LAS VEGAS — Rep. George Santos (R-NY) has only been in Congress a couple weeks, but he’s already known as Capitol Hill’s greatest liar —or worst?— in recent memory, which is saying A LOT.
On his campaign website, he says that his mother “was in her office in the South Tower [of the World Trade Center] on September 11, 2001, when the horrific events of that day unfolded.” Records obtained through a Freedom of Information request show that is a lie—she wasn’t even in the country at the time but was living in Santos’ native Brazil.
Vanity Fair has a list of Santos’ “Most Absurd Lies and Cons (That We Know About So Far),” including the fact that his grandparents “survived the Holocaust,” as he said in a campaign video in 2021, or that he was a “star” on the volleyball team at Baruch College, where he received degrees in economics and finance—though it turns out that he never even went to Baruch at all.
Apparently Santos also went by the name Kitara Ravache:
Congressman George Santos used to perform in drag under the name Kitara Ravache, Brazilian drag queen Eula Rochard alleges.
Santos has been criticized for his alignment with Republican leaders who say drag queens are “grooming” kids, and supporting Florida’s Don’t Say Gay bill. pic.twitter.com/aClh4rQx9Q
— Pop Crave (@PopCrave) January 19, 2023
Not that there’s anything wrong with drag—only that his party is in the midst of a nationwide campaign against it.
Anyway, let’s get on with this week’s wrap-up…
~ The more I see and learn about Lucinda “La Morena” Hinojos, the Native American Chicana artist who created the theme art for this year’s Super Bowl LVII in Phoenix, the more badass she seems…
~ Is Bad Bunny any raunchier than yesterday’s music? Exhibit A:
~ Come and get this weekend…
~ The first museum in the country dedicated to the history and culture of Mexican food, LA Plaza Cocina in Downtown L.A., is featuring an exhibition titled “The Legacy of Cacao,” running through April 30.
From the museum’s website:
“To the Maya, the cacao tree sprouted the Maize God’s body. Held by tradition as the first tree to grow; its fruit, the cacao, was considered a gift from the heavens and thus became one of Mesoamerica’s most sacred natural staples.
“The earliest recorded reference to Mexican cacao dates back to the Olmec Civilization around 2000 BCE. Centuries later, the Maya used chocolate as a bitter beverage prepared with meticulous care for consumption at banquets and rituals. Just owning the utensils associated with its preparation and drinking symbolized wealth and prestige. Dignitaries were buried with drinking vessels and cacao seeds for enjoyment in the afterlife; the seeds functioned as currency.”
Ximena Martin, director of programming and culinary arts at LA Plaza Cocina, gave a rundown of the exhibition on ABC 7 Los Angeles:
~ There’s a strong chance that AOC will one day become the first TikToking president of the United States—not that I’m complaining.
~ Pages from the original Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War in 1848 and forced Mexico to give over half of its territory to the United States —including Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, most of Arizona, and most of New Mexico— is headed to Denver for an exhibition beginning in February in honor of the 175th anniversary of the treaty’s signing.
“The failed promises made in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo became a rallying cry for Chicano Movement leader Reies López Tijerina more than 100 years later,” write Marina E. Franco and Russell Contreras at Axios Latino. “He led a violent 1967 courthouse raid in northern New Mexico and used the treaty as his reason for seeking redress in century-old Spanish land grant disputes.”
He led a violent 1967 courthouse raid in northern New Mexico and used the treaty as his reason for seeking redress in century-old Spanish land grant disputes.
~ “There is no room in New York” for more migrants, New York City Mayor Eric Adams said at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday—“which, on a larger scale, reflects what the Biden administration has said,” reports Fisayo Okare at Documented.
“New York City has a right to shelter law which requires it to provide shelter to anyone who seeks it; most U.S. jurisdictions do not have a similar law. In his trip this week to El Paso, Adams said that migrants are given a ‘false impression’ of how this law works in New York, with a mistaken understanding that it’s a place where ‘resources are available.'”
Meanwhile, the executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, Murad Awawdeh, tells Documented is not facing a migrant crisis, but a housing crisis.
Mayor Adams wants Gov. Kathy Hochul to help him find homes for migrants in other cities and towns across the state.
~ Dr. William D. Lopez reviews Jean Guerrero’s 2018 book Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir, which will be re-released in paperback on February 7 and follows her quest to better understand the life of her father, Marco Antonio Guerrero, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia when she was 11.
“Crux is a beautifully written book about how mental illness is perceived and treated across cultures and the inevitable self-exploration that comes with loving, protecting, and learning about your family and its history. Using the full range of her journalistic talents, Guerrero decides to learn all she can about her father’s ordeal. Her investigations take her deep into Mexico, where she meets with other relatives known for their clairvoyance and mysticism.”
~ Here’s a headline from the Wall Street Journal: “America Needs Immigrants to Make Up Worker Shortfall, Labor Secretary Says”
And here’s one from Bloomberg Law: “Congress Needs to Fix Immigration Visa Quotas to Boost Economy”
~ Immigrants don’t steal jobs, but robots will…
It’s time for Atlas to pick up a new set of skills and get hands on. pic.twitter.com/osOWiiBlSh
— Boston Dynamics (@BostonDynamics) January 18, 2023
~ President Biden isn’t the same as Campaign Biden…
~ You can expect plenty of sparks to fly in Arizona…
Scoop: Ruben Gallego set to launch Senate campaign against Kyrsten Sinema on Monday https://t.co/tY4e5KK0iv
— Adrian Carrasquillo (@Carrasquillo) January 20, 2023
~ The shit has really hit the fan in Peru, where a mostly quiet Thursday —as the government called on everyone who could to work from home— turned into all-out skirmishes between police in the capital city of Lima and thousands of protesters descending from the rural highlands where former President Pedro Castillo, ousted last month, enjoys a strong base of support within the poor Indigenous communities he hails from.
“Anger at [current President Dina] Boluarte was the common thread Thursday as protesters chanted calls for her resignation and street sellers hawked T-shirts saying, ‘Out, Dina Boluarte,’ ‘Dina murderer, Peru repudiates you,’ and ‘New elections, let them all leave,'” report Daniel Politi and Franklin Briceño for the Associated Press.
More protests and violence are expected on Friday.
~ On Sunday, Puerto Rico announced that it would be privatizing its power generation.
The colony’s Public-Private Partnerships Authority board of directors voted unanimously for the privatization—“including the members who represent the public’s interest,” reported the AP’s Dánica Coto.
Bianca Graulau made TikTok explaining some of the details and providing background:
~ The governing board of Puerto Rico’s power company held a closed-door meeting on Thursday, after which they announced their approval of the plan to privatize the island’s power generation—without mentioning “the name of the company selected or how much it will be paid,” as Dánica reports.
“The sole dissenting vote came from the board member that represents the public’s interest, Tomás Torres, who told The Associated Press that he saw no need for another multimillion contract with a private power company that would lead to yet another increase in people’s electric bills amid chronic outages.
“He noted that the current generation units of the island’s Electric Power Authority have been recently maintained and will go offline this decade anyway because many are more than 50 years old.
“‘This contract is not necessary,’ he said of the push to privatize the operation and maintenance of units that will eventually be replaced by renewable energy sources.”
~ Puerto Rico’s treasury secretary, Francisco Parés, said Tuesday that the U.S. would start cracking down on its tax credit system, estimating that 20 percent of claims are faulty either due to technical errors or because people are actively trying to cheat the system.
He said the new system “would generate an additional $130 million a year,” writes Dánica.
“The crackdown was announced a week after Puerto Rico’s governor increased from $38 million to $100 million the annual limit of tax credits for film projects developed on the island.”
~ Two suspected drug traffickers were shot and killed shortly after midnight on Sunday by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents patrolling the waters off Puerto Rico’s northeast coast. The four other suspects in a boat carrying drugs were arrested.
~ I forgot to mention the story last week about a forest lizard in Puerto Rico that is adapting to modern life in the big city.
A biology professor at NYU who’s been studying the Puerto Rican crested anole says the lizard has sprouted special scales to cling to smooth surfaces like walls and windows, instead of the usual trees and whatnot, and has grown longer limbs to sprint across open areas, like busy avenues.
~ Brazil’s prosecutor general —who’s not only in charge of criminal prosecution but of the defense of Brazilian society in general— has charged 39 participants in the recent uprising in the capital with “armed criminal association, violent attempt to subvert the democratic state of law, staging a coup and damage to public property,” the AP reported Tuesday.
His office has also requested that the defendants be denied bail and that $7.7 million of their assets be frozen to help cover damages.
~ In the Brazilian Amazon, a French shoe company is working with local rubber tappers to practice sustainability.
From the AP’s Fabiano Maisonnave, Tatiana Pollastri, and Eraldo Peres:
“What sets the Veja operation apart is that rubber tappers are now getting paid far above the commodity price for their rubber. In 2022, the Barros family received US$ 4.20 per kilo (2.2 pounds) of rubber tapped from their grove. Before, they made one-tenth that amount.
“This price that shoe company Veja pays the tappers includes bonuses for sustainable harvests plus recognition of the value of preserving the forest, explains Sebastião Pereira, in charge of Veja’s Amazonian rubber supply chain. The rubber workers also receive federal and state benefits per kilo.
“Veja also pays bonuses to tappers who employ best practices and local cooperatives that buy directly from them. The criteria range from zero deforestation to the proper management of rubber trees. Top producers also receive a pair of shoes as a prize.
“Veja’s rubber is produced by some 1,200 families from 22 local cooperatives spread across five Amazonian states: Acre, home to the Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve, Amazonas, Rondonia, Mato Grosso, and Pará.”
Brazil’s extractive reserves are public lands on which people can earn a living while conserving the environment.
“Over the last 20 years, Veja has sold more than 8 million pairs in several countries and maintains stores in Paris, New York and Berlin. The amount of Amazon rubber it purchases has soared: from 5,000 kilos (11,023 pounds) in 2005 to 709,500 kilos (1.56 million pounds) in 2021, according to company figures.
“However, it has not been a game changer for the forest in the Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve, where almost 3,000 families live. The illegal advance of cattle, an old problem, has picked up. Deforestation there has tripled in the past four years, amid the policies of former President Jair Bolsonaro, who was defeated in his reelection bid and left office at the end of last year.
“Cattle long ago replaced rubber as Acre’s main economic activity. Nearly half of the state’s rural workforce is employed in cattle ranching, where only 4% live from forest products, mainly Brazil nuts.”
~ Two former FOX executives —Hernan Lopez from Argentina, who was the chief executive of Fox International Channels, and Carlos Martinez from Mexico, who was president of Fox International’s Latin America affiliate— are on trial in federal court this week in Brooklyn on charges of bribing South American Football Confederation officials to broadcast the Copa Libertadores, an annual club tournament akin to the Champions League in Europe. In the process, the two men gained confidential information from a high-ranking FIFA and confederation official about bidding for U.S. broadcast rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Their lawyers claim that the two men are being framed by their one-time business partner turned enemy, Alejandro Burzaco, who used to run an Argentine production and marketing company.
~ I can’t believe Mexico’s president is seriously considering El Chapo’s request that he be brought back to Mexico and imprisoned there, after escaping TWICE from a Mexican prison.
“Guzmán has lived in poor conditions in prison since his 2019 conviction, said José Refugio Rodríguez, a Mexican lawyer who claims to represent him. Rodríguez told local media that Guzmán hasn’t had adequate access to sunlight, visits, good food, or medical care.”
When asked why he would consider such a ridiculous request from someone who not only has so much blood on his hands but is also an expert at escape, AMLO said: “You always have to keep the door open when it comes to human rights.”
~ Eight students at a second school, this time the No. 26 middle school in downtown Mexico City, were treated by paramedics after swallowing a “controlled medication” in a stunt that may be linked to a TikTok challenge.
~ Jury selection began on Tuesday in the trial of Genaro García Luna, Mexico’s former top security official under President Felipe Calderón (2006-2012), who will be tried in the same Brooklyn courthouse where El Chapo was sentenced to life in prison in 2019.
García Luna is accused of receiving tens of millions of dollars in bribes from the Sinaloa Cartel in exchange for safe passage for their drug shipments, information about law enforcement operations and other cartels, and quick release for any cartel members arrested.
During El Chapo’s trial in 2019, the younger brother of current cartel boss Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada told jurors that he had personally given García Luna at least $6 million dollars in bribes.
“García Luna isn’t the first top Mexican official arrested for involvement with drug traffickers,” reports the AP. “Gen. Jesús Gutiérrez Rebollo was made Mexico’s drug czar by President Ernesto Zedillo in 1996. He was arrested the following year after it was discovered he was living in a luxury apartment owned by the leader of the Juarez cartel, Amado Carrillo Fuentes.”
~ García Luna is the subject of the podcast USA v. García Luna, hosted by Peniley Ramírez, Maria Hinojosa and produced by Futuro Media and Lemonada Media.
~ Mexico’s number two security official not only quit his post last Friday but also quit AMLO’s MORENA party, after he failed to secure the party’s nomination for the governorship of the northern border state of Coahuila. MORENA chose its candidate through a survey, prompting the former assistant secretary of public safety, Ricardo Mejia, to instead run on the much smaller Labor ticket.
“The fourth transformation is a commitment and vision of government that is not bound to any party label,” Mejia wrote in his resignation letter, referring to the president’s reform movement. “I have decided to resign my post to dedicate all my work to transforming Coahuila.”
The AP describes Mejia as “the most public face of López Obrador’s ‘hugs not bullets’ security policy, and says that Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard and MORENA Senate leader Ricardo Monreal may also leave the party if they don’t get the party’s presidential nomination in 2024. The current frontrunner is Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum.
“The party has little to unify it apart from the widely popular president, and there has been speculation it could tear itself apart after López Obrador’s term ends in 2024,” says the AP.
~ After nine men with suspected ties to the Jalisco New Generation Cartel for kidnapping a woman and cutting off some of her fingers in the state of Mexico, authorities discovered dozens of sacks with dismembered body parts under the floor of an events hall, containing the parts of 10 people in total.
The leader of the gang goes by the appropriate moniker “666.”
~ Over 6,500 soldiers and National Guard officers are already assigned to guard the tracks and station of the Maya Train in Mexico, AMLO’s pet project which is still in the process of being built.
“That is more than double the number of officers assigned to drug eradication nationwide, and more officers than are assigned to all but three of Mexico’s 32 states,” reports the AP. “The 6,500 number is similar to the 10,000 officers assigned to protect all sensitive government installations nationwide.”
~ The U.S. handed over a suspect who took part in the disappearance of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College in Guerrero, Mexico, in 2014. Alejandro Tenescalco, who was a police supervisor in the town of Iguala where the students were abducted by police, was caught trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border without proper documents in late December.
~ Authorities in Mexico are searching for two community rights activists who went missing Sunday night on the border between the western state of Michoacan and neighboring Colima. Ricardo Lagunes, a lawyer who had long been involved in defending communities in several states in land and development disputes, and Antonio Díaz, a schoolteacher, had been active in fighting a massive iron ore mine in the town of Aquila, where Díaz is a leader in the largely Indigenous community there.
Mexico’s representative in the UN Human Rights Office said that one of the two had been granted government protection, though it ultimately didn’t help keep him safe.
“In the past, the area’s rich iron ore deposits have drawn the interest of competing drug cartels, which have either extorted money from the mining community, or become directly engaged in the ore trade,” writes the AP.
~ On Wednesday the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez human rights center launched an online guide to help people searching for missing relatives and friends.
Families often “face prosecution officials every day who are at best indifferent to their requests,” forcing them to collect evidence by themselves, according to the center’s director, María Luisa Aguilar.
“Because families have to confront a steep learning curve when someone goes missing, the online guide tells people what the legal steps are for filing anything from a crime report to a constitutional injunction,” the AP reports.
~ While the presidents of El Salvador and Honduras are taking mano dura approach to their gang problems, Colombia’s new leftist president is taking a different approach, asking the country’s chief prosecutor NOT to go after members of the infamous Gulf Clan—one of whom, Jobanis Villadiego, is not only wanted in the United States on drug charges, which ain’t so bad, but also “faces additional charges for homicide and forced recruitment of minors to commit criminal acts,” the AP reported earlier this week.
It’s all part of President Gustavo Petro’s “total peace” plan, giving amnesty to the members of armed groups who agree to lay down their weapons and reenter civil society.
In a rebuttal letter, Colombia’s chief prosecutor said Petro’s tactic should only apply to politically motivated groups like the National Liberation Army, not a purely criminal enterprise like the Gulf Clan, which ships 20 metric tons of cocaine to the United States and Europe every month.
“Like his former boss Úsuga, [Villadiego] was a member of the right-wing United Self Defense Forces of Colombia who renounced violence as part of a 2004 peace deal. But he later returned to a life of crime as one of Úsuga’s top lieutenants in the Gulf Clan,” write the AP’s Joshua Goodman and Astrid Suarez.
~ In what’s seen as an election year move to assure Guatemala’s conservative voters that they won’t have to worry about any more anti-corruption campaigns in the future, prosecutors in the Giammattei administration announced their plans to take legal action against Iván Velásquez, the Colombian who led the U.N.’s anti-corruption mission in Guatemala—known as the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, or the CICIG, in Spanish. Velásquez is now Colombia’s defense minister under leftist President Gustavo Petro.
“Some 30 judges, magistrates and prosecutors involved in the investigation or processing of those corruption cases have been forced to flee the country after facing legal action from the current administration,” the AP’s Sonia Pérez reports.
~ Guatemalan authorities arrested a lawyer representing José Rubén Zamora, the director of the famed investigative newspaper El Periódico. The newspaper “had aggressively pursued stories of wrongdoing and corruption in the current administration of President Alejandro Giammattei,” reports the AP, but “stopped publishing a print edition Nov. 30 due to its financial difficulties.”
~ The U.S. Virgin Islands just legalized marijuana for recreational and “sacramental.” The new law allows people 21 and over to possess two grams of weed—which is twice the limit here in Vegas.
Dispensaries will apply an 18 percent tax, three-fourths of which will go into a general fund. “Of that amount, 15% is earmarked for behavioral health programs, 5% to address homelessness, and 5% for youth programs,” Dánica Coto reports.
~ Before I get to this week’s episodes of Latino USA and Latino Rebels Radio, I should mention that Axios Latino’s Thursday newsletter was centered on “Latino podcasters rise,” name-dropping the Futuro Media podcasts La Brega —the second season of which premieres January 26— The Last Cup, and, of course, Suave.
“Latinos spent twice the amount of time listening to podcasts in 2020 as they did in 2019, according to the most recent data from Nielsen,” write Axios’ Marina E. Franco and Russell Contreras. “Podcasts are also filling the major gap in storytelling that Hollywood has left open as it’s struggled to put Latinos on screen and behind the camera — despite the fact they’re avid consumers.”
“Alana Casanova-Burgess, the co-creator and host of ‘La Brega,’ says the new season provided an opportunity to have an even broader scope, celebrating more aspects of Puerto Rico and Latinos through its music. The new episodes will tell more of those stories through eight specific songs across decades, including — naturally — one from Bad Bunny, as well as classics like Elvis Crespo’s ‘Suavemente.'”
~ On Tuesday’s episode of Latino USA, the crew went back to the Democracy Summit at Howard University in Washington, D.C. last November, where Maria sat with journalist Jodi Rave Spotted Bear, founder of the Indigenous Freedom Alliance, and historian Kathy Roberts Forde, author of Journalism and Jim Crow: White Supremacy and the Black Struggle for a New America, for a panel discussion about the history of journalistic blind spots and how the mainstream media often fails to see the dangers of white nationalism.
~ As Peru faces another political crisis following the impeachment of former president Pedro Castillo last month, Latino Rebels Radio host Julio Ricardo Varela welcomes Peruvian professor Roger Merino to discuss how the right wing is playing a dangerous democratic game that has led to the deaths of several protesters.
~ On Friday’s episode of Latino USA, recorded just days before her Carnegie Hall performance back in October, Maria sits down with Mexican singer-songwriter Natalia Lafourcade —whose latest album, De Todas las Flores, is out now— to talk about her inspirations and evolution as an artist, and reflect on the value of slowing down to tend to one’s inner garden.