Friday, May 10, 2013

Eighty Year Prison Sentence for Ex-Guatemalan Dictator (Updated)

Former Guatemalan strongman Efrain Rios Montt was sentenced on Friday to eighty years in prison after a court convicted him of genocide.

The 86-year-old ex-general thus becomes the first former Latin American leader ever found guilty of such a charge.

Rios Montt was convicted of ordering the deaths of 1,771 members of the Ixil Maya ethnic group during his brief time in the presidency between 1982 and 1983.

The historic verdict comes after weeks of harrowing testimony from hundreds of eyewitnesses to the horrors of one of the bloodiest periods in Guatemala's decades-long civil war.

The court's decision will likely be appealed by Rios Montt's attorneys who argued that he was blind to any human rights abuses during his rule.

Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina, who came under fire after he publicly defended Ríos Montt, said earlier today that the government would abide the court's ruling.

The tribunal absolved José Rodríguez, the former Intelligence chief who served under Ríos Montt, of being complicit of human rights abuses.

Update below the page break...

Daily Headlines: May 10, 2013

* Guatemala: Former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt took the witness stand for the first time in his genocide trial yesterday and alleged that he didn’t order the massacre of hundreds of indigenous Ixil.

* Venezuela: U.S. immigration officials were allegedly granted access to Timothy Tracy, a California filmmaker detained last month and accused of conspiring against Venezuelan government.

* Uruguay: Gen. Miguel Dalmao was convicted and sentenced to twenty-eight years in prison for the 1974 murder of professor and political activist Nibia Sabalsagaray.

* Panama: Panama Canal administrators announced a series of water-saving measures as part of energy rationing caused by a drought.

Video Source – YouTube via PBS News Hour

Online Sources- ABC News; The Guardian; Businessweek; The Latin Americanist

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Daily Headlines: May 9, 2013

* Chile: Thousands of students and teachers marched in Santiago, Valparaiso and other major cities resumed their protests in favor of free, high-quality education.

* U.S.: The co-author of a Heritage Foundation report criticizing immigration reform has come under fire for allegedly arguing that Hispanics have lower IQs than the "native white population."

* Venezuela: President Nicolás Maduro visited Uruguay and Argentina as part of his “petro-diplomacy” tour of Latin America while Venezuelan opposition politicos sought support in countries like Peru and Paraguay.

* Vatican: Argentine-born Pope Francis reportedly blessed leading Cuban dissident Berta Soler during a brief meeting at the Vatican on Wednesday. 

Video Source – YouTube via EFE

Online Sources- Miami Herald; USA TODAY, BBC News; ABC News

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Today's Video: Llámame

This week we're going to take a brief look at songs that became popular in their original languages but for different reasons were then recorded in other languages.

"Call Me" became a mega-hit for Blondie and it would eventually become the biggest selling single for the New Wave band.  The song would reach #1 in the U.S. and Britain but that apparently wasn't enough for the group's record executives looking to expand Blondie's success into Latin America.  Thus, "Llámame" was reportedly recorded to be released in Mexico and several South American countries.  That never came to fruition, however, and "Llámame" would eventually be included in a 1993 rarities compilation.  (That album, Blonde and Beyond, also included a French version of "Sunday Girl"). 

Does Blondie lead singer Debbie Harry sound better in English or Spanish? Judge for yourself:

Video Source - YouTube via user ali69tigrek

Online Source - Wikipedia   

Daily Headlines: May 8, 2013

* Brazil: Brazilian career diplomat Roberto Azevedo was selected as the first Latin American and resident of a BRIC country to be named as head of the World Trade Organization.

* Mexico: At least twenty-two people died after a natural gas tanker crashed and exploded in in the Mexico City suburb of Ecatepec yesterday.

* Guatemala: Guatemalan officials will reportedly ask U.S. immigration authorities to investigate the recent deaths of two nationals under custody in Arizona.
* U.S.: “Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America” by chef Maricel Presilla won a James Beard award for cookbook of the year.

Video Source – YouTube via euronews

Online Sources- Huffington Post; ABC News; GlobalPost; New York Daily News

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Report: “Major” Changes in Mexico, CentAm Should Lead to Immigration Reform

A report released on Monday concluded that now is the best time for immigration reform in the U.S. since it can be beneficial not only for that country but also Mexico and Central America.

The joint study from the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) and the Wilson Center examined the demographic, social and economic changes in Mexico and Central America, and found that this can lead to greater “opportunities for their own people and strengthen regional competitiveness with new collaborative approaches on migration and human-capital development.” 

Among the “major” changes identified by the report are slowing population growth, rising educational attainment and growing middle classes in Mexico and El Salvador, the expanding economies in Mexico and Guatemala.  For example, the report noted that over the past decade Mexico has evolved into an immigrant destination that includes a foreign-born population at its highest level since 1940.

 “The longstanding assumption that the region has an endless supply of less-educated workers headed for the United States is becoming less and less accurate when it comes to Mexico; and in the years ahead, it is also likely to become less accurate first for El Salvador and gradually Guatemala,” said MPI President Demetrios Papademetriou.

As a result of their findings, the MPI and Wilson Center made several recommendations such as passing comprehensive immigration reform in the U.S. that includes provisions like expanding the legalization process for millions of undocumented people.  At the same time, however, the report urges Mexico and Central America to modernize their immigration systems that would incentivize “greater back-and-forth movement and the skill and experience exchanges that accompany such movement.”

The MPI and Wilson Center report came out on the same day that a Heritage Foundation study concluded that a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform plan in the U.S. Senate would cost taxpayers over $6 trillion.  The Heritage report refutes the MPI/Wilson Center study by arguing against enacting immigration reform but also the conclusions reached by other think tanks.  (Last month, for instance, the American Action Forum conservative think tank projected that immigration reform could boost gross domestic product growth by a percentage point each year over the next decade).

While politicians wrangle over the possibility of changing immigration policy, a recent poll showed strong public support for a fair and wide-ranging reform:

Daily Headlines: May 7, 2013

* South America: Rodrigo Riofrio, Ecuador’s ambassador to Peru, was removed from his post after his involvement in a fight in a Lima supermarket led to heightened diplomatic tensions between the two countries.

* Cuba: One of the “Cuban Five” men convicted of spying on the U.S. in 2001 will reportedly renounce his U.S. citizenship so he can stay in Cuba.

* Puerto Rico: Immigration officials believe that there has been a spike in the number of Haitian migrants traveling to Puerto Rico in order to reach the U.S. mainland.

* Brazil: Catholic Church hierarchy in Brazil excommunicated a "popular" priest over his public comments in favor of birth control and same-sex marriage.

Video Source – YouTube via user 24HorasPTV

Online Sources- Reuters; Huffington Post; NBC News; The Guardian

Monday, May 6, 2013

World Watch: The Perils of Greed

* Bangladesh: The death toll from the collapse of a garment factory last month surpassed 650 as authorities will likely bring up murder charges against the owner of the facility.

* Syria: U.N. investigators concluded that neither the Syrian government or rebel factions have used chemical weapons though U.S. officials partially disagree with such an assertion.

* Germany: Authorities in Germany arrested 93-year-old Hans Lipschis and accrued him of serving as an Auschwitz death camp guard during World War II.

* U.S.: A new study concluded that nearly one in five youth are at risk for suicide if there’s a gun at their homes.

Video Source– YouTube via Channel 4 (Video uploaded on April 28, 2013).

Online Sources – USA TODAY; Reuters; Al Jazeera English; CBC News; NPR

Obama Blasts Arrest of U.S. Filmmaker in Venezuela

U.S. President Barack Obama criticized the recent arrest of filmmaker Timothy Tracy who was accused of conspiring against the Venezuelan government.

“The idea that this individual is a spy is ridiculous,” said Obama during an interview with U.S. Spanish-language network Telemundo that first aired on Sunday.

“This U.S. citizen…should be treated like any other U.S. citizen who has been involved in a legal matter in a foreign country,” Obama added regarding Tracy who was accused of acting as a secret “intelligence operative.”

In a prior interview with Univision, Obama claimed that human rights, democracy, freedom of speech and assembly in Venezuela “have not been fully observed” since Nicolás Maduro was declared winner of the country’s highly contested April 14th election.

Several senior Venezuelan officials responded harshly to Obama’s remarks such as Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres who claimed to have video and e-mail evidence of Tracy meeting with opposition activists and plotting with student protesters.

"When you want to do intelligence work in another country, all those big powers who do this type of spying, they often use the facade of a filmmaker, documentary-maker, photographer or journalist," said Rodriguez Torres who also alleged that Venezuelan intelligence had been tracking Tracy for the past few months.

Maduro, meanwhile, called Obama "the grand chief of devils" and issued a formal note of protest.

Friends and family of the thirty-five-year old Tracy have defended him as a documentarian interested in showing both sides of Venezuela’s deep political divide.  He also received support from a group of Venezuelan filmmakers who “urged the government to show maximum transparency and objectivity in his case.”

Diplomatic relations between Venezuela and the U.S. had been uneasy during the fifteen year Chávez regime.  Tensions continued in the weeks since Maduro was elected as president as the U.S. has yet to recognize him as Venezuela’s legitimate leader.

Obama wasn’t the only political figure from the Americas criticized by Maduro over the weekend:

Daily Headlines: May 6, 2013

* U.S.: Twenty-eight-year-old Dominican jockey Joel Rosario won his first Kentucky Derby on Saturday after guiding the odds-on favorite Orb to victory.

* Cuba: Cuba has become the latest country to launch a legal case with the World Trade Organization against Australia’s harsh anti-tobacco laws.

* Colombia: The Colombian government and FARC rebels claimed that they continue to make progress in peace talks though both sides disagreed on how soon a deal should be reached.

* Puerto Rico: The publicist for the Grammy-winning reggaeton duo Wisin y Yandel rejected rumors that they would be splitting apart.

Video Source – YouTube via Kentucky Derby

Online Sources- Reuters; Businessweek; Al Jazeera English; Fox News Latino