Archive for January 23rd, 2013

Down in a Hole: Embattled Argentine president poses in Viet Cong tunnels used to kill Americans

| January 23rd, 2013 | No Comments »
The Washington Free Beacon

BY ALANA GOODMAN

Embattled Argentine President Cristina Kirchner cheerfully mugged for photos in the Cu Chi tunnels used by the Viet Cong to ambush United States troops during the Vietnam War and likened Ho Chi Minh to George Washington during a visit to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam on Sunday.

Kirchner playfully peeks her head out of one of the spiderholes in one photo. She sits cross-legged and grinning outside the tunnel, dressed in guerrilla-style fatigues, in another.

Kirchner’s trip to Vietnam is the latest in a string of moves that have seen Argentina’s increasingly isolated and belligerent government cozying up with authoritarian states. Argentina has cut arms deals with China and Venezuela under Kirchner in just the last year, and continues to escalate a war of words with the United Kingdom over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands.

Kirchner flew to Southeast Asia on a rented plane out of fear her presidential jet might be seized by creditors as an Argentine naval vessel recently was in Ghana. The ... Read More

Recommendations for a New Administration: Strategize the Relationship with Bolivarian States

| January 23rd, 2013 | No Comments »
From CSIS

BY DOUGLAS FARAH

The challenges presented by the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas—having been led by President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, and including Presidents Evo Morales of Bolivia, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua as active leaders1—are significant and often underestimated. Nor does Chávez’s departure from the scene resolve the problem. The criminal corruption within these governments, their shared hostility toward the United States, the close links with Iran, their embrace of concepts of asymmetrical warfare against the United States, and the systematic assaults on the independent media, judiciaries, and other democratic institutions all continue to bode ill.

Over the past decade, there has been little sustained U.S. interest in the Bolivarian revolution, the significant inroads made in shaping the hemispheric agenda and organizations, the systematic undermining of U.S. objectives, and the creation of multiple regional and hemispheric bodies designed to specifically isolate or minimize U.S. influence. As a result, ... Read More

Why Obama’s ‘extended hand’ is counter-productive

| January 23rd, 2013 | No Comments »
The Hill

BY MAURICIO CLAVER-CARONE

In the 19th century, U.S. abolitionist leader William Lloyd Garrison astutely observed, “With reasonable men, I will reason; with humane men I will plead; but to tyrants I will give no quarter, nor waste arguments where they will certainly be lost.”

Garrison recognized something in the psyche of tyrants that withstands the test of time.

In the last century, Western leaders failed to heed Garrison’s advice and, as a result, opened the flood-gates of two of the greatest tragedies in modern history — fascism and communism — at tremendous human cost and suffering:

In 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain conceded the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Germany in hopes of appeasing Adolf Hitler’s aggression. Then in 1945, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Chamberlain’s successor, Winston Churchill, conceded to a Soviet Union sphere of political influence in Eastern and Central Europe believing Joseph Stalin could be reasoned with.

At the time ... Read More

The Missing President

| January 23rd, 2013 | No Comments »
The New York Times

BY ALBERTO BARRERA & CRISTINA MARCANO

ON Jan. 10, while Hugo Chávez lay in a hospital bed in Havana, he was symbolically sworn in as Venezuela’s new president in a ceremony here. The crowd that attended his virtual inauguration was moved to tears by a recording of Mr. Chávez’s singing the national anthem. The country is experiencing the very odd circumstance of being both with and without its leader; he is not here, but his voice endures.

From the intensive care unit, the president “continues to perform his duties”; he gives orders and sends kisses to children. This is what his vice president says. According to the Supreme Court, the Congress cannot consider him absent, for no matter how ill he is, only Mr. Chávez himself has the authority to declare himself absent. The opposition is demanding a “fe de vida” — proof that he is still alive, as if he were ... Read More

Listening to the streets of Tehran: Sanctions are hurting

| January 23rd, 2013 | No Comments »
The Commentator

BY BRENDAN DALY

common phrase Iranians use when discussing their country is “before the Revolution,” followed by some comparison, depending on their political bent, on conditions in the country before and after 1979. Iranians are a varied people. Ask an Iranian their opinion of the former Shah, and the response you get will range from holy condemnation to virtual deification – and everywhere in-between.  But one thing all Tehranis currently agree on is this: everything is awful.

Indeed, a phrase that is becoming equally common is “before Ahmadinejad.” And unfortunately for the beleaguered president – who came to office in a surprise election victory in 2005 – in this case, the comparison between past and present is never positive.

“People used to complain when [former President] Khatami was in charge. About how expensive everything was, about how little freedom we had as young people. We had no idea how lucky we were,” says Reza, ... Read More

Exports Sagging? Try Some Free Trade

| January 23rd, 2013 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal

BY MATTHEW SLAUGHTER

When the latest U.S. trade statistics came out this month, they conveyed one sobering message: President Obama’s National Export Initiative is in danger of failing. Success can still be snatched from the jaws of defeat—but only if the president and Congress quickly and aggressively pursue freer trade and liberalize many other policies connected to the global economy.

In his 2010 State of the Union address, President Obama introduced the NEI goal of doubling U.S. exports in five years. Such an achievement would help stabilize the post-crisis global economy. It would also help unemployed workers in the U.S., where the total number of private-sector jobs remains the same as it was 12 years ago. Exporting companies compared with non-exporters tend to generate about twice as many sales, to be about 10%-15% more productive per worker and thus to pay about 10%-15% more in salaries.

U.S. real exports grew 11.1% in 2010 ... Read More

Mexico prosecutors say evidence lacking against military officers

| January 23rd, 2013 | No Comments »
From the Los Angeles Times

BY RICHARD FAUSSET & CECILIA SANCHEZ

MEXICO CITY — The case against six Mexican military officers accused of colluding with the Beltran Leyva drug cartel may be falling apart as federal prosecutors under new President Enrique Peña Nieto have reportedly admitted they lack sufficient evidence to back up the government’s allegations.

The prosecutors’ statement to a federal judge presiding over the criminal case was included in court documents obtained by the newspaper Reforma and published Tuesday. A representative of the Mexican attorney general’s office would not comment.

The case against the six officers, who remain in custody, has been one of the most high-profile military-related corruption scandals in the country since 1997, when the nation’s then-drug czar, Gen. Jose de Jesus Gutierrez Rebollo, was arrested, and later convicted, on charges that he protected a leader of the Juarez cartel.

In the current case, the active and retired officers, including four generals, are accused of protecting ... Read More

Ecuador’s president floats proposal to subsidize journalists’ salaries at not-for-profit media outlets

| January 23rd, 2013 | No Comments »
Journalism in the Americas

BY SILVIA HIGUERA

Ecuador’s president and candidate for re-election, Rafael Correa, announced that he would review a proposal to subsidize the salaries of “poorly paid” journalists, reported the news agency EFE.

Last December, Correa decided to raise the minimum wage for journalists to match that of teachers at $817. The decision translated into an increase of 69 percent for reporters, according to AFP.

“I’ve asked the Communications secretary to prepare a contingency plan for the government to support these small, non-for-profit stations that cannot pay higher salaries and the possibility of the State to subsidize the salaries,” Correa told Radio Majestad, according to AFP.

Correa justified his subsidy proposal saying, “Journalism–a truly free and independent press–is fundamental in a democracy,” reported Europa Press. The president clarified that the measure would no apply to large media companies because “there, what matters most is money and they have always exploited their workers,” added the news agency.

In the same comments, Correa pointed out that one media company fired ... Read More

Cuba’s ‘resale’ economics

| January 23rd, 2013 | No Comments »
Global Post

BY NICK MIROFF

HAVANA, Cuba — Cracker Man’s cry echoes down the streets of Havana’s Buena Vista neighborhood, trailed by the clatter of his shopping cart over potholes.

“Crackers! Crackers!” he barks. “Fresh from the oven!”

He’s one of roughly 400,000 Cubans now working as state-licensed entrepreneurs in the communist country’s small but growing private sector.

Cracker Man, as he’s known in the neighborhood (“el Galletero”), sells his product for about $1 a bag. He doesn’t make the crackers, but buys them from the state-owned bakery.

He’s what Cubans refer to as a “revendedor,” a reseller who buys scarce state-subsidized items from government stores to sell at a mark-up.

That’s made many people here angry. Complaints abound in the “letters to the editor” section of Cuba’s Communist Party newspaper Granma, where resellers are disparaged as parasites and good-for-nothing speculators whose main contribution to the economy is to make basic products more expensive for everyone.

They’re also entirely the creation ... Read More

Venezuela says Chávez recovering but mum on return

| January 23rd, 2013 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

BY JIM WYSS

BOGOTA – Amid growing speculation that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez might be on the mend and plotting his homecoming, the administration Tuesday said that while El Comandante is recovering and cracking jokes it’s premature to talk about his return.

In an interview on VTV Television, Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said the latest health reports out of Cuba were “very encouraging” and that Chávez was in “good spirits, sharing jokes with foreign minister Elías Jaua and very attuned to the situation in Venezuela.”

Also Tuesday, Bolivian President Evo Morales said that he had been in contact with Cuba on Monday and Sunday.

“Brothers and sister, we have very good news,” he told congress during his state of the union speech. “Our brother commander President Hugo Chávez is undergoing physical therapy to go back to his country.”

Chávez traveled to Havana Dec. 10 to undergo a fourth round of cancer surgery and has not been seen or ... Read More

Hugo Chavez’s Health Remains A Mystery

| January 23rd, 2013 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

BY ANDREW CAWTHORNE

CARACAS – Venezuela’s bespectacled and shaven-headed information minister stands solemnly at the microphone to impart the latest news on President Hugo Chavez’s cancer.

For a couple of minutes, vague descriptions of the patient’s “stability”, “progressive tendency” or “complications” waft across TV and radio airwaves into millions of Venezuelan homes.

“You see, he’s recovering,” says one Venezuelan man in a group watching live one of Information Minister Ernesto Villegas’ medical updates, almost a national ritual since the socialist Chavez disappeared from public view six weeks ago.

“Rubbish – it’s obvious he’s dying,” retorts another as the friends draw varying conclusions from the confusing report.

The handling of information over Chavez’s condition has become as controversial as the man himself, and every official word is picked over ad nauseam in Venezuela’s own version of the “Kremlinology” analysis of political minutiae in the former Soviet Union.

Since Chavez underwent his fourth and most serious cancer operation ... Read More