Madrid’s City Hall and the man on the Moon: Tales from a socialist mindset

July 25th, 2015

Taking time out from Latin American news stories to look at a news item that illustrates one more instance of government overreach:

Edificio España is a 25-floor, 384′ high building that took 5 years to build, and at the time of its inauguration in 1953 was Europe’s tallest hotel, office and apartment building. If you are in Madrid, you can’t miss it.

It has been vacant since 2007.

Last year the Chinese real estate conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group bought it for €265 million from Banco Santander, who had paid constructor Metrovacesa €389 million. Under the deal,

the city allowed the proprietor to tear down part of the 25-story structure but stipulated that the façade and side wings should remain intact.

Dalian Wanda proposes tearing down the whole thing, and rebuilding

the façade to make it look exactly the same again, using similar materials that comply with modern building standards.

But noooo! (emphasis added)

The request was not well received in Madrid City Hall, now in thehands of a leftist bloc named Ahora Madrid after a quarter century of conservative rule by the Popular Party.
. . .

Local government sources have told EL PAÍS that the department of city planning will instruct Dalian Wanda to maintain as much of the main body of the building as necessary to prop up the façade, which may not be demolished in any case.

The company, which is chaired by Wang Jianlin, China’s richest man according to Forbes magazine, says that “the consolidation of the façade is not viable under safe conditions. There are no prior references or similar experiences relating to maintaining a structure of similar height and dimensions, which additionally lacks bearing capacity.

To which City Hall found a former head of the Madrid Professional Association of Architects and a university professor who teaches structure calculus, who compared tearing down the building while preserving the façade with putting a man on the Moon,

But if we’ve been to the Moon, there’s almost nothing that is technically impossible.

Last time I looked, Spain didn’t send anyone to the Moon, but you can be sure any foreign investors thinking of doing business in Madrid (with an unemployment rate of 17.53 % in 2014) will be looking elsewhere.

In the meantime, Dalian Wanda is left holding the bag.

Puerto Rico: The bets are on

July 24th, 2015

Wall Street, Seeing Opportunity, Invests in Struggling Hotels in Puerto Rico

On Thursday, the island received a lift from one of its biggest cheerleaders, John A. Paulson, the billionaire hedge fund manager, who is investing $20 million for the San Juan Beach Hotel. This week, Fundamental Advisors, another Wall Street investment firm, bought the iconic El San Juan Resort and Casino for $71 million from Blackstone.

Romantic fools, or do they know something we don’t?



Argentina: #Nisman’s killer washed his hands in the sink

July 24th, 2015

While the official investigation drags on, the latest:

EXPERT WITNESS USES ANIMATION TO PROVE ARGENTINE PROSECUTOR NISMAN WAS MURDERED

An expert witness brought to trial by the family, Daniel Salcedo, presented evidence this week proving that Nisman could not have killed himself and made the blood stains found in his bathroom.

. . .

Salcedo told the chief prosecutor in the Nisman case, Viviana Fein, that bloodstains in the bathroom could not have been made by Nisman because of the angle at which he fell. The stains, he argued, were “almost half a meter above where the victim’s head was found.” In addition, he noted that no bloodstains were found under the sink, only above it. Had Nisman shot himself and fell to the floor under the sink, it is to be expected that some blood would splatter there.

Salcedo used a digital animation to make his point. His evidence will be taken into consideration, though the federal police have ruled out homicide.

More:

Salcedo also presented Fein with a digital animation sequence to back his murder hypothesis, noting that the blood stains slanted downward and began at a height of 60 centimeters (23.5 inches), or almost 50 centimeters (20 inches) above the spot where the victim’s head was found, the daily said Tuesday.

The expert said the alleged killer was standing behind Nisman and to the right, while the prosecutor was down on one knee by his bathtub.

The blood stains could have occurred when the purported killer shook his hands before washing them, Salcedo said.

Federal Police experts and an expert hired by the defense team of Diego Lagomarsino are ruling out the existence of another person inside Nisman’s apartment.

Venezuela: A lesson we can’t forget

July 24th, 2015

Venezuela: A lesson we can’t forget.

You’re probably thinking, “But Fausta, we have bigger things to worry about: ISIS, border crime, Iran nuclear deals. Why are you carping about Venezuela?” For the answer, read my article here.

Brazil: Meet The Indoctrinator

July 23rd, 2015

I can hear Vin Diesel speaking in Portuguese.

Brazilian comic-book antihero out for revenge against corruptionThe Indoctrinator’s battle against unscrupulous officials has made the character a cult hit

Get this man an agent!


O Doutrinador is the creation of Rio native Luciano Cunha, who started the strip on line
The Indoctrinator appears to personify, in an extreme way, the indignation many Brazilians hold against the political class in their country, their bad feelings about government, and the protests “against everything” that has sprouted up over the past few years.

But Cunha’s fans are just not typical comic-book readers. He believes people read his creation not because of the artwork but because of the message the main character tries to get across: that “some sort of justice” will be handed down against corrupt public officials.

Cunha isn’t able to make a living from O Doutrinador. Any agents out there? I want to see him at Comicon, and getting bids on movie rights!

You can read O Doutrinador online. Here’s the Facebook page.

Mexico: El Chapo’s buddies tunneled out, too UPDATED

July 23rd, 2015

Not only did he tunnel out, ‘El Chapo’ Ally Tunneled Out Months Before

Nearly 14 months before crime boss Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán escaped from his maximum-security cell through a tunnel, one of his Sinaloa Cartel lieutenants broke out of another prison in the same way. (emphasis added)

The passage through which Adelmo Niebla González and two underlings busted out of a prison in Culiacán, capital of Sinaloa state, in May 2014 shared many of the same technological and building styles.

Side-by-side

We’re talking about a cartel known for its elaborate tunnels under the U.S.-Mexico border, but Mexican authorities put them all on ground-floor because,

“No one can say it was obvious this would have happened,” Mr. Rubido, whose more than three decades included several stints as Mexico’s top spy chief, said of Mr. Guzmán’s escape.

How do you spell c-o-r-r-u-p-t-i-o-n . . .

Hey, how about an open border!

UPDATE
At Breakfast to Talk El Chapo, Drug War Veterans Serve Up Cynicism

Over eggs at a San Antonio café, a reporter listens as former law enforcement officials and one ex-drug cartel operative swap theories about El Chapo’s latest escape and what it says about the U.S. and Mexico

Sinaloa became the McDonald’s of the drug trade. Customers could find its products — cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines — everywhere. Operations ran so smoothly that after Chapo’s arrest in February 2014, many experts predicted that they’d continue to hum along without him. However, hopes ran high in the United States and Mexico that Chapo’s arrest would herald a new era of trust between the two governments. The arrest was seen as a sign that Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto was serious about ending a long history of government corruption, and that Washington, after some skepticism, could trust him.

Chapo’s latest spectacular escape seems to have put an end to any such illusions.

Planned Parenthood and the evil of our times

July 22nd, 2015

Planned Parenthood and the evil of our times.

The practice puts PP on the same level as the Chinese government’s organ harvesting from executed prisoners (a practice the Chinese authorities claim to have stopped). Read my article here.



Argentina: Judge in Cristina’s hotel case, “If I turn up suicided, look for the killer”

July 22nd, 2015

Cristina Fernandez’s son Maximo continues to be investigated:

Máximo Kirchner’s Offices Raided in Hotesur Corruption Case

Argentine federal judge Claudio Bonadio and prosecutor Carlos Stornelliordered a raid on the offices of Presidential son and La Cámpora leader, Máximo Kirchner, Monday, seeking accounting information as part of the ongoing Hotesur K-money laundering and corruption case.

. . .

The raid itself represented the execution of Judge Bonadio’s “procedural orders” seeking information about 35 separate companies with ties to the Kirchner family and its business interests, specifically including “banks and companies” associated with K-businessman Lázaro Báez – the number one recipient of public works contracts during the Kirchner administration. Báez is a business partner of President Kirchner, and the former administrator of her largest hotel, Alto Calafate.

Judge Bonadio was about to start reviewing the evidence retrieved during the raid, when he was removed from the case by two other judges.

As you may recall, peronistas were calling for Bonadio’s impeachment last year.

You can tell that Judge Bonadio’s under pressure that he’s come out saying, Si aparezco suicidado, busquen al asesino; no es mi estilo“. If I turn up suicided, look for the killer; it’s not my style.

LatAm currencies slide

July 21st, 2015

The WSJ reports,
Latin American Currencies Hurt by Commodities’ Drop, U.S. Fed ExpectationsMexico’s peso at new low against dollar, though nation may benefit from weakness

While the economic factors vary from country to country, most are suffering from lower global growth, loss of export revenue from falling commodities prices, and a rising dollar that is making emerging-market yields less attractive to portfolio investors anticipating that the U.S. Federal Reserve will start raising interest rates soon.

Latin American countries never seem to get out of the extractive economic model set under the Spanish and Portuguese empires; add to that the end of quantitative easing and of zero interest rates in the U.S., and the prospect is glum.

Mexico’s recent public auction of shallow-water exploration blocks in the Gulf of Mexico failed to attract international bidders:

The private sector often has a better understanding of subsea prospects than the public sector, but Mexico’s wariness about fully ceding control may have prevented the government from understanding the true value of the blocks. “They are still having trouble letting go of the old mindset of full control, rather than letting the market decide,” says one industry executive. One of the two blocks awarded to the winning consortium (comprising Mexico Sierra Oil and Gas, Dallas-based Talos Energy and London-based Premier Oil) was more hotly contested than the government expected; four groups offered well above the government-mandated minimum.

Because of historical sensitivities, Mexico awarded rare profit-sharing contracts between the state and private firms, rather than fully confer ownership of oil reserves to the private sector. It also required a level of corporate guarantee to cover spillages that went beyond international norms. Its potential ability to rescind contracts has alarmed some oil companies, too, lest their wells be expropriated without compensation in the future.

Once you factor in those risks vs current oil prices, the real story here is simpler: the financial arithmetic facing a potential investor has been totally upended by the collapse of oil prices.

And let’s not forget the batshit-crazy approach to debt.

Colombia: Today’s infographic

July 21st, 2015

From The Economist:

Click to enlarge