Friday, January 16, 2009

Today’s Video: “Maliki vs. Trujillo”

We end the week with the following short animation film from Chile. Apparently it was done in honor of an exhibition for local artist Marcela Trujillo. It’s a goofy fast-paced piece of “retro-nonsense” that’s a hoot to watch:

Maliki v/s Trukillo from Diego Cumplido on Vimeo.
Have a great weekend!

(Hat tip: Cartoon Brew).

Sources- Cartoon Brew, Marcela Trujillo

Poll: Economy top Latino concern

The weakening economy is the most important concern to Latinos in the U.S. according to a Pew Hispanic Center survey.

The survey of 1,007 Latinos nationwide found that 57% of them found the economy to be “extremely important” compared to 43% in Pew’s December 2007 poll.

The twin social issues of education and health care were deemed second and third most vital according to the survey. 38% of respondents claimed that the topic of immigration was most critical, placing it in sixth place in the survey. That may seem surprising due to the detrimental effects of immigration policy to the Latino community, yet the percentage represents a drop of 7% compared to the 2007 poll.

The Pew survey also examined perspectives regarding the change in U.S. presidency:
The survey, conducted Dec. 3-10, also found that U.S. Hispanics appear optimistic about Obama's role as the 44th president of the United States.

More than 72 percent of respondents said Obama would likely enjoy a positive first term as head of state.

Nearly 74 percent of all survey respondents said they were more intrigued by the 2008 presidential election than in 2004.

The Pew Hispanic Center said the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush was deemed to have more failures than successes by 54 percent of the survey's participants. No margin of error was reported.
Online Sources- UPI, Reuters,

"Death squad" threatens Ciudad Juarez

In a country where violence has grown the border city of Ciudad Juarez is one of the most unsafe. Last year alone, for example over 1650 murders took place in the seemingly lawless northern Mexico city.

Is it any wonder then that paramilitaries have threatened to take the law into their hands?
“Citizens tired with the impunity created in this city have formed the Juarez Citizens Command (CCP) whose goal is to try to end…with the criminals that have caused terror” according to an e-mail sent to journalists…

According to the group, which has yet to commit any particular action, it has the financial backing of “businesses affected” by violence. CCP’s mission is to “kill a criminal every 24 hours.” – [ed. personal translation]
Unfortunately the emergence of “death squads” in northern Mexico is nothing new; according to Mexico’s El Universal another group calling itself the Citizens Front against Corruption and Violence came forward last March. Their emergence in the state of Chihuahua coincided with a surge in killings of drug pushers and police involved in the drug trade.

A “security expert” interviewed by Mexico’s Excelsior warned that the CCP’s communiqué must be taken seriously in that the group’s aim is to “substitute the state’s activities with vigilante justice.”

Image- Los Angeles Times (“A woman collapses in a relative’s arms in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, after gunmen killed her son and injured the boy’s father.”)
Online Sources- Excelsior, El Universal, LAHT,,

Kaká to depart for Man City?

His birth name is Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite but to futbol aficionados he is best known by the moniker of Kaká. The lanky Brazilian is a superstar and was a finalist in the 2008 Player of the Year vote. (He won that honor in 2007).

For the past five years, the midfielder has played his trade for Italian powerhouse A.C. Milan and signed a contract extension with them last February. In the past few weeks rumors have grown that he will bolt Italy for a Manchester team. But if you think he’s leaving for reigning European and world champions Manchester United then think again:
Manchester City have rejected claims that they have signed Brazilian superstar Kaka.

Reports have emerged in the United Arab Emirates this afternoon stating that the 26-year-old AC Milan star has agreed to join City during the current transfer window.

But City have been quick to dismiss the story, citing its origin as the same source that claimed yesterday morning that the deal was off.
Kaká’s transfer fee would reportedly be the world’s largest should he depart to England. That would pay for a lot of “I Belong to Jesus” t-shirts.

Image- (Kaká would belong to Jesus and Manchester City’s Arab owners should he be transferred from A.C. Milan).
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Guardian UK, The Independent, Wikipedia, Sky News

Politico in hot water over Facebook

It’s usually encouraging to see politicians not only use but embrace technology and so-called “new” media. (President-elect Barack Obama’s weekly speeches via YouTube are one example that comes to mind). Yet such tools can serve as a double-edged sword and could potentially embarrass public figures.

Take the case of Uruguayan interior minister Daisy Tourne who created her own Facebook page with images, messages, and the like. One of the photos she posted was of her with the caption “nothing is more authentic than a wet woman (in the shower).” The reportedly private image is not erotic and it appears more goofy than perverse.

Cue shitstorm in 3…2…1…:
Rather than posting critical messages on her Facebook "wall" or "poking" of the minister, opposition leaders went old-media with their criticism.

"I think it's in very bad taste that the minister exposes herself so intimately," former Vice President Luis Hierro Lopez told El Pais. "Ministers have to be more austere, modest — above all the Minister of the Interior," who commands the police force.
Tourne replied in a Facebook post admitting that she “cried out of anger” yet emerged stronger since “years ago I’ve received worse blows and insults.”

The brouhaha over Tourne’s photo is overblown and seems sexist. Though it serves as a valuable lesson for politicians: watch your (bare)back even if it’s unseen.

Online Sources- YouTube, Clarin, IHT, El Pais

New Campaign in Puerto Rico Asks : What's Wrong With Us?

A new ad campaign in Puerto Rico, focusing on respect for others, has launched, featuring print and television ads demonstrating the commonplace ways in which people disrespect each other. From not saying " I love you" or "good morning", to ignoring and insulting the homeless, to disrespecting older adults, to teasing, to cleanliness, the ads focus on daily routines and how disrespect has also become routine and second nature.

The campaign called , Que Nos Pasa, Puerto Rico?, so far focuses on values like courtesy, solidarity, respect, and friendship and via the site is looking for more values to highlight.

I couldn't find out who was behind the campaign except an ad/PR firm and possibly a university,
but such a focus begs the question if a lack of respect for each other is at the root of our problems and if tackling issues from this perspective will help to solve bigger issues.

Daily Headlines: January 16, 2009

* U.S.: "I want to clean up the mess that exists in the Department of Interior," said Senator Nominee Ken Salazar during Interior Secretary confirmation hearings yesterday.

* Colombia: On the one hand, the country’s FARC guerillas released ten people held hostage for nearly a month. On the other hand, the FARC have been accused of killing three children in a shootout with police.

* Brazil: Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva urged U.S. President-elect Barack Obama to “see Latin American countries as democratic partners rather than problems.”

* Cuba: The country’s Commission on Human Rights reported that 207 Cubans are being held as political prisoners by the Castro regime.

Image- AP (“In this Jan. 6, 2009 file photo, Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., is greeted by members at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute ceremony to honor the Hispanic-American members of the 111th Congress in Washington.”)
Online Sources- Xinhua, LAHT, Los Angeles Times, Reuters

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Beyond Borders: Plane crashes into Hudson River

An experienced pilot and quick-thinking rescuers are being cited as two of the main reasons why 155 people survived an icy plunge into New York’s Hudson River on Thursday afternoon:

"We've had a miracle on the Hudson," New York Gov. David Paterson said after confirming that everyone survived the U.S. Airways Flight 1549 accident. Though his remarks may seem like superlatives, there have been only two other occasions in the past fifty years where a commercial airline landed in the water without fatalities.

With some residents still jittery over an airline crash in this post-9/11 era, Federal Aviation Authority investigators ruled out terrorism and claimed that the plane’s engines shutdown after hitting a flock of birds.

According to one of the flight’s survivors:
Alberto Panero, said: "I want to say thank you to that pilot. It was as good a landing as you can make in a river." He said that passengers had begun ¬praying as it came in low over the river, but all had remained calm.
Online Sources- New York Daily News, Reuters, AFP, IHT, Guardian UK

Attorney Gen. pick defends FALN pardons

Attorney General nominee Eric Holder defended pardons granted in 1999 by former president Bill Clinton to sixteen convicted Puerto Rican nationalists.

During nomination hearings earlier today, Holder deemed the imprisoned nationalists as “bad people” but said that the decision to grant clemency "was reasonable." Holder added that the clemency was fair since the convicted men didn’t carry out the violent acts that they were accused of. (The F.B.I. would likely disagree with such a perspective).

Holder was “the No. 2 official at the Justice Department” at the time of the controversial pardons which included clemency to fugitive businessman Marc Rich.

The convicted men were members of the members of the FALN and Los Macheteros and were accused of violent acts like the fatal 1975 bombing of New York’s Fraunces Tavern.

Holder also spoke out on the possibility that the military prison at Guantanamo Bay could close:
While he said the Obama administration will move to shut down the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Holder said it could take a significant amount of time to do so. He also said that some terrorists in the future could be prosecuted under some form of military commissions if the commissions are revamped to provide better protections for the accused, and that others would be prosecuted in U.S. federal courts.

Many detainees could be transferred to other countries, Holder added, but the Obama administration is still struggling with what to do with the most dangerous terrorist suspects who cannot be tried in civilian courts.
Despite the controversy over Holder’s controversial role at the Justice Department, no Republican legislator has yet to publicly oppose his nomination.

Image- AP (“In this Dec. 1, 2008, file photo, Attorney General-designate Eric Holder speaks during a news conference with President-elect Barack Obama, right, in Chicago.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, AP, CNN, MSNBC, Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor

Today’s Video: The redemption of Rick Sanchez

When I used to live in Miami oh so many years ago I avoided any and all newscasts with Rick Sanchez. The Cuban-American journo had the tendency to overhype even the most trivial of news stories, a necessity on the “if-it-bleeds-it-leads” reporting on WSVN. I’ve warmed up to him a bit during his appearances on CNN en Español yet I couldn’t shake off that bothersome persona when he worked in southern Florida.

My perception of Sanchez changed radically, however, after viewing this extraordinary verbal knockout of someone whose fifteen minutes of fame should’ve run out a long time ago:

I don’t know what the best part is:
  • Reading Joe’s/Samuel’s rants in such a silly tone
  • Equating him to Fidel Castro
  • Comparing him to the “guy at every party” who is a poseur know-it-all
Kudos Rick; you have redeemed yourself.

(Hat tip: Wonkette).

Sources- Wonkette, YouTube

DHS nominee vows to fix “broken” immigration system

Actions speak louder than words and I won’t be satisfied until compressive, fair, and well-meaning immigration reforms are passed. However, we may be headed in that direction very soon if the testimony of Department of Homeland Security nominee Janet Napolitano is to be believed:
Janet Napolitano, President-elect Barack Obama’s choice for homeland security secretary, told a congressional panel this morning that fixing the “broken” U.S. immigration system would be a priority.

Napolitano, 51, is a critic of U.S. immigration policy. As governor of Arizona, a border state, she called for the National Guard to help secure the Mexican border and billed the federal government for state services used by illegal immigrants. She would be integral in pushing legislation Obama supports to boost enforcement as well as opportunities for foreign workers.

“I have walked, flown over, and ridden horseback along our southwest border,” Napolitano told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “I appreciate its vastness, as well as the grave consequences of our broken system.”
Mind you, Napolitano’s testimony won’t please nativists who will whine about “shamnesty” or some pro-immigrant factions who will complain about too much enforcement. But compromise is needed to reform a busted immigration system and reverse backwards immigration policies.

On a related note, a report released yesterday concluded that the weakening U.S. economy has not caused a return of illegal immigrants to their countries of origin. The study conducted by the Migration Policy Institute noted that illegal immigrants tend to jump from state to state seeking better economic conditions rather than leave the U.S.

Image- AP (“In this Dec. 3, 2008 file photo, Homeland Security Secretary-designate Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, left, speaks as Vice President-elect Joe Biden, center, is briefed by Jim Talent, co-chair Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism, right, at the presidential transition headquarters in Washington.”)
Online Sources- Reuters, Bloomberg, New York Times

Could Mexico's higher oil output help the U.S.?

Along with Venezuela and Brazil, Mexico is one of Latin America’s largest oil producers. The U.S. receives most of Mexico’s oil exports to the tune of nearly 1.5 million barrels per day. Aside from Canada, the U.S. relies on Mexico as a "politically stable oil source".

It would be foolhardy to assume that an increase in Mexican oil exports would significantly lower energy problems in the U.S. Yet more oil production may help relieve a sagging Mexican economy and could help its northern neighbor:
Mexico's faltering crude oil output should recover to 3.0 million barrels per day in 2015, Energy Minister Georgina Kessel said on Wednesday.

Kessel told senators in a presentation that state oil monopoly Pemex expected to be producing between 2.7 million and 2.8 million bpd over 2009 and 2010, around the same level as today.

Mexican oil production has been falling for six consecutive months as output at the major Cantarell field has dropped far below Pemex's expectations.
In addition, the AP reported that Mexican officials have sought talks with the U.S. over a discrepancy in offshore oil fields shared by both countries.

Last year, Mexico’s legislature passed an energy reform package that was touted by the government. Nevertheless, deep opposition from some politicos and the delayed appointments of Pemex officials have slowed the reforms.

Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, BBC News, AP, Reuters, Time, IHT

Peruvian police accused of torture

This morning we mentioned how police in the Dominican Republic have come under fire after officers killed four men by shooting them in the back. Sadly, a worse case of brutality appears to have occurred in Peru.

According to a local human rights group, police tortured and beat upon at least 28 peaceful protestors in 2005. Peru’s National Coordinating Committee for Human Rights lodged a formal complaint this week after revealing photos showing “police standing over men and women who have plastic trash bags pulled over their heads and hands tied behind their backs.”

As one eyewitness told Reuters:
“I felt all my rights were violated ... it was truly torture," said Elizabeth Cunya, who along with another community member and a local journalist told a news conference about three days of beatings by police and the company's security team that left one person dead. One photo showed police officers posing with underwear taken from two women.

After the images were published, Prime Minister Yehude Simon promised to personally review the torture allegations.

"As a state, we cannot allow abuse. Police, business leaders, workers -- no one can use force to impose their ideas on others," Simon told reporters.
The protestors had opposed the development of the multibillion dollar Rio Blanco mine (formally named Majaz Project) which is currently under control of a Chinese firm. Opposition to the mine’s expansion arose over environmental concerns as well as the social impact on local communities.

Meanwhile, Peru’s miners may strike in early February in protest of heavy layoffs in recent months.

(Hat tip: Inca Kola News).

Image- Living in Peru
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, LAHT, Inca Kola News, Bloomberg, Reuters, IHT, Oxfam America

Daily Headlines: January 15, 2009

* Venezuela: Venezuela’s government severed diplomatic ties to Israel hours after Bolivian officials did the same thing.

* Cuba: A U.S. judge ordered the release of a detainee held at the Guantanamo Bay prison and who was accused of being a member of al-Qaeda.

* Brazil: The price of coffee could jump as much as 26% in the upcoming weeks according to the head of Brazil’s coffee association.

* Dominican Republic: Police may have engaged in brutality after officers allegedly killed four suspects by being shot in the back.

Image- BBC News (The Bolivian and Venezuelan governments broke diplomatic relations with Israel on Wednesday due to the military offensive on Gaza.)
Online Sources- BBC News, Bloomberg, The Latin Americanist, Reuters, LAHT

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

R.I.P Ricardo Montalban

Sad news from the world of entertainment: actor Ricardo Montalban died this morning at the age of 88. According to his family, Montalban passed away due to “complications related to old age”.

The Mexican-born actor was best-known for his roles as Mr. Roarke on 70s TV series "Fantasy Island" and as the villainous Khan in 1982’s “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”. In addition, there’s this so-bad-it’s-good 1975 commercial for the Chrysler Cordoba:

Yet Montalban was also a pioneering actor and activist who tried to portray a more positive image of Latinos on the silver screen:
After starring in 13 Spanish-language films in Mexico, Montalban made his American feature film debut in 1947 in "Fiesta."…

It was during this early stage in his career that Montalban dedicated himself to changing Hollywood's stereotypes of Latinos.

"When I first came to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer under contract in 1945, that's when the image was at its worst," Montalban said. "They didn't realize that by trying to be colorful, they were very insulting"…

Montalban never tired of fighting for the rights of Latinos in Hollywood. For almost 20 years, he served as president of Nosotros, an organization he founded for the advancement of Hispanics in the entertainment industry.

"The ideals of Nosotros continue. As our community of Latinos in show business increases, so will our participation in all of the many aspects of our industry," he said in 1987.
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, CNN, Bloomberg, Los Angeles Times, YouTube

Fired lesbian teacher sues Chilean state

A Chilean teacher who was fired from her job due to her sexual orientation has taken the government to court.

Sandra Cecilia Pavez had taught religion for 23 years at a public high school but was sacked in 2007 after coming out of the closet. She had previously filed a pair of lawsuits in a local court and the country’s Supreme Court but both tribunals was rejected her. As a result, she filed her latest lawsuit earlier this month with the Inter-American Human Rights Court.

In a press conference last week, Pavez and her representatives argued that the Chilean justice system was far from being just:
(President of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation Rolando Jimenez said) "Once again, people who have a different sexual orientation are systematically denied justice.

"Sandra's case demonstrates how sexual minorities do not have rights in the eyes of this country's judicial system, and the only option left is to seek international assistance."

Ms Pavez said:

"If there is no guarantee of my rights as a citizen in this country then what kind of citizen am I? A third or second class citizen? Maybe I don't even have a category in my country."
In response to Pavez’ lawsuit the head of the local diocese dismissed her claims by suggesting that she seek psychiatric help. (How classy).

Though Latin America’s gay community has made some strides in recent times, Pavez’ ordeal shows that much still has to be done to overcome homophobia.

(Hat tip: Blabbeando).

Image- Santiago Times (“Sandra Pavez (center) with her lawyer (right) and MOVILH President Rolando Jiminéz (left).”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Blabbeando, The Valparaiso Times,

Bolivia cuts diplomatic ties with Israel

Bolivia’s government has cut diplomatic relations with Israel as a result of the Middle Eastern country’s attacks on Gaza.

"The crimes committed by the Israeli government affect peace and stability in the world," Bolivian President Evo Morales said in announcing the severing of diplomatic ties to Israel. In his remarks made today, Morales was highly critical of Israel’s actions on Gaza:
Morales told the country's diplomatic corps that the Israeli attack "seriously threatened world peace" and he called for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his Cabinet to face criminal charges.

Morales chided the United Nations' "Insecurity Council" for its "lukewarm" response to the crisis and said the U.N. General Assembly should condemn the invasion.

He also said Israeli President Shimon Peres should be stripped of his Nobel Peace Prize for failing to stop the invasion.
Thus far there has been no official reaction from Israel’s government. The Israeli offensive has gone on for nearly three weeks and has reportedly left over 1000 Palestinians dead.

Morales’ action comes approximately two weeks after Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez expelled Israel’s ambassador from the country.

Image- AP (“Palestinians pray over a dead body during the funerals of four people at the mosque in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, BBC News, Bloomberg, Reuters, CNN, AP

Today’s Video: Do call it a comeback

In September 2006, Uruguayan soccer star Dario Silva had his right leg amputated after surviving a terrible car crash. Despite being forced into retirement from the game he loved Silva still managed to make a phenomenal comeback and has even aspired to represent Uruguay as a rower in the 2012 Paralympics.

Yesterday Silva participated in a charity match for a local charity that helps disadvantaged youths. Silva donned his old number 9 Uruguay jersey as well as an artificial limb for his amputated leg. He converted a penalty in the game, one that would’ve seemed impossible over two years ago when he was knocking at death’s door.

(Video link):

(Hat tip: The Offside).

Sources- The Latin Americanist, The Offside, YouTube, Daily Mail,

Pentagon official: Torture used at Gitmo

One of the detainees at the Guantanamo Bay detention center was tortured according to the Pentagon official overseeing trials at the

In remarks made to the Washington Post, Susan Crawford admitted that Saudi Arabian Mohammed al-Qahtani endured sleep deprivation, prolonged exposure to cold and isolation. "The techniques they used were all authorized, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent," Crawford regarding the alledged “20th hijacker” in the 9/11 attacks.

Crawford admitted that she had “no doubts” that al-Qahtani would’ve participated in the 9/11 attacks had he gained access to the U.S. in August 2001. Yet the use of torture/”enhanced interrogation techniques” (pick your euphuism) against him led her to dismiss the charges against al-Qahtani last May:
"His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that's why I did not refer the case," she said…

Ms. Crawford said she was shocked, upset and embarrassed by the treatment he had received.

She said: "If we tolerate this and allow it, then how can we object when our servicemen and women, or others in foreign service, are captured and subjected to the same techniques?

"How can we complain? Where is our moral authority to complain? Well, we may have lost it."
Despite Crawford’s decision, military prosecutors may file new charges against al-Qahtani supposedly based on information acquired from non-torture techniques.

Meanwhile, a separate Pentagon official claimed that 61 former Gitmo detainees have taken up terrorist activities in recent months. “There, clearly, are people who are being held at Guantanamo who are still bent on doing harm to America” said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell yesterday.

Image- AFP (“Over the years some 800 detainees have gone through Guantanamo.”)
Online Sources- AP, Guardian UK, Washington Post, AFP, Reuters, BBC News

Daily Headlines: January 14, 2009

* U.S.: In light of the cowardly murder of Marcelo Lucero federal authorities will be investigating alleged mishandling of crimes against Latinos by Suffolk County, New York police.

* Cuba: U.S. President George W. Bush blasted the Castro regime during a "message of hope" he gave to Cubans.

* Mexico: Vatican officials threatened Mexican drug traffickers with excommunication from the Catholic Church for their crimes.

* Bolivia: Film director Oliver Stone “kicked a soccer ball and chewed coca leaves” with Bolivian president Evo Morales as part of an interview for an upcoming documentary.

Image- New York Daily News (“Toddler contributes to makeshift memorial at scene of brutal murder of Marcello Lucero.”)
Online Sources- BBC News, MSNBC, AFP, The Latin Americanist, WNYC

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Today’s Video: Grumbling over Guantanamo

Last week we featured Benicio Del Toro’s appearance on “The Colbert Report” where he discussed communism and Ché Guevara.

On Monday night’s edition of the program American Civil Liberties Union head Anthony Romero sat on the hot seat opposite Stephen Colbert. The interview is well worth watching due to their discussion on the future of the Guantánamo Bay prison and president-elect Barack Obama's mixed signals on when to close it.

(Video link):

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Colbert Nation, Times Online

Obama promises action on Puerto Rican status

President-elect Barack Obama promised that Puerto Ricans will decide their political status sometime over the next four years.

According to a letter that he sent to new Boricua governor Luis Fortuño, Obama vowed to "enable the question of Puerto Rico's status to be resolved" during his first term. An article in Tuesday’s Orlando Sentinel website claimed that the “[letter] prompted a standing ovation when read during Fortuño’s inauguration on January 2nd.

The pro-statehood Fortuño is allied to the Republican Party and he backed John McCain during last year’s presidential election.

Obama’s pledge appeared to be welcomed by Puerto Rican politicos yet fellow contributor Maegan la Mala observed that not all that glitters is gold:
President-elect of the United States Barack Obama reiterated that he will try to resolve the colonial case of Puerto Rico during his first term and explained that self-determination is a “basic right” of Puerto Ricans, for which reason he will undertake responsibility for seeing that Puerto Ricans have “a voice” in the solution.

Wait, a voice in the solution? Am I wrong in thinking that if self-determination is a basic right, then shouldn't Puerto Ricans decided the solution, not just have a voice?
Image- AP (“President-elect Barack Obama arrives to speak about the economy, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2009, at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Vivirlatino, All News Web, LAHT, Orlando Sentinel

HRW: Honduran trans community under attack

The murder of one of Honduras’ leading transgendered activists has “terrified” that community according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Cynthia Nicole was a well-known activist who was the head of a local transgendered group for about fourteen years. She was killed by unknown assailants last Friday in a drive-by shooting. “The authorities need to find and prosecute the perpetrators of this and previous attacks against the trans community,” said an HRW researcher in the article which also alluded to a rise in violence against transgendered Hondurans.

Unfortunately, serious violence against Honduras’ LGBT is nothing new; according to a March 2008 State Department report on Honduras:
“Representatives of sexual diversity rights NGOs asserted that their members were killed, beaten, and subjected to other mistreatment by security authorities…

"Sexual diversity rights groups asserted that security forces, government agencies, and private employers engaged in anti-gay discriminatory hiring practices…

"In March the secretary general of the Ministry of Governance and Justice commented publicly that the government denied registration to gay rights advocacy NGOs because their stated purposes did not comport with "good custom"…

"On March 18, police beat and detained Donny Reyes, the treasurer of the Lesbian-Gay Rainbow Association of Comayaguela.

"Police then reportedly put Reyes in a jail cell with 57 gang members who raped and beat him. Reyes filed a formal complaint and was subsequently harassed by police."
Online Sources- Human Rights Watch,,

Spain to investigate Salvadoran Jesuit massacre

Spain's High Court will indict fourteen former military officials for the brutal 1989 massacre of eight people in El Salvador.

Judge Eloy Velasco said that he will investigate the “Massacre of the Jesuits”, whose name comes from the six Jesuit priests slain at the hands of a Salvadoran army battalion. The killings brought increased global attention to El Salvador’s bloody civil war and the ensuing outrage helped speed up a peace agreement three years later.

Velasco accepted the petition filed in November by human rights groups who chose Spain due to its application of international law to pursue the likes of ex-Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

The High Court rejected the request to investigate ex-El Salvador President Alfredo Cristiani who has been accused of covering-up the massacre. Despite the setback, the head of California's Center for Justice and Accountability- one of the petitioning parties- was pleased with the court’s decision:
"The judge's prompt action underscores the importance of this case not only for the families of the victims and the people of El Salvador but for the cause of human rights accountability around the globe," Pamela Merchant said in a statement. "We look forward to a successful prosecution of all of those responsible for this heinous act."
Image- (“The bodies of killed Jesuit priests are seen in this Nov. 16, 1989, file photo in El Salvador.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, IHT,, BBC News, Prensa Latina

Clinton hearing gives lip service to LatAm (includes update)

Update: During questioning Clinton admitted that she would back president-elect Barack Obama's idea to lift travel restrictions on Cuba. (Link via Reuters).

Confirmation hearings for Hillary Clinton‘s designation as the next Secretary of State took place today on Capitol Hill. The proceedings had been largely a dull affair though the Senator did face some criticism over donations to the charity of her husband- former President Bill Clinton.

In her opening remarks, Clinton promised to use “smart power” in combining both diplomacy and military power as part of U.S. foreign policy. Clinton primarily emphasized the conflicts in the Middle East during her opening statement though she also gave some attention to Latin America:
In our efforts to return to economic growth here in the United States, we have an especially critical need to work more closely with Canada, our largest trading partner, and Mexico, our third largest. Canada and Mexico are also our biggest suppliers of imported energy. More broadly, we must build a deeper partnership with Mexico to address the shared danger arising from drug-trafficking and the challenges of our border, an effort begun this week with a meeting between President-elect Obama and President Calderon.

Throughout our hemisphere we have opportunities to enhance cooperation to meet common economic, security and environmental objectives that affect us all. We will return to a policy of vigorous engagement throughout Latin America, seeking deeper understanding and broader engagement with nations from the Caribbean to Central to South America. Not only do we share common political, economic and strategic interests with our friends to the south, our relationship is also enhanced by many shared ancestral and cultural legacies. We are looking forward to working on many issues during the Summit of the Americas in April and taking up the President-Elect’s call for a new energy partnership of the Americas built around shared technology and new investments in renewable energy.
It’s welcoming to note her acknowledgment that Latin America cannot be as ignored much as it was by the Bush administration and that the U.S. must continue its close political and economic ties with Mexico. At the same time, however, her remarks are vague in that they ignore more specific issues and problems to U.S. foreign policy in the Americas such as Brazil’s push for biofuels, Colombia's armed conflict or Central America’s gang violence.

What do you think?

Image- AP (“Secretary of State-designate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., takes her seat on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009, prior to the start of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on her nomination.”)
Online Sources- Fox News, CBS News, Guardian UK, CNN, BBC News

“Self-deportation” plans in U.S., Spain fail

Approximately three months ago the U.S. and Spanish governments announced plans for self-voluntary deportations of illegal immigrants. The U.S. plan- entitled “Operation Scheduled Departure”- allowed undocumented immigrants to turn themselves in without arrest and would give them three months to prepare before deportation.

Critics blasted “Operation Scheduled Departure” with one calling it “more about public relations than solutions.” To nobody’s surprise the critics were right.

The Spanish “self-deportation” program was a little more flexible than the U.S. plan yet it was correctly attacked by politicos on both the left and right as a “populist measure”.

Perhaps by now you can guess what’s next:
A Spanish program that pays jobless immigrants to return home is turning out to be a flop, with the vast majority opting to stay put and weather hard times…

The initiative offers jobless non-EU foreigners - mostly Latin Americans - the option of receiving unemployment benefit in two lump-sums, on average totaling about €10,400 (£9,245). In exchange, they must return to their native country for at least three years.

However, the money on offer is hardly enough to start a new life back home. Wages in the home countries of many immigrants are much lower than in Spain, where immigrants earn an average of £1,022 a month, compared with £180 in Colombia, for example. In addition, the idea of giving up hard-fought Spanish work and residency permits is scary, immigrant advocacy groups say.
Two governments separated by a vast ocean yet united by incompetence on immigration. Unbelievable.

Image- marketplace
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Guardian UK

Daily Headlines: January 13, 2009

* Latin America: A survey conducted for Google concluded that Internet usage in Latin America has skyrocketed over the past few years.

* U.S.: Sentencing has been delayed in the case of a Venezuelan businessman convicted last November as part of the “Maletagate” scandal.

* Puerto Rico: U.S. officials have closed off a Puerto Rican island popular with tourists that used to serve as a bombing range between 1930 and 1975.

* Colombia: Recently declassified documents showed that U.S. intelligence knew as far back as 1990 that Colombia’s army was committing extrajudicial killings.

Online Sources- IPS, New York Daily News, The Latin Americanist,, La Plaza

Monday, January 12, 2009

Today’s Video: Marta maravilhoso!

On Monday, FIFA presented its awards for the top male and female soccer players of 2008. To nobody’s surprise, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo won top men’s honors by an ample margin over Argentine Lionel Messi and Spain’s Fernando Torres.

In the other non-surprise Brazilian star midfielder Marta won female Player of the Year for the third straight year. The 21-year-old was stellar in helping Brazil capture the silver medal in last year’s Summer Olympics as well as second place during the most recent Women’s World Cup.

In addition, Marta announced that she would bring her style of futebol to the States by joining the Los Angeles Sol for the Women's Professional Soccer’s inaugural season.

Below is a video clip of one of Marta’s best goals; an absolute golazo against the U.S. in the 2007 Women’s World Cup semis:

Sources- The Latin Americanist, Los Angeles Times, UPI, AHN, YouTube

Beyond the Americas: Chairman Mao’s blogging grandson

Some stories speak for themselves:
This is Mao Xinyu, the 38-year-old grandson of Chairman Mao.

Grandson Mao is a senior colonel in the People's Liberation Army. He's now become well-known here as a blogger. The readers of the People's Daily online have just voted his blog the most popular of the last year.

Mao's blog is largely dedicated to an appreciation of his grandfather, who died when he was six years old. The founder of communist China is still admired by many people here -despite the fact that millions died because of famine and conflict during his rule (an official Communist Party verdict delivered after his death ruled - with precision - that Chairman Mao was 70% right and 30% wrong).

"The greatest happiness of my life and satisfaction come from a real understanding of a great man. And he is my grandfather," grandson Mao writes.
(Hat tip: Neatorama).

Image- BBC News
Online Sources- BBC News, People’s Daily Online, Neatorama

Colombia’s Uribe to get Medal of Freedom

Q: What do Britain's former Prime Minister Tony Blair, ex-Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe have in common?

A: They will all receive the Medal of Freedom.

On Tuesday, President George W. Bush will grant the honor to the three leaders during one of his last public gestures before leaving offive. The ceremony will be held in the White House one week before the inauguration of incoming president Barack Obama.

According to White House press secretary Dana Perino, Uribe and co. are being honored for “their work to improve the lives of their citizens and for their efforts to promote democracy, human rights and peace abroad”. Indeed, Uribe has enjoyed great support amongst most Colombians especially for his “democratic security” policy. Yet his presidency has had its share of shortcomings that contradict some of what Perino claimed.

Uribe has had to endure the “para-politics” scandal which has linked some of closest allies including his brother to rightist paramilitary squads. There’s also the supposedly “contaminated” process behind the push to allow him to run for a third term. Uribe came under fire over alledged bribes to senators that enabled his first reelection. Extrajudicial murders have risen as Colombia’s armed forces have been tainted by planting “false positives”. Public opinion has dipped over Uribe’s perceived weak reaction to the collapse of several pyramid schemes. Even the much celebrated mission to rescue over a dozen hostages last July was not without its controversy.

Even with all these shortcomings at least the Medal of Freedom hasn’t been granted to those who grossly miscalculated the early stages of the Iraqi invasion.

Oh wait

Image- Voice of America
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Guardian UK, Colombia Reports, USA TODAY, Los Angeles Times, Reuters, CBS News, AP, Voice of America, New York Times,

Brazil plans more state aid

On the eve of a planned trip to Bolivia and Venezuela, Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva announced today more state aid for the county's economy.

One measure will free credit from Brazil's National Development Bank. Silva said more measures will be announced later.

Brazil's economy was strong before the economic downturn, but Silva says the first quarter of 2009 will be difficult.

Brazilian stocks continue to fall today. Brazil's Ibovespa index was down 2.3 percent today in the first 30 minutes of trading.

Agribusiness and other industries that depend on exports also are suffering.

Source: AP

Photo: Spiegel

Mexican police in immigrant controversy

Earlier this month we mentioned about the often overlooked the issues regarding migrants crossing from Central America into Mexico. Now comes word that Mexican police have come under fire for allegedly killing three migrants.

Accounts differ as to what exactly occurred; one officer from the southern stats of Chiapas said that the three migrants died after their truck crashed at the end of a lengthy car chase. Jose de Jesus Mejia- one of the migrants caught by police- told LAHT that thirty people were riding on the truck including migrants from Honduras, Ecuador, and even a Chinese man. He added that some of them paid as much as $6000 to be smuggled into Mexico and subsequently the U.S.

As another LAHT article noted:
Chiapas, bordering Guatemala, is the gateway for the estimated 300,000 undocumented migrants annually who enter Mexico from Central America by land with hopes of reaching the United States, many of them conducted across the border by people traffickers charging stiff fees.
Image- New York Times (“Migrants from Guatemala cross a stream into southern Mexico, a common route for those seeking jobs in Mexico or passage to the United States.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, LAHT, MSNBC

Venezuela threatens to boot U.S. diplomat

Venezuela’s government threatened to boot a U.S. “top embassy official” less than a week after the South American country expelled Israeli diplomats.

President Hugo Chavez accused the official in question of allying with the opposition during a visit to Puerto Rico and plotting against the Venezuelan government. “If I can confirm this, I’ll throw them out of the country,” threatened Chavez who had previously expelled U.S. Ambassador Patrick Duddy.

Chavez also added in his remarks that Puerto Rico “needs to be liberated” from U.S. rule. (Puerto Rico is currently a U.S. commonwealth).

A U.S. embassy spokeswoman told the AP that Charge d'Affaires John Caulfield did visit Puerto Rico recently yet did so in order to attend a wedding.

Meanwhile, expelled Ambassador Shlomo Cohen defended the actions of his native Israel:
"We are harboring the hope that this will be resolved quickly and relations will improve," Cohen told The Associated Press before boarding a flight (on Friday) to Frankfurt, Germany...

Chavez called Cohen's expulsion a "gesture of dignity" in response to Israeli air and ground strikes on Gaza, which have killed at least 777 Palestinians since Dec. 27 — many of them civilians…

Cohen defended the Israel offensive, saying there was "no alternative."
Image- AP (“In this photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez gestures during a rally in Caracas, Monday, Jan. 5, 2009.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, AP, Reuters, Bloomberg

Daily Headlines: January 12, 2009

* U.S.: The nominee to be the next head of Homeland Security- Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano– said that more Border Patrol officers are needed and expressed some reservations over constructing border barriers.

* Bolivia: Catholic Church officials denied that the diocese planned a local day of prayer which united opposition leaders.

* U.S.: A Guatemalan woman testified in court that she was forced to become a prostitute after migrating into the U.S.

* Dominican Republic: Brazilian firm Embraer sold eight “light-attack aircraft” to the Dominican Republic, according to execs with the company.

Image- Tuscon Weekly
Online Sources-, Catholic News Agency, UPI, Reuters