Friday, April 26, 2013

Daily Headlines: April 26, 2013

* Latin America: A new Lancet Oncology report concluded that cancer death rates in Latin America are disproportionately high compared to other regions.

* Argentina: Economy Minister Hernan Lorenzino has come under fire after he cut short a TV interview when he was asked about Argentina’s inflation data.

* Cuba: According to Cuban officials the biotechnology industry is expected to double over the next five years and bring in more than $5 billion in export revenues.

* Guatemala: A group of Nobel Laureates including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Rigoberta Menchu urged Guatemalan judges to continue the halted genocide trial of former dictator Efrain Rios Montt.

Video Source – YouTube via user telesurenglish

Online Sources- BBC News; Reuters; Bloomberg; New York Daily News

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Today’s Video: Melting Away

The latest edition of Earth Day was held on April 22nd with the theme of “The Face of Climate Change.”  While some strides have been made towards addressing global warming, the phenomena have been blamed for environmental problems in parts of the world.

Scientists have identified climate change as the main reason for the rapid melting of glaciers in several Latin America countries.  Such is the case in Peru where the nation’s eighteen mountain glaciers are vital to the region's water sources for drinking, irrigation and electricity.  The possibility that Peru’s glaciers could disappear over the next few decades has officials in Peru and the U.S. worried over the political ramifications of “millions and millions of hungry and thirsty” individuals. 

Peruvian communities have created innovative ways to prevent the shortage of water caused by the shrinking glaciers.  It remains to be seen if catching moisture from fogs and other measures will be sufficient to help Peruvians:

Daily Headlines: April 25, 2013

* Argentina: Pope Francis told that the president of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo that he's "at the disposal" of the group that helps find hundreds of Argentines missing during the "Dirty War" period.

* Uruguay: Troubled striker Luis Suarez has been banned for ten games by English soccer officials after biting a rival player on the arm.

* Mexico: No, U.S. legislator Louie Gohmert, Al Qaeda has not established "terrorist camps" in Mexico.

* U.S.: The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit alleging that some 20,000 students in California who need to learn English are receiving inadequate language instruction.

Video Source - YouTube via

Online Sources - Huffington Post;; GlobalPost;

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Colombian Congress Rejects Gay Marriage Bill

Colombian legislators today rejected a proposal that would have permitted same sex couples to marry.

In the 51-17 vote, legislators opted against the bill that was first introduced former Senate president Armando Benedetti last November.

 “The day that we are able to become a modern and progressive legislature is the day when we can start ending inequality and poverty in Colombia,” said Benedetti.

Voting on the bill had been delayed twice over the past week as tempers flared over the issue of gay rights.  On Tuesday senator Roberto Gerlein took to the floor to denounce what he deemed “the violence of the gay lobby” and allege, “Sex between homosexuals is scatological and purely recreational.”  (Last year he caused quite a stir when he declared that gay people have a smaller brain than heterosexuals and “homosexuality is a yoke placed by the bad luck of nature.”

In July 2011 the Colombian Constitutional Court granted a two-year window for Congress to pass legislation legalizing gay marriage. According to the court, if the deadline passes with no legislation, then same-sex couples will be able to formalize their unions before a notary public.  Yet it remains to be seen if notaries will be permitted to join same-sex couples after Attorney General Alejandro Ordóñez recently claimed that civil unions between members of the same gender is illegal and unconstitutional.

While Gerlein and his cohorts view gay marriage as something to be repudiated and abhorred, for some gay couples in Colombia the issue is one of acceptance and having the same opportunities as straight pairs.  As was written in an article on a gay couple in Colombian daily El Pais:

Daily Headlines: April 24, 2013

* Mexico: President Enrique Peña Nieto’s push for major reform in areas such as banking, telecommunications, and oil production could be in jeopardy partly due to allegations of vote buying by the ruling party.

* Latin America: Over 1800 police officers seeking better working conditions went on strike in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, while hundreds of Puerto Rican cops have supposedly ended their sickout protest.

* Brazil: Finance Minister Guido Mantega announced a series of measures aimed at boosting an ethanol industry hampered by increased production costs despite greater global demand for biofuels.  

* Guatemala: Senior U.N. official Adama Dieng called on Guatemalan judicial authorities to “act responsibly and prevent any attempt at interference, obstruction of justice or manipulation of the law” in light of the annulment of the genocide trial against former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt.

Video Source – YouTube via user telesurenglish

Online Sources- Los Angeles Times; Washington Post; United Nations; ABC News; MercoPress

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Daily Headlines: April 23, 2013

* Haiti: Amnesty International accused the Haitian government for turning a blind eye to the eviction from settlement camps of thousands of survivors of a major 2010 tremor.

* Nicaragua: Eric Toth, one of the FBI’s ten most wanted fugitives, will likely be extradited to the U.S. after police in Nicaragua arrested him. 

* Latin America: The U.N.’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean lowered its 2013 growth estimate for the region to 3.5% though it would still be higher than last year’s 3.0% increase.

* Colombia: The Colombian government and FARC rebels are renewing peace talks in Cuba that first began in November 2012.

Video Source – YouTube via user bri kouri nouvel gaye (“Several dozen victims of Haiti's earthquake who live in Camp Vilaume Deta demonstrated against forced evictions on October 12, 2012.”)

Online Sources- ABC News; UPI; Miami Herald; Reuters

Monday, April 22, 2013

El Salvador: Pope “Unblocks” Romero Sainthood Campaign

The possibility of granting sainthood to the late Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador became more of a reality over the weekend.

According to comments made by Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, Pope Francis has reportedly given his approval for the beatification process for Romero to move forward.

“Today ... the beatification cause of Monsignor Romero has been unblocked; tomorrow I can resume saying that these martyrs help us to live,” said Paglia who is described as the “Italian prelate spearheading Romero's case.”

Paglia’s remarks came at a Mass to mark the 20th anniversary of the death of another candidate for sainthood: ex-president of the Pax Christi organization Bishop Tonino Bello.  Paglia’s words also came one day after he met with the Argentine-born pontiff to discuss the Bello and Romero cases.

Romero was assassinated in 1980 as he finished a mass where he criticized government repression and denounced human rights abuses.  His vocal defense of El Salvador’s poor and oppressed rankled the country’s political and economic elite, and it’s believed that right-wing death squad commander Roberto D’Aubuisson ordered Romero’s murder.

The assassination of Romero marked the start of a bloody twelve-year civil war that left nearly 90,000 people dead or missing.

Romero is viewed as a martyr among Salvadorans though the process for beatifying Romero was held up for years by the Vatican's opposition to liberation theology.  Nevertheless, the election last month of the first Latin American Pope provided hope for members of the Salvadoran clergy supporting the push for Romero’s sainthood:

Conservative Business Tycoon Wins Paraguayan Presidency

In Mexico last year the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) returned to the presidency after their seventy-one years of continuous rule was halted in 2000.  A similar story developed this weekend several thousand miles south in Paraguay.

Multimillionaire Horacio Cartes of the Colorado Party was declared the winner of Paraguay’s presidential elections with 45.91% of the votes versus 36.84% for Efrain Alegre of the ruling Liberal Party.  Thus, the Colorados return to the presidency after having their sixty-one years in power broken in 2008 by former catholic priest Fernando Lugo.

"My legs trembled at the thought of the enormous and amazing responsibility of being president of all Paraguayans," Cartes said in his victory speech on Sunday night. "I want the people who did not vote for us to know that I'll put all my effort into earning their trust," declared one of Paraguay's richest men who owns over twenty businesses.

The conservative Cartes and the center-right Alegre both reportedly ran campaigns with similar platforms promising to create jobs and improve economic conditions.  According to U.N. estimates over half of all Paraguayans live in poverty while only 1% of residents control 77% of the country’s land.

Both men also engaged in negative campaigning against each other regarding faced corruption charges. Cartes was jailed for nearly a year in 1989 for illegal currency dealings though that conviction was later overturned.  He’s also believed to be involved in money laundering and tax evasion as part of his offshore dealings with the Banco Amambay that he owns.

The two main candidates differed over the issue of gay rights, which was most evident when Cartes recently compared gay people to “monkeys” and threatened to “shoot myself in the testicles” if his son were to seek same-sex marriage.

The ugly campaign may have extended itself to the election itself; for instance, a Colorado party senator was suspended on Saturday after he was filmed allegedly offering cash to rival Liberal party officials in exchange for annulled ballot papers. Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Organization of American States electoral observer Oscar Arias praised the Paraguayan electorate though he did note “grievous electoral irregularities” such as the buying of votes.

Court Convicts Carandirú Cops

Note: The below video contains very graphic images and is Not Safe for Work.

A Brazilian judge convicted and sentenced a group of police officers for their involvement in Brazil’s worst instance of prison violence.

The twenty-three police officers, most of them now retired, each received prisons sentences of 156 years as punishment for killing fifteen inmates of Sao Paulo's Carandirú prison in October 1992.

No officers were among the 111 fatalities of the incident referred to as the “Carandirú massacre” that began when officers attempting to quell rioting among rival gangs.

Prosecutors argued that dozens of Brazil’s Military Police officers indiscriminately fired on prisoners who surrendered or were hiding in their cells. They purportedly used shotguns and machine guns to murder 102 prisoners including some at point-blank range.

"We never thought they would come in and kill people randomly, as not everyone had joined the rebellion," said ex-Carandirú prisoner Jacy de Oliveira to the BBC News.

“The sentence does not reflect the thinking of Brazilian society,” said one of the defense attorneys who alleged that their clients were performing theirs duties and protecting themselves from violent inmates. 

At least seventy-nine current and former Military Police officers are expected to face charges in four separate trials.  For the Amnesty International human rights group, authorities could do more to prevent impunity twenty-one years after the massacre:

Daily Headlines: April 22, 2013

* Venezuela: Argentine-born Pope Francis called on “the dear Venezuelan people…to establish a dialogue” amid the high political tensions generated from this month’s contentious presidential election.

* U.S.: Senators Lindsey Graham and Charles Schumer argued that last Monday’s Boston Marathon bombings should not delay debate on a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform bill proposed last week.

* Mexico: No immediate reports of damage or injuries have been reported after a magnitude-5.9 earthquake shook central Mexico last night.

* Puerto Rico: Could Puerto Rico join Washington State and Colorado on the list of U.S. territories legalizing marijuana use for people over 21-years-old?

Video Source – YouTube via euronews

Online Sources- CNN; Washington Post; Huffington Post; The Latin Americanist; France 24