Tuesday, April 29, 2008

La libertadora del libertador

Most of us probably can identify Simón Bolívar as the Libertador of South America and the founder of the Gran Colombia. But we may not know about his mistress and great revolutionary in her own right, Manuela Saénz. This Quito-born woman was an advocate of women’s rights, as well as the cause of the revolution, and she saved Bolivar’s life on one occasion, which is why she is known as the “Libertadora del libertador”. She is considered by some to be the most historically influential women in Latin America, even overshadowing Evita Perón.
She has inspired a novel, Manuela, by Gregory Kauffman.

Friday, April 25, 2008


Argentina is often considered to have one of the strongest Latin American economies alongside Mexico's and Brazil's. However, it seems they are having problems of their own considering the recent resignation of their minister of economy. Although the government did not give a reason as to this change in President Kirchner's cabinet, it is suspected that a recent farmer's strike might be to blame. Farmers were complaining about a recent government tax on certain agricultural export taxes. The strike, however, was far from minor since many roads were blocked and food was in short supply in some areas.

You can read an article on the matter here.

The Amazon

In class we talked about the importance of the Amazon and its distributaries to Latin America and the harmful effects that excessive encroachment is having on the lands, the people, etc. Many in Brazil are suspicious of foreigners' reasons for using the forest and are understandably worried that their treasure, the Amazon rainforest, the largest rainforest and ecosystem in the world, will be irreversibly damaged by improper use. Soon if a bill is proposed and passed by Brazilian lawmakers, foreigners may need permits from both the military and the justice ministry to traverse the Amazon rainforest. National Justice Secretary Romeu Tumo Jr. told the press that they plan to formulate this bill and pass it "within months." This is good news for the safety and preservation of the world's largest remaining rainforest. Hopefully, this law can be passed so that it will prevent the people who mean to do harm from entering the forest while allowing those who have good intentions to experience its beauty.


Half Million Dollar Prize for Student in Venezuela for Promoting Democracy

The US-based, Libertarian think-tank Cato Institute is awarding $500,000 to 23 year old Venezuelan student Yon Goicoechea who become famous for leading student protest against Chavez proposed constitutional changes.

Goicoechea, who says he regularly receives threats because of his political activism, said he isn't particularly concerned about the administration's response concerning the award from a U.S.-based organization.

"The government already says we're financed by the CIA. It already says we're paid by the empire. So if they say it one more time, it really isn't that important," he said.

Here is the article from MSNBC.

3 2 1 Blastoff!

An eruption of Columbia’s highest active volcano caused authorities to order an evacuation of 15,000 individuals. The Nevado del Huila lies 122 miles southwest of Bogota, and has a summit of 17,598 feet. The eruption occurred at 11:08 P.M. Monday. The recordings were provided by the Columbian Institute of Geology and Mining. The eruption of the volcano caused the institute to announce a “level red” alert, which is the most severe designation for volcanoes. Do to the darkness when the eruption occurred authorities were unable to know whether the eruption was a column of smoke or spilled lava, but monitoring equipment of the institution confirmed an eruption. The last documented eruption occurred in the 16th century. The volcano stayed inactive for 400 years, with the exception of released steam, until an eruption occurred last year causing damaging mud flows. There have been no reports of damage or injuries at this point.

Follow up on ballooning priest


As Adriana posted earlier, a priest decided to strap himself to a thousand balloons and fly. Unfortunately, while the balloons were recovered in the sea, the priest was no longer attached to them, and officials were skeptical about the chances of his survival. Today, after the Brazilian Air Force covered 1900 miles of land and sea in search of the priest, they called off the search, more or less giving up the hunt. The Navy still has a helicopter and a pair of boats on the lookout, so the government has not completely abandoned him. Also, his family has chartered a private plane to conduct flyover searches; the treasurer of the parish says that "we remain as confident as ever that he is still alive," and that "our faith is unshakable."

Follow up on Petrobras

This post is to follow up on what I mentioned in class about the oil field discovered a couple hundred miles off the coast of Rio de Janeiro Peter Zeihan, vice president of analysis at Strategic Forecasting in Austin, Texas says, "The finds they've got so far are just the tip of the iceberg,'' Zeihan said. "Brazil is going to change the balance of the global oil markets, and Petrobras will become a geopolitical supermajor.'' The article speaks about how monumental this discovery could be for Petrobras, the state run oil company of Brazil, and Brazil itself. It could completely shift the way oil seems to control the world, since the US would shift their purchasing more towards Brazil and away from Saudi Arabia and the Middle East. The article also talks about how if this were to happen, the US would have no need to continue policing the waters of the Gulf, and therefore the region would become exponentially more violent, which would have lasting effects on everyone. (This is evidenced by the fact that just today after a US vessel allegedly made shot at an Iranian vessel the price of oil jumped).

The whole article can be found at:


Tragic Story

While looking for something to post, I came upon this heartwrenching story. Haitians trying to find asylum in America were plucked out of the water earlier this week, one clinging to a dead body using it as a life preserver. This story struck me because all semester we have been talking immigrants and in Breath, Eyes, Memory one of the characters was saving money to make an illegal passage into the United States. This news story illustrates just what these refugees have to go through to get to free world. First these migrants boarded a smugglers boat in the Bahamas. As they reached land several were captured by the Bahamian police. Those who fled were then squeezed shoulder to shoulder in a go-fast boat. As they were traveling to Florida, the boat capsized and they plummetted into the waters. Those not killed by hitting their heads as they capsized treaded water for hours until finally fishermen heard the screams for help and plucked the survivors out of the water. Only three were alive. The other two dozen were dead. This story illustrates the extent through which these people will go through to leave the harsh conditions of their homelands and try to make a fresh start in America. To get the full story click on this link:


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Missing Priest in Brazil

A priest has gone missing in Brazil after being carried away by party balloons. Apparently he was attempting to break a flight record of 19 hours; however after only eight hours, he became missing. He set off for his attempt at breaking the record tied to hundreds of helium balloons and wearing a helmet and an aluminum thermal suit. The balloons have been found floating in the ocean, but as of yet no sign of the priest has been seen. Apparently this is not the first balloon flight for the sky-diving experienced priest. In January he embarked on a similar adventure for a four hour flight. Hopefully this brave and adventurous priest will be found soon, but as of now the outlook is dim. Here's the link to the New York Times article:


The Challenge of Violence in Latin America

Over the past generation, Latin Americans have celebrated the onset or in some cases the return of democracy. The end of military rule in the region is a sea of change in a continent where juntas and dictators were the norm. Yet while Latin Americans have much to celebrate -- and notwithstanding some current challenges to democracy in quasi-authoritarian regimes such as Hugo Chavez's in Venezuela -- a more fundamental problem now afflicts the region: pervasive violence.

Full Article from the Calgary Herald

The challenge of Violence in Latin America

Over the past generation, Latin Americans have celebrated the onset or in some cases the return of democracy. The end of military rule in the region is a sea of change in a continent where juntas and dictators were the norm. Yet while Latin Americans have much to celebrate -- and notwithstanding some current challenges to democracy in quasi-authoritarian regimes such as Hugo Chavez's in Venezuela -- a more fundamental problem now afflicts the region: pervasive violence.

Full Article from the Calgary Herald

Monday, April 21, 2008

Simpson’s anyone

Have you ever felt seen a movie clip, scene from a cartoon of TV show that you just had to let everyone know about and wish they would have seen it, well I have. It was the scream-a-pillar episode on the Simpsons and now that the show is back on air in Venezuela I know that, that many more people will have a chance to see what I believe is a classic scene of any movie or program. The Venezuelan station Televen yanked the show off of air because of its time slot by the National Telecommunications Commission. The commission said that 11 A.M. is designated as family viewing time and the show violated regulations to protect children. The show is now shown at 7 P.M. Due to the failure to comply with the commission’s rules Televen might be fined, taken off the air for three days or be forced to show programs chosen by the agency as punishment for keeping “The Simpsons” in the morning after earlier warnings. The irony is that the show was removed and replaced by Baywatch Hawaii, which features much more than Marge’s large blue hair! In all respect that’s be glad Simpson fans that once again the Simpson family are putting smiles on faces around the world

Sunday, April 20, 2008

"Camellos" -- giant buses -- to be replaced in Cuba

The camello, which mean camel, has been the main form of public transportation in Havana since the early 1990s. But tonight the Havana fleet will be replace by 3,000 modern "Yutong" brand buses. The currently used camello is an enormous vehicle composed of two regular buses welded together on a flatbed, holding as many as 400 people packed together. They are pretty hot, smelly, and dirty, though charging very cheap fare (20 centavos < 1 US cent). This change to new buses is just one of several new initiatives of Raul Castro; sort of superficial, but a nice change.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Hunger in Haiti

As many people have mentioned on this blog and in class, the food situation in Haiti is spiraling out of control. Recently, the U.N. and other international organizations have been sending large amounts of support in order to alleviate some of the pressures that Haitians are feeling on a daily basis. Despite this influx of aid, several deadly riots in Haiti have severely hampered the influx of aid into the country. Due to the riots, the U.N. sent in a police force of about 9,000 soldiers to stop any sort of gang violence in the country, and the Fred Blaise, U.N. spokesperson, says that the "situation is back to normal but it's precarious, it's fragile." Although the extra supplies of food are helping some people, there is simply not enough of it. Many distribution centers such as local churches, offices, etc. that hand out the food simply run out of supplies. Obviously, this sort of emergency aid can only be a temporary solution to a very serious problem. Many countries such as the U.S., Venezuela, and Brazil have promised varying amount of support to Haiti; so the international community does acknowledge the dire situation that many Haitians are facing. Hopefully now that the situation in Haiti is garnering more international media attention, some significant and permanent changes can be made in order to improve the quality of Haitian life.


Friday, April 18, 2008

Ex-bishop running for change in Paraguay


In Paraguay, where the conservative Colorado Party has ruled for the last 60 years, an ex-bishop by the name of Fernando Lugo is looking to rise to the presidency bearing the mantle of the liberal opposition: the Patriotic Front for Change. A former sheep farmer and the former "bishop of the poor," Lugo is going to be running against Blanca Ovelar, who is looking to make history of her own by becoming the first ever female president in Paraguyan history. In her campaign, she often accuses Lugo of being overly friendly with Venezuela, and supporting the interests of other oil-producing nations such as Bolivia and Ecuador too heavily.

Brazil's Booming Economy

Brazil's economy has been doing considerably better than America's as well as the world's at large. This puts them in a good global position, and with an annual economic growth rate of 5%, there is much optimism for Brazil's future. To add to this optimism is the fact that a vast oil field was newly discovered there, quite possibly making it the third largest in the world. A political scientist at the University of Brasilia contends that, "Brazil is going to be a major petroleum power," which he says will lead to, "political power." In the ever changing world that we live in, I argue that this seemingly jackpot find, isn't as magnificent as some article make it out to be. I argue that in the near future countries will gain immense power not when they find a new oil field, but when they find a sustainable alternative source of energy. So although, Brazil's find may be cause for immediate celebration, I think it would be more beneficial to invest in research and development for alternative energy sources, especially since Brazil has one of the largest populations in the world, and uses a considerable portion of energy to support that population.

La Neta

I decided to look up La Neta online after we talked about it in class. Its pretty cool to actually go look at the site after reading about it. It has a mission statement, NGO news, and you can read it in either spanish or have it translated to english. Check it out.


Fewer people own more land in Latin America-UN

After having talked extensively in class about the disproportionate possession of land and resources in Latin America, for the first time, I have come across mainstream media attention to the Landless Rural Workers Movement and the issue of land distribution in Latin America. According to a UN Food and Agriculture Official, the ownership of the land in Latin America is continually falling into the possession of big businesses and being taken away from the poor, which needs to change. Whether or not this means that the United Nations is going to put more diplomatic pressure on Latin American governments to act, though, is still unknown.

Full Article

"A Crime Against Humanity"

Anybody with a cursory understanding of chemistry and economics would understand that the drive for ethanol-based fuels is the biggest scam the environmental movement has produced to date. Oh, wait. Most people don’t even remember what they learned in high-school chemistry. Nevertheless, the unfortunate fact is that possibly well-meant but thoroughly ignorant activists continue to push for the production of ethanol—mainly from corn—as an alternative energy source. Of course, it is easy for them to pontificate on the evils of oil and the messiah-like properties of alternative energy sources if they do not have to live the consequences. And the consequences are dire. Everywhere, from Latin America to Africa to Asia, food prices are skyrocketing as demand for corn continues to rise and developing nations are increasingly coerced by the United States and Europe to redirect corn supplies from people’s stomachs to the lucrative alternative fuels industry. Like always, the mass media hides the truth and only until recently have I come across articles that at least voice the opinion of experts who are vehemently opposed to the corn-to-ethanol industry. For example, CNN notes that Jean Ziegler, U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, has called using food crops to create ethanol "a crime against humanity." The article, however, is highly biased and attributes the recent food riots to rising oil prices. Fortunately, the media is now being forced to comment on the complex nature of the debate over alternative energy sources and no longer spoon-feeds their corporate sponsors' half-truths and outright lies to the largely—and dangerously—ignorant masses.

Gay Marriage in Latin America

According to the Agence France-Presse, Uruguay has become the first country in Latin America to make gay marriage legal, with the first marriage performed yesterday. This huge law was preceded by a 'cohabitation union law' which was enacted in Uruguay in January. According to this law, hetero- and homosexual couples could live together for 5 years and receive the same benefits that married heterosexual couples receive. The new gay marriages law is a big stop forward for gay rights in Latin America, and is an advancement in civil rights that our country has yet to implement. Here's the link to the article:

No need to fear the Simpsons are here!!!!!

Well for all of you Simpson fans who might be traveling to Venezuala, your in luck for the beloved show is back on the air. It was yanked from its 11 am timeslot by the National Telecommunications Commission for being inapproprate for all viewers. The show will now have a nightly time slot where it can be viewed but those of an appropriate age. Who is taking its place at 11 in the morning. Well known other than the family friendly show Baywatch: Hawaii. Now for your viewing pleasure a brief clip Simpsons clip:


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Global Hunger Pain

It's coming, there's not stopping it, and in some places INFLATION has made the price of food so high that the poorest have to skip meals. This video from the NY Times explains how Haitians are reacting to these hard times. In this impoverished country which imports most of it's food, global market crisis are being felt harder and earlier than more developed countries. This is issue has taken people out into the streets in riot against the government. History repeats itself...

Latin Americans unrepresented in U.S sports

Latin Americans have had an exponential impact in U.S. sports, such as baseball, soccer, tennis, and golf. But what about other major sports such as basketball, football, and hockey, where despite the presence of Latin Americans at the collegiate level, though still very few, the presence of Latino’s at the professional level is lacking. The following figures show Latin American impact as of 2001 in U.S. sports at the collegiate and professional, as both players, coaches, and other head positions.

· There was one Latino manager in the MLB reported in 2001

· Major League Soccer had three Latino head coaches (25 percent), down 8 percent from 1998

· NHL has no Latin American coaches

· MLB has 3 percent assistant coaches

· MLS had the only Latino GM in the men’s leagues. There were no women as GM’s in the men’s leagues.

Reports as of 2001 for Latin American players in professional sports:

· Players at the men’s professional level: Only nearly one percent of players are Latino in the NBA

· The percentage of Latinos and all others players of color remained slightly more than 1 percent in NFL

· At 26 percent, Latino’s participation in major league baseball is at its highest level ever

· In the MLS 20 percent were Latino

· Reports of Latino’s at the collegiate and women’s level:

· Three percent were Latina for the WNBA

· At the men’s collegiate basketball level, Latinos made up 1.4 percent

· Division I football, Latinos were 1.9 percent

· Division I baseball teams Latinos 4.7 percent

· The numbers of male student-athletes in all sports in Division I, Latinos were 3.1

One can see from these percentages that Latino’s are well unrepresented in U.S. sports at both the collegiate and professional level, given the exception of baseball. Though many organizations, such as the NBA, are trying to increase the level of Latino’s, as players, coaches and staff, and owners, there is much room for improvement. Due to the success of players such as Joe Aguirre, picked by the Washington Redskins in the ninth round of the 1941 who was the first Hispanic American drafted into the NFL, Manu Ginobli, Argentinean guard for the San Antonio Spurs, and Scott Gomez of the NHL, more doors and opportunities are opening for Latin American’s in U.S. professional sports. I believe that the best way to get more Latino’s involved in U.S. sports is to first increase to number of Latino owners, coaches, and staff.

These and other facts can be seen at: http://www.tidesport.org/RGRC/2001/RGRC7.22.01.pdf

Bush and Chavez

According to the Huffington Post, the Bush Administration has been insincere in its portrayal of Venezuela as state that supports terrorism and poses a security threat to the US. In fact, the writer, Mark Weisbrot, regards these "charges" against Venezuela as completely off-base and totally "ridiculous."
The claims by the Bush Administration that Venezuela is a state that "sponsors terrorism" is rooted in the seizure of computer files from Colombian military forces that suggested there were ties between Chavez and the FARC (a guerrilla revolutionary organization).
The New York Times recently came out smothering these claims saying that these computer files are far from authentic and that the Bush Administration has jumped to unfair conclusions. Overall, as Weisbrot suggests, this misinformation and inaccurate relay to the press by the Bush Administration has underscored the US' isolation of Latin America.
In other words, it seems that the Bush Administration made inaccurate claims based on un-supported assumptions that lead to our dismal relationship with Venezuela in order to promote his "War of Terrorism" agenda.

The two challenging democratic candidates for 2008, Clinton and Obama, have both voiced their plan to improve the US' relationship with the Latin America economically and through discourse. Hopefully, if one of them is elected, they commit to their plans and do better than the Bush Administration has.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Explanation of my Absense

This last week I went to Washington, D.C. with my Model Organization of American States class. All semester we have been researching about Panama, the country we were assigned to represent. Finally, this last week, we were able to utilize all our research and hard work. 31 of the 32 countries in the OAS were represented by 19 universities from the US and the remaining from Latin America and the Caribbean. This included schools from Columbia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Nicaragua, and the Bahamas. For those who don't really know how the model works, each country has a voice and a vote in the debate of resolutions. One resolution that my delegation worked on was concerning microfinance. We had to research our topic in order to be able to field topics from all the other delegations and at the same time we had to know Panama's position on topics as well as who their allies in the region in order to maintain diplomatic ties. Here is the link to the model website.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Wally World

I read an article by Fortune that seemed very similar to the microfinance article we discussed last class. The article described Walmart's intention to initiate some sweeping changes, and they targeted Mexico as the starting place. Similar to the banks Chu talked about in his article Walmart is targeting low income citizens: "Mexico's biggest retailer, with 668 stores, wants to crack the low-income market in a country where just 24 percent of households have savings accounts, compared with 55 percent in Chile. Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500) plans to boost sales via debit cards, later ease users into more profitable services like insurance, and make money on interest-rate spreads." I think this move by Walmart is extremely creative, and as the article suggests, will be successful . I think this because of the fact due to their massive size and reach, they possess a great deal of persuasive power amongst low income families who frequent their stores. It only makes sense to add a no frills banking system to their repertoire.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Rice Subsidies

A while back, there was a post on this blog about Hatians eating dirt cookies as a result of the incredibly poor state the majority of the country was in. Currently, violent protests and demonstrations have been going on against rising food prices in the country. The protests are responsible for at least five deaths and The president, Preval, just announced new rice subsidies that would lower its cost by 15 percent. The money for these new reductions in price would come from international aid money and the reduction of profit margins from private rice producers. Preval's prime minister, Jacques-Eduoard Alexis (picture), is largely blamed for the economic state of the country and just received a 16-1 vote of no-confidence from the Hatian senate. Here's the link to the New York Time's article:

Mexican Oil and Privatization

Some of our past class conversations have addressed the controversial adoption of neoliberal policies as a means of revitalizing Latin American economies. Following the economic stagnation of the 1980’s and the subsequent economic upturn under neoliberalism, these policies have indeed divided many as its advocates point to the economic benefits while opponents insist—among other things—that the loss of national sovereignty is too high a price to pay. The recent upheaval in the Mexican congress over a bill that would allow private investors to increase their participation in Mexico’s nationalized oil industry demonstrates that the issue is indeed far from settled. The bill does not intend to privatize Pemex (Petroleos Mexicanos), but opponents contend that any involvement of the private sector would be detrimental for the future of the industry. A member of the opposition commented: “They've sharpened their teeth and are ready to rob a natural resource and make a big business out of it; we're not going to let them.”

You can read an article on the topic here.

Friday, April 11, 2008

"South-south cooperation"

Pratibha Patil, India's President, is about to tour several countries of Latin America, with the goal of promoting cooperation and unity between India and these countries: Mexico, Brazil, and Chile. She will meet with the various presidents and other leaders. She plans to sign accords and significantly increase trade in this April 12th-25th visit. Patil is not the Prime Minister, but nonetheless she's an important political figure in India.

Check Out My New Crib

Raul Castro passed his first legal decree saying that Cubans can get titles to state-owned houses soon. The decree also did away with wage limits, allowing Cuban workers to make as much as they can as an incentive for productivity. This is a step in the right direction, even though there are some restrictions still in place. The political pundits in Cuba are saying that this is the beginning of a giant housing reform throughout Cuba. I hope that this leads to a more free market economy in Cuba and a decrease in their Communist doctrine. Raul has already made some changes for the better; lets hope he keeps them up for the rest of his political career.


Wages and Housing

In Cuba recently, some laws have been passed that are promised to be the first steps toward reform in the wage and housing sectors of Cuba. First, the previous law in Cuba decreed that there will be salary cap for certain jobs. Many were unhappy with this law because those who did higher quality work were not necessarily earning than their counterparts who were not as productive. The new law allows for salaries to be assigned based on production, which many say will give people greater incentive to do better work in their respective fields. The new housing law that was passed is simply a formal recognition of something that has been going since the late 1980s. The law allows people who rented state-owned apartments and houses when they worked for the state to keep the houses even after leaving their positions. The people who decide to stay in the state-owned housing could even gain title and pass it down to their children and so on and so forth. According to Oscar Espinosa Chepe, a state-trained economist who is critical of the government, the new law "gets rid of that insecurity many people had and alleviates bureaucratic pressure." Both of these pushes toward reform are interesting when considering the type of egalitarian society the Cuban government has tried to implement over the past fifty years. Perhaps Raul Castro is not going to be the same as his brother. Raul has done away with laws that prohibited Cubans from owning cell phones in their own name, staying in tourist hotels, buying dvd players, computers, and kitchen appliances.


Colombia and Hilary

It seems that the unraveling of the Clinton-Colombia story could possibly clinch it for Obama.

Hilary's chief strategist, Mark Penn, has been caught working on established a free trade agreement with Colombia. Penn was employed by Colombia to get such a bill passed. The problem is that Hilary has publicly expressed her opposition to such an agreement.

With the race for the Democratic nomination approaching its climax this could prove devastating to her campaign. Aside from having her chief strategist disagree with her policies, the fiasco also reveals that Penn may foresee that Hilary will not win which could be conveyed to potential voters in that he preferred to work for his own policy than Hilary's campaign.

From an economic standpoint, according to Nikolas Kozloff of the CounterPunch.org, "It's odd to think that the Penn-Colombia story could exert an impact on domestic U.S. politics" because, "most Americans...associate the country with drug cartels and little else."

It will be interesting to see how Hilary tackles this obstacle and how the media presents it.

Extradition Issues

As I was flipping through the channels yesturday as I paused on CNN there was a headline that says "Marine Kills Pregnant Marine." Interested I went online to go find out more about this story and discovered that it had links to Latin America and the extradition process with Mexico. It turns out that the number one suspect for the murder, Cesar Laurean, fled from North Carolina to Mexico to try to escape prosecution of the murder. His plan of escape was foiled, however, when he used his real name at a road block set up by the local anti-kidnapping task force in San Juan Vina. They entered his name into a database and it came up that he had fugitive status. They then proceeded in arresting him. There are some obstacles in getting Laurean extradited back to the United States for trial. Since he has dual citizenship for both Mexico and the United States he cannot be immediately deported. Also he is now safe from the death penalty because of Mexico's extradition policies protect anyone sent back to the United States from facing capital punishment. Even more so if Laurean decides to fight extradition it can be more than two years before he returns to the United States to face trial. When questioned about the arrest in Mexico the U.S. ambassador to Mexico said it demonstrates that those fleeing the law will not find safe harbor in Mexico.

If you want to find out more about the murdered Marine and her family's response click on:


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Lord of the Rings Script Confiscated from Guantanamo Prisoner


A former child soldier who was arrested in 2002 at the age of 15 for war crimes (namely, being responsible for the death of a US soldier) had his Lord of the Rings screenplay removed from his possession. His lawyer, who was also banned from playing chess and dominoes during their official visits, provided him with the screenplay in order to build a rapport with the prisoner in order to better work his case.

Would you like violence with that?

Do to the global rise in prices of basic foods, Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, has decided to take the matter into their own hands with sparked riots in response to the food crises. The violence began last week when Haitian citizens burned cars and attacked a U.N. police base in the city of Les Cayes, in which five people were killed. Protests have now spread to areas such as capital, Port-au-Prince. Emergency aid and food donations have been requested so basic food necessities can be sent to the citizens of the nation. Haitians live off of $2 a day which is insurmountable compared to the increase of prices in the past year. The cost of staples such as rice, beans, fruit and condensed milk has gone up 50 percent in the past year, while the cost of pasta has doubled. One major concern of the nation is that the situation is watched very closely so that the protests are not exploited by those with political motivations.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Haiti's Continued Trouble

It seems that the situation in Haiti has not improved much since the popular election of U.S. backed President Rene Preval. Haiti has been in chaos for about a week, with violent protests against the rising prices of food. Mobs of angry protestors have been burning, looting, and breaking. Citizens have been advised to stay indoors while U.N. peacekeepers and police have attempted to take control of the situation. In a public address, delivered today, President Rene Preval beseeched congress to lower the import tax on food and has encouraged the protestors to go home. Haiti is remains in a fragile state, with government officials fearing the worst. Possibly another coup d'etat.

Food Crisis in Central America

The rising costs of food is creating a crisis situation in Central America, which has 7.5 million undernourished people, informed the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

According to FAO representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, Jose Graziano, the rising costs of cereals, milk and grains could last five years as a result of demands by China and India as well as financial speculation.

He warned that countries such as Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador will observe an increase of hunger due to insufficient food production after the effects of hurricanes and droughts.

This situation allows Brazil, Argentina and Chile, main agricultural product exporters in Latin America, to raise production strategically estimated at 122 billion dollars a year.

For Graziano, the unbalanced distribution of benefits, mostly controlled by intermediaries, constitutes another factor that affects an increase of hunger in the region where 30 percent of the rural population is impoverished.

The official added that raising the production of food products presupposes an enormous challenge for Central America that will require investments in research and production, reconversion and active governmental policies.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Travelers be Weary...

The State Department is talking about raising the travel alert for American tourist to Mexico. This is due to the recent increase in organized crime and drug related violence that has killed over 2,500 in the last year. Most of this insecurity centers in the border state of Chihuahua where about 200 people have been killed since Jan. 1. There are also developing cases about military corruption, accusing soldiers of killing civilians and other soldiers.

here is the link!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Soccer Takes a Hit

One of Latin America's most beloved soccer stars is now injured and out for the season. Ronaldinho tore a muscle in his right leg recently and will now be forced to miss the season. In the world of sports, soccer is king. It is the most watched sport in the entire world and the one most actively participated in. Many of the soccer stars that fans are accustomed to normally come from Latin America. Stars such as Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Pele, etc. are all important in expanding the view of Latin America to the European countries where they usually play. Here is to Ronaldinho returning to full health and dominating the soccer world once again.


Contraceptive Program Aborted

President Michelle Bachelet had started a program which provided free emergency contraceptive pills to females over age 14 in health clinics throughout the country, so that even poor women would have access to it. This measure was recently approved by the Supreme Court in February, but conservatives appealed it to the Constitutional Court, and won today. So, the newly born program is being halted. According to President Bachelet, this is a step back for equality for all Chilean women, as poor women will no longer be able to obtain this pill.
AP article

Colombian Hostage Situation


Along the lines of Hugo Chavez's popularity with other world leaders, he may have ingratiated himself with the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy. Sarkozy is dealing with a hostage situation; a French-Colombian woman who was running for the Colombian presidency was kidnapped by FARC. He has expressed a willingness to personally travel to Colombia to help alleviate the situation, and Hugo Chavez, despite having lost "all contact with FARC" is willing to accompany him on the trip to try and free the hostage.

This helps to demonstrate Chavez's knack for publicity and friendliness with other world leaders. Regardless of his merits as a leader of a country, he is skilled in politics and knows how to market himself well.

21st Century Socialism

In another push toward his "21st Century Socialism," Hugo Chavez has ordered the nationalization of Venezuela's cement industry. Chavez decided to do this because of the serious shortage of cement products in Venezuela that is due to the high prices that are placed on raw materials by international companies. Because of the high prices on cement and other construction materials, Venezuela has experienced a domestic housing shortage because many people cannot afford to build a house. The move to nationalize industries such as cement, electricity, telecommunications, and most importantly the oil and gas industry by Chavez's government has been very controversial especially in the eyes of foreign investors. Chavez's critics argue that such rapid pushes toward government control will scare investors and ultimately harm the Venezuelan economy. Although some question Chavez's motives especially in regard to Venezuela's oil industry, it seems that at least with the cement production issue Chavez is taking measures to alleviate some of the financial pressures that many people in Venezuela are facing.


Cubans' Reactions to Their Increases Rights

In a previous post I talked about how Raul Castro had lifted the band on cells thus allowing all Cuban citizens to own one. Castro has now allowed Cubans to stay in tourist hotels and buy microwaves, DVD players and personal computers. Even though Cubans are allowed to have all of these new luxuries the majority of them do not have the money to buy a night at a hotel or a luxury appliance like a microwave. Despite this financial restraint, Cubans are still happy with the change in the laws. Georgina Garcia, a citizen of Cuba, remarked that she does not have the money to stay in a hotel but still happy that she has the right to go for now she feels the same as the tourists who go to Cuba. When talking about computers Garcia continues to say that it will be nice to be able to buy a compter and not be forced to overpay. Nor does she have to worry about hiding it when people come to her house for fear of going to jail if they found it. Though all of these new products are available to Cuban citizens with the average Cuban making only $20 a month, they will be hard to buy.

For more information go to:


In general, health infrastructures in Latin America leave something to be desired. Indeed, health issues are an important aspect of contemporary discussions on Latin America and, moreover, they are related to our recent discussion of land. The failure to expand sanitary systems at the same rate that cities grow leads, as we have seen, to the existence of shanty towns in which people struggle daily for access to clean water, food, and many other vital services most of us take for granted. The recent dengue epidemic in Brazil is a case in point. Dengue—which is very similar to malaria—is caused by a family of viruses that are transmitted by mosquitoes who love the tropical climates found in Brazil and the unsanitary conditions that often plague poorer areas of the country. The disease is certainly not the exclusive result of crowded, unhealthy settlements, but these conditions certainly encourage the spread of the disease. The recent epidemic is, to a large extent, a disturbing symptom of land misuse in Brazil, and, seeing as Brazil is considering asking Cuba for doctors, it might result in a considerable loss of human life.

Columbia crisis resolved

As mentioned previously, there were tense relations between Columbia, Venezuela, and Ecuador. The tension was caused by Columbian troops going into Ecuador and killed 22 members of FARC, the Revolutionaries Armed Forces of Columbia and its leader Raul Reyes. This undeclared invasion caused both Ecuador and Venezuela, Columbia’s other neighboring country, to place troops a the border of the nations. After these occurrences, relations between Columbia and its neighbors were poor and talk of war had surfaced. The U.S. claimed that they would not support the war though their allies were involved.

Recently proposals have been declared, such that there would be decrease in tension between the countries and piece. Columbia promised to not ever again assault a brother country. Chavez declared that trade with Columbia would resume and continue to grow. The countries also have stated that they will partner together and fight threads to national stability from irregular or criminal groups. Since the altercation a second member of the FARC had been killed, he was one of the six remaining members.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


The FDA just issued a cantaloupe recall for Honduran-grown cantaloupes. The recall was issued after 50 cases of salmonella connected with cantaloupe consumption were reported in 16 different states. The fruit comes from the grower Agropecuaria Montelibano. Cantaloupes from brands such as Chiquita and Dole are also involved in the recall. Honduras is fighting the recall, with the president Manuel Zelaya publically expressing his confidence in the safety of the Honduran export. According to CNN he said to reporters: "Here I have the box of melons. Permit me to make a demonstration." He then cut a piece a piece of fruit and ate some,saying: “I eat this fruit without any fear. It’s a delicious fruit. Nothing happens to me!” Personally, I'd stay away from the cantaloupe in Bruff for the next couple of weeks...

Celebracion Latina

This coming Sunday, there is a great community event being planned in New Orleans that promises to be lots of fun. It's our annual Celebracion Latina!

Here's some more info:

Celebración Latina will feature food, music, and other entertainment, all with a Latin American flavor.

Join us for Latin and Caribbean musical performances from Juan-Carlos Formell, Hector Navarro, Calliope Puppets, Rumba Buena, AsheSon and Casa Samba.

Celebración Latina will also have a children’s area hosted by the Pebbles Center and the New Orleans Public Library featuring art, music and dance.

Local food vendors will be selling their favorite Latin dishes. Our "Community Partner" tent will promote non-profit and community organizations, many working in partnership with Tulane University, to make a difference in New Orleans.

For more information, please call 504-865-5164
Show your solidarity with the local Latino Community and plan to come out. I'll be there all day, and the family will be there for a good chunk of the time, too. Great music, food, drinks, and family fun. Please come out!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Globalism in Cuba

I see that a few other people have posted things about Cuba, but it seems that Raul Castro is making a lot of moves that are grabbing people's attention. He is doing a great job of allowing globalism to reach Cuba, where under his brother's strict Communist state there was very little allowance for such things as technology to the public. I found an article that shows how people are flocking to check out these "new" electronic gadgets and toys that they can't necessarily purchase but can nonetheless guffaw over. There is still a long way to go in Cuba but this is a good start.

Here is the article:


Cuba, Dolling out the Land

Apparently the Cuban government is redistributing some of its 51 percent of unused/fallow land. I thought this developement was particularly interesting seeing as in LAST 102 we have been discussing agrarian reform and the importance of agriculture in Latin America.