Official: US believes ex-Venezuela oil czar took bribes

Official: US believes ex-Venezuela oil czar took bribes

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — U.S. prosecutors believe that Venezuela’s former oil czar and ambassador to the United Nations received bribes as part of an alleged multibillion-dollar graft scheme in the South America nation’s oil industry, an official familiar with the U.S. investigation said Monday.

Rafael Ramirez, who was one of Venezuela’s most powerful officials until he resigned from the U.N. post in December, was named as a bribe recipient although not charged in an indictment against five other former senior officials ...  

Former Venezuelan Officials Charged With Money Laundering at PDVSA

Former Venezuelan Officials Charged With Money Laundering at PDVSA

The U.S. Justice Department charged several former Venezuelan officials with participating in a money-laundering scheme at state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA.

The five include Nervis Villalobos, the country’s former deputy energy minister, and Luis De Leon, a dual citizen of Venezuela and the U.S. who is a former financial director of a PDVSA affiliate, according to an indictment from August that was unsealed Monday. De Leon and Villalobos are also each charged with one count of conspiracy to violate ...  

A ‘Hard-Leftist’ Leads Colombia’s Presidential Race

A ‘Hard-Leftist’ Leads Colombia’s Presidential Race

With Colombia’s presidential election just over three months away, a “hard leftist” former guerrilla is leading in polls, and investors haven’t yet fully woken up to the risk that he might win, according to Nomura.

When they do, the nation’s bonds and currency are likely to sell off, according to Mario Castro, a Latin America FX and Rates Strategist at Nomura in New York. Two polls published this month show Gustavo Petro in first place, while another has him running second.

“The ...  

‘It’s humiliating’: plight of Venezuelan middle class is pawn shops’ gain

‘It’s humiliating’: plight of Venezuelan middle class is pawn shops’ gain

Not so long ago, Nelly Osorio used to drive a newish car, drink a glass of whiskey every Friday night and get a manicure at least once a month. But today she is waiting outside a pawnbroker’s to sell off her jewelry.

Like many members of Venezuela’s dwindling middle class, Osorio, 60, has seen her life change drastically over the past two or three years. The country’s minimum wage is 797,510 bolivars a month – about £2.40 at a black market exchange ...  

Phony elections won’t legitimize Venezuela’s Maduro

Phony elections won’t legitimize Venezuela’s Maduro

By Roger Noriega & Andrés Martínez-Fernández

2/09/2018

After a dialogue between the Venezuelan regime and opposition negotiators this week failed to reach agreement on the terms for holding presidential elections, the dictatorship unilaterally scheduled the balloting for April 22 in the hopes that a rigged vote will legitimize Nicolás Maduro’s authoritarian regime. The international community should not fall for this obvious ploy.

Since his disputed election in 2013, Maduro increasingly has used violence and repression to maintain control over a country reeling from food ...  

Colombia and Brazil clamp down on borders as Venezuela crisis spurs exodus

Colombia and Brazil clamp down on borders as Venezuela crisis spurs exodus

Colombia and Brazil are tightening their borders in response to Venezuela’s economic crisis and food shortages that have provoked an exodus of desperate migrants.

Brazil announced on Thursday that it would send more troops to patrol frontier regions and start relocating thousands of Venezuelan refugees, who have overwhelmed social services in frontier areas, to towns and cities in Brazil’s interior. …

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International Criminal Court may investigate Venezuela

International Criminal Court may investigate Venezuela

The International Criminal Court is looking into allegations of excessive force and other abuses by Venezuela’s government in response to sometimes deadly anti-regime protests, its prosecutor said Thursday.

The “preliminary examination” by the Netherlands-based tribunal is the first step toward launching an investigation into what ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda called allegations of “excessive force” by state security forces against opponents of President Nicolas Maduro. …

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Venezuela election could trigger deeper sanctions, exiles

Venezuela election could trigger deeper sanctions, exiles

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) – The Venezuelan government’s decision to plow ahead with early presidential elections over the objections of the opposition risks spurring more international sanctions and exacerbating an economic and social crisis driving increasing numbers of Venezuelans into exile, analysts said Thursday.

Opposition politicians were meeting the day after officials announced the April 22 vote, deciding whether to challenge socialist President Nicolas Maduro in an election that several foreign nations have already vowed not to recognize – or to boycott ...  

Ecuador bucks the authoritarian trend

Ecuador bucks the authoritarian trend

RAFAEL CORREA, like Vladi­mir Putin, Hugo Chávez and other authoritarian rulers, found himself stymied by term limits. So in 2015, the Ecuadoran president persuaded his legislature to lift a ceiling of two presidential terms by promising not to run in 2017. His idea was to install a follower for four years and then return to power, as Mr. Putin once did. Then, on Sunday, came a much-deserved comeuppance: Ecuadoran voters, prompted by Mr. Correa’s own successor, voted overwhelmingly to restore ...  

Venezuela is a ‘clear and present danger’ for the oil market, says RBC’s Helima Croft

Venezuela is a ‘clear and present danger’ for the oil market, says RBC’s Helima Croft

One of Latin America’s biggest oil producers could soon provide a key catalyst for oil prices.

“We continue to contend that, given 2018’s tightening oil market, any potential geopolitically driven supply disruption would have an outsized impact versus recent years when the market was awash in crude,” Helima Croft, head of global commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets, said in a research note Wednesday. …

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Cuba Is Making the Crisis in Venezuela Worse

Cuba Is Making the Crisis in Venezuela Worse

José R. Cárdenas

2/07/2018

With President Donald Trump singling out “the communist and socialist dictatorships in Cuba and Venezuela” in his State of the Union address and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson using his first trip to Latin America to rally regional support for tougher measures against Venezuela, the Trump administration is clearly signaling its intention to escalate diplomatic and economic pressure on the authoritarian regime of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.

There is no other course. The Maduro regime’s intransigence, its systematic destruction ...  

‘Tear down this firewall’ – US looks to expand Cuba internet

‘Tear down this firewall’ – US looks to expand Cuba internet

A new U.S. task force ordered by President Donald Trump warned Wednesday that Cuba’s government uses internet restrictions to stifle dissent and vowed to find ways the United States could expand access and freedom for Cubans online.

The Cuba Internet Task Force held its first public meeting over the objections of Cuban President Raul Castro’s government, which has dismissed it as an exercise in attempted subversion by Washington. The task force forms part of Trump’s tougher approach to Cuba and partial ...  

Venezuela Oil Sanctions More Likely as Tillerson Tours Region

Venezuela Oil Sanctions More Likely as Tillerson Tours Region

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signaled the U.S. is closer to imposing sanctions on Venezuela’s oil sector, raising the pressure on President Nicolas Maduro as his talks with opposition leaders remained at an impasse.

Wrapping up a tour of Latin America and the Caribbean that focused on unifying the region against Venezuela, Tillerson said he has President Donald Trump’s backing for tougher restrictions against Maduro’s government. Tillerson said that while no final decision has been made, mitigating the impact of ...  

Colombia’s ELN plans blockade to protest peace talks suspension

Colombia’s ELN plans blockade to protest peace talks suspension

BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombia’s ELN rebel group said on Wednesday it would hold a three-day national blockade beginning over the weekend to protest the government’s suspension of peace negotiations, and urged Colombians to avoid travel.

The government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) have been in talks since February 2017 to end a five decade war, but President Juan Manuel Santos suspended the negotiations last week after a series of rebel attacks killed seven police over a single weekend.

The blockade, unlikely ...  

Tillerson calls for regional support to resolve Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis

Tillerson calls for regional support to resolve Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday said he was “heartbroken” to witness the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and said Washington’s top priority for the region was for the troubled South American nation to hold “free and fair elections.”

Speaking at Colombia’s presidential palace, Tillerson said the United States was also studying the idea of helping Colombia financially as it deals with more than 600,000 Venezuelans who have fled across the border in recent years amid an economic meltdown.

Colombia ...  

GOP Critics Press Trump to Withdraw Nominee For Colombia Ambassadorship

GOP Critics Press Trump to Withdraw Nominee For Colombia Ambassadorship

Sen. Mike Lee (R., Utah) has renewed his call for President Trump to withdraw his nominee to be ambassador to Colombia and consider other candidates for the post.

Lee, along with Sens. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and Marco Rubio, (R., Fla.), have taken issue with Trump’s choice of Joseph Macmanus, a 30-year veteran of the foreign service who was close to Clinton and served as one of her top aides during her tenure as secretary of State. …

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Venezuela talks hang by thread as presidential vote looms

Venezuela talks hang by thread as presidential vote looms

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — Negotiations between Venezuela’s government and opposition were hanging by a thread after they failed to reach an agreement on a formula for upcoming presidential elections.

Talks aimed at resolving Venezuela’s grinding political and economic crisis have been taking place for weeks, and hope for a breakthrough was running high when they resumed Tuesday in the Dominican Republic.

But the opposition’s delegation head Julio Borges said after talks concluded without a deal that he won’t sign any agreement ...  

Once-rich Venezuelans live as beggars in Colombia, but they don’t want to go back

Once-rich Venezuelans live as beggars in Colombia, but they don’t want to go back

They left their jobs, homes and all their worldly possessions behind, and now have to beg on the streets all day just to gather enough coins to sleep under a roof at night. But many Venezuelan immigrants in Colombia still say they are better off than they were before they crossed the border.

“Venezuela… I wouldn’t wish it on even my worst enemy,” a teary-eyed Luis Alfredo Rivas, 32, told el Nuevo Herald at a bus terminal in Bogotá, where he ...  

Potential U.S. Ban on Venezuelan Oil May Hit Valero Hardest

Potential U.S. Ban on Venezuelan Oil May Hit Valero Hardest

If the U.S. bans oil imports from Venezuela, Valero Energy Corp. and Chevron Corp. may end up paying the price. The U.S. is considering a ban on oil imports from Venezuela and exports of petroleum products, but is wary of the damage to American companies, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday. In addition to exporting oil to America, Venezuela’s state-controlled oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA also exports jet fuel to the U.S., and imports Permian oil and diluent naphtha ...  

Courts May Decide Brazil’s Election, Attorney General Warns

Courts May Decide Brazil’s Election, Attorney General Warns

Brazil’s democracy is under strain and this year’s presidential race risks being dragged into a lengthy legal quagmire, the country’s attorney general said in an interview.

Numerous appeals regarding the eligibility of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva mean the current front-runner in opinion polls is likely to overshadow the elections regardless of whether he can actually run. He may even be on the ballot in October but prohibited from taking office.

“Yes, there is a risk,” said Grace Mendonca, the ...  

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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 radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and elsewhere. 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, Russia, and even transnational criminal organizations.

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 policymakers and international public opinion of the dangers of these radical populist regimes to inter-American security.