SOUTHCOM RELATED ARTICLES SOUTHCOM Guantanamo by jolinmilioncherie

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                                                   Monday, January 4, 2010
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SOUTHCOM RELATED ARTICLES

SOUTHCOM - Guantanamo

1. The Buzz Around Guantanamo
Source: Joint Task Force Guantanamo Public Affairs                                            01/01/2010
By Pfc. Christopher Vann
         The Seabees are the Construction Battalions of the U.S. Navy. They have a history of building
bases, bulldozing, paving thousands of miles of roadway and airstrips and overall general construction on
military bases.
         At U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, the Seabees of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 25
are on a six-month deployment in support of Joint Task Force Guantanamo and naval station construction
projects.
         Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Ludwig, assistant operations officer, gives a little insight as
to the ongoing and upcoming projects that the Seabees are currently performing.
         "We have performed multiple projects, humanitarian work and base needs throughout the U.S.
Southern Command and Guantanamo," Ludwig said.
         "We handle the work for the roads that the Marines use to conduct their perimeter checks, as part
of their mission requirements," Ludwig said.
         Not only the roads used for Marines patrols, but also streets used by civilians and other service
members, are being repaired to fix cracks and potholes that can cause damage to vehicles or result in an
accident.
         "We also have just completed a minor demolition project at Zaiser Field, removing the old,
unutilized structures and so the land can be reused in the future," Ludwig added.
         One of the major projects underway is the building of two K-Span structures. K-Span buildings
are a new form of construction within the Seabee community. These 60 feet tall, 120 feet long facilities
are used to house equipment and prevent weather corrosion. The K-Spans will be air-conditioned, lighted
and have overhead doors for large equipment storage, and are virtually maintenance-free, since they are
watertight, rust-free, earthquake and fire-proof.
         Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Fred Stoaks, a construction mechanic, knows that it is a team effort
just to get started on a section of the building.
         "It's a 15-person job, just to lay the material out," Stoaks said. "With everyone working together
on the same page, it's an easy process but it's just a little time consuming."
As the work continues, the Seabees review blueprints and specifications, to ensure that the plans are being
followed correctly, and making sure no one gets hurt.
         As with any project, safety is a big concern. The Seabees enforce the use of safety equipment such
as hard hats, safety glasses and work boots, which all must be worn when entering the construction site.

GUANTANAMO

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2. Some Dems Want Gitmo-to-Yemen Transfers Stopped
Source: Associated Press                                                                     01/04/2010
By Douglass K. Daniel
        WASHINGTON - Some Democratic lawmakers who support closing Guantanamo Bay say the
U.S. should reconsider whether to repatriate suspected terrorists from Yemen, given the al-Qaida activity
in the poor Arab nation.
        President Barack Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, said Sunday the transfers
will continue if the administration deems them warranted.
        Six Yemenis returned last month were released after the government there determined they were
not a threat, officials in Yemen told The Associated Press.
        President Barack Obama has said an al-Qaida group operating in Yemen apparently was behind
the plot to bring down a U.S.-bound airliner on Christmas Day. The U.S. and Britain closed their
embassies in Yemen on Sunday in response to threats from al-Qaida.
        Although Republicans have criticized the transfers to Yemen, some Democrats, including Senate
Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., also have urged a halt.
        Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., a member of the Homeland Security Committee, said Sunday that
officials should review the transfers. She does support plans to close the prison and open one in Illinois
for terrorism suspects.
        "I think it is a bad time to send the 90 or so Yemenis back to Yemen," Harman said.
        Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent who has opposed closing Guantanamo, said
transferring any of the Yemeni detainees back home would be irresponsible.
        "We know from past experience that some of them will be back in the fight against us," Lieberman
said.
        U.S. officials believe two Saudis released from Guantanamo, one in 2006 and the other in 2007,
may have played significant roles in al-Qaida activities in Yemen.
        An estimated 90 Yemenis are being held at Guantanamo Bay and about half are set to be sent to
Yemen. Those who remain in U.S. custody will be prosecuted in criminal or military courts, Brennan
said.
        "Some of these individuals are going to be transferred back to Yemen at the right time and the
right pace and in the right way," Brennan said. "We're making sure that the situation on the ground is
taken into account, that we continue to work with the Yemeni government, and we do this in a very
commonsense fashion because we want to make sure that we are able to close Guantanamo."
        Yemen has freed the six Yemenis who were released from Guantanamo Bay and returned to the
country on Dec. 20, security officials and a lawyer for the men told The Associated Press.
        The lawyer, Ahmed al-Arman, said the six were freed from Yemeni custody over the last week,
with the last two freed Saturday night. They were handed over to their families.
        Security officials held the six for questioning and investigation since their handover by the United
States, but they found no evidence of involvement in terrorism or other crimes, Yemeni security officials
said. The six gave guarantees that they would not leave the country, would not associate with terror
groups and would report regularly to the police, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity
because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.
        Brennan spoke on "Fox News Sunday," NBC's "Meet the Press," ABC's "This Week" and CNN's
"State of the Union." Harman and Lieberman appeared on ABC.

3. Yemen To Hold Six Returned Detainees Indefinitely
White House Says It Is Comfortable With Security Pact, but Some Lawmakers Want Guantanamo
Transfers Halted
Source: Wall Street Journal                                                        01/04/2009
By Jay Solomon

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        Six Yemeni nationals repatriated last month from Guantanamo Bay will remain in the Sana'a
government's custody indefinitely as part of a deal reached between the Obama administration and
Yemen, U.S. officials said.
        The arrangement, however, has done little to blunt calls from both Democrats and Republicans on
Capitol Hill for the White House to freeze the repatriation of any of the roughly 90 Yemeni nationals still
being held at the U.S. detention facility in Cuba, due to fears they could resort to terrorism.
        "All transfers of Yemeni detainees should stop," said Sen. Joe Lieberman (I., Conn.) He said he
will ask Defense Secretary Robert Gates for an explanation of how the U.S. tracks Guantanamo detainees
after they are released and for an accounting of what happened to the six Yemenis recently released to
Yemen.
        Obama administration officials said this weekend that the U.S. reached an agreement with Yemeni
President Ali Abdullah Saleh to ensure that the six Guantanamo Bay detainees released last month will
remain in the Sana'a government's custody for the "foreseeable future."
        "We wouldn't transfer these detainees unless we were comfortable with the security
arrangements," said a U.S. official.
        Yemeni men make up nearly half of the 200 inmates remaining at Guantanamo Bay. Senior U.S.
officials said Sunday that the Obama administration will continue processing some of them for
repatriation in support of President Barack Obama's pledge to close the Guantanamo Bay prison this year.
        "Some of these individuals are going to be transferred back to Yemen at the right time and the
right pace and in the right way," the White House's counterterrorism chief, John Brennan, said on CNN's
"State of the Union."
        "We continue to work with the Yemeni government, and we do this in a very common-sense
fashion because we want to make sure that we are able to close Guantanamo," he added.
        Many of the lawmakers seeking a freeze on repatriations said they had no confidence in the ability
of the Yemeni government to hold or keep track of former Guantanamo detainees.
        Political debate over Mr. Obama's plans for shutting Guantanamo has gained new momentum
following the Christmas Day attempt to bomb a U.S. airliner on its approach to Detroit.
        The Nigerian man arrested in the incident, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, has told U.S. law-
enforcement authorities that he was trained and armed by Islamic militants based in Yemen. Al Qaeda's
Yemen-based affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has publicly claimed responsibility for the plot
and pledged to launch more strikes against U.S. interests.
        U.S. counterterrorism officials say some of Al Qaeda in Yemen's top operatives are former
Guantanamo Bay detainees who were released in recent years.
        Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's deputy commander, Said al-Shihri, was repatriated to Saudi
Arabia in 2007 to take part in a government-run rehabilitation program, according to these officials. The
group's chief cleric, Ibrahim Suleiman al-Rubaish, also was repatriated by the Bush administration to
Saudi Arabia before crossing the border into Yemen.
        A number of U.S. lawmakers who received classified briefings on the six Yemenis released last
month said they urged the White House not to repatriate the men due to fears they could also join al
Qaeda.
        One of those released, Ayman Batarfi, is a Yemeni doctor who told Pentagon interrogators that he
had twice met Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and endured the U.S. military assault on the Tora Bora
mountains in late 2001, according to Pentagon documents. Mr. Batarfi also said he had assisted a
Malaysian microbiologist, Yazid Sufaat, in seeking to purchase equipment for a medical facility in
Kandahar, Afghanistan. U.S. officials have subsequently accused Mr. Sufaat of seeking to produce
anthrax and other biological weapons on behalf of al Qaeda. Mr. Sufaat was arrested in Malaysia, but
never charged there.
        Mr. Batarfi and the five other Yemenis released last month all denied ties to al Qaeda or the
Taliban and pledged not to pick up arms against the U.S., according to Pentagon documents. But a
growing number of Democratic and Republican lawmakers are saying that the national-security risks
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posed by repatriating more Yemenis has grown too great given the high rate of recidivism among
Guantanamo Bay detainees.
       "When you look at the bios and the case histories of the men returned last month, you'll see they're
very dangerous people," said Rep. Frank Wolf (R., Va.), who received a classified briefing on these
detainees' files.
       Rep. Jane Harman, a California Democrat who heads a House Homeland Security intelligence
subcommittee, said many of the remaining Yemenis should probably be detained at a new federal
penitentiary the Obama administration is building outside Chicago.
       "I believe the [Guantanamo Bay] prison should close, but I also believe we should review again
where we're going to send the detainees," Ms. Harman said on ABC's "This Week."
       Obama administration officials have said in recent days that the six Yemenis released last month
had passed through an extensive interagency review process before being released. They also said the
White House has received no information that any of the roughly 42 Guantanamo Bay detainees released
by the Obama administration in the past year have returned to the fight.

OTHER AOF RELATED ARTICLES

BRAZIL

4. Brazil Steers An Independent Course
Washington needs to rethink its assumptions on South America.
Source: Wall Street Journal                                                                   01/04/2009
By Susan Kaufman Purcell
        Until recently, the Obama administration assumed that Brazil and the United States were natural
allies who shared many foreign policy interests, particularly in Latin America. Brazil, after all, is a
friendly democracy with a growing market economy and Western cultural values.
        It will soon be the fifth largest economy in the world. It recently discovered billions of barrels of
petroleum in the deep waters off its coast and is an agricultural powerhouse. It has also made significant
progress in eradicating poverty. It therefore seemed only natural to expect that as Brazil became "more
like us," it would seek to play a more active and constructive role in this hemisphere, and that U.S. and
Brazilian political and security interests would largely coincide.
        This now seems like wishful thinking. On a number of important political and security issues,
Washington and Brasilia recently have not seen eye to eye. Nor has Brazil shown much leadership in
tackling the important political and security challenges facing the region.
        One example is Brazil's role in UNASUR (Union of South American Nations). At a September
meeting in Quito focused on regional security issues, topics not discussed included the multibillion-dollar
arms race in the region, the granting of sanctuary and other forms of aid by Venezuela to the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Colombian narco-guerrilla group, and the growing
nuclear cooperation between Iran and Venezuela. Instead, Brazil joined UNASUR in criticizing Colombia
for having agreed to allow the U.S. to use seven of its military bases for counterterrorist and counter
narcotics activities inside Colombia.
        The fact that Colombia has been under attack by an armed guerrilla group supported by some
members of the Union was not considered relevant to the organization's decision to criticize Colombia for
seeking help from Washington. Furthermore, none of the democratic countries in South America,
including Brazil, has offered military or even rhetorical support to besieged Colombia.
        Another example is Brazil's changing position concerning the importance of democratic
governance. Both Brazil and the U.S. initially opposed the Honduran military's removal from office of the
democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya, despite the fact that Mr. Zelaya had violated Honduras's
constitution.
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        Brazil's interest in democracy in Honduras does not, however, extend to Cuba. Only weeks earlier,
Brazil voted in the Organization of American States to lift the membership ban on Cuba—a country that
has not held a democratic election in 50 years. This decision contradicted the organization's democratic
charter.
        Brazil also has never tried to mobilize support against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's use of
democratic institutions to systematically destroy that country's democracy. On the contrary, Brazil's
President Lula da Silva is supporting Venezuela's efforts to join Mercosur (a South American customs
union), despite rules that limit membership to democratic countries.
        Finally, there is the issue of Brazil's apparent lack of concern regarding Iran's increasing
penetration into Latin America through Venezuela. There are now weekly flights between Caracas and
Tehran that bring passengers and cargo into Venezuela without any customs or immigration controls.
Venezuela has also signed agreements with Iran for transferring nuclear technology, and there is
speculation it is giving Iran access to Venezuelan uranium deposits.
        Instead of expressing concern over Iran's activities in Latin America, Brazil is drawing closer to
Tehran and hopes to expand its $2 billion bilateral trade to $10 billion in the near future. President Lula
recently hosted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Brazil. He reiterated his support for Iran's right to
develop nuclear technology for peaceful uses, while insisting that there is no evidence that Iran is
developing nuclear weapons.
        Several conclusions can be drawn from Brazil's behavior. First, Brazil wants to prevent the U.S.
from expanding its military involvement in South America, which Brazil regards as its sphere of
influence. Second, Brazil much prefers working within multilateral institutions, rather than acting
unilaterally.
        Within these institutions, Brazil seeks to integrate all regional players, achieve consensus and
avoid conflict and fragmentation—all worthy goals. But these are procedural, rather than substantive,
goals.
        Stated differently, Brazil's multilateral efforts in the region seem to value the appearance of
leadership over finding real solutions to the growing political and security threats facing Latin America.
These conclusions do not imply that the U.S. and Brazil have no overlapping interests, or that they cannot
work together to solve particular regional or even global issues. They do mean Washington may need to
rethink its assumptions regarding the extent to which Brazil can be relied on to deal with political and
security problems in Latin America in ways that are also compatible with U.S. interests.
        Ms. Purcell is the director of the Center for Hemispheric Policy at the University of Miami.

5. Slide City Mayor Seeks Brazil Nuke Plant Shutdown
Source: Associated Press                                                                     01/04/2010
By Tales Azzoni
         The mayor of a mudslide-devastated city on Sunday urged a precautionary shutdown of Brazil's
only nuclear power plants due to blocked highways while the death toll from flooding and slides rose to
75.
        Angra dos Reis Mayor Tuca Jordao said that while the nuclear power plants are not damaged or
threatened, mudslides that that have killed at least 44 people in his city alone have disrupted escape routes
needed to cope with any emergency.
        "We don't want any risk," said Jordao, whose municipality has about 120,000 people. "We want to
avoid a future problem."
        There was no immediate response from higher authorities, but officials of Brazil's state-run
nuclear energy company Electronuclear said a temporary closure of the plants would not seriously hurt
the country's power supply, according to Globo TV. On Saturday, before the mayor's request, the
company said a shutdown was not necessary.
        Crews using rescue dogs, heavy machinery, boats and helicopters took advantage of improved
weather on Sunday to hunt for any survivors from the Angra dos Reis slides.
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        A civil defense spokeswoman said two bodies were recovered in the Carioca slum - where 15
people died - and two on the Ilha Grande island, where at least 29 died when a hillside collapsed on a
vacation resort and neighboring houses on New Year's Day. The spokeswoman declined to be quoted by
name in accordance with department policy.
        Overall, authorities said, 66 people died in slides or flooding in Rio de Janeiro state, three in
Minas Gerais state and six in the Sao Paulo state city of Cunha.
        Lux-coely Amorim Mendes, 57, told Globo TV's G1 Web site that she had to identify the body of
her 8-year-old granddaughter at the morgue, and found the child wearing the dress Mendes had given her
for the holiday.
        "I couldn't believe that was actually happening to us," she said.
        Survivor Luciana Maximo de Castro told Globo TV that she was among friends invited to the
hotel by the lodge owner's daughter, who died in the slide.
        "There was a loud noise. I didn't know if it was a dream or if it was true," de Castro said. "Mud
covered me, kept me from breathing."
        G1 reported that one family lost 9- and 12-year-old daughters. Seventeen people from the city of
Aruja were staying in a nearby house, it said, and only four survived. At least five people who were
staying on the island are still missing.
        Jordao said about 20 areas in Angra dos Reis was still at risk of mudslides and he said some
people were being evacuated.
        The dual slides were triggered by 10 inches (27 centimeters) of rain that had drenched the region
since Wednesday, authorities said.

6. Lula Da Silva Ends 2009 With A Military Crisis Over Reviewing The Past
Source: Inside Costa Rica                                                                     01/03/2010
         BRASILIA - Brazilian president Lula da Silva praised as one of the most influential leaders of the
world ends 2009 with a serious political crisis: the Minister of Defence and the commanders on the three
services have threatened to resign over the creation of a “truth commission” to investigate human rights
abuses during the military dictatorship that extended from 1964 to 1985.
         According to the leading dailies O Globo and O Estado de Sao Paulo the resignations were
presented on December 22nd a day after Lula da Silva unveiled the “truth commission” bill but were
rejected. The Brazilian leader promised Jobim, --a distinguished jurist--, to review the text before sending
it to Congressional debate.
         The creation of National Commission on the Truth is part of Brazil’s Human Rights National
Program launched by Lula da Silva to help identify those responsible for the alleged torturing of 20.000
people and the killing of 400 political opponents during the 19 year military dictatorship.
         The text of the bill was drafted by Human Rights minister Paulo Vannuchi who said the purpose
was “to rescue information of all that happened during the long period of dictatorial repression in recent
Brazilian history”.
         Vannuchi said there is a possibility of taking to court those responsible for human rights abuses if
the Supreme Federal Tribunal accepts the Lula da Silva administration argument that those responsible
for this kind of crimes are not protected under the Amnesty law dating back to 1979, approved under the
last president of the military regime, General Joao Figueiredo.
         For this reason the proposal includes a reference to the possibility of annulling “legislation
remnant from the 1964/1985 period which is contrary to human rights guarantees”.
         But in spite of long extenuating and sometimes tense negotiations with the military, the final text
triggered indignation and was catalogued as “revengeful” since it did not include in the investigations
members of the left wing armed groups that also committed human rights abuses against members of the
regime.
         “If they want to see generals and colonels in the dock, let’s also include Dilma (Rousseff) and
Franklin Martins” said a retired general quoted by O Estado de Sao Paulo. Martins is head of the
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presidential press office and Ms Rousseff cabinet chief and Lula da Silva’s chosen hopeful to succeed him
as presidential candidate for October’s election. Both of them belonged to left wing armed groups under
the military dictatorship.
        According to O Estado de Sao Paulo, on not accepting the resignations of Minister Jobim and the
commanders of the Army, Navy and Air Force, Lula da Silva promised a “political” solution to the
dispute and asked the Defence minister to ensure the military that his administration would not be the
“spokesperson of measures that revoke the Amnesty Law of 1979”.
        Apparently Lula da Silva’s promise helped to cool tempers but did not dissipate the
disappointment among the top brass. “That’s how Lula acts: he pushes the issue and kicks the crisis
forward but we never manage to be freed from this menacing atmosphere”, said a brigadier quoted by the
press.
        The presidential office, Planalto did not comment the reports of a possible military crisis but
minister Vannuchi admitted “discrepancies” with his Defence peer. However he said he ignored about the
resignations requests.
        “I was with President Lula da Silva on December 23rd and he mentioned no word about the
issue”, said Vannuchi who added that there’s “no atmosphere” for a collective resignation of the Armed
Forces commanders: “It like talking about thunder in a clear sunny day; it sounds as a storm in a glass of
water”.
        Groups representing those killed or missing are also dissatisfied and concerned the commission
may be used to draw a line under the past rather than open the way for trials of former soldiers, as have
occurred in neighbouring Argentina, Uruguay and Chile.
        They noted that a draft version of the proposal had called the new body, which has to be approved
by the Brazilian Congress, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission rather than a Truth and Justice
Commission.
        Brazil has never convicted anyone for participating in dictatorship-era murders and torture and has
refused to make public the military's archives from the period.
        The victims' groups insist the truth commission must have the power to investigate crimes,
including the hiding or destroying of archives, to recommend criminal cases against suspects, and to send
documents to courts.

7. Brazil: Planned Probe Into Military Abuses Not About Vengeance
Source: Latin American Herald Tribune                                                       01/03/2010
        SAO PAULO – Brazilian Human Rights Minister Paulo Vannuchi defended plans to create a truth
commission to investigate human rights abuses under the 1964-1985 dictatorship, saying the probe would
not be an act of revenge against the military.
        “Creating a truth commission would benefit the armed forces ... there’s no vengeful intent,”
Vannuchi told the official Agencia Brasil news service.
        The planned commission, mentioned in the recently published National Human Rights Plan, or
PNDH, reportedly raised hackles among members of the military and prompted Defense Minister Nelson
Jobim and the nation’s army, navy and air force commanders to submit their resignations to President
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
        On Wednesday, Justice Minister Tarso Genro denied that Jobim and the top military brass had
tendered their resignations; he acknowledged that the PNDH had sparked a dispute but said the
differences are not “irreconcilable.”
        Vannuchi, who stressed that the PNDH does not foresee the repeal of the 1979 amnesty law
protecting agents of the junta, drew a distinction between military personnel “dedicated to the country and
public service” and those allegedly responsible for torturing and killing opponents of the dictatorship.



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         “We need to finish the process without vengefulness, without returning to the past and with hands
extended for national reconciliation,” the minister said, though adding that “can’t mean covering up”
crimes against humanity.
         But plans to create the commission have irked the nation’s military and prompted complaints of a
hidden agenda to overturn the Amnesty Law, which shields both agents of the junta and dictatorship-era
leftist militants – also implicated in rights abuses – from prosecution.
         The PNDH says nothing about revoking the law but it recalls that Brazil’s highest court is
considering a motion to not afford amnesty protection to “agents responsible for torture, homicide, forced
disappearance” and other forms of politically motivated violence.
         The Brazilian bar association – which filed the motion – and human rights groups say those
offenses are considered crimes against humanity in international accords signed by Brazil and, as such,
are not subject to the statute of limitations.
         Jobim told the official Agencia Brasil news service last year that “there are South American
countries that still are reliving their past and not building their future,” adding that, in the case of Brazil,
he wants “energy spent on the future.”
         Argentina’s Congress and Supreme Court in recent years overturned 1980s amnesty laws that had
protected more than 1,000 members and agents of the military regime from prosecution.
         Judicial rulings in Chile have essentially rendered a 1978 amnesty law a dead letter.
         So-called “dirty wars” waged by security forces of Southern Cone dictatorships in the 1970s and
1980s resulted in the kidnapping and murder of tens of thousands of people, human rights groups say.
         The bodies of many never were found, having been buried in clandestine graves or thrown from
military aircraft into the ocean.
         Tens of thousands of other real or imagined political opponents were tortured and imprisoned by
the regimes.

8. Booming Economy, Government Programs Help Brazil Expand Its Middle Class
Source: Washington Post                                                                         01/03/2010
By Juan Forero
         RIO DE JANEIRO -- Teresiña Lopes Vieira da Silva peddles spices and peppers from a street
stall, but hers is no fly-by-night business.
         She sells to restaurants in Rio's swankiest districts and sees her success reflected in the two houses
she has bought. Instead of scraping by, she has joined the middle class in an increasingly affluent Brazil,
her accomplishment made possible by government loans and a booming economy.
         "Now I live in a house with six rooms," said Vieira da Silva, 62, speaking of her home in Rocinha,
a poor but bustling district with growing ranks of entrepreneurs. "It does not have a pool yet, but I am
planning to build one."
         Once hobbled with high inflation and perennially susceptible to worldwide crises, Brazil now has
a vibrant consumer market, investment-grade status for its sovereign debt, vast foreign reserves and an
agricultural sector that is vying to supplant that of the United States as the world's most productive.
         Brazil's $1.3 trillion economy is bigger than those of India and Russia, and its per-capita income is
nearly twice that of China. Recent discoveries by Brazil's state oil company are expected to make the
country one of the world's biggest crude producers. An unwieldy bureaucracy and red tape have not
slowed foreign investment, which at $45 billion in 2008 is three times as much as it was a decade ago.
         Economists and social scientists here say the booming trade-oriented economy and innovative
government programs are lifting millions from poverty and shaking what was once a certainty: that a
person born poor in Brazil would surely die poor. Solid, tangible progress
         Since 2003, more than 32 million people in this country of 198 million have entered the middle
class, and about 20 million have risen above poverty, according to the Center for Social Policies at the
Getúlio Vargas Foundation, a Rio policy group that studies socioeconomic trends.

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         "We can generate inclusive growth as probably no other country can, given the scale of the
country and the level of inequality," said Marcelo Neri, chief economist at the center. "Brazil is following
what you may call a middle path. We are respecting the rules of the market and, at the same time, we are
doing very active social policy."
         Since 2002, a commodities boom has fueled strong growth and lowered poverty across Latin
America. But Brazil's progress is perhaps the most notable because it has far more poor people than any
other South American country and has long been one of the world's most unequal societies.
         Neri said Brazil has made solid progress by creating 8.5 million jobs since 2003, and by instituting
programs such as food assistance for poor families and low-interest credit for first-time home buyers and
small-business owners.
         The change has been tangible to people such as Thiago Firmino, 28, a teacher. He has lived in a
poor locality all his life, but he owns a car and a computer and says his son's life will be easier than his.
         "A lot of people improved their lives," said. "It is not like they built themselves a castle, but, you
know, they have taken little steps and made things better."
         The foundation of today's success was laid during the administration of Fernando Henrique
Cardoso, an academic-turned-politician best known for taming inflation in the mid-1990s. The man who
has gotten much of the credit is his successor, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who as a union activist
once railed against globalization.
         Lula's election to the presidency in 2002 sent shudders through Brazil's economic elite, which
worried that the former rabble-rouser would lead the country down a populist, anti-capitalist path, as
Hugo Chávez did in Venezuela.
         Lula did make ending poverty a priority, but he also proved to be a market-friendly steward of the
economy and is popular today among Brazil's business community.
         With Asia hungry for soybeans, beef and iron ore, economic growth in Brazil averaged 4.2 percent
annually from 2003 through 2008, a year in which foreign investment in the country posted a 30 percent
increase over 2007, according to the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.
The worldwide economic crisis caused a brief downturn here, but economists say Brazil will post 5
percent growth in 2010.
         At SulAmérica Investments in Sao Paulo, Marcelo Mello, vice president of asset management,
said that in the past, investors worried about inflation and high interest rates.
         Now, driven by increasingly affluent Brazilian investors, Mello said, SulAmérica is managing $9
billion, three times the amount from five years ago. "Through the increase in real income over the last 10
years, we've seen a huge movement in our Brazilian fund industry and the Brazilian markets," he said.
         The country's stock market is minting record numbers of billionaires, and the wealth in Brazil is
palpable. Luxury apartment houses are rising in fashionable districts, and the world's most exclusive
stores, from Tiffany's to Gucci, consider Rio and Sao Paulo fertile markets. Bullish about the future
         Of course, most of Brazil's people are far from rich. In the country's vast urban slums, many
youths turn to drugs, the quality of public schooling is poor and basic services such as health care are
chronically underfunded, residents say.
         "Can you believe this serves 150,000 people?" said Flavio Wittlin, who runs a group that helps get
young people off the streets, as he walked through a tiny health center in Rocinha. He said many services
in the district, from garbage pickup to policing, are substandard.
         Still, Rocinha is chock-full of machine shops and small stores, many of them spurred by
government loans.
         Although Brazil's industrial giants -- such as the airplane maker Embraer and the mining company
Vale -- attract investors and headlines, the future is also rooted in businesses like Alan Roberto Lima's
sewing shop.
         The shop, on the second floor of his house in a hardscrabble neighborhood on Rio's outskirts, has
only a half-dozen sewing machines. But Lima, 34, has in a few years found that Rio's upscale boutiques
are a ready market for his skirts and blouses.
                                                                                                                9
       Now he talks of his own clothing line and, if that is a success, opening his own store.
       "Preferably," he added, "near the beach."

9. Search Continues For Victims In Hotel Buried In Mud After 26 Found
Source: Latin American Herald Tribune                                                         01/03/2010
        SAO PAULO – Emergency services continued the search for victims Saturday among the tons of
mud left by an avalanche caused by heavy rains on the island of Ilha Grande, 150 kilometers (93 miles)
from Rio de Janeiro city, where 26 bodies have now been recovered.
        State Civil Defense said that on Saturday when it had stopped raining, rescue teams recovered
seven more bodies, victims of the mudslide that wiped out the exclusive Pousada Sankay resort on a small
beach.
        Those plus the people killed in another mudslide in Angra dos Reis, a town on the mainland in the
same municipality as Ilha Grande, brings the provisional count of victims left by the persistent, intense
rains in the area to 37, a local emergency services official said.
        The number of deaths in the entire state of Rio de Janeiro caused by the heavy rains that have
fallen since Wednesday totals 54 victims, with 72 for all Brazil.
        Undoubtedly the hardest hit area was Ilha Grande, a small island of fishermen who in recent years
have adapted to providing tourism services in an area of small hotels beside glorious, isolated beaches.
        There in the wee hours Friday when the whole country was celebrating the New Year, tons of
mud, rocks and fallen trees from the collapsed hillside poured down and buried at least five buildings on
the small beach of Bananal, where the exclusive Pousada Sankay resort was the hardest hit of all.
        Up to now only eight of the recovered bodies on the island have been identified, four from a
family from Minas Gerais, three from a Sao Paulo family and that of the daughter of the resort’s owners,
who escaped with no time to wake her, just as the mud began pouring in.
        According to Angra dos Reis Civil Defense, six injured people have been evacuated from the
island. One of them, a 42-year-old woman, the mother of two of the victims, is hospitalized with vertebral
fractures but is out of danger.
        Naval commander Rodolpho Marandino, coordinator of the armed forces personnel forming part
of the rescue teams, said that there are five ships and around 600 members of the military mobilized in
Angra dos Reis, both on Ilha Grande and on the mainland.
        About 120 rescuers, including firefighters, navy personnel and Rio de Janeiro military police, were
involved in the search for survivors, with local volunteers aided in the work of removing rubble by heavy
machinery. Several police helicopters were being used in the rescue effort.
        At dawn the Rio de Janeiro state governor, Sergio Cabral of the opposition, visited the island,
where he told reporters he had just received a call from Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
        “We had the chance to talk for about 10 minutes, during which time, 24 hours after the disaster, I
was able to give him details about the number of victims and rescues and the general outlook,” Cabral
said.
        The president, a government official said, ordered the mobilization Friday of the National
Integration Ministry, which will contribute “all the necessary resources for emergency aid and for the
work of normalization.”
        Rio de Janeiro firefighters warned that in Ilha Grande there is still a risk of more mudslides, so
that the search for victims is being carried out with a great deal of caution.

10. Hopes Fade For Brazil Mudslide Survivors
Source: Xinhua ─ China News Agency                                                  01/02/2010
Editor: Deng Shasha
        RIO DE JANEIRO -- Hopes are fading to rescue more mudslide survivors from Brazil's worst
mudslides that have so far killed at least 64 people, rescuers said.

                                                                                                        10
       The death toll on the Grande Island and at Angra dos Reis was put at 39 and the remaining deaths
occurred elsewhere in the Rio de Janeiro State where nearly 80 mudslides were reported in recent days,
according to the state civil defense authorities.
       The Grande Island and Angra dos Reis mudslides occurred on the New Year's Day when 270
millimeters of rain caused the well-soaked red earth to tear off.
       Rains have been falling since Wednesday in the region.
        With the assistance from the navy and local volunteers, 80 firefighters and 20 military policemen
have been working on the Grande Island, but rescue was progressing slowly for fear that the use of heavy
machinery would trigger new mudslides.
       So far, rescuers have pulled out 26 bodies from the Grande Island. They found 12 bodies at Angra
dos Reis.
       Colonel Pedro Machado, head of the Grande Island firefighters, said that more bodies were
expected to be found as some 40 people were believed to be in the Grande Island resort lodge and more
people were in nearby houses when the mudslide occurred.
       Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Friday ordered forces from the navy and the
National Integration Ministry to join in the rescue efforts.

11. At Least 45 Dead In Brazil Landslides
Source: United Press International                                                             01/02/2010
        RIO DE JANEIRO -- Landslides in the Rio de Janeiro area triggered by heavy rains caused at
least 45 deaths, Argentine government officials said Friday.
        Brasil Online reported initial reports from officials indicated the 22 killed in one landslide at
Angra dos Reis included at least a dozen tourists.
        Jornal do Brasil reported search-and-rescue efforts had been suspended for the night and were to
resume Saturday. Rio de Janeiro state Gov. Sergio Cabral, who declared three days of morning, was
expected to reach the disaster scene in the morning.
        CNN reported a giant mudslide came down on the Sankay Inn resort at Angra dos Reis about 4:30
a.m., killing 22 and injuring two dozen more State officials said 15 more bodies were found floating on
the nearby island of Ilha Grande. Others reportedly died in smaller landslides.
        Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said he would dispatch military personnel to help
carry out rescue and relief efforts in remote coastal areas where more bodies were believed to be trapped.

COLOMBIA

12. Number Of FARC Rebels Killed In Airstrike Climbs To 25
Source: Latin American Herald Tribune                                                        01/03/2010
        BOGOTA – The number of FARC rebels killed in a Colombian military airstrike on two guerrilla
camps and in ensuing clashes in the east-central province of Meta has climbed to 25, including three
important leaders of one of the insurgent fronts, generals said Saturday.
        The commander of the armed forces, Gen. Freddy Padilla de Leon, and of Task Force Omega,
Gen. Javier Floerz, told reporters that killed in the attack carried out early Friday were Miller Ospina
Correa, alias “El Abuelo,” Eliseo Caicedo Garzon, alias “El Pitufo”, and an individual known only by the
alias “El Negro Alberto.”
        The three were leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia’s 43rd Front and trusted
aides of Jorge Briceño Suarez, alias Mono Jojoy, the guerrilla group’s military chief.
        El Pitufo and El Abuelo had served 18 years in the rebel group and the men they led belonged to
the security cordon for Mono Jojoy.
        The two generals said that the number of those killed among the insurgents rose Saturday to 25
after more bodies were found in the area of the bombing.
                                                                                                        11
        The operation continues across a vast region along the line between Meta and Guaviare provinces.
        Friday’s airstrike, launched after an intelligence-gathering operation, targeted two FARC bases
that were located in a rural area outside the town of Vista Hermosa and had lodging for a combined total
of roughly 200 fighters.
        Another 13 insurgents were captured in the same operation, eight of whom surrendered and five of
whom were wounded and are being treated at hospitals in Villavicencio, Meta’s capital.
        In the operation, the air force bombed the bases of the FARC’s 43rd Front before ground troops
from Task Force Omega entered the now-abandoned camps and found “25 rifles, abundant war materiel,
explosives and information of interest to military intelligence,” the Defense Ministry said Friday in a
statement.
        According to the government, at least 50 rebels have been killed during Task Force Omega’s
months-long campaign against the Eastern Bloc of the FARC, the country’s largest insurgency.
        The FARC, which at its peak had an estimated 20,000 fighters but now has less than half that
number, according to analysts, has battled a succession of Colombian governments since the mid-1960s
and is labeled a terrorist organization by President Alvaro Uribe’s government and the United States.

CUBA

13. A Black Market Finds A Home In The Web's Back Alleys
Source: New York Times                                                                        01/04/2010
By Marc Lacey
         HAVANA - On one block on the outskirts of the Cuban capital, a mother of two goes door to door
selling hair ribbons and other sundries to her neighbors. An old man sells cookies and candies to those
who ring the bell at his dilapidated home. A grandmother fills up empty beer cans with low-budget rum,
which she sells in the evenings to help make ends meet.
         Such entrepreneurship is outlawed but thrives nonetheless, and right under the noses of the block
captains who are supposed to report such transgressions to the Communist Party chain of command.
         These are tough economic times in Cuba, and while the black market has always bustled here it
seems particularly intense these days, with enterprising Cubans in a constant search of compatriots who
have money to spend.
         There are no classified advertisements in the Communist Party newspaper Granma or the other
state-run publications that circulate in Cuba. Rather, sales are made through Radio Bemba, which is not a
radio station at all but the country's extensive gossip network, which takes its name from the Spanish
word for lip.
         Two Cubans in their 20s who left the island for Spain have created a way to make all this secretive
selling easier. It is a type of Cuban Craigslist, which allows the small but growing number of Cubans with
access to computers and the Internet to buy and sell with less sneaking around.
         But the authorities, despite loosening restrictions recently on the sale of computers, have
repeatedly blocked access to their Web site, Revolico, whose name means commotion. One of the
programmers who created the site (www.revolico.com) said in an e-mail message that he and the co-
founder were in a constant scramble to get their site past government censors.
         "We chose the name to make an allusion to the disorder that we are trying to organize," said the
programmer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so that his relatives still on the island would not
encounter problems with the Cuban authorities.
         Although he said that Craigslist was the inspiration for Revolico, the Cuban site is designed to
upload more quickly on the island's sluggish connection speeds. And although some of the categories on
the site - cars for sale, computers for sale, boys seeking girls, boys seeking boys, for instance - are
identical to those on Craigslist, there are many particularly Cuban exchanges.


                                                                                                         12
        Take the person selling his place in the visa line at the Spanish Embassy to someone trying to
leave the island. Or the arranged marriages that are offered to help Cubans find a way to another country.
        Or all the classic cars, like a 1950 Dodge, a 1956 Chevy or a 1954 Buick, all still running after
having been cobbled together with makeshift parts for more than half a century.
        There is clearly a market for the site, as viewership both on and off the island has steadily climbed
and banner advertising, priced in euros, brings in modest sums. The site, which went online in December
2007, is currently accessible outside Cuba as well as to Cubans who use special software to get around the
blocking. In January 2008, there were 336,595 page views. That increased to 1,331,161 by January 2009.
By August 2009, Revolico said its viewership exceeded two million hits monthly.
        The offerings on this online bazaar run the gamut, although it is impossible to tell which sellers
are legitimate, which are scam artists and which might even be government agents setting a trap. A recent
posting offered illegal satellite dishes, which the authorities occasionally seize from rooftops to prevent
outlawed foreign broadcasts from finding their way into Cuban homes. Also for sale were English classes,
old typewriters, sex toys, purebred dogs and tooth whitening chemicals. People with permission to travel
were sought out to buy clothing, electronics and other goods to bring back in their luggage.
        The founder said he had heard of Cubans practically making a living by buying and selling items
through Revolico. A regular customer said he bought Windows 7 from the site for about $5. After calling
the number in the Revolico advertisement, a young man showed up at his front door and installed the
pirated software on his home computer.
        The founder said, "In Revolico, one sees Cuba exposed, the daily lives of the Cubans, things that
say much about the Cuba of today."

14. Raúl's Nightmare
Source: Miami Herald                                                                         01/03/2010
By Marifeli Perez-Stable
        Cuba's problems can't be addressed under the leadership's passé reformism. Raúl Castro is neither
Gorbachev nor Deng Xiaoping, both of whom thought outside the box while in power. He is stuck in the
old mold of market socialism: a tinker here, a nudge there, even though Europe's 1989 should serve as
warning. It's a dead end.
        As a child I would often ask my maternal grandfather -- a gallego who emigrated to Cuba and did
well on all counts -- for a peso (it was real money then). He'd hand it to me saying: ``Mari, remember,
money must be respected.'' Turning the phrase differently, I pass his wisdom to my students: ``Remember,
markets must be respected.''
        Of course, I don't mean that markets should always be left alone. But, politicians -- dictators and
democrats alike -- who don't respect the market don't respect the people either.
        Ordinary men and women have the right to their dreams, especially giving their children the best
future possible. Politicians who won't give markets their due have their sights set on their own glory,
which ends up costing the people dearly. For that alone, history almost never absolves them.
        On Dec. 20, Raúl Castro told the National Assembly: ``In updating Cuba's economic model, we
cannot run the risk of improvisation and haste. We simply do not have the right to make mistakes.'' So
spoke a cautious man well aware of what was better left unsaid: that too many mistakes had been made
over decades, and this time everything was on the line.
        Raúl goes on to detail all sorts of absurdities that can only happen when markets aren't respected.
For example, he boasts about a success story: In 66 municipalities (out of 169 islandwide), local delivery
of fresh milk reaches grocery stores in a timely manner, which saves fuel. Presidents of normal countries
don't have to worry about distributing fresh milk. The private sector takes care of it.
        In the past few months, high-ranking officials and the media have been pounding the
``paternalistic state.'' Since the same men have been in power for more than half a century, I wonder who's
responsible for creating such a state and the mentality that flows from it? In Cuba, work and earnings are

                                                                                                          13
largely divorced: Cubans pretend to work, the state pretends to pay them. So it goes when people have
their dignity taken away, when they are denied the right to make an honest living.
        Still, human beings do not live by bread alone. According to a Gallup poll taken in Havana and
Santiago a few years ago, only a quarter of respondents thought they had the freedom to decide what to do
with their lives. When asked if they had laughed or smiled the day before the survey, only 62 percent said
yes. On these and other subjective measures of well-being, Cubans rank much lower than the average
Latin American.
        Freedom is as important as social justice. Courageous Cubans on the island have stepped forward
and claimed their rights. Whether a blogger, the ladies in white, a man on a hunger strike, a rapper singing
truth to power or a young woman reading a banned book, ordinary people are taking their country back,
bit by bit. Threats, beatings, detentions, mock trials aside, some step back out of fear but others always
take steps forward. An unending nightmare for the regime!
        Lately new headaches have developed.
        • A group of prominent African Americans couldn't keep quiet anymore and denounced the
regime's ``callous disregard'' for Cubans of color. Blacks and mixed-race Cubans on the island are giving
renewed testament of their mistreatment.
        • Twenty-one intellectuals and five cultural organizations signed a statement denouncing the ``rise
of bureaucratic-authoritarian control'' to smash autonomous cultural projects.
        • The leadership can't set the party congress date. Militants clamor for change like everyone else.
Being a Communist doesn't necessarily mean you're trustworthy.
        Everything is on the line. For those at the head of the ``line'' means their own power. Everyone
else has their dignity at stake, their rights as citizens, their freedom. May 2010 be a year when ever more
and diverse Cubans find their voices, their smiles, with their heads held high.
        Marifeli Pérez-Stable is a professor at Florida International University and Senior Non-Resident
Fellow at the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington.

ECUADOR

15. Ecuador Prez: US Extremists Plot To Destabilize
Source: Associated Press                                                                   01/03/2010
        QUITO, Ecuador - Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa says right-wing extremists in the United
States are conspiring against his government by attempting to destabilize the poor Andean nation.
        The leftist president contends that U.S.-based groups - although not the U.S. government - are
funneling aid to parts of Ecuador's indigenous movement.
        He says plots to destabilize progressive governments no longer use direct confrontation.
        Indian protests and roadblocks in recent months have forced Correa to reconsider proposals to
allow mines on Indian lands without their consent and to put water under state control.
        Ecuador's president gave no examples of the aid he denounced, however.
        Correa spoke Saturday on his weekly radio program.

HONDURA

16. Son Of Honduran Army Spokesman Killed By Gunmen
Source: Associated Press                                                                  01/03/2010
       TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Gunmen on motorcycles killed the son of a Honduran military
spokesman and the driver of the taxi in which he was traveling on Thursday.
       It was unclear if the shooting of Edwin Canaca Mejia was related to his father's work as a well-
known face on an army-sponsored television program. Honduras has high levels of violent street crime,
and no motive was identified in Thursday's killings.
                                                                                                          14
        There have been several shooting attacks on government officials or their relatives since a June 28
coup ousted Honduras' president.
        On Tuesday, gunmen on a motorcycle attacked the car of a Honduran television commentator who
has backed the coup-installed government, missing her but killing her pregnant daughter.
        Interim President Roberto Micheletti, who was named to office after President Manuel Zelaya was
ousted, accused Zelaya supporters in that killing. But the main pro-Zelaya group, the National Resistance
Front Against the Coup, denies the accusation.

PERU

17. Peru Court Upholds Ex-President's 25-Year Sentence
Source: Associated Press                                                                   01/04/2010
        Peru's judicial system says the Supreme Court has ratified a 25-year prison sentence for ex-
President Alberto Fujimori.
        The sentence was imposed in April for the death squad killing of 25 people and the kidnappings of
a businessman and journalist during Fujimori's presidency from 1990 to 2000.
        The courts published the decision on their Internet site on Sunday.
        The 71-year-old Fujimori is also fighting shorter sentences in three other cases.
        Fujimori's future may depend on his daughter Keiko's presidential campaign. She has vowed to
free him if she's elected in 2011. Many Peruvians admire Fujimori for crushing the violent Maoist Shining
Path rebels.

VENEZUELA

18. Hugo Chávez Drafted Banker In Fraud Case To Fix Cuba's Economy, Insiders
Say
Source: Miami Herald                                                                         01/03/2010
By Gerardo Reyes
        A multimillionaire Venezuelan businessman, currently jailed in Caracas on bank fraud charges,
had been sent to Cuba by President Hugo Chávez to help the country recover from its economic slump
and also to spur economic growth on the island after Fidel Castro dies, according to former employees.
        In an initial show of his new responsibility, looking for a personal benefit from future business in
Cuba, Ricardo Fernández Barruecos gave the Cuban government a gift of 28 BMW automobiles, his
former security consultant Luis Castro said in a sworn statement.
        Castro told El Nuevo Herald that Fernández, envisioning brilliant prospects for his business in
Cuba, also earned the support of Raúl Castro to open up the island's economy after the death of his
brother Fidel.
        Another former employee of Fernández's organization told El Nuevo Herald that Fernández made
several visits to Cuba by private jet and met with then-Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque.
        But the close relationship between Fernández and Chávez soon ended.
        Venezuelan regulatory agencies in November seized Fernández's banks, companies and properties,
accusing him of massive fraud related to his recent acquisition of four banks.
        The scuttled Cuba mission is just one of many aspects of Fernández's life that have recently
emerged in the wake of the fraud charges.
BUSINESS EMPIRE
        Fernández, 44, was one of the richest and perhaps least-known men in Latin America. Archives at
newspapers and television stations in Venezuela don't contain a single photo of him.


                                                                                                         15
        His agro-industrial conglomerate Proarepa was the leading supplier to Venezuela's government
food programs. Yet he was obsessed with privacy. The only public sign of his presence were his initials
on the bow of his fishing boats in the Pacific.
        Chávez rewarded Fernández because he used his company's trucks to transport food during the
opposition-led strike of 2002 in Venezuela, according to his attorney and an internal audit of Proarepa.
The international accounting firm KPMG calculated his fortune in 2005 at $1.6 billion.
        Fernández, who has an economics degree from Venezuela's Universidad Católica Andrés Bello,
owned one of the largest fishing fleets in Latin America, with 12 vessels as well as fuel tanker ships. He
had also partnered with Gruma, a subsidiary of the Mexican food conglomerate Grupo Industrial Maseca.
        According to a 2008 report commissioned for Proarepa and prepared by international consulting
firm FTI Consulting, Fernández employed some 5,000 people that year and his conglomerate had about
$400 million in assets.
        Chávez maintained constant and direct communication with Fernández, a senior Venezuelan
business executive told El Nuevo Herald on condition of anonymity because he fears government
reprisals.
        In 2006, Chávez cited Fernández as a model ``socialist businessman.''
        But for some leaders of the opposition in Venezuela, Chávez's admiration went beyond his
gratitude for Fernández's support of his socialist program.
        They claim that Adan Chávez, the president's brother, received a cut of the businessman's success.
``[Fernández] is a frontman for Adan Chávez,'' said dissident Ismael García, of the pro-democracy group
PODEMOS, on Nov. 24 during a session of the Venezuela National Assembly.
        ``Over seven years, Fernández went from being the landlord of a gymnasium and the parking
garage for the Hilton hotel in Caracas'' to the owner of a flotilla of tuna fishing and cargo ships, as well as
of the largest livestock ranch in Venezuela, among other assets, added Garcia.
        Adan Chávez has repeatedly denied allegations of close business dealings with Fernández.
        The FTI Consulting audit maintains that there are no links between Adan Chávez and Proarepa
and that Fernández has been a successful businessman since he was 25.
        ``Fernández is a prestigious and successful Spanish-Venezuelan businessman in the agroindustrial,
tuna and shipping sector,'' concluded FTI in its report, which was commissioned by Fernández through
the Miami law firm of Tew Cardenas.
FALLINGS-OUT
        Luis Castro, who had been hired by Fernández's Panamanian flagship Fextun, left the firm in April
over strong disagreements between the owners' brothers and some members of the board of directors.
        According to Castro, the directors suspected that he offered to sell information about Fernández's
conglomerate to a CIA official in Panama.
        ``It's all untrue,'' Castro said. ``I would have to be an idiot to put at risk a job that paid $10,000 a
month, another $10,000 for my wife, plus an armored car and free housing.''
        Following an attack on his wife in Panama in October 2008, Castro filed a complaint with the
Panamanian public prosecutor's office and asked that Fernández, as well as his brothers and some board
members, be investigated. His wife was shot eight times and lost her left eye.
        In his statement to the Panamanian prosecutor's office, Castro revealed details of the inner
workings of the conglomerate, including Fernández's connections in Cuba.
        Fernández's swift rise was always overshadowed by his fear that U.S. federal officials were
following his tracks.
        A confidential report prepared by a U.S. investigative firm -- which shared it with El Nuevo
Herald on condition that the company not be named -- stated that Fernández had been questioned upon his
arrival at U.S. airports in 2003.
        An indication that the federal government was investigating him came in December 2004, when
his associate Sarkis Arslanian was deported to Venezuela from Atlanta shortly after landing on a flight
from Caracas. Arslanian's visa had been canceled.
                                                                                                                 16
         Fernández also experienced an embarrassing incident. In May 2007, U.S. Drug Enforcement
Agency agents seized his corporate jet at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport.
         Fernández was not on board. In a seizure affidavit filed in federal court in Miami, the DEA alleged
that the plane had been illegally registered with an ``N'' license, which signifies U.S. ownership, although
none of the company owners (American Food Grain) were Americans, as required by law.
         Such a tactic is frequently used by money-launderers and drug-traffickers so their aircraft are
subject to fewer inspections at international airports, the affidavit stated.
         After a year of negotiations between the prosecutor's office and Tew Cardenas, the Miami law
firm representing Fernández, an agreement was reached that included a $1 million fine and a pledge to
sell the plane.
         The agreement contains no references linking the plane to drug-trafficking. It only describes the
administrative violation related to the use of the U.S. license.
CUBAN CONNECTION
         Castro, Fernández's former security consultant, said that he learned of the connections with Cuba
in 2007 from a Fextun employee.
         The worker asked Fernández about the details of the automobile shipment to Cuba and, visibly
uncomfortable, Fernández explained that they were presents for Cuban officials designed to curry favor
with the island government, according to Castro.
         ``When Fidel dies and Raúl has total power, Fernández was hoping to take advantage by buying
some bankrupt companies in Cuba into which he would inject money to relaunch them,'' Castro said.
         Alberto González, spokesman for the Cuban diplomatic mission in Washington, declined to
comment.
         ``The only thing we know is what has been published in El Nuevo Herald,'' González said. ``The
Cuban government has not issued a statement on this matter.''

OTHER

19. U.S. Diplomacy Stumbles In Latin America
The Obama presidency was expected to herald closer ties after years of perceived neglect under Bush.
But relations have soured amid the Honduran coup and Iran's increasing ties in the region.
Source: Los Angeles Times                                                                     01/03/2010
By Paul Richter
        Reporting from Washington ─ Just eight months ago, President Obama was calling Brazilian
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva "my man" and suggesting that the South American country could
become a leading U.S. partner in the region.
        Since then, Brazil has criticized the U.S. approach to the coup in Honduras and warned the United
States over plans to expand its military presence in Colombia.
        U.S. officials, for their part, have complained about Lula's increasing efforts to form economic and
political ties with a leading American adversary, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
        "Stop punishing him," Lula shot back a few months ago.
        The differences with Brazil underscore how the Obama administration's Latin American relations
have become marred by tensions and suspicions.
        Polls indicate that Obama remains highly popular with Latin Americans, but his administration's
relationship with some regional governments has been tested by a series of developments. Those include
the June 28 military coup that toppled Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, a deal with Colombia giving
the Pentagon use of seven bases for flights to combat drug trafficking and insurgency, stalled free trade
deals, and Iran's growing ties with Brazil, Venezuela and Bolivia, among other Latin American countries.
        Another area of tension is the anti-drug fight. Although U.S.-Mexican cooperation remains broad,
Central American and Caribbean countries are increasingly complaining that they receive less help than

                                                                                                         17
they need, and there are growing cries for the United States to do more to lessen demand at home, said
Daniel Erikson of the Inter-American Dialogue, a think tank that specializes in Latin American issues.
         Latin American leaders who hoped to move up the U.S. priority list have discovered that the new
president, like his less popular predecessor, has most of his foreign policy attention focused elsewhere --
namely Afghanistan and Iraq.
         "The administration created expectations that were enormous, but sooner or later reality was going
to catch up," said Juan Carlos Hidalgo of the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C. "That's what happened."
         It was always probable that the Obama administration would come into conflict with Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez and the allied left-leaning governments of Cuba, Bolivia and Ecuador. After some
early praise, Chavez has been critical of Obama, declaring recently, in a message carried by state media,
"the Obama illusion is over."
         But the United States has had differences with governments closer to the center, too. These nations
have been pleased with Obama's calls for closer consultation, and his moves to wind down the U.S.
mission in Iraq -- a major element in the hemisphere's unhappiness with President George W. Bush.
         But many governments were unimpressed with U.S. efforts to negotiate Zelaya's reinstatement in
Honduras.
         Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela and others have refused, despite U.S. urging, to recognize the Nov.
30 presidential election won by wealthy rancher Porfirio Lobo. The governments contend that supporting
the new Honduran leadership could encourage coups in other countries.
         In early December, the Honduran Congress voted that the coup that deposed Zelaya should stand,
favoring a motion against reinstatement by a vote of 111 to 14.
         A senior administration official, who asked to remain unidentified because of the sensitivity of the
subject, said that "there is more consensus on the future of Honduras than it appears." He said he believes
many countries share the view that the new Honduran government should include officials from both
ideological poles, and expressed optimism that such a unity slate would be organized.
         Another divisive issue is the 10-year deal signed Oct. 31 involving the bases in Colombia. Though
it won't increase the number of U.S. personnel in the country, it raised fears even among U.S. allies Chile
and Brazil that the American military presence might spill over Colombia's borders. Lula asked for
assurances that U.S. forces would stay put.
         In the case of Cuba, the Obama administration eased its opposition to the country's entry into the
Organization of American States and made a limited gesture toward normalizing relations by reducing
restrictions on Cuban Americans' travel to the island.
         The consensus in Latin America calls for a complete lifting of the long-standing economic
embargo.
         "The general reaction was that it was too little," Hidalgo said.
         The U.S. official said Latin American leaders have been sympathetic to Obama, recognizing "the
enormous challenges this president faces, including the worst recession since the '30s."
         Peter DeShazo, a former State Department official now at the Center for Strategic and
International Studies, said many of the core U.S. goals would be unchanged -- increasing security
cooperation, trying to reform governments, fighting poverty and developing economies.
         "There will be greater continuity than a lot of people expected," he said.
         "Those who expected a sea change were misleading themselves."

20. Bank On The Region
Source: Miami Herald                                                                     01/03/2010
By Pamela Cox
        What a difference a decade can make.
        Ten years ago, Latin America and the Caribbean entered the new century in the midst of
tremendous uncertainty. The Asian financial crisis and the Russian default had thrown the region into a
tailspin with countries facing recessions in varying degrees.
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        Even after Asia rebounded, Latin America struggled. In 2001, Argentina's economy collapsed and
registered the largest debt default in history. To avoid a similar fate, Brazil obtained a credit line of $30.4
billion from the International Monetary Fund in 2002, the largest in the history of the multilateral lender.
        Today, the picture looks very different. News of default jolts other regions -- not Latin America.
As Brazilian officials like to point out, they've gone from debtors to creditors. For the first time in IMF
history, Brazil recently lent money -- $10 billion -- to the world's lender of last resort.
        That is particularly newsworthy considering that the region just withstood the worst economic
recession in 80 years. And while average growth in the region dropped, largely driven by the downturn in
Mexico, growth is expected to recover in 2010 to around 3 percent.
        By September this year, in fact, the worst seemed to be over for the region. Brazil, like other large
emerging economies, is now helping lead the world's recovery. Latin America's net exporters, particularly
Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Chile, are bouncing back thanks to higher prices for commodities, which are
in higher demand due to ramping up of production and consumption in Asia.
        Economic growth, strength and recovery have increased political clout for regional leaders at the
world stage. The Group of 20, which includes Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, officially replaced the G7 in
September as the new arena for global economic policymaking. Plans to give emerging economies more
voting rights at the IMF and the World Bank continue.
        Hard-earned clout, of course, doesn't mean the region can avoid addressing an unfinished
economic and social agenda. Even if only to preserve a slice of a smaller, post-crisis global trade market,
Latin American governments and industries need to improve competitiveness. Many of the long-delayed
reforms that make integration a worthy pursuit, from infrastructure and logistics to tertiary education and
property rights, are even more urgent. Logistics costs are about 10 percent of product value in
industrialized countries, but in the region they range from 15 percent in Chile to 34 percent in Peru.
        The region, too, must continue to diversify, connecting to markets other than the United States. As
World Bank President Robert Zoellick has observed, ``A multipolar economy less reliant on the U.S.
consumer will be a more stable world economy.'' Mexico, for instance, the Latin American country
hardest hit by the crisis, was made vulnerable by its dependence of the U.S. economy -- 80 percent of its
exports are sold to the United States.
        Most important, Latin America must focus on innovation. It cannot continue to rely solely on
selling more of the same -- that is, commodities. The region will need to find ways to add value to goods
or create new ones.
        Still, today the number of patents issued to Latin Americans for new inventions is a fraction of
those issued to inventors in Korea, China, India or Singapore. Universities operate with few connections
to the real economy.
        Except for Brazil, countries invest much less than the recommended 1 percent of their GDP in
research and development.
        On the social front, the inequality trend was reversed for the first time in 30 years, with 60 million
people leaving poverty between 2002-2008. However the region has not been able to provide
opportunities for all its citizens.
        In spite of these challenges, Latin America is far better off than it was, when plummeting export
prices and the collapse of foreign lending in the late 1970s ushered in an era of economic stagnation
known as the ``lost decade.''
        Thanks to sound fundamentals, such as improved financial regulation and supervision, budget
surpluses and high international reserves, the region has weathered the current crisis without massive
currency devaluations, bank collapses, debt defaults, inflationary spikes or capital flights.
        In other words, the region has learned from its past and is on track toward a better future.
        Still, a return to the strong growth of recent years is not guaranteed. It will require new proactive
and visionary policies, enacted by equally visionary leaders, to ensure that the new decade we now enter
will be an era of shared prosperity.
        Pamela Cox is vice president of World Bank-Latin America and the Caribbean.
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