Content from IASW Contributors

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

By Roger F. Noriega By Roger F. Noriega
IYesterday’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.

Guatemalans protest corrupt status-quo

By Roger F. NoriegaBy Roger F. Noriega
On Saturday, 60,000 protesters took to the streets in 13 cities in Guatemala demanding the resignation of President Otto Perez Molina. Guatemala has been rocked by a corruption scandal involving several members of the Perez Molina administration, including former Vice President Roxana Baldetti, who was forced to resign on May 8 due to her alleged involvement in a customs fraud scheme. Read More-->

Venezuela receives $5 bn funding from China

| April 20th, 2015 | No Comments »
From AFP

Cash-strapped Venezuela has received $5 billion in financing from China, President Nicolas Maduro announced Sunday as his country struggles with an economic crisis.

“We just received $5 billion more in financing for development,” Maduro said in a radio and television address.

He did not provide further details on the loan from China, a major political and economic ally of Venezuela.

Plummeting global oil prices have caused huge distress for Venezuela, a member of OPEC that relies heavily on its oil revenue to keep its lumbering command economy afloat.

Inflation in 2014 reached 68.5 percent in the South American country and many basic goods are in short supply.

China is Venezuela’s largest investor and the second-largest purchaser of its oil. It has been a key ally of Venezuela since Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez came to power in 1999.

In January, Maduro visited Beijing ... Read More

As U.S. And Cuba Explore a Renewal Of Diplomacy, What Becomes Of Victor Gerena, Other Notorious Fugitives?

| April 20th, 2015 | No Comments »
CT Now


There is probably no one with a greater interest than Victor M. Gerena in the talks underway between the U.S. and Cuba about re-establishing diplomatic relations.

In 1983, he and other members of a group of Puerto Rican nationalists — a group armed, advised and financed by the Cuban government — stole $7 million from a West Hartford armored car depot in what was then the biggest cash robbery in U.S. history.

The Cubans sneaked Gerena into Mexico City. They stashed him in a safe house, lightened the color of his hair and gave him a phony diplomatic identity. Eventually, they put him and much of the money on a plane to Havana, where Gerena disappeared into the shadowy community of murderers, bombers, robbers and hijackers Cuba has sheltered from prosecution in the U.S and other countries since the 1960s.

For decades, the ... Read More

Colombia peace process rattled by deadly guerrilla attack

| April 17th, 2015 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald


The Colombian air force was ordered to resume bombing the country’s largest guerrilla group Wednesday after rebels ambushed an army patrol overnight, killing at least 11 and injuring 19.

The midnight attack was the deadliest since the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and government negotiators began meeting in Havana in 2012 to hammer out a peace deal to end the half-century conflict, according to local analysts.

President Juan Manuel Santos accused the guerrillas of breaking their own unilateral cease-fire and attacking the soldiers unprovoked. Santos also said he was resuming aerial attacks on the guerrillas, which had been suspended since March, as part of a series of steps to reduce violence amid the negotiations.

On Wednesday, speaking from Havana, the FARC suggested they’d been forced into the action as a defensive measure.

“By all accounts this [attack] was caused by the government’s incoherence — ordering military operations against guerrillas that had ... Read More

Venezuela steps up nationalist rhetoric as economy worsens

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

By John Paul Rathbone and Andres Schipani 

Flanked by puffy-faced generals, Nicolás Maduro unveiled a 1.2km long flag this week, swore to crack down on businesses and railed against the imperial US — even as Cuba, the Venezuelan president’s closest ally, pursued detente with Washington.

“We are going to radicalise the revolution,” Mr Maduro roared at the military rally in Caracas on Monday. “Enough with the smirks of the bourgeoisie,” he thundered from the stage.

The contrast between Mr Maduro’s fiery rhetoric and Havana’s softly-softly approach to Washington is stark. On Tuesday, the US removed Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terror — making it possible for Havana to obtain multilateral funding and easing financing from third country commercial banks.

Mr Maduro’s escalating nationalist agitprop — including the unveiling of Venezuela’s longest flag — comes as he faces accusations of mishandling the economy. Two years since he took office, ... Read More

A leading presidential candidate in Argentina would lift currency controls, negotiate debt

| April 17th, 2015 | No Comments »
US News & World Report

By PETER PRENGAMAN, Associated Press

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — The man who could be Argentina’s next president wants to put an end to tight government currency controls, make peace with the nation’s creditors and improve severely frayed ties to the United States. In short, Mauricio Macri is promising to undo much of what President Cristina Fernandez and her late husband Nestor Kirchner created over the past 13 years.

It’s a platform that appears to be gaining traction.

The right-leaning Buenos Aires mayor leads many polls ahead of the October elections. His popularity is buoyed by economic frustration and widespread anger over the mysterious death of federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who accused Fernandez of protecting those responsible for Argentina’s most serious terror attack.

Macri believes pro-market reforms will restore confidence in Argentina, both at home and abroad. Those themes are resonating: A handful of polls conducted in March gave him single-digit leads, a big ... Read More

The Kickback That Killed Brazil

| April 17th, 2015 | No Comments »
Foreign Policy


RIO DE JANEIRO — Underneath the tiled awning of her whitewashed veranda, Cassia Gonçalves Moreira, 46, scoops clumps of damp pastry from a large plastic tub, rolls them between her hands, and methodically lines the bottom of a dozen or so small tins arranged on the table in front of her.

Next comes the filling: cheese, chicken, or hearts of palm. Then, she molds another dollop of pastry for the lid, before placing the completed empadas on a metal tray. A faint smell of rising dough drifts through the open door. Once she has cooked enough, she will put on her Brazil soccer shirt and start her daily trek around Itaboraí, a town a few miles east of Rio de Janeiro, across the Guanabara Bay, selling each empada for 3 real ($1).

“They don’t exactly pay for everything,” she said. “In fact, they don’t even cover the ... Read More

Raynell Andreychuk: Venezuela on the brink

| April 17th, 2015 | No Comments »
National Post-01

By Raynell Andreychuk

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has taken pains in recent months to paint his country as the victim of economic warfare, and himself as the target of several assassination plots.

Sanctions imposed on Venezuelan officials by U.S. President Barack Obama last month prompted at least one member of President Maduro’s government to venture that the White House was preparing a military assault on the South American nation.

Most observers dismiss such statements as part of a longstanding narrative aimed at distracting popular attention from Venezuela’s real problems. Those closest to the worsening state of Venezuelans’ daily wellbeing, however, warn of severe consequences if distraction continues to trump action aimed at easing the country’s compounding crises.

Inflation in Venezuela, at 68.5 per cent, is the highest in the world, prompting hoarding and a growing black-market economy. Shortages of food, life-saving drugs, and basic goods have become facts of life. Newspapers have been forced ... Read More

Petrocaribe: a legacy that is both blessing and a curse

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

By Andres Schipani

Shortly after the 2010 earthquake, Hugo Chávez, the late Venezuelan leader, said he would write off Haiti’s $395m debt for oil exports from his country and would continue to supply it on generous credit terms.

“Haiti has no debt with Venezuela, on the contrary, it is Venezuela that has a historic debt with Haiti,” he said. He cited Haiti’s support for Venezuela’s 19th-century revered independence hero, Simón Bolívar. Historical links between the two countries include Venezuela’s flag being designed and first raised in Haiti.

In 2010, oil prices were as high as Mr Chávez’s revolutionary fervour. Caracas could afford to supply Haiti’s energy needs by sending 14,000 barrels of fuel a day at favourable rates and lenient payment terms in return for political support. Now, oil prices have halved since the middle of last year and Venezuela’s economy is in recession, wrestling with galloping inflation and food ... Read More

Why Is Obama Parroting Castro Talking Points?

| April 17th, 2015 | No Comments »
National Review

BY MONA CHARENTwo relatively recent photos of Barack Obama with foreign leaders reveal much about his deep-dyed leftism. The first features President Obama and democratically-elected prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of one of America’s most loyal friends. Obama looks strained. His face is stiff, and his eyes are veiled. The second is a snap of Obama at the recent Summit of the Americas in Panama. He’s seated with “President” Raul Castro, leader of a bitter enemy, who has never received a single free vote. Obama is grinning, his eyes dancing with pleasure.In contrast to the bitterness with which Obama addresses Netanyahu, he is all honey with Castro. “So I want to thank President Castro for the spirit of openness and courtesy that he has shown during our interactions . . . President Castro earlier today spoke about the significant hardships that the people of Cuba have undergone over many decades. I can say with ... Read More

Obama: Cuba No Longer Terror Sponsor, Though It Harbors Anti-U.S. Terrorists

| April 17th, 2015 | No Comments »

Foreign Policy: By removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, President Obama is letting Castro get away with harboring and pampering anti-American terrorists on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists List.

Earlier this week, Obama removed Cuba from the State Department’s blacklist — even though State documents Cuba’s long history of sponsoring terrorists. And even though Havana shelters and refuses to turn over American fugitives.

Obama chose not to seek their extradition from Havana in exchange for his latest gift to the communist thug. One of the terrorists sits on the FBI’s list — right alongside al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Joanne Deborah Chesimard, aka Assata Shakur, has a $1 million bounty on her after escaping from a New Jersey prison while serving a life sentence for murdering a state trooper and shooting another with two comrades.

“One trooper was wounded and the other was shot and killed execution-style at point-blank range,” the FBI ... Read More

Where Does U.S. Policy Toward Cuba Go From Here?

| April 17th, 2015 | No Comments »
Foreign Policy

With this week’s perfunctory delisting of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism, it is clear President Obama can’t give away the store fast enough. The apparently antiquated diplomatic notion that when engaging an adversary you use your leverage to try and exact concessions that get you closer to your objective is evidently not for him. Instead, as the Wall Street Journal put it, “Mr. Obama’s Cuban diplomacy has been one unreciprocated offering after another.”

Even worse than that, the administration now finds itself in the humiliating position where the Castro regime is placing conditions on the United States to upgrade diplomatic relations: i.e., ending the terrorism designation, returning the Guantánamo naval base, ending support for dissidents, and so on.

What we are witnessing is a truly remarkable, perhaps unprecedented, piece of statecraft. Give your adversary everything he wants and then see what happens, historical experience be damned. In his own ... Read More

Feds: Guardsmen sold military guns

| April 16th, 2015 | No Comments »
UT San Diego

By Kristina Davis

Two East County California National Guardsmen were arrested Wednesday, accused of selling a cache of military firearms for thousands of dollars to an undercover agent posing as a Mexican drug cartel operative.

Jaime Casillas, 22, of El Cajon, and Andrew Reyes, 34, of La Mesa, were arrested after search warrants were served at their homes, according to federal authorities.

Both worked at the National Guard Armory in La Mesa, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Reyes is accused of traveling several times to Texas to obtain numerous weapons, including assault rifles, magazines and ballistic plates for protective vests, which he then sold in San Diego.

The alleged scheme began in August, when an undercover agent working with a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration task force met with Casillas, who boasted of his ability to acquire ... Read More

Petrobras shows corruption is now a high-stakes game in Brazil

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

By Samantha Pearson

In the 1980s, corruption in Brazil was a simple, albeit sweaty, affair. The first challenge for any executive entrusted with paying a bribe was to traipse up and down the streets to find enough black market money dealers willing to sell dollars, explains one former government contractor. In a decade when Brazil changed its currency more often than its president, kickbacks in greenbacks were considered the only ones worth having.

The second challenge was to take the cash to the meeting place, which often involved donning a long winter coat stuffed with banknotes under the tropical sun. “The biggest danger back then was passing out from heat exhaustion,” says the former contractor.

The multibillion-dollar corruption scandal engulfing Brazil’s state-controlled oil company Petrobras could not be more different. With cash allegedly siphoned through more than 300 Swiss bank accounts and laundered via everything from petrol stations to art works, the country’s largest ... Read More

Attack Roils Colombian Peace Talks

| April 16th, 2015 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01


BOGOTÁ—Colombia’s military moved to restart aerial bombing raids on rebel camps after Marxist guerrillas killed 11 soldiers in a rural attack, threatening peace talks the government had recently said could be completed this year.

The government blamed the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, for an attack with guns and grenades on an army platoon late Tuesday night. The rebels said government troops initiated the skirmish, which occurred in the Andean state of Cauca and injured at least 17 other soldiers.

The sudden escalation of hostilities seemed likely to undermine trust between negotiators who are now in Cuba trying to end a half century of conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people.

President Juan Manuel Santos staked much of his presidency on the promise of ending the insurgency and yielding the economic dividend that would result from peace. He has come under great political pressure to crush the guerrillas militarily ... Read More

Cuba human rights bill introduced; State says Cuba will talk about return of fugitives

| April 16th, 2015 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald


A House bill was introduced Wednesday that would tie an improvement in Cuba’s human rights record to any further removal of sanctions, and the State Department said the United States and Cuba planned to start a dialogue about U.S. fugitives living on the island.

The developments came a day after President Barack Obama informed Congress that there was no longer a justification for keeping Cuba on a list of state sponsors of terrorism.

But in the 45 days until his directive takes effect, Congress may seek to block the president’s action by enacting a joint resolution, which Obama could, in turn, veto.

South Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen met late Wednesday with other members of Congress to discuss strategies about how to reverse “Obama’s unwarranted delisting of Cuba,” her office said.

Also coming on the heels of the delisting was a bill ... Read More

President Obama’s use of farce on Cuba

| April 15th, 2015 | No Comments »

President Obama issued a “certification” yesterday under US law that Cuba should no longer be listed as a state sponsor of terrorism. He states, in part, “the Government of Cuba has provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future.” Of course, Cuba has insisted for 30 years that it does not support terrorism, despite reams of evidence to the contrary, i.e. support for Colombian and Basque terror groups in addition to US cop-killers. So, yesterday, the president of the United States essentially certified his own gullibility.

Let’s just say that Obama’s White House is not a stickler for facts or the law. On March 9th, the president issued a detailed, formal declaration that the lawlessness in Venezuela “constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security” of the United States. Less than a month later, White House advisor Ben Rhodes flatly contradicted the president’s declaration. A State Department official ... Read More

Argentina, A Quiet Link In South American Drug Trade

| April 15th, 2015 | No Comments »
World Crunch-01

By Jorge Ossona

BUENOS AIRES — Whether it’s poor kids sniffing coca paste, or middle class and wealthy youth indulging in refined cocaine, these are the hapless end users in a continental drug chain in which Argentina is now a critical link.

As in the late 18th century, when Spain turned this area into a viceroyalty with Buenos Aires as its capital, Argentina remains a corridor for goods destined for Europe. The trade then was in silver from the mines of Potosí in Peru, which the laws then mandated be exported via Buenos Aires, because it was the shortest route to Spain. The new route worked for decades, until Spain’s colonies began to revolt in 1810, and new states emerged on the continent. Two hundred years later, the country is again a strategic stepping stone, this time for drug cartels that want to ship cocaine from Peru and Bolivia back to the Old World. The decline of the Colombian cartels in the 1980s and 1990s and the problems their lackluster successors have had in taking their ... Read More

Argentina likely to return to capital markets

| April 15th, 2015 | No Comments »
Financial Times

By Jan Dehn

Whatever the result of Argentina’s presidential election later this year, the country will be in a different place a year from now with a new and more pragmatic government running the country. All the main contenders for president in the next government have similar ‘four pronged’ approach to address Argentina’s economic problems. Investors should look through this election ‘noise’ and towards the new government’s coming macro-economic reforms which we believe will usher in a new Argentina.

The era of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, president, is set to be remembered as a strange epoch that began with default and ended with default. The Kirchners oversaw the restoration of order in Argentina after the chaos that accompanied the 2001 default, but then became bogged down by unnecessary confrontations and economic mismanagement.

The upcoming presidential election later this year will not only decisively mark the end of ... Read More

Petrobras, Gazprom ink Bolivia gas deal

| April 15th, 2015 | No Comments »
BN Americas

By Michael Place

Brazil’s state-run oil firm Petrobras has agreed to invest up to US$2.057bn to develop new natural gas fields in Bolivia, officials in La Paz said on Tuesday.

The 15-year agreement forms part of a memorandum of understanding also involving Russian gas producer Gazprom for exploration projects in gas-rich Tarija department.

Under the deal, Petrobras will drill prospects in the Sunchal, San Telmo and Astillero areas, which hold estimated gas reserves of 4.88Tf3 (138Bm3).

According to Bolivia’s state hydrocarbons company YPFB, Petrobras has committed to invest in exploration and production, transport and storage facilities.

“These new areas will allow us to increase our reserves and consolidate Tarija department as Bolivia’s energy center,” YPFB chief executive Guillermo Achá said in a statement.

Achá denied that Bolivia faced an imminent decline in natural gas output due to a lack of new discoveries.

“Gas production is not ending. On the contrary, all these activities indicate that we will increase production,” he added.

Bolivia’s state ... Read More

Obama’s Move to Drop Cuba From Terror List Sets Up Showdown With Congress

| April 15th, 2015 | No Comments »
From Time


President Obama formally moved on Tuesday to remove Cuba from the short, brutish list of states supporting terrorism. The technical finding — that Havana had not offered material support to terrorists in the previous six months — is likely to trigger the first substantial political challenge to Obama’s decision to end the half-century of U.S. efforts to isolate the regime that has ruled Cuba since 1962. By law Congress has 45 days to pass a joint resolution blocking the change, a challenge that anti-Castro lawmakers and Republican critics indicated they would take up. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen promptly declared, “This unwise decision to remove Cuba from the State Sponsor of Terrorism list illustrates that the Obama Administration is willing to concede to the demands of the Castro brothers in order to set up an embassy in Cuba.”

Indeed, if the removal stands, Havana and ... Read More

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