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Date: Wednesday, 20 Aug 2014 12:15

* El Salvador: “For me Romero is a man of God,” declared Pope Francis who eased the process for a possible beatification of assassinated Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero.

* Argentina: President Cristina Fernandez proposed legislation for a debt swap that would prevent a U.S. court ruling forcing Argentina into default.

* Venezuela: Police in Venezuela arrested at least thirteen people accused of smuggling goods across the closed border into Colombia.

* Puerto Rico: A recent Pew Research Center report found that Puerto Rico’s population fell between 2010 and 2013 with most residents leaving the island in order to “search for economic opportunity.”

Video Source – YouTube user interestmedia (“Oscar Romero became Archbishop of San Salvador in 1977. He was assassinated on 24 March 1980 while celebrating the Eucharist” during the Salvadoran civil war.)

Online Sources – USA TODAY; El Universal; The Independent; BBC News
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Tuesday, 19 Aug 2014 12:55

* Mexico: Environmental officials filed a criminal complaint against a company responsible for spilling ten million gallons of acids from a copper mine into two rivers.

* Uruguay: “I say to all the fans: don’t worry, I won’t do that again,” said Luis Suarez as he pledged not to repeat actions such as his infamous biting of an opponent at this year’s World Cup.

* Argentina: A Vatican spokesman said that Pope Francis was “deeply pained” over the deaths of three of the pontiff’s relatives in a car crash in Argentina.

* Colombia: A group of victims of Colombia’s armed conflict met with government representatives and FARC guerrilla envoys, and gave their full support to peace talks being held in Cuba.

Video Source – AFP via YouTube

Online Sources – ABC News; The Guardian; The Latin Americanist; Al Jazeera; GlobalPost
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Monday, 18 Aug 2014 13:41

* U.S.: A recent study concluded that Latino characters were represented in a scant 4.9% of movies released between 2007 and 2013 and “Latinos are the most likely to be sexualized on screen, with both male and female actors more apt to be asked to be partially or fully naked.”

* Brazil: The first poll since the death last Wednesday of presidential candidate Eduardo Campos showed incumbent Dilma Rousseff in a statistical tie in a hypothetical runoff against Campos' probable replacement, environmentalist Marina Silva.

* Ecuador: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange announced today that he plans to “soon” leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has resided in for the past two years.

* Chile: Ricardo Izurieta, the military general who succeeded the dictatorial rule of the late Augusto Pinochet, died Sunday at age 71.

Video Source – YouTube user MOVIECLIPS  (Scene from the 2011 ALMA Award-winning film "A Better Life").

Online Sources – The A.V. Club; NBC News; The Latin Americanist; The Huffington Post; Miami Herald
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Augusto Pinochet, Brazil, Chile, Dilma R..."
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Date: Friday, 15 Aug 2014 11:45

* Mexico: Several politicos allied to Mexico’s ruling National Action Party have come under fire after they were shown on video partying with alleged escorts.

* Uruguay: The Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld most of the punishment against Luis Suarez for biting an opponent at the World Cup but allowed him to train and play in friendly matches with new club F.C. Barcelona.

* Brazil: The board of banana giant Chiquita rejected a $611 million takeover bid from a pair of Brazilian firms and found it to be “inadequate.”

* Haiti: U.N. peacekeepers clashed with supporters of ex-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide upset that the former leader could be arrested on charges of money laundering and drug trafficking,

Video Source – YouTube user Reporte Indigo

Online Sources – ABC News; SBS; The Latin Americanist; LAHT; BBC Sport
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Brazil, Chiquita, corruption, Daily Head..."
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Date: Thursday, 14 Aug 2014 22:57

This summer the Argentine men's national team fought their way to the World Cup championship match although they ultimately lost to a strong German side. Similarly, Argentine soccer club San Lorenzo battled their way to the final series of the Copa Libertadores. Unlike their more heralded compatriots, however, El Ciclón did not stumble at the final hurdle.

San Lorenzo captured the crown of South America's top soccer tournament following a 1-0 win at home in Buenos Aires on Wednesday night. The 2-1 aggregate win over Paraguayan minnows Nacional gave San Lorenzo it's first major title in the team's 106-year history.

Following last week's tie in Asuncion, both teams looked for the advantage to cap their surprising runs in the Libertadores.  The Paraguayan side was stronger in the first half hour and were unlucky when a shot by Derlis Orue rang off the goalpost. But the breakthrough came in the 36th minute against the run of play when Nacional defender Ramón Coronel handled the ball in the penalty box. Midfielder Néstor Ortigoza cooly converted the penalty kick past goalkeeper Ignacio Don.

Nacional subsequently pressed forward looking for the equalizer and nearly got it before halftime via a blast from Julián Benítez.  The second half saw San Lorenzo hold off wave after wave of attacks by the visiting side.  Substitute Brian Montenegro nearly leveled the score with a golden chance in the 77th minute. Yet bolstered by a boisterous and raucous crowd of 43,000 plus at El Nuevo Gasometro, San Lorenzo held on for a memorable victory.

"This is a historic triumph, we are immensely happy," San Lorenzo coach Edgardo Bauza said following the final whistle.

"The team was very nervous, we didn't play very well, especially in the first half...We had to win it and we did. We found a way," added the Argentine-born coach who previously guided Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito in 2008 to the only triumph of an Ecuadorian team at the Libertadores.

"I wanted to realize the dream of the fans, the one that I've had all my life," admitted Leandro Romagnoli, the lifelong San Lorenzo fan turned veteran midfielder for the team he always supported.

"This hurts because nobody likes to lose," said Don who echoed the criticisms of several of his Nacional teammates and coach Gustavo Morínigo against Brazilian referee Sandro Ricci.  Nevertheless, he added "Glory to God for allowing us to reach (the Libertadores final) despite beIng an unknown team in América."

Both San Lorenzo and Nacional eked their way out of their respective groups in the Libertadores and we're ranked as the two lowest seeds in the knockout stages.  Nacional shocked a pair of Argentine teams and Defensor Sporting of Uruguay during their Cinderella run while San Lorenzo upset former Brazilian Libertadores champs Grêmio and Cruzeiro before thumping Bolivar of Bolivia en route to the title.

El Cuervo is one of the historic giants of Argentine soccer but did not gain global prominence until the ex-Archbishop of Buenos Aires Juan Maria Bergoglio became Pope Francis in March of last year.  A Vatican spokesman said today that the pontiff couldn't watch Wednesday's match while visiting Seoul. However the team has been invited to visit his holiness next week.

"Francis awaits them in Rome," said Mon. Guillermo Karcher from South Korea.

Video Source - YouTube user FootballManiaChannel

Online Sources - Clarin; Diario ABC Color; La Nacion; USA TODAY; The Latin Americanist
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Argentina, Copa Libertadores, Pope Franc..."
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Date: Thursday, 14 Aug 2014 08:30

* Argentina: In the latest chapter of Argentina’s legal battle with holdout creditors, cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich defied a contempt of court threat and claimed, “The proper conditions do not exist to negotiate.”

* Latin America: A International Labor Organization report found that approximately 35 million young Latin Americans are affected by the region’s unemployment crisis including some 27 million who “work in the underground economy with no rights or benefits.”

* Venezuela: Colombia’s foreign minister contradicted claims made by the neighboring Venezuelan government regarding the nightly closing of their 1400-mile border in order to prevent smuggling of gasoline and food.

* Chile: Will a major earthquake more powerful than an 8.2-magnitude tremor that occurred in April soon strike in Chile?

Video Source – Bloomberg News via YouTube

Online Sources – The Latin Americanist; Reuters; Xinhua; Smithsonian; Xinhua
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Argentina, border, Chile, Colombia, Dail..."
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Date: Wednesday, 13 Aug 2014 17:00

Eduardo Campos, a former Brazilian governor and candidate looking to unseat President Dilma Rousseff in October’s election, died today in a plane crash.

The plane Campos had been traveling in reportedly crashed in bad weather as it prepared to land in Sao Paulo state.  According to local authorities, all seven people aboard the Cessna 560XL aircraft passed away including Campos and “several campaign officials”.

“I was getting ready to open the school when I heard a loud noise of a jet approaching,” said eyewitness Vinicius Lopes.  “Then the plane hit the building.  It looked like a war scene.”

Donizete Maguila, Jr., another eyewitness who was returning back from work in the port city of Santos where the accident occurred, recalled when he found the corpse of Campos.

“I saw his clear eyes and tried to clean his face.  At the time I couldn’t believe…I saw the candidate,” he said.

The Recife-born Campos served as a federal legislator on three occasions and was the Science and Technology Minister under then-President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.  With the support of Lula, Campos won election as Governor of Pernambuco and held that post for two terms.  In his seven years as governor, Campos oversaw a drop in the rates of violence, improvements in education standards and pushing for major infrastructure projects.  Yet it was Pernambuco’s strong economic growth that has been his main political strong point against Rousseff who has been criticized for Brazil’s shaky economy.

Recent polls placed the centrist hopeful from the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) in a distant third place behind the leftist Rousseff and moderate conservative candidate Aecio Neves.  Yet Campos could’ve played a key role in a potential Rousseff-Neves runoff by providing an official endorsement and support to one of the two frontrunners. (Neves said he was “immensely saddened” by news of the crash while Rousseff announced that she would suspend campaigning for the next three days).

The PSB has ten days to name a candidate to replace Campos but odds are they will pick his running mate: environmentalist and defeated 2010 presidential candidate Marina Silva.  The alliance between the “business-friendly leftist” Campos and Silva, who is apparently not well liked by “Brazil's powerful agribusiness sector,” raised eyebrows among some political analysts.  Yet Campos mentioned in a 2013 interview that the pair shared some common ground:
Both Marina and I are also familiar with the reality of hunger. She comes from the north of Brazil and I come from the northeast, two of the poorest regions…
We know very well that it is fundamental to have the support of Brazilian agribusiness. And agribusiness knows that it is fundamental that we integrate these concepts and values which are represented by Senator Marina Silva, and which we also represent…
When I served in Lula’s government as minster of science and technology, I worked together with Marina to monitor deforestation, where Brazil had a great responsibility with regard to climate change. We began monitoring the Amazon with the help of satellites and other technologies. And we managed to reverse the devastation of forest areas.
Campos celebrated his 49th birthday last Sunday.  He died on the same day his grandfather, influential Pernambuco politician Miguel Arraes, passed away in 2005.

Campos is survived by his wife and five children.

Online Sources – Globo.com; Folha do Sao Paulo; The Economist; Bloomberg; Reuters; ABC News

Video Source - YouTube user BRASILTV
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "accident, Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, Eduard..."
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Date: Wednesday, 13 Aug 2014 14:29

* Haiti: Officials vowed to capture more than 300 inmates who recently broke out of a Haitian prison including convicted kidnapping ring leader Clifford Brandt.

Update: Police recaptured Brandt near the Haiti-Dominican Republic border but most of the escaped inmates are still fugitives.
* Honduras: At least eight people died in a shootout on Saturday night reportedly caused by gang violence between the Mara 18 and the Mara Salvatrucha groups.

* U.S.: A three-judge federal panel started hearing legal arguments yesterday over the possible gerrymandering of Congressional districts that hurt Latino voters in Texas.

* Ecuador: The Ecuadorian capital city of Quito was named as “South America's Leading Destination” at an event deemed as the “Academy Awards of the tourism industry.”

Video Source – euronews via YouTube

Online Sources including Update – ABC News; Miami Herald; Latina; LAHT; Bloomberg
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Daily Headlines, Ecuador, gang violence,..."
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Date: Wednesday, 13 Aug 2014 11:30

* Ecuador: At least two people are dead and several more are trapped by a landslide caused by a 5.1-magnitude earthquake near Quito, Ecuador yesterday.
* Chile: A group of armed gunmen stole over $10 million from an armored vehicle in what has been reported as the largest robbery in the Chile's history.

* Brazil: Officials at the Sao Paulo state Education Department have come under fire after posting a job opening that requires female applicants to undergo genealogical exams.

* Colombia: According to the U.N. High Commission for Human Rights more than 400,000 Colombian refugees affected by armed conflict have fled to other countries.

Video Source – NTDTV via YouTube

Online Sources – The Guardian; BBC News; The Huffington Post; Colombia Reports
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Brazil, Chile, Colombia, crime, Daily He..."
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Date: Tuesday, 12 Aug 2014 21:26

On Monday actor and comedian Robin Williams passed away at the age of 63. Authorities in California mentioned today that Williams apparently committed suicide by hanging himself at his home.

Despite Williams’ humorous contributions in films like “Aladdin” and “Mrs. Doubtfire” as well as TV sitcoms “Mork & Mindy” and “The Crazy Ones”, his publicist admitted that he had been battling severe depression and had been seeking treatment for it. (So far it’s unknown if depression played any factor at all into Williams’ death).

According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, (NAMI), depression affects Latinos more than any other ethnic group in the U.S.  Within the Latino community, the organization found that Latinas along with U.S. born and long-term residents are especially vulnerable to depression.  Furthermore, a study published this year concluded that “idea of acculturation, of navigating different cultural contexts” could explain why Latinos are particularly susceptible to depression.

Many Latinos unfortunately fail to seek help due to several factors including the cultural stigma attached to mental illness and the lack of Spanish-speaking and Latino mental health care specialists.

“When Latinos think of mental illness, they just think one thing: loco,” said Clara Morato, the mother of a child who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 18.  “[Latinos] don't want to be labeled, and they don't want to be labeled as the family with a relative who's crazy,” she added.

As a young Latino who had trouble facing his own mental demons many years ago I fully understand the crushing anxiety of loneliness and believing that there was nothing that could be done.  Yet there is a light at the end of the tunnel and better days can lie ahead with the aid of friend, loved ones and mental health care professionals.

If you or anyone you know may be suffering from depression, please know that you can seek help without fear of shame or embarrassment. 

Si usted sufre de depresión o conzces alguien afectado por la depresión por favor tenga en mente que puedes solicitar ayuda sin miedo de pena o humillación.

Video Source – National Institute of Mental Health via YouTube

Online Sources – Suicide Prevention Hotline (English and Spanish); CNN; Latin Post; BBC News; National Alliance of Mental Illness
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "depression, health, Latinos, Robin Willi..."
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Date: Monday, 11 Aug 2014 11:00

* Cuba: A letter from 300 U.S. rabbis sent to President Barack Obama last week urged the White House to push more strongly for the “immediate release” of U.S. government subcontractor Alan Gross from a Cuban prison.

* Argentina: Judge Thomas Griesa, the U.S. magistrate overseeing the legal tug-of-war between the Argentine government and holdout creditors, threatened the South American country’s representatives with contempt of court.
* Brazil: A poll conducted roughly ten weeks before Brazil’s presidential election found that incumbent Dilma Rousseff’s strong lead over her rivals remains unchanged and she would win a possible run-off over her closest opponents.

* Bolivia: Researchers concluded that a recently discovered yellow bat in Bolivia is its own species and will receive the scientific name of Myotis midastactus.

Video Source – CCTV America via YouTube (“Former U.S. Agency for International Development subcontractor Alan Gross has said goodbye to his family after being held in Cuban prison for the past five years.”)

Online Sources – ABC News; Bloomberg; CNN; National Geographic; The Latin Americanist
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Alan Gross, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, ..."
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Date: Friday, 01 Aug 2014 17:18
The U.S. justice overseeing Argentina's legal battle with holdout creditors blasted the South American country's government for defaulting on its debt.

“What occurred this week did not extinguish or reduce the obligations of the Republic of Argentina,” said District Judge Thomas Griesa at a court hearing on Friday.

"I'm counting on the Republic of Argentina to take steps in order to stop spreading deceitful information," added the magistrate who was reportedly in a very "stern" mood at the hearing.

Griesa ordered the Argentine government in June to pay holdouts some $1.5 billion in unpaid debts related to the country's $100 billion default in 2001. He barred Argentina from paying bondholders who participated in prior exchanges unless it pays holdouts at the same time.

On Wednesday Argentina defaulted for a second time in twelve years after the government and creditors could not reach a last minute agreement. This action could lead bondholders to claim an amount equal to Argentina’s foreign currency reserves (about $29 billion).

Griesa also ordered at Friday's hearing that both sides in the debate continue talks with a mediator he appoined, Daniel Pollack. That might still occur but within a climate of great mistrust after Jonathan Blackman, Argentina's lead lawyer, said a statement released by Pollack on Wednesday was "harmful and prejudiced to the republic and the impact on the market."

Griesa's actions have been criticized by Argentine officials as excessive, and consider the holdouts as "vulture funds" that purchased bonds at a low price and are eagerly looking to cash in.

“We can’t hold any positive expectations because (Griesa) has always held the view of someone who is partial,” Cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich told reporters in Buenos Aires prior to today's hearing.

Argentine president Cristina Fernandez said in a televised speech on Thursday, “the world keeps moving and Argentina too” yet the markets earlier that day did not seem to agree with her. The Argentine peso fell 2.6% on the black market in early afternoon trading while the Merval stock index tumbled by 8.4%.

The default comes at an inopportune time for an Argentine economy that officially slipped into recession in June. Fernandez might also suffer negative consequences as opposition politicos have blamed her administration for "lying" during talks with the holdouts.

The repercussions of a default on the global economy ld a group of more than 100 economists including Nobel laureate Robert Solow to urge the U.S. Congress to "act now and seek legislative solutions to mitigate the harmful impact of the court’s ruling."

Online Spurces - The Globe and Mail; Reuters; Diario La Nacion; Bloomberg; LAHT; MercoPress; LaNacion.ar
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Friday, 01 Aug 2014 08:00

* Uruguay: A group of former Philip Morris workers in Uruguay have become activists supporting the country’s strict anti-tobacco measures.

* Dominican Republic: A former senior official of the Dominican Republic’s counternarcotics agency pled guilty to charges that he collaborated with drug traffickers.

* Brazil: The higher than forecast growth of the U.S. economy reportedly led to a 1.1% drop in the value of Brazil’s currency on Wednesday.

* Guatemala: An estimated 40,000 families have been affected by a drought caused by the El Niño weather phenomenon and that has also led to damages to corn crops.

Video Source – YouTube user Latest news

Online Sources – LAHT; Bloomberg; Reuters; Rappler
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Brazil, currency, Daily Headlines, Domin..."
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Date: Thursday, 31 Jul 2014 10:35

* Guatemala: The remains of thirty-one indigenous people killed during Guatemala’s brutal civil war thirty-two years ago received a proper burial yesterday.

* Latin America: The Israeli Foreign Ministry expressed its “deep disappointment” at El Salvador, Peru and Chile for withdrawing their respective ambassadors due to the conflict in Gaza.

* Colombia: President Juan Manuel Santos warned the FARC that he could end peace talks as a result of several recent attacks on infrastructure allegedly by the rebels.

* Venezuela: The U.S. State Department announced that it would revoke visas held by Venezuelan officials accused of human rights abuses relating to political violence this year.

Video Source – YouTube user WITNESS (Video made in 2000 and 2001).

Online Sources – Yahoo News; Reuters; LAHT; seattlepi.com
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Colombia, Daily Headlines, diplomacy, FA..."
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Date: Wednesday, 30 Jul 2014 21:30
Argentina will likely fall into default after last-minute talks between government officials and creditors failed to reach in agreement.  But will a potential default doom the Argentine government and lead to a major economic crisis in the country? Or is the pessimism misplaced and an overreaction?  Perhaps the following video on Buenos Aires car dealerships can provide us with some clues:

Video Source - Bloomberg News via YouTube

Online Sources - Reuters; The Guardian; Quartz
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Argentina, foreign debt, international e..."
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Date: Wednesday, 30 Jul 2014 15:30

Numerous Latin American sides such as Colombia, Chile and Costa Rica shined at the recently World Cup in Brazil and performed beyond expectations.  Yet the Cinderella stories have also taken place in South America’s premier soccer club tournament: the Copa Libertadores.

Paraguayan team Nacional continued their fairy tale run by winning 2-1 in the semifinal aggregate score against Uruguay’s Defensor Sporting. 

The Asuncion-based side entered Tuesday’s semifinal second leg in Montevideo having won 2-0 in the first leg last week.  From the beginning of the match Defensor Sporting constantly pressured their rivals with the hope of at least tying up the aggregate score.  Nacional goalkeeper Ignacio Don came up big on several occasions especially in the first half when he denied a one-on-one chance by opposing forward Giorgian De Arrascaeta. Despite several good Defensor chances in the opening half Don’s teammates also stood tough yet De Arrascaeta got a measure of revenge when he assisted on Adrian Luna’s goal in the 55th minute. 

Following Luna’s tap-in, the Uruguayan team came very close to scoring the key second goal that would’ve tied the series and sent the semifinal to a penalty shootout.  Numerous Defensor attacks rang off the goalposts including a Felipe Gedoz blast that would’ve beaten Don but missed by inches and a Robert Herrera point-blank shot that hit the crossbar.  In the end, Nacional would hold on by slimmest of margins and the 110-year-old club booked their ticket to the Libertadores finals for the first time in team history.

This is unique, unbelievable. I hope Paraguayan people can be altogether in the name of the country,” said Don following the final whistle.

“I've always dreamed of playing in professional football and then the Copa Libertadores. Now, I'm playing the finals because we've been warriors on the field,” he added about the unfashionable team that normally plays at a stadium with maximum seating for 4000 spectators.

Hundreds of Nacional fans clad in the traditional red, white and blue colors of the team welcomed the squad back home this morning.  Amidst applause and chants, head coach Gustavo Morínigo, Don and his teammates stepped of the plane “with looks of satisfaction” on their faces.

Despite the defeat in the semifinals, the Uruguayan press praised the Defensor team that saw its best run Libertadores run in the team’s history. 

“Defensor did everything they could…and they did not fail themselves.  It’s an honor to lose this way,” said one article in El Observador.

Nacional will look to become Paraguay’s second-ever champion of the Libertadores but will likely face a tough rival in the finals.  Argentine side San Lorenzo holds a seemingly unassailable 5-0 first leg advantage over Bolivar of Bolivia.  The second leg will be played tonight in the high altitude of La Paz amid mourning over the passing away today of an important mover and shaker of South American and world soccer:
Fifa vice-president and head of the Argentine Football Association (AFA) Julio Grondona has passed away aged 82.

After being admitted to hospital with a heart problem on Wednesday morning.

Grondona's condition deteriorated rapidly in the following hours and he was ultimately unable to overcome his fight with ill-health.

He had been in charge of the Argentine FA for 35 years and was responsible for the construction of the Ezeiza training complex, where the national side are now based.
This year’s Copa Libertadores has seen its fair share of upsets that included 2013 champs Atletico Mineiro knocked out in the Round of 16 and no Brazilian sides heading to the semifinals for the first time since 1991.

Video Source – YouTube user Futbolpasionmundial3

Online Sources – Goal.com; Diario ABC Color; FIFA.com; Milenio.com; FourFourTwo
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Bolivar, Copa Libertadores, Defensor Spo..."
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Date: Wednesday, 30 Jul 2014 12:10

Argentina is very close to defaulting on its debt to foreign creditors unless a deal is reached some time today.
Representatives for the Argentine government and creditors are currently meeting in New York City in the hope of averting what would be the country’s second default in 13 years. The envoys are together with a mediator assigned by Thomas Griesa, a U.S. judge who ordered that the Argentine government pay holdouts some $1.5 billion in unpaid debts including interest.  The purchased Argentine bonds for a low price and rejected the government's restructuring offers after its record $100 billion default in 2001.

Up until today, negotiations between both sides have been sporadic and yielded very little progress. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez is at the Mercosur trading bloc summit in Venezuela trying to gain support against the creditors that she deemed as “vulture funds” for spending years litigating for payment in full.  Fernandez and at least one of the holdouts have separately pushed for a delay on the repayment but Griesa has so far refused.

Update (July 30, 2014): Despite hours of last-minute negotiations on Tuesday between creditors and the Argentine government, the country will likely fall into default.  

"There was a frank exchange of views and concerns," said appointed mediator Daniel A. Pollack though he admitted that it was unclear if both sides will meet again on Wednesday.

In what may be an optimistic sign prior to today’s meeting, Griesa permitted the one-time payment of some dollar-denominated bonds since they were issued in a settlement to Spanish oil firm Repsol.  Furthermore, the Argentine Economy Ministry said yesterday that the government had made a $642 million payment on $9.7 billion in debt owed to the Paris Club of creditor nations.

“Argentina will not fall into default and our loans with China will not collapse,” insisted Interior Minister Florencio Randazzo this morning.  Yet worries over a failure to reach an agreement spooked investors and led the Buenos Aires stock exchange index to drop by 1% at the close of trading on Monday.  A possible default could lead to bondholders claiming an amount equal to Argentina’s foreign currency reserves:
If the overdue interest on Argentina’s dollar-denominated securities due 2033 isn’t paid by July 30, provisions in bond indentures known as cross-default clauses would allow the nation’s other debt holders to also demand their money back immediately. The amount ($29 billion) corresponds to Argentina’s debt issued in foreign currencies and governed by international laws…
“It would mean that Argentina is in default on most all of its debt and presumably everybody would be in the same boat,” Anna Gelpern, a fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and a law professor at Georgetown University, said in a telephone interview.
According to economist Miguel Ángel Boggiano, Argentina has either defaulted or had its debt restructured on seven occasions in the country’s history. Even if it hits its eighth default tomorrow, its still less than the defaults/debt restructuring of other Latin American states like Venezuela, Ecuador (both with eleven), Brazil (ten) and Mexico (nine).

Though there’s never an ideal time for a debt default, such an event could be costly to a Fernandez administration that has recently come under fire.  Last month, Vice President Amado Boudou was charged with bribery while the Argentine economy officially slid into recession.  The exploits of Los Albicelestes at the World Cup provided what may have been welcome distraction yet the brief kidnapping of the father of soccer star Carlos Tevez today has highlighted Argentina’s crime problems.

Video Source – YouTube user DW (English)

Online Sources including Update – The New York Times; USA TODAY; BBC Mundo; La Nacion; Reuters; Clarin; MercoPress; Bloomberg; BBC News; The Huffington Post
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Argentina, Cristina Fernandez, foreign d..."
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Date: Wednesday, 30 Jul 2014 08:30

* Brazil: A Human Rights Watch report released this week documented some sixty-four cases of torture in Brazil since 2010 and noted, “impunity in cases of serious abuses by police and prison guards is the norm.”

* Venezuela: One of the numerous proposals by the U.S. Congress to sanction the Venezuelan government for human rights abuses could soon come to a vote in the Senate.

* Colombia: The Colombian government blamed the FARC guerillas for causing a blackout that left 500,000 people in the key port city of Buenaventura without power.

* U.S.: A new study found that “women and minorities who promote diversity from corporate leadership positions tend to get lower evaluations from their bosses and colleagues.”

Video Source – Sky News via YouTube (“An investigation was launched in Brazil (in 2013) after video emerged of a police helicopter machine gunning the car of a suspected drug dealer in a built up area of Rio de Janeiro”.)

Online Sources – The Huffington Post; Colombia Reports; Miami Herald; The Latin Americanist; ABC News
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "blackout, Brazil, business, Colombia, FA..."
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Date: Tuesday, 29 Jul 2014 09:05

* Brazil: “I don't think it's genocide, but I think it's a massacre,” said Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff regarding the conflict in Gaza and days after an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman deemed the South American country as a “diplomatic dwarf.

* Dominican Republic: Dominican authorities destroyed some 2000 confiscated firearms for use as part of a planned peace memorial.

* Venezuela: Representatives of the International Air Transport Association want to meet with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in order to free up over $4 billion owed to several air carriers.

* Uruguay: A Uruguayan church reportedly dismissed Fr. Carlos Urrutigoity, an Argentine priest who has been accused of sexually abusing young men in the U.S.

Video Source – Reuters via YouTube (Argentine-born “Pope Francis makes an impromptu emotional plea for peace, during his weekly Sunday Angelus prayer at the Vatican.”)

Online Sources – Miami Herald; The Washington Post; ABC News; Reuters; GlobalPost
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "abuse, air travel, art, Brazil, Carlos U..."
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Date: Monday, 28 Jul 2014 17:50

Organizers of a telethon held over the weekend for Honduran migrants deported from the U.S. deemed the event as a success.

The telethon, which was transmitted nationwide on TV and radio, was organized in Tegucigalpa under the theme “Open your arms to the returning children and families.” Monetary donations were not accepted; instead, individuals were asked to bring food, clothes and other items to be used in shelters in Honduras for deportees. 

The goal of one month’s worth of donations for hundreds of families was surpassed as people from around Honduras reportedly donated three months worth of supplies. Among the items donated were some 600 bags of clothing, 1200 bags of food, 900 mattresses and even wheelchairs for migrants disabled from riding the Mexican freight train network known as “La Bestia.”

The forty-eight hour event was pushed by first lady Ana García de Hernández along with different entities that received the donations including the Honduran Red Cross, UNICEF and local catholic charities.

“The deported migrants return only with the clothes they have on, many doubts with their communities and a great deal of sadness and pain in their hearts,” said Garcia.

“This is why it’s critical that we unify as a country that knows how to help those that need it” via events like the telethon, added Garcia who in recent weeks has helped welcome back deported children and mothers from the U.S.
“Nobody is too poor not to help their brother in their time of need,” said President Juan Orlando Hernández in solidarity with the telethon.

Since October, more than 57,000 migrant minors mostly from Central America have been detained at the U.S.-Mexico border. Numerous suggestions have been made in order to try to control this influx such as the U.S. granting refugee status to Honduran children or creating a “mini-Marshall Plan” to improve Central America’s economy.  The possible amending of a 2008 law aimed at combating sex trafficking in order to expedite the deportations of Central American minors could impact the spike in unaccompanied girls captured at the U.S.-Mexico border.

For Oswaldo Canales, representative of the Evangelical Fellowship of Honduras, there are numerous factors behind migration from Central America including gang violence, gross inequality and a lack of economic opportunities. Hence, while last weekend’s telethon was helpful the solution to these problems will require a very deep and serious effort throughout the Americas:
 “There must be a comprehensive policy where all sectors are involved and do not rely on handouts that are given by other countries. We are the only ones who can change the country where there are those who have everything, others have nothing, while most in extreme poverty.”
The influx of unaccompanied migrant children has resurrected the fractious (and occasionally ugly) debate over immigration in the U.S.  A recent CNN/ORC International poll found “major partisan, geographical, generational, and gender divides” regarding the immigration issue.

Video Source– Associated Press via YouTube (“Migrants deported from the United States, both adults and children, arrived in their home country of Honduras” earlier this month).

Online Sources – El Heraldo; La Tribuna; New York Times; CNN; PolitiFact; USA TODAY
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Central America, Honduras, immigration, ..."
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