Archive for the ‘Cuba’ Category

The cone of uncertainty Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

Monday, August 31st, 2015

Ariel Velázquez: Young Activist’s Murder Becomes Political Football in ArgentinaAs Elections Near, Rival Parties Rush to Claim Slain 20-Year-Old as Their Own

Insight – Manufacturers in Argentina starved of dollars ahead of election, hurting output

Oil Exploration Campaign Kicks Off in Bolivia’s Amazon Region

Río de Janeiro bars poor black youths from its most famous beachesPolice arrest slum youngsters en route to Ipanema and Copacabana in bid to fight theft

Brazil’s Recession Marks The Beginning Of A Long, Painful Contraction: Argentina, Venezuela, Rest Of Latin America Could Be Affected

Head of Brazilian State Bank Rebuts Accusations against Lula

Clashes erupt as truck drivers protest arson attacks

The more you give them, the more they want: FARC Slams Santos-Backed Plans for Implementing Possible Colombia Peace Deal

Colombia will face 10 years of economic slowdown, analysts predict

Human rights activists fear arrest ahead of Pope’s visit to Cuba

When Was This Cuba Story Written?, Pt. 2

Tropical storm Erika heads for Florida after killing 20 on island of Dominica

Sweden and Ecuador to begin Julian Assange talks next weekEcuador seeking formal agreement on judicial cooperation before Swedish prosecutors can interrogate WikiLeaks founder

Britain orders £46m air defence radar to protect Falklands from ArgentinaThe new vehicle-mounted radar will be able to spot threats up to 75 miles away and the first systems will be delivered before the end of the year

Guatemalans Rally Against PresidentTens of thousands of Guatemalans took to the streets Thursday to demand that President Otto Perez resign, amid the country’s biggest political crisis since the end of the civil war nearly two decades ago.

Mexican Film Defrocks the Political Pimping of a Massacre
Young Idealists Serve as Cannon Fodder in Petty Power Struggles


Panama Canal suspends planned draft restriction due to recent rains

11-year-old Paraguay rape victim has baby, stokes abortion debate

The Fascinating Afterlife of Peru’s MummiesFrom atop bejeweled thrones and sacred mountaintops, the Inca dead continued to wield incredible power over the living

Puerto Rico bond deadlines loom: What you need to know

Ten things you never knew about… UruguayToday is Independence Day in Uruguay, celebrating the country’s independence from the Brazilian Empire on August 25, 1825.

Woman, 80, trampled to death in Venezuelan supermarket stampedeRush for subsidized goods sees 75 people injured as thousands besiege supermarket

Scapegoating: Crime in VenezuelaJustice decayedThe government wrongly blames Colombia for its high murder rate

The government has paved the way by allowing the institutions of law enforcement to decay. The police force is underfunded and mistrusted. Venezuela has many fewer prosecutors and judges than it should. Chile, a country with much lower levels of violent crime, has a third more prosecutors than Venezuela in relation to the size of its population. Courts are reluctant to sentence criminals to serve time in crowded and violent jails: 90% of murders go unpunished. Gun control is weak.

And it all came to that

The week’s posts:
Brazil and other fallen BRICs

Why the knives are out on Menendez

Cuba: Getting Gitmo closed

What about the Trump/Ramos thing?

Argentina: The #tucumanazo, stories of a fraud foretold?

Heading to the World Meeting of Families in a VW bus . . . all the way from Buenos Aires

Crisis at the Venezuela-Colombia border

Bolivia: What’s with the proposed nuclear plant?

Brazil: Cunha charged with corruption and money laundering

En español: Los spots de campaña de Sergio Massa

Bolivia: The catch in the numbers

Puerto Rico: Don’t expect payment anytime soon

Why the knives are out on Menendez

Friday, August 28th, 2015

Why the knives are out on Menendez. Two words: Foreign policy.

Read my article here.


Cuba: Getting Gitmo closed

Friday, August 28th, 2015

I fully expect the Obama administration to close not only the prison but also the U.S. base at Guantanamo, after which, Obama will do a turnkey ceremony in Havana with photo-op with Raul Castro.

Here’s the latest headline, on the latest hurdle:
Obama, Congress head for showdown over defense bill curbs on Gitmo

The House version of the fiscal defense authorization bill, now in House-Senate conference, contains language that prohibits transferring any Guantanamo detainees abroad or to the United States.

The bill does so by barring the Pentagon from spending any funds on the transfers or constructing or modifying prison facilities in the United States. It also bans putting the detainees in any Pentagon facilities worldwide or to combat zones.

Lastly, the House bill prohibits using any defense funds to send terrorists from Guantanamo to any foreign country unless the defense secretary provides a certification that past transferees haven’t returned to terrorist activities.

Although the bill fully funds the president’s budget request, Mr. Obama has threatened a veto on the grounds that it misuses the Overseas Contingency Operations to fund other defense programs. His real rationale for a veto, however, may be the House’s Guantanamo restrictions.

No similar restrictions are in the Senate version of the bill. However, the House bill notes that the White House ignored previous legal restrictions on Guantanamo prisoners, thus bolstering the argument for keeping the more restrictive House language.

As Drudge says, developing . . .

The $40/barrell oil Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

Monday, August 24th, 2015

Oil breaks $40 barrier for first time in six years, which is very important news for our hemisphere.

Menem vows to reveal evidence that could shed light on AMIA attack

The defence of Menem today requested the Federal Oral Court No. 2 (TOF 2), that is leading the investigation into the cover-up of the 1994 deadly attack, to have the Senate withdraw Menem’s state secrets privilege warning the release of the information “could affect” the interests of the Nation and “the breaking of peaceful coexistence” with other countries.

Argentineans Launch Petition against “Donald Trump” Wall with Paraguay
Locals Dry [sic] Infrastructure as Wasteful, Bad for Relations

Bolivian Police Drag Indigenous Protesters Out of Their Homes
Guaraní Pledge to Resist Evo’s Oil Exploration on Their Lands

Translation: Merkel reminds Rousseff that Germans want to get paid. Merkel calls for a free trade accord between the Europe Union and Mercosur. During the “surprise” visit,

German Chancellor Angela Merkel pressed Brazil’s government on Thursday to further open its markets to foreign companies, and said she saw an opportunity to reach a free-trade deal between the European Union and the Mercosur trade bloc. Merkel is on a two-day visit to Brazil with a large delegation of government officials and representatives from German companies.

Study: Chile likely to draw from stabilization fund due to copper price drop

Colombia slashes gold holdings by two-thirds amid July rout

The reason for and timing of the move are not known, but it came as institutional and speculative investors pulled more cash en masse from commodities, ending a decade-long boom, as the stock market crash in China reignited concerns about demand from the world’s biggest consumer of industrial raw materials.

Obama Plays the Clinton Vietnam Card to Normalize Relations With Cuba, but Turns it On Its Head

Before restoring full diplomatic relations with Vietnam, President Clinton eased a majority of the economic sanctions. A mistake. However, by the time he did this, the Soviets were mostly gone from Vietnam; Vietnamese forces had pulled out from Cambodia and replaced with a UN peacekeeping force; and thousands of former South Vietnamese officials had been freed from political prisons and exiled to other nations including the United States.

What ultimately made it politically palatable for Clinton to remove sanctions was a 1993 Senate Select Committee report on POW matters that afforded Clinton the domestic political cover he needed to move forward to ease sanctions. Vietnam also started to return POW remains and allowed U.S. inspectors as part of the Joint Task Force for Full Accounting (JTF-FA) to visit various places throughout the country to investigate POW/MIA claims.

Ecuador Protests: Correa’s Oil Crisis, Policies Could Spell End Of Latin America Success Story

Ecuador’s Cotopaxi volcano roars back to life, locals speak of lava flow fears and damage to tourism

Prosecution requests impeachment of Guatemala president Otto Perez

IMF Considering Adjusting Some Measures Under Deal With Jamaica

International Monetary Fund (IMF’s) Mission Chief to Jamaica, Dr Uma Ramakrishnan says the fund is considering relaxing some of the targets under Jamaica’s economic support programme

Miguel Ángel Jiménez Blanco, Mexican who led search for mass graves found shot to death
Activist’s group had unearthed 129 bodies in Guerrero, where students went missing last year.

He worked for the politically active group called the Union of Towns and Organizations of the State of Guerrero (known as UPOEG)

Previously Deported Illegals Caught Smuggling Thousands of People Across Border

3-Time Deported Top Mexican Drug Trafficker Caught Illegally Re-Entering Texas

Investigation Lifts a Cloud Over President of Mexico
A seven-month conflict-of-interest investigation into the purchase of luxury homes by President Enrique Peña Nieto’s wife and his finance minister from a government contractor found no wrongdoing, Mexico’s comptroller said Friday.

Why am I not surprised? China’s Building a Huge Canal in Nicaragua, But We Couldn’t Find It

Turkey’s new direct connection to Panama may facilitate terrorist financing for Hamas

Turkey and Panama have no international trade to speak of, raising questions as to why, of the 28 countries not served by the airline, is Turkish Airlines expanding to Panama.

Likewise, New nonstop flight from Dubai to Panama a terrorist financiers’ dream? (h/t JC)

Financiers for Hezbollah and a number of other sanctioned Middle East terrorist groups must be jumping up and down for joy, for their jobs will become much easier. The amount of international trade between Panama and the Middle East is nominal, but the nonstop flights will greatly facilitate both illicit (i.e. money laundering) transactions, and terrorist financing operations.

Expect more of that if Obama’s Iran deal goes through.

Rogelio Livieres Plano, ousted bishop in Paraguay, dies at 69

The migrant nation
Urbanisation in Peru has brought citizenship but also a host of problems

Peruvian newspaper cancels cardinal column after papal ‘plagiarism’
Peruvian newspaper says it will not publish any more articles by Roman Catholic cardinal Luis Cipriani after papal plagiarism revelations

Now Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani has been unceremoniously dumped from his occasional column at El Comercio, Peru’s oldest privately-owned newspaper, after his writings were proved to include plagiarised words of popes.

Governor Luis Fortuño On The Lessons The US Must Learn From Puerto Rico

The former Governor of Puerto Rico explains that “bottom line, you can never tax yourself out of a hole.”

Hurricane Danny Has Begun Its Weakening; Drought Relief For Leeward Islands, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico?

Good luck with that: Venezuelans Launch Mises Institute to Take Down ChavismoLibertarians Offer Ideological Cure to Economic Crisis

The week’s posts and podcast:
Nicaragua: Where’s the canal?

Argentina: Wheelchair tango

The Falklands: Pope Francis, what fresh hell can this be? UPDATED

Venezuela: Circling the drain

Somebody tell Al Sharpton Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens

Venezuela: Cuban doctors stuck in limbo, as the country collapses

Cuba: Air-travel, credit cards next . . . by executive action?

Menendez on Iran: Failure Theater, or not?

Cuba: “Who fears the billboard?”

“Culture is how we pass the time between hypocrisies.”

Brazil: Will Dilma get it?

Mexico: @Leon_Krauze looks at the big White House

Podcast: Cuba, marches in Brazil & other US-Latin America stories of the week

The foreign policy house of lies

The foreign policy house of lies

Friday, August 21st, 2015

Please read my article, The foreign policy house of lies, on one of the many lies the Obama foreign policy is based.

The title comes from this line,

a highly successful, cutthroat consultant is never above using any means (or anyone) necessary.

Change consultant for community organizer. The dollar signs in the logo fit well with the money the Castros stand to get.

Venezuela: Cuban doctors stuck in limbo, as the country collapses

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

Francisco Toro of Caracas Chronicles calls it

the sprawling state-sponsored human trafficking ring known as Barrio Adentro

Barrio Adentro was the Cuban-doctors-for-Venezuelan-oil scheme Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro cooked up,

Governments pay the communist island for the doctors, making them an important source of revenue. And perhaps nowhere is the program more vital than in Venezuela, which in 2003 established the “Barrio Adentro” program — free healthcare centers staffed by Cubans.

In exchange, Venezuela sends crude oil and cash back to Cuba. During 2003-13 the state-run PDVSA oil company pumped $22.4 billion dollars into the program. Venezuela Health Minister Francisco Armada told state-run VTV television there are more than 10,000 Cuban health professionals in Venezuela

Not surprisingly (and as reported earlier)

The working conditions are those of slave labor:

Several Cuban defectors interviewed in Bogota said that they fled not only because of oppression in their own nation, but also because of unreasonably poor and demanding work conditions in Venezuela. Andres said that he could not stand the conditions in Venezuela, where he lived in a crowded house with a leaky straw roof which he shared with fifteen other Cuban doctors waiting to be put to work.

The doctors also said that in Venezuela, Cuban minders monitored their movements, prohibiting non-work contact with Venezuelans. When not at work, the Cubans were required to be at home after 6 pm. One couple said that after they pointed out some problems with the programme, officials threatened to send them back to Cuba in retaliation.

The doctors who risked their lives to leave Venezuela and crossed the border into Colombia are now facing delays after applying for asylum in the U.S.

What about the money they are due from the Cuban government for their work in Venezuela? Forgddabouit!

Internacionalistas are given modest stipends but the bulk of their salary is held in Cuba. When they’re sent home early — as he was being threatened with — they’re denied even those modest savings. Without that money, there was nothing to go home to, he said.

If you’re wondering why the internacionalistas don’t want to stay in Colombia, read Miguel Octavio’s post on Venezuela And Colombia: A Joint Future.

Bloomberg News editorial board:
If Venezuela Implodes, Will Its Neighbors Be Ready?

Perhaps you’re aware that Venezuela has the world’s highest inflation rate, a collapsing currency and every prospect of defaulting on its debts next year. You may have read about shortages of consumer goods (everything from milk and bread to beer and condoms), and the effort required to obtain hard currency (kidnapping purebred dogs to sell in Brazil is one way).

Here are some things you might have missed. In the country with the world’s largest oil reserves, transplant patients have resorted to veterinary medicines to stay alive. Coagulants for treating hemophilia are available only for emergencies. Medicines of every kind are getting hard to find outside the cities. Malaria and dengue fever are on the rise; so is malnutrition, although the government stopped publishing weekly epidemiological bulletins last November and denies that thousands of doctors are resigning and emigrating.

Every day, Venezuelans form lines at stores that are almost bare. On July 31, a man was killed and several dozen people arrested in the city of San Felix as angry shoppers looted grocery stores and attacked state-owned vehicles. The potential for more frequent and deadlier breakdowns in public order is plain, especially now that Maduro has stepped up military raids on “hoarders” who amass “contraband” goods.

Venezuela’s currency is now so worthless that people are using it as napkins

As for the upcoming December 6 elections, I fully agree with Bloomberg:

Venezuelans pinning their hopes on December’s parliamentary elections will likely be disappointed. Leading opposition politicians have been jailed or disqualified from running. Maduro has promisedto exclude election monitors from the European Union or the Organization of American States. He has said he’ll refuse to accept the ruling party’s defeat.

Let me spell it out for you: December 6th is the anniversary of the date Hugo Chavez was first elected president. The regime won’t let go.

Cuba: Air-travel, credit cards next . . . by executive action?

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

Obama’s really pushing hard, no matter what Congress may or may not do:

Obama Administration Pushes for Deal to Start Flights to Cuba by Year’s End

White House aims to loosen travel restrictions for individual U.S. travelers despite congressional ban

The agreement would allow airlines to establish regular service between the U.S. and Cuba as early as December, officials said, marking the most significant expansion of economic and tourism ties between the U.S. and Cuba since the 1950s, when Americans regularly traveled back and forth to Havana.

The Obama administration is also exploring further steps to loosen travel restrictions for Americans to the island nation despite the decades-old congressional ban, officials said.
. . .
Only Congress can lift the long-standing U.S. travel and trade embargoes imposed against Cuba in the 1960s following the rise of Fidel Castro to power. But Mr. Obama has executive authority to grant exceptions to them. He announced several last December—such as allowing Americans to use credit and debit cards in Cuba and expanding commercial sales and exports between the two countries—and is considering others.

Speaking of credit cards, Jazz Shaw notes that it Looks like Obama will pretty much ignore Congress on easing Cuba restrictions. In addition to restrictions on travel as individuals (emphasis added),

there are other restrictions to deal with if you want to travel to Cuba. For one thing, you’re not allowed to spend any American money there except under very specific circumstances and credit card companies can’t process transactions which take place there. How will they get around that?
. . .
Most of these restrictions were passed by Congress. The State Department lists many of these restrictions on their travel web site and they are formidable. The Treasury Department reminds people that spending American money in Cuba as a tourist can result in up to a $65,000 fine.

While the media heaps praise his “bold move”, Obama continues a pattern of overreach of executive powers in pursuit of his “legacy.”

Note to the banks: If the credit card transactions bounce, good luck collecting.

Cuba: “Who fears the billboard?”

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

David Feith tells the story behind the U.S. Embassy’s ticker in The Bare Flagpoles of Havana
Before Obama restored ties to Cuba, he ended an inventive U.S. effort to promote freedom.

Victor Davis Hanson on Obama: Earning Contempt, at Home and Abroad

The Castro brothers just upped their rhetoric, as Fidel demanded millions of dollars in embargo reparations as part of President Obama’s “normalization” of relations with Cuba — apparently to remind the world that the Cubans have no intention of paying back the billions of dollars they confiscated 55 years ago in American capital and property, much less of easing up on human-rights activists. Why would the Castros do that at this point, when no American president in a half-century has been more deferential to their Stalinist government? Is their defiance cheap public grandstanding for the benefit of Cuban hardliners, or a more natural reaction known to benefactors and beneficiaries alike as something like the following: “If he gave a wretch like me something for nothing, then he either did not deserve what he had or he should have given me even more”?

Indeed. When Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla brazenly lied about Cuba and insulted the U.S. during their joint press conference, Kerry stood there like patience on a statue and took it (starting at 12:15 in the video. The video is from Jaime Bayly’s show last Friday. Bayly was incensed.)

My translation:

“Cuba is not a place where there is racial discrimination, police brutality, or where deaths occur from these issues. Neither is under Cuban jurisdiction the territory where people are tortured or held in legal limbo.”

At 13:07, continuing my translation,

“I have asserted to the Secretary of State that lifting the embargo, in our opinion, is essential for having normal relations with the United States, along with returning the territory usurped from our country and [sic] at the naval base on Guantanamo Bay. Likewise, we find it necessary to further the subject of compensation to the Cuban citizens, for human damages and for the economic losses brought about over more than five decades.”

John Kerry obviously knows enough Spanish (earlier in the video he reads his speech quite well) to understand what Rodríguez was saying, never mind that he has simultaneous translation in his earphone: There was no getting around the fact that Cuba is not only not giving an inch, it’s asking for more.

In two words: shameful spectacle.

Capitol Hill Cubans:

Thus, in hindsight, after seeing the moral mediocrity — with the exception of three U.S. Marines — that populated the Embassy’s courtyard on Friday morning, it was clear that no one there was worthy of the presence of Cuba’s courageous dissidents.

Eliott Abrams on Kerry in Cuba: More Interested in Cigars Than Dissidents.

Priorities, priorities.


Friday, August 14th, 2015

Secretary of State John Kerry is in Havana today for the opening of the U.S. Embassy. Read my article and roundup here.

Politico’s “formidable agent of change” on the job


The Swedish model Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

Monday, August 10th, 2015

Contrary to what the uninformed Left would believe, the Swedish model won’t be working in LatAm any time soon.

Whale appears alongside yachts in luxury Argentine area
News of the whale quickly spread on social media and was broadcast live by local stations, prompting hundreds to line up along the port area to catch a glimpse

Post-Kirchner Argentina Promises More Populist MiseryNo Matter What Party Tops the Election, the Welfare State Wins

Argentine Tango With Creditors Takes a TwirlArgentine officials are hinting at a thaw in a long-running standoff with hedge-fund creditors, boosting investors’ interest in the struggling South American nation ahead of a New York court date Wednesday.

El narcotráfico salvó la campaña

After some delays in early voting, Argentineans cast their ballots to elect presidential candidates

Law Requires Bolivian Officials to Speak an Indian Language

Delivering a message, with a hit, Brazilian anti-corruption radio DJ shot dead live on air
Gleydson Carvalho gunned down in studio as he broadcast
; Two Arrested in Killing of Brazil Radio Host

Brazil’s space programme
Ten, nine, ten…
Rocket science is hard. Rocket diplomacy is harder

Brazil’s space programme suffered a blow in July when President Dilma Rousseff scrapped an 11-year-old agreement with Ukraine to launch satellites aboard Ukrainian Cyclone-4 rockets from Brazil’s Alcântara spaceport in the northeastern state of Maranhão. The official explanation implied that the much-delayed project, which had been budgeted at 1 billion reais ($290m), had become too expensive. Brazil may also fear that Ukraine will not fulfil its part of the deal, not least because its space industry is located near Donetsk, which is controlled by Russian-backed separatists.

8%: Brazilian President’s Approval Rating Hits Record Low
The country’s economy is struggling and nation faces a growing corruption scandal

Gunmen shoot Spanish convict dead in front of his home in Brazil
Galician Anxo Antono Valiño had been convicted of murdering a businessman in 2007

Chile ex-spymaster, Manuel Contreras, dies at 86

Santos: Colombia Government Negotiator Met Twice with FARC’s Top Leader

Santos Pisses Away Colombian Tax Dollars on His Own BrandingState Propaganda Makes Mockery of Accountable Presidency

Havana’s hottest spot is a crowded ramp to WiFi bliss
At one the world’s most unusual Web lounges, Cubans have been trying WiFi for the first time

Locarno: Andy Garcia on Hemingway, Family, Directing and Cuba

“The political situation is Cuba has not turned,” Andy Garcia said politely, but very adamantly. “There is one government, a dictatorship. The Castros are still in power. There’s never been a popular election in Cuba. Nothing will change in Cuba until the Castro regime leaves and the people are free.”

Leaked Documents Blow Rafael Correa’s Spying Ways Wide OpenEcuadorian Watchdog Alleges Long-Term Surveillance, Infiltration of Opposition

String of Driver Murders Invoke Militarized Transport for El SalvadorSánchez Cerén Will Not Negotiate with Narcos

Haitians vote in delayed elections
Haitians vote in legislative elections that have been repeatedly delayed since 2011, in a test of stability for the impoverished nation.


Mexico’s economy was supposed to soar. It’s starting to flop.
President Peña Nieto’s economic reforms have yet to produce growth, and the peso has been battered.

6 Tons of Cocaine Seized in Homemade Submarine

Convicted rapist arrested in Mexican journalist murder case
Still no official motive as to why Rubén Espinosa and four women were brutally killed

US Lifts Restrictions Over Seized Property in Nicaragua

Panama Canal to limit ship draft due to drought

Peru’s Shining Path Rebels still Enslaving Around 200 People

Pain of Puerto Rico’s Debt Crisis Is Weighing on the Little Guy, Too

St. Lucia to Launch Citizenship-by-Investment Program

Venezuela shortages: ‘Take away beer and things get risky’
Venezuelans facing prospect of heatwave without their favourite beer, latest in a series of shortages from disposable nappies to light bulbs

Obama’s failed ‘charm offensive’ in Venezuela

The week’s posts and podcast:
Sunday palate cleanser: Carlos Copello & Anabela Brogioli

Saturday essay: The Swedish model again, and why it won’t work in Latin America

Venezuela: Food riots

Don’t call that a debate

Another Capt.Louis Renault moment, Mexico: People’s disbelief at official story of El Chapo’s escape

Today’s must-read: It’s Time for an Encyclical on Christian Persecution

Brazil: File this under “Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas”

Argentina: A story in 5 tweets

Hillary’s sinking, roll out Princess Chelsea

Cuba: Hillary’s ignorance

Running out of people’s money: Puerto Rico UPDATED

Venezuela: The shocking state of its health service