Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Chavez welcomes Russian Warship

On Tuesday, Russian warchips sailed into Venezualan port, la Guairia, and were welcomed with a 21 cannon solute by Venezuelan troops waiting for them on the dock. A destroyer, a nuclear powered cruiser and two support ships were the ships that completed the voyage, Russia's first visit to the Caribbean since the Cold war. This meeting is thought to be a further arms deal between the two countries as well as an oppurtunity for Russia to invest in the natural gas and oil resources abundantly found in Venezuela. However, due to falling oil prices, the pockets of both countries are hurting and little might be done in the way of seeing out Chavez's plans for a Russian funded gas pipeline throughout his country.
The United States is skeptical of the meeting between the two countries, but is not afraid that their meeting will have any real affect. Some think that it the Russians don't want to engage in anything too deep with Venezuela when they are beginning to renew their relationship with the United States with the new Administration. To read more, click here

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Flooding In Brazil

After severe flooding, a state of emergency has been declared in the state of Santa Catarina in Brazil. As of Sunday night, at least twenty people have been found dead, and many more have been forced from their homes. At least one million people have been affected by the floods. Many of these deaths are the result of landslides that destroy roads and homes. The federal government and nearby states have been helping, including sending supplies and rescue workers.

Chile Strike Ends with 10 Percent Raise

A strike by nearly a half million Chilean government workers ended Friday in anticipation of government approval of a 10 percent wage increase. Chile's Senate unanimously approved the measure Thursday and the Chamber of Deputies, Chile's lower house, was scheduled to vote on it Friday afternoon. Passage was widely expected.
Chile's minister of labor said he approves of the 10 percent increase. The increase would go into effect December 10 and affect 450,000 government workers, from the president on down. The workers, who had been on strike since Monday, had been asking for a 14.5 percent increase. The government had initially offered a 6.5 percent increase, then upped the offer to 9.5 percent on Wednesday. Officials then increased the offer to 10 percent after the lower house rejected the 9.5 percent adjustment on Thursday. Striking workers had taken to the streets this week, staging large protests in most of the nation's major cities. Because of the strike, garbage piled up on streets, 18 hospitals were paralyzed and 3,000 surgeries were postponed. Even weddings and autopsies were not performed.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Volcanic eruption kills 4 in Colombia

A volcanic eruption in southwestern Colombia has caused the death of at least four people from landslides triggered by the eruption. Governor Guillermo Alberto Gonzalez of Cauca state says the dead were found Saturday by rescuers about 177 miles away from Bogota. The Nevado del Huila volcano erupted late Thursday and loosed avalanches of mud and ash that injured nine and killed four. Alberto tells Caracol Radio that rescuers evacuated residents by helicopter on Saturday.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Drugs in Mexico

In Mexico drug trafficking is a huge problem.  Over 90 percent of Colombian cocaine passes through Mexico on its way to the US.  It has taken a toll on Mexican children that I had never considered.  In some Mexican cities decapitated bodies, severed heads and corpses can be found in streets.  This brutal violence is becoming a part of daily life and the children are being desensitized to the violence.  Rival drug cartels post videos of murders they commit on YouTube.  Popular songs called narcocorridos list the names of famous drug cartel leaders and sometimes make them out to be heroes. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Meriendas Deliciosas

As our trip to La Unión quickly approaches, I've been thinking about the Latin American foods I had during my time in Costa Rica. The first thing that came to mind was a cookie very popular in the area called a Chiky. The Chiky is a plain square biscut whose one side is dipped in chocolate. It also comes dipped in vanilla and strawberry.
Though initially marketed towards children, Chikys have become so successful and popular that the manufacturing company has expanded its product line to include other treats such as the Yipy (also highly recommended), the Chocolina, and Chiky Blak, similar to the original Chiky, but with a chocolate biscut dipped in chocolate.
Hopefully we'll be able to get our hands on some this weekend!

Source: http://www.pozuelo.com/galletas_con_cobertura.htm

Hugo Chavez edging further and further away from Democracy

In the state elesctions this coming week in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez threatens to cut of supplies and funds to states that vote against his chosen leaders. Manuel Rosales, a frontrunner for the governor position of the state of Zulia in which Venezuala's second largest city, Maracaibo, is located, is one of the anti-Chavez candidates that has a very good chance of getting elected. Says Rosales of Chavez, "he wants to wipe out and criminalize Venezuela's opposition, or those who don't think like he does, to attempt a constitutional reform allowing him to remain in power." Chavez has also threatened to send tanks into the streets that elect oponents of Chavez as governor.

Chavez also threatened TV stations that show early results of the elections adding futher shadiness to this not-so-democratic process...As it stands now, Chavez's popularity rating is droppping because of currency inflation, almost regular blackouts, coffee shortage, and wide spread crime. Meanwhile death threats to opponents of Chavez have become normal, hopefully it won't scare his opponents, but, we'll see.

To read more, click here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Defender of the Drug Lords

This New York Times article talks about Silvia Raquenel Villanueva a Mexican lawyer.  Her clients consist mainly of powerful drug lords.  Her work is very unpopular and people have attempted to kill her four times.  It is interesting to see her try to justify her clients.  Her motives are not simply that everyone deserves a fair trial.  She has received some sizable monetary rewards for her work.  To read the article click here.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Three years ago, President Hugo Chavez discharged missionaries from the Venezuelan Amazon region where the Yanomami tribe dwells. Resentment is growing in the tribe due to what they consider the neglect that led to the deaths of 50 indigenous people in the Yanomami community. These deaths have been caused mostly by a lack of food, medicine, and access to medical facilities. Chavez responds to this resentment by claiming to have raised overall spending on social welfare programs for the indigenous community. Yanomami leader, 49 year old Ramón González, is quoted saying that this claim is merely rhetoric and not at all reality.

Indigenous healthcare has been an issue lately in Venezuela after a mysterious disease killed 38 Warao Indians in August. González says that indigenous lives are gravely underrated in the politics of Venezuela. "The boats, the planes, the money, it's all for the criollos", or the nonnative Venezuelans.

There are 26,000 Yanomamis in the Amazon rain forest, between Venezuela and Brazil, and they are semi-nomadic, subsisting on crops such as maniocs and bananas. These communities are not at all like the indigenous tribes from anthropology books. They can be seen in Puerto Ayacucho wearing modern-day attire and using cellphones. They are, however, extremely susceptible to many diseases for which they still have weak defenses, such as some respiratory diseases and drug-resistant strains of malaria.

Yanomamis say that while the Venezuelan governments put pictures of the tribes all over tourist brochures and in airport lobbies, the tribes are allowed no political positions. This shows the Yanomami community their governments complete lack of respect for the rights and individualism of the indigenous society.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

a little girl with a lot to say

Mafalda has long been hailed in Argentina not only as a good comic but as excellent political commentary. She and her friends have plenty to say on the political situation of the latter half of the 20th century; why not check it out?

El Mundo de Mafalda

Friday, November 14, 2008

Hundreds Could Be Unknowingly Spreading HIV in Chile

In Chile, at least hundreds have not been told of their positive HIV tests. Health Minister Alvaro Erazo told lawmakers Thursday that public health services did not tell 512 people that they tested positive for HIV. Private sector services did not tell an estimated 1,700 people. Chile is beginning a campaign to inform the patients who Chile's public health service said provided incorrect addresses.

Read more here.

512 Chileans tested HIV+ but likely never found out

Insufficient efforts were made to notify 512 Chilean hospital patients that they tested positive for HIV. Approximately half the patients may have been notified, but receipt of the notification was never verified. The previous health minister Maria Soledad Barria resigned after it was discovered that some patients were never told that they had tested HIV+. The atrocious error may lend partial blame to false biographic information provided by the patients, which would inhibit contact being made between the hospital and the patient.


Novalima singer
The Peruvian band Novalima performed on Monday to kick off Newsnight's "Inside Latin America week." 
The group also published their own article to explain the origins of their music, and to eliminate some of the misconceptions surrounding the Afro-Peruvian musical tradition.

Mexico City plans to give Viagra to older men

Men 70 and older are being given free Viagra and other impotence drugs from Mexico City. Mayor Marcelo Ebrard says the city decided to put this plan into action because sexuality "has a lot to do with quality of life and happiness." Starting December 1 the government will start handing out doses of one or two Viagra, Levitra, or Cialis from three centers that specialize in sexual health for the elderly. The City Health Secretary Armando Ahued says there is an estimated 112,000 men over 70 years old living the Federal District who will be able to receive these free drugs.

Abortion law vetoed by Uruguayan president

Uruguay has been prevented from having South America's most liberal abortion law by a presidential veto. Women's rights groups are outraged and are planning protests, saying that President Tabare Vasquez is "authoritarian," while religious groups are supporting him. First-trimester abortions were legalized by Uruguay's Congress despite threats from national bishops to automatically excommunicate any lawmaker approving the measure. However this law was stopped short by Vasquez's veto on Friday, calling the law unconstitutional. He also says he doesn't agree with abortion "philosophically or biologically." Now the measure will be sent back to Congress because of the veto, but most likely will die as lawmakers lack enough votes to override the veto.

Landmines in Columbia

Everyday about three people are killed by landmines in Columbia. Columbia has the most landmines of any country in the southern hemisphere, an estimated 150,000. These mines terrorize farmers, who sometimes move their families into cities to get away from the threat these mines pose. Despite the signing of the Ottawa treaty, prohibiting the use of these fatal weapons, landmines remain a popular form of land protection for guerrillas and drug traffickers alike. However, natural forces, such as hurricanes, can relocate these dangerous devices, putting innocent citizens in grave danger. One of the most horrifying aspects of this issue is the statistic that over 40% of the victims are civilians, and over 20% of these victims are children, under the age of 14.
Imagen del UNICEF
This picture shows a group of young Columbian children at an informational session on how to protect themselves from landmines.

Former El Salvador Leader in War Crimes Case

Human rights groups from the United States and Spain filed a lawsuit in a Spanish court Thursday, charging El Salvador's former president, Alfredo Cristiani, with covering up crimes against humanity. The case involves the killing of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her teenaged daughter nearly two decades ago during El Salvador's civil war. Fourteen former Salvadoran military officers are accused of war crimes, murders and state terrorism in connection with the massacre dating back to November 1989. It has become one of the most notorious episodes of El Salvador's 12-year civil war that pitted leftist guerrillas against the U.S.-backed conservative government. Some 75,000 people died. The case filed by two human rights groups in Madrid argues that justice was never done in El Salvador. Two military officers were convicted of murder in 1991 in the deaths of the Jesuits, but were pardoned in 1993 under an amnesty law approved by the national assembly.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ecuadoran Chocolate

Cacao bean farmers in Ecuador have always sold their beans to a middle man who then sells them to companies that make chocolate, which means the farmers are paid a tiny amount for something that is so expensive in the end. A large group of indigenous farmers decided to band together with the help of a woman from Kansas to cut out the middle man. Step by step they became more in charge of their own production and now make their own organic chocolate which is sold for as much as $5.99 in Whole Foods. It's pretty interesting.. check it out.

Tiger in Mexico City

Earlier this week, a tiger's cage at Mexico City's zoo was left unlocked and the animal escaped. Once out, it fatally attacked its caregiver. Officials searched the 740-acre property for the animal before capturing and killing it.
Shockingly, events like this is not unheard of in Mexico.
Last week, several circus tigers escaped and made their way into a private home in western Mexico.
In September, an elephant in a Mexico City circus escaped and made its way onto the public highway system, leading to its death of a collision with a bus.
In August, a lion escaped from a zoo and attacked numerous dogs, a pig, and a woman and child riding a donkey in southern Mexico.
Hopefully this situation will be taken under control before another tragedy has the opportunity to occur.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081111/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/lt_mexico_tiger_killing;_ylt=AsPMwcYh44aG3S3kOYLSTzS3IxIF

ATLAS Fiesta at Tulane

This past Sunday, Tulane's ATLAS (Association of Tulane Latin American Students) put on a fiesta in the LBC. There was Brazilian and Mexican food from the Brazilian Market, Felipe's Taqueria, and the kitchen of some of the club's members. One of my personal favorites was the tres leches cake. Tres leches cake is popular throughout all of Latin America and may have originated in Nicaragua. The cake itself is first baked and then soaked in condensed milk, evaporated milk, and either whole milk or heavy cream. It is absolutely delicious! Just looking at the picture makes me hungry!

Source: http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/Cakes/TresLechesCake.htm

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mexican Physicists

Physicists from the National Autonomous University of Mexico recently discovered how to synthetically create diamonds out of tequila. These diamonds are not meant for show or jewelry. They are a microscopic film that can only be viewed through a microscope. The diamonds can be made from even the cheapest of tequilas, and the outcome is still useful. To create the synthetic diamonds, the tequila is heated through a special process which results in carbon atoms in the shape of a thin diamond film.

Recent Celebrity Hotspot in Uruguay

On the southern coast of Uruguay rests a small village called Jose Ignacio. This town is an up and coming location for wealthy travelers. Once a quiet fishing outpost, Jose Ignacio was a place where only the occasional celebrity would visit. Now, this charming area has become a chic place to be. The atmosphere is almost quaint, with dirt roads, small boutiques, and bed and breakfasts. It has become increasingly popular for celebrities and other travelers who appreciate the European influenced mood of the town, and the miles of gorgeous beaches.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Kidnapping in Mexico on November 11

Today, in Culiacan Mexico, 27 farm workers were kidnapped by many armed men in military looking uniforms. The police searched today for the men but the victims have not been found. The motives of the assailants are yet to be determined. Police corruption, however, is widespread in this area of Mexico.

Brazil and the fertile crescent of soccer

Why are there 0ver 1000 stars from Brazil playing in European Leagues (which is a bigger contribution of soccer players from a country not in Europe)? Because from a young age, everyone plays soccer. The phrase they use in brazil, joga bonito, this is what the coaches tell the children... This is why Brazilian soccer players have such a grace and elegance to to their play and this is why Brazil is a powerhouse for soccer. The one thing that Brazilian soccer players lack, that players from other countries have is structure. Brazilians play soccer sometimes to make enough money to feed themselves, hoping that one day they will become pro and play in Europe where they will never have to worry about money again. Soccer is a way of life donw there, not just a sport, and because of it, Brazilian socccer players are one of a kind. To read more, click here

Tensions Grow Between Dominicans and Haitians

There has virtually always been tension between Dominicans and Haitians living in the Dominican Republic. The Dominicans have horrible racism towards the Haitians wh0 have left their country to seek better lives in the DR. Recently a Haitian village near the border was attacked by Dominicans seeking revenge for a crime that was supposedly committed by a Haitian. Haitians have a typically darker skin tone than Dominicans and the older generations of Haitians speak French and Creole. However for the majority of Haitians living in the Dominican Republic, they are third or fourth generation, meaning they look less Haitian and generally speak Spanish and some Creole to their elders. It is harder to live in the DR if you are Haitian because of the racism that is so deeply rooted in the society. For this reason Haitians in the DR generally live in extreme poverty.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Cubans Embrace for Paloma's Aftermath

Thousands of Cubans returned to homes demolished by Hurricane Paloma even as the once-powerful storm dissipated off the coast Monday. The hurricane washed out fishing villages, ripped the roofs off factories, and ravaged roads. However, no one was reported dead. Coastal Santa Cruz del Sur took a direct hit when Paloma struck as a Category 4 hurricane Saturday night. Ten-foot-high waves carried away wooden houses, leaving a tangled mess of smashed furniture and strewn belongings bobbing in the surf. The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, said that the remains of Paloma were hanging off the north coast of central Cuba on Monday and that the storm was not expected to regain force thankfully. Reports state that in Camaguey province, nearly 200,000 people had been evacuated to shelters or waited out the storm with neighbors or relatives. All but 59,000 had headed home by Monday morning. For some, however, there wasn't much to which to return. Cuba already is struggling to recover from major Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. They caused about $9.4 billion in damage, smashing nearly half a million homes and destroying almost a third of the island's crops. Outside Santa Cruz del Sur, some homes were submerged up to their flimsy metal roofs. Banana crops and other farmland was washed out, though there were no official estimates on the loss to the island's dwindling food stocks.Cuba balked at U.S. offers of aid after Gustav and Ike, and Vice President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura said the country would take the same position if Washington pledged more help after Paloma. "Our problem is the blockade," said Machado Ventura, referring to the U.S. trade embargo, which has been in place since 1962.


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Ecuador and Peru Relations Improving

After a long history of conflict, the border issues between Ecuador and Peru are finally improving. At the close of the Cenepa War in 1995, the two countries signed a peace agreement that has largely been ignored and not acted upon. Now, finally, the two countries are taking actions to improve their shared border territory.

Changes are being made. Roads and infrastructure are being developed to improve the life of the populations living there. Trade has increased from $300 million/year to $1.9 billion between the two nations. And further, taking a cue from the European Union, citizens of either country now do not need a passport or a visa to cross the borders. To read the full story, click here.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Barack Obama's presidency will assuredly change, maybe even resolve, longstanding hostile relations between American and Cuban. Obama's presidency could reform the way that the Castro brothers maintain control over the nation of Cuba by loosening restrictions on the island, as communist leaders have long used the embargo to justify the repression of differing opinions.

"They'd have to throw out the whole script about American imperialism", with Obama's campaign promise to ease restrictions on Cuba. A new Democrat-dominated Congress could further exacerbate the Castro brothers' power.

The government's policy towards Cuba, which has been unchanged since 1962 when the embargo was first imposed, is likely to decrease, allowing the Castros to perhaps open up. This in turn would allow Cuban-Americans to visit Cuba more frequently and send money to family and friends residing still in Cuba.

In addition, journalist Miriam Leiva believes that allowing more Americans to visit Cuba on occasion will help to spread and promote democratic ideals, in a time when "urgent change is required". 


For more information, refer to this article:


Friday, November 07, 2008

Cuba and the US Presidential Election

A video segment from The New York Times discusses how Cubans feel about the 2008 election in the United States. Cubans are taught from birth that it does not matter which political party is in charge in the US because both parties are capitalists. They also learn that the US is a very racist country. Some of the Cubans interviewed were astonished that an African-American might be elected president. They wanted Senator Barack Obama to win because they think he will be more likely to address their needs and improve foreign relations. To see the video scroll down.

US Anti-drug Operation Suspended In Bolivia

Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, suspended US sponsored anti-drug operations last Saturday, a report in the New York Times says. Morales says his decision to do so was based on suspicion of the DEA being involved in "criminal groups" that are trying to undermine the Bolivian government. The US has now added Bolivia to its anti-narcotics blacklist as a result of this move. Though Morales claims to have eradicated more than the necessary amount of illegal coca crops being grown in Bolivia, he rejected a request made by the US earlier this year asking to fly an anti-drug plane over the country. It will be interesting to see the effects that President-elect Obama has on our relations with Morales. Read more here

The First of His Kind

A Spanish-language commercial for Gatorade pays tribute to Rolando Cantu, the first player from  a Mexican university to play in the National Football League. Cantu entered the NFL in 2005 after making the roster of the Arizona Cardinals. The Ad appears on the Telemundo and Telefutura America networks.

In the Commercial, Cantu tells his story as he lines up for action on the Cadinals' practice field. As he prepares for the snap, the offensive guard recounts how people told him he wasn't big enough or good enough to play in the NFL and how the game was too complicated for him to succeed. As the ball is snapped, those assumptions, along with a linebacker, are squashed as Cantu dominates the play.

Fidel Castro Praises Obama

While Fidel Castro did not endorse Senator Barack Obama as President, or Senator John McCain for that matter, he did praise Obama as "smarter and less warlike" than McCain on Tuesday. Castro said he waited until election day to give his opinion on the candidates so that "no one had time to say I wrote something that could be utilized by the candidates in their campaigns." He continued to say "Without a doubt, Obama is more intelligent, cultured and levelheaded than his Republican adversary" and called McCain "old, bellicose, uncultured, of little intelligence and not healthy." Even so, the former Cuban president has still expressed skepticism about both candidates.

Kidnappers Murder Mexican Child

Kidnappers snatched a 5-year-old boy from a street market, and murdered him in Mexico City. The method was an injection of acid into his heart.

Javier Morena, the boy, was the eldest son of a poor family who sold fruit at a market in the neighborhood of Iztapalapa. This is seen as a confirmation that kidnappings for ransom beset the working class as well as the upper, rich class.

Read more here...

Obama and Latin America

The United States’ influence in Latin America seems to be waning, but relations south of the border under the new administration of President-elect Barack Obama, may continue to stagnate. Obama supports lifting travel restrictions to Cuba for family members and permitting remittances to be sent to the embargoed country, ‘right away,’ but that will be all of the immediate attention purposefully paid to Latin America under the new presidency. While campaigning during the primary, Obama spoke his plan to allow illegal immigrants to obtain legal status; we’ll see if he remembers what he said. Oil reserves in the Gulf of Mexico, much larger than previously imagined, may force the president to deal with Cuba sooner rather than later. Of paramount importance: two wars, one in Afghanistan and another in Iraq, being wagged behind an economic crisis, will employ the majority of President-elect Barack Obama’s first years in the White House.
Read the BBC article outlining the issue: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/us_elections_2008/7710855.stm

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Chavez favors Obama as US president

Venezuelan "president" Hugo Chavez said that he would likely resume talks with the United States if Obama was elected president. Chavez, who ordered the US ambassador to Venezuela out of the country in February, refuses to resume talks until President Bush leaves the White House. I suppose Chavez thinks that Obama, being a democrat, will sympathize with the way that he runs his country, but I don't think that's the case. Spokesman for Obama said that "Hugo Chavez does not govern democratically and relations between our countries will not improve unless Venezuela respects democracy and the rule of law. That is the clear message that Barack Obama will deliver to Venezuela as president." Hopefully Obama sticks with that message... To read more, click here.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Latin American Leaders Urge U.S. to End Cuba Embargo

Latin American leaders are urging the United States to repeal its 47-year-old trade embargo against Cuba. Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega embraces Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva at a summit this week in El Salvador. The leaders say that the unilateral embargo is unacceptable and harms the Cuban people. The move came after the UN General Assembly asked the U.S. for the 17th year in a row to lift the embargo. The U.S. has no diplomatic relations with Cuba and lists the country as a state sponsor of terror. The embargo, imposed in 1962, has been tightened the past eight years.


Saturday, November 01, 2008

Dia de los Muertos

Day of the Dead in downtown New Orleans. Right outside the famed Cabildo, next to St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square in the French Quarter of New Orleans, a brave Tulane student dances with the Mariachi as part of the day's Dia de los Muertos festivities. In addition to Mariachi music, there is a fabulous Day of the Dead altar on display on the 2nd floor of the Cabildo. You can see the display tomorrow from 2-4pm -- and then get some Cafe du Monde beignets and cafe-au-lait afterwards. Here's a shot of the altar at the Cabildo:

The weather is absolutely glorious in the Big Easy these days. Get out to the "Quarters" and check it out!


Folklore is a little-known traditional dance of Argentina that can be smooth (sambas) or quick and passionate. Check it out: