Archive for October, 2013

Mexico: Tax my chocolate!

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Higher tax rates for the rich are only half the story; there are new taxes on sugary soft drinks, chocolate and junk food, dividends, mining, and an increase in the value-added tax to 16% from 11% in border areas,,

The Senate also ratified a new 7.5% tax on mining companies’ earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization—and an additional 0.5% charge on sales of gold, silver and platinum.

What the Mexican Senate has done is to essentially raise taxes on everybody.

The Mexican Ministry of Finance had lowered its economic growth projection for 2013 to 1.8% earlier this year.

In a country where tax avoidance is rife, adding inflationary measures like taxes on consumer items and higher VAT while at the same time punishing the mining industry does not bode well for growth.

Luckily for you, gentle reader, you can buy your Mexican chocolate through these Amazon links,

Go ahead. You know you want to.

Venezuela: The marauding motorcyclists

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

You may recall that last month a swarm of 300 motorcyclists looted a truck, some climbing over the fatally-injured driver,

At that time, Daniel Duquenal pointed out that

the society of motorbikes is a creation of chavismo who has subsidized them heavily in the early years because they were their storm troopers to quickly go around town to crush any anti Chavez protest. Remember Lina Ron? Now they are out of control, a threat to regime itself. One shudders at the idea that suddenly 300 bikes could appear in a neighborhood and start looting while the cops look helpless. Because they are armed, you know, the bikers, better than the cops probably.

Now it looks like things are so out of hand, the government is looking to regain some control:
Venezuela seeks to tame ‘Wild West’ motorcycle chaos. Good luck with that,

[Nicolas] Maduro was handpicked by Chavez, but he only narrowly won the election to succeed him. He faces a huge test to crack down on the lawlessness often associated with the motorizados while still retaining their many working-class votes.

“They’re a problem,” Interior Minister Miguel Torres said, launching a strategy last month to control Venezuela’s hundreds of thousands of bikers. “Not all of them, but there are lots who think they’re in the old Wild West.”

Many behave atrociously, he said, riding on sidewalks, knocking off mirrors as they weave in and out of traffic, and hurling abuse whenever challenged. Some are involved in much more serious offenses, including abductions and drive-by shootings.

In recent months, funeral corteges of dozens of motorcycles have become regular flashpoints, with bikers creating gridlock in order to smash windows and rob drivers at gunpoint.

Things are not much better in the Caracas metro,

Oil revenues dwindle, anarchy reigns.


Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Argentina: The end for Clarín

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Grupo Clarín, known for its criticism of kirchnerismo and Cristina Fernandez, will likely have to sell its profitable cable-TV and Internet businesses:
Argentine Court Clears Media Breakup
Argentina’s Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a law that could allow the government to dismantle Grupo Clarin SA, the country’s largest media company.

The decision caps a four-year battle against Clarín by Mrs. Kirchner, who has made dismantling the media giant a top priority of her administration. Relations between both sides began to fray shortly after she took office in 2007. The newspaper was critical of her handling of a farmers strike in 2008.

The following year, she stripped Clarín of lucrative soccer-broadcasting rights and later seized control of a newsprint maker in which Clarín is a shareholder. Her administration also filed criminal charges against executives from Clarín and competing newspaper La Nación, accusing them of colluding with Argentina’s 1976-83 dictatorship to obtain control of the newsprint company. Clarín and La Nación denied the allegations and called them an effort to silence critical voices.

In one particularly bitter episode, Mrs. Kirchner’s government and human-rights groups teamed up against Clarín’s owner, Ernestina Herrera de Noble, and accused her of adopting children who may have been stolen during the 1970s dictatorship. DNA tests later confirmed that the children, Marcela and Felipe, couldn’t be tied to a database of people that had been “disappeared” during the dictatorship. The government never apologized.

This year, Mrs. Kirchner compared the media to military coup-mongers, saying journalists fire “ink bullets” in their bid to overthrow governments and pursue their own vested special interests. Some of her government’s top officials stormed Clarín’s annual shareholder meeting in April to heckle company officials. Mrs. Kirchner once acknowledged using the federal tax agency to investigate a critic of hers that had been quoted in Clarín.

“It’s a blood vendetta,” said Riordan Roett, professor of Latin American politics at Johns Hopkins University. “Both Kirchners, dead or alive, were and are very thin-skinned.”

Mrs. Kirchner’s husband and predecessor, Néstor Kirchner, died in 2010.

The decision could mark a turning point in freedom of expression in Argentina. Clarín has long said that income from cable and Internet businesses allows it to maintain its editorial independence by giving it the financial security to withstand the loss of advertising from hard-hitting articles against business or government leaders.

Interestingly, the Court made its decision after Sunday’s election:

 The legal victory for the government comes only two days afterPresident Fernández’s administration took a beating in Sunday’s mid-term legislative elections, raising the spectre of a “lame duck” presidency for the ailing Fernández until the next presidential elections in 2015.

Supreme Court judge Eugenio Zaffaroni claims it was “so it wouldn’t look like they were trying to influence the outcome.”

Zaffaroni also stated that the law will be carried out (i.e., Clarín will have to sell its cable-TV and Internet businesses) regardless of whether the company appeals.


Colombia: “Peace is not in Havana”

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Presidential candidate Óscar Iván Zuluaga has had it with the FARC peace talks hosted by the Communist Cubans,

“Peace is not in Havana,” he said in his nomination speech. “The national agenda isn’t up for negotiation with the FARC.”

“I have never believed in this [peace] process because it’s based on a mistaken premise,” he told El Tiempo newspaper. “A legitimate state cannot sit down on equal terms with an organization that commits terrorist acts and finances itself through narco-traffic.”

While relatively unknown, Zuluaga has the backing of former president Alvaro Uribe, who would be a shoe-in for the Senate, while current president Juan Manuel Santos is increasingly unpopular.

Negotiations with the FARC have gone over a year.

Mexico: The cartel-induced blackout

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

From the looks of it, now the Knights Templar are engaging in terrorism:
Mexican Cartel Retaliates Against Civilians
One State’s Residents Say Crime Group Attacked Electric Plants, Killed Protesters

The attacks in Mexico’s southern Michoacán state on Sunday morning left some 420,000 residents, about 10% of the state’s population, without electricity, authorities said. The outages also happened in Morelia city, where an international film festival attended by the directors Quentin Tarantino and Alfonso Cuarón was under way.

On Monday, as electricity mostly returned, the government didn’t specify how exactly the attacks shut down the system, only that armed men fired bullets and threw Molotov cocktails at electricity stations throughout the state, leaving 11 towns and cities without power.

And,

The attacks in Mexico’s southern Michoacán state on Sunday morning left some 420,000 residents, about 10% of the state’s population, without electricity, authorities said. The outages also happened in Morelia city, where an international film festival attended by the directors Quentin Tarantino and Alfonso Cuarón was under way.

On Monday, as electricity mostly returned, the government didn’t specify how exactly the attacks shut down the system, only that armed men fired bullets and threw Molotov cocktails at electricity stations throughout the state, leaving 11 towns and cities without power

The Knights Templar emerged from what was left of la Familia Michoacana.


The Uruguayan doobie Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

Monday, October 28th, 2013

LatinAmerTop news of the week: Even when president Jose Mujica insists it won’t all be party-time, Uruguay is now the first country to legalize the production and mass distribution of marijuana.

ARGENTINA
Argentina Captures One of its Leading Homegrown Narcos

Argentina appeals New York Judge Griesa’s order regarding banks’ disclosures
The Argentine government yesterday appealed an order by US Judge Thomas Griesa who asked some private banks to turn over information about Argentina’s assets abroad. The case had been started by hedge fund Elliott Management Corp’s NML Capital Ltd which is demanding in court full 100% payment of Argentine sovereign bonds face value.

Argentina Rivals Square Off
The important question isn’t whether the ruling Peronist movement will win, but which of its dueling factions will gain the upper hand in the run-up to presidential elections in 2015.

Flashback: Hillary Clinton questions Cristina Kirchner’s mental health
Secret cable sent to US embassy in Argentina asks diplomats to find out how president handles stress

BOLIVIA
Bolivian Police Arrest 15 for Anti-Drug Agents’ Murders

BRAZIL
Brazil’s main city again rocked by riots and vandalism over transport facilities and costs

CHILE
Chile soldiers’ widows want Communist leader jailed
The widows of three Chilean soldiers have launched legal action against the country’s Communist Party leader.

COLOMBIA
Rights Activist Slain in Colombia

CUBA
Cuba’s currency
Double trouble

The Cuban Missile Crisis: Kennedy’s “Victory”?

Imprisoned couple Sonia Garro and Ramón Muñoz to stand ‘trial’ Nov. 1

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Dominicans of Haitian Descent Cast Into Legal Limbo by Court

ECUADOR
Ecuador’s Worn-Out War on Chevron

Racketeering aside, the case also looks rather weak on its own merits. For starters, Texaco operated as a minority partner under state-owned Petroecuador when the pollution occurred, so it is difficult to argue the damage is all its doing. Through agreements in 1995 and 1998, the Ecuadorian government also freed the company of further liability following a $40 million cleanup. An arbitration panel in The Hague cited the government’s sign-off when it ruled last month that Ecuador’s lawsuit should have never proceeded in the first place.

Oil, Ecuador and The Economist
A volcano erupts
Rafael Correa lambasts us and “the empire of capital”

Ecuador Judge Says He Inflated Bribery Claims to Chevron

Ecuador vs Chevron:
Donziger: from Hans Solo to Darth Vader

HAITI
Arrest of Haiti government critic triggers protests

HONDURAS
POLL NUMBERS!!! Economic problems in Honduras

JAMAICA
‘Cool Runnings’ 2? Jamaican bobsled team aims for Sochi Olympics

MEXICO
How Mexico’s EPR Insurgents Have Changed Course
Government sources have linked one of Mexico’s most prominent guerrilla organizations to a series of recent social protests

Paco Almaraz is having Obama burnout (in Spanish),

PANAMA
Panama Says It Will Release Most From Ship to North Korea

PARAGUAY
Paraguay leader’s son arrested [in Miami] after Bal Harbour party guest is punched

PUERTO RICO
Are There Puerto Rico Bonds in Your Muni Fund?
You may own Puerto Rico’s troubled bonds, popular for their high yields and special tax benefits, without even knowing it.

TRINIDAD & TOBAGO
Gangs Are the New Law in Urban Trinidad & Tobago

VENEZUELA
Chavista Freddy Bernal calls for investigation of Derwick Associates

The week’s posts and podcast:
Bolivia: What the “Bolivarian revolution” means, in practice

Venezuela: The ministry of Supreme Happiness

Is Brazil ready for the World Cup?

Remembering the invasion of Grenada

Mexico: Clown union disavows killing

Ecuador: Chevron racketeering trial roundup – the corrupt judge

Uruguay: The dollar doobie

Mexico: Don’t write off the Zetas

Ecuador: Who’s Financing the Pollution-Liability Suit Against Chevron?

Nicaragua: What it was like to be on the receiving end of the sandinistas

Mexico: Is Peña Nieto backtracking?

Celia Google day

Podcast:
Venezuela & US-Latin America stories of the week

Special thanks to the Rotary Club of Princeton:

Bolivia: What the “Bolivarian revolution” means, in practice

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Bolivia’s Descent Into Rogue State Status
The country is a hub for organized crime and a safe haven for terrorists.

The government is an advocate for coca growers. The Iranian presence is increasing. And reports from the ground suggest that African extremists are joining the fray.

Bolivian President Evo Morales, who is also the elected president of the coca producers’ confederation, and Vice President Alvaro García Linera, formerly of the Maoist Tupac Katari Guerrilla Army, began building their repressive narco-state when they took office in 2006.

Step one was creating a culture of fear. Scores of intellectuals, technocrats and former government officials were harassed. Many fled.

With the opposition cowed, President Morales has turned Bolivia into an international hub of organized crime and a safe haven for terrorists. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has been expelled. United Nations data show that cocaine production is up in Bolivia since 2006 and unconfirmed reports say that Mexican, Russian and Colombian toughs are showing up to get a piece of the action. So are militants looking to raise cash and operate in the Western Hemisphere.

The Tehran connection is no secret. Iran is a nonvoting member of the “Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas” ( ALBA ). Its voting members are Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Read the whole thing.

And now a break for Spiral/Engrenages

Sunday, October 27th, 2013


A friend recently recommended the French police thriller Spiral, and it’s addictive.

The literal meaning of the French title, Engrenages, is closer to gears (as in the grinding of the judicial system) than to spiral, but Spiral is very apt.

Taking place in Paris, this is not, repeat, not a travelogue (in four seasons, there’s only one shot of the Champs Élysées); it is the Paris of ugly rough neighborhoods, banlieus, and squats. The “French judicial system” means the cops can rough you up, strip-search you, and leave you in the clink for 3 days, and Miranda is the name of some girl, not of a SCOTUS decision regarding your rights.

A combination of Good Wife-type soap opera, CSI, and Law & Order, the characters are perfectly cast and the stories follow an arc through a season. Mostly Film has spoilers, but lists the main characters with great élan,

There’s also all the usual mixed-bag of recurring characters that a show like this gathers over time, including one man who looks so very French it hurts…

My favorite so far is Judge Roban, with his perfect hair,

Mr. Selfridge fans will be happy to hear Grégory Fitoussi plays one of the lawyers.

Warning: Violence, sex, gore, and really foul language.
In colloquial gutter French with English subtitles that sometimes aren’t great, but the show is worth the effort.

The Guardian blogs it.

Venezuela: The ministry of Supreme Happiness

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

The news on the latest scheme to waste oil money on propaganda made me wonder if they introduced it by having a Judy Garland impersonator singing this,

But noooo, it was created in honor of the late Hugo Chavez

The supreme happiness office, created in honor of the late president Hugo Chavez and the country’s revolutionary figure, Simon Bolivar, will serve the elderly, children, people with disabilities, and the homeless, according to local news reports. The minister will begin imposing cheer on December 9, in time to coincide with the first ever “Loyalty and Love to Hugo Chavez Day.” Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called the agency a “social advance in the struggle against the perfidy of capitalism.”

Zounds! “The perfidy of capitalism?” More like the day after the municipal elections, which are scheduled for December 8.

The article mentions that

The Earth Institute’s 2013 World Happiness Report placed Venezuela as the happiest country in South America (for the second year in a row) and twentieth worldwide.

Clearly the Earth Institute’s researchers managed to find folks that are blissful over cloth feminine pads, empty supermarket shelves and no toilet paper. The rest of the Venezuelans? Not so much.

It’s not quite clear just how supreme the happiness goes,

While there have been no details as to what the office will do, I can think of so many ways that it can celebrate and promote the happiness of all Venezuelans, particularly by pointing out happy events around the country, of which there are so many.

As an example, the Vice-Ministry could make sure to interview on TV anyone who managed to buy a package of corn flour, which has become one of the supreme moments of any Venezuelan’s life in the the last few months. And even if you think that finding toilet paper is another such happy moment, the Vice-Ministry could celebrate not only the finding of the roll of toilet paper by those citizens that lacked it, but more importantly recreate the moment of supreme happiness that represents using it for the first time after not having any for a while.

Feeling unhappy, try Orwellian Venezuela: Maduro creates the “Supreme Happiness” office
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced the creation of the “Supreme Happiness Under Secretary” to address social debt shortcomings and which was in honor of the late Commandant and president Hugo Chavez and the country’s liberator, Simon Bolivar.
As mentioned abovem timing is everything:

The Orwellian and Kim Il Sung style announcements coincide with the creation of the “Loyalty and Love to Hugo Chavez Day” and come a few weeks ahead of the 8 December municipal elections which could bring surprises to the Bolivarian revolution ravaged by the most serious economic shortcomings in a decade particularly the lack of sufficient food and basics in the country’s stores.

“Social debt shortcomings,” indeed.

Indeed; the Supreme Happiness is headed by a military officer (a.k.a. “Viceministerio para la Suprema felicidad social del pueblo venezolano“), as are also the office of Sovereign People, the Superior Office for the Defense of the Economy, and the Strategic Superior Centre for Homeland Security and Protection.

Happiness all around! How Venezuela’s Military Tried to Fly A Ton of Cocaine to France

police in France, Italy and Spain had launched a joint investigation some months previous, operating undercover in Europe and Venezuela without the knowledge of the Venezuelan government. “They could not tell the Venezuelan government what was going on, because they knew that high-ranking Venezuelan military officials were involved.”

Italian police managed to infiltrate the criminal operation, she said, getting details from informants about collaboration between the Venezuelans and the Ndrangheta, the powerful Italian mafia who are estimated to control 80 percent of the cocaine coming into Europe. The ‘Ndrangheta were due to receive the shipment, which Camero believes was originally purchased by the GNB from the FARC in the border state of Apure.

Happiness, 31 suitcases worth.

Linked to by Dustbury, and by Cherokee Gothic. Thank you!