Archive for June, 2013

Today’s must-read

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

Soft-Pedaling the Iranian Threat in the Americas

Three months after Southcom commander Gen. John F. Kelly told the House Armed Services Committee that the United States needs to be “extremely concerned” about Iran’s expanding presence in the Western Hemisphere, the State Department has just informed Congress that Iran’s regional influence is “waning.”

The State Department’s assertions come in a two-page unclassified annex to a long-awaited classified report to Congress mandated by the bipartisan Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama late last year. It directs the secretary of state to “conduct an assessment of the threats posed to the United States by Iran’s growing presence and activity in the Western Hemisphere and submit to the relevant congressional committees the results of the assessment and a strategy to address Iran’s growing hostile presence and activity in the Western Hemisphere.”

Granted, the bulk of the report is classified, but it is not difficult to conclude that its tone is unlikely to diverge much from the unclassified annex — and that is deeply disturbing.

Especially when just last month an Argentine prosecutor added to the growing paper trail on Iran’s nefarious activities in the Americas by releasing a 500-page report detailing how Iran has systematically built a clandestine intelligence network throughout the region “designed to sponsor, foster and execute terrorist attacks.

Read the whole thing.

And don’t miss Iran’s Latin America Strategy

Happy Birthday, BabaluBlog! UPDATED

Friday, June 28th, 2013

And many more decades of happy blogging to my friends, who are featured today in El Nuevo Herald,
Babalú: casa virtual de los cubanoamericanos

Val Prieto at his desk

Happy bloggiversary to American Digest, too!

Ecuador: Maybe Assange ought to keep his mouth shut

Friday, June 28th, 2013

The guy holed up at the London embassy may not be the best broker on the Snowden case, especially since Assange serves as a reminder of Ecuador’s impotence in getting the UK to grant him safe passage:

So near, and yet, so far.

Ecuador Disarray Clouds Snowden Bid
Disarray in Ecuador over the role of Wikileaks’ Assange in Snowden’s asylum bid is complicating the outcome, according to diplomatic mail.

Mr. Assange—the antisecrecy-group founder who for the past year has been sheltered inside Ecuador’s London embassy—wrote to Ecuadorean officials Monday that he hoped his role in the Snowden matter hadn’t embarrassed the government, according to an internal Ecuadorean diplomatic correspondence obtained by Spanish-language broadcaster Univision Networks and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

But in the note, Mr. Assange also offered public-relations advice to top Ecuadorean officials about how to handle the crisis. Mr. Assange’s earlier efforts on Mr. Snowden’s behalf had prompted one diplomat to caution that Mr. Assange could be perceived as “running the show” in Ecuador.


Julian better watch it, or he may find himself out of lodgings, too.

Late afternoon roundup

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

A few headlines updating stories I’ve been following:

5 Senators Who Support Immigration Bill Don’t Know Answer to Key Question About It

As the Washington Examiner‘s Philip Klein recently reported: “Under Obamacare, businesses with over 50 workers that employ American citizens without offering them qualifying health insurance could be subject to fines of up to $3,000 per worker. But because newly legalized immigrants wouldn’t be eligible for subsidies on the Obamacare exchanges until after they become citizens – at least 13 years under the Senate bill – businesses could avoid such fines by hiring the new immigrants instead.”

It didn’t matter, Senate Passes Immigration Overhaul. I’d call it an underhaul, since they didn’t read it.

Welcome to 200 A.D., or, to the agnostic, 200 M.E.

Ecuador: No travel documents for Snowden

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

As of 11:22 a.m. ET, the WSJ reports that Ecuador Hasn’t Given Snowden Travel Documents
Government Unilaterally Renounces Trade Preferences With U.S
. The trade preferences were expected to expire July 30.

For the time being,

Officials of this small Andean nation lashed back at attempts by U.S. lawmakers to use a set of trade preferences that expire at the end of July as a bargaining chip to push Ecuador, which says it’s considering an asylum request by Mr. Snowden, away from supporting him. Ecuador said it was unilaterally renouncing these trade preferences.

But the Ecuadorean government also reiterated that it hadn’t provided him travel papers that could aid his global journey to evade espionage charges in the U.S, casting fresh doubts about the tools that Mr. Snowden has at his disposal while he appears to remain holed up in the transit zone of a Moscow airport terminal.

The U.S. has revoked Mr. Snowden’s passport and, without any travel documents, it is unclear how he could fly out of Moscow.

This report contradicts Univision’s, which last night

posted images of what it said was a “safe pass” for temporary travel that had been apparently issued by Ecuador’s embassy in London to Mr. Snowden—a document he would need after U.S. officials said earlier this week they had canceled his passport.

It sounds to me that the Correa regime may be haggling over price with Snowden.

Mark my words, Correa’s not aiming for Hugo Chavez’s empty throne. Correa’s going to stay well away from that, and let Maduro and Cabello fight it out in Venezuela. IN the meantime, Correa is looking after Correa.

Venezuela has made polite noises to Snowden, but Snowden may have to adjust himself to some limitations (link in Spanish, via Daniel), such as keeping his mouth shut for fear of being sent to jail, and taking blackouts, food shortages and no toilet paper in stride.

“Ecuador’s foreign ministry said the country would consider whether to grant asylum to Mr. Snowden if he presents himself at one of the country’s diplomatic missions.” Well, that may not be as easy as it sounds. Look at Assange, sitting in the London embassy because England won’t grant him safe passage.

Putin hasn’t thrown him out of the airport yet, but Putin’s not a guy you want to mess with, and the Ecuadorians would need Putin’s permission to transport him to and from the airport.

Then there are two more issues,

whether there was a country that would allow him free transit on his way to Ecuador, which has said it would consider granting him asylum, and whether he had the temporary travel documents to get there.

Of course, there’s always asking Russia for asylum, a la Guy Burgess,

Someday someone will write a book about what Snowden didn’t know.

Developing. . .

Alexander does the tango

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

A Russian kid in Buenos Aires, learning from the best, featuring my most favorite venue, La Ideal,

Is Edward Snowden about to become the world’s most famous illegal alien?

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

Rick Moran mentioned in last night’s podcast that Jaime Darenblum had a great article on Ecuador coming up at Pajama’s Media today. Indeed he does:

Why Snowden Picked Ecuador
The NSA leaker knows that President Rafael Correa wants to be the next Hugo Chávez.

Why did Snowden pick Ecuador? Like Assange, he recognizes that President Rafael Correa is an anti-American leftist who has repeatedly clashed with Washington and has eagerly embraced U.S. adversaries. Indeed, Correa is a Hugo Chávez acolyte who reportedly receivedmoney from Colombian FARC terrorists during his 2006 presidential campaign; who in 2009 expelled a U.S. embassy official named Armando Astorga and forced the U.S. military to leave Manta air base (which had been used for anti-drug operations); who in 2011expelled U.S. ambassador Heather Hodges; who in 2012 withdrewEcuadorean troops from the U.S.-based Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation and also threatened to expel USAID from Ecuador; and who boycotted the 2012 Summit of the Americas to protest the exclusion of Cuba. His government has also strengthened ties with Iran, and there is compelling evidence that the Iranians have used their close relationship with Ecuador to evade international sanctions and access the global financial system. Ecuadorean foreign minister Ricardo Patiño has called Iran a “strategic partner,” and Correa has defended the Iranian nuclear program.

Related: Re Edward #Snowden: read the info about Ecuador Assange’s Wikileaks will not publish regarding the purchase of surveillance equipment the government will be using against the Ecuadorian people. Darenblum continues,

As Ramiro Crespo of Quito-based Analytica Investments tells the Washington Post, “Ecuador is looking to be an antagonist of the United States and looking for causes that will permit it to do that.” That’s why it granted asylum to Julian Assange, and that’s why it may soon grant asylum to Edward Snowden. Earlier this week, Foreign Minister Patiño condemned U.S. officials for their efforts to apprehend the NSA leaker. “The one who is denounced pursues the denouncer,” he said,according to the New York Times. “The man who tries to provide light and transparency to issues that affect everyone is pursued by those who should be giving explanations about the denunciations that have been presented.” For his part, President Correa tweeted that “we will analyze the Snowden case very responsibly and we will make with absolute sovereignty the decision that we believe is most appropriate.”

Given his anti-U.S. record and his desire to succeed the late Hugo Chávez as the leader of Latin America’s populist-left coalition, there is good reason to expect that Correa will approve Snowden’s request.

And, by the way, sheltering Julian Assange, a Swedish and Australian citizen, at the London embassy is nowhere near the same as granting asylum to an American, since,

while Correa is known for his “anti-imperialist” rants and frequent denunciations of U.S. foreign policy, Ecuador still has a dollarized economy, and it still sends 45 percent of its exports to the United States (mostly oil, food products, and flowers), making America its largest trade partner. Since the early 1990s, Ecuador has benefited from U.S. trade preferences that are scheduled to expire on July 31. Thanks to these preferences, 23 percent of Ecuador’s U.S.-bound exports are exempt from tariffs. If Correa shelters Snowden, he will obviously jeopardize his country’s trade status.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has hailed NSA leaker Edward Snowden’s “courage” and offered to consider an asylum application. Venezuela, on the other hand, may not want to rush to a decision, considering that the USA is its #1 oil customer and refiner.

Snowden sent encrypted copies of his NSA files to people in case anything happens to him, which means he would have us believe he’s willing to head over to China and Russia in the belief that they can’t break/wouldn’t already have his encryption, but will have released all sorts of information damaging to the US if anyone knocks him off? And, another question,

How would you arrange to send a password to unlock encrypted files if you’re working alone?

For now, it looks like Edward Snowden may be stuck in Russia; the US revoked his passport, and, unless he has made other arrangements, his Russian transit visa (if he has one), may be about to expire, currently making him the world’s most famous illegal alien.

Video below the fold since it starts right away,

In Rick Moran’s podcast

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Rick welcomes you to the Flat Earth Society. With a line like that, you must tune in!

Today’s guest: Tom Harris, of the International Climate Science Coalition.

Listen to it live, or archived for your convenience.

Snowden not in Ecuador

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

and Putin says

is a “free man” biding his time in a Moscow airport

Yeah, right.

As much as Rafael Correa would like to rankle the USA by taking in Snowden, Putin isn’t done with him yet.

Four laptop’s worth of secret information, sitting on the lap of the former head of the KGB. Not quite the same as living on $125,000/yr in Hawaii with a stripper.

Brazil: Left manipulating demonstrations

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

In today’s news:

Brazil Protests Back Despite Proposed ReformsProtesters on Tuesday returned to the streets in low-income suburbs of Brazil’s biggest city to demand better education, transport and health services, one day after President Dilma Rousseff proposed a wide range of actions to reform Brazil’s political system and services.

Mary O’Grady’s take on the continuing demonstrations:
Behind Brazil’s Civil Unrest
Radicals use popular discontent to push President Dilma Rousseff into following more statist policies.

it is worth asking who neatly arranged for the roadblocks and vandalism that broke out across the country after an annual increase in bus fares. There is solid evidence to suggest that it came from disillusioned and radical groups on Ms. Rousseff’s left. Protests in Porto Alegre, for example, began under the leadership of the likes of the Socialist and Freedom Party, which was formed by former PT members expelled for resisting Lula’s pension reform.

Using an anti-status-quo message and social media, organizers have not found it difficult to attract young people of many political persuasions. It is likely that most of them don’t know they are being used.

Back in the day, Dilma herself may have been one of the users.