Saturday, June 4, 2011

Today’s Video: Toss up

Sunday is election day in Peru and voters will have to choose who will be the country's next president: Ollanta Humala or Keiko Fujimori. Humala, an ex-army general, holds a razor-thin edge over Fujimori, a legislator and former First Lady, according to a pair of polls published on Saturday. The presidency is up for grabs, however, and both candidates have sought any advantage possible that may give them victory in the runoff.

Nobel Prize laureate Mario Vargas Llosa bemoaned that choosing between Humala or Fujimori for the presidency was like selecting either "AIDS or cancer." Unpleasant as this may be for some, the realty is that one of these figures will be elected as the successor to current president Alan Garcia.

Video Source - teleSUR via YouTube (Per Peruvian election law, Ollanta Humala and Keiko Fujimori ended their public presidential campaigns last Thursday).
Online Sources - MSNBC, AFP, The Guardian

Weekend Headlines: June 4-5, 2011

* Cuba: Political activist Guillermo Farinas announced yesterday that he would go on another hunger strike to protest the death of fellow dissident Juan Soto.

* Colombia: A U.S. judge decided to go ahead with a class action suit by victims of Colombia’s armed conflict against the Chiquita Brands food company.

* Ecuador: Chevron may not have to pay billions of dollars in restitution in an Ecuadorian environmental damages case after a Quito court dismissed criminal charges in the lawsuit.

* Caribbean: Over 2000 Haitians who left for the neighboring Dominican Republic have reportedly returned voluntarily to their homeland as part of a new immigration program.

Image – EFE
Online Sources- AFP, The Latin Americanist, New York Times, MSNBC

Friday, June 3, 2011

Today’s Video: Ollanta vs. Keiko

We'll be back over the weekend to publish several posts especially on Sunday to cover Peru's presidential election.

According to the latest polls conservative Keiko Fujimori and nationalist Ollanta Humala are in a statistical dead heat in the race for the Peruvian presidency. In the weeks leading to Sunday's runoff, both candidates have engaged in mudslinging in order to gain any electoral advantage. Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani reportedly delivered a homily blasting the Humala campaign, and his opponents are doubtful that he has cut ties with former ally and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Meanwhile, critics of Fujimori point out that while she claims to distance herself from the human rights abuses of her imprisoned father (ex-president Alberto Fujimori) she has also boasted that he was "Peru's best president ever".

The following are commercials for both of the contenders to succeed current President Alan Garcia. Both Fujimori and Humala narrate their respective ads that touch on the need for more economic opportunities for Peruvians. Note the differences in imagery, however, as well as Keiko alluding to her father's controversial decade in the presidency.

Ollanta Humala - "Vamos con Ollanta":

Keiko Fujimori - "Seguridad y Opurtunidades":

Online Sources - The Irish Times, AP
Video Sources - YouTube

Follow-up: Chile court rejects retrial for Mapuche strikers

Yesterday we examined the case of four imprisoned indigenous Mapuche activists who have been on a hunger strike since the middle of March. The protesters, who were hospitalized this week due to their fragile health, sought a retrial after they were convicted under a controversial dictatorship-era law. (That law severely limits the legal rights of the accused including permitting the state to hold people for up to two years without charges and the use of anonymous witnesses during trials).

Earlier today the Chilean Supreme Court refused to grant the strikers a retrial. The tribunal ruled to annul one of the convictions against the four men and, thus, reduces their prison sentences. Nonetheless, the court upheld another conviction for assault, which means that three of the protesters would have to serve prison sentences of 8 years while the group’s “leader” faces 14 years behind bars.

Mapuche spokeswoman Natividad Llanquileo deemed the decision as “unacceptable” and added that she would take the four men’s cases to the international courts. Meanwhile, the prisoners vowed to continue their hunger strike, which reached its 81st day on Friday.

According to local reports, police arrested twelve Mapuche demonstrators who gathered outside of the La Moneda presidential palace.

The Chilean government has yet to make a public declaration regarding today’s verdict. Both current President Sebastián Piñera and his predecessor, Michelle Bachelet, have strongly defended the controversial anti-terrorism law that opponents view as unjust and draconian:
It is necessary "to bring our ant-terrorism legislation into line with the standards of democracies in the developed world, but that must not mean that we let our guard down against this cruel, merciless scourge, which is itself a grave violation of basic rights," Piñera said in his annual state of the nation address on Saturday May 21.

"It's true that after 2001 (the 9/11 attacks in Washington and New York), powers to combat terrorism at a global level increased…but in the case of this Chilean law, it allows crimes against property to be treated as terrorist crimes, which is disproportionate," (attorney Julio) Cortés said.
Online Sources- UNPO, La Nacion, La Tercera,, The Latin Americanist,, teleSUR, Houston Chronicle

Daily Headlines: June 3, 2011

* Cuba: Famed musician Pablo Milanes, who is best known for helping found the nueva trova genre, will play in Miami as part of a U.S. concert tour beginning in August.

* Chile: A judge ordered an investigation into the death of Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda days after the body of former President Salvador Allende was exhumed.

* U.S.: According to a Pew Research Center report 19% of Latinos use Twitter, which is slightly less than blacks but more than double the percentage of whites.

* Argentina: Congress passed a new anti-tobacco law that bans smoking in public places and bars tobacco ads and sponsorship.

Image – RPP (Cuban musician Pablo Milanes in concert in Lima, Peru in 2009.)
Online Sources- CBS News, CNN, The Latin Americanist, The Hill, BBC News

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Chile: Mapuche hunger strike enters eightieth day

For several decades, Chile’s government and indigenous Mapuche activists haven’t seen eye-to-eye with each other. One of the more pressing concerns is the application of a dictatorship-era law that limits the legal rights of the accused including permitting the state to hold people for up to two years without charges. (Mapuche leaders claimed that the law is used to specifically target members of their community).

Several Mapuche activists who have been imprisoned under the aforementioned law have gone on hunger strikes and have gotten some concessions from the government. On Thursday a hunger strike by four incarcerated activists protest seeking a retrial reached an eightieth day. The protesters are all very ill and two of them, Héctor Llaitul and Jonathan Huillical, were transferred to a local hospital due to the fragile medical state. (One of them allegedly lost as much as 90 pounds).

The Archbishop of Concepción, Fernando Chomalí, visited the strikers this week and he subsequently told the press that the Church “is not indifferent” to their situation. The Mapuche case “is a human problem, not a judicial one” said Chomali who may serve as an intermediary much like his predecessor, Ricardo Ezzati.

Protests in solidarity with the strikers were held in recent days in several European countries. One group of French demonstrators on Wednesday chained themselves for several hours to the Chilean embassy in Paris.

In response to the strikers, government spokeswoman Ena von Baer said that the Pinera administration “100% fulfilled the promises made at the previous negotiation table” last year. Despite government claims that the four strikers were not tried under the controversial anti-terrorism law penal public defender Paula Vial rejected such an assertion.

As discussed in the below video, the Chilean Supreme Court is expected to decide on Friday if the strikers are owed a retrial:

Video Source – teleSUR via YouTube
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, LAHT, La Segunda, La Nacion, La Tercera,, UNPO

Overdue justice for the Guarderia ABC victims

On Tuesday we looked at Martha Rivera Alanis, a Mexican kindergarten teacher who was widely praised after she ensured the safety of her students while a gunfight erupted near the classroom. Her actions helped avert any of her students getting hit by errant bullets. Sadly, quick thinking and bravery was in short supply to avoid a tragedy that happened on June 5, 2009.

It was two years ago this Sunday that 49 children were killed and over 100 were injured when a fire swept through the Guarderia ABC (ABC Nursery) in Hermosillo, Mexico. Despite passing an inspection, numerous safety faults led to such a high death toll including “poor infrastructure of the daycare (the ceiling fell creating a “rain of fire”), problems with availability of the main exits, and lack of employees to carry out an appropriate emergency response (there was one adult for every 8-10 children).”

Since the tragedy at the state-run day care center, the federal government has taken some steps to provide medical care for the survivors. Unfortunately it is a minor compensation compared to the impunity enjoyed by those whose irresponsibility and incompetence led to an avoidable disaster.

In order to call attention to the lack of justice in the Guarderia ABC incident, a “citizens court” was organized in Mexico City’s Zocalo Plaza. As you can see in the below video, numerous figures and officials including ex-Sonoran governor Eduardo Bours Castelo were named as part of the “trial” held last week:

Demonstrations will be held on Sunday throughout Mexico in solidarity with the victims’ families and their call for justice.

Parents of the victims are also preparing to bring their case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights later this year.

Rather than being put on trial for his possible role in the fire, Bours Castelo will be honored by having a boulevard named after him. Such an action is symbolic of the ongoing heartache and suffering families of the victims of the Guarderia ABC fire have had to endure for nearly two years.

Video Source - El Universal via YouTube
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Milenio, El Universal, SDP Noticias, EHUI

Daily Headlines: June 2, 2011

* U.S.: Will the growth in the Latino population in the U.S. be more political beneficial to the Democrats or the Republicans?

* South America: Santos of Brazil is the first finalist of this year’s Copa Libertadores after holding on to beat Paraguay's Cerro Porteno by a 4-3 aggregate score.

* Bolivia: Iranian defense minister Ahmad Vahidi was booted out of Bolivia after strong objections from Argentine officials and Jewish groups.

* Guatemala: Otto Perez, who lost in in the previous presidential race in 2007, is the favorite in the polls to win the presidency in September’s elections.

Image – CNN
Online Sources- Huffington Post,, The Telegraph, Reuters

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Fail to the chief: Blatter reelected to FIFA presidency

Joseph Blatter was reelected today to a fourth term as president of FIFA, the world’s governing soccer body. He thanked the 186 of the 203 representatives who backed him and he vowed to “put FIFA's ship back on the right course in clear, transparent waters” in light of numerous controversies that have plagued his presidency.

Blatter ran unopposed after the president of the Asian Football Federation, Mohamed Bin Hammam, dropped his bid due to bribery allegations. An ethics committee found that Bin Hammam “set up bribes for 25 presidential voters in the Caribbean” as part of his failed campaign. He and FIFA Vice President Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago where subsequently fined and suspended based on the committee’s recommendations.

The whistleblower against the two men was made by FIFA executive board member Chuck Blazer of the U.S. who was described as “a longtime ally of Warner’s”. Despite claiming that he gave Bin Hammam and Warner cash bribes, Blazer was rehired as general secretary of the North and Central American and Caribbean soccer region hours after he was fired.

Blatter’s reelection bid was nearly railroaded due to the possibility that there was wrongdoing behind awarding the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, respectively. The head of England’s soccer association, whose country was the favorite to be awarded the 2018 tournament, attempted to postpone today’s vote. Most FIFA members soundly rejected that suggestion and preferred to kowtow to Blatter.

One of the most odd remarks regarding FIFA wrongdoing came from Julio Grondona, president of the Argentinian FA and head of FIFA's finance committee. It was, for lack of a better term, stupid:
In an interview with a German press agency on Tuesday, Grondona called England "pirates" and added: "Yes, I voted for Qatar, because a vote for the US would be like a vote for England, and that is not possible.

"But with the English bid I said: Let us be brief. If you give back the Falkland Islands, which belong to us, you will get my vote. They then became sad and left."
Image- Christian Hartmann/Reuters via The Guardian (Sepp Blatter continues as FIFA president after easily winning another reelection).
Online Sources- FIFA, NPR, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Guardian,, ESPN Soccernet

Honduras reinstated to OAS

This afternoon members of the Organization of American States (OAS) overwhelmingly voted in favor of readmitting Honduras after an almost two year absence.

All but one of the thirty-three representatives voted in favor of reinstating Honduras, which was suspended from the hemispheric body in the wake of the June 2009 ouster of former President Manuel Zelaya. The “rule of law has not been completed…Repressive impunity continues,” said Ecuadorian diplomat Maria Isabel Salvador who placed the lone vote in objection.

Yet Salvador’s views were not entirely shared by the other representatives that were willing to give Honduras the vote of confidence. “The significance of this cannot be understated,” said Grenada ambassador Gillian Bristol, according to the

Several events over the past month worked in favor of Honduras’ reinstatement including Zelaya returning to his homeland after courts dropped corruption charges against him. (According to the AP, the possibility that Zelaya could face trial was a sticking point for several countries including Argentina, Brazil, and Nicaragua). Before returning from exile, Zelaya and current president Porfirio Lobo signed a “reconciliation pact” that also facilitated Honduran reinstatement to the OAS.

Several rightwing commentators in the U.S. were highly critical of the process behind Zelaya’s return to Honduras. Former Assistant Secretary of State Roger F. Noriega considered Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez as a puppet master content with either a “friendly government” in Honduras or a failed state where his “allies in the illegal drug trade will prosper.” Ex-Bush administration official José R. Cárdenas also blasted Chavez and added his criticism for Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos who helped broker the Zelaya-Lobo agreement.

Meanwhile, a group of eighty-seven U.S. legislators sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton critiquing her support of Honduras’ reinstatement. In e-mail message we received earlier today, the letter allegedly urged the State Department (DOS) “to vigorously press the Honduran government to take concrete steps to end abuses by official security forces by suspending, investigating and prosecuting those implicated in human rights violations.”

In response, a DOS spokesman said today that the U.S. “will continue to work with the Lobo government to promote greater respect for human rights in Honduras.”

Image- Elmer Martinez/AFP/Getty Images via The Guardian (“The Honduran president, Porfirio Lobo, (left) shakes hands with ousted former leader Manuel Zelaya in Colombia over an agreement to allow the latter's return to his homeland.”)
Online Sources- Department of State, Fox News, Foreign Policy, MSNBC, BBC News,, El Universal

Daily Headlines: June 1, 2011

* Cuba: According to a 2006 document unearthed by WikiLeaks, the U.S. government made plans for a “mass exodus” of Cubans in the event of Fidel Castro’s death.

* Central America: A spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said that he was “extremely concerned” over an increase in violence against public prosecutors.

* Brazil: The Senate approved a bill that would allow for the distribution of food to countries hurt by natural disasters and social unrest such as Bolivia and Haiti.

* Guatemala: A Spanish court approved the extradition of ex-Guatemalan Interior Minister Carlos Vielmann where he awaits trial on charges of murder.

Image – AP via BBC News (Fidel Castro, seated on the left, ruled Cuba for several decades until ceding the presidency to his brother, Raul, in 2008).
Online Sources- Press TV, AHN, People’s Daily Online, CNN

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Today’s Video: Grace under pressure

One minute Martha Rivera Alanis was quietly teaching her kindergarten class in Monterrey, Mexico. In an instant a gun battle broke out outside of the classroom that would eventually claim the lives of five people. The death toll on Friday was thankfully not higher due to Rivera Alanis' quick thinking:

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In honor of her brave actions Rivera Alanis received a commendation from officials in Nuevo León. "Of course, I was afraid, but I tell you, my kids get me through it," said the teacher who is also a mother of two.

As mentioned in the above video, Rivera Alanis taped the footage with her cell phone since she was on the school’s safety committee and she felt that it was necessary to tape what happened in her classroom.

Video Source - MSNBC
Online Sources- The Guardian

World Watch: Scary science

* World: According to the World Health Organization tobacco use will kill six million people worldwide this year while cell phone use may be carcinogenic.

* Europe: Former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic was extradited to The Hague where he will face charges of genocide at a U.N. war crimes tribunal.

* Afghanistan: President Hamid Karzai issued a stern warning against NATO airstrikes that kill afghan civilians.

* U.S.: The Pentagon has reportedly considered that certain cyber attacks may be interpreted as “acts of war.

Image – Franck Perevel/AP via The Guardian
Online Sources- MSNBC, AFP, Reuters, Voice of America

Colombia: Chiquita in hot seat over paramilitary ties

In 2007, Chiquita Brands pled guilty in a U.S. court to charges that they paid Colombian paramilitaries to serve as security on banana plantations. Under conditions of the plea deal the company would pay a $25 million fine though it absolved ten former execs from being charged.

In the years since that decision, other lawsuits would be brought up against Chiquita in the name of victims of Colombia’s decades-long armed conflict. Not much has come out of these individual cases yet a South Florida federal judge could permit that all of the cases could be consolidated into one large class action case.

If allowed to proceed, the class action lawsuit representing over 4000 Colombian families could end up costing Chiquita billions of dollars. "A company that pays a terrorist organization that kills thousands of people should get the capital punishment of civil liability and be put out of business by punitive damages," said attorney Terry Collingsworth, whose lawsuit may be part of the class action case.

“This company has committed a crime without name against Colombia,” said commentator Leon Valencia who also detailed how Chiquita directors and paramilitary chiefs worked out a pact in 1997 that would pay the criminals three cents per every banana crate exported abroad. Hence, as Valencia noted, between 1997 and 2004 “647,706,429 banana crates left Colombia and $19,431,193 dollars went to the paramilitaries’ coffers.”

Chiquita have consistently insisted that they were “blackmailed” into accepting protection from the paramilitaries and that the lawsuits should be thrown out. "Chiquita was extorted in Colombia and company officials believed that the payments were necessary to prevent violent retaliation against employees," said company spokesman Ed Loyd to the AP. But the case against the banana company appears to be strong, especially if the findings of the Justice Department are included:
The lawsuits could be strengthened by the recent release of some 5,500 pages of internal Chiquita documents that were produced during the Justice Department probe. The documents detail how payments were hidden by accounting maneuvers, and shed light on Colombian government and political involvement with the paramilitary group. They also show there was a debate among Chiquita executives about whether the payments were proper.

In a 1997 handwritten note, one Chiquita executive said such payments are the "cost of doing business in Colombia."

"Need to keep this very confidential — people can get killed," he wrote.
On a related note, Colombia’s Congress may approve as soon as tomorrow in favor of a landmark bill that would provide “recognition and reparation” to thousands of victims of the country’s armed conflict. The Victims Law would not only provide monetary and land restitution for victims since 1985 but also for potential sufferers targeted by groups including emerging "criminal groups".

Image- AP via CBS News
Online Sources- CBS News,, The Latin Americanist, CBS News, Colombia Reports, The Guardian,

Who killed Salvador Allende?

On September 11, 1973 a military coup led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet targeted Chilean president Salvador Allende. Allende remained defiant against the jet planes and troops hammering the La Moneda presidential palace. Eventually he would die and Pinochet would takeover and rule with an iron fist from 1974 to 1990.

The circumstances behind Allende’s death are shrouded in mystery; did he commit suicide with a gun that was a gift from ex-Cuban president Fidel Castro? Or is the official version wrong and was Allende assassinated by troops?

Last week Allende’s body was exhumed in order to try to figure out once and for all how he died. The exhumation, which counts with wide spared political support and the backing of the ruling conservative government, was done as part of a judicial probe brought up by Allende’s family.

Thus far the first step in the autopsy has been completed: making sure that the body in Allende’s tomb is indeed that of the deposed leftist leader. Dental records were used to confirm that the corpse, which had been moved in 1990, was the body of Allende.

The exhumation process has been largely exempt from scandal, which “exemplifies the consolidation of Chile’s democracy” according to remarks made by political scientist Mauricio Morales to Bloomberg. Yet a minor controversy has emerged after a program that aired on Chile’s TVN implied that Allende was murdered. The program on the state television channel cited a “long-lost” and lengthy military probe into Allende’s death. That report supposedly mentioned that Allende’s fingerprints were not on the weapon that he used allegedly to kill himself and that he was not accompanied by three others who were subsequently arrested and "disappeared."

Allende’s daughter, congresswoman Isabel Allende, reacted furiously to the TVN program and she said that she would lodge a legislative complaint against the channel. Furthermore, according to the New York Times:
Senator Isabel Allende, the former president’s daughter, stated that the program was “an insult to scientific intelligence.”

“We are searching for the truth ... but we want that truth to be based on scientific proof, not on journalistic imagination, not on irresponsibility,” she said.
Image- Tomas Munita/New York Times via New York Times (“Workers took the coffin of former President Salvador Allende for an exhumation” last week.)
Online Sources- BBC News, AFP, Bloomberg, La Tercera, CBS News, New York Times, MSNBC

Daily Headlines: May 31, 2011

* Colombia: China has made major inroads seeking raw materials in Latin America but that hasn’t stopped Colombian coffee growers looking to make their mark in the Chinese market.

* Costa Rica: The British government issued a travel warning cautioning tourists who plan to visit Costa Rica.

* Venezuela: Government supporters took to the streets of Caracas to protest U.S. sanctions against state-run oil firm PDVSA due to deals made with Iran.

* Mexico: According to a Hearst Newspapers analysis California’s gun control laws have helped prevent the mass smuggling of arms from that state across the border to Mexico.

Image – Reuters/Eduardo Munoz via Reuters (“A worker writes down the production of coffee at a coffee farm knows as Don Jimenez Estate in San Jose de las Matas May 21, 2011.)
Online Sources-, BusinessWeek, UPI, Bloomberg

Monday, May 30, 2011

Today’s Video: The mami and papi diner

Today is Memorial Day, a date in the U.S. that commemorates service members who died during military combat. Today's video doesn't focus on Latinos in the military, but instead we want to feature the following report from KBPS set in Oceanside, California. (The city is located just south of the Marine Corps Camp Pendleton).

Grandma's Diner traditionally caters to a varied clientele including military veterans and elderly residents. But the restaurant represents the changing demographics in the U.S.; a population that has gotten increasingly younger and more ethnically diverse. The diner, which was first owned by a "Caucasian couple", was sold to Mexican-born Faustino Hernandez who originally started as a cook at Grandma's. Hence, the clientele has grown to include Latino families and the diner's menu includes "Italian pasta, huevos rancheros and chicken fried steak and grits".

From KBPS here is the story of Grandma's Diner:

Online Source - Time
Video Source - KBPS via YouTube

Daily Headlines: May 30, 2011

* Central America: An Oxfam report found that a surge in violent crime and government inaction has led to a spike in Honduran femicides since mid-2009, while this year could see an unfortunate record in gender-based murders in El Salvador.

* Peru: Undecided voters may not have been swayed by the TV debate between presidential candidates Keiko Fujimori and Ollanta Humala that was held one week before the decisive second round.

* Dominican Republic: A new museum opened yesterday in Santo Domingo in remembrance of the thousands of victims tortured and killed under the ex-dictator Rafael Trujillo.

* Ecuador: The government is pushing for an increase in royalties from Canadian and U.S. mining firms.

Image – Claudia Barrientos/AFP/Getty Images via The Guardian (“The body count has continued to rise since a 2009 candlelit vigil outside the National Congress in Tegucigalpa to mark International No Violence against Women Day.”)
Online Sources- The Guardian,, BBC News, CBS News, Reuters