Content from IASW Contributors

Securing the border: Understanding and addressing the root causes of Central American migration to the United States

By Roger F. Noriega Testimony by Roger F. Noriega
Mr. Chairman, I commend you and your Committee for organizing a series of hearings this week to focus attention on the fundamental responsibility of securing our borders. I also would like to begin my testimony by recognizing the service of the U.S. government officials who testify before you today. I know from experience that their jobs are critical to our security, and I thank them for their service to our nation.
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Washington’s $1 Billion Central America Challenge

By José R. CárdenasBy José R. Cárdenas
The Senate Homeland Security Committee is holding a series of timely hearings this week revisiting the summer 2014 border crisis to ensure that, should there be a next time, the Obama administration won’t get caught napping again. That crisis saw thousands of illegal Central American immigrants, including many unaccompanied minors, surging across the United States’ southern border, overwhelming local authorities and inflaming the broader debate over immigration. Read More-->

Brazil Aims to Boost Economic Ties with U.S.

| February 19th, 2015 | No Comments »
Real Clear World-01

By Tim Ridout

WASHINGTON – Fresh off a narrow victory in a contentious election, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has signaled an interest in restoring momentum in Brazil’s ties with the United States as well as a renewed focus on the European Union. Brazil’s growth is collapsing due to continuing infrastructure, regulatory, and fiscal problems, as well as tightening external credit and low global commodity prices. The cumulative impact of these factors is encouraging tighter fiscal and monetary policies at home, and a trade agenda that focuses on a Mercosur-EU free trade agreement with Brussels and trade facilitation and regulatory convergence with Washington.

These initiatives are being pursued in the context of negotiations over a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the United States and EU, a mega-trade deal that Brazil worries will leave it outside global value chains. Given its similar fears regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership, stagnant domestic economic ... Read More

Thousands Protest In Argentina Demanding Answers In Prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s Death

| February 19th, 2015 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press

By DEBORA REY and PETER PRENGAMAN

BUENOS AIRES (AP) — Thousands of Argentines marched in the capital Wednesday demanding answers in the mysterious death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman exactly one month after he was found in his bathroom with a bullet in his right temple.

Protesters waved Argentine flags and carried white signs with black letters that read “Justice!” and “Truth!” Many also carried umbrellas to repel a burst of summer rain.

Blanca Perez, 81, said she believed Nisman had been murdered and the government needed to account.

“If we don’t have justice, we won’t have liberty,” she said. “The government has lost control of the situation.”

Organized by several prosecutors, protesters planned to walk from Congress to the iconic Plaza de Mayo in downtown Buenos Aires. While police declined to provide estimates, the 10-block stretch, plus many surrounding streets, burst with people, suggesting it was one of the biggest of several marches since Nisman’s ... Read More

Mexico Central Bank Cuts ’15 GDP Forecast for Second Time

| February 19th, 2015 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

By Eric Martin and Brendan Case

Mexican policy makers reduced their 2015 growth forecast for the second time following a slump in global oil prices and a decline in domestic output.

Gross domestic product will expand 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent this year, down from the previous forecast of 3 percent to 4 percent, the central bank said in the quarterly inflation report published Wednesday on its website. It reduced the 2016 growth estimate to between 2.9 percent and 3.9 percent from 3.2 percent to 4.2 percent.

Banco de Mexico has kept the overnight borrowing rate at a record-low 3 percent in its past five policy meetings to boost an economy that grew less than estimated in eight of the past 10 quarters. The central bank on Wednesday signaled that leeway for further cuts is limited given the peso’s weakness, expectations for improvement in Mexico’s economy and the outlook for the Federal Reserve ... Read More

How Bad Is Venezuela’s Economic Chaos?

| February 19th, 2015 | No Comments »
Forbes

By Nathaniel Parish Flannery

Venezuela’s economy is slowly collapsing, crushed by the pressure of a falling oil prices and the accumulated weight of decades of mismanagement. Venezuela’s currency, the bolivar, is overvalued and artificially propped up by an arcane system of currency controls. The bolivar, like Venezuela’s economy, is trapped in a downward spiral. Within Venezuela the effects of the economic chaos are seen at the supermarket, where empty shelves are a constant reminder of the economic dysfunction that has come to define South America’s fifth largest economy. The economic distress is also felt on the balance sheets of dozens of major U.S. companies who hold sizable assets in Venezuela.

A group of around 40 companies, including General Motors and Merck & Co Inc, together hold assets worth US$11 billion in Venezuela. The problems for these companies stem from the fact that the official dollar exchange rate of ... Read More

To fix Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro must go

| February 19th, 2015 | No Comments »
Quartz

By María Teresa Romero

The profound crisis engulfing Venezuela shows no sign of abating. On the contrary, the first month of 2015 has exposed to the world the country’s dire shortage of basic foodstuffs and household products, rampant insecurity, human-rights violations, criminalization of protests, and the disarray of its armed forces, just to name a few issues.

This has created the conditions for renewed calls across society for the resignation of President Nicolás Maduro, or at least for such a possibility to be openly discussed. And the voices demanding it are not isolated. They come mainly from the Venezuelan opposition, who see in his resignation the only way for the country begin reconstructing a deeply fragmented society, in which the most basic values of cooperation have all but disappeared. But ordinary citizens unconnected to formal politics also feel the imminent crisis. The open disdain for human life has reached such heights that now Caracas ranks among the world’s top violent ... Read More

Pemex pospondrá proyectos de exploración en aguas profundas

| February 18th, 2015 | No Comments »
Excelsior

CIUDAD DE MÉXICO, 18 de febrero.-  La petrolera estatal mexicana Pemex pospondrá algunos proyectos de exploración en aguas profundasdebido al recorte de gastos derivado de la caída de los precios del petróleo, dijo el miércoles el director general de la compañía, Emilio Lozoya.

El jefe de la empresa también admitió que debido al recorte presupuestal anunciado para el 2015, por 62,000 millones de pesos (unos 4,150 millones de dólares), también habrá una disminución en la plantilla laboral de la firma, pero no precisó cifras.

Lozoya dijo, consultado en un programa radial, que han sido cancelados algunos proyectos que no habían comenzado y que suponen un mayor riesgo.

“Hay proyectos concretos, diría de exploración en algunos yacimientos en aguas profundas, no en todos, pero los de mayor riesgo, pues por ahora si no hemos comenzado, se posponen”, dijo.

“No quiere decir que Pemex deje alguno de estos proyectos de lado, que los cancele, simplemente como hay menos dinero, ... Read More

Petrobras kickback scandal roils Brazilian waters

| February 18th, 2015 | No Comments »
AEI

The ongoing scandal in Brazil over corruption in the state-owned oil company Petrobras continues to create headlines. This week Pedro Barusco, a former executive in Petrobras, claims to have received $200,000 to secure a $100 million contract for Rolls Royce. The British multinational joins dozens of other companies involved in what has become one of Brazil’s most notorious corruption scandals. As investigators scrutinize the involvement of the leaders of the ruling Workers’ Party (PT), it is apparent that President Dilma Rousseff has yet to see the worst of the political fallout from this scandal.

Several Petrobras officials have been accused by investigators of scheming to inflate prices on construction contracts in order to pocket the excess funds or provide kickbacks to PT politicians. Rousseff has denied knowledge of the corruption, despite having chaired the Petrobras board from 2003-2010.

Two weeks ago Petrobras’ CEO Maria das Graças Foster was forced to resign along with ... Read More

Operation “Eye of the Falcon” fighting drugs in Guatemala with U.S. support

| February 18th, 2015 | No Comments »
From Fox News Latino

A law enforcement operation dubbed “Eye of the Falcon,” in which U.S. and Guatemalan anti-drug agents are participating, is fighting drug trafficking in the Central American country, authorities here said Tuesday.

Without providing details about the plan, the Guatemalan Government Ministry said on its Web page that air, sea and land operations were launched last week.

Agents with the Sgaia anti-drug analysis and information department of the National Civil Police, the anti-drug vice ministry and the Defense Ministry, supported by U.S. anti-drug units, including some from the Drug Enforcement Administration, are participating in the effort.

According to the Government Ministry, the operation is being conducted in the provinces of Suchitepequez, Retalhuleu, Escuintla, San Marcos and Jutiapa, along Guatemala’s Pacific coast, given that this zone serves as a transport route via which drugs are shipped to the United States.

Operation Eye of the Falcon is ... Read More

Fallout Over Argentine Prosecutor’s Death Draws International Tensions

| February 18th, 2015 | No Comments »
The New York Times

By JONATHAN GILBERT

INTENDENTE ALVEAR, Argentina — Fallout from the mysterious death of a federal prosecutor raised diplomatic tensions between Argentina and the United States on Tuesday, on the eve of a controversial march in the prosecutor’s honor that has fueled unease between the government and parts of the judiciary.

In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Héctor Timerman, Argentina’s foreign minister, said the country should not tolerate being a “theater for operations of politics, intelligence or, even worse, more serious actions, because of conflicts that are completely unconnected with its history,” adding that Argentina had no strategic interests in the Middle East.

Days before his death on Jan. 18, the prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, had accused Mr. Timerman and President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of trying to derail his investigation into the fatal bombing in 1994 of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires ... Read More

Peru’s President Humala Shuffles Cabinet As Popularity Weakens

| February 18th, 2015 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01 By ROBERT KOZAK LIMA, Peru—Peru’s President Ollanta Humala on Tuesday shuffled his cabinet, naming four new ministers and giving a different portfolio to another minister in an attempt to help boost the government’s flagging popularity.

A national survey released this week showed Mr. Humala’s approval rating dropping to 22% from 25% last month, due in good part to concerns about corruption and crime. Opposition members of Congress had also been threatening to censure cabinet unless the president removed some ministers.

Mr. Humala on Tuesday removed Interior Minister Daniel Urresti, who took political responsibility for violent protests in the Junin region this month against a petroleum company in which one person died and many more were injured.

The head of Peru’s prison system, Jose Luis Perez Guadalupe, was appointed to replace him, becoming the seventh minister of the interior since Mr. Humala came to office in mid-2011.

The president moved the former speaker of Congress, Fredy Otarola, to become ... Read More

Mexico to stop shipping ready-to-use fuel to curb thefts

| February 18th, 2015 | No Comments »
BBC

Mexico’s state-owned oil company Pemex has announced it will stop shipping ready-to-use petrol and diesel through its pipelines, in an effort to curb fuel thefts.

Pemex says it will use its pipelines across Mexico only for unfinished fuel.

That fuel will go through a last phase of mixing when it reaches the company’s storage plants.

More than $1bn (£650,000) worth of fuel was stolen by Mexican gangs in 2014, an increase of 70% over the previous year.

In a statement, the company warned consumers not to buy illegal fuel tapped from its pipelines as it was likely to damage car engines.

In the red

Last year, Pemex discovered more than 2,600 illegal taps along its network of ducts.

Many criminal organisations, including Mexico’s notorious drugs gangs, are involved in the illegal activities.

Mexican oil production has declined from 3.6 million barrels a day in 2004 to just 2.5 million.

Pemex, known officially as Petroleos Mexicanos, ... Read More

Venezuela Squanders Its Oil Wealth

| February 18th, 2015 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

By Anatoly Kurmanaev

(Bloomberg) — By packing bags for $1 a day and with tips at a Caracas supermarket, Luis has managed to save up for a Japanese sports motorbike. His secret? Getting hold of scarce food before it hits the shelves.

Luis offers preferential access to detergent, milk and sugar to his clientele of about 100 diplomats at a Centro Madeirense shop in the south of the capital. In return, they offer him occasional work as a handyman or courier and loan him money during dry patches.

“Times are tough. We have to spin to survive,” Luis, 30, said in an interview in Caracas last month. “We have to be creative with the opportunities at hand to make ends meet.”

Price controls have emptied stores of most goods, while the world’s highest inflation has pushed what is available beyond the means of most Venezuelans. To ... Read More

China’s Sale Of Fighter Jets To Argentina Raises Tensions Over Falkland Islands

| February 17th, 2015 | No Comments »
china-topix_157x100

China sold some of its fighter jets to Argentina, causing existing tensions in the South Atlantic to rise because of concerns that Argentina would attempt to reclaim the Falkland Islands.

The sale of the military jets came after Argentine President Kristina de Kirchner visited Beijing last week for a three-day appointment to seal 15 economic deals with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The deals aimed to strengthen the partnership between the two countries.

Beijing is reportedly helping Argentina in terms of financial investment in order to reinforce the already failing economy of the country.

The Falkland Islands has been one of the main concerns of Kirchner as she has always appealed to the international community for support in having the islands returned to Argentina. The procurement of the 20 fighter jets from China will hopefully help them regain control over the said islands.

The fighter jets, FC-1/JF-17 models, were produced by the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation. The features are high-end, with a top speed of Mach ... Read More

A civilian sacrifice is more likely than a coup in Caracas

| February 17th, 2015 | No Comments »
Financial Times

By Daniel Lansberg-Rodriguez

Venezuela’s cartoonish leaders have survived boulders and anvils that would eradicate most governments. For years, inflation, crime and civil discontent have been ubiquitous and yet the revolution soldiers on. This resilience was once attributed to high oil prices and the charisma of the late Hugo Chávez. Both are now gone. And, with President Nicolás Maduro’s successor government floundering, there are whispers of a possible putsch.

Venezuelan presidents have long cried “coup” to justify crackdowns. But serious analysts are joining the speculation. A rash of high-profile military defections and a government broadcast of allegedly recorded subversive chatter among former generals seem to call military loyalties into question. Discontent on the streets is becoming palpable.

Latin America has a penchant for overthrowing its leaders and despite its oil wealth Venezuela has been no exception. The presidential palace has been strafed or bombed by mutinous forces on several occasions. In 1992 Chávez ... Read More

Oil’s slump a blow to Mexico amid touted energy reforms

| February 17th, 2015 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press

BY PETER ORSI

MEXICO CITY — The lowest oil prices in nearly six years couldn’t have come at a worse time for Mexico, which last year opened up oil-sector investment to private companies for the first time in decades.

The landmark energy reform aimed to boost revenue by enabling Mexico to tap undeveloped fields and adopt newer technology to reverse a decadelong slide in production.

Instead, the drop in oil prices has forced Mexico’s government to slash $8.4 billion from its 2015 budget, with most of the cutbacks expected to come in the energy sector. Analysts predict the energy partnerships made possible by the reform will attract initial bids lower than anticipated, some exploration projects will be delayed, and state oil company Pemex will see a cash crunch and slow job growth.

“If we continue for the next year in the scenario that we’re ... Read More

Mexico urged to rebuild public’s trust

| February 17th, 2015 | No Comments »
Financial Times

By Jude Webber and John Paul Rathbone in Mexico City

Mexico’s ambitious reform programme will count for little if the scandal-tainted government of President Enrique Peña Nieto fails to rebuild shattered public confidence.

The unusually candid assessment comes from Luis Videgaray, Mexico’s finance minister, who, like the president, has been at the centre of an outcry over embarrassing house purchases from a prominent government contractor that have fuelled allegations of crony capitalism.

Mr Peña Nieto has pushed through a host of “wonderful” and transformative economic reforms, including the liberalisation of an oil sector closed to private investment for nearly 80 years. Yet Mr Videgaray said these should not be the only priorities for a government still facing nearly four more years in office.

“It is not just about reform, reform, reform,” he told the Financial Times in an interview. “We need to address what is really important today for Mexican society, which is not [just] ... Read More

The Truth About ‘Tourist Apartheid’ in Cuba

| February 17th, 2015 | No Comments »
Yahoo News-01

By Kim-Marie Evans

Contrary to recent headlines, Cuba is not flinging open its doors for tourist travel. Although there have been recent changes in U.S. regulations, it is still technically illegal for an American to be a tourist in Cuba. In fact, during a recent art-buying trip I took to Cuba, I learned there is a term used to describe the visitor situation in the country: “tourist apartheid.” In other words, travelers still remain separate from the general population.

The purpose of my trip was to buy art, but the visit also allowed me to learn more about the lives of “real” Cubans — which is very different from what tourists see and experience. The people I interviewed whispered their answers while glancing over their shoulders. “Who could possibly be listening?” I asked.

The truth is that anyone can be listening.

I took a similar trip ... Read More

Rough Seas for Venezuela

| February 17th, 2015 | No Comments »
The New York Times

BY ENRIQUE KRAUZE

MEXICO CITY — At the University of Havana in 1999, President Hugo Chávez assailed those who would “ask Cuba to follow the path of false democracy” and declared that Venezuela was “moving toward the same ocean as the Cuban people, an ocean of happiness, of true social justice, of peace.” But the recent steep plunge in oil prices has thrown both Cuba and the Venezuela that supplies its oil into a much more turbulent ocean than Mr. Chávez ever imagined.

To emulate Cuba politically was an inexcusable choice, but Mr. Chávez began carefully to do so. In order to distance Venezuela from “false democracy,” he accumulated control over the organs of government and over much of the information media: radio, television and the press. His successor, Nicolás Maduro, has remained on that road but much more crudely — with little attention to nuance or pragmatic pressures. He took over the rest ... Read More

Latin America 2015 outlook darkens as commodities sink: poll

| February 13th, 2015 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

BY SILVIO CASCIONE

(Reuters) – Latin America has embarked on a painfully long period of greater austerity, and lower commodity prices and economic growth will barely pick up speed this year, a Reuters poll found Thursday.

With nose-diving oil and metal prices weighing on government finances and jeopardizing investments, economists in the quarterly poll chopped 2015 growth forecasts again for the region’s seven largest countries, from Mexico to Argentina.

Brazil is now expected to grow a meager 0.5 percent in 2015, down from an estimate of 1.1 percent in the prior survey and barely up from an expected 0.2 percent growth in 2014.

Mexico will probably expand by 3.4 percent, compared to 3.7 percent in the last poll, while oil producer Venezuela, flirting with a debt default, will probably contract 2.0 percent, according to the poll of about 50 economists.

Growth would probably improve somewhat in 2016, but would still fall short of the ... Read More

Tijuana Cartel Resurgent in Mexico: Official

| February 13th, 2015 | No Comments »
From In Sight

BY DAVID GAGNE

Mexico’s Tijuana Cartel is reportedly marshaling its forces in an attempt to gain back some of its lost glory, according to one security official, providing a look at the current state of a once powerful criminal empire that has since fallen into decline.

Some leaders of the Tijuana Cartel have left prison and are once again engaging in criminal activities in the border city, Tijuana’s Public Security Minister Alejandro Lares Valladares told investigative magazine Zeta Tijuana. Juan Lorenzo Vargas Gallardo, alias “El Chan,” is in charge of restructuring the organization, the magazine reported. However, several other former heads of the cartel have also taken on leaderships roles, including Manuel Lopez Nunez, alias “El Balas,” and Pedro Quintero Velazquez, alias “El 5-8.”

Lares Valladares also said that violent confrontations between the Tijuana and Sinaloa Cartel are ongoing in the region. In recent years, the Sinaloa Cartel has largely taken over drug ... Read More

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