Friday, October 15, 2010

Euthanasia to be legalized in Venezuela?

The big news regarding Venezuela today is that President Hugo Chavez and his Russian counterpart inked several important energy pacts. For this post, however, we’ll focus on reports claiming that euthanasia could be legalized in that South American country.

According to Venezuelan daily El Universal, legislators are considering adding a clause on euthanasia to a major bill on crime prevention. Though the draft of the Organic Criminal Code (COP in Spanish) proposal doesn’t mention euthanasia by name, it would permit doctor-assisted suicide only under very specific circumstances. Those who could be eligible for such a procedure according to Article 163 of the text includes patients in the “incurable phase” of a terminal illness with their “clear and free” written consent as well as those “diagnosed with brain death.”

El Universal’s coverage of the COP draft has been controversial with one legislator accusing the newspaper of “manipulating information” in order to cause a scandal. Some conservative sectors such as the Venezuelan Catholic Church blasted the proposal over the article on euthanasia and another clause that would legalize first trimester abortions. According to a report from the Notimex agency, however, some members of the ruling party could shelve those sections partly due to the heated debate over abortion in the Brazilian presidential race.

Image- France24
Online Sources- El Universal,, The Guardian

Daily Headlines: October 15, 2010

* Haiti: The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved extending the presence of the 13,000-plus members “peacekeeping force” in Haiti.

* U.S.: Two Pennsylvania men were found guilty of hate crime charges in the 2008 beating death of an undocumented Mexican.

* Peru: Did President Alan Garcia slap a man who heckled him during a hospital visit last week?

* Guatemala: Ex-interior minister Carlos Vielman could be extradited from Spain in order to serve trial for the extrajudicial murders of seven inmates in 2006.

Image – MSNBC (“A U.N. peacekeeper from Nepal mans a machine gun from atop an armored vehicle as Haitians wait for food in Petionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince” last January.)
Online Sources-, Al Jazeera English, CNN, Monsters and Critics

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Chile: So now what?

The future is uncertain for the 33 Chilean miners rescued after being trapped underground for seventy days. For now the survivors are hospitalized though they are in very good health according to Dr. Jorge Montes, assistant director of the Copiapo Hospital. “Some are suffering from minor complications, but nothing to worry about," Montes mentioned and added that most of the men could be released from hospital as early as today.

Despite Montes’ positive prognosis, there remains the possibility that the survivors may have physiological trauma or other physical ailments. According to CNN health officials warned that there prolonged isolation could make them “more susceptible to the common cold or other viruses.”

After being the final worker rescued last night, shift leader Luis Urzua expressed his hope to President Sebastian Pinera that the rescue “should never happen again”. Pinera said today that he couldn’t guarantee future mining accidents yet vowed to improve safety regulations in various industries nationwide. “Never again in our country will we allow working in conditions so inhumane and so unsafe as happened in the San Jose mine” said Pinera who may soon introduce a series of reforms.

The rescue operation became a global media phenomenon with massive coverage via the Internet and from 24-hour TV news networks worldwide. The coverage hasn’t been universally praised; Tom Scocca of took exception to the New York Times characterization of the rescue as Pinera’s “extraordinary political calculation”:
In addition to being Chile's top-ranked politician, though, the president of Chile does have another role: he serves as the country's president. So beyond the very important tasks of maintaining his popularity and raising his international profile, is it possible that Piñera was trying to—how to say this?—lead his country?
Image- CNN (“Mario Gomez is escorted through Copiapo Hospital in Copiapo, Chile, on Wednesday.”)
Online Sources- CNN, Voice of America, The Latin Americanist, BBC News, Vancouver Sun,

Daily Headlines: October 14, 2010

* Ecuador: Thirteen police officers could be fired and 160 Air Force members face disciplinary charges over the alleged failed coup against President Rafael Correa last month.

* Brazil: The run for Brazil’s presidency has tightened up with the latest poll showing Jose Serra trimming away at Dilma Roussef’s lead.

* Peru: Police arrested a senior commander of the resurgent Shining Path guerillas according to the local press.

* Cuba: Hurricane Paula may weaken to tropical storm status but residents of western Cuba are still under high alert.

Image – Press TV (“Ecuadorean military patrols in front of the National Congress in Quito on October 5, 2010.”)
Online Sources- AFP, The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg, Reuters, MSNBC

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Alive! - 33 Chile miners rescued safely (Updated)

Note: Live video of the reactions to the rescue mission in Chile can be seen here.

Update (10:15 pm): For our last update of the evening we refer to this celebratory Tweet from The Guardian correspondent Rory Carroll who is in Chile:
Ok, now we party. Mine's the tallest fattest strongest pisco sour.
Update (9:45 pm): The six rescue workers remaining in the underground shelter unfurled a banner reading "Mission Accomplished Chile". But as mining minister Lawrence Golborne tweeted "we shouldn't forget" the group of rescuers. (They will return to terra firma tonight).

"We did it the Chilean way, which means the right way," said President Pinera at a press conference that ended minutes ago. He warned that those responsible for the accident on August 5th that blocked the miners initial escape from the mineshaft will "not be held in impunity". "We have experienced a night that we will never forget," added Pinera in English before the assembled press.

Update (9:10 pm):
Seventy days after being stuck underground the last trapped worker was finally rescued from the San Jose Mine.

After emerging from the Fenix rescue capsule Luis
Urzua expressed how proud he was of his co-workers and was received by a beaming Chilean president. "Viva Chile, shit!" exclaimed Sebastian Pinera before he, Urzua, and dozens of others at Camp Hope gave a rousing rendition of the Chilean national anthem.

Update (8:55 pm): What once seemed like an impossible dream has finally come true! Luis "Don Lucho" Urzua moments ago was the last of the 33 trapped miners to safely return to the surface:

Update (8:40 pm):
The Fenix capsule descends the narrow 622-meter deep shaft in order to rescue the final trapped Chilean miner, 54-year-old shift leader Luis Urzua. He hopes to have the same fate as some of his
liberated comrades freed today including:
  • Franklin Lobos, a former professional soccer player who received support from Spanish soccer star David Villa. (Villa's dad and grandfather used to be miners).
  • Renan Avalos, whose brother was the first miner to be rescued.
  • Esteban Rojas, who while underground proposed marriage to his girlfriend of 25 years.
  • Yonni Barrios, nicknamed "The Doctor" though unfortunately better known for his dalliances.
  • Ariel Ticona, the 32nd miner freed and who was daughter named Esperanza ("Hope") was born while he was underground.
Thirty-two down, one to go.

All 33 Chilean workers trapped underground since August 5th are expected to be rescued by tonight according to estimates from mining minister Lawrence Golborne. The rescue mission will likely be completed less than 24 hours after Florencio Avalos was the first worker freed late last night.

The rescue operation has earned attention from around the world and international figures have given their solidarity with the survivors and their families. The meticulous planning behind the operation, originally planned for December, has paid off as each of the workers has returned safely to the surface.

Online Sources - The Latin Americanist, The Guardian, Voice of America, and others throughout the updates
Image - MSNBC ("Residents cheer while watching on a large screen the rescue of the last miners trapped in the San Jose mine, in a public square of Copiapo, Wednesday. (Mariana Bazo / Reuters).")

Fox News Launches Latino Website

Fox News began a quiet overture to Latinos this week.

The news company just opened FoxNewsLatino yesterday, reports Mediate.

Today, the site focused on the good news of the Chile mine rescue, leading with a story of a woman who wouldn't meet her husband because his mistress was also invited.

On the top, a "Caliente" bar -- sometimes unavailable -- highlighted stories about Geraldo Rivera and Christina Aguilera.

A top lifestyle section story featured a 101-year-old woman gaining citizenship, a leading story earlier this week on CNN. News stories included state reluctance to enter Immigration and Custom Enforcement-led policing programs.

Although the Huffington Post and others reported the plans in the spring, the roll out has been quiet, with only a few news agencies taking note.

Michael Clemente, Fox News' senior vice president of news editorial, told Reuters earlier this year that Fox wanted to reach the ever-increasing amount of Latinos in the United States.

"About a third of the country is going to be of Latino heritage by 2050 and we thought it was time to launch a site with more of a focus," he said.

More specifically and recently, managing editor Alberto Vourvoulias-Bush told the Miami Herald that the site's aimed at second- and third-generation Latinos.

"We’re aiming at Latinos whose first language is English, who inform themselves in English, who are deeply American, but share some of the cultural sensibilities of their parents or grandparents," he said.

Sources: Fox News, Huffington Post, Miami Herald, Reuters

Photo: Fox News Latino

NBA Eyes Brazil

The National Basketball Association will bring its superstars to South America.

NBA Commissioner David Stern said preseason games are planned for Brazil, a first for the NBA, which has never staged games south of Mexico.

Adding to its local office in Mexico City, the league plans to open one in Brazil and is considering Argentina as well.

"We have great aspirations for our sport and our brand in Latin America," NBA vice president for Latin America Philippe Moggio said.

An upcoming face off between the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers will mark the league's 17th game in Mexico City and 19th in the country since 1992.


Photo: Brazilian Anderson Varejao plays for Cleveland.

Latin American Companies Ignore Facebook

Most Latin American companies don't take advantage of social networking tools.

According to Burson-Marsteller, a public relations and communications company, just under half -- 49 percent -- of Latin American companies use Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or other social media tools.

Globally, 79 percent of companies try to reach consumers this way, the firm's research team reported.

Most socially adept with networking tools was Mexico, with 80 percent using at least one social networking platform, followed by 75 percent of companies in Venezuela.

Lowest was Puerto Rico, with just 5 percent of companies socially networking.

Not surprisingly, the behemoth Facebook was found to be most popular, with 39 percent of companies placing their pages on the site.

Research also found that many companies might be discussed on Twitter, but don't themselves participate on the site.

Read more here.

Source: Burson-Marsteller

Photo: BusinessWeek

Chilean mining rescue continues (Updated)

Update (5:45 pm): 25 of the 33 trapped Chilean workers have successfully reached the surface in a rescue operation that may conclude roughly 24 hours after the first miner was rescued.

So far all of the miners are in satisfactory health. Health Minister Jaime Mañalich
admitted however that seven survivors required "special care" in hospital for ailments including acute pneumonia.

Original Post:
The rescue efforts to free 33 Chilean workers trapped in an underground mine have been almost nonstop since the first miner was liberated late last night.

According to Chilean president Sebastian Pinera the operation has gone on smoothly and ahead of schedule. “As a country, we have so many problems to face (but) I’m sure we’ll be able to do it, just as we’ve taken on this rescue operation,” said Pinera in remarks to the press earlier today. His optimism was shared by mining minister Lawrence Golborne who moments ago expressed his hope that all of the workers could safely reach the surface by the early evening hours.

As of the original publishing of this post eighteen of the workers have made it to the surface after being stuck over 600 meters in an underground shelter for nearly 70 days. Among those who have been freed thus far were:
  • Florencio Avalos who was the first miner to reach the surface at 1:00 am Chilean time;
  • Jimmy Sanchez and Mario Gomez, the youngest and oldest survivors (aged 19 and 63 respectively);
  • Mario Sepulveda, whose exuberance after emerging from the Fenix capsule earned him the nickname of "Super Mario" by Chilean newspaper El Mercurio;
  • Jose Ojeda, whose note that read "All 33 of us are safe in the shelter" was attached to a drill and found by rescuers on August 22nd;
  • Carlos Mamani, the lone non-Chilean worker who was offered a job and home for his family in his native Bolivia from President Evo Morales.
All the rescued workers appear to be in exceptional physical condition despite the immense difficulties of being trapped for so long underground. Yet health experts quoted in several newspapers warned that they could face psychological trauma and problems like respiratory illness and eye damage.

The rescue operation at the San Jose mine has captured the attention of international traditional sources as well as blogs and social networking sites. Perhaps the most interesting headline comes from Spain's El Mundo whose headline features black and white photos of the miners that are turned to color with each rescued worker.

The miners' plight has been used as a marketing opportunity for companies like a Greek mining firm that has offered free trips to Europe for the rescued miners. At least one idea made in August, the offer of one-years worth of free sushi, backfired and the company's president was forced to publicly apologize.

Online Sources - The Latin Americanist, LAHT, The Hindu, CBS News, New York Daily News, El Mundo, The Guardian
Image - CBS News ("Thirty-one year old Alex Vega became the tenth rescued miner at the site of the San Jose mine in Copiapo, Chile, on October 13, 2010.")

Daily Headlines: October 13, 2010

* Latin America: According to a report from the Global Wind Energy Council and Greenpeace Latin American countries are increasing their use of wind power as an energy source.

* El Salvador: President Mauricio Funes apologized to indigenous communities for the "persecution (and) the extermination of which they were victims” since encountering the first European explorers over five centuries ago.

* Colombia: Colombia will join Brazil as the two Latin American and Caribbean countries to hold temporary seats on the U.N. Security Council.

* U.S.: Lastly, the tale of a woman of Mexican background who became a U.S. citizen 101 years after she came to the U.S. as a newborn baby.

Image – The Guardian (“A prototype Hywind floating wind turbine” placed off the British coast).
Online Sources- LAHT, Voice of America, Reuters, Time

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Chile: Mining rescue mission underway (Updated)

Image - Monsters and Critics ("Juan Illanes (C), the third Chilean miner rescued, is applauded by Chile's President Sebastian Pinera (R) after being raised to the surface during the rescue operation at the San Jose mine near Copiapo, Chile, on 13 October 2010. ")

Note: Live video of the rescue mission via Chilean television can be seen here.

Update (1:35 am): While the rescue efforts continue in Copiapo I'm afraid this will be the final update of the evening.

It has been a very emotional past few hours in Chile filled with smiles, tears, and joy. Hopefully the rescue operation can continue smoothly and all of the trapped workers will soon be free.

Viva Chile!

Update (1:20 am): An inspiring reaction by Illanes according to the BBC:
As Juan Illanes emerges, he is asked how his trip was. His reply? "Like a cruise!" Smiles all round.
In the meantime preparations are under way to rescue the fourth trapped worker, Bolivian heavy machinery operator Carlos Mamani.

Update (1:08 am): Three down, thirty to go - Juan Illanes safely returned to the surface moments ago much to the delight of his overjoyed wife.

Update (12:55 am): Juan Illanes is about to board the Fenix capsule en route to the surface. He is married and has one son. He is a former corporal and even fought against Argentine troops during a border dispute over thirty years ago..

Update (12:45 am): Juan Illanes is about to board the Fenix capsule en route to the surface. He is married and has one son. He is a former corporal and even fought against Argentine troops during a border dispute over thirty years ago.

Update (12:30 am): The Fenix is on it's way to get the third miner to be rescued: 51-year-old Juan Illanes.

Update (12:18 am):
Sepulveda stepped out of the Fenix capsule and gave emotional hugs to numerous rescue workers, officials, and his family. While Avalos' arrival was subdued, Sepulveda jumped, shouted, and was very energetic. He even gave out small pieces of rock as souveniers to some of those in the crowd!

Update (12:10 am):
Mario Sepulveda emerged from the Fenix capsule and thus becomes the second rescued miner.

Update (11:58 pm): Mario Sepulveda is on his way back to the surface. The BBC News liveblog of the rescue describes him as " the undisputed star of the videos sent up by the miners...Quick-witted and charismatic, he is already in demand among Chile's TV chat shows."

Update (11:55 pm): Correction - Mario Sepulveda is not the lone non-Chilean of the miners. That would be Carlos Mamani who is fourth on the rescue list. Sorry for the error.

Update (11:45 pm): The rescue capsule has just reached the miners' shelter in order to rescue Mario Sepulveda. The 32-year-old originally from Bolivia is the only non-Chilean of the miners and he's expected to be greeted by Bolivian president Evo Morales after his trip in the Fenix.

At a news conference from the San Jose mine
Chilean president Sebastian Pinera praised the rescue team with successfully rescuing Florencio Avalos. With an enormous grin on his face he vowed that the other 32 trapped miners will be safely rescued.

Update (11:19 pm): After spending over two months trapped below ground, Avalos arrived amongst an outpouring of emotion at the San Jose mine. He hugged his wife and son after emerging from the Fenix capsule.

Avalos appeared groggy and a little weak after exiting the Fenix. He was subsequently taken on a stretcher to receive medical attention.

A second rescue worker is entering the Fenix en route to fetch the next miner to be freed.

Update (11:11 pm): Florencio Avalos becomes the first of 33 miners to finally return to the surface!

Update (10:55 pm): After explaining the details of the rescue mission to the trapped miners, the Fenix capsule began its ascent with miner Florencio Avalos. The trip up to the surface could take between 15 to 20 minutes.

Avalos is expected to be greeted by family members including his father and possibly by Chilean president Sebastian Pinera. Afterwords Avalos will likely head to the triage area for medical examination.

Update (10:38 pm): Video from the shelter where the trapped miners are located shows that the Fenix capsule descended safely. Rescue worker Manuel Gonzalez is received with cries of "Chi! Chi! Chi! Le! Le! Le!" by the miners.

Update (10:30 pm):
The Fenix chamber with rescue worker Manuel Gonzalez will be lowered down at the speed of one meter per second. The speed could be increased slightly after he secures the first rescued miner, Florencio Avalos. Each trip up and down the 624-meter long shaft could take between roughly 25 to 40 minutes.

Update (10:20 pm):
It's go time - a rescue worker began his descent in the Fenix capsule and his on his way to try to rescue the first miner.

Update (9:35 pm):
The last test is being conducted at the San Jose mine and the first miner could be rescued before midnight.

The final preparations are underway in Copiapo, Chile in anticipation of a planned rescue operation of 33 trapped miners.

Mining minister Lawrence Goldborne said that if all goes well the first miner, 31-year-old Florencio Avalos, will be freed by midnight Chilean time (11 p.m. ET). Nonetheless, this could be delayed by the final tests of the Fenix ("Phoenix") capsule that will travel down a narrow rescue tunnel over 600 meters below the surface to an emergency shelter where the miners have resided.

Anticipation runs high among the families and loved ones of the workers who have been stuck underground after a tunnel collapse on August 5th. "Right now I'm calm, though still very anxious. I hope my nerves don't betray me when the rescue starts," said the wife of trapped worker Alex Salgado to the AP.

The risks are many in the unprecedented rescue attempt though numerous precautions have been taken; for example, each miner will be wearing a special "bio-harness" while in the rescue capsule and each worker will be taken to a medical triage station after arriving on the surface.

The trapped miners range in age from 18 to 63 and all but one are of Chilean background. The first group of miners to be freed includes a Bolivian and were selected as they "have been deemed fit and who possess the most technical know-how so that they can advise the rescue teams."

Online Source - The Globe and Mail, BBC News, MSNBC, CNN

World Watch: Hooligans

* Europe: The Euro 2012 soccer qualifier between Italy and Serbia in Genoa was suspended reportedly due to the disruptive antics of a group of visiting fans.

* Sudan: A 2005 peace agreement that ended Sudan's civil war is in danger of failing after talks over a disputed region ended without a resolution.

* Hungary: Could more vigilant inspectors have prevented the wave of toxic sludge that swept through several towns and killed at least eight people?

* Israel: An Israeli court convicted a Palestinian "protest leader" who organized demontstrations against a wall being erected along the West Bank.

Online Sources - Voice of America, MSNBC, BBC News, Reuters,
Image - The Guardian

Today’s Video: Pineapple express

Do the ends justify the means? This is the main question being examined in the following thought-provoking video from the website of British daily The Guardian. The video claims that the low cost of pineapples for consumption in Europe belies the environmental damage and labor abuses in Costa Rica:

What do you think?

Daily Headlines: October 12, 2010

* Brazil: Sunday’s TV debate between presidential candidates Dilma Rousseff and Jose Serra got ugly as each exchanged accusations of flip-flopping and lying.

* Cuba: Not everyone in the Americas is happy that Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa won the Nobel Prize in Literature last week.

* Venezuela: The government has ordered the nationalization of a foreign-owned fertilizer plant and also announced a bill that would expropriate certain unused urban lands.

* Honduras: Authorities have ordered residents in low-lying areas to evacuate as Tropical Storm Paula is expected to become a hurricane.

Image – BBC News
Online Sources- NASDAQ, AP, MSNBC, Reuters, The Latin Americanist

Monday, October 11, 2010

World Watch: Nine years and counting

* Afghanistan: As U.S.-led coalition troops continue their ninth year in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai confirmed reports that his government was talking with Taliban commanders.

* Hungary: Authorities are worried that a second reservoir could break in the same industrial plant where a “toxic tsunami” killed four villagers last week.

* China: Human rights activists are concerned over the safety of the wife of jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo who was placed under house arrest after she visited her husband.

* Iran: Two journalists who tried to interview an Iranian woman sentenced to death for adultery were themselves arrested.

Image – CBS News (“Trucks carrying fuel for NATO forces in Afghanistan burn following an attack by militants in the remote Mitri area, 112 miles southeast of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province on October 9, 2010.”)
Online Sources- Voice of America, BBC News, MSNBC, Al Jazeera English

Argentina peeved over Falklands military maneuvers

Diplomacy between Argentina and Britain has been strained for decades due to competing claims of sovereignty over the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas. The lowest point in bilateral relations was the Falklands War in 1982 though both countries continue to quarrel over the archipelago located nearly 300 miles from the Argentine coast.

The latest kerfuffle over the Falklands concerns British plans to conduct military exercises on the islands. A spokesman for the British Foreign Office told CNN that such maneuvers are “routine”, conducted on a regular basis, and part of standard military procedure. (During military exercises carried out last year British officials said they were necessary to prepare “the regiment's training for deployment in Afghanistan.”)

The Argentine government responded to the British plans with indignation and disappointment. Deputy Foreign Minister Alberto D'Alotto sent a “formal and energetic” letter of protest to British diplomats over the exercises that will reportedly include the deployment of missiles. Argentina’s Ambassador to the U.N. also said that he would present a formal complaint addressing “the United Kingdom has been failing to comply with several UN resolutions all these past years.” The government may also present complaints to the UNASUR regional bloc as well as the Organization of American States.

The governments of Venezuela and Uruguay have given their strong support to Argentine President Cristina Kirchner over this latest dispute. In several postings to her Twitter account that were later deleted, Kirchner vigorously critiqued the upcoming British military drills:
"Serious, very serious," Mrs. Kirchner wrote. "Royal Navy, occupying colonial force in Falkland Islands, reports military exercise with missiles on the coast of East Falkland.

"Typical nineteenth century colonialism. Anachronistic use of force in violation of international law. They do not care. A clear example of double standards."
Image- CNN (“Britain, which fought a war against Argentina over the Falklands, keeps a military presence on the islands.”)
Online Sources-, The Latin Americanist, CNN, UPI, Reuters, Buenos Aires Herald,, The Telegraph

Report: Cell phone use soars in Latin America

If you were to be asked, “what is the world’s second-largest market for mobile devices?” perhaps you may guess regions with advance industrial nations like North America or Western Europe. Another assumption may be made for the continent of Africa with its burgeoning populace.

The surprising answer, however, is Latin America.

A new report by Wireless Intelligence found that Latin America is only behind the Asia-Pacific region in terms of mobile use in the second quarter of this year. The 530 million mobile connections in Latin America represent 11% of the world’s global users, according to the study. Thus, the region surpassed Western Europe (515 million users) for the first time and is also ahead of fourth-place Africa by about 34 million users.

Wireless Intelligence also found that Brazil is the Latin American country with the most connections, 188 million, and also the world’s fifth-largest mobile market. Though Brazil accounted for roughly one-third of Latin American users the report also noted exponential growth in the Caribbean. Hence, one researcher found that there’s plenty of room for growth in the Americas:
Joss Gillet, Wireless Intelligence Senior Analyst says, “In recent quarters, Latin American mobile operators have increased their marketing and technological investments, which have had a positive impact on connections growth. This has also led to increased demand for new data services in the region. Compared to the more saturated European markets, the Americas region still has plenty of room for growth.”
Despite being in second Latin America has a long way to catch up to the Asia-Pacific; that area has nearly half of the world’s mobile users with over 2.4 billion connections.

Image- Reuters (“A woman stands in front of a mobile phone shop in Mexico City October 2009.”)
Online Sources- Total Telecom, Enterprise Communications Europe, The Independent, AFP

"Happy 'Vespucci Day'!" revisted

Note: This post originally appeared on The Latin Americanist in 2009.

Today is Columbus Day in the U.S. and depending on your perspective it’s either an occasion to celebrate the “discovery” of America or denounce European atrocities against Amerindians.

Columbus Day is also celebrated as a day of Italian-American heritage including the contributions of Italian migrants to the U.S. While such a community deserves their day of cultural pride, I’ve often wondered if the day ought to be named for another Italian explorer without Columbus’ checkered past. As I’ve mentioned in the past, why not rename Columbus Day?
A case could be made for cartographer and explorer Amerigo Vespucci, whose name gave birth to calling the western hemisphere “America.” Why not Antonio Pigafetta who was one of a handful of survivors from Ferdinand Magellan’s famed voyage around the world between 1519 and 1522 or Giovanni da Verrazano- the first European to explore the Atlantic coast of North America. Surely a strong case could be made for Giovanni Caboto (more commonly known as John Cabot) who was Genoa-born and lays claim to being the first European explorer to set foot on the North American mainland since the Vikings.

These gentlemen are not only sources of Italian pride but also beacons of discovery and exploration whose legacies carry far less of a stigma than Christopher Columbus.
What are your thoughts on Columbus, the holiday named in his honor, and his legacy?

Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, CBS News, Wikipedia, Thinkquest

Daily Headlines: October 11, 2010

* Ecuador: Authorities indefinitely extended the state of emergency in Quito that had originally been put in place after a supposed coup attempt against President Rafael Correa on September 30th.

* Cuba:
Havana's Catholic archibishop said that the government will release three more political prisoners in addition to the 52 already pledged to be freed.

* Brazil: With a little less than three weeks to go in the Brazilian presidential race a recent poll showed that Dilma Rousseff has a narrow seven point lead ahead of Jose Serra.

* Peru: Brazil's Petrobras division in Peru made a major discovery by finding over 1.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in an undergound well.

Online Sources - Bloomberg, Reuters, AHN, CNN, The Latin Americanist
Image - Press TV ("Ecuadorean military patrols in front of the National Congress in Quito on October 5, 2010.")