Friday, September 6, 2013

Today’s Video: Snow Daze

Today we continue our look at memorable World Cup (WC) qualifiers involving teams from around the Americas with one of the most unusual soccer matches of this year.

Costa Rica will be looking to defeat the U.S. at home tonight and exact a measure of revenge after having come on the short end of several previous qualifiers. 

In October 2009, Costa Rica was holding on to a late 2-1 lead over the “stars and stripes” and, hence, an automatic berth to the 2010 WC.  In the 94th minute, however, Jonathan Bornstein headed in a goal from corner kick that tied the game and forced los ticos into a play-in series for the possibility to enter the WC.  Costa Rica would go on to lose that series against Uruguay and, hence, painfully missed booking their ticket to South Africa.

Three-and-a-half years later, Costa Rica and the U.S. would meet again in their first WC qualifier since that cold night in Washington, D.C. As seen in the video below, both teams played last March in blizzard-like conditions in Colorado with whipping winds and blinding snow covering fans and players alike:

Daily Headlines: September 6, 2013

* Peru: Lima's Astrid y Gastón was named by the World's 50 Best organization as Latin America’s top restaurant, followed by D.O.M. in São Paulo and Pujol of Mexico City.

* U.S.: According to new Census Bureau numbers, Latino college enrollment has been increasing despite a national decline in enrollment.

* Argentina: Spanish foreign minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said that Argentina “can count on Spain's support” in its sovereignty claim over the Falklands Islands.

* Chile: The family of Victor Jara filed a lawsuit against a former Chilean army officer allegedly involved in the 1973 murder of the famed folk singer.

Video Source – YouTube via user wbpstarscom

Online Sources- CNN; The Telegraph; NBC Latino; Eater National

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Today’s Video: Drive for Five

Over the next few days we’ll look at several memorable World Cup (WC) qualifying matches involving teams from around the Americas.

Argentina and Colombia are on the cusp of earning automatic spots in next year’s WC that will be held in Brazil. The former could gain their ticket to Brazil on Friday despite having the day off while a Colombian win over Ecuador could give los cafeteros their first WC qualification since 1998.

On this night twenty years ago both squads faced each other in a crucial match at Buenos Aires’ Estadio Monumental.  On paper, Argentina rarely squandered their home advantage and was surely the odds-on favorite to book their ticket to the 1994 WC.  (Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona boasted before the game “They cannot break history.  We will continue with what is typically ours; that is, Argentina on top and Colombia on the bottom.”) What occurred on that crisp evening was a tale that not even the most optimistic Colombian fan would’ve ever imagined:

The 5-0 demolition by Colombia was, as Rob Smyth wrote in The Guardian five years ago, proof that “the age-old, yet increasingly ignored, maxim that a successful team does not necessarily comprise the best players.”

In the immediate aftermath of the historic cinco a cero, the ecstasy in Colombia stood in sharp contrast to the frustration in Argentina.

Chile: Tens of Thousands March in Education Protests

Scores of people have taken to the streets in Chile in order to call attention to what they view as major problems with the country’s educational system.
Chilean authorities estimate that approximately 25,000 people participated in a peaceful march on Thursday in the capital city of Santiago.  The demonstrators unfurled a massive flag at the Gabriela Mistral Cultural Center with the phrase: “Free and high quality public education.”

 “This is not a final list but it’s an invitation to debate the education we want,” said student protest leader Andrés Fielbaum at a press conference prior to the march.  Among the suggestions made were greater financial support from the state to the public educational system and guaranteed freedom of expression for students on campuses.

The march occurred one week prior to the fortieth anniversary of the coup that brought strongman Augusto Pinochet into power.  The date did not go unnoticed by some of the protesters who called for a “break from the legacy of the dictatorship.”

“(September 11, 1973) represents a date split the country and promoted, amid the torture and murder of thousands of Chileans, the beginning of a political and economic system whose disastrous consequences are still being felt,” declared student protest organizer Diego Vela.
The rally was marred by clashes between police and about dozen people that left at least five individuals injured.  Officers used water cannons and fired tear gas against “masked men” armed with hammers an crowbars who vandalized businesses and a Transantiago bus stop

Today’s march was the latest action by a student protest movement that staged hunger strikes, sit-ins and other protests doing the summer of 2011.  President Sebastian Piñera had made some concessions but the protests reignited this year with demonstrators urging the fundamental transformation of the educational system.

As Fielbaum said recently, Piñera has done little to improve the educational system and expressed caution with the candidates running in this November’s presidential election:

Pope Criticizes “Futile” Military Solution for Syria

Pope Francis called on the heads of sate meeting at today’s G-20 summit to seek a peaceful solution to the civil conflict in Syria.

“To the leaders present, to each and every one, I make a heartfelt appeal for them to help find ways to overcome the conflicting positions and to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution,” said the Argentine-born Francis in a letter sent to the G-20 host, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Though the pontiff acknowledged that the G-20 summit is primarily concerned with economic issues, he urged the leaders of the twenty wealthiest countries to “reflect on the situation in the Model East and Syria.”

“Without peace, there can be no form of economic development. Violence never begets peace, the necessary condition for development,” said Francis who also observed “all governments have the moral duty to do everything possible to ensure humanitarian assistance to those suffering because of the conflict, both within and beyond the country’s borders”.

The pontiff added his criticism of "one-sided interests" in Syria that are preventing a diplomatic end to the violent situation in that country and have contributed to the "senseless massacre" of innocent civilians.

Earlier this week, the Pope announced he would lead a worldwide day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria on September 7th.

"With utmost firmness, I condemn the use of chemical weapons. I tell you that those terrible images from recent days are burned into my mind and heart," the pope said last Sunday in possible reference to Syria.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Daily Headlines: September 4, 2013

* Mexico: Press group Reporters Without Borders called for the immediate release of four journalists who were recently arrested while covering protests against the Mexican government’s plans for educational reform.

* U.S.: A new report from the Pew Research Center found that nine of the top ten U.S. states where the Latino population has grown the fastest are located in the South.

* Chile: Three men who claimed to have been sexually abused by “prominent priest” Fernando Karadima in the 1980s have filed a $900,000 lawsuit against him.

* Argentina: Another day, another trial for ex-Argentina president and convicted arms trafficker Carlos Menem. 

Video Source – YouTube via user panamericanavideos (“Thousands of protesters (on Monday) took to the streets of Mexico City to protest against the reforms proposed by President Enrique Peña Nieto”).

Online Sources- LAHT; Huffington Post; GlobalPost; Businsesweek

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Blackout Hits Most of Venezuela

At least nineteen of Venezuela’s twenty-four states and several major cities have been affected by a blackout on Tuesday.

“The blackout started at approximately 12:30 PM on one of the main transmission lines, which caused a disruption in electric service to a good part of the country’s western and central areas,” said Franco Silva, the deputy minister for the government’s energy department.

“It will take several hours for the generator plants to restart and reestablish electric service nationwide,” added Silva in remarks made this afternoon to the state-run VTV network.

Residents of the capital city of Caracas reportedly tweeted that subway service had been partially disrupted while traffic has ground to a halt due to nonworking streetlights.

All day without light.  What a joke,” opined one Venezuelan Twitter user while another user posted a photo of a darkened Venezuela with the caption “We’re not in mourning.  We’re without light!”

Authorities in the Chacao neighborhood of Caracas ordered a “preventative evacuation” of shopping malls and offices while the area’s police chief told the local press that heavy traffic has congested streets and avenues.

According to the Venezuelan press, the situation in the blacked out city of San Cristóbal is one of “chaos” with massive traffic jams, closed businesses and disruptions in the cell phone and banking services.

Though transportation nationwide has allegedly been normal, delays hit the main international airport in Puerto La Cruz after it experienced thirty minutes without power.

Energy Minister Rafael Ramírez claimed that the Venezuelan oil industry is performing “absolutely normal” and, thus, there is a “guaranteed domestic market supply” of crude oil.  Furthermore, Health Minister Isabel Iturria said that hospitals are functioning normally since their “vital areas are running on generator power.”

While investigators are looking into the causes of the blackout, several senior officials have publicly blamed the opposition for causing the interruption in electrical service.

Mexico, Brazil Seek Answers Over U.S. Spying Claims

The governments of Mexico and Brazil are each looking for answers from U.S. officials over new allegations of intelligence surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA).

The U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Anthony Wayne, was summoned by the Mexican government to explain the supposed spying of President Enrique Peña Nieto during his campaign for the presidency.

“The Mexican government requested via a diplomatic later that the U.S. government undergo a thorough investigation and, where appropriate, identify those responsible” behind the surveillance, according to a statement from the Mexican foreign minister (SRE in Spanish).

The SRE communiqué also reportedly mentioned that the Mexican government doesn’t prejudge the surveillance allegations but “rejects and categorically condemns any spying of citizens from that country as a violation of international law”.

On Sunday, Brazilian TV network O Globe aired a report where journalist Glen Greenwald divulged several secret documents obtained from former intelligence analyst Edward Snowden.  Some of those papers detailed then-candidate Peña Nieto’s campaign actions weeks before the election including his potential cabinet choices.

The O Globo report also accused the NSA of examining communications between aides of Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff as well as the use of software to access all internet content that Rousseff visited online.

Another NSA document on U.S. geopolitical challenges through 2019 named Mexico and described Brazil as a possible “stressor” to regional stability and a potential risk to U.S. interests.

Daily Headlines: September 3, 2013

* Cuba: “You're never too old to chase your dreams,” exclaimed sixty-four-year old Diana Nyad on Monday after she became the first person to complete the 110-mile swim from Cuba to the U.S. without a shark cage.

* Argentina: A biographical film on the life of Pope Francis entitled “A Priest’s Tale” is reportedly being planned in the pontiff’s native Argentina.

* Venezuela: Finance Minister Nelson Merentes said that even though “the government…has had social achievements” the Venezuelan economy still has “structural problems” and needs to be reformed. 

* Mexico: Authorities in Mexico have allegedly detained Alberto Carrillo Fuentes, the suspected head of the New Juarez drug gang who was nicknamed “Ugly Betty.”

Video Source – YouTube via Associated Press

Online Sources- USA TODAY; BBC News; Variety; CNN

Sunday, September 1, 2013


Veteran British journalist, satirist and broadcaster David Frost passed away on Saturday at the age of 74.

As part of a career that spanned over half a century, Frost conduced hundreds of interviews of heads of government, famous celebrities and other public figures. Among the Latin American notables who he talked to in his televised interviews were Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal and former Peruvian leader Alejandro Toledo.

In the following video, Frost interviews Chilean author Isabel Allende who he refers to as an “alchemist who turns adversaries into allies and tragedies into treasure.”  Allende described her literary works as “embroidering a tapestry”, gave her views on feminism and reflected on the personal tragedies that shaped her life including the 1973 coup that ousted her cousin, Salvador Allende, from the Chilean presidency and the death of her daughter, Paula, in 1992.