Saturday, July 2, 2011

Weekend Headlines: July 2-3, 2011

* Argentina: This year’s edition of the Copa America opened with hosts Argentina being held to a 1-1 tie by Bolivia.

* Venezuela: Speculation over Venezuela’s political and economic future has seemingly run rampant since President Hugo Chavez admitted that doctors removed a tumor with “cancerous cells”.

* Cuba: The government enacted new polices that would “simplify the steps” to permit Cubans to buy and sell homes and cars.

* Mexico: Fifteen people were killed in a shootout between the military and alleged members of the Zetas drug gang a day after a Zetas hit man was arrested and accused in the massacre of 72 migrants last year.

Image – Pedro Fosco/Associated Press via CBC News (“Bolivia's Ronald Raldes, left, battles for the ball with Argentina's Carlos Tevez on Friday.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, CNN, LAHT, BBC News, MSNBC

Friday, July 1, 2011

World Watch: Another Shinawatra in power?

* Thailand: Yingluck Shinawatra, younger sister of disgraced former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, could be the winner in Thailand’s national elections on Sunday.

* Canada: Residents of 27 countries including Honduras, China and Belarus were sworn in as Canadian citizens on Canada Day.

* U.S.: Bail conditions against former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn were dropped though he still faces charges of an alleged sex assault.

* Morocco: Voters overwhelming backed a series of political reforms designed to limit the power of the monarchy but also prevent that “Arab Spring” protests take place in Morocco.

Image – AFP (“A picture of fugitive former leader Thaksin Shinawatra is displayed at the entrance of a Red Shirt village in Khon Kaen.”)
Online Sources- The Independent, CTV News, Bloomberg, Reuters

Daily Headlines: July 1, 2011

* Mexico: Heavy rains and strong winds from Tropical Storm Arlene pelted most of Mexico yesterday while twenty foot waves forced the port of Veracruz to close.

* U.S.: A breakthrough in the debate over U.S free trade pacts with Colombia and Panama lasted less than a day.

* South America: Members of the Mercosur trade bloc are pushing for progress on free trade discussions with the E.U.

* Guatemala: The country's electoral tribunal rejected the presidential candidacy of Sandra Torres who divorced her husband, current President Alvaro Colom, in order to run for office.

Image – AFP
Online Sources- Politico, UPI, CNN, Voice of America, The Latin Americanist

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Venezuela's Chavez admits to surgery to remove tumor

In a televised speech tonight Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez admitted that doctors removed "carcinogenic cells" from a tumor on his body.

The Venezuelan leader, who has been in the Cuban capital of Havana since undergoing surgery over two weeks ago, mentioned that he underwent a second procedure "that permitted the extraction of the tumor." Chavez emphasized that he is in recuperation and following "strict" orders from the Cuban medical team overseeing his condition. He also thanked all the well wishes he has received from supporters in Venezuela and abroad.

During his appearance that aired on Venezuelan state TV, Chavez appeared thinner and read from a prepared statement. This will likely fuel criticism by the Venezuelan opposition against the government who they accuse of a lack of transparency and trying to cover up information on Chavez' health.

In order to try to quell worries over Chavez' health, the government published two recent videos of him including one where he is with ex-Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Venezuelan officials on Wednesday postponed a Latin American and Caribbean summit that was supposed to be held on Margarita Island next week. It appears highly likely that Chavez will not return to his homeland on Tuesday in order to celebrate the Venezuelan bicentennial.

Online Sources - El Universal (Venezuela and Mexico),, BBC News, CNN, LAHT
Image Source - AFP via BBC News

News Briefs: Venezuela (aside from Hugo Chavez' health)

Rumors abound over the health of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez who has mostly been quiet since he underwent surgery in Cuba to weeks ago. Hours after the government suspended a regional summit next week state TV showed footage of Chavez and ex-Cuban leader Fidel Castro allegedly filmed on Tuesday:

While speculation continues over Chavez’ state, it’s worth noting that plenty of other news headlines emerged from Venezuela over the past few days. Some of them include the following:
  • Authorities arrested the directors of the El Rodeo prison two weeks after deadly rioting took place. The situation continues to be tense, however, as representatives for the inmates alleging abuses and the government meet at the negotiating table.
  • The Foreign Ministry “repudiates the hypocritical attitude of the government of the United States” as part of their response to a State Department report blasting Venezuela on human trafficking. (Venezuela wasn’t the only Latin American state to criticize the report, however).
  • Officials at state-run energy firm PDVSA said that the company tripled its social development contributions in 2010. The firm also received a financial boost this week with a $1.5 loan from Japan.
  • The legal wrangling over the remains of ex-president Carlos Andres Perez continues over six months after his death. The body of the former leader will be placed temporarily in a mortuary while the courts keep hearing arguments from family members based in Venezuela and the U.S.
Video Source- Associated Press Via YouTube
Online Sources- Bloomberg, The Guardian, El Universal, Dominican Today,, Reuters, MSNBC

Daily Headlines: June 30, 2011

* Brazil: A neat individual effort from Rosana in the 54th minute was enough for Brazil to win 1-0 over Australia in their opening women's World Cup match.

* South America: Ecuador extradited to Colombia an alleged FARC guerilla leader who is linked to Sinaloa’s drug gang.

* Haiti: A scientific study "strongly suggests" that U.N. peacekeepers spread a deadly cholera strain that has killed thousands of Haitians.

* Honduras: The Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve in Honduras was placed back on the UNESCO list of endangered world heritage sites.

Image – Getty Images via BBC News (“Brazil's Rosana celebrates her goal for the runners-up of the last World Cup.”)
Online Sources- UPI,, Xinhua, MSNBC

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

World Watch: War$

* U.S.: Spending on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as operations in Pakistan could cost nearly $4 trillion according to a study by Brown University researchers.

* China: A lawyer for recently freed artist Al Weiwei said that he would appeal a $1.85 million tax bill sent by authorities.

* Libya: French officials admitted that they’ve sent weapons to Libyan rebels despite the possibility that such actions would break a U.N. resolution.

* Greece: The parliament approved a staunch austerity plan that could lead to a joint E.U./International Monetary Fund bailout.

Image – Al Jazeera English
Online Sources- Voice of America, MSNBC, Reuters, The Guardian

Today’s Video: Isabel in power

The Perons were Argentina's primary political couple decades before the Kirchners and many years ahead of Cristina Kirchner's ascending to the presidency. Juan Peron held the presidency during two different occasions with the more successful period occurring when the mythical Eva "Evita" Peron was by his side. Often overlooked was his more checkered nine months in the presidency that culminated on this day 37 years ago.

On June 29, 1974 First Lady and Vice President Isabel Peron became Argentina's interim president. Two days later, the former nightclub dancer would be named as the country's ruling leader after Juan Peron died due to a series of heart attacks.

Economic problems worsened under the presidency of "Isabelita" as "schock therapy" policies backfired. Increased violence came about from extremist groups like the leftist Montoneros and the right-wing Argentine Anticommunist Alliance. Political tensions exacerbated as opponents railed against her even within her own political faction.

The pubic never endeared to Isabel as they had to "Evita" and her presidency was doomed from the start. She when she was deposed in a coup in March 1976 that led to the infamous "Dirty War" era.

Isabel kept a low profile after being deposed and in 1981 she left for exile in Spain. In 2007 she was arrested by police in her Madrid home after an Argentine judge ordered that she provide testimony over alleged human rights during her presidency. Yet a high Spanish court rejected Argentina's extradition request for Isabel. The forgotten Peron who could never capture the public's attention like "Evita" did currently resides free in Spain.

The following video from France24 briefly looks at the Perons and Isabel's presidency starting at the 1:05 mark:

Online Source - BBC News, Mercopress, The Guardian
Video Source - France24 via YouTube

Daily Headlines: June 29, 2011 (Updated)

* Americas: A Brazilian court gave the approval for the country’s first gay marriage, while some homosexual couples of Latin American background in New York are rejoicing the state’s recently signed same-sex marriage law.

* South America: The Mercosur economic bloc could soon grow from four to six members with the inclusion of Bolivia and Ecuador.

* Ecuador: Six ex-police officers including the former head of security for Ecuador's congress were convicted for their actions in a supposedly failed coup attempt against President Rafael Correa.

* Mexico: According to Rev. Alejandro Solalinde, a Mexican priest who runs a migrant shelter in Oaxaca, at least eighty Central American migrants were kidnapped by “masked gunmen.” Update: The Mexican government said that there is not enough evidence to support Solalinde's claims.

Image – BBC News
Online Sources- Herald Sun, New York Times, AFP, The Independent, BBC News

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Breakthrough reached to advance Panama, Colombia free trade deals

The impasse slowing the approval of free trade pacts between the U.S. and three countries including Panama and Colombia appears to be over.

According to several reports a compromise was reached that would permit the stalled agreements to move forward in the U.S. Congress. After intense negotiations between the Obama administration and Congress, the Senate Finance Committee agreed that they would start work on the pacts as early as this Thursday. The pacts would fall under the so-called “fast track status” where Congress places them under an up-or-down vote without the chance to amend them. Furthermore, consideration of the deals would tie them to a temporary extension of the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), a federal program that helps workers displaced when their jobs are sent overseas.

The move was praised by the White House via press secretary Jay Carney who said, “Now it is time to move forward with TAA and with the Korea, Colombia, and Panama trade agreements, which will support tens of thousands of jobs.”

The president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, one of the country’s most important pro-business advocacy groups, also backed the compromise. "For members of Congress who care about American jobs, this is a moment of truth," said Chamber President Thomas Donohue.

The free trade deals, which were negotiated under President George W. Bush and modified under the Obama administration, are expected to receive strong opposition from members of both sides of the aisle. Several congressional Republican leaders are vehemently opposed to the TAA and believe that it should be discussed separately from the free trade deals. Sen. Orrin Hatch, the top Republican on the Finance Committee, claimed that the compromise "risks support for this critical job-creating trade pact in the name of a welfare program of questionable benefit at a time when our nation is broke."

Meanwhile, the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, Sander Levin, said yesterday that he would “actively oppose” the deal with Colombia since it neglects to mention an “action plan” on workers’ rights. Yet Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus has urged his fellow Democrats to back the proposal that “will boost our economy by billions of dollars and create new jobs and opportunities here at home.”

The "mock markup" also includes renewing the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA), a trade preference system that expired this year amid the debate over free trade. According to the website for Colombian daily El Tiempo, this is welcome news to the country’s exporters:
This news is key since Colombian exporters have been obligated to pay tariffs since the ATPDEA expired in February. The extension of the ATPDEA program would be long enough to connect to the start of the free trade deal, which could start as late as one year after Congressional approval.
Image- Fox/ The Washington Post via Seattle Times (“Colombia's export revolution began with flowers. Many Medellín residents, including Luz Dari Garcia, 20, work in the flower business. Colombian flowers make up roughly 90 percent of all those sold in the United States.”)
Online Sources- NPR, Bloomberg, El Tiempo, USA TODAY, Reuters,

Mexico’s Carstens loses chance to head IMF

Mexican central bank chief Agustin Carstens lost his bid to become the next managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde will continue the tradition of a European heading the important global body after winning today’s election. An IMF statement praised Carstens and Lagarde as "well-qualified candidates" but ultimately Lagarde will become the first female to head the organization.

Her campaign was all but assured over the past 24 hours when she received support of several key countries including China, a rapidly emerging nation and the U.S., which holds a de facto veto by controlling 17% of the votes. (Candidates must receive at least 85% of voes in order to win). She also received backing from Russia, most of the E.U. states, and several African countries.

Carstens received 12% of the votes from countries like Canada and Australia. Despite getting support from most of the Latin American bloc two of the region’s heavyweights- Argentina and Brazil- instead opted for Lagarde.

According to The Telegraph’s website Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega said that he was “glad more than one candidate had been launched.” Nevertheless, Mantega admitted hours before the vote that Lagarde was his country’s preferred choice:
Brazil chose Lagarde not only for her experience, background and knowledge, but also for her commitment to continuing IMF reforms, "which implies increasing representation among emerging economies," Finance Minister Guido Mantega said…

In Latin America, Peru, Colombia and Chile have backed Carstens. Yet Carstens was seen by some Brazilian officials as too conservative an economist, and Brazil's emerging rivalry with Mexico as a major power in Latin America also may have been a deciding factor.
Image- Ueslei Marcelino via The Guardian (“Mexico's central bank governor – and (former) candidate for the IMF's managing director – Agustín Carstens, at a news conference in Brasilia, 1 June 2011.”)
Online Sources- The Guardian, BBC News, The Telegraph, Reuters, The Latin Americanist

Today’s Video: “Tri”-mendous goals!

It’s a good time to be a fan of Mexico’s men’s and women’s national soccer teams.

Three weeks ago the men's squad faced an uncomfortable situation when five players were removed from the Gold Cup team after testing positive for a banned substance. El Tri were still able to overcome adversity throughout the tournament, culminating in their defense of the Gold Cup title. Mexico’s young stars shined in an emphatic 4-2 victory on Sunday over their bitter rivals, the U.S. Despite falling behind 2-0 early in the match Mexico retained their composure and Pablo Barrera and Andres Guardado tied the match up just before halftime. The second half was all Mexico with this golazo by Giovanni dos Santos serving as an exclamation mark for El Tri:

Sadly the team’s off-field troubles continued less than 48 hours after their Gold Cup victory. According to the Mexican soccer federation eight players were removed from the squad heading to Argentina for the Copa America after allegedly partying with prostitutes in a Quito, Ecuador hotel.

In the meantime, the ladies started out their participation in the Women’s World Cup on the right foot. Much like their male compatriots, the Mexican women fell behind early in their first group match to England yesterday. But in a moment of inspiration Monica Ocampo launched a 40-yard rocket that allowed Mexico to equalize in a match that ended tied 1-1:

Video Source - YouTube
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Reuters, El Universal,

Daily Headlines: June 28, 2011

* Argentina: The shock of storied Argentine soccer club River Plate being relegated for the first time in its 110-year history was too much to bear for some fans that rioted in Buenos Aires.

* U.S.: A federal judge blocked the implementation of certain parts of a strong anti-immigrant bill in Georgia after hearing a lawsuit filed by several plaintiffs including eleven Latin American states.

* Latin America: Attorneys representing approximately 160 former plantation workers filed a lawsuit against oil giant Shell and food firms Dole and Chiquita over allegations of being sick from pesticides.

* Colombia: Despite the recent leeway made by the White House to push for a free trade deal with Colombia, one leading congressional Democrat said that he would oppose the pact.

Video Source – La Republica via YouTube (River Plate may’ve won 33 league titles, two Copa Libertadores, and one Intercontinental title but it was all for naught when they were embarrassingly relegated on Sunday).
Online Sources- UPI, Bloomberg, The Independent, The Guardian

Monday, June 27, 2011

Daily Headlines: June 27, 2011

* Peru: The government revoked a silver mining contract given to a Canadian firm after several days of deadly protests in southern Peru.

* U.S.: A comprehensive immigration bill was relaunched in the Senate last week while some members of the Cuban exile community are concerned by a separate proposal.

* South America: The odds appear slim that talks will resume between Bolivian and Chilean representatives over the landlocked country’s wish to gain access to the ocean.

* Honduras: In what was reported as Manuel Zelaya’s “first major public appearance since returning from exile”, the former president called for a constitutional assembly as well as an end to the country’s “oligarchy”.

Image – AFP via BBC News
Online Sources- UPI, People’s Daily Online, The Globe and Mail, Huffington Post, MSNBC