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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

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.

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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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)

‘Operation Wetback’ in 2015? (VIDEO)

Earlier today on MSNBC Live with José Díaz-Balart, our digital media director Julio Ricardo Varela shared his insights about Donald Trump’s GOP debate comments praising President Eisenhower’s “Operation Wetback” removal program of the 1950s, a topic Trump first discussed in September during the digital portion of an interview with 60 Minutes.

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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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?

The 136-Page Obama Immigration Action Decision

The following 136-page document is yesterday’s complete decision by the 5th District Court of Appeals to uphold a block on President Obama’s immigration action that would have deferred deportation for an estimated 5 million immigrants.

Decision from the 5th District Court of Appeals by Latino USA

The administration’s decision was widely expected, and sets up a potential high-stakes court battle over Obama’s immigration policies in the midst of an election year.

Immigrant-rights advocates and the White House see a favorable high court decision as the last hope for the programs to begin before President Obama leaves office.

By making a swift decision to appeal, the administration increased the likelihood the Supreme Court will be able to take up the case during its current term, which ends next June.

Once the Justice Department files a petition for the high court to hear the case, Texas and 25 other states suing over the programs will have 30 days to file an opposition brief. 

It’s unclear whether the justices will decide to hear the case; they must vote by mid-January to ensure a decision is made in the current term.

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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Clinton: ‘You Have to Control Your Borders’

In New Hampshire today, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was asked the following question: “Hi, Secretary Clinton, I was wondering what you think about like securing the Mexican border with some of the illegal immigrants that come in? Just wondering.”

America Rising, a political action committee dedicated to opposition research of Democratic candidates, tweeted out a clip of the first part of Clinton’s answer:

Soon enough, a full video of Clinton’s full answer appeared on YouTube:

This is a rush transcript of what Clinton said:

Well look, I voted numerous times when I was a Senator to spend money to build a barrier to try to prevent illegal immigrants from coming in. And I do think you have to control your borders. But I think that it’s also true that we need to do more to try to number one, deal with the people who are already here, many of whom have been here for decades. Because it is just never going to happen that we’re going to round-up and deport 11 or 12 million. I don’t care how tall the wall is or how big the door is, that is never going to happen. And I think it is an unnecessarily provocative thing to say.

We need to secure our borders, I’m for it, I voted for it, I believe in it, and we also need to deal with the families, the workers who are here, who have made contributions, and their children. Mexican immigration no longer is really the issue. The Mexican economy is doing well enough, we’ve had no net Mexican immigration in the last several years. We now get immigrants from Central America and Latin America. And a lot of them make a very dangerous trip with smugglers and traffickers to try to get in to our country. And we need to do more to try to put some resources into those countries to try to deal with some of the conditions particularly the violence, the drug dealers and the like, that create that.

And we have an example of how effective the United States can be. When my husband was president, as you remember, there was a war going on in Colombia by drug traffickers and insurgent rebels. It was such a violent war that elected officials, business leaders, academics were being kidnapped, many of them murdered, others held for ransom. And we did something called Plan Colombia. Where we helped the government figure out how to secure their country from drug traffickers and rebels. And it took a number of years but now it’s a success story. So we can do more to stop the problem from where it starts. We can do more to secure our border and we should do more to deal with the 11 or 12 million people who are here, get them out of the shadows.

Because we will have a better economic outcome if we do that because what happens now is if you’re undocumented, you will work for as little as you can be paid. And that influences the labor market and takes away jobs from Americans because there’s no even playing field. If we get them out of the shadows and we enforce the labor laws, we will see a much better labor market for Americans and we will also see much more contribution into the Social Security and Medicare system, as well as the taxes. I mean right now we know that undocumented workers pay into the Social Security system, many billions of dollars, but it could be even more. So yeah we have to do all of that and to talk about just one piece of it I think is misleading and doesn’t help us get to where we can solve the problems that we face.

The Clinton comments —which focused on border security, how to address the country’s undocumented population and also made reference to Plan Colombia— are already being talked about in other Democratic circles. The Martin O’Malley campaign released a statement from spokesperson Gabi Domenzain:

Secretary Clinton bragging about building a border fence order in New Hampshire today is exactly the kind of outdated, intolerant thinking that the Democratic Party cannot represent.

It is flat-out wrong to hear Secretary Clinton echo failed policy and sentiments that are more at home in the Republican Party, especially when their field is fueled by intolerance and false hysteria toward immigration.

The Democratic Party must be the Party that embraces New American Immigrants, and that’s just the kind of principled leadership Governor O’Malley has always shown. He understands that the enduring symbol of our nation isn’t the barbed wire fence–it’s the Statue of Liberty.

O’Malley’s Twitter profile also criticized Clinton’s remarks, even likening them to Donald Trump:

Clinton’s immigration answer happened during a town hall event at a high school in Windham, New Hampshire, according to shift by MSNBC:


UPDATE, November 24, 2015: During a Facebook chat with Telemundo, journalist Jose Antonio Vargas asked Clinton to make a commitment and not use the term “illegal immigrants. Here is what Clinton posted on Facebook:


Latino Decisions: Poll Not Connected to Clinton

A new poll released today by Latino Decisions in partnership with impreMedia raised transparency questions about whether the organization’s professional ties to the Hillary Clinton campaign had influenced the findings. The poll, which listed selected presidential candidates’ favorability numbers with Latino voters and showed Clinton with an overwhelming lead, initially did not disclose that Latino Decisions co-founders Matt Barreto and Gary Segura had been hired in the summer to work for the Clinton campaign. When Latino USA contacted Latino Decisions for clarification about the whether the poll was connected to the Clinton campaign, Barreto replied via email and said that a disclaimer was being added:

I just added this note to the blog post, sorry we did not include this earlier:

Disclosure note: This project was directed by Dr. Sylvia Manzano, Principal at Latino Decisions, on behalf of the Spanish-language news company impreMedia. Earlier in 2015, Matt Barreto and Gary Segura of Latino Decisions were hired as consultants to the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. This project is in no way connected or coordinated with the Clinton campaign and is an independent research project, as part of Latino Decisions longtime partnership with impreMedia going back to 2009.

impreMedia publishes several Spanish-language newspapers and publications, including La Opinión (Los Angeles) and El Diario (New York).

The poll’s online page (full findings here) included two charts about where presidential candidates stand with a sample of 424 registered Latino voters. In this first chart, Clinton has the highest net favorability (+35), followed by Bernie Sanders (+19), Ben Carson (+9) and Jeb Bush (+5). Carly Fiorina had a negative favorability of –3 with Martin O’Malley at –8 (the only Democrat with negative numbers). Marco Rubio had the same –8 number as O’Malley, while Ted Cruz was at –16 and Donald Trump was at –56.



In the second chart, which focused on battleground states, Clinton’s favorability numbers were the highest at 62%, followed by Bush (42%), Sanders (39%), Rubio (32%), Carson (25%), Fiorina (25%) and Cruz (24%). The second chart also showed Trump at 15% and O’Malley in the final slot at 10%.


Latino USA also spoke with Sylvia Manzano, the lead Latino Decisions principal for the impreMedia survey. Manzano did confirm that although both Barreto and Segura are consultants to the Clinton campaign, the rest of the Latino Decisions research team continues our work independent of our colleagues’ campaign work.”

“We [Latino Decisions] do not coordinate with the Clinton campaign in any way on our polling and research,” Manzano wrote via email. “As I mentioned in our call earlier this afternoon, the share of Latino voters with a favorable view of with a favorable view of Clinton is consistent with our November 2014 Election Eve poll (page 9, Q 22), where 64% had a favorable view of her.”

Manzano also added this in a previous email: “The rest of our team [including me] is working on other unrelated projects, and we do not coordinate or run our results by the Clinton campaign in any way. In this case, I directed the Latino Battleground project in coordination with impreMedia,  one of our long-time partners on tracking polls. Gary and Matt were not working this project.”

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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Not All Latinos Vote the Same

Rose and Ana Canino are bothered when politicians and some in the media try to address Latinos as if they were all the same.

“When people say that the Latino Vote is monolithic, or it’s one issue, it erases the idea that we all come from different nations and different countries of origins and that we have different issues,” said Ana Canino-Fluit.

Members of the Canino-Vazquez family are Puerto Rican and all over the political spectrum.

Ana, 39, is middle of road leaning Democrat living in New York, Rose is a self-described progressive with radical liberal ideas studying evolutionary biology in Michigan, and Juan the youngest sibling is a conservative police officer in Florida who has “joked around that he’s going to vote for [Donald] Trump.”

Their parents: also on opposite sides of the political spectrum.

The Canino-Vazquez family is an example of how diverse Latinos are when it comes to politics.

Knowing they disagree on issues such as gun control, reproductive rights and the Black Lives Matters movement doesn’t stop them from having deep discussions about their differences.

“We have these disagreements but it doesn’t affect our day-to-day interactions with each other,” Ana said. “We may stay up until three in the morning arguing but the next morning we have breakfast and it’s all good.”

Featured image: Ana Canino-Fluit (l) at home with her youngest sister Rosangela Canino-Koning.

The Past, Present and Future of the Latino Vote

About 26 million Latinos are eligible to vote in the United States and politicians are going after those votes by targeting the “Latino Vote,” a term that used constantly these days.

But where did the term “Latino Vote” come from? And who was the first presidential candidate to court Latino voters?

Latino USA’s Maria Hinojosa and Julio Ricardo Varela talk with Cristina Mora about the past, present and future of the Latino Vote.

Part of the conversation focused on Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign in 1972.

The Nixon campaign strategically courted Latino voters for what was called “the Spanish-speaking vote”, said Mora, a professor of sociology at UC Berkeley.

“What they did is they coordinated these Amigos Buses is what they called them,” Mora said. “They would go around Latino neighborhoods across the United States to try to capture the Latino vote.”

The buses that traveled along the eastern United States in Puerto Rican and Cuban neighborhoods played salsa music, “and those that went to Texas and California played mariachi, so they almost had this nuance understanding of who the voter was and this is really the first time [this happened] you didn’t see the Democratic National Party doing this,” Mora said.

Back then there were fewer than four million Latinos eligible to work. By Election Day 2016 experts estimate there will be 27 million Latino voters, and that number could grow even more.

There are five million Hispanic adults who are in the country legally, on the path to citizenship but who have not become naturalized citizens, said Mark Hugo Lopez, director of Hispanic research at Pew Research Center.

“There’s a lot of efforts to get this particular group to citizenship,” he said.

Many of those legal permanent residents have been in the U.S. for more than a decade but haven’t taken that step to become citizens, Lopez said, and if they do they could “have an impact on Latino voter participation in the upcoming election.”

Featured image: David McNew/Getty Images


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