Archive for January 14th, 2013

Iran: A Regional Threat Beyond the Middle East

| January 14th, 2013 | No Comments »
Sun Sentinel

In the past year the international community has taken unprecedented action to pressure the Iranian regime to abandon its nuclear ambitions. For example, the U.S. and European Union have adopted comprehensive new sanctions measures aimed at tightening the economic noose around the regime, while a number of other nations have finally taken steps to curtail Iranian oil imports – striking at the economic heart of the regime. These actions are having a tangible effect on Iran’s economy as evidenced most demonstrably by the crash of Iran’s currency, the rial, which has plummeting to historic lows in recent weeks.

Against this backdrop of increasingly effective and broad economic pressure, however, is a curious anomaly. Several countries in one region of the world are working to undermine international sanctions against Iran and some are even helping the Iranian regime engage in illegal activities such as money laundering and narco-terrorism. Surprisingly, these countries are ... Read More

Venezuela’s Government Acts to Curb Discussion About Chavez Health, Inauguration

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Latin American Herald Tribune

BY JOSE MIGUEL VIVANCO

Venezuela should end censorship and intimidation of media that challenge the official line regarding President Hugo Chávez’s health and inauguration, Human Rights Watch said.

In recent days, the government has ordered a television station to cease transmission of spots that question its interpretation of the constitutional requirements for the re-elected president’s inauguration. Intelligence agents have searched the home and confiscated the computers of a blogger suspected of authoring tweets questioning official information provided about Chávez’s health.

“Over the years, the Chávez government has built a legal regime that allows it to censor and punish its critics, in clear violation of international norms,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “Now it is using these laws to limit public discussion on issues of national importance.”

On January 9, 2013, the government-controlled telecommunications agency, CONATEL, ordered the television station Globovisión to halt transmission of a series of four spots ... Read More

Former Venezuelan Minister of Defense: We have a de facto government in a pirate state

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ABC Madrid-01

LUDMILLA VINOGRADOFF

Translated by IASW

Former Venezuelan minister of defense, Raul Baduel, is considered a political prisoner despite the fact that Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, is godfather to his 6 year old daughter. In his 37 square meter cell in the Ramo Verde military prison in Los Teques, located thirty kilometers from Caracas, he is about to reach the fourth year of an eight year sentence ruled by a martial court on charges of administrative irregularities. He is not allowed to have a mobile phone, but he does have access to television and radio through which he tries to stay informed on his country’s political course.

General Baduel claims he is an innocent victim of the Chavez regime. In any case, his prestige and authority in the military sector have not diminished as a result of his incarceration. On the contrary, his image has been strengthened. His comrades and prison mates all treat ... Read More

Venezuela’s Future: Four Possible Scenarios

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(Infographic)

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Oppenheimer: Cuba’s role in Venezuela may grow — for now

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The Miami Herald

BY ANDRES OPPENHEIMER

As Venezuelans anxiously awaited news from ailing President Hugo Chávez and his ministers in Cuba in recent days, I received a tweet that stated, “This is the first case in history where a country subsidizes another, and is dominated by the latter.”

Indeed, historians in the future will be scratching their heads trying to figure out what has led Chávez to give Cuba about $4 billion a year in oil and other subsidies, and — more important — to put his health, and his country’s political future, in the hands of a small Caribbean island.

Chávez disclosed in June 2011 that it was former Cuban ruler Fidel Castro who first noticed that his health was failing, and urged him to undergo tests. After Cuban doctors diagnosed cancer, Chávez dismissed offers from Brazil to be treated there, where most medical experts agree he would have received much better treatment, and chose ... Read More

Raúl Castro’s Cuba in 2013

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The Miami Herald

BY JAIME SUCHLICKI

After six years in power, Gen. Raúl Castro is unwilling to chart a radically new course for Cuba or offer concessions to the U.S. Yet expectations remain that the younger Castro will follow the Chinese or the Vietnamese model and even find an accommodation with the United States.

Wrong on both counts. With Fidel alive, or even when he is dead, it would be difficult for Raúl to reject his brother’s legacy of political and economic centralization. Raúl’s legitimacy is based on being Fidel’s heir. Any major move to reject Fidel’s “teachings” would create uncertainty among Cuba’s ruling elites — party and military. It could also increase instability as some would advocate rapid change, while others cling to more orthodox policies. Cubans could see this as an opportunity for mobilization, demanding faster reforms.

For Raúl, the uncertainties of uncorking the genie’s bottle in Cuba are greater than keeping the lid ... Read More

U.S. can’t stay quiet over Chavez absence

| January 14th, 2013 | No Comments »

BY ERIC FARNSWORTH

Remember the climactic scene in The Sound of Music when the von Trapp family fails to appear on stage to receive the top prize even as the band repeatedly introduces their entrance? It’s a little like the spectacle awaiting Venezuelans now that Hugo Chavez has missed his own presidential inauguration under the terms of the recent constitution that he himself instituted.

If he is unable to carry out his duties, Venezuela’s constitution requires another election within 30 days. Recovering from cancer – or not – in Havana, a number of alternatives have been floated by Chavez allies that would allow him to remain as president until such time or scenario as he could be physically sworn-in. Better not cue the band just yet.

Even so, whether Chavez eventually recovers and returns home to govern, transition is underway as the hemisphere contemplates life without him. For the 20 years since he first attempted ... Read More

Venezuela’s ‘Weekend At Bernie’s’ Inaugural A Sign Of Chavez’s Tottering Regime

| January 14th, 2013 | No Comments »
Investor's Business Daily

Americas: Venezuela without longtime dictator Hugo Chavez has never been weaker. The Obama administration has reached out to the government, but should be careful to avoid validating what remains of a corrupt regime.

The bizarre “virtual inauguration” in Caracas last Thursday was sign enough of a shambling kleptocracy desperate to continue the illusion of being a democracy and not a regime on the verge of falling into chaos.

To Venezuelans, it all had the look of movies come to life — the ragtag assemblage of heads of state were like the bar scene in “Star Wars,” while the legally twisted legislative and court rulings allowing Chavez’s inauguration reminded one of the bizarre assemblage from the “Planet of the Apes.”

It was more like “Weekend at Bernie’s” — the farce about propping up a dead man as still alive.

That’s what’s going on in Venezuela right now — the Chavista regime without Chavez is trying to ... Read More

Violent crime continues to bedevil Mexico under new leader

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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette-01

BY ALFREDO CORCHADO

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — A new surge of killing, kidnapping and extortion is the latest sign that the violent crime wave in Mexico has not subsided since President Enrique Pena Nieto took office and could grow further in the weeks to come, U.S. law enforcement officials say.

Fresh intelligence indicates that the paramilitary group known as the Zetas is pushing farther into northern Coahuila and Chihuahua states, threatening to reignite deadly violence in areas bordering Texas, including Ciudad Juárez.

Since Mr. Pena Nieto took office Dec. 1, estimates by media outlets indicate that more than 1,000 people have been killed across Mexico — a pace even faster than during the administration of his predecessor, Felipe Calderon — with many of those killings in Coahuila and Chihuahua, three U.S. law enforcement officials said. The violence threatens to overshadow the new administration’s attempt to highlight economic reforms and a growing middle class.

Ciudad ... Read More

Colombia negotiator says Farc talks must ‘pick up pace’

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BBC

The chief Colombian government negotiator has said he wants to speed up the pace of peace talks with Farc rebels.

“We must move ahead with responsibility but at faster pace,” said Humberto de la Calle as he left for Cuba where negotiations are set to resume.

The talks, aimed at ending four decades of conflict in Colombia, have focused initially on land reform.

The rebels have declared a unilateral ceasefire, but clashes have continued.

The Farc ceasefire expires on 20 January.

The Colombian government refused to cease military operations during the talks, saying rebels would use the opportunity to rearm.

President Juan Manuel Santos’s government has stated that both sides must come to an agreement by November.

‘Realistic approach’

“The government negotiating team is fully aware that the country is longing for a peaceful solution,” said Mr La Calle.

“That is why we have been taking a realistic approach and making sure we do not create false expectations ... Read More

Bolivia: Morales Wins Victory as U.N. Agrees to Define Some Coca Use as Legal

| January 14th, 2013 | No Comments »
The New York Times

BY WILLIAM NEUMAN

Traditional uses of the coca leaf in Bolivia will no longer be considered illegal under a United Nations antidrug convention, the organization said Friday. Coca is the plant used to make cocaine, but many people in Bolivia, which has a majority indigenous population, chew it as a mild stimulant, a use that has continued since pre-Colombian times. Bolivians also use the plant as a tea, in medicines and in religious or social rituals. The government of President Evo Morales withdrew from the international agreement a year ago as it sought an exception for traditional uses of the plant within its borders. The change was a diplomatic victory for Mr. Morales, above. To block the change, 62 United Nations members would have had to object; only 15 did, including the United States. Bolivia will now rejoin the convention, which could help it receive aid in fighting drug trafficking.

Click here for original ... Read More

Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez ‘Fighting For Life’

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Sky News HD-01

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez is “fighting for his life”, according to his former deputy.

The cancer-stricken leader has not been seen in public for more than a month, fuelling growing political uncertainty in the oil-rich country.

“The situation is complex and delicate, but it is true that Hugo Chavez has fought and is fighting for his life,” said Elias Jaua, who was in office from January 2010 until October.

However communications minister Ernesto Villegas insisted Mr Chavez was doing better.

“Despite his delicate health state since his complex surgery on December 11, his general health has improved in recent days,” Mr Villegas said in a statement read on radio and television.

He said the president’s previously disclosed severe pulmonary infection was “under control” but that he still required treatment for “respiratory failure”.

Mr Chavez, whose Opec-member nation controls the world’s largest proven oil reserves, has been out of sight since leaving for Cuba for the latest ... Read More

Venezuela Warns Opposition Against Vocal Dissent

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The New York Times

BY WILLIAM NEUMAN

CARACAS, Venezuela — Top government officials are threatening to take action against opposition governors and issuing dark warnings about conspiracies against the government of President Hugo Chávez, who is ailing and remains incommunicado in Cuba.

At a large rally for Mr. Chávez on Thursday, the day designated for his inauguration, Vice President Nicolás Maduro sent a warning to government critics who had objected to a Supreme Court ruling that endorsed the indefinite postponement of the president’s swearing-in.

Many interpreted his words to be directed at Henrique Capriles, the governor of Miranda State who lost to Mr. Chávez in the presidential election in October. He is the most likely opposition candidate if a special election has to be held should Mr. Chávez die, resign or become too sick to continue in office.

“Some governors out there have come out to make declarations, playing with words,” Mr. Maduro said. “We say ... Read More

Uncertainty For Chavez, Venezuela Could Shake Up Region, U.S. Policy

| January 14th, 2013 | No Comments »
The Huffington Post

BY JANELL ROSS

One day after Venezuelans around the world watched anxiously to see if cancer-stricken President-elect Hugo Chavez would emerge from a Cuban hospital, return to Venezuela and take the oath of office by the Thursday deadline spelled out in the country’s constitution, the implications in the region and beyond span a broad and hard-to-predict range.

But both experts and expatriates say the uncertainty has inspired cautious hopes for reforms, both within the region and also to the at-times contentious relationship between Venezuela and the U.S.

Venezuelans living in the U.S. offer starkly different perspectives on the events of Jan. 11. Some described Chavez’s inability to show up to his own inauguration and a Venezuelan Supreme Court ruling that his swearing-in could be postponed as a bloodless, Cuban-led coup. Others said it was just the latest episode of Chavez’s unlawful, power-hungry behavior, which is slowly undoing the country and its economy.

Experts who study the oil-rich ... Read More

Venezuelan leaders have meeting with Cuba’s Raul Castro

| January 14th, 2013 | No Comments »
BBC

Venezuela’s most senior political leaders are in Cuba to visit President Hugo Chavez, who is still in a serious condition after his latest cancer operation in Havana on 11 December.

Vice-President Nicolas Maduro and the speaker of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, had a meeting in Havana with Cuban leader Raul Castro.

No details of the meeting have been released.

Mr Chavez missed his inauguration for a new term on Thursday.

But the Supreme Court ruled that he could be sworn in for another term as president when he recovered and returned to Caracas.

Supporters gathered in rallies and in churches on Sunday to show support for Mr Chavez and pray for his recovery.

In Cuba, a mass for the Venezuelan president was held at a Catholic Church in Havana on Saturday.

‘Lack of information’

Although Venezuelan leaders met the Cuban leader on Saturday, details only emerged on Sunday. The Venezuelan delegation also included Oil Minister Rafael ... Read More

Hugo Chavez’s Political Foes to Challenge Decision to Delay Inauguration

| January 14th, 2013 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press

The political opposition to Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez are planning to present a case before a regional human rights court to challenge a Supreme Court decision that allowed the indefinite postponement of the Presidential inauguration.

The case is being prepared by a group of lawyers for the country’s opposition coalition, said Gerardo Blyde, a lawyer and opposition politician. He told reporters on Saturday that it’s not yet clear when the case will be brought before the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

The opposition’s announcement comes three days after the Supreme Court’s decision. Despite opposition claims that the constitution requires the inauguration to be held on Jan. 10, the pro-Chávez congress approved delaying the swearing-in and the Supreme Court endorsed the postponement, saying the president could take the oath of office before the court at a later date.

The government says the 58-year-old president, who is starting a new term after being re-elected ... Read More

Hezbolá y Los Zetas comparten el mismo lavador de dinero

| January 14th, 2013 | No Comments »
Excelsior

JUAN PABLO REYES

CIUDAD DE MÉXICO, 14 de enero.- Lavado de dinero y entrenamiento en armamento son los puntos principales en la relación entre cárteles de la droga mexicanos y grupos terroristas internacionales que presuntamente operan en el país como Hezbolá.

A pesar de que no han sido confirmados los vínculos entre el narco y agrupaciones del terrorismo por autoridades mexicanas, de acuerdo con especialistas y a un análisis realizado por el Instituto de Estudios Estratégicos del United States Army War College se planteó lo contrario.

La presencia en nuestro país, el año pasado, de un integrante de Hezbolá y otros dos presuntos miembros de la agrupación terrorista también pusieron en alerta a las autoridades mexicanas y de Estados Unidos.

Según un estudio, realizado por el analista internacional Douglas Farah, en los últimos años ha existido una relación que involucra simplemente negocios y lavado de dinero entre el cártel de Los Zetas y la organización terrorista ... Read More

Hagel’s Cuba problem

| January 14th, 2013 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

BY JENNIFER RUBIN

Much of the focus on Chuck Hagel’s record has been on his views on Israel, Iran and sequestration. Equally troubling to those who have taken a forceful stand against Castro’s dictatorship in Cuba, however, has been his dismissive attitude toward the Castros  and his enthusiasm to end the U.S. embargo with no quid pro quo.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has already expressed serious concerns about Hagel’s views on Cuba. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), former chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and  now chairman of the Middle East and North Africa subcommittee, put out a statement objecting to Hagel and citing his views on Iran, Israel and Cuba:

During his time in Congress, Senator Hagel supported legislation that would have provided a lifeline to the decrepit Castro regime that for the last half a century has exploited the Cuban people and posed a severe security threat to the U.S. . . . ... Read More