Content from IASW Contributors

Washington should not forget Venezuela

BY ROGER NORIEGA & JOSÉ R. CÁRDENAS

Russia’s annexation of Crimea is an egregious violation of international norms that demands a concerted international reaction. However, as foreign policy pundits settle into their Eurocentric comfort zone, Washington must not neglect its important strategic interests elsewhere in an increasingly interconnected world

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La MS-13 brinda apoyo secreto al partido de gobierno en El Salvador

Roger NoriegaLa ultra violenta Mara Salvatrucha, conocida como MS-13 – cuyos 10,000 miembros siembran el caos en decenas de ciudades de Estados Unidos – ha estado apoyando secretamente al partido gobernante de El Salvador desde hace varios años de acuerdo a evidencia que ha surgido en las últimas semanas.

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Peru’s Italian job

| April 11th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Economist

WHEN Bello reported on the latter years of Carlos Menem’s rule in Argentina, he would sometimes be enjoined to take no notice of the political scandals lapping around the regime. The important thing, he was told, was that the economy was run by responsible technocrats, as in “the Italian model” of the post-war decades. He heard something rather similar when Ollanta Humala was poised to win Peru’s presidency in 2011. Politics was a mess, a prominent banker confided, but what really mattered was that the economy was well managed.

Almost three years into Mr Humala’s presidency, both of those things remain true. But far from being a reassurance, Peru’s adherence to the Italian model is actually a cause for concern.

Mr Humala, a former army officer and a political chameleon, first ran for president in 2006 as a supporter of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez. He lost that election and in 2011 reinvented himself ... Read More

Son of Mexico drug lord turns informant

| April 11th, 2014 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

BY NICK MIROFF

The son of one of Mexico’s most-wanted drug traffickers has been “flipped” by U.S. prosecutors as part of a plea deal in Chicago federal court, the U.S. Justice Department announced.

High-ranking Sinaloa cartel lieutenant Jesús Vicente Zambada-­Niebla, also known as “El Vicentillo” or “El Mayito” after his father, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, pleaded guilty a year ago to helping direct a vast drug trafficking operation that smuggled “multiple tons of cocaine” into the United States.

According to the plea deal unsealed Thursday by U.S. attorneys, Zambada-Niebla, facing life in prison, will be eligible for a lesser sentence in exchange for cooperating with the government. Prosecutors also said the 39-year-old agreed not to challenge a $1.37 billion forfeiture judgment against him, assets that U.S. officials said could include cash, real estate, businesses, vehicles and other property.

“Zambada-Niebla admitted that between May 2005 and December 2008, he was a high-level member of the Sinaloa Cartel and was responsible ... Read More

Colombia’s Santos would think twice about killing FARC leader

| April 11th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos said he knows “more or less” where the Marxist FARC’s leader is hiding but would think twice about attacking at this stage of peace talks with the rebel group, a change in tone from an earlier goal of capturing or killing him.

Santos, who is seeking reelection in May, said he has taken the “difficult” decision to kill leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia before, but would consider the progress being made in peace negotiations before killing Rodrigo Londono.

“We know more or less where he is,” Santos said in an interview with local radio LaFM. “I’m not going to say I would take the decision or not take it, but I think that at this stage of the process I’d think twice.”

Londono, known by his war alias as Timochenko, is the chief of the FARC’s seven-member secretariat. Intelligence sources have said he ... Read More

Venezuela protest crackdown threatens region’s democracy, warns Vargas Llosa

| April 11th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Guardian UK

BY DAN COLLYNS

The Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa has warned that Venezuela‘s crackdown on anti-government street protests is a threat to democracy across Latin America.

In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, the Nobel laureate saidNicolás Maduro‘s government was becoming a “messianic dictatorship” intent on spreading its influence across the region.

“If the regime in Venezuela crushes the resistance and becomes a totalitarian regime, I think all democratic Latin American countries would be threatened because the explicit goal of the Venezuelan government is to expand,” he said from his home in the Peruvian capital, Lima. “As our democracies are quite fragile and weak this threat is extremely worrying because it can succeed.”

The 78-year-old lambasted the Organisation of American States’ response to the crisis in Venezuela as “absolutely unacceptable”, adding that the “logical reaction from democratic governments [which make up the OAS] would be a very strong condemnation of what is going on in Venezuela”.

The pan-American ... Read More

Can Venezuela’s televised peace talks end the street protests?

| April 11th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in The Christian Science Monitor

BY ANDREW ROSATI

Seeking to defuse the nation’s worst political unrest in a decade, Venezuela‘s warring politicians are set to meet today in a live television broadcast.

The peace talks, brokered in part by regional leaders, are the latest effort to end nearly two months of anti-government protests that have left at least 39 dead and hundreds more injured.

While opposition leaders had previously rejectedPresident Nicolás Maduro‘s calls for dialogue, he now has the ear of Venezuela’s main opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD). Two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles and other coalition leaders agreed to negotiate with the president in the presence of mediators from Brazil, Colombia andEcuador, and the Vatican.

RECOMMENDED: Think you know Latin America? Take our geography quiz.

Across Venezuela’s political divide, many greeted the announcement of peace talks with relief. But while the talks may offer a respite from ongoing violence, many remain unconvinced they will end the crisis. One reason is that many of the government’s harshest critics are ... Read More

Venezuela lacked good faith in ConocoPhillips seizure – World Bank

| April 10th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in Reuters

BY MARIANNA PARRAGA

Venezuela failed to act in good faith or properly compensate ConocoPhillips for three big oil assets the country expropriated in 2007, a World Bank arbitration panel said on Wednesday

The partial ruling, which limited the scope of the company’s claims by excluding future tax credits, did not determine how much money Venezuela must pay the U.S.-based company.

The company’s projects were taken over during the leftwing administration of deceased former President Hugo Chavez, who led a wave of nationalizations that included the oil, electricity and steel industries.

“The respondent breached its obligation to negotiate in good faith for compensation for its taking of the ConocoPhillips assets in the three projects on the basis of market value,” said the ruling by the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

The company claimed victory, but a final ruling on damages could take one or two more years, according to experts.

“This ruling sends a ... Read More

Venezuela: Dialogue unlikely to bring an end to protests

| April 10th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Economist

Two months into a political crisis that has cost dozens of lives and seen daily clashes between protesters, security forces and armed civilians, the government of the president, Nicolás Maduro, and the opposition Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD) alliance, have at last agreed to the terms of a dialogue. However, with the government unlikely to concede any ground, the talks already appear doomed to failure.

The first formal meeting between the two sides is scheduled to take place on April 10th, and will be broadcast live. The foreign ministers of Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador will be present, and the Vatican has been invited to send a “good-faith witness”, who will probably be the papal nuncio (the Vatican’s permanent diplomatic representative in Caracas).

A step in the right direction

The agreement, which was reached with the help of the Unión de Naciones Suramericanas (Unasur), is a positive one, given that it was unclear ... Read More

Hope fades for Venezuela crisis talks

| April 10th, 2014 | No Comments »
FoxNews.com

BY CHRISTOPHER SNYDER

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and opposition leaders are meeting this week for formal talks to end weeks of protests. Critics of Venezuela’s government believe no deal can be achieved because Maduro is not willing to give in to their demands.

Fox News National Security Analyst KT McFarland spoke to Jose Cardenas about the prospects of an agreement. Cardenas is a former State Department senior adviser and currently serves as an associate with Vision Americas.

“I’m very pessimistic that this dialogue will lead to anything credible and lasting,” Cardenas said. “These [talks] are mostly for international consumption.”

Cardenas sees the current protests as “spontaneous,” not organized by the country’s opposition as the government alleges. “These are students who have no overt political agenda,” Cardenas said.

“I’m very pessimistic that this dialogue will lead to anything credible and lasting.”- Jose Cardenas

The protesters are demanding Maduro loosen his control over the economy and media. “The government somehow needs to ... Read More

Venezuela government and opposition to begin peace talks Thursday on live TV

| April 10th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

BY JIM WYSS

Venezuela’s government and factions of the opposition will sit down Thursday — on live national television — to try to dig their way out of a months-long political crisis that has paralyzed parts of the country and left dozens dead.

If the contentious and controversial talks do succeed, some of the credit will have to go to the long arm of late-President Hugo Chávez.

The organization that helped broker the meeting is the Union of South American Nations, or Unasur, which Chávez helped create in 2008 to challenge the role of the Organization of American States in the region.

Unasur took center stage in the current crisis after a delegation of foreign ministers began trying to bring both sides together in March.

By most accounts, it was a savvy move by the administration of Nicolás Maduro, which has been under growing pressure to break the impasse. By letting Unasur take the lead, ... Read More

Peru: President Humala Should Push for More Economic Freedom

| April 10th, 2014 | No Comments »
Heritage Foundation

BY JAMES M. ROBERTS & EDWAR ENRIQUE ESCALANTE

When Peruvian president Ollanta Humala took office three years ago, some feared the worst. After all, during his first presidential run in 2006, Humala (a former Peruvian army officer) had donned the fire-breathing mantle of the populist, “Bolivarian” left that was personified by Venezuela’s then-president (and also ex-army officer) Hugo Chávez.

So although Humala lost the 2006 election and then moved to the center and won as a more moderate-sounding candidate when he ran again in 2011, no one knew for sure how he would govern. Would he remain a centrist (à la Lula in Brazil) or veer hard left? Now the world knows the answer.

Humala Has Stayed the Course for Economic Freedom

When Humala took office in 2011, the country was ranked 41st out of 178 countries worldwide in The Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal 2011 Index of Economic Freedom[1] and had made steady progress, up from 45th ... Read More

Sending Ideas to Cuba

| April 10th, 2014 | No Comments »
National Review

BY MIKE GONZALEZ

Cubans have lived on an information desert island for more than 50 years. Ten million people, once a vibrant part of the world — in tune with it and contributing to it, receiving information and even immigrants — were cut off soon after Fidel Castro took over in 1959. That the world has done nothing to help them after five decades of oppression is an outrage.

What is not an outrage is that the United States Agency for International Development tried four years ago to circumvent Communist censorship in Cuba by setting up a text-messaging network that Cubans could access. This “Cuban Twitter” was a ray of hope that should be celebrated.

Not apparently by the Associated Press and others who have cried foul. The news agency exposed the program last week under the headline “US secretly created ‘Cuban Twitter’ to stir unrest.” This week the U.S. Senate got in on the ... Read More

Post-Chavez, Venezuela Enters a Downward Spiral

| April 9th, 2014 | No Comments »
InterAmerican Security Watch

Beginning in mid-February, Venezuela has experienced a stream of social demonstrations that have left about 30 people dead and hundreds wounded or under arrest, opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez among them. The incidents are being called the largest wave of protests in Venezuela in the last decade.

Much like the social revolts that have occurred elsewhere in the world, students were the first in Venezuela to take their frustrations to the streets. They were later joined by others who were similarly concerned with the country’s high crime rate, galloping inflation and chronic shortages of basic goods. According to the country’s Central Bank, nearly 30% of all products — or their substitutes — cannot be purchased in Venezuela.

These economic problems are not necessarily new — such imbalances already existed when Hugo Chavez, who had led the country since 1999, died of cancer last March. But the challenges have recently become more acute. “Venezuela ... Read More

Senadores Critican a Rafael Correa por Abuso a los Derechos Humanos

| April 9th, 2014 | No Comments »
From BuzzFeed

Por Rosie Gray

Un grupo de senadores están pidiendo al presidente del Ecuador que rinda cuentas en términos de violaciones a derechos humanos y que repare su relación con los Estados Unidos con motivo de su visita al país esta semana, de acuerdo con una carta obtenida por BuzzFeed.

Los senadores Robert Menéndez , Marco Rubio , Richard Durbin , Mark Kirk , Tim Kaine , Jim Inhofe , Patrick Leahy , y John Cornyn firmaron una carta dirigida al presidente de Ecuador, Rafael Correa, para pedirle que ” tome medidas significativas para fortalecer el respeto de su gobierno a los principios democráticos y que reconstruya nuestras relaciones bilaterales de una manera que de prioridad a las aspiraciones compartidas de nuestro pueblo por la libertad, la seguridad y las oportunidades económicas”.

Los senadores criticaron a Correa por poner fin a la misión de la USAID en Ecuador y por el arresto de Clever ... Read More

Senators Criticize Visiting Ecuadorian President Over Human Rights

| April 9th, 2014 | No Comments »

BY ROSIE GRAY

A group of senators are calling upon the president of Ecuador to account for human rights abuses and mend his relationship with the United States on the occasion of his visit to the country this week, according to a letter obtained by BuzzFeed.

Senators Robert Menendez, Marco Rubio, Richard Durbin, Mark Kirk, Tim Kaine, Jim Inhofe, Patrick Leahy, and John Cornyn all signed a letter addressed to Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa on Tuesday calling on him to “take meaningful steps to strengthen your government’s respect for democratic principles and rebuild our bilateral relations in a manner that prioritizes our people’s shared aspirations for freedom, security, and economic opportunities.”

The senators criticized Correa for ending the USAID mission in Ecuador and for the convictions of a trio of men — politician Clever Jimenez, journalist Fernando Villavicencio, and Dr. Carlos Figueroa — on charges of defaming Correa’s government. Villavicencio described the raid ... Read More

Venezuela factions agree to formal talks to end months’ long crisis

| April 9th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

BY JIM WYSS

In what might be the first step toward ending Venezuela’s two-month-long political crisis, the government and opposition leaders agreed Tuesday to begin formal peace talks that will be mediated by the Vatican and the foreign ministers of Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador.

The agreement came after the two sides held an “exploratory meeting”’ earlier in the day to lay the groundwork for negotiations.

As he left the meeting, Vice President Jorge Arreaza said the talks would “touch on every issue that’s of interest to the country” and “lead toward justice and peace.”

Arreaza said the date of the first meeting would be set this week.

Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, the executive director of the coalition of opposition parties known as the MUD, said both sides had agreed to televise their first formal meeting.

“This process has to take place in front of the world and Venezuela,” he said.

Even at this preliminary stage, however, some opposition ... Read More

Salvadoran govt: Gang truce hasn’t worked

| April 9th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press

The government of El Salvador said Monday that the truce between the country’s main Mara street gangs hasn’t worked, and that killings and attacks against police have risen again.

The pacts between the Mara Salvatrucha and the rival Mara 18 gang had been widely hailed as a success in cutting homicide rates almost in half. But the Public Safety and Justice Ministry said in a statement published Monday in newspapers that the gangs have increased their violence and adopted a policy of attacking law enforcement officers.

“The National Police force has received information and evidence that the gangs have increased their criminal acts,” according to the ministry statement. “Some groups within the gangs have instructions to directly attack police, military personnel and public servants, with the aim of putting pressure on the incoming administration” of President-elect Salvador Sanchez Ceren, who is scheduled to take office in June.

Miguel Fortin, the director of the ... Read More

Mexico’s Energy Revolution: A Tank Half-Full

| April 9th, 2014 | No Comments »
Forbes

BY DWIGHT DYER, MICHAEL MORAN, & GAVIN STRONG

For the last few years, the challenging security situation has been the headline issue in Mexico. Turf wars between increasingly-fragmented cartels—enfeebled by the capture or killing of high-profile kingpins—not to mention the recent proliferation of vigilante groups, have overshadowed the remarkable progress that President Enrique Peña Nieto’s government has made on other fronts. Last year, Peña Nieto forged a broad political consensus around a set of revolutionary constitutional reforms touching everything from the country’s economy to its educational system to its fiscal management. Reforms to the energy sector have generated particular excitement, opening the door to foreign participation in the country’s energy industry and raising hopes of a new round of growth that will benefit Mexico and foreign investors alike.

These are indeed exciting times for Mexico, but as we explain in a new report, any exuberance about the country’s prospects should be tempered ... Read More

Cuba Social Media Project Was No Plot, Agency Says

| April 9th, 2014 | No Comments »
The New York Times

BY RON NIXON

A Twitter-like social media site created and financed by the United States Agency for International Development for use in Cuba was an attempt to promote open communications among citizens on the island nation, not a covert attempt to overthrow the government, the agency’s top official told members of Congress during a hearing on Tuesday.

Appearing before both the Senate and House appropriations subcommittees, Rajiv Shah, U.S.A.I.D.’s administrator, told members that the program was similar to others that the agency has financed in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

“These programs are part of our mission to promote open communications,” he said.

Dr. Shah said he did not know who had created the Cuban program, as it was conceived before his appointment as administrator. He insisted, however, that “there was no covert activity that took place.”

But Senator Patrick ... Read More

Harvard to Host Correa, but No Free Press in Ecuador Can Cover It

| April 8th, 2014 | No Comments »
Heritage Foundation

BY MICHAEL F. MO

The Washington Free Beacon reported last week that President of Ecuador Rafael Correa will address the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at Harvard’s Institute of Politics next week.

The director of media relations at Harvard, Doug Gavel, told the Free Beacon that a fundamental tenet of Harvard’s Kennedy School is the “free exchange of ideas.” He also pointed out “in keeping with that educational mission, the school has a long and proud tradition of providing a venue for leaders from around the world to speak to and interact with the community on important public policy issues.”

However, will anyone at Harvard ask Correa about the lack of political and economic freedom in Ecuador?

President Correa is known for his anti-American rhetoric and crackdown on press freedoms. According to the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom, Ecuador’s economic freedom score ranks 159th worldwide and 26th in Latin America. Its property rights score and freedom from corruption score ... Read More

U.S. helping Colombia quell Marxist guerrilla group

| April 8th, 2014 | No Comments »
Article Appeared in The Washington Times

BY ABRAHAM MAHSHIE

This impoverished port town on the Pacific coast has become ground zero for the Colombian government’s U.S.-funded efforts to quell a Marxist guerrilla rebellion and eradicate the drug trade, which serves as the group’s main source of financing.

Caught in the middle are Tumaco’s 100,000 or so residents.

Half of them live in poverty in Colombia’s “red zone,” where deadly violence is a constant threat. Late last month, two police officers were kidnapped and executed on the outskirts of town. Two other officers met the same fate in February. Guerrillas pay $1,000 to anyone who kills a cop, police say.

“The national government has practically abandoned us,” said Santo Banguera, 50, an Afro-Colombian farmer who cultivates a small plot of land and lives with his wife and four sons in a wooden shack. “There is fear here.”

Focus on Tumaco has intensified amid peace talks between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces ... Read More

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