Friday, June 13, 2014

Daily Headlines: June 13, 2014

Note: As we mentioned yesterday, we will be posting several articles throughout the next month on the World Cup hosted by Brazil.  Thus, our “Daily Headlines” entries over the next few weeks will focus primarily on non-World Cup news.

* Cuba: Forty-four Cuban dissidents including Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White protest movement, were briefly detained by the police as part of a suspected crackdown.

* Mexico: A new report published yesterday found that the background of Mexicans is “so rich, so genetically differentiated, you can’t just lump them all in.”

* Venezuela: New data showed that inflation in Venezuela has reached an eighteen-year high while anti-government street protests entered a fourth month.

* Caribbean: Jamaica could become the latest country in Latin America and the Caribbean to decriminalize marijuana for personal use.

Video Source – euronews via YouTube (Video posted in 2011).

Online Sources – The Guardian; Los Angeles Times; El Universal; UPI

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Hackers Target World Cup Websites

On the cusp of this year’s World Cup, hackers infiltrated several websites belonging to the Brazilian and sponsors of the premier global soccer tournament. 

The official English-language World Cup website was among those they suffered a Distributed Denial of Service attack (DDoS) along with the sites for the Bank of Brazil, Hyundai and Brazil’s intelligence agency (ABIN).

The site for the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso was defaced by someone reportedly belonging to the “Tunisian Hackers Team” and showing a photo of protesters holding a “FIFA Go Home!” banner.
“Money and corruption are ruining the land, crooked politicians betray the working man, pocketing the profits and treating us like sheep, and we’re tired of hearing promises that we know they’ll never keep,” read an anti-government message left on that site.”

At least two sites, including that of the Amazonas state electoral board, may have had the names and other personal information of individuals infiltrated and published in public forums.

All of the infiltrations took place between last Sunday and Wednesday.  As of the time of this post, all of the aforementioned websites are online and seemingly running normally.

“We had a busy last few days and there is more still to come,” reportedly said a hacker identified as Che Commodore to the Reuters news agency.

“Companies and institutions that work with a government that denies the basic rights of its people in order to promote a private, exclusive and corrupt sports event will be targeted,” added Che Commodore who allegedly belongs to the Anonymous hacker collective.

The e-mail service of the Brazilian Foreign Ministry (BFM) was suspended for several days last month following a data breach.  Three thousand diplomats were advised to change their passwords and were left without access to their work e-mail accounts for several days.  Though BFM officials tried to downplay the incident, Anonymous was able to extract over three hundred documents from the agency's computing network.

Daily Headlines: June 12, 2014

Note: The biggest story from the Americas is the World Cup that is set to commence later today in Brazil.  Over the next month we will publish several articles on the tournament including matches involving teams from the region and events off the field.  Thus, our “Daily Headlines” entries over the next few weeks will focus primarily on non-World Cup news.

* Colombia: Juan Gabriel Vásquez’s novel on violence in his native Colombia led him to become the first South American author to win one of the world's richest literary prizes, the International Impac Dublin Literary Award.

* Chile: An estimate 80,000 people including university professors and students renewed demonstrations calling for major reforms of the Chilean education system.

* Haiti: Amidst clashes between police and anti-government protesters in Port-au-Prince, Haitian officials announced that the first round of legislative elections would be held this October.

* Mexico: A WikiLeaks-like website has uncovered some two dozen cases of “wildlife crimes” around the world including illegal logging in Mexico, elephant poaching in Africa and illicit fishing activities in Alaska.

Video Source – VOXXI via YouTube

Online Sources – The Guardian; BBC News; The Irish Times; Bernama

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Daily Headlines: June 11, 2014

* Chile: Chilean officials cancelled the HidroAysen mega-hydroelectric power project that ran into stiff opposition from environmentalists and indigenous groups.
* U.S.: Veterans of a segregated U.S. Army unit of Puerto Ricans known as Los Borinqueeners and who fought in several wars formally received the Congressional Gold Medal yesterday.

* Brazil: President Dilma Rousseff rejected criticism of Brazil’s World Cup preparations and claimed “the result and final celebration are worth the effort.

* Argentina: World soccer ruling body FIFA could fine the Argentine men’s national team for posing with a banner reading “The Malvinas are Argentine” prior to a recent friendly match.

Video Source – CNN Chile via YouTube (Activists for and against the HidroAysen energy plan spoke out following the project’s cancellation yesterday).

Online Sources – Bloomberg; Reuters; The Guardian; NBC News

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Today’s Video – A Tribute to “Chucho”

We continue our look this week at memorable qualifying matches for this year’s World Cup with a bittersweet victory for Ecuador.

The sudden and tragic death of twenty-seven-year-old Christian Benitez last August weighed heavily in the minds of the Ecuadorian men’s national team.  The memory of Chucho, who was a member of Ecuador’s 2006 World Cup squad, weighed heavily on Reinaldo Rueda’s side and they only collected one point in their two World Cup qualifiers on the road after Benitez passed away. With their possibility of making it to Brazil apparently slipping away, Ecuador eagerly awaited their homecoming on October 11th against Uruguay.  The fourth-place team in the World Cup 2010 was looking to rebound following a terrible start and was on the hunt for the final qualifying spot held by Ecuador.  Thus the stage was set for a highly emotional clash at Quito’s Estadio Atahualpa.

In the thirtieth minute of the deadlocked match, Antonio Valencia received the ball on the near side.  The speedy winger, who was made captain of La Tri following Benitez’ death, flew by Diego Godin followed by a perfect low cross to the streaking Jefferson Montero who knocked in what would become the match’s only goal. 

Two months before, Montero scored a goal while playing in Mexico, took off his jersey to reveal a t-shirt with Benitez’ image and wept with anguish.  This time his tears were mixed with the joy of over 33,000 screaming Ecuadorian fans in the stadium and the hugs of his grateful teammates.

As seen in the video below the page break, the Ecuadorian team cried, screamed and took a victory lap around the Atahualpa following the final whistle.  They had practically assured themselves of the last South American qualifying berth.

Colombian Gov’t, ELN Rebels Agree to Peace Talks

In a joint statement issued on Tuesday, the Colombian government and the country’s number two rebel army announced that they would go undergo preliminary peace discussions.

The communiqué from the government and ELN guerillas mentioned six points including that both parties agreed to an “exploratory phase” of talks with the goal of “finding a viable end to the armed conflict and construct a stable and strong peace for Colombia.”  Among the topics agreed upon for discussion are the victims of the country’s decades-long civil conflict and “participation of civil society.”

“We express to Colombia and the international community the shared will to continue with the exploratory phase that will allows us to agree on an agenda and establish talks until reaching a final agreement,” read one of the points on the statement. 

The communiqué expressed gratitude to the governments of Brazil, Chile, Cuba Ecuador, Norway and Venezuela for their “good faith” in cooperating with the process.  

The statement neglected to mention exactly where or when the discussions would take place and also omitted providing the names of who would participate for both sides in the negotiations.  Yet President Juan Manuel Santos said this afternoon that the talks would be held under the same conditions as with the FARC, Colombia’s oldest and largest guerillas, and would include no laying down of arms or a ceasefire.  (This would also mean that the Colombian military’s offensive against both rebel factions would continue).

“An integral peace process that includes the FARC and the ELN is the best guarantee for the victims and for the country that this conflict will end forever and never be repeated,” Santos told reporters.

Negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC have been under way since November 2012.  Both sides have thus far reached partial agreements on how to deal with the drug trade, land reform, and political participation.

Daily Headlines: June 10, 2014

* Brazil: Sao Paulo subway workers suspended their strike though protests are expected to take place in Brazil prior to the start of the World Cup on Thursday.

* Argentina: Vice President Amado Boudou was questioned for several hours by investigators over his possible involvement in a major corruption case that has shaken up the presidency of Cristina Fernandez.
* Cuba: Authorities arrested eight people and accused them of being behind a university entrance exam cheating scandal.

* Paraguay: How is Father Carlos Urrutigoity in a “position of power” in Paraguay’s Ciudad del Este despite facing multiple accusations of child sexual abuse in the U.S.?

Video Source – euronews via YouTube

Online Sources – MercoPress; GlobalPost; Los Angeles Times; ABC News

Monday, June 9, 2014

Today’s Video – Aztecazo 2.0

We will take a brief look this week at several memorable qualifying matches for this year’s World Cup that is set to start in Brazil on Thursday.

Much like the label –gate has become a popular suffix to add to political scandals (e.g. Watergate, Valijagate/Maletagate), the term –zo has sometimes been used to describe major soccer upsets at Brazil’s iconic Maracaná Stadium.  Originating with the Maracanazo where Uruguay surprised home country Brazil to win the 1950 World Cup, the –zo suffix has been added to other matches like the Condorazo when Chilean goalkeeper Roberto Rojas faked an injury during a 1989 World cup qualifying against Brazil by cutting himself with a razor and smearing ketchup on himself.  (The ruse failed as Rojas was banned for life and Chile was barred from the 1990 and 1994 World Cups).

Estadio Azteca has generally been regarded as a fortress for the Mexican national team when it comes to World Cup qualifiers.  Since the “Colossus of Saint Ursula” opened in 1966, Mexico has lost only twice at that site in over forty World Cup qualifying matches and both of these shock defeats have been deemed as the Aztecazo.
The first Aztecazo occurred in 2001 when a late Hernan Medford goal stunned the home crowd and gave Costa Rica a 2-1 win. The second Aztecazo came over twelve years later at the hands of a surprisingly resolute Honduran side.

Los Catrachos hadn’t beaten Mexico in any competition since 2009 and initially it looked like that streak would continue as Oribe Peralta knocked home the opening goal for El Tri in the sixth minute.  The Honduran defense, which was humiliated by Giovanni Dos Santos and Peralta in the first goal, somehow held on despite strong pressure from the home side. The turning point of the match would come early in the second half when Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suárez inserted Jerry Bengtson for Andy Najar.  As seen in the video below the page break, the move paid dividends as Bengston teamed up with Carlo Costly and each notched a goal within a three-minute span to give Honduras an unexpected and historic comeback win:

Chikungunya Virus Spreads to South America (Updated)

The World Cup that starts on Thursday in Brazil will face its share of problems from violent protests to unfinished stadiums. To this list we might add the proliferation of a virus that has spread throughout the Caribbean and was recently detected in Venezuela.

Health officials in that South American country confirmed last week that the chikungunya virus was detected in a citizen who had returned from travel in the Dominican Republic. 

The government “was able to quickly detect the illness following tests since the patient” showed symptoms of being infected with the chikungunya virus, said Venezuelan senior health official Jesús Toro. 

“The patient is receiving the appropriate treatment,” added Toro one week after ruling out the chikungunya in another patient who had symptoms of the disease such as high fever and severe joint pain. 

(Update: As mentioned by one of our eagle-eyed readers and confirmed by the Brazilian media, six cases of chikungunya have reportedly been detected in Sao Paulo state.  Among the infected are two officers who returned from Haiti as part of Brazil's involvement in the U.N. peacekeeping mission in that Caribbean country).
Patients with chikungunya usually suffer from very bad headaches, joint pains, rashes and fever.  As a result, they become bedridden and racked with pain for weeks at a time while in extreme cases it can cause death.

Chikungunya can be spread through the same Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that can carry the much deadlier dengue virus and both illnesses cannot be prevented via vaccination. Brazilian health authorities are on the alarm for the spread of dengue during the World Cup but some researchers believe that the tournament could cause an outbreak of the chikungunya in the Americas:

Daily Headlines: June 9, 2014

* Brazil: A recent report found that the Brazilian prison system houses nearly 568,000 inmates despite only having a capacity of 357,219 prisoners.

* Venezuela: A photo of a bearded and jailed Leopoldo Lopez was published while anti-government protesters in Caracas called for his liberation and the resignation of President Nicolás Maduro.

* Argentina: The Argentine men’s national soccer team backed their country’s claim of the Falklands by posing with a banner reading “The Malvinas are Argentine” prior to a friendly match on Saturday.

* Guatemala: A Swiss court sentenced Guatemala's former police chief Erwin Sperisen to life in prison for the extrajudicial killings of seven inmates in 2007.

Video Source – euronews via YouTube

Online Sources – LAHT; ABC News; BBC News; The Washington Post