru and Ecuador met yesterday in a “historic” bilateral meeting designed to calm over a century of diplomatic tensions.

* U.S.: Spain’s Prisa purchased a minority stake in U.S. Spanish-language network V-me with the possibility of full control.

* Mexico: Greenpeace activists rallied against the Mexican government's move to allow cultivation of the first genetically modified corn.

Image- Mercopress
Online Sources- Miami Herald, Xinhua, CNN, Reuters

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Chileans protest dog euthanasia plan

A move to euthanize Chile’s stray dogs has generated plenty of controversy and ire among lovers of “man’s best friend.”

Chile’s legislature is currently debating the bill whose proponents claim will remove the health hazard that are stray and lost dogs. “Euthanasia will only apply to sick dogs and those abused by people” claimed the head of the Senate health panel that's arguing the government-supported proposal. The bill also provides funds for provinces to carry out euthanasia against dogs and grants police wider authority to decide which dogs need to be exterminated.

Chilean animal rights organizations have vehemently denounced the proposal and made their voices heard:
Thirty protestors rallied in front of the La Moneda presidential palace and carried out mock dog euthanasia while covered in plastic bags and red paint.

For Proanimal Chile president Patricia Cocas, the proposal contradicts a measure passed earlier this month for the protection of animals…

“The Health Ministry wants to dump their duties on municipalities without the funds to carry out such a responsibility and pretend that they can go on with the mass extermination of animals” assured Cocas.
According to the government there are over three million dogs in Chile and most of them live in the streets.

Image- El Martutino
Online Sources- El Mercurio Online, EFE, CNN Chile

Ex-Uruguayan Dirty War dictator convicted

The wounds of Dirty War atrocities are still fresh in the minds of the people in Latin America’s Southern Cone. A few of the region’s worst offenders may have gotten away with murder yet many other figures have been slapped in the face by the long arm of the law.

Gregorio Alvarez ruled as president of Uruguay from 1981-85 and he was also an instrumental figure behind the 1973 military coup that overturned the civilian government. Political repression, forced disappearances, and torturing of dissidents became the norm in Uruguay during the 12-year dictatorship which Alvarez was part of. Uruguayan authorities even took part in the infamous Operation Condor where the Southern Cone’s rightist dictatorships coordinated “an ambitious and successful plan to coordinate repression internationally”.

Though Alvarez was granted asylum in 1986 as part of the transition to civilian rule subsequent courts have chipped away at his impunity; in 2007 he was sentenced for kidnapping and exiling leftist dissidents to Argentina as part of Operation Condor. Earlier today a court sentenced Alvarez to an additional 25 years in jail for human rights abuses and the murder of political opponents during his time in the presidency. Alvarez was sentenced along with two other former senior military officials in a ruling praised by a lawyer representing the victims:
The sentence carried out by justice Luis Charles “grants dignity to the victims” underlined attorney Oscar López Goldaracena who also emphasized the importance that Alvarez’ actions be recognized as “crimes against humanity”…

“For us it’s a crucial moment since it shows that the truth can be reached through justice” added Goldaracena who urged Uruguayans to vote on Sunday to annul the controversial norm.
The “controversial norm” alluded to by Goldaracena is a referendum to scrap an amnesty law shielding other dictatorship figures from being put on trial. (The measure coincides with the country’s presidential election which is expected to be won by the ruling left-wing coalition).

Image- Telecinco (February 2009 photo of former Uruguayan strongman Gregorio Alvarez).
Online Sources- Upside Down World, The Latin Americanist, BBC News, AFP, El Pais, Angus Reid Global Monitor

Big Time Bust of Mexican Drug Cartel by US

According to American officials, over 300 people have been arrested in a series of drug raids, in hopes to hone in on dismantling a notorious Mexican drug cartel called La Familia.

The two-day operation, involved thousands of police officers in 19 US states. The recent drug bust was part of Project Coronado, (which has led to almost 1,200 arrests over four years, according to officials).

Based in the western Mexican state of Michoacan, La Familia has been accused of carrying out bloody attacks on Mexican security forces.

After the arrest of 303 suspected cartel members on Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder described the gang as demonstrating "an incredible level of sophistication and ruthlessness".

According to BBC Americas, FBI Director Robert Mueller states "La Familia had transformed in recent years "from a drug cartel to a sophisticated criminal organization".

However, officials also state that this recent bust has made a significant blow to the cartel, and sees it as a great advance in stopping the cartel in its tracks.

Daily Headlines: October 22, 2009

* U.S.: According to the study by the Rand Corporation more Latinos are enlisting in the armed forces mainly due to the “lure of a higher education.”

* Brazil: The death toll of a recent surge in violence between drug gangs and police in Rio de Janeiro has grown to 32 as authorities keep pledging to beef up security.

* Ecuador: Antonio Valencia’s late goal was enough give Manchester United a 1-0 victory over CSKA Moscow in Champions League action yesterday.

* Panama: No major damages have been reported in Panama after an earthquake measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale occurred off the country’s coast.

Image- El Mundo
Online Sources- CNN, MSNBC, The Latin Americanist, BBC Sport, Reuters

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Brazilians Weary of Violence During Olympic Games

Just two weeks ago Brazilians merrily celebrated the landing of the 2016 Olympic Games in their beloved city, Rio de Janeiro. However, a recent outburst of violence leaves Brazilians weary of their reputation and safety during the Games.

Over the weekend, drug traffickers wielded a large-caliber weapon that shot down a police helicopter just one mile from Maracana stadium, where the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics will be held and the World Cup final will be played two years before the Olympics.

This violent act worries Brazilians, not only for the violence itself, but for its image to prospective Olympic attenders and tourists during the Games.

“We need to tell the world where we stand so that people outside Brazil understand what measures we are taking and are not so worried when planning to come down here.” --Nadine Mato, 21 (

Photo Source: New York Times

Today's Video: Think pink in Mexico

First it was special ladies-only pink buses which circulated in order to bring safety to Mexico City women sick of being leered and pinched. The newest female-oriented transportation program in Mexico is being tested in nearby Puebla with women-only "Pink Taxis". The reaction so far has been mixed:
"Some of the woman who have been on board tell us how male taxi drivers cross the line and try to flirt with them and make inappropriate propositions," said taxi driver Aida Santos, who drives one of the compact, four-door taxis with a tracking device and an alarm button that notifies emergency services. "In the Pink Taxi they won't have that feeling of insecurity, and they feel more relaxed"...

"We are in the 21st century, and they are saying women have continued worrying about beauty and nothing more," said Vianeth Rojas, of the Network for Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Puebla. "They are absolutely not helping eradicate violence against women."
What do you think about the "Pink Taxi" initiative? Take a look and decide for yourself:

Online Sources - YouTube, MSNBC, Reuters

Weekly Debate: CNN’s “Latino in America”

Tonight and tomorrow CNN will be airing a special on the impact of Latinos in the U.S. “Latino in America” will examine the main issues facing Latinos, the community’s future, and includes interviews with Latinos from different walks of life. Here’s a quick sneak peek:

The special has not been without some controversy, however. Some activists have noted that while the network praises Latino culture one of its most prominent commentators is staunch anti-immigrant commentator Lou Dobbs. “The hypocrisy of a network that poses itself as a fair and balanced news leader, airing a series on Latinidad while paying the salary of a the hateful Dobbs…grows” mentioned former The Latin Americanist contributor Maegan la Mala recently.

So what do you think? Is CNN being open-minded regarding Dobbs or hypocritical? Will you watch the “Latino in America” special? What does being Latino in the U.S. mean to you?

Please give us your opinion via commenting to this post. (A corresponding poll will soon be placed on the sidebar).

Let your voice be heard!

Online Sources- Clipser, AP, Vivirlatino

Leaders agree on "sucre" currency

Could new currency be in the pipeline for South America?

The New American reports that leaders gathering for the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas, or ALBA, conference agreed to create a new currency for the region.

The flat money will be used instead of American Federal Reserve Notes and called the "sucre" to honor Jose Antonio de Sucre.

The BBC also has a story on their Latin American pages.

The ALBA conference in Cochababa, Bolivia, is the seventh meeting.

Will this be an effective attack on the U.S. dollar?

Source and Photo: The New American

Daily Headlines: October 21, 2009

* Uruguay: As part of the One Laptop Per Child program all Uruguayan children in public elementary schools has his/her own Internet-ready computer.

* Peru: The country’s legislature is examining a vital reproductive rights bill that would depenalize certain forms of abortion.

* Bolivia: Could the 2500-year-old Akapana pyramid lose its World Heritage Site status due to planned restoration work?

* Cuba: Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos met with Cuban President Raul Castro and claimed that he wants to improve relations with the U.S.

Image- CNN (“A boy in Peru starts exploring all he can do on his new XO laptop.”)
Online Sources- Americas Quarterly, BBC News, AFP, Reuters

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Argentina's Significant World Bank Loan

Argentina receives $150 million

from World Bank

(Washington DC, October 20, 2009) The Board of Directors of the World Bank today approved a loan to Argentina in support of the Metropolitan Areas Urban Transport Project (PTUMA) to "improve the quality and sustainability of urban transport systems in Argentine Metropolitan Areas."

According to Pedro Alba, (World Bank Country Director for Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay) --The project promotes the development of an efficient urban transport system that supports economic growth by allowing lower income population segments to access urban services, employment opportunities, and commercial facilities”

The World Bank took into consideration the increase in demand for public transportation in Argentina over recent years. Public transit usage of the Metro has grown by 19% and in suburban railways by 17%. The WB also noted that significant infrastructure investments must be carried out to adequately meet increasing demand.

The 150 million dollar (American equivalent) loan has been allocated to Argentina as an adequate amount to help further the development of such infrastructure.

Photo Source

World Watch: No nukes

* Iran: International negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program are expected to enter a third day despite major disagreements between Western representatives and envoys from Tehran.

* World: Results of an experimental AIDS vaccine show that it’s “marginally effective” but could serve as a benchmark for future vaccines.

* Spain: Thousands of protesters marched in Madrid on Sunday and demanded a halt to a proposed liberalizing of abortion laws.

* Britain: Controversy has erupted over the BBC’s invitation of a fringe ultra-rightist and anti-immigrant political party to participate on the network’s main political debate show.

Image- Press TV
Online Sources- UPI, New York Times, MSNBC, Al Jazeera English

The vanishing Akuntsu of Brazil

One of the world’s smallest-known indigenous tribes recently lost one of its members:

The Akuntsu tribe resides in small parcel of rainforest in the western Rondônia state and has been recognized by Brazil’s government. According to Survival International (SI), they reside in a pair of communal houses on protected land after encroaching ranchers nearly wiped them out in the 20th century. Originally numbering in the hundreds, only seven remained as recently as fifteen years ago. (One of the survivors died in 2000 due to a "freak accident").

What had been a tribe of six sadly dwindled to five after the death of the tribal matriarch called Ururú. She died of old age in her hut on October 1st and she may soon be joined by her brother Konibu who was reportedly in critical condition.

Unfortunately, the Akuntsu may soon be a relic of the past due to its own customs but also as a result of the outside world:
(…) on its own, the Akuntsu gene pool cannot allow it to survive another generation. Since tribal custom will apparently not allow outsiders to marry in, it is therefore effectively doomed.

The Akuntsu story is not unique. Even if they escape persecution, communities that have never encountered the outside world often face tragedy. Typically they lose between 50 and 80 per cent of their population in a matter of months, since they have no immunity to common diseases…

(SI’s Stephen Corry)… said: "The "Akuntsu are at the end of the road. In a few decades this once vibrant and self-sufficient people will cease to exist and the world will have lost yet another piece of our astonishing human diversity.
Online Sources- Survival International, YouTube, The Independent, Washington Post, The Australian

NAFTA states strengthen commitment

The U.S., Canada, and Mexico wish to minimize obstacles impeding free trade among them according to the top economic representatives from those countries.

Mexican Minister of the Economy Gerardo Ruiz Mateos said to the local press that the main goals for trade in North America are to work together, foster competition, and encourage employment. Along with U.S. counterpart Ron Kirk and Canada’s Stockwell Day, the three met yesterday in Dallas and pledged to improve envormental standards and ensure fair labor regulations.

In addition, Mateos and Kirk discussed the uncertain future of a program permitting Mexican freight trucks to enter the U.S. but whose funding was halted by the Obama administration. Mexico retaliated by raising taxes on ninety U.S. imports yet Kirk admitted that not all those tariffs have been implemented. For his part, Mateos was non-committal over what will happen to resolve that dispute:
Mexico's Secretary of Economy Gerardo Ruiz Mateos sidestepped a question asking if Mexico might lift the tariffs in advance of any resolution of the cross-border trucking issues.

He noted that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was meeting with Mexican Transportation Secretary Molinar Horcasitas in Washington soon to discuss the problem.
Image- MSNBC (“Mexican trucks drive on an international bridge leading to Texas.”)
Online Sources-, EFE, MSNBC, AFP, The Latin Americanist

Nicaragua: High court OKs Ortega reelection

Latin American leaders across the political spectrum have considered whether to change their respective country’s constitution in order to run for presidential reelection. The Central American country of Nicaragua is no exception as president Daniel Ortega admitted in July that he would back having a constitutional referendum allowing him to run in 2011.

Yesterday the constitutional branch of the Nicaraguan Supreme Court overturned the ban on presidential reelection. The move was backed by pro-government judges and after Ortega and a group of more than 100 mayors petitioned the country’s high court. The verdict still needs to be approved by the entire 16-judge Supreme Court though justice Francisco Rosales said that he expected it to be ratified.

As BBC News notes, reelection backers throughout the region have argued that “continuity over more than four years is needed if effective policies for change are to be enacted.” Conversely, opponents of the reelection move in Nicaragua like the country’s vice president have decried it as a gateway to “dictatorships, tyrannies, confrontation, and civil war.”

In the end it will be up to the Nicaraguan electorate to decide if Ortega will get reelected in two years time. If an April poll is any indication of what could happen in 2011, then Ortega may be on his way out of office.

Image- BBC News (An Ortega poster says “To serve the people is to serve God!”)
Online Sources- Angus Reid Global Monitor, Colombia Reports, Reuters, AFP, AP, BBC News, The Latin Americanist

Daily Headlines: October 20, 2009

* Honduras: Negotiations between ousted president Manuel Zelaya (image) and de facto leader Roberto Micheletti have stalled again as each figure keeps blaming the other for worsening the Honduran political crisis.

* Mexico: Despite an increased push to combat drug gangs and other criminal elements, authorities estimate that over 4000 Mexican soldiers have deserted since 2003.

* Uruguay: The country’s Supreme Court voted to drop an amnesty statue for Dirty War-era military crimes.

* U.S.: The National Basketball Association will run a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign designed to attract Latinos to the sport.

Image- BBC News (“Mr. Zelaya has been in Brazil's embassy since returning in September”)
Online Sources- Bloomberg, BBC News, LAHT, Reuters

Monday, October 19, 2009

Calle 13 under fire over MTV outburst

Paulina Rubio, Zoe, and Wisin & Yandel were all winners at last week’s Premios MTV Latin America yet it was the outspokenness of Calle 13 which has received the most attention.

Thee lead singer of the Puerto Rican group – Rene “Residente” Perez - has come under fire after making harsh remarks against the island’s governor. Perez called Gov. Luis Fortuno a “son of a massive bitch” and blasted him for breaking his campaign promise by laying off over 16,000 government workers. “Latin America is incomplete without a free Puerto Rico” added Perez who also praised a massive strike that crippled the island’s capital city of San Juan.

Less than 48 hours after Perez’ remarks, San Juan mayor Jorge A. Santini Padilla pulled the plug on a Calle 13 Halloween gig. Padilla said that the concert was canceled due to a lack for use of the city's Roberto Clemente Coliseum, yet said that Perez wouldn’t be interested in staging the event in “a facility administered by government personnel for whom he has no respect".

Calle 13 has been shutout of another concert due to a separate political gesture by Perez:
A Colombian mayor canceled a Calle 13 concert on Monday after the lead singer for the Puerto Rican rappers wore a T-shirt appearing to link President Alvaro Uribe to illegal paramilitaries…

"It is an insult to Colombians that someone of talent would use this to attack Colombians and especially our president," (Manizales Mayor Juan Manuel) Llano told local radio. "Manizales has decided under no circumstances or for any reason can this group take part."
Calle 13’s been no stranger to controversy due to the candor of their music; in 2007, the duo came under fire over an anti-police brutality song cheekily named “Tribute to the Police.”

Image- Washington Post
Online Sources- LAHT, YouTube, CNN, CBC, ABC News, The Latin Americanist

Daily Headlines: October 19, 2009

* U.S.: Target stores have removed from its website an "illegal alien" costume after receiving numerous complaints from immigrant rights groups and Latino customers.

* Brazil: Clashes between police and drug gangs in Rio de Janeiro over the weekend have claimed at least 14 lives.

* Mexico: According to Mexico’s health minister the number of Mexican drug users has doubled between 2002 and 2008.

* Peru: British mining firm Monterrico Metals has been sued over allegedly kidnapping and torturing Peruvian protestors for three days.

Image- KTLA (“The "Illegal Alien" costume, as seen on Target's website ( / October 16, 2009).”)
Online Sources- Guardian UK, UPI, AFP, CNN

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Weekend Headlines: October 17-18, 2009

* Honduras: Representatives of ousted president Manuel Zelaya and de facto leader Roberto Micheletti continue to negotiate despite looming deadlines.

* Latin America: Here we go again – in a move likely to peeve South American states FIFA may try to impose a ban on high altitude soccer matches.

* Mexico: The mutilated bodies of ten people were found in the Mexican state of Guerrero along with a note from the La Familia drug gang claiming that they “deserved to die.

* Cuba: New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin traveled to Cuba on a visit “to study the island's respected disaster preparedness methods.”

* Venezuela: Spain’s Repsol confirmed the finding of a massive offshore natural gas deposit that would make it the biggest in Venezuela.

* Brazil: Two policemen were killed when drug gangs shot down a police helicopter flying near a Rio de Janeiro favela.

Online Sources- Al Jazeera English, LAHT, Canadian Press, New York Times, AFP, The Latin Americanist, The Telegraph

Image- AP (The sign from a Zelaya supporter hints at Honduras’ qualification to next year’s soccer World Cup.)