Sunday palate cleanser: Queen at Wembly

August 30th, 2015

Brazil and other fallen BRICs

August 28th, 2015

All in all you’re just another brick in the wall.
Pink Floyd

Brazil never learns from its boom-to-bust cycles, which are tied to commodity cycles. John Lyons and Paul Kiernan of the WSJ write,
How Brazil’s China-Driven Commodities Boom Went Bust

Developing nation’s big bet on China turns sour as China’s appetite for exports dims; ‘looking at a lost decade’ As the title explains, the phenomenon is not exclusive to Brazil, but repeats itself in the whole of Latin America.

Brazil fell under what some economists call the “resource curse,” a theory describing how countries with abundant natural resources sometimes do worse than countries without them. The idea is that the money from commodity sales can lead to overvalued currencies and shortsighted policy-making, leaving such countries badly exposed when the resource boom finally ends.

Read the whole sad story, which ends with,

Even now, Brazil is looking to China for help.

In that, again, the hemisphere is never learning. Even Chile, Colombia and Peru, who have free-trade deals with the U.S. and EU, are now looking at moves that hinder their economies.

Sing it, guys!

Why the knives are out on Menendez

August 28th, 2015

Why the knives are out on Menendez. Two words: Foreign policy.

Read my article here.

RELATED:
SATLOFF’S TEN QUESTIONS

Cuba: Getting Gitmo closed

August 28th, 2015

I fully expect the Obama administration to close not only the prison but also the U.S. base at Guantanamo, after which, Obama will do a turnkey ceremony in Havana with photo-op with Raul Castro.

Here’s the latest headline, on the latest hurdle:
Obama, Congress head for showdown over defense bill curbs on Gitmo

The House version of the fiscal defense authorization bill, now in House-Senate conference, contains language that prohibits transferring any Guantanamo detainees abroad or to the United States.

The bill does so by barring the Pentagon from spending any funds on the transfers or constructing or modifying prison facilities in the United States. It also bans putting the detainees in any Pentagon facilities worldwide or to combat zones.

Lastly, the House bill prohibits using any defense funds to send terrorists from Guantanamo to any foreign country unless the defense secretary provides a certification that past transferees haven’t returned to terrorist activities.

Although the bill fully funds the president’s budget request, Mr. Obama has threatened a veto on the grounds that it misuses the Overseas Contingency Operations to fund other defense programs. His real rationale for a veto, however, may be the House’s Guantanamo restrictions.

No similar restrictions are in the Senate version of the bill. However, the House bill notes that the White House ignored previous legal restrictions on Guantanamo prisoners, thus bolstering the argument for keeping the more restrictive House language.

As Drudge says, developing . . .

What about the Trump/Ramos thing?

August 27th, 2015

The bottom line:
In the battle of the egos, they each got out of it exactly what they wanted.

And, by the way, Univision’s influence in the Latino news market is vastly overrated, and it’s not even owned or controlled by Lateenos.

UPDATE
According to this study by the Pew Research Center, 82% of Hispanics consume news media in English, while the number who do so in Spanish decreases. Likewise,

The rise in use of English news sources has been driven by an increase in the share of Hispanics who say they get their news
exclusively in English. According to the survey,
one-third (32%) of Hispanic adults in 2012 did this, up from 22% in 2006. By contrast, the share of Hispanic adults who get their news exclusively in Spanish has decreased to 18% in 2012 from 22% in 2006.



Argentina: The #tucumanazo, stories of a fraud foretold?

August 27th, 2015

This does not bode well:
Riot police suppress protests calling for new elections in Tucumán

Allegations of electoral fraud bring demonstrators out on the street in Argentinean province

At stake was the governorship of Tucumán, where Alperovich and his associates from President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s Front for Victory (FPV) coalition manage a $3 billion dollar budget as they please. If no new elections are held, his vice-governor, Juan Manzur, will soon take over.
. . .
Though the province is the nation’s smallest, it has the fifth largest population and has now become the site of a landmark moment in this election season. According to preliminary results, presidential election favorite Daniel Scioli’s center-left FPV coalition won Tucumán by 14 points but this victory may cost him, with images of irregularities on the day of voting and other fraudulent maneuvers threatening to damage his standing.

Twitter #tucumanazo:

The sign reads, “I don’t fear the state’s repression.
I fear the people’s silence
.”

Heading to the World Meeting of Families in a VW bus . . . all the way from Buenos Aires

August 26th, 2015

Imagine, if you will, the ultimate road trip: Driving the PanAmerican Highway from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Monterrey, Mexico, and then steering northeast to Philadelphia, to arrive at the World Meeting of Families.

Read about a most incredible adventure, Heading to the World Meeting of Families in a VW bus . . . all the way from Buenos Aires.

And let’s get Da Tech Guy and the Walkers together!

Crisis at the Venezuela-Colombia border

August 26th, 2015

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro Deploys Army to Deport ColombiansPresident’s critics say he is seeking scapegoat as he deports more than 1,000 citizens of neighboring country

In recent days, Venezuela deported more than 1,000 Colombian citizens and closed key border crossings in the frontier state of Táchira, where Mr. Maduro declared martial law in several municipalities. The actions were allegedly aimed at cracking down on rampant smuggling of price-controlled Venezuelan goods into Colombia, a flow that aggravates shortages in Venezuela.

Venezuela’s armed forces were also deployed to root out what the government called a host of illegal activity. Mr. Maduro blamed that on what he said was an inflow of more than 10,000 Colombian immigrants a month.

Colombians flee homes in Venezuela amid border crackdown

The Colombians, many of whom have lived in Venezuela for years, said they were abandoning their cinder block homes in a riverside shantytown community known as “La Invasion” — the Invasion — fearing for their safety after they said they were given 72 hours to pack up and leave by Venezuelan security forces.

With makeshift pedestrian bridges between the two countries destroyed as part of a weeklong security offensive, police from Colombia helped migrants, including children and the elderly, ford the 10-meter wide Tachira River with mattresses, TVs and kitchen appliances slung across their backs and shoulders. Left behind were homes spray-painted in blue by security forces with the letter “R,” for reviewed, while those marked with a “D” are believed to be slated for demolition.

Venezuela border closing hurts innocent people: Colombian president, a rather lame reaction.

At the blogs:
Maduro Declares State of Emergency In Parts of Tachira State

Maduro plays the victim

Will it hold?

Video in Spanish,

Related:
Press Determined Not to Blame Venezuela’s Social and Economic Calamity on Its Chavista Government

Bolivia: What’s with the proposed nuclear plant?

August 26th, 2015

The Bolivian government has authorized the construction of a nuclear power plant and research center near La Paz. The mayor of La Paz is requesting more information on the project from the Hydrocarbon and Energy Ministry.

The project will cost an estimated US$1.75 billion and would take 10 years to complete.

Only three countries in Latin America – Brazil, Argentina and Mexico – have operating nuclear power stations.

It’s a curious project to have in a country with one of the second-largest natural gas reserves in South America (second only to Venezuela).

However, following last year’s visit to Iran, Evo Morales declared that Iran was to help it build a nuclear power plant, for peaceful purposes of course.

Bolivia is one of Iran’s hubs for its expansion into our hemisphere, and it has become one of Iran’s most important strategic partners in Latin America, and vice versa.

According to this report,

Bolivia is one of Latin America’s most resource-rich countries, and possesses some of the world’s largest reserves of lithium chloride. Knowing this, Iran made a move to become Bolivia’s co-developer of this resource, to include the production of lithium batteries. This resource exploitation project, in turn, has prompted speculation that other strategic minerals, namely uranium, would be exploited. To date, however, there is no evidence that Iran has effectively received any uranium ore from Bolivia.

In addition to natural gas, half the world’s reserves of lithium are buried in the Salar de Uyuni salt plain. That alone makes it strategically important.

Brazil: Cunha charged with corruption and money laundering

August 25th, 2015

Eduardo Cunha, whom the WaPo once referred to as Brazil’s evangelical Frank Underwood has been charged:

On Thursday, Brazilian Attorney General Rodrigo Janot formally charged Eduardo Cunha, Brazil’s highest-ranking lawmaker with commanding a farrago of felonies, including shaking down suppliers of Petrobras, the scandal-ridden national oil company, for some $5 million, and then laundering the bribes through more than 100 financial operations from Montevideo to Monaco.

Mac Margolis explains:

Ever since Cunha won the right to the top microphone in Congress, trouncing Rousseff’s own candidate for the job, the Rio de Janeiro lawmaker has dedicated his mandate to making her life miserable, delaying revenue raising initiatives and planting some “fiscal bombs” in Congress that would plump constituents’ earnings at the expense of the swelling public deficit.

So how do you say schadenfreude in Portuguese? After weeks of escalating rhetoric and street protests clamoring for impeachment, suddenly it’s Rousseff’s archenemy who looks to be on the brink.

But hold those vuvuzelas. While Cunha may be hobbled by the scandal, he’s hardly out of play. Even if the Supreme Court accepts Janot’s indictment and sends Cunha to trial, he has no obligation to step aside. Removing him would take half plus one of the 513 members of Brazil’s lower house, an ecosystem where Cunha is at home.

Cunha is second in line to succeed the president. As Speaker of the lower chamber he controls the legislative agenda and the budget.

As you may recall, Cunha made The Economist last month when he announced that he would defect to the opposition without leaving the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB),

If numbers were all that mattered, the PMDB would be the most powerful party by far. Besides having more seats in Congress than any other, it outguns its main rivals, the PT and the centre-right opposition Party of Brazilian Social Democracy (PSDB), in state and local governments (see table). The PMDB has 2.4m card-carrying members, more than the PT’s 1.6m.

In Brazil’s Byzantine political environment, the move to charge Cunha may be seen as payback for Cunha’s defection, who in turn may deny approval of Dilma’s (rather weak, if you ask me) proposals to slash government spending, raise taxes and reduce bureaucracy.

More interestingly, the question remains whether Cunha would push to impeach Dilma (as the demonstrators demand), and if he does, will Dilma gather enough congressional support to avoid impeachment – with the help of PMBD members.