Posts Tagged ‘Fausta’s blog’

Cuba: What is the regime going to do?

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Well, we all heard Obama’s speech yesterday. Some of us also listened to Raul Castro’s speech, which took place at the same time as Obama’s.

It was a study in contrasts.

As The Diplomad puts it (emphasis added),

It [Obama’s speech] was a clever speech designed for people who don’t know the full history of Cuba since 1959 or the nature of US-Cuban relations. The speech gave away the leftist bias of its drafters with the nonsense equating “colonialism” and “Communism.” What colonialism was Castro Communism fighting? Cuba had been independent for sixty years when they took over, and one of their first acts was to turn the country into a colony of the Soviets. Communism and colonialism went hand-in-hand, no opposition, no clash. Obama’s speech sought “balance” by blaming both Cuba and the US for the state of relations. Nonsense. The Castros were and are murdering thugs who have never hesitated to kill anybody in their way whether at home or abroad. Castroite firing squads were operating at full speed even during the honeymoon period with the USA, when the NY Times was writing fawning pieces about Fidel Castro.

My first thought on hearing Obama talk about the need to get past colonialism and Communism was that he was channeling his father’s anti-British obsessions. Cuba as Kenya. Much like Obama’s immigration speech, it is not at all clear what we are getting. Alan Gross, who should never have been detained has been released as has a long-imprisioned intel asset. In exchange we freed the Cuban agents who helped set up the murder of American citizens. There is a further loosening of currency and travel restrictions. The speech, of course, will upend years of established American positions and lead, for example, to the entry of Cuba into the OAS without meeting any of the requirements laboriously worked out, e.g., a functioning democracy with full respect for human rights.

Raul Castro’s speech was very short and to the point. None of the flowery phrases that his older brother would have used. Very business-like. No discussions of colonialism and Communism, and no promises to do anything in particular except to keep talking to the US.

My friend Jazz Shaw mentions my objections to easing up on Cuba, countering with,

I could take the above paragraph and substitute the word China for Cuba and it would remain precisely as true. The major differences between the two are that China is vastly more powerful, more dangerous and more influential. Their human rights record is, if anything, worse than Cuba’s. They can threaten the entire globe with a single move, where the Castros are generally limited to smaller evils and mischief in South America. And yet somehow we have established relations with China. This doesn’t excuse either country for their evil, but only serves to point out some of the harsh realities of foreign policy in the modern era.

But comparisons with China policy fall short on a vital aspect:
I have friends who have operated profitable businesses in China in the past 20 years. Their corporations paid their Chinese employees directly. However, anyone employing Cuban citizens does not pay the employee; they pay the Cuban government a stipulated (by the government) amount per person. The communist regime then pays the employee an amount no higher than the maximum salary (yes, Cuba has maximum salary laws), which is approximately 10% of the amount the communist regime received from the business.

That is the case with any of the hundreds of multinationals that have done business with Cuba in the country, and with the thousands of “doctors” Cuba sends to places like Venezuela and Brazil.

Cuba has defaulted on its obligations to multinationals time and time again.

Additionally, foreign businessmen who have tried to collect monies due by Cuba have been thrown in jail, most recently Alejandro Abood, Cy Tokmakjian, Krikor Bayassalian, Nessin Abadi, Sarkis Yacoubian, and Stephen Purvis.

N-O-T-H-I-N-G, not a thing the USA does is going to change that.

However, as things stand right now, the odds have vastly improved for Cuba to “transition” into a profitable Communist regime, like China’s. Or perhaps, even more likely, the Viet Nam outcome,

The Vietnam outcome is what the Castros are counting on: a flood of U.S. tourists and business investment that will allow the regime to maintain its totalitarian system indefinitely.

As I said yesterday, Obama is trying to cement his legacy. Human rights (and true democracy) be damned.

As an added bonus, OBAMA’S MOVE TO STRENGTHEN CUBA WILL ALSO HELP RUSSIA, IRAN, NORTH KOREA AND VENEZUELA by

providing them with a more economically robust trading partner, a better source of illicit arms, and, most important, naval bases and intelligence outposts just miles from our shores.

What could possibly go wrong?

[Post redacted to include missing paragraphs]

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UPDATE

Cuba: #AlanGross released – is Obama ending the embargo in exchange? UPDATED THROUGH THE DAY

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

Alan Gross, the American political prisoner held by the Communist Cuban regime for five years, has been released.

As I have written before,

In December 2009, Alan P. Gross was arrested while in Cuba working as a U.S. government subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for bringing satellite phones and computer equipment to members of Cuba’s small Jewish community. He was held in jail, and, in March, 2011 was convicted for “acts against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state”.

What does “acts against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state” means? It means that, in Cuba, attempting to provide access to the internet is a crime.

American Alan Gross Released From Cuba After 5 Years in Prison
Gross Is Headed to U.S. on Government Plane, Obama Administration Official Says

Administration officials have said that his captivity has precluded any modification in U.S.-Cuban relations, so his release could clear the way for discussions about a broader deal. President Barack Obama is expected to make a statement about Cuba from the White House at noon on Wednesday.

I fully expect Obama to declare an end to the embargo before year’s end. Will that be his “statement about Cuba from the White House at noon”?

UPDATE 10AM:
The remaining three of the Cuban Five were released in exchange: The Miami Herald (emphasis added),

The Cuban government had linked Gross’s release to the imprisonment of five Cubans convicted in 2001 of infiltrating South Florida military installations and spying on the exile community. The men, considered heroes in Cuba, were convicted in 2001 in Miami on charges including conspiracy and failure to register as foreign agents in the U.S.

The administration had repeatedly ruled out a swap, saying the USAID subcontractor wasn’t a spy and can’t be part of a spy-for-spy swap. But news reports Wednesday indicate that three Cubans were released in exchange for Gross. The other two of the so-called Cuban Five were previously released after completing their sentences.

Val Prieto:

This is a major setback for the opposition and dissident movements in Cuba. The Obama administration, by making this “deal”, has confirmed that they are OK with the repression, brutality, incarceration, and murder the castro regime foists upon the opposition. And I will once again say what I have been saying since day one of this farce of a presidential administration, for the record: faced with the fact that he is, by far, the worst President this nation has ever seen, and with no true positive legacy, Obama is relying on the low hanging fruit of the Cuban embargo to placate the left. Look for President Executive Action to undermine codified US Cuba policy.

Get ready. This is going to be one hell of a day.

Read also my post at Da Tech Guy Blog.

UPDATE 11AM:
“Normalizing” U.S.-Cuba relations means giving the Communist Cuban government a lifeline, at a particularly critical time, now that its sugar daddy Venezuela nears economic collapse as oil prices drop. Marco Rubio:

“This is going to do absolutely nothing to further human rights and democracy in Cuba,” Rubio said in an interview. “But it potentially goes a long way in providing the economic lift that the Castro regime needs to become permanent fixtures in Cuba for generations to come.”

UPDATE 11:19

Guardian Washington bureau chief Dan Roberts,

UPDATE 11:25AM
CBS News affiliate in Miami stated Gross will not be with Obama at the WH press conference.

UPDATE 11:30
Betrayal: Vatican Brokered Secret U.S.-Cuba Talks

Pope Francis and the Vatican played a significant role in reopening diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S. The Vatican not only hosted in-person meetings between Cuban and U.S. officials, but actively played a role in the discussions, according to senior Obama administration officials. The meeting to finalize the reopening of relations was also held at the Vatican this past fall. The Vatican sent a personal letter to President Obama regarding Cuban relations. “We haven’t received communications from the Pope of this nature,” said a senior adminstration official. “That gave us greater impetus and momentum.”

Rep. Ron de Santis:

This prisoner swap sends a signal to rogue regimes and actors that taking an American hostage can be leveraged into scoring policy concessions. This makes America less safe and emboldens the dictatorship in Cuba.

UPDATE 11:53
The United States will restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba and open an embassy in Havana

In a deal negotiated during 18 months of secret talks hosted largely by Canada and encouraged by Pope Francis, who hosted a final meeting at the Vatican, President Obama and President Raúl Castro of Cuba agreed in a telephone call to put aside decades of hostility to find a new relationship between the United States and the island nation just 90 minutes off the American coast.

Congress need not be consulted?

UPDATE 11:59AM
Is Cuba easing its embargo on American products and American travel?

12 noon:

Cuba no longer listed as state sponsor of terrorism.

UPDATE 12:16
Obama claims “Todos somos Americanos” – “we’re all Americans”. Not at all.

UPDATE 12:30PM
I was wondering, is Cuba easing Cuba’s embargo on American products and American travel? Will they not continue to shelter FARC & other known terrorists? Nothing on that in O’s speech.

Not in Raul Castro’s speech, either,

Castro said that he had spoken to Secretary Kerry about normalizing relations between the two country, adding that President Obama’s decision deserved “respect and gratitude.” He also thanked the Vatican, Pope Francis and Canada for their support in the process.

But he stressed there was still much work to be done: the US economic blockade remains in place, he said, causing “enormous damage to our people. It must end.”

Acknowledging that the blockade is established in law, Castro said that president Obama could modify its application, and he called on the US government to adopt measures which will benefit both countries.

“Recognizing that we have many fundamental differences on the subjects of national soveignty, democracy, human rights and foreign policy, we reaffirm our willingness discuss all of these subjects.”

Castro called on the US government to remove the obstacles between the countries, dividing families – specifically he called for the re-establishment of direct flights, postal deliveries and telecommunications.

“The progress we have already made shows that it is possible to find solutions to our problems,” he said.

Another question:
How is Obama going to prevent Cuba’s possible role in bypassing sanctions on Venezuela, Russia and Iran?

UPDATE 2PM
Alan Gross on TV thanking all who helped in the effort to release him.

CODA:
As Val Prieto put it, “and from the here’s a swift kick in the nuts department….”

Alan Gross returns to the United States, is greeted by an image of Che Guevara

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Puerto Rico: NY Yankees’ Jorge Posada scammed out of $11million

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

New York Yankees catcher Jorge Posada is scammed out of $11 MILLION in ‘jaw-dropping’ money-management scam


Posada did not discover the conspiracy until after he fired Collar and Fernandez, who operated under their own company Quantum Family Office Group, for unrelated reasons in 2010.

Posada should have run all documents by his lawyer (not his wife), but I hope the perps do time.

And,
Never have only one financial advisor.



Elsewhere

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

‘Revenge’ for Malala’s Nobel Peace Prize…

126 killed, mostly children…

‘Burn teacher alive in front of pupils and behead children’…

————————————-

‘Lone Wolf,’ or ‘Known Wolf’? The Ongoing Counter-Terrorism Failure
An extensive report shows how U.S. law enforcement missteps and dangerous policies keep getting people killed.

Mexico: Gulf Cartel run from Texas

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Which should come as no surprise,
THREE MEXICAN CARTEL LEADERS CAUGHT IN TEXAS SINCE OCTOBER

A Tamaulipas law enforcement official who spoke with Breitbart Texas said the Gulf Cartel is undergoing a hostile takeover of sorts where a faction of old timer’s that include Gulf Cartel members and original Zetas is moving in trying to run out the younger inexperienced crowd.

“The younger ones are the ones doing all sort of crazy stunts kidnappings, extortion and such,” the official said. “The old timers claim to want to bring peace or at least that’s what they claim.”

The claims were made through a communiqué published by Breitbart Texas where the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel claim to make peace and plan on restoring peace so they can focus on their business without disturbing the public.

People tend to confuse the definition of cartel when used in the drug trade. Cartel, in economics, means

An organization created from a formal agreement between a group of producers of a good or service, to regulate supply in an effort to regulate or manipulate prices. A cartel is a collection of businesses or countries that act together as a single producer and agree to influence prices for certain goods and services by controlling production and marketing. A cartel has less command over an industry than a monopoly – a situation where a single group or company owns all or nearly all of a given product or service’s market. In the United States, cartels are illegal; however, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) – the world’s largest cartel – is protected by U.S. foreign trade laws.

In the drug trade, however, Wikipedia has it right (emphasis added),

A drug cartel is any criminal organization developed with the primary purpose of promoting and controlling drug trafficking operations. They range from loosely managed agreements among various drug traffickers to formalized commercial enterprises. The term was applied when the largest trafficking organizations reached an agreement to coordinate the production and distribution of cocaine. Since that agreement was broken up, drug cartels are no longer actually cartels, but the term stuck and it is now popularly used to refer to any criminal narcotics related organization, such as those in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, South Korea, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Japan, Italy, France, United States, Colombia, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Russia, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Click on the map for an interactive map of the Mexican cartels:

Venezuela: Default by September 2015?

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Casey Breznick posts,

A CNBC report on the prospect of a Venezuelan default cited a Capital Economics report stating that a default could be expected by next September or October when $5 billion in debt payments come due. Only an upswing of oil prices to somewhere around $121/barrel would allow Venezuela to balance its budget, according to some estimates. But with OPEC recently slashing its 2015 production levels to a 12-year low in response to decreasing estimated global oil demand and increasing supply via U.S. shale production, a significant oil price increase in the short-term seems highly unlikely. Bloomberg reports that the implied probability of default—derived from complex financial formulas—in the next five years stands at 93%, the highest in the world.

The Devil’s Excrement looks at Maduro’s New Script,

You may laugh all you want at what he says, but I don’t. He is making a very specific narrative out of all this and I am not sure where it is heading. It may be that he just wants to blame  the US for the intensification of the crisis in the next few months or simply, that he is preparing the ground in case there is no money to pay international investors. There is a one billion Euro payment in March, which looks doable, but there are much larger maturities in October 2015. But investors have so far believed that Venezuela had a “willingness” to pay, and the action in the markets today indicated some people were losing faith.

It did not help that Bloomberg reported today on a meeting with investors at a New York law firm, which actually took place like ten days ago. This meeting actually ended in a somewhat positive note, as many suggested that Venezuela and PDVSA could not get away with a restructuring below current prices for most bonds, as the oil cash flow would not justify it.

Francisco Toro:

It’s not the gobs of debt monetization, the billions of make-believe-bolivars the Central Bank loans PDVSA leading to an uncontrolled monetary expansion and the collapse of demand for real money balances.

It’s not the opacity in public accounts, the drop in reserves, the commercial default, the implosion in the goods markets, or the fact that you need your kid’s birth certificate to buy her diapers.

It’s not the fiscal deficit at 17% of GDP, or oil at $58 per barrel, or the tapped-out Fonden “sovereign wealth fund,” or the fact that the Finance Minister gives every possible public sign that he’s an idiot.

It’s not that the one regime official who announced a semi-reasonable reform that might have stanched the flow got shifted sideways to a non-economic job.

It’s not the Central Bank’s scandalous subservience to the Executive branch, or the fact that it won’t even dare publish basic inflation statistics.

It’s not that PDVSA has missed every production increase target it’s set for itself since 2003, it’s not that its refineries are badly maintained and barely functional, much less profitable.

It’s not that labour laws make it insane for a worker to waste his time working, and unreasonable as well as that is time he needs to spend queueing for basic consumption goods.

It’s not that the investment climate has been so shitty for so long, and the profit repatriation picture so bleak, no one sane even considers putting money into Venezuela.

Nope. It’s none of that. According to Maduro, it’s all a conspiracy, led by some flunkie sitting at a cubicle at Moody’s, someone who for some weird reason has decided to mess with his revolution. That’s why it’s expensive for Venezuela to borrow.

PDVSA 2022 bond in the last three months. It was losing 14% of its value today, with a yield to maturity of 31.4%:



Colombia: FARC using al-Qaeda for European drug trade

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

Via Álvaro Uribe’s tweet,

FARC using al-Qaeda networks to bring in cocaine in Sahel FARC-coke-al-Qaeda

The EFE article (in Spanish, my translation) FARC Using al-Qaeda Networks to Bring in Cocaine in Sahel

The FARC attempt to bring cocaine into Europe through the Sahel [note: a band of desert stretching across Africa – from Senegal in the West to Eritrea in the East], and are relying on Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) networks active on the Argelia, Mali and Mauritania border, according to Monday’s Al Massae Moroccan newspaper.

The newspaper, quoting an official report, explains that the FARC use the Sahel as springboard to Europe, after entering through Argelia and Morocco.

According to sources, AQIM charges the FARC a 15% “tax” on the cocaine value to guarantee a sage passage through the vast area it controls from the Western Sahara to north Mali, Mauritania y Argelia.

This alleged collusion between the FARC and AQIM translates into heavier weapons traffic in the zone, believed to be paid by the drug trade.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has gone on the record supporting the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

The Telegraph has an interactive Al-Qaeda map: Isis, Boko Haram and other affiliates’ strongholds across Africa and Asia

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb
Operates in the Saharan countries – mainly in southern Algeria and Libya, Mauritania, Mali and Niger. Formed from a hard-core of fighters involved in Algeria’s civil war in the 1990s, in which Islamist fighters took arms after a democratically-elected Islamic government was ousted. Briefly set up its own fiefdom in northern Mali in 2012, before being ousted by French-led security force in January 2013. Makes a living by kidnapping foreigners, earning an estimated $60m from ransoms in the last decade.

And Colombia’s president wants unelected FARC members in the Senate, and broadening the definition of “political crime” to include drug trafficking, but only for FARC members.

[Post corrected for more accurate translation.]



Venezuela: Diamonds are a girl’s best friend?

Friday, 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!”

Today’s podcast: Adrian Plasencia

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

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

and, Art Basel‘s on this weekend.

Colombia: Gen. Alzate resigns UPDATED

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

Following the FARC’s release of Gen. Alzate, Capt. Jorge Rodriguez and lawyer Gloria Urrego, Alzate resigned:
Colombian General Captured, Released by Rebels Resigns
Gen. Rubén Darío Alzate Had Come Under Pressure for How He Ventured Into Guerrilla Territory

General Rubén Darío Alzate said in televised remarks that he was resigning after violating security protocols by straying too far into a dangerous area without sufficient protection.

Former president, now senator Uribe is demanding that Pres. Santos explain to the country (##SantosExpliqueleAlPaís) the photo-op of Alzate with a former terrorist, which Uribe finds demeaning,

Here’s the photo, which was taken prior to Gen. Alzate’s release, showing him with Félix Muñoz Lascarro, alias ‘Pastor Alape’, one of the FARC’s negotiators in Havana. The caption reads, “Commander Pastor Alape and General Rubén Darío Alzate. Peace will triumph.”

Uribe’s tweet,

#SantosExplainToTheCountry Telesur’s presenting and organizing a TV show showing Gen. Alzate as the terrorist’s sidekick

UPDATE:
Why Colombia’s War Against the FARC Isn’t Over Yet