Friday, June 10, 2011

Five Mexican players fail drug test (Updated)

In possibly the biggest scandal to hit Mexico’s national soccer team since the team was barred from the 1990 World Cup, five players tested positive for a banned substance.

“(On Wednesday night) we received the anti-doping analysis of 14 players of the 'Tri' that were done on May 21 and five players showed positive,” said the general secretary of Mexico’s soccer federation (FMF, in Spanish) Decio de Maria yesterday. De Maria added that the tainted players were kicked off the team currently playing in the Gold Cup and that they could face a suspension of as much as two years.

The five players tested positive for clenbuterol, which is a banned agent used to treat breathing disorders but is also regularly used by dopers. De Maria and others in the FMF believed that the players ate accidently tainted meat and tests were being done on several suspected beef samples. Meanwhile, the five will reportedly undergo retesting later today at UCLA.

Update: The Mexican government denied the FMF's allegations of meat tainted with clenbuterol. "(Mexico's) health department said Friday that cases of contaminated beef in Mexico are fewer than one in a million," according to the AP.

Among the group of players that failed drug testing was Brazilian-born midfielder Antonio Naelson "Sinha" and defender Edgar Dueñas. Guillermo Ochoa may be the player most hurt by the failed test after Carlos Reinoso, the coach of his club team in Mexico, claimed that the goalkeeper had a “concrete offer” to play in France that was off the table after results of the failed test were divulged.

Concern over the banned players extended to Mexico’s female squad that is scheduled to play next month in the Women’s World Cup in Germany. Head coach Leonardo Cuéllar expressed his hope that his squad is clean:
“Looking at the dates (when the failed tests took place I don’t think there’s any danger. We went on tour in Quintana Roo and then to Colombia. That is my hope and I think everything is under control”
The controversy didn’t seem to trouble the Mexican team much on the field last night as “El Tri” pummeled Cuba 5-0 in their Gold Cup group stage match. Nonetheless, officials with the CONCACAF regional governing body will reportedly meet today to discuss possible sanctions against the Mexican team.

Image – Los Angeles Times (“Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa Mexico during a 5-0 victory over El Salvador in Gold Cup qualifying on Sunday.”)
Online Sources-, Canadian Press, Milenio, ESPN Soccernet, The Guardian

Daily Headlines: June 10, 2011

* Guatemala: Authorities arrested former police chief Hector Bol de la Cruz who is accused of masterminding the kidnapping and disappearance of a “student union leader” during the Guatemalan civil war.

* Chile: Four imprisoned Mapuche activists protesting Chile’s controversial dictatorship-era, “anti-terrorism” ended their 86-day hunger strike on Thursday.

* Colombia: President Juan Manuel Santos is expected to sign a landmark victims' law days after rights leader Ana Fabricia Cordoba was murdered.

* South America: Over 100 flights throughout Latin America were cancelled as a result of a massive ash cloud from the eruption of Chile’s Puyehue volcano.

Image – AP via BBC News (“More than 200,000 people were killed or disappeared during the Guatemala's 1960-1996 civil war, most at the hands of the security forces.”)
Online Sources- MSNBC, The Latin Americanist, Reuters, Globe and Mail

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Today’s Video: Tolon, tolon

Scientists in Argentina reportedly created the world's first cloned cow according to a statment from the South American country's National Institute of Agrobusiness Technology. "The cow will produce milk that is similar to humans" and was named Rosita ISA.

In honor of such a breakthrough, here is a well-known and very catchy children's song entitled "Tengo una vaca lechera" ("I have a dairy cow"):

Online Source - Sydney Morning Herald
Video Source - YouTube

Brazil: Italian government peeved over Battisti decision

A diplomatic kerfuffle has developed between Brazil and Italy over the fate of former guerilla Cesare Battisti.

On Thursday the Brazilian Supreme Court denied extraditing the ex-militant to his native Italy where he would've faced life imprisonment. In two separate 6-3 decisions the high court ruled that a foreign government cannot question a “sovereign act” by the Brazilian government. (Shortly before leaving office last year then-President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva reused to extradite Battisti).

As a result of the court’s ruling, Battisti was freed from the prison where he had been held while legal proceedings were taking place. This has enraged numerous Italian government officials and politicos who blasted the Brazilian court’s move:
Franco Frattini, Italy's Foreign Minister, said it was "shameful" that Battisti was now free to sun himself on a Brazilian beach and said the decision did not meet "the requirements of international law."

Giorgia Meloni, Youth Minister, called it "an act unworthy of a civilized and democratic nation" and said it marked "the umpteenth humiliation for the families of his victims."

Alessandra Mussolini, a parliamentarian and the granddaughter of the former dictator Benito Mussolini, called for a national boycott of Brazilian goods.
The Italian foreign ministry will reportedly take the Battisti case to the International Court of Justice.

Battisti was a former member of the Armed Proletarians for Communism and was alleged to have committed a variety of crimes during the 1970s. Before arriving in Brazil he resided in several countries including France and Mexico. He was convicted in absentia by an Italian court in 1998 on the murders of four people.

Despite the high court’s ruling Battisti may not be home free yet; according to Al Jazeera English current Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff may have the last word.

Image- Press TV
Online Sources- CNN, The Guardian,, Al Jazeera English, France24, The Telegraph

Mexico’s Zetas “corrupts” U.S. agents says DHS official

Mexico’s Zetas drug gang has engaged in the “systematic corruption” of U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) and Customs agents according to remarks made today by acting Inspector General Charles K. Edwards.

As part of testimony grated to the Senate subcommittee on national security, Edwards said that the Zetas offer “cash bribes, sexual favor and other services in exchange for smuggling contraband or illegal immigrants through border inspection areas.” The corrupt agents would “protect or act as bodyguards” for cross-border shipments, tip off suspected Zeta members, and sell intelligence information according to Edwards. He added that this is a national security concern since lax border enforcement could lead to “terrorists” or “weapons of mass destruction” entering the U.S.

Edwards’ concerns were shared by USBP commissioner Alan Bersin who testified that the agency’s “bad apples…betrayed the confidence of the people and their colleagues.” He highlighted that the USBP is cracking down on dirty agents and have arrested or convicted 127 officers for corruption since October 2004.

Bersin was very critical of Mexico’s anti-crime offensive under President Felipe Calderon:
For Bersin, the decision by Mexican President Felipe Calderon to combat drug gangs that used to operate in impunity along with the increase in USBP agents expanded the “incentives and opportunities” to corrupt border agents.
In the meantime, Mexican marines seized several Zetas arsenals over the past week, which includes hundreds of rifles, numerous handguns and even a rocket launcher. Despite the decrease in firepower, the Zetas remain as one of Mexico’s most dangerous drug gangs. Their influence has reached parts of Central America including suspicions of being behind the massacre of 27 Guatemalans last month.

Online Sources- MSNBC, LAHT, El Universal,, Noticiero Televisa

World Watch: It's element-ary

* World: Sorry for the corny post title, but it’s worth noting that two new elements discovered by scientists in Russia and the U.S. will be added to the periodic table.

* Libya: International Criminal Court lead prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said that Libyan security forces may have raped hundreds of women and that they were sanctioned by Muammar Gadhafi.

* Syria: The International Atomic Energy Agency will report Syria to the U.N. Security Council as a result previously running a secret nuclear reactor.

* Europe: The Spanish government is seeking compensation from Germany after vegetables from the Iberian country were initially suspected as causing a deadly E. coli outbreak.

Video Source – YouTube
Online Sources- Huffington Post, BBC News, The Guardian, Voice of America

Daily Headlines: June 9, 2011

* Mexico: While ex-Tijuana mayor Jorge Hank Rhon faces embezzlement and weapons charges, thousands of his supporters protested and claimed that his arrest was politically motivated.

* U.S.: Top Congressional Republicans refused the Obama administration’s demand to link passing of free trade deals with Panama and Colombia to a program that helps those who lost their job due to workplace relocating abroad.

* Argentina: The federal government denied rumors that they gave housing subsidies to the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo Foundation.

* Peru: The countries main stock index rose by over 3% yesterday and is bouncing back after a massive 12.4% post-election nosedive on Monday.

Image – Reuters via BBC News (“Several thousand people came out in support of Mr. Hank Rhon in Tijuana.” The arrested opposition figure was reportedly planning to run for Baja California governor in 2013.)
Online Sources- UPI, Reuters, Buenos Aires Herald, The Latin Americanist

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

LatAm bloc backs Carstens IMF bid but will it help him win?

Mexico central bank Governor Agustin Carstens’ bid for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) residency received a necessary and expected boost this week.

One dozen Latin American and Caribbean countries gave their backing to Carstens yesterday during the Organization of American States conference in El Salvador. Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Uruguay were among those who “expressed their support to (Carstens)… and urge other government in the region to follow suit” according to a letter read by Colombian foreign minister María Angela Holguín. She he added that the successor to disgraced ex-IMF president Dominique Strauss-Kahn needs to “promote a greater participation of emerging countries in the selection process.”

The former IMF Deputy Managing Director received an endorsement by the Colombian government yesterday while Inter-American Development Bank president Luis Moreno said last week that “Carstens meets all the credentials” to be IMF chief.

Latin America’s backing of Carstens could to serve as a counterweight to European support of French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde for the IMF’s top office. Last week Carstens criticized the European backing of Lagarde as having “made up their minds before the candidates are on the table.” He has also critiqued the tradition of naming the IMF head from a European country and has tried to advocate a merit-base nominating system that would favor him.

Carstens is the underdog to replace Strauss-Kahn but that hasn’t stopped him from travelling to several nations as part of his campaign. He has already visited Germany and he’s expected to travel to Washington next week.

The Latin America endorsement could help Carstens gain support among emerging nations that have thus far been reluctant to back him. One of those countries is Latin American heavyweight Brazil who along with the other countries of the BRIC alliance (Brazil, Russia, India, China) still hasn’t given any endorsement. These four countries, which reportedly hold 12% of the votes in the IMF, could help swing the June 30th election in favor of Carstens.

Carstens recently visited Brazil and Mexican president tried to convince his Brazilian counterpart, Dilma Rousseff, to support Carstens' candidacy. Yet regional politics may get in the way of that according to Reuters:
Although Brazil has been a strong proponent of a greater say for emerging economies in IMF decision-making, Carstens faces a difficult task winning its support. Brazil rivals Mexico for leadership in Latin America and sees Lagarde as having more clout to push for IMF reforms.

Brazil has not officially sided with either candidate but government officials say in private that the Rousseff administration is inclined to back Lagarde.
Image- AP/ Ueslei Marcelino via The Guardian
Online Sources- ABC Color, El Tiempo, Bloomberg, Reuters, Montreal Gazette, Reuters, Voice of America

Today’s Video: Zoom

On Thursday a rocket is scheduled to take off carrying the "Aquarius/SAC-D" satellite into space as part of a collaborative effort between the U.S. and Argentine space agencies. The aim of the satellite is to measure the levels of salt in the world's oceans. The importance of the Aquarius project, as one of the team's researchers told MercoPress, cannot be understated:
“Salinity is the glue that bonds two major components of Earth's complex climate system: ocean circulation and the global water cycle,” said Aquarius Principal Investigator Gary Lagerloef of Earth & Space Research in Seattle. “Aquarius will map global variations in salinity in unprecedented detail, leading to new discoveries that will improve our ability to predict future climate.”
Researchers hope that in a few months the equipment on the "Aquarius/SAC-D" satellite can update 125 years of data obtained by ships and buoys.

The project has generated plenty of excitement among members of CONAE, Argentina's space agency. "We may come from different places, but we all talk the same language. And it isn't English - it's science," said CONAE investigator Sandra Torrusio to the Space Daily.

For more on the Aquarius project and the progress made by Argentine scientists check out the following video from GlobalPost:

By the way, the title to this post was inspired by this song from seminal Argentine rockeros Soda Stereo.

Online Sources - MercoPress,
Space Daily, Boston Globe
Video Source - GlobalPost, YouTube

Daily Headlines: June 8, 2011

* Argentina: Ezeiza International Airport in Buenos Aires reopened on Tuesday after hundreds of flights were cancelled due to the erupting Puyehue volcano in neighboring Chile.

* Haiti: At least 23 people are dead in Haiti after heavy rains caused flash flooding and several mudslides.

* South America: The OPEC cartel should not increase output yet and a $100 per oil barrel is a "reasonable" price according to comments made by the presidents of Ecuador and Venezuela on Tuesday.

* Venezuela: Days after trouncing the U.S. by a score of 4-0, Spain's national soccer team shutout Venezuela with a comfortable 3-0 win.

Image - New York Daily News ("The terrifying eruption of a volcano in Chile has become a dazzling display of nature's raw power. The blast along the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcanic chain launched a huge cloud of smoke and ash as far as 6 miles into the sky on May 4, causing officials to evacuate nearly 3,500 people from the surrounding area.")
Online Sources - Monsters & Critics,, MarketWatch, Xinhua

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Peruvian stocks bounce back from post-election nosedive

Peru’s stock market recuperated in trading on Tuesday after plummeting on Monday in the wake of Ollanta Humala’s presidential election victory.

The main index for the Peruvian stock exchange rose today by 6.97% to close at 19,881.10 points. The market’s blue chip stocks also rose by 6.18% to end at over 27,000 points and the national currency, the sol, also appreciated in value during trading today.

The rebound came after a black day for the stock exchange when the stock market tanked with a record single-day drop of 12.5%. Investors appeared to be spooked by the possibility that a Humala presidency would halt Peru’s high economic growth. "There will be that suspicion until he proves he's more like (former Brazilian president Luis Ignacio) Lula (da Silva) than (Venezuelan president Hugo) Chavez," said economist Newton Rosa to Reuters.

“My commitment with the people is to maintain economic growth along with social inclusion,” said Humala this morning as he urged Peruvians to “be calm.” In order to try to calm investor fears he also released the names of twenty people who will serve on his presidential transition team. All of the figures are reportedly “political moderates” and include an ex-economy minister and the former chief of Peru’s central bank.

The sky-is-falling fears over the economy under Humala can best be read in this editorial piece from the Investor Business Daily’s website. For some financial analysts, however, such an apocalyptic outlook for Peru’s economy is exaggerative:
“Markets were quick to react over concerns that Humala will be a radical president, but there are reasons to expect some policy stability in the near term,“ said Bank of America Merrill Lynch in a note Tuesday…

Among the reasons to expect near-term stability is a “divided” Peruvian Congress, which would make it “difficult for Humala to institute any radical changes, at least initially,” wrote economist Alejandro Rivera and fixed-income strategist Alberto Boquin at B. of A. Merrill Lynch in a report…

Humala plans to maintain the 1% deficit while increasing revenues through mining taxes and increasing spending on social programs, the broker said. “Still, we believe the government has ample resources to fund additional spending given the 39 billion nuevos soles ($14 billion) in central-government deposits at the central bank.”
Image- Raul Sifuentes/Getty Images via The Guardian (“Ollanta Humala, winner of Sunday's narrow presidential poll in Peru, addresses supporters in Lima.”)
Online Sources-, Bloomberg,, Reuters,, AFP,, MarketWatch

Daily Headlines: June 7, 2011

* Mexico: Poet and journalist Javier Sicilia is leading several hundred people in a peaceful anti-violence march from Mexico City to the northern border city of Ciudad Juarez.

* Haiti: Doctors Without Borders warned that Haiti's cholera outbreak could go through an "alarming resurgence" due to ongoing sanitation and hygiene problems.

* South America: The presidents of Brazil and Venezuela, (Dilma Rousseff and Hugo Chávez) signed several oil and infrastructure agreements yesterday.

* Argentina: FIFA officials are looking into odd betting patterns and possible match fixing in last week's 4-1 Argentina loss to Nigeria.

Image - Leovigildo Gonzalez/Reuters via ("People rally near the cathedral in Morelia, Mexico as part of a campaign against violence called 'Peace Caravan.' About 500 people started the caravan of 14 buses and 30 cars in Cuernavaca on June 4, to protest against high levels of crime in the country.")
Online Sources - ESPN Soccernet, El Universal, Monsters and Critics,

Monday, June 6, 2011

Peru: Keiko concedes presidential election to Humala

With Ollanta Humala's lead in the Peruvian presidential elections remaining steady and few votes left to be counted, Keiko Fujimori conceded defeat this afternoon:

Fujimori, speaking to reporters in Lima, said she will lead a responsible opposition and “build bridges” with Humula’s government. She said she will offer him her personal congratulations in a meeting later today.

“I recognize his triumph,” said the 36-year-old congresswoman. “It’s important that the country continues its economic course and that it has clear rules.”

Fujimori threw in the towel nearly 24 hours after the voting booths closed on Sunday. Exit polls indicated that Ollanta would win over the congresswoman though official preliminary results only gave him a razor-thin 0.18% lead. In the overnight and morning hours, however, the Humala's lead gradually grew as the remaining votes came from rural areas that have generally backed the ex-army general.

We'll have more on Tuesday on the Peruvian presidential elections; possible topics for discussion may include a focus on Peruvians voting abroad and how a Humala presidency could affect landlocked Bolivia's desire for accessing the ocean.

Online Sources - BusinessWeek, The Latin Americanist
Image - Marco del Rio/LatinContent/Getty Images via The Guardian ("Peruvian presidential candidate Ollanta Humala after voting at Ricardo Palma University in Lima" on Sunday.)

Daily Headlines: June 6, 2011

* Chile: Thousands of Chileans have been evacuated due to the erupting Puyehue volcano that has also spread ash into parts of neighboring Argentina.

* Brazil: President Dilma Rousseff launched the Brazil Without Poverty program that includes more funds to the country's poorest regions, and expanding public health and education plans.

* U.S.: The Obama administration might add provisions for unemployment aid to legislation for free trade pacts with three countries including Panama and Colombia.

* Mexico: El Tri's defense of its Gold Cup title began last night with a convincing 5-0 group stage win over El Salvador.

Image - Martin Iniguez/AP via The Guardian ("A column of smoke and ash rises from Chile's Puyehue volcano after it started erupting for the first time in decades.")
Online Sources - BBC News, Sky News, USA TODAY, Bloomberg

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Growing lead for Humala in Peruvian presidential election (Updated)

Update (6:00 am): Ollanta Humala appears to have won the race for the Peruvian presidency.

The latest figures from Peru's electoral office show that Humala's lead over
Keiko Fujimori has gradually increased. With 90.07% of votes counted the former army general is ahead 51.18% to the congresswoman's 48.82%, a margin of nearly 324,000 votes.

Fujimori has yet to make a public pronunciation since late last night when she said that she might concede "if the official results coincide with the exit polls." (Several exit polls gave Humala the win by a margin of up to 3%).

Humala's possible victory could be chalked up to fear in the Peruvian electorate that electing Fujimori would be a return to the corruption and authoritarianism of the presidency of herAnother factor as mentioned in BBC Mundo may be current president Alan Garcia who beat Humala in the previous election. "Garcia's government maintained the path of economic growth but without more socially inclusive policies," according to the article.

Update (1:00 am): According to the Peruvian electoral office Ollanta Humala's lead over Keiko Fujimori has grown but continues to be slim. With 84.449% of votes counted Humala is ahead 50.7% to 49.3%, a margin of roughly 181,000 votes.

"We will continue what has been good and fix what has gone wrong
," said Humala moments ago as he spoke to hundreds of supporters in one of Lima's main plazas. He added that as president he will fulfill his campaign pledge of giving more economic opportunities to the Peruvian people. "The country will go forward only if the Peruvian family can go forward" said Humala in front of an enthusiastic crowd.

Update (12:30 am): "Everything indicates that we won the elections," declared Ollanta Humala at a press conference that ended moments ago. Humala added that "on July 28th I will assume the presidency of the Peruvian people."

Earlier this evening Peruvian electoral officials announced that
with 78.3% of votes counted Humala led rival Keiko Fujimori 50.087 % to 49.913%. Thus, he held a lead of 0.18% (equaling 20,672 votes) of the over eleven million votes counted.

Election agency chief
Magdalena Chú added that most of the counted votes come from Lima and urban centers. This may serve as an advantage to Humala since the remaining votes to be tallied are from rural areas that have mostly supported the former army general.

Update (10:45 pm): Neither of the political parties represented by Humala or Fujimori have a Congressional majority. Regardless of who wins, passing legislation could be problematic unless they woo legislators backed by moderate parties. Assuming Humala wins the presidential election, however, he may have a legislative alliance between his party and the faction led by ex-President Alejandro Toledo.

Original Post: Today Peruvian voters headed to the ballot box in order to choose whether Ollanta Humala or Keiko Fujimori would be the country's next president. Neither the leftist former army general or the conservative congresswoman had a clear advantage in the polls leading up to today's elections. As reported by the website for Peruvian daily La Republica, however, several exit polls have hinted that Humala may be the next successor to current leader Alan Garcia:
Official results should be published over the next few hours, though that hasn't stopped some of Humala's supporters from celebrating his possible victory.

In the weeks leading to today's elections both Humala and Fujimori ran campaigns filled with attacks and scare-mongering. Humala tried to remind Peruvians of the mass corruption and human rights abuses under the presidency of Keiko's father, Alberto. Fujimori tried to link Humala to Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and also claimed that his policies would halt Peru's exceptional economic growth. (That last point was debunked by several financial analysts according to Xinhua).

Image Source - Reuters via BBC News ("On the left and right of the political spectrum - presidential hopefuls Ollanta Humala and Keiko Fujimori.")
Online Sources - The Latin Americanist, La Republica, MSNBC,, Xinhua