Acid-throwers linked to contest opponent

MarA�a Fernanda NA?A�ez is a Colombian model who was poised to win the title to represent North Santander in the Miss Colombia competition. Then someone threw acid in her face.

Now the Colombian authorities say they know who did it, and the suspect is linked to another participant in the competition. From Semana:

The suspect is FabiA?n SA?ez IbA?A�ez, a young man who identified himself with his ID card on June 10 in the chemical store where he bought the bottles of acid. SA?ez is the boyfriend of Yesid RamA?n GA?mez, who is himself the cousin of Carolina GA?mez GA?mez, one of the eight candidates who were competing against ‘Mafe’ for the title of Miss North Santander and to represent the region in [the Miss Colombia competition] in Cartegena. Carolina GA?mez [is] a favorite together with the candidate who was attacked.

Buying acid with your ID card on the day you plan to attack someone with said acid does not strike me as a brilliant move. Anyway, Caracol is reporting that the suspects, whoever they are, have fled, which is a bit smarter.

The Semana article seems to indicate that MarA�a Fernanda is recovering well, and she appeared on CNN the other night. Here’s a video of her from 2009. Get well soon.

Posted in Arts and Culture, Colombia, Odd | Tagged | Leave a comment

‘ta barrato, dame 600k toneladas

An article in El Nacional puts a nice little bow on Venezuela’s ongoing rotting food scandal, in which a government importer left about 122,000 tons of foodstuffs to spoil in containers at Puerto Cabello. From the article:

The Productora y Distribuidora Venezolana de Alimentos, Pdval, imported 597,000 tons of foodstuffs in 2008. The amount is triple its distribution capacity (191,000) and almost quadruple the sales made that year (122,000 tons) according to a management report from the company dated June 2010.

Importing three times as muchA�perishableA�inventory as you have the capacity to distribute does indeed have a predictable, stinky outcome.

I’m not sure why the report examines numbers from the end of 2008, but it’s probably still a decent illustration of how the government was doing business, which is not unlike the legendary way Venezuelans have always done business when possessed of a huge pile of oil cash: ‘ta barrato. Dame dos.

I suppose I don’t need to mention that you won’t have any food rotting in any ports if you produce it locally, but there, I just did.

Posted in Economy, Politics, Venezuela | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Back in the saddle

Unsurprisingly enough, a new job, a new baby, and a move to a new country recently proved devastating to my blogging capacity. However, I am now back, juggling fatherhood and full-time employment, and typing away from Santiago, Chile.

Posted in Housekeeping | 2 Comments

Highway to hell

From the government of Guatemala’s Flickr feed, the scariest thing ever. Ever. This is what happens when sewage and rainwater rush uncontrolled under crumbling city streets built on mud. Oh, and it’s happened before, too. Not cool.

(H/T BoingBoing)

Posted in Guatemala | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Pacaya awakes

The Calgary Herald has a nice photo gallery of the cleanup from the Pacaya Volcano eruption in Guatemala.

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Mockus: Smoked

The count is in for the first round of Colombia’s presidential election, and Mockus didn’t do nearly as well as his earlier popularity might have suggested. Incumbent party candidate Manuel Santos smoked him, hauling in 46% of the vote to Mockus’ 21%.

In order to win in a second round on June 20, Mockus will have to capture basically everyone who didn’t vote for either candidate, which is, to say the least, unlikely.

The take-away from the voting is either that electoral opinion polling in Colombia doesn’t work or that about 40% of Colombian voters changed their minds roughly three times over two months. Or that someone was buying votes.

Anyway, the analysts who warned that Mockus’ Green Party does not have the necessary infrastructure to win anything on a national level seem to have been right.

It’s certainly an accomplishment to make it to the second round, but unless something extraordinary happens, I have to think the well-oiled Partido de la U machinery is going to finish Mockus off next month.

Posted in Colombia, Politics | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

And we’re back

After almost 48 hours of downtime, we’re back online. Something about something crashing, then something else being corrupted, and two days later here we are. This is what you get, occasionally, for hosting your own site, rather than using the cloud.

I would trash Dreamhost for inflicting almost two days of downtime on me, but then again, it’s the first time that’s happened in four years of using their services, and they successfully restored the entire site from a backup, for which I am sobbingly grateful.

Anyway, back to your regularly scheduled blogging.

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Bringing on the nasty

But he looks so harmless.

Santos, the heir apparent to Uribe’s throne, is now in the fight of his life (that is, the only fight of his life, since he’s never run for public office before). So what does a former minister of defense do when he’s back on defense?

Go on offense, of course.

The Colombian media is reporting that Santos has brought into his campaign a character variously known as Rasputin, a master of “dirty war,” and someone who I’ll go ahead and characterize as the Karl Rove of Latin America.

Juan JosA� “J.J.” RendA?n is supposedly a master of the whisper campaign. A Venezuelan who worked for the opposition in 2004 during the recall referendum, he was involved in the latest presidential campaign of Honduras’ Porfirio Lobo, as well as other shenanigans in Mexico and the Dominican Republic. He’s also had business in Colombia, working on behalf of Uribe’s party and helping it take the legislature in 2006.

Apparently he plays dirty. Once he threatened to destroy the career of a rebel Colombian senator by linking him to prostitution. Another time he allegedly smeared a Mexican politician by spreading pamphlets claiming the man was a pederast.

He says he’s won all but two of the 22 campaigns he’s been involved in. From a 2007 Semana article:

Political circles accuse J.J. RendA?n of having been behind the defamatory campaigns against former candidates for president Rafael Pardo Rueda (liberal) and Carlos Gaviria (Polo DemocrA?tico). He denies the reports and says that he’s always acted within the law. In an interview with MarA�a Isabel Rueda he said, “If it’s within the law, then I don’t have any misgivings.”

Spoken like a true sociopath. Really, though, the media reports seem a little overblown, as if we’re supposed to believe that in Latin American politics, you have to bring in an evil wizard from abroad to play dirty. More like an evil wizard you can throw under the bus if the plan backfires.

Anyway, the report in La Silla Vacia cites an unnamed source claiming that Jota Jota has been in Santos’ campaign for awhile now, which might explain the rumors that circulated about Mockus’ Parkinson’s before he admitted publicly to having the condition. I hope he’s watching his back.

Posted in Colombia, Politics | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Whales? What Whales?

Humpback whales are big.

Congratulations, Colombia, for selecting the single most inappropriate spot in Latin America for an industrial port capable of handling (low-impact?)A�Post-Panamax ships.

Malaga Bay, on the country’s Pacific coast, is the most important whale breeding ground in the entire world, one of the most biodiverse places on the planet and home to 148 species of fish, 114 species of reptiles, and 400 species of trees.

Never mind that endangeredA�humpback whales, the largest of marine mammals, travel up to 8,000 kilometers (from the Antarctic!) just to give birth here, or that the people who live in the communities along Malaga Bay have fought tooth and nail for almost a decade to protect them and make these waters a park.

But Post-Panamax ships are bigger.

A heartfelt congratulations, too, to the good folks at the AsociaciA?n Nacional de Industriales del Valle (ANDI), who apparently did the impossible, convincing the Environment Minister Carlos Costa to hold off on signing the park’s declaratory papers. Back in September, National Park Director Julia Miranda declaredA�“The Minister has decided…it would take a presidential counter-order to stop this from becoming a park.”

We here at Lat/Am Daily checked for the counter order but didn’t find it.

Fortunately for the whales, the Colombians have hired a group of trustworthy SpaniardsA�from the University of Cadiz to do the environmental impact study.

Nice one.

Posted in Colombia, Environment | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

    • The Nation has a long, wonky, wonderful article on Mexican maize cultivation, the effects of NAFTA, and the dangers of genetically-modified seeds. Author Peter Canby backs up his excellent writing with piles and piles of meticulous research. Not to be missed. [link, via SM] (Image from Joel Penner.)

    • Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas ended his hunger strike yesterday after 134 days. Farinas decided to end his strike after the Cuban government said it would release political prisoners rounded up in the "Black Spring" crackdown of 2003. Get well soon. [link]

    • The Uruguayan selection, which has made it to the quarter finals of the World Cup, just received a shipment of half a ton of fine cuts of beef for the mother of all asados in preparation for a contest against Ghana on Friday: "450 kilos of lomo, 200 of entrecot, 75 of vacA�o, 75 of colita de cuadril, 150 of ojo de bife and 50 kg of picaA�a."A�[link]

    • Hitmen have assassinated the PRI candidate for governor of Tamaulipas State, Rodolfo Torre CantA?. Torre was gunned down along with six others at about 10:30 this morning on a highway on the way to a campaign event. Drug mafias are assumed to be responsible. [link]

    • From the days when coups were something of a regional sport, new documents detail a famous British ballerina's role in a plot to topple the government of Panama. The plan was to use her yacht to gather men and arms, then "land somewhere and collect in the hills." It didn't work. [link]

    • Mexico's Attorney General's Office has posted on its web site irrefutable evidence that gold-plated AR-15s and diamond-studded pistol grips are not nearly as cool-looking as they sound. The deadly knick-knack collection is said to belong to Valencia Cartel leader El Lobo. [link]

    • Two Brazilian ranchers were sentenced to 30 years in prison apiece for ordering the killing of an environmentalist nun: "Prosecutors said the pair offered to pay a gunman $25,000 to kill the 73-year-old [Dorothy] Stang because she had prevented them from stealing a piece of land that the government had granted to a group of poor farmers." [link]

    • This video of a kidnapping and car chase in Mexico is notable mainly for the bad-assitude of the TV journalists who were on this like white on rice. Well done, gentlemen.

    • The Economist takes a peak at the Mockus phenomenon in Colombia: "His moustacheless beard gives him the air of a Baltic pastor... He is financing his campaign with a bank overdraft. His supporters rely on Facebook and make their own posters; street vendors sell unofficial campaign T-shirts." [link]

    • Some cruise lines will cease traveling to Antarctica after this cruise season, as a ban on the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil goes into effect next year. The ban came after a 2007 incident when a Gap Adventures ship got punctured by ice and sank, causing a mess. [link]