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February 13 2014

‘Costa Ricans Are Fed Up’

A myriad of articles about the recent Costa Rican elections have proclaimed the country’s “turn to the left.” Perhaps some do this because it is simply too convenient to whip up an article or op-ed about leftist victories in El Salvador and Costa Rica. Or perhaps some are still trapped in the Cold War. But these headlines miss the more salient point of Costa Rica’s elections – Costa Ricans are fed up. And they’re fed up with the status quo.

Christine Wade writes a guest post in the blog Central American Politics where she discusses “the general political malaise amongst Costa Ricans”. She concludes:

It’s time to move beyond the left-right discourse that all too frequently characterizes the analysis of Central American politics if we are to better understand the political dynamics of a region in flux. As the case of Costa Rica demonstrates (and this is true for El Salvador as well), such superficial explanations obscure more than they enlighten.

February 03 2014

El Salvador and Costa Rica to Hold Runoff Elections

El Salvador and Costa Rica held presidential elections yesterday, February 2, but both countries will define their president in a runoff vote.

In El Salvador, “results show Salvador Sanchez Ceren (FMLN) winning 49%, just short of the 50% he needed to win in the first round. Norman Quijano (ARENA) is in second place with 39%,” writes Boz from Bloggings by boz, where he shares “Five points on El Salvador's elections.”

Meanwhile in Costa Rica, The Tico Times reports:

Center-left presidential candidate Luis Guillermo Solís will battle ruling party candidate Johnny Araya in a runoff on April 6 after Solís shocked many in this small Central American country by taking first place in preliminary results released late Sunday night.


Costa Rica’s elections, which were peaceful, showed a growing polarization among progressive and conservative voters.

February 02 2014

PHOTOS: Costa Ricans in the Diaspora Vote for the First Time

For the first time Costa Ricans living abroad are allowed to vote in a presidential election. From around the world, Costa Ricans have been using Twitter to report about their vote.

This time, we, the 15,000 Costa Ricans living abroad, are key, our votes might avoid a run-off.

From Costa Ricans living in Australia, the first ones to cast their vote, to the ones based in Japan, France, the United States and elsewhere, citizens are reporting about their vote with expressions full of excitement.

Stephanie reports from Washington:

I live my vote in Washington, DC.

Francisco traveled from Boston to New York to exercise his right to vote.

Francisco Delgado studies in Boston and went to New York to vote.

Also from the United States, Diego Rivera shares this picture:

I already voted!!! (Consulate of Costa Rica in Miami!)

From Brussels, Silvia Muñoz and Alexander Molina celebrate their vote:

In Brussels, the administrative capital of Europe, Silvia Muñoz Solano and Alexander Molina López voted.

All the way from China, a young woman from Cartago reports her vote:

Sofía Hernández, from Cartago, voted in China. The poll station in Beijing ended the day already.

And Adolfo Chaves reports from The Hague, Netherlands:

My vote in The Hague.

More pictures and reports on the hashtags #VotoExteriorCR [vote abroad Costa Rica], #EleccionesCR [election Costa Rica] and #VivoMiVoto [I live my vote].

Costa Ricans Go to the Polls to Elect a New President

Glenda Umaña, a Costa Rican journalist who is covering today's presidential elections, comments on Facebook [es] and Twitter:

I found my name on the electoral roll. I'm so exited about voting that I'm in tears!

This is part of the electoral party that is currently taking place in Costa Rica.

Costa Ricans are using the hashtag #VivoMiVoto to share reports and photographs.

You can also follow today's vote live online through streaming by Canal 7 [es] and Onda UNED [es].

February 01 2014

Costa Rica's Presidential Election Is an Unexpectedly Tight Race

Foto de Ingmar Zahorsky en Flickr, bajo licencia Creative Commons  (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Vote, placing an X in the box next to your choice. Photo by Ingmar Zahorsky on Flickr, under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

[Links are to Spanish-language pages except where noted.]

Costa Rica is just a day away from electing a new president, the culmination of one of the hardest-fought electoral races in the country's history. The race is still too close to call, with candidates on the left, centre, and right running neck and neck. It is, without a doubt, democracy in action. 

According to the latest opinion poll conducted by Unimer for the La Nación newspaper, there are three candidates tied for first place: José Maria Villalta of the leftist Frente Amplio [en], Johnny Araya of the more moderate Liberación Nacional [en] and Otto Guevara of the right wing Movimiento Libertario [en].

The data provided by the marketing research firm on January 16, 2014, shows José María Villalta's support at 22.2%, Johnny Araya with 20.3% and Otto Guevara at 20.2%. Given a margin of error of 2.2 percentage points, this is considered—in technical terms—a tie. Of the top five candidates, based on popular support, the next two rank significantly lower than the leaders, with Luis Guillermo Solís (Partido Acción Ciudadana) [en] at 5.5% and Rodolfo Piza (Partido Unidad Social Cristiana) [en] at 3.6%.

Clearly these numbers set off alarm bells in the campaign headquarters of the governing Liberación Nacional party, which has always enjoyed a solid lead with strong numbers. The possibility that there might be a second round had not even occurred to them.

On the other hand, another poll by Cid Gallup for Noticias Repretel, published on January 28, shows Johnny Araya with 35.6%, followed by José Maria Villalta with 21%, Otto Guevara in third place at 17.6%, Luis Guillermo Solis in fourth with 15.6%, and Rodolfo Piza with 6.5% .

These elections have been full of contrasts. Take the case of the Frente Amplio party, labelled left wing and traditionally a minor player, which this time garnered the kind of support even its most optimistic followers would not have predicted; or the case of Luis Guillermo Solis, who has also gained ground in the last two months, with support coming mainly from younger voters; finally, the current situation facing the government has greatly affected its candidate Johny Araya, whose approval rating in the polls has waned, although it now remains steady. 

There is little doubt that these elections will define a generation of Costa Ricans and determine the future of the country in a dramatic way.

Juan Carlos Hidalgo, an analyst covering Latin American politics for the Cato Institute, says:

La de este domingo es quizás la más importante que hemos enfrentado en una generación: el 2 de febrero tenemos ante nosotros una clara disyuntiva: seguimos igual, retrocedemos o avanzamos.

Las redes sociales han servido de caja de resonancia en la discusión política cotidiana. Antes, discutíamos entre familia y amigos. Hoy, nos vemos enfrascados en interminables discusiones con desconocidos sobre una amplia gama de temas.

This Sunday's [election] is perhaps the most important we have faced in a generation: on February 2, we will have a clear choice to make: continue as we have, go backwards or move forward.

Social networks have been a sounding board in the daily political discussions. Before, we talked among friends and family. Today, we are caught up in interminable discussions with strangers about a whole range of topics.

The drop in popularity of current President Laura Chinchilla's government will surely affect the outcome of the election—and mainly her own party, Liberación Nacional. The slogan of almost all the ads run by the other political parties emphasizes the need for change in Costa Rica.

It is also clear that, like never before in the country's history, people are informed, thanks to social media and digital access to the candidates’ political platforms. While both things existed before, they have become tools that the political parties increasingly know how to use. These elections will definitely signal a before-and-after divide in the way politics in the country is conducted. 

Every day closer to the election! How great Costa Rica! We are living history!

The candidates are using social media to issue clarifications, rebut rumours, and provide information on their platforms.

Johnny Araya has been repeatedly attacked for his work in the Municipality of San José, a post he occupied for more than 20 years, where—as he himself observes—despite being accused on several occasions for crimes such as graft and embezzlement, he was never convicted and most of the cases were rejected by the public prosecutor's office.

I am proud of the work I did for the Municipality of San José.

More recently Luis Guillermo Solis has been criticized for his position in favour of abortion in the case of rape and for an apparent alliance with the Frente Amplio, an alliance he has repeatedly denied. 

There is no such alliance with the Frente Amplio, although many people are still gossiping about it.

Otto Guevara has focused his campaign on the creation of new jobs and the reduction in the cost of electricity. 

We can make sure all Costa Ricans live better, have work, and cut the price of electricity.

José Maria Villalta was the candidate who first took a stand against the status quo, a strategy that all the other parties then imitated when they realized how effective it was. 

To avoid business as usual and strengthen democracy, we are the choice to make to remove the Liberación Nacional party from power

The post-electoral scenario is uncertain. Although some candidates argue for the raising of taxes on the “privileged middle class,” favouring unions and rejecting free-trade deals, others argue for greater openness, reducing state monopolies, eliminating the entitlements of public sector employees, and in some cases, increasing taxes. 

The biggest criticism that can be made about all the candidates is the lack of clear ideas about how to solve current problems such as the infrastructure, fiscal deficit, tax evasion and education. All of them raise these issues in their platforms but none provide sufficient details about the means they would use to fight them. This should be a lesson for the next election in four years. 

January 23 2014

From Barcelona to Madrid for the Love of a Candidate

Blogger Denise Duncan makes a confession [es] on her blog:

¿Por qué voy a viajar 1400 kilómetros para votar por Luis Guillermo Solís? ¿Por qué ir y volver de Barcelona a Madrid en 24 horas? ¡Pero es un voto, nada más!, podría pensarse. ¿Qué diferencia hay? Una: estoy enamorada.

Why am I going to travel 1400 kilometers to vote for Luis Guillermo Solís? Why am I going from Barcelona to Madrid and back in 24 hours? But it's just a vote, nothing else!, you could think. What's the difference? One: I'm in love.

Denise is a Barcelona-based Costa Rican citizen and she'll have to travel from there to Madrid to cast her vote for Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera [es], a candidate running for president in the upcoming elections on February 2, 2014.

She remembers an earlier experience, when she spent 24 hours in a train to meet the man who is now her husband. She ends her confession saying:

Entonces brindaré por lo que viene, por un cambio que hará que mi corazón diga: yo recorrí 1400 kilómetros por dos hombres decentes en mi vida. Uno es mi marido. El otro el Presidente de la República.

Then I'll make a toast for what's yet to come, for a change that will make my heart say: I traveled 1400 kilometers because of two men in my life. One is my husband. The other one is the President of the Republic.

January 17 2014

Online Platform ‘Ojo al Voto’ Seeks to Lure Young Costa Rican Voters

“Politics in your language!” Image from the Ojo al voto Facebook page.

The interactive platform Ojo al voto [es] wants to provide young voters with useful and straightforward information about the upcoming presidential and legislative elections in Costa Rica, scheduled for February 2, 2014.

The Hivos Central America website explains:

Ojo al voto is an interactive platform, independent from the mainstream media, that combines detailed information about political parties and the profiles and platforms of presidential and legislative candidates with digital storytelling and data visualizations.


This innovative initiative is especially aimed at young voters between the age of 18 and 37, who represent 48 percent of the electorate according to Costa Rica’s Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE). A poll published by the daily newspaper ‘La Nación’ showed that 5 out of 10 young people claimed to be indifferent to politics. Working in this climate of apathy, Ojo al Voto’s challenge is to bring youth closer to politics.

You can follow Ojo al Voto on Facebook [es] and Twitter [es].

December 18 2013

“We Are More Alive Than Ever:” Coral Herrera and the Struggle for Gender Equality

Portada del libro

Coral Herrera's “Diverse Weddings and Queer Love” book cover

This post is part of our series on gender and sexuality in Latin America and the Caribbean, in collaboration with NACLA (North American Congress on Latin America). This is the continuation of a conversation with Coral Herrera Gómez, published in two parts, the first of which can be read here.

In the first part of our dialog about the work of artist, blogger, and scholar Coral Herrera, we discussed the opportunities presented by new technology for gender equality and the social struggle for the rights of women and LGBT persons. This time we will enter into a discussion about the struggle for gender equality in Latin America.

We asked Coral to give us her impressions of the evolution of these struggles, both online and off, and we also talked about the road we have traveled and the one that remains before us.

Global Voices: What have you discovered about the pro-gender equality movements thanks to new media?

Coral Herrera: I am amazed by social networks because they have opened doors and windows for me to the entire world, they have broaden my horizons on all levels of my life: at the intellectual, personal, and professional levels. Before connecting to the world, I felt very alone with my books and my research, but now I sense that there are a lot of people who are also writing and sharing, with whom I can debate, build up, and deconstruct collectively.

When I got connected to these networks, I entered into contact with a diverse group of women who fascinated me because they allowed me to meet other realities beyond what I had known in Spain. I'm amazed at the struggle of peasant women, Afro-descendant woman, indigenous women, migrant women, victims of trafficking, factory workers, domestic workers, disabled women, and being able to come into contact with them has allowed me to grow beyond the Euro-centric feminism in which I was living.

Besides meeting with activists, it was fascinating to connect with feminist writers who were not only still living, but were also very active on social networks. Being able to follow them on a daily basis and to get to know them so “up close” allowed me to connect with feminist organizations and online publications from all over Latin America, and that was how I began to expand my networks and make contact with the groups of egalitarian men and LGBT activists, and with the queer groups that are slowly emerging.

GV: What are the most pressing conversations that you're finding in the area of gender in Latin America?

CH: Above all, I think it's necessary to continue to highlight the struggles of women for access to land and water, and the work being carried out in fighting against genetically modified crops and for obtaining food sovereignty.

We also have to open up the debate within the feminisms in order to engage in self-criticism; it worries me that young people aren't identifying with feminist values and that our struggles are stereotyped in such a negative way.

I believe it's a problem in communication: we feminists are the object of ridicule, jokes, insults, and pejorative comments; we are called ugly, witches, man-haters, sexually frustrated, etc. This is what's going on in Europe; in other parts of the world you can be murdered for being a feminist, as has happened in Mexico with human rights activists, for example.

Within the feminisms, I think we have to create networks that are more horizontal and more inclusive. As in all social and political movements, within the feminisms there are still hierarchies, relationships of power, patriarchal power structures that we have to eliminate in order to be able to transform the world we live in. It's necessary to expand our sisterhood not only to those who are our equals, but also to humanity as a whole. [...] Diversity is an asset we have to take advantage of in order for, say, post-modern women to identify with the struggles of indigenous women, cissexual women with the demands of transexual women, women entrepreneurs with working-class women, Catholic women who struggle to depatriarchalize their religion with Islamic feminist women, etc.

GV: What subjects related to gender equality in Latin America still need to be discussed? In what areas are we stagnating?

CH: I don't feel as though we're stagnating; I believe we're more alive then ever.

But from what I see on the Internet, as the number of collaborating organizations and collectives increases, so the feminist networks become more extensive, they're multiplying every day. I believe we're capitalizing on the potential these networks offer for sharing information and for creating solidarity teams and mutual support.

I think that within the feminisms we cannot fight only for equality between men and women, but we must also open up to the struggles of our trans and lesbian sisters, of our environmentalist or Islamic sisters, of our egalitarian partners, or to the struggles of pacifist groups, social movements, etc. We must embrace diversity to incorporate our struggle against any hierarchy or label that oppresses us, because in partial struggles we are minorities.

It's true that we have many ideological differences, but without a doubt we all want a world that is more balanced, more just, more equitable and peaceful. I believe that without solidarity, improving our reality will be slow and difficult; that's why I liked the “Somos el 99%” ["We are the 99%"] campaign so much, because it created a sense of unity against the privileged castes of the world, which represent only a very small group of people.

GV: What successes can we celebrate?

CH: This year we can celebrate, for example, the approval of marriage equality in several countries, but without losing sight of what is happening in Russia. We can celebrate the decriminalization of abortion in Uruguay and the zero death rate of women due to abortion in that country, but without forgetting that in countries like Spain, a woman's right to decide has been done away with in the face of the power of the most ultraconservative sectors of the Catholic church. We can celebrate the growth of male feminist groups who are working to eliminate the trafficking of sex slaves and femicide, and we can celebrate the existence of female leaders governing countries in Latin America, but without ceasing to object to the way in which they exercise power or whether their governance is truly contributing to the improvement of living conditions for women.

GV: And what victories remain for us to win?

CH: The main challenges we have before us continue to be the same: eliminating networks of sexual slavery, eliminating femicide and gender violence, promoting equality in the workplace for female wage-earners, supporting the fight of women to own the land they work on, and the fight all women share for the right to make decisions about our own bodies and our own lives, and to report and put and end to the homophobic and transphobic killings that are taking place on a daily basis across the continent….

To continue the dialog on these topics, we recommend Coral's conferences on the Sociocultural Construct of Desire and Eroticism [es] and her participation in the 5th Annual Feminist Meeting in Paraguay [es].

November 14 2013

PHOTOS: Humans of Latin America

“She laughed, laughed and laughed while she waited for inter-provincial transportation. Tiraque, Cochabamba”.
Photo by Mijhail Calle for Humans of Bolivia, used with permission.

Inspired by photographer Brandon Stanton's blog Humans of New York (HONY), professional and amateur photographers across the world have created blogs and Facebook pages where they collect images and stories of people from all walks of life –and Latin America has not been an exception.

Stanton's idea has inspired Latin American photographers who want to showcase their country or city through portraits of its diverse people.

This is a brief overview of some of the “Humans of…” projects in the region.

Humans of Buenos Aires

“Come and visit me whenever you want. I'm sorry I can't offer you mate [local beverage] but I have no place to heat up water.” Photo by Jimena Mizrahi, used with permission.

Freelance photographer Jimena Mizrahi started Humans of Buenos Aires in May 2012, and her Facebook page has attracted over 11,000 likes.

Her project also caught the attention of a city official, which resulted in the first Humans of Buenos Aires exhibition. The Argentina Independent reports that “the exhibition ‘Micro historias del Microcentro’ featured displays of portraits of individuals who live or work in the city’s central business district”.

Jimena told The Argentina Independent that she does Humans of Buenos Aires “not only because I simply love interacting with people, but because each of these interactions is a lesson. Every person is a world.”

“-I can't believe it! A woman cab driver!
-Of course, do you think that women can't be taxi drivers? It's time to stop being surprised when women do things that aren't common for their gender, there aren't things for men or women.”
Photo by Jimena Mizrahi, used with permission.

Humans of Colombia and Humans of Bogotá

“A Wayuu girl, daughter of a restaurant owner in Uribia.”
Photo by Gábor Szentpétery, used with permission.

Humans of Colombia was created by designer Maurent Roa and architect Gábor Szentpétery. During their travels the couple met Mauricio Romero, who has joined the project and contributed some photographs. While traveling, they also noticed that many people didn't know much about Colombia or had a negative perception of the country; with this project they aim to show a different side of Colombia.

“The idea is to represent Colombia through its people because ethnic diversity in Colombia is incredible. It is a mixture of Amerindians, Spanish and African descendants, and that's what we want to show the world,” Maurent explains.

“Carmen Lorena grew up on a coffee plantation estate about three hours from Bogotá, but she thinks the city life is not for her, she prefers the countryside where she will stay after finishing her studies.”
Photo by Mauricio Romero, used with permission.

“What is your perception of love, and your favorite way to love?”
-”I think that love is everything, it makes up everything that surrounds us and I'd say that my favorite way to love is…breathing”.
Photo by John Cardona, used with permission.

For more photos from Colombia, you can also visit Humans of Bogotá, a page created in August 2013 by John Cardona and Jonathan Arévalo.

John and Jonathan are motivated by the response they've received, and by the chance to meet new people and hear stories that they can show the world through their page. They say that this movement “shows how we can all identify with someone, no matter how far they live.”

“One wish?
-Safety in all of Bogotá.
-Tranquillity and peace”
Photo by John Cardona, used with permission.

Humans of Bolivia

“In Sipe Sipe – Cochabamba, the man said ‘take this abroad'. Then he began playing his charango.”
Photo by Mijhail Calle, used with permission.

Created on November 3, 2013, Humans of Bolivia is one of the newest Facebook pages to mirror Humans of New York in the region. Estelí Puente and Mijhail Calle want to create the same empathy they saw in the New York project and similar projects like Humans of Amsterdam, “the feeling that humanity is formed by individuals with their own stories.”

Although Mijhail takes most of the photographs, they are reaching out to other photographers who can share images from different parts of Bolivia. “This dynamic is also allowing us to create a space to share and discuss the role of the image and photography in the construction of our identities, so for now it looks like this will be more than a series of portraits. We want it to be a reason to reflect about ourselves,” Estelí explains.

“There are not many amauta women, it's hard to be one, but I am. Now I'm part of the union”.
Photo by Mijhail Calle, used with permission.

Humans of Honduras

“My biggest desire is for politicians to turn a blind eye to the colors of their parties, and for their focus to be solely on the betterment and unity of their country. This is the only way in which Honduras will be able to move forward.”
Photo by Claudia, used with permission.

Claudia Elvir and Daniela Mejía “invite you to get to know Honduras through its people” on their Facebook page Humans of Honduras.

Claudia started following Stanton's blog and was impressed by how he not only “captured impressive photographs, but also used them to capture the humanity behind each portrait, and how each photograph told a story that resonated in the hearts of the readers.”

Her friend Daniela conducts the interviews. Claudia and Daniela want to change the violent and negative image that the world has about Honduras, and they also want to change the way Hondurans see their own country.

Through their photographs and interviews, Claudia and Daniela hope to show that Honduras is a country “full of hard-working people, people with dreams, ambitions, joys and sorrows just like in every corner of the world.”

“I asked him to smile and very amiably he said, ‘I would like to, but in this job you have to be serious.’ and with that he demonstrated how appearances are deceiving.”
Photo by Claudia, used with permission.

Humans of Guatemala

“Slow but steady! Yes, it´s a long way to go, but I will make it.”
Photo by Elmer Alvarez, used with permission.

Elmer Alvarez had already been taking photographs of people around Guatemala before starting the Facebook page Humans of Guatemala in September 2013. Wendy Del Aguila, who now writes the captions, told Elmer about Humans of New York and he felt motivated to start a similar page about Guatemala.

Elmer and Wendy seek to capture “spontaneous moments of these extraordinary people reflecting their smile, passion, curiosity, hard work, shyness, kindness and most important their uniqueness!”

La Teacher-

La Teacher-”Let Your Smile Change The World”
Photo by Elmer Alvarez, used with permission

More “Humans of…” projects

“Every morning Don Pedro has opened his taqueria in this small village for two years. He has the usual clients and he gives out free tacos to all the minibus drivers who stop their minibus near his stand. “
Photo by Humans of Mexico, used with permission

The image above comes from Humans of Mexico, a page created in March 2010. Also from Mexico, Humans of Mexico City seeks to create a “photographic census of Mexico City. One street portrait at a time.”

Humans of Costa Rica, a page created in July of 2013, has more than 1,700 likes.

In Brazil, the Humans of Rio de Janeiro Facebook page is one of the most active in the region, and has over 9,000 likes.

Some Facebook pages -like Humans of Nicaragua, Humans of Panama, and Humans of Santiago, Chile- ask users to contribute photographs to the project. Others -like Humans of Quito, Humans of Lima, Humans of Peru, and Humans of Asunción- have been created less than a month ago.

Have we missed any “Humans of…” projects from South or Central America? Let us know in the comments!

October 22 2013

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


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 –>

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 09 2013

Costa Rica's ‘Green Judges’ vs. Illegal Property Developers

In Culture Unplugged you can watch a short documentary called “Costa Rica, a Land for Sale“:

Between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, the smallest country in Central America is now the planet’s champion in biodiversity. However, for several years, the success of ecotourism has been driving Costa Rica into runaway urbanization. Today the country is for sale, regardless of biodiversity. That is why the state has created the Environmental Tribunal. A battle has been engaged, and the green judges have declared war on illegal property developers.

September 27 2013

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


“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.


“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:

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

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 17 2013

Russian Warships in Nicaragua Rekindle Territorial Disputes

San Carlos, Rio San Juan, Nicaragua. Photo by Daniel Fajardo Valenti on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

San Carlos, Rio San Juan, Nicaragua. Photo by Daniel Fajardo Valenti on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The presence of two Russian warships in Nicaragua's pacific port of Corinto has heightened tensions between Colombia and Nicaragua over a longstanding maritime boundary dispute which had been resolved by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague back in November 2012.

The ICJ's resolution has also set the stage for recent diplomatic conflicts that include Costa Rica and Panama, reviving old territorial and annexation disputes in the region.

The origin of the dispute between Nicaragua and Colombia is the San Andrés Archipelago, and the Providencia, Quitasueño and Santa Catalina keys, all of which are close to the Nicaraguan coast. After considering a claim filed in 2001 by Nicaragua, the ICJ upheld Colombia's sovereignty and expanded the maritime territory of Nicaragua around the archipelago, as a way of offering a middle ground solution. The decision has sparked a discussion about expansionism in the region, national pride, and the role of the ICJ.

Colombia’s government has not been forthcoming about accepting the ICJ ruling and has said it will seek remedy, since the decision supersedes sovereign and fishing rights. The government has further claimed that the ICJ pronouncement has permitted Nicaragua to start illegal oil exploration activities [es] within its territory.

The dispute with Colombia is part of a series of boundary claims that Nicaragua has engaged in, including the dispute over the San Juan River boundary with Costa Rica and the supposed claim over Costa Rica’s Guanacaste province.

In August 2013, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega had already hinted in a speech before army forces that Nicaragua might seek a ruling from the ICJ to regain possession of Guanacaste.

The speech caused widespread indignation in Costa Rica. As a result, Costa Rica's President Laura Chinchilla issued a communique on August 15 [es], where she refers to Nicaragua as an “adversary country” that has already in the last 2 years “invaded parts of the northern” territory, and calls the ICJ's approach a “foolish ambition.”

On September 9, 2013 Colombia formally announced the repudiation of the ICJ decision, which it considered invalid without a formal treaty between self-governing states; and President Santos expressed his willingness to enforce Colombia's sovereignty with these words:

Lo que vigilé como marino y lo que defendí como ministro lo voy a proteger, hasta las últimas consecuencias, como presidente.

Those areas that I patrolled as a sailor and later defended as a Minister, I am willing today to protect, as President, to the very last consequences.

Santos went on to mention the “expansionist ambitions” of Nicaragua, which were affecting not only Colombia but Costa Rica, Panama and Jamaica.

In August, two Russian warships arrived in Nicaragua's pacific port of Corinto. Last week, following the communique by President Santos, regional online media was set abuzz by the declarations of the captains of the ships released on YouTube, saying they were ready to defend Nicaragua in any eventuality, should it be required.

The presence of the Russian ships in the Pacific coast is seen as a warning that Nicaragua could be willing to escalate its border disputes, including the San Juan River controversy.

San Juan River, Nicaragua

San Juan River, Nicaragua

The tensions between Costa Rica and Nicaragua arise against the backdrop of a planned inter-oceanic canal to be built by a Hong Kong company, with the participation of the Chinese government, converting the San Juan River into a broad commercial waterway. The San Juan Canal is planned to compete with the Panama Canal in sea freight.

According to the boundary treaty signed in 1858, the San Juan River belongs to Nicaragua, but the navigation of the river for commercial purposes is shared and no exclusive rights of cabotage should exist.

Not only sovereignty and national pride are at stake, it seems, but also a huge and profitable project and a political legacy: A conflict over such a notorious public issue could help Costa Rica's President Chinchilla, who finds herself struggling with declining approval ratings and a looming election that may throw her party out of government in February 2014.

In the YouTube video [es] uploaded August 19, 2013 by “canalestrellatv,” two Russian navy officers who speak excellent Spanish are heard expressing the following views:

Rusia y Nicaragua son dos países amistosos. Si es necesario apoyar, y existe la decisión política, nosotros vamos a apoyar.

Russia and Nicaragua are two friendly countries. If it is necessary to support Nicaragua, and the political decision is made, we will support them.

In the same video, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega is seen waving from the deck, escorted by a Russian official, and then the officers go on to describe the kind of weapons the ships carry.

The discussion on Twitter has been controversial and instructing, with a pause to think about regional brotherhood and to congratulate each other on their shared celebrations of independence on September 15:

It is regrettable that we act patriotic only this time of the year…

While others reflect on the meaning of the symbolic passing of the torch of liberty and independence between Nicaraguans and Costa Ricans in Guanacaste:

Torch smooths political conflict between Costa Ricans (ticos) and Nicaraguans (nicas).

But only days before, the tone of discussions on Twitter was different altogether, with many users commenting on the supposed intentions on both sides to snatch away territory, and on the supposed help that other countries in the region were providing. Opinions have sometimes been posted in outright crude ways:

Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica have the intention to steal the ocean from Nicaragua, but the three thieves won't be able to.

One user jokingly compared the supposed coalition against Nicaragua to the Trio Los Panchos, an old and defunct music group, and incisively pointed out the relationship of the maritime conflict and the canal:

The Trio Los Panchos united against Nicaragua; Costa Rica because of the San Juan, Colombia because its faraway ocean and Panamá because of the new canal

The perception of the role of Nicaragua goes from that of a victim of antagonist forces in the region to that of an aggressive local power that uses whatever means available to impose a territorial and legal agenda:

Nicaragua has been a victim of the Colombian expansionism and of the opportunistic Costa Ricans!

Nicaragua is a nation of double moral standards that resorts to bullying and takes advantage that Costa Rica has no army and invades it!

One post pointed out that Costa Rica supporting Colombia against Nicaragua in the ruling about the San Andrés Archipielago, out of fear of the expansionism that this could trigger, would set a precedent for other territorial disputes. In the case of the San Juan River, an ICJ decision could favor Costa Rica, forcing the future administration into a difficult position:

If Costa Rica supports Colombia, would it disregard the ruling that favors Nicaragua in the boundary and environmental damage case?

Finally, Francisco Álvarez de Soto, a former Sub-secretary of Foreign Affairs of Panama, proposed that the way to go is to discuss the pretensions in a regional forum like the SICA (Central American Integration System) summit, as solution to the impasse that might result in an escalation of diplomatic faux-pas and misunderstandings that have spread to the public and social networks in the weeks before:

Territorial claims of Nicaragua against Costa Rica should be discussed at the SICA summit. Panama should support Costa Rica.

It is clear that one way or another the conflicts in the region will have an impact beyond the immediate presidential elections and the battle of claims and speeches. It might also reignite old boundary conflicts that were resolved (but apparently not settled) in the last century.

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 and tweets @levi_bridges.

May 22 2013

Private Plane Trip Rocks Costa Rican Government

The news [es] that an oil company provided a private plane for President Laura Chinchilla's trip to Peru has rocked the Costa Rican presidency and its structure of contributors.

Originally the purpose of the trip was to attend the wedding of Vice President Luis Liberman's son. However, to make the most out of the trip, an appointment with Peruvian President Ollanta Humala was set.

As communicated by the Presidency communications manager, the meeting with President Humala was scheduled before the trip to address Costa Rica's chances to join the Pacific Alliance and to talk about a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) ratified last April.

Later it was made public that President Chinchilla had also used that same plane to attend President Hugo Chávez's funeral in Venezuela.

Although many frowned upon the fact that a private company provided a plane for the President's trip to Peru, on May 15 another issue was added to the news: the company that lent the airplane [es] is connected to a businessman questioned for drug trafficking in Colombia. The businessman, Gabriel Morales Fallón, was part of the board of Thorneloe Energy, today known as THX.

According to publications on Semana [es] and El Tiempo [es] in Colombia, Morales has been investigated for his links with a drug dealer known as “Chupeta”.

Francisco Chacón, until then Costa Rican Minister of Communication, noted [es] that they believed that Gabriel Morales’ mother's last name was Olafán and not Fallón, and they alleged being misled. It was later confirmed that the businessman had changed his name.

The President didn't take long to issue a response. During a national broadcast she announced some of the government's corrective measures:

The President mentioned two important points during her televised speech: “The management and acceptance by the Presidency were careless, without all necessary procedures and controls to assure integrity and safety”, and goes on to say: “The omissions were particularly serious regarding national security and protection to the President of the Republic. Furthermore, it could endanger the country's solid international image, that has always fought drug trafficking and organized crime”.

“We shall never forget this lesson, it's a hard one”, said the President at the end of the national television broadcast.

As a result, two government officials resigned from their positions: Communication Minister Francisco Chacon, and the head of the Direction of Intelligence and Safety Mauricio Boraschi.

Cristian Cambronero (@cambronero) [es] said on his Twitter account:

@cambronero Vuelo de la presidenta Laura Chinchilla acaba con la caída de su hombre fuerte.

@cambronero [es] President Laura Chinchilla's flight ends up with the fall of her strongman.

The President's long time personal assistant, Ms. Irene Pacheco, has also left her position.

Laura Chinchilla said that Boraschi and Pacheco didn't do their duty [es] in verifying the origin of the plane.

President Chinchilla (@Laura_Ch) [es] added on her Twitter account:

@Laura_Ch He aceptado renuncia de 2 funcionarios, entre ellos Comisionado Antidrogas quien libró valiente lucha antidrogas pero descuidó mi seguridad.

@Laura_Ch [es]: I've accepted the resignation of two government officials, including the Anti-drugs Commissioner, who fought drugs bravely but neglected my security.

The government has been weakened and the President's circle of trusted officials has been reduced after this episode. Furthermore, the flaws in security have shown the deficiencies in the national security service.

The Republic's General Attorney and the public prosecutor have initiated separate investigations [es] about the trip in the private plane, about the government's relationship with the questioned company, and about the failure to comply with obligations.

Picture of Ollanta Humala and Laura Chinchilla by Flickr user Presidencia Perú, taken on May 13, 2013 (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

May 12 2013

Peruvians To President: Our Digital Rights Are Non-Negotiable

The original version of this post was published on the website of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Katitza Rodriguez is the International Rights Director for EFF and a contributor to Global Voices Advocacy.

For years, music, film and other content industries in the US have been lobbying, in national law or within trade agreements, for overreaching rules that would break the Internet in the name of copyright enforcement. Lately, such proposals range from termination of users’ account on the mere allegation of copyright infringement to enacting censorship powers that would make parts of the global Internet disappear from view. Proposed policies could also introduce digital locks laws that stifle online innovation and restrict the ability to use lawfully-acquired digital content.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement is the latest forum where these overreaching standards are being laundered. The TPP is a secretive treaty that includes a set of intellectual property rules that target the Internet. The 17th round of negotiations over TPP starts next week in Lima, Peru. Up for debate are the provisions dealing with intellectual property – including online copyright enforcement, DMCA-style digital locks, and Internet intermediary liability.

One of the major concerns about TPP is its capacity to rewrite global rules on intellectual property enforcement. All signatory countries will be required to match their domestic laws and policies to the provisions of the TPP. Future changes to those laws may involve re-negotiating the treaty. In Peru, this is likely to further entrench controversial aspects of Peruvian copyright law and restrict the ability of the Peruvian Congress to engage in domestic law reform to meet the evolving IP needs and realities of Peruvian citizens and their growing technology sector.

This is why a well-known network of Peruvian NGOs, including RedGE and Hiperderecho, have launched a campaign asking President Ollanta Humala Tasso to set clear, non-negotiable limitations to ensure that Peruvians’ fundamental rights in the TPP are respected.

The campaign asks President Humala to:

  • Not accept new conditions in the treaty's intellectual property chapter that hinder or make more expensive our access to medicines and medical treatment.
  • Not accept conditions on the intellectual property chapter that jeopardize the Internet, our freedom of speech or our ability to do research or innovate using art and technology.
  • In the investment chapter, to include the necessary safeguards to ensure the state's ability to enforce national laws, especially on issues of public health and environment.

Miguel Morachimo, Hiperderecho's executive director, is urging other Peruvians to sign the petition:

Would you remain silent if someone is discussing the way you work, create or express yourself? The TPP may change the way we as consumers and professionals interact with cultural goods and technology. But we can stop it if we speak. We invite you to join us in this petition asking the peruvian government to express clear non negotiable lines in this treaty. We won't make it without your voice.

Any changes to the conditions governing limitations on Internet intermediary liability could have a significant and detrimental impact on Internet users’ ability to seek, receive and impart information, and could harm the Internet's end-to-end architecture. How TPP countries approach these issues can determine the future of the global Internet.

If you are Peruvian and think that the President should set clear,non-negotiable limits on the TPP, consider joining the online petition in Peru by signing here If you live outside Peru, but want to help with the Peruvian campaign, please get the word out about the campaign in blogs, and on Facebook and Twitter (using the hashtags #yaratpp and #notpp).

Campaign image from

May 02 2013

President Barack Obama visits Mexico and Costa Rica

On May 2, U.S. President Barack Obama began his trip through Mexico and Costa Rica with the intention of addressing vitally important themes for the region that include the expansion of commerce and economic and energy cooperation, as well as issues of security, immigration, government and control of illegal drug trafficking. With this visit, Obama completes his fourth visit on Mexican soil.

President Obama's visit arrives at a time when the possibility of establishing migration reform that permits the legalization of more than 11 million undocumented immigrants is still being discussed in Washington. Therefore, before beginning his visit, the president met with dozens of Hispanic leaders in the White House to discuss the cultural, familial and economic ties that the U.S. maintains with its Latin American neighbors.

El Presidente Barack Obama inicia su periplo por México y Costa Rica. Foto de Flickr/jamesomalley (CC BY 2.0)

President Barack Obama begins his trip through Mexico and Costa Rica. Photo from Flickr/jamesomalley (CC BY 2.0)

Many analysts agree the visit should not only concentrate on issues of security, as Obama used to do during Felipe Calderón's term, but should also address the economic growth that Mexico has experienced in that past years, the growth of the middle class and the purchasing power in the countries that he intends to visit. According to a recent article from Foreign Policy, Mexico has decreased its use of U.S. military services to capture mafia “Big Fish” such as Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzman, stemming from the Mexican's impatience with the way the U.S. has approached the issue of drugs.

Some Twitter-users, like Mexican Martha Delgado (@marthadelgado) [es], expressed their expectations before Obama's visit.

@marthadelgado: Costa Rica pedirá inversión en energías limpias al presidente Obama…¿serán energías limpias tema en la visita de Obama a México?

@marthadelgado: Costa Rica will ask President Obama for investment in clean energy…will clean energy be a topic in Obama's visit to Mexico?

Angélica Fernández (@OyeAngelica) [es] does the same:

@OyeAngelica: #Latinoamerica México recibe a Obama con la esperanza de definir una nueva relación estratégica

@OyeAngelica: #Latinoamerica [Latin America] Mexico receives Obama with the hope of defining a new strategic relation [es]

The economy will be the primary topic, according to (@blogtico) [es]:

@blogtico: Según la Casa Blanca: la visita de Obama a México y Costa Rica tendrá acento económico  #costarica

@blogtico: According to the White House: Obama's visit to Mexico and Costa Rica will have an economic emphasis  [es] #costarica

Others, like Razor (@hale_razor), argue that President Obama should do more for the local economy than for the economies of other countries.

@hale_razor: Obama heads to Mexico & Costa Rica in May to promote economic growth & development in Central America. He might want to try that here. #tcot

Others, like Pablo Ventoso (@blito_amargo) [es], are not optimists about Obama's trip:

@blito_amargo: Obama sobre viaje a México y Costa Rica: “Queremos asegurarnos de que nuestro hemisferio esté más integrado” Ojalá y hable del cerebral

@blito_amargo: Obama on his visit to Mexico and Costa Rica: “We want to make sure that our hemisphere is more integrated.” I hope he is referring to the cerebral [hemisphere]

María Hilaria Max (@mariamasherrera) [es] affirms that the delicate topic of Venezuela will also be discussed during the trip:

@mariamasherrera: Obama espera abordar el tema de la situación política de Venezuela en su gira por Latinoamérica… vía @noticias24

@mariamasherrera: Obama hopes to address the political situation in Venezuela during his trip through Latin America… [es] from @noticias24 [news24]

Desiree Rivas (@DesireeRivasRui) [es] disagrees about the possibility that Venezuela will be a topic of discussion:

@DesireeRivasRui: Quien le dijo a Obama q aborde el tema de Venezuela en su gira por latinoamérica? Ojalá nuestros hermanos no c presten para este tema interno

@DesireeRivasRui: Who told Obama to address the topic of Venezuela in his trip through Latin America? Hopefully our brothers don't lend to this internal issue.

Vanessa Ortiz (@VanessaOrtiz) [es] affirms that Obama's visit will only create arguments:

@VanessaOrtiz: @FGM91 @MexicanoHoy Esa visita de OBAMA por la Latinoamerica me trae sospecha, de seguro para crear conflicto contra MADURO.

@VanessaOrtiz: @FGM91 @MexicanoHoy [Mexican Today] Obama's visit through Latin American makes me suspicious and will surely create conflict against Maduro [Venezuelan President].

Meanwhile, other Twitter users, like Politico Incorrecto [Incorrect Politics] (@El_incorrecto_) [es], come to Obama's defense:

@El_incorrecto_: Que fácil es echarle la culpa a Obama de todo los males de Latinoamérica. Que difícil es asumir responsabilidades y trabajar.

@El_incorrecto_: How easy it is to throw the blame on Obama for all the problems in Latin America. How difficult it is to assume responsibility and work.

April 27 2013

#FLISOL 2013: Hundreds of Latin Americans Installing Free Software

Flisol 2013 Banner.

Flisol 2013 Banner.

From the Patagonia to Havana, hundreds of computer users across Latin America are choosing freedom over control by installing free software on their computers. On April 27th, groups of free software enthusiasts will be installing free software in dozens of cities across Latin America as part of FLISOL [es], the Latin American free software installation festival.

April 23 2013

Developing Latin America: A Summary

Desarrollando América Latina (Developing Latin America) has published a video summary of the regional hackathon DAL 2012, where 400 participants and 70 social experts developed 80 applications. Here [es] you can see Global Voices’ coverage of the event.

April 02 2013

Racism in Costa Rican Football

José Medrano in Carepicha Blog [es] speaks out against racism in football games and in society in general.

I think that racist insults should be punished with a high fine or with community work, along with the obligation to attend courses where they are taught about history and ethics, everything related to how harmful discrimination has been for humanity.

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