Content from IASW Contributors

Colombian guerrilla negotiator killed in retaliatory airstrike, putting talks in doubt

By Roger F. NoriegaBy Roger F. Noriega
A “peace delegate” from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was among the 27 guerrillas killed in a May 22nd airstrike by the Colombian Air Force, authorities confirmed Wednesday. President Juan Manuel Santos ordered the strike on a FARC camp in southwest Colombia in retaliation for a mid-April ambush that killed or wounded nearly three dozen soldiers. Santos called the operation “a legitimate action that seeks to preserve order and defend the security of Colombians.” Read More-->

The Cuban Market Mirage

By José R. Cárdenas By José R. Cárdenas
IIt’s a safe bet that neither Cy Tokmakjian or Stephen Purvis will be attending a Brookings Institution event next week on doing business in Cuba. Canadian and British businessmen, respectively, they each suffered through Kafkaesque ordeals in Cuba after they did just that, somehow running afoul of some regulation in Cuba’s opaque and arbitrary judicial system. After being imprisoned for months and robbed of their assets by the Castro government, they were finally released only after heavy diplomatic pressure by their governments.
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Mr. Maduro in His Labyrinth

| January 26th, 2015 | No Comments »
The New York Times

Framed portraits of the Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez were propped up at various stops of President Nicolás Maduro’s recent whirlwind trip abroad, as the man at the helm of the nation with the world’s largest oil reserves begged for bailouts.

Posters of his predecessor also abounded when Mr. Maduro, a former bus driver, arrived home to a carnival-like welcome, as he drove the lead coach of a convoy that snaked through crowds of supporters.

Last week, in a speech before lawmakers, Mr. Maduro, whose approval rating has slipped to 22 percent as the Venezuelan economy teeters on the brink of collapse, again invoked his mentor in predicting a landslide victory in upcoming parliamentary elections. “I have no doubt that Chávez’s nation will deliver a great victory in the memory of Hugo Chávez in elections that are being held this year,” he said.

... Read More

Is Venezuela About To Collapse?

| January 26th, 2015 | No Comments »
The Daily Beast

BY Catalina Lobo-Guerrero

CARACAS, Venezuela — “God will provide,”said Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in his State of the Union speech last Wednesday. Praying is one of the few options left for Maduro, after an unsuccessful international tour of the Middle East, where he lobbied the Saudis to cut oil production and raise the tumbling price of crude.

During a 13-day tour he also visited Russia (twice), China and Portugal, all in a bid to drum up investments and credit. The president did not disclose how much he might have received; instead he spent much of his time framing his trip as an effort to form a bulwark with China, Russia and others against what he considers an American plan to dominate the world.

Before oil prices started to fall this past summer, the country’s inflation was already the highest in the world, at ... Read More

Remarks of Ambassador Roger F. Noriega on “Promoting Human Rights and Democratic Reforms in Cuba”

| January 23rd, 2015 | No Comments »
By Roger Noriega

Remarks of Ambassador Roger F. Noriega

Visiting Fellow, American Enterprise Institute

Forum on “Promoting Human Rights and Democratic Reforms in Cuba”

At the Heritage Foundation, Friday, January 23, 2015

Those of us who are critics of President Obama’s new initiatives on Cuba do not oppose them because we hope he’s wrong, but because we know he’s wrong.

We know that the single biggest obstacle to economic and political freedom in Cuba for 55 years has been and still is the Castro regime. We know that a courageous, quiet, Christian, Oswaldo Payá, who sought a plebiscite under the rules of Castro’s own constitution, was killed when police ran his car off the road in southeastern Cuba in July 2012.

We know that an American aid worker, Alan Gross, who tried simply to offer Cuba’s small Jewish community Internet access on the island was held hostage for five years for his efforts. We know that while the Obama ... Read More

Argentine Phone Calls Detail Efforts to Shield Iran

| January 23rd, 2015 | No Comments »
The New York Times

By JONATHAN GILBERT and SIMON ROMERO

BUENOS AIRES — Intercepted conversations between representatives of the Iranian and Argentine governments point to a long pattern of secret negotiations to reach a deal in which Argentina would receive oil in exchange for shielding Iranian officials from charges that they orchestrated the bombing of a Jewish community center in 1994.

The transcripts were made public by an Argentine judge on Tuesday night, as part of a 289-page criminal complaint written by Alberto Nisman, the special prosecutor investigating the attack. Mr. Nisman was found dead in his luxury apartment on Sunday, the night before he was to present his findings to Congress.

But the intercepted telephone conversations he described before his death outline an elaborate effort to reward Argentina for shipping food to Iran — and for seeking to derail the investigation into a terrorist attack in the Argentine capital that killed 85 ... Read More

Argentina: The strange death of Alberto Nisman

| January 23rd, 2015 | No Comments »
Financial Times

By Benedict Mander and John Paul Rathbone

Last Saturday, Alberto Nisman sent a playful photograph to a friend of his desk strewn with papers and fluorescent highlighters — a sign of the Argentine prosecutor’s diligent preparations for a congressional hearing that promised to be the highlight of his career.

Three days earlier, the 51-year-old had formally accused Cristina Fernández, the Argentine president, of trying to cover up Iran’s alleged role in Argentina’s worst ever terrorist attack: the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people. Nisman was due to present his case, the fruit of a decade of painstaking investigations, on Monday.

On Sunday night, however, just hours before the hearing, Nisman was dead. His mother, with the help of a locksmith, forced her way into his apartment and found him lying in a pool of blood beside a .22 calibre pistol and a casing in the bathroom ... Read More

U.S., Cuba find ‘profound differences’ in first round of talks

| January 23rd, 2015 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

By Karen DeYoung

HAVANA — The Cuban and American delegations sat at parallel tables, eight wary diplomats on each side, facing each other across a distance of about six feet and a gulf filled with more than a half-century of grievances.

In separate news conferences afterward, at the end of their first round of talks Thursday, both sides pronounced it “productive,” respectful and positive.

But both acknowledged that “profound differences” remain.

“What you have to recognize,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson said after the initial session, “is that we have . . . to overcome more than 50 years of a relationship that was not based on confidence or trust.”

Josefina Vidal, Jacobson’s counterpart at Cuba’s Foreign Ministry, stressed the importance of approaching each other on the basis of “equal sovereignty” and “avoiding any interference in [each other’s] internal affairs.”

Like Jacobson, Vidal stressed that reopening embassies that were closed in 1961 was just the first step in ... Read More

Venezuela in a bind as Nicolás Maduro faces default dilemma

| January 23rd, 2015 | No Comments »
Financial Times

Andres Schipani in Bogotá and John Paul Rathbone in London

Nicolás Maduro promised “God will provide” after Venezuela’s president returned to Caracas apparently empty-handed from a world tour where he had sought financial help for his country’s ravaged economy.

Venezuela — which is a member of Opec, the oil producer’s cartel — is heavily dependent on exports of crude, the price of which has more than halved since the summer to under $50 a barrel on Thursday.

In a televised state of the nation speech, Mr Maduro said oil would “not return to $100”, adding: “We have less foreign currency . . . But God will provide”.

Bondholders, worried about default, were unconvinced. Alarmed by Mr Maduro’s seeming failure to win support from China or fellow Opec countries such as Saudi Arabia, they immediately marked down Venezuelan debt. At almost 29 per cent, its benchmark 2027 bond now yields three times more than comparable Russian debt.

... Read More

The retreat of U.S. interests from Latin America has left a vacuum for the Chinese to fill

| January 22nd, 2015 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01 BY ILAN BERMAN You have to feel a bit sorry for the Obama administration. The White House in December announced plans to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba, including establishing a U.S. Embassy in Havana and formally revisiting Cuba’s status as a state sponsor of terrorism. The move was a clear effort by Washington to distinguish itself in a new international theater.

But that gambit was soon eclipsed by another: In a meeting that could herald a significant shift in the Western Hemisphere’s balance of power, China hosted a high-profile summit earlier this month with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, or Celac.

Celac is a relatively recent invention. Conceived in 2010 at a meeting in Caracas hosted by Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez , it is designed to deepen integration among Central and South American states—while excluding the U.S. and Canada. The 33-member bloc explicitly styles itself as an alternative to the U.S.-led Organization of ... Read More

Desconcierto en el Gobierno por la carta de Cristina Kirchner

| January 22nd, 2015 | No Comments »
Clarin

Por Lucia Salinas

La Casa Rosada aún no se repone del impacto que genera en la gestión la muerte de Alberto Nisman, pero hoy a la incertidumbre se sumó la segunda carta de Cristina Kirchner sosteniendo que el fiscal “no se suicidó”. Este vuelco en el planteo oficial, generó desconcierto en algunos despachos de Balcarce 50.

“El lunes empezamos diciendo que era un suicidio, pero señalábamos que de ser así era inducido, ahora depende de la Justicia”, sostuvo un alto funcionario del Gabinete después de difundida la carta. Los días no son tranquilos, la preocupación no disminuye y el discurso oficial se va acomodando día a día. Un ministro cercano al círculo más íntimo de Presidencia sólo esbozó “es un desconcierto total”, pero nadie contradice ni plantea estar en desacuerdo, todo lo contrario: fortalecer la imagen presidencial y unificar el discurso “es la prioridad”,expreso el funcionario.

Como cada decisión de relevancia institucional ... Read More

Argentine Phone Calls Detail Efforts to Shield Iran

| January 22nd, 2015 | No Comments »
The New York Times

By JONATHAN GILBERT and SIMON ROMERO

BUENOS AIRES — Intercepted conversations between representatives of the Iranian and Argentine governments point to a long pattern of secret negotiations to reach a deal in which Argentina would receive oil in exchange for shielding Iranian officials from charges that they orchestrated the bombing of a Jewish community center in 1994.

The transcripts were made public by an Argentine judge on Tuesday night, as part of a 289-page criminal complaint written by Alberto Nisman, the special prosecutor investigating the attack. Mr. Nisman was found dead in his luxury apartment on Sunday, the night before he was to present his findings to Congress.

But the intercepted telephone conversations he described before his death outline an elaborate effort to reward Argentina for shipping food to Iran — and for seeking to derail the investigation into a terrorist attack in the Argentine capital that killed 85 ... Read More

Confirmed: U.S. Will Request That Mexico Extradite Drug Lord Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán

| January 22nd, 2015 | No Comments »
Forbes

BY DOLIA ESTEVEZ

Washington has decided to request the extradition of Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán, who is now in a maximum-security prison outside Mexico City. Mexico’s Attorney General José Murillo Karam said he expects the U.S. government will ask for Guzmán’s extradition in the “next hours.” During a press conference in Mexico City on Tuesday, Murillo Karam said there will be “no problem to process the request to decide, at the right time, what would be most appropriate.”

The “right time,” according to Mexican sources, would be after Guzmán is fully prosecuted and sentenced in Mexico, where he faces eight active criminal cases. Guzmán, who topped the list of most wanted drug criminals in the world and was captured last year, would not need to finish serving his sentence in Mexico in order to be sent to the U.S., according to Mexican diplomatic sources. Therefore, if the prosecutions proceed as ... Read More

Bolivia’s Morales begins new term with economic challenges threatening to end bonanza years

| January 22nd, 2015 | No Comments »
US News & World Report

By CARLOS VALDEZ, Associated Press

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — Bolivian President Evo Morales is beginning a new term that will make him the Andean nation’s longest-serving leader, riding high on a wave of unprecedented growth and stability.

But after he takes the oath before foreign dignitaries Thursday, Morales and his compatriots will face economic challenges that could quickly erode those gains and test the 55-year-old leader’s popularity.

Morales’ fortunes will depend on how he copes with an imminent plunge in natural gas prices, the main source of Bolivia’s export revenue. Owing in part to his exacting of a bigger share of natural gas profits, Bolivia’s gross domestic product tripled, reaching $30.6 billion in 2014. With oil prices testing multi-year lows, gas revenues are expected to shrivel.

“Morales has had the greatest political and economic power of any president in (Bolivian) history thanks to ... Read More

Argentina Court Publishes Late Prosecutor’s Full Accusations Against President Kirchner

| January 22nd, 2015 | No Comments »
International Business Times

By Brianna Lee

Suspicions are still abounding in Argentina over the shocking death of federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who was found shot in the head in his home this week just hours before he was due to present evidence behind blistering accusations against President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Those accusations are now public in the form of a nearly 300-page tome, and Argentines are scouring the pages to detect any hints of a link between the document and his tragic demise.

Nisman had spent the past decade investigating the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina’s worst terrorist attack in history — and the greatest murder of Jewish civilians anywhere since World War II — that resulted in 85 deaths and 300 injuries. No one was ever convicted of the crime. The prosecutor, who said he collected a wealth of information through wiretaps of secret conversations, was ... Read More

Beijing still funds struggling Venezuela, for now

| January 22nd, 2015 | No Comments »
CNBC-01

By Hailey Lee

At a time when Venezuela is in dire need of financial backing, the country may be down to its last major banker: China. But even the economic powerhouse of Asia is closely weighing the risks of doing business with the struggling South American country.

So far, it seems China remains committed to the OPEC nation, at least according to Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro, who announced in early January that China had pledged another $20 billion in financing.

That’s welcome news as oil prices continue to plummet with no bottom in sight. The going price of Venezuela’s oil exports tumbled by about half to $41.33 a barrel this week after peaking last June, according to Venezuela’s Ministry of Petroleum and Mining. In order to balance its budget, Venezuela needs oil prices of at least $100 a barrel, according to calculations from Barbara Kotschwar, research fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Right now, low oil prices are ... Read More

President pushes currency, fuel reforms for ailing Venezuela

| January 22nd, 2015 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

By Andrew Cawthorne and Alexandra Ulmer

CARACAS, Jan 21 (Reuters) – President Nicolas Maduro shook up complex currency controls on Wednesday and also prepared Venezuelans for a rise in the world’s cheapest fuel prices in response to a recession worsened by plunging oil revenue.

The socialist-run OPEC member’s economy shrank 2.8 percent in 2014 while inflation topped 64 percent, the socialist leader announced in a speech to parliament, in what is almost certainly the worst performance in Latin America.

With oil prices down by more than half since mid-2014, Venezuela’s economic mess has hit Maduro’s popularity hard and threatened the future of the ruling “Chavismo” movement named for his charismatic predecessor Hugo Chavez.

The 52-year-old Maduro blamed political foes for Venezuela’s dismal data, but he also announced the most concrete changes in months to try to shore up the economy.

Carefully avoiding the word devaluation and without giving ... Read More

Cristina Kirchner, sobre la muerte del fiscal Alberto Nisman: “El suicidio (que estoy convencida) no fue suicidio”

| January 22nd, 2015 | No Comments »
La Nacion

La presidenta  Cristina Kirchner puso en duda esta mañana que el fiscal  Alberto Nisman,que la denunció por encubrimiento a Irán en la causa AMIA , se haya suicidado, pidió “mucha protección” para  Diego Lagomarsino, el asistente que le entregó el arma al funcionario, y reclamó que se investigue a la custodia.

“Los interrogantes que se convierten en certeza. El suicidio (que estoy convencida) no fue suicidio”, sostiene Kirchner en una nueva carta publicada esta mañana mediante la red social Twitter, donde advierte que al fiscal fallecido le proporcionaron datos falsos para la denuncia de encubrimiento.

La Presidenta pidió “mucha protección al Sr. Lagomarsino”, el colaborador de Nisman que le llevó el arma calibre 22 con el que se habría disparado y sostuvo que “resulta muy conveniente que se ordenen sumarios e investigaciones lo más rápidamente posible” sobre los policías federales que custodiaban a Nisman.

En fragmentos previos a la extensa carta, Cristina Kirchner había afirmado que “a esta altura los interrogantes que planteaba ... Read More

Cristina Kirchner: “Estoy convencida de que no fue suicidio”

| January 22nd, 2015 | No Comments »
Clarin

Cristina Kirchner volvió a elegir las redes sociales  para referirse a la muerte del fiscal Alberto Nisman. Desde su cuenta oficial de Twitter, la Presidenta remitió esta mañana a una nota, escrita en primera persona, en la que tira por la borda la -hasta ahora- versión oficial de los hechos: “Estoy convencida que no fue suicidio”, asegura.

“Los espías que no eran espías. Los interrogantes que se convierten en certeza.  El suicidio (que estoy convencida) no fue suicidio.”, con estas líneas Cristina dio por tierra hace instantes con la principal hipótesis sobre la muerte del fiscal.

El marcado giro en el discurso oficial experimentado en las últimas horas -cuando los funcionarios dejaron de atacar la actuación del fiscal en la denuncia contra la Presidenta por presunto encubrimiento del atentado a la AMIA y comenzaron a instalar que Nisman fue víctima de una operación-, se ve reforzado por las propias palabras de Cristina ... Read More

Argentina’s Fernandez says death of prosecutor was not suicide

| January 22nd, 2015 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

By Hugh Bronstein

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – The death of a prosecutor investigating the bombing of a Jewish community center was not a suicide, as was initially reported, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez said on Thursday.

Alberto Nisman, lead investigator into the 1994 attack on the AMIA Jewish center that killed 85 people, was found dead in his apartment late Sunday, a 22 caliber pistol by his side.

He had accused Fernandez of trying to derail his investigation into the bombing and was due to present his case to Congress hours later on Monday.

The government says two key witnesses in Nisman’s case against the president had been falsely presented to him as state intelligence agents.

Fernandez said the deception discredited Nisman’s charges against her and points to a conspiracy to smear her name.

“They used him while he was alive and then ... Read More

¿Cuántas casas más antes de que reaccione el gobierno?

| January 21st, 2015 | No Comments »
Milenio Diario

POR CARLOS PUIG

Ayer Eduardo Sánchez, vocero de la Presidencia de México, negó a The Wall Street Journal que exista alguna relación entre la “transacción privada” de la casa en Ixtapan de la Sal y el éxito del contratista, al que Peña Nieto compró esa casa, para ganar contratos de los gobiernos que ha encabezado el hoy Presidente. “La relación de Peña Nieto con algunos miembros de la familia San Román se remonta a varias décadas atrás”, afirmó Sánchez.

El éxito de la familia San Román, por cierto, tiene número: 107 millones de dólares en contratos del gobierno de Peña en el Edomex y 40 más de contratos federales. La empresa, por cierto, nunca había ganado antes de 2012 un contrato federal. Todo esto según el Wall Street Journal.

La reacción de Sánchez parece indicar que en Los Pinos aún no tienen claro el tamaño del problema en el que están metidos. No parecen haber medido ... Read More

Gobierno de Venezuela habría emitido visas fraudulentas para terroristas de Hezbollah

| January 21st, 2015 | No Comments »
Infobae

Venezuela ha sido un pilar clave en la penetración irregular de inmigrantes iraníes e islámicos en el continente americano, según se desprende un informe elaborado por el Centro para una Sociedad Libre Segura (SFS), un think thank global basado en Washington DC, y el Instituto de Canadá de Análisis Social y Económico (ISEA), al que tuvo acceso Infobae.

El estudio sugiere que las facilidades que Venezuela –y también Cuba– ofrecen a los extremistas islámicos son una amenaza para la seguridad en Norteamérica. Recuerda, en ese sentido, que en 2006 las fuerzas de seguridad canadienses detuvieron a 18 terroristas que planeaban una serie de atentados, que incluían la decapitación del primer ministro Stephen Harper y la detonación de una bomba en el Parlamento.

“En la medida en que Irán siga abriendo caminos estratégicos en el hemisferio occidental, la amenaza de ataques patrocinados por actores estatales es posiblemente más ... Read More