Friday, December 04, 2009

Honduras...

It seems like things aren't getting better for Zelaya. He is still stuck in the Brazilian embassy and has been told again that if he leaves the building he will be arrested. The congress voted 114 to 14 a few days ago against restoring Zelaya to presidency.

On a slightly more personal note, we have a family friend who works at the Carter Center in Atlanta. Before last weekend's elections, she went to Honduras to visit Zelaya and Micheletti and determine if the Carter Center was going to send officials to observe the election - an act that would legitimize the election. She said that the brazilian embassy was surrounded by soldiers in facemasks and that inside there was a handful of international journalists staying with Zelayas, one of them from Democracy Now! In the end, they decided not to observe the elections.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Exit Polls: Ex-rebel is Uruguay's next president

Polls are just recently beginning to show that Jose Mujica will win the presidency. I have provided a link covering the election results.
The article "Peru Apologises for Abuse of African-origin citizens" discusses the recent public apology that Peru has made to the African population for years of abuse and racism. They are not the first Latin American country to make such an apology. Yet, Peru's apology was criticized for not making any direct reference to slavery, and because it never spelled out any affirmative action to end the racism.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

ETA suspects arrested in Madrid

In Madrid, Spain, 34 young people were arrested after being suspected of being a part of the outlawed Basque separatist group ETA. ETA, an acronym that means "Basque Homeland and Liberty," is classified as a terrorist group in the U.S., Spain, and the European Union. The suspects will be going under trial in the Madrid court within the next few days.

http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/europe/11/24/spain.basque.arrests/index.html

Monday, November 23, 2009

Chavez Putting in his Two Cents once again

Chavez is at it again. I always find his comments interesting after our discussion about him a few weeks ago. In this article he comes out in support for the international terrorist Ilich Ramirez Sanchez. According to the article he also supports notorious figures such as Idi Amin and Mougabe.

Eco-Tourism in the Dominican



This NY Times article discusses the possibility of developing the town of Miches in the Dominican Republic into a prosperous tourist venture. I thought this idea was ambitious and it fits well with our topic for this week.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/18/business/18labor.html?_r=1

Check out this article in the New York Times. It's about a group of students who allied themselves with workers from Honduras who had lost thier jobs in a Russel factory when Russel closed the factory overnight. These US students found a way to put pressure on the consumers of Russel goods, like the NBA and their universities. When over a hundred buyers threatened to cut their contracts with Russel, Russel agreed to reopen the factory and rehire all the old workers.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Closure for Some Family Members of the "Disappeared"

http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/11/17/argentina.dirty.war/index.html
This article tells about the efforts of anthropologists to find and identify the bodies of people who had been kidnapped and executed in Argentina during the dirty war. A trial will be held on December 15th for former officers suspected in these executions. Only recently, immunity laws for those officers were overturned. This reminds me a little of our Guantanamo Bay situation and makes me think we too will one day reconsider investigations into what really occurred in Cuba.

Students Clash with Police in Colombia

At the end of October, the United States and Colombia signed an agreement allowing the US troops to be stationed at 7 military bases in Colombia. This agreement expands US involvement in the war on drug trafficking in Colombia, and shows the influence of the US in the region. This agreement has been met with harsh criticism in Latin America, and the video below shows students fighting with riot police in protest.

http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2009/11/20/natpkg.colombia.student.protest.cnn

A Peruvian Air Force officer accused of spying for Chile

This James Bond like scenario is very surprising noting that Chilean-Peruvian relations are not overly strained enough to even consider spys exisiting among the ranks of either country's military. This article explains how a man, name not released, who was an officer in Peru's airforce who has been accused of spying even after Chile, "does not spy."

Peruvian Police: gang killed individuals for their fat

There are some sick people in this world. I'm glad I visited Peru before hearing about this incident.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34057001/ns/world_news-americas/
After reading about it, I looked up the Itaipu Dam's website to see what it looks like.
View of the Itaipu Dam from the air: http://www.itaipu.gov.br/index.php?q=en/energia

The End of the Mexican Recession

According to this article, Mexico will be pulling out of the recession by 2010. The article says that not only did the global recession and lower oil prices hurt the economy, but also, the swine flu outbreak was an added complication for the country.

http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2009/11/20/general-lt-mexico-economy_7145480.html

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Missed Gitmo Deadline

After planning that the U.S. detention camp in Guantanamo Bay would be shut down by January, President Obama has confirmed that this deadline will be met.
I have provided the news article which details the various problems surrounding the closing- the main one being that other nations will not accept the prisoners.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New York Times article from Saturday about local and global issues reducing turtle populations on Costa Rica beaches--bad for both the environment and tourism: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/14/science/earth/14turtles.html

Monday, November 16, 2009

El Salvador Remembers Massacre


This series of pictures from BBC News shows how El Salvador's citizens are remembering and memorializing the 20th anniversary of the Jesuit Massacre in 1989. Government troops murdered six prominent priests.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Tango

With our more in-depth look into the darker side of Argentine history, I thought it might be nice to look into a lighter side of their culture. The tango is one of my favorite dances even if I don't know it very well. 

http://www.centralhome.com/ballroomcountry/tango.htm

Here is a short history of the dance.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXhQNRsH3uc&feature=related

And here is a very interesting video of two Argentine performers.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2X1F6BgYEA&feature=related

Here is an intersting video about Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo

Amazon Headshrinkers

National Geographic is doing a special on Amazon "Headshrinkers" for Expedition Week. The Shuar people of the Amazon used a process to shrink the heads of their dead enemies to take vengeance. They show how the process may look in this video, but it is pretty gross. After the headshrinking ritual, the head is a fourth of its original size.

http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/series/expedition-week/4380/Overview#tab-Videos/07288_00

Brazil Student's Short Dress

I was looking on CNN.com, and this video/article definitely popped out at me. I found it amusing, yet shocking at the same time. Living in America and especially going to a laid-back school like Tulane, this story shocked me. A girl at a Brazilian university was banned after wearing a short dress to school. I wouldn't expect this from Brazil of all places, but its Catholic heritage and traditions are still surprisingly strong.

http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/11/10/brazil.short.dress/index.html

Friday, November 13, 2009

Guantanamo by the Numbers

Here's a look at numbers for detainees past and present at the detention center that opened in 2002 at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba:

• Currently held at Guantanamo: 215.

• Released or transferred out of Guantanamo: About 565.

• Transferred to the United States so far: One, Ahmed Ghailani, who is awaiting trial in New York.

• Convicted by military commissions at Guantanamo: Three, including two who have completed their sentences, with one now free in Australia and another in Yemen.

• Cases considered viable for prosecution in federal courts or by military commissions: About 65.

• Cleared for release by a government task force as of late September: 78.

____

Source: AP archives.

Welfare

I thought it would be a good idea to find the definition of welfare since it will be our new theme. http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/50282592?query_type=word&queryword=welfare&first=1&max_to_show=10&sort_type=alpha&result_place=2&search_id=hwOa-TgYlJ6-13556&hilite=50282592
I think this will be a very interesting unit because Latin America has often changed its idea of welfare and whose welfare has been important. They have constantly seeked new ways to attain welfare for both individuals, the community, and the nation. This can be seen in part of the original intent of the conquerors who thought religion would help the indigens' welfare and the various social reforms that have occurred in the region.

Dia De Los Muertos (AND ALIVE!)

This is quite the humorous article. On Dia de los Muertos, a man in Southern Brazil walked into his own funeral. People had incorrectly ID'd the victim of a car crash a day earlier as Admir Goncalves, who found out about the funeral and showed up while his family members were mourning.

"The sight of Ademir Jorge Goncalves alive shocked relatives, some of whom tried to jump out of the windows of the funeral home"

Check it out here

Brazil blackout

image credit Mauricio Lima/AFP/Getty Images

You might have heard about Tuesday's blackout in Brazil. 60 million people lost power and the government blamed it on a storm. I bet we'll hear more about this because it was so massive. LA Times article

Mexican Drug Lord Makes Forbe's Most Powerful People edition

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was named Forbes 41st most powerful person in the world which puts him ahead of Chavez and Sarkozy in importance while Mexico's own president, Felipe Calderon, doesn't even make the list. I think this could possibly be one of the strongest statements made yet about the power of the drug cartels in Mexico

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33896614/ns/world_news-americas/

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Chavez Putting in his Two Cents

In class we had discussed Chavez's dominant and aggressive attitude especially towards the U.S. 
He's had a lot to say about the U.S. military base in Columbia. He accuses the U.S. of trying to attack his government with the base. Could there be truth to his accusations? 

Ida's Effects in El Salvador



Since we in New Orleans have been predicted to feel the effects of Hurricane Ida, I thought I should share this New York Times article on the hurricane's effects in El Salvador. Although Ida itself did not inflict much damage, a storm associated with the larger hurricane has killed at least 140 El Salvadorians due to mudslides from excessive rain.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Current Interaction of Religion, Military, and Government in Paraguay

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8347424.stm
The current situation in Paraguay seems very relevant to our last disucussion, considering the interaction between all three. The current President Lugo used to be a Catholic priest, showing the support for the Church being involved in their government. Then, the military involvement remains obvious as Lugo felt the need to fire many military leaders, fearing a coup against him. The situation resonnates Latin America's instability that becomes even more prevalent with the fear of instability. Lugo could just be causing more conflict by firing these officers. I think Roosevelt's quote during the Depression may have some revelance: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." In some ways, Latin America is so plagued by its history of instability that the region cannot stop being instable.

Venezuela and Colombia in Conflict

Since we talked about Venezuela, I figured it might be a nice idea to look more into the country, and I found an article that provided a few facts about the ongoing disputes between Venezuela and Colombia.

http://www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSN06374061

Brazilian Indians Find Survivors of Plane Crash

This article from CNN reminded me of At Play in the Fields of the Lord.


http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/10/31/brazil.plane.crash/index.html

Former Panamanian Leader Dies

Manuel Solis, who served briefly as president during Manuel Noriega's military regime, died Friday. He was 91.

Solis died at his home from respiratory failure, said Mitchell Doens, the secretary general of the Democratic Revolutionary Party to which Solis belonged.

Solis served as education minister during the military regime dominated by Noriega and then was named acting president in February 1988 after President Eric Arturo Del Valle was fired. He ruled until Sept. 1, 1989.

Doens said Solis fought for Panama's sovereignty and led the movement in the 1940s against U.S. military presence in the Central American country, where the U.S. built and ran the Panama Canal for generations.

His brief term as president ended with the U.S. invasion that ousted Noriega.

Solis went on to serve as education minister from 2004-2009 in Martin Torrijos' administration.

He is survived by his wife and three children.-AP

Honduran "President" Won't Leave

In this article it talks about how the new Honduran "president" Roberto Michelleti has rewritten laws and garnered more support to make his coup permanent by letting the former democratically elescted president, Manuel Zalaya, finish his term. Also, in the article it talks about the role that The School of the Americas played in the coup, and how essentially the United States was responible for teaching these leaders their violent ways. Also in a direct connection to last week's reading, the Catholic Church SUPPORTED the coup. You can check out the article here.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Latin Grammys are tonight. Too bad I only just found out about it and it's almost over.
http://www.latingrammy.com/

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Latino Music at Voodoofest

Although I made sure to see many of the big musical acts during Voodoofest, I also made a conscious effort to watch some of the smaller, local, lesser-known bands that were playing that weekend. One of those bands was Mas Mamones, a New Orleans-based band that plays Afro-Cuban music that apparently was just beginning to play together again after breaking up 10 years ago. I personally think live jazz is some of the best music out there and I was pretty impressed with this band. Unfortunately, I can't post a link because the band doesn't have a website so y'all will just have to take my word for it that they play good music.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Pressure of Baseball in Latin America


I love baseball and since the World Series is presently unfolding, I thought this article touching on the issue of steroid abuse in Latin America, specifically the Dominican Republic, would be especially pertinent. Somewhere between 25% and 30% of Major League Baseball players are Latino or Hispanic. The pressure put on these young boys to break into and then succeed in the MLB is incredible.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Long Island Latino International Film Festival

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/01/nyregion/01filmli.html

25 films in three days. I want to go.

I also liked the "universal appeal" comment at the end, which I thought was also sticking up for foreign films in general.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Honduran crisis over?

An agreement has been made to allow the Honduran Congress to vote whether or not to reenstate President Zelaya to office.

http://www.democracynow.org/2009/10/30/headlines#1

Friday, October 30, 2009

Quinceañeras in America

In America we love lavish celebrations. In fact, there is an entire TV show dedicated to spoiled kid's 16th birthday party's. In Mexico, however, the lavish parties thrown for 15 year old females are more than just a party. They are a tradition and a right of passage into adulthood. I personally think of them in the same way as a BatMitzvah is for a coming of age Jewish female. You can check out the article here. Also, notice their growing popularity in America. In my hometown mall there is actually a whole store devoted to Quinceañera dresses.

Day of the Dead

I found an article from the Tulane New Wave on the celebration of the Day of the Dead in New Orleans. There is also a video in which a PhD candidate at Tulane discusses the characteristics of the festival and the role of Mestizaje in its development.
http://tulane.edu/news/newwave/103009_day_of_dead.cfm

Argintina and Same-Sex Marriage

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091029/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/lt_argentina_gay_marriage

According to this article, Argentina may become the first country in Latin America to allow same-sex marriage.  I thought this was interesting considering the debate going on in the US as well.

Combatting Drug Gangs in Colombia

I watched these two videos about cocaine production and transport.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8333206.stm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7916211.stm
I find all the ways drug gangs cover up their tracks very interesting. The war on drugs really is such a never-ending battle because there are always new ways to cover up the trade. The technology put into the drug coffin is truly impressive. I cannot imagine being in that submarine thing for two weeks!

Venezuela captures Colombian spies

Since the readings this week used Hugo Chavez as an example, I thought this current event would be an interesting tie-in. According to the article, Venezuela has captured a pair of Colombian spies, and Hugo Chavez is accusing the U.S. of backing efforts to destabilize his government.

http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/10/28/venezuela.colombia.spies/index.html

Pact-signing in Honduras

Seeing as our class is currently discussing military coups throughout Latin American history, I thought it would be appropriate to post an article concerning a present-day coup in Honduras:


(AP)Representatives of ousted President Manuel Zelaya finally reached an agreement with the interim government that could help end the monthslong dispute over Honduras' June 28 coup, and possibly pave the way for Zelaya's reinstatement. The Organization of American States announced the deal late Thursday but did not release a text of the accord, in which Zelaya appears to have agreed to throw his fate into the hands of a congress that has largely supported interim President Roberto Micheletti. "We are optimistic because Hondurans can reach agreements that are fulfilled," Zelaya told Radio Globo, an opposition station. "This signifies my return to power in the coming days, and peace for Honduras." The agreement, if it holds, could represent a much-needed foreign policy victory for the United States, which dispatched a senior team of diplomats to coax both sides back to the table. Speaking to reporters in Islamabad, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called it "an historic agreement," noting "this is a big step forward for the inter-American system." The agreement appears to soften Micheletti's previous stance that the Supreme Court — which has already rejected Zelaya's reinstatement — decide the issue. Instead, the high court would make a recommendation, but the final decision would apparently be left to a vote in Congress. The agreement would create a power-sharing government and bind both sides to recognize the Nov. 29 presidential elections. The international community had threatened to not recognize the vote if Zelaya is not reinstated, but on Thursday, OAS Political Affairs Secretary Victor Rico told reporters that "the United States and the OAS will accompany Honduras in the elections" as a result of the accord. Clinton said the elections would go forward and the U.S. will work with Honduras to ensure the election is legitimate. The deal was greeted by all sides as a victory in the long-running dispute that has polarized the country and mired it in diplomatic isolation. "Tonight I am pleased to announce that ... I authorized my negotiating team to sign a final accord that marks the beginning of the end to the political situation in the country," Micheletti said in a televised address. The team of U.S. diplomats had worked over the last two days to coax both sides back to the table. "This is a great moment for Honduras, and its people should be proud that Hondurans have achieved this accord," said Tom Shannon, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, who arrived with the U.S. delegation Wednesday. Rico said "they (the negotiators) are the heroes of Honduran democracy ... and this is a great moment for Honduras." The OAS had tried for months to bring the two sides together. Micheletti called the pact a "significant concession" on his part, and said that one point would require foreign powers to drop sanctions or aid cutoffs imposed after the coup, and send observers to the elections. The Supreme Court has already rejected Zelaya's return, saying he was replaced as president on June 28 because he violated the Constitution by pressing for a vote on potential constitutional reforms. Zelaya's opponents accuse him of attempting to end a ban on presidential term limits — something the leftist leader denies. Zelaya, who is holed up at the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, the capital, has said Congress should make the decision on his reinsatement, even though he currently enjoys the support of only about a fifth of the legislators. Zelaya was flown out of the country by soldiers on June 28, but slipped back in Sept. 21. It was unclear if he would be allowed to leave the Brazilian Embassy under the deal. The interim government has vowed to arrest Zelaya if he leaves the diplomatic mission, and filed a complaint Thursday at the U.N.'s highest court accusing Brazil of meddling in Honduran affairs by giving Zelaya refuge. The International Court of Justice declined to comment on whether it would hear the case, and Brazil's Foreign Ministry said the government was evaluating the complaint. Brazil supports Zelaya's fight to return to power and has not pressured him or his supporters to leave. Earlier on Thursday, police fired tear gas to disperse a march of about 1,000 Zelaya supporters as they neared the hotel where the talks were taking place.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Three Caballeros


I thought that since we talked about the movie in class, I would give a link to a musical number from The Three Caballeros. The movie was made as a good-will message to Latin America. Overall, I think that the message sent is a positive one of allies and friendship, but even this little clip contains too many stereotypes to count. It's fun to watch though!
http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/10/27/castro.sister.cia/index.htm
It turns out that Fidel Castro's younger sister Juanita was a spy for the US during the Cold War. It'll be interesting to see how her brother Raul, the current president of Cuba, responds the news. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Brazilian Participation in World War II

In one of the readings from the last two weeks I remembered that it mentioned how the Brazilian governmnet under Getulio Vargas actually played an active role in World War II compared to the rest of Latin America. Apparently, the Brazilian expeditionary Force saw quite a bit of action as an army division and an air force fighter squadron participated in the Italian campaign while Brazil's navy participated in the hunt for Axis submarines in the Atlantic. Considering how Vargas was an authoritarian leader and the large ethnic German communtiy in the southern part of the country, I thought it was intersting that Brazil decided to fight on the side of the Allies rather than the Axis Powers.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazilian_Expeditionary_Force

Friday, October 23, 2009

Latinos in America

On Cnn.com, there is an entire section devoted to "Latino in America." I thought it was very interesting, so if you get a chance, you should definitely check it out. Why did they decide to use an entire section talking about Latinos? According to CNN, "by 2050, the U.S. Latino population is expected to nearly triple."

http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2009/latino.in.america/

Is Mexico Winning its War on Drugs?

The title of this CNN article caught me by surprise, since I have generally heard the Mexican war on drugs critiqued for its reactionary rather than preventative measures. However, there have been several key arrests made by the Mexican government this week. Despite this new development, experts are still divided on the level of success of Calderon's war on drugs.

http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/10/22/mexico.cartel.arrest/index.html
I just found out that US National Latino AIDS Awareness Day was last Thursday. It seemed a little funny to me at first that there is a day specifically for Latinos, but then I read that AIDS rates are high among them.
http://www.nlaad.org/

Ray Nagin Travels to Cuba

I just read a really interesting article about our fine mayor, Ray Nagin, having travelled to Cuba to learn about how they handle hurricanes and what New Orleans can learn. It caught me by surprise that the mayor of New Orleans would travel to a country shrouded in so much controversy, to learn about hurricane prepardness despite the fact that Cuba has much less resources to deal with hurricance than the US does. Either way, it was a very interesting, Latino-New Orleans specific article. Read it here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

China securing oil in Latin America

I thought it would be interesting to find an article with more of a US perspective on the growing influence of China in Latin America. The New York Times article I read stressed how important oil has been in the growing relationship between China and countries like Venezuela and Argentina. China's growing sphere of influence, besides raising concerns for the US over losing such valuable trade partners, also concerns me because as the article points out, China will gain political influence in the region. In Latin America's history, foreign countries have not usually had the people's best interest in mind and instead have supported with their great economic strength, officials who did not represent the needs of the people. I doubt China is any different, especially since it has so many of its own people to worry about. In addition, I am wondering what will happen to Latin American countries, involved in oil trade with China, when those resources run out or lose some of its demand. It will probably lead to another economic hardship, similar to after the Great Export Boom.
Here's the article I read: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/16/world/16chinaloan.html
It seems funny to me that China, which was built on communism, has such strong and prevalent capitalist skills.

Brazilian Movie Industry

Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles recently signed a deal with  Universal Pictures, and this seems to be good news for the Brazilian movie industry. This article gives a lot of information about the cinema experience in Brazil and its declining state. When I was there, most of the movies came from Hollywood while only about one or two Brazilian movies would be in the theaters at one time.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2006/10/06/entertainment/e111821D34.DTL

Referendum on amnesty for military officials in Uruguay

Many were killed or disappeared and thousands jailed during the military regime in Uruguay of the 1970s and 80s. The military officials were granted amnesty that has gone unchallenged until now. The amnesty was ruled unconstitutional this week by the Urguayan Supreme court and on Sunday the nation will vote on repealing it in a referendum. Thousands of Uruguayans were out in the streets marching in protest of the amnesty earlier this week.

And since we have been exploring in class how Latin American artists use their art as a medium for social comentary, it is interesting to see one of Latin America's most renowned authors, Eduardo Galeano (how also happens to write in the stype of magical realism), making a statement about why the Uruguayans are suddenly ready to stand up against the legacy of the military regime. Galeano said, “We believe that our country has shown in the first years of the Frente Amplio party being in office that we are no longer that country that was paralyzed by fear.”

"Death Toll Hits 32 After Rio Gang Crackdown"

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33423210/ns/world_news-americas/

I thought that with the recent excitement about Rio de Janeiro being nominated as the host for the 2016, it would be a great opportunity to look at the darker side of the city. Despite its reputation for fun and opulence, Rio is a city dominated by the favelas or slums that surround the city which serve as hubs for organized crime, drug trafficking, arms trafficking, and prostitution. Recently violence has rocked the city as 32 people have died since this weekend in fighting between Rio police and heavily-armed gangs that battle over lucrative turf within the favelas. The fact that 3 policemen were killed when gang members brazenly shot down (yes- shot down) their helicopter in Rio shows how powerful the favela gangs really are.

If you want a realistic view into the amount of crime and violence that plagues Rio de Janeiro, I would strongly suggest the movie City of God which depicts the rise of organized crime by focusing on fictional criminals, and Tropa de Elite which focuses on the BOPE, the elite military police unit assigned to battle the most dangerous gangs in Rio.

Medellin Cartel

I recently watched the 2001 film Blow starring Johnny Depp, which told the story of George Jung, one of the most famous drug traffickers to the United States during the 70s and 80s. Jung was involved with the Medellin Cartel of Colombia, and I looked up some background information on the group and posted a summary below:

The Medellín Cartel was an organized network of "Drug Suppliers and Smugglers" originating in the city of Medellín, Colombia. The Cartel operated in Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Central America, United States, as well as Canada and even Europe throughout the 1970s and 1980s. It was founded and run by Pablo Escobar together with the Ochoa Vázquez brothers Jorge Luis, Juan David, and Fabio.

During the height of its operations, the Cartel brought in more than $60 million per day. The total amount of money made by the Cartel was in the tens of billions, and very possibly the hundreds of billions of dollars. There were many "groups" during the Cartel's years, usually white Americans, Canadians or Europeans, organized for the sole purpose of transporting shipments of cocaine destined for the United States, Europe, and Canada While many "groups" were infiltrated and taken down by Federal agents and informers, a few were stumbled upon by authorities, usually due to some small misstep or careless behaviour by a member(s) of a particular "group".

Once authorities were made aware of "questionable activities", the group would be put under Federal Drug Task Force surveillance. Evidence would be gathered, compiled and presented to a Grand Jury, resulting in indictments, arrests, and prison sentences for those convicted. The number of Colombian Cartel Leaders actually taken into custody as a result of these operations, was very few. Mostly non-Colombians, conspiring with the Cartel, were the "fruits" of these indictments.

Most Colombians targeted, as well as those named in such indictments, lived and stayed in Colombia, or fled before indictments were unsealed. However, by 1993 most, if not all, Cartel fugitives had been imprisoned or hunted and gunned down by the Colombian National Police, trained and assisted by US Delta Force units and the CIA.

Also here is the link for the movie:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0221027/

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Moles of Oaxaca


My favorite part of Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquival, was reading about all of the food that Tita would prepare. The one dish that I had eaten is chicken mole. Mole is a Mexican sauce and apparently there are several types of mole, the most known being mole poblano, made with chocolate. It is especially popular in Oaxaca. The site talks about the history of mole, the different types and gives a recipe.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8306268.stm
There has been an ongoing political crisis in Honduras since June. The crisis began when the president Manuel Zelaya was exiled. The crisis probably the largest in years. After being taken hostage by military troops the President was forced onto a plane to Costa Rica. 
The coup originated because of accusations that Zelaya was attempting to abolish the one year in office rule in order to reelect himself.  His exile came as a shock to most Hondurans and the country is split on their support of the movement. Internationally the coup is widely opposed. 
We've talked about Oscar Arias in class, and currently he is holding peace talks between the rebels and Zelaya. However, rebels have not been able to compromise with the president.
 One possible solution proposed by the international community is to let Zelaya serve his remaining 3 moths in office. Yet, it's uncertain if the rebels will agree to these terms. The current talks could lead to the return of Zelaya. This article discusses the issues that are being present in the peace talks. While the President says they are near a conclusion, the interim leader Micheletti says otherwise. 

Monday, October 19, 2009

Laura Esquivel

After reading Like Water for Chocolate, I decided to Google Laura Esquivel just to see what her background was. I found out that she actually used to be a kindergarten teacher. She started by writing plays for her students and then began writing children's television programs. I just thought this was an interesting bit of information, especially because of the adult nature of the novel Like Water for Chocolate.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

School of the Americas protest

http://soaw.org/article.php?id=498

Thought I would post the link to the protest at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Ga. This military training facility has been in Georgia since the 1980s and specializes in training Latin American military in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. Over 60,000 soldiers have graduated from the school and returned to their country, where they use their new tactics against the people of those countries. Common targets are union organizers, student and religious leaders, and people organizing at the grassroots. Latin America has most recently felt the impact of the school in Honduras, where graduates of the SOA planned the coup.

This annual protest will take place on Novemeber 20-22 in Fort Benning.

Friday, October 16, 2009

I thought it would be interesting to find the trailer for the movie Like Water For Chocolate. I watched the movie in one of my Spanish classes, and it was exetremely interesting to see how the director depicted the scenes of magical realism, especially the one about the quail cooked with the rose petals. I think the sexuality present in Latin American art and film is also very interesting in its openness.
Here is the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxsFpbyfiZg&feature=related
cooking scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_u2gbvxS1A

Favelas

I found this article about a fire in one of Sao Paulo's favelas, and I realized we hadn't really talked about these that much in class.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091012/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/lt_brazil_slum_fire

A favela is a Brazilian slum.  In the cities, they are extremely compact and feel like a labyrinth.  The police usually have little to no control there, and usually, it is under control of one drug lord or another.  They are almost completely different cities.

Here is a group of articles about life in favelas, and it also has a few pictures. Just click on them for a different article in the group.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/world/specials/favelas/handholding.html

The White House Celebrates Latin America

On Tuesday, many Latin American artists and chefs converged upon the White House to help celebrate Latin American culture. Marc Anthony, Gloria Estefan, and others came to help celebrate. With such a celebration of Latin America, it was impossible not to also celebrate the food. A guest chef came to the White House to cook up an amazing array of foods from all over Latin America including Argentinian empanadas, Brazilian Arrumadinho, Honduran Enchiliadas, and many others.
I found this mini celebration quite fun and interesting, and I especially took note of the food part because of the book we are reading, Like Water for Chocolate. You can see the article here, and also the full menu of the evening.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thousands March Against Mexican Utility Closure

I stumbled upon a post from the Associated Press concerning an ongoing protest in Mexico and have posted it below:

MEXICO CITY – Tens of thousands of people have marched to protest Mexican President Felipe Calderon's decision to disband a public electricity company.

The marchers included leftist groups and many of the 44,504 people employed by Luz y Fuerza, the company that provided electricity to Mexico City and the surrounding area.

Many demanded Calderon's resignation or urged Mexicans to stop paying their electricity bills.

Calderon disbanded the company over the weekend, citing a gaping budget and operational inefficiencies. The Federal Electricity Commission, which provides service to the rest of the country, has taken over for Luz y Fuerza.

City officials estimated at least 33,000 people showed up to the march Thursday.

I watched the Costa Rica at United States World Cup qualifier last night. The US had already clinched a World Cup berth, but Costa Rica needed a win to immediately clinch. The US hadn't lost a home qualifier in 17 years. Costa Rica got two goals from the same player within 3 minutes of each other in the first half, and the US got one back in the second. Playing a man down deep into stoppage time (95th minute), the US got the tying goal off a corner kick. Costa Rica now must win a 2-match playoff with Uruguay in order to qualify for the World Cup. It was an exciting game, but a devastating loss for Costa Rica.

http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/preliminaries/nccamerica/matches/round=252675/match=300073717/index.html

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Haitian Zombies

I was really interested in Haitian zombies after we discussed them in class, and I found a few articles about them. Apparently, zombie-ism has been prevalent for hundreds of years. Voodoo practitioners poison someone using the poison of a pufferfish. This poison causes the person to become slowly more lethargic until their pulse slows and they appear dead; however, they are fully aware the entire time. The "zombies" will continue to act like robots unless they eat meat or salt. Eventually the zombies become incoherent and actually do die. There are even rumors that many of the plantation workers in Haiti were zombies and that Papa Doc Duvallier's army,the tonton macoutes, was made up of zombies. Haitian law states that this practice of zombie-ism is considered murder.

Unfortunately, I have no idea how reliable this source is,
http://www.themystica.com/mystica/articles/z/zombies.html

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

This Miami Herald article alerted me of the fact that prostitution is legal in Costa Rica. I'd be interested to hear the effects that legalized prostitution has on other countries. "Sex tourism" is quite a foreign concept.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Women Earn Less

Latin American women, as well as ethnic workers, earn much less than do white men. This does not seem that surprising to me, but I thought it related well to the article we read in our Global Studies textbook about women in Venezuela and the rest of Latin America. Also interesting was that Brazil has the largest income gap between men and women of the same age and education level. This problem is obviously not unique to Latin America as wage discrimination exists everywhere, including the US.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Honduran Economic Crisis

In Honduras, the worldwide economic slowdown is magnified by the political conflict. Up to 15 million dollars are lost daily and foreign investment in the future is likely to decrease significantly. Honduras already was the second poorest country in Latin America, and the political conflict continues to harm the majority of the population.

Here is a video clip that features interviews with Honduran citizens:
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/americas/2009/10/2009103235416905222.html

Alleged Murder-For-Ratings TV Host Jailed"

I though this article was interesting considering last week we read about how Latin American television, especially novelas, are often more outrageous and graphic than television in the United States. Wallace Souza, a former TV crime host, was arrested under charges of commisioning murders to raise the ratings for his show, Canal Livre. He also is facing drug charges and is suspected of having gang ties; amazingly enough, Souza was a policeman before he ventured into the entertainment industry.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33244365/ns/world_news-americas/

I found this interesting article that starts out about what the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics will mean for Brazil.  However, it gets into more about the state of Brazil and its growth. It has a lot of easily digestible information about expected trends for Brazil.

http://www.canada.com/Sport+spectaculars+could+also+draw+investors+Brazil/2086801/story.html

Carnival Latino

http://carnavallatinonola.com/Calender.html

There is a festival celebrating Latino culture and music this weekend. It will be at Mardigras World, the warehouse across the river. It looks like a really diverse lineup of music from all over Latin America.

Brazil 2016 Olympics

So being from Chicago, it was pretty tough to handle the news of Chicago being the first to be kicked out of the running for the 2016 Olympics. Being in Latin American Studies though, I guess I have to be supportive of Brazil's winning though. In reality I'm not really that torn up about it, but it's kind of my duty as a Chicagoan. Anyways, Brazil winning the bid is not only good for Brazil, but Latin America as a whole. Just recently the Latin American community gathered in Copenhagen to congratulate Brazil. From Venezuela, to Mexico the Latin American community is rallying around the good news, and world exposure. In essence, Latin America needed this more than the United States. Look at the article here.

How to Make Canned Refried Beans Taste Better

Whenever I go to a Mexican restaurant, I always make sure to order refried beans with my meal. No matter where I go, if they're on the menu, they'll be on my plate. However, as much as I like restaurant style refried beans, whenever I try to recreate the experience at home and eat refried beans from the can the results are pretty disastrous. Instead of the restaurant style beans that I love, canned beans have the consistency of cement and often the taste of cat food. There has to be a better way to do it. Seeing as I won't be making beans from scratch in my dorm room any time soon , I searched online for ways to make canned refried beans taste better and finally found a simple yet proven recipe. So if you like refried beans like me, give it a try.

Coconut Oil.

Beans*

Salsa.

Coconut oil is easy to find in Belize, if a little expensive. It makes your beans taste heavenly! If you can't get that, you'll have to use ordinary oil. (Click here to find out how to buy Virgin Coconut Oil.) Heat about 2 Tbsp in a heavy iron skillet and then put the beans in. If they're canned refried beans*, they're already smashed. If you have previously cooked beans, you can put them in and smash them with a potato or bean masher. (A bean masher has a flat plate with holes in it; a potato masher has a wavy bar. The bean masher works better.) Stir the beans and cook them/it in the oil for a while. You can add water and cover and cook for a little while, but mostly, you just have to get the mix into a thick consistency so you can use it to spread on tortillas.

Now, add a half cup of salsa. This can be canned salsa, like the Salsa Casera we have here in Belize, or it can be Old El Paso® or Pace® Picante Sauce. Stir it in until it disappears, cook a little more to marry the flavors, and your refried beans are ready to hold their own with the restaurant variety.

They'll keep about a week in a sealed Tupperware® container; we use them for lots of things, including side servings for breakfast.

* Easier to get out of the can if it has a bottom that works with a can-opener. (Many of them don't.) Open both ends and push out into the pan.


enjoy

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Bloggers in Cuba

Ironically, while I was looking for something to post about on this blog, I found this really interesting article about bloggers in Cuba. Recently, Cuba's younger generations have been using blogs as sources of free expression. While some are still afraid to write anything too controversial, many have started demanding "structural reforms." Raul Castro is having a tough time finding and persecuting these bloggers, due to the generation gap.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8295503.stm

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Investment in Haiti


As I am giving a presentation on Haiti for our next class, I thought it would be good to find an article about Haiti. The article discusses the interest of foreign businesses and banks in investing in Haiti's economy by placing new factories in the country and giving loans to these businesses. It's a bit of a catch-22 though since businesses do not want to invest in a non-stable government but Haiti needs investment to become stabilized.

Photo from NYTimes.com

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Honduran crisis brings economic hardship for neighbors

According to this article, countries bordering and near Honduras have suffered greatly in the economic sector because of the instability in Honduras. Border closures and curfews have made it difficult to transport goods to trade partners and for some to get to work if they work in the neighboring countries. The article just shows how interdependent the countries in Latin America are and how much one country's insecurity will cause them all hardship. The only positive outlook is that the other Central American countries will add pressure on both Micheletti and Zelaya to start negotiations, but it is sad that all of these people who have no say in the conflict cannot continue their daily lives and provide for their families.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8281260.stm

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Argentine singer exemplifies the socio-political purpose of Latin American music

I was on the CNN homepage and saw the headline that an Argentine singer had died. This popped out at me since we have been reading about the arts and culture in Latin America this week. I read the article and found it very interesting. Mercedes Sosa, known as the "voice of Latin America," exemplified what we have read about the importance and purpose of the arts in Latin America. Through her combination of contemporary music with folk song traditions, she used her lyrics to convey political messages. The plight of the poor was one of the main issues that she included in her music. I included a link to the article, and I strongly encourage everyone to take a look at it. It's very relevant to the identity of Latin America and just supports everything that we have been reading.

http://www.cnn.com/2009/SHOWBIZ/Music/10/04/obit.mercedes.sosa/index.html
This weekend I was on CNN.com when I came across a very interesting short film by Micheal Hemmingson covering Zona Norte, the red light district of Tijuana, Mexico. The area is notorious for its legal prostitution and illegal drug activity, but Hemmingson's film tries to highlight the commonly overlooked citizens of the neighborhood. Young children, a hard-working taco cart vendor, and a respectable shoe shiner are all seen and even interviewed in the film.
After viewing "Life in Zona Norte," I was surprised to see how well preserved the Mexican culture was preserved in the area. Tijuana is located right on the Mexican/American border, so I expected it to be extremely westernized, but the film showed that the area has been able to protect its vibrant culture. Undoubtedly, Zona Norte is very urbanized and faces many social problems, but it is remarkable to see Latin American culture survive through such issues as drug trafficking and open prostitution.

Here is the link to the video: Life in Zona Norte

Looking back at the effects of neo-colonialism

Argentina just built a memorial for soldiers who lost their lives in the Falklands War, which was between the UK and Argentina over islands off the coast. I think the fact that some of the conflicts we are studying happened very recently does not really strike me until they come back in the news. You really still get to see that the families involved are still suffering. Also, the fact that Argentina and England now have not been able to get past the wars makes it obvious that Latin America still has many issues in resolving their image in the global world.
Here's a video on the new monument:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8289174.stm

Saturday, October 03, 2009

The ongoing drug war in Mexico has been heating up recently.  On October 2nd the largest bust of chemicals used to make methamphetamine was made. The drugs were found on a ship in the Pacific and in the boarder town Neuvo Laredo. This drug has become prominent in Mexico because it can be created locally rather than imported drugs like cocaine.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Fujimori sentenced to 6 Years in Prison

This article from CNN discusses the conviction of former President Fujimori of Peru to his fourth prison term. He was convicted for ordering illegal wiretaps and bribing officials. Fujimori is an example of a leader who placed economic development above social development in Latin America, and his conviction signifies the trend of a return to rule of law rather than authoritarianism in the region.

http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/09/30/peru.fujimori.trials/index.html

Carnaval

I figured that since our readings touched on Carnaval in Brazil, it would be fitting to put in a post on the subject. However, I was disappointed when it only mentioned Carnaval as done in Rio de Janeiro. In Rio, the Samba schools and parades take a huge emphasis in the celebration. However, this is not how most of the country celebrates the festival. Much of the country takes influences from the Carnaval in Salvador. Instead of watching parades, it is a huge festival with large masses of people and lots of music. There are lots of different kinds of music, but the main kind during this kind of Carnaval is Axe (pronounced Ah-shay). Salvador has the largest Carnaval in Brazil. The Brazilians flock there while most of the tourists go to Rio. Any Carnaval from this style is a sight to behold.

Here is a website with a lot of pictures and a few videos about Carnaval in Salvador. Just beware that the Axe music will play in the background (It really startled me when I opened the website, and my speakers started blaring the music at me). I have not found a way to turn it off while looking at the website.

http://www.bahiacarnival.info/bahiacarnival.html

Rio de Janeiro Announced as Host of 2016 Summer Olympics

After much debate and discussion over the host of the 2016 Summer Olympics, Chicago being one of the candidates, it was announced within the past hour that Rio de Janeiro would be the host of the 2016 summer games. This marks not only a great sucess for Brazil, but also for Latin America as a whole, since this will be the first Olympics hosted in South America. Below I have transferred the CNN.com article which broke the good news.

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (CNN)
-- Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee announced Friday. The announcement brought tears to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who dabbed his eyes with a handkerchief several times in a news conference afterward. "Our hour has arrived," he said. "It has arrived." In Rio, jubilation erupted at the world-famous Copacabana beach, where thousands of people gathered to hear the announcement. Rio organizers promised to start working immediately to make the games a success. "Maybe some of the people tomorrow can rest," said Rio 2016 President Carlos Nuzman. "I'm not [resting]." Rio beat Madrid, Spain, in the final round. Chicago, Illinois, and Tokyo, Japan, were eliminated in earlier rounds. For Rio, a major appeal was bringing the Olympics to South America for the first time. IOC President Jacques Rogge said in the news conference afterward that in addition to its excellent bid, Rio had the "extra added value of going for the first time to a continent that's never had the games." He also noted that Brazil helped its chances this year when it did not get the 2012 games awarded four years ago. "Rio remained humble," he said. "They wanted to listen, to repair their shortcomings."

More than half of Rio's Olympic venues are built, including state-of-the-art facilities constructed for the 2007 Pan and Parapan American Games: the magnificent Joao Havelange Stadium (the proposed 2016 venue for athletics), the Maria Lenk Aquatic Center, the Rio Olympic Arena (which will host gymnastics and wheelchair basketball), the Rio Olympic Velodrome, the National Equestrian Center and its close neighbor, the National Shooting Center. Rio will hold the games from August 5-21 and its theme will be "Live your passion." According to Rio's bid, the games will be held in four zones with varying socioeconomic characteristics:

• Barra, the heart of the games, is an expanding area of Rio that will require "considerable infrastructure and accommodation development." It will house the Olympic and media villages and some venues.

• Copacabana, a world-famous beach and major tourist attraction, will host outdoor sports in temporary venues.

• Maracana, the most densely populated of the zones, will contain an athletic stadium and the Maracana Stadium, which will host the opening and closing ceremonies. Major redevelopment is planned for the zone.• Deodoro has little infrastructure, but the highest proportion of young people. It will require construction of Olympic venues. The city's bid was helped by a strong economy and guaranteed funding. Brazil's economy is the 10th largest in the world and predicted to be fifth by 2016.
advertisement

Brazil told the IOC its commitment to the Olympics could be seen in the investment already under way in Rio. Maracana Stadium will close next year for two years of refurbishment. The areas around it will be renovated, with improved access and transportation links. The entire neighborhood will be reborn, the Rio committee said, to host the final of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Work is already under way on the ongoing development of the Olympic Training Center, which includes many of the state-of-the-art venues built for the 2007 Pan and Parapan American Games. This was Madrid's third attempt at hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Summer Games. Madrid presented a "very capable" bid, with good transportation infrastructure and a number of venues already in place, said Ed Hula, editor of the Olympics Web site Around the Rings. Madrid's chances might have been hampered, however, by a recent tradition that consecutive Summer Olympics aren't staged on the same continent. The London, England, 2012 Olympics will have happened just four years before 2016. "Although there's no rule against it, the IOC has yet to award consecutive summer games to the same continent since 1952 in Helsinki," Hula said. Brazilian President Lula da Silva was joined by soccer legend and Brazilian native Pelé as they advertised the benefits of a Rio games. An animated Lula da Silva, surrounded by Rio supporters, said at a news conference after the announcement, "Among the 10 major economies of the world, Brazil was the only country that had not received the Olympic and Paralympic Games. For us, it will hardly be our last Olympics. For us, it will be an opportunity to be equal. It will increase self-esteem for Brazilians, will consolidate recent conquests and stimulate new advances."

Latin America embracing Haiti

I just was doing my normal morning news reading, and I started reading an article that I didn't expect had anything to do with Latin America but I was quickly corrected. The article is titled "Clinton Cheers Investor Turnout at Haiti Meeting." As per our earlier discussions of what exactly the term "Latin America" encompasses, this article notes the importance of Latin American countries' support of Haiti since it is "their neighbor." Bill Clinton said, "We have more people from Latin America and the Caribbean here than we do from the U.S., Canada and Europe combined," Clinton said of the conference. "That was always going to be essential for Haiti's success: having your neighbors embrace you."

Essentially, Latin America is showing a united interest in not only helping a fellow neighbor, but also in investing. This meeting showed the enormous potential of Latin America if it unites a a common force. This idea that Latin Americans far outnumbered the people that had been trying to conquer them for years, shows that Latin America is making great strides in getting noticed within the international community.

You can read the article here

Thursday, October 01, 2009

"Political scheme turns Mexican into odd celebrity"

AP article
I found an article about Latin American politics that's on a much lighter note than usual. The "celebrity", Rafael Acosta, ran for a Congress position for another person. When he won the election, he changed his mind about giving up the position, only to change his mind again a few days ago. He was sworn in today and gave the position away within hours as originally agreed upon.

A Shift in Religion for the Brazilian Youth

Would you be more likely to attend church if you could see a fighting match or play video games before you heard the sermon? Or what if your church had a tattoo parlor and played reggae music?

In Brazil, there has been a new growth in evangelical churches using these techniques and more to connect with the younger generation in hopes of sparking a revival in faith and giving adolescents "the flexibility of religious expression."

Despite Brazil's deep connection to Catholicism, younger people are becoming more willing to experiment with their religion and between 1950 and 2000, the number of proclaimed evangelicals is five times greater, reaching 15% in 2000.

This article in the New York Times provides interesting details about the religiously backed fight night events and interesting perspectives of the pastors that are reaching out to the Brazilian youth: "Fight Nights and Reggae Pack Brazilian Churches"

Storytelling: An act of revolution

Because we just read about a the power of the story (and the carrier of those stories) in The Storyteller by Mario Vargas Llosa, I thought I'd share an excerpt from a piece I wrote last spring about the Zapatistas that captures how they have used storytelling to both share their movement with the world and to inspire a visionary politics that is able to see beyond hegemonic ideas and structures. You can find all of their communicados here: http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/mexico/ezlnco.html

"The Zapatistas have crafted a revolutionary political discourse – a vernacular dialogue fashioned out of poetry. Over the last fifteen years they have released hundred of communiqués that condemn repression in the Zapatista territories and around the world, that present alternatives and tell stories that are rich with allegory and wit. These stories are clever yet simple, using characters like Old Antonio, a wise old Zapatista who supposedly died in the 1994 uprising, and a proud beetle named Don Durito to mock the empty rhetoric of the politicians and dismantle the machinery of the dominators into a simple language accessible across class, race, and language. And thanks to the internet and a few translators, the number of people these stories reach around the world has been unbelievable.

In one story, Don Durito gives his two cents about the trap of freedom presented by the Powers. Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, the author of the majority of the Zapatista communiqués, writes, “Durito puts a vase with water on the little table, which is made of sticks, tied together with liana, and he says,
‘The Powers tell us, for example, that we have to choose between being optimists or pessimists. The pessimist sees the glass as being half empty, the optimist sees the glass as half full. But the rebel realizes that neither the vase, nor the water which it contains, belong to them, and it is someone else, the powerful, who fills it and empties it at his whim. The rebel, on the other hand, sees the trap. But he also sees the spring from which the water issues forth. (Subcomandante Marcos. “Durito and One About False Options.” Chiapas and the Zapatista Rebellion, Documents, Communiqués and Images from 1994 to 2004/5. March 2003. )

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Thoughts on Honduras

Well, I think it's fair to say that the recent actions taken by the current de facto government of Honduras under the leadership of Roberto Micheletti have exposed the authoritarian and autocratic inclinations of this usurper government. Many U.S. conservatives have supported the Micheletti government following its installation in the wake of the military coup against the controversial, but duly-elected left-leaning President Manuel Zelaya. They have argued that the ouster of Zelaya was constitutionally defensible in the wake of Zelaya's misbehavior (some would argue Zelaya's treason), and that the subsequent Micheletti government were each necessary to preserve freedom and democracy in Honduras. But now that the Micheletti government has unilaterally suspended civil rights and constitutional guarantees by shutting down opposition media outlets and by preventing rights to free assembly, all in the name of "order," its former supporters in the U.S. have now responded with a deafening silence. Since the Micheletti government showed its autocratic nature, there is simply no way that anyone can continue to argue that this government is acting out of a commitment to democracy and freedom. And lest anyone seek to argue that the Micheletti government is the better of two bad alternatives, I would simply point out that as manipulative as Zelaya might have been, he never responded to his opposition by suspending constitutional rights. His opponents were always free to speak out against him, to organize and protest his behavior, and to flood the airwaves and their print media outlets with their criticism. It is the Micheletti government that, when faced with the public expression of opposition in an organized and peaceful, but determined, fashion, resorted to the behavior of dictatorships.

Given recent events in Honduras, I'd like to revisit the whole context of this crisis and offer some of my own opinions which have been germinating for a while.

First, let me starty by suggesting that the situation in Honduras was and is not as clear-cut and black & white as folks either on the left or the right have made it. Here is some food for thought. First, regarding the original claim by the coup supporters that Zelaya was seeking to establish the mechanism for instituting a Hugo Chavez style dictatorship in his own country, I think it is important to note that Zelaya was not specifically attempting to extend his term of office. In fact, what gets obfuscated in the polemics, is that what Zelaya had actually proposed was to insert in the upcoming election a ballot measure that would have been a binding referendum on the Honduran people's opinion regarding support for calling a constitutional convention with the purpose of reviewing the constitution and perhaps proposing amendments to the constitution, one of which would have included the Constitutional provision that limited a President to one term in office. The Supreme Court ruling against Zelaya was that it was illegal for him even to propose a "binding" referendum. So Zelaya then changed the measure to be a "non-binding" resolution. Whether or not one thinks Zelaya was simply playing fast and loose with the intent of the Supreme Court's ruling is another question. (And I happen think Zelaya WAS playing fast and loose. But, hey, that's politics!) However, that said, in a country governed by the Rule of Law, the next step would have been for the Supreme Court to decide on the legality of this "non-binding" referendum. But they never got that far before the coup took place. Secondly, contrary to what is currently circulating among much of the uninformed punditocracy and blogosphere, the Honduran Supreme Court did not order Zelaya arrested and deported. That's simply an untruth. The Supreme Court declared Zelaya in violation of their original ruling and thus subject to arrest and a subsequent trial for this violation of the ruling. In other words, the Supreme Court basically declared Zelaya to be in contempt of court. What the Supreme Court did not do was to authorize any particular authority to arrest Zelaya. It did not call for the military to detain Zelaya. And it certainly did not order, nor did it condone, his unwilling exile from the country under force of arms. That was done unilaterally by the Honduran military with some vocal support by members of the Honduran Congress.

Second, the Honduran Constitution is unclear on who actually IS the proper authority to arrest a President accused of illegal activity and what is the proper way of bringing to trial a President so-accused. There is nothing in the Honduran Constitution that affords the Congress or the military any authority to act in the way that they did. In this regard, the Honduran Constitution really is a badly-flawed document. Neverthelss, the proper way to deal with this lack of clarity in such situations in a liberal democracy is not for the Congress to make a power grab, as it did, in its struggle with the Executive; but rather for Congress to legislate a process whereby a rogue President is brought to trial and formally impeached.

With regard to the formal U.S. government position on the coup, I would say that the this position is not one of being pro-Zelaya and anti-Supreme Court, as some critics of the U.S. response have argued, but rather one of being pro-democracy versus anti-democracy. Here's the thing: how "democratic" can a country be considered if there are articles of its constitution that are simply un-amendable? Heck, even the most hallowed articles of the U.S. Constitution are not presumed to be un-amendable. Popular sovereignty (i.e. government of the people, by the people, and for the people), not to mention freedom, requires that no constitutional provision be sacrosanct such that it is exempt always and everywhere, forever, from popular sanction and approval. Imagine if the framers of the U.S. Constitution had written a provision into the document that basically stated that only property-owning white males had the right to vote in elections and that this provision could never be amended or repealed, and that any effort to do so would amount to treason. That is, in essence, what the Honduran Constitution says about Presidential term limits. There is something to be said (and perhaps not all good) about the quality of Honduras's democracy and the nature of freedom under a constitution that cannot be amended in some parts and which parts are thus completely and utterly beyond the scrutiny of the people whom the Constitution serves.

Finally, I would always urge folks to think about what is proper conflict resolution between the co-equal branches of government in a liberal democracy. If we would not tolerate the manner of dealing with our own President in the way that Honduras has dealt with its own President, then there is an inconsistency within our own notions of what constitutes proper democratic governance. And when it is coupled with the idea that Honduras can't be expected to live up to the same standards of democratic governance that we in the U.S. would expect because Honduras is, after all, a third world banana republic, then this inconsistency is also very relativist, not to mention patronizing. We should always expect that our democratic allies would not simply have the military round up the country's President in his pajamas, force him into exile, and install a new government over the course of 24 hours. The question I keep asking folks who supported this coup: Would we tolerate this if it happened in our own country? Or in Canada, Great Britain, France, Germany, Australia, etc.? I doubt it. And why is that? The answer to this question is simple: we fashion ourselves as people more accustomed to dealing with such crises through a strict adherence to the Rule of Law and never through a reliance on the force of arms, much less through the use of the national military.

In short, if anyone supports a military ouster of a President, a President who was never given a fair trial under due process of the law with the right to mount a legal defense in a legitimate trial in front of a duly constituted jury, however that process might take shape, just because Honduras is a third-world basket case that doesn't know a better way to deal with such problems, then shame on you. We should expect more from our Democratic allies, and not settle for the REAL third world basket case solution (i.e. a military coup) that actually took place.

All this is not to say that I support Zelaya or even that I like the man. Frankly, I'm not much of a fan of his, nor do I think he's operating with any measure of sincerity himself. He certainly has demagogic and anti-democratic tendencies like Hugo Chavez. But, even still, I can't claim to be an advocate of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law if I accept the manner in which Zelaya, who, for better or for worse, was the duly-elected President of Honduras, was removed from office and thrown out of the country.

For a good summation of the case against the ouster of Zelaya on constitutional, and legal procedural grounds, go here.

Fujimori Sentencing

In light of our country profile on Peru this past week, I have provided a link to this article. It seems that Alberto Fujimori, Peru's former president, has been sentenced to his fourth prison term. After pleading guilty to illegal wiretaps and bribery, Fujimori will now serve six years in prison, as well as paying a hefty fine.

http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/09/30/peru.fujimori.trials/index.html

Possible Return to Office for Zelaya?

The Associated Press is reporting that there is an increased effort in Honduras to end the coup crisis which might end with Zelaya being reinstated as President with limited powers until his original term is over. More suprisingly, this proposition is coming from some of the very people who helped orquestrate his ouster. Considering that this crisis has paralyzed Honduras, the poorest nation in Central America, for the past 3 months, a return to normalcy at any cost would be the best thing for the Honduran people.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33100284/ns/world_news-americas/

Olympic Games in Brazil


I love the Olympics and was immediately drawn to this NY Times article. Rio de Janeiro is one of four cities left that is still in consideration for the 2016 Summer Olympics. 1968 was the last time the Summer Olympics was held in a Latin American country (Mexico City, Mexico) and 1992 was the last time the Summer Olympics was held in a Spanish speaking country (Barcelona, Spain). Brazilian president Lula da Silva is in full support of the Olympic bid for his country as is 85% of Rio's residents. Rio is hoping to use its status as a future Olympic site to improve and upgrade its infrastructure, attracting more tourists, much like Barcelona did in 1992.

(Photo from nytimes.com)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mario Vargas Llosa

Since our LAST class is discussing a novel next week written by the famous peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, I began to read his biography and provided an excerpt below:

(source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mario_Vargas_Llosa)


Jorge Mario Pedro Vargas Llosa (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈmaɾjo ˈβarɣas ˈʎosa]) (born March 28, 1936) is a Peruvian writer, politician, journalist, and essayist. Vargas Llosa is one of Latin America's most significant novelists and essayists, and one of the leading authors of his generation. Some critics consider him to have had a larger international impact and worldwide audience than any other writer of the Latin American Boom.[1]

Vargas Llosa rose to fame in the 1960s with novels such as The Time of the Hero (La ciudad y los perros, 1963/1966[2]), The Green House (La casa verde, 1965/1968), and the monumental Conversation in the Cathedral (Conversación en la catedral, 1969/1975). He continues to write prolifically across an array of literary genres, including literary criticism and journalism. His novels include comedies, murder mysteries, historical novels, and political thrillers. Several, such as Captain Pantoja and the Special Service (1973/1978) and Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (1977/1982), have been adapted as feature films.

Many of Vargas Llosa's works are influenced by the writer's perception of Peruvian society and his own experiences as a native Peruvian. Increasingly, however, he has expanded his range, and tackled themes that arise from other parts of the world. Another change over the course of his career has been a shift from a style and approach associated with literary modernism, to a sometimes playful postmodernism.

Like many Latin American authors, Vargas Llosa has been politically active throughout his career; over the course of his life, he has gradually moved from the political left towards the right. While he initially supported the Cuban revolutionary government of Fidel Castro, Vargas Llosa later became disenchanted. He ran for the Peruvian presidency in 1990 with the center-right Frente Democrático (FREDEMO) coalition, advocating neoliberal reforms. He has subsequently supported moderate conservative candidates.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

New Leaders of Modern Flamenco Music

I don' t know if anyone else has heard of this band but Rodrigo y Gabriela, an acoustic guitar duo from Mexico City, is in my opinion one of the most talented flamenco groups out there right now. Rodrigo Sanchez (lead guitar) and Gabriela Quintero (rythem guitar) started out playing heavy metal music in Mexico City but then relocated to Dublin, Ireland and switched to acoustic/flamenco music. They have recently released their second album, 11:11, and are beginning another tour.

I ranke these guys skill-wise with artists like Esteban and Eric Clapton when it comes to acoustic guitar. And their earlier heavy metal style playing is evident in their fast-paced playing and covers of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" and Metallica's "Orion." My personal favorite is "Satori." I would definately recommend Rodrigo y Gabriela to anyone who has ever been a fan of acoustic guitar. Here's a link to their website:

http://www.rodgab.com/home.html

Mass Grave found in Colombia

I recently found this article about a mass grave found in Colombia.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090925/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/lt_colombia_exhumations

Colombian officials had found 17 bodies in a ranch of a now deceased militia leader. The bodies had shown signs of torture and were dismembered. The article also mentions that they were likely killed due to drug-related conflicts of interests between some guerrilla groups. Over 2,500 bodies have been found in Colombia in such graves since 2005.

I thought that this would be a nice tie-in with one of the articles for next class about the drug situation in Latin America and just how far and deep this problem goes.

Why Poor Countries are Poor

I am taking a class called Comparative Politics and we just today
talked about "Why Poor Countries are Poor." I found it interesting
that one of the theories we discussed is the idea that countries,
especially those in Latin America, that only produce agricultural
products, will suffer due produce's inelastic demand. Thus no matter
the wealth of the United States, there won't be a higher demand for
bananas if wages go up. I just thought it was an interesting theory of
why Latin America seems to be stuck in a perpetual state of economic
instability.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Honduran Coup - what will happen to President Zelaya?

http://i3.democracynow.org/blog/2009/9/23/president_zelaya_and_the_audacity_of_action

Democracy Now! has done an awesome job at following the coup in Honduras. As most probably know, Zelaya returned to the country a few days ago, finding safety in the Brazilian embassy. While it is unlikely that the Honduran military would enter the Brazilain embassy for fear of making a real enemy out of Brazil (a much bigger country one might note), the military has been finding other ways of retaliating - mainly by arresting many and killing a few of Zelaya's supporters.

Food to Economic Stablity in Peru

Peru is now trying to make its cuisine the new sushi. I think this idea is a great way to expand Latin America's influence in the global arena and to bring development to Latin America. As the article says, if more and more Peruvian restuarants open in the world and their foods get popular, people will want genuine Latin American crops and what not. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/8274932.stm