Content from IASW Contributors

Can Brazil overcome economic malaise and scandal?

By Roger F. Noriega and Felipe TrigosBy Roger F. Noriega and Felipe Trigos
While US policymakers, commentators, and the media have been distracted recently by the “historic” normalization of US-Cuban relations, the rest of Latin America is beset by extraordinary challenges—not the least of which is the economic malaise and governance crisis in Brazil, South America’s most populous country and the world’s sixth-largest economy. Read More-->

Can Obama Rescue His Failing Latin America Policy?

By Roger F. Noriega By Roger F. Noriega
U.S. President Barack Obama has clearly noticed that many in Latin America and the Caribbean have an uncanny affinity for the myth of the Cuban revolution. What he has yet to realize, however, is that the vast majority of the region’s citizens would rather live in the Chile built by Augusto Pinochet than in the Cuba destroyed by Fidel Castro.
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The Cuban people will pay the price for Obama’s careless concessions

| December 17th, 2014 | 2 Comments »
AEI

BY ROGER NORIEGA

The Cuban regime’s decision to release American hostage Alan Gross to celebrate Hanukkah with his family is long overdue, welcome news. Gross is free today; 11 million Cubans are not. President Obama’s decision to move toward normalizing diplomatic relations with the Castro regime resuscitates a gasping dictatorship without even asking for anything in return.

The Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996, signed by President Clinton after the downing of American rescue planes over international waters, codified the economic embargo on the totalitarian dictatorship of Fidel and Raúl Castro. (Incidentally, Gerardo Hernández, one of the Cuban spies to which Obama referred in his speech today, was found guilty of murder in US federal court for his complicity in the 1996 shoot-down.)

The LIBERTAD Act stipulates that the restoration of normal commercial ties should be used as leverage with a post-Castro transition to ensure that economic and political reforms ... Read More

Cuba releases American Alan Gross in prisoner swap

| December 17th, 2014 | No Comments »
From CNN

By Elise Labott

Washington (CNN) – U.S. contractor Alan Gross, held by the Cuban government since 2009, was freed Wednesday as part of a landmark deal with Cuba that paves the way for a major overhaul in U.S. policy toward the island, senior administration officials tell CNN.

President Obama is expected to announce Gross’ release at noon.

Gross’ “humanitarian” release by Cuba was accompanied by a separate spy swap, the officials said. Cuba also freed a U.S. intelligence source who has been jailed in Cuba for more than 20 years, although authorities did not identify that person for security reasons. The U.S. released three Cuban intelligence agents convicted of espionage in 2001.

President Barack Obama is also set to announce a broad range of diplomatic and regulatory measures in what officials called the most sweeping change in U.S. policy toward Cuba since the 1961 embargo was imposed.

... Read More

Brutal Gang Violence Reigns In El Salvador

| December 17th, 2014 | No Comments »
wbur

SAN SALVADOR, EL SALVADOR — In a country with all the sun and verdure of an idyllic resort, but none of its safety, new white vans and pick-ups convey a steady supply of corpses through the crowded traffic of San Salvador, the capital city, to the Office of the Medical Examiner. Fifty-two murders in 72 hours, said local newspaper headlines on Nov. 18.

If you want to know why so many Salvadorans are running north this year, the medical examiner’s receiving room seems a good place to start. The victims keep the metal autopsy tables and attending doctors at full capacity. On display are the youth of El Salvador.

“Seventy percent of the people who are killed are between 15 and 30 years old,” Dr. Miguel Enrique Velasquez says in Spanish.

According to a recent report from UNICEF, El Salvador has the world’s highest rate of homicide for ... Read More

Argentina’s Approach To Inflation: Ditch The Peso, Hoard U.S. Dollars

| December 17th, 2014 | No Comments »
NPR

BY LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO

Kelly Brenner ushers in guests at the Adentro Dinner Club. This is a “​puertas cerradas”​ restaurant — meaning behind closed doors. It’s a culinary movement where people cook for paying guests in their homes. Adentro is the most well-reviewed in Buenos Aires​.

​Brenner, who is originally from Boulder, Colo., acts as the host, and her Argentine fiance, Gabriel Aguallo, does the cooking, focusing on grilled meat.

​On a recent evening, visitors gasped with pleasure at the beautifully set dinner table before they were ushered up for cocktails on a roof terrace festooned with lights. Despite the success of the venture, though, the pair say they have been struggling.

​”​Tourists would call and want to make a reservation for two months in advance, but we couldn’t take that reservation because we couldn’t tell them how much it was gonna cost in two months​,” she says.

The problem is ​inflation​. ​

​It’s been ​ravaging Argentina’s ... Read More

Fire In The Hole: The Imminent Implosion of Venezuelan Chavismo

| December 17th, 2014 | No Comments »
Forbes

By Agustino Fontevecchia

Ever since Hugo Chavez´s rise to power in 1998, the opposition has announced (like the boy who cried wolf) that the demise of the Chavista regime was around the corner. After 15 years, it is hard to find similar allegations to be truthful or realistic. The institutionalists in the armed forces did not overthrow the government, the opposition did not win the elections, and the economic crises have not roused the pro-Chavez masses against the government they elected. The hypotheses presented by the opposition have proven wrong repeatedly.

Yet, none of this means the danger of governmental collapse in Venezuela is nonexistent. On the contrary, if the disintegration of the Chavista leadership has ever been closer, it is now. Not for any of the previously mentioned reasons, though. This time the threat comes from deep inside PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela). The fractures that pre-date the death of ... Read More

Socialist policies undoing success of South America’s strongest economy

| December 16th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article Appeared in The Washington Times By Richard W. Rahn 

Why do very successful nations often adopt policies that lead to their undoing? After a revolution or major reform, some countries allow a high degree of economic freedom, establish the rule of law, protect private property rights and establish low tax rates with strict limits on government spending and regulation. The economy takes off, the citizens become far richer and then the government mucks it up, usually by attempting to redistribute income and expand state control.

Is Chile, which has been one of the bright spots in the world economy, falling into this pattern under socialist President Michelle Bachelet?

For the past three decades, Chile has outperformed the other South American countries and now has the highest per-capita income in South America, averaging approximately $22,000 per year on a purchasing power parity basis. The World Bank lists Chile as a “developed economy,” and it was the first Latin American country to become a member ... Read More

Mexico suffers slings and arrows as second act of its Shakespearean drama unfolds

| December 16th, 2014 | No Comments »
Financial Times

By John Paul Rathbone

In Shakespearean tragedies, the second act — when the drama builds alongside the setbacks the protagonists must overcome — is often the longest and most painful. Something similar may now be happening to Mexico and its economy as the oil price slumps.

In act one, Enrique Peña Nieto won the presidency with a reform-minded team that promised to modernise Mexico. Previously insurmountable political obstacles were swept aside with apparent ease and a series of laws promulgated in rapid succession, most notably a groundbreaking change that allowed private investment in the energy sector for the first time in more than 70 years.

By early 2014, the government was riding high. Mr Peña Nieto was dubbed the “Man who saved Mexico” by Time magazine. Investors rubbed their hands at the $50bn of foreign investment expected in Mexican energy by 2020. All was going well. But now, in the second ... Read More

Colombia’s Economy Grew 4.2% in 3Q on Construction Boom

| December 16th, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

By Matthew Bristow and Christine Jenkins

Colombia grew at the fastest pace among major Latin American economies in the third quarter as a surge in home building and public works projects helped soften the impact of a contraction in oil and manufacturing.

Gross domestic product expanded 4.2 percent from a year earlier, little changed from the previous quarter’s 4.3 percent growth, the national statistics agency said today. Growth was in line with the median forecast of 27 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. GDP grew 0.6 percent from the previous quarter.

In the minutes to its November policy meeting published last week, the central bank said that internal demand is “dynamic” amid “increasingly adverse” world conditions. As growth remains robust, policy makers will leave the benchmark rate unchanged at 4.5 percent for a fourth straight month at their Dec. 19 board meeting, according to 24 of 25 analysts surveyed ... Read More

Venezuelan bonds tumble after Maduro comments on fuel subsidies

| December 16th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

(Reuters) – Venezuelan bonds tumbled to new lows on Monday after President Nicolas Maduro said he is in “no hurry” to raise the price of gasoline, which is the cheapest in the world thanks to a huge subsidy that drains the OPEC nation’s coffers.

Investors are growing worried that Venezuela could default on its foreign debt due to capital flight caused by its currency control system and a tumble in crude prices that has cut into its hard currency holdings.

The country’s benchmark Global 2027 bond fell 5.13 percent to $37.63 to yield 26.46 percent. State oil company PDVSA’s 2017 bond lost 7.69 percent to $43.00 to yield 72.45 percent.

Venezuelan bonds on average yield 30.18 percentage points more than comparable U.S. Treasuries, according to JPMorgan’s Emerging Market Bond Index. They have lost 43.75 percent of their value this year, compared to a drop of 43.20 percent ... Read More

Who Gets Citgo’s Assets If Venezuela Defaults?

| December 16th, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

By Ye Xie, Katia Porzecanski and Pietro D. Pitts

Venezuela’s bondholders have long held that if the South American country ever defaulted, they’d be able to seize its refineries and almost 6,000 gas stations in the U.S.

That notion is starting to unravel, just as plunging oil prices, a collapsing economy and dwindling foreign reserves has made swaps traders almost certain that Venezuela will renege on its obligations in the next five years.

Creditors would have a hard time convincing U.S. courts that Citgo Petroleum Corp., the Houston-based unit owned by Venezuela’s state oil company, is legally an “alter ego” of the government and responsible for its obligations, according to law firms Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP and Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney. For almost two decades, bondholders have assumed the ability to seize Citgo assets would deter Venezuela from stopping debt payments, which has propelled gains ... Read More

Ecuador Moves to Block Disclosure of U.S. Propaganda Activities

| December 15th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Washington Free Beacon

By  Lachlan Markay

The government of Ecuador is attempting to prevent the release of information related to its contract with a New York-based public relations firm that may have violated federal law and is under investigation in the South American nation.

A federal judge in New York last week ordered the firm, MCSquared PR, to turn over documents related to its work for the government.

The order came as part of an ongoing legal action brought by Chevron against the financiers of a number of attorneys that won a $9 billion judgment against the company for environmental contamination in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Chevron has alleged a widespread campaign of fraud, extortion, and bribery by plaintiffs’ attorneys in that case, and brought a racketeering suit against them in U.S. courts. They also brought a suit against a Gibraltar-based investment firm that financed the plaintiffs’ efforts.

As part of the ... Read More

Argentina Bond-Sale Bust Is Missed Chance as Maturities Loom

| December 15th, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

By Camila Russo 

Argentina missed a chance to boost foreign reserves and push back much of the $12 billion in debt coming due next year as investors balked at the terms for the country’s first bond sale since defaulting in July.

The government issued just $286 million of the $3 billion in 10-year notes that it offered last week for 96.2 cents on the dollar, above the 94.4 cents they fetch in the secondary market. Offers to swap $6.3 billion of securities due next year for ones that mature in 2024 lured investors holding less than 10 percent of the debt outstanding. Both the swap and the sale involved notes governed by local law, exempt from a U.S. court ruling that prevents the country from paying overseas debt.

Argentina’s debt obligations next year total about 40 percent of its foreign reserves, and the country remains locked out of ... Read More

Colombia, U.S. design new cooperation agreement for a post-conflict world

| December 15th, 2014 | No Comments »
From Fox News Latino

The governments of Colombia and the United States spoked Friday about a new framework of bilateral cooperation in which Washington will support the South American country during its post-conflict era, if it reaches a definitive peace accord with its guerrilla groups.

Peace was the basis of the meeting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had Friday in Bogotá with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, which also included a review of the two countries’ far-reaching bilateral agenda.

In a joint statement to the press with Santos after the meeting, Kerry expressed Washington’s hope that the Colombian government’s peace talks with the FARC, which have been going on for two years in Cuba, will be speeded up since “the longer it takes, the harder it may get” and because “we hope that 2015 can be the year that brings the Colombian people the security, the prosperity, and most ... Read More

Farc ‘amnesty’: Colombian marchers reject ‘impunity’

| December 15th, 2014 | No Comments »
BBC

Thousands of people have joined protests in Colombia against a possible amnesty for Farc rebels as part of a peace process to end 50 years of conflict.Many of the marchers were supporters of former President Alvaro Uribe, an opponent of his successor, Juan Manuel Santos.

They argue that peace should not come at the price of impunity.

In two years of talks in Havana, a number of issues have been agreed.

Negotiators are now discussing how the left-wing rebels should lay down their arms, and whether they should face prosecution for human rights atrocities and drug trafficking.

The rallies in several cities across the country were organised by the Colombia Quiere movement and backed by the Centro Democratic Party of former President Uribe.

In Medellin, where Mr Uribe led the march, he said: “We call on the army to support us by fighting and defeating the guerrillas, if the government wants it or not.”

On social ... Read More

Venezuela reels under failing economy with no signs of improvement

| December 15th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Tampa Tribune

By Juan Carlos Chavez

TAMPA — For Venezuelans living in Tampa and across Florida, the news from home is painful to hear this Christmas season, with a growing economic crisis, a popular uprising and a harsh government crackdown.

Feb. 12 will mark the one-year anniversary of civil unrest in Caracas, Venezuela’s capital, against the regime of President Nicolas Maduro. The violence of the past 10 months has left more than 1,400 dead and thousands behind bars or injured.

Much of the anger on the streets arises from Maduro’s inability to restart a failing economy.

Citizens face shortages of basic necessities such as bread, toilet paper and milk. Inflation has risen to 63 percent, and many believe — with Venezuela’s economy heavily dependent on oil prices that now are in a tailspin — the country will enter a period of hyperinflation in the next few months.

“It is expected that the situation will worsen because the administration ... Read More

Venezuela’s Maduro says he hasn’t broken relations with U.S. only out of ‘Chavista wisdom’

| December 15th, 2014 | No Comments »
From Fox News Latino

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said in a recorded television interview aired Sunday that he had wanted to break “all” relations with the United States and close Washington’s embassies and consulates, but he decided not to out of “Chavista wisdom.”

In a TV interview taped, evidently, on Saturday evening and aired while he was speaking on Sunday in Cuba at the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, or ALBA, presidential summit, Maduro confirmed that on Monday a march to repudiate U.S. policies against him will be held in Caracas.

The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives in recent days have approved measures awaiting signature by President Barack Obama to deny visas and freeze assets of Venezuelan officials accused of violating the rights of Maduro opponents.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest announced last Friday that Obama approves of the initiative, although he offered no ... Read More

Venezuela’s Maduro says ‘no rush’ to hike world’s cheapest gasoline

| December 15th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

(Reuters) – Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro said there was “no rush” to hike the world’s cheapest gasoline prices, suggesting the increasingly unpopular president has shied away from implementing the risky domestic reform in the near future amid an economic crisis.

“I’ve considered, as head of state, that the moment has not arrived,” he said in a pre-recorded interview broadcast on the Televen channel on Sunday.

“The moment will come, maybe in 2015, there’s no rush, we’re not going to throw more gasoline on the fire that already exists with speculation and induced inflation.”

Venezuela’s economy is flailing under the weight of an over 60 percent annual inflation, an apparent recession, strict currency controls, and slipping oil prices.

Maduro has appeared reluctant to make necessary but unpopular economic adjustments, such as hiking gasoline prices for the first time in two ... Read More

Mexico Finance Minister Bought House From Government Contractor

| December 12th, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01

By JUAN MONTES

MEXICO CITY—Mexico’s finance minister bought a home from a prominent government contractor who is at the center of influence-peddling allegations roiling President Enrique Peña Nieto ’s administration, documents viewed by The Wall Street Journal show.

Property records show that the minister, Luis Videgaray, widely seen as the driving force behind Mexico’s recent economic overhauls, bought the house in an exclusive golf resort outside the picturesque town of Malinalco, in the central State of Mexico, from Bienes Raíces H&G SA.

The firm, commercial records show, is owned by Juan Armando Hinojosa, whose companies have won hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of public-works projects during Mr. Peña Nieto’s time as governor of the State of Mexico and during his current administration.

Mr. Videgaray isn’t accused of an illegal act. But the transaction adds to the appearance of conflicts of interest that have damaged Mr. Peña Nieto’s credibility and popularity after he came to ... Read More

“Obama debe ser muy agresivo aplicando las sanciones contra funcionarios de Venezuela”: Roger Noriega en NTN24

| December 12th, 2014 | No Comments »
NTN24

El exembajador de Estados Unidos ante la OEA, Roger Noriega, dijo en El Informativo de NTN24 que Estados Unidos está “comprometido con el Estado de Derecho y la democracia” de América Latina, por lo que el Gobierno de Barack Obama deberá ser drástico con las sanciones a los funcionarios del régimen venezolano que violaron los derechos humanos de los ciudadanos de este país. 

De click aquí para ver la entrevista.

Read More

Brazil Charges 35 in Petrobras Scandal

| December 12th, 2014 | No Comments »
ABC News

By BRAD BROOKS

Prosecutors investigating a sprawling kickback scheme at Brazil’s state-run oil company Petrobras filed charges Thursday against 35 people, including executives from some of the nation’s biggest construction firms.

The formal charges cap a months-long investigation dubbed “Operation Car Wash,” which is proving to be one of Brazil’s biggest corruption schemes yet uncovered with authorizes saying they’ll seek the return of nearly $400 million from the accused.

Authorities allege top officials from Petrobras operated the kickback scheme on contracts worth upward of $4 billion, with money from the inflated contracts eventually being fed back to the governing Workers’ Party and other top parties for political campaigns.

“These people stole the pride of Brazilians,” Prosecutor-General Rodrigo Janot said at a news conference in the southern city of Curitiba, where a top informant in the case is being held. “We’re far from being at the end” of the investigation.

Prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol added that “we’ve begun to destroy the ... Read More