Posts tagged ‘Hugo Chavez’

LATIN AMERICA: Is Populism Out? Conservatism In?

Marching to the Right?

South America map courtesy of Nations Online Project

South America map courtesy of Nations Online Project

Is populism on the wane in Latin America’s larger economies?

On Thursday (December 9), Argentina’s new business-friendly conservative President Maurico Macri took office after 12 years of left wing government.

Voters recently dealt an electoral blow to the populist legacy of the late Hugo Chavez and his United Socialist Party of Venezuela — electing an opposition majority to the National Assembly.

Meanwhile lawmakers in Brazil are trying to impeach another populist, President Dilma Rousseff, who is is grappling with a severe economic downturn and a massive corruption scandal in her Workers Party government.

But bad news for leftists is good news to foreign investors, according to Bloomberg News (via the Tico Times).

Venezuelan bonds climbed after the opposition won a majority in Congress for the first time in 16 years, Bloomberg reported, adding that the Global X MSCI Argentina exchange-traded fund has seen asses under management climb since polls showed Macri was likely o win the presidency. Investors have also piled into the biggest Brazil stock, ET< since impeachment proceedings against Rousseff were initiated, the business news site said.

The Venezuelan elections could also have significant consequences for Russian oil development contracts and a slowdown of arms sales to Venezuela, according to RBC Daily (via Russia Beyond the Headlines).

Today Venezuela is Russia’s second largest American trading partner after Brazil. Trade relations between the two countries is largely focused on oil and defense. Russia’s state oil enterprise Rosneft is collaborating on five joint oil production projects in Venezuela, including developing oil deposits in the Orinoco River Valley, according to RBC.

Russia has supplied much of Venezuela’s military weaponry including Su-30 fighter jets, T-72 tanks and Grad multiple rocket launchers, according to RBC.

While Chavez’s hand-picked successor, Nicola Maduro, remains president, his party’s capability to influence decisions has been significantly reduced, RBC said. The assembly voting is the worst-ever defeat for the leftist movement founded by Chavez in 1999, according to the BBC.

Argentina’s economy isstuck in a prolonged slowdown and facing a recession next year, according to International Monetary Fund forecasts. But Macri’s room to maneuver will be limited by Congress, where the coalition loyal to his predecessor Cristina Kirchner and her husband Nestor — also a former president — will be the largest party in the lower house and have an absolute majority in the Senate, according to AFP.

Meanwhile, Brazil’s Supreme Court has suspended impeachment proceedings against Rousseff until it rules on a secret vote that apparently stacked a congressional committee with opponents trying to oust her, according to The Independent website.


December 10, 2015 at 11:28 pm Leave a comment

INTERNATIONAL CRIME: Drug Cartels Know No Borders

Transnational Crime

In the days since the March 5 death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, security analysts have speculated on whether regime change in Caracas will have any effect on transnational narcotics cartels operating in Latin America.

Cocaine seized in Central American waters. (U.S. Navy photo)

Cocaine seized in Central American waters.
(U.S. Navy photo)

Since 1999, when Chavez began his 14-year rule, Venezuela has been considered a major hub for the shipment of illegal narcotics from neighboring Colombia to the United States and Europe. The U.S. Treasury Department has added several high-level Venezuelan military and intelligence officials to its Foreign Narcotics Kingpin list, for alleged “material assistance” to the Colombian rebel group known as FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) which Washington has labeled a “narco-terrorist organization.”

In the last decade, the battle against transnational criminal organizations has stretched from Central and South America across the Atlantic to West Africa and beyond. Officials say drug trafficking is destablizing, promotes corruption and other illegal activity including human trafficking and piracy. Increasingly, U.S. and other militaries are helping local and national law enforcement agencies with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to battle criminal cartels.

By law, the U.S. Defense Department is the lead agency for the detection and monitoring of aerial and maritime transit of illegal drugs, although federal law also limits the military’s assistance in U.S. territory to civil support. However, the Coast Guard, a unit of the Department of Homeland Security, has dual military and law enforcement authority.

But as authorities increase pressure on them in the Western Hemisphere, narco-cartels have been turning to Africa, especially the politically unstable countries of West Africa, to use as transit points for Europe-bound illicit drug shipments.

Nigerian special operations sailors and U.S. sailors conduct boarding, search and seizure training with the Joint Maritime Special Operations Training Command in Lagos, Nigeria in 2011. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Darryl Wood)

Nigerian special operations sailors and U.S. sailors conduct boarding, search and seizure training with the Joint Maritime Special Operations Training Command in Lagos, Nigeria in 2011.
(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Darryl Wood)

A United Nations report released Feb. 25 listed the growing influence of narco-cartels both foreign and home-grown in West Africa. Cocaine trafficking remains the most lucrative criminal activity of international groups operating in the region, but one “worrying development” is the emergence of methamphetamine production and related trafficking, according to the report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

The report also discussed human trafficking between West Africa and Europe and arms trafficking across Africa.

Top government officials from the United States and other countries are slated to discuss the toll of trafficking in drugs, guns and humans at the Countering Transnational Organized Crime conference in Alexandria, Va. next month. To read the whole story, visit the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement site ( or click here.

March 8, 2013 at 6:04 pm Leave a comment


Iranian Shock Troops in Venezuela?

We were a little surprised near the end of the (July 27) Senate confirmation hearing for Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis to be the new head of U.S. Central Command when Sen. George LeMieux (R-Fla.) brought up Venezuela.

Venezuela flag (CIA World Factbook)

LeMieux said he was very concerned about the connection between Iran and Venezuela including secret flights between the two countries and the presence of “Iranian shock troops in Venezuela.”

LeMieux, who was appointed last year to serve out the remaining term of Mel Martinez, has fretted often about Venezuela recently, calling President Hugo Chavez’s decision to break diplomatic relations with neighboring Colombia “troubling” and complaining about “the deepening deterioration of human rights and democracy in Venezuela” along with six other senators in a July 21 letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Perhaps even more surprising was Mattis’ answer, telling the Florida Republican “I register your concern” and adding “I have no argument with you.”

In April, a Pentagon report to Congress about Iran’s current and future military strategy noted the activities of an elite unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – Qod Force, to “clandestinely exert military, political and economic power to advance Iranian national interests abroad.” Those activities range from gathering intelligence to supplying training, arms and financial support to surrogate groups and terrorist organizations, according to the 12-page unclassified version of the report. Those groups include Hezbollah in Lebanon and HAMAS in Palestine.

The Qods Force is well-established in the Middle East and North Africa “and recent years have witnessed an increased presence in Latin America, particularly Venezuela,” the Pentagon report said, noting that if the U.S. gets more involved in local conflicts in those regions, contact with the Qods Force “directly, or through extremist groups it supports, will be more frequent and consequential.”

Iran Flag (CIA World Factbook)

Chavez has denied there are any Iranian troops in his country, calling the Pentagon report “totally false.” Iran and Venezuela have developed close links since Chavez took office in 1999, but there have been no formal military cooperation deals.

And U.S. officials have denied Chavez’s claims that the U.S. is backing a potential attack on Venezuela by neighboring Colombia. Bogotá claims Chavez is giving sanctuary to Colombian rebels known by the acronym FARC.

To view the recorded Webcast of the Mattis confirmation hearing click here. LeMieux’s question comes near the end at 146 minutes and 12 seconds.

July 28, 2010 at 9:02 pm Leave a comment


August 2022


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