Content from IASW Contributors

Show-down in Jalisco exposes Mexico’s faulty anti-drug efforts

By Roger F. NoriegaBy Roger F. Noriega
Last Friday, Mexican authorities opened a new front in their anti-drug campaign by launching an offensive in the State of Jalisco against two of the country’s most profitable cartels. And, all hell broke loose. Read More-->

Is Colombia gutting anti-drug efforts to reach a peace deal?

By Roger F. Noriega By Roger F. Noriega
Is Colombia preparing to end its US-backed offensive against the illicit drug trade in exchange for a peace agreement with the narco-guerrillas? Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is negotiating with one of the world’s biggest coca-smuggling syndicates and has flirted with the idea of classifying narcotrafficking as a political crime that would be covered by a possible post-war amnesty.

Show-down in Jalisco exposes Mexico’s faulty anti-drug efforts

| May 5th, 2015 | No Comments »
By Roger Noriega

Last Friday, Mexican authorities opened a new front in their anti-drug campaign by launching an offensive in the State of Jalisco against two of the country’s most profitable cartels. And, all hell broke loose. Within hours, the New Generation Cartel of Jalisco (CJNG) and Los Cuinis mobilized more than 500 men in coordinated counterattacks, shooting down a military helicopter; burning 11 banks, five gas stations, and 36 buses; and killing 15 people and injuring 20 others. The criminals also blocked 12 highways affecting the central states of Jalisco, Colima, Guanajuato, and Michoacán.

This brazen retaliation by two cartels, which had been far less aggressive than other ultraviolent groups operating in the country, represents a daunting new challenge for Mexico’s federal government. Although it will be difficult to dismantle Mexico’s richest criminal organizations, it is expected that the federal government will mobilize a significant amount of troops and resources in response to their violent defiance.

... Read More

Mandos policiales de Jalisco sirven al narco, denuncian agentes

| May 5th, 2015 | No Comments »

CIUDAD DE MÉXICO, 5 de mayo.- Policías de Jalisco, que el fin de semana sufrió una ola de violencia que dejó un saldo de 15 muertos, denunciaron que altos mandos de las fuerzas de seguridad colaboran con el crimen organizado.

Un miembro de la Fuerza Única de Jalisco, creada en 2014 para reforzar la capacidad del gobierno en el combate a los cárteles de las drogas, explicó a una radiodifusora que cuando se detiene a un sospechoso deben informar a los superiores, quienes ordenan liberarlo o no, dependiendo del grupo criminal al que pertenezcan.

Si es del cártel que controla en esos momentos Jalisco, te ordenan que se le regresen las armas y las drogas y se quede sin efecto el reporte o la revisión. Y los elementos continúan (su camino)”, dijo un miembro de esta corporación a la emisora.

Otro policía advirtió de la connivencia de los grupos del narcotráfico con altos mandos de la Fuerza Única: “Cuando agarras a un integrante del cártel y llamas por teléfono a los jefes, ellos ... Read More

Ex-President Micheletti: The US Asked Me to Return Power to Zelaya

| May 5th, 2015 | No Comments »
PanAm Post

By Elena Toledo

Roberto Micheletti Baín played a significant role in the political crisis that struck Honduras in 2009. He assumed the presidency of the country when the Supreme Court of Justice ordered the arrest of then-President Manuel Zelaya, who was subsequently expelled from the country by the armed forces.

Six years on, Micheletti has retired from political life, and lives surrounded by nature and his family.

Yet the specter of political turmoil has returned once more to the Central American nation. Late in April, a chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice revoked two key constitutional provisions that prohibited presidential reelection: paving the way for a range of candidates to reoccupy the office indefinitely, including current President Juan Orlando Hernández.

The former president welcomed the PanAm Post to his country home to talk about his seven months at the helm of a nation in crisis, and his views on the current situation facing Honduras and the nation.

Six years have passed since the ... Read More

Brazilian Economy Struggles to Take Off

| May 5th, 2015 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01


SAO PAULO, Brazil—With Brazil dogged by drought, a sluggish economy and a corruption scandal at its most important company, businesses in Latin America’s largest economy have little to be optimistic about.

Economists expect Brazil’s gross domestic product to contract 1.18% this year and growth of just 1% in 2016. Federal prosecutors are in the midst of an investigation involving hundreds of millions of dollars allegedly skimmed from Brazil’s state-run oil giant, Petroleo Brasileiro SA, by the country’s top construction companies. A multiyear drought is threatening water supplies in São Paulo state, which accounts for 40% of Brazil’s industrial production.

All that makes this a fraught time for business in Brazil, which, fueled by a commodities boom, reached 7.6% economic growth in 2010 but has been slowing ever since. Amid bad news and uncertainty, the hope that the country would become an economic superpower has fizzled. Executives and investors say sentiment about Brazilian business ... Read More

Coca production in Colombia jumped 39 pct in 2014

| May 5th, 2015 | No Comments »
UT San Diego


CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Cultivation of the leaf used to make cocaine skyrocketed last year in Colombia, according to a new White House report that’s likely to pressure authorities here to preserve a threatened U.S. aerial eradication program at the heart of the drug war.

After six straight years of declining or steady production, the amount of land under coca cultivation in Colombia jumped 39 percent in 2014 to 112,000 hectares (about 276,000 acres), according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Potential cocaine production based on average crop yields jumped 32 percent to 245 metric tons.

The U.S. government uses satellites to annually survey the amount of land planted with the illicit leaf in the Andean nations of Bolivia, Colombia and Peru, where it is grown.

The report is usually published in the ... Read More

Venezuela’s Poor Neighbors Flee en Masse Decades After Arriving

| May 5th, 2015 | No Comments »


Thirty years after leaving the poverty and violence of Colombia for oil-rich Venezuela, Oscar Mina, a 56-year-old construction worker, is heading home.

“Prices are going up every day and the money bills are worthless,”said Mina, sipping beer with compatriots in the Petare slum of eastern Caracas, militant graffiti on the walls, trash in the streets. “Is that governing for the poor?”

In a way, no group has benefited more from Venezuela’s socialist revolution of the past 15 years than the millions of Colombians who have moved here in recent decades. Free housing, education and health care turned them into rock-solid supporters of the late President Hugo Chavez.

So it is telling that tens of thousands of them are leaving — 200,000 in the past few years, according to Ivan De La Vega, a migration scholar at Caracas’s Simon Bolivar University. ... Read More

Venezuela’s Economy Suffers as Import Schemes Siphon Billions

| May 5th, 2015 | No Comments »
The New York Times


CARACAS, Venezuela — The weed whackers were $12,300. Each.

Then there was the $1.8 million machinery to kill and gut chickens. When the police checked it, they found a worthless jumble of rusted scrap metal.

And there were the businessmen who collected $74 million to ship chemicals and other products from abroad — but sent almost nothing in return.

For years, Venezuela has had a hole in its pocket, a very big hole.

The government’s complex currency system has led to exorbitant schemes by importers, who wildly inflate the value of goods brought into the country to grab American dollars at rock-bottom exchange rates. Sometimes, they fake the shipments altogether and import nothing at all.

Then they just pocket the dollars that the government provides, or sell some of the ... Read More

So. Fla. Man Accused of Using the Turmoil in Venezuela to Run Massive Fraud

| May 5th, 2015 | No Comments »

Federal prosecutors Monday said they nabbed a man who used his bank accounts here in South Florida to prey on the circumstances in Venezuela to and aid drug cartels–not businessmen.

The prosecutors said it was at a Bank of America in Doral where Martin Lustgarden Acherman had his South Florida accounts, and they were part of a massive money laundering scheme to the tune of $100 million.

The government says a big chunk of that was to launder money for Colombian Drug dealers and Colombian paramilitary organizations.

The violence in Caracas and other cities and a collapsed economy have left store shelves barren. The American dollar is like gold on the black market, the lifeline for businesses so they can conduct trade outside Venezuela.

Prosecutors told a judge that Acherman, “Quarterbacked an international scheme to move U.S. dollars ... Read More

US Congress voices concerns over Central American aid plan

| May 4th, 2015 | No Comments »

By Claire Luke

U.S. lawmakers raised concerns about the Obama administration’s proposed $1 billion aid plan to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador at a hearing Thursday in Washington, D.C.

Administration officials hope Congress will approve the proposal — which marked the largest aid request in the 2016 presidential budget and is meant to address the root causes of the recent unaccompanied minor migration crisis — but they are still trying to convince skeptics the plan can work.

The main points of contention are whether the leaders of the three countries have demonstrated enough commitment to curb corruption and address unemployment; whether the plan hits the right balance of addressing security, prosperity and governance; and whether it sufficiently addresses concerns raised about past development programs for the region.

“I’m looking for signs that these countries are committed to doing what they need to do to stop the flow of people coming over,” Albio Sires, Democratic representative ... Read More

Prosecutors in Brazil investigate Lula for alleged influence peddling

| May 4th, 2015 | No Comments »
Financial Times

By Samantha Pearson

Brazil’s federal prosecutors have opened a preliminary investigation into the country’s wildly popular former leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for illicit influence peddling in Cuba, among other countries, putting further pressure on his embattled protégée President Dilma Rousseff.

The prosecutors’ office in Brazil’s capital Brasília confirmed late on Sunday reports by a local magazine that Mr Lula da Silva is being questioned by their anti-corruption unit over claims he helped construction conglomerate Odebrecht win contracts overseas between 2011 and 2014.

Weekly magazine Época alleged on Friday that Mr Lula da Silva improperly used his influence to obtain loans from Brazil’s state development bank BNDES for Odebrecht’s dealings in Cuba and the Dominican Republic, often travelling to meet the countries’ leaders at the company’s expense. The magazine also accused Mr Lula da Silva, one of the founders of the ruling Workers’ Party (PT), of similar influence peddling in ... Read More

As Petrobras Cuts Back, Brazil Turns To U.S. For Atlantic Drilling Help

| May 4th, 2015 | No Comments »

By Kenneth Rapoza

all it the shock doctrine, but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…well, you get the picture.

Wracked by the biggest corporate scandal in Brazilian history, oil major Petrobras is reducing costs. While it says it is not reducing costs on exploration and production, the state-owned Petrobras is turning to Texas this week to meet with companies that want to help it drill in one of the most lucrative oil finds in the world — Brazil’s deep water, pre-salt oil fields off the coasts of Rio and Sao Paulo states.

As some would have it, this is all part of the plan. Petrobras is in dire straights. Petrobras has too much control over the mega oil fields under rock and sand. And foreign firms want a piece of it without having to give up so much to Petrobras.

Energy Minister Eduardo Braga, the National ... Read More

Violent new drug cartel alarming authorities in Mexico

| May 4th, 2015 | No Comments »
CBS News

MEXICO CITY – An increasingly strong drug cartel known as Jalisco New Generation was showing off its power with a spasm of violence that killed seven people and forced down a military helicopter in western Mexico, analysts said Saturday.

Jalisco state was relatively calm the day after gunmen set fire to cars, buses, banks and gasoline stations and trade gunfire with soldiers and police. The violence erupted after security forces launched a campaign against the cartel Friday.

State authorities remained on alert in and around Jalisco’s capital of Guadalajara, with heavy police patrols and fewer people than usual on the streets Saturday.

Mexico’s government is going head-on against the cartel, whose leader, Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, alias “El Mencho,” is one of the country’s richest drug lords, trafficking to Europe, Asia, Australia and South Africa, said Jose Reveles, author of several books on drug trafficking.

He ... Read More

Venezuela to nationalize food distribution

| May 4th, 2015 | No Comments »
From AFP

Caracas (AFP) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has promised to nationalize food distribution in the South American nation beset with record shortages of basic goods, runaway inflation and an escalating economic crisis.

During a rally Friday, on International Workers’ Day, the socialist leader allowed a union activist to ask for the nationalization of food and essential-item distribution.

Citing new decree-making powers recently granted by the National Assembly, Maduro said he would carry out such a measure “in the coming days and weeks.”

Maduro had pledged earlier in the week to announce economic reforms.

Various estimates suggest the government already controls about half of the country’s food distribution, but that hasn’t stopped record shortages in shops and markets.

Venezuela is struggling with a recession, 68.5-percent annual inflation and severe shortages of the basic goods that it relies on oil money to ... Read More

Texans visiting Cuba say they see little change in trade

| May 4th, 2015 | No Comments »
Dallas News

By Alfredo Corchado

HAVANA — At a restaurant in Old Havana, Ben Scholz waited anxiously for his plate of lobster, rice and beans, trying to choose the right words to describe the takeaway from his first visit to the communist-run island.

He and 12 other Texans had just spent two long days meeting with Cuban bureaucrats and visiting a farm and a port undergoing a massive expansion. It was the first trip to Cuba for a Texas trade group since Presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro signaled a thaw in their countries’ complicated relationship. And yet Scholz, a plainspoken wheat farmer from Lavon, just east of Dallas, struggled for words.

“I wouldn’t say I’m more or less excited,” Scholz said, referring to prospects for improved trade ties. “I’m more informed.”

The Texans say they came with open minds to talk about the price of soybeans, wheat ... Read More

Inside Fidel Castro’s double life as a drug kingpin

| May 4th, 2015 | No Comments »
New York Post

For 17 years, Juan Reinaldo Sanchez served as a bodyguard to Fidel Castro. But when he became disillusioned with the Cuban dictator’s hypocrisy and tried to retire in 1994, Castro had him thrown in prison. Sanchez made 10 attempts to escape the island, finally making it to Mexico by boat, then across the Texas border in 2008. Now he reveals all in his new book, “The Double Life of Fidel Castro.” In this excerpt, Sanchez explains how he lost faith in the revolution — and “El Jefe.”

The end of 1988. A day like any other was coming to a close in Havana. In a few minutes, my life would be overturned.

Fidel had spent his afternoon reading and working in his office when he stuck his head through the door to the anteroom, where I was, to warn me that ... Read More

Ex-leaders demand jailed Venezuela politicians be freed

| May 1st, 2015 | No Comments »

A group of former world leaders has sent an open letter to the Venezuelan government expressing its concern “for the difficult social, economic and political situation” in Venezuela.

The group also urged the release of opposition leaders who were jailed for allegedly inciting violence.

The letter was signed by 26 ex-leaders from Latin America, Europe, Africa and Asia.

Venezuela has not yet responded to their appeal

Deadly protests

The signatories are members of the Madrid Club, an independent organisation made up of former heads of state and government.

They include former Brazilian President Henrique Cardoso, the ex-leader of Mexico, Felipe Calderon, as well as former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, Dutch ex-Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers and the former president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo.

In their letter, they call for the release of “all those citizens who are in ... Read More

Is Colombia gutting anti-drug efforts to reach a peace deal?

| May 1st, 2015 | No Comments »

Is Colombia preparing to end its US-backed offensive against the illicit drug trade in exchange for a peace agreement with the narco-guerrillas? Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is negotiating with one of the world’s biggest coca-smuggling syndicates and has flirted with the idea of classifying narcotrafficking as a political crime that would be covered by a possible post-war amnesty. He also has suggested that guerrilla kingpins might not be extradited to face US justice under a possible peace accord. On Tuesday, Santos’ Minister of Health, Alejandro Gaviria, recommended the “immediate suspension of the use of glyphosate,” the herbicide responsible for a two-thirds reduction of the illicit coca crop.

Attorney General Alejandro Ordoñez responded by saying, “there are no scientific reasons, but many prejudices against glyphosate,” and he called a potential ban “a coup de grâce to the [eradication] of illegal crops.” Colombia’s Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón also warned that, “Colombia could be ... Read More

Investors take a century-long bet on boom-and-bust Mexico

| May 1st, 2015 | No Comments »
The Economist

At the beginning of April international investors made two whopping bets by snapping up the first ever 100-year bond denominated in euros. The first bet was that the euro would still exist a century from now. No bookie would give short odds on that. The second was that the issuer, Mexico, which suffered three long cycles of boom and bust in the past century, would continue to be creditworthy for the next 100 years.

Mexicans, whose country has, as one economic historian puts it, lived longer in moratoria than with access to capital markets, reacted with bemusement. A typically gloomy columnist predicted that, since Mexico will have run out of oil by 2115, it will have to sell off the country’s extremities to repay the bondholders.

Foreign creditors are more bullish. Over the past five years they have extended the equivalent of more than $5 billion of 100-year ... Read More

Faced with weak growth and soaring inflation, Brazil’s central bank hikes interest rates

| May 1st, 2015 | No Comments »
The Economist

Do not envy Brazil’s monetary policymakers. The economy is faltering. With business confidence plumbing record depths, unemployment up and real wages down—by 3% year-on-year in March, the most in more than a decade—demand remains fragile. Supermarket sales fell by 2.6% last month, compared with the previous one. Output will probably contract by at least 1% this year. Yet with prices rising at the fastest rate since 2003, the central bank’s rate-setters had little choice when they met on April 29th but to raise interest rates by another half a percentage point, to 13.25%.

If Brazil is fortunate, the painful rate hike could leave policy-makers with a bit more room to manoeuvre when they next convene in June. One source of inflationary pressure is easing: the real has rebounded by more than 10% against the dollar since its 12-year trough six weeks ago. This, notes Alberto Ramos of Goldman Sachs, ... Read More

Bolivia to supply lithium for e-car batteries

| May 1st, 2015 | No Comments »
Deutsche Welle

Three engineering firms, two German and one Swiss, are bidding for the right to build a lithium processing plant the in highlands of Bolivia. Lithium-ion batteries are used in mobile phones and electric cars.

Bolivia’s National Evaporative Resources Management Board (GNRE) this week invited bids for the rights to build a plant in Bolivia to process lithium mined from Salar de Uyuni, a vast salt flat in the Bolivian highlands.

Bolivian Mining Minister César Navarro announced on Tuesday in La Paz that only three firms met the technical requirements of the call for bids to build the planned lithium carbonate production plant: K-Utec, Ercosplan, and SEP.

K-Utec and Ercosplan are both based in the state of Thuringia in Germany, while SEP is based in Winterthur, Switzerland. The bidders now have ten months’ time to submit detailed engineering plans in support of their bids.

The Bolivian government intends to spend 570 ... Read More

Page 1 of 45112345»102030...Last »