Friday, March 5, 2010

Still waiting for reform

If the White House were to place as much effort into passing comprehensive immigration reform as they have in constantly delaying it then perhaps our current system wouldn’t be so problematic. Yet according to one report President Obama has spoken to a pair of Senators with the intent of creating a “blueprint” towards reform.

As originally reported on Friday in the Los Angeles Times, the president will meet with Democrat Charles E. Schumer of New York and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina on Monday. During the meeting they will discus the “basis” for a bipartisan proposal that could legalize the status of some of the near 11 million undocumented immigrants residing in the U.S. Conditions for citizenship would be pretty tough, according to the article, with applicants having “to register, pay taxes and pay a penalty for violating the law. Failure to comply might result in deportation.”

The possible bill would be a good start for a necessary and long overdue reform. Yet Democrats too cowardly to confront reform and Republicans too obstinate in the role as opposition would endanger any proposal:
"Right now we have a little problem with the 'Chicken Little' mentality: The sky is falling and consequently we can't do anything," Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., told the newspaper.

Republicans also said they weren't inclined to cooperate, particularly since Obama signaled this week he would push ahead with passage of a healthcare bill with or without GOP support, the newspaper said.

"The things you hear from the administration won't be well received," Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said.
In the meantime, the clock is ticking and the pressure is mounting against those in power to dig their heads out of the sand.

How much longer must we wait?

Image- CNN (Naturalized U.S. citizens take the oath at a 2009 ceremony).
Online Sources- Vivirlatino, UPI, Los Angeles Times, The Latin Americanist

Nuestro Cine: “Sentinels of Silence”

The Academy Awards are coming up this Sunday and a pair of Latin American films is among the five finalists to receive Best Foreign Film accolades. Peru’s “The Milk of Sorrow” and “The Secret in Their Eyes” from Argentina are vying to become only the second Latin American movie to win the coveted award.

The list of Latin American Oscar winners have been relatively few aside from the likes of Jose Ferrer winning Best Actor in 1950 and Rita Moreno winning Best Supporting Actress in 1961. One of the most unique accomplishments in Oscar history can be attributed to the Mexican short film “Centinelas del silencio” (“Sentinels of Silence”). In 1972 the film became the only short film ever to win a pair of Academy Awards. (A subsequent rule change ensured that “Centinelas del silencio” would be the only film to ever recieve such a distinction).

Below is the first part of the movie that provides stunning aerial visuals of pre-Columbian sites located in Mexico and Central America. Definitely worthy of the awards it received.

Online Sources- TIME, The Latin Americanist, YouTube, Wikipedia, IMDB

Daily Headlines: March 5, 2010

* Mexico: Hundreds of gay couples lined up in Mexico City’s registry yesterday after a groundbreaking gay marriage law went into effect.

* Latin America: First it was Colombia. Now Coca-Cola may be sued for “negligence and complicity in violence aimed at union activists” in Guatemala.

* Brazil: In a bad sign for the Brazilian economy the country’s inflation rate rose to its highest point in nearly two years.

* Colombia: Shakira’s charitable efforts had recently caught the attention of the White House and now the International Labor Organization who honored her this week.

Image – CBC (“A lesbian couple kiss after beginning the legal process towards marriage in front of a city government building in Mexico City, Thursday.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Vancouver Sun, Guardian UK, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, LAHT, Bloomberg

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Honduras Plagued by Ongoing Violence

Although accurate numbers are notoriously difficult to come by, Honduras has possibly the highest murder rate in the world.

The violence is political (from all sides), criminal (of the random and organized variety), urban and rural. As Mexican drug cartels expand their presence in Central America, Sinaloa Cartel boss Chapo Guzman has reportedly taken to 'resting' in Western Honduras.

Karol Cabrera is a Honduran journalist and relentless defender of the coup that ousted former President Mel Zelaya. Last year hit men on a motorcycle murdered her 16-year-old daughter who at the time was eight months pregnant.

Two days ago hit men came after Cabrera herself but only managed to kill fellow journalist Joseph Ochoa. When asked who was behind the attacks, Cabrera blamed the Popular Resistance Front, a pro-Zelaya group that maintains they had nothing to do with the attack.

Unfortunately, violence from multiple sides and sectors are likely to continue to plague Honduras. And it will continue to be impossible to paint a black-or-white picture of heroes and villains of the ongoing social and political strife.

Online Sources:, Latin American Herald Tribune, El Heraldo, Univision
Image Source: La Tribuna

Lightning strikes twice for Haitians in Chile

Some stories speak for themselves:

Members of the Desarmes family left Haiti two weeks after the devastating earthquake in January, joining their eldest son in Chile in what seemed a refuge from the chaos of Port-au-Prince.

Their sense of security lasted barely a month, until another powerful quake shook Chile at the weekend...

"I left my country and came here because of an earthquake," Seraphin Philomene, a 21-year-old student and cousin of Pierre, said yesterday. "And here, the same thing. My God, I left my country and I didn't die, but I'm going to die here"...

Philomene's father, Luigene, said when he heard that his daughter had been in the Chile earthquake he thought of a Haitian saying that loosely translates as: "We saved her from the river and she ended up in the sea." Now he feels she has divine protection and is hoping to join her in Chile.

"God is looking for out for us," he said. "Our family didn't die in Haiti so they aren't going to die in Chile either."

If you have yet to do so please take a few minutes of your time to open your hearts and donate to earthquake relief efforts in Haiti and Chile.

Online Sources- Guardian UK, The Latin Americanist

Image Source- Guardian UK ("From left, Pierre Desarmes, Seraphin Philomene and Jean Mary chat online in Chile with family members in Haiti")

Storm hit earthquake-ravaged Haiti

While Chile has started trying to bounce back from its recent earthquake Haitians have been hindered by Mother Nature in their recovery efforts.

At least thirteen Haitians were killed over the past few days as the Caribbean entered the rainy season. Rains and flooding have been reported as greater than normal partly as a result of a weak El Niño this year. Though the strongest precipitation is expected to fall in May, over 3500 families were evacuated from the southern part of Haiti over the weekend.

Especially hurt by the stormy weather are the hundreds of thousands of Haitians residing in tent camps and other post-earthquake makeshift edifices. The need to find safe and reliable shelter for Haitians has become a serious concern for international aid groups:
Getting the 1.3 million homeless quake survivors in Haiti under shelter before the onset of the country's wet season in the next couple of months is a top priority, UN and Red Cross officials said yesterday.

"We recognize that the rainy season represents a very grave threat to the quake-affected people in the improvised settlements. And the floods in the southwest over the weekend were a reminder of what's to come," Red Cross spokesman Alex Wynter said.
Worse still is the threat of epidemics breaking out in camps such as “Saint-Louis de Gonzague, which has one portable toilet for 10,000 people.” As the rainy season continues time may be running out for those trying to survive after January’s tremor.

Image- Al Jazeera English
Online Sources- BBC News, Reuters, AccuWeather, Montreal Gazette, Guardian UK

Today's Video: Presidential "Survivor"

This is too much:

Would this mean that Michelle Bachelet is Ginger and Cristina Kirchner is Mary Ann? (And no, Alvaro Uribe is definitely not the professor!)

Online Sources - YouTube, Wikipedia

Daily Headlines: March 4, 2010

* Argentina: Gonzalo Higuian took advantage of a defensive lapse and the goalkeeper’s blunder to score the lone goal in yesterday’s Argentine friendly win over Germany.

* Venezuela: The Venezuelan government said that it would cooperate in a Spanish investigation accusing them of having ties to ETA and the FARC.

* Bolivia: President Evo Morales pledged half of his March salary in order to help earthquake relief efforts in Haiti and Chile.

* Latin America: The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights filed two cases against the governments of Peru and Ecuador regarding alleged human rights violations.

Image – Times Online (“Body blow: Higuain places the ball past Adler, the Germany goalkeeper, to give Argentina victory.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, CNN, Xinhua, BBC News, Inside Costa Rica,

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Please help Chile! (Updated)

Update: The comprehensive ChileAyuda website has two more ways you can donate to Chilean earthquake relief efforts.

Numerous heavy aftershocks and the possibilities of more tidal waves have placed Chileans on high alert. With the death toll expected to grow past the official count of 800, a heavy emotional toll burdens those fortunate enough to be alive:

Acording to Chilean blog Datéate, there are several ways people living abroad can help the victims of the recent earthquake. Here’s a translation of part of their Spanish-language post:
If you’re reading this note from abroad and wish to help you can:

Donate dollars to the Fundación Un Techo para Chile, Account Number 0-051-000-8500-5 from Banco Santander Chile, RUT 65.533.130-1, Swift: BSCHCLRM, Address: Bandera 140, Santiago de Chile.

Intermediary bank Account number 2000192290409 Wachovia Bank N.A. (N. York) Swift: PNBPUS3NNYC, ABA: 026005092.

For transfers from Europe the intermediary bank is Santander Central Hispano S.A. (Madrid), Swift: BSCHESMM, Iban: ES 4200 495494852910148818.

UNICEF and Direct Relief International created a site for foreign donations: Aid can also be given via Citibank, account number 9941973331, ABA Code :021000089, 153 East 53rd Street 4th floor. New York, NY 10022.

Text messages can also be sent from the U.S. by typing “CHILE” to 20222 or 25383. Each message dontates $10 to Habitat for Humanity or World Vision, respectively.
Please help anyway you can to our Chilean brothers and sisters. (Let's not forget that Haitians still need our assistance).

Animo Chile!

Online Sources- Datéate, YouTube, La Tercera, Xinhua

De Musica Ligera: "Valparaiso de mi amor!"

We've featured Joe Vasconcellos several times before on this blog but we're highlighting his music again in light of Chile's massive earthquake over the weekend.

Vasconcellos is one of Chile's most popular musicians and last year he released a released a live album entitled "Magico, El Recital". The video below is his interpretation of "La Joya del Pacifico" and comes from his appearance at the 2003 Viña Del Mar music festival. The cumbia is a fantastic ode to the beauty of central Chile, an area now devastated by Saturday's tremor:

Online Sources - Joe Vasconcellos Official Webite, YouTube, The Latin Americanist

Daily Headlines: March 3, 2010

* U.S.: Donations are being sought to help treat the cancer of Jaime Escalante- the Bolivian-born Los Angeles teacher made famous in the 1988 movie "Stand and Deliver".

* Ecuador: The tense environmental damage trial between Ecuador and Chevron may soon come to an end.

* Venezuela: The country is officially in a recession after new data revealed that the economy shrunk by 3.3% last year.

* Puerto Rico: Health officials have declared an epidemic of dengue fever in Puerto Rico.

Image – Lyon College
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, LAHT, Los Angeles Times, BusinessWeek, San Fransisco Gate

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The non-looting side of Chile

The press in both Chile and globally have focused primarily over the sporadic looting after a massive earthquake shook Chile. Yet there are other news stories to note aside from the possible overemphasis on crimes and misdemeanors:

  • At least forty retirees enjoying a vacation in the seaside town of Pelluhue are suspected to be among the hundreds of dead after a tidal wave swept away the bus they had sought refuge in.
  • The official death toll from Saturday’s tremor has reached 795 with 554 of the deceased coming from the Maule region.
  • Numerous governments from around the world have pledged to help Chile including the U.S. and Europe. Peruvian president Alan Garcia was the latest foreign diplomat to pledge support to Chile.
  • Among the items being sought for earthquake victims are blood donations.
  • The mayor of Concepcion- Chile’s second-largest city which was located about seventy miles from the epicenter- ripped the federal government’s response to the disaster.
  • Speaking of which, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet promised to look into why the national tsunami warning system failed in alerting numerous coastal communities.
  • Lastly, the 8.8-magnitude earthquake was so severe that NASA scientists believed that it may have moved the Earth’s axis by three inches as well as shortened last Saturday by a over one microsecond.
Image- Guardian UK (Saturday’s earthquake caused a road in Santiago to collapse over a railway line).
Online Sources- Too many to list

Clinton intervenes in Falklands dispute

Could U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton help resolve the renewed tensions between the U.K. and Argentina over the Falkland Islands? It may seem like a long shot but the senior diplomat agreed to help intervene:
(Argentine President Cristina Fernández de) Kirchner asked Clinton to be a mediator on the issue, but it appears Clinton doesn't want to take her involvement that far.

Instead, she said she would be publicly urging the two countries to talk and said, "We would like to see Argentina and the U.K. sit down and resolve the issues between them in a peaceful and productive way."
Clinton commenced the first day of her trip to Latin America yesterday with a visit to Montevideo for the inauguration of new Uruguayan President Jose Mujica. He pledged that his main responsibilities would be, according to BBC News, to “improve education, guarantee energy supplies and maintain security.” Mujica later urged “as much mediation as possible” to calm tensions between the governments of Venezuela and Colombia.

Clinton continued her tour with a visit this morning to earthquake-ravaged Chile where she promised “solidarity” and aid.

Image- Guardian UK (“Hillary Clinton, left, and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner during their meeting in Buenos Aires yesterday.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Foreign Policy, CNN, Colombia Reports, BBC News

Missing Mexican journalist brutally murdered

Authorities found the murdered and dismembered body of a Mexican journalist who disappeared in 2007.

Police claimed that reporter Rodolfo Rincon Taracena’s investigative articles on “small-scale drug-dealing” led to his being killed and dissolved in acid by drug gangs. Though his remains were unable to be indentified through DNA samples police were able to recognize Taracena via the confessions from his suspected abductors.

Taracena became the third journalist to be killed this year in Mexico, a nation that Reporters Without Borders deemed as “the western hemisphere country where press freedom is most endangered.” A recently released report painted a dark picture of the dangers of being a journalist in Mexico:
In its annual report on the state of freedom of expression in Mexico, the Center for Journalism and Public Ethics (CEPET) documented aggressions against 183 journalists and 19 media organizations for reasons connected to their work. Thirteen media workers were killed (in 2009)…

The 2009 figures, which include 140 incidents involving 183 people, represent an increase of 13 cases (10.23%), over 2008, when 127 incidents were reported.

“For CEPET, these figures should awaken the concern of all society and of the authorities in particular, as the majority of the cases have not been resolved,” CEPET says. “And even worse, in many of them, institutions of the State—police, investigators, members of the military, and civilian employees—are pointed out as being responsible for the aggressions.”
Image- Committee to Protect Journalists (“Reporter Armando Rodriguez was killed outside his home in Ciudad Juarez in 2008.”)
Online Sources- CNN, AHN, Reporters Without Borders, Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, Center for Journalism and Public Ethics

Venezuela rejects ETA, FARC accusations

The Venezuelan government strongly rejected allegations of ties between officials with Colombian guerillas and Spanish separatists.
On Monday Spanish High Court Judge Eloy Velasco ruled that members of the Venezuelan government acted as intermediaries between the FARC and ETA. Velasco claimed that ETA allegedly received “a Venezuelan military escort” to a jungle site where they supposedly gave explosive courses to the FARC. Velasco added that ETA members traveled to Colombia via Venezuela and said that ETA helped the FARC plan assassination attempts against high-profile Colombian politicos.

A statement issued by the Venezuelan government disputed Velasco’s claims:
The government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela was informed through the media about the indictment issued by a Spanish judge containing unacceptable and politically-motivated accusations against the Venezuelan government…

All the accusations issued by this judge come from the files of the allegedly laptop seized from Raúl Reyes during a military operation where Ecuadorian territory was illegally bombed and hundreds of people were massacred. Furthermore, it is surprising that the judge revives the eroded farce of the laptop, which has become part of Colombian political folklore.
Velasco’s ruling comes as the U.S. State Department accused the Venezuelan government of helping the FARC and other Colombian guerillas with drug trafficking. Venezuela's Ambassador to the U.S. Bernardo Alvarez replied by calling the report “purely political.”

Image- Guardian UK (“2004: A man walks past graffiti that reads "Join and fight, freedom for the Basque Country" in San Sebastian.”)
Online Sources- Guardian UK, AFP, Reuters, Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Ministry

Daily Headlines: March 2, 2010

* Colombia: President Alvaro Uribe’s delusions of a third straight term may be dead yet one of his chief supporters is the favorite to succeed him.

* U.S.: Will the White House’s promise of an extra $900 million in school improvement funds stem the “dropout crisis” among Latino students?

* Guatemala: At an annual coffee producers’ conference in Guatemala City exporting countries claimed that climate change has seriously hurt coffee growers.

* Mexico: Police arrested a third suspect allegedly linked to the February murders of fifteen teens in Ciudad Juarez.

Image – CNN (A recent poll found that nearly one in four respondents back former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos as the successor to President Alvaro Uribe.)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, CNN, Economic Times, Bloomberg, Christian Science Monitor,

Monday, March 1, 2010

Paris Too Sexy for Brazilian Beer Drinkers

Here's a fun one to start your week: Paris Hilton in a Brazilian beer commercial that is drawing fire for being demeaning to women. Check it out below:

Playing on the puns of the brand (Devassa means something similar to "bombshell" in Brazilian Portuguese) and the fact that the beer is a "blonde" lager, the slick production ends with the tagline: "She's arrived. Very cold. Right on time. Very blonde."

But the Brazilian government's Secretariat for Womens' Affairs has received several complaints that the spot is sexist and disrespectful to women. A representative tells the Associated Press, "It's an ad that devalues women - in particular, blonde women."

Brazil's self-regulatory ad body, Conar, now has three separate open investigations that will look into whether the ad should be pulled off the air. Conar's code governing beer advertising specifies that "appeals to sensuality won't constitute the principal content of the message" and adds that "advertising models won't be treated as sex objects."

Now, Brazil isn't know for being particularly puritanical. At hand might be a rejection of the particular brand of sexuality that Hilton represents. To me, the ad seems normal enough for a product targeted to a largely male audience.

Those wondering why so much fuss is being made about a beer ad that uses sex to sell its product may bring up that the 7-year-old chosen to represent the Viradouro Samba School during Carnival caused some uproar from children's rights groups but was still allowed to participate without too much fuss.

In other matters of the flesh, it's interesting to recall the laudable way that Brazil in 2005 rejected $40 million in USAID HIV prevention funding because of a Bush-era provision which required that programs also condemn prostitution.

In any event, Devassa, the beer maker, and Mood, the Sao Paulo agency that produced the spot, are surely loving all the attention. I've never been to Brazil, but the number of Brazilian beer brands I can name is now one - Devassa.

Paris' Twitter response: "Are they serious? So ridiculous."

So what do you think? Who's willing to go on record and agree with Paris Hilton?

Online Source: Advertising Age, Guanabee, BBC, Twitter, San Francisco Chronicle
Video Source: YouTube

Today's Video: Destruction in Chile

The latest news out of Chile in the aftermath of Saturday' massive earthquake is disheartening. The death toll jumped to over 700, nearly doubling after it was reported that the tremor and a tidal wave wiped out the coastal town of Constitucion. Rescue efforts continue in some areas while the most hard-hit parts have started to receive basic supplies. At least 90 aftershocks have hit Chile in the roughly 48 hours after the first quake including a 6.2 magnitude tremor yesterday near the original epicenter.

As the following news report shows, the damage caused by Saturday's quake was intense:

Daily Headlines: March 1, 2010

* Mexico: Oil production in Mexico continues to decrease reportedly as a result of a lack of exploration deals with foreign firms.

* Brazil: President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva promised to provide funds for the building of homes for over one million impoverished Brazilians.

* Latin America: In light of a FARC attack in Ecuadorian territory President Rafael Correa threatened the guerillas with “to (not) mess around with Ecuadorian lives here.”

* Puerto Rico: Controversy has grown over a recently passed law that would void the birth certificates of over one million Puerto Ricans.

Image – MSNBC (Mexican offshore oil rigs)
Online Sources- Houston Chronicle, LAHT, API, BusinessWeek