Friday, November 27, 2009

Today's Video: Pistolera Friday night!

If you're in the New York City area and looking for something to do tonight check out Pistolera at the Highline Ballroom. The group- who we highlighted last December- specializes in great politically-motivated tunes on topics like the immigration debate. (Opening for them is the also brilliant Forro in the Dark).

Below is the music video for Pistolera's catchy and satirical "Policia":

We'll return over the weekend for a few post-Thanksgiving posts. (Here is a hint at one of the stories we might tackle).

Online Sources - Highline Ballroom, YouTube, BBC News, The Latin Americanist

Daily Headlines: November 27, 2009

* Latin America: Ecuador’s LDU Quito are ninety minutes away from winning the Copa Sudamericana after whipping Brazilian side Fluminense 5-1 in the first leg of the final.

* Brazil: Some of Rio de Janeiro’s upper-class neighborhoods were hit with a blackout on Tuesday less than two weeks after a massive outage left over 60 million Brazilians briefly in the dark.

* Peru: The country’s Shining Path rebels may form a political group and post candidates for the 2011 general elections.

* Chile: According to a recent autopsy on Victor Jara, the Chilean folk singer and activist was tortured and shot to death shortly after the infamous 1973 military coup.

Image – Soccerway (Edison Mendez’ hat trick helped LDU Quito inch ever so close to winning the Copa Sudamericana).
Online Sources- USA TODAY, The Latin Americanist, Reuters, LAHT, MSNBC

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Honduran election analysis

US Honduras observers across the spectrum are gearing up for this weekend's elections, and the sides are clearly drawn. As the Honduran institutional position seems entrenched in obviating Zelaya and electing a new president, and the position of the rest of Latin America remainins nearly unanimously anti-coup, most US-based analysis this month has focused on the evolving US position towards recognition of the elections.

Here is a sampling of the news analysis coming out from the most clearly drawn angles of the international community this month:
  • Conservatives and anti-Chavistas and it' pushing the "restoration of democracy" and the legitimacy of Sunday's vote. M.A. O'Grady's WSJ column has pretty much read the same way since July, and this Nov. 2 article on the US position is as good a summary as any. This op-ed from the Washington Post offers a little more measured analysis to support the elections and the US position.  
  • International leftists are upset with the US stance on the elections, and some peddling conspiracy theories. An article by 21st Century Socialism's Calvin Tucker the Guardian and this statement from WOLA cover the familiar arguments. Open Society's George Vickers calls the Sunday vote a sham election.
  • Middle of the road analysis suggests that the US should not have given its support tot he elections so quickly but that elections may be a positive step forward. Daniel Altshuler's careful analysis on the local effects of the ongoing standoff offer as much insight into the US role as any of the above mentioned ideological ones. Here's his piece from the HuffPo today. I wrote a piece in CIF a few weeks ago on the importance of cementing the accord that the US successfully brokered, then let drift away.
Looking forward, Boz has gleaned some numbers on voter turnout from the Honduran Electoral Council's website, and offers some solid analysis on what it will take to consider the election a victory for the "coup plotters" or the boycotters. Time and a presumably a lot more coverage next week will tell.

Thanksgiving revisited

Note: The following post first appeared on this blog on Thanksgiving Day, 2008.

There are numerous myths surrounding what is professed to be the first Thanksgiving holiday in 1621. For instance, the occasion was marked by three days of “drinking, gambling, athletic games, and even target shooting with English muskets” and the noshing of venison and cod.
There’s the belief, however, that the first Thanksgiving was not celebrated in New England but thousands of miles away in present-day Texas. No, I’m not joking:
Penny Colman uses this question as a premise for her book. The result is "Thanksgiving: The True Story," a collection of her research in very readable text augmented with charts, maps and pictures. Readers 8-14 will find much information for their own enjoyment and research.

Many debate where the first Thanksgiving took place.

For example, in 1598, a Spanish explorer, Juan de Onate, settled in present-day New Mexico. The account of the settlement's "thanksgiving" was recorded by poet Perez de Villagra in 1610. People in the area consider it the "first Thanksgiving." A re-enactment of Onate's settlement is held annually in San Elizario, Texas.

The Texas Society Daughters of American Colonists in Palo Duro Canon, Texas, declare their location as the "first." In Florida, both La Caroline and St. Augustine believe their cities were the earliest places of celebration.
Image- ("Statue of Don Juan de Onate. flikr creative commons/advanced source productions")
Online Sources- Neatorama, Deseret News

Daily Headlines: November 26, 2009

* Latin America: As part of yesterday’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women a new U.N. report concluded that two out of every five women in Latin America have been targets of physical abuse.

* Puerto Rico: Thousands of Puerto Ricans marched in San Juan in remembrance of gay teen activist brutally slain earlier this month.

* Colombia: A local court sentenced a former general to forty years in jail for his role in a 1997 massacre carried out by rightist paramilitaries.

* Argentina: The country’s legislature named as “Woman of the Year” a transsexual who fought legally for a decade to be legally identified as a woman.

Image – BBC News
Online Sources- AP, The Latin Americanist, Los Angeles Times, LAHT, MSNBC

Dear Mr. Obama...

Obama writes Lula. Lula writes back.Who knew being a world leader required advanced skills in Microsoft Word?

In his response, Lula gave Obama a friendly warning that recognizing the outcome of this weekend's Honduran elections would isolate the US in the region.

Lower down the chain of command, Brazilian foreign policy adviser, Marco AurĂ©lio Garcia told White House National Security Advisor Jim Jones that “very important countries — the majority in terms of population and political weight — won’t recognize” the results of the election.

A divided hemisphere will certainly make it more difficult to confront major regional challenges like drug trafficking, immigration, and trade.

On a less wonky note, the potential for a continued standoff also raises the amusing question of just how long Mel Zelaya can stay holed up in the Brazilian embassy.

Image Source:
Online Sources: NY Times, Reuters

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

World Watch: Solemnity in Mumbai

* India: Vigils and other commemorative actions are being held in memory of the three-day siege in Mumbai which began one year ago this Thursday.

* Middle East: In a surprising about-face Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a ten-month suspension in the edification of new Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

* Philippines: Police have arrested twenty men suspected of participating in a politically-motivated massacre earlier this week that killed 57 people.

* Saudi Arabia: Worries of the swine flu and heavy rains may deter some Muslims from traveling to Mecca for the Hajj pilgrimage according to Saudi officials.

Image – BBC News
Online Sources- Los Angeles Times, Reuters, Bloomberg, BBC News

Daily Headlines: November 25, 2009

* U.S.: Albert Pujols won his third career National League M.V.P. award after having lead the majors in home runs, runs and slugging percentage.

* Cuba: The Obama administration’s plans to close the Guantanamo prison took another blow when the official in charge of shutting the jail down abruptly resigned.

* Paraguay: Improving trade ties was the main topic of discussion between U.S. and Paraguayan representatives over the weekend.

* Mexico: Mexico’s economy may be rebounding as the unemployment rate slowly improves.

Image – CBC
Online Sources- AFP, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Reuters

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Daily Headlines: November 24, 2009

* Peru: The country’s Supreme Court began a three day appeals inquiry into the 25 year jail sentence against former president Alberto Fujimori.

* Venezuela: Authorities in Uganda are none too pleased with Venezuelan chief Hugo Chavez who expressed “doubts” over the cruelty of the late dictator Idi Amin.

* Guatemala: International adoptions may resume after a two year moratorium caused by fraud and corruption.

* Mexico: Support for President Felipe Calderon has been sliding since May though nearly three in five Mexicans back him.

Image – EFE
Online Sources- AFP, AP, The Latin Americanist, Angus Reid Consultants

Monday, November 23, 2009

Today’s Video: Remembering “Ricky”

Tuesday would have been the 89th birthday of the late Mexican-born actor Ricardo Montalban. The pioneering actor- who died last January- was famous for his smooth, accented voice though his true legacy was to help gain better representation of Latinos in the film industry.

The below video comes from his 1959 guest appearance on the game show “I've Got A Secret”. In this funny clip, Montalban has some fun acting out some well-known idioms of the time. (Note how the host refers to Montalban as “Ricky” and how his wardrobe makes him look like an extra on “Mad Men”).

Online Sources- IMDB, YouTube, The Latin Americanist

U.S. Pledges 15 Million in Aid to Guatemala

Guatemala, one of the poorest countries in Latin America, is experiencing some difficult times. Guatemala has endured a food shortage since May. Recently, severe drought has contributed to malnutrition, particularly in the nation's eastern region. Food staples such as maize and beans have been reduced by half. The United States has pledged 15 million dollars to Guatemala in order to feed thousands. The aid will mostly go toward feeding young children under five, pregnant women and mothers who are breastfeeding.

About 25 children have already died of malnutrition in the eastern region so far this year and the government estimates that about 400,000 families are "at risk of food insecurity." Mexico, Venezuela, and Brazil also offered to send aid back in September.

For ways to help go to Mayan Families

Online Sources: CCTV, CBC News

Chavez in the News

President Hugo Chavez just can't seem to get his name out of the news this week. As a result of the agreement by the U.S. and Colombia allowing increased U.S. military presence at a number of bases in Colombia, tensions between Colombia and Venezuela have increased. The United States says that the increased military presence in Colombia is needed in order to combat drug traffickers in the area. From Chavez's point of view, he has grown increasingly wary of the "imperialist" United States and is apparently preparing for a possible armed attack by the United States and/or Colombia.

How is Chavez preparing? With no interest in speaking directly to Colombia, Chavez has urged civilians of Venezuela to join government-organized militias in order to prepare for possible foreign attacks. He has also purchased 4 billion dollars worth of Russian arms since 2005 and recently purchased 300 armored vehicles and Russian war tanks.

Also this weekend, Chavez was heard praising the alleged terrorist "Carlos the Jackal," whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez. A controversial imprisoned (in France since 1975) Venezuelan figure, Ramirez is infamous for killing two French secret agents and an alleged informant, leading an attack that killed three people at the OPEC headquarters in Vienna, tied to the hijacking of an AirFrance jet, and is accused of having a role in car bombings and train bombings in France. Chavez has called him a "revolutionary fighter" and said that he has been placed in a category of leaders who are wrongly labeled as "bad guys" like Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Chavez referred to Ramirez as a friend and controversially addressed him as "Dear Compatriot" when responding to a letter Ramirez wrote him from prison in 1999.

As if that wasn't enough to spring him into the top headlines, he recently invited Fidel Castro to Venezuela, stating that "Venezuela awaits you" in a letter read aloud to Castro during Chavez's Saturday night televised speech.

Online Sources: Associated Press
Image Source: Open Salon

Mexican Mennonites Impacted by Drug Violence

Although the recent influx of drug violence in Mexico has put focus on urban cities like Ciudad Juarez, many rural communities have felt the same wrath.

According to retired Mennonite rancher, Abraham Peters,"they have murdered Mennonite people… the drug-traffickers."

Mr Peters' Mennonite community is one of many caught in the crossfire as the Mexican government takes initiative on fighting the illegal drug trade.

Although many Mennonites believe the violence comes from outside groups, Mr. Peters contests that threats to Mennonite values are coming from within.

"There are Mennonites involved in the drug [trade]… in distribution," he alleges.

The drug related violence has begun to hit people from all corners of a nation, and further defines the scope of the nation's problem.

Image Source

Brazilians Take Steps Toward Reforestation

Deforestation has fallen by half in Brazil since 2006, even with the threat of sanctions against ranchers and the better enforcement of environmental regulations curbing the destruction of the world's biggest rain forest. Still, a large chunk of forest the size of Connecticut was destroyed last year.

With such a frightening statistic, many Brazilian farmers are taking initiative in replanting soybeans on the recently vacant earth. One farmer, Luiz Alberto Bortolini, began this process nearly twenty years ago, and now has hundreds of farmers following in his footsteps. Their collective goal is to set aside one-third of their farms for native vegetation, which is revolutionary in a region long resistant to environmental controls.

According to Bortolini, "This is in the farmers' interests because the farmer is the one most dependent on the environment."

Some government officials believe this is the strong start needed to recreate their precious natural resource: the rain forest.

The Washington Post reports:

The initiative, driven by the market and by new pressure from regulators, comes as the government considers proposals to dramatically reduce the rainforest destruction that has made Brazil a leading producer of greenhouse gases. Earlier this month, Brazil said it would cut emissions by up to 38.9 percent from projected 2020 levels, a pledge designed to encourage other countries to take major steps at next month's global warming summit in Copenhagen.

"I think what they are moving towards is essentially a no-deforestation position by 2030," said David Cleary, who oversees conservation strategies in Latin America for the Nature Conservancy, an international conservation organization. "It's way, way beyond any commitment that Brazil has made in deforestation before."

Photo Source

Lula & Ahmadinejad Get Chummy

Riding the wave of Brazil's emergence as an economic power, president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva hasn't wasted many chances to increase his country's profile on the international stage.

Lula is front and center today, hosting a state visit by controversial Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The Iranian president's visit has raised some eyebrows in the US, with several experts claiming that Brazil's engagement with Iran will undermine the West's efforts to convince Iran to scrap its nuclear armament programs. Protesters also took to the streets in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro to denounce the Iranian leader's controversial position on Israel, the Holocaust.

Delving even deeper into Mideast affairs, Lula expressed his hope to become more involved in the Israel-Palestine crisis and is promoting his goal of seeing a joint Israeli-Palestine soccer team take the field against Brazil's all-stars.

After many years of fruitless US-led efforts to bridge the Israeli-Palestinian divide, it seems unlikely that a soccer game will do the trick. But under Lula's leadership, Brazil will likely continue to become an increasingly major player on the world stage.

Image Source: NY Times
Online Sources: NY Times, AFP, Guardian, Bloomberg, Reuters

Daily Headlines: November 23, 2009

* Puerto Rico: Vigils were held over the weekend in New York, San Fransisco, and other parts of the U.S. in memory of a gay Puerto Rican teen recently murdered in a homophobic attack.

* Argentina: The country’s legislature overwhelmingly backed a proposal that would permit obligatory extraction of DNA from “Dirty War” orphans.

* Cuba: A former State Department official and his wife pled guilty in a U.S. federal court to charges of spying for the Cuban government.

* Brazil: Renowned Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer has reportedly returned to work over a month after being hospitalized for surgery and only weeks before his 102nd birthday.

Image – CNN (“Police say the body of Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, 19, had been decapitated, dismembered and partially burned.”)
Online Sources-, AP, BBC News, MSNBC, The Latin Americanist, WPIX