Friday, February 29, 2008

Today’s video: Cancion Protesta

We end this week’s slate of posts with a song from one of my all-time favorite groups – los Aterciopelados. “Cancion Protesta” (“Protest Song”) comes from their 2006 album Oye and is a tune which asks listeners not to call their song “terrorist” or as having “unpatriotic” undertones. According to Wikipedia the guitars used in the video were made out of machine guns as part of a U.N. program to “take guns off the streets of Colombia.”

(Video link):

Big thanks to Nacional Records for providing today’s and yesterday's music videos.

This week’s videos with the theme of music containing political messages:

Sources-, Wikipedia, Nacional Records, The Latin Americanist

The Bushes, the Moonies, and Paraguay

The younger brother of George W. Bush traveled to Paraguay yesterday [image] in order to attend a leadership seminar and meet with President Nicanor Duarte. Neil Bush’s visit may not seem like much except that it could raise eyebrows over the Bush's interest in the landlocked South American country.

Back in 2006, rumors surfaced that the Bush family purchased a 100,000 acre ranch in an area near the border with Bolivia and Brazil. At around the same time First Daughter Jenna Bush traveled to Paraguay as part of a UNICEF program though no news conferences or interviews were planned.

Returning to Neil Bush, he spoke at the seminar as part of a delegation from the Universal Peace Federation, a group associated with Reverend Sun Myung Moon. Moon is the controversial leader of the Unification Church and according to the Associated Press he holds plenty of influence in Paraguay:

A leading Paraguayan newspaper, ABC Color, reported Friday that Bush spoke at the leadership seminar about instilling a "culture of service" and better uniting individuals and organizations behind objectives that serve peace and the common good…

Groups allied with Moon publish a newspaper, operate businesses and have large land holdings in Paraguay, South America's second-poorest country.

Yesterday was not the first time Bush had taken part of an event associated to Moon; in 2005, he was a "VIP guest" for parts of Moon’s speaking tour in Asia. Moreover, there had been speculation that Moon owns nearly 1.5 million acres of land near where Bush's alleged acquisition was made.

So what do you think about this? Is it a big deal worth considering or really much ado about nothing?

Sources (English)- AlterNet, Associated Press, International Herald Tribune, Wikipedia, Wonkette

Sources (Spanish)- La Nacion


Study: Tobacco endangers “Third World” women

Women in underdeveloped countries are under increasing danger from tobacco use according to a National Institute of Health (NIH) study. The comprehensive report interviewed roughly 8000 women in developing countries worldwide and does not present a very rosy picture for Latin American women:

"Latin America is where the epidemic of cigarette smoking is most advanced, particularly in Uruguay, where 78 percent of all pregnant women said they had ever tried a cigarette," [researcher Dr. Michele] Bloch said in a telephone interview.

In Argentina, she said 75 percent of pregnant women interviewed said they had tried smoking.

All of the Latin American sites studied found large numbers of women who had experimented with smoking. Bloch said she thinks that as more cultural and economic barriers to women's smoking fall, more of these women will become regular smokers.

The study’s findings come on the heels of a harsh smoking ban passed this week in Mexico as well as other recent bans in countries like Uruguay. Yet the report seems to show that bans are not enough and stronger public heath efforts are needed.

Sources- ScienceDaily, Reuters Africa, Houston Chronicle, the Latin Americanist

Image- BBC News

Much of Argentina Underwater

Flooding in the Buenos Aires province of Argentina have forced 1,000's of residents to leave their homes and caused other infrastructure problems, including power outages and transportation problems. At least 2,000 people have been reported evacuated and the capital city is expecting more rain and more problems. This rain has caused far worse problems in Ecuador and other South American countries, where deaths have been reported due to the weather.

Source : BBC

Trial of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Accused of Murder

On Wednesday, the trial against U.S. Border Patrol Agent Nicholas Corbett for shooting and killing Javier Dominguez-Rivera began. Attorneys for Corbett are claiming self-defense in the January 12, 2007 incident, saying that Dominguez- Rivera was threatening to crush the agents head with rock (rock vs. gun. Hmmm). The prosecution says that the 22 year old victim was surrendering and attacked from behind.
With one hand on the wheel, and the other holding a gun towards them, Corbett swerved his vehicle directly in front of them, frightening Javi and his companions. In a matter of moments Corbett jumped out of his car, gun in hand, and shot Javi at very close range. As he recounted what the eye-witnesses would say, the two brothers and the young woman were on their knees with their hands up or on the side, and Javi was going down towards the ground when Corbett hit him on the back of the neck and then shot him in the chest, downward, left to right, slightly back to front. Javi died almost immediately.
This case is a true test if the justice system in the U.S. really defends the rights of all.

Source : Latino Politico, Coalicion de Derechos Humanos

Daily Headlines: February 29, 2008

* According to the Washington Post building of the “virtual fence” along the U.S.-Mexico border will be postponed by three years.

* Venezuelan national oil firm Petroleos de Venezuela wants a British court to overturn a recent decision to freeze over $12 billion in assets.

* President George W. Bush criticized Barack Obama for his views on meeting Cuban president Raul Castro without preconditions.

* Eleven people were killed when a small plane crashed near the Chilean capital of Santiago.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg, CNN, AHN, Reuters

Image- CNET News

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Today’s Video: Rainin' In Paradize

We continue this week’s videos series on music with political messages by featuring someone we’ve analyzed several times before - Manu Chao. The French/Spanish/Basque artist previously fronted punk rockers Mano Negra and his music tends to be politically charged. (For instance, samples of Zapatista leader Subcomandante Marcos were used in Radio Bemba Sound System).

His 2007 video for "Rainin' In Paradize” rails against actions like the invasion of Iraq and oppression in Africa. The video seen below was filmed in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

(Video link):

Previous videos shown this week were “Sr. Cobranza” by Bersuit Vergarabat and “De Paisano a Paisano” by Los Tigres del Norte.

Sources- Wikipedia,, YouTube, The Latin Americanist

Puerto Rican machetero pleads not guilty

A member of Puerto Rican nationalist group los macheteros pleaded not guilty to an armed robbery in 1983. Avelino Gonzalez Claudio proclaimed his innocence to several charges relating to the $7 million heist of a West Hartford Wells Fargo armored car depot which was supposedly masterminded by los macheteros.

Last Friday, we mentioned how attorneys tried to avoid Gonzalez Claudio’s extradition from Puerto Rico to Connecticut on the grounds of the island’s “colonial status with the U.S.” Gonzalez Claudio had been arrested by the FBI earlier this month, and according to the Associated Press:

Authorities have long suspected that Los Macheteros used proceeds from the robbery to finance attacks aimed at forcing the U.S. to grant Puerto Rico independence. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, but cannot vote in presidential elections and have no voting representative in Congress.

The Macheteros, whose name is variously translated as the "Machete Wielders" or "Cane Cutters" are suspected in a series of such bombings and attacks staged throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Their alleged leader, Filiberto Ojeda Rios, was killed in a 2005 shootout with the FBI at a remote farmhouse in Puerto Rico.

Sources- International Herald Tribune, WFSB, The Latin Americanist, Associated Press, Wikipedia,

Image- (Insignia of los macheteros)

Ex-hostages: Betancourt is “very, very sick”

Ingrid Betancourt is in very weak health and should be liberated as soon as possible from her guerilla captors, according to several Colombian ex-hostages freed yesterday. The French-Colombian politician has been held captive by the FARC for over six years and has faced absolutely barbaric conditions:

One, Luis Eladio Perez told reporters: "It hurts my soul, she is very bad, very, very sick. She is exhausted physically and in her morale.

"Ingrid is mistreated very badly, they have vented their anger on her, they have her chained up in inhumane conditions."

Another, Gloria Polanco, told President Chavez: "I ask you to fight for the release of Ingrid Betancourt really soon, she is very ill, president, very ill. She has recurrent Hepatitis B and is near the end."

After receiving the ex-hostages, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez reminded FARC commanders that Betancourt’s situation is “very delicate” and suggested that they try to find a way to free her. Meanwhile, French president Nicolas Sarkozy called for Betancourt’s immediate release and said that he would be willing to go to Colombia and “receive her.”

Aside from talking about Betancourt, Eladio Perez added that three U.S. contractors held captive in Colombia are “sick [and] weak” and are under threat of spending decades in the jungle.


Sources (English)- The Latin Americanist, Voice of America, BBC News, Associated Press

Sources (Spanish)- El Tiempo, Noticias Caracol

Conference boosts corporate travel industry

Latin America's largest corporate travel conference grew 20 percent from last year after the first conference in 2005.

More than 800 people participated in this week's Latin American Corporate Travel and Technology Exchange in São Paulo, Brazil, a conference for the corporate travel industry.

Conference organizers say this shows a growing interest in travel management and challenges faced by travel companies.

Attendees learn about payment solutions, online booking and attend educational sessions from industry leaders.

Yellow fever outbreak sparks vaccinations

The World Health Organization cautioned that Latin American countries need to monitor closely the vaccines for yellow fever after confirming the first death from the disease in six decades.

The United Nation's WHO confirmed nine cases and three deaths in Paraguay. The country's officials pegged the death toll at eight.

WHO yellow fever chief Dr. William Perea said because most people in Latin America have not been exposed to the virus, they have no immunity. Urban residents are most at risk, because most outbreaks happen in the jungle, where people will have better defenses.

Other countries including Argentina have begun yellow fever vaccinations.

Sources: AP and CNN

Photo: CNN

Daily Headlines: February 28, 2008

* Remember the mentally disabled U.S. citizen who was accidently deported to Mexico last year? Attorneys for Pedro Guzman filed a lawsuit yesterday against the Department of Homeland Security and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

* Was American Airlines negligent in the death of a passenger during a flight from Haiti to New York?

* Illegal immigrants might not contribute to a rise of serious crime in the U.S. according to the author of a recently released study.

* Results of a poll publicized yesterday show that roughly 1 in 5 Nicaraguans back President Daniel Ortega.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Associated Press, ABC News, International Herald Tribune, AHN

Image- El Mundo

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sheriff Arpaio misused funds in Honduras?

In a game of good cop/bad cop Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio would undoubtedly fit the role of “bad cop.” His persona is that of a no nonsense officer with little respect for lawbreakers that includes a very tough anti-immigrant stance.

Arpaio’s views have been loved by some and loathed by others yet the latest controversy involves the “Bay Islands Sister Agency Project for Justice and Service”.

Arizonan senator Bob Burns wants to look into the spending of $30,000 for the project which was used to send state employees to Honduras. Burns has raised doubts over RICO funds that paid for the project and were said to be used to combat violence by gangs such as MS-13. However, some officials don’t believe Arizona is under serious threat from MS-13:

“A spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement says Honduras does not play a significant role when it comes to organized crime in Arizona. “Obviously there are Hondurans involved in criminal enterprises here in the state of Arizona. But when you look at human smuggling and narcotics, that’s all going to be driven mostly by Mexican citizens. They are more familiar with the border area. They have the infrastructure here that supports those criminal activities,” said Vincent Picard, ICE Spokesperson.

Arpaio fully backed the program though yesterday he decided to suspend it due to the county’s “budget crunch”.

Sources- Wikipedia, Arizona Republic,, KTAR, CNN

Image- Village Voice

Judicial reform passed by House in Mexico

Mexico's lower house of Congress overwhelmingly approved a major reform of that country’s judicial system. By a vote of 462-6 (and two abstentions), the house backed the proposal which president Felipe Calderon said would allow for “greater transparency [and] much more agility.”

The bill needs to be further approved for it to go into effect, and includes provisions allowing for public oral trials and would guarantee the presumption of innocence. According to the New York Times, the house dropped a controversial part of the proposal that would have allowed searches without warrants:

Warrantless searches would have been allowed only in emergencies and in cases of hot pursuit of criminal suspects. But human rights groups had strongly opposed the measure, fearing that a police force notorious for corruption would abuse the authority.

One newspaper labeled the plan the “Gestapo law.”

The bill is part of a major anti-crime push initiated by the government nearly a year ago and which has had mixed results.

Sources- Xinhua, Associated Press, New York Times, Bloomberg, The Latin Americanist,

Image- National Ledger

Red Cross: Four hostages freed by FARC

A spokeswoman for the International Red Cross (IRC) has confirmed that Colombia’s FARC guerillas freed four former lawmakers after they had been held hostage for over six years. The four ex-legislators were safely handed over to a commission headed by the IRC and Venezuela’s interior minister at around noon according to an IRC coordinator:

"It's a very important day for the Colombian people and for these four freed people," Barbara Hintermann, the Red Cross' director for Colombia, told reporters in Bogota.

She said the helicopters would fly to the Venezuelan border town of Santo Domingo and then fly on to Caracas, the capital, to be reunited with their families.

"It appears that they are in good enough health to travel to Caracas," Hintermann said.

The freed former hostages have been in delicate health and include Jorge Gechem who “is reportedly suffering from heart, back and ulcer problems”. Much like January’s liberation of Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez was key in serving as broker between the FARC and Colombian officials.

In a communiqué the FARC thanked Chavez for his intervention, yet warned that they would not free any more hostages unless the Colombian government creates a demilitarized zone. In the past, the Uribe administration has constantly rejected creating a DMZ for a possible humanitarian exchange.

Image- BBC News

Sources (English)- The Latin Americanist, CNN, Bloomberg, Al Jazeera, swissinfo, Associated Press

Sources (Spanish)- El Tiempo

Piñatas for Hillary!

Barack Obama has his reggaeton and Mariachi and Hillary Clinton's camp, not to be outdone, came up with this snappy little number, complete with the required photos of Hillary with important Latinos like Dolores Huerta and Ugly Betty and a piñata!

The scary sad thing, is that it plays on all the usual stereotypes of why Latinos should vote for Hillary, like the fact that her husband was president already and that she hangs with people who wear folkloric costumes.

Ancient Ceremonial Plaza Uncovered in Peru

A team of German and Peruvian archaeologists claim to have uncovered the oldest known monument in Peru: a 5,500-year-old ceremonial plaza near Peru's north-central coast.
The ceremonial plaza was carbon dated as being built between 3500 B.C. and 3000 B.C, placing it at the same time of a thriving culture in Middle East and South Asia.
The plaza served as a social and ritual space where ancient peoples celebrated their "thoughts about the world, their place within it, and images of their world and themselves,"
In an adjacent structure, built around 1800 B.C., Fuchs' team uncovered a 3,600-year-old adobe frieze — six feet tall — depicting the iconic image of a human sacrificer "standing with open arms, holding a ritual knife in one hand and a human head in the other," Fuchs said.
Walter Alva, the Peruvian archaeologist who uncovered the Lords of Sipan tombs, said the plaza found in Fuchs' dig was probably utilized by an advanced civilization with economic stability, a necessary condition to construct such a ceremonial site.
Source : Yahoo! News

Daily Headlines: February 27, 2008

* Less than a week after a lawsuit was brought against parents who “illegally adopted” during Argentina’s Dirty War, a vital witness in another trial was found dead of a single gunshot wound.

* Bolivia’s Presidential Minister official said that he would travel to Washington to prove that U.S. aid programs interfere in Bolivian affairs.

* Israel isn’t too pleased at Costa Rica after the Central American country decided to formally recognize a Palestinian state.

* “We are going to make all of the army's archives public so we can know the truth,” about Guatemala’s past announced President Alvaro Colom on Monday.

Sources- International Herald Tribune, BBC News, Al Jazeera

Image- BBC News (“Thousands of people disappeared during Argentina's dictatorship”)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Today’s Video: De Paisano a Paisano

Continuing this week’s video theme of music with political messages is a song from Mexican norteño group Los Tigres del Norte entitled “De Paisano a Paisano” (translation – “From Countryman to Countryman”. The tune is done in the familiar polka-like style of norteño music, and tries to emphasize the brotherhood between Mexicans and their compatriots living in the U.S.

(Video Link):

The song was released in 2001 and the band seems to be moving along very well as 2008 marks the fortieth anniversary of Los Tigres.

(Yesterday we featured “Sr. Cobranza” by Argentine rock group Bersuit Vergarabat).

Sources-, Wikipedia, YouTube,, Village Voice, The Latin Americanist

Hillary Clinton’s campaign mariachi

Supporters of Barack Obama have created reggaeton and mariachi versions of songs in honor of their preferred candidate for the White House. Hell, even Ted Kennedy took a shot last week during a campaign appearance. Thus, it was almost inevitable that Hillary Clinton would follow suit.

Presenting the Hillary Clinton campaign mariachi:

On Monday, the Clinton campaign unveiled a Latino campaign theme song entitled “Hillary, Hillary Clinton.”

An accordion-backed cocktail of traditional Mexican cumbia and tropical influences, the Spanish-language song says Clinton is the candidate who can deliver change Latinos want — by ending the war in Iraq, achieving universal health care, improving the economy and bringing about fair immigration laws.

To listen, click here.

The campaign said the song will be played at rallies, parties and other campaign events across Texas.

At this rate the John McCain electropop/rock en español remix will be playing soon at Nacotheque.

Sources- The Border Line, Papermag, Vivirlatino, Gawker, The Latin Americanist

Image- Wonkette

CANTV says "vete" to English language

Earlier today we highlighted how Mexico City’s government wants city employees to learn the Aztec language of Nahuatl in order to preserve indigenous culture. In the meantime, Venezuelan leaders have their own plans on language and culture.

Officials at state-owned Venezuelan telecom firm CANTV have urged their workers to refrain from using English-language terms as substitutes for words in Spanish. The “Say it in Spanish, say it with pride” campaign was launched yesterday with the hope of get staff to stop using “words like "staff" ("equipo" is preferred), "marketing" ("mercadeo") and "password" ("contraseña").”

According to a statement issued by Venezuela's Communication and Information Ministry:

The campaign was born from the worry of a group of workers at the Communications and Public Affairs department who observed that much of the telecommunications jargon is of Anglo-Saxon background…

Via stickers and posters, the campaign will bring to attention the large amount of English terms used daily by Venezuelans and substitute our on way of naming things. This has been the case for many years where many sectors have been threatened with the cultural domination of our towns. – [ed. personal translation]

Image- Clipperz

Sources (English)- Associated Press, Bloomberg, The Latin Americanist

Sources (Spanish)- Gobierno Bolivariano de Venezuela

Latin women caucus

Delegates from Latin American and Caribbean countries including Brazil, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Argentina and Puerto Rico met this afternoon at the United Nations to caucus, deciding prominent issues and what to lobby to the UN.

The caucus was part of the UN's week-long focus on reducing violence against women, and the delegates (all women except for one Puerto Rican man) shared different programs and NGOs aimed toward this goal, alongside efforts to tweak the document "Declaración Sindical 52º Período de Sesiones de la Comisión sobre la Condición Jurídica y Social de la Mujer de las Naciones Unidas."

Much of the hour-long meeting was spent on delegates' introductions and a discussion of which language to use, because the room's 40 attendees represented five languages.

The caucus will continue tomorrow, with the language still undecided. Most representatives from the Caribbean only speak English, and a handful in the room did not understand any English, so the meeting ended with a tentative agreement to speak slowly in both languages with translation as necessary.

Read an overview of issues the UN considers pressing to Latin America.


Latin America loaded with guns

Latin Americas own 80 million guns, according to an article on China View.

The region also experiences 90,000 armed attacks each year, reports the Organization of American States.

This information was published in Mexico's media, and officials are using this to point to the dangers of privately owned guns.

Read about it here.

Source: China View


Daily Headlines: February 26, 2008

* Mexico City mayor Marcelo Ebrard wants all public workers to be multilingual by learning the Aztec language of Nahuatl.

* The Venezuelan government has blamed “anarchists” for the fatal bombing at the offices of the country’s leading business group.

* “The second step to ending poverty,” in Brazil was introduced via a social initiative yesterday by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

* Both Facebook and AOL unveiled Spanish-language versions of their websites this month.

Sources- Guardian UK,, International Herald Tribune, Reuters,

Image- MSNBC (“A part of an uncovered altar shows a frieze of an agricultural deity at the Aztec empire's main Templo Mayor temple, near the central Zocalo square in Mexico City”)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Today’s Video: Sr. Cobranza

This week’s videos will highlight music from several Latin American artists that have political messages.

Today’s video is a solid tune from Argentine rockeros Bersuit Vergarabat called “Sr. Cobranza.” It’s a song we’ve featured before but it is a wonderfully scathing rebuke against Argentina’s political class. Lead vocalist Gustavo Cordera lists his gripes as the song gradually picks up the tempo until he unleashes in a primal scream of contempt against authority. According to one blogger, the song was highly controversial when released in 1998 and Argentine authorities even threatened radio stations that played it with severe fines.

(Video link):

Sources- YouTube, The Latin Americanist, Alifa,

Mexico: Teen’s death ignites pro-lifers

The death of a 15-year-old girl during an abortion has served as a rallying point for Mexico’s pro-life activists, especially the country’s Catholic Church.

According to EFE, the teen died on February 15th and federal authorities blamed the doctor after tests showed that the girl was in the four month of pregnancy. (Only first trimester abortions were made legal in Mexico City last April.) Since the girl's death, the Archdiocese of Mexico City has increased their opposition to abortion through its literature and public demonstrations:

During a Mass celebrated with pro-life demonstrators who are calling on Mexico’s Constitutional Court to declare abortion illegal, the Archbishop of Guadalajara, Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez, said politicians and public officials who support abortion do not speak for the Mexican people, who love life…

“This march is for the family and for human life,” Cardinal Sandoval said, “and it is an opportune moment for our leaders and legislators to take the people’s pulse” and to “pass consistent laws because they represent the people.”

“If they are true representatives of the people, they should represent them with dignity and reflect the values of this nation that loves the family and life,” he added.

The deceased became the first woman to die due to a botched legal abortion in the Mexican capital though one source claims that 6,132 authorized abortions were successfully done since last April.

Image- BBC News (Pro-choice activist protests in Mexico City)

Sources (English)- Catholic News Agency,, The Latin Americanist

Sources (Spanish)- El Sol de Mexico

Paraguay, Brazil hit by yellow fever outbreak

A recent outbreak of yellow fever has affected people in Paraguay and Brazil as health officials try to control the situation. At least fifteen people have died in Brazil and seven in Paraguay from the disease which is transmitted through infected mosquitoes and could be fatal.

The World Health Organization has sent 4 million doses of vaccine to Paraguay though tempers have flared over the vaccines’ distribution and usage:

Paraguay has declared a state of emergency to last 90 days.

The mood of those queuing outside medical centers has become increasingly impatient.

At one medical centre, police in riot gear were reported to have been used to protect the building, as an angry crowd gathered outside.

The government has dismissed as "irresponsible" allegations that health workers have been vaccinating politicians in their homes.

Meanwhile, travelers in the U.S. that have planned to go to Paraguay and Brazil have had trouble getting the yellow fever vaccine since the medicine is in short supply and the cost is not covered under certain health care plans.

Sources- Centers for Disease Control, UPI, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Associated Press, BBC News, Xinhua

Image- Los Angeles Times (“Residents of Luque, Paraguay, stand in line to be vaccinated against yellow fever.”)

Ingrid Betancourt: Six years in the jungle (and counting)

This past Saturday marked the sixth anniversary of the kidnapping of French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt by the FARC guerillas. It was on February 23, 2002 when Betancourt- then-running for the presidency- was captured while venturing through a former demilitarized zone granted to the guerillas. Since then little is known of her condition aside from a few videos taken while in captivity with the most recent one released last November showing a very frail and shackled Betancourt [image].

Several events took place on Saturday calling for Betancourt’s prompt liberation. In Bogota, several of her relatives prayed for her at a public mass including her mother who last week backed Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez’ role in a possible humanitarian exchange. Meanwhile, a remembrance ceremony was held in downtown Paris, France but not before Betancourt’s daughter met with French president Nicolas Sarkozy. (Chavez was pivotal in the freeing of Betancourt aide Clara Rojas last month while Sarkozy has pledged to help Betancourt).

In the meantime, an article from the Associated Press implies that Betancourt’s fame serves as a double-edged sword regarding any strategy to liberate her:

"Without justifying this atrocity by the FARC, the person who has most contributed to the fact that Ingrid has been turned in to this valuable merchandise, this "jewel in the crown," and so put up obstacles to her freedom, is her mother and the way she has behaved," Gen. Freddy Padilla, commander of Colombia's armed forces, said in an interview with Semana magazine last month…

Betancourt's current husband and mother say they're being blamed for her plight because of their criticisms of the Colombian government's seeming reluctance to reach out to the rebels.

"If we hadn't done anything, the government would not be feeling this pressure from around the world to make a deal with the FARC," said Juan Carlos Lecompte, Betancourt's husband when she was kidnapped.

Image- BBC News

Sources- The Latin Americanist, International Herald Tribune, Al Jazeera, BBC News, Voice of America, El Universal, Wikipedia

Daily Headlines: February 25, 2008

* Argentina and Brazil have agreed to build a shared nuclear reactor as part of a plan for increased cooperation between both countries.

* China provided $4 billion in loans to Venezuela which are repayable in fuel oil.

* Whoever breaks off an engagement may have to reimburse the jilted party according to a bill being considered by Mexico City’s legislature.

* Caribbean banana growers are worried over a possible change in tariffs by the European Union.

Sources- Guardian UK, Jamaica Gleaner, BBC News, Associated Press

Image- New York Times (Nuclear power plant located in Resende, Brazil)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Raul Castro selected as Cuban president

Raul Castro has been selected as Cuba's next president in a decision made this afternoon by the Cuban National Assembly.

Raul [image] had been the favorite to win the post after older brother Fidel said last week that he would step down permanently as president. Raul had been named interim president in July 2006 when health reasons forced Fidel to temporarily relinquish his post.

In what Reuters reports as as a "surprise move", "hardline communist" Jose Ramon Machado Ventura was named first vice president instead of a younger, more moderate choice. This may not bode well for those expecting a swift transition towards democracy on the island.

What awaits Raul is a precarious situation according to
BBC News:

Our correspondent says Raul Castro now has to steer the Caribbean island through un-charted waters in an unpredictable period of economic and political renewal.

Before Sunday's session, Raul Castro had suggested implementing major economic reforms and "structural changes".

He has worked to ensure a smooth political transition, keeping the army loyal to the regime and strengthening the Communist Party's hold by introducing reforms and weeding out corrupt officials.

He has also had the advantage of continued economic support from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in the form of millions of barrels of cheap oil, our correspondent adds.

Sources- Associated Press,, BBC News, The Latin Americanist,
Image- CBS News