Friday, January 17, 2014

Daily Headlines: January 17, 2014

Note: The following video contains some graphic images and is Not Safe for Work.

* Latin America: A new study from Mexican think-tank Seguridad, Justicia y Paz concluded that forty of the world’s top fifty most murderous cities are located in Latin America and that “homicides in (the region) are well above the world average.”

* Colombia: Colombian authorities blamed the FARC for a bombing yesterday that left at least one person dead though a spokesman for the rebels denied that the guerillas were behind the attack.

* Chile: Chilean government officials denied accusations of environmental and archeological damage caused by the Dakar Rally that has been held in South America since 2009.

* U.S.: The American Civil Liberties Union has called for a federal investigation into allegedly abusive practices by the U.S. Border Patrol at checkpoints in Arizona near the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Video Source – Channel 4 via YouTube (For the third straight year Mexican think-tank Seguridad, Justicia y Paz found that the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula is the murder capital of the world.)

Online Sources- Fox News Latino; The Guardian; NBC News; Miami Herald

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Nuestro Cine: “Narco Cultura”

This morning the finalists to the upcoming Oscars were announced and the Alfonso Cuarón-directed “Gravity” received ten nominations in categories like Best Picture and Best Director.  While the Academy honored the Mexican-born Cuarón and his daring stroller set in outer space, films from Latin American were snubbed and will not be up for the Oscars.

Despite strong submissions like a Peruvian film set in a stark Lima of the future or an uplifting drama examining a Chilean divorcee’s plunge into romance, no movies from the Americas made it to the shortlist for Best Foreign Language Film.  The Uruguayan movie “Anina” was wonderfully drawn and had a charming plot but was not chosen as a finalist for Best Animated Feature Film.

Similar to “Heli,” Mexico’s pick for Best Foreign Language Film, “Narco Cultura” examines the death and destruction caused by drug violence in that country.  Yet the documentary differs in that it also looks at the appeal that the drug culture has via musicians and their narcocorrido songs.  The film depicts the glorification of drug traffickers as modern day Robin Hoods through music with lyrics like “With an AK-47 and a bazooka on my shoulder/ Cross my path and I’ll chop your head off/ We’re bloodthirsty, crazy and we like to kill.”  This is contrasted with the testimony of a Ciudad Juarez crime scene investigator who has attended the funerals of several of his colleagues murdered while working by drug gangs.

Below the page break is the trailer to “Narco Cultura”, which was not selected as a finalist in the top documentary category at the Oscars:

Daily Headlines: January 16, 2014

* Guatemala: Vice President Roxana Baldetti was released from a medical clinic after a powder that may have been lime was thrown on her following the president's state of the nation speech.

* Cuba: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called on the Vatican to help push for the release of Alan Gross, a contractor imprisoned in Cuba since 2009.

* Mexico: Most “self-defense” groups in Michoacán state have strongly refused the government’s call to lay down their arms and allow an influx of federal troops to combat drug traffickers.

* Venezuela: President Nicolás Maduro declared that the Venezuelan currency would not be devaluated despite high inflation and shortages of some consumer goods.

Video Source – YouTube user CadenaTres

Online Sources- Fox News Latino; Reuters; BBC News

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Daily Headlines: January 15, 2014

* Brazil: The percentage of Brazilian sugar turned into ethanol grew in 2013 and could keep increasing this year as the prices of the sweetener are expected to continue to plunge.

* Central America: Recent polls in El Salvador and Costa Rica have indicated that conservative candidates hold slight leads ahead of February's presidential elections though it might not be enough to avoid a runoff.
* Puerto Rico: Dozens of schools did not open on Tuesday as teachers on the island went on strike against planned cuts to their pension system.

* Mexico: Several people in the Mexican state of Michoacán have died in the past few days amid heightened tensions involving local “self-defense” groups, drug gangs and federal troops.

Video Source – AFP via YouTube

Online Sources- Bloomberg; BBC News; The Guardian; Reuters; NBC News

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Lawyers Seek Impeachment of Troubled Brazilian Governor

A group of human rights lawyers filed a request today for the impeachment of a Brazilian governor who has come under fire over rampant prison violence.

The twelve attorneys representing the Lawyers Collective of Human Rights (Cadhu, in Portuguese) appealed to the Maranhão state legislature and claimed that Gov. Roseana Sarney is at fault for major overcrowding of local prisons as well as serious violations of the human rights of inmates.

“The impeachment law says that the chief of the executive branch may be removed from office if, in the case of violation of basic rights, he or she doesn’t hold anyone accountable for the abuses,” said Cadhu member Eloisa Machado de Almeida.

“We have long denounced the chaos that has worsened this state government.  They had the information to investigate and ensure that (violence in Maranhão prisons) did not occur,” said fellow petitioner Murilo Henrique Morelli. 

“The majority of legislators represent the people of Maranhão and the residents are clamoring for peace,” Morelli added.

The Maranhão state legislature has fifteen days to create a commission to investigate the lawyers’ petition.

Gov. Sarney, daughter of former Brazilian President José Sarney, has yet to respond to the push for impeachment.  In the aftermath of the recent firebombing of a bus that killed one girl, she alleged that nearly 2800 extra spaces for prisoners were made available and that the spike in violence in her state was a “consequence of a growing population and the growing wealth in the state.”  (But as this article notes, Maranhão is Brazil’s second-most impoverished state and in 2013 the state’s population grew by almost 4% while the homicide rate soared by nearly 62%).

Daily Headlines: January 14, 2014

* Mexico: Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong announced that federal troops would be sent to an area of Michoacán state where vigilante “self-defense” groups have been combating drug traffickers.

* Central America: While trouble continues to plague the expansion of the Panama Canal, Nicaraguan officials said that construction would commence in December of a “mega-waterway” connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

* U.S.: Technical problems, grammatical mistakes and erroneous translations have reportedly plagued the Spanish version of the federal government’s Obamacare/Affordable Care Act website.

* Colombia: Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez confirmed the ouster of Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro though it remains to be seen if the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will intercede on his behalf.

Video Source – AFP via YouTube

Online Sources- Miami Herald; Fox News Latino; Prensa Latina; The Telegraph; Al Jazeera English

Monday, January 13, 2014

Reports: Increase in Argentines Smuggling Pot from Uruguay

Marijuana tourism” has allegedly boomed in the U.S. state of Colorado ever since a law permitting the recreational use of the drug went into effect on January 1st.  A similar case appears to be occurring several thousand miles away in Uruguay where a major marijuana legalization proposal became law nearly one month ago.

Officials in neighboring Argentina have reported an uptick in the number of residents caught trying to smuggle marijuana after having visited Uruguay.  Three to four people per day are allegedly caught with cannabis in their attempt to return to Argentina via points of entry such as ferry terminals and major airports.  This increase is said to be “unprecedented” compared to previous end-of-the-year holiday breaks.

Federal prosecutors subsequently intervened and most cases were rapidly closed since the amount of marijuana found was small and did not break Argentine law allowing “personal doses” of the drug.
As long as the marijuana is “not shown off ostentatiously and found discreetly within the luggage” then it is not a punishable offense, according to unnamed “judicial sources” cited in news reports.

The new law permits the sale of up to 1.4 ounces of cannabis to registered users over the age of 18 via a government-regulated marketplace.  Yet the pilot program is expected to go into effect later this year and it bars tourists from legally purchasing marijuana in the South American country.

“This is not like the Netherlands… (The Uruguayan government) is not promoting in any shape or form tourism related to marijuana” said Uruguayan Tourism Minister Benjamín Liberoff in an interview weeks ago with the Europa Press. 

He also denied that a spike in requests for residency in Uruguay are related to marijuana legalization and could be because of “other laws such as allowing same-sex marriage…or economic growth that we’ve enjoyed in recent years.”

Daily Headlines: January 13, 2014

* Mexico: Alfonso Cuarôn of Mexico was named Best Director at the 2014 Golden Globe Awards and, thus, could be the favorite to capture top director honors at the upcoming Oscars.

* Brazil: Daniel Ellsberg, the former military analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, claimed in an interview that the Brazilian government should grant asylum to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

* Venezuela: Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez gave out his personal phone number as part of a campaign to combat corruption launched after the murder of ex-beauty queen and actress Monica Spear and her husband.

* Chile: President Sebastián Piñera vowed that the constructors of Chile’s first drawbridge will “fix…the mistake” after it was discovered that one of the stricture’s road decks was built upside down.

Video Source – WIRED via YouTube

Online Sources- UPI; Sky News; ZDNet; Huffington Post