Friday, July 2, 2010

Uruguay, Luis Suarez & 2010's "Mano de Dios"

With the game in the balance, and with his country's hopes and dreams about to be dashed at the absolute last second of extra time, Uruguay's Luis Suarez intentionally commited a handball to clear the ball off the goal line.

Suarez was shown a red card and sent off the pitch, but the rest will go down in World Cup lore. Ghana's Asamoah Gyan, the striker whose turn-around blast sent the US packing last week, drilled the crossbar on his attempt to win the game for the Black Stars. The whistle blew. That was literally the last play of the game! Uruguay nets four penalty kicks to send the tearful Ghanians - Africa's last hope - out of the Cup.

Suarez sacrificed himself so his side could go on, but his handball ended an amazing storyline for Africa's first World Cup. In the postgame presser he even said "la mano de Dios la tengo yo ahora."

So my question to you all regarding Suarez' handball: was that cool to do?

A few "professional" opinions:

(As it happened): Really, he might as well stick out his hand. It's a definite goal otherwise. He's saved his team from certain defeat. Horrible cheating, on the other hand. Surely that'll convert the two remaining non-Ghana fans outside Uruguay to get behind the African heroes?
(Post-game recap): They have cheated their way to victory. Within the rules of the game we all love, but cheating all the same.
From the Wall Street Journal (um, what do they know about soccer?):
Uruguay is back in the World Cup semifinals. The little country had to cheat big-time to get there, but that's another matter.
Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac (via The Sun):
"This was sporting injustice but we must congratulate Uruguay. "I don't know what I would tell Suarez at this moment. It was bad luck. That's all I can say."
And Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez (via The Sun):
"Saying we cheated Ghana is too harsh a word to use. Yes, he stuck his hand out but it's not cheating - I don't think it's fair to say that. The player instinctively reacted and was thrown out of the match and he can't play the next match. What else do you want? Is Suarez also to blame for Ghana missing the penalty?"
Image Source: Wall Street Journal
Online Sources: Wall Street Journal, The Sun, The Guardian, Ovación Digital (Uruguay), Huffington Post, Daily Telegraph

Today's Video: Burst "Oranje" (Updated)

The World Cup quarterfinals start today with the distinct possibility that four South American teams (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay) could meet one another in the semifinals. First thing's first, however, as five-time champs Brazil currently play against Holland while later today versatile Uruguay face the speedy Ghanians.

Kaka, Robinho, and co. will be looking to emulate the feat done by their contemporaries twelve years ago in France. Brazil would beat the Netherlands via penalties in an exciting semifinal that had ended 1-1 in regular time. Ronaldo's goal moments into the second half was cancelled out by Patrick Kluivert in the waning seconds of the contest. Both goalkeepers were exceptional yet it was Claudio Taffarel who would become man of the match after making two key saves in the penalty shootout that was won by Brazil:

Update: Today the Netherlands avenged their 1998 and 1994 World Cup eliminations at the hands of Brazil. A Felipe Melo own-goal and a header from close range by Wesley Sneijder were enough for the Dutch to win 2-1 and knock Brazil out of the tournament. (More details including video coming up later).

Online Sources - Christian Science Monitor, MSNBC, YouTube

Colombia: Ex-intel superior accused in Garzon murder

Imagine what would happen if Jon Stewart were to be shot and killed by armed gunmen. Such was the fate of Colombian comedian and political satirist Jaime Garzon who was assonated nearly eleven years ago. Since then, the murder remains unsolved though it has been alleged that the late right-wing paramilitary leader Carlos Castaño ordered his death.

Earlier this week a breakthrough in Garzon’s case emerged when the Attorney General’s office accused a former senior intelligence official with masterminding the killing. An indictment against ex- deputy director of the DAS Jose Miguel Narvaez was handed down late last year, though that information wasn’t publicly revealed until last Tuesday. According to officials, a former paramilitary member testified that Narvaez “instigated” Castaño to kill Garzon.

Colombia’s DAS intelligence agency has come under fire for illegally wiretapping opposition figures, journalists and judges. Narvaez himself has been imprisoned since August 2009 for his supposed role in the chuzadas scandal.

Speaking of the Colombian paramilitaries, one of their leaders was sued in a U.S. federal court by families of two of his victims:
The lawsuit against Carlos Mario Jimenez was filed in federal court June 14 and publicized by the plaintiffs' attorneys Thursday.

The plaintiffs are seeking damages from Jimenez's assets that were seized in 2008. Their attorney acknowledges the funds may be tough to secure, but that they simply want to describe what they've been through and confront the man they consider responsible.
Image- EPA
Online Sources- Plan Colombia and Beyond, LAHT,, Miami Herald, Colombia Reports

Mexico: 21 dead in shootout

Days after gubernatorial candidate Rodolfo Torre was slain in his home state of Tamaulipas another shooting has once again shined a light on violence in Mexico.

At least 21 people have been reported as killed during a shootout between rival drug gangs in Sonora. The incident occurred a mere twenty miles from Mexico’s northern border with the U.S. and federal police arrested nine people in the area of the shooting. The exact motive for the shootout is unclear in the area so desolate that according to local police cell phone coverage is nonexistent.

Sadly that was not the only violent incident occurring in northern Mexico:
In a city on another part of the U.S. border, gunmen killed an assistant attorney general for Chihuahua state and one of her bodyguards.

After being chased by armed assailants through the darkened streets of Ciudad Juarez, the vehicle carrying Sandra Salas Garcia and two bodyguards was riddled with bullets Wednesday night…

Salas was responsible for evaluating the work of prosecutors and special investigations units in Chihuahua.
Image- Al Jazeera English (The body of recently slain Rodolfo Torre was buried days ago).
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, AFP, MSNBC, Milenio

Daily Headlines: July 2, 2010

* Haiti: President Rene Preval rejected and deemed “unacceptable” a series of U.S. Congressional proposals for Haiti’s upcoming elections.

* Mexico: At least two people died in northern Mexico as a result of heavy winds and rains from Hurricane Alex.

* Guatemala: Costa Rica’s Attorney General was selected to head the U.N. anti-corruption commission for Guatemala.

* Brazil: Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Christ the Redeemer statue was reopened after an extensive four-month renovation.

Image – Al Jazeera English (Haiti's president ordered that national elections take place in November).
Online Sources- BBC News, CNN, AP, Reuters,

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Ranking To Avoid

Checking out Foreign Policy's annual "Failed States Index" is not exactly inspirational. But it's largely positive that in our region of interest the first country to appear on the list is Colombia at #46. (Ok, Haiti is #11.)

After Colombia, Bolivia checks in at #53 just ahead of Israel/West Bank at #54. Would love to hear Evo's take on that, given that he cut ties with Israel in 2009 over Israel's incursion/campaign/war/skirmish in Gaza.

As always with Foreign Policy, a beautiful photo essay, and highly recommended..

Image Source: RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images via Foreign Policy ("The streets of Commune 1, a shantytown in the country's second-largest city of Medellín, have been among the most violent in recent years. Drug gangs have fought out turf wars here, contributing to the ranks of the displaced -- still numbering about 3 million even after decades of internal conflict have slowly wound down.")

Online Sources: Foreign Policy, Al Jazeera

Wong wrong on turning off the lights

Thursday morning President Barack Obama spoke on the “moral imperative” to enact comprehensive immigration reform. While his moderate plan was a welcome sign from a White House that has placed immigration on the back burner, it came in the midst of a politically charged debate over immigration. At times the discussion over immigration has gotten ugly and been exploited for petty political gain as in the case of one Arizonan political hopeful.

Four-term state Representative Barry Wong is running for the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC)- an elected panel that oversees public utility issues. In an interview with the Arizona Republic, Wong came upon a far from brilliant idea: cutting off electricity and water to residences with illegal immigrants. "There is a cost ratepayers shouldn't have to bear because of the illegal-immigrant population," said Wong who also claimed that the costs of checking customers for their legal documents would be offset by potential savings.

As expected Wong’s proposal was soundly blasted by immigrants rights activists and even by fellow Republicans running for the ACC. Yet if Wong were elected he would have the power to commission a study on his idea and support from at least two of the five members of the ACC to in order to carry his plan out.

Perhaps E.J. Montini of The Arizona Republic said it best:
Any day now I'd expect some political candidate to suggest bus drivers and light-rail engineers check the immigration status of anyone attempting to use public transit.
To paraphrase a defunct TV show, politicians say the darndest things.

Online Sources- Voice of America, Reuters, The Arizona Republic, New York Daily News, Wikipedia

Remittances to Mexico increase

Money transfers to Mexico have grown and signify that the county’s economy is rebounding, according to data released earlier today. The twelve percent increase compared to May 2009 marks the second consecutive month of remittance growth to Mexico based on figures from the central bank. The data represents a turnaround after months of decreased money transfers since the end of 2008.

Not all was good news, however; the boost in remittances during May was not enough to cover the losses during the first four months of this year. $8.7 billion in remittances was sent to Mexico between January and May 2010, which was 4.6% less than in the same period last year.

Remittances are vital to Latin American economies though money transfers to the Americas have fallen since the global economic downturn. Some countries like Bolivia continue to struggle in turning around their remittance woes while others like El Salvador have seen increases that aid their respective economies. Could sustained “robust economic growth” throughout the region see a boost in remittances throughout Latin America?
Recent growth spurts around Latin America have surpassed the expectations of many governments themselves. Brazil, the region’s rising power, is leading the regional recovery from the downturn of 2009, growing 9 percent in the first quarter from the same period last year. Brazil’s central bank said Wednesday that growth for 2010 could reach 7.3 percent, the nation’s fastest expansion in 24 years.

After a sharp contraction last year, Mexico’s economy grew 4.3 percent in the first quarter and may reach 5 percent this year, the Mexican government has said, possibly outpacing the economy in the United States.
Image- LAHT
Online Sources- LAHT, El Informador, Bloomberg, The Latin Americanist, New York Times, EPA, El Universal

House committee backs easing Cuba travel ban

Elian Gonzalez commemorated the tenth anniversary of his return to Cuba by claiming that he has “no anger” towards those family members in Florida. His return to Cuba came under very unique circumstances but what about the possibility that more visitors could travel to the island?

Some politicians who have tried to ease the U.S. travel ban on the island scored a very important victory on Wednesday. By a 25-20 vote the House of Representatives Agriculture Committee approved lifting the decades-old ban on travel to Cuba as well as other export restrictions. “This is a great opportunity to expand trade,” said Committee Chairman Collin Peterson on the bill that would also permit U.S. goods to be sold directly to Cuba. Hence, business and farm groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Farmers Union back the proposal.

The bill awaits numerous hurdles in Congress including pivotal votes by other committees followed by the full House and Senate. Furthermore, the plan faces staunch opposition from some legislators including Cuban-American politicos on both sides of the aisle.

On the same day as the committee vote Amnesty International issued a report blasting the woeful human rights situation in Cuba. The study harshly criticized the Castro regime for creating "a climate of fear that stifles and criminalizes dissent":
According to the report, which was released on Wednesday, Cuban laws are so vague and arbitrary that any act of dissent can be deemed criminal…

"No matter how detrimental its impact, the US embargo is a lame excuse for violating the rights of citizens, as it can in no way diminish the obligation on the Cuban government to protect, respect and fulfill the human rights of all Cubans,'' the report said.
Image- New Zealand Herald
Online Sources- Al Jazeera English, CNN, AFP, New York Times, Reuters, The Age

Arte para la gente: Honoring Quirino Cristiani

Is animation art? One could easily argue "yes" whether it's admiring the cartoons of Chuck Jones and Tex Avery to contemporary works like the Pixar films and Japanese anime. Then there's the work of Argentine Quirino Cristiani, a long-lost pioneer in the world of animation.

Born in Italy, Cristiani emigrated with his family to Buenos Aires at the age of four. As a teenager he developed a love for drawing as well as the politics of the day. In 1917 the twenty-one-year-old Cristiani created the world's first feature-length animated film entitled "El Apostol", a satire praising then-President Hiploito Yrigoyen. Yrigoyen would become the subject of Cristiani's next great film, 1931's "Peludopolis", which was the first sound animated feature and predated Walt Disney's "Snow White" by six years. "Peludopolis" was the pinnacle of Cristiani's career and the great animator would eventually die in 1984.

Though Cristiani's career has been largely forgotten a documentary on his life and accomplishments was recently made. Below is the trailer to the film on Cristiani including footage of the master at work:

(Hat tip: the exceptional Cartoon Brew animation blog).

Daily Headlines: July 1, 2010

* Venezuela: PDVSA officials claimed that several small oil leaks that caused a tar-like slick in Lake Maracaibo are “under control.

* Mexico: The brother of recently assassinated politico Rodolfo Torre was selected by the PRI to run for Tamaulipas governor.

* Dominican Republic: According to a USAID study Dominican farmers use thousands of highly toxic pesticides that make the food they grow unfit for export.

* Latin America: A leading congressional Democrat- Rep. Steny Hoyer- urged the Obama administration to push for free trade deals with Panama and Colombia.

Image – Businessworld
Online Sources- Reuters, Dominican Today, BusinessWeek, The Latin Americanist, AFP

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Today's Video: The crude connection

What do several members of Ecuador's indigenous community have to do with some of their counterparts in Lousiana? Both groups see themselves as being hurt by major oil spills, which have led them to bond together and try to help each other out:

Online Source- YouTube

World Cup Review: Brazil, boobs, and the tube

On Thursday we’ll look back at several of the World Cup round of sixteen matches as well as a preview of the four South American teams that progressed to the quarterfinals. Today, however, we wish to highlight three odd World Cup-related news stories.

* Brazil: Fans of the five-time champs hope that an error in a newspaper ad does not jinx their team. "The team exited the World Cup, but not our hearts…Thanks Brazil, we'll see you in 2014," read the ad placed in the Folha de Sao Paulo one day after the team beat Chile 3-0 to reach the quartrfinals.

* U.S.: Sunday’s Mexico-Argentina match, which was won by the albicelestes 3-1, became the highest-rated program in Univision’s history. According to Nielsen figures 9.4 million people viewed the vital match, compared to 9 million for the final episode of a telenovela in 2007.

* Paraguay: Landlocked Paraguay is a dark horse to capture the World Cup title and the underdog to beat Spain in the quarters. Yet that hasn’t stopped one of the country’s most curvaceous fans from motivating the team (so to speak):
Larissa Riquelme, a curvy lingerie model who loves her national team, has been cheering the Paraguay squad on from Asuncion, clad in revealing outfits. The 24-year-old beauty has pledged to run naked through the streets "with my body painted with the colors of Paraguay" if Paraguay wins the World Cup.
No further comment.

Image – New York Times (“Gilberto Silva and Brazil breezed past Chile, 3-0, on Monday.”)
Online Sources- NBC Sports, Huffington Post, Daily Mail, Reuters

Haiti: Population “booming” says Census

Last January’s massive earthquake in Haiti claimed 230,000 to 300,000 lives and left the country reeling. Yet the country is going through a population “boom” according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates released Monday.

The current population of Haiti based on the agency’s figures stands at about 9.6 million and this is expected to increase by four million by 2050. By 2012 it is estimated that Haiti’s population will reach pre-earthquake levels and that the growth is expected to rise at the same rate as that of neighboring Dominican Republic.

The expected growth in Haiti’s population could hinder rebuilding efforts that have been progressing very slowly. In addition, it could mean that immigration across the border into the Dominican Republic and further away to the U.S. may not diminish any time soon.

Online Sources- UPI, AP, Miami Herald

The waiting game for immigration reform

Words are nice but actions would be a lot better:
President Barack Obama is following up two days of meetings on U.S. immigration policy with a speech Thursday on the need for a comprehensive solution to what he and others have said is a broken system.

Obama discussed immigration and the speech at a White House meeting Tuesday with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. He held similar talks with advocates and labor leaders a day earlier.
While the White House and Congressional leaders continue to hem and haw at the issue of immigration reform local legislators in states nationwide are attempting to push through their own misguided measures. Last week voters in Fremont, Nebraska backed an anti-immigration initiative that came about partly due to the boom in the town’s Latino population.

Meanwhile, could now be the best time for Attorney General Eric Holder to file a Justice Department lawsuit against Arizona’s controversial immigration law? Or is it too little too late for an Obama administration paying the price for constantly delaying needed immigration reform?

Image- CBS News
Online Sources- AP, NPR, The Guardian, Los Angeles Times

Daily Headlines: June 30, 2010

* U.S.: Peruvian-born, New York-based journalist Vicky Pelaez was arrested and has been accused along with ten others of spying for Russia.

* Cuba: Will the Obama administration close the prison at Guantanamo by 2013 after initially promising to shut it down this year?

* Brazil: Legislators recently approved a landmark racial equality law yet stopped short of enacting affirmative action policies.

* Ecuador: Allegations of illegal wiretaps against President Rafael Correa could seriously damage improving relations between Ecuador and Colombia.

Image – Grand Forks Herald (“In this courtroom sketch, Anna Chapman, left, Vicky Pelaez, second from left, the defendant known as "Richard Murphy", center, the defendant known as "Cynthia Murphy", second from right, and the defendant known as "Juan Lazaro" are seen in Manhattan federal court in New York, Monday, June 28, 2010.”)
Online Sources- WNYC, The Guardian, UPI, Reuters

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Today's Video: "Isabelita"

On this day in 1974 Isabel Peron became interim president of Argentina after taking over for her infirm husband, Juan. She would lose the "interim" label after Juan died on July the 1st.

A former cabaret dancer, Isabel became Juan's third wife while he was in exile in Panama and then first lady shortly after he returned to Argentina. She was given the nickname of "Isabelita" but she could not live up to the mythical status of Juan's late wife Evita. Isabel's presidency was problematic from the beginning including deepening political divisions among the Peronists, a weakened economy that kept worsening, and increased violence by guerillas and paramilitaries. She would be overthrown in a military coup in March 1976, thus ushering in the repressive "Dirty War" period.

The following video on Isabel's brief time in the presidency comes from a documentary on Argentine political history. Note that her strengthening of power to the military during her presidency would be an ironic factor that lead to her downfall as well as the focus of a 2007 Spanish investigation.

Chagas alert issued by WHO

It was around this time last year that the swine flu/H1N1 outbreak became front page news worldwide. The disease may have claimed the lives of thousands of people according to one estimate while focus was placed on Mexico due to its high level of cases.

The attention and resources mobilized in 2009 to combat swine flu/H1N1 distracted from other deadly yet underreported diseases throughout the Americas such as the dengue fever. More recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a warning to travelers regarding Chagas disease- an ailment that can become “potentially life-threatening.” An estimated 10 million people are infected worldwide, according to the WHO, especially in Latin America where the disease used to be contained.

Within the Americas several countries like Brazil, Chile and Uruguay have been active in trying to control spreading of Chagas. Nonetheless there have been outbreaks in recent years like in Venezuela, where the growth of Chagas infections has become a political talking point:
Chagas is increasing steadily in Venezuela, said Dr. Oscar Noya of the Institute of Tropical Medicine, who blamed human encroachment on the kissing bug’s environment. More worrying still is that the kissing bug appears to be adapting to human habitats, he said…

For critics of the government, the increase in cases of Chagas is not only a sign of neglect of a previously successful program of control through fumigation, but also an indicator that President Hugo Chavez’s socialist government’s assertion that it has dramatically reduced poverty is not as watertight as it claims.
While there is no vaccine for Chagas the parasite that carries it can be eradicated if diagnosed in its early stages.

Image- Anthropology Works
Online Sources- Wikipedia, BBC News, DNA, The Latin Americanist, WHO, El Mundo,, Global Post

Report: Census workers botch race/ethnicity queries

In the months leading up to the 2010 Census the Census Bureau carried out a p.r. campaign so that Latinos would participate in the national count. Despite calls by a few groups to boycott the Census most of the Latino community seemed to have done their duty and filled out the forms.

An interesting conundrum appeared for numerous Latinos who tried to fill the census papers: how to accurately answer the questions pertaining to race and ethnicity. If one is of a mixed racial background such as mestizo, for instance, then how should one classify his/her race for the Census? What about the person in this article who claimed that “"I would consider myself Hispanic or Mexican-American, but definitely not White”?

A report from the U.S. Commerce Department Office of the Inspector General found that some Census workers have ignored similar troubles during their door-to-door visits. Rather than clarify concerns some of the workers in the study made things worse:
Upon their visits, census workers are supposed to read aloud the 10 census questions, including those on race and ethnicity. Yet, according to the report, 71 workers incorrectly communicated the race and Hispanic-origin question to respondents. Some census workers made assumptions about individuals' race and filled in boxes without asking the respondent the ethnic background questions, while others failed to ask their respondents if they wanted the questions read aloud.
Only 15% of the 480 observed workers in the report made mistakes during their door-to-door visits and a Census spokesman told CNN that the bureau would "take corrective actions where appropriate." But these mistakes could be costly when so much is on the line like apportioning congressional districts and deciding where some federal funds go.

Online Sources- U.S. Commerce Department Office of the Inspector General, CNN,, Vivirlatino, USA TODAY, The Latin Americanist

Puerto Rican Identity Theft Scheme

Thousands of Puerto Ricans have been the target of an identity theft scheme, where birth certificates and other legal documents have been stolen and sold in the United States. At a time where tensions are high involving illegal immigration (especially among the Latino population) people are paying a high price for these documents.

Puerto Ricans have become a valuable source and excellent target for this scheme because of their Hispanic surnames and their United States citizenship. Birth certificates are documents that are commonly used in Puerto Rico, as children need them to enroll in school, join sports teams and join churches. This common need for carrying and presenting birth certificates means that many Puerto Ricans keep these documents easily accessible in their homes and unguarded. ICE agent Roberto Escobar says that a "tripleta" is the most valued package that one can purchase. It contains a birth certificate, driver's license, and social security card, and is named after the Puerto Rican street sandwich stuffed with three types of meat.

Puerto Rican documents have shown up in immigration raids in states throughout the U.S. Data was discovered from thousands of school children and from renewal license forms at the Puerto Rican Department of Motor Vehicles. These documents sell for up to $6,000 on the black market.

In an attempt to protect Puerto Ricans from identity theft, the Puerto Rican government is voiding all birth certificates starting July 1st, and requiring all citizens (a total of about 5 million) to apply for new documents which will have stronger security features. Old birth certificates will be annulled by September 30. For all the inconvenience and trouble in an attempt to curb the identity theft, the law does nothing to stop the people with documents already in circulation. It doesn't guarantee that people already holding stolen documents will not be able to use them to attain new ones.

Image Source:
News Source:

Mexico: Gubernatorial candidate murdered (Updated)

In the most high profile murder of a Mexican politician since Luis Donaldo Colosio in 1994, gunmen killed the frontrunner in the race for Tamaulipas governor.

Drug gangs have been blamed for the assassination of Rodolfo Torre on Monday. Torre was slain along with three others when they were ambushed and attacked at an airport outside the state capital city. Torre ran a strong campaign against the Zeta and Gulf cartels who have fought a bloody turf war was in the northern state of Tamaulipas.

The former legislator allied to the PRI political party had a 30-point lead in the polls ahead of elections on July 4th. It is unknown for now if the PRI will select another candidate to replace him or if the elections will occur as scheduled. (Update: Federal officials said that Sunday's elections will go ahead as planned.)

“This was an act not only against a candidate of a political party but against democratic institutions, and it requires a united and firm response from all those who work for democracy,” said Mexican president Felipe Calderon hours after Torre’s murder. Unfortunately, June has been one of the bloodiest months since Calderon took office, which includes 85 murders over one 24-hour period.

Torre’s death comes as the latest killing of local politicians either aspiring to or already in office in Mexico’s violent border areas:
Jose Guajardo Varela, a mayoral candidate for the Tamaulipas town of Valle Hermoso, was murdered in May after receiving multiple threatening warnings to abandon his election bid…

Several political parties said they were at a loss to find anyone willing to run for mayor in some towns and border states because of the danger posed by drug gangs, the AP reported.
Image- The Guardian
Online Sources- Milenio, Xinhua, Christian Science Monitor, The Guardian, New York Times, New York Daily News

Daily Headlines: June 29, 2010

* Guatemala: Two brothers were arrested in the unusual murder case of Rodrigo Rosenberg- a Guatemalan lawyer who staged his own death that he tried to falsely implicate on president Alvaro Colom.

* Panama: Former leader Manuel Noriega appeared in a French court yesterday where he stands trial for money laundering.

* Venezuela: At least six people died in a riot on Sunday at the Los Toques prison near the capital city of Caracas.

* Colombia: Did Colombia’s beleaguered intelligence agency illegally wiretap the phones of Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa?

Image – Sydney Morning Herald (Image of Guatemalan lawyer Rodrigo Rosenberg from a video publicized after his 2009 murder where he claimed that Alvaro Colom tried to kill him.)
Online Sources- MSNBC, The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg, UPI, BBC News

The Maradona Mystique

Having watched the World Cup qualifiers, in which Argentina struggled to even make the tournament and got drubbed 6-1 against Bolivia, I felt certain that the albiceleste could only succeed in spite of, not because of, their coach Diego Maradona.

But now, after watching four games in which Maradona's Argentina have run gracefully over their opponents, I'm picking the Argentines to take home the Cup. And why? I'm even more surprised that it's because of the same Maradona I expected to run them into the ground.

While the Brazilians of Dunga have displayed an unmatched technical prowess and the Germans have been methodically, well, German, in picking apart their opponents, the utter passion that Argentina has shown in their games has been nothing short of remarkable.

I'll be the first to admit I don't quite understand the Maradona reverence. I get it, in the sense that the flawed hero holds a special place for true sports fans. By sometimes showing the worst of themselves, the tragic athlete keeps us on the edge of our seat, wondering what will happen next.

The blog BigPondSport says it best:
Almost, but not quite, single-handedly, the Argentina manager has made World Cup 2010 worth watching. His manic presence on the sidelines is almost as mesmerising as was his majestic presence on it.

More so than perhaps any other footballer, Maradona has enthralled and enraged in equal measure; a man blessed with angels and cursed by demons; a man who had everything before snorting it up his nose.
So the reverence makes sense, but I never thought that would turn a man who'd previously coached 23 games (with just 3 wins) into a solid coach. Players-turned-coaches are aplenty is sports, but usually it takes a while to make the transition. Does Maradona have tactical expertise to match his World Cup peers? I'm not sure, but boy does he love his players, and they love him in return. Even taking cultural practices into account, the Argentine coach hugs and kisses his players (with surprising and in its way, touching frequency) like they're his own sons. In return, his players show a passion for their coach that may just propel them to a repeat of Argentina's 1986 glory.

If Maradona pulls this off, his legend will be forever cemented. Perhaps just in time for him to self destruct, insult everybody he feels doubted or disrespected him, and then start the whole, wonderful process over again.

Online Sources: GoalyMoaly, BigPondSport,, ESPN Soccernet

Monday, June 28, 2010

Hondruas: One Year Later

One year after Manuel Zelaya, the former president of Honduras, was rousted from his bed and put on a plane to Costa Rica, some say the new president might face a similar face.

MSNBC reports that Honduran President Porfirio Lobo said the businessmen who supported the plot against Zelaya are plotting against him.

"I know who you all are," Lobo said, shortly before today's anniversary.

Lobo's not the only one to show fear.

"If they did it once, they can do it again," Security Minister Oscar Alvarez told the AP.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has tried to convince the Organization of American States to allow Honduras to re-enter the group, after its suspension following what many say was a coup.

Some have criticized the Obama administration for bolstering Lobo's administration, including Dana Frank, a professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz, who argued that Lobo has continued the violence and cover-up of the coup.

For the anniversary, Amnesty International issued a report saying Honduran officials have failed "to address serious human rights violations that followed the coup d’etat of 28 June 2009."

"Since new president Porfirio Lobo took office in January, police and military officers responsible for mass arrests, beatings and torture in the wake of the coup have not been brought to justice," according to the report.

The group added that it's concerned about attacks on journalists and judges who were removed from their posts. It also wasn't convinced that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was correctly implemented.

"Truth commissions should be one part of a comprehensive national plan devised to protect the rights of victims of human rights violations. In addition to this, the government must ensure investigation, justice and reparation for victims," the report said.

Sources: MSNBC, Lexington Herald Leader, Amnesty International


Assad Continues Latin American Visit

Syrian President Bashar Assad continued his tour through Latin America, stopping Sunday in Caracas.

In a meeting with Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president said Israel has a genocidal government and identified both Israel and the United States as "common enemies."

It's a state without limits," Assad said of Israel, adding that it was a state "based on crime, slaughter," the AP reported.

Assad is now in Cuba, where he landed yesterday at Havana, before he also visits Brazil and Argentina.

Middle East Online reports that Assad will meet with Raul, and possibly Fidel, Castro to sign some cooperation agreements and continue education programs between the two countries.

Before Assad arrived, Fidel Castro said he expected a nuclear war between the U.S. Israel and Iran.

Sources: AP, Middle East Online

Photo: Middle East Onlinem Assad and his wife Asma

Daily Headlines: June 28, 2010

* Mexico: Popular grupero musician Sergio “El Shaka” Vega was killed mere hours after denying Internet rumors of his death.

* Argentina: In the latest chapter in the tug-of-war between Argentina and the U.K. over the Falklands British Prime Minister David Cameron said that he “would not budge” regarding the sovereignty of the disputed islands.

* U.S.: Authorities captured 34 Cuban migrants after they arrived on a beach in Florida on Sunday.

* Peru: Tensions between indigenous groups and President Alan Garcia could reignite after he vetoed a law that would’ve curbed energy exploration in the rainforest area.

Image –
Online Sources- The Guardian, Miami Herald, The Latin Americanist,, BBC News