Friday, April 11, 2014

Daily Headlines: April 11, 2014

* Central America: A new U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime report concluded that Central America is the world’s most violent region with Honduras leading the pack with a whopping 90.4 homicides per 100,000 people.

* Brazil: Drought conditions in Brazil have been blamed for an increase in the price of coffee to its highest point since February 2012.

* Nicaragua: An earthquake measuring at least 6.1 on the Richter scale struck off the western coast of Nicaragua that reportedly did not cause any major damage.

* Colombia: Colombian police uncovered over seven tons of cocaine with a street value of about $250 million hidden in packages bound for Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

Video Source – AFP via YouTube (Video uploaded in November 2013).

Online Sources –; The Guardian; Reuters; The Washington Post

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Daily Headlines: April 10, 2014

* Venezuela: President Nicolás Maduro and opposition figures are expected to meet today in live televised discussions that could help quell some of the political unrest that has claimed 39 lives over the past two months.
* South America: Three of Argentina’s five main labor unions are planning a major strike on Thursday while several thousand people in Sao Paulo marched on Wednesday calling for workplace reforms.
* Cuba: Cuban officials are reportedly “concerned” over the hunger strike undertaken by Alan Gross, a U.S. government subcontractor imprisoned in Havana since 2010.
* Latin America: According to the World Bank, economic growth in Latin America and the Caribbean is expected to slow down this year to approximately 2.3%.
Video Source– euronews via YouTube

Online Sources – Miami Herald; Tico Times; BusinessWeek; LAHT; GlobalPost

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Daily Headlines: April 9, 2014

* Argentina: An Argentine court sentenced ten people to up to twenty-two years in prison regarding the 2002 kidnapping and “sexual exploitation” of a missing young woman named Marita Veron.

* Mexico: Death row inmate Ramiro Hernandez is running out of legal options and today he will likely become the second Mexican national to be executed in Texas this year.
* Cuba: Sen. Patrick Leahy, the head of the Senate subcommittee that oversees USAID, blasted the administrator of that agency for a “cockamamie” failed social network project launched in Cuba.

* Haiti: A new report found that the percentage of Haitian earthquake survivors living in refugee camps has plummeted by 91% though the study notes the “phenomenon of new families moving into camps and families splitting and occupying more tents constitutes a worrying trend.

Video Source– The Daily Beast via YouTube (Susana Trimarco, the mother of missing Argentine woman Marita Veron, has become an activist against human trafficking as she continues the search for her “disappeared” daughter.) 

Online Sources – BBC News; The Latin Americanist; ABC News; CBS News; Miami Herald

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Nude Twitter Protest Against Venezuelan Gang Assault (Updated)

Venezuelan government officials met on Tuesday night with members of the opposition in order to negotiate a potential end to nearly two months of unrest.  (Update: Both sides reportedly agreed to hold "formal talks" that could start as soon as this Thursday).

While plans are being made for the upcoming of the discussions, anti-government activists continue to voice their complaints against the regime led by President Nicolas Maduro.  One of the most unique protests took part recently in response to allegations of human rights abuses.

Using the hashtag #MejorDesnudosQue (roughly translated #BetterToBeNudeThan), the campaign began on April 4th when a team of Venezuelan ad executives uploaded semi-nude photos of themselves. The previous day, images emerged of a young man at the University of Central Venezuela (UCV) who was forced to disrobe and sit naked on the grass while masked gang members assaulted him. (Video of this incident can be seen at the top of this post).
“When I saw the video (of the nude young man) it hit me very hard and that’s when I came up with this idea,” said ad agency executive Ricardo Cie.

“My friends and family where receptive and they generally commented that the photos where a distinct way to peacefully and intelligently protest,” said one of Cie’s workmates, Eliana Mora Golding.

“Generally nobody was offended though we did receive negative comments,” she added.
Between the start of the #MejorDesnudosQue campaign and Monday the hashtag became a trending topic on Twitter and mentioned over 201,000 times on that social media network.
Cie noted he and sixteen of his colleagues opted to do the campaign via Twitter since “there is an absence of Venezuelan TV channels that are showing the reality on the streets.”

Among those who have spoken out in favor of the #MejorDesnudosQue campaign and it’s related hashtag #DesnudosConLaUCV (#NudeWithTheUCV) is Cuban blogger and opposition activists Yoani Sanchez.  She claimed that authoritarian regimes believe that “undressing their opponents constitutes one of the repressive practices they most enjoy” but the #MejorDesnudosQue idea may have changed this perspective:

Daily Headlines: April 8, 2014

* Latin America: Researchers warned that the chikungunya virus that has already been detected in several Caribbean countries could soon cause a “catastrophic” epidemic in the Americas.
* Brazil: More than 2000 construction workers at Rio de Janeiro's Olympic Park have been on strike since last Thursday as part of the latest delay to affect preparations for the 2016 Summer Games.

* Mexico: The mayor of Tampico, Mexico believes that rival drug gangs attempting to “settle scores” may be behind the deaths of at least eighteen people over the weekend in the northern border state of Tamaulipas.
* Cuba: According to a Havana Consulting Group report, the number of U.S. tourists visiting Cuba continues to grow in the first three months of this year despite a decades-long trade embargo against the island.

Video Source– YouTube user CARPHACampus (The chikungunya virus is spread by the same Aeges infected mosquitos that can carry dengue.  Victims endure severe joint pains that could lead to permanent disability and, in some cases, death).

Online Sources –; GlobalPost; NET Website; Dominican Today; The Guardian

Monday, April 7, 2014

Daily Headlines: April 7, 2014

* Costa Rica: Historian and outside candidate Luis Guillermo Solís validated his first round victory in February by easily becoming Costa Rican president-elect after winning in a virtual one-man runoff yesterday.

* Cuba: The recent revelation that U.S. government helped create a “Cuban Twitter” network could hinder the efforts of opposition activists and independent bloggers on the island.

* Argentina: Umma Azul became the first child of a lesbian couple to be baptized by the Catholic Church in Argentina in a ceremony held in the Cathedral of Cordoba.

* Mexico: Renown author Gabriel García Marquez could leave a Mexico city hospital tomorrow and over a week since the Nobel laureate was treated by doctors for a lung and urinary infection.

Video Source– teleSUR via YouTube (Nearly 1.3 million voters opted for Costa Rican president-elect Luis Guillermo Solís in Sunday’s runoff election despite a high abstention rate).

Online Sources – The Guardian; Reuters; Prensa Latina; The Latin Americanist; Tico Times

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Weekender – The Beast of the Rails

“The Weekender” is our new feature where every weekend we hope to highlight a short film, movie or documentary pertaining to the Americas.  
A group of at least fifteen disabled Hondurans known by the Spanish-language acronym of AMIREDIS have planned to trek through Mexico with the goal of highlighting abuses committed against Central American migrants.  The men may use different assistive devices but all of them became disabled while attempting to trek northbound on the dangerous rail journey on a lengthy freight train known simply as La Bestia (“The Beast”).

My accident was in 2005,” said protester José Luis Hernández to the Animal Politico website.  “I had been riding twenty days on the train and hiding from police and gangs trying to assault us.  My exhaustion beat me and I fainted.  I fell below the train’s wheels and one of my arms, a leg and three fingers on the other arm were cut off,” he mentioned.

The marchers petitioned last month for visas from Mexican migratory authorities in order to travel to Mexico City and attempt to talk with President Enrique Peña Nieto. Furthermore, the AMIREDIS group was scheduled to speak to legislators on Wednesday in Mexico City and voice their concerns regarding how Central American migrants are often the targets of death, extortion and kidnapping from drug gangs and corrupt police.

However, they have yet to receive permission to legally travel through Mexico and have seen their funds dwindle down.  As a result, members of the group are strongly considering making their journey on the train that caused their respective serious injuries.

“My leg became amputated after riding on La Bestia and it’s a memory I would prefer not to remember,” said AMIREDIS spokesman Normal Saúl Varela.  “But it may be necessary to ride on it again in order to obtain our goal, which is to speak to President Peña Nieto and that he sees with his own eyes the affects of riding that train,” he added.

A 2010 Amnesty International report found that “migrants in Mexico are facing a major human rights crisis leaving them with virtually no access to justice, fearing reprisals and deportation if they complain of abuses.”  The report cited an incident that reportedly occurred on the La Bestia line when a female migrant was forced off the train by Mexican Federal Police, had her belongings stolen and was forced to walk on foot where she was subsequently raped by an armed gang.

Several documentaries have been made focusing on the perilous trip on La Bestia such as Which Way Home, a film that aired on HBO in 2009.  Below the page break is a documentary in Spanish regarding the journey on La Bestia.  We begin nearly nine minutes into the film with the harrowing images of teenagers in a Mexican hospital recovering from amputations caused by the beastly rail trip: