Saturday, November 14, 2009

Weekend World Watch: Trial and error?

* U.S.: Controversy has erupted after Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the criminal trial of accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will be held in New York City.

* China: At least forty people have died and thousands were left homeless in areas of China including the capital of Beijing as a result of heavy snowfall.

* Ethiopia: “Ethnic-Somali rebels” have reportedly killed a "significant number" of Ethiopian troops and taken over several towns.

* Iraq: British officials are looking into allegations of over 30 new cases of prisoner abuse in Iraq since 2003 including rape and torture.

Image – Guardian UK (“The rubble of the World Trade Center smolders after the 9/11 terrorist attack.”)
Online Sources- The Telegraph, Reuters, BBC News, Los Angeles Times

Weekend Headlines: November 14-15, 2009

* Mexico: In an unsurprising move, Mexican government officials are peeved off at Forbes for placing Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman so high on their list of the World's Most Powerful People.

* Latin America: Colombia and Ecuador have taken a small step to restoring full diplomatic ties that have been cut off since March 2008.

* Cuba: A group of Cuban dissidents have intensified their protests against the Castro regime by going on an all-liquid diet.

* Brazil: Apparently Brazilian police have nothing better to do than pursue an anonymous blogger who has published the names of over 300 supposed adulterers.

Image – Guardian UK (“Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman in 1993.”)
Online Sources- Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg, CNN, Guardian UK, The Latin Americanist

Friday, November 13, 2009

World Watch: Rising sun

* Asia: U.S. president Barack Obama declared that his country will pursue a “renewed engagement with Asia Pacific nations” but warned countries like China and Myanmar to improve their respective human rights situations.

* Europe: The E.U. has emerged from its worst recession in decades though some countries are still languishing economically according to data released yesterday.

* Pakistan: At least sixteen people died after suicide bombers attacked two locations including the regional headquarters of Pakistan’s intelligence agency.

* South Africa: President Jacob Zuma pledged a crackdown on crime ahead of next year’s World Cup yet also said that “no police officer has a license to kill.”

Image – New York Times (“President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama of Japan during a joint press conference in Tokyo on Friday.”)
Online Sources- Voice of America, CNN, MSNBC, New York Times

Energy Injections in Young Dominican Baseball Players on Rise

The Dominican Republic is a an area well known to major league baseball scouts in the US. Boys as young as 14 begin to make preparations for scouts through hours of vigorous running, practice, and injections.

These pain killer and vitamin-based injections are said to be given to the boys sometimes multiple times a week. The New York Times found that these young boys are getting these injections from handlers, which hold the title of coach and scout. In Spanish, these handlers are called buscones.

According to interviewed handlers, their goal is to strengthen players for tryouts that could yield signing bonuses of $10,000 to $3 million, (of which handlers receive 10 percent to 50 percent).

From Dominicans Try Shots to Boost Rising Players, The New York Times
Dominican-born players make up about 17 percent of major league and minor league rosters in the United States and Latin America, but about 38 percent of the players who tested positive for steroids and other banned substances since 2005.

The buscone system has developed as this island has become a rich producer of major league talent over the past two decades. It has produced myriad problems for Major League Baseball. Some Dominican stars, like David Ortiz and Sammy Sosa, have tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

The rise on injections has raised a great deal of concern on all fronts.

Coke plans green Brazilian plant

Fazenda Rio Grande, Brazil, will be the home of the Coca-Cola Company’s first “green” plant, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The bottling company plans to invest $5.8 in Brazil throughout the next five years.

The plant will be part of Leão Junior, another beverage company purchased by Coca-Cola.

The plant will produce nearly 11,000 tons of dried teas every eyar.

Part of the plant’s “green” capabilities will be translucent tiles and reusing rain waters in bathroom.

Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution


Group sends Honduras letter to Obama

Barack Obama received a letter from more than 240 Latin American experts advising him to decry human rights violations in Honduras.

They want him to act before the elections, scheduled for Nov. 29.

“The U.S. government must make a choice: it can either side with democracy, along with every government in Latin America, or it can side with the coup regime, and remain isolated,” the letter stated.

Read the full text of the letter here.

The Voice of America yesterday wrote an article about Honduras, saying the country must take its future into its own hands, and that the United States will respect a decision by the Honduran Congress.

Sources: Voice of America,


Daily Headlines: November 13, 2009

* Honduras: Senior U.S. diplomat Craig Kelly returned to Washington empty-handed and without helping find a resolution to the political mess in Honduras.

* El Salvador: Foreign aid has started to trickle into storm-ravaged El Salvador while the death toll has increased to 157.

* Venezuela: Authorities took over the operations of two coffee companies and will reportedly buy a majority stake in a third firm.

* Haiti: New Prime Minister Max Bellerive took office on Wednesday and pledged to create economic growth for Haiti.

Image – Mercopress
Online Sources- Xinhua, LAHT, Reuters, El Universal, The Latin Americanist

Thursday, November 12, 2009

World Watch: Hunger to live

* World: There are over one billion people with not enough food to eat as prices are too high in developing countries according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

* Afghanistan: U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry has reportedly opposed plans for a troop increase of up to 40,000 soldiers.

* Iraq: Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair will be called to testify at a public inquiry into Britain’s role in the Iraq War.

* Europe: The region’s third-largest air carrier is expected to form after British Airways agreed to buy Spain’s Iberia.

Image – Guardian UK (“A boy looks at corn, rice and millet at the food market in Maradi, Niger.”).
Online Sources- MSNBC, BBC News, Reuters, Bloomberg

The future of Dobbs

By now you’ve probably heard that Lou Dobbs abruptly said “Adios” to CNN on Wednesday. But what will be the next step in the career of the controversial commentator? Here are a few possibilities:
  • Gets his own show with FOX News – Though Dobbs has been involved in a heated feud with some at Fox Business Network, his populist anti-immigrant rhetoric would be more in tune with the political commentators on its older sister network. (The ratings of his CNN show were mired in fourth, however.)
  • Run for public office – There were rumors last year that Dobbs was preparing a run for New Jersey governor though that never came to fruition. Perhaps he might aim for the state legislature and take it from there.
  • Back to business – Dobbs was “a straight-laced business anchor” when he first joined CNN in the early 1980s and returning to that could deflect some of the justified criticism he got as a commentator.
  • Sit back and do nothing –Dobbs said he would “pursue more advocacy journalism” after leaving CNN and he may decide that the best way to do so is via his daily radio show.
  • No holds barred debate on Univision against Jorge Ramos – Dreams could come true (and it would be fun to see Ramos knock Dobbs down several notches).
Any other suggestions or are you too glad to see him twist in the wind?

Image- Huffington Post (Lou Dobbs in the early days at CNN over a quarter century ago).
Online Sources- MSNBC,, The Latin Americanist, New York Times, Vivirlatino

Today's Video: Flamenco Grover never gets old!

In recognition of the fortieth season of "Sesame Street" here's the charming Grover as a waiter peeving off Fat Blue for the umpteenth time:

I said it before and I'll say it again -"I prefer the uno with tostones and congri, thanks."

Online Sources - YouTube, ABC News, The Latin Americanist

Chapo Guzman More Powerful Than Chavez

The news that Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman had made this year's Forbes list of billionaires ruffled a lot of feathers in the Mexican government. Mexican president Felipe Calderon blasted the magazine's association of the drug baron with global business leaders, saying it gave unnecessary credibility and glamor to the ruthless drug business.

Mexican officials are sure to be even less happy now that Forbes' new ranking has El Chapo at #41 on their list of the World's Most Powerful People. Amazingly, El Chapo's placement puts him ahead of global heads of state such as Russia's Dmitry Medvedev, France's Nicolas Sarkozy and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.

While the methodology of a power ranking like Forbes' is sure to be debated, it is interesting to note that today's Forbes list coincides with a request from civic and business groups in the Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez to bring UN peacekeepers to the border city.

Image Source: US Department of State
Online Sources: Yahoo! News, CNN, Forbes, AP

Ciudad Juarez Looks to the Global Community for Help with Crime

The Latin Americanist has been reporting on the ongoing violence in Mexico, particularly in the border region for quite some time. Becoming fed up with crime, Ciudad Juarez is reaching out beyond the federal governments of Mexico and the U.S. and asking the global community for help.

In Ciudad Juarez, a fundamental area for maquiladoras in Mexico, the city's Association of Maquiladoras has requested the aid and intervention of the United Nations. Peacekeepers are being asked to come to Cuidad Juarez at the failure of local and federal authorities in combating the violent crimes in the city. The violence, including murder, extortion, and kidnapping, has led to thousands of business closings in the area. Many business owners have even fled over the border to El Paso, TX.

Although thousands of troops and federal police have been sent to combat the violence in Ciudad Juarez, about 2,000 people have died so far this year in drug-related violence.

Online Sources: AFP, Associated Press, The Monitor

Daily Headlines: November 12, 2009

* Colombia: A judge threw out a lawsuit against U.S. coal company Drummond over alleged ties to Colombian paramilitaries while an environmental damage lawsuit was filed in a British court by Colombian farmers against oil giant BP.

* U.S.: Sen. Max Baucus has urged President Barack Obama be more active in seeking free trade pacts with several countries including Chile, Panama, and Colombia.

* Mexico: Parts of Mexico City grounded to a halt due to protests in solidarity with former workers at the recently defunct energy firm Luz y Fuerza.

* Argentina: Men’s national soccer team coach Diego Maradona is expected to attend a FIFA disciplinary hearing on Sunday regarding his vulgar tirade after last month’s pivotal World Cup qualifier versus Uruguay.

Image – Guardian UK (The late Colombian rightist paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso meeting with fellow soldiers in this archived photo).
Online Sources- ESPN Soccernet, LAHT, Reuters, AP, Guardian UK, The Latin Americanist

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Brazil Finds Cause of Blackout

According to BBC Americas, Brazilian government claims that cause of the 5 hour long blackout was from a severe storm.

Yesterday up to a fifth of the population of Brazil was without electric power- one of the worst in recent years.

The Government states that the strong winds, heavy rain and lightning brought down a power line in Brazil, cutting two other lines and ultimately shutting the important Itaipu dam, which is the source to most of the countries power.

Even neighboring Paraguay was also briefly in the dark.

The Itaipu hydroelectric plant, which supplies 20% of Brazil's power, was initially under suspicion. However, officials there said the facility was up and working normally.

Although the government defends their power grid, critics are beginning to question their ability to power the olympics in 2016.

Photo Source: BBC News, 2009

Today’s Video: "The Borinqueneers"

Wednesday is Veteran’s Day in the U.S. and Remembrance Day throughout the British Commonwealth. It’s easy to debate on whether some conflicts are worth fighting for or if decisions made by commanders are too risky. What is undeniable, however, is that being a soldier on the front lines is a duty filled with danger as well as valor.

"The Borinqueneers" was the nickname given to the U.S. Army’s 65th Infantry Regiment which was made up of nearly 2000 Puerto Ricans. They fought in several 20th-century wars and their bravery was recognized with 115 individual awards after World War II. Sadly they’ve been mostly overlooked in the annals of history and their most famed moment was also their most controversial:
In 1950, the 65th was once again called upon and so they set off to Korea. It was during this time that the 65th Infantry soldiers began to call themselves the Borinqueneers. In Korea, the Borinqueneers were faced with many hardships and suffered many casualties; throughout this they remained determined even supporting a mission that allowed encircled Marines to return to their ships safely. They participated in many battles and operations each time fighting valiantly.

Unfortunately, mass court martials would come to many Borinqueneers. Due to language barriers, humiliation and exhaustion, many Borinqueneers refused to fight. They were even ordered to stop calling themselves the Borinqueneers. All this after the Hispanic commander of the unit was relieved and replaced with a non-Hispanic commander. The largest court martial of the Korean War, ninety five court martials and ninety one found guilty and sentenced to hard labor. All those involved were quickly granted clemency and pardons but never formally exonerated.
In 2007 an award-winning documentary focused on The Borinqueneers and shined a deserving light on this unique group of fightin’ Boricuas:

Online Sources- YouTube, AP, NPR, Wikipedia, The Borinqueneers film website

Bolivian Holiday: Day of the Skulls

Day of the Skulls, La Paz, Bolivia

The Day of the Skulls is a religious celebration shared by most indigenous people in Bolivia that represents a mix of ancient ritual with Catholic religion.

One of the day's most revered symbols are the "natitas" - (or "flat noses") in the local Aymara indigenous language. These are in fact actual human skulls which are coveted by thousands of Catholic indigenous Bolivians. These indigenous peoples believe the skulls will protect them from evil, help them achieve goals and even work miracles.

The skulls are sometimes exhumed and sometimes passed from hand to hand. They spend most of their time indoors but are paraded in the city's main public cemetery annually.

"The rite is now a blend of Catholic and indigenous beliefs, but has its roots in ancient rituals for the death practised by the country's Indian groups such as the pre-Inca Aymara and Quechua," says Dr Josef Estermann, an Andean theology expert.

Unfortunately, the Catholic Church does not agree with the mix of religion unanimously.

Earlier this month the Church called on the faithful to stop using human skulls at special mass celebrations. The Archbishop of La Paz, Edmundo Abastoflor, urged followers of the Andean rite to "let them rest in peace".

However, some priests believe they have no other choice than to let people pray Catholic prayers to their skulls, and even allow them to go to church with them.

"I receive them and not as enemies of the Catholic faith," the cemetery's Roman Catholic priest, Father Jaime Fernandez, told the BBC after giving an informal blessing to thousands of skull-carrying devotees at the cemetery's chapel.

The mix of indigenous practice and Catholic religion is very common amongst Latin American societies. The collision of the two further represents the unique and diverse culture that is Latin American.

Red, rouge, rojo

Call it a case of political paranoia.

This past weekend a 10K race was held in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas. Participants were provided with t-shirts handed out by the event’s sponsor though one of the runners- an opposition figure- was upset that the clothes were colored red. Since President Hugo Chavez “has adopted red as a main symbol of his movement”, former Caracas mayor Leopoldo Lopez was not a happy camper.

Cue the controversy:
"The color red in Venezuela is loaded with political symbolism and shouldn't be a part of a sporting event like this," said Lopez, who went to his internet Twitter page to issue more disgruntled remarks about the shirts.

Uberto Brunicardi, marketing manager for Nike in Venezuela and an organizer of the race, dismissed any allegations that Nike chose the color red with any politics in mind.

After all, he points out that the race shirts were yellow one year, blue the next and orange after that. For this year, he said Nike had mass-produced hundreds of thousands of the red-colored shirts for its worldwide Human Race held last month in cities all around the world, and they simply decided to use the same shirts for Caracas.

"For us, red is just another color," Brunicardi said.
What do you think?

Image- BBC News
Online Sources- Wall Street Journal

Brazil recovering from blackout

Parts of Brazil including the major cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are gradually resuming power after a major blackout left these areas without electricity last night:

As mentioned in the above video, officials have laid blame on a problem at the Itaipu hydroelectric dam. There was a "99-percent chance the blackout happened because of a storm" said the head of the agency in charge of the dam to CNN. Traffic lights were knocked out in Sao Paulo and most travel ground to a halt in Rio as residents waited out the outage.

The Itaipu dam is the world's second biggest hydroelectric producer and exports energy to neighboring countries. Thus, it should come as no surprise that there was a 30-minute interruption of electricity in Paraguay.

The outage has raised questions over the viability of Brazil’s electrical grid, especially in anticipation of a pair of major sporting vents (the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics in Rio). "We don't need this to happen. I don't know how it could get worse," said one Rio resident to the AP over how the outage could have a negative impact on his city’s global image.

Brazil had previously suffered two major blackouts in 2005 and 2007 which “60 Minutes” claimed to have been caused by hackers. However, government investigators subsequently concluded that the 2007 outage was caused by the “utility company’s negligent maintenance of high voltage insulators on two transmission lines.”

Online Sources- Huffington Post,, Bloomberg, CNN, Wikipedia, NPR, YouTube

Daily Headlines: November 11, 2009

* Costa Rica: Former vice president Laura Chinchilla is the odds-on favorite to become Costa Rica’s next president and one of the few female head of states in Latin America.

* U.S.: Lost among the hullabaloo over the execution of the “D.C. Sniper” was that of ex-gang leader and convicted murderer Yosvanis “El Cubano” Valle.

* Paraguay: Who was behind the suspected poisoning with pesticide of over 200 indigenous Paraguayans?

* Puerto Rico: Tensions could once again come to a boil in Puerto Rico after an additional 2000 public workers were laid off on top of the 12,000 dismissed earlier this year.

Image –
Online Sources- CNN, USA TODAY, Houston Chronicle, Angus Reid Consultants,

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Please help El Salvador!

The wild weather of the past few weeks has wrecked havoc in parts of Latin America from flooding in Mexico to the rationing of electricity in Ecuador. Yet as we mentioned today, no country has been hit as hard as El Salvador where at least 130 people have died and a state of emergency has been declared:

Several countries as well as the U.N. have mobilized to send relief to the Central American country but so can you. Event the tiniest bit of aid can go a long way in getting much needed funds and supplies to El Salvador. There are several ways you can help:
  • ReliefWeb provides updates and links to different organizations helping El Salvador such as the Red Cross.
  • The Comité Cívico Salvadoreño de New York is mainly seeking donations; they can be reached via e-mail at or you can click here to obtain their phone number.
  • Salvadoran expats in Los Angeles helped create a bank account solely for the use of sending donations to their countrymen.
  • Lastly, Chicago’s Mexican community has helped via the historic Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. (Click here for more details).
If you know of any other charitable efforts please don’t hesitate to let us know; leave a comment to this post or write to us at Let’s do our share to help those in need!

Online Sources- ReliefWeb, MSNBC, El Diario/La Prensa, El Financiero, La Opinion, The Latin Americanist, AP, LAHT

Mother Nature Wreaks Havoc in Central America

After hitting much of Central America with heavy flooding and high-speed winds, Hurricane Ida has now turned into Tropical Storm Ida. Ida is presently hitting areas of the Gulf Coast as residents of Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida brace themselves for the declared emergencies. Fortunately the storm has died down since it plowed through areas of Central America. Before the effects of Ida hit the U.S. it wreaked havoc in much of Central America, and was especially damaging in El Salvador.

Ida affected thousands in Nicaragua and Honduras by causing heavy rains and damage. Although many were fleeing to shelters, there were no reported casualties in these countries. Mexico was also fortunate, as Ida didn't quite reach land in the Yucatan Peninsula, as was originally expected. Unfortunately, in El Salvador the situation was much worse. With winds reaching 70mph, Ida caused flooding and landslides, leaving residents with buried cars and homes. The capital San Salvador and the province San Vincente were hit hardest. In Verapaz, located in the province of San Vincente, residents dug out survivors with their bare hands. Over 130 people have died so far in El Salvador, many are missing, and about 7,000 are living in shelters. Because of flooding and collapsed bridges many towns have been cut off from the outside and are in desperate need of government aid, including clean drinking water and other supplies. Neighboring countries like Guatemala have sent troops and aid workers to help.

Online Sources: BBC News, Associated Press, AFP, ReliefWeb
Image: Washington Post

Daily Headlines: November 10, 2009

* Cuba: Cuban bloggers have been unfairly harassed and repressed by the island’s government and in the latest incident one of the country’s best-known bloggers claimed to have been briefly detained and attacked by “three state security agents.”

* Mexico: Mexican authorities found a secret 133-yard tunnel under construction below the U.S.-Mexico border.

* Colombia: Colombian coffee growers will harvest 30% less this year according to the head of the committee overseeing Colombia’s national coffee exporters association.

* Brazil: Officials at Brazil’s Bandeirante University reversed its idiotic decision to expel a female student who wore a “mid-thigh length red dress.”

Image – MSNBC (Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez said that she was threatened and assaulted by local police last week.)
Online Sources- CNN, MSNBC, Reuters, The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg, LAHT

Monday, November 9, 2009

Weekly Debate: Health care reform & immigration

As we mentioned over the weekend, the U.S. House of Representatives approved by a narrow margin a landmark health care reform bill (H.R.3962). There has been plenty of controversy about the proposal including an amendment barring federal funds for insuring certain forms of abortion. Largely unnoticed amid the hullabaloo is the clause on immigrant coverage:
(A) REQUIREMENT- No individual shall be an affordable credit eligible individual (as defined in section 342(a)(1)) unless the individual is a citizen or national of the United States or is lawfully present in a State in the United States (other than as a nonimmigrant described in a subparagraph (excluding subparagraphs (K), (T), (U), and (V)) of section 101(a)(15) of the Immigration and Nationality Act).
In other words, undocumented immigrants won’t be covered under the prospective public health care scheme.

Currently illegal immigrants are ineligible for all forms of federal health care and H.R.3962 may force them to privately purchase their own health care. (It has been estimated that approximately half of all illegal immigrants already pay for their own health insurance.) This may be a very big problem for the Latino community; a Pew Hispanic Center survey recently found that “six out of 10 U.S. Hispanic illegal immigrants lack health insurance, more than twice the rate for legal Latino residents and citizens and three times the average for the population as a whole.”

Opponents of the clause have argued that it would unfairly “delay or deny access to healthcare for citizen children because of their parents’ status.” Yet much like the abortion compromise in H.R.3962 may've helped it pass the House, the tougher language on illegal immigrants in the Senate’s version may help that bill get passed. (This appears to be part of the Obama administration’s risky strategy to garner legislative support for health care reform).

What do you think? Should the health care reform bill include a clause to exclude undocumented immigrants? Should Congress approve the proposal or reject it? How do you think Latinos will be affected by the possible changes to health care?

Let us know your opinion via the comments and/or voting in our poll. Let your voice be heard as long as you keep it civil please!

Image- ABC News (“A Hispanic patient undergoes radiotherapy treatment for cancer.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Guanabee, Open Congress,,, CBS News

Venezuela Teams up with Russia on Tech Boost

Venezuela is in talks with Russia over a series of agreements regarding the sharing of technology. Moscow hopes to provide the Latin American country with technology for the development of industries ranging from robotics to biochemistry.

According to Venezuela's science and technology minister, Jesse Chacon, the agreements will likely be signed next year.

Russian authorities have presented more than 5,000 various technological projects to Venezuela for consideration.

Photo Source: Associated Press, Yahoo, 2009

Honduran Authorities Discover Secret Meth Transport Landing Strip

Honduran authorities discovered a secret landing strip on property once owned by an assassinated congressman. Now the congressman’s estate is in investigation for suspected trafficking in precursor chemicals for methamphetamine.

The ranch was owned by Mario Hernandez, a congressmen killed by unknown gunmen in November 2008.

According to Juilian Gonzalez, anti-narcotics director fo the national attorney general’s office, Hernandez sold his property to his driver shortly before his death. He said investigators believe the property -- known around town as the ''Mexican ranch'' -- was used by drug traffickers tied to Mexico's powerful Sinaloa cartel.

"The company had been a front for providing pseudoephedrine to drug cartels," Gonzalez said.

Honduras is well known for being a big-time transit country for drug smuggling, which authorities believe has increased since the United States limited military cooperation to protest the coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya.

Photo Source

Today's Video: Chavez, troops to prepare for war

Online Source: Reuters

Daily Headlines: November 9, 2009

* Brazil: Last year, Mexico’s Catholic Church denounced “the lack of modesty” shown by women who wear miniskirts. Last month, a Brazilian university student was berated by classmates and was subsequently expelled for wearing a “mid-thigh length red dress.”

* Haiti: Jean-Max Bellerive is expected to be Haiti’s next prime minister after being easily confirmed by both legislative chambers.

* Guatemala: Could Guatemala become Latin America’s next major energy source?

* Dominican Republic: The Dominican Republic’s rebounding tourist industry may help the country bounce back from its recent economic woes.

Image – BBC
Online Sources- Washington Post, Reuters, The Latin Americanist, UPI, LAHT