Saturday, April 17, 2010

Today’s Video: Brazil at war

The Brazilian Expeditionary Force (BEF) is often overlooked but the BEF's 25,000 troops made up the lone South American participation in World War II. For instance, it was 65 years ago today that Brazilian soldiers helped drive out Nazi forces from the Italian town of Montese. Several hundred BEF troops died in combat and their efforts fighting along with the Allies have been memorialized back home.

The following is a U.S. propaganda video made in 1943 that examined Brazil's military and how their soldiers are “in the war all the way”:

Online Sources- Alterdestiny, YouTube, Wikipedia,

Weekend World Watch: Pożegnanie

* Poland: Approximately 100,000 people filled Warsaw's Pilsudski Square in remembrance of President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others killed in a plane crash one week ago.

* Sudan: International electoral observers severely criticized the lack of “standards” in Sudan’s first multi-party elections since 1986.

* U.S.: It’s never too early to speculate on who will be selected to succeed John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court.

* Pakistan: At least 41 people died after a pair of suicide bombers detonated explosives near a Pakistani food distribution area.

Image – MSNBC (“People wait for the start of a commemoration service for late Polish President Lech Kaczynski and the other plane crash victims at the Pilsudski square in Warsaw on Saturday.”)
Online Sources- MSNBC, ABC Online, Reuters, BBC News

Weekend Headlines: April 17-18, 2010

* Chile: President Sebastian Pinera unveiled a reconstruction plan for areas hit by February’s earthquake that includes raising taxes and having copper companies pay higher royalties.

* Bolivia: Roughly two weeks after an international environment summit in Bonn delegations are preparing for an upcoming “people's conference” for global climate change in Cochabamba.

* U.S.: According to the New York Times most U.S. cities “more immigrants are employed in white-collar occupations than in lower-wage work like construction, manufacturing or cleaning.”

* Colombia: Shakira will join South African band Freshlyground to sing the anthem for the soccer World Cup that starts in less than two months.

Image – The Telegraph (“Residents look at a collapsed building in Concepcion, Chile.”)
Online Sources- Santiago Times, The Latin Americanist, BBC Sport, New York Times, Reuters

Friday, April 16, 2010

World Watch: Stranded

* Europe: Over 11,000 flights have been cancelled and clouds have blanketed several European countries due to the massive plumes of ash spewed by Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano.

* Pakistan: Was there some form of government complicity behind the 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto?

* China: The death toll from a massive Chinese earthquake has climbed to at least 1144 while over 400 people have been reported missing.

* World: Whaling hunting countries like Japan and Norway and opponents including Australia and Germany may soon come to an agreement over the controversial practice.

Image – New York Times (“A computer enhanced image of the volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in Iceland taken by the TerraSAR-X satellite on Thursday evening.”)
Online Sources- CNN, Reuters, AP, BBC News

Daily Headlines: April 16, 2010

* Argentina: An Argentine judge annulled Latin America’s first gay marriage that had taken place last December in the city of Ushuaia.

* Colombia: Green Party presidential candidate Antanas Mockus continues his rise up the polls as he keeps closing the gap with frontrunner Juan Manuel Santos.

* El Salvador: Remittances to El Salvador increased last month as part of the “first positive rate observed since October 2008.”

* U.S.: According to researchers Latinos tend to live in areas where there are limited screenings for colon cancer.

Image – Guardian UK (Alejandro Freyre and Jose Maria Di Bello was Latin America’s first same-sex marriage in a civil ceremony last December).
Online Sources- UPI, LAHT, The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg, AFP

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Today’s Video: Have you mailed your Census forms?

This Friday is the final day to send Census forms. You may receive a personal visit from a Census worker if you miss the mail-in deadline as the following Spanish-language video from the Census Bureau shows:

If you have any questions about the Census you can call from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily: 1-866-872-6868 in English or 1-866-928-2010 en Español.

Online Sources-, Fox News, YouTube

Press groups denounce Honduran journo murders

On Monday radio host Luis Antonio Chévez became the sixth Honduran journalist to be killed over the past two months. The precarious situation members of the media have faced in that country has been denounced by several international press groups.

“In a month (Honduras) has fallen to become the worst country in terms of security for journalists”, said a statement emitted earlier this month by Reporters Without Borders (RWB). The RWB communiqué went on to denounce a climate of impunity and a lack of effective investigation in the murders of several Honduran journalists in the early part of the year. Citing the dangers against the press since the ouster of Manuel Zelaya last month, the group urged Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to withdraw Honduras’ invitation to a May summit.

Other groups have expressed their dissatisfaction and disappointment with the violence against the press:
"We call on Honduran authorities to put an end to this unprecedented wave of violence against the press," said Carlos Lauria, senior program coordinator for the Americas for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

"These attacks are seriously restricting freedom of expression and undermine citizens' right to be informed on issues of public interest," he said…

Such despicable crimes against media professionals undermine the fundamental right of freedom of information, cornerstone of a democratic society," said Irina Bokova, director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the U.N. agency that deals with press freedoms.
Honduras hasn’t been the only Latin American state denounced by press groups. The Inter-American Press Association denounced the recent arrest of Globovision president Guillermo Zuloaga in Venezuela while the RWB has called on Colombian authorities to investigate more deeply into the death of a local journalist.

Image- Clarin (A Honduran protestor holds up the image of slain journalist Joseph Hernández Ochoa).
Online Sources- AFP, LAHT, CNN, Milenio, AP

New Los Angeles Archbishop named in abuse case

A new case of abuse against minors has marred what should have been a momentous occasion for Latinos in the Catholic Church.

San Antonio Archbishop Jose Gomez was introduced last week as the next leader of the Los Angeles archdiocese to succeed Cardinal Roger Mahoney. The Mexican-born Gomez would become the first Latino cardinal in the U.S. and was initially seen as someone who would overcome the abuse scandals that dogged his predecessor.

Days after the introduction, however, Gomez was named in a lawsuit against a San Antonio priest accused of repeated sexual abuse. Father John M. Fiala allegedly molested the plaintiff when he was a teen “once or twice a month” supposedly including being raped in 2008. "Archdiocese knew or should have know that Fiala was engaging in forbidden sexual contact,” thus implying that Gomez may’ve covered up Fiala’s alleged abuse according to court documents.

The accusations could hurt Gomez’ standing among Latinos allied to the Catholic Church in Los Angeles. Aside from the allegations he will have to work hard to convince parishioners that his “conservative and progressive” views are best for an area with such a notable Latino and immigrant populace:
Under his reign, a local Catholic high school ended its relationship with an organization that raised money to fight breast cancer, because the same organization gave grants to Planned Parenthood. After a 17-year-old lay advisory commission created by his predecessor suggested that gay marriage might be a human rights issue under one reading of the church's teachings, Gomez disbanded the commission…

Gomez has marched for immigrants' rights and worked to bridge the complex cultural gap between long-established Mexican American communities and newly arrived immigrant communities from elsewhere in Latin America.
Image- The Telegraph
Online Sources- AP, Los Angeles Times, Dallas Morning News, Courthouse News Service

Tough immigration bill advances in Arizona

The Arizona House of Representatives passed a bill this week that would make it a crime not to have proper documentation and to solicit work as a day laborer.

In the House, 35 Republicans voted for it and 21 Democrats opposed it, reported the LA Times.

The bill would also allow police to arrest immigrants who don’t have paperwork showing their legality, reported Fox News.

"When you make life difficult," said state Sen. Russell Pearce, "most will leave on their own."

The Seattle TImes reported that Governor Jan Brewer is expected to sign it.

Chris Newman, Legal Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, responded.

"Arizona is on the verge of enacting the most anti-immigrant legislation the country has seen in a generation,” he said. “Arizona has long been a laboratory for anti-immigrant experimentation, and its demagogue leaders have become folk heros for white supremacists throughout the United States, but this bill ushers in a new chapter of disgrace for the state that resisted celebrating the life of Martin Luther King."

Sources: Fox News, NDLON, LA Times, Seattle Times

First Lady begins last day in Mexico

First Lady Michelle Obama’s schedule has been full since landing in Mexico City Tuesday night.

Today's she's scheduled to meet with employees of the U.S. embassy and speak with youth leaders.

Wednesday, she visited the Ibero American University, a Roman-Catholic school for Mexico City’s elite, according to the Houston Chronicle, and Escuela Siete de Enero, an elementary school.

She highlighted the “youth bulge” in Mexico, where the majority of the population is young.

Her companion was Mexican First Lady Margarita Zavala, and their discussions were also youth-oriented, about drug-addiction prevention and treatment of unaccompanied migrant children, according to the Los Angeles Times.

She also visited the presidential compound and the National Museum of Anthropology, where the National Children’s Chorus and the Carlos Chavez Youth Symphonic Orchestra performed, reported the Washington Post.

In a session with journalists, she invoked her time in Chicago, reported the Chicago Sun-Times. "Growing up in Chicago on the South Side, I lived next to one of the largest Mexican-American communities in the city," she said.

Source: Houston Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, AP, Chicago Sun-Times, the Sydney Morning Herald

Photo: AFP

Daily Headlines: April 15, 2010

* Mexico: One of the positives from this week’s Nuclear Security Summit was that the U.S., Canada and Mexico agreed to unite and work on Mexican nuclear material.

* Bolivia: For a true pause that refreshes why not try “Coca Colla” (not a typo), a new Bolivian soda that has real coca as an ingredient.

* El Salvador: There have been at least 3633 cases of dengue in El Salvador this year according to local health authorities.

* Paraguay: Via decree from President Fernando Lugo all smoking is barred in closed public spaces such as bars and malls.

Online Sources- AP, Xinhua, Guardian UK, UPI

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Michelle Obama semi-public comments on drugs

First Lady Michelle Obama stopped in Mexico as part of her first solo trip abroad and focused on youth issues including the need for a solid education. She refrained from publicly speaking on the dangers of drugs or the rampant violence in parts of Mexico. While it may’ve been diplomatically prudent from mentioning such topics it also meant that youth missed the chance to hear the following:
First lady Michelle Obama said Wednesday that reducing the demand for illegal drugs needs an approach much broader than just warning young people to stay away from them.

"If young people don't have an alternative in their lives, whatever country they're in, they're going to choose drugs, they're going to choose (the) drug trade. That's the way they make money," Mrs. Obama told reporters from six U.S. media outlets after a speech to several thousand young people during her first international trip as first lady.
Obama will continue in Mexico on Thursday where she’s scheduled to meet with a group female business leaders.

Image- Houston Chronicle (“First lady Michelle Obama finds a moment Wednesday to play with children at a public school in Mexico City.”)
Online Sources- Los Angeles Times, Reuters, AP

World Watch: 589 and counting

* China: The official death toll of a 6.9-magnitude earthquake is at 589 while rescuers keep struggling to find any remaining survivors. (Check this out if you wish to help Chinese relief efforts).

* U.S.: Attorney General Eric Holder has not eliminated the chance that accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed could be tried in New York.

* Britain: A local department store apologized and withdrew sales of padded bikinis made for girls.

* Italy: The country’s Supreme Court rejected gay marriage by calling requests for such arrangements “not admissible” and “unfounded.”

Image – New York Times (“The rubble near a destroyed building after an earthquake at Jiegu Town in Yushu county, a Tibetan autonomous prefecture in western Qinghai Province of northwest China on Wednesday.”)
Online Sources- BusinessWeek, ABC News, Huffington Post, BBC News, CNN

University drops Nike over Honduran labor conditions

Controversy over athletic apparel companies allegedly exploiting workers in counties like Honduras has led some universities to cut their contracts with the firms like Russell Athletic. In the latest development the University of Wisconsin has taken strong steps against clothing giant Nike:
The University of Wisconsin canceled its licensing agreement with Nike Inc. on Friday, becoming the first university to take that step over concerns about the company's treatment of
workers in Honduras.

Chancellor Biddy Martin said Nike hasn't done enough to help workers collect severance payments they are owed at two factories that abruptly closed last year.

"Nike has not developed, and does not intend to develop, meaningful ways of addressing the plight of displaced workers and their families in Honduras," Martin said. "It has not presented clear long-range plans to prevent or respond to similar problems in the future. For this combination of reasons, we have decided to end our relationship for now."
New York University may be the next school to sever ties with Nike over a year after ending its agreement with Russell Athletic over Honduran labor conditions.

Image- Team Sweat
Online Sources- AP, The Latin Americanist, Washington Square News

U.S. suspends intel aid to Colombia

For all the praise surrounding Colombian president Alvaro Uribe what is often overlooked are the corruption problems that has hampered his administration. One of these is the serious accusation against Colombia’s intelligence agency (DAS, in Spanish) of illegally wiretapping and spying on politicians, journalists, and judges. The chuzadas has even caught the attention of allies in Washington and has led to a major decision from the White House.

According to U.S. ambassador to Colombia William Brownfield the U.S. will temporarily cut economic aid to the DAS. Though he admitted that authorities where looking into whether the agency “engaged in illicit activities” Brownfield also noted that orders were made to shift aid from the DAS to the Colombian police and Prosecutor General’s Office. The ambassador added that the chuzadas scandal was hurting U.S.-Colombia relations yet left the door open for a renewal for aid if Colombian intelligence were to be reorganized.

The Uribe administration replied by emphatically denying the wiretapping allegations though one local news network added fuel to the fire:
Colombian news source CM& claimed to have access to documents proving that information collected through the surveillance and wiretapping of judges, journalists and politicians conducted by security agency DAS was passed on to members of the government…

Among the documents is allegedly a file labeled "President Uribe," which was used by the DAS officials to collate "documents of interest to the Colombian president."

A second document allegedly shows evidence of the surveillance of journalist Holman Morris by the security agency, including an apparently illegally-obtained email written by Morris.
Opponents to the Uribe administration have not been immune to accusations of corruption; charges may be brought against Sen. Piedad Cordoba for allegedly overstepping her bounds as a hostage negotiator with the FARC.

Image- Tribuna Latina (DAS headquarters in Bogotá, Colombia)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Colombia Reports, Caracol, El Tiempo, RCN Radio, El Espectador

Today’s Video: Confronting Efrain

How does one react when confronted with one of the most cruel rulers in Latin American history? Author and scholar Daniel Jonah Goldhagen found out when he met Efrain Rios Montt as part of “Worse than War”:
Its dramatic high point involves Mr. Goldhagen’s stalking Efraín Ríos Montt, the former dictator, through the halls of Guatemala’s Parliament until Mr. Ríos Montt agrees to talk about the killings of Mayan villagers during his time as ruler. As a smiling Mr. Ríos Montt says that he would be in jail if he were responsible for the deaths of 200,000 Mayans, Mr. Goldhagen’s voice on the soundtrack says, “Staring into the eyes of this killer, I feel outrage and disgust.”
“Worse than War” premieres tonight on PBS (check local listings) and serves as a documentary companion to Goldhagen’s controversial 2009 book of the same name. The film mimics the book by noting the similarities among genocides around the world including in Guatemala during the early 1980s. The following video is of Goldhagen describing the film and includes a few clips of his work in Guatemala:

Online Sources- New York Times, YouTube

Daily Headlines: April 14, 2010

* Haiti: First Lady Michelle Obama made a surprise visit to Haiti yesterday though that overshadowed the announcement that U.S. troops would leave the earthquake-ravaged country by June 1st.

* Honduras: Is Central America embracing the post-Zelaya Honduran government? Costa Rica president-elect Laura Chinchilla wants Honduras to be reinstated into the OAS while Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega “warmly welcomed” the visit of Porfirio Lobo last week.

* Venezuela: Defense Secretary Robert Gates denied that Venezuela is a “military threat” to U.S. interests but also accused the Chavez administration of using Iran to “distract” Venezuelans.

* Brazil: The death toll caused by nearly two weeks of heavy rains, floods, and mudslides in the Rio de Janeiro area rose to 229.

Image – Guardian UK (“Michelle Obama shakes hands with children during her visit to a child welfare project in Port-au-Prince.”)
Online Sources- CNN, Christian Science Monitor, Americas Quarterly,, Reuters

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

World Watch: Radio, radio

* Somalia: Tourist tip - if you plan on heading to Somalia bring your own music.

* Russia: 170 insurgents have been arrested this year according to the head of Russia’s security forces.

* Spain: The country’s Supreme Court backed the dismissal of a probe into the deaths of fourteen civilians and a Hamas militant by the Israeli air force.

* Pakistan: According to BBC News at least 73 Pakistanis died “when an army jet bombed a remote village.”

Image – CBC
Online Sources- MSNBC, Washington Post, AP, BBC News

Peru: Tsunami caused by glacier

Back in the 1970s there was a well-known U.S. TV commercial that warned, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” She certainly showed her wrath in Peru where part of a glacier tumbled into a lake and caused a mighty tidal wave:

As mentioned in the video above, three people are feared dead and the wave was estimated to be at least 75-feet high. Thousands have been evacuated from mountain valley areas that authorities worry may be swept away should another portion of glacier fall into the lake.

Online Sources- MSNBC, YouTube

Brazil: Rancher convicted in murder of activist/nun

Justice may finally have been served in the case of a U.S. nun murdered for her social activism.

Dorothy Stang was slain in 2005 due to her relentless campaigning in favor of land rights and protecting the Amazon rainforest. Vitalmiro Vastos de Moura and Rayfran das Neves would later be convicted for her masterminding her murder yet in 2008 a judge controversially overturned de Moura’s punishment. Last April another tribunal ordered that de Moura be retired for his role in Stang’s death and on Monday a guilty verdict was delivered against him:
Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura, 39, was given the maximum term by a jury overnight in the northern Brazilian city of Belem for the assassination of Dorothy Stang, a 73-year-old missionary who was fatally shot six times as she walked down on a remote jungle track.

The two men who carried out her murder, Rayfran das Neves Sales and Clodoaldo Batista, are already serving 28-year and 17-year terms, respectively, while another, Amir Feijoli, was also behind bars for 18 years for acting as an intermediary.

Neves Sales, Batista and Feijoli all testified against Bastos de Moura, who maintained his silence throughout the trial.
Brazilian land rights groups welcomed the verdict though Land Pastoral spokeswoman Cristiane Passos noted that it’s “still far from the end of the violence” against activists. One such activist was labor union chief Pedro Alcantara de Souza who was killed last week in the same region where Stang was slain.

Image- MSNBC (2004 image of Dorothy Stang)
Online Sources- BBC News, Washington Post, The Latin Americanist, AFP

Raul Castro Hands Over Barbershops and Beauty Salons

Raul Castro has taken increasing steps toward more capitalistic ideas since assuming power over Cuba, following his brother Fidel. Changes have included the allowance of electronic devices such as cell phones and computers to be purchased, removing restrictions on Cubans who were previously barred from certain hotels and beaches reserved only for tourists, and removing caps on workers' salaries. Other changes have occurred in the agricultural and housing sectors. State land was given to peasant farmers, and a new housing policy reform allows state workers to eventually gain legal title to properties so they may be passed on as inheritance or rented out.

In a first attempt to deal with changes in the retail and service sector, Raul Castro is turning state-run barbershops and beauty salons over to its employees. Instead of receiving a monthly wage from the government, hair salon owners with three chairs and under will be able to rent out seats. All businesses were nationalized in Cuba in 1968, and have remained that way ever since. So far, no official statement has been released announcing the changes to barber shops and beauty salons.

Image Source: World of Stock

Cartels Send Message to the United States Government

At around 11p.m. on Friday night, a small bomb was thrown over a wall of the U.S. Consulate in the Mexican border town of Nuevo Laredo. It is suspected that one of the drug cartels is responsible for hurling the device into the Consulate, though thankfully no one was hurt. This is the second time in the past two months that violence has been directed toward people linked with a U.S. Consulate. Three people were shot in the border town of Ciudad Juarez last month, leading people to believe that the cartels are now beginning to send a stronger message to the United States government regarding their involvement with combating drug violence. The United States has sent millions in aid to Mexico in order to assist President Felipe Calderon in combating Mexico's deadly drug cartel violence.

Online Source: The New York Times

Today’s Video: Stomping ants

The meaning of the post's title becomes known once you see the video below. Blog club fonograma described the video as such:
This has to be one of the coolest, most legitimate visual offerings we’ve seen this year. Minimal::ty, an up and coming production channel making some hot refreshing videos and graphics. The project decided to compliment Los Macuanos by crafting an awesome unofficial video for their hit “La Burrita.” The original footage of these hilarious dancers went viral a couple of months ago, but they’re on a whole new level dancing to El Ruidoson. Expect new material from Los Macuanos in the upcoming months.
Take a look for yourself:

Online Sources - club fonograma, YouTube

Latin Americans react to Vatican

With the firestorm continuing over abusive priests in Europe, the Christian Science Monitor examines how the situation is affecting Catholics in Latin Ameirca.

In Latin America, where 70 percent of residents are Catholic, some said the region will undoubtedly play a big role in the international church.

"The future of the global church really hinges on Latin America," said Andrew Chesnut from the Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. "The Charismatic Renewal has revitalized the church in many Latin American countries, most notably Brazil, but sex- abuse scandals, which are only a matter of time, could easily result in further defections from the church."

Some in Latin America have supported the Vatican. The Latin American Episcopal Conference wrote wrote a "letter of solidarity" to the pope, according to the article, and Santiago's Archbishop condemned the criticism he's received.

In Latin America, abuse problems hit home with Marcial Maciel, a priest in Mexico who was accused of molesting minor seminarians and was ordered in 2006 to a life of "prayer and penance" by the pope.

NPR reports that bishops in Europe and Latin America do not generally turn priests into the police.

Read more here.

Source:, NPR

Producer Questioned in Wife's Death Free for Now

The producer -- Bruce Beresford-Redman, who worked on both "Survivor" and "Pimp My Ride"
-- held in the disappearance of his wife's death in Mexico will be freed pending the investigation, the AP reports.

According to investigators, his wife, Monica Beresford-Redman, was found dead in a sewer at the Moon Palace in Cancun last week. Her body had scratches and signs of asphyxiation wiht a blow to her head. Mr. Beresford-Redman also had scratches on his face and arms, said Quintana Roo state attorney general Francisco Alor.

Investigators said they will wait until forensic tests are finished before deciding whether to arrest him.

In the meantime, Mr. Beresford-Redman can't leave Mexico, and authorities have his passport.

Source and Photo: AP

Daily Headlines: April 13, 2010

* Mexico: Violence in Mexico could worsen after authorities claimed that the Gulf and La Familia cartels united in order to combat a third group called Los Zetas.

* Latin America: Yesterday we looked at U.S.-Brazil relations including Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s participation at a nuclear security summit. But what are the presidents of Argentina, Chile, and Mexico seeking at the conference?

* Chile: According to the local press at least 100 people died in coastal areas hit by tidal waves caused by a massive earthquake on February 27.

* Colombia: The Latin American arms race continues; Colombia’s government will allegedly purchase nine Black hawk helicopters.

Image – Al Jazeera English (“Mexico's increasingly bloody drug war has claimed more than 18,000 lives since 2006.”)
Online Sources- Foreign Policy, The Latin Americanist, Reuters, LAHT, BBC News

Monday, April 12, 2010


Relations between the US and Brazil are somewhat, well, weird. These days, Brazil is growing like wildfire, and as should be expected, it intends to make sure its economic rise is coupled with a more important place on the world stage. But power is in many ways a zero-sum game, and Brazil's gains inevitably come as the expense of the United States.

Yet there doesn't seem to be much animosity, either historical or current. Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is a pragmatic center-left leader, as is Obama. And unlike many, Lula didn't seem to have too much difficulty getting along with Bush, either (they bonded over having ranches).

A good case in point is Lula's arrival to DC today for President Obama's "Nuclear Security Summit." (BTW, one fun note is to think about all the shenanigans that will be going down when 46 country delegations converge on DC--PARTY!!!!)

Lula's firm stance against Iran sanctions have been a thorn in the US' side. And his statement today that it's “understandable” that Iran wants atomic weapons because it feels threatened by Pakistan and Israel is exactly the opposite of what the US and Europeans who are pressing for Iran sanctions wanted to hear.

Add to this the less strategically important brush-up over the Honduran crisis, and you would expect things to be pretty rocky between Washington and Brasilia. Yet....they're not really. On the same day that Lula made his comments, Brazilian Defense Minister Nelson Jobim met with Robert Gates at the Pentagon and the two countries signed a military cooperation agreement.

With China now seemingly leaning towards sanctions, and since Brazil can't veto the actions of the five major Security Council members, Brazil's position becomes somewhat moot. And so, I guess the occasional friendly head butting can go on without much damage.

Online Sources: Foreign Policy, Americas Quarterly, AFP, True/Slant, BBC, Business Week, Alertnet

World Watch: Still mourning in Poland

* Poland: Investigators are leaning towards human error as the cause of Saturday’s plane crash that killed 95 people including Polish president Lech Kaczynski and “dozens of Polish political, military and religious leaders.”

* Ukraine: According to White House officials Ukraine pledged to get rid of its stockpile of weapons-grade nuclear material.

* Thailand: The goal of anti-government “Red Shirt” protestors to hold new national elections is closer to becoming a reality.

* South Africa: The murder of white supremacist Eugene Terreblanche has taken a turn towards the weird.

Image – The Telegraph (“A Russian serviceman stands guard near the engine of the crashed Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft.”)
Online Sources- Al Jazeera English, BBC News, MSNBC, CBS News

Cuban media blast “cynical” Clinton

On Saturday we mentioned that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rebuked the Cuban government for not wanting to normalize relations with the U.S. Improving ties to the U.S. would lead the Castro regime to “lose all their excuses for what hasn't happened in Cuba in the last 50 years” according to Clinton.

On Monday the Cuban media issued its harsh response to Clinton’s remarks:
Clinton's comment last week "mixed ignorance and falsehoods at an infinite level," state-run Radio Reloj said.

"If cynicism needed an expression that would immortalize it, the American secretary of state gave it," the station said in a report read over the air and posted on its Web site.

Clinton's remarks also appeared without further commentary on Cubadebate, the government Internet site where Fidel Castro publishes frequent opinion pieces. The elder Castro dropped out of public view after undergoing emergency intestinal surgery in July 2006, and his brother Raul has since taken over the presidency.
Relations lately between the U.S. and Cuba have worsened after having somewhat thawed in 2009. The Cuban government has come under increased pressure to improve the island’s poor human rights situation. Nonetheless repression has continued as evidenced on Sunday when police broke up a march by dissident group the Ladies in White.

Image- CBS News (Cuban president Raul Castro recently accused the U.S. of enacting a “media campaign” against the island’s government).
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, BBC News, Washington Post, Voice of America, AP

Colombia: Opposition candidate second in poll

Could a former mayor of Bogota become the dark horse candidate to win Colombia’s presidency? It may seem like a long shot but one recent poll showed that his campaign was on the rise.

According to the poll commissioned by CM&, Green Party candidate Antanas Mockus holds a scant 2% lead over Conservative Party candidate Noemi Sanin. Mockus has surged into second place after most polls in the run-up to May’s elections had Sanin trailing fellow Uribista Juan Manuel Santos. Though Santos has consistently led the polls by double-digits it appears as if a second round will be needed in June to decide who will succeed Alvaro Uribe.

The CM& poll has not been without controversy, however; Radical Change candidate Germán Vargas Lleras called for an investigation after rumors emerged that polling firm Datexco repeated the survey when Mockus supposedly emerged ahead of Santos. Datexco’s director denied the claims in an interview with Colombian political website La Silla Vacia.

Mockus’ choice of former Medellin mayor Sergio Fajardo for vice president may have contributed to his zoom in the polls and some of their supporters are hoping for a first round upset. His center-left platform has been critical of the FARC as he vies to become a viable independent candidate:
"He seems to be in the same position that Uribe was in 2002, when he started way behind in the polls and then climbed very quickly," said Mauricio Romero, professor of political science at Bogota's Javeriana University.

"Mockus's anti-corruption stance and emphasis on building a civic culture are attractive to a lot of people. He also has wide support in the business community," Romero said. "Having Parkinson's should not hurt him politically, but it remains to be seen how much support he can gain before May 30."
Image- La Opinion
Online Sources- La Silla Vacia, AP, El Espectador, BusinessWeek, Colombia Reports, El Tiempo, Reuters

Immigration rallies held over weekend

It may not have been the tens of thousands who rallied at the National Mall last month yet advocates for immigration reform still made their voices heard over the weekend.

On Saturday crowds gathered in several U.S. cities in order to voice their demands for changes to federal immigration policy. In Seattle a teen explained how despite spending most of his life in the U.S. he’s worried that “immigration could come one day to pick me up.” Several Democratic congressmen appeared at a Chicago rally though other speakers blasted President Obama for delaying immigration reform. “There are no excuses. This is something America needs,” proclaimed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in support of reform at a Las Vegas event.

The drive for reform is a difficult one a both Democrats and Republicans waffle on the issue. for instance, some Democrats concede that reform may need to be delayed even more. Yet as the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein noted now may be the most politically expedient time for some politicos to push for reform:
The fear in 2010, however, is that Hispanics won't show up to vote. If Democrats actually pursue immigration reform, their participation becomes likelier. And if Republicans -- or tea partyers, or conservative talk radio -- overreact to the prospect of immigration reform, their participation becomes virtually assured…

But grass-roots conservatives tend to be very, very opposed to immigration reform. Remember that it was conservatives -- led by talk radio -- who killed the immigration reform effort. So what do Republican politicians do when their base goes into anti-immigration overdrive but their consultants beg them to tread carefully? It looks like Harry Reid, for one, would like to find out.
One immigrant’s rights coalition has called for Congress to have a reform bill passed by the end of the summer. Whether politicians take up the cause or continue with their heads in the sand remains to be seen.

Image- Las Vegas Sun (“Activists gather outside the Lloyd George Federal Building in a protest for immigration reform Saturday, April 10, 2010.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, MWCN, Chicago Tribune, Las Vegas Sun, New York Daily News, Washington Post, Seattle Times

Today’s Video: Even the fish become bored

The second episode of "La Isla Presidencial"- an animated series described by BBC Mundo as the "Venezuelan version of 'South Park'"- was recently released. Watch as Hugo Chavez laments for George W. Bush to be back in power and keep a sharp eye out for a surprise intruder to the island:

"La Isla Presidencial" (first episode here) is the brainchild of several people who contribute to a satirical Venezuelan website called El Chigüire Bipolar. Though Chavez serves as the site's primary target, no sectors of Venezuelan politics are safe from El Chigüire's crosshairs:
(Site co-founder Oswaldo) Graziani said going after Mr. Chávez’s critics, in addition to the president himself, and critiquing certain aspects of Venezuelan society were also priorities. For instance, Chigüire Bipolar has lampooned the student movement here by showing students more interested in swilling beer on the beach than in protests...

“We make it a principle that no one is immune, not even ourselves,” said Mr. Graziani, noting that their motto is “Partial, unfounded news from a rodent with psychological issues.”
Online Sources- El Chigüire Bipolar, BBC Mundo, YouTube, The Latin Americanist, New York Times

Daily Headlines: April 12, 2010

* Chile: Conservative legislators banded together and defeated a measure that would’ve renamed Chile’s main international airport in honor of the late poet Pablo Neruda.

* Nicaragua: A study done on Lake Apanas- a UNESCO-listed nature reserve- found that the lake is polluted and endangering local wildlife.

* Puerto Rico: Puerto Rican pugilist Miguel Cotto will fight WBA super welterweight champion Yuri Foreman in a June bout at Yankee Stadium.

* Argentina: Spanish authorities approved the extradition of an Argentine pilot accused of participating in “death flights” during the infamous Dirty War period.

Image – Guardian UK (“Lover boy ... Pablo Neruda with his wife Delia.”)
Online Sources- Expatica Spain, Bloomberg, Xinhua, AP