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Date: Friday, 19 Sep 2014 12:10

* Brazil: A new poll published this morning found that President Dilma Rousseff and main opposition rival Marina Silva are statistical tied in a likely runoff to decide Brazil’s next president in October.

* Argentina: An attorney for Citibank called for the suspension of a U.S. court decision that pushed Argentina into default and claimed that the Argentine government has placed a metaphorical “gun to our head.”

* Ecuador: Environmentalists, indigenous activists and others joined Ecuador’s largest labor union in anti-government protests in Quito yesterday.

* Latin America: Argentina (2nd) and Colombia (3rd) are the top South American countries in the latest FIFA soccer rankings while Costa Rica (15th) was the highest-placed entry from CONCACAF.

Video Source – CCTV America via YouTube
 

Online Sources – Blooomberg; LAHT; Businessweek; The Latin Americanist; Goal.com
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Thursday, 18 Sep 2014 10:00

With Scotland’s independence referendum taking place today, which may not have taken place where it not for a failed colonization in Panama centuries ago.  The following is text from a post we first published in 2007:
The annals of history serve as a rich tapestry of events that may seem far-fetched but are actually true. Take the case with the push for Scottish independence that was hindered by a disastrous attempt to colonize in Panama.

By the late 1600s, the Scottish economy was doing poorly from constant warfare, lack of a sustainable market outside its borders, and widespread famine. As a solution, the Bank of Scotland established a colonization company, which then decided to create an outpost in Panama. It was a huge gamble in that half of Scotland's liquidity was invested in the project despite the raising of private funds.

What did the colonists find in Panama? Certainly not the welcome wagon:
“The conditions were horrible. It was unsuited for agriculture and the Indians they met were uninterested in the trinkets they brought them. This is probably because they only brought useless things like wigs, combs, and mirrors. During the spring of 1699, torrential rain brought disease to the colony and many died from malaria and yellow fever. About 10 colonists were dying each day and the rest had to live on a pound of nasty, moldy flour per week”.
With the economy in absolute ruin the Scottish government would soon sign the 1707 Acts of Union, which politically incorporated Scotland into the United Kingdom.

Over three centuries later all is not lost in the campaign of Scotland’s independence. Recent polls have indicated that it’s a toss-up between the pro- and anti-independence options.

Should Scotland gain its own independence, it remains to be seen how this would affect members of the British Commonwealth such as numerous Caribbean countries.

Video Source – YouTube user CGP Grey (Video uploaded in 2011).

Online Sources – Wikipedia; The First Post; Scotland’s Past; The Panama Report; Global Voices Online; The Guardian; The Latin Americanist
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "colonization, history, independence, Pan..."
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Date: Thursday, 18 Sep 2014 07:30

* Argentina: Three medical staff and two former commanders of a secret military hospital have gone on trial over their alleged roles in the illegal adoption of babies from political dissidents during the Dirty War era.

* U.S.: New Census Bureau data found that the poverty rate for Latinos dropped by 2.1% in 2013 while median income grew last year for the first time since 2000.

* Panama: Is the Central American nation of Panama really the world’s happiest country?

* Brazil: The U.N. removed Brazil from the World Hunger Map after concluding that the number of undernourished residents decreased by more than 80% in ten years.

Video Source – CCTV America via YouTube (Estela de Carlotto, leader of Argentina’s Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, reconnected last month with her long-lost grandson).

Online Sources – BBC News; Los Angeles Times; The Guardian; ABC News
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "adoptions, Argentina, Brazil, Census Bur..."
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Date: Thursday, 18 Sep 2014 07:23

Mum was the word for a former leading executive of Brazilian state-owned energy firm Petrobras at a legislative hearing related to the latest major scandal to rock the South American country.

“I think it should be an open session but because it isn’t I have nothing to declare,” said Paulo Roberto Costa during testimony he provided to congressional investigators on Wednesday afternoon.

The ex-head of Petrobras' refining and supply unit also reportedly uttered the phrase “I reserve the right to remain silent” (or similar wording) dozens of times from questions by parliamentarians related to his allegations against numerous senior politicians who received bribes in exchange for votes favoring Petrobras.  Costa, who has been imprisoned since March and accused of money laundering, was allowed by the Supreme Court to provide evasive responses to the questions during the three hours of testimony.

In an interview given earlier this month to Brazilian newsmagazine Veja, Costa accused Energy Minister Edison Lobão, both heads of Congress, and some thirty legislators mostly from the ruling Workers Party (PT) for supposedly participating in the kickback scheme.  

Costa’s silence on Thursday did not sit well several legislators during the closed-door session, especially those opposed to President Dilma Rousseff and her attempt to win reelection next month.

"We have not had any progress here, absolutely nothing," said Vanessa Grazziotin while Mendonça Filho decried that “the state is being robbed.”  Yet PT Sen. Humberto Costa accused his opposition colleagues of engaging in “radical speeches for political use".

Costa remarks in Veja became one of the most heated topics in the homestretch of the Brazilian presidential race.  Rousseff pledged to “take the necessary action” but warned that she “will not act based on speculation.”  Her main opponent, environmentalist Marina Silva, observed that “Petrobras is being destroyed through political interference, patronage and corruption” even though Costa named the candidate she replaced last month, Eduardo Campos, as one of the figures who received bribes.

Conservative politician Aecio Neves criticized both Rousseff and Silva, and deemed the latest scandal as “mensalao 2.”  (The original “mensalao” uproar emerged from a vote-buying corruption scandal that tainted Rousseff’s predecessor and close ally, former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, while he was in office).

Petrobras produces 2.5 million barrels of oil per day, employs some 87,000 people and is a major source of funding for government social programs.  Yet the company's value has fallen in recent years and the chief of Brazil's oil industry association warned that energy policies under Rousseff are causing a decline in private sector investment.

Two polls published this week found that despite the scandal at Petrobras, Rousseff is expected to battle Silva in a likely second round next month.  An Ibope poll found that Rousseff has lost support and Silva would narrowly win in a runoff while both women are in a statistical dead heat according to a Vox Populi poll.

A series of Rousseff attack ads may have helped her close ranks with Silva in the polls though Brazil’s recent economic problems have provided Silva with a major advantage.

Costa’s testimony in Brazil wasn’t the only tense-filled legislative hearing in South America on Wednesday. In Colombia, a debate over the influence of right-wing paramilitaries in Colombian politics was filled with a flurry of serious accusations:
Leftist opposition senator Ivan Cepeda on Wednesday claimed that Colombia’s former President Alvaro Uribe worked with the Medellin Cartel’s top finance man, among several other accusations of ties to criminal and politically violent activities over the last three decades…
Uribe claimed he has never had ties to paramilitaries or narco-traffickers, while also going on the offensive and throwing various accusations at a number of officials. He alleged that President Santos had wanted to ally with paramilitaries to remove former President Ernesto Samper from power.
Video Source – teleSUR English via YouTube

Online Sources – The Guardian; O Globo; Reuters; BBC News; Business Insider; Bloomberg; Colombia Reports; Brasil Post; The Economist
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Alvaro Uribe, Brazil, Colombia, corrupti..."
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Date: Wednesday, 17 Sep 2014 12:00

* Venezuela: Standard & Poor's lowered Venezuela’s credit rating “based on continued economic deterioration, including rising inflation and falling external liquidity.”

* Puerto Rico: Reggaeton star Don Omar was arrested this morning in Puerto Rico and charged with domestic violence against his partner.

* Mexico: Thousands in Mexico’s Baja California Sur are without electricity, water or phone service due to Hurricane Odile though no fatalities have been reported.

* Colombia: President Juan Manuel Santos blamed an alliance of the FARC rebels and neo-paramilitary fighters for being behind the killing of seven policemen on Tuesday.

Video Source – CCTV America via YouTube

Online Sources – Bloomberg; CBS News; La Prensa; The Guardian
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Colombia, credit, Daily Headlines, domes..."
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Date: Tuesday, 16 Sep 2014 09:15

* Mexico: A Mexican politician has come under fire after posting a Facebook message referring to Brazilian soccer star Ronaldinho as an “ape.”

* Brazil: The warden of a Brazilian prison where an inmate was recently beheaded was arrested and charged with helping prisoners escape.

* U.S.: A coalition of fifty groups commenced a campaign yesterday aimed at boosting the number of Latino voters participating in the November midterm elections.

* Puerto Rico: Approximately $900 million in tax and revenue anticipation notes is expected to be sold in order to raise revenues on the cash-strapped commonwealth.

Video Source – AFP via YouTube
 

Online Sources – The Guardian; The Latin Americanist; Fox News Latino; The Huffington Post; Reuters
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Brazil, corruption, Daily Headlines, eco..."
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Date: Monday, 15 Sep 2014 13:04

* Mexico: Hurricane Odile swept through parts of the Baja California peninsula early this morning with 125 mile per hour winds and dumping a “mind-boggling” eleven inches of rain in the span of an hour.

* Cuba: Some 165 Cuban medical professionals will be sent to parts of Africa ravaged by a deadly Ebola outbreak.

* Brazil: FIFA admitted that senior officials with the world soccer governing body illegally received Swiss watches worth $25,000 after arriving in Brazil for this year’s World Cup.

* Colombia: The extradition process between Colombia and the U.S. has been called into question when a recently released “humble carpenter” was mistaken for a drug smuggler and held in prison for six months.

Video Source – euronews via YouTube 

Online Sources – NBC News; Associated Press; GlobalPost; InSight Crime
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Friday, 12 Sep 2014 08:00

* Argentina: Argentine legislators approved a debt restructuring plan that could be at odds with a U.S. court ruling that led the country into default.

* Venezuela: President Nicolás Maduro announced a three-month extension to the closing of traffic across the Venezuelan border into Colombia during the late night hours.

* U.S.: A Floridian man was charged with allegedly helping to smuggle Yasiel Puig from Cuba in exchange of a percentage of the superstar ballplayer's Major League contract.

* Ecuador: “People are dying from bad food, not a lack of food,” said President Rafael Correa who proposed a new tax against fast food with the aim of lowering Ecuador's growing obesity rates.

Video Source - YouTube via AFP

Online Sources - Reuters; The Latin Americanist; The Globe and Mail; The Independent
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, Daily Headlin..."
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Date: Thursday, 11 Sep 2014 18:42

* Brazil: New government data indicated that deforestation in the Amazon rainforest increased for the second consecutive year due to illegal logging and the expansion of major infrastructure projects.

* Central America: Panama’s president claimed that a major expansion of the Panama Canal is expected to be completed in December 2015 while construction of a planned interoceanic waterway in Nicaragua will reportedly commence later this year.

* U.S.: Homeland Security senior officials denied rumors of ISIS terrorists trying to cross the border from Mexico into the U.S.

* Haiti: Over one million doses of a treatment for the chikungunya virus as authorities worry that the rainy season could worsen the outbreak of the disease.

Video Source – YouTube user EarthOutreach

Online Sources – BBC News; ABC News; Inside Costa Rica; TVNZ; New York Daily News
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Amazon, Brazil, canal, chikungunya, Dail..."
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Date: Thursday, 11 Sep 2014 18:10

Chile’s government will reportedly propose overturning an amnesty law protecting former senior members of the country’s authoritarian military regime.

According to the Chilean media, the plan will be presented later today on the forty-first anniversary of the military coup led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet against the democratically elected government headed by President Salvador Allende.

The amnesty law has been in the books since Pinochet decreed it nearly five years following the September 11, 1973 coup that brought him into power.  Although some judicial decisions have circumvented the law and helped convict 260 people to prison for human rights abuses, only sixty have been sentenced due to protections offered by the amnesty law.

An estimated 1300 disappearances and 30,000 tortures took place during the seventeen years under Pinochet’s rule.  Most of them are believed to have taken place prior to the now-late ruler’s 1978 amnesty decree.

“Enough with the painful waiting and unjust silence...It is time to come together for the truth,” declared President Michelle Bachelet at an event this morning to as part of the commemorations of the 1973 golpe.

“Forty-one years have passed and the survivors and victims who saved their lives…are elderly people.  Most of them have died waiting for justice while others have kept silence,” added the president who was tortured at imprisoned and tortured at the infamous Villa Grimaldi detention center in 1975 and before fleeing into exile.


Bachelet previously suggested invalidating the amnesty law during her first term in office eight years ago.  Although Chile is theoretically bound by provisions of international law that prohibit any amnesty for crimes against humanity, any major changes to the amnesty law have been defeated by Congress.

Chileans are divided over the legacy of the 1973 military coup and the subsequent Pinochet regime.  Those like Bachelet remember the cruel abuses of power including repression, state-sponsored torture of dissidents and the deaths of tens of thousands of people.  Others believe the coup was necessary to halt the spread of communism into Chile and helped turnaround a country in economic chaos.

Thursday’s commemoration events were somewhat marred by vandals who clashed with Santiago police during the overnight hours.  Officers have been on high alert due to the coup anniversary but also as a result of a “terrorist” bombing that took place on Monday.

Video Source – YouTube user HuntleyFilmArchives

Online Sources – La Tercera; The New York Times; The Latin Americanist; La Nacion; Freedom House; ABC News; The Santiago Times
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Augusto Pinochet, Chile, coup d’état,..."
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Date: Wednesday, 10 Sep 2014 08:45

* Guatemala: The Guatemalan Constitutional Court recently suspended the “Monsanto Law,” which would have forced farmers to obtain permission from firms like Monsanto, DuPont or Bayer in order to grow certain crops.

* Chile: President Michelle Bachelet announced a series of legal reforms including strengthening a Pinochet-era anti-terrorism law in response to a bombing in Santiago, Chile on Monday.

* Peru: Four indigenous environmental activists were murdered in a remote area of Peru allegedly at the hands of illegal loggers.

* Haiti: At least twenty-three people died and thirty-two were injured when a bus fell into a ravine in southern Haiti yesterday.

Video Source – teleSUR English via YouTube

Online Sources –VOXXI; Fox News Latino; The Latin Americanist; Voice of America; Reuters
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "accident, agriculture, Chile, Daily Head..."
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Date: Tuesday, 09 Sep 2014 11:15

* Mexico: Drought conditions on both sides of the border over the past few years could explain why Mexico allegedly owes some 380,000 acre-feet of water to the U.S.

* Latin America: A recent UNICEF report found that Latin America and the Caribbean has the worst homicide rate among children and youth, and at roughly three times the global average.

* Venezuela: Has Venezuela unofficially fallen into a recession due to a decrease of goods coming into the country?

* Honduras: According to Honduras’ human rights commissioner the number of deaths caused by firearms had more than doubled between 2005 and 2013.

Video Source – Reuters via YouTube (Areas of northern Mexico were devastated in 2011 due to the worst drought conditions in about seventy years).
 

Online Sources – The Washington Post; MercoPress; LAHT; Reuters
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Caribbean, Daily Headlines, economy, gun..."
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Date: Monday, 08 Sep 2014 21:59

Chilean officials believe that an explosion in the Santiago subway system on Monday was a terrorist attack.

“This is an act that has all the hallmarks of a terrorist deed,” declared government spokesman Alvaro Elizalde regarding the incident that has left at least eight people injured including two in serious condition.

“There is no doubt. And it has been carried out with the intention of hurting innocent people,” he added.

 “I was having lunch, I felt the noise and we went out to see and we saw a lot of smoke, people running and shouting,” said Joanna Magneti, an eyewitness to the explosion that occurred at a fast food restaurant by the Military Academy metro station.

First responder Fernando Zapata told the press that among the wounded was a cleaning woman who lost several fingers due to the explosion.

Update: President Michelle Bachelet urged her countrymen to remain calm in light of the bombing on Monday.

"This is a cowardly act because it has as its objective to hurt people, create fear and even kill innocent people," said Bachelet to the press after she visited some of the injured at a Santiago medical clinic.

"We're going to use all the weight of the law, including the anti-terrorist law, because those responsible for these acts have to pay," she added.

Elizalde also mentioned that the government would invoke anti-terrorism laws that grant prosecutors more powers and allow for harsher sentencing.  These laws, which were created during the regime of the late Gen. Augusto Pinochet decades ago, have been criticized by the U.N. and human rights groups for being unfairly applied against the indigenous Mapuche community.

Thus far nobody has claimed responsibility for causing the explosion apart from deputy Interior Minister Mahmud Aleuy mentioning that there are two “young” suspects who may have fled in a car.  Yet he did not speculate if today’s explosion may be linked to this Thursday’s 41st anniversary of the Pinochet-led military coup against the civilian government.

“I prefer not to hastily reach conclusions.  Chile is not a dangerous country but we do have demented people like the ones that caused (the explosion),” Aleuy said. 

Local prosecutor Francisco Bravo said that today’s bombing is similar to an explosion that occurred at the Los Domenicos subway station on July 13th.  At the time, a train conductor found late at night an improvised explosive device (IED) that was then detonated while he as away from the train. 

The July incident, along with several other non-fatal bombings this year in Santiago, may be the fault of anarchist groups seeking the liberation of two imprisoned anarchists in Spain:
Anarchist groups in Chile frequently use IEDs against symbols of the state, particularly branches of state-run bank Banco de Estado (BDE) in the capital, Santiago. Other targets have included biomedical research facilities, agricultural companies, and businessmen with alleged links to the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship.
The IEDs deployed during these attacks have either taken the form of explosive-filled fire extinguishers or manipulated gas canisters. Recent events include an attack against a BDE branch in the town of Talagante, in Santiago Metropolitan Region, on 7 June, and another against a police station on 5 June. The last recorded IED attack on the metro was in 1986.

Video Source – teleSUR via YouTube
 

Online Sources including Update - Jane's Intelligence Weekly; The Santiago Times; La Tercera; La Nacion; BBC News; ABC News; BBC News; Reuters
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "anarchists, Augusto Pinochet, Chile, Mic..."
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Date: Monday, 08 Sep 2014 12:45

* Argentina: Several thousand fans of Gustavo Cerati lined the streets of Buenos Aires on Friday to view the funeral procession of the late Argentine rock musician.

* Nicaragua: Officials claimed that a meteorite most likely caused a blast that left a forty foot wide crater in Managua on Saturday night.

* Chile: Police in Santiago clashed with vandals following a largely peaceful protest yesterday to commemorate the victims of human rights abuses during the regime of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

* El Salvador: Ex-President Francisco Flores is under house arrest after he turned himself in to face corruption charges stemming from his alleged misappropriation of $15 million.

Video Source – YouTube user CadenaTres Espectáculos
 

Online Sources – The Telegraph; Reuters; The Latin Americanist; BBC News
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Argentina, Augusto Pinochet, Chile, corr..."
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Date: Friday, 05 Sep 2014 11:55

* El Salvador: “Be very careful when there are groups that seek out destruction, who search for war, who don't know how to work on a team,” warned Pope Francis to a group of Salvadoran schoolchildren during a videoconference yesterday.

* Mexico: A new Amnesty International report concluded that torture is “widespread in Mexico” including a 600% increase in reported cases of torture over the past decade alone.

* Latin America: According to the Latin American Private Equity and Venture Capital Association investment in Latin America fell by 10% to $2.6 billion in the first six months of this year.

* Argentina: Archeologists in Argentina identified a new type of massive dinosaur “with a body the size of a house, the weight of a herd of elephants, and a weaponized tail.”

Video Source – Rome Reports via YouTube

Online Sources – Yahoo! News; Al Jazeera America; New York Times; Huffington Post
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Friday, 05 Sep 2014 00:29

Argentine rock legend Gustavo Cerati died on Thursday at the age of 55.

“In the early morning hours today the patient Gustavo Cerati died due to pulmonary arrest,” read a statement on the musician’s website from the Buenos Aires hospital where he was receiving treatment.

Cerati never regained consciousness after he had been in a coma from a stroke that hit him after a May 2010 concert.

Last May doctors claimed that Cerati was “clinically stable” but noted that there were “no significant improvements” to his condition and he continued to be connected to an “assistive respiratory device.”

From 1982 to 1997, Cerati was the lead singer of influential Argentine rock en Español group Soda Stereo. Along with Charly Alberti and Hector "Zeta" Bossio, Soda’s distinctive mix of rock and pop led them to create seven studio albums and thrilled audiences throughout the Spanish-speaking world.

“I still haven’t fallen (into reality).  My stance was always to have faith but evidently his body told him he had to go somewhere else.  I am at a loss for words,” lamented Alberti shortly after his friend passed away.

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner officially declared three days of mourning in memory of Cerati.  Meanwhile, several thousand people in Buenos Aires queued up on a line fifteen blocks long Thursday night to get the chance to view his remains.

“High school, my first recitals; all the memories are flooding back.  His legend gave us life,” said longtime fan Alejandro Canario who was one of the many on the lengthy line.

In Soda’s early years the group had more of a New Wave sound as shown by their hits  "Persiana Americana" and “Nada Personal”.  Soda also cheekily poked fun at the last vestiges of the brutal “Dirty War” military rulers in their song “Dietetico” that ended with the lyric “El regimen se acabo”. (This could be interpreted as “The (dietary) regimen is over” or “The regime is done.”)

The band’s latter hits like “Luna Roja” and "Ella Usó Mi Cabeza Como un Revólver" incorporated a more alternative rock sound and even some elements of shoegaze and electronic rock.  It was from this period that Soda’s best-known song emerged in the form of "De Musica Ligera".  Inspired by the collection of classical music albums owned by Cerati’s parents, the complex song of both longing and finality became Soda’s signature tune.

In 1988, Soda recorded English–language versions of “Cuando Pase el Temblor” and “Juegos de Seducción” for a proposed album in English but that did not come to fruition.

Following the breakup of Soda, Cerati embarked on a critically acclaimed solo career that included winning multiple Latin Grammys in 2006 and 2010.  He also collaborated with other Latin American artists such as Caifanes, Bajofondo and Aterciopelados.

“Gustavo, our most important song of all has yet to be written…I love you, my friend. And I know you love me” tweeted Shakira who interpreted a duet with her for her 2005 album Fijación Oral, Vol. 1.
Aside from a Soda reunion tour in 2007, Cerati's time as a soloist lasted thirteen years until the stroke that hit him after a concert in Caracas, Venezuela.  Despite being in a coma, Cerati’s mother, Lillian Clark, spoke out against a “death with dignity” law passed in 2012 and asserted that the notion to end his life “never passed” through her mind.

“Around through the universe, flying higher and higher…No words, eternal love for you…To say goodbye is to grow” mentioned Cerati’s only daughter, Lisa, via her Facebook page.  (Cerati’s son, Benito, has followed in his dad’s footsteps and is currently a rock musician).

The hashtag #HastaSiempreCerati has reportedly become one of the top five trending topics worldwide on Twitter.

Video Source – Soda Stereo via YouTube

Online Sources – cerati.com; Clarin; Twitter; The Latin Americanist; People en Español; lanacion.com; El Espectador
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Argentina, Gustavo Cerati, music, obitua..."
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Date: Thursday, 04 Sep 2014 10:15

* Argentina: Argentina enacted a measure of revenge for losing the World Cup title match in July and thumped Germany 4-2 in an international friendly held in Dusseldorf.

* Brazil: A pair of polls released yesterday showed that President Dilma Rousseff gained support but is still expected to lose in a likely runoff to challenger Marina Silva.

* U.S.: A new medical study concluded that the sexual risk behaviors among young Latinos vary due to factors like language, country of birth and economic status.

* Venezuela: Producers of U.S. TV drama “Legends” apologized for a scene depicting the Venezuelan government buying nerve gas for using against opposition protesters.

Video Source – TyC Sports via YouTube

Online Sources – Deutsche Welle; The Latin Americanist; Reuters; The Guardian; Medical Xpress
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Argentina, Brazil, Daily Headlines, Dilm..."
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Date: Wednesday, 03 Sep 2014 20:57

Colombia’s high court ruled against a prohibition on bullfighting in Bogota that was in effect since 2012.

According to the Constitutional Court, the ban violated the “administrative rights and freedom of artistic expression” against the Corporacion Taurina de Bogota (CTB), which is the entity that organized bullfights at the Plaza La Santamaria ring. 

“(The court rules in favor of the) “immediate restitution of bullfights to La Santamaria…without prejudice against other recreational or cultural destinations,” read part of the decision by the tribunal.  Hence, the judges gave city officials six months to prepare the Plaza for upcoming bullfights.

It’s unknown, however, how the ruling will affect educational projects planned at the Plaza in lieu of bullfighting. The company claimed it has the right to hold bullfights there at least through the end of its contract in March of next year.

The decision has not sat well with those in favor of the bullfighting ban like Bogotá mayor Gustavo Petro. 

“It’s unfortunate that there are still parts of our society entertained by death.  A fundamental right to kill is nonexistent,” tweeted the former guerilla turned mayor.

“At the end of the day, stabbing an animal for entertainment is wrong,” said Shely Bryan, campaigns director at Humane Society International.

“I think that where cruelty starts, then culture ends,” added the animal rights activist in reaction to the court’s move.

The high tribunal ruling has been welcomed with open arms by at least eight apprentice bullfighters on a hunger strike for nearly a month.  Yet they reportedly will not lift their protest due to distrust against Petro.

“Knowing the mayor’s arrogance we’re not moving” from the camp near the entrance of the Plaza even though weeks ago Petro met with the strikers in order to negotiate an end to the protest.

Last month, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals supposedly offered to retrain Bogota bullfighters in other occupations such as “funeral attendant, mortuary cosmetologist or graveyard security guard.”

Bullfighting is still practiced in other Colombian cities like Manizales and Cali as well as several Latin American countries.  But in recent years campaigns against the sport have gained traction in Mexico, Venezuela and Ecuador.  In 2013, for instance, Sonora became the first the Mexican state to prohibit bullfights though the proposal did not ban cockfighting.

Online Sources – Twitter; RCN Radio; Newsweel; Latin America News Dispatch; GlobalPost; Notcias Caracol; IBT.co.uk

Video Source – EFE via YouTube (Bullfighting at the Plaza La Santamaria in 2011).
 
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "bullfighting, Colombia, Gustavo Petro"
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Date: Wednesday, 03 Sep 2014 13:08

* Guatemala: The ex-military commander convicted of the 1998 murder of human rights activist and Roman Catholic Bishop Juan Jose Gerardi could serve additional prison time for supposedly “building an illicit business empire behind bars.”

* Colombia: Colombian cyclist Nairo Quintana retired from the Tour of Spain due to injuries suffered from crashes yesterday and this morning.

* Venezuela: President Nicolás Maduro announced a government shake-up that includes replacing energy minister Rafael Ramirez with a cousin of the late leader Hugo Chávez.

* Peru: LulzSecPeru, described as a “hacktivist group comprised of two young men,” infiltrated e-mail messages that showed the government’s ties to lobbyists.

Video Source – YouTube user wwwprensalibrecomgt (Trailer to the 2010 film “Gerardi” examined the outspokenness of Juan Jose Gerardi against the brutality of Guatemala’s civil war).

Online Sources – ABC News; Sky Sports; Reuters; Latin Post
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Colombia, cycling, Daily Headlines, hack..."
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Date: Tuesday, 02 Sep 2014 21:30

For the second time in less than two weeks an inmate was assaulted and beheaded amid violence in a Brazilian prison.

According to the Amazonia state military police, two people died in a prison after fight broke out amid the prisoners.  One of the deceased was decapitated and had his head thrown over the prison walls onto the street.  The other fatality was stabbed to death during the riot that lasted approximately nine hours.

The incident in Parintins comes after at least five prisoners died during a bloody disturbance in Paraná state from August 24-26.  Two inmates were decapitated and killed during a 45-hour standoff between police and prisoners protesting over alleged abuses committed by the guards in the Cascavel facility. 

The Brazilian prison system is plagued with problems including correctional facilities overrun by gangs like the notorious First Command of the Capital and where nearly half of the roughly 550,000 inmates are awaiting trial.  But perhaps the biggest challenge is massive overcrowding in prisons like the one in Parintins that was nearly at double its capacity.  Nearly 2200 inmates are crammed into the Pedrinhas prison that was built to house only 1770 and where last December prisoners filmed themselves next to decapitated bodies “showing them off like trophies.”

Brazil’s prison woes were one of the topics discussed during Monday’s televised presidential debate that included incumbent Dilma Rousseff and her main challenger, Marina Silva.  Though economic issues dominated the highly tense debate Rousseff did admit that conditions in the worst correctional facilities were “barbaric.”

Overcrowding in prisons isn’t just a problem in Brazil but also throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.  A recent report by the Iberoamerican Ombudsman Federation found that fourteen countries in the region have overpopulated prisons and half of these have prison populations at over double the capacity.  This may explain why a study from the Venezuelan Prison Observatory concluded that at least 150 inmates died in that South American country this year.  But even in nations with low prison overcrowding like Chile other problems persist such as instances of physical abuse by guards against inmates.


Some Latin American countries have turned to privately-run prisons as a potential solution but results have reportedly been mixed:
While most prisons remain under state control in the region, Chile, Mexico, Brazil and Peru have used outsourcing in an attempt to improve the management of overcrowded prison systems.

Chile, the pioneer, has awarded eight facilities under this system since 2000, while Peru has begun a pilot project and Mexico has opened three jails under PPPs. Several Brazilian states also awarded public-private contracts to build new jails.
 
However, questions over concessions' efficiency in the sector remain and Chile has said it will build two planned jails with exclusively public funds as a result.
Video Source – CCTV America via YouTube
 

Online Sources – BNamericas; El País; El Ciudadano; Ahram Online; Noticias Montreal; LAHT; Los Angeles Times; CNN; Buenos Aires Herald
Author: "Erwin C. (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Brazil, Caribbean, Latin America, prison..."
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