CEPR - Center for Economic and Policy Research

Multimedia

En Español

Em Português

Other Languages

Home Publications Blogs The Americas Blog

la-blog-logo

Analysis Beyond the Echo Chamber

  FB-logo  Subscribe by E-mail  


ALBA Members Take the Lead in Crafting Alternatives in Arbitrating Investor-State Disputes Print
Written by Dan Beeton   
Friday, 03 May 2013 08:43

In an article this week in the Malaysian Star, South Centre Director Martin Khor describes a move by Latin American and Caribbean countries – most of which belong to the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas group, or ALBA –  to form an alternative to the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) to settle investor-state disputes, noting the predilection of ICSID to rule in favor of corporations:

LEADERS of several Latin American countries have set up a new coalition to coordinate actions to face the growing number of international legal suits being taken against governments by transnational companies.

A ministerial meeting of 12 countries held in Guayaquil, Ecuador, decided on several joint actions to counter the threat posed by these lawsuits, which have claimed millions or even billions of dollars from governments.

Seven of the countries, mostly represented by their ministers of foreign affairs, trade or finance, adopted a declaration with an agreement to form a conference of states affected by transnational interests.

They are Ecuador, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, St Vincent and the Grenadines as well as Venezuela.

But while these are all ALBA members (except the Dominican Republic), Khor notes that several other countries were also present at the meeting are not: “Representatives of another five countries (Argentina, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico) also attended the meeting and will convey the results to their respective governments.”

Read more...

 

 
Senator Menendez Meets with President Lobo to Discuss U.S. Funding for Honduras Print
Written by Arthur Phillips   
Thursday, 02 May 2013 14:30

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) met with Honduran president Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo on Wednesday as part of a tour through Central America. According to press reports, Menendez characterized the trip, during which the Senator also visited El Salvador and Guatemala, as an opportunity to evaluate regional counter-narcotics and security initiatives that the U.S. is funding at increasing levels through the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI). A Spanish-language press report on the trip quotes Menendez as having said that he intends to “explore the specific points of this funding proposal,” and that he wants to “see what works and what does not.”

The State Department’s 2014 budget proposal, submitted on April 10, requests $161.5 million in funding for CARSI, a $26 million increase from the previous year. The proposal requests $4.5 million in foreign military financing specifically for Honduras, an increase of 450% over the FY2012 total. And Just the Facts, a joint project of nonpartisan groups focused on U.S.-Latin American relations, notes that current budget proposals have total U.S. military and police funding for Honduras in FY2014 at $8.7 million, a 63% increase over 2013 projections. Furthermore, according to a Congressional Research Service report, as of last July the State Department and USAID had planned to allocate a combined $72 million to Honduras in FY2012.

These rising levels of funding for the police and military run counter to the concerns of many lawmakers in Washington around the lack of accountability for U.S. involvement in Honduran security and anti-narcotics operations. It also highlights the seriousness of recent reports that the State Department has been supporting units under the command of National Police Chief Juan Carlos “El Tigre” Bonilla, who allegedly ran death-squads a decade ago, and, more broadly, that the police have been accused of continuing to commit death-squad murders today. In December the National Autonomous University, citing the police’s own reports, announced that police had killed 149 civilians in the previous two years.

Read more...

 

 
Bolivia Expels USAID: Not Why, but Why Not Sooner Print
Written by Jake Johnston   
Wednesday, 01 May 2013 15:27

At a speech celebrating May Day in Bolivia today, President Evo Morales announced the expulsion of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) from the country. According to the AP, Morales stated:

"The United States does not lack institutions that continue to conspire, and that's why I am using this gathering to announce that we have decided to expel USAID from Bolivia.”

The role of USAID in Bolivia has been a primary point of contention between the U.S. and Bolivia dating back to at least 2006. State Department spokesperson Patrick Ventrell characterized Morales’ statement as “baseless allegations.” While State Department spokespeople and many commentators will characterize USAID's work with oppositional groups as appropriate, a look at the agency's work over the past decade paints a very different picture.

Documents obtained by investigative journalist Jeremy Bigwood show that as early as 2002, USAID funded a “Political Party Reform Project,” which sought to “serve as a counterweight to the radical MAS [Morales’ political party] or its successors.” Later USAID began a program “to provide support to fledgling regional governments,” some of which were pushing for regional autonomy and were involved in the September 2008 destabilization campaign that left some 20 indigenous Bolivians dead. Meanwhile, the U.S. has continually refused to disclose the recipients of aid funds. As a recent CEPR report on USAID activities in Haiti concluded, U.S. aid often goes into a “black box” where it becomes impossible to determine who the ultimate recipients actually are.

Read more...

 

 
Does Capriles Have a Plausible Claim, or is He “Venezuela’s Sore Loser”? Print
Written by Dan Beeton   
Tuesday, 30 April 2013 14:37

Reuters reported Sunday that the president of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) Tibisay Lucena has criticized opposition candidate Henrique Capriles for not presenting proof to back up his claims of fraud (also the focus of our post earlier today):

"We have always insisted that Capriles had the right to challenge the process," Tibisay Lucena, president of the electoral council, said in a televised national broadcast.

"But it is also his obligation to present proof."

She dismissed various opposition submissions alleging voting irregularities as lacking key details, and said Capriles had subsequently tried to present the audit in very different terms than the electoral council had agreed to.

"It has been manipulated to generate false expectations about the process, including making it look like the consequence of the wider audit could affect the election results," she said.

Lucena's statements that the election audit of the remaining voting machines, as initially called for by Capriles, will not change the results are correct, although perhaps not for the reasons she meant. As noted on Friday, we did a statistical analysis of the probability of the results of the audit of the first 53 percent of voting machines finding the results it did if the remaining 46 percent of voting machines in Venezuela had enough discrepancies to change the results of the election. The probability, according to our calculations, is less than 1 in 25,000 trillion.

The math is pretty straightforward. Considering how many votes by which Nicolás Maduro was declared the winner, and that the initial audit of 54 percent of machines didn't find anything, and considering how many votes there are per machine, it is almost impossible for the remaining 46 percent of machines to have enough discrepancies to change the election results.

Read more...

 

 
Media Fails to Inform Public about Shifting Opposition Demands in Post-Election Venezuela Print
Written by Alex Main   
Tuesday, 30 April 2013 10:14

“Venezuela to audit votes without opposition conditions” reads the headline of a BBC article published over the weekend.  According to the piece, Venezuela’s electoral authority “will not carry out the full recount demanded by opposition candidate Henrique Capriles.”  A USA Today article from last Thursday notes that “Capriles said the opposition would not participate in the audit because the National Electoral Council did not meet its demand for an examination of registers containing voters' signatures and fingerprints.”  An Associated Press headline – “Government formally rejects top-to-bottom Venezuela vote audit, heightening tensions” – suggests that the Electoral Council’s rejection of the opposition’s demands is stoking the flames of political conflict in the country.

As is often the case in the media’s coverage of Venezuela, a crucial piece of context is missing from these and other articles on the recent decisions of the National Electoral Council (known by its Spanish initials as CNE).  Faithful readers of our blog will remember that Henrique Capriles, after the CNE announced that he’d lost the elections by a narrow margin of around 270,000 votes (narrowed down to 224,000 votes following the final count of votes cast abroad), refused to accept the results and immediately called for a recount, though other opposition spokespeople called instead for a “complete audit” of the voting machine receipts.  After first calling on his supporters to take to the streets, leading to violent clashes in which over half a dozen people were reportedly killed, Capriles finally formally filed a set of demands to the CNE.  Subsequently, on April 18th, the CNE agreed to audit the remaining 46% of boxes of voting machine receipts that had not yet been verified (54% of the boxes had been previously verified in the presence of witnesses from both parties). 

What AP, USA Today, BBC and others fail to mention in their most recent articles is that Capriles accepted the CNE’s April 18th decision to proceed with the audit of the remaining voting receipt boxes, and said that the opposition would participate in the process.  According to AFP and other sources, Capriles said that the opposition campaign “accepts what the CNE (…) has announced to the country. We will be there in the audit.  We consider that the problems are in these 12,000 boxes (that will finally be opened in this audit).  We will undoubtedly be able to show the country the truth.”

Read more...

 

 
The Venezuelan Presidential Vote -- What is the Probability That It Could Have Been Stolen? Print
Written by CEPR   
Friday, 26 April 2013 11:45

Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles is currently “boycotting” a second audit of the voting results for the April 14 presidential election, which the National Electoral Council has agreed to undertake.  Capriles claims that the election was stolen through fraud.

In a CEPR press release we note that it is practically impossible to have obtained the results of the audit that took place after the polls closed on April 14, if the election were actually stolen through fraud. 

When the polls closed, a random sample of 53 percent[i] of all the machines (20,825 out of 39,303) was chosen, and a manual tally was made of the paper receipts.  This “hot audit” was done on site, in the presence of the observers from both campaigns, as well as witnesses from the community.  There were no reports from witnesses or election officials on site of discrepancies between the machine totals and the hand count.

The following is a calculation of the probability of auditing 20,825 machines and finding zero errors when there are actually 50 among all 39,303 (this means that there are 50 machines with errors among the ones that were not audited).  The assumption here is that there would have to be at least 50 bad machines -- i.e. where the machine count did not match the paper ballot – in order to reverse a margin of 272,000 votes.

This assumption is of course understating the number of bad machines that would be necessary to reverse the result. The average machine has only about 360 votes, and the maximum was about 564. And here we are assuming the election is stolen by moving about 2700 votes per machine from Capriles to Maduro,  on 50 machines.  If more machines were bad, then the probability below gets even (vastly) smaller.  So the calculation below is actually a very high estimate of the probability of obtaining the April 14 audit results, if the election were stolen.

Read more...

 

 
Paid to Trash Argentina, Raben Does Just That, Without Disclosing Financial Interests Print
Written by Jake Johnston   
Friday, 26 April 2013 09:22

Taking to the Huffington Post this week, former Assistant Attorney General Robert Raben attacks Argentina’s position regarding the ongoing litigation with vulture funds, a case readers of this space are familiar with. Raben states that, “The Argentine government's behavior toward U.S. courts and U.S. judges has gone beyond contempt, and its ongoing defiance of our legal system must come to an end.” Anticipating the possibility of the case going to the Supreme Court, Raben saves some criticism for the United States, which has sided with Argentina in the court case:

the U.S. executive branch made the disappointing and unfortunate decision to support Argentina at the lower-court level, on the unsubstantiated grounds that holding Argentina accountable would somehow undermine the vague U.S. foreign-policy goal of promoting the orderly restructuring of defaulted sovereign debt.

Raben concludes that, “It would be downright dangerous for the Department of Justice to maintain its support for Argentina after its disgraceful displays of disrespect for the U.S. judicial system.”Raben would have you believe that his conclusion and expertise in the matter is simply based on his previous experience:

As a former assistant attorney general, I am familiar with the struggles and the balancing involved in weighing various legal and policy questions and deciding whether to ask the Supreme Court to review a case.

But readers of the Huffington Post might be interested in something else not mentioned in Raben’s article: that his lobbying firm, The Raben Group, has been paid over $2.1 million by a group representing the same vulture funds that are suing Argentina, according to lobbying disclosure documents. In fact, the American Task Force Argentina (ATFA), of which Raben is the Executive Director, has spent nearly $4 million lobbying the White House, Treasury Department and U.S. Congress. Nowhere in the article does Raben disclose this relationship. His 382 word Huffington Post bio notes his past working for Barney Frank, his time as Assistant Attorney General and his current position “on the boards of the American Constitution Society and Alliance for Justice,” yet never mentions his management position at ATFA or even the existence of his lobbying firm.

Read more...

 

 
SOA to Release Names Print
Written by Stephan Lefebvre   
Thursday, 25 April 2013 10:43

A federal district court has ruled that the Obama administration must declassify records with the names of individuals trained at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), formerly known as the U.S. Army School of the Americas or SOA. 

Famously known as the “School of Assassins,” the school trained members of foreign armed forces who later went on to participate in some of the bloodiest and most repressive regimes in contemporary Latin America.   During El Salvador’s civil war, the most heinous violations of human rights were committed by SOA graduates, who organized death squads and planned the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero (1980) and participated in the El Mozote Massacre (1980), where more than 800 civilians were murdered.  SOA graduates made up the majority of the Chilean officers who overthrew Allende in favor of Pinochet in Chile.  And in Argentina, General Roberto Viola was among the many SOA graduates that participated in the dirty war—he was convicted of murder, kidnapping and torture in 1985.

Though SOA changed its name and instituted reforms in 2001, its graduates have continued to be involved in anti-democratic activity and egregious human rights abuses.  Case in point: Honduras.  Four of the six generals linked to the coup against democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya were trained at the WHINSEC in recent years, including top General Romeo Vásquez.  SOA graduates have been  the subject of CEPR’s ongoing coverage of violence and impunity in Honduras; we wrote about soldiers that shot and killed a 15-year-old boy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, which included among their number at least one soldier trained at the WHINSEC. 

Thanks in large parts to the grassroots campaign against the school organized by SOA Watch, a number of Latin American countries have stopped sending troops to WHINSEC.  The first country to pull out was Venezuela in 2004, followed by Argentina and Uruguay in 2006.  Other countries that stopped sending troops include Bolivia, Ecuador and most recently Nicaragua.  However, Honduras and other Central American countries – including Costa Rica – continue to send police and military personnel to the school.  The Bayonet reports that for the “Cadet Leadership Development Course” that began October of 2012, there were 64 Honduran Army cadets in attendance, representing the largest share from a single country.  One cadet was quoted saying that the course was “useful in the future during joint operations.” As readers of the Americas Blog are aware, a joint U.S./Honduras counternarcotics operation last May resulted in the killing of four indigenous villagers with no apparent ties to drug trafficking. 

Read more...

 

 
Venezuela Post-Election Watch Live-Blog Print
Tuesday, 16 April 2013 16:55

5:05 PM EDT: International Representation at Maduro's Inauguration

Nicolás Maduro has just been sworn in as president of Venezuela. Despite the refusal of the United States and Venezuelan opposition leader to accept the legitimacy of the election results, an overwhelming amount of the region's leadership showed up or was represented at Maduro's inauguration today.

Reports say that a total of 61 diplomatic delegations, headed by presidents, prime ministers and vice presidents, among others were present at the ceremony. At least 17 presidents are reported to have attended.

All 12 of the UNASUR nations sent delegations to the inauguration, 8 of them headed by their presidents. All 33 of the CELAC nations (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) were also represented.

Delegations from Iran, including President Ahmadinejad, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East were present.

The following presidents attended:

Dilma Rousseff (Brazil)
Juan Manuel Santos (Colombia)
Raúl Castro (Cuba)
José Mujica (Uruguay)
Cristina Kirchner (Argentina)
Evo Morales (Bolivia)
Ollanta Humala (Peru)
Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua)
Porfirio Lobo (Honduras)
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves (San Vicente and the Grenadines)
Prime Minister Keith Mitchell (Grenada)

Prime Ministers from Saint Lucia, Antigua, Barbados, Saint Kitts and Nevis also attended.

2:55 PM EDT: William Hague Recognizes New President

This message was issued by the Secretary of State for the United Kingdom:

On the occasion of the inauguration of Nicolas Maduro as President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the UK Government looks forward to working with the Government and people of Venezuela to strengthen our relationship and deepen cooperation in areas of mutual interest.

Read more...

 

 
Violence by Opposition Sectors Leads to Divisions Print
Written by Dan Beeton   
Tuesday, 16 April 2013 16:00

Opposition protests turned deadly yesterday, with at least seven people having been reported killed and over 61 others injured as opposition groups reportedly burned the homes of PSUV leaders, community hospitals, and mercales (subsidized grocery stores), attacked Cuban doctors, attacked state and community media stations, and threatened CNE president Tibisay Lucena and other officials. Violence is likely to continue today, as both Capriles and Maduro have called for their supporters to demonstrate in the streets. Maduro and other senior government officials have condemned the acts and have warned that the opposition is attempting a coup d’etat. PSUV legislators have suggested they may pursue legal action against Capriles for promoting instability.

The campaign of violent protest, in conjunction with opposition candidate Henrique Capriles’ refusal to recognize the election results, represents the first major extra-legal destabilization attempt by Venezuela’s opposition since the failed coup in 2002 and oil strike in 2003. It is also significant in that the U.S. is backing Capriles’ position, thereby helping to provoke conflict in Venezuela – even though most Latin American nations and many other governments around the world have congratulated Maduro on his victory and called for the results to be respected.

The opposition strategy is predictably divisive, however. Factions within Venezuela’s opposition have long opposed extra-legal and especially violent methods of attempting to force change. Some in the opposition have also hinted that Capriles’ cries of “fraud” are not credible. Opposition-aligned CNE rector Vicente Diaz has said that while he supports a full audit of the votes, he has no doubt in that the results given by the CNE are correct. Diaz made comments to this effect on opposition station Globovision yesterday; the TV hosts then quickly concluded the interview.

Read more...

 

 
<< Start < Prev 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Next > End >>

Page 14 of 25

CEPR.net
Support this blog, donate
Combined Federal Campaign #79613

About The Americas Blog

The Americas Blog seeks to present a more accurate perspective on economic and political developments in the Western Hemisphere than is often presented in the United States. It will provide information that is often ignored, buried, and sometimes misreported in the major U.S. media.

For more information, sign up for our Latin America News Roundup or visit the archives.

Argentina Bolivia Brazil Chavez Colombia congress coup cuba DEA ecuador election elections Honduras human rights latin america Maduro media coverage mexico NSA oas police Snowden State Department venezuela world bank

+ All tags