Wednesday, February 28, 2007

"Costan Ricans Protest trade with U.S."

It seems that protesters in Costa Rica's capital, San Jose, have gathered in the streets to protest the signing of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Tens of thousands of educators and students marched together in an attempt to get the government, led by Arias, to vote against the measure. It is expected that the measure will pass though. If passed, the bill will create a free trade zone between the United States, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. Citizens worry that this would cause privitization of state run utilities and ruin the common farmer. Ironically, Costa Rica is the only nation not to have approved the bill yet. It is just funny to see that not everyone is in favor of the globalization that is currently occurring. Further, it shows that there may be problems in these free trade agreements.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Venezuela Spending on Arms Rises to the Top of the List

Venezuela has now taken the lead of Latin American countries in weapons purchasing and even spends more than Iran and Pakistan, spending $4 billion in the past two years. Venezuela officials claim they are building up their weapons before the US puts on a ban on the sale of American arms to the country and just in case the US mounts some sort of military aggression towards them. I'm sure this has President Bush shaking in his boots. Read more at

Police officer thought to be vigilante killed in Rio

Story Highlights
• Violence rising in Rio as vigilantes take control of slums from drug gangs
• Slain officer fired, accused of leading vigilantes; 40 bullets pumped into his car
• Off-duty police officers, soldiers and firefighters form militias
• The militias charge slum residents and shopkeepers protection fees

Check out the rest of the story here

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Vigilante Justice in Rio

A police officer was found dead in Rio, suspected of directing a vigilante militia that battles drug gangs in the slums of Rio. Violence is on the rise in Rio de Janeiro as such groups have attempted to take control of many of the city's poverty-stricken slums. The government has denounced such groups, comparing them to paramilitary organizations in Colombia and other Latin American countries. Read more here.

Colombian hostages

Ingrid Betancourt, a former Presidential candidate in Colombia, has been held hostage by the FARC guerilla organization for the last five years. FARC officials say they are willing to strike a deal, however the government of Colombia says the only solution is a military rescue of Betancourt and about 60 other hostages held with her. See more here.

Incan Mummies

After doing research about Peru's history, I found this article very interesting. It is from a women's website called BellaOnline. It states that scientists recently uncovered around 2,000 mummies around Lima Peru. The mummies are thought to be from the time of the Incan Empire. It will be very interesting to see what the scientists can learn from these mummies about daily life in the ancient empire. Here is the website for the article.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Mexican Police Crack Down on Crime

It seems that Mexican Federal Police have vowed their support in order to keep the tourist areas of Acapulco safe. Due to a recent increase in crime, the newly elected president has dispatched extra forces to the area. The police clad in black and carrying assault rifles have apparently been targeting any large vehicles with tinted windows due to their popularity among drug runners. Specifically, the police have been focusing on the area of Acapulco ridden with hotels frequented by foreigners. This is interesting because it shows Mexico's interest in their tourism and relations with foreigners. They realize that a large part of their economy is their tourism and they need to protect its interests in the country. I find this interesting because this is just one more case where American interests and citizens are playing a large part of policy in foreign nations. The president has vowed that the presence will be permanent and that the region will continue to be safe despite recent problems.

National Geographic: Guns, Germs and Steel

Hey everyone!
I do not know if you have already heard of this, but there is a National Geographic Special that you can rent on DVD that is on the book Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond. It explains Diamond's theory on why western cultures gained dominance over other countries and regions, like Latin America, due to Guns, Germs and Steel. Anyways, I know a lot of people have started to read the book but have not finished it, so this is a quick four-hour summary. Although I have not finished watching it yet, I highly recommend it. The title is National Geographic: Guns, Germs and Steel.

Aristide Returning to Haiti?

Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the former president of Haiti who was ousted from the country three years ago, has said that he is planning on returning to Haiti, depending on "judging the security and stability" of Haiti. Current president Rene Preval has made no comment on whether he will welcome Aristide back into the country.

To read more, please click here

Thursday, February 22, 2007

"La Ciudad y Los Perros"

"La Ciudad y Los Perros" is a novel written by the famous Peruvian writer Maria Vargas Llosa. This novel narrates the story of a group of teenage boys who attend a military school in Lima. The main characters represent different sectors of Peruvian society. What is most interesting and relevant to our studies is the rivalry between the Serranos and the more elite students.

Police arrested for the killings of Parliament members

Today there were arrests of four Guatemalan police officers for the killings of three politicians who represent El Salvador in the Central American Parliament. The three men were shot and then set on fire before they died. The motive is most likely political. To find out more, visit this site.

Mas de Libro de Manuel

In my continuation of the Cortazar novel Libro de Manuel, the confusion has continued but with some plot developments (to my understanding). As far as I can deduce, there are three overlying themes in this revolutionary novel; (for those who aren't familiar with the novel please humor me). La Joda is meant to represent change inthe form of violent revolution. Andres sees progress coming via "culturalization", be it filosofia, el cine, libros, etc., and Lonstein sees change coming through a sexual revolution, confronting topics considered taboo. The role of "El que te dije" is not an omniscient narrarator, but a compiler inserting his own views and writing from his own perspective, hoping the truth lies somewhere therein.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Ecuador President Threatens to Resign

Leftist president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, stated Saturday that he would resign if his supporters did not win control of an assembly to rewrite Ecuador's constitution. Correa took office on January 15th and was voted in last November and pledged to lead a "citizen's revolution" against a political establishment that is generally viewed as corrupt. Ecuador has been known for its political instability, having 8 presidents in the last decade, and 60 percent of the country living in poverty.

To read more about this controversy, go to this link.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Paraguayan Women and Tall Tales

On a lighter post, I read this article about a Paraguayan women who made up a story about her husband being eaten by a boa constrictor. Apparently, the lady had reported to a radio talk show in Puerto Piasco that a 10 meter long boa constrictor had eaten her husband as he was boating in a river. She then claims that after wrapping him up and eating him, locals helped to kill the snake and retrieve the man's remains. In the end, the story gained national attention and was even printed on the front pages of many newspapers. Upon this fame, the lady began to ask for donations for her and her three children. Ultimately, a state prosecutor found the story to be fabricated and found the husband alive and well working on a ranch. The lady aknowledges that she made up the story, but justified it due to the fact that "she felt abandoned." And thats what makes the news these days.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Leftists and Populists in Latin America

On, I found a little map of Latin America. You can click on each country and read a little bit about the leaders there, and the map makes a point to highlight those countries with new "leftist and populist leaders." It's an interesting little insight into Washington's idea of Latin America being very left.

See the Map Here

libro de circunvolución

I started reading Juilo Cortazar's Libro de Manuel this week. This is easily one of the most difficult to comprehend books I've ever read. One character, Lonstein, not only uses highly technical and/or archaic castellano, sometimes he makes up his own words. The narration switches between Andres and "El que te dije", thourghouly confusing me. Written as a journal, it includes actual newspaper clippings of the era (early 1970's) commenting on violence against leftist idealists. Hopefully as the book unfolds I will have a better understanding (or any understanding) of the drama.

Peruvian President Questioned in Massacre

The Peruvian president Alan Garcia was recently questioned about his actions during a massacre of Maoist guerrillas during the 1980's.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Haitian Corruption

After viewing The Agronomist this week in class, I was interested to learn more about the country of Haiti. I found The Haitian Times online and perused all of the articles. There were editorials commenting on Chavez's Venezuela, the new immigration laws and fees of the United States, and an article about a former New York police officer that covered up the torture of a Haitian man. All of these provided an interesting and alternative viewpoint than the one generated by the media of the United States. The article about the police officer really struck me because it blatantly shows that racism against Haitians is still a very large problem. One other article I read was about Socabank. This was Haiti's third largest private bank. It is in the news because the bank stole its clients money and would not pay them back. This story becomes even more interesting because the Federal bank of Haiti stole money from the Socabank just as the Socabank stole from its customers. It is practically a cycle of corruption. I think this illustrates a common problem facing many countries in Latin America, the tendency for corruption. This article ends by stating that the government needs to regulate the private banks and prevent them from committing corrupt actions. With the removal of corruption, more money and time can be put towards development in Haiti. Here is the link to the article:

Referendum on Ecudor's Constitution

Ecuador will have a national referendum on holding an assembly to rewrite the country's constitution. There's some more at this link.

Brazil, Bolivia reach natural gas deal

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Bolivian President Evo Morales finally came to an agreement on the 14th about how much Brazil would pay Bolivia for Bolivian natural gas. This issue had been unresolved for about a year now, but the two countries' leaders finally reached an agreement after a bargaining session. The leaders are scheduled to sign an official agreement today. None of the details have been made public yet.

Click here to find about more about the problem and the solution.

More Nationalizations in Venezuela

President Hugo Chavez has warned any privately owned supermarkets and distributors that if they are caught hoarding inventory or violating price controls, their facilities will be nationalized. As Jose Luis Betancourt, president of Venezuela's main business chamber, explains, "This is a veiled threat against any company, any business owner, any investor, any citizen."

To read more, please go to this article.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Rio samba school leader shot dead
• Vice president of Rio's Salgueiro samba school slain by gunmen in his car
• Up to 600,000 tourists set to gather for the city's famed Carnival celebrations
• Killing comes one day after shootout between police, drug gangs leaves six dead

Terrible story, now that Mardi Gras and Carnival season is in full swing here in New Orleans as well as Brazil. Read the full story.

Peacekeeping in Haiti

Related to our study of Haiti for this week's class. See what the current situation is in this small carribean nation, go here.

Acapulco Mayor Investigated

In class we've discussed government corruption and drug trafficking as two major problems in Latin America. Here's one recent example of both in Mexico, as well as an example of the Mexican government's efforts to fight them. Go here.

Authentic Nicaraguan Tamales

Makes 20 tamales
30 corn husks or 20 pieces of aluminum foil cut into 10-inch squares

4 cups (1 pound) flour;
2 cups skim milk;
1½ cups low-sodium chicken broth (remove fat);
½ cup mashed potatoes;
1 tablespoon vegetable oil;
1 tablespoon lemon juice;
½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup lemon juice;
½ teaspoon salt;
2 cloves garlic, minced;
½ pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 20 strips, ½-inch by 2 inches

2 medium potatoes, peeled, and thinly sliced (20 slices);
40 raisins;
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced (20 slices);
1 onion, thinly sliced;
½ red bell pepper, thinly sliced (20 slices);
2 fresh green chilies, thinly sliced (20 slices);
20 fresh mint sprigs

To make the dough
In a large saucepan, stir the dough ingredients with a wooden spoon. Cook the dough over medium-low heat for 20 to 25 minutes, until firm but still moist. Cool to room temperature and wrap in plastic until needed. The dough may be made one day in advance and refrigerated.

To make the filling
In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the lemon juice, salt, and garlic. Stir in the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

To assemble and cook
1. If you are using packaged corn husks, separate them, put in large bowl, cover with water and set aside for several hours or overnight.
2. Divide the dough into 20 pieces. Form each piece into a cylinder about 3 inches long and place it in the center of a husk or foil. Press into the dough a piece of chicken, 2 raisins, and a slice of potato. On top of the dough place a slice of tomato, some onion slices, and slice each of chile and pepper. Top with a sprig of mint.
3. Fold the ends of each foil or husk wrapper over the filling and garnishes, and then fold the sides of the wrapper tightly. To tie them into waterproof packages, use thin strips torn from several husks or use 5-inch pieces of string. If you are using foil instead of husks, tying is not necessary.
4. Fill the bottom half of a large steamer with water. Stand all the tamales upright in the top of the steamer and cover them with corn husks. Cover the pot tightly, bring the water to a boil, adjust heat to maintain a simmer, and let the tamales cook for about 1½ hours. To check for doneness, open a tamale; the dough should come away solidly from the husk or foil. As the tamales cook, check the water level occasionally and replenish if necessary.
5. Unwrap and serve immediately.
Serve with chayote soup.


Saturday, February 10, 2007

Cuban officials send Colombian drug dealer to Colombia

The leader of Colombian drug cartel whose cartel was responsible for 30%% of the cocaine brought into the US is being held in Colombiia, awaiting extradition charges to the US. The Mr. Gomez Bustamante was arrested in Cuba on immigration charges in 2004, however Cuba decided to send him to Colombia to be transported to the US. This somewhat surprising action has baffled the US government. Read more here.

UN Peacekeepers Raid Haiti Slum

"PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- Hundreds of U.N. peacekeepers raided Haiti's largest and most violent slum Friday, seizing a portion of it in a six-hour gunbattle that left a gang member dead and two soldiers wounded, officials said."

Read More Here

Friday, February 09, 2007

Pensamientos sobre "Cenizas"

This week I finished reading the book Cenizas de Izalco, a multifaceted novel set in El Salvador. The momento cumbre and origin of the books title comes from the 1932 peasant massacre in Izalco, El Salvador, where an uprising of starving peasants was put down violently with military force. An interesting aspect of the book is its narrative style; it is told partly in the first person by Carmen Rojas, a Salvaducha returning home for her mothers funeral. When she does, she reads the diary of Frank Wolf, a freind of her family, which is also narrarated through the novel. While sometimes causing some confusion, this narrative style is unique to any novels I have ever read.

U.S. tries to win over Latin America's moderate left

Article here.

In a very interesting and applicable article, Reuters tells of the Bush Administration's recent attempts to make friends in the Latin American region. The U.S. is meeting with key leaders in the region due to poor relations in the area. Further, the recent shift towards Leftist ideals among elected leaders has worried the administration. Specifically, the United States has been worried by the influential and charismatic leader of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez. However, it seems that the United States has paid more attention to leaders in Brazil and Argentine and have focused mainly on trade issues. This is all before President Bush plans to take a 5 month tour of the region later in the year. It seems that President Bush is finally realizing the importance of Latin America as a whole and the fact that they will no longer merely be satellites of a stronger global power.

Bolivia nationalizes key smelter

I just read an article saying that the Bolivian president, Evo Morales just sent two hundred troops to seize control of Bolivia's largest time smelter company. The company was owned by the Swiss company Glencore. President Morales says he does not have any plans in the near future to compensate the company. This is really interesting, especially after the earlier reading about economics and politics in Latin America, and their relationship with international exchange. This is an example of Latin America being proactive rather than reactive.

Mexican Dish Recipe

Here is a recipe for an authentic mexican dish, it looks tasty!

Migas II


"This was my husbands favorite breakfast growing up in a Mexican household. Now we make it all times of day and even our kids always ask for seconds. Very simple, inexpensive, and quick to make. I sometimes add hot pepper sauce, or ingredients you would like in a omelet, but my husband prefers it the traditional way."

Original recipe yield:
5 servings


SERVINGS About scaling and conversions


  • 4 teaspoons corn oil
  • 12 (6 inch) corn tortillas
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • salt to taste


  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Tear corn tortillas into bite size pieces, and fry them in the skillet, stirring constantly, until they are just starting to get crisp.
  2. Pour the eggs into the skillet with the tortillas, stirring until the egg is cooked through. Season with salt to taste. Serve immediately.

Castro- Making A Comeback?

I've been following Castro's story since last semester- this is the latest update.
Castro had emergency surgery 6 months ago for intestinal bleeding. There were media reports at the end of 2006 that stated that Castro had to be drip-fed because his condition had worsened since the surgery. However, now, it has been reported that Castro is eating again. Castro is now thought to be suffering from a disorder of the large intestine, but the actual diagnosis is a state secret. Finally, Chavez reported on the situation adding that Castro was putting on weight and that his health was improving. Read everything here.

-Meredith West

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Gay Rights in Colombia

The Constitutional Court in Bogota decided that gay couples in long-term relationships should have the same right to shared assets as regular heterosexual couples. This is the first recognition of gay people's rights in Colombia. To read more, please go to this article.

Exchange in Ecuador

I found an old article dealing with exchange and international relations. The former president of Ecuador, Lucio Gutierrez, was voted out of office by Ecuador's legislature and was the cause of riots and his exile in the Brazilian Embassy. He became unpopular when he started negociating with the IMF, and it worsened with his support for the Plan Colombia, a policy of the U.S. For more information, see this article.

European Union and Latin America

I found this website on the internet and I thought it was interesting. We have been discussing the economic and regional integration policies of Latin American countries in class. It is a fact that the United States has had a very large role in Latin American economies throughout history. However this website discusses the European Union's relations with Latin America. Specifically this website shows that the European Commission has advised the European Union to start regional free market agreements with both Central American and the Andean countries in 2007. It is interesting to note that the European Commission also seeks to increase democracy, stability, and economic development in these regions through their relations. Here is the link to this website.

Assaults in Acapulco

Over a dozen armed assailants attacked offices of the State Attorney General in Acapulco, Mexico, on Tuesday, February 6. Here is the link.

Colombian Mine Explosions

An explosion in a Colombian mine killed 23. Here is the link.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

México versus Estados Unidos: Eternos Rivales

This semester I have the mixed blessing of owning a television in my dorm room, and I have been watching a variety of Mexican soap operas on Univision in an attempt to improve my Spanish. But today Univision decided to show a soccer game between the American and the Mexican soccer teams.

I just thought it was interesting the way the media tried to hype the game between the two countries. Mexico and the USA aren't rivals at all: we economically, culturally, and politically tied together through NAFTA, and although there is a lot of rhetoric behind the whole immigration issue, Mexico provides the United States with valuable labor needed by American businesses.

Secondly, who cares about United States soccer in the USA? If Mexico beat us in football or in basketball, I think Americans would be angry, but in soccer? I believe the Mexican head coach was saying something about this being a historical moment to win in America, but I am sure that it would be a history that only Mexicans would care about--sort of like those heroes who saved the Mexican flag when the American army stormed the capital. America doesn't even know about that war.

I also wonder where those who are wearing Mexican jerseys live. Surely most of them must live in the United States--are they citizens of the USA or Mexico? I bring this up because it raises interesting questions regarding national affiliation, the meaning of what it means to be American, and the ethnic composition of our country.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Thousands in Mexico City Protest Rising Food Prices

"As marchers gathered at dusk in the city’s main square, a former television personality, Verónica Velasco, read a statement condemning the government’s policies. “While other countries are looking for alternatives to neoliberal policies, in Mexico, the government has lagged behind and insisted in applying a model that, after a quarter century, has shown its inefficiency and inequality,” the statement said."

Read more here.

Cocaine is king on Nicaragua's Caribbean coast

"From the drug runners' point of view, the working environment along Nicaragua's Caribbean coast is as good as it gets. Deep poverty, high unemployment and widespread resentment over decades of government neglect has made it easy for cocaine traffickers to set up support networks in the towns along the Miskito coast and the islands off it. The area is so remote and so different from the rest of Nicaragua, it could be another country."

Read more here.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Recipe for Venison Fajitas

6 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
2 jalapenos, chopped
3 T Worcestershire sauce
1/2 c chopped onion
1/2 c white wine
1/2 T coarse ground black pepper
2 c. vegetable oil

Pico de Gallo
Sour cream
cheddar cheese, grated
bell peppers and onions sliced into strips, sauted then drizzled with sizzling sauce
fresh lime wedges
flour or corn tortillas

Sizzling Sauce
1/2 c chicken or beef broth
3 T soy sauce
2 T butter, melted
1/4 c. white wine
2.5 lb venison

Trim the meat of all silvery membrane and connective tissue. Lightly pound to an even thickness. Place in a ziploc bag and marinate 3-4 hours in the fridge.
Remove meat from marinade; season with salt and pepper. Grill on both sides over a hot fire 2 minutes/side. Cover and set aside.

Heat the sizzling sauce in a small pan. Cut the meat into thin stips. Place an iron skillet over high heat. Add a few drops of oil and stir fry the meat a few seconds to reheat. Drizzle with the sizzling sauce and serve with warm flour tortillas and accompaniments.

Serves 6, 2 per person

Friday, February 02, 2007

Hugo Chavez At It Again

Click here for article.

^^"Chavez defends broad new powers"

Upon reading the local news on, it seems that one of my greatest friends is at it again. My favorite politician and life role model, Hugo Chavez, has expanded his political power and taken on the Bush regime. In statements yesterday, he commented on the fact that the bills recently passed through government giving him tremendous lawmaking powers are legitimate and the will of the people. He further notes that the true enemy of Venezuela is the greatest consumer of their oil, the United States. He even begged that we release ourselves from the tyranny that we are under. This paired with Chavez's plans to nationalize many products must be of much concern to the United States. I will let everyone draw their own conclusions, but it seems that Venezuela is quite satisfied with their left winged leader.

Vatican Suspends Bishop in Paraguay

The Vatican has suspended retired Bishop Lugo Mendez after he refused to end his run for the presidency of Paraguay. Despite warnings from the Vatican, he is stillin the running for president and some polls suggest that he may win the election in 2008. I know that there is bound to some bias in the article but seems to have the most information on the Bishop's suspension. Check out the story here.

Venezuelan Inflation

Venezuela's inflation climbed to the highest in two years in January. This article is interesting,e specially when you consider the ideas we were talking about in class about economic security. Here it is ---

Mexico's first gay civil union has upset a Roman Catholic bishop in Coahuila, Mexico.

Bishop Alonso Garza of Piedras Negras said Friday that Mexico's first gay civil union -- which occurred Wednesday in his state's capital of Saltillo on -- was "a disgrace" and "a show." Read more about this story here.

"Chavez sets May oil takeover"

This is a really interesting article, especially with the current politics of Latin America. The President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, has announced that he will be nationalizing a series of oil projects within the next eighteen months. He also announced that if an agreement were not reached, with the five current international oil companies that exist in Venezuela, the oil projects would be seized. Chavez also stated that by May 1st, all of the oil projects along the Orinoco river belt would belong to the government of Venezuela.

The End of a Ski Resort

The highest ski resort in the world, located in Chacaltaya, Bolivia, is facing its last days as global warming is taking its toll on a nearby glacier. The only ski resort in Bolivia was founded in the 1930's and probably only has three years left. However, more than just the resort will be affected. To read more, click here.

uma nova experiência

as a "traditional martial artist" i've been skeptical about capoeira, but after trying it i'm singing a new tune. capoeira, in brief, is a martial art from brasil with origins stemming from african slaves in the early 1800's. its highly stylized kicks are said to have come from the slaves bounded hands preventing hand attacks. although there is no contact and the stylization renders the art impractical for self defense purposes, i found a unique experience even in the very non afro-brasilian environment. the involvement of the music was exceptionally interesting with my genetic predisposal to a lack of rhythym. i can now definitively say i consider capoeiristas not only athletes but martial artists.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Surprising news from Costa Rica

I just read an article in the Costa Rican weekly newspaper, Tico Times. In the article, Blake Schmidt discusses the drug trade, a common problem for all Latin American countries. I was aware that the drug trade was a pressing issue throughout Latin America before reading this article. However I found it very surprising that the drug trade was present in Costa Rica. Maybe i was being naive, but I thought that because Costa Rica is the oldest democracy in Latin America, and because it has had one of the most stable and transparent governments in Latin America, that it would repel the drug trade. However after reading this article, I learned that since "May 2006, authorities have seized an 'historical record' of nearly 27 metric tons of cocaine, more than sextupling seizures the year before." I think this displays the overall growth of the drug trade. The trade is getting so large and the cartels are gaining so much power, that it is beginning to invade at a higher rate into countries that would seem less prone to its influence. Here is the link for the article.

New fight against drug trafficking in Mexico

Mexico's new president, Felipe Calderón is taking strides to stop drug trafficking. He has dispatched thousands of federal police officers towards this goal and disarmed the Tijuana police, who are known as corrupt. Maybe his biggest step was extraditing 11 men to the United States, which is politically unthinkable. To read more, click here.