Saturday, July 10, 2010

Today's Video: Spain's talisman? (Updated)

We'll discuss more of the World Cup on Monday including Uruguay's loss in the third-place game and the next move for Paraguay's number one fan.

Paul the octopus predicted that Spain would win the title game while Mani the parakeet picked the Netherlands to be the next champ. But who will take the crown according to a Peruvian shaman? Let's just say that if he's right then "La Furia Roja" will be in for a treat:

Update: The shaman was right. (We'll have more on Spain's World Cup victory on Monday).

Online Sources - YouTube, AFP

Nuestro Cine: Under the big top

If you're in the New York City area tonight please head out to El Museo Del Barrio for the screening of a brilliant documentary. Presented as part of the Rooftop Films series, "La Cuerda Floja" ("The Tightrope") looks at a small family circus in Mexico trying to survive as it goes from town to town entertaining villagers. The circus faces constant financial difficulties while performers such as eldest daughter Jaque contemplate leaving her family behind for a better life.

"With a deft eye for symbolic details, a remarkable gift for artistically representing key story points, and the ability to quietly build narrative tension, (director Nuria) Ibanez has crafted a realist documentary that feels like a dreamy fiction", according to Rooftop Films' website on the film.

Doors for the screening open at 8pm and the event includes live music and an after party. El Museo is located at 1230 Fifth Avenue (at 104th Street) and tickets can be purchased at the door or online by clicking here.

The trailer for "La Cuerda Floja" can be seen here and the following video is an insightful interview with Ibanzez where she discusses the film. Please check it out:

Friday, July 9, 2010

Today's Video: "Si Se Puedewich"

Below is a video from last night's "The Colbert Report" where quasi-conservative Stephen Colbert interviewed United Farm Workers chief Arturo Rodriguez. Whether one agrees with Rodriguez or not, numerous valid points were raised regarding immigration such as the possible economic impact of Arizona's SB1070:
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Arturo Rodriguez
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionFox News

Lights, camera, deception?

The case against Dole Foods over the alleged poising of Nicaraguan farm workers has taken a turn for the strange.

In 2007 a U.S. federal court awarded six ex-Dole workers with $2.3 million after they claimed that pesticides used on Nicaraguan plantations made them sterile. Dole has since tried to get that decision dismissed and have accused the workers of being bribed to make false statements against the food giant. An attorney for the Nicaraguans countered and this week claimed that lawyers for Dole tried to pay off witnesses by promising to relocate them in Costa Rica and give them cushy jobs.

The latest twist emerged on Thursday when a filmmaker said that he went to Nicaragua as “an undercover operative” for a Texas law firm suing Dole. "I decided to work with the firm and help with the legal process…I decided to use the film for that purpose," said Jason Glaser who added that the Provost-Umphrey law firm paid him and his crew about $17,000 monthly. Glaser also admitted that he “shared information with a Nicaraguan lawyer who held rallies to denounce Dole” and that he viewed the accusations of the plaintiffs as a “a troubling issue."

Unusually Glaser was called to the stand not be Dole lawyers but by plaintiffs attorney Steve Condie who tired to plant doubt on the defense:
Condie accused them of withholding the information for tactical reasons, but Dole attorney Theodore Boutrous said that was "absurd." Boutrous said admissible evidence was required to bring such an allegation to the court and, "admissible evidence didn't exist."
Glaser is expected to return to the witness stand later today.

Image- CBS News (“A former banana worker walks outside of the shack in front of Nicaragua's National Assembly in Managua, Wednesday, July 11, 2007.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, San Jose Mercury News,, ABC News

Chile: Convictions upheld in ’74 bombing

Yesterday we mentioned how victims of Guatemala’s Dos Erres massacre received some measure of justice nearly three decades after the killings. The families of Carlos Prats and his wife can also rest a little easier 36 years after they were slain.

On Thursday Chile’s top court upheld the murder convictions against several former members of that country’s secret police (DINA, in Spanish) for their role behind the Prats killing. Ex-DINA head Manuel Contreras were among those whose convictions were upheld by the Supreme Court for the 1974 bombing in Buenos Aires, which was masterminded by the late dictator Augusto Pinochet.

The court reduced Contreras’ sentence in the Prats case from life imprisonment to twenty years in jail but he has been imprisoned for other murders such as the 1976 car bombing of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffit in Washington, D.C. The tribunal’s decision has brought some comfort to the family according to daughter Sofia Prats:
“As a family we’ve conformed with the reality that we know but no there has been juridical responsibility placed against those who at the time were sent by the Chilean government and military to commit their crimes.” – [ed. Translated text]
Image- BBC Mundo (Carlos Prats had served as vice president under Salvador Allende before the military coup in 1973).
Online Sources- BBC Mundo, AP, AFP, The Latin Americanist

Daily Headlines: July 9, 2010

* Haiti: Roughly six months since a gigantic earthquake destroyed parts of Haiti aid groups warned that they’re being stretched to their limits and “simply containing a critical situation, rather than solving it.”

* Colombia: Why did the State Department deny a visa to a muckraking Colombian journalist critical of outgoing President Alvaro Uribe?

* Bolivia: A major wildfire has threatened the flora and fauna of Bolivia’s massive Pantanal wetlands.

* Panama: Former strongman Manuel Noriega was sentenced to seven years in prison for money laundering by a French court.

Image – CBC
Online Sources- AFP, BBC News, MSNBC, CNN

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Ex-Guatemalan soldier confesses to massacre killings

The Dos Erres massacre in 1982 was one of the worst mass killings during the Guatemalan civil war. Over three days a group of seventeen elite soldiers ransacked a village and callously murdered 251 men, women, and children. Some bodies were ditched in the village well while several survivors were killed in bushes and roads. For nearly three decades one of the troops accused of perpetrating the bloodbath lived in impunity. That is, until Wednesday when Gilberto Jordán was finally held accountable for his actions.

The former elite soldier for the Guatemalan army confessed in a federal court that he was one of the perpetrators of the Dos Erres massacre. Jordán pled guilty in court after he falsely denied on his citizenship papers that he was part of the murder. “Members of the special patrol also forcibly raped many of the women and girls at Dos Erres before killing them,” read an affidavit from Jordán that was submitted as part of a plea deal with immigration officials.

Jordán will be sentenced in September and he faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and revocation of his naturalized citizenship. For some activists representing victims of the Dos Erres massacre, however, justice would best be served in Guatemala:
"We've asked the Attorney General's office to have him extradited to face human rights charges here for the killings of 250 men, women and children, rape and torture," Aura Elena Farfan, director of the Association of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared of Guatemala, or FAMDEGUA, told Reuters.
Image- Prensa Libre
Online Sources- Reuters, Wikipedia, McClatchy, Miami Herald, Democracy Now, UPI

Cuba: Guillermo Farinas postpones hunger strike (Updated)

Earlier today Cuba’s best-known dissident reportedly put a halt to a hunger strike that left him at the brink of death.

A spokeswoman for Guillermo Farinas said that he ended his five-month-long fast on Thursday by drinking a glass of water. She added that his health is “grave”; thus supporting recent remarks made by Farinas who said that he was “conscious of my nearing death.”

The 48-year-old psychiatrist’s actions came after the Cuban government announced that it would free 52 political prisoners and allow them to leave the country. The release appeared to have resulted from close dialogue in recent weeks between President Raul Castro and leading members of the Cuban Catholic Church. According to Church officials five prisoners will be freed in the upcoming days after having spent at least seven years in jail.

The U.S. government as well as the Spanish Foreign Minister who was visiting Havana has welcomed the planned release of the Cuban prisoners. The president of the Cuban American National Foundation told the Christian Science Monitor that the actions represent “a very positive signal” from the Castro regime. Some analysts are skeptical, however:
"It's a good thing, but we've seen this before," said Daniel Wilkinson, deputy director at Human Rights Watch, citing the hundreds of prisoner releases that followed a papal visit to the island nation in 1998. "Despite these new developments, the law which allows for arbitrary arrests remains the same."
Farinas began his 130-day hunger strike in February shortly after jailed activist Orlando Zapata Tamayo died while fasting.

Update: In remarks to CNN en Espanol, Farinas said that he will postpone his hunger strike until November and warned that he would restart it if the Castro regime does not carry out the freeing of the 52 political prisoners. Meanwhile, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said that his country would accept the freed prisoners from Cuba.

Image- France24 (“Cuban opposition activist Guillermo Farinas (R) stands up helped by doctor Ismel Iglesias at his home in Santa Clara, Cuba, in March 2010. Farinas ended Thursday his 135-day hunger strike after the communist government announced it would free 52 political prisoners, an opposition leader told AFP.”)
Online Sources- BBC news, Reuters, AFP, Christian Science Monitor, CNN, Al Jazeera English, AP

Today's Video: "The crude connection" revisted

Last month we noted how the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico led to some Ecuadorian indigenous groups to help their counterparts in Lousiana. Are there lessons that can be learned from Brazil's worst oil spill over a decade ago or is the situation in the Gulf unique? See for yourself:

Online Sources - YouTube, The Latin Americanist

Daily Headlines: July 8, 2010

* Nicaragua: In the latest chapter in the legal war between Dole and Nicaraguan plantation workers, an attorney for the laborers claimed that the food company bribed witnesses in exchange for favorable testimony.

* Latin America: Haiti, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua are among the countries most at risk economically from natural disasters according to a study by a British consulting firm.

* Costa Rica: President Laura Chinchilla has come under fire for authorizing U.S. warships and Marines to be in Costa Rican waters.

* Mexico: Mexico City officials claimed there have been at least 271 gay marriages since it became legalized over four months ago.

Image – (Still taken from “Bananas*!”, a documentary that alleges that Dole used dangerous pesticides around Nicaraguan laborers.)
Online Sources- AP,, MSNBC, Reuters

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A new holiday in Argentina?

Some stories speak for themselves:
Political activist Luis D’Elia proposed Wednesday that Argentines begin marking Aug. 2, the birthday of former military dictator Jorge Rafael Videla, as “Son of a B---- Day.”

“In Argentina, above all in the decade of the 1990s, there was a pile of SOBs: (presidents Carlos) Menem, (Eduardo) Duhalde and (Fernando) de la Rua, the former (economy) minister Domingo Cavallo,” D’Elia said on television. “One could name 150, 200 SOBs.”

“But we choose Aug. 2 because it’s the day another SOB who preceded them, Jorge Rafael Videla, was born,” the outspoken activist said.
In the Not Safe For Work video below, D’Elia also gave his ongoing support of ex-president Nestor Kirchner who he called “our bastard”:

D’Elia is no stranger to controversy; in 2009 he was in a war of words with well-known TV variety show host Mauricio Tinelli whose programs he called “brothel shows.”

Videla, meanwhile, took to the stands this week at a trial accusing him of human rights abuses during his “Dirty War” presidency.

Online Sources- LAHT, YouTube, The Latin Americanist

World Cup Review: And then there were none

By now you’ve probably heard that the Netherlands will face Spain in the World Cup final after eliminating Uruguay and Germany, respectively. Though four of the eight teams in the quarterfinals came from South America only Uruguay advanced to the final four and they subsequently lost 3-2 to the Dutch.

Though Uruguay has been seen by some in a negative light due to Luis Suarez’ infamous handball, we prefer to celebrate the extraordinary run by los charruas. Coach Oscar Tabarez has deservedly received plenty of praise for leading his side to one of the best World Cup finishes by a South American side (excluding regional heavyweights Argentina and Brazil) in decades. Suarez may be Uruguay’s leading scorer in South Africa but it was the veteran Diego Forlán who was his team’s heart and soul. Young goalkeeper Fernando Muslera showed that he was one of the Americas’ elite netminders and he could be Uruguay's captain of the future.

In the end, fans of Uruguay are proud of their team’s efforts in reaching the semifinals and perhaps even winning the third place game on Saturday:

Online Sources- Americas Quarterly,,, The Guardian,, The Latin Americanist

Daily Headlines: July 7 2010

* Latin America: Health officials are on high alert after dengue outbreaks killed sixteen and three people in Honduras and Puerto Rico, respectively.

* Venezuela: OPEC’s oil reserves grew by four percent in 2009 partly due to an increased contribution from Venezuela.

* Mexico: Approximately 18,000 residents of the northern Mexican town of Ciudad Anahuac were evacuated due to fears that a nearby dam will overflow.

* Central America: First it was Honduran President Porfirio Lobo; now it’s Guatemala’s Alvaro Colom who claims that there is a conspiracy to oust him from office.

Image – MSNBC (“Although killer diseases such as dengue fever are long-forgotten by Americans, they still plague millions worldwide — and these infections could start becoming more widespread in the U.S. Some, such as dengue fever, are spread by infected mosquitoes.”)
Online Sources- AP, LAHT, Bloomberg, BBC News, The Latin Americanist

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Happy Birthday Frida!

Google celebrated the 103rd birthday of Frida Kahlo on Tuesday by adding some changes to a self-portrait of Frida and using it for the day's search engine logo. Google artists enhanced a 1940 self-portrait by taking out the horns on her head and giving her a bone necklace similar to the one she wears in another self-portrait (minus the blood dripping down her neck). Frida Kahlo has painted many portraits of personal suffering.

The tradition of creating Google "doodles" on its search engine page dates back to 1999. Since then, special occasions, holidays, important events, and notable people have been celebrated on its page through art.

Image Source: Google
Online Source: Los Angeles Times, Google

Arizonan vets reject Cinco de Mayo celebration (Updated)

Update: The Justice Department has officially filed a lawsuit against Arizona over the state's anti-immigration law.

The immigration debate has gotten increasingly contentious in recent months, especially with the signing of Arizona’s controversial SB 1070 into law. At times the discussion has become juvenile such as Cardinal Roger Mahoney comparing the law with Nazism and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer claiming that “most” undocumented immigrants are “drug mules.” Unfortunately this disrespectful rhetoric has even pervaded one local veterans group.

Members of Arizona's largest American Legion Post in Apache Junction voted to bar the group’s Cinco de Mayo celebrations. Of the 26 veterans involved in the vote only one- ex-Army corporal Harry Robert Warren- voted against the measure. As Warren told one local news source, the decision was "retaliation" against the demonstrations by some Latino groups in protest of SB 1070. "It brings animosity between the different races," added Warren who hopes that the decision can be put up for a new vote in a few months.

“It caught me by total surprise,” mentioned Post Commander Felix Gonzalez to The Arizona Republic in response to the group’s vote. Additionally:
Gonzalez, the son of a Mexican-American father and mother with Spanish roots, said he was powerless to block or postpone a vote, despite his position as the Post's top administrative official.

The official reason given for the vote was that because Mexico does not celebrate Cinco de Mayo as a national holiday, there is no reason for the Post to celebrate it, Gonzalez said.
Though Cinco de Mayo is not a Mexican national holiday it is observed in several regions. Furthermore, the day commemorates Mexico’s military victory over France in the Battle of Puebla and may have prevented major French help of the Confederacy during the U.S. Civil War.

Image- San Francisco Sentinel
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Huffington Post, USA TODAY, CNN,, The Arizona Republic, Wikipedia

BP looks at LatAm to pay for spill

The BP oil well disaster has caught the attention of countries like Mexico and Cuba who are worried that their shores could be polluted by wayward crude. With the price tag for the disaster climbing upwards of $3.1 billion dollars, the oil giant is looking for ways to pay such massive costs. One option could be in Latin America.

According to the Wall Street Journal, oil fields in Colombia and Venezuela may be part of the over $10 billion in “non-core exploration and production assets” BP could sell in order to pay for the spill. After helping develop the Cusiana and Cupiagua fields in eastern Colombia in the 1990s BP last week ceded “direct operation” of the lands to local company Ecopetrol. Those fields are between Colombia’s largest and produce 177,000 barrels a day.

The larger asset that could be sold by BP is its 60% stake in Pan American Energy, Argentina’s second-largest oil producer. BP’s stake in the company is valued at $9 billion, which makes it an interesting choice for the company to sell according to one analyst:
“Pan American is the obvious place to start,” said Christopher Wheaton, who manages about $400 million of securities at Allianz RCM’s Energy Fund in London, including BP shares. “It’s got a valuation from (offshore oil producer) Cnooc in mid-March and is one of the assets you could carve out of the portfolio easily”…

Pan-American, a venture created when BP bought Amoco Corp. in 1998, produces about 100,000 barrels of crude oil a day and 450 cubic meters of gas, according to the BP website.
An estimated 30,000 to 65,000 barrels of oil are spilling into the Gulf of Mexico daily and numerous efforts to stop the leak have been insufficient. Tar balls from the spill have reached shores as far away as Texas, while cleanup efforts have been hampered by inclement weather.

Image- CBC (“BP workers in Cocodrie, La., pile booms that have been cleaned and repaired for reuse after they were stained with oil from the spill in the Gulf of Mexico.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, USA TODAY, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Xinhua, Voice of America, LAHT

Argentine “Dirty War” dictator defends regime

One of the worst Latin American dictators of all time took to the stand on Monday to defend his brutal regime.

Ex-Argentine president Jorge Videla has been accused of the murders of 32 political prisoners during his time in office from 1976 to 1981. He admitted to taking “full responsibility” for the actions of the military during the “Dirty War” period, which he deemed as an “internal war against subversive forces.” Nonetheless, he said that he could not be tried twice for human rights abuses and that a military tribunal should hear his case. Despite his claims, prosecutors in the Cordoba court accused Videla of directing a “clandestine plan to exterminate political dissidents”.

Videla was originally sentence to life in jail after Argentina returned to civilian rule in 1985 but that was later overturned on a pardon from then-president Carlos Menem. That action was declared unconstitutional in 2007 and the Supreme Court confirmed that decision in April.

Much like the Mexican government during the 1968 Olympics, Videla and his cohorts tried to use sport to cover up state crimes. In Argentina’s case, it was one of the world’s most famous sporting tournaments:
During his five-year administration, Videla organized the 1978 World Cup in Argentina.

Argentina's victory was used to try to clean the international reputation of the military government at a time when reports of massive human rights violations had been seeping out, our correspondent says.

Videla also faces charges in Italy, Spain France and Germany for the murder of some of their citizens in Argentina.
Image- BBC Mundo
Online Sources- EPA, Clarin,, The Latin Americanist, BBC News

Today's Video: Scorched earth

Admittedly it's tough putting up with a heatwave like the one hitting parts of the U.S. including outside my sweltering apartment. But it's a wintry day compared to the drought that has hit Bolivia:

Online Sources - Reuters Video, Gothamist

Daily Headlines: July 6, 2010

* Venezuela: As part of Venezuelan independence day celebrations on Monday honors were given to Manuela Saenz- the lover and confidant of independence hero Simon Bolivar.

* Argentina: Argentine officials are none too pleased with local Chilean authorities that permitted a group of students to visit the Falklands in order to take English-langue classes.

* Brazil: President Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva may find himself at odds with Brazilian evangelicals over his plan to preserve classic theatres for film, not for preachers.

* U.S.: The company formerly known as Countrywide Financial has been sued in Illinois over allegedly pushing very risky subprime loans at black and Latino customers.

Image – BBC Mundo (Ecuadorian-born Manuela Saenz is seen by some as adulterous but viewed by others as a key ally to Bolivar’s independence movement in the 19th-century.)
Online Sources- ABC Online, MSNBC, MercoPress, The Consumerist

Monday, July 5, 2010

World Cup Review: Down to one

Four South American countries made it to the World Cup quarterfinals but only one would survive into the semifinals. The region’s weakest team to reach the quarters- Uruguay- will play a Netherlands squad looking to claim another South American scalp after beating Brazil 2-1. Before discussing los charruas chances of beating the red-hot Dutch let’s take a quick look at some recent occurrences with other regional sides.

* Paraguay: Iffy refereeing decisions have apparently become a hallmark of this World Cup and to the list of infamy we can the crew during Paraguay’s quarterfinal match with Spain. Late in the first half linesman Carlos Pastrana erred in disallowing a legit Paraguayan goal for offsides. As you can see in the video highlights below, referee Carlos Batres not exactly on the ball after granting Paraguay and Spain penalty kicks in the second half. It’s no wonder that now-former Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino said sarcastically after the game (won by Spain 1-0) that he was hoping FIFA would apologize to his team.

* Argentina: In the aftermath of Germany’s 4-0 spanking of Argentina one of the main question being asked is what will be the fate of team coach Diego Maradona? After returning to his native land on Sunday he hinted that his “cycle has finished” and that he would resign. Since then he has remained mum while fellow players and coaches have come to his side. Whether he stays or goes one thing is for sure: Maradona won’t strip and streak in Buenos Aires.

* Brazil: While Maradona waffles, Brazil’s player-turned-coach Dunga was fired from his post after the loss to the Dutch. Though he coached the Brazilian side to titles in the 2007 Copa America and 2009 Confederations Cup, Dunga was criticized for advocating a defensive, non-“Joga Bonito” style. On the bright side, however, Brazil’s elimination may do wonders for the country’s economy.

* Uruguay: Lastly we come to the charruas who are trying to overcome the controversy of Luis Suarez’ handball. His comments after the game against Ghana may not be helping matters but more importantly Uruguay will be playing without their top scorer. Coach Oscar Tabarez has identified Dutch forward Arjen Robben as the man to stop but the reality is that Uruguay will have to play as perfect a game as possible if they wish to reach their first World Cup title game in sixty years.

So what do you guys think? Will Uruguay beat the Netherlands? How can Argentina and Brazil bounce back from their World Cup eliminations? Is Paraguay good enough to be considered a South American heavyweight?

Online Sources- Too many to list!

Daily Headlines: July 5, 2010

* Puerto Rico: Police in the Puerto Rican capital of San Juan have been accused of brutality during clashes last week with anti-government protestors.

* Haiti: Tens of thousands of Haitian earthquake survivors living in makeshift camps face eviction from landowners worried about insecurity.

* Venezuela: Officials claimed that they arrested an accused Salvadoran accomplice of wanted ex-CIA agent Luis Posada Carriles.

* Brazil: At a summit in Cape Verde, President Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva pledged increased Brazilian cooperation with west African countries.

Image – The Guardian (“A student demonstrator, Elisa Ramos, left, and her mother, Betty Pena, shelter from teargas amid riots over budget cuts at the Capitol building in San Juan, Puerto Rico.”)
Online Sources- El Universal, Huffington Post, AFP, Christian Science Monitor

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Today's Video: Celebrating America

The Fourth of July is about to come to an end but we're still going to celebrate America the country as well as the Americas. Take it away, Caetano Veloso:

Online Source - YouTube

Weekend Headlines: July 4, 2010

* Mexico: An IBM study concluded that the traffic in Mexico City and Beijing is the worst among twenty major cities worldwide.

* Peru: Scientists recovered the fossil of a massive prehistoric whale that existed over twelve million years ago.

* Chile: According to recently declassified documents the CIA was involved in the assassination of one of Salvador Allende’s closest supporters in 1971.

* Argentina: In a unique tit-for-tat, visiting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad pledged to support Argentina’s claims to the Falklands in exchange for Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s backing of Syria’s claims to the Golan Heights.

Image – CNN (Traffic in Mexico City).
Online Sources- MSNBC, The Latin Americanist, Washington Post, AFP, Reuters