Cuba: Victory lap, and more gimme gimme

September 30th, 2015

Raul Castro is on a roll:
Cuban Dictator Castro Thanks U.S. With Insults And Grievances, since too much is never enough,

“After 56 years in which the Cuban people put up a heroic and selfless resistance, diplomatic relations have been re-established between Cuba and the United States of America,” the military dictator said.

Normalization of relations “will only be achieved with the end of the economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba; the return to our country of the territory illegally occupied by the Guantanamo naval base; the cessation of radio and TV broadcasts and of subversive and destabilizing programs against the island; and when our people are compensated for the human and economic damages they still endure,” he said.

After a speech, there’s always a photo-op:

Capitol Hill Cubans want to know, Which Conditions for Lifting the Cuban Embargo Does Obama Disagree With?

Want to Do Business in Cuba? All Roads Lead to Raúl Castro’s Son-in-Law

[Post corrected to add two final links]

Paraguay: Don’t worry, be happy?

September 29th, 2015

John Carlin travels to Paraguay, the country that recently was officially declared happiest in the world:

Paraguay conquers happiness: The South American nation is the happiest country in the world, according to a Gallup survey. But it is also one of the most unjust and corrupt. Carlin is as skeptical as I when it comes to the “happiness index”:

What lessons can be learned from the Paraguayan experience? That happiness is possible if you close your eyes to the inevitable evils of life, if you live in the present, if you are content with just having the essential items for living, and can achieve the enormous luxury of not having to worry about money. But there is one ingredient missing to make Paraguay an earthly paradise. Before those who live afflicted by the crisis or by other hardships taking place around the world can follow in the footsteps of the old utopian dreamers, it is essential to ask one thing of the wealthy minority that governs Paraguay: to install a democracy sin qua non and rule of law so that justice is equal for all. When that day comes, yeah, let’s go there. They have everything else.

Sing it, Bobby!

Mexico: Murders on the rise at the capital

September 29th, 2015

Would it be unfair to call Mexico a “functional narcostate”? (amongst all its disfunction, that is)

Rise in Violent Crime Shakes Mexico City. Increase in murders in capital stokes fears that brutal drug gangs have grabbed foothold (emphasis added)

The Federal District, home to some nine million of the 20 million inhabitants in the Mexico City metropolitan area, saw homicides rise 21% to 566 in the first eight months of this year, according to Interior Ministry data released last week, putting the capital’s murder rate at its highest level over the same period since 1998.
. . .
The increase in murders in Mexico City has contributed to a nationwide rise in homicide for the first time since President Enrique Peña Nieto took power in late 2012, months after the rate of killings linked to the country’s murderous drug war began to fall.

During the first eight months of this year, murders rose 5% nationwide. August was the fourth consecutive month in which the murder rate increased.

The rising toll is a big challenge for Mr. Peña Nieto, whose administration had trumpeted the decline in murders over the past two years as proof that the government’s security initiatives, such as improved coordination between crime-fighting agencies like the army and federal police, were working.

Raúl Toledo, a security consultant and former city official, said the rise in Mexico City’s crime rate coincides with estimates by local authorities of a 17% increase in drug consumption in the capital over the past three years.

Latin American countries are prone to deny the existence of drug use among their citizenry. Yet it exists.

And of course they also deny the existence of organized crime.

A Mexico City judge has sentenced three men to 520 years in jail each for their roles in the kidnapping and murder of 13 young people two years ago.

Bolivia: No term limits for Evo, part 2

September 29th, 2015

The “humble guy” in action:

Video of Evo ordering someone to tie his shoes. This is the 21st century socialism’s much-touted equality.”

Two years ago Bolivia’s constitutional court ruled Evo Morales could run for a third time.

Here comes the fourth!

Bolivia’s Congress has voted to amend the constitution to allow the country’s President Evo Morales to run for re-election again in five years’ time.

Mr Morales has said that he wants to complete his government’s “Patriotic Agenda” by taking action on “13 pillars of action” by 2025.

Why not just declare himself a monarch and get it over with?

Colombia: The ugly “deal” with the FARC

September 28th, 2015

First, what’s ugly about it? No referendum. More on that in a moment.

Here’s the Comunicado conjunto # 60 sobre el Acuerdo de creación de una Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz (and the English Summary of the September 23 Government-FARC Communiqué on the Transitional Justice Accord). I could not find the text of the accord itself, but the Communiqué states,

While it is not in the text of the accord, President Juan Manuel Santos said that the sides have agreed to sign a final accord within the next six months.

Steven Taylor is optimistic,

Hopefully the current process will lead to real justice and reconciliation as well as a better state presence in the frontier regions of Colombia.

Mary O’Grady is not as sanguine:
Colombia’s Dubious Deal With Terrorists: Why President Santos won’t let voters decide the fate of his FARC peace agreement.

For starters, the White House pressured for a deal.
Pope Che intervened during last week’s visit to Cuba,

Referring to four years of Colombian government negotiations in Havana with the drug-trafficking terrorist group FARC, Pope Francis said “Please, we do not have the right to allow ourselves yet another failure on this path of peace and reconciliation.” That was pope-speak for “get this done.”

Then there’s the secrecy. As I stated above, as of the writing of this post I could not find the text of the accord itself, only of the Communiqué. O’Grady points out (emphasis added):

FARC atrocities will not land the perpetrators in jail. Instead they will go before one of two special tribunals, which will include judges from other countries. What countries, nobody knows.

Cuba? Venezuela?

If the accused acknowledge their crimes, their most severe penalties will be confinement to the rural areas where they already live, for five to eight years, and some community service. In the case of crimes against humanity this will violate Colombia’s commitments under the Geneva convention.

At the same time, the military, and members of the civilian government and civil society would be on trial alongside the terrorists – would they simply be sentenced to confinement to the areas where they already live, and some community service?

O’Grady continues,

The FARC has said it will not turn over its weapons. It owes reparations to victims and the nation, but how it will pay its debts or to whom nobody knows. FARC leaders will enter politics flush with cash acquired in the cocaine and kidnapping trades.

Last year Mr. Santos announced that he wanted to widen the definition of a political crime to include drug trafficking so that the FARC could claim that they are not gangsters but political actors. This was so he could meet their demand of no jail time.

O’Grady doesn’t mention that the Communiqué describes a number of vague measures, such as “Una ley de amnistía precisará el alcance de la conexidad.” (An amnesty law will specify the extent of the connectedness – what does that mean?), and that some crimes would fall exclusively under the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, the one with judges from unspecified foreign countries.

However, one thing is clear: Santos doesn’t want a referendum, as O’Grady states,

I’ve lost count of how many times Mr. Santos told me personally that Colombians would have a chance to vote on whatever was agreed upon in Havana. He repeated that pledge in interviews and numerous speeches to the nation. Yet on a radio show in August he stated categorically “I have never been on board with a referendum.” Now he calls a referendum “suicide.

Santos wants special commissions in Congress to approve the agreement, and is asking Congress for an enabling law granting him special powers

for 180 days so that he can dictate implementation of the deal.

Former president (who delivered the FARC a Terrible, Horrible, no Good, very Bad Year in 2008) and current senator Alvaro Uribe is opposed to the deal, but he’s not alone: Breakthrough in Farc talks triggers backlash in Colombia.

#AccordOfImpunity Santos and Farc will nominate the Tribunal that Congress will ratify. Terrorism imposes justice. Where are we heading?

The post-papal visit Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

September 28th, 2015

Thank God Papa Che came and left without incident. Yet, as Rich Lowry put it,

The Catholic Church’s traditional discomfort with modernity has cachet at this moment in American politics, especially when it is wrapped in the fashionable causes of income inequality and climate change. In this sense, Pope Francis is (inadvertently) a genius marketeer by taking crackpot attitudes about economic development and getting them a respectful hearing.

Taking the Pope to School

Argentina’s Presidential Hopefuls Aim to Further Militarize Drug War. Experts Warn “Failed Policy” Will Lead to More Violence, Corruption

Can Argentina responsibly develop its massive shale oil and gas potential?


Bolivia row with Chile over strip of land to Pacific Ocean goes to The Hague.
Anger in Chile as International Court of Justice at the Hague declares it has jurisdiction to rule on Bolivia’s claim

Gates Foundation sues Petrobras. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation sues the Brazilian state-owned oil company, Petrobras for investment losses due to corruption.

Chile refuses bilateral negotiations over Bolivia border dispute

Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC leaders signed an accord in Havana under the aaegis of Raul Castro. Alvaro Uribe refers to it as an “Agreement of Impunity” (#AcuerdoDeImpunidad):
Santos, it’s not peace that’s near, it’s the surrender to FARC and the tyranny of Venezuela.”

The accord does not address the issue of drug trafficking.

Colombia Peace Process: Theatre of the Politically Absurd.

The accord is one of the biggest stories of the year, and U.S. media has barely mentioned it, even when the pope was involved (link in Spanish).

Violence in Costa Rica Reaching ‘Pandemic’ Levels?

Governor Cuomo and Raúl Castro of Cuba Meet

Haiti border crisis grows as Dominican Republic expels ‘migrants’

Ecuador’s President Used Millions Of Dollars Of Public Funds To Censor Critical Online Videos. Exclusive: BuzzFeed News has seen leaked documents that reveal Rafael Correa used the intelligence budget to delete content critical of him and the first lady from YouTube, Facebook, and other sites.

Testing the limits on crazy immigration policies, a New plan: we’ll pay to import formerly deported illegals with mental illnesses

Jamaican Anti-Gay Rally to Oppose Same-Sex Marriage, Even Though No One Has Proposed It. Like it or not, Jamaica is leapfrogging over decriminalization and straight to relationship equality. Here are four reasons LGBTI activists should embrace the issue.

State capitalism, populism, extractive economies and corruption don’t work: Support for Latin American Leaders Has Fallen Steadily, Poll Shows: Latin America’s political leaders face a bleak future and a potent backlash from citizens regionwide who feel increasingly disillusioned as economies stumble and corruption flourishes, a new poll across 18 countries by a respected Chilean firm shows.

Latin America cracks open its doors as Syrian refugee crisis mounts. Syrian Issa Hassan is one of the first to land in Mexico today as citizen pressure to do more mounts. Many countries in the region have had their own experiences with authoritarian rule and brutality.

Mexico’s Peña Nieto meets Iguala parents and vows to “search for truth”. President holds first face-to-face with families of the 43 missing teaching students

Dozens of Clandestine Graves Found During Search for Missing Mexican Students

Nicaragua says planned canal will cut sailing time for mega-ships, if it ever gets started, that is.

Companies building controversial dam in Panama hit with $1.2 mn in fines

Paraguay Homicides Drop, But Border Remains Violent 

The figures show high concentrations of violence in the states of Amambay and Alto Parana, with those provinces registering 50 and 31 homicides respectively. Both of these states are major border crossings between Paraguay and Brazil. Amambay in particular isone of the most dangerous border regions in Latin America, registering a murder rate of 66.7 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2014.  

British tourists held overnight by Peruvian protesters. Tour party hijacked by indigenous campaigners angered by halt in road construction

Puerto Rico Funds May Face Federal Oversight. Legislation that would subject Puerto Rico mutual funds to the same regulations as mainland funds is expected to be introduced in Congress on Friday, a sign Puerto Rico’s financial crisis is drawing greater scrutiny.

Dozens Injured, Arrested in Student Protest in Uruguay

Antonio Ledezma: Seven Months under House Arrest, Still No Hearing for Caracas Mayor. Venezuelan Opposition Fears a Repeat of Leopoldo López Case Leaked Government Study Reveals Extent of Shortage Crisis in Venezuela. Report Exposes “Economic War” as Fraud, Says Center for Documentation Director

Venezuelan defector reveals secret meetings between Maduro and Hezbollah

Sunday palate cleanser: Panamanian dances

September 27th, 2015

John Clement sent a sampling of Panamanian dances,

“The State Department has—but is not releasing”

September 25th, 2015

“The State Department has—but is not releasing”: Imagine what things would be like with a Clinton back in the White House.

Read my article here.

Em português: Thriller do Impeachment

September 25th, 2015

Via Mr. Bingley

Thursday night papal tango

September 24th, 2015

“On Sunday, September 20, Argentine Tango dancers from in and around Philadelphia gathered in one of the city’s most iconic locations, Love Park, to record this danced and spoken welcome message for Pope Francis in anticipation of his arrival in Philadelphia later this week.”