Florida businessman admits to bribery scheme at Venezuela’s PDVSA

Florida businessman admits to bribery scheme at Venezuela’s PDVSA

The part owner of several Florida-based energy companies on Wednesday became the latest person to plead guilty as part of an ongoing U.S. investigation into bribery at Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA.

Fernando Ardila Rueda, 49, pleaded guilty in federal court in Houston to two counts, including that he violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in connection with a scheme to pay bribes to PDVSA employees, the U.S. Justice Department said.

He became the 10th person to plead guilty as part ...  

Trump winds up to hit Cuba’s economy – twice

Trump winds up to hit Cuba’s economy – twice

Cuba is bracing for the impact of a one-two punch from the Trump administration: stricter travel rules and an official warning about visiting the island.

The U.S. is expected to soon publish new regulations that will make it tougher for Americans to travel to Cuba. President Trump announced the rules over the summer, keeping with his campaign promise to crack down on the Communist government.

But the rules will also come in the wake of a new warning issued by the State ...  

Opposition Magistrates Holed up in Chile Residence Flee Venezuela: Source

Opposition Magistrates Holed up in Chile Residence Flee Venezuela: Source

CARACAS (Reuters) – Five magistrates named by the opposition-run congress who had been holed up in the Chilean ambassador’s residence to avoid arrest fled in the early hours of Monday and escaped over the border to Colombia, a source said on Tuesday.

The Chilean Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Elenis Rodriguez, Luis Marcano, Jose Nunez, Beatriz Ruiz, and Zuleima Del Valle had left the premises on Monday, but did not offer further details.

“Relatives came to get them at 5 ...  

IMF Says Venezuela’s Inflation Rate May Rise Beyond 2,300% in 2018

IMF Says Venezuela’s Inflation Rate May Rise Beyond 2,300% in 2018

Venezuela’s triple-digit annual inflation rate is set to jump to more than 2,300 percent in 2018, the highest estimate for any country tracked by the International Monetary Fund.

An intensifying political crisis that’s spiraled since 2014 has weighed heavily on economic activity. Gross domestic product is expected to contract 6 percent next year, after shrinking an estimated 12 percent in 2017, the IMF said in its latest World Economic Outlook report published Tuesday.

While Venezuela’s central bank stopped publishing inflation data in ...  

UN ending 13-year military peacekeeping mission in Haiti

UN ending 13-year military peacekeeping mission in Haiti

A U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti that has helped maintain order through 13 years of political turmoil and catastrophe is coming to an end as the last of the blue-helmeted soldiers from around the world leave despite concerns that the police and justice system are still not adequate to ensure security in the country.

The U.N. lowered its flag at its headquarters in Port-au-Prince during a ceremony Thursday that was attended by President Jovenel Moise, who thanked the organization for helping ...  

Venezuela’s unrest, food scarcity take psychological toll on children

Venezuela’s unrest, food scarcity take psychological toll on children

LOS TEQUES, Venezuela (Reuters) – Venezuelan siblings Jeremias, 8, and Victoria, 3, were in their pajamas and preparing to go to bed when a tear gas canister smashed through their family’s kitchen window in early July.

National Guard soldiers were pelting the building in this highland town near Caracas with tear gas canisters as they searched for opposition activists who had been protesting against unpopular President Nicolas Maduro for over three months.

Amid screams and insults from neighbors, soldiers stormed the building ...  

4 killed in clashes with Colombia coca growers, eradicators

4 killed in clashes with Colombia coca growers, eradicators

BOGOTA, Colombia – Four people were killed and at least 14 injured Thursday in a confusing attack on protesting coca farmers that authorities blamed on a dissident faction of a disarmed guerrilla group and local activists attributed to government security forces opening fire.

The disputed incident underscores the security challenges Colombia faces as it tries to uproot a booming harvest for coca, the raw ingredient for cocaine, a market that is a powerful magnet for dissident rebels and criminal gangs even ...  

U.S. expulsion of Cuban diplomats includes all business officers

U.S. expulsion of Cuban diplomats includes all business officers

The Cuban diplomats expelled from the United States this week included all those dealing with U.S. businesses, Cuba’s embassy in Washington told Reuters on Thursday, dealing another blow to bilateral commercial ties.

In an escalating crisis between the Cold War foes, the Trump administration on Tuesday expelled 15 diplomats to protest Communist-run Cuba’s failure to protect U.S. embassy staff in Havana from a mysterious spate of alleged health attacks.

“Due to this decision, the activities developed by the Economic and Trade Office ...  

Brazilian police arrest Olympics chief in bribery investigation

Brazilian police arrest Olympics chief in bribery investigation

Brazilian police have arrested the head of the national Olympics committee, Carlos Arthur Nuzman, who is accused of conspiring to bribe members of the International Olympic Committee to pick Rio de Janeiro as host of the 2016 games.

Brazilian investigators claim Nuzman helped arrange a $2m bribe to get the games for Rio de Janeiro.

Leonardo Gryner, a former director of the national Olympics committee, was also arrested in a new phase of the so-called Unfair Play investigation, the police said.

In September ...  

Cruz, Lee Warn Trump Not to Tap Former Clinton Aide as Ambassador to Colombia

Cruz, Lee Warn Trump Not to Tap Former Clinton Aide as Ambassador to Colombia

Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee are urging President Trump not to appoint as ambassador to Colombia a prominent career State Department official who served as a top aide to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and worked closely with her in the aftermath of the Benghazi attacks.

Joseph MacManus, a 30-year veteran of the foreign service, is a top candidate to become ambassador to Colombia and was considered the frontrunner before conservatives began voicing opposition to his nomination a ...  

Narco fugitives caught trying to co-opt Colombia peace deal

Narco fugitives caught trying to co-opt Colombia peace deal

BOGOTA, Colombia — For years Edison Prado was one of the top U.S. drug targets in South America, having allegedly risen from beginnings as a boatman running drugs in the treacherous coastal waters of his native Ecuador to the bloodthirsty head of a small army of smugglers spread across five countries.

So it came as something of a shock when the man dubbed the high-living Pablo Escobar of Ecuador showed up on a list of hardscrabble leftist rebels from Colombia.

His case ...  

Russia would back Venezuela against US, Maduro says

Russia would back Venezuela against US, Maduro says

During a visit to Moscow, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Wednesday that he was confident Russia would come to Venezuela’s aid if the South American country were to face intrusions from the Trump administration.

“I am sure, even if we do not ask, we will be given even more support to boost Venezuela’s defense capacity and sovereignty,” Maduro said during an energy forum.

The comments were prompted in part by President Donald Trump’s August statement that the U.S. would consider a “military ...  

Venezuela Debt Default? Russia & India to the Rescue!

Venezuela Debt Default? Russia & India to the Rescue!

Russia is the wild card in Venezuela avoiding a debt default in the coming weeks.

Venezuela most recently made a debt payment, and said the government and the state-controlled oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (Pdvsa) had and will have cash to meet obligations. But it wasn’t specific about where the money would come from to meet $3.6 billion in payments due in October and November. As the Venezuelan government and economy crumble, Pdvsa oil output is in decline, and Russia and ...  

Is the new Cold War between the U.S. and Cuba based on old Cold War spycraft?

Is the new Cold War between the U.S. and Cuba based on old Cold War spycraft?

The dark arts of intelligence and diplomacy are often compared to a chess match. But a former U.S. diplomat this week turned to a less sophisticated, but perhaps more apt, pastime as a metaphor for the weird, murky confrontation going on between the United States and Cuba.

“Remember that old board game Clue?” mused a former U.S. diplomat earlier this week. “You had to solve a murder by identifying the killer, the weapon and the venue: It was Colonel Mustard, with ...  

Cuba’s terror nexus

Cuba’s terror nexus

Cuba’s Castro regime did more than reorient the country’s entire economic, social, and political systems. It birthed an activist foreign policy that saw the little nation play a large role in the world—the effects of which we are still living with today.

The Castro government uses its spy service — the Dirección de Inteligencia (DI), formerly the Dirrección General de Inteligencia (DGI) — to project power far from Cuban shores. Like its Soviet forebears, under whose auspices it was created in ...  

UN Human Rights Council Confronts Venezuela

UN Human Rights Council Confronts Venezuela

At the UN Human Rights Council session that ended last week, member states, including from Latin America, spoke up clearly and forcefully about the profound human rights and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, placing the issue on the council’s agenda in unprecedented ways. But the real work still lies ahead – the challenge now is to keep up the multilateral pressure on the Venezuelan government.

Governments subjected Venezuela to a barrage of criticism at the September council session for its increasingly brutal ...  

Bolivia’s army in dispute with government over Che Guevara homage

Bolivia’s army in dispute with government over Che Guevara homage

A row has broken out in Bolivia between the government and army veterans over the 50th anniversary of the death of the Cuban revolutionary, Ernesto “Che” Guevara. The Bolivian government is planning a series of commemorations next week in the presence of foreign guests.

A spokesman for the army veterans who fought Che’s forces said they would not take part in the official ceremonies. They said they wanted to pay homage to the Bolivians who had died. Government officials have said they ...  

Ecuador’s vice president jailed during bribery investigation

Ecuador’s vice president jailed during bribery investigation

Ecuador’s Vice President Jorge Glas was jailed Monday after the Supreme Court ordered his arrest while he is investigated for allegedly taking bribes from a Brazilian construction giant involved in a sprawling regional graft scandal.

Police took Glas into custody at his residence in the city of Guayaquil and later transported him on an air force plane to the capital, Quito, where he is being held. Several supporters and former aides rushed to Guayaquil’s air force base to express solidarity with ...  

U.S. to expel two-thirds of Cuban diplomats amid sonic attack probe

U.S. to expel two-thirds of Cuban diplomats amid sonic attack probe

The Trump administration will kick nearly two-thirds of Cuba’s embassy personnel out of the United States after months of mysterious attacks targeting American diplomats drove the White House to pull its own staff from Havana, according to multiple sources familiar with the plan.

According to three of the U.S. sources briefed on the plan, the State Department will announce the expulsion of Cuban diplomatic personnel as soon as Tuesday. A fourth described the expulsion as “reciprocity” for the American withdrawal from ...  

Trump Stands Up to the Castro Regime

Trump Stands Up to the Castro Regime

In withdrawing personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Cuba, the Trump administration took a limited and reasonable retaliation for attacks on U.S. diplomats in Havana. It could, and should, have gone further, but the actions at least convey to the ruthless Castro regime that it now deals with a government that will stand up for U.S. interests.

The withdrawal will affect over 50 percent of the diplomatic personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Havana considered “nonessential.” It comes weeks after 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.