Saturday, April 28, 2007

Music soothes the savage beast: “Ironing music”

In Colombia (and perhaps in other parts of the Americas) the genre of adult contemporary music is colloquially called “musica para aplanchar” (translation - “ironing music.”) This slightly derisive term is used to describe the tunes housewives or servants would generally listen to as they run their errands at home such as ironing clothes.

With the help of the ever popular YouTube, here’s a small sample from artists past and present whose music definitely fits in the category of “musica para aplanchar”:

Ricardo Arjona – Desnuda

Roberto Carlos – Amigo (Live, Unknown)

Franco De Vita – Un Buen Perdedor

Ana Gabriel – Destino (Live 2006)

Ednita Nazario – Vengada

Voz Veis – Farolito

Links- Wikipedia, YouTube, Rhapsody Online

Daily Headlines: April 28, 2007

* “We're not going to attack anybody” said Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez as he announced government plans to create a missile defense system.

* This is just not a good sign for tourism in the Dominican Republic.

* Negotiations continue in Peru in order to avoid a nationwide miners strike on Monday.

* During his visit to Camp David, Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has asked U.S. counterpart George W. Bush not to cut off aid to Ecuador and Bolivia.

Links- International Herald Tribune, National Post, Reuters,


Friday, April 27, 2007

Bloggers of the world unite and take over

NOTE: In order to make up for the lack of posts earlier this week we will publish 2-3 posts on Saturday including our weekly article on music. Stay tuned!
  • Addition by subtraction may not be a good idea in the closing of a pair of government programs that are going to close in Mexico and Brazil, according to a pair of bloggers.
  • Council on Foreign Relations fellow Shannon O’Neil’s blog on immigration examines how demographics are shaping the immigration debate.
  • Plan Colombia and Beyond gives an exhaustive list of the over 70 politicos involved in Colombia’s “para-politics” scandal.
Links- A Year in Uruguay, Beautiful Horizons, Bloggings by Boz, Foreign Policy – Passport, Gridskipper, ImmigrationProf Blog,, LatIntelligence, Plan Colombia and Beyond, Pop!Tech, Posthegemony, Ricardo’s Blog, The Latin Americanist, The Mex Files, Two Weeks Notice, VivirLatino, Wonkette

Richardson tackles Cuba during TV debate

Though the conflict in Iraq was the issue du jour during last night’s Democratic presidential debate, Bill Richardson opined on Cuba’s future. “We should be planning for a post-Castro Cuba,” said the Mexican-American governor of New Mexico, and added that the U.S. ought to do “whatever it takes” to promote democracy on the island. He adroitly neglected to mention that he met Castro several years ago during a Congressional trip.

According to one blogger, Richardson’s defense of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales based on ethnicity may have lost him some support on the left. However, Richardson has recently reversed his stance on Gonzales and even called on the embattled Gonzales to resign.

Links-Guardian UK, The Telegraph, Reuters AlertNet, New York Daily News, Albuquerque Tribune,, The Latin Americanist

Image- New York Times (The Democratic presidential candidates line up after last night’s debate was over; Bill Richardson is second from right between Senators Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton)

The 8 cent* flight

Pack your bags. Get your passport ready. Start making plans to vacation in Honduras this summer. Spirit Airlines has a special offer to fly from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to San Pedro Sula, Honduras all for the amazingly low price of 8 cents*!

Wait? There’s an asterisk near the price? That can’t be good. So what’s the catch?

“The fare prices do not include up to $23.90 in U.S. fees and airport charges plus possible international taxes and fees of up to $125 per round-trip.”

So 8 cents* is in reality about $144. Darn, there went the chance to see Guamilito and Plaza Catracha for less than the cost of a pack of chewing gum.

Damn you Spirit Airlines!

Links- Spirit Airlines, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Wikipedia

Image- (Parque Central in San Pedro Sula)

Ex-Mex prez speaks out against populism and border wall

Former Mexican president Vicente Fox (image) warned that populist governments in the Americas promote “messianic stances” which may lead to dictatorships. Fox’s remarks came during a visit to the European Parliament which Venezuela’s El Universal headlined as an “International Meeting to Prepare (an) Anti-Chavez Strategy.”

In addition, Fox called an extension to the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border “a big mistake” during an awards ceremony on Wednesday night. Added Fox on what was deemed as a “virtual wall” by the head of the U.S. Border Patrol:

“We can do much better than building walls by working together…What are they hiding from?. . .Who is going to stay within, and who is going to stay out?”

Links- El Universal,, MSNBC

Image- Interet-General.Info

Daily Headlines: April 27, 2007

* Will Brazil build a bullet train line? So far, feasibility studies will start to see if a line between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro is viable.

* First it was San Francisco, now it’s Oakland city officials who've declared their city as a “sanctuary” for illegal immigrants.

* Ecuador’s government expelled the World Bank’s representative to that country, according to an anonymous source from the financial institution.

* Police arrested a suspect in the murder of Venezuelan telenovela actor Yanis Chimaras during a robbery attempt.

* Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva signed a biofuel agreement with Chile during his visit to Santiago.

Links- International Herald Tribune, Hispanic Tips,, Houston Chronicle, BBC News

Image- (Sao Paulo metro train)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Expert: Spanish second-most studied language in the world

According to news agency EFE, the director of Spain’s Instituto Cervantes claimed that Spanish is the second-most studied language in the world and bested only by English. Speaking at the opening session of a language conference, César Antonio Molina noted that Spanish is a global language that “opens doors to future professions.”

In addition, Molina also noted that one of the language’s main obstacles its expansion into other countries such as the U.S., where Spanish serves as a “vital platform.” Indeed, Spanish is the most taught foreign language in U.S. schools according to a 2002 survey by the Modern Language Association.

Links- Wikipedia Español, Clarin,

Image- Lansing Library

Mexico: Tortilla price cap will continue

Mexico’s government extended an agreement with tortilla producers to cap the price of tortillas-a staple in the diets of Mexico’s poor. The price ceiling will last until August 15 after it had originally been created earlier this year in order to control skyrocketing prices.

The government’s decision was even seen positively in the world of finance where the value of the Mexican peso increased on Wednesday.

Links- MSN Money, The Telegraph, Milenio, Reuters, Wikipedia

Image- El Universal

Report: No change in Bolivian coca production

Bolivia’s coca production has not changed since 2005 according to a report released yesterday by the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy. The report seems to refute claims made last month by a Department of State study that Bolivian President Evo Morales “advocates for increased cultivation…of coca” and that government policies have “increased trafficking” of coca.

Nonetheless, officials from the Office of National Drug Control Policy are trying to counter the data from their own study:

“’I think we're frankly quite concerned that there's been a buildup in cultivation,’ James O'Gara, the U.S. drug control agency's deputy director for supply reduction, told The Associated Press”.

Links- Office of National Drug Control Policy, Department of State, CNN

Image- (Bolivian street vendor selling coca leaves)

Nationwide blackout hits Colombia

Colombia was left without electricity this morning after an unexpected blackout hit the entire country this morning. According to Colombian media approximately 35% of national service has been restored so far, and the head of the national electricity company cited “technical errors” as to why the blackout occurred.

Links- CNN, El Tiempo, RCN

Image- El Tiempo (Chaotic morning traffic in Medellin after being hit by today’s blackout)

Daily Headlines: April 26, 2007

* Here’s one candidate that could have been added to this week’s “Weekly Debate”: Kansas Senator Sam Brownback (image) is in favor of building a border fence and a plan to legalize illegal immigrants.

* Did you know that Uruguay has the highest prices for gasoline in Latin America at over $5 a gallon!

* While New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg wraps up his trip to Mexico, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is preparing for his visit next month to Mexico and El Salvador.

* Good news for Mexico and Brazil: foreign investment in both countries has grown to record levels.

* Tensions increased between coca farmers and police in Peru yesterday.

Links- Gothamist, LA Daily News, Bloomberg, People’s Daily Online, Christian Science Monitor, The Latin Americanist, Living in Peru, Mercopress

Image- NPR

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

MySpace launches sites for U.S. Hispanic and L. American markets

Social networking site MySpace unveiled specialized sites for Hispanics in the U.S. as well as a version for the Americas. MySpace en Español will be a bilingual version of MySpace which aims to “display more music and other programming for Hispanic users” according to the site’s executives.

At the same time, MySpace launched MySpace Latino America which administrators hope will lead to “more country-specific sites” along the lines of MySpace Mexico.

Links- San Jose Mercury News,, ZDNet


Media rights group critiques Chavez in RCTV case

In a report issued yesterday, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) criticized Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez’ decision last to revoke the broadcasting license for Radio Caracas Television (RCTV). The CPJ report stated that the move against RCTV:

“Reflects an arbitrary and opaque decision-making process that sets an alarming precedent and casts doubt on Venezuela's commitment to freedom of expression. The threat of losing access to the airwaves hangs over dozens of other television and radio stations whose concessions have also come up for renewal, prompting some news outlets to pull back on critical programming… The Chavez administration appears to be replacing what it considers to be corporate domination of the airwaves with state domination”.

Chavez deemed RCTV as “coup-mongering” and has vowed not to give in to accusations like those made by CPJ:

“Anybody who goes around thinking they can pressure me through international organizations, other governments or a diabolical court or marches, they are not going to pressure me on May 27 the day the concession is going to end.”

Links- Committee to Protect Journalists, Newsday, Caribbean Net News, Guardian UK

Image- Proceso Digital

Colombia: Key Anti-Uribe politico reveals supposed plot to kill him

Leading opposition senator Gustavo Petro (image) claimed that there was an assassination plot against him led by ex-Colombian army colonel Julian Villarte. Petro has been a constant target of death threats due to his strong accusations against paramilitary infiltration in the government. Yet what makes Petro’s claims unique is that Villarte had provided security for U.S. coal company Drummond, which has been accused of hiring paramilitaries to kill labor union leaders. (Sounds like the case against Chiquita, no?)

The “para-politics” scandal in Colombia has deepened over the past few months as evidence mounts against the administration of President Alvaro Uribe.

Links- CNN, Bloomberg, Gannett News Service, The Latin Americanist, The Economist

Image- CNN

Mexico City abortion measure about to go into effect

By a vote of 46-19 (with a single abstention) legislators in Mexico City approved a measure to permit abortions during the first trimester of pregnancy. The decision- which will become law once it’s published into Mexico’s official public record- has deeply divided the entire country, and even caught the attention of rock band Maná:

“Rock group Maná considered that the controversy over the depenalization of abortion would have been avoided had Mexican authorities paid more attention to sexual education and birth control methods.”

Mexican federal health authorities have said that Mexicans from outside Mexico City could travel there to get abortions, and assured that legal abortions could be conducted in both public and private medical clinics.

Abortion has become a very contentious issue in Latin America, especially since several countries such as Colombia and Argentina have recently relaxed anti-abortion laws. (Not all states are bucking the trend, however).

Links- ABC News, Nuevo Excelsior, International Herald Tribune, Milenio, Baltimore Sun, El Universal, The Latin Americanist, Guardian UK, Catholic Online

Image- Nuevo Excelsior (“My body is mine” says the slogan written on the stomach of a Mexican abortion activist yesterday)

Political crisis in Ecuador escalates

Over a week after Ecuadorians voted to have a constitutional assembly, it would seem like all hell is about to break loose in Ecuador. The country faces uncertainty after several turbulent events over the past 24 hours:

Ecuador’s recent political history has been full of turmoil; the country has had 11 presidents over the past decade (including Correa).

Update #1: Correa has asked prosecutors to drop the arrest warrant against the recalled legislators. (Link via Bloomberg).

Update #2: 6 of the 57 congressmen have asked Colombia to grant them political asylum. (Link via BBC News).

Links- Sydney Morning Herald, The Latin Americanist, Reuters, Guardian UK, El Comercio, La Hora

Image- Al Jazeera (Opposition lawmakers try to barge their way into Ecuador’s Congress building last month)

Daily Headlines: April 25, 2007

* According to Prensa Latina, Israel will deport Puerto Rican activist Alberto de Jesus after he climbed a tower near the West Bank’s separation barrier and planted a Palestinian flag on it (image).

* Follow-up: New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg visited Mexico City yesterday in order to observe a unique anti-poverty program he hopes to implement in New York.

* Brazilian courts ruled that President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was not involved in an alleged plot to buy damaging information about opposition politicians last year.

* San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom proclaimed the city as a “sanctuary” for immigrants and said that city officials would not assist with federal immigration raids.

* “Within five years Nicaragua will be free from the International Monetary Fund” declared President Daniel Ortega.

* Peruvian president Alan Garcia met with U.S. President George W. Bush as part of Garcia’s campaign to promote a free trade deal between both countries.

* McDonald’s plans to expand in Latin America by adding 1600 franchises in the region.

* Bolivia’s government is inching closer to nationalizing the country’s telecom industry.

* Merrill Lynch improved Venezuela’s bond rating.

Links- International Herald Tribune, MSNBC, Bloomberg, Prensa Latina, Reuters AlertNet, Voice of America, El Universal, Guardian UK, NY1


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

L. America ignored in Obama’s policy speech

U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama (image) neglected to directly mention Latin America during a major foreign affairs speech made yesterday in Chicago. The Illinois Senator bemoaned “the consequences of a foreign policy based on a flawed ideology” on a number of topics ranging from nuclear arms to foreign aid to the Iraq conflict.

Mind you, this does not mean that Obama has ignored Latin America altogether as he demonstrated in a speech shortly before the President’s tour of the Americas last month:

“We need to restore U.S. relations in the hemisphere. We need to consolidate the gains that have been made in the sweeping change of the last few years. We need to sustain our commitment to democracy, to social justice, and to opportunity for our neighbors to the south. The western hemisphere is too important to our core economic and security interests to be treated with the neglect and mismanagement that have defined the past six years”.

However, for him to have not explicitly mentioned the Americas in such a seemingly vital speech does raise some eyebrows. Hopefully Obama can provide more details of his views on Latin America in the weeks to come.

Links- International Herald Tribune, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, U.S. Senator Barack Obama

Image- Salon

Will May Day be Fidel’s day out in public?

Update (25 April): Looks like Fidel will be staying at home on May Day according to the president of the Cuban Parliament. (Link via Monsters & Critics).

The Associated Press briefly speculated yesterday over the possibility that Fidel Castro may appear in public next Tuesday in order to celebrate the annual May Day parade. Here’s the key quote from the article:

“Cuban officials have been giving increasingly positive reports about Castro's recovery, sparking expectations that the he will make a public appearance soon, perhaps at the annual May 1 workers parade that draws hundreds of thousands of people”.

Fidel has not appeared in public appearance since he ceded power to his brother Raul last July.

Meanwhile, the Cuban media published photos on Saturday of Fidel Castro meeting with senior Chinese Communist Party officials in Havana on Friday (image). According to Granma, Fidel had a “deep and fruitful” meeting for an hour which surely helped strengthen the ties between the Cuban and Chinese governments.

Links- Reuters, Granma, CNN, The Latin Americanist, Wikipedia

Image- Granma

Sporadic posting

NOTE: Posting for the next 48 hours will be very sporadic. We apologize for any inconvenience that may cause.


p.s. Don't forget to vote in our poll posted in this week's "Weekly Debate" on immigration and the possible candidates for the U.S. presidency.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Weekly Debate: Immigration and the U.S. presidential hopefuls

Elections for the next U.S. president may be over a year away, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to speculate. How do the main candidates stand on the immigration debate? Let’s take a look at what some of them said on their official websites and links to a few other sources.

Hillary Clinton

“I believe the Bush administration is failing to meet what should be the basic requirements of immigration policy: continuing our American tradition of welcoming immigrants who follow the rules and are trying to build a better life for their families, while strengthening national security in a post 9-11 world.

Our current immigration laws need to be reformed: we need a better solution to the question of illegal immigration which recognizes the conflict between the need to enforce the law, and the reality that too many employers are using undocumented workers today”.


Additional links- “Immigration Debate is Shaped by ’08 Election” and “Sen. Clinton Slams GOP Immigration Bill

Rudy Giuliani

Unfortunately, Giuliani’s website does not mention his stance on immigration. Hence, we will use the following brief analysis from

“Supports Senate guest worker plan & path to citizenship. (Nov 2006)”


Additional links- “Giuliani Flip-Flops on Immigration” and “Giuliani campaigns in Newport Beach

John McCain

“This Nation is calling for our borders to be secured and for an overhaul of our immigration system, and that it be done in a humane and comprehensive fashion. Vote after vote after vote taken in this body reaffirms that fact.

The new policies as provided for under [the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006] will increase border security and provide for a new, temporary worker program to enable foreign workers to work legally in this country when there are jobs that American workers won't fill. And, it will acknowledge and address in a humanitarian and compassionate way the current undocumented population.”


Additional links- “Kennedy-McCain partnership falters” and “McCain modifies immigration position

Barack Obama

“The Department of Homeland Security recognizes that identifying and deporting the 11 million undocumented workers currently in this country would be both logistically impossible and highly disruptive to the American economy. Instead of mass deportations, Senator Obama believes that Congress must pass comprehensive, compassionate reform that reaffirms the rule of law and brings the undocumented population out of hiding”.


Additional links- “What Are the Candidates Saying About Immigration Reform? Senator Barack Obama” and “Obama: Immigrants need chance to become citizens

Bill Richardson

“A nation of laws cannot allow millions of undocumented immigrants to live in the shadows and hundreds of thousands more to enter the country illegally every year. For decades politicians have passed laws on immigration with a wink and a nudge, with no intent of following through and making sure those laws were enforced.

For far too long, the immigration debate has been about electoral politics, not about policy. We need more honest leadership than that. We need to stop exploiting the immigration problem, and start solving it. We need to pass realistic laws and then enforce them rigorously”.


Additional links- “Richardson Speaks Against Border Fence” and “GOP resists Bush’s immigration pitch

Mitt Romney

“Immigration has been an important part of our nation's success. The current system, however, puts up a concrete wall to the best and brightest, yet those without skill or education are able to walk across the border. We must reform the current immigration laws so we can secure our borders, implement a mandatory biometrically enabled, tamper proof documentation and employment verification system, and increase legal immigration into America”.


Additional links- “Mitt Romney on the issues” and “Giuliani, McCain neck and neck in SC

So who do you think is the best candidate on the topic of immigration? Vote in our poll below and/or feel free to leave a comment. (Note: the poll closes on May 5th).

Iranian FM nears end of L. American tour

Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki is in Cuba today where he is finishing up on a tour of Latin America that included stops in Nicaragua and Venezuela. In Managua, Mottaki met with President Daniel Ortega and came to several preliminary agreements between Iran and Nicaragua. Meanwhile, Mottaki repeated Iran’s claims to develop nuclear power while he met with senior Cuban government officials in Havana.


Links- Prensa Latina, PressTV, Monsters & Critics

Chile: Seven missing after earthquakes

Inclement weather has hindered rescue operations to find seven people after Chile was hit by a pair of earthquakes over the weekend. Residents in the remote Aysen region who were hardest hit by the quakes accused President Michelle Bachelet of ignoring their warnings in order to tackle problems in the country’s capital (i.e. Transantiago snafu).

Image- El Mercurio (Waves over 25 feet high hit southern Chile’s coast after being triggered by a pair of earthquakes over the weekend)

Links- La Nacion, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Wikpedia, El Mercurio, The Latin Americanist

Mexico: Bones of pre-Aztec child sacrifices found

A major archeological discovery was made last week in Mexico when scientists discovered evidence of child sacrifices from before the Aztec period. The bones of approximately a two dozen children were dated back to between 950 A.D. and 1150 A.D., and are believed to have been sacrificed by the Toltecs to Tlaloc (image), the god of rain and fertility.

Links- CBS News, Reuters UK, Wikipedia

Image- Oberlin University

Brit press claims Chavez arms community groups

An article in Britain newspaper The Telegraph accused Venezuelan ruler Hugo Chavez of providing arms to 17,000 “communal councils” around the country. In the article published on Sunday, correspondent Alfonso Daniels wrote that:

“As the official slogan, ‘Build power from below’, proclaims, their stated purpose is to promote grass-roots democracy and hand power directly to the people - in particular the urban poor who make up the bulk of his most fervent supporters.

But as well as grappling with the grim conditions in slums such as Catia, members of these voluntary groups will constitute a nationwide militia, schooled in Cuban-style tactics for both guerrilla warfare and counter-insurgency".

The article went on to cite an advisor to Chavez who admitted that “some communal groups have already received military training” as well as a local opposition politician who said that the government was denying anti-Chavez groups from being part of the communal councils.

In the meantime, thousands of Venezuelans marched in Caracas against the government’s decision to deny the broadcast license for Radio Caracas Television (image).

Links- The Telegraph, Guardian UK

Image- BBC News

Most French voters in Americas opt to stay home during elections

General apathy and abstentions marked Sunday’s vote for France’s president in the country’s overseas territories in the Americas. Despite being allowed to vote before mainland France and being visited by the main candidates in the run-up to the election, approximately 38% of voters went to the polls in Guadeloupe and turnout on French Guiana barely broke 50%. Nonetheless, Global Voices Online clues us in to the strong feelings that a few bloggers have on the candidates.

Yesterday’s elections produced a runoff between Conservative Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist Segolene Royal. BBC News provides a handy chart of how Sarkozy and Royal stand on the main election issues.

Links- Caribbean Net News, EiTb, Jamaica Gleaner, Daily News, Global Voices Online,, BBC News

Image- Jamaica Gleaner (Segolene Royal begin greeted during her January 2007 visit to Guadeloupe)

Daily Headlines: April 23, 2007

* The International Monetary Fund estimates that Caribbean economies will face net losses from the Cricket World Cup.

* Is Reuters’ reporting on Haitian violence biased? Bay Area Indymedia thinks so.

* On the tenth anniversary of the end of a rebel takeover of Peru’s Japanese embassy, Peruvian vice president Luis Giampietri remembers his five months as a hostage.

* Six of Argentina’s biggest unions each received a generous 16.5% wage increase from the country’s government.

* Follow-up: Organizers of an illegal immigrant “game” that was to take place at the University of Iowa (original link here from this post) decided to cancel the event and host a lecture instead.

Links- Bloomberg, Bay Area Indymedia, The Financial Express, Hispanic Tips, The Latin Americanist, Des Moines Register, Wikipedia, Los Angeles Times

Image- CBC (West Indies cricket captain Brian Lara bids adieu to the crowd lunging after playing in his final game)