Monday, February 28, 2005


so i wanted to find some stuff on tequila, this is how they make it from a place named tequila. Tequila

Latin American Feminist Movement

In the readings for this week, we read a couple of articles dealing with the Feminist movement in Latin America. The Latin American women's movement seems to focus on a different aspect of women--the fact that the women should stay at home, women should maintain their domestic role in society--which got one of my classmates upset. Compared to the United States' women's movement, it seems as if the women's movement in Latin America is shooting a little low, asking for more equality, domestic protection, and eduction but limiting itself in traditional domestic roles. I wonder, does anybody think that the Latin American women should shoot for something like the United States' movement, or is this movement sufficient for their society?

Mexico's Migrants

An article in the New York Times, Mexico's Migrants Profit From Dollars Sent Home, includes a discussion very similar to one we had in class today. These discussions are based on the economic impact that Mexican migrant workers, numerous because of the proximity of Mexico to the United States, have on the Mexican economy. The residents of Valparaíso receive 100,000 dollars a day from relatives North of the border. The magnitude of the sum is enormous. 3 million dollars, the money sent in a month, is equivelent to the yearly operating budget of the town. The demographic position and the resulting international situation has an enormous impact on the domestic situation in Mexico.

Is Venezuela the next Cuba?

Below is a link to an article about Hugo Chavez, the leftist president of Venezuela, and U.S. policy makers' fear that Venezuela is becoming the next Cuba. Chavez has never been on the good side of the U.S. government because of his anti-american rhetoric and support of Fidel Castro (he calls himself a Fidelista). However, recent actions have been particularly alarming. Venezuela is purchaching new weapons and doubling the size of their military, implementing "Cuban-style" strategy to protect against a U.S. invasion. Many U.S. and Colombian analyst believe Venzuela's old weapons will be sold to Chavez's ideological counterparts, the FARC rebels. Also, Chavez has been interested in selling Citgo (the state-owned company that refines and sells oil in the U.S.) while brokering new trade (oil) deals with Brazil, Russia and Iran at the expense of the U.S. In response, the U.S. has increased pressure on Venzuela, but the rest of Latin America has remained complacent. Even Colombia has remained pacific, because most Latin American nations do not see the leftist policies of Chavez spreading and think engagement, rather than isolation, is the best way to deal with Chavez. Any attempt by the U.S. to isolate Venezuela would be seen as U.S. interventionism and a strong back lash from Latin America would ensue. Does anyone think Venezuela a real threat to Latin American stability and U.S. interests? If so, what actions can the U.S. take to protect its interests without infuriating the Latin American region?

Economist article here.

The Slow Pace of Justice in Chile.

While Pinochet himself has yet to be punished for his abuses while president, many others associated with his regime have been brought to justice. Recently, the British Riggs bank and two members of the Allbrittons family that controls it have been ordered to pay Pinochet's victims for their role in illegally protecting and hiding Pinochet's assets. While the amount is small, with $8 million to be paid by the bank and $1 million by the Allbrittons, it is still a victory nonetheless for Pinochet's victims. It is unfortunate that it is taking so long for justice to be brought in the matter.

Washington Post article here.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Argentina's Successful Market Restructuring

The Economist reports that Argentina has managed to persuade 80% of its bondholders to accept "a deeply discounted" repayment plan. Under this plan, only 30 cents are repayed on every dollar. In addition to this good news, Argentina is recovering much quicker than anticipated. Much of this can be attributed to the complete institutional revamping undertaken by the government. An aspect of this reform is the replacement of the peso by the dollar. As a result, the Argentina's GDP grew by 8.8% in 2003 and 2004 (only two years after the economic collapse). However, Argentina still faces some serious challenges. One of its biggest problems is the capital flight that occured; Argentinian citizens hold almost $150 billion in foreign markets. Regardless of these problems Argentina's restructuring is by and large a success story: only three years after its dramatic default, it is already rated a B- debtor.

Car-Free Day in Bogota

Earlier this month, in Bogota Columbia the streets were overrun with bikers and walkers instead of cars. This is because one day every year in Bogota is designated car-free day. On this day public transportation still operates, but people are encouraged to walk, or bike to work. The roads are closed down so there is plenty of room for bikers. Although it only occurs one day a year, people have noted a significant reduction in noise and air pollution over the course of the 24-hour period. This car-free day, which recently occured for the sixth time, has been praised by environmentalists and emulated by other cities. Of course, one day cannot reverse decades of pollution, but it does remind people once a year that they should consider alternate forms of transportation. I have read that following car-free day there is at least a temporary spike in people riding bikes or taking the bus. I found an interesting blog where people discussed the pros and cons of Colombia's progressive car-free day. The site can be found here. The site also has interesting information about travelling to and living in Colombia and seems to be aimed at younger people...or at least poorer people!

Summer Study in Guadalajara, Mexico

Come join the Jefe Maximo this summer and study for 5 weeks in Guadalajara, Mexico. Yes, that's right, your fearless leader will be directing the Stone Center for Latin American Studies' Summer Program in Mexico. Information on the program can be found here. It's a great, well-established, and extremely fun program.

The program is centered out of the University of Guadalajara's Center for Foreign Students (or better known by its Spanish acronym as CEPE - Centro de Estudios Para Extranjeros)

There are lots of great things about this program. First, the course offerings are plentiful. You can study at just about every level of Spanish in the Tulane Spanish Department's curriculum -- 101, 102, 203, 325, and 336. But there are also a fair number of content courses as well. There are courses on Mexican Literature, Latin American Literature, Mexican Film, Mexican Culture, Mexican History, etc. etc., all in Spanish. And for those worried about their Spanish language skills, I myself teach a course on Mexican Politics in English just for Tulane Program students. The CEPE also coordinates community service volunteer opportunities at no cost to the students. So, there's something for everyone! In fact, if you want to check out some pictures of the CEPE and Guadalajara, check out my personal photo album of various pictures from a previous year's program.

In addition, the Tulane Summer in Mexico program also includes a variety of excursions and "fiestas." I lead a tour of the historic district of downtown Guadalajara in the first week of the program. I also organize a "bienvendio" (or welcome) fiesta and meal at a local restaurant for students on the Tulane Program. We'll take group trips to the surrounding communities of Tlaquepaque (Here's another Tlaquepaque link), the wonderful arts and crafts town of Tonala, the quaint Guadalajara neighborhood of Zapopan, home of the famous Virgin of Zapopan, the lake resort town of San Juan Cosala, the city of Tequila, famous across the world for a particular beverage that is as much a part of Mexican national culture as wine is to France, and many other places.

Guadalajara is also within striking distance from some of Mexico's most famous Pacific Coast beach resorts, the most famous being Puerto Vallarta.

The highlight of the extra-curriculars that I plan for the Tulane Group during the Summer Program is our long weekend trip to Mexico City. I charter a bus that takes us from Guadalajara to Mexico City and that stays with us for the entire weekend excursion. I put the group up in the very nice, comfortable Hotel Maria Cristina, which serves as our "Center of Operations" from which we strike out to visit the riches of Mexico City. We go to the Pyramids of Teotihuacan, the Basilica and Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Chapultepec Castle and Chapultepec Park, Frida Kahlo and Leon Trotsky's homes in the lovely Coyoacan neighborhood of Soutern Mexico City, Bazaar Sabado in the Plaza de San Angel, the National Museum of History and Anthropology, the Zocalo (where we see the famous Diego Rivera murals in the National Palace and where we visit the massively impressively National Cathedral), the Alameda and the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Palace), not to mention strolling along the Paseo de la Reforma (a block off which is the Hotel Maria Cristina) and in the Zona Rosa (or the Pink Zone). If you want to see what you can look forward to as part of our Mexico City trip, take a look at another one of my personal photo album from a previous year's group excursion to Mexico City.

But that's not all! You'll get the unique opportunity to befriend and know Mexicans from Guadalajara since you'll be living and eating with Mexican families in their homes. These homestays are great for perfecting your Spanish-speaking skills, and they often result in lasting cross-national friendships. Usually, the houses where you'll be staying are also within walking distance or a short bus ride from the CEPE, and you normally share a room in their Mexican homes with another student on the Tulane Program (so you won't be too lonely for some company from home!). And I am always around and available to help you navigate your Summer Program experience, to work through any problems should they surface, and to make sure that your time in Guadalajara is both memorable and educational.

The cost of the program is $3,350 (airfare not included). And this amount covers the cost of 6-7 Tulane University academic credits, the various group events and excursions that I organize, travel health insurance, and meals and housing.

So, if you're itching to travel this summer, or if you're thinking of taking summer classes, or if you're just looking for a great, safe, and fun experience abroad this summer, COME TO GUADALAJARA -- it's certainly cheaper than staying in New Orleans and studying at Tulane in the oppressive heat of New Orleans summers, and it's a ton of fun! If you have any questions, I'm at your disposal.

Mariel Cubans in New Orleans

I read this article from the Times Picayune on Monday at my Service Learning site, which is the Catholic Charities Immigration and Refugee Services Office. This office provided numerous services to refugees, detainees, and immigrants that are seeking assistance. Recently, the Supreme Court Ruled that all detainees that are being indefinitely detained because their home countries would not take them back had to be released. This includes the Mariel Cubans that came over on a boat to the US in 1980. This article talks about how the recently released Mariel Cubans are going to be dropped off in New Orleans, with no help or support from the government. This is a very importance situation because the government is doing nothing to support these people and they are just throwing them out on the streets with nothing and making them fend for themselves, and what makes this even worse is that they are being dropped off in New Orleans, which for many of these Cubans is not where they want to be at all.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Mariel Boat Lift

Many of you may remember the infamous Mariel incident, where many Cubans were shipped off to the United States. This was quite a controversy, as many of the people Cuba sent were "undesirables": convicts and mentally unstable people. This was a mini-crisis in the United States, as there was no way the U.S. could process so many immigrants at a time. As you may well know, that is how Al Pacino's character in "Scarface" got to the United States. Well, many of those immigrants detained in prisons in America are just now being released and sent to New Orleans to fend for themselves. In most cases, they are homeless and have with them only the clothes on their back and shower shoes. The U.S. has promised to give aid to those left stranded, but of course this will not solve the whole problem. Here is a link to the story on

[NOTE: This post was submitted by Desiree Dominguez.]

Guatemala and the Mayans

I've been reading lately for one of my English classes two important autobiographies by Latin Americans in Guatemala who have overcome INCREDIBLE adversity to tell their histories. One is Secrets of the Talking Jaguar, by Martin Prechtel, a half-swiss Mayan shaman, and I, Rigoberta Menchu, the internationally recognized Nobel Peace Prize-winning work by the title female, a then twenty-three year old Mayan who survived the attempts at extermination of her people in Guatemala's Civil War.

Both novels vividly highlight the Mayan culture and the factors that threaten to extinguish it, from the Guatemalan authorities and their jails and torture to Evangelical sects who feel that the Mayan lifestyle and religion is not only blasphemous and devilish, but also anti-Modernization because it values a corn-cultural agrarian lifestyle and harmony with nature rather than speeding roadways and breakthroughs in technology. If you aren't familiar with the plight of these Mayas, maybe you could learn a bit more about the fact that they are still persecuted today even in the advent of a ceasefire with the war, and that Protestant missionaries largely from the United States still impose their beliefs on these people in exchange for their monetary aid. In fact, 40% of Guatemala is now Evangelical, which is huge considering the former influence of the Catholic church and the fact that the vast majority of Guatemalans are of Mayan descent.

Mariel Boat Lift

Many of you may remember the infamous Mariel incident, where many Cubans were shipped off to the United States. This was quite a controversy, as many of the people Cuba sent were "undesirables": convicts and mentally unstable people. This was a mini-crisis in the United States, as there was no way the U.S. could process so many immigrants at a time. As you may well know, that is how Al Pacino's character in "Scarface" got to the United States. Well, many of those immigrants detained in prisons in America are just now being released and sent to New Orleans to fend for themselves. In most cases, they are homeless and have with them only the clothes on their back and shower shoes. The U.S. has promised to give aid to those left stranded, but of course this will not solve the whole problem. Here is a link to the story on

[NOTE: This post was submitted by Desiree Dominguez.]

The Importance of Being Pragmatic

In a recent article in the New York Times, the Pentagon expressed renewed concern about the shoulder-fired missiles (given by the Soviet Union) in Nicaragua. President Enrique Balanos pledged to destroy the missiles several times in order to keep them out of the hands of criminals or terrorists. This article reflects varying stages in Latin American International Relations. First of all, it is reminiscent of the on going battle for disarmament instituted by the Hague System of 1899. Also, the fact that the shoulder fired missiles are the legacy of the Cold War and the way in which Latin America was a battle ground for super powers to tip the balance of power. Also, the renewed interest in disarmament to ensure that the weapons do not fall in the hands of “terrorists” reflects the United States new stage of International Relations with Latin America: Terrorism and Security as the World Hegemonic Power.

Also, there is an internal conflict between President Balanos and the National Assembly whom last week stripped the President of his ability to demolish the weapons. This internal struggle between opposition factions within the Nicaragua government (which is essentially a domestic struggle for power) will have major implications in Nicaragua international relations. This article reminded me of the importance to take into account history as well as various theories of analysis to analyze an event. Using any mutually exclusive theory, or just analyzing an event in the context of present day severely inhibits your ability for analysis.

Feeling Lucky?

Rape charges were recently dismissed against three Pakistani peacekeepers in Haiti. Instead, UN and Haitian investigators concluded that two of the soldiers had solicited sex with a 23 year-old woman while the other merely hung around. Nonetheless, since prostitution is illegal for troops, this trio can be expected to be repatriated.

In the midst of all that has plagued the UN (Iraq Oil-for-food) and Haiti (300+ prison break), nobody really needs any of this. Still, at least the Haitians could take comfort in the fact that things are worse elsewhere, as the Congolese (excluding Sudan) are discovering about their UN peacekeepers with rampant charges of incompetence, rape & pedophilia flying about. Haiti may have just let somebody fall beneath them for the very bottom spot of the food chain.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Bush's nominates a new Intelligence Czar with a history in Central America

President Bush recently nominated John Negroponte to be the new National Intelligence Director. This is a new position, put in place as a response to a request by the 9/11 Investigating Position. John Negroponte has a long political history as an ambassador. He has been Ambassador to both the United Nations and recently to Iraq. Negroponte has also been an ambassador in Latin America, in Honduras (1981-1985), and Mexico (1989-1993) according to his political profile on an MSNBC website (1). I took the time to look up Negroponte's reputation as an ambassador in Central America.

It seems Negroponte has a dark past with regards to human rights. Being nominated as the new Intelligence Czar has brought a lot of heat from Human Rights activists. It seems Negroponte has a bad reputation for Human rights, especially while he was the Ambassador to Honduras, where he allegedly supported death squads and ignored military torture in his dealings with the anti-Sandinista rebels (2).The Reagan administration was very adamant in overthrowing the Marxist Sandinistas in Nicaragua, with bases of operation in Honduras, in order to stop the spread of communism in Central America. This kind of past is unacceptable for someone nominated to such an important position, as well as a position with such a possibility for tragedy with regards to torture and human rights. Whether dealing with the third world or first world, torture and death squads are horrible ways of trying to accomplish an overthrow or any other political means.

I completely disagree with this nomination. Someone who has such a dark past with regards to human rights has no business being in such a position. No matter what the politics involved with Negroponte's nomination are, he should not be appointed to National Intelligence Director. With someone like Negroponte in charge, there is no telling what the possibilities for gathering intelligence and surveillance could be in the future. The Patriot Act caused a great deal of controversy because of the liberties it granted authorities in regards to surveillance and impinging on privacy rights. Having someone like Negroponte in such a position only increases the possibility of the standards of privacy going down. If he was willing to allow torture and death squads in Central America, he may be willing to allow illegal operations in order to gather intelligence on or to stop terrorists. I realize that we are far away from a 1984 type government, but having someone like Negroponte at the helm of intelligence cannot help the chances of us keeping all of our civil liberties intact. Whether dealing with terrorists, those who affiliate with terrorists, or those who are just some how loosely associated with terrorists without their knowledge, I do not find justice in allowing the authorities to infringe on the constitution in order to bring terrorists or any other criminals to justice. Whether or not appointing John Negroponte to be the National Intelligence Director will lead to us losing some of our civil liberties is certainly up for discussion, but the possibility of the poor treatment of prisoners, human rights abuses or civil rights abuse should be enough to keep someone from such a position.

(1) First Link

(2) Second Link

Hispanics in the United States

For my service learning project I am working for the New Orleans Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. One of our assignments is to research demographics and studies done by other Hispanic chambers of commerce. Some of the information I found is very interesting so I am including some links for those who are interested.

United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

The Hispanic Community in New Orleans

I am currently doing an internship at the Job Services Program at the Hispanic Apostolate of New Orleans. It has been interesting to learn more about the Hispanic Community in New Orleans, which is largely concentrated in the Redwood apartment complex out in Kenner. There are disputes about the number of hispanics living in New Orleans because the last census reported the number at 50,000, whereas others believe the number to be as large as 150,000. The fast growing population is majority Honduran followed be a percentage from Nicaragua, Cuba, Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador, Columbia, Domincan Republic, Panama, Bolivia and Costa Rica, as well. To learn more about the current and past Hispanic population in New Orleans, you can visit the Stone Center at Tulane.

Pinochet's "Legacy"

I found this article in this morning's Washington Post. It relates the present situation of General Augusto Pinochet in Chile. I found interesting the fact that the Chilean population is still clearly divided on the issue of how to deal with Pinochet. Many of his monuments have been demolished, and on the other hand, we find people that praise him for, among other things, his economic reforms. Accused of human rights violations among other things, the 89-year-old general still awaits a decision. At this point I'm not sure on where I stand on the issue, for even though such events should not go unpinished, so many years have passed and he is so old that it is hard to take a stand. Many Chileans feel they need to move on and leave their past behind while many others refuse to see so many cases go unpunished.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Environmentalist killed in Brazil

It hasn't been a good week for people trying to help the environment in Brazil. Little more than a week after the shooting of a nun who opposed loggers and ranchers another shooting has happened in Brazil. This time it was of an unpaid volunteer at a nature preserve near Rio who was combating poaching and the illegal logging of palm trees. It's sad to think that the profit from selling hearts of palm is worth more than a man's life. Here's the article.

Catholicism and the Family

For many Latin Americans, the invasion of Protestantism into the region is not simply a threat to the constituency of the Holy See. It becomes, also, a threat to the integrity of the family unit itself.

Many Latin Americans, especially those who have been raised under the all-encompassing umbra of the Catholic Church, being Catholic is not merely a matter of personal choice. It is as inextricable as blood. To abandon the Church is the equivalent of disowning one's family.

Given this stigma against conversion, it is easy to see what a threat the Protestant invasion into Latin America can be for a lot of people. Questioning one's faith is difficult enough, but it takes on a different character when questioning one's faith becomes akin to questioning one's entire people.

Ingrid Betancourt

The Colombian newspaper El Tiempo published today an article about secretes negotiations occurring between the FARC and the French government to get Ingrid Betancourt freed. According to El Tiempo the representative of the FARC Rodrigo Granda, who was arrested in December, was in touch with the French ambassador in Colombia; the Colombian authorities denied that assertion although the French claimed that the Colombians have always been informed of the way the French were trying to obtain the liberation of Ingrid Betancourt.

Ingrid Betancourt is a Franco-Colombian citizen who was running for the Columbian presidency when she was kidnapped by the FARC on February 23, 2002; as a politician, she always kept denouncing corruption. Ingrid Betancourt has become well-known in France over the past 3 years since her family there is actively fighting for her liberation: many demonstrations have been organized in Paris since her kidnapping and her family is often addressing the media to have the French government hold negotiations with the Colombian government and more recently with the FARC representatives.

The case of Ingrid Betancourt is a constant source of concern in the French media. For the anniversary of her kidnapping, France urged “the Colombian parties to take the concrete decision” to obtain the liberation of Ingrid Betancourt ; the representative of the Department of Foreign Affairs added that France was ready to “seek with them the conditions for a humanitarian solution” but the Columbian parties “were now to be in charge of the concrete decisions to go ahead” in the direction of obtaining the liberation of the hostage.

The issue of the liberation of Ingrid Betancourt has been a source of tension between France and Colombia over the past 3 years since Paris is willing to negotiate with the FARC whereas the Columbians strongly oppose to that possibility. Almost all the representatives of the FAC who were in touch with the French diplomats and the Betancourt family for negotiation have been arrested before any agreement could be reached; in retaliation to the iron policy of the Colombian government, Ingrid Betancourt’s family has made several declarations denouncing the uncompromising position of President Alvaro Uribe: the mother of Ingrid Betancourt recently declared that “Alvaro Uribe is an unsympathetic man who is only thinking about his reelection. He is controlled by the Americans and the paramilitaries.”; she also declared that "President Uribe has always plotted very cleverly to sabotage all our attempts to get in touch with the FARC.”

Paris is trying to get support from the United Nations and is also trying to involve neutral countries like Switzerland in order to build a bridge between the Colombian government and the FARC. For the time being, the possibility of liberation of Ingrid Betancourt seems to be in a deadlock and will probably remain in that situation as long as Uribe will remain uncompromising.

This is the link to the article published in El Tiempo; unfortunately it is not available in English

I could not find any article dealing with the subject in English but, for those who can read French, here are two links to two French well-documented articles.

First link

Second Link

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Brazil/US Relations: Murder of Sister Dorothy

An article in the New York Times highlights the need for Latin American government's to act promptly when the issue is on the United State's radar screen.

The murder of Sister Dorothy, a naturalized Brazilian originally from Dayton, Ohio in the Amazon has attracted much internationally attention. The Brazilian government has acted promptly-- arresting a possible suspect. If the Brazilian goverment was not to act speedily, the United States may become involved. This would insult the Brazilan government as it would reflect negatively on the state's soveignity.

The article also states that the region is largely lawless. This assumption is the very one that Brazil is trying to fight by acting quickly and arresting a suspect.


I was reading the USAtoday and they had an article on kidnappings in the Latin America. Their was an intersting statistic that said theAbout "three-quarters of the world's kidnappings occur in Latin America, according to experts, with the bulk occurring in Colombia, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil. " I was amazed to read more on the article which you can find here

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Lily Tuck

This article is about Lily Tuck, an author who received an American book award for her fiction novel regarding Marshal Francisco Solano Lopez. The book seems to be quite sexually graphic and portrays Lopez as an arrogant man who brings Paraguay into a terrible war. It turns out that the author never actually visited Paraguay before writing the book.

This seems to me a very irresponsible way to write a book, especially if it is a book on historical fiction. The author does not have enough respect for the country's culture and history, and it is quite ignorant of her to write a book without even a basic experience of what the countryside is like. How authentic can this book be?

The Tourist Industry in Latin America

This week I was perusing an interactive CD that my friend's father has made to promote his future business in Belize. It has been his lifelong dream to build bungalows in a remote area of Belize for ecologically-minded, outdoorsy tourists. Although, I'm sure it will be a great place to visit, it brought to mind my mixed feelings about the tourism industry in Latin America. I'm just not sure how I feel about an American developing land in Belize that will probably not even bring revenue to locals because it is in a remote area. In other cases, I guess tourism is a mixed blessing. For exmaple, I was able to do the three-day hike to Macchu Picchu because the local government knew it would be a good source of tourist dollars. On the other hand, the tourism industry has become so big there that after the long three day hike, I arrived at the ruins to see busloads of tourists in high-heels pulling up at the top. I wonder if tourism in Latin American countries is good for the short-term, but bad in the long run? Also, should there be a limit to how far the tourism industry goes?

Cold war remnants

Venezuela has recently exacerbated the bad relations it has with the US by purchasing arms from Russia. While the US does not criticize Russia for the arms sale, Venezuela's continued and growing alliance with former and current red states serves as a reminder for the US that the cold war may be over but current events can still continue provide hurdles for international relations.

Washington Post article on the subject.

Mexico vs US

I found an interesting article that discusses the differences between the US and Mexico. Recently, the daughter of a well-known, influential Mexican family died in a boating accident. The media treatment of her death was radically different from what US media treatment would've been. The article points out not only the differences in the treatment of her death by the media, but the cultural and business differences between the two countries as well. Sadly, the US comes out as cold and insensitive in its treatment of the dead whereas the Mexicans come out as sensitive and compassionate. Do you really think that's so?

More info on Archbishop Oscar Romero

After watching Romero in class on Wednesday, I was interested in learning more about him and the impact he had on El Salvador. I found this website and thought it was very informative and interesting.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Globalization in the next 15 years

The following article was taken from

Latin America does not figure very prominently on the world radar. Indeed, it barely figures at all in the 123 pages of the US National Intelligence Council's just-released study on world trends over the coming 15 years. What is said, though, is that Latin America's response to globalisation may cause a split in the region, and that the main threat it faces is its governments' failure to find solutions for 'abject poverty and bad governance'. This, it suggests, could breed populism, radical indigenism, activist religious fundamentalism and anti-US sentiment.

I thought that this was interesting since it corresponded to our readings. It would interesting to see what else was said about world trends and Latin America in the newly released study.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Preparing for Democracy in Cuba

I was skimming through the news on BBC when I found this interesting article about a Cuban dissident, Oswaldo Paya who is trying to push for the formation of an international comittee to plan for a democratic reform in Cuba. He even invited the Cuban government to participate in the project. I was wondering what everyone thought on the subject of what will happen in Cuba after the death of Fidel? Many people say that Raul Castro, Fidel's successor is too weak a leader to maintain the current government. Will democratic reforms be in fact possible?

Spreading the War on Terror to Latin America

Ever Since September 11, 2001, the US has been waging a war on terror. In class during the lecture, El Hefe Maximo mentioned that since 2001, the US has been trying to impose its attitude toward terrorism and its perception of an imminent global threat of terrorism on Latin America. The US is now using the pacts that were formerly used to make a coalition against Russia and its Cold War allies, pacts such as the Rio-Pact and the OAS, to fight against terrorism instead of the Cold War.

Donald Rumsfeld tried, unsuccessfully, to turn the Inter-American Defense Board into a multi-national army against terror in the Western Hemisphere. In doing this, Rumsfeld's multi-national army will be breaking precedent and constitutional laws of using military in "domestic policy and spying operations." Rumsfeld stated that since terrorism does not recognize international boarders, then breaking them for the protection against terrorism is justified. This is a perfect example of the historical trend of the US trying to push Latin America around in a Realist fashion.

This article is extremely informative and has a lot more information that we spoke about in class, with regards to international policy that sounds a lot like what went on in the Drago Doctrine, as well as the five phases of Latin American-US relations.

Trade developments in Latin America

Reading this past week's The Miami Herald I found a couple of articles relevant to our discussion about the Inter-American system in Latin America. This week's Oppenheimer Report shows the great development and growth Chile has undergone due to its free-trade agreement with the United States. It also poses many questions regarding such treaties, for the response of the Latin American states varies greatly across the continent. Chile has undergone economic reforms that have aided in the success of this agreement, but a large percentage of other Latin American states simply don't work in the same manner. As a counter example to this success, Andres Oppenheimer talks about the issues of CAFTA and the hesitation surrounding that treaty. In his conclusion, Oppenheimer acknowledges the fact that the problem now is not so much about the establishment of treaties throughout the hemisphere and globally, but rather, it is an issue of being able to establish competitive nations in Latin America that can rise up to "threats", like the one posed by China. On this note, I also found this article, by Marifeli Perez-Stable, in which "China offers opportunities, poses threats". It describes the relations between China and Latin American nations and emphasizes the importance of raising the competitiveness of the the latter. I also found interesting the fact of the overwhelming differences between the approaches towards the Chinese markets from varying Latin American States, those between Mexico and Brazil, for example. It's particularly interesting to me that we can witness the course that the Latin American states are taking towards globalization and how diverse such path truly is.

Blast from the Past

In-line with his narrow, ridiculous, unilateral & ultra-rightwing policies, President Bush recently nominated John Negroponte to be our first intelligence director. While Negroponte’s current position as ambassador to Iraq probably pulled the most weight in his selection for nomination, the Republicans seem to have looked over a little blip on his resume called the Iran-Contra scandal.

Serving under the Reagan administration as ambassador to Honduras from 1981-1985, Negroponte was really involved in paramilitary ops doing all he could to eject the Sandinistas from Nicaragua. Unfortunately (but as expectedly from such hard right-leaning conservatives), that also included ignoring the civilian atrocities being committed by the US-trained Contras & Hondurans.

While I dare not challenge Negroponte’s patriotism or competency for the new job, I side with the many Central Americans outraged by his nomination. Certainly insensitive to our isthmus neighbors, it’s simply just immoral to reward and elevate the position of someone who has willing allowed such human rights abuses to occur under his watch. I wonder how this’ll affect the war on drugs.

Terrorism and the OAS

I thought this article was interesting because it refers to some of the topics we discussed in class this morning. In the latest OAS meeting, the U.S. urged Latin American countries to contribute more money and effort to security issues that are aimed to prevent terrorism. It illustrates the U.S.'s attempts to allign Latin America on issues that are of primary concern mostly to itself.

Belize Boundary Blunders

As I read through Pope Atkins's description of the Belizen boundary disputes arising from the imminent independence of the small British dependency, I couldn't help but think that the countries involved were behaving very childishly. Guatemala would not relent its pursuit for Belizen territory that it claimed it had rightfully inherited from Spain. Of course, the British won the dispute in the international system by simply reminding the world that Britian is not Spain and, therefore, a former Spanish colony cannot inherit Spanish territory from a British colony that, by definition, was never Spanish.

Then there was Mexico, which claimed territory belonging to Belize was actually its own. But Mexico, strangely, was willing to give up its claims if the Belizens didn't particularly feel like giving Mexico free land.

I may be missing something, but if Atkins is correct, then it appears that certain Latin Americans are perfectly willing to create and foster disputes for fun. This can't be the case, can it? Surely, there's something Atkins missed. Or maybe something I'm missing. Or, maybe, the Guatemalan and Mexican administrations at the time were the ones that missed it.

The Saint Death Sect

This in an interesting Article on that talks about a Catholic Sect in Mexico that worships La Santa Muerte, who they believe is an angel the kills based on god's orders. According to most of the members of this "religion" are thieves and prostitutes. I had never heard of this before and I thought it was interesting that people prey to an "angel of death." This religion was officially recognized by the Mexican Government in 2003, however recently a person that was ousted from the religion has said that this sect has violated their bylaws and forced people to worship death. So, now the Mexican Government is considering withdrawing official recognition of this sect. Evidently the Roman Catholic Church speaks out against this sect of "Catholicism." Here is the article.

US-Venezuela tensions rise with a Venezuelan arms purchase deal

Since Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez came to power, the relationship between the United States and Venezuela has been waning. Recently, Venezuela made a deal with Russia to purchase arms and helicopters. This deal has been the target of United States criticism. Venezuela has defended the deal by citing continuing instability on its border with Brazil, a reason for its recent cooperation with Brazilian President Lula. Here is the link.

Kidnappings in Paraguay

The body of Cecilia Cubas, the daughter of an ex-Paraguayan President, was found five months after her kidnapping. President Nicanor Duarte Frutos has pledged to fight "the culture of death" in his country. The Columbian rebel group Farc has been credited for this particular murder. However there is little evidence pointing to that connection. There is also debate as to the Farc motivation for involvement in Paraguay.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Latina Stereotypes in the US Film Industry

Stereotypes of Latin American culture have been manifested in the United States film industry since its creation. One such common stereotype has been the oversimplified portrayal of Latina characters as the “exotic Latin lover” or the “dark seductress.” These prejudiced ethnic portrayals transmit a negative image of Latin women, as these characters are depicted as oversexed, on display or manipulative. Furthermore a message of inferiority often accompanies these portrayals as the Latina characters often are ultimately rejected by white male heroes, suggesting that Latin women are inferior. Today, a growing awareness of this negative ethnic stereotyping and a changing perception of Latin culture in the United States have helped to produce some new roles for Latina actresses outside of the seductress/Latin lover persona, but these characters have by no means been eliminated from the US film industry.

The 1930s and 1940s present many examples of Latina character stereotypes. Brazilian Actress Carmen Miranda became a quintessential embodiment of the Latin sexpot in That Night in Rio when she played, a ditsy, flirtatious dancer who wore a “Chiquita Banana” like headdress. A darker, more manipulative Latina image was portrayed by Dominican Republic actress Maria Montez in Cobra Woman a few years later. In Flying Down to Rio and in Caliente, actress Dolores del Rio put a slightly different twist on the Latina persona, with roles as the exotic but virginal Latin lover. In all cases, “Latina” was defined to mean sexy and exotic, but irrational, and always dependent on men.

Today the roles available to Latina actresses have expanded, but stereotypical Latina personas are still widespread. Latina actress Jennifer Lopez has worked both ends of the spectrum. Her leading roles in The Wedding Planner, Angel Eyes and The Cell embodied no elements of the typical Latin lover/seductress theme. In fact, these roles did not even play off her Latina heritage; an actress of any race could have played the characters. On the other hand the story line of Maid in Manhattan reverts to traditional stereotypes as the central exotic and virginal Latina actress is rescued from her lower class status and service job, and into the Anglo world of wealth and privilege. A Carmen Miranda-like role is played by Lopez in the recently released Dance With Me, where she plays a dark, fanatical, exotic Latin dance instructor. Latina actress Selma Hayek has also worked both stereotypical and break-through Latin roles, often playing smaller parts as vixen/seductress characters, but also taking roles as stronger Latina characters, such as in Frieda or in In the Time of Butterflies. It will be interesting to see the roles that these prominent Latina actresses take in the future.

Although the portrayal of Latin women is no longer limited to that of a seductress, exotic beauty or Latin lover, these roles are still present in the United States film industry. New roles for Latinas indicates that we, as the viewing public, no longer limit Latin women to these personas, but the persistence of these roles suggests that we also expect these sorts of characters to be embodied by a Latina. Eliminating Latina stereotypes in the film industry will require a shift of ideals on the part of the public, directors, producers, writers and actresses.

Carlos Henriquez Consalvi and Radio Venceremos

I went to the Carlos Henriquez Consalvi and Radio Venceremos presentation last night and it was extremely interesting! Here is a description of the event:

“Carlos Henriquez Consalvi, better known in El Salvador as Comandante Santiago, founded Radio Venceremos in 1980. The founding of Radio Venceremos corresponded with the beginning of a civil war in El Salvador that pitted a group of militant rebels, the FMLN, against a brutal military dictatorship. For the next 11 years, Santiago served as the voice of the clandestine FMLN radio, broadcasting his reports with a 40-yr-old transmitter that had seen service in World War II while constantly evading capture by the military in the northeastern hills of the nation. Radio Venceremos was one of the few sources of oppositional press in El Salvador during the reign of the repressive military regime. As such, Santiago and his team were among the first to report on the infamous massacre at El Mozote and other atrocities committed by government troops, played a major role in recruiting campesino support for the rebel cause, and provided popular education about socialist ideals and Salvadoran history. Radio Venceremos was also used to assist in military operations. After the war ended in a negotiated peace settlement in 1992, Consalvi turned his attention to documenting the history of El Salvador, because he felt that so much of the historical record had been lost during the war. He founded a museum, El Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen, has collected an impressive collection of archival information, and has produced several documentary films.”

I was interested in the museum that Carlos Consalvi started, so I looked up more information on the internet and I found its website. However, be aware that the website is in Spanish!

The FARC in Paraguay ?

I came across this article about the death of the daughter of a former president of Paraguay. In this article, it is alluded to possible activities of the FARC in Paraguay : if true, it would be the first time that they are reported to be involved in criminal activities outside of Colombia. The article ends on the hopeful statement that kidnappings in Colombia have massively dropped last year. Yet the article shows the major difficulties Paraguay is usually facing in its domestic affairs and the possibility of regular criminal activities of the FARC in Paraguay could bring that country already in turmoil on the verge of chaos.

LANIC and Bush-Fox Migrant Labor Policy

This a site I have used for a while to look up info about Latin America and related news. It recently got a Forbes "best of the web" award. Also, I was wondering if anyone knew anything more about President Bush's talks with Mexican President Fox about illegal immigration and a work-leasing program for Mexican laborers in the United States. Since Bush's reelection and the War on Terrorism it seems like it got put on the backburner...which is exactly what skeptics first said of Bush's plan, which to me sounded like a recipe for another exploitative Bracero Program disaster. So if the Jefe Maximo will accept it, this my challenge and attempt to Stump the Chump.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Canada & Latin America

In class we spoke about the relationship between Canada and Latin America and I'm curious about what other classmates think. What kind of stance should the US take towards Canada (the "anglo-alternative") when Canada chooses not to go along with US foreign policy in terms of the Cuban economic embargo or Operation Just Cause in Panama?

Toronto specifically has been simply buzzing for a few years now as a diverse, accepting, worldly destination attracting flocks of international writers, artists and intellectuals, many of whom come from Latin America.

Any thoughts on our Northern neighbor's effect on US foreign policy in Latin America?

Death in the Amazon

The Brazilian government is sending troops into part of the Amazon, where an American nun was killed recently. She was helping with sustainable development projects for the poor residents in rural Para. She was a vocal opponent of the logging industry. This article implies that she was killed becuase of her efforts to preserve the rain forest. Her killing reminds me of the killing of Chico Mendes, who was also killed because of his efforts to stop illegal logging in the Amazon (for anyone interested in learning more about Chico try watching "The Burning Season" with Raul Julia). The Brazilian government seems unable or unwilling to control the actions of rich loggers and ranchers who are willing to kill people who get in their way.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The Many Languages of Suriname

I found an interesting article in the February 12th-18th edition of The Economist (which I have re-typed below) about the many languages used in Suriname and the effect they are having on Suriname's foreign policy today. I was surprised to learn there are over a dozen languages used in a nation populated by 500,000 people. Suriname, and its many languages, is a good example of the inherent diversity in Latin American cultures. The interactions of different people from various regions of the world and the new cultures they produced in Latin America has always interested me. Latin American culture is vibrant and exciting, fluid in its ability to absorb diverse cultures and mold them into something new. For this reason, I'm somewhat saddened to see a push in Suriname to make English the official language (however rational it may be) at the expense of the other languages and Suriname's unique heritage.
A lingua franca for a tropical babel

Belgians, Quebeckers and Basques may define themselves by language. Not so the inhabitants of Suriname. The fewer than 500,000 inhabitants of this corner of South America share more than a dozen languages in daily use. Conversations-and newspapers-switch effortlessly in mid-sentence.

Dutch, the language of the former colonial power, is used at school and by officialdom, but not much at home. Closest to a national tongue is Sranan Tongo. This is an amalgam developed by the former slave population in mixing Dutch and English -Britain once ruled Suriname before short-sightedly swapping it for New York in 1667- with African grammar. In the interior, there are four Amerindian langauages and at least two dialects spoken by bosnegers, the descendents of escaped slaves who set up communities deep in the rainforest. Gold buyers in Paramaribo, the capital, erect signs in Portuguese to attract Brazilian garimpeiros. Descendents of Indian, Javanese and Hakka Chinese indentured labourers have evolved their own local tongues. Guyanese immigrants speak English. Along the border with Guiana, an overseas departement of France, there's a smattering of French Creole. Cable television carries programmes in English, Hindi, Portuguese, Spanish and Indonesian Bahasa as well as Dutch.

Last month, Suriname became the third member (after the Netherlands and Belgium) of the Taalunie, a Dutch answer to la francophonie. But relations between Suriname and the Netherlands are mutually unenthusiastic. Suriname has received much Dutch aid since independence in 1975, but dislikes the strings that come with it.

Nowadays, Suriname's closest links are with the English-speaking Caribbean, whose club, Caricom, it joined in 1995. So last month, three senior politicians, spanning the country's fractious political spectrum, called for a debate over whether to adopt English as the official language alongside, or even instead of, Dutch. They talk hopefully of British or American cash as a reward. But if aid is the motive, perhaps they should be brushing up on French.

Besame Mucho

I was downloading music when I came across this song "Besame Mucho." Supposedly it is a very popular, well-known song, but I have never heard of it before. I d/led the Trios Los Panchos version ( I don't know if it is well known) but the Beatles did a rendition as well as a lot of funky techno groups.

Here is a link to a site that has the lyrics.

Mexican mothers in the US

So I was reading on the USAtoday site and I found an interesting story about mexican mothers crossing the borders and how it is directly proportional to te increasing crime rates. Also it seems that more and more mexicans are crossing the border in order to lead a "better life" in the states. Here is the link. How bad does it need to get before we should step in? or should we stay out of it all together?

Lula and Chávez talk up regional integration

I found this article on and thought it was interesting ...

On 14 February Brazil’s President Lula de Silva visited President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela to sign a 'strategic alliance' agreement, which included both a handsome trade-package and a commitment to work towards greater regional integration. Chávez and Lula are the most eager of Latin America’s presidents to boost regional integration. The South American Community of Nations (CSN), launched in Cuzco in December, is one of Lula’s pet projects and chimes with Chávez’s Bolivarian rhetoric. Despite the CSN’s inauspicious start (four presidents did not turn up for the summit and Lula chided Chávez for his public expressions of impatience at the speed of the integration process), the Brazilian president’s visit to Venezuela is part of a mini-tour designed to shore up support for integration. Guyana and Suriname are the next stops.

Deadly flooding in Colombia and Venezuela

Parts of Venezuela and Colombia are suffering after heavy rains caused severe flooding in many areas. What I wonder is, will the international community bother responding to this crisis? After the showing in Southeast Asia, isn't it only fair that other crises throughout the world get the same treatment? I don't think there will be much media hype over this situation unfortunately.

I also wonder if this situation will help bring the two countries back together through coordinated relief efforts, etc. especially after the kidnapping debacle that drove the two apart earlier this year.

Click here for a FoxNews story on the subject.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Challenge the Jefe Maximo: #2

Likewise, Cuaderno Latinoamericano blog member, monisha, asked me the following question: "In Brazil, the left is challenging the very liberal Lulu. Has a similar situation occured before? If yes, when?"

I found this question to be one that had many possible avenues for seeking an answer. I do have an answer, but perhaps it is not the one that monisha specifically had in mind, so I'll ask her to confirm and explain if I've gone down a different path.

My answer would be: Yes, a similar situation has occurred before in Brazil. I would point to the Presidency of Joao Goulart, a leftist populist who took over the office after the enigmatic Janio Qadros resigned in 1961. While Goulart certainly was a nationalist/populist leader that relied on traditional leftist elements of the Brazilian electorate, he was also subject to criticism from the more radical left wing of the Brazilian political milieu for not going far enough to support leftist causes. Unfortunately, Goulart's presidency was short-lived as the right-leaning Brazilian military ousted him from office in 1964.

Now, if we look outside of Brazil, we can also see examples of leftist politicians losing the critical support of many elements of their ideological colleagues on the left as well. An obvious example would be that of Salvador Allende, the Chilean President from 1970-1973, whose efforts to lead a constitutional and peaceful transition to socialism were thwarted by a variety of forces, both internal and external, leading to his ouster and death in the military coup of 9/11/1973.

I would also add another example from recent history ... one that I have witnessed with my own eyes. The FMLN in El Salvador recently fielded a candidate for the last Presidential election by the name of Shafik Handel, an ex-guerrillero and leftist leader of the revolutionary forces in that country. However, Handel's candidacy was received with no small amount of division among the various factions of the left. And some of these groups among the left were openly critical of Handel's candidacy.

So, there you have it ... If monisha would like to add something to this explication, I would love to hear it.

Challenge the Jefe: #1

Cuaderno Latinoamericano reader Matt Rousso asked me the following question: "What is the name of the priest who was disappeared in Guatemala during the massacres and why was he disappeared?"

Well, I must say that, in spite of extensive research, I remained stumped. However, what I can report is that repression of Church officials in Guatemala who have been involved either in the civil conflict or in the peace processes is not a novelty.

For example, Bishop Juan Gerardi, who compiled a report chronicling the vast human rights abuses of the Guatemalan government over the duration of Guatemala's long-standing civil conflict, was bludgeoned to death (perhaps by a fellow priest) not long after his report was published.

Information on Bishop Gerardi's murder can be found in this BBC News report. And a quick Google search of "Bishop Juan Gerardi" will list lots of other reports and commentaries on this tragic event.

Nevertheless, my best efforts could not produce the name of the priest who "disappeared" in Guatemala during the periods of the massacres, and so I will ask my friend Matt Rousso to be so kind as to inform us.

Individuals in the International Community

In a recent New York Times Article, Fidel Castro warns against any plot on Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez’s life, claiming if he is assassinated it will all entirely on the shoulders of the United States. I feel that Fidel Castro, the man and the myth, is a perfect example of why the individual level of analysis is critical to comprehending the International community in its entirety. The passion and the ability to rally masses that many leaders (both positive and negative) have utilized to shape history has been remarkable and should not be marginalized by a tendency to focus on the actions of states and not the leaders responsible.

On that same note, Newsweek last week published an interesting article looking at Bush’s ability to “stay the course” in Iraq as well as the lack there of. The article asserts that the successful elections in Iraq occurred only because of the flexibility with which he faced the many failures in the operation. The article asserts that also, (despite Bush’s claims that “Lincoln set the goal and stayed the course. I will do the same.”) While in reality, Lincoln actually exercised an impressive ability to admit when he was wrong publicly but go on to fix the situation. Both these articles serve to highlight the importance at considering the individual level of analysis and the various personality characteristics that affect the entire international community.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

United Fruit Company

As I was reading my history textbook I came across a small article about the United Fruit Company that interested me-

"In 1899 the United Fruit Company began to build a network of wholesale houses, and within two years it had opened distribution centers in twenty-one major cities. Eventually it controlled an elaborate system of Central American plantations and temperature-controlled shipping and storage facilities for its highly perishable bananas. The firm became one of the nation's largest corporations, its 'empire in bananas" dominating the economic and political life of whole nations in Central America".

As I continued reading, I couldn’t help feeling slightly guilty about this exploitation of many Central American countries by the United States. I'm sure that if we had not taken advantage of the region's natural resources the countries would be a lot better off both politically and economically today!

Cuba as Ideological Counterweight to U.S.

Cuba's historical role as offering an ideological counterweight to the United State is still evidenced today. In an article in the New York Times, Castro Warns U.S. Against Plot on Chavez, the continuation of the historical animosity between the United States and Cuba is evident. Moreover, the effects of this relationship in the western hempispheric subsytem are brought to light. Cuba has forged an allience with Venezula. This allience dillutes the hemegony of the United States in Latin America. Moreover, it creates a potential economic danger to U.S. interests and Venezula is a major supplier of oil. Castro's Cuban government has overreacted to a potential US reaction. Citing the 1956 CIA attempt on Castro's life, Castro has warned the US from taking similar action against Chavez.

Torrential Rains in Venezuela

I was reading articles on and found this one - over the past week over 15,000 tourists and residents were stranded, and finally evacuated by military helicopters and navy vessels from coastal areas near the capital of Caracas, to escape from mud and landslides. At least 18 have died from flooding alone, and 26 have been killed in the past week. For more information, here's the article: Click Here

Friday, February 11, 2005

Spying on Vicente Fox

Apparently one of Mexico's leading drug cartels had been receiving information on Vicente Fox's schedules from a man inside the government. They suspect that Joaquin Guzman a drug trafficker that bribed his way out of prison and has been gaining ground on the Tijuana and the Gulf Cartel is behind the move. I have read about Guzman, or "El Chapo" in a few other articles, apparently he is a very elusive criminal. Never really stays at one place and its been very difficult for federal agents to locate him.

NY TImes Article

A note on realism...

I found this column in the Washinton Post from a couple of weeks ago. Even though I don't necessarily agree with everything in this very opinionated piece, I found it interesting that it mentioned and elaborated on the schools of realism and idealism in regards with Bush's new term. The going back and forth between these two schools just emphasizes the unpredictability of present political situations.

Textiles and Globalization

I was reading an article last week about how textiles and the clothing industry was affecting the relations between Latin America, China and the United States. Currently, quotas for imports into the US on clothing made in China exists, but Chinese business owners are finding loop holes by selling raw material to Latin American businesses who finish the garment, and then send it off to the US. Should the origin of the clothes then be attributed to Latin America or China? Do other students think this could eventually lead to a big problem for the US if the practice spread to other industries? This article was published in the Wall Street Journal.

The Everymigrant's Guide to Crossing the Border Illegally

I think I had heard about this pamphlet before, but I had no idea that it was produced by the government! It contains tips and guidelines to follow in order to avoid being hurt, robbed, killed, etc. when illegally crossing the border. The article about the Everymigrant's Guide to Crossing the Border Illegally in the NY Times states that 300 people died last year trying to cross the border. I can only imagine how many more people were taken advantage of by being robbed and coerced into more illegal activities while trying to get into the U.S. I recomend the article because it has interesting insight by some illegal immigrants as to the validity of the suggestions made by the government. Some may say that this type of imformation promotes illegal immigration but in reality I think it is important to try and protect people's lives, especially those of children. Not everyone is trying to get drugs and make money when they cross the border.

Mexico, Tourism and Corruption

I recently read an article in the New York Times which discussed the death of a fifteen year old boy, Manuel Morales Borja. The death occurred in Acapulco, an American tourist hotpot. This article struck me in two ways. The first, was the seldom talked about, but very real component of cultural interaction among different nationalities occurs through tourism, which provides significant economic revenue for some Latin American countries. This avenue of economic tourism is a potentially very influential factor in International Relations.
Also, the article discussed the continuing corruption associated with democratic elections in Mexico. I was once again reminded of the secondary importance democracy is on the US foreign policy agenda, despite the avid proclamation of democracy. It is clear, that the US is willing to turn a blind eye to corrupt processes in Mexico in hopes of stability and positive US/Mexico relations in lieu of the many issues at hand, such as the drug cartel, immigration, tourism and economic relations.

Manu Chao

"The trilingual Bob Marley"-- that's how I often read and hear Manu Chao, a prominent Latin American artist, described. Born in Paris but of Latin American origins, he helped found and was the lead singer of the famous French punk band "Mano Negra" that was unique for it's Latin as well as European influences.

Now Manu Chao is a solo artist, and his music is ubiquitous in the Latin and European worlds though he seems to be boycotting the United States as far as sales and touring are considered. His music doesn't fall prey to the hokey Marc Antony/J. Lo/Ricky Martin love song genre. Instead, his lyrics which are in English, French, Spanish, and some Arabic are simple yet compelling portraits of the life around him, focusing at times on the hardships and politics of Latin America without relying too heavily on them as exploited sources of inspiration. I first heard him playing everywhere while I was in Costa Rica, and his 1998 release "Clandestino" has become one of my favorite albums. His music is a world-famous blend of Latin rythms, reggae, some techno, and even some punk rock. It's pretty hard to pigeonhole him though, as his unique sound is scarcely immitated. One thing that I thought was particularly interesting about his lifestyle was that he doesn't have a fixed home...he is a modern nomad, a gypsy, and he spends his days travelling between Latin American nations and Europe, playing shows and jamming informally with his international friends.

Here is a link to his official website:, though it might not be helpful if you can't read much French or Spanish.
This site has a biography, news, and videos for the singles from "Clandestino" and some other albums if you're interested. My favorites are "Desaparecido" and "Me Gustas Tu." It also features a long video, "Mala Vida" I believe, following Manu Chao as he travels, plays, and improvises on his music with fellow musicians and friends.
Yet another site has few more video options under the album picture for "Clandestino" along with clips for other Latin artists.

Needless to say, I Highly recommend your checking his music out as he is somewhat of a Bob Marley/John Lennon of this time, though American audiences will probably never catch on.

Colombia and Drug Policy

Last week in class we talked a little bit about how Columbia "receives" foregien policy from the world due to its domestic black market drug economy. It reminded me of a feature article that National Geographic included in an issue a few months ago. To read the entire article you have to buy the magazine, but this online version is still infomative, has links to UN and USA Columbia drug policy and lots of photos.

To check it out go to this link.

Exporting Soccer Players

Every year 900 Brazilian soccer players are exported all over the world, making Brazil the world's largest exporter of soccer players. Not only does this trade sound impersonal, but Brazilian players are paid less than European players of equal talent. Meanwhile, Brazilian dominance in the sport is declining as they lose their best players. This seemingly inconsequential social problem actually reflects much deeper domestic issues within Brazil. Beginning in the 1990's, club sports were exposed as corrupt, money laundering organizations that were exploiting talented, but uneducated players. The corruption has destroyed any benefits of Brazilian soccer, which was once considered a means of improving race relations in a racially divided country. This article can be found here; and for a really in depth view of Brazilian soccer, check out the book Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life by Alex Bellos.

Between a Friend and a Criminal

The issue of turning over the Nazi war criminals responsible for the atrocities committed to Jews, Gypsies, Christians, gays, and other groups during the Holocaust seems clear cut to most of us. Criminals must be tried for their crimes and, if found guilty, brought to justice.

But what happens when the criminal saved your daughter? What happens if you only discover the person's criminal past after decades of friendship? What if you married the love of your life, only to discover 30 years down the line that he was the former director of a concentration camp? Many Latin Americans have come to experience these conflicts within themselves as individual connections come to affect the systemic relations between Israel and Latin American countries.

It is difficult to do what is just when such strong bonds have been formed with people who we can be sure, should we decide to turn them over to the Israeli government, will be found guilty and executed for the things they have done. My grandfather, who was once one of the wealthiest men in the district of La Belleza in the province of Santander del Sur in Colombia, would have been faced with this very situation after Nazi refugees came to his small town, performed needed medical services for the townspeople, and saved his daughter's life not once but twice.

The moral question is easier to answer than it is to practice. Perhaps it is evil to harbor Nazi war criminals, but I can't say with any degree of certainty that I wouldn't do it if the criminal had become not only my friend, but my extended family. To a Latin American, there is no stronger bond.

Argentine prison riot

Yeah, I know everyone hates foxnews but too bad! Apparently, there's a prison riot going on in the Argentine city of Cordoba. Those Argentinos can't seem to stay out of the news lately. I thought it was pretty interesting that the riot is taken place in Cordoba where student/labor riots took place 30 years before. Both are protesting for better rights and treatment. Will the prisoners be as successful as the students and laborers? I don't think so but we'll have to see. Also, hopefully this riot isn't indicative of a greater general unrest amongst Argentinos.

The article can be found here.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005


I was searching around and I came across this article about the centenarians of Cuba. I just thought it was an interesting article because these centenarians talked about what they have done to live as long as they have.

Colombian violence

Here's an article about the escalating violence in Colombia. The president has promised to either eliminate the FARC (also known as "leftist guerrillas") or force them to the negotiating table, but the deadly attacks on Colombian soldiers recently seems to put this possibility in doubt. The article lists three attacks that happened in a little over a week, killing over 40 soldiers.

Cuba and the European Community

If the relationship between Europe and Cuba seem to standardize, Fidel Casto seems nevertheless quite reluctant or at least not very grateful according to El Pais. Indeed, on Feb 1st, the European Community declared that it would temporarily suspend its sanctions towards Cuba; El Pais in an article published on Feb 3rd alludes to Castro’s reaction in a speech he delivered the day after the European declaration and in which he claims that Cuba had been unfairly punished by the European Community and doesn’t need its support.

Such reactions may slow down future European attempts to standardize the relationship with Cuba and also make other countries more reluctant to commit into a process of standardization with Cuba; and unfortunately, once again, the Cuban people will pay the price for it…

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Latin American Music

Over the summer in Mexico I loved the songs I heard in the clubs and downloaded some when I got home. One of my favorites was Mesa que mas Aplauda by Climax. I also really enjoyed the salsa music. I found a website that talks about all the different types of music in Latin America and it even has samples you can listen to. Check it out.

Latin American Music Styles

Monday, February 07, 2005

The International Percecution of Pinochet

Pinochet Entangled in A Web of Inquires appeared today in the New York Times. Pinochet is under investigation from a broad variety of sources and a number of coutries are involved in his percecution. Three persecution teams in three different countries are currently persuing evidence. The US Justice Department is also involved. The international nature of this investigation shows that international actors are involved in Latin America. The United States and European countries (notably England and Spain) believe that international aid is necessary to secure a successful percecution of Pinochet. The distrust of Latin America countries and government is clear.

I Am the Frito Bandito

I am the Frito BanditoI Love Fritos Corn chips
I Love them I do
I Love Fritos Corn chips
I Steal Them from you !

Iyeee Yiii Yiii Ya Yiiiiiii
I am the Frito Bandito
Give me some Fritos and I'll be your friend
The Frito Bandito you must not offend!

Iyeee Iyeee Iyeee Iyeee,
I am the Frito Bandito.
I like to eat Fritos I like to I do.
If you have some Fritos I'll eat them for you !

Professor Huck mentioned the Frito Bandito in class as some of the American images of Latin America, so I decided to do a little search. You can find not only the video, but also some audio clips regarding this Frito Bandito.

Personally, I must admit that this is a horrible portrayal of Latin Americans. But it's pretty funny at the same time. Most of the websites I found regarding this Bandito were nostalgic websites that wanted to remember this guy.

You can find an audio clip and a video clip at this site. You need real media player to see it. (I recommend real alternate player so you don't get all the spyware crap.) You have to read the small print to find the files, but it is there. Click here.

Venezuela-Colombia tensions rise

The recent abduction by Colombian police of a Colombian guerrilla in Venezuela has caused growing tensions between Venezuela and Colombia. This incident is becoming more and more complex as the two presidents' natures and ideologies clash. Here is the link.

Spy in President's Office

There is an article about a drug cartel spy in Vicente Fox's office. The spy Nahúm Acosta Lugo, an advance man for the president's trips, is under arrest at an undisclosed location in Mexico. He was caught when officials became suspicious of the drug cartel's knowledge of Fox's schedule. This has also lead to a number of raids at the house's of some high level members of the drug cartels.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

mayan ruins

So I met some of my girlfriends parents friends today and they were telling me about a trip they just got back from to the mayan ruins. Since I have never seen them to a great extent i decided to find the internet site with lots of pictures. WOW !! I want to go there it looks facinating click below and check out the site here. PS enjoy MARDI GRAS!! THANKS PROFESSOR HUCK FOR THE BEADS!

Friday, February 04, 2005

Cocaine Country

A few weeks ago in class we discussed how Columbia "receives" foregien policy from the rest of the world due to its internal black market drug economy. It reminded me of a feature article printed in National Geographic a few months ago. Although you have to purchase the magazine to read the entire article, the online version is still informative. It also includes links to US ad UN policy regarding the Columbian drug situation and lots of photos.

To check it out, click here.

Cuauhtemoc Cardenas: Mexico's Leftist Politician

I recently read an article in the New York Times about Cuauhtemoc Cardenas of Mexico. Cardenas is something of a hero in Mexico. Named after an Aztec king, son of the revered Lazaro Cardenas, Cuauhtemoc broke away from Mexico's "ruling" party, the PRI, to start the PRD in the mid 1980's. Cardenas has stirred up quite a following preaching his socialist ideas to Mexico's rural poor. However, I was under the impression that his political career came to an end with the 1988 presidential election. Cardenas made headlines dropping out of the PRI and creating one of its strongest opponents. Cardenas' popularity quickly dissolved after the '88 election, it was very apparent in 2002 when he ran once again and got probably the lowest percentage of votes in his entire career.

Personally, I like Cardenas. If I were a Mexican citizen, I would vote for him, but I think it is political suicide for him and his party to place his name on the ballot sheet. The PRD is the lucky third contender in Mexico's "three-party system." There are many smaller parties that would love to take the PRD's place to battle the PRI and the PAN.

[NOTE: This post was submitted by Crystal Dieleman.]

Analyzing Cuba

Today in class we learned about the nation-state level of analysis. I thought the example of the United States' economic embargo on Cuba to be quite interesting. The Miami Cubans are quite conservative as a group, and are against any aid or talks with Cuba until Fidel Castro either dies or resigns. These people believe that once Castro dies, Communism will fall and capitalism will reign in Cuba. These Miami Cubans are a substantial voting bloc, and therefore can literally make or break a politician's career.

My parents were born in Cuba, and immigrated to the United States with their respective families. I was raised very aware of the situation in Cuba, and taught that the embargo deeply affects members of my family still living in Cuba. For this reason, I believe that the embargo should be recalled, and American dollars should be sent to Cuba. I cannot imagine why these Miami Cubans, who more than likely still have family in Cuba themselves, would want the Cubans who have stayed in their country to live in such poverty. An American tourist trade would boost the Cuban economy significantly. Also, I would one day like to go back to Cuba and visit family I have not seen in years. This is impossible, due to Bush's recent restriction of travel to Cuba.

[NOTE: This post was submitted by Desiree Dominguez.]

Carnaval History

I think someone else already posted a blurb about Carnaval, but because of all the festivities going on here I wanted to know a little bit about Carnaval in Brazil and in Latin America. These websites tell a lot about the history, and there's quite a few amazing pictures to look at:

Here are some pictures:

Here's stuff about the history:

You want refried beans with that?

Apparently, it seems that Mexico's been moving up the global food chain. Free trade hasn’t just brought in more dollars but bigger waistlines and diabetes cases to boot. Mexico really is looking more and more like the US now, with the world’s fastest growing rates in both these correlated health concerns.

Most notable is that the most affected demographic is that along the Rio Grande. On both sides of the border, obesity and diabetes rates are alarmingly over the respective national averages. In Mexico though, the problems shadow the whole of the industrialized north.

I wonder if Mexicans are really eating themselves to death because they’ve always had bad eating habits or if they’ve found and adopted our fast food style Tex-Mex. Either way, I’m sure the international community will blame us in a few years for this one, too.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a remarkable country. Surrounded by Central American states plagued by constant civil unrest, Costa Rica appears as one of the most stable and peaceful democracies in Latin America. Of course, it retains its share of problems, but it is a remarkable country that has managed to survive without a military and while, in general, respecting its broad environmental diversity.

I definitely recommend people try to learn more about this country. I found to be a good resource.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

US donate $5 Million to Mexican City

The US is going to donate money to help the victims of crimes and to help to Justice System in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. This city has seen numerous slayings of women and many of these murders remain unsolved. The money being donated is going to help fund training, technical assistance, and professional exchanges to help improve investigations of these sorts of heinous crimes. This article makes me wonder why these crimes have remained unsolved and why these crimes have been so prevalent in this city.<

Latino Muslims

Maybe I was just close-minded before, but I thought that for the most part latinos were either Catholic, Christian, or none of the above. According to the Houston Chronicle though, there is a growing number of Latino Muslims in the city, and this article is about the onslaught of recent converts. "You can be Mexican and be a Muslim and be happy. You don't have to be torn between two things" says one convert, who claims that her strict Catholic upbringing actually prepared her for Islam, largely because of the similar origins between the two faiths. Latino converts wearing traditional Muslim headdress are often assumed to be from the Middle East because of the physical similarities between these races (their brown skin, I suppose). Another interesting anecdote was from the same woman above who shared that she often overhears people talking about her in Spanish because they don't realize that she too is Latina. Pretty original stuff!


An article in the Economist magazine estimated Cuba's growth to be 3% in 2004. This growth is despite the Bush administration's attempts to "strangle" communism in Cuba by dually strengthening 1) the current economic embargo and 2) travel restrictions for students and Cuban-Americans to the island nation.

The growth was attributed to growing political/economic ties to Venezuela (oil at a special price in return for political support) and China (foreign investment in return for Cuba's natural resources), tourism and the discovery of a new oilfield containing an estimated 100 m barrels of oil off the Cuban coast.


"Four days and nights of lavish self-indulgent anything-goes exotic exhibitionist spectacle" Sounds like a description of Mardi Gras right? Well, it's actually describing Carnaval, a Latin American festival celebrating the beginning of Lent. The most well known celebration occurs in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. In the beginning, the higher classes celebrated privately in their homes while the poorer classes took to the streets in unplanned and unformed revelry. The upper classes soon joined in the fun wearing masks. Today there is competition between the different street and neighborhood samba schools which dance in the parades. Interestingly the word carnival is thought to come from the Italian carne vale or farewell to meat, which was not eaten during Lent.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

US State Department

An article in the New York Times highlights how the United States conceives and justifies its view, policies and relationships with Latin America in terms of its citizen's self-intererst. This article examines a current United States State Department Advisory regarding travel to Mexico. In the recent pass, the number of kidnappings in Mexico has risen. The majority of the victims are locals. However, he US government concieves this as a treat to US citizens, not Mexican citizens. The differential value on live unfortunately made clear.

Haiti's continuing problems

We were talking in class today about Haiti's status as a marginalized power because of its internal problems. This article talks about how one of the rebel groups that opposed Aristide is refusing to disarm. They say they are using their arms to counter a rise in gang violence, but the very existence of a paramilitary group with the power that the "Front for National Resistance" has is a sign of the continuing weakness of the national government and the police.
I found the Wasington Office on Latin America website. There is a lot of interesting information on it. Check it out here

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Challenge the Jefe Maximo

Hey, folks, I thought I would try to add a different dimension to the blog by engaging in a weekly Q&A session on Latin America. I like to think of it as my own little version of the "Stump the Chumps" segment on NPR's show, Car Talk. Here's how it will work ... In the comments section, ask me a question about Latin America. Any question of any type. You can ask my opinion on a topic, or you can ask me about some obscure fact. Anything goes, just as long as it's about Latin America. And I'll pick out 6 or 7 from the list each week to post and answer publicly on the blog. And if there is a question asked that I can't answer in a week's time, I'll give the author of the question special public recognition for having effectively challenged the Jefe Maximo and "Stumped the Chump."

The Doctrine That Never Died

To link to the online version of Tom Wolfe's piece in the New York Times, click here. Kudos to Leonora for bringing this fascinating article to our attention.

Bush Revisits the Monroe Doctrine

In Sundays New York Times in the Week in Review section there was an article discussing the similarities of Bush’s recent inaugural speech to Theodore Roosevelt’s speech given on December 4, 1904. Wolfe provides a brief history of the Monroe Doctrine while also taking note of US intervention in Latin America throughout the 20th century, most notably George Kennan’s outcry of the popularity of communism in Latin America in 1950s. The article then goes on to suggest that the only thing which has changed since Teddy Roosevelt gave a similar speech 100 years ago, is that the Monroe Doctrine no longer pertains to the Western Hemisphere, but the globe. Now it is America’s duty to not only protect Latin America from communism and oppression (never mind all of the brutal military regimes the US funded) but to bring “salvation to all mankind.” Are the notions of the Monroe Doctrine expanding world wide? Will the notion of the western hemisphere decline as the world continues to shrink due to the internet, technological advances, transportation and long-range jet aircrafts? Also, I apologize for not having the link; I read it in the paper. However, I’m sure you can find the article if you’re interested if you search the New York Times website for “The Doctrine that Never Died” by Tom Wolfe.

Powerful and influential People in Latin America

While researching Latin America I found an article ranking the top 50 most powerful and influential people in Latin America including people such as Lula, Pope John Paul II and George W. Bush. Its actually very interesting, I recommend checking it out.

Powerful and Influential People in Latin America