Archive for April 16th, 2012

‘Colombian Rastrojos Dominate Ecuador Drug Trade’

| April 16th, 2012 | No Comments »
From In Sight

BY TATIANA FARMARZI

Colombian drug gang the Rastrojos may now control almost all the drug trafficking routes in Ecuador, shipping their product to Mexican groups like the Zetas and the Sinaloa Cartel, according to reports.

El Comercio reports that, according to police intelligence, the Rastrojos dominate almost all routes for trafficking drugs through Ecuador, and are working to control the routes through Esmeraldas, on the Pacific coast, and Carchi and Sucumbios, on the border with Colombia.

According to the report, the Rastrojos send drug shipments by sea from Ecuador’s ports to Mexican groups like the Gulf Cartel, the Sinaloa Cartel, and the Zetas.

The Rastrojos’ main operating bases in Ecuador are in Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas, an inland province to the northwest of the country, and Manabi, on the Pacific coast.

InSight Crime Analysis

Juan Carlos Calle Serna (pictured), brother of the leaders of the Rastrojos, was captured in Quito last month. He was likely residing there in part to ... Read More

Beware of Dubious Assumptions on Future of Chavismo

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What's Next Venezuela

Hugo Chávez’s emotional appearance on Venezuela television on Easter Sunday was clearly the picture of a man facing his own mortality. If anyone needed final confirmation that the Venezuelan president is seriously ill, then that was definitely it.

The stark realization that Chávez may not be able to stand for re-election will only accelerate the struggle for succession within chavismo, as various candidates with questionable credentials jostle for position to replace their ailing leader and gain the keys to the billions of petro-dollars in the Venezuelan treasury.

The irony is that, despite the fact that some polls show opposition challenger Henrique Capriles Radonski doing very well in October’s election against any number of presumptive Chávez successors, the disappearance of Chávez from the political scene would likely not make any easier the challenge the faced by the opposition. In fact, it would probably make their job more complicated.

That’s because the chavista power struggle will not be ... Read More

Drugs, Cuba Divide Summit

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Article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal

BY LAURA MECKLER & DARCY CROWE

CARTAGENA, Colombia—President Barack Obama concluded a summit of Western Hemisphere leaders Sunday, leaving with the message that Latin America is growing increasingly perturbed over two policies that have largely defined U.S. influence to many in the region: the international drug war and the isolation of Cuba.

On the question of drugs, Mr. Obama appeared resigned to a burgeoning debate over legalization, but his administration gave no ground on demands that Cuba be more widely included in regional affairs, saying it is up to Cuba to join the community of democracies.

The U.S. president also got some good news on the economic front, as host country Colombia announced that it was ready to implement a free-trade agreement ratified by the U.S. last year. The agreement will take effect on May 15, offering U.S. firms the prospect of increased exports to Colombia.

“We’re moving ahead with our landmark trade agreement,” ... Read More

Responsible Nations Cannot Stand on Sidelines While Freedoms, Basic Rights Threatened in Latin America, Ros-Lehtinen Says

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US House of Representatives

(WASHINGTON) – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released the following statement at the conclusion of the Summit of the Americas that took place in Cartagena, Colombia from April 14 – 15. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:

“Freedom and democracy are under attack and are eroding in many corners of Latin America. If responsible nations don’t stand up for our values, future Summits may be completely dominated by the region’s despots.

“The issue of Cuba’s participation in the Summit – which is supposed to be reserved for members of the OAS – once again hijacked the meeting and was used to advance an anti-American, anti-freedom agenda. Instead of the OAS straying even further from its democratic values and admitting Cuba, I look forward to the day when Cuba legitimately attends the Summit as a fully democratic member of the OAS which respects the fundamental rights of its citizens.

“I ... Read More

What’s Behind Brazil’s Slow Growth?

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Article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal

BY MARY O’GRADY

Along with Russia, India and China, Brazil is supposed to be a 21st century economic tiger. So how come it grew a measly 2.7% last year?

President Dilma Rousseff would have you believe that it is because the Federal Reserve’s low interest rate policy is making her country uncompetitive and thus “impairing growth.” She said so on a visit to Washington last week and again over the weekend at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena.

It is not a new charge. Brazil has been complaining about Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s easy money policy for some time. Brazilian finance minister Guido Mantega is credited with coining the term “currency wars” to describe the export advantage a country gains by debasing its national money.

To be sure the Fed’s “quantitative easing” and near-zero interest rate policies have meant that there are many dollars seeking better returns in energy markets. This has fueled ... Read More

Obama: US, Colombia trade deal a ‘win’

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BY JULIE PACE

CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA

President Barack Obama is praising the free trade agreement between the United States and Colombia, saying it includes protections for workers and the environment that will serve as a “win” for both countries.

Obama and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said at a joint news conference that the trade deal will go into effect May 15.

The U.S. and Colombia agreed to the trade deal last year. But implementation of the pact was contingent on Colombia enacting reforms to protect unions.

Obama says it will support “thousands of U.S. jobs” and give Colombia a market for exports. He says it will be a win for workers and the environment because there are “strong protections.” Obama says those are “commitments that we are going to fulfill.”

Business leaders support the agreement but labor leaders say Colombia still has a poor record of violence against labor union members. The AFL-CIO says it is ... Read More

Fernando Menendez: Hugo Chavez’s Populist Economics

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From Fox News Latino

BY FERNANDO D. MENENDEZ

The government of Venezuela has recently announced plans to raise the minimum wage. This should send waves of exhilaration through the hearts of union leaders, leftist academics and progressives the world over.

What a splendid thing that in a time of uncontrolled inflation, food shortages, electrical blackouts, a host of other economic catastrophes, and a looming election, Hugo Chávez should propose raising the minimum wage.

Why mention the election?  Because minimum wage increases make more sense politically than they do economically.

The establishment of minimum wages by government decree is almost a universal economic policy in most underdeveloped countries. The policy defies over two hundred years of strongly held economic principles; if the price of any good or service is kept too high, i.e., at levels above those set by a free, competitive market, some of those goods or services will remain unsold. This is true of eggs, iron, automobiles ... Read More

Obama: US Wants Deeper Partnerships With Americas

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From Voice of America

BY DAN ROBINSON

At the sixth Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, U.S. President Barack Obama said the United States wants deeper economic partnerships in the hemisphere, but that barriers remain to greater integration.

In remarks to a CEO summit, Mr. Obama spoke of impressive economic growth in Latin America, progress moving tens of millions of people out of poverty, and a growing middle class.

He pointed to two U.S. free trade agreements, with host country Colombia and with Panama, and said some 40 percent of U.S. exports go to the region, supporting almost four million U.S. jobs.

But Mr. Obama said barriers remain to greater entrepreneurship and innovation, and that trade across a hemisphere with nearly one billion citizens is only half of what it could be.

Mr. Obama said “stark inequalities” endure in the region, with “far too many” people still living in poverty, adding the challenge will be to ensure broad-based ... Read More

Split over Cuba could sink hemispheric summits

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Article originally appeared in the Associated Press

CARTAGENA, Colombia –  Could this weekend’s gathering of about 30 Western Hemisphere leaders be the last Summit of the Americas?

The question hung in the air as the leaders convened Sunday for a private morning retreat.

Washington, backed by Canada, was standing fast against widespread demands to include in the meeting’s final declaration language specifying that Cuba be included in future hemispheric summits.

“All the countries here in Latin American and the Caribbean want Cuba to be present. But the United States won’t accept,” President Evo Morales of Bolivia told reporters late Saturday. “It’s like a dictatorship.”

Morales and other leftist leaders have been insistent that this weekend’s meeting in this Caribbean colonial port, which wraps up at midday, will be the last regional summit under Organization of American States auspices unless Cuba is invited in the future.

The top international adviser to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Marco Aurelio Garcia, said the differences could mean ... Read More

Americas leaders make issue of fact Cuba not invited to summit in Colombia

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The Miami Herald

BY SIBYLLA BRODZINSKY

CARTAGENA, Colombia – Cuba was not invited to the hemispheric summit that opened Saturday in this Caribbean colonial city but the communist country loomed large over the meeting of 31 leaders from the Americas, some of whom failed in an eleventh-hour push to invite Cuba.

Calling the U.S. embargo on Cuba anachronistic, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said this should be the last of the regional summits without Cuba. As expected, he also called for the region to begin an objective analysis of the drug policy and look for alternatives.

Both were uncomfortable issues for President Barack Obama, who also had to face the embarrassment of a prostitution scandal involving as many as a dozen Secret Service agents sent to the city to as part of his security detail. And Southern Command, based in Doral, Fla., on Saturday announced that five military personnel also are under investigation for “inappropriate conduct” ... Read More

Hugo Chavez Returns to Cuba for Another Round of Cancer Treatment

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From Fox News Latino

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez arrived in Cuba Saturday night for a fourth round of cancer treatment, the Communist island’s state press reports.

Cuba Debate, a government-run news website, published photos of Chávez’s arrival. He was accompanied by his daughter Rosa Virginia and both were greeted by Cuban Vice President José Ramón Machado Ventura.

Chávez has traveled to Cuba three times since beginning radiation therapy in March for trips of up to five days, but he said on Friday his stay in Cuba will be longer this time.

“Since we’re going to enter the second and last phase of treatment, and that treatment is rough … I’m thinking of asking for permission not to return in the middle of the week next week, but rather stay in Cuba all of this next week to receive the complete treatment and not have to be going and coming,” he said.

The news comes as Chávez made a last-minute ... Read More

U.S.-Colombia trade deal to take effect in May

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From CNN

Cartagena, Colombia — A free trade agreement between the United States and Colombia is set to take effect next month, leaders of both countries said Sunday at the Summit of the Americas in Colombia.

The United States and Colombia agreed to the pact last year, but implementation was contingent on Colombia taking a series of steps to improve workers’ rights.

At a joint news conference in Cartagena with President Barack Obama, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos cheered the deal as a 20-year dream come true.

“This will create thousands, millions of jobs in the United States and Colombia,” he said.

Under the deal, which will go into effect May 15, more than 80% of U.S. exports of consumer and industrial products to Colombia will become duty free, as will more than half of U.S. exports of agricultural commodities. Most Colombian goods are already sold duty free in the United States.

The two presidents were in ... Read More