Trump’s axis of evil: Cuba, Venezuela, Iran and North Korea

Trump’s axis of evil: Cuba, Venezuela, Iran and North Korea

President Donald Trump targeted four “communist and socialist dictatorships” in his first State of the Union address, creating his own version of former President George Bush’s “axis of evil.”

In a speech that was laregly seen as unifying, Trump singled out Cuba, Venezuela, Iran and North Korea as rogue nations that the United States must and will continue to confront.

“My administration has also imposed tough sanctions on the communist and socialist dictatorships in Cuba and Venezuela,” Trump said, pausing to allow ...  

Ecuador Links Police Barracks Bombing to Colombia FARC Dissidents

Ecuador Links Police Barracks Bombing to Colombia FARC Dissidents

A group of dissidents from the Colombia’s former FARC guerrilla group were likely behind an attack on a police station in Ecuador, in retaliation for offensives against drug trafficking in the Andean nation, Ecuador’s defense minister said on Monday.

A car bomb exploded on Saturday outside a police station in the town of San Lorenzo, on the border with Colombia, wrecking the station, damaging other houses in the area, and leaving 28 people with minor injuries.

“They are dissident groups of the ...  

Venezuelans ‘loot to eat’ amid economic tailspin

Venezuelans ‘loot to eat’ amid economic tailspin

The cab of Carlos Del Pino’s big rig gave him a nerve-rattling front-row seat to a surge in mob attacks on Venezuela’s neighborhood markets, cattle ranches and food delivery trucks like his.

Shortly after pulling away from the docks at Puerto Cabello, the country’s biggest port, he witnessed 20 people swarm a truck ahead of him and in a frenzy fill up their sacks with the corn it was carrying to a food-processing plant. The driver was held at gunpoint.

“It fills ...  

Castro’s Survival Plan May Be Crumbling

Castro’s Survival Plan May Be Crumbling

By Roger Noriega

1/26/2017

The more you know about Cuba’s sorrows and who caused them, the less hopeful you will be that any good will come from a “transition” in April being managed by the Castro clan. However, there is real hope for 11 million Cubans if Castro’s survival plan crumbles — as the regime loses the windfalls it expected from President Obama’s ill-conceived “economic opening” and from its parasitic relationship with Venezuela.

Obama scrapped the reasonable human rights and democracy standards that ...  

Bolivia Tells President His Time Is Up. He Isn’t Listening.

Bolivia Tells President His Time Is Up. He Isn’t Listening.

When he was 46, Rene Paucara voted for Evo Morales, helping elect him as Bolivia’s first indigenous president in 2005.

At 56, Mr. Paucara, a doorman in El Alto, Bolivia’s second-largest city, voted with the majority again, but that time to reject a 2016 referendum to let Mr. Morales seek a fourth term.

Now nearing 60, Mr. Paucara says he is fuming: Mr. Morales has said he will run again anyway. The president has been aided in the courts, which threw out ...  

Maduro pulls a fast one with disorganized opposition by expediting Venezuela’s election

Maduro pulls a fast one with disorganized opposition by expediting Venezuela’s election

BUENOS AIRES — Venezuela’s economy is imploding, the country has one of the world’s highest homicide rates, and a number of top officials, including the vice president, face sanctions from the U.S. and European nations.

But embattled President Nicolas Maduro may be cruising to a second six-year term after his regime’s abrupt decision last week to move up the coming election, catching an already battered opposition off guard.

Amid widespread food and medicine shortages and five-digit hyperinflation, the socialist president’s approval ratings ...  

Venezuela Calls For Presidential Election Amid Worsening Economic Crisis

Venezuela Calls For Presidential Election Amid Worsening Economic Crisis

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro says he will seek reelection in snap elections in April, despite mounting pressure from opposition parties who say he is responsible for the nation’s economic collapse and growing authoritarianism.

The pro-government Constituent Assembly this week announced that the vote would be held by April 30, months ahead of when it traditionally takes place.

The United States criticized the upcoming vote as an effort that will only serve to undermine Venezuela’s constitutional order. …

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Brazilian stocks are surging right now after court upholds ex-president Lula’s conviction

Brazilian stocks are surging right now after court upholds ex-president Lula’s conviction

Brazilian stocks jumped on Wednesday after an appeals court upheld a corruption conviction for former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

If Lula is barred from the election, current President Michel Temer likely has an easier path towards re-election. Temer is seen as the more market-friendly option between the two. He has also pushed for reforms to the country’s pension system.

The iShares MSCI Brazil exchange-traded fund (EWZ) spiked 6.2 percent higher on the back of the news. Brazil’s Bovespa index, meanwhile, ...  

Half the Venezuelan economy has disappeared

Half the Venezuelan economy has disappeared

It’s getting worse. Unemployment will reach 30% and prices on all types of goods in the country will rise 13,000% this year, according to new figures published Thursday by the International Monetary Fund.

The IMF’s economist for the Western Hemisphere, Alejandro Werner, put Venezuela’s future bluntly.

“In Venezuela, the crisis continues,” Werner said in a blog post. He added that inflation is skyrocketing this year because of “the loss of confidence in the nation’s currency.” …

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Mexico’s finance minister isn’t worried about a ‘plan B’ for NAFTA

Mexico’s finance minister isn’t worried about a ‘plan B’ for NAFTA

Mexico’s Finance Minister Jose Antonio Anaya appeared confident in the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), telling CNBC Wednesday that dialogue between the trade partners was ongoing.

“Our central scenario is that this will go to a good deal,” Anaya said while at the World Economic Forum at Davos. “We believe trade is good for all three nations, and that’s what we’re hoping for.”

Asked about a potential “plan B” if the U.S. chooses to terminate the deal, Anaya ...  

Mexico’s drug cartels, now hooked on fuel, cripple the country’s refineries

Mexico’s drug cartels, now hooked on fuel, cripple the country’s refineries

SALAMANCA, Mexico—The first call, from someone claiming to belong to the Michoacán Family drug cartel, came in February 2015.

“They said they knew who I was and where I lived,” said Alberto Arredondo, who got the call at work as a pump technician at an oil refinery in the central Mexican city of Salamanca. “They wanted information.”

At first, Arredondo hung up. …

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Venezuela Squeezes Maduro Foes With Plan for a Vote by May

Venezuela Squeezes Maduro Foes With Plan for a Vote by May

Venezuela appears set to hold presidential elections before the end of April, a plan abruptly announced after the European Union blacklisted seven key allies of President Nicolas Maduro.

Diosdado Cabello, second-in-command of the ruling socialist party and among those sanctioned, on Tuesday announced the vote in the South America nation’s all-powerful constituent assembly. The short time before the vote will wrong-foot a divided opposition, said Carlos Romero, a political analyst at the Central University of Venezuela in Caracas.

“This announcement sends a ...  

US judge backs extradition of ex-Panama president Martinelli

US judge backs extradition of ex-Panama president Martinelli

A Miami federal judge on Tuesday upheld the extradition request for former Panama president Ricardo Martinelli to face political espionage and embezzlement charges in his home country.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke ruled Tuesday at a hearing that a previous federal judge was correct that Panama’s extradition request is valid. But Cooke also stayed her decision until Feb. 6 to give Martinelli’s lawyers time to file notice of an appeal.

Martinelli, 65, was Panama’s president from 2009-2014. He is accused of illegally ...  

NAFTA is close to falling apart with time running out

NAFTA is close to falling apart with time running out

President Trump could soon kill a major trade deal with Mexico and Canada if huge compromises aren’t made this week. Round 6 of the renegotiation of NAFTA, the pact between Mexico, Canada and the U.S., starts Tuesday in Montreal, Canada.

No major progress has been made on key issues through the first five rounds. Only one more round after this week is scheduled, and Trump continues to repeat his threat that if he doesn’t get the deal he wants, he’ll withdraw.

“It’s ...  

Colombia says 550,000 Venezuelans have fled to the country

Colombia says 550,000 Venezuelans have fled to the country

Colombia says the number of Venezuelans fleeing a severe economic crisis to live in Colombia has increased by 62% in the last six months.

Migration officials say more than 550,000 Venezuelans are now living in Colombia, mostly illegally.

The influx is putting pressure on the government especially in border areas to provide the migrants with food, shelter and medical care.

The number of Venezuelans travelling through Colombia has doubled. …

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Venezuela is trying to float its own cryptocurrency to save a sinking economy—but investors aren’t believing the ‘petro’ hype

Venezuela is trying to float its own cryptocurrency to save a sinking economy—but investors aren’t believing the ‘petro’ hype

Venezuela — rife with double-digit inflation, civil strife and signs of imminent economic collapse everywhere — has seen the future, and it’s in cryptocurrency.

Now, it just has to convince elements of its own citizenry, as well as the rest of the world.

Earlier this month, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said the government plans to float nearly $6 billion in a new unit called “petros,” a cryptocurrency that would leverage its vast oil reserves as money. Just last week, the South American ...  

Cuba is a lot poorer than the government reports, a new study shows

Cuba is a lot poorer than the government reports, a new study shows

Cubans suffered near-famine and almost daily power blackouts, and tens of thousands took to the sea aboard homemade boats during the economic crisis in the 1990s known as the “Special Period.”

The government eventually acknowledged that after losing all Soviet subsidies and trade with the former socialist bloc, its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) dropped by 35 percent during the crisis.

Cubans who have long suspected that the crisis was actually much worse than the government admitted appear to have been right. …

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Venezuela’s Oil Production Is Collapsing

Venezuela’s Oil Production Is Collapsing

CARACAS, Venezuela—Venezuela’s oil output is collapsing at an accelerating pace, deepening an economic and humanitarian crisis and increasing the chances the country will default on its debts.

Production fell 216,000 barrels a day to 1.6 million in December compared to November, the 15th consecutive monthly decline, according to data released Thursday by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. …

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SEBIN enforcers fundamental to Maduro’s toolkit of repression

SEBIN enforcers fundamental to Maduro’s toolkit of repression

Tyrannical regimes generally employ repressive domestic intelligence directorates to keep the opposition at bay. In Venezuela, the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional — SEBIN), under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Popular Power for the Interior, Justice and Peace, is President Nicolás Maduro’s preferred tool of repression.

Established in 1969 and known until 2009 as the National Directorate of Intelligence and Prevention Services, the SEBIN, technically, is to Venezuela what the FBI is to the United States. ...  

Peru family drama threatens South America’s success story

Peru family drama threatens South America’s success story

Few countries in the world have recently had as many reasons to celebrate as Peru.

First, its national football squad qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 36 years. And then it was announced that the team’s star player, Pablo Guerrero, would be allowed to play after a doping ban against him was lifted.

Later this week, this fervently Catholic nation will welcome Pope Francis for the first time since he became pontiff. …

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About

During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

Unfortunately, in recent years, continued progress in these areas has been threatened, not least by the radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and elsewhere. These governments have instituted retrograde agendas that include the propagation of class warfare, state domination of the economy, assaults on private property, anti-Americanism, support for such international pariahs as Iran, Russia, and even transnational criminal organizations.

We are a group of concerned policy experts that fear the results of these destructive agendas for individual freedom, prosperity, and the well-being of the peoples of the region. Our goal is to inform policymakers and international public opinion of the dangers of these radical populist regimes to inter-American security.