Saturday, March 27, 2010

Weekend World Watch: Lights out

* World: Locales around the world including Big Ben (image), the Sydney Opera House, and New York’s Times Square briefly shut off their lights Saturday night as part of Earth Hour 2010.

* India: According to the Indian press the military successfully fired two short-range ballistic missiles.

* Middle East: "We cannot resume indirect negotiations as long as Israel maintains its settlement policy and the status quo," Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said at a summit of the Arab League.

* Thailand: The military is withdrawing from certain areas in order to avoid conflict with tens of thousands of protesters rallying in favor of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Image – The Telegraph
Online Sources- Reuters, Xinhua, CNN, BBC News

Weekend Headlines: March 27-28, 2010

* Spain: Judge Baltazar Garzon- best known for indicting ex-Chilean strongman Augusto Pinochet- could be charged with “abuse of power” in investigating Spanish civil war crimes.

* El Salvador: On the thirtieth anniversary of the murder of Oscar Romero El Salvador’s government formally apologized for his death as a "victim of illegal violence".

* Peru: Workers at mines owned by Buenaventura may strike over the weekend due to a supposedly insufficient sharing of profits.

* Colombia: In a shocking incident a twelve-year-old boy died after unknowingly carrying a package bomb into a local police station.

Image – Guardian UK
Online Sources- AP, The Latin Americanist, BBC News, Reuters, Sydney Morning Herald

Friday, March 26, 2010

Today's Video: Penguins!

We'll be back for a few posts over the weekend. For now here's a CNN story on penguins that swim thousands of miles north and land on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro:

World Watch: Why did the Cheonan sink?

* South Korea: South Korean officials are unsure what caused the explosion that on Friday sunk a naval ship near North Korean waters.

* Zimbabwe: It’s stunning that of the very few items that government leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Robert Mugabe can agree on one of them would be the suppressing of gay rights.

* Iraq: Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi appears to have won Iraq’s parliamentary elections by a razor-thin margin.

* Russia: Now it’s official – the U.S. and Russia agreed to a nuclear arms reduction agreement.

Image – MSNBC (“South Korean naval ship Cheonan in an undated picture.”)
Online Sources- Guardian UK, BBC News, Times Online, New Zealand Herald

Daily Headlines: March 26, 2010

* Latin America: Chilean José Miguel Insulza was reelected secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS) on Wednesday yet the Christian Science Monitor wonders if “the world’s oldest regional group is still relevant?”

* Argentina: Speaking of the OAS the body may provide a significant role in the dispute between Argentina and Britain over oil drilling near the Falkland Islands.

* U.S.: According to a prosecutor’s witness at the hate crime murder trial of Marcelo Lucero one of the assailants allegedly taunted him by saying “you come to this country to take our money from us.”

* Venezuela: The government’s latest plan to counter the country’s energy woes is to declare all of the upcoming Holy Week as a national holiday.

Image –
Online Sources- UPI, LAHT, New York Times, The Latin Americanist, Christian Science Monitor

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dengue Danger Appears

Officials are preparing for a potential dengue fever outbreak in the region.

According to Top News, the Pan-American Health Organization registered 146,000 cases so far this year. Last year, 79,000 cases of dengue were reported, including 26 deaths -- so far this year, 79 deaths have been reported.

The AFP reports that health officials already declared epidemics in some Central American and Caribbean countries.

Mosquito bites are the cause of transferring dengue from insects to humans. The disease includes high temperatures and muscle aches, and can even involve hemorrhaging.

The weather might also make the transfer of the disease worse, as El Nino and other phenomenon can contribute to the spread.

Sources: Top News, AFP


Daily Headlines: March 25, 2010

* Cuba: Singer Gloria Estefan will help organize a march tonight in solidarity with Cuban dissident group the Ladies in White.

* U.S.: An immigration board decided not to deport to Mexico a former federal drug informant who argued that he would be “tortured” if he were to return to his native country.

* Latin America: Chile and Argentina received permission to run the prestigious Dakar Rally for the third straight year in 2011.

* Brazil: President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva pledged to “maintain” economic stability ahead of October’s national elections.

Image – CNN
Online Sources- Miami Herald, Houston Chronicle, AFP, Reuters

"South of the Border" Comes North

The Hollywood Reporter reports today that Oliver Stone's documentary about the rise of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and other South American leaders will be shown in the United States beginning in June.

The filmmaker's other films include Comandante, about Fidel Castro and Cuba.

The screenings will kick off with a June 25 screening in New York and a JUly 2 screening in Los Angeles.

The trailer is available here.

Sources: Hollywood Reporter,


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Today’s Video: Newsy on immigration

How have several news outlets looked at Sunday’s “March for America” rally and the immigration debate? explains:

Online Sources- The Latin Americanist,

World Watch: Moving forwards and backwards

* Russia: On the one hand Russian officials claimed that they and the U.S. are close to signing a deal reducing the number of nuclear weapons in both countries.

* Israel: On the other hand relations between Israel and the U.S. don’t appear like they will improve soon.

* China: No verdict has been declared in the case against four Rio Tinto mining company execs accused of bribery and selling company secrets.

* Ireland: The Irish bishop in the middle of a sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Vatican resigned from his post.

Image – CBC (“U.S. President Barack Obama, left, speaks with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Singapore in November.”)
Online Sources- ABC News, Washington Post, BBC News, MSNBC

Want to make get land in Colombia? Get your tubes tied

In what I deem a controversial program, a Colombian man and heir to a dairy business in Bogota- Erwin Goggel- is giving peasants free land in Colombia in exchange for one thing: getting sterilized. I use the word 'free' loosely because the peasants first have to undergo surgery- the men have a vasectomy and the women have to get their tubes tied, albeit all at Goggel's expense.

Goggel's goal is to alleviate poverty amongst the peasants, citing the well known notion that poverty is generational and hard to escape within a family. He sees excessive birth rates as part of the problem and states that poverty is directly proportional to the size of the peasant family. His solution: give them 9 acres of land to have invasive surgery performed. By doing so, he wants to create a stable home environment for the existing children and allow the families to have land to sustain themselves from without the worry of having another member to feed with already stretched budgets.

The controversy? (Besides the invasive surgery?) Goggel doesn't actually give the peasants land deeds but instead gives them permission to squat on the $50,000 worth of land he purchased. He's afraid that if the peasants had the land deeds, they would be tempted to sell them and return to their "roofless" and unstable lives.

Whether or not we agree with Goggel's tactics (my verdict is still out), there are cold, hard facts that support at least the spirit of his program. Colombia's birthrate is higher that the rest of Latin America's already high average and about 50% more than the United States' and almost half of the population is living below the poverty line.

But aren't there better ways to address the problem? What are your thoughts?
Online Source: LA Times

Long Live Che's Influence in Bolivia

In another controversial move, Bolivia's President Evo Morales has adopted Castro and Che's popular socialist slogan as their motto: Fatherland or death, we shall overcome! The Bolivian army first began chanting it this week during their annual ceremony commemorating the loss of their Pacific coastline to Chile. BBC reports that this move is seen as another step in Morales' efforts to "turn the army into his guarantors of his socialist revolution." The move is causing a stir amongst conservative military circles and civilians alike.
Online source: BBC News

Oscar Romero: Thirty years later

Today marks the thirtieth anniversary of the tragic and senseless death of Monsignor Oscar Romero, the late Archbishop of San Salvador. His fearless activism against a repressive government is being remembered not only in El Salvador but throughout Latin America and the world. His efforts as a "bishop of the people" have not gone in vain and have received deserved global recognition.

Romero reportedly once said that if he were to be slain he would subsequently “rise again in the Salvadorian people". Though El Salvador would be mired in an ugly civil war for twelve years Romero’s words still ring true today.

Human rights groups and local activists still continue to seek justice in the murder of Romero including repealing a 1993 amnesty law protecting those behind the murder. This law affects those such as ex-Armed Forces officer Álvaro Rafael Saravia who recently revealed chilling details of Romero’s murder to El Salvador’s El Faro:

Online Sources- Los Angeles Times, Guardian UK, BBC News, JURIST, YouTube

Deadly care bomb strikes Colombian city

At least six people are dead and over thirty are injured after a car bomb exploded in the Colombian port city of Buenaventura.

This morning's blast occurred in the city’s downtown area near the local office of the attorney general. Images from the local press of the aftermath of the explosion (such as the one in this post) show charred taxis and motorcycles along with dozens of shattered storefronts.

According to BBC News Buenaventura has “seen battles between guerrilla groups, drug traffickers and paramilitaries for control of lucrative smuggling routes.”

Authorities have yet to place blame on today’s incident though Colombia’s army chief and Attorney General’s Office have implied that the FARC guerillas could be behind it. If their insinuations are accurate then it could endanger the planned freeing of two kidnap victims:
The FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, plans to release two of the 24 police and soldiers it holds to Senator Piedad Cordoba and the Red Cross who will fly into the country's southern jungles in Brazilian helicopters...

Pablo Emilio Moncayo, held for more than 12 years, and Josue Daniel Calvo, were to be freed a year ago, but the handover was delayed as rebels and President Alvaro Uribe's government squabbled over conditions for their release.
Image- El Tiempo
Online Sources- AP, El Espectador, Reuters, BBC News

Honduran gov't warns Zelaya of possible return

Former Honduran president Manuel Zelaya has been in exile in the Dominican Republic for over two months since the inauguration of Porfirio Lobo. While Lobo helped broker Zelaya’s safe passage to the Caribbean country his administration seemingly doesn’t want him to return to Honduras.

On Monday Honduran Attorney General Luis Rubí warned that police would arrest Zelaya if he were to come back to the Central American state. At a press conference Rubi said that Zelaya “has pending lawsuits which he must face if he enters the country and it will be up to judges to decide the nature of the crimes.” Zubi’s remarks were backed by Security Minster Oscar Alvarez who said last week that there are several arrest warrants pending against Zelaya.

The remarks made by Rubi and Alvarez contradict comments recently made by Lobo:
Until now Zelaya has yet to announce a return to Honduras but current president Porfirio Lobo admitted last Thursday that he can do so “whenever he wants” and “he must be treated with dignity as a former president.” – [ed. Translated text]
Ongoing violence continues in Honduras while roughly one in two people live below the poverty line (as of 2004). Several countries and international entities such as the U.S. have campaigned for the normalizing of relations with Honduras which had been cut after last June’s ouster of Zelaya.

Image- CNN
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, La Tribuna, AFP, La Raza, Voice of America,

Daily Headlines: March 24, 2010

* Brazil: Global sugar prices are expected to keep dropping after Brazil has reported a very large crop.

* Paraguay: Three months after Salvador Cabañas was shot in the head the soccer star continues his satisfactory recuperation in Buenos Aires.

* Venezuela: Was the recent arrest of opposition figure Oswaldo Álvarez Paz a “crime of opinion” or much ado about nothing?

* Latin America: Argentina and Peru restarted diplomatic relations that had been almost frozen for fifteen years.

Image – ABC News (“Want to start your morning off with a kick? Have some Frosted KrustyO's, named after (“The Simpsons”) comic clown. One serving: 130 calories and 15 grams of sugar.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Wall Street Journal, USA TODAY, New York Times, LAHT

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Nuestro Cine: Lost and not quite found

Oftentimes it’s easy to be swept by the hyperbole surrounding the immigration debate, the calls for “amnesty for all” versus the clamor for mass deportations. What is difficult is to look beyond the oversimplifications and recognize the complex facets of immigration.

Animas Perdidas (Lost Souls)” premieres tonight as part of the PBS documentary series “Independent Lens”. Filmmaker Monika Navarro explores the history and circumstances surrounding the deportations of her uncles Augie and Gino to Mexico. Her journey opens “a Pandora’s box of family secrets” that at times can be fascinating but also surprising. As she mentions in the clip below, Navarro unexpectedly encounters “the kind of exile that has nothing to do with the government”:

Please check out “Animas Perdidas”, a revealing, thought-provoking and must-see film.

Online Sources- PBS, Animas Perdidas Website, YouTube

Supreme Court to take up immigration case

This week the U.S. Supreme Court rejected hearing certain cases but also decided to accept other lawsuits. One of these cases could affect gender and immigration policy.

The case of Flores-Villar v. United States examines what happens to a child who is born outside the U.S. to one parent who is a citizen while the other is not. Attorneys for Mexican-born Ruben Flores-Villar claimed that he was unfairly rejected for citizenship while trying to avoid deportation. The details of the case provide an interesting look at a seemingly odd caveat of U.S. immigration law:
The law, since amended, allowed fathers to transmit citizenship to their children only if the fathers had lived in the United States before the child was born for a total of 10 years, five of them after age 14. Mothers were required to have lived in the United States for a year before their child was born. (The amended law kept the general system but shortened the residency requirement for fathers.)

Mr. Flores-Villar’s father was 16 when his son was born, making it impossible for him to fulfill the part of the law requiring five years of residency after age 14.

Mr. Flores-Villar argued that the differing treatments violated equal protection principles. The Supreme Court has said that sex-based classifications are permissible only if they serve important governmental goals and are substantially related to achieving those goals.
Thus far lower federal courts have rejected Flores-Villar’s arguments while a 2001 high court ruling upheld “different requirements for a child's acquisition of citizenship depending upon whether the citizen parent is the mother or the father.”

Image- BBC News
Online Sources- Oyez, Los Angeles Times, New York Times

Mexican legislator, singer backtrack from anti-gay remarks

The issue of gay marriage has divided Mexicans and led to some heated debate. Two personalities who recently expressed their opposition to gay rights via ugly remarks were forced to backtrack.

Singer Paquita la del Barrio declared in a TV interview earlier this month that she preferred to see a "child die in the streets from hunger" rather than have the minor adopted by a same-sex couple. Faced with a backlash in Mexico as well as north of the border, Paquita publicly apologized for her comment. Though she defended the meaning behind her comments she also expressed her “deep regret…to the gay community worldwide.” As part of her “regret” she plans to hold a concert tonight at one of Mexico City’s best-known gay nightclubs.

Meanwhile Mexico City legislator Christian Vargas also apologized for commenting that homosexuals shouldn’t adopt since they could “potentially abuse” children. “I wish to apologize to the lesbo-gay community for using inappropriate terms and concepts,” said Vargas last Thursday at a press conference. Vargas- who has been nicknamed "dipohooligan" for several violent public incidents- did not back down from the intent of his statement and he cited a study to supposedly back him up.

In comments to Mexico’s El Universal, the president of the National Council against Discrimination said that the remarks made by Paquita and Vargas should not interfere with the rights of gays:
“It’s a major cultural shift that has been previously seen when granting the right to divorce, women’s suffrage, or recognizing non-traditional families such as those headed by a women,” indicated (Ricardo Bucio Mújica). – [ed. translated text]
Image- Times Online (“The (gay rights) legislation has placed Mexico City at the forefront of long-awaited reforms.”)
Online Sources- CNN, NBC Los Angeles, La Opinion, Los Angeles Times, EPA,, Milenio, El Universal

Daily Headlines: March 23, 2010

* Haiti: Former U.S. Presidents George W Bush and Bill Clinton visited earthquake-ravaged Haiti while the E.U. approved a $1.36 billion “development aid” plan.

* Brazil: Good news for Brazil’s economy – inflation has slowed down.

* Venezuela: The country’s domestic energy woes are likely to worsen as hydroelectric output is expected to decrease.

* Argentina: The government is one step closer to going through with an exchange of about $20 billion of defaulted bonds.

Image – Christian Science Monitor (“A man looks from inside his tent at a homeless earthquake survivors camp ahead of rainy season in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday.”)
Online Sources- BBC News, BusinessWeek, MSNBC, Bloomberg, UPI

Monday, March 22, 2010

Calle 13’s Cuban concert controversy

Whenever a foreign musician plays in Cuba controversy is sure to follow. (Other times it’s the other way around, but I digress). Such may be the case with Puerto Rican reggaetoneros Calle 13 who are scheduled for a free concert Tuesday in Havana.

“I think we will establish bridges with Cuba,” said the group’s lead singer René "Residente" Pérez at a Monday press conference. Perez added that he anticipates that Cuban exiles “will fall on top of me” when he and Calle 13 play at a concert later this week in Miami.

Calle 13’s politically charged music has met with its share of detractors including Colombian politicos and Puerto Rican policemen. Nonetheless, they don’t plan on shying away from future work on social awareness:
(…) the members of Calle 13 also discussed future projects including a documentary on border areas including those between Central America and Mexico as well as that country and the U.S.

Perez did not discard the possibility of traveling the same trek as undocumented immigrants – [ed. Translated text]
Aside from performing Calle 13 will also receive an award from the Cuban Institute of Music that has been previously granted to artists like Sting and Chico Buarque.

Image- El Universal
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Reuters Latin America, ABC News, EPA, El Universal

Au revoir, Manuel Noriega

Former Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega is one step closer to being extradited to France:
The Supreme Court on Monday said it will not reconsider former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega's request to stop his extradition to France on money laundering charges.

The high court turned down Noriega's petition for rehearing without comment…

"There are no options left in the U.S. It's over," (Noriega's lawyer Frank) Rubino said.
In 1989 Noriega was arrested in a U.S. military invasion of Panama and three years later he was convicted for drug trafficking and money laundering. His sentence finished in September 2007 yet he has remained in jail while his status becomes finalized.

Noriega has also been sought by Panamanian authorities that want to retry him for a murder charge that he was already convicted in absentia for.

Image- BBC Mundo
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Washington Post, CNN

Peru: Montesinos could be freed in July ‘11

In a perversion of justice the convicted former top aide to ex-President Alberto Fujimori may be a free man in about fourteen months.

Vladimiro Montesinos served as de facto head of Peru’s intelligence agency as well as Fujimori’s right-hand man between 1990 and 2000. His and Fujimori’s downfall came with the publicizing of secret videotapes he recorded where he doled out hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to politicians, the press, and anyone else in order to stifle opposition. He has been convicted on thirty-one charges including in 2006 when he was sentenced to twenty years in jail for illegal arms sales to Colombian rebels.

Despite such a checkered past Montesinos could be out of jail in July 2011 over a technicality. According to Peru’s La República all but one of Montesinos’ sentences will be up by July 2011. Peru’s Supreme Court has yet to ratify Montesinos’ punishment for the aforementioned weapons conviction and they must do so before the July 2011 deadline or else he could be let out of prison.

Montesinos could be tried for human rights abuses for the same 1991 massacre that led to a 25-year conviction against Fujimori. Yet it has been reported that his lawyers would try to delay such a trial from occurring including using Montesinos’ upcoming surgery as a stalling tactic.

Though Montesinos has been out of power for a decade the repercussions of his malfeasance still affects contemporary Peruvian politics. Justice minister Aurelio Pastor was fired last week over his links to a Montesinos figure:
(Ex-television owner Jose Enrique) Crousillat was sentenced in 2006 to eight years in prison for taking payoffs from former intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos, to run favorable news about President Alberto Fujimori.

Crousillat complained of heart problems and was granted a presidential pardon in December.

But following his release, he was seen in apparently good health in restaurants and on beaches in Lima.

Image - PBS
Online Sources- BBC News,, Wikipedia, La Republica,

Chile: Gov’t admits to mistakes in quake death toll

Chile’s federal government under former President Michelle Bachelet was criticized for its seemingly slow response to a massive earthquake on February 27. Though the AP claimed that the governments’ response served as “a model for disaster recovery”, some Chileans including newly inaugurated president Sebastian Pinera were none too pleased.

The Piñera administration’s critique of his predecessor includes correcting the death toll that at one point topped the 800 dead mark. The death toll as of Friday according to Ministry of the Interior is 452 along with 97 people still missing. Officials at the agency also warned that the count could rise since those “disappeared” may be found dead in the upcoming weeks.

Despite claiming to have a more accurate death tally the government was forced to later admit that the count was wrong and reduced it even further:
On the list of the 359 people available on the interior ministry's website, however, in more than 50 cases names had appeared twice in different spots on the list, or people with different names but with the same identity card number had appeared.

The government corrected the number of dead identified by identity card and death certificate and reduced to 342 the official death tally, 17 fewer than before.
The government estimated that the tremor cost around $30 billion in losses and officials may raise mining royalties in order to pay for reconstruction.

Image- CBC
Online Sources- Times Online, AP, Cronica de Mexico, Washington Post, Reuters, Sify

Massive crowd attends D.C. immigration rally

With most of the media focus covering the health care reform bill (more on that momentarily) a massive immigration rally held in the nation’s capital was mostly overlooked.

Tens of thousands of people from around the country (“overwhelmingly Latino immigrants” per the New York Times) converged at the Washington Mall yesterday advocating for immigration reform. “If (Obama) doesn’t keep his word, we’re not going to vote,” said one protester to the Christian Science Monitor echoing the discontent of most protesters against those in power.

Politicians, activists, civil rights leaders, and even the president himself (in a videotaped message) spoke during yesterday’s rally. Several spiritual figures including Roman Catholic Cardinal Roger M. Mahoney of Los Angeles took to the stage as well in acknowledgement of the increased role played by church groups in the immigrants’ rights movement. As pastor and executive member of the Latino Leadership Circle Gabriel Salguero wrote recently:
Immigration reform is a moral issue that requires us to live up to the highest of our values. This is not an easy issue but I will march because I believe that our country has the moral capacity to welcome immigrants. If Christ welcomed me unconditionally should I do any less with others?
As we alluded to before, the House of Representatives approved by a narrow margin yesterday a major health care reform bill. Though the soon-to-be-law is expected to extend health care coverage to 32 million people, legislators excluded illegal immigrants from participating in “state-based exchanges.” Hence, undocumented immigrants will either have to pay private companies for their health insurance or not have any coverage at all.

Online Sources- New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, CNN, CBS News, Washington Post

Daily Headlines: March 22, 2010

* Argentina: Lionel Messi’s extraordinary playing continued on Sunday with a hat trick in Barcelona’s 4-2 win over Zaragoza.

* Brazil: Higher oil prices helped fuel a 31% rise in fourth quarter profits for state-run firm Petrobras.

* Latin America: According to the Inter-American Development Bank economic growth in Latin America has been hampered by sluggish productivity.

* Cuba: No fatalities have been reported after a magnitude 4.8 earthquake hit Cuba on Saturday.

Image – Guardian UK
Online Sources- Xinhua, Reuters, BusinessWeek, AHN

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Today's Video: A clarion call

We'll discuss in greater detail tomorrow the massive immigration reform rally held on Sunday in Washington, D.C. For now here is video of the event including interviews with a few protesters via the AP:

Online Source - YouTube