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Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Today in Latin America: November 11, 2015

Obama Sets Stage for Supreme Court Battle on Immigration

Top Story — On Tuesday, the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama announced it will appeal a Monday ruling made by a federal appeals court that jeopardized the administration’s plan to forestall the deportation of some 5 million people.

The appeal sets the stage for a potential summer Supreme Court hearing on the controversial immigration plans, the New York Times reported.

The U.S. Court of Appeals of the Fifth Circuit upheld a lower court’s ruling by a two-to-one split in the case Texas v. United States, which resulted from a lawsuit by 26 states who argued that the administration’s order would effectively rewrite U.S. immigration policy without passing legislation and would place an unfair financial burden on states by requiring them to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.

The two programs, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, would expand legal work rights for the parents of undocumented children as well as for undocumented immigrants who entered the country illegally as children.

The administration claims the programs are within the executive branch’s discretionary power and would allow the Department of Homeland Security to focus on deporting criminal offenders rather than law-abiding groups with strong ties to the United States.

A successful appeal to the Supreme Court would provide DHS with a few months to register people under the programs before a new president takes office in 2017.

While the executive orders have come under fire from conservatives, the programs were met with relief by immigration advocates who welcomed the change in enforcement policy by an administration who had previously deported the highest number of immigrants in the country’s history.


North America

U.S. diplomat Roberta Jacobson was tentatively approved as the next ambassador to Mexico after a dispute in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee centered around her support for the restoration of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, a controversial topic among the rest of the Senate, now responsible for confirming her approval.

A Mexican senator on Tuesday introduced a bill aimed at allowing the importation of marijuana for medicinal purposes, a measure unrelated to the Supreme Court ruling last week that may open the door for domestic production of the drug.

Prosecutors in Mexico announced the arrest of a businessman for allegedly funding and helping to orchestrate the escape from prison in July of Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.


Regular flights between the United States and Cuba may be available by the end of the year, a Cuban diplomat said Tuesday.

Central America

A U.N. indigenous rights official said Tuesday that Indian groups along the Caribbean coast of Honduras risk displacement due to land grabs by drug traffickers and agricultural developers, a situation that Miskito and other indigenous groups claim requires government intervention.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton visited Central America’s largest wind farm in western Panama Tuesday as part of Clinton Global Initiative tour through the region to support efforts to mitigate climate change’s impacts in developing countries.

Members of the U.N.-backed CICIG anti-corruption body endorsed a new tax in Guatemala Tuesday that would fund prosecutors’ offices in an effort to reverse the trend in which 95 percent of crimes go unpunished.


The head of the Organization of American States rebuked Venezuela’s government on Tuesday for jailing opposition figures and denying opposition candidates a fair amount of airtime prior to mid-term elections on Dec. 6, a contest in which the ruling socialist party is currently expected to lose control of the legislature.

U.S. federal courts sentenced Colombian FARC member Diego Alfonso Navarrete Beltrán to 27 years in prison on Tuesday for the 2003 kidnapping of three U.S. military contractors, who after testifying at the sentencing expressed concern that ongoing peace talks in Havana could delay the extradition of other FARC leaders.

The FARC leader known as Timochenko said in a tweet to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos that he ordered the group to stop buying guns and ammunition on Sept. 30, a move he said demonstrates their commitment to the talks.

Southern Cone

Brazilian lawmakers called for stricter regulations on mining Tuesday following a claim by a Minas Gerais state prosecutor that the deadly collapse of two mining dams there was the result of human error. The same prosecutor warned in 2013 that the mine, owned by domestic mining giant Vale and the British-Australian firm BHP and operated by local firm Samarco, was not safe.

Argentine presidential candidate Mauricio Macri, who has led recent polls, fleshed out his economic policy platform Tuesday, emphasizing the phased removal on controls of the peso, an approach contrasting with the so-called “21st century socialism” he also spoke out against on the same day.

Argentina’s Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that some details of a drilling deal between the American oil firm Chevron and the state-run YPF must be made public, a victory for critics of the project who have claimed secret clauses in the contract are too generous to Chevron.

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González Iñárritu: No Human Being Is Illegal

Today Remezcla posted Alejandro González Iñárritu’s acceptance speech from this weekend’s Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s fifth annual Art + Film Gala:

The Oscar-winning director also published his entire speech on Medium, if you want to read a transcript of the speech. Here is an excerpt:

Words have real power; and similar words in the past have both created and triggered enormous suffering for millions of humans beings, especially throughout the last century.

If we continue to allow these words to water seeds of hate, and spread inferior thoughts and unwholesome emotions around the world to every human being, not only will millions of Mexicans and Latin American immigrants be in danger, but immigrants around the world now suffering, will share the same dangerous fate.

There is no human being who, as a result of desiring to build a better life, should be named or declared Illegal, and be dispossessed or considered disposable.

Latino USA Talks Trump and Obama on MSNBC

Earlier today Latino USA digital media director Julio Ricardo Varela appeared on “Changing America” with host Maria Teresa Kumar to talk about Donald Trump’s “Saturday Night Live” appearance and the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling against President Obama’s executive action on immigration.

From MSNBC: Donald Trump SNL episode fails to reach out to Latinos

From MSNBC: What’s in store for President Obama’s immigration reform plans?

Today in Latin America: November 10, 2015

FARC Rebels Reject Plebiscite Proposal to Finalize Colombian Peace Deal

Top Story — Colombian rebel group FARC rejected proposed legislation on Monday that would put a final peace agreement with the government up for popular vote, stalling progress in the peace negotiations in Havana ahead of an agreed-upon March 23 deadline to conclude talks.

Members of the Colombian government and the guerrilla group have debated the terms of a peace agreement for the past three years, hoping to end the country’s 51-year civil war, which has claimed 220,000 lives and displaced millions. The two groups have established the March 23 deadline to reach a final peace plan, but friction continues over how exactly the Colombian population should weigh in.

The congressional proposal, which President Juan Manuel Santos and his government endorse, would create a plebiscite for the agreement’s final approval. FARC rebels are pushing instead for a national constituent assembly to mediate the final voting process, with both sides deciding on voting terms at the peace talks. The government rejects the idea of a constituent assembly, and expects that Congress will ratify the plebiscite legislation by Dec. 16 in spite of disapproval from the FARC.

While prior disagreements between both parties have reached resolution through the peace talks, the process has met recurring obstacles over the past three years, fueled by continued violence and ideological differences.


North America

In a Monday speech that came five days after Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled the prohibition of marijuana use unconstitutional, President Enrique Peña Nieto said that he personally opposes the eventual legalization of marijuana, but would be open to a debate on the question.

During an immigration reform summit in Las Vegas, U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders announced that if elected president, he would provide immunity from deportation to millions of undocumented immigrants who have lived in the country for more than five years.

Sanders’ announcement comes the same day as a Washington Post report revealed that the U.S. government has spent over ten years and $1 billion attempting to digitize immigration forms, and yet only one of the 95 forms is currently available online.

At least 10 people were killed and another seven injured in a Monday shootout during a cockfighting event in Mexico’s Guerrero state. There are conflicting accounts of who initiated the violence.


The United States and Cuba initiated their first formal talks regarding cooperative law enforcement efforts at the State Department on Monday, discussing issues like fugitives and information sharing.

Two of Haiti’s presidential candidates, Dr. Maryse Narcisse and Vilaire Cluny Duroseau, have filed legal challenges alleging that they were cheated out of votes during elections on Oct. 25. Narcisse will have a hearing before the Departmental Bureau of Electoral Contestation today.

During speeches and debates, U.S. Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz often tells his father’s story of being a revolutionary rebel in Cuba, but The New York Times is reporting that the story is hyperbolic and inaccurate, according to some of the elder Cruz’s Cuban peers.

Central America

Costa Rica filed a criminal complaint against the alleged unlawful marriage of two women in July —the first time the government formally acknowledged a same-sex union— because of a clerical error in which the registry had mistakenly listed one of the women as a man.


Colombia’s ELN rebel group confirmed that two soldiers captured last month in the central province of Boyacá are alive by allowing the captives to speak on the ELN’s clandestine radio station.

Over 500 kilograms of cocaine bound for Santiago, Chile, were seized on two buses carrying unsuspecting Colombian soccer fans on their way a World Cup qualifying match.

Southern Cone

Twenty-five people remain missing after two dams burst at a mine in Brazil’s Minas Gerais state on Thursday, flooding a village in the southeastern state and endangering the water supply of larger towns downstream. The incident has caused the suspension of Brazilian company Samarco’s mining license.

Argentine officials confirmed on Monday that the fugitive Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán was in fact not hiding along its border with Chile, a claim instigated by a tip that set the country into high alert on Friday.

The U.S. oil giant Exxon Mobil has gained a 35 percent stake, along with French company Total, to drill for offshore oil along Uruguay’s coast, the country’s first offshore exploratory well.

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Five Things to Know About Trump’s SNL Appearance

Now that Donald Trump’s “Saturday Night Live” appearance has come and gone, here are five post-show takeaways you should know:

The ratings were SNL’s highest since 2012.
According to reports, the Trump SNL show was “Saturday’s most-watched program in primetime or late-night on the broadcast networks and it was up 53% from last November’s average, according to preliminary ratings.” 

The show was panned.
Just read the New York Times (“obvious, anemic political riffs and apolitical sketches that were cringeworthy all around”), TIME (“The show was at odds with itself in a manner that made truly bad TV.”) or this review from the state Trump where claims Latinos love him: Nevada (“Most of the sketches involving Trump were weak, timid or predictable…”).

SNL’s “Latino Problem” showed up yet again.
If you are going to at least bring up the whole Mexico wall thing, have your writers and talent do some heavy lifting and be funny. The whole moment where a non-Latino actor played Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto in a skit and Trump tossed a line about how happy he was that Telemundo was now all-English put me to sleep. It was painful. It was typical SNL: once again show no actual comedic intelligence or wit when it comes to Latinos. The Chico Escuela “baseball’s bin berry berry berry good to me” motif continues.

In addition, not to get picky:

Those who protested say they are not giving up.
Fox News Latino reported this yesterday:

The National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts (NHFA), along with the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), plan to hold a “Latino Media Summit” to discuss the fallout within the community of the real estate mogul hosting “Saturday Night Live.”

“As a follow up to NBC’s failure to rescind SNL’s Host invitation to Donald Trump, despite the offensive comments he has made to Mexican immigrants,” Felix Sanchez, the chairman of the NHFA told Fox News Latino in an email.  “The National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts (NHFA) is organizing, in concert with the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), a Latino Media Summit to discuss the events that lead to this disastrous outcome and marginalization of Latino perspective on the matter.”

Sanchez added: “We will invite NBC President Steve Burke and SNL’s Lorne Michael to attend and discuss the issue with National Latino leaders and the members of the U.S. Congressional Hispanic Caucus.”

Many expressed interest in focusing on the companies that advertised during the show.

Did you watch the show? Did you not watch it? What do you think? Tweet me @julito77.


Today in Latin America: November 9, 2015

Ecuador Proceeds with Historic Rights Abuse Case Against Former Officers

Top Story — Five former Ecuadorian military officers and an ex-police officer will face charges of human rights abuses as the country’s first-ever trial for crimes against humanity begins today, reported the newspaper La Nación. The case concerns human rights violations committed against three leftist guerrillas between 1985 and 1988 during the presidency of León Febres Cordero. The trial is the result of a truth commission set up by President Rafael Correa in 2007.

Luis Vaca, Susana Cajas and Javier Jarrín, all members of the Alfaro Vive Carajo guerrilla group, reportedly endured physical and psychological torture and sexual abuse after being detained without a warrant by members of the military on Nov. 10 1985. Cajas and Jarrín spent 15 days in detention, while Vaca remained incarcerated for three years.

Officers were first arrested in connection with the case in 2013.

Incidences of torture and extrajudicial killings, among other human rights abuses, spiked during the Febres administration, according to a 1988 report by Americas Watch, which denounced the administration of then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan for turning a blind eye to the abuses in its support for Febres’ market-oriented government. Before his death in 2008, Febres decried the human rights commission set up by Correa as an “inquisitional tribunal.”


North America

Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission on Sunday rebuked the attorney general’s office for its failure to address almost any of the problems previously identified in its earlier investigation into the fates of 43 disappeared students from Guerrero state.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto met with Cuban leader Raúl Castro in the Mexican state of Mérida on Friday, a historic visit not only because Cubans are flooding through Mexico on their way to the U.S. in record numbers, but because relations have been strained between the two ever since the presidency of the pro-U.S. Vicente Fox from 2000-2006.


Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson on Sunday said he would support statehood for U.S. territory Puerto Rico for strategic defense reasons, although Reuters notes Carson’s statement may be more likely related to the fact that the territory’s residents can vote in primary elections.

Haitian authorities have located the 4-year-old boy kidnapped last month after the fatal shooting of a U.S. missionary near the foster home she ran and where the boy was raised on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Two suspects were also reportedly taken into custody.

Central America

Despite expectations last year when Guatemala’s attorney general took office that she would uphold a status quo of corruption and impunity, Thelma Aldana has helped elevate the country to the status of a regional example in anti-corruption efforts, in part by supporting the U.N-backed investigative body CICIG, the Tico Times argues.

The Guardian released on Saturday an excerpt from a book about the ordeal of a Salvadoran fisherman who drifted at sea for 438 days before washing ashore and subsequently refusing most press requests for interviews until he ultimately sat for some 40 hours of interviews with the newspaper’s Jonathan Franklin.


Venezuela’s defense minister said on Sunday that a plane from the U.S. Coast Guard violated its airspace on Friday, implying that the alleged incursion was a mission to gather intelligence related to upcoming elections on Dec. 8.

Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos apologized Friday for the government’s role in the deaths in 1985 of some 100 people following a standoff with guerrillas who raided the Supreme Court, an incident highlighted last year by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

A Colombian paramilitary leader received a 16-year prison sentence on Friday for drug trafficking charges that he contested in a U.S. federal court, one of several cases that arose from the 2008 decision by then-President Álvaro Uribe to extradite over a dozen leaders of armed groups after the failure of peace talks.

Southern Cone

The cause of a deadly dam collapse at a mine in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais on Thursday continued to elude authorities as of late Sunday, with 28 missing and four confirmed dead following an incident that has renewed the debate surrounding the regulation of mining, a key industry.

In Argentina, the relatively business-friendly presidential candidate Mauricio Macri has pulled ahead of Daniel Scioli, the chosen successor of incumbent Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, a poll suggested Sunday, two weeks before a scheduled run-off.

Officials in Argentina said Friday that they have reinforced border security in response to reports that the escaped Mexican cartel leader, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán might have tried to cross the mountainous southern border with Chile.

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Death and an Election in Pasco

Only 1 percent of elected representatives are Latino, even though Latinos make up 17 percent of the U.S. population. The representation gap is particularly stark in Pasco, Washington. Despite making up 60 percent of the city and 70 percent of the county population, Latinos have no representation except a long city council member—there’s not even a Latino member of the school board, despite the school district being overwhelmingly Latino.

For the most part, Pasco’s Latino residents didn’t try to change the status quo. But things changed after videos of local police shooting and killing an undocumented, mentally ill farm worker named Antonio Zambrano Montes started circulating online. Many Latinos in town felt frustrated with how local officials were handling the investigation, and several decided to run for city council. One of them was Bertha Alicia Coria, a 19-year-old college student and substitute teacher who suddenly found herself thrust into the world of politics. Latino USA producer Marlon Bishop followed her one-woman campaign.

Photo of Bertha Alicia Corea (Marlon Bishop/Latino USA)

The Power of Latino Millennnials

If there is a voting demographic talked about as much as Latinos, it’s millennials. But talking about one group often means talking about the other. Millennials make up the largest group within registered Latino voters, and 20% of millennials are Latino. The average age of the registered white voter is 42, while the average registered Latino voter is 27. So two of our millennial producers, Antonia Cereijido and Fernanda Echávarri, sat down in the booth to talk about the Latino millennial vote. Antonia shares what she learned talking to the president of Voto Latino, Maria Teresa Kumar.

Featured image: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Today in Latin America: November 6, 2015

16 Feared Dead, Hundreds Displaced After Mining Dams Burst in Brazil

Top Story — Two dams holding iron-mine wastewater broke in the southeastern Brazilian state of Minas Gerais on Thursday, flooding the nearby town of Bento Rodrigues with water, mud and potentially toxic mining tailings. Authorities have confirmed one death, though some local news sources report as many as 16 dead and many more missing.

Rescuers continued the search for survivors in the decimated town this morning. Officials said Thursday that 600 residents are being evacuated to higher elevation, but there are also concerns about more enduring effects of contamination to the local water source because of the dams’ proximity to a river.

The incident is likely to reinforce public concerns about Brazil’s expanding infrastructure projects. Estado de Minas, a newspaper in the state’s capital city Belo Horizonte, reports that in 2014 the Minas Gerais State Foundation for the Environment found that 8 percent of structures containing toxic mining tailings in the state are unsafe.

Thursday’s episode echoes controversy about flooding and watershed contamination associated with other mining and hydroelectric projects in the country, some of which have also resulted in mass displacement. At least four similar accidents have occurred in Minas Gerais state since 2001, leaving many dead and causing large-scale environmental damage and homelessness.

A statement issued by the Samarco mining company, which operates the Germano mine where the dams are located, said the cause for the break is still unknown.


North America

Pope Francis is expected to travel to the U.S.-Mexico border in February, according to a top advisor to the pontiff, in a move that would be in line with Pope Francis’ emphasis on immigration reform.

During a rally Thursday in the Puerto Rican capital of San Juan, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called on Congress to ensure Puerto Rico gets its “fair share of Medicaid dollars,” saying the situation on the island was “a humanitarian crisis in the making.” A number of New York politicians, including state Governor Andrew Cuomo, took part in the rally, which called for Puerto Rico’s equal treatment on federal health care.

A 2002 transparency law in Mexico has allowed journalists to expose corruption scandals and investigate the disappearance of the 43 student from Guerrero over this past year, contributing to the Mexican public’s perception that their media is reliable, according to a piece in the Christian Science Monitor.


Haiti’s electoral council announced Thursday the two candidates that will advance to a runoff presidential election on Dec. 27: government-backed candidate Jovenel Moïse and former state construction chief Jude Célestin. Several major candidates, however, have alleged fraud in the days following the Oct. 25 primary election.

Authorities in Haiti have closed St. Joseph Home for Boys, an orphanage in the capital city Port-au-Prince that was founded thirty years ago by a U.S. citizen currently facing accusations that he sexually molested boys under his care.

The Associated Press takes a close look at the recent wave of migration from Cuba to the United States, which has brought some 100,000 Cubans to the United States since 2013, when the Cuban government eliminated the need for exit permits to leave the island.

Billboard interviewed Robin Pedraja, a young Cuban who created his country’s first music magazine, discussing how he navigated loopholes in existing state policy, as well as the current trends and opinions of young people on the island.

Central America

Guatemala’s Congress raised the country’s minimum legal age for marriage in a Thursday vote following pressures from children’s rights groups. The new legal age of 18 was increased from the previous age of 14 for girls and 16 for boys.

Belize’s newly elected Prime Minister Dean Barrow said Thursday that he is confident a territorial disagreement with neighboring Guatemala can be resolved once Guatemala’s President-elect Jimmy Morales assumes office.

El Salvador’s former President Francisco Flores appeared in court Thursday to face charges of embezzlement and the misappropriation of $15 million that Taiwan donated to El Salvador following a 2001 earthquake.

Nicaragua has approved the HKND Group’s environmental and social impact studies for its controversial interoceanic canal project, allowing the Chinese firm to begin the construction process.


Bolivia’s Supreme Court justices voted Thursday to make Justice Pastor Mamani the court’s president, making him the first indigenous person to hold the office.

U.S. carmaker General Motors has announced plans to invest some $100 million in Colombia over the next four years, with plans to export cars to Brazil.

Southern Cone

Argentina’s exchange-traded stock fund is experiencing a boost in investments amid optimism over a potential change in government and its promises to increase growth and check inflation rises.

Eduardo Cunha, Brazil’s speaker of the lower house, will be facing a hearing led by the country’s congressional ethics committee over Cunha’s secret Swiss bank accounts, an investigation that forms part of the greater probe into a large kickback scandal.

Chile’s Interior Ministry acknowledged in a statement Thursday that it is “highly probable” that leftist Nobel-prize winning poet Pablo Neruda was killed in the wake of the country’s 1973 coup, which brought the right-wing dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet to power.

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Latino Celebrities Speak Out Against SNL & Trump

With less than 48 hours until Republican candidate Donald Trump is scheduled to host NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” several high-profile Latino celebrities are adding their voices to the calls that SNL’s decision to have Trump as host by many in the Latino community as a mistake by both the show and NBC. Here is a summary of what some of those celebrities have said in the past few days:

Actor John Leguizamo via Yahoo News:

“I find it hurtful and insulting, and you’re celebrating someone who has said some horrible things. I find it unacceptable. I will not watch … I won’t watch ‘SNL’ anymore.”

Letter from prominent celebrities, including Diego Luna, author Junot Díaz and filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu via TIME:

“[Trump’s] hate speech appeals to lower passions like xenophobia, machismo, political intolerance and religious dogmatism. All of which inevitably reminds us of the past campaigns that have been directed against other ethnic groups and that have resulted in the deaths of millions of people. In fact, the physical aggressions against Hispanics and repeated calls to prohibit the public use of the Spanish language have already started.”

Comedian Al Madrigal’s tweet: Madrigal was one of the first Latino celebrities to push the #RacismIsntFunny petition:

Prominent satirists Lalo Alcaraz penned this piece:

Initially, actor Eva Longoria said the following about Trump’s SNL appearance:

“This is part of freedom of speech, freedom of press. [Trump] has his right — not only that, [executive producer] Lorne Michaels has a right to book whoever he wants.”

“We as a Hispanic community have a choice to not watch it. That’s our choice. That’s what we can do. That’s what you’re supposed to do. Boycott that night, and then let that show feel that ‘oh, OK we did make a bad decision.’ You cannot limit that choice to producers or a network. That’s their choice to do that. But what you can do is [say], ‘OK you made that choice, therefore we will do this.'”

After those comments, Longoria posted this on her public Facebook page:

“I hate when articles need a headline. I am in NO WAY “defending” Trump being on SNL. I want to be very clear on that. I never said that and in fact I SUPPORT anyone who chooses to boycott or protest or not watch. Unfortunately writers can put anything they want in a headline even if the article doesn’t reflect it. #‎Frustrating‬

How Far El Chapo’s Power Extends Past Mexico

As part of our mission to feature pages we love, Latino USA will be periodically featuring selected HuffPost Latino Voices articles. The following article was published by HuffPost on November 3 with the original headline, “This Map Shows How Far El Chapo’s Power Extends Past Mexico.”

Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera’s escape through a hole in the shower from the maximum security Altiplano prison outside Mexico City in July was more than a major embarrassment for President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration. The elaborate escape through a roughly 1-mile tunnel also offered a stark demonstration that the world’s top drug lord wields so much power that Mexican authorities are incapable of stopping him.

Though Guzmán’s name is well-known, it can be difficult to conceptualize the power of the slippery figure who has escaped from maximum security jails twice. Here’s one map that makes clear just how massive Guzmán’s operation is.

This map is taken from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s most recent intelligence report, published in July, outlining the areas of U.S. influence of Mexico’s largest drug cartels. The orange and light-orange chunks covering nearly the entire map, including Alaska and Hawaii, represent the areas of the United States where Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel is the dominant Mexican cartel controlling the illegal trade.

Estimates of the size of the U.S. drug market vary and are generally unreliable, but the RAND Corporation estimated that Mexican marijuana accounted for between 40 to 67 percent of all the weed smoked in the United States in 2008. Today, that figure has almost certainly declined with the legalization of medical or recreational marijuana in several states, but Mexican cartels remain an important distributor in the United States.

At the same time, Mexican cartels —most prominently Sinaloa— have since the 1990s also come to dominate cocaine distribution to the U.S. from South America, and play an increasingly prominent role in heroin distribution as well. A 2014 New Yorker article estimated that Guzmán’s Sinaloa cartel brought in as much as half of the illegal drugs imported to the United States.

Some 19.8 million Americans smoked weed in 2013, while 1.5 million used cocaine and another 681,000 used heroin, according to the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health. A sizable group of them purchased a Sinaloa cartel product.

“‘El Chapo’ Guzmán is without a doubt one of, if not the most, dangerous men in the world,” a DEA spokesman told The Huffington Post. “He’s responsible for the death of thousands of Mexican citizens and all the violence that goes along with drug trafficking.”

Mexican authorities say Guzmán is currently hiding somewhere in the mountains of the states of Sinaloa or Durango, but he shook off efforts by the Mexican military to recapture him last month. The DEA has issued a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.

More from HuffPost on El Chapo:

Mexico Won’t Be Sending El Chapo To The U.S. If They Catch Him
Mexican Authorities Go After El Chapo In The Sinaloa Mountains
El Chapo’s Cell Sounded Like A Construction Site And Guards Didn’t Care

Today in Latin America: November 5, 2015

Mexico’s Supreme Court Rules Prohibition of Marijuana Use Unconstitutional

Top Story — Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday in favor of allowing the four members of a marijuana-rights organization to grow and smoke their own marijuana, a move that could set the stage for eventual legalization of the drug.

The Mexican Society for Responsible and Tolerant Personal Self-Consumption, called SMART in its Spanish acronym, brought the case in 2013, resulting in Wednesday’s 4-1 ruling that found the prohibition of marijuana cultivation for personal use to be a violation of the right to “free development of a personality” and therefore unconstitutional.

While the ruling only applies to the members of SMART, drug policy reform activists say the ruling should be extended to all and that it could be a potential first step in the full decriminalization of drugs in Mexico. For his part, President Enrique Peña Nieto told reporters on Wednesday that he has always supported a broader debate on drug legalization, The Guardian reported.

“This does not open or in any way signify the legalization of marijuana consumption, nor the commercialization, nor the transportation of it,” he added.

The decision follows a 2009 ruling that decriminalized possession of small amounts marijuana, cocaine and heroin for personal use, offenses which, prior to that ruling, rarely resulted in legal action, officials told The New York Times.

In an October survey by polling firm Parametria, 77 percent of respondents said they oppose the legalization of marijuana, although 81 percent said they would support its legal use for medicinal purposes.


North America

The governor of Mexico’s Quintana Roo state, where Cancún is located, said that suspects have been identified in two out of three killings of women that have taken place in the past few days, one of which incited a protest on Sunday because she was a university student and her body showed signs of sexual abuse.

A supposed cancer patient accompanied by two paramedics allegedly smuggled 84 pounds of cocaine in their luggage onto an ambulance air flight from Tijuana, Mexican police said Wednesday upon detaining the three suspects for further investigation.

Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office said forensics investigators will be deployed to Carrizalillo in southern Guerrero state to examine mass graves that are rumored to contain the remains of the 43 students from the town of Iguala.


Lawmakers in Puerto Rico reviewed a bill Wednesday designed to alleviate the $9 billion debt burden of the island’s state-run power company — a goal that many Puerto Ricans worry will result in even higher energy bills, which are already twice as high as on the mainland United States.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio will attend a rally in San Juan on Thursday called to demand that the U.S. Congress allocate more money to healthcare on the island, an issue of great importance for New York’s large Puerto Rican population.

Central America

Officials in Panama said on Wednesday that they broke up a drug-trafficking ring that served as a link between Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel and FARC rebels in Colombia.


Colombia’s constitutional court on Wednesday delivered a landmark ruling banning adoption agencies from discriminating against LGBT couples during the adoption process, prompting an immediate protest from the Roman Catholic Church.

Bolivian President Evo Morales has decried what he says is Chile’s attempt to intimidate its neighbors by conducting a large-scale military exercise over a period of 13 days along the border it shares with Bolivia and Peru.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has pledged to shave off his famous mustache if his administration fails to deliver on a promise to build 1 million public housing units by Dec. 31.

In light of recent progress made during ongoing peace talks between the Colombian government and FARC rebels, Amnesty International has called on the government to ensure that the rights of displaced indigenous and Afro-descended groups are prioritized in the peace process.

Southern Cone

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff is confident that Congress will approve her administration’s new arguments against a ruling that she manipulated federal accounts prior to her election in 2014, her chief of staff said Wednesday.

The British head of Formula One racing told Reuters recently he hopes to bring the sport back to Argentina, but that he is waiting to see who wins the upcoming presidential runoff, although he did not specify which candidate he favors.

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522K #RacismIsntFunny Signatures Delivered to NBC

NEW YORK — Just days before Donald Trump is scheduled to host “Saturday Night Live,” a group delivered more than 522,000 petitions Wednesday night, asking for NBC to cancel the Republican presidential candidate’s appearance.


“Racisim isn’t funny,” said Juan Escalante, director of digital campaigns for America’s Voice, an immigration rights organization based in Washington, D.C. “When Trump says he’s going to deport 11 million people he means it. When he calls us murderers and rapists, he means it.”

Escalante —the main organizer behind Racism Isn’t Funny, a microsite featuring several online petitions that call for NBC to disinvite Trump as SNL host— traveled to the network’s main studios at Rockefeller Center to deliver the petitions. About two dozen people held signs that read “Stop the Hate, Dump Trump” outside NBC.


Escalante walked inside the lobby and about five minutes later came out and said a man by the name of “Adam,” who would not identify himself by title or say his last name, took the box with petitions.

“Bottom line is that there is no room to repackage hatred and racism and pass it off as comedy. What NBC and what SNL are doing is shameful,” Escalante said.

According to protest organizers, the following organizations were involved in Wednesday night’s event: America’s Voice, Campaign for Fair Latino Representation, CREDO, El Grito de Sunset Park, Hispanic Organization of Latin Artists (HOLA), Justice League NYC, Latino Leadership Institute (LLI), League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), MoveOn, National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP), National Council of La Raza (NCLR), National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC), National Institute for Latino Policy (NiLP),, South Bronx Community Congress, Teatro La Tea and The Jordan Journal WBAI-FM.

Latino USA anchor Maria Hinojosa tweeted a few photos from the protest:

The New York Times posted a video clip of Escalante delivering the signatures:

Despite the low attendance, organizers said that they will continue to put pressure on NBC, SNL and the show’s sponsors for agreeing to host Trump even after NBC had decided to cut business ties with the Republican candidate for comments he made about Mexican immigrants in June.

According to the Associated Press, Trump said that he welcomed the protesters: “Look, I think they should demonstrate. Ratings will go even higher than they are going to be. It’s going to be one of their highest-rated shows ever and they’re very excited about it.”

Today in Latin America: November 4, 2015

Guatemala President-Elect Doubles Down on Anti-Corruption Pledges

Top Story — In an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, Guatemala’s President-elect Jimmy Morales said he will work to strengthen the mandate of domestic and international anti-corruption bodies within the Guatemalan government when he takes office on January 14, after winning a landslide election amid nationwide protests over a massive graft scheme.

Morales said he has already petitioned Guatemalan prosecutors as well as the U.N.-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CIGCIG) to help vet his cabinet. He also promised to extend CICIG’s mandate to 2021.

Investigations led by CICIG with the help of Guatemalan prosecutors led to the resignation and arrest of ex-President Otto Pérez Molina, a former military general, amid a wave of anti-corruption popular protests. Morales, a television comedian, rode that sentiment and claims of being a political outsider to claim 67 percent of the vote in the October 25th run-off presidential election against former first lady Sandra Torres.

Despite this overwhelming political mandate, doubts have been raised over what critics see as Morales’ lack of concrete policy positions and his ability to pass legislation as the head of his party, the National Convergence Front which holds just 11 of 158 seats in the Congress. Founded in 2004 by military officers who, similar to Pérez Molina, participated in anti-insurgency campaigns against Marxist guerrillas during the 1980’s Civil War, the FCN has attempted to “restore dignity to the military within the country and minimize the prosecution of military officials.

Morales has claimed that he will not appoint any former military commanders to his cabinet with the exception of the defense ministry. Nevertheless, after the election, one political analyst predicted Morales would be forced to strike up alliances with the same elites who supported Pérez Molina.

In a recent interview with Morales, Univisión anchor Jorge Ramos asked the president-elect to detail his personal wealth and to promise that by the end of his term he would not be further enriched.


North America

The mayor of Cocula in Mexico’s Guerrero state has been placed under house arrest after authorities caught him meeting with the alleged leader of a drug gang. The Cocula municipality was the alleged site of the incineration of 43 students from a Guerrero teacher-training school, according to a controversial government account of the students’ disappearances.


The Havana International Fair, a week-long trade show marked by contrast the Cuban government’s official suspicion of open markets, has attracted attention this year due to the participation of 20 major U.S. corporations.

A leading Puerto Rican physician said Tuesday said that the United States’ reduction of health care funds for the territory has contributed to an exodus of Puerto Rican doctors, and that many healthcare practitioners on the island plan to protest the cutbacks.

The results of Haiti’s presidential elections, which took place on Oct. 25, will not be released until Thursday, stoking claims of fraud and mismanagement.

Central America

Thousands of starving crocodiles kept on the farm of the wealthy Honduran Rosenthal family were fed for the first time on Tuesday after the U.S. government froze the family’s assets due to money laundering allegations.


Colombian troops killed 12 members of the powerful Usuga Clan gang in the state of Antioquia.

Peace talks in Colombia could extend past an agreed-upon March deadline, as negotiators still need to debate how justice will be delivered for crimes committed during the conflict, the FARC commander codenamed Carlos Antonio Lozada said Tuesday.

McDonald’s French fries reappeared in Venezuela on Monday after a nearly year-long absence following an 85 percent drop in potato imports in 2014, a challenge the company overcame by purchasing them locally.

Southern Cone

Reuters examines the situation facing Brazil’s Finance Minister Joaquim Levy, who last week spoke out in an effort to quell long-standing rumors he will soon resign in the face of a difficult task: helping push through an austerity package despite widespread opposition.

The former president of the Brazilian Football Confederation José Maria Marin plead not guilty to corruption charges in New York after his extradition from Switzerland, where he was arrested with six other FIFA officials in May.

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O’Malley Camp Criticizes Clinton on Immigration

Echoing an immigartion position that has been consistent ever since Democratic presidential Martin O’Malley unveiled a comprehensive plan in July, a O’Malley campaign spokesperson said last night that Hillary Clinton should focus on releasing her own plan to inform voters instead of just criticizing Republicans.

“While Republicans may have elected a new Speaker who shares their party’s age-old political problems, our party needs decisive, progressive leadership like Governor O’Malley’s to ensure that we fix our inhumane immigration system once and for all,” O’Malley for President spokeswoman Gabi Domenzain said in a statement. “It’s easy to slam Republicans, but harder to put forward proactive ideas. And Secretary Clinton still has not put forward any immigration plan whatsoever.”

Domenzain’s statement was in response to a Clinton campaign statement about how new House Speaker Paul Ryan has no intention in working on a comprehensive immigration reform bill while President Obama is still in office.

“We cannot allow the fate of millions of families to fall prey to political football or to whims of states’ rights. Secretary Clinton should join Governor O’Malley by proposing a concrete plan to ensure that New Americans will, in fact, be safe in her Administration,” Domenzain added.

For months, the O’Malley campaign has been proactive in focusing on Latino voter issues, usually the first Democratic candidate taking the lead on matters such as immigration, with the Clinton campaign reacting to what the O’Malley presents. It is a point the former Maryland governor made in a recent interview with Latino USA at a stop in Boston. O’Malley said that Clinton is always “following” him on issues that pertain to Latinos.

“Once again we lead, and she follows,” O’Malley said. “I intend to lead with ideas. I believe that leadership is often times saying things first and being ahead of the pack. Any nitwit can follow a poll, but leadership means forging a new consensus and very often speaking out on issues that others are ignoring.”

O’Malley also said that it was “morally reprehensible” for the country to detain immigrant families and called the immigration rhetoric from Donald Trump “racist hate speech.”

Nonetheless, O’Malley’s standing in national and state polls is still a distant third from both Clinton and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders.

Featured image: Martin O’Malley talking with Latino USA in Boston, MA (CREDIT/Julio Ricardo Varela)


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