1. Skip to navigation
  2. Skip to content
  3. Skip to secondary content

SundayApril 15, 2012

Latino Daily News: Bringing You the Latest Hispanic Current Events and News Stories 24/7

To reflect the dynamic interests of our audience, Latino Daily News is an online daily news source and virtual cultural center for and about Latinos. We offer the latest news headlines, as well as innovative and insightful Hispanic current events stories, photos, videos, and commentaries from a Latino perspective, 24/7.

Read More

U.S. - Colombia Announce Increase in Visa Validity from Five to Ten Years

U.S. - Colombia Announce Increase in Visa Validity from Five to Ten Years

Photo: U.S. Colombian Visa Extension to 10 Years

Click Here to Enlarge Photo

The State Department announced an increase in the validity of visas for Colombians traveling on a temporary basis to the United States from five years to ten years. This means that most Colombian applicants who qualify for a B-category non-immigrant visa may be issued a 120-month, multiple-entry visa.

This extension of visa validity is supporting of the expanding partnership between the United States and Colombia on a broad array of issues, which has resulted in increased exchanges for tourism and business. The extension is also consistent with the passage of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, which can increase investment between our two countries. A growing Colombian economy will lead to a growth in travel for education and training, tourism, and economic activities.

Approximately 577,000 Colombians visit the United States annually, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Changes in visa reciprocity have no effect on visa eligibility or security screening procedures. Visa applicants will be subject to the same standards of eligibility for a U.S. visa as before the change in validity.

Benefits of the Visa Validity Extension:

  * Colombians qualified for a temporary visa to the United States will only need to apply to renew their visa once every ten years.
  * U.S. and Colombian businesses and service providers, including the tourist industry, will benefit from increased travel between the two countries.


Read more by HS News Staff →

Two Motorcyclists in Northern Mexico Charged with Terrorism for Noisy Exhausts

Two Motorcyclists in Northern Mexico Charged with Terrorism for Noisy Exhausts

Photo: Mexican Motorcyclists Charged as Terrorists for Loud Bikes

Click Here to Enlarge Photo

Two motorcyclists leaving work in the northern Mexico city of San Luis Potosi were charged with terrorism after their loud exhaust pipes backfired and caused a panicked stampede. 

The two charged, Juan Ramon Munguia and Enrique Trevino Rivera, were leaving their work near the main square of the city.  The two men have stated that they usually warm up their engines in this location every day, however, witnesses claim the men purposely continued to rev their engines even after the panic began.

Hundreds of people were in the main square that night participating in a Holy Week event when they mistook the backfiring exhaust pipes for gunshots.  The streets were partially blocked by vendors and as a result some people were trampled, although no major injuries occurred.  “There is possible blame that can be attributed to city authorities who allowed vendors to set up stands in the square without the appropriate controls, which prevented a rapid evacuation,” stated the Human Rights Commission in a statement on Wednesday.  However, according to their statement the terrorism charges are completely out of line.  “The arrests and charges of terrorism lack any legal basis. 

Reports also state the two motorcyclists may have been beaten by police after their arrest.

If the men are found guilty of these charges they could face sentences of five to twenty years in prison.  This is not the first time charges such as these have been filed in Mexico.  This past September, two people in Veracruz were charged with terrorism after posting on social networking sites rumors of mass attacks by criminals.  Yet these charges were eventually dropped after a public outcry. 

Read more at Washington Post →

Daughter of Carolina Herrera Launches New Handbag Line

Carolina Herrera Baez, daughter of Venezuelan designer Carolina Herrera, just celebrated the launch of her new design for the CH Carolina Herrera brand: the spring 2012 capsule Mini Matryoshka handbag collection. 

Herrera Baez, also the creative director of fragrances for the Carolina Herrera New York and CH Carolina Herrera brands, introduced her new handbag line at a Paris launch party on Wednesday.  The design will be the first in a series of capsule collections that she intends to design yearly for the CH Carolina Herrera brand.  “I’m already working on next year’s, it’s fun, it’s a collaboration and it’s also an accessory,” stated the designer. 

The bags, available in seven different color combinations inspired by the spring 2012 Carolina Herrera New York collection, are made from exclusive Goya leather.  The size is a miniature version of the traditional, larger bucket tote, named Matryoshka from the CH Carolina Herrera brand.  “The size is an ode to my mother who is always complaining that I wear my bags too big,” stated Herrera Baez.

This new design has just entered the CH Carolina Herrera stores as well as the main Carolina Herrera New York stores.  CH Carolina Herrera has 89 stores worldwide and 199 shops in shop.  This year 15 more stores openings are planned.  The estimated cost for a Mini Matryoshka is $415. 

The next project for the designer is a trip to Brazil for the debut of a new men’s fragrance, CH Sport and a matching capsule clothing line.  “As I was creating the scent, I had in the back of my mind images of John F Kennedy Jr., you know, images of him on a boat or with a football.”

Read more at Women's Wear Daily →

Immigrant Advocates Want Central American Origins to be Listed on 2020 Census

Immigrant Advocates Want Central American Origins to be Listed on 2020 Census

Photo: Central American Countries

Click Here to Enlarge Photo

Immigrant-advocacy groups say Central American countries should be listed on the 2020 U.S. Census questionnaire to more accurately determine the number of individuals with roots in that region.

“In late May of this year, we and other Central American activists will meet with Census officials to demand they add each of the Central American countries to the 2020 Census form,” Francisco Rivera, president of the National Central American Roundtable, told Efe.

“We have a grievance with those officials because long before the 2010 census we told them the Central American data would be estimates when it could be (determined) with a minimal margin of error if they printed a box on the form like what exists for those born in Puerto Rico or Mexico,” he said.

According to a Pew Hispanic Center study published this month, the majority of U.S. residents with roots in Spanish-speaking countries prefer to identify themselves by their family’s country of origin rather than as Hispanic or Latino.

The 2010 Census put the U.S. population at more than 308 million, 50.5 million, or 16.3 percent, of whom are Hispanic.

But Salvadoran Marvin Andrade, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center’s leadership development director, told Efe “the 2010 Census figures do not reflect the true number of U.S. Latinos, and much less so those who live in California.”

“I believe there was a bit of fear among our people; particularly those who come from countries with repressive governments don’t feel comfortable sharing information with the government,” he said.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Latino Sports Commentary:  Ozzie Guillen Does It Again, Pero No Es Pa Tanto!

Latino Sports Commentary:  Ozzie Guillen Does It Again, Pero No Es Pa Tanto!

Photo: Ozzie Guillen Suspension

Click Here to Enlarge Photo

Here at HS News we really enjoyed Julio Paban, from Latino Sports, take on Ozzie Guillen that we asked permission to republish.  Enjoy.  Latino Sports, we think really understand Ozzie’s crazy talk.

If the Miami Marlins wanted to get more attention and publicity to go in line with their new $515 million dollar stadium, new logo, and new superstars like José Reyes it could not have been done better than this. Ozzie Guillen, their new manager, the man that does not know how to bite his tongue has done it again. This time he gave the Miami Cuban community who is vehemently anti the Cuban island a fastball to hit out of the park.

Everyone who knows anything about politics in South Florida knows that you can’t be a public figure and say anything that does not tow the anti-Castro/Cuban line, or your dead fish. Ozzie Guillen told a Time magazine reporter, “I love Fidel Castro” and “I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that [expletive] is still here.”  That is Ozzie being Ozzie. Ask the numerous people, groups, organizations, and players that he has offended while in Chicago. My favorite was when he said: “Our Fans (Chicago White Sox) are not stupid like the Cub fans.” To his credit, when he knows he was wrong he would apologize and if he felt he was not he won’t. That is Ozzie Guillen.

Ozzie who has lived in Florida for a good many years should have known better. If he would have gotten to know the grassroots Cuban community he might have seen a community that is blinded on the issue of Cuba.  What other community do you know that will go as far as to want their people in their home country to suffer just because they disagree with the government of their country? That is exactly what you have when the strongest opposition against ending a blockade that has done nothing to weaken the government, but everything to make their country folk suffer is spearheaded by the very Cubans who are criticizing Ozzie Guillen.

Puerto Ricans don’t think of who’s in power when we are asked to make donations to help our island when a Hurricane, or other natural disaster hits? While in Puerto Rico party officials would go out of their way to fire someone not from the same party, those of us in on the mainland don’t care if the government is Pro-Statehood, Pro-Independence, or for remaining a Commonwealth, we all just want to help the island and relieve suffering. Same with countless of other exiles that had run away from their countries for economic, or political reasons like South Koreans, Haitians, Vietnamese and many others who have had to flee dictatorships, or countries for political reasons. I never heard any of these exiles say, “don’t send any food, or medicines to my country” like we have heard some of these Miami Cuban’s say about Cuba

I can’t help to think back to the 1970’s when I first heard of how far these folks would go to block anything to improve relations, or to have a different thought about the island nation. Back then two young Cubans, one being a friend of mine were at the forefront of starting a small company to begin flights back to Cuba to allow Cuban families to reconnect. They were working hard to make these legal trips. I remember my friend Mandy sharing his excitement with others and me who knew him. Mandy and his partner worked hard on that project doing what they had to do to get all the necessary paperwork done from the State Department and all the other government agencies. He also spoke about the many criticisms and threats they received. The many warnings not to continue, however, they were determined because being Cuban themselves they represented a large sector that did want to visit Cuba and re-connect with the families. Unfortunately, this growing sector had to be mainly underground for fear of reprisals from the pitchfork crowds that are ready to stamp out anything that is not anti-Cuban government.

Mandy and his crew finally prevailed and opened an office in Miami. Soon the list of travelers wanting to visit their island was growing so fast that it was beginning to become an embarrassment to those promoting the solid anti-Cuban government line. The pitchforks were thrown and so was a bomb that destroyed their new office and killed one of the young men. It was a devastating blow to many young people that could not believe that these folks would go so far as to use such blind violence against their own youth. However, to Mandy’s credit that did not stop the movement to visit Cuba and today Marazul Tours is a premier travel agency to the island.

What about the number of Puerto Rican artist like Andy Montañez, Danny Rivera, Lucesita Benitez (to name a few) who were all victims of the Cuban “can’t say anything positive about Cuba campaign” as they were all blacklisted from Miami radio stations and from performing in Miami’s Calle Ocho Music festival and from Miami clubs, or concerts for either visiting Cuba, or saying something positive about the island. 

I mean these folks went to the extreme like in the case of Andy Montañez who was criticized and blacklisted simply for hugging world re-known Cuban composer and singer, Pablo Milanes in a New York Concert.

Ozzie Guillen should have surely remembered what happened in 2000 when a young boy by the name of Elian González was picked up on a floating tire barely alive off the cost of South Florida. His estranged mother and her con-artist boyfriend illegally took the child out of Cuba when the boat capsized drowning everyone except Elian. They literally kidnapped this child from the legitimate custodial father.  We all know the rest of the story since it became an international political incident. In practically any country on earth this would have been a no-brainer, you return the child to the legitimate parent, in this case the father and his grandparents in Cuba, however that was not the case. Though the child had no immediate family members here in the US, Elian became the new poster child for the same Miami political machine that is on call to bury anyone that does not tow the anti Cuban island line. The same group that wants to burn poor Ozzie on the stake.

I’m not defending Ozzie Guillen, or defending any political cause. I just want to make it clear that Ozzie does not know anything except baseball; to try to burn him to the stake for his comments outside of baseball is like trying to burn the poor village idiot for comments that do not make any sense. I would respect these critics of Ozzie Guillen more if they would have said one word against Major League Baseballs decision to play its 2011 All Star Game in Arizona a state that blatantly introduced a bill to discriminate and harass Latinos. I would have respected them so much more if they would have said anything about the Arizona’s education department discontinuing Mexican American studies in a state that was once Mexico.

Let’s all stick to baseball where it’s much simpler, three strikes and your out!

Read more by HS News Staff →

First Tax Fraud Conviction in Costa Rica’s History, 10 Year Sentence

First Tax Fraud Conviction in Costa Rica’s History, 10 Year Sentence

Photo: Tax Fraud Costa Rica

Click Here to Enlarge Photo

Maira Marlene Zamora Alvarado, will spend the next ten years in prison and pay a fine of $180 million colones, after being found guilty of tax fraud in Costa Rica.  This is the first tax fraud conviction in the country’s history.  Zamora Alvarado is the sister of Movimiento Libertario party legislator, Mireya Zamora. 

The conviction stems from the now defunct company, Estrella Brillante S.A.  The company was found to have defrauded the government $180 million colones, while also providing false information to Costa Rica’s Finance Ministry.  Zamora Alvarado was named as the legal representative of the company by her husband, Roberto Carvajal.  Legislator Zamora believes Carvajal is to blame for the conviction of her sister.

Zamora Alvarado has 15 days to appeal the sentence.  She is not permitted to leave the country and must check in at the courthouse every two weeks. 

Read more by HS News Staff →

Penelope Cruz Has ‘Other Priorities’ Than Making Films

Spanish actress Penelope Cruz says that in the immediate future she will make only one or two films per year, since now she has “other priorities” after the birth of her first child with husband and fellow thespian Javier Bardem.

“Maybe I’ll make one movie a year, maybe two, but it’s not going to be more than that because I have other priorities now,” said Cruz in an interview for the May issue of Harper’s Bazaar, which on Tuesday published an excerpt on its Web page.

The actress, focused on her personal life with Bardem and little Leonardo, also confirmed that in the future she is not thinking about living in Los Angeles, where her son was born in January 2011.

“When I come here now, I have so many memories. Some of them good, some of them not so good,” she told the magazine. “I have lived beautiful moments here, but I don’t want to live here. It is not the place where I want to raise my kids.”

The 37-year-old star, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 2009 for her performance in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” also has a special place in her heart for the film’s director, Woody Allen.

“I love being around Woody. Watching him direct, and sometimes, he falls asleep while they are lighting the next shot. I take pictures of him because he picks the strangest positions. I always think he is going to fall off his chair,” said Cruz.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Chavez Skips Out on Summit of Americas, In Cuba for More Cancer Treatments

Chavez Skips Out on Summit of Americas, In Cuba for More Cancer Treatments

Photo: Chavez Back in Cuba for Radition

Click Here to Enlarge Photo

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is in Cuba again for more radiation therapy after he was operated on in February for a new cancerous tumor.

Cuban media reported on Sunday that Chavez had returned to the island, where he was greeted by the country’s first vice president, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, in contrast to earlier occasions on which President Raul Castro had awaited him on the tarmac of the Jose Marti international airport.

The Venezuelan leader’s latest trip to the island comes just three days after he had returned to his country after receiving his third round of radiation therapy.

On the recommendation of his doctors, Chavez decided to travel directly to Cuba without making a detour through Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, where the 6th Summit of the Americas is being held this weekend.

Chavez on Saturday received the permission of the Venezuelan National Assembly to travel abroad for more than five days, which he had requested so that he could undergo the next session in the five-round series of radiation therapy in Cuba.

The Venezuelan president underwent surgery on Feb. 26 in Cuba to remove a tumor, a recurrence of the cancer for which he was operated on last June. The only detail about the initial surgery that has been officially announced is that the original tumor was located in Chavez’s pelvic region.

Since June 2011, when his cancer was first detected in Cuba and he underwent two operations, Chavez has returned to the Communist-ruled island on numerous occasions to receive chemotherapy, undergo medical checkups and evaluations and pursue his radiation therapy regimen.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Mexico Launches Hot Line for Child at Risk of Violence, Abuse

Mexico Launches Hot Line for Child at Risk of Violence, Abuse

Photo: Protecting Mexico's children

Click Here to Enlarge Photo

Violence in all its forms is a daily problem for Mexican children,” we are dealing with a silent plague, which very few times is reported and therefore there are no certain figures,” reports the Catholic agency Agenzia Fides.

To address this problem, the civil association Nuestro Hogar Mexico (ANAR), has promoted a phone line, free and confidential to give support to children who are in risky situations, to offer them psychological, social and legal support. The Teléfono ANAR México 01800 911-1119, aims to provide professional, social and legal counseling for children who need it. The phenomenon is so widespread that in Mexico the National System for the Integral Development of the Family, estimated, between 2000 and 2004, an annual average of 31 000 cases of child maltreatment.

According to UNICEF, around the world every year 275 million girls and boys are victims of family violence. Faced with this reality, ANAR was born in 1996, with the aim to assist children at risk. The Association is currently present in Spain, Colombia and Peru.

Read more at Agenzia Fides →

Kidnapped Energy Workers in Peru are Released Unharmed

Kidnapped Energy Workers in Peru are Released Unharmed

Photo: Shining Path Released Kidnapped Workers

Click Here to Enlarge Photo

Kidnappers on Saturday freed dozens of gas company contractors they had held hostage for five days in the jungles of southeastern Peru’s Cuzco region, the government said on Facebook.

“Peru’s presidency can report that the release of the 36 hostages occurred because the terrorists pressured by the siege fled and abandoned them,” the government said.

Minutes later, the Defense Ministry released a statement saying that no ransom was paid for the workers’ release.

The captors had demanded $10 million to free the workers, as well as an annual “war fee” of $1.2 million and explosives.

A source with Peru’s Interior Ministry told Efe Wednesday that the captors had given “notes with their demands ... to a doctor and a nurse who could not advance through the jungle.”

On Thursday, that same ministry officially reported that a police officer was killed and three other people were wounded when unknown attackers fired on a helicopter searching for the energy workers.

Killed in the attack was Capt. Nancy Flores, the co-pilot of the helicopter, while gunner Luis Guerrero and a civilian acting as a guide, Elver Huaman, were wounded, according to media accounts.

The chopper was attacked in the Alto Kepashiato zone as it was taking off after dropping off some police in the town of Kiteni, the top elected official in La Convencion province, Fedia Castro, told RPP radio.

She said the shots came from a nearby mountain, most likely from members of the group that kidnapped the workers.

Saturday’s Facebook post was first time the federal government had officially indicated the number of hostages. The Interior Ministry source had said there were 43 hostages after the two medical workers were freed.

Local media reported that the hostages were released at 4:00 a.m. Saturday and had to walk for seven hours through dense jungle to reach the town of Chuanquiri and then rode in two buses to Kiteni.

The mass abduction took place Monday in the Valley of the Apurimac and Ene rivers, or VRAE, region, where both drug traffickers and remnants of the Shining Path guerrilla group operate.

All the freed hostages are employees of Coga and Skanska, which are contractors on the massive Camisea natural gas project.

The government declared a state of emergency Wednesday in La Convencion province and deployed 1,500 soldiers in the area to “isolate” the kidnappers, officials said.

“As soon as the incident occurred, a unified armed forces and National Police command was established” to go after the “narco-terrorists” who kidnapped the gas company contractors, the Defense Ministry said then in a statement.

The command “has taken action in this case since Monday, with the discretion and reserve required in a matter of such a delicate nature,” the ministry said.

Victor Quispe Palomino, known as “Comrade Jose,” commands the Shining Path fighters in the VRAE region, where, according to officials, the rebels have joined forces with drug cartels and producers of illegal coca, the raw material for cocaine.

The government has made the elimination of the Shining Path’s remnants a priority.

The Maoist-inspired Shining Path launched its uprising on May 17, 1980, with an attack on Chuschi, a small town in Ayacucho province.

A truth commission appointed by former President Alejandro Toledo blamed the Shining Path for most of the nearly 70,000 deaths the panel ascribed to politically motivated violence during the two decades following the group’s 1980 uprising.

Shining Path founder Abimael Guzman was captured with his top lieutenants on Sept. 12, 1992, an event that marked the “defeat” of the insurgency.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Chicago Latino Film Festival is Underway

The 28th Chicago Latino Film Festival got underway with the Catalan-language feature “Any de Gracia” (Year of Grace), whose director, Ventura Pons, received a lifetime achievement award.

The festival, which this year will show the most movies in its long history, will show until April 26 the best of Latin American and Spanish cinema with the presence of great filmmakers, performers and technicians from both sides of Atlantic.

Festival director Pepe Vargas told Efe on Friday that this year’s event will bring such established figures as the Argentine Eliseo Subiela, Spaniards Ventura Pons and Montxo Armendariz, the Cuban Fernando Perez and Mexicans Gustavo Loza and Maria Novaro into contact “with the new voices of the movies.”

In his opinion, the program reflects “our cultural, historical and linguistic riches,” since besides three films in Catalan, there are productions shot in Mayan Quiche, Mayan Q’eqchi and Mayan Ixil, one in Basque and others in Guarani, all with English subtitles.

On opening night Catalan director Ventura Pons received the Gloria Career Achievement Award for his outstanding contribution to Latin art and culture.

Ventura got a standing ovation when he accepted the statuette from Vargas, the festival’s founder, in the main theater of the show inaugurated downtown on Friday at a sprawling cinema complex.

After the ceremony, “Any de Gracia” was shown in Catalan with English subtitles, which won the audience’s applause at the end of the show.

“As a boy I wondered what I wanted to be, and my answer was that I was going to make movies. With the utmost joy I can say that good receptions like that have been repeated every time I’ve premiered a film,” Pons said.

The festival director said that some 100 directors and actors, participants in the 140 feature films and documentaries shown in the festival, have gathered in Chicago to “share marquees and experiences” during the two weeks of the festival.

The event is organized by the International Latino Cultural Center and since 1993 the audience has voted for its favorite films in several categories.

It is estimated that some 35,000 people will attend the projections and gala festivities during the three weeks of the event.

This year’s film fest includes movies depicting historical figures like the Cuban poet and independence hero Jose Marti, slain Salvadoran archbishop Oscar Romero, Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca, Chilean novelist Maria Luisa Bombal and Venezuelan painter Armando Reveron.

Read more by HS News Staff →

President Obama Focuses on Economic and Trade Issues at Summit of the Americas

President Obama Focuses on Economic and Trade Issues at Summit of the Americas

Photo: Summit of the Americas 2012

Click Here to Enlarge Photo

U.S. President Barack Obama called Saturday for a “new era” of mutually beneficial relations with Latin America while repeating that Cuba must progress toward democracy and saying that he is open to discussions about the war on drugs but not to their legalization.

The continent is in a great position to face the challenges of today’s globalization, Obama said at the closure of the Business Forum in Cartagena, Colombia, where he arrived on Friday to take part in the Organization of American States’ 6th Summit of the Americas that began Saturday.

Accompanied by Colombian president and summit host Juan Manuel Santos and his Brazilian counterpart, Dilma Rousseff, Obama praised both for heading governments that are models of transparency and for leading their countries to economic growth.

By way of contrast the president again spoke of promoting democracy in Cuba.

The invitation of Cuba to the Summit of the Americas, requested by most Latin American countries and rejected by the United States, has been the chief bone of contention in the weeks leading up to the continental event.

The issue so snarled the meeting of foreign ministers here that, according to countries like Argentina, Uruguay and Venezuela, there can be no final declaration when the summit ends.

Obama replied by saying that “sometimes those controversies date back to before I was born. And sometimes I feel as if ... we’re caught in a time warp…going back to the 1950s, gunboat diplomacy, and Yankees, and the Cold War and this and that.”

That’s not the world we live in today, he said, and hoped that everyone present would instead see the opportunities lying ahead.

During his little more than three years in office, Obama has made it easier for Cuban-Americans to travel to the island and send remittances home, but has made it clear that the Raul Castro regime must progress toward democracy if it wants to see a change in its relations with the United States.

In this electoral year in the United States in which Florida, the the new homeland of exiled Cubans, will be key as usual, it is improbable that Obama will announce new measures on Cuba, and the White House has already said that the president will defend his position toward the island at Cartagena.

Obama hopes to win electoral rewards from his trip to Colombia, which is why he focused principally on the economy and trade in his speech Saturday to business leaders of the continent.

“We’ve never been more excited about the prospect of working as equal partners with our brothers and sisters in Latin America and the Caribbean,” Obama told the businessmen at a meeting before the main summit of heads of state began.

According to the White House, the increase in economic ties with Latin America will help the U.S. economy grow and create jobs, the most important issue for American citizens at present and one that will undoubtedly influence their vote in the coming elections.

“The challenge for all of our countries, as well as this hemisphere, is how do we make sure that globalization and integration is benefiting a broad base of people,” Obama said.

It was not by chance that on Friday, before flying to Cartagena, the president made a brief stop in Tampa, Florida, to speak of the importance of trade relations with Latin America and announce various measures to help small and medium-sized companies boost their exports to the region.

U.S. exports to Latin America have grown by almost 50 percent over the last two years.

Slightly more than 40 percent of U.S. exports go to the region, where the United States is also the biggest foreign investor.

Nonetheless, China is gaining ground on the United States and is now the largest trade partner of countries like Brazil. The growing influence of the Asian giant is of great concern to Washington.

Besides Cuba, the other controversial subject is the war on drugs, and Obama repeated Saturday that decriminalizing drugs “isn’t the solution.”

But he showed himself open to debating the matter and admitted that drugs are a two-sided problems, with production in South American countries and consumption in the United States.

“I think it is entirely legitimate to have a discussion about whether the laws in place are doing more harm than good in some cases…my personal opinion is that legalization is not the answer,” the U.S. president said.

Legalizing drugs as a strategy for combating drug trafficking will be a discussion at the summit that seems incapable of reaching a consensus due to the differences among the participating countries.

Notable absences at the Summit of the Americas are Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, in Cuba for further cancer treatment, and Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa, who will not attend because of Cuba being barred from the meeting.

Read more by HS News Staff →

SundayApril 15, 2012