Saturday, October 3, 2009

Weekend Headlines: October 3-4, 2009

* U.S.: Police located safe and sound a week-old baby who was kidnapped by a lady who passed herself off as a fake immigration agent to take the child.

* Latin America: Environmental group Greenpeace blasted Spanish companies for their “arrogant attitude” and illegal practices in Latin America.

* Haiti: Ex-president Bill Clinton defended the trade embargo he placed on Haiti in the 1990s though he admitted that he “hated” doing so.

* Peru: Midfielder Nolberto Solano announced that he would retire from international soccer after Peru’s World Cup qualifiers later this month.

* Colombia: Authorities near the U.S.-Canada border have arrested a Colombian con man who is wanted by over half a dozen countries.

* Cuba: The House of Representatives dealt a blow to the White House’s plans for Guantanamo by voting against the transfer of detainees to the U.S.

Online Sources- Washington Post, LAHT, Reuters, CBC, MSNBC, The Latin Americanist
Image- AP (“This photo provided by the Nashville Police Department shows Yair Anthony Carillo of Nashville, Tenn.”)

Friday, October 2, 2009

World Watch: Death and destruction

* Indonesia: According to the U.N., over 1,000 people died from Wednesday's 7.6-magnitude quake while thousands are still missing and possibly deceased.

* Philippines: About 50,000 Filipinos have been evacuated ahead of Typhoon Parma which is supposed to hit the country on Saturday.

* U.S.: The unemployment rate rose to 9.8% last month; the highest mark since 1983.

* Middle East: Hope has grown for the possible release of a kidnapped Israeli soldier held by Hamas since June 2006.

Image- Guardian UK (“A family grieves this loss of a relative killed in the earthquake as they identify the body in Padang.”)

Online Sources- Los Angeles Times, MSNBC, BBC News, The Telegraph

Rio de Janeiro wins 2016 Olympic bid! (Updated)

Update (1:45pm):
The following is video of the momentous announcement and the boisterous reaction from the Rio contingent and the celebration in Brazil:

Update (12:55pm):
Rio de Janeiro will be the first South American city to host the Olympics.

Moments ago, International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge announced that Rio will host the 2016 Summer Games. The historic decision brought jubilation not only on the beaches of Copacabana but across the Americas.

More to come later!

Original Post:
Rio de Janeiro’s road to winning the 2016 Olympics bid has gotten a lot easier.

In a shocking result, odds-on favorite Chicago was eliminated in the first round of voting for the 2016 Summer Games. President Barack Obama, talk show host Oprah, and basketball legend Michael Jordan where part of the Chicago contingent that went to Copenhagen to try to convince International Olympic Committee (IOC) brass that the Olympics should be in the “Windy City.” Yet the bid may’ve been outmaneuvered by the other finalists and hampered by questions over financing. (According to Spain’s Antena 3, the Madrid and Rio campaigns colluded to convince the IOC to eliminate Chicago early).

The Chicago upset thus opens the doors for the Brazilian metropolis of Rio de Janeiro to become the first South American city to host the Olympics. An estimated 100,000 have crammed Rio’s Copacabana beach with the hopes that their city will be the epicenter of the Olympics in seven years time.

Rio sent its own heavy hitters to the IOC conference including Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva who gave an impassioned speech earlier this morning:
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva told IOC members Friday it was time to address the "imbalance" and give Rio the 2016 Games. He said Brazil had earned its chance to show the games belonged to people of all continents.

"I honestly believe it is Brazil's time," Silva said through a translator. "It is time to light the Olympic cauldron in a tropical country"…

Silva, speaking in Portuguese, addressed IOC members as "dear friends," and invited them to boost Brazil's self-esteem and inspire 400 million South American people.

"Rio is ready," Silva said. "Give us this chance and you will not regret it, be sure."
Rio’s bid is not without problems, however; high crime rates and infrastructure problems are surely on the minds of the IOC members.

Online Sources- AP, New York Times, Washington Post, Wikipedia

Daily Headlines: October 2, 2009

* Latin America: The International Monetary Fund claimed that Latin America is starting to emerge from the global economic slowdown yet according to the World Bank the number of the region’s poor will swell this year.

* Uruguay: Argentina and Uruguay are grinning with pride after the UNESCO granted the tango “protected cultural status” on Tuesday.

* Dominican Republic: Local children’s groups and officials have sounded the alarm over a spike last month in child trafficking from neighboring Haiti.

* Mexico: U.S. authorities claimed that the gun flow to Mexico has been “disrupted" after a months-long operation in Texas.

Image- The Telegraph (Mexican factory workers)
Online Sources- Bloomberg, Guardian UK, Monsters & Critics, AP, LAHT

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Mercedes Sosa in intensive care (Updated)

Update (2 October):
Mercedes Sosa's health has worsened on Friday according to doctors at the Buenos Aires clinic where she is in critical condition. She continues to be using an artificial respirator yet she has also fallen into a "pharmacological coma."

Sadly it appears that the “Voice of America” may soon be silenced forever.

Original Post:
One of Argentina’s greatest singers is in very delicate health.

Folk artist Mercedes Sosa is at a Buenos Aires hospital in critical condition while hooked up to an artificial respirator. Doctors at the intensive care unit said that she "has progressively worsened due to heart failure and breathing problems" over the eleven days since she’s been there.

Fans of the “Voice of America” have held a vigil outside the hospital while her distraught son has called on people to pray for her. She has been visited by numerous contemporaries like Facundo Saravia and Fito Paez though one of her friends sees little chance for recovery:
While talking with a Buenos Aires radio station (singer and friend Victor) Heredia confirmed that the 74-year-old “is in a delicate state”.

“One foresees these things far away in time. But it’s a devastating blow when they actually happen.”
Sosa’s career has spanned nearly six decades despite being forcibly exiled during the “Dirty War” dictatorship. Her latest double-volume album was recently nominated for a Latin Grammy and includes collaborations with the likes of Caetano Veloso, Calle 13 and Shakira:

Here’s hoping that Sosa can recover despite her inching towards death’s door.

Online Sources- LAHT, AFP, YouTube, Momento 24, AP

Faux ICE agent steals newborn

It is one of a parent’s worst nightmares: the kidnapping of their children. That was the case with a Nashville baby who was snatched from his mother’s care.

Yair Anthony Carillo was only four days old when he was kidnapped at the home of his mother- Maria Gurrolla. Gurrolla claimed that she was attacked by “a heavyset white woman with blonde hair” who pretended to act as an immigration agent. The fake official slashed Gurrolla after she initially refused to hand over the child though in the end Carillo was taken away from her.

Nashville police are said to have received leads by the hour after issuing an Amber Alert, while a "person of interest" has been located in New York State. Nonetheless, the incident has spooked the local community, especially the area’s immigrant populace:
Immigrants must be taught to trust U.S. law enforcement and criminals can take advantage of their fears of deportation or police, said Yuri Cunza, president of Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and publisher of La Noticia, a Spanish language newspaper in Nashville.

"I am really concerned about the possibility of newborn babies and Hispanic women can be targeted because of a level of vulnerability," Cunza said…

Cunza said that the suspect posing as an immigration officer will create a chilling effect for Hispanics who regularly interact with immigration authorities. "It is misrepresenting how the government works or behaves in this country," he said.
This week’s abduction occurs four years after another Latina mother was targeted in Nashville. A woman and her 3-year-old daughter where killed in a botched kidnapping plot by a lady deceiving them with false immigration assistance.

Image- AP (“This photo provided by the Nashville Police Department shows Yair Anthony Carillo of Nashville, Tenn.”)
Online Sources- AP, The Tennessean,, Sacramento Bee

(Belated) Miercoles Musical: Hopping in the Andes

One word: brilliant.

(Hat tip: Guardian UK’s weekly Classic YouTube archive).

Online Sources- Guardian UK, YouTube

Daily Headlines: October 1, 2009

* Honduras: Several business and political leaders are trying to push a compromise plan to break the Honduran stalemate, while U.S. Congresswoman and pro-Micheletti backer Ileana Ros-Lehtinen will travel to Honduras next week.

* Peru: No deaths or major damage have been reported from a magnitude 5.9 quake that shook southeastern Peru and part of Bolivia.

* Cuba: Fewer Cuban migrants are said to be leaving the island to the U.S. not only through the traditional route via Caribbean waters but also by land via Mexico.

* Brazil: Famed 101-year-old architect Oscar Niemeyer is in delicate heath after undergoing his second colon surgery in a week.

Image- AP (“Riot police walk toward supporters of Honduras' ousted President Manuel Zelaya during a protest in Tegucigalpa, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2009.”)
Online Sources- ABC News, Reuters, Miami Herald, AFP,

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hopes run high for Rio Olympics bid

Spain’s King Juan Carlos and U.S. first lady Michelle Obama may be in Copenhagen advocating for their country’s respective 2016 Olympics bids but Brazil has also pulled out some heavy hitters of its own:
Pele and Olympic champion swimmer Cesar Cielo urged IOC members Wednesday to help transform the prospects for young people across South America.

"I traveled the world with football," said Pele, who was voted the best athlete of the 20th century by the Olympic movement. "Those who have followed my life saw how sports can change lives. I think this is a big asset for members of the IOC"...

Rio bid leaders are appealing for the Olympics to come to South America for the first time. The city is competing against Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo to host the 2016 games, which will be decided in a secret ballot of International Olympic Committee members Friday.
Pele along with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and three-time French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten will be expected to show up with an expected 100,000 at Copacabana beach to see if Rio wins its bid. Oddsmakers, however, aren’t quite as optimistic:

Online Sources- YouTube, ESPN, The Telegraph, AP

16 year-old Sano signed, vetted

16 year-old Dominican baseball phenom Miguel Sano was signed today by the Minnesota Twins, marking the end of a virtual lottery amongst several contending baseball teams interested in the services of talented young shortsop from San Pedro de Macoris, also known as the Cradle of Shortsops for its reputation as the top recruiting ground in the world of young position players.

Sano's signing marks the continuity of a rise in bonuses for poor, young Dominicans that are barred from the annual amateur draft, as well as the continuity in the struggle to ascertain accurate birth records from Dominican authorities and agents keen on falsifying ages in order to secure prime contracts. Sano was the subject of NY Times story in July regarding the use of DNA tests on the island.

From Baseball America:
Sano, 16, is a 6-foot-3, 190-pound shortstop from the Dominican Republic. Excluding Cuban defectors, Sano’s bonus is the largest bonus given to a player this summer for an international amateur player. (Sano's $3.15 million signing bonus is) the second-largest Latin American signing bonus ever behind Dominican righthander Michael Inoa, who signed with the Athletics last year for $4.25 million, and the largest ever for a Latin American position player.

"Miguel Sano's age and identity have probably been scrutinized more than any player in history in the Dominican Republic. We certainly won't do anything until we have a fair assurance that he's going to be able to play for us."

Guinea massacre highlights LatAm drug ties

At least 157 people were killed in the Guinean capital city of Conakry yesterday as part of a brutal repression by government forces.

The massacre occurred as 50,000 protestors demonstrated against military leader Capt Moussa "Dadis" Camara who came to power via a 2008 coup. The violence did not limit itself to the killings as local human rights activists also denounced troops for raping women under the guise of a “crackdown.”

In a televised address, Camara blamed “uncontrollable” soldiers for the heinous murders and banned all “subversive” gatherings. Nonetheless, his opponents remain defiant with some threatening to continue taking to the streets in protest.

The Conakry massacre brings to light the seeming lawlessness of numerous West African countries. As we’ve mentioned before, countries like Guinea Bissau have virtually turned into narco-states with close ties to Latin American drug gangs. Traffickers from countries like Colombia take advantage of the rampant corruption, abject poverty, and geography of Guinea Bissau as part of a drug “highway” from the Americas to Europe and Asia.

Despite being entitled “Guinea junta lead war on drugs” the following video from France 24 highlights the deteriorating situation in the country which is turning into a major drug production zone:

Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, YouTube, The Telegraph, BBC News, Guardian UK

Daily Headlines: September 30, 2009

* Cuba: A senior US diplomat reportedly met with Cuban dissidents and government officials in a series of secret, breakthrough discussions.

* Mexico: Mexico withdrew from the running to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cup due to financial concerns.

* U.S.: Opening arguments began in the case of a man accused of smuggling nine Central American undocumented immigrants who would ultimately die in an auto accident.

* Peru: Ex-President Alberto Fujimori once again found himself in court on corruption charges this week; this time he was sentenced to eight years in jail after pleading guilty to paying bribes and wiretapping enemies.

Image- BBC News
Online Sources- New York Times, Houston Chronicle, CNN, AFP

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Today’s Video: Tortilla flat

We’ve mentioned before about Mexico’s deep economic woes but could the remedy prescribed by the federal government cure the illness? Al Jazeera English examines the state of poverty in Mexico:

Online Sources- The Latin Americanism, YouTube

World Watch: Wave of mutilation

* Asia: Several hundred people have supposedly died as a tsunami caused by a massive underwater earthquake swept over several South Pacific islands.

* Middle East: The U.N.’s Human Rights Council is debating a report that condemns Israel for its military operation in Gaza earlier this year and criticizes Palestinian militants of targeting innocent civilians.

* Switzerland: Film director Roman Polanski could remain in custody for weeks while officials decide whether or not to extradite him to the U.S. and stand trial for the 1977 rape of a minor.

* U.S.: The Senate Finance Committee defeated an amendment that would’ve included the public option on the panel’s health care reform proposal.

Image- ABC News (“Christopher Moore of NOAA looks at computer graphs at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Ewa Beach, Hawaii, concerning the earthquake and tsunami that hit American Samoa September 29, 2009”)
Online Sources-, MSNBC, BBC News, Voice of America

Banned Books Week highlights challenged texts

This week is Banned Books Week here in the U.S., an occasion which highlights when books have been officially banned or challenged in schools, libraries, and other places. Several literary classics have received scrutiny over the past year like Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn due to its use of racial slurs. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court may hear the case of Vamos a Cuba- a controversial children’s book about the island that’s been challenged by the Miami-Dade School District.

Rudolfo Anaya may be one of the most prominent Chicano Lit authors yet his Bless Me, Ultima was cited by the American Library Association as one of the most frequently challenged books of 2008. “Occult/satanism, offensive language…and violence” were some of the reasons given for objecting Anaya’s book though this brief excerpt seems to contradict those claims:
Ultima came to stay with us the summer I was almost seven. When she came the beauty of the llano unfolded before my eyes, and the gurgling waters of the river sang to the hum of the turning earth. The magical time of childhood stood still, and the pulse of the living earth pressed its mystery into my living blood. She took my hand, and the silent, magic powers she possessed made beauty from the raw, sun-baked llano, the green river valley, and the blue bowl which was the white sun’s home. My bare feet felt the throbbing earth and my body trembled with excitement. Time stood still, and it shared with me all that had been, and all that was to come.
Online Sources- Cune Press, American Civil Liberties Union,, Huffington Post

Pressure mounts vs. Micheletti decrees

De facto Honduran President Roberto Micheletti has faced plenty of international pressure in the three months since the ouster of Manuel Zelaya. The demands against Micheletti have mounted after he issued a series of highly controversial decrees this week.

Last Sunday the de facto government declared a “state of siege” and suspended a number of civil liberties including barring public gatherings and permitting warrantless arrests. The measures were done- according to a government statement- with the goal of guaranteeing “peace and public order in the country” and also included the temporary closing of a pair of media outlets supposedly loyal to Zelaya.

The decrees were met with region-wide outrage and strong words from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. The response from the U.S. has been mixed, however; the State Department urged Micheletti to rollback the decrees. Yet the U.S. representative to the Organization of American States criticized Micheletti but also had some choice words against Zelaya:
W. Lewis Amselem, the acting American representative, called Mr. Zelaya “irresponsible and foolish” for returning to Honduras before a negotiated settlement was reached.

“The president should stop acting as though he were starring in an old movie,” Mr. Amselem said.
Micheletti said earlier today that he would promise to reverse his edicts yet claimed that it cannot be done until a "most opportune time” for the security of Honduras. Costa Rican President and previous peace broker Oscar Arias “commended” Micheletti for his promise (assuming he keeps it) but also blasted him for “not moving an inch” towards a peaceful resolution.

Image- AP (“A journalist, carrying a video camera, walks among soldiers and police officers outside Globo radio station after its closure in Tegucigalpa, Monday, Sept. 28, 2009.”)
Online Sources- Miami herald, Voice of America, CNN, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Guardian UK, The Latin Americanist

Daily Headlines: September 29, 2009

* Puerto Rico: Call it a Boricua bailout - days after announcing the layoffs of over 16,000 public workers Gov. Luis Fortuño will reportedly ask the White House for millions of dollars in federal aid.

* Panama: Rest in peace Guillermo Endara; the presidential successor to Manuel Noriega after Noriega was ousted by a U.S. military invasion died at 73.

* Cuba: The U.S. government has cleared 75 Guantanamo prisoners for release ether to be put on trial or for repatriation.

* Ecuador: Hundreds of indigenous Ecuadorians blocked part of the Pan American highway to protest new water, mining and oil laws.

Image- ABC News (“Steel workers work at a construction site in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico. (In March) Gov. Luis Fortuno says thousands of layoffs, along with new taxes, will be needed to shore up Puerto Rico's ailing economy, which is in its third year of recession.”)
Online Sources-, MSNB, Guardian UK, Reuters, Orlando Sentinel

Monday, September 28, 2009

Today's Video: Shitstorm in Honduras

Forgive me fair reader for the vulgarity in the post's title but I cannot think of a more appropriate word to describe the rapid deterioration of the Honduran political crisis over the past 24 hours:

We'll cover the Honduran crisis in more detail on Tuesday; sadly, the situation doesn't appear as it will improve anytime soon.

Online Source - YouTube

"Paz Sin Fronteras” nearly cancelled said Juanes

One of the accusations against the "Paz Sin Fronteras" concert in Cuba was that event implied support of the Castro regime. Yet some of the musicians who performed at the concert have denounced the Cuban government for nearly forcing a last-second cancellation of the gig.

A recording made public last week showed Colombian musician/concert organizer Juanes denouncing how he was under constant surveillance by the government. His anger boiled over, however, when he was informed that security segregated concertgoers and even barred some individuals who were not dressed in white:

`This is it, we're leaving now! We're very angry, very angry, very angry. We came here to sing to the young people of Cuba, and that's why we are here. But we've encountered strong obstacles, and this is it!'' Juanes is heard saying in the recording. The discussion took place in front of the lobby elevators of the Hotel Nacional, where the singer was staying.
Juanes and Spain’s Miguel Bose would even threaten to cancel the show hours before it was to take place, yet that idea was dropped after some convincing by Puerto Rican star Olga Tañon.
An article on Friday in the Cuban press claimed that Juanes was "clearly nervous" and had mistakenly identified a hotel worker as his “spy.” Nevertheless, Tañon later said that Juanes endured “excessive pressure” and implied that he may’ve been harassed by the government.

Hundreds of thousands of Cubans attended the "Paz Sin Fronteras" concert and viewed performances by over a dozen artists from the Americas and Europe. A possible next edition of the concert could be held along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Image- AFP (Juanes and CuCu Diamantes took the stage at the "Paz Sin Fronteras" concert in Havana).
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Miami Herald, AP, Canadian Press,, USA TODAY

Paraguayans protest “Moonie” land control

One of the biggest problems in the impoverished country of Paraguay is the concentration of land in the hands of a few. (According to the BBC, less than "2% of landowners are said to control 70% of the arable land.”) It is therefore no surprise that land reform is a hot topic in the landlocked state and often the reason for frequent demonstrations.

Last week, about 2000 protestors blocked the national highway and called for the distribution of land owned by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church. The protest led to a brief yet massive bottleneck on the road connecting the capital city of Asuncion to the rest of Paraguay. The demonstrators- mostly peasants from the western part of the country- demanded to meet with President Fernando Lugo or else they would march into Asuncion.

The land in question- about 128,000 acres- had been expropriated in 2005 for residents of Puerto Casado yet a high court two years later ordered the return of that land to a firm owned by Moon. That company pledged to give a little over half that land to the peasants, yet the protestors claimed that the land is sparse and would divide their community.

The land claimed by the demonstrators is a drop in the bucket compared to the vast land holdings controlled by Moon:
The Unification Church owns more than 600,000 hectares (1.48 million acres) in northern Paraguay, near other holdings in Brazil.

The cult acquired the land in 2000 for an environmental and tourism project…

The Unification Church, founded in 1954 by Moon, has been accused of human rights violations and questionable financial dealings in several countries.

The church has extensive property holdings around the world, including businesses and land.
Online Sources-,, LAHT, BBC News, IPS

Survey: Most undocumented Latinos lack heath care

One of the most contentious aspects in the already controversial debate over heath care reform has to do with illegal immigrants. None of the reform proposals currently in Congress would permit the government to provide health benefits to the undocumented. In fact, legislators are going out of their way to ensure that there’s plenty of enforcement to close possible medical loopholes for illegal immigrants.

How health care reform should treat immigrants- legal or not- is certainly up for discussion. Yet research by the Pew Hispanic Center (PHC) concluded that the lack of health insurance has hit many within the Latino community:
Six out of 10 U.S. Hispanic illegal immigrants lack health insurance, more than twice the rate for legal Latino residents and citizens and three times the average for the population as a whole, a study released on Friday showed…

The study found that 28 percent of adult Hispanics who are either legal permanent residents or U.S. citizens go without health insurance, compared to 17 percent of the U.S. adult population as a whole.
The PHC also found that 41% of Latino illegal immigrants seek routine care at community clinics or health centers. (According to the PHC, these clinics serve as “a ‘safety net’ for the vulnerable” and are funded by sources including private foundations, the government, and the patients themselves).

The survey- which reexamined a previous study done in 2007- also found that 76% of undocumented Latino adults rated the quality of medical care they received in the past year as excellent or good. Surprisingly, most of those who received poor medical treatment in the past five years blamed the language barrier as to why they got bad treatment over economics and ethnicity.

Odds are the PHC survey will do little to sway strong opinions on health care and immigrants. Yet the study provides valuable data on how much the lack of health care impacts the Latino community.

Image- Dallas Morning News (“Dr. John A. Menchaca checks the paperwork on 16-month-old Consuelo Canchola as her mother Amy Ortiz dresses her.”)
Online Sources- Pew Hispanic Center, Los Angeles Times, The Latin Americanist, Reuters

Daily Headlines: September 28, 2009

* Colombia: The country’s FARC rebels pledged to unilaterally free two hostages, while former captive Ingrid Betancourt called for all the hostages to be released.

* Venezuela: First it was "The Simpsons”, but now it’s “Family Guy” that’s undergone scrutiny from the Venezuelan government.

* Mexico: Cris Arreola fought well but ultimately quit in the tenth round of his bout against heavyweight champ Vitali Klitschko.

* Cuba: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates implied that the January 2010 deadline to close the Guantanamo military jail will be tough to reach.

Image- BBC News (“Police and soldiers' relatives have been calling for (the hostages) release”. Note that the banner says “Deal yes! War no!”)
Online Sources-, BBC News, Guardian UK, Reuters, CNN