Friday, October 16, 2009

Battle of the bulge for Mexican cops

Some stories speak for themselves:
Authorities in Mexico City are putting the police on a diet, in a health campaign in the world's second-most obese country, after the United States.

Some of the 1,300 police officers taking part in the new scheme, run by the capital's Public Security and Health ministries, were weighed, measured and examined in a public ceremony Thursday.

"We can't ask them to stop eating tortas (big Mexican sandwiches) and tacos," said Nora Frias, a local police official.

"We can tell them that if they eat a torta today, they have to balance it in the next meal with some vegetables."
Image- USA TODAY (Chief Clancy Wiggum from “The Simpsons” is known as Jefe Clancy Gorgory in the Latin American version of the program)
Online Sources- AFP

Puerto Rican Syringe Vending Machine

A group called Community Initiative, providing Puerto Rico’s only needle exchange program, is testing a new idea. Drug users will now be able to insert a special card into a vending machine outside of the Community Initiative’s office after the program’s functioning daylight hours. This vending machine program is being implemented to stop the spread of diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C, common illnesses associated with intravenous drug users, and to target the population of younger drug users who might be reluctant to ask for clean syringes. The packets will contain items such as condoms, syringes, cookers, cotton filters, gauze and sterile water.

Online Sources: Associated Press, The Body: The Complete HIV/Aids Resource

Press outburst could cost Maradona

Diego Maradona may be the mythical “el Diez” in his native Argentina yet but perhaps “el bocón” (the bigmouth) is a better nickname after his recent outburst.

Since becoming the coach of Argentina’s men’s national soccer team Maradona has been severely criticized for helming a side that has been inconsistent such as a 6-1 loss by Bolivia. The rocky road to South Africa was only secured via a 1-0 win versus Uruguay in the final qualifier on Wednesday.

After the match, Maradona snapped and ripped his critics in the Argentine press:

"Now they can suck it! Thank you, thank you to all Argentines, except for the journalists.

"They can suck it now, they can suck it now, they can suck it now, they can suck it good!

"Come on, come on Carlos! I told you I wanted you. They can suck it now! Come on, damn it.

"These ******* journalists, the bitch who gave birth to them...

"For the people, for the people!"

In the press conference afterwards, 'El Diez' was no less vulgar.

"For the people. For those who didn't believe, for those who never believed, they can suck it.
And keep on sucking it.

"I am white or black, I'll never be grey in my life."

Maradona’s boasting may’ve felt like personal revenge against his critics yet soccer’s global body could sanction him. "We've been left with no other option than to open a disciplinary investigation into the Argentinean team coach," said FIFA head honcho Sepp Blatter who warned that Maradona may be suspended and/or fined as much as about $30,000.

Maradona- who once used an air rifle to shoot at reporters- was blasted by the Argentine press for his ugly tirade. Yet Argentine Football Association chief Julio Grondona defended him as “a temperamental person” while t-shirts bearing the phrase "they can keep sucking it" are reportedly a hot item in Argentina.

Online Sources-, Fox Sports, BBC News, The Latin Americanist, YouTube, AFP

Daily Headlines: October 16, 2009

* Chile: Tensions between Chile’s government and the indigenous Mapuche are near the boiling point after the Bachelet administration controversially invoked a Dirty War-era law against violence.

* Latin America: According to an Inter-American Development Bank study Brazil has Latin America’s worst gender and racial gap while the margin in Bolivia and Guatemala is nearly zero.

* Mexico: Tens of thousands of Mexicans protested yesterday against the federal government’s closing of state-run energy firm Luz y Fuerza.

* Cuba: A U.S. federal judge reduced the sentence of one of the “Cuban Five” convicted over a decade ago of being a Cuban spy.

Image- Santiago Times ("Mapuche flag.")
Online Sources- Guardian UK,, LAHT, The Latin Americanist, New York Times

Thursday, October 15, 2009

World Cup Qualifiers: Separating the wheat from the chaff

Yesterday’s final round of World Cup qualifiers symbolized the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” as the late Jim McKay used to say.

In South America, the final ticket to next year’s tourney in South Africa was up for grabs among Argentina, Uruguay, and Ecuador. The game between the first two would be a winner-take-all affair played in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo. The match was a fairly even affair until late in the second half when charrua Martin Caceres was red carded. Argentina’s Mario Bolatti pounced on a rebound from the ensuing a free kick to score the match’s lone goal:

Argentina’s win sealed their berth on soccer’s biggest stage along with neighbors Brazil, Paraguay, and Chile. Ecuador’s 1-0 loss to Chile insured that Uruguay will have to contest a two game play-in series against a country one of its Latin American neighbors.

Costa Rica and Honduras played in separate matches to decide who would qualify directly to the World Cup and who would go against Uruguay. For most of the night it appeared that Costa Rica booked their ticket to South Africa after jumping out to a 2-0 lead against the U.S. Yet the gritty gringos overcame that deficit in the second half and the ticos faced heartbreak with only seconds left in the hard-fought match:

Meanwhile, Honduras got a vital 1-0 win via goat-turned-hero Carlos Pavon. Along with the 2-2 tie in Washington, it would be Honduras who will make it to the World Cup for the first time since 1982. They will be joined by CONCACF rivals Mexico and the U.S.

The last spot for next year’s World Cup will be decided next month; Uruguay will visit Costa Rica on November 14th followed by the return leg in Montevideo on the 18th.

Online Sources- Wikipedia, You Tube, Sky Sports, CNN, ESPN

Daily Headlines: October 15, 2009

* Colombia: As seen in the above video, former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria reiterated comments made in part last February criticizing the U.S.-led “war on drugs” and calling for a greater emphasis on rehabilitation.

* U.S.: A group of Latino farmers alleging that they were discriminated from receiving federal loans are trying to push their case so that it receives class-action status.

* Ecuador: The mother of a California teen killed last month in Ecuador has urged officials there to do more to solve the murder.

* Latin America: The world’s first vegetarian spider has been purportedly located in a species found in southern Mexico and most of Central America.

Online Sources- UPI, CNN, the Latin Americanist, New York Times, Voice of America

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

World Watch: Congo’s crisis

* Congo: According to humanitarian groups the situation in Congo is dire as combat between rebels and the army has led to widespread violence and nearly 900,000 displaced people.

* China: Six men were sentenced to death over their involvement in last July’s ethnic riots between Muslim Uighurs and members of the Han Chinese majority.

* Iraq: A study from the Iraqi government concluded that over 85,000 Iraqis were killed between 2004 and 2008.

* Russia: Legislators from three political parties walked out of parliament in protest against President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Image- MSNBC (“Rwandan Hutu rebels stand watch outside a U.N. peacekeeping encampment in the heart of rebel territory, in the village of Kimua, eastern Congo, on Oct. 2.”)
Online Sources- CNN, Guardian UK, BBC News, Reuters

Fast but not yet free

A Miami-based company announced plans to lay the first optical communications fiber between the U.S. and Cuba. Execs at TeleCuba Communications claimed that they received special permission from the Treasury Department to install the cable which would be operational by 2011.

The only hurdles against the TeleCuba plan is getting the final okay from the Cuban government as well as constructing it faster than a similar cable planned between Venezuela and the island.

The move represents the gradual thawing of the political freeze between Washington and Havana, yet it would hardly benefit most Cubans:
Only about 2.1% of Cubans have regular access to the global internet and 11.5% to the Cuban intranet, according to the Washington-based democracy and human rights organization Freedom House.

"Bloggers can go online at government-owned internet cafes, at universities and hotels," it says.
Additionally, Cuban bloggers tend to be unduly harassed by the island’s regime. In the latest incidence, blogger Yoani Sanchez has been forbidden from traveling to the U.S. to receive a journalism award from Columbia University (CU). "The Cuban government ought to value Ms. Sanchez's work as a sign that young Cubans are ready to take Cuba into a better future,” said the dean of CU's Graduate School of Journalism to Reuters.

There could be a vast improvement in U.S.-Cuba ties by the time the TeleCuba cable is finished. Hopefully by that time the island’s people including its bloggers can have sufficient freedom of expression to take advantage of such a technological improvement.

Image- Miami New Times
Online Sources- Miami Herald, AP, BBC News, Reuters, The Latin Americanist

Is there a deal in Honduras? (Updated)

Update (11:00pm):
The possible return to power of Manuel Zelaya may not have been agreed upon by negotiators for Zelaya and de facto ruler Roberto Micheletti. "

To the moment, there is no final agreement on Zelaya's reinstatement"
read a statement from the Micheletti camp which contradicts remarks made by a de facto government official earlier on Wednesday.

Original Post:
The political impasse between the two sides claiming to be the legitimate government of Honduras may soon come to an end.

Representatives for ousted president Manuel Zelaya and de facto ruler Roberto Micheletti have reportedly agreed to resolve one of the main sticking points between both camps – whether or not to return Zelaya to power. "I am optimistic by nature," said Zelaya representative Victor Meza according to AFP over the proposed pact permitting Zelaya to go back to the presidency over three months after he was removed in a coup.

Envoys for both camps had agreed to most of the points in the San Jose Accord brokered weeks ago by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias yet Micheletti steadfastly refused to permit Zelaya’s return to power. According to the AP “there was no immediate comment from Micheletti representatives” though it has also been reported that most of the Arias deal would be agreed upon:
The deal would include a truth commission to investigate the events leading up to the coup and a committee to ensure that both sides live up to the agreement. It also requires Zelaya to give up his efforts to change the Honduran constitution, an initiative critics said he intended to use to extend his term in office by abolishing a ban on presidential re-election. Zelaya denies that was his plan. Soldiers flew him into exile after he ignored a Supreme Court order to cancel a referendum to ask Hondurans if they wanted an assembly to rewrite the constitution.
One of the sticking points could be who will get the final say regarding Zelaya and the presidency. Micheletti previously claimed that the Supreme Court has the last word even though the justices clashed with Zelaya before he was ousted. In addition, Meza didn’t mention if Zelaya would finish his presidential term which ends in January.

Image – AFP (“Riot squad officers are seen behind a Honduran flag”).
Online Sources- AP, The Latin Americanist, Reuters, AFP,

Protestors call for immigration reform

Last night U.S. president Barack Obama sashayed with Thalia, Gloria Estefan and other Latino celebs at the “Fiesta Latina” concert. Hours before the gala, however, he may have caught a glimpse of the thousands of protestors outside the White House calling for immigration reform.

At least 3000 marchers from around the country converged in Washington for the rally that was also organized in other cities by several immigrant advocacy groups. There was a notable Latino presence at the protest urging the president to stop his waffling on the issue of immigration and to enact meaningful change against the status quo. “There was no question about immigration status. We were all New Yorkers; we were all Americans,” said one protestor- an undocumented migrant from Colombia who helped in the post-9/11 clean-up effort- to the New York Times.

Several legislators also joined in Tuesday’s push for immigration reform:
'We need a bill that says if you come here to hurt our communities, we will not support you, but if you are here to work hard and to make a better life for your family, you will have the opportunity to earn your citizenship,' said Congressman Luis Gutierrez of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
Organizations on the other side of the immigration debate did not keep their arms crossed either. "The message is clear. No matter how they are sold to the public, amnesties don't work," said a board member of the Center for Immigration Studies to the Washington Times over a recently conducted poll of over 1000 Mexican adults. Yet the survey found that most respondents would not migrate to the U.S. if they had “the means and opportunity” and the poll neglected to ask about other possible immigration deterrents such as erecting a border fence or enforcing existing immigration laws.

Online Sources- YouTube, UPI, Monsters & Critics, Washington Times, Center for Immigration Studies, New York Times
Image - CCTV

Daily Headlines: October 14, 2009

* Haiti: The United Nations Security Council unanimously backed the mandate for having troops in Haiti for one more year.

* Cuba: It isn’t easy being a blogger in Cuba; not only is freedom of expression a luxury but so is freedom to travel.

* Panama: An OAS-affiliated human rights council is expected to hear the case of an Ecuadorian migrant who claimed he was tortured by Panamanian police.

* Colombia: A former Colombian paramilitary commander confessed to local prosecutors that his men were behind a 2000 massacre of 38 people.

Online Sources- Xinhua, CNN, LAHT, The Latin Americanist, Amnesty International

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Body Discovered in Cartel Killing in Tijuana, Mexico

Mexican drug cartel violence has been on the rise since 2000, but starting in 2008 we have seen a dramatic increase in violence resulting from drug cartel battles. The violence has made life in cities like Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez incredibly difficult for its residents, and has even spilled over onto the U.S. side of the border. Despite the efforts of the Mexican government (who has sent thousands of troops federal police) and the U.S. government (who has sent the National Guard) the violence is still increasing, as almost 14,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderon started his major crackdown in 2006. Just this weekend, a state official in charge of the distribution of driver's licenses, was found hanging from the Morelio bridge in Tijuana. He was suspected to have aided in giving driver's licenses to organized crime. His mutilated body was discovered at around 5:30 a.m. on Friday morning, just as factory workers were arriving at their jobs.

Learn more about about the major players in the drug cartel border violence here.

Online Sources: The Associated Press, Los Angeles Times

Honduras headlines continue

Today's Latin American news provides an array of Honduras headlines, as varied as ever:

"Honduras coup Leaders Mock Dialogue," from the Havana Times says the current government has "no intention of searching for a resolution to the over three-month Honduran stalemate."

Media Newswire's "Hondurans Choose Democracy" congratulates the Hondurans for ensuring that Zelaya will never return to the executive branch. "Mr. Micheletti's predecessor ran a campaign of corruption," the press release says.

And "How to Save Democracy in Honduras" from the Korea Times shares how to fix the country's "muddled mess:" ensure the U.S. and other countries stay out of it, and let Honduras fix itself.

Make sure to also read this article from Africa's Daily Nation comparing coups in Africa and Latin America.

Meanwhile, de facto leader Roberto Micheletti and ousted president Manuel Zelaya are to begin talks again tomorrow.

Sources: Havana Times, Media Newswire, Korea Times, Reuters, Daily Nation

Photo:, Zelaya and Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who is hopes to negotiate a compromise

Rio angles for Woody Allen project

Just because they got the Olympics gig doesn't mean Rio De Janeiro's going to quit.

The city is trying to woo director Woody Allen to film his next flick in Rio.

Offering $2 million in subsidies, this will be the first project of the city's new Rio Film Commission, which has a $45 million annual budget. Allen's company has sent two producers to check out the scenes.

Read more here.

Source: LA Times


Daily Headlines: October 13, 2009

* Argentina: Opposition is mobilizing against President Cristina Fernandez after Congress passed a media reform bill which the government claims will open the “airwaves to new players.”

* Honduras: On a related note, human rights groups have denounced numerous violations by the de facto regime under Roberto Micheletti including a crackdown on the press.

* Mexico: Tensions have heightened in Mexico City after officials decided to shutdown a local energy distribution company.

* El Salvador: Remittances to El Salvador plummeted by 10.3% in September according to recently released data.

Image- AP (“Government's supporters celebrate outside the National Congress building in Buenos Aires, Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009. Argentina's Senate overwhelmingly approved a law that will transform the nation's media landscape on Saturday, and President Cristina Kirchner said she would sign it immediately. (AP Photo/Alberto Raggio,DyN)”)
Online Sources- Reuters, BBC News, LAHT

Monday, October 12, 2009

Happy “Vespucci Day”!

Today is Columbus Day in the U.S. and depending on your perspective it’s either an occasion to celebrate the “discovery” of America or denounce European atrocities against Amerindians.

Columbus Day is also celebrated as a day of Italian-American heritage including the contributions of Italian migrants to the U.S. While such a community deserves their day of cultural pride, I’ve often wondered if the day ought to be named for another Italian explorer without Columbus’ checkered past. As I’ve mentioned in the past, why not rename Columbus Day?
A case could be made for cartographer and explorer Amerigo Vespucci, whose name gave birth to calling the western hemisphere “America.” Why not Antonio Pigafetta who was one of a handful of survivors from Ferdinand Magellan’s famed voyage around the world between 1519 and 1522 or Giovanni da Verrazano- the first European to explore the Atlantic coast of North America. Surely a strong case could be made for Giovanni Caboto (more commonly known as John Cabot) who was Genoa-born and lays claim to being the first European explorer to set foot on the North American mainland since the Vikings.

These gentlemen are not only sources of Italian pride but also beacons of discovery and exploration whose legacies carry far less of a stigma than Christopher Columbus.
What are your thoughts on Columbus, the holiday named in his honor, and his legacy?

Image- (Illustration of Amerigo Vespucci from the e-book version of “Discoverers and Explorers” by Edward R. Shaw).
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, CBS News, Wikipedia, Thinkquest

Daily Headlines: October 12, 2009

* Mexico: The Senate Appropriation Committee rejected a provision that would’ve added an extra 300 miles to the U.S.-Mexico border barrier.

* Argentina: Rest in peace Luis Aguile; the Argentine-born singer-songwriter best known for "Cuando Sali de Cuba" (When I Left Cuba) died in Madrid at the age of 73.

* Bolivia: According to a recent poll Bolivian president Evo Morales is well on his way to winning reelection this December.

* U.S.: Albert Pujols may have a strong chance to repeat as National League Most Valuable Player yet he and his St. Louis Cardinals teammates will be watching the rest of the playoffs at home after being flummoxed by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Online Sources- Houston Chronicle, CBC, YouTube, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times,
Angus Reid Consultants

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Weekend World Watch: And justice for all

* U.S.: President Barack Obama promised to drop the foolish “Don’t ask don’t tell” policy while thousands of people participate in a LGBT rights march in Washington today.

* Pakistan: Thirty-nine hostages have been rescued as commandoes stormed part of Pakistan’s army headquarters that had been taken over by suspected Taliban rebels.

* Russia: Bad news for Russia’s booming economy as President Dmitry Medvedev said that the GDP would fall by 7.5% this year.

* Europe: Turkey and Armenia signed a landmark agreement designed to calm over a century of hostilities.

* Middle East: The Middle East has weathered the global economic slowdown better than other regions due to its energy exporters according to an International Monetary Fund forecast.

* Japan: World peace will be the emphasis of Hiroshima and Nagasaki’s joint bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics.

Online Sources- Los Angeles Times, Reuters, Guardian UK, BBC News,, MSNBC, Al Jazeera English
Image- AFP (“Activists yell during (the National Equality March) in Washington, DC”.)