Saturday, December 18, 2010

Weekend Headlines: December 18-19, 2010

* U.S.: Despite strong efforts by Latino community and youth activists the U.S. Senate voted against final passage of the DREAM Act.

* Bolivia: On Friday, Bolivia became the latest Latin American country to back the recognition of Palestine as an independent state.

* Colombia: Ex-president Alvaro Uribe continues to face serious allegations related to a major wiretap scandal that makes Watergate look like a walk in the park.

* Venezuela: Less than a month before a new legislature is sworn in outgoing members of the National Assembly passed a bill granting President Hugo Chavez decree powers for 18 months.

* Central America: Costa Rica and Nicaragua accepted an offer by Mexico and Guatemala to mediate in a sometimes heated border dispute.

* Mexico: Staff at a Tamaulipas prison are suspected of aiding in the escape of over 140 inmates on Friday.

* Haiti: Organization of American States chief Jose Miguel Insulza supposedly requested that the Haitian government delay reporting the results of last month's presidential election.

* Chile: A French court sentenced fourteen former officials who served under the late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet for their roles in the "disappearances" of four Frenchmen.

Online Sources - The Telegraph, CBC,, BBC News, The Latin Americanist, AFP, MSNBC, CBS News
Image - Damian Dovarganes/AP via ("Immigrants parents, students and others participate in a candle-light procession and vigil in support of the Federal DREAM Act in downtown Los Angeles on Dec. 7.")

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What was the top news story of 2010?

We're going to go on a brief hiatus for a few days.

In the meantime, what do you feel was the most important news story of 2010 regarding Latin America and Latinos? Was it a major story that covered plenty of headlines or an item that was overlooked by the press? Did it involve a regional leader, a sports team, the arts, or another area of interest?

Please vote in the poll located on our sidebar with twenty options as to what was the main story of this year. The results of the survey will be revealed after the poll closes on January 10, 2011.

If we missed something or if you want to respectfully debate one of the choices please feel free to comment to this post.

Your opinion counts!

Image -
Online Source - The Latin Americanist

Wikipedia a la Cubana

In December 2008 we mentioned a “clear case of mistaken Internet priorities by the Cuban government” when officials “heavily promoted” a Spanish-based company running an online shopping site on the island during the holiday season. Few Cubans can afford a personal computer while roughly one in ten Cubans has access to the Internet. Furthermore, the Cuban government had had a very fractured relationship with the island’s bloggers that has included harassment and police pressure.

Therefore, it’s seems out of place that Cuba’s government has launched its own version of Wikipedia. was launched on Tuesday with the aim of gathering and spreading " knowledge with a non-profit, pro-democracy aim from a decolonizing point of view." According to BBC News, the site’s entry on the U.S. describes it as an "empire of our time, which has historically taken by force territory and natural resources from other nations, to put at the service of its businesses and monopolies".

The site has nearly 20,000 entries in total on items like Fidel Castro and U.S.-Cuba relations but supposedly has nothing on the possible reforms to the country’s economic model.

Ecured did encounter some difficulties during its initial run and briefly crashed earlier today.

Image- The Telegraph
Online Sources- The Telegraph, The Latin Americanist, BBC News

Peru: Army chief rejects Wikileaks drug claims

A corny joke: denial is not a river in Egypt.

Peruvian army chief Paul da Silva is none too pleased at the implications made by a U.S. diplomatic cable uncovered by the Wikileaks website. The 2009 document from then-U.S. Ambassador Michael McKinley claimed that an unnamed source ''saw signs that (Peruvian army) officers may have continued to cooperate with drug traffickers''. McKinley’s “source” added that in 2007 da Silva met with a business executive who would later be arrested for trying to smuggle several hundred pounds of cocaine hidden inside frozen fish.
Da Silva replied to the accusations by threatening to take legal action against McKinley.

In addition, as reported in a Reuters article:
"This cable is defamatory and is aimed at damaging the honor of the armed forces," Da Silva said. "I can't close doors to people who want to meet with me. I didn't know at the time that this Mr. Velasco was implicated in drug trafficking."

Da Silva blamed Michael McKinley, the former U.S. ambassador to Peru, for writing the "irresponsible" memo and threatened to file a lawsuit against him.
On a related note, another U.S. diplomatic document uncovered by Wikileaks and reported in The Guardian will likely embarrass Jamaican authorities. The previously secret cable cited Cuban officials very “frustrated” at Jamaican antidrug efforts including “ignoring of Cuban attempts to increase the flow of drug-related information” between both countries.

Image- AP via CBS News (“Soldiers march during a military parade commemorating Independence Day in July. The top Army General Paul da Silva was accused in a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable of drug corruption.”)
Online Sources- The Guardian, Sydney Morning Herald, Reuters

Inter shocked in Club World Cup

It was four months ago that Brazilian soccer team Inter was on a high after having captured their second Copa Libertadores crown in five years. Earlier today, however, the Porto Alegre side was anything but jubilant after being shocked in the Club World Cup (CWC).

Inter became the first South American side not to reach the CWC title match after losing to African club champions TP Mazembe. Inter dominated the early stages of the match yet they missed several key chances partly due to the inspired play by goalkeeper Muteba Kidiaba. In the second half the team from the Democratic Republic of Congo broke the game in their favor with strikes by Mulota Kabangu and Dioko Kaluyituka. Despite several great opportunities by Rafael Sobis and Giuliano Inter ended up on the short side of a 2-0 defeat.

Despite such an upset Inter coach Celso Roth was gracious in defeat:
"We created opportunities but unfortunately we couldn't turn them into goals. Mazembe had the opportunities and scored," Roth said. "Football is like this. Mazembe defended very well and I congratulate them. We played much better than them but we have this very bitter defeat."

In the CWC quarterfinals Mazembe won over Mexico’s Pachuca by a 1-0 score. Hence, Pachuca will play the fifth-place match against Al-Wahda of the United Arab Emirates while Inter awaits the loser of the other semifinal between South Korea’s Seongnam Ilhwa and Inter of Milan.

Image- CBC (“TP Mazembe Englebert's Stopilla Sunzu, right, is challenged by Francisco Torres of Club de Futbol Pachuca during the African champion's 1-0 win on Friday.”)
Online Sources- Reuters, The Telegraph, CBC

Daily Headlines: December 14, 2010

* Venezuela: President Hugo Chavez could seek special decree powers to be used before the new legislature comes into office on January 5th.

* Bolivia: Bolivia could take legal action at the International Court of Justice as part of their staunch opposition to a compromise deal reached at the UN Climate Summit in Cancun on Saturday.

* Ecuador: Global demand for oil will fall next year according to predictions by the OPEC oil cartel during their summit in the Ecuadorian city of Quito.

* Argentina: Is Carlos Tevez justified or petulant in his desire to leave Manchester City and play for another club?

Image – Reuters/Miraflores Palace/Handout via Reuters (“Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez shows a map during a news conference at Miraflores Palace in Caracas December 10, 2010.”)
Online Sources-, UPI, Bloomberg, The Latin Americanist, Sify

Monday, December 13, 2010

The scars still linger

“Memories fade but the scars still linger”, is a verse from “Memories Fade” by Tears for Fears. Those lyrics would surely apply to the Legionaries of Christ (LOC) and its controversial founder.

The late Rev. Marciel Maciel founded the LOC in Mexico in 1941 and he used his links to the country's elite in order to build the LOC into “one of the most influential organizations in the Roman Catholic Church.” The conservative priest constantly denied rumors of personal improprieties while the LOC’s clout grew within the global Catholic Church movement.

The precarious house of cards that Maciel erected throughout his life came crashing down after his death in 2008. Allegations that he fathered multiple children were true according to LOC officials last March. "We express our sorrow and grief to each and every person damaged by our founder's actions," said a statement from sixteen LOC leaders that also admitted that they helped cover-up sexual abuse committed by Maciel.

The LOC has tried to overcome the terrible stigma left behind by Maciel’s callous actions. The Vatican authority appointed to run the LOC, Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, announced several reforms to the sect including expanding the powers of the group’s general counsel. De Paolis last Friday also appointed members of a commission that will revise the LOC’s constitution.

Earlier today the LOC took several steps in trying to airbrush Maciel from its history:
The conservative order says photographs showing the late Rev. Marciel Maciel alone or with the pope must be removed from its installations…

The Legion also announced on its website Monday that it was prohibiting the celebration of Maciel's birthday. It also banned the sale of Maciel's writings inside Legion centers.
Aside from deeply damaging the LOC, Maciel’s legacy has shined a negative light on the Vatican that helped cover-up his wrongdoings.

Online Sources- Los Angeles Times, The Latin Americanist, BusinessWeek, CNN, MSNBC, AP

Report: LatAm economy to grow in ‘10

The recent international economic slowdown has hit plenty of countries hard and for the most part Latin America has been no exception to that. Yet it appears as if this year the region has bounced back faster than other parts of the world.

According to a study released today by the U.N.'s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, (ECLAC), the region’s gross domestic product will grow by a higher-than-expected 6% this year. The increase represents a big jump compared to a GDP drop of 1.9% last year, and the ECLAC anticipates that the region will continue growing throughout 2011 by 4.2%.

An ECLAC statement credited this year’s expected growth to several factors including an expansive monetary policy and rapidly increasing production. The report also mentioned that the governments in most countries in the region enacted public policies since mid-2009 that have allowed for “robust private consumption, which is due to a gradual improvement in employment, increasing credit conditions, and…an increase in real wages”.

Despite the positive outlook for next year, the ECLAC warned that there are challenges that still remain:
“The big challenge in the region is rebuilding its capacity to take contra-cyclical actions and create conditions for productive development that is not just based on exports of basic goods,” Cepal Executive Secretary Alicia Barcena said in the statement.
Not every country in the region will experience growth this year; Venezuela’s GDP is expected to fall by 1.6% while Haiti’s could nosedive by 7%. Aside from uneven growth, inflation also increased by 1.5% between 2009 and this year.

Paraguay with 9.7% of annual growth is the head of the class in Latin America, followed by Uruguay with 9.0% and Peru with 8.6%. Regional heavyweights Chile and Mexico will each grow by 5.3% based on the ECLAC’s analysis.

An ECLAC report released last month concluded that poverty in Latin America would drop by 33% this year.

Image- Mercopress (Workers at a Chilean fish processing plant).
Online Sources- Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, Reuters,, Bloomberg, El Universal

Haiti orphan bill becomes law

Last week the U.S. Senate postponed voting on the DREAM Act, a proposal that would legalize the status of potentially thousands of undocumented youth. Discussion on the bill has reignited the debate on illegal immigration and led to some attacks against the plan that were reviewed by

While plenty of attention has been paid to the DREAM Act, another proposal to help undocumented youth was quietly passed and became a law this month. On Thursday President Barack Obama signed the Help Haiti Act (HHA) into law days after it received Congressional approval.

The HHA facilitates the adoption of approximately 1200 Haitian orphans adopted after January’s massive earthquake. The HHA treats the Haitian orphans the same as other internationally adopted orphans. Thus, they avoid the risk of being deported by staying in the U.S. with permanent resident status and subsequently citizenship.

Though both the DREAM Act and the HHA help young immigrants, the latter’s Congressional sponsor (Rep. Jeff Fortenberry) was opposed to the DREAM Act. “This is about Haitian orphans and their adoptive American families and to leverage that bill for a highly controversial immigration measure was just wrong,” Fortenberry said to over efforts to introduce both proposals together. Ultimately both plans were presented separately and after a brief delay the HHA was swiftly passed on December 1st.

Meanwhile, as reported on the Miami Herald’s website, some deportations to Haiti may resume after being put on hold after the tremor nearly a year ago:
Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez said Friday that the U.S. expects to begin flying deportees with criminal records back to Haiti in January in coordination with Haiti's government.

Gonzalez says ICE is must deport people with criminal records or release them "if their repatriation is not reasonably foreseeable."
Haiti has been rocked in recent weeks by an outbreak of cholera and unrest over last month’s possibly fraudulent presidential elections. Two of the leading presidential hopefuls on Saturday rejected a planned recount of the first round of elections.

Image- Ramon Espinosa/AP via MSNBC (“Children play at the Foyer des Infants orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on April 8.”)
Online Sources- Rochester Democrat and Chronicle,,,,, Reuters

Daily Headlines: December 13, 2010

* Venezuela: Venezuela's Energy and Oil Minister said that the country has become the third-largest exporter of oil to China.

* Honduras: Former Honduran president Manuel Zelaya blasted the “reckless accusations” in a 2008 U.S. diplomatic cable unearthed by Wikileaks claiming that he had links to organized crime.

* Argentina: Police were sent to monitor a Buenos Aires park where residents clashed with about 1000 immigrant squatters.

* Brazil: An executive order issued last week ensured that same-sex Brazilian couples receive pension rights.

Image – LAHT
Online Sources- Sydney Morning Herald, Bloomberg, LAHT, MSNBC