Friday, November 16, 2007

Video of the Day: “Volver a Comenzar”

As we mentioned on Monday, Mexican rock quartet Café Tacuba will start the U.S. part of its tour with a concert tonight in Charlotte. The tour will last for exactly one month and will include stops in New York, Los Angeles, San Antonio, and Miami. Below is the music video for the complete version of “Volver a Comenzar”, which is one of the songs on their latest album entitled “Sino”.

Have a great weekend!

(Video link):

The short version of “Volver a Comenzar” can be seen here.

Sources-, The Latin Americanist, YouTube

News briefs - Immigration

There have been many news stories centering on immigration this past week. Here are some of them:

Image- BBC News

Sources- MSNBC,, The Daily Dish, MSNBC – First Read,, AHN, Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, Guardian UK, Associated Press, Gothamist, VivirLatino, New Zealand Herald

Is Brazil seeking nuclear weapons?

In a press conference yesterday, Brazilian Defense Minister Nelson Jobim rejected allegations that the government wants to build nuclear weapons. Brazil’s plans “aren't for a nuclear bomb, that's just nonsense,” said Jobim which contradicted a Brazilian General who said that nuclear weapons would be necessary.

However, Jobim justified the need to launch a nuclear submarine based on the recent discovery of a massive offshore oil field:

"When you have a large natural source of wealth discovered in the Atlantic, it's obvious you need the means to protect it," Nelson Jobim said Thursday at a defense conference in Rio de Janeiro.

A Council on Hemispheric Affairs report published last month criticized Brazilian President Ignacio Lula da Silva for wanting to build a “trophy military weapon”.

Image- BBC News

Sources- Council on Hemispheric Affairs, Bloomberg, The Latin Americanist, Associated Press

Fidel backs Chavez in Venezuela-Spain tiff

Convalescing Cuban leader Fidel Castro defended Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez over remarks made between him and Spanish leaders during a summit on Saturday. According to a report by Reuters:

“Saturday, Nov. 10, 2007, will go down in history ... as the day of truth ... an ideological Waterloo,” Castro said…

“There has never been a dialogue like that between heads of state and government, almost all of whom represented countries plundered for centuries by colonialism and imperialism,” Castro said, adding, “nothing else could have been more enlightening.”

Meanwhile, relations between Spain and Venezuela have been strained in the days since the controversial exchange. On Wednesday, Chavez said that he was “conducting a detailed review” of diplomatic and business ties between both countries. Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos replied yesterday that Spainwill defend its interests” while trying to bring “a swift resolution” to the row.

Sources- Bloomberg,, The Latin Americanist, AFP, Voice of America


U.S. legislators critique “Plan Mexico”

Some members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee expressed their doubts over a major U.S. counternarcotics strategy for Mexico dubbed “Plan Mexico.” During the session on Wednesday, assistant secretary of state Thomas Shannon praised Mexico’s government for their anti-crime efforts and emphasized how the aid would serve as “a new paradigm for security cooperation.” However, Democrat and Republican legislators on the committee did not entirely agree with "Plan Mexico":

"We first learned of the initiative from the media. For an administration which is not particularly noted for its bipartisanship, this cavalier disregard of congressional concern is deeply disturbing," said committee Chairman Tom Lantos (D-Burlingame)…

Twelve years ago, Lantos said, the U.S. gave 73 helicopters to Mexico. "They were used and did not work well, and we ended up with the Mexicans giving them back to us," he said.

Republicans focused on concerns about corruption.

"I read that two girls crossed the border for a concert and were kidnapped by the police and taken to the traffickers as a gift -- by the police," said Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.). "It's very worrisome for me that we're going to give them money and expect them to spend it correctly."

Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) displayed a photograph that he said showed traffickers dressed in Mexican military garb crossing the Rio Grande with AK-47s and "backpacks full of cocaine."

The Merida Initiative (a.k.a. the official name for “Plan Mexico”) cannot take effect unless it’s approved by Congress. If approved, “Plan Mexico” is expected to take three years and cost $1.4 billion.

Sources- Department of State, Los Angeles Times, IPS, Christian Science Monitor


Daily Headlines: November 16, 2007

* Coming soon to a Wal-Mart near you: Pollo Campero.

* Mexican golfer Lorena Ochoa (image) will be honored in a unique manner: she will host her own LPGA tournament starting next year.

* After many months of disagreements and delays, the controversial Botnia paper mill located near the Uruguay-Argentina border began production.

* Brazilian police often kill suspects before trial according to the U.N. special investigator on extrajudicial executions.

* Four multinational construction firms are bidding for the multibillion dollar contract to expand the Panama Canal.

Sources- The Latin Americanist,, Reuters, Voice of America,

Image- MSNBC

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Video of the Day: The lone Mexican hero

On tonight's episode of "Ugly Betty" the title character said that the only Mexican superhero is a "small mouse." (I'm slightly paraphrasing).

Hence, the perfect excuse for tonight's VOTD: the 1955 animated short "Speedy Gonzales."

(Video link):

Sources-, Wikipedia, YouTube

Iran bans Garcia Marquez’ latest book

The Iranian government banned publication of Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ latest novel despite having originally approved it. The first edition of “Memories of My Melancholy Whores” sold out in Iran last month, yet a backlash by Islamist conservatives led to the government’s about-face.

How did the book get published in Iran in the first place? Through a clever trick:

In their determination to get Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s highly acclaimed work into the bookshops, local publishers hit on an audacious ruse - they sanitized its title.

As a result, the normally vigilant gaze of culture and Islamic guidance ministry officials was averted when a novel by the Nobel prize-winning author innocuously titled Memories of My Melancholy Sweethearts was submitted and accordingly authorized for publication.

Image- The Daily Star

Sources (English)- CBC, AFP, Guardian UK

Sources (Spanish)- El Tiempo

Guantanamo ops manual leaked online

An operating manual for the Guantanamo prison camp was leaked onto the Internet via Dated March 2003, the 238-page text entitled “Standard Operating Procedures for Camp Deltaprovided details of how to handle prisoners:

The document prohibits abuse or corporal punishment but says new detainees should be held in near isolation for their first two weeks.

One section of the manual says some detainees should not have access to visitors from the International Committee of the Red Cross, something the US military has denied.

Precise instructions are given on how to search a prisoner's cell, and how to pepper spray an unruly detainee.

Four pages are taken up to explain how new prisoners should be taken off the plane they arrive on and transported to the main prison camp.

A U.S. military spokesman admitted that the manual was “authentic” though he added that it was also “out-of-date.” In addition, Army Lt. Col. Ed Bush said that the manual was unclassified yet “not intended for mass distribution.”

As a Reuters article points out accusations of abuse at the prison camp have been brought up by prisoners, human rights groups and even former military members who worked there.

Sources- BBC News, Associated Press, Reuters,,

Image- CBC

Bolivia: Strike cripples Santa Cruz airport

Bolivia’s busiest airport was shutdown on Wednesday after employees went on a one day strike. All flights at Viru Viru International Airport were cancelled as workers demanded two months back pay from the government. The government has frozen the wages while investigating alleged corruption at the airport.

The airport located in Santa Cruz was the site of incidents last month when thousands of locals overran the facility after the withdrawal of government troops. Santa Cruz has been the epicenter of disagreements between the federal government and local political factions.


Sources- The Economist, The Latin Americanist, International Herald Tribune, Xinhua

Chiquita sued again for abuses in Colombia

A class action lawsuit was filed in a U.S. federal court against banana firm Chiquita Brands based on the company’s role in the Colombian civil conflict. The plaintiffs represent 393 people who seek nearly $8 billion in damages against Chiquita who has been accused of paying off Colombia’s largest paramilitary group.

An attorney for the plaintiffs remarked the following after filing the civil suit on Tuesday:

"While Chiquita paid a fine to the United States government of $25 million, none of that money went to any of the victims," said attorney Jonathan Reiter.

"Chiquita has admitted to making payments to the AUC and now it should be held accountable by the families of people who were murdered by this organization.

The “fine” referred to by Reiter was the plea deal arranged by Chiquita and federal prosecutors in September; it absolved ten Chiquita executives while fining the company $25 million for hiring paramilitaries and guerillas to serve as “security’ in Colombia.

Sources- New York Times, AFP, Reuters, New York Daily News, The Latin Americanist, International Herald Tribune,

Image- The Mercury News

Major aftershocks rattle northern Chile

At least two powerful aftershocks shook northern Chile this morning. Two of the tremors measured 6.2 and 6.8 on the Richter scale and hit the same area that was knocked by a 7.7 magnitude quake yesterday.

Emergency aid has gradually arrived in the region and Chilean president Michelle Bachelet has vowed to help the affected area after she visited it this morning.

Yesterday’s tremor was strong enough to be felt 1400 miles away in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Also, the quake killed two and left 15,000 people homeless. Yet according to the Associated Press some Chileans took the incident in stride:

At a badly damaged restaurant Wednesday night, a dozen men drank beer by candlelight.

"What else can I do? I lost everything. So I'll just have a few drinks," said Samuel Araya, a 57-year-old miner in this town of 7,000 people.

Copper prices surged yesterday after production in mining-rich north Chile was affected by the earthquake.

Sources (English)- Bangkok Post, Reuters UK, the Latin Americanist, Guardian UK, Xinhua, New York Times, AFP, Associated Press

Sources (Spanish)- La Tercera

Image- Sydney Morning Herald (“Residents inspect a roof that collapsed on a car after an earthquake in Antofagasta, Chile”)

Daily Headlines: November 15, 2007

* “Give the Malvinas back Mr. Blair,” declared Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez in support of Argentina’s claims to the Falkland Islands.

* A study from researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health praised Brazilian anti-AIDS efforts including lowering the prices of medicines.

* Wal-Mart Mexico’s bank unit plans to offer more services and expand to approximately 100 branches by next year.

* The latest quarterly profits of telecom giant Telefónica rose by 39% mainly based on sales in Latin America.

* Follow-up: An Associated Press investigation found that the inhumane disposable of unwanted pets in Puerto Rico may more widespread than a mere incident months ago.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, USA TODAY – On Deadline, Bloomberg, International Herald Tribune, Associated Press

Image- ADN Boletin Digital (Road sign reading “The Falklands are Argentine”)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Chile Shakes

Around lunchtime today, a fairly strong earthquake hit Northern Chile. According to the New York Times, the quake measured 7.7 on the Richter scale. The center of the quake was located in the Atacama desert and caused understandable panic, power outages, damage to airport tarmacs and road closures., according to news reports. No deaths were reported, but there were injuries.
The tremor was considered “an earthquake of major intensity,” said Carmen Fernandez, director of the Office of National Emergency, according to a newspaper in Santiago, “Diario Financiero.”

Source : NYT

Image: Chile Fungi

Luis Miranda of Casa las Americas NYC Dies

Yesterday at 11:30am at St. Vincents Hospital in Manhattan, Luis Miranda, President of New York's "Casa De Las Americas" since 1987 passed. The Case de las Americas in NYC was founded in 1957, under the name Casa Cuba. It was a NYC base of support for the Cuban Revolution. From a 2003 Granma article:
Born in Havana in 1928 and resident in the United
States since 1948, Miranda affirms that the Cuban emigrant community, not by chance but with a thorough understanding, has defended the Revolution because it knows the Cuba of yesteryear where hunger, misery and prostitution were rife. "After the visit by Fidel and Juan Manuel, we began our struggle for the Revolution with the sale of bonds to fundraise and send money to Cuba," explains Miranda.
Casa has been at its current location, 14th St. and Sixth Avenue, for the last 34 years, after being forced to move a few times because of opposition to its presence and what it stands for. Miranda and Casa were often targeted by the U.S. Government and the anti-Castro Cuban exile community.
In 1960, an explosive device was planted in the Casa
that completely demolished the building. Another
exploded in the Casa de las Américas during the 26th
of July celebrations in 1978, breaking windows in
the entire block and causing major damage to the
In 1983, a device placed inside the Musical Academy
on 14th St. was deactivated. Later came another that
could have blown up the entire block. However, just
a few hours before, the police caught two terrorists
some who confessed to the crime and a further
explosion was prevented.
In 1960 when Fidel came to New York, a group
attacked us with sticks and chains on 125th St. They
struck me in the face and I almost lost an eye. They have attacked us so many times with every possible
type of weapon that both my hands are scarred from
those encounters.
"In 1978, I was shot in the hip. I was coming out of
a meeting in the Casa and someone fired from a
nearby building. We couldn't go to the authorities
because of all the lengthy explanations this would
involve and so the wound became infected.
"In 1982, whilst I was leaving the Cuban diplomatic
mission – when it was located on 67th St. and Park
Avenue – there was a couple on the street and the
woman came running towards me, crying out to me to
help her, but then she grabbed my arms. The man then
stabbed me with a knife. I managed to ward off the
blow but I was still wounded close to my heart. They
fled and with a lot of effort, I managed to get
myself to the house of a friend of mine, a doctor,
who put three internal and three external stitches
on the left nipple."

On Friday there will be a wake for Miranda then Miranda will be sent home, to his beloved Cuba, to be buried, as he wished.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Latin Americans, not locals, attend conference

An AIDS conference in the Durham Region of Ontario, Canada, is attracting more attendees from Latin America than from the host region.

The three-day conference has guests from Costa Rica and El Salvador, but local citizens and politicians have not yet become involved.

It's a good lesson in how to raise awareness right where you are -- read the article on the Durham Region’s Web site.

Latin American's invest $100 billion annually

The Latin Business Chronicle upends the idea that the U.S. government is subsidizing Latin America through the region's workers. Refuting the sentiment that immigrants steal U.S. jobs and then send money back to their home country, the article reports that wealthy Latin Americans invest $100 billion annually, keeping the U.S. economy rolling.

Get your business fix here.

Link: Latin Business Chronicle

Chavez nursing his wounds?

An interesting Time article about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez being told to "shut up" by Spain's King Juan Carlos. The story analyzes the president's reaction post-insult: was he hurt by the remark, or did he take it in stride?

Read more here.

Link and Photo: Time

Daily Headlines: November 13, 2007

* Hugo Chavez: Sexy beast.

* Ecuadorian immigrants in New York have mixed views of their homeland’s plan to attract migrants back.

* A study published yesterday showed that a fermented beverage created by Central American natives 3000 years ago may have been the catalyst for the drinking of chocolate.

* Over 100 U.S. businesses along with several state officials attended the Havana International Fair last week.

* Follow-up: A “Chicken Little” analysis of the recent local elections in Colombia, via the Washington Times.

Sources- Washington Times, The Latin Americanist, New York Times, Reuters, AFP, International Herald Tribune


Monday, November 12, 2007

De Musica Ligera: The return

It has been months since the last time we wrote our post exclusively on music. Let’s take a quick a look at some recent music news that has caught our attention:

* Dominican singer/songwriter Juan Luis Guerra was the big winner in last week’s Latin Grammy Awards after winning an award for each of his five nominations. Other award winners included Calle 13 and Pepe Aguilar, along with personal favorites Aterciopelados and Manu Chao.

Fellow contributor Maegan la Mala was at the event last Thursday in Las Vegas and she gave her two cents from the press room in this blog post.

YouTube: Juan Luis Guerra – “La Llave de Mi Corazon”

* Mexican rockeros Café Tacuba are set to begin a U.S. tour starting this Friday in Charlotte, North Carolina. In this brief interview, vocalist Emmanuel Del Real admits that their latest album is “more rock-oriented” than previous efforts and expressed pride at the group’s fans.

YouSendIt: Café Tacuba – Arboles Frutales

* An article from Billboard notes the change in music tastes in Spain as a result of the boom in immigration from Latin America to that country. For instance, music sales for Latin music have soared since Spain's foreign-born population uses cellular phones and roughly four out of five digital sales are done via cell phones.

YouTube: Alejandro Fernandez and Beyonce - “Amor Gitano”

* Another piece from Billboard notes that crossover Spanish-language hits in the U.S. have been far and few between. Moreover, the only songs that do crossover and become hits in the mainstream music scene are those that are “tied to an uptempo, easy-to-dance-to track” according to Leila Cobo.

YouTube: N.O.R.E. featuring Daddy Yankee - “Oye Mi Canto”

* Famed Brazilian musician Gilberto Gil is going to quit from his post as culture minister next year. Local media reports said that his resignation will be due to a polyp on his vocal cords which may sadly put a halt to his illustrious music career.

YouSendIt: Gilberto Gil – "Bat Macumba"

* Lastly, just for the hell of it, an ode to Mexican-American singer Hope Sandoval - Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You”:

Sources- YouSendIt, YouTube, Wikipedia, Associated Press, Wikipedia, Reuters, Scientific American, VivirLatino, Boston Herald

Illegals serve as drug runners says sheriff

An Ohio sheriff has come under fire over controversial remarks made about illegal immigrants and drugs. Butler County Sheriff Rick Jones posted a video on the sheriff’s website where he blames illegal immigrants for being paid to import drugs into the U.S.:

"The illegals are humping this ... over the mountains and bringing it from Mexico into the United States. Once they get across the border in these cities, they can go less than 100 yards and blend into the community. You don't know where they are," Jones said.

Jones’ remarks came after he visited the U.S.-Mexico border last month “to search for solutions to growing immigration problems back in Ohioaccording to one report.

Jones has not shied from controversy regarding immigration; in August, migration authorities detained over 160 employees of a chicken plant in Butler County and last year he called on President George W. Bush to grant local police the authority to arrest illegal immigrants. Jones’ policies have helped increase tensions in an area that has seen significant growth in immigrants- both legal and illegal- over the past decade.


Sources- Cincinnati Inquirer,, WKRC-TV, Reuters, American Chronicle, CBS News

Brazil to become major oil exporter?

Brazil is on the forefront of promoting biofuels as a viable energy source, yet the recent discovery of a massive oil field may change that a little.

Petrobras officials revealed last week the discovery of the offshore Tupi field which is expected to significantly boost the country’s oil reserves and perhaps lift Brazil to become one of the world’s top oil exporters. News of the find catapulted Petrobras stocks and has led to optimism over the future of Brazil's economy:

"If this is confirmed, we will no longer be a 'medium' country, pursuing self-sufficiency and exporting a little. It will transform the nation to another level, with exporting properties like Venezuela, Arab nations and others," said Dilma Rousseff, presidential chief of staff.

For a country that went deeply into debt buying foreign oil in the 1970s and '80s, "this has changed our reality," she said.

The Tupi find may serve as the impetus for Brazil joining OPEC according to the country’s president and attracted the attention of Venezuela who invited Brazil to form a regional energy alliance.

Sources- Bloomberg, Monsters & Critics, The Latin Americanist, UPI, CNN, International Herald Tribune, Times Online,

Image- New York Times (“The P-43 floating platform is near Macaé, Brazil, which is the logistical base for a cluster of 38 platforms.”)

Spanish leaders, Hugo Chavez exchange insults during summit

King Juan Carlos I of Spain told Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to “shut up” during Saturday’s closing session of the Ibero-American summit in Santiago, Chile. The king’s remarks came as Chavez tried to interrupt current Spanish P.M. Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero who insisted that Chavez show more diplomacy and respect for other leaders despite ideological differences.

(Video link):

Yesterday Chavez expressed his displeasure at the King’s outburst though he hoped that it would not hurt relations between Venezuela and Spain. Meanwhile, Spanish opposition head Mariano Rajoy blamed the spat on Rodriguez Zapatero’s foreign policy.

Other developments occurred during the three-day heads of state summit included:

Sources (English)- Bloomberg, Reuters UK, YouTube, BBC News, International Herald Tribune, Xinhua, Prensa Latina

Sources (Spanish)- El Diario/La Prensa

Daily Headlines: November 12, 2007

* Puerto Rican boxer Miguel Cotto received “a hero's welcome” on the island after successfully defending his WBA welterweight crown Saturday against Shane Mosley.

* The U.S. was one hour away from invading Haiti in 1994, remarked ex-defense secretary William Perry last week.

* Archeologists in northern Peru unearthed a 4000-year-old painting which may lead to vital clues on pre-Columbian culture of the region.

* Exit polls indicate that the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution won yesterday’s election for governor in the Mexican state of Michoacán.

Sources- International Herald Tribune, Xinhua, Bloomberg, Rocky Mountain News

Image- CBC Sports