En español: Los spots de campaña de Sergio Massa

August 25th, 2015

Advertencia: Contiene malas palabras

Bolivia: The catch in the numbers

August 25th, 2015

Mac Margolis at Bloomberg writes about Bolivia’s Hollow Victory in the War on Drugs

Last week the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime turned some heads. In a much-publicized press conference in La Paz, the UN announced Bolivia had reduced the amount of land planted with coca — the waxy leafed bush from which cocaine is made — for the fourth year running.

So far, so good, but (emphasis added),

Soon after the UN announced its survey, critics noted that the report focused on the coca leaf but omitted data on how much of the crop is being converted to cocaine. And without that data, the heralded fall in coca may be an optical illusion.

When it comes to trafficking and transport of cocaine,

One yardstick for the problem is the almost sevenfold rise in arrests for drug possession, up from 238 in 2000 to 1,456 in 2012, the last complete year for which Bolivia’s National Statistics Office has published statistics.

Another is the spiking volume of drugs seized by police: from 1,300 kilos of cocaine in 2005 to 4,175 kilos in 2012, according to the same census.

. . .

Former national drug control minister Ernesto Justiniano told a nationwide television show last week that Bolivia’s cocaine production amounts to a staggering 160 tons a year, double the figure for 2008.

Double. In seven years.

And the cartels are branching out: Bolivia: the New Hub for Drug Trafficking in South America

Bolivia now sits alongside the second biggest consumer of illegal drugs in the world: Brazil. Bolivia also borders the world’s principal producer of cocaine, Peru, and South America’s primary producer of marijuana, Paraguay. Meanwhile, Argentina is experiencing ballooning domestic drug consumption, particularly of “basuco” or “paco,” a form of crack cocaine which can be produced in Bolivia. Even the domestic drug markets in Chile and Peru are growing.

Read both articles.

Puerto Rico: Don’t expect payment anytime soon

August 24th, 2015

Mary O’Grady describes,
Puerto Rico Plays Chicken With Its Creditors

Failure to negotiate in good faith could cost the island the help it seeks from Washington.

On Sept. 1 the state-owned Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) faces a deadline for restructuring more than $8 billion in debt. If it can’t come to an agreement with creditors, a previous forbearance agreement will expire and the company will face default.

On Sept. 1 the state-owned Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) faces a deadline for restructuring more than $8 billion in debt. If it can’t come to an agreement with creditors, a previous forbearance agreement will expire and the company will face default.

In that event, bondholders could be expected to go to court to begin the process of receivership, as the bond contracts stipulate.

This high-stakes negotiation comes when Puerto Rico is asking Congress to give its municipalities and public agencies access to the chapter 9 bankruptcy protection the 50 states have. A Prepa default would be disruptive and possibly increase the odds that Congress will agree.

But failure on the part of the utility to negotiate in good faith also could backfire and jeopardize support in Washington for giving Puerto Rico chapter 9 protection. It could also reduce sympathy on the mainland for the write-down of other Puerto Rico debt issues—which total some $63 billion—that Gov. Alejandro García Padilla says he needs to get the island growing again.

Read the whole article.

The thing is, the governor has little to lose by defaulting.

  • I have stated in the past  that you can be assured the Puerto Rican government will continue to spend like crazy because 20% of the workforce is in government jobs, which gives the ruling party a built-in constituency. As I have pointed out before, it’s in the governor’s best interest to keep them happy, even if it means to default on all debt in order to meet payroll.
  • 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.
  • People who don’t agree with the economic policy are exercising their right to move to places where the U.S. economy is brighter, thereby removing a large number of what would be opposition votes.
  • High debt-high spending make the island less appealing for statehood status.

Bottom line: No improvement in the horizon.

The $40/barrell oil Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

August 24th, 2015

Oil breaks $40 barrier for first time in six years, which is very important news for our hemisphere.

ARGENTINA
Menem vows to reveal evidence that could shed light on AMIA attack

The defence of Menem today requested the Federal Oral Court No. 2 (TOF 2), that is leading the investigation into the cover-up of the 1994 deadly attack, to have the Senate withdraw Menem’s state secrets privilege warning the release of the information “could affect” the interests of the Nation and “the breaking of peaceful coexistence” with other countries.

Argentineans Launch Petition against “Donald Trump” Wall with Paraguay
Locals Dry [sic] Infrastructure as Wasteful, Bad for Relations

BOLIVIA
Bolivian Police Drag Indigenous Protesters Out of Their Homes
Guaraní Pledge to Resist Evo’s Oil Exploration on Their Lands

BRAZIL
Translation: Merkel reminds Rousseff that Germans want to get paid. Merkel calls for a free trade accord between the Europe Union and Mercosur. During the “surprise” visit,

German Chancellor Angela Merkel pressed Brazil’s government on Thursday to further open its markets to foreign companies, and said she saw an opportunity to reach a free-trade deal between the European Union and the Mercosur trade bloc. Merkel is on a two-day visit to Brazil with a large delegation of government officials and representatives from German companies.

CHILE
Study: Chile likely to draw from stabilization fund due to copper price drop

COLOMBIA
Colombia slashes gold holdings by two-thirds amid July rout

The reason for and timing of the move are not known, but it came as institutional and speculative investors pulled more cash en masse from commodities, ending a decade-long boom, as the stock market crash in China reignited concerns about demand from the world’s biggest consumer of industrial raw materials.

CUBA
Obama Plays the Clinton Vietnam Card to Normalize Relations With Cuba, but Turns it On Its Head

Before restoring full diplomatic relations with Vietnam, President Clinton eased a majority of the economic sanctions. A mistake. However, by the time he did this, the Soviets were mostly gone from Vietnam; Vietnamese forces had pulled out from Cambodia and replaced with a UN peacekeeping force; and thousands of former South Vietnamese officials had been freed from political prisons and exiled to other nations including the United States.

What ultimately made it politically palatable for Clinton to remove sanctions was a 1993 Senate Select Committee report on POW matters that afforded Clinton the domestic political cover he needed to move forward to ease sanctions. Vietnam also started to return POW remains and allowed U.S. inspectors as part of the Joint Task Force for Full Accounting (JTF-FA) to visit various places throughout the country to investigate POW/MIA claims.

ECUADOR
Ecuador Protests: Correa’s Oil Crisis, Policies Could Spell End Of Latin America Success Story

Ecuador’s Cotopaxi volcano roars back to life, locals speak of lava flow fears and damage to tourism

GUATEMALA
Prosecution requests impeachment of Guatemala president Otto Perez

JAMAICA
IMF Considering Adjusting Some Measures Under Deal With Jamaica

International Monetary Fund (IMF’s) Mission Chief to Jamaica, Dr Uma Ramakrishnan says the fund is considering relaxing some of the targets under Jamaica’s economic support programme

MEXICO
Miguel Ángel Jiménez Blanco, Mexican who led search for mass graves found shot to death
Activist’s group had unearthed 129 bodies in Guerrero, where students went missing last year.

He worked for the politically active group called the Union of Towns and Organizations of the State of Guerrero (known as UPOEG)

Previously Deported Illegals Caught Smuggling Thousands of People Across Border

3-Time Deported Top Mexican Drug Trafficker Caught Illegally Re-Entering Texas

Investigation Lifts a Cloud Over President of Mexico
A seven-month conflict-of-interest investigation into the purchase of luxury homes by President Enrique Peña Nieto’s wife and his finance minister from a government contractor found no wrongdoing, Mexico’s comptroller said Friday.

NICARAGUA
Why am I not surprised? China’s Building a Huge Canal in Nicaragua, But We Couldn’t Find It

PANAMA
Turkey’s new direct connection to Panama may facilitate terrorist financing for Hamas

Turkey and Panama have no international trade to speak of, raising questions as to why, of the 28 countries not served by the airline, is Turkish Airlines expanding to Panama.

Likewise, New nonstop flight from Dubai to Panama a terrorist financiers’ dream? (h/t JC)

Financiers for Hezbollah and a number of other sanctioned Middle East terrorist groups must be jumping up and down for joy, for their jobs will become much easier. The amount of international trade between Panama and the Middle East is nominal, but the nonstop flights will greatly facilitate both illicit (i.e. money laundering) transactions, and terrorist financing operations.

Expect more of that if Obama’s Iran deal goes through.

PARAGUAY
Rogelio Livieres Plano, ousted bishop in Paraguay, dies at 69

PERU
The migrant nation
Urbanisation in Peru has brought citizenship but also a host of problems

Peruvian newspaper cancels cardinal column after papal ‘plagiarism’
Peruvian newspaper says it will not publish any more articles by Roman Catholic cardinal Luis Cipriani after papal plagiarism revelations

Now Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani has been unceremoniously dumped from his occasional column at El Comercio, Peru’s oldest privately-owned newspaper, after his writings were proved to include plagiarised words of popes.

PUERTO RICO
Governor Luis Fortuño On The Lessons The US Must Learn From Puerto Rico

The former Governor of Puerto Rico explains that “bottom line, you can never tax yourself out of a hole.”

Hurricane Danny Has Begun Its Weakening; Drought Relief For Leeward Islands, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico?

VENEZUELA
Good luck with that: Venezuelans Launch Mises Institute to Take Down ChavismoLibertarians Offer Ideological Cure to Economic Crisis

The week’s posts and podcast:
Nicaragua: Where’s the canal?

Argentina: Wheelchair tango

The Falklands: Pope Francis, what fresh hell can this be? UPDATED

Venezuela: Circling the drain

Somebody tell Al Sharpton Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens

Venezuela: Cuban doctors stuck in limbo, as the country collapses

Cuba: Air-travel, credit cards next . . . by executive action?

Menendez on Iran: Failure Theater, or not?

Cuba: “Who fears the billboard?”

“Culture is how we pass the time between hypocrisies.”

Brazil: Will Dilma get it?

Mexico: @Leon_Krauze looks at the big White House

Podcast: Cuba, marches in Brazil & other US-Latin America stories of the week

The foreign policy house of lies


Sunday palate cleanser: Stern, Yo-Yo Ma, Ax

August 23rd, 2015

playing Beethoven’s Concerto For Piano, Violin, Cello & Orchestra Op.56

Nicaragua: Where’s the canal?

August 22nd, 2015

Bloomberg News went looking but couldn’t find it:

China’s Building a Huge Canal in Nicaragua, But We Couldn’t Find It

The townspeople haven’t seen any signs of canal workers in months. And the work that was done was marginal. A handful of Chinese engineers were spotted late last year making field notations on the east side of the lake; early this year, a dirt road was expanded and light posts were upgraded at a spot on the west side where a port is to be built.

Other Chinese projects in our hemisphere have not been doing all that well:

Last year I was saying The Nicaragua canal: Don’t be the next Lord Crawley

Argentina: Wheelchair tango

August 22nd, 2015

Argentine dancer in wheelchair challenges stereotypes at tango contestGabriela Fernanda Torres, competing at the World Tango Championships, says she finds dancing liberating

The Falklands: Pope Francis, what fresh hell can this be? UPDATED

August 21st, 2015

After the pontiff took home the Communist crucifix, I borrow Dorothy Parker’s question to ask him, Pope Francis, what fresh hell can this be?

Pope Francis poses with ‘dialogue for Malvinas’ sign
Pope Francis poses with a propaganda sign calling for “dialogue” between Britain and Argentina

It is time for dialogue between Argentina and the United Kingdom about the Falkland Islands

Argentina’s rulers for decades have used the Falklands as a propaganda tool by which they can distract from the dictatorship, the economic situation, the poverty, the corruption, the “silence is health” mentality. The Falklanders have confirmed their right to self-determination by overwhelmingly voting to remain British in a March 2013 referendum.

Cristina Fernandez, whom the pope has hosted at least five times since his ascension to the papacy, is particularly fervid on the Falklands (a subject dear to Hugo Chavez, her 21st Century Socialism compadre) also because of new oil findings on Falklands territory. There’s even a Twitter hashtag,

Gustavo Hoyo, director of the “dialogue” movement, has been tweeting pictures of ordinary Argentines and well-known faces holding the placard.

By holding the sign, Francis has now joined in the propaganda, on the 50th anniversary of the UN’s Decolonization Committe resolution asking for dialogue, just as Cristina ramps up the rhetoric as the October 25 election looms.

Sure enough, Cristina tweeted it,

What a tool you are, Francis.

UPDATE:
Mercopress says the pope’s not a tool, but a clueless fool,

“The Holy Father did not even realise he had this object in his hands. He has discovered this just now after seeing the photograph,” Father Ciro Benedettini said in a phone interview on Wednesday.

Interesting how so many have to explain “what Francis really meant” after the fact.

“Nobody takes Francis by surprise”, tweets Cristina:

The foreign policy house of lies

August 21st, 2015

Please read my article, The foreign policy house of lies, on one of the many lies the Obama foreign policy is based.

The title comes from this line,

a highly successful, cutthroat consultant is never above using any means (or anyone) necessary.

Change consultant for community organizer. The dollar signs in the logo fit well with the money the Castros stand to get.

Venezuela: Circling the drain

August 20th, 2015

Today’s roundup:

Leopoldo Lopez, from his cell,

I mentioned this in last night’s podcast:
Grisly killing of Caracas woman becomes political battleground in hyper-polarized Venezuela

The two men, Jose Rafael Perez and Carlos Trejo, had been photographed alongside Venezuela’s best-known opposition leaders and at various political sites, with the snapshots leaving the impression that they were present, Forrest Gump-like, for virtually all of the milestones in the opposition’s protests over the past two years.

INFESTATION OF OPOSSUMS KILLS 17 BABIES IN VENEZUELAN BIRTH WARD

El Universal, the nation’s largest newspaper, reports that deaths of newborns at the hospital are common. One set of parents told the newspaper that their child had died on a Thursday, but they were not told until Friday. Others who have used the hospital’s services tell El Universal that the situation resembles that of a year ago, when 15 newborns died of an infection and became a rallying cry for the opposition against the socialist government’s recurring inability to provide adequate medical care.

Venezuela closed 2 of its borders with Colombia after a violent shoot-out; that is, 2 border crossings,

The members of the military were attacked during an anti-smuggling operation in the Venezuelan border town of San Antonio in the state of Tachira, according to the government.