Friday, November 29, 2013

”Black Friday” Catches on in Latin America

Though Thanksgiving is not a typical holiday in Latin America, numerous retailers in the region have adopted the ”Black Friday” custom of enticing shoppers by offering them items at very low prices.

Retailers in several Central American countries, for example, have chosen this weekend to offer discounts of up to 70% off in their stores and the Nicaraguan Chamber of Commerce is anticipating some $12 million in sales between today and Sunday. 

Businesses in Mexico offered deeply discounted items on sale between November 15 and 18, which was dubbed locally as “The Good Weekend” (“El Buen Fin”).  According to the country’s National Chamber of Commerce, approximately $13.2 million in sales were made in Mexico during the event and this was a better-than-expected 20% increase compared to the same period last year.

Aside from department stores have slashing prices today, a few Colombian shopping malls have organized events like fashion shows and concerts hosted by popular comedians as ways to lure consumers.

In El Salvador and Panama, thousands of consumers camped outside of stores on Thursday evening in order to be among the first to enter the stores at the early morning hours today.  This was also the case in Puerto Rico where the Friday after Thanksgiving is nicknamed “The Saels to the Early Birds” (“Las Ventas al Madrugador”).

The appeal of “Black Friday” also attracted thousands of Mexicans to wait on lengthy lines in order to cross the border and shop at U.S. stores.
The wait is worth it.  I saw a doll in a Mexicali store and it cost 520 pesos ($39.65) but in Calexico the same one is being sold at half-price,” said Baja California resident Raquel Mendívil.  “I’m returning to the store hoping the doll is so discounted that they’re practically giving it away for free!” he jokingly added.

Unfortunately, some of the problems related to “Black Friday” in the U.S. have also occurred in Latin America.  For example:

Daily Headlines: November 29, 2013

* Brazil: A labor union chief claimed that a safety engineer’s concerns over the construction of Arena Corinthians, a World Cup stadium that partially collapsed on Wednesday, were reportedly brushed aside and “told by the supervisor that nothing was wrong”.

* Honduras: Ruling party candidate Juan Orlando Hernandez was officially declared the winner of Sunday's presidential election though his win will likely do little to calm deep political tensions.

* Uruguay: Legislators in Uruguay are moving closer to passing a proposal legalizing the production and use of marijuana under tight government controls.

* Venezuela: The head of Venezuela's central bank rejected rumors claiming that his country is seeking a currency swap with help from Goldman Sachs and Bank of America.

Video Source – YouTube via ITN 

Online Sources- euronews; CNN; Reuters; USA TODAY

Thursday, November 28, 2013

"Food for Thought" Revisted

The following post was originally published on November 2012:

Today is the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S. and it is generally believed that the first Thanksgiving feast took part between the Pilgrims and native Americans in Massachusetts in 1621.  But as we first mentioned back in 2007, the first Thanksgiving really occurred in 1565 when Spanish explorers and Timuca natives in St. Augustine, Florida got together and dined on bean soup.

The following brief video via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette delves into the history behind the first Thanksgiving nearly 450 years ago:

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Daily Headlines: November 27, 2013

* Caribbean: At least thirty Haitian migrants died and over one hundred were rescued after an overcrowded boat capsized some fifteen nautical miles off the Bahamian coast.

* Honduras: Electoral officials have yet to declare an official winner of Sunday’s presidential election but did claim that ruling party candidate Juan Orlando Hernández had an "irreversible" lead in the voting count.

* Venezuela: The Venezuelan gross domestic product grew by only 1.1% in the latest fiscal quarter, which is a 1.5% drop from the previous quarter and a 2.9% decrease compared to the same period in 2012.

* Cuba: The Cuban government suspended its consular services in the U.S. and will most likely affect the travel plans of Cuban expats planning to visit their relatives and future “people-to-people programs” to the island.

Video Source – YouTube via CBS Evening News

Online Sources- Huffington Post; CNN; Reuters; Miami Herald

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Daily Headlines: November 26, 2013

* Nicaragua: The U.S. State Department and the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua have criticized a proposed constitutional amendment that would remove presidential term limits and could allow President Daniel Ortega to run for reelection.
* Mexico: At least forty-two bodies have been uncovered in twenty-two mass graves in an area of western Mexico that “has become the site of a turf war between the Knights Templar and the New Generation cartels.”

* U.S.: The first public memorial honoring Puerto Rican veterans in the continental U.S. was unveiled last week in Boston, Massachusetts.

* Argentina: The Argentine government and Repsol reached a preliminary deal that would compensate the Spanish firm for the 2012 expropriation of the YPF energy company.

Video Source – YouTube via euronews (Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega easily won reelection in 2011 but has yet to say publicly whether he wants to run again in 2016.)

Online Sources- Reuters; Catholic Culture; Miami Herald; Fox News Latino

Monday, November 25, 2013

Report: Femicides on the Rise in Honduras

Millions of Hondurans turned out on Sunday to participate in the Central American country’s presidential election. The two frontrunners, conservative Juan Orlando Hernandez and ex-First Lady Xiomara Castro, have each declared themselves as the victors though the official vote tally has yet to indicate a clear winner.

The next president will have to face several major problems hurting Honduras including deep political divisions, crushing poverty and high levels of violence.  In a country with the world's highest murder rate, women are especially vulnerable and this was shown in a report released earlier this month.

A woman is killed in Honduras an average of once every fourteen and a half hours according to the Violence Observatory of the National Autonomous University of Honduras. The group concluded that 2851 women were killed in Honduras between 2005 and 2012 and there has been a steady increase in femicides over the past eight years.  (175 women were killed in 2005 while 606 died last year).

The report did not provide figures for 2013 though the Observatory estimated that some 323 women died in the first six months of this year.

“Nationwide, violence against women and especially femicides make up a very alarming problem,” declared Violence Observatory director Migdonia Ayestas.  She added, “As proof of this, 14.2 of every ten thousand Honduran women last year were murdered” compared to a 12.3 per ten thousand in 2011.

Violence has steadily worsened in Honduras, as the country has become an increasingly favored route for illegal drugs transported from South America to the U.S. and Canada. Hence, it’s unsurprising that the report noted that organized crime is indirectly behind some of the violence against women with roughly three in five killings attributed to “revenge and paid killings.”
“It isn’t the case that these women were directly involved in illicit activities but more relevantly is that the people they live with were linked to organized crime,” said Ayestas.

Further adding to this “alarming” problem is that a majority of the women targeted last year were aged between 15 and 31 while more than 1600 femicides between 2005 and 2012 involved firearms.  Hence, the Observatory the group recommended reforming gun control laws including changing the current statute permitting adults to legally own up to five firearms.

Daily Headlines: November 25, 2013

* Mexico: Mexican health officials claimed that a cholera outbreak is "under control" with only 184 cases of the disease nationwide.

* Dominican Republic: Some 354 Haitians and people of Haitian background were recently deported from the Dominican Republic after three people were killed near the border dividing Hispaniola.

* Puerto Rico: In the latest sign of Puerto Rico's financial woes, the island's unemployment rate rose for the fourth straight month and is at 14.7%.

* Colombia: Former hostage Ingrid Betancourt will reportedly run for the Colombian presidency though she faces stiff competition in order to represent the Green Party.

Online Sources - LAHT; NBC Latino; NPR; GlobalPost

Video Source - YouTube via user ExcelsiorTV