Friday, August 31, 2012

London Calling: Making Waves

We'll be back over the Labor Day weekend to cover several news stories from around Latin America and the Caribbean.

In the meantime, the following video is footage of Brazilian swimmer Daniel Dias who won a gold medal at the Paralympics in London. As seen below, the twenty-four-year old's victory in the fifty-meter freestyle of the S5 class was obtained in a world record time of 32.05 seconds:

"I leave satisfied from this first test," said Dias to the Brazilian press. "There will be ten days of competition and it helped to break the ice," he added.

The winner of the 2009 Laureus Award for Sportsperson with a Disability is seeking this year to add to the nine medals earned at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing.

With two days of the London Paralympics in the books Brazil leads the medal table for Latin American nations with six medals. Next comes Mexico with three medals, Cuba and Argentina with two each and lastly Venezuela with one medal.

Video Source - YouTube via user TheTvlance

Online Sources - Official London 2012 website, Portal Vermelho

Daily Headlines: August 31, 2012 (Updated)

* Mexico: The judges of the Mexican Federal Electoral Tribunal unanimously rejected a legal challenge alleging voter fraud and corruption by the campaign of apparent president-elect Enrique Peña Nieto.

Update: Mexican electoral authorities on Friday declared Enrique Peña Nieto as the winner of July's presidential elections.

Prior to that, defeated candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador claimed that he would not recognize an "illegitimate administration" and urged followers to participate in a protest on September 9th.

* Colombia: Three out of five Colombians support negotiations with the FARC rebels according to a poll conducted in the same week that the government agreed to hold peace talks with the guerillas.

* U.S.: Family and supporters of Jason Puracal, a U.S. citizen convicted of drug trafficking in Nicaragua, held a vigil this week and called for his prompt release.

* Argentina: Argentina filed a complaint at the World Trade Organization against U.S. restrictions on meat imports days after Japan and the U.S. lodged a dispute blasting Argentine trade rules.

Video Source – YouTube via teleSUR English

Online Sources (including Update) - BBC News, Bloomberg, The Latin Americanist, Reuters, KOMO News, France 24

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Daily Headlines: August 30, 2012

Note: Posting will be very light on Thursday. We apologize for the inconvenience.

* Venezuela: Investigators are looking into allegations that illegal miners from neighboring Brazil murdered eighty members of the Yanomami tribe.

* Central America: General Douglas Fraser, head of the U.S. military's Southern Command, admitted that there has been an increase in antidrug patrols off the coasts of Honduras and Guatemala.

* Mexico: State-run oil firm Pemex located an offshore oil field that could hold reserves of 400 million barrels of light crude.

* Chile: At least 50,000 demonstrators took to the streets of Santiago on Tuesday and called for the government to enact educational reforms.

Video Source – YouTube via user socioambiental (2011 Brazilian TV report on illegal miners crossing the border into Venezuela and harassing indigenous tribes).

Online Sources- The Guardian, MSNBC, Reuters, UPI

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

World Watch: Melting Away

* Antarctica: A new scientific study found that methane gas trapped beneath the Antarctic Ice Sheet could impact the global climate if the ice were to thaw.

* Iran: During his visit to the Nonaligned Movement conference in Tehran, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon expressed “serious concerns on the human rights abuses and violations” in Iran.

* Asia: Envoys from Japan and North Korea will hold talks for the first time since 2008 and that could improve diplomatic relations between both Asian states.

* India: A court upheld the death sentence of Pakistani national who was convicted for a series of attacks in Mumbai nearly four years ago.

Video Source– YouTube via user 7NEWS

Online Sources – Christian Science Monitor, BBC News, CBS News, The Guardian

London Calling: On to the Paralympics

The London Games came to their conclusion earlier this month and subsequently the likes of Mariana Pajon, Erick Barrondo and the Mexican men’s soccer team returned to their respective countries amidst pomp and circumstance.

Meanwhile several hundred athletes from Latin America and the Caribbean are in London for the Paralympics that will be inaugurated later today. Thus, over the next several days we’ll look at some competitors from the region that will be participating in the London Paralympics.

Peruvian Paralympic athletes have won eight medals, which are twice as many medals obtained as the country’s Olympic squads. This year the South American country will be represented by a single athlete: fifty-five-year-old Pompilio Falconi.

The military veteran has won 135 medals in competitions throughout his athletic career including a bronze in last year’s Parapan American Games. Falconi’s main discipline has been the javelin throw yet organizers reclassified him due to the nature of his disability (a progressive form of multiple sclerosis). Nevertheless, he qualified for the Paralympics in the discus event that will be held on September 3rd.

In the video below via Peruvian TV, Falconi admitted that even though he will have to forego taking painkillers to treat his disability while in London his body has “adapted” to the rigors of top-level athletic competition:

Daily Headlines: August 29, 2012

* Brazil: Work is expected to resume at the site of what will be the world's third largest hydroelectric dam despite opposition from environmentalists and local indigenous groups.

* Venezuela: Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said that firefighters extinguished a massive blaze at a major oil refinery that killed at least forty-one people.

* Mexico: President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto said that he will step into the case of a Mexican woman sentenced to ninety-nine years in prison for murder in Texas.

* Cuba: According to the Cuban Tourism Ministry the number of foreign visitors to the island in 2011 surpassed the two million-person mark for the ninth consecutive year.

Video Source – YouTube via Al Jazeera English (In June about 150 indigenous protesters opposed to the Belo Monte dam occupied the project’s construction site).

Online Sources- BBC News, Bernama, The Latin Americanist, ABC News, Fox News Latino

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tropical Storm Hits Hispaniola Hard

Tropical Storm Isaac is expected to become a hurricane by the time it reaches residents of several Gulf Coast states in the U.S. Before hitting landfall and affecting areas such as New Orleans, Isaac left behind a path of destruction over the weekend in parts of the Caribbean.

At least twenty-five people died in Hispaniola, the island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Most of these fatalities occurred in Haiti where civil defense officials claimed that nineteen people died as a result of the storm. The death toll could increase, according to officials, since six people are reported as missing.

Furthermore, rescue workers have not reached parts of the country vulnerable to mudslides and flooding such as “mountain hamlets” in the south. “We are still collecting information,” said George Ngwa, communications chief for the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to the Miami Herald.

The storm affected thousands of Haitians who survived a major 2010 earthquake and are living in tent settlements. As seen in the video below, residents of tent cities in Port-au-Prince tried as best as possible to assess the damage from Isaac:

Death Toll Rises in Venezuelan Oil Refinery Blast

At least forty-eight people have died in what may be the worst accident to hit the Venezuelan oil industry in recent years.

According to the governor of Falcon state, the death toll could continue to rise after a massive explosion rocked the Amuay refinery on Saturday.  Moreover, local hospitals are still tending to “scores of people” injured by the fire that continue to burn and spread yesterday from two to three fuel storage tanks at the facility.

“It’s very early to draw any conclusions from the investigation because we haven’t even been able reach the spot where the explosion occurred,” said President Hugo Chavez who declared three days of mourning and toured the affected areas.  According to BBC News, however, the possible cause of the blast became a main topic in Venezuela’s contentious presidential race:

Daily Headlines: August 28, 2012

* Nicaragua: Investigators believe that eighteen people arrested and posing as fake Mexican journalists may be part of a ‘vast network of drug criminals”.

* U.S.: Will the Republican National Convention help the GOP make serious inroads into a Latino electorate that seem to mostly support President Barack Obama?

* Argentina: Mexico filed a complaint at the World Trade Organization against Argentina’s economic “protectionist measures.

* Caribbean: According to Bahamian officials sixteen Haitian migrants who disappeared when their boat capsized are presumed to be dead.

Video Source – YouTube via Milenio

Online Sources- The Guardian, Fox News Latino,, Reuters, MSNBC

Monday, August 27, 2012

World Watch: To the Moon and Back

* U.S.: A private service is planned on Friday for Neil Armstrong, the pioneering astronaut who was the first man to walk on the moon, after he died on Saturday at the age of 82.

* Syria: Opposition activists claimed that at least sixty-two people were killed near Damascus as part of a military jet offensive.

* Russia: Lawyers appealed the recent conviction of three members of the feminist punk group Pussy Riot who face two years in prison for performing an anti-government song at a Moscow Orthodox church.

* Kenya: Violent protests have taken place in Mombasa after “radical Islamist preacher” Sheikh Aboud Rogo died in an apparent extrajudicial killing.

Video Source– YouTube via Associated Press

Online Sources – CBS News, Christian Science Monitor, Reuters, Huffington Post

Colombian Government and Guerillas Agree to Dialogue? (Updated: Yes).

Update: Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos confirmed news reports claiming that the government is holding negotiations with the FARC guerillas.

"We have had exploratory conversations with the FARC to seek an end to the conflict," Santos said in a televised speech on Monday night according to Reuters.

He added that the military would continue operations while talks continued and that future discussions could be held with the ELN rebels.

Original Post: The Colombian government and the FARC rebels have reportedly agreed to start a peace process that could lead to the end of a very violent chapter in the South American country’s history.

Venezuelan–based news network teleSUR claimed today that government representatives including the Colombian security minister and an ex-peace commissioner met with several guerilla commanders in Havana, Cuba. There they signed a pact agreeing to formally commence a dialogue in October in Oslo, Norway and subsequently continue discussions in Havana.

teleSUR’s news director, Jorge Enrique Botero, further alleged that today’s agreement comes after months of “secret negotiations” brokered by the Venezuelan, Cuban and Norwegian governments. That may’ve been corroborated by an article yesterday in Colombia’s El Espectador that, according to the Colombia Reports website, claimed that the Venezuelan government “has been called on as mediator when talks turned sour.”

Daily Headlines: August 27, 2012

* Central America: A tsunami alert affecting Mexico and several Central American countries was lifted hours after a 7.3-magnnitude earthquake shook off the coast of El Salvador.

* Ecuador: Could Latin American support behind Ecuador’s approval of asylum for Julian Assange help push for the start of negotiations between the South American country and Britain?

* Cuba: Prominent dissident Guillermo Fariñas was released from police custody over the weekend after having been detained for approximately forty hours.

* Nicaragua: Police last week confiscated over $7 million from eighteen people who were arrested and posing as false journalists.

Video Source – YouTube via CNN Chile (Thus far there have been no reports of serious damage or injuries after the tremor occurred in the overnight hours into Monday).

Online Sources- Herald Sun, The Latin Americanist, Reuters, AFP, GlobalPost