Archive for the ‘English’ Category

High Cost, Corruption Claims Mar Brazil World Cup

| May 13th, 2014 | No Comments »
Real Clear World-01

Bradley Brooks

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) – The cost of building Brasilia’s World Cup stadium has nearly tripled to $900 million in public funds, largely due to allegedly fraudulent billing, government auditors say. The spike in costs has made it the world’s second-most expensive soccer arena, even though the city has no major professional team.

Mane Garrincha stadium, which boasts 288 imposing concrete pillars holding aloft a high-tech self-cleaning roof, has become the costliest project related to Brazil’s $11.5 billion World Cup. Critics call it the poster child for out-of-control spending and mismanagement, or worse.

Now, an Associated Press analysis of data from Brazil’s top electoral court shows skyrocketing campaign contributions by the very companies involved in the most Cup projects. The lead builder of Brasilia’s stadium increased its political donations 500-fold in the most recent election.

The financial links between construction firms and politicians add to deep suspicions among Brazilians that preparations for soccer’s premier event ... Read More

Brazil down to the wire on World Cup preparations

| May 13th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

Mimi Whitefield

With one month to go before the FIFA World Cup opens in Brazil, two new stadiums still haven’t had a full dress rehearsal, security concerns are mounting, and there are still big questions of how airports will handle the crush of traveling fans.

Brazil got off to a slow start in its World Cup preparations and this country where soccer is king has been playing catch-up ever since. Three of the arenas — Corinthians in Sao Paulo, Baixada in Curitiba and Cuiabá’s Pantanal stadium, where a worker was electrocuted and died Thursday — have cut completion times precariously short.

As the countdown begins for the opening match — Brazil vs. Croatia in Sao Paulo on June 12 — keeping potential violence in check also is shaping up as a major concern in some of the 12 World Cup host cities.

Even though FIFA, the international soccer governing organization, initially wanted work on ... Read More

Honduras Extradites Drug Suspect to US, a First

| May 9th, 2014 | No Comments »
ABC News

Honduras has extradited a suspected drug trafficker to the United States for the first time, the U.S. State Department said Friday.

Carlos Arnoldo Lobo, 40, was extradited on Thursday, spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement.

Lobo, who is indicted on U.S. drug trafficking charges in the Southern District of Florida, was arrested March 27 when Honduran security forces surprised him in a bakery in San Pedro Sula near the Caribbean coast. His extradition was approved in April, and the Supreme Court upheld it last week.

Also in April, the U.S. Treasury Department levied sanctions against Lobo under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act for allegedly moving multi-ton loads of cocaine for Mexican, Guatemalan and Honduran drug kingpins and their organizations.

The action seized his property and interests in property in the United States and prohibits U.S. citizens from engaging in transactions with him.

The Treasury Department alleges that ... Read More

Raul Castro’s reforms fail to end Cuba’s chronic shortages

| May 9th, 2014 | No Comments »

May 9 (Reuters) – In a land where the potato is scarce, black marketeers peddle tubers in hushed tones, like drug dealers on a big city street corner. A months-long reduction in the beer supply has made Cubans cranky. Worse still, some lovers have struggled to find condoms.

Despite market-oriented reforms enacted by President Raul Castro, the communist-run country still encounters chronic shortages.

Some reforms have led to a boom in food production, but other measures such as reducing imports and cracking down on the black market may be aggravating the shortfalls.

Shortages are inevitable in a Soviet-style, command economy, and in Cuba’s case it has been made worse by the comprehensive U.S. trade embargo imposed in the early years after the 1959 revolution.

Many Cubans have come to consider shortages normal, providing both a source of frustration and humor. Shoppers routinely swap tips on where to find the basic and the obscure. Others trudge ... Read More

Ros-Lehtinen Venezuela Sanctions Bill Passes House Foreign Affairs Committee and Clears First Legislative Hurdle to Hold Maduro Regime Accountable

| May 9th, 2014 | No Comments »
US House of Representatives

 “The House Foreign Affairs Committee has acted this morning in one bipartisan voice condemning the human rights violations occurring in Venezuela.”

(WASHINGTON) – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, made the following statement at a House Foreign Affairs Committee markup in which the Committee overwhelmingly voted in favor of sanctioning Maduro regime officials responsible for human rights violations in Venezuela. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:

“The House Foreign Affairs Committee has acted this morning in one bipartisan voice condemning the human rights violations occurring in Venezuela. Passage of my bill, H.R. 4587 – the Venezuela Human Rights and Democracy Protection Act – from the committee sends a strong message to Maduro that the United States Congress is well aware of the ongoing abuses perpetuated by his regime, and that they will not go unpunished. I thank my colleagues on ... Read More

Colombian peace talks at stake in presidential election

| May 8th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

By Helen Murphy and Luis Jaime Acosta

VILLAVICENCIO, Colombia (Reuters) – Peace talks to end five decades of war are on the line in Colombia’s election this month with President Juan Manuel Santos fighting for a second term while opponents accuse him of giving up too much to Marxist rebels at the negotiating table.

Just three weeks shy of voting, the battle between the top two candidates has heated up and the peace talks are at the center of the campaign.

Santos is staking his reputation on negotiating a deal with guerrilla leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, (FARC) but his main right-wing rival, Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, says the peace process is deeply flawed.

Santos says the talks could collapse if he is not re-elected on May 25.

“I’d rather it wasn’t like that, but with other people this peace process wouldn’t have the same future,” he told Reuters on Tuesday in the ... Read More

Venezuela arrests hundreds of youths in crackdown on protests

| May 8th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

By Jorge Silva and Eyanir Chinea

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan security forces on Thursday rounded up hundreds of youth activists camped in public spaces as part of protests against President Nicolas Maduro, an effort to snuff out the waning demonstration movement.

Troops staged pre-dawn raids to break up four improvised tent camps decorated with Venezuelan flags and signs bearing protest slogans, one of which had for weeks been blocking traffic along a main avenue of the capital.

Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez said soldiers arrested 243 people, accusing the students of using the camps as a base of operations to stage violent protests in other parts of the city.

“(Troops) impounded drugs, weapons, explosives … all of the things that they were using every day to violent confront security forces every day,” Torres told state television.

The near-daily protests of February and March, which saw clouds of tear gas and barricades of burning trash and tires, have ... Read More

Maduro wards off ‘Venezuela Spring’ but troubles not over

| May 8th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

(Reuters) – A few weeks ago, Plaza Altamira in Caracas was teeming with thousands of highly-charged students baying for an end to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government.

Now, barely a dozen activists remain in the spacious 1940s square dabbling with posters. Beside them, crosses, flowers and photos lain on the floor mark the students’ dead.

“Maduro’s still there, isn’t he? And so are all the problems. It didn’t go as we wanted,” lamented student Eduardo Ortega, painting “resistance” in black letters on a sheet.

“People got tired, civil society didn’t support us, and the students are divided. But this isn’t over. We’re going to a second phase, you’ll see,” added Ortega, 26, his banner naming a litany of problems: shortages, crime, inflation.

Demonstrators took to the streets across the nation from early February, many dreaming of a “Venezuelan Spring” that would sweep Hugo Chavez’s hand-picked successor from power and end 15 years of socialist ... Read More

Oil exploration in Ecuador: Out for the count

| May 8th, 2014 | 1 Comment »
The Economist

ON MAY 6th Ecuador’s National Electoral Commission (CNE) rejected another 239,342 signatures collected by environmental activists in a bid to trigger a referendum on planned oil development in the Yasuní National Park. In total the CNE approved just 359,762 signatures, leaving the activists, who are known as Yasunidos, well short of the 583,323, or 5% of the electoral roll, required to hold a referendum.

In disqualifying two-thirds of the near 800,000 signatures initially put forward, CNE officials said that they found enough fictitious names and repeat signatures to consider the whole initiative deceitful. The Yasunidos allege something similar, calling the CNE count a “fraud”; the activists say they plan to take the case to Ecuador’s administrative court and if that fails, as they expect, to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Although nominally independent, the CNE has suffered accusations of bias before. In 2012 the body rejected hundreds of thousands of signatures required to ... Read More

Marco Rubio: Impose sanctions on Maduro regime

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

MARCO RUBIO

This week, the U.S. Senate will focus its attention on the ongoing political crisis in Venezuela, its government’s violent repression of peaceful demonstrations, and actions the U.S. government should take to confront the corruption and human rights abuses that are central to the regime’s governing philosophy.

Today, President Nicolás Maduro’s Venezuela is plagued by the second highest murder rate in the world, rampant corruption and cronyism related to state assets, a 57 percent inflation rate that some suggest is actually higher, a junk rating on the global bond markets, and unprecedented scarcity of basic goods, even for toilet paper.

So scarce are basic goods that, in addition to Maduro’s direct assault on press freedom — through censorship, expulsions, intimidation and nationalizations of once independent entities — silencing the media is now easier in Venezuela because of a lack of paper on which newspapers can be printed.

Despite its vast energy resources, well-educated ... Read More

Guatemala Considers Taxing Opium Poppies

| May 8th, 2014 | No Comments »
Newsweek

LONDON (Reuters) – Guatemala is considering the possibility of earning taxes from the sale of opium poppies to help fund drug prevention programmes and other social spending, the country’s interior minister said on Wednesday.

The Central American state is looking at ways to legalize poppy and marijuana production, part of a broader shift in attitudes across Latin America away from the huge financial and social costs of the U.S.-backed war on drugs.

“That is one idea that has been raised,” said Mauricio Lopez Bonilla, a retired lieutenant colonel who served with Guatemala’s special forces, when asked if the government would tax the sale of poppies if it opted to allow their cultivation for medical purposes.

“That option would mean raising taxes, fundamental resources for prevention, resources that could be used by the Guatemalan state for social development,” he told Reuters in an interview.

Almost all of Guatemala’s poppy production is concentrated in three municipalities ... Read More

Mexico Sees First Private Oil Contracts in 2015

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

Mexican officials said Monday they expect to open bidding on the first round of private oil contracts in the first half of 2015.

A constitutional reform passed last year opened the state-owned energy sector to private investment. But enabling legislation is still before congress.

Assistant Energy Secretary Lourdes Melgar said the first round of bidding is expected to offer a range of onshore, offshore and deep water fields.

Melgar said Mexico hopes to have private companies producing a half million barrels of oil a day by 2018, while state-owned oil company Petroleos Mexicanos should maintain production at about 2.5 million barrels a day.

Mexican tax authorities said they expect government revenue, on average, to be about 50 percent of production value from private projects operated under contract, license or concession.

Petroleos Mexicanos, known as Pemex, will have first choice of which fields to develop. Those announcements are expected by ... Read More

Bolivia to hold presidential election on Oct. 12

| May 1st, 2014 | No Comments »
From Fox News Latino

Bolivia will hold its next presidential election on Oct. 12, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal announced Wednesday.

Incumbent Evo Morales, the first indigenous president of the majority-Indian nation, is seeking a third consecutive term.

The tribunal designated Dec. 7 as the date for a runoff, if no candidate secures a majority in the initial balloting.

Voters will elect the president, vice president, senators and members of the lower house in the balloting.

In addition, for the first time the public will select Bolivia’s representatives in regional bodies such as the Andean Parliament.

The vote is sure to be marked by controversy, as some say Morales’ bid for a third term is unconstitutional.

Bolivia’s 2009 constitution limits the head of state to two consecutive terms.

Morales came to power in January 2006.

However, a ruling by the Constitutional Court allowed Morales’ new candidacy, arguing that his first mandate does not count because it took place before the adoption of the ... Read More

Canadian parliament member warns Cuba investors

| May 1st, 2014 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

By Juan O. Tamayo jtamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com

A senior Canadian parliament member has taken a punch at Cuba’s new foreign investment law, saying that one of his constituents has been jailed on the island since 2011 without trial and has been offered leniency if he pays questionable debts.“The international financial community should ponder long and hard the investment blandishments of Cuban ministers, diplomats and trade officials,” said Peter Kent, chairman of the House of Commons Defense Committee.

“Reality is at stark odds with the platitudes” of those officials, Kent added, going on to detail the case of his constituent, Cy Tokmakjian, one of several foreign businessmen jailed in Cuba on what they say are fraudulent corruption charges.

Tokmakjian, 73, a Canadian citizen of Lebanese descent, is president of Tokmakjian Group, at one point the second largest Canadian firm operating in Cuba. He has been jailed since Sept. 10, 2011 for investigation by Interior Ministry officials.

Kent described ... Read More

Venezuela to raise minimum wage by 30%, Maduro says

| May 1st, 2014 | No Comments »
BBC

Venezuela will raise the minimum wage by 30% on 1 May, President Nicolas Maduro has announced.

He said he would also raise pensions by the same amount.

The increase is below the level of annual inflation, which official figures put at 56.2% for 2013.

The announcement comes after almost three months of mass protests against Mr Maduro’s government triggered by rising inflation, shortages of some basic goods and a high crime rate.

Dollar shortage

In an address to workers from different key sectors, Mr Maduro said he hoped that “by the end of the year, we will be choking off and overcoming (…) inflation”.

Supporters of Mr Maduro say his government has helped lift many out of poverty

He said that on May Day, the minimum wage would go up from 3,270 bolivars ($520; £310) to 4,252 bolivars.

Critics say that while the new minimum salary amounts to $675 at the government-set exchange rate, it adds up to ... Read More

Brazil’s election: Dilma’s fragile lead

| April 30th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Economist

FOR a long time Dilma Rousseff looked invincible. Even huge nationwide protests last June, when millions of Brazilians took to the streets to air assorted grievances and disaffection with politicians, were not enough to depress the president’s approval ratings below 45%. Her popularity quickly rebounded; Ms Rousseff seemed poised for a first-round win in a presidential election this October. A new poll, however, confirms what many observers have been saying for months: that Ms Rousseff’s lead is more fragile than she and her Workers’ Party (PT) would care to admit.

The latest figures, published on April 29th by CNT/MDA, a pollster, found that 48% of Brazilians approve of the president, down from 55% in February and in line with other recent polling data. Should this dip below 40%, reckons João Castro Neves of Eurasia Group, a consultancy, her re-election would be in serious doubt.

Defeat is certainly no longer inconceivable. Inflation remains ... Read More

Cuba’s Raul Castro receives Russian foreign minister

| April 30th, 2014 | No Comments »
From Fox News Latino

Cuban President Raul Castro and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met Tuesday in Havana to review bilateral relations, Cuba’s official media said.

The two men “noted with satisfaction the excellent state of their bilateral relations, in constant development and with a promising future,” state news agency AIN said.

The Cuban president and the Russian foreign minister also exchanged opinions on current international affairs.

The meeting took place after Lavrov had official talks Tuesday with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez as part of a tour of Latin America, with Cuba as its first stop.

The tour will also take him to Nicaragua, Peru and Chile.

Speaking at the Cuban Foreign Ministry, Lavrov spoke of the “brotherhood” existing between Havana and Moscow, and expressed gratitude for the island’s understanding and “stout” support of Russia with regard to the crisis in Ukraine.

Besides the meetings with Cuban dignitaries, his agenda in Havana also includes a review of the bilateral ... Read More

Venezuelan ex-intelligence chief Eliecer Otaiza killed

| April 30th, 2014 | No Comments »
BBC

A former chief of Venezuela’s intelligence service, Eliecer Otaiza, was killed on Saturday, officials have revealed.

Maj Otaiza, a friend and ally of the late president Hugo Chavez, was shot dead outside the capital, Caracas.

President Nicolas Maduro said police would investigate the “suspicious” circumstances of his death.

Maj Otaiza was elected in December as local councillor for the governing PSUV party for the Libertadores area.

Police said the motive for his killing was not yet clear.

The body was discovered on Saturday on the outskirts of the capital with four bullet wounds, said Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres.

The minister added that the major was found without any documents which is why it took police until Monday to identify the body, which had been taken to a local morgue.

He said the subsequent discovery of Maj Otaiza’s stolen and bullet-riddled car led them to suspect the body was that of the councillor.

Maj Otaiza had last ... Read More

Venezuela Not Paying Airlines $3.9 Billion Promised: IATA

| April 30th, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

Anatoly Kurmanaev

Venezuela’s government isn’t honoring its pledge to provide as much as $3.9 billion to airlines with bolivars trapped in the country, said the International Air Transport Association, known as IATA.

President Nicolas Maduro last month authorized the release of dollars owed to 24 airlines operating in the country, basing the total on the official exchange rate at the time of the ticket sales, Venezuelan Airlines Association President Humberto Figuera told reporters March 28.

“Since then there has been very little progress,” Tony Tyler, IATA’s General Director, said in a statementpublished on the organization’s website today. “The situation is unacceptable.”

Press officials at Venezuela’s Air Transport Ministry didn’t immediately return messages left by Bloomberg News.

At least 11 airlines have cut capacity on Venezuelan flights in the past year, some by as much as 78 percent, as the currency controls made it increasingly difficult to expatriate local earnings, according IATA. Air Canada stopped flying to Caracas in March.

The ... Read More

Reduced Speed, Rising Challenges: IMF Outlook for Latin America and the Caribbean

| April 29th, 2014 | No Comments »
InterAmerican Security Watch

By Alejandro Werner

International Monetary Fund

The prospects for global growth have brightened in recent months, led by a stronger recovery in the advanced economies. Yet in Latin America and the Caribbean, growth will probably continue to slow, although some countries will do better than others. We analyze the challenges facing the region in our latest Regional Economic Outlook and discuss how policymakers can best deal with them.

Still losing speed

Growth in the region has been on the decline since 2010. 2014 is unlikely to be an exception. Based on our latest projections, regional output will expand by just 2½ percent, the lowest  rate in eleven years—excluding 2009, when the global financial crisis took its toll. The slowdown in investment over the past few years has been even more pronounced (Figure 1).

We project that not all countries will decelerate in 2014. In fact, Mexico and a number of economies in Central America and the Caribbean are primed ... Read More

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