Friday, September 19, 2014

Daily Headlines: September 19, 2014

* Brazil: A new poll published this morning found that President Dilma Rousseff and main opposition rival Marina Silva are statistical tied in a likely runoff to decide Brazil’s next president in October.

* Argentina: An attorney for Citibank called for the suspension of a U.S. court decision that pushed Argentina into default and claimed that the Argentine government has placed a metaphorical “gun to our head.”

* Ecuador: Environmentalists, indigenous activists and others joined Ecuador’s largest labor union in anti-government protests in Quito yesterday.

* Latin America: Argentina (2nd) and Colombia (3rd) are the top South American countries in the latest FIFA soccer rankings while Costa Rica (15th) was the highest-placed entry from CONCACAF.

Video Source – CCTV America via YouTube

Online Sources – Blooomberg; LAHT; Businessweek; The Latin Americanist;

Thursday, September 18, 2014

”Great Scot!” Revisited

With Scotland’s independence referendum taking place today, which may not have taken place where it not for a failed colonization in Panama centuries ago.  The following is text from a post we first published in 2007:
The annals of history serve as a rich tapestry of events that may seem far-fetched but are actually true. Take the case with the push for Scottish independence that was hindered by a disastrous attempt to colonize in Panama.

By the late 1600s, the Scottish economy was doing poorly from constant warfare, lack of a sustainable market outside its borders, and widespread famine. As a solution, the Bank of Scotland established a colonization company, which then decided to create an outpost in Panama. It was a huge gamble in that half of Scotland's liquidity was invested in the project despite the raising of private funds.

What did the colonists find in Panama? Certainly not the welcome wagon:
“The conditions were horrible. It was unsuited for agriculture and the Indians they met were uninterested in the trinkets they brought them. This is probably because they only brought useless things like wigs, combs, and mirrors. During the spring of 1699, torrential rain brought disease to the colony and many died from malaria and yellow fever. About 10 colonists were dying each day and the rest had to live on a pound of nasty, moldy flour per week”.
With the economy in absolute ruin the Scottish government would soon sign the 1707 Acts of Union, which politically incorporated Scotland into the United Kingdom.

Daily Headlines: September 18, 2014

* Argentina: Three medical staff and two former commanders of a secret military hospital have gone on trial over their alleged roles in the illegal adoption of babies from political dissidents during the Dirty War era.

* U.S.: New Census Bureau data found that the poverty rate for Latinos dropped by 2.1% in 2013 while median income grew last year for the first time since 2000.

* Panama: Is the Central American nation of Panama really the world’s happiest country?

* Brazil: The U.N. removed Brazil from the World Hunger Map after concluding that the number of undernourished residents decreased by more than 80% in ten years.

Video Source – CCTV America via YouTube (Estela de Carlotto, leader of Argentina’s Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, reconnected last month with her long-lost grandson).

Online Sources – BBC News; Los Angeles Times; The Guardian; ABC News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Brazil: Ex-Petrobras Exec “Remains Silent” at Corruption Hearing

Mum was the word for a former leading executive of Brazilian state-owned energy firm Petrobras at a legislative hearing related to the latest major scandal to rock the South American country.

“I think it should be an open session but because it isn’t I have nothing to declare,” said Paulo Roberto Costa during testimony he provided to congressional investigators on Wednesday afternoon.

The ex-head of Petrobras' refining and supply unit also reportedly uttered the phrase “I reserve the right to remain silent” (or similar wording) dozens of times from questions by parliamentarians related to his allegations against numerous senior politicians who received bribes in exchange for votes favoring Petrobras.  Costa, who has been imprisoned since March and accused of money laundering, was allowed by the Supreme Court to provide evasive responses to the questions during the three hours of testimony.

In an interview given earlier this month to Brazilian newsmagazine Veja, Costa accused Energy Minister Edison Lobão, both heads of Congress, and some thirty legislators mostly from the ruling Workers Party (PT) for supposedly participating in the kickback scheme.  

Costa’s silence on Thursday did not sit well several legislators during the closed-door session, especially those opposed to President Dilma Rousseff and her attempt to win reelection next month.

"We have not had any progress here, absolutely nothing," said Vanessa Grazziotin while Mendonça Filho decried that “the state is being robbed.”  Yet PT Sen. Humberto Costa accused his opposition colleagues of engaging in “radical speeches for political use".

Daily Headlines: September 17, 2014

* Venezuela: Standard & Poor's lowered Venezuela’s credit rating “based on continued economic deterioration, including rising inflation and falling external liquidity.”

* Puerto Rico: Reggaeton star Don Omar was arrested this morning in Puerto Rico and charged with domestic violence against his partner.

* Mexico: Thousands in Mexico’s Baja California Sur are without electricity, water or phone service due to Hurricane Odile though no fatalities have been reported.

* Colombia: President Juan Manuel Santos blamed an alliance of the FARC rebels and neo-paramilitary fighters for being behind the killing of seven policemen on Tuesday.

Video Source – CCTV America via YouTube

Online Sources – Bloomberg; CBS News; La Prensa; The Guardian

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Daily Headlines: September 16, 2014

* Mexico: A Mexican politician has come under fire after posting a Facebook message referring to Brazilian soccer star Ronaldinho as an “ape.”

* Brazil: The warden of a Brazilian prison where an inmate was recently beheaded was arrested and charged with helping prisoners escape.

* U.S.: A coalition of fifty groups commenced a campaign yesterday aimed at boosting the number of Latino voters participating in the November midterm elections.

* Puerto Rico: Approximately $900 million in tax and revenue anticipation notes is expected to be sold in order to raise revenues on the cash-strapped commonwealth.

Video Source – AFP via YouTube

Online Sources – The Guardian; The Latin Americanist; Fox News Latino; The Huffington Post; Reuters

Monday, September 15, 2014

Daily Headlines: September 15, 2014

* Mexico: Hurricane Odile swept through parts of the Baja California peninsula early this morning with 125 mile per hour winds and dumping a “mind-boggling” eleven inches of rain in the span of an hour.

* Cuba: Some 165 Cuban medical professionals will be sent to parts of Africa ravaged by a deadly Ebola outbreak.

* Brazil: FIFA admitted that senior officials with the world soccer governing body illegally received Swiss watches worth $25,000 after arriving in Brazil for this year’s World Cup.

* Colombia: The extradition process between Colombia and the U.S. has been called into question when a recently released “humble carpenter” was mistaken for a drug smuggler and held in prison for six months.

Video Source – euronews via YouTube 

Online Sources – NBC News; Associated Press; GlobalPost; InSight Crime