Content from IASW Contributors

Can Obama Rescue His Failing Latin America Policy?

By Roger F. Noriega By Roger F. Noriega
U.S. President Barack Obama has clearly noticed that many in Latin America and the Caribbean have an uncanny affinity for the myth of the Cuban revolution. What he has yet to realize, however, is that the vast majority of the region’s citizens would rather live in the Chile built by Augusto Pinochet than in the Cuba destroyed by Fidel Castro.

Una región que arropa la represión

Por Felipe TrigosPor Felipe Trigos
La Séptima Cumbre de las Américas celebrada el pasado fin de semana en Panamá demostró de nueva cuenta la inhabilidad de superar la fascinación con el mito de la revolución cubana y la falta de comprensión sobre los daños que este movimiento trajo, no solo para Cuba, sino para toda la región. Lea Más-->

Brazil raises interest rates to 12.75% to curb inflation

| March 6th, 2015 | No Comments »

Brazil’s central bank has lifted interest rates to a six-year high of 12.75% to restrain inflation.Inflation in Brazil, Latin America’s largest economy, was at a 12-year high in February of 7.4%. The government’s target is 6.5%.

Brazil’s economy had been one of the world’s fastest growing, but looks to have stalled in 2014.

Economists are now predicting that the economy will contract by more than 0.5% this year.

In a statement, Brazil’s central bank said: “In assessing the macroeconomic scenario and the outlook for inflation, the Copom [the bank's monetary policy committee] decided unanimously to raise the rate by 0.5 percentage points, to 12.75%.”

Tax move

On Wednesday, official figures showed industrial production in Brazil fell 5.2% in January compared with last year.

Brazil, once one of the fast-growing Bric economies that also include Russia, India and China, is struggling as demand for its commodities slows.

The country’s president, Dilma Rousseff, is trying to force through measures ... Read More

Ex-Wife of Alberto Nisman Says Argentine Prosecutor Was Murdered

| March 6th, 2015 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01


BUENOS AIRES—The ex-wife of a top prosecutor who died mysteriously in January presented a report by top forensic specialists asserting that he was the victim of a homicide, ratcheting up pressure on Argentina’s government over a case that has captivated the country and started one of its worst political crises in decades.

Sandra Arroyo Salgado, a federal judge who had once been married to the late prosecutor Alberto Nisman, said at a Thursday news conference that investigators she hired had amassed evidence that points to murder—including indications that Mr. Nisman’s body was moved after he was shot.

“Nisman didn’t suffer an accident,” she said. “Nisman didn’t kill himself. Nisman was murdered.”

Mr. Nisman’s body, with a bullet wound in his head, was found in the bathroom of his high rise apartment on Jan. 18, a day before he was to have appeared before Argentina’s Congress to back up his accusation that ... Read More

Sabotage Alleged as El Salvador Vote Count Enters Fifth Day

| March 5th, 2015 | No Comments »

By Michael D McDonald

(Bloomberg) — Four days after El Salvador’s legislative and mayoral elections, voters in the Central American country are still waiting for results as officials allege that the process of transmitting the votes electronically was sabotaged.

Julio Olivo, the head of the country’s elections tribunal, said on Thursday that the Attorney General’s office will investigate failures of an electronic system that prevented officials from disclosing preliminary results on Sunday after polls closed. He said Soluciones Aplicativas S.A, a company hired to scan and divulge the voting data, “could be extracting information and even changing certain things.”

“There was sabotage in the process of transmitting data,” Olivo said on Wednesday. “We are going to prove it in the courts and a bunch of people are going to fall.”

Phone lines listed for Soluciones Aplicativas’s office in San Salvador were repeatedly busy when called by Bloomberg News. E-mails ... Read More

Peña Nieto’s reforming of mordant Mexico

| March 5th, 2015 | No Comments »
Financial Times

Mexico is in crisis; Mexico is not in crisis. Both statements are true.

Despite the oil price collapse, the economy is stable and growing, if slowly. President Enrique Peña Nieto, on a state visit to the UK this week, has pushed through important reforms that should boost growth.

Yet Mexico is also in a funk. Corruption and the absence of the rule of law have snapped the country’s patience. The presumed murder of 43 students by a gang linked to local police, and several scandals, including a home owned by the first lady and built by a favoured state contractor, have inflamed the sour mood. Such incidents are symptoms of a malaise that predates this administration, not the cause. But they have been handled poorly.

Mr Peña Nieto, in an FT interview, admitted for the first time that he recognises the popular disenchantment. Mexico is torn by ... Read More

Chavez’s Legacy: Venezuela in Shambles

| March 5th, 2015 | No Comments »
The National Interest


Nobody has lobbied Saudi Arabia to cut its oil output more intensely in recent weeks than Nicolás Maduro, Hugo Chavez’s successor as Venezuela’s dictator. Maduro already had major fiscal problems with the price of crude when it was at $107 per barrel back in June; it doesn’t take a brilliant mathematician to calculate the effect a 45 percent drop is having on the regime’s finances and popularity.

Maduro’s brand of Latin American populism rests on four legs: government control of the country’s vast oil resources; clientelism (the system by which Maduro maintains the “support” of the public by keeping them dependent on government handouts); a Cuban-designed police state and a geopolitical oil-exchange program in which Venezuelan oil is used to buy support from foreign governments in the region.

Underpinning the entire edifice is the ability to generate sufficient amounts of oil revenue. After ... Read More

Brazilian waxing and waning

| March 5th, 2015 | No Comments »
The Economist

In the past few years Brazil’s economy has disappointed. It grew by just 1.2% a year, on average, during President Dilma Rousseff’s first term in office in 2011-­14, a slower rate of growth than in most of its neighbours, let alone in places like China or India. Last year GDP barely grew at all (and may have fallen). It will almost certainly contract in 2015. At the same time, public spending has surged. In 2014, as Ms Rousseff sought re-­election, the budget deficit doubled to 6.75% of GDP. For the first time since 1997 the government failed to set aside any money to pay back creditors. Its planned primary surplus, which excludes interest owed on debt, of 1.8% of GDP ended up being a 0.6% deficit. Brazil’s gross government debt of 63% may look piffling compared to Greece’s 175% or Japan’s 227%. But Brazil’s high interest rates of ... Read More

Zetas Leader Is Arrested in Mexico

| March 5th, 2015 | No Comments »
The New York Times


MEXICO CITY — The leader of the Zetas — a Mexican criminal group notorious for its brutal murders — was arrested Wednesday without a shot fired in northern Mexico, as the authorities toppled yet another kingpin in a long and aggressive campaign against the group.

Federal police officers and soldiers swooped in on the leader, Omar Treviño Morales, known as Z-42 in the group’s militaristic system of code names, in San Pedro Garza García, an affluent suburb of Monterrey, Mexico, a business and industrial hub.

Mr. Morales, 38, had not led the group for long. In July 2013, his brother, Miguel Angel Treviño Morales — considered one of the gang’s most ruthless enforcers — was arrested just a year after taking over from another top leader, Heriberto Lazcano. Mr. Lazcano died in a shootout with the Mexican Navy in ... Read More

Bolivia ex-drug czar General Nina arrested on drugs charges

| March 5th, 2015 | No Comments »

Bolivia’s former top policeman who had previously been in charge of its counter-narcotics force is being held on suspicion of illicit enrichment and links to the drugs trade.Gen Oscar Nina led Bolivia’s national police force from 2010 until 2011.

His wife, daughter and son were also arrested and have been charged with illicit enrichment.

Bolivia is the world’s third largest producer of cocaine after Peru and Colombia.

‘Serious suspicions’

His arrest comes less than four years after a US court sentenced another former Bolivian drug czar, Rene Sanabria, to 15 years in jail for drug trafficking.

Gen Nina was sacked as police chief just over two weeks after Sanabria was arrested, although it is not clear whether the two events were linked.

President Evo Morales said at the time that Bolivia had to eradicate the “cancer of corruption” from the police force.

Interior Minister Hugo Moldiz said that there had been “serious suspicions for years” that Gen ... Read More

Is Venezuela losing faith in Hugo Chavez’s successor?

| March 5th, 2015 | No Comments »

By Will Grant

It was clear from the very start that many Chavez supporters weren’t so sure about Nicolas Maduro.Shortly after his untimely death from cancer on 5 March 2013 – and just days before the presidential election that saw Mr Maduro elected by the narrowest of margins – I visited the charismatic socialist leader’s stronghold of 23 de Enero in Caracas.

Inside her government-built apartment, local Socialist Party (PSUV) women’s cooperative leader Judith Vegas fought back the tears at the mere mention of Hugo Chavez.

His death was as raw to her as the loss of a member of her own family.

But when it came to his chosen successor, her attitude noticeably hardened.

She would vote for Mr Maduro as Mr Chavez had asked, she said, but he wasn’t guaranteed her unflinching support simply because he had been by Chavez’s side.

Fast-forward two years, and even committed “Chavistas” like Judith are losing the faith.

In a recent ... Read More

Venezuela opposition leader fears vote will be scrapped

| March 5th, 2015 | No Comments »
From AFP

By Jordi Miro

Los Teques (Venezuela) (AFP) – Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles says he fears President Nicolas Maduro’s crisis-hit government, fearing a humiliating loss, will cancel key legislative elections later this year.

With Venezuela’s economy in recession, its oil revenues plunging and consumers facing chronic shortages of basic goods, Maduro’s approval rating has sunk to a low of around 20 percent — the worst crisis yet for the political movement founded by his late mentor, leftist firebrand Hugo Chavez.

That has fed optimism among the divided opposition that it can win control of the National Assembly at elections due this year, for which a date has not yet been set.

But Capriles — who narrowly lost the 2013 presidential vote to Maduro after Chavez’s death — said the government would rather provoke the opposition into violence than face it at the polls.

“The government had ... Read More

El Salvador Election Results a Mystery Three Days Later

| March 4th, 2015 | No Comments »
PanAm Post

Three days after legislative and municipal elections in El Salvador, official results are yet to be made public. On Tuesday, March 3, the Central American country’s Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) refused to release the preliminary vote count, instead proceeding straight to calculating the final tally.

Julio Olivo, head of the TSE, said on Monday that software company Soluciones Aplicativas had experienced “technical problems” in processing the results. Election authorities decided to revoke the company’s contract and hire a new data firm, but as of Wednesday issues still remained.+

“This obviously is a serious and lamentable situation,” said human-rights prosecutor David Morales. “Beyond the responsibilities of the company that have failed, the TSE is responsible for the follow-up, set-up, and the decisions that led to the failure of the company.”+

Officials from both the ruling Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) and main opposition party the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) have proclaimed themselves victorious in the mayoral ... Read More

Capturan en NL a Omar Treviño, líder de Los Zetas

| March 4th, 2015 | No Comments »

CIUDAD DE MÉXICO, 4 de marzo.- Una persona identificada como Omar Treviño Morales, alias El Z-42, y quien es señalado como el líder del grupo criminal de Los Zetas, fue detenido esta madrugada en San Pedro Garza García, Nuevo León.

Fuentes del Gabinete de Seguridad Nacional del Gobierno Federal informaron que el operativo de captura fue realizado por elementos de la Policía Federal con el apoyo del Ejército Mexicano, aproximadamente a las 4:00 horas de este miércoles.

El sospechoso fue instalaciones militares, para la realización de los primeros estudios que confirmen su identidad.

Omar Treviño El Z-42 asumió el control del grupo de Los Zetastras la detención de su hermano Miguel Treviño Morales, El Z-40, ocurrida el 15 de julio de 2013, durante un operativo de la Armada de México.

Se espera el traslado del detenido en las próximas horas a la Subprocuraduría Especializada en Investigación de Delincuencia Organizada (SEIDO) de la Procuraduría General de la República en las próximas horas.

Por Omar Treviño la PGR ofrecía una recompensa de 30 millones de pesos y a ... Read More

Brazil attorney general seeks investigation into political figures in big kickback scandal

| March 4th, 2015 | No Comments »
US News & World Report


RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil’s attorney general on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court for permission to investigate 54 people, the majority top political figures, for alleged involvement in what prosecutors say is the country’s largest corruption scandal yet uncovered.

Attorney General Rodrigo Janot’s request opens an expansive new phase of the investigation into the kickback scheme at state-run oil company Petrobras.

“We’re going to work with tranquility, with balance. Those who must pay will pay,” Janot told supporters outside his office late Monday night. “We’re going to investigate. This will be a long process, we’re just now beginning. The investigation begins and we’ll follow it through to the end.”

Janot didn’t release the names of the people he wants to investigate — that can only happen once the top court says he can begin his work.

Under Brazilian law, a Supreme ... Read More

Colombia’s FARC rebels unwilling to trade jungle for prison

| March 4th, 2015 | No Comments »
From Fox News Latino

Colombia’s FARC rebel group said Tuesday that they will accept no peace treaty that envisions sending insurgents to prison simply for having taken up arms to battle what they saw as injustice.

“Let it be known that no accord is possible that would impose a single day in prison for any guerrilla for having exercised the right to rebel, a precious gift of humanity, in order to end the injustices our people have suffered,” the FARC delegation taking part here in peace talks with the Colombian government said in a statement.

In that statement, read to the media by rebel negotiator Rodrigo Granda, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, repeated that they are not dodging their responsibilities in the conflict.

“It’s not members of the FARC who have enjoyed impunity throughout the Colombian conflict, but rather the oligarchy, the governing political class and ... Read More

Venezuela’s Desperate Times and Maduro’s Desperate Measures

| March 4th, 2015 | No Comments »
Real Clear World-01


On March 1, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced the latest in a series of claims accusing the United States of meddling in Venezuela’s affairs: an unspecified number of U.S. citizens, among them an American pilot, arrested in Táchira were, according to Maduro, conducting espionage operations for the U.S. government.

This all comes just one day after his government released four U.S. missionaries arrested earlier in the week.

Over the weekend, Maduro also announced a series of new measures supposedly designed to counter U.S. influence in Venezuela, including visa requirements for U.S. citizens traveling to Venezuela, significantly downsizing the U.S. embassy in Caracas, and banning a number of prominent U.S. officials (some already retired) from entering Venezuela. In recent weeks, Caracas has also accused Vice President Joe Biden of conspiring to overthrow the Maduro administration and alleged that U.S. officials helped to plan an attempted attack on ... Read More

Colombia arrests captain of arms-trafficking ship bound for Cuba

| March 4th, 2015 | No Comments »
The Guardian UK

The captain of a Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship has been arrested in the Colombian port city of Cartagena, charged with arms trafficking for transporting undocumented large-caliber munitions, reportedly bound for Cuba.

The captain of the Da Dan Xia, a Chinese national identified as Wu Hong, was captured after authorities found 100 tonnes of gunpowder and 3,000 artillery shells among other munitions, an official from the Attorney General’s office told reporters.

The vessel was stopped on Saturday after authorities discovered the unregistered materials in eight shipping containers during inspection.

“Around 100 tonnes of gunpowder, 2.6m detonators, 99 projectiles and around 3,000 cannon shells were found,” the national director of the attorney general’s office, Luis González, said.

The documentation presented by the ship’s crew made no mention of the ammunition on board and instead listed the contents as chemicals and spare parts. “The documentation that the captain had in regards to the merchandise that was being transported ... Read More

For Obama, Castro Has A Ship Of Fools

| March 4th, 2015 | No Comments »

Diplomacy: As Paris Hilton whooped it up with Havana’s princelings to applaud U.S.-Cuba ties, Colombia detained a Chinese ship full of illegal weapons bound for Cuba in what may be a new violation of U.N. sanctions. Castro is playing us for fools.

Even though tourism remains illegal for Americans in Cuba, it doesn’t stop B-List celebrities from going to Havana, partying hearty, snapping and posting selfies, popping flashbulbs, swigging mojitos and buying cigars by the cartload, as Hilton’s Instagram pictures showed.

Communism-ravaged Cuba is about as poor as Ethiopia or Zimbabwe. So it wasn’t the locals partying down, but the communist elites — such as Fidel’s son, Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart, with whom Hilton and model Naomi Campbell posed for selfies.

This is a preview of who will benefit from the opening to Cuba — its wealthy Communist Party elites, not ordinary folks.

But in this grotesque fantasyland of vulgar Third World dictators and equally vulgar ... Read More

FARC: peace agreement with imprisonment for guerrilla members is not possible

| March 3rd, 2015 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald


The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) warned Tuesday that “it is not possible to seal a peace agreement for Colombia that includes one day in jail for its members”. The comment comes after pressure increased for the victims of the armed conflict in terms of justice.

“We declare that it is not possible [to reach] an agreement that contemplates a single day in jail for guerrilla members because they have exercised the right to revolt (…) to end the injustices that our people have had to face,” said the FARC in a statement read to the press by Ricardo Téllez, one of its delegates in the peace negotiations with the Colombian government in Havana.

“Members of the FARC are not the ones who have enjoyed impunity throughout the Colombian conflict, the ruling oligarchy, politicians and the military have” said Tellez.

The government’s delegation did not comment about the warning made ... Read More

FARC: ‘no es posible’ acuerdo de paz con cárcel para guerrilleros

| March 3rd, 2015 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald


La guerrilla comunista de las FARC advirtió este martes que “no es posible” sellar un acuerdo de paz para Colombia que contemple “un solo día de cárcel” para los guerrilleros, luego de que aumentara la presión por justicia para las víctimas del conflicto armado.

“Manifestamos que no es posible un acuerdo que contemple un solo día de cárcel para ningún guerrillero por el hecho de haber ejercido el derecho a la rebelión (…) para acabar con las injusticias que ha padecido nuestro pueblo”, declaró la guerrilla en un comunicado leído a la prensa por Ricardo Téllez, uno de sus delegados en las negociaciones de paz con el gobierno colombiano en La Habana.

“No son los miembros de las FARC quienes han gozado de impunidad a lo largo del conflicto colombiano, sino la oligarquía, la clase política gobernante y las fuerzas militares”, añadió Téllez.

La delegación del gobierno no comentó esta advertencia, ... Read More

Las FARC advierten que rechazarán acuerdo que considere prisión para guerrilleros

| March 3rd, 2015 | No Comments »

LA HABANA, 3 de marzo.- La guerrilla de las FARC reiteró el martes querechazará cualquier acuerdo de paz con el Gobierno colombiano si es que alguno de sus miembros debe pasar al menos un día en la cárcel, en declaraciones previas a una nueva ronda de conversaciones para terminar con un conflicto de más de medio siglo.

Manifestamos que no es posible un acuerdo que contemple un sólo día de cárcel para ningún guerrillero por el hecho de haber ejercido el derecho a la rebelión, alto valor de humanidad, para acabar con las injusticias que ha padecido nuestro pueblo”, según un comunicado leído por Ricardo Téllez, miembro del equipo negociador de las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia .

El grupo insurgente hizo las declaraciones pocos días después de una reunión con el recién nombrado enviado especial de Estados Unidos para los diálogos de paz.

El presidente estadunidense, Barack Obama, nombró el 20 de febrero al diplomático Bernard Aronson como enviado especial para las negociaciones de paz entre la guerrilla y el ... Read More

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