Friday, September 27, 2013

Nuestro Cine: Growing Up is Hard to Do

Next week we’ll look at several Latin American movies selected by their respective countries for the upcoming Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Spain has won the award on four occasions with the most recent recipient being 2004’s “The Sea Inside” (“Mar adentro”).  This year’s entry is "15 Anos y un día" (15 Years and a Day), a drama focusing on a teenager son who’s expelled from school and forced to live with his grandfather:

The movie stars renowned Spanish actress Maribel Verdu and was directed by Gracia Querejeta whose father, film producer Elias Querejeta, died in June.

Daily Headlines: September 27, 2013

* Latin America: The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime found that Peru surpassed Colombia as the world’s top producer of coca, while Guatemalan Otto Perez Molina called for reforming global drug policy during his speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday.

* Chile: Chilean President Sebastian Piñera ordered the shutdown of a “luxury prison” where ten ex-senior officials who served under the late dictator Augusto Pinochet are serving sentences for human rights violations.

* U.S.: The National Association of Hispanic Journalists denounced a recent Fox News headline referring to U.S. citizens with undocumented parents as “children of the corn.”

* El Salvador: Two members of the Uighur Muslim ethnic minority who were released from the Guantanamo prison in April 2012 to El Salvador have reportedly left the Central American country.

Video Source – YouTube via user JewishNewsOne

Online Sources- Miami Herald; Huffington Post; Reuters;; Al Jazeera America

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Daily Headlines: September 26, 2013

* Guatemala: Julio Ligorria, Guatemala's ambassador to the U.S., said that his country would try to complete all pending adoptions by U.S. couples by the end of this year.

* Cuba: According to new government data, approximately 183,000 Cubans were able to legally travel abroad since a migratory reform law took effect in January.

* Venezuela: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said that he would skip attending the U.N. General Assembly due to alleged threats against his life.

* Honduras: A poll released yesterday showed that Xiomara Castro, the wife of ousted ex-President Manuel Zelaya, and Congressional chief Juan Hernandez are in a statistical tie in the race to become the next Honduran president.

Video Source – YouTube via The New York Times (Video uploaded in December 2012).

Online Sources- ABC News; Bernama; Reuters

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Paraguayan Plan Could Use GMOs to Combat Dengue

Can genetically modified organisms (GMOs) combat the deadly dengue virus?  The answer could come out of Paraguay where the government is considering backing a pilot program using genetically modified mosquitos.

According to one media report, the strategy consists of using genetically modified male versions of the Aedes Aegypti mosquitos that normally spread the dengue virus.  These males would be introduced into areas with a high density of their female counterparts and left to procreate. The resulting larvae would die quickly due to the transgene passed down from the males.

Scientists representing British-based Oxitec Limited presented their plan to Paraguayan authorities earlier this month.  According to the Paraguayan press, one of the company’s experts claimed that their proposal successfully decreased the Aedes Aegypti mosquito population in Bahia, Brazil by 85%.  (A 2011 Oxitec newsletter described that a similar proposal reduced the number of Aedes Aegypti mosquitos on the Cayman Islands by 80%).

The firm also alleged that the genetically modified mosquitos would not represent a risk to the human populace since they don’t bite people.

“We’re looking to see if this project is feasible and if it can fit within the circumstances of our country,” said Agueda Cabello, director of Paraguay’s health ministry.  “If so, then it would be very interesting since it would be a tool that can be used to combat dengue,” she added.

At least 96 people have died in Paraguay this year due to dengue along with at least 448 cases of the disease reported in the country just in this month.

The disease affects millions or people worldwide, especially in tropical regions, and is characterized by high fever, severe body aches, rash and sometimes bleeding.  Researchers have been unable to develop a vaccine to fight dengue.

Central American Leaders Blast Nicaragua at U.N.

Yesterday we looked at Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and her speech at the U.N. general assembly (UNGA) that criticized alleged U.S. surveillance.  Yet she was not the only Latin American leader at the UNGA to critique the actions of a country in the Americas.

Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli denounced what he referred as Nicaragua’s “attempt to expand its maritime boundaries.”

In his speech to the UNGA today, Martinelli acknowledged that Nicaragua has the right to file a claim with the appropriate UN authorities seeking to “extend its continental shelf by over 200 nautical miles.”  But he also expressed his “deep and profound worry” that Nicaragua’s maritime claims could endanger treaties between that country and other Latin American states.

“The Panamanian government and its people are upset that we have not been consulted before Nicaragua filed its case,” Martinelli added.

Martinelli refrained from discussing at the UNGA Nicaragua’s plans to build an interoceanic canal that would rival the Panama Canal that’s currently undergoing a $5 billon expansion.

Martinelli’s remarks were more measured in tone than those of his Costa Rican counterpart, Laura Chinchilla, at the UNGA.

Daily Headlines: September 25, 2013

* Puerto Rico: A petition was filed with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights against the U.S. government regarding the health problems of Puerto Ricans residing on the island of Vieques.

* Mexico: Authorities arrested three police officers suspected of involvement in the kidnapping and deaths of twelve Mexico City bar patrons.

* Uruguay: A new 70 megawatt wind farm expected to meet the annual energy demands of approximately 100,000 people will be built in Palomas, Uruguay.

* Bolivia: At least thirteen people are dead as a result of a mudslide in Bolivia’s Yungas region.

Video Source – YouTube via Al Jazeera English

Online Sources- The Australian; UPI; BBC News; Huffington Post; The Latin Americanist

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Brazilian President Blasts U.S. Intel Surveillance

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff appeared at the U.N. general assembly (UNGA) on Tuesday and she did not mince words in her criticism of supposed surveillance carried out by the U.S.

“Tampering in such a manner in the lives and affairs of other countries is a breach of international law and, as such, it is an affront to the principles that should otherwise govern relations among countries, especially among friendly nations,” said a stern Rousseff who was the opening speaker at the UNGA this morning.

Rousseff, who last week postponed a planned state visit to the U.S., accused the National Security Agency (NSA) of having “intercepted indiscriminately” information from Brazilians such as ordinary citizens, companies and even her own office.  She also rejected any justification for surveillance over Brazil by claiming, “We reject, fight and do not harbor terrorist groups.”

“As many other Latin Americans, I fought against authoritarianism and censorship and I cannot but defend, in an uncompromising fashion, the right to privacy of individuals and the sovereignty of my country,” said Rousseff who referred to her detention as a political prisoner under Brazil’s military regime several decades ago.

As we mentioned earlier this month, the allegations of NSA spying have emerged from information said to be obtained from ex-U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden and has been shown on Brazilian TV.  Among the revelations were the alleged NSA-run “data-collection base” that tapped phone calls and e-mails of Brazilians as well as the NSA’s infiltration of the private networks of several firms including Petrobras.

Brazil began changing its communications infrastructure this month in order to protect information privacy.  Rousseff went further in her U.N. speech and called for the creation of a new global framework to govern the Internet and guarantee the “neutrality of the network, guided only by technical and ethical criteria, rendering it inadmissible to restrict it for political, commercial, religious or any other purposes.”

Daily Headlines: September 23, 2013

* Latin America: Prolific Colombian poet Alvaro Mutis died at the age of 90 in Mexico City while 73-year-old dissident Cuban economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe passed away in Spain.

* Vatican: Pope Francis, whose ancestors left Italy for Argentina roughly a century ago, called for "the elimination of prejudices and presuppositions" against migrants and refugees.

* South America: Scientists in Paraguay and Uruguay are said to be working on the development of $1 early detection test for congenital syphilis, which is a disease that affects some three million people in Latin America.

* U.S.: Were the visits made by New York City mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio to Cuba and Nicaragua in his youth a cause for alarm or much ado about nothing?

Video Source – YouTube via user Cadena3Noticias

Online Sources- The Guardian; LAHT; NBC News; Reuters AlertNet; NY1

Monday, September 23, 2013

Peruvian Doctor Killed in Kenya Massacre

Sixty-three-year-old Peruvian doctor Juan Ortiz-Iruri was one of the dozens of people killed at a massacre that took place over the weekend at a Kenyan shopping mall.

The former tropical disease specialist for UNICEF and the World Bank resided in Africa and had been living in Kenya for the past two years.  Prior to Ortiz-Iruri’s retirement, he had been working in maternal and childcare and development in Kenya with the aim of helping the country reach its Millennium Development Goals.

Ortiz-Iruri was days away from travelling to the England in order to take a full-time post as senior technical advisor at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine’s Centre for Maternal Health (CMNH).

“All at CMNH have been affected by Juan’s death under such shocking circumstances. He had dedicated his professional life to improving health systems in Africa and Asia, particularly in the area of maternal, child and newborn health,” said CMNH head Professor Nynke van den Broek.

“Juan had worked with us on a range of maternal and new-born health programs for some time from his base in Nairobi and we were all looking forward to welcoming him as a full time member of staff in Liverpool later this week,” van den Broek added in remarks to the Liverpool Echo.

Two of Ortiz-Iruri’s sons have travelled to Nairobi in order to collect the body of their father and the family hopes to bury the corpse in his native Cusco.  This may be a challenge, however, since Peru does not have an embassy or consulate in Kenya.

Daily Headlines: September 23, 2013

* Venezuela: Three Venezuelan National Guard officials were arrested and accused of being involved in the smuggling of 1.3 tons of cocaine via a Air France flight between Caracas and Paris.

* Brazil: Brazilian rancher Vitalmiro Vastos de Moura was retried and sentenced once again to thirty years in prison for planning the 2005 murder of U.S. nun and environmentalist Dorothy Stang.

* El Salvador: El Salvador's soccer federation punished fourteen national team players with lifetime bans after they supposedly received bribes to fix matches.

* Peru: Catholic officials reportedly removed Peruvian bishop Gabino Miranda from his post due to allegations that he sexually abused minors.

Video Source – YouTube via user afpbr

Online Sources- Reuters; The Latin Americanist; ABC News; Al Jazeera English