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.

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-->

Scandal Over Brazilian Oil Company Adds Turmoil to the Presidential Race

| October 20th, 2014 | No Comments »
The New York Times

By Simon Romero

RIO DE JANEIRO — Paulo Roberto Costa was living an oilman’s dream.

He had a house in a luxurious gated community here. He bought a yacht and drove an armored Range Rover. He had more than $25 million stashed in bank accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands.

But that dream evaporated recently when the police arrested Mr. Costa and charged him with orchestrating a bribery scheme on an epic scale at Petrobras, Brazil’s national oil company, and funneling the proceeds to the governing Workers Party and its allies while enriching himself.

The case has presented a major challenge to President Dilma Rousseff, who is in a bitter re-election fight against Aécio Neves, a centrist who has been gaining momentum as the vote next Sunday approaches.

With ... Read More

Falling oil prices put pressure on Russia, Iran and Venezuela

| October 20th, 2014 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

By Editorial Board

THE SILVER lining in the recent financial market turbulence has been the continued decline in the price of oil, which is down about 25 percent since June. In addition to creating a windfall for U.S. consumers — one analysis reckoned the savings could amount to $600 per household — the drop, if sustained, will place considerable pressure on three problematic petrostates: Russia, Iran and Venezuela. The aggressively anti-American foreign policies pursued by all three countries in recent years have been financed in large part by soaring oil revenue.

Though separated by culture and continent, the regimes of Vladi­mir Putin, Ali Khamenei and Nicolás Maduro have in common autocratic government and ambitions to dominate their regions. More than half of their state budgets come from petroleum exports, and their spending plans depend on high prices: $100 a barrel in the case of Russia, $120 for Venezuela and $140 for ... Read More

Venezuela Vulnerable to Oil’s Fall

| October 20th, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01

By Sara Schaefer Muñoz and Ezequiel Minaya

CARACAS—This week’s plummeting world oil prices are throwing into doubt financial stability in Venezuela, which relies on the commodity for most of its income.

Oil exporters from Russia to Iran are suffering with the lowest crude oil prices since June 2012. But few are as vulnerable as Venezuela, where a free-spending populist government had already been grappling with a recession, widespread shortages, and massive protests earlier this year.

The price of the Venezuelan barrel—heavier and more expensive to process than Middle East oil—fell to $77.65 on Friday, the lowest price since late 2010. The price drop was due to “ample” supply and weakening worldwide demand, the ministry said in its weekly oil price report Friday. Venezuelan oil has now tumbled nearly $15 since early September.

“We were already in a critical and precarious situation with oil prices ... Read More

Mexico students: Guerreros Unidos gang leader ‘arrested’

| October 18th, 2014 | No Comments »

Mexican authorities say they have captured the suspected leader of a criminal gang allegedly involved in the disappearance of 43 students.Sidronio Casarrubias Salgado is said to be the main leader of the Guerreros Unidos (United Warriors) gang.

The students, from a teaching college near Iguala in western Guerrero state, were last seen being bundled into police vehicles three weeks ago.

It came during clashes with police during a demonstration.

There have been demonstrations in support of the students across Mexico.

Mexico’s attorney general Jesus Murillo Karam said the arrest would open up new lines of investigation into what had happened to the students.

He added that 36 police officers and 27 members of Guerreros Unidos had already been arrested.

The mayor of Iguala, Jose Luis Abarca, is also being sought by police on organised crime charges along with his police chief.

The congress in the state of Guerrero has impeached the mayor.

On Friday, thousands of protesters marched ... Read More

Pacific Rubiales Gains on Pact With for Mexican Ventures

| October 18th, 2014 | No Comments »

By Andrew Willis

Pacific Rubiales Energy Corp. (PREC) signed an agreement with Petroleos Mexicanos to study oil and natural gas ventures as Mexico opens its energy sector to private investment for the first time in 76 years.

The Bogota- and Toronto-listed company entered into a three-year arrangement with state-owned Pemex to analyze potential projects including deep-water and onshore heavy oil ventures, Pacific Rubiales said today in a statement. The shares fell 1.7 percent to 29,200 pesos at the close of trading in Bogota after earlier surging as much as 7.9 percent.

“We expect Mexico will be a significant driver of future growth for Pacific Rubiales,” Chief Executive Officer Ronald Pantin said in the statement.

The former Petroleos de Venezuela SA executive is looking to Mexico’s energy liberalization for diversification as production growth slows at the company’s Colombian fields. Pacific Rubiales has more than $1 billion ready to invest in ... Read More

Obama to allow 100,000 Haitians into America without a visa

| October 18th, 2014 | No Comments »

Calling it “an irresponsible overreach of the executive branch’s authority,” Senator Charles Grassley, ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, is criticizing an executive order issued by the president that would allow at least 100,000 Haitian nationals into the United States to be “reunited with their families.”

Washington Times:

“Which countries are next on President Obama’s list?” Mr. Grassley said. “Will there by medical screenings before entry? Will work permits be granted automatically? How will this affect American workers?”

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the branch of the Department of Homeland Security that handles immigration benefits cases, announced Friday the program to unite Haitians already living in the U.S. with family members abroad will ramp up in 2015.

At that time the State Department’s National Visa Center will begin notifying families who may be eligible to take part in the program. Those immigrants will allowed to apply for work ... Read More

Conservatives gaining force in Brazil Congress

| October 18th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press


RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — With its Carnival reputation and skin-baring beach life, Brazil may look like a liberal bastion. But unease over a worsening economy and deteriorating public safety, plus a backlash against recent gay-rights gains, are propelling a conservative rise that will shape the next administration, regardless of who wins the presidency.

The general election held earlier this month saw a greater share of Brazil’s National Congress seats go to various conservative caucuses, which now control nearly 60 percent of the 513 seats in the lower house. They include evangelical lawmakers who oppose gay marriage or access to abortion; the “ruralistas” whose pro-agriculture positions counter environmentalists and indigenous groups; and a law-and-order faction that demands a crackdown on crime.

Ahead of the presidential runoff Oct. 26, there’s no doubt such conservatives are giving greater support to center-right challenger Aecio Neves ... Read More

Argentina Black Market Proving Irresistible to Tourists

| October 17th, 2014 | No Comments »

By Charlie Devereux and Lucia Baldomir

Ana Laura Estefania, a 29-year-old Uruguayan, decided to vacation with her family in Buenos Aires last month after the tumble in the Argentine peso made everything from eating out to hotels more affordable.

“We wanted to go somewhere with my parents and all the family,” Estefania, the owner of a publishing company, said by telephone from Uruguay’s capital of Montevideo. “Buenos Aires is close and we thought it would be cheaper because of the exchange rate. Eating is cheap, transport is cheap, accommodation is cheap, everything is much cheaper.”

Like many of the tourists traveling to Argentina, Estefania turned to the illegal black market to take advantage of the peso’s plunge after the nation defaulted in July. There, the local currency costs 73 percent less to obtain than at the official exchange rate. That’s depriving the central bank of the dollars tourists are bringing into the country ... Read More

Chile Policy Makers Signal Rate Cut May Be Last in Current Cycle

| October 17th, 2014 | No Comments »

By Javiera Quiroga

Chilean policy makers signaled that yesterday’s benchmark interest rate cut may be the last in the current cycle following eight reductions in 13 months.

Policy makers, led by bank President Rodrigo Vergara, reduced the overnight rate a quarter point to 3 percent, as forecast by 19 of 22 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. Three analysts expected no change in the rate.

The central bank removed a reference to evaluating the convenience of further reductions in a statement accompanying yesterday’s decision, while reiterating its commitment to meeting the 3 percent inflation target. They also said that previous rate cuts were having an impact on credit conditions, even as the economy grew at the slowest pace in more than four years.

“The bias is now clearly neutral,” said Andres Osorio, an economist at Credicorp Capital in Santiago. “More reductions in the short term are highly unlikely.”

The economic slowdown has proved longer and deeper than ... Read More

Ibovespa Climbs as Petrobras Rallies After Presidential Debate

| October 17th, 2014 | No Comments »

By Filipe Pacheco

The Ibovespa rose for the first time in three days as Senator Aecio Neves’s performance in yesterday’s presidential debate bolstered speculation he’ll win election and reduce intervention in state-run companies.

Government-controlled oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA contributed the most to the equity gauge’s gain, rallying as crude oil advanced. Meatpacker Marfrig Global Foods SA climbed after Standard & Poor’s raised its credit rating one step to B+. Marisa Lojas SA declined after Deutsche Bank AG cut its recommendation to sell from hold.

The Ibovespa added 1 percent to 54,816.88 at 10:41 a.m. in Sao Paulo, paring its drop this week to 0.8 percent. The real gained 0.5 percent to 2.4605 per dollar. West Texas Intermediate crude added 0.3 percent to $82.91 a barrel.

Brazil’s benchmark equity index has rallied 22 percent from this year’s low in March on speculation that President Dilma Rousseff will be voted out of office as the ... Read More

Venezuela’s Election to UN Security Council Can’t Hide Its Weakness

| October 17th, 2014 | No Comments »

By Ben Cohen

The good news is that Turkey didn’t manage to get itself elected to the UN Security Council. The bad news is that Venezuela did, as was expected. So come January, the chavista regime will have an unprecedented say in world affairs for a two-year term as one of the Security Council’s non-permanent members.

This marks the fifth time in the UN’s brief history that Venezuela will serve on the Council. The last occasion was in 1992-93, when its representative was Ambassador Diego Arria, who distinguished himself by highlighting the genocide then raging in Bosnia, and by speaking out on behalf of human rights more generally. Two decades later, the situation has flipped entirely–the current crop of genocidaires, rogue states, and terrorists, particularly in the Middle East, will discover to their satisfaction that there are few friends more loyal than Venezuela’s present rulers.

As Arria himself pointed out in a recent ... Read More

Colombia gang ‘behind Venezuela lawmaker Serra’s murder’

| October 17th, 2014 | No Comments »

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says a Colombian paramilitary group was behind the killing of a governing party lawmaker and his partner on 1 October.

Robert Serra and Maria Herrera were stabbed to death in Caracas.

Mr Maduro said Mr Serra’s bodyguard had confessed to conspiring with a Colombian gang to kill the member of the National Assembly.

The president also said that there had been a series of attempts to kill other top socialist party officials.

‘Incriminating footage’

Mr Maduro had previously blamed “ultra-right” opposition groups in Venezuela and in neighbouring Colombia for the murder.

In a news conference on Wednesday he gave more details of the evidence he said had emerged since.

He played an out-of-focus video of a man apparently confessing to the murder. In it, the man said that he was convinced by someone he refers to as “the Colombian” to “get rid” of Mr Serra.

A surveillance video showed four men entering ... Read More

Venezuela Joins U.N. Security Council for Two-Year Term

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

By Ezequiel Minya

CARACAS—The United Nations on Thursday voted Venezuela on to its Security Council, granting the South American country a long-coveted trophy of international standing and placing a persistent thorn in the side of the U.S. on the U.N.’s most influential committee.

“This is a moment of great pride for all of Venezuela,” said President Nicolás Maduro from the presidential palace in Caracas. “The world has given us support. We should feel happiness in our hearts that we are a country that is admired and loved.”

Not everybody was celebrating the victory. Though the Obama administration resisted calls from Venezuela’s critics to mount a campaign to derail its entry into the Security Council, U.S. officials on Thursday criticized Venezuela’s record at the U.N.

“Unfortunately, Venezuela’s conduct at the U.N. has run counter to the spirit of the U.N. Charter and its violations of ... Read More

Pandemia mexicana

| October 17th, 2014 | No Comments »

Por José Manuel Suárez-Mier

No se había secado la tinta de mi última columna en la que comentaba la necedad de numerosos políticos de Estados Unidos de espantar a sus votantes con el inminente peligro de que terroristas islámicos invadirían su país desde México, cuando un alto mando de sus fuerzas armadas afirmó que el ébola llegaría desde nuestro país.

El general John F. Kelly, jefe del Comando Sur de las fuerzas armadas de Estados Unidos, responsable de monitorear los peligros que amenazan a su país desde América Latina y las Antillas, salió a decir que temía que inmigrantes del este de África, contaminados con el ébola, entraran ilegalmente por México.

Es realmente preocupante que un alto mando militar de la potencia bélica más poderosa del orbe diga tonterías de tal magnitud. ¿Cómo piensa el general Kelly que llegarán los ebólicos desde África a México: nadando? ¿Sabrá el comandante los muchos ... Read More

Latin America is a region plagued by incumbents

| October 17th, 2014 | No Comments »
Financial Times

By Daniel Lansberg-Rodriguez

Six weeks after falling for Marina Silva, pro-market souls (and the markets themselves) have bounced back, developing a new infatuation with the man who defeated her in Brazil’s presidential election. Propounding sensible policies and polling strongly, Aécio Neves will face off next month against Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s formidable incumbent. He may yet prevail. Brazil’s anaemic projected growth, coupled with rising unemployment, should be fertile ground for any challenger. Yet if history is any guide there is only one thing Ms Rousseff needs to do for her re-election to be all but certain: run.

Incumbents have an advantage everywhere. They enjoy high visibility and voters tend to prefer the devil they know. Yet the record of sitting Latin American presidents is astonishing. No Brazilian president seeking immediate re-election has ever failed to attain it. As far back as the 19th century, only two governing presidents anywhere in Latin America – Nicaragua’s ... Read More

Rising Dragon? The Chinese Mafia Threat in Latin America

| October 16th, 2014 | No Comments »
From In Sight

By David Gagne

Chinese mafia operations in Latin America are little understood, but a recent report on these groups in Argentina illustrates how they make their presence felt via extortion, human smuggling rings, and the occasional murder. As China deepens its economic relationship with Latin America, it’s possible these mafias may become ever more prominent.

Authorities in Argentina have attributed 31 murders over the last five years, and four in 2014 alone, to seven Chinese mafias operating in the country, reported La Nacion. These mafias reportedly earn revenue by extorting businesses within the Chinese community, and resort to violence when owners do not comply with their demands.

In at least three of the 2014 cases, the victim did not appear to have been robbed, leading authorities to believe they were killed after running afoul of criminal groups in the Chinese community. According to La Nacion, the Chinese mafias (also known ... Read More

Venezuela Goes From Bad to Worse as Oil Prices Plummets

| October 16th, 2014 | No Comments »

By Sebastian Boyd and Pietro D. Pitts 

Since becoming Venezuela’s president 18 months ago, Nicolas Maduro has contended with chronic shortages of everything from toothpaste to medicine, the world’s fastest inflation and sinking foreign reserves.

His predicament is about to get worse. Prices for Venezuela’s oil, which accounts for 95 percent of the nation’s exports, are tumbling to a four-year low and threatening to choke off the export dollars the country needs to pay its debts.

“It’s a direct hit on tax revenues,” Lars Christensen, chief emerging-markets economist at Danske Bank A/S, said by telephone from Copenhagen. “There is nothing good to say about the state of Venezuela’s economy, and this isn’t helping.”

The slump in oil prices comes as Harvard University economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff warned this week that Venezuela is almost certain to default on its foreign-currency bonds. Deepening concern the South American country will renege on ... Read More

Poll: Brazil presidential race remains deadlocked

| October 16th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press

SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazil’s presidential race remains deadlocked after the first debate between President Dilma Rousseff and her challenger in the runoff election.

A survey released Wednesday night by the Datafolha polling group says opposition candidate Aecio Neves has support from 51 percent of voters against Rousseff’s 49 percent. The poll, which had an error margin of two percentage points, got the same result as a Datafolha poll last week.

Neves made a surprise comeback in the Oct. 5 first-round election to finish second and force Rousseff into a runoff round since no candidate won a majority.

Brazilians go back to the polls on Oct. 26 to decide who’ll be the next leader of Latin America’s biggest economy.

The latest Datafolha survey interviewed 9,081 voters across Brazil on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Click here for original ... Read More

Terrible no reconocer la caída del precio del petróleo

| October 16th, 2014 | No Comments »


Los precios del petróleo van en picada. Y uno de los perdedores de este proceso es el gobierno mexicano —en sus tres niveles: federal, estatal y municipal— ya que un tercio de sus ingresos depende directamente de este producto. Si a eso sumamos que la producción de crudo en México también se está cayendo, pues las autoridades tienen un gran problema frente a ellos. Por lo pronto, siguen sin reconocerlo. Más que aceptar la realidad, están apostándole a un milagro.

Es el caso, al parecer, de los diputados quienes están por aprobar la Ley de Ingresos y el  Presupuesto del año que entra. La Secretaría de Hacienda les envió una propuesta de un precio promedio de 82 dólares por barril para 2015. Estamos hablando de seis dólares más de lo que se vendió la mezcla mexicana ayer (76 dólares por barril). De acuerdo con la ... Read More

Brazilian presidential candidates trade punches in first debate last night

| October 15th, 2014 | No Comments »

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and challenger Aécio Neves squared off last night in the first of four debates leading up to the runoff election on October 26th. Several recent polls show a technical tie, and the debates could prove to be decisive.

Rousseff and Neves advanced to the second round by winning the most votes on October 5th, after a surprisingly competitive three-way contest in which the incumbent used cool and commanding debate performances to fend off a challenge by political maverick Marina Silva, whose surge in the polls was beaten back by a withering negative ad campaign.

Tuesday night’s encounter was a tough and personal showdown—the first one-on-one debate between the candidates of Brazil’s two main political parties. Rousseff was aggressive and confrontational, but Neves (a former governor and congressman) counterpunched effectively—putting the president on the defensive over the failing economy, unpopular policies, and alleged corruption.

For example, Rousseff cited fear among Brazilians that ... Read More

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