Friday, March 23, 2007

Tunes for the weekend

  • According to the press in Puerto Rico, Dominican songwriter Juan Luis Guerra would love to record with ex-Beatle Paul McCartney. “My dream is to sing a ‘bachata’ with Paul McCartney (since) The Beatles have always been a great inspiration to me” said Guerra who is promoting his upcoming album “La llave de mi corazón” (“The Key to My Heart). In honor of this romantic album, below is an absolute classic from his days before he set off on a successful solo career.

Juan Luis Guerra y 440 – Burbujas de Amor (File via Cause = Time)

  • Bonde do Role is from Curitiba, Brazil and specializes in mixing samples from rock songs along with funky dance music in a genre called “baile funk”. They were present during this year’s edition of the South by Southwest Music Festival (SXSW) in Austin, Texas, and their latest album was produced by Diplo who is better known as the cohort to Sri Lankan rapper M.I.A.
Bonde do Role - Solta O Fango (File via silence is a rhythm)
  • Much like Bonde do Role, Instituto Mexicano de Sonido also attended SXSW. Instituto’s sound is in a genre that we briefly covered last year nicknamed “Latintronica” where traditional Latin music is mixed with electronic music. It’s very catchy stuff, especially after listening to Plastilina Mosh.
Instituto Mexicano de Sonido – Mirando a Las Muchachas (File via Audio Deficit Disorder)
  • Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra (Antibalas) is a Brooklyn-based band that (as their name implies) specializes in"Afrobeat.” However, Antibalas has been in the news lately not due to its sound but because of member Martin Perna’s accusation of racism against a recent Village Voice cover which can be seen here. Judge for yourself if Perna is overreacting or accurate.

Antibalas – Beaten Metal (File via ickmusic)

  • Lastly, I confess to being an avid enthusiast of “shoegazer” music; groups like My Bloody Valentine, Lush, Sereena Maneesh, and Astrobrite play constantly on my iPod. So imagine my great surprise to discover “shoegazers” en español! Peru’s Resplandor was the focus of excellent music blog Mars Needs Guitars; their sound is pretty average for the shoegazer genre, but it’s a kick to hear it in Spanish.

Resplandor – En Tus Alas

Links- Minnesota Public Radio, Wikipedia, XL Recordings, silence is a rhythm, MySpace, The Latin Americanist, Audio Deficit Disorder,, Brooklyn Vegan, ickmusic, Cause = Time, Primera Hora, Voy Music, allmusic, Mars Needs Guitars,

Image- (Resplandor performing in Lima, Peru in 2005)

Bolivia’s Morales supports Rigoberta Menchu’s bid for prez

Politicians linked to Bolivian president Evo Morales expressed his support for Nobel Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchu (image) in her bid for Guatemala’s presidency. A key senator to Morales’ Movement Towards Socialism party said that they would send an advisory group to “accompany and support comrade Menchu.”

Morales was elected as Bolivia’s first indigenous president and indigenous leader Menchu certainly hopes to emulate in his footsteps and be elected to the presidency.

Links- Javno, Washington Post

Image- BBC News

Colombia: Court docs could expand “para-politics” scandal

Colombia’s Supreme Court has several documents which could reveal more ties between politicians and right-wing paramilitary heads. According to local media reports, prosecutors are looking into papers showing how politicians in northern provinces met several times in 2001 with a paramilitary leader nicknamed “Jorge 40.”

Earlier this week, five congressmen were ordered to give testimony in the “para-politics” scandal that has already led to the arrest of several politicos and even the resignation of a foreign minister.

And still nearly 3 out of every 4 Colombians back President Alvaro Uribe. Unbelievable.

Links- RCN, El Tiempo, Reuters AlertNet, The Latin Americanist, Wikipedia, Angus Reid Global Monitor

Image- ISN

Event: Dirk Van der Sijpen award for L. American films

Thanks to a tipster who told us via e-mail about this event TONIGHT:

“Friday night 23 March will see the 6th Dirk Van der Sijpen award for

best documentary on Latin America awarded at the VOORUIT in Gent, Belgium.

Dirk van der Sijpen was a serious Belgian journalist who reported on
and from Latin America. The awards named after him have been awarded after he died, some 7 years ago.”

For more information, check out the award’s website here.

Links- Dirk Van der Sijpen award

Mexico: Notes warning of more violence found on dead bodies

In a startling similarity to Colombia’s Los Pepes, notes were pinned to the corpses of three men killed in two separate incidents in Mexico. Investigators believe that the murders were committed by drug cartels since the notes detailed possible drug gang threats. Authorities worry that these murders will be an escalation of violence between warring drug cartels.

Links- Wikipedia, BBC News, International Herald Tribune, El Universal

Image- CNN (1990s murder committed by Los Pepes in Colombia)

Daily headlines: March 23, 2007

* Identity theft within the Latino immigrant community - quite the conundrum.

* The Colombian government okayed a plan backed by 7 U.S. Congressmen that would involve exchanging kidnap victims with jailed guerillas.

* You stay classy, New Jersey.

* Guatemala’s national security is in danger partly due to a small yet significant number of corrupt cops.

Links- Monsters & Critics, International Herald Tribune, CNN, VivirLatino

Image- Gothamist

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Amnesty Int’l: Haitians face massive discrimination in D. Republic

A report released on Wednesday by human rights group Amnesty International claims that Haitians living in the neighboring Dominican Republic face widespread discrimination and human rights violations. The study found that thousands of Haitians were arbitrarily deported from the Dominican Republic yearly and government policies make it very difficult for Dominicans of Haitian descent to obtain Dominican nationality. According to one of the report’s researchers:

"From the workplace to the streets, Haitian migrants living in the Dominican Republic are at the very bottom of the social ladder. They and their Dominican-born children are being denied the most basic rights before the eyes of the Dominican state and society."

Are Amnesty’s claims valid? Read the report for yourself and make your own judgment.

Links- Amnesty International, Amnesty International USA

Image- (Haitian market near the border with the Dominican Republic)

Mexican congress considers depenalizing abortion

Mexican senators from the leftist Democratic Revolution Party (PRD, as it’s known in Spanish) introduced a bill that would depenalize certain forms of abortion throughout the country. The bill is similar to a proposal introduced by PRD legislators in Mexico City, but the national bill also calls for government health clinics to provide abortions to women who request them.

As was expected, the Church is in an uproar over both proposals as was demonstrated by some very direct remarks by a spokesman for Mexico City's Roman Catholic archdiocese:

"The leftists' anti-democratic, intolerant and fascist attitude has tried to shut up a voice that objects to this absurd blood law."

President Felipe Calderon has even stepped into the fray by acknowledging that abortion is a “very delicate” issue though he would veto any bill that would depenalize abortion.

Links- Shanghai Daily, The Latin Americanist, MSNBC, Zenit News Agency

Image- Vida Humana (Anti-abortion protest in Mexico)

“He said, she said” quarrel over NYU Republicans’ anti-immigrant event

Several student groups at New York University (NYU) have continued their ire and displeasure with an event hosted by the College Republicans last month which trivialized the immigration debate. According to NYU’s student newspaper, a coalition representing four political and cultural student organizations rejected the College Republicans’ invitation to participate in a debate on immigration and instead opted to hold their own debate next month.

In addition, a Latino student group wants the College Republicans to apologize for their disrespect and “lack of sensibility” during the "Find the Illegal Immigrant" event. In response, the president of the College Republicans refused to apologize and claimed that the coalition was acting “childish.”

We’ll leave the last (and most accurate) word to the head of Political Spectrum, a nonpartisan debate group:

"The problem is that both sides are breaking the communication process. It seems that the two sides are not really trying to have a real discussion on actual policy issues - instead I see an inflammatory stunt and people not wanting to talk about the issue."

Links- The Latin Americanist, Washington Square News

Image- 1010 WINS (Hundreds of demonstrators protesting the "Find the Illegal Immigrant" event at NYU)

World Water Day – Inequality in the Americas

Today is World Water Day and this year’s theme examines the scarcity of water in many areas of the world. Though that problem is especially pronounced in the Middle East and Africa, Latin America’s main problem revolves around uneven water distribution. The U.N. notes that impoverished households in underdeveloped countries tend to spend more of their income in potable water than those living in advanced industrialized nations. In several countries, the problem is worse:

- Only half of the population of urban areas of Bolivia has “reliable" access to water.

- A lack of a viable water infrastructure has contributed to Haiti’s high infant mortality rate.

- Though Mexico hosted the Fourth World Water Forum last year, the Rio Grande is one of the world’s “Top Ten Rivers at Risk” and northern Mexico could face severe droughts due to less rainfall.

- Chilean farmers in the town of Caimanes worry that a dam being built by one of the country’s largest copper mines will contaminate the town’s water supply and impede irrigation.

So what can be done in order to solve these problems? One solution may be to raise awareness in developed countries such as The Tap Project's campaign for New York City restaurant patrons to donate $1 for the usually free glass of tap water. Another plan of action may be to heed to the plan created by Latin American representatives to the Fourth World Water Forum including increased government participation and the creation of local community projects.

Links- United Nations, The Latin Americanist, Zee News, The Hindu, Washington Square News, Reuters AlertNet

Image- UNICEF (Children gathering around a well in a Brazilian favela)

Bill Gates – Immigrant activist?

Admittedly, it may be a little hasty to call Microsoft head honcho Bill Gates an “activist” for immigrants, but he did discuss the urgent need for immigration reform. Said Gates yesterday:

"I'm a big believer that as much as possible, and there's obviously political limitations, freedom of migration is a good thing."

While in Mexico, Gates repeated remarks he made earlier this month to Congress urging them to “make it easier” for highly-skilled migrants to work in the U.S.

Gates is on a mini-tour of the Americas where he lost in a penalty shootout (via Xbox) to Mexican soccer star Rafa Marquez and announced the creation of computer learning centers in high risk areas of Colombia.

Links- ABC News,, MSNBC, The Hindu

Image- MSNBC (Bill Gates giving a lecture yesterday ion Mexico City)

Daily headlines: March 22, 2007

* Peruvian ex-president Alberto Fujimori blamed the country’s armed forces for crimes against humanity committing during his decade-long regime.

* Latin American economies are expected to grow by nearly 5% according to a U.N. economic official.

* A diplomatic dispute has grown between Cuba and Sweden which stemmed from remarks by the Swedish Foreign Minister condemning Cuba’ poor human rights record.

* An Argentine federal judge ordered former de facto leader Reynaldo Bignone to face prosecution on charges of human rights abuses.

* The Panama Canal Authority will most likely refuse shippers’ request to gradually phase in toll increases.

Links- International Herald Tribune, Journal Peru, Reuters, Bloomberg, Xinhua

Image- (Peruvian protest against Alberto Fujimori)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Romario and his shady math

One of the few things I recalled from informal Portuguese classes many years ago was the phrase papo cabeza (misspelled?) which is a not-so-diplomatic way of calling someone daft or stupid. Unfortunately, that phrase is apt for forty-year-old Brazilian striker Romario’s claim that he is two goals away from marking 1000 career goals.

Romario has alleged that he has scored nearly 1000 “first-class goals” in a career that has spanned nearly twenty-five years. However, different sources have disputed Romario by observing that his goal tally is inaccurate and way off the mark. An investigation by soccer magazine Placar says that there are 101 “questionable goals” to Romario’s count, while soccer blog The Offside notes that Romario has only marked 749 goals “in full internationals and competitive club games”.

Still, Romario stands by his goal count by claiming that “these numbers are not mine. The counting was done by professionals.” The only soccer player in history to have marked over 1000 official goals is the legendary Pele and he has disputed Romario’s claim.

Romario papo cabeza, indeed.

Links- New York University, Wikipedia, BBC News, ESPN Soccernet, The Offside, CNN, Edmonton Sun

Image- El Porvenir

Cubans support return of imprisoned spies

To U.S. law enforcement Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, Rene Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando Gonzalez are five convicted Cuban spies who tried to transmit secret information back to the island. But to Cubans, they are seen as "Heroic Prisoners of the Empire" who are unjustifiably sitting in a U.S. prison. Defense attorneys for “The Miami Five” are seeking a retrial outside of South Florida and the Cuban media is enthusiastically supporting their cause.

It’s hard to say what are the odds that the convicted spies will get a retrial, but it is definitely safe to say that their case has inflamed passions between Cuban exiles and compatriots back on the island.

Image- Houston Chronicle

Links- New York Newsday, Prensa Latina, Periodico 26

John McCain - Beware the ides of socialism in L. America

Republican presidential hopeful John McCain spoke out against several leftist leaders like Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez. In a speech earlier today in Miami (image), McCain warned against the “disturbing” relationship between Morales, Chavez, and ailing Fidel Castro. McCain also promised that his first foreign trip would be to Latin America should he be elected to the presidency.

McCain’s aim behind his trip to South Florida was to court the Cuban American vote which traditionally supports the Republican Party (unlike most Latino voters last year). McCain has the strong support of Florida’s three Cuban American congressmen and he avoided making embarrassing errors in his speech like Mitt Romney did.

Links- CBS4, Guardian UK, UPI, U.S. News and World Report, The Latin Americanist, Wonkette

Image- ABC News

Titulares de las Americas

A quick look at some of the Spanish-language headlines making the rounds in Latin America:

  • El Tiempo & RCN (Colombia): Colombia’s newly named foreign minister had to issue a quick retraction after claming that Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez is the “ideological leader” to Colombian guerrillas. “I admit that I made a mistake” said Fernando Araujo in a radio interview this morning where he also added his “respect for the government and president of Venezuela.”
  • La Tercera (Chile): Problems with Santiago’s public transit system have led anti-government legislators to call for the resignation of Chile’s Minister of Transportation. “Its time for new faces to solve the problems of current administrators” said one key opposition politician.
  • El Comercio (Peru): U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson praised Peru’s economy during a visit to Lima. “I smiled while looking at Peru’s economic indicators” said Paulson after meeting with President Alan Garcia.
  • Diario El Mundo (El Salvador): Guatemalan authorities arrested four suspects in the murders of three Salvadoran politicians last month. Guatemalan police considers the suspects as the minds behind the assassinations though Salvadoran police consider them only as material suspects.
  • La Jornada (Mexico) & El Comercio (Ecuador): Mexican director Guillermo del Toro won nine Ariel awards during last night’s ceremony in Mexico City. In addition, best actor went to Damián Alcázar for “Cronicas”- a film co-produced by Mexico and Ecuador.
  • La Prensa (Nicaragua): Opposition politicians blasted President Daniel Ortega in a report issued yesterday. Though Ortega has only been in office for a little over two months, Movimiento por Nicaragua deemed Ortega’s regime as “totally disrespectful of the constitution.”
  • Primera Hora (Puerto Rico): Leaders of the Popular Democratic Party called for the island’s residents to support having a one-chamber legislature. Though a referendum approved changing Puerto Rico’s legislature to a unicameral chamber, legal battles have prevented it from being carried out.

Links- El Tiempo, RCN, El Comercio, Diario El Mundo, La Jornada, El Comercio, La Prensa, Primera Hora, La Tercera

There is a light that never goes out – a Peruvian answer to prostitution

Sometimes the road to the best solutions starts with the simplest ideas. Case in point: the mayor of La Victoria- a neighborhood in the Peruvian capital of Lima- was not pleased with prostitutes and johns congregating in the area’s main square. So what was his answer to try to get rid of the plaza’s sex workers? Install more light posts around the square:

“In association with the electric company Luz Del Sur, (Mayor Alberto Sanchez Aizcorbe) installed high power lights that illuminate the entire plaza, eliminating the 'dark' corners that served as work stations for area prostitutes”.

Mind you, “getting rid” of prostitution requires a deeper commitment including promoting viable economic alternatives for women and assuring satisfactory social services for the community. (In other words it isn’t that simple). But hopefully Mayor Sanchez’ illuminating idea can be the start of improvement in La Victoria.

Links- Living in Peru

Image- Living in Peru (Sex workers in the Peruvian province of Arequipa)

Ecuador: Tensions rise over referendum and fired lawmakers

Ecuador’s political crisis has deepened with opposition politicians behind the creation of an anti-government legislative assembly, while alternate legislators were sworn in to replace approximately fifty dismissed Congressmen. Additional security precautions were taken at Ecuador’s Congress building to avoid last week’s disruptions.

The political controversy in Ecuador stems from President Rafael Correa’s push to have a constitutional referendum. So far the referendum’s date has been set for April 15th, and the BBC notes that:

“(President Correa) wants the people to have a greater say and is organizing a referendum next month as the first step in setting up a series of assemblies that would by-pass the power of the Congress.

The established politicians, not surprisingly, do not want to relinquish power and are fighting back”.

Links- Financial Times, Prensa Latina, The Latin Americanist, Reuters AlertNet, BBC News

Image- Washington Post (Ecuadorian parliamentarians knocking heads with police last week)

Daily headlines: March 21, 2007

* Major U.S. oil firm ConocoPhillips agreed to shift its Venezuelan operations to state-run PDSVA after coming to a deal with the Venezuelan government.

* Bolivian president Evo Morales said that Fidel Castro may visit the Andean country next month.

* On Tuesday, the Colombian peso reached its strongest point since December 2000.

* Brazilian courts have given Italian authorities forty days to seek the extradition of former guerilla member Cesare Battisti.

* Seven pilot whales died after being stranded on a Galapagos Island beach.

* Peruvian soldiers killed three members of a guerilla group linked to the country’s cocaine trade.

Image- (Oil refinery in Venezuela’s Orinoco region)

Links-UPI, International Herald Tribune, Reuters AlertNet, MSNBC

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Rudy Giuliani defends ties with Venezuela’s Citgo

Rudy Giuliani- the former mayor of New York City and front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination- defended his law firm’s ties to Venezuelan-owned petroleum firm Citgo. “What (Citgo is) doing is lawful and honorable and helping to protect jobs for more than 100,000 Americans,” said Giuliani yesterday which refuted a campaign statement made last week regarding how Giuliani’s law firm will earn as much as $250,000 lobbying for Citgo.

On a related note, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney committed several embarrassing faux pas during a speech in Miami.

Links- Guardian UK, Wonkette, Reuters

Image- CNN (Rudy Giuliani and Hugo Chavez side-by-side)

Cuban dissidents keep playing waiting game with gov’t

Like house mice waiting for the cat to go away, dissidents in Cuba patiently wait for changes by the island's government. Since Raul Castro took over as Cuba’s leader, there have been no significant political changes on the island though dissidents fear a major crackdown may be coming up. It is this worry that led forty Cuban women to engage in a peaceful protest of the 2003 crackdown where the government arrested seventy-five opposition activists, and have also led some intellectuals to gradually speak out against the Castro regime.

In the meantime, the mice continue to wait.

Links- The Latin Americanist, Oberlin, Guardian UK, Kansas City Star

Image- Loki Films (Scene from 2003 film "Dissident: Oswaldo Paya and the Varela Project")

Washington Post: U.S. immigration system needs to be fixed ASAP

An editorial published in last Sunday’s Washington Post highlighted the need for immigration reform to be taken seriously and not as political hot potato. As an example of this need, the editorial looked at the March 6th raid by immigration officers on a Massachusetts factory (image) which led to the arrest of five people but also the detention of hundreds of mothers who worked at the factory.

It is the splitting of families by the raid that drew the Post’s ire as they noted how children were callously separated from their parents:

“In one case, doctors treated an 8-month-old baby, Keylyn Zusana Lopez Ayala, for pneumonia and possible dehydration after her mother was detained and unable to breast-feed her. Keylyn is an American citizen”.

In addition, the editorial pointed out that the hiring of illegal immigrants at the New Bedford plant occurred right under the noses of supposed government watchdogs:

“Because the factory held military contracts worth more than $90 million, the Pentagon maintained a quality control office there, staffed by an inspector who must have known or suspected the plant employed hundreds of undocumented immigrants. Apparently the inspector was operating under a ‘don't ask, don't tell’ policy.”

The editorial concluded by decrying harsh measures taken by immigration authorities and emphasized changes in U.S. immigraion policy:

“Cruel, self-defeating and illogical, the New Bedford raid is an inelegant example of how badly this country needs a clear-eyed immigration policy, one that provides not only for tough enforcement but also humane protections and a path to citizenship for immigrants who have put down roots and contributed to the national economy. The current regimen is a blight -- on immigrants who need the work, on employers who need the labor, and on a nation whose ideals of fair play and image as a welcoming and caring place are seriously at risk”.

Links- Washington Post, Boston Herald, Boston Globe, Latina Lista, Christian Science Monitor

Image- Boston Globe

Anti-drug ops praised in some L. American countries

Law enforcement officials in several Latin American countries have been patting themselves on the back after several counternarcotics operations over the past week:

- Nearly twenty metric tons of cocaine (image) was seized in a joint maritime operation between Panamanian and U.S. authorities.

- Mexican police in Tabasco are under scrutiny for being in cahoots with drug gangs, while a raid in Mexico City yielded over $200 million in drug cash.

- Chinese satellite technology and Russian jets were purchased by the Venezuelan government to assist in their anti-drug efforts.

So are these victorious battles in the “war on drugs” the norm and moving in the right direction or exceptions that are far and few between? (My quick take- the latter, especially after examining the mixed results out of Colombia).

Links- CNN, ABC News, Reuters AlertNet, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, BBC News

Image- CNN

Daily headlines: March 20, 2007

* You can run but you can’t hide- El Salvadoran authorities are going after deadbeat parents who have immigrated to the U.S.

* Guatemalan army documents show that the regime of former dictator Efrain Rios Montt presided over a plan to commit several massacres.

* New Zealand’s foreign minister starts a two-week tour of Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina today.

* In soccer action over the weekend, Melgar became the leader in Peru after a controversial win over Cienciano, Martin Palermo’s four goals were the difference in Boca Juniors’ rout over Gimnasia-La Plata in Argentina, and America topped Chivas in the latest edition of Mexico’s “superclasico”.

* Opposition politicians from Dominica want their government to reject Venezuela’s offer to build an oil refinery there.

* Six prisoners died in a jail brawl at a maximum-security penitentiary in Recife, Brazil.

Links- Arizona Daily Star, Prensa Latina, Mercopress, ESPN Soccernet, People’s Daily Online, Houston Chronicle, Forbes, Monsters & Critics,

Image- BBC News (Salvadoran kids lining up for help after Hurricane Mitch hit the country in 1998)

Monday, March 19, 2007

Weekly Debate: Bill Richardson and the path to the White House- yellow brick road or dead end?

Last January, the Hispanic governor of New Mexico- Bill Richardson- launched an exploratory committee to back a possible bid for the U.S. presidency in 2008. Several political analysts and bloggers have recently backed Richardson’s run for the White House and believe that he is not only the ideal candidate for the Democratic Party but should also be the next president. For instance, here’s what Matthew Yglesias had to say last month:

Richardson is clearly more qualified for the White House than anyone else in the race, since everyone knows that doesn't matter. Just consider the bare fact that he's the popular, second-term governor of a swing state -- you know, the sort of person who back in the day used to win presidential elections. And it's not as if Richardson isn't getting attention because the field is crowded with popular second-term governors of swing states”.

Let’s take a quick look at some points for and against him:



  • - Bill Who? The American public knows very little about him, especially with the media focus on Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
  • - Lack of exposure and subsequent difficulties in raising funds could lead Richardson to drop out of the race much like Tom Vilsack.
  • - The latest Harris Poll has Richardson behind four other Democrats including John Edwards. Meanwhile, other polls show Richardson getting easily beaten by Republican favorites Rudy Giuliani and John McCain.
  • -Three Words: Wen Ho Lee

Does Bill Richardson really have a solid chance to be elected president next year? Will he have enough funds and energy to support a viable presidential bid or will it be all for naught? Should he quit or perhaps aim for a Vice Presidential nomination?

What do you think?

Links- Bill Richardson for President, MSNBC, American Prospect Online, Washington Post, VivirLatino, Daily Kos, Andrew Sullivan, Instapundit, Reason Magazine – Hit & Run,,, Harris Interactive, Rasmussen Reports, Wikipedia, Free New Mexican, Voice of America, BusinessWeek

Image- TIME

Multi-billion dollar debt forgiveness from IADB to L. America

The Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) forgave almost $4.5 billion in debt to five countries in Latin America and the Caribbean: Bolivia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Haiti and Guyana. The IADB canceled the entire debts of all the aforementioned countries except Haiti, much to the disappointment of several non-government organizations. In other notable financial news:
  • IADB figures revealed that the amount of remittances sent to Latin America outnumber all foreign aid and direct investment to the region.
  • International Monetary Fund deputy managing director Murilo Portugal said that government policies throughout Latin America have reduced the risk of a regionwide economic slowdown.
  • China’s economic expansion into the Americas continues with the Chinese government wanting to become a member of the IADB.

Links- The Latin Americanist, Guardian UK, Xinhua, BBC News, Reuters, BusinessWeek

Chiquita pleads guilty to aiding Colombian rebels

Earlier today, representatives of Chiquita Brands International pled guilty to charges that they paid off Colombian paramilitary and guerilla groups to serve as security. The plea was part of a deal with U.S. prosecutors that would fine the company $25 million yet without identifying executives that approved paying off $825,000 in illegal payments.

From Colombia’s perspective, Chiquita is not out of the woods and free of prosecution. President Alvaro Uribe has joined the calls of the Colombian public who wants Chiquita executives to be extradited from the U.S., and the Colombian press observes that local prosecutors are reluctant to drop the charges against Chiquita.

Links- Bloomberg, Boston Herald, CNN, International Herald Tribune, El Tiempo

Image- Univision

Venezuela: Chavez calls for extra currency changes

Last July, Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez proposed dropping the last three zeroes from the country’s currency and renaming it. The latest currency proposal from the Palacio de Miraflores is to reintroduce a specific 12.5 cent coin called the locha (image) which has been out of circulation since the 1970s. The Chavez administration contends that these measures- which are set to take place in January 2008- are needed to combat inflation though critics claim that it will confuse consumers and do nothing to combat what some deem as a “risky” financial policy.

Links- The Latin Americanist, International Herald Tribune,

Image- Monedas de Venezuela

First gay unions take place in Mexico City

A Mexico City law which permits homosexual civil unions came into effect last week after legislators approved the measure last November. Officials are anticipating hundreds of civil unions based on the number of gay couples that have registered to do so. Though conservative groups are filing a court injunction halting future civil unions, homosexual couples that have gone through with the ceremony are very happy to be wed:

“With this law, a history of exclusion comes to an end. Today, the love that before did not dare speak its name has now entered the public spotlight.”

In January, Mexico’s first gay civil union was recognized in the state of Coahuila and earlier this month a member of Mexican pop music group RBD publicly admitted to getting wed to his gay lover.

Links- Sydney Morning Herald, CBS News,, BBC News, The Latin Americanist


Daily headlines: March 19, 2007

* Mexico and the U.S. aren’t the only two countries embroiled in a debate over a border barrier; Brazil’s government will build a wall along a three kilometer section of its border with Paraguay.

* Political commentator Andrew Sullivan observes how U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney flip-flopped on his views on immigration.

* Chilean bloggers assess President Michelle Bachelet’s first year in power.

* Mexico’s state-run oil company- PEMEX- is in “critical” condition according to the company’s chief executive.

* The Vatican confirmed Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Brazil in May.

* OPEC’s president opened the doors for Ecuador to return to the oil cartel.

* Cuban poet Fina Garcia Marruz was awarded with the Pablo Neruda Ibero-American Poetry Award.

* The government of Panama will pay a multi-million dollar compensation to families of victims who died after ingesting contaminated medicine.

Links- The Latin Americanist, Upside Down World, Andrew Sullivan, Global Voices Online, UPI, International Herald Tribune, Prensa Latina, Washington Post, CNN