Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hundreds of Chileans kiled by major tremor (Updated)

Update (11:45pm):
Nearly 24 hours after a 8.8 magnitude termor rocked Chile the official death toll rose to 300 and counting. Rescue workers are laboring through the night in order to search for any bodies trapped beneath the rubble.

Though building codes are strict in the earthquake-prone country numerous buildings and bridges have collapsed. The mayor of Concepcion- a city of roughly one million people located about seventy miles from the epicenter- "described her city as 'Dante-esque'".

The tsunami alert has been lifted throughout the Americas including the Hawaiian islands. Still, Japan is on high alert though the only tidal wave reported at the time of this update was four inches tall.

In a Saturday night televised speech Chilean President Michelle Bachelet described the damage caused by the tremor and also tried to inspire unity amongst her fellow Chileans:

"This earthquake was of great magnitude and we have a great task ahead of us," she said.

"It requires time and resources, but more than anything the will and collaboration of each one of us.

"We have done it before. I have no doubt that we will move forward once again. Let's be strong Chile."

Update (5;15pm):
Via Global Voices Online: The Spanish-language blog Terremoto Chile (Earthquake Chile) was created this morning and provides constant updates on the situation in Chile. According to that site a possible aftershock hit neighboring Argentina killing one person.

Update (4:30pm):
Video of the damage caused by the earthquake in Chile:

Numerous countries throughout the Americas and the world have pledged to help in Chilean rescue and reconstruction efforts. (For instance, the European Union set aside three million Euros to assist Chile).

The official death toll still stands at 147 though BBC News cited local journalists claiming 85 fatalities in the region of Maule.

A tsunami alert still exists in the Pacific Rim area and tidal waves up to six feet have hit French Polynesia. Approximately 100,000 Hawaiians have been evacuated in anticipation of ten-foot tidal waves while residents of Chile's Easter Island have also been forced to seek higher ground.
Chile's Red Cross has launched an appeal for private donations. According to their Twitter feed donations can be deposited to Citibank Account Number 9941-973331, ABA code 021000089. Furthermore, USA TODAY provides other ways you can help including via text messaging.

Via the Twitter page of VivirLatino:
Número para info de ciudadanos americanos en Chile / Info about US citizens in Chile: 1-888-407-4747 ( via @RedCross )

Emergency phone #s inside #Chile have been released. You can call if looking for loved ones (56) 568 1290 or (56) 568 1295

Update (2:30 pm):
A "strong aftershock" has hit the region that includes Valparaiso according to the Twitter feed of 24 Horas Chile.

Speaking of Twitter please check these frequently updated feeds via NPR and the New York Times.

measuring eight feet in height touched down on the Chilean coastal town of Talcahuano. The Chilean government has reported of "a large wave" that hit the island of Juan Fernandez killing three people and leading to ten missing.

Update (1:30 pm):
A tidal wave measuring eight feet in height touched down on the Chilean coastal town of Talcahuano. The Chilean government has reported of "a large wave" that hit the island of Juan Fernandez killing three people and leading to ten missing.

President Michelle Bachelet spoke a few moments ago to the press and urged solidarity amongst her countrymen. She also called on people to remain calm and to try to stay away from coastal areas. "There is major infrastructural damage including hospitals and airports...that is being evaluated," said Bachelet.

The country's head of national emergency raised the official death toll to 147 people.

The tsunami alert in Pacific Basin countries continues to be activated. Several Mexican provinces are on high alert while evacuations keep taking place in coastal parts of Hawaii.

This morning's tremor has been reported as one of the strongest on record. It certainly seems that way when watching surveillance camera video of the intense shaking roughly twelve hours ago:

Update (11:10 am):
This epicenter of this morning's earthquake was roughly 200 miles away from the capital city of Santiago including a "massive chemical fire" according to CNN International. The tremor especially hit hard the city of Concepcion located about 70 miles from the epicenter where it has been reported that dozens of deaths happened as well as the collapse of a fifteen-story building.

The Chilean government has raised the death toll to 122 though that figure is expected to significantly increase.

Meanwhile several countries have been on high alert for a tsunami; evacuations are currently underway in the coastal areas of Hawaii, for example. CNN International has just reported that a tsunami is expected to hit Cabo San Lucas, Mexico in roughly one hour.

More updates forthcoming...

Original Post:
A massive earthquake measuring 8.8 on the Richter scale rocked Chile during the overnight hours:

The tremor- which lasted approximately one minute- has reportedly killed at least 82 people though that figure is expected to rise. Chilean president Michelle Bachelet declared a "state of catastrophe" in two regions after hospitals, schools, churches and other edifices collapsed in several municipalities. Blackouts hit several cities including the capital Santiago while numerous aftershocks where felt through out the country.

The tremor is being reported as one of the strongest ever recorded in the Americas and comes roughly six weeks after a 7.0 earthquake killed tens of thousands of Haitians.

The strength of the earthquake off the Chilean coast has led to a tsunami alert for every country across the Pacific Ocean including Japan, Australia, and the U.S.

Updates will be posted throughout the day. Stay tuned…

Online Sources (in the original post) – YouTube, CNN, MSNBC, Xinhua, The Latin Americanist

Weekend Headlines: February 27-28, 2010

* Dominican Republic: The controversy over Aida Trujillo Ricart’s book on her late dictator grandfather continued after protestors forced the cancellation of her book debut.

* Argentina: A retired Argentine navy officer was arrested in Miami after being accused of a “Dirty War” massacre of sixteen prisoners.

* Brazil: In an unusual incident a newborn baby died after the doctors in charge of delivering her quarreled and got into a fistfight.

* Chile: The country’s economic recovery may’ve hit a rough spot after industrial output “unexpectedly “ decreased for a second straight month.

Image – Notes From Hel (Rafael Trujillo ruled the Dominican Republic with a repressive and iron hand from 1930 until his assassination in 1961.)
Online Sources- Dominican Today, LAHT, Bloomberg, BBC News, The Latin Americanist

Friday, February 26, 2010

Colombian court quashes relection vote

Justice has been served today in Colombia.

By an overwhelming 7-2 vote Colombia's Constitutional Court rejected holding a national referendum to permit a possible third straight term for President Alvaro Uribe. The court found that having the vote- which was planned to be held in roughly two weeks- would be unconstitutional and a threat to democracy. Furthermore, the tribunal found illegal the "methods" used by pro-referendum backers to promote the vote including breaking finance laws and "irregularities" in the Colombian Congress.

A recent poll found that almost half of respondents would vote for Uribe if he were permitted to run again mainly due to his national security policies. Nevertheless, Uribe has been hounded by numerous scandals such as the "false positives" affair that implicated the country's military and the "para-politics" scandal. The latter has implicated numerous politicos and officials with ties to Colombia's rightist paramilitaries including possibly one of the president's cousins:
Mario Uribe Escobar, a former senator, was detained following an order from the Colombian Supreme Court...

Mario Uribe, who denies any wrongdoing, was detained for several months in 2008 but subsequently released for lack of evidence linking him to paramilitaries...

Former paramilitary leaders have alleged that Mario Uribe conspired with their groups in the 1990s to take over farmland in agriculturally rich regions of Colombia that were under paramilitary control.
Online Sources - BBC News, El Espectador, El Tiempo, Angus Reid Monitor, Plan Colombia and Beyond
Image - BBC News

Speedy on the silver screen

Dear God/Buddha/Allah/Flying Spaghetti Monster no, no, no:
Speedy Gonzales is taking his folk hero status, incredible speed and signature red kerchief to the big screen, courtesy of New Line. "Garfield" scribes Alec Sokolow and Joel Cohen will adapt the classic animated Looney Tunes character into a live-action/CG hybrid feature, with George Lopez attached to voice Speedy…

New Line and the producers plan to update the brand with a modernized sensibility (it takes place in present day) under what Ann Lopez calls George's "Latino seal of approval." (No need to throw fuel on the fire that serves as an immigration debate in this country.)

"We wanted to make sure that it was not the Speedy of the 1950s -- the racist Speedy," Ann Lopez said with a chuckle.
Should this planned abomination become a hit we may soon see “Speedy 2: Mexican Boogaloo” with the voice of Carlos Mencia as Slowpoke Rodriguez.

Besides what would you rather see: a saccharine, bland sack of cinematic slop or Speedy trying to fool the Border Patrol much like he teased Sylvester the Cat in this 1950s cartoon?

Online Sources- Hollywood Reporter, YouTube

Daily Headlines: February 26, 2010

* U.S.: Renowned Latina actress Rita Moreno was one of twenty artists receiving the National Medal of Arts at the White House yesterday.

* Honduras: Ex-president Manuel Zelaya accused Honduran authorities of ''seeking personal revenge” by bringing up new corruption charges against him.

* Puerto Rico: The director of the U.S. federal housing agency's Puerto Rican division was arrested on corruption charges.

* Mexico: Six suspects were arrested by Mexico City police in relation to the January shooting of Paraguayan striker Salvador Cabañas.

Image –
Online Sources-, New York Times, CNN, RTT News, The Latin Americanist

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Today's Video: FARC Merengue

Yup, the FARC have a merengue that leader Manuel Marulanda (alias: Tirofijo) hoped would attract young people to the rebel cause.

For your viewing pleasure, after the jump.

Online Sources: Guardian
Video Source: YouTube

Central American Coffee Dries Up

Nothing starts the morning like a delicious cup of Honduran Marcala Princesa.

That pleasure may soon cost a few cents more, however, as a persistent dry spell in Central America has meant a drop in production this year.

To make matters worse, production is also down in Indonesia, the world's third largest coffee producing nation.

According to Bloomberg, "coffee has gained 17 percent in 12 months on concern that supplies of the bean will lag rising demand. Futures for May delivery declined 2.3 percent to $1.298 a pound on ICE Futures U.S. in New York today."

No word from commodities traders on whether they expect demand to shift towards 5-hour energy or Red Bull Cola.

Online Sources: Bloomberg, Mayorga Coffee
Image Source: Cafe Marcala

Arte Para la Gente: The mind of Andres Serrano

Note: The following post is a near copy of a post originally published in September 2008.

Depending on whom you ask, Andres Serrano is either a courageous contemporary artist or an immoral perverted heathen. What is clear is that he is not afraid to ruffle some feathers through his artwork and photographs of risqué and taboo subjects.

A 2008 exhibition was absolute crap and we mean it in the most literal way possible:
Now, the genial renegade is back, fulfilling his desire to do, in his words, "something that would provoke even me"—namely, shooting 66 different piles of doo-doo dumped by as many animals, blown up to eight feet high and ready to hang on the walls of the Yvon Lambert Gallery (in New York City) beginning September 4…

"I always said I wouldn't work with children and sex, and I wouldn't work with shit, so when I came up with this idea [which dawned on him, to the best of his recollection, during the nude wrestling scene in Borat], I had to put myself in a special place. I had to prepare myself mentally—it was a scientific and aesthetic investigation."

Do you find Serrano’s work moving, nauseating, or perhaps some combination of the two? In the video below Serrano discusses how he likes to “go below the surface” in his art such as photographing members of the KKK:

If you are interested in viewing some of his work please check out this Not Safe For Work video.

Online Sources- YouTube, Slate, The Latin Americanist, Village Voice

Daily Headlines: February 25, 2010

* Latin America: Winter Olympics update - Sixteen-year-old Peruvian Manfred Oettl Reyes (image) finished 78th in the in the giant slalom while Cynthia Denzler became Colombia’s first ever Winter Games athlete.

* Mexico: Much like last year U.S. officials have issued travel advisories to prospective spring break collegians heading to Mexico.

* U.S.: A judge tossed out a lawsuit that claimed that San Francisco authorities should’ve turned in an alleged murderer originally from El Salvador to federal authorities.

* Argentina: The government’s plans to use reserved in order to pay a multibillion-dollar foreign debt were dealt a blow by a judge yesterday.

Image –
Online Sources- Houston Chronicle, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, UPI, Bloomberg

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

De Musica Ligera: Soda! Soda! Soda!

It's great to see Gustavo Cerati preparing for his latest solo tour of Latin America while Zeta Bosio will soon tour Chile as part of his DJing gigs. Yet nothing could beat their heyday when they along with Charly Alberti became legends as the inimitable Soda Stereo:

It's not too late to reunite again por favor!

Online Sources - Diario La Verdad, La Tercera, YouTube

Daily Headlines: February 24, 2010

* Puerto Rico: Several high-profile Puerto Rican officials are reportedly unhappy with the White House’s health care reform initiative.

* Latin America: Representatives of Latin America’s two largest economies- Mexico and Brazil- will supposedly soon start bilateral free trade negotiations.

* U.S.: The federal government ended its four-year monitoring of elections in Springfield, Massachusetts where it was claimed that Latino voters had been discriminated against.

* Uruguay: Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be among the dignitaries scheduled to attend the inauguration of incoming Uruguayan President Jose Mujica.

Online Sources- Orlando Sentinel, BusinessWeek, Boston Herald, MercoPress

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Shakira swings by White House

Pop sensation Shakira stopped by the White House today, meeting President Barack Obama and discussing a topic close to both of them: early childhood development.

The Washington Post has the official word: the singer "briefly stopped by to say hello to the President, and updated him on her work on the subject."

In an interview with Fox News host Greta Van Susteren, Shakira described meeting President Obama.

"He's really one of these people who are unforgettable. When you meet in person, he's very warm, and also gives you his focus and undivided attention, which is quite unusual when you usually meet with presidents. Presidents are always, not always, absentminded people, but he's focused. I like that about him."

She said they discussed her Fundación América Latina en Acción Solidaria, or ALAS Foundation, which focuses on childhood development in Latin America.

In other news, Shakira's newest video features tennis star Rafael Nadal.

Source: Washington Post, Fox News, SKy News


Nuestro Cine: “Contracorriente”

Earlier this month we took a brief look at several latin American films that were recognized at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. One of these movies was Peru’s “Contracorriente”- a complex drama dealing with themes of homosexuality and love. Recently the movie’s director and writer- Javier Fuentes-León- was interviewed in the up-and-coming Latin America News Dispatch blog. He discussed several items including how film may help bring about social change:
I think cinema can help — art in general — can help change people’s minds. I do think though what will really change people’s minds will always be having somebody else next to them say, “hey, I’m gay.” Somebody they love or admire or respect. And seeing them live their lives as who they are. I don’t want to diminish the power of cinema and art, but I don’t want to overstate it either.
Do you agree with Fuentes-León? See for yourself with the trailer for “Contracorriente”:

Online Sources- Latin America News Dispatch, Latin Americanist

Univision plans millions for education

Univision -- partnered with U.S. government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation -- announced today millions in aid to Latino students in the U.S.

The campaign, "Es el Momento" or "The Moment is Now," is a reaction to high unemployment rates coupled with Hispanics making up a fifth of the nation's school-age children.

Numbers aren't in stone yet, but it's said to be a multi-million dollar and multi-year plan.

The program will kick off with a March 6 television special hosted by anchor Jorge Ramos.

Acknowledging that many Latinos come to the U.S. for a better life, including education for their children, Univision Networks President Cesar Conde said goals will include telling parents what their children need to get to college.

The Hispanic unemployment rate is "among the highest at 12.6 percent," the AP reported.

Source: AP, Miami Herald


Fighting at the Unity Summit

The Venezuelan and Colombian leaders apparently exchanged harsh words during a lunch at the Latin America and Caribbean Summit happening in Cancun.

CNN International reports that Alvaro Uribe and Hugo Chavez began caling each other names and cursing.

Reportedly, Uribe told Chavez, "Be a man and stay to discuss face to face."

A spokesman for Mexican President Felipe Calderon confirmed the event.

Momento 24 reports that at a lunch was hosted by the Mexican government.

About 30 Latin American and Caribbean leaders are at what's been dubbed the Unity Summit.

Source: CNN International, Momento 24

Photo: CNN International

Daily Headlines: February 23, 2010

* Cuba: Migration talks between the U.S. and Cuba hit a snag after U.S. diplomats met with Cuban dissidents.

* Latin America: Happy New Year to Mayans celebrating the year 5126 under their calendar!

* Chile: Billionaire president-elect Sebastian Pinera is expected to add $498 million to his personal fortune by selling his stake in LAN Chile.

* Brazil: The “beautiful game” was anything but on Sunday when a fan of Brazilian soccer team Palmeiras was killed after a match.

Image – PRESS TV
Online Sources- Vancouver Sun, CNN, Xinhua, MSNBC

Monday, February 22, 2010

Today’s Video: Baseball’s continuing color lines

Nearly every day tipsters write to us at and clue us in to all sorts of news stories. Most of them are discarded since they have nothing to do with Latin American while others are press releases that are irrelevant to our blog’s content. Yet there are occasions where a particular topic or news article from our tipsters catches our attention. This week’s video theme will highlight some of the notable items we’ve recently received.

Last month the Philadelphia Daily News discussed one of the classes taught by Arcadia University anthropology professor Jeffrey Shultz. "Baseball and Beisbol: The Evolution of Race and Ethnicity in the Major Leagues" forces students to take a hard look at an exploitation that he argues exists in professional baseball. "You can hire 10 Dominican players for the price of one American college player," Shultz said in the article. In addition he brought up the historical color line that allowed light-skinned Latinos to play in the majors before Jackie Robinson became the first African-American major leaguer in 1947.

With spring training just starting we hope to interview professor Shultz very soon. In the meantime, please take a look at this trailer for a documentary on the dreams of young Dominicans to become professional ballplayers:

Online Sources- Philadelphia Daily News, YouTube

Chile: Dirty War corpses identified

Chile’s Dirty War ended about two decades ago and former dictator Augusto Pinochet is dead and buried. Yet the memories of that brutal period of political repression and the injuries caused by state abuse continue to linger.

Case in point: the identities of thirteen bodies buried in an abandoned mine were identified last week. Chile's government and researchers at the University of Texas studied genetic information from the corpses such as the DNA and chromosomes. The dead men ranged from the age of 17 to 51 years and were all killed by the army shortly after the 1973 military coup. (The burial site itself was discovered in 1978 and Pinochet would subsequently pardon the officers guilty of the crime).

The identification of the bodies was welcomed by the families of the deceased who suspected that their loved ones were illegally buried. The circumstances surrounding their deaths are spine chilling and symbolic of the ugly nature of the Pinochet regime:
Fifteen residents from the neighborhood of Lonquen near Santiago where among those secretly buried in the ancient brick-making oven. They were detained by police for diverse reasons after supposedly being transferred to a Santiago jail.

Among the victims were a farmer and his four sons, day workers, and even a teenager caught smoking a joint. - [ed. Translated text]
Image- BBC News
Online Sources- La Nacion, La Verdad, EPA, The Latin Americanist

Colin Powell blasts U.S. antidrug efforts

On Sunday former Secretary of State Colin Powell defended the Obama administration’s national security policy. A few days before that Powell was a little more critical of the White House.

During an appearance at Mexico’s Universidad de Monterrey Powell said that the U.S. had not done enough to combat the flow of drugs. “We are not doing our homework,” observed Powell while advocating that the U.S. and Mexico work closer to lower the demand for drugs.

Despite the shortcomings of Mexico’s anticrime plans, Powell praised President Felipe Calderon and highlighted the “important challenges” faced by Mexicans. Powell advised that the key to counteracting drug gangs would be via intelligence, not weapons:
“Our first priority in any military or counternarcotics campaign is to have the right intelligence to reach our goals”…

“We should learn who they are, what they are, how they operate, how they move their money, and how they draft young people…We cannot beat the cartels merely by having more powerful weapons than them.” - [ed. Translated text]
Noting the problems with the U.S.-led “war on drugs” Latin American countries such as Argentina have backed major policy changes including limited legalization. Yet in a recent meeting with Mexican officials, U.S. “drug czar” Gil Kerlikowske said that “legalization isn't a subject under discussion under the Obama administration under any circumstances.”

Image- UPI
Online Sources- AFP, The Latin Americanist, CBS News, El Universal, Milenio, AFP, El Infomador

Brazil’s “iron lady” vies for presidency

There are two Latin American presidential tendencies that may be developing: electing a conservative leader to replace a leftist regime (see: Pinera, Sebastian) or voting for a female candidate (see: Chinchilla, Laura). Brazil’s upcoming presidential election may provide a clue as to which will be the region’s trend du jour.

Yesterday the Worker’s Party selected presidential chief of staff Dilma Rousseff as its candidate to succeed current President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Acknowledging Brazil’s role as an emerging global economic power, Rousseff pledged to “ensure macroeconomic stability.” Described my MercoPress as the “iron lady of Brazilian politics” Rousseff also promised to keep working with the ruling coalition of eleven parties.

Rousseff is not a shoe-in for the presidency despite Lula’s broad appeal. A poll released earlier this month found her trailing Sao Paulo’s conservative governor Jose Serra by slightly more than five percent. Alluding to a 2005 bribes-for-votes scandal, the opposition has tried to pin Lula and Rousseff as corrupt. But with elections planned for October, there will be ample time for campaigning and for Rousseff to overcome poll deficits.

Lula is barred by electoral law from running for a third consecutive presidential term. Yet unlike other regional leaders the popular Lula is not interested in changing the law to suit his personal whims:
"I don't think about returning to the presidency," Lula said. "Anyone who is elected as president has the legitimate right to be a candidate for re-election"…

"I know Dilma well and, as such I think she will impose her own pace--if she makes a decision that's more to the left than mine, I should accept it normally. And if she makes a decision more to the right than mine, I should accept that normally. I have total confidence in Dilma and that she'll know to do what's correct for the country."
Image- BBC News
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Colombia Reports, Reuters, MercoPress, NPR, People’s Daily Online, Angus Reid Consultants, Wall Street Journal

Yanqui Go Home?

There seems to be a consensus forming at the Rio Group Summit going on in Cancun that an official body of nations should be formed that will be made up of Latin American and Caribbean nations exclusively.

The idea, officially proposed by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, calls for the creation of a formal body made up of Latin American and Caribbean nations without the United States or Canada. The group hasn't been named yet but is proposed to launch next year.

The rhetoric surrounding the group has been unsurprisingly harsh, with Chavez seeing the group as a way to "finally rid ourselves of the colonialism the U.S. imposed on the continent." Adding his two cents, Bolivian president Evo Morales said that he saw the new group as a way for the region to advance without the "control, blackmail and attempted coups" that he says have characterized the U.S.' participation in the region.

The first big question the new group raises is what this will mean for the OAS. Will the new group undermine or eventually replace the OAS?

Also, given that the group is being spearheaded by the Chavez-Morales block, will it be able to successfully include the more moderate and center-right governments of the region or will it simply be ALBA II?

Image Source: Wikipedia Commons
Online Sources: AP, Miami Herald, BBC Mundo

Rest in peace Ariel Ramirez

The Argentine musical scene has been moved by the recent deaths of several notable names. Last October the "Voice of America" Mercedes Sosa passed away, followed nearly three months later with the death of 70s pop icon Sandro.

The latest figure to have drifted into the great beyond was pianist and composer Ariel Ramirez. The 88-year-old died of a neurological condition last Thursday having left behind a treasure of music spanning a seven-decade career. He worked closely with the late Sosa and co-authored two of her hits: "Mujeres Argentinas" (Argentine Women) and "Cantata Sudamericana" (South American Cantata). Ramirez will be best remembered, however, for the stunning mix of choral and indigenous sounds in "Misa Criolla" (Creole Mass):

(Hat tip: MetaFilter).

Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, MetaFilter, Christian Science Monitor, Washington Post

Daily Headlines: February 22, 2010

* Nicaragua: The country’s very strict ban on all forms of abortion is facing a critical legal challenge from a cancer-stricken woman.

* U.S.: A third suspect has pled guilty in the murder of Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero in 2008.

* Panama: Lawyers for former Panamanian ruler Manuel Noriega played what may be their last chance to try to prevent his extradition to France.

* Argentina: Argentina’s government is seeking regional support in its dispute with Britain over the sovereignty of the Falklands Islands.

Image – CNN (“Nicaraguan women hold up signs shaped like the female form during a 2008 protest against the anti-abortion law.”)
Online Sources- Washington Post, New York Times, LAHT, CNN, The Latin Americanist