We love summer in Chicago most especially because of all the exciting outdoor music festivals that take place across the city and this weekend is no exception. The 9th annual Celebrate Clark Street World Music Festival takes over Rogers Park this weekend and the lineup, as usual, is extraordinary! Curated by world music expert, Sound […]

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CeciBastida

Tijuana is a very detached city, right on the border, away from the rest of Mexico. For many years it was well known by its violence and drug traffic path. Nowadays that could be a misconception, or at least there is much more of a truth to discover. I haven’t had the privilege to step in that […]

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Jose Antonio Vargas

Por Elio Leturia José Antonio Vargas ha pasado la mayor parte de su vida escondido detrás de un secreto: vivir indocumentado en los Estados Unidos. Cerca de 12 millones de personas en los EEUU comparten tal secreto bajo el miedo de la deportación. Pero Vargas, quien salió del clóset de los papeles falsos cuando publicó […]

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Yoani Sanchez

Por Elio Leturia Articulada y expresiva es Yoani Sánchez, la bloguera cubana que participó el 8 de junio en la Trigésima Feria del Libro Printers Row que organiza el periódico Chicago Tribune todos los años. “No pretendemos emular a los websites que se actualizan cada dos minutos”, empezó diciendo Sánchez al anunciar que el 21 […]

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The ball is the most important part of the game, and the ball is now finding its way into the realm of fine art

David Gonzalez writes a moving obituary in The New York Times for activist and poet Jack Agüeros, who died on Sunday at the age of 79:

Mr. Agüeros went on to earn a master’s degree in urban studies in 1970 at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Returning to New York, he went to work at a Lower East Side antipoverty program, remaining there until 1977, when he was asked to be the director of a nascent Puerto Rican museum housed in several storefronts on East 106th Street and Third Avenue.

Within months, he had the idea of moving the museum into a city-owned building on Fifth Avenue, making El Museo del Barrio the northern anchor of the city’s Museum Mile, and putting it in a better position to jockey for city funds. Expanding both the galleries and the collections, he embraced not just the local Puerto Rican community but also the larger Latin American experience.

‘We are too culturally rich to force ourselves into ghettos of narrow nationalism,’ he said in a 1978 interview. ‘El Museo now wants to embody the culture of all of Latin America.’

El Faro provides an in-depth look at Honduras’ deadly prison system:

El país más violento del mundo parece tener las cárceles más violentas del mundo. O al menos las cárceles en las que se han cometido algunas de las peores masacres en la historia reciente de América Latina. En la última, ocurrida en 2012, murieron calcinadas más de 300 personas; en la penúltima, más de 100; en la anterior, más de 60… Y mientras esos picos altos sacuden a Honduras, el sicariato a cuentagotas, patrocinado, auspiciado o permitido por el Estado, ocurre cada dos días.

Unfortunately, cartels aren’t the only source of violent acts in Mexico:

U.N. special rapporteur on torture Juan Mendez said that signs of torture are found on people arrested by all levels of authority, from the military down to local and state police.

Mendez spoke in a press conference at the end of his visit to Mexico, where he met with officials, activists and victims of torture.

He said practices reported include beatings with fists, feet and sticks, asphyxiating with plastics bags and electric shock to the genitals.

Latin America analyst Geoffrey Ramsey over at The Pan-American Post reports on the release of regulations concerning Uruguay’s new marijuana law:

This is a major victory for alternative drug policies, and fits with the overarching logic behind the marijuana law. As Uruguayan civil society advocates, Calzada and President Mujica himself have all said: the measure is about recognizing an existing social reality. Like it or not, there is a market for the drug, which is mostly dominated by criminal and frequently violent elements. By allowing people to come out and register their own plants without fear of repercussion for the first time in the country’s history, Uruguayan authorities are taking an important first step towards bringing the black market into the light.

 

Foreign Policy takes a fascinating look at the “money-losing machine” in South America, but makes one caveat:

While the biggest corruption schemes in Venezuela are organized and sustained around currency controls and subsidies, neither of these policies was instituted by Chávez or brought about by his so-called Bolivarian Revolution. The gas subsidy has been in place for several decades, with its current price fixed since 1996, three years before Chavez came to power. Venezuela’s currency, meanwhile, was fixed between 1930 and 1983. After that year, in fact, it instituted a multiple exchange regime that, by the time it was lifted in 1989, was characterized by a 132 percent difference between the official and parallel rates. The same could be said of inflation, which averaged 50 percent per year during the mid 1990s and even reached 115 percent in 1996. With the exception of 2013 and 2014, Venezuela averaged 22 percent inflation during the Chávez era. …

Which brings us, finally, to the million-dollar question: In post-Chávez Venezuela, who has the political capital to institute the deep and painful reforms the country requires to break out of this wicked cycle?

 

Uncle Sam just can’t seem to bury the hatchet:

This week the U.S. State Department published its annual list of state sponsors of terrorism, and once again it includes Cuba despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Cuba, which has been on the list since 1982, was listed alongside Iran, Sudan and Syria as countries that have ‘repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.’ It is telling, however, that the brief section on Cuba is less than 200 words, while at least three times as much content is devoted to each of the other countries on the list. The report also points out ‘there was no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups.’

It’s also notable that while the State Department names two terrorist organizations — the Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) — as having enjoyed support on the island in the past, it notes that the Cubans have played key roles in facilitating dialogue between both groups and the governments of Colombia and Spain. Both of these countries have expressed gratitude for Cuba’s cooperation.

If we want Cuba to continue opening up, the U.S. needs to open up to Cuba.

Before dancing the night away at the Gozamos Take Back Cinco de Mayo Party this Friday, learn the true importance of May 5, 1862:

The significance of the Battle of Puebla cannot be underestimated. Many historians believe that the French goal was broader than establishing influence in Mexico. Clearly, the French favored the Confederacy and by the Mexicans defeating the French at Puebla, direct aid to the Southern cause had to be postponed for a least a year – enough time for the Union army to strengthen and repel the rebels at Gettysburg. By 1864, when the French finally were able to get control of Mexico, it was almost too late to use Mexico as a base to supply the Confederate army. Thus, the Mexican victory at Puebla helped influence the outcome of the American Civil War. At the conclusion of the American Civil War, the United States then supported the Mexicans in their efforts to repel the French.

Latino Rebels shares an ugly story out of California:

Attorney and high school parent Juan Lopez, who is organizing a ‘Unity, Respect and Peace Rally’ counter-protest against two separate Pro-USA demonstrations by the Gilroy Morgan Hill Patriots (GMHP) and PatriotAction.net, shared the following email about the meeting:

“We attended a town meeting yesterday where the Tea Party people were present. Also present were many Live Oak students, past and present. There was one clear message at the meeting, the students did not want any protest in front of their school. The students pleaded with the Tea Party protesters to not be at their school on 5 de Mayo. One young student cried and said they were taking their AP exams and were scared. It was a truly heartfelt request. The Tea Party protesters rebuttal was, ‘what if I told you not to go to school tomorrow’ and ‘you don’t always get what you want!’ “

The Associated Press has good news on a troubled island:

Puerto Rico’s governor on Tuesday presented the territory’s first balanced budget in more than a decade, fulfilling a promise to cut spending at a time when the island’s economic problems have spread fear among U.S. investors. …

The $9.64 billion budget aims to strengthen and revive the economy as the U.S. territory enters its eighth year in recession and struggles to reduce some $73 billion in public debt.

The budget does not call for layoffs or new taxes.

Reuters reports on a new ad campaign in our nation’s capital to shift U.S.-Cuban relations:

The metro ads by the group #CubaNow are designed to highlight economic changes happening in Cuba. The group believes the 52-year-old U.S. embargo against the communist-ruled island has not worked.

‘It’s time to bring the conversation on U.S.-Cuba policy into the 21st century,’ said #CubaNow director Ric Herrero.

The group said its mission, unlike other Cuba policy groups, was specifically focused on changing U.S. thinking about Cuba policy.

Arquimides Oseguera, mayor of Lázaro Cárdenas in Michoacan, has been arrested and charged with “kidnapping, extortion and links to organized crime,” according to the Los Angeles Times:

Oseguera, a member of the liberal Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD, took office in early 2012, according to Mexico City’s Reforma newspaper. His arrest was announced by the state prosecutor’s office and the head of the federal government’s special commission on Michoacan. …

In November, federal troops and police took over the security functions at Lazaro Cardenas, the country’s second-busiest container port, from the municipal police in hope of stamping out the Knights Templar’s use of the Pacific coast port for the import and export of illicit drugs, and shaking off the cartel’s control of a significant chunk of the non-drug commerce in the city.

 

The Latin American Herald Tribune reports on the long-awaited disarmament of autodefensas in Michoacan:

The self-defense groups must begin surrendering their guns, which include AK-47 and AR-15 assault rifles, on Monday and completely disarm by May 10, officials said. …

The meeting was chaired by Alfredo Castillo Cervantes, the federal commissioner for security and development in Michoacan, and attended by the top two self-defense leaders, Estanislao Beltran and Jose Manuel Mireles.

Not all members of the self-defense groups will return to civilian life, however, as 516 have signed up for what will be the new Rural Defense Corps, which will operate under the control of the Mexican military.

Who knew killing a few people would actually restore order?

El Pais looks at the rise of vigilante justice across Central America:

Central America is considered to be one of the most violent areas in the world, with regional averages of murders over 27 per 100,000 inhabitants. In their research on the problems of insecurity in the region, the Organization of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has identified two phenomena related to such events — those taking revenge, involving a grudge or trying to take the law and justice into their hands — but with their own characteristics: lynchings and ‘social cleansing’ operations.

Lynchings, according to UNDP, are punishable acts under the guise of ‘popular justice’ exerted by mobs. ‘Social cleansing’ is carried out by groups or death squads with the pretext of liberating a community of undesirables.

 

The Los Angeles Times reported a story over the weekend on how Brazil is trying to combat sex tourism ahead of this year’s World Cup:

Brazilians complain that stereotypical images lead to prejudice and unwanted advances when they are traveling abroad.

‘First, they say that I don’t “look Brazilian,” because I don’t have big breasts or a big’ rear end, says Alexa Santoro, a 23-year old student from Sao Paulo who is training to be a funeral makeup artist. ‘Then, the abuse starts. They think that I’ll just jump into bed with them, since that’s how they think things work in Brazil…. It can really make you feel bad.’

Santoro says she was not encouraged by reports that prostitutes around the country were taking English lessons before the World Cup.

The girl from Ipanema isn’t for sale anymore.

The Guardian on the absurdity resulting from one Central American country’s absolute ban on abortions:

El Salvador has one of the world’s strictest abortion laws, with abortion a crime even when a woman’s life is at risk. Human rights activists say this has created a system of persecution in the country’s hospitals as well as its courts, where any woman – and particularly a poor, young woman who loses her baby – is suspect. …

According to the Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto (Citizens’ Coalition for the Decriminalisation of Abortion), 129 women were prosecuted for abortion-related crimes in El Salvador between 2000 and 2011, with 49 convicted (23 for abortion, 26 for homicide).

In a report published with the Centre for Reproductive Rights, the Agrupación says: ‘Enforcement of the country’s abortion law has had serious consequences in hospitals and healthcare centres, where any woman who comes to an emergency room haemorrhaging is presumed to be a criminal.’

Which is why people should never think in absolutes.

The Miami Herald highlights the recent jailing of a Havana journalist as a testament to the lack of a free press in Cuba:

Juliet Michelena Díaz, 32, was arrested April 7 because of her reporting on ‘a case of ordinary police violence she had witnessed in Havana,’ and should be freed, said Lucie Morillon, RWF director of investigations.

Michelena was initially accused of threatening a neighbor, but the charge was raised to attacking the woman on the day her report was published, indicating ‘a desire to silence her and put a stop to all her critical reporting,’ Morillon said.

RWF, a non-governmental organization, ranked Cuba 170th out of 180 countries in its 2014 freedom of the press index. Cuba’s communist government controls all newspapers and radio and television stations on the island of 11 million people.

Sufficed to say, freedom of speech and of the press are the prerequisites of any true democracy.

Last Friday Latin America analyst Geoffrey Ramsey over at The Pan-American Post called attention to a new bill that could potentially limit the rights of protesters in Argentina:

In reality the bill cannot be easily pigeonholed as an uncompromising attack on freedom of speech. Like similar U.S. laws, it would prevent demonstrators from blocking vehicular traffic. Specifically, it would require that protests allow at least one lane open, and — most controversially — to register with authorities at least 48 hours prior to the event. But still, as La Nacion notes, the [ruling Front for Victory party's] sponsorship of the law demonstrates a ‘profound change’ for a government that has striven to be seen as an ally of mass mobilizations.

For critics of the Fernandez administration, the timing of the bill is no coincidence. As both El Pais and the Associated Press point out, the bill comes amid growing discontent with inflation and economic stagnation, and may be an attempt to brace for potentially escalating protests in the coming months.

Perhaps Pres. Fernández senses a storm coming and wants to make sure she doesn’t wet.

While many Americans spent Easter Sunday enjoying the smell of charred meats, citizens in Venezuela’s major cities got another whiff of something burning:

Though millions of Venezuelans have headed for Caribbean beaches and family gatherings over the Easter period, student demonstrators have sought to keep a nearly three-month protest movement going with religious-themed demonstrations.

After a barefoot walk and a “Via Crucis” march in the style of Jesus’ tortured walk towards crucifixion earlier in the week, hundreds of demonstrators began Sunday with a rally denominated ‘Resurrection of Democracy.’ …

Chanting ‘Liberty!’, the youths threw petrol bombs, fired stones from slings, tore down advertising hoardings, and placed wires across streets blocked by debris.

Seems anti-government protesters aren’t willing to turn the other cheek just yet.

At least 80 immigrants suspected of entering the United States illegally have been arrested in a makeshift encampment in South Texas…Some told authorities they had been there sleeping on pieces of cardboard with little food or water for at least a week.