Friday, February 11, 2011

World Watch: Gone baby gone

Hosni Mubarak stepped down from the Egyptian presidency and ceded power to the military according to a brief statement read on state TV by Vice President Omar Suleiman. "In these difficult circumstances that the country is passing through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to leave the position of the presidency,'' said Suleiman at about 6:00 pm local time.

Egyptians protesting the Mubarak regime met Suleiman’s announcement with great joy and relief. As seen in the video below from Al Jazeera English, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in Cairo’s Tahrir Square waved Egyptian flags and chanted “we are free!” at the news of Mubarak stepping down immediately:

The celebrations in Egypt also extended to nearby countries such as Tunisia where a popular uprising last month toppled the lengthy rule of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. In addition, it remains to be seen if the actions in Egypt will help pro-democracy movements in the Middle East/North Africa region such as Algeria.

Leaders from around the world reacted favorably and with guarded optimism to today’s developments in Egypt. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged that a “transparent, peaceful and orderly” transition take place; hence, reflecting worries that the strengthened role of the military could hinder a transition to civilian, democratic rule.

Some protesters fear that despite Mubarak stepping down the authoritarian regime he led for thirty years will continue. "No to Mubarak, no to Suleiman" cried out demonstrators in Alexandria according to CNN. Nonetheless, a military communiqué issued earlier today tried to quell such worries by promising to carry out constitutional reforms. As mentioned in the following video by Britain’s ITN News, the statement also pledged that the military would not prosecute “honest men” who have urged an end to widespread corruption:

Egyptians living abroad viewed positively the news Mubarak’s resignation. Today’s joy contrasted sharply with yesterday’s disappointment by many Egyptian expats when Mubarak vowed to continue in power until September elections.

The events in Egypt have affected global finance such as a decrease in the prices of crude oil. Stocks indices that were initially falling on Friday morning rebounded quickly after news emerged that Mubarak resigned.

Video Source – YouTube via Al Jazeera English and ITN News
Online Sources- BBC News, MSNBC, The Guardian, Reuters,, CNN, CBS New York, CBC, The Telegraph, ABC News

Daily Headlines: February 11, 2010

* Argentina: According to documents released by WikiLeaks U.S. diplomats believed that corruption in Argentina was widespread and implicated senior officials including the late President Nestor Kirchner.

* Mexico: President Felipe Calderon admitted earlier this week that the government needs to “improve much more in the treatment of migrants” that travel through Mexico.

* Central America: U.S. Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield said that the Obama administration is contemplating a $200 million anti-drugs plan for Central America.

* Uruguay: The government announced plans to expand the use of wind farms, which can supply an estimated 25% of Uruguay’s electricity by 2015.

Image – Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images via The Guardian (“WikiLeaks has released several thousand of about 250,000 classified US embassy cables.”)
Online Sources- The Globe and Mail, People’s Daily Online, LAHT, MercoPress

Thursday, February 10, 2011

World Watch: Defiant and daft

* Egypt: Despite over two weeks of intense protests against him president Hosni Mubarak said in a televised speech that he will not resign from his post and that he will delegate some powers to Vice President Omar Suleiman.

* Africa: For a second straight day ex-Liberian president Charles Taylor skipped proceedings at his war crimes trial.

* Russia: President Dmitry Medvedev tried to strengthen Russia’s claim over a group of islands that are also claimed by Japan.

* China: “High-profile” human rights activist Chen Guangcheng claimed in a video smuggled out of China that he has been under house arrest for the past five months.

Image – Egypt TV caption via APTN/AP and featured on (“Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak makes a televised statement to his nation in this image taken from TV aired on Feb. 10.”)
Online Sources- MSNBC, BBC News, Voice of America

Daily Headlines: February 10, 2010 (Updated)

* Latin America: A number of soccer friendlies were played on Wednesday including Brazil losing to France, Spain surviving a scare against Colombia, and a game-winner for Lio Messi.

* Peru: A “red alert” was declared by health officials for northern Peru as a result of an outbreak of dengue fever. (Update: Authorities in Brazil claimed that the number of dengue cases in Rio de Janeiro doubled last month compared to January 2010).

* Mexico: U.S. Army Undersecretary Joseph Westphal backtracked from remarks where he deemed Mexican drug gangs as “insurgents.

* Haiti: The U.S. State Department would prefer that former President Jean Bertrand Aristide not return from exile though it's unclear if he will try to do so.

Image – Denis Balibouse/REUTERS via The Guardian (“Lionel Messi celebrates his goal during Argentina's friendly win over Portugal in Geneva.”)
Online Sources- ESPN, Bloomberg, France24, Reuters,

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Today’s Video: Trail of tears (Updated)

On Tuesday the Mexican army rescued 44 migrants, most from Central America, who were kidnapped and held hostage in the northern border city of Reynosa. They were lucky to escape the misfortune of 72 Latin American migrants massacred last August allegedly by the Zetas drug gang.

Update: According to the Guatemalan foreign ministry the migrants found in Reynosa were not kidnap victims. Instead they were reportedly waiting for "coyotes" to help them enter the U.S.

As the following video news report from Mexico's El Universal shows, migrants continue to trek through Mexico despite the very risky journey that could cost them their lives. (Video not safe for work).

Online Sources - MSNBC, The Latin Americanist
Video Source - El Universal via YouTube

Daily Headlines: February 9, 2011

* Nicaragua: A study of deaf Nicaraguans concluded that math skills are acquired culturally and are not an inherent characteristic.

* Panama: Business groups and Republican legislators are turning up the pressure on the Obama administration to pass free trade deals with Panama and Colombia.

* Brazil: Soccer star Daniel Alves claimed that he receives racist verbal abuse every time he plays for his club side, Barcelona, in Spain’s top league.

* South America: The E.U. is keen on signing a “wide-ranging economic collaboration pact” with the Mercusur bloc earlier than anticipated.

Image – USA TODAY (“A study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that counting beyond three may not be innate in humans, but a product of culture.”)
Online Sources- UPI,, Reuters, Canadian Press

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

World Watch: Seeking a real transition

* Egypt: The number of protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square ballooned and continued calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.

* Italy: Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi could face an “immediate trial” as a result of allegedly paying to sleep with an underage girl and subsequently trying to cover it up.

* U.S.: A proposal to extend a trio of Patriot Act provisions was rejected by the House of Representatives.

* Africa: Ex-Liberian president Robert Taylor’s lawyer left in a huff from his client’s war crimes trial at The Hague.

Image – AFP via Al Jazeera English
Online Sources- Voice of America, Al Jazeera English, BBC News, Reuters

Today’s Video: Anger at Preval

While it remains to be seen if former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide returns from exile, several dozen protesters yesterday expressed their ire with current president Rene Preval.

Demonstrators during Monday’s protest in the Haitian capital city of Port-au-Prince called for Preval to step down from the presidency since his term was supposed to end yesterday. But amidst Haiti’s political turmoil Preval’s chief of staff said that the president would leave in May, roughly two months after a delayed runoff election will take place.

Other protesters were upset at the alleged government inaction after a massive earthquake thirteen months ago left over 200,000 and one million homeless.

Unfortunately the protest turned violent after police shot tear gas into the air and tried to disperse demonstrators:

Political unrest could intensify in the weeks leading to the March 20th runoff between former first lady Mirlande Manigat and musician Michel Martelly.

Video Source – AP via YouTube
Online Sources- MSNBC, Voice of America, AP, Radio New Zealand, Reuters

Brazil: Six die in prison riot

This year will mark the nineteenth anniversary of the Carandiru Penitentiary massacre where 111 inmates died in the overcrowded prison. The Brazilian government has enacted some reforms to the prison system since then while Carandiru was demolished in 2002 to make way for a public park. Unfortunately the same core problems continue in Brazilian prisons.

At least six inmates died late Monday night during a riot at a prison in the northeastern Maranhao state. According to the Brazilian press four of the victims were decapitated including a man imprisoned who killed his daughter after having had an incestuous affair with her.

The riot occurred in a jail built to house thirty inmates yet the facility held nearly 100 by the time clashes broke out.

Negotiations between the prisoners and police continued today with the inmates calling for the presence of a judge and prosecutor.

At nearly the same time as the riot in Maranhao a group of 79 inmates escaped from a prison in the southern Brazilian city of Florianopolis. Police have thus far captured approximately half of the escapees.

Image- Alamy via The Telegraph (“Prison riots are frequent in Brazil, where overcrowding of cells is common and gangs often run their wings.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Folha Online,, Voice of America

A tale of two countries

Several state legislatures in the U.S. are considering proposals to bar citizenship for children born to illegal immigrant parents. Arizonan legislators put off voting for one such measure On Monday though the bill’s sponsor admitted that the proposal is not dead while the South Dakotan House Judiciary Committee voted to scrap a bill challenging automatic citizenship.

Legislative supporters of the Arizonan bill believe that its needed since the citizenship of children of undocumented parents should not fall under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Other backers of the proposals in Arizona and other states subscribe to the “anchor babies” myth alleging that illegal immigrants exploit the birth of their kids in order to gain public benefits.

On the other hand, opponents of the bill believe that the plan is unconstitutional and ineffective in trying to solve problems related to immigration. Furthermore, a recent Pew Hispanic Center report may have taken some steam out of the “anchor babies” argument since only 9% of undocumented immigrants with U.S.-born children arrived after 2007.

Across the Atlantic in Spain the government announced that they would legalize the previously undocumented status of these minors by granting them residency permits. Under the proposed "arraigo familiar" the parents must prove that they have maintained Spanish residency for a certain period of time and there their children reside with them. According to the Ministry of Immigration the proposal is currently in a draft version though it should be finalized in two months.

Much like the aforementioned U.S. proposals the Spanish plan also has its backers and detractors; for instance, a spokesman with the opposition People’s Party (PP) implied that the plan is political posturing by the government. Another commonality between both countries is that the weakened global economy has fed a backlash on immigration. As noted in The Economist:
Joaquín Arango, of Madrid’s Complutense University, points out that the PP is an exception on the European right in that it has not turned immigration into a political battlefield. It would be natural for the right to behave more as it does elsewhere, he says. For the moment, Spaniards remember their own recent experience of emigration; they show no taste for big rows about immigration. But recession and the competition for jobs could alter that.
Image- Reuters/ Joshua Lott via Reuters (“A demonstrator holds a sign during an immigration rally outside Arizona's State Capitol in Phoenix, May 1, 2010. ”)
Online Sources- The Daily Republic, Canadian Press, ABC News,, BBC Mundo, Europa Press, The Economist

Daily Headlines: February 8, 2011

* Brazil: China's undervalued currency was likely one of the topics discussed when U.S. Treasury secretary Tim Geithner met with Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff yesterday.

* Ecuador: “Prominent U.S. law firm” Patton Boggs accused Chevron of backing a smear campaign in order to prevent them from being involved in a multibillion dollar Ecuadorian environmental damages trial.

* Haiti: Ex-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide could soon return from exile after authorities reportedly granted him a passport.

* Peru: Former president Alejandro Toledo widened his lead in the polls with roughly two months left until Peru’s presidential election.

Image – Evaristo Sa/AFP/Getty Images via The Guardian (“US Treasury secretary Tim Geithner and Brazil's president Dilma Rousseff during their meeting on Monday.”)
Online Sources- The Guardian, Reuters, The Latin Americanist, BBC News, Bloomberg

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ex-braceros demand owed funds from Mexico

The bracero program ran in the U.S. from 1942 to 1964 and permitted over four million Mexicans to legally labor as guest workers. The jobs were often backbreaking, physically demanding positions on farms, mines and rail yards where workers earned only a few dollars per day. The bracero program would eventually end after numerous employer abuses were revealed such as employees signing strict work contracts in English.

In 2008 a U.S. court settlement obligated the Mexican government to pay compensation to braceros that worked in the first five years of the program. Yet legal red tape in Mexico has delayed the distribution of the withered funds. Hence, several former braceros and their families protested in front of the Mexican consulate in Los Angeles last wee and they demanded the money promised to them by the Mexican government:
The Mexican government put 10 percent of the braceros’ wages into savings accounts for later use. Some braceros received their savings, but (ex-bracero Juan Javier) Jimenez and about 35,000 others are still waiting. Some have died.

The soft-spoken Jimenez said he’s gotten the runaround for years. He called on the Mexican government to publish regulations that provide for payments of about $4,000 each.
The amount sought by the former braceros is modest but well deserved in recognition of all their dedication and hard work.

Image- PBS
Online Sources- PBS,, The Latin Americanist

Bolivia renews demands for access to sea

It has been over a century since Bolivia ceded its coastline to neighboring Chile. Recent efforts by landlocked Bolivia to regain access to the sea have been repeatedly rejected by Chile and odds are that it will not change this week.

For the first time since 1950, Chile’s Foreign Minster met with his Bolivian counterpart in La Paz. Bolivia’s David Choquehuanca is expected to bring up the contentious issue of Bolivian access to the Pacific Ocean during his meeting with the visiting Chilean diplomatic chief, Alfredo Moreno. The Chilean delegation will seek a “useful, feasible, and practical” answer to the Bolivian demands, said Moreno though he refrained from publicly endorsing a specific solution.

The bilateral discussions were somewhat marred by allegations from a former senior Bolivian diplomat that ex-president Michelle Bachelet proposed access to the sea via a seventeen-mile stretch of land that would still remain under Chilean sovereignty. Current president Sebastián Piñera would subsequently reject such an option according to former Bolivian Deputy Foreign Minister Hugo Fernandez. (Choquehuanca publicly denounced Fernandez’ claims).

Last October Peru granted Bolivia access to build a port on a “desolate patch of…shoreline”, which was a diplomatic breakthrough. The role of Peru, which also ceded land to Chile in 1904, in any negotiations between Bolivia and Chile cannot be understated. For instance, the Peruvian government refused to agree to a provision plan in 1975 due to 19th-century territorial claims.

Image- BBC Mundo (19th-century map of Peru (in pink) and Bolivia (in green)).
Online Sources- Terra Peru, The Latin Americanist, La Tercera, AFP, The Guardian, EFE, BBC Mundo

News Briefs: Immigration

  • According to the Los Angeles Times there has been an influx of Indian migrants crossing the U.S. border with Mexico. Immigration authorities claimed that the hundreds of migrants make up “the ‘most significant’ human-smuggling trend being tracked by the U.S.” Meanwhile Homeland Security asserts that none of the 1600 Indians caught trying to cross the border last year were classified as terrorists.
  • Some immigration rights activists are none too pleased with an iPhone app game depicting smugglers. The app "pokes fun and trivializes the harsh reality of our current immigration policy," said a representative of the New York Immigration Coalition to a local daily. One of the game’s developers claimed, however, that the app is satirical and based on the difficulties his friends had trying to immigrate into the U.S.
  • A study by the International Institute for Environment and Development said that climate change will not lead to mass migrations around the world. The report cited studies in countries like Bolivia to conclude that most people displaced by climate change prefer to stay inside their own country.
  • In Texas a group of Hispanic Republican legislators are trying to steer the GOP away from backing harsh anti-immigrant measures. In neighboring New Mexico, meanwhile, Republican Governor Susana Martinez has come under fire for her executive order allowing police to seek the immigration status of suspects.
  • A U.S. appeals court upheld a $78,000 claims ruling against a rancher who purportedly threatened and assaulted a group of four migrant women. The judge who at one point oversaw the trial, John Roll, received death threats and was killed last month in a shooting that critically injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
  • Canada’s Museum of Immigration opened today at Halifax’s Pier 21 which served as a “front door for more than a million immigrants, refugees, troops, wartime evacuees, war brides and their children.”
  • Lastly, a Pew Hispanic Center report released last week may have poured some cold water on the “anchor babies” myth.
Image- Los Angeles Times (“In Harlingen, Texas, Indian citizens released from an immigration center often are taken to the Greyhound bus station. Many struggle with poor English as they try to call family or friends, or buy travel tickets. (Don Bartletti, Los Angeles Times / February 6, 2011).”)
Online Sources- Economic Times, New York Daily News, Bloomberg, UPI, El Paso Times, Houston Chronicle,, CTV, USA TODAY

Daily Headlines: February 7, 2011

* Peru: The Third Summit of South American-Arab Countries that was supposed to take place in Lima next week was suspended due to the unrest in Egypt.

* Haiti: Immigrant activists and Haitian expat groups have urged an end to deportations from the U.S. after a recently expelled migrant died of "cholera-like symptoms."

* Chile: Police raided a luxury hotel on Easter Island and evicted a group of indigenous protesters who claimed that the resort was built illegally on their land.

* Cuba: The leader of Cuban opposition group the Ladies in White told the AP that she will try to convince one of her fellow female dissidents to halt her eleven-day-old hunger strike.

Image Source - Reuters/Mohamed Abdel Ghany via Reuters ("Pro-government demonstrators (front) face-off against anti-Mubarak supporters near Tahrir Square in Cairo February 2, 2011.")
Online Sources - MSNBC, Canadian Press,, MercoPress

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Today’s Video: "Africa Rising"

Today is the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation, an occasion in which to raise the awareness of the estimated 100 to 140 million women around the world who have had partial or complete circumcisions. Female genital mutilations are more common in Africa compared to other regions of the world though the practice has gradually decreased in countries like Ethiopia, Kenya and Egypt.

According to the International Organization for Migration the practice of female circumcisions has spread to Western countries but it's still relatively rare in Latin America. Nevertheless, Salvadoran-born filmmaker Paula Heredia focused on the fight against female genital mutilations in parts of Africa. She directed and produced the 2009 documentary "Africa Rising", a very revealing film that includes the following clip:

Online Sources - Voice of America, The Guardian, Deutsche Welle,
Video Source - Women Make Movies via YouTube