Bloody Friday: France, Tunisia, Kuwait terror attacks

June 27th, 2015

Bloody Friday: France, Tunisia, Kuwait terror attacks, reminiscent of the IRA’s 1972 Bloody Friday. Read my post here.

UPDATE:
Linked to by The Pirate’s Cove. Thank you!

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Morgenthau on the Iran-terror connection

June 26th, 2015

Robert Morgenthau, Manhattan district attorney from 1975 to 2009, writes in the WSJ, Obama Ignores the Tehran-Terror ConnectionA nuclear deal will mean billions for Iran, but no means for curtailing its support for terrorism.. Specifically, on Latin America,

Tehran also has growing influence in several South American countries, including Venezuela, Argentina, Ecuador and Bolivia.

The apparent murder of Argentine special prosecutor Alberto Nisman in January focused the world’s attention on a deal that Nisman said he uncovered between Argentina’s government and Iran to cover up Iran’s role in the 1994 terrorist bombing of 85 people in the Jewish Center in Buenos Aries. In March, a report in the Brazilian magazineVeja—based on testimony of defectors who were close to Hugo Chávez—accused Venezuela of brokering the cash transfer in that deal, which included sharing Argentine nuclear technology with Iran.

Iran and Venezuela have signed mutual-assistance agreements on commercial, financial, technological and military matters. Iran has even constructed a military base in Venezuela to house Iranian unmanned aerial drones. According to Iranian officials cited in the Jerusalem Post, these drones, called Mohajers, are capable of aerial surveillance and can be retrofitted to deliver advanced weaponry.

In the context of the current U.S.-Iran deal, it would be unrealistic to assume that Iran will curtail its role as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Related: Venezuela’s deadly colectivos.



Ecuador: Demonstrations against Correa

June 26th, 2015

Protesters in Ecuador Demonstrate Against Correa’s PoliciesNew tax proposals from Ecuadorean president are especially unpopular

Thousands of protesters on Thursday took to the streets of Ecuador’s largest city, Guayaquil, to protest against the policies of President Rafael Correa, especially new tax proposals.

The Guayaquil demonstrations, led by Mayor Jaime Nebot, were part of the third week of protests against Mr. Correa’s government. On Thursday mass protests also took place in Ecuador’s capital, Quito, and in other cities.
. . .
A bill to tax inheritances up to 77.5% and a 75% tax for capital gains from real estate ignited protests which included complaints about other economic policies of the government and what critics describe as President Correa’s dictatorial attitude.

95% of businesses are family-owned, according to the WSJ report.

The theme of the protests was “enough is enough,” according to Ecuador En Vivo, which broadcast live the demonstration in Guayaquil.

Whether the protests have any effect remains to be seen. As Oswaldo Toscano puts it, Correa Is Not Ecuador’s Problem, Socialism Is

SCOTUS upholds Obamacare subsidies

June 25th, 2015

Hardly surprising,

Add one to the Capt. Louis Renault file:

My out of pocket under Obamacare is close to $10,000. Anyone supporting this can all go to h*** as far as I’m concerned.

In another decision, lawyers stand to make a bundle, Supreme Court Upholds Tool for Fighting Housing BiasOutcome means fair-housing lawsuits can proceed without proof of intentional discrimination

UPDATE
Allahpundit expected the Obamacare decision, too: “It was already here to stay no matter how the Court ruled today.

Venezuela’s deadly colectivos

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:
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Are we supposed to take the Global Well-Being Index seriously?

June 24th, 2015

Americas Lead Highs, Sub-Saharan Africa Lows in Well-Being

The Global Well-Being Index is organized into the five elements:

  • Purpose: liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals
  • Social: having supportive relationships and love in your life
  • Financial: managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security
  • Community: liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community
  • Physical: having good health and enough energy to get things done daily

Puerto Rico was in the top-ten on purpose, social, community, and physical categories.

Here’s the rub: Puerto Rican Population Declines on Island, Grows on U.S. Mainland

Why Are So Many Young Puerto Ricans Leaving Home?

Puerto Ricans flock to Florida fleeing economy, crime

The other flag controversy: US Embassy in London flies the rainbow flag

June 24th, 2015

This morning’s news from London:

Read all about The other flag controversy: US Embassy in London flies the rainbow flag

Today’s WTH moment: Venezuelan vet arrested for smuggling heroin in puppies UPDATED

June 23rd, 2015

Venezuelan news have become the stuff Werner Herzog movies are made of. Exhibit 1, today’ s WTH moment:

Venezuelan vet arrested for smuggling heroin in puppies
Puppies

Spanish police arrest man who allegedly sent liquid heroin from Colombia to the United States by implanting it in puppies

More headlines from Venezuela:
Sources tell me Leopoldo Lopez may suspend his hunger strike. He won’t be long of this world if he persists in starving himself. UPDATE: Indeed, he ended his hunger strike.

An election was announced – Good luck with that:

In her announcement today, Venezuelan elections chief Tibisay Lucena implied that only UNASUR would be invited, and then only to “accompany” the elections.

There are multiple problems with that. First off, UNASUR – the Union of South American Nations – was founded by Chávez and is widely seen as pliant to the Venezuelan regime. What’s more, “accompaniment” is not “monitoring”.

Elections Are Coming! Elections are Coming!

Hunger strike succeeded? Elections on December 6

Venezuela Vote, in Doubt, Is Now Set
Venezuela will hold parliamentary elections Dec. 6, the country’s National Electoral Council announced, ending months of speculation that the vote may be postponed.Vote is being closely watched as polls show ruling Socialist party is suffering a major setback

In Venezuela, Elections Are the Lesser of Two Evils

Venezuela’s government is a complex web of interlocking political relationships built during chavista rule. Several groups and individuals merit closer observation to determine how Venezuela’s immediate future will develop. The first person to consider is Cabello. As National Assembly speaker, he stands to lose immunity if the opposition sweeps the December elections — a possibility that is growing more likely as a majority of opinion polls show the ruling party trailing the opposition coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable. Cabello faces an investigation for cocaine trafficking through Venezuela to the United States — a crime entailing potential arrest and extradition if Cabello loses his immunity. Consequently, Cabello has joined Maduro in reaching out to the United States on the modest goal of appointing ambassadors, and Cabello likely will remain involved in this outreach to reduce his personal risk. Initially, Cabello was publicly absent from the negotiations. But in the face of growing political challenges from Maduro, Cabello seems to have inserted himself in the negotiations for the long run.

$5 says the die has already been cast: The date is a symbolic one for Venezuela. Maduro’s charismatic predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, who founded the populist “Chavismo” movement, was first elected to the presidency on Dec. 6, 1998.

Desperate Venezuela 3: Will China Learn The Value Of Friendship?

It’s not clear that a leadership change in Caracas will negate the goodwill China has built up, since Maduro might be replaced by a colleague from the USP. The political opposition might come into power at some point, but the next presidential elections are far off, and it seems hardly likely that Maduro will survive that long. Of course, few would want the thankless task of attempting to clean up the mess that is Venezuela, which might be the only thing preventing a palace coup.

However, even if Maduro is replaced by someone in his party who regards China favorably, there will almost certainly be a demand for debt renegotiation, simply because the Venezuelans can’t afford to repay what they owe.

Venezuela’s learning from China, though: Colombia Condemns Venezuela’s South China Sea-Style Caribbean Territory Grab, and Guyana says Venezuela threatens ‘peace and security’ over oil and border row
Potentially valuable oil discovery in waters claimed by Guyana sets up conflict as Venezuela extends territorial claims further into Atlantic Ocean
.

Last, but not least, Maduro blames Exxon-Mobil for his regime’s attacks on its neighbors (video in Spanish),

Any similarities between the new aggression and the Argentinian attack on the Falklands are purely coincidental.

[Post corrected to include omitted links]

UPDATE 2:
Linked to by Dustbury. Thank you!

Mexico: EL GRAN HERMANO del cartel TE VIGILA

June 23rd, 2015

BIG BROTHER from the cartel IS WATCHING YOU in Tamaulipas:
Spain’s El País reports on The all-seeing eye of Mexico’s cartels

Authorities in Tamaulipas state take down surveillance cameras installed by secret gang (emphasis added)

Recently, police announced that they had taken down 39 hidden surveillance cameras installed by traffickers at key points around the city to monitor movements by law enforcement authorities, rival gangs and ordinary citizens.
. . .
One local cartel – whose name has not been made public – has acknowledged that it set up 38 other cameras to closely follow movements made by the army, navy, police and prosecutors, according to an official statement.

Since the cartel itself has acknowledged it, why haven’t the authorities named it? Most likely, it would be either the Zetas or the Gulf cartel,

The region’s two most powerful drug organizations, the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel, have long battled for control of Tamaulipas’s 17 border crossings to ship narcotics to the north.

Not that these 39 cameras were the first – back in May authorities took down 30 others.

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

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.