Archive for the ‘Russia’ Category

Russia aims at Latin America

Friday, December 5th, 2014

“Russian Railways, Gazprom and Rosneft,” along with long-range bombers conducting regular patrol missions from the Arctic Ocean to the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico and military bases in Nicaragua (not a member of UNASUR), that is.

Read all about it at Da Tech Guy Blog

Venezuela: Oil break-even price?

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

Tom Bemis looks at Breakevens for most major oil-producing countries (emphasis added)

A widely used measure of the impact of oil prices on major producers’ governments is the fiscal breakeven price. That’s “the average price at which the budget of an oil-exporting country is balanced in a given year,” according to Standard & Poor’s. Estimates of fiscal breakeven prices can vary considerably based on a variety of factors including actual budget expenditures, and differences in oil production forecasts.

In most cases, the oil price necessary to balance the budgets of major oil producing countries is above $100 a barrel in 2015, according to data from Citi Research’s Edward Morse.

Venezuela, already facing serious fiscal woes and rampant inflation, needs oil at $151 a barrel next year to balance its budget, according to the data.

Iran, which has yet to agree to curb development of nuclear weapons and heavily subsidizes gasoline for its citizens, needs oil at $131 a barrel.

And Russia, whose seizure of Crimea and continuing aggression towards Ukraine has raised tensions throughout Europe and inspired western financial sanctions, needs oil at $107 for a chance of getting its finances in order.

Silvana Ordoñez:

Venezuela’s future? ‘Barbarity and people looting’One analyst at Nomura recently estimated that Venezuela may need oil prices to hit $200 a barrel to balance its budget. (The precise figure is difficult to determine, because Venezuela doesn’t disclose as much economic data as other countries do.)

Will The Minister Come Back Empty Handed From China?

It seems as if President Maduro really believed that OPEC would cut production after he sent Ramirez to visit a few countries, including Russia, who happens not to be a member of OPEC. But as most analysts expected, OPEC did not cut production and scheduled the next meeting for next June, bringing a lot of people back to reality, including Maduro. It was only after Ramirez reportedly left the meeting “red faced”, that it sunk in that maybe Plan A was not going to work. Thus, Maduro switched to Plans B and C. Plan B is to “hope” that oil prices bounce back and plan C was to send Minister of Finance Marco Torres to Beijing to see if he can get some money there. Plan D was to name a commission to cut salaries and luxurious expenses. Yeah, sure!

I have been arguing with a bunch of friends about the probability that Torres will come back with a significant loan, which I peg to be around 0.00001, but they seem to think it is somewhat higher. You see, they actually believe that Venezuela has something to offer the Chinese, like oil or oil fields. But the reality is that Venezuela has little to offer at this time and the Chinese know it, so that Minister Torres is very likely to come back empty handed.

Related:
María Corina, and a unified theory of rationed repression



The Monroe Doctrine’s dead, but Putin’s alive and kicking

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

Eight months ago I was blogging about Putin’s quiet Latin America play. Not so quiet anymore,
Russia’s long-range bombers to conduct regular patrols over Arctic Ocean, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico

Russia’s long-range bombers will conduct regular patrol missions from the Arctic Ocean to the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, the military said Wednesday, a show of muscle reflecting tensions with the West over Ukraine.

To remind you,

Earlier this year, [Russian Defence Minister Sergei] Shoigu said that Russia plans to expand its worldwide military presence by seeking permission for navy ships to use ports in Latin America, Asia and elsewhere for replenishing supplies and doing maintenance. He said the military was conducting talks with Algeria, Cyprus, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Cuba, Seychelles, Vietnam and Singapore.

Shoigu said Russia was also talking to some of those countries about allowing long-range bombers to use their air bases for refuelling [sic].

Almost a year ago to the day, John Kerry put a “Kick me” sign on America; now we have major cities, army bases, ports, and refineries at Russian-missile range.

Change!

Related:
Why Russia Has Reinvaded Ukraine
Aware that America lacks the resolve to impose sanctions, Putin has little incentive to back down.

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]



FIFA regrets

Friday, July 18th, 2014

After seven years of planning, $14 billion (more than three times what it cost to put on the 2010 tournament in South Africa) and 31 days of competition, this:

FIFA president Sepp Blatter says Brazil may have been wrong choice to host 2014 World Cup
Weeks after the protests in Brazil that marred the Confederations Cup, Blatter conceded ‘if this happens again we have to question whether we made the wrong decision awarding the hosting rights.’

After World Cup, Brazil Asks: Was It Worth It?

June Job Creation in Brazil Below Forecasts
Brazil generated 25,363 jobs in June, below most forecasts and the worst performance for the month since 1998, the government said Thursday

Russia’s the next host: Russia insists finishing stadiums not a problem, and hey, as hosts, they don’t even need to qualify.


The Chevron settlement Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

Monday, May 12th, 2014

LatinAmerLast week Chevron received from Patton Boggs, the former #1 lobbying law firm in the country, an apology, a $15million payment, and most remarkably,

Perhaps more unusual is the law firm’s agreement to deliver partners James Tyrrell and Eric Westenberger to Gibson Dunn’s New York offices for depositions overseen by a court-appointed special master. The firm has also agreed to turn over documents, provided its former clients don’t prevail on challenges under the attorney-client privilege.

This apology is phenomenally interesting.

ARGENTINA
Litigious investors ask US Supreme Court to deny Argentina a ‘do-over’ on $1.4B debt ruling

BOLIVIA
Bolivian mayor caught on video groping journalist, and he was persistent, too,

BRAZIL
Is Brazil Losing Global Momentum?

1,500 Attack Brazilian Construction Giant’s HQ

Brazil’s frantic eleventh hour World Cup preparations

CHILE
Chile president to visit Obama on June 30

Bachelet won but Chile police clash with activists as thousands protest for free education

COLOMBIA
Colombia: Hacker Tried to Sabotage Peace Talks

CUBA
Cuba: The Splendid Little War – A Boardgaming Way Review

AIG Fined for Cuba Sanctions Violations

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Haiti, Dominican Republic Postpone Meeting

ECUADOR
In Self-Promotion Abroad, Ecuador’s Correa Omits His Repression of Critics at Home

GUATEMALA
A Coffee Crop Withers
Fungus Cripples Coffee Production Across Central America

MEXICO
Mexico to Try Former State Governor for Embezzlement

NICARAGUA
BORDER DISPUTE
Costa Rica’s foreign minister accuses Russia of helping militarize Nicaragua

Russia “announced the desire to have bases in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, with the euphemistic name of ‘bases for refueling and resupplying’ for its ships. But we know it’s not just about that,” Castillo said.

PANAMA
Panama’s Construction Union Ends Strike

PERU
A 5,000 feet free fall: Peru air force officer survives fall after parachute malfunction

PUERTO RICO
Puerto Rico Unveils Economic Recovery Plan Details

URUGUAY
Monsanto plans to patent genetically modified marijuana in Uruguay

VENEZUELA

 

Policeman killed in Venezuela after security forces break up protester camp
Violent clashes between police and protesters after troops arrest 243 students in pre-dawn raids on tented camps in Caracas leaves one officer dead

Venezuelans Ask What Now After Protest Camp Raids

Machurucuto, 1967 – Venezuela’s Bay of Pigs: Fidel Castro’s first ploy to lay his hand on Venezuela’s oil riches

Can the United States Play a Role in Venezuela?

Is Venezuela seeking the status of pariah state?

BREAKING NEWS: Ros-Lehtinen Venezuela sanctions bill passes House Foreign Affairs Committee, clears first hurdle to holding Maduro accountable

Capital flight in Venezuela could well exceed $405.8 billion

One for the “no sh*t, Sherlock” file: The ‘Dialogue’ in Venezuela Is a Fraud
More than 500 citizens have been arrested since negotiations began.

The week’s posts and podcast:
Panama: And now, price controls

The Boring Veins of Latin America

En español: Terapia Intensiva 206

Chile: Down with entrepreneurs

Ecuador: Patton Boggs to pay Chevron $15 million

Colombia: Another campaign aide quits

Venezuela: Armed civilians fight protesters

Colombia: Santos campaign chief resigns

At Da Tech Guy Blog:
What the #hashtag?

Milton Friedman and the Sahara, Caracas and water

Podcast:
US-Latin America stories of the week


We interrupt our blogging on Latin America to bring you the latest on Putin

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

if you have a strong stomach, that is,
Look out, ladies. Vladimir Putin is single now

Any chicks looking to hook up with the world’s most powerful bachelor will have to wait in line, however. He’s rumored to be dating former Olympic rhythmic gymnast (yes, that’s a real sport) Alina Kabeva, and the heat she and Vladimir were making outside of the ring is most likely why she (very conveniently) found herself among Russia’s top athletes called upon to light the Sochi Olympic flame. This all came about probably because she can do this:

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Then again, it’s unlikely a man who wrestles wildlife, rides horses shirtless and wrote a definitive book on martial arts is going to limit himself to one lady.

Indeed, since Vlad’s rather knowledgable about orgies, and has mused that group sex is better than one-on-one intercourse because participants can take a break.

If that’s not cringeworthy enough for you, here’s Vlad singing at a 2010 fundraiser, to a celebrity audience that includes newly-Russian Gerard Depardieu, and those lovely Americans Sharon Stone, Goldie Hawn, Mickey Rourke, Kevin Costner, and Kurt Russell.

Bonus:
Gérard Depardieu launches ‘Proud to be Russian’ line of watches
The French actor, who left his home country for Russia following a proposed change in tax law, has partnered with watch manufacturer Cvstos

Double bonus:
Go to the Depardieu link and look at his blouse.

Blogging on Latin America shall resume shortly.

The Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

Monday, March 31st, 2014

LatinAmerARGENTINA
Argentina Is Joined In The Supreme Court By The Coalition Of Weasels

Why Argentina Is Struggling to Find Lifelines

Argentina Moves to Trim Subsidies
Argentina will cut expensive natural-gas and water subsidies this year as it struggles with growing deficits that have been financed through inflation-fueling money printing.

BARBADOS
US Congress honours T&T and Barbados born judges

BOLIVIA
Bolivia clashes over anti-drugs base
Dozens of people in Bolivia clash with police in a protest against the construction of a military anti-drugs base in a coca-growing area

CHILE
Chile’s Codelco 2013 profit halves

COLOMBIA
Colombia current account deficit ends 2013 at 3.4 percent, “as lower prices for some key exports contributed to the near halving of the Andean nation’s trade surplus.”

COSTA RICA
Costa Rica’s two top political parties agree to runoff presidential debate, with or without candidates

In lieu of a candidate to support, PLN lawmaker Luis Villanueva said the campaign was about “ideas, programs and the emphasis” of each party.

CUBA
Azuuuucar !!! Chong Chon Gang returns for another load

Ukraine Angle to Cuba’s “Purchase” of Russian Antonov Planes

Tread carefully in Cuba’s ‘open’ economy: Experts

ECUADOR
Ecuador President Rafael Correa to Speak at Harvard
Has been criticized for anti-American rhetoric, crackdown on press freedoms

Correa has long pursued a multi-billion dollar judgment against oil company Chevron for alleged pollution that occurred in Ecuador’s Lago Agrio region. A U.S. federal judge ruled earlier this month that the judgment could not be enforced in America because the plaintiffs’ attorneys bribed a judge in Ecuador, ghostwrote purportedly neutral scientific studies, and conspired to break the law.

Correa in December dissolved a nongovernment organization protesting state oil drilling in the Amazon. He previously called the Free Beacon“corrupt” for reporting on the Chevron case.

Correa has also emulated Chavez by frequently decrying the alleged “imperial” influence of the United States in Latin America. He has expelled an American ambassador, shut down a joint U.S. anti-drug base, and grantedasylum to WikiLeaks founder and privacy advocate Julian Assange despiteallegations that Correa’s government has spied on reporters.

EL SALVADOR
El Salvador opposition admits defeat
El Salvador’s Arena party finally accepts the defeat of its candidate to former rebel leader Salvador Sanchez Ceren in a tight vote earlier this month.

JAMAICA
The Petrocaribe Trap

LATIN AMERICA
Life after the commodity boom
Instead of the crises of the past, mediocre growth is the big risk—unless productivity rises

As Obama Dismisses Russia As “Regional,” It Expands Its Reach

Latin Leftists with Blood on Their Hands

MEXICO
Stranded: In One Week Authorities Found 370 Abandoned Immigrant Children Wandering Around In Mexico

Mexico Intercepts 63 Guatemalans Headed for U.S.

OIL
Here Comes $75 Oil
Lower energy costs will have a salutary effect on the U.S. economy. Not so Russia, where oil provides 50% of government income.

PANAMA
Crimea: The Panama precedent

PARAGUAY
Cocaine Distribution Hub Dismantled in Paraguay

PERU
Peru Received $2.7 Billion in Remittances During 2013

PUERTO RICO
Census Reveals Population Drop Across Puerto Rico by 3%

URUGUAY
Uruguay To Track Pot By Genetic Markers

VENEZUELA
The Obama Administration seems indifferent to the crisis in Venezuela. Why?

US Senator Menendez Calls for International Condemnation of Venezuela

Lawsuit filed in Miami accuses Venezuela top official, Diosdado Cabello, of bribery
A lawsuit filed in Miami accuses the president of Venezuela’s National Assembly of receiving at least $50 million in bribes from a company doing business in that country.

Venezuelan government takes on crossword writers in protest crackdown
After expelling an opposition parliamentarian and arresting three air-force generals, the Venezuelan government has now taken aim at a new enemy: crosswords

The week’s posts and podcast:
Venezuela: How Hugo Chávez turned the country over to Cuba

Brazil: We shall soon be hearing about the “excellent healthcare”

Venezuela: more censorship, in “one of the most democratic nations on Earth”

#ThanksLarry: In praise of Larry Kudlow

The Isaías, on @Instapundit’s post

#SOSVenezuela: Marco Rubio’s speech

Mexico: Navigators helping people sign up for Obamacare regardless of citizenship

Mexico’s Radio Tecnico: How The Zetas Cartel Took Over Mexico With Walkie-Talkies

Venezuela: Slingshots vs tanks

En español: Terapia intensiva #201

Venezuela: Leopoldo López, Hun School alumnus

Uruguay: Gitmo releases will be free to leave

At Da Tech Guy Blog:
No, Joe, illegals are not citizens

Book review – Eyes On Target: Inside Stories from the Brotherhood of the U.S. Navy SEALs

Venezuela: Slingshots vs tanks

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

A demonstrator uses a slingshot against the National Guard during a protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government in San Cristobal, about 410 miles (660 km) southwest of Caracas, February 27, 2014. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Venezuela’s Failing State, by Leopoldo López, jailed since Feb. 18,

For 15 years, the definition of “intolerable” in this country has declined by degrees until, to our dismay, we found ourselves with one of the highest murder rates in the Western Hemisphere, a 57 percent inflation rate and a scarcity of basic goods unprecedented outside of wartime.

Our crippled economy is matched by an equally oppressive political climate. Since student protests began on Feb. 4, more than 1,500 protesters have been detained and more than 50 have reported that they were tortured while in police custody. Over 30 people, including security forces and civilians, have died in the demonstrations. What started as a peaceful march against crime on a university campus has exposed the depth of this government’s criminalization of dissent.

Indeed. As the country goes up in smoke, the same government who claims to have been “democratically elected” is in full assault against elected representatives:

And it’s also jailing the military:

President Nicolás Maduro said Tuesday that three air force generals allegedly plotting to overthrow the government had been arrested amid antigovernment protests that have roiled the country for nearly two months.

While publishing Leopoldo López’s letter, the NYT did a “two newspapers in one” by sending two reporters to gather opinions about Cuba’s interference in Venezuela. Babalu explains,

But alas, this is the New York Times and the outcome of their so-called investigation had already been decided before the reporters were even assigned to the story. Of course the newspaper of record – the same one that has brought us so many honest and respectable journalists such as Herbert Matthews — found absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Cuba’s Castro dictatorship has infiltrated Venezuela. Instead, what they discover are “hardliners” who are “fixated” with going after Cuba. They even trot out Castro regime supporter Arturo Lopez-Levy, a former Castro-intelligence-agent-turned-American-academic who also happens to be a member of the Castro crime family to prove their point.

It’s not just Cuba; it’s also Russia. Back when he was alive, Hugo Chavez offered Putin the use of military installations as Russian bases. A Venezuelan general has even tweeted about it:
SECRET ACCORD with Russia signed in 2009 when Chavez unconditionally offered Russia the use of the Orchilla Island military base.”

Related: Putin’s quiet Latin America play, and it’s not only Russia,

With the American presence waning, officials say rivals such as Russia, China and Iran are quickly filling the void.

Iran has opened up 11 additional embassies and 33 cultural centers in Latin America while supporting the “operational presence” of militant group Lebanese Hezbollah in the region.

“On the military side, I believe they’re establishing, if you will, lily pads for future use if they needed to use them,” Kelly said.

China is making a play for Latin America a well, and is now the fastest growing investor in the region, according to experts. Although their activity is mostly economic, they are also increasing military activity through educational exchanges.

The Chinese Navy conducted a goodwill visit in Brazil, Chile and Argentina last year and conducted its first-ever naval exercise with the Argentine Navy.

It’s slingshots vs tanks.


Latin America: Putin gets his license

Friday, March 21st, 2014

The Economist‘s cover story:

Mr Putin’s new order, in short, is built on revanchism, a reckless disdain for the truth and the twisting of the law to mean whatever suits those in power. That makes it no order at all.

Some of the more unsavory heads of state in Latin America have been borrowing a page from Putin: Last year I posted on Mary O’Grady’s article on how Cuba Studies ‘Putinismo’ for Survival Tips

behind the scenes, putinismo blends authoritarian political control and crony capitalism to produce a lock on power.

It’s not only indirect “putinismo”: Putin has been interested in Latin America all along.

Russia has been cruising through the region for quite a while.

Read the rest at Da Tech Guy Blog.

UPDATE
Related: Putin’s quiet Latin America play

Linked to by Doug Ross. Thank you!