Friday, May 2, 2014

Daily Headlines: May 2, 2014 (Updated)

* Cuba: Juan Formell, the singer and founder of renowned Cuban music group Los Van Van, died on Thursday at the age of 71.

* Venezuela: Venezuelan officials will reportedly present today evidence allegedly showing opposition street protests that have taken place over the past two months are part of a plot to oust the government.

Update: Venezuelan Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres detailed at a press conference on Friday afternoon a supposed international "insurrectionist conspiracy" plotting to overthrow the government.  Among those involved in this alleged plot are Venezuelan opposition politicians like the imprisoned Leopoldo Lopez, local university student protest leaders, human rights activists, foreign figures including ex-Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and the U.S. State Department.
* Colombia: Rescuers are searching in the Cauca province for up to fifteen people possibly trapped in an illegal mine that collapsed and claimed the lives of at least three workers.

* Mexico: According to a new report more than half of Mexico’s 40 million children live in poverty while one in three indigenous youth reside in “extreme poverty.”

Video Source – YouTube user Planet Records Official

Online Sources including Update – ABC News; euronews; Billboard; GlobalPost; Prensa Latina; El Nacional

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

De Musica Ligera – Ani Cordero

De Musica Ligera is our occasional feature on music from the Americas as well as a song from 1980s Argentine rock group Soda Stereo.

As the Brooklyn Vegan music blog recently described “Ani Cordero is a woman of many projects”.  Indeed, her work has included playing in the band Pistolera and participating as a touring member of famed Brazilian rock group Os Mutantes.  Her latest project is a solo album entitled Recordar: Latin American Songs of Love & Protest, which features songs “from the 1930s-1970s that highlight influential artists who provided the soundtrack for social change.”

Below is a music video from one of the songs on Recordar, a cover version of “Macorina” originally sung by the late Mexican singer Chabela Vargas:

Ani Cordero will be in concert on Thursday at Joe’s Pub in New York and on Sunday at Crossroads in Philadelphia.

Video Source– YouTube user Ani Cordero

Online Sources – Brooklyn Vegan; Official website for Ani Cordero

Today’s Video – Adeus Ayrton

This Thursday marks the twentieth anniversary of the death of Ayrton Senna, one of the best motor racing drivers of all time.

As we mentioned in 2011, the Brazilian-born Senna died in an accident after crashing into a barrier in the early laps of the San Marino Grand Prix.  He was only thirty-four years old at the time of his death on May 1, 1994.

Though his life was tragically cut short, Senna amassed three World Championships brief ten-year career and until 2006 he held the record for most pole positions with sixty-five. His forty-one Grand Prix victories are third all-time while his 25.64% winning percentage is the third highest among drivers with at least one hundred F1 entries.

Despite his prowess on the track, perhaps his greatest legacy is through his deep concern for Brazil’s poor.  Throughout his life he quietly donated tens of millions of dollars for charitable causes and the Instituto Ayrton Senna, a charity founded after the driver’s death, has helped over a million children through a series of education programs.

The following video shows Brazilian TV footage of Senna’s funeral that took place three days after he passed away.  An estimated one million people from all walks of life lined the streets of Sao Paulo to pay their respects to their idol and national hero.

Their faces speak for themselves:

Video Source – YouTube user rogermania

Online Sources - Instituto Ayrton Senna; The Guardian; The Latin Americanist

Kerry, Jaua in Spat Over Venezuelan Internet Access

Internet access in Venezuela has become the latest dispute in the diplomatic tug-of-war between the U.S. and the South American state.

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry labeled Russia and Venezuela as countries with “an absolutely unmistakable pattern” of cracking down on the Internet. 

“The places where we face some of the greatest security challenges today are also the places where governments set up firewalls against some of the basic freedoms online,” he said during a speech given as part of the annual Freedom Online Coalition conference.

“In Venezuela, the government has used security forces to disrupt peaceful protests and limit freedoms of expression and assembly. And this has included blocking access to selected websites and limiting access to internet service in certain parts of the country,” added Kerry who spoke via a Google Plus video chat at the conference in Estonia.

Venezuela’s foreign minister, Elias Jaua, said yesterday to the press that he “rejected” the “false” accusations made by Kerry.

“We are all under threat from a (U.S.) government that believes they have the right to intervene and sanction against countries based on the reality they construct from diplomats at their respective embassies,” Jaua mentioned.

Jaua also referred to the recent political unrest in Venezuela and blamed “hackers” for targeting official websites as part of a “fascist intent to oust” Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro.

Internet access and social media campaigns have become important tools for the Venezuelan opposition to espouse their views against the government and to publish alleged cases of brutality by the authorities. Last February that the government was accused of being behind a brief blackout of images on Twitter while street protests against the Maduro regime grew in major cities across the country.

Daily Headlines: April 30, 2014

* Mexico: An estimated sixty-four people have died mostly as a result of drug-related violence in the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas this month including fourteen in a shootout yesterday.

* U.S.: A new report concluded that there has been a steady increase of Latinos born in the U.S. and entering adulthood while the rate of Latinos immigrating to the U.S. has diminished.

* Argentina: A seventeen-year-old girl was attacked and killed in what was described as “an extreme case of bullying.”

* Honduras: Did Honduras qualify for the World Cup by fixing matches with the help of a Singaporean criminal syndicate?

Video Source – teleSUR via YouTube (Residents of Tamaulipas, Mexico marched earlier this month to repudiate the spike in violence over the last few weeks).

Online Sources – Fox News Latino; The Guardian; ABC News, CNN

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Anger Grows in Rio’s Favelas Over Recent Violence

Residents of a pair of Rio de Janeiro’s impoverished neighborhoods vented their anger after two people were killed amid law enforcement activities.

On Monday, a seventeen-year-old was shot and killed in the Morro do Chapadao favela during a police operation to recover stolen automobiles.  According to the Brazilian military police, the victim was in a stolen car and had a firearm next to him when he was caught in a shootout between officers and criminals.

In response to the shootout, Morro do Chapadao residents took to the street to protests and nine buses were set on fire by a “20-strong group of youths” near Morro do Chapadao.  They also disputed police allegations that the dead teen belonged to street gangs that deal with drug trafficking in the area.

Meanwhile, several schools were closed in and around the Alemao favela today and three cars were reportedly torched yesterday following the death of an elderly woman under mysterious circumstances.

According to MercoPress:
Dalva Arlinda Beserra de Assis, who had been on her way home Sunday with her 10-year-old grandson, was hit by a single bullet - although it is uncertain who fired the shot - and died as she was being transported to a nearby hospital, officials said.
The shootout began at nightfall in the Complexo do Alemao housing project when police officers patrolling the zone were attacked by members of a drug trafficking gang shortly after one of the members of their group, identified as Ramires Roberto da Silva, was arrested.
When the shootout was over, about 50 residents blocked traffic on an avenue bordering the shantytown, or “favela,” to protest the “police violence.” The demonstrators set up barricades and set fire to wastepaper in trash cans, but the protest concluded without any further incidents or arrests.

Daily Headlines: April 29, 2014

* Brazil: A social media campaign has grown in support of Brazilian soccer player Dani Alves who responded to the racist taunt of having a banana thrown at him in the middle of a match in Spain by nonchalantly gobbling up the fruit.

* Mexico: Acclaimed film director Alfonso Cuarón published a full-page advertisement in Mexican newspapers yesterday of a list of questions for President Enrique Peña Nieto to answer regarding a controversial energy reform proposal.

* Peru: Indigenous leader Ruth Buendia was named as a co-recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize for her efforts to halt construction of the Paquitzapango hydroelectric project.

* Colombia: Thousands of farmers are protesting against the Colombian government’s agrarian polices in a demonstration that could affect the May 26 general election and President Juan Manuel Santos’ chances of winning reelection.
Video Source – YouTube user Love Football

Online Sources – GlobalPost; The Guardian; Reuters; The Telegraph

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Weekender – Survival By Learning

“The Weekender” is our new feature where every weekend we hope to highlight a short film, movie or documentary pertaining to the Americas.  We’re showing our latest entry today in order to make up for the lack of posts in the last few days.
One of the main concerns for Central American countries affected by high levels of is how to properly combat gang violence.  Such is the case with El Salvador where governments past and present have largely failed in implementing successful policies against street gangs like the Mara Salvatrucha-13 (MS-13) and Barrio 18.  The Mano Dura ("Iron Fist") strategy championed by then-President Francisco Flores in 2004 took a tough approach against gangs but ended up backfiring.  A 2012 truce between the MS-13 and Barrio 18 helped lower El Salvador’s murder rate last year but homicides have spiked since the pact apparently ended months ago.

While President-elect Salvador Sanchez Ceren takes office in June and Salvadoran church leaders look into brokering a new truce, the gang violence problem will likely continue to be front and center in that country.  A potential approach that has not been applied as public policy is to emphasize rehabilitation of gang members away from a life of crime and towards something more meaningful.  Another underused strategy is emphasizing education among the very young in order dissuade being allured into the world of street gangs.

The latter method is employed by the Fundación CINDE nongovernment organization.  Below the page break is a film from that foundation that depicts their work in El Salvador:

Daily Headlines: April 28, 2014

* Vatican: Pope John II was officially declared a saint yesterday partly due to the reported healing of a brain aneurysm that affected Gloribeth Mora Diaz of Costa Rica.
* Panama: According to the latest polls the election for Panama’s next president on May 4th could be a neck-and-neck race between Jose Arias representing the ruling conservative party and “moderate leftist” candidate Juan Navarro.

* Brazil: Brazil’s civil aviation minister admitted that Rio de Janeiro’s main international airport could be hit by blackouts during the World Cup of soccer that begins in roughly six weeks.

* Peru: Some five hundred members of the Achuar indigenous group occupied Peru’s biggest oil field in the Amazon rainforest in order to call for the cleanup of oil that has spilled over the last few decades.
Video Source – AFP via YouTube

Online Sources – BBC News; ABC News; Reuters; Bloomberg; The Guardian