Friday, March 28, 2014

Sobredosis de TV – Fiction or Racism?

Sobredosis de TV is our occasional look at television shows in the Americas.  It is also the name of a song from famed Argentine rock music group Soda Stereo.
A Peruvian television show that showcases the misadventures of an indigenous woman in the big city has not sat well with some people in the Andean country including one politician who spoke out this week.

Hilaria Supa, a Peruvian member of the Andean Parliament, sent a letter to local television channel Frecuencia Latina requesting that the La Paisana Jacinta program get taken off the air.

“It is outrageous that in the middle of the twenty first century, when we believe that we are advancing, you can see racist attitudes in stadiums, public places, schools, and on the media with Frecuencia Latina which offends us as citizens when it reprograms like ‘El Negro Mama’ or ‘La Paisana Jacinta’”, said Supa who is of indigenous background.

“These programs defame us, they make us seem like stupid, unkempt people, and that has to stop,” she added against the program that retuned to the airwaves in mid-February.

Other critics of the program have used the hashtag #NoalaPaisanaJacinta to organize protests such as one scheduled to take place outside of the Frecuencia Latina studios in Lima today.   

Not everyone sees eye-to-eye with Supa including several Twitter users who responded by launching racist insults against her. 

“Hilaria Supa, learn to read and write,” “Go back to your hometown and plant potatoes” and “Shitty Chola” were just some of the messages issued against the legislator. 

A more measured reply was provided by actress Magaly Solier who said that La Paisana Jacinta “is fiction and acting because Andean women are not like that.”

Jorge Benavides, the male comic who portrays the protagonist of La Paisana Jacinta, is no stranger to controversy.  Last year he defended his portrayal of “Negro Mama,” a blackface character with a prosthetic wide nose and thick lips as “a character with an established name. Therefore, you can’t accuse us of generalizing and saying that all black people are thieves.” Peru’s television regulatory body did not agree and fined Frecuencia Latina over $26,000 for airing sketches with “Negro Mama.”

Should La Paisana Jacinta be yanked off the air permanently?  Judge for yourself below the page break by watching an episode where Jacinta becomes a construction worker:

Daily Headlines: March 28, 2014

* Vatican: Argentine-born Pope Francis and U.S President Barack Obama met for the first time on Thursday and reportedly discussed topics like “the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection, as well as the issue of immigration reform.”

* Venezuela: Colombia’s president claimed that the Venezuelan government accepted holding a dialogue with opposition activists, while the U.S. State Department warned that sanctions could be imposed against Venezuelan officials “if there's no democratic space for the opposition.”

* Mexico: Latin America's largest solar power plant was inaugurated in Mexico on Wednesday and is expected to provide electricity to some 164,000 people.

* Brazil: A new poll found that Brazilian President Dilma Roussef’s approval rating slipped but 51% of respondents still support her.

Video Source – Univision Noticias via YouTube (On Wednesday, Pope Francis greeted several U.S. immigrant’s rights activists as well as a ten-year-old girl whose father is in the process of being deported).

Online Sources-; ABC News; AFP; Fox News Latino; Reuters

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Paraguay: Thousands Protest in General Strike

Several thousand Paraguayans took to the streets on Wednesday as part of a general strike against the government’s economic and social policies. 

The nationwide protests were organized by labor unions and were held on the twentieth anniversary of the country’s previous general strike in 1994.  Social groups, peasants and teachers were among the scores of participants in the general strike and called for a variety of demands including better education, reducing the fare on public transportation and agrarian reform.  Labor unions, for example, have sought a 25% across-the-board salary increase and are upset over a law permitting private companies to invest in government infrastructure in exchange for owning concessions and charging fees. 

“(The government) claims that there has been development, that funds are distributed across the nation.  But that money doesn’t flow to the workers or the peasants, nor does it arrive to the hospitals or the schools,” declared labor leader Teodolina Villalba.

The largest demonstration took part in the capital of Asunción where traffic reportedly came to a standstill and most businesses and schools were closed. Marches were also organized in the country’s interior cities and for the most part were peaceful aside from minor tensions resulting from the temporary shutdown of the Friendship Bridge connecting Ciudad del Este to Foz do Iguacu, Brazil.

Prior to the strike, president Horacio Cartes gave in by permitting the establishment of dialogues in order to hear the demands from the protesters.  Otherwise it appears unlikely that he will provide any more concessions such as the public-private investment plan that Public Works Minister Ramon Jimenez defended as necessary to improve government infrastructure.

Daily Headlines: March 27, 2014

* Cuba: According to the Cuba state media, the government is planning to introduce a new foreign investment law aimed at boosting the island’s sagging economy.

* U.S.: Could the latest Obamacare deadline change help Latinos trying to apply for medical coverage before the end of this month?

* El Salvador: The F.B.I. placed on “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives” an MS-13 gang member suspected of murdering two people and who is allegedly in hiding in El Salvador.

* Uruguay: President Jose Mujica of Uruguay said that his any of the five Guantanamo Bay detainees that might be taken in by his country would be considered as refugees and, thus, could freely travel.

Video Source – AFP via YouTube (“Cuba inaugurated its new Mariel "megaport" (last January), in hopes the project will symbolize a more open stance towards commerce and become a regional hub for shipments despite a lack of investment and the US economic embargo”.)

Online Sources- Bloomberg; Reuters; CBS News; NBC News; The Huffington Post

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Venezuela: Opposition Legislator Machado Arrives in Caracas

A Venezuelan opposition activist arrived in Caracas today amidst weeks of unrest and days after she was stripped of her legislative status.

“I have landed in my country.  Emotional for the care and confidence from the citizens who are an honor to represent in the National Assembly,” María Corina Machado mentioned via her Twitter account this afternoon.  

Later she urged her followers including those who greeted her upon her arrival to Caracas to meet her at the Brion Plaza where she would “bring support from the democrats across the continent.”

The forty-six-year-old flew in from Lima, Peru following several days of travel abroad where she did not cease from her harsh criticism of the Venezuelan government.

“This government is weaker than ever… The violence only helps the government and it’s the fault of (Venezuelan president Nicolás) Maduro, not the (opposition) protests,” said Machado in an interview published yesterday. 

“Maduro has crossed a red line,” she added.

The most controversial part of her foreign trip occurred last Friday when she was invited by Panama’s delegation to the Organization of American States (OAS) to speak at a meeting focusing on the chaos in Venezuela.  OAS representatives made the event that would normally be open to the press and accessed online into a closed session following a 22-11 vote. Some of the countries that voted for a closed session like Nicaragua and Bolivia are staunch allies of the Maduro regime while others like Brazil decried that her presence change the “objective” of the meeting “into a circus for an outside audience.”

Her participation at the meeting led the head of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, on Monday to declare that Machado was stripped of her parliamentary immunity.  He also warned that she could be prosecuted for “inciting violence” relating to the past six weeks of turmoil that have claimed the lives of at least thirty-one people.

Panama’s representative to the OAS criticized the actions against Machado as “proof of arbitrary decisions” carried out by Cabello on behalf of the Maduro regime.  (Venezuela broke off diplomatic relations with Panama earlier this month after the Central American country’s president called for dialogue through the OAS.)

Daily Headlines: March 26, 2014

* Mexico: The chief executive and major stakeholder of Mexican oilfield services firm Oceanografia was placed under house arrest over his suspected role in the reported defrauding of about $400 million from Citigroup.

* Panama: What connection does Panama’s independence over a century ago have to do with the Russian invasion and apparent annexation of the Crimea region?

* Cuba: The CARICOM bloc of Caribbean nations once again called for an end to the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba

* Brazil: Brazil’s lower house of Congress approved a major Internet bill that did not include provisions on net neutrality or that would’ve permitted online data to be locally collected.

Video Source – YouTube user IBTimes UK

Online Sources- GlobalPost; Fox News Latino; USA TODAY; Reuters

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Daily Headlines: March 25, 2014

* U.S.: Chilean Pablo Larraín will make his Hollywood debut by directing an upcoming Scarface remake where the protagonist is a Mexican immigrant who tries to make a name for himself in Los Angeles.

* Brazil: A new poll found that most Brazilians are skeptical of this summer's World Cup while the mayor of Porto Alegre admitted that his city may have to withdraw from hosting matches of the premier soccer tournament.

* El Salvador: El Salvador’s top electoral court dismissed appeals by the country’s opposition party of electoral fraud and confirmed Salvador Sanchez as president-elect by a razor-thin 0.22%.

* Haiti: Sandra Honore, the U.N.’s main representative in Haiti, said that the country “still has the highest number of cholera cases in the world” even though she admitted “progress is being made” to combat the epidemic.

Video Source – YouTube user George Lewis (Trailer to the 1983 version of Scarface, which starred Al Pacino as a Cuban-born drug capo in 1980s Miami).

Online Sources- The A.V. Club; The Guardian; Prensa Latina; BBC News; ABC News

Monday, March 24, 2014

Bolivian President Renews Push for Coastline

Bolivian President Evo Morales yesterday urged the international community to support his landlocked country’s push for a coastline that it lost to Chile 135 years ago.

“Today, in our America, different winds are blowing. Today, we are a continent of peace. We seek to find peaceful solutions to historical injustices without wars nor confrontations,” said Morales at a public speech to commemorate the local Day of the Sea holiday. 

The remarks by Morales occurred at an event in a La Paz plaza named after Eduardo Abaroa, a Bolivian national hero who lost his life in the War of the Pacific in 1879.  It was during this brutal conflict where Chile annexed tens of thousand of square miles of Bolivian and Peruvian land including some 260 miles of Bolivian coastline.

“Bolivia wants access to the sea before all of the area’s natural resources are exhausted and exploited by the international companies,” he added in apparent reference to billions of dollars Chile earns yearly by exports from copper, silver and minerals extracted from land formerly controlled by Bolivia.

“If a dictator like (former Chilean strongman Augusto) Pinochet proposed access to the ocean for bolivar in the 1970s, then the current socialist and democratic government can make this a reality in the 21st century,” Morales mentioned in a message to recently inaugurated Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.

Since Bachelet retook the presidency on nearly two weeks ago, she has indicated that it will differ from that of her conservative predecessor, Sebastián Piñera, on issues like the treatment of the indigenous Mapuche and the planned HidroAysen hydropower complex.  Moreover, both Bachelet and Morales held bilateral negotiations during her first term in the presidency yet it appears like Bachelet in her second period in office would not sway from Piñera’s stance against the need to redraw boundaries.

Daily Headlines: March 24, 2014

* El Salvador: Will Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was murdered while celebrating Mass on this day 34 years ago, be granted sainthood by the Vatican within the next three years?

* Spain: Argentine soccer superstar Lionel Messi’s hat trick helped push Barcelona to a 4-3 victory against their traditional Spanish rivals Real Madrid.

* Brazil: Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has reportedly come under fire over alleged irregularities in the costly purchase of a California oil refinery by Petrobras in 2006.

* Uruguay: President Jose Mujica of Uruguay said that his country would take in several Guantanamo Bay detainees in exchange for the U.S. freeing three Cubans convicted of spying in 2001.
Video Source – YouTube user interestmedia

Online Sources- The Pilot;;; Xinhua