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October 23 2013

16 Books on Latin American Street Art

In Latin America, street art is of major cultural relevance. The region’s traditions of social movements and revolution have allowed the form to give voice to otherwise unheard sectors of the population. Of course, not all street art is politically or socially-oriented in content, but it does often provide insight into specific objectives and ideals.

Nick MacWilliam from Sounds and Colours browsed the online store Amazon “to see what’s readily available for those who are interested in the subject of street art in Latin America.” He recommends 16 books on the subject, covering Haiti, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Colombia, Mexico, Argentina and more.

October 22 2013

This Weekend at Developing Latin America 2013 Apps Challenge (Part I)

dal2013pic

Photo from Desarrollando América Latina Facebook page.

This past weekend has been very productive for the Developing Latin America (#DAL2013) Apps Challenge; there was movement in person and on social networks in almost all locations of the participating countries. In this post we bring you a brief summary of what happened.

In México [es] they share some of the challenges they have raised and the activities they have organized to find solutions: 

#DAL2013 challenge about education in Mexico, children's rights and more.

Challenge ‘Infancy Counts': Visualizes the state of infancy in Mexico.

Video: Data expedition with @Mexicanos1o for #DAL2013

#DAL2013 Challenge: Information about quality and service in health clinics. Have you picked yours?

#DAL2013 Challenge: Help youth identify risky situations that can turn them into victims of trafficking.

Participants in Guatemala [es] have shown their excitement about a series of scheduled conferences:

Saturday conferences begin.

Socio-technical network of a flexible screen

“Ideas are easy to copy; business ideas, socio-technical ideas are harder” Alvaro Figueredo

The project has to take on a life of its own and have momentum to keep going- Javier Álvarez

The presentation on civic hacking is available here –> http://t.co/Y3PzA489T5

Civic hackers from Costa Rica [es] took some time off this weekend, but the previous weekend they held their hackathon:

Experts co-creating with participants. In Costa Rica #DAL2013 has just begun!

24 hours later, 10 teams, 34 young people, a lot of talent.

A lot has happened at #DAL2013 Do you want to learn about the hackathon in Costa Rica?

#DAL2013 Costa Rica winners awarded by President Laura Chinchilla

@nacion brings us an article about all the winning teams of Developing Latin America Costa Rica 2013

Colombia [es] also held its hackathon earlier:

@williamgomezg presents #mochilapp projects, health and technology, political oversight. Great ideas!

@TheColombist presents this interesting project #RutaCiudadana

@sibcolombia shows for the first time their dynamic and open app to explore georeferenced data

Colombia also develops solutions at #DAL2013

Hackers and other specialists in Ecuador [es] are working towards Demo Day on October 26, but they've also been sharing some tweets about their activities:

#DAL2013 kicks off in Ecuador at ESPAE, Espol Campus Las Peñas

Ecuador seeks to find solutions to problems related to transportation, environment, democracy, health and education.

Complete integration between participants at DAL Ecuador

Awards at DAL Ecuador are being presented, thanks to @McDonalds_Ecu

We thank Santa María University for hosting the data scraping event last night.

And in Peru [es] there's been a lot of activity in the past two weekends, with the hashtags #datamaskay (data search) and #dataminka (work with data) becoming quite popular on Twitter:

#DAL2013 throughout October! [month of hackathons, earthquakes and miracles!] > @IPAE_Innova and @escuelab invite you!

Solutions are found in open data. In Peru ideas become solutions!

We have data! Latest poll about corruption 2013

Ideas discussed at #dataminka!

Once participants decided which app would be ideal to develop, they debated which resources they will use.

In the next post we will continue reporting about activities in the other countries participating in Developing Latin America 2013!

October 21 2013

NSA Hacked Mexican Government, According to Latest Snowden Leak

According to information leaked by Edward Snowden and reported by the German publication Der Spiegel, the NSA (National Security Agency) “has been systematically eavesdropping on the Mexican government for years.” 

Cory Doctorow explains more at Boing Boing:

A Snowden leak, discussed in detail in Der Spiegel, shows how the NSA broke into the email servers of the Mexican president Felipe Calderon's public account, and used that access to wiretap the president, cabinet members, and senior diplomats. The NSA described the program, called “Flatliquid” as “lucrative.” A second program, “Whitetamale,” also spied on senior Mexican politicians (including presidential candidate Peña Nieto), targeting efforts to change the country's disastrous War on Drugs.

The Guardian reports that Mexico's foreign ministry condemned these allegations and stated that “this practice is unacceptable, illegal and against Mexican and international law.” The foreign ministry also said that “US President Barack Obama had pledged to carry out an ‘exhaustive investigation’ into who was responsible for the suspected spying.”

October 11 2013

Mexico City Gears Up for 2013 Corona Capital Music Festival

John Talabot no se presentará en el festival. Foto de Rémy DUGOUA en Flick bajo licencia Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

John Talabot cancelled his performance at the festival for security reasons. Photo from Rémy DUGOUA on Flick under Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The Corona Capital 2013 (#CC13) music festival that will take place in Mexico City on October 12 and 13 will have performances from post-BritPop musicians such as Travis, Stereophonics, Miles Kane, Jake Bugg and Arctic Monkeys, as well as acts more related to the Indie scene.

Last year the festival was involved in a controversy created by the members of the youth movement called #YoSoy132 (I am 132), since the event is organized by a corporation related to the giant media company Televisa, which the mentioned movement was opposed to.

This year has not been lacking in controversy either, since one of the musicians who was going to perform at #CC13 announced the cancellation of his participation for security reasons. This performer is Spaniard John Talabot:

We are cancelling our tour in Mexico for security reasons. We are glad that our friends Delorean are well.

According to Verónica Chávez Aldaco [es], the reason for the cancellation is the kidnapping that the artist experienced along with his friends from Delorean in Mexico City after performing at the Mutek Festival:

El asunto estuvo así: después del Mutek, delincuentes haciéndose pasar por policías, les llamaron a su hotel para comunicarles que por cuestiones de seguridad debían cambiarse a otro. En ese inter y ya bajo su poder, los amenazaron y despojaron de sus teléfonos. Fue entonces que los extorsionadores llamaron a sus familias en España para pedir rescate.

It happened like this: after Mutek, delincuents pretending to be policemen came to their hotel to tell them that for security reasons they should change hotels. Then, already under their power, they were threatened and had their phones taken from them. It was then that the extortionists called their families in Spain to ask for ransom money.

The members of the band are safe, but this occurrence shows that the artistic and performing professions are not separate from the crisis of violence and insecurity that Mexico is going through. The user Alessia said this on the topic:

#SóloEnMéxico un músico (John Talabot) tiene que cancelar su aparición en un festival por haber sido secuestrado #CC13 pésima imagen de país

— Alessia (@Alessia_mx) October 8, 2013

Only in Mexico does a musician (John Talabot) have to cancel his appearance at a festival because he was kidnapped. Terrible image of the country

On the official site [es] of #CC13 you can read this description of Talabot's work:

John Talabot ha pasado ser un productor semidesconocido a convertirse en una de las grandes revelaciones de la electrónica y en un artista capaz de cautivar a Ewan Pearson, colarse en la lista de lo mejor del año de Pitchfork, colaborar con Delorean y sentar cátedra en lo que a house orgánico y envolvente se refiere. Siguiendo los pasos de Four Tet y cruzando el Northern soul con el sonido de Chicago.

John Talabot has gone from being a somewhat unknown music producer to being one of the great revelations of electronica and an artist capable of captivating Ewan Pearson, being on the best of the year list from Pitchfork, collaborating with Delorean and being at the top of everything related to organic house. Following in the footsteps of Four Tet and crossing Northern soul with the sound of Chicago.

In spite of John Talabot's cancellation, many people have expressed their enthusiasm for the festival on Twitter, including those who still don't have a ticket, such as Daniela Gutiérrez:

I'll sell my body in exchange for a ticket to #CC13 and cry with Stereophonics

Some such as ForeverOpioverde have even mentioned that they would change their look for the event:

Guess who cut her hair 60′s style to be ready for Sunday :) retro!

Andru Rdz simply expressed her feelings about #CC13 in this way:

Only a few days left until #CC13 ahhhh so exciting!

The user Cuervo Eterno shared the schedule he plans to follow on the second day of the event:

#CC13 Sunday: nice and early for Jake Bugg, rest for Miles Kane, can't miss The Breeders, run to Arctic Monkeys and close with Grimes

To see schedule changes as well as the latest information, go to the Corona Capital [es] website.

Mexico, Panama, and Honduras Seeking a Spot for Brazil 2014 World Cup

Foto de Hefebreo en Flickr, bajo licencia Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0)

Photo from Hefebreo on Flickr, under a Creative Commons License (CC BY 2.0)

With Costa Rica and the United States qualified for the next World Cup, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, and Jamaica are playing for their last opportunities to take part in the Brazilian festivity in 2014.  

The Concacaf (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) awards three and a half spots to attend the World Cup: the first three places proceed directly and the fourth place would participate in a playoff game against New Zealand.  

The picture is painted differently for each of the participants, who must play perfect games in order to maintain their chances intact. 

Mexico vs Panama

Mexico is known as the Concacaf giant. It is the country with the most qualifications to the World Cup but is nonetheless about to be eliminated after a disastrous season in which it has barely won one (away) game and has failed to win at the legendary Estadio Azteca, formerly a headache for visiting teams.  

Mexico will play its possibilities before Panama, a team that has never managed to qualify for a World Cup and is barely competing for the second time in hexagonal standings. Panama is tied with Mexico in points (8), but unlike the “Tri”, Panama can boast about having its best race to the World Cup (in the other hexagonal standings that Panama participated in, it could barely get two points).   

Panama has an uphill battle ahead; on the two occasions it has visited the Estadio Azteca, it ended up destroyed (7-1 and 5-0). Nevertheless, it is enjoying a brief period of hope, based on Mexico being unable to beat Panama the last four times they came face to face (two ties and two victories [es] for the Panamanians). 

Roberto Chen, a young, promising talent for Panamanian football, talks about the team's hopes in an interview with FIFA [es]:  

“Se puede sacar un buen resultado si hacemos las cosas bien. Honduras ya demostró que se les puede ganar en su casa. Es un partido crucial, pero hay que estar tranquilos y pensar en positivo. Se puede lograr la clasificación en el Azteca”, remata. No sería matemático pero un buen resultado en la cancha del Tri daría un impulso tremendo a los canaleros en el camino a Brasil.

“We can get a good result if we do things right. Honduras already proved that we can beat them on their home field. It is a crucial game, but we have to be calm and think positively. We can qualify at the Azteca,” he concludes. It would not be mathematical, but a good result on the Tri field would give a tremendous boost to the Panamanians en route to Brazil.

On his Twitter account, Mexican journalist David Faitelson posted a stark analysis of the game, where Mexico, by tradition and hierarchy in the area, should impose itself on a growing Panama, being the only country of the six participants that has never qualified for a World Cup:

If you are not capable of beating Panama on a Friday night at the Azteca, you're better off dedicating yourself to something else.

Álvaro Martínez is confident that the optimism reflected in Panamanian fans could be a reflection of Friday's results:

Official: 84.8% of Panamanians believe that the national team can bring the #Aztecazo [beat Mexico at the Azteca stadium]. There is positivity in 3.5 million people.

Panama has sought all kinds of support to arrive at this game in the best way possible, including having “summoned” three great national figures to cheer on the players, as Univisión [es] states:  

Rubén Blades, Roberto Durán y Mariano Rivera son las principales inspiraciones panameñas. De ellos, el recién retirado lanzador de los Yankees es esperado en la concentración del equipo canalero en cualquier momento del cierre del Hexagonal para incrementar los niveles de motivación.

[...]

“Hasta el momento el jugador convocado es Mariano Rivera, para cerrar el partido”, bromeó el entrenador Julio Dely la semana pasada, ante una pregunta sobre su lista de foráneos.

Rubén Blades, Roberto Durán, and Mariano Rivera are the main Panamanian inspirations. Of them, the recently retired Yankees pitcher is expected to visit the Panamanian team at any given moment during the Hexagonal closing to increase levels of motivation.

[...]

“As of now, the player we have summoned is Mariano Rivera,” trainer Julio Dely joked last week responding to a question about his list of players who play abroad.

Singer Rubén Blades accompanied the national team and sang “Patria”, which is considered by some a second Panamanian national anthem, with them.  

Fanny Cardoze shares a photo of the singer with the footballers. 

Rubén Blades With the National Team!!! Great motivation for our players!

The truth is that on Friday, October 11, Panama and Mexico will take to the field and play for the possibility of making it to the World Cup. The team that loses the game is basically eliminated, while a tie favors Panamanians, who have a better goal difference.

Honduras vs Costa Rica

On Friday, Honduras is welcoming the already qualified Costa Rican national team in San Pedro Sula. The game has dramatic indications as Honduras needs a win to ensure third place, but games between “ticos” (Costa Ricans) and “catrachos” (Hondurans) are always high voltage and is considered a “classic match of Central American football” 

Costa Rica, despite having qualified, has the odds of three other teams (Panama, Mexico, and Honduras) in its results, although according to the words of Luis Marín for El Universal [es], they aspire to occupy first place in the qualifications (they are now in second, after the United States):  

‘En este momento no pensamos en lo que beneficia o no a Honduras, a Panamá o a México, estamos pensando en nosotros y en buscar la primera posición', declaró en conferencia de prensa Luis Marín, asistente del seleccionador, el colombiano Jorge Luis Pinto.

‘At this time we are not thinking of what is beneficial or not for Honduras, Panama, or Mexico, we are thinking about ourselves and seeking first place’ Luis Marín, assistant coach to Colombian Jorge Luis Pinto, said at a press conference.

Nonetheless, Honduras is playing at home and only needs one win (and a tie between Panama and Mexico) to ensure its consecutive participation in the World Cup and the third in its history. ‘Pase al vacío’ remembers these possibilities: 

If Honduras wins against Costa Rica on Friday, and Mexico and Panama tie, the Hondurans will be in Brazil 2014

After Friday's games, we will get a clearer glimpse into who will go to Brazil and if Central America will send three participants to the World Cup for the first time. 

October 04 2013

Deadly Storms, Delayed Aid Devestate Mexico's La Montaña Indigenous

Camp of indigenous people displaced by storms. Photo from The Tlachinollan Human Rights Center used with permission.

Camp of indigenous people displaced by storms in La Montaña. Photo from The Tlachinollan Human Rights Center. Used with permission.

Two major storms, Tropical Storm Manuel and Hurricane Ingrid, hit Mexico last month, leaving behind 157 deaths according to the latest official reports. One of the hardest hit areas is La Montaña, a region in the southern state of Guerrero, considered one of the poorest and most marginalized areas in the country.

The Tlachinollan Human Rights Center, which is based in La Montaña, described the situation in an opinion piece published in the online version of local newspaper El Sur [es]:

En la Montaña, esa región olvidada que conforman 19 municipios y más de 650 comunidades indígenas, el panorama es desolador. Cuando comenzaron las lluvias, nadie imaginaba la destrucción que dejarían a su paso. No hubo un solo aviso sobre lo que se avecinaba que permitiera tomar precauciones. Simplemente, la lluvia inició y se prolongó como si fuera interminable, con una furia devastadora nunca antes vista.

[...]

El conteo de los fallecimientos en la Montaña, que asciende ya a más de treinta personas, debe considerarse todavía preliminar pues el colapso de carreteras y caminos mantiene en la incomunicación a pueblos ubicados en los lugares más recónditos de Acatepec, Metlatónoc y Cochoapa.

In La Montaña, that forgotten region made up of 19 municipalities and more than 650 indigenous communities, the outlook is bleak. When the rains started, no one imaged the destruction they would leave in their wake. There was not a single warning about what was coming in order to take precautions. The rain simply started and lasted as if endless, with a devastating fury that had never been seen before.

[...]

The death count of La Montaña, which now amounts to over 30 people, must still be considered preliminary since the collapse of roads and paths have kept communities in the remote corners of Acatepec, Metlatónoc and Cochoapa isolated and unable to communicate.

The government has declared [es] all 19 municipalities of La Montaña a natural disaster zone.

The article also denounced the authorities’ slow response, which they say “reveals the discriminative face of the Mexican State”:

Pero ninguna autoridad de alto nivel de los gobiernos federal y estatal llegó a la Montaña los primeros días del desastre. Con las autoridades volcadas en el traslado de turistas acapulqueños, la penuria de las comunidades indígenas de la Montaña fue, en los hechos, relegada a segundo plano.

But no high-level authority of the federal and state governments came to La Montaña during the first days of the disaster. With authorities dedicated to the transfer of Acapulco tourists, the hardship of the indigenous communities of La Montaña was, in light of the facts, relegated to the background.

Camp of indigenous people displaced by storms. Photo from The Tlachinollan Human Rights Center used with permission.

Camp of indigenous people displaced by storms in La Montaña. Photo from The Tlachinollan Human Rights Center. Used with permission.

WOLA (Washington Office on Latin America), which gave the The Tlachinollan Human Rights Center a Human Rights Award in 2009, also shared the Center's reports:

According to Tlachinollan, several indigenous communities in the region suffered from landslides; roads have been destroyed, crops vital to their survival have been washed away, and the communities are without electricity and phone service. Communities lack food, water, medicine, and gasoline but the government response has been slow and insufficient.

Furthermore, WOLA called on Mexican authorities to take action and “respond to the immediate needs of communities in the La Montaña region of Mexico in a coordinated and transparent manner.”

Paris Martínez reported for website Animal Político [es] on the people of Moyotepec and La Lucerna, two indigenous communities from La Montaña, on September 25:

Según los cálculos de sus autoridades tradicionales, en estos dos campamentos permanecen más de 3 mil personas, que han dado por perdidas sus viviendas y sus cosechas, ya sea por haberse derrumbado o por estar a punto de hacerlo. Y como Moyotepec y La Lucerna, los habitantes de al menos media centena más de localidades indígenas de La Montaña, permanecen en campamentos y refugios a los que la asistencia oficial apenas ha salpicado.

According to calculations made by their traditional authorities, in these two camps there are more than 3,000 people, who have lost their homes and their crops, either because they have collapsed or because they are about to. And like Moyotepec and La Lucerna, inhabitants of at least 50 indigenous communities of La Montaña remain in camps and shelters where official help has barely trickled in.

Martínez shared two videos of the camps.

In his report, Martínez highlighted that by September 22 the inhabitants of Moyotepec had been waiting eight days for help. He says that a few hours after reporters began releasing the testimonies of those affected, Army and Ministry of Health doctors, and trucks with blankets, water purification tablets and groceries arrived in Moyotepec. But he pointed out that the authorities were in such a hurry that they drove by the La Lucerna camp without providing any assistance.

At the end of his article, Martínez reported that the Secretary of Social Development, Rosario Robles, arrived to the region a day after that quick relief operation. Robles said that they'd been “all over the state of Guerrero” and that the alleged lack of attention to indigenous communities has been a problem of media coverage, not a problem related to their work.

Citizen media are not the only ones denouncing government officials’ negligence, as Nina Lakhani reported in Al Jazeera: “Several national newspapers started to suggest that authorities had neglected evacuation plans in Guerrero because they were too caught up in public holiday festivities.”

In an email sent to Global Voices this week, the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center said that indigenous youth are using social networks like Facebook to share information and organize the delivery of humanitarian aid to their communities. 

Tlachinollan also reported that according to the governor of Guerrero, Ángel Aguirre Rivero, more than 13,000 people of La Montaña have been displaced and there are currently 49 camps where people are taking refuge after their homes were affected by the rains. Furthermore, 31 communities need to be relocated, and 215 – one third of the indigenous communities of La Montaña – have been isolated and unable to communicate since September 14.

Tlachinollan also referred to their current efforts to help the indigenous communities affected by the storms:

At Tlachinollan, we are now all turned to the emergency, doing very different actions, from gathering humanitarian aid to bring to the communities and documenting how state aid is allocated, to opening channels of communication with federal authorities to remind them that this region is a priority as it is already one of the poorest in the country.

September 27 2013

Developing Latin America 2013: An ‘Apps Challenge’ for Social Impact

flyer_inscripciones

“Developing Latin America”

Fundación Ciudadano Inteligente is about to launch a new edition of their regional initiative entitled Developing Latin America [es], which brings together the efforts of developers, social specialists, and others to use open data to create applications that serve the Latin American community. In their own words [es]:

Impulsamos aplicaciones innovadoras, sustentables, escalables y de alto impacto social. Celebramos a la comunidad de emprendedores, tecnólogos, desarrolladores y diseñadores, desafiándolos a trabajar en conjunto con sus gobiernos y organizaciones locales para co-crear soluciones que generen un cambio positivo para los ciudadanos. Fomentamos una cultura de creatividad, innovación y emprendimiento en América Latina.

We promote innovative, sustainable, and scalable applications with a high social impact. We celebrate the community of entrepreneurs, technologists, developers and designers, challenging them to work together with their governments and local organizations to co-create solutions that generate a positive change for citizens. We foster a culture of creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship in Latin America.

For its third edition, Developing Latin America (DAL) is transforming and is going from being a Hackathon to what they call an Apps Challenge, meaning a longer event with the goal of developing better ideas, obtaining more concrete solutions, and, as such, achieving applications that are more sustainable and scalable.

But, what is an Apps Challenge? [es]

Un Apps Challenge es una competencia entre aplicaciones. En el caso de DAL, es una competencia colaborativa que se realizará a lo largo de tres intensas semanas de desarrollo. Esta etapa está diseñada para dotar a los equipos de las herramientas que permitan desarrollar una aplicación innovadora y disruptiva. Realizaremos varias actividades con el objetivo de generar aplicaciones de alto impacto social.

An Apps Challenge is a competition between applications. In the case of DAL, it is a collaborative competition that will be held over the course of three intense weeks of development. This stage is designed to give teams the tools that will allow for the development of an innovative and disruptive application. Various activities will take place with the goal of generating applications of high social impact.

compartamos-ideas

“Let's share idea and work together to develop Latin America!”

DAL officially launches on October 5 of this year, and we say officially because in reality the coordination of DAL and the different teams in charge of the event in the participating countries (now 12) have been working on preparing for it for several weeks. In fact, each team has planned various activities [es] to take place in their country during the month of October and, on October 26, there will be a Demo Day in addition to the selection of the three best applications per country.

But that is not all. After this phase, in association with Socialab, a project accelerator specialized in high impact social projects, will choose five teams among the winners to build up their projects for three months, helping them construct a business plan and find funding, among other things:

  • Co-creación “en terreno” con sus potenciales usuarios y clientes.
  • Definición de áreas de impacto que el proyecto tendrá en la sociedad, estos son co-creados con la comunidad y usuarios en trabajos en terreno.
  • Capacitarse en metodología de innovación y emprendimiento (Lean Start-Up, Canvas Business Model, Design Thinking, etc.)
  • Búsqueda de financiamiento para la sustentabilidad de sus proyectos a través de distintos medios: inversionistas, crowdfundings, fondos concursables, entre otros.
  • Generación de redes con distintos actores relevantes para el proyecto.
  • Planes comunicacionales y financieros elaborados.
  • Co-creation “in the field” with their potential users and clients.
  • Definition of areas of impact that the project will have in society, these are co-created with the community and users in field work.
  • Training in innovation and entrepreneurship (Lean Start-up, Canvas Business Model, Design Thinking, etc.)
  • Finding funds for sustainability of their projects through various means: investors, crowd funding, competitive funds, among others.
  • Generating networks with various stakeholders relevant to the project.
  • Elaborating communication and financial plans.

To learn a bit more about what DAL will be like this year and familiarize ourselves with the Apps Challenge process, our collaborator, Elizabeth Rivera, met with Anca Matioc, Regional Coordinator of Developing Latin America. Below is a video [es] of the interview:

In the interview, Matioc expanded on DAL's decision to go from a Hackathon, typically 36 hours, to an Apps Challenge, which will span a period of three weeks. As a response to DAL's growth over the past two years, Matioc highlighted the desire to have participants go beyond making prototypes for applications by giving them the opportunity to create more efficient and finished apps for social change. With the Apps Challenge, which she described as an “extended hackathon”, each of the twelve participating countries will have its own agenda of activities and workshops, culminating in the Demo Day and Socialab nominations. Currently, DAL is continuing its preparations for the event and meeting with its stakeholders to discuss their roles as mentors for each team of participants.

DAL has already generated interest in the region. For example, ALT1040 reports on the event and says [es]:

Este tipo de programas son ideales para impulsar pequeñas startups que pretenden resolver problemas comunes de la región. Lo interesante es que las aplicaciones pueden estar enfocadas tanto en solucionar un problema de tu país como hasta solucionar uno de Latinoamérica en su totalidad. Un reflejo de que podemos y queremos cambiar el mundo en el que vivimos, aunque tengamos que hacerlo una aplicación a la vez.

These types of programs are ideal for inspiring small startups seeking to resolve common problems in the region. The interesting thing is that the applications can be focused on solving a problem in your country as well as solving one in Latin America as a whole. A reflection on the idea that we can and want to change the world we live in, even if we have to do it one application at a time.

El Becario from the Código Espagueti blog reflects [es]:

Sin duda, un gran reto para países en los que no todos tienen un smartphone o una tableta, aún así se trata de un gran esfuerzo que bien podría ayudar a mejorar las condiciones de vida en la región.

Without a doubt, a big challenge for countries where not everyone has a smartphone or tablet; still, it is a great initiative that could really help improve living conditions in the region.

If you are a developer and are interested not only in a professional challenge but simultaneously having the opportunity to help solve social problems in your city or country, such as education, health, public safety, and transportation, among others, you can sign up [es] until October 4 and participate in this event on a regional level.

On our behalf, we will be providing coverage of the details of this great initiative.

Other related posts:

2011
Developing Latin America – 30 hours of technology and society [es]
“Developing Latin America”: Open Data Projects

2012
Developing Latin America 2012
What Exactly is a Hackathon? And What is Open Data?
Developing Latin America Draws Near!
Day 1 of Developing Latin America 2012
Day 2 of Developing Latin America 2012
Winning Applications From Latin America's Biggest Hackathon

September 24 2013

Latin America: “Where do the Disappeared go?”

Manifestación convocada por la Agrupación de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos. 2009, Santiago, Chile. Foto de antitezo en Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Demonstration Convened by Agrupación de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos [Families of Detained Missing Persons Group]. 2009, Santiago, Chile. Photo from antitezo on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

This is the second part of a two-part article. To read the first part click here. We also invite you to visit the Office of High Commission for Human Rights page, which you can access with this link, for some more official information on the topic.

In the previous post we explored some of the stories and activity of families of missing people in Latin America. We got closer to testimonies, we opened up contexts, and we introduced popular songs which ask, “Where do the missing people go?”

After decades of questions with no answers and cases that continue to increase the list of victims, we could say that, thanks to their relatives, the missing people and their stories can be found, if only virtually, on Internet social networks.

We see, therefore, family and friends making an effort to fight so that memories are not another victim of the forced disappearances. In this way, the internet becomes a source of innumerable initiatives and stories that fight against impunity and the return to the past.

In this post we dedicate space to the topic in Peru, Guatemala, Uruguay and Mexico. Similarly, we also mention the contribution from arcoiris TV [es], which makes accessible a documentary [es] directed by Ángel Palacios about forced disappearances in Venezuela.

In Peru, the conflict between the Peruvian State, Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) and the MRTA (Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement) has been the main source of the crimes that have resulted in victims of forced disappearances.

A decade after the delivery of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, Spacio Libre [es] publishes observations about the results that the Peruvian justice has presented regarding the victims of forced disappearances. In the editorial, the right of the victims to get answers is defended and the unfulfilled promises that are not allowed to advance to Peruvian justice are listed:

Muy poco se ha avanzado en materia de reparaciones y sobre todo en la búsqueda de la verdad y de un proceso sincero de reconciliación, luego de la violencia desatada por la insanía terrorista de Sendero Luminoso y el MRTA y la respuesta brutal de un Estado que no dirimió entre inocentes y culpables y mató tan igual que el enemigo que perseguía.

Y es que no se puede hablar de reconciliación, cuando un sector bastante influyente de la clase política ha pretendido silenciar y desprestigiar un trabajo realizado con ahínco, con compromiso y con un interés concreto de generar memoria y buscar un camino para recuperar la esperanza de miles de familias que perdieron a un ser querido y que en muchos casos (15 mil) no tienen ni idea de donde están.

Very little has progressed in terms of compensation and above all in the search for the truth and for a sincere process of reconciliation, after the violence unleashed by the terrorist insanity of Sendero Luminoso and the MRTA and the brutal response of a State that does not distinguish between the innocent and the guilty and kills just the same as the enemy it pursues.

And the thing is you can't talk about reconciliation, when such an influential sector of the political class has tried to silence and discredit an undertaking achieved with effort, with compromise and with a concrete interest in generating a memory and searching for a way to regain hope for thousands of families that lost a loved one that in many cases (15 thousand) have no idea where they are.

Also in Peru, the historian Renzo Salvador Aroni [es] gathers stories and analyses the circumstances of families that still hope for signs from their missing relatives. In his post “The Families of the Disappeared”, the blogger defends the importance of regaining the historical memory of the country and indicates that this also involves “regaining the memory of those who are absent”:

[…] La memoria de los familiares de los desaparecidos, siguen aguardando la posibilidad de que sus seres queridos aparezcan. […] Para los familiares es muy difícil aceptar un hecho aún no concluido.

[…] The memory of the family members of the missing people, they continue believing in the possibility that their loved ones will appear. […] For the families it is very difficult to accept an event that is unresolved.

The author also explains how pieces of memory carve themselves a space in people's daily lives. He explains that these are painful experiences and sometimes they express themselves in oral narratives, in artistic representations, in dreams, and in other forms of language, and cites part of the testimonial of the mother of a missing person.

- Si lo veo, me dice: “mamá no llores por mí”.

Así me habla. Ya no lo he vuelto a ver [a mi hijo: Segundino Flores Allcaco], sólo en mis sueños. Lo veo con la misma ropa que tenía puesta.

- If I see him, he tells me: “Mum don't cry for me”.

This is how he talks to me. I haven't seen him again [my son: Segundino Flores Allcaco], only in my dreams. I see him with the same clothes he had on.

In Guatemala, where the detained and disappeared are commemorated every 21st of June, the Comunidades de Población en Resistencia (Communities of Population In Resistance) [es] blog explains that forced disappearance in Guatemala is a current circumstance, that has expanded throughout the region and that counts on the silent collaboration of power:

La desaparición forzada en Guatemala no es un hecho del pasado. Es un crimen de lesa humanidad de carácter imprescriptible instaurado en América Latina, que también permanece vigente por su continua utilización como mecanismo de control social y dominio político; así como por la impunidad que persiste sobre los hechos cometidos y que hoy se expresa, entre otras cosas, en la reconfiguración de las estructuras de poder que articularon, financiaron y callaron estos crímenes.

Forced disappearances in Guatemala are not a fact of the past. It's a crime against humanity of an imprescriptible character established in Latin America, that also remains in force because of its continued use as a social control and political dominance mechanism; as well as because of the impunity that persists about the committed acts and that is expressed today, among other things, in the reconfiguration of the power structures that articulate, finance and conceal these crimes.

The blog Familiares de Desaparecidos [Families of the Disappeared] [es] also reunites the Uruguayan families of missing people that have not stopped searching and gathers together the efforts of people who live in Uruguay or are in exile:

Desde la apertura democrática caminamos juntos respetando la diversidad de pensamientos que nos caracteriza pero unidos en torno a nuestros principales objetivos: MEMORIA, VERDAD, JUSTICIA Y NUNCA MÁS

Since the democratic opening we have walked together respecting the diversity of thoughts that characterises us but united around our principal objectives: MEMORY, TRUTH, JUSTICE AND NEVER AGAIN

In Mexico the forced disappearances explode from the war against narcotics trafficking. The Mexican Comité Cerezo [es] made available a handbook called “What to do in case of forced disappearance [es]“, downloadable from its web page.

It's important to add that the topic of disappearances is not exclusive to Latin America and does not form a part just of the historical memory. Yet the number of people who vanish in dubious circumstances is great, and many more are those who are silenced and terrorised by these crimes.

So, to conclude, it's important to highlight that the families’ struggle continues outside the Internet. And also that these initiatives and movements see their reflections online before and after the international day of their commemoration. In this way social media helps to revive the memories and connect groups of victims outside their borders. Their meeting point: the search for answers and the collective fight for justice.

September 17 2013

Tropical Storm ‘Manuel’ Leaves Acapulco Under Water

Tropical storm Manuel has left the historical port of Acapulco, and large part of the state of Guerrero, completely flooded and isolated [es].

Acapulco is one of the country's most important tourist destinations. Currently, 40,000 tourists are trapped waiting for the exit routes to reopen. Additionally, 34 deaths and thousands of victims have been reported. Authorities have asked for “patience” from the population that finds itself waiting for help.

The Sol and federal highways linking to Mexico City are closed due to landslides and mudslides. On the other hand, the local airport is closed due to flooding of their facilities as well as electrical system failures.

The mayor of Acapulco, Luis Walton Aburto, said [es]:

“Hoy consideramos que el 50% de las colonias de Acapulco están inundadas y sigue lloviendo. Para llegar al área Diamante hay lugares que tienen hasta tres y cuatro metros de agua y no se puede ingresar, además de la corriente que impide transitar. Se está comenzando a pasar alimento por carros militares y helicópteros”

Today we believe that 50% of the colonies of Acapulco are flooded and it continues to rain. To get to the Diamante area, there are places that have up to three and four meters of water and entry is impossible, in addition to the current that prevents movement. Food is starting to be transported via military vehicles and helicopters.

Here we share some of the tweets and photographs from users asking for help, providing information, or indicating the poor urban planning of the port and the state of Guerrero, and its consequences.

They built on wetlands, forests, and dunes, and now they are paying the price.

Just imagine how other communities will be if this is what Acapulco, whose infrastructure is less messed up than that of Guerrero, is like.

Acapulco is devastated, 41 towns flooded.

How great that people love Acapulco!

I'm being told that there are people trapped in the COLOSIO help us with shovels, picks, chisels, hammers

We need repellents, diapers, medicine, food for the 1500 people taking up shelter in the COLOSIO, Acapulco. Leave them at the marques port RT

Confirming, by the minute. Tourists will receive Monday night free in Acapulco, confirms @peraltanet71, Secretary of Municipal Tourism.

an image of the guests complaining at the Hotel Calinda in Acapulco (September 16 at 11am approximately)

Others simply want to show the world the devastation that “Manuel” left behind not only in Acapulco but in the entire state of Guerrero [es].

The federal highway to Acapulco, at the height of Petaquillas, which is closed.

the sea and the rivers now united in the La Condesa zone. Photo of the street from the Emporio Hotel.

It is going to be a very long night for some people @lopezdoriga the power of nature

Appearance of the federal highway stretch Chilpancingo-Iguala circulation disabled. Destruction in Cañada del Zopilote

On YouTube, user Freesiithaww Hdezzs shares the following video from Acapulco:

Televisa [es] shares more photographs of the area.

The blog Acapulco Busca [es] is gathering reports of missing and found people in Acapulco.

September 04 2013

Derailment of ‘La Bestia’, Another Tragedy in a Broken Immigration System

Migrants on

Migrants on “la Bestia”. Photo by Peter Haden on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

This post is part of our series on Latin America: Migrant Journeys in collaboration with The North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA). Stay tuned for more articles and podcasts.

On August 25, 2013 a cargo train derailed in southern Mexico killing 11 Central American migrants who were hitching a ride on top of the freight cars. At least 250 Central Americans were estimated to have been riding on the train before it derailed, injuring another 18 migrants.

Each year thousands of Central Americans hitch rides on northbound Mexican freight trains for a chance at reaching the U.S. border in search of work and a better life. Migrants often ride the trains to escape Mexican immigration officials who scour buses at checkpoints in search of Central Americans to deport.

Known among migrants as ‘la bestia’ (the beast), the Mexican train offers Central Americans an alternative way of reaching the U.S., but it is a route fraught with dangers. Gangs and corrupt Mexican officials maraud the train lines and extort or kidnap migrants, oftentimes capturing and forcing them to work for organized crime groups.

While train derailments of la bestia are common, the biggest challenge, which many migrants passing through Mexico face, comes from the gangs who prey upon their vulnerable situation. For most Central American migrants, the vast majority of whom come from Honduras, currently the country with the world’s highest murder rate, their experience with gang-related violence often begins before they even leave their countries of origin.

In the last year, I had the opportunity to volunteer at a small migrant shelter in Mexico City. Last March, we received a Honduran woman at the shelter, named Juana Morelos, who was traveling on la bestia with her seven-year-old son. Juana left Honduras because a local gang who extorted money from a small store she owned began making death threats on her family when she could no longer afford to pay them off. Afraid for her life, Juana fled from Honduras with her son and started hopping Mexican freight trains north towards the U.S. border.

Juana and her son spent several months in Mexico City, during which I gave her a crash course in basic English, before she and her son continued their dangerous journey towards Texas. When Juana finally arrived at the U.S. border, we received news at the shelter that she had tried crossing with a coyote [people smuggler] and was deported. I was concerned about Juana’s safety, but once I heard she had arrived at the border, where the threat of kidnapping often increases, I became even more terrified.

Juana reached the border two months after the “Gang of 8” senators released their proposal for a new comprehensive immigration reform bill, which passed in the Senate last June, and includes an increase of 3,500 Border Patrol agents and 4.5 billion dollars to add new surveillance systems, aerial drones, and the construction of more fencing along the U.S.-Mexican border. Instead of addressing the reasons why Juana and the hundreds of migrants on board the Mexican train that derailed last week migrate north to the U.S., the current immigration reform bill offers them a closed door in their attempt to flee violence largely caused by America’s consumption of illegal drugs.

The current immigration reform bill greatly resembles the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), which legalized almost three million undocumented migrants in the U.S. and quintupled the number of Border Patrol agents to almost 22,000. Today, an estimated 11 million people live in the U.S. without legal residency, signifying that IRCA did little to solve the problems which force people to migrate in the first place.

While visiting a small town in the central Mexican state of Querétaro this year, I met an 81-year-old man, named Jose Ramírez, who gained U.S. citizenship through IRCA. As a young man, Ramírez would spend half of each year doing farm work in the U.S. and return home to visit his wife and children. When crossing the border became more costly and dangerous, Ramírez could no longer justify returning to Mexico as often, so he moved his entire family to Florida. The increase in border security over the last half-century that was supposed to keep people like Ramírez out of the U.S. became exactly what motivated him to resettle his family to Florida.

While it’s true that many people from Mexico and Central America enter the U.S. without authorization and settle permanently, it doesn’t mean that they want to. Like most men and women from small town USA, Latin American migrant workers often come from rural areas where locals value home and family. If you offered most residents in rural America a job that paid up to seven times their current income, but that involved relocating to a foreign country with a different language, and risking your life by walking through a desert to get there, most would probably opt to stay home. But for people like Juana Morelos, lack of economic opportunities and violence caused by the drug trade often leave them with no choice.

Increasing security along our southern border will keep many future immigrants out of our country, but it won’t stop them from trying to enter it. During my research on migration in Mexico over the last year, I met many Mexicans who worked decades in the U.S. with fake documents just to save enough money to buy land and start a business back home. What if instead of investing billions of dollars in drones and fences, we used some of that money to partner with the Mexican government and create loans for these would-be entrepreneurs to start small businesses and employ their neighbors?

A truly comprehensive immigration reform bill should also include a plan to decrease the violence in Central America which forces many locals to migrate. Honduras and El Salvador currently have the highest murder rates in the world. This violence is mainly caused by cartels that have begun using Central America to smuggle drugs into the U.S.

Photos of migrants standing alongside the overturned train at the site of la bestia derailment last week are an easy story for media outlets seeking a gripping response from their readers or viewers. But the train accident is just one incident in a vast chain of violence and increasing danger which follows migrants from Central America to the U.S. border. It’s an issue which many U.S. politicians currently want to solve by militarizing the southern frontier, but just like when IRCA became law 25 years ago, the real problems that must be addressed remain far away from the U.S. border.

Several days after Juana was deported, she and her son tried crossing the U.S. border again. Back at the shelter in Mexico City, one of Juana’s relatives told me that his time they made it safely to Houston.

As the House prepares to vote on immigration reform later this year, thousands more migrants, like Juana and her son, continue to enter the U.S. with smugglers. If the current immigration reform bill passes the House, it will offer citizenship only to undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. in 2011 or earlier. Without a change of focus on how our nation approaches immigration in the future, the derailing of la bestia will continue to be just a small incident among a much greater tragedy, and Juana and her son will become part of the next generation of undocumented immigrants forced to live in our shadows.

Some names in this story have been changed to protect the identities of those involved.

Levi Bridges is a journalist and Fulbright Scholar based in Mexico City. He writes at www.bridgesandborders.com and tweets @levi_bridges.

August 29 2013

Teacher Protests Over Education Reform Paralyze Mexico City

Mexico's capital has been hit by the protests organized by the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) in recent days.

The CNTE protests have become violent at times, causing property damage [es] on the premises of the San Lázaro legislative palace, for example.

The CNTE is a different labor union from the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE) whose former leader, Elba Esther Gordillo, finds herself subject to criminal persecution for her alleged responsibility in the commission of the crime commonly known as “money laundering.”

CNTE union members oppose the education reforms already passed, seeking to repeal them, and simultaneously refuse to have the knowledge and skills of teachers be evaluated, as currently proposed.

Among the actions of protest carried out by the CNTE is the blocking of the United States Embassy, cuts to road traffic near Mexico City International Airport [es], and the occupation of the Zocalo [es].

Marcha de la #CNTE avanza por reforma. Foto compartida el 28 de agosto por @reformanacional en Twitter

The #CNTE march on August 28. Photo shared by @reformanacional on Twitter

The CNTE protest has caused widespread dismay among citizens, who have said said the following via Twitter:

User @lonsor@y@do (@alonsorayad0) [es] referred to the mobilization of CNTE members and supporters who march towards the Official Residence of Los Pinos as such:

those with the #cnte are already going to Los Pinos for the $500 that those of [political movement led by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador] #morena pay them daily, they are unhinging the city

Edgar Cabrera (@ecabrera78) [es] ironically mentioned that the CNTE is right while simultaneously calling them vandals:

The #CNTE is right, Mexico has no president, if it did, s/he would have already done something about these vandals.

McPhisto (@McPhisto_77) [es] rebuked the Head of the D.F. Government for his inactive stance against the traffic closures and disturbances that the CNTE has caused:

listen, @ManceraMiguelMX what is this about? The CNTE closes whatever they want and we all have to deal with it because you don't want to do your job?

Fernanda Arce Amaré (@FerAcerAmere) [es] also spoke out against those who hold executive power (local and federal), and briefly recounted the CNTE's actions in recent days:

Airport, San Lázaro, television, zócalo. There has already been a death thanks to the #CNTE. When does @epn [President Enrique Peña Nieto] plan to act? Because @ManceraMiguelMX cannot

The CNTE mobilization has not only caused a severe disruption to traffic and work activity of many of those who live in the capital, but it has also led to the suspension of the classic football match [es] between the Club Universidad Pumas and the Club America Eagles, scheduled for Sunday, September 1. BernardoBernardo Altamirano (@beraltamirano) [es] expressed the following regarding the issue:

Now the Federal District's Government is asking to change the Pumas-America because of the protests! Come on, all of us citizens are adapting to the #CNTE, who doesn't want to adapt to anyone!

Sarcastically, Adriana Valero (@adrianavr) [es] remembers that traffic problems are not unusual in a city like the Federal District:

Damn the #CNTE for generating traffic in this city that is characterized by not having it.

User Salva (@alfarosalvador) [es] noted the fact that the CNTE does not have an official website:

As much as the #CNTE is demanding to be heard, they have not bothered to create a webpage.

PsicotravelMx (@PsicotravelMx) [es] remembered that not only those who live in the capital, but those who fail to receive the education that CNTE members should provided, are also affected:

What is the punishment for those who deny the human right of education to a child like these members of the #CNTE #CNDH

Users like Pawmuerta (@pawmuerta) [es] point out that all of this is simply a television strategy to get people to hate the CNTE:

Are you all conscious of the fact that they are suspending football so that people have more reasons to hate the #CNTE? Television strategy, once again.

The CNTE plans to continue camping out in the Zócalo in Mexico City and to have demonstrations in the coming days. It appears as though for now those in the capital city have no choice but to tolerate these protests and show their discontent through social networks.

August 28 2013

Choosing ‘Exile’ Over Break-up, US Citizens Follow ‘Banned’ Spouses Abroad

This post is part of our series on Latin America: Migrant Journeys in collaboration with The North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA). Stay tuned for more articles and podcasts.

Happily ever after isn't always so simple for foreigners in the United States with complicated immigration histories who marry US citizens.

Details such as how they arrived in the US or how long they've been there can mean the difference between starting a life with their new family and immigration laws not allowing them to stay.

Take Leo and Corin, for example. Leo is from Brazil and Corin is a US citizen. They met, fell in love and got married in the United States, but Leo had entered the country “‘without inspection’ – in other words, through Mexico – less than 10 years ago and accrued almost 6 years of ‘unlawful presence,’” as Corin writes in her blog Corin in Exile.

Corin further explains that “the Immigration and Nationality Act says that any immigrant ‘unlawfully present’ in the United States for more than a year is inadmissible for 10 years — even married to an American.”

Corin and Leo had three choices. First, they could apply for “the Hardship Waiver”, where “the American spouse has to prove that their partner’s absence causes them ‘extreme hardship’” –something that they couldn’t prove. Second, they could stay in the United States and wait for immigration reform. Or third, they could leave the country and start their life abroad.

With the waiver option out of the table, the couple decided to leave the country and return to Brazil because, as Corin writes, neither “could stand the stress of living in the US without Leo having documents.”

Corin and Leo are just one of many families in this situation.

Photo shared on Facebook by Action Family Unity

Photo shared on Facebook by Action Family Unity

Like them, many who are currently living outside of the United States due to current immigration laws have started blogging about their cases and their life “in exile.”

Perhaps the blog that has gotten the most media coverage, helping to draw attention to these cases, is The Real Housewife of Ciudad Juarez.

Emily Bonderer Cruz started her blog back in 2010, when she moved to Mexico because her husband “is ineligible to apply for legal status in the United States until 2020,” as she explains in her profile.

Emily goes into detail about their story in a recent post titled “Mi Casa” (My home):

In 2007 my husband was given a voluntary departure by ICE [US Immigration and Customs Enforcement]. Given. Now that's a funny concept, isn't it? As if it were a gift or something.

Emily says that she went into a state of depression while she didn’t know where her husband was, or if he was even alive, as he was “stuck somewhere in the system and without any documentation, without a Social [Security number], he was just a ghost, just another immigrant lost in the in-between.” She continues:

When he finally called me from a pay phone in Nogales [Mexico], it was as if a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. He was alive. He was back on the map. He was going to be okay. I scrounged up just enough money for a bus ticket back to Parral, and for a brief moment, all was right in the world. I knew he was safe. It was in that moment that I also knew I had done the right thing and that this man was the love of my life. This is when my life was forever changed, because I knew that sooner or later, a change was gonna come.

I would be moving to Mexico.

Emily’s blog roll features several blogs by families who have moved out of the US due to immigration laws. One of these blogs is Destination Paradise, where Amy writes about her life with her husband Carlos and their two children in South Korea.

In a post titled “Why?” Amy explains that Carlos was forced by a parent to move to the US from Mexico as a teenager. Carlos attended high school and went to college in the US, and after four and a half years of dating he married Amy, a US citizen.

Amy explains that Carlos was “tired of living in the shadows in the US” and they decided to move to northern Mexico.

In October 2008, they received notice from the US Consulate in Ciudad Juarez explaining that Carlos was not eligible for a visa to live in the US as Amy’s spouse.

What’s worse, Carlos wasn’t eligible for the hardship waiver either, because after arriving to the US for the first time, he had been taken back to Mexico and then forced by a parent to re-enter the US “using a relative's US birth certificate instead of the visitor's visa he already possessed” Amy explains. “Under immigration law — INA 212 A 6 C ii to be specific — a false claim of US citizenship carries a lifetime ban with no waiver.”

With the help of their lawyer, Amy and Carlos tried to find a solution for three and a half years, all the while living apart. Finally, in 2011 Amy and Carlos moved out of their respective countries and headed to South Korea.

Amy says that with recent proposed reforms, “it seems that they will now start looking deeper at the specifics in cases where the immigrant was a minor at the time, and it looks promising for our family.”

In February of this year, Amy also wrote a moving post about their status and how it relates to the current Comprehensive Immigration Reform. In the post, titled “Let no man divide what God has put together”, Amy links to a petition on Change.org which asks President Barack Obama to “bring home American families in exile”:

American citizen spouses of immigrants with immigration bars have three choices: break up their families, move abroad with no safety net and attempt to ‘get in line,’ or live unlawfully with their spouses in the US. We should not be forced to make these choices.

The petition was started by Action for Family Unity (Act4Fams), a volunteer-run group that tries to raise awareness about this issue. The group’s Facebook page, which has more stories like these, posts updates on current changes to immigration law that could affect families like Corin’s, Amy’s and Emily’s.

In the blogosphere, there are also stories of families who have been able to return to the United States after years of struggling with harsh immigration laws. For Giselle Stern Hernández and her Mexican husband, “justice was restored” -as she writes- in June 2013, after 12 years since her husband’s second deportation.

Giselle, a Mexican-American writer and performer, keeps the blog The Deportee’s Wife “to explore themes in the life of a deported man’s wife through a multimedia and intersectional lens.” Giselle also performs a one-woman show with the same title in the United States and Mexico. You can see the trailer for her show here:

But if immigration reform is passed, many families might not have to wait as long as Giselle and her husband to solve their immigration status and live together in the United States.

Earlier this year, The Center for Public Integrity reported that the Senate immigration bill,

calls for giving immigration judges and other officials more discretion to consider the pain and suffering that a loved one’s separation causes U.S. citizens and legal immigrants [...] The proposal says judges who review cases can decline to order an immigrant, with some criminal exceptions, to be ‘removed, deported or excluded’ if it would be ‘against the public interest or would result in hardship to the alien’s United States citizen or permanent resident’ spouse or children.

Families affected by current immigration laws have created a supportive online community through blogs and social networks, where they also raise awareness about their situation and pressure US legislators to include their families in the much anticipated immigration reform.

August 26 2013

Transparency Reform in Mexico: A Step Backward in the Name of Security?

All links lead to Spanish language webpages, unless otherwise noted.

Officials in Mexico have passed constitutional reforms that will greatly affect the public’s ability to access information held by the government. The reform will also affect the autonomy of the national body that oversees this right, the IFAI [en] (Federal Institute for Access to Public Information). Although the reform actually gives more executive powers to the IFAI, the government will now be able to overrule it on the grounds of national security.

Various civil organisations have described these reforms as a backward step for the country in terms of transparency.

In Mexico, access to public information is considered a fundamental right and has been guaranteed by the IFAI since December 2002. As it stands, any person (without having to prove their citizenship) can access, free of charge, any document held by a government body that is of interest to them.

Comisionados IFAI

IFAI commissioners in full session. Photo by the blog’s author.

The reform passed by officials on 23rd August 2013 was highly anticipated and widely discussed by organisations that specialise in the subject. The general public, has also joined in with the debate, although to a lesser extent.

Before the vote took place in the Chamber of Deputies, Fundar [en] published a statement in which the organisations México Infórmate (Mexico, Get Informed) and the Colectivo por la Transparencia (Collective for Transparency) expressed their worries over the ruling. In their opinion the ruling “limits the right to access information”, adding that it:

representa un revés a la máxima protección del derecho de acceso a la información y una contradicción del compromiso del Estado Mexicano con el cumplimiento de sus obligaciones internacionales en materia de derechos humanos

represents a complete reversal to the protection of the public's right to access information and a contradiction of Mexico’s agreement to comply with international obligations concerning human rights

This is, in fact, one of the aspects of the reform that most worries these organisations. According to the statement released by Fundar:

Se aprobó un dictamen que propone que algunos titulares de entidades públicas — el Consejero Jurídico, el Procurador General de la República, el Presidente de la Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos y el Presidente del Banco de México –, puedan impugnar las resoluciones del órgano garante del derecho de acceso a la información, bajo supuestos que consideramos demasiado amplios y generales: literalmente, “la seguridad, la estabilidad económica y la protección de derechos humanos”. Esto significa que, en la práctica, el acceso a la información para el ciudadano perderá su calidad de expedito, además de que se judicializa un derecho humano y se contradice el reconocimiento expreso de la especialización y autonomía del órgano garante para dirimir las controversias que se susciten en esta materia.

A ruling has been passed proposing that heads of public bodies, including the Legal Adviser, the Attorney General, the President of the National Commission for Human Rights and the President of the Bank of Mexico, be able to impugn resolutions made by the organisation that oversees the right to access information. They will be able to do this whenever they deem it a threat to “security, economic stability and the protection of human rights”. We, however, consider this too broad and too general. In practice, this means that the public’s ability to access information will be obstructed, that it will become a legal process rather than a human right, and that it will contradict the previous recognition of the IFAI as a specialised and autonomous organisation.

Equally, the organisation Article 19 voiced its desire for the IFAI to remain off-limits to the authorities:

#NiunpasoAtras off-limits and no exceptions #TransparenciaYA #Articulo19

Nevertheless, the constitutional reform passed by representatives gives government officials the authority to impugn decisions made by the IFAI.

On this topic, the Twitter user Javier Peralta wrote (@jjperaltamoreno):

Reform passed on transparency (#Transparencia). The Legal Adviser to @PresidenciaMX will be able to block appeals to the Supreme Court! #Retroceso

Issa Luna Pla (@ilunapla), an expert on the subject, explained that such a measure is comparable to letting the government withhold information “by decree” or by unilateral means:

Giving powers of appeal to the Legal Adviser of @PresidenciaMX against #IFAI is like allowing information to be withheld by decree

Sue Blano (@lamayorblanco) questioned the claim that limiting transparency was about security:

Accessing information is a problem of national security? Sure! Since when are politicians the entire nation? #Ifai #miedo

With uncertainty faced by the public being intensified by the ambiguous interpretations of the ruling by mainstream media in Mexico, Twitter users have been expressing their confusion. Mario Martínez (@mromtz) wrote:

Unless I've misunderstood the headlines, they’ve just gagged the #IFAI

Nevertheless, legislators took the opportunity to declare victory, with Blanca Jímenez C (@BlancaJC) exalting the work of her parliamentary group:

At #GPPAN we are defending the Education Reform (#ReformaEducativa) and Transparency laws (#Transparencia). For a better future for your family

In a similar vein, the deputy Manlio F. Beltrones (@MFBeltrones) declared that:

Guided by maximum publicity, the concerns of society and institutional modernisation, we have strengthened transparency

The right to access information in Mexico and the organisation that oversees that right are generally cited in other Central and South American countries as examples to follow. Faced with the modifications and additions that could happen during the legislative process, Mexicans and the wider international community will have to wait before they know the true effect of this constitutional reform, including the finer details of any laws that come from it.

But one thing is certain: the debate will continue to develop over the coming weeks.

Mexican Officials Vote to Change Transparency Laws: A Backward Step in the Name of Security?

[All links lead to Spanish language webpages]

Officials in Mexico have passed constitutional reforms that will greatly affect the public’s ability to access information held by the government. The reform will also affect the autonomy of the national body that oversees this right, the IFAI [en] (Federal Institute for Access to Public Information). Although the reform actually gives more executive powers to the IFAI, the government will now be able to overrule it on the grounds of national security.

Various civil organisations have described these reforms as a backward step for the country in terms of transparency.

In Mexico, access to public information is considered a fundamental right and has been guaranteed by the IFAI since December 2002. As it stands, any person (without having to prove their citizenship) can access, free of charge, any document held by a government body that is of interest to them.

Comisionados IFAI

IFAI commissioners in full session. Photo by the blog’s author

The reform passed by officials on 23rd August 2013 was highly anticipated and widely discussed by organisations that specialise in the subject. The general public, has also joined in with the debate, although to a lesser extent.

Before the vote took place in the Chamber of Deputies, Fundar [en] published a statement in which the organisations México Infórmate (Mexico, Get Informed) and the Colectivo por la Transparencia (Collective for Transparency) expressed their worries over the ruling. In their opinion the ruling “limits the right to access information”, adding that it:

representa un revés a la máxima protección del derecho de acceso a la información y una contradicción del compromiso del Estado Mexicano con el cumplimiento de sus obligaciones internacionales en materia de derechos humanos

represents a complete reversal to the protection of the public's right to access information and a contradiction of Mexico’s agreement to comply with international obligations concerning human rights

This is, in fact, one of the aspects of the reform that most worries these organisations. According to the statement released by Fundar:

Se aprobó un dictamen que propone que algunos titulares de entidades públicas — el Consejero Jurídico, el Procurador General de la República, el Presidente de la Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos y el Presidente del Banco de México –, puedan impugnar las resoluciones del órgano garante del derecho de acceso a la información, bajo supuestos que consideramos demasiado amplios y generales: literalmente, “la seguridad, la estabilidad económica y la protección de derechos humanos”. Esto significa que, en la práctica, el acceso a la información para el ciudadano perderá su calidad de expedito, además de que se judicializa un derecho humano y se contradice el reconocimiento expreso de la especialización y autonomía del órgano garante para dirimir las controversias que se susciten en esta materia.

A ruling has been passed proposing that heads of public bodies, including the Legal Adviser, the Attorney General, the President of the National Commission for Human Rights and the President of the Bank of Mexico, be able to impugn resolutions made by the organisation that oversees the right to access information. They will be able to do this whenever they deem it a threat to “security, economic stability and the protection of human rights”. We, however, consider this too broad and too general. In practice, this means that the public’s ability to access information will be obstructed, that it will become a legal process rather than a human right, and that it will contradict the previous recognition of the IFAI as a specialised and autonomous organisation.

Equally, the organisation Article 19 voiced its desire for the IFAI to remain off-limits to the authorities:

#NiunpasoAtras off-limits and no exceptions #TransparenciaYA #Articulo19

Nevertheless, the constitutional reform passed by representatives gives government officials the authority to impugn decisions made by the IFAI.

On this topic, the Twitter user Javier Peralta wrote (@jjperaltamoreno):

Reform passed on transparency (#Transparencia). The Legal Adviser to @PresidenciaMX will be able to block appeals to the Supreme Court! #Retroceso

Issa Luna Pla (@ilunapla), an expert on the subject, explained that such a measure is comparable to letting the government withhold information “by decree” or by unilateral means:

Giving powers of appeal to the Legal Adviser of @PresidenciaMX against #IFAI is like allowing information to be withheld by decree

Sue Blano (@lamayorblanco) questioned the claim that limiting transparency was about security:

Accessing information is a problem of national security? Sure! Since when are politicians the entire nation? #Ifai #miedo

With uncertainty faced by the public being intensified by the ambiguous interpretations of the ruling by mainstream media in Mexico, Twitter users have been expressing their confusion. Mario Martínez (@mromtz) wrote:

Unless I've misunderstood the headlines, they’ve just gagged the #IFAI

Nevertheless, legislators took the opportunity to declare victory, with Blanca Jímenez C (@BlancaJC) exalting the work of her parliamentary group:

At #GPPAN we are defending the Education Reform (#ReformaEducativa) and Transparency laws (#Transparencia). For a better future for your family

In a similar vein, the deputy Manlio F. Beltrones (@MFBeltrones) declared that:

Guided by maximum publicity, the concerns of society and institutional modernisation, we have strengthened transparency

The right to access information in Mexico and the organisation that oversees that right are generally cited in other Central and South American countries as examples to follow. Faced with the modifications and additions that could happen during the legislative process, Mexicans and the wider international community will have to wait before they know the true effect of this constitutional reform, including the finer details of any laws that come from it.

But one thing is certain: the debate will continue to develop over the coming weeks.

August 16 2013

From North to South, the Government is Watching You

As revelations surrounding the United States’ NSA surveillance programs continue to emerge, other governments and private citizens alike have raised their voices in opposition to this infringement on the privacy of Internet users’ personal data.

Latin American countries have had a particularly strong response, which intensified after leaked reports indicated that the NSA had targeted “commercial secrets” of Latin American allies and tapped multiple telecommunications networks in Brazil [pt]. In a statement released at the 2013 summit of Mercosur, the economic cooperative organization chastised the behavior of the United States’ government, stating  “[we] emphatically reject the interception of telecommunications and espionage activities in our countries, as they are a violation of human rights, the right to privacy and the right to information of our citizens…”

Civil society advocates in Latin America responded to this call with an open letter reminding MERCOSUR countries and allies of their own commitments to citizens. The letter urged for a collaborative policymaking process in the region.

We want Latin America to become the model both of laws and practices allowing and enabling us to exercise our human rights to the maximum degree. The espionage problem we are facing right now is…an opportunity for us. Working together, governments and civil society, we can design a regional policy allowing us to develop in full all the potential of new technologies while protecting our citizens.

Indeed, while many eyes are currently fixed on the surveillance activities of the United States, citizens across Latin America are also at risk of abuses by their own national governments. Programs in Colombia, Mexico and Panama provide just a few examples.

Colombia, reportedly a critical target of US government spying, due to both the country's economic partnership with the US and drug-related security problems, has ramped up electronic surveillance efforts in recent years. In 2012, the federal government issued a decree mandating that telecommunication providers build backdoors into their systems to make it easier for law enforcement to spy on Colombians. The decree also required that Internet service providers collect the online location information of all of their subscribers and store that information for five years in order to aid law enforcement investigations.

Security officer in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Photo by C. Alberto. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Security officer in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Photo by C. Alberto. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

In 2009, it was revealed that the Colombian government had for years illegally surveilled human rights groups, prominent journalists, political candidates, justices of the Supreme Court, clergy members, and other citizens. Colombia's intelligence service (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad, or DAS), which reports directly to the president, not only spied on these individuals, but spied on their families, “taking photos of their children, investigating where they went to school, and tapping the phones of their parents, siblings and children.” Even after the program was exposed the abuses continued – evidence later proved that prosecutors investigating the DAS were even put under close watch.

More recently, the Colombian government has developed a program called Single Platform Monitoring and Analysis (Plataforma Única de Monitoreo y Análisis, or PUMA). Scheduled to launch in 2014, this new PRISM-like program would assist law enforcement in monitoring a wide variety of communications including online communications and social media networks. Through the PUMA program, the Colombian government aims to collect 20,00 different types of telecommunications media using 700 workstations for analysts to review collected data.

In Mexico, the federal government almost unanimously passed a law in 2012 granting police access to real-time user location data without a warrant. This law allowed local police to track the whereabouts and movements of nearly any cell phone user in country. In June 2013 it was discovered that the Mexican government had possibly been using a malicious software program known as FinFisher which has the ability to record the screen, keystrokes, camera, and microphone of infected computers. The escalation of drug-related violence in Mexico over the past seven years has been the impetus for many of these programs. But many believe that policymakers have failed to balance the legitimate, pressing need to protect citizens from drug violence with fundamental rights to privacy and due process of law.

In 2010, leaked US diplomatic cables revealed that Panama was working with the United States to run a wiretapping facility known as ‘Matador‘. Since that time, University of Toronto research center Citizen Lab has reported that FinFisher has also been found within Panama though the extent of its use it still unknown.

At least four Latin American countries have received significant assistance in setting up their surveillance programs from the United States, including the three countries discussed above as well as Paraguay.

These activities and instances of Latin American governments surveilling the online activities of their citizens do not make the vast global dragnet of the NSA any less scary. But they do illustrate how citizens across Latin America must be conscientious of surveillance by both foreign governments as well as their own.

Crowdmapping Mexico's Disappeared

#PorTodosLosDesaparecidos

#PorTodosLosDesaparecidos

# PorTodosLosDesaparecidos (For all the missing) is a direct initiative, without intermediaries, which seeks to create a direct contact between the victims, citizens, family and the media. The goal is to document the 27,000 people missing that the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) has registered. The Secretary of the Interior (Segob) announced the database of people reported missing in Mexico, and the official number up until February 27 of this year amounted to 26,121.

Read more about this crowdmapping initiative [es] in the Mexican blog Sopitas [es].

August 14 2013

#YoViajoPara: Why do Latin Americans Travel?

Latin Americans love to travel. They might travel for fun, for work, or even for love -the reasons are endless.

There are many intrepid travelers in the region, many of them brave enough to explore any terrain or climate.

With the hashtag #YoViajoPara (“I travel to”, or “I travel for”), travelers started an online discussion, sharing the most common reasons why they are passionate about traveling.

Travelers in Oaxaca. Picture taken by the author of this post.

Travelers in Oaxaca. Picture by Andrea Arzaba.

Maria Boa (@_mariaboa) [es] from Mexico expressed her passion about learning when going abroad:

I travel to live, dream, feel and discover different worlds, every trip is an adventure and with it a new responsibility, knowledge #happy

Honduran user Queenmarielos (@queenmarielos) [es] wrote that her favourite thing about travelling is discovering different food and drink:

I travel to eat different dishes and to drink local beverages from every city and country

Global Voices contributor Julián Ortega Martínez (@julian_ortegam_) [es] from Colombia confessed that he travels to see his loved one:

 I travel to fulfill the dream of seeing you

Elizabeth Rivera (@elimaguire) [es], also a Global Voices contributor, wrote about her interest in moving around to discover new places:

I travel to connect with the world. This planet is too interesting to stay always in the same place.

Francisco Diaz (@Frank_FDP) [es] from Mexico described his passion for traveling as a unique way to find out how people from other cultures understand the world:

 I travel to try to understand how the world thinks

Brazilian Twitter user Transeunte (@transeunte_bsb) [pt] tweeted about his desire to get out of his comfort zone:

I travel to change the context!

Mariana (@MEspinozaE) [es] from Mexico said that traveling is the best way to spend her time:

@Lolawm it has helped me to expand my horizons, and think outside the box.. the best way to spend my time 

Chef and Global Voices contributor Melissa DeLeon (@cookingdiva) [es] from Panama wrote that she travels for work, but also to enjoy local food:

I've been traveling since I was very young, today I travel for work but I always find a chance to enjoy leaning about the culture and the local gastronomy

Why do you travel? Share your stories, reasons or thoughts with the hashtag #YoViajoPara.

August 13 2013

Mexican President Plans Controversial Energy Reform

[All links lead to Spanish language pages except where indicated]

The President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto [en], publicly presented his plans to reform the country’s oil industry with particular emphasis upon the operations of the semi-public Petróleos Mexicanos (Mexican Petroleum).

Mexican Petroleum, or PEMEX, was created by presidential decree on 7th June 1938, the same year that the country expropriated oil [en] then being pumped by various private companies

The proposal was announced at the President’s official residence of Los Pinos [en] on 12th August 2013. President Nieto’s plan includes changes to specific articles of the Constitution of Mexico (those relating to monopolies and state ownership of natural resources), but this first has to be debated by representatives and senators before it can be passed.

The President’s announcement, however, came as little surprise to groups both inside and outside Mexico who have been anticipating the news for many months. The Mexican website Revolución tres punto cero (Revolution three point zero) broke the news after the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in January:

Durante una mesa redonda del Foro Económico Mundial que se lleva a cabo en Davos, Suiza, el titular de la Secretaría de Hacienda, Luis Videgaray, afirmó que se prevé que la Reforma Energética esté lista para la primera mitad de este 2013.

Dicha reforma comprendería cambios en Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) para permitir mayor participación de empresas privadas.

Para Emilio Lozoya Austin, director de Pemex, quien también participó en dicha actividad, los cambios generarán “más valor” y, según afirma, no habrá privatización en los energéticos nacionales: “modernizar Pemex no implica privatizar ni que el Estado pierda la rectoría del sector energético”.

During a round table at the World Economic Forum taking place in Davos in Switzerland, the current Finance Secretary, Luis Videgaray, stated that it was thought that the Energy Reform would be ready by the first half of 2013.

This reform would involve changes to PEMEX in order to allow for greater participation by private companies.

According to the director of PEMEX, Emilio Lozoya Austin, who was also present at the meeting, the changes will generate “more value”, and that national energy will not be privatized: “modernizing PEMEX does not imply privatization nor that the state will lose control over the energy sector”

Days before the proposal was presented by President Peña Nieto, Victor Hernández from Blog de Izquierda (Leftist Blog) commented:

Foto de Matthew Rutledge  en Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Photo by Matthew Rutledge on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

La privatización de Pemex de Enrique Peña Nieto ya inició desde antes de que se presentara la reforma energética.

Empezó con la venta del 48% del complejo petromquímico de Pajaritos, en Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. El acuerdo se hizo a principios de año y finalmente se publicó en el diario oficial de la federación el 30 de julio.

La promesa del PAN [Partido Acción Nacional] y del PRI [Partido Revolucionario Institucional] de que no se vendería un solo tornillo de Pemex resultó falsa. No vendieron sólo un tornillo, sino LA MITAD de una de las petroquímicas más importantes de Pemex.

Para que se den una idea de lo importante que es el complejo de Pajaritos, en el sexenio de Vicente Fox el ejército mexicano compró lanzamisiles para protegerlo.

The privatization of PEMEX by Enrique Peña Nieto started long before the presentation of any energy reform proposals.

It started with the sale of 48% of the petrochemical complex in Parjaritos in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. The agreement was made at the start of the year and finally made public on 30th July.

The promises made by the National Action Party [en] and the Institutional Revolutionary Party [en] that not a single part of PEMEX would be sold turned out to be a lie. In the end what they sold was HALF of one of PEMEX’s most important plants.

Just to get an idea of how important the Pajaritos complex is, during Vicente Fox’s six year term the Mexican army bought missile launchers to protect it

John M. Ackerman (@JohnMAckerman), who is a supporter of Andrés Manuel López Obrador [en], a firm opposer of the current government, commented that the president’s proposal (which he believes is seeking the privatization of PEMEX) would not be able to trick Mexican society:

Afortunadamente, ya no existe posibilidad alguna de engañar a la sociedad con una privatización light vestida con las sedas de un supuesto “pragmatismo”. Con la propuesta del PAN se transparenta la ambición desmedida de los grandes empresarios nacionales y extranjeros en su búsqueda de quedarse con una tajada aún más grande de la riqueza nacional. Y con las constantes denuncias de Andrés Manuel López Obrador se evidencian las mentiras escondidas detrás de la idea de que una mayor “participación” de Exxon-Mobil y Halliburton automáticamente beneficiará al pueblo de México.

Fortunately there no longer exists the chance of misleading society with a privatization made to look more attractive by so called “pragmatism”. The proposal made by PAN (National Action Party) exposes the gross ambition of big national and foreign companies to get themselves an even larger slice of the national wealth. And after the constant denunciations of Andrés Manuel López Obrador we now see the lies lurking behind the idea that greater “involvement” by Exxon-Mobil and Halliburton will automatically benefit the Mexican people

Ackerman adds:

Enrique Peña Nieto ha sido rebasado por la coyuntura. Pospuso una y otra vez la presentación de su iniciativa con la esperanza de poder tejer previamente las alianzas necesarias para que la naturaleza privatizadora de su propuesta no se evidencie de manera tan desvergonzada. Por ello el presidente incluso se atreverá a recurrir a la engañosa táctica de utilizar la histórica figura del mismo general Lázaro Cárdenas para dar la impresión de que su iniciativa tendría el aval de este gran mexicano. Como colofón de esta puesta en escena, el presidente del PRI, César Camacho, ha amenazado con “defender hasta en las calles” la propuesta energética de su partido.

Enrique Peña Nieto has been left behind by the situation. Time and time again he postponed presenting his initiative with the hope of being able to string together the alliances needed to make sure the privatizing nature of this proposal wouldn’t be exposed in such a shameless manner. The president even dared to resort to the dishonest tactic of using the historical figure of General Lázaro Cárdenas [en] to give the impression that his initiative would have the endorsement of this great Mexican. As a climax to this mise-en-scène, the president of the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party [en]), César Camacho, has threatened to “defend in the streets” his party’s energy proposal.

On Twitter the username Arroz (@roxmgs) shared the following opinion regarding the reform:

I view the energy reform as necessary but in a different way: Redistribution of earnings from oil and don’t hand them over to PEMEX

A day before the proposal was announced, the researcher Miguel Carbonell (@MiguelCarbonell) mentioned one of the things that worries Mexicans most:

50% of the oil that we consume in Mexico we have to import. We’re doing something wrong #reformaenergetica

As is common among some Mexican analysts, the academic Luis Pazos (@luispazos1) could not resist comparing what is happening in Mexico with what is happening in an undeniably more advanced country:

In Norway, with private partners in state owned petrol companies and less employees than PEMEX, they produce more

Verónica Calderón (@veronicalderon), who followed the president’s speech, summed it up in the following way:

Speech by @EPN finishes in which he tells how incredibly important we are and how great Mexico is. One minute of applause. #Pemex

Much more important will be what is said in the coming days about the proposed reform presented by the president, however, the most important thing will be to first of all understand it in detail before issuing a value judgement. Similarly, it is worth highlighting that this proposal has been made within a political system based on distributed power meaning that the proposal will have to go to congress which will have the final say.

August 12 2013

Government Critic Arrested on Drug Charges in Mexico

Twitter user Gustavo Maldonado was arrested and charged with minor drug-related offenses in Chiapas, Mexico on August 9. Apart from possessing and having sold small amounts of cocaine, not unusual for the area, Maldonado is a vociferous critic of local government.

Maldonado's Twitter handle @gumalo3105 and his profiles on Youtube and Facebook are highly critical of governor of Chiapas Manuel Vasco Coello. His arrest took place just hours after he shared a video on YouTube, exposing a corruption scandal related to local water supply services and other social problems. Maldonado was the administrator of the Anonymous Legion Chiapas YouTube channel, where he posted the video.

Local Mexican Twitter users launched a campaign #TodosSomosLegionChiapas (“We are all the Chiapas legion”) arguing that the arrest was a retaliation for Maldonado's opinions and online activities.

While his alias made him easily identifiable, Twitter users [es] and Información de lo nuevo [es], a blog based in the Yucatan peninsula, suggested that law enforcement officials had been monitoring Maldonado's activities using an online surveillance tool called “Black Eyed Hosting.” Police say they received an anonymous tip alerting them to Maldonado's whereabouts.

Authorities in the state of Chiapas have a long history of corruption and abuse of power. The state is known for the Zapatista rebel organization, which has since the 1990s advocated for better public services and stronger political representation for residents of the state, many of whom are indigenous. Although these efforts have garnered international attention for years, corruption and social inequality persist in the area.

August 05 2013

TNW Announces Latin American Startup Awards Winners

In the lead up to this year’s The Next Web Conference Latin America, we’ve been running Startup Awards competitions in Peru, Colombia, Mexico, Argentina, Chile and Brazil in search of the hottest startups and investors.

[...]

The result has been absolutely amazing – in just under a week 18,448 people have cast a total of 31,000+ votes. We’ve seen finalists create beautiful social media campaigns, adding calls-to-action to their websites and we’ve even heard of finalists flying to other cities to strengthen their leaderboard position.

Wytze De Haan in The Next Web (TNW) announces the winners of the Latin American Startup Awards in each category: Best Consumer Startup, Best B2B Startup, Best Investor, and Best co-founder(s).

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