Friday, September 18, 2009

Thank goodness it's "Viernes"!

Friday is finally here and the weekend is mercifully (assuming for most of you) around the corner. This tune is generally thought of as the end-of-Friday song, yet for my money I prefer this lesser-known though far catchier 80s song from British rocker Joe Jackson:

For my part, I'll be posting tonight and throughout the weekend; possible posts could include the walking controversy that is Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the upcoming "Paz Sin Fronteras" gig in Havana, and a special blog announcement.

Thanks as always for your readership despite the decrease in posts from my end.

Daily Headlines: September 18, 2009

* Latin America: Puerto Rican reggaeton duo Calle 13 received a leading five Latin Grammy nominations while Caetano Veloso, Ricardo Arjona, and Babasonicos were among those with multiple nominations.

* Chile: The Chilean judge who indicted the late strongman Augusto Pinochet will run for a Senate seat against the son of an ex-president and a former presidential candidate.

* Guatemala: Mexico, Venezuela, and Brazil pledged to send aid to combat the severe food shortage in Guatemala.

* Venezuela: Could coffee become the next industry to be formally nationalized by the Chavez administration in Venezuela?

Image- The Telegraph
Online Sources- Los Angeles Times, LAHR, CBC, Bloomberg

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Festival highlights writers, filmmakers

If you're in New York, head over to the Walter Reade Theater, where the Daily News reminds us today that the Latinbeat Film Festival is in motion.

Films include "The Ballroom" from Brazil, "A Boyfriend for My Wife" from Argentina and "The General" from Mexico, which is its New York premiere.

Many of the films are showing for the first time in the city.

The event also includes special events, like a tribute to Julio Cortázar and a panel discussion with up-and-coming New York filmmakers.

Tonight, for example, you can catch a screening of "Canal (A) On Cortázar," three documentaries about the life of the Argentine writer.

The festival is in its twelfth year.

Tickets are $7 for members, students or children, $8 for seniors and $11 for the public. Buy online or save the $1.25 service
charge at the box office (it's cash only). A five-film pass is also available for $45 to the public.

If you've been, leave suggestions on what to see.

Source: Film Society of Lincoln Center, NY Daily News

Photo: "The General," Film Society of Lincoln Center

Latin American only region to gain wealth

Despite the glum economic numbers, Latin America is one region whose wealth has actually increased recently, according to one report.

As the financial downturn batters the United States and Europe, Latin America emerged as the only place to claim a wealth increase. Although the increase is a mere 3 percent, it's noteworthy because Europe's wealth was down nearly 6 percent and North America, where Americans lost more than $1 trillion in the stock markets, was down nearly 22 percent.

The bump is attributed to a commodities boom.

The findings, from Boston Consulting Group and delivered in a Sept. 15 report marking the one-year Lehman Brothers' bankruptcy, show that global wealth fell overall from $104.7 trillion in 2007 to $92.4 trillion in 2008. "

This decline of 11.7 percent was also the first drop since 2001.

In related news, as we posted earlier, Brazil is pulling itself out of the slump, and the Latin Business Chronicle reported yesterday that that GE Latin America received a financial boost with the global crisis because new construction projects created more lighting and electrical distribution.

If you're financially minded, read more here.

Source: The Street, Latin Business Chronicle

Photo: Stock traders in Sao Paulo, LA Times

Daily Headlines: September 17, 2009

* Haiti: Advocates and community leaders plan to march in Washington this week in order to advocate for temporary protected status for Haitian migrants.

* Cuba: The Castro regime vehemently rejected the White House’s decision to continue the 47-year-long trade embargo on the island.

* Mexico: While millions of Mexicans worldwide celebrated their country’s Independence Day gunmen killed ten at a Ciudad Juarez drug rehab center.

* Brazil: Two ex-policemen were sentenced to nearly 500 years in jail for a 2005 ‘death squad” massacre near Rio de Janeiro.

Image- Haiti Times
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, UPI, BBC News, Al Jazeera English

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Miercoles Musical: The first "peace concert"

Preparations are under way for this Sunday's "peace concert" in Havana featuring fifteen artists from Europe and the Americas. The organizers of this "Paz Sin Fronteras" gig have plenty to think about such as what sort of political message will be conveyed via the musicians and will the concert go off without a hitch.

It may be worth remembering the first "Paz Sin Fronteras" effort eighteen months ago along the Colombia-Venezuela border. It was a true festival of music in the midst of political tensions between the neighboring states. The tensions still remain but for one day Juanes, Miguel Bose and others helped show the power that music can have in uniting us as people:

If you reside in the U.S. and wish to watch the convert on TV, HITN-TV will air the concert live from Havana starting this Sunday at 2pm EST. Click here for more info including if HITN is available in your area.

Online Sources - HITN, Reuters,, YouTube

Daily Headlines: September 16, 2009

* U.S.: After spending several days in space, Mexican-American astronaut José Hernandez said that the “American economy needs” illegal immigrants and advocated the legalization of their status.

* Puerto Rico: Nine employees at Puerto Rico’s main airport were arrested and accused of participating in a drug smuggling ring.

* Bolivia: Aside for rallying for immigrants’ rights during his visit to Spain, Bolivian president Evo Morales was able to get the European country to cancel over $77 million in debt.

* Cuba: Thousands of marchers demonstrated in Havana and called for the liberation of five alleged Cuban spies jailed in the U.S.

Image- KRON
Online Sources- AP, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Guardian UK

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Honduras round-up

For those whose attention spans have waned on the prolonged and confusing Honduran presidential crisis, here are a few updates worthy of noting:

Costa Rica's President Arias is slated to meet with four of the 6 main presidential candidates tomorrow, including the two main candidates (Pepe Lobo and Elvin Santos) in an effort to persuade them to bring ousted president Manuel Zelaya back before the November 29th elections.

Meanwhile, governments the world over continue to threaten and repeal aid to Honduras. Days after the US canceled its MCC program, the EU, which had already repealed both military and humanitarian assistance programs, has announced further sanctions including restrictions on political contacts with member governments. For the time being, only the US maintains a diplomatic envoy in Tegucigalpa. In Geneva, the Honduran envoy to the UN Human Rights Council was ordered to leave in mid-session, as the regime he represents was declared illegal by participating Latin American countries such as Cuba, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.

It remains utterly unclear at this point whether any agreement on Zelaya's return has any chance of succeeding, and whether or not the presidential elections in November will be able to gain legitimacy both in Honduras as well as around the world. It does seem apparent, however, that allowing Zelaya to return in one way, shape or form is the now clearest (if not cleanest) path to a resolution of the current impasse over electoral legitimacy.

Del Potro captures U.S. Open crown

I've never watched an entire tennis match until last night's U.S. Open men's final between Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro and #1-ranked Roger Federer. Yet Monday's five-set marathon was an absolutely thrilling affair topped off be Del Potro's stunning victory:
Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro ended Roger Federer's five-year unbeaten reign at the US Open in five dramatic sets to win his first Grand Slam title.

The 20-year-old sixth seed twice fought back from a set down to win 3-6 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-2...

"I had two dreams this week," said Del Potro. "One was to win the US Open and the other one is to be like Roger...

"You fought until the final point. You are a great champion. I'm very happy to be here with this crown, with these people, on this court. This will be in my mind forever."

Del Potroshould expect a hero's welcome upon returning to his native land where his feats have caught nationwide attention:

Online Sources - YouTube, BBC Sport

Daily Headlines: September 15, 2009

* Costa Rica: In an example of the changing face of immigration in some Latin America countries, fifty-four African migrants from as far away as Ethiopia and Somalia were detained in Costa Rica.

* Dominican Republic: Amnesty International denounced proposals to change the Dominican constitution that would hurt reproductive rights including a possible total ban on abortion.

* Puerto Rico: Education officials and Gov. Luis Fortuno defended the silly and controversial decision to ban five prominent books from public high schools curriculums due to their use of slang.

* Chile: The Bachelet administration wants to curb immigration from the mainland to Easter Island in order to preserve the island’s unique environment.

Image- AP (“Undocumented African migrants listen to instructions from a Costa Rican immigration official upon their arrival at a detention center in San Jose, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2009.”)
Online Sources- AP, LAHT, Amnesty International, Bloomberg

Monday, September 14, 2009

World Watch: Hunger pangs

* U.S.: Rest in peace Norman Borlaug; the Nobel Prize-winning scientist and father of the "green revolution" in agriculture died Saturday at the age of 95.

* Pakistan: On a slightly related note, at least fourteen people died in a stampede while trying to obtain giveaways of free flour.

* China: China filed a case with the World Trade Organization against U.S. trade penalties on Chinese tires.

* Zimbabwe: The European Union will continue sanctions against Zimbabwe due to human rights violations and a lack of political progress.

Image- The Telegraph (“Borlaug, then visiting professor at Texas A&M University looking over some sorghum tests, Oct. 30, 1996, in one of A&M's teaching greenhouses, in College Station, Texas.”)
Online Sources- Guardian UK, BBC News, MSNBC, CNN

White House continues Cuba embargo

The Obama administration may have taken small steps to try to improve relations with Cuba yet today they decided to keep the biggest hurdle in place.

"I hereby determine that the continuation for one year of the exercise of those authorities with respect to Cuba is in the national interest of the United States," said Obama in a statement which would extend the blockade on Cuba into a 48th year. The extension has been done by presidents under the Trading with the Enemy Act since the 1970s, and currently Cuba continues to be the only country restricted under that law.

The embargo prohibits U.S. companies from doing direct business with Cuba yet U.S. products like “Wilson baseball caps, Westinghouse light fixtures, Proctor-Silex juicers and GE microwave ovens” can still be found in the island’s markets. These items are generally too expensive for the average Cuban to buy, yet their availability on the island demonstrates one of the problems with the embargo:
Some items — such as food, agricultural goods and medicine — are there legally under exceptions to the embargo. But others are spirited in by entrepreneurs, front companies and independent distributors that worry little about U.S. laws…

"One of the reasons there may be so many American goods in Cuba is due to the nature of the way that region operates," (New Balance Vice President Edward Haddad) said. "A lot of it is cash and carry. They will go into the Colon (Panama) Free Zone, buy products and bring them back."
A poll conducted last month concluded that fewer Cuban exiles are backing the blockade (41% for vs. 40% against).

Image- BBC News
Online Sources-, Miami Herald, Xinhua, Huffington Post, The Latin Americanist

Brazilians boost Google

Brazil’s technology sector has been gradually catching the world’s attention in recent years. As we mentioned in June, Indian tech firms have increasingly outsourced their work to Brazil partly due to adopting a "western" business culture.

Brazil’s tech growth has also expanded to an increase in computer and internet users. One estimate claims that one in five Brazilians has internet access though that number is expected to grow as “an expanding economy lifting millions into a middle class for whom computers are no longer beyond reach.” According to Ibope Nielsen Online, over 36 million Brazilians were active internet users in July alone.

Thus, it should be no surprise then that Brazil is the top country where sites on the Google network are visited. Much like India, credit for that can be given to the local popularity for Orkut-Google’s social network- despite it being a failure everywhere else. Yet it’s more than just Orkut wrote Miguel Helft of the New York Times’ Bits blog:
Andrew Lipsman, director of industry analysis for comScore, said that Google’s dominance in those countries has historical reasons. While on opposite sides of the world, when it comes to the Internet, India and Brazil developed in parallel, he said.

“Part of the explanation was that Google emerged onto the scene at the time these markets were developing,” Mr. Lispman said. “As Google became the default search engine, the brand extended to these other services” …

India and Brazil are ranked 7th and 9th in terms Internet usage globally. They are also two of the fastest-growing markets.
Image- New York Times (“Isis Cordeiro, pointing, and Jennifer Patrochinio, right, attending a class on computers in Rio de Janeiro. The Brazilian government has plans to help millions of low-income people buy their first computers.”)
Online Sources- Bits,, TMCnet, The Latin Americanist

Evo Morales rallies for immigrants’ rights

During a visit to Spain, Bolivian president Evo Morales praised the efforts of migrants living abroad. "When the Spanish and Europeans came to America, our forefathers didn't call them illegal," said Morales at Sunday’s rally outside of Madrid. Morales pro-immigrant message included proclaiming that "we all have the right to live in any part of the world, respecting the laws of each country."

With Spain being hit hard by the global economic downturn the country has undergone an immigration crackdown affecting hundreds of thousands of expats from Latin America. With about 40% of Spain’s Bolivian population consisting of undocumented immigrants, Morales’ message resonated with some who attended the rally:
Many Bolivians attending the event said they had difficulties securing work visas and consequently experienced problems finding work and abuse from authorities.

"We feel like criminals for not having papers, and we're treated like criminals. We're here to find out what the government can do to help us," said Bolivian construction worker Nemecio Vidal, 58.
Ata separate event, Morales blasted the deal for an expanded U.S. military presence in Colombia yet he vowed not to cut diplomatic ties with either country.

Online Sources- BBC News, The Latin Americanist, Reuters, RTT News

Daily Headlines: September 14, 2009

* Latin America: A London-based think tank credited Mexico and Argentina as the world's top nations that are making the “global economy more climate friendly", based on an index of "carbon competitiveness”.

* Guatemala: Nine people were reportedly arrested for the May murder of a lawyer who claimed before he died that President Alvaro Colom was plotting his death.

* Peru: “A flood of high-quality counterfeit U.S. money from Peru is perplexing federal authorities,” according to this Los Angeles Times article published over the weekend.

* Brazil: Thousands are homeless and at least two are dead in southern Brazil as a result of heavy rains and flooding.

Image- Guardian UK (“A combination photograph shows an image from 1928 (top) of the Upsala glacier in Patagonia, Argentina, contrasted with a 2004 photograph (bottom) of the same view. The pictures illustrate the extent to which climate change has caused the ice to melt away this century.”)
Online Sources- AP, The Latin Americanist, Reuters, Los Angeles Times, CNN

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Del Potro upsets Nadal in U.S. Open

With lips still buzzing over Serena Williams’ outburst, Argentine Juan Martin del Potro took center stage and upset one of the world’s best players.

In only his second Grand Slam semifinal ever, Del Potro beat the third-ranked Rafael Nadal in straight sets at the U.S. Open. Hours after Nadal won over Chile's Fernando González in a rain-soaked quarterfinal, Del Potro blitzed the Spaniard with a convincing 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 win. Del Potro "kept Nadal on the defensive” throughout the whole match and overpowered a seemingly tired opponent.

The sixth-seeded Del Potro becomes the first Argentine to make a U.S. Open final since Guillermo Vilas in 1977 and he might face top seed Roger Federer. Del Potro promised the capacity crowd that he would battle in Monday afternoon’s final as strongly as he did today:
After the match on court, the 20-year-old Del Potro addressed the fans expecting a Federer-Nadal final, he said, “Yes, I’m sorry.”

With that, he laughed and explained how special the Open is to him. He called it his favorite tournament. “I am close to doing my dream, to win this tournament,” he said. “I think this is the best moment of my life.”
Image- BBC Sport (“Del Potro is into a Grand Slam final for the first time”)
Online Sources- Bloomberg, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, AP