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.
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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-->

Petrobras scandal adds fuel to Brazil’s fiery election campaign

| October 15th, 2014 | No Comments »
Financial Times

By Joe Leahy

Common wisdom has it that Brazilians have become so desensitised to political scandals – so frequent are they on all sides of the political spectrum – that they make little difference in elections.

But there are signs that what could end up being Brazil’s biggest corruption case – the alleged kickbacks from state-owned oil company Petrobras – could be different.

Politicians from the Workers’ party-led ruling coalition are accused of skimming 3 per cent off billions of dollars of contracts signed by Petrobras ahead of the election of incumbent president Dilma Rousseff in 2010.

Not only are Brazilians taking more notice of this scandal – one Facebook user complained last week it meant he was paying 3 cents of every dollar to the Workers’ party, or PT, whenever he fills his car with petrol. “Better to ride a bicycle,” he said.

But what is different about the Petrobras scandal is ... Read More

Venezolanos necesitan 5.7 salarios mínimos para la ‘canasta básica’, dice ONG

| October 14th, 2014 | No Comments »
El Nuevo Herald

CARACAS-Los venezolanos necesitan 5.7 salarios mínimos para cubrir el costo de artículos y servicios de la llamada “canasta básica”, que incluye la “canasta alimentaria” -para la cual se requieren 3.2 mínimos-, informó este martes el Centro de Documentación y Análisis Social (Cendas).

“Esto demuestra que la inflación está descontrolada y que el Gobierno tendrá que ver cómo enfrentar esto, porque no puede seguir echándole la culpa al imperio” estadounidense, declaró Óscar Mesa, director de Cendas, a la emisora privada caraqueña Unión Radio.

Cendas es un órgano no gubernamental que estudia, elabora y publica asuntos “que impactan al mundo sociolaboral y específicamente a la calidad de vida y condiciones de trabajo”, según su página web.

La canasta básica incluye, además de la alimentaria, los suministros como la electricidad, el gasto en alquiler, educación y transporte.

El presidente venezolano, Nicolás Maduro, incrementó un 30 por ciento el salario mínimo en mayo pasado, con lo que se ... Read More

Brazil Election Polls: Dilma Rousseff Trailing Aecio Neves In Presidential Race

| October 14th, 2014 | No Comments »
International Business Times

By Cristina Silva

President Dilma Rousseff is fighting for her political survival with a poll Monday indicating she is trailing rival Aecio Neves ahead of Brazil’s presidential runoff later this month. Rousseff’s sagging ratings come as Brazil’s once mighty economy has fallen into a technical recession and months after millions of Brazilians took to the streets in protest during the World Cup games to demand better infrastructure and health care.

Aecio leads Rousseff 52.4 percent to 36.7 percent in the Oct. 26 runoff, according to a Sensus poll published on the website of IstoE magazine. The survey of 2,000 people Oct. 7-10 had a margin of error of 2.2 percentage points. Two earlier polls by Ibope and Datafolha showed the candidates statistically tied, with Neves leading 51 percent to 49 percent, Bloomberg reported.

Neves unexpectedly emerged as Rousseff’s main opponent after the Oct. 5 first-round election saw him win 34 percent of the vote behind the president’s ... Read More

Chile faces tougher sell to investors as growth stalls

| October 14th, 2014 | No Comments »
Financial Times

By Martin Sandbu and Jonathan Wheatley in London

When Alberto Arenas, the Chilean finance minister, visited London on Monday to drum up investor interest in his country, he faced a tougher sell than his recent predecessors.

“All the ingredients [of growth] are going down,” he reflected in an interview with the Financial Times.

Chile had a good ride through the global crisis: Chinese growth, high commodity prices and record low US interest rates brought the Pacific country an average growth rate of more than 5 per cent in recent years.

Now, however, Chile perfectly captures the catchphrase from last week’s World Bank/International Monetary Fund meetings: the “new mediocre”. Seven months into the new administration of socialist president Michelle Bachelet, growth has stalled in Chile and inflation is pressing upward.

It is a mark of how times have changed that Mr Arenas seems satisfied with forecasts that growth will rebound from this year’s 2 per ... Read More

Colombia mayor fights Cali’s murder rate with science

| October 14th, 2014 | No Comments »
BBC

By Arturo Wallace

One of Colombia’s most violent cities is successfully using science to combat crime.

But it is not the kind of science you see in TV dramas such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Dr Rodrigo Guerrero is the mayor of Cali, Colombia’s third largest city, and a Harvard-trained epidemiologist.

By applying the tools of his trade he has, during his second time in office, once again managed to cut down the city’s staggering murder rate.

“I estimate that, by the end of the year, it will be 58 or 59 per 100,000 inhabitants,” says Dr Guerrero, who first served as Cali’s mayor from 1992 until 1994 and returned to office less than two years ago.

“It still is a terrifying rate, but last year’s was 81. And we’re confident things will get better,” he tells the BBC.

Forensic work and the latest technology – CSI style – have certainly a role to play ... Read More

Colombia and Panama: Warm no more

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

IN ONE of the most remembered scenes of the film Casablanca, police chief Louis Renault orders the close of Rick’s Cafe when he is “shocked, shocked” to learn that there was gambling going on in the establishment. Seconds later a waiter presents Renault with his winnings from roulette. Panama was similarly shocked when Colombia last week included the neighbouring country on its list of tax havens, after the Central American nation failed to meet a deadline to sign a bilateral tax information exchange agreement.

“[Panama] is not a tax haven, and we reject being classified this way,” Panama’s finance Minister Dulcidio de la Guardia said. Panama’s outrage led the foreign ministry to insinuate the possibility of retaliation, saying in a statement that the Panamanian government would study unspecified measures against countries that “discriminate against Panama.”

Panama and Colombia have had historically warm relations  and the Central American country is home to about ... Read More

Dilma Rousseff’s presidency at risk in Brazil election

| October 14th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

By Carlos Alberto Montaner

Aécio Neves, an economist like Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff, but younger and more charismatic, could defeat Rousseff in the second round of voting on Oct. 26. At least two pollsters give Neves, the candidate of the Brazilian Social Democratic Party, an almost 10-point advantage.

It will drop. That difference can be substantially reduced, and even disappear, as the attacks from the Rousseff’s Workers Party intensify, with former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva leading the firing squad. Neves today has the advantage of four days of positive media glory after the surprising results of the first round, so he will have to defend himself and attack if he wants to prevail on election day.

Why has Rousseff’s popularity plummeted? Because of a combination of three factors:

▪ The economy. The country is entering a recession. The productive apparatus is not growing, and exports are declining because of the cooling of the ... Read More

Venezuela Cuts Imports Amid Currency Shortage

| October 14th, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01 BY KEJAL VYAS CARACAS, Venezuela—President Nicolás Maduro ’s government, facing deteriorating economic conditions at home, is quietly slashing imports to cover foreign debt payments amid a severe hard-currency crunch.

Economists say the move represents an unorthodox adjustment measure for a country roiled by chronic shortages of basic goods, collapsing industry and the world’s highest inflation.

Despite the troubling outlook, the administration of the socialist president has, for now, ruled out other adjustment mechanisms to counter rising economic distortions, such as a devaluation of the currency or cutting government spending. It is also jettisoned plans to hike the price of subsidized gasoline, which is virtually free and costs the state $12 billion a year.

Those measures, economists say, would ease dollar shortages. But they also would raise inflation at a time when Mr. Maduro’s popularity has fallen. His Socialist party is preparing for congressional elections in December 2015, which gives Mr. Maduro a scant window ... Read More

Brazilian Stocks Drop as Cyrela Leads Decline Among Homebuilders

| October 14th, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

By Ney Hayashi

The Ibovespa fell for a second time in three sessions as Cyrela Brazil Realty SA Empreendimentos e Participacoes led homebuilders lower after reporting a quarterly sales drop.

State-run oil producer Petroleo Brasileiro SA slipped from a one-month high after a Vox Populi poll showed Brazil’s election is too close to call. Mining company MMX Mineracao e Metalicos SA dropped after saying production at its Sudeste MMX unit will remain halted.

The Ibovespa decreased 0.7 percent to 57,570 at 10:16 a.m. in Sao Paulo, with 38 stocks lower and 29 higher. The real weakened 0.3 percent to 2.4004 per dollar. Cyrela fell 2.7 percent after saying booked sales dropped 27 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier. The BM&FBovespa Real Estate Index retreated 1.3 percent.

Brazil’s benchmark equity index has rallied 29 percent since this year’s low in March on speculation a change in government will reduce ... Read More

Venezuela Default Almost Certain, Harvard Economists Say

| October 14th, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

By Anatoly Kurmanaev, Katia Porzecanski and Sebastian Boyd 

Venezuela will probably default on its foreign debt as a shortage of dollars makes it impossible for the government to meet its citizens’ basic needs, Harvard University economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff said.

The economy is so badly managed that per-capita gross domestic product is 2 percent below 1970 levels, the professors wrote in an column published by Project Syndicate yesterday. A decade of currency controls has made dollars scarce in the country with the world’s biggest oil reserves, causing shortages of everything from deodorant to airplane tickets.

“They have extensive domestic defaults and an economy that is really imploding,” Reinhart said in a telephone interview from Cambridge, Massachusetts. “What they really need to do is get their house in order. If an external default would trigger such a possibility, that’s not a bad thing.”

The suggestion that the country stop servicing its bonds ... Read More

Beware a Leftist Landslide in Bolivia

| October 10th, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

By Mac Margolis

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales has gone on record saying he aims to win reelection this Sunday with 74 percent of the popular vote. Whether that was a prediction or an order, he didn’t say. Yet even Morales’s harshest detractors allow that the only doubt about the Oct. 12 election is the size of his landslide.

Whatever else can be said about the charismatic Andean leader — he’s authoritarian, obsessively anti-American and brooks no criticism — his skills as a political operator are unmatched among the region’s accident-prone populists. He has ruled Bolivia since 2006, longer than any president since the 19th-century caudillo Andres de Santa Cruz, who was in office from 1829 to 1839. In a country known better for coups d’etats than elections, and which saw six presidents in the decade before Morales, that’s all the more remarkable.

Leave aside that another four years of Morales might be the ... Read More

Mexico’s Deadly Narco-Politics

| October 10th, 2014 | No Comments »
The New York Times

By Ioan Grillo

IGUALA, Mexico — STUDENT protesters in rural Mexico have long dealt with heavy-handed police officers. But on the black night of Sept. 26, students who attended a rural teachers’ college realized they were facing a far worse menace in this southern city. Not only were police officers shooting haphazardly at them, killing three students and several passers-by; shady gunmen were also firing from the sidelines.

The next morning, the corpse of a student was dumped on a major street. He’d had his skin peeled off and his eyes gouged out. It was the mark of drug cartel assassins.

Soldiers and federal detectives detained two alleged cartel hit men, who confessed they had conspired with the police to murder students. They led troops to pits on the outskirts of Iguala containing 28 charred corpses. ... Read More

Brazil’s Election Shows How The Left Thrives On Welfare Dependency

| October 10th, 2014 | No Comments »
Investor's Business Daily

Dependency: A Brazilian economist has shown a near-exact correlation between last Sunday’s presidential election voting choices and each state’s welfare ratios. Sure enough, handouts are the lifeblood of the left.

Much of the attention in Brazil’s presidential election has been on the surprise rise of Aecio Neves, the center-right candidate who bolted to second place in the space of a week in the first round of Brazil’s election last Sunday, putting him in a face-off against leftist incumbent Dilma Rousseff at the end of the month.

Neves won 34% of the vote, Rousseff took 42% and green party candidate Marina Silva took about 20% — and on Thursday, Silva endorsed Neves, making it a contest of free-market ideas vs. big-government statism.

But what’s even more telling is an old story — shown in an infographic by popular Brazilian economist Ricardo Amorim.

In a Twitter post, Amorim showed a near-exact correlation among Brazil’s states’ welfare ... Read More

Pentagon chief in trip to Colombia, Chile, Peru

| October 10th, 2014 | No Comments »
Yahoo News-01

Washington (AFP) – Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel departed Thursday on a six-day tour of South America but the US-led war against the Islamic State group in the Middle East will be looming over his trip.

Hagel set off for Colombia, Chile and Peru with the world’s attention focused on a dramatic battle in northern Syria, where Kurdish fighters have been holding out against IS jihadists with the help of air strikes from US and coalition aircraft.

Hagel has spent much of the past week in talks at the White House and conferring with top commanders, tracking the American-led air campaign in Syria and Iraq as well as an unfolding crisis over the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

The conflict in the Middle East will be competing for Hagel’s attention during his second trip to Latin America as defense secretary.

After talks in Colombia and Chile, the Pentagon chief will head to ... Read More

Arrest of Suspected Drug Lord in Mexico Is Seen as Symbolic Amid Police Scandal

| October 10th, 2014 | No Comments »
The New York Times

By Damien Cave

MEXICO CITY — Vicente Carrillo Fuentes was the mediocre heir, the authorities said. He never quite gained the fame or authority of his brother, Amado Carrillo Fuentes — the Juarez cartel’s late founder and the kingpin famous for both flying cocaine to the United States in jumbo jets and dying during failed plastic surgery in 1997.

Instead, Vicente was vicious. Mr. Carillo Fuentes, who was arrested Thursday by Mexican authorities in the northern city of Torreon, ran the Juarez ring with an eye for killing and a thirst for allies, according to American and Mexican officials who have been pursuing him for 14 years.

His was the era when the battle between the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels made Ciudad Juárez as bloody and violent as a war zone. And yet at this point, ... Read More

Restarting the rollercoaster: The contest is Dilma Rousseff’s to lose, but she is no shoo-in

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

IF A clever pundit had taken a bet on the first-round result in Brazil’s presidential contest three months ago, just as the campaign got cracking, the prediction would probably have been spot-on. In the ballot on October 5th the left-wing incumbent, Dilma Rousseff, got 42% of valid votes, eight points more than Aécio Neves of the Party of Brazilian Social Democracy (PSDB), the main centre-right opposition, but not enough to escape a run-off on October 26th. The candidate of the centrist Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) came third, with a respectable 21%. Now, as then, Ms Rousseff is the favourite to win.

But the race went through amazing twists and turns to end up where it had begun (see chart). Days before the election Mr Neves was polling third, with the support of less than one in five voters. His status as the putative pretender had been usurped by Marina Silva, who ... Read More

Outrage, at last

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

By H.T.

IT WAS “outrageous, painful and unacceptable”. With those words, Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto echoed the feelings of the nation on October 6th after the discovery of 28 charred bodies, dug up the previous weekend in mass graves near the city of Iguala, 80 miles (125km) southwest of the capital.

Though the authorities have not yet publicly identified the corpses, Mr Peña indicated the truth of what everyone suspects: that the victims were among 43 teacher-trainees who went missing after a night of police violence in Iguala on September 26th in which six people were killed. Authorities from the state of Guerrero, Mexico’s most murder-plagued, have arrested 22 Iguala policemen in connection with the disappearances. If confirmed, it would be the worst massacre in almost two years of the president’s tenure.

But it may not be the only one (see table). Late last month, the army arrested seven soldiers in connection with ... Read More

Brazil’s presidential election has been fair but ugly

| October 10th, 2014 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

By The Editorial Board

BRAZILIAN PRESIDENT Dilma Rousseff is in a tough fight for reelection, as she should be. During four years in office, the former Marxist guerrilla-turned-Socialist has presided over the stalling of Brazil’s once-booming economy, mounting corruption in the state bureaucracy and a public rebellion against poor services. The economy has tipped into recession, with two consecutive quarters of negative growth, while inflation just hit 6.75 percent, the highest level in three years.

The good news about Brazilian democracy, three decades after the end of military rule, is that Ms. Rousseff drew two serious challengers, both of whom promised to correct her statist excesses and who together collected 55 percent of the vote in last weekend’s first round. The incumbent, who received 41.5 percent, will face Aecio Neves, a center-right former state governor, in a runoff on Oct. 26.

The bad news for Brazil’s prospects as a would-be 21st-century ... Read More

Colombia says rebel chief has been to Cuba for peace talks

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

By Helen Murphy and Luis Jaime Acosta

(Reuters) – Colombian guerrilla leader Rodrigo Londono has made secret government-authorized trips to Cuba several times in the last year to meet with his team of negotiators as part of peace talks to end 50 years of civil war, Colombian officials said on Thursday.

Defence Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon confirmed persistent rumours about Londono showing up in Havana, saying he has been there at “different times”.

A senior military intelligence source told Reuters that Londono, whose nom de guerre is “Timochenko”, has gone to Havana several times on non-commercial flights from Venezuela, where Colombian sources say he has been hiding for years.

If true, it suggests Londono is guiding talks from the front instead of staying in a remote jungle hideout, lending a more serious tone to the negotiations between his Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and the government.

The government authorized Londono’s travel to Cuba, ... Read More

Carromero llega a Miami para demostrar cómo Cuba manipuló la muerte de Payá

| October 10th, 2014 | No Comments »
El Nuevo Herald

El dirigente de Nuevas Generaciones del Partido Popular de Madrid, Ángel Carromero, viajó el jueves a Miami para, entre otras cosas, reunirse con congresistas y senadores de Estados Unidos que apoyarán su intento de demostrar que el Gobierno cubano manipuló las pruebas del accidente en el que murieron Oswaldo Payá y Harold Cepero.

Carromero, que actualmente cumple condena en España por un delito de homicidio —conducía el vehículo en el que viajaban los disidentes cubanos fallecidos—, disfruta del tercer grado desde el 18 de febrero de 2013 aunque con seguimiento por medios telemáticos, pero ha conseguido un permiso para viajar fuera del país durante una semana.

Según ha explicado Carromero en una entrevista, hasta el 16 de octubre tiene previsto reunirse en Miami con la familia de Payá, con distintas organizaciones de derechos humanos y con los políticos estadounidenses, además de promocionar en el país su libro “Muerte bajo sospecha”.

Carromero se presentará ... Read More

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