Friday, June 22, 2007

Pop Quiz: “Radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools”

Question: On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a measure to increase funding for Voice of America broadcasts to which Latin America country?

1) Bolivia

2) Cuba

3) Nicaragua

4) Venezuela

Answer: click here to find out.

(Did anyone get the reference in the title?)

Source- Miami Herald, Wikipedia

Image- (1967 U.S. stamp)

Brazilian female ref to pose for Playboy

Move over Amanda Beard; a Brazilian referee will shed her uniform for her country’s edition of Playboy.

Ana Paula de Oliveira’s decision to appear naked in Playboy has been seen as controversial by some soccer players and officials disagree with her:

“‘I am against any woman taking her clothes off in public. I think that will not be good for her professional career,’ said Botafogo midfielder Lucio Flavio.”

Press reports allege that de Oliveira (image) will be paid approximately $230,000 for the nude photo shoot and she risks getting sanctioned by Brazil’s soccer governing body. Recently she was demoted from refereeing first division matches after making several bad calls which she subsequently apologized for.

Sources- The Offside, AHN, FOX Sports Australia,

Image- The Offside

U.S. bills call for opening trade in Cuba

Two bipartisan bills are circulating around Congress that would relax trade restrictions with Cuba. Though the proposals is expected to receive stern opposition from anti-Castro legislators and the White House, backers of the bills believe that change in foreign policy is due:

“‘The only ones who are hurt by our efforts to try to isolate Cuba in trade are our producers here in America,’ (Republican Senator Mike Crapo) said. ‘Those who have benefited are Brazil or China or Vietnam or other places who are glad to step in and pick up these markets.’”

The proposed legislation includes removing all travel restrictions to Cuba and permitting agriculture groups to promote U.S. farm goods in Cuba.

Sources- CBS News, Voice of America, ABC News

Image- Hotel Interactive

Aussies apologize for reality stunt against Mexico

Australian communications officials and the producer of the country’s version of “Big Brother” have issued a formal apology to Mexico over a stunt. The Mexican Embassy deemed as "offensive" a “Mexican Night” challenge last week that included:
  • throwing slime-filled balloons at a “Mexican” flag
  • getting the flag’s colors wrong despite displaying its seal in the center
  • dressing in mariachi outfits to play musical chairs
  • gorging on chili con carne
Though the show’s producer- Endemol Southern Star- said in a statement that the stunt was designed as “a tribute to Mexico and its vibrant cultural heritage,” it also said that:

Big Brother intended no offence to any person, country or institution and has apologized for any offence caused. In addition to offering their apologies, Big Brother's producers have assured the Mexican government that something like this would never happen again.”

This season of Australian “Big Brother” has already faced controversy when producers decided not to reveal the death of the father of one of the contestants.

Sources-, ABC News (Australia), Reuters Africa, BBC News

Image- 1010 WINS

Daily Headlines: June 22, 2007

* The ex-governor of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo (image) sits behind bars after being accused of helping smuggle over 200 tons of cocaine into the U.S.

* Baltasar Garzon- the Spanish judge that issued an arrest warrant against Augusto Pinochet- faces accusations by Venezuela’s government after criticizing them for the RCTV affair.

* Hollywood has maps of the stars. Santiago, Chile has maps of torture centers during the Pinochet era.

* Ecuador’s government has requested the U.N. to place the Galapagos Islands on its list of endangered locations.

Sources- Yahoo! News, Reuters AlertNet, Guardian UK, CNN

Image- BBC News

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Quote of the day: Another Brick in the Wall?

Why don't we just build (a wall) around Washington, D.C.? It can protect us from some bad characters, some bad legislation and bad ideas.”

--McAllen, Texas Chamber of Commerce president Steve Ahlenius reacts to the lack of immigration reform.


Image- MSNBC (Fence separating San Diego County and Tijuana, Mexico)

Boca Juniors champions of Copa Libertadores

The streets of Buenos Aires were awash in blue-and-yellow yesterday after Boca Juniors won the Copa Libertadores. Boca won South America’s top soccer tournament after beating Brazil’s Gremio home 3-0 last week and 2-0 last night in Porto Alegre with goals by Juan Roman Riquelme.

Despite difficulties in qualifying from the group stage, Boca’s victory last night secured its sixth ever Libertadores title and its first since 2003. In addition, Boca qualifies for the FIFA World Club Cup with Italy’s AC Milan and Mexico’s Pachuca.

Image- (Boca Juniors' Martin Palermo holds the the Copa Libertadores and celebrates with his teammates)

Sources (English)- The Latin Americanist, International Herald Tribune, ESPN Soccernet, People’s Daily Online

Source (Spanish)- Clarin

Central America offline due to technical problems

A broken underwater cable has led to the loss of internet service in several Central American countries as well as parts of Colombia and Venezuela. Service is expected to be fully restored in the next few hours, though a spokesman for the cable’s owner (Columbus Networks) blamed the nationalization of Venezuela’s CanTV for delaying repairs.

(Sounds like Columbus Networks is looking for excuses, huh?)

Sources (Spanish)- El Diario/La Prensa, El Tiempo

Image- (Map of the “Arcos” underwater cable that transports data to several countries in the Americas)

U.S. tourists in a bind over changing travel rules

Yesterday, officials pushed back plans for the second time in a month to obligate U.S. travelers from presenting passports when traveling to several countries such as Mexico and the Caribbean. The constant changes to U.S. passport rules has led to a massive backlog of passport applicants as well as uncertainty over what to do.

Even those who have traveled to some destinations have been forced to turn back over confusion from the rule changes:

“Martin Rodriguez, a police officer from Dublin (California), waited 11 weeks for his passport, then - after confirming the new policies with airlines and government officials - went ahead with his Mexican vacation plans, carrying only an ID and a passport application receipt.

But when he and his wife flew to Los Angeles before connecting to Guadalajara, they discovered that Mexican officials were turning away some travelers. They drove home.

U.S., Mexican and airline officials all insist they are following the rules, but which rules? It's not clear.”

So what can be done? One travel expert has some advice:

“1) Apply six months before you plan to travel or pay for expedited service.

2) Don’t purchase tickets for a trip that requires passports until you have them in hand.

3) Pray.”

Sources- Bloomberg, TIME, San Jose Mercury News, MSNBC

Image- National Park Service

Daily Headlines: June 21, 2007

* Missing: one large Chilean lake. (Hat tip:

* From YouTube back to the "boob tube" - RCTV may broadcast its programs from Mexico.

Dissident groups in Cuba are not pleased with the U.N. Human Rights Council's decision to drop the island from a list of the world's worst human rights abusers.

* Brazil's government has been stronger against white-collar crimes, according to Bloomberg.

Sources- Reuters Africa,, BBC News, CNN, Bloomberg

Image- BBC News (Before and after photos of a southern Chilean lake which shrunk over 50% in less than a month)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Paying More Than $40 for Four At Honduras Motels

So much for privacy. Amantes seeking haven in motels that charge by the hour in Honduras may feel like someone is watching them because, well someone is. The government. Actually the Honduran government is watching the motels under operation Fiscal Love.

Honduras is claiming that many of these establishments are evading taxes by severely underreporting business. Tax auditors are literally sitting in the lobbies of motels, counting the number of cars that stop in . The government says its not interested in the actual goings-on in the motel, just the money.

Source (English) - The Denver Post
Image - Super Signage

Antonio Aguilar Passes On

Antonio Aguilar, known as el charro de Mexico, succumbed to his illness after being in the hospital since June 4. The 88 year old singer, actor, composer and all around Mexican legend passed on sometime before midnight last night in the presence of his wife, Flor Silvestre, and sons, Pepe and Antonio Aguilar Jr. It is expected that there will be a funeral mass or memorial today , possibly in el Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City. After which , Antonio Aguilar's body will be flown to his native Zacatecas for burial. Antonio Aguilar was born on May 19th, 1917. He starred in over 150 films and hundreds of albums.

Source (Spanish) - Univision
Image - VivirLatino

Daily Headlines: June 20, 2007

* Less than two weeks after the Senate didn’t agree to a compromise bill on immigration, House Republicans introduced their own tough anti-immigrant proposal that includes making English the official language of the U.S. and barring illegal immigrants from legalizing their status.

* Popular video sharing website YouTube launched its Spanish-language portal which can be accessed here.

* Conservative legislators in Colombia helped defeat a landmark bill that would have granted full rights to health insurance and social security for gay couples.

* Mexico’s Supreme Court rejected a legal challenge by the governor of Oaxaca to impede an investigation against his government.

Sources (English)- Yahoo! News, YouTube Español, The Latin Americanist, amNY

Sources (Spanish)- El Tiempo, Clarin, El Universal

Image- ABC News (According to the photo’s caption: “People visit friends and family through the international border fence on Father's Day in Tijuana, Mexico, Sunday, June 17, 2007”)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Quote of the Day: Rethinking the girl from Ipanema

For Brazilian fashion designers, skin isn’t in this season:

“The one-piece suit, relegated (in Brazil) for decades, is back in, and coral colors dominate.”

That was according to fashion “experts” at Sao Paulo Fashion Week who have also emphasized environmentalism as a theme.

Sources- Sao Paulo Fashion Week, Monsters & Critics, ABC News Online

Image- Xinhua (According to the caption “Models wear creations from Poko Pano's 2008 spring/summer collection during Sao Paulo Fashion Show June 14, 2007)

Health plan proposed for Mexican migrants

The health ministers from Mexico and the U.S. are negotiating a possible cross-border health plan for Mexican migrants currently in the U.S. Though the final plan must be approved by Congress, Mexican Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova is optimistic that it would be beneficial:

“‘We started discussing this topic, which obviously depends in large measure on the evolution of immigration reform. But at any rate it is a binational issue that interests us both.’”

Though Cordova did not reveal how much the plan would cost, he did note that it would help migrants that suffer from chronic ailments and serious injuries.


Sources- International Herald Tribune, People’s Daily Online

The next phase of the Bolivarian Revolution - computers

Some attention on cheap computers in the Americas revolves around the "One Laptop Per Child Program" in countries like Peru, Argentina, and Uruguay. Yet Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez wishes not to remain behind as he pushes for an inexpensive, domestically-produced series of computers.

As tech blog Endgadget reports, four models of "Bolivarian Computers" ranging from $400 to $1400 have been introduced domestically in a joint venture between Venezuela’s government and a Chinese firm. The plan was conceived in 2005 with the possibility of expanding on an international scale if all goes well in Venezuela:

“(The firm is) now in the process of ramping up the scope and scale of production so that more components can be produced in-house while sales channels become international.”

Could a “BC” PC be coming soon to your desk?

Sources- The Latin Americanist, AHN, Endgadget

Image- Oil Wars (2005 image of "Bolivarian Computers" prototypes)

Mexico City residents unhappy with Giuliani plan

In 2003, a security firm run by former New York City mayor and current presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani was hired by Mexico City businessmen to help combat crime there. He even traveled to Mexico’s capital (image) under great hype and declared that:

“‘Although there are differences [between Mexico City and New York]... the situation in some ways is very similar’. But, he said, ‘this is still the beginning of a long process.’”

Fast forward four years later and “capitalinos” are upset with the lack of progress against crime in Mexico City and see Giuliani as one of the reasons for that. According to a report today in NY1, crime is one the rise in Mexico City and doubts linger over Giuliani's impact despite the promise anticipated by business leaders and civilians alike. One criminologist interviewed for the report claimed that “what Giuliani sold was a myth.”

Mind you, the displeasure with Giuliani’s company is not a new development; as early as 2005, former Mexico City officials were disappointed with Giuliani Partners:

“‘They were not prepared, not at all,’ said another former Mexico City police official who worked closely with the Giuliani team, Antonio Rendon. ‘They weren't consultants, they were retired policemen. And they were trying to organize another police force, but not with a methodology or a clear idea.’”


Sources- BBC News, NY1, New York Sun

Weekly Debate: E.U. diplomacy and Cuba

Recently, the European Union (EU) has gradually established closer diplomatic ties with the Cuban government, especially after the transition of power from Fidel Castro to his brother Raul almost a year ago. The latest news is that the EU invited Cuban officials to meet in Brussels as way of opening a “new dialogue” with the Castro regime. Despite disagreements between several EU states over how far to normalize relations with the island, the EU itself has feels that the transition of power makes up “a new situation.”

  • So what do you think?
  • Is the EU correct in getting closer to Cuba’s government?
  • Is it too soon to try to normalize relations or is the time just right?
  • Does it represent a step forward or backward compared to the U.S.’ continued hard-line stance?
  • Will the EU goes as far as Spain’s recent overtures towards the Cuban government or will they hold back?

Let us know what you think by commenting to this post and/or voting on the poll located on the sidebar. (Poll closes next Monday, June 25th).

Sources- BBC News, The Latin Americanist, International Herald Tribune, Reuters, CNN

Image- Safe Democracy Foundation

Daily Headlines: June 19, 2007

* For the fifth consecutive year a survey named Asuncion, Paraguay (image) as the world’s least expensive city.

* Recently freed Colombia guerilla “diplomat” Rodrigo Granda will travel to Cuba with the hope of negotiating a humanitarian deal.

* Vilma Espin- the wife of Cuban president Raul Castro- died yesterday at the age of seventy-seven years.

* A recent poll showed that 56% of respondents support Jamaican prime minister Portia Simpson Miller, yet 61% feel that the country is going in the “wrong direction.”

Sources- Angus Reid Consultants, Yahoo! News, Guardian UK

Image- Don Quixote

Monday, June 18, 2007

Quote of the Day: Fidel and the U.S. “invasion”

Today’s quote of the day comes from Fidel Castro in an editorial published today in Granma:

Cuba will continue developing and perfecting the combat capacity of its people, including our modest but active and efficient defensive weapons industry, which increases our ability to face the invader wherever he is found.”

Castro referred to the possibility of U.S. involvement in overturning the current regime to “install a direct imperial administration.”

Source- Bloomberg

Image- CNN

Argie golfer Cabrera triumphs in U.S. Open

Earlier today we congratulated race car driver Lewis Hamilton, but surely the biggest sports story from the weekend involving Latin America was Argentine golfer Angel Cabrera’s victory in the U.S. Open. The 37-year-old became the first Argentine to win the prestigious tournament by one stroke over Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods.

What was Cabrera’s secret weapon for winning? Try tobacco:

“‘Some players have psychologists, sportologists. I smoke,’ Cabrera said. ‘I usually smoke 8 to 10 in a round. This round was not special in terms of number.’”

Cabrera’s win + Manu Ginobili playing for the NBA champs + Boca Juniors’ possible Copa Libertadores title = a very good week for Argentine sports

Sources (English)- The Latin Americanist, Voice of America, Bloomberg, Deadspin

Sources (Spanish)- Olé, La Nacion


Haiti, Guatemala amongst world’s most “failed states”

Foreign Policy revealed its annual list of the most unstable countries in the world and a few states from the Americas were not exempt from the list. Haiti was ranked in 11th due to being “wracked by extreme poverty, lawlessness and urban violence.” The “narcoterrorist insurgency” in Colombia was influential in placing that country in 33rd place, and rounding out the worse of the worse was Bolivia (59th) and Guatemala (60th).

The list of the 60 most “failed states” can be read here; Sudan, Iraq, and Somalia claimed the top 3 spots.

Image- UNCDF

Sources- Foreign Policy

Scientists claim Amazon River is world's longest

The Amazon River crosses through four South American countries and is considered to be the world’s largest river based on water volume. However, a study conducted by a group of Brazilian scientists claims that the Amazon is the world’s longest river, not the Nile.

Scientists from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics concluded that the start of the Amazon is high atop southern Peru’s Mismi Mountain. Thus, it would add nearly 200 miles to the length of the river and make it 65 miles longer than Egypt’s Nile River.

Sources- Wikipedia, FOX News,


Video shows Colombian prez meeting with paramilitary leader

A video dated from “October 2001” shows Colombian president Alvaro Uribe shaking hands and meeting with a right-wing paramilitary leader nicknamed “Commandant Esteban.” Despite Uribe’s repeated denials of meeting with paramilitaries, the video shows him briefly with “Esteban” in a video was taken in the midst of presidential campaigning in Colombia.

Part of the video can be seen below as was reported by Colombia’s Noticiero Uno (via YouTube). According to the report, the video was sent to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice by a U.S. attorney, and will be shown later this week to senior Democratic and Republican legislators. Aside from showing Uribe meeting with “Esteban” the video also shows a 2000 “graduation” where local politicians pledge their alliance to Colombia’s largest paramilitary group.

Update: A press release from the Colombian government this afternoon denied that Uribe "asked or received (campaign) funds from drug traffickers or paramilitaries." (Spanish-language link via El Diario/La Prensa).

Sources- CBS News, YouTube

Daily Headlines: June 18, 2007

* Congrats to British Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton (image); the 22-year-old rookie of Guyanese background won his second straight race yesterday in Indianapolis.

* U.S. television network NBC confirmed plans to produce Spanish- and English- language versions of successful Colombian telenovela "Sin Tetas No Hay Paraiso" ("Without Breasts There Is No Paradise").

* First it was Evo Morales. Then it was Hugo Chavez. Now it’s Daniel Ortega who becomes the third Latin American president in less than two weeks to visit Fidel Castro.

* “(Venezuela) is a country where economic problems are mounting and we are seeing (that) on the political and press side it's not moving in a healthy direction,” said nominee for the World Bank presidency Robert Zoellick.

* Vigilantism led to the death of three people in Guatemala who were accused of the kidnapping and murder of a nine-year-old girl.

Sources- ABC News, Miami Herald, CNN, The Latin Americanist, AHN

Image- Sydney Morning Herald