Friday, April 5, 2013

Peruvians Improvise Runway Lights to Help Sick Patients

There is an old adage that says, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”  That was certainly the case on Tuesday night in in the Peruvian jungle region.

A 31-year-old woman at the medical clinic in Contamana was going through complications while giving birth while another patient was suffering with symptoms of leptospirosis.  They desperately required medical care at a better-equipped hospital and arrangements were hastily made to fly them out to in nearby Pucalipa. Yet the lone runway at Contamana’s airfield did not have any lighting.  

Faced with the need to transport the infirm patients, a local radio station urged residents to help.  Thirty minutes approximately 300 mototaxis and bikers converged at the airfield and created an impromptu lighting arrangement along the sides of the runway.  As a result of their last-minute heroism, a small plane carrying the three patients was able to take off from Contamana and safely travel to Pucalipa.

As seen in the video below, Melita Murrieta and her newborn baby have been recovering satisfactorily at the Pucalipa hospital:

Daily Headlines: April 5, 2013

* Brazil: Two of the three men suspected of killing Brazilian environmental activist couple Jose Claudio Ribeiro da Silva and Maria do Espiritu Santo in 2011 were convicted and sentenced to over forty years in prison.

* Argentina: The death toll caused by a powerful, once-in-a-century storm that hit Buenos Aires province this week increased to at least 57 fatalities.

* U.S.: Immigration officials extended for an extra eighteen months Temporary Protected Status benefits for eligible Honduran and Nicaraguan expats.

* Venezuela: According to new data from OPEC, Venezuela’s oil output has gradually decreased in recent months despite contradicting information from the government.

Video Source – YouTube via Al Jazeera English

Online Sources- El Universal, Hispanically Speaking News, The Latin Americanist, BBC News, Businessweek

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Mexico: Prison Sentences for Susana Chavez Murder Suspects

A Mexican court sentenced three young men to prison for the 2011 murder of women’s rights activist Susana Chávez.

The tribunal handed down fifteen-year prison sentences at a juvenile detention center to Sergio Rubén Cárdenas De la O, Aarón Roberto Acevedo Martínez, and Carlos Gibran Ramírez.  The three teens received the maximum amount of prison under the law since they were all sixteen-years-old minors at the time of the killing.

Details of the assault and murder of the 36-year-old were revealed during the weeks that the trial took place.  The trio claimed in their respective confessions that they were drunk when they met Chávez and convinced her to go to Cárdenas’ home.  It was there that they allegedly got into an argument, covered her head in tape and choked her to death.  They even severed one of her hands in a failed attempt to cover their tracks and deflect blame to drug gangs.

Chávez was described an outspoken figure in Ciudad Juarez where she drew attention to the unsolved murders of hundreds of women.  Her slogan of “Not One More Death” became a rallying cry in dozens of marches urging authorities to investigate the femicide cases in northern Mexico.

In addition, as reported by the BBC:

Daily Headlines: April 4, 2013

* Colombia: Senior Colombian defense officials denied claims made by U.S. Southern Command chief Gen. John Kelly alleging that the FARC guerillas have obtained surface-to-air missiles.

* Cuba: Seven members of the National Ballet of Cuba reportedly defected in March while they took part in a tour of Mexico.

* Ecuador: A U.S. judge rejected Chevron’s subpoena request for a deposition from Amazon Watch regarding an environmental pollution case in Ecuador.

* Venezuela: Opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles accused interim leader Nicolás Maduro of acting like a “skin-deep socialist” while Maduro claimed that Capriles “has his bags packed” and is ready to quit.

Video Source – YouTube via user noticiascaracol

Online Sources- Edmonton Journal, Chicago Tribune, Huffington Post, Reuters

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Stormy Weather Kills Dozens in Argentina

At least forty-six people have reportedly died after a quick and powerful storm led to flash flooding in and around Buenos Aires, Argentina.

“Now we are facing the worst part of the situation,” said Buenos Aires Provincial Governor Daniel Scioli after approximately a foot of rain fell in only three hours.

“I’ve never seen anything like this.  It’s unprecedented”, added Scioli who warned that the death toll would likely rise as more corpses are found from the gradually receding waters.

Some 2,500 people have been evacuated from their homes while about 290,000 residences are without electricity.   Meanwhile, hundreds of people in La Plata are trapped in houses, businesses and train stations as they desperately wait to be rescued.

“I’m stuck in my car since six o’clock Tuesday night with a ten-month-old baby.  We’re flooded, the batter is dead, there’s no light and nobody is coming to help,” said Vanesa Silleti according to

The storm, which Buenos Aires official claim was the heaviest April rainfall in a century, flooded the city’s oil refinery.  Firefighters took about nine hours to put out a blaze at the facility, which was caused by said "an extraordinary accumulation of rainwater and power outages in the entire refinery complex."

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner visited several flood-ravaged zones on Wednesday where she tried to provide support by explaining how her house was flooded when she was a child. 

Residents in the La Plata neighborhood of Tolosa cheered and jeered the president who tried to comfort them.

“You’re the only one who has come to help us!” exclaimed one person while another replied, “My wife is dead but yours was saved!”

Local meteorologists warned that the flooded areas could be affected by strong yet isolated thunderstorms that could occur later this week.

Daily Headlines: April 3, 2013

* Venezuela: Interim leader Nicolás Maduro and main opposition candidate Henrique Capriles held competing rallies yesterday as official campaigning began for Venezuela’s April 14th presidential election.

* Guatemala: Victims of sexual assault including one woman who claimed that she had found Guatemalan soldiers raping her daughter were among the latest testimony in the genocide trial of former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt.

* U.S.: Pressure from Latino media groups such as the National Association of Hispanic Journalists may have been instrumental in the Associated Press’ decision to drop using the term “illegal immigrant.”

* Canada: Some forty temporary workers from Latin America received compensation five years after a Canadian court ruled in their favor in a discrimination lawsuit.

Video Source – YouTube via Al Jazeera English

Online Sources- euronews, Houston Chronicle, The Latin Americanist, The Vancouver Sun, Huffington Post

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Former Costa Rican President Applauds U.N. Arms Treaty Vote

Ex-Costa Rican President Óscar Arias praised the U.N. General Assembly after it overwhelmingly approved a treaty aimed at controlling the global trade in conventional weapons.

“It’s the history of a dream behind wanting to regulate international arms trade,” said the Nobel laureate according to the website for Costa Rican daily El Financiero.

“I’m very moved by the vote because I never expected the U.S. to back the agreement while I was still alive,” added Arias who ha campaigned for comprehensive global arms treaty for the past sixteen years.

Arias also praised his country’s diplomatic team for their efforts over the past seven years to help formulate the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and obtain such a strong vote of confidence at the U.N.

“The treaty is the greatest contribution by Costa Rica to humankind in its entire history.  It’s a triumph of the moral authority held by this small country,” said Arias.

Several Latin American states including Argentina, Mexico and Colombia helped Costa Rica to push the pact that had stalled numerous times including as recently as last week.  (See embedded video above).

Syria, Iran and North Korea were the only countries to vote against the ATT in Tuesday’s vote while 154 member states including most Western Hemispheric nations approved the pact. 

Among the twenty-three countries that abstained from the vote were five countries belonging to the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas bloc: Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Cuban representative Rodolfo Reyes Rodriguez said his country would abstain since the final version of the ATT had “serous limitations…and multiple ambiguities and legal gaps.”  Nevertheless, Costa Rica's Eduardo Ulibarri said that the agreement was a fair compromise that demonstrates that the U.N. is “able to address the most serious and complex global challenges.”

Daily Headlines: April 2, 2013

* Cuba: An attorney for one of the detainees at the Guantanamo military base claimed that 130 of the 166 prisoners are on a hunger strike but will their actions work?

* Venezuela: Interim leader Nicolás Maduro maintains a double-digit lead in the opinion polls ahead of opposition presidential rival Henrique Capriles.

* Mexico: For the eighth straight month remittances to Mexico decreased and dropped by 11% in February 2013 compared to the same month in 2012.

* Brazil: Newly released documents showed that soccer legend Pele and singer Roberto Carlos were among the celebrities secretly investigated by the military from 1964-1985.

Video Source – YouTube via euronews

Online Sources- The Atlantic, Xinhua, LAHT, BBC News

Monday, April 1, 2013

Bolivian President Nationalizes Airlines

The Bolivian government declared that all of the country’s privately-run airlines will be nationalized.

Aerocon and Amaszonas, two small air carriers that mostly operate in Bolivia could soon become incorporated into the state-run Boliviana de Aviación.

“I’ve already named an airport after me so why not control the airlines, too?” said President Evo Morales at a press conference on Monday. 

The leader referred to the controversial renaming of the Oruro airport that was originally dedicated to aviation pioneer Juan Mendoza.

The president added that he might “choose a snappy new name for the airline” such as Moralestrellas, which he claimed would be a combination of his name and the Spanish word for stars (estrellas).  But Oruro Mayor Rossio Pimentel claimed that both the nationalization plans and the renaming are “terrible ideas” since Moralestrellas could be translated as “crashing morale.”

Morales has nationalized numerous major industries since taking office in 2006.  One of his most recent nationalizations involved the state takeover of three Spanish-owned airports.  Along with last year’s nationalization of a Spanish-owned electric power company, relations between the Andean state and Spain have been tense and uneasy:

Pope’s Favorite Soccer Team Renamed For Him

Argentine soccer team San Lorenzo de Almagro will be renamed in honor of its most famous fan: the current head of the Roman Catholic Church.

The fourteen-time Argentine first division champions will have the new moniker of Club Atlético Papa Francisco de Almagro effective immediately according to a statement issued this morning on the club’s website.

“On this date in 1908 our team was established in honor of Buenos Aires priest Father Lorenzo Massa.  On our one hundred fourteenth birthday is fitting that we honor another religious figure who has always looked out for the poor and young,” said part of the communiqué.

“We hope to win many championships with God’s help and the blessing from our ultimate fan,” added the statement.
Last month the then-San Lorenzo team played a league game with a special jersey featuring the Pope’s name and likeness.  The team’s badge will be modified to include the new initials of CAPFdA though the official jersey will still have its distinctive dark blue and red vertical stripes.

The former Archbishop of Buenos Aires has been praised for his humility via his actions such as on Holy Thursday when he washed the feet of twelve male and female juvenile prisoners.  Nevertheless, he has not shied from publicly demonstrating supporting for the team he has cheered for since he was a young lad.  After yesterday’s Easter Mass he proudly displayed a San Lorenzo jersey given to him by one of the thousands of Catholics at St. Peter’s Square.

As sports journalist Vito Garcia recently wrote, the Pontiff loves his team and he was particularly moved in the club’s centenary year in 2011:

Daily Headlines: April 1, 2013

* Venezuela: Interim leader Nicolás Maduro and opposition rival Henrique Capriles used spiritual imagery and religious rhetoric during the Holy Week as both attempt to win the April 14 presidential election.
* Argentina: A U.S. appeals court is expected to soon issue a decision that could force the Argentine government to pay $1.4 billion of its defaulted debt to creditors.

* Peru: Defense officials announced the purchase of twenty-four Russian military helicopters at a cost of $407 million.

* Britain: Colombian-born Oskar Zorrilla helped guide Oxford’s rowing team to victory over rivals Cambridge at the annual university Boat Race on Sunday.

Video Source – YouTube via AFP (“Video animation shows Venezuelan late president Hugo Chavez reaching heaven and received by many late Latin American leaders including Simón Bolívar and Che Guevara.”)

Online Sources- Times of Oman, Bloomberg, Bernama,