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.

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

August 20th, 2015

and send him this link.

Hat tip Jorge Ponce who notes

He is one of President Obama’s senior advisors, having visited the White House over 60 times.

We’re in the best of hands.

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

August 19th, 2015

Francisco Toro of Caracas Chronicles calls it

the sprawling state-sponsored human trafficking ring known as Barrio Adentro

Barrio Adentro was the Cuban-doctors-for-Venezuelan-oil scheme Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro cooked up,

Governments pay the communist island for the doctors, making them an important source of revenue. And perhaps nowhere is the program more vital than in Venezuela, which in 2003 established the “Barrio Adentro” program — free healthcare centers staffed by Cubans.

In exchange, Venezuela sends crude oil and cash back to Cuba. During 2003-13 the state-run PDVSA oil company pumped $22.4 billion dollars into the program. Venezuela Health Minister Francisco Armada told state-run VTV television there are more than 10,000 Cuban health professionals in Venezuela

Not surprisingly (and as reported earlier)

The working conditions are those of slave labor:

Several Cuban defectors interviewed in Bogota said that they fled not only because of oppression in their own nation, but also because of unreasonably poor and demanding work conditions in Venezuela. Andres said that he could not stand the conditions in Venezuela, where he lived in a crowded house with a leaky straw roof which he shared with fifteen other Cuban doctors waiting to be put to work.

The doctors also said that in Venezuela, Cuban minders monitored their movements, prohibiting non-work contact with Venezuelans. When not at work, the Cubans were required to be at home after 6 pm. One couple said that after they pointed out some problems with the programme, officials threatened to send them back to Cuba in retaliation.

The doctors who risked their lives to leave Venezuela and crossed the border into Colombia are now facing delays after applying for asylum in the U.S.

What about the money they are due from the Cuban government for their work in Venezuela? Forgddabouit!

Internacionalistas are given modest stipends but the bulk of their salary is held in Cuba. When they’re sent home early — as he was being threatened with — they’re denied even those modest savings. Without that money, there was nothing to go home to, he said.

If you’re wondering why the internacionalistas don’t want to stay in Colombia, read Miguel Octavio’s post on Venezuela And Colombia: A Joint Future.

Related:
Bloomberg News editorial board:
If Venezuela Implodes, Will Its Neighbors Be Ready?

Perhaps you’re aware that Venezuela has the world’s highest inflation rate, a collapsing currency and every prospect of defaulting on its debts next year. You may have read about shortages of consumer goods (everything from milk and bread to beer and condoms), and the effort required to obtain hard currency (kidnapping purebred dogs to sell in Brazil is one way).

Here are some things you might have missed. In the country with the world’s largest oil reserves, transplant patients have resorted to veterinary medicines to stay alive. Coagulants for treating hemophilia are available only for emergencies. Medicines of every kind are getting hard to find outside the cities. Malaria and dengue fever are on the rise; so is malnutrition, although the government stopped publishing weekly epidemiological bulletins last November and denies that thousands of doctors are resigning and emigrating.

Every day, Venezuelans form lines at stores that are almost bare. On July 31, a man was killed and several dozen people arrested in the city of San Felix as angry shoppers looted grocery stores and attacked state-owned vehicles. The potential for more frequent and deadlier breakdowns in public order is plain, especially now that Maduro has stepped up military raids on “hoarders” who amass “contraband” goods.

Venezuela’s currency is now so worthless that people are using it as napkins

As for the upcoming December 6 elections, I fully agree with Bloomberg:

Venezuelans pinning their hopes on December’s parliamentary elections will likely be disappointed. Leading opposition politicians have been jailed or disqualified from running. Maduro has promisedto exclude election monitors from the European Union or the Organization of American States. He has said he’ll refuse to accept the ruling party’s defeat.

Let me spell it out for you: December 6th is the anniversary of the date Hugo Chavez was first elected president. The regime won’t let go.



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

August 19th, 2015

Obama’s really pushing hard, no matter what Congress may or may not do:

Obama Administration Pushes for Deal to Start Flights to Cuba by Year’s End

White House aims to loosen travel restrictions for individual U.S. travelers despite congressional ban

The agreement would allow airlines to establish regular service between the U.S. and Cuba as early as December, officials said, marking the most significant expansion of economic and tourism ties between the U.S. and Cuba since the 1950s, when Americans regularly traveled back and forth to Havana.

The Obama administration is also exploring further steps to loosen travel restrictions for Americans to the island nation despite the decades-old congressional ban, officials said.
. . .
Only Congress can lift the long-standing U.S. travel and trade embargoes imposed against Cuba in the 1960s following the rise of Fidel Castro to power. But Mr. Obama has executive authority to grant exceptions to them. He announced several last December—such as allowing Americans to use credit and debit cards in Cuba and expanding commercial sales and exports between the two countries—and is considering others.

Speaking of credit cards, Jazz Shaw notes that it Looks like Obama will pretty much ignore Congress on easing Cuba restrictions. In addition to restrictions on travel as individuals (emphasis added),

there are other restrictions to deal with if you want to travel to Cuba. For one thing, you’re not allowed to spend any American money there except under very specific circumstances and credit card companies can’t process transactions which take place there. How will they get around that?
. . .
Most of these restrictions were passed by Congress. The State Department lists many of these restrictions on their travel web site and they are formidable. The Treasury Department reminds people that spending American money in Cuba as a tourist can result in up to a $65,000 fine.

While the media heaps praise his “bold move”, Obama continues a pattern of overreach of executive powers in pursuit of his “legacy.”

Note to the banks: If the credit card transactions bounce, good luck collecting.