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-->

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

Alleged mafia figure sought by Italy arrested at resort in Dominican Republic

| April 29th, 2014 | No Comments »
FoxNews.com

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic –  Police in the Dominican Republic have arrested an alleged high-ranking member of an Italian mafia group who was apparently hiding out in a resort town to avoid a prison sentence for drug offenses.

Nicola Pignatelli was arrested in the southern town of Juan Dolio on an international arrest warrant issued by Interpol. He fled Italy in 2011 before he was to start serving a sentence of more than 13 years in prison.

The 43-year-old Pignatelli is believed to be a high-ranking member of the ‘ndrangheta mafia based in Calabria. Police spokesman Jacobo Mateo said it’s not known how long he was in the Dominican Republic before his arrest Sunday. Authorities believe he was involved in drug trafficking and prostitution while in the country.

He is expected to be extradited Monday.

Click here for original ... Read More

Venezuela’s Peace Talks Are a Scam – And the U.S. Is Buying It

| April 28th, 2014 | No Comments »
Foreign Policy

JOSÉ R. CÁRDENAS

After more than two months of street protests in Venezuela, the Obama administration has placed its hopes on a spurious “dialogue” between the government and members of the organized opposition. As the Obama administration stands by, however, the chances that the crisis can lead to any positive change in Venezuela are fading.

The government and members of the opposition have just agreed to sit down for another round of negotiations, ostensibly to end the protests, which suits President Nicolás Maduro just fine. Though opposition representatives continue to plaintively seek some sort of meaningful redress for their grievances, the government has other ideas: While the talks drag on, security forces and armed militants, known as “colectivos,” wage a low-intensity war of attrition to wipe out the last of the protestors that have vexed the it since mid-February. After that, if all goes to plan, it’s back to the business of ... Read More

THE HUNT FOR EL CHAPO

| April 28th, 2014 | No Comments »
The New Yorker

How the world’s most notorious drug lord was captured.

BY PATRICK RADDEN KEEFE

One afternoon last December, an assassin on board a K.L.M. flight from Mexico City arrived at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. This was not a business trip: the killer, who was thirty-three, liked to travel, and often documented his journeys around Europe on Instagram. He wore designer clothes and a heavy silver ring in the shape of a grimacing skull. His passport was an expensive fake, and he had used it successfully many times. But, moments after he presented his documents to Dutch customs, he was arrested. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration had filed a Red Notice with Interpol—an international arrest warrant—and knew that he was coming. Only after the Dutch authorities had the man in custody did they learn his real identity: José Rodrigo Arechiga, the chief enforcer for the biggest drug-trafficking organization in history, Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel.

To work ... Read More

Stalling On Keystone Shows President Couldn’t Care Less

| April 28th, 2014 | No Comments »
IBD

By LAWRENCE KUDLOW

When President Obama holds back approval of the Keystone pipeline, for the umpteenth time, it’s bad enough that he’s politically pandering to Tom Steyer, the hedge-fund billionaire and manic radical opponent of fossil fuels.

If he gives in to Steyer by blocking the pipeline, Steyer gives $100 million to Democratic candidates this fall.

Obama’s transparent political cynicism is incredible. But it’s more than that. It shows his disregard for jobs and economic growth for blue-collar union workers who used to be Democrats.

It shows his utter disregard for our loyal Canadian ally up north. And it sends the wrong signal to Vladimir Putin, who probably believes the U.S. will not undermine Russia with energy independence and oil and gas exports while Obama is in office.

But perhaps most of all, Obama’s Keystone veto sends a message to American business that he just doesn’t care.

For as long as he’s been in the Oval Office, ... Read More

Mexico’s Anti-Market Antitrust Law

| April 28th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal

By MARY ANASTASIA O’GRADY

Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party President Enrique Peña Nieto has never claimed to be a policy wonk. He is an able politician with a vision of the future, and leaves the questions of how to get there to the skilled technocrats he hires.

Finance Minister Luis Videgaray, who has a Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, leads the Peña Nieto team of reformers. Such strong academic credentials ought to inspire confidence. But over 16 months Mr. Videgaray has gradually revealed a deep-seated mistrust of markets that threatens the faster growth his boss has promised.

The latest manifestation is a new antitrust law, initiated in the executive branch and expected to pass in Congress this week. It increases the discretionary power of regulators to penalize companies with a dominant market share even if there is no evidence of anticompetitive practices.

Since he took office in December 2012, Mr. Peña Nieto ... Read More

Mexico’s Zetas cartel supplying rifles to El Salvador’s gangs, official says

| April 28th, 2014 | No Comments »
From Fox News Latino

Los Zetas, considered Mexico’s most violent drug cartel, is providing rifles to El Salvador’s gangs, Security Minister Ricardo Perdomo said.

“Information has been obtained about arms being sent from Mexico by Los Zetas, who have provided rifles,” Perdomo said in an interview earlier this weekend with Telecorporacion Salvadoreña, or TCS.

Authorities have determined that “there is a person who is the link with these Mexican narco structures, and this link not just tries to see the operational capabilities of the gangs to move drugs toward the north, but who also provides arms and gives them drugs” for street dealing, the security minister said.

There is another “black market” for arms that “come from Honduras and Guatemala, especially Honduras,” Perdomo said.

Gangs are involved in drug trafficking and the government’s main goal “is to prevent the consolidation of a narcogang in El Salvador,” Perdomo said.

El Salvador’s largest street gangs declared a truce in March 2012, ... Read More

Tensions Mount in Bolivia as Soldiers Protest Career Obstacles

| April 28th, 2014 | No Comments »
The New York Times

By WILLIAM NEUMAN

CARACAS, Venezuela — Hundreds of soldiers continued street demonstrations as tensions mounted in Bolivia on Friday, a day after the military dismissed 702 low-ranking officers who were protesting to draw attention to the obstacles to advancement they face in the armed forces.

“If there is no discipline, there is no armed forces for Bolivia,” President Evo Morales said in a speech at a military college in La Paz, the capital, a short distance from the demonstrations.

When the protests began several days ago, the military command responded by dismissing a small number of protest leaders. But on Thursday, it discharged hundreds of officers, accusing them of sedition.

Each reprisal has led to new protests, with striking images of uniformed officers marching through the streets of La Paz. On Friday, some of the protesting soldiers were joined by their wives and children.

In Bolivia, ... Read More

In Venezuela, Protesters Point to Their Scars

| April 28th, 2014 | No Comments »
The New York Times

By WILLIAM NEUMAN

VALENCIA, Venezuela — Clipso Martínez was shot at such close range by a soldier at a protest that his surgeon said he had to remove pieces of the plastic shotgun shell buried in his leg, along with the shards of keys Mr. Martínez had in his pocket, shattered by the blast.

Jorchual Gregory was detained with 10 others who said that over three days they were kicked, pistol whipped, doused with pepper spray and battered with helmets and shotgun butts.

“They wanted to make people afraid so we wouldn’t stay in the streets,” said Mr. Gregory, 19. “But what happened was more protests and more deaths.”

Venezuela has been shaken by more than two months of often violent protests that President Nicolás Maduro says are designed to overthrow him. He has held the opposition responsible for violence that the ... Read More