Saturday, September 26, 2009

Weekend Headlines: September 26-27, 2009

* Colombia: A survey conducted of international writers named Gabriel Garcia Marquez' “One Hundred Years of Solitude” as the most influential piece of world literature of the past quarter-century.

* Peru: On a related note, Peru’s Mario Vargas Llosa won the Caballero Bonald Prize for his book on Uruguayan author Juan Carlos Onetti.

* Honduras: The country’s political stalemate shows no signs of weakening as de facto President Roberto Micheletti claimed that "it's impossible to negotiate" with deposed President Manuel Zelaya while Zelaya accused Micheletti of poisoning him with toxic gas.

* El Salvador: Legislators defeated a bill that would’ve banned same-sex marriages and barred gay couples from adoption.

* Mexico: Police arrested five people accused of a series of murders in Ciudad Juarez including two incidents at drug rehab clinics.

* Argentina: At least twelve people were injured after police fought with workers protesting against layoffs at a Kraft Foods plant.

Online Sources- Guardian UK, Voice of America, IPS, Buenos Aires Herald, Wall Street Journal, MSNBC
Image- The Telegraph

Friday, September 25, 2009

World Watch: A small spark of hope

* World: In what may be a major breakthrough, scientists have developed a vaccine that decreases the risk of HIV infection by over 30%.

* Iran: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defied mounting criticism against him over the recent discovery of a “secret” nuclear facility under construction.

* Middle East: Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi proposed a “one state solution” for Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

* U.S.: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg returned to work at the Supreme Court after suffering a health scare that required a brief hospitalization.

Image- CBC
Online Sources- BBC News, Chicago Sun-Times, Al Jazeera English, New York Times

Telenovelas promote Census count

The Spanish-language TV soap operas known as telenovelas are often viewed as an escape from the tedium of reality. With its convoluted plots, hammy acting, and cheap music, telenovelas are primarily fun and entertaining.

There are occasions, however, when these soaps tackle real-life situations and issues of importance to the community. In Argentina, one telenovela raised awareness of illegal “Dirty War” adoptions while a Cuban soap broke taboos in its frank discussion of homosexuality.

In the States, some telenovelas have recently examined topics like the health care debate (in the case of one series developed by Colorado state officials). Though scant Latino groups have urged a boycott of the 2010 Census count, one popular soap has gone in a different direction:
Perla Beltrán, a young woman from the wrong side of the tracks in New York, has suffered a great deal lately — her husband, a thief, has been murdered and she has been associating with lowlifes. But she thinks she has found a way out: as a recruiter for the United States Census Bureau.

Ms. Beltrán, a character in the popular Spanish-language soap opera “Más Sabe el Diablo,” “The Devil Knows Best,” represents only one element of the government’s yearlong effort to garner trust among Hispanics, an ethnic group that has been historically wary of the decennial census process.
The situation is viewed by Census officials and TV network Telemundo as a win-win situation; the former raises awareness of the Census via “people placement” while the latter gets valuable PR and a possible ratings boost.

It’s easy to be dismissive of telenovelas yet they deserve recognition when they try to do something positive for its viewers beyond mere escapism.

Image- New York Times (“The soap opera “Más Sabe el Diablo” featured the 2010 census.”)
Online Sources- NPR, The Latin Americanist, New York Times, UPI

Daily Headlines: September 25, 2009

* Latin America: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad praised his country's ties to several Latin American states and said that there are “no limits” to their relations.

* Honduras: The Honduran political crisis could force that country’s critical October 10th World Cup qualifier against the U.S. to be played in another nation.

* Puerto Rico: The island’s economic woes continue as Gov. Luis Fortuno threatened to lay off 30,000 public workers on top of the 8000 he dismissed four months ago.

* Colombia: On a related note, Colombia has been hit with its hardest recession in a decade.

Image- AFP
Online Sources- Bloomberg, The Latin Americanist, New York Times,, Reuters

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Honduran stalemate goes on

Could there be a negotiated end to the crisis in Honduras? It seems like a long-shot but there have reportedly been some slight hints of “dialogue” in the Central American state.

While still bunkered in the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya said that he had been visited by a representative of de facto President Roberto Micheletti on Wednesday and they held “informal” talks. He further claimed that the talks “made no progress, but he called the meeting ‘the beginning to find peaceful solutions.’"

Yet acting deputy foreign minister Martha Lorena Alvarado told BBC News that the discussions had nothing to do with allowing Zelaya to resume the presidency. Moreover, Zelaya said in an interview with CNN en Español Thursday night that he rejected an offer was made by the aforementioned representative to allow a third person to takeover the presidency. The offer was “not acceptable” since he was the elected leader of Honduras, said Zelaya in the interview with Daniel Viotto.

In the meantime, protestors for and against Zelaya took to the streets of the capital city as Hondurans remain divided on who should be in charge:
"I'm supporting the democracy," (pro-Micheletti Congressman Antonio) Rivera said. "We don't want dictatorship here. We don't want Chavez. We don't want Zelaya back in our country"…

"Zelaya was elected as our president. Micheletti is the imposed president, forced on us by the rich and the powerful," (pro- Zelaya protester Cristina Rivera) said.
The U.N. Security Council will convene on Friday in a special emergency session to discuss about the Honduran crisis.

Image- Reuters (“A supporter of Honduras' ousted President Manuel Zelaya tries block the road with rocks during a protest in Tegucigalpa September 24, 2009.”)
Online Sources- Reuters, BBC News, CNN, NPR, Xinhua, The Telegraph

Chavez rails against “two Obamas”

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez spoke at the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday for the first time since his infamous 2006 “smells like sulfur” discourse. His speech this afternoon was not as harsh as it was against then-U.S. president George W. Bush yet he did have several critical comments to say.

Chavez claimed that the podium had the “smell of hope” in reference to Barack Obama who spoke at the same podium on Wednesday. Nevertheless, Chavez blasted the U.S. president for being two-faced towards the Americas and breaking his electoral promises. "Doesn't it seem like there are two Obamas?" asked Chavez who claimed that the White House “supported” the ouster of Honduras’ Manuel Zelaya last June. Chavez also called Obama hypocritical in that he called for global peace at his U.N. speech while also backing for U.S. military expansion in Colombia and continuing the embargo against Cuba.

Much like the comment on the “smell of hope”, Chavez hour-long speech also had a few lighter moments:
Chavez also urged Obama to "come over to the socialist side. Come join the Axis of Evil over here." He was only half joking.

A socialist and populist, Venezuela's president did not mention Bush by name, but got in another dig when he said "please, don't anybody throw a shoe at me!" and joked that Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, an ally, had been preparing to do just that.
Image- Miami Herald (“Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez holds up a copy of "Beyond Capital" by Istvan Meszaros while addressing the 64th session of the General Assembly at United Nations headquarters, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009.”)
Online Sources- The Telegraph, BBC News, AP, The Latin Americanist, CNN

Immigration fees could go up says gov't

The other day we examined Census data claiming that the foreign-born population fell in the U.S. last year mainly as a result of the recession. The recession is also being blamed for another immigration issue.

In 2007, fees for citizenship and other immigration paperwork were dramatically boosted; the cost of applying for citizenship was $400 but is currently $675. Yet the new director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) said yesterday that fees may soon have to be raised again due to "financial challenges". Alejandro Mayorkas blamed the economic slump and (ironically) the fee increase for a decrease in applicants and agency revenue. (Last week it was reported that earnings at the end of this fiscal year would fall $282 million short than agency predictions).

Mayorkas said possible cuts and fee increases were needed for improvements in service such as the creation of a new CIS website. Yet prospective applicants and immigrants rights groups believe that the planned changes will hurt services:
"This is already a lot of money and it's hard to gather it ... especially with this economy," (California resident Felix) Herrera said in Spanish. "But I also want to be part of voter decisions. I want to elect my governor, president and mayor"…

Raising fees will likely turn even more people away, said Cesar Lara, executive director of the Salinas-based Citizenship Project, a nonprofit organization that has helped over 300 legal residents to become U.S. citizens.

"It's going to impact people in the community," Lara said of the fee increase. "Most working can't afford it. They don't have $700 as disposable income."
Image- (Citizenship ceremony held one year ago at Boston’s Fenway Park)
Online Sources- The Salinas Californian, Huffington Post, AP, The Latin Americanist

Lula advocates global financial reform

Most of the Latin American leaders who have spoken at the U.N. General Assembly this week have focused on the crisis in Honduras. We’ll discuss the Honduran situation later, but it’s important to point out that presidents have also used the U.N. pulpit to highlight other vital and regional concerns.

Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva called for the need to reform several international financial bodies. Lula advocated granting developing countries such as Brazil more control over the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Reform is necessary after advanced nations led the world into a financial crisis according to Lula. “We can’t just shovel away the rubble of failure; we must be midwives to the future,” he emphasized during his speech yesterday.

With Lula expected to be a key player at the G20 summit starting today, the Brazilian leader also decried protectionist policies that some countries have enacted in response to the global economic slowdown.
"Rich countries are putting off reform at multilateral agencies like the IMF and the World Bank," he said. "We simply cannot understand the paralysis of the Doha Round, whose conclusion will above all benefit poor countries."

"There are also worrisome signs of return to protectionist practices, while little has been done to fight tax havens," he said.
Online Sources- Bloomberg, Voice of America, AFP, Xinhua

Daily Headlines: September 24, 2009

* Panama: In his marathon speech at the U.N. yesterday Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi called for the prompt liberation of former Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega.

* Argentina: A Dutch-Argentine national has been arrested and accused of involvement in a “Dirty War” operation where political prisoners were dumped at sea.

* Cuba: The White House has decided not to change the detention system for prisoners at the Guantanamo camp.

* Mexico: According to the Pew Research Center, about three out of every four Mexicans are unhappy with the direction of the country though 68% back President Felipe Calderon.

Image- MSNBC
Online Sources- MSNBC, CNN, BBC News, Reuters

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Time Predicts New Violence with Zelaya Return

After exiled Honduran President Manuel Zelaya slipped over the border back into his home country, an article in Time magazine predicts that his return will be met only with more violence.

Doubtful that Zelaya can regain confidence from his countrymen, journalists Tim Padgett and Tim Rogers suggest concern that "worse violence could erupt in one of the hemisphere's poorest countries."

Clashes on Tuesday involving riot police and tear gas seemed to support their argument. Costa Rican President Oscar Arias has been trying to get both Zelaya and de facto President Roberto Micheletti to come to agreement under the "San José Accord," which has yet to occur.

Read more here to find out how the authors think this could shake the hemisphere.

Source and Photo: Time

Daily Headlines: September 23, 2009

* Chile: The border dispute between Bolivia and Chile has heated up over “a highland stream” that flows through the Atacama desert.

* Mexico: Representatives of the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Trust filed a lawsuit yesterday regarding over 1200 pieces of allegedly forged Kahlo art that appeared in a pair of books.

* Haiti: Mourners in Miami paid remembrance to an 8-month-old girl who died with eight other Haitian migrants at sea last May.

* Latin America: According to some counternarcotics officials in the Americas, “at least nine top-tier Latin American drug cartels have established bases in 11 West African nations.”

Image- New York Times (“Licancabur volcano towers above the high desert Andean plain on the Chilean-Bolivian border.”)
Online Sources- AP, LAHT, CNN, Reuters

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

World Watch: Gimme Shelter…revisited

* France: Several hundred illegal immigrants could be deported back to their home countries after French police bulldozed a makeshift refugee camp nicknamed “the jungle.”

* World: The United Nations General Assembly session opened on Tuesday with Chinese President Hu Jintao claiming that his country would lower carbon emissions over the next decade.

* Middle East: U.S. President Barack Obama dropped a demand to stop Israeli settlements as a concession for possible peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

* Sudan: Over eighty people were murdered in a southern Sudanese village by militia in attack blamed on the country’s federal government.

Image- AP (“Bulldozers clear the makeshift camp known as the "Jungle" after migrants were evacuated in Calais, northern France, Tuesday Sept. 22, 2009.”)
Online Sources- BBC News, CNN, Guardian UK, MSNBC, Reuters

An ambassador's lack of clarity

The planned U.S. military expansion in Colombia has brought about plenty of criticisms throughout the region. One of the critiques mentioned at August’s UNASUR summit by Chilean president Michelle Bachelet was the secrecy behind the plan’s details. Neither the White House or Casa De Nariño have been willing to divulge the particulars of the militarization plan even though doing so would likely help get support among the region’s moderate leaders.

The U.S. ambassador to Colombia hasn’t made the issue any easier, unfortunately. His unclear remarks boils down to the following: the details don’t have to be shown, but they could be.
Ambassador William Brownfield said that the military agreement with Colombia, which allows
U.S. troops the use of seven bases, is under review for publication in both English and Spanish, reported newspaper El Espectador.

Likewise, he said the United States was not required to publish the text of the agreement because it is bilateral. However, he maintained that if one of the two countries should decide to do so there would be no problem, because in such a cooperation agreement "there is nothing hidden."
To quote some of the lyrics of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears For Fears:
I can't stand this indecision

Married with a lack of vision
Image- BBC Mundo (Colombia’s Palanquero air base could soon see an increased U.S. military presence)
Online Sources- El Espectador, Colombia Reports, The Latin Americanist,

Did the immigrant population really drop?

The immigrant population in the U.S. dropped in 2008 according to figures released by the Census Bureau though there’s more than meets the eye.

The annual American Community Survey (ACS) concluded that the number of foreign-born residents in the U.S. fell by an estimated 99,000 (approximately 0.3%). The largest foreign-born decline was among Mexican immigrants with a drop by about 300,000 to 11.4 million. The overall Latino population decreased nationwide except the Northeast were it stayed about the same.

The drop in immigrant population has been blamed by some on the recession since those states with the largest declines where also those hardest hit by the economic downturn. Others point the finger at stronger enforcement of immigration laws.

Yet details of the ACS show that percentage of foreign-born (12.5%) is still “close to the peak reached during the last massive wave of immigration between the 1880s and 1920s.” Furthermore, it’s unknown exactly how the economy has affected immigrant populations in decades past since the Census bureau used to measure that every ten years. Lastly, the methodology behind the ACS may indicate that the foreign-born may not have declined at all:
The data come from the Census Bureau's annual survey of about 3 million Americans, not the entire population. The survey's margin of sampling error is high enough to make it possible that the number of foreign-born people in the country actually remained unchanged from 2007 to 2008 rather than declined.
Image- USA TODAY (“An ICE agent searches a man at a meat plant in Greeley, Colo., during a 2006 raid.”)
Online Sources- USA TODAY, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, AP

Daily Headlines: September 22, 2009

* Latin America: The deltas for the Colorado River and Brazil’s Rio São Francisco are just two of many waterways worldwide in danger of sinking and displacing hundreds of millions of people.

* Mexico: With over three months left in the year the homicide rate in Ciudad Juarez has broken the record of 1,653 murders set in 2008.

* Cuba: Could the ban on traveling from the U.S. to Cuba be overturned this year? One congressman thinks so.

* Peru: Children’s rights groups in Peru claimed that kids are prostituted by their impoverished parents for a pittance and that “various foreign bands” are behind the making of in child porn.

Image- BBC News (“The Sao Francisco flows along the canyon in northeastern Brazil”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, AFP, LAHT, Bloomberg

Monday, September 21, 2009

World Watch: Gimme Shelter

* France: French officials are planning to shutdown and evict about 1500 mostly Middle Eastern migrants from a squalid refugee camp nicknamed “the jungle.”

* Japan: Speaking of immigration, perhaps Japan will be more welcoming of migrants as the country faces a shortage of workers due to a more elderly population.

* World: According to a study by Alzheimer's Disease International, the number of people worldwide with Alzheimer's disease has shot up by 10% since 2005.

* Iran: Both the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran and Human Rights Watch has called on global leaders to demand more accountability from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad while he attends the U.N. General Assembly this week.

Image- BBC News (“Some 1,500 migrants live in very poor conditions outside Calais.”)
Online Sources- BBC News, AFP, USA TODAY

Yoani Sanchez opines on Cuba “peace concert”

Plenty has been mentioned in the press and by bloggers on last Sunday’s "Peace without Borders" concert in Cuba. We’ll leave the last word, however, with well-known Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez.

Sanchez attended the concert and though she admitted that “the Juanes concert will not have significantly changed our lives” she also expressed hope that there can be (as Juanes said) a “Cuba libre!”:
If we see the performance of this September 20th as the dress rehearsal for a concert we'll have one day, then we must congratulate those who participated. Even if there isn't another, and the Plaza again takes on its solemnity and grayness, at least this Sunday afternoon we live something different. In a place where the division between us has been systematically sown, Juanes--to the setting of the sun--has shouted, "For one Cuban family!"
Image- CBC (“Hundreds of thousands gather at Revolution Square in Havana for the Peace Without Borders concert..”)
Online Sources- Reuters Video, The Latin Americanist, Wikipedia, Huffington Post

Brazil, Venezuela deny “arms race”

Much has been mentioned in recent weeks about an “arms race” among Latin American states, especially regarding weapons purchases made by Venezuela and increased U.S. military presence in Colombia. Though the topic is of concern, the buying of weapons throughout the region is not a recent development. (For instance, Foreign Policy magazine named the Russian-led “Latin American Arms Race” as one of the “Top Ten Stories You Missed in 2006”). Additionally, several regional leaders have tried to downplay the weapons issue.

Last Friday, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said that his country was not engaging in an “arms race” and tried to defend the possible multi-billion-dollar deal to buy 36 new fighter jets. Lula tried to justify Brazil’s arms purchases as necessary for border enforcement and to protect vast offshore oil fields. Earlier in the week, Defense Minister Nelson Jobim claimed that Brazil is not "a Venezuela, buying in the world's arms supermarket…(and) not on a shopping spree.”

Speaking of Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez rejected U.S. concerns over a $2.2 billion deal to buy arms from Russia. Chavez also alluded to what he might say this month at U.N. General Assembly:
“(U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) knows she’s lying -- it’s cynicism without limits,” Chavez said (Friday) in comments carried by state television.

“What should I say at the UN then? Perhaps it still smells like sulfur,” Chavez added, referring to a speech he made in 2006 when he called former President George W. Bush “the devil” at the annual General Assembly meeting.
Image- BBC News (“Brazil is buying four Scorpene attack submarines from France.”)
Online Sources- Reuters, Bloomberg, Foreign Policy, Xinhua, AFP, AP

Zelaya returns to Honduras (Updated)

Update (5:30pm):
Manuel Zelaya has returned to Honduras.

According to an interview granted to Al Jazeera English, the ousted leader is holed up at the Brazilian Embassy in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa:

"I have come here to solve problems - in an attitude of peace, without weapons, without violence. I hope that the international community will support me," he said.

"I am calling on the people of Honduras to come to the embassy to protect me because there is word that [the de facto government] will arrest me and there is word that they will try to assassinate me."

In separate remarks to the BBC, Zelaya called for calm and "urged the armed forces not to use violence against demonstrators." Nevertheless, it remains to be seen how calmly the masses will react to the news as well as the de facto government who initially rejected Zelaya's claims of returning to Honduras.

Update (2:45pm):
In a phone interview with CNN en Espanol, Zelaya aide Eduardo Reina said that Zelaya is in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa. Yet he denied rumors that he is at the United Nations building there. That was later confirmed by Rebeca Arias - the U.N. Coordinator in Honduras- in a separate a phone interview with CNN en Espanol.

Thousands of Zelaya sympathizers have gathered around the U.N. building in Tegucigalpa in an impromptu rally for the ousted leader who was the target of a coup nearly three months ago.

De facto president Roberto Micheletti accused Zelaya of engaging in "media terrorism" and claimed that Zelaya is really in "a hotel suite in Nicaragua". But the State Department confirmed Zelaya's presence in Honduras though agency spokesman Ian Kelly did not specify Zelaya's location. Additionally, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and a spokeswoman for the Honduran Embassy in Nicaragua both claimed that Zelaya is back in Honduras.

Original Post:
In a developing story, ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya claimed that he has returned to his homeland. According to Reuters:
President Manuel Zelaya has returned to Honduras almost three months after he was toppled in a coup, despite warnings that he would be arrested, a senior aide said on Monday.

"I am here in Tegucigalpa. I am here for the restoration of democracy, to call for dialogue." he told Honduras' Canal 36 television network.

According to CNN en Espanol, de facto president Roberto Micheletti has rejected Zelaya's claims.

(We'll try to find out more information on this story as more details become known.)

Last week, four of the candidates running for Honduran president pledged that they would back the San Jose Accord created by Costa Rica's Oscar Arias. Yet as we mentioned last week, it remains to be seen if "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."

Online Sources - Reuters, CBS News, The Latin Americanist, and others
Image - Reuters ("
Honduras' ousted President Manuel Zelaya greets supporters inside the Brazilian embassy after his arrival in Tegucigalpa September 21, 2009.")

Daily Headlines: September 21, 2009

* U.S.: According to the Government Accountability Office, the U.S.-Mexico border barrier will cost $6.5 billion over the next 20 years and the fence has been broken into at least 3,363 times.

* Brazil: “We want the public to become aware of our struggle and of the difficulties of inclusion, of accessibility… and that is what we came to show,” said one of the hundreds of disabled Brazilians who demonstrated yesterday.

* Argentina: According to the local press Argentina will make an offer to payback part of a multibillion dollar debt to the Paris Club group of creditor countries.

* Peru: President Alan Garcia's approval rating continues to be very low (28%) as anger continues over June’s deadly clashes between police and protestors.

Image- CBS News (“The $6.5 billion price tag is in addition to the $2.4 billion that has already been spent to build fence segments along the U.S.-Mexico border.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, AP, LAHT,, Reuters

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Revisit the "Paz Sin Fronteras" Cuba concert (Updated)

Did you miss Sunday's "Paz Sin Fronteras" concert in Cuba? Did you see it but want to watch it again? Check out the following video via Yahoo! En Espanol's "Paz Sin Fronteras" site:

As we mentioned in the original post, "hundreds of thousands of people have braved the scorching heat at Havana's Revolution Plaza to watch over a dozen musicians from around the world perform. Numerous critiques for and against the event where said in the weeks heading into the concert, yet as the saying goes 'the show must go on!'"

Online Sources - Yahoo! En Espanol "Paz Sin Fronteras", NPR, CNN

Weekend Headlines: September 19-20, 2009

* Mexico: Two people were killed after a gunman “writing anti-government graffiti on a wall” opened fire in a Mexico City metro station Friday night. (The above video of the shooting is NOT SAFE FOR WORK).

* Latin America: Coming soon to a TV near you – a remake of “The Golden Girls” with an all-Latina cast.

* Honduras: According to a Honduran bishop “opposed to the military coup”, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his own opposition to the June 28th ouster of Manuel Zelaya.

* Haiti: Three unidentified Haitian migrants who drowned four months ago off the Floridian coast were honored by local activists.

* Brazil: The country’s Ibovespa stocks index closed on Friday at its highest point since July 2008.

* Colombia: Juan Pablo Montoya will look for a solid start to the NASCAR Chase today after winning the pole in the Sylvania 300.

Online Sources- CBC, YouTube, Broadcasting & Cable, Daily News (Sri Lanka), Miami Herald, Wall Street Journal, ESPN