En español: Mares de infelicidad, por Enrique Krauze

February 24th, 2015

Mares de infelicidad
La lógica de Hugo Chávez obedecía a una combinación de poder y delirio: quería ser el heredero histórico de Castro. Y quería demostrarle al mundo que el socialismo cubano, el original, el fidelista, sí podía funcionar

Nunca dejará de sorprender el daño que el poder absoluto, concentrado en una persona, puede causar en la vida de los pueblos. Pero aún más misteriosa es la incapacidad de muchos pueblos para ver de frente el fenómeno, comprenderlo y evitarlo. Es el triste caso de un sector del pueblo venezolano, ciego al desmantelamiento de su propio país perpetrado por Hugo Chávez y su Gobierno en beneficio del régimen dictatorial más longevo del mundo actual: el de los hermanos Castro.

Leerlo completo.

Y me gusta el dibujo,

English article here (but rather watered-down for a NYT audience?).

Colombia: Aronson special envoy to FARC peace tallks

February 24th, 2015

U.S. Names Aronson Special Envoy to Colombia
Former assistant secretary of state will help Colombian government and FARC in negotiations

On Friday, President Barack Obama named Bernard “Bernie” Aronson, a U.S. assistant secretary of state for inter-American Affairs from 1989 to 1993, as the envoy. He will help the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC, overcome roadblocks in the final stretch of negotiations.

Let’s hope it’s not another case of “not wanting anything in return.”

But they do look glum, don’t they?

Colombia: Hello FARC, good-bye rule of law

February 23rd, 2015

Colombia’s new Supreme Court president is not quite in Marie Harf’s “jobs for ISIS” class, but comes close: When it comes to ending FARC violence, he thinks that

denying justice to the FARC’s victims and offering the rebels minimal penalties (e.g., community service in lieu of prison) for their war crimes solves the problem.

Mary O’Grady has the story of how the FARC wants amnesty by claiming that Colombia’s military is as guilty of war crimes as they are.

Kidnapping, murder, extortion, drug trade, child soldiers, raping women and forced abortion: what the FARC stands for.

Nice going, judge.

The Putinesco Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

February 23rd, 2015

Everything old is new again, so this week’s word is Putinesco, the 21st century non-Soviet.

ARGENTINA
DEBKA investigation: A fake Iranian “defector” assassinated Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman

Witness is latest in string of false ‘leaks’

Argentina, Iran and the strange death of Alberto Nisman
The death of a prosecutor investigating links between Buenos Aires and Tehran has quickly gone from being a criminal case to a political affair
It always was.

BOLIVIA
Bolivia’s “spaceship architecture” showcases the new wealth of indigenous people

BRAZIL
Brazil Rio carnival: Beija-Flor wins despite ‘Obiang link’
A Brazilian samba school, which is alleged to have received funding from Equatorial Guinea, has been crowned champion of Rio de Janeiro’s carnival.
Equatorial Guinea?

CHILE
Bachelet’s Virtuous Facade
Hypocrisy Runs Deep Throughout Chile’s Political Elite

COLOMBIA
A court in Colombia rules that same-sex couples can adopt children, but only if the child is the offspring of one of the partners.

Colombian teacher changes her name to ABCDEFG HIJKLMN OPQRST UVWXYZ

CUBA
Whitewashing & Policy Laundering Cuban Terrorism

ECUADOR
No Referendum on Correa’s Indefinite Reelection in Ecuador
National Electoral Council Denies Request for Popular Vote

MEXICO
Mexico to stop shipping ready-to-use fuel to curb thefts

Mexico’s state-owned oil company Pemex has announced it will stop shipping ready-to-use petrol and diesel through its pipelines, in an effort to curb fuel thefts.

Pemex says it will use its pipelines across Mexico only for unfinished fuel.

That fuel will go through a last phase of mixing when it reaches the company’s storage plants.

More than $1bn (£650,000) worth of fuel was stolen by Mexican gangs in 2014, an increase of 70% over the previous year.

TOWERS OF SECRECY
Mexican Political Family Has Close Ties to Ruling Party, and Homes in the U.S.
The properties stand in contrast to the working-man image promoted by José Murat Casab, a longtime party insider, and his son, a top housing official.

NICARAGUA
Trouble Brewing in Nicaragua

PUERTO RICO
Race to the bottom: Moody’s Cuts Puerto Rico Rating Further into Junk
Two-notch downgrade brings the rating on Puerto Rico’s general obligation bonds to Caa1

VENEZUELA
Turmoil in Venezuela
Sliding toward dictatorship
The arrest of the mayor of Caracas is a sign that the regime will do whatever it takes to hold on to power.
Sliding?

The sudden rise of the bodyguards



Machiavellian? No, Putinesco!

February 21st, 2015

Old: Machiavellian

New: Putinesco.

Russia Boosts Arms, Training for Leftist Latin Militaries
Moscow defense minister inks deals with Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua for joint exercises

Shoygu met with defense and military leaders in Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua and signed several agreements on warship visits and military training during the visit, which ran from Feb. 11 to 14. It is not clear whether any new arms deals were completed during the visit.

Of course, everything old again,

Dan Goure, a Russia expert with the Lexington Institute, said Russia’s current moves into Latin America “are like a page Xeroxed from the Soviet political-military playbook.”

But, hey, the Monroe doctrine is dead, so there.

Cuba: Nancy at the Saratoga

February 20th, 2015

Ah, for the optics!

My friend Silvio Canto, Jr. was keeping track of how many times the Hotel Saratoga, where Nancy Pelosi stayed during her Havana junket, had been expropriated by the Communist regime. He found out it was expropriated twice: once in 1959, and again in 2011:

in 2011, Castro confiscated Coral Capital’s minority stake in The Hotel Saratoga.

And for giggles, he had Coral Capital’s two senior executives in Cuba, Amado Fahkre and Stephen Purvis, imprisoned in the notorious torture facility known as Villa Marista (akin to Moscow’s infamous Lubyanka).

Fahkre and Purvis spent nearly two years arbitrarily imprisoned, had all their assets confiscated and were finally expelled to Britain.

Purvis, as you may recall, does not hold fond memories of the sixteen months he was jailed, and Coral was contemplating suing the Cuban regime for the $20+million it seized.

Indeed, the Saratoga ought to be an object lesson to all who contemplate investing with the Cuban regime; a lesson lost on Nancy.

Venezuela: Criminalizing dissent

February 20th, 2015


As the Communist dictatorship in Venezuela sinks the economy into further chaos, it resorts to criminalizing dissent.

The latest victim is Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma, who yesterday was arrested and dragged out of office ‘like a dog’ by the police.

Read my article at Da Tech Guy blog.

UPDATE
In other Venezuela news,
Head of the Defense and Security Committee of the National Assembly (AN) deputy William Fariñas said that pro-government deputies would request the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) to remove the parliamentary immunity of opposition deputy Julio Borges.

Liliana Tintori, Leopoldo Lopez’s wife, states that there was an attempt to remove Lopez from Ramo Verde prison to place(s) unknown.

Venezuela: Get ready for $10 oil?

February 19th, 2015

Gary Shilling at Bloomberg is saying, Get ready for $10 oil It has to do with the marginal cost of production,

or the additional costs after the wells are drilled and the pipes are laid. Another way to think of it: It’s the price at which cash flow for an additional barrel falls to zero.

Last month, Wood Mackenzie, an energy research organization, found that of 2,222 oil fields surveyed worldwide, only 1.6 percent would have negative cash flow at $40 a barrel. That suggests there won’t be a lot of chickening out at $40. Keep in mind that the marginal cost for efficient U.S. shale-oil producers is about $10 to $20 a barrel in the Permian Basin in Texas and about the same for oil produced in the Persian Gulf.

Also consider the conundrum financially troubled countries such as Russia and Venezuela find themselves in: They desperately need the revenue from oil exports to service foreign debts and fund imports. Yet, the lower the price, the more oil they need to produce and export to earn the same number of dollars, the currency used to price and trade oil.

With the drop in prices,

Among the hardest hit are those nations that rely on oil for much of their government revenue and were in financial trouble before prices plunged. Venezuela along with its state-run oil company issued more debt than any developing country between 2007 and 2011. Venezuela has been downgraded to the bottom of the junk pile — CCC by Fitch — and credit-default swaps on Venezuelan debt recently indicated a 61 percent chance of default in the next year and 90 percent in the next five years. The nosedive in oil prices also is devastating African exporters Ghana, Angola and Nigeria, where oil finances 70 percent of the government’s budget.

How Bad Is Venezuela’s Economic Chaos? Bad enough that

Maduro has yet to fully account for how his government will meet its $10.3 billion debt obligations in 2015. A March 16 payment totally $1.1 billion is fast approaching and Venezuela’s economy is languishing.

I am not optimistic at all; even if Maduro goes, the country can remain under a dictatorship, just as Cuba has, for decades to follow.

And, by the way, even when the minimum monthly wage of 5,600 bolivars ($32 on a new exchange market created last week) is close to useless, the late dictator Hugo Chavez managed to sock away US$12 billion in his HSBC account.

So, all of you who preach that “Chavez immensely decreased inequality” in Venezuela can take that, spread it, and eat it on a cracker.

Argentina: A quarter million at the silent march for #Nisman UPDATE

February 19th, 2015

In spite of the pouring rain, hundreds of thousands turned out to what Cristina Kirchner’s administration called an ‘institutional coup’.

“In honor of prosecutor Nisman. Silent march.”

This is what downtown Buenos Aires looked like last evening in the pouring rain:

I don’t know if Cristina Fernandez was at the Casa Rosada, but the above photo shows the main square facing it. Here’s same area showing the Casa Rosada,

Not only in Buenos Aires, but throughout the country; here is Rosario,

WSJ:

The march along one of this elegant city’s iconic thoroughfares, Avenida de Mayo, organized by fellow prosecutors incensed over how the government has handled the death of Alberto Nisman, drew not only investigators and judges but also students, plumbers and the late prosecutor’s grieving family. They were brought together by their conviction that Mr. Nisman’s death was not a suicide, as an autopsy determined, but an assassination.

Another witness has talked about evidence tampering at the scene of Nisman’s murder (link in Spanish). Apparently there were thirty people at the site.

UPDATE:
The Prosecution Office confirmed in a press release that ex Intelligence Secretariat Operations head Antonio “Jaime” Stiuso has given testimony in the investigation of late AMIA prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s death.

2 podcasts and a few short items

February 18th, 2015

Today at 1PM Eastern I’m in Silvio Canto’s podcast talking about the US-Cuba talks, Argentina and other US-Latin America issues of the week with Jorge Ponce.

I was in Rick Moran’s podcast last night talking about the GOP playing chicken with Homeland Security funding with Noah Rothman of Hot Air.

Both podcasts are archived for your listening convenience.

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Daniel Duquenal is running a series of posts analyzing Venezuela’s situation. Go here for links.

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Over in Bolivia, Evo Morales, following Cristina Fernandez’s example in Argentina, is resorting to thieving private pensions, since he’s running out of money now that oil prices are down.

It’s his third term, so he’s declared himself planetary leader at the Tiwanaku ruins, just for show:

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Today in history, Feb 18, 1964:
United States punishes nations for trading with Cuba

The United States cuts off military assistance to Britain, France, and Yugoslavia in retaliation for their continuing trade with the communist nation of Cuba.

Nowadays we send hashtags instead.