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SaturdayOctober 6, 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.

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13 People Missing Since Mudslide Attacks Southern Colombia

13 People Missing Since Mudslide Attacks Southern Colombia

Photo: Mudslide in Colombia

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At least 13 people went missing Saturday and five were injured in a mudslide that buried a hamlet in the southwestern Colombian province of Huila, emergency management services in Bogota said.

The mudslide wiped out the hamlet of Villas del Prado, the spokeswoman for the National Risk Assessment Unit, or UNGRD, Sandra Calvo, told Efe.

The official said that all of the hamlet’s 13 houses were destroyed by the mudslide, which occurred around 6:00 a.m. local time (1100 GMT) and was caused by the cresting and overflowing of the La Chorrera stream.

“The latest report we have says that 13 people are missing, five are injured and 13 houses have been obliterated,” said the spokeswoman for UNGRD, the organization that coordinates emergency management services and rescue operations from Bogota.

Working at the scene of the disaster were firefighters from Isnos and the neighboring town of Pitalito, Calvo said.

The place where the mudslide occurred is located some 150 kilometers (93 miles) south of Neiva, the capital of Huila, and near the Magdalena River, the nation’s largest waterway.

The Villas del Prado emergency is the first of Colombia’s second annual rainy season, which lasts from October through December.

Read more by HS News Staff →

30 Hours After Being Held in Custody, Cuban Blogger Yoani Sanchez Finally Released

30 Hours After Being Held in Custody, Cuban Blogger Yoani Sanchez Finally Released

Photo: Yoani Sanchez

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Dissident Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, her husband and another independent journalist were released after more than 24 hours in custody and are back in the Cuban capital, Sanchez said on Twitter.

“We’ve just been freed!! 30 hours under arrest and many stories to tell,” the author of the Generacion Y blog wrote Friday.

Sanchez, husband Reinaldo Escobar and Agustin Lopez were arrested Thursday afternoon while en route to the eastern city of Bayamo to cover the trial of Spanish political activist Angel Carromero, accused of negligent homicide for the deaths of dissidents Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero in a car accident.

“We’ve been freed! Thanks to all of you for raising your voice and for your tweets so that we’d return home,” the acclaimed blogger said.

She said that during her detention she “refused to eat or drink any liquid” and “the first glass of water I drank when I got home was like fire in the esophagus.”

Sanchez wrote Saturday on her blog that she and the other two independent journalists believed the Communist Party daily Granma when it said the trial was open to the public, but added that “as you know, Granma lies.”

She said that while in custody she repeated a single phrase for more than three hours: “I demand that you allow me to make a telephone call. It’s my right.”

Finally, on Friday morning, she was allowed to place a call and spoke a few words with her father “over a line that was obviously tapped.”

Sanchez said Thursday on Twitter that she was planning to travel from her home in Havana to Bayamo, a city 750 kilometers (465 miles) east of Havana where Carromero was tried on Friday.

The trial concluded after 11 hours and Carromero is awaiting the verdict. Prosecutors asked the Granma provincial court for a seven-year prison sentence.

The 27-year-old leader of a youth group in Spain’s governing conservative Popular Party, Carromero was at the wheel for a July car crash that killed prominent dissident Oswaldo Paya and another government opponent, Harold Cepero.

Cuban authorities blame the accident on excessive speed and the driver’s failure to heed warning signs about road construction. They say the car was going 120 kph (nearly 75 mph) along a stretch of highway where the speed limit was 60 kph (around 37 mph).

Carromero repeated in court the statement he made during the investigation that he was driving at a speed of between 80 and 90 kph (50 and 56 mph).

And he again admitted that “unfortunately” he lost control of the car upon entering a stretch of road full of potholes and road work and it crashed into a tree.

Yoani Sanchez is known for her harsh criticism of Cuba’s Communist government and for bringing attention to daily hardships on the island.

Cuban authorities say she is part of a group of “cybernetic counterrevolutionaries manufactured” by the United States, while pro-government bloggers frequently label her a “fraud” and a “mercenary.”

The honors conferred on the blogger and philologist include Spain’s Ortega y Gasset prize for digital journalism in 2008 and a Maria Moors Cabot award from New York’s Columbia University in 2009.

Sanchez has since been awarded other honors and been invited to attend congresses and other events, but she has not been able to receive the prizes in person because the Cuban government has repeatedly denied her an exit visa.

The spokesman for the illegal but tolerated Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, Elizardo Sanchez, told Efe that Yoani and her two colleagues were taken to their homes “under arrest” by the political police.

He also said that, based on a preliminary count, they are among a group of between eight and 12 activists and dissidents who were detained prior to the start of Carromero’s trial.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Vampire Woman, Wolfman Take a Stand Against Bullying in Mexico

Vampire Woman, Wolfman Take a Stand Against Bullying in Mexico

Photo: The Vampire Woman and The Wolfman

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Two Mexicans known as The Wolfman and The Vampire Woman joined forces to speak out against bullying and domestic violence in a talk they gave in the western city of Zapopan.

“We’re human beings, not things or sideshows. You have to respect other people even if they’re different, because we all deserve it,” Jesus “Wolfman” Fajardo, who is covered in a mass of body and facial hair caused by a genetic condition called hypertrichosis, told Efe.

A talk by Jesus and Mary Jose Cristerna on this subject might not sound wildly interesting, but since the poster for the event included their nicknames and photos, interest picked up considerably.

Many got in line to have their pictures taken with the young man known as The Mexican Wolfman, or to study the tatoos of the woman who, for the vast amount of work done on her face and body, is known as The Vampire Woman.

Their personalities are very different. Jesus, 38, is timid and reluctant to converse with others, while Mary Jose, 36, greets those who approach her with a big red-lipped smile baring teeth sharpened into fangs.

Friends for several month now, both believe the most important thing was to share their personal experiences with the dozens of people who came to the Alternative Cultural Center in the municipality of Zapopan to hear their talk.

A native of a small town in the central Mexican state of Zacatecas, “Chuy,” as Jesus likes people to call him, told Efe how he got used to being the butt of jokes by neighbors and schoolmates, who treated him “as if I had no feelings.”

For 20 years he, together with several cousins and nephews suffering the same syndrome, worked as a “circus attraction.” People gasped when they saw him.

From the time he was a child he wore a cap and a piece of cloth over his head so his mass of facial hair would go unnoticed, though he never escaped coming to blows with strangers who made fun of his condition.

“There’s a lot of ignorance and discrimination against people who are different,” Jesus said while rubbing his nose, which had been broken in a fight. He also had a dent in his head where he was hit with a rock for standing up to a man who was laughing at him.

He said that, far from going into hiding, people with some odd difference should show society that “they deserve respect” and should not be judged by their appearance.

Mary Jose, who has a Guinness record for being the “most modified” female in America, said it was her own decision to be different from everybody else.

With some 96 percent of her skin tatooed, piercings all over her body, as well as silicon injections under the skin covering her hands and head, no one could accuse her of lying.

“I decided to be like this. I’ve taken bullying but I feel unique. We shouldn’t let appearances influence us - what matters are people,” she said.

Though many run to the other side of the street when they see her coming, the Vampire Woman told Efe that talking about how she was abused by her partner for almost 10 years makes it easier for people to get close to her.

The mother of four children, a musician and attorney by profession, Mary Jose said that apart from her appearance, she would like to be appreciated as a mother who has a lot of positive things to offer.

“And if I’m able to help people, I’ll do so whenever it’s needed,” she said.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Will Venezuelans Re-Elect President Hugo Chavez Tomorrow?

Will Venezuelans Re-Elect President Hugo Chavez Tomorrow?

Photo: Hugo Chavez and Henrique Capriles

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Venezuelans are in their second day of reflection before before going to the polls on Sunday to decide whether to give socialist incumbent Hugo Chavez another six years as president or to sharply change course with challenger Henrique Capriles.

After 14 years in power and 1 1/2 years undergoing operations and treatments for cancer, Chavez has no intention of relinquishing power until 2020, in order to solidify his particular brand of socialism in the country.

Idolized by some as a defender of democracy with a social conscience and accused by others of being one more populist dictator only concerned about himself, Chavez faces his third presidential reelection with his popularity at over 50 percent and with most surveys seeming to favor his chances.

Since 1998, all that has happened in this South American nation has had some prepositional tie with Chavez. All is done by, against, without, with, for, according to, under or before the president-commander of Venezuela. Whether for or against him, no Venezuelan can talk about the country’s daily life without mentioning him.

Under his rule, Venezuela has gone on a nationalization spree, exerting state control over a vast swath of the economy, including the oil, cement, food, telecommunications, steel and power sectors, as part of a drive to usher in “socialism of the 21st century.”

Chavez, survivor of a 2002 coup attempt that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter says took place with Washington’s advance knowledge if not active collusion, has also slammed U.S. foreign policy while forging alliances with communist Cuba and Iran and bolstering Venezuela’s ties with Russia and China.

Extrovert, shameless, charismatic, Chavez has made the exercise of power a TV show in which he stars as the defender of the poor, scourge of the rich, a continuation of the Liberator Simon Bolivar and an enemy of the “Empire,” as he calls the United States, still a major market for Venezuelan oil.

But his vision and political dominance are under threat by attorney Henrique Capriles, a politician who in his 40 years has been president of the now-defunct Chamber of Deputies, mayor and governor.

A descendent of Jews from the Warsaw ghetto and great-grandson of victims of the Treblinka extermination camp, Capriles declares himself a practicing Catholic and with his campaign platform attempts to distance himself from both radicals of the opposition and of the ruling party.

Conciliatory and moderate, Capriles won an easy victory over his rivals in the primary elections and for three months has gone from town to town throughout Venezuela to convince his compatriots that his vision for the country is one of reconciliation and national development.

He has no problem in acknowledging the need to keep Chavez’s social programs in place, while stressing the importance of getting down to business - saying that he, unlike the Venezuelan president, will not be talking for hours on television.

“Giving a truly historic change to our country is my duty and is in my hands,” Capriles said recently in an interview with Efe.

Though his family names are associated with corporate power, Capriles has managed to shed the elitist image to attract even most destitute.

Despite his youth, he has an impressive resume. He has been governor of Miranda, a state that includes part of Caracas and one of the most important in the country, after winning an election against Diosdado Cabello, one of Chavez’s leading supporters and current president of the National Assembly.

Around 18.9 million Venezuelans are eligible to vote in Sunday’s elections to choose the president for the 2013-2019 term, with 100,495 of them in other countries, notably in the United States and Spain.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Undocumented Youth Respond To Mitt Romney’s Recent Stance On Deferred Action: “Too Little Too Late”

Undocumented  Youth Respond To Mitt Romney’s Recent Stance On Deferred Action: “Too Little Too Late”

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This week Mitt Romney said that he would honor Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA and use the 2-year window to work on immigration reform.  DACA is the program which allows undocumented youth who were brought to the United States to remain without worry about deportation and obtain work permits.  Although this sounds like good news for DREAMers, it is clear Mitt Romney continues to ignore the more important question: will he continue the program beyond the two years or is it a ploy from a Romney campaign still desperate to appeal to Latino voters.

“Unfortunately, this is another fuzzy Romney statement that does not provide clarity for the Latino electorate nor assurance to undocumented student. Most importantly, he’s still has not disavowed his extreme tea party positions on immigration, specially his promise to veto the DREAM Act.” said Cesar Vargas, a DREAMer from the DRM Action Coalition.

Throughout the primaries, Romney jumped to the right on issue after issue.  He claimed that Rick Perry had no brain because he signed in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants, applauded SB 1070 as a model for the nation and came out with a “self-deportation” plan of making DREAMers miserable until they just go away.  “These are not the actions of someone who cares,” said Erika Andiola a DREAM Act activist from Arizona.

More alarming is that Romney does not well understand the immigration system as he called DACA a visa. “The people who have received the special visa that the president has put in place, which is a two-year visa, should expect that the visa would continue to be valid.” DACA is not a “visa”. President Obama’s June 15 order is an exercise of prosecutorial discretion to not pursue enforcement actions against undocumented youth. The lack of understanding shows that Romney would likely defer to anti-immigrant advisors like Kris Kobach, author of SB1070.

Like on every issue, Romney remained as vague as he could on the issue so as not to alienate anyone, claiming that he wouldn’t have to do anything on DACA if he became president because it would be replaced by a long-term solution in congress.  The problem with that is the Congress has only gotten less rational since the last time the Republican side filibustered the DREAM Act to death. While we appreciate Mitt Romney’s words that he will tackle immigration reform in his first years, he fails to elaborate on his plan to “reform”. Further, a President Romney has to realize that a dysfunctional 113th Congress may prevent him from passing legislation, and is naive to think he can work right away. This further demands a firmer answer on whether he will continue the DACA program beyond the initial two years.

In the end, Romney would most likely do what he’s done all along: say whatever will hurt him least politically. Unfortunately, for him, it is also too late.  Anyone who listened to him during the primaries knows that Romney is willing to sacrifice Latino issues and Jon Huntsman was right when he called Romney a “perfectly lubricated weathervane.” DACA is a temporary measure and ultimately the DREAM Act and modernizing our immigration system must be a priority for the next president.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Nickelodeon Slimes Brazil’s Top Entertainers at “Meus Premios Nick”

Nickelodeon Slimes Brazil’s Top Entertainers at “Meus Premios Nick”

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The country’s biggest kids’ award ceremony, Meus Premios Nick (MPN), culminated this week at Sao Paulo’s Credicard Hall. Approximately 5.5k kids, teens and their families attended the event to see their favorite celebrities and find out who the winners of this year’s show were. Meus Premios Nick will premiere on Nickelodeon Brazil on October 18th at 7pm.

Fiction and great films inspired this year’s version of MPN 2012. Led by “Commander” and host, Rodrigo Faro, the show took its audience on a journey through the galaxy featuring top performances by Big Time Rush, who sported LED bracelets which lighted up the stage and created an intergalactic atmosphere. From Brazil, Michel Telo, Luan Santana and Gaby Amarantos also rocked MPN’s stage with electrifying performances.

This show also featured a special appearance by Victorious’ Victoria Justice who presented the award for Male Hearthrob of The Year to renowned Brazilian actor Ricardo Tozzi, while talented soap star, Isis Valverde took home the award for Most Beautiful Female of The Year.

The award for Breakthrough Performance was given to the boys of Valetes, while international pop sensation, One Direction, took home the zeppy for Favorite International Artist.

In the music categories, Luan Santana won top honors for Favorite Male Singer and Manu Gavassi was chosen Favorite Female Singer. NX Zero not only won as Favorite Band, but also won the desired award for Song of the Year with their hit “This Is Not Normal.”

Read more by HS News Staff →

Colombian President Santos Discharged From Hospital After Cancer Surgery

Colombian President Santos Discharged From Hospital After Cancer Surgery

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Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos was discharged Saturday from the Bogota hospital where he underwent prostate cancer surgery earlier this week.

“I’m going home, which could be the most agreeable feeling a person can have after such an experience,” Santos said outside Bogota’s Santa Fe Foundation hospital, where he underwent a surgical procedure to remove a malignant tumor.

“I’m completely cured,” said the president, who left the medical center unassisted, accompanied by his wife, Maria Clemencia Rodriguez de Santos, and the doctors in charge of his operation and subsequent recovery.

Santos was operated on Wednesday morning for a cancerous tumor of the prostate gland, an condition that he himself made known two days before in a speech to the country.

“Yesterday (Friday) it was reconfirmed that the cancer had not metastasized,” the president said, adding that the specialists handling the operation made 19 or 20 biopsies, none of which showed signs of cancer.

The president attributed the success of the operation that cured him to the tumor being detected “in time” in a diagnosis by his physician, the urologist and surgeon Felipe Gomez.

The diagnosis was checked by Santos with American specialists during the last week of September when he went to New York to take part in the U.N. General Assembly.

Those specialists confirmed the diagnosis and also agreed that he should be operated.

On Friday, in a fifth medical report, the Santa Fe Foundation hospital annouced that Santos would be discharged Saturday and that he would be disabled.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Publishing Company Awards Novel of Mexican Author Daniel Krauze

Publishing Company Awards Novel of Mexican Author Daniel Krauze

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The novel “Dias de Lava” (Days of Lava) by Mexican writer Daniel Krauze was honored in the inaugural edition of the Nuevas Letras Prize, awarded by the Planeta publishing corporation and the Sanborns Group, and includes a cash prize of 1 million pesos (about $78,000).

“‘Dias de Lava’ is the winning novel in the first year of the Letras Nuevas (New Writing) Prize, written by a very young Mexican talent,” the organizing committee said on its Web page.

It also congratulated Daniel Krauze, son of the writer Enrique Krauze, “for winning the Nuevas Letras Prize for the Novel, and to Gerardo Gutierrez for the honorary mention he obtained.”

The prizewinning novel tells the story of a Mexican called Matias, who after the death of his father returns to his own country after living abroad for six years, only to come face to face with what made him leave in the first place.

Matias finally goes through a painful process of readaptation in which “he has to deal with his own past of destroying the lives of all those he left and all those who loved him,” a review of the work says.

Krauze’s published works include the volumes of poetry “Cuenta Regresiva” (Countdown) in 1992 and “Llama” (Call) in 2008, and the novels “Otros Tiempos” (Other Times) in 1999 and “Duelo de Noche” (Night Sorrow) in 2006.

The Letras Nuevas Prize was awarded at the Soumaya Museum in Carso Plaza, and the jury was made up of Angeles Mastretta, Marisol Schulz, Francisco Martin Moreno, Fernando Solana and Gabriel Sandoval.

The Sanborns and Planeta groups see the new prize as “an important step in the promotion and acknowledgment of Mexican writers and their peerless storytelling quality.”

The winning work will be published by the Joaquin Mortiz firm and will be presented at this year’s Guadalajara International Book Fair.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Brazil’s Awá Tribe Blockades Railway in Protest

Brazil’s Awá Tribe Blockades Railway in Protest

Photo: Awá blockading the railway (Survival)

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A protest involving Earth’s most threatened tribe, the Awá, has forced the world’s largest iron ore mine to suspend operations along its main railway line.

On Tuesday, hundreds of Indians including the Awá, took to the tracks of Vale’s Carajás railway to voice their opposition to Brazilian government plans that could weaken their land rights, if legalized.

The demonstration follows months of anger surrounding a draft text called Directive 303, which prohibits the expansion of indigenous territories.

The government has refused to scrap the proposed directive, despite it violating national and international laws by suggesting certain projects can be carried out on Indian land without proper consultation.

Frustrations spilled over on Tuesday, with several different tribes uniting to demand that their land rights are respected.

The blockade is the latest in a string of controversies to involve mining giant Vale, whose railway borders the territory of the Awá.

Last month, a judge reversed a ruling that had stopped the company from doubling its railway line to increase production.

The decision was a blow for the Awá, who blame the railway for bringing thousands of invaders into their lands and scaring off the animals they hunt.

Read more at Survival International →

Amnesty International: 40 Central American Migrants Kidnapped in Mexico

Amnesty International: 40 Central American Migrants Kidnapped in Mexico

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At least 40 Central American migrants were abducted this week while crossing southeastern Mexico en route to the United States, Amnesty International said Friday.

The migrants were pulled off a freight train in Medias Aguas, Veracruz state, the Mexico chapter of AI said, citing accounts from witnesses.

An estimated 140,000 Central Americans undertake the hazardous journey across Mexico each year on their way to the United States, down from nearly 300,000 annually before the U.S. economic downturn of 2008.

The trek is a dangerous one, with criminals and corrupt Mexican officials preying on the migrants.

Central American migrants follow a long route that first takes them into Chiapas, which is on the border with Guatemala, walking part of the way or riding aboard freight trains, buses and cargo trucks.

“Thousands of migrants have been abducted and often murdered, victims of rape and abuses by criminal bands that operate in collusion with public authorities,” AI said.

In 2010, the Los Zetas drug cartel massacred 72 migrants who refused to work for the criminal organization.

Read more by HS News Staff →

INFOGRAPHIC: Big Brothers Big Sisters Needs A Few Good Hombres y Mujeres As Mentors

INFOGRAPHIC: Big Brothers Big Sisters Needs A Few Good Hombres y Mujeres As Mentors

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In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15), Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is launching LatinoBigs.org, the nation’s first bilingual website focused on one-to-one long-term youth mentoring services.  The website will feature and engage Big Brothers Big Sisters mentors and mentees; families, supporters and donors.

Latinos represent 20 percent of children and 9 percent of volunteers Big Brothers Big Sisters serves through its 350-agency nationwide mentoring network.  At the same time, Latino children, predominately boys, comprise 19 percent of the children who are waiting to be matched.  Among the organization’s goals with LatinoBigs.org is to recruit more Latino men to become mentors.

LatinoBigs.org will feature honorary Big Campeones, business, education and juvenile justice leaders; members of the mentoring network’s National Hispanic Advisory Council; and others who support and promote the program.  The site will also highlight video testimonials from Latino mentors and mentees who will share stories of how the program impacts their lives.  In addition, LatinoBigs.org will feature popular Hispanic bloggers, enabling the mentoring network to leverage the power of social media to recruit volunteers and donors.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America has created an infographic depicting the importance BBBS has had on the community and calling for new mentors:

Click to enlarge.

Read more by HS News Staff →

20-Year-Old Brazilian Auctioning Off her Virginity for Charity-  Well at Least 10%

20-Year-Old Brazilian Auctioning Off her Virginity for Charity-  Well at Least 10%

Photo: Virginity for Sale in Brazil

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Catarina Migliorini, 20, is set to donate the money — currently standing at 160,000 dollars — into a NGO that will construct modern houses in her southern home state of Santa Catarina, the New York Daily News reported.

The physical education student has rejected the claims that she is a prostitute. She said that she still believed in love, but in this initiative she saw the opportunity to make a positive difference to the world.

Migliorini has also sparked a controversy, as an Australian film crew will be following her every step to make a documentary film called “Virgins Wanted.”

“I saw this as a business. I have the opportunity to travel, to be part of a movie and get a bonus with it,” Brazilian daily Folha quoted her, as saying.

“If you only do it once in your life then you are not a prostitute, just like if you take one amazing photograph it does not automatically make you a phototgrapher.

“The auction is just business, I’m a romantic girl at heart and believe in love. But this will make a big difference to my area,” she said.

Migliorini jumped on the project two years ago when she saw an advertisement by Thomas Williams Productions looking for a virgin to film.

Director Justin Sisely will be recording her emotions before and after her first sexual encounter.

A male virgin called Alexander is also being followed similarly.

She will receive 20,000 dollars and 90 percent of the final auction price, which ends on October 15.

Woman Puts Her Virginity Up for Auction by GeoBeats

Read more by HS News Staff →

On Eve of Election: Chavez Opponents Say Venezuela Not Democratic

On Eve of Election: Chavez Opponents Say Venezuela Not Democratic

Photo: Sunday is Venezuela Presidential Election

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Sunday’s election in Venezuela is just a day away, and opinion polls are predicting a close race between President Hugo Chavez and his opponent Henrique Capriles.  While the opposition is guardedly optimistic, critics charge the process has not been fair and that Chavez has abused his power as president to gain political advantage, punish opponents and intimidate voters.

In Venezuela, government offices and workers are routinely used to support President Chavez’s political campaign.

Venezuelan Congresswoman Maria Corina Machado says this is just one example of how Chavez is abusing his power to undermine the democratic process.

“People perhaps think that, because Venezuela has had 19 elections during the Hugo Chavez era, there might be democracy in Venezuela. The fact is there is no separation of powers, no freedom of speech.  There is no respect for private property,” she said.

Machado says Chavez has unfairly dominated the airwaves by requiring TV and radio stations to broadcast his speeches and closing down TV stations like RCTV that voice criticism of his policies.  RCTV lost its broadcast license five years ago and today has only a small staff to maintain a news website.

Congressman Carlitos Ortega, a Chavez supporter, denies there is any suppression of dissent.  He says the case of RCTV was not about politics. “For example it [RCTV]  showed pornography. It promoted prostitution after 10 at night. It flaunted young girls on a program called Hot Line in the early evening.  This is not permitted by law,” he explained.

Ortega says other independent stations like Globovision still operate and often criticize the government.

Opposition figure Diego Arria says Chavez illegally seized some of his land after he publicly criticized the president.

“Why do I say this? Because this is a regime that is linked to narco-terrorist groups that one day could be subject to prosecution.  And so it was a process of political retaliation.” Arria said.

Chavez supporters say decisions to seize under-utilized property from rich landowners are made to best serve the public interest, not as a vendetta.

Congresswoman Machado says there is a growing pattern of intimidation that includes the recruitment of militias around the country to protect Chavez’s socialist revolution.  She says these abuses of power have helped create an atmosphere of fear that could suppress opposition voter turnout.

“Even though technical people tell us that the electoral system, the automated voting system, grants the security of the vote, almost 40 percent of the Venezuelan population believe the government will know how they vote,” said Machado.

But Congressman Ortega says the opposition is just making excuses because its candidate and his policies are not popular with the people.

“In Venezuela no one is afraid to vote. This is a psychological strategy that the opposition uses to motivate their supporters because Capriles is an awful candidate, and they have abused this strategy to the extreme.” he said.

Sunday’s vote may determine the next president but the debate on the state of democracy in Venezuela will continue long after.

Read more at Voice of America →

Government Admits Soldiers Fired on Guatemalans Protesting Constitutional Changes

Government Admits Soldiers Fired on Guatemalans Protesting Constitutional Changes

Photo: Guatemalans mourning the deaths

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Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina acknowledged Friday that army troops fired their weapons during a confrontation with protesters in the western province of Totonicapan, an incident resulting in the deaths of six peasants.

“In the preliminary investigation that the Defense Ministry carried out, there are seven soldiers who accepted that they went there as security and, on seeing themselves threatened, feared for their safety and began to fire into the air,” Perez Molina said in a press conference at a brigade headquarters in the capital.

Hundreds of people mobilized early Thursday to block the Interamerican highway at six different points in Totonicapan province.

The protest was spurred by proposed constitutional changes, an overhaul of the curriculum for aspiring teachers and a recent hike in electric rates.

Two truckloads of army troops were sent to the spot known as Alaska to assist police trying to clear the highway.

The violence began, Perez Molina said, when a private security guard traveling on a cargo truck fired his gun in an attempt to clear a path through the crowd.

The two army trucks happened to be directly behind the cargo truck. While most of the troops weren’t carrying guns, 11 soldiers had combat rifles.

Seven of the 11 armed troops fired into the air to disperse the protesters, who, according to the president “tried to lynch” the soldiers.

The private security guard and the seven soldiers who fired their weapons have been placed at the disposition of prosecutors, but the troops will remain with the army pending the completion of the investigation, Defense Minister Ulises Anzueto said.

Eight soldiers who were injured in Thursday’s episode were presented to reporters at the press conference.

A total of 36 protesters were shot, while four others were injured by tear gas.

Perez Molina - a retired army general - and his administration initially insisted that the soldiers at the scene did not fire their weapons, despite widely circulated images of a soldier with his rifle raised and pointed at the protesters.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Spaniard Responsible for Cuban Dissidents’ Deaths Regrets “Unfortunate” Accident

Spaniard Responsible for Cuban Dissidents’ Deaths Regrets “Unfortunate” Accident

Photo: Angel Carromero

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Spaniard Angel Carromero expressed his regrets Friday for the “unfortunate” traffic accident in which Cuban dissidents Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero died, during his trial here on charges of negligent homicide.

The Granma provincial court is trying Carromero for the July 22 accident near Bayamo, located some 750 kilometers (460 miles) east of Havana.

The young Spaniard told the court of his “deep sense of shame for the unfortunate accident” that took the lives of Paya, leader of the opposition Christian Liberation Movement, and Cepero, when he crashed his car into a tree.

“I’m deeply sorry,” Carromero told the court.

Cuban authorities blame the accident on excessive speed and the driver’s failure to heed warning signs about road construction. They say the car was going 120 kph (nearly 75 mph) along a stretch of highway where the speed limit was 60 kph (around 37 mph).

Carromero, the 27-year-old leader of a youth group in Spain’s governing Popular Party, appeared calm during his deposition before the court.

In his testimony he repeated the statement he made during the investigation, that he was driving at a speed of between 80 and 90 kph (50 and 56 mph).

And he again admitted that “unfortunately” he lost control of the car upon entering a stretch of road full of potholes and road work.

After his initial statement, Carromero was interrogated by the prosecutor, who is asking for a seven-year prison sentence, and also by his defense counsel, Dorisbel Rojas Perez.

She insistently questioned witnesses about the visibility of signs warning about road construction and the reasons why those signs were relocated after the accident.

Several witnesses said the signs were moved to preserve the skid marks of Carromero’s car after he entered the stretch covered with gravel.

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Latino Decisions Poll: Obama Leading Romney Among Florida, Nevada Hispanic Voters

Latino Decisions Poll: Obama Leading Romney Among Florida, Nevada Hispanic Voters

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U.S. President Barack Obama is ahead of Republican rival Mitt Romney in Hispanic voter preference in the states of Florida and Nevada, according to a new poll by Latino Decisions for America’s Voice.

In Florida, 56 percent of the 400 Hispanic registered voters said they will definitely vote for Obama in the Nov. 5 election, against 27 percent who said they would vote for Romney.

In the state of Nevada, 69 percent of those polled said they will definitely vote for the Democratic incumbent, while 15 percent said they would support the Republican candidate, according to the survey.

“It looks at this moment that Obama has a tremendous advantage among Latino voters, above all in Nevada where the Latino community is mostly made up of Mexicans and Central Americans,” America’s Voice executive director Frank Sharry told Efe during a forum at the University of Miami.

“In Florida it’s less, but it’s significant that one out of every two Latinos support Obama,” he said.

If that doesn’t change, he said, Obama will have the “chance to steal Florida from Romney,” who, according to most analysts, must take either Ohio or the Sunshine State to win in November.

Sharry recalled that in 2008 Obama won 57 percent of the Latino vote in Florida, and four years before Repubican George W. Bush took 56 percent of the Hispanic vote here.

Asked to which factor he attributed the strong support for Obama among Florida Latinos, Sharry said it was the immigration issue.

“The composition of the Hispanic vote is changing in this state, the fastest growing group in the community are Latin Americans, for whom immigration is a major issue,” he said.

Romney maintains strong support among Florida’s Cuban-American community, he said.

Though Obama was unable to keep his promise to pass immigration reform in his first term and his administration broke deportation records, his Deferred Action program, which offers undocumented youth a reprieve from deportation, sparked voter enthusiasm in the president’s favor, according to the study.

Thirty-six percent of those interviewed in Florida said that immigration reform and the DREAM Act - a measure to legalize many undocumented young people - are important matters that must be resolved by the president and Congress.

For 52 percent of the sample, the economy and unemployment are key topics in this year’s elections, while 15 percent pointed to education.

With regard to Romney’s position on immigration, Sharry told Efe that the Republican candidate has said that Arizona’s anti-immigrant law SB1070 is a “model” for the country, that he would oppose the DREAM Act and that “he wants a self-deportation strategy” for the undocumented.

Sixty-seven percent of Latino voters in Nevada and 57 percent in Florida said that these positions have diluted enthusiasm for Romney, according to the study.

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Uruguay Signs Offshore Oil Agreements with European Firms

Uruguay Signs Offshore Oil Agreements with European Firms

Photo: France's Total

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The Uruguayan government on Friday signed a series of offshore exploration and production deals with British oil firms BG Group, BP plc and Tullow Oil and France’s Total.

The contracts were presented to the media in a ceremony presided over by Energy Minister Roberto Kreimerman and the CEO of state oil company Ancap, Raul Sendic, and attended by the heads of the respective foreign oil firms.

“This is a day to celebrate the progress of our energy policy in general and Ancap’s policy in the search for the sovereign resources this country has,” Kreimerman said, adding that the agreements are a milestone in the country’s history.

The companies awarded 30-year concession contracts in April for the eight oil blocks - three each for BG and BP and one each for Tullow and Total - have committed to investing a total of roughly $1.56 billion.

The contracts, the terms of which are extendable for an additional 10 years, are part of the Uruguayan government’s plan to diversify the national energy matrix and reduce its dependence on fuel imports, Kreimerman said.

Sendic said the signing of the contracts for the eight offshore blocks marked a “historic day” for this nation of 3 million inhabitants and hailed the strong interest in the auction.

“It’s difficult in a risky basin (for investors) like the Uruguay II Platform for there to be such a high level of interest by companies,” he said.

A score of companies submitted bids to explore for oil and natural gas in Uruguay’s territorial waters.

If hydrocarbons are discovered, Uruguay could partner with the successful bidders to develop the areas by taking stakes in the blocks ranging from 22 percent to 35 percent.

The Uruguay Round II was launched in September 2011 after exploration carried out by Ancap revealed traces of hydrocarbons in the marine subsoil.

A total of 15 blocks were on offer in the auction covering a 101,000-sq.-kilometer (39,000-sq.-mile) area.

In an earlier bidding process, the Uruguayan government awarded two offshore exploration and production blocks to an international consortium made up of Argentina’s YPF, Brazil’s Petrobras and Portugal’s Galp Energia.

Uruguay imports all of the oil it consumes, mainly from Venezuela - which supplies 40 percent of the total - Angola and Russia.

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Protests in Guatemala Leave 4 Dead, 20 Injured

Protests in Guatemala Leave 4 Dead, 20 Injured

Photo: Guatemala

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Four people were killed and more than 20 others wounded Thursday in confrontation between protesters and security forces in the western Guatemalan province of Solola, authorities said.

All of the fatalities were civilians, while the injured include seven soldiers.

Enraged local residents refused to allow authorities to remove the bodies of the dead, a spokesman for fire rescue told the media.

A dozen people were taken to nearby hospitals with gunshot wounds, the spokesman said, while one protester was struck by a tear-gas canister.

Peasants, students and others gathered early Thursday to block the Interamerican highway at several points west of Guatemala City to protest an increase in electric rates and a planned overhaul of the educational system, among other grievances.

Violence erupted when police moved in to clear the road.

The deaths took place at a spot in Santa Maria Ixtahuacan, Solola province, according to initial reports.

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SaturdayOctober 6, 2012