UN: Peru’s Coca Area Expands for First Time in 5 Years

UN: Peru’s Coca Area Expands for First Time in 5 Years

LIMA — The area planted with coca in Peru expanded 9 percent in 2016, ending a streak of four years of consecutive declines, as global demand for cocaine grows, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said on Tuesday.

Peru planted 43,900 hectares with the leaf that is the raw ingredient of cocaine last year, according to UNODC.

The U.N. said in July that lands being used to cultivate coca in Colombia grew 52 percent last year to 146,000 hectares.

Peru ...  

Venezuelan-Owned Gas Station Citgo On Default Watch

Venezuelan-Owned Gas Station Citgo On Default Watch

Venezuela’s biggest brand, Citgo, is now on death watch over at Fitch Ratings. The credit watchdogs just downgraded the gasoline station’s credit rating to CCC from B-. It’s on rating watch negative, meaning that the next step is a likely default of some kind over the next 12 months. Venezuela faced a restricted default last month on at least three different bond issues, most related to Citgo’s parent, oil major PDVSA.

Venezuela has tapped into the Russian oil company Rosneft for ...  

Trump to appoint new US envoy to Cuba: Report

Trump to appoint new US envoy to Cuba: Report

President Trump is expected to name a career diplomat once expelled from Bolivia for allegedly stirring up social unrest as the U.S. envoy to Cuba, according to a report.

Philip Goldberg, whose appointment is yet to be made public, will head the U.S. embassy in Havana, which has recently been depleted of its staff thanks to acoustic attacks on embassy employees from an unknown source, per Reuters.

President Trump is expected to name a career diplomat once expelled from Bolivia for allegedly ...  

Evo for ever? Bolivia scraps term limits as critics blast ‘coup’ to keep Morales in power

Evo for ever? Bolivia scraps term limits as critics blast ‘coup’ to keep Morales in power

Orinoca, a tiny, poor village in south-west Bolivia, is an unlikely home for the monolithic Museum of the Democratic and Cultural Revolution. But this is is the birthplace of Evo Morales, the country’s president since 2006, and he remains the star of the show.

The museum houses personal belongings – including a pair of shoes he wore as a child and a roomfull of football shirts – and about 5,000 keepsakes from around the indigenous-majority country.

But the focus on Morales also ...  

The crisis in Honduras should matter to the U.S.

The crisis in Honduras should matter to the U.S.

A week after voting in a bitterly contested presidential election, Hondurans still don’t know who their next president will be. The front-runners — incumbent Juan Orlando Hernández and opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla — have claimed victory. According to the country’s election commission, Hernández has a narrow lead with most of the ballots counted. But there is substantial evidence of voter irregularities and fraud, which seemed only to occur after Nasralla had established a significant lead in the vote count. …

CLICK ...  

Venezuela’s economy is in free fall. The government says a digital currency is the answer.

Venezuela’s economy is in free fall. The government says a digital currency is the answer.

It’s easy to see why digital currencies might appear attractive to politically divided and economically strained nations like Venezuela. If every Venezuelan had invested his or her gross 2009 income of $11,500 into bitcoin, the investment would have been worth about $8.4 billion in May this year — per person.

In a nation which has gone through a dramatic economic downturn in recent months, the idea of simply multiplying the value of money without being restricted by banks or sanctions became ...  

Honduras presidential election vote recount begins

Honduras presidential election vote recount begins

The Electoral Court in Honduras has begun a partial recount of votes cast in the disputed presidential ballot. It was requested by the opposition coalition after initial results showed the incumbent, Juan Orlando Hernandez, winning by a few thousand votes.

But the opposition is boycotting the process because the tribunal is only examining around 6% of the vote. They had demanded it include thousands more polling stations.

International observers have called on both sides to attend the recount amid concerns that there could ...  

In a Venezuela Ravaged by Inflation, ‘a Race for Survival’

In a Venezuela Ravaged by Inflation, ‘a Race for Survival’

CARACAS, Venezuela — Of all the compromises he has had to make during Venezuela’s economic crisis, none may be as great for Carlos Sandoval as the books.

A self-described bibliophile — “my life is literature,” he said — Mr. Sandoval is one of Venezuela’s foremost literary critics and a professor at two of the country’s finest universities.

Yet, Mr. Sandoval can no longer afford to buy books. “It’s the worst sacrifice,” he lamented.

Venezuela’s deepening economic crisis has spared few across the population ...  

Republican Senators to Block Trump Pick for Colombia Ambassador

Republican Senators to Block Trump Pick for Colombia Ambassador

Several Republican senators are determined to blunt a State Department effort to fast-track the Senate confirmation of a career State Department official who served as a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to a key ambassador post.

Three Republicans—Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Mike Lee (Utah), and Ted Cruz (Texas)—have publicly decried the nomination of Joseph MacManus, a 30-year veteran of the foreign service who was close to Clinton during her tenure, to become ambassador to Colombia.

The State Department is ...  

From revolution to ruin in Venezuela

From revolution to ruin in Venezuela

Not so long ago Venezuela, which stumbles along as if on a national breadline, was the wealthiest country in Latin America. And why not? It has the world’s largest proven oil reserves and abundant fertile farmland. Its governmental institutions were once efficient and largely free of corruption. With a few good funerals, times could be good again.

But things look rather different now. The country’s GDP has collapsed; it’s only 60 percent of what it was only four years ago. By ...  

The Top Target on Venezuela’s Purge List Is Holed Up in Manhattan

The Top Target on Venezuela’s Purge List Is Holed Up in Manhattan

In the past four months, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has ramped up the arrests of high-ranking oil industry executives in an audacious purge, with 65 in custody so far.

But the one Maduro wants to nab the most remains free: Rafael Ramirez, the Venezuelan ambassador to the United Nations. The two have been intense rivals for years, dating to the days when the firebrand revolutionary Hugo Chavez was alive and rapidly converting Venezuela into a socialist economy. Back then, Ramirez was ...  

Venezuelan negotiations resume as financial pressures mount

Venezuelan negotiations resume as financial pressures mount

Venezuela’s socialist government and its opposition will seek Friday to jumpstart negotiations on resolving the country’s economic and political crisis, pressured by international sanctions and a looming presidential election.

The planned two-day session in the Dominican Republic is to be the first formal talks since anti-government protests collapsed in July with a toll of more than 120 dead and thousands detained. Given the scant results of previous attempts at dialogue, including talks last year mediated by the Vatican, expectations are low.

But ...  

Newly Exiled Venezuelan Opposition Leader Makes Rounds in Washington

Newly Exiled Venezuelan Opposition Leader Makes Rounds in Washington

WASHINGTON — The departure into exile of one of Venezuela’s main opposition leaders — the ousted mayor of Caracas — speaks of a crisis, humanitarian and political, that is reaching new proportions.

For most of the nearly two decades after the late President Hugo Chavez launched his Bolivarian revolution with the promise of spreading Venezuela’s vast oil wealth among all its citizens, Antonio Ledezma — like many Venezuelans — chose to stay, wait and see. …

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Venezuela’s Maduro strips rival of U.N. post amid corruption purge – sources

Venezuela’s Maduro strips rival of U.N. post amid corruption purge – sources

CARACAS/HOUSTON (Reuters) – Venezuela has ordered the removal of Rafael Ramirez, once a powerful oil minister and head of state oil company PDVSA, from his post as representative to the United Nations in New York, four sources with knowledge of the matter said on Wednesday.

Though the decision will not affect the OPEC nation’s struggling oil industry, it may help President Nicolas Maduro shore up his position in crisis-stricken Venezuela as the country heads toward presidential elections in 2018.

Ramirez, an increasingly ...  

VP: Venezuela’s Maduro to Seek 2nd Term in 2018

VP: Venezuela’s Maduro to Seek 2nd Term in 2018

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro — who is battling a crippling economic crisis in his oil-rich, cash-poor nation — will seek re-election next year, Vice President Tareck El Aissami said Wednesday.

In 2018, “we will have, God willing, people willing, the re-election of our brother Nicolas Maduro as president of the republic,” El Aissami told a meeting of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela.

Next year’s presidential election in the South American country — a member of OPEC — is scheduled for ...  

Evo Morales wants to change the law so he can remain president. Is Bolivia’s democracy in danger?

Evo Morales wants to change the law so he can remain president. Is Bolivia’s democracy in danger?

Bolivian President Evo Morales intends to run for a fourth consecutive term in 2019 despite constitutional term limits — and despite losing a referendum last year to alter these limits.

Representatives of Morales’s party, the Movement Toward Socialism, or the MAS, have petitioned the Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal to remove the term limits. As Bolivians wait for the court’s ruling — expected before judicial elections on Dec. 3 — it is worth assessing the state of Bolivian democracy. …

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New Venezuela oil boss to give military more PDVSA posts

New Venezuela oil boss to give military more PDVSA posts

CARACAS (Reuters) – A general appointed at the weekend to run Venezuela’s energy sector will name more military officers to senior management posts at state oil company PDVSA as part of a shakeup the government says is aimed at fighting corruption, two company sources told Reuters on Monday.

In a surprise move, unpopular leftist President Nicolas Maduro on Sunday tapped Major General Manuel Quevedo to lead PDVSA [PDVSA.UL] and the Oil Ministry, giving the already powerful military control of the OPEC ...  

Odebrecht Case Casts Shadow Across Ecuador as Trial Begins

Odebrecht Case Casts Shadow Across Ecuador as Trial Begins

Ecuador’s National Court, the country’s highest, on Friday kicked off the trial of Vice President Jorge Glas and eight others accused of corruption in relation to the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht SA. Glas’s former boss, ex-President Rafael Correa, pledged to return from abroad and deal with “traitors” in his party.

“It’s the most important trial since the return of democracy” in 1979, said political scientist Simon Pachano at Flasco university in Quito. …

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Leftist challenger leads in Honduras presidential vote count

Leftist challenger leads in Honduras presidential vote count

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — Early results from Honduras’ presidential election Monday showed leftist challenger Salvador Nasralla with a surprise lead over incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernandez.

David Matamoros, president of the electoral court, announced that, with 57 percent of the vote counted, Nasralla is polling 45.7 percent of the vote, to Hernandez’ 40.2 percent.

The late hour for the announcement of the votes had suggested a close vote between Hernandez, a conservative U.S. ally, and Nasralla, the candidate of the leftist Alliance ...  

Mexico Finance Minister to Resign as Presidency Race Looms: Sources

Mexico Finance Minister to Resign as Presidency Race Looms: Sources

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican finance minister Jose Antonio Meade will step down on Monday, two people familiar with the matter said on Sunday, as the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) gears up to pick its candidate for the 2018 presidential election.

One of the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, said Meade would announce his intention to seek the presidency for the PRI when resigning.

The office of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto ...  

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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 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.