Tonight’s podcast

October 8th, 2014

I’m in Silvio Canto’s podcast, US-Latin America stories of the week. Live at 8PM Eastern, and archived for your listening convenience.

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

October 8th, 2014

My latest article, Ecuador’s “dirty hand,” and Mia Farrow’s greased palm is up at Da Tech Guy Blog.

Don’t expect the case to be over, either.

Mexico: 43 students missing since September 26

October 8th, 2014

#HastaEncontrarlos

Vigilantes in Mexico students search
Hundreds of members of self-defence groups join the search in the Mexican town of Iguala for 43 missing students who disappeared almost two weeks ago.
None of the missing are known to have crime connections:

The students, from a teacher training college in Ayotzinapa, travelled to the nearby town of Iguala to protest against what they perceived as discriminatory hiring practices for teachers.

After a day of protests and fundraising, they wanted to make their way back to their college.

Accounts of what happened next differ.

Members of the student union say they hitched a lift aboard three local buses, but the police says the students seized the buses.

In the hours which followed, six people were killed when armed men opened fire on the three buses and that of a third division football team which they presumably mistook for one carrying students.

Three students, a footballer, the driver of one of the buses and a woman in a taxi were shot dead. Many more were injured.

Municipal police gave chase to the students, and are believed to have fired at them.

Twenty-two officers have been detained in connection with the shooting.

But there are also reports of other armed men opening fire on the students. Eight people not belonging to the municipal police have also been arrested.

Disappearance
Following the incident on the night of 26 September, 57 students were reported missing.

On 30 September it was announced that 13 of them had returned to their homes.

One name was found to have appeared in the list of the missing twice, leaving 43 students unaccounted for.

On 4 October, prosecutors announced they had found six shallow graves containing the remains of at least 28 people.

Authorities are investigating the possible involvement of a local drug gang called Guerreros Unidos (United Warriors, a pun, since the state’s name is Guerrero), led by a thug nicknamed El Chucky, and are affiliated with the Beltran Leyva cartel. Additionally, Iguala’s mayor, Jose Luis Abarca Velazquez, his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda Villa, and the police chief have not been seen since the events on 26 September. However, so far the biggest suspect is Mexico’s Police

The state prosecutor investigating why the police opened fire on students from their vehicles has found mass graves in Iguala — the small industrial city where the confrontations occurred — containing 28 badly burned and dismembered bodies.

The prosecutors had already arrested 22 police officers after the clashes, saying the officers secretly worked for, or were members of, a local gang. Now they are investigating whether the police apprehended the students after the confrontation and deliberately turned them over to the local gang. Two witnesses in custody told prosecutors that the gang then killed the protesters on the orders of a leader known as El Chucky.

According to witnesses

More police officers arrived, accompanied by gunmen in plainclothes. Prosecutors have now identified these shooters as members of a cell of assassins called “Guerreros Unidos” or “Warriors United,” who work for the Beltran Leyva cartel. The cartel’s head Hector Beltran Leyva was arrested last week following the incident.

Federal agents are now in charge instead of local police.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has vowed to identify and punish those responsible for the recent disappearance of 43 students after clashes with police.

On one front, the September 26 murders of six people in Iguala, Guerrero, has plunged the conflict-ridden state south of Mexico City into renewed political turmoil.

Paco Almaraz features the governor of the state of Guerrero in the burn-out unit (in Spanish),



Brazil: Aécio’s plan is the economy

October 7th, 2014

In the wake of Dilma’s dismal administration, Aécio Neves will campaign until the Oct. 26 run-off against failing state-run economics. He has Marina Silva’s backing:

Brazil Candidate to Hit Rival on Economy
Brazil’s pro-business candidate Aécio Neves plans to hammer the state-centric economic policies of his rival, President Dilma Rousseff, before their Oct. 26 electoral showdown.

While blaming the president for Brazil’s 6.5% inflation rate, stagnant growth and lackluster productivity, Mr. Neves will tout his achievements as a former two-term governor of prosperous Minas Gerais state, taking credit for rescuing it from near-bankruptcy by cutting expenses and boosting revenue under a program dubbed “management shock.”

And he will criticize a series of scandals that have tarnished Ms. Rousseff’s center-left Workers’ Party, or PT, which has dominated Brazilian politics for 12 years, including alleged widespread corruption and cronyism at state-owned companies like oil giant Petrobras.

From commenter N,

there are some interesting voting maps around (on the web) showing that Dilma Roussef’s votes correlate almost perfectly with he number of people receiving federal government’s handouts.

Neves has his work cut out for him,

Ms. Rousseff starts the runoff as the favorite given the leftist drift of Brazilian politics, but Mr. Neves has a chance if he can convince voters that her policies are responsible for Brazil’s current malaise and that he has a better agenda. Brazil’s populist, redistributionist policies have squandered its potential for decades, and more of the same for another four years won’t bring the change the country needs.

I wish him luck.



The Top Gear Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

October 6th, 2014

The Top Gear lads got ‘chased by thousands and ordered out of country’

“When we saw people on Twitter getting upset we took the plate off. But they still attacked us so we made a break for it to our hotel in Ushuaia.

“The mob just descended on the hotel and encircled us. State representatives came and ordered us out of the country.”

Here’s the car that caused the fracas,

Video of the police escorting them.

ARGENTINA
Barcelona star Lionel Messi to face tax evasion trial
Barcelona and Argentina star Lionel Messi is to face trial for alleged tax evasion, a Spanish judge has ruled.

Argentina central bank governor resigns amid economic woes
Argentina’s central bank governor Juan Carlos Fabrega has resigned after less than a year in office.

BOLIVIA
Bolivian Couple Arrested in Argentina Accused of Killing Their Daughter

BRAZIL
With election Sunday, Brazil deals with oil scandal
With election Sunday, Brazil deals with oil scandal
Corruption charges in a refinery project complicate the race for the ruling party
.

They include corruption, political machinations with the state-controlled oil company, and delays and overspending on a multibillion-dollar oil refinery that Brazil needs desperately.

CARIBBEAN
20141004_AMC803PetroCaribe and the Caribbean
Single point of failure
Venezuela’s financing programme leaves many Caribbean countries vulnerable

CHILE
Extreme skiers Auclair and Fransson die in Chile avalanche
Police in Chile have found the bodies of two extreme skiers who had been missing since an avalanche struck a mountain in southern Chile on Tuesday.

COLOMBIA
Colombian Attorney General Says Conflict Cases Could Be Shelved

Prince Charles and Camilla to Visit Colombia and Mexico

Who will save Bogota?

CUBA
Keep Cuba out of hemispheric summits

Prosecutors seek 5-year prison term for Cuban opposition activist Ciro Alexis Casanova

Fraternal Relations, Part III

ECUADOR
The Dark Side of Green Justice
Review: ‘Law of the Jungle’ by Paul Barrett

HAITI
Former Haiti president Duvalier diesJean-Claude Duvalier
Haiti’s notorious former ruler Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier has died of a heart attack in the capital Port-au-Prince, reports quoting official sources say.

JAMAICA
Jamaica Gets Help Preparing for Possible Ebola Cases

MEXICO
Leader of Cartel Is Captured
The leader of one of Mexico’s largest cartels, Héctor Beltrán-Leyva of the Beltrán-Leyva gang, has been captured, the authorities said Wednesday night, giving President Enrique Peña Nieto another high-profile victory against organized crime.

Indeed, How Dare We Leave Andrew Tahmooressi Behind?

PANAMA
Is Panama’s President Being Coerced by Cuba’s Regime?

1,400 Cops Occupy Unruly Panamanian Prison

Panama President Demands That Judge Explain Growing Wealth

PARAGUAY
Rutherford B. Hayes: An OK President but a hero in Paraguay

Hayes agreed to negotiate a long-held border dispute between Argentina and Paraguay, and the decision gave the nation 60 percent of its land.

PERU
Spanish Speleologist in Hospital after 12 Days in Peruvian Cave

PUERTO RICO
Puerto Rico Offers Itself as a Gateway to U.S. Market, Official Says

VENEZUELA
Venezuela Oil Price Continues Tumbling
Venezuela’s Ministry of Energy and Petroleum reports that the average price of Venezuelan crude sold by Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) during the week ending October 3 fell to its lowest price since January of 2011. The Latin American Herald Tribune notes that the Ministry continues to post an inaccurate average for the year and reduced the average price for the whole of 2013 by $1.41 without explanation

Venezuela: Lawmaker Killed in His Home, Police Say
A day after Robert Serra, a rising star in Venezuela’s governing party, was stabbed to death in his home, officials said Thursday that it was a carefully planned murder.

The week’s posts and podcasts:
Brazil: Aécio goes to the runoff

Argentina: Top Gear fracas

Brazil: More of the same?

En español: El Alcalde de Iguala en la UdQ

Argentina: Hoping it’s hit rock bottom

Cuba: Risky business

Taxes, and a book

Brazil: Dilma up in the polls

En español: Últimas noticias del idiota iberoamericano

Venezuela: Why the military won’t rise up

At Da Tech Guy Blog:
I’m a tax exile, and proud of it

And now for something completely different: A book on Cuban history

The week’s podcast:
Let’s chat with Alina Garcia-Lapuerta, author of “La Belle Creole”

Brazil: Aécio goes to the runoff

October 6th, 2014

While the local and international press were busy talking about Marina Silva, voters were looking at pro-market senator Aécio Neves:

Brazilian Challenger Faces Tough Task in Presidential Runoff
Economist Who Overcame Popular Upstart Will Try to Woo Poorer Voters

Mr. Neves has said he would go after Ms. Rousseff on what he considers her vulnerability: Brazil’s struggling economy. He has vowed to slash government ministries, simplify Brazil’s tax code and tackle inflation.

Popular with investors and businessmen, Mr. Neves has said that, if elected, he would appoint respected economist Arminio Fraga, the former head of the central bank, to be his finance minister.

The reason for Neves’s ascendance?

the economy is undergoing a wrenching U-turn. Brazil slipped into recession this year after four years of stagnation, and inflation is on the rise. The state-owned oil company Petróleo Brasileiro SA is mired in alleged embezzlement and other scandals. Since Ms. Rousseff took office, the real has lost a third of its value against the dollar and the stock market is down by 21%.

Silva was Dilma-light, and Dilma promises “More Changes, More Future.”

The question is, Does Aécio have the personality to sway the uneducated, low-information, low-income voter?

Argentina: Top Gear fracas

October 4th, 2014

Top Gear crew ‘chased by thousands and ordered out of country’

“There were hundreds of them. They were hurling rocks and bricks at our cars. They were trying to attack us with pickaxe handles.

over a license plate that reminded people of the Falklands.

H982 FKL.

I kid you not.

The Argentinians call the Falklands the Malvinas, but, all the same, look at this,

The locals had their two minutes of hate, and the lads needed police escort to get out of the country safely.

Brazil: More of the same?

October 3rd, 2014

The Economist reports on Pre-election spending in Brazil
A final splurge

The primary deficit (before interest payments) reached 14.4 billion reais ($5.9 billion) in that month, the fourth in a row in which the government has failed to put aside cash to pay creditors. The consolidated primary surplus in the eight months to August stood at just 0.3% of GDP. Most of that came from the states; the central government managed just 1.5 billion reais, a piffling 0.05% of GDP and the worst result for the period since 1998. The overall budget deficit climbed to 4% of output, the highest level since Ms Rousseff’s predecessor and mentor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, embarked on a huge stimulus package in 2009, as the global financial crisis took hold.

In turn,

On September 30th the ratings agency told an investors’ conference in São Paulo that it will refrain from re-appraising Brazil’s credit risk until 2016, once it becomes apparent what the next government is doing to tackle weak growth (which will average just 1.5-1.7% a year during Ms Rousseff’s four years in power), and a wonky budget.

On paper, Marina Silva, candidate of the centrist Brazilian Socialist party, promises a more responsible fiscal policy. So does Aécio Neves of the Party of Brazilian Social Democracy, the most market-friendly of the main contenders.

The odds odds Neves winning are slim-to-none. Silva is getting a lot of media attention, particularly in foreign media outlets, but Dilma will most likely win, as a commenter points out,

Perhaps you`re right, and that awful woman will be reelected. But not only because she has a “huge… and well funded political machine”. She also has absolutely no scruples whatsoever about lying, scheming and – most importantly – putting the gigantic State machine to work full-time for her campaign. Disgraceful. Worse times ahead for us Brazilians.

En español: El Alcalde de Iguala en la UdQ

October 2nd, 2014

El Alcalde de Iguala

Tras los hechos sangrientos ocurridos en su municipio mientras él bailaba en una fiesta del DIF local, José Luis Abarca llega a la Unidad de Quemados… y en el Cineclub de Nicasio: Cantinflas… jajajaja… nah… El Justiciero

Argentina: Hoping it’s hit rock bottom

October 2nd, 2014

Incurable optimists are betting that Argentina has hit rock bottom:

Argentina’s economy is projected to contract by 2.1% this year and its inflation rate is among the world’s highest. In July, Argentina defaulted for a second time in 13 years. A U.S. judge on Monday found Argentina in contempt of court for its handling of the debt.

Investors see a potential turning point in presidential elections scheduled for October 2015, from which Mrs. Kirchner is constitutionally barred.

Contenders for her post have vowed to work toward exiting default and to adopt policies aimed at righting the economy.

Money managers hope to get in front of a stampede into Argentina should a new government succeed in restoring the country’s credibility in global financial markets.

Well, yeah, if I won the Power Ball I may make it to the Forbes 400.

Snark aside, Argentina has been defaulting on its debt since 1826. The country’s stock market is small, another devaluation is looming, the peso has dropped to a record low against the dollar, the country’s foreign exchange laws and business environment are negative, public spending is out of control, Steve Hanke estimates a 68% annual inflation rate, and, while yields may be high, the central bank’s reserves are dwindling and the government does not have a strategy to solve its domestic economic problems.

Oh yes, it can get worse. When the airlines don’t sell tickets more than 90 days in advance for fear they won’t get paid, you know things are not about to get rosy.

The Merval’s up. Take that as a sell signal.