Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Posting During the Holidays (Take 2)

As you may have noticed we haven't published any posts here in nearly two weeks even though we had planned to do so.  As such, we've missed covering recent notable news events from the Americas.

It was our mistake, which we sincerely apologize for.

Therefore, our revised schedule of future posts over the next few weeks will be the following:

* December 25 to December 27 - No posts.
* December 30 to January 8 - Posting will be sporadic and may constitute of occasional entries of “Daily Headlines” and “World Watch.”
* January 9 to January 10 – No posts.
* January 13 – Resuming regularly scheduled posting.

To all of you, our readers, we would like to wish you a very happy and festive holiday season.  Many thanks to you for your attention, occasional feedback and for helping this website grow.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Posting During the Holidays

With the holiday season fast approaching us, we will be changing our weekday schedule for our posts over the next few weeks:
  • December 16 to 20 and December 23 to 24 – Two posts per day consisting of “Daily Headlines” and the return of “World Watch.”
  • December 25 to January 3 – No posts.
  • January 5 to January 8 - Two posts per day consisting of “Daily Headlines” and “World Watch.” 
  • January 9 to January 10 – No posts.
  • January 13 – Resuming regularly scheduled posting.
We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Thank you very much for your kind attention and readership. 

Happy holidays!

Video Source– YouTube user juancachorrin

De Musica Ligera: Remembering Kirsty MacColl

On December 18, 2000, English singer–songwriter Kirsty MacColl died under mysterious circumstances while vacationing with her family in Mexico.  

While scuba diving off the coast of Cozumel with her two sons, MacColl was hit and killed by a speedboat that entered illegally into a swimming-only area. The scuba instructor working with the group, Ivan Diaz, claimed that her final gesture was to save the life of one of her sons by pushing him away from the path of the boat.

Mexican business tycoon Guillermo González Nova owned the boat involved in the incident and he was on board the vessel with his family.  Crewmember José Cen Yam confessed that he drove the boat and his only punishment was to pay a small putative fine.  Yet MacColl's family and her supporters believed that Cen Yam took the blame for his boss and Nova covered up the true circumstances of the accident.  (They claimed that witnesses including Diaz saw Nova admit to police that he was driving the speedboat while Yam “drunkenly” said that Nova promised him money and a house in exchange for lying to the authorities).

The tragedy snuffed out the life of a gifted musician who was best known for having her debut solo single "They Don't Know" covered by Tracey Ullman, singing backing vocals on several songs from The Smiths and collaborating with Shane MacGowan in the holiday classic “Fairytale of New York.”  Yet at the time of her untimely death she was scheduled to present a series on Cuban music for BBC radio, which she recorded in Havana and included interviews with the Buena Vista Social Club and Ry Cooder.  Throughout her career she dabbled with Latin-themed tunes in her songs such as “In These Shoes” and “Us Amazonians” from her final album, Tropical Brainstorm

Below the page break is the video from 1991’s “My Affair”, an upbeat song described by The A.V. Club as a “simple cure” to overcome the sadness one may feel from her untimely death thirteen years ago this month:

Daily Headlines: December 13, 2013

* Mexico: Mexicans worldwide including scores of pilgrims who traveled to Mexico City's Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe celebrated the December 12th birthday of Mexico's patron saint.

* Uruguay: The U.N.-linked International Narcotics Control Board claimed that a marijuana legalization law passed this week is illegal and against a global drugs treaty.

* El Salvador: Police believe that the twenty-four bodies uncovered in a clandestine burial ground in El Salvador may have all been victims of gang violence.

* Brazil: Brazilian legislators are considering dropping a ban on genetically modified "terminator" seeds in a move that is reportedly backed by “powerful landowning groups” but opposed to by environmentalists and small farmers.

Video Source – YouTube user CadenaTres

Online Sources- The Huffington Post; Reuters; LAHT; The Guardian

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Nuestro Cine: Cuarón's Debut

The nominees for the upcoming Golden Globe Awards were announced on Thursday and among the finalists for the Best Director Award is Alfonso Cuarón.  The 52-year-old Mexican was recognized for his work directing the critically acclaimed and box office hit thriller "Gravity" though he faces stiff competition from other nominees including Steve McQueen ("12 Years A Slave"), David O. Russell ("American Hustle") and Paul Greengrass ("Captain Phillips").   

A talented director, screenwriter, producer and editor, Cuarón is best known for films like "Y Tu Mamá También," "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" and "Children of Men."  Yet his first big hit came in 1991 with his directorial debut.  

"Love in the Time of Hysteria" focuses on a young man who is notorious for his womanizing and, as the narrator of the film's trailer claims, "will sleep with just about any lady he meets."  His life as a carefree Casanova comes to a quick halt after one of his many jilted lovers, a nurse, convinces him that he has AIDS.  His attempts of suicide are thwarted yet it is his desire to want to kill himself that leads him to fall in love with a stewardess who also wants to end her life after she is cheated upon.

Aside from directing this dark comedy, Cuarón also co-wrote, produced and co-edited the film.  Known locally as "Sólo con tu pareja", the movie garnered four nominations in Mexico's Ariel film awards and won in the Best Original Story category.

Below the page break is the Spanish-language trailer to "Love in the Time of Hysteria".  (Please note that it is Not Safe for Work due to images of brief nudity).

Daily Headlines: December 12, 2013

* Vatican: On the same day that Argentine-born Pope Francis was selected as Time magazine’s Person of the Year a new poll found that 92% of Catholics in the U.S. support the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

* Mexico: The lower house of the Mexican congress approved a controversial energy reform bill that would help break up the country’s 75-year oil monopoly.

* Honduras: The Honduran electoral tribunal confirmed the victory of ruling party candidate Juan Orlando Hernandez in the presidential elections though it remains to be seen if his “law-and-order platform” can stem the tide of high violence and massive poverty.

* Chile: Educational reform, economic inequality and gay marriage were among the issues discussed by Michelle Bachelet and Evelyn Matthei during the final televised debate before Chile’s presidential election on Sunday.

Video Source – YouTube use NTDTV (During his visit to Brazil last July, Pope Francis “issued the first social manifesto of his young pontificate, telling slum dwellers that the world's rich must do much more to wipe out vast inequalities between the haves and the have-nots”.)

Online Sources- Pew Research Center; FRANCE24; Prensa Latina; Bloomberg

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Daily Headlines: December 11, 2013

* Uruguay: Legislators in Uruguay approved a landmark proposal that would grant the government authority to regulate marijuana production and distribution.

* Dominican Republic: The Dominican government strongly criticized a report from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights opposing a recent court decision that could remove the citizenship of thousands of people.
* U.S.: The Spanish-language Obamacare/Affordable Care Act enrollment website commenced running this week after a two-month delay.

* Peru: Gastón Acurio, one of Peru’s best-known celebrity chefs, rejected the possibility that he will run for his country’s presidency in 2016.

Video Source – YouTube via euronews

Online Sources- The Guardian; ABC News; The Latin Americanist; Fox News Latino; Peru This Week

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Colombia: “Funeral” Honors Life and Legacy of Mandela (Updated)

A countless number of tributes in honor of ex-South African president Nelson Mandela have come from around the world since he passed away last Thursday.  Latin American leaders and Nobel Laureates such as Adolfo Pérez Esquivel and Oscar Arias praised the iconic anti-apartheid campaigner who died at the age of 95.   Meanwhile, one of the most unique celebrations of Mandela’s life and legacy took place in a Colombian neighborhood named after him.

Last weekend, dozens of residents of the Nelson Mandela neighborhood of Cartagena held a vigil and “symbolic funeral” in his name. 

Religious leaders, community activists and admirers of the late leader took part in the activities that included an honorary mass and a funeral march with a coffin representing Mandela.  They chanted “Freedom, freedom, Nelson Mandela you are freedom” as they walked to a local soccer field.

“We wanted to do this symbolic funeral in order to remember with each step the achievements of our South Africa leader,” said Abad Berrio, one of the attendees.

“We’re getting together to remember him and teach the children what he represented as well as the peace we hope to achieve,” Berrio added.

The neighborhood was founded on the day Mandela was elected as president of South Africa in December 1994.  Most of the 40,000 residents are Afro-Colombians and had been displaced from other parts of the country mired in a decades-long armed conflict.  Yet the Barrio Nelson Mandela is one of the most impoverished and crime-ridden neighborhoods in Cartagena with residents suffer from poor social services and in absence of urgent medical care.

The problems of the Mandela neighborhood have not gone unnoticed by local civic leaders like Wailer Herrón who hope to draw encouragement from the legacy of the late activist:

Daily Headlines: December 10, 2013

* Brazil: A Sao Paulo-based truth commission concluded that ex-president Juscelino Kubitschek was murdered as part of a “conspiracy, a plot and a political crime.”

* Honduras: The Committee to Protect Journalists and Journalists Without Borders called on a full investigation into the recent death of a Honduran member of the media.

* Colombia: Thousands of people gathered in the main square of Bogota, Colombia to support the city’s mayor after he was controversially removed from his post by the country’s inspector general.

* Argentina: At least seven people died in the overnight hours in northern Argentina as disgruntled police in ten provinces have gone on strike.

Video Source – YouTube user jornaldobrasil (Former Brazilian president Juscelino Kubitschek died under mysterious in an auto accident in 1976).

Online Sources- BBC News; ABC News; Latin Times; AFP

Monday, December 9, 2013

Daily Headlines: December 9, 2013

* Russia: An amnesty proposal being pushed by Russian President Vladimir Putin could lead to the liberation of Argentine environmental activists Camila Speziale and Hernán Pérez Orsi. 

* Puerto Rico: Why is Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla urging the U.S. Congress to oppose granting statehood to Puerto Rico even though most voters in a 2012 referendum backed statehood?

* Venezuela: Venezuela’s ruling Socialist Party won a majority of localities in Sunday’s municipal elections though the opposition made gains in several major cities.

* Colombia: Commanders of Colombia’s FARC guerillas announced a unilateral thirty day ceasefire while President Juan Manuel Santos declared that the country’s military offensive “will continue” following a deadly rebel attack.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Brazil: “Bridesmaid” Protest During World Cup Draw

While the pomp and circumstance of the 2014 World Cup draw took place in the Brazilian coastal resort town of Costa do Sauipe, a group of activists protested several hundred miles away in Brasilia.

The unique demonstration depicted a young woman in a bridesmaid dress walking along a red carpet laid out in front of the Brazilian Congress building and flanked by activists holding signs calling for improvements of social services.

The protest occurred days after Minister of Sport Aldo Rebelo tried to downplay problems with the organization of next year’s World Cup by noting, “In every wedding that I attended the bride was late... But I've never seen a wedding not happen because of that.”

“The minster symbolizes the culture of delays in the Brazilian state,” claimed Antonio Costa, a member of the “Rio da Paz” nongovernment organization (NGO) that organized Friday’s protest.

“These delays are in the government’s policies such as health care and education which are priorities for our society,” added Costa.

Other demonstrations were held in Rio de Janeiro where several NGOs held an “anti-draw” protest near the Maracaná Stadium where the World Cup final will be played.

“This is a counterpoint to what is going on Bahia: a raffle for bigwigs at a totally isolated resort,” said Mario Campagnani, one of the protest’s coordinators.

“Let us do a draw for the people where we don’t forget the irregularities of the privatization of the Maracaná,” he added.

The attendance of today’s protests paled in comparison to the mass demonstrations that took place nationwide during the Confederations Cup in June.  Nevertheless, there is plenty of anger in Brazil over the billions of dollars in public funds being spent in venues and infrastructural improvements for the World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.  This ire has likely intensified after world soccer governing body FIFA announced that construction on at least three stadiums expected to be completed this month could be completed as late as March.

As a result of the problems with organizing of the World Cup, Brazilian security authorities and FIFA officials are anticipating expect major protests during the tournament in June and July:

Daily Headlines: December 6, 2013

* Paraguay: A version of Facebook with settings in the Paraguayan indigenous language of Guarani was launched this week and will run for at least three months.

* U.S.: The unemployment rate among Latinos dropped to 8.7% last month, which represents a decrease of 0.4% compared to October and 1.2% less than November 2012.

* Ecuador: “We consider it an act of violence,” said the head of the Pachamama Foundation, an Ecuadorian environmental group that is critical of the country’s present and was abruptly shut down on Wednesday.

* Peru: A forensic team is investing a recently uncovered mass grave with forty-eight bodies of women and children likely killed during Peru’s armed conflict.

Video Source – YouTube user LDS Mission Stories (Prepare to Serve!)

Online Sources- Bureau of Labor Statistics, Sacramento Bee, BBC News, ABC News

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Latin American Leaders Pay Tribute to Mandela

Former South African president, anti-apartheid activist and humanitarian Nelson Mandela died on Thursday at the age of 95.

“Our nation has lost its greatest son,” current South African leader Jacob Zuma said in a televised speech announcing the death of the man his followers referred to as Madiba.

Numerous Latin American heads of state joined in the countless number of tribunes to Mandela who passed away after a lengthy illness.
“Humanity has lost a tireless fighter for peace, liberty and equality.  Rest in peace Nelson Mandela,” declared Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto via Twitter.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff praised Mandela as the “greatest figure of the twentieth century” and “a warrior who transformed the paradigm not only for the African continent” but for the entire world.
“Nine months after the death of our commander (former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez) another Giant of the Global Community has left us,” tweeted Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro who also declared three days of mourning.  (A statement from the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable praised Mandela as “an example, guide and inspiration for all those who want to live in freedom and peace.”)  

Maduro’s Nicaraguan counterpart, Daniel Ortega, also declared three days of mourning and added, “We know that his legacy will prevail, and that his life will continue to inspire those who believe that a better world is possible.”  Juan Orlando Hernández, the recent president-elect of neighboring Honduras, said that he was “highly moved by the death of Nelson Mandela.”

“We deeply regret the death of Nelson Mandela.  His legacy serves as our guide to attain peace,” tweeted Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in reference to his government’s negotiations with the FARC guerillas.  (Santos’ predecessor Álvaro Uribe also referred to the discussions when he tweeted “Mandela vindicated democratic rights in contrast to the narcoterrorists who destroy them.”)

Daily Headlines: December 5, 2013

* Latin America: According to the U.N., the percentage of people in Latin America and the Caribbean living in poverty this year has gone unchanged compared to 2012.

* El Salvador: A lawsuit was filed against the Salvadoran government on behalf of a woman who sought a therapeutic abortion but was barred from doing so by the country’s Supreme Court last May.

* South America: Brazil’s Ponte Preta and Lanus of Argentina shared the spoils and tied 1-1 in the first match of the two-legged Copa Sudamericana soccer tournament final.

* Mexico: Police in Mexico located a stolen truck carrying radioactive cargo and believe that the missing robbers require “immediate” medical attention.

Video Source – YouTube user Erin Sidmore

Online Sources- Salon.com; The Latin Americanist; ABC News; Socerway; CNN

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Daily Headlines: December 4, 2013

* Argentina: Rioting and looting took place in Cordoba after the police in Argentina’s second-largest city went on strike and demanded higher pay.

* Mexico: According to the International Atomic Energy Agency a truck carrying “extremely dangerous” isotope cobalt-60 was stolen on Monday at a Mexican gas station.

* Latin America: A new report from Transparency International found that Chile and Uruguay are the least corrupt countries in Latin American and the Caribbean while Haiti and Venezuela are the region’s most corrupt.

* Brazil: Brazil’s gross domestic product fell by 0.5% in the third quarter this year, which marks the first time since early 2009 the Brazilian economy did not undergo quarterly growth.

Video Source – YouTube user Interneteros (Video purportedly of looters breaking into a retail store in Cordoba, Argentina on December 3, 2013).

Online Sources- Reuters; International Business Times; NBC News; Bloomberg

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Daily Headlines: December 3, 2013

* Venezuela: For the second time in the last three months a major blackout affected most of Venezuela including major cities like Caracas where people had to be evacuated from stores and offices.

* Cuba: The U.S. State Department called on the Cuban authorities to free Alan Gross, a former U.S. government contractor Alan Gross detained on this date for years ago and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. 

* Haiti: Bahamian officials are expected today to return the 111 Haitian migrants who survived a deadly ship accident last week that killed thirty of their compatriots.

* Mexico: Miguel Herrera was permanently hired as coach of the Mexican men’s national soccer team after he helped guide El Tri to qualify for next year’s World Cup.

Video Source – YouTube via Univision Noticias

Online Sources- The Latin Americanist; BBC News; Voice of America; Goal.com; Miami Herald

Monday, December 2, 2013

Daily Headlines: December 2, 2013

* Latin America: According to the U.N., Latin America is the region that provides the highest proportion of AIDS treatment coverage though several countries have seen an increase in HIV infection in seniors over 60 years old.

* Mexico: A poll released days before the one year anniversary of the inauguration of President Enrique Peña Nieto found that his popularity has fallen and more Mexicans disapprove him than back him.

* Costa Rica: Costa Rica, which is a country labeled by the Organisation for Economic Development and Cooperation as a tax haven, signed a deal with the U.S. to comply with a new anti-tax evasion law starting next year.

* Honduras: Thousands of supporters of defeated opposition presidential candidate Xiomara Castro protested the results of the November 24th election that she claimed where "fraudulent."

Video Source - YouTube via Metro Guatemala (Dozens of Guatemalans held a vigil in order to commemorate World AIDS Day, which was observed on December 1st).

Online Sources - GlobalPost; Reuters; The Guardian

Friday, November 29, 2013

”Black Friday” Catches on in Latin America

Though Thanksgiving is not a typical holiday in Latin America, numerous retailers in the region have adopted the ”Black Friday” custom of enticing shoppers by offering them items at very low prices.

Retailers in several Central American countries, for example, have chosen this weekend to offer discounts of up to 70% off in their stores and the Nicaraguan Chamber of Commerce is anticipating some $12 million in sales between today and Sunday. 

Businesses in Mexico offered deeply discounted items on sale between November 15 and 18, which was dubbed locally as “The Good Weekend” (“El Buen Fin”).  According to the country’s National Chamber of Commerce, approximately $13.2 million in sales were made in Mexico during the event and this was a better-than-expected 20% increase compared to the same period last year.

Aside from department stores have slashing prices today, a few Colombian shopping malls have organized events like fashion shows and concerts hosted by popular comedians as ways to lure consumers.

In El Salvador and Panama, thousands of consumers camped outside of stores on Thursday evening in order to be among the first to enter the stores at the early morning hours today.  This was also the case in Puerto Rico where the Friday after Thanksgiving is nicknamed “The Saels to the Early Birds” (“Las Ventas al Madrugador”).

The appeal of “Black Friday” also attracted thousands of Mexicans to wait on lengthy lines in order to cross the border and shop at U.S. stores.
The wait is worth it.  I saw a doll in a Mexicali store and it cost 520 pesos ($39.65) but in Calexico the same one is being sold at half-price,” said Baja California resident Raquel Mendívil.  “I’m returning to the store hoping the doll is so discounted that they’re practically giving it away for free!” he jokingly added.

Unfortunately, some of the problems related to “Black Friday” in the U.S. have also occurred in Latin America.  For example:

Daily Headlines: November 29, 2013

* Brazil: A labor union chief claimed that a safety engineer’s concerns over the construction of Arena Corinthians, a World Cup stadium that partially collapsed on Wednesday, were reportedly brushed aside and “told by the supervisor that nothing was wrong”.

* Honduras: Ruling party candidate Juan Orlando Hernandez was officially declared the winner of Sunday's presidential election though his win will likely do little to calm deep political tensions.

* Uruguay: Legislators in Uruguay are moving closer to passing a proposal legalizing the production and use of marijuana under tight government controls.

* Venezuela: The head of Venezuela's central bank rejected rumors claiming that his country is seeking a currency swap with help from Goldman Sachs and Bank of America.

Video Source – YouTube via ITN 

Online Sources- euronews; CNN; Reuters; USA TODAY

Thursday, November 28, 2013

"Food for Thought" Revisted

The following post was originally published on November 2012:

Today is the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S. and it is generally believed that the first Thanksgiving feast took part between the Pilgrims and native Americans in Massachusetts in 1621.  But as we first mentioned back in 2007, the first Thanksgiving really occurred in 1565 when Spanish explorers and Timuca natives in St. Augustine, Florida got together and dined on bean soup.

The following brief video via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette delves into the history behind the first Thanksgiving nearly 450 years ago:

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Daily Headlines: November 27, 2013

* Caribbean: At least thirty Haitian migrants died and over one hundred were rescued after an overcrowded boat capsized some fifteen nautical miles off the Bahamian coast.

* Honduras: Electoral officials have yet to declare an official winner of Sunday’s presidential election but did claim that ruling party candidate Juan Orlando Hernández had an "irreversible" lead in the voting count.

* Venezuela: The Venezuelan gross domestic product grew by only 1.1% in the latest fiscal quarter, which is a 1.5% drop from the previous quarter and a 2.9% decrease compared to the same period in 2012.

* Cuba: The Cuban government suspended its consular services in the U.S. and will most likely affect the travel plans of Cuban expats planning to visit their relatives and future “people-to-people programs” to the island.

Video Source – YouTube via CBS Evening News

Online Sources- Huffington Post; CNN; Reuters; Miami Herald

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Daily Headlines: November 26, 2013

* Nicaragua: The U.S. State Department and the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua have criticized a proposed constitutional amendment that would remove presidential term limits and could allow President Daniel Ortega to run for reelection.
* Mexico: At least forty-two bodies have been uncovered in twenty-two mass graves in an area of western Mexico that “has become the site of a turf war between the Knights Templar and the New Generation cartels.”

* U.S.: The first public memorial honoring Puerto Rican veterans in the continental U.S. was unveiled last week in Boston, Massachusetts.

* Argentina: The Argentine government and Repsol reached a preliminary deal that would compensate the Spanish firm for the 2012 expropriation of the YPF energy company.

Video Source – YouTube via euronews (Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega easily won reelection in 2011 but has yet to say publicly whether he wants to run again in 2016.)

Online Sources- Reuters; Catholic Culture; Miami Herald; Fox News Latino

Monday, November 25, 2013

Report: Femicides on the Rise in Honduras

Millions of Hondurans turned out on Sunday to participate in the Central American country’s presidential election. The two frontrunners, conservative Juan Orlando Hernandez and ex-First Lady Xiomara Castro, have each declared themselves as the victors though the official vote tally has yet to indicate a clear winner.

The next president will have to face several major problems hurting Honduras including deep political divisions, crushing poverty and high levels of violence.  In a country with the world's highest murder rate, women are especially vulnerable and this was shown in a report released earlier this month.

A woman is killed in Honduras an average of once every fourteen and a half hours according to the Violence Observatory of the National Autonomous University of Honduras. The group concluded that 2851 women were killed in Honduras between 2005 and 2012 and there has been a steady increase in femicides over the past eight years.  (175 women were killed in 2005 while 606 died last year).

The report did not provide figures for 2013 though the Observatory estimated that some 323 women died in the first six months of this year.

“Nationwide, violence against women and especially femicides make up a very alarming problem,” declared Violence Observatory director Migdonia Ayestas.  She added, “As proof of this, 14.2 of every ten thousand Honduran women last year were murdered” compared to a 12.3 per ten thousand in 2011.

Violence has steadily worsened in Honduras, as the country has become an increasingly favored route for illegal drugs transported from South America to the U.S. and Canada. Hence, it’s unsurprising that the report noted that organized crime is indirectly behind some of the violence against women with roughly three in five killings attributed to “revenge and paid killings.”
“It isn’t the case that these women were directly involved in illicit activities but more relevantly is that the people they live with were linked to organized crime,” said Ayestas.

Further adding to this “alarming” problem is that a majority of the women targeted last year were aged between 15 and 31 while more than 1600 femicides between 2005 and 2012 involved firearms.  Hence, the Observatory the group recommended reforming gun control laws including changing the current statute permitting adults to legally own up to five firearms.

Daily Headlines: November 25, 2013

* Mexico: Mexican health officials claimed that a cholera outbreak is "under control" with only 184 cases of the disease nationwide.

* Dominican Republic: Some 354 Haitians and people of Haitian background were recently deported from the Dominican Republic after three people were killed near the border dividing Hispaniola.

* Puerto Rico: In the latest sign of Puerto Rico's financial woes, the island's unemployment rate rose for the fourth straight month and is at 14.7%.

* Colombia: Former hostage Ingrid Betancourt will reportedly run for the Colombian presidency though she faces stiff competition in order to represent the Green Party.

Online Sources - LAHT; NBC Latino; NPR; GlobalPost

Video Source - YouTube via user ExcelsiorTV

Friday, November 22, 2013

"Vota por Kennedy" Revisted

Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy.  Thus, we're posting once again the following video from 1960 of Jackie Kennedy urging Latino voters to support her husband in his bid for the White House.   

This ad along with the work of Viva Kennedy clubs may have pushed the then-senator to victory in a very close presidential election.

On November 21, 1963 President Kennedy and the First Lady attended a League of United Latin American Citizens dinner in Houston reportedly "to show their appreciation for the Mexican-American votes that had helped the young president carry Texas in the 1960 election."  Much like in the above video, Jackie spoke briefly in Spanish to express her joy at attending the dinner.

Less than twenty-four hours later, the thirty-fifth U.S. president was killed by his wife's side in Dallas.

Daily Headlines: November 22, 2013

* U.S.: Legendary Cuban jazz musician Arturo Sandoval and Nobel Prize winner Dr. Mario Molina of Mexico were among the sixteen Medal of Freedom recipients honored this week.

* Latin America: Secretary of State John Kerry claimed that “the era of the Monroe Doctrine is over” but does U.S. policy reflect his declaration?

* Haiti: Haiti's Health Minister said that her country has not received the funds promised by international donors in order to combat a deadly cholera outbreak.

* Mexico: According to new government data, Mexico’s gross domestic product grew by 1.2% in the first nine months of 2013 and is expected to continue rising this year.

Video Source – YouTube via The Daily Conservation (“Arturo Sandoval's performance at the 2013 Medal of Freedom Awards Dinner at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.”)

Online Sources- Fox News Latino; UPI; LAHT; Xinhua

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Venezuela: President To Decree Economic Reforms

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced a pair of economic changes that will be set forth via controversial decree powers granted to him this week.

One of the new laws will place a limit on the profits gained by businesses to 15-30% while another law will create a new government body to help reorganize the distribution of foreign currency.

Maduro said that he will sign the decrees into law later today and claimed that public inspectors will visit businesses this weekend that he accused of grossly inflating prices.

Enough is enough, loan sharks and thieves!” exclaimed Maduro at a march of pro-government student groups in Caracas this afternoon. 

Earlier this month, Maduro launched what he deemed as an “economic offensive” against “bourgeois parasites” that included sending soldiers to occupy the Daka electronics chain.  Thousands of people flocked to the stores hoping to take advantage of reduced prices on goods though looters were seen in at least one location.

Opposition politicos have expressed their displeasure with Maduro’s recent actions and have called on Venezuelans to take part in nationwide protests this Saturday.

“Maduro, we're going to show you the power the Venzuelan people have,” declared former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles.  “Milk, paper, chicken and meat won’t suddenly appear,” added Capriles in reference to shortages of basic food items in groceries and markets.

Additionally, the U.S. State Department also criticized Maduro for pushing through the Enabling Law that will permit him to pass laws without legislative approval during the next twelve months.

Daily Headlines: November 21, 2013

* Colombia: President Juan Manuel Santos confirmed his intention of running for reelection "because I am convinced we have advanced sufficiently and finally it is possible to reach that future of prosperity and peace that all Colombians deserve."

* Honduras: A senior Honduran government official claimed that wanted Mexican drug capo Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman might be hiding in that Central American country.

* Latin America: Mexico and Uruguay booked their tickets to next year's World Cup after easily overcoming New Zealand and Jordan, respectively, in a qualifying series.

* Bolivia: According to the Bolivian press, the Andean country is developing a nuclear power program that could include exporting electricity to nearby states.
Online Sources - Reuters; UPI; Latin Times

Video Source - YouTube via TIME 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Daily Headlines: November 20, 2013

* Peru: A Peruvian consulting firm found that roughly 40% of people visiting the country this year are foodies interested in gastronomic tourism.

* U.S.: A new study concluded that Latinas under the age of 65 are 1.5 times as likely to die in a hospital of a heart attack than white males.

* Mexico: According to a report by Mexico's National Human Rights Commission, 65 of the country's 101 most populated prisons were under the control of inmates instead of the authorities.

* Panama: On a visit to the Panama Canal, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden praised Panamanian officials for intercepting a shipment of Cuban arms bound for North Korea last July.

Online Sources  - Peru This Week; healthday.com; AFP; FRANCE24

Video Source - YouTube via user Peter Greenberg

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Mexico’s Poniatowska Wins Cervantes Literature Prize

On Tuesday Elena Poniatowska won the prestigious 2013 Cervantes Prize, which is considered as the top literary award in the Spanish-speaking world.

The selection jury praised the Mexican writer and journalist for “her brilliant literary trajectory over numerous genres, her unique narrative and exemplary dedication to journalism.”  The panel also complemented her many works for showing a “firm commitment to contemporary history.”

Jose Ignacio Wert, Spain’s Education Minister, called Poniatowska “one of the most powerful voices in Spanish-language literature today” and commended the eighty-one-year-old for her “admirable activeness for someone of her age.”

I did not expect this and it has been a huge surprise,” Poniatowska said to the Mexican press earlier today. 

“Long ago (Colombian author Gabriel) García Márquez said .I write so that they like me.’  I think that I write because it justifies my existence on Earth,” added the person who became the first Mexican woman to win the distinguished literary honor.

Born in Paris in 1932 to a Polish-French father and a Mexican mother, Poniatowska began her writing career at the age of eighteen as a reporter for Mexican newspaper Excélsior.  Over thee past five decades she has penned more than forty books that primarily focus on social and political issues.

Perhaps her most famous work is “Massacre in Mexico,” which examines the infamous Tlateloco Massacre of 1968 and the government’s repression against student protestors days before the Summer Olympics in Mexico City.  In a recent interview, she claimed that the anniversary of the killings should be “commemorated as a national holiday.”  Yet the event in Mexican history that most moved her was the inspirational response to a tragedy nearly three decades ago:

Daily Headlines: November 19, 2013

* U.S.: A new study published in the journal Neurology found that being bilingual could delay the onset of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia by several years.

* Latin America: Uruguay’s senate is expected to pass a “far-reaching” marijuana decriminalization proposal this week while Puerto Rican legislators delayed until next a year a bill that would legalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana.

* Haiti: Police in Port-au-Prince clashed with demonstrators opposed to President Michel Martelly and to call attention to “complaints ranging from the cost of living to high levels of corruption”.

* Cuba: The Cuban government may have inadvertently received information from the U.S. pertaining to a $6 million grant program for dissidents on the island.

Video Source – YouTube via user DNews

Online Sources- UPI; USA TODAY; Fox News Latino; The Huffington Post; The Guardian

Monday, November 18, 2013

Chilean Expats Opt for Bachelet in “Virtual” Election

Chilean expats who do not have the right to vote gave their support to former President Michelle Bachelet in a “virtual” election for the South American country’s presidency.

Much like the real vote that took place on Sunday, the country’s first female president won easily over her eight opponents with 34.9% support among the thousands of registered participants living in more than 100 countries. The 4249 votes in her favor were more than twice that of second-place candidate Marcel Claude but not enough to avoid a runoff according to the “symbolic” election results.

Ruling party candidate Evelyn Matthei ended in fourth among expats though she will participate in a second round against Bachelet in Chile next month.  The conservative ex-minister was one of two candidates that did not publicly back the “virtual” election that was held via Internet between November 10th and 16th. 

“Nearly 12,500 Chileans living abroad took part and their enthusiasm showed that they want to be a part of the Chilean electoral process,” reportedly said a statement from Voto Ciudadano, a group sponsoring the online plebiscite.  “We are still Chileans (despite living abroad) and its time that we are granted the right to vote,” added the group via its Facebook page.

The Chilean Senate in September approved a constitutional amendment that would grant eligible Chilean expats the right to vote in presidential elections and national referendums.   The proposal has been opposed to mainly by conservative politicians such as senator Carlos Larraín who claimed that Chileans living abroad “don’t pay taxes, are absent from the effects of political policies and are unaware of the occurrences of Chilean life”.  (According to one article, the real reason for the opposition may be since some expats are exiles that left Chile during the Pinochet dictatorship).

Conversely, the amendment has received support among leftist politicians such as Bachelet who yesterday lamented that Chilean expats “cannot exercise a right (to vote) that is allowed in many other nations.”

Daily Headlines: November 18, 2013

* Mexico: Mexican legislators are expected to renew the debate this week over the proposed privatization of parts of the country's state-run oil industry.

* Colombia: Representatives for the Colombian government and FARC rebels postponed the next round of negotiations though progress has been made in the year-long peace talks between both sides.

* Brazil: The former chief of staff of ex-president Luis Inácio Lula da Silva and the former chairman of the ruling Workers' Party were both sent to prison for their roles in the "mensalao" vote-buying scandal.

* Latin America: A strong storm is expected to hit southern Brazil and Argentina today and, thus, increases the risk of mudslides and flooding in those areas.

Online Sources - MercoPress; GlobalPost; Reuters; USA TODAY; AccuWeather.com

Video Source - YouTube via The Economist (Video uploaded in August 2013).

Friday, November 15, 2013

Daily Headlines: November 15, 2013

* Latin America: A Pew Research Center concluded that remittances to Latin America has more than doubled since 2000 despite a decrease in money orders to Mexico.

* Brazil: The Brazilian government reported a 28% increase in Amazon rainforest deforestation after four years of declining rates.

* Bolivia: A new study found that three in ten Bolivians nsume coca leaves for traditional and medicinal purposes.

* El Salvador: Armed men reportedly tried to destroy the records of a non-profit group investigating the disappearances of thousands of children missing during the Salvadoran civil war.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Daily Headlines: November 14, 2013

* Latin America: Uruguay and Mexico practically secured their spots in next year’s World Cup after routing their respective rivals in the first match of a two-leg playoff qualifying series.

* Dominican Republic: Nearly twenty prominent U.S. Latino civil rights groups signed an open letter to Dominican President Danilo Medina protesting the possible stripping of citizenship to tens of thousands of Dominicans.

* Paraguay: Paraguay is normalizing diplomatic relations with several of its South American neighbors nearly a year and a half after the controversial ouster of President Fernando Lugo.

* Brazil: Brazilian state-run firm Petrobras sold its Peruvian energy division to China’s CNPC for $2.6 billion.

Video Source – YouTube via user oneworldsportstv

Online Sources- Bloomberg; Huffington Post; The Latin Americanist; Mercopress; Reuters

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Ecuador: Court Upholds Environmental Damages Ruling Against Chevron

In a Solomon-like ruling, Ecuador’s National Court of Justice upheld a verdict against U.S. oil company Chevron yet cut a $19 billion fine by more than half.

The National Court of Justice (NCJ) agreed with a 2011 lower court ruling that found Chevron responsible for the environmental damages caused by Texaco during a twenty-eight year period of operating in the Ecuadorian rainforest. The NCJ further ordered Chevron to pay an $8.8 million fine that includes reparations to indigenous communities that claim to have suffered adverse health effects due to Texaco’s actions between 1964 and 1992.

Yet the high court eliminated the roughly $9 billion in punitive damages levied against Chevron, which purchased Texaco in 2001, and reduces the fine to its original decision made by a local judge in February 2011.

The NCJ’s decision did not sit well with representatives of Chevron as well as the Ecuadorian plaintiffs.

“The only decision that the Court of Justice could have taken .. was to declare the trial null and void and leave this illegitimate sentence without effect,” Chevron spokesman James Craig reportedly said.  He further claimed that the NCJ’s ruling was “illegitimate and inapplicable.”

Juan Pablo Saenz, an attorney for the plaintiffs, deemed the high court’s lowering of the fine against Chevron as a “folly” that leaves “unpunished the arrogance, bad faith and irresponsibility” of the oil firm.  Nevertheless, he praised the court for issuing “a sentence that confirms all the evidence gathered, the damage and the payment Chevron must make.”

LatAm World’s Most Insecure Region Says U.N.

According to a new U.N. report Latin America is the most insecure region in the world and this is greatly hurting the area’s economic development.

“In the past decade, Latin America has been the setting of two areas of growth: economic and criminal,” concluded the 2013-2014 Regional Human Development Report from the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) that was released yesterday.

The report found that crime levels have increased in Latin America over the past decade while at least eleven countries in the region including Mexico, Brazil and Venezuela have high homicide rates of at least ten per 100,000 residents.  Moreover, the number or robberies has tripled over the past quarter century, one in every three Latin Americans reported being a victim of a violent crime in 2012 and half of Latin Americans believe that security in their respective counters has worsened. 

The high insecurity in Latin America cost the region 0.5% of its Gross Domestic Product in 2009 (or roughly $24 billion) according to the report. Latin American youth that are needed to help drive the region’s economy are the most affected by crime and violence and are most vulnerable in countries like El Salvador and Colombia. Additionally, for Latin American countries like Honduras and Paraguay public spending on crime-related factors such as the judiciary, prison system and law enforcement are at high levels.

"There is no magic solution to insecurity, but this serious problem can be remediated—with vision and long-term political will," said UNDP Director for Latin America and the Caribbean Heraldo Muñoz. "Each country needs to secure a National Citizen Security Agreement between the government, political parties and civil society so it truly becomes a state policy."

Among the recommendations made by the UNDP to combat insecurity in Latin America is the need to undergo major reform in prison systems that are plagued by overpopulation as well as creating public policies to protect those most affected by crime.  Furthermore, the UNDP suggests that Latin American countries need to do a better job at combating gender-based violence such as femicides and also reduce “crime triggers” like alcohol and drugs.

For the report’s main author, the approach by several Latin American states to lower crime is having the opposite effect:
“While some threats – such as organized crime, especially drug trafficking – are often used to explain insecurity, the regional, national and local dynamics are much more diverse,” explains the lead author, Rafael Fernandez de Castro. 
One of the main lessons he drew in the report is that “iron fist” policies do not work: strong police and criminal repression in the region have often coincided with high crime rates.
The assessed experiences confirm that protecting the rights to life, to dignity and to physical integrity is essential to citizen security, which, as a public good, is a responsibility of the state, the report highlights.
Video Source– YouTube via AFP

Online Sources - U.N. Development Programme; U.N. News Centre

Daily Headlines: November 13, 2013

* Argentina: A top aide to Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Macri faces criminal charges after he called the late Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler a "spectacular guy."

* Brazil: Forensic scientists are planning to exhume the remains of former president Joao Gulart to examine whether he died of natural causes of was poisoned.

* Cuba: Human rights advocates are none too pleased with the election of several countries to the U.N. Human Rights Council including China, Saudi Arabia and Cuba.

* Latin America: The Chilean government and UNICEF Uruguay are two of the Latin American entities pledging aid to the storm-battered Philippines.

Online Sources - GlobalPost; Fox News Latino; BBC News; Businessweek

Video Source - YouTube via TVPublicaArgentina

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Daily Headlines: November 12, 2013

* Latin America: Mexico and Uruguay are each hoping to avoid shock defeats tomorrow in the first match of a two-leg World Cup playoff series against New Zealand and Jordan, respectively

* Argentina: A spokesman for Argentine president President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who underwent surgery last month, said that she will return to her duties next week.

* Puerto Rico: Could Puerto Rico's financial woes provide a golden opportunity for Wall Street investors?

* Brazil: According to the International Energy Agency, Brazil could become one of the world's top suppliers of oil by 2035.

Online Sources - Reuters; FIFA; Miami Herald; BusinessWeek

Video Source - YouTube via sntv

Monday, November 11, 2013

Daily Headlines: November 11, 2013

* Venezuela: Scores of Venezuelans including some looters gathered outside Daka electronics stores after the government seized the chain over alleged price gouging.

* Colombia: Authorities in Spain captured the head of Los Urabeños, a Colombian neo-paramilitary criminal gang involved in narcotrafficking.

* Chile: Forensic exams concluded that no chemical agents were found in the body of acclaimed Chilean poet Pablo Neruda who died under mysterious circumstances in 1973.

* Mexico: Police in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas located sixty-one migrants including ten children residing in "inhumane conditions."

Online Sources - LAHT; BBC News; USA TODAY; Reuters

Video Source - YouTube via euronews

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Nuestro Cine: Timeless Love

Last month we looked at several films vying for this year’s best foreign film Academy Award from Latin American countries including animated children’s film “Anina” from Uruguay.  Though “Anina” apparently filled the requirements to be nominated for Best Animated Feature Film it was not among the nineteen submissions to that category. 

Among the nominees are big-budget entries like "Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2" and "Monsters University" along with the final film from acclaimed Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki.  The only Latin American film among the eligible Best Animated features is an entry from Brazil: “Rio 2096: A Story of Love and Fury” (“Uma História de Amor e Fúria”).

Set during four different periods of Brazilian history, the drama depicts the adventures of the 600-year-old Immortal Warrior as he courts the love of Janina.  The couple encounters great obstacles throughout the centuries such as slavery in the nineteenth century and a war over water in the future.

Directed by Luiz Bolognesi, “Rio 2096” won the prize for best feature film at the prestigious Annecy International Animation Film Festival last June.  But will the film be selected as a finalist by the Academy? See for yourselves by viewing the film’s trailer below the page break:

Daily Headlines: November 7, 2013

* Vatican: Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles asked Pope Francis to help mediate in the politically fractured country, while several photos were released showing the Argentine-born pontiff embracing a severely disfigured man

* Nicaragua: President Daniel Ortega is pushing a proposal through the Nicaraguan legislature that would eliminate term limits for presidents.

* Ecuador: A former judge behind a $19 billion environment damages ruling against Chevron rejected allegations of fraud against him and claimed that another magistrate did not ghostwrite his decision.

* U.S.: Latino voters played a key role in several elections on Tuesday including reportedly backing Terry McAuliffe by a 2-to-1 margin in a close Virginian gubernatorial race.

Video Source – YouTube via Rome Reports

Online Sources- The Huffington Post; Reuters; Al Jazeera English

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Daily Headlines: November 6, 2013

Note: Before we get to Wednesday’s headlines we would like to apologize for the inexcusable lateness of this post.

* Cuba: William Potts said that he would return to the U.S. twenty-nine years after he hijacked a commercial airliner and forced it to land in Cuba.

* Chile: The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered the Chilean government to pay $32,000 to an exiled man who was tortured during the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

* Colombia: Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Holguin sent a note of protest to Russia regarding the alleged incursion of a pair of Russian jets into Colombian airspace last week.

* Mexico: U.S. officials have offered a $5 million reward for the capture of recently freed Mexican drug capo Rafael Caro Quintero.

Video Source – YouTube via Associated Press

Online Sources- Fox News Latino; UPI; The Guardian; ABC News

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Dominicans Rally For Controversial Court Ruling

Several hundred Dominicans rallied in support of a recent high court decision that would strip the citizenship of tens of thousands of individuals.

“Get out illegal Haitians,” “Them there and us here”, “We will not negotiate our sovereignty” where just some of the signs reportedly seen by the demonstrators who gathered in Santo Domingo’s Independence Park on Monday. 

Several speakers at the event, which was organized by a group calling themselves The National Sovereignty Defense Network, backed the Dominican government’s crackdown on undocumented Haitians. (For example, the organization called for the construction of a wall along the entire Dominican border with Haiti).

Emil Santana, one of the speakers at the rally, told the crowd that Haitian children have overrun schools in San Juan de la Maguana while residents in the town are allegedly without work due to migrants from the neighboring country.

Other presenters blasted the international response against the September 25th ruling by the Dominican Constitutional Court that voided automatic citizenship to the descendants of migrants who came to work in the country after 1929.

“The Dominican people will not accept that their rights will be squashed in order to resolve the Haitian problem”, declared legislator Pelegrín Castillo.

Meanwhile, journalist Consuelo Despradel blasted renowned Peruvian author and Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa for recently comparing the ruling of the high court to the stripping of citizenship of Jews living in Nazi-era Germany.

While the rally took place in the Dominican capita city, a protest against the court’s decision was held in the southern Baoruco province.  Hundreds of demonstrators including members of at least twenty community groups participated in the march that rejected the tribunal’s “arbitrary” actions.

Daily Headlines: November 5, 2013

* Argentina: The government declassified hundreds of previously secret files including transcripts of all the meetings held by the “Dirty War” military junta and the names of blacklisted artists.
* Puerto Rico: A new survey reveled that about one in three Puerto Ricans are seriously considering leaving the island due to the commonwealth’s financial troubles.

* Guatemala: Guatemala withdrew from the Petrocaribe oil alliance due to the inability to reach “favorable rates for purchases and financing.”

* Cuba: Dissident Guillermo Fariñas claimed that he was attacked by a “government-organized mob” on Sunday when he attempted to file a complaint against the detention of several members of the Ladies in White protest group.

Video Source – YouTube via user TV Pública – Argentina

Online Sources- BBC News; LAHT; Reuters; Miami Herald

Monday, November 4, 2013

Brazilian Legislators Urge Investigation Into Spying on Diplomats

Brazilian legislators want to look into their country’s intelligence activities after the government admitted to the surveillance of foreign diplomats.

Rep. Ronaldo Caiado will reportedly summon the Ministers of Justice, Foreign Affairs and Domestic Security along with the chief of the Brazilian Intelligence Agency (ABIN) to testify in front of several Congressional committees.  He questioned the Brazilian government’s credibility abroad, particularly in light of alleged widespread surveillance by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).

“The (Brazilian) government lost a golden opportunity to have entered high-level discussions with the Americans and possibly reach a deal instead of making a big deal over being the target of surveillance,” said Caiado.

“These charges of espionage must be taken very seriously but we have to see the context in which they occurred,” said Sen. Richard Ferraço.  “If not, then it would seem like two different measures: do as I say but not as I do,” admitted the vice-chair of the Congressional committee on intelligence.    

On Monday, a Folha de São Paulo report that described how approximately ten years ago the ABIN monitored office space rented by the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia due to suspicions of maintaining spying equipment.  The Folha report also outlined how Brazilian intelligence agents followed the movements of Iraqi, Iranian and Russian diplomats in their respective embassies as well as their official residences.

A statement from Brazil's Institutional Security Cabinet, which oversees the ABIN, claimed that any surveillance is being done “develop intelligence activities” for the country’s defense and “national sovereignty, in strict observance of constitutional principles and the laws that guarantee individual rights.”  The letter also said that their intelligence operations “follow Brazilian law for the protection of national interests.”

One Russian diplomat in Brazil was supposedly not bewildered by the Folha report:

Daily Headlines: November 4, 2013

* Brazil: Some 3000 Cuban doctors traveled to Brazil in order to participate in a government program aimed at sending foreign medical professionals to underserved areas.

* Latin America: At least thirteen people died in clashes between drug gangs and the Mexican military in Matamoros while approximately eight people died in an airplane crash in northern Bolivia.
* U.S.: Millions of Latino families are expected to be affected by billions of dollars worth of cuts to the federal food stamp program.

* Honduras: In an interview with the Associated Press Honduran police chief Gen. Juan Carlos Bonilla rejected rumors that he led a “social cleansing campaign” several decades ago.

Video Source – YouTube via Newsy

Online Sources- Huffington Post; BBC News; CSMonitor.com; Reuters; LAHT

Friday, November 1, 2013

Observing the Day of the Dead (Again)

In honor of the Day of the Dead, we're reproducing the following post 
that was originally published in 2009 by guest writer

In Mexico and in Mexican expat communities, November 1st and 2nd mark "Día de Muertos," or Day of the Dead. The two days are a chance for families to remember their lost ones, combining ancient Aztec, Mayan, Náhuatl, Purépecha and Totonocao traditions with Spanish Christianity.

In the days prior, many Mexicans put up an altar in their house. Usually adorned with flowers (cempasúchil, or marigolds), a candle for and photo of each loved one, sugar or chocolate skulls, fruits, the sugary "bread of the dead" (pan de muerto), pumpkins, candied squash, religious symbols and paper decorations, the altar is said to be an offering for the departed.

Daily Headlines: November 1, 2013

* Mexico: Mexican legislators approved a proposal that would raise taxes on sugary drinks and junk food.
* Latin America: According to a new World Bank report Peru is the best Latin American country for foreign investors while Venezuela is the worst in the region.

* Cuba: Direct passenger flights between Key West, Florida and Cuba are expected to resume for the first time in fifty-one years.

* Chile: Canada’s Barrick will halt development of its Pascua-Lama gold mine in Chile that was opposed to by some local residents and environmental activists.

Video Source – YouTube via euronews

Online Sources- Bloomberg; Fox News Latino; GlobalPost; Reuters

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Colombian University Bars Halloween Celebrations

Halloween is being celebrated today in several countries around the world including in parts of Latin America where the holiday has traditionally not been observed.  One of these countries is Colombia and while some people there have taken on the Halloween customs such as pumpkin decorating and trick-or-treating, others are not so pleased.

Earlier this month the dean of the Universidad Minuto de Dios called for a ban on all Halloween celebrations at the school’s campus. 

“I ask that this holiday is not celebrated in our institution, which I consider contrary to our Christian principles of love and seeking what is good, said Father Harold Castilla in a statement issued on October 22nd.  Halloween, in his view, is a “tradition with roots in the pagan adoration of spirits and the Celtic god of death.” 

Though Castilla acknowledged that individuals have a “personal choice” to observe Halloween away from school, he called on all Halloween decorations to be removed from the campus.  Instead he urged students and faculty to prepare for the celebration of Christmas, which he described as a holiday “where we can all open our hearts, homes and this intuition to receive the Christ Child.”

Some university students claimed that Castilla was censoring them and limiting their freedoms of religion and expression.

“It’s an outrage falsely based on Church doctrines,” reportedly said one person who commented on the “Memes UniMinuto” Facebook page.

“What did you expect from a religious institution? It’s like saying that partygoers at a nightclub should pray the rosary at midnight,” mentioned another commenter.

Daily Headlines: October 31, 2013

* U.S.: David “Big Papi” Ortiz was named as the Most Valuable Player in the World Series after he helped power the Boston Red Sox to their third title in the last nine years.

* Puerto Rico: Hector Pesquera announced that he would resign as head of a police force beleaguered by corruption and a high murder rate on the island.

* Chile: Recent polls indicated that ex-President Michelle Bachelet would easily avoid a runoff in next month’s elections.

* Brazil: Eike Batista, who was once Brazil’s wealthiest man with $34.5 billion in assets, filed a bankruptcy protection request for the oil firm he controls.

Video Source – MLB.com (World Series MVP David Ortiz batted .688 in six games while his the Red Sox teammates hit .234).
Online Sources- Boston Herald; Reuters; The Guardian; Xinhua

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Nuestro Cine: Cesar Chavez on the Silver Screen

Despite the efforts of the Texas State Board of Education the impact of Cesar Chavez on American history cannot be understated.  Simply put, he was instrumental in promoting the labor rights of farm workers and is viewed as an icon in the Latino civil rights movement. 

His life will be the subject of a feature film directed by Mexican actor Diego Luna and starring Michael Peña as Chavez.  Entitled “Cesar Chavez: An American Hero,” the movie also stars America Ferrera as Chavez’ wife and Rosario Dawson as immigrant and labor rights activist Dolores Huerta.

“I’ve gone across (the U.S.-Mexico) border many times, my son was born in the United States – he is also a Mexican-American with the two passports. So with this movie I want to bring that community and its neighbors closer together,” said Luna in a recent interview.

The official trailer to the Chavez biopic was released this week, which you can view below the page break:

Daily Headlines: October 29, 2013

* Argentina: The Argentinian Supreme Court upheld a government-backed media law that could obligate the Clarin media conglomerate to sell off some of its licenses in radio, TV and the Internet.

* Brazil: Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo claimed that he doesn't anticipate any protests at next year’s soccer World Cup like the mass demonstrations several months ago during the Confederations Cup.

* Uruguay: President Jose Mujica announced that the 850-member Uruguayan peacekeepers in Haiti would be withdrawn partly due to a “political impasse in Haitian society.”

* Mexico: An uptick of violence has been reported in the state of Michoacán resulting from clashes between self-defense groups and the Knights Templar drug gang.

Video Source – YouTube via user teleSURenglish tv

Online Sources- BBC News; The Guardian; GlobalPost; MercoPress; The Latin Americanist