Saturday, July 8, 2006

Ex-dictators try to escape long arm of the law

Former Chilean strongman Augusto Pinochet (image) was questioned yesterday in a lawsuit bought up by a family member of a victim during Pinochet’s dictatorship. Meanwhile, a Spanish magistrate has issued international warrants against two ex-Guatemalan dictators accused of genocide and torture.

Update (9.15pm): Though not a dictator per se, former Mexican president Luis Echeverria was cleared of genocide charges this afternoon.

, ,

Business briefs from Latin America

-Latin American stocks rose modestly over the past week with Mexico

taking the lead amidst hope by investors of a presidential victory by Felipe Calderon.

-The bankruptcy of Brazilian national airline Varig will cost Brazil $1.3 billion in lost revenue as 1 million less tourists are expected to visit the country.

-Speaking of tourism, Central America is in the midst of a tourist boom with the growth in visitors to that region more than any other worldwide.

-Chilean president Michelle Bachelet promised to help workers by introducing legislation designed to lower management fees on retirement accounts and allow more workers to receive pensions.

-Disagreements on how to control the Venezuela’s Orinoco oil reserves have led to conflict and compromise between the Chavez regime and big oil companies.

-Yesterday, Colombia reached an agreement on the text of a free trade deal with the U.S.

, , , , , , , , , ,

World Cup: Coaches quit in Mexico and Costa Rica; “Azzuri” and “les Blues” play for title

Several coaches of Latin American squads have thought about quitting now that they’ve been eliminated from this year’s World Cup tournament. One of these is Argentine-born Ricardo Lavolpe (left image) who is rumored to leave Mexico’s national team and will surely be hired to coach a European-based club. Alexandre Guimaraes left last week from coaching Costa Rica citing safety concerns after a foul homecoming from fans angry at the team’s winless performance. Gumaraes and possibly Lavolpe join former Argentina coach Jose Pekerman who quit after Argentina’s quarterfinal exit.

In semifinal action held on Tuesday and Wednesday, Italy beat Germany 2-0 in extra time with extraordinary refereeing by Mexico’s Armando Archundia (right image) and France won 1-0 against Portugal on an iffy penalty call by Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda.

, , , , ,

Friday, July 7, 2006

Garcia confident in Venezuela-less Andean bloc

President-elect of Peru, Alan Garcia, (image) vowed that the Andean Community trading bloc will survive despite Venezuela’s defection to Mercosur. Still, he has denied masterminding a “strategic alliance” with Brazil and Chile against Venezuela.

Speaking of a “strategic alliance,” the government of Venezuela and Argentina agreed to a “strategic alliance” that would strengthen political and economic ties between the two countries. This would include a joint “south bond” to help gain more investment.

, , , , , ,

Energy project focal point of Central American summit

Central American leaders inaugurated a $320 million power project that would provide electrical energy across that region by 2008. The project is the centerpiece of a summit held in Panama City, Panama of six Central American countries and Mexico.


Cuba: Harassment of dissidents increased says human rights group

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation has reported an increase in harassments against dissidents of the Castro regime. The same group says that Cuban jails are holding over 300 political prisoners, which is a minor decrease from the end of 2005.


Poll: Most Americans favor plan for citizenship

A joint poll by the Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg shows that approximately two out of three Americans would support a comprehensive plan to reward citizenship to immigrants that follow strict guidelines including learning English and not having a criminal record. However, only 46% of those polled support a guest worker program (down by 8% in two months), while 44% agree with much stricter immigration controls similar to those passed in a bill last year by the House of Representatives.


Thursday, July 6, 2006

Nicaragua: Candidate’s surprise death helps ex-prez Ortega

Herty Lewites, (image) a moderate leftist candidate for Nicaragua’s presidency, died unexpectedly on Sunday at the age of 65 from a heart attack. Lewites’ passing will surely help the candidacy of Sandinista ex-president Daniel Ortega who lost the support of voters and several Sandinistas who were in favor of Lewites.


Calderon claims victory, even with 0.05% lead

Mexican presidential candidate Felipe Calderon (image) spoke triumphantly to sympathizers very early this morning and declared himself the winner. Calderon only has a 0.05% lead over Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) with over 98% of ballots counted in a simple recount that lasted gone for about 24 hours. Election officials have yet to declare an official winner in spite of Calderon's exuberance.

Update (10:15am): Associated Press reports that Calderon leads by 0.35% ahead of AMLO with 99.2% of votes counted.
, , ,

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

The (Latin) American Dream

With U.S.' Independence Day having just passed by, it's time to visit the ideal called the “American Dream” in which bravery, hard work, determination, and sacrifice can lead to a better life. Do these people represent the “American Dream?”

-Omaira Pedraza Heakin- a “bilingual CPA” who came to the U.S. from Colombia and “became a citizen (in 2004) because I am thinking this is a great country, great opportunity for anybody, regardless of your belief, regardless of what is your skin color”.

-Dan El-Padilla Peralta- this year’s commencement speaker at Princeton University who kept a 3.9 grade point average and hopes to study at Oxford University in spite of his illegal immigrant status.

-Paola Castro- a recent high school graduate with a 4.01 GPA and will start school at UCLA this fall after having immigrated from Nicaragua four years ago.

-Guillermo Paniagua- a U.S. Army specialist who received his citizenship this week while stationed in Iraq.

-Catherine Reyes- this year’s commencement speaker at the University of Massachusetts-Boston who emphasized in her speech how we should “strive to preserve the unique heritages that each of us contributes to society as a whole.”

For some, the “American Dream” is impossible to reach and just an ephemeral, silly, and abstract notion. Yet if you read the tales of the people mentioned above, then it would definitely seem that this “Dream” is attainable and a true inspiration for those yearning for a better life.

(Image depicts mural by Xavier Cortada called “Stepping into the American Dream.”)

, , ,

Brazil: Lula and opposition differ on Venezuelan entry into Mercosur

On Tuesday, Venezuela officially became the fifth member of the Mercosur trading block and received mixed reactions from politicians of Mercosur countries. In the case of Brazil, president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (image, along with other presidents including Hugo Chavez) celebrated Venezuela’s entry into Mercosur by calling it a “historic step in the integration of the continent.” On the other hand, leading opposition candidate Geraldo Ackmin denounced Lula’s “ideological and political interests before the national interest.”

In the meantime, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez is in St. Kitts for a summit of Caricom where, amongst other topics, he will make the case for Venezuela to be given a seat on the U.N. Security Council.

, , , , ,

Human rights report denounces violence against women in Jamaica

Amnesty International released a report urging Jamaica’s government to take a more active role in combating discrimination and sexual violence against women. “Discrimination against women and girls is so entrenched in Jamaican society that many Jamaicans and government officials are failing to see it as a problem”, according to an Amnesty International official.


Mexico: Calderon's unofficial lead shrinking as recount begins today

Controversy has surrounded 3.5 million uncounted ballots that were deemed with “inconsistencies” and may perhaps overturn conservative Felipe Calderon’s hair-thin 1% lead over leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO). The Mexican media has cited an election official that declared that tallying most of the uncounted ballots would reduce Calderon’s lead to 0.6%. This has fueled the fire of an electoral challenge by AMLO as Mexico’s electoral board starts today a simple recount of the ballots.

(Image depicts a protestor holding a marked ballot she claimed was left on a street).

Update: Blogger Mark in Mexico sheds some light on the millions of uncounted ballots.

, , ,

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

The possible big winner of Sunday’s elections: George W. Bush

The Bush administration may very well come out on top after this weekend’s elections for constitutional assembly in Bolivia and the presidency in Mexico. Though supporters of Evo Morales won about 53% of seats for the constitutional assembly, pro-Morales factions may have trouble getting the minimum 2/3 vote to change the constitution. The U.S. government would be very pleased with a status quo regime in Mexico, assuming Felipe Calderon becomes their next president of Mexico. (So far Calderon is holding an unofficial, razor-thin 1% lead over Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador).

, , , , , , ,

Colombia: 6 police officers killed in combat; rebels want to negotiate

Leftist guerillas from the FARC killed six police officers during confrontations in southwestern Colombia. Last week, a FARC spokesman admitted that the group is willing to negotiate peacefully with the government. However, the FARC wants to negotiate solely on their terms and family members of hostages, like politician Ingrid Betancourt, are doubtful of the FARC’s supposed intentions.


Monday, July 3, 2006

Mexico: Media and bloggers have a lot to say in the electoral aftermath

The following are what some of the news outlets have been saying on the Mexican elections:

-Felipe Calderon says “I won the election” and it seems like the English-language media outside of Mexico has agreed with him if you read the rest of the links included this post. (Compare that to the more muted coverage out of Mexico via El Universal). Meanwhile, supporters of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) have yet to give up.

-CNN en Español reports that Felipe Calderon has a 1% lead over AMLO. More specifically, they report that it’s 36.3% for Calderon and 35.3% for AMLO with approximately 98% of ballots counted. (These figures are supported by an article posted by the Associated Press). People interviewed in Mexico City have mixed reactions to the statistical dead heat between Calderon and AMLO with some patient waiting for results while others feel “deceived” by not knowing who the official winner is.

-It has been reported that extreme left candidate Patricia Mercado received between 2% and 3% of the vote and finished in fourth place. Would her votes have gone to AMLO if she were not in the election?

-Though a vast majority of Mexicans living abroad neglected to vote, the small percentage that did may be the deciding factor in this election as nearly 60% of absentee ballots were marked in favor of Calderon.

-Amongst all the talk surrounding Calderon and AMLO has drowned out the other “major candidate”- Roberto Madrazo of the PRI/Partido Verde alliance. Madrazo ended a distant third and, according to the Associated Press showed that the PRI’s “historic defeat six years ago was not a fluke.” Is it any wonder that the president of the PRI rejected data from exit polls as the polls were closing?

-Also lost in the hoopla over the presidential tie is the near equal division of the Mexican congress between the three major parties after yesterdays’ voting. This will certainly cause problems for whoever wins the presidency regardless of their party affiliation.

-Large gains were made by Mexican stocks, bonds, and currency today in the hope that Calderon will be declared the victor. These hopes are also shared by Wall Street movers and shakers.

-The Bush administration has been relatively quiet about publicly discussing the Mexican election except to say that they will wait for official results to be announced.

And what have bloggers been saying about the Mexican election?

-Bloggings by Boz hits on 5 key points to take from the presidential election.

-The comparisons between the goings-on in Mexico to the 2000 U.S. presidential election are mounting. Or for a real curveball, try comparing it to the 1896 U.S. presidential election (not a typo!)-Who will save Mexico from the political chaos that could happen? No not El Chapulín Colorado, but 1988 presidential “winner” Cuauhtémoc Cardenas.

-An inside look at Mexico City on Election Day from an author and a researcher from the U.S.

-The observations of a family voting in Morelia (left image)can be read here. Meanwhile, a blogger in Toluca congratulates the IFE (Mexican electoral board) and quotes author Carlos Fuentes’ observation: “Today the candidates don’t count, it is the voters who count.”

-Mark in Mexico explains the mess in Oaxaca since a teacher’s strike took place before and during the election period. (See “Update II” in his post).

, , , ,

Brazilian funk gaining worldwide popularity

It’s a sound that originated in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. It’s a sound popularized by artists like Bat Makumba (image) and O Rappa. The sound is Brazilian funk, a “driving, beat-heavy” musical genre that has become increasingly popular outside of Brazil inasmuch as mainstream Brazilians associates the music with the rampant crime of the favelas. Music from the favelas has served to "rescue people from the margins" from the specter of crime, which was evident when group Afro-Reggae toured Great Britain earlier this year.

(By the way, O Rappa will be performing at Irving Plaza in New York City this Thursday).


Follow-ups on headlines from Canada, Uruguay, and other areas

Canada about to deport Costa Rican family: With all appeals exhausted a Costa Rican family (left image) that lived illegally in Canada for several years left on Saturday (Canada Day, no less) for Costa Rica. Though one of the family members is Canadian-born, a judge ordered the family’s’ deportation last week.

Argentina and Uruguay continue paper dispute: The governments of Uruguay and Argentina are still waiting for the International Court of Justice to decide if a Finnish firm can build a paper mill near the Uruguay/Argentina border. (For differing perspectives on the issue, please check the comments left behind from bloggers in Finland and Uruguay).

Peruvians divided over supporting free trade pact: Peru’s congress overwhelming approved a free trade deal between that country and the U.S. despite lack of widespread support amongst the populace.

So which left is right…: Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, responded to Jorge Castañeda’s essay on Latin America’s political shift to the left.

, , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, July 2, 2006

Mexico: And the winner is...

...nobody yet. And it will be days until an official winner of the Mexican presidential election is announced. (All times in EST, unless otherwise stated).

[Key to initials: AMLO = Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. RM = Ricardo Madrazo. FC = Felipe Calderon. IFE = Mexican electoral board]

1:45am- The final thought after a busy evening of unfulfilled expectations and high anticipation, courtesy of Mexico Today.

Good night and thank you.

1:20am- Here's what some news outlets have said over the past hour:

-Reuters: "A fiery leftist promising a war on poverty was in a dead heat with a Harvard-educated conservative...rising fears a a contested result could split the country."

-Associated Press: "An official count would begin on Wednesday and a winner will be delared once it's complete."

-BBC: "With a leftist and a conservative running neck and neck, officials decided to count all the votes before declaring a winner."

12:55am- A whirlwind of action over the past twenty minutes:

-Azteca America returns to its diatribe against "television networks from the United States" that "lied and bluffed you" by giving preliminary results.

-The president of the PRI spoke again with RM by his side and called for patience for the time being.

-At the same time, AMLO spoke in front of thousands of supporters at the Zocalo and enthusiastically told them to "smile because we have won."

-Lastly, FC spoke to a small group of supporters outside his campaign headquarters and urged them to support him in his "government of national action."

A few hours ago, the Washington Post's special blog on the elections posted the following: "Shades of Bush-Gore 2000?" Unfortunately that could be the case.

12:30am- Now FC just spoke publicly from his campaign headquarters and he cited individual exit polls that show him as the winner "from the time the first poll was redacted until now". Like AMLO, he has declared himself as the winner.

Here's hoping this doesn't get as ugly as the mudslinging during the campaign

12:25am- AMLO just finished speaking at a news conference and declared himself the winner based on the results from exit polls.

12:15am- So what happens now? According to Univision, the election will not be decided "for days." The "fast count" is really just an estimation done by a set of scientists based on the ballots reported to the IFE. The ballots will not be counted by hand until Wednesday and a more accurate count based by district may start on Friday.

Confused? Well, you're not the only one.

12:00am- Here are the results thus far according to the president of the IFE and based on a "fast count" of over 95% of the ballots:


The IFE cannot calculate a winner since the IFE's calculations "fall within the margin of error."

11:57pm- T-minus three minutes until the IFE's prelim report and the Mexican networks are hyping the anticipation.

11:40pm- CNN en Español reports on the results of the election before the IFE’s official preliminary report, a move the broadcaster on Azteca America deems “irresponsible.” (Mind you, the broadcaster did not name CNN en Español directly, but that was easily inferred in his snarky comments). CNN en Español latest numbers (with about 20% of votes counted) is FC in 1st with 38.9%, ALMO 2nd with about 35%, and RM in 3rd with 28.9%.

Hypocrisy? Now Azteca America’s Armando Guzman acknowledges that so far the ballots counted “may” favor FC, but warns that “this is a horse race” which is far from over.