Archive for the ‘Venezuela’ Category

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

Venezuela Running ‘On Fumes’ As Bolivar Weakens

| May 27th, 2015 | No Comments »
Barrons

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 »
Bloomberg

By Nathan Crooks

The 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 dolartoday.com, a widely watched website that tracks the exchange rate in the Colombian border city of Cucuta.

While steep, the ... 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 »
Bloomberg

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

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

Venezuela’s #2 targeted in U.S. drug probe has faced slew of corruption allegations

| May 21st, 2015 | No Comments »
From Fox News Latino

By Franz von Bergen

CARACAS, VENEZUELA –  The man at the center of a major U.S. drug-trafficking investigation involving top members of the Venezuelan government is the Speaker of the National Assembly and the country’s second most powerful man, 53-year-old Diosdado Cabello Rondón.

A longtime ally of late President Hugo Chavez, whom he met while in the Military Academy back in the 80s, Cabello is known these days as Chavismo´s main bully and has repeatedly been accused of corruption.

As President Nicolas Maduro, and President Chavez before him, Cabello also has his own weekly TV show television, in which he mostly attacks opposition leaders and other “enemies” of the so-called revolution. He calls his sources “patriotas cooperantes” (cooperating patriots), infiltrated revolutionary agents who work all over the country collecting data about possible conspiracies against the government or other politically useful information.

After Chávez’s death in 2013, Cabello ... Read More

Germán Cardona: «Militares bolivianos y venezolanos exportan cocaína en aviones oficiales»

| May 21st, 2015 | No Comments »
ABC Madrid-01

Por Javier Chicote

El coronel boliviano Germán Cardona se encuentra en España, donde espera que le concedan asilo político. Denuncia una persecución en su país después de que el pasado febrero presentara un incendiario informe en el que denuncia una trama de narcotráfico en su país con la participación de altas esferas políticas y militares.

-¿Qué es el cártel de las Estrellas?

-Una organización narcotraficante que opera en el departamento de Santa Cruz que está controlada por miembros de las Fuerzas Armadas y de la Policía Nacional de Bolivia y encabezada por el ministro de la Presidencia, Juan Ramón Quintana. Éste, según mis fuentes, controla varios aeropuertos clandestinos en la frontera con Brasil para exportar cocaína.

-¿Está relacionado con el cartel de los Soles, el que según la DEA dirige Diosdado Cabello, el número dos de Nicolás Maduro?

-El cartel de las Estrellas ... Read More

Victory behind bars? How imprisoning politicians in Venezuela could backfire.

| May 21st, 2015 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in The Christian Science Monitor

CARACAS, VENEZUELA — Venezuelan congressional candidate Daniel Ceballos wasn’t out corralling voters prior to Sunday’s primary election here. He didn’t brandish his youthful smile for photo-ops, shake hands, or kiss babies. Mr. Ceballos’s wife tweeted on Election Day that she hadn’t heard from her husband in 48 hours. In fact, no one had.

That’s because Ceballos, a 31-year-old former mayor, has been sitting in federal prison for the past 14 months, after refusing to help the federal government halt a wave of antigovernment protests that swept the country last year.

Ceballos isn’t the only candidate in this year’s National Assembly race to have seen the inside of a jail cell. He is joined on the opposition ballot by former student leader and current inmate Renzo Prieto, and another former mayor, Enzo Scarano, who was freed in February after spending 11 months behind ... Read More

Venezuela Sues the Messenger

| May 21st, 2015 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

By Mac Margolis

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro can’t catch a break.

When a 54-year-old woman from northern Venezuela, desperate to own her own home, scrawled a message on a mango and flung it at Maduro’s head in late April, she inspired scores of copycats, a send-up by John Oliver and a smartphone game app, Maduro Mango Attack, which has been downloaded at least 100,000 times.

In his prime, the late Hugo Chavez might have grabbed a microphone and whipped up morale with some of his patented Bolivarian blunderbuss, but Maduro inspires mostly derision.

Two of three Venezuelans say the stumbling heir to Chavez’s revolution for “21st-Century socialism” is doing a lousy job, and now U.S. authorities have named Maduro’s right-hand companero, National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, as a leading suspect in a Venezuela-based global drug trafficking hub.

Inflation is speeding to 200 percent this year, foreign reserves are vanishing, and the World Bank says the ... Read More

Drug plane from Venezuela crashes off Colombia’s coast

| May 21st, 2015 | No Comments »
USA TODAY

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — A small plane en route from Venezuela with more than a ton of cocaine on board crashed into the Caribbean on Wednesday after being pursued by Colombia’s air force.

That’s about the only point of agreement between authorities in Venezuela and Colombia, both of whom took credit while offering different accounts of how the drug run was foiled.

Video released by Colombia’s air force shows a Hawker 800 aircraft being intercepted by fighter jets after it entered Colombia’s air space around 2:30 a.m. Officials said the pilot then maneuvered in an attempt to escape, but eventually crashed off the coast of Puerto Colombia when one of the plane’s motors failed.

Colombia’s coast guard said the body of the pilot, whose nationality had not released, was found among the wreckage along with 1.2 metric tons of cocaine up packaged in one-kilogram blocks.

Hours later Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino took to national television in his ... Read More

Nexos con Farc y pagos de narcos involucran a militares venezolanos

| May 20th, 2015 | No Comments »
El Tiempo-01

Los líos de militares y funcionarios venezolanos con la justicia de Estados Unidos comenzaron con los hallazgos en el computador del extinto jefe guerrillero de las Farc ‘Raúl Reyes’, en los que quedaron en evidencia la relación con militares.

En el 2008, luego de la caída del guerrillero, el Departamento del Tesoro de Estados Unidos incluyó en la llamada Lista Clinton al general Hugo Carvajal, quien fuera el exdirector de Inteligencia Militar en Venezuela; y al exministro Ramón Rodríguez Chacín.

En los documentos aparece que la decisión se tomó ante las informaciones de que habrían colaborado con armar, estimular y financiar a la guerrilla colombiana. A Rodríguez Chacín se le señala de haber tratado de facilitar un préstamo de 250 millones de dólares a las Farc y a Rangel de haber promovió la cooperación del Gobierno con ese grupo.

Los dos no fueron los primeros. En el 2001 ya ... Read More

Estados Unidos centra investigaciones sobre narcotráfico en funcionarios de alto rango venezolanos

| May 20th, 2015 | No Comments »
The New York Times

Por MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT

[Traducción por IASW]

WASHINGTON – Autoridades venezolanas de alto rango son objeto de una investigación por parte de autoridades estadounidenses. Esto como parte de una amplia pesquisa sobre la distribución de cocaína en el hemisferio occidental, dijeron funcionarios de procuración de justicia estadounidenses el martes.

La investigación, que involucra acusaciones de lavado de dinero y tráfico de droga, está siendo gestionada por la Administración de Control de Drogas (DEA), y se centra en uno de los políticos más poderosos de Venezuela, el presidente de la Asamblea Nacional Diosdado Cabello, de acuerdo con funcionarios que solicitaron el anonimato para discutir la investigación en curso.

No está claro lo que planean hacer con la evidencia los fiscales en Estados Unidos sobre el Sr. Cabello y otros. Los Estados Unidos y Venezuela han tenido durante mucho tiempo tensas relaciones, por lo que es poco probable que las autoridades de Caracas entregarían a líderes de alto ... Read More

U.S. Focuses on Top Venezuelan Officials in a Broad Cocaine Inquiry

| May 20th, 2015 | No Comments »
The New York Times

By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT

WASHINGTON — Senior Venezuelan officials are under investigation by the American authorities as part of a wide-ranging inquiry into the distribution of cocaine in the Western Hemisphere, American law enforcement officials said on Tuesday.

The investigation, which involves allegations of money laundering and trafficking, is being led by the Drug Enforcement Administration and is focused on one of Venezuela’s most powerful politicians, Diosdado Cabello, the National Assembly president, according to the officials, who insisted on anonymity to discuss an active case.

It is not clear what United States prosecutors plan to do with any evidence they may have collected on Mr. Cabello and others. The United States and Venezuela have long had strained relations, making it unlikely that the authorities in Caracas would hand over high-profile leaders if they were charged.

The prosecutors, however, could make ... Read More

El número dos venezolano, Cabello, envió droga a Europa vía España

| May 20th, 2015 | No Comments »
ABC Madrid-01

POR EMILI J. BLASCO

Estados Unidos está cerrando el cerco en torno a altos cargos venezolanos implicados en el narcotráfico, con una investigación abierta sobre Diosdado Cabello, presidente de la Asamblea Nacional, siguiendo acusaciones de testigos que dibujan una situación de narcoestado. Así lo adelantó ya a finales de enero ABC y así lo publicó ayer «The Wall Street Journal».

Pero la droga que sale de Venezuela -el noventa por ciento de la producción de Colombia se distribuye desde suelo venezolano; unas cinco toneladas semanales- no solo va a Estados Unidos, sino que también llega a Europa, con España como punto importante en las rutas que siguen las mafias, entre ellas principalmente el cártel de los Soles, la organización paraestatal del narco venezolano. Su nombre viene de los soles que llevan los generales venezolanos en la charretera.

De acuerdo con fuentes próximas a la Administración para el Control ... Read More

Venezuela Exposed As A Narcosocialist Plague

| May 20th, 2015 | No Comments »
Investor's Business Daily

Narcosocialism: U.S. prosecutors and DEA agents are closing in on Venezuelan leaders for running a narcostate. This is the nation Obama has repeatedly indulged in the name of getting along. Now we know who they are.

Back in March, President Obama startled many by calling Venezuela “the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States” as he slapped sanctions on seven corrupt Venezuelan officials for involvement with drug trafficking and human rights abuses.

A month after that, he made a U-turn, making nice with the dictatorship at April’s Summit of the Americas. After tears and flapdoodle about the sanctions from Venezuela’s Marxist dictatorship, Obama declared that Venezuela wasn’t a threat after all.

He was right the first time. A front page story in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal reports that U.S. prosecutors and Drug Enforcement Administration officials — acting independently of politics or diplomacy — have put together ... Read More

NYC’s most legendary prosecutor sees a darker threat in Venezuela’s alleged global cocaine hub

| May 20th, 2015 | No Comments »
Business Insider

BY LINETTE LOPEZ

On Monday the Wall Street Journal reported that the United States is investigating high-level Venezuelan government officials for allegedly turning their country into a global cocaine hub.

Robert Morgenthau, the legendary former Manhattan District Attorney, has been making exactly that accusation for years. And for him, the Venezuelan government’s questionable activity doesn’t stop at drug running.

As early as 2009, Morgenthau was telling anyone that would listen about ties that his office was finding between the cocaine that ended up in New York City, the Venezuelan government, and Iran and its agents like the terror group Hezbollah.

From a Wall Street Journal op-ed he wrote in 2009 (emphasis ours):

A recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) study reported a high level of corruption within the Venezuelan government, military and law enforcement that has allowed that country to become a major transshipment route for trafficking cocaine out of Colombia. Intelligence ... Read More

Will narcostate revelations sober State Department’s attempts to coddle Venezuelan regime?

| May 19th, 2015 | No Comments »
AEI

Yesterday’s blockbuster Wall Street Journal article revealing ongoing US criminal investigations into the involvement of “several high-ranking Venezuelan officials” in international drug trafficking will not have come as a surprise to anyone who has read my Congressional testimony and other reports on the subject in recent years.

Key allegations uncovered by this inquiry, which is being led by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and federal prosecutors in New York and Miami, include:

The “main target” of law enforcement is National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, “considered the country’s second most-powerful man,” whom a Justice Department official characterized as “one of the heads, if not the head, of the cartel.” The investigation has intensified in the last two years, aided by the defection of Venezuelan naval officer Leamsy Salazar, one-time bodyguard to the late strongman Hugo Chávez and senior aide to Cabello, and Rafael Isea, a Chávez loyalist who left Venezuela in 2013. Former Interior Minister Tarek El ... Read More
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