Content from IASW Contributors

Mexico’s security crisis: Will Iguala be a wake-up call?

By Roger F. Noriega and José R. Cárdenas By Roger F. Noriega and José R. Cárdenas
Mexico’s democracy, stability, and economy require a collaborative response from all levels of government to quell the wave of recent political unrest and address the underlying causes of insecurity and public dissatisfaction. The current crisis—sparked by national outrage over the September 26 disappearance of 43 students near the town of Iguala in the state of Guerrero—should be a wake-up call for the country.
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Las Naciones ‘Sumergidas’ de Latinoamérica

By Roger F. NoriegaBy Roger F. Noriega
Líderes políticos y diplomáticos de América Latina y el Caribe saben más sobre Cuba y Venezuela que incluso los observadores más astutos en Washington. Por lo tanto, deberían saber lo que le conviene más a su región ¿no? Read More-->

“Obama debe ser muy agresivo aplicando las sanciones contra funcionarios de Venezuela”: Roger Noriega en NTN24

| December 12th, 2014 | No Comments »
NTN24

El exembajador de Estados Unidos ante la OEA, Roger Noriega, dijo en El Informativo de NTN24 que Estados Unidos está “comprometido con el Estado de Derecho y la democracia” de América Latina, por lo que el Gobierno de Barack Obama deberá ser drástico con las sanciones a los funcionarios del régimen venezolano que violaron los derechos humanos de los ciudadanos de este país. 

De click aquí para ver la entrevista.

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Brazil Charges 35 in Petrobras Scandal

| December 12th, 2014 | No Comments »
ABC News

By BRAD BROOKS

Prosecutors investigating a sprawling kickback scheme at Brazil’s state-run oil company Petrobras filed charges Thursday against 35 people, including executives from some of the nation’s biggest construction firms.

The formal charges cap a months-long investigation dubbed “Operation Car Wash,” which is proving to be one of Brazil’s biggest corruption schemes yet uncovered with authorizes saying they’ll seek the return of nearly $400 million from the accused.

Authorities allege top officials from Petrobras operated the kickback scheme on contracts worth upward of $4 billion, with money from the inflated contracts eventually being fed back to the governing Workers’ Party and other top parties for political campaigns.

“These people stole the pride of Brazilians,” Prosecutor-General Rodrigo Janot said at a news conference in the southern city of Curitiba, where a top informant in the case is being held. “We’re far from being at the end” of the investigation.

Prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol added that “we’ve begun to destroy the ... Read More

Violence in Mexico and Central America

| December 12th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Economist

FROM the age of 13 Victor Toruño walked the dirt streets of Hialeah, a slum in Managua, Nicaragua’s capital, with a shotgun in his hands. His gang, Los Cancheros (a cancha is a sports pitch), ruled the neighbourhood. “We felt that with guns we were like gods, we could do anything we liked,” he says. Gang members were his only friends; a tattoo of a skull on his left arm commemorates one whose head was cut off with a machete. “I was machista. I was the one who told everyone what to do. I was like a psychopath,” he says.

Mr Toruño, now 27, absorbed the codes of machismo from infancy. While he hid under the bed, his father would beat up his mother. His father later abandoned the family. Mr Toruño developed the same traits. He abused his partner, Martha, yelled at his two children and felt hatred for ... Read More

Two decades after the peso crisis, Mexico faces new shocks

| December 12th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Economist

MANY factors contributed to Mexico’s “tequila crisis” in 1994, but two stood out: tighter monetary policy in the United States and political instability at home. Almost exactly 20 years later, the same forces are again weighing on the currency, compounded by falling oil prices. The situation is not nearly as precarious as it was then, but Mexican policymakers may still need a shot or two to steady the nerves.

Since the 50% devaluation of 1994 the peso has floated freely, which makes it safer than it was 20 years ago but something of a punch bag for nervous investors. Like many emerging-market currencies it has been dropping against the dollar—it is down 11% since June. On December 8th Mexican authorities said they would intervene to support it by auctioning $200m on days when it sinks by at least 1.5% against the dollar. On December 10th it hit ... Read More

The Day after Tomorrow: Colombia’s FARC and the End of the Conflict

| December 12th, 2014 | No Comments »
International Crisis Group

Talks to end five decades of civil conflict in Colombia have seen unprecedented progress. But negotiators still need to agree on arguably the most sensitive point on their agenda: a bilateral ceasefire, the “leaving behind of weapons” (or disarmament) and the reintegration of FARC members. In its latest report, The Day after Tomorrow: Colombia’s FARC and the End of the Conflict, the International Crisis Group examines which guarantees will be needed so that both sides can trust the future agreement. The stakes could not be higher. If FARC’s transition to civilian life fails or is incomplete, more violence could ensue, posing threats to the political legitimacy of the entire peace accord.

The report’s major findings and recommendations are:

To win public faith in the talks and break the ground for a definitive ceasefire, both parties need to de-escalate the confrontation and build mutual confidence. This requires FARC to end ... Read More

Venezuela Default Odds at 93% as Bonds Sink to 16-Year Low

| December 12th, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

By Katia Porzecanski 

Swaps traders are almost certain that Venezuela will default as the rout in oil prices pressures government finances and sends bond prices to a 16-year low.

Benchmark notes due 2027 dropped to 43.75 cents on the dollar as of 11:35 a.m. in New York, the lowest since September 1998, as crude extended a bear market decline. The upfront cost of contracts to insure Venezuelan debt against non-payment for five years is at 59 percent, bringing the implied probability of default to 93 percent, the highest in the world.

This year’s 38 percent plunge in oil prices has exacerbated concern that Venezuela is running out of dollars needed to pay debt, pushing bond prices to levels investors haven’t seen since the 1998 Russian financial crisis spurred a selloff in emerging markets. Foreign Minister Rafael Ramirez, also the country’s OPEC representative, said yesterday that the government is working constantly with ... Read More

Obama Favors Sanctions for Abuse of Venezuela Protesters

| December 12th, 2014 | No Comments »
The New York Times

By WILLIAM NEUMAN

CARACAS, Venezuela — President Obama plans to sign into law a bill that would impose sanctions on Venezuelan government officials responsible for human rights violations or violence against protesters who took part in antigovernment demonstrations here this year, a White House spokesman said in Washington on Thursday.

Venezuela is a major oil supplier to the United States, but the two countries have had rocky relations during the governments of two leftist presidents, Nicolás Maduro and his predecessor and mentor, Hugo Chávez, who died last year.

Mr. Maduro has condemned the proposed sanctions and hinted at possible reprisals.

“The gringos now say that they are going to impose sanctions on Venezuela,” he said on Wednesday. “No one imposes sanctions on Venezuela, because our people decided to be free.”

The bill, which passed the Senate and the House ... Read More

US to impose sanctions on Venezuela officials

| December 11th, 2014 | No Comments »
Financial Times

By Andres Schipani

The US Congress on Wednesday voted to restrict travel and freeze assets on some Venezuelan government officials it accuses of human rights abuses during a crackdown on protests against socialist President Nicolás Maduro earlier this year.

More than 40 people have died during a wave of protests by students and members of the Venezuelan opposition against curbs on democratic liberties, rampant crime and a deteriorating economy in the embattled Caribbean nation.

The US Senate approved the measure earlier this week. Now the House of Representatives has passed it, it will be sent to President Barack Obama to sign it into law.

In late July, after peace talks between the government and opposition came to nothing, the US state department imposed a travel ban on some Venezuelan officials.

On Tuesday Mr Maduro lashed out on national television and radio at the possibility of an “insolent imperialist” move, warning that “if ... Read More

Venezuela, Not Russia, Will Be The First Domino To Fall With The Price of Oil

| December 11th, 2014 | No Comments »
Daily Caller

BY KEITH NAUGHTON

The oil price collapse has brought about excited speculation that the end may be near for Putin, Iran and the American oil shale industry. While the oil price downturn will definitely stress these three players, the prime candidate for political collapse is Venezuela – with significant ramifications for the United States.

And it’s likely the Obama administration is not prepared at all.

Venezuela has all three factors present for an imminent political implosion: 1) severe and worsening economic distress, 2) an organized political opposition, and 3) disunity in its security services. Russia and Iran may be in tough economic straits, but the political opposition in both countries is weak and the armed forces and police are clearly under the control of the existing regime.

For over 15 years Hugo Chavez and his successor Nicolas Maduro have pursued absurd socialist economic ... Read More

EU must act against ‘ever increasing authoritarian practices’ in Venezuela

| December 11th, 2014 | No Comments »
Parliament Magazine

By Dita Charanzová

In a desperate move to preserve the Chavista regime, president of Venezuela Nicolás Maduro has been resorting to extreme and desperate measures to prevent his government from collapsing. Maduro’s struggle to preserve his power is alarming, and the situation is quickly deteriorating.

As a result of the ever increasing authoritarian practices being employed, Venezuelans are suffering further restrictions on their freedom of expression, greater censorship over the media, police brutality – especially against protestors – and the arrest and detention of the political opposition.

The recent arrest of opposition leader and former national assembly deputy Maria Corina Machado on 3 December for allegedly plotting to assassinate president Maduro signalled the continuation of the government’s desperation to silence and punish opposition.

This is why I, together with my colleague Fernando Maura Barandiarán, have initiated a resolution on behalf of ALDE for the European parliament to address the persecution of democratic opposition in Venezuela ... Read More

Venezuela On the Road to Default

| December 11th, 2014 | No Comments »
Legal Insurrection

By Casey Breznick

Over the summer I covered the Argentine government’s default on its debts owed to U.S. hedge funds—its second default in just 13 years.

Now fellow Latin American socialist paradise Venezuela is gearing up for a default of its own, as precipitously falling oil prices have decimated the country’s budget and will continue to pressure its currency reserves. Since mid-June, crude oil prices have declined by more than 30%, with West Texas Intermediate (the benchmark measure for North American oil) dipping to $60.55/barrel before ultimately settling at a 5-year low of $61.54/barrel on Wednesday.

A CNBC report on the prospect of a Venezuelan default cited a Capital Economics report stating that a default could be expected by next September or October when $5 billion in debt payments come due. Only an upswing of oil prices to somewhere around $121/barrel would allow Venezuela to balance its budget, according to some estimates. But with OPEC recently slashing its 2015 ... Read More

U.S. House Passes Bill Sanctioning Venezuelan Officials

| December 11th, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01

By JOSÉ DE CÓRDOBA

The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill Wednesday sanctioning Venezuelan officials who had allegedly committed human rights abuses earlier this year.

The bill requires the U.S. to lift the visas of the Venezuelan officials and calls for the government to freeze any assets such officials might have in the U.S.

The bill, which passed the Senate on Tuesday by voice vote, is expected to be signed into law by President Barack Obama .

Sen. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), a sponsor of the bill, called on other governments to deny Venezuelan officials involved in human rights violations “entry into their countries and access to their financial systems.”

On Tuesday in Caracas, Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, blasted the bill when it passed the Senate. “We don’t accept insolent, imperialist sanctions,” Mr. Maduro said in a nationally broadcast speech to military personnel. He angrily accused U.S. officials of “interfering” in Venezuelan affairs.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.), who ... Read More

What Mexico’s President Must Do

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

BY ENRIQUE KRAUZE

MEXICO CITY — President Enrique Peña Nieto has shown remarkable leadership in passing key reforms to reanimate the economy and further the development of Mexico. But now he must act quickly to re-establish his political credibility and limit damage to his moral standing. The present crisis requires it.

Thousands of young people have been marching in the streets of Mexico since the kidnapping and murder of 43 students (now confirmed by the DNA of a burned body) from a college in Ayotzinapa in the state of Guerrero. According to Mexico’s attorney general, the crime was committed by professional killers working for a narco- gang and under the orders of the former mayor of the town of Iguala, who was a member of the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). Although most of these criminals, including the mayor and ... Read More

U.S. Moves to Penalize Venezuelan Officials

| December 10th, 2014 | No Comments »
Wall Street Journal WSJ-01

BY JOSÉ DE CÓRDOBA

The U.S. government moved closer to hardening sanctions on Venezuelan officials for alleged human rights abuses after Senate lawmakers passed a bill that now heads to the lower house, which has backed a similar proposal, for a vote this week.

The Senate voted late Monday to freeze the bank accounts and assets and decline visas to Venezuelan officials allegedly involved in a violent crackdown this year on Venezuelan protesters in which 43 people were killed. In May, the House overwhelmingly approved, by voice vote, a similar sanctions bill.

Florida congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said the Senate legislation would be brought to a vote this week in the House, saying it was important to “not allow the actions of President Nicolás Maduro] to go unpunished.”

In Caracas, Venezuelan Mr. Maduro reacted angrily to the bill. “Outrage and condemnation is what we feel towards the White House,” Mr. Maduro said in a televised speech ... Read More

Sanciones a Venezuela podrían llevar a cambio de política de Estados Unidos

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

ANTONIO MARIA DELGADO

El proyecto de ley aprobado por el Senado para sancionar al chavismo -que probablemente será ratificado esta semana por la cámara baja- contiene disposiciones que podría forzar un cambio en la política estadounidense hacia el régimen de Nicolás Maduro, obligando al Departamento de Estado a ser mucho más proactivo en asistir a los venezolanos a recuperar la democracia.

La nueva legislación también podría congelar los activos en dólares fuera de Estados Unidos de los funcionarios chavistas implicados en violaciones a los derechos humanos.

El proyecto de ley bipartidista, que en primera instancia congelaría las propiedades de al menos 56 líderes de la Revolución Bolivariana, también fortalece la posición de quienes están a favor de adoptar una posición mucho más agresiva frente a la destrucción de las instituciones democráticas en Venezuela y podría conducir a una mayor distribución de recursos para ese fin, señaló el ... Read More

Oil price plunge means survival of fittest

| December 10th, 2014 | No Comments »
Financial Times

By Anjli Raval

The 40 per cent plunge in the price of oil over the past six months is testing the mettle of the world’s biggest producers, from Venezuela to Iran and Russia. But it is also a survival of the fittest at a more granular level — among the world’s megaprojects.

Energy Aspects, a London-based consultancy, estimates that more than 12 per cent of global oil production would be uneconomic if the majors were to give the go-ahead to existing projects at today’s prices.

Most at risk are those in the Canadian oil sands which has a break-even price of $80 a barrel, US shale plays and other areas of tight oil ($76). Brazil’s deepwater fields ($75) and Mexican projects (around $70) are also vulnerable.

None of this looks pretty, particularly as most new production scheduled to come on line in the next couple of years is set to come ... Read More

Central America ready to commit $5 billion to migration plan – Guatemala

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

BY ALEXANDRA ALPER

(Reuters) – Three Central American nations that have sent a flood of migrants to the United States are ready to provide $5 billion (£3.2 billion) between them to match a sum Washington says may be needed to help solve the problem, Guatemala’s president said on Tuesday.

Struggling to stop the migrant exodus that sparked a crisis in the summer, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador presented U.S. officials with a plan in September to boost their economic growth with infrastructure investment.

Addressing the problem on Nov. 18, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America Roberta Jacobson told Congress it could take $5 billion over five years to implement a plan for Central America that the United States has backed.

“It would fall to us to at a minimum put up the same amount, if not more,” Guatemalan President Otto Perez told Reuters in an interview in the Mexican ... Read More

Obama: US Offers Mexico Help on Missing Students

| December 10th, 2014 | No Comments »
ABC News

By DARLENE SUPERVILLE

President Barack Obama said Tuesday that the U.S. has offered to help Mexico figure out what happened to 43 college students who have been missing since September, but he stopped short of saying that aid to the U.S. ally and neighbor should be reconsidered on the basis of the country’s human rights record.

“We’ve offered assistance in tracking down exactly what happened, our forensic capabilities, our capacity to get to the bottom of exactly what happened,” Obama told Telemundo, the Spanish-language television network, in an interview.

On the question of aid, which was posed by the interviewer, the president said what’s more important is helping Mexico build on the progress it has made.

“We’ve got to make sure that we strengthen the criminal justice system, the investigative capacities,” he said. “Mexico is our friend and our neighbor. We want them to thrive.”

Obama said the crime against the missing students has “no ... Read More

Oil Rout Signals Budget Cuts or More Debt for Ecuador

| December 10th, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

By Nathan Gill

Crude’s slump to five-year lows means OPEC member Ecuador is facing the choice of spending cuts that risk crimping growth or taking on more debt to finance outlays, Jefferies LLC said.

Ecuador, which defaulted on $3.2 billion of its foreign debt in 2008 after crude tumbled 58 percent, will lose an additional $2.5 billion in oil revenue next year if prices remain at current levels and may need to double the amount of cash it seeks from capital markets to $4 billion, according to Siobhan Morden, head of Latin America strategy at Jefferies.

With crude prices down more than 20 percent since the government sent Congress its 2015 budget on Nov. 1, President Rafael Correa has said he plans to cut funds for new schools and police stations before sacrificing spending on oilfields needed to generate revenue. Correa, who has criticized former presidents for cutting social spending and taking on too much ... Read More

CARTA DEL EXPRESIDENTE PASTRANA AL PRESIDENTE SANTOS SOBRE AMNISTÍA AL NARCOTRÁFICO

| December 9th, 2014 | No Comments »
Andres Pastrana

Doctor JUAN MANUEL SANTOS CALDERON  Presidente de la República Ciudad Señor Presidente

Tan pronto las Farc entregaron al general rehén, el señor Presidente de la República correspondió el gesto con una propuesta de amnistía para los delitos relativos al narcotráfico del grupo rebelde. El tema de las drogas ilícitas -que el gobierno daba por resuelto en La Habana- despertó esta vez, por razón de la extemporánea iniciativa presidencial, la indignación nacional.

Ya sea como pago del rescate de un general o claudicación de principios ante la guerrilla para lograr su firma a cualquier costo, el acto presidencial constituye una vergüenza. El amparo del narcotráfico bajo la sombrilla del pretexto político es la genuflexión del estado colombiano ante el poder del crimen organizado.

La excluyente y sectaria política de diálogo del señor presidente y sus amigos – en contravía de la gran mayoría del país- es cada día más débil ... Read More

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