Archive for the ‘Iran’ Category

Venezuela’s deadly colectivos

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

Readers of this blog may be familiar with Venezuela’s colectivos, the government-sponsored marauding motorcycle gangs doing the dirty work, that I’ve written about in the past.

Panampost has an article on how Venezuelan Paramilitaries Wreak Havoc with Cuban, FARC Support

Studies Reveal Colectivos with 10,000 Active Members

Studies released by the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies(ICCAS) at the University of Miami have revealed that the Cuban regime is training Venezuelan paramilitary groups, including Los Tupamaros, La Piedrita, Simón Bolívar, and Alexis Vive. These groups have killed more than 25 students during protests, and injured over 300.

These studies show that for years the Venezuelan government has sent regime supporters to Havana to learn repression tactics in order to help their leaders stay in power. Furthermore, there is evidence that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a group designated as a terrorist organization by the US government, also trains these groups on Venezuela’s border with Colombia.

Remember Raul Reyes‘s computer? Not only did it reveal that the Venezuelan government may have had the FARC act as hit men against political opponents, Panampost adds that (emphasis added),

In 2011, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London, on behalf of the Colombian Defense Ministry, conducted an independent analysis of the computers of Raúl Reyes, a member of FARC’s Central High Command who was killed in an ambush in 2008. The investigation revealed important intelligence material on the guerrilla, including information that linked senior members of the Venezuelan army with drug trafficking.

The IISS also found evidence of that the FARC had trained Venezuelan colectivos in exchange for the campgrounds Hugo Chávez allowed the guerrilla to establish on the border.

The ICCAS report concludes,

The most troubling aspects of this relationship are the growing drug trafficking and the continuous opposition to U.S. policies. The inclusion of Iran in rounding out this triumvirate, has added a dimension of strategic importance. The proximity of Cuba and Venezuela to the U.S. makes the two countries ideal platforms for anti-American activities, specifically in the event of a U.S. conflict with Iran. These two allies may be called upon to support Iranian policies and objectives.

You can read the ICCAS’s Cuba Transition Project report by Pedro Roig below the fold:
(more…)

Venezuela: Next stop on the Obama administration’s “normalizing” with dictators?

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

Thomas Shannon (left in the above photo), a senior counselor to Secretary of State John F. Kerry, met with Venezuela’s National Assembly president Diodado Cabello (right) in Haiti earlier this month.

As you may recall, Diosdado is being investigated by the U.S. Justice department for drug trafficking and money laundering.

Jackson Diehl asks, why?

Cabello and his nominal boss, President Nicolás Maduro, were quick to trumpet their versions. The meeting, Maduro said, was part of a “normalization” of relations between his increasingly beleaguered regime and the Obama administration. Cabello offered it as proof that the reports that he is a U.S. criminal suspect are false. U.S. officials, meanwhile, sounded confused. Both the White House and State Department spokesmen said they were unaware that Cabello had met with Shannon.I heard another story: that the meeting was part of what has become an increasingly urgent attempt by the administration to broker a soft landing for a collapsing Latin American state.

Diehl speculates that Kerry intends to prolong Leopoldo Lopez’s life, and aim for “fair elections” (whatever that means in Venezuela at this point, since there is no reason why the Venezuelan regime would want a real election). Mary O’Grady has more,

A State Department official told me last week that the issues discussed with Mr. Cabello in Haiti included the treatment of the Maduro government’s political prisoners, the importance of setting a date for parliamentary elections this year, and providing internationally credible observation.

While Shannon has traveled twice to Venezuela this year,

when asked at a State Department briefing about Mr. Cabello’s role in Port-au-Prince, State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said “I was not aware of a meeting with him.”

And yet,

A State Department spokesperson told me in an email last week that the [Haiti] meeting was “positive and productive.” Translation: Nothing to see here; move along. In fact there’s a lot riding on these negotiations. The end of the chavismo dictatorship would be a good thing. But a descent into chaos of African proportions would take with it the frail democracy movement.

Venezuela News and Views agrees,

The fact of the matter is that Venezuela is a problem big enough that negotiations are a must because the alternative, not negotiating and waiting to see what happens is even worse.

There is a lot riding on these negotiations, for both Venezuela and Cuba.

And then there is a fourth party not mentioned by Diehl and O’Grady: Iran.

Emili Blasco, in his book Bumerán Chávez: Los fraudes que llevaron al colapso de Venezuela, details the many and extensive ties between Iran and Venezuela. Not to be ignored is how Iran milks the difference between the black market and official bolivar-dollar exchange rates and drains Venezuela’s foreign currency reserves. An easing of commercial ties between the U.S. and Venezuela will benefit Venezuela’s foreign currency reserves.

Iran, for one, will be watching closely.

Cars: Private enterprise vs. government-owned

Friday, June 12th, 2015

Private enterprise vs. government-owned: A consumer economy beats a command economy, all the way down the road.

Read my article here

Venezuela: And now for the Iranian cars

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

Venezuela, where gasoline is almost free but the cars are lousy.

Jesus Silvia’s report on Press TV:

Iran’s car industry has shown signs of enhancing its share in Venezuelan market. The sale of US cars in Venezuela’s market has decreased dramatically since President Nicolas Maduro banned American automakers from using dollars for transactions. Iranian vehicles made by Venirauto group seem to be an alternative to Venezuelans in times of a troubled market.

VENezuela + IRan + AUTO = Venirauto, which is also a handy pun for “coming by car” (venir en auto)

Video:

At the 0:40 mark, Francisco Espinoza, president of Venirauto group, “Our achievement is based on inspiration given by our late commander, Hugo Chavez. He wanted Venezuela to ally with Iran, and we’re doing so.”

Compare and contrast the very low-tech plant shown in the video with a Hyundai assembly plant at Kancheepuram district in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu October 4, 2012,

or the Volvo trucks assembly plant in South Carolina

One of the reasons Iran is willing to build cars in Venezuela when foreign automakers are leaving is that, as early as 2007, Iran agreed to build platforms in a US$4 billion development of Orinoco delta oil deposits in exchange for Venezuelan investments.

As you would expect from a government-forced monopoly, the cars don’t look jazzy (emphasis added),

The company Venirauto, which is 51% Iranian and 49% Venezuelan, is producing two different models. The first model, the Turpial at a price of Bs. 17 million (US$7,906), is a 4-door sedan based on the old Kia Pride model. The second is the Centauro, at a price of Bs. 23 million (US$11,069), and is based on the Peugeot 405 given that the French firm is the main supplier of engines and technology to the Iranian company. Both models are exempt from Venezuela’s sales tax IVA (Value-added tax), due to a government program to subsidize cars that include Venezuelan production.

The goal is to eventually produce 100% of the cars in Venezuela.

The Peugeot 405 was introduced on 1987 and, according to Wikipedia, is still produced under license in Iran and Egypt but ceased production in France in 1997. The old Kia Pride (not to be confused with the Kia New Pride) was in production from 1987 to 2000.

Don’t expect to find those in Kelley’s Blue Book Top 10 anytime soon.

Parting question,
Can the Venirautos be bullet-proofed?

En español: Lo que sabía #Nisman: la conexión iraní

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

What Nisman knew: The Iranian connection,

Jorge Lanata reporta.

Latin America: Breitbart news report on Iranian expansion in our hemisphere

Friday, May 29th, 2015

Visitors to Fausta’s blog have been reading about it for years, so it’s good to see more on it:


IRAN RISING: TEHRAN USING HEZBOLLAH IN LATIN AMERICAN ‘CULTURAL CENTERS’ TO INFILTRATE WEST

Breitbart News interviewed military and intelligence officials, policy experts, members of Congress, and a former White House official for this report, all of whom warned about the threat posed by Iran’s continuing encroachment into Latin America.Iran is infiltrating Latin America thanks largely to Hezbollah, a Shiite terrorist group that has sworn loyalty to Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, showing overt preference to the Tehran dictator over its host-state Lebanon. Hezbollah, along with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), have provided the on-the-ground support needed for the proliferation of Iran’s Khomeinist ideology.

Read the whole thing.

Argentina: Side-by-side #Nisman

Friday, May 15th, 2015

The Wall Street Journal sums it up neatly:

To enlarge, and for the whole article, click here.

Argentina: Hitting new lows on the #Nisman murder

Friday, April 24th, 2015

Cristina Fernandez’s administration’s approach to Alberto Nisman is two-pronged:
1. Get the case Alberto Nisman filed a few days before his murder dismissed from the courts.
2. Engage in a full-spectrum smear campaign against Nisman.

The Washington Post has an editorial on #2, which now includes anti-Semitism:
Argentina’s president resorts to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories

WHAT DO lobbyists at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the director of a Washington think tank have to do with hedge-fund manager Paul Singer and the Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who died mysteriously in January? Well, according to Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, they are all part of a “global modus operandi” that “generates international political operations of any type, shape and color.” They “ ‘contribute’ to financial attacks or simultaneous international media operations, or even worse, covert actions of various ‘services’ designed to destabilize governments.”

Cristina’s accusations, titled Everything has to do with everything when it comes to geopolitics and international power, first posted at her official website, are now missing, but The Guardian listed some of them:

Fernández says Nisman told leaders of the Delegation of Argentine Israeli Associations (Daia): “If necessary, Paul Singer will help us.” This is alleged to have happened two years ago when Nisman lobbied the body – which represents the country’s Jews – to mount a legal challenge a memorandum of understanding between Argentina and Iran.

Nisman and his supporters alleged that the memorandum was part of a conspiracy to cover up Iran’s involvement in the bombing in exchange for a trade deal – a charge denied by both Iran and Fernández.

The president’s allegations that Singer supported her critics were based on an article in the government-friendly newspaper Página 12 by Jorge Elbaum, a former executive director of Daia. Elbaum claimed Singer was funding opposition to the Iran-Argentina deal in Buenos Aires and Washington. The report says Singer also donated $3.6m between 2008 and 2014 to the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, a thinktank whose executive director, Mark Dubowitz, claims to be a friend of Nisman’s.

Fernández said she saw parallels between these activities and the Israeli government’s support for US members of Congress who aimed to block the recent US-Iran nuclear deal. In both cases, she said lobbyists and covert agencies organised financial attacks and media smear operations designed to destabilised governments.

Not only was Cristina’s original article erased from her official website, she did not bother to present any evidence (in court or elsewhere) to any of her accusations.

And, just this week, prosecutor Javier De Luca asserted that, when it comes to Nisman’s case, “There has been no crime.”

Argentina: Prosecutor drops #Nisman’s case

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

The only surprising thing about this is that it went this far:
Argentine Prosecutor Drops Case Against President Cristina Kirchner
Javier De Luca argued that accusations were spurious
(emphasis added),

In a 27-page decision, prosecutor Javier De Luca argued that Mr. Nisman’s case against Mrs. Kirchner and others was spurious. “The constitution prohibits the initiation and continuation of a criminal investigation simply to determine if a crime has been committed when it is readily clear that no crime has been committed,” Mr. De Luca wrote.
. . .
The prosecutor is a member of a pro-Kirchner group, Legitimate Justice, which some members of the judiciary say is focused on protecting government officials. The group’s leaders say they are trying to reform a judiciary that had become too close to big corporations and vested interests. Argentina ranks 127 out of 144 countries in the World Economic Forum ratings on judicial independence.

De Luca also argued that the negotiations with Iran with members of Cristina’s inner circle cannot be considered a crime since conspiracy is not included in the Argentine Penal Code.

Nisman’s writ: strike III and out?

Although the judges from that tribunal can question the grounds of De Luca’s decision they cannot take up the complaint itself, sources from the court told the Herald yesterday.
. . .
De Luca’s dismissal came the same day that Nisman’s mother, Sara Garfunkel, along with a group of opposition politicians and intellectuals filed a writ before the Supreme Court to keep her son’s complaint afloat, something that is not likely to happen at the influential Comodoro Py courthouse.

As Capt. Louis Renault famously said,

UPDATE:
Carlos Hos has a list of unanswered questions regarding Nisman’s murder (in Spanish)

Venezuela, national security threat; Argentina wants a Sandwich

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

Venezuela, national security threat:
Joseph Humire, co-editor of Iran’s Strategic Penetration of Latin America, writes Venezuela Has Earned Her Stripes as a National Security Threat
Obama Recognizes Transnational Organized Crime, a Budding Terror Pipeline

There is a larger concern, that Venezuela has become the epicenter for several national security threats in the region. In terms of threat analysis, the defense and intelligence communities often focus on three areas running parallel throughout the world: (1) transnational organized crime, (2) terrorism, and (3) WMD proliferation.+

The first two we know are being propagated in Venezuela. Each month more evidence surfaces on how PDVSA is sponsoring, the Bolivarian Armed Forces are brokering, and several high-ranking Venezuelan officials are implicated in transnational organized crime. Moreover, research at the Center for a Secure Free Society (SFS) uncovered a crime-terror pipeline being managed by Venezuela that sends drugs and funds to the Middle East and brings back foreign fighters or Islamic terrorists to the Western Hemisphere.+

But of even greater concern is the increasing evidence regarding Venezuela’s role in aiding and abetting WMD proliferation for rogue regimes, namely the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Read the whole article.

Argentina wants a Sandwich [island]:
In other news, Nicolás Maduro’s son, 24 yr old Nicolás Maduro Guerra, was in Argentina last year to inaugurate the first meeting of the Red de Apoyo a la Revolución (RAR) [Revolution Support Network] (h/t HACER),

“a social tool focused on strengthening the revolution’s progress in the battle of ideas and promoting the well-being of the Bolivarian people, under the leadership of [Venezuelan president] Nicolás Maduro Moros and the political, ideological and liberation thought of Bolívar and Chávez”.”

Their #1 item lists Hugo Chávez, Néstor Kirchner, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Nicolás Maduro, as creators of a big homeland, i.e., a unification of South America under their leadership, of course.

Never mind that two of them already passed.

The #5 item asserts Argentina’s claim not only to the Falkland Islands, but also to the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands.

If all of this doesn’t sound insane enough for you, here’s the RAR banner, featuring a silhouette of the very dead Hugo:

The bottom line in Arabic, I have been told means, “strong forces join the Bolivarian Revolution.”

Makes you wonder who bankrolled the banner, and the shindig.

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Throwback Thursday:
2006
n Gaza and Ramallah in the Palestinian Territories I am told that next to Arafat’s and Che Guevara’s posters, a new poster of Chavez is being added.

[A note on Spanish surnames: unlike English, the parental last name comes first and is followed by the maternal last name, hence Nicolás Maduro, Jr. is Nicolás Maduro Guerra]