Friday, July 16, 2010

Today's Video: Hunger for justice

The hunger strike has been employed as a form of protest worldwide and Latin America hasn't been an exception. Figures like Bolivian president Evo Morales and Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas have brought attention to their respective causes by fasting.

Today marks the 83rd day of a hunger strike by Mexican engineer Cayetano Cabrera Esteva who was laid off after last October's government seizure of Luz y Fuerza del Centro. Doctors monitoring Cabrera's condition warned that his life is at serious risk and some of his supporters have even urged him to give up fasting. As one Mexican blogger noted, however, Cabrera told an interviewer that he wants to "give my life for my comrades in resistance, as long as we get back our work and respect for our rights".

The following is a video news report from Mexico's El Universal. Decide for yourself if his protest is a noble gesture or an exercise in futility:

Online Sources - YouTube, CNN, The Latin Americanist, El Economista,,

Daily Headlines: July 16, 2010

* Mexico: Political infighting appeared to be the reason behind replacing Fernando Gomez Mont as interior minister with a “little-known pick”.

* El Salvador: U.S. immigration officials extended the temporary protected status deadline for Salvadorans days after it was also extended for Haitians.

* Cuba: Spanish firm Repsol has commenced "the exploration stage" of oil drilling near the Cuban coast, much to the chagrin of some U.S. legislators.

* Latin America: According to OPEC the global need for oil will increase by a million barrels per day next year partly as a result of increased demand from Latin America.

Image – BBC News (“Jose Francisco Blake (left) will be responsible for national security” after being chosen by Mexican President Felipe Calderon to be the next interior minister.)
Online Sources- CNN, The Latin Americanist, BusinessWeek, Reuters, Miami Herald

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Brazil Behind for 2014

Less than a week after the World Cup ended, the world's gaze is already turning toward Brazil.

The country will host the next event in 2014, and South Africa's will be a show to beat.

FIFA has already put the pressure on the country, asking them to hurry their preparation for the stadium, including renovation and infrastructure, the AP reported.

Brazil also needs to finish work on things visitors will use, like airports.

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke called Brazil's lack of improvement "amazing," the AP reported.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva defended his country's efforts.

"The World Cup in Africa is over and now everybody is asking, 'Where are the Brazilian airports? Where are the Brazilian stadiums? Where are the Brazilian trains?'" Silva said. "As if we were a bunch of idiots who didn't know how to do things and define priorities."

The AP reports that Brazil has "barely started working" on the 12 necessary stadiums and Sao Paulo doesn't have a stadium at all.

Source: AP

Photo: ESPN

Women Trying to Catch Up

Women still lag behind men in Latin America, Marifeli Perez-Stable wrote today in the Miami Herald.

Perez-Stable writes that fewer than 50 percent of women participate in the labor force, contributing to a stubborn wage gap. Costa Rica has come closest to bridging the gap, Perez-Stable said.

She suggests that some health care has improved for women, but maternal mortality continues to be a problem in countries from Bolivia to Ecuador and the Dominican Republic.

Domestic violence is still a huge issue -- just this week a report showed that in Brazil, 10 women are killed daily because of domestic violence.

Earlier this week, we reported that the United States is considering allowing a special asylum group for Guatemalan women because so many are killed in their home country.

Read more of Perez-Stable's article here.

Sources: CNN, Miami Herald

Argentina: Legislature backs gay marriage bill

Argentina will soon become the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriages after an intense debate in the country’s Senate.

By 33-27 vote, the upper legislative house approved the proposal that would permit gay and lesbian couples to have the same rights as heterosexual couples. “I believe this has advanced equal rights,” said Senator Eugenio Artaza to the press after discussion over the proposal that lasted over fourteen tense hours and ended at 4 a.m.

The bill is expected to be signed by President Cristina Fernandez and public opinion polls show that most Argentines favor the initiative. Yet that didn’t stop several thousand protestors of gay marriage from demonstrating in front of the Congressional building. One activist against the bill told the BBC that her opposition was not discriminatory since "the essence of a family is between two people of opposite sexes".

Latin America has gradually changed its laws in recent years to permit increased rights for homosexuals; Mexico City legalized gay marriage while same-sex unions are allowed in Uruguay and some Brazilian states.

Despite the staunch opposition to the Argentine bill by some religious figures, one local senator provided a differing spiritual view:
“I admit that I am a non-practicing Catholic. But I got married, had children and baptized them, and I felt ashamed of the comments (against the bill) by my pastor. Monsignor Bergoglio shouldn’t have said that the devil’s will is within this bill.”
Image- BBC News (Anti-gay marriage banner reads “Neither union nor adoption. Only man and wife.”)
Online Sources- Clarin, UPI, Globe and mail, BBC News, MSNBC

Daily Headlines: July 15, 2010

* Latin America: According to Interpol the southeastern African country of Mozambique has become “a corridor” for illegal drugs from Latin America into Europe.

* Brazil: President Lula da Silva has proposed strengthening already existing laws restricting foreign ownership of Brazilian land.

* Chile: No casualties or major damages were reported after a 6.5-magnitude earthquake shook parts of central Chile yesterday.

* Venezuela: Police arrested an opposition politician who allegedly was found with explosive devices in his residence.

Image – BBC News (“West Africa, rather than southern Africa, is more often associated with drug smuggling”.)
Online Sources- CNN, AFP, The Telegraph, UPI

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Today's Video: First the quake, now the rain

Most Haitians who survived a major earthquake six months ago have faced numerous obstacles in order to survive and move on. One of the main problems has been the wet and wild weather that forced the residents of one refugee camp to scramble for secure shelter:

Online Sources - The Latin Americanist, YouTube

Court rules for Guatemalan woman seeking asylum

A U.S. federal court ruling could open the doors for Guatemalan women seeking to escape the violence of their homeland.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the deportation order of a Guatemalan woman seeking asylum in the U.S. The judge ruled in favor of Lesly Yajayra Perdomo who argued that her life would be in danger if sent back to Guatemala. More importantly, however, the court said that Guatemalan women as a group could be eligible for asylum due to the high rate of murders against females. Hence, the tribunal decided against two immigration courts that deemed that "all women in Guatemala" would be too broad a social group to fit under the guidelines for asylum.

The decision also has strong implications for women in other Central American countries like El Salvador and Honduras where violence against women is far too common. According to the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at the University of California, San Francisco's law school over 3800 Guatemalan women have been murdered since 2000.

Department of Justice figures said that in the fiscal year 2009 immigration authorities granted asylum to less than five percent of the 3250 asylum applications from Guatemalans. Those numbers aren’t likely to significantly change according to one analyst:
Proving that Perdomo will face persecution if she is returned to Guatemala and that the country doesn't protect its young women will be hard to prove, he said. Any other Guatemalan women hoping to take advantage of this week's ruling will have to do the same.

"I don't think there's going to be a flood of Guatemalan women applying for asylum tomorrow," (Dean of the University of California-Davis Law School Kevin) Johnson said. "This is part of a trend among U.S. courts to ensure women are afforded protection under asylum laws."
Image- BBC News
Online Sources- Los Angeles Times, CNN, AP, LAHT

Latino fear over Utah immigration blacklist

The debate over immigration, and in particular illegal immigration, has at times turned ugly and crass. The latest example has led to increased anxiety and fear among Utah’s Latino community.

A group that called “Concerned Citizens of the United States” sent to several Utah media outlets and police officials a list of over 1300 people suspected of being undocumented immigrants. The anonymous mailing included personal information such as names and addresses as well as Social Security numbers and employers in a few cases. Most of the surnames on the compiled blacklist were reportedly of Latino origin.

A letter accompanying the list, which was mailed out in April, claimed that the group "observes these individuals in our neighborhoods, driving on our streets, working in our stores, attending our schools and entering our public welfare buildings." Furthermore, the group said that they would provide “new lists on a continual basis” with the possibility that those named will be deported.

The accuracy of the list is unknown yet that hasn’t stopped Latinos in Utah from feeling terrorized. "Why did they put me on that list? Now it's been 15 years since I got my residency. … I'm angry," said one woman to the local press while the director of Utah’s Proyecto Latino said that some are worried of harassment by "crazy people".

In response to the mailing Gov. Gary Herbert wrote in a tweet that he has ordered an investigation into the origins of the mailing including the possible illegal infiltration of private government databases.

Legislators in Utah are considering a proposal similar to Arizona’s staunch anti-immigration law set to take place later this month though the Utah bill’s sponsor publicly deplored the mailing of the list. Despite the backlash against the possibly criminal mailing one anti-immigration activist applauded the list:
Eli Cawley, the co-chair of Utah's Minuteman Project, doesn't object to the list. If the information about their immigration status is accurate, Cawley says such dramatic, anonymous, grassroots efforts are called for.

"I believe, in this case, it [is] because illegal migration is the most serious threat to our civilization today," Cawley said.
Image- TIME
Online Sources- Salt Lake Tribune, UPI, Deseret News, New York Daily News, KSL, MSNBC

Daily Headlines: July 14, 2010

* Argentina: Despite strong opposition from the Catholic Church Argentina could soon become the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage.

* Dominican Republic: Post-earthquake Haiti, combating the illegal drug trade and diplomacy with Honduras were some of the issues discussed during Dominican President Leonel Fernandez’ recent visit to the White House.

* Bolivia: Discussions were held in La Paz on Monday over possibly allowing landlocked Bolivia to gain access to the Pacific Ocean via Chile.

* Mexico: Drug gangs may have been behind the murders of three men whose bodies were found hanging off a bridge located about forty miles from Mexico City.

Image – MSNBC (“Members of Catholic groups protest outside Argentina's Congress against a same sex marriage bill in Buenos Aires, Tuesday, July 13, 2010. On Wednesday, senators are expected to vote over the bill which would make Argentina become the first Latin American country to legalize same sex marriage.”)
Online Sources- France24, AFP, MercoPress,

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ecuadorian Parliament to Debate on Higher Education Reform

President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa stated that Parliament would be debating the proposed higher education law today for the second time. Correa hopes to revolutionize Ecuadorian higher education and impose stricter laws on qualifications for college professors. The new law would require all university professors to have a master's degree, and all university presidents a Ph.D. While Ecuadorian university students are actually protesting the law, Correa urged
students and teachers from universities to avoid being manipulated by those who defend their privileges and urged them to support what he called a fundamental law for the country's future.
Some professors feel the new law would be unrealistic, as Ecuador only has about 250 full-time professors with doctorates, leaving no one left to conduct research. While Correa looks toward making the higher educational system in Ecuador more respected and reputable, and feels that high education reform is key to development, some feel that the educational focus in his second term as president is too close to the neighboring country of Venezuela. Similar to Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela, who changed the educational system making the government in charge of all university hiring, salaries, and admissions, some are accusing Correa of trying to undermine university autonomy.

Photo Source:

R.I.P. Paulo Moura

One of Brazil's great instrumentalists Paulo Moura has died at the age of 77. Moura died after losing his battle with lymphoma yesterday. The clarinet player received a Latin Grammy in 2000 for best Brazilian roots album, and was also nominated for a Latin Grammy in 2004 for best instrumental album.

Online Sources: News
Online Images: Catraca Livre
Online Video:

Cuba: Freed dissidents arrive in Spain

As we mentioned last night Cuba’s former dictator Fidel Castro appeared in an interview on state TV. While he focused on international affairs such as Western nuclear tensions with Iran and North Korea he remained mum on the planned release of over fifty jailed dissidents.

Earlier today the first group of liberated activists arrived in Madrid from Havana. The seven men- most of who were described by the AP as "independent journalists"- expressed their gratitude with the Cuban Catholic Church and Spanish authorities that helped negotiate their release. “Change begins with freedom, not only ours and our companions, but all Cuban citizens,” Ricardo Gonzalez said while one of his compatriots, Julio Cesar Galvez, added his “that those [prisoners] who remain in Cuba will enjoy the same freedom as we do."

According to Cuban church officials another thirteen jailed activists will be freed in the upcoming days after being imprisoned since 2003. Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation head Elizardo Sánchez reportedly said that three prisoners had requested to stay in Cuba in case they were to be freed.

International political pressure may have led to the deal reached with the Castro regime to free up to 52 prisoners over the next few months. Economic matters may have also had a vital role such as the possibility of easing U.S. agricultural restrictions on Cuba. As was noted on the AS/COA Online:
The releases should also be viewed “against Cuba’s truly grim economic backdrop,” writes John Paul Rathbone in the Financial Times. This year’s sugar harvest ranks as the island’s worst since 1905 and Raúl Castro described mending Cuba’s “complex economic problems” as an urgent priority during a speech at the end of May. By boosting its image through a prisoner release, Havana could make economic gains by winning support to weaken sanctions.
Image- AFP
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, CNN, AP, BBC News, The Guardian, AS/COA Online, Reuters

Daily Headlines: July 13, 2010

* Latin America: The sky above parts of Latin America including Easter Island briefly plunged into darkness due to a rare solar eclipse.

* Mexico: Does a boost in Mexican car sales mean that the country’s economy is improving?

* Argentina: President Cristina Fernandez has singed several multibillion-dollar bilateral cooperation contracts during her visit to China.

* Guatemala: At least 23 people were killed during a 24-hour period including an armed attack on a minibus allegedly by gang members.

Image – CBS News (“The sun is covered by the moon during the solar eclipse, in Easter Island, Chile, Sunday, July 11, 2010.”)
Online Sources- Huffington Post, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal, LAHT

Monday, July 12, 2010

Nighttime News Roundup

  • Cuba: Fidel Castro returned to Cuban television for a long interview in which he appeared in normal health and said that war between the US and Iran was inevitable.
Online Sources: Telemetro (Panama), ABC News, Associated Press

Shadows still loom over post-quake Haiti

Monday marks he sixth-month anniversary of one of the grimmest events of 2010: the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti that killed at least 220,000 people. Since January 12th progress has been achingly slow; 1.5 million people are still homeless, basic services like water and health care are hard to come by, and an already economically and politically weak country continues to teeter on the precipice. As the video below shows, some of Haiti’s youngest survivors still face a mammoth effort to strive forward:

Undocumented Haitians in the U.S. have been granted a brief reprieve after immigration authorities announced the extension of the temporary protected status deadline to January 2011. According to the government over 55,000 applications have been submitted for the program that confers a special legal status to undocumented migrants residing in the U.S. before the January tremor.

Though the TPS extension is seen as a positive move by some Haitian expats, one immigration activist feels that more could be done:
La Rhonda Odom, deputy director of Haitian Women of Miami, said she hopes the administration will allow Haitians expedited visas to join their families in the U.S., similar to the 2007 Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program. There are currently 55,000 Haitians whose petitions to immigrate to the U.S. have been accepted but they are languishing on waiting lists dating back as far as 10 years.
Online Sources- Miami Herald, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, MSNBC, YouTube, Monsters and Critics, The Latin Americanist

Colombia: Ex-hostage defends legal moves

The announcement on Friday that former Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt filed a claim against the state has led to shock and anger among most Colombians. Her claim for about $6.8 million in damages may have some legal basis according to the La Silla Vacia website, while other former hostages are considering similar actions. Yet to the Colombian public her gratitude in being rescued by the army as well as her harsh criticism of her ex- guerilla captors has been undermined by the recent legal actions.

One of the harshest critiques against Betancourt over the weekend (outside of the president’s residence) came from Maria Jimena Duzan, a left-leaning columnist who has been highly critical of President Alvaro Uribe. “(If Betancourt wins her case) I promise that I will do up to the impossible to avoid that my taxes fall into her hands,” wrote Duzan in her piece published on Saturday.

In light of the backlash against her, Betancourt appeared in a televised interview Sunday night and said that her claim was not an indictment against the Colombian military. She insisted that the “idea was never to attack those who freed” her two years ago but rather to "open the way so that other people who have been kidnapped can get compensation". In addition:
Asked why she was seeking so much money, the former hostage admitted the sum was "astronomical" and "absurd", but she stressed it was "symbolic".

She had acted because the statute of limitations was running out, she said.

Ms Betancourt said she also wanted to tell her side of the story as she had been accused of irresponsibility by undertaking the journey that ultimately led to her kidnap.

The authorities had in fact taken away her bodyguards, she said.
In response, Interior Minister Fabio Valencia Cossio said that her decision to take her claim into a type of arbitration known as conciliation was “intelligent”.

Image- BBC News
Online Sources- Colombia Reports, La Silla Vacia, AFP,, Al Jazeera English, BBC News, El Tiempo

AP: Chile could take in Cuban dissidents

The Cuban government came to an agreement last week to free 52 political prisoners who have been jailed on the island since 2003. A planned 17 dissidents including journalists and activists are expected to be released from the island in the next few weeks and sent to Spain where they will receive political asylum.

Will Latin American countries be willing to accept other freed dissidents? According to the AP that may be the case for one nation in the Southern Cone:
Chile says it will take in Cuban dissidents released by the communist government.

A spokeswoman for Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno says he is trying to help liberate Cuba's dissidents…

Moreno did not talk to Cuban officials directly. Cuba has not commented on its promised release of political prisoners.
Despite the plan to free political prisoners some activists on the island like the Ladies in White said that they would continue their “weekly march calling for the release of their relatives.”

On a related note, former leader Fidel Castro is expected to appear on Cuban TV and radio days after he made his first public appearance in four years.

Image- Globe and Mail (“Former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro visits the National Centre for Scientific Investigation in Havana on July 7.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Al Jazeera English, USA TODAY, BBC News, Reuters

World Cup Review: Fabulous “furia”

After Spain played sloppily and lost its first World Cup group game against Switzerland it appeared as if they would once again fall short of their ultimate goal. Six victories later, however, Spain sits on top of the soccer world after winning the sport’s ultimate prize.

“La Furia Roja” captured the crown on Sunday over the Netherlands with a lone goal by Andres Iniesta in the 116th minute of play. Iniesta’s strike came with minutes left to spare in extra time in a game marked by rough play from both sides. Despite a match that included a World Cup finals record fourteen yellow cards the result was a well-deserved reward for a so-called “golden generation” of player including Iniesta, David Villa, Sergio Ramos, and Iker Casillas.

Spain’s first-ever World Cup title will be celebrated later today with a parade through the streets of Madrid. Hundreds of thousands of revelers including some who likely partied all through the night after watching the title game outdoors are expected to give a hero’s welcome to their champion squad:

The Guardian’s Richard Williams described the third-place game between Germany and Uruguay as “a match far worthier to be called a final.” Perhaps he may be right after a thrilling 3-2 German victory where Uruguay fought valiantly throughout the entire match. Goals came from Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlan with the latter nearly tying the game but his last-gasp shot ricocheted off the crossbar.

Whether Uruguay can carry its overachievement in this World Cup into qualifying for Brazil 2014 remains to be seen. For now, however, we should celebrate Uruguay’s great role as the sole Latin American side to reach the semis in this tournament. The international press selected Forlan as the best player of the World Cup; thus, a fitting end to a great Uruguayan run in South Africa.

Online Sources- Too many to individually list

Daily Headlines: July 12, 2010

* Panama: At least two people were killed during clashes between police and banana plantation workers upset with the government’s economic policies.

* Peru: Will Peruvian authorities allow alleged Russian spy Vicky Pelaez to return to her birth country?

* U.S.: Rest in peace Ramon Eduardo Ruiz; the Mexican-American historian, professor, and National Humanities Medal award winner died at the age of 88.

* Cuba: A trio of Cuban nationals face life in jail after deceiving Cuban migrants and holding them for ransom in Mexico.

Image – Miami Herald (“An unidentified man is aid after being injured during clashes with police in Changuinola, western Panama, Thursday, July 8, 2010.”)
Online Sources- Miami Herald, Reuters, The Telegraph, Los Angeles Times