Saturday, May 14, 2011

Today’s Video: Animal nitrate

What do undocumented immigrants have in common with animals? For Mexican artist Fernando Aceves Humana, creatures forced out of their natural habitats are a metaphor for migrants who move to another location with a distinct culture. "It's a parallel with immigration, with those who see us as freaks and the fear of something different," said Aceves Humana at the opening on Thursday of his new exhibit in Bangkok, Thailand.

The following video via the EFE news agency shows some of Aceves Humana's artwork as part of the "At Risk" exhibit. Judge for yourself if his metaphor is appropriate or off the mark.

Online Source - El Universal
Video Source - EFE via YouTube

Martelly inaugurated as Haitian president

With all due respect to The Go! Team, the power was both on and off today as Michel Martelly was inaugurated as Haitian president.

During his inauguration speech, he vowed to fulfill his campaign promises including lowering poverty in the poorest country in the Americas as well as speed up rebuilding of areas decimated by a January 2010 earthquake. The fifty-year-old musician also promised that he would modernize the army in order to be "ready to intervene in times of chaos and catastrophe."

While Martelly’s speech stayed “on” message, the ceremony was “off” according to CNN:
In a sign of the nation's troubles, the electricity went out moments before the inauguration, prompting formally dressed dignitaries and guests -- including former U.S. President Bill Clinton and French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe -- to fan themselves to stave off rising May heat.

Immediately, Twitter lit up with posts calling the blackout a "bad sign." Despite the outage, the ceremony proceeded before parliament and Martelly took his oath of office amid the lights of media cameras.
Martelly’s challenges are numerous; aside from those he mentioned in his speech, he will have to contend with political tensions that were worsened due to irregularities in the first round of presidential elections. He may have a tough time going through with his campaign vows since the political party of his predecessor, Rene Preval, controls the Haitian legislature.

One area that could be promising for the new president could be with Haitians living abroad. Last weekend, Haiti’s congress approved a constitutional amendment allowing for dual nationality. Martelly also suggested that Haitian expats “donate” $1 per every $100 remittance in order to help carry out his campaign promise of providing free primary education.

Image- AP via CBC News (“Michel Martelly is sworn in as Haiti's new president inside a Haitian parliamentary meeting room in Port-au-Prince.”)
Online Sources- Monsters & Critics, BBC News, CNN, CBC News, The Latin Americanist
Video Source- YouTube

Brazil: Congressional fracas over “anti-gay” pamphlet

On the heels of a recent Brazilian Supreme Court unanimous decision to grant recognition of same-sex couples, the first gay kiss on a soap opera aired on Thursday night. Ratings for the highly-anticipated episode of SBT’s “Love and Revolution” telenovela were nearly double the average as viewers watched the kiss between two women.

Though many strides have been made in recent years for gay rights in Brazil there are still areas where little to no progress has been made. “Since the country adopted its new constitution in 1988, the national congress has not approved a single bill on LGBT matters,” wrote Toni Reis in this article analyzing the challenges facing Brazil’s gay rights movement. A proposal that would criminalize homophobia has divided legislators and on Thursday the debate over the bill got a little too ugly.

According to
Senator Marinor Brito (PSOL-PA) and Rep. Jair Bolsonaro (PP-RJ) traded insults and almost got into a physically altercation… after the Human Rights Committee of the House suspended the vote of the controversial bill that criminalizes homophobia in the country.

The incident began at the end of the session when Bolsonaro stood behind Senator Marta Suplicy (PT), creator of the project, while she gave an interview.

The legislator, along with other parliamentarians, had several “anti-gay” leaflets in his hands.

An irritated Marinor tried to remove several of the pamphlets held above Suplicy’s head by Bolsonaro. “(This) homophobic criminal is using public funds for these booklets”.

The MP responded by saying that the senator would have to prove his allegations.
The pamphlet held by Bolsonaro made several questionable accusations such as alleging that the government would “indoctrinate” homosexuality to first grade students. According to the legislator this would make “our children easy victims for pedophiles.”

Scare tactics from Bolsonaro aside, several MPs opposed to the bill are worried that it could unfairly punish religious figures publicly opposed to homosexuality. Yet Suplicy pointed out that the proposal excludes "cases of peaceful demonstration of thought based on freedom of conscience and belief." Nonetheless, she supported tabling the bill in order to seek a compromise with “evangelical” legislators.

Online Sources- Diario de Pernamubuco,, GlobalPost, The Guardian

Calle 13 vs. Fortuño and HidroAysen

Note: This post was originally published on Thursday, May 12th. It was erased as a result of a Blogger outage that also prevented us from posting on Friday. Hence, we’re reposting this article today.

Puerto Rican hip-hop/reggaeton duo Calle 13 are not shy when speaking out against actions that they feel are unfair. Their politically charged music has met with its share of detractors from Colombian politicos to Puerto Rican policemen. Vocalist Rene “Residente” Perez reportedly admitted recently that he has “received threats” multiple times but he refuses to quell his outspokenness.

Calle 13 appeared on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” Tuesday where they performed two of their songs including “Baile de los Pobres” (“Dance of the Poor”). See if you can spot the sociopolitical messages aside from those mentioned in his song:

Printed on his shirt was the phrase “To hell with the fees”, which targeted the controversial move by Puerto Rican Gov. Luis Fortuño to obligate public university students to pay an $800 fee. Upon removing his shirt, the phrase “No pipeline” was written on his chest representing his opposition to a Fortuño-backed plan for contracting a 92-mile natural gas pipeline.

The Via Verde initiative wasn’t the only energy project Perez protested against; written on his back was the phrase “Patagonia without dams.” This message alluded to Chile’s HidroAysen plan that involves erecting five large hydroelectric dams in the southern Patagonia region. As we mentioned on Wednesday, HidroAysen is strongly backed by Chilean President Sebastián Piñera as a viable source of energy. Yet the project has run into staunch opposition including from Patagonia residents who are against the flooding of approximately 15,000 acres of land.

Even though Perez helped bring attention to the tensions caused by the HidroAysen plan, ABC allegedly cut him off as he gave an impromptu speech “alluding” to the project’s controversy. “Chile cut off my message but my back had the message,” wrote Perez via Twitter after the show.

In the meantime, tens of thousands of Chileans took to the streets on Thursday and called for the government to enact educational reforms.

Video Source - Jimmy Kimmel Live via YouTube
Online Sources- El Nuevo Dia, The Latin Americanist, Terra Chile, LAHT,

Weekend Headlines: May 14-15, 2011

* Panama: According to documents uncovered by Wikileaks, president Ricardo Martinelli “ridiculed a member of his cabinet” and China refused an offer for diplomatic recognition from Panama.

* Cuba: The official Granma newspaper claimed that dissident Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia died of natural causes rather than at the hands of the police.

* Mexico: President Felipe Calderon supported the “powerful (economic) argument” used by his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama in a push for federal immigration reform.

* El Salvador: A former Salvadoran army officer pled guilty in a U.S. federal court for trying to sell arms to Colombia’s FARC guerillas.

Image – Mercopress
Online Sources- Newsroom Panama, AFP, Miami Herald, LAHT, MSNBC

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Chile gives go-ahead to controversial hydroelectric project

A Chilean environmental commission gave the green light to go ahead with a controversial dam project.

The multibillion-dollar HidroAysen plan would allow for the construction of a series of hydroelectric dams in the southern part of the country. “We must search for alternate sources of energy,” said President Sebastián Piñera who added that his administration will not “hide its head like an ostrich and delay problems.”

Yet residents of the affected Patagonia region are opposed to the project that would flood approximately 15,000 acres of land. They’ve also been joined by environmental activists who contend that there are more viable options such as small-scale hydroelectric projects and more efficiently running the existing Chilean energy system.

Supporters of HidroAysen have attempted to sway public opinion in their favor. One pro-project ad, for example depicts the lights in a hospital emergency room flickering on and off while a deliveryman rings the doorbell of a residence. According to The Guardian, however, an Ipsos poll showed that “61% of Chileans opposed the dams”.

Some detractors to the plan have engaged in a series of protests such as a distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS attack) that took the HidroAysen website offline on Wednesday. Several tense-filled demonstrations took place throughout Chile including the capital city of Santiago as seen in the following video:

The HidroAysen plan would also include an 1180-mile transmission line to connect the dams to “feed the central grid that supplies Santiago and surrounding cities as well as copper mines owned by Codelco and Anglo American Plc.” This part of the plan has yet to be approved and the project could be stopped dead in its tracks if an environmental assessment panel does not approve it later this year.

Video Source - YouTube
Online Sources- Bloomberg, La Tercera, La Nacion, The Guardian, BBC News

World Watch: Tremors in Spain

* Spain: At least ten people are dead after a pair of earthquakes shook southeastern Spain earlier today.

* U.S.: White House officials defended the recent killing of Osama Bin Laden as “justified” despite criticism from one of the former Al-Qaeda leader's sons.

* China: For the first time in twenty years thieves broke into the Forbidden City in Beijing and stole several valuable pieces of art.

* Uganda: Parliamentarians delayed debating a controversial anti-homosexuality bill though they will reportedly take up the proposal again on Friday.

Image – Sky News
Online Sources- The Telegraph,, Bloomberg, MSNBC

Colombia: Armed conflict or counterterrorism?

Which label would best describe the situation in Colombia: armed conflict or counterterrorism? The debate over semantics has shaken the country’s political establishment and even exacerbated the rift between the current and previous president.

The disagreement has to do with a proposal introduced by President Juan Manuel Santos last year that would provide reparations to victims of Colombian violence. For about eight months legislators have tried to hammer out contentious details of the bill including who would be covered under the proposal and how to fund it. Last week Santos pushed for the inclusion of a single line in the bill acknowledging that an “internal armed conflict” exists in Colombia.

It may seem more than obvious to the most casual observer that Colombia has gone through an armed conflict for several decades with the state combating different forces such as leftist guerillas, rightwing paramilitaries and emerging criminal groups. Santos’ predecessor, ex-president Alvaro Uribe, expressed his displeasure at the use of such a phrase and claimed that Colombia has been instead under a “terrorist threat”.

In addition, allies to the former leader alleged that the wording of the Victims Law draft could lead to the granting of political status to rebel groups such as the FARC instead of them being labeled as a terrorist organization. Though Colombia’s largest paramilitary group gave up their arms under Uribe, it seems as if the Uribistas are ironically opposed to the same happening with the guerillas. For ex-Uribe advisor José Obdulio Gaviria, for instance, the proposal would be like “giving vitamins” to the military-weakened guerillas and he also implied that it would lead to a downturn in foreign investment.

Sen. Roy Barreras, normally a staunch Uribe supporter, contended that the “armed conflict” line couldn’t make it easier for the FARC to get political recognition since they don’t meet the requirements for it. The proposal’s legislative author, Sen. Juan Fernando Cristo, argued that the bill “does not discriminate against victims…be they targeted by an armed group on the left or right or by agents of the State.”

The proposal also has the support of the military high command such as Army chief Gen. Alejandro Navas. He claimed that government acknowledgement an armed conflict would provide a legal “umbrella” where troops can fight without the fear that they can be sued and “end up in prison.”

For now the recognition of an armed conflict remains in the bill’s draft though that can be changed with the final set of debates scheduled for next week. The odds of that occurring, despite most legislators belonging to pro-Uribe political groups, is very slim.

As Juanita León wrote recently on the La Silla Vacia website, the most important aspect of the bill is that the “fundamental” parts of it remain unchanged. It’s the least that can be done for the many thousands of victims hurt for decades in Colombia’s armed conflict/war against terror/whatever-you-want-to-call-it.

Image- Luis Acosta/AFP/Getty Images via The Guardian

Daily Headlines: May 11, 2011

* U.S.: Will the Latino community be receptive or doubtful of President Barack Obama's call for federal immigration reform?

* Peru: In the race for the presidency one poll gave Keiko Fujimori a slim lead over Ollanta Humala while another poll gave Humala a razor-thin advantage over Fujimori.

* Puerto Rico: Authorities arrested a Puerto Rican nationalist wanted for his suspected involvement in a 1983 armed car robbery in Connecticut.

* Argentina: Three former police officers were arrested and charged in the deaths of a French nun and Argentine activist during the “Dirty War” dictatorship.

Image – AP via Houston Chronicle (“President Obama speaks about immigration reform at Chamizal National Memorial Park in El Paso.”)
Online Sources- Reuters, Voice of America, La Republica, AFP, BBC News

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Today’s Video: Sale of the century

Did three high-profile Western Hemispheric soccer officials seek bribes and other favors in return for supporting England's failed campaign for the 2018 World Cup? Or was it sour grapes by former English Football Association chairman Lord Triesman?

Judge for yourself the allegations made by Triesman against FIFA Vice President Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago, CONMEBOL president Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay and Brazilian soccer chief Ricardo Teixeira:

Online Sources - Deadspin, The Guardian
Video Source - Al Jazeera via YouTube

Beef: It's (not) what's for dinner

Rising international food prices could have a negative effect on the stable economy of Latin America. A report released last week by the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), for instance, concluded that there is a high risk that inflation could stifle the economies of poorer countries in the region.

"The food price shock" (as the IADB called it) and its impact on Latin America have affected the diets of people in parts of rhea region. Some measures taken by governments to counter the effects of increased food prices have been insufficient. Such is the case of Argentina, a country renown for its cattle and large amounts of beef consumption. According to a report by the Economía & Regiones consultancy firm (and mentioned by Mercopress):
The 46.7 kilos beef consumption per person per year is almost the same average as ninety years ago and is attributed to a fall in Argentina’s national herd and a sustained increase in prices, adds the report that was published in Buenos Aires daily Clarin

“The maximum price policy (and export quotas) implemented” by the government of Nestor Kirchner and continued by his wife President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, supposedly to help contain inflation “resulted in a drastic drop in profits, contracting livestock supply gradually reducing the Argentine rodeo to one of its historic negative peaks”, points out the report based on data from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food.
Beef consumption could continue decreasing this year; according to the Clarin article cited by Mercopress the price of one kilo (2.2 pounds) of veal last month was 40.59 pesos, a spike from 28.90 pesos in April 2010. Despite the rising prices, Argentine “cattle rancher advisor” Victor Tonelli told the local press that the decreased consumption is due to a decreased amount of meat available in the market.

While cattle ranchers have been feeling the pinch, chicken farmers have taken advantage of a tripling in consumption over the past decade according to Clarin. Another option (albeit extreme for Argentine tastes) may be to take advantage of the country’s growing exportations of horsemeat.

Image- Washington Post via Denver Post
Online Sources- Reuters, Mercopress, Clarin,, Revista Generaccion

Nationality, citizenship, and Hispaniola

Immigration is a complex issue for the dual nations that share the island of Hispaniola: Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Both countries have taken distinct measures relating to nationality rights with Haiti choosing to expand them while its neighbor opted to restrict them.

Haitian legislators on Sunday vote to amend the constitution and permit expats the opportunity to have dual nationality. Haitians abroad would thus gain numerous political privileges including the ownership of land as well as the ability to run for certain public offices.

The vote came on the eve of a May 9th deadline for lawmakers to vote on amending Haiti’s 1987 constitution.

The amendment, which is expected to affect an estimated two million Haitians living abroad, reportedly received support from the U.S. government.

The amendment was short of granting Haitians dual citizenship, which would’ve granted those living abroad the right to vote. But for Joseph Bernadel, an expat interviewed by The Miami Herald, the dual nationality measure “gives a clear message to people of Haitian ancestry who have gone to the diaspora that there is a place for them in Haiti, not only in the reconstruction aspect, but in the everyday life in Haiti.’’

In the Dominican Republic, meanwhile, officials have reportedly upped the ante in denying birthright citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants. As written in a GlobalPost article published on Monday, the Dominican Republic since changing their constitution last year has “retroactively applied” a clause affecting offspring born to undocumented parents. The action has affected thousands of residents including those who have lived for decades in the Dominican Republic and others unaware that their parents were undocumented.

“I’ve spent my entire career working for this government and I’m ashamed of it now,” said Carmen Augustine de Santana who was born and raised in the Dominican Republic but was recently informed that she did not qualify for that country’s citizenship since her mother illegally migrated from Haiti.

Dominican immigration officials interviewed by GlobalPost denied that the actions were based on race or specifically targeting Haitian migrants. Yet Haitian expat community leaders in the Dominican Republic alleged that authorities have been unfairly targeting undocumented Haitian migrants over those originally from other countries.

The complexities of the immigration issue between Haiti and the Dominican Republic are similar to the debate over that topic in the U.S. (A debate likley to be reignited with U.S. President Barack Obama'a visit to Texas today). As written in GlobalPost last August:
Both involve a porous border that separates a wealthier country from a poorer neighbor. Migrants leave in search of a job. They send money home. Many end up staying, illegally. And like the anti-immigration sentiment in the U.S., the Dominican argument against Haitians comes down to economics. The Haitians, they say, are a drain on the government. They take jobs. They strain already overcrowded health clinics and hospitals. Dominican authorities deported an average of 20,417 Haitians a year from 2003 to 2008, according to a report from the Universidad Centroamericana.
Image- BBC News
Online Sources-, Americas Quarterly blog, GlobalPost, MSNBC, Miami Herald, Sacramento Bee, AFP

Daily Headlines: May 10, 2011

* Cuba: Cubans may be permitted to travel abroad as tourists based on a set of economic guidelines published yesterday by the island’s authorities.

* Puerto Rico: Will U.S. audiences be receptive to a planned English-language album by Puerto Rico’s Calle 13?

* Ecuador: President Rafael Correa and opposition groups are in a war of words after the results of a referendum on a number of government-backed reforms appears to have been closer than initially reported.

* South America: According to the Global Integrity Report released last week Peru and Argentina are among the most improved countries in combating corruption.

Image – AP via CBS News (“An unidentified man reads a copy of the document explaining the guidelines and economic changes that were approved at last month's Communist Party Congress, in Havana, Cuba, Monday May 9, 2011.”)
Online Sources- Global Integrity Report, Xinhua, Fox News Latino, AFP

Monday, May 9, 2011

Today’s Video: Treasure

There is an idiom that says that "one man's trash is another man's treasure." Surely that is the case with David Rocha, a 20-year-old resident of Sao Paulo, Brazil who makes instruments out of trash.

As you can see in the video below, Rocha's talents also extend beyond his craftsmanship:

Video Source - via YouTube

Daily Headlines: May 9, 2011

* Ecuador: Preliminary results showed that referendum voters approved ten measures backed by President Rafael Correa including a path to reforming the judiciary, limits on media ownership, and a ban on bullfighting.

* Mexico: Tens of thousands of people gathered at Mexico City's Zocalo Square yesterday in the culmination of a four-day march against drug-related violence.

* Cuba: Dissidents blamed police for the death of Juan Wilfredo Soto, a political activist who died several days after being arrested and allegedly beaten.

* Venezuela: A U.S. immigration judge suspended the deportation order against a Venezuelan national in a legally-recognized same-sex marriage weeks after another justice came to a similar decision in favor of an Argentine woman.

* Guatemala: A voter registration drive will be run ahead of September’s federal elections and will include radio ads and electoral materials in four Mayan languages.

* U.S.: Animal Kingdom, sired by Brazilian horse Leroidesanimaux and ridden by Puerto Rican Jockey John Velazquez, won the prestigious Kentucky Derby on Saturday.

Image – Raul Arboleda/Agence France-Presse -- Getty Images via The New York Times (“An Ecuadorean woman, with her child, cast her vote Saturday at a school in Otavalo, Ecuador, on the referendum proposed by President Rafael Correa. It included sweeping measures aimed at strengthening his power.”)
Online Sources- The Irish Times, MSNBC, The Latin Americanist,, Reuters, CNN, Boston Globe