Content from IASW Contributors

Washington should not forget Venezuela


Russia’s annexation of Crimea is an egregious violation of international norms that demands a concerted international reaction. However, as foreign policy pundits settle into their Eurocentric comfort zone, Washington must not neglect its important strategic interests elsewhere in an increasingly interconnected world

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La MS-13 brinda apoyo secreto al partido de gobierno en El Salvador

Roger NoriegaLa ultra violenta Mara Salvatrucha, conocida como MS-13 – cuyos 10,000 miembros siembran el caos en decenas de ciudades de Estados Unidos – ha estado apoyando secretamente al partido gobernante de El Salvador desde hace varios años de acuerdo a evidencia que ha surgido en las últimas semanas.

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Keystone XL’s continued delay is absurd

| April 24th, 2014 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

IF FOOT-DRAGGING were a competitive sport, President Obama and his administration would be world champions for their performance in delaying the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Last Friday afternoon, the time when officials make announcements they hope no one will notice, the State Department declared that it is putting off a decision on Keystone XL indefinitely — or at least, it seems, well past November’s midterm elections. This time, the excuse is litigation in Nebraska over the proposed route, because that might lead to a change in the project that various federal agencies will want to consider. The State Department might even decide to substantially restart the environmental review process . This is yet another laughable reason to delay a project that the federal government has been scrutinizing for more than five years.

At this point, there is little doubt about the big picture. After two thorough environmental analyses, State Department experts determined that the ... Read More

Hagel begins first trip to Latin America as U.S. defense chief

| April 24th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Wednesday his first trip to Latin America as Pentagon chief would add “muscle and sinew” to growing North American defense ties and highlight the importance of helping partner nations improve their militaries.

Hagel, who will meet his Canadian and Mexican counterparts in Mexico City before traveling to Guatemala, said the three-day visit will give him an opportunity to focus on relationship-building in a vital area that often receives little attention.

“The region is important to America,” Hagel told reporters aboard his plane to Mexico City. “I don’t think over the years we’ve probably ever done enough to reach out to our Latin American partners.”

He said part of the reason was that U.S. relations in the region have been stable and good in recent years, so Washington has tended to focus its attention on the world’s trouble spots.

The U.S. defense chief arrived in Mexico on Wednesday afternoon for talks on Thursday ... Read More

President Santos: Venezuela Opposition Asks Me Not to Provoke the Regime

| April 24th, 2014 | No Comments »


Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos refused to criticize human rights abuses in Venezuela and told Fusion in a recent interview that he would rather not give his opinions on the country’s political crisis “in public.”

Santos said that Colombia is currently one of four countries observing talks between the Venezuelan government and opposition, and he fears that any public statements on Venezuela’s political crisis, even on something like human rights, could hamper the negotiations.

“The opposition asks me almost every day. Please don’t provoke the Venezuelan regime,” Santos said.

More than 2,000 protesters have been arrested in Venezuela since demonstrations against the government broke out on February 12, according to an Amnesty International report published in the first week of April.

Leopoldo Lopez, a well-known opposition leader who has backed anti-government protests, is facing conspiracy charges that could land him up to 14 years in prison.

In Colombia, conservative leaders have asked Santos to stand up ... Read More

Security forces prepare for World Cup in a restive Brazil

| April 24th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

By Mimi Whitefield

Drones, bomb-detecting robots, camera glasses, rubber bullets and sound and light grenades will all be at the ready if Brazilian police need them to quell disturbances during the FIFA World Cup.

The Brazilian military also has a contingency plan in case President Dilma Rousseff calls it to the streets. But the military’s main role will be to secure stadiums, the skies, the waters and public utilities, and guard against any terrorist threats during the June 12 through July 13 event.

The possibility of massive street protests — a contingency that was scarcely part of initial World Cup security planning — is now front and center after some 1 million Brazilians demonstrated in June during the FIFA Confederations Cup, considered a dress rehearsal for the world’s premier soccer event.

Violence in Brazil’s shantytowns, or favelas, also is a possibility during the Copa as security forces continue an effort to take back the streets from ... Read More

Argentina’s congress approves $5bn Repsol compensation

| April 24th, 2014 | No Comments »

Argentina’s congress has given final approval to pay the Spanish oil giant Repsol $5bn (£3bn) in compensation for the nationalisation in 2012 of its stake in Argentine oil firm, YPF.

After a marathon 16-hour session, the Chamber of Deputies passed the settlement plan by 135 votes to 59.

The deal is seen as crucial in helping Argentina attract foreign investment in its shale oil and gas reserves, which are among the world’s largest.

It has already been approved by Repsol.

The deal will come into effect immediately, as it has already been approved by the Senate and signed by President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

‘Key deal’

YPF is responsible for about a third of Argentina’s oil and a quarter of its gas output.

Argentina is keen to develop the Vaca Muerta shale formation – a key YPF asset – but has so far struggled to attract investors, not least due to the uncertainty over the legal ... Read More

Crisis in Venezuela: UNASUR and U.S. Foreign Policy

| April 24th, 2014 | No Comments »
Heritage Foundation


Earlier this month, Secretary of State John Kerry urged Congress not to respond to the Venezuelan government’s deadly crackdown against the democratic opposition. Recent high-level talks between the Venezuelan government and select members of the opposition have led the Secretary to mistakenly believe that the crisis will soon end. Additionally, he urged Congress to avoid pursuing legislation that could be used as “cannon fodder for them to use against me or us.”[1]

The Venezuelan government has been allowed to unilaterally dictate the terms of negotiations, which have been brokered by Venezuela’s philosophically aligned Union of South American States (UNASUR). Essentially doomed from the beginning, these meetings have resulted in only confirming the Venezuelan government’s determination to continue its violent reprisals.

The Venezuelan government’s criminality is well documented, as is its aggressive anti-American foreign policy.[2] Claiming that the United States should actively appease a foreign government that is hostile to both the ... Read More

Voices: Venezuela continues to simmer

| April 24th, 2014 | No Comments »


MIAMI — Take a quick glance at the situation in Venezuela, and it appears that the unrest that has simmered throughout the country since January has reached its peak.

The government of President Nicolás Maduro, which has spent months censoring broadcasts and news accounts of the protests against it, recently agreed to televise a series of negotiationswith opposition leaders. The opposition movement has fractured, the death toll has plateaued at about 40 and there were fewer mass demonstrations last weekend as Venezuelans took a break to celebrate Easter.

“I cry,” says Gerardo Resplandor, a 23-year-old industrial engineering student from eastern Venezuela who has been protesting for months. “Last night, I felt, ‘What’s the point? We’re killing ourselves in the streets and there is still so much indifference.’”

But Resplandor, who has been living in a makeshift tent city with dozens of other students outside a United Nations building in Caracas, says their efforts are far ... Read More

Venezuela’s Maduro promises importers overdue hard currency

| April 24th, 2014 | No Comments »
Global Post

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Wednesday promised to pay back billions of dollars in government debt to disgruntled importers, after widespread shortages of basic goods helped fuel months of deadly anti-government protests.

“We are going to immediately pay back 30 percent of (the total hard currency owed to importers) as a way to move forward on these commitments,” Maduro told a gathering of business leaders.

Importers say they are owed $13 billion, and that the government’s slow repayment is a key factor in shortages of items as basic as toilet paper that leave many Venezuelans spending hours in lines. Maduro did not put a specific number on what the government would repay or how soon.

Venezuela — which sits atop the world’s largest proven crude oil reserves — has Latin America’s highest inflation rate — 57 percent. Maduro’s heavily state-led government inherited from late leader Hugo Chavez a decade-old system of hard currency ... Read More

US Justices Seek Middle Ground in Argentina Case

| April 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »
ABC News


The U.S. Supreme Court appeared to be searching for a middle ground Monday in the decade-long battle between Argentina and holders of its defaulted bonds.

The justices heard arguments on a relatively narrow aspect of the issue, the question of whether a sovereign nation can be forced to reveal assets around the world so plaintiffs can collect on U.S. court judgments.

The court seemed inclined to narrow lower court orders in favor of the bondholders to exclude diplomatic, military and national security property owned by Argentina. At the same time, the justices indicated they might uphold the orders as they apply to commercial property outside the United States.

The court offered few clues about the larger case involving the same players: Argentina’s appeal of a $1.4 billion judgment that it says could destroy the country’s economy and also damage the U.S. financial system. So far, lower courts ... Read More

Brazil’s Two Biggest Cities Roiled by Violence

| April 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal

By LUCIANA MAGALHAES in São Paulo and  PAUL KIERNAN in Rio de Janeiro

Brazil’s two biggest cities were shaken by unrest on Tuesday, as a professional dancer’s death sparked a violent protest in a Rio slum that overlooks popular beaches, and armed men torched nearly three dozen buses at a depot outside São Paulo.

The incidents come less than two months before Brazil hosts soccer’s World Cup tournament, and underscore concerns about security during the event.

In Rio, officials closed off major thoroughfares in the area, as smoke from fires set by rioters in the hillside slum hung in the air steps from oceanfront hotels.

The riot started as a protest after the body of a professional dancer from the Pavão-Pavãozinho slum, Douglas Rafael da Silva Pereira, was found in a school Tuesday morning. Police said his injuries appeared consistent with a fall; protesters suspected that he had been murdered.

A police officer at the scene said suspected ... Read More

Venezuela’s Security Forces: A Killer Elite Beyond the Law

| April 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »
The Daily Beast As violent protests return, the death toll is down, but families are struggling hopelessly to find justice for their loved ones killed in demonstrations earlier this year.

Longstanding tradition in Venezuela calls for “Judas burning” on Easter Sunday. People make giant dolls out of old clothes and set them ablaze, remembering the betrayal of Christ. Often, Judas is given the face of a contemporary politician, and this year effigies of President Nicolás Maduro went up in flames amid resounding cheers in the opposition bastions of Caracas, Carabobo, Táchira and Mérida.

After a few weeks of relative calm, once again those streets are filled with teargas and the police are blasting away at demonstrators with plastic and metal pellets. But, in truth, the crowds are small, injuries now are few and even the angriest have grown weary of a game that seems to be going nowhere.

For almost six weeks, from February 12 to ... Read More

Venezuela accuses 9 of financing violent protests

| April 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »
From Fox News Latino

Venezuela’s interior minister reported Tuesday the arrest of nine people on charges of leading, financing and organizing violent anti-government protests in the Caracas municipality of Chacao.

Thanks to “previous intelligence operations,” Miguel Rodriguez said, 10 homes were raided before dawn Tuesday, surprising nine people including one who, “according to people detained several days before, were handing out money” to demonstrators.

Police have warrants for 15 other raids, seeking to catch those who are directing “these violent groups engaged in terrorist activities,” the minister said.

He said that those previously detained, whom they also identified as ringleaders, confessed they acted not just for the money but also in exchange for “genetically modified marijuana.”

“They give them that drug to get them high and keep them in permanent activity against security forces,” Rodriguez said.

Chacao Mayor Ramon Muchacho, a member of the opposition to President Nicolas Maduro, said this Monday that in the last few days “nobody ... Read More

Mexico To Buy $680 Million In Black Hawk Helicopters From U.S. To Combat Drug Trafficking

| April 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »
From Fox News Latino

The Obama administration notified Congress that it approved the possible sale of 18 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters, equipment and logistical support to Mexico for $680 million, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, or DSCA, said.

The State Department approved the foreign military sale, which was requested by Mexico, and notified Congress last Thursday of its plans, the DSCA said in a statement.

Lawmakers have 30 days, as of April 17, to express objections or else the sale will be final.

“This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a strategic partner. Mexico has been a strong partner in combating organized crime and drug trafficking organizations,” the DSCA said.

The sale covers 18 UH-60M Black Hawks, 40 T700-GE-701D engines, navigation systems, 36 M134 7.62 mm machine guns and other gear.

“Mexico intends to use these defense articles and services to modernize its ... Read More

El Salvador church leaders call for new gang truce

| April 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters


Church leaders in El Salvador on Tuesday said they want to revive a fragile truce between the country’s powerful street gangs in order to curb a resurgence of violent crime.

Catholic Bishop Fabio Colindres, who helped broker a 2012 deal between gang leaders, proposed that religious leaders establish new talks with gang leaders.

“This is about re-launching a pacification strategy based in the establishment of a formal mechanism of dialogue with the gangs,” Colindres told reporters.

The 2012 truce between the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and rival gang Barrio 18 helped cut the Central American country’s murder rate in mid-2013 to around five per day, a 10-year low, from around 12 a day.

But homicides have started climbing again and now number nearly 10 per day nationally. Murders rose 44 percent in the first three months of 2014 compared to a year ago, according to the Supreme Court’s forensic medical authority.

While the homicide ... Read More

An Odd Hostility in the Americas

| April 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »
The New York Times


SAO PAULO, Brazil — Two vast countries in the same hemisphere, with the same can-do appetite for the future, populated by far-flung immigrants subsuming their differences into the same powerful sense of nationhood, with the same commitment to democratic governance and free enterprise, drawn to each other by the same mutual attraction among their peoples, find their relations at or close to an all-time low.

There may be more perplexing international relationships in the world than the troubled one between the United States and Brazil, but there are not many. A natural friendship has fissured under unnatural strain. A perverse estrangement prevails.

Brazil, a kind of tropical United States, finds it difficult to connect to Washington, and vice versa. The nation that might have been America’s closest ally (even without a formal alliance) among the rising powers is now ... Read More

Obama Seeks To Delay Keystone Pipeline To Death

| April 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »

Keystone XL: Does the president always invent some new excuse for putting off approval of the pipeline? His latest delay means it’s been in regulatory purgatory for four years and counting. Hey, no sense in rushing things.

Here is what President Obama said on Good Friday when he announced that he was delaying a decision until after the election:

“Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”

Thank God that Obama wasn’t president in the 1970s, or we would have never built the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. What’s next? Banning oil and gas drilling in the U.S. in order to stop the oceans from rising? They’re already busy at Obama’s EPA shutting down coal-burning electric-power plants.

Obama had earlier made the case that he would delay ... Read More

Will the court cry for Argentina?

| April 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post


Monday the Supreme Court hears oral argument in Republic of Argentina v. NML Capital, in which Argentina seeks to avoid a lower court judgment enforcing the terms of contracts Argentina willingly entered.

As I discussed here and here, Argentina defaulted on its debt obligations in 2001. Most of the outstanding debt was restructured, but a few creditors refused to go along. They filed a lawsuit, seeking to enforce the terms upon which Argentina had originally issued its bonds, eventually obtaining an injunction that could effectively force Argentina to pay up by enjoining the payment of restructured debt without also making payments to holders of unrestructured debt. Argentina is now challenging a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upholding the injunction. Of note, the solicitor general is supporting Argentina, which has also suggested it might not comply should its legal efforts fail.

Yale’s Jonathan Macey discusses what is at stake in The ... Read More

What happened to Brazil?

| April 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »
From CNN

By Global Public Square staff

The $32 million cable car in the video has not been used since 2012. There is a federally funded extraterrestrial museum, also abandoned. And there is a multi-billion dollar railroad. It was supposed to help farmers from impoverished remote areas transport soybeans. Construction began there eight years ago. Residents have been displaced, land wrecked, but the railroad will probably never be built.

What if we told you that these shuttered, big-ticket infrastructure projects are in the country that will host the world’s biggest sporting event in June? What in the world, right?

We’re talking about Brazil, of course, host of this year’s FIFA World Cup and the only major economic power in South America. There’s even speculation that bus and rail systems being built for the soccer tournament won’t be completed until after the games are over.

This is a big comedown for a country that was seen as an ... Read More

Bolivia and the Drug Cartels

| April 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »
Canada Free Press


Since 2006, Evo Morales has been the president of Bolivia. As an active campaigner against the war on drugs, a coca grower himself, and an admirer of Che Guevara, controversy has swirled about his administration.

Morales promoted international decriminalization of the coca leaf and has expelled US counter-narcotic agents, leading senior international officials to express concern that the nation is vulnerable to drug cartels and could be becoming a narcostate.

The concerns appeared to be validated by reports emerging from this South American nation in late 2009. Rival drug factions were fighting over smuggling routes and the cartel-linked gangs were developing more advanced cocaine production facilities—including mobile labs. Even the Bolivian police acknowledged that removing the US-DEA may not have been the best choice. According to Colonel Oscar Nina, the director of the anti-narcotics police, “the withdrawal of the DEA has affected our work, they provided fast, direct access to a certain kind of information.” Nina ... Read More

Protesters Burn Effigies of Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro

| April 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »
The Washington Free Beacon


Protests in Venezuela continued over the weekend following President Nicolas Maduro’s refusal to offer concessions in talks with the opposition.

Masked protesters burned effigies of Maduro and used petrol bombs as police sprayed them with tear gas and water cannons. Many of the protesters are peaceful but some have resorted to violence.

The unrest has resulted in about 40 deaths, which the opposition blames on state security forces and pro-government militias known as “colectivos.” Some U.S. lawmakers have pressed for sanctions against the government in response.

“There are many who have already died and it’s for them that we’re here,” one protester told the BBC. “They’re not going to have an Easter again, nor carnival.”

Recent talks between Maduro and the opposition yielded few concrete results. Opposition leaders say the mismanagement of Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chavez, the late strongman who ruled Venezuela for 14 years, has culminated in soaring crime rates, rampant inflation, and shortages ... Read More

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