Friday, December 7, 2007

Bloggers of the world unite!

Last month Foreign Policy’s blog linked to a website where you can check supposedly find out the minimum “level of education needed to understand (one’s) blog.” Naturally, the post made us curious as to the readability of the blogs located on our Blogroll. Thus, here is how some of them rate in terms of their readability according to “The Blog Readability Test”:


College (Postgraduate)

College (Undergraduate)

High School

Junior High School

Where does your blog stand in terms of its readability? Click here and find out for yourself.

Sources- Foreign Policy Passport,, Bloggings by Boz, Global Voices Online, Hispanic Tips, La Onda Tropical, Latina Lista, Two Weeks Notice, Latin America News Review, Plan Colombia and Beyond, Tim’s El Salvador Blog, VivirLatino, Babalu Blog,, Guanabee, Chileno

Image- Nye Noona

Mexico City approves bill for terminally ill

Mexico City’s legislature unanimously backed a proposal that would allow terminally ill patients to refuse treatment. The bill also would permit terminally ill patients to donate their organs and allow specific cases where families of patients could object to treatment.

The proposal is expected to be signed by Mayor Marcelo Ebrard. Unlike other laws (e.g. decriminalizing abortion, gay civil unions) the bill has been supported by Mexico’s Catholic Church:

Surprisingly, the Catholic Church in Mexico did not object to the passing of the legislation, though it expressed concerns it could lead toward the legalization of euthanasia in the country.

Sources- AHN, Reuters, BBC News, UPI, The Latin Americanist

Image- ABC Online

Ecuador: Manta air base control to China?

The Ecuadorian government offered the U.S. air base in Manta, Ecuador to China once the contract with the U.S. military is done in 2009. According to a communiqué on the Ecuadorian presidential website last month, the government hopes that China accepts its offer as part of a “doorway” for the Asian country into Latin America:

It is not only Ecuador, which will benefit from the Chinese entry into Latin America. Brazil will likewise profit since Ecuador and Brazil inked an agreement building the Manta-Manaus link by rail. Aside from Terminales, other Chinese firms are interested in investing in the rail project. Ecuador also wants to connect highways with neighbors Colombia, Peru and Brazil.

The Manta base has been used by the U.S. Air Force's Southern Command for military operations, particularly counternarcotics missions. As part of renegotiating the contract with the U.S., Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa offered to extend the usage rights in Manta past 2009 in exchange for permission to build an Ecuadorian military base in Miami.

Sources- AHN, Reuters, Upside Down World, Business news Americas, The Latin Americanist

Image- Washington Post

Survey: Latinos prefer Democrats over GOP

A survey realized yesterday by the Pew Hispanic Center concluded that more Latinos in the U.S. prefer the Democrats over the Republicans. 57% of those polled either favor or are registered with the Democrats compared to 23% in favor of the GOP. One of the main reasons behind the increased loyalty of Latinos to the Democrats is the immigration issue; 41% of those polled believe that Democrats are doing a better job dealing with illegal immigration, compared to 14% who support the Republicans on that topic.

The survey concluded that any recent gains made by Republicans have suffered based on increased Latino support of the Democrats and disapproval of the Bush administration. One republican Latino politico expressed worry over the results:

A spokesman for the Republican National Committee, Hessy Fernandez, downplayed the study's findings. "Hispanic voters judge candidates based on where they stand on the issues, and the Republican Party is more closely aligned with Hispanics than liberals like Hillary Clinton," he said. The telephone survey, which ran through October and the beginning of November, indicates that most Hispanic voters, 41%, support Senator Clinton among the Democratic candidates. Among the Republican candidates, Mayor Giuliani stands out with 35%...

A former New York congressman who supports a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, Herman Badillo, said he was not surprised by the poll's results.

"If they keep this up, they're going to lose the Hispanic vote and that will guarantee that a Democratic candidate is going to win," Mr. Badillo, a Republican, said.

Sources- AFP, Associated Press, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, New York Sun

Image- U.S. News & World Report

Daily Headlines: December 7, 2007

* “I will have to leave power in 2013,” said Venezuelan ruler Hugo Chavez in a speech yesterday.

* The Dominican Republic cannot put up with more Haitian immigrants, said the country’s immigrating chief.

* Twenty percent of Latin Americans paid a bribe in exchange for a service, according to a study on corruption.

* Will Nicaragua nationalize its oil imports in the near future?

* Follow-up: Remember the Tom Tancredo ad on gangs and immigration? Apparently the ad may’ve been a bit underhanded.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Guanabee,, Voice of America, Dominican Today, BBC News

Image- Christian Science Monitor

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Video of the Day: Lobster bandidos

Perhaps the lobster was from Baja California?

(Video link):

Sources- Washington Post, YouTube

Cohen and Krauze opine on Venezuelan referendum

Amidst the avalanche of recent op/ed pieces highlighting Hugo Chavez’ “defeat” in Sunday’s constitutional referendum (exhibits A, B, C, D); two specific articles have caught our attention. Whether you agree with them or not, they analyze the situation from different angles and are a relief from so many articles that pretty much sound the same.

Roger Cohen’s piece in Thursday’s New York Times praises the referendum and its results as the epitome of democracy. The crux of Cohen’s argument is not Chavez himself but how the U.S. could learn from the referendum:

Venezuela’s democratic credentials are robust for Latin America — democracy has held since 1958 — but pale by U.S. standards. Yet there was a directness, meaningfulness and civic responsibility about the proceedings that make the early running in the American election look pitiful.

Bill Clinton’s latest whining about press coverage of his wife, Mitt Romney’s latest broadside on immigration, the various spins of the Iran intelligence volte-face, and the sterile who’s-got-more-God competition between candidates, look like the machinations of a disoriented power.

The United States needs a new beginning. It cannot lie in the Tudor-Stuart-like alternation of the Bush-Clinton dynasties, nor in the macho militarism of Republicans who see war without end. It has to involve a fresh face that will reconcile the country with itself and the world, get over divisions — internal and external — and speak with honesty about American glory and shame.

Leon Krauze’s very brief essay in PostGlobal blasted Chavez but expressed hope that moderate leftists can benefit from the referendum’s outcome:

More than a battle between left and right, Latin America has long been immersed in a struggle between chavismo, or old-fashioned populism, and chilenismo, or forward-looking, open social democracies. As several of the region’s intellectuals have pointed out, chavismo has been winning the fight mostly due to its Venezuelan patron saint’s oil-enriched coffers and the region’s weird fascination with revolutionary leaders – our infatuation with “Che-chic”, if you will. My hope is that Chavez’s loss – and his recent, demented outbursts against King Juan Carlos and Colombia’s president Uribe – will begin to expose the man for what he really is: a populist narcissist.

That could start some sort of domino-effect. Nothing could benefit Latin America’s transition more than for the region as a whole to have a solid, modern left.

What do you think?

Sources- New York Times, PostGlobal, International Herald Tribune,,,

Image- BBC News (Venezuelan wait in line to vote during Sunday’s constitutional referendum)

Arsenal captures Sudamericana title

No, we’re not referring to this Arsenal but Argentina’s Arsenal de Sarandi who captured this year’s Copa Sudamericana soccer championship. Though the final home-and-away series against Mexico’s Club America ended 4-4, Arsenal won the title by scoring more away goals. Martin Andrizzi’s goal in the 84th minute yesterday gave the championship to Arsenal; the first major title in the team's fifty year history.

Despite a great Sudamericana run, America failed to be the second Mexican team to win South America’s second-highest club tournament after Pachuca won over Chile’s Colo Colo last year.

This week was a very good week for lesser-known Argentine teams; aside form Arsenal’s victory, fellow Buenos Aires minnows Lanus won the domestic championship for the first time in their 92-year history on Sunday.

Sources-,, Canadian Press, VivirLatino, The Latin Americanist, Reuters UK


Ecuador: Soda Stereo not being investigated

Ecuadorian officials denied reports that Argentine rock legends Soda Stereo are being investigated for tax fraud. According to the Associated Press:

“We cannot speak of supposed fraud or anything less (than that) confirmed Carlos Marx Carrasco (director of Ecuador’s tax agency) to the AP…

He explained that all public concerts in the country are being looked at by the agency including promoters bringing in international acts to make sure that the proper amount of taxes are being paid. –[ed. Personal translation]

Earlier this week, reports circulated of Soda being supposedly probed after its contract to play in Ecuador reported a much lower payment price compared to other concerts in the Americas.

So far, Soda Stereo’s reunion tour has been an absolute success according to the mainstream press. The group’s latest appearance was on Monday and Tuesday in Miami; their tour continues in Peru this weekend and ends in Argentina in two weeks.

(Hat tip: daily dos).

Sources (English)- People en Español,, UPI

Sources (Spanish)- El Comercio, El Universal,

Image- Los Angeles Times

Daily Headlines: December, 6, 2007

Note: Apologies for the late headlines today.

* The Police drummer Stewart Copeland to Chilean President Michelle Bachelet: sorry for calling you way uglier than Argentine president-elect Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

* Venezuela is not a nuclear threat despite closer ties to Iran, said the International Atomic Energy Agency’s chief.

* Is the murder of a Mexican police chief related to the recent discovery of a cross-border drug smuggling tunnel?

* Russian President Vladimir Putin was invited to attend the Mercosur economic bloc’s summit later this month.

* Follow-up: A judge approved a settlement in a custody dispute involving a five-year-old girl’s Cuban biological father and her U.S. foster family.

Sources- Reuters Canada, Houston Chronicle, The Latin Americanist,, Associated Press, International Herald Tribune

Image- The Telegraph

Artists, Dancers, Actors, Writers Call on U.S. for Better Cultural Relationship With Cuba

A few weeks ago, people as varied as Gloria Steinem, Harry Belafonte, Jimmy Bosch, Cristina Garcia, Danny Glover, Sean Penn, Bonnie Rait, Bobby Sanabria, Carlos Santana and others sent a letter to President George W. Bush in support of another letter sent by Alicia Alonso, Prima Ballerina and Director of the Cuban National Ballet, and also Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The letter expressed the signatories' opposition to the administration's policies towards Cuba, saying they prevent cultural interchange between the U.S. and Cuba. The letter demands:
1. open a respectful dialogue with the government and people of Cuba in accord with established protocols supported by the community of nations;
2. end the travel ban that prevents U.S. citizens from visiting Cuba and allow for Cuban artists and scholars to visit the United States, thus eliminating the censorship of art and ideas, and
3. initiate, by working with appropriate members of Congress, a process that can result in the development of normal bilateral relations between our countries.

Digging Up the Dead in Ciudad Juarez

Mexican authorities are planning to exhume more than 4,000 unidentified remains of people buried in common graves in an effort to identify them using DNA samples. At least 180 other exhumations are planned in another Mexican city. The bodies are thought to have been buried between 1991 - 2005.
Rene Medrano, a spokesman for the Chihuahua state attorney general's office, said the bodies were being exhumed because state attorney general Patricia Gonzalez "wants to bring order and clarity to past police practices."
The exhumations are said to be not related to the countless unsolved murders of women in the area .

Source : CNN

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Video of the Day: Everybody panic!

If you take the Aztlan “threat” gibberish too seriously then you’ll probably fall for the following Tom Tancredo ad hook, line, and sinker.

(Video link):

(Hat tip: Wonkette).

Sources-, YouTube, Wonkette

Daily Headlines: December 5, 2007

* France is “inclined to discretion” regarding the negotiation of hostages in Colombia including Ingrid Betancourt (image), according to French ambassador Jean-Michel Marlaud.

* The Anti-Defamation League blasted Venezuelan authorities for a “raid” at a Caracas Jewish center over the weekend.

* A 17-year-old Argentine teen successfully underwent sex-change surgery months after a court okayed the procedure.

* Controversy at the Ecuadorian Consulate in Newark, New Jersey after a woman accused the consul of calling U.S. immigration authorities.

* Follow-up: Recently slain Mexican musician Sergio Gomez was unafraid to die according to an interview with one of Gomez’ band mates.

Sources (English)- Associated Press, Jerusalem Post, AFP

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

Image- Washington Post

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Video of the Day: The Jewish gauchos of Argentina

Tonight is the first evening of Hanukkah which is a holiday being celebrated by Jewish communities throughout the Americas. The following video highlights a predominantly Jewish community living in Entre Rios, Argentina.

(Video link):

Sources- YouTube, NY1,

Arizona: Birthright citizenship could be illegal

Arizonan voters could ban citizenship by birthright if an initiative is placed and passed by a November 2008 electoral ballot. The proposal- entitled the “Birthright Citizenship Alignment Act”- is a ploy against illegal immigration that would also obligate hospitals to check on the citizenship status of parents of newborn babies.

According to the Associated Press, critics of illegal immigration claim that birthright citizenship is unconstitutional:

Some critics of illegal immigration contend that the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment has been misapplied and was never intended to automatically grant citizenship to babies of illegal immigrants.

The constitutional provision was enacted after the Civil War and was meant to apply to former slaves, said Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa. “It has nothing to do with aliens.”

Meanwhile, Phoenix mayor Phil Gordon has appointed a panel that would consider changes in the city’s immigration policy. Gordon said that the panel was needed to revise an “out of step” policy though recent events may have accelerated his decision:

But Mr. Gordon, a Democrat, announced the change at a time when sentiment against illegal immigrants has intensified in Phoenix after the shooting death two months ago of a police officer, Nick Erfle, by an illegal immigrant. There have also been weekly protests at a furniture store whose owners have pressed the authorities to arrest day laborers who congregate there and who are believed to be in the country illegally.

Sources (English)-,, New York Times

Sources (Spanish)- El Universal


Report: L. America ranked low in education

A study on the education of 15-year-olds by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) ranked several Latin American countries as “below average.” The 2006 PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) surveyed 15-year-old students in 57 countries with a special emphasis on science. Students from Finland, Hong Kong and Canada topped the list of most proficient in science and Asia-Pacific states were among the best across the board.

Overall, the OECD noted that despite improvements and increased spending on education, some countries’ results were not too good:

Mexico and Greece saw significant improvements in mathematics performance between 2003 and 2006. However, across the OECD area as a whole learning outcomes have generally remained flat, while expenditure on education in OECD countries rose by an average of 39% between 1995 and 2004.

The PISA report also ranked students from Spain, Italy, and the U.S. as performing under average.

Sources- BBC News, Canadian Press,, OECD, Reuters UK, YLE News

Image- BBC News

News briefs – Brazil

* Brazilian trade officials blasted a U.S.-European Union proposal on free trade as “biased and protectionist”.

* A study concluded that the life expectancy of Brazilians has steadily increased to 72.3 years in 2006.

* A new HIV/AIDS prevention campaign will start early next year consisting of placing condom dispensing machines in one hundred public schools.

* Much has been made of immigration into the U.S., but more Brazilians are making the trek back to their homelands according to this article.

* In the world of sport:

Sources-, Xinhua, Reuters UK, International Herald Tribune, AHN

Image- Orlando Weekly

Senate considering Peru, Colombia free trade pacts

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote today on a bilateral free trade agreement with Peru. The agreement had previously been approved by the House of Representatives by an ample margin last month and is expected to be passed by the Senate despite opposition from some Democrats such as presidential hopeful John Edwards.

Update: The Senate approved the free trade pact with Peru by a vote of 77-18.

More resistance is anticipated for the U.S. free trade agreement with Colombia, however. President George W. Bush has supported the deal by claiming that it would “help promote regional stability” and counteract the influence of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. Critics of the pact have argued that Colombia’s labor rights record needs improvement:

President George W. Bush wants Congress to vote on a free trade agreement with Colombia after it finishes work on Peru.

However, that deal is much more controversial because many Democrats feel Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has not made strong enough efforts to stop the murder of trade unionists and bring their killers to justice.

Sources (English)-, Living in Peru, BBC News, Reuters

Sources (Spanish)- Milenio

Image- Living in Peru

Mexico: Two popular singers killed

Two well-known musicians in Mexico were brutally slain over the past few days. Sergio Gomez- a member of the K-Paz de la Sierra band- was kidnapped and strangled to death according to police. Gomez (image, center) had been abducted on Sunday after he played a concert in the state of Michoacán after receiving death threats the previous day. Gomez’ dead body was found yesterday covered in bruises and burns.

Meanwhile, Zayda Pena- lead singer of Zayda y los Culpables- died on Saturday after she was attacked in hospital following a shooting. She was shot in the neck on Friday at a Matamoros motel after the gunman killed two others. Despite surviving that shooting, Pena’s life was snuffed out the following day as she tried to recover.

Sadly, the murders of Gomez and Pena are not the only ones of Mexican musicians this year:

At least eight musicians have been killed in Mexico this year, including performers of the popular northern "Narcocorrido" music whose lyrics often focus on drug trafficking and violence.

Michoacán has made headlines this year for drug-related violence, as traffickers fight over routes to transport drugs north. K-Paz's songs, however, did not deal extensively with drug trafficking. Pena's songs were mostly romantic ballads.

Sources- Reuters, BBC News,, Canadian Press, Washington Post

Image- Washington Post

Daily Headlines: December 4, 2007

* Chile’s annual telethon for disabled children raised $26.2 million including over $4000 from a one-of-a-kind source.

* Cuba is the only country in Latin America that will fulfill the Millennium Development Goal on universal education said UNESCO.

* Ecuador’s Navy is gradually taking control of the country’s state-owned oil company.

* Most second and third generations of Latino immigrant families in the U.S. speak Spanish “very well”, according to a study by the Pew Hispanic Center.

* Follow-up: Nearly three out of four Mexicans in a recent poll praised president Felipe Calderon for his quick reaction to the devastating floods in Tabasco.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Reuters UK, Bloomberg, Xinhua,, The Santiago Times, New York Times

Image- Noticias Lajino (2006 Chilean “Teletón” symbol)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Video of the Day: Equality and the disabled

In honor of Monday being the International Day of Disabled Persons, today's VOTD is a unique Colombian public service announcement.

(Video link):

Sources- United Nations Enable, YouTube

Haitians disappointed over AIDS study

In October a report was released alleging that AIDS had been spread via Haiti in the late 1960s and not from a gay Canadian flight attendant in the early 1980s. According to one researcher Haiti served as a “stepping stone” for the spread of AIDS into the U.S. and subsequently “moved explosively around the world.”

The Haitian community has not taken the study lightly and the country’s government has even established a task force to look into the report. Haitian-American leaders have expressed their worry over Haitians being “scapegoated” over the study’s findings. Rapper Wyclef Jean even gave his two cents over the report which he was none too pleased about:

"World AIDS Day (December 1) is an opportunity to evoke the progress and challenges that Haiti must confront in order to fight this epidemic, but also the recent news that unjustly targeted our country and showed serious prejudice," he said in a statement released by his foundation, Yele Haiti.

So far the press has not reported a response by Worobey or by other authors of the report.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, The Telegraph, AFP, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Image- New Zealand Herald

Evo and Ortega should be careful say opposition

In the aftermath of Sunday’s Venezuelan constitutional referendum, opposition groups in Nicaragua and Bolivia have warned their leaders of exercising caution with their policies. Former Nicaraguan presidential candidate Eduardo Montealegre said that President Daniel Ortega should learn his “lesson” from yesterday’s elections though one government official praised Chavez for “not giving up.”

While Bolivia’s own constitutional assembly continues their meetings, opposition factions see Chavez’ defeat as one for president Evo Morales. One politician observed that:

'These totalitarian projects - the moves to prolong mandates and re-election for life, what Chavez sought, and also what Evo Morales seeks - are not going to prevail,' constituent assembly member Jose Antonio Aruquipa told Bolivian television.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Monsters & Critics, Prensa Latina

Image- Boston Globe

Beauty queen’s belongings not tainted says Puerto Rican police

Last week, Miss Puerto Rico- Ingrid Marie Rivera- alleged that she broke out in hives and her body swelled after her clothes and makeup were tainted by pepper spray. Rumors of “sabotage” grew as Miss Puerto Rico Universe pageant organizers stood by her side and she made several talk show appearances defending her claims.

Over the weekend, police forensics examiners concluded that there were no traces of pepper spray on her clothing or makeup. Though a spokeswoman of the island's Forensic Science Institute admitted that the outcome may’ve been affected by a delaying testing the items, police have become increasingly suspicious of Rivera:

"I guess she has a lot of explaining to do," police spokesman Stephen Alvarez said on Saturday.

Saying that he did not want his department used for purposes of publicity, Police Superintendent Pedro Toledo said he would investigate whether anyone provided false information to his detectives, which would be a felony.

The next Miss Universe pageant will be held in July 2008 purportedly in Vietnam.

Sources- ABC News, FOX News,, International Herald Tribune, Reuters, Xinhua

Image- New York Daily News

Venezuelans vote “No” on constitutional changes

As we mentioned roughly twelve hours ago, a slim margin of Venezuelan voters opted to reject the constitutional reforms backed by President Hugo Chavez. Some sources cited exit polls taken Sunday night showed a victory for the pro-reformers, yet ultimately the “No” option won both voting options by roughly 2% in a referendum marked by abstentions and lack of violence.

In the U.S., a majority of Venezuelan expats voted against the reforms. According to “unofficial sources” at the consulate in Miami, nearly 99% of voters chose to vote “No.”

Past and present White House officials expressed their pleasure with the results of yesterday’s referendum. Former Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld came out of the woodwork to warn that a Chavez win would’ve signaled the end of “the few remaining vestiges of Venezuelan democracy.” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino was a little more tempered in her remarks which alluded to the RCTV controversy earlier this year:

Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters that Chavez's defeat "bodes well ... for freedom and liberty."

"It looks like the people spoke their minds," she said. "It was a close vote ... that's despite the opposition not being able to get out on TV and make its point."

Chavez was very graceful in defeat and he congratulated the opposition for their electoral victory. Sunday’s referendum served as the first “significant setback" to Chavez’ rule, yet he declared that it was a “temporary loss” and said he would find some other manner to introduce his constitutional changes.

Why did the referendum fail? According to the Christian Science Monitor:

Analysts say that many of the reforms on the ballot Sunday, including defining Venezuela as a socialist state, were too radical for some voters, and that an amendment to abolish term limits was seen as a power grab. Although he remains widely popular and opponents only won by two points, Venezuelans rejected a new Constitution that would have forged the way for him to become the most powerful leader in Latin America. Now his vision for the country will be limited by this defeat and a by new class of opposition that is emerging.

Sources (English)- Reuters Canada, Bloomberg, Christian Science Monitor, BBC News, The Latin Americanist, AFP, Reuters UK

Sources (Spanish)- RCN, El Universal

Images- BBC News (Hugo Chavez holds up miniature copies of Venezuela’s current constitution and the modified version he backed)

Daily Headlines: December 3, 2007

* Could Fidel Castro be returning soon to the Cuban presidency?

* If you’re an illegal immigrant that gets cancer treatment at the University of Texas Medical Branch then you may want to start looking elsewhere for help.

* Child kidnappings have spread across Haiti, warned UNICEF.

* Follow-up: "Here, we are living like the dead," wrote kidnapped Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt in a letter released on Friday along with videos of other hostages.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, AHN, Associated Press, Monsters & Critics, Guardian UK

Images- BBC News

Breaking: Venezuelans reject reforms, says electoral board

At around 1.10am Venezuelan time (roughly 40 minutes before publicating this post) Venezuela's national electoral board confirmed that a slim majority of voters chose to reject the constitutional reforms backed by President Hugo Chavez. With nearly 90% of the votes counted, Consejo Nacional Electoral president Tibisay Lucena declared the "non-reversible" victory by the "No" side by 50.70% to 49.29%. (The reforms backed by the Constitutional Assembly where rejected by 51.05% to 48.94%).

Chavez spoke shortly after Lucena's announcement and accepted defeat while congratulating the opposition.

More on the aftermath of Sunday's referendum coming up later today.

Sources (Spanish)- El Universal, RCN, El Tiempo, Consejo Nacional Electoral