Thursday, February 14, 2013

Senate Backs Immigrant Clauses in Violence Against Women Act

In a 78-22 vote the Senate approved a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that includes some safeguards for immigrants.

Among the provisions approved by the Senate on Tuesday is one that would provide help to immigrants who are abused and married to U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.  These victims would be allowed to petition for independent legal status.  Another clause has a visa option that would permit abused undocumented immigrants to remain in the country. 

One of the pro-immigrant clauses dropped from the Senate bill would’ve permitted granting U visas to undocumented immigrant abuse victims.  This clause would’ve helped law enforcement officials examine abuse cases was done reportedly in order to improve the odds of the proposal’s approval in the House of Representatives.

The original VAWA was passed in 1994 and had been reauthorized twice but it expired in 2011.
The Republican-controlled House last year passed its own bill, which left out the visa provision as well as services for gay victims. In response to the Senate’s actions, seventeen House Republicans wrote a letter to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Speaker John Boehner seeking support for the VAWA reauthorization.

As mentioned in an ABC News article, reauthorizing and expanding VAWA benefits could benefit Latina immigrants:

Daily Headlines: February 14, 2013

* Argentina: Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman said that a prosecutor from his country will question Iranians suspected of involvement in the deadly 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish cultural center.

* Brazil: Odilo Scherer, a Brazilian Cardinal who could become the next Pope, noted that geographic origin or age should not matter much in determining the next pontiff.

* Mexico: The family of Jaime Zapata, a U.S. federal agent who was killed in Mexico in 2011, filed a $75 billion lawsuit against more than twenty defendants.

* Venezuela: Vice President Nicolas Maduro claimed that President Hugo Chavez is in a “complex and difficult treatment” over two months after undergoing cancer surgery in Cuba.

Video Source – YouTube via Al Jazeera English

Online Sources- GlobalPost, Voice of America, The Latin Americanist, ABC News, CNN

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Tea Party Politico Pushes for “Embracing” of Immigrants

Republican Senator Rand Paul called for the GOP to “embrace” immigrants during a speech given on Tuesday after the State of the Union (SOTU).

“We must be the party who sees immigrants as assets, not liabilities,” said Paul, giving a response for the Tea Party Express political group.  “We must be the party that says, ‘If you want to work, if you want to be an American, we welcome you.’”

Paul also claimed, “We are the party that embraces hard work and ingenuity, therefore we must be the party that embraces the immigrant who wants to come to America for a better future”.

The freshman senator from Kentucky blasted President Barack Obama on several issues including federal spending and foreign policy.  Yet Rand, who is reportedly contemplating a run for the presidency, did not touch on the push for bipartisan immigration reform that has been backed by Obama and some moderate GOP lawmakers.  Nor did Paul discuss border enforcement, a factor regarding immigration that was touched by Obama in the SOTU and Sen. Marco Rubio in the official Republican response.
Paul’s position on immigration puts at him at loggerheads with some Tea Party activists who have emphatically rejected any compromise favoring undocumented immigrants.  Judson Phillips, of Tea Party Nation, proclaimed last month that a bipartisan plan created by a group of eight senators including Rubio is “political suicide” for the GOP.  Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas expressed “deep concerns with the proposed path to citizenship” with the proposal from the “Gang of Eight.”

Daily Headlines: February 13, 2013

* Colombia: Peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC are allegedly going well despite a guerilla military offensive.

* Peru: Archeologists located a 5000-year-old temple in a Peruvian valley that could be among the oldest sites in the world.

* Venezuela: The U.S. State Department issued sanctions against a Venezuelan state-owned weapons firm for it’s dealings with Iran, North Korea or Syria.

* Paraguay: The head of the Paraguayan national electricity agency warned that the country’s energy system is on the verge of collapse.

Video Source – YouTube via Al Jazeera English (The FARC ended a weeks-long unilateral ceasefire on January 20th).

Online Sources- GlobalPost, Reuters, Businessweek,

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Haitian Musicians Allege Government Censorship

Today is the last day of carnival celebrations throughout the Americas.  Much like their better-known counterparts in Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans, carnival festivities in Haiti are fled with color, revelry, and upbeat music.  Yet for some musicians in that Caribbean country this year’s celebrations have been marred by unnecessary criticism.

Members of three musical groups alleged that they were barred from performing at Carnival since their tunes poke fun at singer-turned-president Michel Martelly.

"These songs reflect the Haitian reality, but (Martelly) takes it the wrong way… Where's the freedom of speech? Where's the democracy? It shows that he has no tolerance (for criticism)," said Thomas Asabath, the manager of the Brothers Posse band, according to the Associated Press. 

One of the songs from the Brothers Posse entitled “Aloral” shows the lead singer critiquing a Martelly lookalike for failing to fulfill his goals in the presidency.   (This can be seen between the first and second minutes of the music video for the song).

The singer for RAM, whose group along with Kanpech and Brothers Posse was excluded from the Carnival lineup, said that he was informed that Martelly didn’t like the song they had selected.  The music video for that tune, “Men Bwa W”, supposedly depicts “a woman who physically resembles first lady Sophia Martelly stuffing herself with food – a Haitian symbol for avarice and corruption”.

Daily Headlines: February 12, 2013

* Mexico: A report from the Commission for Environmental Cooperation faulted U.S. firms for sending lead batteries to Mexican recycling plants that fail to meet U.S. standards.

* Cuba: Approximately 500 U.S. troops were sent to the Guantanamo military base as part of a drill for a "mass migration event."

* Dominican Republic: The British Foreign Office updated its warning to visitors traveling to the Dominican Republic after tourists were targeted by criminals in Santo Domingo.

* Brazil: The price of sugar rose due to rumors alleging that Brazilian sugar growers will likely increase ethanol production.

Online Sources - Bloomberg, The New York Times, UPI, The Telegraph

Monday, February 11, 2013

Will a Latin American Become the Next Pope?

On Monday Pope Benedict XVI declared that he would resign from his post effective February 28th.  “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry,” said Benedict in a statement read on Vatican radio.

His surprise announcement has led to speculation over who could soon replace the 85-year-old head of the Roman Catholic Church.  Is it possible that the new pontiff will come from Latin America rather than Europe?  Here are six possible candidates from the Americas who could become the church’s 266th pope:

Odilo Scherer (Brazil): Scherer is the Archbishop of São Paulo, which is the largest diocese in the world’s largest Catholic country.  He is young compared to other papal candidates (63-years-old) and his relatively moderate views could attract those dissatisfied with the scandals under Benedict.  The growth of evangelicals in Brazil could be a disadvantage for Scherer’s candidacy even though the next World Youth Day will be held this year in Rio de Janeiro.
Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga (Honduras): Betting house Paddy Power gave 10-to-1 odds in favor of the papal candidacy of the Archbishop of Tegucigalpa and ex-President of the Latin American Episcopal Conference.  As President of Caritas Internationalis, he has urged “the world’s richest nations to keep their promises to increase and improve development aid to the world’s poorest countries”.  His views on social inequality aside, he has also shared the Vatican’s hard line on areas such as homosexuality and birth control.

Leonardo Sandri (Argentina): Sandri is the head of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and he was also chief of staff, the third most important Vatican post, under Pope John Paul II between 2000 and 2007.  His experience and his Italian heritage are factors that led one religious commentator to label Sandri as a "safe hands" candidate.

Daily Headlines: February 11, 2013

* U.S.: Juanes, Lila Downs and Quetzal were some of the winners in the Grammys' Latin categories that were awarded yesterday.

* South America: Parts of Peru, Chile and Bolivia have been hit hard by flooding and landslides caused by torrential rains.

* Mexico: According to a new federal government report over 1100 people were killed in violent incidents last month.

* Ecuador: Recent poll results indicated that President Rafael Correa appears poised to win reelection in next Sunday’s elections.

Video Source – YouTube via user Marlow Rosado (Marlow Rosado y La Riqueña upset Romeo Santos to win the 2013 Grammy for "Best Tropical Latin Album.")

Online Sources-, BBC News, LAHT, Reuters