Content from IASW Contributors

Rebuilding Venezuela

By Roger F. Noriega By Roger F. Noriega
Venezuela is collapsing. President Nicolas Maduro’s dash-for-cash to Beijing last week was a humiliating failure. Half-mile food lines wind through the streets of Caracas and other cities. Maduro’s Cuban handlers are abandoning a ship they helped sink, while Venezuelan military officers are pondering the challenge of how to suppress angry, desperate protesters to buy time for an unpopular, incompetent regime.

Reconstruyendo Venezuela

Por Roger F. NoriegaPor Roger F. Noriega
Venezuela está colapsando. El viaje de Nicolás Maduro a China, donde pidió fondos para sobrevivir, fue un fracaso humillante; filas de casi un kilometro para conseguir alimentos se pueden apreciar en las calles de Caracas y otras ciudades; cubanos que manipulaban el gobierno de Maduro están abandonando un barco que ayudaron a hundir; y los militares están considerando el reto de suprimir a manifestantes enojados y desesperados para regalarle tiempo a un régimen incompetente e impopular. Read More-->

Is Ecuador’s president using U.S. law to censor critics?

| January 20th, 2015 | No Comments »

By Simeon Tegel

LIMA, Peru — You might think that using United States laws to shut up social media opponents would be the last thing Rafael Correa would do.

A vocal adversary of Washington, Ecuador’s leftist president has also made a name for sheltering WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange in his country’s London Embassy, and briefly offering asylum to U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.

So, it might come as a surprise to learn that Ecuadoreans who dare to post content critical of Correa and his government on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook say they are finding their images and videos systematically targeted and taken down.

Even more unexpected is the justification being given time and again: the supposed violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), passed by Congress in 1998.

The law, intended to combat online piracy, holds Internet companies liable for copyright violations they host, however unwittingly. It also establishes a fast track “notice and takedown” process ... Read More

US Delegation Meets With Cuban Officials, Not Castro

| January 20th, 2015 | No Comments »
ABC News


Cuba’s foreign minister told a group of U.S. senators and congressmen Monday that his country is open to greater diplomatic and trade ties but the congressional delegation did not meet President Raul Castro, the man who will make many of the key decisions about the new U.S.-Cuban relationship.

The U.S. delegation was led by Sen. Patrick Leahy, who played a key role in the release of American contractor Alan Gross as part of a prisoner exchange that paved the way for the move toward full diplomatic relations. Leahy met with Castro on past trips to Cuba but did not do so again on Monday, two days before Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson arrives in Havana to negotiate the reopening of the U.S. Embassy.

The delegation met for several hours with Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, who told the legislators that Cuba welcomed President Barack Obama’s loosening of the U.S. trade embargo, ... Read More

Official: Cuba terror listing won’t affect US push for embassy, diplomatic ties

| January 20th, 2015 | No Comments »

The Obama administration plans to proceed on forging diplomatic ties with Cuba – and potentially opening an embassy — regardless of whether the country stays on the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

A senior State Department official made clear Monday that the status of the terror listing will have no impact on the diplomatic push. In a conference call with reporters, the official said the issues are proceeding on separate tracks – on one, Secretary of State John Kerry has launched a six-month review of Cuba’s terror sponsor designation; on the other, U.S. officials head to Havana this week to start talks on normalizing ties.

The distinction underscores that little stands in the way of a U.S.-Cuba détente, after Cuba released 53 political prisoners as part of the deal – though Havana sparked renewed concerns after re-arresting, and then releasing, some of them.

The ... Read More

Hallan muerto al fiscal que denunció a la presidenta Kirchner por encubrir a Irán

| January 19th, 2015 | No Comments »
ABC Madrid-01

El fiscal argentino Alberto Nisman, que denunció a la presidenta Cristina Fernández por presunto encubrimiento de Irán en un atentado contra una mutual judía, ha sido hallado muerto en su vivienda de Buenos Aires en circunstancias aún por aclarar, informaron fuentes judiciales.

Nisman, el fiscal de la causa por el atentado con la mutual judía AMIA, fue hallado muerto en su departamento del barrio porteño de Puerto Madero, según confirmaron fuentes judiciales a medios locales. Según medios locales, el cadáver fue hallado en el baño de su departamento con un disparo en la cabeza.

El cuerpo de Nisman fue descubierto apenas unas horas antes de su comparecencia prevista para este lunes ante el Congreso para detallar la denuncia que alcanza a Fernández y a varios de sus colaboradores. Nisman les acusaba de haber organizado una operación destinada a encubrir la responsabilidad de Irán en el ataque terrorista contra la institución israelí AMIA ocurrido ... Read More

Argentine prosecutor who accused Kirchner found dead

| January 19th, 2015 | No Comments »
From AFP

By Paula Bustamente

Buenos Aires (AFP) – An Argentine prosecutor found dead just hours before giving what was expected to be damning testimony against President Cristina Kirchner appears to have committed suicide, the nation’s top security official said Monday.

“All signs point to suicide,” said Argentine Security Secretary Sergio Berni following the death of Alberto Nisman, 51, whose body was found overnight in his apartment in the trendy Puerto Madero neighborhood of the capital.

Nisman, who had accused President Cristina Kirchner of obstructing a probe into a 1994 Jewish center bombing, was found dead of a gunshot wound just hours before he was due to testify at a congressional hearing.

Officials said a .22-caliber handgun was found beside his body, which was discovered by his mother in the bathroom of his 13th floor apartment after his security detail was unable to contact him.

Nisman ... Read More

Ex presidentes de Colombia, México y Chile asistirán a foro opositor en Venezuela

| January 16th, 2015 | No Comments »
El Nuevo Herald

Los expresidentes Andrés Pastrana, de Colombia, Felipe Calderón, de México, y Sebastián Piñera, de Chile, asistirán en Caracas el 26 de enero a un foro organizado por dirigentes opositores al Gobierno venezolano, informó este jueves la exdiputada María Corina Machado.

“Los tres expresidentes van a visitar a Venezuela en una agenda muy intensa de varios días en la cual podrán tener contacto directo con distintos sectores de la sociedad”, señaló Machado en una rueda de prensa en la capital venezolana.

La dirigente opositora dijo que en el foro “Poder Ciudadano y la Democracia de Hoy” los expresidentes podrán conversar con “familiares y víctimas de la represión y la violación sistemática de los derechos humanos del régimen del señor (Nicolás) Maduro”, presidente de Venezuela.

“Los temas fundamentales precisamente serán el poder ciudadano, las transiciones a la democracia, los desafíos en América Latina, libertad frente al autoritarismo y el populismo, y desde luego, los derechos ... Read More

Obama should help Cubans, not Castro

| January 16th, 2015 | No Comments »

Touted as a historic shift in US-Cuba relations, ironically, the Obama administration’s latest initiatives serve to reinforce the status quo — legitimizing and benefiting a regime that has a 55-year track record of opposing change.

President Obama’s new Cuba policy is taking shape this week as his administration announced high-level talks on diplomatic recognition of the Castro regime and released new regulations to liberalize travel to and transactions with the island. Touted as a historic shift in US-Cuba relations, ironically, all of these initiatives serve to reinforce the status quo — legitimizing and benefiting a regime that has a 55-year track record of opposing change. Accepting that this is not what the president intended, he must get serious about engaging the 11 million people of Cuba rather than placating the regime that torments them.

The State Department has announced that Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson will travel ... Read More

Comunicado en conjunto de Leopoldo López, María Corina Machado y Antonio Ledezma

| January 16th, 2015 | No Comments »
Leopoldo Lopez

A comienzos del 2014 el cambio político era necesario. Nosotros lo veíamos urgente. Y en razón de ello alertamos al país sobre un peligroso agravamiento de la crisis nacional si no se producía ese cambio político.

Junto con nuestro reclamo del cambio político llamamos al pueblo a manifestar, pacífica y democráticamente, dentro de los límites de la Constitución Nacional, en demanda del respeto a sus derechos y en rechazo del intento de consolidar un modelo político-económico empobrecedor, diseñado a contrapelo de nuestra tradición democrática, de nuestra Constitución, y de nuestro bienestar y el de las futuras generaciones.

La respuesta del pueblo fue formidable: una verdadera rebelión democrática, pacífica, y civilista sacudió al país por semanas, reclamando un cambio político urgente. La respuesta del gobierno fue de sordera y protagonizo la  represión más brutal y masiva  de nuestra historia ante el reclamo popular.

Cuando el gobierno ... Read More

Argentina’s Jews Reel From New Twist in Terror Probe

| January 16th, 2015 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01 BY TAOS TURNER

BUENOS AIRES—Argentina’s Jewish community, the largest in Latin America, was reeling on Thursday from a prosecutor’s accusation that President Christina Kirchner had conspired to cover up a probe into a 1994 terrorist attack on a Jewish center.

Wednesday’s allegations, filed as a federal criminal complaint, are the latest disappointment for relatives of the 85 people who died after a car bomb blew up outside a Jewish community center, one of the worst attacks against Jews since World War II. For years, officials including President Cristina Kirchner have pointed to Iran for allegedly carrying out the bombing. But the case is still unresolved.

Alberto Nisman, a federal prosecutor who has spent a decade investigating the attack, shocked Argentina by filing the complaint, which accuses Mrs. Kirchner, her foreign minister and others of secretly negotiating a deal with Tehran to offer immunity for Iranian suspects in exchange for Iranian oil. A judge must now decide ... Read More

The cost of Brazil’s closed economy

| January 16th, 2015 | No Comments »
Financial Times

By Otaviano Canuto, Cornelius Fleischhaker and Philip Schellekens

Brazil’s is an unusually closed economy as measured by trade penetration, with exports plus imports equal to just 27.6 per cent of GDP in 2013. Brazil’s large size is often used to explain its relative lack of openness. But this argument does not stand up to scrutiny: among the six countries with larger economies than Brazil’s, the average trade-to-GDP ratio is 55 per cent. Given the size of its economy, we would expect Brazil’s trade to be equal to 85 per cent of GDP, three times its actual size.

Controlling for other dimensions of country size (surface area and population) and structural features often associated with trade openness (urbanization, manufacturing share in GDP) still cannot adequately explain Brazil’s lack of openness.

Lack of trade dynamism at the company level Brazil’s lack of openness becomes even more apparent if we look ... Read More

Mexico’s Drug War: A New Way to Think About Mexican Organized Crime

| January 16th, 2015 | No Comments »

By Tristan Reed

Since the emergence of the Guadalajara cartel in the 1980s as one of the country’s largest drug trafficking organizations, Mexican organized crime has continued to expand its reach up and down the global supply chains of illicit drugs. Under the Guadalajara cartel and its contemporaries, such as the Gulf cartel, led by Juan Garcia Abrego, a relatively small number of crime bosses controlled Mexico’s terrestrial illicit supply chains. Crime bosses such as Miguel Angel “El Padrino” Felix Gallardo, the leader of the Guadalajara cartel, oversaw the bulk of the trafficking operations necessary to push drugs into the United States and received large portions of the revenue generated. By the same token, this facilitated law enforcement’s ability to disrupt entire supply chains with a single arrest. Such highly centralized structures ultimately proved unsustainable under consistent and aggressive law enforcement pressure. Thus, as Mexican organized crime has expanded its control ... Read More

Venezuela’s Asia Tour Backfires as Crude Extends Slump

| January 16th, 2015 | No Comments »

By Pietro D. Pitts

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is winding down a tour of Asia and Russia to garner support for measures to bolster oil prices. A further 8 percent decline since the trip started suggests he failed.

Maduro plans to coordinate with OPEC and non-OPEC producers to create a “formula that impacts the oil market and restores the normalization of prices,” he said Jan. 15 after meeting with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin as the lowest prices in six years threaten both nations’ economies. Crude extended declines as Maduro spoke.

Venezuelan government lobbying to prop up prices is falling on deaf ears among other OPEC members that are prepared to let prices fall to a level that undermines a U.S. shale boom. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have said repeatedly over the past six weeks that the organization wouldn’t cut output to halt the biggest rout since 2008.

“It was a surprise that he went ... Read More

Race on the high seas: Cartels feature new, faster smuggling boats

| January 16th, 2015 | No Comments »

By Perry Chiaramonte

Latin America’s drug cartels are leaving the U.S. Coast Guard in their wake, with new and faster speedboats law enforcement officials say are virtually undetectable by radar.

The new boats, nicknamed “Picudas,” after a tropical fish whose long, thin bodies they resemble, are made of fiberglass, making them invisible to radar and efficient with fuel. While older smuggling vessels took as long as three days to make the trip from Costa Rica to Jamaica, the Picuda can make the trip in two.

Dialogo, a newspaper published by the Pentagon’s Southern Command, quoted one Coast Guard source that called the craft “a wave-breaking go-fast wonder that defies radar detection.” The boats give the bad guys a leg up on authorities trying to cut off the flow of South American drugs, according to the article.

“They [cartels] are being forced to do something that they would rather not,” Adam ... Read More

Administration details eased travel, trade restrictions on Cuba

| January 15th, 2015 | No Comments »
The Hill

By Justin Sink

The Obama administration on Thursday announced the details of sweeping new regulations that will ease travel and trade restrictions with Cuba as part of President Obama’s bid to normalize relations with the communist nation for the first time in a half century.

The rules, announced by the Treasury and Commerce departments, will take effect on Friday.

Under the new policies, travelers who qualify under a dozen broad categories of authorized travel will be able to visit the country without applying for a license. Travelers visiting Cuba won’t be limited in how much money they can spend while on the island, and they’ll be allowed to use their U.S. credit and debit cards.

Travelers can also bring back up to $400 worth of goods, including $100 in alcohol and tobacco products. And travel agents and airlines will be allowed to provide service to the island without the need of ... Read More

Venezuelan Bishops Get Religion

| January 15th, 2015 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01


There’s no better way to cure a fascination with utopian socialism than to live its reality. That’s one takeaway from a strongly worded critique of the Venezuelan government of Nicolás Maduro delivered by the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference on Monday.

The country is a mess, the bishops said in a pastoral exhortation, and the reason is “the government’s insistence in trying to establish a Marxist or communist economic model.” Reform needs to include, among other things, “promoting private activity in the economy.”

Those are fighting words, even from a church hierarchy that has never been enamored with Hugo Chávez ’s Bolivarian Revolution. Vatican faith in the state to deliver what it calls “social justice” has always been tempered in Venezuela by the facts on the ground. The late Cardinal Ignacio Velasco, who died in 2003, recognized the empty promises of the demagogue Chávez from the earliest days ofchavismo.

One of the most contentious issues ... Read More

Argentina’s President Kirchner Named in Criminal Complaint

| January 15th, 2015 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01 By TAOS TURNER

BUENOS AIRES—A federal prosecutor in Argentina has filed a criminal complaint against President Cristina Kirchner , her foreign minister and others, accusing them of conspiring to cover up an investigation into Iran’s alleged involvement in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in this capital city.

The prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, said on Wednesday that Mrs. Kirchner had ordered Foreign Minister Hector Timerman and others to negotiate immunity for Iranian suspects in hopes this would reestablish trade ties and allow Argentina to import Iranian oil to ease a domestic energy crisis. The alleged plan didn’t come to fruition, however.

The complaint will be evaluated by Federal Judge Ariel Lijo, who last year indicted Vice President Amado Boudou on corruption charges. It isn’t clear how that case will evolve. Mr. Boudou has denied the charges.

Meanwhile, Mr. Nisman has asked Judge Lijo to freeze $23 million of assets belonging to Mrs. Kirchner and the others ... Read More

20 State Officials Investigated in Mexico Military Slayings

| January 15th, 2015 | No Comments »
ABC News

At least 20 Mexico state officials are under investigation in the cover-up of threats and torture of women who were witnesses to the alleged killing of prisoners by soldiers last year, state authorities said Wednesday.

State attorney for Mexico state, Alejandro Gomez, said the officials under investigation include prosecutors, forensic investigators and state police.

On June 30, soldiers killed 22 alleged gang members at a warehouse in Tlatlaya. The army first said they died during a shootout, but it was discovered that some were executed.

Federal investigators have said eight people were killed after surrendering to the soldiers, but the National Human Rights Commission put the number between 12 and 15.

The commission also said the state attorney’s office tried to cover up the torture and sexual threats endured by at least two of the three women who survived.

“None have been removed from duty yet because there is a presumption of innocence,” Gomez said at a ... Read More

‘Bullet Caucus’ in Brazil Signals Political Shift to the Right

| January 15th, 2015 | No Comments »
The New York Times


SÃO PAULO, Brazil — Paulo Telhada rolls his eyes, denouncing Brazil’s support for the leftist government of Venezuela. He frowns, grumbling about gun control measures.

But when the subject turns to how many people he killed as a police officer on São Paulo’s streets, he gives a broad smile.

“More than 30,” said Mr. Telhada, 53, a rising star in Brazilian right-wing political circles, having recently won a seat in São Paulo’s state legislature in a landslide.

“I feel no pity for thugs,” he added, emphasizing that he did not enjoy working in a fancy office. “But I know my future lies in politics now.”

Their rising influence points to a major shift in Latin America’s largest democracy. While Brazil is governed by President Dilma Rousseff — a former leftist guerrilla who promotes the sway of ... Read More

Colombia ready for truce talks with Farc – President Santos

| January 15th, 2015 | No Comments »

Juan Manuel Santos said he had asked negotiators to start discussions “as soon as possible”.

He said a unilateral truce declared by the leftist rebels last month “has been a step in the right direction”.

The government had previously refused to join the ceasefire, saying the Farc would use it to rearm.

The two sides have been engaged in peace talks in Cuba since November 2012 to try to end decades of conflict.


‘Real belief’

In a televised address on Wednesday, Mr Santos said peace was closer than ever and it was now time “to de-escalate the intensity of the conflict”.

“We’re closer than ever to secure peace and make it a reality for us, our children and our children’s children.

“I have given instructions to the negotiators to initiate as soon as possible a discussion on the point of the definitive bilateral ceasefire and end of hostilities.”

Mr Santos added that high-ranking military officials had already been ... Read More

Night lines banned at shops in some Venezuela states; scarcity persists

| January 15th, 2015 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

(Reuters) – Governors in three Venezuelan states have banned overnight queuing amid huge and sometimes rowdy lines around shops across the scarcity-plagued country.

Shortages of basic consumer products from milk to toilet paper have worsened since a lull in distribution over the Christmas and New Year holidays, prompting many to wait from the early hours on foot – or in hammocks – before shops open.

The ubiquitous lines and frequent jostling for places when shop doors finally open are an embarrassment and irritation to Venezuelans across the political spectrum.

There have also been scattered protests and arrests.

“We are going to prohibit lines outside commercial establishments,” Falcon state governor Stella Lugo said late on Tuesday. “Security forces have been instructed.”

She joined two other governors, in the states of Bolivar and Yaracuy, who have announced the same ... Read More

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