Friday, January 25, 2008

De Musica Ligera: Antonio Carlos Jobim

Friday would’ve marked the 81st birthday of legendary Brazilian singer, songwriter, and composer Antonio Carlos Jobim. His music was instrumental to the bossa nova genre with songs like “Agua De Beber”, “Chega de Saudade”, and the global hit “Girl from Ipanema.” Jobim may have passed away in 1994, but his legendary sound lives on as a symbol of Brazilian culture.

Here is a small sample of some of Jobim’s music including a cover:

Sources- YouSendIt, Wikipedia, NPR Music, Songwriters Hall of Fame


Missing migrant girl found alive

Earlier today, U.S. Border Patrol agents found a missing girl in Arizona’s Cochise County after she was separated from her father. Authorities in spent the overnight hours looking for the five-year-old child after her dad and she crossed the U.S.-Mexico border:

The girl was grabbed by a human smuggler as U.S. Border Patrol agents closed in on the group late Thursday, Cochise County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Carol Capas said. The smuggler was later seen during the search, but without the girl, Capas said. The girl’s father was later found by border agents.

The girl’s immediate condition was uncertain, though she was alive and was walking down into Miller Canyon with Border Patrol agents.

“It’s a very rugged area,” Capas said.

Overnight temperatures in the mountains were below freezing.

In the meantime, mayors from around the U.S. attending a conference in Washington blasted the federal government for “playing politics” with immigration and ignoring much-needed reform.

Image- (“U.S. Border Patrol agent Sean King patrols a trail…cut by illegal immigrants in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument near Lukeville, Ariz.”)

Sources (English)-, Sierra Vista Herald, Guardian UK

Sources (Spanish)- Milenio

Venezuelan mayor accused of ties with guerillas

The mayor of Maracaibo, Venezuela- Giancarlo DiMartino (image)- has been accused of aiding Colombia’s second-largest guerilla group. The charges stem from this video aired by Venezuelan regional television which claimed that DiMartino personally provided a guerilla commander with rations.

A spokesman for the Zulia state government denied the claims against DiMartino:

(The video) is part of a campaign of yellow journalism because we have undertaken humanitarian efforts for over three years along the (Venezuela-Colombia) border,” said local government secretary Gyovanny Villalobos.

the spokesman added that one of the men appearing on the video and highlighted as alleged guerilla leader “Petrolio” is a local farmer with over 20 years experience who was “consternated” at the claim.” [ed.- personal translation]

Colombian president Alvaro Uribe said that the accusations are “very serious” if they are true. Currently he is meeting with a visiting delegation from the U.S. led by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Sources (English)- Reuters, El Universal, YouTube

Sources (Spanish)- RCN, El Tiempo

Image- Periodista Digital

Opposition marches in Ecuador

Thousands of people protested in Ecuador’s largest city Thursday against the country’s government and constitutional assembly. President Rafael Correa led a pro-government rally last week where he vowed to “continue fighting” for change and against the “old structures” of power. Yesterday’s protest to “defend the homeland” was led by Guayaquil mayor Jaime Nebot:

Thousands of backers waving the city's blue and white flag swarmed the streets of the sultry port city chanting "Long live Guayaquil, dammit," and "Down with Correa.".

"As long as you are alive and I am alive, he will never push us around," Nebot shouted to the crowd. "We will not be guinea pigs of a failed experiment."

Despite falling approval ratings Correa remains a very popular figure in Ecuador and 80 of the 130 seats in the constitutional assembly are controlled by Correa’s political party. Yet the true test of Correa’s support will be in July when a national referendum will be held for a draft constitution.

Image- BBC News

Sources (English)- AFP, Reuters, BBC News,

Sources (Spanish)- El Diario/La Prensa

Daily Headlines: January 25, 2008

* Follow-up: Chilean indigenous rights groups are outraged at the attempted force feeding of jailed Mapuche activist Patricia Troncoso who has been fasting for over 100 days.

* A Californian and Uruguayan have been sentenced to thirty years in prison for a pair of hotel bombings in Bolivia.

* Cuba’s cruise industry is crippled and blaming it on the U.S. trade embargo.

* Indian auto companies is expanding into Latin America; earlier this month, car firm Mahindra & Mahindra opened an assembly plant in Brazil.

Sources-, the Latin Americanist, International Herald Tribune, Guardian UK, Reuters

Image- mapuexpress

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Venezuela to sue U.S. over drug comments

The government of Venezuela plans to sue the U.S. via the Organization of American States (OAS) based on recent comments made by antidrug czar John Waters. “Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, has become a major facilitator for the trafficking of cocaine to other nations on this continent and to Europe” said Waters last week during a trip to Colombia.

The dispute between Venezuela and the U.S. over the “war on drugs” came to a head yesterday during an OAS session yesterday:

Venezuelan representative Jorge Valero claimed the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) had carried out "conspirative" activities and "espionage" while it worked in Venezuela until 2005, when the Chavez government broke cooperation agreements with the United States and expelled representatives of the agency…

US Ambassador Robert Manzanares replied, "It is difficult to understand how a country dedicated to fighting drug trafficking could simultaneously support FARC, carrying out a campaign to legitimize this group which has been rejected the world over."

Meanwhile, a Venezuelan opposition politician wants Chavez to “take a toxicological exam” after Chavez claimed to chewing coca leaves daily.

Sources- Xinhua, El Universal,, Reuters, UPI

Image- babble

Jane’s: The future of U.S. bases in L. America

Military publication Jane’s analyzed the situation of the U.S. Air Base in Manta, Ecuador which will likely be vacated in 2009. In the article posted online yesterday, Air Force Southern commander Lt. General Norman Seip speculated on the future of U.S. military bases in the Americas:

Gen Seip said the USAF (U.S. Air Force) is unlikely to build another large base in the region like Manta because Latin American countries often view any US presence as an impingement on their sovereignty.

He added that in the future USAF activities in Latin America would centre on the establishment of small, temporary, forward operating locations. He also said the air force is planning to develop regional partnerships to ensure Latin American countries have the military assets they need to monitor ungoverned space, which can become havens for terrorism and drug trafficking.

Ecuador’s government has been reluctant to renew the U.S. military’s lease to run the Manta base and this has led to uncertainty over who will control the station. The U.S. has recently upped its military presence in Paraguay while the Peruvian government has denied permission to house a major U.S. base.

Image- Washington Post

Sources- Jane’s, The Latin Americanist, The Nation, Prensa Latina

Heath Ledger's Death Doesn't Tranlate

If you're looking to translate news about the tragic death of actor Heath Ledger from English to Spanish don't use Google's Translator. If you type in Heath Ledger and ask for an English to Spanish translation, the name is translated as Tom Cruise. I couldn't believe it but I tried it out myself and it's true! It could be a bug. It could be that a programmer is having some fun (or wishful thinking). I guess in Spanish all those gringo actors are all the same.

Sources : CNET News, VivirLatino

Alvaro Uribe Would Win a Popularity Contest

Despite worldwide criticisms of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, if a Gallup poll inside Colombia is to be believed , he would be voted most popular! According to the poll Uribe can boast an 80% support rating in his country. 74 percent of those polled approve of his handling of international affairs, 67 percent approve of how he deals with FARC and other such movements, and 64 percent approve of his dealings with paramilitary movements.

The stats were collected via telephone last week from 1,000 men and women over age 18 in the cities of Bogotá, Cali, Medellín and Barranquilla.

Can this poll be trusted?

Source : El Tiempo
Image Source : Radio Santa Fe

Video of the Day: Chita Rivera

Yesterday was the 75th birthday of Puerto Rican singer and dancer extraordinaire Chita Rivera. Rivera is best known for her performances on Broadway, such as this one from “Kiss of the Spider Woman”:

Sources- YouTube, Wikipedia

Daily Headlines: January 24, 2008

* A leading Cuban dissident called last Sunday’s parliamentary elections “a farce”.

* Colombian defense minister Juan Manuel Santos rejected any future mediation by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez with guerillas.

* Amazon rainforest deforestation skyrocketed in the last five months of 2007 according to a Brazilian government study.

* Follow-up: Mexican police arrested a suspect accused of killing a U.S. Border Patrol on Saturday.

Sources- AFP, BBC News,, Guardian UK, MSNBC, The Latin Americanist

Image- MWC News

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Mexico: Army deserters aid drug gangs

According to the Mexican government, over 100,000 soldiers have deserted from Mexico’s armed forces over the past seven years and some of them have helped armed gangs.

During a legislative hearing, Sub-secretary of Defense Tomas Angeles Dahuajare admitted that gangs recruited soldiers, and blamed low salaries and a lack of benefits for the high number of desertions. However, he claimed that it is not a national security risk:

(Dahuajare) rejected that the military desertions, which included members of the Navy…impacted national security since most of them involve troop personnel. [ed. – personal translation]

Dahuajare’s remarks come on the heels of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency report stating that drug cartels based in northern Mexico have established bases of operation in Mexico City. Still, police captured a high-ranking drug smuggler on Monday and eleven hitmen yesterday.

Sources (English)- Associated Press, UPI

Sources (Spanish)- RCN, Milenio

Image- BBC News (1998 photo of Mexican army troops in Chiapas)

The return of Mencia

As a New York Giants fan I’m eagerly looking forward to the Super Bowl on February 3rd even if the odds are not in the team's favor. Aside from the game, I’ll be sure to keep the TV on mute during Bud Light’s ads since one of them will feature comedian Carlos Mencia.

According to an article in the Chicago Sun-Times:

He's baaaaaack!!! Did you think -- even for one second -- he wouldn't be? Gifted [ed. as in idiot savant] Hispanic comedian Carlos Mencia is poised again to steal the year's really big ad show in a new commercial brewery giant Anheuser-Busch is prepping for the Super Bowl of Advertising on Feb. 3…

We won't give away the punch lines to any of the commercials being eyed for Anheuser-Busch's Super Bowl list, but suffice it to say the new Mencia spot, "Language of Love," is set in a bar instead of the classroom, which allows for some shapely additions to the visuals, even as the spot does a fine job of referencing at least one of the funniest aspects of last year's spot.

Mencia was featured in this Bud Light commercial during last year’s big game where miraculously he did not scream at the camera or yell any of his cringe worthy catchphrases. (Ha ha ha! Foreigners learning English! Dee-Dee-Dee!)

Then again, there have been worse commercials with overrated comedians.

(Hat tip: Deadspin.)

Sources- Chicago Sun-Times, Deadspin, YouTube


Iran-South American ties worry Commander

An article from The Trumpet, published by the Philadelphia Church of God, released a statement from Adm. James Stavridis, commander of U.S. Southern Command, voicing his concerns about the connection between drug traffickers and Islamic radical terrorists in Latin America.

Stavridis pointed to a photograph of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, saying he is a very dangerous man who wants to have an embassy in every country in Latin America.

“I fear greatly that the connectivity between narco-terrorism and Islamic radical terrorism could be disastrous in this region,” Stavridis said.

Ahmadinejad has met with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez several times, and we reported about Iran nurturing interests a few weeks ago.

Source: The Trumpet

Photo: The Trumpet, Chavez and Ahmadinejad

Medicines may contain lead

Traditional medicines used by Latin American immigrants are the second most common source of lead poisoning in America, the Associated Press reports today.

These medicines are sold in America by folk healers, or "curanderas," in neighborhood stores. Lead is in many of these because it has supposed curative properties, although doctors say this is not true.

Lead poisoning has been traced to powders like greta, azarcon., rueda and litargirio.

Source: New York Sun

Daily Headlines: January 23, 2008

* Commuting Mexico City women tired of being goosed and ogled now have a new option – female-only buses.

* Venezuela’s government is on alert to combat food smuggling across the border into Colombia.

* Landless framers in Brazil invaded a ranch formerly owned by a drug baron.

* United Nations soldiers should not withdraw early from Haiti according to a U.N. official.

Sources- Monsters & Critics, International Herald Tribune, Reuters

Image- MSNBC (“A bus with a sign reading "service exclusive for women" drives through the streets of Mexico City last week.”)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

GOP hopefuls seek Cuban exile support in Florida

Several Republican presidential hopefuls have eyed the Cuban exile vote in Florida as critical in winning the state’s primary a week from today. Though the national Latino vote leans towards the rival Democrats, the Cuban-American voting bloc has been strongly Republican and they are expected to make a difference during the closed primary.

Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani has focused most of his resources to winning in Florida and he has been actively campaigning there for weeks. He appeared in a Spanish-language ad being played across the state despite his October campaign appearance at a Philadelphia “English-only” steak stand. While other candidates stumped in New Hampshire and Michigan, Giuliani spoke at a Hispanic evangelical Christian church in Miami and held a campaign rally at a Three Kings Day Parade in the Little Havana neighborhood.

Senator John McCain appeared in Little Havana yesterday while flanked by Cuban-American legislators Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln Diaz-Balart. As he sipped a cortadito at the famed Versailles restaurant, McCain called Hugo Chavez “a threat” to the Americas and said that he would open an investigation against Fidel Castro. However, McCain was ambiguous when asked about the possibility of changing U.S. travel restrictions on Cuba.

Recent poll numbers have given ex-Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney a slight lead in Florida over McCain and Giuliani. Yet Romney is also courting the Cuban exile vote via his bilingual son Craig who narrated an ad in Spanish.

Unlike the other Republican candidates mentioned above, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee has placed little emphasis on Florida and is campaigning elsewhere.

Image- New York Daily News (John McCain drinks Cuban coffee during an appearance in Miami yesterday)

Sources- South Florida Sun-Sentinel,, Guanabee, Wonkette, CBS News, Baltimore Sun, Associated Press, The Latin Americanist, New York Daily News

Año de la papa

Did you know 2008 is the International Year of the Potato?

To celebrate, ten Latin American countries (plus Spain) formed the Latin American Network for Innovation on Potato Improvement and Dissemination, or Red Latinpapa (which I prefer) for short.

Latinpapa was organized during a meeting last week in Lima, Peru, by the Peru-based International Potato Centre (CIP).

$1.5 million from the members’ governments will fund efforts to assist poor farmers by getting their input and helping them access technologies. Latinpapa also wants to increase access to genetic innovations and new varieties.

Latinpapa includes Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Uruguay, Venezuela. Interested citizens can join through their national network or create one of their own.

Source and Image:

Hackers hit Panamanian parliament website

The website for Panama’s legislature has been down for nearly two weeks after being sabotaged by hackers. The website was attacked on January 9th, the same day that former president Manuel Noriega had his extradition appeal turned down by a U.S. court. However, Panamanian officials suspect that another motive is to blame:

Pedro Miguel Gonzalez was elected president of Panama's legislature in September, despite being wanted in the United States for the 1992 murder of U.S. Army Sgt. Zac Hernandez.

His candidature was strongly opposed by Washington, which warned the move would hurt relations between the two countries.

Peruvian and Chilean hackers attacked government websites in a pair of incidents last year; tensions continue between both governments over territorial disagreements.


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

Sources (Spanish)- Asamblea Nacional de Panama

Brazil: Fashion show accused of racism

Brazilian prosecutors are investigating charges of racism during Sao Paulo Fashion Week held earlier this month. Though black was the color du jour during the fashion extravaganza, black models alleged that they were discriminated against. They may have a point as only 28 of the 1128 models featured during Sao Paulo Fashion Week where black.

As BBC News noted, several models of African descent were unhappy not only with Fashion Week but also at the modeling industry as a whole:

And outside the landmark Bienal building - where Sao Paulo Fashion Week is being staged - young black models voiced their frustration.

"I think the business is smaller for black girls," says 19-year-old Rafaela Favero. "But I don't know if it is because we are just black - but we are different, our pattern of beauty is different - our hair and our bodies."

"In a fashion show it is practically impossible," says 24-year-old Rafael Milagres.

Last year, we noted how Bolivian models tend to equate “beauty” with looking light-skinned rather than indigenous.

Sources (English)- AFP, BBC News

Sources (Spanish)- La Tercera

Image- BBC News

Chile: Mapuche activist fast over 100 days

Chilean activist Patricia Troncoso (archived image) has gone over 100 days fasting as she and other indigenous rights advocates are protesting her jail sentence. Doctors at Herminda Martin Hospital where Troncoso is being kept have warned that she “is in a very, very serious condition,” while her lawyers continue to appeal her ruling.

Troncoso was convicted to ten years in jail for setting fire to a farm under a law passed during Chile’s military dictatorship. Several human rights groups have unsuccessfully called for President Michelle Bachelet to intervene:

On Monday, Amnesty International and Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, an Argentine human rights group, asked Chilean President Michelle Bachelet to intercede in what Amnesty called "an unjust trial and sentence."

Bachelet has in the past declined to intervene, noting that a court, not the government, has jurisdiction over Troncoso's case.

According to Chilean daily La Tercera, local police cleared out three tents located in front of the Herminda Martin Hospital where several Mapuche activists where camping out in solidarity with Troncoso.

Sources (English)- Associated Press, Xinhua, RedBolivia

Sources (Spanish)- La Tercera


Daily Headlines: January 22, 2008

* Richard Chavez- the brother of famed civil rights activist Cesar Chavez (image)- publicly backed Hillary Clinton’s run for the U.S. presidency.

* Speaking of Clinton, last night’s Democratic debate was an ugly verbal slugfest between her and fellow frontrunner Barack Obama.

* Did you know that despite the trade embargo the U.S. is the top provider of food to Cuba?

* Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim’s increasing power is not sitting well with the country’s cable companies.

* Follow-up: In early morning trading, Latin American currencies and stocks have made small gains which could lead to a halt in recent losses.

Sources-, International Herald Tribune, Guardian UK, Bloomberg, The Latin Americanist, Reuters

Image- PBS

Monday, January 21, 2008

Video of the Day: Dreaming of a better future

Some food for thought in commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day:

Colombia: Guerillas compared to Al Qaeda, Nazis

Colombia’s largest rebel faction was compared to Al Qaeda and Hitler’s concentration camps according to declarations made by Colombia’s government. “The FARC are as terrorist as Al Qaeda” said vice president Francisco Santos during a political conference held in England. On Monday, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe compared the FARC’s hostages to this held in World War II concentration camps:

'The hostages have really suffered, as much as the Jews in Hitler's concentration camps,' Uribe told Europe 1 radio just hours before he was to meet French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

He said that former FARC hostage Clara Rojas, liberated on January 10, had talked to him about 'the torture.'

Uribe’s remarks were similar to those made last year on Adolph Hitler and FARC spokesman Raul Reyes.

Meanwhile, Uribe responded without hyperbole to barbs hurled by Hugo Chavez; yesterday, Chavez accused Uribe of being a “coward,” a "pawn of the U.S.", and “suitable to be a mafia boss."

Sources (English)- Monsters & Critics, Chicago Tribune, The Latin Americanist

Sources (Spanish)- RCN, El Tiempo

Image- Digger History

Border Patrol agent killed near Mexico

A U.S. Border Patrol officer was struck and killed by a car driven by a “suspected smuggler” according to authorities. Senior Patrol Agent Luis Aguilar died as he set up spike strips to stop the vehicle that was trying to return to Mexico after having illegally crossed the border in the U.S.

The incident- which happened on Saturday- reflects the increasing tensions around the U.S.-Mexico border. Controversy has been raised over the use of pepper spray and other chemical weapons by Border Patrol agents, for instance. Nevertheless, Aguilar’s death has lead to increased vigilance on both sides of the border:

"I am outraged by this tragic loss," said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Saturday. "I have spoken to the Mexican ambassador, who gives me both his condolences and deep assurance that their government will be resolute in tracking down the perpetrators and bringing them to swift justice."

Federal, state and local authorities are working with Mexican police and military authorities to apprehend the suspected killers, he said.


Sources- Los Angeles Times, CNN, the Latin Americanist,, CBS News

A “presidenta” for Paraguay?

Paraguay’s ruling party selected Education Minister Blanca Ovelar as its presidential candidate. Ovelar’s candidacy faced a court challenge from within the Colorado Party yet that appeared to be defeated earlier today.

Should Ovelar win in April’s elections she would be the first woman elected to Paraguay’s presidency. Though the Colorado party is currently the world’s longest ruling at 47 years, Ovelar faces an uphill battle as corruption allegations have hurt president Nicanor Duarte and Paraguayans lean increasingly towards the opposition.

Argentina’s Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and Chile’s Michelle Bachelet are the only two current female presidents in Latin America.

Image- CNN (“Blanca Ovelar holds up a dyed finger after voting last month in the Colorado Party's internal elections.”)

Sources (English)-, Wikipedia, Angus Reid Consultants, Al Jazeera, The Latin Americanist

sources (Spanish)- ABC Digital, Ultima Hora

L. American stocks suffering

Latin America’s finances have been hurt as anxiety increases over a slowdown in the global economy. Last week, Brazil’s Bovespa index tumbled by over 7 percent while Mexico’s Bolsa index hit its lowest weekly point in nearly a year. Asian stocks decreased this morning and this affected trading throughout the Americas this afternoon:

The Bovespa index of most-traded shares on the Sao Paulo exchange dropped 3,988.22 to 53,518.25 at 12:22 p.m. New York time. Mexico's Bolsa fell 1,042.72, or 3.9 percent, to 25,671.11. The MSCI EM Latin America Index sank 7.9 percent, the most since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, to 3,540.94, extending its fall since Oct. 29 to 23 percent…

“The perception that the U.S. will face a recession has spread,'' said Luiz Sedrani, head of equity at Sao Paulo-based Banco Votorantim, the financial arm of Brazil's largest diversified industrial group. “Brazil will suffer because a slowdown in the U.S. will reduce demand for commodities, which make up most of our exports.''

In addition, currencies in the Americas have steadily decreased in value which is a worrying sign for export-oriented economies in the region.

The subprime mortgage mess has influenced the downturn in the U.S. economy, yet ironically Mexico’s housing market seems to have undergone a boom.

Sources- Bloomberg, AHN, AFP, Associated Press

Image- ABC News (October 2007 image of the New York Stock Exchange)

Daily Headlines: January 21, 2008

* Recent poll results indicated that half of Argentines are satisfied with recently inaugurated President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

* Seventeen films from Latin America are being screened at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.

* Colombia’s second-largest guerilla faction released nine hostages according to local officials.

* Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen traveled to an Iraqi military base to thank soldiers from El Salvador.

* Honduran officials uncovered “three Kalashnikov assault rifles, an Uzi…30 large televisions, (and) five refrigerators” as contraband in a prison cellblock.

Sources- Angus Reid Global Consultants, Xinhua, Voice of America, New York Times, AFP

Image- ABC Online