Friday, March 29, 2013

Guatemalans Create Kilometric "Sawdust Carpet"

Catholics throughout Latin America and the Caribbean countries have taken part in numerous traditions held in observance of the Holy Week.  In Costa Rica, for example, effigies of the apostle Judas are burned while an estimated two million people are believed to have witnessed the annual Good Friday procession near Mexico City.

In several Guatemalan cities such as Antigua, lengthy and colorful "sawdust carpets" (alfombras de acerrín) are made for display and are then trampled upon by Good Friday processions.

A "sawdust carpet" measuring about 1.1 kilometers (or roughly 3700 feet) was created on Thursday in Guatemala City.  The project took over six hours to complete and was constructed by approximately one thousand volunteers.  The naturally-dyed sawdust is carefully hosed with water in order to highlight the vibrant colors and hues of the carpet.

"I'm going to take a photo and post it on Facebook," reportedly exclaimed one of the tens of thousands of visitors expected to see the lovely yet temporary creation.

The Guatemala City alfombra, which may be a Guinness Record, depicts numerous religious images but also messages of support to the recently elected Pope Francis.  The local government and the Guatemalan Archdiocese hope that the artwork can convince the Argentine-born pontiff to visit the Central American country.

The former Archbishop of Buenos Aires will travel to Brazil in July for World Youth Day and it's rumored that he will visit Argentina at the end of the year.

Video Source - YouTube via user afpres

Online Sources - Noticieros Televisa, Prensa Latina,, Hispanic Culture Online, Costa Rican Times, Catholic News Agency

Daily Headlines: March 29, 2013

* Mexico: Weightlifter Soraya Jimenez, who despite suffering from numerous health problems became the first Mexican women to win an Olympic gold medal, died on Thursday at the age of 35.

* Latin America: Cuban programmers have created a video game that allows users to simulate the 1959 revolution, while British hackers attacked an Argentine video game that recreates Falklands War battles.  

* Brazil: Authorities announced that about $150 million will be invested in improving the safety measures of Brazil’s two nuclear power facilities.

* Chile: Hundreds of police officers in Santiago clashed with thousands of student demonstrators calling for educational reforms.

Video Source – YouTube via user NoticieroTVC

Online Sources- Reuters, Belfast Telegraph, LAHT, BBC News

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Daily Headlines: March 28, 2013

Note: This will be the only post we will be publishing on Thursday.

We will return tomorrow and possibly the weekend as well.

We apologize for the inconvenience.

* Chile: Earlier this month Chile banned smoking in enclosed public spaces aimed at lowering smoking rates that are among the highest in Latin America.

* U.S.: President Barack Obama said an interview that he plans to visit Mexico and Costa Rica in early May but will Congress pass a comprehensive immigration reform plan before he departs?

* Ecuador: Indigenous groups in the Ecuadorian rainforest are upset at government plans to auction off tracts of land to Chinese oil companies.

* Venezuela: According to newly released data state-run oil firm PDVSA reportedly decreased the amount of funds given to “welfare programs commonly known as missions” in 2012.

Video Source – YouTube via teleSUR

Online Sources- The Guardian, The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg, The Economist, Los Angeles Times, El Universal (Venezuela)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

World Cup Qualifiers: U.S., Argentina Gain Golden Point on the Road

There is a sports adage that claims that the tie games are like kissing your sister.  But on Tuesday the U.S. and Argentine soccer teams earned valuable ties on the road at their respective World Cup qualifiers. 

For only the second time in World Cup qualifying history the U.S. was able to escape Mexico with a scoreless draw.  The 0-0 result occurred nearly one year after the U.S. won 1-0 at the imposing confines of Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca for the first time.

The Mexican squad outshot their cross-border visitors by a 17-1 margin and controlled most of the possession throughout the ninety minutes of play.  They had plenty of set pieces including fourteen corner kicks but they could not convert against an inexperienced but stingy U.S. backline.

Mexico was hurt by two clear fouls in the penalty box that were not called by referee Walter Lopez.  By the end of the match Mexican fans were reportedly irate at Lopez and launched insults calling for Mexican Coach Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre to be fired.

"That's not in our hands and if it's not in our hands, we can't give it importance. Nor can we use it as an excuse," said De la Torre regarding the officiating.

“We leave with a bitter taste. … We must keep calm and carry on,” Mexican star striker Javier Hernández reportedly said after the game.  “Chicharito” will likely be upset at his own performance that included missing a clear opportunity in the first half where he mishit a shot while he was about two yards in front of the goal.

Two of the U.S. players that played key roles in yesterday’s game were Mexican-Americans Hérculez Gómez and Omar Gonzalez.  Though he had few touches of the ball, Gómez’ levelheadedness amidst the media frenzy in the days before the game seemed to have an effect on his mostly disciplined teammates at the Azteca.

Gómez teamed up with fellow rookie Matt Besler in the central midfield and stymied numerous attacks by El Tri.  The Gómez-Besler tandem received high praise from coaches and fellow players like midfielder Michael Bradley:

Daily Headlines: March 27, 2013

* Brazil: The BRICS economic alliance, which includes Brazil, approved a $100 billion fund to combat currency crises but is divided on the possible creation of a new development bank.

* Nicaragua: Authorities are keeping a close eye on the San Cristobal volcano after several moderate earthquakes shook nearby areas.

* Peru: Opposition is mounting against government plans to reinstate an obligatory military service that has been criticized as discriminatory to the poor.

* Argentina: Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega claimed that Argentine-born Jorge Mario Bergoglio urged the Vatican to emerge from its “theological narcissism” hours before he was elected as Pope.

Video Source – YouTube via Al Jazeera English

Online Sources- Bloomberg, LAHT, Time, CBS News

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

FIFA Rejects Costa Rica Soccer Protest

Soccer’s world governing body denied Costa Rica’s request to replay a World Cup qualifier that was recently held in the middle of a snowstorm.

“FIFA has examined the content of the letter and, taking into consideration article 14, paragraph 4 of the 2014 FIFA World Cup regulations, has confirmed that the conditions established in the regulations for an official protest have not been met by the Costa Rica Football Association…Therefore the result of the match played on 22 March stands and is considered as valid,” read a brief statement issued by FIFA today.

The game in question was a 1-0 victory for the U.S. against the Costa Ricans in Commerce City, Colorado.  U.S. captain Clint Dempsey’s game-winning goal in the sixteenth minute occurred amidst a steady snowfall in the first half.  The second half held the match in blizzard-like conditions and referee Joel Aguilar of El Salvador briefly paused the game though it was continued after he talked to players on both teams.

After the match Costa Rican players, coaches and even President Laura Chinchilla criticized that the qualifier was not suspended.  Subsequently, the Central American country’s soccer federation lodged a protest claiming that the weather conditions hampered match seeking for the qualifier to be replayed and called on match officials including Aguilar to be punished.

Numerous strict conditions must be for a post-match protest to succeed.  For instance, Costa Rican team captain Bryan Ruiz was supposed to “immediately lodge a protest with the referee in the presence of the captain of the opposing team” if the field was unplayable.  But Dempsey reportedly told the press on Monday that Ruiz never protested during the match.

Though the Costa Rican FA’s protest failed, some fans of Los Ticos dissatisfied with last Friday’s game are planning their own unique demonstration before their team’s vital match at home tonight:

Daily Headlines: March 26, 2013

* Chile: A Chilean court rejected a request seeking to indict ex-president Michelle Bachelet for negligence in the 156 fatalities caused by a tsunami in 2010.

* Guatemala: Supporters of former Guatemalan ruler Efraín Ríos Montt launched a campaign in his name despite the emotional eyewitness testimony against the ex-dictator at his genocide trial.

* Brazil: The BRICS group of emerging economic powers, which includes Brazil, could start a new development bank to compete with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

* Haiti: Houses in one of the biggest slums in Port-au-Prince have been painted in bright colors as part of a government-funded relocation plan.

Video Source – YouTube via CBS (A magnitude-8.8 earthquake that rocked Chile in February 2010 caused a tidal wave that killed 156 people living in several coastal and island communities).

Online Sources- GlobalPost, ABC News, The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg, Huffington Post

Monday, March 25, 2013

Peru: Imprisoned Ex-President Cancer Free Says Doctors

The odds that imprisoned former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori could receive a pardon may have gotten a lot slimmer after the results of a medical report were published yesterday.

According to a study conducted by twelve specialists, the ex-president “was suffering from tongue cancer…although no current evidence of the disease exists.”

The report on Fujimori, who is serving prison sentences on charges ranging from bribery to human rights abuses, also concluded that he was going through various ailments such as chronic gastritis and hypertension.

Furthermore, three of the five psychiatrists who examined Fujimori found that he is suffering from a “deep depression with suicidal tendencies.”  The psychiatry team was nevertheless divided as to whether Fujimori’s mental state is “recurring but moderate” or requiring “constant surveillance” over him.

The report was revealed by the local Cuarto Poder television newsmagazine program days before the Commission on Presidential Pardons is expected to emit its recommendation over the imprisonment of the former president.

The Fujimori family claimed they would not provide a public comment to the report even though last year they filed the request for a pardon.  Yet congressman Kenji Fujimori insisted in an interview that his father does have cancer and that the combination of maladies affecting him justifies a presidential pardon.

As to be expected regarding such a divisive figure like Fujimori, getting him to undergo a comprehensive medical exam was not without its controversy.  The ex-president failed to convince prison authorities to allow his personal physicians to take part in the group of doctors examining him.

Unsurprisingly, the results of the medical report have had its share of supporters and detractors in Peru.  Among the former is Fujimori’s personal doctor, Alejandro Aguinaga:

Daily Headlines: March 25, 2013

* Caribbean: Legendary Afro-Cuban jazz musician Bebo Valdes passed away last Friday at the age of 94.

* El Salvador: Hundreds of people marched in San Salvador on Palm Sunday and called for the sainthood of the assassinated Archbishop Oscar Romero.

* Mexico: Scientists from Mexico's National Institute for Anthropology and History located three ancient playing fields at the at the Tajin World Heritage site.

* Chile: Approximately 500 members of the indigenous Mapuche community attended the funeral of recently deceased tribal chief Logko Pascual Pichun.

Online Sources -; Miami Herald; BBC News; Jakarta Post