Passover: The Maccabeats do Les Misérables

April 15th, 2014

If you go to Gerard‘s, you’ll get the lyrics for sing-along.

Panama: Martinelli strikes back

April 15th, 2014

Well, after Mary O’Grady wrote about Panama’s President Ricardo Martinelli choosing his wife to run for vice-president, Martinelli tweeted,

This WSJ journalist once interviewed me because she was a close friend of Jimmy Papadimitriu, who now advises Varela,”

The WSJ didn’t take the tweet sitting down:

He is referring to Juan Carlos Varela, who is Mr. Martinelli’s vice president and former foreign minister. Mr. Varela broke with Mr. Martinelli and is now running to succeed him as the presidential nominee of a competing party. We don’t know if Mr. Papadimitriu advises Mr. Varela, but we can say that Ms. O’Grady is not and has never been a friend of Mr. Papadimitriu. She did interview Mr. Martinelli—in 2010 when Mr. Papadimitriu was his chief of staff.

No doubt Mr. Martinelli was upset that Ms. O’Grady called out his electoral power play. Panamanians remember, and not fondly, military dictator Manuel Noriega, who was removed by U.S. troops in 1989. If Mr. Martinelli has designs on becoming one more caudillo, he ought to man-up and tell the voters rather than hide behind his wife’s illegal candidacy.

Why does this matter to the US?

Because Panama, especially following its canal expansion, remains a key trade partner to the Americas, and especially to the US. A true democracy, engaged in free trade, is best for the hemisphere.


Chile: 15 dead in #Valparaiso

April 15th, 2014

Something out of Dante,

At least 15 dead, 500 injured in Chile port city fires

Helicopters and airplanes dumped water on wildfires and the smoldering wreckage of hilltop neighborhoods around Valparaiso for a third straight day Monday as sailors in riot gear stood ready to evacuate 700 more families whose homes could be lost if the winds shifted.

Already 11,000 people were homeless as wildfires sent burning embers flying from hilltop to hilltop. A 15th body was found, and the toll of destroyed homes rose to more than 2,500.

To add to the destruction, the fires are so fierce they create their own winds.

Pray for the people of Valparaiso.

The Holy Week Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

April 14th, 2014

LatinAmerIt’s Holy Week, and taxes are due tomorrow – not exactly the most cheerful way to start a week.

ARGENTINA
Federal police launch huge raid on Argentina’s ‘drug capital’
More than 3,000 federal agents involved in raids on around 80 ‘bunkers’ in the Argentine city of Rosario, plagued by violence between drug gangs

YPF, Chevron to Invest $1.6 Billion in 2014 in Argentina’s Vaca Muerta
Both companies will share equally in the investment outlay, which will go toward drilling 170 wells and building production facilities in Loma Campana, Neuquen
. Good luck with that.

Argentina hit by general strike over high inflation and taxes

Metro, train and bus services around the country have been paralysed, as Ignacio de los Reyes reports
Public transport in Argentina has been severely disrupted by a huge nationwide strike against the economic policies of the government of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

So, of course, Cristina’s trying to create a diversion: UK Falklands military exercises ‘provoke’ Argentina

BOLIVIA
Is There A Connection Between Hillary Clinton’s ‘Shoe-icide’ Attacker And Che Guevara?

But while everyone is talking about the shoe, little is talked about what the woman also threw along with it: a copy of a Department of Defense document labeled confidential and dated August 1967; it referred to an operation “Cynthia” in Bolivia. Operation “Cynthia” was a Bolivian army maneuver to capture Argentinean doctor and Cuban revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

BRAZIL
Brazil’s economic problems cloud 2014 elections
Brazil’s macroeconomic picture poses problems for the country’s 2014 elections, reports Bloomberg’s David Ingles

Fighting breaks out in Rio de Janeiro as police move to clear 5,000 squatters from buildings

Brazil 2014: less than half of country favour hosting World Cup
Just 48 per cent of Brazilians are in support of the country hosting this year’s tournament, which begins in June

CHILE
Fire destroys 500 homes in Valparaiso
Ambulance crews have treated residents for smoke inhalation but so far there have been no deaths

COLOMBIA
Keep FARC leader Timochenko alive for peace?

Colombia has a loose-tongued president.

Yesterday, Juan Manuel Santos told us he knew where FARC commander alias Timochenko is hiding, but claimed he’d “think twice” before ordering a shoot-to-kill.

COSTA RICA
Costa Rica Installs Coastal Radar to Monitor Drug Smuggling

CUBA
Families of Shootdown Victims: No Spies for Gross Exchange

UPDATED | Cuban political prisoner Lamberto Hernández Plana released after 23 years in Castro gulag

French Foreign Minister Visits Cuba
A French foreign minister visited Cuba for the first time in more than 30 years Saturday, traveling to the communist-run nation at a time when it is seeking to attract more foreign investment and improve ties with the European Union.

ECUADOR
It’s what you call a totalitarian democracy: Does Ecuador’s leader aspire to a perpetual presidency?
Ecuador’s constitution bars Rafael Correa from running for the fourth term. But this won’t stop him from seeking reelection if ‘the people’ want it, he hints.

JAMAICA
Entrepreneurs demand ‘respect’ in Jamaica

LATIN AMERICA
Chinese lending to Latin America
Flexible friends
China lends disproportionately to countries that lack other options
and, while on the subject of China, A Pax Sinica in the Middle East? Some Conjectures

Andres Oppenheimer: Latin America’s forecasts may be too rosy

MEXICO
Mexico prepares first illegal drug financing blacklist
Mexico’s cartels launder billions of dollars a year made by shipping illegal drugs to U.S.
with a proviso,

[Mexican Finance Minister Luis] Videgaray said individuals identified by OFAC [the U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control], or in a similar list put out by the United Nations, could end up being sanctioned in Mexico but that his administration would not necessarily implement all U.S.-identified targets.

NICARAGUA
Nicaragua Sees Series of Arrow Killings of Dogs using crossbows and custom carbon arrows.

PANAMA
Panama Canal expansion draws bigger customers, and criticism
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Panama Canal, one of the busiest waterways in the world. A massive building project is underway there to widen it for larger ships, but the expansion has not been undisputed.

PERU
Peru Arrests 24 for Alleged Ties to Shining Path Rebels

Bello
Peru’s Italian job
Economic success cannot indefinitely co-exist with political weakness
The “Italian model” holds that the important thing is that the economy was run by responsible technocrats. How’s that working out?

The real lesson from Italy is that if the political system is unable to act in the long-term interest of the majority, it ends up contaminating the economy with its failures. Peru is a democracy without meaningful parties. A regional election in October is likely to repeat the last one, in which 23 of the 25 regional presidents were independents. Thanks to mining and gas royalties, they command a big chunk of public money. One important region, Áncash, has become a mafia mini-state. Ten political opponents of the regional president, César Álvarez, have been murdered after denouncing corruption. His critics accuse Mr Álvarez, who denies all wrongdoing, of having bought off prosecutors. This month Mr Humala froze Áncash’s bank accounts.

It always amazes me that countless “models” – the Danish model, the Swedish model, etc. – are held as examples worth emulating in Latin America, instead of free market capitalism.

PUERTO RICO
Vatican Clears Puerto Rico Bishop Daniel Fernandez in Abuse Case

URUGUAY
Uruguay to make medical marijuana available to prisoners
Any inmates who have been prescribed marijuana to improve their physical or mental health will have access to it according to the country’s drug tsar

VENEZUELA
Venezuela: sector de la oposición rechaza diálogo

Venezuela Update: Violence, protests and … talks?

Massive repression against protestors in Venezuela by security forces of Cuba-backed dictatorship

Venezuela’s Protest Movement Fights The Ghost Of Chavez
The legacy of Hugo Chavez hangs over Venezuela — and the country’s protest leaders are having a hard time bringing his followers into their fold.
Especially with the armed motorcycle gangs threatening them.

Venezuela’s old men have a dialogue

Venezuela gives Cuba three aircraft to transport Raúl Castro
The aircrafts –two Dassault Falcon 50 and one Falcon 900– are worth some USD 100-110 million

The week’s posts and podcast:
Venezuela: No food in the shops, but 3 jets for Raul

El libro que hay que leer: En español: Infobae entrevista a Casto Ocando, autor de Chavistas en el Imperio

And now for a Venezuela roundup

Ecuador: Rafael Correa at Yale UPDATED

Brazil: Airports not ready yet

Mexico: en español, Terapia Intensiva 203

Mike Hammer goes to Chile

New book: Chavistas en el Imperio

Cuba: Alan Gross on hunger strike – later Gross ends hunger strike in Cuba

At Da Tech Guy:
Bye-bye, Elementary

Cuba’s American hostage

Podcast:
Dr Gross in Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador & US-Latin America stories of the week


Panama: The Mrs. next?

April 14th, 2014

Of the women presidents in Latin America, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and Isabel Peron of Argentina, and Mireya Moscoso of Panama became presidents because of their husbands. Now Panama may get a wife as VP, coupled with lack of transparency:
Panama’s King Moves the Queen
President Martinelli can’t run for re-election, so he’s picked his wife to be the candidate for VP.

Center-right Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli is an outspoken critic of Venezuelan strongman Nicolás Maduro. Back home in Panama, though, Mr. Martinelli is laying the groundwork for a power grab of his own. If he prevails the region will take another step backward on the freedom trail, yet the Obama State Department remains silent.

Mr. Martinelli’s term ends on July 1 and the constitution bars him from re-election. But the wealthy supermarket magnate is not letting go so easily. He has made his wife, Marta, the vice-presidential candidate on his Democratic Change Party (CD) ticket for the May 4 presidential election. The presidential candidate is José Domingo Arias, his former housing minister.

The Panamanian Constitution anticipates the caudillo who tries “moving the queen,” as this tactic is known elsewhere in the region, to get around a prohibition on re-election. Its Article 193 states that relatives within “the second degree of marital relations of the President of the Republic” may neither be president nor vice president immediately following his term.

A constitutional challenge to Mrs. Martinelli’s candidacy has been brought to the Supreme Court. But the president seems to be betting that the five—of nine—judges who regularly vote in his favor will do so again.

The Panamanian democracy is on the ropes once more. This time Mr. Martinelli has asphyxiated it by waving money under the noses of the political class.

Sometimes it feels like I could replace the dates in old news articles, doesn’t it?

Venezuela: No food in the shops, but 3 jets for Raul

April 13th, 2014

It’s a matter of priorities, people!


I can fly higher than an eagle,
’cause you are the wind beneath my wings
.

Venezuela gives Cuba three aircraft to transport Raúl Castro
The aircrafts –two Dassault Falcon 50 and one Falcon 900– are worth some USD 100-110 million

The aircraft –two Dassault Falcon 50 and one Falcon 900– are worth some USD [$]100-110 million, and are regularly used for transporting ministers and even Cuban President Raúl Castro, sources said as reported by the Miami Herald reported.

En español: Infobae entrevista a Casto Ocando, autor de Chavistas en el Imperio

April 12th, 2014

El libro que hay que leer:Chavistas en el Imperio: Secretos, Tácticas y Escándalos de la Revolución Bolivariana en Estados Unidos

‘Chavistas en el Imperio’, el libro que “desnuda la gran mentira de la revolución bolivariana”

El discurso de la revolución chavista siempre tuvo un enemigo: “el Imperio”, representado por los EEUU y el capitalismo. Desde que Hugo Chávez llegó al poder, la retórica contra la potencia de América del Norte, la ideología “neoliberal”, “imperialista” y de “capitalismo salvaje” se convirtió en un argumento recurrente para justificar las injusticias del país, de la distribución de la riqueza, excusas que calaron hondamente en los sectores populares.

En paralelo con el discurso radicalizado anti los EEUU, los principales colaboradores de Chávez hicieron de la península de La Florida su paraíso terrenal para desarrollar los peores vicios de la corrupción del modelo bolivariano: ser socialistas en Venezuela y magnates en Miami, Wellington o Palm Beach.

Jorge Heili entrevista a Ocando,

Les recomiendo que lo lean.

And now for a Venezuela roundup

April 12th, 2014

Late on Thursday night, Nicolas Maduro held a televised “crisis talk” with members of the opposition. The Beeb says

Mr Maduro met his bitter rival, opposition leader Henrique Capriles, for six hours. More talks are scheduled for Tuesday.

The meeting was brokered by foreign ministers from South American nations.

The spokesperson of the Vatican, Federico Lombardi, noted he had “nothing to say” about the invitation sent on Wednesday by the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Pope Francis for the Vatican to act as a mediator in talks between the Venezuelan government and the opposition.

No matter the foreign ministers or the Vatican, the farce went on as expected: a guarimbalogue.

Francisco Toro calls it A Night of Epistemic Closure (emphasis added)

Fifteen years of sitting in front of a VTV screen have taken their toll. Chavismo has zero interest in reality outside the deep, cozy grooves of its ideological comfort zone. We’re talking about a movement that, when faced with a prominent figure claiming that Jews were using newspaper crossword puzzle clues to send each other coded messages, actually promotes the guy.

These people have all the power, all the money, all the rents, and all the guns. It’s going to take a lot more than having the Papal Nuncio sit through a six-hour meeting to get them to step outside that bubble.

In a way, chavismo doesn’t have an epistemic bubble - it is an epistemic bubble. The obdurate refusal to confront a reality it cannot control, to honor opposing points of view without necessarily sharing them, to treat others’ points of view as basically legitimate even if possibly wrong…these things aren’t features of chavismo as a belief system, they’re its essence.

Which is why, all told, there was just one figure who came out of last night looking relatively good: Maria Corina Machado, who called bullshit on the whole sad charade before it even started.

Miguel Octavio is more optimistic,

Short term, this is largely irrelevant, clearly Chavismo is stuck in its own imaginary world, trapped in its slogans and has no intention of yielding on anything, despite the scheduling of another session on the 15th., right in the middle of a nationwide vacation.

But the fact that this was shown on nationwide TV and the opposition had some very good interventions, is very important long term.

The Chavista militias known as “colectivos” are continuing their rampage.

Maduro’s latest slogan is “Venezuela is a country where the rich protest and the poor celebrate their social well-being,” which he stated to a Guardian reporter but was echoed by a chavista woman on the street.

While the protests are a recent development, the chavista disinformation war continues,

A chavista mouthpiece, infamous Minister of Housing Ricardo Molina, said, from Cuba of course, that there were two Venezuelas. In that, he is absolutely right. Indeed there are two Venezuelas: the imaginary one that exists only in chavismo’s ethereal world, and the other one. There’s no doubt, or disagreement about that. Maduro “lives” in a Venezuela where everything is rosy. So do his henchmen and cronies. Every other one of the 29 million Venezuelans, lives in a Venezuela of scarcity, uncontrolled crime, unemployment, abuse, corruption, uncontrolled inflation, crumbling infrastructure, and a long list of etceteras. I think one example will suffice to illustrate this point: in chavismo’s world, Hugo Chavez was “infected with a brutal and aggressive cancer in 2011​“; in the real world, well, you get the point.

I’ve been reading Casto Ocando’s new book, Chavistas en el Imperio: Secretos, Tácticas y Escándalos de la Revolución Bolivariana en Estados Unidos (Chavistas in the Empire: Secrets, Tactics, and Scandals of the Bolivarian Revolution in the United States). The depth and breath of the chavista disinformation war is beyond what I even imagined. Ocando reports on the hundreds of millions of dollars Chavez spent in the propaganda war.

Out on the street, the police mark people waiting in line to buy milk,

UPDATE:
Linked to by the Pirate’s Cove. Thank you!


Bye-bye, Elementary

April 11th, 2014

My latest article at Da Tech Guy Blog, Bye-bye, Elementary, on CBS’s Sherlock Holmes and the Second Amendment.

Please read it and leave a comment.

Ecuador: Rafael Correa at Yale UPDATED

April 11th, 2014

Rafael Correa wants your money. Carlos Eire reports:

He demanded the “hegemonic” industrialized nations pay Ecuador and all other nations with rain forests for the oxygen produced by the trees in those forests. I let out a chuckle. Much to my surprise no one else laughed.

He also demanded that Ecuador be paid for all of the petroleum that he refuses to extract from its soil in order to keep the rain forest pristine. Not drilling for oil costs Ecuador billions of dollars, he complained. Some clapped enthusiastically.

And he demanded that the “hegemonic” industrialized nations pay fines to the non-industrialized nations as recompense for the air pollution caused by their industries and vehicles. More applause.

Even more applause greeted his proposal to abolish intellectual property and patents. No one should charge for what they invent, and perhaps not even for what they manufacture, he argued.

He called these proposals “a new distribution of labor” and railed against the present “world order” as unjust and “immoral.”

Maybe I ought to demand that Ecuador pay me for the oxygen produced by the trees in my yard, and for not fracking on my property, for the sakes of “a new distribution of labor” or something.

UPDATE:
The Five questions for President Correa that Dr. Eire was not allowed to ask.

4. Mr. President, it is common knowledge that Ecuador wants to return to international financial markets to borrow money again following its 2008 default. Yet you yourself have publicly attacked bond holders, calling them “true monsters.” Outside institutions tend to think that the rule of law and protection for investors is weak in Ecuador. So what is the case you make for investing in Ecuador today?

You can watch the whole lecture here (the YouTube starts right away) below the fold:

Read the rest of this entry »