Archive for October, 2012

Minister: Bolivia seeks Sean Penn’s good offices

| October 31st, 2012 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

LA PAZ, Bolivia — It’s not clear whether Sean Penn knew ahead of his visit to Bolivia of the missions he’d be asked to assume by President Evo Morales.

Cabinet chief Juan Ramon Quintana told reporters after Tuesday’s meeting that Morales asked the Oscar-winning actor to defend the chewing of coca leaf before the United Nations, lobby Chile to restore Bolivia’s long-lost access to the Pacific Ocean and help persuade the United States to extradite a former Bolivian president.

Penn is already a goodwill ambassador for Haiti, where he has won respect for his post-earthquake charity work.

Asked by reporters about the missions he’d been asked to assume, Penn answered curtly.

“I am ambassador of Haiti,” he said.

Penn later showed up for the start of a soccer match with Morales.

Click here for original ... Read More

Venezuela: a mega bond in the works?

| October 31st, 2012 | No Comments »
Financial Times

Benedict Mander

With Venezuela’s presidential elections now well behind us, speculation has been growing on Wall Street that the government may issue new debt soon.

But finance minister Jorge Giordani seemed to poor cold water on the idea in an interview published on Monday, arguing that Venezuela is trying to decrease its dependence on international markets.

Certainly, the government’s behaviour this year confirms what Giordani told local business daily El Mundo. Some Wall Street analysts’ expectations that 2012 issuance might even rival last year’s record $17.5bn in fresh debt have so far been proved very wrong.

The government has only issued $3bn this year. “We have a blossoming economy and no reason to pay interest rates of 13 per cent abroad,” Giordani told El Mundo.

He is absolutely right that it is ridiculous for Hugo Chávez’s government, which controls gigantic oil reserves and has never defaulted on debt payments, to be paying such high interest rates ... Read More

US leader urges Colombian leftist rebels to lay down their weapons

| October 31st, 2012 | No Comments »
The China Post-01

BOGOTA — U.S. President Barack Obama urged leftist guerrillas on Monday to lay down their weapons and reach a peace deal with the government of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in an interview broadcast on local radio. Colombia’s government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels launched peace talks in Oslo on Oct. 18 aimed at ending their nearly five decades of conflict.

“My hope,” said Obama, “is that we can create a Colombia that is peaceful and prosperous, and that the FARC lay down its arms and recognize that, even though there are disagreements with the government, they should engage in a political process.”

Obama, speaking to W Radio, said that the United States has “worked closely with the Colombian government for many years now to try to bring peace to Colombia, and we have seen significant progress.”

Colombia has received some US$8 billion in U.S. military aid over the past decade ... Read More

FARC Victims Want Truth Before Peace Talks Continue

| October 31st, 2012 | No Comments »
ABC News


Rafael Mora has been looking for his son for the past five years. By searching through court documents and seeking the testimonies of retired guerrilla fighters, he has come to the conclusion that his son Juan Camilo was kidnapped by common criminals in Bogota, and then “sold” to a unit of the FARC guerrillas that operates deep in the jungles of southern Colombia.

“A few years back [common criminals] were taking professionals and selling them to the guerrillas, who forced them to work for them like slaves,” Mora claims. “They took engineers, doctors and nurses,” said Mora, who believes that his son — a systems engineer — was a victim of this criminal scheme.

Mora is not 100% certain of what happened to his son, but as the Colombian government prepares to continue peace talks with the FARC guerillas in Havana on November 15th, Mora will be one of hundreds of ... Read More

US-Panama trade deal goes into effect Wednesday

| October 31st, 2012 | No Comments »
The Hill

A free trade agreement between the United States and Panama goes into effect on Wednesday, a deal supporters say will expand growing trade between the two nations.

The White House issued a proclamation Tuesday afternoon outlining the agreement, which was passed by Congress in October 2011.

Last week, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Ricardo Quijano, Panama’s minister of Commerce and Industry, locked in the date, the final of the three agreements passed a year ago to go into effect. Agreements between South Korea and Colombia were implemented earlier this year.

Panama’s economy, one of the fastest growing in Latin America, expanded 10.6 percent last year and expectations are that their economy will expand between 5 to 8 percent each year through 2017.

U.S. goods exports to Panama in 2011 were $8.2 billion.

Opponents argue that the trade deal weakens the U.S. government’s ability to stop corporations and wealthy individuals from dodging taxes in Panama ... Read More

Brazil Seen Beating U.S. in Soybean Trade as China Buys

| October 31st, 2012 | No Comments »


Brazil, which is set to displace the U.S. as the largest soybean grower this year, may extend that lead as planting is expanded to meet increased demand from China, the biggest buyer, according to Rabobank International.

Output will gain to 81.76 million metric tons in 2013-2014 from an estimated 79.88 million tons this year, Oswaldo Junqueira, head of trade commodity finance in Sao Paulo, said in an interview. Brazilian farmers are set to expand sowing by 306,000 hectares (756,142 acres) to 27.4 million hectares, and may add almost 3 million hectares through 2021, Junqueira said.

Combines harvest soybeans at the Morro Azul farm near Tangara da Serra, Brazil. Rising supply from Brazil will intensify competition among exporters, potentially hurting demand for the oilseed grown in the U.S. Photographer: Paulo Fridman/Bloomberg

Rising supply from Brazil will intensify competition amongexporters, potentially hurting demand for the oilseed grown in the U.S. Futures in Chicago have ... Read More

Clarin Says Argentina Media Bill Violates Property Rights

| October 31st, 2012 | No Comments »

Eliana Raszewski

Argentina’s Grupo Clarin SA (GCLA) said the country’s media law, which may require it to sell some television stations, violates private property rights and can’t be enforced.

Argentina’s government says Clarin has until Dec. 7, when a court’s suspension of the new media law ends, to sell the assets and comply with the legislation. Clarin should have one year from Dec. 7 to sell any assets if the law takes effect, company spokesman Martin Etchevers told reporters in Buenos Aires today.

Clarin, Argentina’s biggest media company, has frequently clashed with President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s government since she took power in 2007. When Fernandez visited Angola in May, a member of her entourage handed out socks emblazoned with “Clarin Lies” to children. Vice President Amado Boudou wore a T-shirt with the same logo during the 2011 campaign.

“The media bill is a law designed to go after Clarin,” said Carlos Moltini, chief ... Read More

Argentina’s Clarin Defiant in Face of Gov Threats

| October 31st, 2012 | No Comments »
ABC News


Grupo Clarin executives said Tuesday that they plan to exhaust every legal means possible of defying the Argentine government’s Dec. 7 deadline for submitting plans to dismantle the media company that has become President Cristina Fernandez’s leading critic.

The conglomerate is entirely focused on persuading the courts to extend an injunction barring enforcement of Argentina’s law against media monopolies, company spokesman Martin Etchevers told foreign correspondents he invited to the headquarters of Clarin newspaper.

Grupo Clarin also owns television and radio stations, creates broadcast content, and provides access through its cable network to television channels and the Internet.

Argentina’s congress passed a media reform law three years ago in the name of encouraging diversity in the country’s media industry. Supporters argued that putting too much power in the hands of a few private companies is harmful in a democracy. But Clarin executives argued Tuesday that in reality, the law was designed with ... Read More

Why Iran Wants to Attack the United States

| October 30th, 2012 | No Comments »
Foreign Policy


An Iranian-American used car salesman pleaded guilty this month to conspiring with Iranian agents to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States. Mansour Arbabsiar’s guilty plea would appear to be the end of this story, but in truth it raises more questions than it answers.

The facts were never really in dispute. U.S. officials learned of the plot early on and built an airtight case. The assassin Arbabsiar tried to hire was in fact a DEA informant. Once arrested, Arbabsiar confessed. At the direction of law enforcement, he then called his cousin and Quds Force handler, Gholam Shakuri. With agents listening, Shakuri insisted Arbabsiar go ahead with the plot. “Just do it quickly. It’s late.”

But why was the Quds Force, which had earned a reputation for operational prowess even among its enemies, so eager to move forward with an obviously flawed operation? Arbabsiar appears to have been a weak character who “wants to ... Read More

Pena Nieto Has Strength to Open Mexico’s Oil Industry, Aide Says

| October 30th, 2012 | No Comments »


Mexico’s President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto has the leadership to bring together members of his party and the opposition to pass laws opening up the oil industry to private investment, his top economic adviser said.

Pena Nieto has “the conviction for the reforms, the political experience and the leadership of his party,” to push through the changes, Luis Videgaray, co-head of the incoming president’s transition team, said in an Oct. 26 interview. “It implies building a political consensus. It’s what we’ll do with energy.”

The toughest resistance may come from within Pena Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, a traditional ally of unions that have opposed past energy overhauls, said Lisa Schineller of Standard & Poor’s. Already, labor legislation presented by outgoing President Felipe Calderon and initially backed by Pena Nieto to ease the hiring and firing of workers is facing delays in Congress as PRI lawmakers refuse to approve some ... Read More

Venezuela’s Chavez appoints new defense minister

| October 30th, 2012 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — President Hugo Chavez has appointed the commander of Venezuela’s navy as his new defense minister, replacing a close confidant who he has tapped as a candidate in upcoming regional elections.

Speaking during a telephone call broadcast Monday on state television, Chavez appointed Navy Cmdr. Diego Molero as defense minister.

Molero, an admiral who has served as the navy’s intelligence chief, replaces Army Gen. Henry Rangel Silva.

Rangel is a close confidant of Chavez who will represent the president’s ruling party in Dec. 16 elections to choose state governors and mayors.

The United States has accused Rangel of aiding drug traffickers and the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Chavez picked Rangel to run for the governorship of Trujillo, a state bordering neighboring Colombia.

Click here for original ... Read More

Business and public sector leaders meet in Miami to discuss how to build a new Latin America

| October 29th, 2012 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald


While Latin America has come a long way in overcoming hyperinflation and the economic instability that characterized many of its economies in the past as well as chalked up respectable economic growth in recent years, the head of a top regional lending institution said Friday that the bar needs to be set higher.

“Now the question is: ‘Should we be satisfied?’’’ said Enrique García, president of Caracas-based CAF-Development Bank of Latin America. “And the answer is no.”

While Latin America has achieved 4 percent to 5 percent economic growth in recent years, he said that’s not a high enough rate for the sustainable, inclusive growth the region needs. Although Latin American has made strides in reducing poverty, he said, “Inequities remain.’’

Growth must be above 6 percent, or even 7 percent, if Latin America wants to begin to close the gap with developed nations, García told about 200 business leaders, entrepreneurs ... Read More

Romney Must Romance Brazil to Boost Latin American Trade

| October 29th, 2012 | No Comments »


Mitt Romney’s plan for a Latin American trade region to enhance U.S. export prospects faces an enduring problem: Two decades after President Bill Clinton proposed a similar idea, the region’s biggest economies remain as mistrustful as ever.

Establishing accords with South America’s largest economies — Brazil and Argentina — would be difficult after leaders of the two nations joined with Venezuala’s Hugo Chavez in 2005 to sink the U.S. proposal to create a region-wide trade zone, according to regional experts.

“We have trade agreements with the governments that want to have trade agreements with us already,” Michael Shifter, president of the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue, said in a phone interview from Managua, Nicaragua. “The ones we don’t have trade agreements with are either not particularly interested or they’re very small markets that wouldn’t make much of a difference anyway.”

Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, has promoted free trade as ... Read More

Chavez election victory fails to dispel doubts about future

| October 29th, 2012 | No Comments »
International Institute for Strategic Studies

Venezuela’s recent presidential election campaign exposed deep political rifts in a country where President Hugo Chavez had grown accustomed to landslide victories. Although the opposition movement failed to strike a decisive blow to his hold on power in the October vote, nearly half the electorate embraced its narrative of a country in deep trouble. Economic mismanagement by the Chavez administration has brought growing criminal violence, inflation and a lack of food security, leading many to question the wisdom of his leftist ‘chavismo’ movement.

A newly formed coalition representing approximately 30 opposition parties, the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica, mounted the most concerted effort to unseat Chavez since he took office in 1999. Led by Henrique Capriles, the energetic governor of Miranda state, the opposition made important strides, narrowing Chavez’s lead from 26 percentage points in 2006 to 11 in the 7 October poll, claiming 44% of the vote versus Chavez’s 55%.

During ... Read More

Cuba’s Leaders Talk of Reform, but It Doesn’t Add Up to Much

| October 29th, 2012 | No Comments »
The Daily Beast


After half a century in a bell jar, Cuba has just let a little more air into the Western Hemisphere’s most closely guarded nation. On Oct. 16, President Raul Castro’s government announced that starting early next year most islanders no longer will need to seek permission to travel abroad, lifting a barrier that has been in place nearly since the Cuban revolution.

Then, just a week later, on Oct. 24, Castro doubled down, allowing longtime Cuban exiles the right to travel back to the island they fled years ago. And so, with a few pen strokes, one of the world’s most unrelenting dictatorships, which made its name standing up to Yankee powers and turning its back to half a century of globalization, appears to be easing its grip.

Is the revolution going soft? Not necessarily. First of all, both these measures, which are due to lock in on Jan. 14, 2013, ... Read More

Ecuadorian newspaper honored during María Moors Cabot Prizes, President Correa’s sympathizers protest

| October 29th, 2012 | No Comments »
Journalism in the Americas


Sympathizers of Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa protested last week outside the María Moors Cabot Prizes ceremony in opposition to Columbia University’s decision to give the Ecuadorian newspaper El Universo an honorary citation for its defense of freedom of expression, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported.

On Thursday, around 20 protesters gathered outside the university’s Italian Academy building, where the ceremony took place, and yelled slogans like “Down the with corrupt press!” and “Long live President Correa!” The protesters held Ecuadorian flags, photos of Correa and banners, one of which listed several of the main news outlets and journalism organizations in South America, Spain and the United States — including CPJ — and called them “enemies of Latin American democracy.”

CPJ said it was the first time award winners were received by protesters.

Since 1938, Columbia University honors journalists that contribute to greater Inter-American understanding with the María Moors Cabot awards.

The newspaper El Universo and “many ... Read More

Tourism props up Castro regime

| October 29th, 2012 | No Comments »
US Senate


Last week, this newspaper criticized my opposition to enriching Cuba’s Castro regime with American tourism dollars while reiterating your unconscionable position of supporting an Obama administration policy that helps fund the regime’s repressive machine. It was an editorial that the tyrants in Cuba surely delighted in reading.

Your paper bemoaned the enhanced scrutiny on “people-to-people cultural exchanges” that had been exposed for itineraries laden with dubious items that included salsa dancing, cigar rolling, rum making and meetings with regime officials. You then claimed that these were legal trips, a misleading assertion in light of the Treasury Department’s subsequent rewriting of the regulations governing these trips when rampant abuses were brought to light. The fact is, whether one likes it or not, tourism travel to Cuba remains illegal.

I understand we may never agree on this issue. However, my motivations should be clear to all. Freedom has never been won ... Read More

Honduran police chief , veteran commanders in faceoff over efforts to clean up ranks

| October 26th, 2012 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — The head of Honduras’ National Police says he is facing an internal uprising over the suspension of high-ranking officers in his campaign to clean up a corruption-plagued department in a country with one of the world’s highest murder rates.

His opponents, meanwhile, accuse Chief Juan Carlos Bonilla of firing his rivals, including those who signed a 2004 evaluation saying Bonilla was suffering from severe anxiety and needed hospital care and psychotherapy.

That same year, Bonilla, nicknamed “the Tiger,” was acquitted on a murder charge after the department’s internal affairs office accused him of running a death squad when he was a top regional police official.

“I have information that there are some who are meeting in some place and planning to take action,” Bonilla told Radio HRN late Wednesday. “We are ready for them. We will meet them head on.”

One top police official told The Associated Press there is “enormous ... Read More

Should investors tango with Argentina’s stocks?

| October 26th, 2012 | No Comments »
Market Watch


I’m old enough to remember when the Latin American country took on the British in the Falkland Islands 30 years ago.

Now one of its ships has been impounded by a judge in the tiny African country of Ghana, at the behest of a hedge fund. NML Capital, a fund controlled by billionaire Paul Singer, is demanding Argentina pay up on about $300 million in bonds. Argentina defaulted on its debt in 2002. (The ship’s 280 sailors just got home to Buenos Aires.)

The fracas is just the latest reminder of Argentina’s troubled economic and political history, and a salutary caution for anyone mulling a contrarian bet on the troubled Buenos Aires exchange. It’s only been 10 years since Argentina defaulted on its international debts, and today it is in a crisis once again.

Argentine share prices have collapsed by more than 50% this year in U.S. dollar ... Read More

Bolivia weighs regulating social media

| October 26th, 2012 | No Comments »
From CNN


La Paz, Bolivia (CNN) – A top Bolivian official has a stern warning for those who criticize President Evo Morales on social networks: He’s watching what they say, and taking names.

“I am always going online, and I am writing down the first and last names of the people who insult him on Facebook and Twitter,” Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera said in remarks widely reported in Bolivian media this week.

The vice president’s comments have drawn sharp criticism from some free speech advocates. But lawmakers from Morales’ Movement for Socialism party say they hope to push a proposed law regulating social media through the country’s Congress.

Constructive criticism is fine, said Franklin Garvizu, a congressman from the president’s party. But officials have seen something more nefarious, he said.

“We are very worried because this is a case of systematically using communications mechanisms to plant hatred against the government, to harm the image ... Read More

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