Friday, July 3, 2009

Today’s Video: Happy Fourth from the Swedish Chef

We’ll be back on Sunday (sorry!) for a few posts including a possible contest.

In the meanwhile, which gasbag political commentator does Sam the Eagle remind you of?

(Yes, we did embed this same video exactly one year ago. Enjoy it again!)

Online Sources- YouTube, The Latin Americanist

Notable Quotable: Who’s the real star?

"I'm not going to let him pimp my popularity!"
---Basketball star Kobe Bryant reportedly had some harsh words to say about Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa during the Lakers’ victory parade last month.

As reported by, Bryant didn’t want to appear on the same parade vehicle as the mayor though they eventually did. In addition, “Kobe purportedly refused to shake Villaraigosa's hand.”

Villaraigosa took the oath of office Wednesday for a second term. Interestingly, one of Bryant’s teammates- point guard Derek Fisher- acted as master of ceremonies for the inauguration.

Image- (“Kobe Bryant and family, along with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, wave to fans along South Figueroa Street atop a double-decker bus during the Lakers victory parade en route to Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.”)
Online Sources-, Los Angeles Times

Still seeking freedom one year after “Operation Check”

Yesterday Colombian officials including President Alvaro Uribe and several former hostages commemorated the one-year anniversary of a rescue mission that freed fifteen people. Uribe claimed that “Operation Check” was made possible via the controversial military operation on FARC guerilla commander Raul Reyes’s camp in Ecuador which set off a regional diplomatic crisis. In addition he praised the operation which freed Ingrid Betancourt, three U.S. contractors, among others and said “I hope we have an ‘Operation Check’ numbers 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6”.

Prognostications that the FARC would be decimated in part due to the rescue may’ve been premature. "Don't underestimate their military importance," said a study released by independent Colombian think-tank Foundation of Ideas for Peace which added that the guerillas are gaining strength in some regions. “With the exception of the July 2008 hostage rescue and a battlefield victory south of Bogotá in March 2008, the military hasn't dealt any further blows to the guerrillas' leadership” observed noted Colombia analyst Adam Isacson in this insightful Foreign Policy article.

For all the joy surrounding the fifteen people freed 366 days ago, hundreds of other hostages remain captive in the Colombian jungle. “For me it is very painful to think that our liberation may serve as a justification to forget them, or to have nothing happen, to turn the page,” said Betancourt days ago. The hard-line by the Uribe administration and the FARC has made it almost impossible for any hostages to be freed and returned to the open arms of their loved ones. Take the case of Colombian soldier Pablo Moncayo who has been held hostage since in 1997:
(The FARC) announced in mid-April it intended to free Moncayo. On Monday, it said it would release a second soldier with him.

But Uribe refused the FARC's demand that Sen. Piedad Cordoba, a close ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, be present for any hostage handover. She has attended five previous unilateral releases of a total of 12 hostages since early 2008…

Uribe says he will only accept the International Red Cross and the Roman Catholic Church as intermediaries.

"We don't understand why exactly President Uribe doesn't respect the life of Pablo Emilio," 22-year-old Yuri Tatiana Moncayo, one of the captive corporal's four sisters, told The Associated Press…

“The president isn't going to facilitate any unilateral liberation because he thinks that will boost the FARC's political agenda and hurt the government," said political analyst Claudia Lopez. "It's cruel, but that's the way it is."
Thus, hundreds of hostages continue to be deprived of liberty as they continue to be used as pawns in a sick game between intransigent sides.

Image- Cambio (Gustavo Moncayo- the father of hostage Emilio Moncayo has campaigned vigorously for the freeing of Colombian hostages including walking thousand of miles wearing symbolic steel chains).
Online Sources- AP, Foreign Policy, Monsters & Critics, The Latin Americanist, Semana, El Tiempo

Honduran military official admits to wrongdoing

A top Honduran military lawyer admitted that the forceful removal of President Manuel Zelaya was illegal.

In an interview conducted to the websites of the Miami Herald and Salvadoran daily El Faro, Col. Herberth Bayardo Inestroza said that the military broke the law during last Sunday’s coup. “We know there was a crime there,” said the coronel who served as the head legal counsel to the Honduran military and added that the correct legal action would’ve been to make him stand trial for abuse of power.

Nonetheless, Inestroza admitted that the country had become a powder keg reasy to explode due to Zelaya. Furthermore, exiling Zelaya to Costa Rica was necessary in order to avoid nationwide violence according to the coronel:
So when the powers of state united in demanding his ouster, the military put a pajama-clad Zelaya on a plane and sent him to Costa Rica. The rationale: Had Zelaya been jailed, throngs of loyal followers would have erupted into chaos and demanded his release with violence.

''What was more beneficial, remove this gentleman from Honduras or present him to prosecutors and have a mob assault and burn and destroy and for us to have to shoot?'' he said. ``If we had left him here, right now we would be burying a pile of people.''
Honduran appointed president Roberto Micheletti has tried to buy time in the midst of massive international pressure. He backed down from his hard-line of holding presidential elections in November and floated the idea of permitting early elections. Nevertheless, the Organization of American States may boot Honduras out of the bloc as early as Saturday while protests grow against the interim government and the figure demonstrators teasingly call "Pinocheletti". (A reference to the late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet who came into power in a 1973 coup.)

Image- Straits Times
Online Sources- Miami Herald, BBC News, the Australian, Los Angeles Times, the Latin Americanist

Daily Headlines: July 3, 2009

* U.S.: A study by the University of North Carolina concluded that “the more bicultural a young immigrant is, the greater his chances of avoiding…risk factors” like dropping out of school or drug use.

* Latin America: Stocks throughout the region tumbled on Thursday after news that unemployment in the U.S. hit its highest point since 1983.

* Uruguay: Local Bishop Francisco Domingo Barbosa Da Silveira resigned from his ministry after admitting to having sex with gay men.

* Brazil: Brazil’s Confederations Cup title helped the team leapfrog Spain to the top of FIFA's rankings.

Image- St. Petersburg Times (2005 image of two children learning traditional Hispanic dances at a Florida bicultural school).
Online Sources- LAHT, Catholic Culture,, The Latin Americanist, CNN

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Ecuador puts “Simpsons” under scrutiny

Some stories speak for themselves:
Hit US cartoon series "The Simpsons" will no longer be shown during prime-time in Ecuador while the government ponders its impact on children, a broadcaster said on Thursday…

A government-backed regulator will assess the program's impact on "boys, girls and teenagers," and wants to restrict its broadcast "to assure the protection" of younger audiences.

"It is not going to go off the air, but we had to change its slot to 5:30 am," Pablo Ortiz, Teleamazonas' lawyer told AFP.
This is not the first time “The Simpsons” has come under fire in the Americas. In June 2008, the program was briefly yanked from the air in Venezuela after it was deemed as “unfit” for children. Executive producer James L. Brooks apologized seven years ago after Brazilian tourist officials threatened to sue. As we mentioned last year, some Argentines were peeved at a gag that poked fun at former president Juan Peron and the “Dirty War.”

Online Sources- AFP, Global Voices Online, Wikipedia, The Latin Americanist, YouTube

Mexican “norteño” singer nabbed in drug bust

A Mexican singer known by the nickname of “El Halcón de la Sierra” (“The Hawk of the Mountain Range”) was arrested for alleged ties to a local drug capo.

Fabián Ortega Piñón was nabbed in Baja California along with an accomplice of drug gang leader Teodoro García Simental as part of a sting operation on Tuesday. Police along with other law enforcement agents uncovered one kilo of drugs, several arms, and $20,000 in cash.

Ortega Piñón is a prolific musician with over forty albums to his name and is said to be very popular along the border area of the U.S. and Mexico. The 27-year-old specializes in the norteña and ranchera genres and had sung several narcocorridos, ballads that are based on the drug trade. Ortega Piñón had performed with Valentín Elizalde, a fellow singer who was killed after a 2008 concert supposedly on orders by drug gangs. Ortega Piñón’s next gig was supposed to be an Independence Day concert in California.

Below is one of Ortega Piñón’s songs, a tender ballad entitled “La Primavera” (“The Spring”):

Online Sources- Milenio, El Universal, SDP Noticias, BBC News, YouTube, Wikipedia

Cuban pitching prospect defects

One of Cuba’s leading young pitchers has reportedly defected while visiting in the Netherlands.

Twenty-one-year-old Aroldis Chapman left the Cuban national team from a tournament set to begin today in Rotterdam. "I walked out easily, right through the hotel door, and I hopped into a car and left," Chapman said to The southpaw is currently in hiding but is expected to fly to Miami and soon sign with a Major League club.

Chapman went 0-1 with a 5.68 ERA in two games for Cuba during this year’s World Baseball Classic (WBC) but his massive potential will surely catch the attention of top Major League sides:
Chapman would be the most heralded defector since Jose Contreras, who left the national team in 2002 during a tournament in Mexico.

By several estimates, Chapman could garner a contract worth anywhere from $30 million to $60 million. Contreras, now with the Chicago White Sox, received a four-year, $32 million contract from the New York Yankees in 2003, which at the time was the biggest ever given to a Cuban defector.

"Without a doubt [he is the best player to defect since Contreras]," agent Jaime Torres said Thursday.
Last December two of Chapman’s WBC teammates- Yadel Marti and Yasser Gomez- defected from Cuba.

Online Sources- Havana Times, Riptide2.0, ESPN,, The Latin Americanist

Honduras’ Micheletti to world: Hell no, I won’t go

Honduras’ appointed president remains defiant despite mounting international pressure for him to leave his post.

On Tuesday, the Organization of American States (OAS) gave the interim government held by Roberto Micheletti a deadline of this Saturday to reinstall deposed president Manuel Zelaya or face expulsion from the bloc. In addition, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution condemning the coup that forced Zelaya out of power while E.U. ambassadors left Honduras today. Leaders from all over the region representing differing ideologies are all united in their opposition to Zelaya having been forced from power.

Faced with the risk of isolating Honduras economically and politically, Micheletti declared that “we can't negotiate anything” with the OAS. He continues to claim that Zelaya was removed legally and that he risks arrest should he return to Honduras.

Thousands of demonstrators for and against the interim government have taken to the streets of Honduras’ major cities in competing sets of rallies despite a nationwide curfew declared by Micheletti. The following video from Spanish TV shows the tensions simmering in Honduras:

Online Sources- BBC News, Bloomberg, Christian Science Monitor, CBC, Xinhua, Al Jazeera English

Martinelli sworn-in amidst regional crises

The swearing-in ceremony of billionaire Ricardo Martinelli as Panama's new president yesterday was below-the-fold news in a Central American isthmus besieged by turmoil and crises (the major news, in fact, was that ousted Honduran president, Manuel Zelaya, had the cojones to attend the inauguration as president of Honduras).

The SICA leaders who held 3 emergency sessions just a few short months ago to address the financial crises could not have imagined a worse scenario outside of the economic sphere then the period they have lived through since. From Guatemala's presidential murder mystery and Honduras' military coup, to Nicaragua's loss of international aid and yesterday's surprising suicide of the capital city's mayor, Central America may be undergoing one of its most difficult and trying moments since its peace accords some twenty years ago. All this as the region suffers through yet another brutal hurricane season, leaving the poorest of the poor to suffer the most.

Unfortunately, crises tend to breed other crises. The streets of every Central American capital are daily filled with one protest or another, and at least several accounts report injuries, and seven some deaths by the hands of both rioters and riot police.

As Martinelli sets up shop today in Panama, lets hope he continues to stay below the fold, and that cooler heads prevail in the coming months to fight the longer-term challenges in his neighborhood.

Daily Headlines: July 2, 2009

* Puerto Rico: The bullet-ridden house where Puerto Rican nationalist leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios was killed in 2005 may become a museum in his name.

* Mexico: Remittances to Mexico plummeted by a whopping 19.9% in May as the country falls deeper into a recession.

* Brazil: Investigators believe that Air France Flight 447 broke up in mid-air before crashing off the Brazilian coast.

* Bolivia: Bolivian president Evo Morales lashed out against the Obama administration’s decision to cut APTA trade benefits and accused him of breaking his promises made during the Summit of the Americas.

Image- New York Times (“A mural of Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, who became an independence icon after being killed in a gun battle with F.B.I. agents.”)
Online Sources- Guardian UK, BBC News, BusinessWeek, The Latin Americanist, New York Times

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Nicaraguan boxing great Arguello dead

One of the greatest Latin American boxers of all time died on Wednesday of an apparent suicide.

Legendary Nicaraguan pugilist Alexis Arguello died from a gunshot wound to the chest. The 57-year-old had problems with depression, alcohol and drug use including almost killing himself in front of his young son in 1984.

During the 1980s, Arguello allied himself with the anti-Sandinista Contras after the revolutionary government seized his assets and homes in Nicaragua. In recent years, however, he had a change in heart and was elected as Managua mayor last November while running on the Sandinista party ticket. (The current Sandinista government declared three days of national mourning in Arguello’s honor).

Nicknamed “El Flaco Explosivo” ("The Explosive Thin Man"), Arguello was one of the few pugilists to be a champion in three weight divisions (featherweight, super featherweight and lightweight.). His career spanned over 25 years where he amassed an extraordinary 82-8 record with 65 knockouts. Yet Arguello’s most famous bout was one he lost: his unforgettable fight against Aaron Pryor in 1982.
Nearly three decades ago, a ferocious puncher and a brilliant ring tactician waged one of boxing's epic brawls under the twinkling lights of the Orange Bowl in Miami, a fight so big that few remember Roberto Duran was on the undercard.

After 14 back-and-forth rounds, Aaron Pryor brutally knocked out Alexis Arguello to retain his junior welterweight title. The fight on Nov. 12, 1982, left an indelible impression on the 23,000-plus who crowded near the ring in the aging football stadium in Little Havana.

"That was something I will never, ever forget as long as I live," said 77-year-old Bob Arum, who promoted the bout. "That was one of the most memorable fights I ever did”…

"It was a great fight we had," Pryor told The Associated Press, not long after learning of Arguello's death. "This was a great champion."
Image- Guardian UK
Online Sources- AP, BBC Sport, AFP, Deadspin, Guardian UK

Is Chavez isolating himself due to the Zelaya coup?

According to a New York Times article published yesterday the answer is an emphatic “yes.”

In the piece written by Simon Romero, leaders throughout the Americas are leaning towards the “multilateral”, diplomatic approach taken by U.S. president Barack Obama rather than that taken by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. Some political commentators have illogically tried to frame Obama and Chavez as Siamese twins since they (along with dozens of other leaders representing differing ideologies) condemned the coup which knocked Honduras’ Manuel Zelaya out of power. Yet as the director of the Americas program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies said, “with Honduras, the Obama administration has taken the mainstream road that is more in sync with other countries in the region”.

Romero warned that Chavez’” antiestablishment rhetoric” still resonates with some around the region and Obama could be in trouble if Chavez’ allegations of CIA involvement in the coup are true. For the time being, however, Chavez may be putting himself in a corner with fewer allies much like one of his most disliked rivals:
(…) Mr. Obama’s nonconfrontational diplomacy seems to have caught Mr. Chávez off balance. “Chávez is beginning to understand that he’s dealing with someone with a very different approach than his predecessor,” said Michael Shifter, vice president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington policy research group…

Meanwhile, Mr. Chávez’s threats of belligerence in Central America led one opposition party here, Acción Democrática, to issue a statement on Monday that was full of irony: “Hugo Chávez has become the George Bush of Latin America.” - [emphasis added]
What do you think?

(Hat tip: Think Progress.)

Image- Voice of America
Online Sources- New York Times, Gawker, Think Progress

Trade benefits cut to Bolivia, extended to Ecuador

Ecuador and Bolivia will face different outcomes regarding vital trade benefits from the U.S.

The U.S. Trade Representative's Office (USTR) announced yesterday that it will continue to sever tariff exemptions for Bolivia under the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA). According to the USTR the Bolivian government has engaged in an “"explicit acceptance and encouragement of coca production” and has hurt counternarcotics efforts by booting out DEA agents last year.

The White House’s move continues the decision by the Bush administration in late 2008 to remove Bolivia from APTA benefits. Thus, Bolivian president and ex-coca-growers' union leader Evo Morales was reluctant to blame the current U.S. regime:
"Let's hope that it isn't long before the president of the United States immediately repairs the damage done by former President (George W.) Bush, and not only the economic but the political damage," he said during a speech in La Paz on Tuesday night.
On the other hand, the White house decided to extend APTA benefits to Ecuador. The decision was seen unfavorably by several business interests including Chevron who’s facing a multibillion dollar environmental damage lawsuit in Ecuador.

Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia will all receive APTA help until the end of the year though the benefits are expected to be renewed.

Image- (“A Bolivian woman chews coca leaves and places some on her face during a protest against the U.N. coca report, in La Paz March 10, 2008.”)
Online Sources- Guardian UK, Reuters, MarketWatch, ABC News

Today's Video: "Chicano Militant Minute"

I hate to sound like a whiner, but one of the main reasons why posting has been a little off this past week is since yours truly has been bitten by the flu bug. While I was resting on top of a mountain of tissue boxes yesterday I watched "Ice Age" for the first time and noticed that John Leguizamo was one of the character voices. (Yes, I'm slightly behind with the times).

Back in the mid-90s, Leguizamo starred in a Latino-oriented sketch show called "House of Buggin'". The ensemble included the likes of David Herman and Luis Guzman, and poked fun at "West Side Story" and anti-immigrant measures. (One sketch on a horny priest predated the Padre Alberto controversy by about fifteen years).

Sadly, the show (which I watched religiously) lasted less than a season but the innovative show left plenty of great memories. Take the "Chicano Militant Minute", a recurring sketch on the reexamining of history:

ONline Sources- YouTube, Wikipedia

Daily Headlines: July 1, 2009

* Venezuela: According to the U.S. Department of Energy oil shipments from Venezuela fell in April to what’s estimated as the lowest level since 1991.

* Haiti: The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund will forgive approximately $1.2 billion in debts from Haiti.

* Argentina: The White House announced yesterday that it will cut certain trade benefits to six countries including Argentina.

* Peru: Over 100 people were arrested due to violence during a transportation strike.

Image- Los Angeles Times
Online Sources- PRESS TV, Xinhua, Reuters, LAHT

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Argentine elections stun Kirchners

Mel Zelaya wasn’t the only Latin American leader to have a lousy weekend.

Sunday’s congressional elections served as a stunning setback for President Cristina Kirchner and her ex-presidential husband. Infighting within the Peronist Party led them to lose its majority in both legislative chambers as well as local seats in Buenos Aires and even the Kirchners' home province of Santa Cruz. After losing his own bid for a seat in Congress, Nestor Kirchner quit as leader of the Justicialists while the president tried to save face by emphasizing “consensus and agreements in order to govern.”

For a greater insight into Sunday’s elections and the future of Argentina, Rice University professor of political science Mark Jones was gracious enough to grant us an interview.

The Latin Americanist: Surely the biggest losers of Sunday's local elections in Argentina are the Kirchners. But which political figures could be labeled as the "big winners.?

Mark Jones:
There were three big winners on Sunday.

Most prominently, the alliance of parties backed by Vice President Julio Cobos in his home province of Mendoza won a resounding victory over the Kirchner aligned governor's (Celso Jaque) list. In the top of the ticket Senate race, Cobos' Federal Civic Front won 50% of the vote to Jaque's Front for Victory's 25%. This victory positions Cobos as the front-runner for the 2011 presidential election from within the non-Peronist opposition.

Another big winner on Sunday was Senator Carlos Reutemann. Reutemann, a moderately anti-Kirchner Peronist, kept his presidential aspirations alive by narrowly defeating Socialist Rubén Giustiniani (the shadow candidate of Santa Fe Governor Hermes Binner) in the Santa Fe Senate elections, 42% to 41%. Reutemann's performance was weakened by the presence of a Kirchner-aligned Peronist in the race, who siphoned off 8% of the Peronist vote (much of which would have otherwise gone to Reutemann).

Dissident Peronist Francisco De Narváez should also be considered a big winner, defeating former President Néstor Kirchner in the Province of Buenos Aires Chamber of Deputies election 35% to 32% (De Narváez and Kirchner headed the Union PRO and Justicialista Front for Victory lists respectively). Through this victory De Narváez has positioned himself well for a run at the office of Governor in the Province of Buenos Aires in 2011. However the road to La Plata (capital of the Province of Buenos Aires) will not be free of obstacles for De Narváez, with Cabinet Chief Sergio Massa representing a formidable rival for the governorship in 2011.

Lastly, while not reaching the same level of salience as the three above-mentioned victories, on Sunday several governors ratified their dominance within their respective province. For instance, the Peronist Governor of Chubut, Mario Das Neves (a dark horse candidate for the presidency in 2011) can be considered a winner due to the manner in which he demonstrated his absolute control of his province. Das Neves' Front for Integration list won 56% of the vote, more than three times that won by the runner-up Radical Civic Union (18%). A similar level of dominance was demonstrated by other governors, including Peronists José Alperovich (Tucumán), José Luis Gioja (San Juan), Alberto Rodríguez Saá (San Luis), and pro-Kirchner Radical Gerardo Zamora (Santiago del Estero).

TLA: Did President Cristina Fernandez miscalcuate by moving the elections up from October?

MJ: President Fernández did not miscalculate, simply because she does not make the important political decisions. Her husband, former President Néstor Kirchner, and the real powerbroker and decisionmaker, definitely miscalculated, but principally in terms of campaign strategy, by turning the election in the Province of Buenos Aires (in particular) as well as those (to a lesser extent) in the interior provinces into a referendum on him and the Kirchner Government. The electoral results demonstrated substantially more antipathy towards the Kirchners within the electorate than had been estimated by the public opinion polls. As a result of Kirchner's referendum approach to the election, the disparate opposition (principally the pan-Radical opposition alliance and the alliance of dissident Peronists with Capital Federal "Governor" Mauricio Macri) did not need to develop a credible or effective campaign message based on policy proposals, but rather (with some important provincial exceptions) could campaign simply based on their representing a vote "against" the Kirchners. As things turned out, from Kirchner's home province of Santa Cruz (where the Kirchner list was defeated, 43% to 41%) in the South to the Province of Buenos Aires on the Eastern coast, to Mendoza in the Andes, a majority of Argentine citizens chose to cast a vote against the Kirchners, handing them an embarrassing defeat with nearly two and a half years remaining in the presidency of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

In regard to the decision to move the elections to October, that probably was not a miscalculation, since waiting until October would have resulted in a further erosion of support (due principally to the deepening economic crisis in Argentina) as well as would have allowed the opposition to better organize itself to compete in the elections.

TLA: Ex-president Kirchner has already quit as head of the Peronistas but what should the current president's next political move be?

The Peronist Party (Partido Justicialista) formal party structure is an empty shell that is only as important as the person running the show. For the time being Néstor Kirchner will still be the de facto leader of the Peronist movement, albeit in a position where he has to increasingly negotiate with the major powerbrokers within Peronism (principally the Peronist governors).

TLA: Is the Peronist Party dead or will it be able to soon regroup?

Peronism is a very resilient movement. It will soon regroup, most likely under the leadership of the most viable Peronist presidential candidate for the 2011 election (e.g., Carlos Reutemann). However, between now and the 2011 election will be a period of transition and tension, since while many Peronists will gravitate towards Reutemann (or another leader if that person becomes the front-runner), the fact remains that for the next two and a half years (i.e., until December 10, 2011), Néstor Kirchner will continue to control the purse strings, and therefore the governors will need to work with him in order to keep their provinces running. What we are likely to see though is a change in the relationship between Kirchner in the governors, moving from the current authoritarian top-down relationship of patron and client, to one of something approaching (though not actually reaching) that of a relationship among equals.
Barring a major surprise over the next two years, it is very likely that the next Argentine President will be Peronist, with today Carlos Reutemann representing the front-runner in the race. It is though still far too early to rule out other potential Peronist candidates such as Chubut Governor Mario Das Neves, Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli (though weakened by his strong association with the Kirchners), and quasi-Peronist Mauricio Macri ("Governor" of the City of Buenos Aires).

Image- AP (“Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez gestures during a press conference at the government house in Buenos Aires, Monday, June 29, 2009. Fernandez and her predecessor and husband Nestor Kirchner suffered a stunning setback in Sunday congressional elections, seen as a referendum on their political dynasty, losing control of both houses of Congress. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)”)
Online Sources- AFP, BBC News, CNN

Settlement to help border residents

A settlement reached by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the U.S. State Department will help some residents along the U.S.-Mexico border to legally obtain a passport.

Hundreds of passport applicants had their petitions denied by immigration officials because they suspected Texas midwives may have fraudulently registered Mexican births in the U.S. At one point over 250 midwives were blacklisted by the government but no clear explanation was given as to why. With changes in re-entering the country taking place at the beginning of the month, hundreds of border residents risked being unable to legally cross the border.

Pending court approval, the settlement creates several key changes in the application process:
Those changes include retraining employees who process applications and setting up an automatic review process for denials by a three-member panel.

The settlement also requires that the government review its list of midwives suspected of birth certificate fraud to ensure there is a “reasonable belief” that they were involved in wrongdoing.

“The settlement really ensures now that the State Department will fairly issue passports to Mexican-Americans and will hopefully get rid of the problems that hundreds of people were encountering when trying to get passports,” said Vanita Gupta, staff attorney with the ACLU Racial Justice Program. “It just has a real-life impact on people living on the border.” (“The pedestrian line for people entering the U.S. from Mexico at the Gateway International Bridge in Brownsville, Texas…”)
Online Sources- AP,

Obama to Uribe: Don’t go for third term

Colombian president Alvaro Uribe visited the White House yesterday where he and Barack Obama discussed several vital topics. Obama admitted that he was confident that a free trade pact between both countries would be passed though some concerns related to human rights abuses will need to be addressed.

Though Uribe has not committed to running for a third straight term, his administration is pushing his allies hard to change the constitution again and allow him to run next year. Though Obama said that it’s up to the countries themselves to decide which way to go, he implied that Uribe should step down once his term is done:
We know that our experience in the United States is that two terms works for us and that after eight years usually the American people want a change.

You know, I related to President Uribe the fact that our most revered president, or at least one of our two most revered presidents, George Washington, part of what made him so great was not just being the founder of our country, but also the fact that at a time when he could have stayed president for life, he made a decision that after service he was able to step aside and return to civilian life. And that set a precedent then for the future.
Two weeks ago the Colombian legislature delayed voting on the bill. With eleven months to go until Election Day, Uribe will have to make up his mind ASAP.

Image- Al Jazeera English
Online Sources- Al Jazeera English, Washington Post, Reuters, Xinhua

Daily Headlines: June 30, 2009

* Venezuela: Thousands of protesters participated in separate rallies on Saturday for and against President Hugo Chavez in his latest tiff with the local media.

* Ecuador: Four Democratic Senators wrote a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk claiming that Chevron is campaigning to cut trade benefits to Ecuador while the company is still on trial for supposedly polluting the Amazon.

* Cuba: Continental Airlines will start direct flights today to Cuba two months after President Obama said that he would ease travel restrictions to the island.

* Argentina: The country may halt wheat exports on the global market for the first time in about a century due to severe droughts.

Online Sources- Reuters,, LAHT, Bloomberg

Monday, June 29, 2009

Notable Quotable: An uneasy calm

"There is no reason to be alarmed…the peril is not over -- it's latent."
---Honduran President Manuel Zelaya gave the above remarks to CNN en Español less than 48 hours before the coup that deposed him.

Image- Voice of America (Manuel Zelaya spoke with reporters in Costa Rica hours after he was deposed in a coup on Sunday.)
Online Sources- CNN

Elvira Arellano runs for Mexican Congress

Remember Elvira Arellano? She was an illegal immigrant who took sanctuary in a Chicago church with her son for a year though she was eventually arrested and deported in 2007. In the near two years that she has been split from her son, she has become an activist seeking fairer immigration laws in the U.S. such as participating in a protest during Barack Obama’s trip to Mexico this year.

Arellano’s latest move is her attempt to run for a seat on Mexico’s Congress. She has allied herself with the leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD, in Spanish) in her bid to represent a district in Tijuana. Yet her campaign has been described as being a “long shot” with her main rival being the brother of the governor of Baja California.

Her opponents claim that she is an outsider though her platform centered on immigration is surely a concern for an electorate living so close to the U.S.
The Tijuana newspaper El Mexicano critiqued a recent debate performance by noting that Arellano spoke with the accent of a pocho, pejorative slang for a Mexican who lives in the U.S.

Arellano, who was raised and lives in the southwestern state of Michoacan, justifies her candidacy by noting that she started a shelter for migrants in Tijuana in 2007 and that many people living in that city are either migrating to the U.S. or have been recently deported.

"It's true that I didn't really know Tijuana," Arellano said in a telephone interview. "What I do know is the needs of families. I know the reasons we have to immigrate to the United States. I lived the same things that thousands of people here in Tijuana have lived."
The election is set to take place this Sunday.

Online Sources- Guardian UK, Chicago Tribune, UPI, Vodpod,

Honduran exiles mixed towards Zelaya coup

Miguel mentioned earlier today how most of the Hondurans he’s talked to have been supportive of Sunday’s coup which ousted President Manuel Zelaya. Reactions amongst Hondurans living in the U.S. have been more mixed, however.

According to the Miami Herald, Hondurans in the south Florida area believed that the coup was a necessary step to stop Zelaya. ''The military is supposed to protect the country and that's what they did today,” said on expat who claimed that Honduras “does not want to be communist.” The fear that Zelaya may’ve gotten a little too close to “communist” Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was the main worry felt by Hondurans in Miami including some who claimed that the coup was entirely “democratic”.

As the Boston Globe noted, on the other hand, Hondurans in Massachusetts were unhappy that the coup took place with some claiming that it was reminiscent of the military junta which seized power in 1963. Not everyone backs Zelaya, according to the article, but the community has repudiated the use of a coup to knock him out of power:
“People are afraid,’’ said Patricia Montes, a native of Honduras and naturalized US citizen who is the executive director of Centro Presente, a nonprofit group in Somerville that aids immigrants. “It brings back the dark days of Central America’’…

“We’re poor, but we’re a free country,’’ said German Ponce Ramos, a manager at Catrachos restaurant in Chelsea; the restaurant’s name is a nickname for Hondurans in Central America. “To me, they should bring the president back and try to clear things up.’’
Reports have emerged of protesters and police clashing today in the capital city of Tegucigalpa as international condemnation of the coup continues.

Image- AP (“A demonstrator, with a Honduran flag on his shoulders, stands next to a bonfire near to the presidential house in Tegucigalpa, Monday, June 29, 2009. Honduras' new leaders defied growing global pressure on Monday to reverse a military coup, arguing that they had followed their constitution in removing President Manuel Zelaya. (AP Photo/Fernando Antonio)”)
Online Sources- Miami Herald,, CNN, Bloomberg, The Latin Americanist

Today’s Video: Brazil’s brilliant comeback

Lest you all confuse me for a sore loser I will be fair and include highlights of Brazil’s comeback victory over the U.S. in Sunday’s Confederation Cup final.

Despite being down 2-0 at the half, the Brazilians bounced back in admirable fashion with a pair of goals from Luis Fabiano and the game-winner five minutes from time by Lucio. "This group of players is committed," said Brazil coach Dunga after his team showed why they are one of the world’s elite futebol squads.

Kudos to Brazil for winning their second straight Confederations Cup by winning every singe match in the tourney. Commiserations to los gringos for an extraordinary effort and for coming achingly close to a historic upset.

Online Sources- YouTube, USA TODAY

Next steps for Honduras

Those that were busy watching soccer matches and grilling yesterday are today ruefully aware that a new president has been appointed in Honduras, and the democratically elected president sits in exile in Costa Rica.

While the weekend's events seemed surprising to some, many in Honduras believed this move was imminent and necessary for weeks. Speaking to friends in Tegucigalpa yesterday, they told me that most people -- left and right - are relieved to have Zelaya out of power, even if the move is ultimately a temporary one.

They are also saddened and surprised to see such unison in the international press and community in their round rejection of the measure by which Zelaya was removed from office. Aside from the fractious political situation that Zelaya had been creating for months, reasonable people in Honduras agree that the president had to be stopped before he took his illegal referendum to the streets. For them, a military injunction supported by both the courts and congress were the only measure available after he reportedly led a mob of civilians and political supporters to the military base where the ballot boxes were being stored.

Paradoxically, in the midst of international pressure to return Zelaya, Honduras is reportedly undergoing minimal (though strident) protests from Zelaya supporters - the few hardliners that remain as such. Nevertheless, it seems unlikely that things will stand as is.
Boz has put together some potential scenarios for what might happen next, though a a peaceful, democratic continuation under interim-president Roberto Micheletti, who has vowed to hold office until the post-election constitutional transition of power January 2010, seems less than "likely" to me. International pressure will likely continue to mount and Honduras' congress, judiciary and military will have to work together to come to an internal understanding about how to handle this pressure, under varying scenarios. These scenarios include an international military response, which itself could have various permutations, since a Venezuelan military response would be much different (and unproductive for Hondurans) than a UN-backed multilateral military response. The dramatic scenarios that could result are hard to imagine in heretofore peaceful and sleepy Honduras, whose regional point of pride has long been that it is the only Central America country to have avoided civil war in the latter part of the 20th century.

The Economist has laid the next steps most succinctly: "For the region’s diplomats, the task now is to restore Mr Zelaya to power but oblige him to respect the constitution until November’s election allows a new president to take office in January."

Daily Headlines: June 29, 2009

* Guatemala: Could a Guatemalan man who complained via Twitter about corruption in his country be sentenced to five years in jail?

* Argentina: A local court ruled that seventy army officers can be put on trial for allegedly torturing their fellow troops during the 1982 Falklands War.

* Ecuador: The Ecuadorian government has asked for international help for the 135,000 Colombian refugees in that country.

* Brazil: The Brazilian military has called off its search operations for the bodies of those on the crashed Air France flight 447.

Image- AP (“Guatemalan Twitter user Jean Anleu poses for a picture in Guatemala City, Wednesday, June 24, 2009. Anleu was so fed up with corruption in his country that he decided to vent on the Internet, sending a 96-character message on the social networking site Twitter. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)”)
Online Sources- Washington Post, CNN, LAHT, BBC News

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Honduran president deposed in coup (Updated)

Update (11.00pm):
In his acceptance speech, faux-president Roberto Micheletti remained defiant over the coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya:
THE newly-appointed leader of Honduras, Roberto Micheletti, denies there has been a coup d'etat, saying President Manuel Zelaya was ousted in a legal process.

"What we have done here is an act of democracy, because our army has complied with the order of the court, prosecutors and judges," Mr Micheletti said, winning loud applause from MPs.

"Our national army ... complied with the constitution".
Micheletti would later order a curfew to be established from 9pm to 6am on Sunday and Monday. He also said that he would attempt to serve the rest of Zelaya's term (until January 2010) and that presidential elections will take place in November.

Widespread international condemnation of the coup continued on Sunday from the United Nations and the Organization of American States. The lone foreign voice backing the coup is this op/ed piece in the Wall Street Journal that tries to use Zelaya's miscues (of which there were several) to justify the grossly undemocratic and inexcusable coup.

Update (5.30pm):

A statement by the Honduran Congress claimed that Manuel Zelaya was not arrested by the military but rather he tended his resignation this morning. The communique would go on to say that the legislature named congressional President Roberto Micheletti as the temporary head of state.

For his part, Zelaya claimed that he was "kidnapped", denited that he resigned, and he urged the global community to condemn today's coup d'etat.

With varying degrees of anger, the international community has repudiated today's actions in Honduras. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on "all parties in resolve political disputes peacefully and through dialogue" while the European Union said that today's coup is an "unacceptable violation of constitutional order in Honduras." Argentine president Cristina Kirchner lamented that the coup marked "a return to barbarity" while Venezuela's Hugo Chavez warned that he "put the armed forces of Venezuela on alert" in case of Venezuelan interests become compromised.

A nonbinding referendum scheduled to occur today on having a possible constitutional assembly was reportedly cancelled by the Honduran Supreme Court.

Original Post:
Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was removed from his post by the country’s military this morning:

Details are still sketchy, but what has been reported that Zelaya was taken by troops from the presidential residence and forced into exile in Costa Rica. There have been some disturbances in the country, the government-backed media was suspended, and police fired teargas at about 500 supporters. The local press said that Zelaya will be temporarily replaced by the head of Congress and it’s been alleged that ambassadors of states like Venezuela and Cuba have been “harassed” by troops.

The coup against Zelaya has earned widespread criticism throughout the region; Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warned that his army was on high alert and wouldn’t accept Zelaya being replaced by force. U.S. President Barack Obama urged in a statement that “existing tensions and disputes must be resolved peacefully through dialogue free from any outside interference.”

In a press conference airing at this time, Zelaya claimed that he was “kidnapped” by a rogue group of “ambitious troops”. He said that he will not seek asylum in Costa Rica and asserted that presidential elections will be held in November. Zelaya claimed that several dignitaries have spoken out against today’s coup such as the European Union and the U.S. State department via the U.S. ambassador to Honduras. Zelaya warned that those who deposed him “will not get away with it.”

Zelaya had called for a nonbinding constitutional referendum to take place today despite being told by the Honduran Supreme court that it was unconstitutional. The tipping point may’ve occurred on Thursday when Zelaya tried to depose the armed forces head for supposed disloyalty.

Online Sources- Reuters, Bloomberg, Al Jazeera English, BBC News, YouTube