Friday, November 5, 2010

Today’s Video: Haiti's unfair burden

Deadly earthquakes. Abject poverty. Cholera. And now this:

Hurricane Tomas has thus far killed seven people in Haiti.

And to think, according to the U.N. the damage and deaths could have been worse.


Online Sources - Reuters
Video Source - YouTube

Peru: Lori Berenson released…again

Convicted rebel ally Lori Berenson was freed on parole by a Peruvian judge. This may sound like déjà vu but it’s not:
A Peruvian court Friday granted freedom to U.S. citizen Lori Berenson, who has served 15 years of a 20-year prison sentence for collaborating with leftist insurgents.

Berenson, who will turn 41 next week, was initially freed in May but sent back to jail in August when a panel of judges ruled the release of the American was flawed because police had failed to confirm where she would be living in Lima while on parole.
It’s unknown if Berenson, a U.S. citizen who gave birth to a child while jailed last year, will again petition to leave Peru and return to the U.S. Peruvian president Alan Garcia did admit in a September interview that she was “not a threat” to his country and seemed inclined to have her leave. The same may not be said for most Peruvians who “widely disapproved of the decision to release her” according to polls cited by BBC News.

Image- CBS News (“U.S. activist Lori Berenson attends her hearing at court in Lima, Peru, Monday Aug. 16, 2010. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia).”)
Online Sources- BBC News, MSNBC, The Latin Americanist, Reuters, Gothamist

Honduras: Truth commission continues investigating

This week a Honduran truth commission heard testimony on the aftermath of the June 2009 ouster of former president Manuel Zelaya.

The panel, which started its work last May, has focused is work on allegations of human rights violations during the de facto rule of Roberto Micheletti and current president Porfirio Lobo. Board member Eduardo Stein told the local press that the commission may call on Micheletti and Zelaya to testify this month in order to discuss “the political decisions taken in the days an hours” after Zelaya was ousted.

Last month the commission has heard complaints from several mayors who accused Lobo of withholding constitutionally mandated funds. On Wednesday the panel heard from Honduran journalists who claimed that their rights where “violated” by the government and security forces.

The mountain of information received by the commission will be examined and presented in a report next year. Commission president Elsie Monge of Ecuador told the press that the board’s work is valuable and necessary:
“The work we must do as a Truth Commission is fundamentally to investigate, clear up the truth over what happened and reconstruct history. For without recognizing the past one cannot at in the present, much less construct a future.”
While the board’s results remain to be seen, Honduran officials denied that there was a state policy designed to violate human rights. In testimony to the U.N. Human Rights Council this week, Vice President María Antonieta Bográn admitted that Honduras suffered from high levels of violence but blamed it on “organized crime.”

The White House has been reluctant to condemn Honduras for any human rights violations and State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley admitted last month that the U.S. would like to see Honduras reintegrated into the Organization of American States. That news may not sit well with Honduran human rights activist Bertha Oliva who said to IPS that here have been over 1000 violations since Lobo assumed the presidency in January.

Image- EPA (Current Honduran president Porfirio Lobo).
Online Sources-, EPA,, UPI, IPS, Adital, Radio Netherlands Worldwide

Chilean porn to focus on rescued miners

Some things are too difficult to believe.

The 33 Chilean workers freed from a caved-in mine last month have become celebrities both domestically and internationally. (Just ask amateur Elvis impersonator/future marathon runner Edison Pena). Plans are in the works in Hollywood to make a featured film (directed by Madonna?) on the rescued miners though one upcoming movie could raise plenty of eyebrows.

As reported by the EFE news service, Chilean director Leonardo Barrera announced that he would be behind the lens of a porn film on the freed workers. “The intention is not to show a massive orgy on the screen” but rather to do something serious said the adult film auteur to Chile’s Radio Cooperativa. He viewed the miners “not as heroes but as victims of a broken system” that “provoked” the mine accident that left them trapped underground for approximately 69 days.

Barrera’s “vision” may include “anecdotes” on the 24-hour rescue mission and the tale of philandering worker Yoanni Barrios. The film will supposedly be titled “La Mina Se Comio los 33”, (“The Mine that Ate the 33”), a very risqué title since “mina” is a slang term in Chile for an attractive young lady.

It’s unknown if any of the rescued workers will receive or share any of the profits from the film by Barrera.

Image- The Guardian (“Photograph: Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images.”)
Online Sources-, Gawker, El Tiempo, La Cuarta, Urban Dictionary, The Telegraph

Daily Headlines: November 6, 2010

* Cuba: All 68 people on a plane en route to Havana died after the twin turboprop crashed in a mountainous area of Cuba.

* Peru: President Alan Garcia asked the White House to help Peru recover thousands of artifacts taken from Machu Picchu nearly a century ago.

* Central America: Organization of American States chief Jose Miguel Insulza will visit Costa Rica and Nicaragua in order to try to calm tensions between both countries.

* Mexico: U.S. and Mexican police discovered a 600-yead long drug smuggling tunnel between Tijuana and San Diego.

Image – MSNBC (“Cuban government media posted this picture of where the AeroCaribbean plane went down Thursday with 68 aboard in Guasimal, Cuba”.)
Online Sources- CTV, AFP, CNN, Sydney Morning Herald

Thursday, November 4, 2010

World Watch: Contrition

* Croatia: Serbian President Boris Tadic apologized to Croatia for atrocities committed during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s.

* Iran: Anti-U.S. protests were held to commemorate the 31st anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

* Ivory Coast: A runoff will be needed in order to decide the country’s next president.

* U.S.: Get better soon Aretha Franklin!

Image – Al Jazeera English (Serbian President Boris “Tadic's visit (to Croatia) has sparked small protests with some holding placards reading 'our blood on your hands' [AFP].”)
Online Sources- NPR, Voice of America, euronews, Christian Science Monitor

Today’s Video: The I-word

Negative TV campaign ads are a staple of U.S. politics ever since “Peace Little Girl” was used to devastating effect in the 1964 presidential race. This year’s U.S. midterm elections were no exception with attack ads making up at least half of all campaign ads.

Republicans and Democrats may’ve targeted Latinos as a key voting bloc but they were also the subject of numerous negative ads vis-à-vis immigration. But did these ugly ads work? Let’s take a look at three examples.

An influx of Latino immigrants came to Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina and they have helped in the gradual rebuilding of New Orleans. But with a weakened national economy that has barely rebounded immigrants became convenient scapegoats during the midterm campaign. Hence, dollars and cents were the emphasis of this attack ad by Sen. David Vitter that included the odd visual of a border fence despite Louisiana not sharing a border with Mexico:

Several local Latino groups like the Louisiana Hispanic Chamber of Commerce justifiably blasted the misleading ad. Furthermore, anti-immigration group NumbersUSA ranked Vitter and his rival, Rep. Charlie Melancon, as earning “the exact same B grade for their immigration work in this Congress.”

According to exit polls by the AP five in 10 voters were “very worried” over the economy and among them three out of four voted for Vitter. Thus, despite its distorted claims and ludicrous visuals, the ad may have helped Vitter win by a massive 19-point margin over Melancon.

Immigration was also a vital issue in the Senate race between Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican opponent Sharron Angle. Angle, one of several Tea Party candidates running for Congress, tried to portray Reid as soft on immigration and her campaign produced the following attack ad:

Angle’s ad did succeed to mobilize the electorate but not in the way she had planned. According to the Las Vegas Sun, Latino voters were decisive in Reid’s narrow reelection win:
Despite earlier polling data that indicated Hispanics would skip this election, exit polls showed they accounted for a record 16 percent of total voters…

Xavier Caballos, a Mexican immigrant and Las Vegas Democrat who voted for Reid, said Angle had tried to make people like him look dangerous.

“That was the final straw,” said Gilberto Ramirez, a Reno concrete worker who recently obtained his citizenship and voted for the first time. “She was depicting me as a gang member. I served seven years in the Marine Corps.”
Eight of the ten ads chosen by Richard Adams in The Guardian as the worst of the midterms (including the above one by Vitter and another entry from Angle) came from Republican candidates. Yet some Democratic hopefuls also tried to pray on the irrational anxiety over immigration. Efforts such as the following from Rep. Zack Space in Ohio made the silly argument that a guest worker program would be unfairly “rewarding” undocumented immigrants:

Much like Vitter, Space tried to tie immigration to the economy in his ads. Yet much like Angle, the conservative-leaning “Blue Dog” Democrat lost to his rival.

As we showed not every negative ad is successful and some have backfired. It remains to be seen if Latinos will once again be the aim of ugly ads in the 2012 presidential election. Hopefully that will not be the case though ultimately the effectiveness of negative ads is decided by the entire electorate.

(Hat tip: Wonkette and Vivirlatino).

Online Sources- Wonkette,,, Vivirlatino, The Guardian, PBS, The Living Room Candidate, The Latin Americanist,, CBS News

Daily Headlines: November 4, 2010

* Mexico: Mexicans commemorated the Day of the Dead this week with mourners honoring deceased ancestors, friends, and family.

* Uruguay: The country’s Supreme Court ruled that an amnesty law protecting members of the 1973-1985 dictatorship is unconstitutional.

* Venezuela: A “high-level Venezuelan official” could be extradited to Spain where he’s suspected of training ETA separatists.

* Guatemala: Missouri’s high court will start hearing arguments next week in the case of a possibly illegal Guatemalan adoption.

Image – The Guardian (“A cemetery during the Day of the Dead celebrations in San Gregorio, Mexico. Photograph: Alexandre Meneghini/AP.”)
Online Sources- Reuters, LAHT, CNN, Kansas City Star

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

LatAm media report on midterm elections

How have some Latin American media sources reported on Tuesday’s U.S. midterm elections? Here is a small sample:

* Cuba: Cubadebate highlights the seven Cuban-Americans that will be part of the upcoming Congress including Marco Rubio (Republican), Albio Sires (Democrat) and “fierce wolf” Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

* Chile: Writing in La Tercera, Alvaro Vargas Llosa believes that President Obama may gamble and push for immigration reform despite the Republican legislative shift.

* Brazil: Luciana Coelho of faults President Obama for the Democrat’s electoral losses partly due to “prioritizing bizarre” issues.

* Mexico: On a similar front, Carlos Loret de Mola compares the rise and (so far) fall of Obama to ex-Mexican president Vicente Fox.

* Colombia: An article in examines the difficulties pro-business Republicans will face against Tea Party-allied politicos who don’t support free trade pacts with Colombia and Panama.

* Argentina: Speaking of the Tea Party, Paula Lugones in wonders how much of the GOP’s “loyalties” lie with a group that “hates intellectuals” yet “has been the force that shook up the campaign season.”

* Spain: We know that Spain’s El Pais is not in the Americas yet it’s worth noting their analysis of the Republican’s “edge” in social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Image – Reuters
Online Sources- Cubadebate, La Tercera,, El Universal,,, El Pais

Major midterm wins for Latino Republican hopefuls

One of the major media narratives regarding Tuesday’s U.S. midterm elections was the gain made by the Republican Party. The GOP regained control of the House of Representatives, won several gubernatorial posts and narrowed the Democrats lead in the Senate in part due to the victories of several Latino candidates.

Marco Rubio won in a three-way race for the Florida Senate post vacated by fellow Cuban-American Mel Martinez. He easily defeated Democrat Kendrick Meek and former governor Charlie Crist who ran as an independent after losing the Republican primary to Rubio.

The former Florida state House Speaker strongly allied with the Tea Party movement during the early part of his campaign. Yet tagging him, as a “Tea Party candidate” is a misnomer since after he won the GOP primary Rubio ran on a more moderate platform. He shied away from taking a hard line on immigration and refused to back privatizing Social Security and this probably helped him gain the support from a majority of independent voters according to one exit poll.

Out west, meanwhile, Susana Martinez made history in that she will become New Mexico’s first Latina governor. A former Democrat, Martinez emphasized the needs for local legislators on both sides of the aisle to come and work together in order “to set a new course in New Mexico.” As the AP reported, however, the future successor to Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson will face a major challenge in reconciling “potentially unrealistic campaign promises not to raise taxes while protecting public schools and Medicaid from spending cuts.”

Harry Reid may’ve been one of the few high points for Democrats after holding onto his Senate seat in Nevada (more on that later). But his son, Rory, did not enjoy the same good fortune after losing to Republican Brian Sandoval in the governor’s race. The former federal judge and assemblyman won by double-digits and will thus become Nevada’s first Latino governor.

Much like Martinez, Sandoval’s campaign pledges to veto any tax increase while cutting as little as possible from social services may have to be broken by the time the next state budget is debated.

Several Latino Democrat representatives retained their seats in the House including Silvestre Reyes, Loretta Sanchez, and Raul Grijalva. Their wins were tempered by victories from the likes of Republican Jamie Herrera who will became the first Latino congressman from Washington state and Francisco Canseco who beat 11-year veteran Ciro Rodriguez.

One political pundit on Univision’s electoral coverage last night claimed that Rubio could become a strong national contender and perhaps even “occupy the White House.” While the victories from the likes of Rubio, Sandoval, and Martinez shouldn’t be understated it certainly remains to be seen if yesterday’s electoral shakeup will lead to major political changes for Latinos.

Image- CBS News (Marco Rubio looked pretty darn confident after leaving the polls on Election Day yesterday).
Online Sources- Los Angeles Times, AP, Las Vegas Sun, MSNBC,, UPI, Bloomberg, Miami Herald

Daily Headlines: November 3, 2010

* Latin America: Hugo Chavez and Juan Manuel Santos, the presidents of Venezuela and Colombia respectively, met yesterday and vowed to improve bilateral political and economic relations.

* Argentina: Diego Maradona’s wish to be Argentine national soccer coach again was denied after Sergio Batista was promoted to permanently takeover the team.

* Central America: A diplomatic spat between Costa Rica and Nicaragua could worsen as both countries have been accused of sending troops and police illegally over the border.

* Brazil: President-elect Dilma Rousseff continued her investor-friendly tone by pledging to lower taxes and public spending.

Image – PRESS TV
Online Sources- NPR, LAHT, Reuters, Bloomberg

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Elusive Latino Swing Voter

Election day: a day of reckoning for the entire house and a healthy chunk of senators, governors and local officials.

Before the pundits jump in to explain the extent of the 2010 Republican wave, it's been interesting to see the role of the Latino vote in this year's contests. Immigration hasn't been as big a national issue as in other years, but there's still been a lot of buzz about the immigration debate and the role of the Hispanic electorate.

Sharron Angle, the Tea Party-backed Republican candidate in Nevada has come under fire for an ad some claim is overtly racist, and a previously unheard of outside group called "Latinos for Reform" ran an ad urging Latinos not to vote in Nevada.

Angle's opponent, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, has been criticized for stating that he would pursue immigration reform ahead of a bi-partisan energy bill. The maneuver cost the support of Republican Lindsay Graham and essentially killed the bill, even though virtually all observers knew the chances of immigration reform going through Congress this summer were virtually nil. Critics say Reid's move was a cynical ploy to win Latino votes in his home state, and if they're right it explains why Reid is fighting for his life against an opponent who should be very beatable.

Both Obamas even took to the Spanish-language airwaves this week to do some last minute campaigning on Univision radio. All the noise made Andrew Sullivan ask, somewhat awkwardly, "Por qué inmigración?," citing a piece by Ross Douthat of the New York Times that wondered aloud if Democrats really think they can win in 2012 on the immigration issue.

Douthtat writes: "in 2012 there’s little reason to think that the gains from mobilizing Hispanics around an (almost certainly futile) immigration reform push will count for all that much."

In fact, Nate Silver at Fivethirtyeight, the reigning champ of statistical political analysts, broke down the 2008 election and decided that "the removal of the Hispanic vote wouldn't have changed the election outcome in any state."

Until that cold political calculus changes, I think the best bet is for several more years of empty promises.

Image Source: Vivirlatino
Online Sources: Huffington Post, New York Times, Andrew Sullivan/The Atlantic,, The New Yorker, NPR, RealClearPolitics, Associated Press

Daily Headlines: November 2, 2010

* Colombia: Congrats to Edgar Renteria who was named as the World Series Most Valuable Player as the San Francisco Giants won their first championship in over fifty years.

* Mexico: Four U.S. citizens were killed in separate incidents in northern Mexico over the weekend.

* Argentina: "It's my most painful moment," said President Cristina Fernandez in a nationally televised speech last night regarding the sudden death of her husband.

* Cuba: Local Catholic Church officials said that the government would release a political prisoner held behind bars since 1985.

* Haiti: How did a “South Asian strain” of cholera arrive in Haiti to infect and kill over 330 people?

* Venezuela: Political relations between Venezuela and Colombia are expected to keep improving, as Hugo Chavez will host Juan Manuel Santos in Caracas today.

Image – The Telegraph (“Let the party begin: San Francisco players celebrate after beating the Texas Rangers Photo: REUTERS.”)
Online Sources- Reuters, El Universal, CNN, BBC News, The Latin Americanist, USA TODAY

Monday, November 1, 2010

World Watch: Losing by boozing

* Britain: According to a study published in the medical journal Lancet alcohol is a more dangerous drug than heroin or crack.

* Indonesia: Mount Merapi continues to rumble and spew hot ash days after several islands were ravaged by a tsunami caused by an earthquake.

* U.S.: Google filed a lawsuit last week against the U.S. government alleging that they were inappropriately excluded from a messaging contract in favor of Microsoft.

* Ivory Coast: The country’s presidential election designed to “end years of crisis” may go to a second round.

Image – New York Daily News (via Getty Images)
Online Sources- Xinhua, BBC News, MSNBC, PC Magazine

Today’s Video: A petition for Peru

On Tuesday we’ll dedicate most of the day’s posts to the midterm legislative elections in the U.S.

Last week a protest was held in the Peruvian capital of Lima advocating the rights of women. The demonstration was organized through Amnesty International (AI), and activists of that organization handed over a petition signed with 25,000 signatures calling for the government to do more to reduce the female and infant mortality rates. One woman dies in Peru every eight hours due to complications related to pregnancy according to AI secretary general Salil Shetty. She added that most of these deaths are preventable and especially hit rural, indigenous, and poor women.

Unfortunately the video cannot be embedded but the link to the brief clip is included below:

Video Source - YouTube
Image - Living in Peru ("
High mother and child mortality in rural areas. (Photo: El Comercio).")
Online Sources-, RPP

Chile quake victims to gov’t: Don’t forget about us

Last month’s rescue of 33 Chileans served as a compelling human-interest story, a global media ratings bonanza, and an amazing feat of technology. In the weeks since the rescue at the San Jose Mine, the freed workers have become a cause célèbre both in their native land as well as abroad.

Despite Sebastián Piñera's promise that he would be Chile’s "reconstruction president", some survivors of last February’s major earthquake have accused the government of ignoring them. A recent poll found that 70% of respondents in the tremor-hit Maule and Bio-Bio regions areas believed that government help has been to slow. 84% of those polled also believed that the rebuilding process has been “too slow”; while over 62% claimed that Piñera has been “inefficient”.

According to the AP, the local media has cited problems that have persisted since the earthquake struck over eight months ago and killed at least 521 people. Obtaining potable water has been a challenge for those residing in makeshift survivor camps while plenty of debris from fallen homes and buildings has not been removed.

In a speech last week, Piñera claimed that the reconstruction has been “the fastest, most efficient, and most profound in the history of this country.” He also said that he “has not forgotten the victims” and pledged that at least half of the reconstruction efforts will be completed by the one-year anniversary of the tremors.

But as reported by The Telegraph, some Chileans who lived through the 8.8-magnitude earthquake are disappointed with the attention the freed workers in Copiapo have received:
"We've been forgotten," said Cecilia Vallejos, 40, the president of the residents' committee at the (El Morro) camp.

"Watching all the attention given to the miners just emphasized that. Of course we, like all Chileans, were so pleased when they came out. But their hell is over after two months. We are still living ours"…

"We are grateful that we survived the earthquake but how long will we have to live like this?" (Maria Vasquez) asked. "The government did everything and more to rescue the miners when the world was looking but no one has come to see us. “
Thousands of minor aftershocks have occurred since February, while no immediate damages or fatalities were reported as a result of a 5.3-magnitude tremor over the weekend. If another major earthquake were to hit Chile in the near future, however, the results could be catastrophic. According to the U.N. officials, Chile lacks proper “inter-institutional and multidisciplinary” coordination between in case another disaster occurs.

Image- Christian Science Monitor (“A resident retrieves some belongings from a building…in Talca, after an 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck central Chile (in February). Enrique Marcarian/Reuters”)
Online Sources-, The Latin Americanist, MSNBC, El Universal, El Mercurio de Antofagasta, The Telegraph

"Iron Lady" Dilma wins Brazilian presidential elections

In an election pitting “change” versus “more of the same” a majority of the Brazilian electorate opted for the latter.

Dilma Rousseff of the ruling Worker’s Party (PT, in Portuguese) won in the second round of brazil’s presidential elections over center-right candidate Jose Serra. Polls in the days ahead of Sunday’s vote indicated a double-digit lead for Rousseff and they proved to be accurate as she won by a twelve-point margin.

Rousseff vowed to continue the economic and political policies of the highly popular outgoing president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. “I know I will honor this legacy and extend his work," she said in her victory speech last night while also vowing to prioritize gender equality. Perhaps acknowledging critiques by Serra and some of Lula’s opponents over the economy, Rousseff reiterated her promise to “eradicate poverty” throughout Brazil.

Several news reports mentioned that Rousseff was a “former Marxist guerrilla” during the military dictatorship decades ago yet she also served as former energy minister and chief of staff under Lula.

Rousseff is not expected to radically alter Brazil’s economic policies. Investors seem to be pleased with her victory, for instance, with the Bovespa stock index rising in early trading and up by at least 850 points in the early afternoon.

On the political front Rousseff will seek to take advantage of a legislative majority led by the PT to push through more socially inclusive politics. Yet she will also have to patch up differences with evangelicals turned off with her views on topics like abortion and who subsequently sided with Serra. Rousseff will also have to appeal to voters in states like Goias and Rondonia whose majorities help reelect Lula four years ago but instead turned to Serra on Sunday.

Council on Foreign Relations fellow Julia Sweig identified what could be expected of a Rousseff presidency on a foreign policy level, especially in relation to two key global players:
Watch Brazil's relationship with the United States and China. Crafting a strategy for these two countries looms large on Brasilia's foreign policy agenda for different reasons--a distracted White House in the first case, and the centrality and competition that Beijing represents to the Brazilian economy, in the second.
Upon being inaugurated on January 1st, Rousseff will become Brazil’s first female president and the third current female head of state in Latin America.

Aside from her supporters her victory was also celebrated halfway around the world in Bulgaria, the country where her father emigrated from before settling in Belo Horizonte.

Image- The Sofia Echo
Online Sources- BBC News, MSNBC, The Sofia Echo, The Telegraph, The Economist, Council on Foreign Relations, Bloomberg

Daily Headlines: November 1, 2010

* Caribbean: Haiti and the Dominican Republic are bracing for a Tropical Storm Tomas that swept through eastern parts of the Caribbean over the weekend.

* Peru:
Some Peruvians are not too happy with Sofia Vergara's "offensive and discriminatory" joke poking fun at the Andean country during a recent episode of "Modern Family."

* Honduras:
Soccer may be nicknamed as "the beautiful game" but it was quite the opposite on Saturday when gunmen killed fourteen people at a San Pedro Sula field.

* Latin America:
Venezuela and Paraguay are the most corrupt countries in Latin America while Chile and Uruguay were rated the least corrupt in the region according to Transparency International.

Image - CBC ("A woman walks by damaged power lines and infrastructure after the storm hit St. James Parish, Barbados, on Saturday. (Chris Brandis/Associated Press).")
Online Sources - Transparency International, CBC, Xinhua, Voice of America