Archive for the ‘corruption’ Category

Mexico: #Ayotzinapa backlash in Mexico Bronco

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

The 43 students are still missing. Here are today’s headlines:

Mexican Tied to Missing Students Is Killed
Death of Benjamin Mondragón, Alleged Head of Guerreros Unidos, Comes After Protests

The alleged leader of a Mexican criminal band that prosecutors accuse of colluding with police in the disappearance of 43 college students was killed on Tuesday during a shootout with security forces, federal officials said.

The security forces had tracked Benjamin Mondragón to a house in a suburb of Cuernavaca, just south of Mexico City, where the battle took place, officials said.

The officials said Mr. Mondragón led the Guerreros Unidos gang, which they said collaborated with police in the September shooting deaths of six people and the subsequent disappearance of the college students—whom most officials presume to be dead—in Iguala, a city in Guerrero state.

The death of Mr. Mondragón, known as Benjamón, or Big Ben, came a day after teachers and students burned and vandalized parts of Guerrero Gov. Angel Aguirre’s office and the state’s local legislature, demanding the return of the missing students and the governor’s resignation.
. . . .
But the incident in Iguala is a reminder of what Mexicans call “Mexico Bronco,” or “Untamed Mexico”—a wild land rife with poverty, cronyism and violence. Entire states and hundreds of cities and towns are in the grip of drug gangs and corrupt police and city halls, security experts say. The rule of law is shaky: Fewer than 3% of homicides are solved, officials say.

Protesters Burn State Building in Southern Mexico
Students, Teachers Clash With Police as Anger Flares Over Disappearance of 43 Young People

Missing Mexico students: Iguala eyewitness account

The search continues in Mexico for 43 students who have been missing since 26 September following clashes with the police. Omar Garcia is one of the students who witnessed the deadly clashes in which six people died. Here he describes what he saw that evening and what he thinks may have happened to his 43 fellow students.
. . .
We think the municipal police took them – what we think happened is that they kept them somewhere and then, as we say, “disappeared” them – like so many thousands of others in this country who are missing.

The Twitter tag is #Ayotzinapa

Could Mexico become the next Russia?

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

In Russia, Putin is king. Paul Roderick Gregory writes that Putin’s Reaction To Sanctions Is Destroying The Economy And China Won’t Help

Things are not going well for Vladimir Putin. The price of oil and the ruble continue to fall. Top Russian officials admit that the economy is in big trouble, despite Putin’s denials. Likely presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, has declared that Putin must be contained. Putin’s counter sanctions are making things worse. The most ominous sign, however, is that Putin is weakening the foundations on which his power is based. He is cutting off foreign investment by bailing out his friends, and he is breaking the social compact on which his KGB-Mafia state is founded.
. . .
Putin’s kleptocracy is based on the following principles of (mis)governance: 1) The state determines what is legal and what is not; there is no rule of law. 2) The state serves the interests of Putin and his inner circle, not of the people. 3) Putin’s kleptocracy uses its media monopoly to brainwash the people with Goebbels-like big lies. 4) Putin determines property rights – who owns what. 5) Disloyalty will be punished by confiscation of property, banishment, prison, or worse. Loyalists can rest easy, however. Their property is safe, or at least says their friend, Vladimir Putin.

Leon Krauze sees Russia as a cautionary tale for Mexico, and asks that Mexico’s President Must Not Ignore This Mass Grave of College Kids—or the Corruption It Represents. The mass grave refers to the 43 students missing since September 26

And then you have Guerrero, current epicenter of Mexico’s nightmare. For a while now, rival gangs have been fighting for control of the state. The result has been the usual parade of horrors: cities besieged (including Acapulco), governments infiltrated, journalists threatened, police corrupted. And death. And vengeance. The latest rearing of the beast’s head produced an atrocity: 43 college students were abducted by local policemen, reportedly under the order of both the police chief and the mayor of Iguala, a man allegedly in cahoots with organized crime (both are on the run). The whereabouts of the kidnapped students remain unknown, but authorities recently found a crude open grave filled with 28 severely burnt bodies. Some showed signs of torture. Forensics are still trying to figure out if the bodies are those of the kidnapped students. Relatives fear the worst.

Krauze points out,

Instead of trying to will reality into submission, the government should tackle Mexico’s biggest problem: corruption. Despite Peña Nieto’s penchant for structural change, his administration has failed to put in place even the most modest reform to fight the country’s deep-rooted corruption.

Updating the story yesterday, Mexico’s attorney general said that none of the 28 bodies found in a mass grave in Iguala belongs to the 43 missing students. I don’t know what’s worse: the fact that nine mass graves exist in Iguala, or that none of the students’ remains have been found.

Iguala’s mayor Jose Luis Abarca (now missing, along with his wife and the town police chief), had numerous and serious complaints of corruption filed against him, which federal authorities ignored.

The thing is, Peña Nieto’s party, the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) was based, and ruled Mexico for over 70 years with impunity, on a culture built on widespread tolerance of corruption, which Krauze calls a “gigantic structure of perverse political convenience.” About the only thing preventing Mexico from a Putin-type of president was that the PRI insisted on changing presidents every six years.

When Krauze asked Peña Nieto (emphasis added)

how Peña Nieto planned to prevent Mexico from turning into Russia, especially now that billions of dollars will be in play due to the recent opening of the country’s energy sector to private investors. Peña Nieto shrugged off my concern. Corruption in Mexico “is a cultural matter,” he said, not realizing the implications of the sentence.

Until and unless Mexico tackles corruption, the country is not going to flourish, no matter what other changes the president du jour may attempt.

[Post edited for clarity]



Ecuador’s “dirty hand,” and Mia Farrow’s greased palm

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

My latest article, Ecuador’s “dirty hand,” and Mia Farrow’s greased palm is up at Da Tech Guy Blog.

Don’t expect the case to be over, either.

Venezuela: Why the military won’t rise up

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

While El Puma and a few others call for Venezuela’s military to rise up against the Cuban-run dictatorship, there’s a big reason why that’s unlikely: perks.

Perks, and the likelihood they already are running the country:

New Cars for the Army as Venezuelans Line Up for Food

The market with everything from subsidized meat to baby strollers, along with loans, new cars and apartments, are perks provided to the armed forces as the economy contracts, poverty rises and President Nicolas Maduro’s popularity sinks to a record low.

The benefits help ensure the loyalty of the military, while siphoning reserves away from the poor who have seen wage growth fall behind inflation, according to analysts, citizen activists and academics.

Since Maduro came to power 17 months ago, the armed forces have created their own television channel, housing program and bank, the only military-owned one outside Iran and Vietnam. A third of Venezuela’s 28 ministers and half the state governors are now active or retired officers, mostly companions of former paratroop commander and late President Hugo Chavez.

This echoes the Cuban model, where most businesses that cater to tourists are own by the military. In fact, Venezuela is now a military regime:

The rise in prices is not the only kind of inflation affecting Venezuela. Bloomberg reports that “its military now has between 4,000 and 5,000 generals” for a ratio of one general for every 34 servicemen (in the United States the ratio is one general per 1,490 servicemen). As expected, generals enjoy higher salaries and many other benefits. Moreover, the intelligence community believes that high-ranking army officers control most illegal activities in Venezuela, from smuggling to drug trafficking. In other words, military men are profiteering from the status quo.

Juan Cristobal Nagel:

Count the Armed Forces alongside Wall Street and China as the three groups Maduro will never default on. That´s why it pains me to read simplistic stuff such as García Mora’s latest, where he wonders out loud when the country will finally break.

El Salvador: The Millennium Challenge Corporation ignores its own rules

Monday, September 29th, 2014


Salvadoran gangs

American Aid Props Up a Castro Ally
While investors flee, U.S. Millennium Challenge grants sustain Salvador’s anti-American leaders

Even more desperate to see El Salvador get the money is the MCC, which claims that it administers foreign aid differently than traditional bureaucracies. Under its guidelines, only candidates that demonstrate a commitment to good governance and the rule of law qualify for grants. But since countries that clear that hurdle, and thus attract capital, grow on their own, finding “clients” is challenging for the MCC.

So it ignores the guidelines. Last year Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.) noted the gaping chasm between the MCC’s rules and El Salvador’s sketchy profile, calling it “a country of weak democratic institutions where the independence of the judiciary has been attacked, corruption is widespread and transnational criminal organizations have flourished.”

El Salvador blocks foreign investment and employment opportunities to its people, getting instead MCC and Venezuelan oil handouts. As Mary O’Grady puts it,

Why bother with the pesky rule of law when the home of one of the world’s largest oil reserves and even the great Satan to the north are standing by with free money?

FIFA follies

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

That’s what I call a goody bag! Football Association dragged into Fifa controversy over £1million worth of watches handed to World Cup nations
Fifa’s ethics committee have confirmed the acceptance of the £16,000 Parmigiani Fleurier timepieces

Telegraph Sport was seeking a response from the FA on Thursday as to whether any of its officials took home a goody bag distributed by the Brazilian Football Confederation in June to commemorate this summer’s World Cup and which contained a watch bought from one of its sponsors.

According to the UK’s Mirror, this is the watch:


That’s $25,000 for your wrist.

Why did Qatar win the bid? FIFA isn’t telling:
FIFA Investigator Wants Report Made Public
Michael Garcia, the former U.S. attorney in charge of investigating the bid process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup, on Wednesday said he wants his report to be made public.

FIFA hired Garcia in 2012 to investigate the bid process, which generated much controversy after Russia and Qatar won the voting to host the next two World Cups. Garcia delivered the report to FIFA’s ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert earlier this month.

Qatar beat out bids from Australia, the U.S. and Japan to host the event in 2022 despite temperatures of up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. Since that vote in 2010, Qatar has been dogged by allegations that it secured the outcome through a series of secret deals. Organizers of the Qatar bid have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Earlier this year, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said selecting Qatar was a mistake.

Is Qatar building air-conditioned venues?

Will they move the tournament to a season when the temperatures are not as high?

IS QATAR THE FOREMOST SUPPORTER OF THE ISLAMIC STATE’S SUNNI JIHAD?

In other Qatar news,
Qatar quits basketball over headscarf ban

If chosing [sic] Qatar as a World Cup finals venue was bad, Russia’s tournament in 2018 offers a recipe for disaster
Best way of halting Russia expansionism is not travel sanctions – it is the threat of stripping it of World Cup

The more we find out about them, the more delightful the hosts of the 2022 World Cup finals sound.

How endearing is the way they treat their workers – dying in their dozens in death traps masquerading as work places. How refreshing their approach to those who ask questions – at least two journalists have gone missing in Doha in the past six months after attempting to investigate the working conditions of those tasked with building World Cup stadiums. How enlightened is their foreign policy – Qatar is a sizeable financial sponsor of the Islamic State thugs as they go about their business of forcefully returning Syria and Iraq to the Stone Age. What fun it is going to be playing games with them. How relaxed and carefree. And that is before we even mention women’s and gay rights. Or the heat.

There is one thing, though, to be said in favour of Qatar. And it is not an insignificant virtue. At least it is not Russia.

Think Qatar’s losing the 2022 World Cup? Think again

Tenuously related:
Obama’s UN Speech

Blogging on Latin America will resume shortly.


Mexico: La Tuta’s newest YouTube

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

Knights templar chief Servando Gómez “La Tuta” (the teacher) has a new one,

Video shows Mexican drug lord paying journalists for ‘good press’

The video, which was published yesterday by Mexican news site MVS, shows two reporters from Mexico’s troubled Michoacan state appearing to accept money from one of the country’s most wanted drug lords, Servando Gomez, leader of the Knights Templar Cartel. The men then discuss a “communication strategy” to improve the cartel’s image and are heard asking for trucks and cameras.

The handoff occurs at the: 22:56 mark

An offer they really could not refuse.

Corruption: Brazil not on the map

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer map is out,

and Brazil’s not in it,

Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer gathered data from 95 countries on bribery. For a small number of them, including Brazil and Russia, data on particular questions has been excluded because of concerns about validity and reliability. For the question on corrupt institutions 105 countries were covered.

An estimated $1tn (£600bn) a year is being taken out of poor countries and millions of lives are lost because of corruption, according to campaigners.

You can read the report here.

Colombia: Former Pablo Escobar lead henchman goes free

Friday, August 29th, 2014

What could possibly go wrong?

Pablo Escobar’s chief hit man was released from jail on Tuesday:

Colombians wary as former Escobar hitman gets ready to walk free from prison
“Popeye” has served 23 years after killing hundreds under reign of Medellín cartel chief
. The headline says hundreds, but

Popeye has coldly admitted that he ordered 3,000 people killed when his boss, the head of the Medellín cartel, was fighting the government to avoid extradition.
. . .
Velásquez Vásquez confessed that he ordered hundreds of car bomb attacks in all the country’s main cities, causing a wave of terror that Colombians are not likely to forget soon. Despite the pain he has caused, Popeye has shown a complete lack of contrition. In early 2013, he told the newspaper El Tiempo that ““if Pablo Escobar were born again, I would join him without a second thought.”

Bad through and through,

Velásquez joined the Medellín cartel at age 18, when “the boss” began asking him to commit murders. He soon climbed the rungs of the underworld ladder and featured prominently in the kidnapping of former president Andrés Pastrana when he was running for mayor of Bogotá. He also helped abduct former vice-president Francisco Santos when he was the editor of El Tiempoand was instrumental in the attack that blew up an Avianca airplane in mid-flight, killing 107 passengers.

He also killed his own girlfriend Wendy.

In addition to killing,

Popeye helped Escobar industrialize cocaine production, seize control 80 percent of the global cocaine trade, and become one of the richest people on the planet by kidnapping, torturing, and murdering hundreds of people who obstructed the Medellín cartel’s business.

And after 23 years he’s getting out?

The gang member benefited from term reductions through work and study schemes, and is reported to have paid $4,500 for access to parole.

He “paid $4,500 for access to parole”? Are you friggin’ kidding me?

Reportedly he’ll be under surveillance for good conduct for four years. He calculates the odds of his been killed after his release at 80%.

Popeye figures prominently in Mark Bowden’s book, Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World’s Greatest Outlaw, which I recommend.

Argentina: Boudou’s voodoo may land him in the hoosgow

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

A judge has charged Argentina’s Vice President Amado Boudou with bribery and conducting business incompatible with public office. Money quote (all puns intended):

The charges relate to the acquisition of the company that prints the country’s currency, and of benefiting from government contracts.

Mr. Boudou is accused of using shell companies and secret middlemen to gain control of the company that was given contracts to print the Argentine peso and campaign material for the ticket he shared with President Cristina Fernandez.

Somewhere in the U.S., a politician is taking notes.