Saturday, May 29, 2010

Today's Photos: Condones Cubanos

Great series of photos at Global Post on how condoms are used for a variety of tasks other than the obvious. I'm hoping the wineskin is non-lubricated...

Image Source: Global Post
Image 1: The latex prophylactics can work just like a wineskin. (Nick Miroff/GlobalPost); Image 2: Fishing with condoms is easier at dusk — during the day the sun can burst the latex. (Nick Miroff/GlobalPost)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Today’s Video: Nature's fury in Guatemala

One person has been killed and three children have gone missing as a result of the eruption of Guatemala'a Pacaya volcano. Approximately 1600 people have been evacuated from the volcano's immediate area and Guatemala's main international airport was closed. A state of emergency declared yesterday, which is not a surprise when you see the ash and rocks spewing from the volcano:

Daily Headlines: May 28, 2010

* Panama: According to declassified papers the late British ballerina Dame Margot Fonteyn was involved in a Cuban-backed plot to overthrow Panama’s government back in 1959.

* U.S.: In another example over why immigration reform is necessary a Puerto Rican-born man was mistakenly identified as an illegal immigrant and held in detention for five days.

* Uruguay: Controversy has erupted over government plans to change taxation rules so that all Uruguayans would have to declare their foreign assets.

* El Salvador: Soccer governing body FIFA rescinded its ban that would’ve included barring three Salvadoran refs from officiating at the World Cup.

Image –The Guardian (“Dame Margot Fonteyn, whose husband launched a failed Panamanian coup attempt in 1959.”).
Online Sources – Times Online, USA TODAY, UPI, CNN

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Peruvian indigenous leader arrested

While Lori Berenson was paroled from a Peruvian jail human rights and indigenous groups denounced the brief imprisonment of a prominent Amerindian activist.

Just a few minutes ago Alberto Pizango was given a conditional release by a Peruvian judge who “changed the arrest warrant issued against him for a judicial summon.” He had been jailed on Wednesday after returning to Peru from Nicaragua. Authorities accused Pizango of sedition and rebellion connected to last June’s violent protests over proposed oil and gas exploration plans in the Amazon. Though he was granted political asylum in Nicaragua, Pizango said that his return was necessary due to the “enormous sacrifice that has cost me and is costing me so much.”

Pizango was met by about twenty supporters at Lima’s airport where he would eventually was detained and was accompanied by actress Q'orianka Kilcher. "My indigenous brothers and sisters only defended themselves against the exploitation of their lands," Kilcher said in defense of Pizango’s efforts.

The Peruvian government blamed Pizango for incited violence in the 2009 clashes that officially killed over thirty people and President Alan Garcia claimed last October that Pizango wanted to head an armed rebellion. For one human rights group Peruvian officials have unfairly targeted the indigenous leader:

Amnesty International believes that the charges against Alberto Pizango seem to be based purely on the government’s interpretation of events, which is not based on genuine evidence. Consequently, Amnesty International is deeply concerned that Alberto Pizango will not face a fair trial now that he has been arrested upon his return to Peru.
Image- BBC News
Online Sources- Living in Peru, The Latin Americanist, The Guardian, AFP, Reuters, Amnesty International

Poll: Latinos unhappy with Dems, GOP on immigration

President Barack Obama earlier today vowed to continue pushing for a "comprehensive approach" to immigration reform. But the results of a recent poll showed that Latinos are peeved with the president as well as the Republicans over their approaches towards the immigration debate.

According to an NBC/Telemundo poll released yesterday Latinos harbor mistrust against both of the major parties; a slim majority favor the Democrats while roughly one in five have a positive impression of the GOP. Furthermore, most Latinos (55%) polled disapproved of Obama’s job on immigration. In addition, the push by some Republicans for stronger immigration measures has helped them gain support with two groups who generally lean Democratic: women over fifty years of age and suburban women.

Despite what could be short-term electoral gains the poll revealed that the GOP risks alienating Latino voters. Latinos under forty- who could help boost voter registration numbers- mostly tend to support Obama (73%) and have a greater opposition to Arizona’s controversial immigration law (75%) compared to older Latinos. Also, most of those polled back Democrats over Republicans in handling issues such as dealing with immigration and protecting the interests of minorities. The GOP faces a double-edged sword in some states according to one pollster interviewed by the Wall Street Journal:
While a majority of voters tell pollsters they support the law, and tough stances on illegal immigration are likely to resonate this fall in such states as Nevada and Florida, Republican candidates in California might face a potential backlash from the state's more liberal electorate

In California, "they risk alienating…independent voters who don't support deportations," said Mark Baldassare, chief executive of the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.
An AP/Univision poll published earlier this month found that most Latinos view illegal immigration favorably and see immigration as a whole as being beneficial to society.

Image- ABC News
Online Sources- CBS News, MSNBC, Newser, Wall Street Journal, Dallas Morning News


Last year I wrote that Brazil's attempt to insert itself more actively in regional affairs didn't work out so well. I've changed some of my thinking on how the Honduras crisis played out, but it has been very interesting to see Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva ride his global popularity to engage Brazil in the world most pressing issues (ie anything that happens between Cairo and Kabul).

Several commentators are now, um, commenting on Brazil/Lula and last week's Brazil-Turkey sponsored agreement for Iran to ship some uranium out of the country, as well as the US' subsequent "whatever-we-really-don't-care" response.

The most interesting piece was by James Traub in Foreign Policy. Summing up the challenge that a new kid on the block represents, Traub hits the nail on the head regarding the new dilemma facing the State Department:

"Their joint bid to break the impasse on Iran represents something more encouraging, more worrisome, and much more significant than any of Hugo Chávez's antics."

Following on this theme, UNC-Charlotte Lat-Am prof Greg Weeks gives Tom Friedman a good smack-down for even bothering to chime in with his tired "Venezuela=evil; Colombia=good" framework.

But Friedman does bring interesting insight with the observation that by focusing exclusively on Iranian nuclear ambitions the US might be playing right into the Iranian hardliners' hands. (Perhaps he excels only when not discussing Latin America?)

In the Miami Herald, Andres Oppenheimer calls Brazil out for being getting involved with Iran but not in its own backyard. (Maybe they see that as a messier and less rewarding process?)

Brazil is pushing its neighbors to support his "Tehran Declaration," so it will be interesting to see if anyone asks for anything in return (not that it matters much - none of the countries being pressed can directly influence the sanctions resolution going to the Security Council).

Traub also raises the question as to how the US should respond to a friend that kinda screws it over. (I called it the "Frenemies" phenomenon). His answer seems to be that you when life gives you lemons, think seriously about the lemonade option:

For Obama, the really important question is whether he should reconcile himself to an unavoidable clash of interests with rising powers, or try to win them over by offering a deeper and more substantive kind of engagement -- for example, by pushing for a greater democratization of the institutions from which those states now feel excluded. It may be that the only chance to get Brazil to act more like a global citizen is to treat it like one.

Image Source:
Online Sources: Foreign Policy, Miami Herald, Two Weeks Notice, New York Times, MercoPress, Politico, Time

Daily Headlines: May 27, 2010

* Peru: Seven-year-old Daisy Cuevas’ question on immigration to first lady Michelle Obama last week has caught the attention of her family and supporters in her mother’s native Peru.

* Brazil: Move over Telesur? President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva lunched an international TV channel that will broadcast in 49 African countries and soon throughout the Western Hemisphere.

* Venezuela: A group of ten U.S. senators sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton supporting the designation of Venezuela as a “state sponsor of terrorism.”

* Latin America: Mexico, Costa Rica, and Paraguay all lost to European teams in warm-up matches ahead of the upcoming World Cup.

Image –The Telegraph (“First lady Michelle Obama, right, talks with students, including the second-grader, far left, who told Obama during the first lady's visit to her gym class that her mother said President Obama was 'taking everybody away that doesn't have papers'”).
Online Sources - ESPN, AFP, Reuters, LAHT, BBC News, CNN,

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

News Briefs: The Caribbean

* Jamaica: At least 49 people are dead and 500 are under arrest after police raided several Kingston neighborhoods in search of wanted drug gang leader Christopher "Dudus" Coke. The Jamaican government permitted the extradition of Coke to the U.S. and this led to a violent reaction from some of his armed followers since Sunday.

* Suriname: He may be a convicted drug trafficker and a former dictator yet Desi Bouterse’s Mega Combination party was the big winner in Suriname’s elections. (Many thanks to our tipster!)

* Trinidad and Tobago: Kamla Persad-Bissessar became the latest female head of government in the Americas after she was sworn-in earlier today.

* Dominican Republic: Several current ballplayers including David Ortiz and Jose Reyes are expected to attend Thursday’s funeral of ex-Major Leaguer Jose Lima who died over the weekend.

* Puerto Rico: Remember Vaughn Ward, the Idaho Republican Congressional candidate who mistakenly thought Puerto Rico was a country? Ward lost in yesterday’s GOP primary to Boricua Raul Labrador.

Video Source –YouTube
Online Sources – Xinhua, The Guardian, Gawker, Miami Herald, AP, The Latin Americanist, ESPN

Arizona, Latinos, and the Census

Could Arizona’s recently signed immigration law have a negative effect on collecting accurate Census information? It depends on whom you ask.

Representatives of several community groups in the border state alleged that the law would lead to a fear of Latinos in participating in the Census count. Though the Census Bureau spearheaded a major campaign to Latinos via ads and presentations to civic groups some Arizonans worry that the local immigration measure will ultimately lead to a false count. "I've talked to friends and people in the community, and they're saying -- whatever they think of the law, wherever they stand on the issue: 'I'm not going to open the door to anyone right now,'" said one Tucson legislator in an article originally from USA TODAY.

On the other hand, one Census official told Marketplace that possible fears from the immigration law have yet to show up in the count:
Census Spokesman Leo Cardenas says he was concerned that Arizona's law would send the Latino community into hiding -- a fear which has not played out so far. "When we go door-to-door, the cooperation continues to be enthusiastic and we continue to cross our fingers."

Cardenas also says Census takers are finding an unusually high number of vacant properties in Hispanic communities. "Clearly in response to the legislation, people are moving to where they can find jobs."
The Census tally is vital in the allocating of billions of dollars in federal funds and the assigning of seats to the House of Representatives. (According to one estimate Arizona is expected to gain one seat). Therefore, it is in the best interest of all Arizonans- regardless of race, ethnicity, immigration status, etc.- to cooperate and participate in the Census count.

Image- New York daily News
Online Sources- ABC News, The Latin Americanist, Marketplace,

Study: Infant mortality drops in LatAm

Infant mortality rats have fallen worldwide and Latin America is no exception according to data analyzed by the Institute for Health Metrics (IHM).

The IHM study- which was published this week- concluded that Brazil’s mortality rate plummeted from 52 deaths per thousand in 1990 to nearly twenty deaths per thousand this year. Along with Mexico, Brazil could meet one of the U.N.'s Millennium Goals: reducing the infant mortality rate by two thirds by 2015. In addition, other countries such as Peru, Paraguay, and Nicaragua have infant mortality rates between 20 to 39 per thousand.

The infant mortality rate in the U.S. has fallen as well (6.7 per 1000 in 2010) yet ranks lower than Chile and Cuba as well as other developed countries in Europe. The results may be interpreted as a strong indictment of the current health care system:
"There are an awful lot of people who think we have the best medical system in the world," said Dr. Christopher Murray, who directs the institute and is an author of the study. "The data is so contrary to that”…

The U.S. mortality rates defy traditional explanations, such as a nation's diversity, high number of immigrants and persistent pockets of poverty, Murray said…

Murray said high child mortality rates were not limited to black and Latino populations in the U.S. In fact, researchers have found high rates among higher-income whites, a group that traditionally has better access to medical care.
Image- AFP
Online Sources- Health Leaders Media, Los Angeles Times, Institute for Health Metrics, Xinhua

Maximum sentence against Marcelo Lucero killer

The teen convicted in the death of an Ecuadorian immigrant in New York will have 25 years in jail to contemplate his crime.

Nineteen-year-old Jeffrey Conroy gave a tearful apology to the family of Marcelo Lucero- the man Conroy was accused of killing during a November 2008 evening of “beaner-jumping” with several other teens. Nevertheless state Supreme Court Justice Robert W. Doyle declared that "the proof was overwhelming" against Conroy and imposed the maximum sentence weeks after Conroy was convicted of manslaughter as a hate crime last month. Though Conroy was acquitted of murder Doyle emphasized that Conroy was guilty of “senseless and brutal crimes” including having assaulted other Latino immigrants on Long Island.

The judge’s decision brought out strong emotions among some of the relatives of both the attacker and the victim:
After the sentence was imposed, Conroy's father, Robert Conroy, shouted an expletive, saying his son was only 17 at the time of the attack. 

The killing shone a national spotlight on race relations on Long Island.

After Conroy was convicted, Lucero's mother, Rosario Lucero, said through a translator that she had forgiven Conroy and would pray for him.
Today’s sentencing comes days after a sixth teen pleaded guilty to hate crime charges related to Lucero’s death. Christopher Overton admitted he accompanied Conroy and five others on the night Lucero was slain and was previously signaled by Conroy as the one who killed Lucero.

In the meantime, police in nearby Peekskill are investigating whether the “brutal beating” of another Ecuadorian represents a hate crime. Much like the community where Lucero was killed, Peekskill has enjoyed a growth in its Latino population in recent years.

Image- New York Times (“Jayson Llivicura, 7, put money into a donation box at a memorial for Marcelo Lucero” back in 2008.)
Online Sources- CNN, The Latin Americanist, Long Island Press, Canadian Press, New York Times, CBS News

Today’s Video: Argentina's 200th birthday

On Tuesday Argentines worldwide celebrated the country's bicentennial despite some domestic political divisions. Nonetheless, two million revelers took to the streets of Buenos Aires last night in a show of patriotism and a celebration of national pride.

As part of yesterday's festivities the ornate and beautiful Teatro Colon was reopened after an extensive four-year refurbishment. The theater's many intricate and stunning details can be viewed in the following video:

Online Sources - YouTube, AFP, AP, The Telgraph

Daily Headlines: May 26, 2010

* Guatemala: As part of a planned lifting of a ban on all international adoptions Guatemalan authorities will obligate DNA tests for all prospective adoptees.

* U.S.: First it was the late Salvadoran bishop Oscar Romero. Now its labor rights activist Dolores Huerta who has become the latest Latino non grata for most Texan school officials.

* Paraguay: President Fernando Lugo vowed to continue an armed forces crackdown against the Paraguayan People's Army rebels.

* Venezuela: The country’s economy continues to be in a recession according to government figures released on Tuesday.

Image –Time (2007 image of babies in a Guatemalan orphanage).
Online Sources - MSNBC, BBC News,, AP, The Latin Americanist

American Released After 15 Years in Peruvian Prison

Seven years ago I was in Peru and saw from a distance the jail where Lori Berenson was being held. High up in the barren, frigid Andean highlands, I remember thinking to myself, "man, it would suck to be in jail there."

Lori was released from prison today after serving 15 years for assisting the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA). Lori was originally sentenced to a life term and always maintained she was innocent.

Image Source: Life Magazine
Online Sources: BBC News

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Today’s Video: How about “No pendejos”

Was it a harmless prank or a racist message? So far the motive is not known as to why a pair of roadwork signs on a southern Florida highway were hacked and altered to read “No Latinos” and “No tacos”. It’s also unknown how long the messages were visible and whether the signs were modified internally or remotely. Yet by Tuesday morning the signs were turned off and under police surveillance.

With that area home to such a notable Latino population it was bound to rile some people up. According to NBC Miami’s website:
Reaction to the sign, posted on the "Today in South Florida" Facebook page was mixed.

"Wow someone has a lot of time on their hands to think up of how they can belittle and disrespect a group of people who help keep this country going," said Luly Cueto-Belot.

"Greatest thing I ever saw...let's take this country back dammit!!!..south will rise again mother---er!!" said David Pines.
This must be seen to be believed:

View more news videos at:

Online Sources- NBC Miami, AHN, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Daily Headlines: May 25, 2010

* Venezuela: As part of a government-led crackdown on currency speculating Venezuelan authorities raided the county’s biggest private brokerage on Monday.

* Haiti: Is a “new comedy soap opera” set in a Haitian earthquake survivor camp tasteless or appropriate?

* Panama: President Ricardo Martinelli issued a state apology and a “recognition of mistakes” during Panama’s military rule between 1968 and 1989.

* Mexico: “El Tri” lost 3-1 to England at Wembley in an international friendly roughly two weeks ahead of the upcoming World Cup.

Image –The Telegraph (Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has widened a crackdown on brokers after accusing them of running a “parallel” exchange market).
Online Sources- The Guardian, ABS-CBN News, AP, Reuters

Monday, May 24, 2010

Uribe, Paramilitaries and the Colombian Election

Colombians go to the polls this Sunday, and the likely result will be see former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos and former Bogotá mayor Antanas Mockus headed to a runoff election in June.

Today a new story came to light that promises to play a big part in Colombia's ongoing debate (and main election narrative) about how well the Uribe administration (with Santos as Defense Minister) has enforced rule of law and human rights protections in its agressive campaign against guerrillas and drug traffickers.

From today's Washington Post:
Juan Carlos Meneses, 42, a retired major in Colombia's National Police, has decided to speak out about how he collaborated with a paramilitary group in the small northern town of Yarumal. The group, he now says, was organized and led by Santiago Uribe, President Álvaro Uribe's brother.
And on Uribe's own knowledge of the group:
Q: What was the role of Álvaro Uribe, a rising politician and senator with an eye on national office, as all this was going on in Yarumal?
A: "What I knew about Álvaro is what Santiago told me. In that time, he said to me, 'Don't worry, lieutenant. My brother, Álvaro, knows all about this."
Uribe's response to the story, which first ran in the Washington Post and Pagina 12 of Argentina was "I don't read international newspapers."

Uribe has a history of not hiding his discontent when reporters ask question he doesn't like, but I don't expect he'll be able to plead ignorance for much longer on this one.

What Uribe eventually does say just may end up helping Mockus convince the Colombian electorate that he's the candidate they're after in a "change" election.

Image Source: Colombia Reports
Online Sources: Colombia Reports, LA Times, Washington Post, BBC Mundo, Americas Quarterly

Today’s Video: The economics of the drug trade

In last week’s poll we wondered whether or not the “war on drugs” has been successful or is in need of reform. As food for thought on that issue we’re highlighting a portion of Nils Gilman’s speech earlier this month on “deviant globalization.” Below the author examined the prices of cocaine and claimed that U.S. counternarcotics efforts helped increase profit margins for drug suppliers:

Online Sources- YouTube

Daily Headlines: May 24, 2010

* Dominican Republic: Rest in peace Jose Lima; the Dominican-born former Major League pitcher died of an apparent cardiac arrest yesterday at the age of 37.

* U.S.: Another Ecuadorian migrant has been brutally attacked in New York in what could be classified by police as a hate crime.

* Peru: No major damages or casualties have been reported after a 5.9-magnitude earthquake shook southern Peru yesterday.

* Mexico: Based on his family’s request police have stopped the search for missing ex-presidential candidate Diego Fernandez de Cevallos.

Image – Los Angeles Times (This image of Jose Lima was taken less than 48 hours before he passed away).
Online Sources- CNN, New York times, Los Angeles Times, MSNBC,

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Weekend World Watch: Tragedy in India

* India: Investigators found the black box from the debris of Saturday’s Air India plane crash that killed 158 people.

* Thailand: “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” was the surprise winner of the Palme d'Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

* South Korea: President Lee Myung-bak is expected to announce on Monday what actions South Korea will take on its northern neighbor over March’s sinking of the navy ship Cheonan.

* Malawi: Crowds jeered a gay couple that was sentenced to fourteen years in jail due to their homosexual relationship.

Image – ABC Online
Online Sources- The Telegraph, BBC News, Voice of America, MSNBC