Saturday, May 15, 2010

Weekend World Watch: Troubles in Thailand

* Thailand: Thailand could soon enter a civil war as violence between the army and anti-government protesters has sharply escalated since Thursday’s murder of “renegade army general Seh Daeng.”

* U.S.: For the 31st-consecutive year there will be no horse racing Triple Crown champion after Lookin At Lucky won the Preakness Stakes.

* Netherlands: The lone survivor of a deadly airline crash in Libya- young Ruben van Assouw- returned to his native Holland earlier today.

* Europe: Worries over Europe’s worsening financial situation led to the euro falling to an eighteen-month low on Friday.

Image – MSNBC (“A "Red Shirt" protester carries the Thai flag as tires burn and the violence in central Bangkok escalates on Saturday.”)
Online Sources- Reuters, AP, Bloomberg, The Guardian

Weekend Headlines: May 15-16, 2010

* Puerto Rico: On the one hand the man accused in the brutal murder of Jorge Steven López Mercado changed his plea to guilty and immediately received a 99-year prison sentence.

* U.S.: On the other hand a New York jury declared a mistrial for the second defendant in the killing of Jose Sucuzhanay.

* Colombia: Presidential candidate Antanas Mockus said that if he were elected he would try to normalize trade with Venezuela but also warned “if Venezuela becomes another Cuba, it would be sad for everyone.”

* Mexico: The bodies of seven men kidnapped on Monday were found dead in Chihuahua on Wednesday.

Image – Pink News (Jorge Steven López Mercado was killed in November by a man who claimed to hate gays but “offered the victim cocaine to have sex with him.”)
Online Sources-, Gothamist, Americas Quarterly, LAHT

Friday, May 14, 2010

Overworked Uruguayan president vows “healthier regimen”

Is Uruguayan president Jose Mujica (to use an famous phrase from the “Lethal Weapon” movies) “too old for this shit”? Perhaps, but the 75-year-old has been ordered by doctors to slow down from his daily routine.

According to presidential physicians Mujica suffers from an “over exposure to stress” since he took office in March. Indeed, as MercoPress noted, Mujica has visited several countries in the Americas since assuming the presidency roughly ten weeks ago and he tends to work between 12 to 15 hours each day.

As a result of the doctors’ recommendations Mujica will skip the Caribbean and the European Union Summit next week in Spain and Vice President Luis Almagro will instead head the Uruguayan delegation. Furthermore, Mujica pledged today to change his habits including undergoing a strict diet:
"I won't have a serious problem if I do something about it ... . I need to control myself and try to prioritize issues rather than do everything at the same time," Mujica said during his twice-weekly radio program.

"I wake up at night at 3 a.m. and my head is buzzing with all kinds of problems," he added.

The leftist, who was jailed for 14 years for his guerrilla activities, said he would switch to a new healthier regimen next week, aiming to fit in an hour's walk and an afternoon nap.
Mujica won’t be the only notable absence at next week’s conference; Honduran President Porfirio Lobo will skip the summit since some countries still do not recognize his government.

Image- BBC News
Online Sources-,, MercoPress, Clarin, Reuters, LAHT

Spanish board suspends justice Garzon

A Spanish judge famed for attempting to put on trial an ex-Chilean strongman as suspended from his post.

Spain’s General Council of the Judiciary unanimously decided to suspend Baltasar Garzon over an alleged abuse of powers in 2008. Garzon faces trial over his attempted inquiry into atrocities during the era of the late Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. Garzon would eventually drop the investigation due to Spain’s amnesty laws yet conservatives who claim that he’s attempting to “reopen old wounds” have hounded him.

The decision by the General Council may scuttle Garzon’s plans for a transfer to work at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. In the meantime, Garzon faces two other trials of suspected abuse of authority, which have been denounced by his supporters in Spain.

Garzon is perhaps best known globally for his crusade against Augusto Pinochet starting in 1998 when he first issued an arrest warrant against him. Some Chileans who wished to see Pinochet tried for human rights abuses praised Garzon’s application of international law via the concept of universal jurisdiction:
Under Pinochet's dictatorship in Chile, from 1974 to 1990, as many as 30,000 people vanished or were killed for their political beliefs. Many were students, labor leaders, intellectuals and others considered to be leftist insurgents.

After 18 months, British authorities decided Pinochet was too frail to stand trial, and allowed him to go home to Chile. A Chilean judge ruled in 2004 that Pinochet was healthy enough to stand trial, but the former dictator died two years later at a Chilean military hospital at the age of 91.
The suspension was criticized by human rights groups including one Human Rights Watch official who told The Guardian that "Garzón helped to deliver justice for atrocity victims abroad and now he's being punished for trying to do the same thing at home."

Image- The Guardian
Online Sources- The Guardian, BBC News, Reuters, CNN

Texan teacher suspended over alleged racism

Was a San Antonio, Texas high school teacher rightly removed for making racist remarks in class or unjustly punished for allowing an open discussion? It depends on whom you ask.

Jefferson High School senior Augustine Ortiz arrived late for his English course where students where discussing the highly controversial Arizona immigration law. According to the website of the San Antonio Express-News, Ortiz was singled out by the educator who declared, “Mexicans with their attitudes are the racist ones.” The unnamed teacher then said that the U.S. would soon become “the United States of Mexico” and that Mexicans “expect handouts” from others.

Ortiz’ claims were corroborated by another student who said, “it didn't feel like a discussion to me. It felt more like an attack, and like she was judging people from Mexico.”

However, the teacher was defended by other pupils who said that Ortiz misunderstood what happened in class that day. "She told us time and time again 'I'm just trying to give you a different point of perspective, maybe the perspective that the media doesn't give you,'" said one student to a local TV station. Another student said that Ortiz overreacted to what was being discussed in class and was singled out since he was tardy, not due to his ethnic background.

The teacher in question has been placed on “administrative leave” while school officials investigate what occurred. According to 2009-10 enrollment figures from the Texas Education Agency 90% of Jefferson High School’s students are Hispanic.

The incident in San Antonio comes in the midst of a very heated debate on Arizona’s new immigration law, which grants police the ability to seek identification from suspected illegal immigrants. A poll released yesterday concluded that views on immigration differ sharply between Latino and non-Latinos:
Illegal immigrants are a boon, not a burden to the country, a resounding majority of Hispanics say, according to an Associated Press-Univision Poll that underscores sharp contrasts between the views of Hispanics and others. Most non-Hispanics say illegal immigrants are a drain on society.

In addition, most Hispanics condemn Arizona's law targeting illegal immigrants, while only 20 percent of non-Hispanics oppose it. Much of the poll – which was compared with a separate survey of the general population – reads as if soundings were taken of two distinct worlds, an impression fortified by follow-up interviews.
Image- ABC News (“In a Wednesday, May 5, 2010 file photo, a group of protesters against Arizona's controversial immigration bill march on the State Capitol in Phoenix.”)
Online Sources- WOAI,, Dallas Morning News

Daily Headlines: May 14, 2010

* Cuba: Folk singer Silvio Rodriguez (image) and ballerina Alicia Alonso will perform in the U.S. for the first time in decades after being granted visas by the State Department.

* Brazil: Not all Brazilian Church officials are as daft as Archbishop Dadeus Grings; yesterday the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops condemned abuse by clergy and called on prompt investigations.

* Nicaragua: Dole Foods claims that Nicaraguan farm workers who testified against the firm in a 2007 case where bribed into giving false testimony.

* Uruguay: Atletico Madrid won the inaugural Europa League in no small part due to Uruguayan Diego Forlan’s pair of goals.

Image – BBC News
Online Sources- Xinhua, MSNBC, Los Angeles Times, The Latin Americanist, Reuters

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Venezuela: State takes over food producer

The Venezuelan division of a Mexican-owned food company becomes the latest state seizure by president Hugo Chavez.

In a decree issued earlier today the government ordered the “forceful acquisition” of Molinos Nacionales CA, (Moneca), which is owned by Mexico’s Gruma SAB. According to the decree the expropriation would effect the production and storage of numerous Moneca foodstuffs such as pasta, spices, oil, and wheat. The aim of the takeover is part of a state plan entitled the "Strengthening of the Agro-industrial Processing Capacity for the 21st Century Socialism in Venezuela."

Gruma butted heads with the government in April when the firm accused officials of unfairly punishing Moneca over not selling flour. Last December authorities “declared a 90-day government receivership to control Monaca's operations and bank accounts” as a result of the company’s links to banker Ricardo Fernandez. Fernandez has been in jail after being accused of making approximately $846 million in illegal loans.

Today’s actions come in the midst of what the EFE news agency described as “nationwide food shortages”:
The move comes day after the government denounced that the problems of nationwide food shortages arise from “rumors” by the opposition designed to create “unrest” after against the government led by Chavez for the pas eleven years.

In recent months the Venezuelan government has taken over several food companies after accusing them of hording and price gouging. These firms are to fit within socialist production models as part of a plan for “food sovereignty.” – [ed. Translated text]
Gruma is the world’s top exporter of corn and flour tortillas and exports its products to over seventy countries.

Image- El Universal (Mexico)
Online Sources- El Universal (Mexico), El Universal (Venezuela), Bloomberg,, Reuters, AP, EFE

L.A. Imposes on Ban on Arizona Travel and New Contracts

The City Council of Los Angeles has come to a 13-1 decision to ban any official city-related travel to Arizona in protest of Arizona's new bill which is intended to target illegal immigrants. The City Council has also decided to cease all new contracts with the state, though keeping the current contracts with Arizona state companies. City Council members said that it could affect about $8 million in new contracts with Arizona, subsequently creating more money and jobs for California companies when possible.

L.A. Councilman Ed Reyes stated:
"As an American, I cannot go to Arizona today without a passport. If I come across an officer who's having a bad day and feels that the picture on my ID is not me, I can be … deported, no questions asked. That is not American."
While Los Angeles is the second largest city in the country, San Francisco's Board of Supervisors approved a similar travel ban on Tuesday, as did Boulder, Colorado.

Image Source:
Online Sources: Sweetness and Light, ChattahBox, Reuters, Los Angeles Times

Daily Headlines: May 13, 2010

* Latin America: Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow is a persona non grata to Paraguayan and Argentine officials due to the subject of her next film.

* Chile: Authorities arrested a Pakistani man who visited the U.S. embassy and was found with “trace amounts” of explosive materials.

* Dominican Republic: Major League Baseball announced numerous drug testing and registration procedures for Dominican prospects.

* Mexico: At a court hearing actress Fernanda Romero rejected accusations of her wrongly marrying a pizza deliveryman in order to obtain a resident visa.

Image – Guardian UK
Online Sources- Al Jazeera English, Los Angeles Times, LAHT, AFP

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

World Watch: Alone

* Libya: A ten-year-old Dutch boy is said to be the only survivor of a fatal plane crash that killed over 100 people.

* Portugal: Pope Benedict XVI traveled to the holy shrine at Fatima and reportedly prayed that priests do not “succumb to the temptations of the evil one.”

* Israel: The Israeli foreign minister claimed that North Korean arms seized in Thailand last December were destined for Hamas and Hezbollah.

* Philippines: Begnino "Noynoy" Aquino- son of former president Corazon Aquino- appears to be the winner in Monday’s Philippine presidential elections.

Image – PRESS TV
Online Sources- BBC News, Voice of America, New York Times, MSNBC

Arte para la gente: Richard Serra’s royal reward

One of the most famous Latino visual artists of all time was awarded today with Spain’s top art prize.

Avant-garde sculptor Richard Serra was named as the latest winner of the Prince of Asturias prize. A statement on the Prince of Asturias Foundation’s website praised Serra for “his innovative vision of incorporating urban spaces in pieces of art that inspire people to reflect.”

Serra expressed his great pride in being the next recipient of the prize that includes a $63,000 cash award and a sculpture from famed Spanish artist Joan Miro. "The award is particularly meaningful to me in that the country of Spain has offered me many great opportunities to realize my work for over three decades" said Serra on the Foundation’s website.

Serra’s minimalist, large-scale sculptures using metals have been featured worldwide including “Clara-Clara” on Paris’s Place de la Concorde and “Snake” at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. He has received near-universal praise in the art world though his 1981 sculpture “Tilted Arc” in New York’s Federal Plaza was torn down after a public outcry.

Serra has also been involved in video art such as 1968’s “Hand Catching Lead” as well as the below film. 1973’s “Television Delivers People” was produced by Serra and is his critique of commercial and corporate influences in television:

Online Sources- AFP, AP, PBS, YouTube, Bloomberg,

Chicano classes ruffles feathers of Arizona lawmakers

One of the criticisms of Arizona’s recently signed immigration law is that it singles out Latinos, a charge vehemently denied by the measure’s supporters. One wonders what the law’s backers feel about another edict that targets Mexican-American studies classes.

HB 2281 was signed yesterday by Gov. Jan Brewer and bans all ethnic studies courses in Arizonan schools. The measure bans classes that specifically back the overthrow of the government as well as courses “that advocate ethnic solidarity, that are designed primarily for students of a particular race or that promote resentment toward a certain ethnic group.”

The law was the brainchild of state schools chief Tom Horne who has long claimed that the Chicano studies courses in the Tucson school district promoted a "destructive ethnic chauvinism." Horne, who is undoubtedly trying to score cheap political points as part of a possible run as Arizonan attorney general, claimed that one of the textbooks used in the Tucson Chicano studies class promotes the idea that “kids that they live in occupied America, or occupied Mexico.”

The law gives the state Board of Education is local school superintendent the right to withhold up to 10% of state aid for “violations.” However, school districts have the right to appeal the law and the measure is supposed to take effect on December 31st. For now, Tucson school officials have defended the targeted ethnic studies classes:
Tucson Unified School District officials say the Chicano studies classes benefit students and promote critical thinking. "We don't teach all those ugly things they think we're teaching," said Judy Burns, the president of the district's governing board.

She has no intention of ending the program, which offers courses from elementary school through high school in topics such as literature, history and social justice, with an emphasis on Latino authors and history. About 3% of the district's 55,000 students are enrolled in such classes…

The Tucson district plans to double the number of students in Chicano studies in the upcoming school year, said Sean Arce, the director of the program. Arce said that now that the bill has become law, he's waiting for direction from the district's legal department.
Image- The Telegraph
Online Sources- Los Angeles Times, Politico, UPI,, AFP, CBS News

Today’s Video: Grappling in La Paz

Back in 2008 we highlighted how Bolivia's female cholita wrestlers symbolize the “changing role of women in Bolivian society”. Is the newest wrestling sensation- a midget nicknamed by some fans as "God's creature"- a source of pride or shame for the country's disabled community? We'll let you be the judge of it:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Daily Headlines: May 12, 2010

* U.S.: Politics can be an ugly game. Just ask Mari Carmen Aponte whose nomination as ambassador to El Salvador has been held up due to her former fling with a Cuban-born businessman.

* Venezuela: Via his Twitter account President Hugo Chavez announced that he would sign $40 billion in investment deals with foreign oil firms.

* Brazil: Ronaldinho and Adriano are two of the notable absences from Brazil’s preliminary World Cup roster.

* Bolivia: One of Bolivia’s leading labor unions is spearheading an indefinite work strike against the Morales government.

Image – Hispanic National Bar Association (Senate Republicans claimed that Mari Carmen Aponte’s previous relationship with Roberto Tamayo raises red flags).
Online Sources- Miami Herald, Reuters, Wall Street Journal, ESPN

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

World Watch: Tory time

* Britain: After thirteen years of Labour Party rule Conservative David Cameron became the new British Prime Minister and will now rule in a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats.

* Vatican: "The greatest persecution of the church doesn't come from enemies on the outside but is born from the sins within the church," said Pope Benedict XVI with regards to sexual abuse scandals.

* World: Some airports in Morocco, Turkey, and Spain will be closed at least through Wednesday as a result of ash from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokul volcano.

* Spain: Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is expected to outline budget cuts designed to improve one of Europe’s most weakened economies.

Image – ABC News (“Britain's Queen Elizabeth II greets David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party, at Buckingham Palace, London, in an audience to invite him to be the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, following last week's General Election, May 11, 2010.”)
Online Sources- Reuters, MSNBC, BBC News, Guardian UK

Mexico Contemplates Taking Legal Action Against BP

As the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico continues to spew over 200,000 gallons of oil per day, Mexico's Environmental Secretary Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada says his agency is closely monitoring the impact of the oil spill on various wildlife species. The Mexican turtle species Tiny Lora also spend part of their year off the coast of Louisiana, which has been polluted by the spill. Mexico is weighing whether to take legal action against BP PLC and Quesada and his agency are looking into international environmental law to see what can be done to hold BP PLC responsible.

While the oil spill has not yet reached the shores of Mexico, and is not expected to, a representative from Greenpeace Mexico explained that the "environment has no borders."

Image Source:
Online Source: Associated Press, Mail Online

Protesters to Preval: Get out

Anger over government policy and squalid conditions in survivor camps have been cited as two of the reasons behind a demonstration against Haitian President Rene Preval on Monday.

Approximately 2000 people rallied outside of the national palace in Port-Au-Prince in an event described by the AP as “the largest political protest since the Jan. 12 earthquake.” The rally was initially reported as “party-like” yet police would eventually fired tear gas as some tried to break the security perimeter. A few demonstrators were armed and robbed passerby during the protest, which at times became chaotic.

The demonstration was organized by a coalition of forty opposition groups who have accused Preval of trying to abuse power under the guise of post-earthquake political stability. On the same day as the protest the Haitian Senate approved a proposal possibly extending Preval’s time in the presidency. This did not sit well with some of Monday’s protesters:
Elections were supposed to be held in February but will now be delayed. Some fear they could eventually be cancelled. "He is profiting from this disaster in order to stay in power," said Herve Santilus, a demonstrator interviewed by the Associated Press.

He, like hundreds of thousands of other restless citizens, has been unemployed and relying on aid handouts since the disaster struck.

Another protester, Claudy Louis, told reporters: "Preval has used the drama that our country went through and turned it into an opportunity for himself. Instead of looking out for the people, he quickly hatched a plan to benefit the small group of people around him."
The anger against Preval was so much that some at the protest urged a return from exile of former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Image- RFI (“Police walk between residents taking part in a protest in Port-au-Prince on 11 May 2010.”)
Online Sources-, NPR, BBC News, Xinhua, Reuters

Cuba’s revolving cell door

As the saying goes: “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Last week, blogger and “independent Cuban journalist” Dania Garcia was freed from a jail on the island while she appealed charges of “abuse of authority”. The 23 year-old had been sentenced last month to twenty months in prison after allegedly fighting with her daughter over her criticism of the Castro regime.

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Garcia has been identified as a supporter of dissident protesters the Ladies in White and her blog has ties to “a radical anti-Castro group based in Miami." A statement on RSF’s website on Friday also advocated that 25 other jailed journalists be freed by Cuban authorities.

While the cell door opened for the freeing of one journalist another one seemed to take her place. RSF denounced the arrest “with force” of Calixto Ramon Martinez Arias who had been covering the death via hunger strike of jailed dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo. According to RSF the Cuban police have not revealed details beyond charging him with striking a policeman, a charge that Arias denied:
Noting that Cuban authorities “have offered no details about what allegedly took place” when Martinez was detained, RSF suggested prosecutors “themselves are not sure what they are claiming.”

While being transferred from one jail to another on April 30, Martinez took the opportunity to denounce the charges against him as unfounded.

“This is an invention designed to stop my work and neither the police nor the prosecutor’s office can agree on the lies they are going to use to convict me,” he said.
Is it any wonder why RSF deemed Cuban president Raul Castro as one of forty global “predators” against the press?

Image- (“Dania Garcia, at left, in a photo from her website showing her at a Ladies in White protest.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, BBC News, LAHT, CNN, Miami Herald, MSNBC

McCain campaign ad focuses on immigration

Back in 2007 John McCain strongly supported a failed bipartisan attempt at federal immigration reform. Since then the Arizona senator has faced occasional accusations of “flip-flopping” on immigration such as during his unsuccessful 2008 bid for the presidency. As he faces a strong conservative challenge for his Senate seat it should come as no surprise that he has tried to portray himself as strong against illegal immigration. Hence, the following ad recently issued by his campaign:

The ad claims that Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu is "appearing only in his personal capacity" yet as CBS News noted the officer “appears in the spot in uniform, giving the impression that he represents all border patrol law enforcement.” Publicly, Babeu has appeared occasionally on cable news programs to back McCain’s campaign as well as support Arizona’s recently signed strict immigration law.

Several local sheriffs have not agreed with Babeu’s line of thinking; for instance, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik deemed the controversial law as “disgusting” and “stupid.”

In the meantime, the protest boycott against Arizona seems to be gaining steam and has started to negatively affect the state’s economy. Though some supporters of the law have tried to counter with a "buy Arizona" campaign, one economist believes that the boycott could really hurt Arizona’s tourism industry:
"This is happening at a time when the Legislature, in its ultimate wisdom, decided to cut the Arizona tourism budget back significantly, at a time when you need to worry about creating jobs," said (senior economist with Elliott D. Pollack & Co. Jim) Rounds.

He added, "It's going to be bad because it's at a time when we are going to have a hard time creating jobs. It's still going to be a very weak economic recovery and, unfortunately, our friends in the tourism industry are going to bear the brunt of this."
(Hat tip: Wonkette).

Online Sources- Wonkette, MSNBC, The Latin Americanist, YouTube, CBC News, Fox News,, KTAR

Daily Headlines: May 11, 2010

* U.S.: While one poll released last week showed that a slim majority of Arizonans favored the state’s new immigration law another poll showed that roughly four out of five Latino Arizonans opposed the measure.

* Mexico: Ex-Cancun mayor Mario Ernesto Villanueva Madrid was extradited to the U.S. where he will stand trial on drug charges.

* Ecuador: Chevron’s public relations offensive continued after a federal judge awarded the oil giant with over 600 hours of footage from a documentary on pollution in Ecuador.

* Paraguay: Months after being shot in the face star striker Salvador Cabañas was left off of Paraguay’s preliminary World Cup squad.

Image – Washington Post (“A protester against Arizona's controversial immigration bill waves both the Mexican and U.S. flags during a march on the State Capitol Wednesday, May 5, 2010, in Phoenix.”)
Online Sources- AFP, Los Angeles Times, Reuters,, New American Media

Monday, May 10, 2010

Chinchilla sworn in as Costa Rican president

Three months and one day after being elected Laura Chinchilla was inaugurated as Costa Rica’s first female president.

The center-right Chinchilla took the oath of office on Saturday in an event attended by heads of state from around the Americas as well as dignitaries from China and Spain. According to CNN during her inauguration speech she pledged “to move the country toward a more innovating, intelligent and entrepreneurial path”.

Chinchilla is expected to continue the policies of her predecessor- Nobel laureate Oscar Arias- though “she appealed both to Costa Ricans seeking a fresh face and those reluctant to risk the unknown.” Despite the reconciliatory tone of her discourse Chinchilla faces stiff legislative opposition in areas such as free trade:
She was expected to continue Arias's support of free trade and international business ties, but could face tough deal-making in Congress, where her National Liberation Party (PLN) lacks an absolute majority.

Her government is due to oversee free trade deals with Singapore and China -- Costa Rica’s second trading partner after the United States -- and take over recently stalled talks for a Central American trade pact with the European Union.
Chinchilla becomes the second current female president in Latin America aside from Argentina’s Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Xinhua, CNN, AFP, NPR

Argentina: Ex-spy charged with Dirty War deaths

In April former Argentine de facto president Reynaldo Bignone was sentenced to 25 years in jail for Dirty War-era human rights violations.

Last week imprisoned ex-strongman Jorge Videla was presented with 49 charges of torture, kidnapping, and murder.

On Monday another figure linked to the infamous military regime that ruled Argentina between 1976 and 1983 was caught by the long arm of the law.

Former spy Miguel Angel Furci was charged with seventy kidnappings during his time as a secret service member. In addition, he was accused of torturing political prisoners at a Buenos Aires detention center that was housed in an automotive garage. Hundreds of the detainees at Automotores Orletti were reputedly victims of Operation Condor, described by BBC News as such:
Dozens of Uruguayans were reportedly held there as part of Operation Condor, which involved the kidnapping, torture and assassination of leftists and dissidents in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay.
During his pre-trial court hearing Furci- who previously served a seven-year sentence for the kidnapping of a “disappeared” Uruguayan- admitted that he was aware of the secret prison and also helped in the “functional dependence” of Argentina’s SIDE secret police agency.

Furci’s trial begins next month and he will be tried along with six other defendants including former SIDE agents and senior officials.

Image- (Current locate of the infamous Automotores Orletti secret prison in Buenos Aires)
Online Sources- Telam, BBC News, The Latin Americanist,

U.N. blasts Honduras over journo murders

At least seven Honduran journalists have been killed over the past six weeks and numerous international press groups have justifiably condemned these murders. On Monday several U.N. “human rights experts” joined the growing criticism against the Honduran government of the recent spate in murdered members of the media.

According to a statement from the experts linked to the U.N. Human Rights Council, Honduran officials must be more active in investigating the violence against journalists. As such, the experts called on the creation of an “independent inquiry” to look into the murders in addition to examining the death threats made again the press. “Silencing them not only curtails freedom of opinion and expression, but also jeopardizes the enjoyment of all rights and freedoms of society as a whole” said the statement.

The U.N.’s statement comes as Honduran president Porifirio Lobo has been in office for over 100 days. His time in the presidency has been marked by the difficulty of trying to regain international recognition nearly one year after the ouster of then-president Manuel Zelaya. The deaths of several journalists has been a sensitive issue, even among his closest allies such as U.S. President Barack Obama. According to one analyst Lobo needs to do a better job in tackling human rights issues:
“Some of the things occurring in Honduras have not helped,” said Brookings Institute analyst Kevin Casas in reference to the recent murdered members of the press.

Nor has the lack of investigating of human rights abuses after the coup or if the Truth Commission will be in charge of looking into them, said Casas. “The Lobo administration has been purposefully ambiguous because they have come under pressure from far right political sectors in Honduras. These ambiguities do not help the country reconcile.” – [ed. translated text]
Image- EPA (Members of the media laid microphones on the ground in remembrance of the 26 journalists killed so far this year in Latin America)
Online Sources- MSNBC, Knight center, U.N., BBC News, Voice of America, AFP

De Musica Ligera: Rest in peace, Lena

Before we move on to our litany of posts today (with apologies for publishing them so late in the day) we would be remiss if we were to skip over the death of Lena Horne.

What does the late civil rights activist and singer have to do with Latin America and Latinos in the U.S.? Very little apart from a very interesting anecdote over her refusal to be typecast:
She was often told she could increase her stage and touring paychecks by "passing" as white or Hispanic, something she never did, and when she came to Hollywood she insisted she would never play a maid. As a result, most of her movie roles were limited to a few minutes of on-screen singing, with the explicit understanding that her performance would be snipped out for theaters in the American South.
She is best known for her rendition of "Stormy Weather", though it's very difficult to top her ethereal version of the classic "Moon River":

Daily Headlines: May 10, 2010

* Latin America: According to the International Labor Organization one in ten minors age 5-17 in Latin America and the Caribbean are child laborers.

* Mexico: Rest in peace Joaquin Capilla; the Mexican diver who won three Olympic medals died yesterday at the age of 81.

* U.S.: A jury is expected to continue deliberations into one of the men accused of the hate crime murder of Jose Sucuzhañay in New York.

* Bolivia: Is the U.S. government complicity aiding a strike by Bolivian labor unions against the Morales regime?

Image – PRESS TV
Online Sources- NY1, AFP, NBC Sports, Reuters

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Arte Para la Gente: Te quiero mama

Sunday is Mother's Day, a day in which we celebrate and honor all the madres and important female figures in our lives. Thus, we present a video of the poem "Si Dios fuera mujer" ("If God were a woman") by the Uruguayan wordsmith Mario Benedetti. Benedetti- who passed away last year- eloquently praised the virtues of a female God:

Online Sources - YouTube, New York Times