Mexico leftist front-runner doubles down on amnesty proposal

Mexico leftist front-runner doubles down on amnesty proposal

Presidential hopeful Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador doubled down Tuesday on his controversial proposal to consider amnesty for criminals as he registered to seek the leftist Morena party’s nomination for Mexico’s July 1 election for president.

As the front-runner in election polls, he is assured to win his party’s nomination, though the two-time contender has already attracted skepticism by mentioning the possibility of amnesty as a way to rein in Mexico’s violence, which has reached record highs.

Lopez Obrador showed no inclination to ...  

A former top national security official says Venezuela is one of Trump’s top 3 priorities — alongside Iran and North Korea

A former top national security official says Venezuela is one of Trump’s top 3 priorities — alongside Iran and North Korea

Despite President Donald Trump’s apparent overarching focus on Iran and North Korea during his first year in office, those countries apparently share their space at the top of the president’s national security agenda.

The president’s National Security Council “has been told that Venezuela is one of Donald Trump’s top three priorities. Iran and North Korea being the other two,” Mark Feierstein, who was the National Security Council’s senior director for the Western Hemisphere during the Obama administration, said during a panel ...  

Venezuela to start criminal probe into ex-oil czar Ramirez

Venezuela to start criminal probe into ex-oil czar Ramirez

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela said on Tuesday it would start a criminal investigation into powerful former oil czar Rafael Ramirez, in an escalation of a purge of alleged corruption that has resulted in the arrest of dozens of oil executives.

President Nicolas Maduro and Ramirez have long been rivals in the OPEC nation’s ruling Socialist Party. …

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Brazil Will Blow Mexico Away Next Year

Brazil Will Blow Mexico Away Next Year

At long last, Brazil is back and it will blow Mexico away next year as a relatively safe bet for growth in 2018, analysts from Morgan Stanley suggested in a report dated Dec. 8.

Mexico’s been doing quite well, thanks to the strong U.S. economy that it depends on for nearly all of its exports. But next year is an election year in both Brazil and Mexico. Only difference is that Mexico might elect someone who hates NAFTA as much as ...  

Panama Canal Can’t Handle U.S. LNG Boom

Panama Canal Can’t Handle U.S. LNG Boom

The International Energy Agency recently predicted that the United States could become the world’s top LNG exporter within ten years. This prediction, however, is far from a certain one. The U.S. LNG boom is fraught with challenges, the latest among them, apparently, the Panama Canal.

LNG producers and the Panama Canal Authority are locked in an argument about whose fault it is that not enough LNG tankers are using the freshly expanded channel that saves 11 days from the journey to ...  

Honduras’ Unresolved Election Sparks More Protest

Honduras’ Unresolved Election Sparks More Protest

TEGUCIGALPA, HONDURAS — Angry supporters of Honduran opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla blockaded some capital city streets with burning tires Monday, protesting what they contend is election fraud.

Nasralla called for a nationwide strike after a partial recount of votes cast two weeks ago in Honduras’ presidential election ended Sunday with conservative incumbent Juan Orlando Hernandez holding a narrow lead. The winner has not yet been declared.

“The truth is that we have two people with a lot of support. It’s a very ...  

Mexico to Discuss Security With U.S. in Parallel to Nafta

Mexico to Discuss Security With U.S. in Parallel to Nafta

Mexico’s top diplomatic and interior officials will visit Washington this week to discuss security cooperation with their U.S. counterparts at the same time that negotiators work to overhaul Nafta, according to four people familiar with the plans.

The visit by Mexican Foreign Relations Minister Luis Videgaray and Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong to meet with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Thursday is a follow-up to meetings in May, according to the people, who ...  

Raúl Castro’s economic reforms were supposed to make life better in Cuba. Didn’t happen

Raúl Castro’s economic reforms were supposed to make life better in Cuba. Didn’t happen

Raúl Castro promised a better life for Cubans when he launched timid economic reforms and opened a few doors to private business. But after a decade in power, he will likely retire in the spring with the economy in recession for the second year in a row — an economic outlook that is worse than when he took control.

“There is little hope that the economy will finish 2017 with positive growth,” Cuban economist Pavel Vidal warned in the latest issue ...  

Brazil’s house speaker working to ensure pension reform vote next week

Brazil’s house speaker working to ensure pension reform vote next week

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazil’s lower house speaker on Monday said he is personally working to ensure a plan to streamline the social security system is voted on this year but acknowledged that it may be hard to do so.

The government agreed with lawmakers to schedule a Dec. 18 deadline for a vote on the pension reform plan, the week before the Christmas recess. Still, it could delay a vote if it fails to gather enough support to pass the ...  

Venezuela opposition banned from running in 2018 election

Venezuela opposition banned from running in 2018 election

Venezuela’s President, Nicolás Maduro, says the country’s main opposition parties are banned from taking part in next year’s presidential election.

He said only parties which took part in Sunday’s mayoral polls would be able to contest the presidency. Leaders from the Justice First, Popular Will and Democratic Action parties boycotted the vote because they said the electoral system was biased. President Maduro insists the Venezuelan system is entirely trustworthy. …

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Self-propelled vessel intercepted smuggling more than 3,800 pounds of cocaine near Texas

Self-propelled vessel intercepted smuggling more than 3,800 pounds of cocaine near Texas

A U.S. Coast Guard cutter intercepted a self-propelled semi-submersible vessel engaged in smuggling more than 3,800 pounds of cocaine, federal officials said Sunday.

According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), on November 13, CBP and Marine Operations (AMO) arrested the crew during operations in international waters, and all three suspects will face charges in the U.S.

“The drug cartels are relentless and extremely innovative,” National Air Security Operations Center – Corpus Christi Director Allen Durham said. …

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As Venezuela Opposition Shuns Vote, Leader’s Party Tightens Grip on Power

As Venezuela Opposition Shuns Vote, Leader’s Party Tightens Grip on Power

CARACAS, Venezuela — The governing party of President Nicólas Maduro was dominating municipal elections across Venezuela late Sunday, winning nearly all major cities, according to early results, and further consolidating Mr. Maduro’s power as the country enters a presidential election year.

Candidates of Mr. Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela took the mayoralties in all but one of more than 40 principal municipalities, according to the national election authorities. Mr. Maduro, in a rambunctious, rambling address in the capital’s Bolívar Plaza, ...  

U.S., Colombia vow to battle record surge in coca production

U.S., Colombia vow to battle record surge in coca production

U.S. and Colombian officials vowed Thursday to redouble efforts against drug trafficking as the South American nation contends with a record surge in coca production that has tested the relationship between the two nations.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with his Colombian counterpart, chief prosecutor Nestor Martinez, and a delegation from Mexico in the Caribbean city of Cartagena Thursday. The meeting came three months after President Donald Trump threatened to decertify Colombia as a partner in the war against drugs unless ...  

Sessions in Colombia to discuss combating drug trafficking

Sessions in Colombia to discuss combating drug trafficking

BOGOTA, Colombia — U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is meeting with his Colombian counterpart to discuss bilateral cooperation on combatting organized crime and drug trafficking.

A delegation from Mexico is also present at the meeting Thursday in the Caribbean city of Cartagena.

Colombia is the U.S.’s staunchest ally in the region and one of the largest recipients of U.S. foreign aid, though the relationship has been tested as coca production continues to soar. …

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Doctors find brain abnormalities in victims of Cuba mystery

Doctors find brain abnormalities in victims of Cuba mystery

WASHINGTON (AP) — Doctors treating the U.S. embassy victims of suspected attacks in Cuba have discovered brain abnormalities as they search for clues to explain hearing, vision, balance and memory damage, The Associated Press has learned.

It’s the most specific finding to date about physical damage, showing that whatever it was that harmed the Americans, it led to perceptible changes in their brains. The finding is also one of several factors fueling growing skepticism that some kind of sonic weapon was ...  

China’s Sinopec sues Venezuela in sign of fraying relations

China’s Sinopec sues Venezuela in sign of fraying relations

Sinopec USA, a subsidiary of Chinese oil and gas conglomerate Sinopec, has sued Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA in a U.S. court, claiming it never received full payment for an order of steel rebar.

The lawsuit asks for $23.7 million for breach of contract and conspiracy to defraud. The legal action signals a split with another of Venezuela’s biggest backers as the cash-strapped country seeks to restructure some $60 billion in debt in a landscape of low oil prices and production. ...  

Honduras Slips Deeper Into Political Crisis

Honduras Slips Deeper Into Political Crisis

Honduras is slipping deeper into crisis nine days after its presidential election as international monitors question the vote count and sections of the police force rebel.

President Juan Orlando Hernandez clung to a small lead with 99.98 percent of ballots counted Tuesday, but hasn’t yet been declared the winner. A team of electoral observers from the Organization of American States said Monday that “irregularities, errors and systemic problems” mean they can’t be certain about the results, while the head of the ...  

Venezuela’s Ramirez attacks efforts to link him to corruption

Venezuela’s Ramirez attacks efforts to link him to corruption

HOUSTON (Reuters) – Venezuela’s former oil czar Rafael Ramirez said on Wednesday the government would make one of its “worst political moves” if investigators target him in an anti-corruption purge, which is gaining traction ahead of the country’s 2018 presidential election.

Friction between Ramirez and President Nicolas Maduro reflect growing rifts in the Socialist Party once firmly united under late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez. This comes amid a deep economic recession and financial sanctions imposed by the United States on what ...  

Mexico Treads a Familiar Path Toward Populism

Mexico Treads a Familiar Path Toward Populism

Mexico’s gradual move toward populism has made headlines for more than a year. The foreign press in particular has reported extensively on the popularity of presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, creating a narrative of a recent, inexorable leftward shift among Mexican voters. The underlying reality is far more complicated. Lopez Obrador’s popular approval is the product of Mexico’s enduring, widespread poverty and steadily diversifying political landscape, among other broader, longer-term trends. It’s also the result of prevailing, discrete events, ...  

Poll gives Venezuela’s Maduro clear lead ahead of 2018 presidential race

Poll gives Venezuela’s Maduro clear lead ahead of 2018 presidential race

Facing a divided and demoralized opposition, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro would coast to an easy victory if snap elections were held, according to the closely watched Venebarometro poll released Tuesday.

The survey found that Maduro would win 28.6 percent of the vote, followed by Leopoldo López with 18 percent and former Miranda Gov. Henrique Capriles with 15.4 percent.

However, López is under house arrest and Capriles has been barred from participating in politics, making the point moot. …

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About

During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

Unfortunately, in recent years, continued progress in these areas has been threatened, not least by the elections of radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. These governments have instituted retrograde agendas that include the propagation of class warfare, state domination of the economy, assaults on private property, anti-Americanism, support for such international pariahs as Iran, and lackluster support for regional counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics initiatives.

We are a group of concerned policy experts that fear the results of these destructive agendas for individual freedom, prosperity, and the well-being of the peoples of the region. Our goal is to inform American policymakers and American and international public opinion of the dangers of these radical populist regimes to inter-American security.