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Murders soar in Brazil World Cup city during police strike

| April 18th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

BY SILVIO CASCIONE

A police strike ended on Thursday after unleashing a surge in violent crime in Brazil’s third-largest city just two months before it is due to welcome hordes of football fans for the World Cup, authorities said.

At least 39 homicides were committed during the two-day strike in and around the north-eastern city of Salvador that added to fears about Brazil’s ability to ensure public safety during the global football tournament.

Violence swept the city after state police went on strike on

Tuesday night to demand better pay and other benefits, prompting the federal government to dispatch troops to restore order in Salvador and nearby towns.

Local media reported looting at supermarkets and stores, leading shop owners to close their businesses in a city that is one of Brazil’s most popular tourist destinations.

A coastal city of about 3.5 million people, Salvador was the first colonial capital of Brazil and is home to some ... Read More

Dialogue Progress (Ironically) Returns MUD to Helm of Venezuelan Opposition

| April 18th, 2014 | No Comments »

Dialogues between the Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD) opposition coalition and the government yielded its first results this week. In the process the MUD seems to be regaining its leadership over the unruly forces of the opposition.

On Tuesday government and opposition representatives agreed to expand the “Truth Commission” to include “recognized national leaders trusted by all” to be selected by mutual agreement. While they have not agreed upon the names nor upon the actual competencies of the commission, Vice President Jorge Arreaza suggested they would have the ability to carry out interviews and form their own conclusions.

There was no agreement however, on an amnesty law for political prisoners. This was not a surprise as the MUD’s proposal called not simply for the release of those arrested over the last two months of conflict but for the release of all political prisoners arrested over the past fifteen years—including people like the Guevara brothers who were ... Read More

Argentina considers crackdown on street protests

| April 18th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press

Argentina’s populist government is proposing a crackdown on street protests amid increasing unrest over the souring economy. The new rules dismayed many of its natural allies Thursday, who called it a worrisome retreat after a decade of permissive policing.

Governing party lawmaker Carlos Kunkel wrote the proposed law at the request of President Cristina Fernandez.

It would require every protest’s leader to notify police 48 hours in advance, describing the place, duration and goal of any demonstration. It would be illegal to block traffic, including public services and the circulation of vehicles and people. Anyone who broke the rules would be forcibly removed.

However, the police officers doing the evicting would not be allowed to carry firearms, and no protesters would be removed until a government official was given two hours to negotiate a resolution.

“It seems reasonable to seek some way of establishing how you can demonstrate, and to see what we’ll do ... Read More

Cuba says ‘investors welcome,’ but the investors aren’t buying

| April 18th, 2014 | No Comments »
Global Post

With all the fanfare of the boy who cried wolf, the Cuban government has published a new foreign investment law.

It’s making good on a promise by President Raul Castro to update a 1995 law that produced more failed investments than successes, never managing to draw more than a few hundred million dollars a year to the cash-starved island’s economy.

The new law, published Wednesday after approval by parliament on March 29, promises an eight-year tax holiday to new investors and theoretically cuts in half a 30 percent tax on profits — a feature of the 1995 law blamed for the withdrawal of many foreign investors.

US investment, of course, remains banned by the Kennedy-era trade embargo that draws increasing criticism — even among some Cuban-Americans — as self-defeating. But with Florida’s Cuban community a key constituency for both Democrats and Republicans, no one’s rushing to mint a medal for the Florida politician ... Read More

Diálogo ensancha fisuras entre sectores de la oposición en Venezuela

| April 17th, 2014 | No Comments »
El Nuevo Herald

POR ANTONIO MARIA DELGADO

Las conversaciones entre el régimen de Nicolás Maduro y dirigentes de la oposición están ensanchando las fisuras entre los adversarios del chavismo, con un bando denunciando el diálogo como el suministro de oxígeno a un gobierno debilitado y con el otro describiendo el proceso como un nuevo frente desde donde también embestir a la “revolución bolivariana”.

En el centro de la discordia está la desconfianza acumulada de un sector de la oposición en las habilidades de su ex candidato presidencial Henrique Capriles, de luchar contra un régimen al que acusan de haber secuestrado las instituciones democráticas del país y el temor de que ayude a Maduro a desmantelar las manifestaciones estudiantiles que tienen en jaque al régimen.

Y quienes critican las conversaciones también argumentan que el proceso termina por legitimar a Maduro, ya que la oposición congregada bajo la Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD) ha acusado al gobernante ... Read More

Brazil’s Leader Holds Wide Lead Six Months From Election: Survey

| April 17th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

Despite a mushrooming scandal at state-run oil company Petrobras and bad news on the economic front, Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff is still the hands-down favorite to win the elections in October, according to a new poll on Wednesday.

If the vote were held today, Rousseff would win 40 percent of the ballots, while her two main rivals put together would get only 24 percent, not enough to force a run-off, the poll showed.

The survey last week by local polling firm Vox Populi indicated that rising inflation in a stagnant economy, coupled with bribery, money laundering and overpricing investigations at Petrobras have not undermined Rousseff’s popularity as yet.

The number of voters intending to back the left-leaning president for a second four-year term has fallen off just one percentage point since the previous Vox Populi poll in February.

But the expected candidate of the main opposition party, centrist Senator Aécio Neves also slipped one ... Read More

Guillermo Martinez: Democracy a real sham in Correa’s Ecuador

| April 17th, 2014 | No Comments »
Sun Sentinel

Rafael Correa, President of Ecuador since 2007, is undoubtedly the best-educated leftist president in Latin America. He has two masters degree — one from Universite Catholique de Louvain in Belgium and another one from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a PhD from the same university.

He speaks four languages: Spanish, English, French and Quechua.

This allows Correa to present himself as a reasonable politician. One who in his Op-Ed column for the Boston Globe can rationally argue, “Real freedom requires justice.” He quotes from Abraham Lincoln‘s Gettysburg Address: “All men are created equal and they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable (sic) Rights, among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

In Ecuador and across Latin America, Correa wrote, we also hold these truths to be self-evident, and we must make them a reality not just for certain people or at some future time, but right now and for everybody.

No doubt ... Read More

El Salvador to use terror charges against gangs

| April 17th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

El Salvador’s government on Wednesday said it would charge gang members who attack police and military personnel under anti-terrorism laws, which impose longer prison sentences, to crack down on rising homicides in the poor Central American nation.

Justice Minister Ricardo Perdomo blamed a faction of the country’s Barrio 18 gang for ordering attacks against government troops, saying there had been 60 so far this year.

“These criminal plans have produced a higher level of murders and a chain reaction of vengeance and violence that requires a unified and coordinated response from the state,” Perdomo said.

Terrorism charges carry maximum penalties of up to 60 years, compared to up to 20 years for homicide or up to 50 years for aggravated homicide.

A truce between the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang and rival Barrio 18 had cut the murder rate in El Salvador down to a 10-year low in mid-2013, but homicides started ... Read More

Mexico Arrests Mayor for Drug Cartel Extortion

| April 17th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press

Prosecutors in western Mexico arrested the mayor of a city that once served as a stronghold of the Knights Templar drug cartel on charges that he helped the gang extort money from city council members.

Prosecutors in Michoacan state said late Tuesday that they arrested Uriel Chavez Mendoza, the mayor of Apatzingan, after three city council members claimed he forced them to gather in a rural area, where cartel gunmen demanded each hand over 20,000 pesos (about $1,500). The gunmen allegedly said the money was to buy weapons.

The meeting was held in January 2012, when the cartel was at the height of its power, according to prosecutors.

The “self-defense” vigilante movement that sprang up last year to fight the cartel had long claimed the Knights Templar controlled, or extorted money from, municipal governments in the western, largely agricultural state.

Some town governments were forced to hand over 10 ... Read More

Venezuela rejects amnesty for jailed protest leaders

| April 17th, 2014 | No Comments »
BBC

The Venezuelan government has dismissed calls by the opposition for an amnesty for jailed protest leaders.

Government and opposition representatives met for a second time on Tuesday to try to put an end to two months of anti-government protests.

Following the meeting, Ramon Aveledo of the opposition MUD coalition said his proposal for an amnesty law had been rejected.

More than 40 people have died in recent protest-related violence.

‘Slow progress’

Hundreds of people have been detained since the protests began in early February.

The majority have since been released but a number of high-profile opposition politicians are still in detention.

Among those still in jail are Popular Will party leader Leopoldo Lopez, who has been charged with inciting violence, and the mayors of the cities of San Cristobal and San Diego, Daniel Ceballos and Enzo Scarano.

Mr Aveledo said the opposition would now “seek other ways” to address the problem of “political prisoners”.

Vice-President Jorge Arreaza said ... Read More

Venezuela Raises Iron Hand Against Protesters

| April 17th, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01

During his 14 years in power, the wily and charismatic Hugo Chávez unnerved his adversaries with bluster, intimidation and the occasional jailing of opponents.

But his successor, President Nicolás Maduro, has taken more severe—and many say violent—measures to stamp out dissent during the past 10 weeks of turmoil caused by a protest movement.

The president has deployed National Guard troops and intelligence agents, buttressed by armored personnel carriers and bands of paramilitary motorcyclists, who beat protesters and have at times fired at them, say witnesses, alleged victims and Venezuelan and foreign human rights groups.

“Day after day, there is more repression, there is more brutality, more fury,” said Alfredo Romero, head of the Caracas-based group Foro Penal, whose 100 lawyers represent people who say they were victims of government brutality. “I think there are orders to repress and attack demonstrators.”

The accusations come as Mr. Maduro’s government and opposition leaders met on Tuesday for a second ... Read More

Prevén que Venezuela caerá en recesión

| April 16th, 2014 | No Comments »
La Patilla

Los próximos dos años lucen más desafiantes a lo estimado previamente para las economías de América Latina, con perspectivas de que un crecimiento más lento y una mayor inflación frustren el reciente optimismo respecto a los mercados emergentes, reseña Reuters.

Los pronósticos para el crecimiento económico este año fueron recortados en promedio en 0,8 puntos porcentuales, y ahora se prevé que Argentina y Venezuela caigan en recesión y que Brasil crezca menos de un 2 por ciento, en lo que sería su cuarto año consecutivo de debilidad.

Las estimaciones para el crecimiento económico en el 2014 y el 2015 bajaron en forma generalizada en comparación a un sondeo similar de Reuters realizado en enero para las siete mayores economías latinoamericanas, con excepción de Colombia, según el consenso de las opiniones de más de 50 economistas consultados.

Eso contrasta con señales alentadoras desde otras regiones, como Europa y Estados Unidos. También sugiere que una reciente alza ... Read More

Mexico Homicides: Something Doesn’t Add Up

| April 16th, 2014 | No Comments »
From In Sight

BY ALEJANDRO HOPE

The government of Mexico‘s declarations of a dramatic reduction in homicides linked to organized crime does not correspond with the figures produced by the National System of Public Security. Someone is counting poorly.

Michoacan in flames. The State of Mexico in crisis. Kidnappings at historic levels. Extortion at epidemic levels.

But, good, homicides have diminished. That is what the government brags about with the least provocation. On February 21, Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong affirmed that, at the end of the previous administration, “there occurred between 1,400 and 1,700 deaths due to organized crime; the month of January had 567, a thousand less. That 567 is terrible, but a thousand less; this speaks to highlight the reduction of violence.”

Translated and reprinted with permission from Plata o Plomo, Alejandro Hope’s blog on the politics and economics of drugs and crime published by Animal Politico. Read the Spanish original here. 

For his part, Monte Alejandro Rubido Garcia, recently named National Commissioner ... Read More

Letter from Cuba: To Embargo or Not

| April 16th, 2014 | No Comments »
World Affairs

By Michael J. Totten

Aside from the Arab boycott against Israel, American sanctions against Cuba have lasted longer than any other embargo in the modern era.

The sanctions were imposed in stages in the early 1960s after Fidel Castro began economic warfare against the United States by nationalizing private US property on the island. Cuban communism survived the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, so in 1993 the purpose of the embargo was modified by the Cuban Democracy Act, stating that it will not be lifted unless and until the government in Havana respects the “internationally accepted standards of human rights” and “democratic values.”

For years now, the embargo has appeared to me as outdated as it has been ineffective. The Chinese government, while less repressive nowadays than Cuba’s, likewise defies internationally accepted standards of human rights, yet it’s one of America’s biggest trading partners. And the embargo ... Read More

Peru’s Economic Rebound Makes It a Top Regional Performer

| April 16th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal

GDP Expanded 5.72% in February

By RYAN DUBE AND ROBERT KOZAK

LIMA, Peru—After a slight slowdown last year, Peru’s economy is rebounding, leading to forecasts that it could be a star performer in Latin America this year.

Peru’s government said Tuesday that gross domestic product expanded 5.72% in February, led by strong gains in mining, fishing, banking, and construction.

Finance Minister Luis Miguel Castilla forecasts 2014 growth between 5.5% and 6.0%, with the pace picking up during the year as various base metals mines boost output.

The World Bank says Peru will be the second-best-performing economy in Latin America this year, following only Panama, even as growth weakens in neighboring nations such as Brazil and Chile.

“The macroeconomics in Peru have been very well managed, and fiscal policy has been very good,” said Andrew Powell, Inter-American Development Bank’s principal adviser in the research department.

He said that during the boom of the last few years the government didn’t ... Read More

Mexico’s drug homicides down, but problems persist

| April 16th, 2014 | No Comments »
UT San Diego

BY SANDRA DIBBLE

Mexico’s crackdown on powerful drug cartels has succeeded in driving homicides down for the second year in a row, but it has opened the door for an increase in crimes, such as kidnapping and extortion, that affect greater numbers of ordinary citizens, according to report released Tuesday.

The crimes are being carried out by smaller and weaker groups “that focus on making money where they can,” said David Shirk, one of the authors of the University of San Diego study. “Unfortunately, improvements in the homicide rate did not entail universal improvements in citizen security.”

The study comes as President Enrique Peña Nieto is well into the second year of his six-year term. Unlike his predecessor, Felipe Calderón, Peña Nieto has played down public rhetoric against drug trafficking organizations, focusing instead on the need for political and economic reforms. But analysts say that Peña Nieto’s administration has continued ... Read More

Police in Colombia seize 3 tons of cocaine

| April 16th, 2014 | No Comments »
From Fox News Latino

Colombian police on Tuesday seized 2,877 kilos (6,337 lbs.) of liquid cocaine discovered in the Caribbean port of Cartagena, where seven tons of the drug in solid form were confiscated a week ago.

The liquefied cocaine was mixed with dielectric oil – an insulator – and concealed inside an electric transformer set to be shipped to the Guatemalan port of Santo Tomas de Castilla.

The drugs seized Tuesday belonged to Los Urabeños, a gang made up of former right-wing paramilitaries, Colombian police said.

Colombia’s largest-ever seizure of liquid cocaine came just a week days after authorities in the port of Cartagena discovered seven tons of cocaine bound for Europe.

The national police recently sent a special investigative team to Cartagena to look into suspicions that some cops assigned to the port were colluding with drug traffickers, Bogota daily El Tiempo said Tuesday.

The amount of cocaine confiscated at Colombia’s ports has been on the increase ... Read More

Latin America the World’s Most Violent Region

| April 15th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Washington Free Beacon

BY DANIEL WISER

Latin America is now the world’s most violent region but is receiving less U.S. military and financial assistance, according to a recent report and other figures.

Latin America surpassed Africa as the region with the most murders per 100,000 people, according to the new report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Several countries in the Western Hemisphere had murder rates that eclipsed 25 per 100,000 people in 2012, compared to the global average of about six.

The report said 30 percent of the homicides in the Americas could be attributed to a proliferation of organized crime and gang-related violence.

For example, Honduras had one of the world’s highest murder rates with 90.4 per 100,000 people. Mexican drug cartels and transnational criminal groups such as the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and 18th Street gangs have infiltrated the country in recent years.

Some of the violence is fueled by those groups’ drug smuggling operations into the United States. ... Read More

Carlos Alberto Montaner: Nicolas Maduro’s Failures All Too Apparent

| April 15th, 2014 | No Comments »
Real Clear World-01

Nicolás Maduro didn’t fare well in the first round of talks at Miraflores Palace. Man does not live by slogans alone.

He, his government and half of Venezuela for the first time had to (or could) listen in silence to the complaints and recriminations of an opposition that represents at least half of the country.

A revolutionary leader is a voracious and strange creature that feeds on empty words.

It is easy to spout revolutionary rhetoric in a pompous voice, gaze lost in space, perhaps looking for talking birds or miraculous faces that appear on walls, while accusing the victims of being fascists, bourgeois or any other nonsense that comes to mind.

The official team spoke of the revolution in the abstract. The opposition spoke of the daily life. For those spectators who are not dogmatic, the result was obvious: The opposition won sweepingly.

It is impossible to defend oneself from the lack of milk, from the ... Read More

Mexico pledges own anti-money laundering list

| April 15th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press

BY E. EDUARDO CASTILLO Mexico has announced plans to fight money laundering by using “kingpin” lists like those issued by the United States, although unlike the public U.S. list, Mexico will make its registry confidential, a Mexican official said Monday.Alberto Elias Beltran, the official in charge of implementing a new money laundering law at the Finance Department, said the list will be made available only to authorities, anyone accused of money laundering and financial institutions.

“There could be a person who follows the procedure to be excluded from the list and we don’t want them to affect their reputation by making this list public,” Elias Beltran said.

The criteria that will be used to put a person or a business on the list hasn’t yet been determined but the government hopes the first list will be ready by the end of April, he said.

Elias Beltran added that the list will be immediately sent ... Read More

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