Archive for the ‘Fausta’s blog’ Category

Panama Canal: Was the FARC the intended recipient of the Cuban weapons?

Friday, July 19th, 2013

Colombian terrorist/crime group FARC (which stands for Colombian revolutionary armed forces in English) is currently in peace talks with the Colombian government. The negotiations are taking place in Cuba, while the FARC insist that they will not surrender their weapons, will not disarm, and will not serve time in prison. They want a similar deal to that of the IRA in Northern Ireland.

At the same time, Colombia’s largest armed rebel groups, the Farc and ELN, have met as recently as last month “to strengthen” their “unification process”:

They are discussing how Farc could enter politics if a deal is reached to end five decades of conflict.

According to the Farc statement, the meeting with the ELN (National Liberation Army) at an undisclosed location discussed the need to “work for the unity of all political and social forces” involved in changing the country.

The two groups have clashed in the past but have recently joined forces in armed operations against government targets in Colombia.

So the FARC holds peace talks, while engaging in negotiations to merge with another, equally deadly Colombian terrorist group.

Presently, the peace negotiations are on recess, and are scheduled to resume on July 28,

After having exchanged proposals about the second point in the agenda (political participation), the parties have worked separately to continue discussing the first sub item on the agenda, which envisages the rights and guarantees to exercise political opposition in general and in particular for the new movements that may emerge after the signing of the Final Agreement, as well as the access to the media.

In the meantime, elsewhere in Latin America, Panama stopped a North Korean freighter suspected of smuggling drugs, and, after a tussle with the crew, a suicide attempt by the captain, and the captain’s heart attack, they find, hidden behind sacks of Cuban brown sugar,

240 metric tons of “obsolete defensive weapons”: two Volga and Pechora anti-aircraft missile systems, nine missiles “in parts and spares,” two Mig-21 Bis and 15 engines for those airplanes.

Keep in mind that the U.N. sanctions ban all imports to and exports from North Korea of conventional weapons, as well as material related to the country’s nuclear- and ballistic-missile programs.

But that was only on the first search; now Panama finds [four] more containers of Cuban war materiel on North Korean ship

Port authorities said four new containers had been found, bringing the total to six, in two stacks of three. They were not declared in the ship’s manifest and were hidden under 220,000 sacks of Cuban brown sugar.

But wait! There’s more!

Panamanian police academy cadets offloading the sugar so far have opened only one of the freighter’s four cargo holds, and each hold has six separate sections, according to the port officials, who asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to comment.

Foreign technicians with specialized imaging equipment are expected to arrive soon to search every inch of the ship and not just its cargo holds, because the tip that led Panamanian authorities to search the freighter indicated that it was carrying illegal drugs.

[Panamanian] Security Minister Jose Raul Mulino, meanwhile, said the work of unloading the 220,000 sacks of sugar from the 450-foot Chong Chon Gang is an “odyssey” because the 100-pound bags were loaded in Cuba without using pallets.

“The technicians have told us that this cargo was loaded in a way that makes it difficult to unload,” Mulino told reporters, estimating that the work of unloading all the sugar will take another seven to 10 days.

One may take Cuba’s story at face value and believe them when they say that they were sending the armaments to Korea “to be repaired and returned to Cuba” – demonstrating that Cuba remains a threat. The line is that

the Cubans might have sent the equipment to North Korea to be repaired because Russia—an obvious choice to do the repair work—would have asked for cash, while North Korea may have well accepted a barter deal that included the 10,000 tons of sugar on the ship as payment for the repair of the weapons systems.

While all this is going on, former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe tweeted yesterday that he was told by a reliable source that the shipment was not headed to North Korea, but, instead, to Ecuador.

Which adds a new twist to the story.

Why would Ecuador’s government bother with such antiquated equipment, when it can buy new? For instance, five years ago, following the Uribe administration’s raid of a FARC encampment a mile into the Ecuadorian border, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa says Quito may buy weapons from Iran to enable the tightening of security on its border with Colombia.

During his stay in Tehran, Ecuadorian officials attended an exhibition organized by the Iranian Defense Ministry and were familiarized with the country’s defense equipment.

That may be accomplished through money transfers in the joint Ecuadorian-Iranian bank, and with the help of the direct flights between Iran and Venezuela.

Ecuador can also openly purchase armaments through other sources.

However, the FARC, involved as it currently is in “peace talks”, and considering the fact it is recognized as a terrorist organization, is not in a situation where it can openly purchase armaments. Cuba, its host on the peace talks, is strapped for cash; so is North Korea; the FARC has money from its drug trade and other criminal activity. The FARC doesn’t need state-of-the-art armaments, it only needs enough to destroy and disrupt Colombia into chaos.

And, while we’re at it, let’s remember that last year FARC Camps [were] Dismantled in Panama’s Darien Jungle as a result of a joint operation between units from Panama and Colombia.

Jaime Bayly talked about this last night (in Spanish),

So, the question remains,

Was the FARC the intended recipient of the Cuban weapons?

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Venezuela: Runaway inflation, runaway asylum

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

The economy gets worse by the day:
Venezuelan Inflation Surges
Inflation in Venezuela reached a new milestone Tuesday: Prices measured on a yearly basis are now rising at the fastest rate since the late President Hugo Chávez took power in 1999.

The annual inflation rate in June registered at 39.6%, the highest 12-month figure since the central bank introduced a new methodology for its Consumer Price Index in 2008.

That’s the official rate; Johns Hopkins economics professor Steve Hanke has inaugurated The Troubled Currencies Project,

For various reasons — ranging from political mismanagement, to civil war, to economic sanctions — some countries are unable to maintain a stable domestic currency. These “troubled” currencies are associated with elevated rates of inflation, and in some extreme cases, hyperinflation. Often, it is difficult to obtain timely, reliable exchange-rate and inflation data for countries with troubled currencies.

To address this, the Troubled Currencies Project collects black-market exchange-rate data for these troubled currencies and estimates the implied inflation rates for each country. The data and estimates will be updated on a regular basis. A current snapshot is presented in the table below. A time series of these data can also be viewed in graphical form by clicking on the corresponding tab for each country at the bottom of this page.

As you can see at the Project table, Venezuela’s implied annual inflation rate tops 240%, and the value of the Bolivar has gone off the cliff. Additionally,

The central bank’s scarcity index, a measure of products missing from store shelves, eased in June, registering at 19.3%, after hitting record levels in recent months. The scarcity index soared to its highest levels in April at 21.3%, before declining to 20.5% in May.

Which brings us to the subject of runaway spy Edward Snowden, who clearly hasn’t been reading professor Hanke’s work. Just yesterday Glenn Greenwald reported that

Nicaragua and Bolivia have also said they would accept Snowden but Venezuela is better poised “to get him safely from Moscow to Latin America and to protect him once he’s there,” Greenwald told Reuters. “They’re a bigger country, a stronger country and a richer country with more leverage in international affairs.”

On their part,

The Venezuelan Embassy in Moscow said it had no information on whether the fugitive NSA leaker had completed a deal that would allow him to leave the transit area of an airport in the Russian capital.

I guess Putin hasn’t put the finishing touches on getting Snowden out of the country.

UN: Mexico border a “global pathway” to the USA

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

The United Nations has issued a report,
Transnational Organized Crime inCentral America and the Caribbean:
A Threat Assessment

Page 45:

Central America as a global pathway to the United States
Central Americans are not the only ones being smuggled through Mexico to the United States. Irregular migrants from the Horn of Africa (Eritrea, Somalia, and Ethiopia), as well as South Asia (Bangladesh, Nepal, and India), China and other African and Asian States are also being smuggled through Central America. Migrants from the Horn of Africa are transported using land routes to South Africa, and then air transport to Brazil and Colombia. Those who can afford onward air travel fly to Mexico, while others proceed by land and sea to Costa Rica or Panama. From that point, their journey looks very much like that of the Central Americans. Until recently, Indian nationals did not require a visa to enter Guatemala, and from there joined the rest moving northward.

Chinese nationals may reach their North American destinations via Central America and Mexico with forged passports from Japan or Hong Kong, China, which allow entry without a visa.

According to the authorities of Panama, smuggling of Cuban migrants has increased threefold in the first months of 2012.

Among other the findings,

As with drug trafficking, migrant smuggling involves
transportista-type groups, territorial groups, predatory groups, and street gangs.

The Zetas, the Maras, and other territorial groups ap-pear to be involved in migrant smuggling, human trafficking, and the firearms trade. This involvement may increase if cocaine revenues decline.

Breitbart first carried the story,

The report identifies the Islamic terrorist haven of Somalia as being one of the nations from which the illegal U.S. bound border-crossers are originating.

The UN Threat Assessment–which refers to illegal aliens as “irregular migrants”–states:

Central Americans are not the only ones being smuggled through Mexico to the United States. Irregular migrants from the Horn of Africa (Eritrea, Somalia, and Ethiopia), as well as South Asia (Bangladesh, Nepal, India), China, and other African and Asian states are being smuggled through Central America.

The National Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC), which serves as the primary organization in the United States Government for integrating and analyzing all intelligence pertaining to counterterrorism, states that much of Somalia was taken over by Al-Shabaab, the militant wing of the Somali Council of Islamic Courts, before it entered a phase of on-and-off control of various key regions of the failed nation.

Similarly, the nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations in-depth analysis of Somalia states:

Its porous borders mean that individuals can enter without visas, and once inside the country, enjoy an almost complete lack of law enforcement. Somalia has long served as a passageway from Africa to the Middle East based on its coastal location on the Horn of Africa, just a boat ride away from Yemen. These aspects make Somalia a desirable haven for transnational terrorists, something Al-Qaeda has tried to capitalize on before, and is trying again now.

As I have said many times over the past eight years, border security is national security.

Related: Immigration from south of the Mexican border

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Read the UN report below the fold:

Happy Independence Day!

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

Click on the Declaration for the full text.

Cross-posted at the Princeton Patch and Fausta for Council.

July 4, 2013: Thinking about the Summer of 1776

Snowden: “Put him on a plane to Venezuela”? UPDATED

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

!:30PM THIS JUST IN: Looks like they’re putting him on a plane to Quito.

Earlier today,
Life imitates the Cohen brothers (video NSFW), and Putin may have channeled J. K. Simmons:


Reuters says

Itar-Tass cited its source as saying Snowden would fly from Havana to the Venezuelan capital, Caracas.

Other reports name Ecuador and Iceland,

Separately, the South China Morning Post, the city’s leading English-language newspaper, said that Mr. Snowden had boarded a 10:55 a.m. flight on Sunday headed to Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport. The paper said that Moscow wasn’t his final destination, citing Ecuador and Iceland as possible destinations.

For now, it’s all a “where’s Waldo?” moment.


Rick Moran:

If Snowden is, in fact, on his way to Venezuela, Wikileaks has a very strange notion of a “democratic country.” Freedom House, in their 2013 report on “Freedom in the World,” lists Venezuela as “partly free,” which may be a generous designation given that the internal security apparatus is run by Cubans and that “Chavista” bully boys routinely show up at opposition rallies to threaten and intimidate opponents. Snowden, who claimed he wanted to end up in a country with democratic values, could have made a better choice.

The Colombia-loves-NATO Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

Monday, June 10th, 2013

LatinAmerColombian President Juan Manuel Santos got his neighbors in a flutter by hinting that he would like Colombia to join NATO, which conveys a message to the rest of South America – and not about geography.

Now US falls out with ‘corruptible’ Argentina
ARGENTINA’S relations with the US have reached an “all-time low”, a top think-tank warned last night.

In a recent report he claims Argentina has profited from a US-led clampdown on the Mexican drug cartels. They switched distribution routes via Argentina, which is now believed to supply 70 tons of cocaine a year to Europe, a thirds of annual consumption.

It is feared that Argentina’s ties with Iran could lead them to build missiles together

Argentina can no longer be seen as a reliable counter-narcotic partner, or a partner in any sense, for the US.
Douglas Farah, senior fellow with the International Assessment and Strategy Center think-tank
Argentina also imports far more ephedrine, used in the making of many designer drugs, than its pharmaceutical industry needs, despite a US attempt at a crackdown in 2008.

This is said to be behind a flood of methamphetamine reaching the US.

Rio Olympic venue closed until 2015
Officials in Rio de Janeiro say a recently-built stadium that will be used at the 2016 Olympics will remain closed for 18 months while the roof is repaired.

Brazil’s disappointing economy
Out of step
(video below the fold since it starts immediately)

Colombia and the FARC
Digging in for peace
A deal on land marks a welcome breakthrough in peace talks. But there is still much to do, and not much time to do it in

Colombia and the arms treaty with no legs to stand on

UN hails first deal between Colombian government, rebels

Cuban Documentary Extols ETA Terrorists

Widow and children of assassinated Cuban dissident, Oswald Paya, take political refuge in U.S.

Cuban political prisoner Enrique Figuerola Miranda on hunger strike for 40 days

Dominica Catholics vow support for accused priest

NGOs will have new controls in Ecuador

Administrative issues at the OAS GA in Guatemala

Xi Jinping in America’s backyard
From pivot to twirl
The Chinese leader tries a smooth move in America’s backyard

Demography in Latin America
Autumn of the patriarchs
Traditional demographic patterns are changing astonishingly fast

The Pacific Alliance a New Center of Gravity in Hemispheric Trade

Mexico bar kidnap ‘linked to gang’
Prosecutors in Mexico City say they believe the disappearance of 12 young revellers from a bar in the capital is linked to gang rivalry.

Mexican housebuilders
Dropping a brick
Changing government policies have plunged housebuilders into a crisis

Mexico Soldiers Free 165 Kidnapped Migrants
Mexican soldiers stormed a residence near the U.S. border and rescued 165 migrants who had been kidnapped by criminal gangs and held for ransom for up to three weeks, a Mexican official said Thursday.
The cartels control the border.

Central America’s low-cost life lures baby boomers, even from Bonita Springs

Peru’s Shining Path leader Florindo Flores, a.k.a. Comrade Artemio sentenced
A court in Peru sentences the last of the original leaders of the Shining Path rebels to life in prison.

How Puerto Rico Will Hack its Way to the Global Future

As Economy Stalls, Inflation Heats Up and Maduro Seems Clueless

María Lourdes Afiuni, Three and a half years, some rapes, beatings and a forced abortion later, has not yet been released.

Venezuela scraps food restriction
Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro calls a plan to restrict the number of basic food items people can buy in the western state of Zulia “insane”.

Chavez’s Folksy Style Proves to Be a Tough Act to Follow
President Nicolás Maduro does a good political impersonation of his predecessor Hugo Chávez. However, he’s missing a key ingredient: Mr. Chávez’s folksy, often ribald, sense of humor.
Not to worry, Gustavo Ríos more than makes up for it,

The week’s posts and podcast,
George Galloway’s racism

Venezuela: The kidnapping worked

Mexico: Retailers Descend on Mexico

Colombia: Bayly entrevista a Uribe, 2a parte

Venezuela: Timothy Tracy released

Colombia: Bayly entrevista a Uribe

Cuba: Castro’s pawn

Argentina and other US-Latin America issues


Person(s) of Interest

Friday, June 7th, 2013

No, not them,



US intelligence chief denounces info ‘leak’…

NYT: Obama has lost all credibility…

Paper ‘quietly changes published editorial to make less damning’…


 New York Times:

President Obama’s Dragnet  —  Within hours of the disclosure that the federal authorities routinely collect data on phone calls Americans make, regardless of whether they have any bearing on a counterterrorism investigation, the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every …

In Betty Jo’s podcast

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

celebrating her 6th anniversary: Six Years of Movie Fun!

Good news Sunday: The Pacific Alliance

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

The Pacific Alliance met in Colombia last week, for the seventh time since its creation in June of 2012; This is good news for the world, not just for the region.

For starters,

there are two major “requirements” for a nation to join the Alliance. First, the government of the aspiring member state must adhere to the charter of the Alliance, which stresses respect for democracy.

In addition, the second requirement to joining the Alliance is that a new member must have free trade agreements with the other Alliance members before becoming full members. Hence, Costa Rica will only join the Alliance after President Chinchilla signs a free trade agreement with the Colombian government (San José [Costa Rica] already has FTAs with other Alliance members).

Member countries Chile, Colombia, Peru and Mexico were joined by Canada, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Uruguay, Japan, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Panama,

These countries and investors from outside of Latin America are attracted by the positive business climate among Alliance members—they occupy four of the top-five spots in the World Bank’s Doing Business in Latin America ranking—and encouraged by the fact that the bloc is serious. It is focused on trade, investment and immigration rather than politics and ideology.

Keep in mind that

The goal of the alliance is to create a free-trade corridor of all countries in the Americas with a Pacific coast. The hope is that dropping barriers on labor, finance and trade will help the Alliance become a hub for commerce with Asia.

The reason Japan, Canada, Spain and Australia attended as observers is that members of the Pacific Alliance are all part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership; they are serious about growth and prosperity. Bloggings by Boz lists what they are getting done:

  • The four current members dropped tariffs on 90% of the goods traded among them (something that was mostly done due to bilateral free trade agreements) and committed to completing the final 10% within the next few years.
  • The countries have dropped visa requirements with each other.
  • The four countries will likely create a joint visa system – Visa Alianza del Pacífico – that will allow tourists to visit all four countries on just one visa.
  • Peru dropped business visa requirements for the other three members.
  • The four current members agreed to open joint embassies in Africa and Asia.
  • The countries will conduct a coordinated trade mission in Africa and tourism promotion globally.
  • The creation of a fund to support small and medium sized businesses.
  • A fiscal transparency agreement to prevent businesses from avoiding taxes.
  • Agreement on educational exchanges, including 400 annual scholarships.
  • Agreement to consolidate a scientific network on adapting to climate change challenges.
  • Mexico signed an agreement with Chile to export meat.
  • Mexico moved forward on integration into the Integrated Latin American stock Market (MILA).
  • Costa Rica signed a free trade agreement with Colombia.
  • Guatemala and Peru will have a free trade agreement within the next few months.
  • Guatemala dropped its tourist visa requirements for Colombia.

Decreasing Trade Barriers and Increasing Economic Growth

This initiative is a significant step forward to synchronize members’ trade commitments and is aimed at enhancing trade with the bloc’s most dynamic partners in East Asia.

The Pacific Alliance numbers speak for themselves. These four economies are the most dynamic in the region, representing more than 40 percent of Latin America’s economy with a market of more than 210 million people—more than one-third of the region’s population. Since 2010, these four economies have grown at a higher rate than their neighbors and have also invested at a greater rate—25 percent of their combined gross domestic product (compared to just 20 percent elsewhere).

The Pacific Alliance is already having an effect on regional politics. Daniel Duquenal posts,

Brazil in recent years had a campaign to gain a permanent seat in the security council of the United Nations. All the efforts have been lost, I dare say with the recent fiascoes. How can a country aspire to such a rank when it is unable to protect democracy in its area of influence, and furthermore generates deep divisions as it may happen soon between Mercosur and the Pacific Alliance? Clearly Itamaraty hopes of world leadership are seriously compromised as its actors are revealed to be mere grocery shop managers, more worried about Venezuela paying its bills to them than the long term perspective. Or mere amoral operatives if you prefer. Let’s say it: Brazil is not ready for the major leagues, Colombia is.

Democracy, free trade, investment and immigration: keys to the well being of the region, and the world.

Cuba: “Property rights”

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

Alberto de la Cruz posts on Property Rights in Cuba where there are no rights and there is no property

As Cuba prepares to build a luxury golf resort on the island with clubs and residences for the exclusive enjoyment of foreigners and their hard cash, Cuban American attorney, Jose Manuel Palli, who is not a “hardline intransigent” Cuban exile by any stretch of the imagination, explains how according to the laws of the Castro dictatorship, there are no real rights to real property in Cuba. In other words, all the hoopla surrounding the recent “reform” to allow the sale and purchase of homes in Cuba is actually just that: hoopla.

According to the Castro constitution, all real estate in Cuba is owned by the state and the only “right” individuals have in regards to real estate is the right to occupy it. And as we all know, that is a right that is easily and often arbitrarily rescinded by the Cuban regime on a whim.

To put it simply, if you can’t get title insurance and you can’t mortgage it, you don’t really own it, but read José Manuel Pallí’s Analysis: Cuba’s derechos de superficie: Are they ‘real’ property rights?