Friday, July 11, 2014

Daily Headlines: July 11, 2014

* Cuba: Cuban lawyer Ernesto Vera claimed that he worked for the state security agency and pretended to be an opposition activist in order to “discredit the dissidents.”

* Uruguay: Luis Suárez may be serving a harsh suspension for biting an Italian player at a World Cup match but that hasn’t stopped the Uruguayan from reportedly being transferred from to F.C. Barcelona as part of a $129 million deal.
* Latin America: A new U.N. report found that Mexico City and Sao Paulo, Brazil are in the top five of the world’s most populated cities though their ranking is expected to fall by 2030.

* Chile: President Michelle Bachelet of Chile criticized landlocked Bolivia’s appeal to the International Court of Justice seeking access to the sea.

Video Source – AFP via YouTube (Ernesto Vera alleged that he infiltrated the Ladies in White protest movement, seen here during a 2010 march, as part of his work as a Cuban state security agent).

Online Sources – Fox News Latino; Bernama; The Latin Americanist; The Guardian

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Increase in Violence Against Honduran Women Says U.N. Expert

According to a United Nations (U.N.) independent investigator, cases of violence against women in Honduras have skyrocketed in recent years while a majority of femicides are in impunity.

“In Honduras, violence against women is widespread and systematic and it impacts women and girls in numerous ways,” Rashida Manjoo, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on violence against women, said this week.

“The climate of fear, in both the public and private spheres, and the lack of accountability for violations of human rights of women, is the norm rather than the exception,” added Manjoo following an eight-day mission to the Central American country.
Manjoo observed that violent deaths of women between 2005 and 2013 increased by a whopping 263.4%.  The number could be greater, however, since she admitted that data from Honduras is often not “accurate, reliable and uncontested.”  Nevertheless, Manjoo noted “scores of concerns as regards the high levels of domestic violence, femicides and sexual violence” during her visit to major cities including Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula and La Ceiba.

Manjoo also claimed that human trafficking for sexual purposes has been underreported due to the influence of criminal gangs and “hidden nature” of these occurrences.

One bright spot she praised was the push for government police’s aimed at helping women such as the incorporation of femicides into the Penal Code.  Nevertheless, Manjoo criticized the 95% impunity rate for sexual violence and femicides as part of a lack of accountability by he authorities towards women.

“The importance of accountability as the norm for acts of violence against women cannot be over-emphasized, more especially within a context of generalized impunity for violence in the public and private spheres,” said Manjoo.

Daily Headlines: July 10, 2014

* Uruguay: President Jose Mujica announced that Uruguay’s plan to legalize the selling and distribution of marijuana would be delayed until 2015 because of “practical difficulties.

* Cuba: Aero Marti, “an airborne broadcasting platform that sent radio and television signals to Cuba,” was cancelled by U.S. authorities allegedly due to its cost and ineffectiveness.

* Mexico: The Mayan ruins of Calakmul became Mexico’s first site to receive the “mixed” World Heritage status from the U.N.

* Argentina: Vice-President Amado Boudou may be indicted on charges of corruption but that didn’t stop him from presiding over the Argentine government’s official Independence Day celebration.

Video Source – Fusion via YouTube

Online Sources – LAHT; ABC News; The Straits Times; Buenos Aires Herald

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Argentina Survives and Heads to World Cup Final Match

Argentina will head to the title match of the World Cup for the fifth time in team history after outlasting the Netherlands in a semifinal duel.

A penalty kick shootout was needed in order to break a scoreless deadlock between two teams that had been undefeated throughout the tournament.  Los Albicelstes converted all four of their spot kicks while goalkeeper Sergio "El Chiquito" Romero emerged as man of the match by blocking attempts by Ron Vlaar and Wesley Snejder.

Prior to the penalties both sides had few offensive chances during the 120 minutes of play amid rainy conditions in Sao Paulo. Lionel Messi was largely quiet throughout the semifinal aside from a free kick bullet straight into the arms of Oranje goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen.  The Argentine defense smothered what few opportunities the Netherlands could conjure up especially Javier Mascherano who ruined a pair of dangerous runs in the penalty area by Arjen Robben.      

The two-time champions generated very little on the attack but could’ve won the match in the second extra time period when Cillessen blocked Rodrigo Palacio’s close range header and a weak volley from Maxi Rodriguez. Unlike their quarterfinal match against the overachieving Costa Ricans, the Dutch faltered in the penalty shootout much to the delight of the scores of Argentine fans at the Arena Corinthians.   

Argentina will face Germany in the final match for the third time in World Cup history. (Los Albicelstes captured the crown in 1986 though Germany gained revenge four years later).

Daily Headlines: July 9, 2014

* Mexico: Mexican legislators passed a major telecommunications reform package that could diminish the control of America Movil and Televisa over the phone and TV industries, respectively.

* Brazil: A record 35.6 million tweets on Twitter were sent during the humiliating elimination of Brazil from the World Cup by Germany on Tuesday.

* Argentina: Former Finance Minister Domingo Cavallo claimed that Argentina’s current debt repayment crisis could be worse than the country’s economic collapse that he presided over in 2001.

* Puerto Rico: Will the U.S. Congress provide a lifeline to the financially troubled Puerto Rican island?

Video Source – CCTV America via YouTube

Online Sources – Bloomberg; LatinFinance; USA TODAY; Reuters; The Latin Americanist

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Germany Thrashes, Eliminates Brazil From World Cup

Brazil has been shockingly eliminated from soccer's World Cup after suffering a 7-1 loss against Germany in a semifinal match.

Five different goalscorers tallied for Germany as they handed their rivals their first home loss since 1975 and the biggest defeat for a country hosting the World Cup. Among those who beat Brazilian goalkeeper Julio César was Miroslav Klose who surpassed Ronaldo to become the top goalscorer in World Cup history.

The memory of Brazilian striker Neymar, who suffered a tournament-ending injury in the previous match versus Colombia, was strong as fans donned masks of the infirm player and his jersey was displayed by the team following the national anthems.  Yet the lack of defensive stalwart Thiago Silva, who was suspended for receiving too many yellow cards, seemed to be a greater absence than Neymar.

For the first few minutes of the match Brazil looked solid yet the hope of heading to the championship match quickly disappeared into thin air.  What is being called the "Mineirazo" began when Thomas Müeller opened the scoring in the eleventh minute and the German offense broke the floodgates open with four more goals before the half-hour mark.  The result left most of the 60,000 plus in attendance stunned in silence while others sang a chorus of insults upon visiting Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

(After the match, Rousseff tweeted "Like every Brazilian I'm very, very sad about this defeat.")        

Though Brazil was much more organized and forceful in the attack in the second half but could not beat the fast reflexes of German netminder Manuel Neuer.  The Brazilian defense continued their woeful performance, however, as Germany scored twice before Oscar tallied Brazil's lone goal late in the match.

"I just wanted to bring some happiness to my fellow countrymen," said a tearful team captain David Luiz following the final whistle.  "I apologize to all the Brazilian people," Luiz added.

Daily Headlines: July 8, 2014

* Nicaragua: The Nicaraguan government and officials with Hong Kong-based HKND Group revealed details of a $40 billion, 173 mile interoceanic canal project that might rival the expanded Panama Canal.

* Venezuela: Delta Airlines became the latest air carrier to significantly reduce flights to and from Venezuela as part of a dispute over the grossly overvalued Venezuelan currency.

* Brazil: Some ticket packages for the World Cup semifinal and final matches have been blocked amid an investigation into the possible illegal reselling of tickets on the black market.

* Latin America: At least five people died after a 6.9 magnitude quake struck on Monday in the Mexican southern border area near Guatemala.

Video Source – El Nuevo Diario via YouTube

Online Sources – Fox News Latino; USA TODAY; Bloomberg; El Universal; euronews

Monday, July 7, 2014

Daily Headlines: July 7, 2014

* Bolivia: President Evo Morales is expected to sign into law a bill that would legalize child labor for kids as young as ten-years-old even though it may be against international treaties Bolivia has agreed to.

* Argentina: Some Argentine victims of sexual abuse by priests are “pained” that Pope Francis will meet with six European victims of abuse but not with any from his country of birth.

* Cuba: A Cuban opposition group claimed that nearly one thousand arrests were made “for political reasons” on the island in June including weekly detentions of Guillermo Fariñas and “physical aggression” against the Ladies in White.

* Honduras: Officials believe that the odds of survival for eight miners trapped in a collapse gold mine in Honduras are slim and “only a miracle would let us rescue them alive.”

Video Source – Vice News via YouTube

Online Sources – NBC News; Huffington Post; GlobalPost; SBS

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Weekender – The Not-So-Beautiful Game

“The Weekender” is our new feature where every weekend we hope to highlight a short film, movie or documentary pertaining to the Americas. 
Four countries remain in the hunt to become champions at the World Cup currently being held in Brazil.  Among the four elite teams looking to win at soccer’s premier tournament is Argentina, which eliminated Belgium in their quarterfinal match on Saturday.  Next up for los albicelestes is a semifinal duel with the Netherlands, a rival who Argentina beat to win its first World Cup in June 1978.

That tournament thirty-six-years ago was hosted by Argentina in the middle of the Dirty War era where an estimated 30,000 people where killed or “disappeared” at the hands of a ruthless, authoritarian government.  Then-strongman Jorge Videla used the World Cup as propaganda to convince skeptical Argentines and critics around the world that all was fair and well in the South American country.  Yet amid the festivities of the tournament, individuals deemed as “subversive” by the state where kidnapped, tortured and killed.

One of the most infamous “torture centers” was the ESMA naval school located blocks away from the River Plate stadium where the final was played.  ESMA prisoners were forced by guards to celebrate during the match with them or run the risk of additional beatings and possibly being murdered. For Miriam Lewin and Graciela Daleo, their captors had a sadistic plan for them following Argentina’s 3-1 win in the final against the Dutch: 
The guards forced prisoners into a convoy of waiting cars. The gate slid up and they drove into the madness. Fans packed the avenue, waving blue-and-white flags, chanting, "Argen-tina! Argen-tina!" The guards demanded the prisoners look out the windows.

"Who remembers you?" one of them taunted.

Daleo asked permission to stand up through the car's sunroof. The cold wind hit her gaunt face and shivered her thin frame. The people looked right through her. Nobody knew she was disappeared, the single most important detail of her life, which meant that she didn't exist to them. The guards demanded that Daleo and Lewin celebrate. Miriam felt the stares. "If you weren't happy," she'd say decades later, "you were heading straight to the death flight."
She sat in the middle of the back seat, trying to look happy. The cars parked at a local restaurant, and the guards took the prisoners inside. Waiters pushed tables together. The torturers ordered beer and pizza and shared them with young women they'd raped with a cattle prod. Lewin looked around, feeling pale and skinny, like an alien, as the place exploded with joy and noise. People danced next to her, right in her face.