Friday, February 14, 2014

Peruvian Olympian Inspires Despite Finishing Last

Peruvian cross-country skier Roberto Carcelén said in the following video that he was competing in the Winter Olympics despite breaking several ribs and in order to “set a good example”.

For the Winter Olympians representing countries from Latin America and the Caribbean, the odds of reaching the medals podium are very slim.  Thus, the primary goal for most of these athletes is to complete their respective sport and bring pride to themselves and their nations.

Perhaps no other competitor from the region symbolizes this ideal like Peruvian cross-country skier Roberto Carcelén.

Last year Carcelén announced that he would retire from the Winter Games in Sochi but it looked like he would have to skip the Olympics after injuring himself while training in January. He suffered from several broken ribs and was told by doctors that he should not compete in Sochi.  Yet Carcelén would not be deterred from heading to the Olympics.

“Sometimes the road to success is about pushing through, being persistent and don't move your target goal around despite adversity,” said Carcelén on his personal blog. “This is one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced. But this is what the Olympic spirit is all about! isn't [sic]?” he added.

One week after Carcelén was Peru's flag bearer at the opening ceremony of the Winter Games in Sochi, he participated in the Men’s 15-kilometer Classic race.  Though he suffered from intense pain and fell into last place, Carcelén continued trudging along slowly but surely. 

As he headed into the final turn, the 43-year-old went towards the crowd roaring at him in support and received a Peruvian flag.  He soon after crossed the finish line with his country’s flag in hand and was greeted by race winner Dario Cologna of Switzerland and Dachhiri Sherpa of Nepal who finished next-to-last.

Daily Headlines: February 17, 2014

* Argentina: Emiliano Lasalvia won a World Press Photo award in the Sports category for his image of a polo player falling underneath his horse.

* Latin America: Mexico City could become the latest Latin American area to decriminalize marijuana use while the Colombian government and FARC guerrilla might soon reach an agreement on drug trafficking.

* Haiti: Officials in Haiti will start an investigation into the deaths of human rights activist Daniel Dorsinvil and his wife who were gunned down on February 8th.

* Brazil: President Dilma Rousseff met with Brazilian land rights campaigners and pledged to make a new push for agrarian reform.

Video Source – Vimeo user elasalvia

Online Sources- LAHT; Reuters; Al Jazeera America; thesundaily; World Press Photo

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Venezuela: Student Protesters Rally Against Violence

Several hundred university students in Venezuela took to the streets on Thursday after three people were killed after demonstrations yesterday.

In the capital city of Caracas, traffic on the Francisco Fajardo highway was halted for several hours as scores of protesters called for an investigation into the death of university student Bassil Da Costa on Wednesday.  Amateur videos uploaded to social networks showed Da Costa shot dead in downtown Caracas amid the chaos following an anti-government protest that was attended by an estimated ten thousand people.  

“We urge the government to guarantee us our freedom as students, said Marcos Mata, a Humboldt University student present with 300 other demonstrators at Altamira Plaza earlier today.  “We repudiate the violence that occurred yesterday.  Our march was peaceful,” added Mata.

Mata also called on the authorities to free two students reportedly detained by the police after Wednesday’s march and whose whereabouts are unknown.

In the meantime, scores of Da Costa’s classmates gathered in the outskirts of Caracas to protest in memory of the slain student.

Students in other parts of Venezuela were also protesting in repudiation of the violence yesterday that left among the dead Da Costa and pro-government activist Juan Montoya. Such was the case in Maracaibo, Venezuela’s second-largest city, where several downtown streets were blocked off and classes were canceled at Zulia University.  Additionally, student demonstrators in Anzoátegui state held signs blasting the government and blamed Venezuela’s main intelligence agency for trying to stifle democracy.

Meanwhile, a few dozen supporters of President Nicolás Maduro and several government ministers congregated in front of the Attorney General’s office in an event deemed as “Venezuelans against fascism.”

Daily Headlines: February 13, 2014

* Mexico: Members of the media in the Mexican state of Veracruz decried the recent murder of journalist Gregorio Jiménez and expressed doubt that he was killed due to a personal vendetta.

* Haiti: The Haitian government has launched a new program aimed at providing documentation to expats including the tens of thousands whose citizenship was controversially stripped in the neighboring Dominican Republic.

* Honduras: A report from Human Rights Watch blasted Honduran authorities for failing to properly investigate the deaths of scores of people due to land disputes.

* Argentina: Reports of Buenos Aires officials ordering a cruise ship to lower down its British flag has become the latest point of tension in the diplomatic relations between the U.K. and Argentina.

Video Source – YouTube user CadenaTres

Online Sources- Global Voices Online; Washington Post; The Latin Americanist; Los Angeles Times; The Guardian

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Daily Headlines: February 12, 2014

* El Salvador: Jose Salvador Alvarenga, a fisherman who claimed to have spent thirteen months adrift in in the Pacific Ocean, returned to his native El Salvador last night and could soon be reunited with his family.

* Panama: Negotiations are purportedly taking place in order to restart the stalled Panama Canal expansion, while the blame game has heated up over who is at fault for a series of project delays and cost overruns.

* Cuba: According to a newly released poll 56% of respondents in the U.S. and 62% of Latinos support normalizing relations with Cuba. 

* Honduras: President Juan Orlando Hernandez announced the suspension of eight Honduran consuls in the U.S. and the start of an investigation into the possible illegal issuing of documents.

Video Source – NTDTV via YouTube (Jose Salvador Alvarenga arrived at the Marshall Islands earlier this month and claimed that he ate raw fish and drank bird blood in order to survive the thirteen months he was adrift at sea).

Online Sources- CNN; Reuters; GlobalPost; USA TODAY; ABC News

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Prison Sentence for Ex-Guatemalan Soldier Involved in Massacre

A U.S. court on Monday convicted a former Guatemalan soldier who helped carry out one of the bloodiest incidents in that country’s civil war.

Jorge Sosa will have his U.S. citizenship removed and will spend ten years in prison as punishment for lying on his citizenship papers in 2007.  At the time, he claimed to have not been involved in the 1982 Dos Erres massacre, when at least 160 villagers where killed by a Guatemalan military patrol.

Sosa was part of the “Kabiles” military unit behind the Dos Erres massacre yet he left Guatemala in 1985 and had been living in impunity in California as a martial arts instructor.  He moved north to Calgary until Canadian officials arrested him in January 2011 and subsequently deported him to the U.S. where he stood trial for immigration fraud.

“The (U.S.) government is seeking a backdoor way to enforce Guatemalan law,” claimed Sosa’s defense lawyer while Sosa expressed his innocence before being sentenced.  Yet two of Sosa’s former comrades testified at the trial that he was not only present at Dos Erres but also fired his weapon at some of the dying villagers.  Furthermore, one of the few survivors of the massacre took the stand to explain how he viewed soldiers taking his mother away to be killed despite her anguished pleas for mercy.

In recent years, Guatemalan authorities have sought to prosecute those accused of involvement in the Dos Erres massacre such as Pedro Pimentel Rios, a former Kabiles commander who was sentenced to over 6000 years in prison. Thus, it remains to be seen if he will serve his sentence in the U.S. or will be extradited to Guatemala and face war crimes charges.    

Daily Headlines: February 11, 2014

* Latin America: The presidents representing the four member countries of Latin America's Pacific Alliance signed a deal aimed at promoting free trade between Colombia, Peru, Mexico and Chile.

* Brazil: A Brazilian TV cameraman seriously injured while covering a protest in Rio de Janeiro last Thursday was declared brain dead by doctors treating him.
* Cuba: E.U. foreign ministers agreed to negotiations with the Cuban government as part of a push to improve ties between Europe and the Caribbean island.

* Bolivia: Rescuers in Bolivia suspended the search for potential survivors of a mudslide caused by heavy rains that have killed at least forty-two people during the current rainy season.

Video Source – teleSUR via YouTube (Costa Rica and Panama could join the Pacific Alliance trade bloc that was formed by Colombia, Peru, Mexico and Chile in 2012).

Online Sources- Miami Herald; Reuters; ABC News; The Latin Americanist; Voice of America

Monday, February 10, 2014

Chilean Skier Suffers Rough Fall in Olympics (Updated)

Chilean skier Noelle Barahona became one of the latest victims of the treacherous Rosa Khutor downhill ski course at the Winter Olympics in Sochi after she took a nasty tumble today.

The twenty-three-year old, who is participating in her third straight Olympics, claimed that she lost her balance while descending in the first of the two events that make up the Super Combined.

“I have an ugly bruise on my leg but I don’t think anything serious happened,” said Barahona to the press after her fall.  She also admitted that she was “not 100% prepared for the downhill” due to an apparent bout of food poisoning the night before the event.  Nevertheless, she was eager to continue participating in other skiing disciplines.

“I’ve been feeling very comfortable and quick on the Super-G and Giant (slaloms) and I think that I can get the results I want,” Barahona observed.

Despite the tumble on Monday, she gave a “huuuuge thank you” to all of her supporters via a message on her Instagram account.

“I'm a little sad cause I wanted to enjoy the whole DH. However, getting the opportunity to race in front of you all was unbelievable. Still 4 more races to go, a lot of opportunity to ski the way I know. Next up is Downhill on the 12th!” Barahona wrote along with a photo of her in the starting gate prior to her decent.

While Barahona and seventeen other women did not complete the Super Combined, Macarena Simari Birkner of Argentina enjoyed a twentieth place finish in the event.

I am very happy. I wanted to finish among the top twenty and I ended exactly in twentieth place,” said the athlete from Bariloche who wore a unique polka-dot speed suit while skiing.

Several of the thirty-two athletes from Latin American countries attending the Winter Games also competed in their respective events over the weekend.

Daily Headlines: February 10, 2014

* Colombia: Will the recent revelations of the Colombian military wiretapping of peace talks between the government and the FARC rebels seriously hurt the latest round of discussions?

* Mexico: The leaders of several Michoacán vigilante groups called on authorities to arrest the head of the La Ruana “self-defense” collective after he led the capture of a Knights Templar drug gang stronghold.

* Venezuela: President Nicolás Maduro claimed that he would propose a bill aimed at ending “sensationalism and the campaign and propaganda that feeds on the blood and death (the media) promotes.”

* Cuba: Charlie Crist, the former Florida governor who is running again for that office, criticized the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba as a failed policy that needs to be “taken away.”

Video Source – euronews via YouTube (“Allegations of spying on government officials have Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos (on February 4th) to dismiss his army's head of intelligence and the director of the army's technical intelligence center.”)

Online Sources- LAHT; Fox News Latino; Politico; SBS