Archive for the ‘English’ Category

U.S. helping Colombia quell Marxist guerrilla group

| April 8th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article Appeared in The Washington Times

BY ABRAHAM MAHSHIE

This impoverished port town on the Pacific coast has become ground zero for the Colombian government’s U.S.-funded efforts to quell a Marxist guerrilla rebellion and eradicate the drug trade, which serves as the group’s main source of financing.

Caught in the middle are Tumaco’s 100,000 or so residents.

Half of them live in poverty in Colombia’s “red zone,” where deadly violence is a constant threat. Late last month, two police officers were kidnapped and executed on the outskirts of town. Two other officers met the same fate in February. Guerrillas pay $1,000 to anyone who kills a cop, police say.

“The national government has practically abandoned us,” said Santo Banguera, 50, an Afro-Colombian farmer who cultivates a small plot of land and lives with his wife and four sons in a wooden shack. “There is fear here.”

Focus on Tumaco has intensified amid peace talks between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces ... Read More

Alan Gross, U.S. contractor held in Cuba, goes on hunger strike

| April 8th, 2014 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

BY KAREN DEYOUNG

Alan Gross, the U.S. government contractor who has been imprisoned in Cuba for more than four years, began a hunger strike last week to protest his treatment by both the Cuban and U.S. governments, his lawyer said Tuesday.

“I am fasting to object to mistruths, deceptions, and inaction by both governments, not only regarding their shared responsibility for my arbitrary detention, but also because of the lack of any reasonable or valid effort to resolve this shameful ordeal,” Gross said in a telephoned statement to his legal team.

As he has many times before, Gross called on President Obama to become personally involved in efforts to free him from “inhumane treatment” in a Cuban prison.

Gross was arrested in 2009 for distributing Internet and other communications materials in Cuba under a program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. He was sentenced to 15 years for crimes against the Cuban ... Read More

Venezuela opposition set terms for talks with president

| April 8th, 2014 | No Comments »
BBC

A coalition of Venezuelan opposition parties says it is willing to enter into talks with the government as long as certain conditions are met.

The meeting was proposed by foreign ministers of the Unasur regional group to put an end to two months of anti-government protests.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro had earlier agreed to take part.

It is not yet clear though whether his government will agree to the terms demanded by the opposition.

‘True dialogue’

In a letter addressed to the Unasur delegation, the umbrella opposition group Table for Democratic Unity (MUD) said it was “willing to hold a true dialogue, with a clear agenda, equal conditions [for both sides] and the first meeting of which will be transmitted live on national radio and television channels”.

MUD Executive Secretary Ramon Guillermo Aveledo said the opposition said the presence of an independent arbiter would also be “indispensable to guarantee, facilitate and, if necessary, mediate”.

He said ... Read More

Venezuela: Two Of Opposition Leader Leopoldo Lopez’s Closest Friends Found Dead

| April 8th, 2014 | No Comments »
From Fox News Latino

Two close friends of Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López were found dead Sunday in a Caracas park, where they had gone cycling the day before. One of them, Luis Daniel Gómez, had actually grown up with Lopez in the same house and they were considered brothers.

Gómez, 36, and Gustavo Giménez, 40, were shot in the head and had their cell phones stolen. Giménez was a wealthy contractor and cousin of Lorenzo Mendoza, leader of Empresas Polar, the largest private group in the country. According to the Venezuelan website reportero24, he was also a relative of Lopez, who has spent the last month and a half in a military jail and was charged last week with several crimes, including criminal incitement.

Despite the connections with the jailed leader, so far Giménez and Gómez’s killings are being attributed to street crime. El Paísnewspaper reports that they were attacked Saturday evening while exercising, and that when the ... Read More

Venezuelan TV Journalist Kidnapped by Armed Men

| April 8th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press

The father of a Venezuelan TV journalist says his daughter has been kidnapped by armed, masked men in the western section of the capital of Caracas.

Luis Pinto said Monday that his daughter Nairobi Pinto was taken hostage Sunday afternoon at the entrance to the building where she lives. She is the chief of correspondents for the Globovision news channel and her whereabouts remain unknown.

The elder Pinto called on the kidnappers to free his daughter during an interview with the local broadcaster Union Radio.

Police have not commented on the case.

Venezuela is among the most violent countries in Latin America. During a month and a half of ongoing protests, demonstrators have complained about high crime rates, along with soaring inflation and the scarcity of basic goods.

 

Click here for ... Read More

Ecuador bonds: saying adios to China?

| April 8th, 2014 | No Comments »
Beyond Brics

BY ANDRES SCHIPANI

Wasn’t it the case, about five years ago, that Ecuador’s foreign debt was “illegitimate” and its bondholders “real monsters”?

Well, it seems time cures everything. Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s leftwing president, said at the weekend his country was planning its first international bond issue since defaulting on $3.2bn of foreign debt in 2008 – and, six months later, buying most of it back at 35 cents on the dollar.

“We will place bonds in the international market,” he said in an interview broadcast by state television on Sunday. “There will be an operation on the open market this year, I think around $700m in bonds.”

This is not the first time there have been rumours in the past year of Ecuador’s impending return to global markets and it seems friendly overtures have been made to Wall Street. But this time, Correa sounded especially determined and is reported to be preparing meetings with investors. Analysts believe an issue could take ... Read More

The buzz in Cuba

| April 8th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

The Obama administration’s recently exposed program to provide a text-messaging service for ordinary citizens in Cuba is a commendable effort to break the Castro government’s information monopoly. We hope they don’t quit trying. Critics of the program like Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., called it “dumb, dumb, dumb” as soon as the Associated Press published a report last week on the short-lived Twitter-like program that ran out of funding in 2012. What would be really dumb, though, is to sit back silently and do nothing while Cuba’s 11 million people are kept from hearing or reading any information except what bears the government’s stamp of approval.

Keep in mind that among the most successful programs of the Cold War were those like Radio Free Europe and communications support for groups like Solidarity in Poland that gave citizens of Soviet bloc countries vital information they could not get elsewhere.

These programs managed to foil ... Read More

USAID Defends ‘Cuban Twitter’ Program

| April 7th, 2014 | 2 Comments »
The Washington Free Beacon

Former and current U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) officials are defending the agency’s controversial social media program in Cuba as a legitimate tool for promoting freedom of expression in the communist country.

The Associated Press reported last week that USAID oversaw the creation of a “Cuban Twitter” known as ZunZuneo—slang for a Cuban hummingbird’s tweet.

The program was designed to facilitate “non-controversial” conversations before eventually organizing “smart mobs” against the government, according to documents quoted by the Associated Press.

The social media platform gained more than 40,000 subscribers between 2010 and 2012 before running out of funding.

The report raised an outcry from some lawmakers who said they were not briefed on the social networking program.

However, both former and current USAID officials say the program was not covert. Lawmakers had the opportunity to receive briefings on the program, which was reviewed by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Jose Cardenas, former USAID acting assistant administrator for Latin ... Read More

Venezuela Protests: Background and Potential Fallout

| April 7th, 2014 | No Comments »
InterAmerican Security Watch

GEOPOLITICAL MONITOR

ZACHARY FILLINGHAM

Venezuela has been in the grip of nationwide protests since mid-February, when students in the states of Tachira and Merida took to the streets demanding increased security after a student was almost raped on her university campus. Since then the protests have expanded in size, spreading to the capital Caracas and beyond. Their scope has also grown, as the movement is no longer just about law and order, but a myriad of other issues reflecting popular wariness towards the policies of the late Hugo Chavez and his successor Nicolas Maduro.

The official number of people killed in ongoing unrest stands at 39, with casualties reported on both sides of the conflict.

It must be stressed that these protests are being driven by economic problems that are real, persistent, and that defy any easy policy answer from a Maduro government often constrained by its own ideology.  They include: runaway inflation (57 percent); shortages ... Read More

Taking protests to Caracas’ slums

| April 7th, 2014 | No Comments »
DW

Some protest leaders in Venezuela have recently changed tactics: they’re now seeking support from slum dwellers, who have long been the backbone of support for the country’s ruling Socialist government.

Listen to the latest reporting on the situation.

Click here for audio.

Read More

Nicaragua looks to Russia to modernize army

| April 7th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Nicaragua Dispatch

BY TIM ROGERS

The Sandinista government is turning to its old cold war arms benefactor to modernize its military and beef up its national defense capabilities.

In a speech to the Nicaraguan Army on April 4, President Daniel Ortega insisted that Nicaragua has the right to arm itself with modern weaponry, and again is looking to Russia to supply its military buildup.

Comparing today with the cold war, Ortega said Russian military support for Nicaragua is as important as ever.

“It’s just as important now to defend our right, the right that we Nicaraguans have to arm ourselves, to strengthen ourselves militarily; we have to modernize the army to provide these services,” Ortega said. “It’s just that simple.”

Since Nicaragua acquired an additional 100,000 sq km of territorial waters in the 2012 ruling by the International Court of Justice, the impoverished Central American nation has been trying desperately to beef-up its ill-equipped army to better ... Read More

Rousseff Loses Support for Brazil Election in Datafolha Poll

| April 7th, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s re-election bid lost support in a poll conducted by Datafolha as faster inflation and slower growth damaged her government’s popularity. She still had more than the level of support a candidate will need to win the first round this year.

Rousseff’s support fell to 38 percent from 44 percent in February in a poll that pitched her against opposition candidates Aecio Neves and Eduardo Campos. Support for Senator Neves, from the Brazilian Social Democracy Party, was unchanged at 16 percent. Former governor of Pernambuco state Campos garnered 10 percent, little changed from February, according to the April 2-3 survey of 2,637 people. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Rousseff, who is expected to run for a second term in October, has been struggling to contain consumer prices while reviving economic growth that slowed to an average 2 percent during her first ... Read More

Venezuela charges opposition leader, protests erupt

| April 7th, 2014 | No Comments »
From AFP

Protests erupted in Caracas late Friday after Venezuela’s attorney general charged jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez with responsibility for anti-government demonstrations that have shaken the country since February.

Riot police fired tear gas at crowds of rock-throwing demonstrators in the Chacao neighborhood in what has become an almost regular nightly ritual.

In an ominous sign of possible escalation, a masked man was photographed moving among the protesters armed with what appeared to be a rifle with a telescopic sight.

Leftist President Nicolas Maduro more than once has decried the existence of sharpshooters among the most radical protesters. The government claims the protests are part of a coup attempt orchestrated by the United States and right-wing Colombians.

The protesters, in turn, have long complained about harassment from gangs of armed, semi-official pro-government thugs.

Thirty-nine people have died and another 608 have been wounded since crowds took to the streets in early ... Read More

Kirchner Targets Argentina’s Military for Revenge

| April 7th, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01

BY MARY ANASTASIA O’GRADY

Popular leaders in Latin America often meet little resistance when they strip unpopular citizens of their civil liberties. But the exercise of even a little authoritarian power is like an appetizer. It increases the hunger for more.

Cuba in 1959 was an obvious example. So too was Argentina’s right-wing military dictatorship, which became a law unto itself in the aftermath of the 1976 coup.

Now Argentine President Cristina Kirchner is taking her country down the same illiberal path by denying due process to some 1,600 prisoners who were members of the military or police in the 1970s. Argentines and the international community have largely remained silent about this travesty of justice, presumably because the military government was so unpopular. They are likely to be sorry.

The Cuban precedent is instructive. Two months after Fidel Castro defeated Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, 43 members of the Cuban air force, selected at random, were tried ... Read More

EDITORIAL: A U.S. plan to help Cubans communicate should be applauded

| April 7th, 2014 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

EDITORIAL

Human Rights Watch’s 2014 annual report paints a somber picture of political life in Cuba. “The Cuban government continues to repress individuals and groups who criticize the government or call for basic human rights,” the report notes. “The government controls all media outlets in Cuba and tightly restricts access to outside information, severely limiting the right to freedom of expression. Only a tiny fraction of Cubans are able to read independent websites and blogs because of the high cost of and limited access to the Internet.”

It is worse than scandalous that Cuba’s 11 million people are still trapped under these conditions some 55 years after Fidel and Raul Castro came to power on a promise of national liberation. Yet a recent story in the U.S. press and comments by certain U.S. politicians about it imply that Americans should be terribly upset about the Obama administration’s efforts to relieve the Cuban nightmare.

We refer to ... Read More

Caracas chaos: Venezuelan general on the run

| April 6th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Telegraph

BY PHILIP SHERWELL

The instructions were straight from the pages of a thriller. We were to park our vehicle in an underground car park, leave behind our mobile phones to avoid tracking, walk through a shopping mall and make our way to another garage in the basement.

We followed the directions and were duly greeted by a flash of headlights.

The driver then screeched off a one-hour night-time dash through the protest-filled streets of Caracas, frequently doubling back and stopping to ensure that there was no tail, until we pulled up on a dimly lit suburban road.

A stocky bearded figure, baseball cap pulled low on his brow, hopped in to the front seat. “Good evening,” he said in heavily accented English before giving the driver the address for a nearby safe-house.

The new passenger was Antonio Rivero, a former general who went into hiding in February to avoid arrest for his role in the ... Read More

Bob Corker Blocking Venezuela Sanctions Bill

| April 5th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Washington Free Beacon

Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) is said to be standing in the way of a bipartisan bill aimed at sanctioning human rights abusers in Venezuela, where anti-government protesters have come under violent attack by supporters of its socialist government.

The bipartisan bill introduced in March by Sens. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) and Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) would impose sanctions on those responsible for violently targeting Venezuela’s anti-government protesters who are seeking to depose Socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

The bill had been sent last month to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where Menendez serves as chairman.

However, Corker is currently obstructing Menendez from adding the bill to the committee’s mark-up agenda, effectively delaying any action on it and preventing it from moving forward, according to Senate insiders familiar with the situation.

Rubio hinted that the bill was hitting delays during a recent interview on the Hugh Hewitt radio show.

Asked by Hewitt how the sanctions legislation is proceeding, Rubio responded, ... Read More

El Salvador murders surge as gang truce fades

| April 4th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

BY NELSON RENTERIA

The number of murders in the small Central American country of El Salvador rose 44 percent in the first three months of 2014 compared with the same period last year, leaving a two-year-old truce still in force between violent gangs hanging by a thread.

There were 794 murders from January to end of March, up from 551 over the same period last year, El Salvador’s Institute of Legal Medicine said on Thursday.

It attributed the rise to increasingly tough police tactics against the violent street gangs that have run riot in the country for years.

More aggressive policing has squeezed the gangs’ revenue sources, so they are increasingly battling each other for income.

“The police have taken a slightly stronger position of confrontation with the criminals, as it should be, but there has also been a response from the criminals,” the institute’s director, Miguel Fortin, told reporters.

The rise in murders comes two ... Read More

Venezuela street battles leave seven injured

| April 4th, 2014 | No Comments »
From AFP

Venezuelan riot police fired water cannons and tear gas at stone-throwing student protesters in the capital Caracas, leaving at least seven injured.

Demonstrators had initially been riled by armed vigilantes they link to the government. Riding motorcycles, the men had fired guns into the air at the Central University of Venezuela’s campus.

Students, some of them masked, beat two motorcyclists.

The confrontations were the latest violence in two months of near-daily protests against President Nicolas Maduro’s government that have seen 39 people killed and 550 injured. Hundreds of opposition and student demonstrators have been detained.

A march called by student leaders had sought to leave the university for the offices of the vice president who is in charge of the economy when the national guard and riot police intercepted them.

The injured suffered bruises, fractures and open wounds, student leader Hilda Rubi Gonzalez said, adding that they were all in “stable” condition.

At least four photojournalists ... Read More

Argentina’s Economy: Creeping toward normality

| April 4th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Economist

Acquaintances of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner say obstinacy is her biggest flaw. Since the start of the year Argentina’s precarious economic situation has forced Ms Fernández to show some flexibility. In January came monetary adjustments:devaluation and interest-rate hikes. In February there was a new, more credible consumer-price index to replace the old one, sullied by seven years of government manipulation; a revised GDP estimate for 2013, of 3% growth, has since followed. An agreement with Repsol for the seizure of YPF, the state oil firm, was also notched up.

Now the economy ministry has begun to send signals that it is willing to make important fiscal changes as well. On March 27th Axel Kicillof and Julio de Vido, Argentina’s ministers of economy and planning respectively, announced that the government would slash natural-gas and water subsidies by a total of 20%.Most utility prices have been virtually frozen for the past decade. The initial aim ... Read More

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