Friday, July 12, 2013

Latin American Governments Irate Over U.S. Spying Allegations

Senior officials of several Latin American countries, including some of the region’s strongest allies to the U.S., have spoken out this week over alleged surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA) throughout the Americas.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota admitted today that he might contact Snowden even though the former contractor is believed to be in hiding somewhere in Moscow, Russia’s main international airport.

“Mr. Snowden's participation in an investigation is absolutely relevant and pertinent," Patriota said during a Senate hearing. He added that U.S. Ambassador Thomas Shannon told Brazilian officials that the U.S. does not access the content of emails but does collect metadata on email traffic. 

Brazilian newspaper O Globo reported this week that it obtained documents leaked by intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden regarding “data mining programs” by the NSA.  At least fifteen Latin American countries were supposedly under surveillance for a variety of security-related issues such as oil in Venezuela, energy in Mexico and information on Colombia’s FARC rebels. 
Furthermore, the paper claimed that the U.S. ran a “data-collection base” in Brazil and that Brazilian telecoms firms cooperated with U.S. intelligence agencies to facilitate surveillance.

“We need to see where data was stored,” President Dilma Rousseff told reporters on Monday as Brazilian authorities launched an investigation into the data storage policies of technology companies such as Google.

Colombia's Foreign Ministry requested days ago that U.S. government give an account of the “unauthorized data collection program” via its ambassador in Bogota.

“In rejecting the acts of espionage that violate people's rights and intimacy as well as the international conventions on telecommunication, Colombia requests the corresponding explanations from the United States government through its ambassador to Colombia,” the Foreign Ministry proclaimed in a statement.

Daily Headlines: July 12, 2013

* Chile: Thousands of Chileans called for better working conditions and tax reform as part of a nationwide strike organized by the country’s largest labor union.

* Vatican: Argentine-born Pope Francis introduced legislation aimed at cracking down sexual abuse and child pornography at the Vatican.

* Brazil: A lawsuit was filed with the Brazilian Supreme Court regarding the constitutionality of the country’s “World Cup law.

* U.S.: A former Cuban prison chief accused of human rights abuses is allegedly hiding out somewhere in the U.S.

Video Source – YouTube via user Emisoras Unidas

Online Sources- ABC News; USA TODAY; Bloomberg; Fox News Latino

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Report: 4000+ Yearly Hate Crime Cases in Spain

Thousands of hate crime cases based on factors such as religion, immigration status and racial background occur in Spain each year according to a report released today.

The study from the Movement Against Intolerance (MCI, in Spanish initials) nongovernment organization concluded that at least 4000 hate crimes occur yearly in Spain.  Nevertheless, the group believes that the number of hate crimes could be much more since only 4% of all cases are conveyed to authorities.

The report has identified at least eighty hate-related homicides since 1991 and that racist groups exist in all of the country’s autonomous communities.  Furthermore, the MCI identified the existence of over 1500 “xenophobic” Spanish websites and more than 10,000 neo-Nazis and skinheads in the country.  Additionally, there has been an apparent growth in “protests of intolerance” in Spain such as four events occurring last April celebrating Adolf Hitler’s birthday.

In one case by the MCI highlighted last month that educational officials are investigating the death of a fifteen-year-old girl of Ecuadorian background living near Madrid who committed suicide allegedly after enduring heavy bullying from her classmates. 

“The other students would make her stand on the school bus even if there was an empty seat, and some of them would block her path if she wanted to use the restroom at the school ” claimed the girl’s father.

Among the recommendations made by the MCI are the prohibition of concerts and other public events promoting hatred and intolerance, greater monitoring of websites used to promote xenophobia and stronger punishments against racist sports fans.

Another suggestion made in the report is that the State should provide greater assistance to purported hate crime victims who don’t have the same protections as victims of acts of terrorism or gender-based violence:

Daily Headlines: July 11, 2013 (Updated)

* Brazil: President Dilma Rousseff announced that an additional $1.3 billion would be spent on health care and education in light of recent anti-government protests held in June.

Update: Mass protests resumed today in several major cities by striking workers calling for better labor conditions and improved social services.  The demonstrations have reportedly blocked ports and major roadways and also "paralyzed" the Sao Paulo and Porto Alegre public transit systems.

* Mexico: Mexico’s main opposition party, the National Action Party, is proposing changing the constitution in order to break up the PEMEX state-run oil monopoly.

* Latin America: According to Transparency International, Argentina and Mexico are the most corrupt countries in Latin America.

* Dominican Republic: At least one person was killed in the Dominican Republic as Tropical Storm Chantal makes its way through the Caribbean.

Video Source – YouTube via Al Jazeera English

Online Sources- Xinhua; The Latin Americanist; International Business Times; Bloomberg; USA TODAY

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Daily Headlines: July 10, 2013

* Honduras: Police believe they have found the dismembered and beheaded body of Anibal Barrow, a popular television journalist missing since last month.

* Mexico: Archaeologists have uncovered thousands of stone carvings in Coahuila that are believed to be up to 6000-years-old.

* Cuba: “Reform czar” Marino Murillo allegedly said that the government plans to deregulate several large state-run companies including nickel producer Cubaniquel and oil company Cubapetroleo.

* Ecuador: According to Finance Minister Fausto Herrera, Ecuador is seeking as much as $1.4 billion in financing from China to fund this year’s budget.

Video Source – YouTube via NTN24

Online Sources- Bloomberg; Voice of America; Huffington Post; Reuters

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Daily Headlines: July 9, 2013

* Mexico: Mexico has become the world’s fattest industrialized nation according to several estimates including a report released last month from the World Health Organization.

* Costa Rica: A reform to Costa Rica 's Young Persons Law could mean that gay marriage is legal though it remains to be seen if the courts will overturn it.

* Argentina: Several U.S. legislators are upset that the Argentine government will not allow a special prosecutor investigating the 1994 AMIA bombing to testify in front of a Congressional committee.

* Colombia: Suspected drug lord Daniel "El Loco" Barrera was extradited this morning from Colombia to the U.S. where he faces trial in New York and Florida.

Video Source – YouTube via Deutsche Welle 

Online Sources- New York Daily News; MercoPress; ABC News; Tico Times