Saturday, July 25, 2009

Manuel Zelaya to cross into Honduras again?

Deposed Honduran president Manuel Zelaya might attempt to cross into his home country from neighboring Nicaragua.

At the time of this post, Zelaya is only a few hundred yards from the Honduras-Nicaragua border and may cross it sometime today. According to comments made by his wife to CNN en Español, Zelaya’s wife said that he will try to meet with her and other family members on the Honduran side of the border.

While speaking to reporters and supporters, Zelaya said claimed that the Honduran “military will not allow me to see my family.” “Fuera Micheletti!” Zelaya declared referring to interim president Roberto Micheletti as Zelaya affirmed that he was the legitimate leader of Honduras. Zelaya added that he will stay in the border area today though he didn’t confirm when he would attempt to cross the border again.

Yesterday Zelaya stepped very briefly on Honduran soil in an act of defiance against the acting regime:

During his 30-minute stop in Honduras, Zelaya said that his act was a "symbolic entry" though he returned to Nicaragua in order to avoid “becoming the cause of violence”. Despite an order of arrest against him issued by the de facto government, Zelaya was not arrested and subsequently spent the evening in the Nicaraguan border town of Las Manos.

Despite their opposition to the Micheletti regime, the U.S. State Department and the Organization of American States criticized Zelaya’s border crossing. “President Zelaya's effort to reach the border is reckless," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton while OAS head Jose Miguel Insulza urged Zelaya and Micheletti to return to the negotiating table. (Three rounds of discussions mediated by Costa Rican president Oscar Arias failed after both sides refused to reach a compromise). Micheletti also criticized Zelaya’s move which he dismissed as a “publicity stunt.”

Hondurans continue to be split over whether to back Zelaya or Micheletti. Thousands of Zelaya supporters in the border town of Las Manos faced tear gas shots from the military yesterday when they reportedly got to close to the border. At nearly the same time, thousands of Micheletti backers rallied in San Pedro Sula and called for Zelaya to be arrested.

Online Sources- Xinhua, YouTube, Reuters, ABC Online, BBC News, Los Angeles Times, AFP, CNN

Weekend Headlines: July 25-26, 2009

* Brazil: Formula 1 driver Felipe Massa remains in intensive care due to a "life-threatening" skull injury received in a crash during Hungarian Grand Prix qualifying today.

* Caribbean: Scientists warned that Caribbean coral reefs are in danger of dying due to sustained warm ocean temperatures.

* Colombia: What’s Colombia’s latest strategy to push through a stalled free trade pact with the U.S.? An $800,000 tourism campaign in Washington, D.C.

* Mexico: Mexican officials have laid claim to dozens of figurines that are at least 2000 years old and were found abandoned in a New York City apartment.

Image- CBC
Online Sources- FOX Sports, MSNBC, Bloomberg, New York Daily News

Friday, July 24, 2009

Grave of Torture Victims Found in Paraguay

Paraguayan officials stated this week that they have located a grave containing remains of probable torture victims under the Stroessner regime, CNN reported.  The grave was found in Tacumbu, a neighborhood of Asuncion.

President Lugo called the grave site "remnants" of a painful period in Paraguayan history.

Online sources: CNN
Image: CNN

Daily Headlines: July 24, 2009

* Bolivia: The nationalization of the country's oil and gas sectors has been completed according to the interim president of state-owned oil firm YPFB.

* Venezuela: The Venezuelan judge who claimed that she was illegally removed from overseeing the case against the president of Globovision presented her complaint to senior judicial officials.

* U.S.: Why are immigration authorities considering deporting a 13-year-old boy to Guatemala despite his being born in the U.S.?

* Mexico: Officials grounded seven discount airliners for breaking safety codes and not paying government fees on time.

Image- LAHT
Online Sources- Xinhua, LAHT, The Latin Americanist, Houston Chronicle, UPI

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Today’s Video: Totó La Momposina

We took Wednesday off from our daily video but tonight we continue our look at musicians specializing in Colombian music.

Her birth name is Sonia Bazanta Vides yet early on she adopted the name Totó La Momposina as an homage to the town of her birth along the Magdalena River. The 69-year-old helped bring Afro-Colombian music into prominence not only in her native country but also for the world to hear:
“Where there is common people’s music there’s always the tendency by the institutions and even the social structure to hide the música de la identidad (identity music),” La Momposina said, explaining her pioneering role with Colombia’s Afro-Caribbean sounds.

“The drums were (hidden) in the attics of all the homes on the Caribbean coast, and I did the work of bringing out those drums.”
The following is a trailer of a phenomenal documentary on Totó La Momposina explores her music and how she tries to instill her culture to younger generations:

Toto will be performing on August 7th in New York City and August 9th in San Francisco.

Online Sources- YouTube, Totó La Momposina’s website, New York Daily News, Stern Grove Festival, Queens Gazette

Dominicans allege torture via onions

A Dominican Republic human rights organization claimed that local police use onions as a torture device.

The National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) claimed to have records of dozens of cases where police force onions into people’s mouths in order to give the sensation feeling that they are choking. “It appears that the onion has given them results,” said NCHR vice president Joselin Melo who also noted that it was the first time that onions had been used as weapons.

The Dominican Republic has had a poor record on human rights; earlier this month, Amnesty International highlighted the case of two men detained by police without an arrest warrant and were subsequently been harassed by police. Other instances of police abuse have been uncovered by the NHCR:
The National Commission of Human Rights said it documented 70 cases of alleged torture so far this year, compared to 300 for all of 2008. It said the cases involving onions have occurred at the police station in Santo Domingo and five other detention centers.

The Dominican Committee of Human Rights also is planning to file complaints after investigating torture allegations at the country's biggest prison, committee president Virgilio Almanzar said.

He charged that officials tortured seven inmates in La Victoria by beating them and even breaking one man's arm. Authorities also have demanded up to $140 from inmates' relatives to transfer them out of isolation cells, Almanzar said.

Most of those targeted in the prison are Haitian, he said.
Image- (“Dominican Republic police officers from the SWAT team patrol the neighborhood of Capotillo to control demonstrations during a national strike for an increase in workers' salaries in Santo Domingo April 9, 2008.”)
Online Sources- Amnesty International,, The Daily Mail

Venezuela concerned over U.S.-Colombia military ties

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and his allies are not happy over the possibility of a U.S. military expansion into Colombia.

As we mentioned last week, negotiations have been ongoing between the U.S. and Colombia to sign a ten-year deal permitting Colombia to become a “regional hub for Pentagon operations.” Chavez has blasted the move calling it a regional “threat” and has ordered a review of diplomatic ties to Colombia. His feelings have been echoed by other populist leaders like Ecuador’s Rafael Correa whose country has had no diplomatic relations with Colombia since a controversial military incursion in March 2008. (Correa himself has had to fend off allegations of links to Colombia’s FARC guerillas).

Earlier today, senior Venezuelan official Angel Rodriguez claimed that the U.S.’ actions were in order to get closer to Venezuela’s vast oil supplies. But does Venezuela really have to be worried about U.S. military plans in Colombia? Here are three reasons why not:
  1. There have been very few details revealed about the possible U.S.-Colombia deal such as the amount of U.S. contractors will not exceed the 1400-person limit set by Congress. Perhaps it’s better to wait and see what the facts of the deal are.
  2. Despite ideological differences, Chavez and Colombia’s Alvaro Uribe are not enemies. The neighboring countries rely on each other heavily economically and it makes little sense to rock the boat politically.
  3. Rodriguez insinuated that the U.S. compared Venezuela’s situation to that of Iraq before it was invaded. Such a view is nonsensical as the risks of the U.S. invading Venezuela (or any Latin American country for that matter) far outweigh any perceived benefits.
Any thoughts?

Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Xinhua, Wall Street Journal, Reuters,

The Economist: Honduran leaders should back compromise

For the most part, The Economist is a conservative-leaning publication and it has been critical of leftist Latin American leaders from Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez to the more moderate Michelle Bachelet of Chile. Yet their occasions when the newsmagazine attacks those who it sees as dangerous to democracy like its criticism of rightist Colombian president Alvaro Uribe’s possible bid for a third term.

The British publication gave its two cents today on the political crisis in Honduras. It blasted elected president Manuel Zelaya for his “many faults” before being deposed and warned that he has “unhelpfully called on his supporters to stage an ‘insurrection’”. The article even took a shot at regional boogeyman Chavez who it claimed was “egging” Zelaya’s desire to “reverse the coup through violence.”

Yet The Economist also ripped claims by Republicans that Zelaya was legally deposed and that it’s best for Honduras to stay in “deadlock” until elections in November. “This argument is short-sighted and wrong...Coups are bad whatever the political color of their victims” according to the article.

The magazine also called for both Zelaya and interim president Roberto Micheletti to accept Costa Rican president Oscar Arias’ latest proposal. Arias’ “proposal is sensible” and the article criticized both leaders (especially Micheletti) for their reluctance to accept the compromise.

The article concluded with a call for the U.S. to either place sanctions on the Micheletti regime or (if it’s accepted) ensure that Arias’ plan is executed. Other countries in the region could also help:
Brazil and others could help too—by pushing Mr. Zelaya to be patient, accept the Arias plan and distance himself from the likes of Mr. Chávez and Cuba’s Raúl Castro, whose commitment to democracy ranges from dubious to non-existent. Mr. Micheletti is right that democracy can be undermined by autocratic presidents. But this caveat should not cloud the central issue: a coup in a region which has shed authoritarianism should not be allowed to stand.
Arias’ latest proposal will not satisfy all of Zelaya’s or Micheletti’s demands but it’s the best alternative so far to plunging Honduras into an avoidable civil war. Hopefully cooler heads will prevail and prevent conflict from tearing apart that Central American country.

Image- BBC News
Online Sources- The Economist, Miami Herald, The Latin Americanist

(Belated) Miercoles Musical: Os Mutantes keeps on movin’

One of South America’s best-known classic rock groups will soon release a new set of music:
Founding frontman Sergio Dias Baptista and his new incarnation of the near-mythical Os Mutantes have signed with ANTI- Records with plans to release Haih - their first record in 35 years - on September 8th.

2006 saw a reunion of sorts, with the band playing a handful of shows in London, New York, the Pitchfork Festival in Chicago, San Francisco and supporting the Flaming Lips at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, but it is the release of Haih in September that will mark the band's first recorded material since 1974 and their very first album to receive a worldwide release. Conceived by Sergio Dias with collaborations with other Brazilian legends Tom Ze (lyrics) and Jorge Ben (who wrote the song "Minha Menina"), Haih is a vibrant and timely return from one of world music's most important bands.
Aside from the upcoming album, Os Mutantes will go on a North American tour this fall with stops in cities including Los Angeles, Montreal, and New York.

The group has gained some mainstream fame as a result of this 2008 McDonald’s ad, yet their live version of “Minha Menina” is pretty damn good:

Online Sources- Brooklyn Vegan, Os Mutantes Official Website, YouTube

Daily Headlines: July 23, 2009

* Mexico: Police arrested four men accused of belonging to a drug gang behind the torture and murders of twelve policemen in Michoacan.

* Puerto Rico: Will Congress soon vote on a proposal designed to give Puerto Ricans a chance to decide the island’s political status?

* Brazil: A report by UNICEF found that almost half of teen deaths in Brazil are due to murder.

* Peru: Local meteorologists predict that the recurring weather phenomena known as “El Niño” could hit Peru as early as this year.

Image- AP (“Police officers escort Jose Alberto Lopez, an alleged coordinator for the Mexican drug cartel known as "La Familia," during his presentation to the media in Mexico City, Wednesday, July 22, 2009.”)
Online Sources- Xinhua, BBC News, AP, Living in Peru

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hope for Honduras with renewed talks

Could three times by the charm to avoid civil war in Honduras? That is the hope as representatives of both men claiming to be Honduras’ president spoke for the third time this month.

Costa Rican president Oscar Arias talked with emissaries representing ousted President Manuel Zelaya and de facto president Roberto Micheletti. Arias offered an 11-point compromise that was not significantly different from the seven-point plan he presented in the previous round of talks. The new proposal- which includes reinstating Zelaya, creating a unity government, and holding early elections- was more “balanced” according to Arias. Unlike Arias’ plan over the weekend, the Micheletti camp did not outright refuse the new compromise and said it would send the proposal to Congress and the judiciary.

Arias’ intervention could very well be the final effort in seeking a negotiated end to the coup that deposed Zelaya on June 28th. The Nobel Peace Prize winner said that he would defer mediation to the Organization of American States if his latest plan is rejected.

Daily protests continue in Honduras for and against Zelaya; supporters of the ousted leader organized blockades today and are planning a national strike starting tomorrow. Backers of Micheletti took to the streets today denouncing the international press and claiming that a coup did not occur.

Image- AFP (“A supporter of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya in Tegucigalpa.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, The Telegraph, Reuters, Miami Herald, Bloomberg, BBC News

Report: Mexican immigration to U.S. plummets

Immigration from Mexico to the U.S. fell to its lowest point in a decade according to a report issued today by the Pew Hispanic Center (PHC).

PHC researchers analyzed data from entities like the Census Bureau, the Mexican government, and the Border Patrol and concluded that such a steep drop-off was due to the weakening U.S. economy. Specifically, the dried-up housing market helped put the brakes on construction and other low-wage jobs that are sought after by immigrant laborers. Thus the number of migrants from Mexico fell by 249,000 from March 2008 to March 2009, a drop of about 60% from the previous year.

Despite the decline in Mexican immigration into the U.S., the number of Mexicans returning to their homeland has remained steady. Again, the economy comes into play though the broken immigration system is also a factor:
Still, immigrants already in the U.S. are opting not to return to Mexico, because many of them are betting the economy will improve as well as perhaps hoping that immigration reform could soon pave the way for U.S. citizenship, said Jeffrey Passel, a senior demographer at Pew who co-authored the study.

According to the data, the level of Mexican migrants who return home from the U.S. and other countries each year — roughly 450,000 — has remained largely unchanged.

"There's not a lot in Mexico to go back to, because if anything the Mexican economy is doing worse," Passel said. "But also, in light of enforcement that has made it more dangerous and expensive to get into the U.S., once people get here, they're reluctant to leave."
The PHC report also claimed that one-third of all foreign-born U.S. residents and two-thirds of Latino immigrants to the U.S. come from Mexico.

Image- CNN
Online Sources- CNN, AP, AFP, UPI, Pew Hispanic Center

Why is Florida’s governor against Sonia Sotomayor?

Yesterday we mentioned how numerous moderate Republican senators have given their support to Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. (To that list we can add the leading GOP member of the Judiciary Committee: Sen. Lindsay Graham). The issue of Sotomayor and her record has become a hot topic in the election to replace Sen. Mel Martinez.

After weeks of silence, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist announced that he opposes Sotomayor’s bid for the high court. "I have strong concerns that Judge Sotomayor would not strictly and objectively construe the Constitution and lacks respect for the fundamental right to keep and bear arms," said the candidate who is well ahead in polls and funding for the GOP primary.

Crist’s decision has upset some local Latino leaders such as a “very disappointed" Luis De Rose of the South Florida Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce. Yet why would Crist risk such a move in a state with such a prominent Latino electorate and with his main rival being a Latino (former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio)? The answer is simple politics: Crist is trying to show primary voters that he’s more on the right than Rubio.
Gov. Charlie Crist, whose embrace of President Barack Obama's stimulus plan cost him support among some conservative Republicans, echoed their objections to Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor in a statement Tuesday…

Crist is far ahead in polls and fundraising, but Republican rival Marco Rubio has found scattered support among party activists who lean conservative.

``I'm happy Crist took that position on Sotomayor, and I think the campaign could be influencing him in that direction,'' said Republican consultant Dennis Baxley, the former head of the Christian Coalition of Florida.
Despite the in risk alienating the Latino vote Rubio has alluded that he would be against Sotomayor.

Ironically, Martinez has backed Sotomayor’s bid and deemed her as “well qualified” to serve on the Supreme Court.

Image- CNN
Online Sources- Miami Herald, Weekly Standard, Miami New Times, Wonkette, Reuters,, The Latin Americanist

Optimistic outlook for LatAm econ says “Dr. Doom”

One of the world’s most well-known economists recently gave his two cents on Latin America’s economy.

New York University professor Nouriel Roubini has been given the nickname “Dr. Doom” since he was one of the few analysts to accurately predict the current global financial meltdown. His nickname is well-earned as evidenced at a seminar hosted by the Chilean government in New York last week.

At the conference, Roubini said that the U.S. economy is no longer in “free fall” and could recover soon. "There is light at the end of the tunnel, there is a bottoming out of the U.S. and of the global economy," he said though he issued a statement afterwards claiming that the U.S. could continue in recession for the rest of 2009.

In terms of the Americas, Roubini claimed that the outlook for Latin America may not be so bad:
Major emerging powers such as China, India and Brazil are among nations that may recover fastest once the global economy picks up, Roubini told reporters at the conference. He also mentioned Chile, Uruguay, Colombia and Peru as countries better- positioned to grow.

Countries facing the biggest challenges include emerging markets in Eastern Europe, such as Hungary, Bulgaria and Ukraine, he said.
Image- BBC News
Online Sources- Times Online, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Bloomberg

Daily Headlines: July 22, 2009

* Honduras: Was president Manuel Zelaya ousted legally or via a coup? The Christian Science Monitor examines the arguments for both sides.

* Latin America: The Amazon rainforest and Ecuador's Galapagos Islands are one of 25 finalists to be chosen as part of the "New 7 Wonders of Nature."

* Mexico: According to a local NGO, seventeen journalists have been murdered in Mexico since the start of 2008.

* Brazil: The government is set to hit the Brazilian division of Anheuser-Busch with a record fine for engaging in “anticompetitive practices.

Image- Washington Post
Online Sources- Christian Science Monitor, AFP, Guardian UK, Bloomberg

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Today’s Video: La Cumbiamba eNeYé

We continue our look this week at musicians specializing in Colombian music with a look at La Cumbiamba eNeYé.

The group specializes in the Afro-Colombian music usually heard along the Atlantic coastal areas including puya and mapalé. The band’s inspiration comes from the pelayeras-chirimías, and the group includes members from the Americas as well as Isreal and the Netherlands.

A prime example of the group’s music is this number called “La Palma del Chontaduro”:

Online Sources- YouTube,, New York Daily News

”Like the deserts miss the rain…”

Some stories speak for themselves:
In one of the driest regions on earth, even a drizzle can cause an emergency.

Less than 100th of an inch (about 0.2 millimeters) of rain fell on the Chilean port city of Iquique Monday afternoon, accompanied by moderate winds of about 10 mph (17 kph), according to the country's weather service. That was enough to knock out power to several neighborhoods and to damage the roofs of 4,000 precarious dwellings, Gov. Miguel Silva said Tuesday.

Schools were closed Tuesday so that officials can repair the damage. There were no reports anyone was injured…

With little water to worry about, many of Iquique's poor live in homes covered with a bits of wood, plaster or even cardboard that are easily damaged by a little rain and wind. Many have no slope to let water run off.

(Here’s a clue as to the title of this post. And yes I'm still stuck in the 90s).

Online Sources-, AP

Bolivia’s Morales suggests expanding ALBA

With Bolivia set to host the upcoming summit of the ALBA trade bloc in September, the Andean country’s president proposed expanding the alliance.

Evo Morales suggested that the socialist group consisting of Bolivia, Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador and Nicaragua should focus their efforts on areas including political parties and social movements. He also added that future expansion should also include increased military cooperation in light of last month’s military ouster of Honduras’ Manuel Zelaya. “This coup is a threat against the continued growth of Alba,” Morales said on Monday in an interview with a Bolivian state radio station.

Speaking of the mess in Honduras and the ALBA, the Central American country’s interim regime has reiterated threats of Venezuelan interference:
Honduras' interim government on Tuesday gave 72 hours to Venezuelan diplomats to leave, accusing them of threatening to use force and interfering into the country's internal affairs…

The request, however, was turned down by Venezuelan diplomats who said they would not leave Honduras and would not obey the order of any coup government not recognized by Venezuela.
Image- CNN (2008 file photo of Bolivia president Evo Morales)
Online Sources- Miami Herald, The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg, Xinhua

Sonia Sotomayor gains GOP support

The Senate Judiciary Committee decided to delay their vote on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor by one week. Yet while some of the more conservative GOP senators appear to have reservations over her record, some moderate members have made up their minds.

Olympia Snowe (Maine) became the fourth Republican Senator to announce that she will back Sotomayor if (and most likely when) her bid for the top court is up for a full Senate vote. Collins praised Sotomayor’s judicial acumen and her legal experience in a statement released on Tuesday:
Collins said she knows that she will not agree with every decision Sotomayor will make as a member of the nation's highest court, but adds that she has "concluded that Judge Sotomayor understands the proper rule of a judge and is committed to applying the law impartially without bias or favoritism."

In a nod to the controversy surrounding Sotomayor's "wise Latina" comment, Collins said Tuesday that her "expectation is that Justice Sotomayor will adhere to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's admonition that "a wise old woman and a wise old man would eventually reach the same conclusion in a case.'"
Collins joins fellow Olympia Snowe, Richard Lugar, and Cuban-American Sen. Mel Martinez in backing Sotomayor’s bid to be the first Latina justice on the Supreme Court.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Kentucky) and Sen. Roger Wicker (Mississippi) have already said that they would vote against Sotomayor. Nonetheless, she is expected to be confirmed easily by the Judiciary Committee and the whole Senate.

Image- CBS News
Online Sources- MSNBC,, CNN

Judge in Globovision Case Fired

Alicia Torres, the judge that was handling the case against Venezuela's Globovision television network, was fired on Monday.

Torres said that last week she was pressured by a superior to rule that Guillermo Zuloaga, president of Globovision, should be prohibited from leaving the country. She called her removal illegal and vowed to fight the decision.
Online sources-Associated Press, El Universal, The Latin Americanist
Image credit- El Universal

Daily Headlines: July 21, 2009

* Peru: Former president Alberto Fujimori was convicted of corruption and sentenced to over seven years in prison in addition to his previous punishment for human rights abuses.

* U.S.: There may be fewer jobs due to the economic downturn yet a record number of Latino workplace deaths occurred in 2007.

* Cuba: U.S. and Cuban troops took part in a military exercise on Guantanamo Bay in an action likely representing changing bilateral relations.

* Bolivia: It’s not news when a soccer coach allows his son to play in a game. It is news, however, when the dad is the head of a Bolivian top division team and his son is a mere 12-years-old playing against adults.

Image- BBC News
Online Sources- UPI, Reuters, The Latin Americanist,, Sydney Morning Herald

Monday, July 20, 2009

Today’s Video: Marta Gómez

With the 199th anniversary of Colombia’s independence being celebrated on Monday, this week’s video theme will check out several musicians from that country. Perhaps you may not recognize some of the names though we hope you enjoy the diverse and rich music they play.

Tonight we shine the spotlight on Marta Gómez. Along with her group, the singer-songwriter mixes folkloric Colombian sounds along with traditional music from countries like Peru and Argentina. Perhaps the best example of her style can be heard in the following song: “Maria Mulata”.

(By the way, we haven’t forgotten about this eyebrow-raising headline regarding Colombia; we’ll talk about that in more detail on Tuesday).

Online Sources- Marta Gómez Official Website, YouTube, Xinhua, Colombia Reports

Next up: Nicaragua

Could Nicaragua be the next country in Central America to undergo political crisis in 2009? Coverage from the 30th anniversary of the Sandinista revolution reveals that President Daniel Ortega has announced plans to push forward with his own referendum which would remove constitutional term limits on the presidency.

Despite approval ratings hovering around a measly 30%, if the Sandinista government handling of the November municipal elections (closed to international monitors and widely cited as fraudulent) are any indication at how they might carry out such a referendum, it is unlikely to fail. Thus, if Nicaragua is anything like its neighbor to the north, Honduras, it stands to reason that the massive Ortega opposition will be mobilizing for action soon, and a coup would not be out of the realm possibility.

So is Nicaragua a different case than Honduras? Probably. The
CSM's Tim Rogers seems to think that Ortega is not only a shrewder tactician, but has much broader control over the government, the legislature, and the courts -- as well as the military.

Dozens of groups have been sounding the alarm in Nicaragua since 2006, and despite steady deterioration of democracy, nothing so close to a coup has yet emerged -- and November was a real test for the country's democratic breaking point.

Moreover, because Ortega is not likely to encounter the type of en masse rejection of his plans that Zelaya did, it will be difficult for his opposition to muster a constitutional rationale for his removal, much less the backing of the necessary powers to carry it out.

At the same time, one can't help question Ortega's timing for his renewed calls for reelection (a mantra he's been pushing for years). Is it a shrewd move capitalizing on the world's fixed gaze on Honduras, or was he just caught up in the ego-centric emotion of his -- I mean Nicaragua's -- 30th anniverary of the Sandinista revolution?

Either way, as the Honduran crisis roils on, it will be important to pay just as much attention to what is happening in Nicaragua in the coming months.

Sources: CSM, La Prensa, AP, BBC

CDC: Teen pregnancy, AIDS rates up

Teen birthrates and rates of AIDS cases among young men have gone up in recent years according to a report released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the CDC, birth rates among teens aged 15 or above had been down since 1991 but spiked in more than half of U.S. states since 2005. The number of AIDS cases in teen boys has nearly doubled while syphilis cases in adolescents aged 15 to 24 has gone up in recent years.

The negative news regarding sexual health in teens has increased scrutiny of abstinence-only programs that were championed by the Bush White House. Teens need "medically accurate, age-appropriate, comprehensive sex education" rather than such a strong emphasis on abstinence-only according to a statement by Planned Parenthood. Conversely, backers of abstinence-only like a group called American Values laid blame on primarily with “a culture obsessed with sex.” (Right and our culture was so prudish and Victorian during the years that teen birthrates and AIDS rates were going down!)

Racial minorities were particularly vulnerable according to the CDC:
"This report identifies a number of concerns regarding the sexual and reproductive health of our nation's young people," Janet Collins, director of CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, said in a news release...

The study also identified a number of racial/ethnic disparities in the sexual and reproductive health of young Americans. For example, Hispanic teens aged 15 to 19 are much more likely to become pregnant (132.8 births per 1,000 females) than non-Hispanic blacks (128 per 1,000) and non-Hispanic whites (45.2 per 1,000). The study also found that non-Hispanic black youth in all age groups have the highest rates of new HIV and AIDS diagnoses.
Image- BBC News (“A UK software developer has released a "purity ring" application for Apple's iPhone.”)
Online Sources- ABC News, Guardian UK, Chicago Tribune

Israeli FM off on diplomatic tour of Americas

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman will begin his 10-day tour of four Latin American countries in order to promote Israeli interests.

Lieberman will stop in Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Argentina with the hope of repairing ties that have been strained since the offensive on Gaza earlier this year. In addition, he will travel with several Israeli businessmen with the aim of promoting trade and commerce between Israel and the Americas.

Lieberman’s tour will not stop in countries like Venezuela and Bolivia that have close ties with Iran- a country viewed as a “main threat” to Isreal. Furthermore, Lieberman will emphasize claims that militant group Hezbollah has infiltrated South America; a claim that has been seen as doubtful by some in the region:
Lieberman was set to leave late Monday. During his trip, Lieberman will tackle the Iranian issue with South American leaders, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said, and chiefly the activities of the Iranian-backed Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah.

"Israel, along with many others, is concerned about Iran's infiltration into Latin America, primarily through Hezbollah, and this will definitely be an issue discussed between the Israeli foreign minister and his counterparts," Ayalon said...

The South American nations deny there is a problem with terrorism in the area.
Image- AP
Online Sources- AP, AFP, PRESS TV, JTA, the Latin Americanist

Arias' 7-point plan for Honduras

It's hard to know whether the weekend's second-round talks on Honduras' crisis, which produced the Arias-backed "7-point plan" for ousted President Manuel Zelaya's return to the Honduran presidency, should be considered progress or a setback. Given the nature of the hostilities and intransigence on both sides thus far, I'm inclined to call it progress.

Despite the interim government's declaration that the second-round of negotiations in San Jose had "failed" and Zelaya's announcement that he would soon seek "alternative means" for his own return, the production of a somewhat concrete plan of action -- even if neither side has fully endorsed it yet -- is a step forward.

The consistently thoughtful Honduras Coup 2009 blog has prepared a translation of the seven point plan and some good analysis on its feasibility. Boz has also put together a compelling analysis of the interim government's rationale for still holding back.

I'd be interested in hearing opinions on the merits of this plan, the first concrete and ostensibly unbiased proposal for next steps for Honduras that we've seen since June 28.

Sources: New York Times, AP, La Tribuna, El Heraldo, Honduras Coup 2000 blog

Daily Headlines: July 20, 2009

* Spain: Cyclist Alberto Contador may’ve clinched the Tour de France after a win in Stage 15 earned him the yellow jersey and a 1:37 lead over teammate Lance Armstrong.

* U.S.: A second suspect was arrested in connection with the assault and bias attack of a Latino man in the New York borough of Staten Island.

* Brazil: According to the local press, an autopsy exam found that former boxing champion Arturo Gatti may've committed suicide but didn’t rule out murder.

* Latin America: The International Court of Justice will hold hearings in two months regarding a tense border dispute between Argentina and Uruguay.

Image- Guardian UK
Online Sources- AP, AFP, BBC Sport, New York Daily News

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Today's Video: Orale Queen!

C'mon who doesn't enjoy a good mariachi, especially if it's a great cover of an extraordinary Queen song:

(Hat tip: Neatorama).

Online Sources- Neatorama, YouTube

Weekend Headlines: July 19, 2009

* U.S.: Univision won its federal court case over Mexican media conglomerate Televisa regarding Internet rights to broadcasts.

* Peru: During his corruption trial, ex-President Alberto Fujimori said that he did pay off $15 million to former right-hand man Vladimiro Montesinos but only to avoid being ousted in a possible military coup.

* Nicaragua: Speaking of coups, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega claimed that the U.S. is cooking up a scheme to overthrow him.

* Venezuela: President Hugo Chavez is none too pleased at a State Department report that claims that Venezuela could turn into a “narcostate.”

Image- New York Times
Online Sources- AP, LAHT, Reuters, Bloomberg