Sunday, February 28, 2010

Chilean Earthquake

My cousin, Connor, has been studying abroad in Chile this past year before he starts college next fall. He is currently living with a host family in Santiago. When we heard about the earthquake, our family was of course nervous for him. I am happy to report that he is safe. He apparently told my aunt he "didn't think it was that bad." They are living without power at the moment, but otherwise are fine.

This initial response is quite different that what is being reported on the news, but I'm glad he's safe. I am standing by waiting for his first-hand updates.

Clinton Heading to Latin America After Quake

The major earthquake that hit Chile Monday night happened to coincide with a planned tour of Latin America by Secretary of State Clinton who orginally was seeking to build support for tougher sanctions against Iran and one of her stops did include Santiago. However, she will aslo use her stops now as opportunities to reiterate the Obama administration's support for Chile during its disaster and promises of disaster relief and rescue operations.

Earthquake America

In order to understand periods of human history, time is marked by specific landmark moments: the stone age; the rennaissance; the age of technology. Well, many people are saying that we are living in the age of natural disasters. Hurricanes, tsunamis, and massive tornadoes are ripping apart countries all over the world. As most know, Haiti was hit by a 7.0 earthquake earlier this year. On Saturday morning an 8.8 strength earthquake struck Chile. This earthquake, 700 to 800 times stronger than the one in Haiti, affected more than 2 million people. It caused a residual tsunami which hit Hawaii and is continuing to move its way across the Pacific. We can only hope the destruction stops here.

Source: CNN

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Latin American Diplomacy

Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, will be making a trip across Latin America. Her first stop will be in Montevideo to attend the inauguration of the Uruguayan President. The trip hopes to stop doubters who believed the Obama Presidency would continue to not show Latin America proper respect.

Friday, February 26, 2010

US to put agents in Mexican Poice Force

The United States and Mexico have had talks, and have agreed to station US agents in Mexico to help control drug trafficking. Agents will be stationed in Ciudad Juarez, the most violent city in Mexico. They will there to aid in efforts to catch drug cartel leaders and their hit men. They will also be helping to share information collected through informants and intercepted communications. This is a big step, as the US has been reluctant to work with Mexico, largely because they are skeptical that Mexican officials can be trusted with US information.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Buckling down on piracy

Honestly, when I was living in Paraguay it was pretty nice for my host family, who lived on about $15,000 a year (a family of five, not including me), to be able to buy 5 DVDs for only $1.25. Many of the movies had not come out on DVD in the U.S. but were still available for sale on almost every street corner in the market of Ciudad del Este. I knew that the movies were pirated, but it was hard for me to not enjoy spending time with my host family doing something they could afford.

I lived about ten minutes from Brazil, and we went to Brazil often. I just read an article on Yahoo News about how U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told an audience in Rio de Janeiro yesterday, Feb. 24, that the U.S. is seeking closer cooperation with Brazil in fighting piracy of intellectual property. I think this is an important step in responding to the effects of globalization and in ensuring security of property ownership on an international level. However, it will be difficult to imagine my Paraguayan family not having the economic means to watch movies as they used to.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Latin American and Caribbean Countries Create Regional Bloc

Latin American and Caribbean countries gathered Tuesday to create a regional bloc. 32 countries attended the summit, where they decided to create an organization to support their own interests, minus the influence of the United States or Canada. Latin America is finally creating a regional organization, which can be compared to efforts such as the European Union and the United African Organization. The countries made only cursory plans, but agreed to meet again in 2011. This is a significant step for Latin America, and it will be interesting to see how it turns out!

You can read the article here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Peru Soon to Produce More Cocaine than Colombia?

I found an article that I felt was relevant to our discussion of the coca plant and cocaine production.
Apparently, cocaine eradication policies in Peru are lagging, which could lead to Peru overtaking Colombia in total cocaine output. Colombia's cultivation area of the coca plant is declining while Peru's is growing. Predictions suggest that if Peru does not take action in controlling the growth of coca, it will become the top cocaine producer in the Andean nations within the next ten to fifteen years.
While Colombia and Peru are close in amount of cocaine production, Bolovia remains the third biggest producer of cocaine in South America.

Adoption v. Child Trafficking in Haiti

When the earthquake first hit Haiti, the news showed video of hundreds of children being loaded on buses. Aid groups hoped that the children could be taken to safer areas and then put up for adoption once they left the rubble of the city. The buses ended up being too hot though, making some children sick and those with diarrhea and other illnesses even worse. The aid workers didn't have enough supplies or support and many were feeling helpless as they saw many children so sick.

An AP report from today addresses the situation. The conclusion? Very badly. The article states, "UNICEF estimated 380,000 "orphans" even before the earthquake. The definition is loose, as tens of thousands have at least one living parent." Now after the quake, many more have lost their parents or have been put up for adoption in the hopes of achieving a better life.

The report continues, "Haiti's children have long been a commodity — used for adoption, sex trafficking or as unpaid domestic labor. Adoptions can yield as much as $7,000 in fees — a relative fortune in a country where the per capita yearly wage is under $1,000, Kovats-Bernat said. Haitian officials put it bluntly. 'Adoption is a synonym for trafficking,' said Haiti's immigration director Roland Chavannes." Many are fearful that the disorganization created from the quake has lead to larger numbers of children falling into traffickers' hands. Because of this fear, applications for true adoptions are having trouble being fulfilled and aid groups without proper documentation are being detained.


Latin American Food Dangers!

Latin America - as we have discussed in class - prides itself on its flavorful, diverse and unique cuisine, but an article in Time magazine also points out ten of some potentially dangerous [although completely avoidable] foods in Latin America and throughout the world.

Ranking as #3, was Jamaica's fruit Ackee - before reading this article I had never seen nor heard of this fruit - which is part of the national dish made with codfish. [If you haven't either, I'd suggest looking it up... they're very pretty.] It is originally from West Africa, but was transported to Jamaica in the 18th century [exchange!] and can lead to vomiting, coma, and even death if eaten before it has ripened, caused by a toxin called hypoglycin. Even when the fruit turns red, the seeds are always poisonous.

Topping the list was hot dogs, but cassava and coffee - both with Latin America connections - were also included.

To read the entire article:,29569,1967235,00.html

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Bolivian Baby Born on an Airplane

Just thought this was funny: Link.

If anyone has seen the movie Where the Heart Is, does this remind you of the Wal-Mart baby?

Green Efforts in Latin America

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has been studying environment issues in Latin America and the Caribbean. The commission issued a report which calls for greater efforts to advance environmentally sustainable development in Latin America. The report is called “Millennium Development Goals: Advances in Environmentally Sustainable Development in Latin America and the Caribbean.” The rate of deforestation in the Latin America is said to be double the global average. The report states that the region’s forest cover decreased by 7 per cent, losing nearly 69 million hectares of forest between 1990 and 2005. Deforestation and degradation of forests causes almost 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions; that’s more than all the world’s cars, trucks, ships and planes combined. The UN launched the Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (UN-REDD) initiative in 2008 to offer incentives to reverse the trends of deforestation in order to combat climate change.

Also between 1990 and 2005, Latin America has seen an increase of nearly 41 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and cement production. The UN has pledged to achieve eight Millennium Development Goals by 2015, and one of the most important goals is environmental sustainability. The report notes that in the world in the studied years the amount of protected areas grew and consumption of ozone-depleting substances declined. However, this result varies greatly in different geographical areas in different countries; and Latin America is behind.

Many Latin American countries have a lot to worry about, so environment sustainability might not be first on the governments’ lists. But at least the UN is calling attention to problems and providing help for the future.

Source Link.

U.S. Relations With Cuba Remain Tense

After a meeting Friday, February 19th, between the United States and Cuba discussing immigration control, it is clear that the two countries are still having difficulties in maintaining (relatively) friendly relations. In addition to the immigration issue, other topics of discussion included a Havana-jailed U.S. citizen [Alan Gross was arrested in early December 2009 for unauthorized distribution of satellite technology] and a talk between U.S. diplomats and Cuban dissidents [Cuba criticized the United States for "promoting subversion"].

Source: CNN

Buenos Aires is Under Water

After the second major storm in a week, Buenos Aires has come to a standstill as the city continues to flood. The subway has been shut down and 60,000 people are without electricity. It remains to be seen if there will be any lasting damage from the storms, but for now, all people can do is push their way through.
Many streets in Buenos Aires remain flooded Friday after the city sees its second powerful storm in nearly a week. Source: CNN

Kidnappers In Haiti!

On Thursday, February 18, ten United States citizens were brought up in front of a judge on charges of kidnapping 33 Haitian children after attempting to cross the border into the Dominican Republic on January 29th. They were building an orphanage, and many Haitian parents are reported to have sent their children willingly. Perhaps it was because of this that eight of the 10 would-be kidnappers were released on their own recognizance and allowed to return to the United States. The remaining two, however, remain behind for more questioning.

What will happen?
For more information see CNN World

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Disputes over Foreign Aid to Honduras

Honduran President Porfirio Lobo wants a meeting with President Obama in order to restore ties between Honduras and the U.S. Foreign Minister Mario Canahuati plans to travel to Washington in order to arrange such a meeting. As has been mentioned in previous posts, President Lobo was elected after a coup ousted former President Zelaya. After the Honduran army ousted the president, the U.S. government cut its aid to the country. Now, the U.S. recognizes the legitimacy of the newly elected president, President Lobo (though other nations do not).

However, many critics say that we should not send foreign aid to Honduras because anti-coup activists are still facing human rights violations. Even after the election, there are many reports of human rights abuses. A local leader of the anti-coup National Resistance Front named Julio Funes Benítez was murdered recently. Four members of the civil resistance were kidnapped and held for three days by presumed paramilitary gunmen.

There are other stories of such abuses at

Should countries withhold foreign aid until such abuses stop? I dont think we can ever be sure that the abuses have stopped. But countries need to make some kind of a stand.

Friday, February 19, 2010

World Cup Recovery

With so much spotlight being put on the World Cup in South Africa, how come not enough focus is on the amazing recovery of Paraguayan player Salvador Cabanas after being shot in the head in a Mexican bar who is now out of the intensive care unit?

Source Link.


With no Latin American countries being represented in the Olympic games being held in Vancouver, is anyone from the southern hemisphere even watching the games?

Carnival and Mardi Gras

Since Mardi Gras just happened, I got curious about Brazil's famous Rio Carnival. It was this past weekend, the 13th to the 16th. Like Mardi Gras, it is filled with intricate costumes, balls, bands, parades, and overall general cheer. It would be awesome to visit one day to see it for myself. This website is all about this year's Carnival and is loaded with amazing pictures.

Royal Caribbean in Haiti

I read an interesting article today in the March 2010 issue of Condé Nast TRAVELER, which talked about Royal Caribbean Cruise Line's role in Haiti, particularly after the earthquake.

The cruise line has introduced the largest cruise ship to date, 1,187 feet long and holding up to 6,296 passengers, which has caused some controversy, economically and environmentally. One of its ports-of-call in the Caribbean will include Haiti.

Royal Caribbean actually owns a peninsula in Haiti called Lambadee, which until recently was not advertised to its travelers that it was in fact a part of Haiti - so as not to make them wary of their safety on the cruise. The article says that R.C. "spent $50 million to expand the beach and facilities and to build a pier that would accommodate its new behemoth" (page 46, in case you're curious).

A week after the earthquake, Royal Caribbean was using this port to drop off supplies to Haiti, and has additionally pledged to donate $1 million to the nation. The port is and has been providing jobs for Haitians as well - one employee, with a salary of $300 per month, said that this was ten times more than the average wage in Haiti. And with each passenger of the cruise line that stops at Lambadee, Haiti receives approximately $6.

So, as the articles sums up, "assuming that the money actually does go to the Haitian people, Royal Caribbean will have an even stronger case that sometimes bigger really is better".

U.N. to Review Falklands Dispute

This is a brief article about the Argentine/ British dispute over the Falkland/Malvinas Islands off the souther coast of Argentina. In 1833 the British took control of the islands by force and in 1982 Argentina and Britain fought a brief war over the islands, with Britian coming out victorious. Argentina however has continued to lay claim to the islands and is now disputing a British oil companies attempt to explore for oil off the coast of the islands. Argentina is bring its case before the UN and will demand that Britain abide by General Assembly resolutions.

Group of 7-year-old queen last in Rio Carnival

After the immense controversey that followed the announcement of the child's involvement as drum corps queen, the Viradouro parade group came in dead last on Wednesday in the competition which cancels their participation in Rio de Janeiro's Carnival next year. Instead the Unidos da Tijuca group won for the first time since 1937.

Source Link

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Drug War in Ciudad Juarez

The people of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico are fleeing by the thousands due to drug violence in what has become one of the world’s deadliest cities. Over 10 percent of the city’s population has left in the past 18 months from fear caused by the turf war between drug cartels. Ciudad Juarez sits across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, and at least 30,000 have moved to El Paso from this dangerous city. The demand side of the drug trade is a major cause of the Mexican drug war and the conflict it causes, and this demand is mainly based in the U.S. We need to be aware that our choices and policies concerning drugs affect the lives of thousands of Mexican people each day.

Find the full article here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Joyless Carnival Season in Haiti

As we end the festivities of Mardi Gras, we realize that Haiti's usually extravagant Carnival celebration did not occur this year due to the devastation of the earthquake.

The January 12 earthquake hit just as the Carnival season was beginning. The Haitian people have lost so much that they feel no desire to celebrate. "I'm not sad because we don't have Carnival. I'm sad because I lost eight people in my family. They'll never dance again," said a 25-year-old woman.

We should take this sad reality as motivation to continue to reach out to Haiti in the hopes that the people recover physically as well as regain their spirits. It is difficult to speculate whether Haiti will be recovered by Carnival season next year.

Source Link

Friday, February 12, 2010

Sarayaku Kichwa Indigenous Group Wins Over Oil Companies

The Ecuadoran indigenous group Sarayaku Kichwa has been fighting for over 14 years to have 2 oil companies removed from their land, and has finally won. The two oil companies, both part of United States companies, have been there since 1996. This violates an agreement giving Sarayaku Kichwa rights to the land. The oil companies have used intimidation to maintain their position.
Sarayaku Kichwa took up this dispute against Ecuador, through the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, where they finally rules that the government must protect the community first and foremost.
This brings to light the impact of globalization, and the criticism that it is mostly American expansion into other countries. The "McWorld" effect, where America is the dominating element in globalization, can interfere with local communities. Countries need to get their priorities straight before America can entice them with deals; the people must come first.

Here is the article.

Western Oil Companies Get Contracts from Hugo Chavez

Venezuela nationalized some oil assets in 2008. After some clashes with Easern oil companies, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez decided to give contracts to Western (mostly American) oil companies. Some Venezuelans were concerned about Western companies' investments and operations. However, Chavez hopes to be able to help his country's now hurting ecomomy and its flagging oil production.

The United States is the largest consumer of Venezuelan oil. The oil companies want to drill in the Orinoco Belt, an area in Venezuela that contains one of the worlds largest recoverable oil reserves. Although many companies bid on the contracts, some American companies declined to bid. This may be because of the politics of Hugo Chavez,or the Venezuelan economic policies.

The article can be found here.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Si Cuba! on Campus

You may have seen flyers around campus advertising "Si Cuba!" According to the Stone Center website, it is "a major citywide presentation of arts, music, and culture related to Cuba" that will take place from January through the spring of 2010. Our own Newcomb Art Gallery is participating in the collaboration by hosting Polaridad Complementaria: Recent Works from Cuba. I have not yet seen the exhibition, but it will be right on campus until March 4.

This is a great opportunity to take advantage of the University's resources, expand on what we are learning in class and experience a citywide event. If you'd like to be adventuresome and explore off campus, there are events being hosted throughout the city including more exhibitions at the New Orleans Museum of Art. Go to the event's website for more information.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bolivia's Space Program

It may come as a surprise that the poverty-stricken country of Bolivia has recently developed a space agency. The agency has officially been approved by president Evo Morales. Chinese experts will assist in the creation and launch of the Bolivian Space Agency's first satellite. Construction of the satellite, to be named Tupac Katari, is scheduled to begin in March. This is an exciting development for Bolivia.

Costa Rica elects its first female president

Laura Chinchilla won Costa Rica’s presidential election Sunday, Feb 7. This marks a trend in Latin American politics that involves the increased election of female officials. Other female presidents recently elected in the region include President Michelle Bachelet of Chile who was elected in 2006 and President Cristina Elizabet Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina who was elected the following year. This trend can also be found in overall female representation in the government. The election of women to office may seem contrary to the idea of machisimo, commonly believed to be widespread in Latin America. However, it may also be understood to be the result of the common Latin American belief that women are morally superior to men that goes hand in hand with machisimo. Either way, Chinchilla’s election and the increase in female representation in Latin America is a positive trend for women’s rights that will hopefully inspire nations around the world.

Samba Queen Scandal for Rio's 2010 Carnival

Seeing as it's Mardi Gras season, I figured it would be appropriate to share this news scandal in Latin America's Carnival capital, Rio de Janeiro.

A seven-year-old girl, Julia Lira, was named queen of Viradoura Samba School - a title traditionally given to an older woman because of its sexual overtones. This has caused quite a stir among Brazilians and also the international community and is possibly going to court with the help of children's rights groups. Julia's father sees nothing wrong with her participation and is fighting to keep her in the parade.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Community Frustrated with How Massacre in Juarez Was Responded To

Shootings in Juarez last weekend have escalated tension within Mexico regarding the high death toll. Community members and relatives of the victims have asked that UN peacekeepers be sent to Juarez and that the president resign. They claim the response to this massacre was too slow.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Drug Cartels Go Into the Rehab Business

Recovering addicts have become the latest targets of the Mexican drug cartels as they use the rehab clinics as fronts for selling drugs and coerce the addicts into becoming drug dealers, hitmen, and smugglers. Clinics have additionally become the scenes of massacres as addicts and rehab staff have been killed from everything to resisting the cartels' influence to failure to pay off drug debts.

Ex-Leader of Honduras Says Successor Must Hasten Purge

Ex-President of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, is criticizing the new President, Porfirio Lobo, for not acting quickly in purging the government of those who organized, allowed, or supported the coup against him. He says that there are still a number of military officers as well as judges in office that plotted against him. Lobo, on the other hand, has larger problems on his hands and is unlikely to hasten in the execution of Zalaya's criticisms. He still has to convince the rest of the world that his new government is legitimate and that he is in fact the rightful president of Honduras. So far, only the USA, Taiwan, and a handful of Latin American nations have recognized his government as legitimate.

Brazil and the Rainforst

I feel like our book and many of the articles we read for class are very anti-American. Authors of these articles usually view American aid as a negative thing because it tends to lead to dependency. So, I found an article where U.S. aid could be a good thing! U.S. aid helps stop deforestation in Brazil.

Violence Against Mexican Human Rights Advocates

Amnesty International asked the Mexican government to protect human rights activists. Some activists are arguing for the rights of indigenous people in Mexico. These activists are receiving death threats, and some have even been murdered. The police are imprisoning activists, and Amnesty International charged that the Mexican government is not doing enough about it. The govenment has to deal with civilians who are sending death threats, and police who are presenting false criminal charges.

More can be found here.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Costa Rica Presidential Election: Laura Chinchilla

As we have discussed in class, Latin America has had an impressive number of female heads of state, and it is expected that the results of Costa Rica's presidential election on Sunday will increase this number by one more.

Laura Chinchilla, having served as VP for current president Oscar Arias, will possibly be the first female elected president in Costa Rica. She is socially conservative - specifically in regards to abortion and gay marriage - and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for her work to end civil wars in Central American countries.

Read more about her here.

Tereré Tereré Tereré

In the wake of our discussion about exchange and Latin American foods, I decided to blog about one of my favorite Paraguayan traditions I encountered while studying abroad: drinking Tereré. Tereré refers to the consumption of yerba mate in a specific way. Yerba mate is enjoyed in Bolivia, Paraguay, and parts of Brazil and Argentina. An herb native to Paraguay and reminiscent of tea, it has recently appealed to U.S. corporations like Smoothie King for its natural stimulant effects, antioxidants, and ability to boost metabolism. It is better for you than caffeine because no crash follows the consumption of Yerba Mate, but it provides as much stimulation and increase in alertness as coffee and energy drinks. Its antioxidants are similar to those found in green tea, and the herb has been found to boost your metabolism.

Paraguayans drink tereré at least two or three times a day. They generally sit in a circle outside, on the ground or in porch chairs. One person holds a pitcher of ice water that is often infused with mint or lemon leaves. A “bombilla” (a metal straw with a strainer at the bottom) is placed in a gourd (basically a cup). The yerba mate is then poured on top of the bombilla to rest inside the gourd. The person with the pitches pours water into the gourd and drinks all the water, which has strained to the bottom through the yerba mate, from the gourd through the bombilla. The server then fills the gourd again with water and passes it to the person next to him/her, who drinks all of the water and passes the gourd back to the server. The server pours more water in and passes it to the next person, and así it continues.

Tereré is an acquired taste. I brought an entire set of supplies needed to drink tereré, as well as 10 lbs of yerba mate, back with me from Paraguay (I was surprised I made it through customs!). Some of my American friends have fallen in love with the drink and its effects, while others can’t stand the taste. I personally couldn’t live without it.

Go to to buy your own supplies and yerba mate. Campesino is my preferred brand, probably because it was the brand generally favored among the Paraguayans I knew. Order the yerba mate with mint leaves for an extra kick. Or just ask for some of my supply!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Soccer Legend Return Home

Roberta Ayala, former captain of the Argentinian National Team, has ended his European playing career and now looks to sign on one of the club teams in his home country. It will be interesting to see which team will sign him and if the legendary defender will give his team an advantage in the Primera Division standings.

Legalizing Marijuana: A New Angle?

Growing up in America over the last decade, we have all heard about the increasing demand to legalize marijuana. Arguments have become increasingly more creative, and fans everywhere rejoiced when the substance was legalized in California "for medical purposes." While the pro-marijuana faction has been gaining momentum, they have lacked a political figure-head to support their campaign. Until now.

Former Mexican foreign minister Jorge Castaneda stated in an interview Tuesday that marijuana should be legalized in both Mexico and the United States. His reason? Mexican drug cartels earn an estimated 60 percent of their profits from marijuana sale. Since the Mexican government declared war on the drug cartels, roughly 17,000 people have been killed, including 900 during January alone. Legalization would flood the market with a new supply, bringing prices down, increasing competition, and cutting off more than half of the money fueling drug-trafficking operations.

Even though Castaneda's statement will not single-handedly change the United States government's stance on marijuana, it is certainly a step in that direction. Only time will tell how the government will react.

Source: CNN

Monday, February 01, 2010

Gunmen Kill Innocent Teens in Mexico

This past weekend, a group of gunmen in Ciudad Juarez opened fire on a house party, killing 16 teenagers.

Apparently, drug violence has been prevalent in the city for the past three years, and officials believe this shooting reflected the trend. However, there is no evidence that the victims were involved in gangs or drug use.

Recently, federal police vowed to send 2,000 additional officers to patrol Cuidad Juarez. Hopefully, they will now follow through with this and take the situation more seriously.

Chocolate Chicken!

Though chocolate chicken may sound nasty to an American, this dish is actually the national dish of Mexico. Chicken mole, or mole poblano, is a very complicated dish that calls for many ingredients. It has a rich history and is very significant in Mexican culture still today. Some of the legends surrounding its origin can be found on this website: MEXonline.