Saturday, October 10, 2009

Weekend Headlines: October 10-11, 2009

* Brazil: The International Olympic Committee approved golf and rugby sevens for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and reaffirmed women’s boxing as a medal sport.

* Honduras: Have “demobilized” Colombian paramilitaries been hired as mercenaries by Honduran landowners?

* Haiti: At least eleven people died when a United Nations plane crashed yesterday in Haiti.

* Dominican Republic: A Dominican smuggler faces three years in jail for commandeering a failed trip to Puerto Rico that killed three migrants.

* Cuba: Belgium and Kuwait will each receive a detainee from Guantanamo according to U.S. officials.

* Mexico: Police arrested a priest accused of raping and killing a girl from the Catholic school where he taught.

Online Sources-, LAHT, Guardian UK, Bloomberg, MSNBC, Voice of America
Image- BBC Sport (“Michelle Wie and Tom Varndell will hope to feature in 2016.”)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Obama accepts Nobel Peace prize

In a suprising move, U.S. president Barack Obama was named today as the recipient of the 2009 Nobel Peace prize.

Obama won the award months into his presidency and his bid was one of a record 200+ for the prestigious award. "Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future," said a statement emitted by the selection committee. Obama accepted the prize but confessed that he didn’t “deserve to be in the company of so many transformative figures that have been honored by this prize."

Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Afghan human rights activist Sima Sama were among the favorites as well as Colombians Piedad Cordoba and Ingrid Betancourt. Ultimately, however, Obama became the third sitting U.S. president to win the award in a decision that one reporter worried was “aspirational (and) not based on accomplishments.”

Despite not being selected, Cordoba extended her congratulations to Obama:
Colombian opposition Senator Piedad Cordoba Friday congratulated U.S. President Barack Obama for being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Cordoba had been tipped as one of the most probable to win the prestigious award.

On her twitter page, Cordoba congratulated Obama and wrote that "with or without the Nobel I will continue to do the same I have done all this time. Work for peace in Colombia."
Obama’s record regarding Latinos and Latin America has been mixed so far. He has been praised for his push towards multilateralism during the Summit of the Americas, desire to close the Guantanamo prison camp, and attempt to breach the political gap with Cuba. But he has also been blasted for waffling on immigration reform, tabling several free trade deals, and (depending on who you believe) either aiding or strongly opposing Honduras’ de facto regime.

Image- ABC News
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Reuters, BBC News, YouTube, Huffington Post, Colombia Reports, Vivirlatino

Daily Headlines: October 8, 2009

* Venezuela: Latin America’s economies have been hit hard this year and Venezuela has been no exception.

* Mexico: Mexican police nabbed one of the FBI’s most wanted fugitives – a man accused of killing his girlfriend and her two young sons in Idaho.

* Cuba: Cuban officials claimed that the U.S. trade embargo cost the island $149 million annually in agricultural exports.

* Latin America: Brazil's Petrobras said that they would not cut off gas imports from Bolivia despite increased domestic production.

Image- Voice of America
Online Sources- LAHT, MSNBC, Reuters

Thursday, October 8, 2009

World Watch: The written word

* World: Romanian-born German author Herta Müller won the Nobel literature award for her depictions of the “landscape of the dispossessed" in her work.

* Afghanistan: At least seventeen people died due to a car bomb that went off outside the Indian Embassy in Kabul.

* Africa: Ugandan police arrested a former intelligence officer accused of involvement in the 1994 massacre of hundreds of thousands of Rwandans.

* Italy: Prime Minster Silvio Berlusconi is losing his sanity after Italy’s constitutional court removed his legal immunity.

Image- Times Online
Online Sources- New York Times, BBC News, Guardian UK, Al Jazeera Online

Rangel’s Dominican ties may cost him

What does the Dominican Republic have to do with Rep. Charles Rangel? The connection may cost the veteran legislator plenty.

The longtime Democrat has come under fire over a litany of ethics violations including dubious rental arrangements and failure to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets. Republicans have tried to paint him as “a national symbol of Democratic misconduct” and have tried to strip him of his chair of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. Their latest effort failed though Rangel has also faced increased scrutiny from some of his fellow Democrats.

In the latest chapter of the Rangel affair, the House Ethics Committee voted unanimously Thursday to widen its probe of the Harlem legislator. The investigation will examine in more detail Rangel’s Dominican ties:
(Rangel) disclosed that he owed more than $10,000 in back taxes because he had failed to report more than $70,000 in rental income from a villa in the Dominican Republic.

The ethics committee eventually expanded its inquiry to include the unreported income and unpaid taxes from his home in the Dominican Republic and questions about whether he improperly used his office to raise money for a charity — the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York — from donors with business before his panel.
It appears as if Rangel will run again for Congress though it remains to be seen if the voters will stick by him once again.

Image- Washington Post
Online Sources- AP, New York Daily News, Rangel for Congress, New York Times, CNN

Staying power of the Honduran crisis

While the developments since the surreptitious return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya on September 21 have not been as headline-worthy, it seems impressive to me how truly international this crisis has become, as various countries become embroiled in the cloudy politics of the country. An article in today's NYT shows just how enmeshed the issue has become in US politics, and below is an overview of some other notable elements of the Honduras crisis gone global:

- OAS high-level talks (starting yesterday) putting increased pressure on the interim government with the continued threat of not recognizing the November elections. This visit marks at least the fourth such delegation to visit since July.

- The ADL and other international groups mobilizing against the surprising undercurrent of anti-semitism now associated with the pro-Zelaya movement.

- US Senators and congresspeople from both sides of the aisle are at odds over the recent "fact-finding" visit by 3 conservative legislators opposed to the Obama anti-coup stance, after Sen. John Kerry tried to block the trip. A Florida congresswoman also made a similar trip with less fanfare.

- Brazil, as official host to the Zelaya family in its Honduran mission buildilng, has been both praised and chided for its involvement thus far. Lula, for his part, has both lauded and admonished his high-profile guest.

- The EU and the US, the highest aid donors to Honduras, have suspended nearly all forms of aid. The US has blocked visas, and all sorts of military training programs, including the Merida initiative to combat drug cartels, have been stunted (some have warned that this will have ramifications for drug trafficking).

- The presidents of Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Bolivia -- three of Zelaya's most aggressive supporters early on -- have been surprisingly quiet in the development of the continued standoff, though the issue remains a hotly contested one in each country.

Most had little doubt that this crisis would linger on this long, but I continue to be surprised at the staying-power it has with the generally attention-deficit international community. I suspect that the (imagined) image of Zelaya in his jammies at gunpoint gets most of the credit for this staying-power. Romeo Vasquez, what were you thinking?

Feds to probe “discriminatory policing” on Long Island

There is a climate of fear amongst the Latino population in parts of Long Island as a result of several high-profile bias attacks. It was nearly a year ago that Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero was beaten and killed allegedly by a group of teens. Another Latino was assaulted in August by assailants who yelled racial slurs like calling him "a *** Mexican”.

The aforementioned hate crimes and other denunciations made by the Latino community have caught the attention of federal officials. A Justice Department (DOJ) spokesman said this week that they would investigate the Suffolk County police department for “discriminatory policing” against Latinos. "This is a civil, pattern or practice investigation that will seek to determine whether there are systemic violations of the Constitution or federal law by members of the SCPD," said a DOJ statement issued on Monday.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer replied that he would be willing to cooperate with the fed probe yet underlined that cops “respond properly to hate crimes”. Local Latino rights groups welcomed the DOJ inquiry:
“For a long time Latinos in Suffolk County felt that the Suffolk County police have been hostile or indifferent to their well-being and that they have not been treated as white residents have been treated,” said Foster Maer, senior litigation counsel for LatinoJustice P.R.L.D.E.F., an advocacy group based in Manhattan that had been pressing the Justice Department for the inquiry.

“Hopefully,” he added, “we can look forward to a new day on Long Island when Latinos can have full confidence that the police out there are serving them as well as the police are serving others in the community.”
The DOJ investigation comes roughly two months after the Southern Poverty Law Center accused Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy of "verbal immigrant-bashing" since taking office in 2003.

Image- (“Jacob Lucero, brother of Marcelo Lucero who police say was attacked by a group of seven that eventually stabbed him to death in Patchogue.”)
Online Sources-, The Latin Americanist, New York Times,

Daily Headlines: October 8, 2009

* Latin America: The latest Times Higher Education and QS Top Universities study of the world’s top 100 universities revealed that none of the schools on the list are from Latin America.

* Costa Rica: Ex-president Rafael Calderon was convicted and sentenced to five years in jail for an embezzlement scheme.

* Latin America:
The World Monuments Fund named Peru’s Machu Picchu, Buenos Aires’ Teatro Colon, and the historic center of Colon, Panama as three of the world’s most endangered cultural sites.

* Colombia: Police arrested three suspects in the massacre of twelve indigenous Colombians last August.

Image- BBC Mundo (Mexico’s UNAM may be one of the best universities in Latin America but it was excluded from a list of the world’s 100 leading colleges.)
Online Sources- Guardian UK, Bloomberg, MSNBC, CNN

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

World Watch: The Afghan conundrum

* Afghanistan: At the eight-year mark of the war in Afghanistan, the White House is considering whether to deploy tens of thousands of additional troops.

* Universe: NASA scientists have discovered a barely visible ring around Saturn whose diameter is several million miles.

* Italy: Prime Minster Silvio Berlusconi could soon face trial after Italy’s constitutional court removed his legal immunity.

* Japan: Over 21,000 people have been evacuated from coastal areas as Typhoon Melor and its 86 mile per hour winds hit Japan.

Image- AFP (“A US Marine from Fox Company 2nd Battalion 3rd Marines writes in his journal.”)
Online Sources- New York Times, CNN, Guardian UK, Bloomberg

Mexico to experiment with tourist police

Between the country’s economic woes, and the swine flu hysteria, Mexico’s tourist industry has had more lows than highs this year.

Officials have attempted several novel methods to promote tourism such as Mexico City offering visitors free health insurance. With crime being such a major problem in the border state of Baja California, authorities want to ensure a steady stream of gringo tourists to areas like Tijuana. Thus, plans for a tourist police force:

Officials from the Baja California cities of Tijuana, Ensenada and Rosarito gathered earlier this week to announce the creation of the task force, which will be made up of bilingual officers and which will be designed primarily to serve Americans…

City officials in San Diego, California, said the city's police force would extend help in ways that Mexican officials deemed necessary in getting the task force up and running, including training the officers…

American travelers, who represented 80 percent of the country's booming $13 billion travel industry last year, are a critical part of Mexico's economy. In 2008, more than 18 million Americans visited the country, according to the Mexico Tourism Board.
What do you think? Good idea or a silly solution?

Image- Los Angeles Times (“A Mexican soldier, top, stands guard on the streets of Tijuana.”)
Online Sources- CNN, Latin Business Chronicle, The Latin Americanist

Educational disconnect hurts Latinos says Pew

Most young Latinos believe that a college education is vital yet only half aspire to get a bachelor's degree according to a study released by the Pew Hispanic Center (PHC).

The PHC report released on Wednesday gave several reasons why the educational aspirations of Latino students don’t tend to correspond to reality. Chief among these was cited by nearly three out of four respondents who said that their educational plans were cut short by family obligations. Despite most parents’ belief that going to college is "the most important thing…to do right after high school," nearly three in five young Latinos claimed that parents need to play a “more active role” in their children’s education.

Other factors cited by the nearly 2000 respondents in the PHC survey included language and foreign-born Latino students:
Diversity among the young Latino population further complicates educational achievement. The survey found that foreign-born students, who compose 35 percent of Latino youths, are much more likely to drop out of high school or abandon higher education. Only 20 percent of foreign-born Latinos pursue school after age 18, the survey found.

Most of these students are in English as a Second Language programs in public schools. Richard Fry, a Pew Hispanic Center senior research associate, said this group was becoming increasingly isolated.

"They're increasingly going to school with themselves," Fry said. "They're not really upset about the institutions educating them. ... It presents a dilemma."
Mark Lopez- the study’s author- hopes that the report can change negative and false perceptions about Latinos not aspiring for a greater education as well as guide schools on how they can work with students' families.

Image- Denver Post (“Todd Legge, who teaches "Spanish for Spanish Speakers" at (Colorado’s) Jefferson High School, helps Carmen Gomez, 16, left, and Jose Luevano, 17.”)
Online Sources- Pew Research Center, McClatchy, USA TODAY,

Ana Ortiz to La Raza: lay off the Big Macs

“Ugly Betty” actress and recent mother Ana Ortiz is campaigning with PETA for animal rights. According to PETA, the award-winning actress has urged the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) to drop McDonald's as partner for future events. Ortiz cited several reasons against the fast food giant in a letter to NCLR president Janet Murguia:
In the letter, Ortiz points out that poorly paid slaughterhouse workers—many of whom are Hispanic immigrants—face dismal working conditions that result from handling live, terrified birds. Many workers also receive few or no medical benefits.

"McDonald's has no regard for animals or for the people who are paid an unfair wage to kill them," writes Ortiz. "We urge you to avoid partnering with McDonald's for any future NCLR events …."
Animal rights isn’t the only cause Ortiz has been working on; “Ugly Betty” has joined the United Nations as part of an anti-malaria campaign. The upcoming season (which will begin on Friday the 16th) will promote the U.N.’s “Nothing But Nets” program to raise awareness about malaria.

Image- Latina
Online Sources-, Kiddicare, PETA,

E-Mail Source - Message from PETA

DHS policy change may help detained minors

Contributed by Jill Seymour:

It is no secret that there are many flaws in our immigration system and especially in the facilities where illegal immigrants are held. In the last two years, many stories have surfaced about immigrants dying in detention facilities because of medical conditions and/or lack of medical care, those who disappear into the system, and even those with mental illnesses. Overlooked are the children who are in the system, often separated from their families, and placed in detention facilities with violent criminals.

This week, a small glimmer of hope has shined down upon us from the Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano. After much criticism about our detention system, the Obama administration is looking at how immigrants are detained. Most people who are accused of immigration violations are sent to jail facilities, when only about 11 percent of them have committed violent crimes. The image of non-violent women and children offenders being hauled off to jail is not a pretty thought. With the changes being discussed, a new classification system would be devised to deal with people who have medical or mental health needs and the new detention center models could be converted hotels and nursing homes. These new options would be less expensive, under contract costing around $14 a day, far cheaper than the $100 a day under contract that jail facilities cost.

Image- Maryland Film Festival (Scene from the documentary “The Least of These” which focuses on families held in the T. Don Hutto Residential Center.)
Online Sources- Immigration Policy Center, New York Times

Daily Headlines: October 7, 2009

* Latin America: Scientists have discovered seven glowing mushroom species in several countries including Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico.

* Brazil: An arrest warrant has been issued against TV crime reporter Wallace Souza who has been accused of masterminding at least five murders in order to boost ratings.

* Dominican Republic: Dominican officials and the International Monetary Fund reached an agreement in principle on a $1.7 billion loan to the Caribbean country.

* Puerto Rico: According to analysts approximately 80% of murders in Puerto Rico are drug-related.

Image- (“Mycena luxaeterna (light eternal) was collected in Sao Paulo, Brazil and was found on sticks in an Atlantic forest habitat.”)
Online Sources- National Geographic,, MSNBC, The Latin Americanist, LAHT

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Why did Rio de Janeiro win the 2016 Olympics bid?

The answer to the above question was provided by The Daily Show. As the following Not Safe For Work video shows, Rio's winning bid came as a result of one key factor: the hypnotic power of the Brazilian derriere. (Fast forward to about the 3:25 mark).
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Chicago Nope
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorRon Paul Interview

All laughs aside, there are some interesting tidbits to consider regarding Rio and the Games:
  • Since 2008, three of the five winning Olympic sites are in the developing BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries - Beijing (2008), Sochi (2014) and Rio (2016).
  • The breakdown of votes cast showed that Rio won easily in the second and final rounds. Yet in the first round Rio only placed in second with 26 votes (two behind Madrid but only eight places of last place Chicago.
  • Will the implementation of policies a la Rudy Giuliani in 1990s New York City eliminate Rio's security problems ahead of the Olympics?
Online Sources - The Daily Show, The Latin Americanist,, Foreign Policy Passport, The New Republic

Daily Headlines: October 6, 2009

* Latin America: Immigrant "destination countries” should use the recession to “institute a new deal for migrants — one that that will benefit workers at home and abroad while guarding against a protectionist backlash" according to a U.N. study released yesterday.

* Mexico: The country’s economy may be in its worse recession since the 1930s but that hasn’t stopped Wal-Mart’s Mexico divisions from posting high profits.

* Guatemala: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon criticized the election of Guatemala’s Supreme Court judges which was rushed and “lacked transparency and objectivity.”

* Chile: Four former army officials were will face jail over covering up a 1992 murder related to an illegal arms deal with Croatia.

Image- CBC (“Mexican workers in Manitoba”)
Online Sources- Bloomberg, Xinhua, MSNBC, The Latin Americanist, AFP

Monday, October 5, 2009

Nobel Prize to Piedad Cordoba?

One of the most controversial figures in Colombia may be an odds-on favorite to win one of the world’s most prestigious awards.

Piedad Cordoba has served as an opposition senator for several years but more importantly has acted as a broker for the liberation of hostages held by Colombia’s FARC rebels. Her work as liaison has also helped distribute videos of hostages still held captive deep in the jungle and has brought hope to dozens of families anxiously awaiting their loved ones.

Cordoba has also received plenty of flack from her critics; she has been looked upon with suspicion over her seemingly close political ties to Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. At times she has locked horns with Colombian leader Alvaro Uribe though tensions seem to have simmered down lately. Such is the disdain for her that she was “showered…with insults and threats” by passengers at Bogota’s main airport last year.

Love her or hate her, Cordoba may soon get the ultimate recognition for her efforts:
Colombia Senator Piedad Cordoba and Afghanistan’s Sima Samar, two women promoting peace and human rights in conflict zones, are among the top contenders for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo said…

Cordoba, 54, “is the most likely candidate,” said Kristian Berg Harpviken, head of the
institute which each year lists potential winners. “She has been able to carve out an independent space for herself in a conflict that’s very protracted. Samar certainly has a very strong personality and played a major role in the Afghan context.”
Image- El Pais
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Colombia Reports, New York Times, Bloomberg,

Hondurans seek end to crisis

Could actions this week provide the breakthrough needed in the Honduran political crisis?

Liaisons of ousted president Manuel Zelaya and de facto chief Roberto Micheletti are planning to meet for discussions. According to a representative from the Organization of American States both presidents may not meet face-to-face but their envoys will talk about how to resolve the rupture in Honduras caused by the ouster of Zelaya over three months ago. For example, Micheletti was quoted as saying that he would lift a controversial emergency decree against civil liberties; a move that Zelaya would surely support.

While Honduras’ leaders tussle and argue over who’s in charge, the country’s people are the ones most suffering. As the video from Al Jazeera English shows, they’ve suffered from an already weakened economy made worse by the political struggle:

Online Sources- Voice of America, BBC News, AFP, YouTube

Daily Headlines: October 5, 2009

* Ecuador: President Rafael Correa said that he would meet with representatives of indigenous protestors who have vehemently demonstrated against several government proposals.

* Venezuela: A ban on violent video games that we told you about in August is expected to soon be voted upon by Venezuela’s legislature.

* Latin America: Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Venezuela all qualified to the Round of 16 at the Under-20 World Cup currently being held in Egypt.

* Mexico: Authorities claimed to have seized a record number of meth (37 tons) in a pair of seizures last week.

Image- AP (“Shuar Indians protest laws proposed by Ecuador's President Correa on the Upano bridge near Macas in Ecuador's Amazon, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2009. Indian groups are protesting proposed laws that would allow mining on their lands without their consent and put water resources under state control.”)
Online Sources- BBC News, USA TODAY, MSNBC, The Latin Americanist, LAHT

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Se solicita ayuda!

We're currently seeking fresh faces to write for The Latin Americanist. Any viewpoints are welcome as long as they help inform our hundreds of daily readers and enlighten their knowledge on the Americas.

What type of contributors are we looking for?
  • People who can write several posts per week on a regular basis.
  • Someone who can do a weekly review in a specific field (e.g. sports, music, business).
  • A person who can blog during the weekends.
Please contact us at if you are interested in writing for us.

Thanks for you support!

Image- Brownstoner

Argentine folk legend Mercedes Sosa dead

The “Voice of America” has been forever silenced.

Folk singer Mercedes Sosa died on Sunday at the age of 74 due to liver, kidney and heart ailments. Her health had gradually debilitated over the past few days while she lay in intensive care of a Buenos Aires hospital. Despite vigils in her name and visits from her family and other Argentine musicians, Sosa’s health had “progressively worsened” according to doctors.

Born Haydée Mercedes Sosa in rural northwestern Argentina, Sosa was one of the leading figures of Latin America’s New Song movement which combined folk music with social awareness. It was the political messages in her songs that lead to her being severely harassed by Argentina’s rightist Dirty War junta and three-year exile in Europe. She would eventually return to her homeland to with open arms and the same massive popularity she received while performing abroad.

Sosa’s career has spanned nearly six decades and latest double-volume album was recently nominated for a Latin Grammy. Yet Sosa’s most famous tune was one penned decades ago by New Song movement writer Violeta Parra - "Gracias a la Vida" (Thanks to Life):

Rest in peace Mercedes; you will be sorely missed.
Online Sources- LAHT, Bloomberg, YouTube, The Latin Americanist, Washington Post