Friday, February 22, 2008

Today’s video: Eat your heart out, Pepe Aguilar

For his next campaign appearance, Ted Kennedy will dress as a charro and do the Mexican Hat Dance with a stunned Michelle Obama.

It could’ve been worse; at least he didn’t try to sing a reaggaeton tune.

(Hat tip: Wonkette).

Sources- Wikipedia, Wonkette, VivirLatino

Obama and Clinton focus on Cuba, immigration in debate

Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama talked politics during a debate last night from Austin, Texas. Both candidates had their high and low moments; for instance, Clinton’s jab at Obama’s alleged plagiarism backfired though she seemed to rebound with her closing statements. Obama seemed too stoic at times though he was very shrewd in describing his campaign as more than just rhetoric. In the end neither candidate gained a serious advantage over the other.

Latin America was the focus of several exchanges between the candidates in Thursday’s forum. The following are some quotes from the transcript of the debate, as provided by Federal News Service.

  • On the future of Cuba:

Clinton - Of course the United States stands ready, and as president I would be ready, to reach out and work with a new Cuban government once it demonstrated that it truly was going to change that direction. I want to bring the region together, our European allies who have influence with Cuba, to try to push for some of those changes, and to make it very clear that if Cuba moves toward democracy and freedom for its people the United States will welcome that…

Obama - So I think that we have to shift policy. I think our goal has to be ultimately normalization, but that's going to happen in steps.

And the first step, as I said, is changing our rules with respect to remittances and with respect to travel. And then I think it is important for us to have the direct contact not just in Cuba, but I think this principle applies generally. I'm -- I recall what John F. Kennedy once said, that we should never negotiate out of fear, but we should never fear to negotiate. And this moment, this opportunity when Fidel Castro has finally stepped down I think is one that we should try to take advantage of.

  • On possibly meeting with Cuba’s leaders:

Clinton - I -- I would not meet with [Raul Castro] until there was evidence that change was happening because I think it's important that they demonstrate clearly that they are committed to change the direction.

Then I think, you know something like diplomatic encounters and negotiations over specifics could take place.

Obama - I would meet without preconditions, although Senator Clinton is right that there has to be preparation. It is very important for us to make sure that there was an agenda and on that agenda was human rights, releasing of political prisoners, opening up the press. And that preparation might take some time.

But I do think that it is important for the United States not just to talk to its friends but also to talk to its enemies.

  • On immigration reform:

Clinton - We need comprehensive immigration reform. I have been for this. I signed on to the first comprehensive bill back in 2004. I've been advocating for it. Tougher, more secure borders -- of course. But let's do it the right way: cracking down on employers, especially once we get to comprehensive immigration reform, who exploit undocumented workers and drive down wages for everyone else. I'd like to see more federal help for communities like Austin and others, like Laredo where I was this morning, that absorb the health care, education and law enforcement costs. And I personally, as president, would work with our neighbors to the south to help them create more jobs for their own people.

Obama - Number one, it is important that we fix the legal immigration system, because right now we've got a backlog that means years for people to apply legally. (Applause.) And what's worse is, we keep on increasing the fees, so that if you've got a hard-working immigrant family, they've got to hire a lawyer; they've got to pay thousands of dollars in fees...

The second thing is, we have to improve our relationship with Mexico and work with the Mexican government, so that their economy is producing jobs on that side of the border. (Applause.)

  • On other points regarding immigration:

Clinton – […]there's a lot we've learned about technology and smart fencing. You know, there is technology that can be used instead of a physical barrier. It requires us having enough personnel along the border, so that people can be supervising a certain limited amount of space and will be able to be responsive in the event of, you know, people attempting to cross illegally…

You know, I have been adamantly against the efforts by some to make English the official language…But I do think that English does remain an important part of the American experience, so I encourage people to become bilingual, but I also want to see English remain the common unifying language of our country. (Applause.)

Obama - Something that we can do immediately that I think is very important is to pass the DREAM Act, which allows children who -- (applause) -- through no fault of their own are here but have essentially grown up as Americans -- allow them the opportunity for higher education…

I also think that every student should be learning a second language because -- (interrupted by applause) -- you know -- so when you start getting into a debate about bilingual education, for example, now I want to make sure that children who are coming out of Spanish-speaking households have the opportunity to learn and are not falling behind…But I also want to make sure that English-speaking children are getting foreign languages because this world is becoming more interdependent, and part of the process of America's continued leadership in the world is going to be our capacity to communicate across boundaries, across borders.

  • On foreign aid to Latin America:

Obama - Understand, not only have we been diverted from Afghanistan. We’ve been diverted from focusing on Latin America. We contribute — our entire foreign aid to Latin America is $2.7 billion, approximately what we spend in Iraq in a week. And it is any surprise, then, that you’ve seen people like Hugo Chavez and countries like China move into the void, because we’ve been neglectful of that.

Sources- International Herald Tribune, VivirLatino, ABC News, Wall Street Journal, AHN

Image- CNN

Machetro to be Extradited to Connecticut

A member of the Puerto Rican nationalist organization, los Macheteros, arrested earlier this month on charges connected to a 1983 Wells Fargo armored truck heist, had his bail request denied and was ordered to be extradited to the New England state to face trial. Avelino Gonzalez Claudio's legal team were fighting the extradition order on the grounds that Avelino is a political prisoner, based on Puerto Rico's colonial status with the U.S.

Source : VivirLatino, personal email

Premios lo Nuestro

I admit that I didn't watch Premio lo Nuestro, broadcast last night on Univision ( I was too busy watching el Festival de Vina del Mar) But apparently many a Latino music star was present and recognized. Here are the winners as reported by Hispanic PR Wire:
Album of the Year
“Ricky Martin MTV Unplugged” – Ricky Martin
Male Artist of the Year
New Soloist or Group of the Year
Jennifer Lopez
Female Artist of the Year
Group or Duo of the Year
Song of the Year
“Todo Cambió” – Camila

Album of the Year
“Oye” – Aterciopelados
Artist of the Year
Song of the Year
“Benditá Tu Luz” – Maná and Juan Luis Guerra

Album of the Year
“K.O.B.” – Aventura
Male Artist of the Year
Juan Luis Guerra
Female Artist of the Year
Olga Tañón
Group or Duo of the Year
Song of the Year
“Mi Corazoncito” - Aventura
Tropical Merengue Artist of the Year
Olga Tañón
Tropical Salsa Artist of the Year
Marc Anthony
Traditional Tropical Artist of the Year

Album of the Year
“Crossroads: Cruce de Caminos” – Intocable
Male Artist of the Year
Marco Antonio Solís
Female Artist of the Year
Jenni Rivera
Group or Duo of the Year
Song of the Year
“La Noche Perfecta” – El Chapo de Sinaloa
Banda Artist of the Year
Joan Sebastián
Grupero Artist of the Year
Marco Antonio Solís
Norteño Artist of the Year
Ranchero Artist of the Year
Pepe Aguilar
Duranguense Artist of the Year
Los Horóscopos de Durango
New Soloist or Group of the Year
Banda Guasaveña

Album of the Year
“Sentimiento” – Ivy Queen
Artist of the Year
Wisin y Yandel
Song of the Year
“Pegao” – Wisin y Yandel

“Impacto” – Daddy Yankee

Image Source : Explore Chicago

Daily Headlines: February 22, 2008

* All of Ecuador is under a state of emergency after floods have left thousands homeless and killed at least 10 people.

* 46 people are presumed dead after a commercial airliner went missing in western Venezuela.

* Latin America is in danger of being a “hot spot” for infectious diseases according to a new study.

* 42,000 Puerto Rican teachers went on strike Wednesday after negotiations fell through.

Sources- CBC, Guardian UK, ABC Online, CNN, International Herald Tribune,

Image- CNN

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Argentina says ‘no’ to independent Kosovo

Update: Venezuela also declared that it's against Kosovo's independence. President Hugo Chavez said that he was worried that the debate over Kosovo could trigger war in the region. (Link via Milenio).

Argentina is reluctant to recognize Kosovo’s recent declaration of independence. According to Argentine daily Clarin, the main sticking point has to do with the effect Kosovo's independence would have on the South American country’s claim to the Falkland Islands:

Respecting the principle of territorial integration, negotiations, and agreement between the sectors involved when faced with a sovereignty dispute is part of the Argentine strategy in its difficult relations with the Great Britain since the military defeat of 1982. [Ed. – personal translation]

Argentina thus joins countries like Serbia, Russia, China, and Spain in not accepting Kosovo’s independence.

Argentina may have lost the Falklands War yet they have recently strengthened their claims to the Falklands. During last year’s silver anniversary of the war, then-president Nestor Kirchner expressed hope that the Islands will soon return to Argentine control.

Sources (English)- MercoPress, UPI, Reuters, Xinhua, Wikipedia, The Latin Americanist

Sources (Spanish)- Clarin

Image- Gulf Daily News

Today’s videos: The Panama Canal; Iran-Contra

In honor of President’s Day, this week’s poll asks which U.S. president has been the most influential in Latin American affairs. On Tuesday we looked at the Cuban Missile Crisis which took place during the term of John F. Kennedy. Today we link to two videos; the first looks at Teddy Roosevelt and the Panama Canal.

Click here to watch “Panama Canal – What is it?”

The second video is apparently from British TV and examines the Iran-Contra affair under the administration of Ronald Reagan.

(Video Link):

Sources- Wikipedia, YouTube, The Latin Americanist

Hispanic kids obese

Hispanic youths have the highest rates of obesity, according to a report from the Johns Hopkins Children's Center.

The Center attributes the problem to a large number of fast-food commercials on Spanish-language television.

On Univision and Telemundo, food commercials averaged two to three commercials an hour, with one-third targeted to children.

Pediatricians recommend that young children watch less TV and parents talk to children about healthy lifestyles and exercise. Doctors also should be aware of Hispanic parents' lifestyles and health officials should try to limit food advertising targeting children.

Read more here.

Source: Forbes


Indio Festival underway

The Indio International Hispanic Film Festival begins today in Indio, Mexico.

The eighth annual event features films in Spanish with English subtitles from Peru, Mexico and Colombia.

Featured films are "Erendira Ikikunari," based on a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel; "El Violin," about a musician doubling as a guerrilla; and "Madeinusa," the story of a 14-year-old encountering a geologist.

Details on attending are here.

Daily Headlines: February 21, 2008

* Barack Obama’s primary winning streak continues as reports claim that he won the Democrats Abroad primary. (Democrats Abroad is the official organization representing Democratic Party members outside of the U.S. in countries such as Guatemala, Panama, and Mexico.)

* Venezuela’s government wants ExxonMobil to drop its legal cases and negotiate while the price of a barrel of oil crossed the $100 threshold on Wednesday.

* Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa promoted conservation as he toured a new wind-energy park on the Galapagos Islands.

* Police and peasants clashed in Colombia over a plan to manually eradicate coca plants.

Sources- Reuters, Houston Chronicle, AFP, Guardian UK, Wikipedia


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Colombia: A tale of two protests

On February 4th, millions of protestors in Colombia and around the world marched against violence caused by the FARC guerilla group. The genesis of the protest was a Facebook entry created in January by three young adults. Participation grew through word of mouth and a strong media focus as marchers shouted “No mas FARC” (“No more FARC”).

Some were critical of the marches with Colombian legislator Piedad Cordoba calling them “an expression of hatred, racism and exclusion.” And even though the protest’s organizers emphasized that the marches should avoid overtly political overtones, a few people used the occasion to denounce Hugo Chavez:

Many marchers supported Mr. Uribe and chanted slogans against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Last month, Mr. Chavez played a key role during the release of two high-profile hostages held by the FARC. But after the hostages were released, the Venezuelan president suggested that the FARC be taken off the list of terrorist groups and be deemed a legitimate army.

Juan Alejandro Garzón, a self-employed environmentalist, carried a large banner that read: "Chavez: Get it right, Colombians don't want the FARC.

Meanwhile, a “collective of human rights groups” is calling for protests on March 6th against violence caused by paramilitarism in Colombia. Much like the misguided views opposed to the actions of February 4th, some have denounced the March 6th protests. One unfortunate example is from the Colombian government itself:

“I personally will not participate, as I did enthusiastically in the march against the FARC,” was the response of José Obdulio Gaviria, a presidential advisor considered to be President Uribe’s chief ideologist. “It will be difficult for Colombian society to participate in this type of event, when we just finished marching against the people who are convening it.”

In the end, whether the March protests get the same amount of attention and participation as this month’s marches remain to be seen. One hopes that it does as a sign of repudiation of the needless violence in Colombia.

Sources (English)-, International Herald Tribune, Foreign Policy Passport, Prensa Latina, Christian Science Monitor, Plan Colombia and Beyond

Sources (Spanish)- El Tiempo, RCN

Image- Al Jazeera

Argentina: “Dirty War” parents sued for kidnapping

A 30-year-old Argentine woman has become the first person to take legal action against her adoptive parents who she alleges adopted her illegally during the “Dirty War.” Maria Eugenia Sampallo took the action against her adoptive parents and the army captain accused of handing her over to them after her biological parents were presumably killed during Argentina’s military regime between 1976 and 1983.

One Argentine legislator believes that Sampallo is doing the right thing:

"This is a brave decision," said Victoria Donda, the first known child of disappeared political prisoners to become a lawmaker in Argentina.

"This decision builds a path to justice, which is what our nation needs," she added. "I've come to support her because I think it's really important to be here."

Sampallo found out about her true identity with the help of the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo- a group of mothers and grandmothers who have sought for justice for those “disappeared” and killed during the “Dirty War.”

The issue of children that were “adopted” between 1976 and 1983 has been a very sensitive subject in Argentina though it has been the basis for films and telenovelas.

Sources- Associated Press, Prensa Latina, Reuters UK, Wikipedia, The Village Voice, The Latin Americanist

Image- NPR (“[In 2006], demonstrators unfurl banners that stretch the length of two football fields, containing photographs of the victims of Argentina's military junta”)

El Salvador: Will Oscar Romero become a saint?

Vatican officials are debating whether or not to beatify Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero- a human rights activist who was slain in 1980 while celebrating mass. According to one Catholic-based news source, the main sticking point for Vatican authorities is if Romero can be considered as a martyr:

During a February 18 conference with reporters in Rome, as he introduced new norms for diocesan investigations into candidates for beatification, Cardinal José Saraiva Martins was questioned about the progress of Archbishop Romero's cause. The cardinal replied that the key question is whether the Salvadoran prelate died for the Catholic faith.

If a killing is inspired by hatred for the faith, the victim can be classified as a martyr and qualified for beatification. But in the case of Archbishop Romero and his assassin, the motives could be mixed. "There can be political or social motives," Cardinal Saraiva observed. "If the motive is not clear it must be studied in depth."

As we mentioned last year, some members of El Salvador’s government backed sainthood for Romero though critics doubted their movies.

As Archbishop of San Salvador, Romero criticized the military-led government for its crackdown on suspected guerillas and leftist opponents. He also advocated for the welfare of the poor and his outspokenness led to his assassination.

Sources- International Herald Tribune, Catholic World News, The Latin Americanist, Wikipedia

Image- Catholic News Agency

Mamis! If your Nenes Are Gordos : Turn off the Novelas

The novelas themselves aren't making your children fat, after all most of the protagonistas are way too flaca, it's all those commercials in between that are to blame for the rising obesity numbers among Latino kids.
Spanish-language television is bombarding children with so many fast-food commercials that it may be fueling the rising obesity epidemic among Latino youth, according to research led by pediatricians from the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. Latino children, who make up one-fifth of the U.S. child population, also have the highest obesity and overweight rates of all ethnic groups.
After watching 60 hours of Univision and Telemundo, on average, there was 2-3 food related commercials per hour, many of them targeting the kids and half of them for fast food chains featuring soft drinks and fried foods (yum).

So what's a mami to do? The report recommends that kids be limited to two hours of tee-vee a day and that kids younger than 2 shouldn't watch any television. My recommendation? Just turn it off and skip the Micky D's Cajita Feliz.

Source : Hispanic Tips
Image Source : People in Espanol

Patriots Loss is Nicaragua's Win?

So the New England Patriots didn't win the Superbowl and the NY Giants did. Old news. But where to failed attempts at glory go to die? On the backs of poor Latin Americans of course (how fitting). The "championship" shirts and hats that the New England Patriots players were set to wear had they won the Super Bowl wound up on the backs of about 290 poor Nicaraguan young people. The gear proclaims that the Patriots beat the Giants to complete an undefeated season. Of course the reality is that the Giants beat the Patriots 17-14. So the NFL donated the unused gear to World Vision charity who went to a school in the San Gregorio neighborhood in the town of Diriamba. Most of the shirts were extra extra large, made to fit players, not children.

Sources: Univision and NY Post

Daily Headlines: February 20, 2008

* Venezuela’s government is trying to crackdown on businesses accused of food hoarding.

* Apparently nobody’s satisfied with a new edict obligating police in Phoenix, Arizona to check the immigration status of all those who are arrested.

* Canada and Colombia are close to reaching a free trade deal according to Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister.

* Mexico's Economy Minister said that foreign direct investment rose to over $23 billion in 2007, the most since 2001.

* Could Paraguay’s next president be a suspended Catholic bishop?

Sources- New York Times, Reuters UK, AFP, Bloomberg, Catholic World News

Image- MSNBC (“A Venezuelan woman in the capital Caracas buys food at a government-run supermarket, where prices are subsidized by the country's oil wealth and President Hugo Chavez's social programs.”)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Today’s video: JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis

In honor of President’s Day yesterday, this week’s poll asks which U.S. president has been the most influential in Latin American affairs. It’s difficult to narrow down the options to five presidents but they seem to be the ones whose policies and actions have most affected Latin America.

Our daily videos between today and Thursday will feature key events in Latin American history that have come about from the presidents in our poll. Tonight we've embedded a 1962 newsreel of the Cuban Missile Crisis which took place during the term of John F. Kennedy.

(Video Link):

Sources- Wikipedia, YouTube

Bloggers of the World Unite: Fidel Castro resigns

Undoubtedly the biggest news story of the day has been the resignation of Fidel Castro from the Cuban presidency. Castro stepping down his caused mixed reactions around the world and the blogosphere is no exception to that. Here are several blog posts on Castro and the future of Cuba:

Fidel Castro has finally turned in his resignation as president of Cuba. His decision to step down on Tuesday has brought mixed opinions from all over the world. President Bush is speaking out and voicing his concern that post-Fidel rule should be one of a democratic nature. Our fellow allies, France and Spain, are echoing Bush’s call to democracy. If this is Cuba’s first real change in almost 50 years, can a democracy immediately work? The leader of Russia’s Communist Party is actually commending Castro’s decision today stating,” “It’s a brave decision and in taking it, I’m sure Fidel Castro was guided by the interests of his country and his people.”

For those who think this means change and freedom in Cuba, it doesn’t. Not until the entire Castro cabal is out. Sure, there will be some so-called “reforms” under Raul, but they will be nothing but meaningless window dressing, as they have been since Fidel “temporarily” handed power to his brother.

Three quick things: (1) Obviously this is to lessen the political turmoil that would otherwise have been caused by his (imminent?) death. (2) What happens in Cuba now? My optimistic predictions from 2005 still hold. (3) I’m offended by the opening sentence of Frances Robles’ article: “Saying he is no longer healthy enough to hold office, Cuban leader Fidel Castro has announced he will not seek reelection after 49 years in power and nearly 19 months sidelined by illness . . .” When elections are universally believed to be a travesty, why mention them in the opening paragraph about a leader’s resignation? At least put quotes around “seek reelection” so we know you’re in on the lie.

The fact that Castro’s resignation was announced overnight and online in a country where home Internet access is forbidden, meant that most Cubans found out through the grapevine, which likes to inject its own flavor into the news. But all this points to a more interesting pattern: the inclination to toss Occam’s razor into the trash and look for an alternative explanation when explaining an inexplicable government.

Hillary Clinton said it's time for Cuba to join "the community of democratic nations." "The American people have been on the side in the Cuban people's struggle for freedom and democracy in the past and we will be on their side for democracy in the future," she said in a statement released by her campaign.

Barack Obama said that Castro's announcement marks the "end of a dark era in Cuba's history," but is "an essential first step" in bringing freedom to Cuba.

John McCain said Cuba's transition to democracy is "inevitable." "We must press the Cuban regime to release all political prisoners unconditionally, to legalize all political parties, labor unions and free media, and to schedule internationally monitored elections," McCain said in a statement.

I wish I could share their excitement at the news, but like all Cuban - inside and outside the island - I know that when it comes to Castro, nothing ever is what it seems. That just because the man who has ruled over his 11 million subjects for close to half a century says he is stepping down from some of his (many) official positions, it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the Castro era. No matter what the papers say.

We all know that the news of Castro’s “retirement” is not really news and in the end will do little to affect the lives of the Cubans on the island; the repressive machinery is still firmly in control and has shown no intention of loosening its grip. But there is some good news associated with this announcement that some of us may have overlooked. Now that fifo is no longer an “official head of state,” he is now free to stand trial in an international tribunal for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Now that Fidel Castro has announced his retirement, it's time to retire our Cold War era Cuba policy. It failed.

Every U.S. president since Eisenhower has tried to kill or topple Fidel Castro and replace Cuba's government and economic system with something more to our liking. They never succeeded…

Now would be a perfect time to send the long overdue signal that the United States is no threat to Cuba's national security, that we honor the aspirations of average Cubans, and that we are capable of having a constructive relationship with their government.

Europe has two advantages over the USA and China: (1) unlike the USA, Europe hasn’t been harming Cuba with a trade embargo, and (2) Cubans are linguistically and culturally a European people. So if the EU doesn’t do anything incompetent, it will have a lot of influence over the new Cuba. Maybe it could offer Cubans the status of an EU colony — like Bosnia and Kosova currently are in effect — in return for a fast-track to EU membership?

Image- CBC

Sources- Amused Cynicism, Huffington Post, Babalu Blog, Child of the Revolution, Hotline On Call, Big Think Blog, Critical Miami, Castro Death Watch, Off the Grid, The Latin Americanist

Trade in Americas increases

The Latin Business Chronicle reports today that U.S.-Latin American trade picked up after a slow beginning to 2007. Brazil replaced Venezuela in the second-largest trade spot, and Paraguay had the largest growth with 35 percent.

U.S. imports are slowing, but trade overall grew by 6.2 percent, according to the Census Bureau information in the article.

Read more here.

Source and Photo: Latin Business Chronicle

Castro's exit dominates news

A wrap up of the day's Castro news:

*A Guardian article reminiscent of an obit
*Miami Herald reports on a mixed legacy
*Bloomberg cautions against getting too excited just yet, with some agreement and dissent
*Reactions from U.S. politicians
*Reinvigorated interest in Fidel memorabilia
*Analysis of Castro's longevity in power
*And, of course, how to profit from today's news.

Photo: CNN

Daily Headlines: February 19, 2008

* Fidel Castro officially stepped down as Cuban president this morning according to this article published in Granma. Thus ends a reign of 49 years as Cuba's top leader and his brother, Rail Castro, could take over as head of state. (We’ll discuss this in more detail later today).

* Coming soon to Bolivian television – an Iranian channel.

* An article in the Los Angeles Times examined the divisions in Roswell, New Mexico caused after a high school senior was deported to Mexico.

* Fifteen Colombian soldiers were convicted in the murders of ten undercover counternarcotics agents.

Sources- Granma, International Herald Tribune, Jerusalem Post, Los Angeles Times, UPI, NPR

Image- Sydney Morning Herald

Monday, February 18, 2008

Andres Oppenheimer examines presidential hopefuls

In his latest article, Miami Herald columnist Andres Oppenheimer examined the three leading candidates for the U.S. presidency- Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Barack Obama. Oppenheimer’s piece focused mainly more on the Illinois senator who has increased his rhetoric on Latin America (Exhibits A, B):

Now that Sen. Barack Obama is the front-runner for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, it's time to answer a question that many U.S. Hispanics and Latin Americans are asking: Would he be good for Latin America?

On the minus side, Obama has never been to Latin America, as he told me in an interview last year. And when I asked him who are the three Latin American leaders he respects the most, it took him a while to scan through his mental C-drive and respond, ''the president of Chile,'' whom he correctly identified as a woman but failed to mention by name. (I didn't press him about the remaining two.)

Obama was quick to add, however, that ''my interest and regard for Latin America is one that has been developing for a long period of time,'' and that he would visit Mexico after winning his party's nomination, before the November elections.

Oppenheimer [image] went on to focus on the differences between Obama and Clinton on several issues including free trade, Cuba, and immigration. Oppenheimer concluded the following:

My opinion: Overall, both Obama and Clinton would be better than McCain for Latin America on the immigration front (a key issue for Mexico and Central America) and worse than the likely Republican candidate on the trade front (a key issue for Panama, Colombia, and South American countries seeking free-trade deals with Washington).

On a related note, Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega may have endorsed Obama by noting that his candidacy represented "for a revolutionary change.”

Sources-, Spero News, The Latin Americanist


Ecuador: Gov’t seeks cell phone concessions

Last week, Ecuadorian divisions of Mexico-based America Movil and Spain-based Telefonica SA where ordered to pay a combined $700 million in order to renew their operating contracts. Though those two companies control 96% of Ecuador’s market, the government’s demand would be about seven times what they paid when they first entered the market.

Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa believes that foreign cell phone operators should lower their rates and provide a fairer deal for their customers:

“If they want to pay, great, and if they don't, well we wish them good luck,” said Correa. “We won't beg any company to stay in the country. We're asking a fair price for the country”…

Correa said Porta [America Movil’s Ecuadorian unit] is one of America Movil's most profitable units.

“It's marvelous that it's profitable, but we need something to remain for the state and for Ecuadoreans, too,” he said.

Earlier this month, Ecuador’s communications watchdog group charged Porta with repaying clients $27 million for overcharging them in the 1990s.

The reworking of cell phone contracts is part of the Correa administration’s strategy to alter contracts with key sectors such as oil and mining.

Sources- Xinhua, Bloomberg, Reuters, International Herald Tribune

Image- BBC News

Brazilian film wins top honors in Berlin

Controversial Brazilian film “The Elite Squad” (“Tropa De Elite”) won the top prize at the Berlin Film Festival this weekend. The movie- a fictional account of the activities of one of Brazil’s chief police units- beat other favorites including the Errol Morris-directed documentary “Standard Operating Procedure,” and U.S. hit “There Will Be Blood”.

“The Elite Squad” has been a box office smash in Brazil though it had raised the ire of some police officers who tried to get the film banned last year due to its depiction of corruption. Nevertheless, director Jose Padilha gladly accepted the Golden Bear [image] as recognition of Brazilian filmmaking:

“This is a prize for Brazilian film, not just for me,” Padilha said after [Sunday’s] award ceremony in Berlin. “This is recognition I did not expect. It is an incentive to make new, critical films that are very important for our country.”

The judges at the Berlin Film Festival also rewarded Mexican director Fernando Eimbcke who won the prize for most innovative film- “Lake Tahoe”.

Image- BBC News

Sources- Associated Press, AFP, The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg, Reuters UK,

Daily Headlines: February 17, 2008

* Follow-up: Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez seemed to have backed down on his earlier threat to halt all oil exports to the U.S.

* Next stop for the One Laptop Per Child project – Haiti.

* Could “organized crime” be behind a bombing last Friday in Mexico City?

* Over 200 British and Canadian couples may have been duped in a Dominican marriage scam.

* Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva visited Antarctica as part of a possible expansion of operations there.

Sources- Xinhua, The Latin Americanist, Washington Post, MSNBC, International Herald Tribune