Friday, May 30, 2008

De Musica Ligera: It's almost time for LAMC!

The Latin Alternative Music Conference (LAMC) will be held again this July in New York City. Some bloggers like our dear contributor Maegan la Mala will be attending the many activities at LAMC such as panels on blogging and music.

One of the best aspects of LAMC is the numerous concerts to be held around town and that are open to the public. Some of these concerts are free and cannot be missed! Brooklyn Vegan has a helpful list of this year’s LAMC events.

The following are MP3s of a few of the artists performing at this year’s LAMC. We hope you enjoy them and also hope you all have a great weekend!

Sources- Latin Alternative Music Conference, Brooklyn Vegan, VivirLatino


Today’s Video: “Lost” tribe encountered in Brazil

In a world which has become increasingly interconnected and globalized it's hard to believe that there are tribes isolated from the rest of the world. Such was the case in Brazil where aerial photos were taken of an isolated tribe in the Amazon jungle.

The following video is a report on the story from Al Jazeera; it shows the images taken of the unnamed tribe and also points out how increased logging in the Amazon has lead “lost” tribes to seek contact with the outside world.

Sources- BBC News, YouTube

Honduras: Plane skids off runway

Update: As of late Friday night the death toll is estimated at five with over sixty people injured. (Source: Xinhua).

A passenger plane skidded off a runway at Tegucigalpa airport in Honduras and onto a residential street. CNN en Español reported this afternoon that three passengers died though that number could rise as several cars are trapped underneath the airplane. The TACA airplane carried 124 passengers and the accident occurred as the plane tried to touch down.

The culprit of the accident may have to do with the wet weather cause by Tropical Storm Alma. The storm weakened to a depression this morning after hitting Honduras this morning though the experts at the National Hurricane Center estimate that 10 to 15 inches of rain will fall over the country.

Alma has caused extensive flooding and damage in several Central American countries; one man died in Nicaragua as power lines were knocked out while several mudslides occurred in Costa Rica.

Sources- BBC News, Bloomberg, Chicago Tribune, The Latin Americanist, Reuters, AHN

Image- CNN

Mexico tries to keep the flow of tourism by eliminating taxes for tourists

Contributed by Jill Seymour:

With tourism being Mexico's third most important source of income, one can imagine how the economic downturn of the United States has begun to affect Mexico. In an attempt to maintain the tourist flow toward Mexico, the Mexican government will allow tourists to claim back the 15% tourists have paid while on vacation.

In order to qualify, tourists must spend at least $115 in approved stores. The tax break will only apply to shopping and souvenirs goods, not hotels and restaurants. Starting in June, tourists will be able to claim their tax breaks at five Mexican airports (those popular as tourist destinations).

Image: MSNBC (“Tourists eat breakfast at a coffee shop in the old mining town of Real de Catorce, Mexico.”)

Source: Business Week Online

Puerto Rican Political Prisoner Oscar Lopez Marks 27 Years Behind U.S. Bars

There is much discussion about political prisoners in Latin American countries, specifically U.S. enemy Cuba, but there is little discussion of men and women incarcerated United States federal prisons who consider themselves political prisoners. One such case is the case of Puerto Rican Oscar Lopez Rivera. Yesterday marked 27 years since his capture on charges including seditious conspiracy and is accused of being a member of the FALN, or the Armed Forces of National Liberation in English, an organization dedicated to the liberation of Puerto Rico, an organization deemed a terrorist group by the United States.

Oscar López-Rivera was born in San Sebastian, Puerto Rico on January 6, 1943. At the age of 12, he moved to Chicago with his family. He was a well-respected community activist and a prominent independence leader for many years prior to his arrest. Oscar was one of the founders of the Rafael Cancel Miranda High School, now known as the Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School and the Juan Antonio Corretjer Puerto Rican Cultural Center. He was a community organizer for the Northwest Community Organization (NCO), ASSPA, ASPIRA and the 1st Congregational Church of Chicago. He helped to found FREE, (a half-way house for convicted drug addicts) and ALAS (an educational program for Latino prisoners at Stateville Prison in Illinois).
He was active in various community struggles, mainly in the area of health care, employment and police brutality. He also participated in the development of the Committee to Free the Five Puerto Rican Nationalists. In 1975, he was forced underground, along with other comrades.
Lopez- Rivera has a connection to the Clintons, as he was offered some form of leniency by the Clinton Administration in the fall of 1999. He declined the offer.
His sister, Zenaida Lopez, said he turned the offer down because he would be on parole. 'Accepting what they are offering him is like prison outside of prison,' she said. Zenaida Lopez said her brother 'was in total agreement' with the decision of the 11 others to take the conditional clemency.
Part of the clemency agreement included no contact with other members of the Puerto Rican liberation struggle. He is currently serving a 55-year sentence.

Someone and something to think about as both Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, travel in Puerto Rico this weekend asking for primary votes from people who have no right to vote in the actual presidential election in November.

Source : Prison Activist Resource Center

Daily Headlines: May 30, 2008

* U.S.: A 1945 painting by the late Rufino Tamayo set an auction record for Latin American art after selling for $7.2 million.

* Mexico: A five-year-old boy was among the fifty-one illegal Mexican migrants found hidden in a tractor trailer trying to cross the border.

* Panama: Chile’s police chief was killed in a helicopter accident in Panama City along with eleven others.

* Argentina: Starbucks launched its first Argentine store today with a locale in Buenos Aires.

Sources- MSNBC,, CNN, New York Times, The Latin Americanist,

Image- Washington Post (“In this undated photo provided by the Maier Museum of Art at Randolph College, Rufino Tamayo's 1945 oil on canvas painting, "Troubadour", is shown in Lynchburg, Va. (AP Photo/Randolph College)”).

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bloggers of the world unite

Sources- Memory in Latin America, Slashfood, Inside Latin America, New America Media, The Oppenheimer Report on Latin America, Voices Without Votes, Venezuela News and Views, Mexico Reporter

Image- Reconstruction

U.S.-Mex. governors meet; worry over border corruption

Governors from border states in the U.S. and Mexico are meeting today with the aim of addressing several issues with Mexico's president. One of the main topics for discussion will be drug-related violence that is affecting the border states though the governors will also talk about trade and border security.

Speaking of border security, today’s New York Times mentioned of the growing number of corruption investigations among U.S. Border Patrol officers. Homeland Security officials worry that the increased number of officers could lead to dangerous security breaches:

James Tomsheck, the assistant commissioner for internal affairs at Customs and Border Protection, said the agency was “deeply concerned” that smugglers were sending operatives to take jobs with the Border Patrol and at ports…

Although bad apples turn up in almost every law enforcement agency, the corruption cases expose a worrisome vulnerability for national and border security. The concern, several officials said, is that corrupt agents let people into the country whose intentions may be less innocent than finding work.

Sources- BBC News, CNN, UPI, New York Times, International Herald Tribune, The Latin Americanist

Image- New York Times (“The Mexican side of the fence in Naco, a village that straddles the border with Arizona.”)

Strong storms hit C. America, Colombia

With the start of the hurricane season coming up this Sunday, several Central American countries are being affected by Tropical Storm Alma. Costa Rica has already suffered over twenty-four consecutive hours of rain, while Alma is expected to strengthen into a hurricane by the time it lands in Nicaragua and Honduras tomorrow.

In Colombia, an estimated 100,000 people have been left homeless after weeks of ongoing rains have overflowed several rivers and caused landslides. A Colombian Red Cross official said that 26 of the country’s 32 provinces are under “emergency” due to the wet winter.

Parts of the Caribbean may also face its share of heavy rain this weekend according to meteorologist Dr. Joe Sobel:

The first (major Atlantic) storm is in the southwest Caribbean to the east of Panama where we have seen clusters of thunderstorms come and go over the last week or so…The showers and thunderstorms associated with it may drift to the north or northwest with time and by Friday or the weekend it may be wetter in Cancun and Cozumel or western Cuba than it is now.

Sources- Canadian Press, MSNBC, CNN, Xinhua, Dr. Joe Sobel’s Weather Blog

Image- CNN (“Residents and police officers push through the flooded streets of Honda, Colombia, on Tuesday.”)

Bank gives $550K in assistance

The Economic Times again reports that the food crisis is impacting Latin America.

The Inter-American Development Bank will provide a $550 million line of credit to help Latin American poor, estimating that about 71 million people survive on less than $1 each day.

Bank chief Luis Alberto Moreno said more than 26 million people could join the poverty line while food crisis are rising 128 percent.

The credit line should be approved by the IDB board within two weeks.

Source: Economic Times, Photo:

Dodd provides hope in Bolivia

Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd says a "change is coming" to relations between the United States and Latin America while speaking in Bolivia yesterday.

The Associated Press reported that Dodd met with Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera in La Paz to help smooth relations. Dodd's office said he was "disappointed" that President Evo Morales did not meet with him as well.

Dodd said if a Democrat is the next president, the United States will spend more time thinking about their "family here in the Americas."

Dodd served in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic from 1966 to 1968.

Source: AP, Photo:

Daily Headlines: May 29, 2008

* Argentina: Please no mas with the comparisons between Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and Hillary Clinton!

* U.S.: The head of the Texas Border Coalition wants federal officials to use alternate means to secure the border with Mexico instead of a physical wall.

* Haiti: Haitian President Rene Preval asked his Brazilian counterpart to send more police to help control rampant crime.

* Paraguay: Future economy minister Dionisio Borda said last week that Paraguay would drop its loan option with the International Monetary Fund.

Sources- Christian Science Monitor, Houston Chronicle, Reuters, International Herald Tribune


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Today’s Video: Obama’s “boricua” ad

Normally we don’t post more than one video daily but today is an exception.

The Democratic presidential candidates have been paying more lip service to Puerto Rico in anticipation of the island’s primary this Sunday. In Barack Obama’s case, his campaign has issued a Spanish-language ad.

It’s meant to be uplifting and Obama’s accent is not too thick or distracting. But I cannot help but shake off the feeling that, much like Mitt Romney’s guayabera, the ad is terribly pandering.

See the ad for yourself:

(Hat tip: Wonkette).

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Reuters Africa, Wonkette

Venezuela: Info. Minister quits

Venezuelan Information Minister Andres Izarra tended his resignation on Tuesday after a disagreement he had with President Hugo Chavez. Izarra has offered to quit after Chavez said that state-run TV channel Venezolana de Television would (VTV) charge private network Globovision for using footage:

Globalvision, a private Venezuelan TV channel controlled by the opposition, said Tuesday that the VTV has decided to charge private TV networks for the use of its official footage with 3,350 U.S. dollars per minute from June 1…

The VTV… has been providing rebroadcasting service to other TV networks for free in the past.

On a related note, several hundred people marched in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas on Sunday demanding that the government return the broadcasting license of RCTV.

Image- Latina Viva (Television cameras record Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez during his weekly TV program)

Sources- The Latin Americanist, El Universal,, Xinhua

Is Sven leaving England to coach Mexico?

Rumors have swirled that Swede Sven-Goran Eriksson will be the next coach of the Mexican national soccer team. The speculation grew even more yesterday after the head of Mexico's soccer federation- Justino Compean- claimed that Eriksson will leave his post at Manchester City F.C. to go to Mexico.

Eriksson’s agent rejected the rumors and Compean’s claim:

Eriksson's agent in London, Athole Still, denied any negotiations between sides have occurred.

"No confirmation whatsoever. There has been no official contact whatsoever," Still said. "Mr. Eriksson is a contracted employee of Manchester City Football Club. He has not proactively looked for other employment, nor have I.

"It's all just rumors. Until there is official negotiation or discussion, it's all just hot air."

Mexico has been searching for a permanent coach since Hugo Sanchez was sacked nearly two months ago when the country’s team surprisingly failed to qualify for the Olympics.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, International Herald Tribune, Canadian Press, CNN

Image- Sky Sports

Chilean connection in Olmert corruption probe

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has come under fire over allegations that he was secretly given $500,000 in bribes or illegal campaign donations. Defense Minister Ehud Barak has called for Olmert to resign based on his allegedly receiving illicit money from U.S. financier Morris Talansky.

According to Israeli prosecutors, there is a South American element to the case against Olmert. On Friday, the Associated Press reported that investigators were checking if Olmert asked “an unidentified Israeli diplomat in South America” to help an unspecified technological project Talansky was involved in. Wednesday’s New York Times gave more details:

(In October 2005), Mr. Olmert sent a letter to Chile’s defense minister, according to Mr. Lador, who implied that it was in connection with a satellite company in which Mr. Talansky had some interest. Mr. Talansky denied knowing of the letter.

Regardless of what the courts decide Olmert may not survive as P.M. for too long as his coalition government falls apart and public sentiment grows against him.

Sources- Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, UPI, Reuters UK

Image- BBC News (“Mr. Olmert denies the allegation that he accepted bribes”)

Today’s Video: Bolivia's cholita wrestlers

Last March we talked about a wrestling match in California with “Super Mojado”, a grappler created as a defender of immigrants’ rights. The storyline of the bout was a battle of justice-vs.-injustice as the hero beat the heel named “INS Man.”

In a similar vein, the 2006 documentary “Fighting Cholitas” examined the weekly wrestling matches in Bolivia between women dressed in traditional, indigenous garb. Fans enjoy the distraction of watching the bouts while the wrestlers emphasize righteousness and dignity:

What emerges is a complex set of reasoning, based on pride in who they are and what the clothes they wear stand for. This isn’t just a fight in an arena, but a fight for identity as well.

The following video is the trailer for the film:

(Hat tip: The Latin American Post).

Sources- Motofilms, The Latin Americanist, Eye for Films, The Latin American Post

Macheteros Warn of FBI Onslaught

The Boricua Popular Army aka The Macheteros, is warning that the FBI is getting ready to launch a campaign against Puerto Ricans actively engaged in the struggled for Puerto Rico's independence and other activists.
"Our organization possesses information indicating that the FBI, with the collaboration of the colonial police, are planning an operation to arrest, kidnap, and in some cases provoke the death of independentista, socialist leaders and activists protecting the rights of the people, said the missive. "The FBI intends to strike at all the groupings and individuals capable of supporting the people in their struggle for decolonization, national liberation and social justice," added the document dated May 19, but postmarked May 23. "United we can remove the FBI from our country, as we achieved the removal of the U.S. Navy from Vieques. United we can save the Puerto Rican nation from the FBI assassins and their colonial collaborators," added the document.
The FBI had no comment. While some may say that the Macheteros are nothing but a terrorist organization, as the U.S. has labeled them, history has shown us that the FBI has been capable of such actions. Google cointelpro and you'll see what I mean.

Source : NYC Independent Media Center

Daily Headlines: May 28, 2008

* Puerto Rico: Congrats to actor Benicio Del Toro who won the best actor award at the Cannes Film Festival for his portrayal of revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

* Mexico: Seven federal police officers were killed and another four were wounded after a drug raid in northwest Mexico.

* Ecuador: According to the results of a poll released on Monday, 41% of Ecuadorians would support a government-backed constitutional referendum.

* Caribbean: Bahamian police fund the dead bodies of four people believed to be Haitian migrants.

Sources- Bloomberg, The Latin Americanist, MSNBC, Reuters UK, CNN

Image- New York Daily News (“Benicio Del Toro sports Che-like beard for filming of the rebel's two-part biopic.”)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Today’s Video: Abuse by humanitarians

A report published today by a British charity contends that some humanitarian workers have engaged in abusing children in countries they have worked in. The study from Save the Children UK looked at the Ivory Coast, southern Sudan and Haiti and even found cases of abuse by U.N. peacekeepers.

Below is a link to a BBC News report on the study. (Unfortunately the video is not allowed to be embedded). Though most aid workers do not engage in such depravity, it is vital that action be taken against those who exploit innocent children.

BBC News – “Peacekeepers ‘abusing children’”

Sources- CNN, BBC News, YouTube

Will S. America get its own currency?

The European Union has the euro and conspiracy theorists believe that North America will one day get the “amero.” But could South America soon have its common currency?

Twelve South American countries created a regional body called UNASAUR last week designed to increase economic and political ties. Yesterday, Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva suggested that the body’s next step should be the establishing of a regional central bank and common currency:

'Many things still haven't been realized. We are now going to create a Bank of South America. We are going to move forward so in the future we'll have a single central bank, a common currency,' he said.

But, he added: 'This is a process. It won't be something that happens quickly.'

Lula also said that the bloc’s leaders will work to help “economically fragile” members such as Paraguay, Uruguay and Bolivia.

Aside from a common currency, future plans for UNASUR may include the absorption of regional trade blocs as well as the creation of a South American Defense Council.

Image- Dallas Morning News (UNASUR flag)

Sources- Associated Press, Forbes, BBC News, The Latin Americanist, Xinhua, Galveston County Daily News, Wikipedia

Soccer high altitude ban suspended

FIFA- the governing body of soccer- suspended its controversial ban on high altitude matches; a move highly criticized by several South American nations. The edict had barred playing international matches above 8200 feet, and this would have prevented games from being played in cities like La Paz, Bolivia and Quito, Ecuador.

FIFA rescinded after pressure from South America's soccer body and Bolivian president Evo Morales who was one of the most vocal opponents of the ban:

Furious Bolivian president Evo Morales had condemned Blatter as a 'dictator' and was planning on taking his battle to the United Nations…

Blatter revealed that he had received a "harsh" letter last month from Morales but had then received a more cordial appeal from him for the sport's governing body to "advocate for the good of the game."

Though the suspension of the altitude ban may be a relief for Andean countries, there could be a problem with how Caribbean countries would be affected after Blatter proposed a set of rules regarding playing under “extreme conditions” like heat, cold, and pollution.

Sources- AFP, Reuters UK, Canadian Press, BBC News,

Image- Foreign Policy Passport (Bolivian poster opposed to FIFA’s high altitude ban)

Castro blasts, dissidents praise Obama on Cuba

Last Friday’s speech by Barack Obama on Latin America raised distinct reactions in Cuba.

In an article published yesterday in Granma, former president Fidel Castro assailed Obama’s speech which called for increased freedoms in Cuba and continuing trade sanctions against the island. Castro called Obama the “most progressive candidate” for the presidency, yet he strongly rebuked the Illinois senator’s remarks:

Presidential candidate Obama’s speech may be formulated as follows: hunger for the nation, remittances as charitable hand-outs and visits to Cuba as propaganda for consumerism and the unsustainable way of life behind it.

Unlike Castro, a vocal Cuban dissident group backed Obama’s speech. The all-female “Women in White” expressed in an open letter their “great hope” that Obama could help in the “immediate, unconditional liberation” of sick Cuban political prisoners. The letter hesitated to endorse Obama or any other candidate yet urged that the U.S. could “begin an era of political realism toward Cuba” if Obama is elected president.

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

Image- BBC News

Daily Headlines: May 27, 2008

* Venezuela: Newly-elected London mayor Boris Johnson will not renew an energy deal with Venezuelan oil firm PDVSA which was used to lower fuel costs for London buses and pay for a discount-fare program.

* Honduras: The office of controversial Arizonan Sheriff Joe Arpaio denied allegations that it misused tens of thousands of dollars to pay for a program with Honduran law enforcement officials.

* Puerto Rico: Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton spent their weekend in Puerto Rico courting support in anticipation for this Sunday’s Democratic presidential primary on the island.

* Peru: Despite an admitted lack of direct proof a former general testified that he had “absolute conviction” that ex-president Alberto Fujimori masterminded a pair of massacres in the 1990s.

Sources- Bloomberg, International Herald Tribune, The Latin Americanist, MSNBC

Image- BBC News (Former London mayor Ken Livingstone and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez meeting in 2006.)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Weekly Debate: The future of Colombia’s conflict

It’s been nearly nine months since our last weekly debate, so without further ado we’ll return to posting a debate every Monday.

Over the weekend it was revealed that the head of Colombia’s FARC guerillas died nearly two months ago. A spokesman for the country’s rebels confirmed on Sunday that Manuel “Sureshot” Marulanda died of a heart attack on March 26 and that a new leader was chosen in alias Alfonso Cano.

Despite the change in leadership, it’s very difficult to guess at what their future will be. Militarily the FARC have been severely weakened and politically they’ve made few inroads. As analyst for the Center for International Policy and Plan Colombia and Beyond blogger Adam Isacson said to the AP :

…the group is at a "fork-in-the-road moment".

"For about the past six years, you've seen nothing different, no changes in political strategy," he said. "It's hard to say in what direction the FARC will go but it seems certain there will be a different direction."

Isacson considers it a positive sign that the FARC's leadership did not choose as its new chief a member of the rebels' military wing, which is thought to be more resistant to the idea of talks with the government.

Furthermore, Isacson mentioned on his blog three likely scenarios which could occur in the post-Marulanda period including the complete disintegration of the FARC and further fragmentation of the guerillas.

Regarding the FARC and the future of Colombia's armed conflict there are numerous questions to consider:

  • Does the death of Marulanda signal the “final nail in the coffin” of the FARC? (Analyst Vicente Rangel used that quote extensively in interviews with Colombian TV).
  • Will the FARC have no other choice but to negotiate with the Colombian government?
  • What will be the immediate fate of hundreds of hostages held by the guerillas? (See this week’s poll).
  • How will this affect other guerilla groups such as the ELN?
  • How will other countries- especially Colombia’s neighbors- react to Marulanda’s death?

So what is your opinion?

Please feel free to leave any comments to the topic as replies in the comments section of this post. If you wish you can also vote on our poll located on the sidebar.

Your opinion counts!

Sources- Plan Colombia and Beyond, The Latin Americanist, MSNBC, BBC News, CNN

Image- ABC News

Today’s Video: Sabine Ulibarri and World War II

Today is Memorial Day in the U.S. and in honor of this we’re linking to the first part of a documentary featuring the late Chicano author Sabine Ulibarri. In the film, Ulibarri recalled his time in the Air Corps during World War II and described his own reflections on war.

(Video link):

Sources- YouTube, Wikipedia

Daily Headlines: May 26, 2008

* Peru: Could the 2016 Summer Olympics be held in Peru?

* Cuba: New York Daily News columnist Albor Ruiz finds it “funny” that the White House recently permitted cell phones to be sent to Cuba while the trade embargo remains unchanged.

* Mexico: The government promised to send over $40 million to clean the “sewage-stained beaches” in the resort city of Acapulco.

* Chile: The country’s gross domestic product appears to be growing at its slowest pace since 2003.

Image- The Age (Image of U.S. sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos protesting racism during the last Olympics held in Latin America – Mexico City 1968.)

Sources- Bloomberg, Guardian UK, New York Daily News, The Latin Americanist, Living in Peru