Posts Tagged ‘Panama Canal’

Panama: Martinelli strikes back

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Well, after Mary O’Grady wrote about Panama’s President Ricardo Martinelli choosing his wife to run for vice-president, Martinelli tweeted,

This WSJ journalist once interviewed me because she was a close friend of Jimmy Papadimitriu, who now advises Varela,”

The WSJ didn’t take the tweet sitting down:

He is referring to Juan Carlos Varela, who is Mr. Martinelli’s vice president and former foreign minister. Mr. Varela broke with Mr. Martinelli and is now running to succeed him as the presidential nominee of a competing party. We don’t know if Mr. Papadimitriu advises Mr. Varela, but we can say that Ms. O’Grady is not and has never been a friend of Mr. Papadimitriu. She did interview Mr. Martinelli—in 2010 when Mr. Papadimitriu was his chief of staff.

No doubt Mr. Martinelli was upset that Ms. O’Grady called out his electoral power play. Panamanians remember, and not fondly, military dictator Manuel Noriega, who was removed by U.S. troops in 1989. If Mr. Martinelli has designs on becoming one more caudillo, he ought to man-up and tell the voters rather than hide behind his wife’s illegal candidacy.

Why does this matter to the US?

Because Panama, especially following its canal expansion, remains a key trade partner to the Americas, and especially to the US. A true democracy, engaged in free trade, is best for the hemisphere.


Panama Canal: Was the FARC the intended recipient of the Cuban weapons?

Friday, July 19th, 2013

Colombian terrorist/crime group FARC (which stands for Colombian revolutionary armed forces in English) is currently in peace talks with the Colombian government. The negotiations are taking place in Cuba, while the FARC insist that they will not surrender their weapons, will not disarm, and will not serve time in prison. They want a similar deal to that of the IRA in Northern Ireland.

At the same time, Colombia’s largest armed rebel groups, the Farc and ELN, have met as recently as last month “to strengthen” their “unification process”:

They are discussing how Farc could enter politics if a deal is reached to end five decades of conflict.

According to the Farc statement, the meeting with the ELN (National Liberation Army) at an undisclosed location discussed the need to “work for the unity of all political and social forces” involved in changing the country.

The two groups have clashed in the past but have recently joined forces in armed operations against government targets in Colombia.

So the FARC holds peace talks, while engaging in negotiations to merge with another, equally deadly Colombian terrorist group.

Presently, the peace negotiations are on recess, and are scheduled to resume on July 28,

After having exchanged proposals about the second point in the agenda (political participation), the parties have worked separately to continue discussing the first sub item on the agenda, which envisages the rights and guarantees to exercise political opposition in general and in particular for the new movements that may emerge after the signing of the Final Agreement, as well as the access to the media.

In the meantime, elsewhere in Latin America, Panama stopped a North Korean freighter suspected of smuggling drugs, and, after a tussle with the crew, a suicide attempt by the captain, and the captain’s heart attack, they find, hidden behind sacks of Cuban brown sugar,

240 metric tons of “obsolete defensive weapons”: two Volga and Pechora anti-aircraft missile systems, nine missiles “in parts and spares,” two Mig-21 Bis and 15 engines for those airplanes.

Keep in mind that the U.N. sanctions ban all imports to and exports from North Korea of conventional weapons, as well as material related to the country’s nuclear- and ballistic-missile programs.

But that was only on the first search; now Panama finds [four] more containers of Cuban war materiel on North Korean ship

Port authorities said four new containers had been found, bringing the total to six, in two stacks of three. They were not declared in the ship’s manifest and were hidden under 220,000 sacks of Cuban brown sugar.

But wait! There’s more!

Panamanian police academy cadets offloading the sugar so far have opened only one of the freighter’s four cargo holds, and each hold has six separate sections, according to the port officials, who asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to comment.

Foreign technicians with specialized imaging equipment are expected to arrive soon to search every inch of the ship and not just its cargo holds, because the tip that led Panamanian authorities to search the freighter indicated that it was carrying illegal drugs.

[Panamanian] Security Minister Jose Raul Mulino, meanwhile, said the work of unloading the 220,000 sacks of sugar from the 450-foot Chong Chon Gang is an “odyssey” because the 100-pound bags were loaded in Cuba without using pallets.

“The technicians have told us that this cargo was loaded in a way that makes it difficult to unload,” Mulino told reporters, estimating that the work of unloading all the sugar will take another seven to 10 days.

One may take Cuba’s story at face value and believe them when they say that they were sending the armaments to Korea “to be repaired and returned to Cuba” – demonstrating that Cuba remains a threat. The line is that

the Cubans might have sent the equipment to North Korea to be repaired because Russia—an obvious choice to do the repair work—would have asked for cash, while North Korea may have well accepted a barter deal that included the 10,000 tons of sugar on the ship as payment for the repair of the weapons systems.

While all this is going on, former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe tweeted yesterday that he was told by a reliable source that the shipment was not headed to North Korea, but, instead, to Ecuador.

Which adds a new twist to the story.

Why would Ecuador’s government bother with such antiquated equipment, when it can buy new? For instance, five years ago, following the Uribe administration’s raid of a FARC encampment a mile into the Ecuadorian border, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa says Quito may buy weapons from Iran to enable the tightening of security on its border with Colombia.

During his stay in Tehran, Ecuadorian officials attended an exhibition organized by the Iranian Defense Ministry and were familiarized with the country’s defense equipment.

That may be accomplished through money transfers in the joint Ecuadorian-Iranian bank, and with the help of the direct flights between Iran and Venezuela.

Ecuador can also openly purchase armaments through other sources.

However, the FARC, involved as it currently is in “peace talks”, and considering the fact it is recognized as a terrorist organization, is not in a situation where it can openly purchase armaments. Cuba, its host on the peace talks, is strapped for cash; so is North Korea; the FARC has money from its drug trade and other criminal activity. The FARC doesn’t need state-of-the-art armaments, it only needs enough to destroy and disrupt Colombia into chaos.

And, while we’re at it, let’s remember that last year FARC Camps [were] Dismantled in Panama’s Darien Jungle as a result of a joint operation between units from Panama and Colombia.

Jaime Bayly talked about this last night (in Spanish),

So, the question remains,

Was the FARC the intended recipient of the Cuban weapons?

UPDATE,
Linked by Babalu. Thanks!

Linked by HACER. Thanks!


The Nicaragua canal: Don’t be the next Lord Crawley

Friday, June 14th, 2013

Don’t be like him

For many years now we who watch Latin American news have been hearing about a Nicaraguan canal to rival the Panama canal.

Indeed, people who know Nicaraguan history have been hearing about it for centuries.

Back in 2010 the Iranians were in the picture,

Costa Rica says that last week Nicaraguan troops entered its territory along the San Juan River – the border between the two nations. Nicaragua had been conducting channel deepening work on the river when the incident occurred.

Sources in Latin America have told Haaretz that the border incident and the military pressure on Costa Rica, a country without an army, are the first step in a plan formulated by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, with funding and assistance from Iran, to create a substitute for the strategically and economically important Panama Canal.

Well, Hugo died, his heir Nicolas Maduro’s still talking to the birds, the Panama Canal expansion is going on schedule, and the Iranian fervor has cooled off in the midst of its current current annual inflation rate of 105.8 percent.

Enter HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co., known as HKND Group,

Nicaragua’s legislators gave their poverty-stricken country one more chance at a dream that has eluded it for nearly 200 years, granting a Hong Kong company the right to build a $40 billion interoceanic canal.

Supporters of the 50-year concession, approved Thursday, hope that it will propel Nicaragua out of its misery by boosting employment and economic growth. But there is also ample suspicion that the project will flounder, as so many others have done since the first government contract for a canal through Nicaragua was awarded in 1825.

The project envisions building a canal as long as 286 kilometers (178 miles), depending on which of four possible routes is used, as well as two deep-water ports, two free-trade zones, an oil pipeline, a railroad and an international airport.

The law granting the concession to HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co., known as HKND Group, whose sole owner is Wang Jing, a 40-year-old Beijing-based entrepreneur, was introduced last week to Nicaragua’s congress, which is controlled by Mr. Ortega’s ruling Sandinista party.

Take a look at the map,

Look at the size of the existing Panama Canal, whose expansion is estimated to cost $5.25 billion dollars and take 8 years, and compare it to the projected Nicaraguan canal. Are we supposed to believe that a new canal, multiple times larger, when

work on some of the pre-feasibility studies has barely started and isn’t scheduled to be finished until next year

plus two deep-water ports, two free-trade zones, an oil pipeline, a railroad and an international airport, are supposed to cost only $40 billion?

If the Chinese government is not involved, who’s going to cough up that kind of money for that period of time?

Wang Jing’s experience appears to be only in the telecommunications industry. And he’s not even started the feasibility studies?

There’s Mr. Wang’s little deal with Daniel Ortega,

Mr. Wang registered his canal company in Hong Kong in August. A month later, on Sept. 5, he met President Ortega in Nicaragua. That day, Mr. Wang and the Nicaraguan government signed a memorandum of understanding—which wasn’t announced at the time—authorizing Mr. Wang to promote the financing and participate in the construction of a canal.

He and Mr. Ortega also discussed a telecommunications proposal, and Xinwei was awarded a $300 million telecommunications contract in Nicaragua, according to the company.

Nicaragua’s corruption frequently makes the news.

And then there’s the collapse of the Chinese stocks, which happens sporadically, since – guess what! – China doesn’t use GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles).

Bernie Madoff is probably regretting he didn’t think of this first, but Werner Herzog may be casting a lead for a movie now that Klaus Kinski is gone.

Those of us who watched Downton Abbey may recall that Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham found that

the investment he made in the Canadian Railway has become worthless, he had lost his own and most of Cora’s money, enough to lose Downton.

Don’t be the next Lord Crawley.