Archive for March 8th, 2012

La guerra de Obama contra las drogas está en desorden

| March 8th, 2012 | No Comments »
Foreign Policy

Esta semana, el vicepresidente Joe Biden, viajó a Centroamérica para tratar de contener la hemorragia de apoyo regional en la guerra contra las drogas liderada por los Estados Unidos.

Su viaje se llevó a cabo una semana después de que la secretaria de Seguridad Nacional, Janet Napolitano, quien de manera similar, viajara a la región para mantener a flote la imagen de los EE.UU. Esto mientras los cárteles de la droga incrementan sus actos de violencia y causan graves estragos en las sociedades centroamericanas.

Lo qué propició esta avalancha de atención de la administración hacia la región, fue una serie de declaraciones públicas de varios presidentes latinoamericanos que han cuestionando abiertamente la eficacia de la actual política antinarcóticos y que han llamando a discusiones multilaterales sobre la legalización o despenalización del consumo de drogas ilícitas.

Los presidentes de Guatemala, El Salvador y Costa Rica, fueron quienes decidieron iniciar esta discusión; sin embargo, estos ... Read More

Venezuela’s Chávez to Return Home Next Week

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Article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal

BY EZEQUIEL MINAYA

CARACAS—Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is recovering well after surgery in Cuba to remove a cancerous lesion and will return home early next week, Colombian leader Juan Manuel Santos said late Wednesday from Havana.

Mr. Chávez “said, and we saw it ourselves, that his recuperation is going well, he is on a good path,” Mr. Santos said, according to his press office, at the conclusion of his diplomatic visit. “He told me that he would stay for a few more days and was thinking of returning to Venezuela at the beginning of the coming week.”

Venezuelan officials said there was no official word yet on a return date for Mr. Chávez, who is slated to enter radiation therapy to treat the return of his illness.

Mr. Chávez traveled to Cuba on Feb. 24 following the surprising announcement that he was once again battling cancer after assuring Venezuelans for months that he was ... Read More

In Venezuela, Election Won’t Inspire Stability

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Article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal

BY EZEQUIEL MINAYA & KEJAL VYAS

CARACAS—In Venezuela’s increasingly unpredictable presidential election, voters face more than a choice between competing ideologies. They must also weigh which candidate represents the best hope of staving off political and social upheaval.

Neither of the two contenders can guarantee the nation’s stability past the Oct. 7 election. The challenges extend well beyond a polarized electorate, Latin America’s highest inflation rate, rampant crime and shortages of basic goods, electricity and housing.

President Hugo Chávez late last month revealed he is battling cancer again, casting doubt on his re-election bid and ability to serve out another six-year term in office. Fears of a potential power struggle within his “Chavismo” leftist movement are growing, and its various and competing factions will remain largely entrenched in Venezuela’s governing institutions regardless of the election outcome.

Should his challenger, Miranda state Gov. Henrique Capriles, win, he will spend his first years in office trying ... Read More

Venezuelan journalist in eye of Chavez cancer storm

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Article originally appeared in Reuters

BY ANDREW CAWTHORNE

Derided as a “liar” and “clown” by President Hugo Chavez’s allies, a bespectacled 66-year-old journalist has defied the verbal barrage to become a must-read for anyone tracking the Venezuelan leader’s cancer.

Veteran reporter and gossip-columnist Nelson Bocaranda broke the stunning news in mid-2011 that Chavez, the country’s all-dominant socialist leader, had the disease.

He followed up last month with another scoop on Chavez’s return to Cuba for new treatment after a recurrence of cancer, a massive setback for the 57-year-old populist president ahead of his campaign for re-election in an October vote.

With a daily drip-drip of rumors and details about Chavez’s condition, the openly pro-opposition Bocaranda has garnered more than 670,000 followers via his two Twitter accounts – @NelsonBocaranda and @RunRunesWeb.

That prominence has made him a hate figure for Chavez supporters, especially a pugnacious talkshow host Mario Silva who lays into Bocaranda almost every night.

“They call me a homosexual, a cocaine ... Read More

Obama’s drug war is in disarray

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Foreign Policy

Vice President Joe Biden was in Central America this week attempting to staunch the hemorrhaging of regional support for the U.S.-led War on Drugs.

His trip follows one last week by Secretary for Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, who similarly decamped to the region to buoy a faltering U.S. flag as drug cartel-fueled violence continues wreaking havoc on Central American societies.

What’s caused this flurry of high-level administration attention to the region is a number of recent public statements by sitting Latin American presidents openly questioning the effectiveness of current counter-narcotics policies and calling for multilateral discussions on legalizing or decriminalizing the use of illicit drugs.

Those speaking include the presidents of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Costa Rica, but they also have received the sympathetic ears of President Santos of Colombia and President Calderón in Mexico. Their unprecedented statements can be seen as a measure of their collective frustrations at the ravaging of their countries by ... Read More

Brazil’s slowdown

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Financial Times

Only weeks after ranks of colourful floats paraded across Rio de Janeiro’s Sambadrome, observers are wondering whether the carnival is finally over for the Brazilian economy. The country’s gross domestic product grew by 2.7 per cent only last year. This is about a third of the rate in 2010 and the second-lowest since 2003.

Nostalgia for the recent roaring past should not lead Brasília to self-flagellation. The slowdown in the EU – Brazil’s main trading partner – and the steep appreciation of the real, largely because of hefty capital inflows, were bound to hurt exports. In spite of weakening growth, Brazil overtook the UK to become the world’s sixth-largest economy. But rather than resting on its laurels, Brasília should at least seek to get the economy back on to its trend rate of growth, which is estimated to be more than 4 per cent.

The Brazilian central bank may soon help to achieve this ... Read More

Biden in Honduras: US drug policy under scrutiny

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Article originally appeared in The Christian Science Monitor

BY SARA MILLER LLANA

As US Vice President Joe Biden arrives in Honduras to meet with Central American leaders today, the long accepted playbook on a top issue — the war on drugs — is coming under sharp scrutiny.

In the past five years, drug-trafficking violence has led to spiraling death tolls, overflowing prisons, and overwhelmed justice systems across Mexico and Central America. Now, led by Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina, leaders are starting to question a policy review is needed, including a debate on legalizing narcotics.

It is not the first time players in the region have questioned hardline tactics. But now the message is coming from sitting presidents in staunch US allies, from Costa Rica to Colombia. So far the US has dug in its heels, but the pressure is mounting.

“This is a sign of what is to come…. Increasingly, countries are less afraid to explore other alternatives,” says Jorge Hernandez Tinajero, the president of CUPIHD, a civil society organization ... Read More

US designates Argentina as major money laundering country

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From AFP

WASHINGTON — Argentina, Curacao and St Maarten have been designated as “major money laundering countries,” a State Department report said Thursday, moving them up a notch on a money laundering watchlist.

The annual International Narcotics Control Strategy report moved Argentina and the two Caribbean island entities to the list of “jurisdictions of primary concern” from the less acute “jurisdictions of concern” category.

Argentina, Curacao and St Maarten join a wide-ranging list of 66 countries that includes Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, the Cayman Islands, China, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, Uruguay, and Zimbabwe.

The report said the three have become “major money laundering countries,” or those “whose financial institutions engage in currency transactions involving significant amounts of proceeds from international narcotics trafficking.”

As in the previous reports, the March 2012 report has been sent to Congress, State Department officials said.

“Argentine and international observers express the concern that money laundering related to narcotics trafficking, ... Read More

Brothers might battle for presidency in Ecuador

| March 8th, 2012 | No Comments »
From CNN

BY ANDRES LOPEZ

Quito, Ecuador — Voters in Ecuador might have a chance to weigh in on a high-profile case of sibling rivalry.

Fabricio Correa, 52, filed paperwork to register a new political party Wednesday. His aim, he said, is to defeat his younger brother, incumbent President Rafael Correa, in elections next year.

“There is no legal security. There is too much corruption. Today, drugs are rampant. Crime has doubled. There is no investment. There are no jobs. The number of poor people has increased 50%,” Fabricio Correa told CNN en Español on Wednesday.

Ecuadorian government officials declined to comment on those accusations.

The spat between the two brothers has played out publicly for years, with each accusing the other of corruption.

“The Big Brother,” a book published by two journalists in 2010, has fueled the feud. The investigation alleged that companies connected with Fabricio Correa had received preferential treatment, with more than $167 million in ... Read More

Bolivia’s Natural Gas Reserves Now on Political Firing Line

| March 8th, 2012 | No Comments »
Oil Price

BY JOHN DALY

First, the good news.

Bolivia has South America’s second largest proven natural gas reserve, totaling approximately 24 trillion cubic feet (tcf), according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Of this, 85 percent is located in the Tarija region.

Bolivia is on schedule to produce 52 million cubic meters of natural gas per day beginning in April, according to Bolivia’s state-owned oil and natural gas company Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales Bolivianos SA (Bolivian Oil Company, or YPFB). YPFB-Andina CEO Jorge Ortiz said that the San Antonio Bloc’s Chad Field, located in Gran Chaco near the border town of Villa Montes and operated by Brazil’s energy giant Petrobras, is the country’s leading producer of the fuel, telling reporters, “Chad is the most important field in the country today, with an investment of $100 million in its facilities, natural gas production there has increased by 6.7 million cubic meters per day (mcm), so that this ... Read More

McConnell: Obama personally lobbying Senate Dems to oppose Keystone XL amendment

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The Hill

BY JOSIAH RYAN

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) charged President Obama on Thursday of personally contacting Senate Democrats to ask them to oppose a pending amendment that would speed the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

“Its incomprehensible to me that the president of the United States is lobbying against the Keystone amendment,” said McConnell speaking from the Senate floor on Thursday.

McConnell said he had read reports that Obama had called members of the Senate Democratic caucus asking them to oppose the Keystone amendment which will likely face a vote in the upper chamber either later on Thursday or on Tuesday.

“There’s a report… that President Obama is personally making phone calls to Democrat senators he thinks might vote for this amendment,” McConnell continued. “He’s asking them not to and, frankly, it’s hard to even comprehend how out of touch he is on this issue.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also announced ... Read More

Cuba to skip regional summit, averting diplomatic flap

| March 8th, 2012 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

BY ROSA TANIA VALDES

Cuba has decided not to attend an upcoming hemispheric summit following talks with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, averting a diplomatic showdown with U.S. leaders who had insisted Cuba not attend, Santos told reporters.

Santos flew to the Caribbean island on Wednesday to discuss the summit with Cuban President Raul Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who is recovering from cancer surgery.

The agreement brokered by Santos, who plays host to the summit next month, will likely defuse threats by left-leaning states allied with Havana to boycott the summit if Cuba was not invited.

Santos thanked Castro for “saying that he does not want to create a problem for the summit or for Colombia.”

“Colombia wants the situation of Cuba and its participation to be discussed in a constructive manner at the Cartagena Summit,” he said as he was preparing to leave the island.

The deal, which effectively prevents the spat from ... Read More

Venezuela PdVSA Confirms Plans For $2 Billion Credit Line With Chevron

| March 8th, 2012 | No Comments »
From Dow Jones Newswires

CARACAS –  Venezuelan state oil monopoly Petroleos de Venezuela, or PdVSA, is in the finishing stages of preparing a $2 billion credit line deal with U.S. oil major Chevron Corp. (CVX) which will be used to raise output at one of the companies’ joint ventures in the South American country, a PdVSA spokesman confirmed Wednesday.

The funds, which will be deployed by Chevron, will go toward raising production at the Petroboscan venture, which operates the Boscan Field in Venezuela’s western state of Zulia. PdVSA, which owns 60% of Petroboscan, has previously said that the facility’s output is near 115,000 barrels of oil per day.

A Chevron spokeswoman declined comment when reached by telephone Wednesday. PdVSA is also still in negotiations over a possible listing on the Hong Kong stock exchange, said the spokesman, but declined to give more information.

Some media reports have suggested that the energy giant could list bonds on the Asian exchange, ... Read More

WikiLeaks report cites corruption in Venezuela production

| March 8th, 2012 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

BY ANTONIO MARIA DELGADO

The destruction of Venezuelan production in favor of imports is worsening the scarcity problem and creating corruption by those who want to obtain bigger contracts, says a report by the private intelligence firm Stratfor released by WikiLeaks.

The report, which covers part of the more than 5 million emails revealed by the online organization, indicates that officials of President Hugo Chávez’s administration involved in importing food stockpile products to justify new transactions.

According to the report, the loss of thousands of tons of food in ports can be attributed in part to corrupt officials’ practice of not releasing products acquired abroad.

“As long as there is scarcity of a certain product, importers can present a strong argument for the need to import even more products, and therefore we have warehouses packed with products that are rotting and power generators that are useless,” says the report written in the middle of ... Read More

Colombian President: Cuba Summit Invite Unlikely

| March 8th, 2012 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press

BY ANDREA RODRIGUEZ

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos held talks with President Raul Castro on Wednesday amid a controversy over whether Cuba will be allowed to participate in a regional summit, but left indicating that an invitation is not forthcoming.

Santos also visited convalescing Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, who underwent cancer surgery in Havana last week, and said he seemed in good spirits and was planning to return to Venezuela next week.

Members of the leftist Bolivarian Alliance, or ALBA, demanded last month that Cuba be included in the April 14-15 Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, but stopped short of threatening a boycott while urging Santos’ government to extend an invitation.

As host, Colombia gets the final decision.

“As we have said from the beginning, (the summit) is a matter that requires consensus, a consensus that unfortunately we have not been able to find,” Santos said at Havana’s international airport Wednesday night prior to ... Read More

Southcom: Iran, Terror Groups Setting Up Shop in South America

| March 8th, 2012 | 1 Comment »
US News & World Report

Iran and Middle East-based extremist groups are stepping up their activities in South America, aiming to make friends and score cash, a senior U.S. military official says.

Tehran intends to build military drones in Washington’s backyard for the Venezuelan military led by Hugo Chavez, U.S. Southern Command chief Gen. Douglas Fraser told reporters Wednesday during a breakfast meeting in Washington.

“I would put it in the Scan Eagle class of UAV,” Fraser said. “It’s not up into the Predator class.”

The Southern Command chief was referring to two U.S.-made drone aircraft used by the American military. The Scan Eagle is about 10 feet long and is used for surveillance while the MQ-1B Predator drone can be armed with air-to-ground Hellfire missiles and is about 27 feet long.

Fraser said it’s unclear what kinds of missions Venezuelan officials will send the Iranian drones.

His best guess? “I assume it’s for internal defense.”

In, 2006, Israeli officials said ... Read More