Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Leavin’ on a jet plane

Approximately 13 hours from now I will be on a plane leaving New York City bound for Bogota, Colombia. I have mixed feelings about the trip since I will be gone for several weeks and immersed into a culture quite different from what I am accustomed to. Nonetheless, I will be happy to see my family, get some well-needed rest, visit my father’s grave to pay my respects, and hopefully emerge refreshed and rejuvenated upon returning to NYC in late January.

With that said I want to wholeheartedly thank everyone who takes the time to read and comment on this blog. For my part, working on The Latin Americanist has been a thrill and something very enjoyable over the past 14 months. I’m quite sad to leave this blog behind but at the same time happy to leave it in the hands of someone as knowledgeable as Maegan la Mala. (Thanks again Maegan!)

(Quick FYI- I‘ll be blogging sporadically from my personal blog- Huevos Pericos- just in case you’re in the mood to check out my goings on waaaaaay south of the border).

May all of you have a very festive holiday season and a prosperous New Year. Take care, and all the best.

Hasta luego!

The left in Latin America and the year that was

In the days following Hugo Chavez’ reelection victory numerous news sources have analyzed politics in the region over the past year. Here is what some of them had to say:

* Time magazine believed that politics in the region have entered a phase different from the typical “oligarchic capitalism and populist socialism” of the past. Deemed the “third way” it describes a moderate approach that strengthens democratic institutions and where ideas are valued over strict adherences to ideology.

* However, Tyler Bridges and Pablo Bachelet would disagree with Time’s assessment since they believe that two sides of the political left have emerged over the past year: a staunchly-anti neoliberal and anti-Washington stance and a moderate, “market-friendly” left epitomized by Chile and Brazil. Though only 3 of this year’s 12 presidential elections in Latin America were won by conservative candidates, “Latin America has become much more plugged into the rest of the world” which is “not necessarily a negative step” according to an analyst from conservative think-tank the Heritage Foundation.

* Chavez-brand of leftist populism has not taken a stranglehold across Latin America, according to the Christian Science Monitor. “The region is in great flux, and there is enormous frustration with persistent poverty. But there is no great revolutionary fervor in Latin America,” according to a political analyst cited in the article.

* Foreign Policy’s blog wonders about how relations between Chavez and ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro will influence a possible “Chavista” revolution across the region.

* “The Latin American left…cannot hope to address poverty, inequality, economic underperformance, or social exclusion without reforming the state” opined a commentator at the Guardian UK. In addition, “the international community must back away from the imposition of rigid policy recipes and give the region latitude to experiment” in order to help democracy will be allowed to flourish instead of authoritarianism.

So what do you think? Are these articles relatively accurate or are they missing the point? Will the left in Latin America achieve similar success next year? Don't be shy; give us your opinion!

Links- Time, Guardian UK, Foreign Policy Passport (blog), Christian Science Monitor, Miami Herald The Latin Americanist (blog)

Image- Radio Netherlands

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Gabriela Montero and the world of classical improvisation

For over a 100 years connoisseurs of classical music have shunned improvisation set to classical pieces and dismissed it jazz. Yet Venezuelan-born American piano virtuoso Gabriela Montero has turned the classical music world upside down by embracing classical improvisation inasmuch as she is one of the world’s elite classical piano musicians. Montero showed off her phenomenal talents on 60 Minutes last Sunday by adding classical twists when playing songs like The Beatles’ “Yesterday” or “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” Check out some of her amazing music via this article from NPR.

Links-, CBS News, NPR


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Venezuela denies supporting ETA members

Venezuela’s government denied a report published yesterday by the Spanish media claiming that the Chavez regime brokered a deal granting Venezuelan nationality to four members of Basque terrorist group ETA. “If that is what they've done, it would be unacceptable for Spain,” said Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba yesterday before Spanish and Venezuelan officials met in Caracas to clarify the incident. Bombings and attacks by ETA have killed over 800 people in nearly a half-century.

Links- International Herald Tribune, BBC News, Reuters, Wikipedia

Image- CNN

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Cuban legislators support Boricua “independentistas”

Members of Cuba’s parliament called for the changing of Puerto Rico’s political status from U.S. commonwealth to its own sovereign country. “Cubans consider it a fraternal obligation to strengthen their support for the Puerto Rican independence struggle,” said Cuban Parliamentary President Ricardo Alarcon during a hearing attended by several key members of Puerto Rico’s Independence Party.

Last month, Panamanian president Martin Torrijos lent his support to Puerto Rico’s independence movement by declaring that “no form of colonialism can be justified.”

Links- Cuban News Agency, Prensa Latina, The Latin Americanist (blog)

Image- (Logo of the Puerto Rican Independence Party)

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Daily headlines: December 6th

* Brazil’s government placed under its protection a 58,000 square mile area of Amazon rain forest that extends into several northeastern countries of South America.

* Turkey’s government condemned a resolution passed by Argentina’s legislature last week that establishes April 24th as a national “day of remembrance” for a supposed genocide against Armenians nearly a century ago.

* The head of Air Jamaica- Jamaica’s national airline- dismissed as “impractical” suggestions that the financially troubled air carrier should merge with another airline company.

* Brazilian tourism officials are planning a major public relations campaign against “Turistas”- a U.S. horror movie set in Brazil that has been scorned by most film critics.

* A Texas jury convicted a U.S. trucker involved in the deaths of 19 illegal immigrants he tried to smuggle in 2003.

Links- San Jose Mercury News, Angus Reid Consultants, People’s Daily Online, Jamaica Gleaner, Guardian UK, Rotten Tomatoes, CBS News


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Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Follow-up: Pinochet did not exaggerate heart attack, says docs

Doctors from the Chilean hospital treating Augusto Pinochet denied that he exaggerated the effects of a heart attack he suffered over the weekend. “The recovery of General Pinochet is the result of a timely, efficient medical treatment” said a spokesman from the Santiago Military Hospital in response to some of his critics (like guest blogger Maegan la Mala) who have observed that Pinochet tends to become severely ill when he is facing trial.

Links- International Herald Tribune, The Latin Americanist (blog), VivirLatino (blog)

Image- CBC

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Argies settle for second-best in Davis Cup finals

Argentina’s bid to become Latin America’s first Davis Cup champion fell one match short as Russia’s Marat Safin beat Jose Acasuso in the deciding fifth match of the 2006 Davis Cup final on Sunday. Argentine team captain Alberto Mancini hailed his squad’s efforts inasmuch as they were unable to overcome a 2-1 match deficit after Saturday’s doubles in front of several hundred supporters who made the long trip from South America to Moscow’s Olympic Stadium.

Argentina was also runners-up in the 1981 Davis Cup, while Chile (1976) and Mexico (1962) have been the only other Latin American representatives in the Davis Cup finals.

Links- International Herald Tribune, CBC, MSNBC,, Wikipedia

Image- Monsters & Critics (David Nalbandian serving in the fourth match of the Davis Cup final, which he won over Russia’s Nikolai Davydenko)

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Bolivian gov’t formally nationalizes gas industry

Yesterday, Bolivia’s government finalized contracts that allow for the nationalization of that country’s gas industry. The Bolivian government will now control gas operations from foreign firms headquartered in countries like Brazil, France, and Spain. Negotiations for gas nationalizing had been going on since May 1st and have received mixed opinions from bloggers and heads of state alike.

Links-, BBC News, International Herald Tribune, The Latin Americanist (blog)

Image- The Economist (Bolivian president Evo Morales visiting a gas plant earlier this year)

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Former Paraguay prez off to jail…again

Former president of Paraguay Luis Gonzalez Macchi (image) was convicted on Monday of fraud and embezzlement and sentenced to 8 years in jail. Gonzalez Macchi was found guilty of hiding over $1 million in a secret Swiss bank account, yet the tribunal found his wife innocent of illicit enrichment from a Caribbean bank account worth almost $400,000.

In June, Gonzalez Macchi was sentenced to 6 years in jail for running an embezzlement scheme, but that conviction was later overturned on appeal.

Links- BBC News, International Herald Tribune, The Latin Americanist (blog)


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Mexico : Felipe Calderon Making Himself at Home as Pres

After coming into office just a few days ago, Felipe Calderon has already begun to make some changes and clean house. One of his first moves was to announce a 10% pay cut for himself, his cabinet, and other government officials as part of a larger economic reform package (FYI, that would put his annual salary at $220,500) But so as not to worry business and potential investors, he's making public assurances that he's going to battle crime and corruption to create a profitable business infrastructure.

It's not clear if part of this plan includes the arrest of Oaxaca APPO founder Flavio Sosa yesterday.

Links: VivirLatino, BBC News, Sky Valley Journal, San Francisco Indy Media Center

Image - BBC News

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Monday, December 4, 2006

Brazilian cardinal: Celibacy rule should be reanalyzed

A prominent Roman Catholic cardinal from Brazil who will take over the Vatican office on priests suggested in an interview that the celibacy rule for priests should be reexamined. Cardinal Claudio Hummes (image) said that celibacy amongst priests was a “discipline” that they place upon themselves and not a dogma of the Roman Catholic Church. Celibacy was not an original mandate of the Catholic Church and many priests were married and with children until the Vatican banned that practice in the 9th century AD.

Links- Washington Post, International Herald Tribune, BBC News, Wikipedia

Image- BBC News

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Mill dispute leads to worst relations “in 15 years” b/w Argentina and Uruguay

Relations between neighbors Uruguay and Argentina have been “at their worst (point) in 15 years” according to Uruguay’s Minister of Economy. Danilo Astori’s assessment comes as a result of the never-ending row between Uruguay and Argentina over the construction of several European-owned paper mills near their shared river border. In the latest chapter to this sordid affair Uruguayan president Tabare Vasquez vowed that he would not negotiate with Argentine protestors while Argentine president Nestor Kirchner urged Uruguay to avoid sending troops to guard mill construction.

Links- MercoPress, The Latin Americanist (blog), International Herald Tribune, Reuters

Image- BBC News

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Pinochet in “stable and serious” condition after major heart attack

Doctors in Chile said that former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet (image) is in “stable and serious” condition after suffering a heart attack while under house arrest for numerous human rights violations. Some of Pinochet’s supporters have maintained a vigil outside of the Santiago military hospital he is in while Chileans are divided over the nature of Pinochet’s funeral should he die soon.

Links- Bloomberg, Reuters, BBC News, The Latin Americanist (blog)

Image- RTE News (Ireland)

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Chavez big loser amongst Venezuelan voters abroad

Surely by now you’ve heard about Hugo Chavez’ landslide reelection victory in Venezuela yesterday. But interestingly enough Venezuelans living abroad and registered to vote overwhelmingly supported Chavez' rival- former governor Manuel Rosales. For example, about 300 of the over 11,000 Venezuelan expats who voted in South Florida cast their ballots for Chavez! As one Venezuelan who voted for Rosales observed:

“Mr. Rosales represents everything that is positive about Venezuela. He's a democratic man who truly loves his country and won't give away our natural resources like Mr. Chavez has done to gain influence overseas.”

Chavez may be celebrating now and reveling in his victory but he cannot ignore so much sentiment against him by Venezuelans living abroad especially if they aspire to form a formidable political force a la Cuban exile groups in the U.S. If Chavez wishes to remain in power for another 6-year term he will have to effectively face his opponents living outside of Venezuela.

Links- VivirLatino (blog), Bloomberg, ABC News, CNN, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Bradenton Herald, BBC News

Image- Bradenton Herald (Anti-Chavez supporter outside of the voting area at Miami’s Orange Bowl)

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Daily briefs: December 4th

* “It’s time to build a new Haiti!” exclaimed Wyclef Jean who on Friday night performed a concert in his birth country of Haiti for the first time since 1998.

* The popularity of Dominican president Leonel Fernandez has dipped over the past few months according to the latest poll figures.

* A malaria outbreak has killed 75 indigenous people in western Colombia.

* Tourism and mining- two of Argentina’s main industries- have been cited as seriously endangering caves and other vital archeological sites.

Links- Angus Reid Consultants, People’s Daily Online, International Herald Tribune, National Geographic News

Image- BBC News



A few things:

1- The “Events” part of our blog has been updated with several art exhibits, lectures, concerts, etc. that will happen this month and in January. Have an event that you want to spread the word on? Then please leave a comment on the “Events” page.

2- The “Links & Organizations” page will be modified soon in order to remove dead links and mention several blogs that have caught our eye.

3- Last, but certainly not least, I would like to extend a very warm welcome to our guest blogger for the next few weeks- Maegan “la Mala” Ortiz. Maegan will be taking over things here at The Latin Americanist for some time while I spend several weeks in Colombia starting on Thursday with my extended family and (gasp!) without internet.

Maegan has worked tirelessly over the past year as one of the main editors over at VivirLatino and she also has her own personal blog here. If you’ve ever read her posts at VivirLatino you’ll know that she has a knack for writing on important issues on Hispanics, and she is very informed in her opinions and comments. Maegan is a fantastic blogger and I’m thrilled (and very thankful) that she will be guest blogging here at The Latin Americanist. Thanks Maegan!