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More on the Student Protests in Chile…

10 Aug

The student protests and violent reaction by the Carabineros continued in Chile yesterday –  according to La Tercera between 70 and 80 thousand people participated with 273 people arrested. They have some great images. 

As does satirical Chilean newspaper The Clinic – you can see their images here.

Finally for this morning -and  for (Chilean) spanish speakers, the students are promoting a documentary produced by TeleSur (Hugo Chavez’s Latin American version of Al Jazeera) – Mal Educados!  – El Problema de la Educación en Chile (Poorly educated! The Problem of Education in Chile), which shows “the root of the problem like no Chilean channel would, or ever will in the future.”

Make sure to check out the Michael Jackson thriller dance protest at the start. Even for non-Spanish speakers, the tone, music and images are worth your time.

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Guatemala Wants its Babies Back…

9 Aug

Visitors to Guatemala are reminded to be careful when they approach children given the fear that Americans travel there to kidnap babies. We can sympathize with their fears considering the scores of Guatemalan children adopted by US families over the past decade. The Guatemalan government  has recently taken legal steps to stop the flow of adoptions, slowing them to 50 in 2010 from 4,000 in 2008.

Now a Guatemalan judge has actually taken the step of legally demanding that a US couple give its allegedly stolen Guatemalan baby back. 

While we’re on the topic – this video from the “Fox Files” is just too good – it used to be so easy to adopt a Guatemalan child until the corrupt government got involved. Where will American parents “determined to save” children “from a life of poverty” look to now?

When the Assassins Turn Themselves In…

8 Aug

I remember the first time I learned that six Jesuit priests  were assassinated by the United States backed Salvadoran army in 1989 because of their sympathy with the poor and marginalized and their suspected ties to the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN). I was a sophomore at SUNY New Paltz watching a documentary about Roy Bourgeois, an American priest on a mission to close the School of the Americas, the institution that trained military personnel from around  the region on counter-revolutionary tactics … you know … like targeted assassination and torture.

In the film, the murder of the priests underscores the brutal methods Latin American militaries brought home from the school to try out on advocates for reform and redistribution of wealth in the Americas. In El Salvador we’re also talking about the assassination of Archbiship Oscar Romero and the massacre of hundreds, including newborn babies, at El Mozote.

It’s not every day that the assassins responsible for these acts simply turn themselves in. This could be a wild assumption but in the field of Transitional Justice  I’m pretty sure that this type of thing is unthinkable.  But that’s exactly what happened today when 9 former soldiers turned themselves over to the Salvadoran government in response to an extradition from Spain. Take that Universal Jurisdiction haters.

Not much word from mainstream press on this yet. In absence of any article, New York Times readers will have to rely on this Associated Press report published by both the Washington Post and the Guardian. 

The BBC and Los Angeles Times provide some more context here  and here.  Spanish readers can also read up on the story from El Salvador.  I’m looking for  more conversation on this as the story develops – and perhaps some reckoning with the question – why were 6 jesuit priests really gunned down by the Salvadoran army in 1989? Your thoughts are welcome.

Cuba Opens its Economy and Kick Out the Jams

7 Aug
Anónimo Consejo

Anónimo Consejo

An LA Times article today continues to hit on what is quickly becoming a trope in US journalism on Cuba – a focus on the state’s easing of controls on the economy under Raúl Castro and emergence of the private sector, small-business entrepreneurs and land-owners to be. 

Is it a big deal that one of the last strongholds of Marxist economics in the world is legalizing private property and enterprise? Of course. Still, the repeated publication on this type of article gives the impression that there’s not much else going on in Cuba. Well, this and the continued detainment of USAID operatives.  If you’re thinking of investing then hold your horses.

Maybe it’s just me – while these articles speak at length to the hopes and dreams of burgeoning Cuban entrepreneurs – they also read all too eager to declare Cuba (almost) open for business and the communist system a complete failure. Fair enough – I’m not about to make a counter-argument on the merits of the Castroism-Marxism – but let’s remember that Cuba has resisted U.S. sabotage and embargo for nearly 50 years.

For a change of the discussion on Cuba I was happy to find CUNY Professor Sujatha Fernandesopinion piece on Cuban Hip-Hop. The piece highlights groups like Obsesion and Hermanos de Causa. Most interestingly she points out that Cuban rap “stands in stark contrast to American rap, where the diversity of sounds and themes has been eschewed in favor of a catchy pop formula with a focus on consumption…” One major factor is that the government, in recognition of hip-hop’s popularity among the youth, began to financially support the Cuban hip-hop music scene.

While that “distinctiveness,” she writes, “may be lost as the country opens up to a global market economy… [i]t’s worth remembering that imposed, even self-imposed, isolation can be a crucible for artistic creativity.”

Let’s hope Cuban hip-hop artists recognize as much – if the economic embargo has kept Cuban rappers from mimicking the likes of Drake and Lil’ Wayne then I think we’ve done them a favor.

And now – some Anónimo Consejo:

El Guanaco and the “Chilean Winter”

6 Aug
Guanaco

Image via Wikipedia

Leave it to Russian TV to capture raw footage of the Carabineros using Pinochet’s favorite method of crowd dispersion – el Guanaco (named for a spitting llama-like animal) that spews tear gas infused water.

The students continue to make their demands and to spread their message in the streets and via social networking and Youtube.

This video – in various languages and with English subtitles is from June – before the international press caught on as it has in the past few days.  Even the New York Times is following the moment, dubbing this the Chilean Winter (I guess Arab Spring is running its course and we need a new protesting ethno-national group season?)

In fairness to the New York Times, they deserve credit for some incredibly stark and sharp images from the past few days.

Personally I’m hoping for less Guanaco and more Kiss-ins… or as seen on the CBS Today Show – “a massive make-out session!”

More to come…

Chilean High-School Students Employ Greatest Protest Method Ever

5 Aug

An inspiring headline – “Estudiantes se besaron para mejorar la educacion” (Students kissed each other to improve education).

Thousands of high-school students are once again taking to the streets of Santiago de Chile to demand free public education and an end to the private-sector  education system bequeathed to young Chilenos by the Pinochet dictatorship.

Their resolve and numbers – especially for teenagers (such a movement would be unthinkable in the United States right now) are truly impressive and speak to the character of Chile’s so-called “Democracy Generation” (commonly used to refer to the first Chilean generation in decades to come up during a time of democracy).

Their methods are also admirable:

Los Pacos (o Carabineros) of Chile have responded in full-force – detaining 874 students according to TeleSur.

Not good news for Sebastian Piñera, the first right-wing president of the country since the fall of the Pinochet dictatorship by popular referendum in 1990. His approval rating has dropped to 26 percent.

Welcome to Un Pueblo Al Sur… Beginning with Guatemala

3 Aug

Welcome to Un Pueblo Al Sur – where we muse on politics, film, music, sport, and literature from that village to the south of the United States…I mean, er… Latin America…  You heard of it? You might find some rumblings out of there in the “America’s” section of the New York Times world briefings.

This is our first post… so let’s jump right in…

On Tuesday a Guatemalan court  convicted and sentenced four former soldiers to prison for more than 6,000 years each for their responsibility in massacring 250 people during the 36 year civil war. Note – acts like these constituted the only genocide of the 20th century in the western hemisphere. The New York Times? You guessed it… didn’t bother to cover the story. CNN has the story here.

The very next day Rigoberta Menchu announces that, for the second time,  she will be entering the race for president of Guatemala. Woah. The day after this historic verdict the most renowned advocate for the victims of the Guatemalan genocide (the indigenous campesinos of Guatemala) 1992 nobel peace prize winner Rigoberta Menchú is going to run for president! Big news, right!? The Washington Post decided to dedicate a paragraph.  The New York Times? Nada.

TeleSur gives some more context in Spanish here, quoting Menchú as stating “Este es el primer paso para cambiar la historia de Guatemala.” [“This is the first step in changing the history of Guatemala.”] She refers to a history of civil war and genocide not so subtly supported by the United States. Maybe it’s best we just keep quiet about that.

Guatemalan press reports that Menchú’s political movement, WINAQ, the first party directed to govern from the needs and perspectives of Guatemala’s indigenous peoples – “promoting values like integrity and honesty” – strives to ride the wave of social media and YouTube to spread its message. Take a look.