Friday, March 1, 2013

Report: All Colombian Glaciers to Disappear in 30 Years

A new Colombian government report concluded that all of the country’s glaciers would be gone by 2050.

According to the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies, (IDEAM in Spanish) only six glaciers can be currently found in Colombia compared to seventeen in 1850.  Over the past 163 years, the IDEAM believes that the glacial surface in Colombia has dropped by 84% and observed that glaciers have melted at a much faster rate of 3% to 5% over the past three decades.

IDEAM director Ricardo Lozano expressed his hope to the local press that the new report could serve as a “valuable resource for the creation of public policy related to climate change and the hanging high mountain ecosystems.” (All of the glaciers in Colombia lie higher than 5100 meters above sea level).

Colombia isn’t the only South American country where climate change seems to be accelerating the rate of melting in glaciers:

Daily Headlines: March 1, 2013

* Latin America: Will the Vatican agree with attendees at a recent Brazilian bishops' conference and elect a Pope from Latin America?

* U.S.: The sequestration cuts expected to go into effect today could hit Latin America’s economies hard and affect tourism into the region.

* Venezuela: A recent poll found that 57% of Venezuelans believe that President Hugo Chávez will recover and defeat the cancer hurting him.

* Guatemala: President Otto Perez Molina urged the U.S. government to grant Temporary Protected Status to about 700,000 undocumented Guatemalans.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Israel “Disappointed” Over Argentina-Iran Truth Panel

The government of is real is none too pleased at Argentine lawmakers who approved the creation of a truth commission with Iran to investigate the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Buenos Aires Jewish community center.     

"Past experience shows that agreements with Iran don't change Tehran's positions and are not followed,” read a statement issued by the Israeli Foreign Ministry. “The same holds for the current agreement, which will not lead to bringing those responsible for the bombing to trial. We are disappointed with the decision," said the communiqué.

Argentine and Israeli officials have criticized each other over Argentina’s deal with Iran that was announced by Argentine President Cristina Kirchner on January 27th.

Representatives of Jewish groups in and outside of Argentina were also upset at the Argentine Congress including the slim majority of Chamber of Deputies members who on Thursday accepted the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Iran.

“The idea of establishing a 'truth' commission on the AMIA tragedy that involves the Iranian regime would be like asking Nazi Germany to help establish the facts of Kristallnacht,” declared American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris.

"This is a memorandum that is not clear, that is not complete and that we feel doesn't bring any benefit to the cause,” said Julio Schlosser, president of the Jewish umbrella organization DAIA, before the vote took place.

The president of the AMIA Jewish Community Center, Guillermo Borger, threatened that he “will make a presentation to the Argentine Supreme Court seeking invalidation of the agreement.”  (Argentina is home to Latin America's largest Jewish community.)

The Kirchner administration believe that the panel will help Argentine courts question eight Iranians suspected of masterminding and carrying out the attack that killed 85 people and wounded 300.  The Iranian government has denied involvement in the bombing and there is a possibility that country’s parliament may reject the MOU:

Venezuelan Students Protest Against Government

Approximately thirty-four students have entered are protesting for a third day and have called for transparency regarding the health of President Hugo Chávez.

As seen in the video above, the demonstrators have put up tents and awnings near the offices of the administrative branch of the Venezuelan Supreme Court in Caracas. Some of them are allied to the “Operation Sovereignty” protest group that last week called for Chávez to “show his face” to the public.

“The Venezuelan people are tired of the lies from (vice president) Nicolás Maduro and (Cuba’s ruling) Castro brothers regarding the health of our president,” read part of a statement from the demonstrators that was published on Wednesday.  They threatened that their actions “will continue…until authorities resolve the political crisis” and rejected the possibility that Chávez could be sworn in “behind close doors.” 

Maduro on Thursday referred to the opposition and declared “those traitors will never believe any government report we provide over the health of the president who is fighting very diligently in order to recuperate.”
Chávez is at a Caracas military hospital since February 18 where he is recovering from a cancer surgery he underwent in Cuba last December 11th.  The only public images of the president since that procedure were published nearly two weeks ago and depict him smiling with his daughters.

The protesters also denounced police actions on Tuesday when several demonstrators tried to chain themselves to the gates of the Dirección Ejecutiva de la Magistratura headquarters.  They claimed that at least ten activists were injured by police officers.

Daily Headlines: February 28, 2013

* South America: At least twenty-seven people have died in Paraguay and thirty-three people have died in Brazil this year as a result of a dengue outbreak.

* Peru: The One Laptop Per Child program in Peru, which started in 2007, has reportedly had “mixed results” including logistics issues and improvements in education.

* Cuba: The Cuban Foreign Ministry accused the U.S. of not granting consular access to a paroled member of the “Cuban Five” group of convicted spies.

* Mexico: Will Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto pursue other union bosses aside from recently arrested teachers' union chief Elba Esther Gordillo?

Video Source – YouTube via user elsiglodetorreon

Online Sources- USA TODAY, Prensa Latina, BBC News, ABC News, Christian Science Monitor

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Guatemalan Femicide Investigator Resigns

Alba Trejo, Guatemala’s top femicide investigator, resigned from her post citing threats against her and her family.

“Someone was spying on my house and I don’t want to face something similar to what happened to (murdered attorney) Lea De León,” said Trejo in a press conference.

“I have a family and my daughters rely on me,” Trejo added and this is why she decided, “it would be best to retire.”

In her approximately three years in her post, Trejo claimed that over the past three years her office has helped in “the capture of 1200 attackers (of women) and fifty femicide suspects.”  As a result, she claimed that she didn’t know who was harassing and intimidating her and her loved ones.

Though the government offered to provide her with personal security, Trejo respectfully declined and, thus, her resignation from the Presidential Commission against Femicide will go into effect on Friday.

At least 544 cases of femicide, or the killing of females due to their gender, are believed to have occurred in 2012.  This represented a small drop compared to 2011 and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights praised Trejo for assisting in the creation of a several specialized criminal courts on femicide.  Nevertheless, there has been a worrying spike in femicides over the past decade in Guatemala, which has led to the Central American country having one of the world’s highest femicides rates.

Daily Headlines: February 27, 2013

* El Salvador: A Salvadoran human rights group uncovered numerous cases of children stolen from their parents during the country’s bloody twelve-year civil war.

* South America: Diplomatic relations between Bolivia and Chile have become tenser as a result of a pair of recent border incidents.

* U.S.: Seventy-five Republicans including Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and former Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez signed a letter supporting gay marriage.    

* Mexico: Police arrested Mexican teachers' union chief Elba Esther Gordillo on corruption charges days after the government passed a major educational reform law.

Video Source – YouTube via user WAVPfilms (” A documentary about the children abducted by the Salvadorian Army during the civil war, who were later sold to or adopted by parents all over the world”.)

Online Sources- GlobalPost, Newser, The Santiago Times, Huffington Post

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

U.S. Secretary Kerry Refuses to Take Sides Over Falklands Dispute

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reaffirmed his country’s position of neutrality regarding Britain and Argentina ‘s competing sovereignty claims over the Falkland Islands.

“Our position on the Falklands has not changed. The United States recognizes de facto UK administration of the islands but takes no position on the question of parties’ sovereignty claims thereto,” said Kerry on Monday after holding discussions with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague.

Kerry added that he neither he nor U.S. President Barack Obama would “comment” on a referendum that will take place on the disputed islands next month.  It’s expected that islanders will overwhelmingly choose a resolution supporting the Falklands’ political status as a British colony.

Kerry also condemned the Syrian government for the recent bombing of civilian areas in Aleppo and warned that it would be “simply unacceptable” for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.  Yet it has been his declarations over the Falklands that has not sat well with some British press outlets. For instance, a writer for one of The Telegraph’s blogs accused the White House of caring “more about appeasing a third-rate, declining socialist regime in Latin America than standing with America’s closest friend and ally”.

Daily Headlines: February 26, 2013

* Peru: Over 1000 police officers were reassigned to street duty in Lima after photojournalist Luis Choy was killed on Saturday.

* Mexico: President Enrique Peña Nieto signed into law a major educational reform that has run into opposition from Mexico’s main teachers union.

* South America: A fan of Brazilian team Corinthians turned himself in to authorities and admitted that he set off a flare that killed a Bolivian teen at a Copa Libertadores match last week.

* U.S.: Several Latino legislators and legal rights groups in Texas have urged politicians to back the implementing of the Voting Rights Act for their state.

Video Source – YouTube via user PERUNOTICIASNOW

Online Sources- NBC Latino, GlobalPost, BBC News, The Guardian

Monday, February 25, 2013

Uruguay: Hundreds Protest Against Supreme Court Rulings

Hundreds of demonstrators have gathered in Montevideo, Uruguay to protest against a pair of recent controversial decisions by the country’s Supreme Court.

“Supreme Court rulings are celebrated by assassins, torturers and large landowners,” read one of the signs held at the protest on Monday afternoon.

The protest is being held days after the top court declared unconstitutional a law that “that made new rights trials possible in spite of a 1986 amnesty law shielding most officers from prosecution”.

The decision, which was backed by four of the five Supreme Court judges, also halted over fifty trials demanding compensations for human rights crimes.  However those military and police officers already sentenced will remain imprisoned.

Students, labor unions and human rights activists are believed to be participating in the demonstration that is organized in part by politicians allied to the ruling leftist Frente Amplio bloc.  Despite the backing of the protests by the coalition some Frente politicos are divided regarding how to deal with the Supreme Court:

”Inocente,” “Sugar Man” Nab Oscar Honors

A pair of documentaries with Latino protagonists were among the films that won at the latest edition of the Academy Awards.

The Oscar for Best Documentary Short went to ”Inocente,” a film on the life of nineteen-year-old Inocente Izucar. 

As we mentioned last month, the documentary examines the many difficulties by the Mexican-born Izucar including homelessness, family abuse and living as undocumented immigrant. Nevertheless Izucar’s love for art was strong and it was through her involvement in a special therapeutic arts program that caught the attention of filmmakers Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine. 

Since the film was made, Izucar has been able to exhibiting her work and selling them for several thousand dollars apiece.  She has moved in to her own apartment though she continues to have a strained relationship with her family.

”Inocente” also made Oscars history by becoming the first film funded by the crowd-funded Kickstarter website to win an Academy Award.

Meanwhile, “Searching for Sugar Man” became the first music-oriented film to win the best-feature length documentary award since 1986. 

The documentary examined the impact Mexican-American folk singer Rodriguez had in South Africa. His soulful and politically conscious music became anthems for the anti-apartheid movement although he was unaware of the effect his music had thousands of miles away.  Thus, the film follows two South African fans of Rodriguez who look into the urban legend that Rodriguez died forgotten and abandoned.

Much like Izucar and “Inocente”, “Searching for Sugar Man” has helped Rodriguez by resurrecting his career including recently completing a tour of South Africa.  In contrast to Izucar, however, Rodriguez opted to “stay home in Detroit” and watch the Oscars on TV according to one of the film’s producers.

Daily Headlines: February 25, 2013

* Cuba: President Raul Castro announced that he would step down in 2018 and declared several political reforms allegedly aimed at attracting younger leaders to the Cuban Communist Party.

* Venezuela: The supposed return of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez to his homeland one week ago has apparently done little to calm Venezuelans who are worried over the future of their country.
* Argentina: More than fifty African countries pledged their support of Argentina’s sovereignty claim over the disputed Falklands.

* Brazil: A Brazilian court last week dropped all the charges filed last year against Chevron and Transocean regarding a 2011 offshore oil spill.

Video Source – YouTube via euronews

Online Sources- Bloomberg, NBC News, NPR, The Latin Americanist, Mercopress

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Report: Pinochet Wanted to Defy “No” Vote

Among the finalists for top foreign film at tonight's Oscars is “No,” which is based on the successful campaign that beat Chilean strongman Augusto Pinochet in a 1988 plebiscite.  The campaign’s efforts may have nearly been in vain according to recently declassified documents.

Several papers uncovered by the U.S. National Security Archive (NSA) showed that Pinochet was very reluctant to relinquish power in the hours before and after his electoral defeat. 

"I'm not leaving, no matter what," he reportedly told several of his closest advisers one day before the crucial vote was held.  He also supposedly claimed that he planned to do "whatever was necessary to stay in power," which he obtained via a controversial coup d’état fifteen years before. 

The NSA also revealed that although the U.S. government strongly supported the 1973 coup and the Pinochet regime, several agencies and diplomats gave there backing to the anti-Pinochet electoral campaign.  As U.S. intelligence reports indicated before the plebiscite that Pinochet would consider using violence to stay in the presidency, officials tried to privately exert pressure on the Chilean government.      

A U.S. Defense Department paper noted that Pinochet was “nearly apoplectic” as he headed towards a 56%-44% defeat.  At a meeting hours after the polls closed the dictator sought the support of military commanders and “spoke of using the extraordinary powers to have the armed forces seize the capital.”  They refused to go along with Pinochet’s power grab, however, and in the end he would admit defeat.