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Cuban Lives episode 3: Zamira’s story

May 8, 2018

Representatives of the Ladies in White continue to be arbitrarily detained in Cuba, usually for several hours each weekend, solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. They remain one of the primary targets of repression by the authorities and their arrests are often accompanied by severe beatings by law enforcement officials and state security agents dressed as civilians.


Cuban Lives episode 2: Laritza’s story

May 1, 2018

Episode two of Amnesty International’s Cuban Lives podcast tells the true story of Laritza, a human rights lawyer who was forced to leave the country after being harassed by the state. This podcast is also available on Stitcher and iTunes. Subscribe now to make sure you don’t miss the rest of the series.

Cuban Lives episode 1: Álvaro’s story

April 18, 2018

With Raúl Castro stepping down, Amnesty International is  launching a new podcast on the reality of life in Cuba. Based on interviews with people who had to leave the country, Cuban Lives takes you beyond the political propaganda and the tourist facade. Episode 1 tells the story of Álvaro, a former state security agent who worked undercover before leaving for Mexico. He now says he’s rather kill himself than go back to Cuba. This three-part series is also available on Stitcher and iTunes. Subscribe now to make sure you don’t miss episodes two and three.

Adiós from The Tequila Files

February 7, 2018

I’ve just joined Amnesty International’s regional office in Mexico City.

Some personal news: my freelance days are over. Having worked for almost seven years in Guadalajara, I’m now moving to Mexico City to join Amnesty International as their regional media manager for the Americas. My new role will involve promoting Amnesty’s work to protect human rights across the region.

So this will be my last entry on The Tequila Files for a while. A big thanks to everyone for reading over the years, especially those who took the time to comment, subscribe or email me. The site has clocked up almost half a million hits so it can’t have been that bad! If you want to see what I get up to with Amnesty then you can follow me on Twitter or Instagram.

Cheers. Hasta la próxima…


Beach-hopping in Baja California, Mexico

February 7, 2018

La Isla Espiritu Santo in the Sea of Cortez is a must-visit site.

Almost 800 miles long, Baja is scattered with unspoilt beaches and enchanting towns that are more affordable than the Americanised resorts at its southernmost tip. Complete with a thriving culinary scene and a flourishing wine region, this peninsula is ideal for exploration by road and sea.

n two weeks it is possible to soak up winter sun and explore everything the region has to offer, beginning with a taste of mainland Mexico in nearby Mazatlán and ending in rapidly evolving Tijuana. Air-conditioned buses cover the route but there are affordable car-rental deals with companies such as


Known as the Pearl of the Pacific, Mazatlán is a port in the western state of Sinaloa famed for its seafood and annual carnival (8-13 February this year). With floats, fireworks, dancing, games and pageants, this family-friendly event dates back to 1898, making it one of Mexico’s oldest carnivals. For a quieter experience, admire the neoclassical and French baroque architecture in Mazatlán’s historic centre, though adrenaline junkies could try parasailing and take in spectacular views of the city and its long, palm-fringed beach.

Baja California’s desert landscapes are spectacular.

Get a taste of traditional Sinaloa with a stop in El Changuirongo (21 de Marzo 1326, Centro), a seafood joint close to the seafront that serves aguachile, a fiery local speciality made with raw prawns seasoned with lime, chile, onion, cucumber and avocado. It’s also worth visiting La Puntilla on the seafront to try its signature dish, pescado zarandeado: freshly caught fish grilled with a coating of garlic and spices…

Click here to read this article in full at The Guardian

Financial pressures are undermining Latin America’s media

January 8, 2018

Latin America is home to a growing number of independent publications, like Venezuela’s Efecto Cocuyo, that do not depend on government advertising.

With general elections scheduled in six Latin American countries this year, and another six to follow in 2019, the relationship between the media and democracy could have a major impact on the future of the region. However, mounting financial pressures are robbing many media outlets of their objectivity and forcing them to toe pro-government lines.

With traditional advertising revenue in decline, Latin American governments are using vast publicity budgets to keep cash-strapped publications afloat. In return, the media are expected to portray their benefactors in a favourable light.

According to the NGO Freedom House, much of the media in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras and Mexico is heavily dependent on government advertising, resulting in widespread self-censorship and collusion between public officials, media owners and journalists.

“The history of journalism in Latin America is a history of collusion between the press and powerful people,” said Rosental Alves, a Brazilian journalist and founder of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, in an interview with Index. Sections of the media have become subservient, he explained, as any critical coverage could be punished with audits or a loss of advertising revenue…

Click here to read this article in full at Index on Censorship

Tear gas, violence and new laws are all being used to frighten Latin American protesters into giving up

January 3, 2018

It’s not just the clouds of tear gas, the ping of rubber bullets or the prospect of arrest under draconian new laws that Latin Americans have to consider when they take to the streets. With freedom of expression increasingly under threat, demonstrating in Caracas’ packed plazas, Rio de Janeiro’s hillside slums or Mexico’s rural towns can mean risking one’s life at the hands of oppressive and largely unrestrained security forces.

The socialist “pink tide” of the early 2000s has subsided in recent years, giving way to broad public anger at corruption and authoritarianism on all sides of the political spectrum. Latin American governments have responded by criminalising protesters and creating pretexts for violent crackdowns, and with 14 countries due to hold presidential elections in the next two years, observers fear this cycle of unrest and repression will continue.

Luciana Pol, who coauthored the 2016 report “Latin American State Responses to Social Protest” at Argentina’s Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), warns of the increasing use of legislation and judicial rulings to regulate the act of protest. She told Index that governments are trying to make protest legally and socially unacceptable by dictating under what terms it can take place and emphasising collateral damage to public spaces or free transit.

Pol also found that the worst state aggression is usually directed at those with the least political capital and the strongest motivations to protest: the environmental activists, human rights defenders and rural, indigenous, black or LGBT populations. “When demonstrations involve the middle classes we often see less repression,” she observed. “When they’re sectors that have been marginalised for decades the repression is much stronger.”

These trends are particularly pronounced in Venezuela, Brazil and Mexico, three of the region’s most politically and economically influential countries, where rampant violence, corruption and inequality are set to shape their respective elections in 2018…

Click here to read this feature in full at Index on Censorship (subscription required for full access)