Friday, September 5, 2014

Daily Headlines: September 5, 2014

* El Salvador: “Be very careful when there are groups that seek out destruction, who search for war, who don't know how to work on a team,” warned Pope Francis to a group of Salvadoran schoolchildren during a videoconference yesterday.

* Mexico: A new Amnesty International report concluded that torture is “widespread in Mexico” including a 600% increase in reported cases of torture over the past decade alone.

* Latin America: According to the Latin American Private Equity and Venture Capital Association investment in Latin America fell by 10% to $2.6 billion in the first six months of this year.

* Argentina: Archeologists in Argentina identified a new type of massive dinosaur “with a body the size of a house, the weight of a herd of elephants, and a weaponized tail.”

Video Source – Rome Reports via YouTube

Online Sources – Yahoo! News; Al Jazeera America; New York Times; Huffington Post

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Argentine Music Icon Gustavo Cerati Died

Argentine rock legend Gustavo Cerati died on Thursday at the age of 55.

“In the early morning hours today the patient Gustavo Cerati died due to pulmonary arrest,” read a statement on the musician’s website from the Buenos Aires hospital where he was receiving treatment.

Cerati never regained consciousness after he had been in a coma from a stroke that hit him after a May 2010 concert.

Last May doctors claimed that Cerati was “clinically stable” but noted that there were “no significant improvements” to his condition and he continued to be connected to an “assistive respiratory device.”

From 1982 to 1997, Cerati was the lead singer of influential Argentine rock en Español group Soda Stereo. Along with Charly Alberti and Hector "Zeta" Bossio, Soda’s distinctive mix of rock and pop led them to create seven studio albums and thrilled audiences throughout the Spanish-speaking world.

“I still haven’t fallen (into reality).  My stance was always to have faith but evidently his body told him he had to go somewhere else.  I am at a loss for words,” lamented Alberti shortly after his friend passed away.

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner officially declared three days of mourning in memory of Cerati.  Meanwhile, several thousand people in Buenos Aires queued up on a line fifteen blocks long Thursday night to get the chance to view his remains.

“High school, my first recitals; all the memories are flooding back.  His legend gave us life,” said longtime fan Alejandro Canario who was one of the many on the lengthy line.

Daily Headlines: September 4, 2014

* Argentina: Argentina enacted a measure of revenge for losing the World Cup title match in July and thumped Germany 4-2 in an international friendly held in Dusseldorf.

* Brazil: A pair of polls released yesterday showed that President Dilma Rousseff gained support but is still expected to lose in a likely runoff to challenger Marina Silva.

* U.S.: A new medical study concluded that the sexual risk behaviors among young Latinos vary due to factors like language, country of birth and economic status.

* Venezuela: Producers of U.S. TV drama “Legends” apologized for a scene depicting the Venezuelan government buying nerve gas for using against opposition protesters.

Video Source – TyC Sports via YouTube

Online Sources – Deutsche Welle; The Latin Americanist; Reuters; The Guardian; Medical Xpress

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Colombian Court Overturns Bullfighting Ban

Colombia’s high court ruled against a prohibition on bullfighting in Bogota that was in effect since 2012.

According to the Constitutional Court, the ban violated the “administrative rights and freedom of artistic expression” against the Corporacion Taurina de Bogota (CTB), which is the entity that organized bullfights at the Plaza La Santamaria ring. 

“(The court rules in favor of the) “immediate restitution of bullfights to La Santamaria…without prejudice against other recreational or cultural destinations,” read part of the decision by the tribunal.  Hence, the judges gave city officials six months to prepare the Plaza for upcoming bullfights.

It’s unknown, however, how the ruling will affect educational projects planned at the Plaza in lieu of bullfighting. The company claimed it has the right to hold bullfights there at least through the end of its contract in March of next year.

The decision has not sat well with those in favor of the bullfighting ban like Bogotá mayor Gustavo Petro. 

“It’s unfortunate that there are still parts of our society entertained by death.  A fundamental right to kill is nonexistent,” tweeted the former guerilla turned mayor.

“At the end of the day, stabbing an animal for entertainment is wrong,” said Shely Bryan, campaigns director at Humane Society International.

“I think that where cruelty starts, then culture ends,” added the animal rights activist in reaction to the court’s move.

Daily Headlines: September 3, 2014

* Guatemala: The ex-military commander convicted of the 1998 murder of human rights activist and Roman Catholic Bishop Juan Jose Gerardi could serve additional prison time for supposedly “building an illicit business empire behind bars.”

* Colombia: Colombian cyclist Nairo Quintana retired from the Tour of Spain due to injuries suffered from crashes yesterday and this morning.

* Venezuela: President Nicolás Maduro announced a government shake-up that includes replacing energy minister Rafael Ramirez with a cousin of the late leader Hugo Chávez.

* Peru: LulzSecPeru, described as a “hacktivist group comprised of two young men,” infiltrated e-mail messages that showed the government’s ties to lobbyists.

Video Source – YouTube user wwwprensalibrecomgt (Trailer to the 2010 film “Gerardi” examined the outspokenness of Juan Jose Gerardi against the brutality of Guatemala’s civil war).

Online Sources – ABC News; Sky Sports; Reuters; Latin Post

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Inmate Decapitated in Brazilian Prison Riot

For the second time in less than two weeks an inmate was assaulted and beheaded amid violence in a Brazilian prison.

According to the Amazonia state military police, two people died in a prison after fight broke out amid the prisoners.  One of the deceased was decapitated and had his head thrown over the prison walls onto the street.  The other fatality was stabbed to death during the riot that lasted approximately nine hours.

The incident in Parintins comes after at least five prisoners died during a bloody disturbance in Paraná state from August 24-26.  Two inmates were decapitated and killed during a 45-hour standoff between police and prisoners protesting over alleged abuses committed by the guards in the Cascavel facility. 

The Brazilian prison system is plagued with problems including correctional facilities overrun by gangs like the notorious First Command of the Capital and where nearly half of the roughly 550,000 inmates are awaiting trial.  But perhaps the biggest challenge is massive overcrowding in prisons like the one in Parintins that was nearly at double its capacity.  Nearly 2200 inmates are crammed into the Pedrinhas prison that was built to house only 1770 and where last December prisoners filmed themselves next to decapitated bodies “showing them off like trophies.”

Brazil’s prison woes were one of the topics discussed during Monday’s televised presidential debate that included incumbent Dilma Rousseff and her main challenger, Marina Silva.  Though economic issues dominated the highly tense debate Rousseff did admit that conditions in the worst correctional facilities were “barbaric.”

Overcrowding in prisons isn’t just a problem in Brazil but also throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.  A recent report by the Iberoamerican Ombudsman Federation found that fourteen countries in the region have overpopulated prisons and half of these have prison populations at over double the capacity.  This may explain why a study from the Venezuelan Prison Observatory concluded that at least 150 inmates died in that South American country this year.  But even in nations with low prison overcrowding like Chile other problems persist such as instances of physical abuse by guards against inmates.

Daily Headlines: September 2, 2014

* Europe: Mexican soccer star Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez left Manchester United to Real Madrid on a season-long loan hours before Colombian striker Radamel Falcao joined the famed Mancunian team via his own season-long loan.

* Peru: Police in Lima displayed a record 7.7 tons of cocaine seized last week that were reportedly destined for Spain and Belgium.

* Uruguay: A senior Uruguayan official claimed that the process of transferring six Guantanamo detainees to the South American country would likely occur after presidential elections next month.

* Cuba: Cuban expats traveling to the island are none too pleased with new government restrictions on items including “hard-to-obtain” consumer goods.

Video Source – Liga BBVA via YouTube

Online Sources – Los Angeles Times; TVNZ; Uruguay; CBS Miami

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Weekender – Once Was Lost, But Now Am Found

“The Weekender” is our new feature where every weekend we hope to highlight a short film, movie or documentary pertaining to the Americas. We’re running this feature today since it’s a holiday weekend here in the U.S.
August 31st was the annual observance of the International Day of the Disappeared, which is an occasion used to commemorate the millions of victims gone missing often as a result of war, violence and human rights abuses.  Sadly, this problem has plagued numerous Latin American countries such as a Colombia plagued by decides of armed conflict and drug-rated violence in Mexico.

One of the most infamous examples of disappearances in Latin America has been the estimated 30,000 individuals missing during the dark “Dirty War” period in Argentina from 1976 to 1983.  While numerous former Argentine military commanders and officers have faced justice in recent years for their roles during the brutal “Dirty War” era, numerous organizations and activists have campaigned to reunite missing individuals with their families.

One of the best known of these groups is the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, which for nearly four decades has worked to identify babies born to political dissidents and put up illegally for adoption.  Thus far the “Abuelas” have identified 115 missing individuals including two in August alone.  One of these was Guido Montoya Carlotto, the grandson of Grandmothers founder Estela de Carlotto who was born in June 1978 to parents detained and later executed by state security forces.

The video below the page break is a documentary detailing the seemingly tireless efforts by “Abuelas” activists and others to shed light on the illegal adoptions during the “Dirty War”.  The 2010 film produced by Australian TV network SBS includes revealing interviews with several individuals identified by the Grandmothers and the children of a media magnate who rejected any efforts to see if they may have been adopted illegally. 

Daily Headlines: September 1, 2014

* Nicaragua: “The sadness of feeling yourself trapped in a whole is immense but I never lost hope,” said one of the twenty-two workers recently rescued from a collapsed gold mine in northern Nicaragua.

* Cuba: One of the highest ranking Catholic church figures in Cuba, Apostolic nuncio Bruno Musaro, declared that the island’s people are “victims of a socialist dictatorship that has kept them subjugated for the past fifty-six years.”

* El Salvador: Amid a growing homicide rate, the heads of five of El Salvador’s most dangerous gangs including the Barrio 18 and Mara Salvatrucha agreed to renew a 2012 truce.

* Brazil: The sale of Burger King to Tim Hortons could add at least $1.3 billion to the estimated $24.8 billion fortune of Brazil’s wealthiest person, Jorge Paulo Lemann.

Video Source – euronews via YouTube

Online Sources – ABC News; Miami Herald; The Globe and Mail; Reuters