Venezuela: Keeping the money in Andorra wasn’t such a good idea

March 18th, 2015

Andorra?

Yes, Andorra, the money laundering center.

The story is like something out of Chavistas en el imperio, only that the money was stashed in Europe and not the U.S.:
Andorra: CEO of bank accused by US of money laundering is arrested, will appear in court

The Treasury Department said BPA managers helped launder money, including $2 billion allegedly siphoned from the Venezuelan state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA.

It also said one unnamed high-level BPA manager accepted “exorbitant commissions” to develop shell companies that helped launder the Venezuelan company’s money.

Related:
How Russian, Chinese gangs use a tiny European state to wash ‘dirty’ cash

En español: Carmen Aristegui y Joaquin Vargas en la UdQ

March 18th, 2015

Related:
Mexican Journalist Fired by Radio Station
A Mexican radio station has fired journalist Carmen Aristegui, whose investigative team broke an alleged conflict of interest story involving the acquisition of a mansion by the wife of the country’s president.

Oh, for the days when silence was golden!

March 18th, 2015

Hearing this,

and reading about Starbuck’s #RaceTogether scheme, whereby baristas will impose upon you a script talk to you about race, made me yearn for the days when silence was golden.

Iran no longer on Terror Threat List. Many in LatAm will be happy.

March 17th, 2015

This week’s “smart diplomacy” news:
U.S. Omits Iran and Hezbollah From Terror Threat List

An annual security assessment presented to the U.S. Senate by James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, has excluded Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah from its list of terror threats to U.S. interests, despite both being consistently included as threats in previous years.
. . .
In a previous report from January 2014, Clapper included Iran and Hezbollah in the ‘Terrorism’ section, writing that both “continue to directly threaten the interests of U.S. allies. Hizballah [sic] has increased its global terrorist activity in recent years to a level that we have not seen since the 1990s”. Iran was also given its own sub-heading in the ‘Terrorism’ section of such assessments in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Any evidence that Iran and Hezbollah have changed their ways?

No; instead,

“I think that we are looking at a quid pro quo, where Iran helps us with counter-terrorism and we facilitate their nuclear ambitions and cut down on our labelling of them as terrorists,” says [professor of political science at Northeastern University and member at the Council of Foreign Relations Max] Abrahms.

In the wake of Alberto Nisman‘s death, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect some smiling faces in Argentina. As you may recall, a congressional committee had invited him to testify [in 2013] about Iran’s spy network in Latin America and its alleged role in a plot to bomb John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.

Last December, the government fired a powerful spy chief who was Nisman’s lead investigator. The prosecutor retaliated with a bombshell: He accused the president, her foreign minister and other political figures of conspiring to absolve the accused Iranians in exchange for commercial deals. Iranian diplomat Mohsen Rabbani, a top suspect in the 1994 attack, participated in secret talks, according to Nisman’s criminal complaint.

Argentine spies “negotiated with Mohsen Rabbani,” an indignant Nisman said in a television interview on Jan. 14. “Not just with the state that protects the terrorists, but also with the terrorists.”

The Argentine government denied his allegations.

Indeed, back in 2006,

Nisman charged senior Iranian officials and leaders of the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah with plotting the AMIA attack

Some others at the Tri-border area will be happy.

Let’s not forget Venezuela, which for years has been helping Iran dodge UN sanctions and use Venezuelan aircraft to ship missile parts to Syria. The monthly flight allegedly

flew from Caracas carrying cocaine to be distributed to Hezbollah in Damascus and sold. The plane then went to Tehran carrying Venezuelan passports and other documents that helped Iranian terrorists travel around the world undetected.

Of course, the regime in Cuba, where Hezbollah has established a center of operations in Cuba in order to expand its terrorist activity and facilitate an attack on an Israeli target in South America, is already happy.

Related:
The Terror-Crime Nexus

Sing it!

Today I play the WSV for Vox’s chili peppers

March 17th, 2015

The World’s Smallest Violin plays for Vox:

The Vox people are bemoaning this:

Why?

Because The Economist’s chili pepper cover gets Hispanic Americans all wrong (h/t: Joshua Treviño)

This week’s issue of the Economist reduces the vast diversity of Hispanic Americans to a single fruit: chili peppers.

The administration’s flagrant violations of the Constitution, the push to favor illegal aliens over anyone who’s a legal immigrant (I can go on all day) don’t fire up Vox’s belly, but chili peppers do.

To which I say, “suck it up, buttercup.”

(h/t: Joshua Treviño)

Venezuela: El Mundo finally catches up on Derwick

March 16th, 2015

Venezuela blogger Alek Boyd has been investigating Derwick Associates’ connection to Venezuelan officials’ money laundering for years. Today Spain’s El Mundo’s front-page story catches up as The world is shrinking for Derwick Associates

One of Spain’s newspapers of record, El Mundo, published in its front page today about corrupt officials from Venezuela using the subsidiary of a little bank in Andorra to launder billions of dollars. The news may come as a surprise to some. Readers of this and other blogs of mine will, I hope, share a feeling of vindication with me today, for as extraordinary as El Mundo’s decision to name names is, we have known this for a while. In fact, I alerted Spain’s money laundering authorities (SEPBLAC) about it in April 2012.

Read the whole thing.

Brazil: Will the protest matter?

March 16th, 2015

Anti-Rousseff protests draw 1.5 million across Brazil

About 1.5 million protesters hit the streets across Brazil on Sunday in a major show of anger against leftist President Dilma Rousseff, who faces crises from a faltering economy to a massive corruption scandal at state oil giant Petrobras.

Many called for the impeachment of Rousseff, less than six months after she was narrowly returned to power in the most bitterly fought presidential race since the end of a military dictatorship in 1985.

The biggest demonstration took place in Sao Paulo, where a million people rallied — according to police estimates — many in the distinctive yellow and green of Brazil’s national football team. The city — South America’s biggest, and Brazil’s business and industrial hub — is a stronghold of opposition to Rousseff.

Peaceful demonstrations also took place in 83 cities and towns around the country, including major protests in the capital Brasilia and in Rio de Janeiro.

Watch Tens of Thousands Demand Brazil President Rousseff’s ImpeachmentThe Guardian, of course, refers to them as “Rightwing demonstrations,” since demanding transparency and an end to corruption is clearly not a leftie “thing,” and Dilma is definitely a leftie.

Indeed,

The latest protests coincide with the 30th anniversary of the year in which Brazil’s military dictatorship ended and democracy was restored. In recent days, Brazilians have debated whether the demonstrations would mark a milestone for democratic expression and free speech or, conversely, signal the country’s unwillingness to obey the verdict of the ballot box when times turn tough.

Will the protests make a difference? Only if the people of Brazil are deteermined to strengthen the institutions that guarantee transparency and the rule of law.

Until then, no.



The missing Putin Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

March 16th, 2015

The whole world was wondering where Vladimir Putin went for a few days. I’m glad to say I didn’t misplace him with the things I took to Goodwill on Saturday; he was in Switzerland for the birth of his secret daughter, availing himself of Swiss healthcare (and possibly Swiss law regarding investments by Swiss nationals? Are people born in Switzerland Swiss citizens by birth?).

But fear not, while the cat was away, Venezuela Stages Massive Military Drills, Assisted by Russia and China.

ARGENTINA

Three former members of Hugo Chavez’s cabinet claim that, with Venezuela acting as middleman, Iran gave money to Cristina Fernandez’s campaign in exchange for nuclear secrets and impunity in the AMIA case:
Chavistas confirmam conspiração denunciada por NismanTrês ex-integrantes da cúpula chavista dizem a VEJA que, por intermédio da Venezuela, o Irã mandou dinheiro para a campanha de Cristina Kirchner em troca de segredos nucleares e impunidade no caso Amia

Growing doubts

BOLIVIA
Childbirth in Bolivia’s High Plains

BRAZIL
Mass Protests Across Brazil Reflect Anger at President
Government of Dilma Rousseff dealing with corruption scandal, struggling economy

Olavo de Carvalho interview:

CHILE
Forest fires rage in Chile: Thousands evacuated from port
Forest fires rage out of control near Chile’s Valparaiso, with authorities evacuating over 4,000 people

COLOMBIA

#CubaReal "¿El Bloqueo? No mijo, esto solo mejora cuando se muera quien tu sabes" – Pichi #Cuba pic.twitter.com/na0O2n4wrQ

— Karel Becerra – Cuba (@KarelBecerra) March 14, 2015

ECUADOR
Demonstrations Planned Across Ecuador to Protest Correa’s Policies
Organizers say idea grew out of a number of issues including labor concerns and rights to protest

MEXICO
Hipolito Mora Chavez, Mexican Vigilante Leader Runs for Congress

Dismissal of Two Mexican Journalists Draws Accusation of Attack on Media
Investigative reporter Carmen Aristegui calls for unconditional reinstatement of colleagues

MUSTIQUE
Heavily pregnant Duchess of Cambridge sports Mustique tan as she visits Sir Ben Ainslie in Portsmouth
Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge carrying out first public engagments [sic] since holiday in Caribbean

PUERTO RICO
Puerto Rico: the Caribbean without all the edges sanded off
Stylish New Yorkers are heading to Puerto Rico for its chic new hotels, fine cuisine, and rough-round-the-edges charm. Here’s how to join them

VENEZUELA
Terrorists from Iran, Syria and Lebanon travel with Venezuelan passports: ¡GRAVE! Iraníes, sirios, y libaneses inmersos en terrorismo viajan con pasaporte de Venezuela

VenEconomy: The Aviator – One Less Political Prisoner for Venezuela

Please scroll down for the week’s posts and podcast.

Venezuela healthcare system approaching Cuban levels

March 14th, 2015

One of the most tragic consequences of Venezuela’s premeditated Cubanization is the descent of its healthcare:
Venezuelans Suffer Amid Crumbling Health System
As country’s economy struggles, lack of hospital funding and widespread shortages of medicine and surgical supplies put patients at risk

For instance:

In late November, the director of cardiovascular surgery at the University Hospital sent out letters to the cardiology ward’s patients, telling them they were being discharged. The reason cited: a dearth of operating-room supplies—no catheters, no working blood-processing machine, no heart valves.

A comment on the following graph: Any information on Cuba’s spending is provided by the government, and, therefore, dubious,

Read Juan Forero’s article in full, and browse through the comments.

ISIS and the open border

March 13th, 2015

Yesterday Gen. John F. Kelly of the U.S. Southern Command, testified before Congress (pdf file here) on national security risks at the open southern border:

Transnational Organized Crime.
The spread of criminal organizations continues to tear at the social, economic, and security fabric of our
Central American neighbors. Powerful and wellresourced,
these groups traffic in drugs—including cocaine, heroin, marijuana, counterfeit pharmaceuticals, and methamphetamine—small arms and explosives, precursor chemicals, illegally mined gold, counterfeit goods, people, and other
contraband. They engage in money laundering, bribery, intimidation, and assassinations. They threaten the very underpinnings of democracy itself: citizen safety, rule of law, and economic prosperity. And they pose a direct threat to the stability of our partners and an insidious risk to the security of our nation.

While there is growing recognition of the danger posed by transnational organized crime, it is often eclipsed by other concerns. Frankly, Mr. Chairman, I believe we are overlooking a significant security threat. Despite the heroic efforts of our law enforcement colleagues, criminal organizations are constantly adapting their methods for trafficking across our borders. While there is not yet any indication that the criminal networks involved in human and drug trafficking are interested in supporting the efforts of terrorist groups, these networks could unwittingly, or even wittingly, facilitate the movement of terrorist operatives or weapons of mass destruction toward our borders, potentially undetected and almost completely unrestricted. In addition to thousands of Central Americans fleeing poverty and violence, foreign nationals from countries like Somalia, Bangladesh, Lebanon, and Pakistan are using the region’s human smuggling networks to enter the United States.

While many are merely seeking
economic opportunity or fleeing war, a small subset could potentially be seeking to do us harm. Last year, ISIS adherents posted discussions on social media calling for the infiltration of the U.S. southern
border. Thankfully, we have not yet seen evidence of this occurring, but I am deeply concerned that smuggling networks are a vulnerability that terrorists could seek to exploit.

I am also troubled by the financial and operational overlap between criminal and criminal networks in the region.

Gen. Kelly also expressed concern about the presence of Lebanese terror group Hezbollah and the Iranian influence in Latin America. Hezbollah is backed by Iran.

Breitbart News reported that nearly 500 immigrants from terrorism-linked countries such as Syria and Iraq were apprehended trying to enter the U.S. illegally in 2014 alone.

Border security is national security.