Friday, April 30, 2010

Another Way to Help Haiti?

Today on the CNN website was an article about Mesh Gelman. He is a New York entrepreneur who wants to use Americans' passion for shopping to help Haiti and of course earn money. He isn't running a non-profit, he jokes. However, he thinks that reading "Made in Haiti" on t-shirt labels will encourage Americans to buy these products.

The Port-au-Prince factory was partially damaged in the quake and had also suffered due to political instability and trade embargoes, so it is not producing at full capacity. Today, the company supplies to WalMart, Old Navy and JC Penny. Gelman hopes that soon the unused sewing machines will be up and running again. Even though the workers do not get paid much, it is better than no job at all says one worker, Misere Cherlie.

In addition, production in Haiti results in much lower shipping costs than production in Aisa explains Gelman. He thinks that because of these things, this sector of the Haitian economy has a lot of hope. "Greed, [Gelman] says, half joking, can be a very good thing."

American Priest Found Dead in Venezuela

Esteban Woods, an American priest who worked with the Catholic Church for 23 years, was found stabbed to death in his Venezuela on Thursday. Two prosecutors have been assigned to investigate the case.

Source: CNN

Venezuela arrests man in alleged plot to kill Chavez

Venezuelan police arrested a man suspected of trying to incite the assassination of President Hugo Chavez. Relations between Colombia and Venezuela remain strained, and the Venezuelan government suspects Colombian paramilitary groups to be involved in the plot.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Arizona's New Immigration Law

Arizona has recently put into a law that its police are required to question the immigration status of anyone thought to be illegal - a drastic measure in a state not only bordering Mexico, but with one of the largest Mexican immigrant populations in the United States. Under the law, illegal day workers are subject to arrest and police departments failing to enforce this may be sued.

Mexican president, Felipe Calderón, however, is not pleased with the new law and warns that he and the Mexican state will do everything in their power to protect their nationals. He defends Mexican immigrants in the US by saying, "Criminalising immigration, which is a social and economic phenomena, this way opens the door to intolerance, hate, and discrimination". Additionally, he plans to address the issue with President Obama next month.

On a personal note, I feel that the law is rather severe, however, President Calderón's argument is invalid in the sense that the Arizona law is not discriminating against immigrants, who are welcome to reside and work in the state granted that they are there legally. The law is a punishment, however harsh, for those that choose not to follow the rules.

In response to his concern for "intolerance, hate, and discrimination" I think that in the United States, there tends to exist a negative opinion when it comes to Latin American immigrants in the US and a lot of people incorrectly assume that they are all illegal and that they are all Mexican (though to be fair, the vast majority are). A law that cracks down on illegals immigrants, taking advantage of the country's benefits without paying taxes, etc. may, in fact, work to reduce discrimination. By being sure that the Latino - or any - immigrants in the US are here legally and therefore have every right to be in the country, there is not reason to look down on them. It is the fact that some people are not playing by the rules that causes resentment and discrimination against immigrant communities.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Chilean Reverend Accused of Sexual Assault

In Chile, Reverend Fernando Karadima has been accused of sexual assault by four men. Father Karadima is one of the most influential and respected priests in Chile, sometimes even considered a "living saint." These four men, who were once devout followers, have said that they were sexually abused for up to two decades. Chile is one of Latin America's most devout counties, and the people are very upset, some directing their anger at the accusers. These people say that such a well-reputed man in his position could never do such a thing. Chile's Catholic Church has had to deal with many cases of sexual abuse recently, and are still deliberating as to how to deal with the case.

You can read the article here.

Colombia's Sewers Home to Many Vagrant Kids

Today, on the CNN website was an article about the many Colombian kids who live in the sewers. The trend started in the 90s when "death squads" were sent during the night to "clean" the streets of the many homeless children. To escape the violence at home and on the streets, kids moved into the sewers. For a while, this became a humanitarian story, discussed openly on the news and charities were set up to help the kids. However, like most things, media attention soon turned to other stories. And police began going into the sewers killing many kids to end the problem.

It is not over, though. Kids still live in the sewers. They live on crack to escape the anxiety living in these horrible conditions creates. One man, "Papa Jaime" is still trying to solve the problem. he tries to help the kids move out of the sewers and get a better life. The children look to him as a protector and trust him.

This is a very moving article and video clip that explains more about the situation. I encourage you to watch it:

Drug War in Mexico Continues

Six police and one civilian were killed in a shootout in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico today. It is suspected that the shooters were involved in the drug trade.

Source: CNN

Bolivian President promotes "Planet's Rights"

Evo Morales, the current president of Bolivia, was recently discussed in a chapter in Green's book. He is currently making some headlines. He plans to create a "Mother Earth Ministry" to promote the planet's rights. Also, he wants to create an international court that could punish nations that do not comply with emission-reduction agreements. Morales would like this court to be located in the Bolivian city of Cochabama, where he recently hosted a climate change conference. The attendance at the conference included environmentalists, Indian communities, and Hugo Chavez. Morales unveiled his plan to plant 10 million trees in a year.
This proposed court is related to the issue we discussed, if other nations have a right to tell some countries what to do with natural resources. I doubt that Morales's planned court would go over too well, though it would be nice if it did.

The link:

New Amazon Dam Planned in Brazil

After fighting off three efforts to halt the project, Brazil has formerly awarded the rights to build what will be the world's third-largest dam to a private-public consortium. The proposed plan to build the dam on the Xingu River which feeds into the Amazon is already coming under fire from environmentalists, local indigenous groups, and even director James Cameron for the potential envirnonmental damage it would cause, despite the government's claim that the impact would be minimal compared to the amount of electricity (6% of Brazil's electricity by 2014) it would produce for the country.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mexican Drug Dealer Caught

A major drug trafficker, Alvarez Vazquez, was caught today in a wealthy neighborhood near Mexico City. Since December 2006, an estimated 22,700 people have been killed in Mexico's drug war. Hopefully the arrest of this major player in the drug trade will make a big difference in reducing violence and illegal activity both in Mexico and throughout Latin America.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Stranded Tourists in Caribbean

The volcanic eruption in Iceland that has cancelled many flights to and from Europe, may be helping to boost some Caribbean economies. Many European tourists are stuck until air service returns to normal, forcing them to stay longer than planned in hotels, eat out, etc. and many hotels have called in extra staff and supplies to meet the demand. Jamaica, for example, has 2500 stranded British tourists, and one hotel in Grenada has reported a 45% increased in its occupancy rates. Islands such as Antigua and Barbados, however, that depend greatly on British tourists are not seeing this increase because many tourists were unable to flight TO the caribbean because of the flight cancellations. Although this is not long-lasting nor extremely significant, it is helping a bit to make a bad situation a little bit better.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mexico's First Lady Plays a Postive Role

Margarita Zavala, wife of Mexican president Felipe Calderon, has been consoling families of victims of the Mexican drug war with visits and phone calls. However, she wishes her role to go unpublicized and does not desire any praise for her actions.
As first lady, Margarita Zavala has also been an advocate for women's rights and supported organizations to fight drug addiction.
A recent poll found that Zavala is the most popular member of her political party, even more so than her husband.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Government-Sponsored Graffiti in Venezuela

The Venezuelan government has sponsored graffiti artists to tag the Caracas with their art. Graffiti artists have put up a wide range of political images, from tagging to strong political images. The government's Ministry of Communes has arranged these groups of street artists. Many of the political images glorify Hugo Chavez and put down the United States and associated political figures.
Here is the link to see some of the images:

Friday, April 16, 2010

Brazilian Rancher Guilty in Nun’s Murder

Sorry for the long title, but there was a problem copying the url into the article, so I had to put it there.

Anyway, In Brazil a rancher accused of murdering a Catholic nun has been convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison. The nun had worked for 30 years with indiginous peoples of Brazil and protecting the rainforest. The man allegedly killed the nun after she blocked him from taking land the government gave to farmers

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Electoral Council Warns Against Colombia's Election System

Marco Emilio Hincapie is the President of the National Electoral Council in Colombia. He reported on the council's findings that the electoral system in Colombia is inefficient. He said that the current system is "unreliable," because of such factors as "poor management of information" and "excessive manipulaion of documents." Also, it is too slow in counting votes. Although Hincapie urged the government to implement electronic voting, he has not received a response. Electoral Observation Mission, an NGO based in Bogota, alleged that votes were bought in Colombia's March 14 election; and authorities suspect fraudulent activity in the ballot count.
Hincapie wants to have a new voting system before Colombia's presidential elections on May 30.

See the full story at:

James Cameron battles a "real-life Avatar" situation in Brazil

Director James Cameron spent the past few days in Brazil near the Xingu River, the cite where the country is looking to build a huge hydroelectric dam. Cameron has been visiting with indigenous tribes who would be hurt by the build, and his support for the opposition likely played a major role in a Brazilian judge's recent decision to temporary halt bidding on the dam. Cameron calls the debate a "real-life Avatar" battle in the Amazon.
We've talked a lot in class about the importance of protecting the Amazon, but we've also discussed the issues involved in telling a country what to do with its own natural resources. Does Brazil have the right to cause extreme harm to the environment within its own national borders for the sake of electricity, or does it have a responsibility to protect the forest for the good of the entire world?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mexico Says No to Obesity

The lower house in Mexico's Congress recently passed a bill that will require Mexican schools to set aside a time each day for students to exercise, as well as restricts the sale of junk food in those same schools. The bill has been sent to the Senate for discussion.

Source: Yahoo! News

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Michelle Obama Visits Latin America

Today first lady Michelle Obama made an unannounced visit to Haiti in her first solo trip overseas. She witnessed the devastation caused by the earthquake and met with the president.
Next Michelle Obama went to Mexico City where she plans to work with children. She has been very welcomed thus far and these countries citizens express happiness towards her presence.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Calle 13 Concert in Cuba

This is a little delayed, but I think the article is interesting enough to still take about and asks a more general question about international interaction with the communist country.

On 23 March 201, the popular Puerto Rican reggaeton band Calle 13 performed in Cuba which was, in the words of singer/rapper Residente, held to talk about "sex, religion and politics". This performance included their controversial song "Querido FBI [Dear FBI]"that criticizes the US for its actions in the death of Filiberto Ojeda Rios, a Puerto Rican radical accused of an anti-US heist in Connecticut. Most Cubans enjoyed the show merely for the music, although the political undertones were obvious.

This provoked the angry reaction of many US-Cubans, including Emilio Esteban, who chastized Calle 13 for making ties with the communist country. Others, however, believe that the criticism is uncalled for and Calle 13 should be able to perform for Cuban citizens without creating so much political drama. Other concerts, such as one held by super popular Colombian singer Juanes, have received similar responses.

This raises an interesting question as to how much if any can the international community interact with Cuba, even in non-political terms, without creating tension with the US and its Cuban population? Should this even be taken into consideration?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Masters

With one Round left and angel Cabrera at -3. Does the Argentinian stand a chance to take home the Masters at Augusta?

Friday, April 09, 2010

Elian Gonzalez: All Grown Up

Many people remember the incident back in November of 1999 when 9 year-old Elian Gonzalez was found floating in an inner tube near the coast of Florida. There was much controversy over whether the boy should be sent back to Cuba or stay in Miami with relatives. After much drama, US federal agents returned Elian to Havana.
Throughout the years since the incident, Elian has been kept away from foreign media. However, photos have recently been released that show now 16 year-old Elian at a Young Communist Union Conference in Havana. It is said that whether he like it or not, Elian Gonzalez is still a political symbol.

University of Wisconsin cuts ties with Nike

Friday, the University of Wisconsin Badgers ended the agreement licensing with Nike, Inc. In January 2009, two factories in Choloma and San Pedro Sula, Honduras shut down abruptly. The workers have been left unpaid. Though Nike, Inc. subcontracts its work, these companies are responsible for compensation of their employees. University of Wisconsin is the first University to take this step due to workers rights. Nike is expressing disappointment, but student activists on campus are very happy and hope other universities will take their lead.

Colombian Presidential Candidate Has Parkinson's

Colombian presidential candidate Antanas Mockus revealed that he has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. He is the Green Party candidate, and has been 2nd in public opinion polls. Mockus says that the disease would not affect his ability to be president, and says that the disease would not affect him that greatly for 12 years, as it is in early stages.

Putin Visits Venezuela to Discuss Oil and Arms

Last week Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met in Venezuela with President Hugo Chavez to discuss weapons sales to the Venezuelan military and the possibility of oil ventures and cooperation between Venezuela and Russia in this area. The Russian and Venezuelan governments have always been friendly and this meeting was based on that friendship. Chavez is currently trying for closer relations with Russia in Latin America to neutralize the US influence in the region. Chavez had hoped that the meeting could be used to discuss plans for Russia and Venezuela to cooperate in a plan for nuclear energy in Venezuela, but at the moment it seems relations between the two are not close enough for that. It seems that for the moment their friendship is limited to oil and weapons sales.

Birthrate declines in Latin America

I found an interesting, recent article which states that the birthrate among Latinos fell in 2008. The article claims that a stereotype of Latin American people is that families tend to have too many children. The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) released a report which states that the overall birthrate fell in 2008 by almost 2% after reaching its highest point in two decades. The birthrates dropped in nearly all categories, and the most dramatic change was among Hispanics. The birthrate among Hispanic teens hit a historic low. Stephanie Ventura, chief of the reproductive statistics branch at the NCHS, said she wasn't sure about the decline in Latino births; however, she said that many could consider poor economy and loss of jobs.

Read more at:

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Mudslide may have killed 200 Brazilian slum-dwellers

A mudslide in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday buried and may have therefore killed 200 Brazilians. The mudslide was triggered by records amounts of rainfall, and the people of this favella, which was built on top of a former landfill, may have lost not only their houses and belongings but also their lives. Brazil's emergency systems are working to rescue those buried and address the issue, although the nation has also downplayed the event to ease concern regarding the 2016 Olympics.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Scopolamine: The Real-Life Imperius Curse

Yes, you read that title correctly. Those of you who read Harry Potter know the effects of the Imperius Curse very well: loss of memory; inability to control your actions; extreme susceptibility to outward influence; and all while acting and talking completely normally. Your friends have no clue you're under someone else's control. Pretty scary, right? Now imagine the ramifications of all of those symptoms in our world today: bank accounts cleaned out, people raped and murdered. A recent article on enlightens the world about Colombian Devil's Breath, a plant that strikes fear in the hearts of Colombian citizens but is little known in other parts of the world. Scopolamine, which is essentially a date-rape drug on steroids, is derived from Devil's Breath and is responsible for countless Imperius-esque episodes in Colombia. (CNN's source for the article) interviewed a Bogota drug dealer named Demencia Black who explained Scopolamine like this:
Scopolamine is a drug like no other. Nothing can compare. Got me? For example, with this you could be walking right here and suddenly... *poof* [he mimes somebody blowing a powder out of their hand onto another person]... you have your back turned or a girl walking right here and I walk up and I go *poof*. Just like that. With just that flash the person is totally drugged. You wait a minute and when you see it kick in then you know that you own that person... If you exceed the dose, you run the risk of the person dying.
With effects like that, Scopolamine has the potential to become one of the most dangerous drugs in the world. It completely takes away your free will. I have to hope that governments everywhere are already in the process of controlling the Colombian Devil's Breath trade, or we may be in a heap of trouble.

For the full stories, see:
CNN (written article)
VBS (2 videos)

Monday, April 05, 2010

Machu Picchu Re-opens

After being closed in February and March of 2010 due to a mudslides and flooding that trapped 4,000 tourists in Agua Calientes, Peru, the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu re-opened this week. The Peruvian government invited Susan Sarandon to help celebrate the re-opening. This will be very helpful to the Peruvian economy, which has suffered greatly without its most popular tourist attraction - the loss was estimated at approximately $185 million by the Tourism Ministry.