Mexico: Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, the equipal chair guy

February 28th, 2015

Ian Volner at the WSJ writes about Pedro Ramírez Vázquez: Eight Reasons the Midcentury Icon Deserves Your Attention
The late Modernist architect—the Frank Gehry of Mexico—makes a good cocktail-party mention this week, especially now that his furniture’s back on the scene

Next up: “Latin America in Construction: Architecture 1955-1980,” organized by curator Barry Bergdoll at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, opens March 29 and will include several of Mr. Ramírez Vázquez’s architectural works.

Ramírez Vázquez designed the National Museum of Anthropology (see book above), but also is known among fans of mid-century modern style for his high-end interpretation of the humble equipal chair:

Cuba: The long and the short of it

February 27th, 2015

The long: The Cuban Culture of Poverty Conundrum

The short:

One can surmise that, despite its human and material toll, the Castros regime not only failed to solve traditional social problems, but exacerbated at least some of them, and moreover created new ones

H/t the excellent Ziva.

Venezuela: Criminalizing dissent, pt. 2

February 27th, 2015

The Economist itemizes how the Maduro regime continues to criminalize dissent:

VENEZUELA’S “Bolivarian” regime is lurching from authoritarianism to dictatorship. On February 19th it arrested the elected mayor of metropolitan Caracas, Antonio Ledezma. Then it moved to expel Julio Borges, a moderate opposition leader, from the National Assembly—a fate already suffered by his colleague, María Corina Machado, ejected last year. Leopoldo López, another opposition leader, has been in jail for a year and is now on trial. Almost half the opposition’s mayors now face legal action. The regime’s favourite charge to level at hostile politicians is plotting to overthrow the government, often in conspiracy with the United States. But it is the president, Nicolás Maduro, who is staging a coup against the last vestiges of democracy. Venezuelans call it an autogolpe, or “self-coup”.

Hugo Chávez, who created and presided over the Bolivarian state-socialist system until his death in 2013, was repeatedly elected by Venezuelans, thanks to windfall oil revenues and his rapport with the poor. He took his majority as a mandate to squeeze the life out of Venezuelan democracy, seizing control of the courts and the electoral authority, and suppressing opposition media.

The Economist calls for other LatAm countries to become involved:

For too long Latin America has tolerated Venezuela’s abuse of democratic norms. The latest outrages have provoked expressions of concern from Brazil, the Organisation of American States and others. They must do more. They should demand the release of Mr Ledezma and Mr López and call for guarantees that the election will be fair. If they fail to get them, they should suspend Venezuela from regional groupings, such as the South American Union, which require their members to be democracies. The threat of becoming a pariah might just give Mr Maduro pause.

Over in Colombia, President Santos has offered to mediate between the Communist regime and the opposition, since “only dialogue can save Venezuela from its current crisis,” adding that the presidents of Brazil and Ecuador are also willing to help.

By calling for dialogue instead of demanding a stop to the government’s abuse, Santos and his buddies are willing to turn a blind eye to Maduro’s egregious violations.

The opposition in Brazil, however, are the ones on the right track as they passed by a large majority yesterday a motion repudiating Venezuela’s “violation of democratic principles” and demanding that Rousseff’s administration to harden its stance on Venezuela. The only three parties that didn’t join in were Rousseff’s own, the Communist Party, and the far-left PSOL Socialism and Liberty Party.

Argentina: #Nisman’s lawsuit dismissed

February 26th, 2015

El País reports that federal judge Daniel Rafecas ruled that there is no reason to investigate the charges of conspiracy to cover-up Iranian involvement in the 1994 AMIA bombing against president Cristina Fernandez from the civil lawsuit Alberto Nisman filed five days before his assassination.

Nisman was killed in his apartment the day before he was scheduled to testify to Congress on his findings.

Following his death, Fernandez set to scrap the country’s intelligence agency and replace it with a new one, a move that Congress approved today.

Prosecutor Gerardo Pollicita had continued the suit, and has the right to appeal Rafecas’s decision.

UPDATE
WSJ: Judge Dismisses Coverup Allegations Against Argentine President
Judge says there is no evidence that Mrs. Kirchner committed any crime

Brazil: No joy in soy

February 26th, 2015

Soybean prices have gone up following a truckers’ strike protesting a recent increase in the federal tax on diesel fuel in Brazil, according to the WSJ:
Brazil Truckers Jar Soybean Markets
Work stoppage impedes shipments to ports, fuels speculation that buyers could turn to the U.S.

U.S. soybean futures surged to a six-week high on Tuesday as truckers across Brazil’s main farming regions blocked roads to protest fuel-tax increases and low wages, impeding shipments to ports and fueling speculation the U.S. would enjoy increased overseas demand for soybeans at Brazil’s expense. Prices pulled back Wednesday as police officers cleared some roads, but analysts said the situation remained fluid as the protests spread to more states.

The effect will be felt by the farmers, further cramping Brazil’s economy.

Over in Argentina (the world’s largest exporter of soybean oil and derivatives), rather than expedite exports,

farmers defending their fields at night amid accusations that they’re hoarding crops to undermine the government.

Argentina imposes an insanely high 35 percent export tax on soy.

Argentina: #3 port of departure for Europe’s cocaine?

February 26th, 2015

Alejandro Rebossio of Spain’s El País reports that Pope Francis’s comment on “Mexicanization” was prompted by UN data showing Argentina as the country with the third-largest number of seized cocaine shipments, after Brazil and Colombia.

The cocaine route starts in Colombia and Peru, makes a layover in Bolivia, and is processed in Argentina, where some of it is consumed, while most is exported to Europe.

Gustavo Vera also mentioned, in his emails to Pope Francis, that Argentina has the highest per-capita cocaine consumption in Latin America.

You can read Rebossio’s article here (in Spanish).

All about Steve: a review of Birdman

February 25th, 2015

Rather than a flight of imagination, a philosophical and magical-realism clunker big enough to fuel dozens of film studies thesis for years to come.

Read my review at Da Tech Guy Blog.

Today’s podcast

February 25th, 2015

Live at 10AM Eastern, and archived for your listening convenience, in Silvio Canto’s podcast, talking about the LatAm stories of the week.

Argentina: Pope Francis worried about “Mexicanization”

February 24th, 2015

Pope Francis is concerned that the increase in the drug trade may drive Argentina to the same terrifying conditions as Mexico (link in Spanish, my translation)

Ojalá estemos a tiempo de evitar la mexicanización. Estuve hablando con algunos obispos mexicanos y la cosa es de terror”,

“Hopefully we’re still on time to avoid Mexicanzation. I was talking to Mexican bishops and it’s a terrifying situation”

You can read the Pope’s email to legislator Gustavo Vera at the Alameda website.

En español: Mares de infelicidad, por Enrique Krauze

February 24th, 2015

Mares de infelicidad
La lógica de Hugo Chávez obedecía a una combinación de poder y delirio: quería ser el heredero histórico de Castro. Y quería demostrarle al mundo que el socialismo cubano, el original, el fidelista, sí podía funcionar

Nunca dejará de sorprender el daño que el poder absoluto, concentrado en una persona, puede causar en la vida de los pueblos. Pero aún más misteriosa es la incapacidad de muchos pueblos para ver de frente el fenómeno, comprenderlo y evitarlo. Es el triste caso de un sector del pueblo venezolano, ciego al desmantelamiento de su propio país perpetrado por Hugo Chávez y su Gobierno en beneficio del régimen dictatorial más longevo del mundo actual: el de los hermanos Castro.

Leerlo completo.

Y me gusta el dibujo,

English article here (but rather watered-down for a NYT audience?).