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

Cuba: “Mojito diplomacy”

July 21st, 2015

What’s your poison?

Just what we needed:
‘Mojito diplomacy’ as Cuba reboots US relations in reopened embassy

Guests toast inauguration of island’s new Washington mission inside its ‘Hemingway’ bar

Just like Hemingway’s favorite Havana hangout, a small but attractive bar had been set up nearly four years ago in one of the rooms at the Cuban embassy to liven up breaks between the many closed-door meetings held with political scientists and activists there.

Is “political scientists and activists” the current euphemism for operatives of the Communist regime?

But back to mojitos, here are the ingredients:

Depending on who you believe, the mojito either came from the Spanish word ‘mojar’, which means to wet, or the African word ‘mojo’, which means to cast a spell. Anybody who’s ever tasted one will agree that it’s thirst quenching and spellbinding in equal measures.
INGREDIENT
2 parts BACARDÍ Superior rum
4 lime wedges
12 fresh mint leaves
2 heaped tsp of caster sugar
1 part soda water/club soda
Sprig of fresh mint to garnish
METHOD
Gently press together the limes & sugar. Bruise the mint leaves by clapping them between your palms, rub them on the rim of the glass and drop them in. Next, half fill the glass with crushed ice, add the BACARDÍ Superior rum & stir. Top up with crushed ice, a splash of soda and a sprig of mint.

To recap: the new “mojito diplomacy” is all wet, cast under the spell of Communism, aims to stupefy, and is served in a room named after a drunk misanthrope who blew his brains out.

It taxes the brain to think of one good thing about the current embassy openings.

Dissidents in the island-prison could not be reached for comment.

Related:
At Stratfor, Why the U.S. Should Be Wary of Cuba (registration required)

UPDATED
Linked to by Babalu. Thank you!

Cuban embassy now open in DC

July 20th, 2015

After 54 years, Cuba reopens embassy in Washington on Monday

Over at State, it’s between Croatia and Cyprus.

But As Embassies Open, a Further Thaw in Cuban-U. S. ties Faces Hurdles in CongressObama administration has made little progress in swaying lawmakers to lift embargo

The new regulations took effect in January, but Congress will have to act to fully lift the trade and travel embargoes. Most U.S. companies are currently prohibited from doing business in Cuba and traveling there from the U.S. as a tourist remains illegal.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Friday that the Obama administration hadn’t made progress in encouraging Congress to lift the embargo but that Mr. Obama could still take steps on his own that couldn’t be blocked by opponents in Congress.

Capitol Hill Cubans has a Statement on the Opening of U.S. and Cuban Embassies

Finally, it serves as a reminder of the coercive tactics that culminated in this process. As Gerardo Hernandez, the Cuban spy who was sentenced to life in prison by a U.S. federal court for the murder conspiracy of Americans, and thereafter commuted by President Obama as part of his deal for the release of an American hostage held by Raul Castro, boasted this weekend:

We are going to have diplomatic relations with the United States without having ceded one iota.”

Meanwhile, the United States has ceded plenty.

Re-establishing of U.S.-Cuba diplomatic ties has been no good for the Cuban people. Marc Masferrer has the specifics.

Bottom line? Nothing New under the Cuban SunEmbassies Paint Over Old, Tired Communism

The Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

July 20th, 2015

The most consequential news story of the week: the U.S.-Iran deal. We can distract ourselves with Jenner, Trump, and whatever else is the equivalent of drinking ourselves under the table to avoid reality, but the fact is that the U.S.-Iran deal carries serious implications for our hemisphere even if Iran doesn’t develop a nuclear weapon.

Because of that, rather than the usual LatAm news roundup, here is Mary O’Grady’s column:

A Richer Iran Will Target the Americas

Last October police in Lima found detonators and TNT in the home of a Hezbollah operative.

The deal provides for winding down international restrictions on trade and investment with Iran. It is also expected to gradually liberate more than $100 billion in Iranian assets frozen by the U.S. and other countries.

This means that even if the agreement prevents Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, it will make the world less safe. National Security Adviser Susan Rice admitted as much last Wednesday when CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked if “support [for] international terrorism” might be one use for the liberated assets. “In fact,” Ms. Rice said, “we should expect that some portion of that money would go to the Iranian military and could potentially be used for the kinds of bad behavior that we have seen in the region up until now.”

And not only in the Mideast. One likely destination for some of that money will be the Islamic Republic’s military, ideological and terrorist activities in the U.S. backyard. As Joseph Humire, executive director of the Washington-based Center for a Secure Free Society, put it to me last week, “if Iran gets access to the global financial system, they’re going to double down in Latin America.”

Iran has targeted Latin America since the mid-1980s by establishing mosques and cultural centers to spread the revolution. An arm of Hezbollah, Iran’s Islamic fundamentalist proxy, took responsibility for the 1992 terrorist attack on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires. Argentine prosecutors named Iran as the mastermind behind the 1994 terrorist attack on the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) in the same city.

Iran has “observer” status in the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, a coalition of pro-Castro governments in the hemisphere launched during the Venezuelan presidency of Hugo Chávez. ALBA’s members include Cuba, six other Caribbean countries, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua. The alliance relationships with Iran mean Iranian and Hezbollah operatives now move about the Americas easily. A 2014 paper published by Mr. Humire’s center notes that intelligence officials in the region believe Tarek El Aissami, Venezuela’s interior minister from 2008-12, provided new identities to 173 Middle Easterners.

None of the above comes as a surprise to long-term readers of this blog, because as you know, Congressional reports and testimony I have linked to point to the evidence.

Iran’s strategy on Latin America does not hinge on developing nuclear bombs; you could actually make a case that its not developing a bomb is more dangerous for our hemisphere since it would free up more money to pursue its military, ideological and terrorist activities.

O’Grady continues,

Iranian investment in the region is not about securing food or economic growth but rather about meeting strategic goals. There is solid evidence that since 2007 Iran has invested in uranium exploration—presumably tied to its nuclear interests—in Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador. The Iranian military has at least one joint venture with Venezuela, located in the state of Aragua, where Mr. El Aissami is now governor.

Propaganda is an Iranian priority. HispanTV, launched in 2011, is a Spanish-language channel run by Iran. It has partnership agreements with state-run television in a number of ALBA countries. In his 2014 book, “Remote Control,” the respected Bolivian journalist Raúl Peñaranda alleged that Iran’s former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad donated $3 million to President Evo Morales to finance and equip Bolivia’s state-owned television station Abya Yala.

Gen. Douglas Fraser , former head of the United States Southern Command, testified to Congress three years ago that Iran was backing at least 36 Shiite Islamic cultural centers in Central America, the Caribbean and South America. This year Gen. John Kelly, who now runs Southern Command, testified that there are more than 80.

Last October a Hezbollah operative was arrested in Lima on suspicion of plotting terrorism in Peru. Press reports said that police discovered detonators and TNT in his home, and evidence that he may have been scouting out the Jorge Chávez International Airport for a possible attack.

Go read the full article.

A lot of future CoLAatC news will have to do with the U.S.-Iran deal.

El Chapo’s new song: Gimme shelter

July 18th, 2015

BREAKING: Joaquin “#ElChapo” Guzman Offers $10 Million To Any U.S. Citizen Who Provides Shelter For Him

“It’s time for us to ban together to protect El Chapo. It’s important for our people to remain strong through the American media disrespecting our people and culture. El Chapo’s escape from prison was on the first step to our rise as Mexican people.

The Sinaloa Cartel, with permission from El Chapo, is offering $15 Million Dollars to any Mexican-American willing to provide a safe haven for El Chapo. We will give $10 Million Dollars to any other American person willing to assist El Chapo, and $7 Million Dollars to anyone who can successfully get El Chapo across the Mexican-American border without detection. Send this message to everyone affiliated.”

Interesting nationalistic wording (“El Chapo’s escape from prison was on the first step to our rise as Mexican people“) aside, the announcement leads to conjecture on what factors may be behind it:

  • El Chapo’s already in the U.S. and the announcement is a red herring
  • El Chapo’s US$10 million offer counters the Mexican government’s 60 million pesos  reward (almost US$4 million) to show who’s boss
  • The person(s) running top day-to-day operations are not too willing to relinquish their positions of power
  • Competing cartels (Zetas, Nueva Generación, etc.) may not want him back in action and be heating things up enough to make him/his organization want to get him out of the country
  • El Chapo may have decided to move closer to where the consumer is
  • Mexican authorities may have abetted his escape on the condition that he leave the country

None of these are mutually exclusive.

Plus, of course,

there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.

Sing it, Mick!

Oh, a storm is threat’ning
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away
War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away

Puerto Rico: Default looms

July 17th, 2015

Headlines today:
How Socialism Destroyed Puerto Rico, And Why More Defaults Are Looming

Puerto Rico’s PFC did not transfer funds for bond payment -filing. The PFC missed a payment of $93.7 million to a trustee. If it doesn’t make an additional payment on August 1, it could constitute a default.

Mother Jones thinks
Puerto Rico Is Doomed, and It’s Our Fault | Mother Jones. Don’t listen to Mother. The blame for Puerto Rico’s upcoming default rests squarely on the Puerto Ricans’ shoulders.
Stop the infantilizing.