Saturday, September 29, 2007

Event: “True Life: I Live on The Border”

I confess that I should’ve mentioned this before since it’s an event that will happen less than 90 minutes after this post is published.

Today at 5pm MTV and MTV Tr3s will air a new season of its documentary series “True Life” with a look at life along the U.S.-Mexico border. “True Life: I Live on The Border” examines the relationships, difficulties, and experiences of three youth that live along the U.S.’ southern border.

In case you miss today’s airing of “True Life: I Live on The Border” you can:

Sources- MTV,, iFilm

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Week That Was: the U.N. General Assembly

This past week global leaders converged at the United Nations headquarters in New York for the 62nd session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA). With few exceptions most Latin American leaders were present for the UNGA, and here’s what some of them had to say in their speeches:

  • The Nicaraguan, Brazilian, and Bolivian heads of state expressed support of Iran’s government during their respective speeches. Daniel Ortega accused the U.S. of hypocrisy and of acting “as if they were God” in its relations to other countries. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said that Iran should not be punished over “suspicions” of building an atomic bomb, while Evo Morales cited Bolivia’s “economic situation” to justify its relationship with Iran. (The latter explains Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad‘s visit to Bolivia yesterday).
  • On the other hand, Argentine President Nestor Kirchner scolded Iran for not cooperating with a legal probe investigating the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center. Despite being warned by the Iranian government not to speak out on the issue, Kirchner requested the Ahmadinejad administration “to fully provide all the help requested by the Argentine judicial system”.
  • “Migration is not, has not been, and should not be considered a crime or a menace,” declared Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya as he urged the U.N. to include migration in its development agenda.
  • Colombian President Alvaro Uribe supported a plan by Hugo Chavez to have U.S. congressmen join hostage negotiations yet oddly remarked that “there are no paramilitaries” in Colombia.
  • George W. Bush has “no moral authority or credibility to judge anyone,” declared Cuban foreign minister Felipe Perez Roque. Perez Roque’s critique came one day after Bush assailed the Cuban government during his speech.
  • Haitian President Rene Preval praised the U.N.’s peacekeeping work in his country and credited the international aid with bringing increased stability to Haiti.
  • A new “global political consensus” is needed to address the issue of climate change, warned Chilean president Michelle Bachelet during her remarks.
  • El Salvadoran President Elias Antonio Saca expressed his support for Taiwan to be allowed to determine its own future.

Image- Kotaku

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Voice of America,, Associated Press, People’s Daily Online, BBC News, Reuters UK, Bloomberg,

Video of the Day: The halcyon days of 1980s cartoons

Recently wrote on the worse Saturday morning cartoon adaptations which ranged from MC Hammer to Hulk Hogan. Its review also included a little-known cartoon on a 1980s fad- the Rubik’s Cube.

Even less known are the guardians of the titular cube as well as who sang the overly sweet theme:

“Rubik was dependent on three Hispanic children who discovered him after he fell out of an evil wizard’s stagecoach. Also boasting a theme song performed by a pre-Ricky Martin Menudo, Rubik was surprisingly Hispanic-friendly (Or maybe it wasn’t--each episode revolves around the efforts of a trio of young Hispanic thieves to keep the cube’s rightful owner from recovering his property, evil wizard or not).”

Hence, here’s the theme to the short-lived cartoon “Rubik, the Amazing Cube” (video link):

Sources-, YouTube

Daily Headlines: September 28, 2007

* Thieves broke into the Buenos Aires home/office of film director Francis Ford Coppola and stole several personal belongings including a laptop containing the screenplay of his latest film.

* Tropical Storm Lorenzo is expected to strengthen into a hurricane before hitting the Mexican coast early on Friday.

* Guatemala's national police chief quit after two policemen were arrested for killing five youths.

* Venezuelan oil workers demanding better working conditions clashed with police on Thursday.

* Follow-up: Ana Paula de Oliveira- a female Brazilian soccer referee who posed in Playboy several months ago- will be banned from officiating after missing a crucial physical exam. (Later today we'll discuss yesterday's upset of Brazil over the U.S. in the semis of the Women's World Cup).

(Hat tip: The Offside).

Image- Sydney Morning Herald

Sources- The Offside, The Latin Americanist, Mathaba, Monsters & Critics, Reuters, Houston Chronicle, Reuters UK

Thursday, September 27, 2007

News briefs on immigration

* U.S. immigration officials revealed a new citizenship exam that will be used starting in October 2008. The new test reduces the number of questions to study to 100 and will place a stronger emphasis on history and civics. One sample question asks what the U.S. flag represents rather than what colors it has.

* Attorneys for ten Hispanic immigrants filed a lawsuit against the city of Danbury, Connecticut over an anti-immigrant operation conducted by police. According to court documents nine of the men were arrested after undercover police posed as contractors and lured workers into a van.

* New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg expressed his opposition to a plan to give driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. Bloomberg said that the controversial plan would clash with federal ID requirements; thus rendering licenses as moot for airline travel or entering federal buildings.

* Pennsylvania Superior Court Justice Correale F. Stevens has raised eyebrows after participating at a news conference calling for stronger anti-immigrant laws. “He definitely crossed the line,” said Robert Nix- chairman of Pennsylvania’s Hispanic Republican Coalition- who added that the report on immigration released during Stevens’ appearance as “political opportunism” and “fear mongering”.

* Lastly, did you know that Mexicans are invading Canada? Sound the alarm! La Reconquista has headed way north of the border! (Video link):

Sources- Reuters,, WNYC, New York Daily News,, Lancaster Online, Associated Press,, Chicago Tribune, Wikipedia

Study: Hispanic prisoners vastly outnumber dorm students

The U.S. Census Bureau released a study today which found that for every Hispanic living in a college dorm almost three are imprisoned. Though the stats do not include students who reside off-campus, the data reveal that the prison population of Hispanics has grown since 1980 when the ratio favored dorm residents.

The study does not fare much better for blacks whose prison to dorm ratio is over 3 to 1.

Can anything be done to reverse this trend? Urban League president Marc Morial believes so even if politicians are not looking in the right direction:

Morial, who is a former mayor of New Orleans, said the political debate over high incarceration rates for minorities hasn't yielded results. He said conservatives blame a lack of family values while liberals blame a lack of government programs, with neither side seeing the whole picture.

"We do, in the African-American community, need to instill a stronger value on education," Morial said.

But, he added, minority students also need more early childhood education, longer school days, longer school years and more meaningful summer job opportunities.

"We need to get serious about true investment on the front end," Morial said.

The same study also found that the percentage of Hispanics in nursing homes is small compared to the overall population; a disparity which one expert noted as being mainly cultural since “Hispanics and blacks are more reticent about placing loved ones into a nursing home.”

(Hat tip: The Daily Dish).

Sources- USA TODAY – On Deadline, New York Times, Associated Press,, The Daily Dish

Image- plus magazine

Sao Paulo stock exchange index hits all-time high

Brazil’s Bovespa Index reached its highest point ever during trading this morning as it broke the 60,000 mark. Already this week the Bovespa has broke its record three times as the index has grown by over 35% this year.

Today’s historic gain represents recent growth in Brazilian stocks and its currency as investors have turned towards emerging markets, according to Reuters.

Yesterday Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva praised his country’s rapid economic growth though he noted that inflation needed to be curbed:

“We have to control inflation by all means,” Lula said. “We managed to combine the inflation control with economic growth, and created new jobs.”

Image- Bloomberg (Floor of the Sao Paulo Sock Exchange)

Sources- Bloomberg, Reuters, Reuters UK

Mexico City: 1,593 abortions since April

Nearly 1600 abortions have been carried out in Mexico City since the decriminalization of certain abortions, according to recent data. The information was presented during a forum by several nongovernmental organizations that have viewed as positive the decision made in April to allow abortions during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Despite the controversy surrounding the abortion issue, Mexican pro-choice advocates cite several advantages from the change in law:

“They mentioned that benefits include free and legal access to abortion services and the ability to access family planning.

Women from around the country can access services since residency requirements are not asked for. Thus, women from outside Mexico City make up 20% of those that have sought such services.”

Sources (English)- The Latin Americanist, BBC News

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

Image- International Herald Tribune (“Pro-abortion activists demonstrated before the watershed vote by Mexico City's legislature”)

Daily Headlines: September 27, 2007

* A recently released report claimed that a whopping 61% of Hispanics under the age of 65 in the U.S. have gone without health insurance during some part of the last two years.

* Former Bolivian president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada is being sued in the U.S. for “crimes against humanity.”

* An Argentine court approved that a sex change operation can be performed on a minor.

* Here’s an uncomfortable mental image: “Jailed former President Alberto Fujimori will be allowed…twice-monthly conjugal visits as he awaits trial.”

Sources- UPI,, Monsters & Critics, BBC News

Image- El Diario/La Prensa

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Spanish PM, royals attend funeral of nationalized soldier

Numerous Spanish dignitaries including King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia were present at a state funeral for two soldiers killed during an explosion in Afghanistan. One of the dead troops honored was 20-year-old Stanley Mera (image) who was originally from Ecuador, and held dual citizenship from that country and Spain.

Prime Minister, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero arrived just in time from the U.N. General Assembly meetings in New York. Most of Mera’s family from Ecuador did not have the same luck, however, as immigration issues delayed their arrival in Spain for the state funeral.

Despite the tragedy, Spanish Defense Minister José Antonio Alonso affirmed that the army will stay in Afghanistan in order to "bring security for reconstruction."

Troops of Latin American background make up 5% of Spain’s armed forces ever since the government started its campaign in 2003 to recruit legal immigrants for combat.

Sources (English)- AFP, Typically Spanish, Expatica Spain

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

Image- El Diario/La Prensa

Chilean gov’t optimistic over economic growth

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet expressed hope that her country’s economy will continue to grow, according to a speech she gave on Wednesday. “The Chilean economy has never been more stable” said Bachelet who added that she didn’t believe that external financial problems would seriously hurt Chile’s economy.

Bachelet’s optimism may be well-founded after the International Monetary Fund released its report on Chile. Despite prognosticating slower growth in 2008, the report concludes that Chile’s economy is secure enough to survive any “external shocks”:

“Owing to strong institutions and sound economic policies, Chile has experienced two decades of economic stability and increasing living standards.”

Sources- Reuters, Bloomberg


Border Patrol car stolen, driven to Mexico

This story is goofy, but far too funny to pass up.

On Sunday a trio of Mexican teens detained for drug smuggling broke free, stole a U.S. Border Patrol vehicle, and drove it to Mexico. Mexican authorities were able to relocate the vehicle without its temporary occupants who apparently have not been caught.

And how was the vehicle stolen in the first place?

"As the agent was doing his search, he left the vehicle running and the keys in the ignition, so one of the lads, still wearing handcuffs, grabbed the steering wheel and they headed back to Mexico," a police spokesman said.

No further comment necessary.

Sources- San Jose Mercury News, Reuters

Image- CNN

Hugo Chavez chooses hostage talks in Caracas over U.N.

It was a year ago when Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez attended the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA), and chose to use his speech to rail against U.S. President George W. Bush. (I.e. Bush was “the devil” and the podium reeked “of sulfur” after Bush’s speech.)

This year Chavez has different priorities in mind and opted not to attend this month’s UNGA. Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro will represent the Venezuelan delegation since Chavez his absence was due to “a scheduling conflict”.

In the meantime, the Venezuelan leader has stayed at home to take care of matters such as meeting with the relatives of three U.S. contractors held hostage by Colombian rebels (image). Chavez has volunteered to serve as a mediator between Colombia’s government and rebels, and called for Bush to help with negotiations:

“The government of the United States can help, a lot…There are no political colors or ideologies here. President Bush, I hope he can help us.”

In response to Chavez’ comments, Colombian president Alvaro Uribe- a close ally of Bush- said that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice approved the possible involvement of a group of U.S. congressmen in the mediation.

On Monday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that Chavez will visit the European country in November in order to discuss the hostage situation. Sarkozy himself has become involved in mediation, particularly due to the over five years in captivity of Franco-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg, AFP, CNN, People’s Daily Online, Reuters, Expatica France

Image- Prensa Latina

Quote of the Day: Evo’s humble plea

“Please don't consider me part of the axis of evil.”

--Bolivian president Evo Morales jokingly wished not to be lumped with the likes of Kim Jung Il during his appearance last night on “The Daily Show” (TDS).

As the Associated Press observed of the interview:

“Looking a bit stiff and speaking through a translator, Morales did not seem at first to understand some of (TDS host Jon) Stewart's jokes, delivering serious responses. But he gradually relaxed under gentle questioning from Stewart and a crowd that delighted in the leftist leader's indictments of Western capitalism and appeals for social justice.”

See Morales and Stewart discuss democracy, economics, coca, and other issues in the video below (video link):

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Associated Press, Comedy Central

Daily Headlines: September 26, 2007

* Argentine rockeros Soda Stereo added a second U.S. date to their reunion tour: Miami on December 5th. (They’re scheduled to play in Los Angeles on November 21st).

* Illegal drug use by Latino teens has gone up mainly due to “Hispanics' adoption of American cultural and lifestyle habits”, according to a White House report.

* Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will visit Bolivia and Venezuela later this week.

* The skeletal remains of 22 people “disappeared” during the reign of Augusto Pinochet were found in a lake outside of Santiago, Chile.

* Follow-up: Peruvian doctors denied allegations that recently extradited former president Alberto Fujimori is in “poor health.”

Sources (English)-,, Voice of America, The Latin Americanist, USA TODAY, Associated Press

Source (Spanish)- El Diario/La Prensa

Image- La Ultima

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

“Baby Doc”: Sorry for “wrongs” as dictator

In a speech recorded from Paris, exiled former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier apologized for any “wrongs” committed under his rule. “I solemnly take the historical responsibility ... to request forgiveness from the people” said Duvalier who also called for support to his fringe political party which is run by handful of supporters in Haiti.

Some victims of Duvalier’s harsh 15-year dictatorship have not been so tolerant of his quasi-apology:

Bobby Duval, a former soccer star who was starved and tortured while locked up for 17 months under the Duvalier regime for speaking out against human rights abuses, said it was the first time he could recall the former dictator apologizing for his regime's atrocities – but said it did not go far enough.

“He killed thousands of people, stole money and destroyed the psyche and heart of a people. This guy should be in jail and I'm just waiting for him to come back so that can happen,” said Duval, who now runs a sports outreach program. “I don't accept his apology.”

Sources-, Hardbeatnews,

Image- BBC News

Mexico: Magazine pics lead to Fox’s investigation

Mexico’s congress will establish a commission to investigate former president Vicente Fox after magazine photos showed the opulence of his ranch home. The pics from the latest edition of Quien magazine showed extensive renovations to his estate which were done after he came into power in 2001:

“The photo feature showed the former president and his wife in a variety of poses around their luxurious home and grounds in the central state of Guanajuato.

Older photos of the hacienda began to appear which seemed to show it was a fairly modest residence when Vicente Fox came to power.”

Opposition politicians and commentators question how Fox paid for the changes to his home after he spent almost all his savings on running for office. Despite Fox’s time as a Coca-Cola executive before the presidency, his detractors speculate he may have abused his power.

Sources- People’s Daily Online, BBC News, Forbes, Bloomberg

Image- (Vicente Fox and his wife overlook construction of his presidential library)

Video of the Day: “The Shock Doctrine”

Acclaimed Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron produced a short film currently making the rounds at several films fests: “The Shock Doctrine.” The movie bases itself on a book by political activist Naomi Klein of the same name which suggests that corporations and governments exploit disasters in order to institute extreme economic policies.

Foreign Policy’s blog describes the film thusly:

“Given the participants, it's a bit disappointing at first to see Michael Moore-style use of period stock footage. But this film, which was actually directed by Cuarón's son Jonas, is really far slicker and subtler than anything Moore has done…Cuarón pulls off a particularly daring Kuleshov by interspersing facts about various privatization schemes with images of electrocutions and Abu Ghraib-style torture illustrations as well as scenes of devastation and violence. The facts and figures go by too fast to really process but what sticks in one's mind is the association between free market ideas, catastrophes and torture.”
Interested in watching? Below is a YouTube clip of “The Shock Doctrine” where you can judge for yourself if Klein/Cuaron is on to something or not (video link):

Sources- Wikipedia, The Daily Reel, YouTube, Foreign Policy Passport

Cuban delegation leaves during Bush’s U.N. speech

Cuban diplomats walked out in the middle of U.S. president George W. Bush’s speech at the U.N. General Assembly earlier today. During the discourse, Bush denounced Cuba’s government and proclaimed that the “long rule of a cruel dictator is nearing its end”.

Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque justified having left the General Assembly hall while Bush was speaking:

“(Leaving the session) was a "sign of profound rejection of the arrogant and mediocre statement by President Bush."

As we mentioned last Thursday, Cuban and U.S. diplomats have increased the rhetoric over the 45-year-old U.S. embargo on the island; Perez Roque claimed that Cuba has lost $89 billion in lost trade due to the blockade while U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez called the embargo a “resounding success”.

Image- Guardian UK (Cuban media released a photo over the weekend of Fidel Castro meeting on Saturday with Angola’s president)

Sources (English)- The Latin Americanist, Guardian UK, AFP

Source (Spanish)- El Diario/La Prensa

Event: Evo on “The Daily Show” tonight

Leaders from around the world have converged this week in New York City for the latest session of the U.N. General Assembly. While much attention has been paid to yesterday’s speech by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, other heads of state including several from the Americas will be doing their share of public appearances in the “Big Apple.”

Bolivian president Evo Morales will be making a guest appearance tonight on "The Daily Show." Morales will be only the second sitting head of state to guest on the show and according to Reuters his interview will be conducted in a unique manner for their program:

“In a first for "The Daily Show," Stewart will conduct his interview of Morales through an interpreter, who will translate the host's questions from English to Spanish and the Bolivian leader's answers from Spanish back to English, a network spokesman said.

Last night, Morales touched on several controversial topics during a speech at Cooper Union such as coca leaf production and Bolivia’s relationship with Cuba and Venezuela.

Sources- Reuters,, Washington Square News

Image- (Evo Morales being satirized during a 2006 broadcast of “The Daily Show”)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Video of the Day: "How to be a Revolutionary" by Woody Allen

Note: Sorry for the lack of posts on Monday. We'll try to make up for that during the rest of the week.

In the meantime, here is a clip from the 1971 movie "Bananas" where the protagonist played by Woody Allen trains with a faux-Latin American rebel faction. (Allen as a guerillero is not too far out of the realm of the imagination if you note that he's married to his "stepdaughter").

(video link):

Tags- YouTube, Wikipedia

Sports briefs

* A fantastic 76th-minute strike by Cristiane pushed Brazil into the semifinals of the Women’s World Cup after beating Australia 3-2. Despite the Aussies’ comeback from an early 2-0 lead, it will be Brazil and its top goal scorer Marta who will play against top-ranked U.S. on Thursday.

* WTF?! Photos were released last week depicting boxer Oscar de la Hoya wearing fishnets, pumps, and in other deeply disturbing and effeminate positions. Lawyers for de la Hoya claim that the pics are fake and are trying to stop them from being distributed though a “friend”/stripper says that they are real.

(Real or fake? Click here at your own discretion.)

* Cuban baseball player Alexei Ramirez plans to defect to the Dominican Republic after traveling to the country on a tourist visa. Ramirez’ agent claimed that about six Major League teams want to sign the former leader in home runs for the Cuban league.

* The annual Gay World Cup started this weekend and for the first time it was hosted by a Latin American city. Buenos Aires, Argentina is cementing its reputation as a “gay destination” by having the tourney featuring 28 teams from around the world.

Image- AFP

Sources- Xinhua, USA TODAY, Guardian UK, Bloomberg, ESPN, Dominican Today, Deadspin,, Guanabee, National Ledger

Daily Headlines: September 24, 2007

* Follow-up: Ex-president Alberto Fujimori arrived at a Peruvian military base on Saturday about 36 hours after Chile’s Supreme Court permitted his extradition for trial.

* Congrats to Mexican actress/producer Salma Hayek who gave birth to her first child- a baby girl named Valentina Paloma Pinault- last week.

* A group of 35 Palestinian refugees from Iraq arrived in Brazil on Friday as part of a special joint program by the Brazilian government and the U.N.

* Argentina’s Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo continue to seek justice for thousands of those “disappeared” during the Dirty War, yet they have also spearheaded projects for the country’s poor.

* Immigration advocacy groups in Rhode Island will join others in California to boycott Western Union over high money transfer fees.

* The government of Ecuador plans to set up an immigration program that would facilitate the return of migrants abroad while giving them more political rights.

Sources (English)- The Latin Americanist, Sydney Morning Herald, MSNBC, Providence Journal, Associated Press, AFP

Source (Spanish)- El Diario/La Prensa

Image- Christian Science Monitor