Friday, May 17, 2013

Nuestro Cine: The Music of Mercedes

We'll be back on Monday to look at several news and notes from around the Americas.

The following video is the English-language international trailer for "Mercedes Sosa: la voz de Latinoamerica" ("Mercedes Sosa: The Voice of Latin America").  The documentary on the renown Argentine folk singer was produced by her only child, Fabian Matus, and will be released in her native country next month.

Sosa died in 2009 after battling several ailments.

Nicknamed "the voice of Latin America," Sosa's career spanned over four decades and included some forty albums.  Her songs often contained political messages, which did not sit well with the "Dirty War" military regime in Argentina that forced her into a brief exile.

"She lived her 74 years to the fullest," Matus said to the press shortly after Sosa died. "She had done practically everything she wanted, she didn't have any type of barrier or any type of fear that limited her."

Online Sources -; CNN; Montreal Gazette

Video Source - YouTube via user Rodrigo Vila

Daily Headlines: May 17, 2013

* Mexico: The author of the Blog del Narco website, which offered an unflinching look of Mexico's drug war, reportedly fled to Spain while the fate of her partner is unknown.

* El Salvador: The country’s Supreme Court began hearing arguments regarding the case of “Beatriz”, an ill and pregnant woman with a deformed fetus who is seeking permission for an abortion.

* Brazil: Will a planned 10,000 mile “virtual border fence” help control drug smuggling and undocumented immigrants of will it be a $13 billion boondoggle?

* Costa Rica: Communications Minister Francisco Chacon resigned over the growing scandal regarding President Laura Chinchilla using a plane owned by a shady Colombian businessman.

Video Source – YouTube via user McClatchyDC

Online Sources- The Guardian; The Latin Americanistl ABC News; NPR Parallels; GlobalPost

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Daily Headlines: May 16, 2013

* El Salvador: Officials launched a violence prevention program in areas where the country’s two largest street gangs – the Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 – have honored a fourteen-month truce.

* Venezuela: The government’s plans to import fifty million rolls of toilet paper as Venezuelans complain of shortages in basic commodities and foods.

* Brazil: Defending Copa Libertadores titleholder Corinthians of Brazil were ousted from this year’s version of the tournament by six-time champions Boca Juniors of Argentina.

* U.S.: A new Census Bureau report found that an influx of immigrants is expected to outpace U.S. population growth from births within thirty years.

Video Source – Video via Al Jazeera English (Video uploaded in May 2012).

Online Sources- The Guardian;; SBS; Reuters

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Court Orders Retrial in Dorothy Stang Murder Case

Brazil’s top court ordered a retrial of a rancher convicted of masterminding the murder of U.S. nun and environmentalist Dorothy Stang.

"The right to a defense is a value that must prevail, because it is fundamental for the development of a fair trial," Supreme Court justice Ricardo Lewandowsky said regarding the annulment of a 30-year prison sentence against Vitalmiro Vastos de Moura.

The 73-year-old Stang was gunned down in February 2005 as she was returning home from a community meeting in the state of Pará.

In 2007 de Moura was convicted of planning the murder of Stang, a tireless campaigner for the preservation of the Amazon and for the rights of poor landowners. One year later, a jury overturned de Moura’s conviction much to the disappointment of then-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and human rights groups.  In April 2010, however, de Moura was again convicted and sentenced to thirty years behind bars after several of his co-conspirators testified against him.

De Moura will remain in prison awaiting a third murder trial, which could commence as soon as the end of May.  In the meantime, land rights activists in Brazil decried the Supreme Court’s ruling:

Daily Headlines: May 15, 2013

* Mexico: The Cinderella story of Mexican soccer team Xolos de Tijuana continues following their surprising qualification to the Copa Libertadores quarterfinals.

* Brazil: Brazil could soon become the latest Latin American country to allow same-sex marriage after a judicial panel ruled that gay couples can receive marriage licenses.

* Costa Rica: President Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica has come under fire after using a private plane owned by a Colombian oil company to travel to Peru and Venezuela.

* Caribbean: A rise in dengue favor cases in England, Wales and Northern Ireland has prompted British doctors to warn against travelling to parts of Central America and the Caribbean.

Video Source – YouTube via user FutbolAlRevesChannel

Online Sources- The Guardian; euronewsl France 24; Reuters

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Salvadoran President: Pregnant Woman in Abortion Debate Has “Right to Choose”

El Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes said that an infirm and pregnant woman has the “right to choose” whether or not to abort her deformed fetus.

“The one who has the right to decide over her life and that of her son is ‘Beatriz’ and not the organizations trying to take advantage of her situation,” said Funes at the inauguration of a public works project yesterday.

He added that he’s well aware that the woman known as “Beatriz” has her life  “in danger” and said that he has created a medical commission that will “decide the best path to ensure (her) safety and well being.”

The 22-year-old “Beatriz” is approximately five months pregnant and doctors have informed her that her fetus is missing a large part of its brain and skull. The fetus may not survive past childbirth while “Beatriz” could also die since her body is severely weakened by lupus, kidney disease and hypertension.

The case of “Beatriz” has divided Salvadorans regarding the very sensitive issue of abortion with Catholic officials and conservatives on one side and women’s rights groups and pro-birth control activists on the other.  The case has even split some government authorities with the heath ministry arguing in favor of abortion while officials with forensic medicine opposed to it.

For her part, “Beatriz” would like to go ahead with the abortion:

Daily Headlines: May 14, 2013

* Venezuela: President Nicolás Maduro launched the “Safe Homeland” program where over 3000 soldiers will be deployed in major cities in order to combat rampant street crime.

* Guatemala: One of the judges who convicted ex-dictator Efrain Rios Montt in a historic genocide trial ordered the Guatemalan government to publicly apologize for human rights abuses committed under his rule.

* Cuba: Guillermo Fariñas, a frequent Cuban hunger striker and dissident, travelled to Miami as part of a tour of the U.S. and Europe.

* Mexico: Authorities raised the alert level for the Popocatepetl volcano as residents in nearby towns might soon have to evacuate.

Video Source – YouTube via Al Jazeera English

Online Sources- Businessweek; Miami Herald; NBC News; BBC News; The Latin Americanist

Monday, May 13, 2013

Today’s Video: Soda en Ingles

Last week we looked at "Llámame," the Spanish-language version of the hit "Call Me" by Blondie that was recorded but not released during the peak of the New Wave band’s popularity.  Today we’re going to briefly examine a song that was recorded in English after it became a popular tune in Spanish.

"Cuando pase el temblor" (“When the Earthquake Ends”, in English) became the second single to be released from Soda Stereo’s second album, Nada personal, in 1985.  The lyrics to the song can be interpreted either literally or figuratively as a double entendre but the music itself is a great mix of Andean sounds with traditional rock and roll.

According to an anecdote mentioned on the Hay Que Oir blog, the famed Argentine rock en Español group recorded two English-language versions in 1988 of their previous hits including "Cuando pase el temblor."  These songs were recorded in London and were eventually passed on to “an influential English DJ” (the late John Peel?) who then played them on his program.  The end product was to be an entire Soda Stereo album in English but “monetary issues” prevented that from becoming a reality.

Does "Cuando pase el temblor" en ingles sound better, equal to or worse than the original?  Judge for yourself:

Soda Stereo broke up in 1997 but returned briefly in 2007 for a reunion tour. 

Three years ago this Wednesday, Soda frontman Gustavo Cerati fell into a coma after he collapsed following a concert in Venezuela.  Cerati’s mother, Lillian Clark said last month that her son has shown “small responses” that have given her “signs of hope” regarding his health.

Video Sources – YouTube via users ubriacone88 and joacodelc

Online Sources – Los Angeles Times; Wikipedia (Spanish);; Hay Que Oir; The Latin Americanist

Mexican Moms Go on Hunger Strike

A group of thirteen people including numerous mothers have entered a fifth day of a hunger strike in order to seek answers over the whereabouts of their missing children.

Among the demands from the protesters residing in a makeshift camp outside the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) in Mexico City is the chance to talk with senior government officials including Enrique Peña Nieto.

“We are aware that the federal government is not entirely responsible for all the violence occurring in our country.  Yet it is their duty to recognize our appeal,” said Jaime Olivares Cruz, husband of one of the hunger strikers.

The protesters are allegedly in a “delicate” state of health and they were issued yesterday facemasks by a Doctors Without Borders medical delegation.  Some of them are reportedly battling chills, bone pains and other ailments after spending the past few days outdoors.

We will not leave until our cases have been resolved, the president meets with us and he gathers a working group to tell us when and how they will start to find our missing loved ones,” declared hunger striker Margarita López.  López said her “disappeared” daughter, Yahaira Guadalupe Bahena, was kidnapped two years ago by “armed men” and then tortured until she died. López has urged authorities to uncover a mass grave where her daughter was allegedly buried in but her pleas have thus far been ignored.

López was one of the participants in a seven-day hunger strike that took place last November and that ended after Mexico City authorities met with the protesters.

The current hunger strikers have received support from the likes of author Elena Poniatowska and anthropologist Martha Lamas, whom the protesters hope will bring awareness to their cause and also pressure the government to meet their demands.

Four months ago, Peña Nieto enacted a “Victims Law” that provides a mechanism for compensation of victims of organized crime as well as the creation of a national registry to record what happened to victims.  The Mexican president said, “With this law, the Mexican state hopes to give hope and comfort to victims and their families,” yet some human rights activists believe that more can still be done:

Pope Gives Support to Colombia Peace Talks

Pope Francis gave his full support today to peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the country’s FARC rebels.

“Reference to the undergoing process of peace and the victims of conflict was not overlooked, with the wishes that the parties involved carry on negotiations, inspired by a sincere search for the common good and for reconciliation,” read a statement issued by the Vatican after the Argentine-born pontiff met privately on Monday with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

The leaders also discussed the “challenges that the country must face were taken into consideration, especially in regard to social inequalities” according to the Vatican statement.

"These past 24 hours have been very important for Colombia, for my government, for me as a president, for me as a person and for my family," Santos said after meeting with the first Latin American elected to head the Roman Catholic Church.

Representatives for the Colombian government and the FARC admitted earlier this month that progress has slowly been made in the peace talks that began last November.

On Sunday, Pope Francis canonized two female nuns from Latin America known for their unselfish work aiding the poor and the indigenous during the 20th century.  Laura Montoya and Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala became the first saints from Colombia and Mexico, respectively, and the Pope emphasized yesterday how they should serve as examples for Catholics to follow:

Daily Headlines: May 13, 2013

* Brazil: An Associated Press analysis concluded that Brazilian-made cars are “dangerous” since they’re made with materials of inferior quality and a lack of safety features.

* Guatemala: Several hundred supporters of ex-dictator Efrain Rios Montt gathered outside a Guatemalan military prison and protested his conviction on Friday on genocide charges.

* U.S.: Sesame Street will add a new Latino, Spanish-speaking character named Armando for the upcoming 44th season of the classic children's TV series.

* Mexico: According to a recently released report the number of homicides related to organized crime dropped 18% during the first five months of President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration.

Video Source – YouTube via user autobr

Online Sources- LAHT; New York Daily News; Huffington Post;; The Latin Americanist