Saturday, February 26, 2011

De Musica Ligera: Devlish dance unfairly burns Calle 13

Puerto Rican reggaeton duo Calle 13 is no strangers to controversy due to their political views. The group pulls no punches in letting their opinions be heard such as lead singer Rene “Residente” Perez calling Puerto Rican Gov. Luis Fortuno a “son of a massive bitch” during a performance at the 2009 edition of the Premios MTV Latin America.

On Wednesday Calle 13 helped open this year’s edition of Chile’s prestigious Viña del Mar music festival with a mix of high-tempo music and songs with a social message. Organizers tried to censor the group yet that did not stop Perez from appearing on stage with “Arriba Mapuche” written on his back. His solidarity with Chilean indigenous people extended to inviting Yatiris to perform a type of native dance called la diablada:

Oddly enough the above performance of la diablada has caused controversy in Bolivia where Minister for Culture Elizabeth Salguero said she would send a letter of complaint to Chile. Her ire is that Calle 13 neglected to acknowledge that the dance is Bolivian in origin. “We are glad when our dances and cultural expressions are spread to other countries but they need to recognize that they are from Bolivia,” said Salguero to a local daily.

Unfortunately this has not been the only time in recent years that la diablada has caused an overreaction. In 2009 Salguero’s predecessor, Pablo Groux, criticized Peru’s Miss Universe pageant representative for wearing a la diablada-related costume. Yet as blogger Midori Snyder noted at the time “both Peru and Chile claim the tradition of the Devil Dance as well -- and a former Miss Universe from Chile wore the costume way back in 1983 and 1989 during the pageant.”

Video Source - YouTube
Online Sources- La Razon, RPP, The Latin Americanist, Peru21, In the Labyrinth

Weekend Headlines: February 26-27, 2011

* Brazil: Citing unmet environmental requirements a Brazilian judge blocked the planned construction of the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam in the Amazon rainforest.

* Panama: Hundreds of indigenous protests angry at a controversial mining law are expected to continue demonstrations for a third straight day on Saturday.

* U.S.: The Agriculture Department has set up a $1.3 billion fund to settle bias claims from Latino and women farmers.

* Latin America: A representative of the Simon Wiesenthal Center urged Latin American governments to emulate Peru and cut off diplomatic relations with Libya.

Image – AFP via BBC News (Environmentalists and indigenous groups protested against a massive dam that was to be built in in the Amazon rainforest.)
Online Sources- Reuters, AFP, Bloomberg, MSNBC, The Latin Americanist

Friday, February 25, 2011

World Watch: Reef-er madness

* World: A World Resources Institute report concluded that climate change along with human activities like pollution and overfishing have severely threatened the world’s coral reefs.

* Libya: Muammar Gaddafi continues to remain defiant in the face of mounting domestic and international pressure.

* New Zealand: The official death toll from Tuesday’s 6.3-magnitude earthquake grew to 123 while survivors have had to endure numerous violent aftershocks.

* Ivory Coast: The country is at the brink of civil war according to the U.N. as battles between government forces and rebels have intensified this week.

Image – Mark Conlin/Alamy via The Guardian (“Reefs at Risk report says coral reef, like this one off Fiji are in danger. The consequences – especially for countries that depend of reefs for food – will be severe.”)
Online Sources- CNN Xinhua, Reuters, BBC News

Chilean quake survivors still suffer one year later

After being shaken one of the worst earthquakes on record one year ago survivors of a major quake in Chile continue to suffer numerous hardships.

According to Chilean president Sebastián Piñera 50% of rebuilding efforts in the regions hit by the February 27, 2010 tremor and tidal wave have been completed. After signing into law the creation of a new civil protection agency, Piñera said that the reconstruction included housing, hospitals, airports, and other public works projects.

Some Chilean Cabinet officials also shared Piñera’s optimism. “The impact of reconstruction on growth is becoming stronger as time goes on,” asserted Finance Minister Felipe Larrain to Reuters. Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter added that the Piñera administration was “on top of reconstruction efforts” to the tragedy that took place less than two weeks before he took office.

Despite such a positive outlook the reality is somewhat different in the affected Maule and Bio-Bio areas. One community activist told TeleSUR that the government’s help was “all talk” and little action. As we mentioned last November, some residents felt “forgotten” by officials focused instead on the 33 workers trapped in the San Jose mine. According to Mexico’s Milenio, tourism in those regions has nosedived while some infrastructure problems continue.

Reconstruction in Chile seems to be going at a faster pace compared to parts of Haiti that were hit by a major tremor thirteen months ago. Yet both countries share a commonality: quake survivors facing immense difficulties residing in temporary camps.
In Dichato, almost all the 3 000 residents are in temporary shelters in a zone with no running water, where the cramped living conditions are reviled by those forced to stay there.

"Life in the village is horrible, disgusting. To me, it's like being in a concentration camp," Toledo said.

They and others left homeless from the quake are still waiting for new homes.

Authorities said 135 000 people have been assigned houses to houses yet to be built, but bureaucracy was dragging out the process.
The earthquake that measured 8.8 on the Richter scale cost 525 deaths, 25 people disappeared and 800,000 survivors left homeless.

Image- Enrique Marcarian/Reuters via (“A resident retrieves some belongings from a building…in Talca, after an 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck central Chile” one year ago.)
Online Sources-,, The Latin Americanist, Milenio, Europa Press

Mexican legislators back immigrants’ rights clauses

While numerous U.S. state legislatures are going out of their way to restrict immigration, Mexican legislators are leaning towards the other direction.

The Mexican senate approved a bill on immigration yesterday that dropped a number of restrictions against migrants and instead grant them greater rights. Amendments that would’ve permitted federal police to act as immigration agents and permitting authorities from receiving immigration complaints from anonymous sources were rejected by the upper house of congress.

That bill stated that “nobody should be declared illegal due to their migratory status and there should be sufficient guarantees in Mexico so that citizens of other countries” can freely travel the country. (To this extent the proposed bill established the creation of a special “transmigrant visa” for those who travel through Mexico en route to another country). The plan also recognized the rights of immigrants (legal and undocumented) to things such as health care, education and even “nutrition”.

The proposal, which was unanimously backed 86 Senators, now goes to the Chamber of Deputies for debate and a vote that could come as early as next week.

The draft bill was lauded by Mexican immigrants’ rights activists as fair and just towards migrants travelling from Central and South America. To those regions Mexico has "recovered its leadership, a leadership of acting like a big brother rather than as a superior” said father Alejandro Solalinde in a radio interview today.

The discussion over the bill comes as Mexico's National Human Rights Commission denounced the kidnappings of 11,000 migrants (mostly from Central America) during a six-month period last year.

Image- CNN Mexico (Some Central American migrants travel though Mexico via the freight rail system)
Online Sources- El Universal, El Informador, CBS News, Terra Peru, BBC News, The New York Times

Daily Headlines: February 25, 2011

* Haiti: Presidential candidate Michel Martelly appealed to Haitians living abroad by visiting expats in Florida yesterday.

* U.S.: Some Arizonan legislators who backed the controversial SB 1070 law have introduced tougher anti-immigration bills that would have a deep impact on the Latino community.

* Guatemala: A Guatemalan forest preservation group was named along with a Nepali NGO as the co-winners of a prestigious conservation award given by the U.N.

* Cuba: The trial of Alan Gross, a U.S. contractor accused of spying in Cuba, was set for March 4th.

Image – AP/ Guillermo Arias via CTV News (“Haiti's presidential candidate Michel 'Sweet Micky' Martelly, a popular musician known for his sarcastic music and hip-thrusting onstage personality, is accompanied by his wife Sophia to cast his vote during general elections in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010.”)
Online Sources-,, The Latin Americanist, AHN, CNN

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Daily Headlines: February 24, 2011

* Dominican Republic: Britain’s Pinewood studios, best known for the Harry Potter and James Bond films, will build a new 35-acre facility in Dominican Republic.

* U.S.: Hispanics lag behind other racial groups in saving funds for retirement according to a recently received survey.

* Ecuador: China’s state-run oil company inked a two-year contract with Ecuador worth $1 billion.

* Argentina: The U.S. Supreme Court rejected hearing an appeal from Argentina to unfreeze between $70 and $90 million worth of assets.

Image – BBC News (Pinewood Shepperton’s planned Dominican Republic site “will include an eight acre water effects facility with 75 square meter water tank.”)
Online Sources- AFP, Huntington Post, Reuters, ABC News

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

World Watch: The final countdown

* Libya: Time appears to be running out for Moammar Gadhafi as opposition forces have taken over vast parts of eastern Libya.

* World: The price of oil crept past the $100 per barrel mark reportedly due to unrest in North Africa and the Middle East.

* New Zealand: The death toll from Tuesday’s 6.3-magnitude quake has reached 75 though it’s expected to climb as hundreds of people are still missing.

* India: Thousands of protesters gathered in the capital city of Delhi and called for the government to tackle rising food prices and unemployment.

Image – Alaguri/AP via The Guardian (“Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi portrayed in a graffiti caricature with writing in Arabic reading, 'The Monkey of Monkeys of Africa', a reference to Gaddafi's self-declared title, 'The King of Kings of Africa'.”)
Online Sources- BBC News, MSNBC, The Guardian,

Venezuela: Three-week hunger strike ends

Organizers of a three-week hunger strike in Venezuela announced yesterday that they would end their protest.

Lorent Saleh, one of the leaders of the strike, told the press that protesters and the government reached a compromise that would permit medical attention to some of the strikers as well as “the creation of a roundtable with authorities to discuss other demands.”
"Today we are completing 23 days since we started a promise we made to fight for liberty and democracy, and for those who find themselves behind bars for thinking differently than this regime," Saleh said according to CNN.

Nine university students camped out in front of the Organization of American States (OAS) headquarters in Caracas started the protest on January 31st. Since then nearly 80 supporters would join them in similar protests throughout Venezuela including the embassies of Chile, Mexico and Peru.

The primary demand of the strike leaders was to call attention to alleged human rights abuses in Venezuela. They urged OAS head Jose Miguel Insulza to visit Venezuela though the pact at the end of the strike pledged that the OAS would discuss protester grievances.

The agreement came one day after Saleh and three other strikers fainted and required immediate medical attention. The protesters were reportedly only ingesting a water and saline solution during their strike.

The hunger strike led to a minor diplomatic rift in the already weak relations between the U.S. and Venezuela. Last Thursday the U.S. State Department pushed Venezuelan authorities to allow a visit from Insluza. That request earned a strong rebuke from Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro who blamed “the U.S. government and Venezuelan ultra-right groups, based in Miami, of trying to create destabilization.”

Perhaps the most famous recent case of a hunger strike in Venezuela was that of farmer Franklin Brito who passed away last year. The use of hunger strikes as a form of protest (especially against the government) has become more common in Venezuela according to BBC Mundo:
31 different hunger strikes have taken place since the beginning of this year. “In 2009 there were five and last year there was more than 100. There is a high probability that this year will break that mark based on estimates from January and February,” said human rights investigator Marco Antonio Ponce.
Image- AFP via BBC Mundo
Online Sources- MSNBC, Global Voices Online, Reuters, El Universal, CNN, BBC Mundo

Gadhafi gets support from Nicaragua’s Ortega (Updated)

Heads of state from around the world have condemned Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi for ordering a heavy-handed crackdown against protesters. Though Gadhafi vowed to remain in power the domestic and international criticism against his authoritarian rule has grown to a fever pitch. Thus, it’s unusual to see that he has the backing of at least one president thousands of miles away from Libya.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said on Monday that he communicated several times with Gadhafi to express his support. According to Ortega Gadhafi "is again waging a great battle" to keep his country intact and added that "it's at difficult times that loyalty and resolve are put to the test."

His Costa Rican counterpart, Laura Chinchilla, blasted Ortega’s remarks when she said that his gesture represented the “way in which decisions are made in Nicaragua”. She also claimed that his backing of the Libyan leader helped explain his actions regarding the controversial border dispute between Nicaragua and Costa Rica over Calero Island.

Aside from worsening relations with Costa Rica Ortega’s support of Gadhafi could cause other problems:
A source within hacker activist group Anonymous told that media and government targets within Nicaragua and Venezuela may be hit within days, due to rhetorical support for Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi…

The Anonymous source said this could leave both Latin American states’ governments open to DDoS attacks, which would shut them down for a period of time. They may even be hacked.
Other governments throughout Latin America do not share the same views as Ortega and former Cuban leader Fidel Castro. (Castro wrote in his column yesterday that it’s too premature to criticize Gadhafi). For instance:
  • The Peruvian government cut off all diplomatic ties with the North African state “until all violence ceases against the people (of Libya)”.
  • In a statement similar to those sent to Egypt and Tunisia, the Brazilian foreign ministry called for Libyan authorities to “protect the right of free expression of the protestors.”
  • Argentina’s foreign ministry urged a “peaceful solution within a constructive democratic dialogue” and the respecting human rights of all Libyans.
  • Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said via Twitter “what is happening in Libya is unacceptable.”
(Update: Cuba's foreign minister stopped short of backing Gadhafi yet issued a statement alleging that "some North American politicians and media groups are inciting violence, military aggression and foreign intervention" in Libya.)

Image- CBC (“Anti-government protesters rally in Benghazi, Libya, in recent days as Canada on Monday condemned the violent crackdown by security forces.”)
Online Sources- El Nuevo Diario, Al Jazeera English, BBC News, Washington Post, The Latin Americanist, Canadian Press,,, La Republica, Al Jazeera English

Daily Headlines: February 23, 2011

* U.S.: A review of the 1970 death of journalist Rubén Salazar concluded that he was killed due to “tactical mistakes” by Los Angeles police, not on purpose.

* Haiti: A Google "person finder" database created after the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti was launched again in response to this week’s deadly tremors in New Zealand.

* Venezuela: Legal wrangling continues over where to bury former Venezuelan president Carlos Andres Perez nearly two months after he died.

* Mexico: At least 11,300 migrants, most from Central America, were kidnapped in Mexico between April and September of last year according to a report released yesterday.

Image – L.A. Weekly (The August 1970 death of Rubén Salazar by a tear gas missile shot by a Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy was a pivotal point in the development of the Chicano rights movement).
Online Sources- Knight Center for Journalism in the America, CBC, MSNBC, ABC Online

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Wikileaks targets LatAm

The media furor over Wikileaks may have mellowed out but the muckraking website continues to uncover hundreds of interesting diplomatic cables and documents. Latin America has not been an exception to this and Wikileaks targeted several countries in the past few days.


Colombia daily El Espectador published dozens of documents uncovered by Wikileaks over the past week. According to El Espectador the cables revealed that “the U.S. embassy became a confessional booth” once the para-politics corruption scandal broke out in 2006. One cable from that year revealed that Mario Uribe, senator and cousin to then-President Alvaro Uribe, was eager to meet with U.S. Ambassador William Wood and dissuade him from revoking his visa. (Mario was sentenced yesterday to nearly eight years in prison for his strong ties to the rightist paramilitaries).

Speaking of the former leader, several diplomatic documents revealed that U.S. diplomats were for the most part were content with Uribe’s actions in the para-politics ordeal. He “strongly supported judicial investigations of paramilitary-political ties” according to one 2006 memo after Uribe met with Wood. Wood’s successor, William Brownfield, praised Uribe in 2009 for pledging to “fully investigate” another scandal involving illegal wiretapping by Colombia’s intelligence agency (DAS).

According to other cables there were occasions when the ties between Uribe and U.S. diplomats were not always rosy. Another 2009 cable showed that the U.S. government tried to push Uribe to dismantle the DAS, an action that has yet to be taken. In 2006 Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns personal warned Uribe that reintegration programs of paramilitaries have not materialized” and that some of them are “returning to crime”. (Several of these former fighters would go on to form the base of the so-called “bandas criminales”, emerging narcotrafficking groups that have allied with leftist guerillas).


The Chilean government’s worries over the Middle East were the focus of several diplomatic documents uncovered by Wikileaks. A 2008 cable showed that Chile and Israel were both very worried over Iran’s ties to Venezuela. According to the document, Israel’s military attaché in Chile worked “with Chile's Investigative Police and 'other agencies' (presumably Chile's Intelligence Agency)” in order to spy on Iranian activities. 

Other cables from the U.S. embassy in Santiago showed that they were concerned with the presence of Hezbollah and similar groups among Chile’s small Islamic fundamentalist community. One 2006 document alleged that a "radical fundamentalist presence" was found in the city of Iquique and that “Hezbollah groups in the northern part of Chile are believed to be financial cells.”

Peruvian daily “El Comercio” revealed another memo via Wikileaks on an international court case between Peru and Chile. An unnamed Chilean diplomat in the 2008 cable worried that The Hague would “grant concessions to Peru” in a maritime border case based on previous rulings including one that year between Nicaragua and Colombia.

Speaking of Peru…


A 2005 document revealed that the ex-minister former interior minister Fernando Rospigliosi met with U.S. embassy officials where he expressed his “concerns” against “ultranationalist” Ollanta Humala. Along ex-Director of National Defense Ruben Vargas, Rospigliosi suggested several ways to counter the former presidential candidate including that “the Embassy consider supporting an anti-Humala communications program.”

Rospigliosi responded in an editorial published today alleging that his meeting with embassy officials was necessary and not “antidemocratic”. “Due to this ‘intromission of international governments’ (like Venezuela and Cuba), he decided to ‘balance out’ the situation and talk with the U.S. diplomats,” according to a Living in Peru article on Rospigliosi.

Aside from Rospigliosi, Wikileaks also revealed another cable alleging that Inti Gas soccer club president Rofilio Neyra received funds from drug traffickers. The politician, allied with political sectors loyal to disgraced former president Alberto Fujimori, supposedly received the tainted money during a 2006 campaign for local office.


Lastly, Brazil’s growing economic and political clout in the Americas was a source of concern for Paraguay. Ex foreign affairs minster Leila Rachid told U.S. diplomats in 2005 that she was worried over Brazilian efforts “to minimize US influence in South America”. She opposed this perceived assertion of “Brazilian dominance” that could’ve lead to “unfettered Brazilian control of Paraguay’s destiny”.

Image- The Globe and Mail
Online Sources- La Republica, Living in Peru, El Pais, UPI, La Tercera, AFP, MercoPress, BBC News, El Espectador, Colombia Reports

Argentine politico caught in “Messi” situation

Before we get to the more serious news in the Americas we want to start the day off with a light-hearted note from Argentina.

Soccer star Lionel Messi is not a happy camper but this time it’s not due to Barcelona’s loss in the Champions League last week. His image appeared in a campaign ad for Argentine legislator Alfredo Olmedo, a candidate running for governor of Salta. "Say yes to sport, say no to drugs" is the slogan of the ad that appeared in poster form last week in parts of the northwestern province.

Messi’s lawyer, Ricardo Giusepponi, declared on Monday that Messi would sue Olmedo for improper use of his client’s image. Said Giusepponi yesterday:
"The photo may be a sham. It may have been taken at Ezeiza airport (in Buenos Aires), where Lionel is greeted by so many people. He certainly did not know who that person was and his position," the lawyer told a radio station in Rosario, Messi's native city.

"Lionel supports no one. He has nothing to do with party politics," Giusepponi said.
Image- Telam via ESPN Deportes (“The controversial poster used by a candidate for the governor to Salta.”)
Online Sources-, BBC Sport, Sify

Daily Headlines: February 22, 2011

* Venezuela: Embattled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi appeared on state TV last night and claimed that contrary to rumors he did not flee to Venezuela.

* Guatemala: President Alvaro Colom removed a two-month "state of siege" on a northern province that was reportedly controlled by Mexican drug gangs.

* Brazil: According to the Brazilian press President Dilma Rousseff will hold off on the purchase of 36 military jets as part of major budget cuts.

* Dominican Republic: Health authorities said that all meat and seafood from neighboring Haiti will be burned and discarded unless it includes guarantee that it's not tainted with cholera.

Online Sources - CNN, Canadian Press, UPI, Sify
Image Source - Reuters TV still image via The Guardian ("A still from footage of Muammar Gaddafi during a rally in Nalut. Regime survival has marked the Libyan leader's moves in recent years.")

Monday, February 21, 2011

Nuestro Cine: Sweetness and light

Day and night. Light and dark. The past and the future.

What appears like distinct qualities can sometimes have points in common. This juxtaposition is explored in "Nostalgia de la Luz" ("Nostalgia for the Light"), a 2010 documentary by Patricio Guzman. Guzman film is set in Chile's Atacama Desert, an area classified by a 2002 Christian Science Monitor as the "astronomy capital of the world." The desert's climate and environment is optimal for studying the wonders of the firmament but may have also been an ideal burying ground for victims of Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship.

The Hollywood Reporter's review of the documentary summarizes it's main theme:
Guzman goes beyond a basic science/religion dichotomy (mentioned by a young astronomer at the beginning of the film) to probe the universe for secrets into the origins of man, without canceling out our obligations to history and the moral obligation to hold the dead in memory.
"Nostalgia de la Luz" has won several awards on the international film festival circuit and it will be featured tonight at New York City's Museum of Modern Art. (Guzman will be speaking at tonight's screening according to the museum's website).

Below is the trailer for the captivating "Nostalgia de la Luz":

Video Source - UniFrance Film via YouTube
Online Sources -, The Hollywood Reporter,,,

Daily Headlines: February 21, 2011

* Cuba: Family members of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a Cuban political prisoner who died a year ago this month, were granted visas to emigrate to the U.S.

* U.S.: Could planned federal budget cuts to financial aid programs lead to fewer Latino university graduates?

* Panama: Police clashed with indigenous protesters upset with a planned mining reform that they claim will cause environmental damage and force them to relocate.

* Brazil: A group of Roman Catholic bishops bashed reality TV shows as an "attack on the human dignity of participants, who are fascinated with monetary prizes and a short-lived status as a celebrity."

Image Source - AFP/Getty Images via CNN ("Reina Luisa Tamayo marches February 13 on behalf of her son, who died a year ago after a prolonged hunger strike.")
Online Sources - BBC News, France24, AFP, Texas Observer