Content from IASW Contributors

Mexico’s security crisis: Will Iguala be a wake-up call?

By Roger F. Noriega and José R. Cárdenas By Roger F. Noriega and José R. Cárdenas
Mexico’s democracy, stability, and economy require a collaborative response from all levels of government to quell the wave of recent political unrest and address the underlying causes of insecurity and public dissatisfaction. The current crisis—sparked by national outrage over the September 26 disappearance of 43 students near the town of Iguala in the state of Guerrero—should be a wake-up call for the country.
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Las Naciones ‘Sumergidas’ de Latinoamérica

By Roger F. NoriegaBy Roger F. Noriega
Líderes políticos y diplomáticos de América Latina y el Caribe saben más sobre Cuba y Venezuela que incluso los observadores más astutos en Washington. Por lo tanto, deberían saber lo que le conviene más a su región ¿no? Read More-->

Argentine drug probe zeroes in on Presidential Palace

| September 8th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

By Joel Keep

A Federal judge in Buenos Aires said that raids could be ordered on the seat of government here, in a drug trafficking investigation that could stain a presidency already battling allegations of corruption.

The case threatens to expose links between presidential staff and organized crime figures suspected of importing precursor chemicals for the manufacture of crystal methamphetamine in Mexico and the United States.

Justice Maria Servini de Cubria issued a writ stating that phone calls had been made between the government’s Military Household and members of presidential staff where authorization was given for importing ephedrine, a crucial component in the manufacture of crystal meth, also known as “ice.”

The judge asserted that drug trafficking rings operating in the country were acting with impunity and with the blessing of politicians and security forces.

“If not, they would have been caught by the police (by now),” ... Read More

Even Stronger: Truce Between El Salvador Gangs Has Unintended Consequence

| September 8th, 2014 | No Comments »
From Fox News Latino

ILOPANGO, EL SALVADOR (AP) –  Marvin Gonzalez waves to shopkeepers as he enjoys a morning walk through the sunny, working-class resort of Ilopango. His cellphone rings nonstop with residents seeking his support for anything from dealing with a drunk who won’t pay his bar bill to reporting an attempted rape.

Gonzalez is not a police chief, nor a politician. The 31-year-old plug of a man is the local leader of the Mara Salvatrucha, a gang formed by Central American immigrants in California and now designated by the U.S. as a transnational criminal organization.

But in Ilopango and communities across El Salvador, the Mara Salvatrucha and their arch rivals, the 18th Street Gang, are de facto rulers. A truce declared two years ago briefly tapered their bloody gang war, but the cease-fire had an unintended consequence: It gave the gangs breathing room to grow even stronger. Now, ... Read More

Oil Scandal Erupts Again as Brazilians Near Election

| September 8th, 2014 | No Comments »
The New York Times

By SIMON ROMERO

SANTIAGO, Chile — As Brazilians prepare to vote in a national election next month, a scandal involving the state-controlled oil giant Petrobras flared up again this weekend over testimony that implicated dozens of top figures in President Dilma Rousseff’s governing coalition in a vast kickback scheme.

Details of the scheme were revealed in confidential testimony by Paulo Roberto Costa, a jailed former executive who oversaw refining operations at Petrobras until 2012. The testimony was obtained by Veja, a Brazilian magazine. The accusations target Ms. Rousseff’s energy minister, Edison Lobão, and the leaders of both houses of Congress, Henrique Eduardo Alves and Renan Calheiros.

The revelations complicate a tough re-election bid by Ms. Rousseff, who has seen her lead in the polls vanish amid the surging candidacy of Marina Silva, an environmental leader whose campaign has blasted Ms. Rousseff over ... Read More

Colombia hands over 2 student leaders to Venezuela amid protests on both sides of border

| September 8th, 2014 | No Comments »
US News & World Report

By JOSHUA GOODMAN and RICARDO NUNES

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Colombia has deported two Venezuelan student activists, drawing criticism on both sides of the border by groups who fear they’ll be unjustly prosecuted for their political views.

Lorent Saleh, whose arrest had been sought by President Nicolas Maduro’s government, was handed over to Venezuelan authorities Thursday night after he was detained for overstaying and violating the terms of his visa. Fellow Venezuelan Gabriel Valles was expelled on Friday though his visa remained valid. Both are members of the activist group Operation Liberty, which is critical of the Venezuelan government.

Saleh can be seen loudly protesting Colombia’s decision in a video of the handover shot with a cellular phone by a fellow activist.

“(Colombian) President Juan Manuel Santos is negotiating and handing over the students,” Saleh shouts as he is ushered from a white van parked on ... Read More

Venezuela’s Press Crackdown Stokes Growth of Online Media

| September 8th, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01 By EZEQUIEL MINAYA CARACAS, Venezuela—Angel Alayon’s Prodavinci.com blog, with its serious political analysis, drew a few dozen readers when he started five years ago. This year, the economist has seen unique monthly visitors more than double, to 239,000—the kind of growth that has become typical recently in this news-starved nation.

Venezuelans aren’t simply following the global trend from traditional to online news media. They have been forced to find alternatives as newspapers and broadcasters struggle with state efforts to control coverage, media watchdog groups say.

“There was a kind of journalism we weren’t seeing in Venezuela, something more profound and reflective,” said the 42-year-old Mr. Alayon, explaining the appeal of Prodavinci.com.

Internet media and social-networking sites in Venezuela added a greater number of users per capita than any other Latin American country in the 12 months ending in June, according to the Virginia-based market researcher, comScore, which tracks computer use. The growth came despite a ... Read More

Argentina’s Government Is Considering Price Controls

| September 5th, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01

By TAOS TURNER

BUENOS AIRES—A month after Argentina defaulted on its debt, big companies here say they fear that something else could do much more damage to the economy—legislation letting the government regulate private-sector prices, profit margins and production levels.

On Thursday, Argentina’s senate passed a bill to do just that. The bill is expected to pass the lower house within weeks.

Critics say the bill, informally dubbed the supply law, would bring Argentine regulations in line with those of Venezuela, where inflation hovers around 60% and goods like sugar and toilet paper can be scarce.

Business groups say the legislation would be ruinous for an economy already in recession, with companies curbing production, laying off workers and struggling with inflation thought to be around 40% annually.

“This is absolutely ridiculous. It’s part of a very primitive ideology that says government officials should decide what people should make, how much they should make and how much ... Read More

FBI: Cuban Intelligence Aggressively Recruiting Leftist American Academics as Spies, Influence Agents

| September 5th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Washington Free Beacon

BY BILL GETZ

Cuba’s communist-led intelligence services are aggressively recruiting leftist American academics and university professors as spies and influence agents, according to an internal FBI report published this week.

Cuban intelligence services “have perfected the work of placing agents, that includes aggressively targeting U.S. universities under the assumption that a percentage of students will eventually move on to positions within the U.S. government that can provide access to information of use to the [Cuban intelligence service],” the five-page unclassified FBI report says. It notes that the Cubans “devote a significant amount of resources to targeting and exploiting U.S. academia.”

“Academia has been and remains a key target of foreign intelligence services, including the [Cuban intelligence service],” the report concludes.

One recruitment method used by the Cubans is to appeal to American leftists’ ideology. “For instance, someone who is allied with communist or leftist ideology may assist the ... Read More

As the Brazilian economy slips into recession, voters may opt for free-market solutions

| September 5th, 2014 | No Comments »
AEI

Key points:

News of recession in Brazil and skepticism about President Dilma Rousseff’s track record and platform threaten Rousseff’s October reelection chances. In the first round of voting on October 5, Brazilians will decide whether maverick environmentalist Marina Silva or establishment opposition governor Aécio Neves da Cunha—both of whom offer free-market policies—will face Rousseff in an October 26 runoff. Brazilians will likely support the candidate most likely to spur economic growth and unlock Brazil’s productivity and wealth—meaning the stability and prosperity of a natural US partner are at stake.

Signs of economic stagnation and simmering popular dissatisfaction in Brazil could not have come at a worse time for President Dilma Rousseff, who is seeking reelection in October. According to midsummer polls, voters’ skepticism about her track record and statist platform appeared to open the door to a challenge from probusiness candidate Aécio Neves.

Political maverick Marina Silva, who ... Read More

Enrique Peña Nieto is a charismatic reformer with a popularity problem

| September 4th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Economist

WATCHING President Enrique Peña Nieto in shirt-sleeves among his whooping, sombrero-wearing supporters is a lot more fun than seeing him as he prefers to be seen: in a suit and tie, with slicked-back hair, deploying all of Mexico’s sash-laden presidential paraphernalia. At a recent meeting in Guadalajara the women call out to him flirtatiously, asking him to pose for selfies. Though many of the men tower over him, he has a strong presence. He beams—even when they break into an old agrarian anthem decrying capitalism.

These are Mr Peña’s people: campesinos (peasant farmers) from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). During his 21 months in power, the president has positioned himself above the fray of party politics, working with the opposition to enact a host of constitutional reforms, in areas from education to energy, designed to modernise Mexico’s economy. But in this setting the old-style politician emerges. The energy reform ... Read More

Rubio Asks Reid to Bypass Landrieu on Venezuela Sanctions

| September 4th, 2014 | No Comments »
Roll Call

By Niels Lesniewski

Sen. Marco Rubio wants Majority Leader Harry Reid to bypass one of his vulnerable incumbent Democrats in a bid to impose sanctions on Venezuela.

The Florida Republican sent a letter to Reid calling for the Nevada Democrat to use his prerogatives as leader to get a sanctions bill to the floor. Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., opposed granting unanimous consent to advance the measure before the August break.

 

“You were quoted in July saying that you support bipartisan legislation to sanction the Venezuelan officials responsible, yet in the two months since, the heart wrenching stories of savage violence from the Maduro government have worsened while Congressional action has only stalled,” Rubio wrote in Thursday’s letter to Reid. “Just last month, as the Senate was about to pass the sanctions bill that unanimously passed the House, Maduro’s regime found a way to influence our legislative process. Even though the legislation would have ... Read More

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s popularity slips despite legislative wins

| September 4th, 2014 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

By Joshua Partlow and Gabriela Martinez

MEXICO CITY — With movie-star ease and glamour, President ­Enrique Peña Nieto has seemed to feel no pain as he goes about grasping all the third rails of Mexican politics.

Peña Nieto has pushed through the legislative thicket into a new landscape few thought possible: where American oil companies will soon be drilling in Mexican waters and where Carlos Slim’s grip on the telephone monopoly that made him the richest man in the world has slipped.

In all, 85 changes have occurred to the constitution during Peña ­Nieto’s 1 1/2 years in office. Higher taxes on junk food, confrontations with the teachers union and more political positions for women, plus the telecom and energy reforms. He has cobbled together an alliance of the three largest political parties. Foreign investment is high.

Yet his popularity is flagging. A poll released this week by the independent Consulta Mitofsky firm showed that his approval rating had ... Read More

Miami conference: Better roads to improved ports creates business opportunities in Latin America

| September 4th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

Some 450 government and business leaders from 28 countries have gathered for the two-day Trade Americas & ConnectAmericas Expo — an opportunity to explore ways to bridge Latin America’s infrastructure gap.

But speakers at the conference, which was organized by the Inter-American Development Bank and Latin Trade Group, said that with growing populations — the region is expected to have 700 million people by 2030, more people moving into the middle class and globalization, most countries’ infrastructure is woefully inadequate.

Relatively brisk economic growth in Latin America in recent years also has “revealed the need to improve infrastructure,” said Bernardo Guillamon, the IDB’s manager of outreach and partnerships.

Even ... Read More

Christie’s Mexico Trip Touches on Trade, Politics

| September 4th, 2014 | No Comments »
ABC News

By JILL COLVIN Associated Press

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is multitasking in Mexico, officially talking trade as he gets some foreign policy schooling should he decide to run for president in 2016.

Christie spends his first day meeting with the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Tony Wayne, and Sandra Fuentes, the Consul General of Mexico in New York, who helped to plan the trip. He’ll then deliver two speeches, including a keynote address on the relationship between Mexico and the U.S.

The remarks will serve as one of the Republican’s first opportunities to begin to sketch out his policy positions on issues like free trade. In the evening, Christie will meet with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and attend a welcome reception at the ambassador’s residence.

With his state exporting $2 billion worth of goods to Mexico, and tens of thousands of New Jersey jobs relying on the relationship, Christie becomes the latest potential ... Read More

Polls Show Marina Silva Defeating Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff

| September 4th, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01 By JEFFREY LEWIS And LUCIANA MAGALHAES SÃO PAULO—According to two polls published Wednesday, Brazilian presidential candidate Marina Silva would defeat incumbent President Dilma Rousseff in the second round of voting in the October election, extending the challenger’s winning streak in surveys.

Ms. Silva became the Socialist Party’s candidate on Aug. 20, taking over the top spot after the party’s original candidate, Eduardo Campos, died in a plane crash a week earlier. She had been Mr. Campos’s running mate before the accident.

Ms. Rousseff, of the Workers’ Party, would get 37% of the vote; Ms. Silva would get 33%; and Brazilian Social Democracy Party candidate Aécio Neves would get 15% in the first round of voting on Oct. 5, according to the Ibope polling company, which carried out the survey for the Globo television network and the Estado de São Paulo newspaper.

That result would require a runoff election on Oct. 26, because no candidate would get more than half ... Read More

Venezuela’s economy: The death of pragmatism

| September 3rd, 2014 | No Comments »
The Economist

IT WAS billed as a “big shake-up”. With Venezuela immersed in its most severe economic crisis since 2003, President Nicolás Maduro´s announcement of a major restructuring of his government raised hopes that he might have a plan to tackle the problem. Instead, on September 2nd Mr Maduro ruled out any “capitalist” solution, declared his economic policy “successful” and sidelined the only cabinet member proposing substantial change.

Rafael Ramírez, chairman of the state oil corporation and vice-president for the economy, had argued for a unified exchange rate, reducing the money supply and raising the domestic price of petrol. After months of dithering, the president finally gave his answer by moving Mr Ramírez to the foreign ministry and splitting his super-portfolio into three separate jobs, none of them in the hands of a political heavyweight.

Venezuela is in trouble. Such trouble, in fact, that the central bank (BCV) ... Read More

Colombian and Mexican drug traffickers join forces in Guatemala, paper says

| September 3rd, 2014 | No Comments »
From Fox News Latino

Drug cartels from Colombia and Mexico have formed an alliance to produce designer drugs and cocaine in Guatemala that will later be smuggled into the United States, the Prensa Libre newspaper reported Tuesday.

Drug traffickers are focusing on Guatemala because of its geographic location, the war being waged by the government on the cartels in Mexico and the increasingly global nature of the narcotics trade, the newspaper said, citing an unidentified source in the special drug enforcement prosecutor’s office.

Colombians supposedly trained in chemistry and biology have entered the Central American country to plan, design and build drug labs, as well as to teach people to produce synthetic drugs, Prensa Libre said.

The newspaper, however, did not identify the Colombian cartel involved in the Guatemalan venture.

The majority of the drug laboratories are run by Mexicans who belong to the Gulf, Sinaloa and Caballeros ... Read More

Fmr. CIA operative: ISIS cells are here in the U.S., and they’re capable of striking

| September 3rd, 2014 | No Comments »
From CNN

(CNN) – Militant group ISIS released another gruesome video, showing the beheading of a second American, journalist Steven Sotloff.

The terrorist group has gained strongholds in eastern Syria and northeastern Iraq, and, according to a former CIA operative, ISIS cells have already infiltrated the U.S.

“The people who collect tactical intelligence on the ground, day-to-day – and this isn’t Washington – but people collecting this stuff say they’re here, ISIS is here, they’re capable of striking,” said CNN national security analyst and former CIA operative Bob Baer. “They don’t know what their plans and intentions are. But it’s a definite concern,” said Baer.

U.S. intelligence agents are keeping an eye on suspected ISIS militants who they believe have come across the Mexican border, or are American citizens that have come back from Syria, says Baer.

“They can’t prove it. They’re waiting to get enough intelligence to ... Read More

Rivals try to stop Silva’s rise in Brazil

| September 3rd, 2014 | No Comments »
Financial Times

By Joe Leahy in São Paulo

Marina Silva, the charismatic new entrant in Brazil’s tight election campaign, came under fierce fire from her rivals in the second debate as polls showed she is the frontrunner to win October’s vote.

Ms Silva was forced to defend her policy positions after the latest poll from Datafolha showed her drawing in the first round with incumbent President Dilma Rousseff in the first week of October with 34 per cent, before beating her in the second with 50 per cent against 40 per cent.

During the debate on Monday night, Ms Rousseff, who still enjoys support among lower-income earners for her party’s widening of the social security net, warned that Ms Silva would have to deliver on her promises.

“It’s not enough to roll off a list without saying where the money will come from,” Ms Rousseff said.

Ms Silva’s rise in the polls has ... Read More

Sanctions on Venezuela are a matter of human rights

| September 3rd, 2014 | No Comments »
The Advertiser

As Americans, we are blessed to live in a place where we can speak freely about our beliefs, challenge the direction that our country is being led in, and peacefully protest against those who are in power. But we also know this is a universal right, and America has always defended the ability of people everywhere to exercise it.

In Venezuela, however, what began this past February as peaceful demonstrations against the government of Nicolas Maduro soon turned into a bloodbath. Thousands of innocent Venezuelans have been jailed, injured or killed for protesting a failed regime plagued by unprecedented scarcity of food and basic goods, widespread crime and high murder rates, and limited economic opportunities. Because Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, have worked hard to weaken the country’s democratic institutions, fed up Venezuelans took to the streets en masse, only to face bullets, tear gas and brutal beatings.

To crack down ... Read More

Venezuela reshuffle dashes hopes of a change of direction

| September 3rd, 2014 | No Comments »
Financial Times

By Girish Gupta in Caracas

Hopes that Venezuela would take a more pragmatic turn were dashed in a cabinet reshuffle on Tuesday night in which oil and economic tsar Rafael Ramírez lost his top jobs, one of which has been filled by a cousin of the late president, Hugo Chávez.

Mr Ramírez was removed as the country’s oil minister and as head of state oil company Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), a role he had held for a decade. His position as vice-president for the economy has also been axed.

The country’s top economic role, the newly created vice-presidency of economy and finance, is to be held by Rodolfo Marco Torres, a former brigadier-general and participant in Chávez’s failed 1992 coup attempt against the then government.

“We must begin a new stage in the revolution,” said President Nicolás Maduro during a three-hour televised speech on Tuesday.

Mr Ramírez, who will become foreign minister, was ... Read More