Archive for the ‘English’ Category

Guillermo Martinez: peace talks or more war? Colombians ready to decide

| May 30th, 2014 | No Comments »
Sun Sentinel

Guillermo Martinez

On August 10, 2002, the day Alvaro Uribe was sworn in as President of Colombia a terrorist attack a few blocks away killed 19 people and injured more than 60. Eleven years later the FARC (Colombia’s Revolutionary Armed Forces) again plotted to kill Uribe.

The strong-willed Uribe and the FARC have been bitter enemies since the former President — with the help of the United States — launched an all out war against the oldest terrorist organization in the Western Hemisphere. Uribe wanted to end drug trafficking in Colombia and the terrorism that came with it.

Uribe had few nuances. He believed the FARC had to be defeated in the battlefield. He was an outspoken critic of Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez. So in 2010, when he could no longer run for President, Uribe backed the man who had carried out his policies as Defense Minister, Juan Manuel Santos.

Uribe and Santos were close allies ... Read More

U.S. sanctions against Venezuelan officials may bring them to the table

| May 30th, 2014 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

EDITORIAL BOARD

FOR YEARS the Obama administration, like its predecessors, has avoided punitive action or even harsh words against the authoritarian, populist government of Venezuela, despite its systematic violations of human rights. The thinking is that Hugo Chávez and now his successor, Nicolás Maduro, would use the United States as a foil, distract attention from their failings and earn unjustified sympathy from other Latin Americans who bridle at any hint of U.S. meddling.

While there is some truth in that argument, it can be self-defeating, as the past decade shows. U.S. policy toward Venezuela has been largely inert — and yet the Chavistas still use Washington as a foil, inventing the conspiracies that Washington has eschewed. The latest instance came Wednesday, when Mr. Maduro ludicrously claimed that the U.S. ambassador to neighboring Colombia had been conspiring with opposition leaders to assassinate him.

The challenge Venezuela poses has become more acute in recent months as mass ... Read More

No Messiah Please, We’re Ecuadorian

| May 28th, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

RAUL GALLEGOS

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa appears to have joined the club of Latin American populists who have trouble relinquishing power. Correa announced over the weekend that he aims to change the constitution so that he — and any other Ecuadorian public official — can run for re-election any number of times.

Correa follows in the footsteps of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, whose cronies in Congress last year passed similar legislation, Bolivia’s Evo Morales, who last year got a pliant Supreme Court toallow him another go at the presidency, and Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chavez, who sold voters the idea of unlimited presidential terms in a 2009 referendum.

Correa, already in his third term in office, is peddling his proposal as a way to safeguard Ecuador’s institutions. “I believe in the stability of institutions,” he told Congress during his annual address to the nation. “That’s why I’ve decided to support these initiatives.”

It is true that Ecuador lacks strong institutions and ... Read More

The 9 Lives of Colombia’s Alvaro Uribe

| May 28th, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

Mac Margolis

Hosts to some of the world’s busiest drug cartels and the hemisphere’s longest guerrilla insurgency, Colombians aren’t easily rattled. But after the first round Sunday of the presidential contest, in which challenger Oscar Ivan Zuluaga bested incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos, even this calloused country of 45 million was impressed.

Not so much with Zuluaga, a bland former finance minister who came from nowhere (the Colombian press dubbed him Zorro) to overtake an incumbent once touted as a shoo-in for re-election. Backed by former President Alvaro Uribe, Zuluaga now heads to the June 15 runoff as the favorite. But what is most remarkable about this electoral battle is that the biggest winner isn’t even on the ballot.

Although Uribe has been out of power since late 2010, he hovers over the election like a combat drone. In March, he became the first ex-president to win a seat in the Colombian Senate. The party he invented ... Read More

Mexico Crude Needs New Markets as U.S. Exports Surge, Citi Says

| May 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

ADAM WILLIAMS

Mexico’s reliance on oil exports to its northern neighbor is being jeopardized by the U.S. shale boom, forcing suppliers to seek new buyers, Citigroup Inc. said.

Mexico, which exports about 880,000 barrels a day of crude to the U.S., is being “pushed out” by its chief trading partner as demand diminishes, according to Ed Morse, global head of commodities research at Citigroup in New York. U.S. imports of Mexican crude fell 13 percent to the lowest in more than 20 years in 2013 because of increased domestic production, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“Something’s got to give,” Morse said yesterday in an interview at the Institute of the Americas energy conference in La Jolla, California. “The U.S. has not been a good neighbor to Venezuela or Mexico in the way the shale revolution has unfolded.”

Production of tight oil and shale gas accounted for almost 90 percent of the U.S.’s crude growth the past ... Read More

Bello: The political tide turns

| May 23rd, 2014 | 1 Comment »
The Economist

BRAZIL likes to think of itself as o país do futebol—the football country. So it is extraordinary that just three weeks before the World Cup kicks off in São Paulo, a recent poll found less than half of Brazilians saying they were happy to host it. True, this may change once the tournament gets going, especially if fears of transport chaos prove misplaced. Yet that poll result betrays not just public anger at the inflated cost of the tournament, but also wider grumpiness.

Although the cup will doubtless see a few protests—some have already begun—the public mood will be tested more clearly in the presidential election on October 5th. Many pundits, especially outsiders, take it for granted that Dilma Rousseff, the president, will win a second term. That is what the polls have long suggested.

Certainly, Ms Rousseff has some formidable electoral assets. She will be able to point to full employment, a ... Read More

Colombian Peace Talks in the Balance in Scandal-Plagued Vote

| May 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

MATHEW BRISTOW AND OSCAR MEDINA

A first round of voting in Colombia’s presidential election this weekend is too close to call after polls reported a surge in support for Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, who opposes President Juan Manuel Santos’ peace talks with Marxist rebels.

Polls published last week show Santos and Zuluaga leading three other candidates in the May 25 ballot, with neither of them gaining a big enough margin to win in the first round. The surveys were taken before a video emerged of Zuluaga talking to an aide who has since been arrested on spying charges.

Santos’ poll lead has evaporated in the past three months as support for Zuluaga more than doubled. The opposition candidate has repeatedly attacked peace talks in Cuba with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, saying he’ll oppose any deal that gives them immunity for crimes or allows them to sit in Congress. The war ... Read More

Santos seeks his finest hour in Colombia

| May 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »
Financial Times

From his campaign bunker, a former cloister, President Juan Manuel Santos describes Colombia’s presidential election on Sunday in Churchillian terms.

“I’m going to persevere. I’ve learnt that from Winston Churchill . . . when you face harsh enemies you must persevere,” Mr Santos, a well-known Anglophile, told the Financial Times. “I am going to win the elections and I am going to reach an agreement and finish this war.”

Mr Santos is running neck and neck with his main rival in what is being seen as a plebiscite on peace talks between the Colombian government and the Farc rebel group aimed at ending one of the world’s longest running guerrilla wars.

The peace talks loom large, partly because none of the leading candidates are proposing any diversion from Colombia’s orthodox economic path. The business-friendly policies and macroeconomic prudence which in recent years have helped the country reap the benefits of high commodity prices and improved security are likely to ... Read More

Colombia’s presidential race engulfed by scandal

| May 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

JOSHUA GOODMAN

BOGOTA, Colombia — Accusations of bribes from drug traffickers, spying and email hacking have turned Colombia’s presidential election into an ugly slugfest that has further polarized a country trying to emerge from its violent past.

The mudslinging has distracted attention from talks with the country’s main rebel group to end the country’s half-century internal conflict, which had been expected to be a key issue going into Sunday’s election.

Much of the blame for the dirty campaigning falls on two former allies whose public feuding has divided Colombia the past four years: President Juan Manuel Santos and his still-powerful predecessor, Alvaro Uribe.

Despite presiding over what may be South America’s best-performing economy, Santos is struggling amid relentless attacks by Uribe and his hand-picked heir, former finance chief Oscar Ivan Zuluaga. Polls say the two are running neck and neck, well ahead of three other candidates but with neither likely to garner the 50 ... Read More

U.S. criticizes Cuba over blocking dissident website

| May 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »
Chicago Tribune

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States criticized Cuban censorship on Thursday after Cubans were blocked from an independent website that is challenging the state monopoly on news on the island.

Dissident Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez started publishing 14ymedio.com on Wednesday, but would-be readers were redirected to another site that is highly critical of her, reflecting the official line.

Sanchez’s site remained blocked to the small minority of Cubans with internet access on Thursday, though it was accessible outside Cuba.

The U.S. State Department stopped short of directly blaming Cuba, referring instead to media reports that the government blocked the site, but it took advantage of the incident to denounce Cuban censorship.

“The Cuban government continues to limit fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression and of the press, freedom of assembly, and the free flow of information to, from, and within the island,” a State Department spokesperson said.

“Cubans deserve the right to freely express themselves ... Read More

Venezuela Blames World Cup for Airline Cutbacks

| May 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »
ABC News

JORGE RUEDA

Blame it on the World Cup. That’s what Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is doing to explain why airlines are slashing flights to the crisis-plagued South American nation.

Alitalia and Panama’s Copa Airlines this month became the latest carriers to cut flights to Caracas over the socialist government’s refusal to allow them to repatriate proceeds from ticket sales inside Venezuela. Foreign airlines say they have the equivalent of $4 billion trapped in the country when sales are converted at the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars per U.S. dollar.

Maduro, who previously has threatened to punish airlines that leave the country, said Thursday that “bourgeois” news media opposed to his government are spreading lies about airlines’ reasons for suspending flights.

Echoing comments a day earlier by Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez, Maduro said carriers aren’t abandoning Venezuela but rather are temporarily adjusting flight schedules to meet demand for flights to ... Read More

Venezuela’s Oil and Debt Gamble

| May 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

Raul Gallegos

Beware the things a mismanaged oil-rich country might do when pressed for money. This rule applies in spades to Venezuela under President Nicolas Maduro.

His administration’s plan to sell $5 billion in bonds issued by state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, or PDVSA, is an apt example. Maduro needs money to repay bondholders, importers, airlines, food companies, carmakers, oil-production suppliers and other creditors. Loading debt onto the company is a sure indication of desperation amid a cash crunch, courtesy of 15 years of failed economic management by Maduro’s leftist mentor, the late Hugo Chavez.

After months of protests, Maduro is under pressure to end shortagesof toilet paper, flour, milk, diapers and, well, you get the picture. It turns out that the $120 billion or more Venezuela derives from annual oil sales isn’t enough. A combination of unsustainable social spending, corruption and cut-rate oil sold to regional allies is pinching the state’s finances. So it isn’t so ... Read More

Venezuela ‘failing in bid to resolve political crisis’

| May 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »
Gulf Times

Impatience with the Venezuelan government is growing over its “total failure” to show good faith in talks to resolve the country’s political crisis, US Secretary of State John Kerry said. Addressing the media during a visit to Mexico City, Kerry said he hoped that sanctions on Venezuela would not be necessary, but that “all options remain on the table.” “The power is in the hands of the government, and the government has to exercise that power in a responsible way in order to make the choices to create stability and a way forward in Venezuela,” Kerry told a news conference. Since anti-government demonstrations began in Venezuela in February, at least 42 people have been killed and more than 800 injured. About 3,000 people have also been arrested, with more than 200 still behind bars. The unrest has been Venezuela’s worst in a decade and drawn attention to the Opec oil producer’s deep economic problems, ... Read More

Background Briefing on Secretary Kerry’s Trip to Mexico

| May 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »
Department of State

Special Briefing

Senior State Department Official

En Route To Mexico City, Mexico May 21, 2014

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So the Secretary had had a couple of trips to Mexico planned previously either on his own or with the President or Vice President. He is, obviously, a member of what the Secretary kicked off last – sorry, the Vice President kicked off last September. This will get better as I drink the coffee.

QUESTION: Are we on the record, by the way?

MODERATOR: Background.

QUESTION: Okay.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: This will get better. He was – he is a member of the High-Level Economic Dialogue with the Vice President kicked off last September and the President announced last May.

QUESTION: So this is not his first trip as Secretary?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It is his first trip.

QUESTION: As Secretary.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: He wasn’t able to go. Yes. He was not able to go on those. Basically, there were crises elsewhere.

QUESTION: Right.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: And so that’s why ... Read More

Cuban Dissident Starts Website, Which Is Promptly Hacked

| May 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal

JOSE DE CORDOBA

Cuba’s state-run Communist media got a bit of unwelcome competition on Wednesday from the island’s best-known dissident blogger.

Yoani Sánchez, who has some 608,000 Twitter followers—nearly 10 times the official Granma newspaper and five times President Raúl Castro—introduced Cuba’s first independent, general-interest website. Ms. Sánchez, 38 years old, said the newspaper had no ideological agenda and was committed to defending “truth, liberty and human rights.”

But the project, called “14ymedio,” was promptly hacked after it went live on Wednesday morning, redirecting viewers inside Cuba to a website critical of Ms. Sánchez. The cyberattack didn’t affect off-island viewers.

“Bad strategy of the Cuban government to redirect our new web 14ymedio.com,” Ms. Sánchez tweeted. “From #Cuba there is nothing as attractive as what is prohibited.”

Cuba’s government didn’t comment on the new website, nor did Granma, which is named after the yacht that brought former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro to the island from Mexico ... Read More

Oil Services Firms Extend $2 Billion in Credit Lines to Venezuela

| May 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal By Kejal Vyas

CARACAS–Venezuela said Wednesday that it will receive $2 billion in credit lines from oil-field service providers Schlumberger, Halliburton Co. and Weatherford International.

The agreement, the latest in a series of financing deals struck between Venezuela and energy companies over the past year, allows the trio to increase activity in the country as it tries to turn around an embattled oil sector and boost crude output, Economy Vice President Rafael Ramirez said in a televised address. He didn’t offer specific terms of the deals.

“All companies that want to get on board with this scheme of financing their work and who understand that we need to double activity in the country are welcome without problems,” said Mr. Ramirez, who also serves as head of national energy giant Petróleos de Venezuela SA.

Schlumberger renewed a $1 billion credit line that it opened up with Venezuela last year, while Halliburton and Weatherford have agreed ... Read More

Kerry Calls on Venezuela to Talk With Opposition

| May 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »
The New York Times

MICHAEL R. GORDON

MEXICO CITY — Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday that President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela had failed to negotiate in good faith with his political opponents and warned that the United States Congress was moving to legislate economic sanctions.

“Regrettably, there has just been a total failure by the government of Venezuela to demonstrate good-faith actions,” Mr. Kerry said during a visit here. “What is important is for the Venezuelan government now to honor the dialogue process and to restore the civil liberties of opposition leaders who have been unjustly imprisoned.”

Mr. Kerry, who is making his first trip to Mexico as secretary of state, met Wednesday with his Mexican counterpart, Jose Antonio Meade, and with Enrique Peña Nieto, the Mexican president.

Both sides sought to highlight promises to further economic and educational ties between Mexico ... Read More

US’ losing patience’ with Venezuela – John Kerry

| May 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »
BBC

US Secretary of State John Kerry has said that impatience with the Venezuelan government is growing across the region over its failure to address the country’s serious political crisis.

Mr Kerry called on President Nicolas Maduro to reopen negotiations with the opposition.

Talks collapsed over a dispute about the release of political prisoners.

At least 42 people, from both sides of the political divide, have been killed in street protests this year.

Speaking during a visit to Mexico, Mr Kerry said that the United States was still considering imposing sanctions against Venezuela, but he hoped such measures would not be necessary.

“The power is in the hands of the government, and the government has to exercise that power in a responsible way in order to make the choices to create stability and a way forward in Venezuela,” he said.

Mr Kerry criticised the government’s “total failure” to show good faith during the talks, which are ... Read More

Menendez: The Venezuelan Nightmare

| May 20th, 2014 | No Comments »
From CNN

Editor’s note: Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) – Images of repression and brutality against peaceful protesters demanding democracy and the elimination of corruption are not limited to Ukraine.

In our hemisphere, Venezuelans are suffering at the hands of their own government. Violence and systematic human rights abuses have resulted in 41 dead, hundreds injured, and thousands detained.

These rights violations in Venezuela were chronicled this month by Human Rights Watch in a 103-page report, entitled “Punished for Protesting: Rights Violations in Venezuela’s Streets, Detention Centers, and Justice System.”

The study pulls back the veil of President Nicolas Maduro’s administration and shows its willingness to go to dangerous extremes to silence political dissent.

It depicts an unraveling situation in Venezuela far worse than suspected. The litany of rights violations is illustrated in graphic fashion: the unlawful use ... Read More

The U.S. will maintain its request for FARC leaders

| May 20th, 2014 | No Comments »
El Tiempo-01

Even if a peace agreement is signed with the FARC, the United States will insist on extradition.

SERGIO GOMEZ MASERI

The new U.S. Ambassador to Bogota, Kevin Whitaker, made this clear in the answers he submitted in writing to the U.S. Senate as part of his confirmation process to the position to which he was appointed by President Barack Obama, which were seen by this paper.

The questionnaire given to this newspaper by sources in the U.S. Senate include several questions about the future of relations between the two countries if an agreement were to be reached in Havana.

“I will vigorously support our efforts to ensure that individuals that have been accused in U.S. are extradited,” said Whitaker who arrived in the country 15 days ago after a long confirmation process that took almost seven months.

In one section, Whitaker was asked if the U.S. would support a peace process that does not put ... Read More

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