Friday, December 28, 2007

Colombian hostage mission delayed, says Red Cross

An International Red Cross (IRC) spokesman said that the mission to free three hostages held by the country’s largest rebel group will be delayed. Earlier today, IRC representative Barbara Hintermann said that the organization won't conduct nighttime operations despite the arrival of two Venezuelan helicopters in anticipation of the operation.

The guerillas- known by the Spanish acronym FARC- announced last Tuesday their intention to free the trio of high-profile hostages including a politician and her son who was allegedly conceived with one of her captors.

Representatives from several countries are involved in the delicate mission including ex-Argentine president Nestor Kirchner and filmmaker Oliver Stone. Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has been key in the negotiations to release the hostages and said that the helicopters would fly out to get the hostages once he receives permission from the FARC.

The Colombian government has issued a deadline of 6:59pm on Sunday for the mission to be completed.


Sources (English)- Reuters Africa, AFP, The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg, Monsters & Critics

Sources (Spanish)- El Tiempo

Study: Gene mutation affects Latinas with cancer

A new scientific study found that Latinas with breast cancer are very vulnerable to a gene mutation common in certain Jewish women. The mutation on the BRCA1 gene is found in 8.3% of Ashkenazi Jewish women with breast cancer, according to the study, yet Latinas with breast cancer were the second highest group with the mutation.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and looked at over 3000 women in northern California. According to the report’s head author, the findings could help pinpoint which groups need the most help in terms of cancer prevention and treatment:

"The vast majority of breast cancer patients do not have a mutation in these genes," said Esther John, an epidemiologist and lead author of the study. "But if women have a mutation, they do have a very high risk of developing breast cancer. That's why it is important information in the family, because if a mother has the mutation, her daughters are likely to have the mutation as well" …

"It could very well be that when genetic testing is being focused on Hispanic women, that it should be focused on that mutation," said John, a research scientist at the Northern California Cancer Center.

Sources- UPI, Houston Chronicle, Reuters UK, San Jose Mercury News

Image- ABC News

Daily Headlines: December 28, 2007

* Cuba’s oil output “rose only slightly” this year yet fills nearly half of the country’s fuel needs, according to the state media.

* Over 70,000 handguns have been destroyed in Argentina as part of a special gun control program.

* Was there a plot to assassinate Hugo Chavez in Guatemala? The Venezuelan president thought so.

* Follow-up: “At no time did I order assassinations or disappearances” said former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori as his trial for human rights abuses continues.

Sources- Xinhua, Associated Press, Reuters UK, Houston Chronicle, AFP, The Latin Americanist

Image- MSNBC

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Wait a Minute Mitt Romney has Mexican Roots?

When Tom Tancredo dropped out of the presidential race, he threw his support behind Mitt Romney. An article posted on AlterNet reveals Mitt's Mexican connection.
Mitt Romney's father George was born in Chihuahua, Mexico in 1907, the son of Gaskell Romney and Anna Amelia Pratt. Three generations of Romneys lived in Mexico because Miles Park Romney, a polygamist, moved the family there in 1884 as it became increasingly clear that the U.S. government would not tolerate polygamy in the Utah Territory. The 1882 Edmunds Act stripped polygamists of the basic rights of U.S. citizenship, denying them the right to vote, serve on juries or hold office. Not dissimilar to current immigration raids, U.S. federal agents hunted and arrested polygamists. Polygamists were forced to leave the country or risk jail.
Mitt's grandparent's crossed back into the U.S. during the Mexican Revolution. But that hasn't made this candidate any softer on the immigration issue.

Source : AlterNet
Image Source : NY Press

A Not So Merry Navidad Gift for Puerto Rican Activists

Right before Christmas Eve some Puerto Rican (three according to some accounts) activists in NYC have been approached by agents of the Terrorist task Force in the New York City area. Some have been served with subpoenas to appear before a grand Jury in Manhattan on January 11th 2008. This linking of the Puerto Rican independence movement with terrorism is not a new one but it is a troubling one. Many feel that the subpoenas are an intimidation tactic aimed at scaring activists.

Daily Headlines: December 27, 2007

* Rescuers found a 12-year-old girl who survived for over two days in the Panamanian jungle after a plane crash killed her family.

* Colombia’s newest tourist attraction opened yesterday: a theme park built on the former estate of dead drug kingpin Pablo Escobar.

* Fidel Castro’s health continues to improve according to a speech by his brother, Cuban president Raul Castro.

* Follow-up: Nicaragua’s Supreme Court has started an investigation against the judges who overturned the conviction against Eric Volz.

Sources- Independent Online Edition, CNN, Guardian UK, The Latin Americanist, Associated Press

Image- ABC News (“Francesca Lewis, 12, is carried on a stretcher after being rescued from the jungle in the town of David, west of Panama City, Dec. 26, 2007. Francesca was found Tuesday walking near the wreckage of the plane in the 3,500-feet (1,067-meter) high, jungle-laden flanks of the Baru. (Arnulfo Franco/AP Photo)”)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Ecuador: President may pardon drug “mules”

During a speech given over the weekend, Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa proposed pardoning low-level drug smugglers commonly known as “mules.” Correa said that these and similar drug enforcement laws were drafted years ago under pressure from the U.S. and are unfair to the poor:

The current law "treats as the same the boss of the Cali cartel and a poor unemployed single mother who dared to carry 300 grams of drugs," Correa said, referring to an amount equal to about 10 ounces. "It's a barbarity."

According to a 1997 New York Times article, nearly half of the country’s inmates at the time were in jail over drug-related charges.

Earlier this year, the Ecuadorian and Colombian governments quarreled over aerial spraying near both countries’ border. Meanwhile, Ecuador’s government supposedly offered China control of the Manta air base after the contract with the U.S. ends in 2009.

Sources- Reuters, Associated Press, New York Times, The Latin Americanist

Image- Town Topics (Still shot from 2004 film “Maria, Full of Grace”)

Mexico: Police re-arrest suspected massacre mastermind

Mexican police rearrested the person allegedly behind a 1997 massacre in Chiapas. Authorities from that state said that suspected paramilitary leader Antonio Santiz ordered the killing of 45 natives in Acteal and even provided weapons for the assassins to use.

Witnesses to the massacre are unsure whether the Tzotil natives were murdered due to a supposed allegiance with the Zapatistas or as revenge for a killed priest. Whatever the reason may be, the Tzotil community has been split over the Acteal massacre according to an article from the International Herald Tribune:

A decade after the massacre, the Tzotzil live side by side but divided. In one group, the one that backs the PRI [then-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party], many of the men have been sent to prison for the killings. The others, from the Abejas [advocate] group, who live down the road, insist that even more killers are at large.

Meanwhile, Mexico's courts struggle to handle what has grown into one of the country's longest and most complex cases. A dozen judges have been involved in the trials and, now, the appeals of their convictions…

"This is the most complicated case in Mexico," said [professor Javier Angulo] in Tuxtla Gutierrez, the capital of Chiapas State, as he prepared to appeal the convictions of some of the men. "It's possible that in 10 more years we'll still be talking about what really happened in Acteal."

Sources- International Herald Tribune, Reuters, Xinhua, Associated Press,


Daily Headlines: December 26, 2007

* The Cuban Catholic church called for “reconciliation and unity” among the island’s people during its annual Christmas message issued on Monday.

* A Texan couple has been taking care of six children after their mother was deported to Mexico last month.

* Italian prosecutors have issued arrest warrants against 140 exiled former “Dirty War” officials.

* An indigenous Mapuche activist was hospitalized in Chile after going on a 75-day hunger strike.

Sources- Associated Press, Caribbean Net News, Dallas Morning News, ABC Online

Image- Department of State (“Christmas light display at U.S. Interests Section, Havana”)