Saturday, October 2, 2010

Today’s Video: The horror of Carandiru

October 2nd is an infamous date in Mexican history since it was on that day in 1968 that the Tlateloco massacre took place. Several hundred demonstrators were believed to have been killed by government troops in Mexico City only days before the Summer Olympics were to begin. The massacre would lead into a "dirty war" that was smaller in scope compared to later efforts in Argentina and Chile but would still be repressive against government opposition.

Nearly a quarter of a century after the Tlateloco massacre another mass killing would shock Brazilians.

1992 was a dark year for Brazil with the shameful resignation of President Fernando Collor de Mello and the senseless murder of actress Daniela Perez. Yet the lowest point was eighteen years ago today when 111 inmates were slain in the Carandiru Penitentiary. Military police were accused of killing most of the prisoners while trying to control a riot in the overpopulated facility. Ex-police chief Ubiratan Guimaraes was convicted in a 2001 trial where eyewitnesses and forensic experts claimed that troops killed inmates execution-style and even those who had surrendered. Guimaraes' conviction would be overturned in 2006 and no other officials since then have been punished for the Carandiru massacre.

Carandiru was demolished in 2002 and a public park currently sits on the site of what had once been South America's largest prison complex. The memories of the “biggest act of cowardice committed by the Brazilian State against the imprisioned population in the country's history” still lingers, as one blogger said in 2008.

The following video from VBS (via CNN) shows how former Carandiru guard Ronaldo Mazotto de Lima has saved thousands of pieces of evidence documenting the 1992 massacre. Some of the images in the clip are violent and Not Safe For Work though Mazotto believes that they are needed in order to preserve the infamy of Carandiru:

Friday, October 1, 2010

Daily Headlines: October 1, 2010

* Peru: Paleontologists discovered the 36-million-year-old fossil of a “giant penguin” that had gray and reddish brown feathers and was over five feet tall.

* Latin America: Over 600 people in thirteen South American countries were arrested for counterfeiting products according to Interpol.

* Venezuela: At least sixteen people were killed after a four-day riot took place in a northern Venezuelan prison.

* Mexico: Farmers in the world’s fourth-largest producer of corn are expected to grow a record 24.9 million tons of the vegetable this year.

Image – BBC News
Online Sources- CNN, LAHT, MSNBC, Bloomberg

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ecuador's Correa targeted in supposed coup attempt (Updated)

Update (11:30pm):
We end today's coverage of the tension in Ecuador with the following video of a portion of Correa's speech tonight. (Skip to the 1:30 mark to hear Correa address his followers in Quito):

Update (11:05 pm):
In an emotional speech from the balcony of the presidential palace Correa bemoaned the "unnecessary spilling of blood" during a very turbulent Thursday. He thanked those police and military who were loyal to him as well as the support from leaders throughout the Americas.

Correa accused opposition forces of "infiltrating the police" and said that the officers how protested against him where taken advantage of by those who want to defeat them such as followers of former president Lucio Gutierrez. He vowed that those responsible for Thursday's "insurrection" will not be exempt from punishment for their actions.

"We must use all of our energy, all of our ensure that the citizens' revolution shall never be stopped," concluded Correa at the end of his address.

Update (10:35 pm):
President Correa left the hospital in one of two vehicles guarded by special operations troops. Ecuavisa said that he is one his way to the presidential palace and will later give a televised speech.

The following video shows some of the battle between protesting police and military loyal to Correa that took place minutes ago:

Update (10:15pm):
According to Ecuador's El Universo the gunfight occurred as the military attempted to take control of the Quito police hospital with the aim of getting Correa safely out of the clinic.

Footage from Ecuavisa International showed an SUV go inside one of the entrances before departing for an as yet unknown destination. It is also unknown if Correa was in that vehicle or if the military has gained complete control of the hospital area.

Update (10:10pm):
Footage from Ecuadorian television (Ecuavisa International) is showing an intense gunfire occurring in the environs of the Quito hospital where President Correa has been staying. It is rumored that protesting police and troops loyal to the president are battling.

More details to come momentarily.

Update (9:00pm):
According to the government at least one person is dead as a result of today's incidents. "We cannot accept these acts of violence," said internal security minister Miguel Carvajal earlier tonight.

Update (8:30pm):
A group of demonstrators tried to take over the studios of Ecuador TV earlier tonight. "They are attacking our comrades in the master control room" said a presenter live on the air who later interviewed one of the protesters. The "young university student" claimed that the protest was done "by a portion of the population... (who) disagrees with his (President Correa's) actions."

Previously it was reported that the protesters attempted to topple a TV antenna in Quito several hours after the state of siege was declared. (All TV stations were obligated to air the signal from public channel Ecuador TV.) The antenna, located on Pichincha hill, also controls the signals for the only other station on the air: government-run Gama TV.

Update (7:45pm):
Is President Correa, who remains in hospital after being injured this afternoon, being held there against his will? Police chief Freddy Martínez has denied that rumor.

According to the local press, Correa met with representatives from the police who demonstrated against the government today. A spokesman claimed that Correa decided to keep a system of bonuses for promoted officers. (Yesterday Correa reportedly decreed to scrap that system; a decision that caused was not well received by some cops and soldiers).

Update (6:45pm):
The Organization of American States (OAS) unanimously approved a declaration condemning "any attempt to modify the democratic institutions" in Ecuador. OAS representatives from around the region expressed their support for President Correa during the extraordinary session of the permanent council this afternoon.

The U.S. envoy to the OAS, Carmen Lomellin, backed Correa and added her hope that the resolution could lead to a "respectful dialogue between all parties involved." Lomellin's words where echoed in a statement by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who urged "all Ecuadorians to come together and to work within the framework of Ecuador's democratic institutions to reach a rapid and peaceful restoration of order."

Outside of the Americas, the foriegn policy chief of the E.U. was quoted as saying that she "express my full support to Ecuador's democratically elected institutions." A spokesman for U.N. secretary general Ban Ki-moon mentioned that he was " deeply concerned about developments today in Ecuador, including reported acts of insubordination by some members of the police and military."

Update (3:45pm):
Governments from around the Americas have given their support to the Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa. One of the most notable reactions came from Peruvian President Alan Garcia who ordered the closing of his country's border with Ecuador. Garcia denounced the "gross intervention of the gorillas that still exist in the Americas" in reference to what Ecuadorian authorities claimed to have been an attempted coup against Correa.

Update (3:00pm):
The Ecuadorian government has just declared a "state of exception" for one week, which grants the armed forces control of all domestic security. Such a step was needed "once sectors of the police irresponsibly abandoned their duties," said Security Minister Miguel Carvajal.

Original Post:
Tensions are rapidly rising in Ecuador as a result of protests against the government.

On Wednesday President Rafael Correa decreed that the government would halt the practice of granting police and military with bonuses every time they receive a promotion. Hundreds of protesting officers and troops then reportedly cut off highway access to the capital city of Quito and forced the shutdown of the capital's Mariscal Sucre airport. Sporadic looting was also reported in several cities and Quito's main army barracks was supposedly overrun by the demonstrators.

As can be seen in the video below, Correa appealed for calm while facing heckling from some demonstrators. He was supposedly hit by a bottle and then transferred to a hospital after he defiantly said that “if they want to kill me, go ahead”:

The situation has exacerbated political tensions with Correa telling Ecuadorian public radio that opposition forces are behind the protests with the intent of overthrowing him. In the meantime, army chief General Ernesto Gonzalez said that the armed forces are loyal to Correa and the government.

Online Sources- CNN, AP, BBC News, Bloomberg, YouTube, Reuters

Daily Headlines: September 30, 2010

* U.S.: Rest in peace Greg Giraldo; the comedian of Spanish and Colombian decent died yesterday possibly from an accidental overdose of prescription medicine.

* Venezuela: Two inmates could soon be freed after they were elected to the Venezuelan legislature in Sunday’s elections.

* Nicaragua: A representative of President Daniel Ortega received a petition with 37,000 signatures advocating for the decriminalization of Nicaragua’s strict anti-abortion laws.

* Chile: Three jailed Mapuches joined 35 of their fellow companions in a hunger strike against alleged government repression.

Image – New York Daily News
Online Sources- Sify, El Universal, LAHT, CBS News, The Latin Americanist

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Colombia, Mexico Recover from Landslide

Two countries are reeling from landslides that hit this week.

In Colombia, a landslide buried 30 people Monday.

Rescue workers said that they have no hope to find survivors who were buried under 3.5 million cubic feet of earth.

"There is no hope," Jorge Humberto Moreno Salazar, a spokesman for the governor, told newspaper El Espectador. "There are tons of rocks on these people."

The BBC reports that bus passengers were walking across a road that was blocked from a previous landslide. President Juan Manuel Santos said people had been warned to stay away from the site.

In Mexico, after admitting that initial reports exaggerated the number of people missing, officials estimated that three adults and eight children were missing and ten houses were destroyed.


Photo: AFP

Mexico's Illegals are Americans

Talk about a turning of tables.

Most of Mexico's illegal immigrants are Americans, GlobalPost reported this week.

Contrary to the images of Central Americans sneaking over the border into Mexico and hopping trains headed toward the United States, a Mexican immigration agent said that the majority of illegal immigrants are American citizens.

Because foreigners living in Mexico after five years can apply for citizenships, Americans on the lam or simply deciding to indefinitely extend their vacation can end up making Mexico their new home.

“It’s so easy to own property," Barbara Rudd, 62, a transplant to Mexico, told GlobalPost. "Compared to the U.S., it’s a breeze.”

Brazil: Send in the clowns…to the legislature

Here in the U.S. one of the most common complaints against politicians is that they act buffoonish like circus clowns. In Brazil, one candidate is taking that saying very seriously.

Francisco Everardo Oliveira Silva is a former circus clown turned TV comedian who is running for a seat in the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies. Though his stage name of “Tiririca” is colonial Portuguese for grumpy, his attitude is anything but as shown in campaign slogans like “it can't get any worse". He could be one of the most popular candidates in Sunday’s elections after using lighthearted ads such as this one:

Even if Oliveira wins he may be prevented from taking office due to his education. A Sao Paulo judge ruled that Oliveira must meet Brazil’s literacy requirement for elected office. A local magazine brought up the possibility of his illiteracy after posing a video where he seemed to have trouble reading.

Oliveira isn’t the only celeb running in Brazil’s elections; retired soccer stars Romario and Bebeto have each vowed to promote youth participation in sports and "invest in high-level programs to train athletes for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.”

In the race for the presidency, meanwhile, ruling party candidate Dilma Rousseff may be forced into a runoff. A recent poll showed that her support dipped to 46%, 18 points ahead of rival Jose Serra though lacking the majority she would need to win outright on Sunday.

Online Sources- The Telegraph, YouTube, BBC News, LAHT, Bloomberg

Daily Headlines: September 29, 2010

* Mexico: After initially claiming that as many as 1000 people could be buried as a result of a massive landslide officials in Oaxaca subsequently said that only eleven villagers are missing.

* Chile: Over thirty miners trapped underground since early August could be freed weeks ahead of the December deadline.

* South America: November 22nd was announced as the first day of operations for the integrated Peruvian, Chilean and Colombian stock markets.

* Cuba: In an interview with Cuban TV a Salvadoran man claimed that Luis Posada Carriles hired him to plant bombs at several Havana locations during the 1990s.

Image – The Telegraph (“A landslide in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico.”)
Online Sources- NASDAQ, MSNBC, The Latin Americanist, AP, BBC News

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

World Watch: Falling short

* World: A U.N. report concluded that global target of universal access to prevention, treatment and care of HIV/AIDS will probably not be reached by the end of this year.

* Europe: According to Amnesty International ethnic Roma (a.k.a. Gypsies) face great difficulties after being deported from European countries to Kosovo.

* Middle East: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas next month in the hopes of continuing fragile negotiations.

* Spain: The country’s biggest corruption trial began with 95 defendants accused of taking part in the bribing of Marbella city officials.

Image – BBC News (“Life-saving HIV medicine.”)
Online Sources- Al Jazeera English, CNN, AFP, Voice of America

Colombia considers reparations bill

Colombia’s FARC rebels named its new military chief days after alias Mono Jojoy was killed in a military bombing. The Attorney General disqualified Piedad Cordoba from Congress over allegedly “promoting and collaborating” with the FARC. Those recent stories are important perhaps the most vital involves aiding the victims of the armed conflict.

On Monday the government presented a Victims Law designed to provide assistance to millions of people adversely affected by the violence from guerillas, paramilitaries, and other criminal groups. "The fundamental purpose is for victims to be able to reconstruct their lives," said President Juan Manuel Santos in a speech to Congress yesterday.

The bill focuses on four main points including giving reparations, educational aid, and returning land to victims. Furthermore, the proposal makes sure to recognize victims regardless of gender, race, or religion and permits those eligible for the program to apply directly for aid rather than wait for court approval.

A previous plan for victims was proposed last year but it was defeated in Congress partly due to objections over funding by the government of Alvaro Uribe. According to, the current proposal may have a better chance of being passed since the government sought to build legislative support for the bill before it was unveiled.

Image- Terra Colombia
Online Sources-, RTT, CNN, LAHT, Colombia Reports

Nuestro Cine: The real discovery

The European colonization and conquest of the Americas is typically seen as a unidirectional “discovery” of the New World. The reality is different as shown in the documentary “When Worlds Collide”, which premiered on most PBS stations yesterday. “What's really gone on is that there's been an ongoing negotiation between the two sides, and it's still going on,” said author Ruben Martinez to the Los Angeles Times regarding his work on the film.

“When Worlds Collide” attempts to analyze how the initial interactions between Spanish conquistadors and native peoples served as the genesis for the mestizo culture in the Americas. This ambitious film also looks at the multifaceted nature of Latin American identity such as the clip below that describes how the social caste system failed in the Americas:

Please check your local listings for future airings of “When Worlds Collide”.

Online Sources- PBS, Los Angeles Times, YouTube

Hundreds buried in Oaxaca landslide (Updated)

In a piece of breaking news hundreds of people are feared to be trapped in the Mexican state of Oaxaca as a result of a massive landslide during the overnight hours.

According to Mexican news daily Milenio local rescue officials believe that at least 100 families living in about 300 homes were buried after a hill gave way in the town of Santa Maria de Tlahuitoltepec. Oaxaca governor Ulises Ruiz told Televisa that as many as 1000 people could be dead due to the landslide resulting after nearly two weeks of heavy rainfall. Ruiz added that rescue efforts could be hampered by local rivers overflowing and flooding roads. Nevertheless emergency personnel including the military has been sent from Mexico City to the town located roughly fifty miles from Oaxaca City.

Yesterday Mexican authorities declared a state of emergency for several Oaxacan municipalities that are under high alert due to the wild weather. Other Mexican regions including Chiapas and Veracruz have been hit hard in the past few weeks by storms that have also affected parts of Central America.

Update: The official death toll thus far from the Oaxacan landslide is seven though some authorities worry that it could be much higher. Meanwhile at least twenty people are believed to be buried in another landslide that occurred this morning in Colombia.

Online Sources - El Universal, Milenio, MSNBC, CNN, The Guardian
Image - The Telegraph ("
Parts of Mexico are enduring their worst rainy season on record, which has triggered heavy flooding and forced thousands of people from their homes." )

Daily Headlines: September 28, 2010

* Mexico: Critically acclaimed director Guillermo Del Toro’s next project will involve the world of animation.

* Guatemala: Most residents of the “remote, indigenous village of Xenac” are outraged over the death of one of their compatriots after a confrontation with Los Angeles police.

* Bolivia: Social activists and media groups are butting heads over an anti-racism proposal that could soon become law.

* Honduras: Police claimed that the main suspect in the massacre of eighteen factory workers earlier this month was himself killed in a shootout.

Image – The Independent
Online Sources- The A.V. Club, Los Angeles Times, Knight Center, Miami Herald

Monday, September 27, 2010

Venezuela: Government, opposition claim victory

Is the glass half-full or half-empty? It depends on which side you believe “won” Sunday’s legislative elections in Venezuela.

On the one hand, the Venezuelan government led by President Hugo Chavez claimed that they emerged as the victors in the National Assembly elections. “My dear countrymen…we have obtained a solid victory,” wrote Chavez on his website today after the Venezuelan Socialist Party (PSUV, in Spanish) maintained their legislative majority. Indeed, the PSUV won at least 96 of the 165 seats and, as one analyst told the AP, the opposition “lacks a strong presence” in rural areas where Chavez is very popular.

The opposition coalition, however, made significant gains after having boycotted the last legislative elections in 2005. The minimum 60 seats obtained by the Democratic Unity (MUD, in Spanish) coalition were enough to see the PSUV lose the two-thirds supermajority it had to easily pass major legalization. A MUD spokesman also claimed that they won the popular vote and that their alliance will become a major counterweight against the government.

Despite worries over inclement weather affecting voter turnout roughly 66% of voters took to the polls. Some controversy did emerge when the national electoral commission delayed releasing the results by about eight hours.

The next National Assembly does not take office until January and with a few seats still contested the PSUV may still continue to have enough of a majority to permit Chavez to legislate by decree. Yet the breakdown of the upcoming congress may force Chavistas and opposition to collaborate more with one another. Conversely, political divisions outside of the National Assembly could heat up in the run up to the 2012 presidential elections.

Image- AFP (“A Venezuelan National Guard soldier has her fingerprint checked before voting in parliamentary elections.”)
Online Sources-, MSNBC, The Guardian, Reuters, Sky News

Daily Headlines: September 27, 2010

* Central America: Tropical Depression Matthew may’ve “weakened sharply over” the region but it adversely affected on sugar and coffee farms soaked by previous storms.

* Haiti: At least five people were killed when a brief but rough storm swept through a Haitian tent camp.

* Brazil: What are the odds that a movie on President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will win the Best Foreign Language Oscar next year?

* Venezuela: State-run oil firm PDVSA will issue $3 billion worth of bonds in order to help fund “investment projects.”

Image – ABC News (“Children play in floodwaters in the Potrerillo neighborhood of Cortes, Honduras, Saturday Sept. 25, 2010.”)
Online Sources- Reuters, MSNBC, El Universal, Sify