Friday, April 24, 2015

Sobredosis de TV: Home and Away

“Sobredosis de TV” is our occasional feature where we look at television shows regarding the Americas.
VICE was founded in 1994 as a culture and arts magazine in Canada, which would eventually turn into a media conglomerate that includes a film production company and a record label. But perhaps VICE is best known for producing hard-hitting and revealing documentaries on a myriad of subjects from secret North Korean labor camps to civil conflict in numerous countries. The newest episode of the “VICE on HBO” series that airs tonight at 11:00pm EST is no exception to this perception.

“Sweet Home Alabama” focuses on the aftermath of staunch anti-immigration laws passed in 2011 in the Cotton State. Under House Bill-56, undocumented immigrants are barred from receiving local government benefits, obligates public schools to provide yearly tallies of the number of undocumented migrant children and permits police with “reasonable suspicion” to inquire about a person’s legal status.

Unsurprisingly, HB-56 became a lightning rod in the fractious debate over immigration in the U.S. Critics of the measure included Alabama’s Latino populace, small town police chiefs without sufficient resources to enforce the must-arrest provisions and groups that successfully convinced the federal court to invalidate some provisions. Some initial supporters of the law such as legislators who voted for its approval even backtracked with one admitting, “If you make a mistake, you should be man enough to admit it.”

In the following brief clip from “Sweet Home Alabama,” two backers of HB-56 give their rationale for the controversial measure. One of them is the sheriff of Albertville, a community that apparently became a ghost town after Latino residents fled in the wake of HB-56. Check it out below the page break:

Daily Headlines: April 24, 2015

* El Salvador: Congress is considering declaring a “state of siege” for the first time since the civil war era while Salvadoran police proposed the return of “death squads” as an extreme measure to combat increased violence from street gangs.

* South America: Argentine team San Lorenzo was eliminated from the Copa Libertadores; thus, South America’s top soccer club tournament will not have a repeat champion for the thirteenth straight year.

* Bolivia: Lawmakers and farmers in Bolivia were unable to reach a compromise over the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

* Uruguay: Turbine manufacture Gamesa of Spain plans to supply fifty megawatts of equipment for a Uruguayan wind energy farm expected to start functioning in 2016.

YouTube Source – teleSUR English (Video published in January 2015.)

Online Sources – ESPN FC, The Latin Americanist, IPS, Bloomberg, teleSUR

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Daily Headlines: April 23, 2015

* Chile: Authorities evacuated more than 5000 people living near the Calbuco volcano that erupted twice after having been dormant since 1972.

* Puerto Rico: “The island's financial state is extremely uncertain,” was the grim warning issued by Puerto Rico’s Government Development Bank over a potential local government shutdown.

* U.S.: A defunct movie theater in Texas has sued the AMC megachain over alleged “conduct (that) was anticompetitive, unlawful, and harmful to Houston’s substantial Hispanic and Spanish-speaking community.”

* Argentina: Spanish coach Josep “Pep” Guardiola could be fined for wearing a shirt supporting a campaign for Jorge “El Topo” López, an Argentine journalist killed at last year’s World Cup in Brazil.

YouTube Source – Associated Press

Online Sources – ABC News, The A.V. Club, Al Jazeera, The Guardian

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Vatican Announces Papal Visit to Cuba

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi confirmed on Wednesday that Pope Francis would visit Cuba this September prior to a three-city tour of the U.S.

“I am able to confirm that the Holy Father Francis, having received and accepted the invitation from the civil authorities and bishops of Cuba, has decided to pay a visit to the island before his arrival in the United States for the trip announced some time ago,” affirmed Lombardi in a statement.

Lombardi’s remarks come after he claimed on April 17th that plans for a papal visit to Cuba were “still at too early a stage to be able to talk about a firm decision and an operational plan.”

The Argentine-born pontiff will thus become the third consecutive head of the Roman Catholic Church to visit the Caribbean country. Pope Benedict XVI called for greater religious liberties and prayed for dissidents “deprived of freedom” during his trip to Cuba three years ago.  The Cuban government granted greater recognition to Catholics following Pope John Paul II’s visit to the island in 1998. Years before becoming the Pope, the then-Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergolio, subsequently wrote a book describing the effects of that vital visit.

Pope Francis has been credited with being instrumental to the push between Cuban and U.S. leaders to normalize bilateral relations after decades of mistrust. Francis oversaw final talks between delegations from the U.S. and Cuba at the Vatican last October.  Following the historic announcements by Barack Obama and Raul Castro to improve ties last December, Francis sent them each letters urging them to “resolve humanitarian questions of common interest, including the situation of certain prisoners.”

Daily Headlines: April 22, 2015

* Argentina: The Argentine government on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against British and U.S. energy firms attempting to drill for oil near the disputed Falkland Islands.

* Venezuela: “Given the level of verbal irritation that I have seen from (Venezuelan President Nicolás) Maduro, I have decided to recall our ambassador to Caracas for consultation,” affirmed Spain’s foreign minister amid a growing diplomatic rift between both countries.

* Colombia: Michele Leonhart will resign as head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency amid allegations of counternarcotics agents engaging in “sex parties” with prostitutes in Colombia.

* Honduras: The Honduran government claimed that they foiled an alleged plot by Latin American drug gangs to assassinate President Juan Orlando Hernandez last September.

YouTube Source – CCTV News

Online Sources – Voice of America, MercoPress, The Huffington Post, The Guardian

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Today's Video: Noe Vasquez

We continue our videos highlighting violence against Latin American environmentalists with a quick look at Noe Vasquez.

The 30-year-old had campaigned against the construction of a hydroelectric dam in eastern Mexico that critics claimed would affect the water supply to local communities. On August 2, 2013 he was scheduled to speak at the start of a meeting of other Mexican environmental activists.  Yet he was murdered while trying to gather flowers for the beginning of the conference.  Investigators believed he was kidnapped by three assailants, had his limbs bound with rope and was stoned to death.

"His death leaves us with hunger for justice, but also strength because his death came as a shock to us," said Gabriela Sainz, a colleague of Vasquez.

"We are not at ease, we want to continue fighting for the cause he defended and to find out what really happened to him....We have to keep fighting", added Sainz days after Vazquez was killed.

Below the page break is a brief Spanish-language video showing an exhibition of artwork by Vazquez in his native Veracruz and held days after he passed away.

Daily Headlines: April 21, 2015

* Mexico: The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights called on the Mexican government to investigate supposed coercion against the families of the 43 missing Ayotzinapa students.

* Argentina: The prosecutor who took over for the late Alberto Nisman dismissed allegations claiming that Argentine officials helped protect suspected Iranian involvement in the 1994 AMIA bombing.

* Haiti: The U.S. State Department is none too pleased over a Haitian court dropping charges against a man accused in a kidnapping ring with close ties to the family of President Michel Martelly.

* Venezuela: The President of Venezuelan state-run oil company PDVSA claimed that they are exporting around 2.5 million barrels of crude each day.

YouTube Source – user AJ+

Online Sources –The Latin Americanist, Reuters, Latin American Herald Tribune, CNN

Monday, April 20, 2015

Today's Video: To MIne or Not to Mine?

Last month we examined the life and tragic murder of Costa Rican environmental activist Jairo Mora Sandoval.  In celebration of Earth Day this April 22nd, this week we'll look at other Latin American campaigners advocating for the environment who have died.

According to Global Witness, roughly three in four of the 114 environmental activists killed worldwide in 2014 were from Central and South America. Honduras was deemed as the most dangerous country per capita to be an environmental activist for the last five years with 101 deaths between 2010 and 2014. 

"They follow me. They threaten to kill me, to kidnap me, they threaten my family. That is what we face," said Berta Cáceres, a Honduran environmental advocate and winner of the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize.

Armando Fúnez, Maria Enriqueta Matute and Ricardo Soto were three leaders of the indigenous Tolupán community slain during a protest against a planned mining project and construction of a hydroelectric dam. They had reportedly received multiple death threats prior to the deadly attack against them in 2013.

As noted by Global Witness, the Tolupán continue to fight for their community and their future: 
We aren’t going to give up the struggle to keep our natural resources clean and in the hands of the community. There are those who want easy money by tearing up the land, contaminating the water. We have been here respecting the earth that gives us our food and we intend to stay here fighting for our right to feed ourselves.

Below the page break are two videos regarding the struggle over the San Martin gold mine operating in central Honduras.  (Not related to the project that the Tolupán are opposed to). The first video is from the operator of San Martin, Canada's Goldcorp, that claims the company works closely with the local community and operates the mine "in a very, very responsible manner." The second video purportedly contains residents living near the San Martin mine who accused the mine of contaminating the local water supply and bringing possible health risks to the community.

Daily Headlines: April 20, 2015

* Guatemala: Aura Elena Farfán, a Guatemalan human rights advocate who helps locate individuals missing during the country’s 36-year civil war, was one of four Latin Americans named in Time’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people.

* Venezuela: China and Venezuela agreed to strengthen their military ties, and the Asian state reportedly loaned another $5 billion to the South American country.

* Mexico: A Mexican Congressional report found that the 2014 Tlatlaya massacre of 22 civilians by the military was an “illegal, excessive, and a disproportionate use of force”.

* Cuba: A pair of independent candidates failed in their attempt to become the first non-Communist Party representatives in the Cuban legislature.

YouTube Source – WITNESS

Online Sources – Tico Times, International Business Times, Reuters, GlobalPost, Deutsche Welle