Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Weekly Debate: What next after Castro?

A recent CIA report claims that Cuban President Fidel Castro may suffer from Parkinson's disease, which he denies. Whether or not he is currently ill, he is 79 years old, and has a limited number of years left as Cuba's leader. If he were to pass away in the near future his probable immediate successor would be his brother, 74-year old Defense Minister Raul Castro. Since Raul is no spring chicken, a second succession crisis may occur soon enough. What are your predictions for Cuba after Castro? Tell us what you think!

Mitterrand on Thatcher: “She's threatening to unleash an atomic weapon against Argentina”

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. A book to be released on former French head of state Fran├žois Mitterrand alleges that ex-British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher threatened to launch a nuclear missile at Argentina in 1982. (Guardian)

Latin pop watered-down, according to music critic

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. New York Newsday music critic Ed Morales noted how songs from Ricky Martin and Shakira seem to be “over-the-top” and “ridiculous.” Still, the sound of Latin pop music is closely related to traditional boleros. (NewsDay)

Colombian guerrilla group willing to negotiate

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Colombia’s second-largest guerilla group says it’s ready to have peace talks with the government, yet will not halt armed combat. (BBC)

Police records may shed light on Guatemalan human rights abuses

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Officials recently found over seventy-five million pages of past files from the Guatemalan National Police. Human rights investigators hope that this cache can help demonstrate rights abuses during the 1980s. (IHT) Picture taken from The Moriah Fund.

Let’s make a deal: Venezuelan oil to help U.S. state

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Venezuelan officials made a deal on Tuesday to export twelve million gallons of cheap heating oil to needy communities in Massachusetts. One Massachusetts politician hailed the deal as “a gesture about people," though a political analyst deemed it as a Venezuela tactic to "compromise the White House position within the U.S." (MSNBC)

UN reports reveal global increases in HIV infection and deforestation

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. A United Nations report released on Monday shows that the HIV cases have risen over the past year to an all-time high of over 40 million. However, the study also showed that the number of HIV cases in the Caribbean has declined, while an estimated quarter million deaths have been avoided in several Latin American states. Meanwhile, a report from the UN Food and Agricultural Organization showed that South America suffered the greatest net loss of forest space over the past five years.

Telesur not the propaganda tool many had feared, says CSM

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. The Telesur new network gives “balanced and independent coverage of Latin America” according to a Christian Science Monitor correspondent. This seems to be the case in its reporting on stories such as the Summit of the Americas and U.S. Supreme Court picks since the channel’s inception about a month ago.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Colombian Rep. Roberto Camacho killed in crash

Conservative lawmaker Roberto Camacho, a close ally of President Alvaro Uribe, died in a helicopter crash yesterday that killed 5 others. (BBC)

Mexican presidential race tied

A poll by Mexican daily Reforma gives the top two candidates, Felipe Calderon (PAN) and Andes Manuel Lopez Obrador (PRD), 29% and 28% of the potential vote respectively, making it a virtual tie taking the statistical margin of error into account. Roberto Madrazo (PRI) comes in third with 21%. (Reuters)

Haiti elections may cost $100 million

A representative for the National Coalition for Hatian Rights estimates the upcoming elections will cost $100 million, making it the country's most expensive to date. Jocelyn McCalla, Executive Director of the NCHR, doubts the elections will trigger 'functional democracy'. (US Newswire)

Coca-Cola fined $68 million in Mexico

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Coca-Cola’s attempts to try to stop a Mexican shopkeeper from selling a rival brand of soft drink cost the American multinational nearly seventy million dollars in fines. Coca-Cola distributors illegally stopped the delivery of Coca-Cola to a small grocery store in Mexico City when the store refused to stop selling a Peruvian soft drink. (Times)

Menem’s lawyer to represent Fujimori

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Detained ex-president Alberto Fujimori will be represented by the same Chilean attorney who successfully defended former Argentine president Carlos Menem from charges of corruption last year. In the meantime, both the heads of state of Peru and Japan agreed to foster positive relations in spite of the Fujimori ordeal. (MercoPress)

Special sneakers made for sneaking across border

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. A compass, a flashlight, and a map of the area around Tijuana are several of the features found in a brand of sneakers being distributed to immigrants crossing the Mexico-U.S. border. The “Brinco” is the name of sneakers made by an Argentine artist living in New York who alleges that people will cross the border with or without the sneakers. (NYDailyNews)

Soccer club to be sponsored by El Salvador

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. El Salvador’s tourism board announced a deal to sponsor Spanish first division soccer club Cadiz. It is the first time a country has sponsored a soccer team, according to El Salvador’s Minister of Tourism. (Reuters)

India to help Panamanian technology

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. India and Panama agreed to strengthen cooperation in several sectors including agriculture, energy, and technology during a visit of senior Panamanian officials to India this weekend. (Chennai)

U.S. earmarks $35 million for Paraguay

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. The U.S. government pledged to give $35 million in aid to Paraguay in order to help combat corruption and criminal impunity. (People's Daily)

Judge named in Antiguan corruption probe

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Officials on the Caribbean island of Antigua named a retired Supreme Court judge to investigate accusations of corruption by the country’s public utility company. (CNN)

T & T and Costa Rica sign free trade deal

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Costa Rica and Trinidad and Tobago signed a bilateral free trade pact last week that will allow more than ninety percent of goods to be accessed without tariff. (BusinessWeek)

Coffee growers plan to give school kids free coffee

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Brazil’s Coffee Industry Association has created a program that would provide free breakfast, including coffee, for approximately one million school children. Brazil is the world’s second largest consumer of coffee. (Reuters)

Vast majority of Ecuadorian companies unprepared for free trade

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Only three percent of Ecuador’s companies are ready for free trade, according to a survey conducted by Ecuador’s government. Ecuador is one of three countries in talks with the U.S. to create a multi-lateral free trade agreement that should start next year. (BusinessOnline)

Monday, November 21, 2005

Documentary: The struggle of the 'petroleros'

-Submitted by Frederick Pohl. This short film, from the Venezuelan opposition, documents the forcible removal of oil workers that joined a strike from their communitites. 20min Video

Venezuela establishes diplomatic ties with Mozambique

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Venezuela set up diplomatic ties with Mozambique last week as part of Venezuela’s “African Agenda” policy. It is the seventh country to establish diplomatic ties with Venezuela since march, according to the Venezuelan Deputy Foreign Minister. (XinhuaNet)

EU to send election monitors to Venezuela

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. The European Union will send 160 monitors to oversee Venezuelan parliamentary elections on December 4th. (XinhuaNet)

Latin American unity is the “greatest challenge” for the region, says regional bloc head

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Allan Wagner, the secretary general of the Andean Community of Nations, declared that regional economic blocs within Latin America must strive to integrate with one another. His remarks were somewhat due to anxiety of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, who led an anti-free trade rally in Caracas this weekend. (BBC)

Mexican economy grows over 3% in third quarter

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Third quarter GDP growth in Mexico increased 3.3% according to government figures. This figure was less than expected, even though consumer confidence has grown over the past few months. (Reuters)

Nalbandian halts Federer’s 35-match winning streak

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. David Nalbandian became the first Argentine in over thirty years to win a Master’s Cup tennis tournament by upsetting number 1 ranked Roger Federer. Nalbandian’s victory moved him from number 12 to number 6 in the world tennis rankings. (ESPN)

Colombia opens probe on Palace of Justice siege

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Colombia’s Attorney General’s office called on former President Belisario Betancour to testify over the government’s role in the 1985 siege of the country’s Supreme Court. One hundred people died after soldiers tried to stop leftist guerillas that held the Palace of Justice under siege during a twenty-eight hour period. (AlertNet)

Europe pushes Argentina to settle soybean dispute

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. A European trade group representing feed manufactures wants Argentina to find a compromise with Monsanto over royalty payments for genetically modified soybeans. (CheckBioTech)

World Cup qualifiers: Trinidad books place in World Cup while Aussies undo Uruguay

-Contributed by Erwin Cifuentes. Trinidad and Tobago declared a national holiday shortly after they ensured qualification for their first ever World Cup. Defender Dennis Lawrence scored the lone goal in a 1-0 victory over Bahrain last Wednesday. The “Soca Warriors” join Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay, and the United States as the Western Hemisphere’s representatives to next year’s World Cup. Meanwhile, heartache consumed Uruguay’s team last week, as they were eliminated from reaching the World Cup by Australia. Australia forced a penalty shoot-out after winning the second game 1-0 in Sydney, and Uruguay lost the shoot-out 4-2 as Aussie goalkeeper Mark Schwartzer loomed large by saving two penalty attempts.