How Venezuela Stumbled to the Brink of Collapse

How Venezuela Stumbled to the Brink of Collapse

Venezuela, by the numbers, resembles a country hit by civil war.

Its economy, once Latin America’s richest, is estimated to have shrunk by 10 percent in 2016, more than Syria’s. Its inflation that year has been estimated as high as 720 percent, nearly double that of second-ranked South Sudan, rendering its currency nearly worthless.

In a country with the world’s largest proven oil reserves, food has grown so scarce that three in four citizens reported involuntary weight loss, averaging 19 pounds in ...  

CIA director warns of Venezuela weapons transfers

CIA director warns of Venezuela weapons transfers

WASHINGTON, May 11 (Reuters) – CIA Director Mike Pompeo said on Thursday there are large caches of weapons in Venezuela and a risk of them falling into the wrong hands as the country grapples with economic crisis and street protests.

“It is a real threat,” the Central Intelligence Agency director said, under questioning from Republican Senator Marco Rubio, during a Senate hearing on worldwide security threats. …

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Mexico warns US of alternatives on trade, points to China

Mexico warns US of alternatives on trade, points to China

Mexico sent a stark message to U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday, saying an upcoming visit by Mexican officials to China showed Latin America’s second largest economy had other places to export to if he tore up the NAFTA trade deal.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) underpins Mexico’s economy, prompting the government to try and diversify away from the United States, which takes 80 percent of its exports.

Trump indicated in an interview with The Economist published on Thursday that ...  

Brazil’s Last Political Legend Goes to Trial

Brazil’s Last Political Legend Goes to Trial

Political legends are hard to come by these days in Brazil, where both houses of parliament, a batch of current and former governors, and much of the sitting presidential cabinet have been tainted by charges of graft and payola. But then Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the two-time president who put Brazil’s name in lights and left office in 2010 practically beatified, isn’t just any politician. So when Lula, as he is known to all, takes the stand in federal ...  

Colombia rebels: Eight released after kidnap blamed on ELN

Colombia rebels: Eight released after kidnap blamed on ELN

Eight people kidnapped in Colombia at the weekend have been released, President Juan Manuel Santos has said. Mr Santos credited public pressure with forcing the kidnappers to release the seven men and one woman.

According to the army, gunmen forced the hostages into a boat on Sunday, taking them deep into the jungle in the western Chocó department. The government had accused the National Liberation Army (ELN) of being behind the kidnapping.

Peace negotiations with the ELN – Colombia’s second largest rebel ...  

Mexico targets suppliers, buyers in move against fuel theft

Mexico targets suppliers, buyers in move against fuel theft

MEXICO CITY — Mexico is embarking on a strategy to combat illegal pipeline thefts that includes going after those who purchase and deal in stolen fuel as well as the thieves, the country’s treasury secretary said Tuesday.

Jose Antonio Meade said it’s a problem that costs Mexico somewhere between 15 billion and 20 billion pesos a year, or $780 million to $1 billion, and one that requires a holistic approach to solve.

Mexico’s government wants to reduce the siphoning of gasoline and ...  

Rubio tests his influence by backing Colombia peace deal before Trump

Rubio tests his influence by backing Colombia peace deal before Trump

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio threw his support behind Colombia’s peace process Tuesday, giving the Colombian government a major political boost as it seeks to persuade President Donald Trump to continue U.S. backing of the controversial plan.

In a speech, the Miami Republican remarked on the United State’s role in Colombia’s journey from a near failed state 15 years ago to a thriving success story that has is now one of the United States most important regional partners.

“All of that ...  

Hundreds evacuated in Venezuela as tear gas seeps into homes

Hundreds evacuated in Venezuela as tear gas seeps into homes

MARACAIBO, Venezuela (AP) — Hundreds of people were evacuated from buildings in this big coastal city in western Venezuela on Monday after security forces fired tear gas during a clash with protesters and the gas spilled into homes, schools and a hospital.

The protest turned violent when demonstrators were blocked by national guardsmen while trying to deliver a letter expressing their disdain for socialist President Nicolas Maduro’s push to rewrite the nation’s constitution.

Protesters tried to get around the officers by finding ...  

Mexico’s 2018 election is shaping up as a vote for economic freedom from the U.S

Mexico’s 2018 election is shaping up as a vote for economic freedom from the U.S

Mexico will elect a new president next year. And although President Trump has now at least temporarily delayed withdrawing the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement, continued uncertainty over the trade deal and Trump’s plans for a border wall are roiling Mexican politics.

Former Mexico City Mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador is one of several people who have either declared their candidacy or expressed interest. Others include Margarita Zavala, wife of former president Felipe Calderón and Miguel Ángel ...  

A side effect of peace in Colombia? A cocaine boom in the U.S.

A side effect of peace in Colombia? A cocaine boom in the U.S.

TUMACO, Colombia — From a military helicopter high above the rolling hills of southern Colombia, the green rows of hearty plants look a bit like the vineyards of Napa.

But that’s not zinfandel down there.

Bushy fields of illegal coca blanket the countryside, ripe with the raw ingredients of the biggest cocaine boom in history.

Seventeen years and $10 billion after the U.S. government launched the counternarcotics and security package known as Plan Colombia, America’s closest drug-war ally is covered with more than ...  

Trump holds talks with Peru leader on tackling ‘crisis’ in Venezuela

Trump holds talks with Peru leader on tackling ‘crisis’ in Venezuela

President Trump spoke on the phone with the Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski on Saturday about addressing the “deteriorating political and economic crisis” in Venezuela, the White House said.

Trump stressed that the U.S. will work alongside Peru in an effort to “improve democratic institutions and help the people of Venezuela.”

According to the White House, “President Kuczynski expressed his gratitude for President Trump’s prompt humanitarian assistance in response to the devastating floods in Peru.”

Trump’s phone call with the Peruvian leader, who ...  

Wife: Jailed Venezuelan opposition leader says ‘we can’t stop’

Wife: Jailed Venezuelan opposition leader says ‘we can’t stop’

Imprisoned Venezuela opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez called on demonstrators to keep alive the mass protests against President Nicolas Maduro’s goverment, his wife told reporters. “We can’t stop until we achieve our freedom. I’m on the streets with you, in mind and spirit,” he said, according to tweets from his wife Lilian Tintori.

Tintori relayed her husband’s words after she visited him on Sunday at a prison outside Caracas. Lopez, a speaker and leader of the opposition, has been detained since 2014 ...  

UN Security Council heads to Colombia to back peace accord

UN Security Council heads to Colombia to back peace accord

The U.N. Security Council headed to Colombia on Wednesday to demonstrate its commitment to the peace agreement between the government and the country’s largest rebel group and to promote efforts at reconciliation.

British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, who is co-leading the visit, said council members want to listen to the parties and the people, and are going “with a message of encouragement to carry on implementing the peace agreement despite the challenges, and to keep going until every vestige of this conflict ...  

Flames, fatality at Venezuela demo over leader’s crisis maneuver

Flames, fatality at Venezuela demo over leader’s crisis maneuver

Venezuelan police fired tear gas and hooded protesters hurled Molotov cocktails as thousands rallied in anger at President Nicolas Maduro’s plan to rewrite the constitution.

Flames erupted in the latest of more than a month of clashes that prosecutors say have killed 32 people in the oil-rich nation, stricken by food shortages.

Government forces used tear gas against demonstrators in las Mercedes, on Caracas’ east end, the prosecutor’s office said.

At least one protester caught fire and two opposition lawmakers were among various ...  

This is why American tourists don’t want to travel to Cuba

This is why American tourists don’t want to travel to Cuba

A flash of excitement about travel to Cuba after the country opened its borders to the U.S. in 2016 for the first time in decades may have lost some of its shine.

Americans are less interested in travel to Cuba this year than they were in 2016, a survey from insurance provider Allianz Global Assistance found. Some 76% of the 1,514 respondents said they were not likely to plan a trip to Cuba in 2017 compared to 70% in 2016. Only ...  

Why Venezuela’s struggling president just called for a new constitution

Why Venezuela’s struggling president just called for a new constitution

CARACAS, Venezuela — In 1999, the year Hugo Chávez took office, Venezuelan voters overwhelmingly backed his push to rewrite the constitution. Chávez was so pleased with the new version that he ordered millions of pocket-size editions to be handed out across the country. He liked to whip out a copy in the middle of his speeches and political sermons, like a preacher with a Bible.

Its cover was blue, but it became the Little Red Book of Chávez’s socialist “revolution.” Which ...  

New Mexico drug cartel bust shows law enforcement feels more empowered

New Mexico drug cartel bust shows law enforcement feels more empowered

The recent arrest of 23 Mexican cartel operatives in New Mexico and West Texas is prime example of newly empowered local and federal law enforcement officials whose attitude reflects that of the Trump administration, some lawmen say.

The 16-month investigation targeted members of the Sinaloa Cartel, once headed by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who is currently in jail awaiting trial in Brooklyn Federal Court. Guzman once ran a major heroin and methamphetamine operation throughout the southwest.

Five additional suspects were also charged ...  

Exclusive: U.S. senators seek sanctions, other ways to address Venezuela crisis

Exclusive: U.S. senators seek sanctions, other ways to address Venezuela crisis

An influential group of Republican and Democratic U.S. senators will file sweeping legislation on Wednesday to address the crisis in Venezuela, including sanctioning individuals responsible for undermining democracy or involved in corruption, Senate aides said.

The bill would provide $10 million in humanitarian aid to the struggling country, require the State Department to coordinate a regional effort to ease the crisis, and ask U.S. intelligence to report on the involvement of Venezuelan government officials in corruption and the drug trade, according ...  

U.S. May Consider New Sanctions on Venezuela as Crisis Deepens

U.S. May Consider New Sanctions on Venezuela as Crisis Deepens

The U.S. may consider new sanctions against Venezuela in response to President Nicolas Maduro’s announcement that he will seek to rewrite his country’s constitution.

The Venezuelan government has “decided once again to change the rules of the game in mid-play,” Michael Fitzpatrick, U.S. deputy assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, said Tuesday on a reporter call. “The actions that were taken yesterday may well give us new reasons for considering additional individualized sanctions under the Venezuela Democracy Act of 2014.”

Maduro on ...  

Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela President, Calls for a Rewrite of the Constitution

Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela President, Calls for a Rewrite of the Constitution

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela said Monday that he would convene an assembly to rewrite the country’s Constitution, which he said would quell mounting protests against him.

But the plan was quickly rejected by his opponents as an attempt to avoid elections.

In a televised address on International Workers’ Day — on which both the president and his opponents held demonstrations — Mr. Maduro said he would call together what he described as a “citizens’ constitutional assembly of 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 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.