Archive for January 22nd, 2013

Northcom Pursues Closer Engagement With Mexico

| January 22nd, 2013 | No Comments »
Department of Defense

BY DONNA MILES

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo., Jan. 22, 2013 – With a U.S. defense strategy focused heavily on the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East, officials at U.S. Northern Command here are enthusiastically advancing engagement to the United States’ immediate southern border.

Mexico, which has long focused its military internally, is increasingly receptive to building a closer bilateral relationship with the U.S. military, Army Maj. Gen. Francis G. Mahon, Northcom’s director for strategy, plans and policy, told American Forces Press Service.

“During the past two to three years, as the Mexican army and Mexican navy have taken on a larger role beyond internal security issues, our relationship with them has really grown and expanded through security cooperation,” Mahon said. “They have opened up to us and said, ‘Let’s start working closer and closer together.’”

That’s good news for the United States, he said, because the United States and Mexico share a 2,000-mile ... Read More

With new group against Hagel, will his Cuba policies draw more fire?

| January 22nd, 2013 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

BY MARC CAPUTO

A new conservative group, Americans for Strong Defense, has been formed to take on Chuck Hagel’s defense secretary nomination by President Obama.

While most of the attention against the former Republican Nebraska senator has centered on his positions regarding Israel and (to a lesser degree) gays in the military, Hagel’s stances on Cuba could get more attention. A prominent anti-Castro activist, Maurico Claver-Carone, sits on Americans for Strong Defense’s board and recently his Capitol Hill Cubans blog  featured an editorial bashing Hagel. Rep. Ileans Ros-Lehtinen has expressed concern with Hagel. Sen. Marco Rubio has as well.

Americans for a Strong Defense is running ads targeting senators in five states (Florida isn’t one of them). The ads, however, don’t mention Cuba and instead focus on the threats of Iran, North Korea and Russia.

Here’s the press release:

Americans for a Strong Defense will make the case to voters and elected officials that Senator Hagel ... Read More

Missing President Creates Concern About U.S.-Venezuela Oil Ties

| January 22nd, 2013 | No Comments »
Yahoo News-01

BY SUSAN GRAYBEAL

In light of the uncertainty surrounding the health of Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, the U.S. Energy Information Administration offered an explanation this week as to how Venezuela contributes to the U.S. oil supply. Here are the details.

* NBC News has reported that no one has publicly seen or heard from Chavez in more than a month, fueling speculation that he could be dead. Chavez, who is suffering from an unspecified type of cancer, had been in Cuba for treatment and — after being reelected president last year — missed his swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 10.

* According to the EIA, Venezuela is a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and is among the 15 largest oil producers in the world.

* Venezuela is the fourth-largest source of imported oil for the United States, coming in behind Canada, Saudi Arabia and Mexico, the EIA reported, though imports from Venezuela ... Read More

Chavez Preparing Venezuela Return, Bolivia’s Morales Says

| January 22nd, 2013 | No Comments »

BY CHARLIE DEVEREUX & NATHAN CROOKS

Bolivian President Evo Morales said cancer-stricken President Hugo Chavez is preparing to return home, a day after Venezuela’s foreign minister said the self- declared socialist joked and laughed during a meeting at his hospital bedside in Havana.

“Yesterday I was in communication with Cuba and I have good news that our brother comandante President Chavez is already in physiotherapy in order to return to his country,” Morales said during a speech in Bolivia’s congress broadcast on Telesur. “We hope to be alongside him at international events as we have always been.”

The 58-year-old leader missed his Jan. 10 inauguration and hasn’t been seen in public since stepping off an airplane in Cuba on Dec. 10 for surgery to treat an undisclosed cancer. Morales’s comments are the latest indication that Chavez’s health is improving since Vice President Nicolas Maduro said on Jan. 20 that the former paratrooper will soon enter a new stage in his recovery.

Elias Jaua, ... Read More

“Cuba Experts” on the Wrong Side of History

| January 22nd, 2013 | No Comments »
InterAmerican Security Watch

“The Castro generation is slowly handing power over to the next generation of party and military leaders who will determine the pace and scope of the reform process.”

—    “Cuba Expert” Ted Piccone of the Brookings Institution, giving one reason why the United States should unilaterally change U.S. policy towards Cuba.

The Cold War had its “Sovietologists;” today we have the “Cuba expert” — and anyone seeking to understand the true nature of the Castro regime and the reality of events in Cuba is worse off for it.

Sovietologists, those presumed subject matter experts who were relied upon by the media for insight to the opaque politics and motivations of the former Soviet Union, are now pretty much a discredited lot.  Not because they couldn’t predict the collapse of the USSR, but because for years they grossly underestimated the moral bankruptcy of tyranny and the power of individuals who simply wanted ... Read More

Retired general who led coup seeks presidency in Honduras

| January 22nd, 2013 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras –  The man who led the military part of a coup against former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya is now a candidate for president himself.

The Honduran Patriotic Alliance voted Sunday to make retired Gen. Romeo Vazquez Velazquez its standard-bearer for the November election.

Zelaya tried to fire Vazquez as military chief in 2009, but the Supreme Court reinstated him. He then had Zelaya arrested and flown out of the country. The ouster was approved by the country’s Congress and court but brought international condemnation. Vazquez more recently has headed the country’s telecommunications company.

Vazquez’s recently formed party emphasizes the need for greater security and trust in God. It includes many people linked to the military.

His opponents will include Zelaya’s wife, Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, and several other candidates.

Click here for original ... Read More

Vigilante groups spring up in Mexico in fight against cartels

| January 22nd, 2013 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press

AYUTLA, Mexico –  The young man at the roadside checkpoint wept softly behind the red bandanna that masked his face. At his side was a relic revolver, and his feet were shod in the muddy, broken boots of a farmer.

Haltingly, he told how his cousin’s body was found in a mass grave with about 40 other victims of a drug gang. Apparently, the cousin had caught a ride with an off-duty soldier and when gunmen stopped the vehicle, they killed everyone on the car.

“There isn’t one of us who hasn’t felt the pain … of seeing them take a family member and not being able to ever get them back,” said the young civilian self-defense patrol member, who identified himself as “just another representative of the people of the mountain.”

Now he has joined hundreds of other men in the southern Mexico state of Guerrero who have taken up arms to ... Read More

Guatemala’s president: ‘My country bears the scars from the war on drugs’

| January 22nd, 2013 | No Comments »
The Guardian UK

BY JOHN MULHOLLAND

In any war there are innocent victims. In the 40-year war on drugs, the central American state of Guatemala can lay claim to being just such an innocent casualty. It has been caught in the crossfire between the nations to the south (principally Peru, Colombia and Bolivia) that produce illegal narcotics and the country to the north (America) that has the largest appetite to consume them. Guatemala does little of either.

The problem is that the drugs – principally cocaine – have to be transported from the producing countries to the US, from the south to the north. Unfortunately for Guatemala, it’s in the way.

But Guatemala’s location at the tip of Central America did not always present a problem. As recently as 2008 the US National Drug Intelligence Centre estimated that less than 1% of the estimated 700 tonnes of cocaine that left South America passed through Central America. But that ... Read More

Colombia Nabs 3 Alleged Rebels Linked to Abduction

| January 22nd, 2013 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press

President Juan Manuel Santos says authorities in Colombia have captured three suspected rebels who formed part of the group that kidnapped five gold prospectors doing exploratory drilling for a Canadian company in the country’s north.

Santos said in a press conference Sunday that two of the alleged National Liberation Army, or ELN, rebels are minors and have been turned over to the Colombian Institute of Family Welfare.

While the kidnapped prospectors — a Canadian, two Peruvians and two Colombians — are still in rebels hands, Colombia’s president said the three detained suspects belonged to the group that carried out the abduction Friday and that authorities are pursuing the rest of the group.

Toronto-based Braeval Mining Corp. said the three company employees and two consultants were working at its Snow Mine gold and silver project.

The leftist ELN is Colombia’s second-largest insurgency, much smaller than the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

Click here for original ... Read More

“Laughing” Chavez gives orders from Cuba: Venezuelan minister

| January 22nd, 2013 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

BY ANDREW CAWTHORNE

CARACAS – Hugo Chavez is joking and giving instructions again, an ally said on Monday, in the latest positive comment from an official six weeks after the Venezuelan president’s disappearance from public sight for cancer surgery in Cuba.

Rumors earlier this month that Chavez was on life support have given way in the last few days to speculation that he may soon return to Venezuela. The more positive talk has been fueled by comments from officials that Chavez has been gradually improving from a grave post-operation situation.

“Comrades, I’m coming out of the meeting with our commander-president, Hugo Chavez,” recently appointed Foreign Minister Elias Jaua tweeted from Havana after a visit with Chavez.

“We shared jokes and laughed.”

Chavez took decisions over Venezuela’s participation in a forthcoming Latin American summit in Chile, added Jaua, the latest of a parade of officials to visit the president, who is presumed to be convalescing in ... Read More

Brother of Chavez says leader’s return to Venezuela is up to medical team

| January 22nd, 2013 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press

BY FABIOLA SANCHEZ

CARACAS, Venezuela – One of Hugo Chavez’s brothers said Monday that the Venezuelan president’s medical team would decide when he could return home from Cuba.

Argenis Chavez, one of the president’s five brothers and the president of the National Electric Corporation, said in a government statement on Monday night: “We’re all eager for his return.”

He earlier had told The Associated Press that he expected the president’s return in the “coming days.” But in the statement he said that was incorrect and that those in charge of providing official updates on Chavez’s health are Vice-President Nicolas Maduro and Information Minister Ernesto Villegas.

“The decision about the return to the country of the head of state is in the hands of the medical team that is accompanying him,” Argenis Chavez said in the statement.

The president hasn’t been seen or spoken publicly since he left for Cuba on Dec. 10 for his fourth ... Read More