Archive for April 12th, 2012

Mexico’s President Calderon in Cuba for talks

| April 12th, 2012 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press

ANDREA RODRIGUEZ

HAVANA — Mexican President Felipe Calderon was sitting down with Cuba’s Raul Castro on Wednesday to strengthen economic cooperation and further repair a relationship that has been strained during more than a decade of center-right rule in Mexico.

Calderon emphasized the positive upon arrival, talking about what his conservative administration and Cuba’s communist-run government have in common rather than their “natural differences.”

The president said he and Castro would discuss commerce and investment, regional concerns and cooperation in areas such as health, education, culture, sports and energy.

“I know this visit … will bring benefits for both peoples,” Calderon said in a brief statement at the Havana airport. He did not take questions, and his meeting with Castro was to be behind closed doors.

Mexico and Cuba are neighbors across the Gulf of Mexico, which is home to rich oil deposits as well as lucrative routes for smuggling drugs and people.

Calderon had planned ... Read More

Cartagena summit should not reject “democratic clause”

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The Miami Herald

BY ANDRES OPPENHEIMER

When I asked Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos about the ongoing U.S.-Latin American spat over Cuba’s absence in the 33-country Summit of the Americas that he will host in Cartagena this weekend, he gave an answer that many civil rights advocates find troublesome.

Referring to Cuba’s absence because of a U.S.-backed rule stating that only democracies can attend inter-American summits — an issue that is likely to figure prominently during the weekend discussions — Santos suggested that Washington and Latin American countries should re-evaluate their definitions of concepts such as freedom of the press, elections and democracy.

Under a clause of the Summit of the Americas Declaration of Quebec on April 22, 2001, which was adopted by consensus and is being invoked by the Obama administration today to oppose Cuba’s attendance, participating countries agreed that respect for the rule of law and democracy are “an essential condition of our presence ... Read More

The real back yard: An interesting reversal in the Western hemisphere

| April 12th, 2012 | No Comments »
The Economist

ALL in all, this is a pretty good time to be an American. Think about it. The middle class is expanding and growing richer. Once-stark inequalities are shrinking. The quality of governance has improved by leaps and bounds. Politics is becoming less ideological and more centrist and pragmatic. And never before have Americans held such sway in the wider world.

Oh, perhaps a clarification is in order. This is a pretty good time to be a Latin American. For the citizens of the United States, who tend somewhat presumptuously to think of themselves as the only Americans, this is not altogether such a good time. In the United States, in point of fact, all those trends are running in the opposite direction. The middle class is beleaguered; inequality is growing; government is gridlocked; politics is increasingly polarised and the superpower is in a funk about its global decline. Isn’t this high time ... Read More

US freeze assets of top drug cartel leader with ties to Los Zetas

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Examiner

BY KIMBERLY DVORAK

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) designated Guatemalan national Horst Walter Overdick Mejia, as a narco trafficker with dangerous ties to Colombian and Mexican Los Zetas drug cartels.

The action taken by the U.S. government falls under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act) that prohibits U.S. citizens from managing any financial or commercial transactions with Mr. Overdick Mejia and moved to freeze any assets within U.S. jurisdiction.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Guatemalan national a kingpin after the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York unsealed Overdick Mejia’s indictment for narcotics trafficking, money laundering as well as firearms activities.

The Guatemalan authorities arrested Overdick Mejia on April 3. Authorities charged the leader of Guatemalan’s  principal drug trafficking organization with multiple drug-related crimes.

A statement from the DEA alleges Overdick Mejia was “a veteran spice buyer, that he used his local ... Read More

Brazil Displeased at Bolivian Decision to Revoke Highway Contract

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Americas Quarterly

The Brazilian government expressed its displeasure yesterday at Bolivian President Evo Morales’ decision to revoke the contract of a Brazilian construction company to build a controversial highway through the Amazon. According to the Brazilian newspaper Valor Económico, Morales’ announcement on Tuesday that he would rescind Construtora OAS’ contract to build the Villa Tunari-San Ignacio de Moxos highway “was poorly received in the Brazilian government, which considers it a sovereign decision but not a positive one from the point of view of Brazilian investors in that country.” The newspaper also said the subject would likely come up when Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff meets with Morales later this week at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia.

Morales suspended construction on one part of the highway last fall, following a series of protests over the road’s planned path through an Indigenous rainforest known as the Parque Nacional y Territorio Indígena Isiboro-Secure (Isiboro Sécure National Park ... Read More

Guerrilla Kidnappings Put Humala in a Tight Spot

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From In Sight

BY GEOFFREY RAMSEY

Peru’s Shining Path guerrillas have released a list of ransom demands for a group of gas workers kidnapped last week, undermining President Ollanta Humala’s claims that the rebel organization is practically defunct.

The Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) kidnapped dozens of Peruvian natural gas workers from the village of Kepashiato (pictured) in a southern region near Cusco on Sunday. There are conflicting reports about the number of people being held by the rebels. While some sources claim that 23 of the workers had been released early Monday, local officials maintain that none of the victims have been freed thus far. Meanwhile, El Comercio reports that the guerrilla group released only three individuals, and is holding 36 hostage.

The kidnapping took place in the Apurimac and Ene River Valley (known in Spanish as the VRAE), which is known as a rebel outpost. After the February capture of alias “Comrade Artemio,” who led a rival guerrilla bloc in ... Read More

After Taint Of Drugs, Colombia Reinvents Itself

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NPR

BY JUAN FORERO

Colombia was once associated with cocaine trafficking and powerful drug lords, but today’s reality is different: It’s stable, a magnet for foreign investment and diplomatically engaged — and this weekend hosts the Summit of the Americas. Increasingly, Colombia is seen as South America’s rising star.

A factory in a middle-class neighborhood in the capital is symbolic of this new Colombia. The Nutresa factory in Bogota churns out countless chocolate bars and containers of ice cream. But Nutresa produces much more: It has grown into a food conglomerate — a $3 billion company with international affiliates and 30,000 workers.

Mario Nino, Nutresa’s vice president for innovation, says Colombia is experiencing strong growth and low inflation.

“All that means confidence for investors,” he says in Spanish, “and the arrival of capital that is extremely positive.”

Foreign investment has quadrupled over the past decade, and Colombia was recently awarded investment grade status. It also has ... Read More

Chávez Returning to Venezuela

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Article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal

BY EZEQUIEL MINAYA

Venezuela President Hugo Chávez began his trip home late Wednesday following his latest round of cancer treatment in Cuba, according to a Twitter post by the leader.

“We are taking off! Heading to…[Venezuela]!” Mr. Chávez wrote as part of several messages online.

Mr. Chávez, 57, departed for Havana on Saturday for a third round of radiation therapy, which he began after announcing the recurrence of his illness in February. Doctors in Cuba first diagnosed the cancer in June last year during a diplomatic visit by Mr. Chávez, according to Venezuelan officials.

Mr. Chávez is scheduled to undergo at least two more cycles of radiation therapy and has restricted his stints in Cuba to fewer than five days during treatment.

The president hasn’t disclosed the type or stage of cancer he faces, which has cast doubt on his re-election bid in October.

The former army officer will return to Venezuela in time to join ... Read More

Ecuador: National Assembly To Vote On Media Law Article By Article

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Article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal

BY MERCEDES ALVARO

QUITO –Ecuador’s National Assembly passed a motion Wednesday to vote on a controversial new media law, article by article.

Lawmakers didn’t set a new date for the vote. It was initially scheduled for Wednesday, but the Assembly president suspended the session.

Juan Carlos Cassinelli, a lawmaker of Alianza Pais, the government party, said the vote could take place next week.

For each article to be passed, it needs at least 64 votes of the Assembly’s 124 lawmakers.

The media-overhaul law is a complex proposal in discussion since 2009.

According to media organizations and critics of President Rafael Correa, the measure threatens freedom of expression in the Andean country and opens the way for censorship. They say the new law is too restrictive and gives too much power to the executive branch to regulate the press, which is denied by the government.

Click here for original ... Read More

SUNSET TIME FOR THE SUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS

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Heritage Foundation

BY RAY WALSER

When the sun sets over Cartagena, Colombia, on April 15, it may well mark the end of the 17-year-old Summit of the Americas process. Once upon a time, the Summit of the Americas seemed like an executive retreat with a serious work agenda. Today, it resembles a contentious dinner party with boors and nouveaux riches on the guest list.

The Summit of the Americas sprang to life in 1994 under Bill Clinton. At that time, in the golden afterglow of the fall of the Soviet Union, just beyond the “end of history,” liberal democracy and market capitalism were in flower.

The summits of that golden era symbolized its big Western Hemisphere idea — that we in the New World were free, liberty-loving folk cut from same cloth. So, too, did the Inter-American Democratic Charter (2001) that promised free elections, democratic governance, and the protection of individual rights and liberties. The flagship of the Summit fleet was a projected Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Families that trade ... Read More

Después de Chávez, un Narco Estado

| April 12th, 2012 | 21 Comments »
Foreign Policy

Hugo Chávez ha tratado de ocultar durante 10 meses que está perdiendo la batalla contra el cáncer y está determinado a aparentar que sigue al mando del régimen y el futuro de la nación. Sin embargo, en Semana Santa las cámaras de televisión capturaron a Chávez rogando por su vida ante un crucifijo y su madre en su iglesia natal. Las emociones de Chávez sorprendieron a su círculo íntimo y llevaron a algunos a cuestionar su salud mental. Como resultado de ello, de acuerdo con mis fuentes al interior del palacio presidencial, el ministro de Defensa, Henry Rangel Silva, ha desarrollado un plan para imponer la ley marcial si la condición de Chávez se deteriora aun más y propicia cualquier tipo de inestabilidad.

Esto fue realmente dramático. ¿Por qué no hay nadie fuera de Venezuela prestando atención? Algunos cínicos en este país todavía creen que Chávez está exagerando su enfermedad para sacar ... Read More

Americas Summit: Obama needs to rescue the democratic charter

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Foreign Policy

President Obama will join his 34 regional counterparts in Cartagena, Colombia this weekend for the Sixth Summit of the Americas. The theme of this year’s meeting is “Connecting the Americas: Partners for Prosperity.”

A more appropriate theme would be, “Whatever happened to the Inter-American Democratic Charter?”

That landmark document, signed a decade ago by all the governments of the hemisphere (excluding Cuba), in Lima, Peru, states, “The peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy, and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it.”

But the rise to power of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and a passel of other leftist populists has turned that commitment on its head, as they have systematically gutted their country’s democratic institutions and trampled on nearly every article enshrined in the Charter with nary a peep of protest from other governments in the region.

Indeed, the region’s fading commitment to defending democracy has even dominated headlines leading up to ... Read More

After Chávez, the Narcostate

| April 12th, 2012 | 2 Comments »
Foreign Policy

Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez has tried for 10 months to conceal the fact that he is losing his bout with cancer, determined to appear in command of his revolutionary regime and the nation’s future. This past Holy Week, however, television cameras captured him pleading for his life before a crucifix in his hometown church, his mother looking on without the slightest glint of hope on her face. Chávez’s raw emotion startled his inner circle and led some to question his mental health. As a result, according to my sources inside the presidential palace, Minister of Defense Gen. Henry Rangel Silva has developed a plan to impose martial law if Chávez’s deteriorating condition causes any hint of instability.

Pretty dramatic stuff. So why isn’t anyone outside Venezuela paying attention? Some cynics in that country still believe Chávez is hyping his illness for political advantage, while his most fervent followers expect him to make ... Read More