Author Archive

US Congress voices concerns over Central American aid plan

| May 4th, 2015 | No Comments »

By Claire Luke

U.S. lawmakers raised concerns about the Obama administration’s proposed $1 billion aid plan to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador at a hearing Thursday in Washington, D.C.

Administration officials hope Congress will approve the proposal — which marked the largest aid request in the 2016 presidential budget and is meant to address the root causes of the recent unaccompanied minor migration crisis — but they are still trying to convince skeptics the plan can work.

The main points of contention are whether the leaders of the three countries have demonstrated enough commitment to curb corruption and address unemployment; whether the plan hits the right balance of addressing security, prosperity and governance; and whether it sufficiently addresses concerns raised about past development programs for the region.

“I’m looking for signs that these countries are committed to doing what they need to do to stop the flow of people coming over,” Albio Sires, Democratic representative ... Read More

Prosecutors in Brazil investigate Lula for alleged influence peddling

| May 4th, 2015 | No Comments »
Financial Times

By Samantha Pearson

Brazil’s federal prosecutors have opened a preliminary investigation into the country’s wildly popular former leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for illicit influence peddling in Cuba, among other countries, putting further pressure on his embattled protégée President Dilma Rousseff.

The prosecutors’ office in Brazil’s capital Brasília confirmed late on Sunday reports by a local magazine that Mr Lula da Silva is being questioned by their anti-corruption unit over claims he helped construction conglomerate Odebrecht win contracts overseas between 2011 and 2014.

Weekly magazine Época alleged on Friday that Mr Lula da Silva improperly used his influence to obtain loans from Brazil’s state development bank BNDES for Odebrecht’s dealings in Cuba and the Dominican Republic, often travelling to meet the countries’ leaders at the company’s expense. The magazine also accused Mr Lula da Silva, one of the founders of the ruling Workers’ Party (PT), of similar influence peddling in ... Read More

As Petrobras Cuts Back, Brazil Turns To U.S. For Atlantic Drilling Help

| May 4th, 2015 | No Comments »

By Kenneth Rapoza

all it the shock doctrine, but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…well, you get the picture.

Wracked by the biggest corporate scandal in Brazilian history, oil major Petrobras is reducing costs. While it says it is not reducing costs on exploration and production, the state-owned Petrobras is turning to Texas this week to meet with companies that want to help it drill in one of the most lucrative oil finds in the world — Brazil’s deep water, pre-salt oil fields off the coasts of Rio and Sao Paulo states.

As some would have it, this is all part of the plan. Petrobras is in dire straights. Petrobras has too much control over the mega oil fields under rock and sand. And foreign firms want a piece of it without having to give up so much to Petrobras.

Energy Minister Eduardo Braga, the National ... Read More

Violent new drug cartel alarming authorities in Mexico

| May 4th, 2015 | No Comments »
CBS News

MEXICO CITY – An increasingly strong drug cartel known as Jalisco New Generation was showing off its power with a spasm of violence that killed seven people and forced down a military helicopter in western Mexico, analysts said Saturday.

Jalisco state was relatively calm the day after gunmen set fire to cars, buses, banks and gasoline stations and trade gunfire with soldiers and police. The violence erupted after security forces launched a campaign against the cartel Friday.

State authorities remained on alert in and around Jalisco’s capital of Guadalajara, with heavy police patrols and fewer people than usual on the streets Saturday.

Mexico’s government is going head-on against the cartel, whose leader, Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, alias “El Mencho,” is one of the country’s richest drug lords, trafficking to Europe, Asia, Australia and South Africa, said Jose Reveles, author of several books on drug trafficking.

He ... Read More

Venezuela to nationalize food distribution

| May 4th, 2015 | No Comments »
From AFP

Caracas (AFP) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has promised to nationalize food distribution in the South American nation beset with record shortages of basic goods, runaway inflation and an escalating economic crisis.

During a rally Friday, on International Workers’ Day, the socialist leader allowed a union activist to ask for the nationalization of food and essential-item distribution.

Citing new decree-making powers recently granted by the National Assembly, Maduro said he would carry out such a measure “in the coming days and weeks.”

Maduro had pledged earlier in the week to announce economic reforms.

Various estimates suggest the government already controls about half of the country’s food distribution, but that hasn’t stopped record shortages in shops and markets.

Venezuela is struggling with a recession, 68.5-percent annual inflation and severe shortages of the basic goods that it relies on oil money to ... Read More

Texans visiting Cuba say they see little change in trade

| May 4th, 2015 | No Comments »
Dallas News

By Alfredo Corchado

HAVANA — At a restaurant in Old Havana, Ben Scholz waited anxiously for his plate of lobster, rice and beans, trying to choose the right words to describe the takeaway from his first visit to the communist-run island.

He and 12 other Texans had just spent two long days meeting with Cuban bureaucrats and visiting a farm and a port undergoing a massive expansion. It was the first trip to Cuba for a Texas trade group since Presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro signaled a thaw in their countries’ complicated relationship. And yet Scholz, a plainspoken wheat farmer from Lavon, just east of Dallas, struggled for words.

“I wouldn’t say I’m more or less excited,” Scholz said, referring to prospects for improved trade ties. “I’m more informed.”

The Texans say they came with open minds to talk about the price of soybeans, wheat ... Read More

Inside Fidel Castro’s double life as a drug kingpin

| May 4th, 2015 | No Comments »
New York Post

For 17 years, Juan Reinaldo Sanchez served as a bodyguard to Fidel Castro. But when he became disillusioned with the Cuban dictator’s hypocrisy and tried to retire in 1994, Castro had him thrown in prison. Sanchez made 10 attempts to escape the island, finally making it to Mexico by boat, then across the Texas border in 2008. Now he reveals all in his new book, “The Double Life of Fidel Castro.” In this excerpt, Sanchez explains how he lost faith in the revolution — and “El Jefe.”

The end of 1988. A day like any other was coming to a close in Havana. In a few minutes, my life would be overturned.

Fidel had spent his afternoon reading and working in his office when he stuck his head through the door to the anteroom, where I was, to warn me that ... Read More

Ex-leaders demand jailed Venezuela politicians be freed

| May 1st, 2015 | No Comments »

A group of former world leaders has sent an open letter to the Venezuelan government expressing its concern “for the difficult social, economic and political situation” in Venezuela.

The group also urged the release of opposition leaders who were jailed for allegedly inciting violence.

The letter was signed by 26 ex-leaders from Latin America, Europe, Africa and Asia.

Venezuela has not yet responded to their appeal

Deadly protests

The signatories are members of the Madrid Club, an independent organisation made up of former heads of state and government.

They include former Brazilian President Henrique Cardoso, the ex-leader of Mexico, Felipe Calderon, as well as former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, Dutch ex-Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers and the former president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo.

In their letter, they call for the release of “all those citizens who are in ... Read More

Investors take a century-long bet on boom-and-bust Mexico

| May 1st, 2015 | No Comments »
The Economist

At the beginning of April international investors made two whopping bets by snapping up the first ever 100-year bond denominated in euros. The first bet was that the euro would still exist a century from now. No bookie would give short odds on that. The second was that the issuer, Mexico, which suffered three long cycles of boom and bust in the past century, would continue to be creditworthy for the next 100 years.

Mexicans, whose country has, as one economic historian puts it, lived longer in moratoria than with access to capital markets, reacted with bemusement. A typically gloomy columnist predicted that, since Mexico will have run out of oil by 2115, it will have to sell off the country’s extremities to repay the bondholders.

Foreign creditors are more bullish. Over the past five years they have extended the equivalent of more than $5 billion of 100-year ... Read More

Faced with weak growth and soaring inflation, Brazil’s central bank hikes interest rates

| May 1st, 2015 | No Comments »
The Economist

Do not envy Brazil’s monetary policymakers. The economy is faltering. With business confidence plumbing record depths, unemployment up and real wages down—by 3% year-on-year in March, the most in more than a decade—demand remains fragile. Supermarket sales fell by 2.6% last month, compared with the previous one. Output will probably contract by at least 1% this year. Yet with prices rising at the fastest rate since 2003, the central bank’s rate-setters had little choice when they met on April 29th but to raise interest rates by another half a percentage point, to 13.25%.

If Brazil is fortunate, the painful rate hike could leave policy-makers with a bit more room to manoeuvre when they next convene in June. One source of inflationary pressure is easing: the real has rebounded by more than 10% against the dollar since its 12-year trough six weeks ago. This, notes Alberto Ramos of Goldman Sachs, ... Read More

Bolivia to supply lithium for e-car batteries

| May 1st, 2015 | No Comments »
Deutsche Welle

Three engineering firms, two German and one Swiss, are bidding for the right to build a lithium processing plant the in highlands of Bolivia. Lithium-ion batteries are used in mobile phones and electric cars.

Bolivia’s National Evaporative Resources Management Board (GNRE) this week invited bids for the rights to build a plant in Bolivia to process lithium mined from Salar de Uyuni, a vast salt flat in the Bolivian highlands.

Bolivian Mining Minister César Navarro announced on Tuesday in La Paz that only three firms met the technical requirements of the call for bids to build the planned lithium carbonate production plant: K-Utec, Ercosplan, and SEP.

K-Utec and Ercosplan are both based in the state of Thuringia in Germany, while SEP is based in Winterthur, Switzerland. The bidders now have ten months’ time to submit detailed engineering plans in support of their bids.

The Bolivian government intends to spend 570 ... Read More

Medicine shortages so bad Venezuela is using fingerprinting

| May 1st, 2015 | No Comments »

LIMA, Peru — Venezuela’s imploding economy has hit a new low: medicine rationing.

Or so critics are saying.

This week, the health minister unveiled a new national system that requires all patients to register their fingerprints at pharmacies. They will then be allowed to buy just a limited amount of medicines.

Called SIAMED, the Spanish acronym for the Integral System for Access to Medicines, it aims to solve widespread shortages that have left many Venezuelans unable to treat all kinds of ailments, from hemorrhoids to cancer.

The result of the scarcities has been tragic, with allegations of patients dying and doctors even forced to carry out needless mastectomies because they can’t access other means to treat breast cancer.

The government blames the problem on hoarding and speculation. Health Minister Henry Ventura tweeted: “With #SIAMED, we want to eliminate “hoarding” so that everyone has the right to medicine. Sign up!!!”

But many Venezuelans disagree.

Freddy Ceballos, who heads ... Read More

Noriega: EEUU tiene evidencia de nexo entre Cabello y el narcotráfico

| April 30th, 2015 | No Comments »
El Nuevo Herald

Por Antonio Maria Delgado

Las autoridades estadounidenses, que llevan años investigando los vínculos entre el chavismo y el narcotráfico, tienen amplia evidencia sobre la participación en la actividad ilícita del presidente de la Asamblea Nacional de Venezuela, Diosdado Cabello, y el actual gobernador del estado Aragua, Tarek El Aissami, afirmó el miércoles el ex subsecretario de Asuntos Hemisféricos del Departamento de Estado, Roger Noriega.

Noriega, quien fue de los pocos que brindó información detallada sobre los graves problemas de salud del fallecido presidente Hugo Chávez, agregó que las autoridades estadounidenses también están al tanto del papel de complicidad que ha estado jugando el gobernante venezolano Nicolás Maduro, quien ha utilizado fondos del narcotráfico para financiar sus campañas electorales.

“Mis fuentes establecen claramente que hay en este momento una serie de investigaciones substanciales, que vienen siendo realizadas desde hace algún tiempo, sobre los vínculos con el narcotráfico y altos funcionarios del gobierno venezolano, y ... Read More

Colombia may stop using U.S.-made crop killers in drug war

| April 30th, 2015 | No Comments »

By Manuel Rueda

Colombia may soon stop using one of Uncle Sam’s favorite anti-drug weapons after recent studies found it could cause serious collateral damage.

This week, Colombian health officials recommended the armed forces immediately halt the spraying of glyphosate — a herbicide that is part of U.S.-backed efforts to eradicate crops of coca, the plant used to make cocaine.

In a letter to Colombia’s anti-drugs police, Health Minister Alejandro Gaviria noted that a recent report by the World Health Organization has found that glyphosate is probably a carcinogenic. Gaviria said spraying coca fields with the herbicide poses a serious health risk to people living near those areas, and as a result is unconstitutional.

Colombia’s president will now have to decide whether to follow his minister’s recommendations.

The use of the herbicide in Colombia’s drug war has been highly promoted by the United States; the U.S. ... Read More

How Bad Is Venezuela’s Economic Crisis?

| April 30th, 2015 | No Comments »

By Nathaniel Parish Flannery

Venezuela’s already struggling economy has been devastated by declining oil prices. In a recent article Jason Mitchell explained, “Venezuela has one of the worst managed economies on the planet and its bonds are trading at levels that suggest a default is priced in.” The country depends on oil revenues for more than 95% of its foreign income and its reserves have dwindled to $20 billion. Bondholders are increasingly worried that the country will fail to service its debt. According to Fernando Losada, an economist at AllianceBernstein, “the availability of macro and financial information on a timely basis is essential for figuring out where to put your money.” And in Venezuela, the challenges for investors and analysts are exacerbated by the reluctance of President Nicolas Maduro’s government to publish timely economic data.

Bank of America BAC +2.11% and Barclay’s have been forced to create their own ways of measuring Venezuela’s economic health. “We’ve ... Read More

Nicaragua Lawmakers OK Russian Satellite Ground Station

| April 30th, 2015 | No Comments »
The New York Times


MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Nicaragua’s parliament on Wednesday authorized the establishment of a Russian satellite ground station in the Central American nation.

Officials say the base will permit the operation of a system similar to GPS for peaceful uses, such as mitigating natural disasters.

Opposition legislators object that the measure, which originated as an urgent presidential decree sent to parliament this week, was fast-tracked through without proper time for study.

The lawmaking body is dominated by President Daniel Ortega’s ruling party.

Nicaragua and Russia signed an agreement in 2012 to cooperate on space exploration and activity including ground installations for GLONASS, a satellite navigation system designed to be an equivalent of the United States’ GPS.

Cooperation between Managua and Moscow has increased over the last decade with the ... Read More

Cuba: China’s western toehold

| April 30th, 2015 | No Comments »
Florida Trend By Jason Garcia

When Americans think of Havana, many immediately imagine classic, American-made cars. What they should picture are modern, Chinese-made buses.

The streets of Havana are filled with them: Blue, white and red buses operated by Transtur, a Cuban government company that ferries tourists between attractions. The vehicles are all built by the Yutong Group, an industrial conglomerate based in China’s Henan province. All are stamped on the back with the Yutong logo and a short sequence of Chinese characters.

In the absence of American trade with Cuba, the Chinese have stepped into the void. China today is Cuba’s largest creditor and its second-largest trading partner after Venezuela. China sells more than $1.1 billion a year in goods to Cuba and buys more than $500 million a year, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Observatory of Economic Complexity.

Yutong itself has sold more than 5,000 buses to Cuba – for use by ... Read More

Long in charge, leftist leaders struggle across South America

| April 30th, 2015 | No Comments »
Article Appeared in The Washington Times

By Nathaniel Madden

Argentina may not be alone in South America moving from left to right in the coming days.

A string of leftist leaders across the continent have come under scrutiny in recent months for political scandals, falling poll numbers and economic reverses that, in the case of Venezuela, have produced the world’s second-highest inflation rate after Syria.

Nicolas Maduro, successor to the late populist President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, has seen his approval rating fall to just 28.2 percent, following months of popular protests driven by high levels of violence, food and consumer good shortages, and an inflation rate in 2014 of 63.4 percent. Mr. Maduro’s government recently announced it will soon start to ration electricity, despite the fact that the country by some estimates has even more proven oil reserves than Saudi Arabia.

Corruption and inflation are also driving factors behind the low approval ... Read More

EE.UU. tiene “pruebas” contra funcionarios venezolanos por lavado de dinero y narcotráfico: Exsubsecretario de Estado Roger Noriega

| April 29th, 2015 | No Comments »

En NTN24, el exsubsecretario de Estado de Estados Unidos para Asuntos Hemisféricos, Roger Noriega, aseguró que las autoridades de este país tienen evidencia suficiente que vincula a altos funcionarios del régimen venezolano con el lavado de dinero y narcotráfico.

Durante la Conferencia Anual sobre Latinoamérica que organiza la Universidad de Miami, aseguró que hay “testigos y documentos, que sostienen acusaciones de involucramiento de Diosdado Cabello”.

Además del presidente de la Asamblea Nacional, también estaría implicado el gobernador del estado de Aragua y el presidente de Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro.

Noriega aseguró que “todos reconocen que estamos hablando de un gobierno criminal”.

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

Fewer Children Are Entering U.S. Illegally as Mexico Cracks Down

| April 29th, 2015 | No Comments »
The New York Times


MEXICO CITY — A significant drop in the number of children apprehended at the United States-Mexico border in recent months sprang from Mexico’s record number of deportations of minors traveling without a guardian, according to an analysis released Tuesday.

The analysis, by the Pew Research Center in Washington, noted that the flow of children not authorized to enter the United States had dropped precipitously, to 12,509, from October to February. The vast majority of the children were Central American.

That was down from 21,402 in the same period a year ago, amid a wave of children fleeing violence in their home countries and drawn by false promises of amnesty in the United States. That surge eventually prompted President Obama to declare an emergency.

Mexico, pushed by the United States and other countries, stepped up law enforcement in its southern border region in ways not seen in years, ... Read More

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