Friday, February 20, 2009

Today's Video: An Oscar surprise

With the Oscars coming up on Sunday, we end our week with a quick look at one of the Awards' most controversial moments.

Marlon Brando won the Best Actor Oscar in 1973 for "The Godfather" but refused to accept it. In his place, Sacheen Littlefeather spoke out on the mistreatment of Native Americans in film and entertainment:

Littlefeather was born as Maria Cruz in 1947 and some sources have said that she is of Mexican descent. Her official website denies Roger Ebert's reported categorizing of her as a "Mexican actress" and goes on to say that she's partly descendant of "the White Mountain Apache and Yaqui tribes of Arizona".

Online Sources- Guardian UK, Spike,

Irish FM: U.S. should change policy to Cuba

Should the U.S. change its policy towards Cuba? One Irish official gave his two cents:
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin, has said he would like to see a change in US policy towards Cuba.

Speaking during an official visit to the island, the Minister said “an evolution in policy” would be a good thing, according to a transcript of his remarks provided by Radio Habana Cuba.

“I don’t propose to tell the American administration how to proceed but certainly from our view and our background we believe that dialogue and contact are important and for the welfare of the people both in Cuba and the United States, it would be a good thing to see a change in policy and an evolution in policy,” he said.
Martin also said that he was able to discuss human rights issues with the Cuban government though no other details were reported.

Martin’s visit is the first by an Irish foreign minster to Cuba since the two countries established diplomatic ties in 1999.

Image- RTE News
Online Sources-, Irish Times, Xinhua

ICE forced to meet arrest quotas?

A Maryland-based immigrants rights group has accused Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of being forced to meet arrest quotas.

CASA de Maryland released what they claimed to be an internal ICE report on a 2007 raid in Baltimore. The study found that two dozen Latinos were arrested by ICE agents who were instructed to meet their annual quota of 1000 arrests per team. "I don't care where you get more arrests, we need more numbers," said the agents’ supervisor according to the internal investigation.

"We need just and humane immigration reform," said the executive director of CASA at a press conference on Wednesday who also called for an immediate halt to immigration raids. An ICE spokesman denied that arrest quotas were used and claimed that ICE uses “goals to measure the effectiveness of its teams.”

The Migration Policy Institute released a study earlier this month claiming that nearly three in four immigrants detained by ICE were nonviolent offenders.

Image- (“Justin Cox, a lawyer with CASA de Maryland, shows a surveillance video of an ICE raid that occurred in Baltimore in 2007, during a media event in Langley Park, Md. on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin).”)
Online Sources-, AP, Baltimore Sun, The Latin Americanist, WJLA

Bolivia: Seven detained over Pando massacre

Bolivian officials arrested seven people in connection with a massacre last September in the northern province of Pando. A mayor, civic leaders and two journalists were reportedly among the group who were arrested for the killings of twenty Bolivians on September 11th.

A November 2008 report by the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) blamed local authorities for the massacre of pro-government supporters. Opposition politicos in Pando rejected the report as biased and as only presenting “one side as truth”.

The Pando massacre was one of the bloodiest episodes of a conflict between supporters and detractors of Bolivian president Evo Morales. The incident highlighted the divisive nature of Bolivian politics:
The unrest flared during a bitter power struggle between leftist President Evo Morales and conservative rivals opposed to his drive to implement a new constitution…

His government declared martial law in Pando and arrested provincial Gov. Leopoldo Fernandez, accusing him of inspiring the violence. It lifted the state of siege late (last November).
Bolivians would go on to back the new Magna Carta via a referendum last month.

Image- CBC (“Supporters of Bolivian President Evo Morales protest in La Paz on Sept. 12. (Juan Karita/Associated Press).”)
Online Sources- Prensa Latina, LAHT, Reuters, The Latin Americanist

Bank runs hit LatAm over Stanford fraud

Billionaire tycoon Sir Allen Stanford gave himself in after F.B.I. agents found him in Virginia. Stanford has been accused of bilking customers out of over $8 billion dollars via his investment fund and other financial entities.

Stanford’s alleged scam led to bank runs in several Latin American countries and forced governments in the region to take drastic actions. Panamanian branches of Stanford bank were closed while Colombian authorities are seeking details over Stanford’s dealings in that country. Mexican officials are looking into Stanford's supposed links with violent drug gangs.

Venezuela’s government quickly intervened to “stem fears of investors”:
Venezuela has seized a local bank owned by Allen Stanford…after panicked investors withdrew millions of dollars worth of deposits.

Ali Rodriguez, the Venezuelan finance minister, said on Thursday that Stanford Bank SA would be sold and the government would back all deposits, after at least $26.5m was withdrawn in two days.

The move comes despite the Venezuelan government trying to reassure depositors that the local bank was healthy.
Image- BBC News
Online Sources- AFP, Reuters, The Telegraph, BBC News, Monsters & Critics, Al Jazeera English

Daily Headlines: February 20, 2009

* Canada: U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper talked about free trade and the slumping economy but not Gitmo detainees during Obama’s state visit north of the border.

* Argentina: Weeks after an Argentine seminary removed Holocaust-denying bishop Richard Williamson the country’s government yesterday ordered him to return to Britain.

* U.S.: Is the Chamber of Commerce behind an ad campaign against Labor Secretary-designate Hilda Solis?

* Brazil: Aircraft manufacturer Embraer will lay off over 4000 employees due to the global economic decline.

Image- AP (“Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper shakes hands with President Barack Obama during a photo opportunity on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Thursday Feb. 19, 2009. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Adrian Wyld).”)
Online Sources- Reuters,, Mother Jones, BBC News, MSNBC, The Latin Americanist

Thursday, February 19, 2009

GOP to get “hip-hop makeover” says Steele

Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele said that the GOP will undergo a “hip-hop makeover” in order to appeal to Latinos and others.

Steele had this to say in an interview with the Washington Times published today:
(...) Steele plans an “off the hook” public relations offensive to attract younger voters, especially blacks and Hispanics, by applying the party's principles to “urban-suburban hip-hop settings.”

The RNC's first black chairman will “surprise everyone” when updating the party's image using the Internet and advertisements on radio, on television and in print, he told The Washington Times.
Steele rightfully acknowledged that the Republican Party “missed the mark in the past, which is why we are in the crapper now.” However, he did not provide details as to how it will go about doing so beyond the public relations campaign.

The GOP will need to do a whole lot more beyond commercials possibly featuring Daddy Yankee. Despite my center-left leanings allow me to provide some suggestions:
  • How about pushing for real immigration reform and shunning the poisonous anti-immigration rhetoric espoused by some in the GOP?
  • Effectively tackling the problems of the weakening economy would certainly help though so would addressing social concerns that are important to Latinos.
  • Try using convincing and thoughtful arguments rather than shining the light on uninformed, one-dimensional caricatures.
Ads and endorsements can only go so far. For the Republicans to bounce back they will have to emphasize substance over style.

Image- Voice of America
Online Sources- Washington Times, Wonkette, New York Daily News, The Latin Americanist

Update: Brazilian faked “skinhead” attack

A Brazilian woman allegedly admitted that a xenophobic assault against her by Swiss skinheads was all a hoax.

According to Swiss prosecutors, Paula Oliviera confessed not only to faking the attack against her but also lied about being pregnant and having miscarried her twins due to the assault. Police also said that the cuts on her abdomen bearing the initials of the right-wing Swiss People's Party corroborate claims made by local forensics experts that her wounds were self-inflicted.

Swiss officials have removed Olivera’s passport while they investigate her for misleading police. Prosecutors have not revealed any possible motives behind her allegations.

Olivera’s case led to outrage in her native Brazil and a renewed focus on racist attacks in Europe. (The 2007 assault of an Ecuadorian teen on the Barcelona metro comes to mind).

Despite the change in Olivera’s story, Brazil's Foreign Minister said that his government will keep providing her with “all necessary support”:
Amorim said he was not officially informed of the investigation, but the government will keep on supporting one of its citizens.

"We must give attention and support to our fellow citizen," the minister said. "That is what we have been doing and what we will keep on doing, following international norms."
Image- BBC News
Online Sources- BBC News, Xinhua, AP,, The Latin Americanist, Expatica Switzerland

Ecuador expels second U.S. diplomat

For the second time in two weeks Ecuador’s government expelled a U.S. diplomat.

At a press conference yesterday, Foreign Minister Fander Falconi accused Mark Sullivan- first secretary in the U.S. embassy's regional affairs office- of meddling in internal affairs. “Sullivan…placed conditions on logistics cooperation with the police," Falconi said as he ordered the diplomat to leave by Friday.

Last week, Ecuadorian officials ordered U.S. customs attaché Armando Astorga to leave the country for similar reasons to that of Sullivan. Both Astorga and Sullivan had been accused of interfering with Ecuadorian police in exchange for counternarcotics aid.

The State Department denied the allegations and called the expulsions “unfair”:
Acting Deputy Spokesman Gordon Duguid said the expulsions stem from the fact that certain Ecuadorian police were banned from taking part in U.S. counternarcotics training programs, but rejected "any suggestion of wrongdoing by embassy staff"…

Asked whether the State Department would reciprocate the expulsions by kicking out Ecuadorian diplomats from the United States, Duguid would say only, "We will respond as appropriate."
Anti-drug aid hasn’t been the only point of disagreement between the governments of the U.S. and Ecuador. Last year Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa declared that his government will not renew the U.S. military lease to the Manta air base.

Online Sources- BBC News, Xinhua, AFP, CNN, The Latin Americanist, Reuters

Today’s Video: Feliz cumpleaños Esquivel!

This Friday would’ve been the 91st-birthday of “space age pop” legend Esquivel. (He died in 2002).

Born Juan García Esquivel, the Mexican musician/composer was best known for his trippy 1960 instrumental pop music. One of the best examples of Esquivel’s unique, tiki-bar style is this original number entitled “Mini Skirt”:

Online Sources- YouTube, Wikipedia

Daily Headlines: February 19, 2009

* Mexico: Several local officials and media outlets have claimed that recent protests in northern Mexico are organized by violent drug gangs.

* U.S.: "We are all human beings and we don't have a right to take a life," said the mother of slain Ecuadorian Marcelo Lucero after attending initial proceedings against two of the eight defendants.

* Puerto Rico: Scientists examining unexploded bombs off the former Naval base on Vieques concluded that those munitions release dangerous cancer-causing toxins.

* Nicaragua: The owners of a Managua nightclub apologized for being racist after turning away a black woman who just so happens to represent Nicaragua in the Central American Parliament.

Image- BBC News (A banner held during a recent demonstration in northern Mexico read “The soldiers do not let us live in peace we are scared” [sic]).
Online Sources- LAHT, The Latin Americanist,, New York Times, U.S. News and World Report

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Today's Video: Still loving Soda

Enjoy this blast from the not-so-distant past via this 2007 reunion performance by Argentine rock legends Soda Stereo:

Online Sources- YouTube

Salvadorans enjoy private U2 gig

Some stories speak for themselves:
Three Central American U2 fans who delivered a 60,000-name petition pleading for the band to play in El Salvador were rewarded last week with a private concert. The planet's biggest rock group played a short impromptu gig for the trio in Dublin last Thursday evening.

Frankie Rivas, a DJ and exile from El Salvador during the country's civil war of the 1980s, said...

"When we got (to the band's studio) Bono and the lads said hello and all of us were stunned. Then they played [new songs] No Line on the Horizon and Breathe for us. I couldn't believe it." He said the band had refused to give an answer as to the possibility of playing El Salvador on the world tour but would think about it….

U2 are adored in El Salvador because they dedicated a song - Bullet the Blue Sky - to the country and the plight of its people during its bloody civil war on their 1987 album The Joshua Tree.
Image- Sydney Morning Herald (AFP file photo)
Online Sources- Guardian UK

Venezuela to slash public spending

Yesterday we mentioned that one of the obstacles to Hugo Chavez’ possible bid for a third presidential term could be the global economic slowdown. In the aftermath of Venezuela's referendum to drop term limits for political offices, the country’s government said that it would take steps to cut public spending. The aim: preventing domestic economic problems.
Venezuela relies on oil for 94 percent of exports and nearly half the government budget. Finance Minister Ali Rodriguez said the government has enough savings to avoid serious problems this year but nevertheless plans cutbacks.

The world financial crisis "keeps brewing darker clouds that are affecting us through oil prices," he told Union Radio.

Rodriguez did not provide specific figures but said the government will be "more rigorous" with tax collection to help balance the budget. Some "unnecessary imports" will be eliminated to conserve foreign currency, he said.
On Sunday, Rodriguez said that he was unsure of what other economic steps the Chavez administration would take until crude oil prices stabilized. Meanwhile, energy minister Rafael Ramirez warned said that OPEC may have to institute new output costs next month.

Image- BBC News
Online Sources- Bloomberg, IHT, The Latin Americanist

Brazil unhappy with U.S. stimulus plan

Yesterday U.S. President Barack Obama signed a $787 billion economic stimulus bill and remarked that it represented “the beginning of the end” for the country’s economic woes. One hopes that his words ring true and that the stimulus is the first step in pulling the U.S. out of its economic quagmire.

Other countries around the world do not share Obama’s rosy outlook, however. An editorial by China's official Xinhua news agency blasted protectionist clauses incorporated into the stimulus plan. Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean criticized the “Buy American” provisions though observed that they did not violate international trade norms.

Brazil’s government may go a step further than just complaining; Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said Monday that he may appeal to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to challenge the legality of the "Buy American" clauses. As Reuters reported:
"It's a complex legal analysis, but we're doing it," Amorim said. "(Going to the WTO) is a real option," he told the state television channel TV Brasil in a program to be aired later this week…

Amorim said the U.S. move was counterproductive, likening it to a pain-killer that heals the symptoms of disease but not its cause. He said the Doha round was not dead but would be hard to revive.

“It's a bad sign. ... It's not positive at a moment when the world economy is trying to revive," Amorim said.
Despite the warnings of Amorim and others, some analysts believe that the protectionist clauses will not hurt the U.S. too much. "They have managed to contain the damage…It now looks like the 'Buy American' clause shouldn't be seen as a major concern of our trade partners" said, Inter-American Dialogue head Peter Hakim in remarks to columnist Andres Oppenheimer.

Image- AP (“Vice President Joe Biden looks on as President Barack Obama signs the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009, during a ceremony at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science in Denver. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert).”)
Online Sources- Reuters, CNN,, The Modesto Bee, Radio Netherlands Worldwide

Protests block U.S.-Mexico border

Border traffic along parts of the U.S.-Mexico border came to a standstill yesterday due to a series of protests.

An estimated 300 protectors marched in the northern city of Monterrey against alleged abuses committed by the Mexican army in its war against drug gang violence. Some protestors chanted "Stop abuse by the PFP [Federal Preventative Police]!" and impeded border traffic in checkpoints between Ciudad Juarez and El Paso as well as Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa. One protest even took place in the Gulf state of Veracruz where roads were blocked.

The governor of Nuevo Leon state blamed drug gangs for organizing the protests though that claim has yet to be corroborated:
It was the largest display of discontent against the army's role in an anti-drug crackdown since President Felipe Calderon began deploying soldiers across the country two years ago to fight cartels. About 45,000 soldiers are now spread out across Mexico.

Government and army officials claimed that drug cartels organized similar protests in Monterrey earlier this month to undermine the crackdown. Federal officials had no immediate comment on Tuesday's protests.

Human rights activists say there are legitimate complaints about abuses by soldiers, including cases in which patrols opened fire on civilians at military checkpoints. But they say it is unclear who has been behind the demonstrations.
Image- AP (“Police use a water cannon to disperse protesters in the northern industrial city of Monterrey, Mexico, Tuesday Feb. 17, 2009.”)
Online Sources- AP, BBC News, Reuters, Al Jazeera English

Daily Headlines: February 18, 2009

* U.S.: Time magazine’s top blogs of 2009 list praised Cuban-based Generación Y and deemed as overrated.

* Cuba: Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom apologized to Cuba for his country permitting the CIA to train exiles who participated in the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion.

* Mexico: Nearly 500,000 bus and truck operators went on a 24-hour strike in protest of rising fuel costs.

* Antarctica: Almost three months after 122 people were rescued from a sinking ship near Antarctica another cruise ship ran aground with 65 passengers.

Image- Global Voices Online
Online Sources- Time, MSNBC, LAHT, The Latin Americanist, USA TODAY

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Today's Video: To be "young and stupid"

What do you think of Alex Rodriguez' apology? Was he really "stupid", a shameless liar, or (as I believe) both?

Ex-Border Patrol agents leave jail

A pair of former Border Patrol agents left jail today after their sentences was commuted last month by then-president George W. Bush.

Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean (image) were convicted on several charges, including assault with a dangerous weapon and obstruction of justice for shooting an unarmed Mexican drug smuggler in 2005. The pair was sentenced to over ten years in prison in 2007 yet Bush commuted the sentences on his last full day in the presidency and after campaigning by some politicos and right-wing commentators.

The two men are to be released on March 20th; until then they will be place in a community confinement program:
Traci Billingsley, bureau of prisons spokeswoman, said Tuesday that the two men are out of prison and under the "supervision of the community corrections office for a period of community confinement."

Community confinement means the sentenced person has to spend the last phrase of their sentence either in a halfway house or in home confinement…

"This is great news for both Ramos and Compean, and obviously for their families. I'm happy for them," (Rep. Silvestre Reyes) said. "Had I had my druthers they should have been commuted with Scooter Libby. Certainly, if he deserved it, they deserved it."
Image- Fox News
Online Sources-,, El Paso Times, The Latin Americanist

Colombian guerillas admit to indigenous massacre

Earlier this month Colombia’s FARC rebels unilaterally freed six hostages including a former governor and three policemen. The gesture was welcomed and increased hope that a peaceful solution could be negotiated.

Sadly, aspirations of peace appear a long way off partly due to the government's intransigence but also since the guerillas have not renounced their overly violent ways.

In a communiqué published this morning, FARC leaders admitted to killing eight indigenous peasants who were accused of serving as army informants. "Given the pressure of the operation, their responsibility in the death of numerous guerrillas and their irrefutable active participation in the conflict, they were executed," said the statement published on the ANNCOL news site.

The relationship between Colombia’s indigenous communities and the actors in the country’s armed conflict has been uneasy and dangerous. Tensions rose between natives and the government late last year over free trade and a lack of land reform. Indigenous leaders, meanwhile, claim to be constantly targeted by the FARC:
Luis Evelis Andrade of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, known by its Spanish acronym ONIC, said the FARC had targeted the Awa because the Indians don't want to get involved in the armed struggle and refuse to reveal information on government troop actions.

Speaking on Caracol TV, ONIC said the FARC has abducted 120 Awa since February 4 and 44 Awa have been killed this year…

"We are very worried about the Awa community," said Monsignor Gustavo Giron Higuita, the bishop of the city of Tumaco. "It is a community that is pretty unprotected and that in the past five years has received a type of persecution by armed groups."
Image- El Pais (Indigenous peoples displaced by Colombia’s ongoing armed conflict)
Online Sources- Reuters, The Latin Americanist, ANNCOL, IHT, CNN, Radio Netherlands Worldwide

Study: Latino unemployment higher than nat’l average

The unemployment rate for Latinos has increased higher than the national average during the same period according to a Pew Hispanic Center (PHC) study.

Using an analysis of the latest Census Bureau data, the PHC concluded that unemployment among foreign-born Latinos went up from 5.1% to 8.0% from the fourth quarter of 2007 to the fourth quarter of 2008. Meanwhile, the general unemployment rate during this same time period increased from 4.6% to 6.6%.

Though native-born Latinos and African-Americans suffer higher overall rates of unemployment, the study found that more foreign-born Latinos have lost their jobs than any other group.

The report refrains from examining how the economic slowdown may be affecting migration to and from the U.S. Yet the PHC study acknowledged that the negative affects of the U.S. recession are affecting everyone while pointing out that “the construction sector remains the leading source of job loss for both Hispanics and non-Hispanics.”

The study comes as no surprise to Latinos hit hard by the recession:
"There is no work," said Mexican immigrant William Ake, 38, who in the past year has traveled as far as Manteca and Oregon seeking jobs. "If it does not improve by July, I will return to my home in Yucatan." Prospects were no better there, he said, but it is where his family lives…

Alma Luja, manager of a Monument branch of Sigue Corp., a place to send international money transfers, said remittances back to Mexico and Central America are way down. In November, about 50 people came in every day and now just about 20, she said, speaking Thursday morning in an empty store…

"There have been people coming in here with $20 bills just to help feed their family," she said. "Before, the minimum was $100 or $150."
Image- Modesto Bee
Online Sources- Reuters, Pew Research Center,,, Dallas Morning News

U.S. “cautiously optimistic” of Venezuelan vote

The State Department is cautiously optimistic over the results of Venezuela’s national referendum on term limits according to several news reports.

"We congratulate the civic and participatory spirit” of the voters State Department spokesman Noel Clay said to AFP regarding Sunday’s referendum. Yet Clay added that the Venezuelan government must “now focus on governing democratically” and addressing issues that most affect Venezuelans.

The State Department’s satisfaction was not shared by anti-Chavista Venezuelan expats living in south Florida:
''I'm very disappointed,'' Javier Quintero said of Chávez's win to abolish term limits. ``Unfortunately, there is not too much to do. I don't know what is going to happen with my country''…

''They have hope in the original idea he had, like helping the poor,'' (Florida International University student Che) Guerra said of her pro-Chávez relatives. ``My aunt in Venezuela, she's pro-Chávez. I tell her poor people never had anything. You give a little bread, water, they're going to be happy, but it doesn't mean it's good.''
Approximately 54% of voters chose to drop term limits from the Venezuelan presidency and other elected positions in a referendum characterized by electoral observers as “free and fair.” The election was a victory for Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez but will have to face several challenges such as a slumping global economy if he wishes to win a third term in 2013.

Image- AFP (“"SI" (YES) reports a newspaper after Hugo Chavez won a referendum.”)
Online Sources- BBC News, The Latin Americanist, Al Jazeera English,, AFP, Radio Netherlands Worldwide

Daily Headlines: February 17, 2009

* U.S.: Rest in peace Joe Cuba; the salsa pioneer and "Father of Latin Boogaloo" died Sunday at the age of 78.

* Cuba: On the heels of last week’s visit to Cuba by Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, Guatemala’s Alvaro Colom started his state visit to the island yesterday.

* Argentina: Farmers nationwide are suffering from hard times as Argentina faces its worse drought since 1961.

* Ecuador: The global economic slowdown has hit Ecuador as remittances sent to the country plummeted by 22% in the fourth quarter of 2008.

Image- (“Salsa pioneer and bandleader Joe Cuba and his wife, Maria Cuba, perform onstage for about 200 junior high school students Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2006 in New York. The 75-year-old singer and conga drum player was onstage again after having been sick and confined to his bed for years after contracting a staff infection. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)”)
Online Sources- New York Daily News, Prensa Latina, Voice of America, Bloomberg, LAHT

Monday, February 16, 2009

Today’s Video: Peru’s film triumph

Congratulations to the cast and crew of Peruvian movie “La Teta Asustada” which won top prize at the Berlin Film Festival. "I hope more women will be encouraged by this,” declared director Claudia Llosa after receiving the Golden Bear award for her film.

“La Teta Asustada” beat out entries like “The Messenger”, starring Woody Harrelson, and “My One and Only”, with Renee Zellweger.

The English title for the movie is "The Milk of Sorrow" though the precise translation of the Spanish title is “The Scared Tit.” Either title is appropriate for the moving film that centers on Fausta, a young woman who believes that she is ill due to the breast milk of raped women during Peru’s bloody armed conflict. Yet after her mother’s death Fausta must come to terms with her past and attempt to move forward:

In recent years the Berlin Film Festival has recognized outstanding Latin American films. Aside from “La Teta Asustada” Uruguay's “Gigante” earned three awards and co-won the Grand Prix Silver Bear prize. The 2007 Golden Bear award was won by Brazilian box office hit “Tropa De Elite” (“The Elite Squad”).

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

Salma Hayek weds on Valentine’s Day

Très bon:
Salma Hayek picked a most romantic time and place to get married: Valentine's Day in Paris. The Mexican-born actress wed French magnate Francois-Henri Pinault in a civil ceremony Saturday at the City Hall in Paris' chic 6th arrondissement, according to an official there…

Hayek's spokeswoman, Cari Ross, confirmed in an e-mail Monday that the marriage had taken place in Paris Saturday. No further details were provided.
Henri Pinault is an heir to one of France’s largest fortunes and is the head of retail conglomerate PPR.

Aside from acting in such films as "Desperado", "Dogma", and "Frida", Hayek is also executive producer of U.S. television comedy "Ugly Betty". (For now, at least).

The couple broke off their engagement last year and allegedly remained that way before news emerged of Saturday’s marriage. They are each parents of a daughter named Valentina, who was born in 2007.

Image- AFP
Online Sources- AFP, The Latin Americanist, Reuters,, AP

Haiti, U.S. in tug-of-war over deportations

Officials in Haiti and the U.S. are in discord over the thousands of Haitians awaiting deportation from the U.S.

Last December, U.S. immigration authorities resumed deportations to the Caribbean country despite being hit by a string of tropical storms and increased impoverishment. A January plea by President Rene Preval for the granting of temporary protected status to Haitians was rejected by the Bush White House.

An estimated 30,000 Haitians await deportation to their native country yet Haitian officials are preventing it by not issuing travel documents. A spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) claimed that the delays are causing more detainees to spend time in already packed detention centers. Haitian authorities allege that their broken country doesn’t have the capacity to handle so many deportees.

Meanwhile, ICE is forcing Haitians to get their own travel documents including passports so they can be sent home. It’s a move that has upset Haitian community leaders in the U.S.
Phillippe "Bob" Louis Jeune, president of the Haitian Citizen United Taskforce, said he hears daily from many Haitians facing pressure from immigration officials.

"I tell them don't sign anything until we get further word from Washington," Jeune said.
Image- Amnesty International USA (“Detainees are searched before returning to the male dormitory at the Krome Detention Center…1996.”)
Online Sources- USA TODAY, The Latin Americanist,, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Latinos voice census concerns

Latino advocacy groups are looking ahead to what they consider trouble spots concerning the next census, scheduled for 2010.

They say that language barriers and other obstacles prevent a correct counting, and have contributed to under-counting in the past, of Latino citizens in the United States.

Blacks and other minority groups also agree with this sentiment, urging President Barack Obama to require the census director to report directly to the West Wing.

Census data determines congressional appropriations and other funding allotments.

"This is also data used for demographers, cartographers, the business community, the nonprofit community and local government entities. It is used to plan where the roads are going, where to put the water mains, the sewer lines, schools and the like," said William Ramos of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

Read the story here in the Los Angeles Times, including why Republicans don't want the census director to report to the West Wing.

Source and Photo: LA Times

Russia gives Bolivia helicopters

Last week we told you how Bolivia was poised to be the next country to receive special Russian assistance.

Their gift from Russia will be helicopters, the AP reports, to fight drugs and develop energy resources.

Bolivian President Evo Morales is in Moscow, which is the first time a Bolivian leader has visited Russia since the two countries established relations in 1945.

Details are scarce on the amount of assistance, but a top arms sales official, Mikhail Dmitriyev, suggested a helicopter number smaller than 20.

He added that Venezuela also is interested in other Russian weapons.

In addition, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said his country seeks a "strategic" energy project until 2030, according to Novosti.

Sources and Photo: AP, Novosti

Daily Headlines: February 16, 2009

* Brazil: Swiss police said that a Brazilian woman may’ve faked her claims that she was pregnant and attacked by a trio of skinheads.

* Paraguay: Today is President’s Day in the U.S. and apparently nobody can be prouder of that than Paraguayans.

* U.S.: A Department of Homeland Security report released on Friday concluded that over 100,000 immigrant parents of U.S. citizens were deported between 1997 and 2007.

* Mexico: The country’s Supreme Court ruled that riot police “committed serious human rights violations” such sexually abusing women during 2006 protests in the town of San Salvador Atenco.

Image- AP (“The scarred midsection, allegedly of Paula Oliveira, 26, of Brazil, can be seen in this photo taken in Zurich, Switzerland, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2009, and given to a Brazilian newspaper by Oliveira's family. Zurich police on Thursday were investigating an alleged skinhead assault on Oliveira that caused her to miscarry twins and left her scarred with the initials of Switzerland's main right-wing party.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg, MSNBC, New York Times, LAHT

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Venezuelans vote “yes” in reelection referendum

According to official results, a majority of Venezuelans voted in a referendum on Sunday to remove term limits from political offices including the presidency. The margin of victory according to Venezuela’s National Electoral Commission was by nearly 10% or roughly a million votes.

During a massive rally tonight President Hugo Chavez claimed that the vote represented a “victory for all Venezuelans” and a sign that his Bolivarian revolution would continue forward. Chavez added that he would run for a third straight presidential term in 2013 and read a brief congratulatory message sent to him by ex-Cuban president Fidel Castro.

In an interview on CNN en Español, opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez claimed that the vote represented a victory for “Goliath over David” and reiterated accusations over Chavez unfairly using state institutions to back the “yes” option. Lopez also mentioned that the opposition would back a “real alternative” to Chavez in the next presidential election.

Sunday’s election was a clear victory for Chavez whose previous bid for indefinite reelection was defeated in 2007 along with 68 other possible constitutional changes. According to Reuters:
(Chavez) is likely to interpret a clear victory as a license to push forward with policies such as strengthening state-backed community councils that could supplant opposition politicians and advancing land redistribution reforms.
At the same time, however, the results could help the opposition. They made several key gains in last November’s local elections that may not be lost in subsequent reelection bids.

Image- BBC News (Campaigners supporting the government-backed “Yes” option in Sunday’s national referendum)
Online Sources-, Guardian UK, Reuters, The Latin Americanist, Consejo Nacional Electoral, Bloomberg