Archive for July, 2013

Panama: More Cuban weapons in the N. Korean freighter

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

In addition to the MiG-21 fighters and two missile radar systems they found earlier, now they found 12 engines for MiG-21 fighter jets and “five military vehicles that officials said resembled missile control centers.”

Panama discovers MORE fighter jet engines and military vehicles on the seized boat taking obsolete weapons from Cuba to North Korea
– More military hardware has been discovered on the boat intercepted by Panama on its way from Cuba to North Korea
– The Chong Chon Gang was stopped on July 15
– North Korea says it was to repair the equipment and return it to Cuba
– Cargo includes missile systems, two MiG-21 jet fighters, military vehicles and 12 spare engines, all hidden under bags of brown sugar

Cuba said the weapons on the ship included two anti-aircraft missile batteries, nine disassembled rockets, two MiG-21 fighter jets, and 15 MiG-21 engines, all Soviet-era military weaponry built in the middle of the last century.


The crew set the vessel’s electrical system on fire to disable it, which means the unloading process could take up to ten days, a Panamanian foreign ministry spokesman said.

The UN investigators will arrive next month, after the ship is completely unloaded.

I’m sure they’ll send a strongly-worded letter upon their return to NYC.

Guillermo Álvarez Guedes RIP

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

The funniest Cuban ever passed away yesterday afternoon.

In Spanish, and not suitable for work, his riff on Reinhold Niebuhr’s “God, give me the serenity” prayer:

“Señor, concédeme la serenidad para aceptar las cosas que no puedo cambiar,

el coraje para cambiar aquellas cosas que no puedo aceptar,

y la sabiduría para esquivar a todos aquellos que intentan joderme el día.

Concédeme la tranquilidad para escuchar a cada comemierda que venga a hablarme,

cada sugerencia pendeja que venga a hacer

y cada manera creativa de joderme.

También, ayúdame a cuidarme de los que tuve que mandar al carajo hoy,

ya que estos pueden estar bien relacionados con los del fondillo que tendré que besar mañana.

Ayúdame a dar el 100% de mi al trabajo: 12% el lunes, 23% el martes, 40% el miércoles, 20% el jueves y 5% el viernes.

Y Señor, cuando este teniendo un mal día

y parezca que la gente se ha puesto de acuerdo para joderme,

ayúdame a recordar que se requieren 42 músculos para sonreír

y sólo 4 para extender mi dedo

y decirles que se caguen en su madre”.

High intensity drug trafficking areas: Caribbean security threats

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

One of the reasons Venezuela’s slide into criminality matters to the USA:
Security Failures in the Caribbean are Posing Serious Threats

Drug traffickers from Venezuela have severely impacted anti-narcotics officials in the Dominican Republic. The National Drugs Control Agency (DNCD) exposed an alliance between military personnel and business interests in October of 2012, with 15 arrests that included the owner of a domestic airline. The Dominican Republic was used as a hub for drug trafficking that included payments to military and air traffic controllers. Six airplanes were also seized as part of the operation.

The corridor between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico has given rise to a more focused drug interdiction surveillance, mainly intended to monitor go-fast boats and other vessels.

Although the Royal Bahamian Police Force boasts of an aggressive crime prevention plan to “reduce violence and driving [sic] down the fear of crime,” they clearly do not have sufficient resources to effectively patrol their vast chain of islands.

Over 4,000 keys, spanning the 4,800 kilometers of Cuban coastline, provide cover for speedboats and fishing vessels.

Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands have been labeled “high intensity drug trafficking areas (HIDTA).” As well, much of the drug interdiction concentrated on Venezuela and Colombia has shifted to drug air transportation routes from the Dominican Republic to the eastern Caribbean. Puerto Rico is a major commercial gateway to the US, both in terms of frequent air traffic and freighter shipments to mainland destinations.

The Caribbean ought to be a security priority. Read the whole thing.

Brazil: Santos Basin/Libra field among top 6 key oil & gas discoveries of 2013

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013 Premium Analysts:
6 key oil & gas discoveries of 2013: Who’s worth owning

Santos Basin/Libra, Brazil

In May, Petrobras doubled the estimate for its Libra field to 12-15 billion barrels. This makes it Brazil’s largest ever discovery. Brazilian officials say it could easily produce a million barrels of oil per day once it is fully developed—that’s TWICE the output of OPEC-member Ecuador. Production could begin in five years, with plans for up to 12-18 production vessels permanently anchored on the field, each of them pumping up to 30,000 barrels per day. For state-run Petrobras, which owns the field, it means more expenditures and more debt (and it’s already drowning). The answer: Petrobras is taking the show on the road, preparing to offer foreign investors up to a 30% stake in this amazing prospect. (The Libra auction will take place in October, and 70% of the field will be up for grabs).

Read the full report here.

Central America: Everybody wants a canal

Monday, July 29th, 2013

and I have a bridge to sell you,

Two, Three, Many Canals in Central America (emphasis added):

Besides, the Panama Canal is already undergoing an expansion of its capacity to accommodate the latest class of super tankers through the isthmus. But everywhere you go in Central America today there is talk of new canals and of China’s willingness to pay for them.

Nicaragua, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Honduras, too. And there’s even a dry canal, “high-speed rail system powered by a hydro-generated plant in the Gulf of Fonseca.”

The whole thing sounds very pie-in-the-sky to me. As I mentioned last month, the Nicaragua Canal is not underwritten by the Chinese government, but instead by some guy with experience only in the telecommunications industry who’s not even started the feasibility studies – but has a track record of floating stocks, and who was awarded a $300 million telecommunications contract in Nicaragua by Daniel Ortega.

The Chinese government apparently has nothing to do with it. More to the point, why would the Chinese government involve itself with such high-cost, high-risk projects when the Panama Canal expansion is going well?

Could it be that the next Chinese stock market bubble will feature Central American canal stocks?

Somewhere in a jail cell, Bernie Madoff is asking himself, “why didn’t I think of that?”

The maggot Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

Monday, July 29th, 2013

LatinAmerNo, not maggot Anthony Weiner (with apologies to any soft limbless larva of dipterous insects who may be reading this blog). The catchy headline is not from a Star Trek movie, but from another trek . . . to Peru,

A British woman returned from a holiday in Peru hearing scratching noises inside her head to be told she was being attacked by flesh-eating maggots living inside her ear.

Now that I have your attention, here’s the news from our hemisphere:
Sure this is the real thing? GREEN Coke launched in Argentina with natural sweetener and fully recyclable bottle

Evo says the continent must cease to depend on foreign companies for its large-scale industrial projects: Bolivia’s Morales Calls for South America’s “Technological Liberation”

Pope Warns of Drug Scourge as Latin America Moves to Legalize

Papal Visit a Mixed Blessing for Rio
Mishaps at a papal event are raising doubts about Rio de Janeiro hosting the upcoming Olympics and the World Cup.

Pope urges talks in divided Brazil
Pope Francis urges Brazil’s government and civil society leaders to use dialogue as an alternative to violent protest and “selfish indifference”.

‘Murder’ claim roils Chile campaign
A Chilean lawyer wants charges against the father of the conservative presidential candidate for the murder of her rival’s father.

Some final thoughts on Capriles in Chile

Colombia civil conflict has killed ‘nearly a quarter of a million’: study
Almost a quarter of a million Colombians have been killed in the country’s bloody half-century conflict, most of them civilians, a government-funded report revealed on Wednesday, providing fresh evidence of the vast scale of human rights violations since hostilities began.

Costa Rica Aims for Zoos without Cages. [Insert NJ Turnpike joke here]

The Castro Brothers Get Caught in the Act News of arms shipments to North Korea rudely interrupts the happy talk about reforms in Cuba.

The Cuban Cargo Caper

In the spirit of rock and roll and freedom, Cuban heavy metal band Hipnosis defects

U.S. Aims to Resume Bilateral Talks With Ecuador Before Year-End

Chevron’s latest headache in $19 billion lawsuit
A federal appeals court is weighing a sixth attempt by representatives of the Amazon Defense Front to toss the judge hearing the oil giant’s RICO case.

Haiti cholera epidemic caused by UN, say experts

UNREAL! Chicago Teachers Union Officials Travel to Honduras to Discuss “Revolution” With Former Tyrant

FDA set to overhaul food safety rules for imported fruits, veggies

Latin America and Edward Snowden
South Americans in glasshouses

WSJ letter to the editor: Mexico Needs Big Oil-Policy Change
Pemex’s freedom of maneuver has been held hostage for a half-century by a national narrative that misunderstands the global dynamic of the oil industry

Chinese Businessman Seeks to Build Nicaraguan Canal

More than 100 bodies exhumed in Peru

Luis Gutierrez Asks Congress To Oppose Puerto Rico Statehood Resolution In Joint Letter With Nydia Velazquez

Suriname wants Dutch compensation for slave trade (h/t Gates of Vienna)

Apocalyptic South American fuck-up nudges up fund manager’s alpha

In Venezuela, the only fully-stocked supermarket belongs to the government: Caracas’s only fully-stocked supermarket and its one-in one-out policy
Demand at Caracas’s only fully-stocked supermarket – the government-run Bicentenario – is so high that it is now operating a “one-in, one-out” policy.

The week’s posts:
Brazil: 3 million expected at Copacabana today

Latin America and the China bubble

Cuba: A grim anniversary

Venezuela: Maduro gets hacked

Habemus Papam, habemus tango

Cuba: Civility, schmivility

Brazil: The Pope in a pickle

UNESCO self-ridicules UPDATED

Puerto Rico: Wind farm fiasco

Brazil: 3 million expected at Copacabana today

Sunday, July 28th, 2013

Millions of people converged on Copacabana Beach Saturday for an evening vigil with Pope Francis

Hundreds of thousands of youths camped out on Copacabana beach ahead of Pope Francis’ final mass for World Youth Day. The mayor of Rio de Janeiro estimated that some three million people would turn up for Sunday mass. Photo: Associated Press.

Including some Americans:

While mishaps at a papal event are raising doubts about Rio de Janeiro hosting the upcoming Olympics and the World Cup, this, Pope Francis’s first visit to our hemisphere, has shown him relating to the huge crowds on their terms.

Latin America and the China bubble

Saturday, July 27th, 2013

Andres Oppenheimer: China-Latin America fiesta is over

Oppenheimer points out that Paul Krugman, George Friedman (founder of the geo-political newsletter Stratfor), and

even the usually upbeat United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) downgraded its growth projections for Latin America in 2013 from 3.5 percent to 3 percent, to a large extend because of China’s decreasing raw material purchases from the region.

Latin American exports to China — mainly commodities — had soared from nearly $4 billion in 2000 to $71 billion in 2012. Some economists had predicted that China would surpass the United States as Latin America’s top trading partner by 2015. But that seems increasingly unlikely.

The Chile-based ECLAC warned this week that we are witnessing “the likely end of the boom in commodity export prices brought about by China’s growth.”

Among the Latin American countries that will be most affected are metal exporters such as Peru, Chile and Suriname, oil exporters such as Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia, and food exporters such as Argentina, the U.N. agency said.

Mexico and Brazil will be less affected by China’s slowdown because they have more diversified economies and are less China-dependent, it said.

Oppenheimer is hopeful that

China’s economic slowdown may mark the end of the commodity-based populist cycle in Latin America, in which Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina and other countries squandered their raw material export booms in feel-good subsidies, instead of investing in infrastructure and education.

Let’s hope he’s right. As far as Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Argentina go, I’m nowhere near as optimistic.

Cuba: A grim anniversary

Friday, July 26th, 2013

Today is the 60th anniversary of Fidel Castro’s attack of the Moncada army barracks. Venezuela’s tinpot dictator Nicolas Maduro, along with Bolivia’s Evo Morales, Uruguay’s Jose Mujica and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega are celebrating in Havana.

Carlos Eire, however, is shedding light on what it really means:
A brief and personal history of 100 years of Cuban history

I cannot possibly cut and paste his heartbreaking post. You must read it in full. Click on the photo for the full article:

While you’re at it, buy his books.

Over the years, I have been asked why do I feel such affinity for the plight of the Cubans. It’s simple: If my Spanish grandparents had decided to move to Cuba instead of Puerto Rico, that would have been my story, too.


There but for the grace of God, go I.

Venezuela: Maduro gets hacked

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

El Nuevo Herald reports that Anonymous Venezuela and Venezuelan Hackers hacked on Tuesday night a dozen Venezuelan government websites, including those for the stock market, the army, the air force and the National Guard, plus the websites of several universities, ministries, and states.

Along with the cyberattack, Venezuelan Hackers issued a video (in Spanish) demanding Nicolas Maduro’s resignation.

The speaker in the YouTube, using a computer-generated voice with the purest Castilian Spanish accent, stated that the cyberattack marked the hundredth day “of the electoral fraud” perpetrated on the Venezuelan people.

Venezuelan Hackers promised “this is not over”:

They promise to continue the attacks until Maduro leaves office.