Without a doubt, Pres. Obama’s December 17 Statement on Cuba Policy Changes was the top news of 2014 on Latin America.
Read the rest of my article at Da Tech Guy Blog.
As a former marketing/economics major, this strikes me as an interesting experiment:
For Wal-Mart in Mexico, Bodega Format Trumps Big Box
Retail Competes Against Street Vendors With New Chain of Mini-Grocers
Few organizations can match Wal-Mart’s in distribution and inventory, and now Wal-Mart is targeting the low-income market:
Since 80% of consumers in Latin America fall somewhere between middle class and poor, retailers who ignore that huge segment of the population aren’t really in the game, said Mr. Barrientos, who previously worked for Wal-Mart in Chile. Small stores, he added, are crucial for attending the lower-income brackets. Wal-Mart operates in nine Latin American countries.
The challenge comes from local open-air markets – the tianguis, possible protectionism measures from the Mexican government, adding locally-grown produce (in a country where cartels interfere in everything), and access to the new stores by customers who have no means of transportation.
However, these new shops offering longer hours may be welcome by slightly more affluent customers.
It’ll be interesting to see how it develops.
El Nuevo Herald has a report on how Venezuelan intelligence agents are running kidnapping and extortion gangs:
Agentes de inteligencia venezolanos operan bandas de secuestro y extorsión (my translation)
“This is a very common modus operandi”, explained Anthony Daquín, former advisor to the Venezuelan Ministry of Interior and Justice. “Agents of the Military Counterintelligence Agency and the Sebin [Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional – Bolivarian National Intelligence Service] are running these kidnapping and extortion gangs”.
Their victims are people accused of crimes by chavista courts, and the kidnappings are carried by the same agents of these agencies, usually a day or two prior to the victims being delivered to the prosecutors for trial.
The purpose is to get as much money and assets as possible from the victims, often under torture, prior to being turned in to chavista justice.
The article is available only in Spanish, not yet in the Miami Herald.
Just the other day the NYTimes had Diosdado Cabello writing that “Our government responded with restraint” to the riots. Let’s see if they respond at all to these accusations.
“But we do business with other repressive regimes.”
Hm, I’m aware.
a) The “America might as well trade with Cuba because we do with X, Y, Z” is simply hogwash. Do eight wrongs make a right? Also:
– Is a single ONE of those nations in the Western Hemisphere? No. (Hard truth: we do care more about what happens in, say, England, than in Tibet. Sorry.)
– Do we have strong cultural and historical ties with any of those nations, dating back over 200 years? No.
– Did any of those nations confiscate over $1 billion dollars in US property at the time, done by the very same regime/family in power now? No.
b) More importantly, though, we’re bound by reality. Are some of our oil-supplier partners not exactly good guys? Sure. But our economic realities prevent us from ignoring that market. Ditto with China. Cuba, however, we can realistically shun.
c) Speaking of China (which anti-embargo proponents love to bring up, thinking it’s their pièce de résistance), China is not a fully Communist model in its economic approach. Unlike Cuba, a surprising amount of private enterprise and ownership is allowed. And, a surprising amount of the wages paid to factory workers, for instance, end up in the workers’ pockets. Meanwhile, Cuba has been busy passing legislation this year (no doubt in anticipation of the Obama-deal) dictating the government will keep over 90% of a worker’s wages derived from a foreign company. In any event, thanks to this business, the Chinese government is now the most well-funded tyrannical regime in history. Is that something we want to do again? Just askin’…
On the China issue, Noah Rothman points out,
First, as The Federalist’s Sean Davis pointed out, the parallels between the extension of diplomatic relations to Cuba and similar overtures toward China and Vietnam are misguided. The American interest in “opening” China was primarily political; exacerbate Sino-Soviet tensions, bifurcate the communist world, and provide America with a freer hand to prosecute the Vietnam War.
China under Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping engaged in dramatic market-oriented economic reforms in the 1970s, and there was no “normalization” of relations between Beijing and Washington until 1979 – well after Kissinger and then Nixon had famously visited the reclusive communist giant in 1971 and 1972 respectively. Reforms first, normalization second.
Moreover, the suggestion that the opening of bilateral diplomatic ties and business relations between America and China helped to transform the People’s Republic into a human rights paragon overnight is complicated by the 1989 massacre of peaceful pro-Democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square. Even today, despite a booming and markedly capitalist economy, China remains one of the world’s leading human rights abusers.
No, Cuba is not China.
No, you can’t have free markets without free peoples.
No, objections to Obama’s “normalization” are not caused by our “outdated Cold War perspective”.
Yes, those who oppose the embargo were vociferous about South Africa’s apartheid, even when Cuba’s communist regime is blatantly racist, and practices a de facto apartheid medical system.
But, as A.J. is aware, when it comes to Cuba, you can’t cure stupid.
Parting question, has anyone found the list of the 53 political prisoners that were supposed to be released yet? I’m still looking.
Instapundit links to a post on the proposed Nicaragua canal, and, since his website rejects my comment on the grounds that “Your comment currently includes words that are not allowed,” I’m posting it here (links added):
I’m very skeptical on the proposed project.
So far the only investor is Wang Jing’s HKND Group, which may (or may not) be a cover for the Chinese government, a company that made a $300 million telecommunications contract with Nicaragua.
For the Canal deal, “HKND would raise the $40 billion needed to build the canal and would have the right to operate and manage it for up to 100 years before turning it over to Nicaragua. In the meantime, Nicaragua would have a controlling interest in the canal and receive income from it.”
A final route for the canal has not yet been announced.
The following have not been made public:
No details on where the funds come from.
No feasability studies.
No environmental impact studies.
Indeed, no studies for the project have been made public.
Additionally, “it appears that the project would also include an oil pipeline, two deepwater ports, an airport, a railway, and two free trade zones. With a projected total price tag of $40 billion, the overall project would cost four times Nicaragua’s 2011 gross domestic product ”
The expansion of the existing Panama Canal cost $5.7 billion. The Nicaraguan canal would be 3 1/2 times longer over an existing shallow lake, & is estimated to cost only $40 billion? On the Country of Lakes and Volcanos?
While i agree that “a healthier Latin America, both economically and politically, is very much in our interest”, Nicaragua, hostile to the US, is following the Venezuelan model, not the healthiest economically and politically.
Until all these items are clarified, my advice is “don’t be the next Lord Crawley.”
Comment from Doug Wenzel,
Jorge Luis Quijano, Administrator of the Panama Canal Authority says in an interview granted to La Estrella de Panamá that ACP experts estimate this as being a $65-70 billion project, and that five years is way too optimistic. There are also many questions about Environmental mitigation.
My personal focus is not on that, but on OpEx for this canal. First, the much longer time in canal waters at slow speed mitigates some of the distance advantage for certain port pairs, and has the largest effect on time-sensitive cargoes, which may be willing to pay the highest tolls per ton.
More importantly, the route will require triple the maintenance dredging, as well as triple the piloting and tugboat hours. Those will all affect what the canal can charge for a transit, and therefore the gross margin per transit.
Furthermore, of all the ships that could only use this canal, and not the one in Panama, most transport low value, time-insensitive cargo. (bulk carriers and VLCC’s). The Maersk EEE and larger container ships can call on only a few dozen ports worldwide, not just because many ports can’t physically handle their size or draft, but because most ports can’t produce enough demand to justify a weekly or even biweekly port call.
This canal is obviously a threat to the tolls that Panana could charge. However, in a race to the bottom, the low cost provider usually wins, and Panama will have lower costs because the Panama Canal is so much shorter.
Panama’s neighbor to the north, Nicaragua, is hoping a transoceanic canal and similar prosperity are in its near future; now that Venezuela’s oil money dries up, does this mean China is willing to prop up the Nicaraguan economy?
From back in 2008, China’s Control of the Panama Canal Revisited.
Argentine president hospitalized for sprained ankle. Not sprained, fractured.
Not sure if this was before, or after she broke her ankle, but it’s the weird photo-op of the week: Argentina president adopts young Jewish boy as godson to prevent him from turning into werewolf
President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchhner adopted Yair Tawil as her godson, due to an Argentine folktale that says the seventh born son in a family will turn into a werewolf, and eat unbaptized babies.
Venezuela and Bolivia Challenge OAS on Supporting U.S. and Cuba
The OAS permanent council convened to support the rapprochement between the two countries began five hours late due to disagreements over the draft declaration, distorting the image of unity that the majority of the member states wanted to promote
Unlike other class actions, some of the company’s senior executives have also been named as defendants.
Abducted Mexican priest found deadThe coffin with Father Gregorio Lopez’s body is loaded into a hearse
[Father Gregorio Lopez] A Mexican priest who was kidnapped earlier this week is found shot dead in the south-western state of Guerrero.
I’m not the only skeptic: Doubts deepen over Chinese-backed Nicaragua canal as work starts
So far the company, the HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co Ltd, or HKND Group, of telecoms entrepreneur Wang Jing, has identified only $200 million in funding.
. . .
Supporters point to Monday’s start as evidence that the plan is on schedule. But key feasibility studies on the canal have been pushed back to next April, and excavation work is not due to begin until the second half of next year.
Peru evacuates Amazon village after raid by indigenous tribe
At least 39 people taken to Puerto Maldonado as officials search for motive behind latest bow-and-arrow attack by members of Mashco-Piro tribe
Puerto Rican Economic Activity Index Drops 2.1%
The week’s posts and podcast:
Venezuela: Leopoldo’s letter
At Da Tech Guy Blog:
The Interview. Yes, The Interview
pero con criminales (Revolution with no milk, but with criminals)
Two news items from the benighted Bolivarian revolution:
“We are closed during the season due to shortage of milk,” the famous Coromoto ice-cream store in the highland town of Merida announced on its Facebook page.
— DolarToday (@DolarToday) December 23, 2014
1987 murder in Ciudad Bolivar
1989 associated with another murder
1990 manages to go free
1993 secretary in some Caracas court (!!!!!)
1995 becomes lawyer from the Santa Maria U. (one of the easiest universities to get a degree from, little bit more than signing attendance sheet)
2002 defends one of the regime murderers of 2002 April
2003 becomes a minor judge in Caracas (!!!!)
2004 issues arrest order against Simonovis
2005 judge in charge of Anderson case (where he did forgeries)
2007 suspended in March and fired in June
2014 TSJ “justice”.
“You want a criminal lawyer.”
And you can find me under the Best Latin American Coverage category. Thank you Doug!