Saturday, June 26, 2010

World Cup Review: 32 to 16 (Updated)

Lo Bueno (The Good)

The round of 16 began earlier today in the World Cup with a thrilling victory by Uruguay over South Korea. Luis Suarez scored a goal in each half for los celestes in their 2-1 win that included a game-winning golazo ten minutes from full time. As you can view in the highlights below, the match was a hard-fought affair and Uruguay played wonderfully in order to overcome the plucky Korean side:

Update: Uruguay's quarterfinal rival on Friday will be Ghana who beat the U.S. in extra time by a score of 2-1.

Mas de lo Bueno (More of the Good)

Uruguay’s win was indicative of the great run teams throughout the Americas have made during this World Cup. Soccer fans from Anchorage to Antofagasta are celebrating at how nearly every Western Hemispheric side made it past the group stages. Several teams were undefeated in group play including Argentina who won all three of their matches thus far. Mexico and Chile may’ve lost their last group games but they too have moved on to the round of 16. Even though Honduras was the only Western Hemispheric side not to continue they played the role of spoiler in their 0-0 tie on Friday against Switzerland.

Eric Farnsworth of the Council of the Americas predicted that the MERCOSUR (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay) sides will continue on to the quarters. What predictions do you guys and gals have?
Y lo Feo (And the Ugly)

Five words: R. Kelly’s World Cup anthem.

Online Sources- Americas Quarterly, Reuters, The Latin Americanist,, The Guardian, Onion A.V. Club

Weekend Headlines: June 26-27, 2010

* Brazil: President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva promised $300 million in emergency aid to villagers whose towns were swept away by deadly floods.

* El Salvador: The U.S. and El Salvador pledged to share records of deportees as a move to combat gang violence.

* Latin America: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began yesterday his state visit of Latin America that will include stops in Venezuela, Brazil, and Argentina.

* Guatemala: The Inter-American Court of Human Rights blasted the Guatemalan government over the 1981 disappearance and possible murder of a prominent indigenous rights activist.

Image – CBC (“A boy stands next to a damaged car after heavy flooding in Agua Preta in Brazil's Pernambuco state, Brazil, on Tuesday. Brazilian rescuers continue to search for 600 people declared missing.”)
Online Sources- BBC News, Washington Post, AFP, LAHT

Friday, June 25, 2010

Today's Video: Oligarchs vs. Bolivarians

The latest chapter in the brilliant animated satirical series "La Isla Presidencial" ("The Island of the Presidents") came out recently. See how the lost Latin American leaders plan to get off the island (presumably) once and for all:

Online Source - YouTube

Colombia: Uribe for mayor?!

[Cue “When You Wish Upon A Star.”]

Voiceover: Alvaro Uribe, you are weeks away from finishing eight years in the Colombian presidency. You’re closest ally was just elected to be your successor and he’s expected to continue your policies. You have somehow survived numerous scandals that would’ve destroyed lesser leaders. What are you going to do next?

Uribe: I’m going to become mayor of Bogota!

[Cue record needle scratch sound.]

Months after the Constitutional Court blocked his bid for a third straight term it appears like Uribe has his sights on the Colombian capital:
In an interview with RCN radio, the Medellin native spoke of his "affection and gratitude" for the capital city, which was his home during his two terms in office between 2002-2010.

Asked whether he would consider running for mayoral office in 2011, Uribe did not dismiss the idea and instead confirmed an interest in "helping things run well" in the city. He added, "I would like a good mayor of Bogota, I like to see the city prosper and be managed well."
Uribe’s remarks may seem like a joke but his wife previously manifested that he would be interested in “administering something smaller” than the presidency. Also, he has had previous experience on the local level having served as governor of Antioquia before becoming president.

Could Uribe pull off a reverse-Andres Pastrana or is he barking up the wrong tree? We’ll see.

Image- BBC Mundo
Online Sources- YouTube, The Latin Americanist, Colombia Reports,, Wikipedia

Daily Headlines: June 25, 2010

* Mexico: The U.S. plans to deploy a pair of unmanned drones along the Texas-Mexico border as part of a comprehensive border security plan.

* Haiti: The New York Times looks at how areas of post-earthquake Port-au-Prince have become an “ideal climate for rape.”

* Venezuela: Authorities threatened U.S.-owned Helmerich and Payne with nationalizing eleven oil rigs due to a dispute with PDVSA.

* Ecuador: Several entertainment groups and documentarians have publicly defended the director of a film critical of Chevron and their alleged illegal dumping in Ecuador.

Image – Washington Post
Online Sources- Variety, AFP, New York Times, Reuters

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Internet Challenge: Does Anybody Like 'South of the Border'?

Reading Foreign Policy's not-too-favorable review of the new Oliver Stone film South of the Border got me wondering: does anybody who's serious about Latin American affairs think it's a legit film?

The roundup:

Washington Post: "In 'South of the Border,' Stone makes no pretense of objectivity."

New York Times: "'South of the Border' is a valuable, if naïvely idealistic, introductory tutorial on a significant international trend."

Forbes: (Not shocking) "a bit of agitprop with only an ideological payoff likely for the lefty auteur and his writers, Tariq Ali and Mark Weisbrot."

Although The Times also notes that "There are no serious interviews with the poor to determine how everyday lives have changed under these socialist governments, and there is no mention of the human rights abuses in Venezuela reported by Amnesty International."

NPR is less harsh on content but doesn't praise Stone heavily for his filmmaking style:
"Say what you will about political bias — and it's certainly fair to accuse Stone of filming Latin American leaders through rose-colored lenses — the portrait he paints of the contemporary social movement known as the Bolivarian Revolution (after Simon Bolivar's 19th century struggle to free Latin America from Spanish rule) isn't giddy or simple-minded."
It's worth pointing out in the sake of fairness that I've listed reviews of major US media outlets, the ones that Stone attacks in his film as willfully portraying an inaccurate, easy-to-consume picture of Chavez the tyrant lurking "South of the Border."

Image Source: New York Times
Online Sources: Foreign Policy, New York Times, NPR, Washington Post, Forbes, Metacritic

World Cup Review: Gringo glory

World Cup group matches conclude on Friday and tomorrow we will have a more thorough review of how Latin American teams have excelled during that stage of the world's top soccer tournament. For now, here's a quick review of three World Cup-related stories that have caught my attention.

Lo Bueno (The Good)

I'm an ardent fan of the U.S. men's soccer team and as you might imagine I experienced a roller coaster of emotions imaginable during Wednesday's pivotal game against Algeria. (Including anger at blowhards who bash soccer in order to promote their petty political points). Simply put, the images speak for themselves:

Lo Malo (The Bad)

This World Cup may be continuing yet it isn't too early to start thinking about the next one to be played in four years in Brazil.

According to a study released today the 2014 World Cup will bring in $79 billion into the Brazilian economy with most of that coming from investing in "the production of goods and services." The report from the Getulio Vargas Foundation and Ernst & Young also concluded that the tournament would create 3.6 million new jobs nationwide.

The study comes as FIFA and local officials continue to hammer out critical details on staging the tournament. Despite being one of the world's most famous soccer venues Sao Paulo's Morumbi stadium was dropped from hosting games. The possibility that games may not be staged in such an important metropolis as Sao Paulo is a bad sign and comes weeks after FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke said Brazil was "not walking along the right path."

Y Lo Feo (And the Ugly)

Wednesday's U.S. victory over Algeria came sixteen years and one day after another historic triumph, a 2-1 win over Colombia. Sadly, that game has been remembered most for Andres Escobar's unfortunate own goal and his subsequent murder. "The Two Escobars" aired this week as part of ESPN's 30 for 30 series and thoroughly examined the witches' brew in Colombia between soccer, society, and corruption. The below excerpt looks at Escobar's upbringing in the slums of Medellin and his determination on the soccer field:

Online Sources - Pitch Invasion, YouTube, USA TODAY, ESPN, MSNBC

Nuestro Cine: Guilty until innocent

If you're in the New York City area and looking for something to do tonight then please check out the closing film of the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival at Lincoln Center. “Presunto Culpable” (Presumed Guilty) examines the deep problems with the Mexican justice system via a man allegedly wrongly accused of murder. The documentary took three years to film and follows Tono Zuniga who, along with his two attorneys, attempt to overturn what they viewed as a miscarriage of justice.

Decide for yourself if their cause is just or false:

Please click here if you're interested in attending tonight's screening of "Presunto Culpable" (7:00 pm at Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater). The film will also be featured on PBS this Sunday as part of the POV film series.

De Musica Ligera: Eddie Palmieri, immortalized

On Wednesday the U.S. Library of Congress named several pieces of music, comedy, and spoken word into the National Recording Registry. Among the notable inclusions are country music legend Loretta Lynn, alt-rock pioneers R.E.M., and the late rapper Tupac Shakur. Salsa music was also included on this list via nuyorican musician Eddie Palmieri and his toe-tapping "Azucar Pa' Ti":

Palmieri joins the likes of Tito Puente and Antonio Carlos Jobim to the National Recording Registry, which started in 2002 and currently includes 325 recordings.

Online Sources - Gawker, BBC News, YouTube, Wikipedia

Daily Headlines: June 24, 2010

* Brazil: The official death toll from heavy floods in northeastern Brazil is 44 but that tally could skyrocket as hundreds of villagers continue to be missing.

* Latin America: An agreement over the future of whaling failed in part due to the pressure of Latin American delegates to seriously curb the hunting of whales.

* Mexico: Diplomats in Mexico and the U.S. are in discussions over what to do if they find oil fields that cross their shared border.

* Cuba: Did the Cuban Catholic Church help release jailed political activist Darsi Ferrer?

Image – CNN (“The Mandau river caused extensive damage in Branquinho, Alagoas state, northeastern Brazil.”)
Online Sources- CNN, BBC New, MSNBC, Al Jazeera

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bolivian Bottles Build Houses

Glass, sand and trash are being recycled into homes in Latin America.

The new eco-campaign, called Casas de Botellas, started in Bolivia with the hopes of giving the country's poorest a chance to make a place to live.

The houses are created from materials like glass, bottles, honey, oil and milk. Even feces are used in the mixture.

After they build the houses, combining the mixture with things with bricks, lime and cement, the Latin American Herald Tribune reported, the houses get a coat of paint. Families also grow gardens for their own grass and flowers.

The program's in Bolivia, Argentina and Uruguay, with a handful of houses in each, and one house will soon be built in San Pablo, Mexico.

Ingrid Vaca Diez, a Bolivian, started the eco-friendly program to help poor Bolivians.

Sources: Efe,, LAHT

Photo: Efe via El Mundo

World Cup Latin America's to Lose

As we wrote about, so far again in this FIFA World Cup, the South American teams have provided some spectacular games.

Reuters has a story lauding the South American teams, pointing out that they're unbeaten so far in the tournament. They've won eight out of 10, tying two.

"South America is once again able to show the strength of its football and I'm extremely happy to see these teams are performing in such an outstanding way," Carlos Alberto Parreira, former Brazil coach and now South African coach told Reuters.

The Wall Street Journal chimed in, highlighting Uruguay after it beat Mexico, which reached the second round for the fifth consecutive World Cup.

So, with all the hype for the Southern countries, will this be Latin America's tournament to lose? Or will the European teams bounce back with a vengeance?

Source: Reuters, WSJ

Photo: Reuters

World Watch: Eye in the sky

* Israel: The country’s latest spy satellite was launched yesterday that includes a camera with the capacity to “pick out missiles and launchers on the ground.”

* World: Will this weekend’s G20 summit lead to tangible, real results or will it be an exercise in futility?

* Libya: An Amnesty International report blasted Libyan authorities for the mistreatment of African migrants including “indefinite detentions (and) the continued disappearance of dissidents.”

* Turkey: Kurdish rebels will keep attacking the Turkish state until its demands for more autonomy an control are met, said a guerilla leader.

Image – BBC News
Online Sources- Xinhua, MSNBC, BBC News, AP

Daily Headlines: June 23, 2010

* Haiti: According to Foreign Policy’s Failed States Index Haiti is the weakest country in the Western Hemisphere, 35 spots ahead of the region’s second-weakest state (Colombia).

* Jamaica: Wanted drug gang leader Christopher "Dudus" Coke was reportedly arrested last night and may soon be extradited to the U.S.

* Chile: Researchers claimed that Chile’s important salmon industry is causing major damage to the flora and fauna on the southern part of the country.

* Ecuador: The population of giant tortoises and albatrosses on the Galapagos Islands has rebounded as a result of a major recovery effort.

Image – Canadian Press (“A woman walks past earthquake damaged buildings in downtown Port-au-Prince, Monday, June 21, 2010. Haiti has made little progress in rebuilding in the five months since its Jan. 12 earthquake, because of an absence of leadership, disagreements among donors and general disorganization, a U.S. Senate report says.”)
Online Sources- Foreign Policy,, LAHT, ABC News

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Puerto Rico: Students approve strike pact

After over two months of striking and paralyzing the University of Puerto Rico over 3000 students approved a deal to reopen campuses.

The agreement was hailed by protest leaders as a victory against harsh education reforms backed by the commonwealth’s government. Indeed, the deal avoids punishing hundreds of students involved in the strike and cancels a proposed fee increase that would’ve doubled school tuition. “The fact that a student movement was able to force the administration and the government to sit down at the negotiating table and concede to nearly all their demands is a very important precedent,” admitted one professor to the New York Times.

The strike had gained support from other sectors upset with Gov. Luis Fortuño’s austerity measures such as his laying off of 17,000 public sector employees last year. Increased support of strikers along with a reported $305 million loss in government revenue from the strike seemed to have forced negotiations in favor of the student protesters.

Image- New York Daily News (“Student strikers sleep in tents in the gardens of the University of Puerto Rico and its iconic tower.”)
Online Sources- Monthly Review, Global Voices Online, MSNBC, Democracy Now, New York Times

Daily Headlines: June 22, 2010

* Latin America: Southern Mexico is expected to soon be hit by a strengthening Hurricane Celia while floods and mudslides have killed at least 31 people in northeastern Brazil.

* U.S.: According to a Center for Responsible Lending report Latino families are 71% more likely than whites to lose their home to foreclosure.

* Chile: The archbishop of the capital city of Santiago has requested that the Vatican investigate a priest accused of abusing minors.

* Colombia: Alejandro Falla nearly pulled off one of the greatest upsets in tennis history against Roger Federer in the first round of Wimbledon.

Image – AFP (“A teenager enjoys body boarding at a beach in Acapulco in 2006.”)
Online Sources- CNN, Democracy Now, Xinhua, MSNBC

Monday, June 21, 2010

El Salvador: Gang violence kills fourteen

The murder of a northern Mexico mayor was the latest killing in a nation wracked by violence related to drug gangs. Several hundred miles south, however, the Central American country of El Salvador is reeling after brazen attacks against innocent civilians.

According to police street gang members were behind the deaths of sixteen people on Sunday. In the first attack, witnesses described armed men on motorcycle stopping a bus in San Salvador, dousing the vehicle with gasoline, and set it ablaze. Rescuers tried to save passengers by breaking windows after the assailants reportedly blocked the exit doors.

Ten minutes after that incident gunmen boarded another bus and opened fire, killing three people including two girls.

Eight suspects have thus far been arrested in the attacks that President Mauricio Funes labeled as “acts of terrorism.” Despite an increased crackdown on gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha, violence by criminal groups such as extorting bus companies continues to be common in El Salvador. It’s no wonder then that some Salvadorans opt to flee their country:
(Jose) Alfaro Peralta returned to San Salvador in 2005 after working for 40 years in Los Angeles and set up a small grocery store. But the unrelenting violence in his Salvadoran neighborhood has made life here impossible, he said. He plans to return to Los Angeles.

"I gave my statement today to the state prosecutor, and you know what he told me? He said I'd better go back because here there is no safety."
Image- CNN
Online Sources- Los Angeles Times, Reuters, AP, AHN, AFP, BBC News

Peru: Keiko for prez?

Ask Peruvians about former president Alberto Fujimori and you are likely to get one of two reactions. Some view him as an abuser of power who was behind widespread corruption and human rights abuses. Others see him as the man who brought safety and economic stability during his decade as Peru’s leader. Though he currently languishes in jail, several of his supporters have backed his daughter- congresswoman Keiko Fujimori- as the next president of Peru.

In Mach 2009, Keiko admitted that she would like to be president since she has “experience in social projects and a great aptitude for public service.” According to a recent poll she has good odds of winning the presidency:
The most recent national survey by Ipsos Apoyo indicates a partial tie between the two leading presidential candidates. According to the study, 22% of the populace will vote for Keiko Fujimori, a figure which represents the first time Fujimori has bested the other candidate, the current mayor of Lima, Luis Castañeda Lossio, who would get 21% of the vote. The Ipsos survey revealed that Castañeda has strong support in Lima while Keiko has the backing of the population in the nation's interior.
The leader of the "Fuerza 2011" said in an interview earlier this month that she was unsure if she would grant a presidential pardon to he father should she win the April 2011 elections. Yet she has been vocal against a media that she has accused of tarnishing the image of her father. Such an accusation is iron since her father (along with ex-spy chief/former right hand man Vladimiro Montesinos) used millions of dollars in state funds to bribe the press in exchange for very favorable coverage.

Image- MSNBC
Online Sources-, Time, The Latin Americanist, EPA, BBC News

Staunch Uribe ally wins Colombian presidency

Several weeks ago former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos nearly won the Colombian presidency in the first round. Yesterday he easily won the runoff with roughly seven of every ten voters choosing him over ex-Bogota mayor and independent candidate Antanas Mockus. Over nine million voters chose Santos, more than the tally received in the previous two elections by the soon-to-be outgoing president Alvaro Uribe.

How did Santos accomplish such a decisive victory? Several reasons according to Colombia’s such as Santos running with the strengths of the government’s so-called “democratic security policy” as well as positioning himself as the successor to the highly popular Uribe. Santos appeared to be helped by an increase in abstentions due to inclement weather, attention towards the World Cup, and polls that signaled that he would easily win. Mockus admitted that he made costly mistakes in his campaign that cost him dearly and he did not sufficiently appeal to the average voter. The rescue of four hostages held by the FARC rebels exactly one week before the runoff may’ve served as an “October surprise” from Uribe to his loyal ally.

Santos will be inaugurated this August not only with an electoral mandate but also with an Uribista majority in the legislature. Nevertheless, his challenges are many including avoiding the many political scandals that dogged Uribe during his eight years of power. Though Santos boasted in victory that he would not negotiate with the FARC, he may have to shift some of his security priorities to combating growing crime in Colombian cities. Santos may continue Uribe’s “pro-business reforms” that have made him a ”darling of Colombian and foreign businesses” yet he cannot ignore the country’s moderately high unemployment rate and growing economic inequality. His top foreign affairs priority is to repair fractured relations with Venezuela and to a lesser extent Ecuador but he will also have to improve diplomatic efforts to ensure good relations with the White House. Finally, he will have to live up to his promises of leading a “national unity” government and avoid demonizing the opposition like Uribe had the tendency to do.

Image- Christian Science Monitor
Online Sources- Christian Science Monitor, New York Times, Los Angeles Times,, El Espectador, The Latin Americanist, Wikipedia, BBC News, Reuters,

Daily Headlines: June 21, 2010

* Cuba: Slow progress has reportedly been made in migration talks between the U.S. and Cuba in part due to the imprisonment of a U.S. contractor in Havana.

* Peru: A U.S. judge blocked rewarding a Venezuelan man over $10 million based on his role in bringing down the controversial former head of Peruvian intelligence Vladimiro Montesinos.

* Latin America: According to a report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute arms spending in Latin American continued in 2009 with Brazil and Colombia leading the way.

* Mexico: Intellectuals, ordinary Mexicans, and (ironically) politicians have all paid tribute to author Carlos Monsiváis who died on Saturday.

Image – LAHT
Online Sources- Reuters, San Francisco Examiner, The Latin Americanist, MSNBC, UPI