Saturday, May 7, 2011

May 8 Mexico solidarity marches to be held worldwide

Video of the marchers en route to Mexico City from La Jornada’s YouTube channel

The silent “March for Peace with Justice and Dignity” reached the outskirts of Mexico City this morning, two days after it commenced on Cinco de Mayo. “Silence is the only way in which we can focus on our indescribable pain, our national pain, our communion,” said poet-turned-activist Javier Sicilia.

Several hundred people are believed to be participating in the march including survivors of drug-related violence, victims' families and migrants from Central America. The number of protesters is expected to swell at the conclusion of the march on Sunday afternoon in Mexico City’s main Zocalo Plaza.

Several marches in solidarity with the silent trek will be held on Sunday in Mexico and around the world. The Marcha Nacional Por La Paz blog contains a comprehensive list of most of these events if you’re interested in participating. The following are some of the solidarity marches being held in the U.S. on Sunday according to the aforementioned blog:
  • Austin, Texas
Start Time – 2:00 pm
Location – The Mexican Consulate (410 Baylor Street)
Start Time – 11:30 am
Locations – From Plaza Tenochtitlán (Blue Island Ave. and 18th St.) to the Villita Arch (“Arco de la Villita” on 26th St. and Kedzie Ave.)
  • Houston, Texas
Times – 11:00 am to 3:00 pm
Location – The Mexican Consulate (4506 Caroline St.)
Start Time – 12:30 pm
Location – The Mexican Consulate (2401 W. 6th Street)
Start Time – 10:30 am
Locations – From the Mexican Consulate (39th Street between Madison and Park Avenues) to the United Nations (approximately 1st Avenue and E. 44th St.)
  • Seattle, Washington
Times – 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm
Locations – From the Space Needle to the Mexican Consulate (2132 Third Avenue)
  • St. Paul, Minnesota
Start Time – 10:30 am
Location – The Mexican Consulate (797 7th Street East)

What do you think of the “Marcha” in Mexico? Do you agree with the theme of the protest led by Sicilia and others? Will the protest have a significant impact on the tug-of-war between government forces and drug gangs? Do you plan to attend one of the solidarity protests on Sunday? Please let us know what you think by respectfully commenting to this post.

Online Sources- Too many to list!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Press group “condemns” media member deaths in Peru, Brazil

The Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) called on the full investigations on the deaths of two journalists that ironically occurred on World Press Freedom Day.

“We are deeply concerned by these new crimes that on our exact day of celebration shock and underscore the fact that this is a risky profession,” said IAPA president Gonzalo Marroquín in a press release by the group. Robert Rivard, head of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, urged officials in Peru and Brazil to “promptly investigate in order to determine the motives and bring the perpetrators and masterminds to justice.”

On May 3rd, Brazilian journalist Valério Nascimento was gunned down in front of his house in Rio de Janeiro state while Peruvian radio host Julio Castillo Narváez was killed by four unknown gunmen as he was eating in a restaurant. Both men had recently denounced corruption by local officials; in the case of Castillo Narváez, he received numerous death threats on his cell phone and he sought police protection.

The murder of Castillo Narváez comes amid a contentious presidential election between Ollanta Humala and Keiko Fujimori. Both candidates have pledged not to infringe on the rights of the press if elected to the presidency. Fujimori promised that she would not have “close ties to media owners” similar to that of her father, disgraced and imprisoned ex-president Alberto Fujimori. Humala also alluded to the ex-leader, when said that if he were elected he would not act “like in the 1990s when...(the press) was mistreated and stepped on.”

According to one leading Peruvian press group, members of the media have faced their share of difficulties:
A total of 82 attacks were committed against Peruvian journalists in the first four months of 2011 (almost one every 36 hours) according to a report prepared by…the National Association of Peruvian Journalists…

Acts of physical aggression and verbal attacks lead with 37 cases, followed by threats and harassment (17) and administrative pressure/layoffs (15).
Meanwhile, an IAPA delegation was in Argentina this week to investigate what supporters of the country’s largest circulation newspapers, Clarin and La Nacion, claimed infringements on the press. The administration of President Cristina Fernandez contends that it’s necessary to break up the media monopolies in order to diversify the press.

Image- RPP (Collection of several of the main Peruvian dailies).
Online Sources- Inter-American Press Association, EFE,, France24, El Comercio, La Republica, Cronica Viva, Canadian Press,

Mexicans march on Cinco de Mayo

For some, Cinco de Mayo is an excuse for revelry but several hundred Mexicans took advantage of the holiday to march against the country’s drug-related violence:

As the above video showed one of the key figures in the march was Javier Sicilia, a poet turned anti-violence activist after his son was murdered roughly six weeks ago. “We cannot understand why (Mexican president Felipe Calderon) does not understand why the criminals are out there. If they are out there, it is because the institutions and the state are co-opted," Sicilia said at the start of the silent march yesterday.

The protest started in the central Mexican city of Cuernavaca and is scheduled to end on Sunday with a rally in Mexico City. On that day several solidarity protests are planned to take place in other Mexican cities as well as north of the border in New York, California, and Texas.

Protest organizers hope that others will join them in the fifty-six mile trek to the Mexican capital city. Among those joining the march are families of victims caught in the crossfire in the government offensive against drug gangs. Also taking part in the march are parents who are seeking justice for their children killed in a June 2009 nursery school fire.

Despite mounting criticism of his push to combat crime, President Calderon remained defiant in a televised speech that aired on Wednesday night. According to BBC News:
Mr. Calderon rejected the idea that the operation he launched in December 2006, which has seen thousands of troops and extra police deployed against drug gangs, should end.

"On the contrary, we must redouble our efforts because if we stop fighting they will kidnap, rob and kill all over the country."
Calderon’s remarks were supported by senior government official Francisco Blake Mora who earlier today pushed the Mexican legislature to pass a National Security Law.

Video Source – teleSUR via YouTube
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, AlterNet, BBC News, CNN, El Universal, Milenio, Fox News Latino

Daily Headlines: May 6, 2011

* Brazil: In a decision one Brazilian gay rights activist described as "a historic achievement," the country’s Supreme Court almost unanimously ruled in favor of recognizing same-sex unions.

* U.S.: Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela will supposedly leave his post.

* Venezuela: President Hugo Chavez said that he would seek additional investors to boost the country’s gold mining industry.

* Dominican Republic: University of Kentucky men's basketball coach John Calipari has reportedly accepted coaching the Dominican Republic’s squad.

Image – Nelson Antoine/Associated Press via CBC News (“Revelers hold a giant flag during the 2009 Gay Pride Parade in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Millions of people took to the streets of South America's biggest city for its 13th annual gay pride parade.”)
Online Sources- CNN, AFP, Bloomberg, Canadian Press

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Brazil: Did "Autism House" go too far?

Humor is subjective and what may be funny to some can also be offensive to others. It's a lesson that the cast and crew of one Brazilian TV show seem to be learning the hard way.

An episode of "Comedia MTV" that originally aired on March 22nd came under fire for a sketch parodying the reality series "Big Brother." The sketch entitled "Casa dos Autistas” ("Autism House") depicted mentally disabled individuals (as played by the show's cast) punching a piano and scratching the paint off the walls while trapped in a house.

Numerous public reactions regarding "Casa dos Autistas” included an online petition signed by several thousand people calling the sketch "disrespectful and immoral." Legislator Paulo Pimenta called for a government investigation based on his view that the show "reinforced the notion of segregating those who are not 'normal'." "If they knew what it's like (to have an autistic son) they never would've depicted them that way," said the member of a Brazilian disability rights group to the local press.

The uproar led MTV Brasil to issue a formal apology including a mea culpa that aired at the start of last week's episode of "Comedia MTV". "Autism is a serious issue that should be treated respectfully," read part of the apology to "those who were offended" by the sketch in question.

A recent article noted that numerous Brazilian TV comedians disagreed with the uproar over the "Casa dos Autistas” sketch. Several humorists observed that the main problem was the execution of the sketch rather than the joke itself:
(Member of the"Casseta & Planeta" comedian team Marcelo Madureira said) the problem with 'Comedia MTV' was the length of the joke. Overstretched and lacking grace"...

"I think the great fun of an autistic house is that nothing happens. The problem was the interpretation was too real. People would understand if the tone of the sketch was more jocular" (said Gregorio Duvivier, a member of the comedy series Z.É. (Zenas Emprovisadas).)
The controversy over the "Comedia MTV" troupe comes three years after an uproar in Australia over a "Chaser's War on Everything" sketch satirizing the Make-A-Wish Foundation. But did the "Casa dos Autistas” cross the line between humor and insult. Judge for yourself via the following TV Globo report on the controversy that includes clips from the "Casa dos Autistas” sketch:

Video Source - YouTube
Online Source - Terra Brasil, MS Aqui, MTV Brasil,, ABC News

Daily Headlines: May 5, 2011

* Latin America: According to a U.N. study foreign investment in Latin America and the Caribbean jumped by 40% last year while China serving as the region’s fastest growing investor.

* Cuba: Ex-President Fidel Castro criticized the late Osama bin Laden for "international terrorism" but also blasted the U.S. for “the assassination of an unarmed human being surrounded by his family.”

* Brazil: Four Brazilian soccer teams were surprisingly eliminated in the Copa Libertadores round of 16 last night including defending champs Internacional and heavy favorites Cruzeiro.

* Caribbean: Dominican President Leonel Fernandez met yesterday with Haiti's President-elect Michel Martelly in order to “strengthen the relations between both Caribbean countries.”

Image – BBC News (“Natural resources in Latin American countries such as Brazil are a key attraction for Chinese investment.”)
Online Sources- CNN, Reuters, People’s Daily Online, BusninessWeek

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Daily Headlines: May 4, 2011

* Latin America: Freedom House deemed that the Mexican press is “not free” due to the dangers the media faces from drug-related violence.

* Puerto Rico: An ACLU delegation accused the Puerto Rican police of brutality during protests against university students upset over a new government-imposed fee.

* Venezuela: Could Miranda state Gov. Henrique Capriles launch a serious challenge against President Hugo Chavez in next February’s elections?

* U.S.: Dominican-born pitcher Francisco Liriano hurled the first no-hitter in the major leagues this season in a 1-0 Minnesota Twins 1-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox.

Image – AP via MSNBC (“A protester carries as sign saying "Not one more of our young men!" as people march in a protest against violence in Mexico City” last month.)
Online Sources-, MSNBC, Voice of America, Los Angeles Times

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Daily Headlines: May 3, 2011

* Latin America: Rising global food prices could lead to increased inflation throughout Latin America and the Caribbean according to an Inter-American Development Bank study.

* Haiti: Swiss officials began legal proceedings to return the frozen assets of former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier by using a law nicknamed after him.

* Colombia: Researchers concluded that there has been a 35% spike in child labor in Colombia over the past five years.

* Puerto Rico: Rest in peace Emilio “Millito” Navarro; the Puerto Rican ballplayer who was nearly the first Boricua to play in the major leagues died over the weekend at the age of 105 years.

Image – (“Corn tortillas are for sale in Mexico City in this 2007 file photo.”)
Online Sources- Reuters, The Latin Americanist, Voice of America, LAHT, UPI

Monday, May 2, 2011

Today’s Video: May Day marches

Numerous rallies were held throughout the Americas on May Day, which was on Sunday. Unemployment was the unofficial theme of one march held in Mexico City while several labor unions in the Dominican Republic urged the government for an increase in employees’ salaries.

Though Labor Day in the U.S. is officially observed in early September, several thousand protesters in cities like Chicago and Los Angeles called for fair immigration reform.

Returning to Latin America, the following video from teleSUR shows footage of El Salvador’s May Day rally for better workplace conditions as well as improving social conditions:

Video Source – teleSUR via YouTube
Online Sources- El Universal, El Nacional, Chicago Tribune, AFP

World Watch: Beyond Bin Laden

The main headline in the global news from the past 24 hours has been the death of Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden. But there were other important news stories over the past few days such as the following:

* Vatican City: The late Pope John Paul II was one step closer to sainthood after Sunday’s beatification ceremony at the Vatican.

* Canada: Voters took to the polls in parliamentary elections that could spell the end to Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s five years in power.

* Europe: Austria and Germany became the last two E.U. members to remove immigration barriers for workers from the eight former communist bloc countries.

* Middle East: Israeli President Shimon Peres rejected the unity pact between Palestinian rivals political factions Hamas and Fatah and deemed the agreement a "grave mistake."

Video Source – AP via YouTube
Online Sources- The Telegraph, MSNBC,, ABC News

Latin America reacts to Bin Laden's death

Via, Puerto Ricans reacted with a mix of relief and
trepidation over the death of Osama Bin Laden.

As you are probably aware of, U.S. president Barack Obama announced on Sunday night that Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was killed in a military operation that took place in Pakistan. Subsequently there has been a widespread global reaction to the death of such a vital (and reviled) figure in the so-called “war on terror”.

How did some Latin Americans react to Bin Laden’s death? Here is a taste of what was said via the region’s press:

Numerous heads of state and government officials presented their opinions over Bin Laden’s death and Latin America was no exception. Alluding to his own country’s armed conflict, Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos observed, “sooner or later terrorists always fall.” Chilean Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno called Bin Laden’s death “positive news” though he also warned, “terrorism will continue” since others will want to take over for him.

On the other hand, Venezuelan vice president Elias Jaua questioned the “ethics” related to “celebrating an assassination.” Ecuadorian foreign minister Ricardo Patiño, meanwhile, “rejected” the 9/11 attacks but also mentioned, “we shouldn’t forget that hundreds of innocent Iraqi civilians were killed as part of the response to what occurred with the Twin Towers.”

One of the most interesting diplomatic perspectives was that of the Paraguay’s ambassador to Egypt, Ausberto Rodríguez. In comments made to the Paraguayan press he claimed that Bin Laden’s death “did not have a strong impact” on Egypt. “He considered that various countries (in the region) distanced themselves” from Bin Laden according to the website of Diario ABC.

The political implications of Bin Laden’s death were the focus of numerous analysts from Latin America. Gustavo Sierra wrote on that the “myth” of Bin Laden lay dead and that his passing is an “enormous triumph” for Obama. Yet Sergio Gomez Maseri of observed that with a weakened U.S. economy “the impact of Bin Laden’s death will have little effect on the electorate.” blogger Luciana Coelho wrote that Bin Laden was an “icon” that represented the Al-Qaeda “brand”, and it remains to be seen how his death will affect the group.

One of the most critical pieces against Obama came via Santiago Alba Rico from the Cubadebate website. “Between democracy and barbarism, it is evident that the U.S. has no doubt that barbarism fits much more than the ‘American Dream,’" said Alba Rico.

Perhaps the most unusual reaction from a head of state came from Peruvian president Alan Garcia who claimed that Bin Laden’s death was the “first miracle from (Pope) John Paul II” after his beatification on Sunday.

Online Sources- Too many to list!

Daily Headlines: May 2, 2011

* Latin America: The presidents of Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru agreed to creating the Pacific Alliance, an economic bloc aimed at seeking greater access to the Asian market.

* U.S.: A White House report released last week highlighted a serious “educational crisis” in the Latino community.

* Brazil: Divers "localized and identified" the black box of Air France Flight 447 that crashed nearly two years ago off the Brazilian coast.

* Nicaragua: President Daniel Ortega blasted last Friday’s royal wedding since the British monarchy is “tainted with blood because they are celebrating while…blood is being spilled in Libya."

Image – AP via ABC News (“Chile's President Sebastian Pinera, right, shakes hands with Mexico's President Felipe Calderon, left, as Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos, center, looks on at the government palace in Lima, Peru, Thursday, April 28, 2011.”)
Online Sources- CNN, Huffington Post, CBC News, MSNBC