Friday, January 23, 2009

Today’s Video: Salvador Dali on his art

Today is the twentieth anniversary of the death of the great Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali. In honor of his work and rich life, here is part of a 1986 BBC Arena episode where he refers to himself as a “bad painter”:

Online Sources- Wikipedia, YouTube

Follow-up: Kirsten Gillibrand named to Senate

On Wednesday, we looked into the chance that Rep. Nydia Velazquez could be named to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton. Velazquez was a dark horse candidate though her odds improved when Caroline Kennedy dropped her bid.

New York Governor David Paterson officially unveiled Clinton’s replacement earlier today: Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand.

Despite being praised by some leading New York Democrats her centrism may clash with others in the party. Her status as a “Blue Dog” Democrat has also raised eyebrows among several interest groups representing areas like gun control and immigration. “Now that she will be representing a far broader and more diverse constituency, Senator-Designee Gillibrand must reconsider her positions on immigration” read part of a statement from the head of the New York Immigration Coalition.

Despite qualms over her views on immigration Gillibrand seems like a good choice; her mostly moderate views will likely coincide with Gov. Paterson and President Obama’s policy. If she plays her cards right she can serve in Congress beyond the 2010 and 2012 elections and spare the Empire State the possibility of a Senator Rudy Giuliani.

Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, CBS News, MSNBC,, New York Times, CNN

Venezuela to request Posada Carriles?

According to an attorney with the Venezuelan government the Chavez administration will seek the extradition of alleged bomber Luis Posada Carriles (image). As reported by the AP today:
"This is a new administration (in the U.S.) and Venezuela sees this as a fresh start in matters of mutual cooperation. What we're hoping is that this case will not be seen as politicized, as the Bush administration made it, and will evaluate it on its merits," (attorney Jose) Pertierra told The Associated Press by telephone from Washington.

"If it's considered only on its legal merits, we're confident that the secretary of state will extradite him."
Pertierra remarks echo those made by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez last month who exhorted “President Obama, send us the terrorist”.

The 80-year-old Posada Carriles is wanted in Cuba and Venezuela for supposedly masterminding the 1976 bombing of a Cuban plane that killed all 73 people on board. In 2005, U.S. authorities arrested Posada Carriles for immigration fraud charges yet the ex-C.I.A. operative was released nearly two years ago.

Posada Carriles’ Miami-based attorney- Art Hernandez- told the that his client cannot be sent to Venezuela due to a 2005 immigration court ruling in his favor. “There is a removal order for Posada, except to Venezuela or Cuba, and no measurable change in the quality or nature of the Venezuelan government has occurred that would warrant any change in the posture in the situation of removability or extradition,” added Hernandez.

Some Cuban exiles in the U.S. have celebrated Posada Carriles despite his criminal background.

Image- New York Times
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist,, AP, Wikipedia

Fidel Castro Tells People to Plan to Be without Him

Just as the first photos in two months of the ailing Cuban leader meeting with Argentina's President Kirchner were released, Fidel Castro wrote in a column released yesterday, that he won't likely last through U.S. President Obama's first term.

In an online column titled 'Reflections of Comrade Fidel,' the 82-year-old Cuban leader suggested his days are numbered, saying Cuban officials 'shouldn't feel bound by my occasional Reflections, my state of health or my death.'

'I have had the rare privilege of observing events over such a long time. I receive information and meditate calmly on those events,' he wrote. 'I expect I won't enjoy that privilege in four years, when Obama's first presidential term has ended.'"
Some people have suggested that Fidel has been dead for a while.

Sources : AFP, Intelligent Aboriginal News Service

Colombian Human Rights Case May Go to Military

The case against Colombian retired army colonel Luis Alfonso Plazas Vega for his role in the disappearance of 11 people in 1985 may go to the country's military justice system, should a civilian judge rule in favour of the request.

Luis Alfonso Plazas was arrested in July 2007 in relation to the disappearances, which took place during the military assault on the Palace of Justice in Bogotá.
The assault took place after M-19 guerrillas took those inside hostage in November 1985. Over 100 people died, including 12 Supreme Court judges.
It would seem that handing over the case to the military would go against a 1997 Constitutional Court decision that ruled that all cases implicating the security forces in serious human rights abuses must be investigated by the civilian justice system.

Human rights organizations may have a reason for concern.

Source : Amnesty International, El Espectador, IPS

Daily Headlines: January 23, 2009

* Latin America: The presidents of Venezuela and Argentina- Hugo Chavez and Cristina Kirchner, respectively- signed 21 agreements yesterday in areas such as energy and transportation.

* Mexico: Mexico’s Congress has agreed to hold debates over whether or not to reinstate the death penalty.

* U.S.: According to a pair of studies released earlier this month, Latinas tend to use “questionable homemade potions” in order to end unwanted pregnancies.

* Honduras: Honduran midfielder Wilson Palacios is set to be transferred between English clubs Wigan Athletic and Tottenham Hotspur in a deal worth nearly $20 million.

Image- AP (“Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez, left, and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez sing the Argentine anthem during a welcome ceremony for Fernandez at the Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas, Thursday Jan. 22, 2009.”)
Online Sources- BBC News, CNN, UPI, Xinhua

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Today’s Video: Alba and the “a-hole”

The bad news: Actress Jessica Alba was amongst those "honored" with nominations for this year’s Razzie Awards. The Razzies- which celebrate the crème de la crap of the film industry- named Alba as a finalist in the worst actress category for her roles in "The Guru" and "The Eye".

The good news: Alba kept her cool during a recent red carpet appearance after being accosted by a Fox News ambush crew. As you can see in the clip below, she had some not-so-flattering words for the network’s star blowhard: Bill O’Reilly.

(For the record, I absolutely detest the loudmouths that litter the 24-hour news networks and talk radio stations. Whether they are on the left or right, these masses of hot air take masturbatory glee in stifling any form of rational thought through their juvenile distortions and scolding).

Online Sources- AFP, Reuters, YouTube, Hollyscoop, Crooks and Liars

Univision, Televisa settle lawsuit

U.S. Spanish-language network Univision and Mexican media conglomerate Televisa reached a settlement in a lawsuit over royalties.

According to the $600 million agreement between the two firms, Univision will pay Televisa $25 million in back royalties and provide Televisa with $65 million in free ad space on Univision channels. In exchange, Televisa promised to keep its current contract with Univision which lasts until 2017.

Attorneys for Televisa claimed that Univision breached its contract by withholding the payment of over $100 million in royalties. Due to its role as content provider the Mexican firm had more leverage and thus was able to reach a deal that favored them more than Univision:
The amended programming pact should allow Univision to continue as the dominant Spanish-language broadcaster in the United States. Univision commands about 75% of the Spanish-language audience, and its Los Angeles television outlet, KMEX-TV Channel 34, ranks as the nation's No. 1 television station, beating established ABC, NBC and CBS stations…

Televisa's telenovelas generate about $750 million a year in advertising revenue for Univision. Univision is struggling amid a slowdown in advertising at a time it faces looming payments on its $10-billion debt that came from a highly leveraged buyout two years ago.
All is not entirely rosy between Televisa and Univision despite the deal; the two companies are preparing for a March trial to decide over Univision’s Internet rights to Televisa's programming.

Image- New York Times (“Spanish-language soap operas, or telenovelas, are popular shows on Univision. Televisa is Univision’s main provider of programming.”)
Online Sources- Bloomberg, IHT, Los Angeles Times, Reuters, BBC News

Newborn Colombian named after Obama

I’ll admit it; I supported the guy's campaign, voted for him, cheered his inauguration, and have faith in his presidency. But this is just a little too premature:
The Cali parents of a baby born on Tuesday, decided to name their baby after the new U.S. President. The newborn will go through life known as Barack Obama Sandoval Fajardo.

"I feel very proud of my boy and I am proud to give him this name. I hope that, even though today he is humble person, in the future he will do something productive, just like Obama," little Barack Obama's mother Silvia said…

"We will provide them with all the necessary attention. We are going to help with the vaccines, with diapers and with milk in the coming six months," hospital director William Perra told French press agency AFP.
The use of naming children in the Americas after international public figures isn’t that unusual; naming kids “Clinton” after the 42nd U.S. president became very popular in some countries during the 1990s. According to a January 2007 IHT article, names like Taj-Mahal Sánchez, Elvis Presley Gomez Morillo, and Darwin Lenin Jimenez appear on Venezuela’s voter registry.

Image- Southern Ledger (“A boy stands in front of a poster of President Barack Obama in Puerto Tejada, Colombia, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009.”)
Online Sources- Wikipedia, Colombia Reports, IHT

Tourism stumbles in Mexico

With a stifled economy around the world and skyrocketing violence around the country, Mexico’s tourism has taken a mighty big hit.

According to a report in Mexico’s Reforma and mentioned in the LAHT, tourism nationwide has plummeted. Such is particularly the case in border cities like Ensenada, Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez where the numbers of tourists visiting them plunged by 13 to 21%. Even some cities in the interior suffered an average decline of 10% in arrivals, according to cited tourism figures.

Is it any wonder that luminaries like Guillermo Del Toro are so worried over Mexico’s violence that they're afraid to work there?
"Hellboy" director Guillermo del Toro says he is unlikely to make another film in Mexico because his father's kidnapping 10 years ago left him fearing for his safety, a newspaper has reported.

Del Toro's father was eventually released, but the family says it later received death threats…

"Not all of the people who participated in the kidnapping were captured," El Universal newspaper on Thursday quoted him as saying.

He described his situation as a "forced exile" and said it saddens him to think he may never film again on Mexican streets.
There is one small bright spot for Mexico’s tourism: Spain’s Office of Tourism concluded that Mexico City is world's most visited religious tourism destination.

Image- AFP (“Three severed heads have been found stuffed inside a cooler outside the Guadalupe town hall, Mexico”)
Online Sources- La Plaza, Vivirlatino, LAHT, UPI

Obama orders closing of Gitmo

Recently inaugurated U.S. president Barack Obama signed an executive order earlier today to close the Guantánamo Bay military prison. The move calls for the jail to close within the next year and comes almost two days after he directed a suspension of military trials at the controversial facility.

As reported by the Guardian UK:
A draft copy of the order said: "In view of significant concerns raised by these detentions, both within the United States and internationally, prompt and appropriate disposition of the individuals currently detained at Guantánamo and closure of the facility would further the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice."
Obama also signed other executive orders banning the use of torture in terror interrogations and reiterated his pledge to take a "practical, pragmatic approach to foreign policy."

Meanwhile, ex-Cuban president Fidel Castro gave his two cents on recently inaugurated U.S. president Barack Obama. In an article published in yesterday’s Granma, Castro claimed that he “did not harbor the slightest doubt over the honesty with which Obama… expressed his ideas.” Yet he also observed that “despite his noble intentions, there are still many individuals to whom he will have to respond.”

Image- AFP
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Guardian UK, ABC News, Reuters, BBC News

“The Garden” finalist for Oscars

The nominees for the 2009 Oscars were announced this morning from Hollywood.

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" is an odds-on favorite to win numerous honors after receiving 13 nominations, though close behind is “Slumdog Millionaire” with ten nominations. Those two movies were chosen in the best film category along with “Milk”, “The Reader” and “Frost/Nixon”.

Spaniard Penélope Cruz was selected in the best supporting actress category for her role in the Woody Allen-directed film "Vicky Cristina Barcelona". She’ll likely face stiff competition from the likes of Taraji P. Henson, Marisa Tomei, and Amy Adams, however.

Latin American films were shutout of the best foreign language film category. Mexican film "Arráncame la Vida" ("Tear This Heart Out") was the only Latin American movie chosen to the Oscars shortlist though it was not selected as a finalist.

One very pleasant surprise was the selection of “The Garden” in the top documentary feature category. The film examines the proposed razing of a community garden in South Central Los Angeles. According to the film’s official website:
The Garden follows the plight of the farmers, from the tilled soil of this urban farm to the polished marble of City Hall. Mostly immigrants from Latin America, from countries where they feared for their lives if they were to speak out, we watch them organize, fight back, and demand answers.
Online Sources- BBC News, CNN, AP, Small State, NPR, Black Valley Films

Daily Headlines: January 22, 2009

* U.S.: A poll released by CNN showed that people in the U.S. are split nearly 50-50 over President Barack Obama’s decision to suspend military trials at the Guantanamo Bay jail.

* Chile: Chilean tennis star Fernando Gonzalez qualified to the third round of the Australian Open after winning against Argentine Guillermo Canas.

* Mexico: The country’s oil output plummeted in 2008 by over 9% and exports hit its lowest point since 1995. (Perhaps I was too optimistic on Mexican oil).

* El Salvador: Despite global economic problems the amount of remittances Salvadorans sent home last year grew by 2.5% to the tune of approximately $3.8 billion.

Image- AP (“In this Dec. 6, 2006 file photo, reviewed by the U.S. Military, a shackled detainee, clutching paperwork of some kind, is escorted by two gloved U.S. Military personnel to an Annual Review Board Hearing, inside Camp Delta detention facility, at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Times of India,, Bloomberg, AP

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Today’s Video: Oath, shmoath! (take 2)

After Tuesday's mistake hopefully this video will calm some conspiracy theorists and bitter malcontents:

Sorry tin foil hat brigade!

(Hat tip: Wonkette).

Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Wonkette, YouTube

Could Nydia Velazquez fill Clinton’s Senate seat?

By a 94-2 vote, the Senate this afternoon confirmed Hillary Clinton's nomination to be the next Secretary of State. Thus, Clinton will have to vacate her Senate seat representing New York. Could her replacement be a Latina?

One of the most prominent names bandied around over the past few weeks to replace Clinton was that of Caroline Kennedy. But several reports circulated tonight that she withdrew her bid citing concerns over the health of her uncle- Senator Ted Kennedy. She has also faced strong criticism over her lack of political experience as well as her troubled relationship with the local press.

[Update: Kennedy officially withdrew her bid for the Senate shortly after midnight.]

Thus, the door opens for other high-profile local politicos like New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Governor David Paterson could make a dark horse pick, however, to fulfill the remaining two years before a special election. Rep. Nydia Velazquez- the first Puerto Rican woman to be elected to Congress- could be a tempting choice for Paterson.

As the New York Daily News observed last November:
Velazquez offers the tantalizing possibility of killing two political birds with one stone by appealing to Hispanics and women - both critical voting blocs.

"They think she's a twofer," said the source close to Paterson, who would get to pick Clinton's replacement. "She's a woman and a Latina and therefore a home run. He's feeling tremendous pressure in western New York, which he has to win to win the general election. But the closer pressure he's feeling right now is from the Hispanic community."
Image- (“Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2008.”)
Online Sources- BBC News, New York Daily News, Gothamist, AFP, CBS News

GOP to block Hilda Solis’ Cabinet bid?

Ken Salazar may have been easily confirmed as the new Interior Secretary but fellow Latino Hilda Solis might not have a smooth road.

Republican Senators might block Solis’ nomination for Labor Secretary though she’s expected to be confirmed. GOP legislators are reportedly upset that the Californian refused to directly answer some questions during her confirmation hearing nearly two weeks ago. For example, Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma said that "if she won't answer the questions, how can you support the nomination?" (Yet as one blogger correctly observes, Coburn “would've been equally displeased had she answered the questions.”)

How could Republicans slow down Solis’ nomination in a Democrat-controlled Senate? As a article explains:
With several Republicans having indicated that they'll vote for her, and Democrats holding at least 58 seats in the Senate this year, there is little doubt that Solis will get confirmed eventually.

But a hold on her nomination would signal that Solis can expect a contentious relationship with the GOP and would foreshadow the fight ahead over the card-check bill, a top priority for organized labor that would largely abolish secret ballots during votes on whether employees want a union, potentially leading to millions of new union members.
Online Sources- Los Angeles Times,, The Pueblo Chieftain, MarketWatch,

No clemency for Justin Volpe

In his waning days in the Oval Office, George W. Bush rejected granting clemency to several high-profile felons. Ex-media mogul Conrad Black, former White House official "Scooter" Libby, and ex-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales were among those who came up empty-handed.

One of those whose clemency request was rejected was former New York City cop Justin Volpe. In 1999, Volpe was convicted to thirty years in jail over the police brutality case of Abner Louima. Louima had been on the receiving end of an ugly beating at the hand of several cops including being sodomized by a plunger.

A Gothamist post last month observed that, “family, friends, and a priest” pushed for a reduced sentence for Volpe. Ultimately (and thankfully) it was all for naught.

On Monday, Bush did commute the sentences of a pair of ex-Border Patrol agents who were convicted of shooting an unarmed Mexican drug smuggler and trying to cover it up. An editorial in yesterday’s Dallas Morning News had this to say over Bush’s decision:
Perhaps the commutation will end the undeserved celebrity status that had erupted around these two former agents. [ed. Just ask Glenn Beck]. Anti-immigration organizations have used them as poster boys to perpetuate a myth that they were in prison for doing their jobs while drug smugglers were allowed to go free.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Ramos and Compean committed felonies and were rightly brought to justice. Perhaps now the Obama administration can have a comprehensive immigration discussion without this distraction clouding the conversation.
Image- BBC News
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, BBC News, Dallas Morning News, Fox News, New York Times, MSNBC, Gothamist

Haitian migrants missing in Caribbean waters

Rescuers continue to search for at least ten migrants whose boat capsized off the British Virgin Islands.

According to the AP, twenty-six passengers mostly from Haiti had been aboard the overloaded vessel which overturned Monday night. Among those still missing from the U.S.-bound boat are three women and two children.

Poverty in Haiti has worsened over the last few months as the country has been hit hard by the global economic crisis and a series of summer storms. A three-month moratorium on U.S. deportations to Haiti was lifted last month and immigration authorities rejected granting Haitian migrants temporary protected status.

Is it any wonder that some people hope that change in the White House could lead to change in immigration policy?
Chiefly, immigration advocates would like the administration to revive a push to create a path for legalization of illegal immigrants. More immediately, they hope the administration will agree to temporarily block deportations to Haiti, allowing Haitians already in the United States to work and send help to relatives back home. The Bush administration has repeatedly denied such requests…

Asked about Haiti during her Senate confirmation hearing last week, Hillary Clinton, Obama's nominee for secretary of state, said she shares concerns about the Caribbean nation.
Image- BBC News (2001 image of Haitian migrants on an over packed boat)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, AP, WFTS-TV, Caribbean Net News,

Obama suspends Gitmo trials

In one of his moves after taking office U.S. President Barack Obama ordered the suspension of military trials at the Guantanamo Bay base.

The action- deliver last night via Defense Secretary Bob Gates- ordered all military trials to be paused until May 20th. According to documents filed at the prison camp, the directive was made "in the interest of justice and at the direction of the president of the United States."

The move is a strong signal that the Obama administration will close the controversial prison located on the eastern tip of Cuba. Last month, Pentagon officials reportedly drafted a plan to shut down the jail and Obama said in yesterday’s inauguration speech that “we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.”

This morning one judge at Gitmo accepted the newly inaugurated president’s request:
A military judge has agreed to President Barack Obama's request to suspend the Guantanamo war crimes trial of Canadian Omar Khadr.

It is the first in a series of delays sought by Obama as his administration reviews the legal system for prosecuting alleged terrorists.

The written order came Wednesday in the Khadr case. He is accused of killing an American soldier with a grenade in Afghanistan in 2002.
Image- BBC News
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist,, AP,, Reuters

Daily Headlines: January 21, 2009

* Brazil: Despite being offered $139 million to leave A.C. Milan for Manchester City, Brazilian midfielder Kaká opted to stay put at the Italian club.

* Nicaragua: Days after his money laundering conviction was overturned ex-President Arnoldo Aleman said that he wants to run for the presidency.

* Mexico: Police found three suspected drug smuggling tunnels below the U.S.-Mexico border.

* Venezuela: According to the Los Angeles Times, Venezuelan indigenous leaders claim that Colombian guerillas cross the border and “live openly on or near several Indian reservations”.

Image- The Telegraph
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Los Angeles Times, MSNBC, Sports Network, AP

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Today’s Video: The golden dress

We end today’s posts focusing on Inauguration Day with a look at First Lady’s Michelle Obama’s dress.

Obama wore a shimmering “lemongrass yellow” ensemble designed by Cuban-American designer Isabel Toledo. As Toledo told the New York Times:
“I wanted to pick a very optimistic color, that had sunshine,” she said. “I wanted her to feel charmed, and in that way would charm everybody.” Ms. Toledo sounded overwhelmed. “This is so wonderful,” she said.

About thirteen people in her studio worked on the outfit over the Christmas holidays. “Chinese ladies, Polish ladies, Spanish ladies—I have a picture of everyone working on her clothes,” Ms. Toledo, who is 48, said. She added, “We’re all grateful for this opportunity, and we don’t even have a PR person!”
Here’s a brief clip on Obama and her Inauguration Day dress:

Online Sources- YouTube, New York Times

LatAm leaders reflect on the Inauguration

Numerous Latin American government leaders spoke out in the hours after Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the U.S. Here are what some of them had to say:
  • Mexican President Felipe Calderon- who met with Obama last week- wished the incoming president the best of luck in tackling problems related to immigration, security, and the waning economy.
  • As the AP noted, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez advised that Obama "looks to Latin America with a new view, with a new focus of respect toward the democracies and the changes" in the region.
  • Nicaraguan Foreign Relations Minister Samuel Santos expressed hope that Obama will have a “more just and equitable attitude” towards nations of the world including Cuba.
  • Costa Rican president Oscar Arias invited Obama to visit the Central American country which he called “an oasis of peace, tolerance, freedom, and democracy.”
  • Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was hopeful that the new regime would look at Latin America and the Caribbean with “a democratic and developing vision.”
  • The most colorful quote came from Paraguayan vice president Federico Franco; in reference to the global economic crisis, Franco wished Obama luck despite having to “dance with the ugliest girl” at the ball.
Image- AP (“President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, and daughters Sasha, left, and Malia wave after Obama took the oath of office to become the 44th president of the United States at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009. (AP Photo/Mark Wilson, Pool).”)
Online Sources- Folha Online, El Pais (Costa Rica), El Espectador, ABC Digital,, AP, Reuters

A poem for America

One of the brightest spots in today’s Inauguration Day celebration was the poem recited by Elizabeth Alexander. Though her delivery was a little off, the poem itself spoke volumes in emphasizing the unity the U.S. needs in order to best move forward. It is the unsung heroes in Alexander’s poem that represent what this country is about, and it is through their efforts that this nation has grown and will hopefully continue to do so.
Praise song for the day.

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others' eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."

We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, "I need to see what's on the other side; I know there's something better down the road."

We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self."

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.
Image- Baltimore Sun
Online Sources- New York Times

Oath, shmoath! Obama’s the new prez

So did any of you catch the bungled presidential oath in today’s Inauguration Day ceremony?

Surely there will be those conspiracy theorists who will allege that Chief Justice Roberts purposefully misspoke or that Barack Obama is not officially president. Neither is correct.

In terms of the first point:
(…) shaking hands before a congressional luncheon of pheasant and duck in Statuary Hall of the Capitol, Roberts chatted briefly with Obama - observers reported that the chief justice apparently allowed that he was to the blame for the missteps.
In terms of the latter point, Amendment 20, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution states:
The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.
Though the oath of office was misspoken and was done at 12:03pm EST, Barack Obama became the 44th president of the U.S. earlier today.

You may now remove your tin foil hats.

(Hat tip: Wonkette).

Online Sources- YouTube, Wonkette, National Archives

Inauguration Day webcasts (English & Español)

We’ll be away for a while in order to watch the Inauguration Day festivities. We’ll hopefully return to posting this afternoon.

As a public service we’re embedding live coverage from MSNBC of the ceremonies. We sincerely hope you enjoy this very historic event regardless of political ideology, viewpoints, and the like:

Para los que hablan español, por favor click aqui para ver la cobertura en vivo por Canal 5 Noticias de la Argentina

Online Sources- MSNBC,

Today’s Video: Inaugural excitement

The eyes of the world gaze upon Washington, D.C. today as Barack Obama will soon be inaugurated as the country’s 44th president. From Los Angeles to London, from Miami to Montevideo, from Pittsburgh to Perth, millions of people wait with anticipation for the U.S. presidential handover.

As the below video clip shows, even in the most remote corners of Colombia people are excited over today’s historic event:

Online Sources- YouTube, ABC News

Daily Headlines: January 20, 2009

Note: The rest of today’s posts will concentrate on today’s U.S. presidential inauguration and the handover of power. Thus, this edition of “Daily Headlines” is a little longer than normal.
* Costa Rica: Western Union established a “no-fee money transfer service” for those who wish to send donations and help victims of a recent deadly earthquake.

* Cuba: Argentine President Christina Fernandez met with her Cuban counterpart Raul Castro to strengthen ties between both countries.

* Mexico: In an unusual exhibition the country’s military museum is featuring jewelry, weapons and other “narco bling” used by drug gangs.

* Brazil: Over 654,000 formal jobs were lost last month, the biggest decrease in nearly a decade.

* U.S.: Will telecom tycoon and world’s second-wealthiest man Carlos Slim breathe new life into the New York Times?

* Ecuador: President Rafael Correa said that a new mining law designed to promote foreign investment may be finalized by the end of this week.

Image- AFP (“Children evacuated after (the January 8th) earthquake watch TV as they remain sheltered at the Fraijanes Church.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Tico Times, MSNBC, Guardian UK, Reuters, Bloomberg, The Telegraph

Monday, January 19, 2009

Today’s Video: R.I.P. Jose Torres

Sad news out of the world of boxing as Puerto Rican pugilist Jose Torres passed away on Monday at the age of 72.

The Hall of Famer won a silver medal in the light middleweight class at the 1956 Olympics and became the first Latin American light heavyweight champion nine years later. After retiring in 1969, Torres served as New York State Athletic Commission chair and as a boxing analyst for ESPN Deportes.

Torres was fiercely proud of his Boricua heritage, as New York Daily News columnist Jose Gonzalez recalled:
On March 30, 1965, Torres electrified the Latin American world when he defeated Willie Pastrano by a technical knockout at Madison Square Garden to become the first Hispanic light heavyweight champion.

Before the match, Torres exhibited his fierce pride in his Puerto Rican heritage when insisted he would not get in the ring unless Madison Square Garden officials agreed to play the island's national anthem as well as the Star Spangled Banner. Garden officials agreed…

"He used his celebrity status to do good for the Puerto Rican community and for all youth," said U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, a close friend of Torres for decades.
Below is a brief clip of Torres’ aforementioned victory over Pastrano:

Online Sources- YouTube, AHN, IHT, New York Daily News

Bush commutes sentences of ex-Border Patrol agents

With less than 24 hours before leaving office President George W. Bush continues making controversial decisions.

Earlier today, Bush commuted the sentences of two former Border Patrol agents who shot an unarmed Mexican drug smuggler in 2005. Jose Alonso Compean and Ignacio Ramos were originally sentenced to over eleven years in prison for shooting admitted drug smuggler Osvaldo Aldrete Davila. Yet in Bush’s judgment the sentences were too harsh and both men will be freed by March after having served two years in jail.

According to the AP, the convictions served as “a rallying point” for right-wing politicos and commentators with some calling the agents as “heroes”. It’s vital to note that both Republican and Democratic legislators in Texas campaigned on behalf of Compean and Ramos.

Was Bush’s decision fair or pathetic political pandering? It would seem like the latter after one reads the particulars of the case:
Compean and Ramos…were convicted of shooting admitted drug smuggler Osvaldo Aldrete Davila in the buttocks as he fled across the Rio Grande, away from an abandoned van load of marijuana. The border agents argued during their trials that they believed the smuggler was armed and that they shot him in self defense. The prosecutor in the case said there was no evidence linking the smuggler to the van of marijuana. The prosecutor also said the border agents didn't report the shooting and tampered with evidence by picking up several spent shell casings.

The agents were fired after their convictions on several charges, including assault with a dangerous weapon and with serious bodily injury, violation of civil rights and obstruction of justice. All their convictions, except obstruction of justice, were upheld on appeal.
Among those seeking clemency from Bush is Justin Volpe- a New York City cop convicted of sodomizing Haitian immigrant Abner Louima.

Image- Fox News (“Jan. 17, 2007: Former U.S. Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos (left) and Jose Alonso Compean (right) turn themselves in to federal authorities.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, CNN, AP, Reuters, Bloomberg, CBS News

Leftists seemingly post big wins in El Salvador

Unofficial results show that El Salvador’s leftist FMLN made significant gains during yesterday’s local elections.

According to preliminary numbers, the right-wing ARENA lost its slim control of the country’s federal Legislative Assembly to the FMLN. Additionally, most local posts nationwide were won by the FMLN candidates though ARENA seemed to salvage a win in the election for San Salvador mayor.

The FMLN would become the favorite to win El Salvador’s presidency in two months assuming that the electoral results hold. Poll results published earlier this month owed that FMLN presidential candidate Mauricio Funes has a 17-point lead over his closest rival. (Current president Tony Saca is allied with ARENA).

What would an FMLN win signal for the U.S. and the rest of the Americas? According to CNN:
"There's another possibility that yet another country will join the pink tide and go leftist," (Council on Hemispheric Affairs director Larry) Birns said. "What Washington worries about is momentum building up behind one election after another for leftist candidates" in Latin America: "institutional" governments, such as Brazil's, that "have made peace with the free market" while still championing social programs, and populist, more radical governments such as Venezuela's...

Heather Berkman, a Latin America analyst with the Eurasia Group, thinks the FMLN would take a pragmatic approach. The nation relies too much on outside investments and remittances from Salvadorans living abroad for the FMLN to adopt too much of a radical approach.
Image- AFP (“FMLN supporters cheer at the close of voting in San Salvador.”)
Online Sources- Angus Reid Consultants, El Faro, Prensa Latina, Bloomberg, CNN

ICJ: Jose Medellin’s execution “breached” order

The execution of a Mexican national by the U.S. defied an International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision according to an ICJ ruling emitted today.

In 2004, the ICJ decided that the U.S. should review the sentences of 51 Mexicans facing the death penalty. Despite pressure from the U.N., the Bush administration, and legal maneuvers by the Mexican government Jose Medellin (image) was executed in August 2008 in Texas. Texan authorities got the green light to execute Medellin last July after the U.S. Supreme Court decision claimed that President George W. Bush lacked the power to delay the pending executions.

Medellin was convicted along with five other teen gang members for the rape and murder of two teenage girls in 1993. The others involved with Medellin were convicted and are serving sentences ranging from forty years in jail to being on death row.

In anticipation of today’s ICJ decision, the State Department said that they can do nothing to help other foreigners on death row:
The U.S. State Department's chief advocate said Sunday the ruling will not help other inmates on death row because Washington cannot force individual states to comply…

State Department legal adviser John Bellinger III said Bush had done all he could, and it was up to Congress to enact legislation giving precedence to international law over U.S. state law…

"The court has no enforcement powers," he told a small group of reporters. "It is not the role of the court" to issue a reprimand.
Image- BBC News
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, AP, Guardian UK, The Australian, AFP,

Ingrid Betancourt skewered by extremes

Five months ago, Colombian politico Ingrid Betancourt was rescued along with about a dozen other hostages from their rebel captors. Since then, she has actively campaigned for the release of hundreds of hostages still held by leftist guerillas and she has traveled to several countries in order to gather international suoport.

Despite her efforts Betancourt has been unfairly targeted by groups on the left and right. Weeks after she was freed, an article on the online version of National Review blasted her as “naïve” and “ungrateful” and accused her of having Stockholm Syndrome. A so-called Spanish citizens group criticized her in November over her support of a negotiated end to Colombia’s conflict.

The latest salvo in her direction was this article from the Party for Socialism and Liberation’s website. In the piece, the author unjustly accused Betancourt of allowing her to be exploited by the media in both the U.S. and Colombia. The piece foolishly blamed Betancourt for using her campaign as a smoke screen for the ongoing problems in Colombia.

Though the article makes legitimate gripes on the Uribe administration and points out Colombia’s ongoing problems, the piece loses all legitimacy in treating the FARC with kid gloves:
Betancourt and other liberal critics have accused both the right-wing Colombian government and the FARC as being equally unwilling to compromise. Betancourt has also said that "in the two years that remain before the next elections, the FARC could change its position drastically and finally enter a peace process." (Latin American Herald Tribune, Jan 14)

In fact, the FARC has committed to peace negotiations as one method toward a political solution of the crisis in Colombia. On Dec. 21, the FARC again offered to release six prisoners of war as a good faith effort to restart negotiations between the Colombian government and the rebels. (AP, Dec. 30, 2008) The offer to release prisoners is typical of many earlier gestures towards the renewal of a peace process. Their gestures have not been reciprocated by the Uribe administration, which stands by its hardline approach built on military violence.
Since being freed, Betancourt has taken a moderate, realistic stance on Colombia’s armed conflict that has infuriated critics on both extremes of the ideological spectrum. If socialist and neocon rags strongly critique her, then it certainly seems like she’s doing something right.

Image- The Telegraph (“Former hostage Ingrid Betancourt embraces her son Lorenzo (right) and daughter.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Party for Socialism and Liberation, National Review,, Plan Colombia and Beyond

Obama stinks says Hugo Chavez

Last November, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez seemed optimistic that U.S.-Venezuela relations "will enter a new phase" under Barack Obama. Chavez expressed hope that ties between both countries would improve compared to the eight years under George “smells like sulfur” Bush.

In the days before Obama’s inauguration, however, Chavez changed his tune to a more pessimistic one:
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Saturday Barack Obama had the "stench" of his predecessor as U.S. president and was at risk of being killed if he tries to change the American "empire"…

"I hope I am wrong, but I believe Obama brings the same stench, to not say another word," Chavez said at a political rally on a historic Venezuelan battlefield.

"If Obama as president of the United States does not obey the orders of the empire, they will kill him, like they killed Kennedy, like they killed Martin Luther King, or Lincoln, who freed the blacks and paid with his life."
In an interview aired on Univision, Obama declared that Chavez had "been a force that has interrupted progress in the region” and warned about alleged links between Chavez and Colombia’s FARC rebels. Meanwhile, U.S. diplomatic officials said that the incoming Obama administration would seek "renewed dialogue" with Venezuela.

Chavez’ comments on Saturday came during a political rally in support of an upcoming referendum. Venezuelans will decide in a national vote on February 15th whether term limits should be removed for president, mayors, and governors.

Image- AP (“In this photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, left, speaks with his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva during a visit to a farm near Maracaibo, Venezuela, Friday, Jan. 16, 2009. (AP Photo/Miraflores Press Office)”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, The Telegraph, LAHT, Reuters, AP,

Daily Headlines: January 19, 2009

* Chile: In light of harsh criticism from conservative groups, Ricardo Oyarzun defended his show where voluptuous models dress like the Virgin Mary.

* Nicaragua: The country’s Supreme Court overturned a 20-year corruption sentence against ex-president Arnoldo Aleman.

* Guatemala: According to police 26 women were killed in Guatemala this year, mostly due to gang-related violence.

* Venezuela: Morocco’s government will to close its embassy in Venezuela due to a Caracas’ stance over a land dispute in the North African nation.

Image- Jaunted
Online Sources- New York Times, Radio Netherlands Worldwide, IHT, Reuters