Dec. 7, 2012 -- It's been a dramatic week in Latin America, with news of Hugo Chavez's reappearance, a school psychologist getting fired for showing the movie "Milk" to students, and a report that shows that gangs in El Salvador are rather poor. Further south in the region, Argentina's Clarin Media group won a last-minute legal battle in its war against the government, and many Chileans said in a survey that they don't want to work during the "end of the world." And this proves once again, that Latin America news are never boring. Here's our latest Latin American news roundup.
Gangs in El Salvador are Rather Poor
A study led by a UCLA economist claims that criminal gangs in El Salvador are only making annual profits of $60 million. This amount is miniscule compared to the estimated profits of Mexican drug cartels like Los Zetas, which are thought to make more than $1 billion per year.
According to Insight Crime these findings "bring into question" a recent decision by the U.S. government to place Salvadorian gang MS-13 in its list of transnational criminal groups. The list, evaluated the international economic power of criminal groups and orders their assets in the U.S. to be frozen. El Salvador's government has negotiated a truce between the country's main gangs, that has helped to decrease the murder rate in this violent country by two thirds, but President Mauricio Funes has said that the MS13´s inclusion into the U.S. criminal organization list, threatens the stability of this truce.
Did Chavez Return from Death's Doorstep?
Earlier this week speculation that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was about to die was rife on social media, with some journalists suggesting that the Venezuelan leader was once again battling a serious form of cancer. But on Friday, Chavez appeared on television for the first time in a month as he returned to Venezuela from a 10 day long medical trip to Cuba. "I'm very happy to be here (in Venezuela) again" a smiling Chavez told TV cameras waiting for him at Caracas' Simon Bolivar Airport without revealing details of his health condition. Analysts in Venezuela are questioning whether Chavez's long absence from the public spotlight and his sudden reappearance could be part of an electoral strategy. Venezuelans will vote for local mayors and state governors on December 16th.
The Clarin Media Group Defeats the Argentine Government, For Now
An appeals court in Argentina gave the Clarin Media Group extra time to challenge a media law that would force this conglomerate to sell off dozens of TV channels, radio stations and cable companies it owns around the country. The law seeks to diversify media ownership in Argentina and stop any company from controlling more than 35 percent of the broadcasting market. But some analysts say that the Argentine government is targeting Clarin, because its top-selling newspaper is one of the toughest critics of President Cristina Kirchner. Thursday's ruling says that a lawsuit filed by Clarin against the Argentine government has to be resolved by a federal court, before any moves can be taken against the company's assets. The Christian Science Monitor published a piece on Thursday that provides some good background info on this dispute.
Report says Mexico City Police Unjustly Arrested Protesters
The Guardian reports that a preliminary investigation by Mexico City's human rights commission has found evidence that police repressed protesters during the inauguration of President Enrique Peña Nieto last weekend. The ongoing investigation claims that 22 of 69 people arrested on Saturday were taken in by police with no justified cause. These people were put in jail on charges that they rioted and disturbed the public peace, but they may have been confused with masked protesters who vandalized businesses and public spaces last Saturday. The investigation by Mexico City's Human Rights Commission also claims that at least four detainees may have been tortured in jail.
Teacher Fired Over Screening of "Milk"
A middle school psychologist was recently fired from an expensive Mexico City private school, for screening Milk to her classroom of 13 and 14-year-olds. The incident has sparked a lively debate about discrimination against homosexuals in Mexico, and about what sort of values kids are being taught at school.
The school that is under the spotlight is called Lomas Hill, and in an official statement the school said that it fired teacher Cecilia Hernandez, because Milk is an R-rated film and Hernandez showed it to teenagers without seeking parental consent. But on her Twitter account, Hernandez has published an aggressive email message sent to her by school principal Annette Muench, in which the principal chides Hernandez for showing this Oscar-winning film on gay rights and calls it "a piece of trash."
Hernandez appeared on several Mexican news shows this week and even had a debate with Muench on a local radio station, where she revealed that Muench's son was one of her students. "I wish you knew what it was like to be a mother," Muench told Hernandez. "You should not talk to me as a mother, but as a school official," Hernandez replied.
Chileans Don't Want to Work During "End of the World"
Superstitions about what could happen on December 21st seem to be big in the South American nation of Chile. In a telephone survey conducted in that country by the website, Trabajando.com , 24 percent of respondents said that they will ask their employers for the day off on December 21st, with almost half of these respondents saying that they will do so because they are "very superstitious." The 21st of December marks the end of a 5,000 year long period of the Mayan Calendar, known as the 13th Baktun. Some western mystics have said that this date represents "the end of the world," while others describe it as a period of renewal, or as a chance to connect with Mother Earth.