Friday, February 22, 2013

Bend It Like Suárez

Luis Suárez may have his detractors who detest him based on his infamous handball in Uruguay’s 2010 World Cup match against Ghana and his alleged racist insults against a rival player last year.  Yet the 26-year-old striker is capable of playing brilliant on the field such as the following goal scored for Liverpool in its Europa League match on Thursday:

Daily Headlines: February 22, 2013

* Brazil: Former environment minister and presidential candidate Marina Silva launched a new political group “seeking to break the monopoly of traditional political parties.”

* Cuba: Will the U.S. State Department soon remove Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism?
* Haiti: The U.N. rejected compensating victims of a cholera outbreak that killed thousands in Haiti.

* Mexico: U.S.-based Cargill reached a settlement regarding a free trade dispute with Mexico.

Video Source – YouTube via user TEDxTalks

Online Sources- Mercopress, Miami Herald, BBC News, NBC News

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Ex-Dictator ”Baby Doc” Skips Haitian Court Appearance

Former strongman Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier refused to attend a court appearance today to decide if he should be tried for crimes against humanity.

The hearing was first scheduled last October but had been delayed numerous times and Duvalier had previously skipped his appeal court hearing twice.  Ironically, it was Duvalier’s lawyers who sought the latest delay two weeks ago after seeking Haiti's Supreme Court to overturn the court order.

Despite the bravado of one of Duvalier’s attorneys who boasted, “I'm Haiti's Johnnie Cochran,” Judge Jean-Joseph Lebrun ordered the ex-ruler to appear in front of him on February 28th.  

“There are grounds for the court to declare that Jean-Claude Duvalier's appearance is imperative. It is therefore appropriate that he be brought here to appear before the court,” declared Lebrun in front of a packed courthouse that included relatives of his victims, attorneys and journalists.

Haitian authorities opened an investigation against Duvalier shortly after he retuned from exile in January 2011 and subsequently charged him with corruption, theft, and crimes against humanity.  A court dropped these charges last year though human rights observers and victims’ families lodged an appeal to that decision.

Venezuela: Students Want President to “Show His Face” (UPDATED)

A group of Venezuelan student protesters have urged President Hugo Chávez to make a public appearance after he reportedly returned to his homeland this week.

“Just like we urged him to return to Venezuela, today we ask him to show his face,” declared student activist Gabriela Arellano this afternoon.

Arellano threatened that if this demand isn’t met then the students will march to the Caracas military hospital where Chávez is said to be staying in “to see if he’s doing well and is capable to govern.”

Arellano, who is a member of the “Operation Sovereignty” protest group, also called on college students to demonstrate at their respective campuses on Monday and call for a new presidential election in case Chávez is to sick to lead the country.

At the same press conference, student protest leader José Vicente Garcia accused Vice President Nicolás Maduro and congressional chief Diosdado Cabello with "wanting to keep" the government.

The Venezuelan government has not shown any images or video of Chávez since he purportedly returned from Cuba early Monday morning.  The president had been in Cuba for seventy days to undergo cancer surgery and treatment.

Daily Headlines: February 21, 2013

* Bolivia: President Evo Morales helped kick off the U.N.’s Year of Quinoa and praised the grain’s nutritional properties though the popularity of the food may be hurting Bolivian farmers.

* U.S.: The U.S. Supreme Court rejected applying retroactively a 2010 ruling that obligates lawyers to tell immigrant clients that they can be deported if they plead guilty to certain crimes.

* Cuba: A group of U.S. legislators returned to the U.S. from Cuba but not before having separate meetings with President Raul Castro and imprisoned contractor Alan Gross.

* Puerto Rico: In a 5-4 decision, Puerto Rico’s top court upheld a law banning gay couples from adopting as well as barring “second-parent adoptions.”

Video Source – YouTube via user telesurenglish (Video uploaded in December 2012).

Online Sources- VOXXI, ABC News, Voice of America, New York Times

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Report Highlights “Disappearances” in Mexico

Around 250 people are believed to have disappeared in Mexico during the administration of former President Felipe Calderón according to a new report from Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The HRW report, which was released on Wednesday, found that 149 people between December 2006 and December 2012 were victims of “enforced disappearances” committed by “all branches of the security forces”.  Furthermore, the report noted how in more than sixty cases evidence was uncovered linking “state agents” with criminal groups such as drug gangs to organize disappearances and extort money from the families of victims.

HRW explained that they uncovered evidence in an apparent disappearance case showing how police in a Nuevo León town “arbitrarily detained” nineteen construction workers in 2011 and gave them to an organized crime group. 

The human rights group believes that there is “little doubt” that there are unofficially  “thousands” more cases of disappearances in Mexico.  An Interior Ministry official confirmed this hours after the HRW report was published when she admitted that there are over 27,000 disappearance cases in Mexico.

None of the 249 cases investigated by HRW have led to a conviction in a court of law.  “All too often, (prosecutors and law enforcement officials) blame the victims and tell families it is their responsibility to investigate,” according to the report.

Days after coming to office last December 1st, current President Enrique Peña Nieto announced the creation of a new national police force which he said would be better trained and equipped to fight crime.  Nevertheless, one senior HRW official also observed how current President Enrique Peña Nieto must take more decisive action:

Ecuadorian Expats in Spain Backed Correa Reelection (UPDATED)

Several days ago Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa easily won reelection in the first round partly thanks to the number of expats who overwhelmingly voted for him.

Much like he did among the Ecuadorian electorate, Correa had little trouble beating his rivals in several Spanish cities.  According to figures from the Ecuadorian embassy in Spain, Correa won between 75 and 80% of the vote in Madrid while at least four out of every five voters in Valencia voted for him.

In Barcelona Correa received the backing of 9300 of the 13,200 expats who participated in Sunday’s election.  The second-most popular option was not another candidate but votes counted as null (966) followed by opposition candidate Guillermo Lasso and business magnate Álvaro Noboa (639).

Approximately half of eligible Ecuadorian voters in Spain went to the ballots even. Ambassador Aminta Buenaño praised the “great enthusiasm” among the electorate in Spain that led to a 50% voter turnout.  (Voting is obligatory in Ecuador though it’s voluntary outside of the South American country.)

Expats in Madrid waited on lines nearly two kilometers long to go vote while hundreds of others were turned away.  Buenaño claimed that officials were overwhelmed by large numbers of voters who decided to head to the polls at the last minute.

Since taking office in 2007, Correa has sought to improve relations with his countrymen living abroad.  In March 2012, for instance, Correa held one of his weekly televised town hall meetings with Ecuadorians in the Spanish city of Murcia.  In addition, Ecuador extended health benefits to expats who are uninsured; thus, aiding those living in Spain whose insurance was under danger due to deep spending cuts enacted by Mariano Rajoy’s government.

Daily Headlines: February 20, 2013

* Cuba: Dissident Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez praised freedom of expression in Brazil even though she was jeered by a small group of protesters in Recife.

* U.S.: President Obama talked with three Republican senators including Marco Rubio in order to discuss “bipartisan, commonsense immigration reform.”

* Latin America: Has Latin America become increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks?

* Peru: Officials returned to their families the bodies of twenty-six people killed two decades ago during combat between the Peruvian army and Shining Path rebels.

Video Source – YouTube via user libertadigitaltv

Online Sources- ABC News, CBS News, Huffington Post,

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Daily Headlines: February 19, 2013

* Cuba: A group of seven U.S. congressmen arrived in Cuba yesterday in order to lobby on behalf of imprisoned contractor Alan Gross who has been behind bars for about three years.

* Caribbean: Representatives of the Caribbean Community trading bloc urged U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to push for greater arms control.
* U.S.: The Tea Party Express is reportedly planning a Latino outreach campaign aimed at improving the political group’s image within the Hispanic community.

* Bolivia: Spain’s foreign minister warned that diplomatic relations with Bolivia could be hurt after President Evo Morales announced the nationalization of the Andean country’s airports operator.

Video Source – YouTube via user JewishNewsOne

Online Sources- Reuters, The Guardian, Miami Herald, Fox News Latino

Monday, February 18, 2013

President Hugo Chávez Returns to Venezuela (UPDATED)

Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez returned to his homeland seventy days after he traveled to Cuba for cancer surgery and treatment.

His return was announced via a series of messages on his Twitter account early on Monday morning.  “We've arrived once again in our Venezuelan homeland. Thank you, my God!! Thank you, beloved nation!! We will continue our treatment here,” read one tweet.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro subsequently said on television that Chávez arrived at 2:30 AM and was taken to a Caracas military hospital in Caracas where he would continue his recovery.

Thousands of “euphoric” Chavistas took to the streets to celebrate the return of the president who left Venezuela on December 10th and underwent his fourth cancer-related surgery the next day.

“I've been here since 5 this morning to support the president. He is the hope of our people,” said one Chávez supporter who gathered along with hundreds of others outside the Dr. Carlos Arvelo military hospital.

A communique from the Mesa de la Unidad Democrática opposition bloc called on the government to be more transparent and “tell the truth to the Venezulan people”.  In addition, opposition leader and defeated presidential candidate Henrique Capriles welcomed Chávez’ return to Venezuela and hoped that it “should not serve to justify the unjustifiable, to cover up things that are happening.”

Why did Chávez return to Veneuela?  Oen potential answer could be that he plans to undergo his inauguartion that was delayed by Venezuela top court last month.  The AFP cited a “Supreme Court source” who claimed that that the judges are waiting for permission from Chávez and his medical team to swear him in.

Daily Headlines: February 18, 2013

* Puerto Rico: The New Progressive Party will organize marches to be held on March 2nd in favor of granting statehood status to Puerto Rico.

* Mexico: Officials declared a health emergency after about 582,000 domestic fowl were affected by avian flu

* Chile: Over forty tons of tomatoes were used in a massive food fight held in the Chilean city of Quillon.
* Brazil: Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez arrived in Brazil as part of a three-month tour of twelve Latin America and European nations.

Video Source – YouTube via user NewsyPolitics

Online Sources- Vancouver Sun, Zee News, Fresh Plaza, Miami Herald