Saturday, November 7, 2009
* Africa: Somali pirates have threatened to kill three dozen members of a Spanish vessel unless their demands are met.
* Afghanistan: British Prime Minister Gordon Brown affirmed Britain’s commitment to keeping troops in Afghanistan yet wanted Afghan officials to be more active in combating corruption.
* South Korea: Tens of thousands of protestors rallied in Seoul and called for the government to change labor laws.
Image – CNN
Online Sources- Politico.com, CNN, Al Jazeera English, The Telegraph
* Paraguay: President Fernando Lugo recent troubles go beyond being the possible target of a coup; on Thursday, the former priest was hit with his third paternity lawsuit.
* El Salvador: President Mauricio Funes announced that he will posthumously award El Salvador’s highest honor to six Jesuit priests infamously slain in 1989.
* Latin America: Toronto, Canada beat the capital cities of Peru and Colombia to become the site of the 2015 Pan American Games.
Image – SFGate.com (“Shopping for food in Mazatlán, in western Mexico”).
Online Sources- LAHT, Huffington Post, AP, Reuters, The Latin Americanist
Friday, November 6, 2009
Mr. Lugo, a rather leftist and former Roman Catholic bishop, has refuted rumors that military leaders were plotting a coup, telling reporters in Asunción that “there could be small military groups that are connected to or could be used by the political class,” but that “the military does not show any intent of reversing the process of democratic consolidation.”
Interestingly enough, Mr. Lugo replaced all military officials anyway, which has not put a smile on many faces.
Now-former Paraguayan military commanders were quick to criticize Mr. Lugo’s decision. Especially since the changes this week were the third instance in which he replaced high-ranking military officials since taking office 15 months ago.
According to the New York Times:
Gen. Bernardino Soto Estigarribia, the former commander of the armed forces who was pushed into retirement by the new administration last year, said on a Paraguayan radio station that the president’s move was unjustified and dealt a tough blow to the military.
“You can’t change commanders at such a rate,” he said. “The officers deserve respect.”
Photo Source: New York Times, 2009
Since earlier this year, the city of Rio de Janeiro has been building walls around some of its favelas that dominate the hill section of the city.
According to BBC, 13 favelas (otherwise known as shanty towns)will eventually be surrounded by concrete with a total length of 14km (8.6 miles) and a height varying between 80cm (3 inches) and 3m.
City officials say the walls are necessary to presearve its forests from the spread of the favela communities. Officials say the Atlantic forests in the region have already lost an estimated 90% of their surface area.
However, in light of the new construction, the Brazilian city's decision has become controversal among citydwellers.
Some citizens critisized Rio, thinking the walls are an attempt to separate the poorer class from the upper classes.
Others debate that they are intended to limit drug trafficking, as part of a planned regional government clamp down.
Either way, Rio de Janiero is looking ahead to some significant physical changes in the near future.
Photo Source: BBC Americas, 2009
Demint had voiced concerns over the administration's policy toward the coup in Honduras, and ironically decided to make the nominees wait until this policy could be clarified. Demint told press yesterday that he believed the administration had "changed course," and quoted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as having committed to him that the US would recognize the upcoming elections in Honduras "regardless of whether former President Manuel Zelaya is returned to office."
This strikes me as a curious moment for reversal, given how up-in-the-air the Honduran situation remains. To me, this suggests that Demint was looking for an face-saving excuse to back down from his blockade of the nominees, and / or to finally divest himself of the slippery Honduran issue which he had taken up as a cause celebre, to little avail.
According to the Latin American Advisor on Friday, Shannon had still not been approved in his new post "due to a new block put on his confirmation." Shannon had graciously accepted an invitation by President Obama to stay on in his current post until Valenzuela could be confirmed.
Either way, congratulations to Dr. Valenzuela on his new post as the top administration official for the region, and don't worry, Dr. Shannon -- you'll be be negotiating clean energy agreements and sipping caipirinhas soon enough.
Sources: Miami Herald, Washington Post, Latin American Advisor
* World: Hopes are dim that a global treaty to combat climate change will be created at a summit in Copenhagen next month.
* Middle East: Peace negotiations in the Middle East are in danger of failing after Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas threatened not to run for reelection.
* Spain: According to Spanish authorities Internet crimes such as hacking and child porn have risen over the past five years.
Image – Guardian UK
Online Sources- MSNBC, CNN, Guardian UK, New York Times
Jamaica’s foreign minister says his country should adopt Spanish as a second official language to foster expanded trade and cooperation with its neighbors in the Caribbean and Central America.Image- clipperz
Growing ties between the Caribbean Community and Latin America, the Dominican Republic’s desire to join Caricom and the fact that Jamaica is surrounded by Spanish-speaking countries make it imperative for Jamaicans to become proficient in Spanish, Kenneth Baugh said…
“I think all Jamaicans, all schools and teachers, have to become conscious that there is a desperate need for us to become Spanish speaking,” he said.
Online Sources- LAHT
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya said on Thursday that a deal to end a four-month political crisis was at risk of collapse but behind the scenes negotiators worked to form a temporary cabinet to run the country.According to the deal agreed upon last week Honduras’ legislature will vote on whether or not to reinstate Zelaya. The president of the Honduran congress told AFP that the body will make the decision yet neglected to say neither when the vote will take place nor what would happen if Zelaya is not restored. Furthermore, negotiators for Zelaya and Micheletti have yet to present candidates that would take part in the coalition government that was supposed to start ruling weeks before presidential elections occur.
Zelaya and de facto leader Roberto Micheletti signed a pact last week to end their standoff, but each claims he is the one to lead a so-called unity government until a new president takes office in January.
With time running very short the deal may unravel very soon and Honduras can be stuck in a worse political quagmire than before.
Image- AFP (In what could be foreshadowing, “Manuel Zelaya closes a window at the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa.”)
Online Sources- AFP, AP, Reuters
The proposal created by Republican Sens. David Vitter and Bob Bennett would have excluded all non-citizens including legal resident immigrants from the reapportionment of congressional districts based on next year’s national tally. "Illegal aliens should not be included for the purposes of determining representation in Congress, and that's the bottom line here," Vitter said shortly after introducing the amendment to a bill funding the Census count.
Critics of the Vitter-Bennett plan noted that the proposal was very problematic. With about four months until the Census starts “Congress should be encouraging constituents to get counted, not debating the contents of the questionnaire," said Congressional Hispanic Caucus chair Rep. Nydia Velazquez. According to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke over 400 million Census forms have already produced and changing them would be very costly.
The proposal would’ve hurt Census Bureau efforts to calm concerns in the Latino community of misrepresentation and intrusiveness. The amendment "would raise more questions in the public mind about how confidential the Census is," National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials head Arturo Vargas was reported as saying.
Vitter’s Louisiana colleague (Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu) argued against his proposal and claimed that his idea would require changing the constitution.
Online Sources- Washington Independent, The Latin Americanist, NOLA.com, AP, HispanicBusiness.com, Guardian UK, ABC News
One outstanding issue remains: if the tribe is so isolated, how did its members contract swine flu in the first place?
Online Source: Reuters
* Nicaragua: Authorities are on the lookout for possible mudslides and flooding to be triggered by Tropical Storm Ida.
* Peru: Were drug traffickers behind the weekend attack of a controversial copper mine in northern Peru?
* Mexico: Along with the U.S. and E.U., Mexico has asked the W.T.O. to look into China’s restrictive trade practices.
Image – Guardian UK
Online Sources- Guernica, MSNBC, Bloomberg, Reuters, The Latin Americanist
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
The new law- which was passed by the Honduran legislature before the crisis- bans the sale and distribution of the morning-after pill. Proponents of the measure claimed that the pill induced abortions, a procedure which is unconstitutional in Honduras. Furthermore, backers of the controversial act accused opponents of being backed by foreign groups in favor of abortion.
The ban on the birth control device comes at a time when some Honduran human rights activists claimed that women’s rights have been restricted under de facto rule:
“The cruelest form of repression against women has been sexual violence designed to intimidate women against leaving their homes” (said Soraya Long of the Observatorio de la Transgresión Feminista)…The move in Honduras comes days after a Peruvian high court banned the free distribution of the morning-after pill. (Latin American countries vary in their laws on the birth control device, however).
(The ban against the morning-after pill) “shows how the ultraconservative political class has joined with religious fundamentalists to rollback the social changes and laws obtained for the rights of women” opined (Adelay Carías of Feministas en Resistencia).
Image- Guardian UK
Online Sources- CIMAC, AFP, Catholic News Agency, Xinhua
If you are in New York this week, make your way over to the Musuem of Modern Art (MoMA) for the Ibermedia film exhibition. The exhibition Iberoamerica:Our Way(s) lasts from November 5-13 and will feature Latin American films. Ibermedia is an intergovernmental organization facilitating film projects, helping to finance coproductions, and providing grant money for the distribution and promotion of Spanish and Portuguese language films.
"Ibermedia encourages cinematic innovation and supports cinema with something to say...With no strings attached, the filmmakers' personal visions are protected and the projects retain their national and/or personal-historical character."
The race for the metropolis known as the “gateway to the Americas” was fought between two commissioners of Cuban background: Tomas Regalado and Joe Sanchez. Much like in other local elections on Tuesday the weakened economy was a vital topic for voters as both men pledged to be fiscally sound and cut public spending. But with Miami’s housing boom turning into a sea of foreclosures, the issue of construction and development gained increased prominence. Sanchez mostly allied with outgoing Mayor Manny Diaz’ development plans including a port tunnel and new stadium for the Florida Marlins. Conversely, Regalado voted against most of Diaz’ major projects including being the lone commissioner to vote against the stadium plan.
In the end, the polls anticipating a landslide win by Regalado came true as roughly seven of every ten voters picked the former television journalist. Regalado can thank a specific Latino voting bloc for his win marred by a paltry turnout:
“We’re going to recover our city and the confidence of our residents,” Mr. Regalado said in his victory speech. “And we will do it by not wasting money.”It may seem as if Regalado has a mandate and he appears to be acting that way with a massive shakeup expected in City Hall. Whether he keeps his campaign promises remains to be seen, however.
His victory, however, also seemed to be defined by low turnout. Just over 20 percent of Miami’s 177,000 registered voters cast ballots. In the final weeks of the campaign, Mr. Regalado focused on his core constituency, elderly Hispanics, who appear to have come out strongly in his favor.
Image- El Nuevo Herald (Joe Sanchez (left) lost in a landslide to Tomas Regalado (right) in the Miami mayoral election).
Online Sources- New York Times, BBC News, CBS4.com, Bloomberg, Miami Herald
Gracias to Boz for posting the link on the Mickey D's Guantanomo Bay job opening. Any takers?
Hours: 5 days/week rotating shifts
Pay: based on experience
We are searching for an Assistant Manager for our McDonald's restaurant located on the United Stated Naval base in Cuba. Candidates must have restaurant Management experience, posess a valid United States passport, and be willing to relocate to Cuba.
* Brazil: An estimated 1.5 million people took to the streets of Sao Paulo as part of a protest to free evangelists jailed for money smuggling.
* Mexico: A state of emergency has been declared in parts of Mexico as a result of heavy rains and flooding.
* Panama: Unlike neighboring Colombia, Panama will expand its antidrug efforts without assistance from the U.S.
Image – BBC News
Online Sources- MSNBC, CNN, Reuters, The Latin Americanist
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
* Afghanistan: After winning reelection by default President Hamid Karzai vowed to combat the rampant corruption that grew during his first term.
* Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe’s “blood diamonds” could lead to a halt in the legal exportation of the gems from the African country.
* North Korea: North Korea has weapons-grade plutonium according to the country’s state-run press.
Image –USA TODAY (“March 11, 2004's terrorist attack (in Spain) was the bloodiest in Western European history.”)
Online Sources- Guardian UK, CNN, BBC News, MSNBC
* El Salvador: According to renowned travel guide Lonely Planet, El Salvador is one of the world’s top holiday destinations.
* Argentina: The country’s final Dirty War-era president along with four ex- generals have gone on trial over the kidnapping, torture, and disappearances of 56 political dissidents.
* Cuba: “Fidel Castro is the victim, the offended person, the individual against whom they conspired," opined one Cuban magazine in response to his sister- Juanita- revealing that she formerly worked with the C.I.A.
Image – Guardian UK
Online Sources- UPI, Sky News, AFP, BBC News, The Latin Americanist
Monday, November 2, 2009
At the Tijuana border in Mexico, the Pro-Migrant Defense Coalition placed an offering of flowers. Activists came out to address the deaths of migrants crossing into the United States by placing 5,100 wooden crosses in memory of the dead.
In Mexico and in Mexican expat communities, November 1st and 2nd mark "Día de Muertos," or Day of the Dead. The two days are a chance for families to remember their lost ones, combining ancient Aztec, Mayan, Náhuatl, Purépecha and Totonocao traditions with Spanish Christianity. In the days prior, many Mexicans put up an altar in their house. Usually adorned with flowers (cempasúchil, or marigolds), a candle for and photo of each loved one, sugar or chocolate skulls, fruits, the sugary "bread of the dead" (pan de muerto), pumpkins, candied squash, religious symbols and paper decorations, the altar is said to be an offering for the departed.
On the first day of celebrations, families that have lost children will go to the graves where they are buried, clean and paint the site and spend the night telling anecdotes and stories. Usually, they leave toys at the grave.
The second day commemorates adults who have passed away and the tradition is similar to that of children, but it is common to take to the grave typical Mexican drinks such as tequila, mezcal, pulque or atole.
What´s uniquely Mexican about these days is the attitude. Ancient indigenous views took a more natural view toward death: the spirit of the departed was determined more by the way the person died rather than their behavior during their time on earth. Death was an accepted, not feared, part of life. These perspectives, with infusions of Christianiaty, are present today, not only on Día de Muertos but in Mexican culture in general.
Día de Muertos traditions, which coincide with All Saints' and All Souls' days and have similar variants in Latin America, are especially prominent in southern and central Mexico. Each region has its respective adaptations, and the customs can vary from town to town. Even in the sprawling Mexico City metropolis, the tradition is strong.
The city held a mega-offering in its humongous Zócalo, or main plaza, for 10 consecutive years, but this week's offering was cancelled as the country is hit by an economic crisis. However, nearly all of the capital's 16 boroughs feature their own altar, and the National Autonomous University of Mexico, or UNAM, is dedicating a mega-offering to poet Edgar Allen Poe.
Día de Muertos has evolved over the years. When celebrated during pre-Hispanic times, human skulls were used. Now, sugar and chocolate skulls, or calaveras, have come to symbolize the celebrations, and Aguascalientes-native José Guadalupe Posada mocked the Mexican upper-class society with his etchings of the famous La Catrina in the early 1900s. The portraits, often featuring dancing and partying skeletons, along with satirical poems and prose mocking the living and describing personality traits, have been taken in as part of the celebrations over the years.
To the dismay of traditionalists, inevitable culture clashes have made the Mexican custom increasingly popular in the United States, while Halloween's presence is growing in Mexico. Costume parties, horror-movie marathons on cable and children dressed as Chucky trick-or-treating are becoming more and more common.
Día de Muertos, a rich, colorful, spiritual, religious, complex, humorous, heart-filled, sad, bittersweet, evolving and very Mexican tradition, is a unique blend of cultures, with a growing presence wherever the "muerte es parte de la vida" (death is a part of life) attitude is present.
Sources: Wikipedia, El Universal, Periodico Zocalo
Image: Guardian UK
Each October, the devotees make a pilgrimage to Sorte Mountain in Yaracuy State, Venezuela, home of the high altar to the religion's central figure.
Along the pilgramage, the devotees engage in several rituals. Some draw elaborate designs on the ground with chalk, and lie within them. They believe they will be cleansed through being possessed by spirits. In the image below, a man in a trance made a pact with a spiritual leader to be more responsible and to work harder at his job.
Other rituals include the assembly of altars. Below is an example of an altar constructed on Sorte Mountain during the pilgrimage. According to the New York Times, "Our time in Sorte gives us the opportunity to get away from the daily burdens of our lives," one pilgrim said.
The Maria Lonza religion is one of many examples of the mesh of Catholic and African religions found throught Latin American culture.
Photo Sources: The New York Times, 2009
Rationing water in Caracas could become the solution for Venezuela to sustain its water reserves until the rainy season.
According the BBC.com, large parts of the Venezuelan capital will be without water for as long as 48 hours over the next week after officials began to ration water. In fact, more than 20 main districts of Caracas were affected, having their water cut off later on Tuesday. However, most people were warned ahead of time of the problem and had taken necessary steps in stocking emergency water supplies in water tanks, containers and bottles.
Officials say water rationing in the country could be in effect until the rainy season begins, which is six months away.
President Hugo Chavez claims the exceptionally dry past few months has caused the water shortage, particularly because of El Nino.
Despite Chavez's claims, his opposition criticizes him for lack of investment in hydrology systems such as aqueducts.
Photo Source: BBC Americas, 2009
Honduras and Hondurans, generally
Tried to flex its new-found muscle and exert influence in a country outside its sphere of influence. In a summer of good news for Brazil, the use of its embassy as Zelaya's barricaded hideout was a definite dark spot.
It's hard to imagine a worse hero of the democratic left than Zelaya. Mel can blame his move to set up a fabulously un-democratic non-binding election referendum for the start of the ordeal. Later his continually reckless was partly responsible for the crisis'. Style points for his thrilling secret entry back into the country, though.
Even before the crisis, Micheletti was a polarizing and shadowy figure in Honduran politics. Because of his role as the head of the de facto government, he's been scorned by the majority of the international community as the villain of the entire affair. Chavez's "Goreletti" taunts must have been especially annoying.
Insulza pushed hard at the beginning of the crisis to bring down the de facto government and reinstate Zelaya. His failed efforts and ineffectively combative style made him look amateurish and actually gave Micheletti political cover to continually rebuff the OAS.
In Zelaya Chavez found a new champion for his Bolivarian Revolution. But while Zelaya displayed some of the Venezuelan's dramatic flare, he never had Hugo's domestic appeal. After Zelaya's successor comes to office, Honduras isn't likely to remain in the ALBA for much longer.
It was never entirely clear what DeMint's trips to Honduras were meant to accomplish but whatever he wanted it doesn't look like he got it done.
The Obama team took heaps of criticism from liberals and conservatives for its handling of the Honduras crisis. The polarizing nature of the Honduran conflict made it a critical litmus test of Obama's ability to manage his modified approach to Latin America. Pressed to do more from the left, Obama wisely held off on sanctions that would have furthered crippled the already struggling Honduran economy.
After an ill-advised pro-death penalty campaign in 2006 left Lobo behind fellow Olanchan magnate Zelaya, Pepe spent some time in the political wilderness. Liberal Party candidate (and former Zelaya Vice President) Elvin Santos seemed poised early in the year to take the November elections, but Santos' support of the coup will cost him support among the Liberal Party's left wing. The smart money is on Lobo to take the November elections.
Couldn't make the deal happen by himself, but with the San Jose Accord the framework for all negotiations, Nobel Laureate Arias solidified his position as a peacemaker of historical proportion.
A clutch win in San Salvador and a crucial last-second goal from the US put the Catrachos into the World Cup for the first time since 1982. The unprecedented outpouring of euphoria served as a desperately needed shot of hope for the entire country. Carlos Pavon, the goat of the Honduran's home loss to the US, redeemed himself marvelously.
Image Source: Daily Telegraph
Online Sources: DailyKos, New York Times, LA Times,, El Heraldo, Gallup, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, AP, Voice of America , Americas Quarterly, Diez.hn, Miami Herald
* Latin America: Prayers and commemorations for the deceased where observed throughout Latin America including Mexico on Sunday as part of the Day of the Dead.
* Chile: Hundreds of former Dirty War-era military draftees rallied in Santiago and called for the government to guarantee them better immunity from prosecution.
* Venezuela: Where the eleven Colombians found slain across the border in Venezuela originally paramilitaries secretly in training?
* Puerto Rico: Authorities dismissed “sabotage or terrorism” as causes of a massive oil refinery fire last month.
Online Sources- LAHT, Reuters Video, MSNBC, BBC News