Friday, July 4, 2008

Freedom for the Colombia fifteen – two days after

There have been several recent developments regarding the liberation this week of fifteen hostages from Colombian guerillas. Here are some of them:

  • French-Colombian politicians Ingrid Betancourt- one of those freed by Wednesday’s military operation- arrived in France this morning where she was received with a hero’s welcome. “Today I am crying with joy,” said the former presidential candidate who met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and thanked him for his efforts in seeking her freedom. Currently she is at a ceremony with her family in her honor in downtown Paris.
  • According to one report the Colombian military created a “fake humanitarian organization…with a special logo and a website”. However, suspicions have been raised over how much help foreign countries like Israel and the U.S. may've provided to the mission. Meanwhile, Swiss public radio claimed that the operation was a hoax in order to cover up a multimillion dollar ransom paid to the FARC.
  • U.S. military officials said that the three freed contractors are in “great spirits” as they remain in medical care in Texas. One of them- Keith Stansell- was reunited with his family yesterday while the other two- Marc Gonsalves and Thomas Howes- are expected to see their loved ones tonight.
  • The White House denied speculation that Republican presidential hopeful John McCain was somehow involved in the planning of the operation. “I just think it was a coincidence” said White House press secretary Dana Perino yesterday regarding McCain’s visit to Colombia this week.
  • Could the hostage rescue lead to renewed debate in Congress over the Colombia-U.S. free trade deal? Probably not.
  • Undoubtedly one of the big winners of the rescue mission is Colombian President Alvaro Uribe who will continue his high popularity among most of his countrymen and could find it hard to resist running again in 2010. (This despite facing serious accusations over alleged bribery of legislators in order to secure his reelection bid).
  • Then again, perhaps Ingrid Betancourt could try again for the presidency in two years time. (What an interesting possibility!)
  • One media report posits that Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez was one of the biggest losers due to Wednesday’s mission. Yet it’s still possible that he could renew his role as mediator and possibly help free other hostages like he did in January. (Mind you, as things stand now the odds of that are slim.)
  • Could a meeting with Pope Benedict be next on Betancourt’s whirlwind schedule?

Image- Al Jazeera English

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Reuters, AFP, CNN, BBC News, The Telegraph, Bloomberg,, La Plaza, Narconews,

Daily Headlines: July 4, 2008

* Argentina: Movie buffs are excited at the discovery in Buenos Aires of previously lost scenes from the 1927 film classic “Metropolis.”

* Peru: Copper prices hit a two-month high as more laborers have united in Peru’s nationwide mining strike.

* Venezuela: Profits for state oil firm PDVSA jumped by a whopping 80% in the first-quarter this year compared to last year.

* Caribbean: Several Caribbean musicians have dedicated songs to U.S. presidential hopeful Barack Obama; for instance, here’s Trinidadian Calypso singer Mighty Sparrow with “Barack the Magnificent”:

Sources- YouTube, Politico, Reuters India, Reuters UK, Guardian UK

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Today's Video: Happy Fourth of July, "wierdos"

(Video link):

See you tomorrow, kind readers.

McCain plugs free trade

Continuing his swing through Latin America, Republican presidential candidate John McCain continued to plug free trade with Colombia.

McCain toured a Colombian port by speedboat to investigate anti-drug programs.

He also continued to support the North American Free Trade Agreement, which many in the United States do not support because they worry it will take jobs away.

"I would like to see a hemispheric free trade agreement," McCain said in Cartagena.

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, speaking at a United Steel Workers conference in Las Vegas, said free trade was a mistake when the United States opens it markets to countries without those countries opening theirs.

Read the article here.

Source: AP


Freedom for Ingrid and 14 others – the day after

More details have emerged over the past hours over the successful military mission which freed fifteen hostages held in the Colombian jungle by guerillas. It was an operation carried out “without a drop of blood being spilled, without one weapon being fired,” according to President Alvaro Uribe. As one of the freed hostages- French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt described yesterday:

“The helicopters arrived and these completely surreal characters came out,” Ms Betancourt said. “The men were dressed with logos and things that showed they were delegates of I don’t know what. And I looked at this and thought: ‘Who are these people?’”

Her early optimism vanished when she saw some of the men wearing Che Guevara T-shirts. A rebel commander also told her they were simply being moved to a different prison camp… “I thought: ‘This is just the Farc. This is not a health brigade, it’s nothing’. We were very annoyed, indignant and humiliated”…

“The helicopter began to rise. Suddenly, something happened, I didn’t notice quite what. All of a sudden, I saw the commander who had been in charge of us for so many years – who so often humiliated us and was such a despot – naked and handcuffed on the floor.”

Then the hostages heard the unforgettable words: "We are the National Army. You’re free.’

Earlier this morning Betancourt was reunited with her children:

In other news related to yesterday’s release:

  • Three U.S. military contractors who were freed arrived in Texas late last night where they were medically examined today and will soon be reunited with their respective families.
  • Did John McCain have anything to do with the operations’ planning? Most likely not but that didn’t stop a certain news channel from speculating at that possibility.
  • Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said that the mission was a “one hundred percent” Colombian effort though the U.S. ambassador to the country said that the U.S. gave "technical support" to the operation.
  • Reactions from leaders across the region and worldwide were filled with praise towards the Colombian government and joy over the safe liberation of the hostages. The Venezuelan government, for instance, expressed hope that the rescue would lead to the end for Colombia’s civil conflict while a Vatican spokesman said that it was “good news which gives (us) great pleasure.”
  • Yesterday’s events were undoubtedly “another in a string of humiliations for the FARC” as one analyst notes. While the guerilla army has been a shell of its former self, they still hold a key bargaining chip in the form of over forty “high-profile” hostages along with 700 others. As another analyst observed that the FARC “has had a bad year so far, but a fifty-year-old rebel insurgency won't be finished in six months alone.”
  • Could this be a sign of more liberations to come – Norway's Foreign Ministry said that the FARC freed a Norwegian hostage yesterday.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Plan Colombia and Beyond,, Guardian UK, NPR, Think Progress, AFP, BBC News, Bloomberg, Times Online, Reuters

Dominican prodigy nets record bonus

Baseball analysts the world over are buzzing over the the signing of Michael Inoa, the 16 year-old, 6'7''pitching prodigy from the north coast of the Dominican Republic to a MLB contract with a signing bonus worth $4.25 million - the largest ever on the island and anywhere in the world not in the United States or Cuba.

The Oakland Athletics, canonized as notoriously shrewd and stingy in the 2003 Michael Lewis book "Moneyball," signed Inoa this week after Athletics' GM Billy Beane - known for seldom travelling to scout talent himself - made 3 trips in less than 2 months to Puerto Plata, including last week when he brought the A's co-owners to meet with Inoa directly.

"You run out of superlatives," Beane told an interviewer from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. "This is an exciting day for us, a very exciting day. We feel Michael is one of the best prospects to come out in the last decade."

The SF Chronicle noted that "until now, Inoa has been known by his given name, Michel, but the A's have encouraged him to use 'Michael,' and he told The Chronicle that is OK with him."

Sources: Santa Rosa Press Democract,, San Francisco Chronicle

Daily Headlines: July 3, 2008

* Latin America: In response to recent immigration measures by the E.U., leaders of the Mercosur trade bloc rejected “any attempt to criminalize” immigration in Europe.

* Panama: Former CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles could be extradited to Panama after the country’s top court overturned a 2004 pedestal pardon in his favor.

* Cuba: The Cuban government denounced the U.S. for allegedly encouraging dissidents to protest for the Fourth of July.

* Mexico: The country’s police has come under fire after videos surfaced of recruits learning how to torture.

Image- Al Jazeera English

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Xinhua, BBC News,,

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Ingrid Betancourt, three U.S. contractors freed

Update (8.00 pm): The following is a video clip from argentine television of Ingrid Betancourt after she arrived in Bogota including some of her remarks:

She mentioned several things during her speech and a brief Q & A session including:
  • her deep gratitude to the Almighty, to the Colombian government and the armed forces, France's president, and all those worldwide who supported her;
  • details over the "impeccable" and "perfect" military operation which led to her liberation along with 14 others;
  • the rapturous joy of the hostages once they were told that they were in a rescue operation;
  • admitting that she was in good health despite being seriously ill during her time in captivity;
  • expressing solidarity with the hundreds still being held against their will by the guerillas;
  • a message in French in solidarity with her "brothers across the Atlantic";
  • thanking the Venezuelan and Ecuadorian presidents for their concern yet warned that they must "respect Colombian democracy";
  • hope that today's events could bring "peace to Colombia";
  • not regretting the circumstances that led to her kidnapping (travelling through a guerilla-heavy area during her 2002 presidential campaign);
  • confessing to not knowing what her political future would hold though she didn't deny the possibility of running again for the presidency.
In an interview with CNN en Espanol, Betancourt added that she contemplated committing suicide yet was able to gradually overcome those urges "day by day." She also urged people not to judge Colombia by the violence that included her kidnapping and sent a tender message to her children who are en route to Colombia.

Eleven of the other hostages spoke briefly and mostly thanked the government and army.

The three U.S. contractors freed today are on their way to San Antonio, Texas where they will probably meet with grateful family members.

Both John McCain and Barack Obama have issued statements praising the military rescue and congratulating Colombia's government. Yet McCain added that he was "briefed" of the operation last night by President Uribe while he was paying his political visit to Colombia. (Coincidence? I think not).

We'll have more details on Thursday on the successful military rescue and its aftermath including
President Uribe's televised speech that he'll give later.

Update (6.15 pm): The rescued hostages have just arrived in Bogota, free and relieved!

Update (6.00 pm): Colombia's Caracol Radio interviewed a recently-freed Betancourt who briefly described the military operation. According to her, the rescue was very quick since her captors were tricked by infiltrated intelligence agents into believing that the guerillas were transferring those kidnapped to another part of the jungle. Once she realized that it was a military rescue she "cried...and gave praise to God". She went on to thank Colombians for their solidarity and said that her liberation signals a "signal of piece" for the country.

The freed hostages are expected to arrive in the next few minutes to the Catam military base in Bogota. They are expected to be reunited with their families and might speak to the assembled press.

Update (5.35 pm): French president Nicolas Sarkozy appeared with some of Ingrid Betancourt's children at a press conference. He praised the Colombian government and the troops who took part in the operation. He also congratulated the efforts of several world leaders like Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez for helping to free the hostages. Sarkozy offered his help to free the other hostages.

Betancourt's son and daughter spoke and congratulated the governments of France and Colombia for their efforts. They also thanked all the people such as "all those anonymous people around the world" for their solidarity with them and for their mother's liberation. Betancourt's children will fly to Colombia tonight to meet with their mom.

According to CNN en Espanol, a reporter overheard a rescued Betancourt who seemed to be in good health and was said to have not expected to be rescued by the army.

Update (5.15 pm): Colombia's Noticiero Caracol is reporting that Defense Minister Santos has privately met with the fifteen rescued hostages at a military base outside of Bogota and that they will be transported to a base in Bogota.

It's also being reported that President Uribe has talked to his counterparts in the U.S. and France. Reactions have come from leaders around the world expressing relief at the freeing of the fifteen hostages. Some such as Bolivia's Evo Morales advocated that the next step should be a humanitarian mission to free the remaining hostages. Meanwhile the White House responded by praising the Uribe administration and their policy of "democratic security".

As can be expected, family members of those rescued have been very happy and anxiously await to be reunited.

Update (4.45 pm): Video of Santos' press conference slightly over an hour ago (via Colombia Reports):

According to CNN en Espanol, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe will give a formal press conference at 10pm (-5 GMT).

Update (4.15 pm): More details have yet to be revealed of the operation. As Center for International Policy's analyst Adam Isacson commented on his blog:

If it happened “cleanly” - few casualties, no killed hostages - an appropriate analogy may be the 1997 rescue of MRTA hostages at the Japanese embassy in Peru. The beginning of the end (for the FARC).

We don’t know enough yet. Did the Colombians shoot their way in, or did they bribe the people guarding the FARC? Did a “cerco humanitario” slowly starve out the FARC captors, or was it a lightning-fast Delta-type operation? If they’ve known the hostages’ location for months, why did they need to wait so long?

We’ll know more later. What is certain, though, is that it another in a remarkable series of blows to the FARC that started about a year ago. Another year like this past one, and the FARC may still be around, but it will be a fragment of what it is today. Still larger than the ELN [ed. Colombia's second biggest guerilla army], probably, but much weakened.

No word from any of the main U.S. presidential candidates including John McCain who was finishing his brief visit to Colombia.

Update (3.50 pm): Recently freed Colombian politician Luis Eladio Perez was just interviewed by Caracol TV and expressed his "joy and relief" at the breaking news. (He had been held for a few years along with Betancourt while they were in captivity). He congratulated the Colombian army for the operation though he also noted that it is vital that the hundreds of remaining hostages be safely freed whether it be via a military operation or a humanitarian mission. He warned the FARC that they refrain from doing anything "stupid" and that they immediatlly free those in captivity.

Meanwhile, the mainstream press (BBC News, Reuters, CNN to name a few) has reported the news of the rescue mission with few details and lots of background into the Colombian civil conflict.

Update (3.30 pm): The press conference just ended without Santos or any other officials taking questions from the media.

A senior military officer (the head of the army?) described some details of the military operation which took place today in the Colombian jungle, entitled "Operation Checkmate." He did not mention any fatalities though he pointed out that two guerilla members had been "neutralized" (i.e. captured). The fifteen freed are said to be on the way to a military base outside of Bogota where they will be met by officials and possibly the press.

Betancourt had been held captive since 2002 while the three U.S. contractors had been kidnapped in 2003. The twelve others had been held hostage for differing amounts of time with some being captive for a decade.

To repeat, more information will be coming up as it develops.

Original post: In a breaking story, Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said that fifteen hostages held by the leftist FARC guerillas were rescued in a "special military operation" earlier today. Among those freed "safe and sound" are French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and three U.S. contractors, according to Santos who is currently speaking at a press conference.

More information to come later as it develops.

Pot Meet Kettle : McCain Tells Uribe To Get His Human Rights Act Together

Republican presidential candidate John McCain was in Colombia yesterday and had some advice for President Alvaro Uribe: make more progress on human rights.
“I hope that we could move forward with a free trade agreement between our two countries,” Mr. McCain said at a news conference in the humid, mosquito-filled night air outside Casa de Huéspedes, the Colombian presidential retreat, with Mr. Uribe at his side.

A short time later, in response to a question on Colombia’s record on human rights, Mr. McCain said that he had discussed the issue with Mr. Uribe in a meeting on various topics that lasted an hour and 40 minutes. “I believe that progress is being made,” Mr. McCain said, “and I believe that more progress needs to be made."
What happened to the trip not being political? Additonally, McCain took the trip as an opportunity to point out the his opponent, Barack Obama, is against a free trade agreement between the U.S. and Colombia, while he is for it. He even called Obama's position isolationist.

Source : NYT

Daily Headlines: July 2, 2008

* Bolivia: November 2007: Spain’s King Juan Carlos tells Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez “why don’t you shut up”?

July 2008: Peruvian President Alan Garcia tells Bolivian counterpart Evo Morales (image) to “shut up” and “keep his nose” out of Peruvian affairs.

* Latin America: The New York Times published a scathing editorial on how the U.S. is losing the “war on drugs” and must change a “strategy that focuses overwhelmingly on disrupting the supply of drugs (mainly in Latin America).”

* Chile: Authorities are keeping a close eye on the erupting Llaima volcano in southern Chile.

* Argentina: Spain has overtaken Argentina’s spot at the top of the FIFA soccer rankings.

Image- CCTV International

Sources- BBC News, The Latin Americanist, Guardian UK, New York Times, Voice of America

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Today’s Video: The singing ambassador

Paraguay’s newest singing sensation:

U.S. Ambassador James C. Cason seemed an unlikely candidate for national celebrity.

That was before he learned the obscure Paraguayan Guaraní language, recorded a music album of indigenous folk songs and sold 1,000 tickets to a concert in a downtown theater. Now, in the final year of his four-decade diplomatic career, Cason has suddenly become the toast of Paraguay, or at least the country's most unusual pop star.

In the following clip from a Paraguayan TV talk show, Cason shows off his vocal talents:

All in all, it’s not too bad a performance though he has no stage presence whatsoever and could use an earpiece so that someone could feed him the lyrics.

Sources- YouTube,

What the Caribbean basin can teach us on Iraq

An article in today’s Christian Science Monitor looks at the 20th-centrury U.S. occupations of Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua as lessons which can be learned for the current situation in Iraq. The piece by Lawrence E. Harrison describes three cases of “realpolitik” combined with good intentions but that ultimately ended disastrously. For instance, the Marines’ occupation of Haiti from 1915-1934 led to what Harrison describes as an insurgency and “authoritarianism, exploitation, and corruption” after the Marines left.

Harrison’s conclusion is especially prescient when noting that John McCain will visit business and political (read: rightist) leaders in Mexico and Colombia:

These three examples demonstrate how good intentions expressed through military force and money can be frustrated by cultures that are not congenial to democratic institutions. The Bush administration's idea that "These values of freedom are right and true for every person, in every society" ignores the lessons not only of these three cases, but also of the more generalized problems of democratization in the Islamic world, Africa, and Latin America.

Surely past and present Bush advisers such as Paul Wolfowitz and Condoleezza Rice have read Alexis de Tocqueville's classic "Democracy in America." But they – and Senator McCain – must have forgotten its overriding lesson: When it comes to the viability of democracy, more than anything else, culture matters.

Whether you agree with Harrison or not, his article makes for a very interesting read at how history tends to repeat itself.

Image- Casa Vivaldi (Image of U.S. occupation in Nicaragua which took place between 1912 and 1933)

Sources- Christian Science Monitor, Wikipedia, UPI

Making Babies is The Cause of Latino Population Growth, Not Immigration (and no one else is concerned with this framing?)

Cross-posted at VivirLatino
We'll say it once and I'll say it again, all those new brown faces in your hood are not coming from across the border. They are being born here. A study done out of the University of New Hampshire's Carsey Institute shows that the growth in the Latino population has to do with births increasing, not immigration.
This natural increase — more births than deaths — is accelerating among Hispanics in the USA because they are younger than the U.S. population as a whole. Their median age is 27.4, compared with 37.9 overall, 40.8 for whites, 35.4 for Asians and 31.1 for blacks.

And while the blogosphere and the media is using this study as an opportunity to say, "I told you so" to anti-immigration activists, My concern is another direction that this information could be used in.

There is a growing resurgence of the stereotype of Latina women as prolific breeders, reducing the role and image of mujeres to animals concerned with feeding their hot blooded lust and then feeding the babies that follow. There is a growing concern in the anti-immigrant movement with "anchor-babies", a disgusting way of describing children born in the U.S to undocumented women with the idea that these children will allow the women to stay in the U.S. or to take the fucked up analogy, anchor them to the U.S.

For declining counties, many in the Great Plains, the growth in young Hispanics may be the only way out of a population spiral.

"Demographically, they can't recover unless something like this happens," Johnson says. "There's no way older white populations can replace themselves."

Because more than half of births to Hispanic immigrants are to low-income women who have no high school degree, a natural population increase challenges communities, says Steve Camarota, research director at the Center for Immigration Studies, which promotes limits on immigration.

"It's a huge growth in low-income population and low tax payments," he says. "If the town is not viable economically, immigration is not going to fix that problem."

Along with the image of the perpetually hot, knocked up mami, comes the image of what people expect to happen after children are born. These Latina women and their children are assumed to go onto the welfare rolls, to overwhelm the public school system, the change the language and way people communicate.
Just read some of the comments under the original USA Today article (if you can keep from going off).

Immigration activists and all (hey feminists want a cause to get behind), need to be on point for a resurgence of eugenicist calls that only certain people, meeting certain requirements should have babies (these requirements of course based on the intersections of race and class). Be prepared for calls for mass sterilizations and forced birth control.

There is no analysis of what families consume more. Be prepared for so called environmentalist pointing their green fingers at brown mamis and their babies.

Via / USA Today

McCain preps for LatAm swing

Republican candidate John McCain spoke about free trade in Latin America while in Philadelphia.

McCain says he is an unyielding proponent of free trade and wants to convince those concerned about jobs that this will not affect their hunt for income.

"I understand it's very tough. But for me to give up my advocacy of free trade would be a betrayal of trust," he said. "And the most precious commodity I have with the American people is that they trust me."

The AP reports that McCain is beginning a three-day trip through Mexico and Colombia. McCain, a supporter of the North American Free Trade Agreement, says the trip is not political.

In Mexico he will speak about illegal immigration, which he told Latino leaders last Saturday would be his"top priority yesterday, today and tomorrow."

Source and Photo: AP

Daily Headlines: July 1, 2008

* Spain: Soccer 1, sex 0.

* Venezuela: Was President Hugo Chavez “personally involved” in the “Maletagate” scandal?

* Mexico: $400 million in anti-narcotics aid is destined from the U.S. to Mexico as part of the Merida Initiative.

* Brazil: Former first lady and anthropologist Ruth Cardoso died late last month at the age of

Image- The Telegraph (“Lap of honor: Fernando Torres and Sergio Ramos carried the trophy around the pitch.”)

Sources- AFP, New York Times, Bloomberg, Guardian UK

Guatemala mourns cabinet deaths

Guatemalans of all political persuasions this week mourned the sudden and accidental deaths of Interior Minister Vinicio Gomez and the Deputy Interior Minister Edgar Umana, on Sunday. The two were killed in an accidental helicopter crash while returning from Peten, the sparsely populated jungle region in the north of the country.

Monday, President Alvaro Colom spoke at what Guatemalan national press described as an emotional ceremony in remembrance of the both Gomez and Umana.

President Colom announced that plans are underway to select substitutes for both fallen officials, and that in doing so he will aim to "respect the institutionality of the processes already underway in the interior ministry."

Guatemalan authorities report that causes of the crash are currently under investigation.

Sources: Reuters, La Prensa Libre, AFP

Monday, June 30, 2008

Mira los “jazz hands”!

Was this really necessary?

The above video clip was from the over-saccharine, sanitized-for-your-approval songfest that is the Mexican version of High School Musical.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m off to watch Callejon de los Milagros for the umpteenth time (starring a pre-Hollywood Salma Hayek!).

(Hat tip: Vivirlatino, Gawker).

Sources- Vivirlatino, Gawker, YouTube,

Life in jail for ex-Pinochet official

The head of national security under former dictator Augusto Pinochet in Chile was given a life sentence in prison on Monday. Ex-general Manuel Contreras (image) was formally convicted for the 1974 murders of former Chilean Army commander-in-chief Carlos Prats and his wife while in exile in Argentina.

Aside from heading the DINA, Contreras had been one of the architects behind the infamous Operation Condor. (Operation Condor was an intelligence alliance between six rightist South American regimes during the “Dirty War” with the goal of eliminating dissent).

The kin of the late Prats expressed measured satisfaction over the Chilean court’s ruling:

"This sentence is justice for all that our parents lived through," Angelica Prats, one of the murdered couple's daughters, told reporters at the courts.

Her sister Cecilia lamented the fact that Pinochet, who died in 2006, never faced a full trial for crimes during his 1973-1990 dictatorship, when about 3,000 people were killed and another 28,000 tortured -- most of them suspected leftists.

Image- BBC News

Sources-, McClatchy Bureau, BBC News, MSNBC

Airline fined for flying over Cuba

A U.S. airline company was fined the hefty sum of $100,000 for paying the Cuban government in order to fly over the country’s airspace. According to the U.S. Treasury Department, Spirit Airlines violated the embargo on the island by making the payments to Cuba without obtaining a “special license” from the federal government.

Meanwhile, a group of sixteen Florida-based travel agencies which book trips to Cuba have sued the state. The coalition of travel agencies are upset at a law which is supposed to take effect on Tuesday and designed to increase regulations on businesses:

The measure, sponsored by state Rep. David Rivera as a homeland-security issue, was drafted to apply to all Florida-based vendors selling trips to countries on the U.S. State Department's list of nations that sponsor terrorism -- which includes Cuba.

''It is unfortunate that certain state of Florida legislators have decided to waste taxpayer funds to further their own goal of preventing and hindering Cuban-Americans who desire to visit their families in Cuba,'' said Steven Weinger, one of the lawyers involved in the lawsuit against the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Online site Travelocity was fined $183,000 last year for booking over 1500 trips from the U.S. to Cuba.

Image- wisebread

Sources- The Latin Americanist,,,,

Today’s Video: Fujimori and Montesinos, together again

Reunited and it feels so…awkward.

An interesting twist in the human rights trial of former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori took place today when his former right-hand man- ex-intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos- took to the witness stand. Both men returned to face each other since Fujimori fled to exile eight years ago and Montesinos backed his former boss by denying that Fujimori masterminded massacres committed by government commandos in the 1990s.

Below is a portion of Montesinos’ testimony today where he washes his hands (and Fujimori’s) of any culpability:

Fujimori is currently serving a twenty year jail sentence for arms smuggling.

Sources- BBC News, Tehran Times, YouTube, Living in Peru

Opposition to Ortega grows

A Miami Herald article last week profiled the “cyber savvy” youth movement growing in energy both offline and on. The facebook group “Daniel Oretga no me representa!!! has attracted over 1600 members and been the organizing site for other online campaigns.

The rejuvenated youth movement was in part catalyzed by the 12 day hunger strike by Dora Maria Tellez, who protested the government disqualification of 2 opposition political parties (the ALN and MRS) and their candidates from the November local elections – a move that parallels the
similar actions the Chavez government in Venezuela.

Sofia Montenegro, former Sandinista and coordinator of the Nicaraguan Autonomous Women’s Movement, has recently
declared the united front of women’s groups in opposition to the government, citing government sponsored abuses of women activists, and the recent criminalization of therapeutic abortion.

As the opposition grows in number and variety, it remains unclear how united the opposition can become or what tangible goals they will set. Last week’s
Bloggings by Boz suggests that despite the growing opposition, Ortega’s continued cabal with Aleman and his institutional control will remain undeterred for the time being.

Sources: IPS, Miami Herald Reuters, Facebook, Bloggings by Boz

Daily Headlines: June 30, 2008

* Venezuela: According to the British press over half of the cocaine consumed in Great Britain comes from Venezuela.

* Ecuador: The country’s armed forces plans to make a major arms purchase from several countries including Israel and Brazil.

* Chile: Inflation is the greatest "challenge” facing the world’s economy according to Chilean central bank chief Jose de Gregorio.

* Guatemala: Interior Minister Vinicio Gomez is believed to have died in a helicopter crash on Friday.

Image- Daily Mail (Shipment of intercepted cocaine embossed with Union Jack stickers)

Sources- BBC News, Bloomberg, The Telegraph, Xinhua

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Today’s Video: Viva España y Marcos Senna!

On Sunday, the Spanish men’s soccer team captured the European Championship with a 1-0 win over Germany. Fernando “el Niño” Torres’ first-half tally was enough for la madrepatria to win their first title in major competition since 1966 and to become the second team in Euro history to win the title with an undefeated record.

While the European Union has been preoccupied with strengthening immigration laws it’s interesting to note that a few of the players at Euro 2008 were of Latin American background. French star David Trezeguet has some Argentine blood while Colombian-born Johan Vonlathen played on the Swiss team.

At least five footballers at Euro 2008 were born in Brazil yet played for countries like Portugal and Turkey. One of them was midfielder Marcos Senna who was born in Sao Paulo, gained Spanish citizenship in 2006, and nearly scored in today’s Euro title match in Vienna.

In honor of Senna and his adopted country’s championship, here’s a brief look at his defensive toughness and fortitude during the key quarterfinal victory over World Cup holders Italy:

Sources- YouTube, Euro 2008 Blog, AFP, The Latin Americanist, Wikipedia

Daily Headlines: June 29, 2008

* Cuba: Scientists have claimed to have created the first lung cancer vaccine which is being used in the island’s hospitals.

* Spain: Alejandro Sanz, Carlinhos Brown, and Shakira are some of the musicians that will be performing at the Rock in Rio festival in Spain.

* Argentina: According to a U.N. report Argentina is the top cocaine consumer in Latin America.

* Venezuela: President Hugo Chavez could be asked to testify in the trial of a Venezuelan businessman who was arrested in Italy and charged with drug trafficking.

Image- NBC News World Blog (“Dr. Gisela Gonzalez, head of the Cuban cancer research team, holding vials of the new drug.”)

Sources- AFP,, Reuters UK, Xinhua,