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Cuban Activists Released; US-Cuban Talks Set


Via the BBC:  Cuba releases dozens of opposition activists The Cuban authorities have released at least 36 opposition activists since Wednesday, according to dissident organisations. They are believed to be from a list of 53 activists the United States requested to be freed as part of efforts to mend links. More info at the link. […]

Venezuela Officially in Recession


Via the BBC:  Venezuela recession confirmed as Maduro attacks US ‘oil war’ The Venezuelan economy is now officially in recession after the central bank released figures showing that it has been shrinking all year. The bank said the economy had declined by 2.3% in the third quarter of 2014. It also revealed for the first […]

Rousseff Starts Second Term


Via the BBC:  Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff sworn in for a second term Representatives from more than 130 countries attended the swearing-in ceremony, which also saw Vice-President Michel Temer take his oath. The presidents of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro; Uruguay, Jose Mujica; Bolivia, Evo Morales, and Chile, Michelle Bachelet were among the leaders present. US Vice President […]

Public Opinion on Cuba


Via WaPo‘s The Fix: Sixty-eight percent support ending the trade embargo with Cuba — up 11 points from 2009 — and 74 percent support ending travel restrictions to Cuba — a jump of 19 points from five years ago. The main issue over time: More info at the link.

Comparative Human Rights Abuses


Via the Monkey Cage (Putting Cuban human rights violations in some context), Erik Voeten notes In a recent article (ungated) in the American Political Science Review, Penn State political scientist Christopher J. Fariss develops a smart measurement model that captures the common component among different measures of physical integrity rights. Moreover, this model generates measures […]

Drezner on Cuba


If you haven’t seen it, I would highly recommend Dan Drezner’s piece on Cuba from yesterday:  Every big question you have about the U.S. opening to Cuba, answered

Some Questions for Those who Oppose an Opening with Cuba

Cuban American Flags

A little round of Qs and As on US-Cuban policy.

Rand Paul Breaks With Other 2016 GOP Contenders In Backing Obama’s Opening To Cuba

Senate Homeland Security Holds Hearing On Federal Programs Equipping Police Departments

Rand Paul is one of the few Republicans who seems to be evaluating the new policy toward Cuba through something other than an outdated Cold War perspective.

US-Cuban Relations and Venezuela


Via Bloomberg:  Obama Makes Maduro’s ‘Insolent Yankees’ a Tougher Sell “Maduro’s anti-US rhetoric is being undercut by the Cuban government,” said Gregory Weeks, head of Latin American studies at the University of North Carolina. “One of the biggest repercussions is that Maduro’s foreign policy is based on exclusion of the U.S. and now its biggest […]

Obama Has Made An Historic Change In U.S. Cuban Relations, It’s A Good First Step

Cuban American Flags

The resumption of diplomatic relations between U.S. and Cuba, and expansion of some commercial trade ties, is historic but it’s only the first step toward the goal of ending an outdated embargo.

American Held By Cuba Released, U.S. And Cuba To Begin Talks On Normalizing Relations

Diana Nyad

An American freed from captivity, and potentially huge changes in America’s diplomatic and trade relationship with Cuba.

Colombia also Feeling the Fall of Oil Prices


Via Reuters:  Colombia Congress passes tax reform to contain deficit Colombia’s lower house passed a tax law that will earn the government 53 trillion pesos ($22.3 billion) over the next four years mostly from businesses, by extending and modifying existing taxes that will expire at the end of this year. The package was passed by […]

Marijuana Legalization, Uruguay Style


Via the BBC:  Uruguay cannabis growers’ clubs: Registration begins Uruguay has started registering cannabis growers’ clubs as part of the government’s plan to legalise the drug. Licensed clubs of up to 45 members will be allowed to grow a maximum of 99 plants each year. In August, growing up to six plants of cannabis at […]

It’s Time To End The U.S. Embargo Of Cuba

Diana Nyad

The U.S. embargo of Cuba, and our lack of diplomatic recognition of the government in Havana, is an outdated relic of the Cold War. It’s time to end it.

Trouble for Rousseff


Via the BBC:  Brazil election: Silva backs Neves in blow for Dilma The Brazilian environmentalist Marina Silva, who came third in Sunday’s presidential election, has backed opposition centrist candidate Aecio Neves in the second round. Mr Neves won 33.5% of the votes in the first round to 41.5% for President Dilma Rousseff, who is running […]

Run-off Time in Brazil

Via the BBC:  Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff to face presidential run-off Brazilian incumbent Dilma Rousseff has won most votes in the country’s presidential election, but has fallen short of outright victory. She received about 41% of the vote and is set to face a run-off against centrist Aecio Neves, who got 34%, near complete official results […]

Second Term Blues?

Former U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush laugh on stage during a Presidential Leadership Scholars program event at the Newseum in Washington

The sixth year of a presidency leads to some predictable commentary (and some comparative notes).

The ongoing Damage to the Venezuelan Economy


Via the BBC:  Venezuela’s annual inflation rises to 63.4% Venezuela’s annual inflation rate has risen to 63.4%, the highest in Latin America, according to official figures published on Tuesday. The figures are the first released by the central bank since May, which has led critics to accuse the government of withholding data for political reasons. […]

Mexican State Approves Same-Sex Marriage


Via the BBC:  Mexican state of Coahuila approves same-sex marriage The northern state of Coahuila has become the second region in Mexico to officially allow same-sex marriage. Coahuila’s congress approved changes to the civil code which give same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples, including adoption. In Mexico, laws on same-sex unions fall under […]

Santos Sworn in


Via the BBC from last week:   Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos sworn in. Santos was re-elected to a second term back in June and is the second Colombian president to be re-elected (after the constitution was reformed to allow Santos’ predecessor, Álvaro Uribe, to run for and win a second term). The main issue confronting […]

Debt Default In Argentina


To our south, the nation of Argentina has just defaulted on billions of dollars in loans thanks largely to a dispute with at U.S. hedge fund: The hedge fund firm of billionaire Paul E. Singer has about 300 employees, yet it has managed to force Argentina, a nation of 41 million people, into a position where it […]

Some Facts for the Immigration Crisis Discussion


NBC Bay Area has a pretty good run down of the situation here:  Kids Crossing the Border: What to Know About the Immigration Crisis. A key fact that is useful in trying to determine whether the simplistic narrative that is all about Obama administration policies on immigration or not is the following: Migrant children aren’t […]

Delay in Legal Marijuana Sales in Uruguay


Via the BBC:  Uruguay legal cannabis sale delayed to next year, says president Uruguayan President Jose Mujica has said the start of legal cannabis sales will be delayed until next year due to "practical difficulties". Sales in state-owned pharmacies were due to begin as early as November. Under the new law the following will be […]

Tally me Banana?


Via the BBC:  Cocaine valued at £25m found in banana delivery Cocaine with an estimated street value of £25m has been found hidden in a consignment of bananas from Colombia. Scotland Yard said 150kg of the drug was found packed into plastic bananas following an "intelligence-led" operation. Day-o, indeed.

Institutional Design and Governance


A piece at Foreign Policy provides a chance to give some thought to institutions.

Another Capo Caught


Via the BBC:  Mexican Tijuana cartel boss Sanchez Arellano ‘captured’ The Mexican army says it has captured the leader of the once-powerful Tijuana cartel, Luis Fernando Sanchez Arellano. In the 1990s, the cartel controlled much of the drugs flow from the northern Mexican city of Tijuana to the United States. But it was dealt a […]

Significant Drug Gang Arrest in Colombia


Via the BBC,  Colombia: Rastrojos members held in Barranquilla raid: Colombian police have arrested 46 members of the Rastrojos criminal gang in northern Atlantico department. They are accused of extortion from shop owners and selling illegal drugs in the coastal city of Barranquilla. President Juan Manuel Santos described the operation as "the biggest blow against […]

Colombia’s Presidential Elections


Looking back at the first round and forward to the second.

Colombia’s Presidential Elections, First Round 2014


A Photo Essay.

New President in Panama


Via the BBC:  Outsider Juan Carlos Varela wins Panama election Opposition leader Juan Carlos Varela has won the presidential election in Panama with almost 40% of the votes. Mr Varela, who is currently the vice-president, had distanced himself from outgoing President Ricardo Martinelli. I must confess, it is a bit odd to call the Vice […]

Escobar’s Hippos


Via Worldcrunch:  Pablo Escobar’s Hippos Are Running Wild.

Talks in Venezuela


Via Reuters:  Venezuela’s Maduro meets opposition as death toll from protests rises Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro cautioned opposition leaders to keep their expectations modest on Thursday as he hosted them for mediated talks intended to stem two months of deadly political unrest. Maduro has held similar meetings previously but this was the first to include […]

More Rhetoric over the Falklands


Via the BBC:  UK Falklands military exercises ‘provoke’ Argentina Argentina has accused the UK of provocation over plans to hold military exercises in the Falkland Islands. It said drills by British forces would include missile launches and were part of a "pattern" of "hostile acts". The British ambassador in Buenos Aires has been summoned by […]

Confrontation Between Rio Police and Squatters


Via the BBC:  Clashes as police evict squatters in Rio de Janeiro A huge police operation to evict hundreds of families from abandoned buildings in Rio de Janeiro has ended with violent clashes and some injuries. More than 1,500 police officers had arrived at dawn to evict nearly 5,000 people from the site, belonging to […]

New President in Costa Rica


Via the BBC:  Leftist Luis Solis wins Costa Rican presidential poll Luis Guillermo Solis of the centre-left Citizen Action Party (PAC) has won the presidential election in Costa Rica. With almost all the votes counted, Mr Solis had 78%. He had been expected to win after his rival – governing party candidate Johnny Araya – […]

New Argentine Peso Features the Falklands


Via the BBC:  Argentina launches Falklands currency note to mark anniversary Argentina has launched a new 50-peso currency note featuring a map of the Falkland Islands to commemorate the 32nd anniversary of the invasion of the British archipelago. First, given the debacle that was the invasion of the Falklands/Las Islas Malvinas by the Argentine military, […]

Salvadoran Presidential Election Results Confirmed by Court


Via the BBC:  El Salvador ex-rebel’s presidential victory confirmed El Salvador’s electoral court has confirmed the victory of former left-wing rebel Salvador Sanchez Ceren in a tight presidential run-off election. It said Mr Sanchez Ceren won 50.11% of the votes in the 9 March poll, defeating conservative candidate Norman Quijano, who polled 49.89%. Mr Quijano […]

Thinking about the Opposition in Venezuela

Flag of venezuela

Some thoughts and links about the ongoing turmoil in Venezuela.

Air Canada Suspends Flights to Venezuela


Via the BBC:  Air Canada suspends Venezuela flights over ‘civil unrest’ Air Canada has suspended flights to and from Venezuela, citing concerns over security. […] It operated three return flights between Toronto and Caracas per week. Other airlines are also reacting, although unrest is not the main motivator: Several international airlines have reduced operations in […]

Bachelet Sworn in


Earlier this week, Michele Bachelet was sworn in to start her second (non-consecutive) term as president of Chile.  Her first term was 2006-2010. Via the BBC:  Michelle Bachelet sworn in as Chile’s president Ms Bachelet is the first Chilean president in over half a century to return for a second term. […] Ms Bachelet won […]

More Deaths in Venezuela


Via the BBC:  Venezuela protests: Three killed in fresh unrest Three people have died in fresh protests in Venezuela, this time in the central city of Valencia. A policeman and two other men were shot dead in separate incidents. In Caracas, Venezuelan government supporters and opposition demonstrators took to the streets to hold rival marches. […]

Protests Continue in Venezuela


Via the BBC:  Venezuela opposition holds anti-Maduro rally in Caracas Thousands of Venezuelan students and opposition supporters have joined an anti-government rally in the capital, Caracas. The government deployed hundreds of government security forces to prevent a crowd banging pots and pans from marching towards the food ministry. There were similar marches in at least […]

An Overview of the Venezuelan Economic Situation


Via CNBC:  Venezuela after Chavez: An economy on the verge. The short version:  not good.

Maduro isn’t Chavez

Flag of venezuela

One thing is clear: Maduro lacks Chavez’s political skills.

Questions about Venezuela?


Since I figure most folks only have a passing knowledge of Venezuela, I was curious if there were any specific questions about that I could attempt to answer.  I cannot guarantee that I can provide the answers, as I am not a country-expert on this topic, but ask away and we will see. 

One Illustration Regarding Venezuela


Despite good intentions, I have not had time to devote to a story that is quite important and is not receiving enough attention:  the events unfolding in Venezuela.  I hope to address some of the relevant issues over the weekend, but instead of trying to do it all in one mega-post, I will also draw […]

Paper Covers Rock!


Sorry, that was what immediately came to mind upon seeing this photo in a piece in The Atlantic:   Pictured:  the late President Hugo Chávez (Ven), President Dilma Rousseff (Brazil), President José Mujica (Uruguay), and  President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (Arg).

The More Things Change… (Argentine Debt Edition)


Via the BBC:  Argentina tries to delay $1.3bn repayment to creditors Argentina will on Tuesday petition the US courts to try to stall a $1.3bn repayment to its creditors. If the petition to the Supreme Court is not successful, the country risks triggering a default and debt crisis. […] Argentina has already defaulted on its […]

Constitutional Changes Ratified in Nicaragua


Via the BBC:  Nicaragua’s new constitution becomes law Changes to Nicaragua’s constitution have gone into effect, paving the way for its leader, Daniel Ortega, to run for a third consecutive term in 2016. […] The constitutional changes were approved by 64 votes to 25. The reform scraps the previous rule that the winning candidate needs […]

Elections in Central America


Via the BBC:  El Salvador votes for new president The main rivals are current Vice-President Salvador Sanchez Ceren of the left-wing FMLN party and Norman Quijano of the conservative Arena alliance. Neither is expected to win outright because a third candidate standing for a new independent party is likely to make a strong showing. […] […]

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