Content from IASW Contributors

New face may scramble Brazil’s presidential campaign

By Roger F. Noriega By Roger F. Noriega
Brazil’s presidential campaign took a tragic turn Wednesday morning when Socialist Party candidate Eduardo Campos, 49, was killed when the private plane he was traveling on crashed in the Brazilian port city of Santos; four other passengers and the two pilots also were killed. Campos’ running mate, Marina Silva Vaz de Lima, will likely be designated to assume the top spot on the Socialist alliance ticket.
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Don’t Believe Everything You Read About the United States’ Cuba Democracy Program

By José R. CárdenasBy José R. Cárdenas
For the second time in four months, the Associated Press has published a gross distortion of USAID’s Cuba Democracy Program that has made it the subject of unjust derision from the legions of U.S.-Cuba policy critics. Read More-->

Sale Of Major Venezuela Newspaper Raising Questions On Freedom Of The Press

| July 7th, 2014 | No Comments »
From Fox News Latino

CARACAS, VENEZUELA (AP) –  One of Venezuela’s oldest and most prestigious newspapers has been sold amid increasing government pressure on independent news media.

The editor in chief of Caracas-based El Universal, Elides Rojas, confirmed that a group of Spanish investors had bought the broadsheet from the family that has run the paper since it was founded 104 years ago.

While neutral reporting in Venezuela is hard to come by after 15 years of polarization over socialist rule, El Universal has stuck closer than most to the ideal of fact-based, investigative reporting amid a crackdown on media outlets that, like it, have been fiercely critical of the government.

Rojas acknowledged apprehension in the newsroom about whether the paper will follow in the steps of other recently sold news media outlets that have softened their editorial line, but said he had been assured that the paper’s editorial independence would not be compromised.

Partly driving those concerns ... Read More

Ecuador Says China Signed $2 Billion Oil Deal to Access Crude

| July 7th, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

By Nathan Gill

Ecuador’s state oil company got $2 billion of financing from China backed by future crude supplies, adding to funding the country has obtained this year by tapping the bond market and taking a loan from Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

The OPEC-member country disclosed the China deal in an offering circular to bond investors last month. Under the May agreement, Unipec Asia Co., a unit of China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation, known as Sinopec, prepaid for oil from PetroEcuador over an unspecified timeframe.

President Rafael Correa, who more than tripled public spending since taking office in 2007, had said the government was seeking additional financing sources from China, the world’s biggest oil consumer after the U.S. Ecuador has borrowed more than $11 billion from the Asian nation in the past five years.

The Andean country’s $2 billion bond sale last month was its first offering in international debt markets since a default in 2008. In ... Read More

Ecuador’s President may seek ultimate job security: indefinite reelection

| July 7th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

By Jim Wyss

Franklin D. Roosevelt had it, so did Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and so does Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega. Could Ecuador’s Rafael Correa be the next president to win the right to consecutive and indefinite reelection?

That’s the question the country’s constitutional court is debating, and the answer could radically change the future of this Andean nation of 16 million.

After years of vowing that he wouldn’t seek office when his term ends in 2017, Correa recently announced that his Alianza País political party would push for a constitutional amendment that would open the gates for the charismatic socialist to keep his job permanently.

Stung by recent municipal elections where his party lost key cities, including the capital, Correa said the change is needed to preserve the advances of his “Citizens’ Revolution.”

“My sincere position was always against reelection,” he told the country recently, “but after deep reflection, and knowing that sometimes our choices are ... Read More

As Venezuela’s Maduro confronts economic crisis, pragmatism is a risky path

| July 7th, 2014 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

BY EMILIA DIAZ-STRUCK AND NICK MIROFF

CARACAS, VENEZUELA — In the 15 months since Hugo Chávez’s demise, his successor, Nicolás Maduro, has kept the Chávez enterprise rolling, sticking to the commandante’s policy prescriptions like an executor carrying out a will.

But no last testament could have prepared Maduro for Venezuela’s current economic death spiral, with annual inflation of 60 percent and shortages of everything from coffee to coffins to airline tickets. The house of Chávez is crumbling around him.

With pressure building for Maduro to change course, he is showing signs of adopting a more pragmatic approach, analysts say, even as it sets up a potential split with the other heirs of “chavismo.”

In late June, Maduro fired Chávez’s economic policy guru, Jorge Giordani, the elderly university professor who had the commandante’s ear for most of the 14 years he was in power. Giordani was widely viewed as the architect of the disastrous currency controls that have choked imports and left supermarket shelves ... Read More

Putin to visit Cuba and other LatAm nations

| July 7th, 2014 | No Comments »
From AFP

President Vladimir Putin will next week begin a major Latin America tour that will take him to Cuba, Argentina and Brazil as he seeks to counter Russia’s growing international isolation over the Ukraine crisis.

Putin will begin his six-day tour with the July 11 visit to Cuba, the Kremlin said on Friday, where he will meet President Raul Castro and the 87-year-old father of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro.

The visit to the Communist-run island will come as tensions remain high between Russia and the West over the Ukraine crisis. Havana has sided with its old ally Russia in the conflict.

Putin and his Cuban hosts are expected to discuss cooperation in energy, transport, aviation, space and health, the Kremlin said.

He will then travel to Argentina for trade and energy talks with President Cristina Kirchner, before moving on to a summit of the BRICS group of developing countries in Brazil.

The highlight of the ... Read More

Economy stalled, Cuba resists speedier path to free enterprise

| July 7th, 2014 | No Comments »
Global Post

By Daniel Trotta

HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuban President Raul Castro told parliament on Saturday the communist country’s market-oriented reforms must remain gradual, a clear signal he would resist calls to accelerate change in order to address an underperforming economy.

He also praised Cubans for “defeating imperialism” by resisting U.S. aggression ever since the 1959 Cuban revolution.

Since taking over for his ailing older brother Fidel in 2008, Raul Castro, 83, has enacted widespread reforms such as turning state enterprises into private cooperatives, freeing Cubans to work in small private businesses, and reducing the role of the state in everyday life.

The reforms have raised expectations for improvements in the economy while also generating debate within the ruling Communist Party about how much more free enterprise should be allowed.

Castro said the pace of reforms would remain deliberate.

“The gradual nature of a series of activities that we are approving is indispensable,” Castro told 548 members of ... Read More

Foreigners enthuse over Enrique Peña Nieto’s reforms. Mexicans are warier

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

TWENTY years ago Juan Morales shut his beautifully preserved 19th-century mill in Morelos, a village in Coahuila close to the Texan border, after reductions to subsidies made the flour business unprofitable. Now he hopes the mill will get a new lease of life, thanks to a historic energy reform by President Enrique Peña Nieto (pictured). Instead of producing flour, Mr Morales plans to generate electricity, using water from his millstream and a newly acquired power turbine. For the first time he will be able to sell it to the local grid.

Until now, almost all electricity in the country has been generated by the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE), a state monopoly whose smoke-belching plants in Nava, ten miles (16km) away, guzzle so much coal that there are huge tailbacks of the sooty lorries that deliver it. Like Mr Morales, the CFE has its eyes on a brighter future. According to its ... Read More

Venezuela accused of forging Maduro assassination plot evidence

| July 3rd, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

(Reuters) – Venezuelan officials used forged emails to accuse government adversaries of plotting to kill President Nicolas Maduro, according to a private investigation firm hired by one of the accused.

Ruling Socialist Party leaders in May said a group of ardent government critics were preparing to “annihilate” Maduro as part of a planned coup, showing images of emails they said were evidence of the plot.

The images of the emails showed “many indications of user manipulation,” according to the report released on Tuesday by Kivu Consulting.

Records subpoenaed from Google also showed that messages attributed to consultant Pedro Burelli had never actually been sent, the report added.

“The ‘emails’ … are clearly mock‐ups and do not reflect actual screenshots,” reads the report. “There is no evidence of the existence of any emails between Pedro Burelli’s Google email accounts and the alleged recipients on those dates.”

Burelli, whose lawyers retained the services of Kivu, called the ... Read More

French bank handled $1.7 billion in illegal business with Cuba

| July 3rd, 2014 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

BY JUAN O. TAMAYO

The largest bank in France, BNP Paribas, disguised $1.75 billion in illegal transactions with Cuban entities as part of a long string of violations of U.S. sanctions that brought it a record $8.9 billion in forfeitures and fines, according to U.S. prosecutors.

A prosecution document on the case said BNP already has corrected its ways, “including terminating all business and prohibiting new business in any currency with sanctioned entities” in Cuba, Iran and Sudan.

It was not clear how the case would impact Cuba, already restricted by the U.S. embargo and U.S. laws and regulations on money laundering and terrorism financing. BNP shuttered its Havana office last year, after it came under U.S. investigation.

“This is a very important bank, but it doesn’t mean other banks won’t be able to do transactions,” said Luis F. Luis, a former chief economist at the Organization of American States who follows Cuban banking.

The ... Read More

Cybercrime Scheme Uncovered in Brazil

| July 3rd, 2014 | No Comments »
The New York Times

By NICOLE PERLROTH

SAN FRANCISCO — Security researchers have uncovered what they believe is a significant cybercrime operation in Brazil that took aim at $3.75 billion in transactions by Brazilians.

It is unclear what percentage of the $3.75 billion worth of compromised transactions was actually stolen. But if even half of that value was redirected to criminals, the scope of the swindle would eclipse any other previous electronic theft.

The thieves preyed on Boleto Bancário, or Boletos, a popular Brazilian payment method that can be issued online and paid through various channels like banks and supermarkets, said researchers at the RSA Security division of the EMC Corporation.

Researchers said the ring had been using what they called bolware — a play on Boletos and malware, a term for software intended for illegitimate purposes — to intercept legitimate Boletos payments and redirect them to ... Read More

Goldman Doubts Oil Rally Is Enough for Venezuela: Andes Credit

| July 3rd, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

By Sebastian Boyd

Venezuelan bonds are posting the world’s best returns after a surge in the price of oil, the country’s biggest export. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley say buyers are unwise to bet $115-a-barrel crude can fix a broken economy.

The government’s dollar-denominated notes have gained 5.9 percent since rebels took over swaths of northern Iraq on June 11, stoking concern that crude production will be hurt and pushing Brent oil prices over $115 for the first time since September. While the return was more than 14 times the average for emerging-market debt, the extra yield of 8.63 percentage points that investors demand to own Venezuela’s bonds instead of U.S. Treasuries is still the highest in the world.

Any extra cash generated by the OPEC member’s oil exports is likely to be siphoned off to pay for imports of consumer goods amid shortages of drinking water, toilet paper and medicine that have sparked anti-government protests, according to Daniel Volberg, ... Read More

Argentina Seen Breaking Vows as Fernandez Legacy at Risk

| July 2nd, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

By Charlie Devereux

Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has less than a month to choose between two unpalatable options: fulfilling a vow never to pay off creditor hedge funds, or negotiating with them to avoid a rerun of the 2001 debt crisis that forced a predecessor to flee the presidential palace in a helicopter.

With the economy contracting and foreign currency reserves near an eight-year low, she is likely to decide that a deal to pay off the $1.5 billion the funds are demanding is the least bad choice, said Claudio Loser, the head of research firm Centennial Group Latin America.

“A catastrophic situation in the economy would be worse” for Fernandez than any backtracking on her promises, Loser, a former International Monetary Fund director, said by phone from Washington. The government “is very fearful that they could be kicked out or the last year of their term is a disaster.”

Fernandez has already moved to regain access ... Read More

Argentine Consensus Emerges: Pay Off Debt

| July 2nd, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal

Argentines, Business Groups and Ruling-Party Lawmakers Say the Government Should Settle Its Bondholder Debt

By TAOS TURNER

BUENOS AIRES—As Argentina struggles with a poor economy and the risk of default, a consensus has emerged among Argentines, business groups and ruling-party lawmakers that the government should settle a $1.5 billion debt with holdout bondholders—and do so soon.

President Cristina Kirchner‘s administration, which begins negotiating with a small group of hedge funds on Monday in New York, has until the end of July to reach a deal or default on its debt for the second time in 13 years.

That prospect, harrowing for a country with an economy in recession with one of the world’s highest inflation rates, is prompting both Mrs. Kirchner’s allies and foes to urge her to abide by a U.S. court order. The U.S. Supreme Court last month declined to review an earlier district court ruling that Argentina must pay the hedge funds that ... Read More

Sharing the Pain: A Cuban and a Venezuelan Compare Notes

| July 2nd, 2014 | No Comments »
Foreign Policy

BY DANIEL LANSBERG-RODRIGUEZ

I first met Yoani Sánchez, Cuba’s most famous blogger (and occasional FP contributor), at an event hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. When I mentioned that I write for a Venezuelan newspaper, she smiled: “I never quite know what to say to Venezuelans. We’re like two hospital patients, suffering the same affliction, who pass in the hospital corridor and feel compelled to compare symptoms.” With this in mind, we agreed to meet a few days later and do just that.

Yoani is just one member of a budding generation of independent Cuban opinion-makers and media — but she has undeniably become that movement’s most visible figure in the eyes of the international community. From her Havana home, which like most Cuban domiciles lacks Internet access (she relies on pen drives a great deal), the 38-year-old has been instrumental in introducing the world to an “unofficial” Cuba. Her efforts have garnered ... Read More

New Panama President Varela offers gangs one-month amnesty

| July 2nd, 2014 | No Comments »
BBC

The new president of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela, has offered an amnesty until 1 August to “more than 200 criminal gangs” operating in the country.

Speaking shortly after being sworn in, Mr Varela gave the gangs one month to disarm.

He urged them to “sever links with organised crime and join civic life”.

Mr Varela was Panama’s vice-president, but he has distanced himself from outgoing President Ricardo Martinelli.

The two centre-right politicians fell out after Mr Varela was dismissed from his post as foreign minister in 2011.

He won the election in May with some 40% of the vote, running against a candidate backed by Mr Martinelli – Domingo Arias.

Mr Varela, 50, has promised to tackle corruption in the Central American nation in the next five years.

“From today, no one in Panama is above the law,” he said during the inaugural ceremony.

“Corruption will not be tolerated in our government,” he added.

‘No food speculation’

In foreign ... Read More

Mexico’s Pena Nieto Vows to Help Stop Child Migrant Trafficking

| July 1st, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

By Brendan Case and Eric Martin

Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto pledged to help put an end to a surge in child migration from Central America to the U.S., attributing the jump to organized crime gangs that smuggle people across the border.

“We’re discouraging this migration of children,” Pena Nieto said in an interview with Charlie Rose taped June 27 and scheduled to air on PBS last night. “I think most of the times, they’re being victims. This is a consequence of the abuse of criminal gangs that are devoted to trafficking with children, or to take migrants to the United States.”

U.S. President Barack Obama yesterday asked Congress for emergency funds and legal authority to stem the rising flow of children into the U.S. and said legislation may be needed to increase penalties for people smuggling them.

More than 52,000 unaccompanied children have arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border this fiscal year through June 15, about double the number ... Read More

Chile: Limits to growth

| July 1st, 2014 | No Comments »
Financial Times

By Benedict Mander and John Paul Rathbone

The country’s economic ‘miracle’ hangs in the balance in the face of President Michelle Bachelet’s controversial reforms

At the gaping pit of Radomiro Tomic in northern Chile, one of the largest copper mines in the world, trucks the size of houses rumble their way up from the bottom loaded with 100-tonne piles of ore, kicking up huge clouds of dust that hang in the air.

The massive site and the relentless processing of minerals around the clock give a feeling of permanence. But the whole operation could stumble in the coming years. Like many of the other mines run by Codelco, Chile’s state-owned copper company, Radomiro Tomic needs millions of dollars of investment to keep going – money that soon may not be easily available.

Chile, the world’s largest copper exporter and widely considered to be Latin America’s best-run economy, is facing tough choices under its new ... Read More

Mess in Venezuela calls for decisive U.S. action

| July 1st, 2014 | No Comments »

BY ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN AND MARIO DIAZ-BALART

Over the past several months, Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro’s use of the military andcolectivos, guided by the Castro regime’s instruction in thuggery and intimidation, has violently oppressed dissenters through mass detentions, systematic torture and deaths.

Human Rights Watch released a report on May 5, Punished for Protesting, that detailed egregious human-rights violations, including arbitrary detentions, the use of unlawful force, torture, abuses in detention facilities, targeting of journalists and dismantling of independent media and state collusion with pro-Maduro gangs.

The U.S. Congress overwhelmingly supports tough action against Maduro’s oppression. We are the authors of H.R. 4587, the Venezuelan Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act, which would impose tough sanctions against those involved in human-rights abuses and supports strengthening democratic institutions in Venezuela.

Yet the Obama administration continues to wrangle with Congress over even the most noncontroversial sanctions, such as denying visas to Venezuelan human-rights abusers. President Obama’s response has been ... Read More

Salvadorian Puppet Master

| July 1st, 2014 | No Comments »
Ozy

BY JAMES BARGENT

The most powerful man in El Salvador is a shadow.

“Comandante Ramiro” was nowhere in the official photos of the June 1 inauguration of El Salvador’s new president, nor did his name appear in any news reports.

“Ramiro” is the nom de guerre of José Luis Merino, a Marxist guerrilla commander turned political mandarin and underworld fixer with the ear of the president and unaccountable control over hundreds of millions of Venezuelan petro-dollars.

Diplomats describe Merino as a ‘shadowy [Marxist] hardliner strongman,’ while political rivals say he’s a ‘gangster.’

That combination makes him kingmaker in San Salvador, and that’s got many people worried. Merino has a web of murky contacts throughout the region, making him the link between corrupt government officials and the Latin American underworld, with the potential to undermine the democratic process in a Central American country with a troubled past.

“It’s one more element that is able to carry out criminal activities under state ... Read More

Argentina edges closer to default

| July 1st, 2014 | No Comments »
The Economist

Event

Constrained by a US court ruling that forces it to repay litigant holdout creditors (who did not participate in 2005 or 2010 restructurings) when it makes payments to current creditors, and in the absence of a negotiated repayment deal with the holdouts, Argentina failed on June 30th to meet a coupon payment to holders of restructured bonds issued under New York law.

Analysis

It had become increasingly evident in the days leading up to the June 30th deadline that the payment would not be made. Argentina had transferred the necessary funds to its payments agent in the US, Bank of New York Mellon, during the previous week, asserting that it had therefore met its obligations. However, it was always clear, under the terms of the US court ruling, that the bank would not be able to transfer the funds to the intended creditors without some sort of provision for repayment of the holdouts. ... Read More