Content from IASW Contributors

Securing the border: Understanding and addressing the root causes of Central American migration to the United States

By Roger F. Noriega Testimony by Roger F. Noriega
Mr. Chairman, I commend you and your Committee for organizing a series of hearings this week to focus attention on the fundamental responsibility of securing our borders. I also would like to begin my testimony by recognizing the service of the U.S. government officials who testify before you today. I know from experience that their jobs are critical to our security, and I thank them for their service to our nation.
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Washington’s $1 Billion Central America Challenge

By José R. CárdenasBy José R. Cárdenas
The Senate Homeland Security Committee is holding a series of timely hearings this week revisiting the summer 2014 border crisis to ensure that, should there be a next time, the Obama administration won’t get caught napping again. That crisis saw thousands of illegal Central American immigrants, including many unaccompanied minors, surging across the United States’ southern border, overwhelming local authorities and inflaming the broader debate over immigration. Read More-->

Haiti making ‘measurable gains’ towards 2015 elections, UN envoy tells Security Council

| March 19th, 2015 | No Comments »
United Nations

The Government of Haiti has made progress towards the holding of elections critical for the country’s stability and development, the top United Nations official in the Caribbean nation told the Security Council today.

Presenting the Secretary-General’s report on the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), Sandra Honoré reported that the country had made “measurable gains towards the holding of long-overdue elections” by the end of 2015, despite the lingering “uncertainty” caused by the absence of a functioning Parliament.

The first-round vote has been scheduled for 9 August, setting the stage for legislative, presidential and local elections to be held this year.

“The prerequisites for the holding of elections this year have been established,” Ms. Honoré said, admitting that although some political parties had voiced discontent over the political calendar, most had signalled their intent to take part in the elections.

“I call on all political actors to continue a genuine dialogue and a transparent and consultative ... Read More

Argentina wants to hold Citigroup hostage

| March 19th, 2015 | No Comments »
Business Insider

By Linette Lopez

This is probably not the best way to attract foreign business to your country.

Citigroup has found itself in an incredibly uncomfortable position in the case between Argentina and a group of hedge fund creditors suing the country for over $1.3 billion in defaulted debt.

The bank wants to leave Argentina, but Buenos Aires says that’s not happening.

Citigroup wants to exit its custody business in Argentina because, as it said in a statement, the bank faces an “unprecedented international conflict of laws” in its current position.

Argentina insists that the bank distribute funds to a select few of Argentina’s creditors. A US court ruling prevents Citi from doing that.

So Citi sees exit as its only option. But a senior Argentine government source told Reuters that The Republic won’t allow Citigroup to leave.

“There is no way we will let them exit their ... Read More

Brazil’s President Dilma Ready For Economic Reboot

| March 19th, 2015 | No Comments »
Forbes

BY KENNETH RAPOZA

If there is one thing people can agree on about Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff it is that she is stubborn. But after a weekend of protests, with some calling for her impeachment, Dilma admits she’s not infallible.

Even though the hundreds of thousands of Brazilians that took to the streets Sunday were mainly protesting against corruption, one of the things Dilma addressed on Monday was her economy.  She said she “might have overdosed” on economic measures during her first term. It was a more like a half-confession, but a notable one. Dilma is ready to do things differently.

Her overdose had its merits. Most of it was the handiwork of Guido Mantega, the Finance Minister who fought a brave fight in the currency war. That was when a weak dollar was making the Brazilian real too strong. China was busy with its soft landing. ... Read More

Brazilian Opposition Urges Probe of Rousseff

| March 19th, 2015 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01

By PAULO TREVISANI

BRASÍLIA—Political opponents of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff are pressuring authorities to investigate her in connection with a widening corruption scandal that has sunk her approval ratings and threatens to engulf her government.

Opposition leaders are asking Brazil’s Supreme Court to give the green light to prosecutors to determine whether the president played a role in a ring that allegedly looted millions of dollars from state-controlled oil giant Petróleo Brasileiro SA and funneled bribes to politicians.

Ms. Rousseff has repeatedly denied knowledge of the alleged scam and hasn’t been implicated. Brazil’s Supreme Court, which must authorize probes of high-ranking politicians, didn’t include her this month on a list of 48 lawmakers to be investigatedin the scandal, dubbed “Operation Car Wash.” Suspects who cut plea deals have told prosecutors the bribe payments were diverted to her campaign, according to transcripts. But prosecutors and the Supreme Court concluded that there wasn’t enough evidence to justify a probe of Ms. ... Read More

Questions over US-Cuba talks amid Venezuela dispute

| March 19th, 2015 | No Comments »
Article originally appeared in the Associated Press

By PETER ORSI and ANDREA RODRIGUEZ

HAVANA (AP) — It has been a strange few days for U.S.-Cuba relations that are meant to be on the mend.

First, the two sides emerged from surprise talks in Havana on Monday with nothing to say about progress toward reopening embassies after more than a half-century hiatus. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson returned to Washington as quietly as she arrived.

Cuban President Raul Castro, meanwhile, jetted off to a summit of leftist leaders in Venezuela on Tuesday to lambast U.S. policy toward Venezuela, his island’s top ally. The U.S. recently declared the South American nation a threat to its national security and levied sanctions on seven Venezuelan officials.

The whole thing had some observers scratching their heads, wondering whether there is now an obstacle blocking the road to detente.

The two countries announced their intent to ... Read More

Communiqué from the Venezuelan Student Movement

| March 18th, 2015 | No Comments »
Movimiento_Estudiantil

Dear representatives of the Member States of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR),

The Venezuelan Student Movement takes this opportunity to address the UNASUR and express our rejection to the resolutions issued on Saturday March 14 by this organization regarding the sanctions implemented by the United States against officials from the government of Nicolas Maduro, and the classification of our nation as a threat to the national security of the United States.

These biased resolutions make us question the assumption that UNASUR is a privileged mechanism for dialogue. In the resolutions the systematic violations of our rights are not recognized, which include repression, persecution, imprisonment and unfortunately the loss of 44 lives so far, adding to the latter the death of the student Kluiberth Roa, who was murdered by state security forces protected by Decree 8610. Isn’t this precisely the sort of political persecution that UNASUR should condemn? Isn’t the mission ... Read More

Venezuela: Comunicado del Movimiento Estudiantil

| March 18th, 2015 | No Comments »
Movimiento_Estudiantil

Estimados Representantes de los Estados Miembros de la Unión de Naciones Suramericanas (UNASUR),

En esta oportunidad el Movimiento Estudiantil venezolano vuelve a dirigirse a ustedes para pronunciarse en rechazo a las resoluciones emitidas el sábado 14 de marzo del presente año, respecto a las sanciones aplicadas por los Estados Unidos de Norteamérica contra funcionarios pertenecientes al gobierno de Nicolás Maduro Moros, así como el señalamiento de esa misma decisión de colocar a nuestra nación como un riesgo para la seguridad interna de Estados Unidos.

Estas resoluciones, parcializadas con un solo factor de la realidad venezolana, cuestionan seriamente el postulado de que UNASUR es un mecanismo privilegiado para el diálogo. En las resoluciones no se reconocen las violaciones sistemáticas a nuestros derechos, a través de la represión, persecución, encarcelamiento y desgraciadamente la pérdida de 44 vidas, hasta la fecha, sumando el último caso del joven bachiller Kluiberth Roa, asesinado por fuerzas de seguridad ... Read More

As Argentina and Hedge Funds Battle, Citigroup Bows Out

| March 18th, 2015 | No Comments »
The New York Times

By ALEXANDRA STEVENSON

The nasty battle between Argentina and a group of New York hedge funds has claimed another victim: Citigroup.

The bank said on Tuesday that it would shut its custody business in Argentina after a federal judge in New York last week rejected its request to lift an order that prevented the bank from making interest payments to investors holding $2.3 billion in Argentine notes.

Citing an “unprecedented international conflict of laws,” Citigroup said its Argentine branch was making plans to close the custody business “as soon as possible,” according to a statement emailed on Tuesday. It will continue to pursue “all legal remedies,” the bank added.

The bruising defeat for Citigroup follows a decision by Judge Thomas P. Griesa of the Federal District Court in Manhattan last summer to block all interest payments on Argentine debt, a ruling that set ... Read More

The big picture behind Brazil’s protests

| March 18th, 2015 | No Comments »
From CNN

Over a million Brazilians protested in the streets Sunday, calling for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff.

A massive corruption case involving the president helped spark the protests, but Brazilians also marched out of frustration that Brazil’s economic boom is over.

South America’s largest economy was last decade’s emerging market darling. Now it’s edging toward recession and its currency is losing value quickly. The corruption scandal and economic collapse are creating a perfect storm for public unrest.

Commodity crisis: Brazil is the world’s largest producer of sugar, coffee, soybeans and near the top in iron ore and oil. Despite a rising middle class, Brazil is still a commodities export economy.

Its biggest trading partner is China, which is slowing down right now. That’s decreasing demand for Brazil’s goods, causing prices to tank.

Sugar prices are down 24% from a year ago. Coffee is down 29% to $1.35 per pound. Soybeans — you guessed it ... Read More

New photos reveal expanding reach of Iran in Venezuela and other parts of Latin America

| March 18th, 2015 | No Comments »
From Fox News Latino

By Catherine Herridge

As the Obama administration seeks a deal with Iran on its nuclear program, new congressional testimony, documents and photos show Tehran is expanding its reach into South America by advising rogue regimes on suppressing anti-government protests and financing secretive military facilities.

Rep. Jeff Duncan, a Republican from South Carolina, cited this evidence when questioning the notion that Iran has changed its ways as President Barack Obama and his team advance negotiations which may include dropping Iran from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism.

“We have a negotiation going on with Iran,” Duncan told Fox News. “We don’t want anything to interfere with that.”

“And so we’re going to say their influence in this hemisphere is waning,”  Duncan said, referring to the administration’s argument. “The narrative doesn’t work when you start looking at all the pieces of the puzzle that fit together of Iran’s ... Read More

Rubio, others push more White House action on Venezuela

| March 18th, 2015 | No Comments »
McClatchy

By Chris Adams

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan panel of the U.S. Senate applauded a recent move by the White House to sanction the Venezuelans cracking down on protesters in that country, but they said much more could be done.

Members of a subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said in a Tuesday hearing that the action last week to apply sanctions on seven Venezuelan officials – including the heads of military intelligence and the police – was promising. Still, they urged more names be added to the sanctions list, and said the U.S. should do a better job explaining to Latin American countries why the move was necessary.

The executive order freezes the assets of officials implicated in the crack-down on protests last year that left more than 40 people dead on both sides and sparked the jailing of prominent opposition figures.

Led by Republican Marco Rubio of Florida, as well as Democrats Barbara Boxer ... Read More

How Obama’s Cuba Deal Is Strengthening Its Military

| March 18th, 2015 | No Comments »
Politico

In the hit 1992 movie A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson’s fictional Colonel Jessup famously declares: “I eat breakfast 300 yards from 4,000 Cubans who are trained to kill me.” The Cuban officers I met never gave me that impression. As the State Department’s former representative to negotiations with Cuba’s military, I can tell you that our discussions were typically convivial and constructive. And today, President Barack Obama’s initiative to normalize relations with Havana has presented the United States with a truly mind-boggling prospect: Our most reliable partner on that long-isolated island is probably going to be the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias, Cuba’s military establishment.

And soon they’re going to be making a lot of money.

The Communist Party of Cuba may constitute the country’s political leadership, but it is seen increasingly as an anachronism by the population, and after Fidel Castro, 88, ... Read More

Obama’s Wake-Up Call to Venezuela’s Neighbors

| March 16th, 2015 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

The White House’s executive order on Monday authorizing sanctions on Venezuelan officials names only seven people. Its real target may be Venezuela’s neighbors, whose tacit acceptance of the Bolivarian Republic’s bad behavior undermines U.S. efforts to change it.

No one can accuse the U.S. of acting hastily. Even as Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro cracked down on anti-government protesters and opposition members last year, U.S. President Barack Obama let other Latin American nations take the lead in trying to ease tensions, with nugatory results. Only in July, as Congress considered sanctions legislation, did the State Department restrict travel to the U.S. by Venezuelan officials it deemed complicit in human-rights abuses. In February, it expanded that list to 56. Monday’s executive order comes three months after Congress passed a law calling for sanctions, and goes beyond it by also taking aim at those involved in corruption.

Predictably, Maduro has responded to escalating U.S. pressure by blaming it for ... Read More

The Teheran-Caracas-Buenos Aires Connection

| March 16th, 2015 | No Comments »
By Rodrigo Rangel VEJA Brazil

By Leonardo Coutinho

Argentinians have been wondering for the last two months what happened on January 18, the day in which federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman was found dead in the bathroom of his apartment in Buenos Aires. Only four days previously, he had presented the justice ministry with an indictment against president Cristina Kirchner and another four people he accused of covering up Iran´s participation in the terrorist attack which resulted in 85 deaths and 300 wounded in the headquarters of the Israeli Argentina Mutual Association (Amia) in 1994. Nisman explained in his document that, besides the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding that would allow Iran to interfere in the investigation of the case, the Islamic Republic wanted the Argentinians to remove the names of five Iranians and one Lebanese from the list of people wanted by Interpol. The Argentinian government went out of its way to disparage his ... Read More

One million join anti-Rousseff protests in Brazil

| March 16th, 2015 | No Comments »
Financial Times

By Samantha Pearson and Aline Rocha in São Paulo

More than a million protesters took to the streets of Brazil on Sunday to call for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, as anger intensifies over increasing economic hardship and the multibillion-dollar corruption scandal at state oil company Petrobras.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators swarmed around ministerial buildings in the capital Brasília, along Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, and other major cities across at least 25 of Brazil’s 26 states. More than 1m people protested in São Paulo alone — equivalent to one in 20 people in the city’s greater metropolitan region, according to military police.

Families, the elderly and activist groups — many dressed in Brazil’s national green and yellow colours — waved flags and balloons, held up banners against the government and sung the national anthem in what was largely a peaceful protest.

“Dilma and her PT party have taken away any pride ... Read More

Joe Biden’s Solution to Central-American Chaos

| March 16th, 2015 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01

By MARY ANASTASIA O’GRADY

Joe Biden’s trip to Guatemala this month—during which he dangled $1 billion in aid before the presidents of three Central American countries—has been overshadowed by what may seem like more pressing events elsewhere in the world. But the chaos in this region, the land bridge between North and South America, is inviting a major breach in hemispheric security. Leaving the U.S. response up to Mr. Biden and the State Department while the rest of the government isn’t paying much attention is risky.

Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador make up what security experts call “the northern triangle.” In a July 2014 essay in the Military Times, Gen. John Kelly, who heads the U.S. Southern Command, noted that these countries have the No. 1, 4 and 5 highest murder rates in the world. The reason for the hyper-violence is simple: These frail democracies are fighting an existential threat from organized crime.

Waves of refugees, ... Read More

More Fighter Jets in Nicaragua, Second-Poorest Country in the Americas

| March 16th, 2015 | No Comments »
Inter Press Service

By José Adán Silva

MANAGUA, Mar 14 2015 (IPS) - Nicaragua, the second-poorest country in the Americas, is tapping into its depleted coffers to upgrade its ageing military fleet with costly new equipment from Russia – a move that has sparked controversy at home and concern among the country’s Central American neighbours.

The decision was officially confirmed Feb. 10 by the Nicaraguan army chief, General Adolfo Zepeda.

When rumours spread in the international media that Managua was seeking to acquire a fleet of six to 12 MiG-29 fighter jets, Zepeda acknowledged that they were looking for warplanes for “defensive” purposes: to intercept drug trafficking flights by cartels in the country’s Caribbean region. He also said the military planned to buy gunboats. No further details were offered.

The announcement drew criticism from civilian sectors in Nicaragua and Central America, which argued that the poorest country in the Americas after Haiti shouldn’t be trying to buy fighter planes, ... Read More

Now Argentina Can’t Even Pay Bonds in Argentina

| March 16th, 2015 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

By Matt Levine

U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa issued an opinion yesterday in the long-running Argentine bond dispute. Here is a paragraph that I found pretty stunning:

As discussed, the operative paragraphs of the Injunction do not speak in terms of “external indebtedness,” and as a result, Citibank’s participation in making payments on exchange bonds is prohibited. This is true whether or not the exchange bonds are external indebtedness. Nonetheless, the court finds that the vast majority of exchange bonds governed by Argentine law and payable in U.S. dollars would not constitute DFCI, but rather would qualify as external indebtedness of the Republic. Thus, payment on these exchange bonds would violate the Equal Treatment Provision of the FAA, providing an additional reason as to why the Injunction applies.

That needs some unpacking, which we’ll get to, but first I want to talk about that bold sentence (my emphasis): It means, even if Griesa is wrong about stopping Citibank ... Read More

Energy Market Reforms Keep Mexico’s Optimism High Despite Oil Price Slump

| March 16th, 2015 | No Comments »
Forbes

By Gaurav Sharma

Oil markets are grappling with volatility, major and minor companies are queuing up to announce capital expenditure cuts and the public is awash with market commentary predicting just about everything from an oil price slump to $20 per barrel to an imminent return to $100. One oil exporting jurisdiction is quietly, confidently and cautiously attempting to get its own house in order – Mexico.

Most pragmatists would argue that the country’s recent energy sector reforms were long overdue. From being the world’s sixth largest exporter in barrels of oil equivalent terms as recently as 2004, Mexico went backwards slipping to tenth and barely clinging on to its position within the global league table last year (see Bar Chart 1 below).

In a country used to false dawns, and there have been several, President Enrique Peña Nieto promised wholesale reform of the sector and revitalization of the state-owned oil ... Read More

Why Venezuela is the world’s worst performing economy, in three charts

| March 16th, 2015 | No Comments »
Quartz

By Jason Karaian

There is a roaring trade in Venezuelan goods along the country’s border with Colombia. That is in stark contrast to the general malaise of the economy in the rest of the country.

By many measures, Venezuela’s economy is the most sickly in the world. From the value of its currency (sinking), to its inflation (scorching) and GDP (shrinking), Venezuela ranks at or near the bottom of just about every important financial indicator out there, performing worse even than Argentina, Greece, or Ukraine.

The battered bolívar

The most striking sign of the country’s financial crisis is its rapidly weakening currency, which has lost more than 60% of its value against the dollar on the black market over the past six months. This is not immediately apparent in official figures. Venezuela’s convoluted three-tier exchange system suggests that the bolívar is much stronger than this, thanks ... Read More

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