Colombia: Peace at all costs?

December 8th, 2014

Former president, now senator, Álvaro Uribe has been keeping track of the FARC casualty list during the peace talks:

FARCMETER (on peace talks) Attacks: 842,
Civilians wounded: 326, murdered: 105,
FARC wounded: 726, murdered: 650,
Kidnappings: 71

But president Juan Manuel Santos is intent on leaving a legacy as the president who ended “the longest-running conflict in the hemisphere.” Cynic that I am, he’s probably hankering for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Now he’s proposing broadening the definition of “political crime” to include drug trafficking, but only for FARC members. Mary O’Grady explains,

Not all drug traffickers would be eligible to have their crimes reclassified, he said. Instead the proposal would be a sweetener offered by the government “specifically” for the narco-terrorist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in the peace talks, now in their fourth year in Havana. The idea, he said, is to prepare for “the day that members of FARC want to participate in politics.”

The negotiations, which were supposed to last a year, have gone on for 40 months, which gives the Cubans plenty to work on,

Cuba is notorious for 24/7 surveillance of influential visitors. The home-court advantage allows it to psychologically evaluate Colombian negotiators, study their weaknesses and develop relationships of trust to manipulate them. The KGB also taught the Cubans to recognize, and make use of, excessive personal ambition, Mr. García said.

Mr. Santos has not hidden his yearning for a deal that would be labeled the end of the longest-running conflict in the hemisphere. It’s hard to ignore the possibility that Cuba and the FARC are toying with the president’s ego.

Fifteen months ago, Santos was saying he was amenable to granting unelected guerrilla leaders seats in Congress. He has become enough of a tool to destroy democracy in the process.

Venezuela: The oil teat runs dry

December 7th, 2014

Earlier this week I mentioned that Venezuela needs to sell its oil between $150-$200/barrel in order to break even. While the country’s economy is increasingly dependent on oil revenues since oil accounts for 95% of all exports, Venezuela ships cut-rate oil to Cuba and 13 other countries. For the last year, Venezuela’s had to cut back:

For a decade, the 13 beneficiaries of Venezuela’s largess have depended deeply on the oil to finance social spending and infrastructure, and rewarded Caracas with diplomatic support on the international stage, regional diplomats said in interviews.

Even as Venezuela pledges to continue the program, the country’s oil exports to the countries fell about 20% through October compared with the same period last year, says ClipperData LLC, a New York data tracker. And last year, Venezuela’s cut-rate oil exports declined 15% from 2012, the International Monetary Fund says.

Petrocaribe may become a thing of the past, which curtails Venezuela’s influence at the OAS and the UN,

The program has cost Venezuela $22.1 billion, with Petrocaribe countries accumulating more than $11 billion in debt through 2013, said Mr. Piñon, basing his calculations on PdVSA data.

In return, Venezuela got loyal allies that voted with Venezuela at the United Nations, the Organization of American States and at other regional bodies, diplomats and officials from four countries said.

Let’s hope the US State Department recognizes this as an opportunity, especially as Russia and Iran widen their scope in our hemisphere.

But I doubt they will.



Saturday night tango: Matteo & Patricia

December 6th, 2014

Dancing to Duerme, mi amor by Carlos Di Sarli

No one does a better molinete.

Puerto Rico: In search of roast pork

December 6th, 2014

Where to Find the Best Roast Pork in Puerto Rico
Crispy, tender, salty, smoky lechón asado—whole pig roasted slowly on a spit—is a holiday specialty on the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico. Here’s where to find the ultimate places to indulge

Then there is the charcoal vs. gas debate. Many purists say that to find the best lechoneras, you should look for the smoke, which means they are cooking with charcoal. “When you cook with gas, the residue of the gas lingers on the meat,” said Junior Rivera, proprietor of Lechonera Angelito’s Place in Trujillo Alto, a laid-back town southwest of the capital. “Charcoal is natural wood and is always going to give a better flavor.” Yet some veterans, such as the Lopezes of El Paso, use propane. “It’s faster, more efficient, cleaner and more economical,” said Ms. Lopez, who believes seasoning is more important than fuel.

I drool just thinking of it.

Venezuela: Diamonds are a girl’s best friend?

December 5th, 2014

There go the family jewels!

Venezuela to Use Diamonds to Boost International Reserves
Central Bank to Also Incorporate Easily Convertible Foreign Currencies

Venezuela, facing default fears amid an economic crisis and falling oil prices, will use diamonds as well as other precious stones and metals stored in its central-bank vaults to boost international reserves, the central bank said Thursday.

It will also incorporate easy-to-convert foreign currencies into its reserves, the bank said in a statement explaining changes to a law regulating its activities. Venezuela’s international reserves have dropped 28% in the last three years to $21.7 billion.

Meanwhile, the monthly minimum salary of 4,859 bolivares equals $31.54 (link in Spanish).

Maria Corina Machado is A living reminder of their failure. When dictatorships have nothing left to lose: Machado on the spike.

Is The White House Planning To Kick Venezuela When It’s Down? Let’s Hope So

“Talk to me, Harry Winston!”

Russia aims at Latin America

December 5th, 2014

“Russian Railways, Gazprom and Rosneft,” along with long-range bombers conducting regular patrol missions from the Arctic Ocean to the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico and military bases in Nicaragua (not a member of UNASUR), that is.

Read all about it at Da Tech Guy Blog

Cuba: Londoño meets with dissidents

December 4th, 2014

After four editorials and three blog posts in less than two months, NYT unofficial lobbyist against the embargo editorial board member Ernesto Londoño met for two hours with Cuban dissidents from Yoani Sanchez’s 14ymedio:
Times writer gets Earful from Cuba dissidents

And for two hours the staff of 14ymedio gave him an earful about life in Cuba, the lack of democracy or a free press; how changes in Cuba were more in name only and not meaningful; how young Cubans are continuing to flee the island in ever greater numbers because they don’t see a future in their own country.

One of those asking questions was Eliécer Avila, the student who, in 2008, asked Ricardo Alarcon, the President of Cuba’s National Assembly of People’s Power, several difficult questions:
Why do Cubans have to work several days to earn enough money to buy a toothbrush? Why can’t Cubans travel freely? Why is access to the Internet restricted and censored?

Those are questions the American editorialist should try to answer when he publishes an account of his encounter with these dissenting Cubans. I am sure he will, and he will explain that all this can also be blamed on the embargo. Sorry, I shouldn’t presume what Londoño is going to write — even if what he had written before has been slanted to an anti-American, pro-Cuban point of view.

The group tried explaining to Londoño why the embargo would not solve the problems of the ordinary Cubans, who according to Sánchez “have fear ingrained in their genes.”

“People in this country are very scared,” Sanchez said. They fear those who tell the government what they say in private; they are afraid of not being allowed to leave the country; of being rejected for a better job; of being told that their children cannot go to the university because “the university is for revolutionaries,” Sánchez added.

Miriam Celaya, an independent journalist, pointed out the government had allowed foreigners to invest in Cuba and grants them permits to import what they need. The same benefits are not granted to Cubans, she told Londoño.

Recently more than 30 Cuban dissidents explained why they did not agree with the premise that the solution to Cuba’s problems was for the United States to lift the embargo. They all pointed to many of the same reasons this group of six staffers from 14ymedio told Londoño.

Additionally, Sánchez’s point was that focusing on the embargo focuses on a decision outside Cuba, while she’s focusing on Cuban civil society, “on when we’ll have freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and when will the straijacket will be taken off economic freedom in this country.”

Let’s see if he paid attention.

(h/t Babalu)



Today’s podcast: Adrian Plasencia

December 4th, 2014

Talking about art with artist Adrian Plasencia in Silvio Canto’s podcast

and, Art Basel‘s on this weekend.

Venezuela: Maria Corina charged; falling oil prices

December 3rd, 2014

It wasn’t enough to break her nose on the floor of the National Assembly, now Venezuela indicts opposition leader Machado, alleging plot to kill Maduro; she has not been arrested yet.

Watch her response, translated by Global Post,

We know what’s going on in Venezuela.
Our country is collapsing. It’s total chaos. And those clinging to power and are responsible for this situation have decided to respond by repressing and persecuting.
They’re trying to silence everybody, from union members to journalists, tweeters, mayors, human rights defenders, anyone of us who fights for truth.
Today that’s what I’m charged for. They accuse me of a monstrous crime that everyone in Venezuela and the world knows is a big lie.
They charge me because I tell it like it is. Because I tell Maduro every day that he must resign. …
… Because we denounce the corruption and the abuse. Because we accompany the students and workers in their protests and their demands.
They charge me because we are organizing a formidable citizens platform … to carry out the urgent transition to democracy in peace.
Many ask me, why am I turning myself in?
I’ll respond with what I told my own children when they asked me the same question.
I am not turning myself in. I am presenting myself to defend the truth.
What’s the option? Flee, keep quiet, give up?
Our only option is to fight. It’s to confront lies with the truth, because truth always prevails.
The weapon these dictatorial regimes have for remaining in power is the fear they sow in citizens.
… In Venezuela the people are rebelling. We are an enormous majority that wants profound change.
Pain and anguish unite us, but so do our dreams and our democratic convictions.
That’s why it’s time to fight and go forward. My message to all right now is: Rise up, because we are going to succeed.

The trending Twitter hashtag is #YoEstoyConMariaCorina (#IAmWithMariaCorina).

Juan Cristobal Nagel is Live-blogging Maria Corina’s day

—————————————

Earlier today I posted some questions on Venezuela and the falling oil price

Post title changed.

En español: Unidad de quemados

December 3rd, 2014

Tras ser detenido en forma ilegal y después liberado, el estudiante de la UNAM que luego admitió que sí usa la violencia en las manifestaciones por Ayotzinapa llega a la Unidad de Quemados… y en el Cineclub de Nicasio: Quiero Matar a mi Jefe 2