Archive for February 11th, 2013

Opinion Jose Cardenas: Defending U.S. democracy program for Cuba

| February 11th, 2013 | No Comments »
Jose Cardenas


Towards the end of the recent Senate confirmation hearing of the newly minted Secretary of State John Kerry, presiding Sen. Bob Menendez, D-NJ, made a point to secure his former colleague’s public support for official U.S. programs that support democratic development abroad.

It was a shrewd move by Menendez, since he knew that during Sen. Kerry’s tenure as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, his staff was openly hostile to democracy funding for Cuba and worked to obstruct its implementation.

The Cuba Democracy Program, which is administered by both the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development, is what is known within the bureaucracy as a “cross-border program” into a non-presence country — meaning we are trying to help support people living in repressive states in which we have no local development office.

There is nothing about it that is unique or unprecedented. There are, or have been, at ... Read More

Shorty Guzman’s ‘security chief’ arrested in Mexico

| February 11th, 2013 | No Comments »

The Mexican military says it has captured the man accused of being the security chief for Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman, Mexico’s most wanted drug lord.

A military spokesman said Jonathan Salas was arrested without a shot being fired in north-western Sinaloa state.

Three helicopters and at least eight navy vehicles surrounded Mr Salas.

Last year, the governor of Sinaloa mistakenly announced that Mr Salas, who is also known as The Ghost, had been killed in a clash with the Navy.

Mexican prosecutors accuse Mr Salas of being the man tasked with guarding Joaquin Guzman, the fugitive leader of the Sinaloa cartel.

Joaquin Guzman, known as “El Chapo”, or “Shorty”, was arrested in 1993.

But he has been in hiding ever since he escaped from his maximum-security prison in a laundry basket in 2001.

The US State Department has offered a reward of up to $5m (£3.2m) for information leading to Shorty Guzman’s arrest.

Mr Salas was detained on ... Read More

Opinion: Candidly Speaking- Argentina’s pact with the devil

| February 11th, 2013 | No Comments »
The Jerusalem Post-01


Argentina’s President Cristina Kirchner has jettisoned whatever was left of her country’s moral standing by consummating a devil’s pact with Iran, whose leaders were responsible for having inflicted the worst-ever act of terrorism on her own citizens.

In March 1992, the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires suffered a terrorist bombing which killed 29 and wounded 242 people. Two years later, in July 1994, a second bombing targeted the Jewish community center (AMIA) killing 85 and injuring hundreds.

There were protracted investigations and eventually two Argentinian prosecutors, Alberto Nisman and Marcelo Burgos, formally accused the Iranian government of orchestrating the attacks. In 2007 the Argentinian government even issued arrest warrants for six Iranians accused of involvement, one of whom, Ahmad Vahidi, is currently the defense minister, and another of whom is former president Ali Rafsanjani.

They were placed on Interpol’s “red” list of wanted criminals. None of them were apprehended and, not ... Read More

U.S. rehearses mass-migration scenarios at Guantánamo base

| February 11th, 2013 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald


The boatpeople trying to reach U.S. soil are imaginary and so is the Caribbean nation in crisis. But the Army general who flew in from Texas to take charge is the real deal for hundreds of troops rehearsing to get ready for a humanitarian crisis. Guantánamo’s airstrip was abuzz this weekend as about 500 troops descended for an every-other-year drill whose name reflects how little the military wants to draw attention to it — Exercise Integrated Advance.

For a week, soldiers, sailors and Homeland Security officials are rehearsing how to manage an imaginary humanitarian-relief crisis inspired by the tens of thousands of Haitians and Cubans who overwhelmed this base in the 1990s.

But the exact nature of the scenario — how many migrants flood the base, whether there’s unrest, disease, spies in the tent camps — is all classified. Only Pentagon-approved photos of the exercise will be released, and the people ... Read More

Is Keystone XL Obama’s line in the sand?

| February 11th, 2013 | No Comments »
The Globe and Mail-01


Here are President Barack Obama’s words from his second inaugural address: “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.” Thence followed 10 sentences about climate change.

In Edmonton and Ottawa, where governments had grown confident that Mr. Obama, once re-elected, would give the green light to the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta’s bitumen oil deposits to the Gulf of Mexico, those sentences were at least worrisome, if not menacing.

Why did Mr. Obama do it? Climate change was scarcely raised in the election campaign. A Republican-controlled House of Representatives will block any cap-and-trade system for greenhouse-gas emissions, plus just about anything else to reduce emissions.

With so many other priorities – the budget deficit, gun control, immigration – why did the President spend so much of his inaugural speech on an issue the Alberta and Canadian ... Read More

Pushing the Hugo Chavez Era Toward Its End

| February 11th, 2013 | No Comments »
Real Clear World-01

By Federico Delgado

That the end would come sooner rather than later for Hugo Chavez appeared in recent years to be a pretty safe bet. His influence over Latin American affairs waned after a series of mishaps and strategic defeats, from Honduras to his own country’s disputes with Colombia (in particular with Colombia’s former President Alvaro Uribe). His stewardship over the Venezuelan economy was proving exponentially disastrous. His whole Bolivarian project just seemed like a farce — dangerous, still, but increasingly more quixotic than anything else.

That it would be on account of cancer, though, no one could possibly predict. After all, following his first scare, he was back on the campaign trail after a few months off and looking quite on the mend. In fact many, myself included, believed the end would come by way of the ballot box, but those expectations were dashed. The election came and went: Chavez got ... Read More

Even the Carnival Can’t Save Brazil From a Slump

| February 11th, 2013 | No Comments »

By Holly Ellyatt

As raucous Latin American rhythms, colorful processions and street parties go, Brazil’s Carnival is among the best, but Citigroup’s strategy team is questioning whether the party for Brazil’s economy could be over before it’s really begun.

The five days of celebrations began over the weekend against a backdrop of national pride and optimism. The main carnival in Rio de Janeiro contributes $628 million to the country’s economy and has added around 250,000 temporary jobs. The world-famous samba parade of exotically dressed “carnival queens” and bands generated $42.8 million in ticket sales, advertising and TV rights.

But the celebrations come as economic growth slowed to less than one percent in 2012. At the same time, inflation risks are rising and the currency has strengthened – providing warning signs that all is not well for the “BRIC” economy.

Maya Bhandari, director at global macro strategy at Citigroup told CNBC that the bank expected ... Read More

Venezuelan devaluation sparks panic

| February 11th, 2013 | No Comments »
Financial Times

By Benedict Mander

Panic buyers thronged Venezuelan shops over the carnival weekend after the government of Hugo Chávez announced a surprise devaluation that analysts said was overdue but would only partly right the listing economy.

Domestic appliances such as fridges and cookers were in particularly high demand as Venezuelans snapped up goods imported at the now defunct exchange rate of 4.3 bolívars per dollar. From now on they will be imported at 6.3 bolívars per dollar.

Opposition politicians seized on what is Venezuela’s fifth devaluation since strict currency controls were introduced in 2003, criticising the socialist government for springing an International Monetary Fund-style adjustment package on the country, and quietly announcing it on Friday while people headed for the beach over the holiday.

Although President Hugo Chávez was re-elected last October after consistently warning during his campaign that an opposition government would implement a “neoliberal package”, officials say he ordered the devaluation – from ... Read More

‘Colombian drug lord’ alias Pichi arrested in Panama

| February 11th, 2013 | No Comments »

A Colombian man suspected of leading a drug cartel in the city of Medellin has been arrested in neighbouring Panama.

The man, known as Pichi, was arrested in a joint operation by the Panamanian and Colombian police. His real name as not yet been released.

He is accused of leading a drug gang known as The Office and is suspected of ordering the murder of nine people in the city of Medellin last December.

The motive behind that killing is believed to be gang-internal rivalry.

‘Murderous gang’

He is also wanted in connection with the murder of two counter-narcotics police officers in Medellin.

Sergio Castro and Franklin Moreno, who had been investigating The Office, were shot dead in Medellin in July 2012.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos congratulated the police on alias Pichi’s arrest via his Twitter account. “A good hit”, the president tweeted.

He also thanked Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli for his country’s help in the ... Read More

Venezuela: Chávez allies step up attacks amid president’s two-month silence

| February 11th, 2013 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald


It has been two months since Venezuelans have seen or heard their ailing president. But the administration insists that the cancer-stricken comandante is firmly in control of Latin America’s fourth-largest economy, even if he is incommunicado in a Cuban hospital.

On Friday — hours before the nation was headed into a four-day holiday for carnival — the government announced it was devaluing the currency by 46.5 percent to 6.3 bolivares to the dollar. The move was needed but is likely to be unpopular as it will jack up prices in a country heavily reliant on imports. It’s also unclear how much of a difference it will make: Dollars are so scarce in Venezuela that most people are forced to turn to the black market, where greenbacks fetch three to four times the official rate.

The devaluation comes almost two months after President Hugo Chávez, 58, traveled to Havana for a ... Read More

FARC rebels sabotage oil infrastructure in north Colombia as violence escalates

| February 11th, 2013 | No Comments »
Colombia Reports

Rebels from Colombia’s largest rebel group, FARC, sabotaged oil infrastructure belonging to Colombian state-owned oil company Ecopetrol in northern Colombia Sunday as violence seems to be escalating in several parts of the country.

According to reports, a group of FARC rebels approached a Ecoptrol construction site and destroyed a tractor, cargo truck and a low-bed transport vehicle.

The attack took place in Teorama, in the Catatumbo region of the Norte de Santander department, where rebels from the smaller rebel group ELN were believed to have kidnapped two German tourists in November.

The governor of Norte de Santander, Edgar Diaz, said according to radio station Caracol that “the guerilla is generating a climate of unease [...] in the region of Catatumbo.”

This was the sixth FARC attack against the oil industry in Norte de Santander during 2013.

Meanwhile, ELN rebels attacked twice against oil installations in the same department during the course of the year.

The area around Teorama, located near the troubled border with ... Read More

Ecuador’s Permanent Mob-Rule Campaign

| February 11th, 2013 | 1 Comment »
Article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal


Barack Obama uses his high office to conduct a permanent campaign against his opponents, often falsely attributing the basest of motives to them. That’s pretty much the style of Latin American demagogues as well. Fortunately it works less well in the United States than south of the border.

The difference is that the American in the Oval Office is constrained by limits to his power under the U.S. Constitution. Even if 24/7 campaigning makes him popular, two other branches of government can check him and the minority opposition retains its rights.

Not so in, say, Ecuador, where President Rafael Correa is a candidate for re-election on Feb. 17. Mr. Correa is a permanent campaigner and has been so since his first presidential victory in November 2006. He has spent the past six years demonizing the opposition rather than looking for common ground as a leader might be expected to ... Read More

PROFILE-Ecuador’s Correa: from boyhood leader to firebrand president

| February 11th, 2013 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

By Eduardo Garcia and Brian Ellsworth

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa held his first Cabinet meetings more than 35 years before he was elected.

As an 8-year-old boy in the bustling port city of Guayaquil, according to his brother, he would play head of state with his friends who gathered around him to serve as ersatz ministers taking his orders.

The innate charisma that he showed as a schoolboy has helped make Correa one of the Andean nation’s most popular presidents, celebrated as a champion of the poor by supporters from windswept highlands to sweltering Amazon jungle.

Yet critics might see in those childhood games the authoritarian traits of a leader they now accuse of hoarding power: he somehow always managed to be the chief.

“I used to say to his friends, ‘when you play cops and robbers, sometimes you’re the cop and sometimes you’re the robber,’” said Correa’s brother, Fabricio, once a close ally who ... Read More

Hugo Chavez Health Update: After 2 Months Absent, Still No Sign Of Venezuelan President

| February 11th, 2013 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press


Two months have passed since Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez climbed the stairs of the presidential jet, blew kisses to his supporters and flew to Cuba to undergo his fourth cancer-related surgery.

Chavez hasn’t been seen or spoken publicly since that departure to Havana on Dec. 10, and the mystery surrounding his condition has deepened while the government’s updates have remained optimistic but have lately offered few specifics.

“The president is in charge and making decisions,” Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said Saturday after meeting with Brazil’s foreign minister. “It’s a slow, slow recovery process. But he is fighting his battle with great faith, and clinging to Christ and clinging to life … and with the conviction that he is going to win this battle, too.”

Jaua, who visited Chavez in Cuba last week, said the 58-year-old president has been making political and economic decisions. On Friday, for instance, the government announced it ... Read More

Hugo Chavez “will not recover” Reports Spanish Daily

| February 11th, 2013 | No Comments »
Costa Rica News

 The Spanish newspaper ABC reported that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will not recover from his illness, as doctors who are treating him in Cuba and informed the family that Chavez “is not able to return to chair”.

The report indicates that Hugo Chavez had lost his voice completely, this as a result of treatment and also lost mobility, which prevent him to resume his duties.

That newspaper has reported several days on the health of Hugo Chavez had earlier reported that “his gaunt appearance and persistent respiratory distress, have prevented Chavez issued a message to the country.

Apparently, the president would have had heart failure and was in a coma for 14 minutes on 5 January, but the authorities have not confirmed.

Meanwhile, Venezuelan Vice President Nicolás Maduro said Friday that the recovery of the President “is a slow process and battle clinging to Christ.”

Just yesterday, February 8 two months met the Venezuelan president ... Read More