Content from IASW Contributors

Securing the border: Understanding and addressing the root causes of Central American migration to the United States

By Roger F. Noriega Testimony by Roger F. Noriega
Mr. Chairman, I commend you and your Committee for organizing a series of hearings this week to focus attention on the fundamental responsibility of securing our borders. I also would like to begin my testimony by recognizing the service of the U.S. government officials who testify before you today. I know from experience that their jobs are critical to our security, and I thank them for their service to our nation.

Washington’s $1 Billion Central America Challenge

By José R. CárdenasBy José R. Cárdenas
The Senate Homeland Security Committee is holding a series of timely hearings this week revisiting the summer 2014 border crisis to ensure that, should there be a next time, the Obama administration won’t get caught napping again. That crisis saw thousands of illegal Central American immigrants, including many unaccompanied minors, surging across the United States’ southern border, overwhelming local authorities and inflaming the broader debate over immigration. Read More-->

Political Crisis in Venezuela

| April 1st, 2015 | No Comments »
Council on Foreign Relations

By Patrick Duddy

Venezuela is in a state of protracted crisis. Since early 2014, public frustration has been steadily rising over shortages of basic consumer goods and skyrocketing inflation, which spiked above 68 percent last year and may reach 100 percent by December 2015. The economy has contracted sharply and is expected to shrink further this year. The failure of President Hugo Chavez’s successor, Nicolas Maduro, to respond effectively to these challenges has caused his approval ratings to plummet to 23 percent. In the past nine months, fissures within the ranks of the government and its base have also appeared. The risks outlined in a 2012 Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Contingency Planning Memorandum, “Political Unrest in Venezuela,” remain valid, as the possibility of significant political instability continues to increase.

New Concerns

The Venezuelan government has become more authoritarian since Maduro’s election in 2013. Anti-government ... Read More

No peace with impunity for Colombia

| April 1st, 2015 | No Comments »
New Internationalist

On 24 December 2014, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos expressed his hope that the New Year could bring an end to his country’s 50-year-old internal conflict.

The negotiations between the central government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which have been taking place in Havana, Cuba, since August 2012 have now reached their final stages.

But while the government and the guerrillas’ delegations discuss the remaining items of the six-point agenda, the negotiations are faced with a dilemma that is far from being solved. How, and to what extent, should those culpable of the conflict’s atrocities pay for their crimes?

The answer has so far been cashed out in terms of transitional justice: the successful overcoming of a conflict may justify, and indeed require, more lenient punishments for those involved.

To put it very roughly, so long as those responsible for the ... Read More

For Venezuelans, the focus should be on Caracas, not US sanctions

| April 1st, 2015 | No Comments »
Financial Times

By Eric Farnsworth 

The Obama Administration’s new approach to Cuba has jolted Western Hemisphere leaders preparing for next week’s Summit of the Americas in Panama. According to senior host nation officials, the Summit will be historic as the first time since the Eisenhower Administration that all hemispheric leaders will meet together at the same time. Coupled with a recovering US economy regaining attractiveness to regional partners, the Summit offers a tailor-made opportunity to find new ways to cooperate on energy, agriculture, technology and innovation.

Unfortunately, this scenario is at risk of being undermined needlessly by hemispheric reaction to the Obama Administration’s sanctions on seven Venezuelan officials and the declaration that Venezuela is an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to the US.

In response to the March 9 White House sanctions announcement, Nicholas Maduro, Venezuela’s president, publicly glorified the seven officials, began war games to prepare for an ... Read More

Argentine workers strike over taxes; transport paralysed

| March 31st, 2015 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

By Eliana Raszewski and Jorge Otaola

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Argentina’s public transport networks ground to a halt on Tuesday, while port workers at the grains export hub of Rosario downed tools and banks shut their doors as a one-day strike to back demands for changes to income-tax rates gripped the country.

The strike caused major disruptions to domestic air travel, while garbage was left piling up on sidewalks and many businesses stayed closed as employees struggled to reach work, frustrating owners already grappling with a weak economy.

In the face of high inflation, the transport unions spearheading the strike are demanding Argentina’s leftist government raise the minimum threshold on paying income tax.

The unions complain that more workers will have to pay tax if double-digit salary hikes designed to keep pace with inflation are awarded without lifting the threshold for the lowest tax bracket.

... Read More

Brazil Real Leads Gains as Rousseff Defuses Levy Comment Concern

| March 31st, 2015 | No Comments »

The real rose 0.6 percent to 3.2299 per dollar in Sao Paulo, the best performance among 31 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg, after declining 1.2 percent earlier. The currency was still down 18 percent since the end of December for the biggest quarterly decline since 2008.

In addition to affirming support for Levy, the president said at an event in Para state that Brazil’s difficulties are temporary. The currency earlier approached a 12-year low after Folha de S. Paulo newspaper reported Saturday that Levy told fellow University of Chicago alumni at an event in Sao Paulo on March 24 that though Rousseff has a “genuine desire to get things ... Read More

Can Argentina Capitalize On Its Vast Shale Reserves?

| March 31st, 2015 | No Comments »
Yahoo News-01

By Alexis Arthur

Argentina, once a regional energy leader, is now better known for financial busts and bombastic politicians than hydrocarbons prospects. Still, with a resource potential both vast and untapped, the nation has never been far from energy investors’ minds. The question today is just how much Argentina is willing to change and how this plays into a low oil price environment that is already negatively impacting investment elsewhere.

Argentina’s deliberate efforts to appease some of its international creditors, combined with an overhaul of the nation’s hydrocarbons framework have the potential to lure foreign investors back. The promise of a change of government– and potentially a more market-friendly approach – later this year should add to the country’s appeal.

Experts have kept a watchful eye on Argentina ever since the US Energy Information Administration identified the nation as holding the world’s second largest shale ... Read More

Mexico’s Disastrous Drug War ‘Success’

| March 31st, 2015 | No Comments »
The Daily Beast

MEXICO CITY — Back in December 2006, when Mexican President Felipe Calderón decided to launch an unprecedented attack against the drug cartels that had taken over parts of Mexico, the government’s strategy consisted mostly of reckless improvisation. The Calderón administration ignored the scope of the problem, the violence it would unleash and the Herculean effort it would take to control it. But one thing was certain: The main priority would be to capture (or kill) as many drug lords as possible.

After a series of ambitious operations and raids that started in Calderón’s home state of Michoacán, the Mexican government published an ambitious list of 37 names. It was March 2009. Rewards of up to 30 million pesos ($2.5 million, give or take) were offered for “useful and relevant information” that could lead to the downfall of famous cartel leaders like Joaquín “Chapo” Guzmán or lesser-known but ... Read More

Venezuela Cuts Oil Subsidies To Caribbean Nations

| March 31st, 2015 | No Comments »
NPR BY JACKIE NORTHAM Low oil prices are forcing Venezuela to cut a generous subsidy program to Cuba and a dozen other Caribbean nations.

Venezuela is Latin America’s largest oil producer, and its economy depends heavily on oil exports. It’s been been hit hard by the tumbling oil prices.

“Venezuela is in desperate straits. The oil sector has been deteriorating, and now with the slumping oil prices, they needed cash desperately,” says Michael Shifter, the president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington, D.C.-based group that studies the region.

Shifter says it’s no surprise that Venezuela is trimming back a program that provides oil at subsidized, deferred payment rates to many of its Caribbean neighbors that are dependent on energy imports. Petrocaribe — an alliance of Venezuela and Caribbean nations — was created a decade ago by the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. It provided subsidized oil to countries such as Belize, Haiti and Jamaica.

The subsidies ... Read More

Have U.S. Sanctions Against Venezuela Actually Helped Maduro?

| March 30th, 2015 | No Comments »
Jose Cardenas

When President Obama announced human rights sanctions on seven Venezuelan officials on March 9, a number of Latin Americanists and others criticized the measure, arguing that the president just handed beleaguered Venezuelan Nicolas Maduro a huge propaganda victory. The thinking went that Washington’s heavy-handed interference in Venezuela would allow Maduro to rally his base, deflect attention away from their dire economic predicament, and otherwise strengthen his teetering government.

Today, three weeks later, is as good a time as any to see whether Maduro has benefited in any way from U.S. sanctions. According to recent polls, the answer is a resounding no.

According to a recent poll by the Venezuelan firm Datanalisis, for all Maduro’s bombast since the sanctions were announced, his already low popularity barely budged from 23 percent to 25 percent, likely within the margin for error; in other words, there hasn’t been any measurable improvement. This is all the more ... Read More

Delayed results show opposition conservatives win El Salvador vote

| March 30th, 2015 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

El Salvador’s main conservative opposition party narrowly won the most seats in legislative elections earlier this month, electoral authorities said on Friday, a result which could force the ruling leftist government to seek a middle ground with the newly elected lawmakers.

The bungled March 1 vote provoked a major vote-counting delay, even sparking allegations of sabotage before an investigation failed to substantiate them.

Legislative results showed that the conservative Nationalist Republican Alliance (Arena) won 32 seats while the ruling Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) party claimed 31.

The Grand Alliance for National Unity (GANA) party came in third with 11 members of the legislative body.

The FMLN party previously held a 4-seat plurality in the 84-member body.

ARENA also won the majority of the mayoral races that were also up for grabs, but the FMLN did retake the capital.

Click here ... Read More

Evo Morales’ party loses La Paz in Bolivian elections

| March 30th, 2015 | No Comments »
UT San Diego


LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — President Evo Morales’ governing party suffered its most serious setback of nearly a decade in power in local and regional elections Sunday, according to unofficial results.

Opposition candidates won the governor’s office in the La Paz region and the mayor’s seat in El Alto, the capital’s poorer sister city, the quick count results compiled for three broadcast networks showed. La Paz’s s opposition mayor, Luis Revilla, was re-elected.

In October, Morales won re-election to a third term with 61 percent of the vote. But his governing Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) is less popular and has been beset by corruption scandals.

Of Bolivia’s three most important governorships, a governing party candidate only won one – Cochabamba — on Sunday.

MAS held seven of Bolivia’s nine governorships going into Sunday’s vote. It secured ... Read More

Peru Is Chavismo’s Next American Target

| March 30th, 2015 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01 BY MARY ANASTASIA O’GRADY For the citizens of a nation that boasts one of the world’s most spectacular long-run growth spurts since the 1990s, Peruvians are amazingly short on confidence. This country has so far repelled the authoritarian populism that has swept the South American continent since Hugo Chávez came to power in Venezuela in 1999. Its reward has been an average annual economic expansion of 5.1% for 15 years through 2014—including only 1% in 2009, when global growth collapsed, and a mediocre performance last year of just 2.4%.

Fast growth has produced a vibrant consumer class that is entrepreneurial and creative. Shopping malls, modern supermarkets and pharmacies now span this city, which is also marked by shiny office towers and small businesses. Demand for private-school education among aspirational middle-class parents is soaring as they reject the failing government system.

Credit has been expanding quickly yet with commodity prices falling and the global economy slowing, growth ... Read More

Guest Opinion: Beware of investing in Cuba

| March 30th, 2015 | No Comments »
Brainer Dispatch

Minnesota farmers and business owners should beware of investing in Cuba. Fidel Castro and his brother, Raul, have been the only communist dictators of Cuba, all while the U.S. elected presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, G.H.W. Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama to the office of U.S. President. The Castro dictators have never stopped working to spread communism and socialism into South and Central America. Particularly in Venezuela, Fidel Castro has mentored Hugo Chavez and his designated successor Nicolas Maduro in the methods of “nationalizing” western businesses. In the 1960s Fidel Castro nationalized 382 U.S. businesses, including banks and factories, under communism in Cuba.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, Fidel Castro actually urged the Soviet leader, Khrushchev,, to launch a nuclear weapon strike against the U.S. using Soviet missiles based in Cuba. As Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara revealed many years later, the U.S. did ... Read More

Kelly: Another fugitive complicates Cuba thaw

| March 30th, 2015 | No Comments »
North Jersey


On a January afternoon 40 years ago, Mary Connor of Fair Lawn made a pan of lasagna for a dinner she was planning with her husband to celebrate the birthdays of their two sons.

As Mary labored in her kitchen, her husband, Frank, who had risen from clerk to assistant vice president at Morgan Guaranty Trust, went to lunch at Fraunces Tavern, the Revo­lutionary War-era restaurant in lower Manhattan where George Washington bid farewell to Continental Army officers two centuries earlier.

As Frank Connor ate with colleagues, a bomb exploded — a homemade device, hidden near his table by Puerto Rican nationalists who said in a note that they wanted to kill “reactionary corporate executives.”

Conner, 33, died along with three others. Mary ended up serving her lasagna at her husband’s wake.

Terrorism tears into the lives of ordinary people in unexpected ... Read More

New Poll: Castro’s Hostility & Human Rights Record Fuel Strong Disapproval Of Obama’s Concessions To Regime

| March 30th, 2015 | No Comments »


The more Americans know about the Castro regime’s record on human rights violations and hostility toward the United States, the more likely they are to strongly disapprove of President Obama’s Cuba gambit, according to a national opinion poll released today by Inter-American Security Watch.

            Respondents to the poll initially supported President Obama’s December 17th decision tonormalize diplomatic relations and ease travel and financial restrictions with the island by a margin of 51%-38%. However, when the question was posed along with fresh examples of Cuba’s dealings with Russia, North Korea, cop-killers and terrorists, the results were dramatically reversed, withnormalization opposed by about 30- to 40-point margins.

            When asked if sanctions should be maintained pending progress by Cuba on human rights and elections, respondents agreed 64%-16%; and, when asked if Cuba’s designation as a supporter ofterrorism should be maintained because it harbors terrorists, respondents agreed 68-16%.

            “President Obama’s decision to cave to Castro was terrible diplomacy ... Read More

Cuban dissidents will head to Summit of the Americas

| March 27th, 2015 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

Cuban opposition leaders and activists Manuel Cuesta Morúa, Guillermo Fariñas, and Berta Soler will take part in civil-society events at the Summit of the Americas in Panama, according to the Miami-based Cuban Soul Foundation.

The foundation — which promotes independent Cuban artists and musicians — is hosting, together with the Human Rights Foundation in Cuba and the Panama campus of Florida State University, a conference titled The Road Ahead in the Fight for Human Rights on April 8.

Independent journalist Myriam Celaya and philologist Yusmila Reyna Ferrer, a member of Cuba’s Patriotic Union, UNPACU, will also take part with Soler and Saily Navarro, both representing the Ladies in White, in a panel discussion on women’s human-rights activism. Celaya, Reyna, and Soler participated last week in a similar conference at Florida International University.

Blogger Henry Constantin and UNPACU activist Amel Oliva will discuss with Morúa, leader of Arco Progresista, and Fariñas, representative ... Read More

Venezuela le reduce a Cuba ayuda petrolera

| March 27th, 2015 | No Comments »

Venezuela redujo a la mitad el suministro de petróleo que otorga en condiciones preferenciales a países de la región, miembros de Petrocaribe, según un informe del banco de inversión Barclays, citado por el diario El Nuevo Herald.

De acuerdo con la publicación, el banco calificó de irónico que Venezuela, pese a la crisis económica que enfrenta, continúe con los suministros de crudo a Cuba y otros países con mejor situación económica.

Los despachos de petróleo, dice El Nuevo Herald, habrían caído de los 400 mil barriles diarios a 200 mil, siendo siempre Cuba el mayor beneficiado aunque también sufrió el recorte.

La isla, el principal aliado político del gobierno de Nicolás Maduro, recibió en 2014 cerca de 50 mil barriles diarios, la mitad de lo que recibía en 2012.

Pero a diferencia de otros países miembros de Petrocaribe, que sí pagan una parte del crudo que reciben, Cuba y Venezuela tienen un acuerdo para que la isla cancele ... Read More

Appeals court dismisses Iran cover-up charges against Argentina president

| March 27th, 2015 | No Comments »
The Guardian UK

A federal court of appeals dismissed charges against the Argentinian president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, on Thursday, regarding an alleged conspiracy to shield Iranian officials’ from prosecution over their alleged role in the deadly 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish community centre.

The charges had originally been made by prosecutor Alberto Nisman in January, four days before he was found dead with a gunshot wound to the head in his Buenos Aires apartment.

On 14 January, Nisman had presented a 289-page writ in court that he said unveiled a conspiracy headed by Fernández to clear five high-ranking Iranian suspects of charges that they had masterminded the 1994 bombing of the Amia centre, in which 85 people were killed.

In a 2-1 vote, appeals judges dismissed Nisman’s accusation, but there is a strong likelihood that prosecutor Germán Moldes – who upheld Nisman’s charges before the judges – may appeal the decision to a higher court.

Fernández and other ... Read More

Forget Brazil. This emerging market is on the rise

| March 27th, 2015 | No Comments »

By Elizabeth MacBride

Brazil, an emerging-market darling just a couple years ago, is crumbling amid economic stagnation and political turmoil. But there’s a far brighter story—one most investors are missing—elsewhere in Latin America.

Four countries—Mexico, Peru, Colombia and Chile—three years ago formed a free-trade bloc called the Pacific Alliance. Tiny Costa Rica joined the club in 2013. Together, they’re a bigger economy than Brazil, and they’re expected to grow three or four times faster than their huge neighbor over the next few years.

Brazil’s $1.7 trillion economy contracted by 0.1 percent in 2014, according to Brazilian central bank data released Thursday, and it’s seen shrinking by 0.5 percent 2015. A corruption scandal at state-controlled Petrobras, the state-controlled petroleum giant, is expected to further hobble the country’s economy.

Pacific LatAm rising Country Population GDP past 5 years Predicted 2014/2015 Mexico 115 Million 1.90% 2.4%/3.5% Colombia 47 Million 4.20% 4.8%/4.5% Peru 30 Million 5.50% 3.6%/5.1% Chile 17 Million 4% 2.0%/3.3% Costa Rica 5 Million 3.10% 3.6%/3.6%

In contrast, the five Pacific Alliance members, with a collective GDP of $2.2 trillion, are expected to grow 3.3 percent in 2014, and 4 percent in 2015. ... Read More

Dealing with Dilma

| March 27th, 2015 | No Comments »
The Economist

She is less than three months into her second term, but already most Brazilians want to see the back of Dilma Rousseff. Grappling with a sickly economy and a hydra-headed corruption scandal at Petrobras, the state-controlled oil giant, she finds herself almost friendless in Brasília. She has already lost control of a Congress where, in theory, her coalition has a comfortable majority. More than 1m Brazilians took to the streets on March 15th to repudiate their president. Her approval rating has fallen by 30 points in six months to 13%, the lowest for a Brazilian president since Fernando Collor in 1992, on the eve of his impeachment for corruption.

Nearly 60% of respondents in one poll believe that Ms Rousseff merits the same fate. It is not hard to see why voters are angry. She chaired Petrobras’s board in 2003-10, when prosecutors believe more than $800m was ... Read More

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