Peace May Be On Hold, But Colombia’s Rebels Are Eager To Become Civilians

Peace May Be On Hold, But Colombia’s Rebels Are Eager To Become Civilians

Ivan Merchan’s body could use a break. During his 30 years fighting for the Marxist guerrilla group known as the FARC, Merchan tells me he has been shot 12 times. His arms and legs are a mass of scar tissue.

So it’s not surprising that Merchan and about 250 other rebels at a FARC camp in southern Colombia are ready to lay down their weapons. But there’s a hitch.

In a binding referendum, Colombian voters rejected a peace accord to end the ...  

Venezuela stops Post journalist, other correspondents from entering country

Venezuela stops Post journalist, other correspondents from entering country

Venezuelan authorities stopped a Washington Post reporter at the Caracas airport late Monday night and denied him entry, in the latest case of blocking a foreign correspondent from covering the mounting political and economic turmoil in the South American country.

Immigration officials told Joshua Partlow, 38, a dual U.S.-Canadian national, that he lacked a required work visa. Partlow and many other foreign correspondents with non-U.S. passports had routinely visited Venezuela in the past without work visas.

Venezuela is mired in its worst ...  

El Salvador to Investigate Meetings Between Officials, Gangs: Report

El Salvador to Investigate Meetings Between Officials, Gangs: Report

El Salvador’s Attorney General indicated that his office may investigate the recently revealed meetings between two high-level government officials and gang leaders, raising the question of how prosecutors will proceed in a case fraught with political implications. Attorney General Douglas Meléndez made the statement on October 31, during a press conference to provide information on the arrest of former President Elías Antonio Saca, reported La Prensa Gráfica.

The potential investigation concerns two videos showing current Interior Minister Arístides Valencia and former Security ...  

Argentina ex-leader Cristina Fernandez appears in court

Argentina ex-leader Cristina Fernandez appears in court

Former Argentinian president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has made her first appearance in court over corruption allegations, claiming she is a victim of political persecution.

Ms Fernandez’s government has been accused of steering public contracts to a businessman close to her family. But she asked the judge to annul the case, saying the government was using the case to cover up its failures.

She also accused current President Mauricio Macri of plotting against her. Mr Macri’s government was like “a terrorist organisation”, she ...  

Venezuela’s Maduro meets opposition at Vatican-led talks

Venezuela’s Maduro meets opposition at Vatican-led talks

Venezuela’s unpopular socialist leader Nicolas Maduro shook hands with opposition leaders at Vatican-convened talks on Sunday, but his wary foes threatened to boycott further meetings if some demands were not quickly met.

The irate opposition Democratic Unity coalition has escalated protests against Maduro after authorities scuttled a recall referendum that polls show he would have lost, triggering a presidential election.

Their top demand is to revive the plebiscite.

Opponents say 17 years of socialism have wrecked the OPEC nation’s economy and crushed democracy, ...  

Ex-Nato Chief: Why Real Peace in Colombia Matters to the U.S.—and the Rest of the Americas

Ex-Nato Chief: Why Real Peace in Colombia Matters to the U.S.—and the Rest of the Americas

In Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel The General in His Labyrinth, the Columbian Nobel Prize laureate imagines General Simon Bolivar musing as he tries to liberate South America in the 19th century: “I go to seek a great perhaps.” This moody sentiment has distinct echoes in Colombia today.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos recently had one of the most dramatic versions of “good news, bad news” anyone could imagine in the world of international politics. On Oct. 7 he won the Nobel ...  

US Companies See Grim Outlook in Cuba Despite Obama Opening

US Companies See Grim Outlook in Cuba Despite Obama Opening

HAVANA — For a while Saul Berenthal and Horace Clemmons were the seventy-something poster boys of U.S.-Cuba detente.

The retired software entrepreneurs made worldwide headlines by winning Obama administration permission to build the first U.S. factory in Cuba since 1959. Cuban officials lauded their plans to build small tractors in the Mariel free-trade zone west of Havana. But after more than a year of courtship, the Cuban government told Berenthal and Clemmons to drop their plans to build tractors in Cuba, ...  

Venezuela is telling hungry city dwellers to grow their own food

Venezuela is telling hungry city dwellers to grow their own food

CARACAS, Venezuela — Some Venezuelan city dwellers are trying to grow their own produce to offset the country’s severe shortages following socialist President Nicolás Maduro’s calls for “food sovereignty.”

But in a country where families are going hungry as a result of government mismanagement and sky-high inflation, many view the “Great Agro-Venezuela Mission” with skepticism.

“Agriculture shouldn’t be a solution” to the country’s shortages, said former landowner Iraima Pacheco de Leandro, 54, a well-to-do government opponent who lives in Caracas.

Critics have taken ...  

Venezuelans Give Up on Counting Piles of Cash and Start Weighing Them

Venezuelans Give Up on Counting Piles of Cash and Start Weighing Them

At a delicatessen counter in eastern Caracas, Humberto Gonzalez removes slices of salty white cheese from his scale and replaces them with a stack of bolivar notes handed over by his customer. The currency is so devalued and each purchase requires so many bills that instead of counting, he weighs them. “It’s sad,” Gonzalez says. “At this point, I think the cheese is worth more.”

It’s also one of the clearest signs yet that hyperinflation could be taking hold in a country ...  

Brazil’s Leftists Absolutely Clobbered In Weekend Election

Brazil’s Leftists Absolutely Clobbered In Weekend Election

It was a terrible weekend for Brazil’s left wing political parties.

The once ruling Workers’ Party was utterly clobbered on Sunday’s second round voting in state mayoral elections. In Rio de Janeiro, the party known as PSOL was beat up so badly that the lead candidate Marcelo Freixo, who had marijuana legalization as a key platform, garnered less votes than the 1.3 million of voters who chose neither candidate. Marginally popular evangelical leader Marcelo Crivella won with 1.7 million votes, followed ...  

Venezuela’s Maduro meets opposition at Vatican-led talks

Venezuela’s Maduro meets opposition at Vatican-led talks

Venezuela’s unpopular socialist leader Nicolas Maduro shook hands with opposition leaders at Vatican-convened talks on Sunday, but his wary foes threatened to boycott further meetings if some demands were not quickly met.

The irate opposition Democratic Unity coalition has escalated protests against Maduro after authorities scuttled a recall referendum that polls show he would have lost, triggering a presidential election.

Their top demand is to revive the plebiscite.

Opponents say 17 years of socialism have wrecked the OPEC nation’s economy and crushed democracy, ...  

Brazil prosecutor says any Odebrecht plea deal ‘months’ away

Brazil prosecutor says any Odebrecht plea deal ‘months’ away

A long-anticipated plea bargain deal with the construction firm at the center of Brazil’s largest graft scheme is at least “months” away and could fall apart due to interference by fearful politicians, a top prosecutor told Reuters.

Construction firm Odebrecht SA [ODBES.UL], the largest in Latin America, is accused of being the main corporate driver behind the long-running massive political kickback scheme at state oil company Petrobras.

Local media reports of a nearly final plea bargain have heightened expectations of an impending ...  

Rapid Cuba thaw doesn’t spell end of embargo

Rapid Cuba thaw doesn’t spell end of embargo

What comes next in the rapid thaw between the United States and Cuba depends on the outcome of the Nov. 8 election — but probably not in the way most voters think. Donald Trump initially favored softening toward Cuba, but recently changed his mind and now says he would reverse course. Hillary Clinton supports re-engagement and says she would seek the end of the trade embargo. But what is even possible depends less on who is in the White House ...  

Venezuela court annuls Congress probe of $11 billion missing at PDVSA

Venezuela court annuls Congress probe of $11 billion missing at PDVSA

Venezuela’s top court on Thursday approved an injunction against a congressional probe that found Rafael Ramirez, the former president of state oil company PDVSA, was responsible for corruption and malfeasance that cost the firm $11 billion.

A congressional commission this month said the funds had gone missing during Ramirez’s time in charge, from 2004 to 2014, citing 11 cases of alleged corruption including overpricing of drilling rigs and a scandal over money laundering through an Andorra bank. [L1N1CP1BX]

Ramirez, who denies the ...  

Political Risk Analysis: Is Venezuela Now Entering A Full-Blown Political Crisis?

Political Risk Analysis: Is Venezuela Now Entering A Full-Blown Political Crisis?

Venezuela is facing down a seemingly insurmountable mix of political and economic problems. The country’s economy is expected to contract by nearly 10% in 2016, inflation is spiraling out of control, and the government has not proposed any solution to the astounding gap between the country’s official exchange rate and the real rate of exchange on the black market. Venezuela’s inflation rate is already in the triple digit range and might soar to over 1,000% in 2017. The country’s political ...  

Venezuela: Letter to Pope Francis

Venezuela: Letter to Pope Francis

Washington, D.C., October 27, 2016

His Holiness Pope Francis The Apostolic Palace – Vatican City

Your Holiness,

In advance of the Holy See’s participation in an eventual dialogue between the Venezuelan government and opposition, I am writing on behalf of Human Rights Watch to respectfully urge you to ensure adequate conditions for such dialogue to be fruitful.[1] Any good faith and meaningful dialogue must be based on an objective assessment of the political, social, and economic crisis that ...  

Crisis at Venezuela’s PDVSA deepens as Caribbean debts pile up

Crisis at Venezuela’s PDVSA deepens as Caribbean debts pile up

Unpaid debts and broken promises are making Venezuelan oil giant PDVSA an outcast in several Caribbean countries where it had been a guest of honor.

The state-run company’s crumbling finances are causing operational disruptions across one of its most essential regions, according to internal company documents, six sources with knowledge of its operations, and Thomson Reuters vessel-tracking data.

Business partners in the island nations of Curacao, Bonaire, Jamaica and the Bahamas are turning away from the firm as debts pile up to ...  

Colombia delays peace talks with ELN rebels until captive freed

Colombia delays peace talks with ELN rebels until captive freed

Colombia is delaying peace talks with Marxist ELN rebels until they free a politician held captive for six months, President Juan Manuel Santos said on Thursday, as he struggles to salvage a peace deal with FARC guerrillas that was rejected in a plebiscite.

The National Liberation Army (ELN), the nation’s second-biggest insurgent group, must release Odin Sanchez to the International Committee of the Red Cross before talks can begin in Ecuador, Santos said, reiterating a condition he set months ago.

The opening ...  

Will the Americas ever take action on Venezuela?

Will the Americas ever take action on Venezuela?

Nine months after the secretary-general of the Organization of American States threatened to invoke the hemispheric organization’s Democratic Charter against Venezuela, the 34-nation group continues its wait-and-see approach.

The Venezuelan government essentially has dared the United States and the United Nations-like OAS to just try and take action in response to its suspension of a recall referendum that could have ousted President Nicolás Maduro.

That move by the Maduro administration prompted OAS Secretary-General Luis Almagro to compare the Venezuelan government last week ...  

Congress: Cuba to Share Critical U.S. Intel With Iranian Spies

Congress: Cuba to Share Critical U.S. Intel With Iranian Spies

Obama administration efforts to bolster the sharing of critical intelligence data with Cuba is likely to benefit Iran, which has been quietly bolstering its foothold in the country with the communist government’s approval, according to conversations with members of Congress and other sources familiar with the matter.

A little noticed Obama administration directive on Cuba, released Oct. 14, instructed the U.S. director of national intelligence to assist and cooperate with Cuba’s intelligence services.

The directive has raised red flags on Capitol Hill, ...  

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Testimony by Ambassador Roger Noriega before House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing on Latin America in 2015: A Year in Review

Jose Cardenas discusses Cuba's problematic ties abroad at the Center for Security Policy’s 4th Annual Latin America Symposium

About

During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

Unfortunately, in recent years, continued progress in these areas has been threatened, not least by the elections of radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. These governments have instituted retrograde agendas that include the propagation of class warfare, state domination of the economy, assaults on private property, anti-Americanism, support for such international pariahs as Iran, and lackluster support for regional counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics initiatives.

We are a group of concerned policy experts that fear the results of these destructive agendas for individual freedom, prosperity, and the well-being of the peoples of the region. Our goal is to inform American policymakers and American and international public opinion of the dangers of these radical populist regimes to inter-American security.