Latin America

by Aurora Tejeida (@Aurobots) in Vancouver

As the New Year kicks off there is a lot to keep abreast of within the Latin American diaspora. Here’s a look at some of the headlines that made the most waves in recent weeks within the Latin American media.

New Canadian Migration Rules May Lead to Fraud and Racism

One of the purposes of Canada’s new migration rules, specifically the Express Entry system, is to hand out more permanent residencies and to reduce the time applicants need to wait. The country is expected to admit 285,000 permanent residents this year, as opposed to last year’s 265,000.

While some may laud the Conservative government’s policies – which favour those who have job offers or are already working – others think the new model can easily lead to racism and fraud, since they consider it gives all the power to Canadian companies.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The news portal La Portada (a site for Hispanics living in Canada) says that the new policies will benefit professional migrants by helping them land a job... but the downside might be greater, as the site claims the biggest losers of the new system are refugees, families, men and women over the age of 35 and those that don’t speak English or French fluently.[/quote]

The news portal La Portada (a site for Hispanics living in Canada) says that the new policies will benefit professional migrants by helping them land a job – statistics show that the unemployment rate for professional migrants is 50 per cent higher than that of native Canadians.

But the downside might be greater, as the site claims the biggest losers of the new system are refugees, families, men and women over the age of 35 and those that don’t speak English or French fluently. The new point-based system will benefit those who are younger, single, educated and fluent in English or French, leaving out many migrants from economically developing countries, many of which are in Latin America.

New policies have also diminished health care for refugee claimants and made it harder for migrants to bring their parents to Canada. Some critics say racism is an issue and point to the strict finance checks required for citizens of “poorer” countries – who must prove they are “wealthy enough” even if they just want to visit Canada as tourists.Ayotzinapa protest in Vancouver. Photo Credit: Ivan Calderon

Rallying for Student Murders in Mexico

This past fall, members of the Mexican communities in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver organized demonstrations and sit-ins to denounce the Mexican government and demand the safe return of 43 rural students who went missing at the hands of police last September. Most of the demonstrations, which were attended by students, activists and members of several Latin American countries, were staged outside Mexican consulates during the months of October and November. 

On September 26, following a confrontation between local police and student demonstrators outside of the Raul Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College of Ayotzinapa, six students were killed and 43 were taken by police. The officers were allegedly following an order from the mayor of the town of Iguala in the southern state of Guerrero. According to Mexican federal authorities, the police then handed the students over to a local drug cartel. During the search for their bodies, mass graves were found. Current police investigations point to a nearby dumpster where it appears a large number of bodies had been incinerated, but so far the government hasn’t been able to prove whether the bodies are those of the missing students.

Less than two per cent of crimes are prosecuted in Mexico, where violence has increased dramatically since Felipe Calderón’s presidency. Eighty thousand people have been murdered and more than 22,000 have gone missing since 2006.

Footage from one of the rallies held in Vancouver.


Latin America Soccer Cup Comes to Toronto

Eglinton Flats hosted the first Latin American soccer cup held in Toronto after eight consulates –Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, México, Uruguay and Brazil – decided to organize the sporting event as one of the activities for the Latin American health week.

The tournament, geared toward men over 18, took place in August, and proceeds went to help promote health among Toronto’s Latin American community. The purpose of Latin American health week is to offer free medical consults in Spanish, as well as services that aren’t usually offered by Ontario’s provincial health system.

Mexicans Migrating to Canada: Safety Over Economics

Mexico’s rise of violence and criminal activity is pushing young, educated residents and middle class families out of the country. For years the stereotypical image of the Mexican migrants was that of men and women who often risked their lives to move to the U.S. and Canada to help support their families back home, even though their migration status often meant that job offers were reduced to construction, agriculture and domestic services.

But Mexico is starting to breed a different type of migrant, one that isn’t leaving the country for economic reasons. According to La Portada, the Mexican government is refusing to release hard data, but studies done by Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM) show that northern states are the most affected by this new trend, which unfortunately for Mexico is mostly made up of highly qualified and educated young men and women.

Canada currently asks Mexican nationals for a visa, even if they’re just visiting the country. The Latin American country is considered safe by the Canada Border Services Agency, which means it’s virtually impossible for a Mexican to be granted refugee status, even though the country is suffering from extreme violence and travel warnings to certain states are not rare. 

Diplomatic Relations Between Canada and Colombia at All-Time Best

Colombia’s president Juan Manuel Santos and the Governor General of Canada, David Johnston, held a meeting in Colombia to broaden cooperation and strengthen the relationship between both countries.

President Santos assured journalists that diplomatic relations between both countries are at their best moment in history and mentioned specific areas they hope to work on.

The areas President Santos spoke of were education and technology, whereas Governor General Johnston spoke about natural resources in Colombia and more educational opportunities for Colombian nationals in Canada.

Other subjects that were discussed include culture, mining investments, energy and oil. For over 40 years, Canada has invested more than $137 million in Colombia; most of the money is destined to protect children, create better access to education and to protect human rights, among other things.

When it comes to education, Johnston also spoke about expanding scholarship offers to Colombian students through a young-leaders-of-America program. 

Aurora Tejeida is a Vancouver-based multimedia journalist who's originally from Mexico. She has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of British Columbia and she's written stories for The Tyee, Vice and The Toronto Star, among other publications. When she’s not writing about culture, the environment or migration, she’s wandering around the city trying to find a decent place for tacos. 


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Sunday, 09 February 2014 17:51

Pulse: Latin America

Written by

by Maria Assaf

This is a compilation of the most important news stories reported by Latin American media in Canada, during Dec. and Jan.

Harper meets up with ethnic media in Toronto (Dec. 12, 2013)

On Nov. 28, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen organized a reception for immigrant media outlets. The event took place at the International Plaza Hotel in Toronto. El Centro News said the PM spoke about the role of ethnic media and spent some time over lunch discussing issues pertaining to each community.

The PM held a similar meeting, infamously known as the “secret ethnic media meeting,” in Vancouver early in Jan. 2014. Tim Harper, in a column for the Toronto Star, bashed ethnic media outlets in attendance for not challenging the PM on matters such as the Senate scandal, unemployment rates and Harper’s overall unpopularity.


Mexican woman dies in custody in Vancouver (Jan. 29, 2014)

A Mexican woman who attempted suicide while in a holding cell at Vancouver international airport, in the custody of border patrol, died on Dec. 28.

The Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) had arrested Lucia Vega Jimenez in Vancouver on Dec. 1 after she was wanted for immigration violations.  

The agency kept her in detention for three weeks while authorities processed her deportation back to her native country. She attempted to kill herself on Dec. 20 and died in a hospital bed eight days later.

Noticias Montreal reported Ms. Vega, 42, had requested refugee status, which was denied in 2010.

She was fearful of returning to Mexico due to what she described as a “domestic situation” back home.

Reports stated Ms. Vega was working illegally in Canada as a hotel cleaner and sent all her wages to her ailing mother in Mexico. While in custody, someone stole all her savings.

The Mexican consulate in Vancouver said they had arranged a temporary house for Vega upon her return to Mexico City. Officials who had spoken to her earlier said notice of her death came as a surprise.

There has been controversy surrounding CBSA’s publishing of Ms. Vega’s death a month after the fact. The agency says they were not trying to keep information secret.  

The RCMP investigated the matter at the time and confirmed her death was not the result of a crime.

The CBSA has declined public interviews, but said in a public release “the health and security of those under our watch is a priority. We take this responsibility very seriously and we think it is important to determine the circumstances surrounding the loss of a life.”

This incident has generated some international tension. Mexican officials say they are anxiously waiting for accountability from Canadian authorities.  

“We are angered by what happened and we expect answers from the authorities that have jurisdiction in this case,” says Claudia Franco Hijuelos, Consul-General of Mexico.


Air Canada suspends ticket sales in Venezuela (Jan. 25, 2014)

Air Canada joined various international airlines Jan. 24 halting ticket sales throughout Venezuela for several hours.

The airlines were protesting the Nicolas Maduro government decision to devalue the bolivar (Venezuela’s national currency).

While this move makes flying abroad more expensive for Venezuelans, the amount that airlines collect from ticket sales in Venezuela diminished dramatically.

The companies shut down their doors to all customers while they adjusted the prices in their systems to avoid losing money.

Airlines who joined the suspension included United, Delta, Copa and American Airlines, among others.

Megan McCarthy, a spokesperson for United, said: “When the exchange rate was updated, we had to hold selling [tickets].”

The carriers have been battling the Venezuelan government, claiming it owes them $3.3 billion (U.S.).

The airlines are asking the government for bonds, cash and jet fuel in order to get even.

Sales for tickets reopened on Jan. 25, but the battle continues between international airlines and the Maduro government.

Celebrations kick off for Peruvian-Canadian Chamber of Commerce awards (Jan. 29)

On Jan. 22, the Peruvian-Canadian Chamber of Commerce recognized the achievements of some of its most prominent members.

Scotiabank was named the business of the year. The annual award was given to Dieter W. Jentsch, head of International Banking at the bank.

The ceremony, conducted by Cesar Sanguinetti, took place at the National Club. Jim Louttit, the Chamber’s president talked about major investment, imports and exports between the two nations in the last few years.

Commerce between the two countries is centered on minerals such as gold, zinc and cooper.


Woman who faced domestic abuse is being deported from Canada

Ivonne Angelina Hernandez was captured by a border patrol On Jan. 22

She was released three days later after reaching an agreement with the authorities that cost her $4,000 and some time in parole.

Now she is waiting to be deported back to her native country, Mexico. The date is uncertain.

Ms. Hernandez took her one-year-old son with her to an abused women shelter after a fight with her partner on Dec. 11, 2013. Her now ex-partner proceeded to denounce her to the authorities, who then arrested her.

She requested asylum when she arrived in Canada in 2009, but her application was denied in 2011. Since then, Ms. Hernandez has remained in Canada without papers.

Because of her denied-asylum status, a court gave Ms. Hernandez’s ex-partner custody of her son.

She asked for a re-opening of her case in November citing humanitarian concerns. She said she was trying to protect her son.

An American-based NGO called “Solidarity without Frontiers,” says there is little possibility that Hernandez will be allowed to remain in Canada.

“Even though Mexico has one of the most elevated domestic abuse rates in the world, the Canadian government still considers it a safe country,” stated the group.


New app targets Mexican diaspora

MiConsulmex is a new app designed to provide access to consular services for Mexicans residing or travelling through Canada.

Sergio Alcocer Martinez de Castroy, the North American sub-secretary for the Mexican embassy in Ottawa, presented the app along with Ambassador Francisco Suarez Davila. The launch coincides with the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Canada and Mexico.

The app is free and available for Apple and Android devices through these links:

The software is designed to ease access to services such as obtaining protection or scheduling appointments at one of Mexico’s five consulates in Canada as well as at the Mexican embassy in Ottawa.

According to Mexican authorities in Canada, there are more than 150,000 Mexican nationals working or studying in Canada. Mexico is the second most popular touristic destination for Canadians.  

While the app targets those of Mexican origin, it is also accessible to anyone requiring services from the Mexican government.

Saturday, 08 February 2014 18:22

Brazilians getting over it

Written by

by Humberta Araújo

The October allegations that Canada’s surveillance agency was spying on Brazil’s Ministry of Mines and Energy took Brazilians in Canada by surprise. The so-called “industrial espionage” has strained the relationship between both countries. The incident became a serious diplomatic embroilment overshadowing bilateral relations.

These allegations seem contrary to Canada’s official statements that Brazil is a key partner for Canada. "Brazil is at the nexus of the Government of Canada’s Strategy for Engagement in the Americas, Global Commerce Strategy and International Education Strategy,” reads the Government of Canada’s web site.

Raul Papaleo, president of Brazil-Canada Chamber of Commerce (BCCC), said there was no justification for Canada’s espionage. "This incident was an unwise and serious act. Canadian companies with interests in Brazil have always had open channels of communication. There was no need for such an attitude. The Canadian ambassador and the Brazilian minister have daily and direct contacts with each other, in case they need to discuss any kind of issue.”

The Brazil-Canada Chamber of Commerce was established in 1973 as a business association to foster stronger commercial relations between Brazil and Canada, and, in fact, hosted a meeting between Brazil’s Ministry of Mines and Energy and Canadian mining corporations last December, just a few weeks after these spying allegations were front page news in Brazilian and Canadian media.

"We all know that countries are concerned with their own national security sector. However, this kind of industrial and commercial espionage is not good and no one accepts it," added Mr. Papaleo.

While Brazilians may be upset by these actions, Mr. Papaleo believes that the work of the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) will have no impact on ongoing business. "The Brazilian Government will not implement specific regulations to restrict business in the wake of this incident. But, of course, this cannot happen again," he warned.

The allegations

Allegations of espionage arose in October, after documents leaked by former (U.S.) National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden claimed that the CSEC was targeting metadata of phone calls and emails to and from the ministry.

José Francisco Schuster is a Brazilian-Canadian journalist who has been following this issue. For him, the "allegations of espionage caught Brazilians in Canada by surprise. Until then, Brazilians saw Canada as a sympathetic and supportive neighbour."

These claims "could affect the bilateral relationship between Brazil and Canada, endangering a 10-year history of important diplomatic partnerships and trade growth," said Mr. Schuster.

While more than three months have passed since these accusations "the situation seems to have vanished from front page news, while Brazilian cordiality gives way to caution," he said.

When the news broke, Brazilian foreign minister, Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, summoned the Canadian ambassador to demand explanations.

Although Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed concern about the situation, and announced that government officials were reaching out to their counterparts in Brazil, he did not issue an official apology — a gesture that Brazil, including its president, Dilma Rousseff, hoped for.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Brazilian Secretary of Geology, Mining and Mineral Transformation, Carlos Nogueira da Costa Júnior, said in an interview with New Canadian Media that "questions relating to this matter are being taken care exclusively by the Ministry of External Relations." He also said these allegations they won’t impact future bilateral relations. "Currently, Brazil and Canada enjoy a very positive bilateral environment with good expectations for current and future business."[/quote]

Mr. Nogueira visited Canada last December and met with Canadian corporations working in Brazil. "In Toronto, I had the chance at the Brazil-Canada Chamber of Commerce, to present the forecast for the mining industry in 2014. As we all know, both countries have important business interests in the sector, the reason for my get-together with the many public and private Canadian companies, who are active in the mining industry."

Canada leading investors

Currently, there are 55 Canadian companies working in Brazil. "The majority are mining gold and iron in Minas Gerais, Pará and Bahia. Canadian companies are also active in the equipment and services sector," said the Secretary.

The Brazilian Mining Institute estimates that between 2012 and 2016, investment in this sector will reach $75 billion U.S., with Canada as one of the leading investors. "The rate increase in commercial relations between the two countries tells us that the mining industry will continue growing in the next few years," he said.

In Toronto, Mr. Nogueira met one-on-one with investors and new corporations interested in exploring Brazil's potential. Kinross, MBAC Fertilizer Corp, and Jaguar Mining Inc.  were some of the companies present.

The spying claims were clearly on the minds of the investors during those meetings. "Obviously, there was some concern, but not enough to hurt each one's trust. The Brazilian government is open to dialogue and the ongoing projects were not impacted by the news," said Mr. Nogueira.

Commercial ties

Today, the volume of bilateral business in the mining sector is around $35 billion:  $19 million for Brazil and $16 million for Canada, after the purchase of Inco. Canadian commercial ties to Brazil are not limited to the mining industry, however. Investments in education, technology, health, aeronautics, satellites and transportation infrastructure are on the rise. All in all, some 500 Canadian companies are active in Brazil. In 2012, Brazil was the 7th highest source of foreign direct investment in Canada with $15.8 billion in cumulative stocks.

If the trend continues, Canada’s investment in Brazil will likely increase and although it looks like the recent espionage will not affect its business and commercial relations, they do leave a bad taste for the more than 20,000 Brazilians that live in Canada, especially as Brazil waits for an apology.

The first significant wave of Brazilians came to Canada in 1987 and Canada has recently become the largest recipient of Brazilian students, surpassing the United States. In 2011, 20,000 Brazilian students came to Canada. The program Science without Borders is sending thousands of Brazilian students for under-graduate and post-doctoral degrees in Canada. Most Brazilians in Canada reside in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia. Canada has had a trade office in Brazil since 1866, and in May 1941, Brazil opened its embassy in Ottawa and now has consulate offices in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. 

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