Friday, September 26, 2008

Obama/McCain debate done (and not a moment to soon)

Update (10:45pm): Well that was a fun hour-and-a-half.

I honestly don’t know what would’ve been a worse option: watching the boring claptrap that was the presidential debate or becoming enraged viewing the Mets game.

The pundits and spinmasters will claim victory for their preferred candidate. (Listening to Rudy Giuliani claim that McCain "won decisively" was good for a laugh, for instance). Yet neither candidate “won” the debate as both men engaged in finger-pointing, repetitiveness, “he-said, she-said” moments, interruptions, and even a bit of maudlin (i.e. the “bracelets” each candidate wears of soldiers fighting in the Middle East).

Speaking of the Middle East, the discussion focused primarily on that region as well as the financial crisis. Latin America was largely shunned except on five minor occasions:
  1. McCain claiming that he opposed President Bush on Guantanamo Bay. (He never gave details as to what he objected).
  2. Obama teasing McCain over statements made by him last week seemingly opposing Spain’s Prime Minister. (I know Spain is not Latin America, per se, but I’m including it nevertheless).
  3. McCain bringing up Obama’s comment that he would meet without preconditions with Hugo Chavez and the Castro regime. (I see the “tease Obama’s primary debate remark on meeting with Hugo Chavez” odds were not far off.)
  4. McCain’s brief mentioning of “securing the border” during his closing statement.
  5. Obama’s brief mentioning of the Bush administration ignoring regions around the world like Latin America. (You won if you bet on Obama critiquing the “Bush administration for “ignoring” Latin America.”!)
All-in-all, it will be doubtful that too many voters will change their minds due to this debate. The forum sure as hell hasn’t’ swayed mine.

Did you see the debate? What did you think of it?

Original post: There’s about an hour to go before the first presidential debate between John McCain and Barack Obama. We won’t be liveblogging it but our good friends at Vivirlatino will so please go there and voice your opinion.

Tonight’s forum is supposed to focus on foreign policy and national security though both men will probably discuss the financial crisis. Hopefully they’ll touch on topics affecting the Americas but what are the odds that some issues get more attention than others?

Odds that Obama will:
  • Criticize the Bush administration for “ignoring” Latin America – 2/1
  • Use immigration to differentiate “Senator” McCain from “candidate” McCain – 5/1
  • Argue that travel restrictions against Americans travelling to Cuba should be dropped – 7/1
  • Praise Bill Richardson – 13/1
  • Announce that he will soon take a trip to Latin America – 25/1
Odds that McCain will:
  • Tease Obama’s primary debate remark on meeting with Hugo Chavez – Even
  • Argue in favor of free trade agreements with countries like Peru – 3/1
  • Make a disparaging remark about Raul Castro – 6/1
  • Connect the “war on drugs” with the “war on terror” – 10/1
  • Mention Sarah Palin’s Tuesday meeting with Colombia’s president – 20/1
Odds that either candidate will:
  • Mention regional leaders aside from the presidents of Mexico, Venezuela, and Cuba – 8/1
  • Ignore Latin America altogether – 12/1
  • Speak more than three words of Spanish – 50/1
For my part I’ll be back in a little while to give my take on the debate. See you in a bit!

Image- CNN
Sources- Vivirlatino

Marcela Sanchez: Bush LatAm plan too little, too late

President Bush’s latest plan for Latin America is ambitious but “more of a high-profile attempt at a victory lap than anything else” according to columnist Marcela Sanchez (image).

Earlier this week, Bush introduced the “Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas” along with representatives of eleven Latin America nations. The initiative is designed to create further cooperation in the region aside from the tiresome clichés on free trade.

Details have yet to be outlined although Sanchez believes that the program is vital in engaging countries with moderate leaders like Chile and the Dominican Republic. “It is as if the United States is recognizing what so many countries in the region have been insisting on for some time: free trade alone doesn't cut it” she wrote though she lamented the timing of the plan:

Had the Bush administration not been caught up in ideological squabbles so early [ed. - i.e. quarrels with Bolivia and Venezuela], the later efforts from moderates might have been received differently. As it stands, the age of prosperity is still out of the reach of the majority of Latin Americans and the Pathways initiative is at the very least an acknowledgement of that fact.

What do you think of Sanchez’ article?

Image- Rocky Mountain News

Sources-, The Latin Americanist,

Ecuador’s Correa anticipating referendum win

Ecuador’s constitutional referendum will be held on Sunday yet according to recent reports the result is a foregone conclusion.

According to one poll released earlier this week 57% of Ecuadorians would vote for the new constitution with less than a quarter of respondents against it. Other polls indicate at least 60% support for the new charter when only a simple majority (i.e. 50% + 1) is required for it to be passed.

President Rafael Correa (image) would be the big winner if the constitution is accepted by the electorate. The new charter would grant Correa broader political and economic powers yet the 444-page constitution would encompass much more such as the following:

* Bans genetically modified seeds, with the exception of some crops approved by the president and Congress…

* Grants free health care for all its older citizens. Some economists say universal health care could cost the government billions of dollars and boost the country's financing needs…

* Allows for civil unions of gay partners, affording them similar rights to married couples.

* Softens penalties for individual drug use.

Despite what appears to be a loss on Sunday, some opponents of Correa are still campaigning against him. Guayaquil mayor Jaime Nebot has been “actively campaigning”, for example, and there has been the growth of groups against the new constitution like “church leaders and private college student groups.”

Image- BBC News

Sources- Angus Reid Consultants,, Reuters

Eduardo Verástegui : Get Out of My Uterus!

Actor Eduardo Verástegui is promoting heavy a video against abortion saying it's not only lucrative but genocide. He compares abortion to the Nazi holocaust. He tells us, using his own personal story, and the story of the mother of his child. We don't hear from her. He uses tactics to scare the Latino community into voting against Obama, because Obama's pro-choice stance takes away the rights of parents and allows for sexual predators to force minor girls into back ally abortions. Seriously?

If Eduardo really cares about the lives of children, then he'll talk about the lack of support all Latina mothers face especially young single mothers who are forced to raise children because they feel threatened into not making a choice about their own bodies. He'll talk about the lack of affordable child care options and how women's wages, especially Latina women's wages make it a struggle to clothe, feed, and house a child.

And if he wants to talk genocide let's talk about a real lack of choice. About how Latina women and women of color are sterilized against their will or experiemented on. Ay but he'e probably against birth control. And if he's anti-Obama then is he pro-McCain/Palin. Palin is for abstinance only sex education that leads to miseducation about bodies and how they work and how they should be taken care of until...whoops, you're pregnant.

Warning: the language and images used in the video could be triggering. So if you are sensitive to being made to feel like crap for the choices women make about their own bodies then don't watch it.

Sources : Gaceta, Hispanic Tips

Putin: LatAm "top" priority for Russia

As a Russian naval fleet makes its way to South America, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin vowed that he would make Latin America a “top foreign policy priority.” During a state visit of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to Moscow, Putin emphasized the importance of Latin America to the Russian government:

"Latin America is becoming a noticeable link in the chain of the multi-polar world that is forming," Putin said at his suburban residence at the start of his talks with Chavez. "We will pay more and more attention to this vector of our economic and foreign policy."

Chavez' visit to Russia was his second in two months; this time around, the Russians offered Chavez a $1 billion loan for the purchase of arms. (Venezuela has already spent over $4 billion buying Russian weapons according to the Kremlin). Both governments also signed an energy agreement that would allow for “an oil and gas consortium between (Venezuelan state-oil firm) PDVSA and (Russian gas giant) Gazprom.”

Chavez had previously visited China where he signed several energy deals with the government in Beijing. One of the agreements, for example, will allow for increased oil exports from Venezuelan to fuel the ever-growing Chinese economy.

Image- AFP

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg, AP, IHT, The Telegraph, Times of India

Daily Headlines: September 26, 2008

* Latin America: Representing the ALAS foundation, singers Shakira and Alejandro Sanz urged several Latin American leaders to do more in helping poor children throughout the region.

* Mexico: Could the U.S. learn from Mexico’s bailout plan during their mid-1990s economic crisis?

* Latin America: Haiti, Venezuela and Ecuador are among the region’s most corrupt countries according to a report from Transparency International.

* Dominican Republic: President Leonel Fernandez has announced plans for the development of a second subway line months after the controversial construction of the country’s first line.

Image- ITN (Shakira sits next to Mexican president Felipe Calderon during a conference on Thursday at Colombia University in New York.)

Sources- The Latin Americanist, IHT, El Universal, Bloomberg,

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Today’s Image: Jumping the immigration hurdles

How complex is the immigration process in the U.S.? Though the debate over immigration often oversimplifies the issue (i.e. “amnesty for all” vs. “deport them”), the path to legalized status and citizenship is complex. Next month’s issue of Reason Magazine provides a detailed schematic of the immigration process. Click on the image below to enlarge it; good luck trying to understand it all.
(Hat tip: Metafilter).

Image- Reason Magazine
Sources- Metafilter, Reason Magazine

Catholics should promote gay rights says Mexican bishop

The leaders of Mexico’s Catholic Church have generally been at the forefront of putting down gay rights. Yet one prominent bishop has bucked the trend and has spoken in favor of Mexico's gays.

In remarks made to Mexico’s Milenio, Saltillo bishop Raul Vera called on Catholics to recognize the rights of gay individuals. Vera claimed that Mexico’s LGBT community faces “major discrimination” which he observed first hand during the debate over same-sex marriage. As he recalled during a speech at a recent U.S. gay rights conference:

“Uno de estos momentos críticos fue acompañarlos cuando se desató una campaña homofóbica de parte de los buenos católicos para impedir la legalización de las uniones entre personas de la comunidad lésbico-gay”, dijo el Obispo…

“Tuve que aceptar lo que me vendría encima de parte de los buenos católicos que me acusaron ante la Nunciatura, pero salí a la defensa de su dignidad y los derechos que como ciudadanos tienen.
Translation – “On of the most important moments was to accompany (Mexican homosexuals) in the face of a homophobic campaign by good Catholics to impede same-sex civil unions” said the bishop…

“I had to accept that good Catholics would accuse me in front of the nunciature but I came out in defense of the dignity of gays and the rights they have as citizens.”

Vera has previously spoken out against leaders of Mexico’s Catholic archdiocese; last month, he blasted the Church for issuing a statement critiquing women who wear “provocative clothes.” Yet at times Vera does see eye-to-eye with church leaders like when he spoke out against a local public plan to distribute condoms.

Vera’s work in defense of human rights has been praised by the Mexican representative of the U.N. High Commission for Human Rights.

Image- Vanguardia

Sources (English)- The Latin Americanist,

Sources (Spanish)- Vanguardia, El Tiempo, Milenio, CIMAC Noticias

Foreign investment grows

The United Nations said today that foreign investment in Latin America increased by 36 percent last year.

The investment is now $126 billion.

The report released yesterday from the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development said mining and natural resources received the most investment. Brazil topped the list of countries receiving improved investment with $35 billion and Mexico followed with $23 billion.

Foreign investment around the world topped out at $1.8 trillion last year.

Read the AP story here.

Hispanics could swing Colorado

Hispanic voters in Colorado are poised to tip the balance in Barack Obama's favor.

The poll of 1,400 voters showed 49 percent supporting Obama and 45 percent for McCain.

Colorado's voting population is 20 percent Hispanic, although this NPR article says turnout tends to be low.

Hispanic voters are a key swing vote this year. Many supported Sen. Hillary Clinton, and with Clinton out of the race both candidates are trying to win her voters.

Immigration is not the only concern, but a top concern for these voters.

"That's an issue that is slightly below the surface, but it's resonating when it comes to Barack Obama vs. Sen. McCain, because people see Sen. McCain has abandoned his position on immigration," said Denver's first Hispanic mayor Federico Pena.

Source: NPR
Photo: PoliticsWest, Pena

Daily Headlines: September 25, 2008

* Venezuela: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is expected to arrive in Russia later today after having signed several agreements with his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao (image).

* Latin America: According to a U.N. report foreign direct investment in Latin America grew by 36% in 2007 to the tune of $126 billion.

* Chile: Chileans may have to put up with higher electricity costs due to the rapid depreciation of the peso against the U.S. dollar.

* Mexico: Police nabbed two men who carried six tubes of gel explosive though authorities have yet to link them to a deadly grenade attack last week.

Image- BBC News

Sources- The Latin Americanist, IHT, Reuters, La Plaza, New York Times, AHN

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Today’s Video: Ha ha ha! He’s dead!

Is there such a thing as bad satire? Are some topics a little too sensitive to make fun of? Can some humor go too far?

Take the following video from 1990s British TV show “TV Offal”; does it make you laugh, cringe, or (in my case) both?

(Video link, possibly NSFW):

Sources- Wikipedia, YouTube

Thou shalt not wear school uniforms

Making school uniforms "voluntary" may backfire in Guatemala

At first glance, Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom’s executive decree last week making school uniforms voluntary attire in public schools of all levels can be seen as a pragmatic and humanistic intervention. The education systems in the poorest countries of the region, one could surely argue, have long put an undue burden on the poor, and it's about time someone took a stand. And why not - they're just clothes, right?

“I can’t imagine the anguish of a parent that is unable to send his or her children to school,” Colom explained at his press conference. “In a way,” he added, “this is an act of income redistribution.” In a country where nearly 35% of the citizenry is functionally illiterate and the primary school completion rates are uncommonly low, Colom may be on to something. Guatemala is now the only place in the region (of which I am aware) to adapot national policy of voluntary uniforms.

For US citizens, the decree will make Colom sound like a true reformer, one in tune with civil liberties and the kinds of freedoms enjoyed in the US since the landmark
Tinker V. Des Moines Supreme court case in 1969.

The decree, which also banned the ever-present “voluntary" school fees in most of the country’s public schools, follows a
similar move last year from the Sandinista government in Nicaragua (where the act, incidentally, caused such an influx in enrollments that the government was unable to keep pace with teachers and infrastructure, and faced massive teacher strikes at the start of the school year).

While Colom’s intentions may be in the right place, the decree’s intended effects, however, are far from guaranteed. To be sure, for the vast majority of Guatemalans for whom school uniforms make school potentially a cost-prohibitive luxury, freedom of expression has not tended to be much of a concern. Three issues, however, call into question the wisdom of Colom’s seemingly rationale decision:

First, inherency: if uniforms are cost-prohibitive, why not just help families pay for them? Public and private financial assistance programs for books, uniforms, and other private costs to families have existed for years in countries such as El Salvador, Chile, Colombia, Mexico – and even in Guatemala. Nobody is complaining about the uniforms – just their marginal cost.

Second is the stigma that goes along with sending their child to a school where the social expectation is to send them in uniform. Changing culture is easier said than done, and in Guatemala, where formality and attire hold a particular cultural premium, no parent will want their child to be the exception to the norm, if not the rule. Those without uniforms will be segregating themselves, and potentially opening themselves up to a host of new challenges, biases, and mistreatment.

Third, the issue of allowing decorum to slide is apparently a monumental security concern for urban schools --where the majority of Guatemalan’s students are enrolled, and youth gangs and maras are real threats. “With this new rule, we won’t be able to tell who’s committing (acts of violence),
noted one urban school teacher in Guatemala City.

Thus, at the start of the next school year, when the new policy takes effect, parents will face a new choice -- not on "if" and "where" to send their children to school, but how to dress him or her. How parents make this choice will be interesting to monitor, just as will the question of whether Colom’s move sets the trends for other populist-prone leaders in the region, or serves as a cautionary tale.

Sources: Prensa Libre, El Diario de Hoy, Wikipedia, Univision, El Nuevo Diario

China, Venezuela to reach key agreements

The governments of China and Venezuela are expected to reach several agreements as President Hugo Chavez continues his visit to the Asian country.

Chavez is scheduled to meet today with his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao and will sign deals allowing for increased Chinese exploration of the oil-rich Orinoco Belt. In addition, both governments are expected to sign off on a multibillion dollar investment deal as well as another pact permitting china to build Venezuelan oil tankers.

While in China, Chavez praised the revolutions in both countries:

"In the face of the collapse of global capitalism, we can say: how fortunate that China had a revolution, how fortunate that Venezuela had and still has a revolution, how fortunate that we got to know each other," he said.

Later this week, the Venezuelan president will visit Russia; in anticipation of his meeting with government officials the Venezuelan government signed an exportation deal last week with Russian natural gas giant Gazprom.

Chavez’ trip to Moscow will also come in the wake of the controversial visit of the Russian Navy’s North Sea Fleet to Venezuela.

Image- AFP

Sources- New York Times, AP, Bloomberg,

Daily Headlines: September 24, 2008

* U.S.: The abortion rate for Latinas was roughly three times that of whites since the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision according to a report from the Guttmacher Institute. (Hat tip: La Plaza).

* Puerto Rico: Torrential rains and flooding have killed four people and could lead to “a great collapse” of the island’s plantain industry.

* Guatemala: Center-left President Alvaro Colom has proposed a big boost to the country’s military including a 60% increase in the number of soldiers.

* Peru: Peru has expressed interest in joining an Asian-Pacific free trade alliance that includes Chile.

Image- The Blotter

Sources- Reuters, La Plaza, Los Angeles Times,, Reuters AlertNet, AFP

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Today’s Video: Wanted – Help for Haiti

Haitians have been hit hard since several massive storms walloped the country weeks ago. According to one estimate nearly 500 people are dead and 100,000-200,000 people have had their homes damaged or destroyed. The U.N. says that roughly 10 % of Haiti's population is in need of emergency assistance and donors have given a minuscule amount of what is needed.

As the below video shows, hundreds of orphaned children in desperate need of help:

Recently we listed several aid groups helping in Haiti. If you know of any other charities please mention them in the comments to this post.

Sources- Voice of America, The Latin Americanist, Reuters

Testimony: Another suitcase involved in Maletagate case

The alledged courier in the “Maletagate” money smuggling case testified on Tuesday in a U.S. federal court.

Venezuelan businessman Guido Antonini Wilson (image) claimed in his testimony that he told authorities that a suitcase containing $800,000 cash was not his. Antonini also claimed that another suitcase with $4.2 million had been transported and was allegedly destined for the campaign of current argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

As Bloomberg reported earlier today:

(Defendant Franklin Duran) was arrested with three other South American men on Dec. 11. The others have pleaded guilty and said that the Venezuelan intelligence agency, known as DISIP, played a central role in the cash cover-up. Duran faces as much as 10 years in prison on a charge of being an unregistered agent of Venezuela in the U.S. and five years on a conspiracy charge.

As we mentioned last month, Antonini Wilson is wanted for trial in Argentina and the U.S. government has been accused of stonewalling Antonini Wilson’s extradition.

Image- New York Times

Sources- The Latin Americanist, El Universal, Bloomberg

UNGA: LatAm leaders speak at U.N.

Several Latin American leaders spoke during today’s session of the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) in New York. Here are what some of them had to say:

  • Bolivia’s Evo Morales is speaking at the time of this post. He criticized the U.S. government of being hypocritical on terrorism and claimed that the recently expelled U.S. ambassador once referred to him as the “Andean Bin Laden.” Morales introduced a list of “ten commandments for the salvation of humanity” which included the defeat of capitalism and called for a world free of military intervention and imperialism.
  • Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (image) addressed the global financial crisis and called on the U.N. to take prompt action. “The United Nations, as the world's largest multilateral arena, must issue a call for a vigorous response to the weighty threats we all face,” said Lula who also defended the increased use of biofuels.
  • Argentina’s Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner called on Iran to extradite five former officials accused of masterminding a deadly bombing in 1994. “I ask Iran to please allow Argentine justice to judge, in public and transparent trials with all the guarantees of a democratic system, those citizens who stand accused,” said Kirchner who also emphasized Argentina’s claims of sovereignty over the Falkland Islands.
  • Panamanian president Martin Torrijos spoke on the need for the U.N. to be more active in combating the global food crisis. “How can it be that if there’s enough food to feed the world that…millions of people suffer from malnutrition?” asked Torrijos who also called for the U.N. to undergo serious reform.
  • Several regional leaders will speak on Wednesday including the presidents of Colombia, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez was scheduled to address the U.N. tomorrow yet another senior government official (Nicolas Maduro?) will do so instead.

Image- Voice of America

Sources (English)- The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg, Xinhua, Forbes,, The Independent

Sources (Spanish)-,

Palin to meet with Colombia’s Uribe

Sarah Palin’s foreign policy experience may be practically nonexistent yet she hopes to change that this week.

The U.S. Vice Presidential hopeful will meet numerous world leaders as the latest session of the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) is underway. The lone Latin American leader that she will meet during her visit will be Colombian president Alvaro Uribe. Both are expected to meet this afternoon and discuss issues such as free trade and the “war on drugs.”

Free trade has been the main focus of Uribe during his visit to the U.S. this week. Over the weekend, he met with President George W. Bush who offered his support of free trade and admonished the Democratic-controlled for Congress for postponing a vote on it.

In an interview earlier today with Colombia’s Caracol Radio, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama mentioned a telephone discussion he had last week with Uribe:

Obama manifestó: "Sostuve una buena conversación con el presidente Uribe, creo que él ha estado trabajando duramente en su país para reducir la violencia y el tráfico de drogas en Colombia, pero como le dije, tenemos que asegurarnos de que los derechos de los trabajadores sean protegidos y aún falta mucho trabajo por hacer" .

Translation – Obama said “I had a good conversation with President Alvaro Uribe who I believe has been working very hard in his country to combat violence and drug trafficking. But like I told him, we need to assure that the rights of workers are protected and there is a lot that has to be done.”

In the interview, Obama also admitted that Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez had “exploited” the Bush administration’s ignoring of the Americas and that the embargo against Cuba would remain unless real reforms are done on the island.


Sources (English)- Reuters, Bloomberg, Guardian UK

Sources (Spanish)- El Espectador, El Tiempo

Daily Headlines: September 23, 2008

* Colombia: “I have no intention of doing politics in Colombia,” admitted former hostage Ingrid Betancourt (image) in an interview yesterday where she also said that her return to Colombia has been impeded by death threats.

* Mexico: Mexican stocks fell in trading yesterday due to worry over the planned $700 billion bailout plan in the U.S.

* Latin America: Trade within the Latin American region has grown “significantly” according to the Latin American Integration Association.

* Brazil: The official inquest into the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes by London police began with testimony over how officers mistakenly thought he was a terrorist plotter.

Image- Christian Science Monitor

Sources- Reuters,, Monsters & Critics, The News Journal, The Latin Americanist, BBC News

Monday, September 22, 2008

Today’s Video: The death of Filiberto Ojeda Rios

This Tuesday will be the third anniversary of the death of Puerto Rican nationalist leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios. Ojeda Rios was the head of the Boricua Popular Army (a.k.a. Los Macheteros) and he was killed during a controversial shootout with FBI agents in 2005.

Ojeda Rios’ death has served as a rallying point for those who favor Puerto Rican independence as well as those who are resentful being of U.S. rule. To his detractors, Ojeda Rios was a bandit who masterminded brazen bank robberies in order to fund Los Macheteros. Regardless of what you think of Ojeda Rios it’s undeniable that he continues to be remembered by supporters and opponents alike.

The following video shows Ojeda Rios being interview years before he died:

Sources- The Latin Americanist,, Google Video, The Nation

Peruvian prez' popularity plummets

Pop quiz: Which Latin American leader currently holds an approval rating below 20%?

Could it be Argentina’s Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner? Perhaps it’s Felipe Calderon of Mexico? What about Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega?

Would you believe me if I said the answer was Alan Garcia of Peru?

Garcia’s first presidential term between 1985 and 1990 was hampered by a massive economic crisis that included hyperinflation and soaring unemployment. The economy is again being a sticking point for Garcia as his latest approval rating plummeted to a minuscule 19%, a drop of 12 points in three months.

The survey of 1000 city-dwelling Peruvians by Ipsos also revealed that 69% of respondents were upset at the rise in prices and 43% accused him of not sticking to his campaign promises.

Peruvians’ disillusionment of Garcia also extends to other politicos according to another recently conducted poll:

Peru’s main opposition politician could win the first round of voting in the 2011 presidential election but would be defeated in the run-off, according to a poll by Ipsos, Apoyo, Opinión y Mercado published in Perú 21. 19 per cent of respondents would support Ollanta Humala of the Union for Peru (UP) in the ballot.

Keiko Sofía Fujimori—the daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori—is second with 17 per cent, followed by Lima mayor Luis Castañeda Lossio with 15 per cent, former president Alejandro Toledo with 10 per cent, former conservative presidential candidate Lourdes Flores Nano with nine per cent, and current prime minister Jorge del Castillo with five per cent.

Image- BBC News

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Angus Reid Consultants, Reuters, BBC News

Event: "HOPE: Living and Loving with HIV in Jamaica"

Poet Kwame Dawes will read from several works inspired by his trips to Jamaica. His poetry came about as a result of his work with the Pulitzer Center’s HOPE project which looks at the impact of HIV/AIDS in Jamaica.

Monday, September 22,
6 to 8 pm

Busboys and Poets
2021 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009

Note: The event is free and open to the public.

The following video is based on the HOPE project and is a clip we featured last May:

Sources- The Latin Americanist, HOPE Project, Pulitzer Center, YouTube

Brazil: Promises unfulfilled for abused girls

Roughly a year ago local officials in Brazil were under fire over the denunciations of an imprisoned teenage girl. The fifteen-year-old girl was arrested and kept unfairly in jail for over three weeks with men who were accused of raping her. Brazilians around the country were shocked at such abuse though similar incidents had occurred in other provinces.

Local leaders and politicians got on their high horse and promised to enact crucial reforms. Yet as the AP recently observed, those pledges have been nothing but empty words:

After the uproar of the case, the Para state governor, congressmen, and even the Brazilian president vowed to tackle the problems that caused the assault: callous, corrupt police and a jail system with few separate cells for women. The jailhouse was demolished.

Yet Para, a jungle state twice the size of France stretching inland from Brazil's northeastern Atlantic coast, still only has six separate cells for women at its 132 jails.

Judge Clarice Maria de Andrade, who approved the girl's imprisonment, was merely transferred to another jurisdiction without even a censure. It's also far from clear whether the current judicial inquiry, held behind closed doors because the victim was a minor, will yield any convictions.

The accuser is currently serving in a witness protection program, yet a broken system will do little to stem the fears of other young girls in Brazil. As long as officials place a metaphorical bandage on an ever-growing flesh wound, the calls for reform will be nothing but hot air and cheap theatrics.

Image- New York Times (“A girl who was abused by inmates at a jail in Brazil was embraced by her stepmother and mother [last November] after being freed.”)

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Dallas Morning News,

McCain no Panamanian

It's official: Senator John McCain is a US citizen, and not a Panamian.

Because the Republican presidential nominee was born in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936, then a US territory, some have claimed that he is ineligible to run for president in the US. While few doubted the outcome, the issue was put to rest last week in the California courts.

According to the AFP, U.S. District Judge William Alsup ruled McCain to be US citizen based on prior rulings, and the decision hinged particularly on a 1937 law on the canal zone, which was interpreted as declaring those born in the zone to US parents as "natural born citizens" -- the un-elaborated requisite as stipulated in the US constitution.

However unlikely an outcome, it surprises me that more of a stink hasn't been made on this (non)issue -- not because of its merits, but because of its swiftboat-like irony.

The real story here, of course: John McCain was born in 1936.... (wokka wokka wokka).

Sources: AFP, New York Times, Oakland Tribune

Daily Headlines: September 22, 2008

* Central America: “We all smuggle in a cocaine-filled submarine/

cocaine-filled submarine, cocaine-filled submarine”...

* Mexico: Mexico’s government proposed to create an anti-kidnap police force, while crime continues to grow throughout the country.

* Venezuela: Chile’s government criticized their Venezuelan counterparts for the expulsion of Human Rights Watch president Jose Miguel Vivanco last Thursday. (Vivanco is a Chilean citizen).

* Ecuador: President Rafael Correa offered to resign if the country’s draft constitution is voted down in a referendum next Sunday.

Image- MSNBC (“U.S. Navy sailors stand Wednesday atop the semi-submersible vessel found with seven tons of cocaine off Costa Rica last Saturday.”)

Sources- Reuters, CNN, Bloomberg, MercoPress, The Latin Americanist, BBC News, SourceWatch