Friday, October 31, 2008

Poll Shows Latin Americans Don't Care about US Election Outcome

According to a survey in 18 countries, two in three Latin Americans either are indifferent about who wins Tuesday's presidential election in the United States or do not think the outcome will matter. According to the poll, 29 percent of Latin Americans think a victory for Democrat Barack Obama would be more beneficial to the region. But 8 percent would rather Republican John McCain be elected.

For more on this, read here.

What happened in Ecuador?

Ecuador’s judicial branch is, “threatened,” according to an Ecuadorian Supreme Court justice. The threat arises from a lottery meant to thin out the Supreme Court . A new constitution, approved last week, approved the act which if executed will take the Ecuadorian Supreme Court from thirty-one to twenty-one justices. The epitome of democracy!
See the CNN headline here:

Disney and the Third World

Walt Disney published many cartoons that depicted people from third world countries, especially people not of European descent, as inferior.  These comics such as Donald Duck were targeted towards children but had significant political meanings.  In some comics he portrayed indigenous people in Latin American as sub-human and compared them to what he should to be the superior white American race.  These cartoons seem extremely dated in that I don't think cartoons that are so politically incorrect would be tolerated anymore.

Mob in Peru Protest at Police Station

After 71 people were hurt in a conflict between police and protestors in the south, angry villagers in Peru's northern jungle set fire to a police station in Lima, Peru. The mob had over a thousand participants and took 25 officers captive in San Martin province. It was reported that the mob was angered when police threw tear gas near a school and several children were affected and since mounting unrest has spread to a total of five provinces, as they press a variety of demands with local authorities or the central government.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Chile: Achievements in AIDS Fight Marred by Irregularities

Soledad Barria, the health minister to Chile, has resigned on account of the AIDS scandal that has surfaced in regard to the government’s failure to notify people who tested positive for AIDS. Twenty-five people who tested positive for AIDS in 2004 were not notified, and two of them died. This occurred in the northern Tarapacá region of Chile. This carelessness has threatened Chile’s “exemplary image in the field of AIDS prevention and treatment”.

Four of the twenty-five people have still not been notified, as two of them left the country, one is homeless, and another is a mentally ill man. The scandal occurred when 34-year-old Dearnny Aguilar died from an pneumonia. She did not take the antiretroviral treatment that very well may have saved her life. Her husband also died due to AIDS.

The scandal revealed that many people do not return for their results and often provide false personal information. Therefore, this issue is much more complex than governmental ineffectiveness.  The Health Committee in the lower house of Congress is considering improving the 2001 AIDS Law, or making it so that HIV tests are not “voluntary” and “confidential”. 

Sand Theft in the Caribbean

Sand is disappearing in the small islands in the Caribbean, namely Puerto Rico where the sand is being used to finish buildings during this construction boom. Not only will this affect tourism, because who really wants to go to the Caribbean if there are no beaches, but it is also cause for enviornmental concerns. A gulley of sand was dug out that allowed salt water to mix in with a freshwater supply that was on the island, which, because of the salt water contamination, can no longer be used. In addition, the coastal islanders are now much more vulnerable to strong seas and flooding without the barrier of sand. Let's just hope that they don't get hit with too many hurricanes next season. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

FARC Rebels and Hostages

Leftist rebels have agreed to exchange letters with a self-appointed group of Colombians to discuss the possible release of hostages the rebels are holding.
The FARC posted the statement on one of its Web sites. The statement was electronically signed by the group's seven-man leadership council. They were responding to a 9/11 letter by a disparate group of Colombians, where they asked the FARC to write letters to "allow us to identify the terms to set an agenda to clarify the route toward an understanding regarding a hostage exchange." The government estimates the FARC is holding some 700 civilians and military personnel hostage. The FARC says it wants to exchange about 30 hostages for as many as 500 jailed guerrillas held in Colombian and U.S. prisons.

Amazon Jungle Dwellers Discovered

Earlier this year, a tribe of indigenous Amazonians were discovered in Brazil. It is believed that these individuals have never had any contact with the outside world, but threats from the surrounding areas are great. The land on which they reside is constantly in danger of being destroyed and if that happens, we will lose one of only 100 or so remaining isolated tribes in the world. Isn't it incredible to think that there are, as you read this, people living right now entirely
unaware of other humans and society?


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Inequality Revealed

A recent World Bank study showed that between 25-50% of income inequality in Latin America are due to circumstances beyond the control of the individuals when they were children. These factors include ethnicity, gender, birth place, parents' occupations, and education levels. This index, the Human Opportunity Index, measures the percentage of opportunities needed to guarantee children's universal access to basic available services. Though this is not very encouraging information, it does give the world a platform from which to start fixing these inequalities. Read the full story here.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Cuban EU Relations

Not too long ago, Cuban relations with the United States and the European Union (EU) were severely strained. Now, following a formal signing ceremony with the EU, Cuba has agreed to resume open discussion with the European Union. In exchange for its political transparency, Cuba will now be eligible for much needed humanitarian aid, to reconstruct the country from the devastation left by hurricanes Ike and Gustav. Relations between Cuba and the EU were suspended for five years after the arrest of dissidents. The EU, in contrast to the United States, intends to expand its influence in Cuba. View the entire BBC story here:

Human Heads Discovered in Mexico

Two human heads accompanied by menacing drug messages have been found in central Mexico. A Mexico state police official in Cuautitlan reported that one head appeared in a box that was left in the parking lot of the police station. It came with a message threatening that federal police and members of the drug gang La Familia would be decapitated, said the official.

Read more here...

Indigenous Influences on the Spanish Language

Transculturation has has a huge affect on Latin America from everything including religion, style and agricultural practices. The influence of indigenous words on the Spanish language is an example of this transculturation. The Nahuatl word "cholo" was adopted by the Spanish in Mexico and used as a derogatory word to describe Mexicans. It leiterally meant Mexican dog. Now in the United States the word has been reappropriated by Mexican-Americans to mean somethinlike Mexican gangster. It is interesting how the definition of a word can change by who uses and where they use it.

US Trade Deal With Bolivia Suspended

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice announced yesterday that the US will be suspending a trade deal with Bolivia due to their continued association with drugs and their reluctance to improve anti-drug efforts. This move is anticipated to cost Bolivia nearly 300,000 jobs and also more than $300 million in exports, which would be priced out of the US market. It will be interesting to see how this affects US - Bolivia relations in the long term. Read more about this story here.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Violence in Mexico Kills 21 People

Mexico is currently engaged in aggressive warfare against drug traffickers. During twenty-four hours across Mexico, twenty-one people died. A toddler was killed when the car he was in crashed during a gun battle. Four men were shot and killed before a crowd of people at an amusement park.

Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana have experienced almost daily murders as Mexico is overwhelmed by a flood of drug-related carnage. Officials attribute the violence to cartels warring over profitable trafficking routes.

Read more here...

"Kidnapped Voices" steals the hearts of the families of FARC hostages

Herbin Hoyos, 38, Colombian Journalist. He was kidnapped in 1994 for 17 days by the leftist guerilla group in Colombia, the FARC. During his time being kidnapped, the other kidnappees complained to him that journalists, like him, should be doing more the tell other people, other countries about what was going on in Colombia. When he was rescued, he began his radio program, "Kidnapped Voices."

"Kidnapped Voices" is a program that the FARC is almost forced to allow it's prisoners listen to by a request made by Hoyos. Hoyos finds the families of the kidnapped and allows them to talk to their kidnapped family members over the radio. He transmits a new message once a week and has so far transmitted 328,000 messages. he promises to be there at the release of all of thoses kidnapped to deliver the freedom hug and has so far given 11,017 hugs.

People consider him part of the family for all of the help and hope he has given these families. He selflessly claims that he has no social life and works 20 hours a day, dedicating his life to the people who have been kidnapped so that they can stay in touch, somewhat with their families outside. Hoyos claims that his program won't go off the air until the last prisoner has been released.

To read more about this wonderful story, click here

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Bolivia's set to vote for new constitution.

Bolivian Congress has agreed to hold a referendum on indigenous president Evo Morales’s new constitution that places more rights into the oppressed majority. Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, stated that he now feels he has fulfilled his obligation to the Bolivian people.

Morales’s administration has often been met with opposition from the middle and upper classes of mixed race. Despite this opposition, the constitution is expected to pass, as voters claim to want an end to the long-standing riots appealing for the constitution, and the issues and failed negotiations that usually ensue.

Morales had promised to only run for one more five-year term if the opposition lawmakers grant their support of the constitution. Both sides had to make compromises after their long debate, and this sacrifice was worthwhile in Morales’s eyes. His campaign in total has been dedicated to bestowing power to the oppressed population, so this constitution is his greatest accomplishment

"Now we have made history," Morales said. "This process of change cannot be turned back...neo-liberalism will never return to Bolivia."

For more information, refer to this link.

Last week I wrote about festivities celebrated in Latin America on October 31st, and today I'll write a little bit about one festivity here in the States that ties the global community together. This upcoming Halloween, trick-or-treaters in the Green Bay area will be distributing chocolates as they go from house to house. Unlike "Most of the world's chocolate," which, "comes from cocoa grown on small plantation farms in Africa or Latin America, where children between 5 and 17 work long hours in hard labor instead of going to school," this chocolates is produced via fair trade. Each chocolate being distributed this October 31st will come along with additional information about other fair trade items. It's important to keep in mind how much hard labor went into those mini pieces of chocolate we so much enjoy acquiring for free.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

más para los golosos!

If you've ever been to Argentina and bought one of these on the street, you've probably been craving for another one ever since.
Alfajores are a a delicious sweet found in cafes and kiosks all over Argentina, as well as in parts of Peru and Uruguay. They usually consist of two soft or hard cookies sandwiched with any variety of jam, chocolate, or dulce de leche and covered in chocolate or merengue (apart from the equally delicious maicena variety, made with corn flour and dulce de leche and caked in coconut). If given the chance, give them a try!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Bulletproof Fashion

In Mexico City, a Colombian man named Miguel Caballero has opened a self-named boutique. Its claim to fame? Bulletproof clothing ranging from leather jackets to tuxedo shirts. Security has become a serious concern for even average people in Mexico City, completely unrelated to drug-trafficking. The bulletproof clothing is expensive, but effective. The entire sales staff can attest to that as they have to test it out in order to work there. Some think these clothes are more of a gimmick than they are necessary. Check it out here.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

6-Hour Workday in Venezuela

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez is hoping to institute a new 6-hour workday by the end of the year. The proposed bill will change the current 8-hour day and will apparently enforce stricter penalties for those businesses who do not follow the rule. Some businesses stated that they will have to cut jobs if the proposal is actually passed, but the legislation will doubtlessly affect businesses in many different ways. Read more here

Friday, October 17, 2008

Police held thirty-four illegal Central American immigrants under custody until an angry crowd of hundreds of people in Mexico attacked the police. They did so in order to protect the immigrants after hearing that police allegedly sold them to human smugglers for $100 each. This occurred in the rural town of Rafael Lara Grajales, Puebla, as police forced the thirty-four immigrants into a van. Rioters set fire to a patrol car, a motorcycle, and a truck, and police responded to this attack with tear gas. 

The migrants were able to escape due to the ensuing chaos, although twenty-one were promptly taken under custody again. Police are searching for the other thirteen immigrants. Central Americans often suffer such abuse while crossing Mexico on their travel to the United States; although on a rare occasion do Mexicans offer such protection to these victims. To read more detail about this occurrence one can follow this link

Constitutions as Living Documents?

People sometimes refer to a constitution as a living document. In the United States this is only somewhat true. We have had the same constitution for 200 years and the amendments are the only parts that have changed over the two centuries. However, Latin America has a history of changing constitutions often. During the post-colonial era liberal governments would write a constitution and then it would be overturned in favor of a different type of constitution. It seems like Colombia created a new constitution almost every ten years during this period. This trend has died down somewhat in current times but at the end of September Ecuador ratified a new constitution. I am not sure if their are any benefits to the constant changing or if it is better to have a more permanent document in place, probably the second one because it offers more stability.

How 'bout that Cuban Oil

Foreign investors, specifically Americans, have been eyeing offshore oil in international waters between Cuba and the United States, for quite awhile now. A problem arises, however, from the trade embargo still being imposed on Cuba. Now petroleum seeking Americans have even more of a reason to covet Cuba’s black gold laden waters. Cuban oil reserves, based on new data, are double what they were originally thought to be, now estimated at twenty billion barrels (comparable to the oil reserves of the United States). Presidential candidate Barack Obama has intimated at less restricted relations with Cuba. Will the United States finally abandon its quasi containment policy in order to exploit Cuba’s oil reserves?
View the article "Cuba claims massive oil reserves" here:

NFL Seeks Larger Latino Fanbase

On October 5th, The San Francisco 49ers played the Arizona Cardinals in Mexico City. This was the first NFL game ever to be played outside the United States. This was an attempt by the NFL to gain popularity amoung Latinos in Mexico as well as in the United States. It was estimated that the NFL now has 20 million fans in Mexico. That is more than any other country has combined outside of the US. The game sold out with 45,000 people in attendance. The success of the game may bring more games to Mexico in the future. Maybe other countries as well?

General Sentenced in Human Rights Case in Chile

After killing five dissidents during the former military dictatorship a retired Chile army general was sentenced to six years in prison. General Sergio Arellano participated in the killings during the "Caravan of Death" led by General Augusto Pinochet in 1973 several weeks after a military coup. Arellano led the "caravan" searching for dissidents, killing at least 90 people total. The 88-year old was sentenced by the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Cuidad Juarez

1,100 + people have been killed so far this year in Juarez, El Paso's across the border neighbor in Mexico. 37 people were killed, just over the weekend. Juarez has had more more murders so far this year than New York and Chicago combined had in 2007. Let's remind ourselves that New York and Chicago have 7 times as many people as Juarez, just to put it in perspective. People from the United States are increasingly afraid to go there. US soldiers are not allowed to go to the bars and nightclubs of Juarez, once popular hotspots for US military and civilians alike. As a result, stores and clubs in Juarez are closing, which, in the long run, will probably result in more people being involved in the bloody drug trade which has caused all of these murders.
After President Felipe Calderon announced a plan to attack and eliminate major drug lords in an effort to curb the drug trade, more and more violence has resulted. The innocent have been killed in the cross-fires and taxpayers must cover the cost of this violence in hospital bills and security. To read more about this sad story, click here

One Immigrant's Story

This past summer I had the honor of working a man named Isaac Marquez. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the time that Isaac left his homeland, El Salvador, in search of a better life in the United States. The inspirational story of his experience was recorded and is something I think everyone should read. Here's the link to the newsletter it was published in: CLICK HERE
This particular article is entitled, New U.S. Citizen Was Determined to "Keep on Going." The other articles in this letter are worth checking out as well.

Caribbean getting pounded by Hurricane Omar

Hurricane Omar weakened Thursday after hitting the northern Leeward Islands in the Caribbean with powerful winds and rain. Shortly before approaching the islands as a Category 3 hurricane, Omar's maximum sustained winds had increased to 125 mph, but slowed a bit to 115 mph after moving rapidly away from the islands. The fast-moving storm was picking up speed, heading northeast at about 29 mph. All warnings and watches were discontinued for the Leeward Islands. Earlier, the 500,000 barrel-a-day oil refinery Hovensa, on St. Croix, was shutting down all equipment, which was to ensure the safety of employees and the operation of the refinery. The U.S. Coast Guard closed the Christiansted Harbor, where the refinery is located, on Tuesday. It will remain closed until the hurricane passes and all facilities are checked to be in good order. Puerto Rico and some portions of the northern Leeward Islands, which includes the Virgin Islands, could get up to 20 inches of rain. The storm is forecast to head into the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean after crossing over the Virgin Islands and sweeping past Puerto Rico, but hurricane tracks are subject to variation, and such long-range predictions can change.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ecuador Approves a New Constitution

On September 28th, Ecuador overwhelmingly approved a new constitution with 64% of the vote. This new charter "establishes a new economic and social model that defends a harmonious relationship with nature as a base for national development". According to President Rafael Correa, this new system puts human rights ahead of the free market. It also establishes access to water as a basic right, and calls for universal education, even on the tertiary level.

However, the decision to pass this new constitution was far from unanimous and there is some staunch political rivalry occurring. One of the biggest opponents is Jaime Nebot, mayor of Guayaquil, who, with the support of the catholic church, managed to have his city reject the charter. However, this did not effect the overall outcome. The charter is controversial and ambitious, and it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the future. To read the full story, click here.

Dominican Republic Immigrants

Monday October 13, 2008 the US Coast Guard returned 146 illegal immigrants to the Dominican Republic who were apparently traveling illegal into Puerto Rico. Some of these 146 people have previously attempted to access US borders through the seas, and territories such as Puerto Rico. 11 people are being tried in Puerto Rico by the US Courts for their multiple attempts to get into US territory.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Without Corn, There is No Country

In Mexico, activists are lobbying for the “right to nutrition” to be added to the list of constitutional rights. The motto for the campaign is “Sin Maís, No Hay País”, translating to, “Without Corn, There is no Country”, meaning that Mexico must make nutrition a priority for all its citizens. Currently, there is an estimated 18 million Mexican’s without an ensured food supply, but this campaign is hoping to reconstruct the current systems in place for ensuring nutrition of all Mexicans. One of the most important things they have to do, according to Adelita San Vincente, coordinator of the organization, is lessen their dependency on the United States, in case we ever fail or do not follow through. If that were to happen, 50% of their food supply would disappear. To read the full article, click here.

Vidas Robadas

Human trafficking, especially the forced prostitution of young women, is still a fairly common thing in parts of Latin America. Human rights groups recently have been especially pushing awareness of the issue, and it has begun to appear in the media too (there is a very popular telenovela in Argentina called "Vidas Robadas" about the subject). Read one mother's sob story here.

Haitian Child Servants

In the past few months Haiti has been devastated by multiple hurricanes: Fay, Gustav, Hanna, Ike. The country's poor are now destitute and those getting by are now struggling. Parents can't afford to feed their children and so as an alternative, they are becoming "restaveks." The term literally means to "stay with" someone else. These children are taken in by families who are better off than their own and the idea is that they will contribute to the household by doing some work in order to earn their room and board and be allowed to attend school. However, in practice what really happens is that they become cheap servants who are underfed and treated as second-class citizens. Very, very few are actually allowed to attend school. It's extremely sad and something needs to be done. When will things change?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Inflation Rate Drops In Brazil

The rate of inflation in Brazil has dropped to the lowest it has been in a year, a recent report states. Consumer price increases dropped to .26 percent, down from .28 percent this August. The drop in the inflation rate follows a four-month long trend that highlights the steady decrease in the inflation rate. Food prices also fell, to .27 percent, making September the second month in a row to have a drop in food deflation. Read more here.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Flamenco dance classes are being offered every Saturday and Sunday of October at MC William's Hall in New Orleans. Beginner classes are 11am-12pm and intermediate and advanced classes are 12:30pm-2pm. 

Departure of the President of Peru's Cabinet

Alan Garcia, the president of Peru, acquiesced to the resignation of his entire cabinet Friday. This in response to an oil kickbacks scandal. He did not nominate replacements. Audio conversations about kickbacks for directing government contracts to Norwegian oil company Discover Petroleum have been publicly aired, obviously affecting Garcia's government. Read more here.

Uruguay's Demographics

In my mind I stereotype all of the people in Latin American as being the same race even though they are all from very different countries.  I was surprised to learn that Uruguay is 88 percent white, eight percent mestizo and four percent black according to the CIA World Factbook.  The indigenous population is virtually nonexistent.  I think that this is really interesting and means that the problems that other Latin American countries face with the discrimination of indigenous people are not a big problem in Uruguay.  This information will make me more hesitant to generalize about the people who make up all the different and unique countries in Latin America. 

Violence in Peru

A Maoist-inspired narco-terrorist group in Peru, called, “Shining Path,” has attacked convoys of civilians and soldiers traveling through Peru’s southeast province. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, the terrorist organization tried to take control of the government, killing some 70,000 people in the process. When reports of an ensuing government suppression of these narco-terrorist groups was recently released, violence between government soldiers and narco-terrorist groups simultaneously escalated, after a decade of near silence in the Peruvian Andes. Only fraction of their previous influence, the Shining Path is certainly not staging a comeback, but perhaps it would prefer that its relationship with area narcotics smugglers remains unmolested.
Click here to read the BBC article:

Haitian Bridge to be Rebuilt by US

After this summer's destructive floods in Haiti, the American Embassy has agreed to help rebuild an important bridge that was destroyed. Four tropical storms hit Haiti this summer, causing the collapse of many buildings, bridges, and homes. The Ennery bridge in the hard-hit northern coastal city of Gonaives is set to begin construction later this year. The United Nations has been there clearing away the muck, which has been causing some traffic in crossing the riverbed. The Haitian government and UN are also helping with the rebuilding, but have yet to announce the financial details.

Venezuela shuts down McDonalds

The Venezuelan government has ordered all McDonald's restaurants in the country closed for 48 hours for what it calls irregularities in the fast-food chain's financial books. President Hugo Chavez's government has regularly cracked down on U.S. companies. The order stands for Thursday through Saturday, affecting all 115 McDonald's restaurants nationwide. Authorities found "inconsistencies" in sales and purchases books as well as in taxes collected. President Hugo Chavezh as regularly cracked down on U.S. companies that have allegedly fallen behind on tax payments. Last year it shut down the subsidiary of Coca-Cola Co. for 48 hours for alleged bookkeeping irregularities. Chavez supporters often accuse U.S. companies of exploiting Venezuelan workers and have called for boycotts of American firms such as Coca-Cola, McDonald's and Nike.

I never know the animosity towards the US would go as far as cracking down on American companies in their country...

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

US potential Blocade in Bolivia

In response to the hasty dismissal of United States ambassadors in Bolivia, the United States has sent the Bolivian Ambassador home, and in addition, might decide to replace the trade tariffs that Bolivia has been exempt of since 1991 following negotiations between the two countries. This "blocade" could potentially force 20,000 Bolivians out of jobs and drastically reduce imports into Bolivia. However, Bolivian president Evo Morales says not to worry. Morales hopes that if the situation does arise where trade connections to the United States are ended, Bolivia can rely on its natural resources and the resources of the countries around it to keep it afloat. To read more click here

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Latin America and the 2008 Election

Many people are starting to believe that the 2008 Presidential election will have no effect, positive or negative, on Latin America, although the election is highly focused on foreign policy. Neither Obama or McCain have said anything substantial about Latin America in the election process and it seems apparent that they have no plans for anything large in the future. Both candidates are focused primarily on the Middle East. So what does this mean for future relations with Latin America?

yerba mate

Yerba mate is a popular beverage across Argentina and Uruguay and parts of Chile and Brazil. It can be drunk sweet or bitter or with coffee or juice, and is usually a social activity (much like hookah is in the Middle East). Normally, the mate (gourd in which it is served) is filled nearly to the brim with yerba (the tea leaves) and then soaked in hot water and passed around, each person emptying the gourd and passing it back to the server to refill it. It is commonly consumed with cookies or crackers.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Latino Vote

We've been talking lately about the tremendous potential Latinos have in the United States to impact the upcoming presidential elections. This week Colombian singer Shakira announced her endorsement of the Democratic presidential candidate, Barack Obama. In addition to her endorsement, Shakira stated, "I'd like to invite the Latino community to go out and vote, because they can make a huge difference. This country is incredibly important to me, as it is for the rest of the world, because the U.S. economy is crucial to other world economies. And world peace depends largely on the who is driving the politics of this country." But why Obama? "I support Barack Obama because I think he's the person who can truly represent what the U.S. is to other countries. I feel in my heart that he can restore peace and confidence in the U.S.," said Shakira.

On another note, we've been discussing the racial divide between Latinos and African Americans in the United States. What statement does Shakira's endorsement make in regards to this issue?


Friday, October 03, 2008

Mexicans sending less money home from US

A statement from the Banco de Mexico this past month said that Mexicans in the US sent 12.2% less money to family and friends in Mexico. The statement compared the statistic to that of last August. The $1.9 million decline is a direct result from the terrible state of the economy in the United States. Remittances have declined 4% already this year, so the recent staticstic is just following the trend. The state of the economy mirrors the recent increase in unemployment among the Mexican population. Read more about this trend in Mexico here

Puerto Rico Gains from U.S. Bailout Package

Included in the economic bailout package passed Friday by Congress was the renewal of a rum tax rebate to the U.S. Caribbean territories. Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands utilize the money to pay for public services and infrastructure. The rebate returns "all but 25 cents of the $13.50 in federal excise taxes levied per proof gallon of rum produced in the islands." It lapsed at the end of 2007. The bailout package recently passed by Congress lengthens it through 2009. Read more here..

food shortage in Haiti

When storms ravaged the Caribbean in August and September, Haiti was hit the hardest. Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, is especially vincible due to extensive deforestation and a dire need for infrastructure. Death tolls have recently doubled, from the government's original claim of 425 lost lives, to the recent toll of 800 deaths. 

Just months before the storm, riots were formed in Haiti due to a shortage of food. The cost of staple foods such as rice, beans, and flour have been raised 50% in the past year. Now, the storms have destroyed vital farm land, further contributing to the food crisis and the impossible food prices. 

Drug Crackdown in Mexico

The Mexican government recently began a crackdown on the drug trade, and since then, more than 40 percent of Mexicans said they feel less secure than they did before. Only a quarter of Mexicans that were polled said they felt safer since President Felipe Calderon sent over 20,000 troops to battle drug cartels across the nation. Just over a quarter say they only feel the same level of security. Since the police stepped up their efforts against drug trade nearly two years ago, violence has greatly increased.

Dominican Mets Player Commits Hit and Run

New York Mets pitcher, Ambiorix Burgos hit and killed two women while driving an SUV in the Dominican Republic. The two were struck Tuesday evening by a new Hummer registered to the Mets reliever in the Dominican Republic. Edwin Silvestre Sanchez, a relative of Burgos, told investigators that he was the driver at fault. Regarding the player's potential involvement in the hit-and-run accident that unfortunately killed two women in the Dominican Republic," the Mets said in a statement. "We take this matter very seriously and have begun an internal investigation to ascertain the facts. Our thoughts and sympathies are with the families of the victims. Burgos was also arrested last month in New York on assault and harassment charges after being accused of throwing his girlfriend to the ground, where he appeared in court on those charges but did not enter a plea.

Presidente Calderon of México, sees the legalization of minor drug use in México’s near future.

The proposal would allow authorities to focus all of their attention on dealers and cartels transporting and distributing large amounts of drugs, amounts, which greatly surpass what a lone individual could consume. This plan however, goes far beyond the use of simply marijuana; it extends to include the use of cocaine, heroin, opium, and methamphetamine. What will this mean for drug trafficking between the United States and México? Tighter borders have trapped much of the drug trafficking below the U.S./Mexican border. Will “drug tourists” soon be flooding over the Mexican border in droves? View the story here:

Personally, my favourite part of Buenos Aires is La Boca, the proclaimed artists' sector of Argentina's capital city. It is said that the buildings are painted the way they are because when the immigrants arrived in the 1800s they couldn't afford to buy paint at full price, and thus settled for anything they could get (ending up with all of the colors nobody had used).

Shown are a few examples of some of La Boca's many colorful streets:

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Amazing Livan Hernandez

A two-time All-Star, Hernández is considered to be a great defensive pitcher, having made just 11 errors in his career. He is described as a workhorse; he throws many pitches, pitches many innings, and makes every start he needs to in order to provide his team's bullpen much rest. Between 1998 and 2007, he never pitched fewer than 199 innings in any given season (in 1999 he threw "only" 199 2/3 innings). He led the National League in innings pitched in three consecutive seasons, 2003 through 2005, and led the league in complete games for the first two of those years. In 2005, he once threw 150 pitches in nine innings, although the game went into extra innings after he left. In 2004 and 2005, he led the major leagues with 3,927 and 4,009 pitches, respectively. Hernández also is a dangerous hitter, helping his own cause with the bat, and won the Silver Slugger award at the pitcher position in 2004.

Russia looking to have greater influence in Latin America

South American country, Bolivia, following suit with it's growing partner Venezuela, is set to buy arms from Russia. Russia's top diplomat in Bolivia said that Bolivia's plan to purchase 5 civil defense helicopters will only deepen the relationship between these two countries. Ambassador Gubalev and his country, Russia, want to extend their influence in Latin America including military spheres of influence. Russia is set to begin military exercises in the caribbean close to venezuela before the end of the year. Bolivia is looking to purchase the helicopters to help flood victims and perhaps even to fight in the drug war, which, has traditionally been done in partnership with the US. And since Bolivia kicked the United State ambassador out of their country, they are now looking for help elsewhere. To read more about this click here

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Un Día Festivo de Octubre

Happy October! I woke up to spider webs and ghosts sprawled out across my lobby this morning and found it only appropriate to write today about el Día de Los Muertos. Celebrated especially in Mexico, this holiday (a.k.a. Day of the Dead) honors family members who have passed away. It is the idea that on this day (October 31st), the souls of the dead come back and are with the families. To celebrate the occasion, there are many traditional foods that are prepared, including Pan de Muerto (Bread of the Dead). Here's a link with the recipe: Pan de Muerto