Friday, April 18, 2008

Today’s Video: Arde (cerca de) Buenos Aires

Pardon us for paraphrasing the song by Los Fabulosos Cadillacs but blazing wildfires in northern Argentina have led to thick clouds of smoke all over Buenos Aires. The dense smoke has led to numerous inconveniences around the Argentine capital (as the video below shows) and has even spread to neighboring Uruguay:

Sources-, BBC News, Bloomberg, YouTube

Colombia: “Para-politics” scandal continues

An ex-senior official of Colombia’s main intelligence agency claimed that several agencies and institutions have been infiltrated by paramilitary groups. If true, then Rafael Garcia’s testimony in front of the Colombian Supreme Court paints a stark portrait of a very corrupt government:

Garcia Torres said…that paramilitarism penetrated as far as the office of the Chief Prosecutor…and also that former Environment Minster Sandra Suarez Perez was possibly “a former collaborator with paramilitaries.”

He also assured that there was paramilitary infiltration in the National Civil Registry…in the Departments of Interior, Foreign Relations, Agriculture, Environment, Communications, and Transportation…and in the Navy and Colombian Embassy in Panama. [Ed. – personal translation]

The Supreme Court recently opened preliminary investigations against four senators with supposed links to paramilitaries, while seven soldiers were arrested Wednesday after being accused of assisting with paramilitary drug smuggling operations.

Update: Now we can add the president of the Colombian Senate to the list of politicians being investigated for possible links to paramilitaries.

Sources (English)- International Herald Tribune

Sources (Spanish)- El Tiempo, Caracol Radio

Image- Javno

First South American gay marriage in Uruguay

While Brazil’s president backs a proposal granting equal rights to gays seeking visas, the first South American gay marriage took place yesterday in Uruguay. As the AFP reported:

Judge Estrella Perez officiated the civil union between Adrian Figuera, 38, and actor and theater director Juan Carlos Moretti, 67, in a courtroom before a small group of friends and family, as witnessed by an AFP reporter.

Moretti later told AFP that after living together for 14 years, he and Figuera thought their marriage was "a matter of justice and a step forward for Uruguayan society."

The head of LGBT affairs for the Mercosur bloc said that allowing gay civil unions is a positive step yet noted that “this doesn’t mean that homophobia and discrimination will suddenly disappear.”

Cities like Mexico City have laws on gay civil unions though the Uruguayan law is the first national law on that issue.

Sources (English)- AFP, Yahoo! News, The Latin Americanist,

Sources (Spanish)- Observa

Image- Towleroad

Canadian Indigenous Leader Seeks Hugo Chavez's Help

Terrance Nelson, chief of the Roseau First Nation in Manitoba, is looking towards Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for help. Specifically the native leader is seeking Chavez's support behind an effort to block two multibillion-dollar pipelines that will transport oil from Alberta to the United States.
"What Chavez will do is give us an international forum," Mr. Nelson said. "We're fighting big oil. We have two pipelines going through that [are] going to bring $47-billion a year in crude oil sales to the U.S., and we're saying the [federal] government is not sitting down with us. They're not following the law. The Supreme Court has made dozens of decisions on this - on the duty to consult and accommodate - and they haven't done that."

Source : The Angry Indian

Brazil's President Lula Backing Same Sex Partnership Visa Requests

Brazilian Presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva announced that his administration was supporting a legislative proposal that would extend to gay Brazilians the same right straight Brazilians have to sponsor foreign partners for temporary or permanent resident visas.
The proposed law would simply remove any distinction of sex from existing provisions that allow Brazilians to sponsor foreign partners. In reality, Brazil is already one of two-dozen countries that already allow gay citizens to sponsor foreign partners for residence, but that right is based entirely on vulnerable judge-made law.

Source : Blabbeando

Daily Headlines: April 18, 2008

* Caribbean: Rest in piece Aimé Césaire; the Martinique poet who promoted black cultural identity died yesterday at the age of 94.

* Brazil: Could the recent discovery of a “major oil field” be a boon for the country’s economy?

* Venezuela: One less controversy for “The Simpsons” as Venezuela’s Televen placed the program in a nighttime slot after having removed from the 11am space.

* Chile: The former chief of the country’s secret police force was sentenced to 15 years in jail over a “Dirty War” disappearance.

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



Thursday, April 17, 2008

Today’s video: Feliz Cumpleaños Chavela Vargas!

Today is the 89th birthday of famed Mexican-Costa Rican singer Chavela Vargas. In honor of the occasion here is her interpreting a ranchera classic – “Volver, volver”.

Sources- Wikipedia, YouTube

Americas should support Castro, says Gorbachev

Former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev was instrumental in introducing vast reforms which led to the fall of communism there. During a speech yesterday, the ex-president advocated that the U.S. and Latin America back the recent reforms in Cuba under Raul Castro:

“I believe that Raul Castro will continue in, many ways, the cause of his brother, but I do believe that there will be changes. I believe that both the Americans and Latin America should respond and help facilitate that change,” Gorbachev said during a speech at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

Gorbachev advocated dropping the U.S. embargo against Cuba and added that “it was a mistake to demonize Fidel Castro.”

Coincidentally, a March editorial in Canada’s National Post compared Raul Castro to Gorbachev by claiming that the Cuban leader will “preside cluelessly over its collapse.”

Sources- PBS, AHN, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, National Post, The Latin Americanist

Image- Palm Beach Post

Brazil: Lula defends biofuels

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva defended the use of biofuels and rejected claims that they were responsible for the rise in global food prices. During a conference of the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization in Brasilia, Lula warned that unfair trade policies, not biofuel consumption, are to blame:

Food riots also underlined the need for an agreement in the so-called Doha round of global trade negotiations, Lula said. Rich countries need to reduce farms subsidies and trade barriers to allow poor countries to generate income with food exports, Lula said on Wednesday…

Either the world solves the unfair trade system, or "every time there's unrest like in Haiti, we adopt emergency measures and send a little bit of food to temporarily ease hunger."

If Europe doesn't open its market to farm imports, "someone will have to assume the historic responsibility," Lula warned.

Brazil’s emphasis on increased biofuel usage has gotten its share of critics; for instance, the U.N. special rapporteur for the right to food called biofuels a “crime against humanity.”

Sources- BBC News, Reuters UK, MSNBC

Image- BBC News

Hispanics flow to Catholic church

As the Pope leads mass today in Washington D.C., the Baltimore Sun has a story about an increase in Hispanic Catholics has molded the current Catholic church in the United States.

One-third of Catholics are Hispanic, the Sun reports, many of whom are under 40.

Many say the flow of Hispanics has been good for the church, perhaps filling a void from others falling away from the church.

The feature zeroes in on a Catholic church in Baltimore experiencing a new Hispanic wave.

Source and Photo: Baltimore Sun

Bush considers labeling Chavez sponsor of terror

Apologies for the tardy posting!

The Huffington Post writes today about the Bush administration and Colombia tying Chavez to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

The latest proof, HuffPost says, is resurrected from the border dispute in March when Colombian troops recovered laptops and documents after attacking the FARC across the Ecuador border.

The Bush administration now wonders whether Venezuela should go on a list of "state sponsors of terrorism," implying economic sanctions.

HuffPost concludes that no one else in the region backs the Chavez-FARC ties.

Source: Huff Post


Daily Headlines: April 17, 2008

* Peru: The country’s Supreme Court upheld a six-year jail sentence against former president Alberto Fujimori while he continues to stand trial for human rights abuses.

* Honduras: In order to curb rising food prices (and avoid violence like in Haiti) the government started a program designed to increase agrarian output.

* Bolivia: Ex-president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada is being sued in a U.S. federal court over deaths caused during protests in 2003.

* Chile: The country’s education minister was booted from her post due to alleged accounting irregularities.

Sources- Associated Press, The Latin Americanist, Guardian UK, CNN, MSNBC

Image- Christian Science Monitor

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Today’s Video: Argie anger over “Simpsons”

An episode of “The Simpsons” has caused controversy in Argentina over a sniping remark about former president Juan Peron. "E Pluribus Wiggum” has not aired in South America; yet according to a Chilean TV report one Argentine legislator wants the episode banned:

This hasn’t been the first time that “The Simpsons” has previously upset others in the region:

Sources- Variety, YouTube, Reuters, Guardian UK, Latina Viva

Cuban “reggaetonero” missing, maybe dead

One of Cuba’s top reggaeton artists has gone missing and is presumed dead after trying to migrate by sea. U.S. Coast Guard officials rescued fourteen people on the raft they shared with Elvis Manuel before it sank yet the singer is nowhere to be found.

Two Cubans have been detained by immigration authorities for heading the “ill-fated migrant smuggling mission” Manuel was on. According to one source, a pair of survivors blamed a Miami-based record label for trying to deceive Manuel:

(Alejandro "DJ Jerry" Rodriguez Lopez) said he and his friends were intrigued by fame and fortune.

"We were told we would be millionaires in two months," Rodriguez said. "They said we would be signed for about $25,000 each on arrival. I thought I would send my father $20,000 so he could build a palace in Cuba. That kind of money lasts forever here."

Elvis Manuel's mother, who also survived the voyage, said her son and his friends were "brainwashed" by tales of success across the Florida Straits. Nodarse, who managed her son's career, decided to make the journey with him.

"They filled his head with lies and promises," she said.

Executives at Millennium Records Entertainment Corp. have denied the accusations against them.

Sources- MSNBC, UPI,, South Florida Sun-Sentinel,

Image- South Florida Sun-Sentinel

U.S. issues new travel alert for Mexico

The U.S. State Department released a new travel alert for Mexico, citing violence by drug gangs in the northern part of the country. The advisory warns that people should be “exercising common-sense precautions” when visiting and /or residing in Mexico:

Violent criminal activity fueled by a war between criminal organizations struggling for control of the lucrative narcotics trade continues along the U.S.-Mexico border. Attacks are aimed primarily at members of drug trafficking organizations, Mexican police forces, criminal justice officials, and journalists…

U.S. citizens are urged to be especially alert to safety and security concerns when visiting the border region. While Mexican citizens overwhelmingly are the victims of these crimes, this uncertain security situation poses risks for U.S. citizens as well.

The alert also briefly mentions the Mexican government’s anti-crime efforts that have been partially successful.

Sources- Newsweek, State Department, UPI, The Latin Americanist

Image- BBC News

FBI Continues It's Harassment on Puerto Rican Independence Movement

Just this morning, a Puerto Rican independence activist was payed a not so friendly visit by the FBI. Miguel Viqueira was getting ready to leave his home to go to work when armed FBI agents showed up, insulting and threatening Viqueira .

At 8:10 this morning, the FBI continued it's witch hunt by approaching Tania Delgado Soto as she left her home in Rio Piedras.
In both cases the FBI left when the individuals asserted their legal right not to speak to agents without a warrant and without legal counsel.

These very recent examples of the continued harassment of Puerto Rican activist demonstrates just how the U.S. federal government operates with regards to the Puerto Rican people and those determined to fight for the island's sovereignty. People are reminded that they have no legal responsibility to speak to federal agents, that when they are approached they should seek legal counsel, and report all incidents of harassment so that the Feds know that they are being watched.

Update: the count of people being harassed by armed FBI agents on the island is now up to 4 and there may possibly be an arrest. Still waiting for confirmation on that last part.

Gracias to Jo Boriken for the information.

Brazil and Venezuela : Super South American Defense Team

Brazilian Defense Minister Nelson Jobim met with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in Caracas Monday and among the topics discussed was the creation of a South American defense council to mediate regional conflicts and defend South America from foreign intervention.
“We are going to make it so that the strength of South America is born of the union of our peoples,” the minister told the press Monday evening.
“It is impossible to talk about problems in isolated form; we should resolve the problems in conjunction and in unity," Jobim articulated, assuring that any problem affecting one South American country affects the whole region.
The defense council would promote joint military trainings and defense bases, and “military industrial integration” in order to “ensure the supply of the necessary elements for defense,” the minister clarified.
This is probably exact what the U.S. government is afraid of.

Sources : The Angry Indian and Venezuela Analysis

Daily Headlines: April 16, 2008

* Colombia: Thousands of people left their homes after the Nevado del Huila volcano erupted yesterday.

* Brazil: The state of Rio de Janeiro may be undergoing a dengue outbreak, yet officials rejected supermodel Naomi Campbell’s blood donation over health concerns.

* Peru: The country’s economy grew by 11.9%, the largest monthly increase in thirteen years.

* Ecuador: Are a pair of Ecuadorians who shared an environmental award “con men” or are they being unfairly attacked by Chevron?

Sources- Reuters, MSNBC, CNN, The Latin Americanist

Image- MSNBC (“The Nevado del Huila volcano is seen in the southwestern state of Huila, Colombia, in this Thursday, Feb. 22, 2007 file photo.”)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Chavez a "toxic" hemispheric threat

The crisis among Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela may have ended last month, but a new column resuscitates it to argue that Chavez is a toxic threat.

Lawrence J. Hass, vice president of the Committee on the Present Danger, writes in the Duluth News Tribune that Chavez and his "axis of unity" with Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are an "ingredient to the toxic stew" thwarting international peace.

Hass connects Chavez to Iran to Hezbollah to illustrate dangerous connections and challenges that Chavez poses to the international community.

Read the article here.

Source: Duluth News Tribune


Leaders gather to talk economics

Dozens of Latin American leaders will combine forces at the World Economic Forum on Latin America to discuss what will happen to the region in the worldwide economic slowdown.

The Cancun meeting has a "reform agenda" discussing free market policies with an emphasis on "supporting the productive sector rather than focusing on ideologies," said Emilio Lozoya Austin, a Forum Leadership Fellow.

Latin America's economy has grown during the last few years, but some worry that this growth will ebb as the U.S. economy slows.

Read the Forbes article here.

Today’s Video: Eric Volz’ prison tape

Last December, Eric Volz was released from a Nicaraguan prison after an appellate court overruled his conviction for murder. His case received much attention in Nicaragua and the U.S.; Volz’ supporters claimed that his conviction was unjust due to a shady judicial process while critics said that he was released due to his status as a U.S. citizen.

Yesterday, the Friends of Eric Volz blog released a brief video of an imprisoned Volz which he supposedly took secretly in January 2007. In the clip, he talks about his time in jail and thanks his supporters for sticking by him.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, YouTube, MSNBC, NPR, Friends of Eric Volz

Emo harassment extends beyond Mexico

Recently, we mentioned a wave of attacks on young Mexicans who have immersed themselves in the “emo” culture. Unfortunately, the harassment of emo youth has shown up in other Latin American countries:

* According to, a Chilean TV station recently aired footage of a group of emos being attacked by skinheads.

* Several Peruvian bloggers have observed how the media tends to look down on emos including a “sketch of false cases” for a comedy program.

* A fifteen-year-old student was attacked and stabbed by a pair of his schoolmates in Bogota, Colombia. According to the mother of the victim, he was assaulted for being an emo:

“He dressed and had hair just like an emo. They said that he should stop being a chicken and fight like a man. But he always said that he wasn’t interested in arguing.” - [ed. Personal translation]

Sources (Spanish)- El Tiempo

Sources (English)- The Latin Americanist, Global Voices Online,

Image- USA TODAY (“Jose Luis Caballero, a 21-year-old self-described "Emo," hangs out in the Insurgentes Traffic Circle in Mexico City on April 7. Caballero said he has been threatened recently amid frictions between Mexico's multiplying youth movements.”)

Book: JFK ill during Bay of Pigs invasion

With the 47th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion coming up this week, a book alleges that President John F. Kennedy was very sick at the time of the event:

In his riveting volume In Sickness and In Power, former Foreign Secretary and medic David Owen reviews the health and medication of leaders over the last century. The chapter on Kennedy is jaw-dropping.

Owen starts by convincingly asserting that Kennedy was much sicker than is commonly appreciated and certainly much sicker than was appreciated at the time. His Addison's disease was very debilitating and needed constant attention.

And there were other health troubles. During the Bay of Pigs fiasco Owen writes that Kennedy had:

“Constant and acute diarrhea and a recurrence of his urinary tract infection.”

The review of the book adds that JFK was “back on an even keel” by the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

(Hat tip: Wonkette).

Sources- Wonkette, Times Online, BBC News, National Security Archive

Image- History Channel UK

Daily Headlines: April 15, 2008

* U.S.: With Pope Benedict XVI expecting to arrive in Washington, DC this afternoon, BBC News examines the role of Latinos and the Catholic Church.

* Latin America: Liar, liar pants on fire for a former Lonely Planet travel writer who confessed to not visiting several Latin American countries he wrote about.

* Peru: Over 40,000 artifacts were taken from Machu Picchu by Yale University almost a century ago and should be returned, according to Peruvian officials.

* Chile: Chilean and Chinese officials called for stronger bilateral economic and trade links as President Michelle Bachelet visited Beijing.

Sources- BBC News, Associated Press, Guardian UK, Reuters, Xinhua

Image- (“Rufina Hernandez of Clearwater prays…during a charismatic prayer group at Incarnation Catholic Church.”)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Today’s Video: 3000 posts!

This morning’s “Daily Headlines” became the 3000th post ever published on our blog. This is a milestone that we’re very proud to have reached and we couldn’t have done it without your loyal readership and attention to our blog. Thank you all for making our job as contributors worthwhile!

Since we’re in a celebratory mood, here’s the music video for a pretty catchy song- “Complemento” by Arteciopelados:

Sources- YouTube, The Latin Americanist

Mexico: Opposition slumber party vs. gov’t

All sarcasm aside, several legislators have barricaded themselves in Mexico’s congress in order to protest the government’s energy reforms. The congressmen have demanded that a “national debate” take place over plans by President Felipe Calderon to partially privatize the state-run oil firm, PEMEX.

Critics of Calderon - like Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador- have warned that the president’s plan will lead to a full privatization of PEMEX:

Mexico's Constitution bans most private and foreign involvement in the industry, although Pemex subcontracts some work to private firms. The bill would allow Pemex to pay bonuses to private companies but not a share of the oil profits.

Lopez Obrador said the bill aims to privatize Pemex, allowing Mexico's oil revenues — which now account for nearly 40 percent of the national budget — to go to private and foreign companies.

He urged his followers to go house by house and neighborhood by neighborhood to educate Mexicans about "the grave consequences" of the bill.

Sources- Reuters, Associated Press, The Latin Americanist, Guardian UK

Image- Voice of America

Turmoil continues in Haiti

Haiti’s Prime Minister was booted from office as chaos continues in the streets over soaring food prices. President Rene Preval announced that government subsidies would be provided to decrease the cost of rice. Yet that was not enough to quell the anger of protestors nor did it save Haitian PM Jacques-Édouard Alexis from his post.

In the meantime, international organizations worry that rising food prices around the world could lead to more situations like those in Haiti:

The president of the World Bank on Sunday announced an additional US$10 million (euro6.3 million) in aid to Haiti for feeding programs. Robert Zoellick said the ouster of Haiti's prime minister after a wave of rioting and looting over food prices underscores the importance of quick international action.

The chief of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, also sounded the alarm on food prices, warning that progress on development can be destroyed by spiraling food costs, which can lead to starvation and shake the stability of governments.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Associated Press, Reuters UK, New York Times, Christian Science Monitor

Image- The Independent

Piri Thomas recovering from stroke

Sad news from the world of literature:

Puerto Rican poet and writer, Piri Thomas, best known for his depiction of barrio survival in Down These Mean Streets, suffered a stroke.

The 79 year old author is recovering in his now home of California.

Another blogger writes on how well-wishers can communicate with Thomas:

If you want to send Piri Thomas a get well message please email us at or call our community hotline (208) 723-5966 and we will compile these in a transcript and audio CD that will go directly to Piri, so that collectively we can raise his spirits and lend him our strength to survive this ordeal.

Get well soon, Piri!

Sources- Vivirlatino, Sofrito for Your Soul

Image- Boys Club of New York

Daily Headlines: April 14, 2008

* Argentina: Despite some initial worry the Olympic torch relay in Buenos Aires was relatively peaceful though not without some protests.

* U.S.: Apparently, Alberto Gonzales is still on the unemployment line.

* Colombia: John McCain may be in favor of a free trade pact with Colombia, but not all congressional Republicans share his perspective.

* Central America: Fewer Central Americans have migrated to the U.S., according to the Border Patrol.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, BBC News, The Hill, The Nation, Associated Press, UPI

Image- Los Angeles Times