Author Archive

Venezuelans on Hunger Strike Stir Protest Calls

| May 27th, 2015 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01

Officials dismissed the strike as an effort to destabilize embattled President Nicolás Maduro’s government.

Leopoldo López, one of the leaders, released a video to announce the strike from the military stockade near Caracas where he has been held for 15 months. In the recording, he also called for a nationwide protest on Saturday to press for a release of political prisoners, the scheduling of congressional elections and an end to “repression and censorship.”

“Go out, hand in hand, brother and sister, without distinctions in ideology or political affiliation, to demonstrate that we are on the side of change for Venezuela,” Mr. López said in the video. His hunger strike began Sunday, two days after Daniel Ceballos, the other leader, stopped eating.

The two ... Read More

Colombia Farc rebel leader Roman Ruiz ‘killed in raid’

| May 27th, 2015 | No Comments »

A commander of Colombia’s largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), was among five rebels killed in a bombing raid on Monday, the Colombian military says.

The rebel, known as Roman Ruiz, led the 18th division of the Farc, which operates in north-west Colombia.

The bombing was the latest in a series of attacks on the Farc by Colombian security forces.

The two sides are holding peace talks but have not agreed a ceasefire.

Key leader

The Colombian air force said it bombed a rebel position near the town of Riosucio in north-western Choco province on Monday.

Sources in the security forces later told local media that among those killed in the raid was Alfredo Alarcon Machado, better known by his alias, Roman Ruiz.

However, Ruiz has been reported killed once before.

Last year, sources in the ... Read More

Venezuela Running ‘On Fumes’ As Bolivar Weakens

| May 27th, 2015 | No Comments »

Even though Venezuela tapped the International Monetary Fund in recent weeks to keep itself afloat, shoring up its currency is another matter.

The low price of oil has crushed the energy exporter’s budget. Russ Dallen, who contributes to a newsletter for investors, and writes about Latin America, writes today that “Venezuela’s situation continues to unravel at increasing speed as the bolivar tumbled 30% over just the last week, while the country’s international reserves simultaneously hit a new 12-year low, closing at $17.5 billion.” He says the weak currency and decline in reserves means the country is “essentially running on fumes.” He writes:

“Venezuela’s reserves have now fallen 21% since the beginning of the year, but more importantly $6.7 billion from their high just 2 months ago – a high that not only included $2.8 billion from mortgaging Citgo, $1.9 billion from the selling of $4 billion of oil receivables from ... Read More

Venezuela’s Currency Just Collapsed 30% on the Black Market

| May 27th, 2015 | No Comments »

By Nathan Crooks

he stunning collapse of Venezuela’s bolivar in black market trading this month — it fell to as low as 423 bolivars per dollar from 279 at the start of the month — has left Venezuelans scratching their heads,  with many wondering why it has sunk below the value of gold and hard currency the central bank has to back it.

Venezuela has maintained strict currency controls since 2003 and currently has three legal exchange rates of 6.3, 12 and 199 bolivars per dollar used for priority imports. On the black market, where people and businesses turn when they can’t obtain government approval to purchase dollars at the three legal rates, the bolivar has weakened 82 percent in the past year to 397 bolivars per dollar on May 26, according to, a widely watched website that tracks the exchange rate in the Colombian border city of Cucuta.

While steep, the ... Read More

China and Chile sign currency swap agreement

| May 26th, 2015 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — China’s Prime Minister Li Keqiang and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet signed a currency swap deal on Monday seeking to deepen economic ties by boosting trade and investment.

The currency swap agreement between Chile’s central bank and the People’s Bank of China eases the exchange of up to 2.2 trillion pesos (about $3.6 billion) for the next three years. China has signed currency swap deals with several countries and has worked with financial centers to develop international hubs for offshore trading of the currency.

“We want to strengthen our financial cooperation with Chile during this visit, and we have both signed this swap deal,” the Chinese premier said during his visit to Chile, the last stop in his four-nation tour of South America, which also included Brazil, Colombia and Peru.

“I hope the Chinese-Chilean cooperation can allow for services and ... Read More

Muere alias “Román Ruíz”, máximo cabecilla del frente 18 de las Farc

| May 26th, 2015 | No Comments »
La Patilla

El máximo jefe del frente 18 de las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), Alfredo Alarcón Machado, alias “Román Ruiz”, murió este lunes en un bombardeo de la Fuerza Aérea Colombiana en el departamento del Chocó (oeste), informaron fuentes oficiales.

Según dijeron a Efe fuentes militares, hubo un bombardeo en la zona del Chocó, y la información preliminar es que hay cinco guerrilleros muertos, uno de los cuales al parecer es alias “Román Ruiz”.

Alarcón Machado está considerado el número dos de Félix Antonio Muñoz Lascarro, alias “Pastor Alape”, uno de los negociadores de las FARC en los diálogos de paz que esa guerrilla mantiene con el Gobierno desde hace 30 meses en Cuba, según medios locales.

La fuente agregó que están tratando de confirmar que uno de los cinco muertos es Alarcón Machado.

Alias “Román Ruiz” llevaba más de 30 años en la guerrilla y era el sucesor de alias “Iván Ríos”, líder ... Read More

Brazil economy to contract nearly one-quarter this year in dollar terms

| May 26th, 2015 | No Comments »
Financial Times

Brazil’s economy is expected to contract by nearly one-quarter this year in dollar terms due to a depreciating currency and a deepening recession, according to government figures.

Brazil’s planning ministry revealed in a budget presentation that gross domestic product was expected to be $1,812bn this year, down 23 per cent from $2,353bn a year earlier, as President Dilma Rousseff tries to unwind a multiyear stimulus programme that has left government finances bleeding red.

“We know that in a populist model you have a fake sense of prosperity in the short term,” said Alberto Ramos, economist with Goldman Sachs. “So after populism comes the adjustment and the adjustment is basically just giving back all these fake gains.”

Brazil’s economy is facing a hangover with the end of the commodities supercycle and government efforts to prolong a consumption and credit-led boom.

Much of the expected fall in Brazil’s economy in dollar ... Read More

Brazil Budget Not Conducive To Reality, FinMin Says

| May 26th, 2015 | No Comments »

By Kenneth Rapoza

Brazil’s federal budget needed some slicing and dicing in the financial editing rooms in the capital city last month because it was “nowhere close”  to reality, Finance Minister Joaquim Levy said on Monday.

The Brazilian economy is going through a serious economic correction. With the commodity super cycle over, Brazil got hammered by keeping rates artificially low for too long in the first term of president Dilma Rousseff.  At the time, the government was fighting a “currency war” against a weak U.S. dollar that led to hot money flowing into Brazil’s currency and debt markets. A stronger currency didn’t match the fundamentals of a weakening economy, cutting Brazil out of some competition in foreign markets, and leading to an increase in imports as local manufacturers could not compete with similar product makers abroad. Inflation rose. The economy slowed even more. Now there’s hell to pay. ... Read More

Colombia Peace Process: Lurching Backwards

| May 26th, 2015 | No Comments »
Crisis Group

Colombia’s peace process faces its most serious crisis yet, after the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) suspended a five month old unilateral ceasefire. Instead of more measures to de-escalate the conflict ahead of a final peace agreement, there are now new risks that the confrontation will escalate, causing fresh humanitarian damage, crippling trust between the parties and further weakening public support for the process.

FARC´s decision came on the heels of a military air and ground operation against a guerrilla camp in the southwestern municipality of Guapí (Cauca), which killed at least 26 fighters. Details have remained scarce, but according to official information, the attack was part of ongoing operations against drug-trafficking and illegal mining activities in which the FARC’s 29th front has long been involved. This event came only five weeks after a FARC ambush in the same region, which killed eleven soldiers and prompted President ... Read More

Businesses quietly turn to the dollar in fiercely anti-American Venezuela as currency crashes

| May 26th, 2015 | No Comments »
US News & World Report

By HANNAH DREIER, Associated Press

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — It’s still possible to buy a gleaming Ford truck in Venezuela, rent a chic apartment in Caracas, and snag an American Airlines flight to Miami. Just not in the country’s official currency.

As the South American nation spirals into economic chaos, an increasing number of products are not only figuratively out of the reach of average consumers, but literally cannot be purchased in Venezuelan bolivars, which fell into a tailspin on the black market last week.

Businesses and individuals are turning to dollars even as the anti-American rhetoric of the socialist administration grows more strident. It’s a shift that’s allowing parts of the economy to limp along despite a cash crunch and the world’s highest inflation. But it could put some goods further out of reach of the working class, whose well-being has been the focal ... Read More

The Cost of Corruption in Latin America

| May 26th, 2015 | No Comments »

By Mac Margolis

Guatemalans are steaming. Crowds of them have poured into the streets this month —  some 60,000 on May 16 alone  – to protest  corruption and demand the ouster of President Otto Perez Molina.

Triggered by the scandal over a giant scheme of import tax fraud, the widening crisis already has toppled the nation’s vice president, the energy minister, the Central Bank governor and interior minister.

Social upheaval has a deep history in Guatemala, where Marxist-inspired guerrillas battled security forces from 1960 to 1996, leaving 200,000 dead.

What’s new, and encouraging, is the popular revolt against resurgent corruption, which has reignited partisan feuds and sapped confidence in the country’s still-wobbly democratic institutions at a time when this nation of more than 14.6 million may need them most.

Latin America is no stranger to bureaucrats on the take. The region traditionally merits dismal ratings on Transparency International’s annual corruption perception ... Read More

El poder de un cártel de la droga en Venezuela

| May 25th, 2015 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

Por Jackson Diehl

[Traducción IASW]

Venezuela sufre de la inflación más alta del mundo, es el segundo país con más homicidios y tiene una escasez paralizante de alimentos, medicinas y bienes de consumo básico. Su gobierno autoritario tiene preso a 70 políticos, entre ellos al alcalde de Caracas y al líder de la oposición Leopoldo López. A Venezuela también se le acusa de violaciones a los derechos humanos, de tortura, de detenciones ilegales y de represión contra los medios de comunicación independientes.

Todo esto es bien conocido y finalmente está comenzando a ganar un poco de atención por parte de líderes latinoamericanos que durante años hicieron todo lo posible para apaciguar o ignorar a Hugo Chávez y a su “Revolución Bolivariana”. Lo que se entiende menos es el factor que hará mucho más difícil que se implementen cambios políticos o económicos: El régimen de Chávez, dirigido desde su muerte por Nicolás Maduro, no ... Read More

A drug cartel’s power in Venezuela

| May 25th, 2015 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

By Jackson Diehl

Venezuela is afflicted with the world’s highest inflation, its second highest murder rate and crippling shortages of food, medicine and basic consumer goods. Its authoritarian government is holding some 70 political prisoners, including the mayor of Caracas and senior opposition leader Leopoldo López, and stands accused by human rights groups of illegal detentions, torture and repression of independent media.

All of that is now pretty well known, and it is finally beginning to gain some attention from Latin American leaders who for years did their best to appease or ignore Hugo Chávez and his “Bolivarian Revolution.” What’s less understood is the complicating factor that will make any political change or economic reconstruction in this failing state far more difficult: The Chávez regime, headed since his demise by Nicolás Maduro, harbors not just a clique of crackpot socialists, but also one of the world’s biggest drug cartels.

Ever since Colombian commandos captured the ... Read More

Convoy repele agresión en Michoacán; al menos 42 muertos

| May 22nd, 2015 | No Comments »

MICHOACÁN, 22 de mayo.- Fuentes oficiales informaron que el saldo preliminar de un enfrentamiento entre fuerzas federales y pistoleros del crimen organizado es de al menos 42 muertos, tres detenidos, y cuatro heridos.

Los hechos ocurrieron en el municipio de Tanhuato en el occidente de Michoacán, en los límites con el estado de Jalisco.

Se sabe que un convoy formado por fuerzas de élite de la PF y soldados de la Sedena fue atacado cerca de la comunidad de Tinaja de Vargas y al repeler la agresión dieron muerte a los presuntos delincuentes.

Se desconoce qué grupo participó en esta balacera, la cual duró aproximadante una hora y 15 minutos.

Cabe recordar que esta zona se convirtió en foco rojo a partir de la muerte del candidato de Morena, Enrique Hernández, y los operativos estaban destinados a recuperar la seguridad.

Derivado de este asunto, el Gabinete de Seguridad Nacional se trasladó hasta el lugar.

De click aquí para tener acceso ... Read More

Excandidato presidencial colombiano Antanas Mockus confiesa que ha sido “auxiliador” de las FARC

| May 22nd, 2015 | No Comments »

El ex candidato presidencial y exalcalde de Bogotá, Antanas Mockus, anunció este viernes que ha sido “auxiliador” del grupo terrorista de las FARC y que está dispuesto a recibir penas por crímenes de guerra.

El anuncio del también docente se da luego de que el grupo terrorista de las FARC suspendiera este viernes, el cese al fuego unilateral, tras la muerte de 26 de sus miembros en el departamento colombiano del Cauca (sur del país), informaron varios medios locales.

En una declaración que dio en la sede presidencial acompañado del ministro de Defensa, Juan Carlos Pinzón, y el mando militar, Santos afirmó que en el bombardeo hubo “26 bajas y un menor de edad herido que recibió atención médica”.

De click aquí para tener acceso a artículo ... Read More

Scandals Upend Bachelet’s Reform Agenda

| May 22nd, 2015 | No Comments »
World Politics Review

By Eric Farnsworth

Images on television and social media of students rampaging through Santiago and Valparaiso and reports of injuries and even deaths were not what Chilean President Michelle Bachelet anticipated when she began her second, nonconsecutive term in office early last year. Elected in a landslide on a platform to institute social reforms, most of all on education, Bachelet has instead faced increasing political turbulence: The left demands rapid, far-reaching action, and the right is growing anxious about her political course. On May 6, she announced that she had asked her entire Cabinet to resign in order to breathe new life into her political agenda, including a redrafting of the constitution later this year.It’s quite a turnaround from Bachelet’s first term, concluding in 2010, when she governed as a moderate leftist reformer. As one of Latin America’s cadre of center-left leaders coming to power in the last decade, she was ... Read More

Here’s the next country ready to throw in the towel on the U.S. ‘war on drugs’

| May 22nd, 2015 | 1 Comment »

By Kevin Gray

Add Ecuador to a growing list of countries pushing back against the U.S. “war on drugs.”

A ruling party lawmaker recently introduced legislation that would make Ecuador the second country in the world — and the first in the Americas— to decriminalize the personal use of all drugs, from marijuana to cocaine to heroin.

The bill, presented by a lawmaker allied with President Rafael Correa, would regulate the consumption of over 100 substances and create a state agency to control the importation, exportation, production and cultivation of illegal drugs. Anyone interested in using or obtaining drugs would have to register with the agency.

If approved, the South American country would follow in the footsteps of Portugal, which in 2001 radically shifted its drug policy from prosecution to prevention and rehabilitation. It would also reflect the growing challenge from some Latin America countries to ... Read More

Farc suspenden el cese unilateral del fuego

| May 22nd, 2015 | No Comments »
El Tiempo-01

Las Farc anunciaron este viernes a través de un comunicado que suspenden el cese unilateral del fuego, acordado desde el 20 de diciembre del año pasado, luego del bombardeo contra el frente 29 que dejó 26 guerrilleros muertos.

“Nos duelen por igual las muertes de guerrilleros y soldados, hijos de un mismo pueblo y procedentes de familias pobres. Debemos parar este desangre”, dijo las Farc en un comunicado.

Las Farc insistieron en la necesidad de acordar el cese bilateral del fuego.

Los guerrilleros murieron en una operación de la Fuerza Aérea y del Ejército en zona selvática del municipio de Guapí (sur del Cauca).

Las tropas iban detrás de alias ‘Aldemar’, jefe de ese frente, quien al parecer logró salir de la zona. Sin embargo, otro mando de ese grupo, alias ‘Chugo’, sí estaría entre los muertos.

Los bombardeos se reiniciaron el pasado 15 de abril como ... Read More

Colombia army raid kills 18 Farc rebels as talks inch on

| May 22nd, 2015 | No Comments »

At least 18 members of the Farc rebel group have been killed in a military operation in Colombia, officials say.

The attack – in the south-western Cauca region – is the deadliest since the resumption of air raids against the rebels last month.

President Juan Manuel Santos restarted the raids after 11 soldiers were killed in an ambush.

The bloodshed comes as Farc and government representatives meet for the latest round of peace talks in Cuba.

The two sides have been in negotiations since 2012 to try to end more than half a century of conflict.

Thursday’s military action comprised an air strike and ground assault against the rebel group in Guapi, Cauca, said officials.

The operation’s aim was the capture of a rebel known by the alias “Javier”, and two rebels were captured along with those killed, defence ministry officials told the ... Read More

Will the Venezuelan State Fail?

| May 22nd, 2015 | No Comments »
Real Clear World-01

By Carl Meacham

On May 18, the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. prosecutors are in the process of investigating a number of high-up Venezuelan officials for their alleged involvement in turning Venezuela into a cocaine-trafficking and money-laundering hub.

Among those being investigated is Diosdado Cabello, president of Venezuela’s congress and arguably the second most powerful person in Venezuela-long suspected for involvement in clientelistic relationships with transnational criminal organizations operating in Venezuela’s borders.

The investigation is being carried out by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and federal prosecutors in New York and Miami – notably, this is not under the White House’s direction or coordination. And the case they’re building has foundations in the testimony of former cocaine traffickers, defectors from the Venezuelan military, and informants who were once close to top Venezuelan officials, including the former head of Cabello’s security detail.

All of this comes to light just months ... Read More

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