Saturday, August 15, 2009

Weekend Headlines: August 15-16, 2009

* Honduras: De facto Honduran president Roberto Micheletti continues his tiff with Organization of American States secretary general Jose Miguel Insulza while ousted president Manuel Zelaya continues his tour of regional leaders.

* Mexico: Gang violence has been blamed for a prison riot that killed at least nineteen prisoners.

* Latin America: The foreign ministers of Peru and Brazil met and affirmed the “strategic alliance” between both countries.

* Ecuador: Researchers believe that too much tourism and mosquitoes brought in by visitors could cause an “ecological disaster” on the Galapagos Islands.

* Argentina: President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner unveiled a $391 million public works and jobs project designed to alleviate unemployment and poverty.

* Brazil: President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is making a hard push so that Rio de Janeiro can be awarded the 2016 Olympics.

Image- AP (“Police and army soldiers stand guard on the sidelines of a march by supporters of Honduras' ousted President Manuel Zelaya in Tegucigalpa, Friday, Aug. 14, 2009.”)
Online Sources- LAHT, AP, Xinhua, New York Times, Bloomberg

Friday, August 14, 2009

Event: “Where You Live” film screening

If you’re in New York tomorrow night and looking for an inexpensive, artsy reason to go out then why not catch the latest screening from Rooftop Films:
Short films that show us where you live and how you live. From the harshest African deserts to the fertile Irish countryside, from rapidly growing guesthouses in Hong Kong to the slowly fading inner city of Detroit, these fun and fascinating documentaries invite you into unique communities worldwide.

Venue: On the roof of El Museo Del Barrio
Address: 1230 Fifth Ave. @ 104th St. (East Harlem)
Directions: 6 to 103rd St. or 2/3 to 110th St.
Rain: In the event of rain, show will be indoors at the same location
8:00PM: Doors open
8:30PM: Sound Fix presents live music
9:00PM: Films
11:00PM-12:30AM: After-party on the roof: Open bar courtesy of Radeberger Pilsner
Tickets: $9-$25 at door or online
Presented in partnership with: Cinereach, New York magazine, & El Museo Del Barrio
Two of the six short films to be presented mañana focus on Mexico and the southwest U.S. Furthermore, El Museo Del Barrio is a fantastic venue in Spanish Harlem which will reopen this October after an extensive renovation.

Check out the trailer for tomorrow’s “Where You Live” screening:

Online Sources- YouTube,

Bachelet Addresses Indigenous Clash

President Michelle Bachelet addressed Chileans yesterday following the death of Fabian Facundo Mendoza Collio in the La Araucania region on Wednesday.

Mendoza, a Mapuche Indian, was killed after he resisted eviction from an estate known as La Laguna by the Chilean police. Eight Mapuche and three police officers were injured in the clash that broke out following Mendoza's death. Additionally, an agriculture warehouse in the area was set on fire, causing approximately $1 million in damages.

“Nothing justifies violence in La Araucania," Bachelet remarked. She sent her condolences to Mendoza's family. "It must be understood that the only way to resolve the legitimate historical demands of the Mapuche people is through dialogue,” she stated. The police officer who killed Mendoza was detained pending an investigation into the incident. The government also announced plans to send a special delegation to the area to "work with people on the ground", as well as to ensure a more "profound" implementation of the government's indigenous policy.

The Mapuche have vowed to continue to seize land in Southern Chile that they say is rightfully theirs.

Online sources- Associated Press, Latin American Herald Tribune
Image- Latin American Herald Tribune

Late Mexican priest in chastity scandal

An influential Mexican cleric who founded the Legionnaires of Christ (LOC) has been accused of fathering multiple children.

The late Rev. Marcial Maciel passed away in 2007 after overseeing decades of growth in the LOC to include about 800 priests and 70000 lay affiliates. Reports emerged earlier this year that he had a mistress “for many years” and may have sired at least one child.

Now comes word from Mexico that Maciel’s double life was more sordid than once thought. Three people claiming to have been his offspring are suing the LOC for inheritance rights. Maciel’s mistress alleged that she was a minor when she first got involved with him and that she was supported with LOC funds. There may have even been a cover-up of Maciel’s actions by higher-ups in the LOC.

The recent allegations have shaken the LOC to its core:
The latest accusations will give added urgency to questions about which other members of the Legionaries' leadership team were aware of the founder's personal misconduct and his misappropriation of funds. In July the Vatican opened an investigation of the Legionaries, with five prelates probing the order's affairs in different locations around the world.
Image- Catholic News Agency
Online Sources- Catholic Culture, The Telegraph, The Latin Americanist

Daily Headlines: August 14, 2009

* Cuba: Fidel Castro discussed the global economic crisis and immigration to the U.S. in an essay published on the occasion of his 83rd birthday yesterday.

* Puerto Rico: Residents on the island of Vieques are keeping a sharp eye on the review of a controversial report claiming that no negative effects have been caused by decades of military exercises.

* Argentina: The former commander of a military base where torture and abuses were carried during the “Dirty War” was sentenced to life in prison.

* Paraguay: Paraguay's government has a bill backing Venezuela’s bid to join the Mercosur bloc due to concerns by opposition politicians.

Image- PRESS TV (U.S. Reverend Lucius Walker- founder and executive director of Pastors for Peace- with Fidel Castro in a recent photograph)
Online Sources- LAHT, AP, BBC News, Reuters

Thursday, August 13, 2009

We'll return on Friday

The cuddly little cuy that normally runs in a hamster wheel to power this blog decided to take an unannounced siesta today. (His punishment for his subordination will be one that he won't forget!)

We hope to resume normal blogging on Friday and throughout the weekend.

Image - Wonkette
Online Source - Slashfood

Daily Headlines: August 13, 2009

* Latin America: According to a newly released report by the Inter-American Bank remittances to Latin America and the Caribbean are expected to nosedive by 10% this year.

* Peru: Prosecutors brought up homicide charges against two police generals and fifteen other officers for their supposed role in last June’s deadly clashes with protesters in the Amazon.

* Mexico: Citing “illegally obtained evidence” and other irregularities, the country’s top court overturned the convictions of twenty people accused in a 1997 massacre in Chiapas.

* Bolivia: Authorities are looking into who is behind the mailing of two explosive envelopes that have injured seven people including the wife of a pro-government union leader.

Image- La Plaza
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, AFP, MSNBC, Guardian UK, CNN

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Today’s Video: Congrats Chita and Pedro!

The latest recipients of the Medal of Freedom (a.k.a. the highest civilian honor in the U.S.) represented a diverse group including scientists Stephen Hawking, and ex-Supreme Court judge Sandra Day O’Conner. Among those also honored were two famous Latinos: dancer/actress Chita Rivera and Dr. Pedro Jose Greer. (Greer helped bring medical service to Miami’s poorest residents and the homeless). Sixteen medal recipients (including two posthumous awardees) were honored at the White House on Wednesday:

The awarding of the medal to some political figures (e.g. Colombian president Alvaro Uribe) has often been the cause of controversy. That was certainly the case with ex-Irish president Mary Robinson who has been accused of being biased against Israel.

Online Sources- USA TODAY, Reuters, The Latin Americanist, AFP

Is Chavez’ golf rant a hole-in-one or a bogey?

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has received extra attention recently with his rant against the sport of golf. "Golf is a bourgeois sport" said Chavez on Sunday after officials have moved ahead to close two of Venezuela’s top golf courses. His comments were criticized by a State Department spokesman and ridiculed by some in the press.

Despite the seemingly silly nature of Chavez’ disdain for golf, the government’s shutdown of the Maracay and Caraballeda courses has a vital political purpose:
A housing shortage has also pushed the government’s hand, Mr. Chávez said last month, when he questioned why Maracay had so many slums while the golf course and the grounds of the state-owned Hotel Maracay, a decaying modernist gem built in the 1950s, stretch over about 74 acres of coveted real estate…

In Maracay, officials are considering building low-income homes on the golf course or turning it into a campus of Mr. Chávez’s Bolivarian University. In Caraballeda, plans are advancing to turn the course into a park for children.
By planning to use the golf courses to ostensibly help the common people, Chavez is strengthening his support among some of his most loyal backers: Venezuela’s poor. With support for Chavez wavering over increased crime and the faltering economy, closing the golf course for the public good could help him. In short, despite the media’s snickering of Chavez’ golf comments he may ultimately have the last laugh.

Any thoughts?

Image- CBS News
Online Sources- AP, The Telegraph, Scripps News, NPR, New York Times

Mexican comeback stifles U.S. (Updated)

Update (8:30pm):
In a pivotal do-or-die match, Mexico came back from a 1-0 deficit to defeat the U.S. 2-1.

The U.S.' winless streak at Mexico City continued today despite Charlie Davis giving the "Stars and Stripes" the lead in the 9th minute. Israel Castro would tie the game roughly ten minutes later with a 30-yard rocket that beat Tim Howard's net. From then on, Mexico held the momentum while the U.S. reverted to a more defensive stance and failed long ball chances. Mexico kept plugging and they would be rewarded eight minutes from time after substitute Miguel Sabah pounced on a loose ball in the penalty box.

Mexico's victory boosted them temporarily into CONCACAF's third and final automatic qualifying spot for next year's World Cup. Beyond soccer, however, the win had its political implications:
“For many people, soccer is maybe one of the few things that we can do better than the Americans,” says Ramon Raya, a soccer columnist in Mexico and former professional player...

The significance of victory or defeat between Mexico and the US spreads well beyond the soccer pitch, sometimes creating a potent mix of sport and politics that has often veered toward the unsportsmanlike. In 2005 in Mexico, Mexican fans chanted “Osama!” over and over again, in reference to Al Qaeda’s leader Osama bin Laden.

“Losing to the States has become for many people the worst thing that could happen to Mexico,” says Mr. Raya. “Because of all the problems we have with the US, like immigration, it becomes much more than a soccer game.”

Original Post:
We’ll return tonight with some more news from the Americas and the world.

Here at The Latin Americanist HQ (i.e. my cramp apartment a stone’s throw away from La Guardia Airport) all eyes will be on the critical U.S. v. Mexico World Cup qualifier. The U.S. will be looking to avenge last month’s Gold Cup final loss and win for the first time ever in Mexico City. El Tri will aim for a victory not only over its biggest rival but also to boost them in the CONCACAF final group standings.

Kickoff is set for 4pm ET and will be in Spanish on Telemundo and in English on Mun2. You can also catch the game online via Telemundo’s official livestream or via a not-so-legit source here.

And may the best team win (despite my personal bias in favor of los gringos!)

Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, AFP, Kansas City Star,,

Juanes defends planned Havana concert

Last week we mentioned plans by Colombia's Juanes to host a peace concert in the Cuban capital of Havana. The proposed gig- which could take place on September 20th- has split the Cuban exile community in the U.S.

Writer-journalist Carlos Alberto Montaner praised Juanes for taking the initiative to play in Cuba. “It could be the chance for thousands of young Cubans to reject the Cuban regime”, he said while adding that the concert wouldn’t diminish his mainstream appeal.

On the other side of the coin are views like that of filmmaker Joe Cardona who wrote a scathing op/ed piece in the Miami Herald. “The concert promises to be nothing more than a shameless, thoughtless and heartless appearance by the 36-year-old singer and his fellow performers” wrote Cardona who also claimed that the planned concert would provide a “tacit legitimization” of the Castro government.

Meanwhile, Juanes and his associates have strongly denied the criticisms against him. “Why are the promotion of unity between peoples and the dismantling of borders bothersome?” said the musician’s spokesman- Fernán Martínez. Juanes defended his actions in an interview last night on Univision’s “Aquí y Ahora" (Here and Now) newsmagazine. “Traveling to Cuba symbolizes that it’s time to change minds” he said and added that the U.S. government has provided its support for the event.

Perhaps the last word on the subject should be with a Cuban who actually lives on the island: blogger Yoani Sanchez.
I think that Juanes should come and sing. If his subject is peace, he will have to know that this Island is not immersed in bellicose conflict, but neither does it know concord. He will raise his voice before a people who have been divided, classified according to a political color and compelled to confront any who think differently. A population that for years has not heard talk of harmony and that knows the punishment given to those who dare to voice their criticisms. We need his voice, but only if he comes to sing without forgetting any Cuban, without rejecting any difference.
Image- Washington Post
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Miami Herald, EPA, Americas Quarterly, Huffington Post, El Tiempo, Global Voices Online

Daily Headlines: August 12, 2009

* Costa Rica: President Oscar Arias suspended his public duties yet will remain in office after doctors diagnosed him with the swine flu.

* Haiti: Immigration and community activists are campaigning to allow a pair of detained Haitians to be given permission to bury their recently-deceased eight-month-old daughter.

* Venezuela: Russia continues forging stronger ties to Venezuela by promising to use the “most modern oil extraction and processing technology” if it’s allowed to work in the oil-rich Orinoco belt.

* Colombia: A court in Thailand rejected the U.S.’ extradition request of a Russian man accused of selling weapons to Colombia’s FARC guerillas.

Online Sources- Reuters, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, AFP, BBC News

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Today’s Video: Postville’s aftermath in Iowa and beyond

How has the May 2008 immigration raid on a meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa affected those who were arrested and deported? PBS’ Frontline/World examined how the raid inexorably changed Postville and the lives of dozens of Guatemalans and their families:

Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, YouTube

Brazilian accused in “murder for ratings” scam

Some stories speak for themselves (especially one as allegedly cold and callous as this):
In one murder after another, the Canal Livre TV show had an uncanny knack for being first on the scene, gathering graphic footage of the victim.

Too uncanny, say police, who are investigating the show's host, state legislator Wallace Souza, on suspicion of commissioning at least five of the murders to boost his ratings and prove his claim that Brazil's Amazon region is awash in violent crime.

"The order to execute always came from the legislator and his son, who then alerted the TV crews to get to the scene before the police," state police intelligence chief Thomaz Vasconcelos charged in an interview with The Associated Press…

Souza denied all the criminal allegations and called them absurd, insisting that he and his son are being set up by political enemies and drug dealers sick of his two decades of relentless crime coverage on TV and crusading legislative probes.
Whether Souza is guilty of “murder for ratings” or not one thing is for sure: you have to have a strong stomach to show the charred and still smoldering remains of a lynched body on TV. (Previous video link is very explicit and NOT SAFE FOR WORK).

Image- CBS News (“Amazonas State legislator and television show host Wallace Souza, center, speaks during a news conference in Manaus, Brazil, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2009.”)
Online Sources- MSNBC, YouTube

Canada, Panama reaches free trade deal

The leaders of Panama and Canada have agreed on a bilateral free trade pact that could begin as early as 2010.

Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli and Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the agreement during Harper’s visit to Panama City. "The FTA between Panama and Canada represents a large exchange possibility for our export products, for the goods we produce and the services we give," Martinelli said while Harper added that the deal would lead to “a future of prosperity” for Panama and Canada.

The pact would still need to be ratified by the respective legislatures in both countries; the Canadian Parliament has been agreeable with most free trade gestures to the Americas though human rights concerns tied up a prospective deal with Colombia. Yet while concerns over possible job losses and Panama as a tax haven has delayed ratification of a U.S.-Panama deal, it seems like Canadian legislators may be lured by a strong economy:
With Panama's economy red hot — it grew 9.2 per cent in 2008 — the country is a lucrative market for Canadian goods and services.

Panama's economic boom stems largely from banking, shipping and services related to the transport sector. The expansion of the Panama Canal is a key element of the economic growth forecast for the country over the coming years.
Image- Global News
Online Sources- CBC, Americas Society, Xinhua,, USA TODAY

Napolitano underlines immigration changes

With the Obama administration facing growing criticism over its lax approach to immigration, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano tried to assure that the White House hasn’t ignored immigration.

While speaking at an El Paso conference of law enforcement chiefs, Napolitano (image) tried to differentiate Obama’s approach to immigration from that of his predecessor. She claimed that the Obama administration was taking “a common-sense, comprehensive look” at immigration policy including changes to the controversial 287 (g) program that deputizes police as immigration agents. She also emphasized the need for a bilateral approach with Mexico to tackle immigration and combat drug-related violence including spending an additional $30 million “to support security measures” along the border.

Napolitano’s claimed policy changes have been insufficient to those on both sides of the immigration debate. Take the 287 (g) program:
"If I'm told not to enforce immigration law except if the alien is a violent criminal, my answer to that is we are still going to do the same thing, 287g or not," Joe Arpaio, an Arizona sheriff, told The Wall Street Journal last month.

Some Hispanic advocacy groups say that 287g still gives police too much power, essentially giving them a green light to racially profile.

Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, said she had hoped the Obama administration would do away with 287g altogether.
It may be understandable that Obama doesn’t wish to make any major changes since immigration is such a hot-button issue. Yet there’s a big need for reform and the baby steps listed by Napolitano are far from enough.

Image- AFP
Online Sources- Department of Homeland Security, Christian Science Monitor, The Latin Americanist, Washington Post

Unasur Meets to Discuss Regional Issues

The Union of South American Nations, known as Unasur, held a meeting on Monday to discuss regional concerns.

Rafael Correa, who was sworn in for a second term as president of Ecuador on Monday, also assumed the rotating role of president of Unasur. During the meeting, Correa called for a regional monetary agreement, as well as the establishment of a new multilateral lending agency.

Two other important issues that were discussed were the crisis in Honduras and the US military bases in Colombia. President Michelle Bachelet, the outgoing Unasur president, called on the group to support the General Secretary of the Organization of American States, Jose Miguel Insulza, in his efforts to bring stability to Honduras. “(We have to) renew our support for Insulza as he has been working constantly to guarantee the possibility of restoring democratic and constitutional order in Honduras. The crisis in Honduras has been the most recent reminder that democracy has still not been completely consolidated in the region," Bachelet remarked.

Regarding the US bases in Colombia, Unasur's leaders agreed to hold a summit in Buenos Aires later this month to address their concerns. President Hugo Chavez stated, "I don't want to sabotage your ceremony Rafael ... (but) we are very worried. This could provoke a war in South America." Later President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said, "As president of Brazil, this climate of unease disturbs me. I think we should directly discuss our discontent with the American government — directly with them."

Online sources-Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, CNN, Santiago Times

Daily Headlines: August 11, 2009

* Bolivia: Research conducted on an indigenous Bolivian tribe concluded that strokes and heart attacks may’ve been very rare throughout most of human history.

* Uruguay: While several Latin American left-of-center governments are in danger of being defeated by conservatives, a recent poll showed that most Uruguayans back their moderate/left ruling party.

* U.S: Police and federal agents raided a pair of Long Island restaurants in order to halt an alleged prostitution ring that exploited undocumented women from Central America.

* Guatemala: President Alvaro Colom said that he would continue to crackdown on corruption in the country’s police which he claims is due to drug traffickers.

Online Sources- Los Angeles Times, Angus Reid Global Monitor, LAHT, The Latin Americanist,

Monday, August 10, 2009

World Watch: August 10, 2009

* Spain: Police are after two female members of Basque separatist group ETA who are suspected of participating in a July 30 bombing that killed two Civil Guard officers.

* Iraq: A pair of truck bombings claimed the lives of at least 51 Iraqis and left over 250 people injured.

* Asia: A series of strong storms has hit the Asia-Pacific region and have so far killed several dozen people.

* Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe has had its share of ups and downs in the six months since rivals Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai agreed to share power according to the Guardian UK.

Image- The Telegraph (“Police near La Rigoletta restaurant where a bomb went off (on Sunday) causing minor damage in Majorca.”)
Online Sources- Guardian UK, AFP, BBC News, Times Online

Obama tackles issues in Mexico

Well folks, the president's in Guadalajara, Mexico, for the "Three Amigos" conference, known more officially as a summit for the leaders of Mexico, Canada and the United States. The Amigos are Mexican President Felipe Calderón, Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama.

A roundup of what's happening:

Obama said immigration reform will begin later this year.

"We have a broken immigration system," Obama said, according to USA Today. "Nobody denies it."

THe H1N1 swine flu also made an appearance as a continuing threat.

Also, Reuters reports that Obama phrased the situation in Honduras, when president Manuel Zelaya was ousted, as a coup.

He also addressed the drug problem in Mexico, calling the cartels big violators of human rights. Calderon defended the country's history of human rights.

“We have an absolute, complete commitment to human rights,” he said. “Our fight against the cartels is about the human rights of the Mexican people.”

In related news, a lawyer who represented various members of the drug cartels was shot and killed Sunday in the Mexican city of Monterrey.

Links: Reuters, Washington Post

Photo: Agence France-Presses via NYT

Farmer out of contention at USAID?

Rumors are seeping around the Internet that Dr. Paul Farmer is no longer in contention for the USAID administrator position, a job which some have speculated could morph into a larger, possibly cabinet level position as head of all US international development (there are currently over 20 US government agencies with ID funds with no central oversight or formal coordination). The Washington Post followed up on this story today, as it was first let loose in Foreign Policy last week. Beltway Blips corroborates the chisme.

Farmer, founding director of Partners in Health, has spent much of his professional career living and working in Haiti, a country on which he has penned two books (both overtly critical of US policy).

Several weeks ago, Secretary Hillary Clinton let slip her mounting frustration with the overzealous vetting process that many appointees are undergoing, presumably thinking of Farmer if not others, and a fair amount of public whining has ensued.

I, for one, see nothing wrong with a serious vetting of a man like Paul Farmer, who has no prior government experience (thus represents a completely unknown entity), has travelled extensively to and throughout war torn countries, and has a public record of being extremely critical of US policy. To be sure, I find nothing wrong with any of those three things (and plenty right about them), but they necessarily complicate the nomination of someone like Farmer to such a high government post. In today's political environment, due diligence is key and there is plenty of it with someone like Farmer.

Moreover, despite being considered an infallible candidate by many (he was called a "saint" by NYT's Nicholas Kristoff who has been playing up the "those crazy government vetters" story,) I have several friends that have worked with Farmer in the past, and despite their admiration for his intellect and passion, they each confirm that he is a very difficult personality not known for his high tolerance of red tape or compromises. This is a potential recipe for disaster in a government agency in which both are endemic.

Thus, while the prospect of having an avowed Latin Americanist and true development visionary at the helm of USAID was exciting, I suspect that it may be for the best that Farmer will continue his illustrious Harvard career for the time being. Meanwhile, lets hope that the administration had some backups in the pipeline or else it will be back to the drawing board.

Sources: Washington Post, Foreign Policy, New York Times, Boston Globe, Beltway Blips

Daily Headlines: August 10, 2009

* Mexico: The Los Angeles Times examines the mysterious murders and disappearances of hundreds of girls and young women from the border city of Ciudad Juarez.

* Haiti: Officials and activists denounced the alleged abandonment of disabled children due to a growing birth rate and undue stigmatization.

* Cuba: Portugal becomes the latest country to accept prisoners (in this case, a pair of Syrians) from the detention center at Guantanamo.

* Brazil: Three athletes who were training for next week’s world track championships received two-year bans after testing positive for banned drugs.

Image- (“Women walk past a cross in Ciudad Juarez April 10, 2008, put up in memory of women murdered in the city since 1993.”)
Online Sources- Los Angeles Times, AFP, UPI, CBC