Machiavellian? No, Putinesco!

February 21st, 2015

Old: Machiavellian

New: Putinesco.

Russia Boosts Arms, Training for Leftist Latin Militaries
Moscow defense minister inks deals with Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua for joint exercises

Shoygu met with defense and military leaders in Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua and signed several agreements on warship visits and military training during the visit, which ran from Feb. 11 to 14. It is not clear whether any new arms deals were completed during the visit.

Of course, everything old again,

Dan Goure, a Russia expert with the Lexington Institute, said Russia’s current moves into Latin America “are like a page Xeroxed from the Soviet political-military playbook.”

But, hey, the Monroe doctrine is dead, so there.

Cuba: Nancy at the Saratoga

February 20th, 2015

Ah, for the optics!

My friend Silvio Canto, Jr. was keeping track of how many times the Hotel Saratoga, where Nancy Pelosi stayed during her Havana junket, had been expropriated by the Communist regime. He found out it was expropriated twice: once in 1959, and again in 2011:

in 2011, Castro confiscated Coral Capital’s minority stake in The Hotel Saratoga.

And for giggles, he had Coral Capital’s two senior executives in Cuba, Amado Fahkre and Stephen Purvis, imprisoned in the notorious torture facility known as Villa Marista (akin to Moscow’s infamous Lubyanka).

Fahkre and Purvis spent nearly two years arbitrarily imprisoned, had all their assets confiscated and were finally expelled to Britain.

Purvis, as you may recall, does not hold fond memories of the sixteen months he was jailed, and Coral was contemplating suing the Cuban regime for the $20+million it seized.

Indeed, the Saratoga ought to be an object lesson to all who contemplate investing with the Cuban regime; a lesson lost on Nancy.

Venezuela: Criminalizing dissent

February 20th, 2015


As the Communist dictatorship in Venezuela sinks the economy into further chaos, it resorts to criminalizing dissent.

The latest victim is Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma, who yesterday was arrested and dragged out of office ‘like a dog’ by the police.

Read my article at Da Tech Guy blog.

UPDATE
In other Venezuela news,
Head of the Defense and Security Committee of the National Assembly (AN) deputy William Fariñas said that pro-government deputies would request the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) to remove the parliamentary immunity of opposition deputy Julio Borges.

Liliana Tintori, Leopoldo Lopez’s wife, states that there was an attempt to remove Lopez from Ramo Verde prison to place(s) unknown.

Venezuela: Get ready for $10 oil?

February 19th, 2015

Gary Shilling at Bloomberg is saying, Get ready for $10 oil It has to do with the marginal cost of production,

or the additional costs after the wells are drilled and the pipes are laid. Another way to think of it: It’s the price at which cash flow for an additional barrel falls to zero.

Last month, Wood Mackenzie, an energy research organization, found that of 2,222 oil fields surveyed worldwide, only 1.6 percent would have negative cash flow at $40 a barrel. That suggests there won’t be a lot of chickening out at $40. Keep in mind that the marginal cost for efficient U.S. shale-oil producers is about $10 to $20 a barrel in the Permian Basin in Texas and about the same for oil produced in the Persian Gulf.

Also consider the conundrum financially troubled countries such as Russia and Venezuela find themselves in: They desperately need the revenue from oil exports to service foreign debts and fund imports. Yet, the lower the price, the more oil they need to produce and export to earn the same number of dollars, the currency used to price and trade oil.

With the drop in prices,

Among the hardest hit are those nations that rely on oil for much of their government revenue and were in financial trouble before prices plunged. Venezuela along with its state-run oil company issued more debt than any developing country between 2007 and 2011. Venezuela has been downgraded to the bottom of the junk pile — CCC by Fitch — and credit-default swaps on Venezuelan debt recently indicated a 61 percent chance of default in the next year and 90 percent in the next five years. The nosedive in oil prices also is devastating African exporters Ghana, Angola and Nigeria, where oil finances 70 percent of the government’s budget.

How Bad Is Venezuela’s Economic Chaos? Bad enough that

Maduro has yet to fully account for how his government will meet its $10.3 billion debt obligations in 2015. A March 16 payment totally $1.1 billion is fast approaching and Venezuela’s economy is languishing.

I am not optimistic at all; even if Maduro goes, the country can remain under a dictatorship, just as Cuba has, for decades to follow.

And, by the way, even when the minimum monthly wage of 5,600 bolivars ($32 on a new exchange market created last week) is close to useless, the late dictator Hugo Chavez managed to sock away US$12 billion in his HSBC account.

So, all of you who preach that “Chavez immensely decreased inequality” in Venezuela can take that, spread it, and eat it on a cracker.

Argentina: A quarter million at the silent march for #Nisman UPDATE

February 19th, 2015

In spite of the pouring rain, hundreds of thousands turned out to what Cristina Kirchner’s administration called an ‘institutional coup’.

“In honor of prosecutor Nisman. Silent march.”

This is what downtown Buenos Aires looked like last evening in the pouring rain:

I don’t know if Cristina Fernandez was at the Casa Rosada, but the above photo shows the main square facing it. Here’s same area showing the Casa Rosada,

Not only in Buenos Aires, but throughout the country; here is Rosario,

WSJ:

The march along one of this elegant city’s iconic thoroughfares, Avenida de Mayo, organized by fellow prosecutors incensed over how the government has handled the death of Alberto Nisman, drew not only investigators and judges but also students, plumbers and the late prosecutor’s grieving family. They were brought together by their conviction that Mr. Nisman’s death was not a suicide, as an autopsy determined, but an assassination.

Another witness has talked about evidence tampering at the scene of Nisman’s murder (link in Spanish). Apparently there were thirty people at the site.

UPDATE:
The Prosecution Office confirmed in a press release that ex Intelligence Secretariat Operations head Antonio “Jaime” Stiuso has given testimony in the investigation of late AMIA prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s death.

2 podcasts and a few short items

February 18th, 2015

Today at 1PM Eastern I’m in Silvio Canto’s podcast talking about the US-Cuba talks, Argentina and other US-Latin America issues of the week with Jorge Ponce.

I was in Rick Moran’s podcast last night talking about the GOP playing chicken with Homeland Security funding with Noah Rothman of Hot Air.

Both podcasts are archived for your listening convenience.

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Daniel Duquenal is running a series of posts analyzing Venezuela’s situation. Go here for links.

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Over in Bolivia, Evo Morales, following Cristina Fernandez’s example in Argentina, is resorting to thieving private pensions, since he’s running out of money now that oil prices are down.

It’s his third term, so he’s declared himself planetary leader at the Tiwanaku ruins, just for show:

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Today in history, Feb 18, 1964:
United States punishes nations for trading with Cuba

The United States cuts off military assistance to Britain, France, and Yugoslavia in retaliation for their continuing trade with the communist nation of Cuba.

Nowadays we send hashtags instead.

Argentina: #Nisman witness talks about evidence tampering

February 18th, 2015

26yr old Natalia Gimena Fernández, in an interview with Clarin, states that

“When we were sitting at the stairs, they brought the stretcher and in that they took away the body (of Alberto Nisman). It was like 3.30 am. He was wrapped up in a black sack. They took him to the right but 15 minutes later they put him back again and took him to the left. ‘No silly, it is this way,’ they said laughing. And then, when they took him back in the apartment, I did not see where they took him out,” the witness explained as she also recalled having seen “dirty” sheets and cloths.

Fernández also saw investigators handling the binders holding the documents Alberto Nisman had been working on, having mate and croissants at the crime scene, and aparently producing five gun shells. She was even offered coffee made on Nisman’s coffeemaker.

Fernandez fears for her safety, particularly now that the burnt body of an unidentified middle-aged woman was deposited across the street from Nisman’s apartment building.

Members of the judiciary are holding a silent march. In a country where loyalty means more than truth, Cristina Kirchner’s administration says the march is tantamount to an ‘institutional coup’

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In case you missed it (in Spanish),
El Aleph Nisman
La vorágine irracional del Gobierno argentino rompió los pocos frenos que contenían su autoritarismo



Let’s get rid of the girl

February 18th, 2015

My thoughts on the Lucy and Ethel Show at Da Tech Guy Blog.

UPDATE:
Linked to by The Pirates’ Cove. Thank you!

Ecuador: Apologize, or else

February 17th, 2015

Today at El Universo‘s website (my translation):

PUBLIC APOLOGY ORDERED BY SUPERCOM
In compliance to Resolution Nº 009-2015-DNJRD-INPS, issued by Communications Superintendent Carlos Ochoa within PROCEEDING Nº 0129-2014-INPS-DNJRD (IGJ-SEDE-0198-2014), notified on February 15 2015, I issue public apologies to the collective complainants who felt injured by La columna de Bonil’s cartoon, published on page 8 of Diario EL UNIVERSO on August 5, 2014, which, also by order of the aforementioned official, will be published on the main screen of this media’s webpage, for a period of time of at least seven consecutive days.

The publication of this apology does not mean agreement with the specific annulments of administrative process 0129-2014-INPS-DNJRD (IGJ-SEDE-0198-2014), which we shall continue to denounce through administrative, judicial, and constitutional actions and recourses, locally and internationally which help us.
Carlos Pérez B.,
Director, Diario EL UNIVERSO

Spanish original,

DISCULPA PÚBLICA ORDENADA POR LA SUPERCOM
En cumplimiento de la Resolución Nº 009-2015-DNJRD-INPS, expedida por el superintendente de Información y Comunicación, Carlos Ochoa Hernández, dentro del TRÁMITE Nº 0129-2014-INPS-DNJRD (IGJ-SEDE-0198-2014), notificada el 13 de febrero del 2015, extiendo disculpas públicas a los colectivos denunciantes que se sintieron afectados por la caricatura de La columna de Bonil, publicada en la página 8 de la edición de Diario EL UNIVERSO del 5 de agosto del 2014, la cual también por disposición del antes nombrado funcionario, será publicada en la primera interfaz de la página web de este medio de comunicación, por un plazo no menor a siete días consecutivos.
La publicación de esta disculpa no significa allanamiento alguno a las nulidades específicas del proceso administrativo 0129-2014-INPS-DNJRD (IGJ-SEDE-0198-2014), que seguiremos denunciando mediante el ejercicio de los recursos y acciones administrativas, judiciales y constitucionales, locales e internacionales que nos asisten.
Carlos Pérez B.,
Director de Diario EL UNIVERSO

Ecuador Orders Newspaper and Cartoonist to Publish Apology
Case Over Satirical Photomontage Fuels Concerns About Press Freedom Under Correa Administration

Mr. Bonilla was sued by an Afro-Ecuadorean group over a photomontage published in August that made fun of Agustín “Tin” Delgado, a former national soccer team player turned lawmaker for the ruling Alianza País party, who stuttered through a speech in the National Assembly. A video of the speech had been widely watched on social networks.

Here’s the speech,

Here’s what El Universal had to apologize for,

First frame: A-a-after my s-ssp-speech, everyone’s saying “Poor Tin, poor Tin.”
Second frame: But with my ASSEMBLYMAN salary, no one calls me “poor guy”!

Earlier in 2014, the Correa government had ordered that Bonilla change a prior cartoon,
Xavier Bonilla’s cartoon before:

Xavier Bonilla’s cartoon after:

A that time, EL Universo was fined $90,000.

What ISIS really wants

February 17th, 2015

If you read only one article this year, it should be Graeme Wood’s
What ISIS Really Wants
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.