Saturday, September 12, 2009

Weekend Headlines: September 12-13, 2009

* Bolivia: Last year president Evo Morales successfully campaigned against FIFA’s altitude requirement. This year he wants to “nationalize” the country’s soccer teams.

* U.S.: The Texas Border Coalition of elected officials insists that Congress drop a provision that would add more pedestrian bridges to the U.S.-Mexico border.

* Peru: A group of Japanese and Peruvian archeologists uncovered an estimated 2900-year-old tomb in northern Peru.

* Honduras: The European Union could sign off on additional sanctions against Honduras’ de facto regime days after the U.S. cut at least $11 million in aid to the Central American state.

* Cuba: In order to alleviate Cuba’s transportation problems the government will grant new licenses for private taxis for the first time in about a decade.

* Argentina: Tennis star Juan Martin del Potro will make his second trip to a Grand Slam semifinal after beating Marin Cilic in the U.S. Open quarterfinals.

Image- Time (“Bolivian President Evo Morales vies for the ball with former soccer pro Oscar Arce” in a 2007 friendly game.)
Online Sources- Al Jazeera English, The Latin Americanist, LAHT, MSNBC, USA TODAY, San Francisco Gate

Friday, September 11, 2009

Maegan’s thoughts on 9/11

Note: The events of September 11th have caused us to feel a wide wave of emotions from anger and sadness to hope and remembrance. Earlier today, former contributor Maegan la Mala expressed her viewpoint on the 9/11 anniversaries here in the U.S. and in Chile. Her thought-provoking post was originally published in VivirLatino and reproduced here with her permission.

I almost feel like I’m obligated to write something today about 9-11 and frankly, I’m tired of the date. It’s exhausting on so many levels since the combination of numbers can be multiplied, added, subtracted and divided in so many ways. It’s a date that carries real physical weight and reaction in my muscles and bones. I can feel it settling, heavy in my gut.

I survived 9-11-01. Not in some abstract way but in a real sitting in a subway car underground in downtown Manhattan for hours as smoke and fire rose above. My mother survived 9-11-01, feeling the World Trade Center reverberate from the impact of a plane, she managed to lead all of her employees to safety. It was the second time she survived an attack on the WTC.

Pero I also have to sit down with my hijas, half Chilenas, and talk about their relatives that did not survive 9-11-73 or the 17 years of U.S. sponsored military dictatorship that followed. It is why the family of my younger daughter came to the United States. It is why the family of my older daughter remain active in Chilean politics in the southern part of that country.

Pero given the current political climate, with undocumented immigrants used as throwaway compromises in health care reform and with comprehensive immigration reform played as a waiting games while people are killed because of what they look like, how they speak, and where they are assumed to come from, I think of the undocumented today.

It wasn’t too long ago that the undocumented were blamed for 9-11-01 while denying that I wonder what happened to those families, the families of the undocumented that once had a bill introduced to help them stay in the U.S. . Have they been detained, deported? Do we remember them today?

Image- (The sites of violence – the World Trade Center in New York City 9-11-2001 and Palacio de La Moneda in Santiago, Chile – 9-11-1973. From the animated short film 9-11/9-11.”)
Online Sources- VivirLatino,

Texan school district targets illegal immigrants

On the surface, the actions of the Del Rio, Texas school district appear straightforward; turn away students who are illegally enrolled from Mexico. Yet the issue is not as black-and-white as it seems.

This week, school officials gave letters to dozens of parents at the border crossing stating that “Your child was observed crossing into the United States from Mexico to attend school…Your child will be withdrawn from the school district immediately.”

Del Rio Superintendent Kelt Cooper said that the move was necessary after citing a report saying that 540 school-age kids were crossing the border bridge in the mornings. The report did not specify the exact destination of the children and it’s against the law for students to be discriminated against based on immigration status. Yet Cooper and other officials claimed that Mexican parents were breaking “proof of residency” laws and that the situation was "getting out of hand."

As an alternative, Cooper has proposed creating a tuition program for non-residents of Del Rio though he also admitted that it has “proven unsuccessful” in other border towns. Furthermore, the crackdown may end up costing the school district a reported $2.7 million in state funding since budgets are based on attendance. Though the district’s actions will weed out those who have acted illegally, it will also have serious consequences for others:
Carla Gonzalez, a mother of three Del Rio students, said she lives with her sister-in-law in Del Rio but visits her deported husband in Mexico. She was given a letter as she and her children entered from Mexico on Wednesday.

"We live here the majority of the time, and they're sitting there saying I can't visit my husband and my kids can't see their father? It's just crazy, and a lot of people are going to be upset about this," she said.

Gonzalez said she's not sure what she'll do if the district doesn't accept her proof of residence, but she may have to home-school her children.
It would be an oversimplification to either condemn the school district or the migrants who cross the border. The case in Del Rio shows what happens when shortcomings related to education, wealth, and immigration come together to cause a complex problem without an easy solution.

Image- Journey North (Border line on the international bridge between Del Rio, Texas and Ciudad Acuña, Mexico).
Online Sources- Houston Chronicle, CNN, Del Rio News Herald

Recession over in Brazil

In what may be a promising sign for Latin America’s ailing economy, Brazilian officials claimed that the country has emerged from its recession.

Brazil’s gross domestic product during the second quarter rose by a better-than-expected 1.9%; thus, officially ending a recession that lasted less than a year. Some analysts warned that Brazil’s economy still faces serious difficulties, such as an estimated contraction in GDP for 2009. Yet Finance Minister Guido Mantega emphasized that “Brazil is one of the most quickly recovering economies in the world” and that third quarter GDP should also grow.

How did one of the world’s most emerging countries pill itself out of recession? There are several reasons according to one economist:
Six straight months of job growth, coupled with tax breaks and record low borrowing costs, are driving consumer spending, helping Latin America’s largest economy rebound from the global financial crisis faster than was previously expected.

“The significant growth in family consumption shows the economy is out of recession and ready to expand,” Newton de Camargo Rosa, chief economist at Sul America Investimentos, said in a telephone interview. “Entrepreneurs are starting to realize demand growth is sustainable and will resume investment plans, which will also contribute to growth.”
On the political front, an improved economy in Brazil could help the ruling Worker’s Party continue in power. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s pick for president- chief of staff Dilma Rousseff- may receive a much needed boost in opinion polls months ahead of next year’s presidential election.

Image- Al Jazeera English
Online Sources- Al Jazeera English, Bloomberg, Xinhua, Reuters, Wall Street Journal,

Daily Headlines: September 11, 2009

Note: Better late than never? What can I say apart from apologizing for posting these headlines so late in the day.

* Brazil: U.S.-based Boeing may outbid French firm Dassault to win a Brazilian military contract for 36 fighter jets.

* Cuba: A court upheld the unjust two-year sentence against a Cuban who spontaneously protested the country’s food shortages on TV.

* Guatemala: According to a government report hundreds (if not thousands) of children were put up illegally for adoption by the military during Guatemala’s civil war.

* Mexico: Police apprehended an alleged hitman accused of at least eighteen murders in Ciudad Juarez.

Image- AFP (French-made Rafale fighter jets.)
Online Sources- Bloomberg, Reuters, LAHT, MSNBC

MCC cuts aid to Honduras

The US Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) has announced that it is suspending its aid program to Honduras. According to the AFP coverage, MCC officials declared yesterday that:
"MCC will terminate two planned activities in the transportation sector totaling approximately 11 million (dollars) from its Compact with Honduras" and that the "MCC also will put on hold approximately four million (dollars) of its contribution for work on the CA-5 road project jointly funded with the Central American Bank for Economic Integration."

This marks the second major round of cuts in US aid to Honduras, and the first primarily non strictly military aid cuts. This follows the cancellation of MCC funds in Nicaragua in June as a result of the fraudulent elections there in November 2008. In the case of Honduras, MCC was chided for weeks to make these cuts, but did so only after much deliberation and second and third chances for the country to correct their paths, as they did with Nicaragua. To me, this suggests that MCC means business in Latin America, and given that they have countries' agreements in writing that certain democratic components must be in place for aid continuation, it may take some of the political sting out of the aid cut.

Nonetheless, aid cuts of this magnitude and that undercut the economic viability of an even more struggling Honduran insfrastructure are never good news for anyone, and I'm sure the MCC board made the decision with a heavy heart and realization that the only real losers in this scenario are the people, not the interim government, of Honduras.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

World Watch: This and that

* South Africa: According to an Australian newspaper, the results of a gender test on Caster Semenya concluded that she is a hermaphrodite.

* Iraq: At least 25 people were killed when a truck bomb exploded near Mosul in northern Iraq.

* Italy: Prime Minister/rabo verde Silvio Berlusconi admitted that younger women were brought to his house for “parties” but claimed that he did not pay for sex.

* Myanmar: Oil firm Chevron (sound familiar?) has been accused of using gas profits to support Myanmar’s military regime.

Image- Guardian UK
Online Sources- Times Online, New York Times, BBC News, Guardian UK, The Latin Americanist,

Census Bureau: More Latinos in poverty

More Latinos in the U.S. find themselves impoverished according to a report released today by the Census Bureau.

Using information collected in 2008, the agency found that median income for Latinos dropped by a whopping 5.6% to $37,913. This is more than any other racial group and only the second-lowest real median income just ahead of blacks.

Furthermore, nearly one in four Latinos (23.2%) were below the poverty line in 2008; a number that was slightly less than blacks but far more than other racial groups. Nevertheless, median income fell for all racial groups and poverty levels increased across the board.

The current numbers ma be worse since the Census figures did not take into account most of the recession which officially began in December 2008. Furthermore, family incomes below the poverty line did not account for income from food stamps or that was unreported. Along with the growth in the medically uninsured (31% of Latinos), some activists are calling for more to be done like health care reform:
At the Yorkville Common Pantry, an emergency meal program in East Harlem, Joel Berg, the executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, said the troubling numbers underscore the need for health reform.

"Today's new numbers make it clearer than ever that lack of health insurance and inability to pay medical bills is one of the greatest contributing factors to poverty and hunger in America," Berg said. "People in poor health rarely earn significant wealth."
Image- CNN (“Migrant laborers help in the post-Hurricane Katrina cleanup in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 2006.”)
Online Sources- New York Times, Miami Herald, Census Bureau,

Lineup announced for Cuba “peace concert”

Fifteen artists representing six countries are planning to perform as part of a September 20th “peace concert” in Havana, Cuba.

Among the acts that will be present according to a press release we received a few hours ago will be Colombian pop-rock artist/ “Paz Sin Fronteras” organizer Juanes. Cuban artists Silvio Rodríguez and Los Van Van will also be there along with the likes of Miguel Bosé (Spain) and Olga Tañón (Puerto Rico). Representing the U.S. will be the brilliant fusion sounds of CuCu Diamantes and Yerba Buena.

Juanes has received plenty of criticism from members of the cuban exile community in the U.S though he has also been backed by some Cuban dissidents. According to the press release the upcoming concert will try to bring musicians together in a spirit of peace and harmony much like the first “Paz Sin Fronteras” last year along the Colombia-Venezuela border:
Concierto Paz Sin Fronteras will take place at the Jose Marti Revolution Plaza between 2PM and 6PM local time. The Paz Sin Fronteras stage will be located at the same spot where Pope John Paul II held his historic mass in January of 1998. Admission is free and open to the public.

The concert organizers have requested that the artists and the audience wear all white attire to symbolize peace.

All artists have agreed to perform just their most popular songs and that the concert will not present political messages of any nature. There will be no presenters on stage – just music performers.
The concert will be sponsor-free and will supposedly air via satellite through Cuban television. None of the artists will be paid to perform and production costs will be split between Cuba's Ministry of Culture, Juanes, Bosé and Tañón.

Image- BBC News
Online Sources- BBC News, The Latin Americanist, Billboard
Other Source - Paz Sin Fronteras press release via e-mail

Ecuador bites back in Chevron case

When we last discussed the environmental pollution case against Chevron in Ecuador the judge overseeing the trial withdrew himself.

Representatives of the oil giant claimed that Judge Juan Nunez was involved in a bribery scheme after a contractor for the firm secretly taped him in a “sting operation.” That incident was the latest chapter in Chevron’s PR offensive regarding the multibillion dollar case.

Ecuador’s government has fought back after Chevron implied that government officials were involved in the alleged bribery scheme:
Ecuador's attorney general wants legal action in the U.S. against Chevron Corp. (CVX), after the company released videos that it says showed undue influence on a court case involving Chevron.

In a statement, Attorney General Washington Pesantez said Chevron could be held accountable under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and called on Ecuador's state prosecutor to open a legal suit in the U.S…

Ecuador's Pesantez alleged in a statement that those two businessmen had been present in meetings where activities took place that would be against the law in the U.S.
Chevron countered and claimed that the company did not make the videos and that the Ecuadorian government is trying to distract attention from the case’s facts. Yet a spokesman for Chevron said that the firm might be willing to pay the legal bills of the U.S. businessman who made the secret recordings.

Chevron may get a taste of its own medicine with the release this week of a documentary focusing on the case in Ecuador. Though New York Times film critic A.O. Scott praised “Crude” for its “intelligently and artfully made” portrayal of both sides, a Chevron rep told Reuters that the film was “long on emotion and short on facts.”

Image- The Star Ledger (“In "Crude," cancer victim Maria Garofalo is reflected in the polluted stream behind her home along the Ecuadorean Amazon river.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg, AFP, New York Times, Reuters,

Ortega's veep opposes reelection in Nicaragua

Jaime Morales, the vice-president of Nicaragua, publicly opposed the slow and steady attempts of President Daniel Ortega to seek the constitutional changes necessary for consecutive reelection. "Re-elections have spawned dictatorships, tyrannies, confrontations and civil war," he told reporters yesterday in Managua.

Morales' remarks on the matter,
which he has made to a lesser extent over the past several weeks, represent the highest-level public opposition to Ortega's power moves that many thought would go relatively unimpeded given that Ortega's allies within the Sandinistas and PLC effectively dominate the legislature and judiciary. Remarkably, it comes from within Ortega's own ranks, though Morales is far from an Ortega loyalist.

Morales is a former leader of the PLC which joined ranks with the rival Sandinista party prior to Ortega's victory in 2006 after the "unholy alliance" formed between the two at-odds groups thanks to back-room dealings between Ortega and Former President Aleman. Aleman, who only recently was released from house arrest by Ortega, has suggested that he wil be seeking a return to politics himself. Thus, it may not be terribly surprising to see Morales make these statements so publicly, as a strategic shift in PLC allegiance to Aleman or another PLC candidate (perhaps Morales himself) is already well under way.

It will be interesting to monitor how Morales behaves himself; such comments are not ones made lightly, or only once. It will also be interesting to see how Ortega -- not known for his high tolerance of critics within his circle -- responds to Morales overtures. He is unlikely to heed Morales' suggestions, of course, so look for either Morales to step down sooner than later, or for Ortega to force him to moderate his remarks on the matter.

Sources: El Nuevo Diario, La Prensa, Reuters, Wikipedia

Daily Headlines: September 10, 2009

* Guatemala: President Alvaro Colom declared Guatemala in a “state of calamity” as the country faces a serious food shortage that has killed 25 children this year.

* Mexico: Several mothers in Ciudad Juarez protested attorney general-designee Arturo Chavez and claimed that he did little to investigate the unsolved murders of dozens of women.

* Cuba: Western Union reached a deal with the Treasury Department that will reflect the changes in remittance rules to Cuba.

* U.S.: Sonia Sotomayor listened to a case involving campaign finance during her first day on the Supreme Court bench yesterday.

Image- BBC News (“Almost half of Guatemala's children suffer chronic malnutrition.”)
Online Sources- AHN, The Latin Americanist,, New York Daily News, New York Times

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Uruguay backs gay adoption bill

A landmark proposal that would allow Uruguayan gay couples to adopt was passed on Wednesday by the country’s legislature.

President Tabare Vasquez is expected to sign the bill which would make Uruguay the first Latin American country to extend adoption privileges to same-sex couples. The bill- which was approved by a 17-6 vote- would also permit unmarried couples to adopt.

As to be anticipated, several conservative groups are opposed to the proposal:
The archbishop of Montevideo, Nicolas Cotugno, said before the vote that it would be a "serious error to accept the adoption of children by homosexual couples".

"It's not about religion, philosophy or sociology. It's something which is mainly about the respect of human nature itself," he said in a statement quoted by AFP.
The bill in Uruguay is the latest of several gay-friendly moves done gradually over the past decade throughout Latin America. Gay marriages are legal in areas like Mexico City and Buenos Aires while Colombian same-sex couples were recently permitted the same rights as straight couples. While the idiotic” don’t ask don’t tell” policy remains for U.S. troops, gays are close to openly serving in Uruguay’s military.

Image- AFP (“Members of gay organizations display the rainbow gay pride flag over the stairs of the Palacio Legislativo in Montevideo.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, CNN, New York Times, The Advocate, BBC News, Foreign Policy

Obama speech heckled over immigration (Updated)

Update (10 September):

Despite being disrespectful was Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst at President Obama correct? That is, is the president really lying about the government providing health care to undocumented immigrants? The short answer is "no" though some context is needed.

As it currently stands none of the health care reform proposals in Congress allow for undocumented immigrants to be covered. In fact, one bill currently in the House of Representatives makes an explicit point of that:

Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.
Currently illegal immigrants do not qualify for any federal health programs and that is not expected to change if health care reform passes. According to the Pew Hispanic Center (and as cited by the informative roughly half of illegal immigrants pay for their own health insurance. In fact, H.R. 3200 may obligate undocumented immigrants to purchase their own medical insurance:

That's the conclusion of the Congressional Research Service, which issued a report on the topic. According to the CRS, noncitizens who can be considered "resident aliens" under U.S. tax law would have to buy insurance — and unlike immigration laws, the tax code doesn't distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants.

"Thus, legal permanent residents, and noncitizens and unauthorized aliens who qualify as resident aliens … would be required under H.R. 3200 to have health insurance," the new report states.

As with any bill the above may be changed during the course of debate and discussion. Yet with the tinderbox that is the immigration debate and the already heated discourse on health care it may not be a good idea to modify the above provisos.

Simply put, the notion that federal subsidies will pay for illegal immigrants' health care is a myth and patently false.

Original Post:
On Monday we gave our “¿Por qué no te callas?” honors to a group who heckled a Spanish-speaking pastor at a Connecticut town hall meeting on health care. A different form of heckling occurred tonight over health care albeit on a more prominent stage:

South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson would later apologize for his unnecessary and crass outburst. Wilson- who is a Republican- was condemned by leaders of his party as well as by Democrats.

Perhaps the most worrying part of Wilson’s yell was that it came in a portion of the speech where illegal immigration was mentioned. If this is how one congressman felt about immigration during a presidential speech focusing on health care then it’s hard to imagine the vitriol and anger during the upcoming immigration reform debate.

The already contentious dispute over reforming health care may be peanuts compared to what awaits on immigration. Here’s hoping that cooler (and wiser) heads prevail.

Online Sources- Ventura County Star, CNN, AFP, YouTube, The Latin Americanist

Aeromexico flight briefly hijacked (updated)

Update (6.15pm):
Mexican Public Security head Genaro García Luna told the press that there was a lone presumed hijacker of Aeromexico flight 576. The suspect is a Bolivian pastor named José Flores Pereira who allegedly confessed to authorities that he hijacked the plane due to a "divine revelation." García Luna added that Flores Pereira is a drug addict and alcoholic and also described how police were able to commandeer the plane in Mexico City.

Update (5.15pm):
Mexico's Office of the Attorney General have charged the now nine suspected hijackers with "terrorism, unlawful kidnapping" and other charges.

Meanwhile, Bolivia's ambassador to Mexico denied that the abductors may've come from that country as some early reports claimed. The suspects are "did not appear Bolivian" and were taller than the average Bolivian said Jorge Mansilla Torres who added that there are no direct flights from Bolivia to Mexico.

Update (4.45pm):
According to Milenio's website police captured at least six suspected hijackers of Aeromexico flight 576. The nationalities of the accused have yet to be revealed despite earlier reports claiming that they are not Mexican.

One of the passengers briefly spoke on TV and claimed that one of the hijackers was "well-dressed, robust, dark-skinned (and) a good passenger."

Transportation Secretary Juan Molinar Horcasitas told the press that there was no bomb on board the plane. All the occupants were freed said Horcasitas and none of them are injured.

The following footage from MSNBC shows the passengers getting off the plane under police observation:

Original Post:
In a developing new story, an Aeromexico flight bound for Cancun was hijacked and diverted to Mexico City.

According to footage shown by Televisa police troops surrounded Flight 576 shortly after landing and freed all the plane's occupants. CNN en Espanol reported cited TV Azteca who claimed that five people have been detained by police.

According to previous reports, three men took over the plane in midair and and threatened to explode it unless they could speak to Mexican president Felipe Calderon. (Calderon had been at the presidential hangar in that airport yet canceled his flight and left the facility as the hijacking transpired). The identity of the hijackers is unknown though one Mexican source claimed that the abductors could be of Colombian or Bolivian background.

The entire incident began roughly two hours ago but it appears to be under control.

Details continue to be very sketchy at the time of this post. We will update it as soon as more information becomes known.

Online Sources - CNN, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Reuters
Image- CNN

Daily Headlines: September 9, 2009

* Latin America: Fourteen people were killed yesterday in Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil as a result of tornadoes caused by a violent storm.

* Chile: A pair of British scientists believes they know the origin of the red hats on top of the ubiquitous Easter Island statues.

* Guatemala: The local press blamed drug gangs for the murders on Monday of four prison officials.

* Costa Rica: The body of a missing Chicago man who had been hiking in Costa Rica may’ve been found in a crater lagoon.

Image- BBC News
Online Sources- Guardian UK, MSNBC, LAHT, CNN

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

World Watch: This land is whose land?

* Israel: The government of Israel defied calls by the White House to not expand the construction of new settlements in the West Bank.

* Europe: A series of German AIDS awareness ads featuring depictions of Hitler and Stalin have raised the ire of European AIDS groups.

* Africa: Several African countries have called for the removal of international sanctions against Zimbabwe and its controversial President Robert Mugabe.

* U.S.: How bad is the budget crisis in California? Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger eliminated state funding for a program that paid for six domestic violence shelters.

Image- MSNBC
Online Sources- Al Jazeera English, MSNBC, BBC News, Guardian UK

Colombian rebels release more hostage videos

Colombia’s FARC guerillas released videos of ten soldiers and police officers who have been held captive for over a decade.

The arresting footage (which you can view here) showed the hostages looking tired with shackles and chained around their necks. They delivered brief messages pertaining to their health, and called for their prompt liberation. One of the kidnapped policemen gave his thanks to his loved ones, the local media, and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for his earlier work in securing hostage releases.

Previous video was publicized via Sen., Piedad Cordoba who has served as the liaison between the guerillas and the government. The latest video, however, was uncovered when an accused FARC courier was nabbed by police over the weekend.

The news was met with relief by families of the kidnapping victims including some who participated in a small march in Bogota calling for a “humanitarian accord” to be reached. Over the weekend, one of the most vocal activists ended his latest personal trek for the hostages’ freedom:
The father of army Cpl. Pablo Emilio Moncayo, who has been held hostage by Colombia’s FARC guerrilla group for almost 12 years, arrived in Bogota after a foot journey of more than 100 kilometers (62 miles), during which he symbolically crucified himself on the cross of bamboo which he carried during his long march…

“Let the kidnapped people regain their freedom, (let) we Colombians be able to live in a different way and let there be no more anxiety of kidnapping,” (Gustavo) Moncayo said.
Image- Al Jazeera English
Online Sources- Reuters, BBC News, The Latin Americanist, LAHT, YouTube, AP

Mexican cabinet shakeup includes Attorney General

Mexican president Felipe Calderon announced several important changes to his cabinet this week including the money-saving elimination of three ministerial posts. The most vital change, however, was the resignation of the country’s Attorney General.

President Felipe Calderon praised outgoing A.G. Eduardo Medina Mora for his "professionalism, his commitment and loyalty to Mexico." Yet neither Calderon nor Medina Mora gave reasons why the latter quit from being Mexico’s top cop though the president claimed that Medina Mora has been asked to serve as a “part of Mexico's diplomatic corps”.

Medina Mora was the brains behind Mexico’s toughen anticrime strategy that has suffered more downs than ups. Despite the dispatching of over 45,000 troops nationwide under the plan, violence continues to rise especially in the northern border states. (This might explain Calderon’s pick of ex-Chihuahua attorney general Arturo Chavez to replace Medina Mora). Furthermore, the change may mean a new shift in law enforcement tactics:
More than 13,000 people have died since Mr. Calderon took office, according to newspaper estimates, most victims of internecine warfare between drug cartels fighting over drug routes to the U.S. and increasingly lucrative Mexican drug markets.

Mr. Medina Mora's departure is a boost for Public Security Minister Genaro García Luna: The two men had clashed over Mr. García Luna's plans to create a single national police force under his command. Mexico's Congress killed that plan, but Mr. García Luna has begun creating a de facto national police, his new Federal Police force.
Image- AFP
Online Sources- Christian Science Monitor, Al Jazeera English, Wall Street Journal, AP

¿Por qué no te callas?: Connecticut debate hecklers

It’s been a while since we last inducted anyone into our hall of shame for outrageous and stupid remarks. There have been several worthy candidates not related to Latin America such as the asinine controversy over President Obama’s “stay in school” speech earlier today. This week’s “¿Por qué no te callas?” honors goes to some attendees of a recent town hall debate on health care.

Throughout the summer, numerous forums on the proposed health care reform have turned into shouting matches and at times forums for ugly slurs. Unfortunately things got a little testy at a Norwalk, Connecticut forum last week when a Peruvian-born bishop walked up to the mic and spoke Spanish:

Amidst the heckling and jeering over the clergyman speaking in Spanish where a few some other taunts like “just give him the country, give it to him.” His legitimate concerns over health care (he lost his insurance after his wife was laid off from her job) were overshadowed by the boorish behavior of some louts in the audience.

Yes the bishop could have spoken in English yet he preferred to comment in the language where he could best express himself. He did not speak in Spanish in order to harangue or tease or insult but rather to provide a legitimate opinion. To his credit, the bishop calmly continued with his remarks and did not apologize for his actions. His civil behavior and civic duty are lessons that we should all learn whether we speak English, Spanish, Hungarian, Mandarin, or any other language. Pity it’s a lesson that most of the hecklers will probably never understand.

Why don’t you just shut up Connecticut debate hecklers?

(Hat tip: Wonkette).

Online Sources- Wonkette, Think Progress, YouTube, Gawker

Daily Headlines: September 8, 2009

* Brazil: The presidents of France and Brazil issued a joint statement confirming Brazil’s over $2 billion deal to buy three dozen French-made jet fighters.

* Chile: In a shocking incident a heartbroken 26-year-old Chilean committed suicide as onlookers including his ex-girlfriend witnessed it via a live webcam.

* Ecuador: The head of security for President Rafael Correa died on Sunday after being ill for over a month with the swine flu.

* Cuba: More than twenty dissidents including the co-founder of the Ladies in White publicly backed the September 20th peace concert in Havana organized by Colombian musician Juanes.

Image- AP (“Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, right, and France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, speaks during the Independence Day parade, in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, Sep. 7, 2009.”)
Online Sources- Los Angeles Times, MSNBC, The Latin Americanist, LAHT, CNN

Monday, September 7, 2009

Latino unemployment and economic woes increase

Today is Labor Day in the U.S.; an occasion that typically marks the end of summer and is usually a day of rest and relaxation for some. Yet the holiday is also a day to honor those who work hard and diligently in order to provide for themselves, their families, and their communities.

The recession, lack of immigration reform and increasing unemployment have hit Latinos in the U.S. particularly hard. As Lon Angeles-based daily La Opinion noted in an editorial, the weakened economy has hurt far too many people nationwide:
For Latinos the rate of unemployment (13%) is much higher than the national average (9.7%). At the same time, Hispanic workers confront additional problems.

A recent National Council of La Raza report shows just how bleak it is: two of every five Latino workers do not earn sufficient wages to keep their families out of poverty; barely half of employed Hispanics have health insurance through their employers; Latinos are more likely to be victims of employers who fail to pay the compensation due; and Latinos take on the most dangerous jobs with little occupational safety in workplaces that are poorly regulated.

In my family we face the dichotomy of the current labor situation. One of my brothers was fortunate to get a job before the crisis hit and despite massive layoffs he was able to stay in his position. On the other hand, my other brother has had great trouble finding full-time employment; a problem that has been especially common for young adults.

Ultimately all one can do is hope for the best and to try to weather the economic storm as best as possible. Easier said than done, yes, but one has to move forward somehow.

Image- New York Times (“Sergio Fuentes sought help from a state worker while looking through listings in San Jose, Calif.”)
Online Sources- BBC News, La Opinion, AP

World Cup Qualifers: A tale of two coaches

A slate of soccer World Cup qualifiers took place over the weekend. We’ll highlight two matches in particular.

As a player, Diego Maradona was a magician on the field and undoubtedly one of the best soccer player’s ever. His prowess on the field has not translated itself to the bench, however. The doubts over his hiring as Argentina’s head coach have grown after several embarrassing losses including a 6-1 drubbing in Bolivia.

Saturday’s match against bitter regional rivals Brazil should have served as a shot in the arm for Argentina and Maradona. Instead it was Brazil who emerged on top as they became the first country in the Americas to directly qualify for next year’s World Cup:

In other scores:
Javier “El Vasco” Aguirre was reappointed last April to head Mexico after the disappoint Sven-Goran Eriksson era in Mexico. Since then he has proved to be the right man for the job after drubbing the U.S. in the Gold Cup and beating them again in a key qualifier in Mexico City. Aguirre has righted a leaking ship especially after Saturday’s 3-0 shutout of Costa Rica in San Jose:

In other scores:
  • U.S.2- El Salvador 1 (Two goals in five minutes helped the U.S. avoid being upset)
  • Honduras 4- Trinidad and Tobago 1 (Honduras is one of four teams vying for three direct qualifying places after their easy win)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, USA TODAY, Canadian Press, YouTube, Reuters, AP, Living in Peru

Daily Headlines: September 7, 2009

* Ecuador: The judge overseeing an environmental damage case against Chevron withdrew himself days after the oil giant claimed that they secretly videotaped him in a bribe scheme.

* Cuba: Belgium became the latest European country to agree to house an inmate from the U.S.-controlled Guantanamo Bay prison.

* Mexico: A suspected member of Mexico’s Juarez drug cartel has been arrested and charged with the murders of seventeen people at a Ciudad Juarez drug rehab center last week.

* Argentina: The government refused to accept further aid from the International Monetary Fund despite credit problems.

Image- MSNBC
Online Sources- Reuters, BBC News, The Latin Americanist, CNN, Bloomberg