Saturday, January 31, 2009

De Musica Ligera: Vamos a Coachella!

Yesterday the official lineup was announced for this year’s Coachella Music Festival. Paul McCartney, The Killers and My Bloody Valentine will headline the three-day event to be held in mid-April in California.

Bonde Do Role and Café Tacuba were two Latin American groups who performed in 2008 yet other artists from the region will be presenting this year. The following are some of those artists:

Mexican rock/hip-hop band Molotov has been around for fourteen years and will perform on the first day of Coachella. The group typically rails against establishment and social injustice such as abuses against immigrants.
Thievery Corporation specializes in lounge, downtempo music which sometimes carries a political message. Their 2000 album The Mirror Conspiracy includes some bossa nova and lovely vocals from the late Pam Bricker.
Ex-The Smiths frontman Morrissey is not Latin American yet he has developed a cult following among Latinos (including yours truly). “The First of the Gang to Die” is an ode to his Latino fans, especially Chicano youths.
Formerly known as the Bajofondo Tango Club, Bajofondo hails from Uruguay and Argentina. The group’s music combines electronic beats with platense music such as tango.
We’ve featured Calexico in our best music of 2008 post and described their music as having a “great folkloric Mexican sound.” In reality, their music is not easy to categorize; just listen for yourself.
Mexican Institute of Sound is one of the premier groups specializing in tube fusion of Latin alternative rock and electronic music to form “Latintronica”. MIS will be featured on the last day and I cannot think of a no better way of finishing Coachella than with them.
Image- BBC Radio 3 (Southern Cone group Bajofondo will be one of several Latin American musical ensembles to perform at Coachella this April)
Online Sources- Too many to list!

Daily Headlines: January 31, 2009

* U.S.: Time magazine examines the "humanitarian and economic disaster" affecting Postville, Iowa eight months since a massive immigration raid.

* Cuba: Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples will urge the White House to ease trade restrictions with Cuba.

* Bolivia: Health officials acknowledged that a dengue fever epidemic is “out of control” and has infected at least 7000 people.

* Brazil: President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva ordered an increase in the minimum wage by 12% starting next month as a way to stimulate the economy.

Image- Washington Times (“Hundreds of people march down a street, Sunday, July 27, 2008, in Postville, Iowa, during an immigration rally.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist,,, LAHT, Bloomberg

Friday, January 30, 2009

Today's Video: "The Masochism Tango"

Sadomasochism + a Buenos Aires two-step + a clever satirist = the following ditty:

Online Source - YouTube

Ecuador demands return of citizen on death row

Recently we mentioned the legal brouhaha between the U.S. and Mexico over the execution of Jose Medellin. Another judicial row may develop between the U.S. and Ecuador over a man named Nelson Serrano.

Originally from Ecuador, the 66-year-old ex-businessman has been on death row in Florida after being convicted for killing four people. Yesterday the Ecuadorian government hired attorneys to see if Serrano could return to his native land. The reasoning behind it seemed rather peculiar:
Serrano, a dual Ecuadorean and U.S. citizen, was arrested by Ecuadorean officials and then deported in 2002 at the request of the U.S., a move the current government says was unconstitutional and illegal.

An Ecuadorean official concluded at the time that Serrano had repeatedly entered the country under his U.S. passport and was an American eligible for deportation.

The United States' only legal route to removing Serrano from his home country was through extradition, Interior Minister Fernando Bustamante said Thursday.
It’s unknown what Serrano’s legal status would be should he return to Ecuador; he may face judicial proceedings or even be freed. Thus, odds are U.S. authorities will very reluctant to hand over Serrano.

Image- MSNBC
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, El Universo, El Telegrafo, IHT

Colombia Offers Almost Equal Rights to Same Sex Couples

On Wednesday, Colombia's Constitutional Court ruled that same sex couples must be given the same legal rights as heterosexuals in common-law marriages, with the exception of adoption rights.

The high court ordered changes to 42 norms that range from Criminal, Civil and Disciplinary Codes, to the special health plan available to military forces.

They ruled that the challenged dispositions did not justify the discrimination they instituted, or that the variances with regards to same-sex couples placed these people in a position of vulnerability before the law.

And in both cases, the Constitutional Court held that the right to equality was violated.

Hence, provisions such as those contained the Disciplinary and Penal Codes, which establish the right against incrimination by a spouse, should also be applied to heterosexual [should be homosexual] partners

Another instance is that of crimes related to domestic violence; victims can be same-sex partners or aggravation imposed by law for crimes against the person.

This includes cases where reparations are made to victims of heinous crimes.
According to Colombian activists who were critical in campaigning for the changes, gay Colombian citizens can also grant foreign same-sex partners immigration rights in the same way that married heterosexual partners can sponsor their spouses for immigration purposes.

Blabbeando puts it into context:
So, here is a concept: Colombian same-sex partners, following a series of High Court rulings including the one announced yesterday, probably enjoy more rights than same-sex couples in any other Latin American nation with the exception - perhaps - of Uruguay which approved civil unions in December of 2007 - and yet they have achieved this without having yet been granted civil marriage or common-law marriage status?

Just amazing and it speaks to the hard work of hundreds of LGBT advocates throughout Colombian history including my friends Germán Humberto Rincón Perfetti and Manuel Antonio Velandia Mora who did so much in the a980's and 1990's to bring equal rights issues to the forefront in Colombia.

Through their efforts, as well as hat of many others, different same-sex partnership bills have come close to being adopted by the county's legislature (the last one was rejected by the Senate in October of 2008). With yesterday's ruling, passage of such a bill seems predestined.
What really strikes me is that we have such movements earning significant victories in Latin America, and here in the U.S. Latinos are being blamed for the passage of anti-gay measures with Republicans claiming Latino family values back such hateful laws.

Sources : The Advocate, El Tiempo, Blabbeando, Colombia Diversa

Daily Headlines: January 30, 2009

* Venezuela: Venezuelan-owned oil firm Citgo resumed shipments of free heating oil in the U.S. yesterday with a delivery to a shelter.

* Mexico: More bad news for the Mexican economy – Volkswagen will lay off 800 workers at its Puebla plant.

* Bolivia: The last Drug Enforcement Administration agent departed Bolivia months after the entire operation was ordered to leave.

* Chilean: A local appeals court upheld the life sentences against Manuel Contreras- the intelligence chief under the Pinochet dictatorship who was convicted in June 2008.

Image- (“Felix Rodriguez, CITGO president and CEO climbs out of a heating oil truck during a ceremony in which a homeowner receives discounted heating oil as part of the CITGO-Venezuela heating oil program, in partnership with Citizens Energy Corporation, Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2006.”)
Online Sources- MSNBC, Los Angeles Times, IHT, BBC News, The Latin Americanist

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bloggers of the World Unite: One ringy-dingy…

Online Sources- Bloggings by Boz, Uncommon Sense, Plan Colombia and Beyond, Two Weeks Notice, Metafilter

World Social Forum held in Brazil

Leaders from around the world are meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland though they don’t always see eye-to-eye. At the same time as the Davos forum a shadow conference is being held in Belem, Brazil.

Entitled the World Social Forum, the conference gathers about 100,000 progressive activists representing social causes such as a sex workers union from India. The conference is being promoted and attended by populist leaders from the Americas including the presidents of Venezuela and Bolivia. Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa said that the forum represented “part of the solution” to the problems brought about by the “perverse neoliberal system”.

Despite Brazil’s increased global economic clout, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva makes his first social forum appearance in three years. Lula’s decision to skip Davos makes sense according to some analysts and advisors:
“These days, any suggestion Brazil’s credit standing depends on whether its president sprints to a Swiss ski resort and eats oysters and champagne with bankers is preposterous,” said James Galbraith, a University of Texas economist who’s scheduled to meet Lula in March in Brasilia and advised President Barack Obama during the campaign. “Davos needs Lula. Lula doesn’t need Davos”…

Davos is “important” though it was a “natural choice” to attend the social forum, presidential spokesman Marcelo Baumbach said yesterday when asked why Lula didn’t go to Switzerland.
Some forum attendees plan to protest Lula’s presence due to his moderate economic policy that doesn’t entirely shun capitalism.

Image- AP (“Bolivia's President Evo Morales, middle row left, Paraguay's President Fernando Lugo, middle row second left, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, middle row third left, and Ecuador's President Rafael Correa, middle row right, attend the World Social Forum in Belem, Brazil, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, World Social Forum, BBC News,, Reuters, Al Jazeera English, AP, Bloomberg

Cuba to U.S.: Return Gitmo to us

According to Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque, the island’s government wants the return of the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo. Perez Roque’s comments were made nearly a week after U.S. president Barack Obama ordered the base’s jail to be closed within a year:
Perez Roque said that U.S. President Barack Obama's decision to close within a year the "war on terror" prison at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay was positive but insufficient.

Cuba expects that Obama's decision to close down the Guantanamo prison camp "is followed by the decision to close down the base and return that territory to the Cubans," a base that the United States "really does not need for its security and defense," Perez Roque said.
In addition, Perez Roque announced the planned visit of the U.N. special investigator on torture to visit Cuba and said that Cuba will soon sign the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Forced Disappearance.

The U.S. has permanently leased the land at Guantanamo for over a century and the contract can only be broken with expressed written consent from the U.S. and Cuban governments.

Meanwhile, Cuban President Raul Castro is visiting Moscow and meeting with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev.

Image- CBS News
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Earthtimes, Radio Netherlands Worldwide, Reuters, Calgary Herald

Colombian assaulted in New Jersey

Earlier today we mentioned the latest developments in the case of slain immigrant Marcelo Lucero. In nearby New Jersey, another Latino immigrant suffered a brutal and ugly beating.

Wilter Sánchez is recuperating at a New Jersey hospital after he was assaulted last week. Sánchez fled his native Colombia after receiving death threats yet never imagined that he would be targeted in the U.S. “God didn’t allow me to die” he said hours after undergoing intensive facial reconstruction surgery.

The assault on Sánchez has been condemned by the Colombian Consul in New York as well as the Latin American Consulate Alliance. Rubén Beltrán- Mexican consul in New York and Alliance coordinator- expressed his “worry and energetic rejection” of Sánchez’ beating and called on local authorities to investigate and “apply justice” to those responsible.

The crime itself is very tragic in that a Latino immigrant was targeted, and possibly more so in that the assaulters were people of color:
Authorities have detained five African-Americans, three of them minors, and have accused them of robbery and…added charges of assault…

(Sánchez’ cousin Fernando) Quinchia claimed that after Sánchez was beat up the men returned to their car and tried to run him over.
Image- Yahoo! Noticias
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, El Diario/La Prensa, New American Media,, El Espectador

New charges in Marcelo Lucero hate crime case

Prosecutors unveiled new charges against a seven teens suspected of the November 2008 murder of Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero.

The new indictment presented yesterday said that the youths were part of a larger gang whose purpose was to harass and injure Latinos on Long Island. The defendants were part of "a violent and racially driven pastime," Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota said that included beating and robbing a Latino unconscious and threatening to kill another man with a lead pipe.

Despite Suffolk County executive Steve Levy’s initially flippant claims that Lucero’s murder would’ve been a "one-day story" elsewhere, the tragedy has brought widespread attention to increased tensions on Long Island. The hatred and disgust by some people against the area’s booming Latino population has apparently been met with a blind eye from authorities. Yesterday’s indictment further shows that incidents like Lucero’s death are unfortunately not rarities:
Jose Perez, a lawyer for LatinoJustice P.R.L.D.E.F., an advocacy group, said the new cases were “the tip of the iceberg” in a pattern of violence against Hispanics, and show that a more aggressive police response to earlier attacks could have prevented Mr. Lucero’s death.

After Mr. Lucero died, many other immigrants came forward to describe attacks. Some had never been reported; others were reported to police at the time, but no one was arrested, in part because language barriers made communication difficult, Mr. Spota said.
Image- ABC News
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist,, IHT, New York Times, WNYC, ABC News

Daily Headlines: January 29, 2009

* Cuba: According to the AFP lawyers for the convicted “Cuban Five” spies will file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court.

* Chile: Chile’s indigenous Mapuche community usually don’t see eye-to-eye with the government; thus, a local history teacher recently created the country’s first Mapuche political party.

* Bolivia: "We want to rebuild our relations with the U.S.” declared Bolivia’s foreign minister yesterday who added that both countries could soon exchange ambassadors.

* Peru: A local court controversially freed two ex-military officers accused of participating in the 1991 Barrios Altos massacre.

Image- New York Times (“Cuba’s government has put signs and posters like this one, in Havana, all over the island as a reminder of the imprisonment of” the Cuban Five.)
Online Sources- Guardian UK, AFP, AP, BBC News, The Latin Americanist

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bloggers of the World Unite: Copycats

Online Sources- Guanabee, Gothamist, Lotería Chicana,, Latinopundit, Gothamist

Today’s Video: The Media Day circus

Yesterday was Super Bowl media day in Tampa, Florida. Sports reporters were there lobbing questions at members of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals. Also appearing where some characters more interested in getting attention.

Voluptuous Mexican actress Ines Gomez Mont was there measuring player’s biceps and comparing them to her own…ahem…features. (This stunt was tame compared to last year when she wore a wedding dress and pretended to be Mrs. Tom Brady.)

Some players received salsa lessons while others chest bumped with a busty “reporter”. But one of the most hair-raising (pun intended) appearances was that of Telemundo’s Joel Bengoa dressed in drag:
Doing his best — and we use that term lightly — Scarlett Johansson imitation, Bengoa teetered in his heels en route to present several players with boxes of chocolates.

"I'm from `fairy godmother land' and you need me to win the big game," he purred to Arizona safety Aaron Francisco.

Francisco was a good sport.

"They told me it was going to be crazy, but I just thought it was going to be a lot of media," Francisco said. "Then that he-she gave me candy and I figured out what they were talking about. I think it was some Mexican dude in a dress, and he tried to get me to talk Spanish. But I'm from Hawaii, so I just played along."
Below is video of Bengoa (and others) at Media Day:

Question Joel: does the curtain match the drapes?
Online Sources- YouTube, MSNBC, AP, Vanguardia, Deadspin

Children to Obama: Halt parents' deportations

Lawyers representing over 600 children of immigrant parents filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration.

In a press conference held yesterday, representatives for pro-immigrant group American Fraternity claimed that they filed the lawsuit in order to halt the deportations of undocumented parents. "Children continue to suffer by being separated from their parents because of deportations that the President may be able to suspend", said the executive director of the organization.

It’s been reported that the children represented in the lawsuit are all U.S. citizens and most are of Latino background. Two of them-whose parents were originally from Nicaragua- have even taken the extreme measure of going on a hunger strike:
Cecia Sosa, 12, and her brother Ronald, 9, said Tuesday they had initiated a hunger strike to prevent their mother from being deported on the scheduled date, which is (on Wednesday).

“We’re doing a hunger strike to help my mom get out of jail,” a sobbing Cecia told The Associated Press. “I would do whatever it takes to get my mommy out… I want Obama to see me to help my mother.” The girl said she had only ingested liquids in the previous 24 hours.

The children’s mother, Maricela Sosa –who entered the U.S. on foot from Mexico in 1997–, was detained at the family’s Pompano Beach, Fla., home on Dec. 19. She had just taken Cecia to the school bus stop when Immigration officers took her away.
American Fraternity had previously filed a lawsuit against the Bush administration and that case was thrown out by the Supreme Court. Yet as one lawyer with the group noted, the lawsuit intends to reverse changes made to immigration policy in 1996 that hurt children whose parents were illegal immigrants.

Image- BBC Mundo
Online Sources- Feet in 2 Worlds, Houston Chronicle, New America Media,, BBC Mundo

Israel expels Venezuelan diplomats

Israeli authorities have given until Friday for Venezuela’s diplomatic staff to return to Caracas.

Venezuela's head of mission in Tel Aviv and his two colleagues “are declared persona non grata in Israel” said Foreign Ministry official Lior Hayat earlier today. Hayat added that the move is in retaliation of Venezuela’s recent severing of diplomatic ties with isreal.

Venezuela’s government had previously decided to expel Israeli diplomatic officials in retaliation for the Israeli offensive on Gaza. The three-week military operation against Hamas was halted by a recent ceasefire but not before costing the lives of nearly 1300 Palestinians.

In the meantime, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro tried to play some damage control in a televised interview:
Relations between Israel and Venezuela were already tense because of President Chavez's friendly relations with Iran, which backs Hamas and has called for Israel's destruction.

In an interview with Venezuelan state television channel VTV, the country's foreign minister Nicolas Maduro denied that the Venezuelan government was anti-Semitic.

Mr. Maduro also denied that his government has relations with Hamas and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, the French news agency AFP reports.
Image- AFP (“Palestinians in their damaged apartment building” presumably after the Israeli offensive on Gaza).
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Xinhua, BBC News, Reuters,, IHT

Annual remittances in Mexico down for first time

Times have been increasingly difficult in Mexico, particularly in light of the country’s problem with rampant violence. A weakening economy is one problem the country could use without.

Unfortunately, the country’s economy may be worsening if the latest data on remittances to Mexico is any indication:
For the first time since Mexico's Central Bank began keeping records (13 years ago), total annual remittances from the US have fallen.

The numbers themselves, released by the Central Bank on Tuesday, are not dramatic. Mexicans sent $25 billion to their families in 2008, down from $26 billion the year before, representing a 3.6 percent decline.

But the break in the trend is significant, say economists. Less cash coming to low-income families who then spend it on goods and services, will mean more frugal spending, which will in turn be a further drag on the Mexican economy this year. And it will impact millions of families whose entire incomes depend on the dollars sent from men and women working as construction workers, lettuce pickers, and housekeepers from California to New York.
The decline in remittances is expected to become a global trend; this would be a severe blow to Latin American countries whose economies depend strongly on money transfers. Countries like El Salvador and Jamaica have suffered from diminishing remittances which have hurt their respective economies.

Image- Foreign Policy
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist,, Jamaica Gleaner, BBC News, LAHT,

Puerto Rican Gov. rejects Gitmo detainees

On Monday, we examined the possibility that detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison could be taken in by European Union (E.U.) countries once the controversial facility closes next year. Some E.U. ministers did express reluctance are the idea, however, based on the possible security risk of the prisoners.

The U.S. commonwealth of Puerto Rico sits roughly three hundred miles from Guantanamo, crime has skyrocketed on the island, and Governor Luis Fortuño is allied to the Republicans. Perhaps these items factored into this decision:
Puerto Rico is joining a growing list of places in the U.S. opposed to becoming the future home of any Guantanamo Bay prisoners…

A spokeswoman for Puerto Rican Gov. Luis Fortuno, Michelle Cuevas, said Tuesday that he would oppose any proposal to hold them in the U.S. island territory.

His comment came a day after the island's nonvoting member of Congress also voiced his opposition, echoing statements by officials in several U.S. states, including California and Kansas.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Robert Gates backed the decision to close the Gitmo jail. "I believe that if we did not have a deadline, we could kick that can down the road endlessly," Gates said yesterday before the House Armed Services Committee.

Image- BBC News
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, CNN, Lonely Planet, Reuters, CBS News

Daily Headlines: January 28, 2009

* Mexico: U.S. immigration officials claim that most of the controversial “virtual fence” along the U.S.-Mexico border has been done.

* Cuba: Did Fidel Castro betray Ernesto "Che" Guevara as a former Cuban guerrilla has claimed?

* Latin America: Up to 2.4 million workers in Latin America could lose their jobs this year according to an International Labor Organization report.

* Venezuela: Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said that Venezuela will not yet recall U.S. ambassador Patrick Duddy; Duddy was booted from Venezuela last September.

Image- AP (“In this Nov. 17, 2008 file photo, a U.S. Border Patrol vehicle stands guard along the border fence with its concertino wire topping it, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi, File).”)
Online Sources- LAHT, IHT, Reuters, The Latin Americanist

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bloggers of the World Unite: DREAM-ing of citizenship

Image- (“Students and immigrants march toward the Federal Building carrying a sign that calls for passing the Dream Act, a bill that would open a path to immigration for college-bound students who have lived most of their lives in the United States but lack legal immigrant status across from Union Square in New York, Tuesday, May 1, 2007.”)
Online Sources- Global Voices Online, Vivirlatino, Bloggings by Boz, La Gringa Rusa Mexicana, Latina Lista, Washington Babylon

Iran “subversive” threat to LatAm says Robert Gates

Latin America has become a site of "subversive activity" by Iran, according to statements made today by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Regarding recent inroads made by Iran in counties like Venezuela and Nicaragua, Gates said that the Central Asian country has “a lot of offices and a lot of fronts behind which they interfere” in Latin American states. (He didn't provide further details, however).

Gates’ remarks came during a Senate hearing on last month’s Russian naval exercises in Venezuelan waters. He tried to downplay Russian activities in the Americas and claimed that Iran is a much greater concern:
Gates didn't say just what he thinks Iran is up to militarily. But he called Iran a threat there that Russia, despite high-profile maneuvers, is not.

Gates shrugged off Russian naval tours in places like Venezuela. He said that if Russia hadn't raised alarms by invading Georgia last year, he would have invited Russian ships to dock in Miami as well.

He said the Russian sailors would have had more fun there than in Caracas.
Is Iran as big of danger to the Americas as Gates claims? Is he being to flippant towards Russia? What do you think?

Image- (“Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega (L) welcomes Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the international airport in Managua, Nicaragua, Saturday, Jan, 13, 2007”.)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Reuters, AP

Bye-bye (Ugly) Betty?

As someone who loved the first season of “Ugly Betty” and has been indifferent at the sophomore season, news like the following isn’t a surprise:
The network has bumped "Betty” from her regular Thursday 8 p.m. time slot to showcase instead its sitcoms "Samantha Who?"starring Christina Applegate and "In the Motherhood,” a new show starring Megan Mullally and Cheryl Hines.

"Ugly Betty,” starring actress America Ferrera, hits the bench on March 26 and won't return until sometime in June after the regular TV season has ended, reports Entertainment Weekly.
On the surface, going on a three-month hiatus shouldn’t equal the kiss of death for the acclaimed series. Yet “Ugly Betty” has suffered from sagging ratings over the past year; 7.5 million viewers watched the series in mid-January 2009, a drop of over 2 million compared to the same period in 2008. As TV critic Verne Gay noted, “Ugly Betty” is “just one more victim of the '07-'08 (Writers Guild of America) strike - a show that soared before and flopped after".

Despite the somber news there has been one ray of sunshine for “Ugly Betty”: the series was nominated for the 20th annual GLAAD Media Awards.

(Hat tip: Vivirlatino).

Online Sources- Vivirlatino, New York Daily News, AHN, Reuters,, TV by the Numbers

Roberto Bolaño up for posthumous honor

Chilean author Roberto Bolaño died in 2003 yet his critical reputation among literacy circles continues to grow.

The late author’s book “2666” was named as one of the National Book Critics Circle Award finalists for fiction. Bolaño was posthumously acknowledged by the National Book Critics Circle though he faces stiff competition from other finalists including first-time author M. Glenn Taylor.

“2666” was first published in Spanish in 2004 and reviewers have called it a “disturbingly of art” and an “awe-inspiring three-ring extravaganza of a novel.”

Bolaño passed away too soon at the age of fifty; as he said in his acceptance speech of the 1999 Rómulo Gallegos prize:
What's true is that I am Chilean, and I am also a lot of other things. And having arrived at this point, I must abandon Jarry and Bolivar and try to remember the writer who said that the homeland of a writer is his tongue…It sounds a little demagogic, but I agree with him completely, and I know that sometimes there is no recourse left us but to get a little demagogic, just like sometimes there is no recourse left us but to dance a bolero under the light of streetlamps or a red moon.
Also named by National Book Critics Circle was Chicano poet Juan Felipe Herrera for “Half of the World in Light”.

Image- New York Times
Online Sources- New York Daily News, BBC News, Reuters, Jacket Copy, New York Times, Times Online, Guardian UK

Alberto Gonzales defiant in NPR interview

Ex-U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales claimed that he will not be prosecuted for allowing the use of torture under the Bush White House.

In an interview given yesterday to NPR, Gonzales declared that he and others at the Department of Justice would be exempt from possible criminal prosecution. “I don't see a criminal prosecution for me, nor for anyone that I'm aware of, because again . . . people acted in good faith” said the former top cop.

Gonzales also lashed out at Eric Holder- President Barack Obama's pick for Attorney General- after Holder mentioned that waterboarding is torture. Said the ex-A.G.:
“I don’t know what Mr. Holder did or didn’t know in making that statement…And I think that one needs to be careful in making a blanket pronouncement like that, if you don’t have all the information, because of the effect it may have, again, on the morale and the dedication of intelligence officials and lawyers throughout the administration.”
Gonzales' term in office from 2005 to 2007 was wrought with controversy; he had overseen an illegal warrantless surveillance program and had been accused of abusing his power in the firing of eight federal attorneys. Yet in the interview Gonzales denied culpability and tended to finger-point at others for his own faults.

Image- MSNBC
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, NPR,, CNET News, New York Times, UPI, Huffington Post

Today’s Video: Juana Villegas and the need for immigration reform

Regular readers of this blog will know that we have strongly advocated for fair and meaningful immigration reform. Doing so will require a concerted effort not only among politicians but of society to make tough choices and reach a compromise that will ultimately be beneficial.

Reform will probably not solve all of the ills associated with immigration. But it can hopefully cut down on abuses like those experienced by Juana Villegas:

Thanks to Breakthrough for the tip.

Online Sources- Breakthrough, YouTube

Daily Headlines: January 27, 2009

* Puerto Rico: Aníbal Acevedo Vila may be gone from the governorship but that hasn’t stopped federal authorities from continuing their corruption investigation on him.

* U.S.: According to this article from the AFP, thieves are increasingly targeting Latino illegal immigrants in the U.S. who are afraid they’ll be deported if they seek the police.

* Costa Rica: A new program funded by the World Bank will teach AIDS prevention strategies to nearly two dozen Costa Rican prostitutes.

* Chile: Could former President Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle become Chile’s version of Grover Cleveland?

Image- (“Puerto Rican Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila gestures during an interview at his residence, in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, Friday, Jan. 4, 2008.”)
Online Sources- LAHT, Wikipedia, UPI, AFP, Caribbean Net News, The Latin Americanist

Monday, January 26, 2009

Bloggers of the World Unite: Starting the year of the Ox

Note: It’s been many months since we’ve featured our perennial post highlighting blog posts that have caught our eye. As an experiment this week we’ll be running this feature daily. We hope you enjoy it.

So without further ado…

Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Gawker, Soccer by Ives, La Plaza, Memory in Latin America, Guanabee, YouTube

Beyond Borders: Berlusconi’s verbal diarrhea

Despite being such a prominent figure, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is notorious for his verbal gaffes. His most notorious remarks have been directed at women such as claiming that Italy’s right-wing female politicos are more attractive than those on the left or that he would cheat on his wife with a government minister who was a former topless model.

Berlusconi once again targeted women in his latest (and possibly most ugly) utterances yesterday:
While campaigning for local elections in Sardinia Sunday, Berlusconi was asked by reporters to comment about an interior ministry proposal to deploy troops on city streets after a series of sexual assaults on women.

"We can't think of deploying a large force," Berlusconi said. "We would have to send as many soldiers as there are beautiful girls. And I don't think we would manage"…

Later, Berlusconi said he meant his remarks as “a compliment."

"Women have to be defended," he said. (Sexual violence) "is a trauma that remains for life."
The Italian leader’s words were rightfully attacked by feminist groups and opposition politicos. “Berlusconi would do better to stay silent rather than make offensive remarks about women,” said shadow Minister for Equal Opportunities Vittoria Franco.

Berlusconi returned to power last April; he and his allies have been accused of unfairly blaming immigrants for rising crime levels in and around Rome. His polices have received widespread criticism including from residents of a small town that houses a new detention center.

(Hat tip: Mikeb302000).

Image- Times Online
Online Sources- Times Online, BBC News, AFP, UPI, CNN, Reuters, Mikeb302000

Federal survey acknowledges indigenous

At least one federal survey will take a closer look at the percentage of Latin Americans in this country who are indigenous, according to this Associated Press story.

The National Agricultural Workers Survey will include changes to better measure the indigenous population.

An estimated 10 to 30 percent of the farm workers in California are indigenous. Most workers come from southern Mexico.

"Indigenous workers have other unique characteristics that make them a difficult population to serve. Survey data, however, underestimate the size of this population," said a proposal from the U.S. Department of Labor, according to the article.

Part of the aim is to not automatically include indigenous people in a "Latino" category.

Source and Photo: AP

E.U. to take Gitmo detainees?

Last week’s decision by U.S. President Barack Obama to close the Guantanamo Bay prison within a year and to repudiate the use of torture were welcome gestures. Yet the orders raise many questions including where will detainees go once Gitmo closes.

The possible destination of Gitmo detainees was one of the topics discussed during a meeting of European Union (E.U.) leaders earlier today. Most of the foreign ministers from the 27-nation bloc agreed that E.U. nations should take in some sixty prisoners originally from countries like China, Algeria, and Saudi Arabia. Yet officials also requested that any detainees taken by the E.U. pose no significant security risk:
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Britain had its plate full in dealing with its own nationals in U.S. custody and ruled out taking ex-prisoners from other nations…

Finland's foreign minister, Alexander Stubb, said Guantanamo inmates would become eligible for resettlement only once they passed through U.S. scrutiny and courts and were granted official status as political refugees.
Malaysian officials reportedly expressed interest over the weekend to house two of its citizens currently being held at Guantanamo.

Image- BBC News
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Fox News, AP, Reuters, New York Times

Hugo Chavez talks trade with Alvaro Uribe

Economics was the primary topic discussed between Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and his Colombian counterpart Alvaro Uribe over the weekend.

During the meeting held at the Colombian port city of Cartagena, both leaders agreed to the creation a $200 million bilateral fund designed to boost trade between the neighboring countries. Chavez and Uribe also discussed possibilities for further economic cooperation and appointed new ambassadors whose areas of expertise include finance and commerce.

Despite political differences between both presidents, Chavez and Uribe acknowledged the need for both countries to tackle the global economic slowdown. Trade between Colombia and Venezuela reached a record $7.2 billion in 2008 though Chavez anticipated that it could grow to $10 billion by next year.

Little was reportedly discussed on political topics such as presidential reelection and Colombia’s armed conflict. Nonetheless, Chavez denied accusations that he was aiding Colombian guerillas:
"I repeat it again: if I were supporting any subversive, terrorist or violent movement in Colombia, I wouldn't be here," Chavez told reporters upon arriving at this Caribbean resort city 1,100 kilometers (680 miles) north of Bogota…

The Chavez-Uribe meeting comes six months after the two presidents met in the Venezuelan city of Punto Fijo, where they discussed the crisis between Colombia and Venezuela that began in November 2007 when Uribe abruptly ended Chavez's role as a mediator in releasing hostages being held by the FARC guerrillas.
Image- AP
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Mercopress, AP, AFP, LAHT

Daily Headlines: January 26, 2009

* Brazil: Rest in peace Mariana Bridi da Costa; the model whose feet and hands were amputated due to an infection died on Saturday.

* Mexico: Despite assurances from Mexican officials that their country isn’t a "weak and failing" state violence throughout the country continues to run rampant.

* Central America: Worries over the deadly salmonella outbreak in the U.S. has led Kellogg's to recall several brands of cookies from Central America.

* Spain: Immigrants living in Spain- including hundreds of thousands from Latin America- worry that the global economic downturn and an immigration crackdown will opaque their future.

Image- BBC News
Online Sources- New York Daily News, AFP, Xinhua, Los Angeles Times, The Latin Americanist

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Bolivians back constitutional reforms

According to early exit polls and an unofficial quick count, Bolivian voters on Sunday supported several government-backed constitution changes.

Based on these early figures, it appears as if Bolivians approve several key constitutional changes including larger indigenous representation in the government, the direct election of judges to Bolivia’s highest court and a second reelection for President Evo Morales. Aside from politics, the draft constitution expands freedom of religion beyond the Catholic Church, bans water from being privately controlled, and prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

"A new country is being founded for all Bolivians”, extolled Morales at a rally held around the presidential palace tonight. Yet figures showing that the referendum was defeated in opposition strongholds led anti-Morales governors to claim that the constitution lacks sufficient support nationwide.

As the BBC News noted, the draft constitution considered in today’s referendum was watered down from its original version in order to garner additional support:
The original draft of the constitution was more radical but Mr. Morales made concessions after violent protests against his rule, including a promise that he would not try to win a third term in 2014.

Under pressure from wealthy ranchers, who feared their farms would be broken up and handed over to the poor, Mr. Morales also revised the charter so that limits on land holdings will only apply to future land sales.
Despite the results, Bolivia’s deep racial, economic, and geographic divisions aren’t expected to be healed any time soon.

Image- AP (“An Aymara Indian woman holds her ballot before casting it at a polling station in the coca growing village of Villa 14 de Septiembre in central Bolivia, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2009.”)
Online Sources- AFP, IHT, AP, Reuters, BBC News