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BuzzFeed Asks: ¿Y tu novio?

This week the BuzzFeed Motion Pictures team asked the holiday question some of us here at Latino USA have been hearing for years: ¿Y tu novio? (And your boyfriend?) For a humorous look into the holidays and relationships, see what the team did in the following video. What do you think?

Today in Latin America: November 24, 2015

Dominican Republic Issues Arrest Warrants for Fugitives in France

Top Story — The Dominican Republic has issued arrest warrants for three French nationals on people-smuggling charges related to their alleged role in the Oct. 27 escape of two French pilots from the Dominican Republic. In an interview with Paris Match magazine last month, the three men —including right-wing member of the European Parliament Aymeric Chauprade and Pierre Malinowski, assistant to the controversial right-wing French politician Jean-Marie Le Pen— claimed they helped to arrange the escape to free “compatriots in danger” who had been convicted of cocaine trafficking.

The pilots, Pascal Fauret and Bruno Odos, were sentenced to 20 years in prison in August of this year after allegedly being caught in the resort town of Punta Cana with 1,500 pounds of cocaine aboard a privately hired jet in March of 2013.

The two were on house arrest awaiting an appeal in the case when they reportedly left the island on a tourist ship before transferring to another vessel on its way to the French Antilles. The escape was reportedly accomplished with the help of Chauprade and his conspirators before flying to Paris. Fauret and Odos were arrested in France on Nov. 2 in connection with the case.

According to Dominican Attorney General Francisco Domínguez Brito, the country has also engaged the international policing organization Interpol’s “Red Notice” system to help capture the three conspirators should they leave France.

Legal analysts have said that the extradition of Fuaret and Odos to the Dominican Republic is unlikely.


North America

The Associated Press reported Monday on kidnappings in Mexico conducted by corrupt police, who often work in tandem with local cartels and operate with impunity.

A 5.5 magnitude earthquake struck central Mexico on Monday, causing buildings in Mexico City to shake and workers to evacuate their offices, although no casualties were immediately reported.

Texas on Monday filed an extension request with the U.S. Supreme Court related to its attempt to block President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration, which if successful, would mean delaying a ruling on the case until Obama leaves office.


Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez will reportedly meet with officials from across Central America in El Salvador on Tuesday to discuss the matter of the more than 2,000 Cuban migrants currently stranded in Costa Rica on their way to the United States. The AP reports that the historic exodus of Cubans to the United States —some 45,000 are expected to travel this year by land to the Texas and California borders—has been fueled by social media.

Central America

Honduras is considering asylum requests made by five Syrians arrested in the country on their way to the United States with stolen Greek passports, and should finalize the decision by the end of the week, a government official said on Monday.

Climate change is partly responsible for the recent shift Guatemala’s climate patterns, which are destabilizing farming practices for the country’s poorest citizens, according to an in-depth report by the International Business Times.


Venezuela’s political opposition is celebrating the presidential victory of Mauricio Macri in Argentina as a sign of its own chances to defeat leftist politics, which will come to a head in parliamentary elections on Dec. 6 when they run against the ruling Socialist Party.

A U.S. judge criticized prosecutors in Colombia for supposedly deplorable prison conditions in the detention center where a U.S. tech-company CEO was awaiting extradition. The CEO has since been moved.

Southern Cone

The financial analysis company Standard & Poor’s reduced the credit rating of Brazilian mining company Samarco Mineração on Monday to a speculative non-investment grade in light of its lethal dam burst earlier this month.

Argentina’s President-elect Mauricio Macri announced swift political reforms on Monday, including plans to suspend Venezuela from regional free trade organization Mercosur, replace officials in the country’s central bank and change the current fixed exchange rate with the U.S. dollar.

The trade minister of Brazil told Reuters he foresees improved economic relations with Argentina under Macri, with the possibility to increase trade flow between the two countries.

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The next TODAY IN LATIN AMERICA will be published on Monday, November 30. 

Spokesperson: Latin Grammy Protest Not Anti-Trump

A spokesperson for Maná and Los Tigres del Norte told Latino USA that the legendary bands’ viral protest calling for Latinos to unite and “not vote for racists” during a live performance last Thursday at the Latin Grammys was not directed at Donald Trump or any other presidential candidate, even though some band members told Rolling Stone that it was.

The spokesperson’s emphasis to describe the protest as nonpartisan in nature occurred after Maná’s Fher Olvera explained to Rolling Stone that the decision to use the song “Somos Más Americanos” (“We Are More American”) as “a weapon of protest” was to focus on “what’s happening here with immigration reform and all the xenophobic remarks made by Donald Trump.” Los Tigres del Norte’s Jorge Hernández had also told Rolling Stone that he was “personally offended” by Trump’s anti-Mexican comments.

When the iconic bands completed their Latin Grammy performance with a banner that was captured and shared on social media, many also concluded that it referred solely to Trump. There was also questions as to whether the banner was planned and coordinated in advance by Voto Latino, the nonpartisan organization that promoted the two bands’ appearance before they hit the stage in Las Vegas and then launched a voter registration page minutes after the performance was over, along with an email sent to the Voto Latino mailing list:

Wow! Are you watching the Latin Grammys? If not, here’s what you just missed. Grammy award-winning bands, Maná and Los Tigres del Norte, just surprised the live audience at the 16th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards in Las Vegas with a powerful joint performance of Maná’s song, Somos Más Americanos. 

The two bands then brought out a banner that read, “United Latinos Don’t Vote for Racists!“, calling for the Latino community to unite against the hateful remarks and instead register and pledge to vote in 2016.

Join Voto Latino, Maná, and Los Tigres del Norte to show the power of our voice and the power of our vote. Visit and register or pledge to vote today. 

Then join the conversation online:

Join @Mana and @tigresdelnorte in urging #Latinos to get out the vote in 2016! Register at: #SomosMas2016

Trump’s name (or that of any other candidate) is not mentioned in any of the text pertaining to the voter registration campaign.

According to both Voto Latino and the bands’ spokesperson, the decision to create the banner and the voter drive came from Maná and Los Tigres del Norte. It was not initiated or conceived by Voto Latino. When asked for comment, Maria Urbina, Voto Latino’s Vice President of Politics and Campaigns. responded via email:

Maná and Los Tigres reached out to Voto Latino shortly before their performance, as they wanted to tie their message at the Latin Grammys to a concrete effort to mobilize the community against racist rhetoric and beliefs. Voto Latino’s goal is to engage Latino millennials to register to vote, and we’re excited to partner with Maná and Los Tigres in this movement. We’re also proud to encourage our supporters to share the powerful message Mana and Los Tigres delivered and to take action. 

Latino USA followed up to see if Urbina could clarify certain points about the campaign, particularly the one about Voto Latino being, according to its website, “a non-profit, nonpartisan organization” that “does not support or endorse any political candidate or party.” Urbina has yet to respond to any follow-up due to her travel schedule.

In addition, Latino USA contacted Univision, the Spanish-language network that broadcast the Latin Grammys, and asked whether the show’s producers or anyone in the network knew in advance that Maná and Los Tigres del Norte would be protesting during the show. Univision declined to comment.

According to sources, show producers were aware the two bands would display a sign at the end of their “Somos Más Americanos” performance, but no one knew what the sign would say.

Thompson’s David Ortiz: Funny or Stereotypical?

Kenan Thompson is generating online buzz for his impersonation of Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz this weekend on “Saturday Night Live.” In case you missed it, here’s the clip:

It isn’t the first time Thompson has played Big Papi, who is retiring at the end of next year. What do you think of Thompson’s character? Comedic brilliance or just the latest example of SNL’s “Latino problem?”

Share your comments below or tweet us @LatinoUSA.

Music from Latino USA’s ‘Reservations’ Show

Our newest playlist from this weekend’s “Reservations” show is now playing on our Spotify page.

Our show also featured the music of Cody Sunbear Blackbird:

If you missed our “Reservations” show, you can listen to it here:

Today in Latin America: November 23, 2015

Rejecting Peronism, Argentina Elects Mauricio Macri

Top Story – Center-right candidate Mauricio Macri won Argentina’s runoff presidential election on Sunday, The Associated Press reported, defeating the ruling party candidate Daniel Scioli and marking the end of 12 years of left-leaning governance under President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her late husband Nestor.

The election is the second round of an upset for Scioli, as he was favored to beat Macri by a great enough margin in the initial Oct. 25 elections to win outright. Macri’s “Let’s Change” campaign coalition, however, brought in more votes than expected, leading to Argentina’s first ever presidential runoff.

Scioli was expected to keep many of the populist “Peronist” social welfare policies of the Kirchners in place as president. Human rights groups endorsed him last week in part for his stance on the pursuit of justice regarding Argentina’s dictatorship, which aligned with the approach of the Kirchners.

Macri, who has served as mayor of Buenos Aires since 2007, is a prominent businessman and the son of one of the richest men in Argentina. He pledged to cut inflation, attract more foreign investment and foster a pro-business environment, policy proposals that garnered criticism from Scioli who referred to him as a proponent of “savage capitalism”. Macri also pledged to end controls on the purchasing of U.S. dollars, which is expected to result in a steep devaluation of the Argentine peso. Macri is also expected to negotiate a new settlement with the so-called “holdout” creditors who purchased Argentine debt following a default in 2001.


North America

The World Trade Organization ruled in favor of Mexico in a dispute stemming from 2009, in which the United States argued it should be allowed to reject imports of tuna that was not caught using so-called “dolphin-safe” methods.

U.S. authorities on Sunday confirmed they detained five Syrian refugees who turned themselves in at the border with Mexico, following a similar detention on Tuesday.

Through a hedging arrangement with several large banks, Mexico will make some $6 billion by selling oil at a price of more than $30 a barrel higher than the severely depressed price of the commodity.


The assistant of the CEO of Puerto Rico’s Doral Bank was arrested on Friday after being charged with perjury and obstruction of justice for allegedly holding back information from FBI investigators looking into possible corruption at the bank.

The Wall Street Journal on Sunday explored the increasing study of English in Cuba, where Russian was long the second language taught in schools.

Haitian presidential candidate Jovenel Moïse visited Miami on Sunday, where he brushed off questions about fraud in last month’s primary elections. Calling for the primary election results to be thrown out, thousands took to the streets in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince on Friday, clashing with government supporters in protests that left one dead.

Central America

Honduras detained a Syrian woman and two Pakistanis travelling by bus from Nicaragua Saturday, prompting an investigation into whether the trio is connected to the five Syrian men who were detained in Honduras with fake passports last week.

Guatemala’s Congress voted to pass a so-called “anti-coyote” law that would impose harsher sentences for anyone who helps smuggle migrants, an apparent response to pressure from the United States to stop human trafficking.

Guatemalan authorities discovered a tunnel at a maximum security prison just outside of the capital on Friday, in time to prevent a planned jailbreak.

Regional representatives will soon meet to discuss the dilemma of 2,500 Cuban immigrants are still stranded in Costa Rica, most living in one of the seven makeshift shelters.


Colombia’s government announced it will pardon 30 FARC guerrillas currently serving prison sentences in an effort to build confidence and expedite peace talks in Havana, Cuba.

On Saturday, Colombia’s army seized 961 kilograms of an explosive mixture from the ELN guerrillas who have frequently used it to attack troops, civilians and infrastructure.

Venezuela’s opposition said that candidate Miguel Pizarro and his supporters were confronted by gun who fired shots at their campaign caravan in Caracas’ large Petare slum.

Poverty in Venezuela has hit an all-time high of some 73 percent of households, a rise from 48 percent in 2014, according to a new study by researchers from three Venezuelan universities.

In light of anti-Syrian refugee sentiment following the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, NPR remembers Bolivia’s open door policy towards refugees in the 1940s, even as the rest of the world was tightening its borders.

Southern Cone

Toxic mining waste from Brazil’s burst dams earlier this month has now reached the Atlantic Ocean, according to environmental agency Ibama, following what has been called one of Brazil’s worst-ever environmental disasters.

Brazil’s water crisis is worsening as a drought in the southeast continues at unprecedented levels, in part because deforestation has reportedly caused rainfall to drop, leading to harsh rationing for São Paulo residents struggle with rationing.

France announced it will share counterterrorism intelligence with Brazil before the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, although Rio’s Mayor Eduardo Paes has said the events’ security plan has so far been unchanged.

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Latinos on the Reservation: In Pictures

For this week’s Latino USA, we profile the Mexican and Native American communities who live together on the Yakama Nation, a Native American reservation in Eastern Washington.

The Yakama people are heavily outnumbered by Latinos on the reservation, who settled here over recent decades because the region’s robust agricultural industry. Maria Hinojosa and Latino USA producer Marlon Bishop spent about a week on the reservation, with local reporter Rowan Moore Gerety of Northwest Public Radio. During our time there, we witnessed two communities often in conflict with one another, despite shared indigenous roots. There were conflicts over tribal taxes and tribal laws, over the perception of “special concessions” for Spanish speakers and often, over nothing at all except old-fashioned racism. But we also witnessed communities that are learning to live with one another, who are borrowing from each other’s cultures, and who starting families together. Below, are some images we captured during our time there.

All photos by Marlon Bishop

#1547 – Reservations

The Yakama Nation is a Native American reservation in Eastern Washington that is home to about 11,000 Yakama people and almost three times as many Latinos. Over recent decades, the reservation’s rich agricultural lands have attracted Mexican farmworkers and their families who have made the valley their home. Despite shared indigenous roots and frequent intermarriage, living side by side hasn’t been easy, and tensions between the two groups are high. The Yakama people worry about their ability to maintain their identity and culture as outsiders settle on their land. Meanwhile, some in the Mexican community believe they are treated unfairly by the tribal government. In spite of much dislike and mistrust between the groups, a new hybrid society (Yakama, Mexican, and American all at once) is taking shape on the Yakama Nation.

On this special collaboration with Northwest Public Radio, Latino USA takes a deep dive into the dynamics of the reservation, exploring how two communities try to learn to get along.

Featured image: Marlon Bishop, Latino USA

For more photos from this episode, see Latinos on the Reservation: In Pictures.

Today in Latin America: November 20, 2015

Report: More Mexicans Leaving the United States Than Arriving

Top Story — More Mexicans are now leaving the United States than arriving, a new Pew Research Center report released on Thursday revealed. Data from the center’s 2014 Mexican National Survey showed that more than one million Mexicans and their families left the United States for Mexico from 2009 to 2014, compared with 870,000 Mexicans who came to the United States during that same period—a net loss of some 140,000 people.

The report comes after deportations hit a record high under the Obama administration in 2013, but the majority of those who returned to Mexico said that they did so of their own accord. Increased efforts to secure the border and rising drug war-related violence has also made crossing back into the United States a more dangerous and costly affair.

The majority of Mexicans who returned home did so to reunify with family there, but the slow post-recession economic recovery in industries like construction has also contributed to the shift. An aging population in Mexico has also decreased competition for employment there, as the older generation moves into retirement.

Mexicans comprise the largest portion of the U.S. immigrant population and made up 28 percent of all new immigrants who came to the United States in 2013. While more than 16 million Mexicans migrated to the United States between 1965 and 2015, researchers say that the recent decline marks the end of this period of mass migration.


North America

Mastercard, along with the Florida-based Stonegate Bank, have announced that U.S. citizens will now be able to use their debit cards in Cuban restaurants, hotels and shops, thus becoming one of the first U.S. financial services to operate in Cuba as relations between the two countries improve.

In the midst of heightened suspicion of Syrian refugees, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has confirmed that two Syrian families, consisting of eight people, turned themselves in to immigration authorities at the U.S.-Mexico border. One Afghan and five Pakistanis trying to cross into the United States from Mexico were apprehended on Monday, but despite hand-wringing over the possibility of terrorists entering the United States from Mexico, officials said none of the migrants detained this week has any history of radical or violent activity.


In Puerto Rico, legislators are attempting to tackle the island’s debt by moving forward on a bill that would give a fiscal control board more authority to endorse fiscal reform plans.

A new report by Amnesty International has accused the Dominican Republic of engaging in human rights abuses by systematically denying rights and citizenship to Dominicans of Haitian descent.

Central America

In an attempt to find a solution for the roughly 2,400 Cubans currently stranded in Costa Rica on their way to the United States, Costa Rican officials announced Thursday that they will work with 12 other countries in the region, including Cuba and Ecuador, in an upcoming meeting of the so-called Central American Integration System in El Salvador on Nov. 23.

The Conguate, an 18-year-old coalition of Guatemalan migrants living in the United States, has traveled to Guatemala City to present to the government their demands for more awareness of migrant conditions.

The five Syrians detained on Tuesday in Honduras with stolen Greek passports, four of them students, say they were making their way to the United States in order to seek refugee status.

José Antonio Lacayo, Nicaragua’s former cabinet chief, was found dead late Wednesday after he was reported missing from a helicopter crash that killed the other passengers.


Election officials in Venezuela have banned advertisements by the small MIN Unity party, which they say was intentionally attempting to confuse voters by using the same slogan and logo as main opposition party MUD Unity, even going so far as to run a candidate with the exact same name as the incumbent in one district.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said that he will launch a formal protest and review his country’s relationship with the United States following a Wednesday report in The Intercept that revealed U.S. spying on Venezuela’s state-owned oil and gas company.

Although Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has proposed to amend his country’s constitution so that he can’t seek re-election in 2017, a new amendment cleared Wednesday night would allow Correa to run again in 2021, a move the opposition is calling unconstitutional.

Yesterday marked the third anniversary of peace talks between Colombia’s government and FARC rebels in Havana, Cuba. In an interview with the BBC, President Juan Manuel Santos said he will “be in serious difficulty” if the Colombian people ultimately reject the peace deal.

Ecuador has said that it will honor a $650 million foreign debt payment due on Dec. 15 —the first time the country has repaid a bond in 180 years— as President Rafael Correa aims to restore investor confidence and reverse the country’s reputation as a serial defaulter.

Southern Cone

Argentina’s presidential candidates Daniel Scioli and Mauricio Macri argued Thursday over a comment Scioli made indicating that Argentine native Pope Francis supported him over Macri. As of now, opposition candidate Macri, considered to be more “market-friendly,” appears set to win Sunday’s presidential election as he leads Scioli by as many as eight percentage points in polls. The BBC spoke with supporters of each candidate to assess what they believe should be the priorities of the new government.

A Brazilian police officer has been charged with homicide over the April death of Eduardo de Jesus Ferreira, a 10-year-old boy whom officers had claimed was caught in crossfire during an operation against suspected drug traffickers.

Brazilian mining company Samarco announced Thursday that it has been ordered to pay 112 million reales (U.S. $30 million) for the environmental damage caused by the Nov. 5 rupture of one of its dams, which left at least 11 people dead. Samarco is already paying some $78 million in compensation for those affected by the disaster.

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Mic Series Features Latino USA’s Daisy Rosario

Our team wanted to take a moment and let you know that this year our very own Daisy Rosario hosted Mic’s “Future Present” series, which explores how technology is making the world a better place. In all, Daisy appeared in five Season 1 videos. (FYI: The Facebook versions of the videos got over 10 million views.) Here are the five videos from Mic’s YouTube channel. Congrats, Daisy! All of us here as so proud of you!

How 3-D printed arms are changing kids’ lives around the world

Revolutionary tech could give sight to the blind

The future of medicine is inside these chips

Meet Milo, the robot that’s changing the lives of autistic children

These dogs could be the new face of cancer treatment

POLITICO: Latino Lawmakers Slam NBC Meeting

A story published last night by POLITICO reported that members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) expressed serious concerns during a meeting with NBC executives, when NBC News President Deborah Turness used the term “illegals” and said the following: “We love the Hispanic community…Yo hablo español.”

The meeting was intended to lower the tensions between Latino lawmakers and NBC after the CHC (as well as other organizations) had called for “Saturday Night Live” to disinvite Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump from hosting SNL’s November 7 show.

According to POLITICO, some lawmakers were “irate” by the end of the meeting:

‘There was a lot of frustration in the room,’ said Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.). ‘You know that [Trump is] an issue on all of our minds and as soon as you start talking about it, you say none of the executives for the entertainment (division) are here. It was a cop out. It was disingenuous.’

Cárdenas argued that if Trump — who has made a series of remarks about Hispanic immigrants, including calling them “rapists” — said similar things about African-Americans or Jews, NBC would not have had him on the show.

The meeting “was about them sitting down with the Hispanic caucus for the sake of saying they met with us,” said Cárdenas, who was a leading voice against the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger. “Like that is progress.”

The POLITICO story said that NBC “did discuss their diversity efforts during the meeting, noting that the company has added more Hispanic correspondents to ‘NBC Nightly News.’ They also touted news that Jose Diaz-Balart, an MSNBC and Telemundo host, will officially become a rotating anchor on the Saturday edition of “Nightly News” and will be a regular contributor to ‘Meet the Press.; That part was well received, according to a source familiar with the meeting.”

In a written statement sent this morning to Latino USA, America’s Voice Juan Escalante, who organized the online petition campaign that called for NBC to disinvite Trump from SNL, shared his thoughts about the NBC meeting and the POLITICO story:

“Despite the intense backlash that NBC received over Donald Trump’s appearance on Saturday Night Live, it now even clearer that the network has no intentions of adequately representing Latinos—at any level. Latinos and immigrants are members of a vibrant community, who come from all types of backgrounds: and just like anybody else, we ask to be treated with dignity and respect.

It is inexcusable for Deborah Turness, President of NBC News, to call immigrants ‘illegals’—yet another sign of how out of touch and insensitive NBC is towards members of our community.

NBC and its executive just don’t get it! And it’s shameful for them to continue down this path of inadequacy. I am thankful for the members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus for correcting Ms. Turness, and for pressing NBC to take a closer look at its diversity. It seems to me that NBC decided to shred the 500,000 petition signatures that I hand delivered to their studios in New York City, which called on their network to not use ‘SNL’ to satirize Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric.”

Fetaured image via Wikimedia Commons

Today in Latin America: November 19, 2015

NSA Targeted Venezuela State Oil Company: The Intercept

Top Story — An internal National Security Agency memo obtained by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals a spying scheme into Venezuela’s state-owned oil and natural gas company Petróleos de Venezuela, or PdVSA, The Intercept reported on Thursday.

The Intercept’s investigation suggests the cache of PdVSA documents retrieved by the NSA may have played a role in the U.S. government’s recent, wide-ranging probe into corruption in Venezuela’s oil sector.

The memo, dated March 23, 2011, was published by a signals analyst in the NSA’s internal bulletin, SIDtoday. According to The Intercept, the analyst describes finding a “goldmine” of electronic communications exchanged between key PdVSA officials, which allowed him to compile information on more than 10,000 employees as well as 900 account passwords. The analyst turned the passwords over to the NSA’s hacking division, Tailored Access Operations, which the German magazine Der Spiegel previously described as “the intelligence agency’s top secret weapon.”

“By sheer luck, (and a ton of hard work) I discovered an important new access to an existing target and am working with TAO to leverage a new mission capability,” The Intercept quotes the analyst as writing.

In October, The Wall Street Journal reported on a series of probes by multiple U.S. government agencies into corruption within PdVSA, and whether kickbacks, money laundering and black-market currency operations ultimately cost the South American country billions of dollars. The wide-ranging investigation, according to the New York Times, reflected a strategy by the Obama administration to widen the scope of sanctions to target corruption, in addition to human rights violations. U.S. President Barack Obama in March implemented sanctions against Venezuelan officials both accused of human rights violations and corruption.

“That the NSA had obtained access to the electronic communications networks of key PDVSA officials,” writes The Intercept, “raises the question of whether the agency’s spying has secretly aided the criminal investigations into corruption as well as other government actions targeting the company.”

The Intercept published its investigation in partnership with TeleSUR, the media conglomerate owned mostly by Venezuela’s government.

The latest revelations provoked immediate outrage by Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro, threatening to further derail the strained U.S.-Venezuela relationship. In June, high-ranking diplomats from Venezuela and the United States met in Haiti, part of a broader effort toward a thaw in relations, a U.S. official told Reuters afterward.


North America

Mexican police on Wednesday announced the arrest of Iván Cazarín Molina, an alleged top lieutenant of the rapidly ascendant Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación, who was reportedly involved in the cartel’s downing in May of a military helicopter.

Mexico detained around 73 percent more migrants between July 2014 and June of this year than in the previous 12-month period, a marked increase that has been accompanied by a rising numbers of abuses against migrants as Mexico has cracked down on security at its southern border.

Delta Air Lines announced it plans to buy up to 32 percent more of Grupo Aeromexico in what could be an almost $600 million cash deal, in a move to raise competition with American Airlines Group.

Former Mexican President Vicente Fox said that the legalization of marijuana is inevitable following his country’s Supreme Court ruling, and that even drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin will become legally available within the decade.

U.S. officials stopped a passenger arriving in Los Angeles International Airport from Mexico for attempting to bring 450 “illegal” tamales into the country, because they contained pork, an import banned under customs regulations due to health concerns.


Two of Haiti’s presidential candidates, Steven Benoit and Moïse Jean-Charles, said they were injured in a protest against alleged fraud during the country’s Oct. 25 elections when police fired tear gas and shots at demonstrators. A third candidate said the police threatened him and his supporters with arrest.

Cuba and the United States signed the first joint environmental agreement Wednesday since resuming diplomatic relations, which aims to protect a wide range of fish and coral reefs in the shared seas between the countries’ coasts.

Puerto Rican Governor Alejandro García Padilla is planning to convene an extra session of the legislature in the first week of December after lawmakers failed to address his proposed bill that would restructure the island’s main electric utility. On Dec. 1 $355 million of government bonds will be due.

Central America

Honduras detained five Syrian nationals who were attempting to travel to the United States with stolen Greek passports, through police report there is no indication the men were linked to last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris.

Police in Nicaragua are still searching for José Antonio Lacayo, who served as the country’s cabinet chief from 1990 to 1997, after a Monday helicopter crash that is confirmed to have killed three others.


The Clinton Foundation is reportedly running a $20 million private equity fund out of its Bogotá office, aimed at supporting small- and medium-sized Colombian businesses, a practice the U.S. consumer watchdog Public Citizen described to the conservative news site the Washington Free Beacon as “very concerning.”

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said in an interview with the BBC that he will “be in serious difficulty” if a planned referendum on a peace deal his government is finalizing with the guerrillas of the FARC in Havana does not pass, although he expressed confidence that it will.

Southern Cone

A Brazilian blogger who wrote about corruption among police and politicians was shot dead last Friday after receiving threats about his work, the latest of at least four other Brazilian journalists who have been killed for their work this year.

Multiple Argentine human rights groups focused on investigating forced disappearances and killings during the country’s dictatorship endorsed ruling party candidate Daniel Scioli for Sunday’s presidential runoff election in response to opposition candidate and front-runner Mauricio Macri’s criticism of outgoing President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s efforts to uncover past human rights abuses as “vindictive.”

Thousands of black women demonstrated in Brazil’s capital on Wednesday to highlight various social issues they say disproportionately affect them, including lower pay as well as higher rates of illiteracy, homicide and death during childbirth.

Anglo-Australian mining company Samarco Mineração SA warned Wednesday that two more of its Brazil dams could be in danger of failure just weeks after the collapse of two other dams operated in part by the company that caused massive flooding in the state of Minas Gerais.

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O’Malley Audio: ‘Immigrants Do Not Take Our Jobs’

The day after he appeared on a Democratic debate stage in Des Moines with fellow presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley made an Iowa campaign stop at a bar in Cedar Falls, where he was asked a question about immigration:

While one questioner did not like [O’Malley’s] immigration reform proposals, worrying about losing jobs and not penalizing law-breaking, O’Malley stressed the outdated policies means there is no “line” for people to gain citizenship and said it’s a falsehood immigrants will cause a loss in jobs.

An O’Malley supporter who was at the Cedar Falls event recorded O’Malley’s complete answer and sent it to NPR’s Latino USA. Here is the clip:

“Look, immigrants do not take our jobs. In fact though, if we allow 11 million people and nobody has a plan for sending 11 million people back. I sat with a family the other day and they have three kids in our country. Two of them came here when they were 4 or 5 years old. A third daughter was born in the United States and that family’s in danger even though they’ve been here for 25 years or 20 years, is in danger of being broken up. Of having those, their parents sent back and having their kids left orphans. So I don’t believe that by breaking up families we make our country stronger. And I know this, when you have people that have to live in the shadow economy, that’s a drag on wages for everybody. When people are on the books that…[applause]

And we have created a bit of a Catch-22. In other words, since we haven’t updated our immigration policy since the 1960s, it’s easy to say, well why don’t they just get in line? But there’s really no line with an ending that these folks can get into. And that’s why we need to reform our immigration policies, upgrade it, make it more modern, and that will allow us then to do a better job of not only controlling our boarders, but of having a sensible immigration policy that has a predictable path to citizenship for those who want to come here, for those that we educate here and now send home, or worse, some of these other policies that are still in place like the 3/10 year bar. So that’s what I’m for.”

The last part of O’Malley’s comments referred to the “3/10 year bar,” an immigration provision many advocates believe should be reformed. As the American Immigration Council explains:

“Most Americans take it for granted that marriage to a U.S. citizen and other family relationships entitle an immigrant to a green card, but there are barriers that often prevent or delay these family members from becoming lawful permanent residents, even if they are already in the United States.  Among these barriers are the “three- and ten-year bars,” provisions of the law which prohibit applicants from returning to the United States if they were previously in the U.S. illegally. Thousands of people who qualify for green cards based on their relationships to U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident relatives leave the U.S. to obtain their green card are caught in a Catch-22—under current law they must leave the country to apply for their green card abroad, but as soon as they leave, they are immediately barred from re-entering the U.S. for three or ten years.”

The Cedar Falls remarks from O’Malley come at a time where the issues of immigration and entry into the United States continue to dominate the political media, especially in light of the November 13 attack on Paris. Several Republican candidates and GOP governors are asking that Syrian refugees be banned from entering the United States.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that the United States has always “welcomed immigrants and refugees”  and that “we have made people feel that if they did their part, they sent their kids to school, they worked hard, there would be a place for them in America.” However, some critics are pointing to 2014 comments from Clinton where she said that Central American migrants should be “sent back.” Earlier this year, Clinton clarified her comments, but did not fully change her 2014 position. Sanders this week said that the United States “will not turn our backs on the refugees who are fleeing Syria and Afghanistan. We will do what we do best and that is be Americans – fighting racism, fighting xenophobia, fighting fear.”

O’Malley, who was one of the first high-profile Democrats to call last year’s Central American events “a humanitarian crisis,” continues to criticize Clinton about this topic. The Maryland governor, who trails both Clinton and Sanders, has also reiterated that the U.S. should take in 65,000 Syrian refugees, a number much greater than the 10,000 President Barack Obama is calling for.

Featured image: File photo of Martin O’Malley in Boston, September 2015 (Latino USA)

Colombia Advances LGBT Rights: Will It Continue?

Originally published at Latin America News Dispatch

The past few weeks have been incredibly important for Colombia’s LGBT community. Last month, the country’s first openly gay candidate for political office was elected mayor in the southern city of Toro. Then, last Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled that adoption agencies can not discriminate against LGBT couples.

These events come during a time of increasing rights for the LGBT community in Latin America. In late October, for example, Chile celebrated a new civil union law for same-sex couples, while the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights held hearings on anti-LGBT discrimination throughout the Americas. However, despite recent victories, Colombian politicians, academics and LGBT activists are quick to point out that LGBT rights remain a low priority for politicians, many of whom see the issue as politically dangerous.

The Oct. 25 election of openly gay doctor Julián Bedoya as mayor of Toro, in Colombia’s conservative southern state of Valle de Cauca, says a lot about the state of LGBT representation in the country’s political system. Winning as a candidate for the ideologically conservative Democratic Center party of former President Álvaro Uribe, Bedoya’s campaign centered around uplifting poverty and lowering the unemployment rate, and made no mention of LGBT rights.

In an interview with Latin America News Dispatch, Bedoya said that he did not win by supporting the LGBT community, and does not want to put one community over another.

“I was not elected as a gay candidate that belongs to the LGBTI [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex] community,” Bedoya said. “I do not represent interests of the LGBTI community. I represent the interests of the Toro community and interests of the Democratic Center party.”

Bedoya said that he is open to supporting the LGBT community, but that his first commitment is to his job as mayor of Toro. “Just because there is a gay person it doesn’t mean that person has to be showing his feathers all around… there is work to be done.”

Bedoya said that the Colombian political sphere is not diverse on the perspective of LGBT representation in politics. This same sentiment is echoed by Dr. Javier Corrales, a political scientist at Amherst College whose research has found that LGBT legal rights have improved in Latin America and the Caribbean, but that political representation remains low.

The report finds that Colombia has the most LGBT political representation on a national level in Latin America and the Caribbean, with most of the seats belonging to women. Gina Parody, for instance, is minister of education, and both Claudia López and Angélica Lozano Correa are congresswomen.

Since 1993, Colombia has also advanced pro-LGBT rights despite low LGBT political representation overall.

Earlier this year, transgender people won the right to change their name and gender identity on official documents. Before the country’s interior and justice ministers signed the executive order, transgender Colombians were legally required to justify their gender identity to mental health professionals.

Most recently, last Wednesday’s historic 6-2 high court ruling now allows same-sex couples to adopt children in Colombia, making it illegal for adoption agencies to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples. Prior to the court’s decision, same-sex couples could only adopt if one of the partners was the biological parent of the child.

Corrales, the political scientist, said that the ruling was a big victory for the LGBT community.

“This ruling is remarkable because it eventually says that the issue of whether the adopting parents are homosexual or not is not relevant,” he told Latin America News Dispatch in an interview. “It is also huge because we still don’t have same-sex marriage by law”.

Coming out as gay, however, is still seen as unsafe for politicians seeking votes. While LGBT rights have been advanced in the legal sphere, society has been slower to move.

LGBT activist Angelo Araujo from Cali takes this as a signal that much work still has to be done to advance LGBT rights in Colombia.

“In bigger cities it is politically easier to claim your identity as gay or lesbian and are better prepared for that political platform,” he said. “But if we are talking about local, municipal or department elections, there is still lots of work to be done.”

These historic events have nevertheless raised hopes that same-sex marriage will soon be legalized in Colombia.

“This has been a tough fight. But this fight has been achieved by people empowering themselves on these topics,” Araujo said. “When the LGBT community is fighting for their rights, those rights are reflected in other non-LGBT communities and that is important.”

Featured image: Screenshot of a Bedoya campaign ad.

Today in Latin America: November 18, 2015

Cuba Blames U.S. Policy for Migrant Surge

Top Story — Cuban officials have blamed U.S. policy for the recent surge in migration from the island to the United States, which has created a border crisis in Central America. In a statement issued Tuesday, Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Relations said that the Cold War-era “wet-foot, dry foot” policy, which eases the residency process for Cubans who make it to U.S. soil, contradicts the current efforts to normalize relations between the two countries.

The recent influx of Cuban migrants traveling by land over Central America has resulted in a dispute between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Costa Rican officials announced Tuesday plans to establish a “humanitarian corridor” for the safe passage of Cuban migrants who are being refused entry into Nicaragua. That announcement comes after Nicaragua sent hundreds of Cubans back to Costa Rica on Sunday, claiming that their southern neighbor was triggering a humanitarian crisis by issuing transit visas to such a large number of migrants.

Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel González said that more than 2,000 Cubans are currently stuck at the border. Some 300 Cubans are estimated to arrive daily at Costa Rica’s southern border with Panama.

Many Cuban migrants fear that this may be their last chance to take advantage of the “wet-foot, dry foot” policy, though U.S. officials say that there has been no discussion of changing the law. Cubans seeking to reach the United States often fly first to Ecuador, which does not require them to obtain a visa, and then make the journey north from there.

The Wall Street Journal reported that more than 9,300 Cubans have registered with Mexican immigration officials since January in order to travel safely through the country to the U.S.-Mexico border. This contrasts with a 79 percent increase in deportations of Central American migrants from Mexico in response to U.S. pressure following an influx of migrants fleeing violence in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

Several U.S. lawmakers whose families fled to the United States from Cuba drew criticism on Tuesday for their views on allowing Syrian refugees into the country in the wake of Friday’s Paris attacks. Florida Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who arrived as a child when her own family fled Cuba, argued that Syrian refugees should be thoroughly vetted before being allowed entry. Senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz, whose father fled Cuba, proposed a bill to block Syrian muslim refugees from entering the United States.


The last few weeks have been huge for Colombia’s LGBT community. Last month, the country’s first openly gay candidate for political office was elected mayor in a small city. Then, last Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled that adoption agencies can not discriminate against LGBT couples. But as Jessica Diaz-Hurtado reports from Colombia, some are saying much more is needed.


North America

The United States has accepted six minors from El Salvador seeking asylum, the first asylum seekers to be accepted as part of a State Department program launched almost a year ago to allow children to enter the United States to reunite with their parents.

The majority of U.S. voters in Ohio, Indiana, Iowa and Tennessee approve of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba, as well as a lifting of travel and trade restrictions, a poll conducted by the Atlantic Council has found.

A New York Times feature explores the difficulties faced by Mexico’s Low German-speaking Mennonite community in the state of Chihuahua, many of whom are preparing to leave the country as groundwater in their community becomes scarce.


Five judges in the Dominican Republic have been suspended, three of them without pay, and are now facing accusations of having accepted bribes to release known criminals from prison, a claim the judges are denying.

In Puerto Rico, lawmakers will likely attend a special legislative meeting to decide whether to support a bill that proposes to restructure the Electric Power Authority’s $8.2 billion debt.

Haiti’s runoff presidential election scheduled for Dec. 27 has been tainted by further doubts after election officials refused requests to introduce an independent commission tasked with verifying the preliminary election results from Oct. 25.

Central America

A helicopter crash in southern Nicaragua has claimed the lives of two Americans and the Nicaraguan pilot, while former presidential minister Antonio Lacayo, who was also on board, is reported missing.

A new police study in El Salvador has determined that almost 70 percent of the country’s murder victims have no gang affiliations, a discovery that challenges the pervading assumption that the country’s high murder rate primarily affects those with criminal ties.

In Honduras, violence against women has escalated to the point that a woman is murdered every 16 hours, according to a statement made on Tuesday by the country’s Women’s Rights Center.


Bolivian President Evo Morales has faced criticism for making a joke during an official ceremony that suggested Heath Minister Ariana Campero was a lesbian. Campero has faced sexist comments from high-ranking officials in the past, including when Vice President Álvaro García Linera told her to “get married.”

Many universities in Venezuela have suffered crippling budget cuts or closures because of the country’s economic crisis, The Los Angeles Times reports, leaving 380,000 students without a school and prompting 1,000 professors to quit their jobs in the last two years.

Southern Cone

Efforts to avert another dam break prompted Brazilian mining company Samarco, whose mining reservoirs broke earlier this month killing 12, to begin emergency work on two more of their iron waste-water dams that the company says show structural damage.

Prosecutors brought charges against Argentina’s central bank of selling U.S. dollar reserves below international market value—claims that the bank denies as political slander against its president, but which the police investigated Tuesday in a raid of the establishment.

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