Posts Tagged ‘United States’

Keystone XL’s continued delay is absurd

| April 24th, 2014 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

IF FOOT-DRAGGING were a competitive sport, President Obama and his administration would be world champions for their performance in delaying the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Last Friday afternoon, the time when officials make announcements they hope no one will notice, the State Department declared that it is putting off a decision on Keystone XL indefinitely — or at least, it seems, well past November’s midterm elections. This time, the excuse is litigation in Nebraska over the proposed route, because that might lead to a change in the project that various federal agencies will want to consider. The State Department might even decide to substantially restart the environmental review process . This is yet another laughable reason to delay a project that the federal government has been scrutinizing for more than five years.

At this point, there is little doubt about the big picture. After two thorough environmental analyses, State Department experts determined that the ... Read More

US Justices Seek Middle Ground in Argentina Case

| April 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »
ABC News

By MARK SHERMAN

The U.S. Supreme Court appeared to be searching for a middle ground Monday in the decade-long battle between Argentina and holders of its defaulted bonds.

The justices heard arguments on a relatively narrow aspect of the issue, the question of whether a sovereign nation can be forced to reveal assets around the world so plaintiffs can collect on U.S. court judgments.

The court seemed inclined to narrow lower court orders in favor of the bondholders to exclude diplomatic, military and national security property owned by Argentina. At the same time, the justices indicated they might uphold the orders as they apply to commercial property outside the United States.

The court offered few clues about the larger case involving the same players: Argentina’s appeal of a $1.4 billion judgment that it says could destroy the country’s economy and also damage the U.S. financial system. So far, lower courts ... Read More

An Odd Hostility in the Americas

| April 22nd, 2014 | No Comments »
The New York Times

BY ROGER COHEN

SAO PAULO, Brazil — Two vast countries in the same hemisphere, with the same can-do appetite for the future, populated by far-flung immigrants subsuming their differences into the same powerful sense of nationhood, with the same commitment to democratic governance and free enterprise, drawn to each other by the same mutual attraction among their peoples, find their relations at or close to an all-time low.

There may be more perplexing international relationships in the world than the troubled one between the United States and Brazil, but there are not many. A natural friendship has fissured under unnatural strain. A perverse estrangement prevails.

Brazil, a kind of tropical United States, finds it difficult to connect to Washington, and vice versa. The nation that might have been America’s closest ally (even without a formal alliance) among the rising powers is now ... Read More

Sheriffs warn of violence from Mexican cartels deep into interior of U.S.

| April 11th, 2014 | 1 Comment »
Article Appeared in The Washington Times

BY KELLY RIDDELL

Outmanned and outgunned, local law enforcement officers are alarmed by the drug and human trafficking, prostitution, kidnapping and money laundering that Mexican drug cartels are conducting in the U.S. far from the border.

U.S. sheriffs say that securing the border is a growing concern to law enforcement agencies throughout the country, not just those near the U.S.-Mexico boundary.

“If we fail to secure our borders, then every sheriff in America will become a border sheriff,” said Sam Page, sheriff of Rockingham County, N.C. “We’re only a two-day drive from the border and have already seen the death and violence that illegal crossings brings into our community.”

Sheriff Page, whose county has about 94,000 residents, noted that a Mexican cartel set up one of its drug warehouses about a mile from his home.

“These men are coming into our county with more firepower than I have,” he said Wednesday. “I’m literally outgunned.”

The sheriff in North ... Read More

Ignoring our Venezuelan Friends of Freedom

| March 28th, 2014 | No Comments »
Joe Kauffman

By Joe Kaufman

It can be argued that, in 2009, had President Barack Obama aided the Iranians demonstrating against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Mullahs, there would be no need for talk of the possibility of a nuclear armed Iran today. Iran’s leaders had dedicated much of their existence to hatred of America, referring to the U.S. as “Satan” and supporting anti-U.S. terror. But instead of assisting those calling for regime change, Obama turned his back on the protesters and ignored their pleas.

This was not the case in other parts of the Middle East, where Obama announced his full support to rebels looking to overthrow their respective governments – in Egypt, Libya and Syria. Each of these revolutions, though, were led by Islamists, who unlike the overtly pro-U.S. Iranian demonstrators, have much enmity for the United States and her allies.

Now, in a reprise of his attitude toward Iran, President Obama has chosen ... Read More

John Kerry says Venezuela ‘terror campaign’ must end

| March 14th, 2014 | No Comments »
BBC

US Secretary of State John Kerry has said the government of Venezuela must end its “terror campaign against its own citizens”.

Mr Kerry said the Organisation of American States (OAS), allies and neighbours should demand accountability of Venezuela over the protests.

Authorities say 28 people have died since they began more than a month ago.

Venezuela accuses the United States of helping “right-wing fascists” to plot a coup with the unrest.

Mr Kerry’s remarks are the starkest from Washington since the protests began.

Engagement

“We are trying to find a way to get the [President Nicolas] Maduro government to engage with their citizens, to treat them respectfully, to end this terror campaign against his own people and to begin to, hopefully, respect human rights in an appropriate way”, Mr Kerry told a committee in the US Congress.

American legislators have been debating whether or not to impose sanctions on the oil-rich nation.

President Maduro said his week ... Read More

After a year without Chávez, is Venezuela unraveling?

| March 7th, 2014 | No Comments »
From CNN

BY CARL MEACHAM

This week, amidst political turmoil that has gripped the country and left more than a dozen dead and hundreds more injured and detained, Venezuela commemorated the passing of President Hugo Chávez.

Chávez was best known for his “Bolivarian Revolution,” through which he pursued aggressive, state-centered approaches to alleviate the social, political, and economic challenges facing Venezuela. And by some metrics he was successful – between 2004 and 2012, the country’s poverty rate halved, and literacy and access to healthcare increased substantially.

But Chávez also left behind a country deeply divided along political and socioeconomic lines, one suffering from skyrocketing crime and violence and bogged down by economic instability. Is his successor, Nicolás Maduro, now reaping the seeds of discontent sown by Chavismo?

Certainly, under Maduro the grim reality of rising crime has only worsened – though not for a lack of official policies aimed at reversing it. In his first year, Maduro dispersed thousands ... Read More

Argentina Oil’s Bonanza Helping Too Few Led by Political Friends

| March 7th, 2014 | No Comments »
Bloomberg

BY MICHAEL SMITH & PABLO GONZALEZ

Explosions tear through the Vaca Muerta shale oil deposit, 3,100 meters beneath the desert in western Argentina, cracking open underground rock formations.

Oil workers, braving 40-degree-Celsius heat and vicious swarms of horseflies, operate a battery of massive pumps that roar into action. They force a gelatinous sluice of water, chemicals and sand into the openings created by the explosion, so they can tease out the oil.

“Success!” yells Osvaldo Alarcon, who’s supervising the hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — for the site’s owner, YPF SA, Argentina’s state oil producer. His workers cheer. “The center of the earth is ours,” he says, Bloomberg Markets magazine will report in its April issue.

The crew of Shale Oil 28, or SOIL 28, as this tract is known, is on the frontline of a push by some of the world’s largest energy companies to unearth Vaca Muerta’s hidden riches.

The Belgium-sized layer of ... Read More

Observers: Regional Democracies Must Address Unrest in Venezuela

| March 7th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Washington Free Beacon

BY DANIEL WISER

Latin American observers are calling on regional democracies to address the ongoing unrest in Venezuela and take steps to defend democratic norms and human rights.

The Organization of American States (OAS) Permanent Council, composed of representatives from all 35 countries in the Americas, scheduled a closed meeting on Thursday in Washington, D.C., at the request of Panama to discuss the Venezuelan crisis. At least 18 people have died in protests against President Nicolas Maduro and the country’s rampant crime, inflation, and shortages.

Maduro attributed the announcement of the OAS meeting to “moves by the United States government in accord with a lackey government of a right-wing president” and reacted angrily by breaking off diplomatic and economic ties to Panama. The meeting was already postponed a week after pressure from the Venezuelan government.

Maduro warned the OAS and Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza not to “intervene in Venezuelan home affairs.”

Roger Noriega, former assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs ... Read More

Just how do Americans see Cuba?

| March 6th, 2014 | No Comments »
From the Los Angeles Times

BY ROBYN WAPNER

The Washington-based think tank Atlantic Council released a poll last month that has been touted by many as marking an unprecedented shift in support for a change in U.S. policy toward Cuba. Media outlets, including the L.A. Times, jumped on the bandwagon, citing the poll as evidence that Americans are now eager for engagement. But a closer look shows that many of the most consequential results of the poll are based on push-polling tactics.

Push polling is the craft of designing survey questions to shape and influence the results. In this case, several questions in the Atlantic Council Cuba poll appear to “push” respondents toward assuming a position against current U.S. policy.

Nothing about U.S. relations with Cuba is simple. The many facets of our estrangement span such a spectrum of interests and time that few have a clear understanding of the intricate web of current policy.

For example, despite the ... Read More

Country struggling with Chávez’s legacy

| March 6th, 2014 | No Comments »
The Miami Herald

BY JIM WYSS

Thousands of red-shirted supporters and heavily armed soldiers marched in unison Wednesday to kick off 10 days of commemorations to mark the anniversary of President Hugo Chávez’s death. But just beneath the fanfare and choreography were the simmering tensions that El Comandante’s 14-year rule left behind.

As memorial fireworks burst over the city, throngs of protesters threw stones at police in eastern Caracas and President Nicolás Maduro admitted that he was “battling” to preserve the legacy of his mentor and predecessor who succumbed to cancer a year ago.

During a graveside speech that was part memorial, part saber-rattling, Maduro announced the country was breaking diplomatic ties with Panama over an alleged “conspiracy” and said authorities had thwarted plans to blow up bridges and tunnels.

Maduro provided few details, but he has often accused foreign countries, including the United States, of being behind a plot to topple him and routinely calls protesters “fascists” and ... Read More

Big Victory for Chevron Over Claims in Ecuador

| March 6th, 2014 | No Comments »
The New York Times

BY CLIFFORD KRAUSS

Since losing a $19 billion judgment in an Ecuadorean court three years ago, Chevron has drawn the condemnation of human rights and environmental activists by refusing to pay anything in fines or accept blame for polluting the Ecuadorean rain forest.

The award against Chevron was one of the largest judgments ever imposed by a court for environmental pollution, and it appeared to pit a mighty corporate Goliath against powerless peasants and the principal lawyer who represented them, Steven R. Donziger, as a brave David.

But on Tuesday, Chevron won a major victory. A federal judge in Manhattan ruled that a two-decade legal effort to punish the company was marred by fraud and corruption, making it increasingly likely that the oil company would be ultimately successful in beating back the legal and financial challenge.

In his nearly 500-page ruling, United ... Read More

Venezuela cuts ties with Panama, calling country a ‘lackey’ for the United States

| March 6th, 2014 | No Comments »
From CNN

BY CATHERINE SHOICHET

Venezuela’s President severed diplomatic relations with Panama Wednesday, accusing the Central American nation of being a “lackey” for the United States in a conspiracy plot against his government.

“There are maneuvers by the U.S. government plotting with a lackey government that has a right-wing president who is leaving in the next few months, who is not worthy of his people, who has been working actively against Venezuela,” President Nicolas Maduro said in televised remarks.

He accused Panama of pushing for regional organizations to intervene in Venezuela. As a result, Maduro said he was cutting off diplomatic and political ties and freezing trade relations with Panama’s current government “in defense of the homeland’s sovereignty.”

Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli said in a Twitter post that he was surprised by Venezuela’s decision.

“Panama only longs for its brother country to find peace and strengthen its democracy,” he said.

The latest bout of diplomatic wrangling comes after weeks of anti-government ... Read More

Growing Crisis in Post-Chavez Venezuela

| March 6th, 2014 | No Comments »
Foreign Policy Initiative

BY PATRICK CHRISTY

As Venezuela passed the one-year anniversary of the death of strongman Hugo Chavez today, his successor Nicolás Maduro continued his crackdown against protestors demanding an end to corruption, rampant crime, and economic mismanagement.  Since nationwide demonstrations began a month ago, clashes between Venezuelan security forces and protestors have resulted so far in at least 18 deaths and over 250 injuries.

Chavez’s socialist experiment has left Venezuela’s economy and society in shambles.  A Gallup poll recently reported that the dire economic situation “pushed Venezuelan pessimism about the nation’s economy in 2013 to an all-time high—62% of Venezuelan adults said the economy is getting worse, while a record-low 12% said it was getting better.”  Even official Venezuelan government figures show that one in four basic household goods, such as milk or toilet paper, is in short supply.  What’s more, growth in violent crime has accompanied the oil-rich country’s economic slide.  The Venezuelan Violence Observatory, a non-governmental ... Read More

No Ordinary Election in El Salvador

| March 5th, 2014 | No Comments »
Foreign Policy

Tumult in Ukraine and Venezuela in recent weeks has overshadowed a consequential regional election taking place this Sunday, March 9. Voters in El Salvador will go to the polls in a second round to choose from between two starkly different candidates. The result could shape Central American politics for the next several years — and not necessarily for the better.

The election pits veteran hard-liner and current Vice President Salvador Sánchez Cerén of the former guerrilla FMLN against San Salvador Mayor Norman Quijano of the opposition ARENA party.

The polls favor an FMLN victory on Sunday (Sánchez Cerén defeated Quijano 49 percent to 39 percent in the first round on Feb. 2), which can be attributed to the party’s masterful political ads that managed to convert a battle-hardened ideologue into a kindly, old grandfather who wants to spend his twilight years building a better future for the country.

The FMLN’s control of government ... Read More

A Nation Divided: Venezuela’s Uncertain Future

| March 5th, 2014 | No Comments »
World Affairs

Ayear after the death of Hugo Chávez from cancer, Venezuela remains as polarized as at any time during the flamboyant strongman’s fourteen-year rule. As the dysfunctional economy he bequeathed to his successors continues to unravel—despite proven oil reserves rivaling those of Saudi Arabia—a determined political opposition continues its uphill fight against what Chávez designed as a permanent revolution.

President Nicolás Maduro, Chávez’s anointed successor, came to power in a special election last April that was much closer than expected, sending shock waves through the chavista ranks. There were enough doubts about the legitimacy of the vote that his opponent, Henrique Capriles, never conceded. Since then, Maduro has struggled to escape Chávez’s shadow and assert his authority over the faction-ridden chavista party, the PSUV, a hodgepodge of leftists of all stripes along with a faction of the military loyal to the late president. Maduro has been buffeted by one challenge after another: infrastructure breakdowns leading to ... Read More

A Miami Congressman Adamantly Defends Isolating Cuba

| March 5th, 2014 | No Comments »
The New York Times

BY DAMIEN CAVE

As more Cuban-Americans find ways to engage with Cuba — through travel, helping families with new businesses, and now business training — they have increasingly come into conflict with Cuban-American lawmakers who insist that isolation, through the United States trade embargo, is the best and only acceptable approach when dealing with Cuba.

Representative Mario Díaz-Balart, the Republican congressman from Miami, has been a leader among the pro-embargo constituency for years, serving in Congress since 2003. His aunt, Mirta, was Fidel Castro’s first wife, leading many to argue that the divide between Cuba and the United States over the embargo is, at its roots, a family dispute. But Mr. Díaz-Balart argues that his position is steeped in principle, and that despite the recent changes in Cuba — allowing for more private enterprise and travel — American policy should remain focused on politics ... Read More

Venezuela’s Maduro Looks to Hardline Chavez Tactics as Protests Spread

| March 4th, 2014 | No Comments »
Newsweek

BY BENNY AVNI

Venezuela’s street protests have shaken up President Nicolas Maduro enough that he has turned to the Hugo Chavez playbook, pulling from it such tricks as launching paranoid salvos against the Yanks and the “international media” they control.

Street protesters have been erecting roadblocks and barricades, while state security forces, beefed up with Cuban security agents and motorcycle gangs, retaliate with widespread arrests and the use of live ammunition.

But don’t even think about Ukraine or Egypt. This is no Arab Spring, says Vanessa Neumann, a senior fellow at the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute. “I don’t think we should expect a regime change at this time,” said Neumann, a Venezuela-born government critic.

Nearly three weeks in, at least 500 people had been arrested, 150 injured, and state authorities said 13 had died in protests that erupted as the country’s inflation rate rose to above 50 percent, and ... Read More

Venezuela, the uprising no one is noticing

| March 4th, 2014 | No Comments »
From the Washington Post

BY JACKSON DIEHL

There are plenty of reasons to worry about Venezuela. A country with the world’s largest oil reserves now also manages to beat the world in inflation, violent crime and shortages of essential goods. The government’s response consists mostly of arrests of opposition activists, expulsions of U.S. diplomats, and wild propaganda about the supposed threat of a fascist coup or U.S. invasion.

The most discouraging aspect of Venezuela’s agony, however, is its isolation. While European and American diplomats have flooded into Ukraine and President Obama has spent hours on the phone with Vladi­mir Putin, Venezuela’s crisis has been largely ignored by the outside world. No envoys visited Caracas in the past several weeks, even as street battles between government and opposition forces raged. The only would-be broker who has even talked about flying in is 89-year-old Jimmy Carter, who said he might add it to his schedule in April.

The neglect is not because ... Read More

Navarrette: Violence in Venezuela draws little attention

| March 3rd, 2014 | No Comments »
The Houston Chronicle

BY RUBEN NAVARETTE JR.

We’ve seen this movie before. When people are brave enough to stand up for freedom against repressive governments intent on maintaining their grip on power, the process is usually messy – and often bloody. In between ducking batons and dodging bullets, they wait to see if the world cares what happens to them. They’re the little guy being beaten by a big guy, hoping that an even bigger guy comes to the rescue.

In Venezuela, for the last few weeks, blood has stained the streets of Caracas and other major cities. It started with massive student protests on Feb. 12 against the social and economic “crisis” plaguing the country – corruption, high crime rates, skyrocketing inflation, etc. – under a government they consider illegitimate. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro responded with violence, as if he were suppressing a coup attempt at all costs.

Former President Hugo Chavez was crazy. But what Maduro is ... Read More

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