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-->

Colombia: Amid a tightening election, Santos faces farmer strike

| May 1st, 2014 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

By Jim Wyss

Less than a month before facing reelection, President Juan Manuel Santos has a farmer problem. A national coalition of agricultural workers went on strike Monday accusing the government of reneging on promises it made during a strike in August.

On Monday, poncho-clad potato farmers in the highlands and sombrero-wearing coffee cultivators near Medellin blocked traffic along key roads and organizers promised escalating disruptions.

Near the town of Tunja, about 93 miles northeast of the capital, organizers said farmers were still coming out of the hills and planned to paralyze traffic along the important corridor.

“We have no faith in the central government,” said Walter Benavides, a spokesman for the striking farmers who was also one of the negotiator’s of last year’s agreement. “They’ve lied to us repeatedly…We don’t want words, we want actions.”

Farmers are making four demands: the renegotiation of free trade agreements, which they claim are flooding the market with ... Read More

Venezuela to raise minimum wage by 30%, Maduro says

| May 1st, 2014 | No Comments »
BBC

Venezuela will raise the minimum wage by 30% on 1 May, President Nicolas Maduro has announced.

He said he would also raise pensions by the same amount.

The increase is below the level of annual inflation, which official figures put at 56.2% for 2013.

The announcement comes after almost three months of mass protests against Mr Maduro’s government triggered by rising inflation, shortages of some basic goods and a high crime rate.

Dollar shortage

In an address to workers from different key sectors, Mr Maduro said he hoped that “by the end of the year, we will be choking off and overcoming (…) inflation”.

Supporters of Mr Maduro say his government has helped lift many out of poverty

He said that on May Day, the minimum wage would go up from 3,270 bolivars ($520; £310) to 4,252 bolivars.

Critics say that while the new minimum salary amounts to $675 at the government-set exchange rate, it adds up to ... Read More

Cuba Is Open For Business That Might Land You in Jail

| April 30th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Huffington Post

By Peter Kent

If word out of Havana is to believed — relayed aggressively in recent weeks by Cuban diplomats and trade emissaries to major investors in financial centers around the world — a new day of investment opportunities is dawning in the cash-strapped communist state.

The sales pitch is driven by a set of new laws passed last month by the Cuban National Assembly.

The legislation provides for steep tax cuts and tax exemptions. There are a range of new guarantees of investment security.

In short, Cuba is open for business and safe for foreign investors.

Reality is at stark odds with the platitudes of the Cuban trade officials and diplomats. One example, of many:

Since September 10, 2011 a Canadian citizen, Cy Tokmakjian, President and CEO of the Tokmakjian Group of Companies, has been detained by Cuban authorities.

He is one of dozens of Cuban and foreign business executives scooped by anti-corruption investigators of the Cuban ... Read More

Venezuela’s president raises minimum wage by 30 percent in face of galloping inflation

| April 30th, 2014 | No Comments »
FoxNews.com

CARACAS, Venezuela –  President Nicolas Maduro is boosting Venezuela’s minimum wage to defend workers’ salaries against inflation running at nearly 60 percent.

Maduro said Tuesday that the 30 percent increase for wages and pension payments will take effect Thursday, in honor of the May 1 international workers day. It follows a 10 percent boost in January.

The socialist president blames the problem on his opponents, accusing them of waging “economic war” on his year-old administration by raising prices and hoarding goods while staging protests demanding he resign.

Economists say raising wages feeds an inflationary spiral and adds to the government deficit.

The increase takes Venezuela’s minimum wage to 4,252 bolivars a month. That’s $675 at the official exchange rate but less than a tenth that amount at the widely used black market rate.

Click here for original ... Read More

The scandal in Rio? It’s the cost of the Olympics

| April 30th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Globe and Mail-01

International Olympic Committee vice-chair John Coates this week described Brazil’s preparations for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games as “the worst” ever. Construction is far behind schedule. Many venues are still awaiting the go ahead. People are asking whether there’s a backup country, a Plan B. The situation, says Mr. Coates, is “critical on the ground.”

There is a scandal here, though not the one the IOC poobahs have in mind. It is not that athletes and TV viewers might have to endure an Olympics with a few warts. It’s that the Games are being held in a poor country that can ill afford them, at a cost of billions of dollars that might have been far better spent on long-term benefits for real people. Instead, limited resources are being sunk into unneeded stadiums and facilities, for the sake of pride and a two week circus. And all of this only ... Read More

International community warns Haiti in for more political crisis if elections don’t happen in 2014

| April 30th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

By Jacqueline Charles

Indicating increasing frustration with an ongoing political stalemate in Haiti, the international community warned Tuesday that the country could be headed for another political crisis with unpredictable consequences.

The tough stance from the United Nations and others comes after the U.S. informed the poverty-stricken nation last week that it could lose up to $301 million in aid if it doesn’t show that steps are being taken to hold free and fair elections.

But late Tuesday, the stalemate between Haiti’s Senate and President Michel Martelly appeared no closer to being resolved. Martelly, responding to a request by the Senate to redo the provisional electoral council charged with supervising the balloting, said no deal.

Instead, Martelly called on Senate President Simon Desras to use his “savoire faire” to move the process along.

“I remain convinced that you will use your know how to convey to all those concerned by this agreement that it is ... Read More

Brazil’s election: Dilma’s fragile lead

| April 30th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Economist

FOR a long time Dilma Rousseff looked invincible. Even huge nationwide protests last June, when millions of Brazilians took to the streets to air assorted grievances and disaffection with politicians, were not enough to depress the president’s approval ratings below 45%. Her popularity quickly rebounded; Ms Rousseff seemed poised for a first-round win in a presidential election this October. A new poll, however, confirms what many observers have been saying for months: that Ms Rousseff’s lead is more fragile than she and her Workers’ Party (PT) would care to admit.

The latest figures, published on April 29th by CNT/MDA, a pollster, found that 48% of Brazilians approve of the president, down from 55% in February and in line with other recent polling data. Should this dip below 40%, reckons João Castro Neves of Eurasia Group, a consultancy, her re-election would be in serious doubt.

Defeat is certainly no longer inconceivable. Inflation remains ... Read More

Colombia’s FARC wants to avoid ‘Nuremberg’ scenario

| April 30th, 2014 | No Comments »
New-Straits-Times-Press-Malaysia-Berhad

QUITO: The FARC rebel group warned it would not agree to peace with Colombia’s government only to see its leaders subjected to Nuremberg-like war crimes trials.

Andres Paris, a FARC delegate to peace talks here, reaffirmed rebel demands  for the creation of an independent truth commission to deal with abuses  committed during the 50-year-old insurgency. But he accused the government of President Juan Manuel Santos of seeking  war crimes trials for guerrillas. “The guerrilla (movement) was born as a response to state violence, but  they have turned it around and are working to turn the Havana talks into a  Nuremberg tribunal to try guerrillas,” he told the Ecuadoran state news agency. Paris stressed the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, is not  going to be found “signing the end of the conflict and seeing its leaders in  prison.” He said if progress is not made toward forming a truth commission “the dialogue will stop ... Read More

Cuba’s Raul Castro receives Russian foreign minister

| April 30th, 2014 | No Comments »
From Fox News Latino

Cuban President Raul Castro and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met Tuesday in Havana to review bilateral relations, Cuba’s official media said.

The two men “noted with satisfaction the excellent state of their bilateral relations, in constant development and with a promising future,” state news agency AIN said.

The Cuban president and the Russian foreign minister also exchanged opinions on current international affairs.

The meeting took place after Lavrov had official talks Tuesday with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez as part of a tour of Latin America, with Cuba as its first stop.

The tour will also take him to Nicaragua, Peru and Chile.

Speaking at the Cuban Foreign Ministry, Lavrov spoke of the “brotherhood” existing between Havana and Moscow, and expressed gratitude for the island’s understanding and “stout” support of Russia with regard to the crisis in Ukraine.

Besides the meetings with Cuban dignitaries, his agenda in Havana also includes a review of the bilateral ... Read More

Venezuelan ex-intelligence chief Eliecer Otaiza killed

| April 30th, 2014 | No Comments »
BBC

A former chief of Venezuela’s intelligence service, Eliecer Otaiza, was killed on Saturday, officials have revealed.

Maj Otaiza, a friend and ally of the late president Hugo Chavez, was shot dead outside the capital, Caracas.

President Nicolas Maduro said police would investigate the “suspicious” circumstances of his death.

Maj Otaiza was elected in December as local councillor for the governing PSUV party for the Libertadores area.

Police said the motive for his killing was not yet clear.

The body was discovered on Saturday on the outskirts of the capital with four bullet wounds, said Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres.

The minister added that the major was found without any documents which is why it took police until Monday to identify the body, which had been taken to a local morgue.

He said the subsequent discovery of Maj Otaiza’s stolen and bullet-riddled car led them to suspect the body was that of the councillor.

Maj Otaiza had last ... Read More

Venezuela Not Paying Airlines $3.9 Billion Promised: IATA

| April 30th, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

Anatoly Kurmanaev

Venezuela’s government isn’t honoring its pledge to provide as much as $3.9 billion to airlines with bolivars trapped in the country, said the International Air Transport Association, known as IATA.

President Nicolas Maduro last month authorized the release of dollars owed to 24 airlines operating in the country, basing the total on the official exchange rate at the time of the ticket sales, Venezuelan Airlines Association President Humberto Figuera told reporters March 28.

“Since then there has been very little progress,” Tony Tyler, IATA’s General Director, said in a statementpublished on the organization’s website today. “The situation is unacceptable.”

Press officials at Venezuela’s Air Transport Ministry didn’t immediately return messages left by Bloomberg News.

At least 11 airlines have cut capacity on Venezuelan flights in the past year, some by as much as 78 percent, as the currency controls made it increasingly difficult to expatriate local earnings, according IATA. Air Canada stopped flying to Caracas in March.

The ... Read More

Mexico’s energy reforms to be delayed

| April 29th, 2014 | No Comments »
Financial Times

By John Paul Rathbone

Political infighting, poorly-drafted laws and an intense workload have delayed Mexico’s groundbreaking energy overhaul, potentially denting investor hopes about the country’s ambitious reform programme that so far has promised more than it has delivered.

President Enrique Peña Nieto last year pushed through constitutional changes required to break-up Mexico’s 76-year old energy monopoly, Pemex. But so-called secondary legislation, needed for the reform to take effect, is yet to pass through Congress. The same is true of other initiatives covering telecommunications and electoral reform.

“If approval is delayed by a couple of months, real foreign money investors . . . might overlook the delay,” said Benito Berber, Mexico analyst at Nomura. But if approval of the laws is “postponed until September, some real money investors may start to get impatient.”

Mr Peña Nieto had planned for the energy reform, which could unleash billions of dollars of private investment from oil majors such as ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell, ... Read More

Reduced Speed, Rising Challenges: IMF Outlook for Latin America and the Caribbean

| April 29th, 2014 | No Comments »
InterAmerican Security Watch

By Alejandro Werner

International Monetary Fund

The prospects for global growth have brightened in recent months, led by a stronger recovery in the advanced economies. Yet in Latin America and the Caribbean, growth will probably continue to slow, although some countries will do better than others. We analyze the challenges facing the region in our latest Regional Economic Outlook and discuss how policymakers can best deal with them.

Still losing speed

Growth in the region has been on the decline since 2010. 2014 is unlikely to be an exception. Based on our latest projections, regional output will expand by just 2½ percent, the lowest  rate in eleven years—excluding 2009, when the global financial crisis took its toll. The slowdown in investment over the past few years has been even more pronounced (Figure 1).

We project that not all countries will decelerate in 2014. In fact, Mexico and a number of economies in Central America and the Caribbean are primed ... Read More

Factbox: Candidates in Colombia’s presidential election

| April 29th, 2014 | No Comments »
Yahoo News-01

By Julia Symmes Cobb

BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos is running for a second term in a May 25 election, with polls showing he will probably win but go to a second round of voting.

Here are the main candidates and their policies:

JUAN MANUEL SANTOS

The president opened peace talks with Marxist FARC rebels and his legacy may hinge on the outcome of the negotiations.

The 17-month-old talks have produced partial agreements on two of the five points on the agenda.

Santos has promised to implement judicial reforms and to strike back at criminal gangs during his second term, as well as break down barriers to housing and education. He has also said he will continue to reduce unemployment.

Born into one of Colombia’s most powerful families, Santos, 62, is a consummate political insider. His great uncle, Eduardo Santos, served as president. A cousin was a vice president.

Before moving into ... Read More

Support wanes for Colombia’s Santos, despite GDP growth

| April 29th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in The Christian Science Monitor

By Stephen Kurczy

With only four weeks remaining before Colombia’s general election, support for President Juan Manuel Santos is fading fast, says our correspondent in Medellín.

Despite economic indicators showing a strong economy – the Central Bank on Friday raised its policy rate by 25 basis points to 3.5 percent in a move to prevent inflation in the face of a surging economy – the president lost ground to rivals in the latest polls.

“It’ll take more than strong economic indicators to make Santos popular again – he’s really on the wane,” says our correspondent. “However, it’ll take a lot more than what we’re seeing currently from his competitors for him to lose the election.”

Only 23 percent of respondents to a weekly survey by Ipsos Napoleón Franco say they will vote for President Santos. Setbacks for the president have included national protests last year in the farm sector as well as a slowdown in ... Read More

Sugar war could sour US-Mexico trade ties

| April 29th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in The Christian Science Monitor

TIM JOHNSON

There’s nothing sweet in the sugar war that’s unfolding between Mexico and the United States.

The US industry, sometimes called Big Sugar, simmers over soaring competition from Mexico and argues that a doubling of Mexican exports triggered a collapse in the market price of sugar.

A reluctant Obama administration has opened a formal investigation into those exports that could result in new import duties on Mexican sugar – and ignite a broader trade dispute over sweeteners that might affect other US industries.

A spokesman for the American Sugar Alliance, Phillip Hayes, says the sugar industry faces losses of up to $1 billion this year because of what it alleges is dumping – selling at prices lower than what it costs to produce – by Mexican sugar producers.

“We are far more efficient than Mexico’s sugar industry, yet we are losing market share because of Mexico’s predatory trade practices,” Mr. Hayes says.

The dispute ricochets ... Read More

Venezuela’s Oil Heads East

| April 29th, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

By Peter Wilson

The late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez used to berate the old management of state oil company Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) for sending oil to Europe. Chávez, who died in March 2013, said PDVSA’s sales to Germany, the U.K., and Sweden made no commercial sense because of the distance involved and the proximity of Middle East suppliers to European customers.

Fast-forward 15 years, and PDVSA is firmly in the hands of the late president’s adherents. Last year, PDVSA sent more oil to Asia than to North America, the first time in the company’s history, even though it takes a month for Venezuelan crude to reach China and India.

Sales to Asia rose 11 percent to about 1.03 million barrels a day, while sales to North America, chiefly the U.S., fell 12 percent to 879,000 bbl. per day. Today, Chávez’s old criticisms about the wisdom of having far-flung markets are forgotten, as his successors applaud Venezuela’s ... Read More

SecDef Chuck Hagel visits Mexico & Guatemala

| April 29th, 2014 | No Comments »
InterAmerican Security Watch

ALEJANDRO SANCHEZ

VOXXI

U.S. Secretary of Defense (SecDef) Chuck Hagel recently carried out a three-day visit to Mexico and Guatemala (April 23-26); this was his first visit to Latin America as SecDef since he assumed office. The objective of Hagel’s mini trip was to “affirm America’s commitment” to the region, as a Pentagon spokesman phrased it.

While no groundbreaking agreements were reached, Hagel’s visit comes at a time when U.S. allies in Latin America are feeling forgotten by Washington.

The trips

The first leg of Hagel’s tour was a trip to Mexico. The visit was fairly important as it highlights Washington’s approval of ongoing discussions regarding Mexico’s intention to buy U.S. weaponry. Specifically, the Mexican government is negotiating with Washington the purchase of 18 Black Hawk helicopters in a deal reportedly worth $680 million USD.

It is worth noting that Hagel’s visit to Mexico is the third trip by a senior U.S. official in recent months.President ... Read More

Why reelection is a bad idea

| April 29th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

BY CARLOS ALBERTO MONTANER

Almost surely, Rafael Correa will seek reelection to the presidency of Ecuador. He’s under the delusion that he is indispensable. That’s one of the symptoms of narcissism. The longer he remains at Carondelet Palace, the more his image will suffer. It’s inevitable. Another term is a bad idea.

A worse idea yet was that of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua. He manipulated the constitution and national assembly to make perpetual reelection possible.

No doubt, he imitated the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez, who in 1998 swore that he would hold power for only a while but later changed the rules and hunkered down in Miraflores Palace until death removed him from the easy chair 14 years later.

Reelection brings more inconveniences than advantages even when gained by good rulers, like the Brazilian Fernando Henrique Cardoso or the Costa Rican Oscar Arias.

Those two democratic politicians also modified the rules for their own ... Read More

Iran Offers Economic Aid to Nicaragua

| April 29th, 2014 | No Comments »
FARS News Agency TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a meeting with his Nicaraguan counterpart Samuel Santos Lopez voiced Tehran’s readiness to help Managua with economic aid in various fields of energy, agriculture and industry.

“Iran is ready for economic cooperation with Nicaragua, specially in agriculture, industry, energy and development of infrastructures,” Zarif said during the meeting here in Tehran on Monday.

The Nicaraguan foreign minister, for his part, explained Nicaragua’s economic capacities and his country’s achievements in the field, and said, “Nicaragua is interested in expanding mutual cooperation with Iran in different fields, specially in economy.”

Also, in a joint press conference following the meeting, Zarif called for a boost in Tehran-Managua economic exchanges and cooperation in a move to further reinvigorate the two states’ bilateral political ties.

“The extensive political relations between the two countries will be further reinforced with economic bonds,” Zarif said at the press conference.

The Iranian foreign minister underlined ... Read More