Archive for November, 2013

Mexico: No more Pact

Saturday, November 30th, 2013

The leftist Partido de la Revolución Democrática (Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD) has pulled out of the Pact for Mexico, creating an acute crisis (link in Spanish), according to Mexican daily El País.

But how much of a crisis is it?

The Pact for Mexico, created in 2012 by then-new president Enrique Peña Nieto’s Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), the PRD, and the Partido Acción Nacional (National Action Party, or PAN) ended 15 years of gridlock in the fractious congress,

allowing Mr. Peña’s administration to secure passage of wide-ranging bills on telecommunications, tax increases and education.

Congress is taking up the issue next week. But lawmakers from the PAN and the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, are expected to rewrite the president’s bill to give private oil companies a bigger role in the state energy sector, including contracts that allow them to share oil production. The president’s August initiative called only for sharing the profits from the oil, but not the oil itself.

“If they insist on an energy reform that privatizes Mexico’s oil income, the government is going to generate a situation of enormous social and political instability,” said PRD president Jesús Zambrano in an interview. “We’ll have a very hot Christmas, we’ll launch protests on all fronts.”

Together, the PAN and PRI have the two-thirds majority in Congress required to pass the proposed constitutional changes for the energy overhaul. And the president has already passed most of his major initiatives under the pact.

Mr. Peña Nieto regretted the PRD’s decision to leave the Pact for Mexico, but vowed to press on with reforms.

From the PRI’s point of view,

The ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, is hoping its energy reform will spur faster economic growth, and the departure of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) from the accord is likely to push the debate closer to a more business-friendly proposal backed by the center-right.

The Senate is expected to vote on the political overhaul as early as Tuesday, with a vote on the energy bill soon to follow.

Brazil: Will the stadium meet the deadline? You betcha.

Saturday, November 30th, 2013

A crane collapsed this week killing two workers at Arena Corinthians, the stadium in São Paulo set to host the opening game of the 2014 World Cup.

Now Brazil Orders Partial Halt to Stadium Construction After Accident
Brazil’s government has ordered a partial halt to construction of a new sports stadium, following an accident that killed two workers, creating doubts about the venue for the soccer World Cup opening game in 2014
. The stadium is expected to cost around $353 million, but it may not be finished on time:

Press reports Friday said Brazilian authorities were already searching for “a Plan B” in the event the São Paulo venue is unavailable.


A spokesman for Brazil’s 2014 World Cup Organizing Committee, however, said, “It is premature to talk about a Plan B when we have not yet fully assessed the situation at Arena Corinthians.”


other aspects of the project were moving ahead. Corinthians on Friday signed a loan agreement with state-run mortgage bank CEF for 400 million Brazilian reais ($172 million). The money will pay for the remaining construction work on the stadium.

What do the unions say? (emphasis added)

A labor union representative, although highly critical of conditions at the site, said the accident will cause a delay in the construction schedule of only eight to 10 days. “The cause of the accident was human error,” said Antonio de Sousa Ramalho, president of the São Paulo Construction Workers Union. “That can be fixed by putting adequate management procedures in place. Personally, I have no doubt Arena Corinthians will be the venue for the World Cup opener.”

I predict Arena Corinthians will hold the opener.

There are a total of six stadiums not yet completed. The question is, will all of them be ready on time? (click on photo for large view)

Ecuador: Oil bidders not quite chomping at the bit

Friday, November 29th, 2013

Imagine an oil auction were the winners would have to contend with the following:

Ecuador Receives 3 Offers in 11th Oil-Licensing Round
Analysts Say Contract Model Was Obstacle in Attracting Interest in the Auction

If you’re surprised that they received three bids (as opposed to none), bear in mind that

China’s Andes Petroleum Co. submitted offers for blocks 79 and 83, while Spain’s Repsol Cuba submitted an offer for block 29.

Repsol Cuba, by definition, is a sucker for punishment.

More on China and Ecuadorian oil at Petroleum World.

Argentina: Same old, same old

Friday, November 29th, 2013

Cristina’s hitting the same old,

Argentina issue threats over Falkland oil
Argentina threatens fines and imprisonment for oil companies and their executives for any “illegal exploration” of hydrocarbons off the Falkland Islands

The Foreign Office added that hydrocarbons activities by companies operating on the continental shelf of the Falkland Islands are regulated by legislation of the Falkland Islands government, and in accordance with the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea.

Cristina will resort to any distraction from her chaotic fiscal problems and deals with Iran.

I suggest she focus on this bit of old news instead, World’s oldest prehistoric toilet unearthed in Argentina.

Shearith Israel’s Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Meir Soloveitch writes in the WSJ about the origins of the Shearith Israel synagogue: God Delivered the Pilgrims—and My People
Thanksgiving always had particular resonance for one group of religious freedom-seekers.

As with the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, the origins of Shearith Israel trace back to a small group of religious freedom-seekers and a treacherous ocean passage to the New World. In September 1654, 23 Jews set sail from Recife, Brazil, where the Portuguese Inquisition had made practicing Judaism impossible. Intending to return to Europe but captured by pirates mid-voyage, they gave themselves up for lost—until, as a congregational history puts it, “God caused a savior to arise unto them, the captain of a French ship arrayed for battle, and he rescued them out of the hands of the outlaws . . . and conducted them until they reached the end of the inhabited earth called New Holland.”

Once arrived safely in New Holland, better known as New Amsterdam, the refugees formed the first Jewish community in North America. From the start, they remained loyal to their faith: praying together, ensuring the availability of kosher meat, and observing their holidays. For these individuals, the symbolism of lighting the Hanukkah candles in the dark of winter must have been especially resonant, at one with the dawning presence of Judaism in the New World.

At the beginning of the 18th century, Shearith Israel—the name means “the remnant of Israel”—was importing its clergy from Europe. But by 1768, it was ready to hire its first American-born minister, Gershom Mendes Seixas. And it is here that the story of Shearith Israel becomes forever intertwined with the story of Thanksgiving—and of America.

Read about how it did here

Cuba closing its consulates in the US

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Cuba, Lacking Bank, Closes U.S. Consular Services

The Cuban government said Tuesday that it was shutting down nearly all of its consular services in the United States “until further notice” because it was unable to find a bank willing to handle its business. The decision threatens to disrupt a recent surge in travel between the United States and Cuba on the eve of the holiday season. The Cuban Interests Section in Washington said that it was informed by its bank, M&T Bank, in July that it would no longer be able to provide services to foreign missions.

wsv-783361Play me the world’s smallest violin. For decades, Cuba has defaulted and cheated on all debts, and is currently imprisoning foreign businessmen who tried to collect on unpaid bills.

But don’t feel bad for the communist regime,

The Castro regime will now issue all sorts of “threats” and “propaganda” in an effort to coerce the Obama Administration into compelling a private bank to do business with it.

$5 says they’ll find one.

Mexico: Teen hit man sent back to USA

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

17 yr old El Ponchis is back in the US:
Mexico: Teen hit man freed, sent to U.S.

Mexican authorities set free a former teen cartel hit man on Tuesday and sent him back to the United States.

The release of Edgar Jimenez Lugo, a U.S. citizen known as “El Ponchis” or “The Cloak,” comes less than three years after a Mexican court found him guilty of torturing and beheading at least four people and kidnapping three others as an operative for the South Pacific Cartel.

On Tuesday, Mexican authorities said he had served his three-year sentence and had been sent back to the United States.

This was a very high-profile case at the time, and parts of El Ponchis’s interrogations were shown on TV.

He’s certainly not the only one; earlier this year a 13 yr old hit man was executed. Prior to his release, El Ponchis had requested police protection, which was denied, and he was deported to the US.

In a somewhat lighter mode, Paco Almaraz had the burnt-out El Ponchis (in Spanish).

En español: Terapia intensiva

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

esta semana,

Ecuador: How China took control of Ecuador’s oil

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Remember how Correa made the country default on its debt “because he could”? Well, here’s the price:
How China took control of Ecuador’s oil

Shunned by most lenders since a $3.2 billion debt default in 2008, Ecuador now relies heavily on Chinese funds, which are expected to cover 61 percent of the government’s $6.2 billion in financing needs this year. In return, China can claim as much as 90 percent of Ecuador’s oil shipments in coming years, a rare feat in today’s diversified oil market.

After 2009, terms changed in new Chinese loans, documents show. A 2010 deal for another $1 billion credit line from China Development Bank cut the premium that PetroChina would pay for Ecuador’s oil, and granted PetroChina approval to resell the crude in any market.

In early 2011, Ecuador got another $1 billion loan, and authorized PetroChina to collect money from any other companies that owed PetroEcuador if Ecuador failed to meet repayment terms.

This is close to 11 percent of Ecuador’s gross domestic product.

There’s also the decades-long Chevron lawsuit, which has turned many private companies away from dealing with Ecuador. Last September, Chevron won a major arbitration victory when the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague unanimously ruled that

all such “collective” or “diffuse” forms of environmental relief had been settled and extinguished by the 1995 settlement agreement between Ecuador and Texaco. Accordingly, they reasoned, even if individual third parties were later given standing to seek such relief, they had, by that time, no rights left to assert. The only party that possessed such rights in 1995 — the government — had settled all those claims.

Today is the last day of the Chevron racketeering suit against Steven Donziger.

But back to the report on China,

Chinese firms serve as middleman in most of the Ecuadorean oil sales, while keeping a strategic option to divert barrels to China if needed. As China’s trade grows in the region, U.S. relations have soured with Venezuela and Ecuador, whose leaders are outspoken U.S. critics.

The US needs to become totally independent of foreign oil, right now. Until it does, all foreign policy is at someone else’s mercy.

In case you missed it, Che in 10 quotes

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

From The Libertarian,
Che Guevara in 10 (Not So) Great Quotes. The veil comes off,

6)“Hatred is the central element of our struggle! Hatred so violent that it propels a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him a violent and cold-blooded killing machine. Our soldiers must be thus.”

Read the rest.