Happy Christmas weekend!

I want to write about the Obama administration alleged cover up for Hezbollah in Latin America story, since I’ve been blogging about Hezbollah‘s (Hizballah Hizbollah) inroads in our hemisphere for the last decade. It’s 8:30 in the morning and this post is due at noon, so I’m doing a bit of research while having breakfast, and will remain in pajamas until I’m finished with this post.

A story from the NY Post related to the Obama-Iran deal popped up in my Facebook feed, so I go to the NYPost, and find the op-ed by David Harsanyi, A deafening media silence on the Obama-Hezbollah scandal,

Even when outlets did decide to cover the story, they typically framed it as a he-said/she-said. “Politico Reporter Says Obama Administration ‘Derailed’ Hezbollah Investigation,” reads the NPR headline. Did Josh Meyer of Politico say something about Obama or did he publish a 14,000-word, diligently sourced, document-heavy investigative piece? If you get your news from NPR, you’d never know.

The investigative story Politico published has two on-the-record sources, and myriad well-sourced details.

I have been blogging on Hezbollah and Iran in Latin America for well over ten years. Before I did yesterday’s post at my blog, I printed out and carefully studied Mayer’s long article.

I could not find one thing that contradicted what information I have read on Hezbollah and Iranian presence in Latin America during the past decade. As far as I could see, his information on the drug trade is rock-solid.

More importantly, the revelation that the Obama administration not only threw obstructions in front of investigators but failed to prosecute major players in the enterprise is a Very Big Deal, a bigger deal than Iran-Contra, where

The Reagan administration was forced to admit that it had covertly continued to fund the [Nicaraguan] Contras by means of arms sales to Iran which were themselves illegal and in breach of a trade embargo against that country.

Indeed, with billions of drug trade money funding terrorists, and tens of thousands of lives ruined, The secret backstory of how Obama let Hezbollah off the hook makes Iran-Contra look like pikers.

But, as Harsanyi puts it,

The preponderance of editors, journalists, pundits and bookers, on the other hand, still coddle Democrats. They may do it on purpose or unconsciously, but it’s destroying their credibility. Because as David Burge once noted, “Journalism is about covering important stories. With a pillow, until they stop moving.”

On the other hand,
I am elated that Meyer’s thoroughly researched piece came out. He deserves accolades for this.

Little bloggers like myself come across information – such as Hezbollah’s inroads in our hemisphere – that makes us wonder why none of the big fish ever write about. It really is a big deal when one does.

Will the story, having come out during the holiday season, continue to be ignored?
That remains to be seen. It may be up to alternative media to keep it in the limelight, but, no matter what, The secret backstory of how Obama let Hezbollah off the hook warrants a most rigorous congressional investigation.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog

Last Sunday, three Latin American countries held elections: Argentina, Guatemala, and Colombia.

In Argentina, governor of Buenos Aires Province Daniel Scioli, president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s anointed, was regarded as a “clear favorite.” The local media started the evening reporting he won, and by midnight the results showed Scioli at 36.7% of the vote, while Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Macri had 34.5%.

Sergio Massa, a former ally turned rival of outgoing President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, came a distant third with 21.3%

To win the presidency a candidate must get a minimum 45%, so, for the first time in the country’s history there will be a runoff election on Nov. 22. Massa, who conceded defeat, is now in a kingmaker position.

In Guatemala, Jimmy Morales, an actor known for playing a cowboy who accidentally becomes president, won by a landslide. In a country where the president, vice-president, the head of the central bank, leaders of several political parties, and the head of the social-security institute all are investigated and were brought down by myriad corruption charges, Morales won on a single issue: Fighting corruption.

Colombia had local elections, but unlike Argentina and Guatemala, there were 12 killed after leftist rebels ambush group transporting Colombian election ballots

Of those killed, 11 belonged to the army while the other was a police officer. Six more people remained missing, including two poll workers and an indigenous guide, Defence Minister Luis Carlos Villegas said.

Villegas said the group had been transporting 130 ballots to the capital for tallying

In the context of the FARC-Colombian government negotiations in Havana, Cuba, with the FARC demanding that the ELN participate, this murder points to a criminalization of local politics. Arron Dougherty of InSight Crime analyzes Elections and Organized Crime: 4 Takeaways

In only one case, Colombia, did election monitors link political differences to violence, including six murders and a disappearance.

Despite these political differences, the region’s largely militarized approach to security issues will likely remain unchanged as it is the favored method amongst both conservatives and liberals to deal with rising crime and violence.

You must read the full article. The consequences for democracy in our hemisphere will resonate for decades to come.

Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics, news, and culture at Fausta’s Blog.

In Monday’s State of the Union Address, Pres. Obama said,

Our diplomacy is at work with respect to Iran, where, for the first time in a decade, we’ve halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material. Between now and this spring, we have a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed Iran; secures America and our allies – including Israel; while avoiding yet another Middle East conflict. There are no guarantees that negotiations will succeed, and I keep all options on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran. But new sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails – alienating America from its allies; and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again. It doesn’t make sense. That is why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress. The American people expect us to only go to war as a last resort, and I intend to stay true to that wisdom.

To which Senator Robert Menendez (D – N.J.), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, quipped,

The more I hear from the administration in its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran. And it feeds to the Iranian narrative of victimization when they are the ones with original sin: an illicit nuclear weapons program going back over the course of twenty years that they are unwilling to come clean on.

But, as Charles Krauthammer points out, Iran Isn’t Just Trying to Build a Nuclear Bomb, instead, Iran is marching toward conventional domination of the Arab world.

Krauthammer points to Iranian-backed Houthis seizing control of the Yemeni government, Iran sending in weapons, money and revolutionary guards and ordering Hezbollah to fight in Syria.

In Latin America, Iran has greatly expanded its presence and influence over the last decade – which directly affects the U.S. In 2007 an alleged Iranian agent, Abdul Kadir, plotted to blow up JFK airport in New York.

Kadir was among the names of the many Iranian assets that Alberto Nisman, The Man Who Exposed Iran in Latin America, came across in his investigation of the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires, the largest terrorist attack in our hemisphere prior to the 9/11/2001 attack.

Nisman compiled a massive case, accusing Iran and its Lebanese terrorist affiliate, Hezbollah, of the attack. He indicted a member of Hezbollah and a number of former high-ranking Iranians officials.

Nisman brought a civil lawsuit last week accusing president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and others of orchestrating a cover-up of Iran’s responsibility for the 1994 attack, asking the judge to freeze $23 million of assets belonging to Fernández de Kirchner and others named in the complaint.

He was scheduled to testify to Argentina’s Congress on Monday, but was prevented from doing it by a single shot to the head.

Nisman

wrote in granular detail about how Iran patiently plants people in cities throughout the Western Hemisphere, seeding Iran’s revolution. And, Nisman found, Iran used its embassies in the region to launch the revolution, leveraging the locals in unsuspecting communities.

Meanwhile,

In Venezuela and Bolivia, Iran has moved to the next level, developing a military presence through joint ventures in defense industries.

Iran fosters terror (emphasis added),

The AMIA bombing was not the only time Iran’s leadership was implicated in an attack on foreign soil. In addition to Rafsanjani and Velayati, a red notice was issued for Ali Fallahian for the AMIA bombing. Rafsanjani, Velayati and Fallahian were all implicated in another terror attack on foreign soil.

A German prosecutor “without naming them … implicated Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati and Intelligence Minister Ali Fallahian” in the 1992 massacre at the Mykonos restaurant in Berlin.

Iran’s revolutionary government is lawless. The Iranian actors in these foreign terror attacks weren’t rogue operators but members of the country’s political elite. It’s something to keep in mind when the Obama administration insists that it will make a nuclear agreement with Iran that will make everyone safer and more secure.

So, make no mistake (as Obama himself is so fond of saying), this is not the time to veto any new sanctions bills.

Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics, news and culture at Fausta’s Blog.

UNASUR, the Union of South American Nations, is holding its summit this week in Ecuador. The envoys or the heads of state of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Guayana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela are in attendance.

Latin American countries, particularly the socialist countries, hold summits frequently throughout the year, so this is not unique. What’s making this particular one interesting is this: the possibility of an agreement on cooperation between Russia and UNASUR:

[Russian Ambassador to Ecuador Yan] Burlyai also noted that the Russian delegation will convey a message from President Vladimir Putin to Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa.

Burlyai explained that Russia’s interests coincide with UNASUR’s in the development of a politically and economically multipolar world, and that Russian engineering, technical knowhow, and equipment may be useful for regional development projects in areas such as railway construction and energy generation facilities. He noted that “for many decades,” South America was “mainly oriented at Western countries in economic cooperation…Now it is quite useful for them to have the alternative [of using] Russian companies such as Russian Railways, Gazprom and Rosneft.” Russia, on the other hand, stands to benefit from increased economic and trade cooperation with the 12-nation bloc, with its combined population of 400 million people and a $4 trillion economy. Latin America has already assisted Russia in its efforts toward trade diversification following the introduction of sanctions and countersanctions over the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The UNASUR summit, with the participation of Russian Foreign Ministry officials, follows Putin’s annual State of the Nation address to the country’s Federal Assembly on Thursday, where he stressed the importance of Russia’s increasing economic cooperation with Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

“Russian Railways, Gazprom and Rosneft,” along with long-range bombers conducting regular patrol missions from the Arctic Ocean to the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico and military bases in Nicaragua (not a member of UNASUR), that is.

In the short term, Putin avoids sanctions. In the longer term, is the sky the limit, now that the Obama administration declared dead the Monroe Doctrine?

Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics, news, and culture at Fausta’s Blog.

While Venezuela, at one time arguably the richest country in the region, sells itself to Cuba and careens into disaster, and Argentina, another has-been, defaults yet again, it is easy to despair about the state of things in our hemisphere.

It comes as a relief to read about the Pacific Alliance, a common market in the making between Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.

Do not confuse the Pacific Alliance with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is an ambitious, 21st century trade agreement that the United States is negotiating with 11 other countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam).

The Pacific Alliance is about getting things done, with the presidents of the four countries attending meetings with specific statements and detailed timelines to advance agreed-upon goals (emphasis added):

Also in contrast to the underlying purpose of other groupings—including economic blocs such as Mercosur—Pacific Alliance members have achieved consensus on a model of economic and political integration aimed at attracting investment and creating export platforms for the global market. All have opted for a pragmatic relationship structured around bilateral free-trade agreements (FTAs) with the U.S., the EU and Asian countries.

The Pacific Alliance is perceived as a geopolitical counterweight to ideological and political trends on display in countries ranging from Brazil to Venezuela. It looks outward, acting in some ways like a free-trade zone (through the several bilateral accords among its members). But it is also oriented toward promoting greater cooperation and partnership among member countries. Another key objective is facilitating entry into the Asian market and, particularly, creating greater bargaining power than any of the individual countries could muster separately when approaching China. At the same time, the Pacific Alliance seeks a competitive edge for its members when competing with Asian countries for trade with the U.S. by providing better—and cheaper—products.

Last March I wrote about Vice-President Biden’s meetings with the four Pacific Alliance presidents.

Now in New York for the UN General Assembly, the presidents of Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru issued a joint article , Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru: Better Together summarizing the Alliance’s purpose (emphasis added),

We firmly believe that the main purpose of the Pacific Alliance is to improve the welfare of all our citizens through the promotion of growth and economic development, and the improvement of the competitiveness of our economies.

Among the measures: reviewing foreign investment laws so they are more attractive to foreign companies, agreeing on zero percent tariffs for 90 percent of traded goods, cooperating on environmental and social issues and scientific and technological innovation, police and customs cooperation to track cross-border criminal activity.

The Alliance has many challenges ahead, not the least of which involve political populist tendencies among their leaders, but, considering what it has accomplished on its first three years, that’s pretty good news to celebrate.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on US and Latin American politics, news, and culture at Fausta’s Blog.

by Fausta Rodriguez Wertz

[The Northern Triangle refers to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras in Central America.]

I live in Princeton, NJ, where you can find the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. I am not connected to the School, or to Princeton University, but over the years I have attended many speeches, events and symposia at both.

So I can venture a guess that the School may have a more polished term for the no-do foreign policy of Yes, Prime Minister:

The Obama administration, at best, follows the Yes, Prime Minister school of International Affairs by neglecting our allies and doing nothing. There’s doing nothing, however, and then there’s folly.

Michael Gonzalez has a must-read article on Obama’s Central American Follies: “A country-by-country survey of the Obama administration’s actions in the Northern Triangle [Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador] shows how the administration has sown instability in Central America by siding with former guerrillas who have ties to drug trafficking.

Only lately has the White House bowed to reality and finally conceded what Democrats in Congress, The Washington Post and even Univision were already admitting that dreams of sanctuary under the DREAM Act had convinced Central American families to hand their children over to coyote networks that would take them across Mexico and the Rio Grande. In other words, the administration had to admit that it had contributed to the problem by appearing to promise that children who crossed the border illegally would not be deported.

But the administration shouldn’t get a pass on the violent hell that has been unleashed in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

From siding with the wrong guys in Honduras, to interfering in the judicial process in Guatemala, to ignoring the ties between the drug gangs and newly-elected president Salvador Sánchez Cerén, Gonzalez’s article tracks the Obama administration’s long record of incompetence (at best), and suggests some things the U.S. can do now to improve our country’s security.

faustaBorder security is national security. Go read Gonzalez’s article and find out three examples of why it is.

Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics and culture at Fausta’s Blog.

by Fausta Rodríguez Wertz

We turn our attention away from porn stars (and no, looking up a Twitter feed is not a good idea), if we may, to a more vexatious problem: The economics of ruinous populism in Latin America, and how to avoid that in the USA.

Samuel Gregg, in his essay EXORCIZING LATIN AMERICA’S DEMONS
Its populist cultural norms are a killer
, explains that reversing decades’ worth of damage,

such as food-shortages, electricity-blackouts, endemic corruption, the disintegration of rule of law, utterly insecure property-rights, and wild inflation — all of which have helped ArgentinaVenezuelaBolivia, and Ecuador achieve the ignominious distinction of being categorized as “repressed economies” in the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom

will take more than just

a dramatic shift of economic incentives away from the relentless cultivation of connections with politicians and bureaucrats, . . .mandated price-and-wage controls, government restrictions on currency and capital movements, the nationalization of industries, import-substitution policies, and the manipulation of official statistics.

A drastic shift in culture will have to also take place: it will require the embrace of “the habits and institutions of freedom.”

Gregg lists abandoning three mindsets:

  •  the widespread clientelismo, where government  dispenses favors and largesse to their followers,
  • the idea that if only the “the right leader” can be found, everything will be fine,
  • the widespread use of the language of conflict.

In other words, abandon Chicago-style politics.

We are experiencing in the USA many of the  ruinous policies that Gregg lists: “the relentless cultivation of connections with politicians and bureaucrats”, wage controls, government dispensing favors and largesse to a select few who can afford the lobbyists, a cult of personality where anyone disagreeing is accused of racism, a language of conflict accompanied by attempts to curb free speech, and the manipulation of official statistics.

It behoves us as citizens to stop these policies. The question is, how?

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on American and Latin American politics at Fausta’s blog.

In last night’s State of the Union speech, President Obama mentioned Iran ten times, Hezbollah once, but not a word on Latin America and how it plays in Iran’s plans.

The President may not have read, for instance, the 2011 report from the House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence describing Hezbollah’s growing terrorist network in the Western Hemisphere.

Or he may not have heard of the deepening ties between socialist Latin American regimes (what Lachlan Markay calls The Correa-Khamenei Axis), which continues Hugo Chavez’s aid to Iran in evading sanctions.

President Obama may not have heard of the war of all the people,

the ideological and political war against the United States, capitalism, and the widely accepted tenets of modernity

which was spearheaded by Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. Not that alliances between Latin American communists and Middle Eastern terrorists are new; in 1966, forty-eight years ago, the Tricontinental Conference in Cuba brought together Fidel Castro and Yasser Arafat.

But Cuba, Ecuador and Venezuela aren’t the only countries currently involved with Iran,

Iran continues its activities in our hemisphere, working ever more closely with Uruguay and Bolivia and continuing its operational activities with Venezuela. According to the Uruguayan foreign minister, his country holds “identical view on international affairs” with Tehran.

Argentina announced almost exactly a year ago a joint truth commission with Iran that would investigate the 1994 car bomb attack at AMIA, a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 and injured 300. The 1994 AMIA bombing is the second-largest Islamist terrorist attack in our hemisphere, and was masterminded by Mohsen Rabbani, who presently is actively recruiting converts in Latin America, and Ahmad Vahidi, now Iran’s Defense Minister – hardly a group leading to any truth on the attck.

Having read last night’s nothingburger SOTU, then, I, too ask, Does anybody really know what time it is?

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on Latin American and American politics and culture at Fausta’s Blog.

Venezuelan actress and former Miss Universe runner-up Mónica Spear was murdered, along with her ex-husband Henry Thomas Berry, in front of their five year old daughter on Monday, the Feast of the Epiphany, while on vacation

Thomas Berry – who moved to the South American country when he was seven – and Monica Spear Mootz were held up by a gang after their car broke down on a motorway.

The couple were attacked by a gang of five men as their vehicle was being loaded on to a recovery truck.

Daughter Maya Veliz was hit in the leg and is under police protection while being treated for her injuries.

Travel firm boss Thomas, 39, died after being shot several times in the chest. Monica, a 29-year-old soap star who was crowned Miss Venezuela in 2004, was hit in the armpit.

Maya’s cries eventually alerted other passerby on the unsafe, un-patrolled highway where the murder took place – a road the locals don’t travel at night.

We mourn the horrible crime, and the death of this beautiful couple on a religious holiday meant to celebrate the child Jesus Christ, but the fact is, 75 people have been murdered in Venezuela since January 1st. Venezuelan blogger Juan Cristobal Nagel names others who were murdered on Monday.

Venezuela’s official homicide rate last year was 39 per 100,000 inhabitants, but non-government organizations put the figure at nearly twice that for a total of 24,000 deaths. The murdered rate has quadrupled since the late Hugo Chavez took office in 1999 and embarked on his Bolivarian Revolution. By 2004 the interior ministry had stopped releasing official crime figures.

What is the government’s reaction to this tragedy? The Minister for Interior, Justice and Peace (yes, the guy heading the department that hasn’t released official crime stats in nearly ten years), after flying over the crime scene, declared that crime is a societal problem, and “we’re all guilty,” ignoring the deleterious decay of the justice system and its institutions.

Daniel Duquenal asks, asks,

Why is there such insecurity in Venezuela, roads or elsewhere? Because the regime does not care. Because the regime in fact wants it. Because the regime knows very well that people standing for hours in line for a few pounds of flour, or hidden at night at home after nightfall are not going to have much time or mood to be actively criticizing, and even less conspiring.

Opposition members are assaulted on the floor of the National Assembly; marauding motorcycle gangs climb over the body of a dying truck driver; beautiful families are assassinated on a dark road at night.

A country dies.

Fausta blogs on American hemisphere politics and culture at Fausta’s blog.

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Olimometer 2.52

DTG: It’s Wednesday. 2014 has been here a full year and the good news is I’ve noticed a solid increase in baseline (that is non instalanche) traffic.

The bad news however is that in terms of da weekly paycheck the same has not been true. While this week’s traffic has been fine the last 7 days of DaTipJar have been awful.

Last week we didn’t make payroll, this week we’re only at 13% and despite a good amount of traffic things didn’t move a single bit.

All the traffic in the world won’t make up for bills not paid. If you think this site is worth your time and you like what our Magnificent Seven bloggers like Fausta offer a please consider kicking in to Datipjar, $5 $10, $25 any amount will get us toward da weekly goal (Currently $239 short for this week)

It will be very appreciated.

Remember if we can get those 58 1/4 subscribers @ at $20 a month the bills will be paid every week. Help make sure this blog can fight without fear all year long.




Most of us don’t pay much attention to Latin American countries. The Europeans, the Middle East, China, and back in the 1980s, Japan, get most of the headlines.

I know this from experience since I have been blogging on Latin America for almost ten years; while my blog gets a nice amount of visitors and I have been invited to speak at conferences, Latin America is not a subject that draws much attention from the public at large, except when it comes to the subject of immigration.

But Latin American politics affects the USA, not only regarding immigration. When you have a formerly wealthy, oil-producing country bankrolling some of the extreme-left nations in our hemisphere, while at the same time heading head-first down the Communist abyss, it’s worth noting the change in geopolitics.

Things are bad in Venezuela right now. For instance,

By now you’re probably asking, how can things get worse? Marking the start of a new period of repression, 11 women were arrested on Monday for peacefully protesting the new enabling law:

Maduro also wants Interpol to arrest JJ Rendón (who is now living outside the country), the political strategist to opposition leader Henrique Capriles, and has proclaimed that he will deal “with an iron hand” with anyone who dare question the results of the upcoming municipal elections scheduled for December 8 (link in Spanish) – a day he has proclaimed Hugo Chavez day.

Threats, indeed.

The real crackdown is already starting: Maduro is now arresting small business owners. Their crime? Owning a business:

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Thursday that authorities had arrested more than 100 “bourgeois” businessmen in a crackdown on alleged price-gouging since the weekend. “We have more than 100 of the bourgeoisie behind bars at the moment,” Maduro said in a speech to the nation.

In a country where corruption is the order of the day, my only theory is that Maduro may be seizing electronics stores, for instance, and handing them to members of the military as a means to keeping the military happy and paid off, since Cuban intelligence now is in charge of the military.

Where will the electronics and the appliances come from? China, perhaps.

Not that electric appliances represent a threat to the USA. A Communist country that has direct flights from Iran and Syria may, though. . . particularly after US Secretary of State John Kerry publicly repudiated the Monroe Doctrine.

Things will be getting a lot worse.