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-->

Biden to Cuban media: Alan Gross detention a key obstacle in diplomatic relations

| May 28th, 2014 | No Comments »
From CNN

(CNN) - Vice President Joe Biden sat down with a Cuban media outlet – a significant move given the decades-long tension between the United States and Cuba since the countries ended diplomatic relations more than 50 years ago.

In the interview published Tuesday, Biden cited the detention of Alan Gross, an American jailed in Cuba, as a key obstacle in improving relations.

Biden made his comments to 14ymedio, a recently launched digital newspaper created by Yoani Sánchez, a Cuban blogger and fierce critic of the governments of Raul and Fidel Castro.

“I cannot emphasize enough that Cuba’s continued detention of Alan Gross is a major impediment to improved relations between the United States and Cuba,” Biden said, according to a translation provided by his office.

Gross was convicted in 2011 for bringing satellite communications equipment into the country as part of his work as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development.

U.S. officials have said Gross was simply trying ... Read More

State Department Backs Off As Venezuela Sanctions Bill Comes To House Floor, Bill’s Author Says

| May 28th, 2014 | No Comments »
From BuzzFeed

A Congressional aide expects the bill to pass the House before stalling in the Senate.

BY Rosie Gray

WASHINGTON — The State Department has backed off of its pressure against a Venezuela sanctions bill coming to the House of Representatives floor on Wednesday, the bill’s author said.

“I’m not saying that the State Department loves it,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Miami congresswoman who introduced the bill, said on Tuesday. “But this time they’re not actively against it. I have not heard of anybody being called to say ‘do not support it.’ Last time we did get folks telling us the State Department called them to say ‘don’t vote for it.’”

Ros-Lehtinen’s bill, which would freeze assets and ban entry to the U.S. for people found guilty of human rights abuses against Venezuelan protesters, passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee earlier this month despite a campaign by the State Department to pause the bill and its counterpart in ... Read More

Colombia’s Referendum on Security

| May 28th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal By  MARY ANASTASIA O’GRADY

Colombia’s presidential election on Sunday went off without a hitch but didn’t produce a president-elect. Óscar Iván Zuluaga, a former minister of finance who is backed by former president and current Senator Alvaro Uribe, finished first with 29.3%. But he will have to go to a second round against incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos, who finished second with 25.7%.

Mr. Zuluaga and Mr. Santos are both considered center-right in Colombia, but Mr. Santos flirts with the left when it suits him. Ahead of the vote he allied himself with the hard-left mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro. That move could not have helped him in the first round but it might win some votes in the run-off when left-leaning voters have no other option if they want to defeat Mr. Zuluaga. On the other hand, the Santos-Petro alliance has energized the conservative base for Mr. Zuluaga.

The main issue that ... Read More

U.S. Chamber Cozies Up to Cuba for ‘Potemkin Village Tour by the Castros’

| May 28th, 2014 | No Comments »
PJ Media

BY BRIDGET JOHNSON

Cuban-American lawmakers are criticizing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for leading a “shameful” trip to Cuba this week to, in the words of the business lobby, “develop a better understanding of the country’s current economic environment and the state of its private sector.”

“Since I was last in Cuba 15 years ago, a reform program has reportedly taken 600,000 workers from government payrolls and allowed the number of self-employed entrepreneurs in the country to triple to more than 450,000,” Chamber president and CEO Thomas J. Donohue said last week. “This trip will provide us with a first-hand look at changes in Cuba’s economic policies and whether or not they are affecting the ability to do business there.”

Steve Van Andel, chairman of the U.S. Chamber’s Board of Directors and of Alticor Corporation, and Marcel Smits, CFO of the Cargill Corporation, are traveling with Donohue as part of the Chamber delegation ... Read More

Key Prisoner in Venezuela Peace Talks to Go on Hunger Strike

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

By KEJAL VYAS

CARACAS— Iván Simonovis, a former police commissioner whose 10-year incarceration by the Venezuelan government has become a rallying cry for the opposition, said Tuesday he is starting a hunger strike to bring urgency to his pleas for conditional release to address his deteriorating health.

The strike by Mr. Simonovis in the Ramo Verde military prison outside the country’s capital is giving impetus to opposition leaders who are demanding President Nicolás Maduro’s government release so-called “polticial prisoners” as a condition for participating in talks to defuse nearly four months of antigovernment protests.

“This is a hot potato that no government wants to be holding,” said Luis Vicente León, head of Caracas polling company Datanálisis.

Mr. Simonovis tops a list of prisoners that the opposition says the government must free. The 53-year old is serving a 30-year sentence after a court accused him of ordering security forces to fire on progovernment marchers in Caracas ... Read More

Iranian MPs Leave Tehran for Tour of Latin America

| May 27th, 2014 | No Comments »
FARS News Agency TEHRAN (FNA)- A delegation of Iranian parliament members headed to Ecuador’s capital on Monday to meet the country’s parliament speaker among other high-ranking officials on the first leg of their bi-nation tour which will also take them to Colombia.

The Iran-Ecuador parliamentary friendship group presided by Hamid Reza Fouladgar left Tehran for Quito Monday morning.

The MPs are scheduled to meet high-ranking Ecuadorian officials, including the parliament speaker.

After their visit to Quito, the lawmakers will travel to Colombia on a two-day visit.

Earlier this month, Chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Alaeddin Boroujeri said Tehran lays emphasis on the deepening of relations with Latin nations, and called for holding a joint meeting of the parliamentary foreign policy commissions of ALBA members.

“Iran favors holding a joint meeting of the foreign policy commissions of the parliaments of ALBA members in Bolivia,” Boroujerdi said in a meeting with ALBA ambassadors to ... Read More

Murders in El Salvador spike to record high for May

| May 27th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) – Murders in El Salvador shot up in May, surpassing previous homicide rates in one of the world’s deadliest countries and pushing the president to claim criminal groups were trying to destabilize the government.

The number of murders in May more than doubled from the same month last year, when homicides had fallen back from one of the world’s highest murder rates, with 81 people killed just over the last weekend.

With 356 homicides so far in May compared with 174 in the same month last year, the murder rate has surpassed the highs seen in early 2012 before a truce between the country’s powerful street gangs, according to Miguel Fortin, head of the prosecutor’s office forensic unit.

Fortin said the 81 murders over the last weekend overwhelmed forensic officials, who could not keep up with the demand to investigate crime scenes. “While they were doing one autopsy, the next order ... Read More

El Salvador President Acknowledges 2-Year Old Gang Truce has Collapsed

| May 27th, 2014 | No Comments »
Hispanically_Speaking_News_logo

The gang truce that cut the number of murders in El Salvador by half for nearly two years has collapsed, outgoing President Mauricio Funes acknowledged Monday with less than a week left in his five-year mandate.

“The truce has failed, not only due to the decision of those who sealed it. It’s because it created a state of (public) opinion against it,” he said in an interview with Megavision television.

“With this, I’m not saying that the truce was necessary or the only option” to confront the violence, Funes added.

“Today, we’re at an average of 14 homicides per day in part because there are organized crime structures, with clear political links and motivations, that want to cause the the country to be seen as a failed state,” the president said.

The truce between the Mara Salvatrucha and Mara 18 gangs consisted of their members not killing each other, an agreement that reduced the average daily ... Read More

As World Cup nears, poverty in Brazil troubles many

| May 27th, 2014 | No Comments »
Philly Inquirer Logo

By Jeff Gammage

The racks and shelves at By Brazil, a shop tucked onto Castor Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia, overflow with yellow-and-green hats, horns, flags, stickers, and soccer jerseys.

But roughly three weeks from the opening game of the FIFA World Cup in Sao Paulo, Brazil, owner Lindolfo Neto was glum.

“How are we going to spend millions building stadiums, and our people don’t have hospitals or schools?” he asked. “I’m not excited for the World Cup in Brazil.”

What should be a time of passion and excitement for Brazilians in the Philadelphia area has been tempered, they say, by the civil unrest in their homeland over the billions of taxpayer dollars being spent on the most expensive World Cup in history.

Confrontations between police and protesters leading up to the June 12 opening have become commonplace, and last week, homeless demonstrators burned five buses in Sao Paulo.

A popular Internet meme by Brazilian street artist Paulo ... Read More

Ex-President’s Protégé Leads Colombia Vote

| May 27th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal

By Dan Molinski and Sara Schaefer Muñoz

BOGOTÁ, Colombia–The big winner in the first round of Sunday’s presidential election wasn’t even on the ballot. Former President Álvaro Uribe’s enduring appeal to voters gave his little-known protégé the lead heading into the runoff.

Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, who was finance minister under Mr. Uribe, won more than 29% of the vote compared with 25.6% for President Juan Manuel Santos. Three other candidates shared the rest in Latin America’s third-most populous country, leaving Mr. Zuluaga and Mr. Santos to face off on June 15.

If Mr. Zuluaga, 55 years old, who collected 458,000 more votes than the president, wins in the runoff, he is expected to closely follow the military and economic prescriptions of his mentor, Mr. Uribe. Most important for Colombia–and the U.S., which has heavily financed the nation’s battle against drugs and guerrillas–it could mean the end of Mr. Santos’s peace negotiations with the ... Read More

Former long-shot and Uribe ally scores upset in Colombia’s first-round presidential election

| May 27th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

By JIM WYSS

Former Finance Minister Óscar Iván Zuluaga won Sunday’s presidential election, setting the stage for a contentious June 15 runoff against President Juan Manuel Santos.

With 99 percent of voting tables counted, authorities said Zuluaga had won 29.3 percent of the vote followed by Santos with 25.7 percent.

Polls had been predicting a tight race but few gave Zuluaga the lead he clenched Sunday, where he beat Santos by more than 400,000 votes.

In his victory speech, he asked Colombian’s to vote for change in three weeks and attacked Santos’ signature achievement — peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas taking place in Cuba.

“We cannot allow the FARC to run this country from Havana,” he said. “The president cannot and should not be manipulated by the FARC, which is the world’s largest drug cartel.”

Santos on Sunday predicted success in the runoff.

“Thanks to the millions of citizens who support ... Read More

Venezuela Reaches Deals With Six Airlines to Pay Dollar Debt

| May 27th, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

By Corina Pons

Venezuela reached deals with six airlines to pay dollar debt and may devalue the bolivar for ticket purchasers as it works to normalize flights and prevent airlines from leaving the country.

The South American country will pay Colombia’s Avianca Holdings SA (PFAVH) for money accumulated by its Avianca and Taca airlines in 2012, Finance Minister Rodolfo Marco Torres said. An agreement has also been reached with Grupo Aeromexico SAB de CV, Curacao’s Insel Air, Ecuador’s Tame and Aruba Airlines for debt accumulated in 2013, he said.

“We’ll keep supporting the airlines,” Marco Torres said in a post on his Twitter account today.

Airlines had the equivalent of $3.9 billion stuck in bolivars as of April as they struggled to repatriate revenue from ticket sales, according to the International Air Transport Association. At least 11 carriers cut capacity, sales or routes to South America’s largest oil exporter in the past year, with Air Canada (AC/B) becoming the first airline ... Read More

Fraying Relationship With Ecuador a Blow to U.S. Counternarcotics Efforts

| May 27th, 2014 | No Comments »
World Politics Review

By Eric Auner

Last month, Ecuador expelled 20 U.S. Defense Department employees from the country. Less than two weeks later, the U.S. announced it would withdraw its anti-narcotics personnel from Ecuador, dealing a further blow to America’s ailing counternarcotics partnerships in the Western Hemisphere.

Ecuador’s expulsion of U.S. military personnel “reflects the increase in capacities and resources of Ecuador to directly assume security and defense efforts independently,” said a statement from the Ecuadorean Embassy in Washington. The statement pointed in particular to  Ecuador’s own counternarcotics efforts from the previous year.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters that while the United States would respect Ecuador’s decision, “we regret that the outcome will severely limit our bilateral security partnership.” She said that military cooperation between the two nations over four decades “has resulted in significant advances against drug trafficking, human trafficking, terrorism and other transnational crime.”

The moves come in a context of a generally strained U.S. relationship with Ecuador ... Read More

Ecuador’s Correa Seeks to Allow Indefinite Re-Election of All Officials

| May 27th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal

Ecuador’s President Asks for Constitutional Amendment

By MERCEDES ALVARO QUITO, Ecuador—Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa said Saturday he would ask his legislative block to introduce an amendment to the nation’s Constitution to allow indefinite re-election of all elected officials, including the presidency.

“I have decided to request to our block in the Assembly that the Constitution be amended to establish indefinite re-election in all positions of popular election so that the people can choose who continues and who alternates,” said Mr. Correa during his speech to the nation at the National Assembly.

However, Mr. Correa said his decision on whether to run again will be decided upon by his political movement Alianza Pais as well as taking into account conditions before the 2017 elections.

Mr. Correa took office in 2007 and quickly set about to change the constitution to allow him to run for another term, which he won in 2009.

Last year he won another re-election until ... Read More

Mexico Crude Needs New Markets as U.S. Exports Surge, Citi Says

| May 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

ADAM WILLIAMS

Mexico’s reliance on oil exports to its northern neighbor is being jeopardized by the U.S. shale boom, forcing suppliers to seek new buyers, Citigroup Inc. said.

Mexico, which exports about 880,000 barrels a day of crude to the U.S., is being “pushed out” by its chief trading partner as demand diminishes, according to Ed Morse, global head of commodities research at Citigroup in New York. U.S. imports of Mexican crude fell 13 percent to the lowest in more than 20 years in 2013 because of increased domestic production, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“Something’s got to give,” Morse said yesterday in an interview at the Institute of the Americas energy conference in La Jolla, California. “The U.S. has not been a good neighbor to Venezuela or Mexico in the way the shale revolution has unfolded.”

Production of tight oil and shale gas accounted for almost 90 percent of the U.S.’s crude growth the past ... Read More

Bello: The political tide turns

| May 23rd, 2014 | 1 Comment »
The Economist

BRAZIL likes to think of itself as o país do futebol—the football country. So it is extraordinary that just three weeks before the World Cup kicks off in São Paulo, a recent poll found less than half of Brazilians saying they were happy to host it. True, this may change once the tournament gets going, especially if fears of transport chaos prove misplaced. Yet that poll result betrays not just public anger at the inflated cost of the tournament, but also wider grumpiness.

Although the cup will doubtless see a few protests—some have already begun—the public mood will be tested more clearly in the presidential election on October 5th. Many pundits, especially outsiders, take it for granted that Dilma Rousseff, the president, will win a second term. That is what the polls have long suggested.

Certainly, Ms Rousseff has some formidable electoral assets. She will be able to point to full employment, a ... Read More

Colombian Peace Talks in the Balance in Scandal-Plagued Vote

| May 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

MATHEW BRISTOW AND OSCAR MEDINA

A first round of voting in Colombia’s presidential election this weekend is too close to call after polls reported a surge in support for Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, who opposes President Juan Manuel Santos’ peace talks with Marxist rebels.

Polls published last week show Santos and Zuluaga leading three other candidates in the May 25 ballot, with neither of them gaining a big enough margin to win in the first round. The surveys were taken before a video emerged of Zuluaga talking to an aide who has since been arrested on spying charges.

Santos’ poll lead has evaporated in the past three months as support for Zuluaga more than doubled. The opposition candidate has repeatedly attacked peace talks in Cuba with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, saying he’ll oppose any deal that gives them immunity for crimes or allows them to sit in Congress. The war ... Read More

Santos seeks his finest hour in Colombia

| May 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »
Financial Times

From his campaign bunker, a former cloister, President Juan Manuel Santos describes Colombia’s presidential election on Sunday in Churchillian terms.

“I’m going to persevere. I’ve learnt that from Winston Churchill . . . when you face harsh enemies you must persevere,” Mr Santos, a well-known Anglophile, told the Financial Times. “I am going to win the elections and I am going to reach an agreement and finish this war.”

Mr Santos is running neck and neck with his main rival in what is being seen as a plebiscite on peace talks between the Colombian government and the Farc rebel group aimed at ending one of the world’s longest running guerrilla wars.

The peace talks loom large, partly because none of the leading candidates are proposing any diversion from Colombia’s orthodox economic path. The business-friendly policies and macroeconomic prudence which in recent years have helped the country reap the benefits of high commodity prices and improved security are likely to ... Read More

Colombia’s presidential race engulfed by scandal

| May 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

JOSHUA GOODMAN

BOGOTA, Colombia — Accusations of bribes from drug traffickers, spying and email hacking have turned Colombia’s presidential election into an ugly slugfest that has further polarized a country trying to emerge from its violent past.

The mudslinging has distracted attention from talks with the country’s main rebel group to end the country’s half-century internal conflict, which had been expected to be a key issue going into Sunday’s election.

Much of the blame for the dirty campaigning falls on two former allies whose public feuding has divided Colombia the past four years: President Juan Manuel Santos and his still-powerful predecessor, Alvaro Uribe.

Despite presiding over what may be South America’s best-performing economy, Santos is struggling amid relentless attacks by Uribe and his hand-picked heir, former finance chief Oscar Ivan Zuluaga. Polls say the two are running neck and neck, well ahead of three other candidates but with neither likely to garner the 50 ... Read More

U.S. criticizes Cuba over blocking dissident website

| May 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »
Chicago Tribune

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States criticized Cuban censorship on Thursday after Cubans were blocked from an independent website that is challenging the state monopoly on news on the island.

Dissident Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez started publishing 14ymedio.com on Wednesday, but would-be readers were redirected to another site that is highly critical of her, reflecting the official line.

Sanchez’s site remained blocked to the small minority of Cubans with internet access on Thursday, though it was accessible outside Cuba.

The U.S. State Department stopped short of directly blaming Cuba, referring instead to media reports that the government blocked the site, but it took advantage of the incident to denounce Cuban censorship.

“The Cuban government continues to limit fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression and of the press, freedom of assembly, and the free flow of information to, from, and within the island,” a State Department spokesperson said.

“Cubans deserve the right to freely express themselves ... Read More