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Date: Friday, 18 Apr 2014 13:27

* Mexico: A magnitude-7.5 earthquake struck near the resort city of Acapulco this morning and was felt throughout fourteen states in central and southern Mexico.
* Brazil: A two-day police strike ended in Brazil’s third-largest city, Salvador, but not before thirty-nine homicides were committed during that period.

* Chile: Officials with Chile’s national forestry agency claimed that firemen have “contained” a massive fire in Valparaiso that killed at least fifteen people and destroyed nearly three thousand homes.

* Cuba: Is Cuba on the verge of an “imminent health crisis” due to a reported shortage of condoms?
Video Source– YouTube user elsiglocomve (Residents in Mexico City exited their homes and places of residence Friday morning as a result of a powerful earthquake near Acapulco).

Online Sources – CNN; Reuters; The Guardian; Bernama
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Brazil, Chile, condoms, Cuba, Daily Head..."
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Date: Friday, 18 Apr 2014 00:06

One of Latin America's most famous authors, Gabriel García Márquez, has passed away on Thursday afternoon at the age of 87.

Fernanda Familiar, a spokeswoman for the García Márquez family, tweeted that the Colombian-born Nobel laureate died at his residence in Mexico City:

She wrote "Gabriel García Márquez died.  Mercedes and her sons, Rodrigo and Gonzalo have authorized me to provide the information.  What a profound sadness..."

A statement from the García Márquez family issued on Wednesday mentioned that he was in "very fragile" health following a nine-day hospitalization to treat lung and urinary tract infections.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos alluded to García Márquez' best-known novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, via his Twitter account.

"One thousand years of solitude and sadness over the death of the greatest Colombian of all time," he tweeted.  Santos claimed earlier this week that García Márquez had pneumonia and was in "delicate health which is a reality of his age."
Other message of condolences were issued by international leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama and President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico as well as artists from the Americas.

"He gave me the motivation and freedom to launch myself into writing because in his books I found my own family, my country, characters familiar to me, the color and rhythm and abundance of my continent," said Chilean novelist Isabel Allende.  

"A great writer has died.  His works helped spread and provide prestige to Latin American literature...I send my condolences to his family," said came from fellow Nobel laureate and literary great Mario Vargas Llosa.  The Peruvian author along with the likes of García Márquez, Julio Cortázar of Argentina and Mexico's Carlos Fuentes spearheaded a Latin American Boom in literature during the 1960s and 70s.
The hashtag #GraciasGabo has become a trending topic on Twitter as people worldwide have taken to social networks to express their appreciation of the renown author and novelist. 

(Update: Our biography of García Márquez can be read below the page break).   

García Márquez was born on March 6, 1927 in Aracataca, a town near Colombia's Pacific coast that would later serve as the inspiration for Cien años de soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude). He became a journalist in his early twenties and wrote columns for several local newspapers including Bogotá's El Espectador and Baranquilla's El Heraldo.

La Hojarsca (The Leaf Storm) was published in 1955 as García Márquez' first novel but it was the publishing of One Hundred Years of Solitude twelve years later that put him on the global literary map.  The fictional text relating the multi-generational story of the Buendía family received near-universal acclaim when it was first released.  (One literary critic called it a "South American Genesis.")  It's themes of magical realism and loneliness resonated with readers and the book has been translated into thirty-seven languages and has sold more than twenty million copies.

One Hundred Years may be regarded as García Márquez' masterpiece, but the early 1980s can be classified as his most successful period as a novelist.  Published in 1981, Crónica de una muerte anunciada (Chronicle of a Death Foretold) highlighted García Márquez' skills as a journalist rather than as a novelist.  Four years later, he used his parent's relationships and his own experience of waiting years to marry his wife (now widow) as the basis to write El amor en los tiempos del cólera (Love in the Time of Cholera).    

In 1982, García Márquez became the first Colombian and the fourth Latin American at the time to earn the Nobel Prize in literature.  The honor was given by the selection committee in recognition "for his novels and short stories, in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent's life and conflicts."

In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, García Márquez discussed various topics such as European colonialism in the Americas and mistrust from abroad of Latin American social movements.  "The Solitude of Latin America" speech ended with a quote from one of his favorite authors and a call to rethink the way we view the world:
On a day like today, my master William Faulkner said, "I decline to accept the end of man". I would fall unworthy of standing in this place that was his, if I were not fully aware that the colossal tragedy he refused to recognize thirty-two years ago is now, for the first time since the beginning of humanity, nothing more than a simple scientific possibility. Faced with this awesome reality that must have seemed a mere utopia through all of human time, we, the inventors of tales, who will believe anything, feel entitled to believe that it is not yet too late to engage in the creation of the opposite utopia. A new and sweeping utopia of life, where no one will be able to decide for others how they die, where love will prove true and happiness be possible, and where the races condemned to one hundred years of solitude will have, at last and forever, a second opportunity on earth.
Perhaps the most controversial aspect in the life of García Márquez was his longtime and close friendship with Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro.  Several of his fellow authors such as Octavio Paz of Mexico and Cuban Reinaldo Arenas criticized that relationship while Vargas Llosa called him a "courtesan" of the Castro regime for not denouncing a 2003 crackdown on dissidents.  Despite his ties to Castro, García Márquez was also friends with former U.S. President Bill Clinton and he used the fictional 1975 novel El otoño del patriarca (Autumn of the Patriarch) to criticize other authoritarian governments in Latin America.

Over the past fifteen years García Márquez was hurt by his share of health problems.  In 1999, he was diagnosed for lymphatic cancer and he subsequently underwent a successful surgery.  His final novel, Memoria de mis putas tristes (Memories of My Melancholy Whores) was published five years later though it's unknown how many unfinished manuscripts he has written over the past decade.  His brother Jaime announced in 2012 that García Márquez was suffering from symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, which the author then denied.       

Author, novelist, journalist.  It is very difficult to succinctly describe the legacy of Gabriel García Márquez in the world of literature and even his effect on pop culture.  Therefore, we leave the last words to García Márquez himself:
“What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.”
Video Source - AFP via YouTube ("Colombia writer Gabriel García Márquez, winner of the Nobel Prize in literature in 1982, celebrated his 87th birthday on Thursday in Mexico City. He briefly appeared outside his house where journalists were waiting".)

Online Sources including updates- UPI; Twitter; Reuters; The New York Times; El Comercio; minutopuno.com; Parade Magazine; La Nacion; today.com
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Colombia, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, litera..."
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Date: Thursday, 17 Apr 2014 16:05

Puerto Rican salsa legend and bolero singer José “Cheo” Feliciano died in the early morning hours of Thursday in a car crash.  He was 78 years old.

According to police officials in Puerto Rico, Feliciano was driving alone in his Jaguar auto when it hit a utility pole near the San Juan suburb of Cupey.  He reportedly lost control of his car as he was entering a curve and hit his head on the windshield. 

“It was a strong impact against a fixed object,” said Jorge Hernández Peña, the head of the police force’s traffic division.  “Feliciano was not wearing his seatbelt,” observed Hernández Peña.

Feliciano’s widow, Socorro Prieto León, said at an impromptu press conference that her husband “hated to put on his seatbelt” and that she would usually drive for him since he was diagnosed with cancer last year.

“(Please) remember him always as a family man.  A man who was always very good and a wonderful partner,” she added.  The couple would have celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary this October.

The motive for the accident is unknown though the singer’s son, José Enrique Feliciano, speculated that his father suffered from limited mobility and may have fallen asleep behind the wheel.
It was at the age of eight that José Luis Feliciano Vega created his first band in his birthplace of Ponce called "El Combo Las Latas" (“The Tin Can Band”) after the instruments they used.  From these humble beginnings, Feliciano would be a member of the Joe Cuba Sextet and later the Eddie Palmieri Orchestra and was best know for songs like "Una en un millon," "Mi promesa" and "Contigo aprendi." His main claim to fame, however, would be as part of the revered Fania All-Stars salsa music ensemble where he shared the stage with the likes of Celia Cruz, Willie Colón and Ruben Blades. 

In 1967, Feliciano went through an addiction to heroin that nearly derailed his musical career and put his life at risk.  He was able to overcome it by undergoing rehabilitation in Puerto Rico and since that time he was a vocal anti-drug advocate.  Last year, for example, he spoke out against a proposal to legalize personal use of marijuana by arguing that “so many former addicts like myself started by smoking marijuana” and then moved on to other narcotics in order to find “a greater high.

Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla declared three days of mourning while scores of musicians including Daddy Yankee, Oscar D'León and Calle 13 lead singer René González expressed their condolences via social networks.

Salsa singer Tito Nieves, who was scheduled to perform with Feliciano in concert on Saturday, observed that Feliciano received a great deal of support throughout the Americas though he seemed to have been overlooked in Puerto Rico.  Nevertheless, he urged the mayor of Ponce to “do whatever she can” so that Feliciano can be buried in the city of his birth.

In a 2008 interview, Feliciano admitted, “In my case, there’s no such thing as retirement.  I’ll keep singing until the bells toll.”  The bells may have rung in the predawn hours with the crash that claimed his life, but the music of “Cheo” will continue to be heard and loved for many years to come.
Video Source– YouTube user SalsaBravaRecords

Online Sources – Billboard, El Universal, Metro Puerto Rico, El Nuevo Dia; Univision Noticias; El Colombiano
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "José “Cheo” Feliciano, music, obitu..."
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Date: Thursday, 17 Apr 2014 11:10

* Cuba: As part of Cuba’s new labor law, the government officially declared Good Friday as a national holiday for the first time since prior to the Cuban Revolution in 1959.
* Brazil: Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff continues to handily lead in the latest presidential polls though she could face a serious challenge from ex-governor Eduardo Campos who this week teamed up with respected environmental activist Marina Silva.
* Colombia: The offices of the Sintraemcali union were firebombed days after a Colombian court ordered the state to apologize for alleging that union members were allied to the FARC guerillas.
* Argentina: Police in Argentina rescued a fifteen-year-old girl who was severely malnourished and abused by her adoptive parents who left her imprisoned for nine years in a garage.
Video Source– AFP via YouTube (Cuban officials recognized Good Friday as a holiday in 2012 following Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the island but did not celebrate Good Friday as its own holiday last year).

Online Sources – CBS Local; The Guardian; Bloomberg; Fox News Latino; RTE
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "abuse, Argentina, Brazil, Catholicism, C..."
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Date: Wednesday, 16 Apr 2014 11:47
Note: The following video contains graphic images and is Not Safe for Work (NSFW).

* Caribbean: Cuba and the Dominican Republic joined three other nations including Honduras in their World Trade Organization dispute against Australia’s strong anti-tobacco laws.

* Bolivia: Bolivian President Evo Morales personally handed over documents to the International Court of Justice as part of the landlocked country’s case seeking to regain a coastline from Chile.
* Argentina: The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear a case next Monday regarding unpaid debts from the Argentine government’s massive $82 billion default in 2001.

* Haiti: According to Amnesty International, “leading human rights activist” Pierre Esperance received a threat implying that he “won’t escape” the next assassination attempt against him.
Video Source– AFP via YouTube

Online Sources – GlobalPost; Reuters; The Latin Americanist; USA TODAY; The Washington Post
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Amnesty International, Argentina, Austra..."
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Date: Tuesday, 15 Apr 2014 09:20

* Brazil: According to a researcher from Brazil, the obesity rate among children in that South American country is an “extremely high” 39%.
* Puerto Rico: The Puerto Rican Supreme Court struck down a teacher pension reform law that the commonwealth's government said was necessary in order to improve the island’s woeful economy.

* Venezuela: Venezuelan officials claimed that there was no political motive behind the kidnapping of TV news network Globovision journalist Nairobi Pinto who was freed eight days after she was her abducted in Caracas.

* Cuba: For the first time since 1983, France’s foreign minister visited Cuba and reportedly discussed with President Raul Castro ways to “push forward our relations in the areas of culture, education, economics and politics.”

Video Source – AFP via YouTube (“Brazil is known as home of the perfect beach body - but in reality, 48% of the population is overweight and 16% obese, a rise of 5 percentage points in just five years. At the current rate, the average Brazilian could soon be heavier than the average American.”)
Online Sources – Voice of America; GlobalPost; Fox News Latino; Reuters
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Brazil, children, Cuba, Daily Headlines,..."
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Date: Monday, 14 Apr 2014 09:00

* Chile: More than 10,000 people were evacuated and at least eleven were killed after a massive fire destroyed hundreds of residences in the port city of Valparaiso.
* Dominican Republic: A recent report found that “arbitrary” interpretations of a controversial 2013 Dominican high court ruling has led to increased discrimination against children of Haitian background trying to attend school.
* Argentina: In the latest chapter of the diplomatic tug-of-war over the Falkland Islands, Argentina’s government blasted Britain for holding military exercises at the disputed archipelago.
* Mexico: Thirty-six people died as a result of bus that crashed into a truck yesterday on a highway in Veracruz state.
Video Source– ITN via YouTube (The major fire that hit Valparaiso occurred nearly two weeks after an 8.2-magnitude earthquake struck off the northern coast of Chile.)

Online Sources – Voice of America; Reuters; Prensa Latina; The Latin Americanist; The Washington Post
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "accident, Argentina, Britain, Chile, cit..."
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Date: Friday, 11 Apr 2014 08:30

* Central America: A new U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime report concluded that Central America is the world’s most violent region with Honduras leading the pack with a whopping 90.4 homicides per 100,000 people.

* Brazil: Drought conditions in Brazil have been blamed for an increase in the price of coffee to its highest point since February 2012.

* Nicaragua: An earthquake measuring at least 6.1 on the Richter scale struck off the western coast of Nicaragua that reportedly did not cause any major damage.

* Colombia: Colombian police uncovered over seven tons of cocaine with a street value of about $250 million hidden in packages bound for Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

Video Source – AFP via YouTube (Video uploaded in November 2013).

Online Sources – swissinfo.ch; The Guardian; Reuters; The Washington Post
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Brazil, Central America, coca, coffee, C..."
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Date: Thursday, 10 Apr 2014 11:20

* Venezuela: President Nicolás Maduro and opposition figures are expected to meet today in live televised discussions that could help quell some of the political unrest that has claimed 39 lives over the past two months.
* South America: Three of Argentina’s five main labor unions are planning a major strike on Thursday while several thousand people in Sao Paulo marched on Wednesday calling for workplace reforms.
* Cuba: Cuban officials are reportedly “concerned” over the hunger strike undertaken by Alan Gross, a U.S. government subcontractor imprisoned in Havana since 2010.
* Latin America: According to the World Bank, economic growth in Latin America and the Caribbean is expected to slow down this year to approximately 2.3%.
Video Source– euronews via YouTube

Online Sources – Miami Herald; Tico Times; BusinessWeek; LAHT; GlobalPost
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Alan Gross, Argentina, Brazil, Daily Hea..."
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Date: Wednesday, 09 Apr 2014 11:30

* Argentina: An Argentine court sentenced ten people to up to twenty-two years in prison regarding the 2002 kidnapping and “sexual exploitation” of a missing young woman named Marita Veron.

* Mexico: Death row inmate Ramiro Hernandez is running out of legal options and today he will likely become the second Mexican national to be executed in Texas this year.
* Cuba: Sen. Patrick Leahy, the head of the Senate subcommittee that oversees USAID, blasted the administrator of that agency for a “cockamamie” failed social network project launched in Cuba.

* Haiti: A new report found that the percentage of Haitian earthquake survivors living in refugee camps has plummeted by 91% though the study notes the “phenomenon of new families moving into camps and families splitting and occupying more tents constitutes a worrying trend.

Video Source– The Daily Beast via YouTube (Susana Trimarco, the mother of missing Argentine woman Marita Veron, has become an activist against human trafficking as she continues the search for her “disappeared” daughter.) 

Online Sources – BBC News; The Latin Americanist; ABC News; CBS News; Miami Herald
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Argentina, Cuba, earthquake, execution, ..."
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Date: Wednesday, 09 Apr 2014 08:50

Venezuelan government officials met on Tuesday night with members of the opposition in order to negotiate a potential end to nearly two months of unrest.  (Update: Both sides reportedly agreed to hold "formal talks" that could start as soon as this Thursday).

While plans are being made for the upcoming of the discussions, anti-government activists continue to voice their complaints against the regime led by President Nicolas Maduro.  One of the most unique protests took part recently in response to allegations of human rights abuses.

Using the hashtag #MejorDesnudosQue (roughly translated #BetterToBeNudeThan), the campaign began on April 4th when a team of Venezuelan ad executives uploaded semi-nude photos of themselves. The previous day, images emerged of a young man at the University of Central Venezuela (UCV) who was forced to disrobe and sit naked on the grass while masked gang members assaulted him. (Video of this incident can be seen at the top of this post).
“When I saw the video (of the nude young man) it hit me very hard and that’s when I came up with this idea,” said ad agency executive Ricardo Cie.

“My friends and family where receptive and they generally commented that the photos where a distinct way to peacefully and intelligently protest,” said one of Cie’s workmates, Eliana Mora Golding.

“Generally nobody was offended though we did receive negative comments,” she added.
Between the start of the #MejorDesnudosQue campaign and Monday the hashtag became a trending topic on Twitter and mentioned over 201,000 times on that social media network.
Cie noted he and sixteen of his colleagues opted to do the campaign via Twitter since “there is an absence of Venezuelan TV channels that are showing the reality on the streets.”

Among those who have spoken out in favor of the #MejorDesnudosQue campaign and it’s related hashtag #DesnudosConLaUCV (#NudeWithTheUCV) is Cuban blogger and opposition activists Yoani Sanchez.  She claimed that authoritarian regimes believe that “undressing their opponents constitutes one of the repressive practices they most enjoy” but the #MejorDesnudosQue idea may have changed this perspective:

The images coming from Venezuela confirm that the practice of stripping people of their clothes as a moral punishment continues. A young man is stripped by a group seeking to degrade him by exposing every inch of his skin. However, they end up making him into a beautiful icon, pure, innocent. There is nothing dirty about the human body, there is nothing to be embarrassed about appearing before others as we came into this world.
What is shameful is these others, hiding behind their uniforms, trappings, the military ranks they awarded to themselves. They should be embarrassed to be hiding under the dishonorable garb of their fear.
Ironically, the semi-nude protest was employed as a tactic by a small group of Maduro supporters who last year demonstrated against ex-presidential candidate and opposition governor Henrique Capriles’ visit to Colombia.

Meanwhile, UCV administrators and students repudiated the violence on campus during a demonstration last Friday.

"The problems we are experiencing stem from a government policy of not allowing peaceful public protests," Victor Marquez, president of the UCV faculty association, said. "We have had several students and professors arrested for exercising their rights."

Maduro last Saturday railed against the violence at the UCV but did not mentioned the images of the assaulted nude man.  Instead, he “condemned” photos showing an "unauthorized" armed person at Friday’s protest at the Caracas campus.

At least thirty-nine people have died as a result of the political unrest that has hit several Venezuelan cities including Caracas and San Cristobal since early February. Another potential victim could be Venezuelan TV news network Globovision journalist Nairobi Pinto who was reportedly kidnapped on Monday.

Video Source– YouTube users 25 segundos and lapatillavision

Online Sources – Los Angeles Times; Twitter; Generacion Y; El Mundo; El Universal; MIlenio.com; Bloomberg; BBC News
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Nicolas Maduro, protest, social networki..."
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Date: Tuesday, 08 Apr 2014 10:52

* Latin America: Researchers warned that the chikungunya virus that has already been detected in several Caribbean countries could soon cause a “catastrophic” epidemic in the Americas.
* Brazil: More than 2000 construction workers at Rio de Janeiro's Olympic Park have been on strike since last Thursday as part of the latest delay to affect preparations for the 2016 Summer Games.

* Mexico: The mayor of Tampico, Mexico believes that rival drug gangs attempting to “settle scores” may be behind the deaths of at least eighteen people over the weekend in the northern border state of Tamaulipas.
* Cuba: According to a Havana Consulting Group report, the number of U.S. tourists visiting Cuba continues to grow in the first three months of this year despite a decades-long trade embargo against the island.

Video Source– YouTube user CARPHACampus (The chikungunya virus is spread by the same Aeges infected mosquitos that can carry dengue.  Victims endure severe joint pains that could lead to permanent disability and, in some cases, death).

Online Sources –news.com.au; GlobalPost; NET Website; Dominican Today; The Guardian
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Brazil, Caribbean, chikungunya, children..."
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Date: Monday, 07 Apr 2014 11:00

* Costa Rica: Historian and outside candidate Luis Guillermo Solís validated his first round victory in February by easily becoming Costa Rican president-elect after winning in a virtual one-man runoff yesterday.

* Cuba: The recent revelation that U.S. government helped create a “Cuban Twitter” network could hinder the efforts of opposition activists and independent bloggers on the island.

* Argentina: Umma Azul became the first child of a lesbian couple to be baptized by the Catholic Church in Argentina in a ceremony held in the Cathedral of Cordoba.

* Mexico: Renown author Gabriel García Marquez could leave a Mexico city hospital tomorrow and over a week since the Nobel laureate was treated by doctors for a lung and urinary infection.

Video Source– teleSUR via YouTube (Nearly 1.3 million voters opted for Costa Rican president-elect Luis Guillermo Solís in Sunday’s runoff election despite a high abstention rate).

Online Sources – The Guardian; Reuters; Prensa Latina; The Latin Americanist; Tico Times
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Argentina, Catholic Church, Colombia, Co..."
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Date: Sunday, 06 Apr 2014 22:20
“The Weekender” is our new feature where every weekend we hope to highlight a short film, movie or documentary pertaining to the Americas.  
A group of at least fifteen disabled Hondurans known by the Spanish-language acronym of AMIREDIS have planned to trek through Mexico with the goal of highlighting abuses committed against Central American migrants.  The men may use different assistive devices but all of them became disabled while attempting to trek northbound on the dangerous rail journey on a lengthy freight train known simply as La Bestia (“The Beast”).

My accident was in 2005,” said protester José Luis Hernández to the Animal Politico website.  “I had been riding twenty days on the train and hiding from police and gangs trying to assault us.  My exhaustion beat me and I fainted.  I fell below the train’s wheels and one of my arms, a leg and three fingers on the other arm were cut off,” he mentioned.

The marchers petitioned last month for visas from Mexican migratory authorities in order to travel to Mexico City and attempt to talk with President Enrique Peña Nieto. Furthermore, the AMIREDIS group was scheduled to speak to legislators on Wednesday in Mexico City and voice their concerns regarding how Central American migrants are often the targets of death, extortion and kidnapping from drug gangs and corrupt police.

However, they have yet to receive permission to legally travel through Mexico and have seen their funds dwindle down.  As a result, members of the group are strongly considering making their journey on the train that caused their respective serious injuries.

“My leg became amputated after riding on La Bestia and it’s a memory I would prefer not to remember,” said AMIREDIS spokesman Normal Saúl Varela.  “But it may be necessary to ride on it again in order to obtain our goal, which is to speak to President Peña Nieto and that he sees with his own eyes the affects of riding that train,” he added.

A 2010 Amnesty International report found that “migrants in Mexico are facing a major human rights crisis leaving them with virtually no access to justice, fearing reprisals and deportation if they complain of abuses.”  The report cited an incident that reportedly occurred on the La Bestia line when a female migrant was forced off the train by Mexican Federal Police, had her belongings stolen and was forced to walk on foot where she was subsequently raped by an armed gang.

Several documentaries have been made focusing on the perilous trip on La Bestia such as Which Way Home, a film that aired on HBO in 2009.  Below the page break is a documentary in Spanish regarding the journey on La Bestia.  We begin nearly nine minutes into the film with the harrowing images of teenagers in a Mexican hospital recovering from amputations caused by the beastly rail trip:        

The protest by the disabled Hondurans comes amid increasing pressure by U.S. immigration advocates urging President Barack Obama to put a freeze on deportations.

Last Tuesday, a delegation of catholic leaders held a mass along the U.S.-Mexico border urging Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform this year. 

Video Source – YouTube user Carlosbarrera32 

Online Sources – Milenio.com; Animal Político; The Latin Americanist; Latin Post; Catholic News Service; Amnesty International
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "documentaries, Honduras, immigration, La..."
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Date: Thursday, 03 Apr 2014 11:00

* Chile: No major damages or casualties have been reported as a result of several strong aftershocks following a magnitude-8.2 earthquake on Tuesday off the northern Chilean coast that caused six deaths. 

* Argentina: Argentine President Cristina Kirchner introduced a new currency note featuring a map of the Falkland Islands and accused Britain of trying to turn the disputed archipelago into a “North Atlantic Treaty Organization military base.”

* Cuba: A new report alleged that the U.S. government helped create a now-defunct “Cuban Twitter” social network with the goal of causing unrest against the ruling Castro regime.

* U.S.: The U.S. and Mexico shared the spoils in a 2-2 tie in the latest chapter of the bitter soccer rivalry between the neighboring countries.

Video Source – euronews via YouTube

Online Sources- Bernama; TIME; The Huffington Post; ABC News
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Argentina, Britain, Chile, Cuba, Daily H..."
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Date: Wednesday, 02 Apr 2014 10:00

* Chile: At least five people died and more than 900,000 residents of Chile’s coastal area were evacuated due to a magnitude-8.2 earthquake that occurred Tuesday night near the northern part of the country.

* U.S.: The White House claimed that over seven million people signed on for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act though it has yet to be revealed how many of them were Latinos.

* Puerto Rico: The acting head of Puerto Rico’s beleaguered police department resigned reportedly so that he can attend to personal issues.

* Mexico: Remittances to Mexico, which serve as the country’s second-largest source of foreign exchange, increased by 7.15% in January and February of this year compared to the same period in 2013.

Video Source – euronews via YouTube (Chilean President Michelle Bachelet declared a state of emergency for the Tarapaca, Arica and Parinacota regions following last night's tremor that was also felt in Peru and Bolivia.)

Online Sources- GlobalPost; The Guardian; Voice of America; LAHT; NBC News
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Chile, Daily Headlines, earthquake, heal..."
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Date: Tuesday, 01 Apr 2014 16:54

The head coach of Brazil’s men’s national soccer team has shockingly chosen to exclude Neymar from this summer's World Cup.

“Neymar is not on my list,” said Luis Felipe Scolari this morning amidst audible gasps and screams among stunned members of the Brazilian press.

“Have you seen him play with Barcelona? Rubbish!  He’s wasting his time with them,” exclaimed Big Phil regarding Neymar who has scored nine goals and made over twenty appearances for the famed Spanish club since he joined them roughly nine months ago.

Scolari also blamed the twenty-two-year-old former Santos player for appearing in a Brazilian soft drink commercial where he teaches tourists nonsensical phrases in Portuguese.  (The commercial can be seen in the video at the top of this post).

“That ad was offensive, shameful and a poor example for the children of our great country,” noted Scolari about the ad that is being investigated by Brazilian advertising authorities for “promoting bullying.

Thus far there has been no official response from the two-time South American Footballer of the Year who will be in the starting XI for Barca for today’s UEFA Champions League quarterfinal first leg.

Neymar has tallied thirty goals for the senior squad in 2010 though he joined the side after Brazil was eliminated from the World Cup held in South Africa.  He was named as the best player of the 2013 Confederations Cup that was won by Brazil on home soil and coached by Scolari.

The surprising move by Scolari represents the latest problem regarding the World Cup that will be played this June and July in Brazil.  Preparations for the upcoming tournament have been plagued by construction accidents while massive street protests similar to those held during the Confederations Cup might also take place amid the World Cup.

Prior to Scolari’s announcement, Dani Alves, one of Neymar’s Barcelona and Brazilian teammates, strongly defended the forward whose $57 million transfer last summer was the tenth most expensive transfer ever:
"For me now he is playing as well as he was at the start of the season. You expect that there will always be a period of adaptation when a player arrives in a new country, but he has been playing well. The club paid so much for him because he is worth it. People have paid more money for players that haven't been worth it."
Amongst those who will likely replace Neymar on Brazil’s upcoming World Cup team are Hulk and Jó though Ronaldinho may have an outside chance.  One option not available is Diego Costa who was born in Brazil but instead opted to play for defending World Cup champion Spain.

Neymar isn’t the only one feeling World Cup woes; the entire Uruguayan team could be excluded from the tournament after the board of directors of the country’s soccer association resigned due to alleged “government interference.

Video Source– YouTube user Propaganda da Hora

Online Sources – The Guardian; VOXXI; El Espectador; The Huffington Post; The Latin Americanist
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "April Fools Day, Brazil, hoax, Neymar, s..."
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Date: Tuesday, 01 Apr 2014 12:14

* Venezuela: A Venezuelan military commander claimed that security forces have retaken the city of San Cristóbal though unrest still continues in other major cities where opposition protesters keep demonstrating against the government.

* U.S.: A new report found that children of African-American, Latino and Native American background face greater obstacles in areas like education and health compared to white and Asian minors.

* Panama: A Panamanian law went into effect last week that prohibits the importation of wild animals as part of "circuses, shows, exhibitions, entertainments, audience interactions and similar events."

* Puerto Rico: Puerto Rico’s economic woes and high rates of homicide could explain why the island’s population dropped by 3% between April 2010 and July 2013.

Video Source – Associated Press via YouTube (“Masked protesters clashed with police in eastern Caracas on Monday night following a resumption of anti-government protests.”)

Online Sources- Reuters; GlobalPost; LAHT; BBC News
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Monday, 31 Mar 2014 23:44

A study released last week found that some Brazilian youth engage in risky sexual and drug practices.

The report from the Universidade Federal de São Paulo (Federal University of São Paulo or the acronym UNIFESP), 34.1% of 1742 young Brazilians between the age of 14 and 25 either rarely or do not use condoms whenever they engage in sexual intercourse. Of this percentage, a slightly high percentage of young women prefer to not use contraception in comparison to young men (38% compared to roughly 33%).

The Brazilian Health Ministry advises people to protect themselves against sexually transmitted diseases and undesirable pregnancies by using a condom.  As a result, health officials have distributed of millions of free prophylactics through campaigns such as the one in the video at the top of this post.  (About 493 million condoms were given away to young Brazilians in 2011 based on the Health Ministry data).

A March 2013 poll found that 83% of Brazilians favor condom use yet their distribution has come under fire from religious activists who back abstinence.

“In this carnival do not have sex. Keep yourself holy for marriage, because family is good,” said legislator Alexandre Padilha in 2012.

“Despite widespread awareness of condoms, 40% of young people in Brazil do not use condoms in all sexual relations, according to the health department,” mentioned a CNN.com article from 2012.

The UNIFESP’s data regarding condom use might explain why the study concluded that 32% of female respondents between the age of 14 and 20 have been pregnant at least once in their lives.  Furthermore it’s believed that 12.4% of them either miscarried or underwent an abortion, which is a procedure that’s legal in Brazil but only if the life of the woman in danger or if the pregnancy is caused by a rape.

“Within the statistics on abortion, we believe that 8% of young women went through with an abortion,” said UNIFESP researcher Clarice Sandi Madruga.

“Most of the time, these abortions are done in clandestine clinics, which put the girls under risk,” she added. 

In other findings on Brazilian youth from the “National Study on Alcohol and Drugs”:
  • 36% consume alcohol every week and “in moderation”.
  • Three in ten young men admitted to drunk driving over the past year.
  • Nearly one in five men between the ages of 18 and 25 smoke tobacco.
  • Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal narcotic among young Brazilians although it was taken by only 5% of respondents.
  • Cocaine is the most popular drug among young women.
  • Most people under the age of 16 attend school yet 18% of all respondents are “inactive” and neither work nor study.
Video Source– YouTube user Ministério da Saúde (A public awareness campaign was held during the carnival celebrations in Rio de Janeiro this month in order to promote condom use).

Online Sources - Brazilian Health Ministry; El Espectador; Noticias R7; Slate.com; CNN; The Guardian; Christian Post
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Brazil, condoms, health, sex, youth"
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Date: Monday, 31 Mar 2014 08:45

* Brazil: More than 1400 Brazilian police officers and troops occupied Rio de Janeiro's Mare slum complex yesterday as part of the “pacification” program aimed at bringing security to favelas prior to this summer’s World Cup.

* Mexico: Officials claimed that they rescued 370 abandoned migrant children in fourteen Mexican states during a one-week period earlier this month.

* Latin America: According to the Inter-American Development Bank, Latin America is more vulnerable to external economic problems today than prior to the 2008 financial crisis.

* Cuba: Legislators unanimously approved a new law to attract foreign investment by drastically cutting certain taxes.

Video Source – Al Jazeera English via YouTube

Online Sources- GlobalPost; ABC News; Bloomberg; The Globe and Mail
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Brazil, children, Cuba, Daily Headlines,..."
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