Friday, October 18, 2013

Mexicans Welcome Home Child Champions

This week we examined the final round of qualifiers for next year’s World Cup including how Mexico was barely saved from an embarrassing elimination.

While the men’s national team is under turmoil and on Friday hired its fourth head coach in forty days, another much younger squad has served as an example of unity and resiliance.

A children’s team representing the indigenous Trique community triumphed at a mini-basketball tournament held in Argentina this month.  Nicknamed “the barefoot mice from Mexico” since several members of the team are short and prefer not to use sneakers, the hoopsters from Oaxaca won all six of their matches against squads from around the world.

The Trique youngsters’ triumph was recognized by Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies with a one-minute standing ovation while President Enrique Peña Nieto tweeted that the team’s effort “makes Mexicans proud.”

The forty players, which include five girls, are between the ages of eight and eleven and are allowed to participate as long as they have good grades at school, do their chores at home and speak their native language.

The following video shows the team’s homecoming to Mexico as well as an interview with one of the players who was proud of his impoverished community “that could use more resources so we can all have better lives”:

Daily Headlines: October 18, 2013

* Peru: Disgraced ex-President Alberto Fujimori was once again in court and could receive another eight years in prison on top of the 25-year sentence he’s currently serving for human rights abuses during his rule.

* Caribbean: The Caribbean Community gave its “regret” over a recent Dominican court decision that could eliminate the citizenship of thousands of citizens with a Haitian background.

* Chile: With roughly a month to go in Chile’s presidential election, former leader Michelle Bachelet leads the polls but may not be able to avoid a runoff.

* Mexico: Mexican officials admitted that they would likely miss a second deadline to certify hundreds of thousands of police nationwide.

Video Source – YouTube via Univision Noticias 

Online Sources- Los Angeles Times; Reuters; The Latin Americanist; Caribbean Journal; ninemsn

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Daily Headlines: October 17, 2013

* Haiti: According to the Global Slavery Index 2013, Haiti ranks as second among the countries with the highest prevalence of modern slavery.

* Latin America: Russia has reportedly boosted their weapons sales into Latin America including supplying $1.7 billion in weapons this week to Peru and Brazil.

* Brazil: Inflation in Brazil is expected to reach a year low 5.7% this month though it’s expected to rise slightly by the end of 2013.

* El Salvador: World soccer governing body FIFA issued lifetime bans against fourteen Salvadoran players who were under suspension over alleged match fixing.

Video Source – YouTube via The Pulitzer Center

Online Sources- BBC News; UPI;; Reuters

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Panama Out in World Cup Qualifying Heartbreaker

Four years ago, the U.S. played the role of spoiler against Costa Rica in the final round of qualify matches for the 2010 of World Cup. On Tuesday night, it was Panama’s turn to dream of what could’ve been after allowing the U.S. to comeback in the dying minutes and win.

As we explained yesterday, Panama faced heavy odds against them to at least secure a playoff spot against New Zealand.  They needed to win at home against an already-qualified U.S. and hope that Mexico would lose in their visit to Costa Rica.

Both matches were being played simultaneously and at different times at appeared as if Mexico would hold on to the playoff position or that Panama would leapfrog them.  Late into both matches it seemed like Panama would have the advantage as Mexico was losing while a Luis Tejada goal in the 83rd minute gave Los Canaleros a 2-1 lead.

Yet nearly ninety seconds into injury time in Graham Zusi’s equalizer transformed what had been a raucous celebration in the stands into a stunned silence that also caught the Panamanian TV commentators off-guard:

Less than a minute later, Aron Johannsson scored the game-winning goal for the U.S.

“There’s only one person at fault for this and it’s me,” said Panama coach Julio Dely Valdés after the game.  “In two minute I let the match slip away.  I have nothing more to say apart from apologizing to Panama,” added the disappointed former Panamanian international turned coach.

“It shows you how brutal football can be… Now obviously you feel for the people. You feel for an entire country,” observed U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

Though Mexico would go on to lose for the first time in Costa Rica since 1992, the Panamanian defeat allowed El Tri to secure the playoff spot against the Kiwis.  Several Mexican newspaper headlines today read “God Bless America,” “We Love You!” and “Thanks…Uncle Sam” in recognition that Mexico needed help from their biggest rival in order to stay alive and get a chance to make it to the World Cup.

The relief felt by Mexicans (such as turning #GraciasUSA into a trending topic on Twitter) was also mixed with anger at their team’s weak play throughout the World Cup qualifying campaign.  Perhaps TV Azteca commentator Christian Martinoli best expressed those feelings as Zusi scored his goal and several of the Mexican bench players including Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez lightly celebrated:

Daily Headlines: October 16, 2013

* Ecuador: Proceedings began yesterday in a trial where Chevron is attempting to prevent having to pay an $18 billion restitution to Ecuadorian villagers in an environmental damages case.

* Chile: Three years after the rescue of 33 miners trapped hundreds of feet below the surface, most of the men reportedly continue to suffer from “psychological trauma.

* Brazil: A Brazilian Senate investigative panel and the country’s the federal police's intelligence chief expressed their willingness to interview Edward Snowden.

* Central America: Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla claimed that her country enjoyed a “moral victory” at an International Court of Justice hearing regarding the construction of two interoceanic canals through Nicaragua.

Video Source – YouTube via Pulitzer Center (Video uploaded in 2008).

Online Sources- Tico Times; IOL;; The Latin Americanist; Businessweek

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

High Stakes Drama in Final World Cup Qualifying Round (Updated)

It’ll be do or die time later today for six Latin American sides vying for one of the four automatic spots to next year’s soccer World Cup (WC) in Brazil. 

(Update: Which teams went through?  Find out after the page break). 

In the region encompassing North America, Central America and the Caribbean, one of three teams could qualify tonight for the WC.  The favorite to do so is Honduras who could go through with a victory or a tie against already-eliminated Jamaica.   Although Los Catrachos have never won in a WC qualifier in Jamaica, several players are looking forward to tonight’s match.

“We’re going through a wonderful experience and we’ll keep working hard so that things can come out in our favor,” noted Honduran striker Jerry Bengston.  “Thank God we’re reaching our objectives through our unity as a team and our winning mentality,” added the man who scored the lone goal in last Friday’s Honduran win against Costa Rica.

“There are ninety minutes to go.  We need tor respect our rival and undoubtedly go for the win,” said Honduran defender Víctor Bernárdez.  “We’re all very motivated,” he mentioned as Honduras looks to secure their second consecutive trip to the WC.

In stark contrast to a highly successful 2012, this year has been the polar opposite for a Mexican team that has been in turmoil and was on the brink of elimination after yet another dos a cero loss against the U.S.  Yet it was an overhead golazo by Raul Jimenez in the dying minutes of Mexico’s 2-1 win over Panama last week that gave El Tri the possibility to qualify should Honduras slipup:

 “In our game, sometimes we exaggerate, we become arrogant,” said Mexico coach Victor Manuel Vucetich yesterday.  “I think this is the moment that we should reflect and show, above all, on the pitch that we need to win,” said Vucetich about his team that could secure a playoff against New Zealand if Mexico ties tonight against Costa Rica.

On the outside looking in is Panama, the only team in the CONCACAF final qualifying group that has never made it to a WC.  To obtain the final automatic qualifying berth, Panama will need to beat group-leading U.S. by a comfortable margin and hope that Honduras and Mexico both lose.
Despite the long odds, the Panamanian players like Gabriel Gómez are cautiously optimistic and, as he said, “we’re holding on to a small flicker of light.”

In South America, meanwhile, three teams are will be fighting it out to see who will obtain one of the region’s two automatic berths that are still up for grabs.

Daily Headlines: October 15, 2013

* Cuba: Ladies in White leader Berta Soler claimed that a “mob paid by the (Cuban) government” disrupted a commemoration of the death of the group’s founder while three dissident journalists were arrested within a 24-hour span in Havana last week.

* Honduras: A new militarized police force that is expected to reach as many as 5000 officers started their first patrols on Monday.

* Mexico: Agustin Carstens, Mexico’s central bank governor, claimed that his country is “prepared to confront” a possible U.S. debt default but observed that the “problem is so serious because the obstacle is political in nature, not financial nor economic.”

* Venezuela: The Venezuelan military released a “U.S.-chartered oil exploration ship” and its 36-member crew five days after it was seized in disputed waters claimed by both Venezuela and Guyana.

Video Source – YouTube via egberto angel escobedomorales (Members of Cuban dissident group the Ladies in White on Sunday commemorated the death of their founder, Laura Pollan).

Online Sources- Miami Herald; Reuters; Al Jazeera English; GlobalPost

Monday, October 14, 2013

Nuestro Cine: Silence Isn’t Golden

Our final “Nuestro Cine” entry on the movies vying for top foreign film Oscar is from Brazil and is reminiscent of the Spanish-language saying: “Ojos vemos, corazones no sabemos.”  (This can roughly be translated into “We don’t know in our hearts what we see with our eyes.”)   

“Neighbouring Sounds” (“O Som ao Redor”) is set in what appears to be a safe and wealthy residential area of Recife.  This perception is flipped around, however, with the hiring of a private security firm tasked with patrolling the neighborhood.  The film gradually exposes the contradictions, tensions and complex relationships among residents of varying social and economic levels.  As mentioned in the New York Times, the film thus becomes “a thriller without a plot” where “no one can quite see or hear what is coming, but something is out there, just on the other side of the whatever we think keeps us safe”.

“Neighbouring Sounds” has received scores of positive reviews from critics that have called the film “absorbing and extremely promising”, “incredibly bold” and a “remarkable, understated fable.”  Plenty of praise has also been given towards Kleber Mendonça Filho, the ex-movie critic who made his feature film directorial debut with “Neighbouring Sounds.” 

Despite the high acclaim received by “Neighbouring Sounds,” Mendonça has apparently taken it all in stride.

“The Oscars are all metaphysical,” he recently said to the Brazilian press.  “I cannot say if we will be a finalist or even if we will win.  It’s no use trying to push the film as if it were trying to move uphill.  The best thing to do is let it run on its own.”

Below the page break is the film trailer for “Neighbouring Sounds” where you can decide for yourself if the critical praise is accurate or not:

Daily Headlines: October 14, 2013

* Brazil: Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said that her government is creating a secure email system “to prevent possible espionage” such as actions allegedly committed by the U.S. and Canada

* Peru: At least fifty-one people died in the southeastern Cusco region of Peru when a bus plunged off a cliff.

* Venezuela: The seizure of a “U.S.-chartered oil exploration ship” has lead to increased tensions between the neighboring countries of Venezuela and Guyana.

* Colombia: As the latest round of peace talks between the Colombian government and FARC guerillas came to a close, the rebels launched a female-oriented website.

Video Source – YouTube via user CBCTheNational (“Allegations Canada has been spying on Brazil's mining and energy industry have many wondering what Canada would be after.”)

Online Sources- CNN;; The Latin Americanist;; BBC News