Saturday, July 11, 2009

Weekend Headlines: July 11-12, 2009

* Brazil: Brazilian officials blasted the Group of Eight (G8) compromise to combat climate change by moderately lowering global emissions rates.

* Panama: A European consortium led by a Spanish construction firm won the multibillion dollar bid to expand the Panama Canal.

* U.S.: Texan authorities arrested two men charged with holding 25 immigrants from El Salvador and Honduras hostage as part of a smuggling operation.

* Chile: The Chilean peso fell to its lowest point in three weeks as the country’s economy tries to weather the international financial storm.

* Guatemala: An appeals court dropped conspiracy charges against a man who was accused of using Twitter to create a run on a local bank.

* Haiti: Is the United Nations covering up the violence during the recent funeral of activist and priest Father Gerard Jean-Juste?

Image- AP (“A view of a round table session, at the G8 summit, in L'Aquila, Italy, Friday, July 10, 2009. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, Pool)”)
Online Sources- UPI, Xinhua, BBC News, Bloomberg, Guardian UK, Upside Down World

Friday, July 10, 2009

Today’s Video: Livin' on the edge

We’ll be back with a few bits and pieces over the weekend. (Why? Because we love you guys!)

In the meantime, take a look at the following video and ponder the age-old question “What is art?”

Online Sources- YouTube

Looking out for dangerous dengue fever

Several Latin American countries continue to be on alert over the swine flu such as Argentina and Peru. Yet that shouldn’t take away from the need to combat an even deadlier disease affecting the region: dengue fever.

Brazilian health officials reported yesterday that the number of dengue fever cases this year fell by 50% compared to last year and the number of deaths dropped by 70%. Yet 131 Brazilians died from the dengue compared to one confirmed fatality due to the H1N1 virus.

According to a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, climate change could lead to dengue fever spreading throughout the U.S. as more disease-carrying mosquitoes adapt to colder climates. Urbanization, climate change, and expanding global commerce are factors leading to the boost in dengue fever including more cases in Mexico and a possible threat to Puerto Rico.

Researchers are looking into a possible solution though it will likely be a controversial one: genetically modified mosquitoes.
A new strategy involves a subtle reconfiguring of the bug's DNA. Scientists working in labs near Oxford have devised a genetic modification that sterilizes the male Aedes, transforming the critter into his own worst enemy. He can still mate—but he can't breed. Any offspring dies before becoming fully developed. The idea is to release a huge, all-conquering swarm of the doctored insects into the wild, let them find partners among the native females and wait for the mosquito population to decline. Preliminary trials, looking at both safety and effectiveness, have already taken place in Malaysia. Within a few years, the Franken-insects could be airborne.
Image- BBC
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Newsweek, Miami Herald, NASDAQ, Reuters, Bernama

Dole goes “Bananas!” over documentary

Last month we mentioned how execs for Dole Food where peeved at a documentary called “Bananas!” The film portrayed Los Angeles-based lawyer Juan Dominguez who represented Nicaraguan plantation workers allegedly sterilized by chemicals used at the job. (A California judge has tried to dismiss the case after concluding that Dominguez lied and coerced plaintiffs to sign false affidavits). Dole’s attorneys even threatened to sue of a Los Angeles film festival for screening the documentary.

Not content with plans by the creator behind “Bananas!” to sell the film and work a distribution deal, Dole lawyers have flexed their legal muscle to try and stop him:
The Dole Food Co. has sued a Swedish filmmaker (Fredrik Gertten) and his company for defamation over a documentary that the food company says contains "patent falsehoods."

The conglomerate says the film's story about Nicaraguan workers who take Dole to court claiming they were made sterile through the company's pesticide use is inaccurate.

"To screen, promote, and profit from this film, despite the fact that its entire premise has been adjudicated a fraud ... is the epitome of reckless and irresponsible conduct," Dole lawyer Theodore Boutrous Jr., wrote in the suit.

"It cannot possibly be justified or defended. It must stop."
In response to Dole’s actions, Gertten’s lawyer said that Dole’s lawsuit is “without merit” and represents "the latest in a continued line of intimidating harassment by a multinational corporation aimed at a small, independent film and its filmmakers." In addition, Dole’s strategy could backfire in that filing a defamation suit against Gertten could attract undue attention. (e.g. This blog post in particular; the mainstream press).

To reiterate the question we posed last month “is ‘Bananas!’ a propaganda piece or a legitimate film?” Here’s the film’s trailer so you can make your own judgment:

Online Sources- BusinessWeek, CBC, Reuters, The Latin Americanist, YouTube

Poll: Plurality back Sotomayor court bid

With the Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor set to begin on Monday, a recent poll shows general support for her bid for the top court.

According to CNN and the Opinion Research Corp., 47% of respondents support Sotomayor compared to 40% against her and 13% unsure. The most revealing part of the survey, however, is the vast partisan divide over the federal appeals court judge vying to be the first Latina on the Supreme Court. Though such a disparity between Republicans and Democrats is typical for Supreme Court nominees, it implies that several ugly accusations against her may be working:
The poll suggests a partisan divide, with nearly seven in 10 Democrats supporting Sotomayor's confirmation, Independents split, and nearly two out of three Republicans opposing Senate confirmation…

"Republican opposition to Sotomayor's confirmation is a higher level of opposition from the party out of power than any Supreme Court nominee has faced in the past two decades," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
The survey also found that most people expect plenty of fireworks to occur at next week’s hearings; several notable names appear on the list of witnesses planning to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Among those witness opposed to Sotomayor are conservative commentator and failed Department of Labor nominee Linda Chavez as well as Frank Ricci- the former Connecticut firefighter whose discrimination case was thrown out in a ruling by a panel of judges that included Sotomayor.

Prominent Latino Rep. Jose Serrano and Nydia Velázquez will testify for Sotomayor as well as New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and ex-FBI head Louis Freeh.

Online Sources-, CNN, New York Times,, AP

Drug-Related Murders in Mexico May Top Last Year's Numbers

CNN is reporting that drug-related killings in Mexico are on course to surpass last year's numbers. Approximately 3,600 people were murdered in the first half of 2009. A total of 6,200 people were killed over the course of 2008.

United States Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, who attended a hearing at the House of Representatives yesterday, stated, "We can not permit President Calderon to fail. This may be a once-in-a-generation opportunity [because of] his courage and willingness to take on the cartels."
When asked if the United States was winning the war on drugs, Breuer replied, "Yes."
However, United States assistance to Mexico could be in jeopardy if recent allegations that the Mexican army has carried out forced disappearances, torture and illegal raids in pursuit of those involved in drug trafficking are true. US officials are warning that it could withhold $100 million in anti-narcotics aid.

Online sources: CNN, Washington Post
Image: Bloomberg

Daily Headlines: July 10, 2009

* Mexico: Local human rights groups have accused Mexico’s military of torture, forced disappearances and other abuses in order to combat crime.

* Bolivia: U.S. officials extradited a former Bolivian coup leader nicknamed “the minister of cocaine” back to his native land where he awaits trial.

* Dominican Republic: Protests have grown in parts of the country after an elderly demonstrator was killed by a gas canister fired by police.

* Peru: Outgoing Prime Minister Yehude Simon may soon run for president as part of an alliance between business interests and independents.

Image- CNN
Online Sources- MSNBC, LAHT, CBS News, Reuters, The Latin Americanist

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Today’s Video: Bleeding through my ears

Have you ever heard a song that was terrible yet you inexplicably continue listening to it in your mind on an almost endless loop? Such was my problem today with the so-bad-it’s-almost-good ballad from this Brazilian one-hit wonder:

Online Sources- YouTube

Soccer diplomacy between Lula and Obama

Damn Lula, do you really have to rub it in?
President Barack Obama seemed pleased with the gift he received Thursday from Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, but it was bittersweet nonetheless.

Silva gave Obama, a big sports fan, an autographed yellow Brazilian soccer jersey at the start of their morning meeting at the G-8 summit in Italy.

During their banter, which reporters partly heard through a translator, Silva spoke animatedly of the June 28 soccer match between the U.S. and Brazilian national teams in the Confederations Cup series. The game was a crushing loss for the underdog Americans, who led at the midway point, 2-0, only to lose 3-2.

Silva repeatedly said, "Yes we can," which was Obama's campaign catchphrase and apparently what the Brazilian president had in mind while his team trailed…

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs later said Obama ended his 30-minute session with Silva by patting the Brazilian's back and vowing, "we will not lose a two-point lead again."
A quick piece of advice for Obama: give Lula a revenge gift of a U.S. soccer jersey signed by the 2008 gold medial winning squad who beat Brazil 1-0.

On a more serious note, both presidents discussed several topics from Brazil’s relations with Iran to the political mess in Honduras.

Image- AP
Online Sources- AP, the Latin Americanist, AFP, FOX News

AI: Peruvian mothers lack proper health care

A report released by human rights group Amnesty International (AI) paints a stark picture of pregnant women in Peru.

According to AI, hundreds of impoverished and indigenous Peruvian women needlessly die due to a lack of health care. For instance, most doctors speak Spanish but do not speak popular indigenous languages such as Quechua. In addition, most of the at-risk women live in remote areas that are isolated from proper medical care and that most of the deaths could’ve been prevented with adequate medical attention.

One of the study’s researches highlighted the disparate state of health care for Peruvian women:
Amnesty International's Peru Researcher Nuria Garcia said:

'The rates of maternal mortality in Peru are scandalous. The fact that so many women are dying from preventable causes is a human rights violation. The Peruvian state is simply ignoring its obligation to provide adequate maternal healthcare to all women, regardless of who they are and where they live'…

Health services for pregnant women in Peru are like a lottery: if you are poor and Indigenous, the chances are you will always lose.'
Official Peruvian figures say that 185 in every 100,000 women die in child birth, though the U.N. says the maternal mortality rate is among the worst in the Americans at 240/100,000.

The lack of reasonable social services was one of the factors in protests held in the Peruvian Amazon that became violent and cost the lives of at least thirty people.

Image- CNN (“Indigenous women queuing outside a health centre in rural Peru, where amenities are often basic.”)
Online Sources- Amnesty International UK, AP, CNN, the Latin Americanist

Trial begins over deported brain-damaged patient

The downsides to the U.S. health care system and immigration policy are being examined in the possibly illegal deportation of a patient to Central America.

Luis Alberto Jimenez suffered brain damage from a 2000 auto accident caused by a drunk driver. He became a patient at Martin Memorial Medical Center (MMMC) where he received the specialized care he required. Due to his undocumented immigrant status he was ineligible for public health care and the hospital paid most of his bills. In 2003, hospital officials arranged to have him privately deported to Guatemala. While in his native land, Jimenez has been unable to get the detailed attention he needs and he live in a remote village without medical care.

Opening arguments began this week in a lawsuit brought up by Jimenez’ relatives against MMMC execs. According to the hospital’s attorney, the costs being incurred by his stat at MMMC were too much for them to pay. In addition, Scott Michaud alleged that Jimenez became restless and depressed and yearned to return to Guatemala.

William King- the lawyer representing the plaintiffs- told a different tale:
“After treating him for three years without receiving reimbursement for the cost for his non-emergency care,” King said, “Martin Memorial Hospital in the pre-dawn hours of July 10, 2003, forcibly removed Luis Jimenez from the hospital and unlawfully deported him to Guatemala.”

His alleged forced removal, King insisted, “was carried out through an invalid and void court order procured by Martin Memorial and in the face of opposition of his guardian.”

He told the jury the move violated federal law because hospital officials “failed to have and adopt an appropriate discharge plan which would ensure Luis’ safety.”
The trial is expected to last two weeks and the jury will decide whether or not Jimenez should be paid monetary compensation for his deportation.

Image- Digital Journal
Online Sources- Miami Herald, TCPalm

Honduras’ undiplomatic diplomat

Nineteen Republican congressmen have urged in a letter addressed to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to meet with a group of diplomats representing the appointed Honduran government. (Quick aside - I agree that they should meet and discuss a possible pacific solution to the mess in Honduras even though the GOP’s letter is far too lenient in criticizing Micheletti’s ascent to power). If they do meet let’s hope that Enrique Ortez Colindres is nowhere near Washington.

Ortez Colindres was named as acting Foreign Minister shortly after the coup which deposed Manuel Zelaya on June 28th. Since then, he has goofed repeatedly via several insensitive remarks of U.S. President Barack Obama. In a recent televised interview, Ortez Colindres referred to Obama as "this negrito (little black man) who has no idea where Tegucigalpa is". In subsequent interviews he continued to refer to Obama with the condescending moniker of negrito.

After the U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Hugo Llorens “condemned” Ortez Colindres for his comments, the diplomat gave "his most profound apologies" on Tuesday. Yet Ortez Colindres uttered an even worse verbal faux pas that not only targeted Obama but others:
"He negociado con maricones, prostitutas, con ñángaras (izquierdistas), negros, blancos. Ese es mi trabajo, yo estudié eso. No tengo prejuicios raciales, me gusta el negrito del batey que está presidiendo los Estados Unidos."


"I have negotiated with queers, prostitutes, leftists, blacks, whites. This is my job, I studied for it. I am not racially prejudiced. I like the little black sugar plantation worker who is president of the United States."
Apparently sick of his idiocy, acting president Roberto Micheletti removed Ortez Colindres from his post yet transferred him to become Minister of Governing and Justice. Rather than being booted from the acting Cabinet, Ortez Colindres got a slap on the wrist and will even be part of the negations between Zelaya and Micheletti!


Image- LAHT
Online Sources- AFP, AP, The Hill, The Latin Americanist, Daily Kos, COPE, El Tiempo

Daily Headlines: July 9, 2009

* Venezuela: Antonio Ledezma- the mayor of the Venezuelan capital of Caracas- ended a six-day hunger strike yesterday.

* U.S.: The Senate agreed to add a provision to a Homeland Security bill that would make permanent the controversial “E-Verify” system of immigrant worker verification.

* Peru: Nationwide protests against the Peruvian government where relatively peaceful yesterday though police arrested at least 156 people.

* Cuba: A former Guantanamo detainee claimed that he has photos depicting torture at the prison.

Image- El Universal
Online Sources- CNN, BBC News, Guardian UK, Reuters

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Today's Video: Hope is on the way!

Thank you very much Jesus/Allah/Buddha/Flying Spaghetti Monster!
"Since the release of Mazzy Star's debut album She Hangs Brightly, Hope Sandoval has defined the sound and style of California psychedelic dream pop. The world took notice when the breakthrough single "Fade Into You" (from sophomore album So Tonight That I Might See) hit the airwaves and MTV heavy rotation.

Sandoval's trademark vocals helped to make her a modern day music icon. Now the revered singer returns along side My Bloody Valentine's Colm O'Ciosoig to deliver her long awaited sophomore album Through The Devil Softly on September 15…

An extensive North American tour is planned for Fall 09, with dates in the UK and Europe to follow.
Sorry if I sound like a fanboy but I’m tickled pink over the Mexican-American chanteuse’s upcoming projects. Take a listen at one of the singles for her upcoming album and perhaps you’ll agree with me:

Online Sources- YouTube, Brooklyn Vegan

Notable Quotable: Liar, liar…

“This man (Fernández) is a liar, he's got a nose as long as Pinocchio's.”
---Newly elected Argentine legislator Fernando ‘Pino' Solanas blasted the designation of Aníbal Fernandez as the new Cabinet chief.

Nearly two weeks after the ruling party suffered setbacks in local elections, Argentine President Cristina Kirchner made several major changes in her Cabinet. One of the main changes in the Cabinet occurred days ago with a switch in Health Ministers due to increasing criticism of the government’s handling of the swine flu outbreak.

Image- The Telegraph
Online Sources- Buenos Aires Herald, The Latin Americanist, New York Times, Reuters

Colombia: Uribe OKs Cordoba as hostage mediator

In what could be a promising sign for dozens of Colombians held captive by rebels, President Alvaro Uribe okayed Sen. Piedad Cordoba to serve as a mediator.

Cordoba- who had previously helped arrange the unilateral liberation of several hostages- had been barred from helping arrange the freeing of Colombian soldier Pablo Moncayo. Uribe's initial move- which had been denounced by Moncayo’s relatives- was reversed at a news conference on Wednesday. Cordoba will thus share her mediating duties with the International Red Cross and the Colombian catholic diocese.

Uribe conceded to the FARC guerillas’ demands that Cordoba serve as a liaison but on the condition that they also free 24 kidnapped policemen and soldiers. In addition, he called on the rebels to hand over the bodies of three hostages who died while in captivity.

Uribe had accused Cordoba of using the hostages for her own political gain though she has not expressed running for a political office higher than senator. The disdain for Cordoba’s role in the previous freeing of hostages even led to an investigation against her for supposed illegal ties with the rebels. She has vehemently denied these charges which she has deemed as a “political farce” against her.

The rift between Uribe and Cordoba symbolizes the dangerously divisive nature of Colombian politics. This has not only caught the attention of casual observers but even officials at the U.N.:
The director of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights (UNHCR) in Colombia told BBC Mundo that he is "concerned" about increasingly polarized views on human rights and peace in the country.

Christian Salazar, who has just started as director of the UNHCHR in Colombia, said extra judicial execution committed by the army, illegal wire-tappings, forced displacements and paramilitary violence are of primary concern to his office.

He said that Colombia was "divided and polarized" over key issues such as peace and human rights.
Image- El Mundo
Online Sources- LAHT, The Latin Americanist, Colombia Reports, AP

Honduran daily airbrushed blood from protester

Nineteen-year-old Isis Obed Murillo was killed by the Honduran military on Sunday during confrontations between police and backers of deposed president Manuel Zelaya. The gruesome, Not Safe For Work video of a bloody Murillo has circulated worldwide.

Now it has emerged that one of Honduras’ main newspapers has decided to hide the truth by airbrushing Murillo’s bloody shirt:
CubaDebate has an illuminating find regarding the coverage of the crisis in Honduras by the pro-coup newspaper, La Prensa.

The now-iconic photograph of the late 19-year-old Isis Obed Murillo, being carried by his friends to seek medical help moments after his shooting by gunmen during Sunday’s demonstrations in Tegucigalpa, was also published by the Honduran daily… Except that La Prensa chose to airbrush the young man’s blood out of the photo.

Media that literally whitewashes the story to this extreme, of course, is not shut down, destroyed or attacked by the coup regime. That treatment is reserved only for real journalists.
Regardless of what one opines of the political situation in Honduras, La Prensa’s actions are reprehensible and unethical. As ugly and heart-wrenching as the original photo is, there is no excuse for erasing the truth. Sadly, La Prensa’s editors have opted to censor the death of a protester though luckily their deception has been caught for others to see.

(Hat tip: The Daily Dish).

Image- CubaDebate
Online Sources- CubaDebate, The Daily Dish, Narconews, YouTube

IMF: LatAm econ to be worse than expected

Last May, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) anticipated that Latin America’s economy would recover quicker from the global crisis than other regions and even faster than advanced industrialized nations. Before that rebound, however, the IMF expects the region to face worse economic woes than were initially estimated:
Latin America’s economy will contract more than initially forecast this year, before rebounding in 2010 because of stronger demand for the region’s commodities, the International Monetary Fund said today.

Latin America’s gross domestic product will shrink 2.6 percent in 2009, down from a previous forecast for a 1.5 percent drop, according to an update of the IMF’s World Economic Outlook. The region will bounce back in 2010, expanding 2.3 percent, up from a previous forecast for growth of 1.6 percent.
The IMF study has already had a negative effect on stocks throughout the region. Brazil’s main stock index has dropped by 1.5% in trading so far today.

In a bad sign for the U.S., neighboring country and major economic partner Mexico is expected to have its GDP drop by a whopping 7.3% this year alone. Worse is that the IMF prognosticates that the U.S. economy will not have sustained growth until the second half of 2010.

In terms of the world, the IMF anticipates that global output will falter by 1.4% yet the 2010 recovery is expected to be greater than estimated three months ago.

Image- TIME (“Trucks crossing into the U.S. from Mexico pour through a U.S. Customs inspection station at the Otay Mesa Border Crossing in San Diego.”)
Online Sources- Bloomberg, Reuters, AP, CBC

Daily Headlines: July 8, 2009

* Central America: Is the chaos in Honduras a mere appetizer to future unrest throughout Central America? The Inter-American Dialogue’s Manuel Orozco thinks so.

* Bolivia: Bolivian authorities raided a massive cocaine-making lab capable of generating 220 pounds of the narcotic per day.

* Panama: Where will ex-strongman Manuel Noriega’s head off to? He hopes it isn’t France where he awaits trial.

* Cuba: The White House is pushing for voluntary admissions to be used in Gitmo trials in order to decrease the chance of verdicts being overturned.

Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Foreign Policy, BBC News, MSNBC, Reuters

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Costa Rica to mediate Honduran power struggle says Clinton

Could diplomacy help unclog the impasse between Honduras’ ousted president Manuel Zelaya and interim leader Roberto Micheletti? That’s the gamble being taken by Costa Rica with the backing of U.S. officials:
(Costa Rican president/1987 Nobel prize winner) Oscar Arias will support negotiations between Manuel Zelaya and Robert Micheletti…(U.S. secretary of state) Hillary Clinton said after talks with Zelaya in Washington.

"We are supporting the efforts that the OAS [Organization of American States] has made but we think there needs to be a specific mediator," Clinton said on Tuesday.

"To that end, we are supporting President Arias of Costa Rica to serve in this important role.

"President Zelaya ... agreed that President Arias has a lot of experience going back many years as a mediator.

"[Arias] is willing to serve as a mediator and we have received word that the de facto caretaker president, Micheletti, will also agree to President Arias serving in this role."
In addition, the AP reported that a Honduran Supreme Court spokesman said that the government "could push for political amnesty” for Zelaya though it would ultimately be up to Congress.

Thousands of people for and against Zelaya have rallied in the capital city of Tegucigalpa today. Unlike the ugly violence on Sunday, today’s rallies appear to be peaceful. Honduran First Lady Xiomara de Zelaya even came out of hiding to head a demonstration in favor of her deposed hubby.

Image- AP (“Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya arrives at the State Department in Washington to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton Tuesday, July 7, 2009. Zelaya is back in the U.S. after his failed attempt to land in Honduras last Sunday. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)”)
Online Sources- Al Jazeera English, AP, Voice of America, The Telegraph, The Latin Americanist,

Peru’s Garcia in damage control mode

The violence from last month’s confrontations between indigenous protesters and police is surely still ringing loud in the minds of Peruvian officials. Eager to avoid further problems from upcoming protests and declining popularity, President Alan Garcia is trying to take preventative measures:
Peruvian President Alan Garcia bowed to opposition pressure on Tuesday and said he will reshuffle his cabinet following deadly clashes last month between police and indigenous groups.

Garcia and his cabinet have been sharply criticized for botching negotiations with protesters who were demanding the government strike down laws designed to open their ancestral lands in the Amazon to foreign mining and oil companies…

"He needs to choose a cabinet that would give him breathing room and put him in a better negotiating position," said political analyst German Munoz. "If he does the opposite, he will have more problems."
Prime Minister Yehude Simon announced weeks ago that he would resign from his post though it remains to be seen who else follows him out.

While Garcia tries to avoid damage on one end, he may be opening another can of worms by permitting a major energy project in the Amazon by European firm Perenco.

Image- AFP (“Natives armed with spears set a roadblock at the entrance of the Amazonian town of Yurimaguas” last month.)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Living in Peru, Vivirlatino, Reuters

Bar Association praises Sotomayor

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor received a welcomed boost today after the American Bar Association (ABA) gave her its highest rating.

The ABA’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary unanimously backed Sotomayor as a “well qualified” candidate for the top tribunal of the land. The ABA based its judgment on a review of her “professional integrity, competence and judicial temperament.” The law group refrains from considering judicial ideology.

The ABA had rated Sotomayor twice before; she was deemed as "qualified" by most of the committee when named as a trial judge and "well qualified" by a majority when she was nominated as an appellate judge.

Conservatives have previously blasted the ABA ratings for allegedly being biased towards liberals. Yet thorough reviews were conducted of current Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Associate Justice Samuel A Alito when they were nominated for the Supreme Court and the ABA had gave them "well qualified" ratings.

Despite some allegations that she is some sort of “racist,” ex-Secretary of State Colin Powell defended Sotmayor's judicial acumen:
Critics have attacked Sotomayor as a "reverse racist" for her ruling as an appeals court judge against white firefighters in a civil service promotion case.

They say "she ought to withdraw her nomination because we're mad at her," said Powell on CNN's "State of the Union."

Sotomayor has "an open and liberal bent of mind," Powell said. "But that's not disqualifying."
Online Sources- Wall Street Journal FOX News, New York Daily News, AP, Washington Post


I hate to give extra time to people whose fifteen minutes of fame should’ve ended a long time ago, but there are some whose viewpoints are unrealistic and way off the mark. Come on down “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher:

Wurzelbacher’s weak stab at Occam’s razor to solve the immigration problem is obviously far too simplified and problematic. How will a military already spread thin by conflicts abroad be amassed to commit to such a mass deportation? Not every undocumented immigrant has the same legal status so what criteria will be used to decide who stays and who leaves? Wouldn’t the costs of such an operation be exorbitant and how much money will be lost if the borders are closed?

I could go on and on, but why give attention to such a shortsighted perspective? Because such a view will become more popular as the issue of immigration reform continues to be ignored by the powers that be. As long as politicos keep burying their heads in the sand, insensible opinions like Wurzelbacher’s will sadly thrive.

Online Sources- YouTube, Wikipedia, Think Progress

Mexico's PRI Party Wins Big

Official tallies show that after 99% of the ballots were counted on Monday, Mexico's PRI party swept the midterm elections, the Los Angeles Times reported.

President Calderon's party, the PAN, earned 28% of the vote, while the PRI won approximately 36.6%. The PRI was able to double its seats in Congress and win as many as 5 of the 6 governships that were at stake. The PAN did have one win that was not expected: the governship of the state of Sonora, which had been a PRI stronghold.
The PRI's gains may make it hard for President Calderon to pass his legislative agenda. He is urging the Mexican Congress to work together. "The competition is behind us, and now we have to focus our efforts on seeking the agreements the country needs to recover, as soon as possible, economic growth, job creation and public safety," Calderon said.

Online sources: Associated Press, Los Angeles Times

Daily Headlines: July 7, 2009

* Chile: The U.N. investigation into the death of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto started last week and will be led by Chilean ambassador to the U.N. Heraldo Munoz.

* U.S.: Another reason for immigration reform – an alliance of police chiefs said that it would provide better security and improved law enforcement.

* Venezuela: Antonio Ledezma- the Metropolitan Mayor of Caracas- claimed that he will be going on an “indefinite” hunger strike against what he claimed were efforts by the federal government to undermine his authority.

* Peru: The country’s largest labor union is planning a three-day national protest starting today against President Alan Garcia.

Image- BBC News (“Benazir Bhutto was assassinated leaving a party rally in December 2007.”)
Online Sources- LAHT, The Telegraph, AFP, Forbes

Monday, July 6, 2009

Win free tix to new Harry Potter film! (Contest currently closed)

Update (July 7, 9:30pm):
Many thanks to everyone who participated and sent in a valid entry to participate in our “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” contest. We always value the input of you, our great readers.

Contest winners will be chosen the morning of July 8 and should be notified in the afternoon.

Good luck to all our participants!

Original Post:
It’s been a very long time since we’ve given away anything on this site. As a “thank you” to our loyal readers we’re holding a really great contest.

Would you be interested in attending one of the special advanced screenings of the newest Harry Potter film “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”? We’re holding a special ticket giveaway where you and three guests can attend a special screening next Monday, July 13th in either New York, Los Angeles, or Miami.

Here are the contest rules:
  • Send an e-mail message with the subject title “Harry Potter” to
  • In the body of the message please mention which screening you want to attend. (New York, Los Angeles, or Miami.)
  • Only one entry per e-mail address so make sure your address is valid!
  • We will pick one random address Wednesday morning for each screening location.
  • The contest ends tomorrow (Tuesday) at 8:00pm so enter as soon as you can!
Additional Prize Terms and Conditions:
  • Prize winners may be required to take part in reasonable post-competition publicity for Warner and may be filmed, photographed or otherwise recorded by Warner or other third parties for publicity and he/she consents to the use of his/her personal data for such purposes.
  • Prize winners may be required to sign a Prize Acceptance Form before the Prize is awarded. If a Prize winner is under the age of 18 years, a parent or guardian may be required to sign a Prize Acceptance Form before the Prize is awarded.
  • There is no cash alternative to Prizes which are subject to availability, non-transferable, non-negotiable and non-refundable. Prizes may not be sold, offered for sale or used in connection with any other competition or promotion by the Prize winner.
  • Prize details are correct at the date of this Agreement. Events may occur that render the Media Promotion itself or the awarding of Prizes impossible due to unforeseen circumstances or reasons beyond the control of Warner. In this situation, Warner may at its discretion vary or amend Prizes so as to provide reasonable alternative Prizes and Prize winners agree that no liability shall attach to Warner or parties connected to Warner as a result.
“HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF BLOOD PRINCE special midnight shows Tuesday, July 14. Regular engagement starts Wednesday, July 15.”

© 2009 Warner Bros. Ent.
Harry Potter Publishing Rights © J.K.R.

Harry Potter characters, names and related indicia are trademarks of and © Warner Bros. Ent. All Rights Reserved.

Today’s Video: Violence escalates in Honduras

How bad were the confrontations yesterday between thousands of supporters of deposed president Manuel Zelaya and troops outside of the international airport in Tegucigalpa? The following video from CNN en Español provides a glimpse at the chaos in Honduras:

At least one person- reportedly a young boy- died in yesterday’s violence as officials ordered a 48 hour shutdown of the Toncontin international airport.

In a statement issued just a short while ago, the State Department condemned yesterday’s clashes and urged “the de facto regime and all actors in Honduras to refrain from all acts of violence, and seek a peaceful, constitutional and lasting solution to the serious divisions in that country through dialogue."

Zelaya- who detoured to Honduras after he was prevented from landing yesterday at Toncontin- is expected to soon arrive in Washington and meet with officials including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Online Sources-, AFP, Bloomberg, YouTube, The Latin Americanist

Cuban missile crisis advisor McNamara died

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara died this morning at the age of 93.

McNamara will most likely be remembered for his role in the buildup and failure of the Vietnam War. Though he would later admit that it was "terribly wrong" to have pursued military action in Vietnam beyond 1963, McNamara’s management and focus on statistics ignored the massive humanitarian cost of the war. "McNamara treated everybody like they were a spare part on a Ford," said the executive director for policy and government affairs for Vietnam Veterans of America who alluded to McNamara’s previous experience as a former Ford executive.

In terms of Latin America, McNamara was hugely influential in shaping a U.S.-Cuba policy that has changed little over the past four decades:
The former secretary of defense was among John Kennedy’s closest advisers during the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis 18 months later.

Those events shaped U.S. policy by hardening an adversarial relationship with Cuba, setting up a 47-year embargo.

Like many leaders in the Cold War, McNamara was obsessed with fighting communism and deterring nuclear war. The invasion and Missile Crisis represented the good and bad of that policy.
From 1968 to 1981 McNamara served as head of the World Bank where he “increased the bank's loans to developing countries and changed its focus from large-scale industrial projects to development in rural communities.”

The following is an excerpt from the brilliant 2003 documentary “The Fog of War”:

Online Sources- Al Jazeera English, YouTube, NPR, Miami Herald, Guardian UK, DC Blog

U.S. military going from Ecuador to Colombia?

For several years the U.S. military have occupied a military base in Manta, Ecuador which they use mainly for counternarcotics operations. Ecuador’s government decided last year to not renew the military lease at Manta once it expires next month. Whether an alternative base would soon be established in Colombia or Peru remains to be seen though several hints in recent months indicate that possibility could happen very soon.

Back in April, U.S. Ambassador to Colombia William Brownfield said that discussions were taking place between the White House and Casa de Nariño over expanding to a military base in Colombia. "Colombia and the US are collaborating on the efforts against the illegal drugs, in the efforts against the international delinquency. Part of this collaboration, without doubts, requires the access to facilities between both countries," said Brownfield who was previously U.S. ambassador to Venezuela. Indeed, the Pentagon budget submitted to Congress last May included allocating $46 million to expand the base in Palanquero, Colombia.

After last weeks visit by President Alvaro Uribe to Washington, Colombian Foreign Minister Jaime Bermudez said that “to be perfectly clear, there will be no new U.S. base in Colombia." Yet an article from Colombian magazine Cambio claimed that Palanquero will be a small piece in a much wider plan:
A soon-to-be-signed, 10-year bilateral cooperation pact will give U.S. military personnel the right to operate from five bases in Colombia, the newsweekly Cambio reported Thursday.

The United States is seeking basing rights in Colombia because Ecuador declined to renew an accord allowing Washington to coordinate drug-interdiction efforts from the Manta airbase on the Andean nation’s Pacific coast.

Colombia’s three main airbases: Palanquero, in the central part of the country; Alberto Pouwels, in the north, and Apiay, in the south, will play host to U.S. units, according to the Bogota-based magazine.

The U.S. military will also have access to the Colombian naval bases at Cartagena, on the Caribbean, and Malaga, located on the Pacific.
Will the U.S. military move its base from Ecuador to Colombia? Stay tuned…

Image- El Tiempo
Online Sources- Colombia Reports, LAHT, The Latin Americanist, PRESS TV, CIP Americas

CARICOM talks immigration in Guyana

Leaders from the CARICOM countries began their 30th summit this weekend in Georgetown, Guyana, with a varied agenda centered primarily on illegal immigration to and from CARICOM member nations. Many immigrants, including undocumented ones from Jamaica and Guyana, tend to move to Barbados and Antigua & Barbuda, where they are both exploited as cheap labor and discriminated against. The representatives of those two countries, for their part, railed against illegal immigration to their islands and the need to curb the flow.

The summit comes days after a total
53 Guyanese migrants were deported from Barbados since the government's recent crackdown.

At the weekend inaugural session, heads of state had the chance to given prepared remarks, and the annual
Order of the Caribbean Community (OCC) was bestowed upon Percival Patterson, former prime minister of Jamaica, for his contributions to regional development.

Sources: Jamaica Gleaner, Latin American Tribune,

Daily Headlines: July 6, 2009

* Mexico: About 350 people protested the lack of justice and government corruption related to a nursery school fire that killed 48 children last month.

* Venezuela: The government nationalized the Venezuelan division of Spain’s Banco Santander.

* Ecuador: Will 23-year-old Ecuador international Antonio Valencia be enough to replace Cristiano Ronaldo on Manchester United?

* Peru: Nearly a month after claiming he would quit due to violent protests against the government, Prime Minister Yehude Simon said on Friday that he would resign sometime this week.

Image- CNN (“Two girls lay flowers during a funeral of one of the 48 children who died in the day-care fire.”)
Online Sources- LAHT, BBC Sport, Reuters, The Latin Americanist, Voice of America

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Zelaya turned away from Honduras as violence escalates (Updated)

Update (11:15pm):
We leave the last word for tonight with the following brief recap of today's events from Al Jazeera including some stunning footage of protesters presumably hit by military fire:

Update (10:00pm):
After circling the Toncontin international airport in Tegucigalpa, Manuel Zelaya's flight never got the green light to land in Honduras. Zelaya told TeleSur that military vehicles at the airport further prevented a safe landing:

According to a Salvadoran government representative, Zelaya's plane will detour to Managua, Nicaragua. No word on whether it will continue onto El Salvador as was originally reported.

Meanwhile, the violence which we mentioned in a previous update seemed to have been worse than was initially reported:

Stephen Ferry, a photographer working for The Times, was at the airport in the capital where the Army fired on protesters. “I saw a kid being shot in the head, I think he is dead,” Mr Ferry said. “There are lots of injured — I don’t know how many. They just opened fire — it was completely unprovoked.”

Jorge Alberto Vasquez, a 27-year-old farmer, described how he had carried the boy's body from the scene. “He was about fifteen or sixteen. He had been shot in the head. I carried him the length of two blocks . . . We were all calm, then the army started shooting into the crowd.”

He said that four people had been killed, although this was not confirmed.
We'll further discuss the very tense and nerve-wracking situation in Honduras on Monday.

Update (7:00pm):

It's still unclear if Manuel Zelaya's flight will try to land in Honduras or if he will be prevented from doing so. Zelaya ordered the military to open the Tegucigalpa international airport while the acting government has ordered his plane to turn away and go to El Salvador.

Meanwhile, at least one person died as police and pro-Zelaya marchers clashed outside the Tegucigalpa international airport. (Let's hope that the 1973 Ezeiza massacre upon the return of Juan Peron to Argentina does not repeat itself in Honduras).

Update (5:15pm):
In remarks made to TeleSUR (or the Nicaraguan media) Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega denied accusations by Honduran acting president Roberto Micheletti that troops were gathering along the Nicaragua-Honduras border. "We are not planning an invasion" said Ortega who added that he was preferred a peaceful solution to the mess in Honduras.

Update (4:45pm):
Zelaya's flight has been supposedly diverted by Honduran authorities to El Salvador. (Thus far it has not been mentioned specifically why).

Zelaya's plane will soon be followed by planes that left from Washington carrying the presidents of Argentina, Ecuador and Paraguay, the secretary-general of the Organization of American States and journalists. (No word if they were diverted too).

Original Post:

One week after being deposed as president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya is planning his return to his native land.

Zelaya is currently on a Venezuelan government plane en route to Honduras and accompanied by the Nicaraguan head of the U.N. General Assembly- Miguel D’Escoto Brickmann. In a telephone interview with TeleSUR, Zelaya has called on his countrymen to remain calm and has asked the military to not shutdown the airport in the capital city of Tegucigalpa.

Zelaya has an order of arrest against him which may be carried out if he arrives today in Honduras. Yet that may not happen as the AP reports that the acting government has ordered the military to turn away the aircraft Zelaya is in.

Thousands of Zelaya supporters have gathered in Tegucigalpa and appear to be on their way to the airport according to video shown moments ago on CNN en Español. Honduran troops had previously closed the road in front of the presidential palace as well as the road to the airport in the capital city.

Meanwhile, acting president Roberto Micheletti accused Venezuela and Nicaragua of “interfering” in Honduran affairs and claimed that troops were gathering along the Nicaragua-Honduras border. Yet at the press conference currently led by Micheletti, he contradicted himself by saying that these troops were "small groups" that represented little harm.

Honduran diplomats “repudiated and denounced” Saturday’s decision by the Organization of American States to suspend Honduras from the bloc. Despite Honduras’ increasing political isolation and criticism of the OAS, Micheletti said that he would send a diplomatic team to meet with OAS representatives. (Perhaps Micheletti and his cohorts are feeling the pressure from so much political isolationism?)

Image- Christian Science Monitor (“Soldiers stood guard Saturday as supporters of ousted President Manuel Zelaya arrived after a march at Toncontin international airport in the capital, Tegucigalpa.”)
Online Sources- Washington Post, Bloomberg, AP, New York Times, Reuters

Weekend Headlines: July 4-5, 2009

* Venezuela: To all our Venezuelan readers we wish them a very happy Independence Day today.

* Mexico: Argentine President Cristina Kirchner was the big loser in last Sunday’s local elections. Will the same be the case today for Mexico’s Felipe Calderon?

* Nicaragua: A small diplomatic tiff was averted when Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega apologized for missing a banquet held in honor of the visiting Taiwanese president.

* Bolivia: Could parts of Bolivia’s’ energy and rail industries soon be nationalized by President Evo Morales?

* Latin America: The biggest upset after two days of the Gold Cup soccer tourney is El Salvador’s 2-1 win over Costa Rica.

* Brazil: Brazil may file a World Trade Organization complaint against neighboring Argentina.

Online Sources- Wikipedia, BBC News, Taipei Times, AFP, Guardian UK, The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg