Friday, July 25, 2008

“Exclusive”: Chavez and Spanish king hit the beach

On Friday, it was mentioned that a beach trip was suggested between Spanish King Juan Carlos and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez after both reconciled.

Via our super-duper-top-secret-hush-hush-say-no-evil-hear-no-evil “source”, we were able to find “exclusive” video of Chavez and el Rey walking on the beach in Mallorca! If you listen closely, you can even hear them singing:

Sorry for the deception, ladies and gentlemen. We just wanted to end the week on a silly note.

Have a great weekend!

Sources- The Latin Americanist, YouTube

Argentina: Life in jail for ex-army chief

After living free and in impunity for so many years it’s nice to see the long arm of the law nab some of the main figures responsible for human rights abuses during the “Dirty War”:

A court in Argentina sentenced a notorious former military leader to life in prison for atrocities committed in 1977 at a clandestine torture center used by the military dictatorship where only 17 of more than 2,200 political prisoners survived…

After a trial lasting almost two months, the court on Thursday also sentenced six other former military officers and one civilian for crimes committed during the military regime. Four of them were also given life sentences, with remaining three receiving sentences ranging from 18 to 22 years in prison, Argentine newspapers reported…

“Today justice was done,” the daughter of one of the victims told the television channel Todo Noticias.

Earlier this month, a pair of police captains were found guilty of their roles in the infamous 1976 Fatima massacre where at least thirty people were killed and subsequently blown up with dynamite.

Image- BBC News (“(Luciano Benjamin) Menendez kidnapped, tortured and killed the four left-wing activists.”)

Sources- New York Times, The Latin Americanist

Ecuador: Assembly OKs draft constitution

Ecuador’s constituent assembly approved by a 2-to-1 margin a new constitution which may serve as the country’s new charter by early 2009. The 444-article constitution awaits possible approval in a national referendum on September 28th, though that looks iffy as roughly 1 in 3 Ecuadorians would back the new charter according to a recent poll.

Supporters of the charter- such as President Rafael Correa (image)- argue that it provides a fairer social system for Ecuadorians and will bring about more politician freedom. Opponents allege that the draft provides too much power to the president and could cause political instability.

There are numerous stipulations in the draft constitution as noted:

Its 444 articles include a provision that same-sex unions be afforded the same rights as heterosexual marriages…

The president can dissolve Congress once and Congress will have one opportunity to unseat the president, the Associated Press reported. In either case, general elections would be called…

The president can run for one four-year term of reelection…

Foreign military bases or installations will be prohibited on Ecuadorean soil. The United States has operated anti-drug surveillance flights out of Ecuador's Manta air base since 1999. [ed. Click here for more details.] The 10-year lease expires next year, and will not be renewed.

Undocumented immigrants will not be considered "illegal."

In a national referendum last year, voters overwhelmingly approved the establishing of the constituent assembly. The assembly- with a majority of seats controlled by parties allied to the president- subsequently suspended the country’s Senate until a new constitution is approved.

Image- BBC News

Sources- BBC News,, The Latin Americanist, Reuters UK,, Angus Reid Global Consultants, Voice of America

Colombia: Rebels free eight hostages

Colombia's FARC guerillas released eight hostages and handed them over to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), according to ICRC officials yesterday. A statement from the ICRC said that the FARC approached the aid agency to do the handover, the Colombian military paid no role in the action, and that the ICRC will “continue to support efforts” to try to free other hostages.

Unfortunately, several hundred remain held unfairly against their will by the FARC in heinous conditions including at least two who were kidnapped with the eight freed on Wednesday.

The handover was the first hostage release by the FARC since a military mission freed fifteen people including Ingrid Betancourt and three U.S. contractors earlier this month.

Meanwhile, Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos revealed the covers used by the rescuers on the July 2nd military mission. The mission already hit controversy when it was revealed that the ICRC symbol was misappropriated and apparently another entity was misrepresented:

Two people who helped rescue 15 hostages from Colombian rebels posed as journalists from a real Venezuela-based television news organization, Colombia's defense minister said Wednesday.

Two of the nine rescuers assumed the roles of journalist and cameraman from the news organization TeleSUR during the daring rescue, Juan Manuel Santos said…

TeleSUR's general director of information, Armando Jimenez, said the company was preparing a response.

Jean-Francois Julliard, deputy director of the press advocacy organization Reporters Without Borders, said authorities can endanger journalists when they pose as members of the news media.

Image- CNN (“Carlos Cuesta, left, greets family members after being released by FARC rebels on Thursday.”)

Sources- CNN, AFP,, BBC News, The Latin Americanist

Hugo Chavez Gets His Hug From the King

Spanish King Juan Carlos and Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez have hugged and made up. The two met in the King's summer home in Mallorca for breakfast this morning.

As you can see the two were all smiles. It's being reported that no one was told to shut up and rather a trip to the beach was proposed.
The best part is that in this encounter, instead of a "Por qué no te callas?!" there was a "Por qué no vamos a la playa?" The president and the king joked around as Chavez proposed a jaunt to the beach.
The Spanish media is also reporting that el Rey gave Chavez a special gift: one of those famous "por qué no te callas?!" t-shirts!!!

Source : VivirLatino

Daily Headlines: July 25, 2008

* Mexico: Hurricane Dolly may’ve weakened to a tropical storm yesterday but that didn’t stop the storm from causing flooding in parts of northern Mexico and possible flooding in the Rio Grande Valley.

* Peru: Patriotism vs. morality – Peruvians are split over a magazine cover with a nude model photographed on top of the national flag.

* Latin America: Columnist Marcela Sanchez looks at the difficulties of being elderly and living in Latin America.

* Venezuela: President Hugo Chavez signed several energy and trade deals with his counterpart from Belarus, “a fellow fierce critic of the United States.”

Image- New York Times (“Gregoria Lopez sought shelter from the hurricane in Brownsville, Texas.”)

Sources-, BBC News, Reuters, AFP

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Today’s Video: Was hate behind Angie Zapata’s murder?

On Wednesday night over two hundred friends and family members mourned the death of a transgendered Latina teen in Colorado. “She was beautiful and she wanted people to accept her for who she was,” said a friend of 18-year-old Angie Zapata who was beaten and killed in her apartment one week ago.

Local police are looking into the possibility of Zapata’s death as a hate crime. Meanwhile, authorities feel that the suspect has stolen Zapata’s auto (Colorado license plate number 441-ORN).

Several bloggers talked about Zapata’s death and some included the following video from a local newscast:

Sources- FOX News, Rocky Mountain News, Denver Post, Fort Collins Now, Denver Post, Guanabee, Vivirlatino, Blabbeando, gayzette

SanFran murder case highlights “sanctuary” policy

San Francisco has served as a “sanctuary city for immigrants since 1989; a view that despite carrying no legal weight has been reinforced by Mayor Gavin Newsom. Yet a triple murder case involving an immigrant has brought harsher than usual criticism against the policy.

Twenty-one-year-old Edwin Ramos- an El Salvadoran suspected of being an MS-13 gang member- pled not guilty to the triple murder of a father. Ramos' immigration status has been disputed by lawyers and officials, while local and federal authorities have blamed one another for Ramos being out on the streets:

The (San Francisco) Chronicle reported on Sunday how Ramos, a native of El Salvador, was repeatedly shielded as a juvenile from deportation by city officials who failed to notify federal authorities of separate assault and attempted robberies he committed when he was 17.

Things took an unexplained turn earlier this year when Ramos, now a 21-year-old adult, was jailed on gun and gang allegations in San Francisco. Federal and local officials struggled Monday to explain the circumstances surrounding his release - given that his status as an illegal immigrant was known to federal authorities - when local prosecutors didn't file charges.

Ramos’ case has led to a firestorm on numerous talk shows over San Francisco’s “sanctuary” policy; right-wing commentator Bill O’Reilly lent his opinion earlier this week, for example.

Regardless over the rabble-rousing on immigration or whether Ramos’ committed the murders or not, the fact of the matter is that a woman is mourning the deaths of her husband and kids. Our sympathies go out for her and in the end she deserves for justice to be served.

Image- KCBS

Sources- FOX News, SFist,

Poll: Two-thirds of Latinos back Obama

One day after presidential hopeful Barack Obama released a Spanish-language radio ad, a poll showed overwhelming Latino support for him. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, 66% of over 2000 registered Latino voters responding the survey preferred the Illinois senator compared to only 23% for Republican rival John McCain. The poll also revealed that 65% of respondents leaned towards the Democratic Party and Cuban-Americans (generally a strong GOP ally) preferred Obama over McCain 53% to 39%.

Despite McCain’s recent trip to Mexico and Colombia, the results of the Pew survey are not a good sign for his campaign according to one pollster:

“That number should be very, very sobering for the McCain campaign,” said Tony Fabrizio, the pollster for 1996 Republican nominee Bob Dole. “The bottom line: Despite all of this positioning he’s taken on immigration, it’s shielded him nothing with Hispanics and it’s another point of distrust with Republicans”…

“You have to understand in a way that the Republican Party is damaged among Hispanics,” said Hessy Fernandez, McCain’s spokeswoman for Hispanic media. “But at the end of day it’s the contrast between Sen. McCain and Sen. Obama.”

Not all recent poll results have been bad news for the Arizona senator; McCain has closed the gap on Obama in four key swing states according to one survey.

Image- AFP (“Voters go to the polls in the predominantly Latino neighborhood of Boyle Heights in Los Angeles, California.”)

Sources- The Latin Americanist, FOX News,,, CNN, Reuters,

Obama releases Hispanic-geared ad

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama launched a new strategy to bring in Hispanic voters with a new Spanish-centered ad.

The ad highlights Obama's use of student loans, "which a lot of Hispanic families can identify with," said Freddy Balsera from the Miami Obama campaign, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

The ad, unveiled yesterday, is titled "nuestro propio camino" -- "our own road" -- and talks about education, reducing welfare and immigration.

Read the story here.

New report blasts trade policies

A report released last week by the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and the Global Development and Environment Institute (GDAE) at Tufts University takes aim at the US trade policies in the region.

The report, titled The Promise and the Perils of Agricultural Trade Liberalization: Lessons from Latin America, reviews a number of real-life impacts of US-influenced trade policies that negatively affect the immigration (mostly via NAFTA) and small-scale farmers across the region.

The report makes a strong case for considering the human effects of trade policies designed predominantly to spur growth and productivity for the "haves" of the hemisphere.

According to WOLA's press release:

“This report comes at an important time...WOLA’s Policy makers in the region, and the U.S., have to re-think the whole package of policies they’ve adopted in recent years. The new administration and Congress will have the opportunity to reconsider U.S. support for trade liberalization policies and move toward financially supporting small producers who supply local and regional markets.”

The release of the report happened to coincide with President Bush's renewed urging of Congress this week to pass the pending trade agreement with Colombia that has been stalled for months.

Sources: WOLA, Voice of America.

Daily Headlines: July 24, 2008

* Cuba: The video of Omar Khadr’s interrogation at Guantanamo may’ve been controversial but 78% of Canadians said that the video didn’t change their opinions on his case.

* Venezuela: The Chavez administration rejected reports claiming that Russia will be allowed to have military bases in Venezuela.

* Argentina: President Cristina Kirchner is presiding over a Cabinet reshuffle in the wake of last week’s tax plan rejection.

* Haiti: Haitian children remain in high risk of being abused despite improved security according to a U.N. report.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, BBC News, Bloomberg, Xinhua, National Post, UPI

Image- New York Times (“A 2003 video of Omar Khadr, a Canadian who was 16 at the time, during an interrogation at Guantánamo Bay.”)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Today’s Video: Tropicalia

Below is Caetano Veloso performing his famous 1968 song “Tropicalia.” Why is it today’s featured video? Simple; I just really like the song.

Sources- YouTube

Smugglers’ stupidity?

Something about this news piece struck me as odd:

Smugglers tried to use Hurricane Dolly as a cover in at least three attempts to move drugs or illegal aliens through Texas, border officials said Wednesday.

About 9,600 pounds of marijuana was found buried under cotton seeds on a truck on U.S. 77 at the Border Patrol's Sarita checkpoint south of Kingsville, Texas, said Lloyd Easterling, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection…

In two of the incidents, people were caught smuggling illegal immigrants in South Texas, (Jayson Ahern, deputy commissioner of Customs and Border Protection) said. One case involved six people. He did not have details on the second incident, Ahern said.

Not to condone the criminal activities of the smugglers or to politicize the issue of immigration, but wouldn't a hurricane be one of the dumbest “covers” for trying to smuggle anything across the border.

  • Immigration checkpoints would continue to be duly staffed by Border Patrol agents.
  • The decrease in traffic due to inclement weather would make it easier to conduct border searches.
  • Trying to transport nearly five tons of pot anywhere at anytime is ridiculously risky.
  • Driving during a hurricane or tropical storm tends to lead to accidents.
  • In the words of comedian Ron White “it isn't *that* the wind is blowin'. It's *what* the wind is blowin’.” In short, heavy items generally tend to fly off during a hurricane and hit things such as people.

What do you think?

Image- BBC News (“Towns and cities in the Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas are on alert in case heavy rain causes flooding. Up to 38cm (15in) of rain is expected.”)

Sources- CNN,

Guatemala: Stolen baby nearly adopted

According to Guatemalan authorities DNA tests showed that a baby up for adoption by a U.S. couple had been stolen from its mother. National Adoption Council (NAC) officials said that a fake birth certificate and a false DNA test were used in the illegal adoption of Esther Sulamita.

Sulamita had been kidnapped by armed men in March 2007 from her mother, Ana Escobar. By a stroke of luck Escobar found her daughter at an NAC office two months ago. Escobar convinced officials to take new DNA tests and the results were announced publicly today.

Since May there has been a moratorium on all potential adoptions on Guatemala as officials try to fix a corrupt system. Guatemala is the second largest source of children adopted in the U.S. (behind China) with over 4,700 Guatemalan children adopted in 2007.

The hiatus has worried hundreds of prospective parents in the U.S. and the adoption system has been a roadblock to the attempted citizenship of one girl:

(Allie Mulvihill) may be forced to leave the country because U.S. immigration officials are questioning the legitimacy of the Guatemala native's adoption by her parents, Lori and Scott Mulvihill, in 1994.

When the Mulvihills brought their then 2-year-old daughter to their home in Allentown, Pennsylvania, they believed she would be granted citizenship.

But U.S. immigration officials questioned whether the woman who gave Allie up for adoption in Guatemala was really her biological mother…. and the dispute over her adoption has become a roadblock on Allie's path to citizenship…

The fact that she cannot get her immigration status resolved means the fear of deportation continues to loom.

Image- ABC News (“Seven Guatemalan children sit in bouncing chairs at the Casa Quivira children's home in Antigua, 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of Guatemala City in this Aug. 14, 2007 file photo.(Rodrigo Abd/AP Photo)”)

Sources- BBC News, International Herald Tribune, The Latin Americanist, CNN

Argie airlines back under gov’t control

Nearly two decades ago, Argentina’s flagship airline carrier- Aerolineas Argentinas- was sold by the government to Spain’s Iberia. Under then-president Carlos Menem, mass privatization of state industries was viewed as a necessary step in order to reign in an economy out of control.

The Washington Consensus mindset that pervaded in the Americas back then didn't pan out as planned, especially in Argentina. Aerolineas Argentinas has struggled under private control as the airline is mired in debt, half of its planes are grounded, and fuel costs have skyrocketed. Thus it was with great fanfare that the Kirchner administration made a deal to buy back the struggling airliner for an undisclosed sum.

National pride is at stake with the renationalization of the firm and it will be a massive challenge for the government to yank Aerolineas Argentinas out of the red. Moreover, the purchase of the airliner has been part of a renationalization of several firms in recent years:

Aerolineas will become the seventh company to return to the state stable under the stewardship of Ms Fernández and her influential husband and presidential predecessor, Néstor Kirchner.

The procession of renationalisations has opened the government to criticism that it is not doing enough to find other private-sector buyers for ailing businesses. Dante Sica, a former industry secretary, said: "The government should be opening the market much more to allow in more players. There's no guarantee that, in state hands, things will go better."

So if neither private control nor two eras of state control works to help Aerolineas Argentinas, then is it worth keeping around the troubled company?

Image- BBC NewsSources- BBC News, Wikipedia,

Is the U.S. Treasury Department Attacking Cuba in the Right Way?

Democratic Congressman Jose E. Serrano thinks it is. He is accusing the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of not having it's priorities straight, claiming that the office is more worried about U.S. citizens going to Cuba and bringing back cigars and rum.

People who are perceived to violate certain regulations on travel to Cuba get prosecuted, harassed, investigated, at much higher levels than for any other violation,” Serrano said.Serrano argues that OFAC — whose mission includes financially punishing state sponsors of terrorism, as well as narcotics and weapons traffickers — has imposed more penalties for violations of policies related to Cuba than for countries such as Iran and North Korea .

The concern over OFAC was sparked in part by a November 2007 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that found that cases related to the Cuba embargo made up 61 percent of the agency’s cases from 2000 to 2006, even though the office administers more than 20 sanctions programs. During a similar period, 2000 to 2005, penalties for Cuba embargo violations represented more than 70 percent of the agency’s total penalties.

Both the House and Senate Appropriations committees have approved fiscal 2009 Financial Services spending bills that would ease restrictions on Cuba trade and travel

Source : Congressional Quarterly

Daily Headlines: July 23, 2008

* Latin America: It may be months before the first iPhone gets sold in Brazil, yet over 100,000 subscribers have signed up for the device in the past two weeks according to an exec with Mexico's America Movil.

* Mexico: Five South Koreans kidnapped for ransom in Mexico have been released according to the Korean government.

* Ecuador: President Rafael Correa has a 54% approval rating based on a Cedatos/Gallup poll conducted earlier this month.

* Brazil: Soccer star Kaka may not be leaving AC Milan for English side Chelsea but will he move to Spain’s Real Madrid instead?

Image- New York Times

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Reuters UK, AFP, Angus Reid Global Monitor, CNN, The Sports Network

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Candidates' Latin American policies dissected

Nathaniel Foote has a great, concise piece detailing the differences between Obama and McCain's Latin American policies.

Foote notes McCain's physical familiarity with the region, having been born in the Panama Canal and traveled considerably around South America. He goes on to say Obama counters his lack of familiarity with new policies that don't only focus on drugs and trade.

Most important to those interested, Foote says, is the perception of Latin American citizens. Many see McCain as a repeat of Bush, while Obama might be harder to deprecate for leaders like Hugo Chavez, who regularly calls Bush things like "donkey."

Read the analysis here.

Source: Diplomatic Courier, Photo: Newsday

Chavez visits Moscow

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is in Moscow today to discuss some $1 billion arms contracts with the Russian President, Dmitri A. Medvedev.

Deals with Russia may include expanding Russia's oil and gas presence in Latin America and becoming "strategic partners" against the threat of America against Venezuela.

Both countries expressed the desire to have closer diplomatic ties but progress has been slow. Venezuela positions itself as a country willing to help Russia establish its importance against the U.S. shadow.

Read the NYT story here.

Source: NYT, Photo: Getty Images, Chavez with former president Vladimir Putin

Bloggers of the world unite!

  • An interesting look at how the Confederate states tried to colonize parts of Latin America during the Civil War.
  • Cuy: The new white meat.
  • Hay Chihuahua! Is an animated film on “dancing, Spanish-accented Chihuahuas” tasteless or funny?
  • Last week we mentioned how a television network’s series of the greatest Chileans ever skipped over Augusto Pinochet. But was the bigger omission independence hero Bernardo O’Higgins?
  • Barack Obama may not have visited Latin America recently though that hasn’t stopped his half-sister from campaigning on his behalf in Mexico.

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Guanabee, Vivirlatino, Bloggings by Boz, La Plaza, Mental Floss

Haiti nears confirmation of Pierre-Louis

After cementing the lower house's support last week, Michele Pierre-Louis, President Rene Preval's third pick in as many months to serve as the country's prime minister, is now set to face the Senate's imminent decision.

According to the AP, "parliamentary sources" said the senate is slated to hold its vote next week.

Meanwhile, reports of a campaign of slander and sexism against Pierre-Louis continue. A website to address the smears has been launched by her supporters. Despite the attacks, it seems increasingly likely that the Senate will be hard-pressed to overturn the 61-1 vote in the House.

Until recently, Pierre-Louis had been the director of Haiti's Foundation for Knowledge and Liberty (FOKAL), a non-profit dedicated to education and youth development and funded by George Soros.

If confirmed, Pierre-Louis would succeed Edouard Alexis who was given a vote of no confidence in April and consequently ousted over the escalating food crises. She would also be Haiti's second female prime minister in the country's history.

Sources: AlterPresse, AP, Kikeyacity, Reuters,

Daily Headlines: July 22, 2008

* Cuba: President Raul Castro called for providing private farmers with increased access to government-controlled lands.

* Peru: At least twenty-five people died when two buses crashed into each other near a coastal town.

* Nicaragua: The government honored the widow of Erich Honecker- the former East German leader who was in charge of constructing the Berlin Wall.

* Colombia: President Alvaro Uribe backed away from a referendum project which planned to redo the 2006 presidential election.

Image- MSNBC (“A farmer collects tomatoes on a tractor in a farm in Guira de Melena, 80 miles south of Havana.”)

Sources- AFP, Al Jazeera English, Bloomberg, Deutsche Welle

Monday, July 21, 2008

Today’s Video: Colombians united against kidnappings

On Colombia’s Independence Day over four million people marched in Colombia and around the world against violence committed by criminal groups. The rallies in cities like Bogota, Washington, Medellin, and Paris were done in solidarity with the hundreds of kidnapped people who remain trapped in the Colombian jungle. Former hostage Ingrid Betancourt led the event in the French capital and called on the FARC to free all their captives, while Colombian president Alvaro Uribe hosted his Brazilian and Peruvian counterparts in the Amazonian city of Leticia.

It was in Leticia where musicians Shakira and Carlos Vives performed as part of the rally there:

Sadly, the clamor and cries for peace have been largely ignored by Colombia’s criminal groups; “we will never be the ones…to lay down our weapons” said a communiqué issued today by a pair of FARC commanders. Meanwhile, five rural farmers were gunned down on Sunday in an area where “new paramilitary groups and narcotraffickers” battle for the control of coca growing lands.

Sources- RCN, YouTube, Monsters & Critics, AFP, Reuters

FDA: Salmonella linked to Mexican-grown jalapeño

A fresh jalapeño pepper may provide clues as to how a salmonella strain infected over 1200 people in the U.S. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) it’s unknown of the pepper became contaminated in Mexico or after it was processed in Texas. Nevertheless, scientists consider today’s finding as a “significant break”:

"One of the jalapeño peppers has tested positive with a genetic match to the Saintpaul strand," said Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the CDC's Division of Foodborne, Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases.
He said officials are "looking at the chain that the peppers would have passed through to decide if any of them are a point of contamination."

The FDA continues to advise consumers to avoid eating fresh jalapeños though officials have allowed tomatoes to be purchased and consumed. Meanwhile, congressional hearings will be held later this month regarding the government’s reaction to the salmonella scare.

Image- ABC News

Sources- ABC News, CNN, CBS News, Kansas City Star, Reuters

Anti-immigration politico named Pennsylvania's top mayor

Hazleton, Pennsylvania Mayor Lou Barletta said that he was “honored” after being named as the state’s “Mayor of the Year.” The award committee honored Barletta for several reasons, chief among them his “courage” (according to one committee member) in pursuing a strong anti-immigrant policy. Yet local immigrants’ rights groups were disappointed with Barletta’s prize:

“That just sends a really bad message about Pennsylvania,” said Fabricio Rodriguez, executive director of Philly Jobs with Justice, which is part of a national organization that advocates for immigrants and low-wage workers. “Folks have had their lives just uprooted by the actions of this guy.”

In 2006, the Hazleton City Council passed a law that had rejected business permits to firms that purposefully rented to or employed illegal immigrants and would have forced local tenants to register with the city. That plan was struck down as unconstitutional by a federal judge last year.

Barletta has been accused of exploiting the death of a local resident to promote his anti-immigration measures. Local prosecutors eventually dropped the homicide case against a pair of illegal immigrants from the Dominican Republic suspected of the 2006 murder.

Despite the controversy over the immigration debate in Hazleton, Barletta is running for a seat on the U.S. House of Representatives.

Image- Philadelphia Metro

Sources- Philadelphia Metro, The Times-Leader, Two Weeks Notice, International Herald Tribune, Politcker

Chavez to Spanish king: Why don’t we hug?

Months after the infamous “Why don’t you shut up?” incident Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez offered to hug Spain’s King Juan Carlos if they meet again. “I'd like to give the king a hug, but you know, Juan Carlos, that I am not going to shut up,” said Chavez yesterday in anticipation of his tour of Europe.

Juan Carlos’ outburst against Chavez during a summit last November (image) turned into a worldwide phenomenon as songs and ringtones celebrated the King. Tensions between Venezuela and Spain have eased since then, however, and full diplomatic relations could soon be restored.

Chavez first stop on his trip will be in Moscow later today. His stop in Russia will be vital in that he will reportedly purchase Russian arms:

In an interview with Itar-Tass in Caracas…Chavez…said his country was planning to buy from Russia state-of-the-art tanks. He also expressed interest in supplies of Russian systems of air-to-air defense and means to strengthen the Venezuelan Navy.

Chavez said Russia had offered loans for the purchase of its military hardware and armaments.

Image- Typically Spanish

Sources- Reuters, Pravda, ITAR-TASS, BBC News, The Latin Americanist, Guardian UK

Dominican blackouts to improve

After nearly 2 weeks of irregularly long and widespread blackouts in the Dominican Republic, authorities have announced that a power upgrade to the Dominican Corporation of State Electricity Companies (CDEEE) will go a long way towards improving the situation.

From yesterday's Dominican Today:

Power companies were instructed to maintain their output at 85 percent so the sectors which receive the least energy get 18 hours of service. The national energy demand is around 2,000 megawtts and the current generation is of around 1,700 megawatts. Today the CDEEE will pay US$4 (million) of the US$16 million owed to the power company Cogentrix, which contributes 300 megawatts to the system and which had shut down several plants. Since yesterday several plants around the country began to enter the system, after debts were paid and failures corrected, Segura said. He said another factor affecting the power grid is that the hydroelectrics, which contribute almost 200 megawtts, have been generating less as the lack of rain maintains their waters levels low.

In today's Listin Diario, Radhames Segura, of the CDEEE, explained that the recent spate of blackouts across the urban sectors of the country was the result of a particularly rough patch of increasing energy needs, rising cost of production, and faltering customer payments.

Sources: Dominican Today, Listin Diario, CDEEE, Wikipedia

Daily Headlines: July 21, 2008

* Mexico: For his work denouncing the “injustices suffered by immigrants,” Senator Edward Kennedy will receive Mexico’s highest honor.

* Ecuador: Ecuador's government has no ties to Colombia’s FARC guerrillas, according to a senior U.S. diplomat.

* Brazil: Police have recovered a piece of art by Pablo Picasso which was stolen last month from a Sao Paulo museum.

* Latin America: Latin American projects made “a strong impact” during this year’s edition of the International Design Excellence Awards.

Image- The Trail (“Sen. Edward Kennedy at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in 2007.”)

Sources- Reuters, International Herald Tribune, BBC News, BusinessWeek