Thursday, January 31, 2008

"Free Trade"

In Mexico high tariffs that have protected many Mexican agricultural products such as corn and beans for the past fifteen years have expired. According to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA,) the tariffs were put into place to allow the Mexican farms time to improve and guarantee the protection of Mexican farms from American influence. Despite the tariff protection, many Mexican farms have still not reached a level to where they can realistically compete with other more technologically advanced farm industries. As a result of the expiration of the tariffs, the farmers protested in Mexico City to persuade the government to renegotiate NAFTA in order to buy more time for protection. The article is very interesting when it mentions the US ambassador's (Tony Garza) feelings of NAFTA and the subsequent feelings of Mexican farmers and activists:;_ylt=AiahdqjTQ0jmhG5hljk0iOm3IxIF

The War On Drugs

Here is the full article that I mentioned in class about Mexico's revamped War on Drugs. Being a Texan and having a family near the border makes this issue more relevant to me. $2.1 billion isn't all that much when you think about it in terms of Iraq...,8599,1707070,00.html?xid=feed-cnn-topics

Judge bans Holocaust float in Brazil

With Mardi Gras on hand, here's an apropos tidbit from Yahoo(!) news. Viradouro, a samba group from Rio de Janiero, had plans to further their legacy of controversial floats - a list which includes Adam and Eve having sex (banned) and depictions of scenes from the Kama Sutra (also banned). Jewish leaders worldwide were (predictably) incensed. The parade, which is the two-day-long climax of the Carnival celebration, has a history of adult content; it features scantily-clad dancers and the theme this year is "Things That Give You Goose Bumps," so a degree of controversy is to be expected, if not openly encouraged.;_ylt=AgwyJqVKbI7ViZRAzVC12Xm3IxIF
Recipe for Ahuaca-mulli:

2 ripe avocados
1/2 red onion minced
1-2 serrano chiles, stems and seeds removed, minced
2 tablespoons cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of fresh lime or lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
A dash of freshly grated black pepper
1/2 ripe tomato, seeds and pulp removed, chopped

Garnish with red radishes or jicama. Serve with tortilla chips.

1 Cut avocados in half. Remove seed. Scoop out avacado from the peel, put in a mixing bowl

2 Using a fork, mash the avocado. Add the chopped onion, cilantro, lime or lemon, salt and pepper and mash some more. Chili peppers vary individually in their hotness. So, start with a half of one chili pepper and add to the guacamole to your desired degree of hotness. Be careful handling the peppers; wash your hands thoroughly after handling and do not touch your eyes or the area near your eyes with your hands for several hours.

Keep the tomatoes separate until ready to serve.

Remember that much of this is done to taste because of the variability in the fresh ingredients.

Start with this recipe and adjust to your taste.

3 Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole to prevent oxidation from the air reaching it. Refrigerate until ready.

4 Just before serving, add the chopped tomato to the guacamole and mix.

Serves 2-4.

* From

Brazilian Economic Boom Transforming Latin America's Largest Nation

Almost exactly what we have been talking about in class this week. The Brazilian economy is on the rise (5% growth last year, and an expected 4.5% in 2008) and citizens formerly living in 3rd world slum conditions are now transforming their lives.

It seems the economy is being jump-started by "Well-heeled Brazilians and international corporations are pouring billions of dollars into Latin America's largest country, which most experts believe is well prepared to weather any global slowdown."

Brazil's well known social agenda is particularly impressive, and in part, may be due to the rise in the economy. Instead of a marginalized and economically ignored working class, the efforts to integrate these citizens into the economic mainstream has yielded incredible results.

Here is the full link:

Tom Who?

America's finest sporting event is arriving this weekend and Latin America does not care. I found this humorous article about Brazil on Tom Brady of the New England Patriots is currently dating Gisele Bundchen, a Brazilian supermodel. The author, who is based out of Brazil, goes on a search to find out if anyone knows who Tom Brady is. It turns out that not even Gisele's family knows him that well. This just goes to show how insignificant some thing are when it comes to a global perspective.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Guayaquil March

Jaime Nebot is the mayor of Guayaquil, which is the biggest city in Ecuador. He is a popular coastal leader, and he also happens to lead the opposition of Rafael Correa, the President, whose popularity has been dropping during his first year in office (He was elected in November 2006). Yesterday (Thursday, January 24, 2008), there was a march in support of Nebot and against Correa, who appears to be seeking too much power. Several of my friends participated in the demonstration. A lot of people consider Correa to be a "resentido social", meaning that he is bitter toward the rich people. Many Ecuadorians consider him to be a puppet of Chavez, and disagree with what he wants to do with the people's tax money. Until now at least, 25% of tax money has gone directly from companies to public projects and college scholarships. Guayaquil especially, in the past eight years of Nebot's mayorship, has been transformed completely. Correa, however, wants to do away with this system, having all the money go directly to the state. (Many people are wary of this, since money tends to "disappear" in a corrupt system.) Reuters article

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Rice lobbies for Colombia trade deal

Condoleezza Rice, with a cadre of Democratic lawmakers in tow, visited Colombia in order to discuss a new trade deal with the Colombians. Democrats are against such a deal; they cite a troublesome tendency that Colombian union workers have of being killed - the figure, since 2001, is over 700, which is more than the rest of the world's total combined over the same period. The original trade deal, put in place 17 years ago as a crutch for the Colombians in an effort to remove themselves from the drug trade, expires next month.

It's good to see Washington reaching out to help Latin American nations. There are those who feel that free trade is bad for the country; I don't feel qualified to offer my thoughts on such matters, but I think it's a good sign that even facing a potential recession, we are willing to help out a country that needs a bit of assistance.;_ylt=ApjLyBOsk0UOdILHq45JOJ63IxIF

Public Transportation

In our discussion on Wednesday, we spoke briefly about the ideas of "machismo" and "marianismo" and how they relate to equality of the sexes in Latin America. Well in Mexico City, the government has decided to implement a program of "women only" buses and public transportation to combat the serious problems women have been experiencing with sexual harassment. On a daily basis, the transportation system in Mexico City shuttles 22 million people per day, many of whom are women who fear for their safety. Please read the article to learn how the change in the system came about and what the women think of the new system.;_ylt=Ar1Ptlp5jb3QgTpW6.ZxYOy3IxIF

The Madness of Hugo Chavez

As a Latin American, I am saddened and frustrated by how difficult it is to dispel the stereotypes associated with the region when lunatic heads of state such as Hugo Chavez make every effort to portray themselves as hostile and reactionary to all notions of decency and common sense. Recently, Chavez played the fool—yet again—through the inexcusable behavior he has exhibited since his successful mediation of the release of two Colombian hostages that had been held by the FARC, one of the several guerilla factions that terrorize Colombia. He has used his success as a means of both aggrandizing himself in the international arena and calling for other countries to remove the FARC from their lists of terrorist organizations. His deeper motives are a matter of debate, as is expressed in the article below, but what is most embarrassing is the rhetoric he has employed against Uribe. He has publicly denounced Uribe as being a contemptible imperial pawn (a reference to the strong ties between Colombia and the U.S., a coward, a liar, manipulative, and many other indecent adjectives. At one point, he even compared him to a mob boss, expressing that Vito Corleone falls short of Uribe. Chavez’ continuous lack of respect for decorum and sensibility only encourage the existence of negative stereotypes about Latin America. Believe me, he is the exception.

For those of you who can read Spanish, the following is an interesting article that elaborates on these points:

Free Professional Stock Advice

As we had discussed in our last class meeting briefly, and as quite a few of us pointed out in our discussoin threads, the United States and Latin America are intimately related to each other. A field where this this particularly true is economics. As I mentioned in one of my discussion threads, Mexico is definitely a major player with the United States, and inevitably what happens to one country strongly affects the other. As I am sure many of us are aware, the economy in the United States is going through a tough time. I found an article on Market Watch that talks about the implications this has on Mexico. The president of a research firm was quoted saying, "I feel very strongly that of the Latin American economies Mexico is the one most closely tied to the United States and especially tied to the U.S. housing industry." He went on to say, "A huge percent of Mexican economic activity is tied to the US economy both through manufacturing and trade and in certain regional pockets through remittances and those remittances will prove, I believe, to be quite closely tied to the housing industry in the US."

To view the entire article, click this link :

Women for President

North Americans usually think of Latin America as a region that is less advanced and less modernized than the United States. In the past I bought into this huge generalization without really examining the facts, and the fact is that so far there are two female presidents in Latin America, and there will potentially be a third with the nomination of Blanca Ovelar in Paraguay. This not only disembles notions that Latin American women are strictly confined to tradtitional gender roles it shows that some Latin American countries are surpassing the United States in areas of modern mind-set and institution. Here is an article on Ovelar's nomination.

Venezuelans Migrate to Florida in Response to Chávez

According to census data reported by the New York Times, there has been a 94% increase in Venezuelan immigrants in South Florida since 2000, clearly in response to Hugo Chávez's rise to power in 1998. Very similar to the large growth of Cuban population in Miami due to Fidel Castro's imposed socialist regime, the Venezuelans are starting to become a powerful force both economically and politically in the state.

Time Change

In a very interesting article I found in The Economist, apparently at 10pm it's still light out in Argentina. The newly elected president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, has set clocks ahead an hour for 11 weeks because of critical energy shortages.

Further along in the article, a Mendozan journalist expresses her discontent saying, "you never fall asleep before 1am, and then you wake up exhausted in the morning, and it's still dark outside. One of the pleasures of summer used to be waking up to the songbirds. Not any more.”

Argentina isn't the only Latin American country tampering with the time; Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is also adjusting the clocks. Last month he shifted time back by an 1/2 and hour in order to "[ensure] children go to school in daylight."

If you're interested, here's a link to the article:

Latin American Men Figthing the Male Stereotype

Yesturday in class we discussed the male stereotype of machismo. As I was surfing the internet I came across this article that discussed how a group of Latin American men banded together to try to fight this stereotype of machismo. A group formed in Nicaragua called The Association of Men Against Violence. This group hopes to fight the stereotype of machismo by fighting domestic violence. The Association of Men Against Violence holds workshops that train men in masculinity and stress that masculinity does not mean violence against women. To read the full article go to:

Stereotypes Come to Life

I found it interesting how the book mentioned the stereotype of the Latin American drug cartel. I found this today on CNN's World News website. He is supposedly one of the bigger smugglers in Mexico. My favorite part is that he led a team of assassins within in the cartel. I have never heard of a drug lord running an assassin team.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

McCain Talks American and Latin American Politics

Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain is drawing upon the Latin American community (in this case Cuban Americans in Miami) for voter support in the upcoming primaries. This article is illustrative of how the Latin American communities in the United States have become more and more powerful voting blocs, and how political campaigns are focusing more attention and resources to those communities.

In McCain's campaign, however, there is a suspicious underemphasis on the issue of immigration, and he quickly evades questions having to do with whether Cuban Americans can visit their families in Cuba more easily in the future.

Would Somebody Put on a Sombrero to Win Votes?

Here is a short clip that speculates the role of Latino voters in the 2008 election. Considering the ever growing number of Hispanics in the States, what are their issues and who is abandoning them?

"Si se pueda is right! That's right, yes we can!"

Hilary Clinton uses incorrect tense during her United Farm Workers endorsement ceremony in Salinas, California on Tuesday.

Link to complete ABC News Article