Archive for December 3rd, 2012

Latin Growth Tune Plays in Two Speeds

| December 3rd, 2012 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal


BOGOTÁ, Colombia—Latin America is becoming a tale of two economies, with nations like Peru, Colombia, Mexico and Chile growing faster than the global average and nations like Argentina and Brazil struggling with crippling slowdowns.

Brazil, for much of the past decade a growth powerhouse in the region, reported on Friday that its economy grew at an annual clip of just 2.4% in the third quarter from the previous quarter, far less than expected and dashing hopes of a bounce-back fueled by hefty interest-rate cuts and tax breaks.

The result suggests Brazil’s growth for the full year is likely to be 1%, according to São Paulo-based Tendencias consulting group—a far cry from the government’s expectations of 4.5% this year.

Overall, resource-rich Latin America has done very well in the past decade, mostly thanks to China’s ravenous appetite for raw materials to fuel its rise, which drove up prices for everything from ... Read More

Out with the old, in with the… old

| December 3rd, 2012 | No Comments »
The Economist

MEXICO’S incoming president, Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), will be sworn in on December 1st. Today the members of his cabinet and presidential staff were announced in a brief ceremony in the capital. The 17 men and three women in the cabinet, plus a handful of other senior appointments, represent a mixture of young technocrats and familiar faces from PRI governments of the 1990s.

Luis Videgaray, Mr Peña’s closest advisor, will go to the Hacienda, as Mexico’s finance ministry is known. Mr Videgaray, an MIT-trained economist, was Mr Peña’s finance minister during the latter’s time as governor of Mexico state, from 2005 to 2011, and is seen as the intellectual force behind many of the new administration’s proposals. The economics ministry will be headed by Ildefonso Guajardo, an economist with a career including a stint at the IMF as well as assorted roles in government.

Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, ... Read More

Brazil Reaches Across Border to Battle Source of Cocaine

| December 3rd, 2012 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal


TABATINGA, Brazil—Two Brazilian police bolted from a helicopter in Peru’s Amazon jungle on a recent day with a squad of Peruvian commandos. Cracks of gunfire shook the forest before the group captured and destroyed a secret cocaine lab.

The Brazilians had the legal status of unarmed observers during the Aug. 19 raid led by Peru’s elite antidrug police.

But both Brazilians carried assault rifles and faced hostile fire. The lab was in Peru, but the raiders flew from a Brazilian airport in a chopper running on Brazilian fuel to hit a target provided by a Brazilian-paid informant.

From its Amazon border with Peru to its bustling cities, Brazil is getting drawn deeper into a drug war as surging cocaine use turns it into the world’s biggest market after the U.S. It is a surprise since Brazilian politicians once criticized aggressive antidrug strategies espoused by the U.S. as causing more harm than ... Read More

U.S. law targeting drug smugglers in foreign waters is deemed illegal

| December 3rd, 2012 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald


In 2010, the U.S. Coast Guard spotted a wooden fishing boat without lights and a flag off the coast of Panama and reported the suspicious vessel to the Panamanian Navy.

The Navy pursued the boat until its occupants jumped out and fled — then it found 760 kilos of cocaine on board. Panamanian authorities later arrested the four occupants on the beach and in the jungle, and turned them over to the U.S. government for prosecution in Miami.

In a bit of a blow to the endless war on drugs, a federal appeals court has concluded the 1986 law used to charge the defendants is illegal. In November, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta vacated their convictions after finding that Congress exceeded its constitutional power when it passed a portion of that law that was used to prosecute them.

The appeals court found that the Maritime Drug Law ... Read More

Colombia and Nicaragua Territorial Dispute Gets Complicated, Nasty

| December 3rd, 2012 | No Comments »
From Fox News Latino


Bogotá, Colombia –  There are fears that the political standoff between Colombia and Nicaragua could grow even more tense as the two nations bicker over who is the rightful owner of a large swath of water in the western Caribbean.

So far, the two countries have engaged in a bureaucratic chess game as the government leaders flex their political muscle, with military ships from both countries being sent to the disputed area.

While the International Court of Justice at The Hague ruled on November 19 that Colombia does in fact own the regional islands of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina, it gave the expanse of some 120 square kilometers of oil-rich ocean to Nicaragua. Colombia, which has long fought to keep the area, has rejected the decision and officially left the Bogotá Pact, a 1948 treaty which recognizes ICJ rulings to find peaceful solutions to these types of conflicts.

The ... Read More

Justice Still Eludes Argentina’s Jews

| December 3rd, 2012 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal


Until more than 2,700 innocents were slaughtered at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, the worst terrorist attack in the Americas was the July 18, 1994, bombing of the Israel-Argentina Mutual Association (known by its Spanish initials as AMIA) in Buenos Aires. The blast from a van packed with explosives ripped through the five-story brick building that housed the Jewish community center and triggered its collapse. Eighty-five people were killed and more than 150 injured.

In the years that followed, the Argentine government showed little interest in bringing the perpetrators to justice, and the trail seemed to go cold. Then, in 2005, then-President Néstor Kirchner named Alberto Nisman as special prosecutor in the case and backed a new investigation.

In October 2006, Mr. Nisman indicted seven Iranians and one Lebanese-born member of Hezbollah for the mass murder. Interpol issued “red notices” for their arrest. But six years later ... Read More

Pena Nieto Assumes Mexico’s Presidency Vowing Security, Growth

| December 3rd, 2012 | No Comments »


Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto took office pledging to reduce crime, erase the budget deficit and spur competition in communications industries, where the world’s richest man has a near monopoly in phone service.

Wearing the green, red and white presidential sash, the 46- year-old president said in his inaugural address Dec. 1 that he’ll create a national crime prevention program after more than 57,000 people were killed in drug warfare since 2006 under his predecessor, Felipe Calderon. He called for austerity in government spending while saying infrastructure investments should be accelerated.

“It’s time for us to break the myths and paradigms and everything else that has limited our development,” Pena Nieto said at the National Palace before dignitaries including U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Peruvian President Ollanta Humala. “It’s now up to us to take advantage of this platform to boost growth and achieve the most important economic objective — improve the economy for ... Read More

Colombia forces ‘bomb Farc rebels, 20 killed’

| December 3rd, 2012 | No Comments »

At least 20 Farc rebels have been killed in Colombia after the military launched bombing strikes on one of their camps, the army says.

Saturday’s raid is said to be the biggest military operation against Farc since peace talks began in October.

The camps were in Narino province near the Ecuadorian border, commander Gen Leonardo Barrero told AFP news agency.

The strike comes as President Juan Manuel Santos said the rebels had less than a year to abandon their weapons.

In November, the Farc announced a ceasefire set to last until 20 January.

Mr Santos, however, has rejected calls for a government-led truce until a final agreement has been reached.

Speaking on Sunday, he said his administration would offer all necessary guarantees so the Farc could disarm and join the political process as a legal party.

“This has to be a process of months, rather than years,” the president said.

Mr Santos said any attempts to delay ... Read More

Panama’s police kill FARC guerrilla, capture 7 on Colombia border

| December 3rd, 2012 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

PANAMA CITY- Panama’s national border police on Friday killed one FARC guerrilla and captured seven others while patrolling the remote jungle border province of Darien, a police spokeswoman said.

Authorities said they seized weapons and about 20 bags of cocaine along with the guerrillas, members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

Police encountered the guerrillas in the district of Chepigana, near the Central American country’s border with Colombia, after receiving complaints over the past few days of armed men in the area, which prompted increased patrols.

The incident comes a day after the FARC wrapped up their first round of peace talks with the Colombian government in Havana. The talks aim to end a decades-long conflict and are set to reconvene Wednesday.

Previous attempts at brokering peace have failed, but this time Colombia’s government believes the FARC is weaker.

The FARC, initially formed in the 1960s as an armed communist agrarian movement, ... Read More

Reviewing Jon Perdue’s The War of All the People

| December 3rd, 2012 | No Comments »
The Huffington Post


People use many terms to talk about the current threats facing the United States. Some call it terrorism, others asymmetric warfare, while others use the term “fourth generation warfare.” In his book The War of All the People , academic and Latin America-expert Jon Perdue carefully presents the case for why the United States should be worried about terrorism south of the border.

First, Perdue outlines the historical antecedents of terrorism in the hemisphere, linking Iran, the former USSR and some of the most nefarious actors in the region, clearly making the case that, while generally overlooked, there has in point of fact been a long history of subversion and fourth generation warfare close to our shores. Having made his point, Perdue then outlines the steps taken by the proponents of what he calls “The war of all the people” to consolidate power at home and export revolutionary ideas to other ... Read More

Venezuela’s topsy-turvy economy

| December 3rd, 2012 | No Comments »
Beyond Brics


It has been pointed out before that Father Christmas and Hugo Chávez share a thing or two in common. Venezuela’s populist president may not have the fluffy white beard, but he has roughly the right build, and sometimes the jovial temperament. Most importantly, the oil-rich leader likes to give.

Of course, his detractors complain that his generosity is only felt by those who support him, and quite apart from the possibility that Chávez may give Christmas in Venezuela a miss this year (he may still be in Cuba for cancer-related medical treatment), they are now getting increasingly nervous that he may ruin their Christmas altogether.

Chávez’s opponents say that thanks to his nationalisation four years ago of Venezuela’s ports, which were previously in the hands of regional governments but are now partly run by Cubans, they have become increasingly inefficient and poorly managed.

As a result, ingredients for the typical Venezuelan Christmas ... Read More

The mysterious case of the missing president

| December 3rd, 2012 | No Comments »
Foreign Policy


On November 27, the president of Venezuela’s National Assembly read a communiqué from President Hugo Chávez where he asked Congress for permission to travel to Cuba. In acharacteristically opaque statement, the President said he needed to travel for a combination of “physiotherapy” and “hyperbaric oxygen therapy.” Venezuelan bonds rallied following the news.

No one knows exactly how sick the President is, but one thing is clear: He has dramatically curtailed his public appearances. This is not normal behavior from a man who coined the term “communicational hegemony” as a top political priority.

Chávez has made a living by appearing on TV, discussing everything from his bowel movements to having intercourse with his wife. At the same time, TV — public or private — is the weapon of choice for his daily battles. Whether it’s expropriating dozens of businesses, firing oppositionist public employees, or clumsily attempting to start a war, Chávez lives and reigns on TV like no other politician of ... Read More