Raúl the Reformer and Other Cuban Fables

Raúl the Reformer and Other Cuban Fables

By José R. Cárdenas

3/16/2017

In the run-up to President Obama’s decision to reverse U.S. policy toward Cuba in December 2014, the American public was fed a steady diet of assurances by Cuba experts. Raúl Castro, who succeeded his brother Fidel in 2008, was “a pragmatic reformer,” they maintained — he recognized the country’s desperate need for change. Despite the lack of evidence that Raúl was ever anything but a hardline, murderous Communist, the experts insisted that he would boldly usher in ...  

Trump’s Top Trade Adviser Quietly Seeks an Alliance With Mexico

Trump’s Top Trade Adviser Quietly Seeks an Alliance With Mexico

President Donald Trump’s top trade adviser is quietly working to forge an alliance with Mexico, even as U.S. plans to build a border wall and threats to withdraw from Nafta continue to inflame tensions with its third-largest trading partner.

Peter Navarro, who as head of the White House National Trade Council will play a leading role in the effort to re-negotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, said in an interview the U.S. wants Mexico and Canada to unite in a ...  

Trump may weaken OAS — and efforts to restore democracy in Venezuela

Trump may weaken OAS — and efforts to restore democracy in Venezuela

Just when the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS) is beginning to champion regional efforts to restore democracy in Venezuela, the Trump administration is proposing drastic U.S. budget cuts for international organizations that could paralyze the institution.

President Donald Trump is asking Congress to cut 50 percent of U.S. funding for the State Department’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs, which pays U.S. dues to the United Nations, the OAS and other international and regional groups, according to news reports disclosed by ...  

Venezuelan government controls more than 500 businesses — and most are losing money

Venezuelan government controls more than 500 businesses — and most are losing money

Bicycles, coffee, medicine, cellphones, aerospace components, petroleum, milk, hotels. Venezuela’s state-run companies are producing a dizzying array of products and services, as the socialist administration has morphed into a sprawling conglomerate that would be the envy of any capitalist.

The nonprofit Transparency International says it has identified at least 511 companies that are either wholly or majority owned by the government of Venezuela — and 70 percent of them are losing money, potentially adding to Venezuela’s economic meltdown.

The sheer number of ...  

Brazil prosecutor targets politicians in Petrobras scandal

Brazil prosecutor targets politicians in Petrobras scandal

Brazil’s top prosecutor has asked the Supreme Court to open 83 new investigations into politicians as part of a long-running corruption probe involving state oil giant Petrobras.

The names were mentioned in plea bargain testimony of former executives of construction firm Odebrecht, but have not been made public. It is unclear if they include ministers in President Michel Temer’s government. The Operation Car Wash investigates overpriced contracts at Petrobras.

Supreme Court Judge Edson Fachin, in charge of the case, is due to ...  

OAS head calls on members to suspend Venezuela

OAS head calls on members to suspend Venezuela

The head of the Organization of American States on Tuesday called on members of the Washington-based group to suspend Venezuela, citing the nation’s continued political crisis and failure to hold elections.

In a 75-page report, Luis Almagro said attempts at diplomacy in Venezuela “had not produced any progress,” and that President Nicolás Maduro should hold general elections “as soon as possible.”

Read More: Venezuela government runs more than 500 companies

The socialist administration shut down opposition efforts to hold a presidential recall, and ...  

Short of Options, Venezuela Opposition Stages Flash Protests

Short of Options, Venezuela Opposition Stages Flash Protests

CARACAS (Reuters) – A dozen activists alight surreptitiously from cars, walk determinedly toward Venezuela’s heavily-guarded Food Ministry, and dump two bags of garbage at its front entrance.

Soldiers quickly form a cordon and a young opposition lawmaker pounds their riot shields with his fists as government supporters appear from nowhere, throwing punches at the protesters.

The activists, who use garbage to symbolize how people are scavenging for food because of Venezuela’s economic crisis, chant “The People Are Hungry!” and “Democracy!” After a ...  

Mexico Lays Out Faster Nafta Deal Timeline Than U.S. Signals

Mexico Lays Out Faster Nafta Deal Timeline Than U.S. Signals

Mexico’s chief diplomat said that the nation hopes formal talks to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement will begin at mid-year and wrap up by December, projecting a more ambitious timetable than the one suggested by Donald Trump’s top commerce official.

Based on conversations with the White House, Mexico is looking to start formal Nafta talks in late June or early July, spend several months working and complete them toward year end, Foreign Relations Minister Luis Videgaray said in Washington ...  

FIU conference examines how to keep the Americas more secure

FIU conference examines how to keep the Americas more secure

With challenges from drug, arms and people trafficking, corruption, poverty and potential terrorism threatening the countries of the Americas, the military deputy commander of the U.S. Southern Command said Thursday that the nations of the region can’t go it alone and need to help each other.

Speaking at Florida International University’s Hemispheric Security Conference, Lt. Gen. Joseph P. DiSalvo said that over the last two years “partner nations are realizing they can’t do it alone. We can’t do it alone.”

That potentially ...  

Bulls Reign in Brazil as Reform Push Overshadows Graft Scandal

Bulls Reign in Brazil as Reform Push Overshadows Graft Scandal

It’s hard to find a pessimist among Brazil investors these days, even though there’s plenty to be worried about.

Traders who pushed the real and Ibovespa stock index to some of the world’s biggest gains over the past year see a rosy outlook for President Michel Temer’s chances of pushing through pension, labor and tax reforms that are needed for Brazil to regain investment-grade status. They’re ignoring signs of a sluggish economy, chaotic politics and a new chapter in a corruption ...  

Order for Venezuela to pay Exxon $1.4 bln in damages overturned

Order for Venezuela to pay Exxon $1.4 bln in damages overturned

A World Bank tribunal’s order for Venezuela to pay $1.4 billion in damages to Exxon Mobil Corp over nationalizations has been annulled, a lawyer for the Venezuelan government said on Thursday.

The case at the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes is one of many arising from nationalizations during late President Hugo Chavez’s 1999-2013 rule of the South American OPEC member country.

“We were confident all along that our position was correct and are very pleased that the annulment ...  

Senior US Diplomat Informs Colombia of Possible Cuts in Anti-Drug Aid

Senior US Diplomat Informs Colombia of Possible Cuts in Anti-Drug Aid

BOGOTA – The United States’ government has informed Colombia of possible cuts in anti-drug aid and said the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was still considered a major drug-trafficking organization and an international terrorist group.

Those remarks by US Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement William Brownfield were published Wednesday by Colombian daily El Tiempo.

Brownfield met Tuesday with Colombian Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas and is scheduled to meet Wednesday with the Andean ...  

Colombia produces most of the world’s cocaine — and output is at a record-high

Colombia produces most of the world’s cocaine — and output is at a record-high

Colombia is the world’s top producer of cocaine, and cultivation of coca, the drug’s base product, has hit record levels two years in a row.

The area under coca cultivation grew 39% in 2014 and 42% in 2015, hitting 392,897.5 acres, according to the US State Department’s annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report.

2015′s increase was the largest single-year spike on record.

Potential pure cocaine production in 2015 was 495 metric tons — 185 metric tons more than in 2014.

The Colombian government also ...  

Illegal border crossings decrease by 40 percent in Trump’s first month, report says

Illegal border crossings decrease by 40 percent in Trump’s first month, report says

The number of people illegally crossing the U.S. southern border has dropped 40 percent in President Trump’s first full month in office, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Wednesday.

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol reported that the number of illegal border crossings dropped from 31,578 to 18,762 persons. Kelly said border agents usually see a 10 to 20 percent increase in illegal immigrant apprehensions from January to February.

“The drop in apprehensions shows a marked change in trends,” Kelly said. “Since the ...  

Drug trafficker says he bribed Honduran president and son

Drug trafficker says he bribed Honduran president and son

NEW YORK — A man who led a violent Honduran drug trafficking organization has told a federal court in New York that he bribed a president of the Central American country.

Devis Rivera Maradiaga, a onetime leader of a gang known as the Cachiros, made the allegation while testifying Monday in a pre-sentencing hearing for the son of now retired Honduran President Porfirio Lobo Sosa. The son has pleaded guilty to cocaine smuggling.

Rivera said he paid Lobo and the son to ...  

‘El Chapo’ extradition throws Sinaloa Cartel — and Mexico — into violent spiral

‘El Chapo’ extradition throws Sinaloa Cartel — and Mexico — into violent spiral

Situated almost equidistant between Culiacán and the Gulf of California, the small Mexican city of Navolato is a sleepy place known mainly for agriculture, banda music and as a pass-through for vacationers heading to the towns along the coast.

But in late February the town became synonymous with Mexico’s violent drug war – and for what could be the first shots in a battle for control of the notorious Sinaloa Cartel – when a bloody shootout erupted in the middle of ...  

Brazil tumbles deeper into its worst ever depression

Brazil tumbles deeper into its worst ever depression

Brazil’s economy has fallen further into its worst ever recession, contracting by 3.6 percent in 2016 and pressure is mounting on policymakers to stimulate growth.

The former Latin American powerhouse recorded a steeper-than-expected decline of 0.9 percent gross domestic product (GDP) in the final quarter of last year, intensifying the economic contraction that has imbued Brazil for eight consecutive quarters – the longest period of decline on record for the country.

Brazil’s economy is now 8 percent smaller than it was in ...  

Oil-for-loan debts cost Venezuela’s PDVSA hard-won India market share

Oil-for-loan debts cost Venezuela’s PDVSA hard-won India market share

CARACAS/HOUSTON/NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Venezuela’s state-run oil company, PDVSA, has spent at least a decade trying to build business ties and boost shipments to refineries in India, where crowds once welcomed the late socialist leader Hugo Chavez with cries of “Viva!”

Now, the ailing firm is being forced to slash sales to its crucial trade partner.

Venezuela has given up the fight for coveted market share in India because of a combination of declining crude production and heavy obligations under oil-for-loan deals ...  

Venezuela’s PDVSA: The World’s Worst Oil Company

Venezuela’s PDVSA: The World’s Worst Oil Company

My Misery Index for 2016 placed Venezuela at the unenviable top spot: the world’s most miserable country. However, to gain a real appreciation of the depths of Venezuela’s socialist disaster, we must look under the hood of Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), Venezuela’s state-owned oil giant. After all, PDVSA is, for all practical purposes economically, Venezuela. Indeed, PDVSA accounts for virtually all of Venezuela’s foreign exchange earnings (93% over the past 5 reported years).

An understanding of the workings of PDVSA requires ...  

Wife of Venezuelan jailed leader describes 3 years of torture

Wife of Venezuelan jailed leader describes 3 years of torture

CARACAS – Leopoldo Lopez was isolated 548 of his first 1,000 days in prison. And the count is likely to grow, as he continues to be the most visible symbol of the Venezuelan opposition.

Just recently, after his wife’s visit to President Trump in the White House, he was punished for it with 15 days of no visitors.

“Leopoldo is a moral leader, whose leadership is feared by the regime,” Lopez’s wife, Liliana Tintori, said to Fox News. “They are afraid of ...  

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Latest Tweets by @IASecurity

Videos Featuring Our Experts

Promo for CNN's AC360°: "Passports in the shadows", feat. Roger Noriega Ambassador Roger Noriega on PBS NewsHour discussing U.S.-Mexico relations under Trump José Cárdenas Interview with Opinion Journal: "Hungry in Venezuela" Ambassador Noriega Analyzes President Obama’s visit to Cuba on PBS’ ‘Newshour’

Ambassador Roger Noriega discusses the implications and impact of the president’s visit to Cuba on PBS News Hour

Felipe Trigos habló sobre la visita del presidente Obama a Cuba

Testimony by Ambassador Roger Noriega before House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing on Latin America in 2015: A Year in Review

Jose Cardenas discusses Cuba's problematic ties abroad at the Center for Security Policy’s 4th Annual Latin America Symposium

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 elections of radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. 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, and lackluster support for regional counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics initiatives.

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 American policymakers and American and international public opinion of the dangers of these radical populist regimes to inter-American security.