Ecuador: Sing along with Rafael

July 3rd, 2015

and his cabinet members at Quito’s Plaza Grande in front of the presidential palace,

At 2.3 hours into the rally, they broke into song; at 3:30, they started dancing.

Elsewhere, Correa Feels the Wrath of Massive Protests in EcuadorGuayaquil Streets Overflow with 400,000 in Opposition to Rising Socialism, no song-and-dance there.

Venezuela: Corker in Caracas

July 2nd, 2015

A few notes on Venezuela:

U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) traveled to Caracas to meet with Maria Corina Machado, and with government officials

Venezuelan Ombudsman Tareck El Aissami said that he would meet with the senator and added, on his Twitter account, that the pair would discuss “issues related to Venezuelan democracy, human rights and national peace.”

Meanwhile, over at the UN Human Rights Council, Venezuela’s Chief Prosecutor, Luisa Ortega

Ortega was pressed on the treatment of Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni – detained for releasing a political prisoner without the president’s permission – by the Tunisian representative Yadh Ben Achour, one of the Arab World’s most respected legal rights scholars. It seems Ortega blew a gasket, snapping, “so that the lawyer Yadh Ben Achour, representing Tunisia, may shut his mouth, it is not true that Judge Afiuni was raped. He is making things up.”
. . .

But the worst, for Ortega, was yet to come. Hours after her outburst, Judge Afiuni turned up at her trial in Caracas – a trial that’s taking place now, five years and four months after the fact – and repeated that not only had she been raped in prison, but that both her vagina and anus had been seriously injured in the attack.

Jerry Brewer writes at Mexidata, Cuba and FARC, and their Sinister Presence in Venezuela

Cuba maintains one of its largest intelligence networks in Venezuela (and in Mexico). The late President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela preferred direct access to Cuba’s security service, as indicated by cables that were released and sent from the U.S. Embassy in Caracas to the State Department.

The Cuban security apparatchik remains a key source of Venezuela’s training for its military, and its domestic and foreign security services, as well as for the development and support of people and groups with terror agendas, and to restrain and inhibit opposition to the repressive leftist governments of Venezuela and Cuba.

Read the whole article.

In case you missed it, TalCual: Government of Venezuela is Soft on FARC, Hard on Mayor Barreto in a border town where smuggling is the #1 industry,

Guerrillas, paramilitary groups and criminal gangs rule Apure’s second-largest city, not the government of Nicolás Maduro. None of its officials in that secluded region of the country have control over them. Neither the National Armed Forces, nor the National Guard, much less the governorship of the state or the mayor’s office.

Nobody from Caracas cares about what happens there, unless it is of interest to the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). That explains the diligence of the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) in validating an irritating ruling made by most municipal councilmen there who disregarded the will of the people of the municipality by removing opposition mayor Lumay Barreto from office and appointing a PSUV activist in her place. That’s what the Government calls “participatory democracy.”

Today’s “WTH moment” courtesy of the NYT

July 2nd, 2015

The Grey Lady in her dotage, asserts “The embargo and socialism helped protect Cuba’s environment.”

Consistent with senility, the article by Erica Goode, Cuba’s Environmental Concerns Grow With Prospect of U.S. Presence goes bad quickly,

The country is in desperate need of the economic benefits that a lifting of the embargo would almost certainly bring. But the ban, combined with Cuba’s brand of controlled socialism, has also been protective, limiting development and tourism that in other countries, including many of Cuba’s Caribbean neighbors, have eroded beaches, destroyed forests, polluted rivers, damaged coral reefs and wreaked other forms of environmental havoc.

Never mind that beach erosion is a natural process; the Cuban communist dictatorship has destroyed multiple natural habitats, as listed in this paper:

During the last 25 years, the Cuban government, as the almost absolute owner of the island’s economy, has dumped all kinds of waste and hazardous materials into Cuba’s rivers, lakes and bays due to the lack of real concern for the ecology and environmental regulations. At the same time it has changed completely the course of rivers and the normal flow of coastal ocean currents. Furthermore, it has been experimenting with biotechnology, thus creating a potential for biological and chemical warfare. It has also been involved in the construction of a nuclear power plant with serious risks for all adjacent areas. Let us examine the facts on some of these issues.

1. The Almendares River, the main river flowing through the city of Havana, is the most contaminated river in the western hemisphere. It is dead, with no animal life.

2. The Bay of Havana, the Bay of Matanzas (about 100 miles east of Havana) and the Bay of Nipe, in the northeastern coast are among the 10 most contaminated bays in the world.

3. The city of Matanzas is one of the most contaminated cities in this hemisphere, proportional to its population of 150,000, due to industrial waste.

4. During the 1970’s Castro capriciously built over 2,100 dams throughout the country without a serious study of hydraulics or their ecological impact. These dams are adversely affecting the ecology, the fertility of the soil, and are causing the salt contamination of the groundwater.

5. Again, following Castro’s whims, many of the so-called “pedraplenes” have been built along several coastal areas. These are causeways built of sand and stones, with no asphalt. They have altered the normal flow of coastal water currents, causing salt contamination of the groundwater on the land close to these constructions.

6. Cuba and Florida have the largest coral reefs in this hemisphere. Over 40% of the Cuban coral reefs have been destroyed due to contamination. The flow of contaminated Cuban ocean water is affecting the Florida reefs.

7. The water and sewer system in the main urban areas of Cuba have not received any major maintenance in over 25 years. The average age of these systems is over 60 years. Consequently, there is contamination of the drinking water in most main urban areas due to the mixing of drinking water and sewer waste through the transmission pipes. There is a constant deposit of sewage in the streets of most main urban areas of Cuba.

8. Since the mid 1980’s Castro has been developing centers dedicated to the research, development and manufacture of biotechnological materials. Since 1992, Castro has spent over $1.2 billion on these efforts. There are 12 sites dispersed throughout the capital city of Havana. They are found mainly in Arroyo Naranjo, Playa Bejucal and Habana del Este. Due to the sensitive work done in these sites, and their lack of adequate quality control, these centers are a permanent risk to the population of Cuba due to possible leakage of lethal material. There have been several reports of evacuations from these areas due to hazardous leakage. These centers have the potential to manufacture bacteriological and chemical warfare materials and there is increasing evidence that this is happening.

9. The unfinished nuclear power plant at Juragua presents another potential for ecological disaster, including huge loss of human lives. There have been reports of over 24 violations of standards set by the IAEC during the construction of this plant. If it is completed, the possibilities of an accident are four times higher than standard plants. Greenpeace has called plants like Juragua a “ticking time bomb.”

10. If the plant becomes operational, the handling and disposal of the nuclear waste will present another threat to the ecology, as well as to human life in Cuba, the southeastern United States, the Caribbean and Central America.

Missing from Ms Goode’s bad reporting is also any evidence of the catastrophic and systematic decay in living conditions for ordinary Cubans outside the bubble,


“The Marvel”

We may call it a “What The Hey moment”; Bill Sanderson was more direct,

Other “WTH moments”:
Today’s “WTH Moment” brought to you by Jorge Ramos

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

—————————————

Also of interest,
Real Clear Politics has an article by Fabio Rafael Fiallo, Cuba’s Own Napoleon III

Today’s tropical socialism has, too, its Napoleon III. His name is Nicolas Maduro, the current president of Venezuela who to a significant extent is a creation of the Castro regime. Not only was Maduro trained in the Cuban schools of agitprop, he was also anointed president of Venezuela – with the lobbying of the Castro brothers – by a moribund Hugo Chavez with waning intellectual faculties who was receiving medical treatment in Cuba.

Interesting article, but I disagree with his conclusions,

Napoleon Bonaparte died in 1821 – well before his political legacy was squandered by his nephew, Napoleon III. The Castro brothers have not been so lucky: They have lived long enough to witness the irreparable damage caused by their pupil, Nicolas Maduro, to whatever remained of popular sympathy for Latin American socialism. This, more than any other setback or defeat, is the worst punishment that destiny will have inflicted on the brothers who have tyrannically ruled Cuba for over half a century.

Fiallo forgets that there’s one thing the Castros and their ilk care about more than their “revolution”: The care the most about staying in power.

For starters, most of Latin America is ignoring Maduro, for as long as he keeps sending them money.

And then there’s the win:
While Pres. Obama pats himself on the back for announcing the July 20th opening of a U.S. Embasy in Havana, Raul answers back by demanding billion$ in reparations, an end to the U.S. embargo, the return of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, and the end of all American radio and TV broadcasts aimed at Cuba.

$5 says they’ll get it, too.

UPDATE:
Linked to by Babalu. Thank you!
In his post Carlos Eire posted this photo of an open sewer in Batabano, Cuba,

So much for “Cuba’s brand of controlled socialism” being “protective.”

Puerto Rico: A few thoughts on the economic crisis

July 1st, 2015

As you already know, Puerto Rico has run up enough debt to become the Greecespot of the Caribbean, which could have been averted, as former governor Luis Fortuño explained yesterday,

Fortuño was governor from 2008 to 2012, and lost since he insisted on doing what needed to be done. Listen to this 2011 interview with John Stossel,

The debt is only part of the problem,

and includes the staggering failure to adequately account for revenues and expenditures

which points to serious structural problems the current governor, Alejandro García Padilla, is not addressing, asking instead bondholders to “share the sacrifices.”

Here’s the situation as I see it:

It is not in García Padilla’s interest to improve the economy

García Padilla’s administration relies heavily on a large bureaucracy, and he knows his predecessor was voted out of office for trying to reduce it. Estimates show that the government of Puerto Rico has 160,000 employees too many. That’s enough of a voter base to keep him in office.

If the U.S. refills the ATM, García Padilla will claim credit for it; if the U.S. doesn’t, he has someone to blame.

And don’t forget that García Padilla and other commonwealth supporters lost miserably during the last plebiscite, when statehood won by approx. 60%. For as long as Puerto Rico remains in a financial swamp, García Padilla knows the question of statehood will be dismissed with “And They Want to Be a State?”
(Or as Ed Koch put it, “The People have spoken … and they must be punished.”)

Again, it is not in García Padilla’s interest to improve the economy.

What amnesty means to legal immigrants

July 1st, 2015

What amnesty means to legal immigrants: Amnesty and open borders activists will tell you “we’re a nation of immigrants,” which in their view justifies granting all the rights of citizenship to anyone arriving to the U.S. In fact, it’s a slap in the face.

Read my article here.

Up next: The King’s Spanish

July 1st, 2015

All this, and grammar, too.

King Felipe of Spain is visiting Mexico, with a new proposal:
The only Spanish language proficiency certificate for the whole planetSpain’s King Felipe presents new test for determining students’ levels, wherever they are

Of course I couldn’t resist the snark opportunity, and my first reaction was, Who died and made you king of the world?, which is not only snarky but also obnoxious, considering Felipe is king since Juan Carlos had to abdicate following allegations of corruption and a dead elephant.

The fact remains, however, that

There are 550 million Spanish speakers in the world, yet no international examination to certify proficiency in the language exists.

So I’m with Felipe and his Mrs., who

presided the presentation of Siele – the International Service for Evaluation of the Spanish Language.
. . .
The new certificate will be available on five continents, but the greatest effort will be focused, until 2018 at least, on three countries: Brazil, with 120 test centers, the United States with 100, and China with 60. More than 15 million people are currently studying Spanish in those three countries alone.

The Instituto Cervantes has more on SICELE (not Siele) here.

Siele? SICELE? We’ll find out soon enough.

Puerto Rico: Countdown to the Greecespot

June 30th, 2015

If you didn’t see this coming, you haven’t been paying attention.

From Drudge:

NEXT GREECE MAY BE IN USA…

Lurking debt threatens cities, states…

Reality hits San Juan streets amid Puerto Rico debt woes…

Businesses shuttered…

Residents living day to day…

Fallout Will Hit Florida…

Investors scramble to avoid losses…

Can’t say we didn’t see it coming: From the October 26, 2013 Economist, Puerto Rico
Greece in the Caribbean
Stuck with a real debt crisis in its back yard, America can learn from Europe’s Aegean follies

Like Greece, Puerto Rico is a chronically uncompetitive place locked in a currency union with a richer, more productive neighbour. The island’s economy is also dominated by a vast, inefficient near-Athenian public sector. And, as with Greece, there are fears that a chaotic default could precipitate a far bigger crisis by driving away investors, and pushing up borrowing costs in America’s near-$4-trillion market for state and local bonds.

I have yet to find any moves by the Puerto Rican government towards structural reforms that would stimulate economic growth, reduce bureaucracy (and the accompanying red tape), and foster a business-friendly environment. Instead, the governor tells bondholders to “share the sacrifices.”

Welcome to the Greecespot.

Brazil: Dilma wants U.S. investment

June 30th, 2015

Dilma Rousseff is visiting Pres. Obama today, and she’s saying she welcomes U.S. business . . . while keeping Brazil’s protectionism:

Brazil’s President Seeks Investment During U.S. VisitBusiness friendly environment is needed to attract investors and restore growth, Rousseff says

Her visit comes amid a widening investigation into alleged price-fixing and corruption surrounding government-controlled oil giant Petróleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras. Several Brazilian companies are being investigated in connection with the scandal. Some are cooperating with investigators; some have denied wrongdoing. Some of those executives who have made plea deals have alleged that Ms. Rousseff’s campaign received some of the illegal funds.

Her party created the Foro de Sao Paulo  (initially named Meeting of Left and Anti-imperialist Parties and Organizations of Latin America) in 1990.

UPDATE
Obama: We Have Common Values with Brazil; Similar History – “Similar history”?

Argentina: Buenos Aires closes Sunderland

June 30th, 2015

Apparently the city of Buenos Aires has solved all its problems and is now closing tango venues lacking fire sprinkler systems:

El gobierno porteño clausuró una de las milongas más famosas del mundo
La milonga conocida como Sunderland, y que ahora lleva el nombre de Malena, no pudo abrir sus puertas como lo hace desde principios del siglo pasado debido a una disposición del gobierno de Mauricio Macri.
[My translation:] Buenos Aires’s government shut down one of the world’s most famous milongas
The Sunderland milonga, now named Malena, could not open its doors as it had for nearly a century due to Mauricio Macri’s government ruling.
The restaurant and bar operations are not closed.

The venue also hosts basketball, soccer, rollerskating and martial arts activities. They won’t be able to resume until the fire sprinkler system is fully operative.

Last month the city also shut down the Sin Rumbo milonga.

I was at Sunderland on a Saturday night, where hundreds of older local couples dressed up to dance great tango. Here are Flaco Dany and Silvina showing how it’s done:

Venezuela’s moola from the mullah: Iran’s new $500million credit line

June 29th, 2015

Half a billion, “for peaceful purposes”:

Venezuela, Iran Sign Economic Cooperation Deals; Venezuela Signs $500M Credit Line With Iran

The agreements include pledges to cooperate in economic, financial, technological and scientific fields. Venezuela also signed a deal with Iran for a $500 million credit line to fund the development of joint projects and help Venezuela secure goods that Maduro said were “necessary for the Venezuelan people,” including drugs and surgical equipment, Reuters reported. The two nations also agreed to fund a joint research program in nanotechnology.
. . .
Iran’s Minister of Industry, Mines and Trade Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh reportedly said on Iranian television that the agreement was preliminary and would be reviewed by Iran’s finance ministry sometime in the future.

At El Nuevo Herald,

Reza Nematzadeh señaló que además de esta media docena de acuerdos la comitiva persa sostuvo conversaciones con otros ministerios y con el presidente del Banco Central de Venezuela, Nelson Merentes, quien, dijo, “estaba muy interesado para aumentar y profundizar” las relaciones bilaterales.

My translation: [Iran’s Minister of Industry, Mines and Trade Mohammad] Reza Nematzadeh indicated that, in addition to the half a dozen agreements, the Persian delegation held talks with other ministries and with Venezuela’s Central Bank president Nelson Marentes, who, he said “was very interested in increasing and deepening” bilateral relations.

At PressTV (emphasis added)

Moreover, Iran agreed to transfer its expertise to Venezuela in combating an “economic war” on the Latin American country, Maduro said, apparently referring to Iran’s experience in facing years of US-led sanctions.

The line of credit is part of a larger framework of six economic cooperation agreements with Venezuela.

Back in 2012, when Iran was banned from SWIFT banking transactions, which could have actually kept it out of much of the international markets and made the sanctions even more effective,Iran easily bypassed the problem with an alternative, rogue financial system it help set up with some South American countries, including Venezuela.

The system had already been set up by Iran in anticipation of the SWIFT ban.

For background information on Iran-Venezuela relations, if you can read Spanish, I highly recommend Emili Blasco’s Bumerán Chávez: Los fraudes que llevaron al colapso de Venezuela.