Friday, April 4, 2008

Today’s Video: Los Amigos Invisibles

We end the week with a funky, cool video from one of our favorite bands - Los Amigos Invisibles. The Venezuelan-based group will be in concert at New York’s Bowery Ballroom this Saturday night. If you can please go and check them out; you will not be disappointed!

(Video link):

Sources- YouTube, Bowery Ballroom, Los Amigos Invisibles

A case of mistaken identity for CNN

Someone at CNN may have a little explaining to do based on this (hopefully) inadvertent mistake on their website this afternoon.

(Click on the image for a better view):
Speaking of Hugo Chavez, Russian news has reported that Venezuela will buy four Russian submarines when Chavez visits Moscow next month.

Sources- RIA Novosti

Ecuador: Chevron could lose up to $16 billion

A report from “independent environmental expert” said that oil firm Chevron should pay between $7 billion to $16 billion if it loses a local case. In the lawsuit originally filed by natives and peasants in 1993, Texaco (now owned by Chevron) was accused of dumping billions of gallons of contaminated water in the Amazon rain forest.

Chevron has countered against the report:

Chevron said it would ask the court to remove the report from the legal record in the case. In a prepared release, Ricardo Reis Veiga, managing counsel for Chevron Latin America, pilloried the consultant who issued the report.

"The court's appointee has knowingly violated the judge's orders and delivered a report that is biased and scientifically indefensible," Veiga said. "No legitimate court in the world would permit such a charade."

Chevron also accused Cabrera of taking too many samples from fields that were the sole responsibility of Petroecuador, not taking enough samples overall, and making other research errors.

Meanwhile, Ecuadorian officials continue renegotiating oil contracts with foreign companies like Repsol and Petrobras.

Sources- Reuters,, San Jose Mercury News

Image- MSNBC (“Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa surveys oil-saturated soil in the Amazon on Thursday, as workers from the state-owned company Petroecuador clean up the area.”)

FARC hostage pleads “don’t let us rot”

While the odds of a prompt liberation of Ingrid Betancourt appear bleak, a video of one Colombian hostage was revealed on Thursday. Former congressman Oscar Tulio Lizcano was been captured by the FARC in 2000 and in his message he emphasized that the Uribe administration needs to seek a political solution:

“To [the Colombian] government I ask to reconsider your stubborn attitude against a demilitarization zone. We ask that you do not consider a military rescue, as we do not want our families to receive us as bones in body bags…”

“I am a sinking ship with its lights on” he said in another part of his message while he was surrounded by armed guerillas. ­– [ed. personal translation]

The video with Lizcano’s message was revealed by Colombian senator Piedad Cordoba. She has become a lightning rod of controversy over her mediatory role between the FARC and the government. Her political relationship with Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has been of intense particular scrutiny with one columnist going as far as calling her a modern-day Mata Hari.

Sources (English)- Associated Press, Reuters,, Baltimore Sun, Canada Free Press

Sources (Spanish)- Caracol Radio

Image- RCN

Chile's New "Indio" Policy

Michelle Bachelet's administration in Chile has been widely criticized for how it has dealt with indigenous issues. In what can be interpreted as political damage control, earlier this week the Presidenta of Chile announced a new policy for indigenous people.
'Some say the problem facing indigenous people is just poverty, and that good targeting of subsidies would be the most appropriate policy. But we, on the other hand, maintain that it is a matter of rights, of a collective identity seeking expression in a multicultural society,' said Bachelet at a ceremony Tuesday in the palace of La Moneda, the seat of government.

'We are making progress on indigenous affairs, but now is the time to go further, and above all at a faster pace. We have the will, the grassroots support, the resources, the commitment and the legitimacy to do so,' she said."
There has been a new wave of violence against indigenous communities in Chile and an ongoing policy of taking lands from indigenous communities for public works projects.

The actual actions of this new policy are vague, at best, and it remains to be seen if and how the policy is put into real effect.

Via / Angry Indian, UNPO

How Do You Say La Fea Mas Bella in Chinese?

Chou Nu Wu Di.
Colombian Betty la Fea launched Mexico's la Fea Mas Bella and here in the U.S. we have Ugly Betty. I've even seen an Indian version on my neighbor's television. Mexico’s Grupo Televisa began production on the Chinese version of La fea más bella.
According to Televisa, the drama could extend for as long as 400 episodes, and it has been “adapted to Chinese tastes” to make sure its content doesn’t offend the locals.
I think the whole original premise is pretty damn offensive, I mean in the end, the fea becomes bella and gets her man. Pero I hate on novelas like that.

Source : Mi Blog es Tu Blog

Daily Headlines: April 4, 2008

* Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa's popularity received a welcome boost after the diplomatic crisis the country had with Colombia and Venezuela.

* How will Nicaragua benefit from a hydroelectric dam being built by Iran?

* Coming soon to Cuban television sets - a 24-hour channel with mostly foreign content.

* Al Jazeera focuses on renewed calls for Argentine sovereignty over the Falklands in this video report:

Sources- UPI, The Latin Americanist, Reuters, Monsters & Critics, YouTube

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Today’s Video: Junot Diaz discussion tonight!

Dominican-American author/ literary darling Junot Diaz will be speaking at a free event tonight at the New York’s CUNY Graduate Center. (Click here for more information on the discussion).

In case you cannot make it here’s a video of Diaz speaking about his critically-acclaimed 2007 novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

(Video link):

Sources- YouTube, New York Magazine, Flavorpill New York,

Alvaro Uribe: Obama "doesn’t understand Colombia"

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe harshly criticized presidential contender Barack Obama over the senator’s opposition to a free trade pact with Colombia. Uribe “deplored” Obama’s viewpoint which he claimed was said “without knowing all the information about Colombia.”

Yesterday Obama said the following:

"I will oppose the Colombia Free Trade Agreement if President Bush insists on sending it to Congress because the violence against unions in Colombia would make a mockery of the very labor protections that we have insisted be included in these kinds of agreements," Obama said Wednesday at a meeting of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO in Philadelphia.

U.S. President George W. Bush has tried to push approval of the free trade pact with Colombia by claiming that not doing so would lead to more Chavez-style populism in Latin America. (A view which according to one analyst is “specious, misleading and cynical.”)

Uribe’s declarations have not been the only time he has butted heads with U.S. politicos over free trade; last year, he condemned Democrats for treating Colombia “like a pariah.”

Sources (English)- Los Angeles Times, The Latin Americanist, Plan Colombia and Beyond, Washington Wire

Sources (Spanish)- El Tiempo


McCain's Hispanic support ruined?

Andrés Oppenheimer's latest column digs into whether the Republican Party has ruined McCain's chance of any Latino support.

Oppenheimer says the party's anti-immigration rhetoric, most of which came across as anti-Hispanic to many voters, gives McCain an "uphill battle" for what he estimates as needing about 40 percent of estimated 9 million Hispanic voters to win in November.

McCain is more popular than the other Republican candidates were, after leading immigration reform in 2006, but Hispanics primarily vote Democrat and have supported Hillary Clinton in waves.

The entire article is here. What do you think?

Source:, Photo: CNN

McCain: Brazil could replace Russia in G8

Republican presidential hopeful John McCain gave a major foreign policy speech last week. Though most of the attention was placed on tensions in the Middle East and U.S. military deployment in Iraq, McCain criticized Russia’s government and threatened them by using Brazil:

But it was his stab at India's old ally Russia, a country with which the Bush administration forged a close partnership in the beginning, that surprised analysts. Warning against the dangers posed by a ''revanchist'' Russia, McCain said the US should ensure that the G8, the group of eight highly industrialized states, becomes again a club of leading market democracies: it should include Brazil and India but exclude Russia, he said.

Perhaps McCain has understood the increased importance of Brazil in global trade like in Doha round negotiations. Then again, maybe he was just nostalgic of a brief tryst he had with a Brazilian model some fifty years ago.

Sources- Wonkette, The Latin Americanist, International Herald Tribune, Times of India, Reuters India

Image- Al Jazeera

Galway adds Latin flair

Anyone in Ireland next week can participate in Galway's Latin America Week, four days of events (Monday through Thursday) devoted to the region and highlighting its solidarity with Ireland.

Events include the talk "Water Rights and Wrongs," documentary "The Power of Community -- How Cuba Survived Peak Oil," a photo exhibition and a street display about human rights abuses in Mexico.

Find out more about the week in Galway here.

Source: Galway Advertiser, Photo of Galway Racing Festival:

Racist raids on the rails?

Pro-immigration advocates held a small protest yesterday in front of New York’s Penn Station to reject allegedly discriminatory practices on Amtrak and Greyhound. They expressed their opposition to unannounced raids conducted by immigration officials after passengers board the bus or train.

Depending on your judgment the raids may or may not be unfair. Yet they hardly seem effective as this excerpt from the New York Times’ City Room blog revealed:

But how does one exactly prove citizenship?...

“All you have to do is state you are a U.S. citizen,” [Department of Homeland Security spokesman Ramon] Rivera said of the Border and Customs Patrol.

That’s it? That seemed suspiciously simple. What if people lie?

And indeed they do. Each year, “We have thousands of people falsely claiming to a U.S. citizens,” he said.

Well, then a simple declarative statement of citizenship doesn’t seem to be a very effective filter, does it?

That’s where the biometric fingerprints, background checks and interviews come in, he explained.

Meanwhile, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff defended U.S. immigration policy yesterday during a Senate hearing.

Image- NY1

Sources- New York Sun, City Room, NY1, the Border Line

Daily Headlines: April 3, 2008

* The Chinese crackdown in Tibet has led to calls of boycotting the Olympic Games in Beijing this summer. That controversy brings to mind the uproar over the Tlatleloco massacre which occurred ten days before the start of the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.

* Is Venezuela’s government illegally intervening in Peruvian affairs?

* “If you love Wyclef that means you love Haiti,” said musician Wyclef Jean in a series of anti-crime ads.

* Malaysian immigration authorities are embarrassed after it was revealed that a senior officer did not know where Uruguay was located.

Sources- Associated Press, Yahoo! News, Monsters & Critics, Christian Science Monitor,, New Straits Times

Image- CBC (“University students are held at gunpoint by soldiers inside an apartment building in Tlatelolco, Mexico City, on Oct. 2, 1968. (AP photo)”)

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Today’s Video: Obama's cumbia

I don't know whether to laugh or cringe while listening to the following pro-Obama song done cumbia-style.

Please no mas with the pandering songs by/for candidates! (I might reconsider, however, if there were a John McCain/Daddy Yankee reggaeton duet or a Ralph Nader technocumbia sing-along with Matt Gonzalez).

(Video link):

(Hat tip: VivirLatino).

Sources- VivirLatino, YouTube

Ecuador: My Manta base is (not) all right

(Sorry for the lame Pixies reference in the title).

A vote by Ecuador’s popular assembly put another nail in the coffin to the U.S. presence at the Manta air base. Legislators backed the proposal to as part of a series of constitutional amendments which could be approved by a referendum later this year.

The proposal’s text took aim at the U.S. whose base in Manta is key to counternarcotics operations and is the only foreign military facility in Ecuador:

The position has been understood and we ratify the lack of interest to renew in 2009 the 1999 controversial accord to use the southeastern Manta military base by US military forces," states the text.

"Ecuador is a peaceful territory. It does not allow the establishment of foreign military bases or foreign facilities with military purposes. We cannot give national military bases to foreign forces, and we close any actions destined to extend beyond next year the presence of Pentagon troops in this nation."

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa has been adamant in his opposition to the U.S. base in Manta and has vowed to reject renewing the base’s lease which expires next year. As we noted in January, a senior U.S. official doubted that they would pursue building “another large base in the region” if they’re booted off of Manta.

Sources- Reuters, Chicago Tribune, BBC News, Prensa Latina, The Latin Americanist, Lyrics Depot

Image- Living in Peru (“A U.S. AWAKS surveillance plane taking off from the Manta base in Ecuador.”)

Hugo fired from job

No, the “Hugo” in question is not Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez but instead it’s Hugo Sanchez. The man who was arguably Mexico’s greatest futbolista was fired as head coach of the Mexican men’s soccer team. “El Tri’s” highest point under Sanchez was getting a third-place finish in last year’s Copa America. However a series of disappointing results led to Sanchez’ undoing including not winning against arch-rivals the U.S. and failing to qualify to the Olympics.

With 2010 World Cup qualifying matches coming soon, the Mexican federation committee felt that Sanchez needed to go ASAP:

Sanchez’s failure to do more with the talent he had, and his inability to best arch rival the United States, led to his dismissal.

“We want leaders; we cannot accept another failure, another Olympic failure,” said Justino Compeán, the Mexican federation president. “If that was difficult, could you imagine if Mexico didn’t make it to South Africa?”

Somewhere out there Ricardo LaVolpe is laughing himself silly.

Sources- Reuters UK, The Latin Americanist,, Goal

Image- New York Times

Colombian Drug Lord, Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia, Sentenced in Brazil

Almost a year after his arrest in Brazil, accused Colombian drug leader Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia, was sentenced to more than 30 years in prison.
Ramirez Abadia, who is also wanted in the United States, has been found guilty of money laundering, corruption, criminal conspiracy and use of false documents. Besides the 30-year sentence, Ramirez Abadia must also pay a fine worth $2.5 million.
Now President President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has to decide if he should extradite Ramirez Abadia to the U.S. to face charges.

Sources : The Latin Americanist, Yahoo!

Cuba's New "Freedoms" Expand to Farming

Newfound "freedoms" in Cuba have now extended into the fields.
Post the Cuban Revolution, farming and the hands that worked the field were to move the Caribbean country forward. But hasn't bee realized according to some, including the Cuban government.
Government television said Tuesday that 51 percent of arable land is underused or fallow, a problem officials hope to rectify by temporarily transferring some of it to private farmers and associations representing small, private producers.
The president of Cuba's national farmers association, Orlando Lugo, said 'everyone who wants to produce tobacco will be given land to produce tobacco,' and it will be the same for coffee or anything else.
This is actually a program that began last year but was just recently announces, likely capitalizing on the press surrounding other "reforms".

Sources : The Latin Americanist, The Angry Indian

Daily Headlines: April 2, 2008

Did anyone notice our fake April Fool’s Day "headlines"? Anyone? Regardless, let’s return to posting some real news stories.

* French President Nicolas Sarkozy offered to send a medical “humanitarian mission” to Colombia for kidnapped politician Ingrid Betancourt.

* Mexico's Mataviejitas, (“Little Old Lady Killer”) was sentenced to over seven hundred years in jail.

* The air accident rate in Latin America is double the global average according to the International Air Transport Association.

* Coming soon to Venezuela: a new form of currency.

Sources- Reuters UK, The Latin Americanist, Guardian UK, MSNBC, UPI

Image- BBC News

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Today’s Video: Immigration – the game

Recently a human rights group called Breakthrough uploaded the trailer to a video game focusing on immigration. Entitled “ICED - The Immigrant Shuffle”, the game allows players to acts as immigrants trying to survive in the U.S. wondered if games like ICED “get a bit of play in the press, sure, but do they actually help solve anything?” Check out for yourself by viewing the trailer:

Sources- Breakthrough,, ABC News, YouTube

Press Association laments drop in freedoms

The Inter American Press Association closed its midyear meeting saying that press freedoms in the Americas are deteriorating.

The IAPA's final report said an decrease in both journalists' safety and freedom in the press have worsened in the last six months.

Journalists have been jailed, threatened or killed all over the Americas, with 32 journalists recently threatened in Colombia and three killed in Mexico.

Read the article here.

Women presidents' U.K. travel plans

Two female Latin American presidents were scheduled to visit Britain this week.

Chile's president Michelle Bachelet and Argentina's president Cristina de Kirchner were to arrive for separate visits. Kirchner cancelled her trip to discuss sovereignty and the Falkland Islands because of the farmers' strike.

A column from the New Statesman offers an opinion on what this means in the context of the United Kingdom's relations with the region.

"Daily Headlines": April 1, 2008

  • Lou Dobbs was right - Mexico’s government revealed plans of a “reconquest” of the U.S. through the migration of lepers.
  • Hugo Chavez and George W. Bush agreed to peacefully settle their differences after Bush agreed to appear on a future edition of the Venezuelan president’s weekly TV show.
  • Brazilian Catholic Church officials agreed to drop their opposition to condoms on the condition that priests are allowed to bless prophylactics before they’re used.
  • Move over Thomas Beattie; Ricky Martin revealed that he was the world’s first “pregnant man.”
  • Shakira broke off her engagement to Antonio de la Rua and announced that she has the hots for Argentine First Daughter Florencia “florkey” Kirchner.
  • A new remake of the 2002 film “Frida” will be made starring Lindsey Lohan in the titular role.
  • Bolivian president Evo Morales is expected to resign after receiving an offer to play for Spanish soccer giants Real Madrid instead of a local second-division club.
  • Uruguayan cattle farmers are so proud of their beef that they will be giving it away for free today.
By the way, if you believed any of the above items then you probably forgot what date today is.

Image- kotaku
Columbia Journalism Review, Guardian UK, Reuters, New York Daily News, The Latin Americanist,, Bloomberg, Museum of Hoaxes

Monday, March 31, 2008

Today’s Video: Mexican Institute of Sound

Unlike the past few weeks we won’t be doing any themes for our videos. We’re just going to post up whatever we feel like.

In today’s case, here’s one of the latest videos from latintronica outfit the Mexican Institute of Sound. It’s catchy; it’s cool; it’s called “Katia, Tania, Paulina, y la Kim.”

(Video link):

Sources-, YouTube, The Latin Americanist

Bush admin aide quits over USAID investigation

A White House aide resigned recently over allegations that he misused funds from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Felipe Sixto- the now ex-associate director of the office of intergovernmental affairs- quit his post over "a conflict of interest" relating to USAID funds at his previous job at the Center for a Free Cuba.

Several Cuban-American politicos from South Florida have opined over the matter:

Florida Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario and Lincoln Diaz-Balart said in a joint statement that they were "deeply disturbed by any allegation of misuse of taxpayer funds" and urged the Department of Justice and the USAID's inspector general "to move thoroughly and swiftly in investigating all the facts in this matter."

Joe Garcia, a Democrat running to unseat Mario Diaz-Balart, said the resignation underscored "the fundamental flaws of a policy designed to win votes in Miami and patronize partisan supporters, not bring freedom to Cuba."

In light of Sixto’s resignation, White House officials said they have modified its policy on funding anti-Castro groups.

Sources- UPI,, Houston Chronicle, AHN


LatAm press freedoms “under threat” says IAPA

The freedom of press in numerous Latin American countries is “under threat”, according to the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA). The IAPA conference cited the governments of Cuba and Venezuela for detaining journalists and increasing restrictions against the press, respectively. Yet the IAPA also highlighted other countries for not ensuring full liberties to the media:

The IAPA statement singled out the United States for trying to erode a reporter's right to source confidentiality, noting court "cases where federal judges force journalists to reveal their sources and impose heavy fines on them."
The IAPA meeting also issued a resolution against the growing number of unsolved murders and kidnappings of journalists in Argentina, Honduras, Haiti, Mexico and Colombia, whose governments it urged to investigate "quickly and thoroughly."

The IAPA conference was in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas where a parallel forum was also held denouncing the supposed conspiracy between regional media and “the corporate elite.”

Sources- BBC News, International Herald Tribune,, Voice of America

Image- BBC News

Cuba: Citizens allowed to stay in hotels

Cuban hotel employees have said that the government has lifted a ban against citizens staying at tourist hotels. Previously only Cuban newlyweds and “distinguished workers and students” were permitted to stay in the country’s hotels. Today’s edict also allows ordinary Cubans access to those hotels only if they pay in hard currency.

The relaxed restrictions come days after the Cuban government permitted ordinary Cubans access to cell phones and electronic appliances. Yet as Babalu Blog sarcastically noted:

I am sure that every Cuban who awoke this morning trying to figure out how he or she was going to feed their families this week is going to feel a whole lot better about their situation when they hear this news. Who cares about such unimportant things like food and freedom when you have the privilege to stay in a hotel you cannot afford?

Sources- Babalu Blog, The Press Association, The Latin Americanist, MSNBC, AFP, Babalu Blog

Image- BBC News (“Cubans will be allowed to use hotel facilities as paying guests”)

Daily Headlines: March 31, 2008

* Are attacks against “emo” youths occurring in Mexico spreading to Chile?

* Peru's cocaine industry appears to be making a comeback according to this piece originally in the Los Angeles Times.

* A former member of Argentina's armed forces suspected of abuses during the “Dirty War” has been officially extradited from Spain.

* Venezuelan state oil firm PDVSA plans to expand into the South America and the Caribbean, based on a company report.

Sources- Boston Globe, Bloomberg, El Universal, The Latin Americanist,

Image- TIME (“Mexican emos are being pounced upon, turning the band Fall Out Boy's tongue-in-cheek song "This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race" into something unfortunately too literal.”)