Friday, September 3, 2010

De Musica Ligera: Fun in the sun

Though Monday may be Labor Day here in the States we won’t be taking the day off and we’ll be posting on that day. For now, we leave you with a great song from Spanish musician Pablo Díaz-Reixa a.k.a. El Guincho. His next album entitled “Pop Negro” will be released on September 13th. The following song entitled “Antillas” has been aptly described by the Stereogum music blog as a “five-minute bundle of clattering loops and sunny harmonies”. It is an ideal summer song whether that season is near its end as it is in the U.S. or soon to commence in several South American countries.

Online Sources-, YouTube, Stereogum

World Watch: Baby steps?

* Middle East: Some progress was made this week yet plenty of obstacles still remain to be tackled in future discussions between the leaders of Israel and Palestine.

* Portugal: Six men including a former TV presenter were sentenced after being convicted of child sex abuse at an orphanage.

* New Zealand: No major damages have been reported in a magnitude 7.0 earthquake that shook New Zealand.

* Pakistan: At least 53 people were killed when a bomb exploded at a political rally in southwestern Pakistan.

Image – CNN (“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas make a public display before Hillary Clinton.”)
Online Sources- CNN, BBC News, Voice of America, Christian Science Monitor

Daily Headlines: September 3, 2010

* Latin America: The chairman for Indian-owned Tata Motors said that the firm has plans to sell the “world’s cheapest car”, the $2500 Nano, in Latin America.

* U.S.: Officials in Ohio are putting restrictions on Puerto Ricans who want to obtain state IDs and licenses due to concerns over birth certificates.

* Peru: According to researchers the Amazon River is at its lowest level in nearly 40 years in northeastern Peru; thus endangering the local area’s economy.

* Colombia: Police seized over $28 million that may have been linked between Colombian and Mexican drug gangs.

Image – (The Tata Nano was first unveiled in late 2008 and the basic model includes cost-cutting innovations such as having a singe windshield wiper and no radio or air conditioning.)
Online Sources- Bloomberg, Xinhua, AP, BBC News

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Cribs: 'La Barbie' Edition

As we highlighted earlier, Edgar Valdez Villarreal, aka 'La Barbie', was arrested this week in Mexico, ending his run as one of the top capos in the business. This video (in Spanish) of Valdez speaking after his arrest shows La Barbie looking forlorn and dejected, a far cry from the high-flying lifestyle he led as a top drug boss in Mexico.

La Barbie was taken as the home pictured above - check out more pictures of the pad here. It wasn't exactly Pablo Escobar's famous "Hacienda Napolés," but with flat screens, Cartier and Gucci boxes, pool tables, and a decently stocked bar La Barbie certainly had a comfortable spot during his last free moments.

Even before his arrest, La Barbie couldn't exactly enjoy the huge profits from the reported ton of cocaine he sent into the US each month, as he was in a vicious struggle with Hector Beltrán Leyva for control of the Beltrán Leyva Cartel after the death last year of former boss Arturo Beltrán Leyva. The battle resulted in a grizzly internecine conflict that recently saw the headless bodies of four associates of La Barbie hung from a bridge in Cuernavaca with warning notes that the same fate awaited others who assisted him. A few months earlier one of his top 'enforces' was beheaded on camera in a grizzly assassination posted on the Blog del Narco.

Image Source: Huffington Post via AP
Online Sources: BBC Mundo, Huffington Post, BBC News, Reuters, Dallas Morning News, Yahoo! News, YouTube, Blog del Narco

More Details Emerge on Killed Migrants

Last week we told you about the migrants massacred in Mexico.

But as more details are emerging about the murder, many are wondering, what really happened that night?

Today, the AP reported that another victim, initially kept secret, had survived.

An 18-year-old Ecuadorean had previously been known to escape and tell Mexican marines what happened. He is now in a witness protection program in his home country.

The outing of the Hondruan, the second survivor, angered the government, who called Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa irresponsible to divulge the information.

As of Wednesday, they had identified 16 Hondurans, 13 Salvadorans, five Guatemalans and one Brazilian among the bodies found Aug. 24.

The AP also reports that authorities think that the massacred migrants couldn't pay ransoms and refused to work for the gang.

The survivor told authorities that the killers intercepted the migrants on a highway with five cars, jumping out of the vehicles and saying they were Zetas.

They tied them all up and took them to the ranch, where they were killed for refusing the gang's demands, according to the AP.

The New York Times tells the story of one family waiting to receive the body of what might be their son, a victim.

The Zetas are a drug gang that's been known to extort migrants.

Sources: AP, NYT


Reality Show Patrols Border

The second season of "Border Wars" premiered this week, showing Border Patrol agents prowling the border.

In "Checkpoint Texas," one of the premiere episodes, agents follow footprints and assist sick migrants they find in the desert. Catching some in the dusty desert, they also disturb a drug cartel as their narcotics-filled van plunges into the river.

In one case, the agents narrate their search to the cameras as the follow a group through the dust.

"Hands on your head!" they tell migrants in Spanish, as night vision cameras record the scenes.

"There are seven in all, and they look exhausted from their journey," the narrator tells the audience.

The travelers say they're from Brazil and Sri Lanka, which the narrator explains is unusual -- they are usually from Mexico.

It's just in time, he adds.

"A few minutes later, and they could be in a van, headed toward Houston," the narrator said.

"it's a bitter end to a harrowing journey," the narrator said, as the man from Sri Lanka said he had been traveling for two months to escape war in his county. In broken English, he explains how he flew to Brazil first, traveling from there.

The team also encountered an injured woman and her daughter, who had been walking by themselves for two days. They're dehydrated and barely walking.

The mother explains that at first, they were told they would only need to walk for two hours, but after crossing the border, they were told seven or eight hours. Her daughter had an asthma attack, and the group left them alone.

Later this season, you can follow the team find a car with ammunition hidden in the console in "Contraband Highway" and determine whether twin girls are really escorted by their father in "Last Defense."

Source and Photo: National Geographic

Today’s Video: Ghost town

No the following video is not a Brazilian version of "28 Days Later", but it's footage of the eerily quiet streets of Sao Paulo while Brazil plays a pivotal match in this year's World Cup. It truly is a ghost town:

190 milhões sem ação from Xlab on Vimeo.

(Hat tip: The Offside.)

Online Sources - Vimeo, Wikipedia, The Offside

Daily Headlines: September 2, 2010

* U.S.: According to the Pew Hispanic Center illegal immigration into the U.S. has plummeted since 2007, especially in immigrants from Latin American countries other than Mexico.

* Mexico: The government confirmed that a second migrant survived the massacre of 72 people last week at a Tamaulipas ranch.

* Cuba: In an interview this week Fidel Castro said that he was “responsible” for widespread discrimination against gays during his time in power.

* Bolivia: Iran loaned Bolivia over $250 million that could be used to “fund mineral exploration and the development of the textile industry.”

Image – AFP
Online Sources- Voice of America, AP, The Latin Americanist, CNN, BBC News

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Daily Headlines: September 1, 2010

* Mexico: Suspected drug capo Edgar Valdez Villarreal “el Barbie” could be extradited to the U.S. after he was arrested near Mexico City on Monday.

* Brazil: President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said that he would help fight poverty throughout the Americas after he leaves office at the end of this year.

* Venezuela: A farmer who staged eight previous hunger strikes against the government passed away this week after fasting for months.

* Argentina: Francisco Varallo, the latest surviving player of the first World Cup final in 1930, died at the age of 100.

Image – The Telegraph
Online Sources- Voice of America, Canadian Press, AHN, BBC News

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

World Watch: Border battle

* Middle East: The UN Security Council strongly rebuked both Israeli and Lebanese authorities for a border clash in July that cost the lives of four people.

* Indonesia: Thousands of residents near the Sinabung volcano worry that it could keep erupting after being dormant for roughly four centuries.

* U.S.: According to researchers the severity of multiple sclerosis may change depending on the seasons.

* Germany: A member of Germany’s central bank has refused to resign after making “disparaging remarks” about Muslims and Jews.

Image – PRESS TV
Online Sources- BBC News, New York Times, Sydney Morning Herald, Xinhua

Mexico Woos Gay Tourists

As Mexico's tourism industry is threatened by recent drug cartel violence, officials are eyeing a new tourist block: same-sex honeymooners.

Mexico's highlighting the honeymoon of the first couple married under Argentina's new law allowing gay marriage, who are treated to an all-expenses-paid vacation in Mexico City.

Mexico City has an office specifically for recruiting gay tourists.

"We are a very tolerant, liberal, avant-garde city," tourism secretary Alejandro Rojas told CNN.

Officials hope to train hotels and restaurants on sensitivity and create maps with gay-friendly attractions. An international gay tourism conference is also on the table.

After Mexico City approved a gay marriage law last year, conservatives are pushing for laws banning same-sex nuptials. Earlier this week, the Council of Catholic Analysts of Mexico encouraged a boycott of Mexico City.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender travelers spend $63 billion traveling annually in the U.S. alone, CNN reported.

Sources: CNN, Catholic News Agency

Photo: Newshopper, gay rights activists in Mexico City

Lula Eyes International Poverty

Lula knows his next step.

The Brazilian president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, said after leaving office, he'll focus on poverty.

In his weekly newspaper column, he said he'll take what he's learned from running social programs to help African and Latin American countries build wealth.

Ideas include sharing technology.

“It’s sharing the good we’ve learned, to have solidarity with our brothers from other countries," he said.

The president, who's barred from pursuing a third term but has a 79 percent approval rating, also wants to implement political reform in Brazil, Bloomberg reported.

As Brazil's first working-class president, Lula has become known for fighting against poverty. He grew up shining shoes and working as a delivery boy, according to a Reuters profile.

As president his program Bolsa Familia paid families a monthly stipend if they get regular medical check-ups and enroll children in school.

Sources: Business Week, Reuters

Photo: The Washington Note

Daily Headlines: August 31, 2010

* Colombia: An Ecuadorian judge revoked an arrest order against Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos while representatives from both states try to improve diplomatic ties.

* Brazil: With Rio de Janeiro hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics, the Brazilian government is encouraging tourists to visit the metropolis’ slums.

* U.S.: Cristina Saralegui, the personality described by one source as the “Spanish Oprah”, announced that she would soon retire her TV talk show after twenty years on the air.

* Cuba: "I was at death's door…but I came back," said former Cuban leader Fidel Castro in an interview with Mexican daily La Jornada.

Image – The Guardian (Earlier this month the presidents of Venezuela and Colombia vowed to improve ties between the neighboring states).
Online Sources- Reuters, Canadian Press, The Latin Americanist

Immigration Patrolling Northern Border

In talking with people from Latin American about the US' immigration laws, I like to note that people residing in the US - even in Arizona - are subject to less stringent immigration checks than occur in the countries that send droves of immigrants to the US. Never in the US, I like to point out, will police knock on doors in hotels to ask for proof I'm in the country legally (as has happened to me in Honduras).

Or so I thought. The New York Times reports today on the federal government's expanded use of border and documents checks along the areas near the Canadian border. Government agents are more regularly boarding public transit, including trains, and asking passengers to prevent proof of their legal status.

The catch, which the agents are unlikely to point out, is that passengers have no legal obligation to provide such proof. As the Times story points out:
"Legal scholars say the government’s border authority, which extends to fixed checkpoints intercepting cross-border traffic, cannot be broadly applied to roving patrols in a swath of territory. But such authority is not needed to ask questions if people can refuse to answer."
The government defends the practice as a vital part of its national security and immigration strategy, but several critics say the practices are another example of the government overreaching its authority.

Image Source: New York Times ("Border Patrol agents in the north routinely board Greyhound buses and Amtrak trains to check the immigration status of riders.")
Online Sources: Fox News, New York Times

Monday, August 30, 2010

World Watch: Relief?

* Pakistan: According to emergency officials floodwaters in southern Pakistan have started to recede yet millions of people continue to be affected by the adverse conditions.

* North Korea: The White House broadened sanctions against people and entities that support North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

* Somalia: Four African Union peacekeeping troops were killed by a mortar attack in Mogadishu.

* France: Despite growing international condemnation French authorities will continue with the deportation of illegal Roma residents.

Image – PRESS TV
Online Sources- BBC News, CNN, MSNBC, Xinhua

Luck Mervil tries to make a difference in Haiti

Much has been said in over the past few weeks over Wyclef Jean’s run for the presidency. Yet there is another Haitian musician who has attempted to help his countrymen ravaged by earthquakes and poverty.

Luck Mervil is a Haitian-born and Quebec-raised singer best known in Canada for being a member of the band Rudeluck since the 1990s. The expat has forged a successful music career yet he will soon leave it all behind in order to launch an ambitious housing project in Haiti. Mervil’s Vilaj Vilaj project will use shipping containers in order to be used as homes for 5,000 people.

Each residence will use materials to protect families from the hot and stormy weather that tends to hit Haiti. Mervil showed off a prototype days ago in Montréal that cost several thousand dollars yet he believes that costs will be low due to hundreds of shipping containers left behind due to Haiti’s import-driven economy.

The Vilaj Vilaj project is ambitious and will rely solely on private donations, but Mervil is confident that it can be done:
"I'm putting everything aside just to do this: by (building) the village, the idea is not to put a village there and leave, we're building the village with the people," Mervil said in a telephone interview.

"We came up with a solution where everything (we need) was already on the ground and part of the solution is that people are going to build their own village."
Before Jean was barred from running for president, Mervil predicted that Jean could win November’s elections.

Image- CBC (“Luck Mervil will be working with Vilaj Vilaj, an initiative to build homes in Haiti from recycled shipping containers, like the one seen here on display in Montreal Aug. 11, 2011.”)
Online Sources- CBC, CTV, CANOE, Winnipeg Free Press

Mexico: Rash of violence sweeps Tamaulipas

Last week Mexican police uncovered the corpses of 72 migrants dumped in a Tamaulipas ranch. Sadly violence in that northern Mexican state did not cease over the weekend.

Gunmen murdered Marco Antonio Leal Garcia, the mayor of Hidalgo, on Sunday while he was driving his car. Authorities suspected that drug gangs were behind the attack against Leal, who was less than four months away from finishing his term as mayor of the town of 25,000 inhabitants. His four-year-old daughter accompanied him when he was gunned down yet she survived with some wounds.

Leal’s death came one day after a police station was bombed in Tampico while fifteen people in Reynosa were injured after unknown assailants lobbed grenades near the morgue where the 72 dead migrants were kept. On Friday, meanwhile, there were no fatalities after a pair of car bombs was detonated in the Tamaulipas capital city of Ciudad Victoria. On that same day, one of the investigators looking into the deaths of the migrants from several Latin American countries disappeared and his dead body may’ve been found.

President Felipe Calderon emphatically denounced the “cowardly crime and reprehensible violent acts” in Tamaulipas and last week introduced a measure designed to combat illegal money laundering. Earlier today the federal government fired 3200 police officers in a move designed to combat corruption. Yet it remains to be seen if these measures will be enough to calm northern Mexican residents fearful of more violence and migrants targeted for exploitation by criminals:
About 300 illegal immigrants took to the streets of Saltillo, the capital of the northern state of Coahuila, to protest the killings of 72 migrants at a ranch in northeastern Mexico last week.

The protesters, who wore masks, carried the flags of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

Dozens of Mexicans joined the migrants to express their solidarity and condemn the fact that “killings are becoming a daily occurrence,” organizers said.
The Zetas drug gang has been blamed for the deaths of the 72 migrants whose whereabouts were tipped off by the massacre’s lone survivor, a young man originally from Ecuador. The Zetas and other drug organizations have fought for control of Tamaulipas as part of the deadly narcotics trade.

Image- BBC News
Online Sources- Al Jazeera English, AFP, UPI, LAHT, Bloomberg, BBC News

Today’s Video: That's amore

There is a cliche that says that "love conquers all." In the case of one of the Chilean miners trapped below ground for nearly four weeks, the love he has for his girlfriend of over 25 years may help him survive until he possibly gets rescued in December:

Online Source - CNN

Daily Headlines: August 30, 2010

* Cuba: The government introduced several “free-market decrees” designed to improve the country’s sagging economy including changing property laws for potential foreign owners.

* Chile: Workers are expected to start drilling a shaft today in order to rescue 33 miners trapped several hundred yards underneath the surface.

* Mexico: Mexicana airlines suspended all of its flights on Saturday while the company is mired in financial difficulties.

* Venezuela: Guyana, the Caribbean’s largest rice producer, will sell 70,000 tons of rice to Venezuela in order to pay off part of its PetroCaribe oil debt.

Image – The Telegraph (“2.5 million Cubans over the age of 54 no longer will get four packs of cigarettes as part of the country's ration program.”)
Online Sources- AP, MSNBC, The Latin Americanist, BusinessWeek, Al Jazeera English