Content from IASW Contributors

Mexico’s security crisis: Will Iguala be a wake-up call?

By Roger F. Noriega and José R. Cárdenas By Roger F. Noriega and José R. Cárdenas
Mexico’s democracy, stability, and economy require a collaborative response from all levels of government to quell the wave of recent political unrest and address the underlying causes of insecurity and public dissatisfaction. The current crisis—sparked by national outrage over the September 26 disappearance of 43 students near the town of Iguala in the state of Guerrero—should be a wake-up call for the country.
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Las Naciones ‘Sumergidas’ de Latinoamérica

By Roger F. NoriegaBy Roger F. Noriega
Líderes políticos y diplomáticos de América Latina y el Caribe saben más sobre Cuba y Venezuela que incluso los observadores más astutos en Washington. Por lo tanto, deberían saber lo que le conviene más a su región ¿no? Read More-->

Protests over 43 missing students in Mexico spread across the country

| November 17th, 2014 | No Comments »
From Fox News Latino

By Nathaniel Parish Flannery

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO –  The 43 students from a teachers’ college in Ayotzinapa in the Mexican state of Guerrero went missing in the town of Iguala on Sept. 26.

The demonstrations began in Guerrero soon afterward under the leadership of student associations – who are referred to as “normalistas,” because they attend a teachers’ or “normal” college – and protesters torched the offices of the state government in Guerrero’s capital, Chilpancingo.

On October 22, they set the mayor’s office in Iguala on fire.

In November, protesters marched through Mexico City, setting the doors to the Palacio Nacional, a buiding that houses murals by Diego Rivera, ablaze.

This month, protesters have vandalized the airport in Acapulco, burned cars and political offices in Chilpancingo and also vandalized buildings in the neighboring state of Michoacán.

Mexico’s attorney general has claimed that the charred remains ... Read More

Former mayor charged in Mexico student deaths

| November 17th, 2014 | No Comments »
From CNN

By Michael Pearson

(CNN) – Prosecutors in the Mexican state of Guerrero said Friday they have formally charged former Iguala Mayor Jose Luis Abarca in the disappearance of 43 students.

Abarca is described as the “probable mastermind” in the September 26 disappearance of the students. He is charged with six counts of aggravated homicide and one count of attempted homicide, the state attorney’s office said.

Authorities said the students — mostly men in their 20s studying to be teachers — were abducted by police in September at Abarca’s direction. Police killed some students, and the rest are believed to have been turned over to gang members to be executed, Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam has said.

The men’s bodies were burned, and some remains were thrown in a river.

The students were traveling to Iguala to protest a lack of funding for their school.

... Read More

Mexico’s Rule of Law Crisis

| November 17th, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01

By MARY ANASTASIA O’GRADY

What do the September disappearance of 43 university students from the custody of local police in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, and new allegations of federal corruption in the awarding of public infrastructure contracts have in common? Answer: They both show that Mexico still has a huge problem enforcing the rule of law.

The two developments have sparked a political crisis that could sink Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) President Enrique Peña Nieto ’s ambitious reform agenda if he doesn’t take quick and decisive action to restore confidence.

Until now the president has been able to ignore Mexico’s legendary lawlessness. He has been riding an international wave of excitement around the opening of the energy sector, with few questions asked. But unless he wants to make common cause with the hard left—which thinks it has him on the ropes because of the missing students—he needs to admit his mistakes, purge his ... Read More

Dilma’s doldrums

| November 17th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Economist

AS SHE hobnobs with the other G20 heads of state in Brisbane this weekend, Dilma Rousseff, re-elected last month to a second four-year term as Brazil’s president, will have precious little besides her (narrow) victory to boast about. Every day seems to bring more evidence of just how big a mess she has left herself. Official data released in the past three weeks have shown a bulging budget deficit, falling industrial production and rising poverty. Even the job market, until recently a rare bright spot, with unemployment near historic lows of around 5%, is beginning to falter. This week payroll numbers showed a net loss of 30,000 jobs in October, the worst result for the month since 1999 and well below the average market expectations of a gain of 56,000.

Days before a kerfuffle broke out over a bill sent to Congress that would let Ms Rousseff ... Read More

Gas boom in Bolivia brings new wealth — and regrets for a lost opportunity

| November 17th, 2014 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

By Nick Miroff

CARAPARICITO, Bolivia — For most of his life, Oscar Robles worked for an American landowner as a lowly ranch hand, “a peon,” he says, tending cattle and corn for a light-skinned patrón as generations of Guarani laborers did before him.

Then Bolivia elected its first indigenous president, Evo Morales, who took office in 2006 pledging to right the historic wrongs committed against the country’s ethnic minorities. Morales seized the American’s land and other nearby properties, giving the Guarani their ancestral home back.

The American rancher fled. Robles became capitán, the new leader of Caraparicito.

Then he watched from the roadside as the drilling crews and construction equipment came roaring in, part of Morales’s all-out push to develop Bolivia’s gas fields and cash in on soaring energy demands in South America.

The Guarani had recovered their land, but the huge deposits of natural gas beneath it belonged to the government of Morales and its main ... Read More

Venezuela Bond Exodus Accelerates on Spurned Devaluation

| November 17th, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

By Nathan Gill and Katia Porzecanski 

Bond investors are abandoning Venezuela as President Nicolas Maduro’s administration signals the nation doesn’t intend to devalue the currency with sinking oil prices undermining its ability to pay debt.

The country’s $4 billion of dollar-denominated debt due 2027 plummeted to an almost six-year low of 55.10 cents on the dollar yesterday after Finance Minister Rodolfo Marco Torres said this week that there’s “no devaluation planned.” The securities have fallen 14.1 percent this month, posting the biggest drop inemerging markets over that span.

Concern is deepening that Maduro isn’t moving fast enough to bolster the nation’s finances at a time when the price of its oil, which accounts for about 95 percent of Venezuela’s exports, has plunged 28 percent since June to a four-year low. A devaluation would give the government more bolivars for each dollar of export revenue from state oil monopoly Petroleos de Venezuela SA and narrow its price gap ... Read More

Colombia suspends peace talks with rebels after general abducted

| November 17th, 2014 | No Comments »
FoxNews.com

BOGOTA, Colombia –  Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has suspended peace talks with the South American nation’s largest rebel group after an army general was taken captive.

Gen. Ruben Dario Alzate was surveying a rural energy project along a remote river in western Colombia Sunday when he and two others were snatched by armed men. A soldier managed to flee in the group’s motor boat and reported that the captors were members of the 34th front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

Colombian media reported that it’s the first time in a half-century of fighting that the guerrillas have taken an army general captive.

Calling the apparent abduction “totally unacceptable,” Santos said he had ordered government peace negotiators set to travel Monday to Cuba for the next round of talks to stay back until Alzate and the others — an army captain ... Read More

Falling oil prices put Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro in a vice

| November 17th, 2014 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

By Nick Miroff

CARACAS, Venezuela — Six months ago, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro faced bloody protests demanding his resignation. The streets were clogged with flaming barricades. By the time the smoke cleared, dozens of protesters and national guardsmen were dead, and Maduro’s government was widely assailed for rights abuses.

Those were the good old days.

Venezuelan oil, the lifeblood of the leftist revolution entrusted to Maduro by the late Hugo Chávez, was worth $97 a barrel then. Now it’s middling around $70, and with every dollar it dips, Venezuela’s export-dependent, popularity-challenged government loses $700 million a year.

With the money pot shrinking, Maduro’s approval rating has slumped to 30 percent, according to recent surveys, down from 55 percent in April 2013. The supermarket scarcities and unchecked crime that fueled the protests earlier this year are as bad as ever.

Loath to adopt austerity measures that would hit his softening support base, Maduro has been borrowing money ... Read More

Latin American Violence: After Mexico, Brazil Could Be Next

| November 14th, 2014 | No Comments »
World Crunch-01

BY CLÓVIS ROSSI

SAO PAULO — During my time in the early 1980s as a correspondent for Folha de S. Paulo in Buenos Aires, I covered more demonstrations of the “Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo” — and then of the “Grandmothers” — than I could count. Brave women, their faces furrowed by time and pain, their heads covered with white scarves, asking for the return of their sons and grandsons who had disappeared under the regime’s repression.

In truth, they had all been killed, but again and again the cries came, “You took them alive, we want them back alive.”

I heard similar shouts in Chile and Uruguay, other countries where the repressive regime’s savagery produced victims on an industrial scale. The dictatorships are gone in these three countries and in the rest of Latin America — with the exception of Cuba — and the cries were gradually replaced by official ... Read More

Mexico’s growing crisis

| November 14th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Economist

DURING two years in office Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, has received sharply contrasting reviews at home and abroad. Foreigners, including The Economist, have praised his structural reforms of the economy, which include an historic measure to open up energy to private investment (see article). Yet polls show that most Mexicans dislike Mr Peña. Among other things, they blame his government for a squeeze on living standards and the interlinked problems of violent crime and corruption. Sadly, recent events have lent support to Mr Peña’s domestic critics.

On November 8th Mexico’s attorney-general announced what almost everyone had already concluded: that 43 students from a teacher-training college in the southern state of Guerrero, who disappeared in the town of Iguala in late September, had been murdered by drug-traffickers after being kidnapped by the local police on the orders of the town’s mayor. Guerrero has been Mexico’s most violent state for ... Read More

Traders Are ‘Scared As Hell’ Of What’s Happening In Venezuela

| November 14th, 2014 | No Comments »
Business Insider

BY LINETTE LOPEZ

Venezuelan investors are abandoning ship en masse after the government indicated that it would not take immediate measures to stop the country from sinking deeper into chaos.

“I am scared as hell,” one Latin American bond trader said. “Default [is] likely within 12 months; the oil price collapse [is] just adding to a completely dysfunctional political and financial situation.”

The signal to head for the exits was so subtle that you would have missed it if you were not paying close attention.

This week the Venezuelan government reiterated that it would not devalue its currency, giving it more bolivars for every dollar. It does not want to do that because the country already has the highest inflation rate in the world, at 64%.

The official exchange rate is 6.3 bolivars per dollar, but the black-market rate sits at 113.62 bolivars to the dollar.

... Read More

A vote could cost President Correa his job—in 2017

| November 14th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Economist

ECUADORIANS have not been gentle to leaders who seek to prolong their hold on power beyond what the constitution allows. Past presidents who tried have been shot or even hacked to death by angry citizens (though not since 1912). Rafael Correa, the leader today, runs no such risk with his attempt to change the constitution to allow him to run again when his term expires in 2017. But he has galvanised the opposition.

On November 6th a coalition of centrist and conservative parties launched a drive to collect the 584,000 signatures needed to force a referendum on Mr Correa’s plan to eliminate term limits for elected politicians. Although Mr Correa, a left-wing populist, is personally popular, polls show that a large majority of voters want the referendum to go ahead. It may be the opposition’s best chance to unseat him.

Mr Correa’s foes have long suspected that he ... Read More

China’s tie with Latin America expands to security

| November 14th, 2014 | No Comments »
China Daily

By ZHANG FAN

China’s tie with Latin American countries have exceeded from trade to security cooperation as China National Electronics Import & Export Corporation (CEIEC) is helping Local countries to build their national security control centers.

“We can say now, very proudly, that Ecuador is one of the most security countries in Latin America,”said Ecuadorian President Rafael Vicente Correa Delgado this September.

CEIEC, the state-owned company specialised in engineering and defence electronics, built an ECU-911 system for the Latin American country including two national centres, five regional centres and eight provincial command and control centres.

The project, initiated from 2011, aims to unify seven security departments of Ecuador including police system, transportation, fire control and medical treatment in order to better arrange rescue operations in limited reacting time.

By now, the system has helped the crime rate of Ecuador decreased by 24 percent, ... Read More

Most of Latin America Has Adopted Democracy. Will Cuba?

| November 14th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Huffington Post

By Michel Kelly-Gagnon

Mario Vargas Llosa is one of the greatest writers of our time, whose collection of novels earned him the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature.

He’s also someone with the curiosity and the intellectual courage to change his mind when faced with evidence that contradicts his beliefs, as detailed in a new trilingual booklet entitled My Intellectual Journey: From Marxism to Liberalism that has just been released in bookstores across the province of Quebec.

This booklet is based on a very moving and fascinating talk Mr. Vargas Llosa gave in Montreal last year at an MEI gala event, in which he explained how he came to be an admirer at one time of Fidel Castro’s Cuban experiment, as were many Latin American and other intellectuals of his generation. Understandably, though, his enthusiasm began to wane somewhat when he learned of the concentration camps to which were sent a mix of dissidents, common criminals, and ... Read More

With goods scarce in Caracas’s stores, street sales boom and officials glower

| November 14th, 2014 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

By Nick Miroff

CARACAS, Venezuela — The sprawling street market that radiates outward from the metro station in Petare, Caracas’s largest slum, is the retail equivalent of an anti-Target.

There’s no organization to it. Tube socks and school supplies are sold beside giant pyramids of pineapple and piled yucca. Leopard-print hot pants stretch over mannequin buttocks next to the stinky stalls of fishmongers.

The bazaar was known until this month as one of the city’s biggest open-air black markets, the place to find all the scarce items that shoppers must queue up for hours to get in supermarkets, or can’t find at all. Earlier this year, toilet paper and corn­meal were scarce; lately it’s diapers and deodorant that have “gotten lost,” as Venezuelans say.

Authorities mostly turned a blind eye to the informal commerce, but late last month Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro went on TV to decree a ban on street sales of coffee, eggs, shampoo and ... Read More

Brazil’s Real Falls to Nine-Year Low Before Finance Appointment

| November 13th, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

By Filipe Pacheco

Brazil’s real dropped to the lowest level in nine years as investors awaited President Dilma Rousseff’s appointment of a new finance minister amid a slowdown in Latin America’s largest economy.

The currency lost 0.2 percent to 2.5733 per U.S. dollar at 11:55 a.m. in Sao Paulo, the weakest level on a closing basis since April 2005. Swap rates, a gauge of expectations for changes in borrowing costs, climbed 0.05 percentage point to 12.82 percent on the contract maturing in January 2017.

The replacement for the departing Finance Minister Guido Mantega will face the challenge of reviving growth, slowing above-target inflation and stemming deficits that are threatening the country’s investment-grade status. One-month implied volatility on options for the real, reflecting projected shifts in the exchange rate, remained the highest among 16 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg.

“There are too many uncertainties, and the new economic team will have the ... Read More

Russia to send bombers on Gulf of Mexico ‘reconnaissance missions

| November 13th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article Appeared in The Washington Times

By Douglas Ernst

A top Russian official said Wednesday the country plans on conducting patrols with its bombers that extend into the Gulf of Mexico.

“In the current situation we have to maintain military presence in the western Atlantic and eastern Pacific, as well as the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Wednesday in Moscow, The Associated Press reported.

Mr. Shoigu’s remarks were in response to accusations by NATO that Russia was once again sending military personnel into Ukraine.

The Russian official did not provide specifics on the patrols, but said planes will conduct “reconnaissance missions to monitor foreign powers’ military activities and maritime communications,” AP reported.

Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, told AP he would not characterize Russia’s actions as a provocation, as the nation has a right to operate in international airspace.

Large-scale Russian maneuvers along European airspace forced NATO members to scramble jets in ... Read More

Mexico: Violent Protests Hit Acapulco’s Tourism

| November 13th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press

By ALBERTO ARCE

Mexico’s president has tried to keep the issue of violence issue separate from his focus on the economy, but the two are converging as violent protests over 43 disappeared students squelch tourism in Acapulco just before a major holiday weekend.

As Mexico prepares to commemorate its 1910 revolution Monday, hotels in the Pacific resort city have seen a wave of cancellations after demonstrators temporarily shut down the airport, blocked highways and attacked government and political offices in the southern state of Guerrero.

Acapulco hotel occupancy rates are currently at 20 percent, well short of the 85 percent expected for this long weekend when Mexicans typically flock to the beaches, Joaquin Badillo, president of the Employers’ Association for Guerrero state, said Wednesday.

More cancellations have been registered for Christmas week, the busiest time of the year for Acapulco tourism, and Badillo said one company that operates 10 hotels has cut about 200 ... Read More

If Colombia’s guerrillas sign a peace deal, will the guns go silent?

| November 13th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

BY JIM WYSS

Several weeks ago on the outskirts of the northwestern town of Montelíbano, a police caravan was ambushed. By the time the firefight was over, seven police officers were dead and another seven were wounded, making it the second most lethal attack on the armed forces this year.

However, what worried the authorities was who they claim was behind the attack: a joint assault by the 58th front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas and their sworn enemies, the Urabeños — the country’s largest criminal gang, also known as the Úsuga.

Government negotiators and the FARC have spent the last two years in Havana trying to hammer out a peace deal that would allow the 50-year-old guerrilla force to lay down its arms and re-enter society. The negotiations are taking place without a cease-fire, and attacks are frequent.

But the Sept. 16 ambush fueled skeptics’ worst fears: What if ... Read More

Counting Pennies In Venezuela

| November 13th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

By Daniel Bases

It was a gloomy, rainy night in Boston last week where emerging market analysts and portfolio managers huddled together before an audience of 75+ people to discuss an equally gloomy situation in Venezuela, specifically whether or not the nation, with the biggest proven oil reserves in the world, is on the precipice of defaulting on its debt.

Trying to figure out what economic and fiscal policies the administration of President Nicolas Maduro will follow to alleviate rampant inflation and shortages is akin to trying to read tea leaves. But a panel put together by EMTA laid out the scenarios and discussed the implications of any potential default. The talk of default really kicked off Sept. 5, 2014 after anarticle published by former Venezuelan planning minister Ricardo Hausmann and Harvard research fellow Miguel Angel Santos asked whether or not Venezuela should default.

Maduro is the hand-picked successor of former President Hugh ... Read More

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