Friday, February 19, 2010

Who killed Bradley Will?

In 2006 U.S. freelance journalist Bradley Will was killed along with two others while covering massive unrest in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. Since then it’s unknown who shot him and the Mexican government has been accused of mishandling of his case.

Yesterday Mexican authorities due to a lack of evidence released the man suspected of Will’s death. Juan Manuel Martinez- a protestor and member of the Popular Assembly of Oaxaca Peoples (APPO)- claimed that he was a “political prisoner” after having spent sixteen months behind bars. Moreover, human rights groups and Will’s family have argued that Martinez was innocent and a scapegoat. “This was a distraction,” said Will’s mother to the New York Times while Reporters Without Borders accused authorities of framing Martinez:
The Will family lawyer, Miguel Ángel de los Santos, told Reporters Without Borders: “We are now waiting for the investigation to resume, but this time in an objective manner.” De los Santos never thought Martínez had anything to do with Will’s murder and nor did Reporters Without Borders. Martínez was scapegoat. To protect the governor’s bodyguards, the Oaxaca authorities used the local judicial authorities to try to pin the murder on the APPO.

This episode has highlighted the incompetence or complicity of both the local and federal authorities at a time when press freedom is seriously threatened in Mexico, now the hemisphere’s most dangerous country for journalists. A recent study by Article 19 and the National Centre for Social Communication (Cencos), a Mexican NGO, blamed 65 per cent of the attacks on the press on the authorities, and only 6.15 per cent on organised crime.
The Oaxaca attorney general’s office has yet to bring charges against officials or police possibly involved in the death of Will. Last year, the Mexican Supreme Court in a non-binding ruling signaled Martinez as the lone gunman.

In the end the question still remains over who killed Bradley Will? One clue could be found via the Not Safe For Work video shot by Will as he was killed. Judge for yourself:

Online Sources- Reporters Without Borders, LAHT, YouTube, Canadian Press, The Latin Americanist

Daily Headlines: February 19, 2010

* Latin America: A study conducted in several countries including Guatemala and Argentina found that newborn-care training leads to a notable drop in the stillborn rate.

* Puerto Rico: In the latest frivolous plan to combat crime in Puerto Rico all cell phones may soon have to be registered.

* Ecuador: After asserting that Ecuador has overcome its “energy turmoil”, the country’s energy minister said that Ecuador could export electricity to Colombia and Venezuela.

* Peru: According to Peru’s state media the country could reach a free trade agreement with the European Union as soon as next week.

Image – SheKnows
Online Sources- UPI, AFP, LAHT, Wall Street Journal

Thursday, February 18, 2010

De Musica Ligera: Ruben Blades, Renaissance man

He’s been an activist, an actor, a lawyer, and a failed presidential candidate. More than any of those qualities Ruben Blades is a musician and a damn good one at that. He worked alongside some of the biggest salsa stars of the past forty years including Willie Colon and Hector Lavoe, and his more recent works are gems of Latin jazz.

Recently U.S. news program “PBS NewsHour” examined Blades’ multifaceted career and what he defines as a “bull-ocracy”:

Thanks to PBS for contacting us and making us aware of the great interview featured above.
Online Sources- YouTube, Ruben Blades’ Official Website

Panama & Colombia Discuss Free Trade Pact

Intra-regional trade is the hottest concept since using your phone as a credit card terminal.

Colombia and Panama wanted to stay hip so today they began talks around signing a free trade pact.

Panama is awash with Chinese goods, but Panama’s Vice Minister of Trade Francisco Alvarez De Soto thinks there's plenty of room for Colombian products in the Panamanian market.

“Panama would be an interesting market for Colombia,” De Soto said in an interview in Panama City. “We are a threat to no one.”

Beyond that surprisingly blasé explanation, another reason for the urgency around the pact, according to Business Week:

"Colombian exports to Venezuela may fall by about two-thirds to $1.5 billion this year as a lingering recession and electricity crisis there further suppress demand, central bank chief Jose Dario Uribe said last month."


Colombia's FTA with Panama very well may come to pass before the slow-moving deal with the US, though the Panama deal may give Congress a boost to push the ball forward.

Online sources: Business Week, Reuters, TechCrunch
Image Source: Fernando Botero "Masacre" via Huffington Post

Families suffer after foreclosures

Foreclosures threaten to break apart Latino families, creating depression, tension and stress, according to a new report from the National Council of La Raza.

The group, together with The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Center for Community Capital, this week released the report, “The Foreclosure Generation: The Long-Term Impact of the Housing Crisis on Latino Children and Families.”

The report follows 25 families who had to leave their homes because of foreclosure. NCLR president Janet Murguía said about 1.3 million Latino families will lose their homes between 2009 and 2012.

Not surprisingly, parents, spouses and children reported feeling the weight of the burden. Many of the students had behavioral problems, and families reported siblings not getting along.

Also, families reported feelings like depression, anxiety, tension, guilt and resentment.

Only one family had savings to use in case of a financial emergency, according to the report, and others were skimping on medical care to get by.

In related news, the Associated Press reports that suburban homelessness is straining shelters around the country. A Guatemalan living in a shelter in Long Island is one example.

Sources: National Mortgage Professional, NCLR

Photo: AP via

Obama meets with king Juan Carlos

President Barack Obama met with Spanish King Juan Carlos I at the White House yesterday.

The two discussed American and Middle Eastern events, the AFP reported. In particular, they discussed Cuba and Venezuela, as well as the post-earthquake Haiti.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Advisor James Jones also attended the meeting.

King Juan Carlos I apparently was miffed after Obama announced that he would not attend a U.S.-European Union summit that the Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez had made a priority.

The Associated Press reported that the White House did not say whether the skipped date was discussed.

Obama "highlighted his interest in strengthening our partnership with Spain," the AP reported.

Before meeting with the president, King Juan Carlos was busy visiting Spanish troops in Lebanon.

Sources: AP, AFP, Latin American Herald Tribune

Photo: AP

Daily Headlines: February 18, 2010

* Honduras: Should foreign aid be resumed to Honduras under new president Porfirio Lobo or continue to be withheld in light of human rights abuses?

* Cuba: In what may be a thaw in relations between the U.S. and Cuba migration negotiations between both countries will begin on Friday.

* Latin America: More needs to be done region wide in order to protect the environment according to a new U.N. report.

* Mexico: The country’s faltering economy may be improving after the government raised its 2010 GDP forecast by nearly 1%.

Image – AFP (Honduran “pedestrians walk past graffiti reading "A gorilla gave birth to a wolf (lobo)".)
Online Sources- Democracy Now, Denver Post, AFP, U.N. News Center, Reuters

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

One step forward, three steps back

A recent Miami Herald article noted that Latino disappointment at the Obama administration could be taken advantage of by Republicans eager to make inroads in the Latino vote. "’There's a great sense of frustration, there's a great sense of anger and there's a big letdown’ that will drive more Latinos to the Republican Party” California State Senate Republican Caucus consultant Hector Barajas was quoted as saying.

There is plenty of justifiable disillusionment by Latinos against the White House on a range of issues. Yet the GOP must also be careful not to give the impression of offering “just a bunch of empty promises” (to use Barajas’ words against the Democrats). Proposals like the one outlined below will not earn the Republicans many Brownie points in the Latino community:
Republican lawmakers in Congress are sponsoring a bill that seeks to abolish birthright citizenship for children born in the United States to illegal immigrant parents…

"You have many people coming to this country illegally," said Rep. Gary Miller…"They come to this country and have babies. The children are citizens. The children are eligible to go to school. They receive food stamps and social programs. The American taxpayers are paying for it"…

Adrian Pantoja, associate professor of political studies at Pitzer College in Claremont, said the legislation is "largely symbolic" and unlikely to pass.
The other symbolism of the bill is that it demonstrates that the GOP will have their work cut out for them to make significant inroads in the Latino vote. Even though the Democrats are not doing themselves too many favors (i.e. lack of comprehensive immigration reform), a massive swing in Latino support to the GOP is far from guaranteed.

Online Sources- Miami Herald, Whittier Daily News
Image- TIME (Picture of the teleprompter at a 2007 Republican presidential debate “on Univision, the party's first on a Spanish-language network.”)

Notable Quotable: Last but also first

"For me, just walking into the opening ceremonies and being here was like winning a gold medal...But I realized after that, this is it for me. I have a new chapter coming.”
---Argentine luger Ruben Gonzalez puts matters into perspective despite finishing last in the men’s luge at Vancouver Winter Olympics.

The 47-year-old former photocopier salesman made a new record by becoming the first athlete to compete in four different Winter Olympics in four different decades (1988, 1992, 2002 and 2010). After suffering his share of injuries over years of competing (and possibly influenced by the tragic death of Nodar Kumaritashvili), Gonzalez has retired from luge.

Image- Times Online
Online Sources- CTV, The Province,

Haiti’s aftermath: Gourdes and cents

Last Friday we examined one of the human costs of January’s earthquake in Haiti: immigration and repatriation. Today we take a quick look at the economic damage to post-earthquake Haiti.

The Caribbean nation had held for years the designation as the most impoverished country in the Western hemisphere. The country’s economy was gradually improving in 2009 though not without some problems such as widespread corruption. Unfortunately the earthquake dealt a massive blow to Haiti’s financial state.

What can be done to rebuild Haiti? On the one hand, foreign countries are trying to figure out how best to help Haitian reconstruction efforts. Conversely, there is the anxiety that international efforts will lead to exploitation of Haitians.

There is no easy answer for how to help restore Haiti’s economy, which the Inter-American Development Bank estimates could cost around $14 billion. In the meantime, some Haitians have certainly not rested on their laurels:
“Business is coming back little by little, despite the damage in the neighborhood, I guess because we Haitians like to keep our hair cut,” says Savien Franciscain, who is running both chairs at the tiny barber shop he operates in Port-au-Prince’s heavily damaged center. “I reopened Sunday, and it’s been pretty good ever since.”
Image- AFP
Online Sources- Christian Science Monitor, USA TODAY, The Latin Americanist, New York Times, The People’s Voice, Reuters

U.K., Argentina still at odds over Falklands

The Falklands War may have ended in 1982 yet Argentina and the U.K. continue to be at odds over the sovereignty of that island chain.

Last year the Argentine government called for talks over the future rule of the islands located off that country’s coast. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown subsequently denied that requested. In December British armed forces participated in war exercises near the Falklands, a move that was later criticized by Argentine officials. In turn, British authorities were none too pleased that Argentina’s legislature passed a new law “recognizing” that the Falklands as an Argentine province.

The latest salvo over the Falklands developed this month over British plans to explore for energy around the islands. Faced with the possibility of an “oil rush” near the Falklands, the Argentine government has stepped up its pressure to block what it feels is a violation of its territory:
Argentina said on Tuesday that boats sailing between it and the British-ruled Falkland Islands will need a government permit, deepening a row over oil exploration in the disputed archipelago…

Any boat that wants to travel between ports on the Argentine mainland to the Islas Malvinas, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands ... must first ask for permission from the Argentine government," (Cabinet Chief Anibal) Fernandez said.

He said a presidential decree would force all ships bound for the islands or traveling through waters claimed by Argentina to secure the new permit.
The British Foreign Office replied by noting that the decree “does not affect Falkland Islands territorial waters which are controlled by the island authorities."

Odds are very slim that both countries would reengage in conflict over the Falklands. Old wounds take time to heal, however, and hopefully diplomatic efforts can keep tensions from boiling over.

Image- El Informante (Sign reads “The Malvinas (Falklands) are Argentines.”)
Online Sources- BBC News, UPI, Reuters, Wikipedia

Daily Headlines: February 17, 2010

* Latin America: Guinea pigs have been an Andean delicacy for centuries but could they also help end food shortages in the war-torn Congo?

* U.S.: A federal lawsuit seeking the return of affirmative action in Californian public university admissions is expected to be filed soon.

* Colombia: If you believe that Colombia’s FARC guerillas are going away anytime soon then you should think again.

* Mexico: The swine flu hysteria and the weakened economy have been blamed for causing a 15% dip in Mexican tourism last year.

Image – Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Online Sources- Guardian UK, The Latin Americanist, MSNBC, UPI, Los Angeles Times

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Today's Video: Viva el Presidente Speedy!

Brilliant satire in the following Not Safe For Work video from The Onion:

Mexico Builds Border Wall To Keep Out U.S. Assholes
Online Source - The Onion

Weekly Debate: Unemployment and Latinos

Yesterday we looked at an International Labor Organization report that concluded that Latin American youth was the regional group “hit hardest” by the global economic crisis. The same phrase may be apt for people of color north of the border. A report released today by New York State Comptroller found that the unemployment rate for Latinos between December 2007 and December 2009 climbed to 13%. Compare that to the statewide unemployment rate during that period of 9% and it’s no wonder that DiNapoli observed that it “has not been an equal opportunity recession.”

Much like in New York Latino unemployment rates nationwide have been unequally high compared to the national average. A recent National Institute for Latino Policy study linked to by former contributor Maegan la mala found that the “seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for Latino households in January was an estimated 12.6 percent, compared to 8.7 percent for non-Latino Whites.” It is a situation “that should call attention to policymakers and for the general public” as National Institute of Latino Policy president Angelo Falcon recently mentioned in an NPR interview.

The need to tackle the disproportionately high unemployment rates for blacks and Latinos is something that has not been actively tackled by those in power. Perhaps NYU assistant professor C. Nicole Mason said it best earlier today:
In general, the (Obama) Administration has been reluctant to respond to the way the economic crisis has unevenly impacted racial and ethnic communities. Before the recession hit, the unemployment rate for Black and Latinos hovered around 8 percent and has nearly doubled since then. With fewer assets and savings compared to their whites, recovery and regaining some sense of economic normalcy is far off for many Blacks and Latinos.

Any re-tooling of the current stimulus bill and future legislation to spur job creation will have to take seriously the disproportionate impact the recession is having on racial and ethnic minorities. To do anything less would be irresponsible or essentially like using a sponge to assuage a flood.
So what do you think? Why do you believe people of color have been among those hit hardest by the recession? Can anything be done to lower Latino unemployment rates? Has the government done enough to confront the problem?

Let us know what you think by leaving a comment to this post (play nice!) and/or voting in our weekly poll. Let your voice be heard!

Image- Modesto Bee
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, New York State Comptroller’s Office, Vivirlatino, Huffington Post, NPR

Daily Headlines: February 16, 2010

* U.S.: Morrissey, Los Tigres Del Norte, and Aventura will have songs included in an album aimed at promoting Latino participation in the 2010 Census. (“Mentiras” by Los Amigos Invisibles will be on the album; hence, the above video).

* El Salvador: Authorities arrested three suspects accused in the September 2009 murder of Spanish filmmaker Christian Poveda.

* Mexico: Roman Catholic bishops have become the latest group to criticize the Mexican government’s anti-violence strategy.

* Chile: In a positive sign for Chile’s economy the country’s copper exports doubled in January.

Online Sources- NME, BBC News, LAHT, AP, Bloomberg

Monday, February 15, 2010

Peru: Valentine’s Day protest for gay marriage

Valentine’s Day on Sunday may have served as an occasion to exchange frivolous gifts or give empty compliments. For others, however, the day was a reminder of how we ought to share without prejudices our love and affection to those close to us. Such was the example in Latin America as was written in Living in Peru:

Five homosexual couples had a symbolic wedding in Peru on Valentine's Day, as part of their public actions advocating for their legal rights to get married…

The couples who participated in the symbolic wedding ceremony, that was officiated by an activist from the aforemention organization, took advantage of the district's rules, that ban all kind of discrimination. 

One of the “newlyweds” told the press “this is the first step to demand a change in the laws. We all have the same constitutional rights.”
If 140 Peruvian couples can unite in a mass wedding on Valentine’s Day than surely homosexual couples should be afforded the privilege to marry.

Image- Associated Content
Online Sources- Living in Peru, Press Association

Venezuela: Foreign firms win Orinoco bids

Venezuela’s government awarded two blocks available in the oil-rich Orinoco Belt to a pair of foreign firms.

Spain’s Repsol and U.S. company Chevron led a pair of separate consortiums in order to get permission to seek and drill oil in parts of the Orinoco area. The bids- which both totaled over $30 billion- grants Chevron and Repsol a 40% stake in the oil fields while state-run PVDSA holds 60%.

According to Reuters, oil firms aim to reap high rewards from the Orinoco belt though the risks are also great:
Companies are keen on low exploratory risk and manageable production costs offered by the three projects, which will produce 1.2 million barrels per day and hold total estimated 128 billion barrels of oil in place.

But developers also must build major infrastructure in isolated rural areas. Partners must provide nearly all financing for the $10 billion to $20 billion projects. And the government has mandated the fields must produce at more than double the rate of existing Orinoco belt projects.

"Convincing companies that these projects are viable has not been easy," acknowledged Baldo Sanso, an oil ministry advisor running the bidding, before receiving bids.
The auction was the biggest in eleven years and it attracted the attention of major international oil companies. One more Orinoco block remains open and it’s expected to fetch a steep price once the Venezuelan government decides to allow bidding on it.

Image- BBC News
Online Sources- MaarketWatch, Reuters, Business Week, Wall Street Journal

Spain accepts more Gitmo detainees

One of U.S. president Barack Obama’s first moves upon taking office in January 2009 was to order the shutdown of the Guantánamo Bay military prison. Since then his plans to close the jail by January 22nd of this year has run into opposition both domestically and abroad.

Nevertheless several countries have been willing to take in Guantanamo detainees, the latest example being Spain:
Spain has said it is willing to take five inmates from the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba, which the US administration has pledged to close.

Miguel Angel Moratinos, Spain's foreign minister, said on Monday that the former prisoners would not pose a security threat to the country.

"It will obviously be done with every legal guarantee needed in order to defend the country's security and legal situation," he said.
Spain had previously agreed to accept two detainees and their commitment to five more is the largest by any European country. Yet Moratinos added that Spain is “encouraging other European countries to do their utmost" to accept more Guantanamo prisoners.

Today’s news comes after ex-Vice President Dick Cheney admitted that he disagreed with the release of detainees under former President George W. Bush. “Where was he the last four years of the last administration?" asked current Vice President Joe Biden in response to Cheney’s criticisms on current national security policy.

Image- BBC News
Online Sources- Washington Post, AP, Al Jazeera English, AFP, The Latin Americanist

ILO: LatAm youth "hit hardest" by bad economy

The global economic slowdown has had a particularly negative effect on young people in the Americas. While the U.S. unemployment rate is near 10%, the unemployment rate for young Latinos is a staggering 37%. For Latin American youth already struggling to find work before the economic crisis, a recent International Labor Organization (ILO) report presented a darker picture.

According to the ILO study released last week at least 600,000 young people in Latin America were unemployed in 2009. “All indications are that youth were hit hardest by the crisis,” said ILO Latin American chief Jean Maninat as part of the agency’s report on unemployment in the region. Maninat urged countries to “invest in the creation of jobs” much like the emphasis placed on “salvaging the financial system.”

Aside from jobs, the ILO report also gave alarming data on education:
Of the 104 million young people in the region 34% only go to school, 33% only work, and 13% do both.

The body’s study also noted that 20% of Latin American youth neither attend school or work. – [Ed. Translated text]
Unless serious social, economic, and political steps are taken Latin America risks having a “lost generation” on its hands. Needless to say this would be an unfortunate and preventable waste.

Image- (“Ivan Garcia, 15 (center), who says he started working in the fields when he was 13, cuts broccoli near Celaya, Mexico.”)
Online Sources- Millenio, AFP, Los Angeles Times, New American Media

Daily Headlines: February 15, 2010

* U.S.: Don’t ignore the “Latino vote”; according to a report from America’s Voice Latinos will play a key role in at least forty Congressional midterm election races.

* Mexico: If President Felipe Calderon expected the welcome wagon during his visit last week to Ciudad Juarez then he was quite mistaken.

* Chile: Two officials at Chile’s mint are looking for new jobs after 1.5 million coins were misspelled “Chiie.”

* Brazil: Tourism authorities in Rio de Janeiro anticipate at least 700,000 visitors during the Carnaval season.

Image – U.S. News and World Report
Online Sources- Washington Post, AFP, BBC News, AP