Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Taking a Break

We are going on a brief hiatus for a few days and hopefully we will return to publish a few posts over the weekend.

In the meantime we'll leave you with a video that we've previously highlighted - the Mystery Science Theater 3000 poking fun at a short film on Venezuela:


Video Source - YouTube via Ekit357

Mexican Author Carlos Fuentes Died

Carlos Fuentes, one of Latin America’s leading authors and intellectuals, died on Tuesday at the age of 83.

Born in Panama, Fuentes was a prolific writer whose works included "The Death of Artemio Cruz" and "Destiny and Desire." For his writing he won numerous awards including Spain’s coveted Cervantes Prize for literature in 1987.

His bestseller "The Old Gringo" was turned into a Hollywood film in 1989 that starred Gregory Peck.

Fuentes was not afraid to express his political views on topics affecting the Americas. In his novel “The Crystal Frontier,” Fuentes blasted U.S. immigration policy, while more recently he criticized Mexican presidential frontrunner Enrique Perez Nieto and called for drug legalization.

The below video comes from an interview via the AARP. In it, Fuentes describes how loneliness can become an impetus for writing and explains the advantages to being an artist:

Video Source – YouTube via AARP

Online Sources – Reuters, New York Times

Daily Headlines: May 16, 2012

* Colombia: President Juan Manuel Santos said that officials do not know who was responsible for a deadly bombing in Bogota that allegedly targeted a former minister.

* Puerto Rico: The U.S. Supreme Court rejected hearing a case challenging Puerto Rican voting restrictions.

* Brazil: A spokesman for the Brazilian Foreign Ministry warned that the biggest challenge for next month’s Rio+20 environmental summit is to reach consensus and "to conciliate multiple interests."

* Panama: The only survivor of a Panamanian fishing boat that was lost for twenty-eight days is suing a cruise company whose ship allegedly ignored his calls for rescue.

Video Source – YouTube via TVPublicaArgentina

Online Sources- CNN, UPI, CBC News, Xinhua

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dangerous Liaisons in Peru

The U.S. Secret Service scandal involving agents soliciting sex workers in Colombia has garnered plenty of headlines. Yet another incident in Peru has served as an example of a women being taken advantage of by a politically connected individual.

Congressman Walter Acha has come under intense scrutiny after being accused of raping his former press advisor, Idelia Calderón. She alleged that her ex-boss doped her and then sexually abused her during a working trip in February. Calderón then claimed that she impregnated him and he attempted to pay for her to abort the fetus. (She would eventually miscarry the child).

Acha initially denied the accusation but he was forced to quickly change his tune after Calderón secretly videotaped a conversation with him. In the video, which she gave to a Peruvian TV network, Acha admitted that he “touched” the lawyer and subsequently claimed that he and Calderón were “lovers”:

Dominican Presidency Up for Grabs Says Polls

Recent polls have indicated that with less than a week to go in the election for president of the Dominican Republic the race is up for grabs between official party candidate Danilo Medina and ex-president Hipólito Mejía.

According to the results of two recently released polls Medina would be the victor in this Sunday’s elections though by differing margins. One poll conducted in late April of over 1500 eligible voters by Spanish firm Sigma Dos Group found that Medina would win by 7.1%. The results, which were released today, concluded that Medina would win since the survey’s margin of error was only 2.5%.

Meanwhile, another poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and published in Diario Libre gave Medina a slim 51-46 advantage over Mejía though they also found that as much as ten percent of the electorate could change their vote. Hence, this survey indicated that both candidates would have to faceoff in a head-to-head second round.

Despite those results a third poll conducted by The Campol Group gave Mejía the edge by a five-point margin (50-45) ahead of Medina.

Arizona's Classroom Battleground

Arizona has become a key state in the often-acrimonious discussion over illegal immigration, particularly with respect to the controversial S.B. 1070 immigration law. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to render a verdict next month on the legality of the statute though that decision might do little to change other debates in Arizona related to race and ethnicity.

“Precious Knowledge” is a documentary that focuses on the contentious fight over Mexican American studies programs in Arizona public schools. Last January, for example, Tuscon education officials dropped Mexican-American Studies courses due to supposed promotion of ethnic resentment. As noted in this article from Fox News Latino, however, such actions have allegedly created “a web of censorship and confusion (that) has entangled the city’s public schools”.

The following trailer for “Precious Knowledge” includes portions of interviews with teachers, parents and lawmakers who are for and against the ethnic studies ban:

Daily Headlines: May 15, 2012

* Latin America: Members of the UNASUR bloc vowed to “share information on their military spending” but will it be enough to stem the growing arms trade throughout Latin America?

* U.S.: Despite objections from immigrant rights groups and Latino rights activists the federal government continues to implement the “Secure Communities” program across the country.

* Mexico: The recent discovery of forty-nine headless bodies in northern Mexico has brought additional scrutiny on President Felipe Calderon’s offensive against on drug gangs.

* Ecuador: A U.S. judge dismissed some of the claims made by attorneys for Chevron against Ecuadorian plaintiffs in an environmental damages lawsuit.

Video Source – YouTube via Al Jazeera English (From April 2009 – “Latin America's largest defense trade show in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro has attracted governments from all over the region.”)

Online Sources- UPI, MSNBC, Fox News Latino, BusinessWeek

Monday, May 14, 2012

Colombia: Prosecutors Crackdown on “Para-Politics” Figures

The FARC’s deadly ambush on a police post and the kidnapping of French journalist Romeo Langlois have served as the latest examples of the barbarism committed by Latin America’s oldest-existing guerillas. But Colombia’s long-running civil conflict runs far deeper than military actions against the state and has embedded itself in the world of Colombian politics.

Case in point is the recent actions related to the “para-politics” scandal where local and federal legislators have been accused of collaborating with illegal paramilitary groups. Since Sunday the Prosecutor General's office have arrested at least a dozen politicians from the Magdalena valley over their alleged ties to paramilitaries.

Argentine Senators Back Breakthrough Gender Identity Law

In last Thursday’s “Daily Headlines” we mentioned that Argentina’s Senate easily approved a “dignified death” law. Yet this important proposal was overshadowed by another bill overwhelmingly backed during the same legislative session last week.

By a 55-0 vote the Senate passed a proposal that grants increased rights to transgender individuals. One of the items in the new Law of Gender Identity allows Argentina to become the world’s first country to allow people to change their legal gender without being obligated to first undergo judicial, psychiatric and medical procedures.

Justus Eisfeld, co-director of Global Action for Trans Equality in New York, told the AP that the new law “is a real game changer and completely unique in the world. It is light years ahead of the vast majority of countries, including the U.S., and significantly ahead of even the most advanced countries.”

Local human rights groups as well as the LGBT community celebrated the new law. As noted in Global Voices Online, however, the bishop of the Diocese of Jujuy was not pleased with the Senate’s actions. “Identity is given from the sex that we receive and from the identity that we take from our mother's womb,” said Daniel Fernández before the law was approved.

Daily Headlines: May 14, 2012

* Venezuela: Pastor Maldonado became the first Venezuelan driver to win a Formula 1 race after he triumphed in the Spanish Grand Prix yesterday.

* Mexico: Police discovered the mutilated bodies of forty-nine people along a highway near the northern city of Monterrey.

* Colombia: Former right-wing paramilitary commander Salvatore Mancuso alleged that the militias supported “in the communities and with money” the 2006 reelection campaign of then-President Alvaro Uribe.

* Peru: Interior Minister Daniel Lozada and Defense Minister Alberto Otarola resigned after facing heavy criticism over a “failed security operation” against Shining Path guerillas.

Video Source – YouTube via MotorsportLiveTV (“Pastor Maldonado expects there will be a "big party" in his native Venezuela after taking his maiden Formula 1 win at the Spanish Grand Prix.”)

Online Sources- ESPN, BBC News, Voice of America, Fox News Latino