Could Mexico become the next Russia?

October 15th, 2014

In Russia, Putin is king. Paul Roderick Gregory writes that Putin’s Reaction To Sanctions Is Destroying The Economy And China Won’t Help

Things are not going well for Vladimir Putin. The price of oil and the ruble continue to fall. Top Russian officials admit that the economy is in big trouble, despite Putin’s denials. Likely presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, has declared that Putin must be contained. Putin’s counter sanctions are making things worse. The most ominous sign, however, is that Putin is weakening the foundations on which his power is based. He is cutting off foreign investment by bailing out his friends, and he is breaking the social compact on which his KGB-Mafia state is founded.
. . .
Putin’s kleptocracy is based on the following principles of (mis)governance: 1) The state determines what is legal and what is not; there is no rule of law. 2) The state serves the interests of Putin and his inner circle, not of the people. 3) Putin’s kleptocracy uses its media monopoly to brainwash the people with Goebbels-like big lies. 4) Putin determines property rights – who owns what. 5) Disloyalty will be punished by confiscation of property, banishment, prison, or worse. Loyalists can rest easy, however. Their property is safe, or at least says their friend, Vladimir Putin.

Leon Krauze sees Russia as a cautionary tale for Mexico, and asks that Mexico’s President Must Not Ignore This Mass Grave of College Kids—or the Corruption It Represents. The mass grave refers to the 43 students missing since September 26

And then you have Guerrero, current epicenter of Mexico’s nightmare. For a while now, rival gangs have been fighting for control of the state. The result has been the usual parade of horrors: cities besieged (including Acapulco), governments infiltrated, journalists threatened, police corrupted. And death. And vengeance. The latest rearing of the beast’s head produced an atrocity: 43 college students were abducted by local policemen, reportedly under the order of both the police chief and the mayor of Iguala, a man allegedly in cahoots with organized crime (both are on the run). The whereabouts of the kidnapped students remain unknown, but authorities recently found a crude open grave filled with 28 severely burnt bodies. Some showed signs of torture. Forensics are still trying to figure out if the bodies are those of the kidnapped students. Relatives fear the worst.

Krauze points out,

Instead of trying to will reality into submission, the government should tackle Mexico’s biggest problem: corruption. Despite Peña Nieto’s penchant for structural change, his administration has failed to put in place even the most modest reform to fight the country’s deep-rooted corruption.

Updating the story yesterday, Mexico’s attorney general said that none of the 28 bodies found in a mass grave in Iguala belongs to the 43 missing students. I don’t know what’s worse: the fact that nine mass graves exist in Iguala, or that none of the students’ remains have been found.

Iguala’s mayor Jose Luis Abarca (now missing, along with his wife and the town police chief), had numerous and serious complaints of corruption filed against him, which federal authorities ignored.

The thing is, Peña Nieto’s party, the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) was based, and ruled Mexico for over 70 years with impunity, on a culture built on widespread tolerance of corruption, which Krauze calls a “gigantic structure of perverse political convenience.” About the only thing preventing Mexico from a Putin-type of president was that the PRI insisted on changing presidents every six years.

When Krauze asked Peña Nieto (emphasis added)

how Peña Nieto planned to prevent Mexico from turning into Russia, especially now that billions of dollars will be in play due to the recent opening of the country’s energy sector to private investors. Peña Nieto shrugged off my concern. Corruption in Mexico “is a cultural matter,” he said, not realizing the implications of the sentence.

Until and unless Mexico tackles corruption, the country is not going to flourish, no matter what other changes the president du jour may attempt.

[Post edited for clarity]



The Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

October 14th, 2014

LatinAmerARGENTINA
Argentine Government Blasts “Speculation” by Grain Exporters

Argentina Creditors’ Lawyers, Mediator to Meet
A court-appointed mediator will meet next week with lawyers representing Argentina and its holdout creditors, the mediator said Friday

BOLIVIA
Morales confident he will win Sunday’s election in all nine Bolivian districts
At an event to mark the closing of his campaign ahead of Sunday’s elections, a self-assured Evo Morales told Bolivians that he will win all over the country and will even take the opposition’s bastions of support in the east.

Bolivia’s election
Happily Evo after
A third term for a “non-stick” leader

BRAZIL
Number of Attacks in Southern Brazil State Rises to 100
The wave of violence, which has left at least three people dead and 41 buses destroyed, has spread to 31 cities in Santa Catarina, whose authorities say the attacks are ordered by a criminal gang from Argentina.


Brazil’s Election Shows How The Left Thrives On Welfare Dependency

The Key Proposals Of Brazil Presidential Hopeful Aécio Neves

Brazil Suspected Ebola Case Tests Negative
A West African man held in isolation at a Rio de Janeiro hospital on suspicion of bringing the deadly Ebola virus to South America has tested negative for the disease, the Health Ministry said Saturday.

CAYMAN ISLANDS
Former Cayman Premier Acquitted

CHILE
Experts Lower Chile’s Growth Forecast to 1.9%

COLOMBIA
Colombia Authorized Guerrilla Leader’s Trips to Cuba

Hours later, President Juan Manuel Santos said that he personally signed off on the trips, which he described as “part of the process, normal.”

Washington Post reporter: White House spin on Cartegena is “demonstrably false”

CUBA
CASTRO’S MOMUMENT
The Castro Legacy: Untold Thousands of Watery Graves

World Bank Touts Cuba’s Communist Education as Exemplary
All the Better to Indoctrinate Students, Exiles Contend

Cuban: I’d Rather Die Trying to Reach Freedom, Than Live on My Knees Living in Tyranny

ECUADOR
El escándalo uruguayo

A Raúl Sendic, candidato vicepresidencial de Uruguay, junto a Tabaré Vásquez, por el movimiento izquierdista Frente Amplio, del presidente José Mujica, le salpicó la “maldición“ del petróleo. Un cuestionado convenio de canje de crudo por derivados entre Ancap/Trafigura/Petroecuador que involucra USD 6.400 millones, empezó a pasar las primeras facturas, en medio de la campaña electoral. El escándalo ampliamente cubierto por la prensa uruguaya, hace referencia al libro Ecuador Made in China, y a una carta remitida al gobierno uruguayo y a varios legisladores de ese país.
. . .
La referida cláusula del Convenio señala que Ecuador proveerá hasta 36000 barriles diarios de crudo, sin embargo en el contrato firmado el mismo día en Montevideo, se estableció la entrega de hasta 100000 barriles diarios, con lo que se violó el Convenio. Incluir un volumen de 100000 barriles día notificaba al más ingenuo que el crudo no estaba destinado a la refinería uruguaya, cuya capacidad máxima, cuando está operativa, es de 50000 barriles día, y de un crudo diferente al ecuatoriano. Al respecto, la Contraloría abona con conclusiones que dejan sin respuesta a los autores del Acuerdo: “se contrató con Ancap, sin que existan estudios técnicos que demuestren los beneficios para el país de una contratación directa”, señala en organismo.

Feminists Weigh In for Chevron in Racketeering-Oil Pollution Case

The Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund urged the appeals court to rule for Chevron on a highly technical but critical issue. You read that correctly: The nation’s oldest women’s-rights legal advocacy organization, a left-leaning group that helped enact the landmark 1994 Violence Against Women Act and represents victims of sexual harassment and spousal brutality, supports the multinational oil company in its struggle against a crusading lawyer who claims to represent the impoverished and oppressed.

O’Reilly Discusses WFB’s Reporting On Ecuador PR Firm Paying Liberal US Celebrities

EL SALVADOR
El Salvador tries to rein in crime with community policing

IMMIGRATION
FUSION TV LAMENTS ‘UNDOCUMENTED’ WOMEN HAVING HARD TIME GETTING ABORTIONS IN TEXAS

MEXICO
Mexico Arrests Alleged Head of Juárez Drug Cartel
Federal police arrested alleged Juárez drug cartel leader Vicente Carrillo Fuentes in the northern city of Torreón on Thursday, Mexican officials said.
His Arrest Is Seen as Symbolic Amid Police Scandal

Iguala, Mexico and police crimes

NICARAGUA
Russia ban opens opportunities to Iran, Nicaragua

PANAMA
Panama’s National Assembly Ratifies Trade Pact with Mexico

PERU
The Man Behind Peru’s Culinary Ascent
Chef Gastón Acurio Built an Empire With 44 Restaurants in 13 Countries on Ceviche, Guinea Pig and Ethnic Influences

Divide and bribe
Corruption and political fragmentation threaten Peru’s democracy

PUERTO RICO
No More Dunkin’ Donuts for Puerto Rico
Island’s Franchisee Fails to Make Payments, 18 Stores to Close

TRINIDAD TOBAGO
Trinidad and Tobago Mulls Postponing Carnival over Ebola Fears

URUGUAY
Uruguay Welcomes First Group of 42 Syrian Refugees

VENEZUELA
Wouldn’t it be better if they had done this while Maduro was speakinVenezuela: Exxon wins $1.6 billion settlementg at the UN? UN urges Venezuela to release dissenter leader Leopoldo López
The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the United Nations (UN) described as illegal the actions of the Venezuelan authorities in the proceedings against the political opposition leader for the events of February 12

Venezuela: a land of political killings and gang turf wars
Politician Robert Serra was murdered in his home
The grisly murder of a young politician and killing of a pro-regime militia leader in police shoot-out signal a bloody power struggle for the legacy of Hugo Chavez, writes Phillip Sherwell

Miami Venezuelans vs. Mary Landrieu

The week’s posts and podcast:
Why Venezuela should not have a seat at the UN Security Council

Could capitalism save the Arabs?

Mexico: Government paying its citizens to avoid deportation from U.S.

Venezuela: Exxon wins $1.6 billion settlement

No More Che Day

4 ISIS Terrorists Arrested in Texas

Mexico: 43 students missing since September 26

Brazil: Aécio’s plan is the economy

At Da Tech Guy Blog:
Why bother covering up the Cartagena, Colombia, prostitution scandal?

Ecuador’s “dirty hand,” and Mia Farrow’s greased palm

Podcast:
US-Latin America stories of the week.

“All communist countries revert to capitalism eventually. Some just get there quicker than others”

October 14th, 2014

Michael J. Totten continues his excellent reporting by going From Havana to Hanoi, and concludes,

Decades of disinformation to the contrary, Cuba never had a kinder and gentler version of communism that works. No, the island is not North Korea or Cambodia under Pol Pot, but it was never any better than Vietnam or East Germany in the 1970s and the 1980s. It just had better PR. The sorry truth is that of all the communist regimes that have ever existed—with the single exception of North Korea’s—Cuba’s is the most stubborn, the most reactionary, and the slowest to figure out how economics actually works.

Read the whole eye-opening thing.

Venezuela: “Underperformance” doesn’t begin to describe it

October 14th, 2014

Even when the Venezuelan government has not allowed its own numbers to be verified for almost a decade, and stopped reporting various standard economoic indicators several years ago (practices which all started during Chavez’s administration), the numbers that it does report confirm The Economist’s appraisal of the country as Probably the world’s worst-managed economy.

Right now the government,

facing deteriorating economic conditions at home, is quietly slashing imports to cover foreign debt payments amid a severe hard-currency crunch.

Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff write on Venezuela’s Spectacular Underperformance 

Maduro, of course, rules over a major oil-exporting economy that is so badly mismanaged that real (inflation-adjusted) per capita GDP today is 2% lower than it was in 1970, despite a ten-fold increase in oil prices.

The relevant reality now is the long-term plight and dwindling standard of living of the average Venezuelan citizen. Over the past 45 years, as Venezuela’s real per capita GDP fell, US per capita GDP roughly doubled and Chile’s per capita GDP nearly tripled. And neutral observers project that 2014 will be even worse for Venezuela – not surprising, given the chaos of the country’s policy fundamentals.

Venezuela repeatedly has defaulted on the moneys it owes on pharmaceutical imports, food, airlines, oil suppliers and joint-venture partners; Reinhart and Rogoff ask

historically there have been many external defaults without domestic defaults, the converse is not true: nearly all domestic defaults are “twin defaults” that also involve external creditors. Will the Venezuelan case be different?

In other words, the two things go hand in hand, and it’s only a matter of time before Wall Street bond-holders are treated like foreign airlines.

However, Francisco Toro points out that

in the technical sense that’s relevant in market terms, Venezuela is not in domestic default.
. . .
This is the crux of the Great Venezuela Macro Debate of 2013-2014: to what extent can the government’s patent inability to meet its obligations be ascribed to a basic inability to pay, and to what extent is it just the Nth insane distortion you get when the government makes it illegal to pay a penny more than 77 cents for a $10 bill?

So, while we split hairs on exchange rate misalignments and the like, Venezuela undoubtely becomes a land of political killings and gang turf wars.

Related: Venezuela: The Left vs. reality



Why Venezuela should not have a seat at the UN Security Council

October 13th, 2014

Mary O’Grady explains,
THE AMERICAS
A Test for Obama on Venezuela at the U.N.
Cuba’s pawn wants a seat on the Security Council. We should work against it, as we did in 2008.

De facto control of Venezuela by Cuba ought to trouble all peaceable nations. Cuba violated a U.N. embargo on arms shipments to North Korea in 2013 when it put a load of weaponry on a North Korean vessel headed for Asia. The Venezuelan National Guard is a partner of Colombia’s drug-trafficking terrorists. Numerous terrorism experts warn that Venezuela is working closely with both Iran and Hezbollah to make trouble in the West and that the country has become a transit point for Iranian agents seeking to gain a foothold in the Americas.

Permanent members Russia and China would gain a reliable ally on the Security Council by adding Venezuela. It is true that the U.S. has veto power to block dangerous moves by a member. But Venezuela could influence the discussion agenda and would undoubtedly employ Cuba’s legendary propaganda tactics to do so.

Symbolically the elevation of Venezuela to the council would be a win for U.S. foes, and Venezuela knows it.

I don’t see the Obama administration doing anything about it. Instead, I say it’s very likely Chavez’s daughter Maria Gabriela Chavez will soon be sitting next to an American diplomat at the United Nations Security Council.

Could capitalism save the Arabs?

October 12th, 2014

I am very skeptical, but Peruvian economist explains his thesis in The Capitalist Cure for Terrorism
Military might alone won’t defeat Islamic State and its ilk. The U.S. needs to promote economic empowerment
.

De Soto has a lot of experience in developing economies, but not in societies where the will of the individual is subjugated to a cult of violence. I hope he is right.



Mexico: Government paying its citizens to avoid deportation from U.S.

October 11th, 2014

Because it’s cheaper than to solve Mexico’s systemic problems,

Mexico Pays To Help Its Citizens Avoid Deportation From The U.S. (h/t Breitbart) for the fees under the “dreamers act”, DACA.

The Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C., does not keep track of how many DACA applications the consulates have funded nationwide, according to Julian Escutia, head of the embassy’s consular coordination and Hispanic affairs section.

Said Julian Escutia, head of the embassy’s consular coordination and Hispanic affairs section, unironically,

“Our main objective is the well-being of our nationals wherever they are,” he said. “So what we want for them is that they are successful and really continue contributing to this country [the U.S.].”

Which is more than what the U.S. has done for Andrew Tahmooressi.

Also at NPR,
43 Missing Students, 1 Missing Mayor: Of Crime And Collusion In Mexico

The case highlights the corruption and collusion between politicians and drug traffickers in many parts of rural Mexico today.

So much for “the well-being of our nationals wherever they are.”

Venezuela: Exxon wins $1.6 billion settlement

October 10th, 2014

Back in 2005, then-dictator Hugo Chavez started to expropriate assets in Venezuela’s energy, mining and telecommunications industries under the pretext of development and sovereignty.

Energy companies were given until late-2007 to accept proposed contract and compensation terms from Chavez’s government or risk having their assets seized.•

Exxon and ConocoPhillips rejected the terms, and Exxon took Venezuela to the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes, or ICSID. The ICSID ruled for Exxon, which Chavez promptly, and predictably, rejected. At the time there were 20 other cases against Venezuela at the World Bank’s tribunal, all triggered by the wave of state takeovers.

Now Exxon Wins $1.6 Billion Settlement for Venezuela Seizure

The ICSID award includes $1.4 billion for expropriation of the Cerro Negro project, $179.3 million for expropriation of the smaller La Ceiba project and $9 million in compensation for production and export curtailments, ICSID said. It will incur compound interest of 3.25 percent dating back to June 2007.

In a similar complaint, the ICSID ruled Sept. 23 that Venezuela must pay $740 million to Spokane, Washington-based Gold Reserve Inc. (GRZ) for taking its Brisas gold and copper project in 2008. Gold Reserve said on July 23 that it was seeking $2.1 billion for the nationalization.

About 28 cases filed by mining and oil companies remain unresolved at the ICSID, including those filed by Phillips 66 and Highbury International AVV.

Venezuela calls it “a favorable end for the republic,” (h/t Caracas Chronicles)

Which tells you Venezuela has no intention to pay Exxon. The thing is, the country must honor ICSID rulings to avoid default of sovereign bonds. The only certain outcome in the short term is that a lot of lawyers are going to make a lot of money.

Just don’t expect any payments any time soon.

No More Che Day

October 9th, 2014

4 ISIS Terrorists Arrested in Texas

October 9th, 2014

Border security is national security.

JW Confirms: 4 ISIS Terrorists Arrested in Texas in Last 36 Hours

Islamic terrorists have entered the United States through the Mexican border and Homeland Security sources tell Judicial Watch that four have been apprehended in the last 36 hours by federal authorities and the Texas Department of Public Safety in McAllen and Pharr.

JW confirmed this after California Congressman Duncan Hunter, a former Marine Corp Major and member of the House Armed Services Committee, disclosed on national television that at least ten Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) fighters have been caught crossing the Mexican border in Texas. The veteran lawmaker got the astounding intel straight from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Homeland Security agency responsible for guarding the 1,933-mile southern border.

Additionally,

In late August JW reported that Islamic terrorist groups are operating in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez and planning to attack the United States with car bombs or other vehicle borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED). High-level federal law enforcement, intelligence and other sources confirmed to JW that a warning bulletin for an imminent terrorist attack on the border has been issued. Agents across a number of Homeland Security, Justice and Defense agencies have all been placed on alert and instructed to aggressively work all possible leads and sources concerning this imminent terrorist threat.

The feds denied it, HOMELAND: No Islamic State fighters coming from Mexico…

If you are not concerned about what Obama called the jayvee team, A top U.S. general admitted that a potential Ebola outbreak in Central America is a real threat to the United States and a scenario which could result in a mass migration across the U.S./Mexico border, as thousands would attempt to flee the deadly virus. Kelly said that,

if Ebola did reach Central America, it is likely to expect the virus to expand exponentially and to “rage” as it has in West Africa where officials now believe up to 1.4 million may contract the disease before 2015.

I’d call that “the kiss your a** good-bye scenario.”

And don’t forget enterovirus D68 (EV-D68): ATTKISSON: Outbreak of virus first idenfitied in cities with ‘significant number’ of relocated immigrants…

In other immigration news,

U.S. GENERAL: AL QAEDA WORKING WITH LATIN AMERICAN DRUG CARTELS. Not just any general,

The commander of the U.S. Southern Command said al Qaeda raises “a lot of money” by allowing Latin American drug cartels to traffic cocaine into Europe through West Africa, explicitly associating the two enterprises.

“We know that the cocaine that flows out of Bolivia and Peru, the number one and number two producer, feeds the cocaine habit around the world,” said U.S. Marine Gen. John Kelly, commander of Southcom, during an October 7 speech delivered to an audience at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C.

NM MAYOR: ‘ALL OF A SUDDEN’ FEDS RELEASING ILLEGALS AT 4-TO-1 RATIO…

Four smugglers arrested after fatal rollover…

Chris Matthews urges Obama to quit ‘pandering’ to ‘ethnic groups’…

Meanwhile, Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto said the anti-immigration views of many Americans is racist.

That’s a funny statement for Nieto to make considering that Mexico bars immigrants based on race. And a hundred other reasons.