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Every country, every month

Reflections and commentary on articles appearing in ISLA by Karen Crump, Chief Editor.

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AUGUST 2012 issue

Our new feature, "Published and Cited", documenting citations and published articles appearing in ISLA from scholars affiliated with subscribing universities appears at the bottom of this email.
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  • Students on the move!


Mexico –Students lead anti-fraud protests following presidential elections. (ISLA, pp. 105,

Chile –Students struggle relentlessly to reform a dictatorship-era educational system, while police react using tactics reminiscent of the Pinochet years. Activists from the 80’s form UN modeled organizations to curtail and monitor violations. (ISLA, pp. 129, 130 )

Brazil –President Rousseff signs the Law of Social Quotas, acknowledging a historical debt to people of African descent, and designating 50% of public university admissions for people of color. (ISLA, p. 205


  • Honduras –U.S. involvement in Honduras has grown in utter silence -until recently. The press ramps up scrutiny while UCSC’s Dana Frank provides biting commentary. (ISLA pp. 49-52 )



  • Central America –With peace talks in Colombia taking shape, the 25th anniversary of the Esquipulas accords warrants reflection. The Christian Science Monitor is the only newspaper to take note of the date in a news article. The Miami Herald publishes an opinion piece from Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Oscar Arias. (ISLA, P. 117, 118 )
  • Violence against Women


Mexico- The State of Mexico, Pena Nieto’s territory, demonstrated little interest in addressing the growing number of femicides. (ISLA, p. 5 )

Colombia –Acid attacks, a form of revenge seen mostly in Asia and Africa, emerges in Colombia. (ISLA, p. 146 )



  • U.S. Immigration Insanity  -Advising a six-year-old he needs a lawyer? Read this Kafkaesque report from the New York Times for a much needed look at how children are treated in the U.S. immigration system. (ISLA, p. 245,



Dana Frank, University of California, Santa Cruz, p. 51

Carolyn Cooper, University of West Indies, p. 96

J. Randolph Hecht, University of California, Los Angeles, p. 183

Pierpalo Barbieri, Harvard University, p. 198

Albert Fishlow, Columbia University, p. 208

Steven Raphael, University of California, Berkeley, p. 252

July 2012 issue

New feature!! “Published and Cited”, citations and published articles appearing in ISLA from scholars affiliated with subscribing universities.

  • Mexican Elections

Commentary and analysis, ISLA, pp. 21-32,
Related news coverage, ISLA, pp. 1-21,

  • Immigration

USC’s Robert Suro adds the voice of reason to a passionate issue. ISLA, pp. 255-257,

  • Honduras

Deadly land conflicts shake the Bajo Aguan Valley. ISLA, p. 63,

  • Cuba

A brusque decline in Cuban bank deposits spurs speculation. ISLA, p. 71,
Varela Project organizer and independent dissident, Oswaldo Paya, is killed in a car accident. ISLA, pp. 86-98,

  • Dominican Republic

Learning from Trujillo’s legacy. ISLA, pp. 111, 112,

  • Haiti

The New York Times questions the wisdom of Sae-A’s investment in Haiti. ISLA, pp. 115-119,
Ambassador Merten lauds the decision. ISLA, p. 122,

  • Colombia

Indigenous community says “enough!” to both the guerrillas and the army. ISLA, pp. 149-152,

  • Venezuela

Presidential campaign officially kicks off. ISLA, pp. 167-172,
Chinese investment and financing. ISLA p.176,
US presidential contenders examine Venezuela’s importance to national security. ISLA, pp. 177-179,

  • Argentina

16 year trial ends in guilty verdict for former military rulers. ISLA, pp. 187-189,

  • Brazil

Brazil’s economy –booming, popping, sizzling, or sputtering? Opinions abound, however ISLA press monitoring reveals Brazilian economic activity surpasses all other nations in the region by leaps and bounds. ISLA, pp. 199-216,, 241,

  • Uruguay

Uruguay implements a novel, non-violent approach to tackle drug trafficking. ISLA, p. 239,

  • US Presidential Elections

The dark underpinnings of Mitt Romney’s wealth. ISLA, pp. 272, 273,


Mining & minerals across the region: pp. 53, 113, 147, 163, 206, 207

Published & Cited! Short list
Pamela Starr, University of Southern California, pp. 15, 26, 33
Carmelo Mesa-Lago, University of Pittsburgh, p. 79
Yasmine Shamsie, Wilfrid Laurier, p. 117
Marcos Troyjo, Columbia University, p. 200
Morris Panner, Harvard University, p. 237
Mark Kleiman, UCLA, 237
Sheba Meymandi, UCLA 243
Robert Suro, University of Southern California, 255-257

Edgardo Buscaglia, Columbia University, p. 236












  • US presidential elections

Republican presidential candidates land in Puerto Rico desperately seeking the 20 delegates needed to pump up their numbers. The winner (with 50% or more of the votes) takes all. Candidates appear to chafe at strong cultural differences (ISLA, pp. 155-160, affirming Andres Oppenheimer’s contention that Republicans/Romney have a “serious Hispanic problem” (ISLA, p. 296,

  • The Wall Street Journal’s Anastasia O’Grady succeeds in convincing one reader that Governor Fortuno’s plan to install a 92 mile gas pipeline down the middle of Puerto Rico is the best option for resolving the energy crisis (letter to the editor, p. 152,; O’Grady’s article, ISLA, p. 113, ) ISLA requested a response from  University of Puerto Rico’s Dr. Arturo Massol, who successfully refutes O’Grady’s argument, inviting a change of heart. Take a look at Dr. Massol’s response


  • Mexico’s presidential elections

Never short on intrigue, Mexico’s presidential elections pepper the press with stories of corruption, wire-taps, unfair media moves, and even allegations that the Conservative candidate, also the first female presidential candidate in the nation’s history, may be suffering from anorexia. (ISLA, pp. 1-9,
The lack of substance evident in the presidential campaign contrasts greatly with the serious problems facing the nation. An ineffective judicial system, resulting in impunity for the worst offenders and a flaming demise for petty criminals, impacts every aspect of society and is brilliantly documented by Damian Cave in the New York Times (ISLA, p. 14,

  • The Pope’s visit to Cuba was the leading news story this month. News on the Church and the Pope’s visit begins on page 76 with ample reporting, editorials and opinion pieces (ISLA pp. 76-113,  -the first of three links)


  • Although Chevron was taken aback by Maria das Gracas Foster’s hard line on oil spills, environmentalists across the globe applaud her zero tolerance for leaks. Indeed, destructive leaks have occurred in many nations with oil companies usually paying damages or subjecting victims to endless litigation (as Chevron has done in Ecuador). Individuals have not been criminally charged any place in the world until das Gracas took on Chevron in Brazil, according to Robert Percival, a University of Maryland environmental law professor cited in the Wall Street Journal (ISLA, pp. 251-255, )



  • ISLA’s press coverage of Bolivia rarely exceeds more than a page or two, and is absent altogether some months. We include everything we receive, most of which comes from the Manchester Guardian (ISLA,  p. 177,, however press interest has waned. We understand many people are starved for information on Bolivia’s dynamic social movements and groundbreaking government. ISLA recommends you join scholars, activists and community leaders at the LASA Conference in San Francisco. There will be sessions on alternative development models in Bolivia, the future of Bolivian studies, as well as women, ethnicity and race. More information on the Bolivia sessions.


  • Gold mining’s pernicious effect on the environment resonates loudly in Latin America, so a little good news is more than welcome! Check the Miami Herald’s Jim Wyss reporting on Colombia’s green gold mining in the Choco by Afro-descendents using technology developed hundreds of years ago. The process eschews mercury and is quite time consuming, however green certified gold sells at a premium –15% higher than market value. Perhaps the extra price will motivate others to practice fluvial mining, helping Colombia drop from the top of the UN’s list of leading mercury producers (ISLA, p. 189, )







  • Mirroring Colombia’s drug war, Mexico now faces many of the undesirable repercussions plaguing Colombia during peak drug war years. Death and displacement tolls mount, official links to traffickers and gangs are widespread, and human rights abuses cloaked in “false-positives” have come to light. The Wall Street Journal investigates. (ISLA, p. 8)



  • Recent Cuba reforms have begun to reveal both strengths and weaknesses. ISLA’s coverage of Cuba reflects a similar phenomenon. While publications such as the New York Times, Washington Post and Financial Times are able to convey a more balanced perspective, politically charged Miami skews the Herald’s coverage. Examine the contrast. (ISLA, pp. 63-69)



  • The Falkland/Malvinas Islands dominate the press on Argentina as the 30th Anniversary of the conflict draws closer. The British prepare for the occasion by sending a nuclear powered submarine to the region and conducting military exercises. Argentina has lodged a formal complaint at the United Nations and received demonstrations of solidarity from neighboring countries.(ISLA, pp. 187-193)



  • The Christian Science Monitor (ISLA p. 205) provides much needed insight into the problems afflicting Brazil’s police force as police strikes envelop a growing number of states throughout the nation. Police involvement in militias and an up-tick in violent crime form cause for concern. (ISLA pp. 201-206)



  • Political infighting mars President Martelly’s administration, prompting Prime Minister Conille’s resignation. Finding a PM that satisfies both the president and the legislature has been a challenge. (ISLA, pp. 95-101)


  • Although the press vilifies President Correa, he enjoys approval ratings exceeding 70% at home. Jayati Ghosh of the Guardian Weekly explores Ecuador’s new vision and the reforms fueling Correa’s popularity. (ISLA, p. 142)



  • Panama’s Ngabe-Bugle, Kuna and Embera communities resist government approved Canadian-Korean investment plans for mining in an area impacting their livelihood and well being. Although the corporations involved have promised to adhere to stringent environmental safety standards, their promises have been met with skepticism.  Organizers vow to continue protests, despite fierce repression. (ISLA, p. 61)





Hot topic –elections





New feature – you will find a new feature, OJO, below the highlights. Quick links to hot topics transcending borders. This month’s hotties include the decriminalization debate, prisons and a dose of the positive (a hodgepodge of good news from the south.)



  • Guantanamo -although mired in controversy, one issue remains out of the news: the US occupation of Cuban soil dating back to 1901. The New York Times breaks the silence with Jonathan Hansen’s excellent opinion piece. Hansen, Harvard lecturer and author of Guantanamo: An American History, advocates for an end to this unwelcome presence on the island, encouraging President Obama to initiate the return of Guantanamo Naval Base to Cuba as a matter of principle (ISLA, p. 103)



  • Never shy about covering conflict, the Miami Herald’s Frances Robles, recipient of two Pulitzer prizes and the IAPA news coverage award (2003) for her Colombia reporting, has now taken on Honduras. As evident during her stay in Colombia, Robles is not one to accept the official story and once she clears things up, she does name names. “Murder Capital of the World”, appearing in this issue, provides novel insight into law enforcement and prisons in Honduras (ISLA, p. 53).


  • Meanwhile, Dana Frank exposes human rights violations throughout the country, revealing the coup deposing Zelaya as a leap down a slippery slope and into the abyss. Frank is critical of US policy during this pivotal juncture, as well as US support for elections following the coup. Her analysis of events in the country manages to piece together the snippets of news appearing over the past few months (ISLA, p. 58.)



  • Brazil forges ahead, tackling issues such as police abuse and the militias (ISLA, p.222), corruption (ISLA, p.223), impunity, gender, race, class and income disparities at a brisk clip, putting other nations to shame. It is no surprise that President Rousseff is now the most popular president in Brazil’s history at the first year mark, even surpassing Lula. (ISLA, p.129)
  • Under President Rousseff, the Truth Commission is moving forward, documenting human rights abuses occurring over 21 years of military rule (ISLA, p.221). .
  • Petrobras now has a woman at the helm. Maria de las Gracas Foster has been appointed to the position –a first in the company’s history (ISLA, p.233) and likely to spur the “Dilma effect” evident during mayoral elections last month, in this arena as well.





                        Mexico p. 6

                        Honduras p. 53

                        Haiti p. 131

                       Venezuela p. 194


            Decriminalization of Drugs
                        Andean General pp. 207-209

                        Latin America General p. 262

            GOOD NEWS

                        Fair Trade makes a difference in Nicaragua (p.67)

                        Alvaro Cogollo kindles interest in Colombia’s biodiversity ( p.171)

                        ‘Extinct” tortoises come back to life on the Galapagos (p.182 )

                        President Fernandez de Kirchner’s cancer diagnosis reversed
                        (pp. 211, 212)

                        Brazil improves labor conditions (p. 228)



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  • Rape, torture, disappearance –the work of drug traffickers and criminals? Not according to the International Criminal Court (ISLA, p. 1  , the Inter-American Court (ISLA, p. 3) or the U.S. Dept. of Justice (ISLA, p. 4). In each case, the perpetrators of abuse were identified as Mexican authorities.


  • The worst drought in history hits Durango (ISLA, p. 33, ,Zacatecas, Coahuila and San Luis Potosi, wiping out food crops and enlivening drug-related activity as cartels pounce on a vulnerable population. Check the past few issues of ISLA for growing drug-related violence in these states.
  • Lead levels in children surge around battery recycling plants in Mexico (ISLA, p. 29, ) Toxic waste exports from the U.S. to Mexico have more than tripled since 2007. Meanwhile, Mexico’s lead exports to China have tripled accordingly. Elizabeth Rosenthal of the New York Times documents and exposes this toxic trade.



  • Fulton Armstrong, a former National Intelligence Officer for Latin America and advisor to President Clinton, addresses the larger issues surrounding continued imprisonment of Alan Gross, and the trajectory of U.S. Cuba policy. His hard-hitting piece minces no words and is bound to generate controversy (ISLA, p. 80, ) William LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh weigh in on the Gross affair with concrete steps geared toward creating a favorable climate for his release (ISLA, p. 85, )



  • The landmark trial of 13 police officers accused of a prison massacre at Les Cayes is coming to an end. The New York Times provided moving coverage in our November issue, however closing arguments were a Miami Herald exclusive. Judge Ezekiel Vaval will write his verdict from New York, where he has taken refuge in the wake of serious threats to his family and life (ISLA, p.109, )


  • From gung-ho, to tentative –a step in the right direction for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. With the EPA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service joining thousands of people expressing concern about a gas pipeline, the Corp now describes a decision to forgo an environmental impact report as “tentative.” The government plans to run a natural gas pipeline down the middle of Puerto Rico’s rainforest (ISLA, p. 121, ) Additional information on this project is available at Democracy Now! in Amy Goodman’s interview with Dr. Massol -



  • President Morales tackles education reform, highlighting cultural sensitivity, while attempting to reconcile the urban/rural divide. Although changes are heralded by many Aymara and Quechua speakers, other sectors of the population are claiming “reverse discrimination” (ISLA, p. 131 )



  • Rabid opposition to Newmont Mining Corps plans for the Conga mining project yield yet another casualty –Chief of Cabinet, Salomon Lerner, has resigned. Community opposition centers around concerns for water, soil and air safety, which often fall victim to mining companies and have not been fully assessed, according to protesters. (ISLA, pp. 147-151, ) .






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  • Mark Weisbrot goes where others fear to tread: Honduras. With characteristic tenacity, Weisbrot criticizes Obama administration policy and actions from head to toe in a Manchester Guardian commentary. (ISLA, p. 59


  • The New York Times eloquently depicts the landmark trial of 13 officers involved in the January 2010 massacre at Les Cayes Prison. In May 2010, the Times revealed eyewitness testimony directly contradicting the official version of the massacre, prompting a UN investigation leading to the trial. (ISLA, p.113
  • President Martelly’s plan to restore Haiti’s army generates numerous editorials expressing vigorous opposition. (ISLA pp. 117-119







  • Although US immigration policy has pretty much shut the door on immigrants from Mexico, the drug war continues to motivate a sizable exodus of traumatized young people. The press has begun to examine their plight. (ISLA, pp. 39-41



  • The Wall Street Journal asserts that corruption is "Lula’s legacy" in a shortsighted article investigating corruption only as far back as the da Silva administration. (ISLA, p. 213 ) The article fails to note that the Brazilian press was fully invigorated under Lula, resulting in greater transparency and consequent purging of corrupt officials -a legacy sustained by the Rousseff administration.
  • Chevron oil spill –follow it! (ISLA, pp. 225-232




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  • Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner wins the presidency in Argentina by a landslide –the largest victory margin for a presidential candidate in the past four decades. The economy continues to perk while Cristina addresses Dirty War violations with vigor. (ISLA pp.177-185  ) 
  • Mimi Whitefield of the Miami Herald takes a look at how women are faring throughout the Americas (ISLA p. 227 ), examining proactive versus laissez-faire strategies for bridging the gender gap. While previous articles in ISLA excluded any comparison with the US, where women are proportionately absent in government, this one does not.



  • The Miami Herald expands on the New York Times lobster-fishing story included in last month’s ISLA. The focus this month is a more lucrative catch  –“white lobster”, as cocaine is referred to in the region. (ISLA p. 43 )

Gay Rights

  • The Manchester Guardian reveals a highly successful strategy for ending discriminatory laws at a national level. The International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights is being used to challenge anti-gay legislation around the world (ISLA p. 131  ).


  • President Pinera loses his patience and popularity as student strikes continue. Adding insult to injury, he calls for a military draft, pitting educated youths against their less fortunate peers (ISLA pp. 143-145 ) Interviews with Chilean student leaders Camila Vallejo and Francisco Figueroa appear on our IGC web-site –


  • Douglas Cox has not forgotten about the 15,000 boxes of documents seized during the US invasion ousting President Noriega in Panama. The City of New York law library professor presents a compelling legal argument for returning the documents to Panama in the Los Angeles Times. (ISLA p. 49 )


  • With border security at the top of Republican presidential aspirants agendas, the Washington Post details one contender’s efforts toward that end -Texas Governor Rick Perry. His pricey approach: $4million for 25 cameras leading to 26 arrests at $153, 800 each; or Operation Border Star, for $890,000 leading to four gang arrests, six drug seizures and 8, 770 traffic stops over the course of one year. (ISLA p. 17

            The positive side: it appears border security was already in pretty good shape.


  • ISLA has included several articles on health-related research conducted in Latin America over the past year –more than any other time in our 42-year history. This month we include research on breast cancer in the Caribbean (ISLA p.51 ) and Alzheimer’s in Colombia (ISLA p. 159 ). Over the past few months we have included several alarming articles on the University of Pittsburgh discovery of documents detailing syphilis experiments conducted by the US Public Health Service on orphans, widows, military, mental patients in Guatemala. Given heightened levels of research, ethical and privacy issues are revisited for the first time in 30 years –read more (ISLA p. 242 )


  • Governor Luis Fortuno attempts to fast track a natural gas pipeline on the sunny island of Puerto Rico where green options abound. Casa Pueblo, a local environmental organization, spearheads a movement to stop the pipeline, insisting upon transparency in all decisions impacting the environment and  pushing the government to pursue green options to meet energy requirements (ISLA p. 123 )



            With US presidential elections moving forward, ISLA will soon feature immigration reform on our IGC web-site. As an ISLA reader, a Californian and a member of a family including many generations of immigrants, it is my most heartfelt wish that upcoming reforms reflect basic values -the well being of children, family unity, the right to an acceptable standard of living, and freedom of movement. Let’s move the discussion away from money (spending & contributing) and toward what is humane, honorable and worthy of our nation.
            Peace and good will to all in the New Year!
            Karen Crump –ISLA.



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  • Brazil forges ahead with its own recipe for economic success (pp. 170-190).
  • The Belo Monte dam project is halted for the second time due to environmental concerns and civic resistance (p. 168)
  • An extensive interview with famed author Paulo Coelho! (p. 191)




Highlights from ISLA -August 2011 issue


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  • Presidential primary election coverage: William Booth of the Washington Post reports from Mexico (pp. 48 & 49), and Alex Renderos of the Los Angeles Times chimes in from El Salvador (p. 47).  For additional information on the elections & media coverage visit
  • The Manchester Guardian remains dedicated to human rights coverage documenting efforts to force the Guatemalan government to acknowledge gender violence. Wartime rape victims are not eligible for compensation through the National Indemnity program, although rape was systematically used to terrorize the Mayan population. (p. 51)

  • From jazz to rock, from hip hop to nueva trova, culture on the island forges bonds. ISLA includes articles from the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Miami Herald, all with a positive beat. (pp. 95-100).

  • An estimated 600,000 people remain in camps nearly two years after the earthquake. How are women and children faring? (pp. 116-118)

  • Justice makes strides in Bolivia. A decision is imminent in an ongoing case involving violence against women in Mennonite communities (p. 135). Meanwhile, five former military commanders are convicted for genocide. (p. 136)

  • Scandals unfold implicating US aid and possibly US officials in serious abuses of power. The Washington Post begins coverage with a timeline of violence, controversy and corruption, documenting abuses during Uribe’s tenure (p. 153). The new Attorney General, Vivian Morales faces a lengthy interview with the Post’s Lally Weymouth (p. 155), as does President Santos (p. 156)

  • Professor Heather Williams of Pomona College presents an excellent op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times describing the human and environmental fall-out of the gold rush besetting Peru (p. 177)

  • Asylum, detention, deportations, federal versus state law, survival, upcoming elections in the US –pp. 231-264.


    ISLA’s Mexico coverage remains superlative.  Randal Archibald of the New York Times leads with a much-needed investigation of disappearances, reported at 5,300 since Calderon took office (p.1). Archibald notes that U.S. aid was held back in April due to human rights concerns. Nevertheless, Ginger Thompson, also from the New York Times, reports on August 7 (p. 13) and August 26 (p. 17) that the US plays a growing role in the drug war on Mexican soil, deploying CIA, DEA and military operatives, as well as drones; training federal police, upgrading equipment, including Black Hawk helicopters, and eavesdropping on cell-phone calls.

A hot topic: there are assertions that the US press sensationalizes violence in Mexico. With over 50,000 people dead, another 5,000 complaints of abuse, 5,300 disappeared, and growing US involvement, that doesn’t seem possible. While Mexico is not Ciudad Juarez and peace reigns in many areas, if only fleetingly, human rights abuses and levels of violence warrant international attention. More peaceful times are still within memory of even the youngest in Mexico.



Highlights from our July 2011 issue


  • The Mexico-US border: immigration, intersection, and the economy (pp. 31-45)
  • The drug war in Mexico leaves 40,000 dead, unknown numbers disappeared, countless
    imprisoned, families torn apart…meanwhile, opium production triples and Mexico becomes
    the number one producer of marijuana. After five years, many question this approach (pp. 8-
    40, 44).
  • In El Salvador, Pro-Busqueda and UC Berkeley collaborate to find children (now adults) who disappeared during the war (p.61).
  • The Manchester Weekly, a UK-based publication, continues as the solitary provider of information on Bolivia among ISLA sources (pp. 129, 130).
  • Labor clamors for a bigger slice of the pie. Strikes hit Chile (pp. 132-134).
  • President Humala defines his approach to governance in Peru (pp. 245-248)
  • Venezuela’s President Chavez is diagnosed which cancer (pp. 157-185) Upcoming presidential elections are pondered, along with economic ties to Cuba (pp. 239-242)
  • Brazil’s President Rousseff keeps poverty on the front burner. Women are the focus of Lua Nova, an organization supporting and training women for non-traditional jobs (p. 205).
  • Michelle Bachelet, head of the UN’s agency for Women, expounds on the status of women in ISLA’s Latin America General section. The British press provides ample coverage. The US press can’t seem to find the space (pp. 245-248).

Highlights from our June 2011 issue


  • Drug cartels in Mexico diversify operations. The Wall Street Journal implicates the Zetas in growing Pemex oil theft (p. 15).
  • The human side of a dark history comes to light as Marta Orellana, now 74 years of age, recounts her experiences as a 9 year-old orphan forced to participate in a US government  syphilis experiment in Guatemala (p. 58).
  • Senator Kerry questions the $20 million allocation for anti-Castro efforts in Cuba. (pp. 80-84)
  • Award winning journalist, Jacqueline Charles, explores wild disparities in Haiti’s earthquake toll figures (pp. 97, 98).
  • Approval of Chile’s Hidro-Aysen dam project, opposed by 60% of the population, erodes President Pienra’s popularity (pp. 142-145).
  • cuador tackles child labor in rural communities (p. 164).
  • Peru’s presidential elections (pp. 167-1850.
  • President Chavez’s ill health -Venezuela (pp. 196-208).
  • Brazilian environmental activists killed (pp. 227, 227). The Belo Monte dam project approved (pp. 229-231. The hottest economy in the region (pp. 237-260).
  • Drug war strategies questioned (pp. 267-281).
  • mmigration from the border fence to immigrant rights (pp. 298-318).



Highlights from our May 2011 issue


  • The 14th largest economy in the world, the richest man, and the longest work day -check Mexico's OECD ranking (p. 31). Coal, the "cheap" fuel that keeps most economies moving, claims 14 more lives. Mining disaster in Coahuila (pp. 36, 37).
  • Rene Emilio Ponce dies "unrepentant until the end", shortly before indicted by a Spanish judge for the harrowing massacre of eight people at the University of Central America in 1989 (six priests among them). El Salvador (pp. 43, 44).
  • John Kerry questions the use and efficacy of the $20 million in USAID money proposed for Cuba destabilization efforts (p. 76).
  • The International Institute for Strategic Studies in London produces a book based on examination of computer files appearing after the Colombian army raid on a FARC encampment in Ecuador in which commander Raul Reyes was killed (pp. 179-181). Meanwhile, the Supreme Court in Colombia declares these files as inadmissible evidence in ensuing trials (p 148)
  • Rep. Maurice Hinchey fails on his fourth try to compel the US Congress to declassify intelligence documents on Argentina originating between 1976 and 1983 (p. 187). T
  • he grisly organ-trade preys on poverty. Read Michael Smith's excellent exposé in our Latin America General section (p. 241).
  • Longstanding, dysfunctional immigration policy has created a lucrative industry. From the local coyote receiving $5-10,000 for transporting undocumented immigrants, to Boeing's billion dollar contract(s) for surveillance, to bloated government agencies employing progressively larger numbers of people (the Border Patrol, ICE and the prison system among them). Big business with a tragic human toll -ISLA has covered it all. Check pages 251-276 for this month's coverage, and pp. 263& 264 for insightful commentary by Clive Crooks and Andres Oppenheimer.


    Highlights from our April 2011 issue


  • Denise Dresser’s hard hitting analysis of Wikileaks assertions made by ambassador Pascual, and the US/Mexico response to them (p. 26).
  • The China factor pops up repeatedly in this issue, from largesse in Costa Rica (p. 39) to investments in Suriname (p. 144); the scope of regional ties is explored (p. 268).
  • The Miami Herald breaks from tradition, writing a favorable article about Nicaragua under Ortega (p. 48). Employment is up, trade with the US booming, Venezuelan funded social programs boost spending among the poor, and foreign investments reach record levels.
  • Cuba’s unprecedented Communist Party Congress, preceded by a consultation packet reaching 9 million people, received ample coverage in this issue (pp. 53-73).
  • The Manchester Guardian continues unparalleled environmental coverage, with letters to the editor highlighting vital twists in the topic at hand - Norway’s deal with Guyana to preserve the forest (pp. 107 & 108).
  • Familiar accusations against Humala resurface in Peru’s run-off vote for president (pp. 183-193.)
  • Brazil’s economy sweeps coverage for the region –a cursory glance reveals four out of five articles on economic issues in Latin America are dedicated to Brazil. Interested? Check pp. 223-251!
  • Border security versus border boredom (pp. 282 –287), the minds behind anti-immigrant organizations and policies (pp. 278-289), the efforts and viewpoints compelling change –immigration front and center.


    Highlights from our March 2011 issue


         Mexican mayors create private, Israeli-trained militias (p. 1, ISLA), while Colombia assumes the role of military guru for countries pursuing a similar drug war strategy (p. 179, ISLA.) For an in depth look at the results of Mexico’s current strategy, view our drug war coverage (pp. 1-35, 40-48, 149, 258, ISLA.)

    Climate Change

         Climate change hits the brew that keeps us all perking –coffee! Details in Costa Rica (p. 61, ISLA), Colombia (p. 185, ISLA) and Latin America General (p. 273,ISLA).


         Sustainable development gains urgency as people struggle to protect their health, the environment and their lifestyle. Confrontations in Panama (p. 73, ISLA) and Brazil (p. 231.) Positive measures in the Andean region (p. 211.)


         Gold fever has hit Latin America with lasting force: mercury pollution. Colombia is the world’s leading per-capita mercury polluter. Check for details on gold mining in Colombia (p. 183, ISLA), and Peru (p. 181, in this issue of ISLA, with more coverage last month)


         UCLA’s Laura Stemple takes a look at rape, advocating for a gender-neutral updating of the UN and US definition of rape. Currently, male-rape is viewed by both as torture, with only females fitting the bill for rape. The International Criminal Court adopted a gender-neutral definition reflecting a long-standing reality, encouraging men and women to unite and prosecute this devastating crime (p. 276, ISLA).

    Obama's Visit

         President Obama travels to a few countries in the region. See El Salvador (pp. 63-66, ISLA), Chile (pp. 161-169, ISLA), Brazil (pp. 219, 228, ISLA), and Latin America General (pp. 247-257.)


         Alan Gross goes to trial in Cuba (pp. 89-98, ISLA), while the Posada Carriles trial continues in the U.S. (pp. 279-284, ISLA.)


         Marifeli Perez-Stable reviews The Economics of Happiness in Latin America, by Margarita Corral, a Vanderbilt University graduate student. Most Latin American countries score well (p. 267, ISLA.)


    Highlights from our February 2011 issue


         Both the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times chimed in on Colombia’s plan to resettle the displaced –second only in population to Sudan’s (pp. 161 &162, ISLA).


         Peru’s economy may be red-hot in macro-economic terms, but basic social needs remain neglected. Andres Oppenheimer (p.183, ISLA) highlights the abysmal results of Peru’s educational system while the Guardian Weekly (p. 183, ISLA) looks at the bright side, focusing on a language-sensitive adult education program.


         Haitian presidential elections (pp. 103-115, ISLA).
    > ISLA press sources continue to scrutinize the outsourcing of humanitarian and reconstruction aid (pp. 127-132) with perseverance and aplomb. The Washington Post takes several NGO’s to task.

    Luis Posada Carriles

         Press interest in Luis Posada Carriles is on the wane, or perhaps he is too much of a hot potato. The only paper to fully cover the Posada Carriles trial has been the Miami Herald. (pp. 246-256, ISLA).

    Equal Rights

         While the Wall Street Journal examined appreciable inroads in government made by Latin American women (January 2011 ISLA), the Christian Science Monitor tackled advances in the social arena (p. 229, ISLA). Mexico, Chile and Ecuador are cited for proactive measures on every front –from redistribution of the domestic workload to penetrating upper echelons of the corporate world.

    Drug War

         Thank you Mary Anastasia O’Grady! This ultra-conservative writer from the Wall Street Journal hit the nail on the head in her February 28 essay on the drug war (p. 21, ISLA) She concludes: Why should Mexicans be asked to give their lives because Americans have a voracious appetite for mind-altering substances? Mr. Calderon has done little to elevate this question.


         Ignorance and an inability to cope with change have spawned a rash of vigilante acts culminating in the tragic death of nine-year-old Bricenia Flores in Arizona (p. 263, ISLA). Bricenia’s death reflects the ugly turn nationalistic, anti-immigrant rhetoric can take. We hope our readers will inform, educate, speak up and act with courage in defense of the international rights of men, women and children (pp. 257-275).


    Highlights from our January 2011 issue



  • Melting glaciers capture the eye of the press. Check Bolivia (NYT, ISLA, p.167) and Peru (WP, ISLA, p. 179).
  • Carbon trade negotiations underway. The Los Angeles Times explores negotiations between California and Chiapas (ISLA, p. 25), while the Financial Times dedicates ample space to Ecuador’s efforts (ISLA p. 179)
  • The consequences of global warming form a constant thread throughout ISLA. Check the monthly index listings ( ) for each country under environment, pollution, wildlife and calamities.



  • The Wall Street Journal flushes out the underpinnings of a veritable exodus of Cuban doctors on mission programs (an average of one per day are defecting) –p. 43, ISLA.



  • The Christian Science Monitor cracks the ice on a delicate topic –sexual abuse in the camps (p. 81, ISLA).
  • The Miami Herald investigates corruption and obstacles to the reconstruction process, the only paper to do so in a determined manner.( pp. 86-90, ISLA)
  • Bret Stephens from the Wall Street Journals (p. 92, ISLA) blames the Haitians for their misery in one of the most callous opinion pieces to ever occupy a full page in ISLA.



  • Evo Morales (pp. 164 & 165, ISLA) and Hugo Chavez (pp. 191, ISLA) retract price hikes on fuel after widespread criticism and protests, and despite ailing budgets and evident problems with fuel subsidies.

    Out To Lunch


  • Brazil’s first woman president, Dilma Rousseff, took office (pp. 209-214, ISLA). All ISLA sources weigh in, expect the Washington Post. As Bill Moyers once noted, what doesn’t appear in the press, speaks volumes.



  • Background on oil and commodity prices. (pp. 257-268, ISLA)
  • Luis Posada Carriles goes to trial. (pp. 269-277, ISLA)

    ISLA highlights: April 2007


    Highlights from our January 2007 issue


         “Guatemala still fights war legacy,” by Adriana Beltran appeared in the commentary section of the Miami Herald, January 2, 2007 (ISLA, January 2007, page 53.) Beltran launches her commentary by acknowledging the anniversary of the signing of peace accords in Guatemala. However, the focus of her article is on-going violence in Guatemala, violence linked to armed clandestine groups operating with impunity. Guatemala has called upon the UN for help in identifying and controlling armed actors, which the UN has agreed to provide. This is an important step forward, as noted by Beltran. The task will not be easy, and has not been left unexplored. Luis Solano’s recently published book, Guatemala: petroleo y mineria en las entranas del poder, digs deeply into the topic, revealing a vicious web firmly entrenched in Guatemalan society, most notably the upper echelons of society and the military. This is a hot topic given little space in the press. Beltran’s article is a refreshing example of the virtues of op-ed contributions.


         Although Washington Post coverage of Latin America has declined precipitously over 2006, a trend we hope will change in 2007, they have included some exceptional reporting.  Perhaps Peter Goodman’s  January 7, 2007 article, “In Mexico, ‘People Do Really Want to Stay” (ISLA, January 2007, page 29) presages a better year to come. Goodman documents the correlation between NAFTA and immigration, looking ahead to changes in the poultry sector. He carefully outlines the imbalances of trade with a nation (the U.S.) that heavily subsidizes agriculture and how this will impact Mexico’s poultry industry, and immigration. Both immigration and trade are bound to be major issues throughout 2007.


         “Nicaragua’s green lobby is leaving rainforest people ‘utterly destitute’” by Rory Carroll, January 25, 2007, the Manchester Guardian Weekly (ISLA, January 2007, page 68.) The Manchester Guardian Weekly has a longstanding tradition of including cutting edge environmental coverage on a regular basis. This article is short on documentation, while groundbreaking in coverage. Needless to say, with an Ortega win at the polls, the press has not been concentrating on the rainforest. Nevertheless, the bottom line of Carroll’s article resonates throughout Latin America and needs to be understood abroad: the forests are inhabited by a myriad of indigenous communities and have been for millenium. Simply setting the forests and jungles aside as untouchable reserves is not an option in Latin America. Carroll highlights the immediate impact of well-meaning, poorly thought out policies on indigenous communities in Nicaragua, in this case the Miskitos. The Miskitos appear to be enmeshed in the ultimate irony: imperiled by both deforestation and forest protection measures.


    Keeping up with Wall Street Journal attacks on Latin American democracies can be a challenge for regional ambassadors. While actual reporting on Latin America may vary in the Journal from a trickle one month, to a deluge the next, the always acerbic and frightfully prolific writing of Mary Anastasia O’Grady are omnipresent. O’Grady carefully selects information that suits her argument. The information she doesn’t include is glaring in its absence and often elicits a strong response from diplomats. O’Grady’s January 8, 2007 piece, “Coca Democracy” (ISLA, January 2007, pp. 142-143) hit a nerve with Gustavo Guzman, Ambassador of Bolivia to the United States. He was able to dissect O’Grady’s argument, refuting key elements. Unfortunately, his rebuttal did not appear until January 30, 2007. Both O’Grady and the responses her articles generate are very worthwhile reading. She tends to mirror the dubious reasoning behind Bush administration decisions. However, in this case, there is dialogue.


    The December 2006 reality check evident in ISLA press sources is definitely over (see December 2006 highlights for additional information on this subject.) While December 2006 brought a flurry of in-depth articles from nearly all ISLA sources examining the electoral appeal of Chavez administration reforms on divergent sectors of the population, January 2006 heralded a return to the besieged image of Venezuelans dominating throughout 2006. A quick comparison of headlines from December 2006 and January 2007 provides some insight:

    December 2006 headlines

     “Venezuelan High Life: Bulletproof BMW and a Vote for Chavez” –WSJ

    “Venezuela’s Economic Boom Buoys Chavez’s Campaign” –NYT

    “With Chavez, Some Venezuelan Entreprenuers See Opportunity” –WP

    “Elections more about stomachs than ideology” –MH


    January 2007 headlines

    “Venezuelan Plan Shakes Investors” –NYT

    “Victim of His Power Grab” –WP

    “Venezuela Inc.’s Hostile Takeover” –NYT

    “Chavez policies fuel shortages” –MH

    “Fidel Chavez” -LAT

    Highlights from our December 2006 issue

    About Face on Venezuela

         After months of pumping up the Rosales campaign and maligning nearly every social program launched by President Hugo Chavez, press sources monitored by ISLA were forced to do a quick about face in December 2006 or risk looking completely out of touch with reality. Late-November, early December pre-election polls clearly indicated a Chavez win at the polls, and quite possibly a large win. The time had come for a reality check. These journalists needed to face the fact that President Chavez actually enjoyed a higher level of support than previously reported, and that this support crossed class lines. Reporting prior to December gave every indication that the middle-class and wealthy were uniformly anti-Chavez and offered ample space to Chavez opponents among the poor, giving the impression that Rosales stood a good chance of winning the presidential elections. The first week of December 2006 brought unprecedented reporting from nearly all ISLA sources in an effort to explain why some middle class and wealthy Venezuelans would be voting for Chavez, along with a majority of the 25 million Venezuelans classified as poor, setting the stage for a Chavez victory.

         This abrupt change of direction could not have been more precipitous. Although elections were scheduled for December 6th , ISLA first noted  a significant change less than one week earlier, on December 1. Richard Lapper of the Financial Times took on the imminent Chavez win with gusto, writing a lengthy article  (Petro-populism: a third term beckons or Venezuela’s firebrand president) on December 1, 2006, in which he recognized the economic setbacks provoked by work stoppages in 2002/ 2003, as well the economy’s formidable growth since 2004. He also revealed that nearly half of all government spending is dedicated to social programs. Furthermore, Lapper documented a significant boom in consumer and mortgage lending –absolutely not the domain of the poor. Apparently, wealthy and middle-class Venezuelans have taken advantage of caps on interest rates to make purchases using credit and loans, snapping up homes, condos, and BMW’s with renewed vigor. While mentioning that these purchases are linked to the stability of tangibles versus the instability of currency, the bottom line is that business is booming and people from all walks of life have more to spend. The negative aspects of Venezuela’s economy, such as crime, corruption, capital flight and patronage undoubtedly exist and are important. However, while they did set the tone of articles appearing in previous months, they do not capture the spirit of the economy.  In fact, many of the articles from previous months missed the boat entirely. The overall impact of reforms under Chavez has been a level of unparalleled cross-sector economic vibrancy that would be appreciated at polling time, a reality the press had been either unable or unwilling to communicate until the very last minute.

         The Wall Street Journal stepped up to the plate on December 1, 2006 with a lengthy article focused on industrialist Wilmer Ruperti and the emergence of the Boliburgueses –middle-class and wealthy supporters of the Bolivarian revolution. The message is clear –the middle class has reawakened and is on the move. On December 3rd, the Washington Post finally jumped on board with an extensive piece documenting the trajectory of Alejandro Uscategui. Although the Post was the only paper on December 1 to still proclaim that “if” Chavez won it would be because he bought the election with petro-dollars, or cheated, an “about face” was clearly necessary by the 3rd.  As in the articles from other newspapers, we are told by the Post’s Juan Forero in “With Chavez, Some Venezuelan Entrepreneurs See Opportunity” that Chavez does have supporters beyond the poor.

         In fact, the poor are pretty much absent from reporting during the first days of December, having been the focus of previous months, albeit with greater attention directed toward the disillusioned among their ranks.  Nevertheless, while October and November 2006 brought numerous articles on the complaints of low-income Venezuelans, Steven Dudley of the Miami Herald wrote a more objective article on December 2, 2006 documenting why most poor people will probably vote for Chavez. The article was aptly entitled “Election is more about stomachs than ideology.” Dudley asserts that poor Venezuelans are shielded from relatively high inflation (around 17%) by price controls and subsidies. The main vehicle for protecting the poor has been the establishment of mercales -state-run stores offering food at low and reasonable prices. These mercales, located in low-income neighborhoods but open to all shoppers, have allowed the poor to spend 50-55% less on food, according to Data Information Resources, a Caracas-based think tank cited by Dudley. He interviewed a low-income mother of four who indicated that the mercales had significantly improved her family’s quality of life. Dudley also recounts other benefits to the poor: stipends for attending literacy classes and/or returning to school for a high school diploma, as well as free medical care and clinics in poor neighborhoods.

         By the time elections rolled around, ISLA sources had updated readers to the extent that a Chavez victory would no longer be a surprise (which it probably was to television newscast viewers of both the Spanish and English press.)

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