United States Southern Command by alicejenny

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									                                       U.S. SOUTHERN COMMAND
                       HEADLINE NEWS FOR MONDAY, JANUARY 12, 2009
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SOUTHCOM RELATED ARTICLES

SOUTHCOM

1. Costa Rica Rescuers Menaced By Mudslides After Quake
Source: Reuters                                                                               01/12/2009
By John McPhaul
        CINCHONA, Costa Rica (Reuters) - As rescue workers on Sunday combed through houses
collapsed by last week's deadly earthquake, Costa Rican officials feared that unstable ground and daily
rains could cause mudslides in the region.
        Sniffer dogs stumbled through rubble around the village of Cinchona, on the flank of the Poas
Volcano, where rescuers believe more victims may be found in a family restaurant crushed by a landslide
after Thursday's 6.1-magnitude quake.
        "We think there are two people in this house, so we're going to cut through the roof and dig to see
what we can find," said rescuer Andres Madrigal, standing near the remains of one flattened home.
        A Red Cross official put the death toll at 20, but the number could rise. Authorities visited shelters
crammed with hundreds of Costa Ricans in the hopes of narrowing a list of missing people.
        Daily rain has added to instability on slopes around the volcano, causing occasional shifts in the
ground, National Emergency Commission official Victor Falla said.
        "Some (shifts) are so strong that work has to be suspended," Falla said. "Everyone, including the
rescuers, has to run."
        Colombia and the United States have sent military helicopters, rations, bottled water and electric
generators to help the Costa Rican government, which does not have an army.
        Hundreds of Costa Ricans and foreign tourists stranded by cut-off roads have been moved to
shelters or evacuated by air to the capital San Jose.
        Five British tourists that were unaccounted for have since been located and are safe, embassy
official Ericka Phillips told Reuters.
        "We have had no reports, of British or any other foreign nationality, of deaths, injuries or missing
people," she said.
        Costa Rica is a popular tourist destination due to its lush natural parks, volcanoes and rich
wildlife, but it is prone to natural disasters like the rest of Central America.
        A wave caused by the earthquake damaged the Cariblanco hydroelectric plant and it will take at
least a year to repair, local media quote a senior official as saying. (Additional reporting by Manuel
Carrillo in San Jose, Noel Randewich and Tomas Sarmiento in Mexico City)

2. Earthquake Tragedy Now Has A Face
Source: Inside Costa Rica                                                                  01/11/2009
        The tragedy from Thursday's devastating 6.2 earthquake now has a face. Men, women and
children that died under the tons of earth from the mountainsides and debris from houses reduced to
rubble by the tremors.
        While rescue workers search the remote areas for more bodies, the Organismo de Investigación
Judicial (OIJ) has begun the process of identification and contacting the families. The OIJ says at least 64
people are on their list of missing.
        Rescue workers on Friday night slept in the now ghost town of La Cinchona to begin the rescue
and recovery work at daylight. In some cases family and friends of the disappeared are working along side
Cruz Roja (Red Cross) workers in search of bodies and possibly survivors.
        Making the recovery efforts more difficult is the impossibility of access. Many of the roads in the
area are no longer. La Cinchona is one of many communities completely cut off and access is only by
helicopters.
        Aiding rescue efforts are five military helicopters - four from the U.S. Air Force based in
Honduras and one from the Colombian military. Dressed in combat gear the soldiers staffing the huger
whirly birds are now dedicating their efforts to rescue rather than military conflict.
        The group of 34 includes officials and medical personnel operating from a temporary station in
Río Cuarto de Grecia using Black Hauw and Chinook helicopters.
        Making things worse is the danger of aftershocks and working in hazardous conditions, like
handing from precipices with 300 metres or more drops.
        The OIJ has set up a temporary morge in San Miguel de Sarapiquí.
        A total of 2.023 people are being housed in 23 temporary shelters located in Carrizal de Alajuela,
Sabanilla, San Isidro, Río Cuarto de Grecia, Poás de Alajuela, Heredia centro, Santa Barbara and
Sarapiquí de Heredia.

3. Costa Rica Digs For Quake Victims
Source: Reuters                                                                                01/11/2009
        Costa Rica (Reuters) - Rescue workers dug into collapsed hillsides on Saturday searching for
bodies and possible survivors two days after a strong earthquake killed 20 people.
        Rescuers fanned out into remote jungle areas on the flanks of the Poas Volcano to excavate
landslides in search of 40 people missing from Thursday's 6.1-magnitude quake.
        "We are working on removing corpses, taking picks and shovels on all-terrain vehicles to reach
areas where people may be buried," said National Emergency Commission official Victor Falla, speaking
by telephone from a base near the area.
        The Red Cross in Costa Rica said 20 bodies have been recovered. About 40 people were still
missing, civil protection spokesman Reinaldo Carballo told Reuters.
        Colombia and the United States sent military helicopters to help the Costa Rican government,
which does not have an army.
        "We passed places where cars were buried and it stank of bodies," said survivor Esteban Godoy,
36, who trekked through the debris of collapsed houses and swept-away roads before being flown by
helicopter to the town of San Miguel.
        Bottled water, electric generators and rations sent by the U.S. military began to reach shelters
crammed with Costa Ricans who lost their homes.
        Hundreds of Costa Ricans and foreign tourists stranded by cut-off roads have already been moved
to shelters or evacuated by air to the capital San Jose.
        The bodies of several people, including four children, were recovered from beneath collapsed hills
and fallen buildings. Other bodies are thought to be in cars buried in earth.
        Costa Rica is a popular tourist destination due to its lush natural parks, volcanoes and rich
wildlife, but it is prone to natural disasters like the rest of Central America. (Additional reporting by
Manuel Carrillo in San Jose; Editing by Anthony Boadle)

4. Costa Rica earthquake death toll rises to 15
Source: CNN International                                                                01/10/2009
       SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (CNN) -- The official count of confirmed deaths grew to 15 Friday
afternoon, one day after a 6.1-magnitude earthquake shook north central Costa Rica, a government
emergency official said.


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        Reinaldo Carballo, a spokesman for the federal Commission for National Emergencies, said the
updated death toll came from information given to the agency by Costa Rica Vice President Rodrigo
Arias.
        In addition, Carballo said, rescuers were trying to reach 300 tourists stranded in a hotel in
Varablanca. Carballo said he did not know the tourists' nationalities or the name of the hotel.
        There were conflicting reports on the number of dead from Thursday's earthquake. The
Commission for National Emergencies had issued a news release earlier Friday saying the quake had
killed four people.
        Also earlier Friday, Red Cross official Milton Chaverri told CNN there were 14 dead and 22
missing. Red Cross spokeswoman Fiorella Vilca said Friday afternoon there were nine dead and 42
missing.
        The discrepancy may result from the fact that the Commission for National Emergencies reports
only deaths it has confirmed, Carballo said. About 32 people were injured, he said.
        On Friday, the U.S. government dispatched a team of 34 U.S. military personnel and four
helicopters from Honduras-based Joint Task Force-Bravo to Costa Rica to assist.
        Survivors described the suddenness and brutality of the quake. Landslides, tumbling rocks and
collapsed buildings caused widespread devastation and death.
        "I saw how the earth moved and how it took my family -- my aunt, my cousin and her babies,"
Miguel Angel Marin told CNN affiliate Teletica TV. "It was very hard because I wanted to save them, but
I couldn't."
        A sobbing Vilma Cambronero was asked what happened to her family.
        "Some are well," she said. "Others are buried."
        An unidentified woman told Teletica, "Everything started to move and everything fell on top of us.
It was a miracle we got out."
        More than 1,200 people were stranded, without a way to get out of towns or homes, Chaverri said.
Another 1,000 people were living in shelters, he said. iReport.com: Are you there? Send photos, video
"Many people were injured, many buildings were damaged and landslides blocked roads in the area," the
U.S. Geological Survey said.
        The dead included three young girls, officials said Friday.
        Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Sanchez was scheduled to tour the affected area Friday. On
Thursday, he appealed for calm.
        The remote area near Alajuela, where the quake hit strongest, is difficult to reach, and officials
said they were having to rely on helicopters for medical evacuations and to airlift supplies.
        Randall Picado, a government rescue official, said many residents were without water and other
necessities.
        About 400 volunteers and Red Cross personnel were giving aid in 15 communities, Chaverri said.
        The temblor was felt throughout Costa Rica and in southern and central Nicaragua, the U.S.
Geological Survey reported on its Web site.
        "I felt the earthquake," Costa Rican office worker Erick Solorzano told CNN in an iReport
message. "I work in a sixth floor, and it was very strong. We felt the building was going to collapse."
        About 2,000 aftershocks have been felt in San Jose, the capital, and other cities throughout the
nation, Red Cross spokeswoman Vilca said.
        The Geological Survey placed the earthquake's epicenter at 20 miles (32 kilometers) north-
northwest of San Jose at a depth of 2.8 miles (4.5 kilometers).

5. Death Toll Rises To 15 After Costa Rica Quake, Dozens Still Missing
Source: Agence France-Presse                                                               01/10/2009
        SAN JOSE (AFP) — The official death toll after Costa Rica's strongest earthquake in decades has
risen to 15, with scores missing and injured, while some 150 stranded tourists were finally rescued.
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        Helicopters picked up some of the tourists, most from the United States, France, Canada and
Spain, while others scrambled up mountain pathes to finally reach rescue workers from near the Poas
volcano, the epicenter of Thursday's 6.1 magnitude quake.
        At nightfall around 100 people were still stranded in the region around the capital San Jose,
including around 50 in the area of Cinchona, one of the worst hit by the the temblor and accessible only
by helicopter, according to the Red Cross.
        Helicopters also evacuated a group of tourists trapped on a parking lot at a hotel near the La Paz
waterfalls, a top tourist attraction.
        Many on the ground said the official toll of 15 was likely to rise when rescue workers finally
reached isolated villages and cars buried by mudslides.
        Costa Rica's Central American neighbors, Colombia, the United States and China had offered aid
to victims of the quake, President Oscar Arias said Friday after visiting the worst-hit zones.
        "What I saw with my own eyes is that the consequences of the earthquake are worse than I had
imagined," Arias said.
        Rescue teams struggled in rain and mist Friday to reach hundreds stranded in mountainous central
zones, as cracked roads, fallen trees and earth impeded their efforts in the farming region home to popular
tourist sites.
        Collapsed houses lined the road leading to the epicenter of the quake, near the Poas volcano, one
of the country's most popular tourist sites.
        Where damage was less visible, many still said they had lost possessions in the quake which also
shook water out of swimming pools and was felt across the country and in neighboring Nicaragua.
        The strongest quake to shake the country in the last 150 years was followed by several aftershocks
and collapsed homes in and around the capital.
        The first reported victims included two young sisters who had been selling sweets and died in a
landslide near the epicenter. A 12-year-old girl was also crushed by a wall in her home near the Poas
volcano.
        The National Emergency Board declared a red alert in the metropolitan area of the central valley
where 2.5 million of the country's four million people live, including San Jose, Cartago, Alajuela and
Heredia.
        The US army sent two Blackhawk helicopters, based in Honduras, to help with the operations. The
government had contracted most private helicopters in the country, which has no army.
        The quake hit at 1:21 pm (1921 GMT) Thursday, some 30 kilometers (20 miles) northwest of the
capital, shaking water out of swimming pools.
        It was felt across the country, a popular ecotourism and beach holiday destination, as well as in
neighboring Nicaragua to the north.

6. Costa Rica Quake Rescue Under Way
Source: Al Jazeera                                                                           01/10/2009
        Rescue workers in Costa Rica are trying to reach residents and tourists trapped after a strong
earthquake killed at least four people in the country.
        The earthquake, which measured 6.1 on the Richter scale, struck on Thursday afternoon,
destroying homes in and around the capital city of San Jose and triggering
landslides which stranded hundreds.
        The epicentre of the earthquake, the strongest to hit the city in 150 years, was about 30 km north-
west of the capital.
        The National Emergency Board declared a red alert in the centre of the country where more
than two million people live.
        Rescue teams desperately searched for victims around the Poas volcano throughout the early hours
of Friday morning and there are fears the death toll could rise.
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        Search helicopters also flew those in need of medical care to local hospitals, while the US army
was due later on Friday to send two Blackhawk helicopters, based in Honduras, to help with the
operations, AFP news agency reported.
        Hundreds of people remained stranded in the Vara Blanca and Cinchona areas, close to the
volcano, officials said.
        Around 400 tourists were trapped in a hotel near La Paz waterfalls that was cut off from roads by a
landslide.
        Authorities said that many residents of the affected area are small farmers who raise livestock or
grow strawberries and ornamental plants or rely on increasing tourism.

7. Strongest Earthquake In 150 Years Hits Costa Rica
Source: Wikinews                                                                                01/10/2009
        The United States Geological Survey said a 6.1 Mw earthquake struck on Thursday, at 01:21:34
p.m. local time (6:21:34 p.m. UTC) in northern Costa Rica, a Central American country, 30 kilometres
(19 mi) NNW of San José and near the volcano Poás.
        The epicenter was at 20 miles (32 kilometers) north-northwest of San Jose at a depth of 2.8 miles
(4.5 kilometers), with Coordinate 10° 11′ 49.2″ N, 84° 9′ 32.4″ W, and Decimal 10.197,-84.159. Causing
widespread panic and damage, it was felt all over Costa Rica as well as in southern central Nicaragua, and
was the strongest to shake Costa Rica in about 150 years.
         “Today is a day of mourning for Costa Ricans,” President Oscar Arias Sanchez said. “These
losses of life fill us with pain; our prayers will be for their families, hundreds of families had seen serious
damage to their homes,” Arias added. At least seventeen people, including three children, were killed,
while about 42 were missing, at least 32 were injured and 2,450 people affected.
        Amid problems of mudslides, cracked roads, tumbling rocks and fallen trees, National Social
Security and Health agency, Red Cross rescue workers, firemen and police rushed Friday to evacuate
about 600 people. Half of them were foreign tourists stranded in La Paz Waterfall Gardens eco-resort in
Vara Blanca, and others were trapped by boulders and earth, when mountain roads in Costa Rica blocked
two villages of Vara Blanca and Cinchona. The main CNE warehouse containing relief items (food,
mattresses), for distribution to the victims, was burned, while the second airport in San Jose, is now
closed.
        Most of the victims died when part of the hillside collapsed and a landslide occurred near the La
Paz waterfall at Vara Blanca, on the flanks of the volcano Poás. The Poas Volcano National Park was
utterly destroyed and the La Paz waterfall road was torn, causing about 300 tourists trapped. At least 400
people were evacuated from the area in rescue helicopters.
        Constant 2,000 aftershocks (1,200 through early Friday in the towns of San Pedro de Poas and
Vara Blanca), complicated the rescue and emergency missions for stranded people in mountainous central
zones. National Emergency Commission official Victor Falla said that there were small tremors every
couple of minutes. "It's shaking right now," he added. 1,244 people were displaced, and 1,078 people are
living in shelters. In addition, a hotel, houses, roads, and vehicles were damaged, and a couple of bridges
were destroyed. The town of Cinchona was heavily hit, and all of the buildings there were heavily
damaged. Power was temporarily disrupted in San José. "There are many buses and many vehicles that
are trapped," deputy public safety minister Jose Torres said.
        In the central valley, populated by 2.5 million of the country's four million inhabitants, the
National Emergency Board declared an emergency in the metropolitan area including San Jose, Cartago,
Alajuela and Heredia. The earthquake hit strongest the remote area near Alajuela. Several homes
collapsed and major highways were still blocked.
        A team of 34 U.S. military personnel and four Black Hawk helicopters from Honduras-based Joint
Task Force-Bravo was sent on Friday by the U.S. Government to assist Costa Rican rescue workers,
which include 400 volunteers and Red Cross personnel, who were dispensing aid in 15 communities.
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Colombia and China had also offered assistance to quake victims. The U.S. Army and Air Force aviation
crews, rescue, medical and support personnel, is coordinating with the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster
Assistance (OFDA) in the rescue efforts. At least 150 stranded tourists from the United States, France,
Canada and Spain, were finally rescued on Friday.

8. U.S. Southern Command Deploys Disaster Response Team To Costa Rica
Source: Systems – Atlanta                                                                  01/10/2009
By Joint Task Force - Bravo
         SAN JOSE, Costa Rica -- A team of 34 U.S. military personnel and four helicopters from
Honduras-based Joint Task Force-Bravo deployed to Costa Rica on Jan. 9 to assist with disaster response
efforts in areas affected by a 6.2 magnitude earthquake near San Jose.
         The team, comprised of U.S. Army and Air Force aviation crews, rescue, medical and support
personnel, is supporting ongoing efforts to search and locate victims in coordination with the U.S. Agency
for International Development's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and representatives of Costa Rica's
national disaster response organizations.
         Adm. James Stavridis, commander of U.S. Southern Command, headquartered in Miami, directed
the deployment after Costa Rican government officials requested U.S. assistance from the U.S. Embassy,
located in the nation's capital.
         In November, a team of 48 U.S. military personnel and seven helicopters from the task force
deployed to Panama and Costa Rica where they worked alongside local officials to help communities
impacted by heavy rains and flooding.

9. The Good Sailor Policy
The Return of the US Fourth Fleet and the South American Reaction
Source: Harvard International Review                                               Winter 2009
By Khatchik DerGhougassian
         Khatchik DerGhougassian is a Professor of International Relations at the Universidad de San
Andrés in Argentina, a Visiting Professor at the American University of Armenia (Yerevan, Republic of
Armenia), and an advisor at the Ministry of Defense of Argentina. He holds an MA degree in
International Relations from FLACSO/Argentina and did his PhD studies at the University of Miami in
International Studies. His research projects have included arms transfer, gun control policies, terrorism,
organized crime and international conflict.
         After 58 years of absence, the US Fourth Fleet went back to business on July 1, 2008 in the
southern West Hemisphere. If the event had occurred in 1990s, the Argentine government would probably
have welcomed the initiative and even anticipated further enhancing the “special relationship” that the
Carlos S. Menem administration had with the United States. But times have changed. Since the so-called
“left turn” in Latin America after the 2001-2003 social and economic crises and the subsequent political
turmoil in Argentina, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and other countries, almost every US move in the
region has been received with skepticism, concern, and criticism. Such has been the case with the return
of the US Fourth Fleet.
         The decision of re-deployment was made public on April 24, and although Chief of Naval
Operations Admiral Gary Roughead made an announcement assuring Latin America that the move does
not imply new military assets in the region, the leaders of South American countries were not convinced,
with the exception of Colombia. Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, and Bolivia’s Evo
Morales denounced the “imperialist” and “interventionist” character of the re-deployment, whereas
Brazil’s Defense Minister, Nelson Jobim, declared that his country would not allow the fleet to operate in
Brazilian waters without authorization. Jobim’s Argentine colleague, Nilda Garré--whom Admiral James
Stavridis, the head of the Southern Command (SouthCom), visited on May 7 during his South American
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tour to personally explain Washington’s decision--was also not convinced. Brazil and Argentina did not
take any immediate steps against the US decision, but the issue of the Fourth Fleet is on their defense and
foreign policy agendas and is being widely discussed and debated in both official and unofficial circles. In
the South American press, an uncritical perspective towards the US military move is rare.
Same Concern, Different Reactions
         On July 1, 2008, the day of the Fourth Fleet’s arrival, the leaders of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay,
and Paraguay--the four founding members of the Southern Common Market (Mercado Común del Sur –
MERCOSUR)--as well as Venezuela, Bolivia, and Chile, met for a summit in the city of San Miguel de
Tucumán in Argentina. Although the two main issues on the agenda were the world food crisis and the
European immigration policy, Venezuela’s Chávez referred to the re-deployment of the Fourth Fleet and
proposed that his colleagues ask Washington for an official explanation of the move. Brazil and Argentina
were the first countries to take action. The Brazilian Senate debated the issue while Lula rushed his
Foreign and Defense Ministers, Celso Amorin and Nelson Jobim, to Washington to meet separately with
their American counterparts. At the same time, Argentina’s Crisitina Fernández de Kirchner demanded
explanations from the US Undersecretary of State for Hemispheric Affairs, Thomas Shannon, during his
visit to the country on July 10. Even Chile, which has signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the
United States, raised the issue at a bilateral meeting.
         None of the explanations that the representatives of the Pentagon, the State Department, or the
commanding officers of SouthCom and the Fourth Fleet have provided officially have satisfied South
Americans. Yet, neither Brazil nor Argentina went beyond an official demand for explanation. Moreover,
during his visit to Argentina in the second week of September, Brazil’s newly appointed Minister of
Strategic Affairs, Roberto Mangabeira Unger, denied any relation between the re-deployment of the
Fourth Fleet and his country’s ambitious decision to raise the defense budget from 1.5 to 2.7 percent of
the GDP. “We do not work based on enemies or threats; only on capacities we need,” he said. During the
VIII Conference of the Defense Ministers of the Americas with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates in
Banff, Canada, Nilda Garré maintained that bilateral cooperation between Argentina and the United States
would continue despite her concern about the reactivation of the Fourth Fleet, which she described as “a
military move for which we do not see any convincing explanation.”
         Argentina and Brazil’s rather prudent reaction can be explained first by a realist approach to the
issue; historical experience has shown that confrontation with the United States never has a positive
outcome. Second, there is at least one country in South America, Colombia, that is aligned with the
United States, and Brazil, the leading country in the process of the regional integration, does not want to
alienate any member of the Union of the South American Nations (UNASUR). Third, there is a
widespread conviction in Brazil and Argentina that the defense and exercise of sovereignty are basically a
function of strengthening national and regional institutions to face any direct or indirect attempt of foreign
intervention in the region.
         Venezuela, however, did not hesitate to go further and raise the stakes with the United States.
Barely a month after the Fourth Fleet became operative in the waters of the South Atlantic, President
Chavez seized on the opportunity of renewed Russian-American tension in the aftermath of the Georgia
crisis and announced that Venezuela and Russia would hold joint naval exercises in the Caribbean. On
September 8, Moscow confirmed the visit of the nuclear warship Piotr Veliki. Later that same week,
Chávez expelled the US Ambassador in Caracas as a gesture of solidarity with Bolivia’s Evo Morales’
decision to expel the US Ambassador in La Paz. At the heart of Venezuela’s and Bolivia’s hawkish
position lies not only an ideological factor but also the conviction that the United States is indeed
intervening in their internal affairs. Moreover, both Chávez and Morales have experienced direct hostility
from Washington: in April 2002, the former US Undersecretary of State Otto Reich rushed to legitimize
the failed military coup against Chávez; in Bolivia the US Ambassador publicly repudiated Evo Morales
while he was still a leader of the coca-growing peasants and a candidate for the presidential elections.
         Both leaders came into power with an agenda of radical reforms violently opposed by entrenched
minority sectors, which after historically holding power are now facing threats and have been displaced
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and marginalized. Chávez and Morales have accused Washington of maintaining ties with the opposition,
providing its leaders with financial aid, and even arming them. Hence, an emerging Russia is seen as a
potential ally to balance the US hegemonic drive in the region.
Unconvincing Explanations
         As soon as news of the redeployment of the Fourth Fleet was made public, the leading figures of
the US SouthCom started an active public campaign to explain the reasons behind the decision. Through
meetings with South American leaders and several press conferences, the following arguments were
crystallized as the official US rationale: (a) the redeployment of the Fourth Fleet has to do with
operational reasons, and is not directed against the sovereignty of any Latin American nation; (b) there is
no hostile intention toward any country, including Venezuela; (c) the decision has no relation to the
discovery of large offshore oil reserves in Brazilian waters; (d) more broadly, it does not aim at future
appropriation or threatening of South America’s abundant natural resources, including oil, natural gas,
water, and agricultural land; (e) its mission is to fight drug trafficking and terrorism; (f) this mission also
includes providing humanitarian assistance in times of natural disasters or epidemics.
         Most of these strategic arguments have already been formulated in several US military documents
that are public, particularly in the October 2007 A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century and Admiral
James Stavridis’ U.S. Southern Command 2008 Statement. The first document, for instance, concludes
that the US sea strategy “focuses on opportunities –not threats; on optimism –not fear; and on confidence
–not doubt.” More precisely, Stavridis’ address before the 110th Congress mentions poverty and
inequality, drugs, violence and crime, and terrorism as some of the “challenges” that the US SouthCom
faces.
Reasons for Concern in the South
         Yet, none of these arguments seem to convince South Americans. For Argentina, involving the
military in humanitarian assistance could raise the issue of confusing the roles of the military and the
civilians. After the bloody dictatorship of the military government in 1976-1983, the return of the
democracy brought about a strict separation of internal and external security, as well as civil and military
roles. Argentine law forbids any military interference in internal affairs, and Argentines are therefore
suspicious of any move that could weaken civilian rule.
         More broadly, South Americans do not accept “challenges” such as drug trafficking, violent crime,
and even terrorism as issues that reserve any role for the military. This does not necessarily mean that
some countries have not militarized these issues. Colombia is engaged in the US “war on drugs;”
Bolivia’s military annually receives US$30 million dollars in US assistance to fight the same war in
Bolivia; violent crime in Rio de Janeiro has led to increasing public support for the use of the military
against organized gangs; and even Chávez’s Bolivarian Revolution ideal has a strong military component.
Generally, however, while countries south of the Panama Canal look for an authentic means of regional
integration, Central America and the Caribbean are becoming further integrated in the North American
process. Whereas in Central America and Mexico militaries are increasing their involvement in fighting
the so-called “new threats,” South American countries are moving toward a regional and global strategic
repositioning that reserves a more traditional role for the military.
         There are two basic reasons why Central American nations and Mexico are inclined to give a
greater role to their military in dealing with the “new threats.”
         The first reason is related to the greater integration of these countries within the North American
process, which has decreased their autonomy in executing their defense and security agendas. Despite the
participation of several Central American nations in the 2003 US-led intervention in Iraq, Washington
does not plan to include any Latin American military in its global projections. In other words, no Latin
American country is foreseen as a partner in a NATO-style alliance. During the Cold War, especially in
the 1980s, Central American militaries were useful in fighting leftist insurgencies or regimes. The process
of pacification in the early 1990s left these militaries with no specific mission. Unwilling to include them
in its post-Cold War strategic designs, Washington pushed for yet another domestic function for these
militaries through their involvement in the so-called “new threats.” For Washington, such a role would
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decrease the risks of arms proliferation in its “backyard” (i.e. Noriega). For the Central American
militaries, the redefinition of their role by Washington has perhaps become essential to their institutional
survival.
          The second reason is the historically unprecedented level of crime and delinquency in Central
America and the impotency of the internal security agencies to deal with the problem. The military is seen
as the only efficient way to fight crime, gang violence and organized crime, despite the high risk such a
move involves. In Mexico, for example, it is clearly the cartelization of drug trafficking and the high
levels of violence that have increased the militarization of internal security, a move that Washington
hailed within the logic of the “war against drugs.”
          For South America, by contrast, autonomy from the United States has become a virtue,
particularly since the failure of the southern hemisphere’s ill-fated attempts at integration in the 1990s.
The consistent exception is Colombia, which has sought cozier relations with the United States. In
general, though, South Americans are all too suspicious of Washington’s rhetoric about the “war on
terror” and “preemption,” perhaps due to tragic memories of Cold War US interventions that were based
on similar national security doctrines.
          This strategic repositioning of South America, in turn, is closely related to the renewed importance
of natural resources in the global economy. Oil in Venezuela and Brazil, natural gas in Bolivia, copper in
Chile, the world’s largest water resources, cultivable land areas, and the rich resources of the Amazon are
gaining new importance in the global free market system. With the price of the oil barrel hitting historic
records, water reserves becoming a strategic asset, and in a world facing food crises, South American
nations see an opportunity to escape cycles of sudden growth and brutal collapse. It is, therefore, hard for
them not to suspect an interest in natural resources behind the redeployment of the Fourth Fleet,
notwithstanding the verbal assurance they receive from the United States. This is not to say, as some
suggest, that the United States would appropriate these natural resources through military force; but any
power projection could be a prelude of a direct or indirect interference in South American economic
policies. After having paid their entire debt to the International Monetary Fund, and amidst strong
rejection of advice from international financial institutions, South American nations have recovered a
level of sovereignty that includes the protection and management of their resource-rich lands--without any
foreign interference.
The Ghosts of the Cold War
          With the exception of Colombia and perhaps Peru, the broad concern that all South American
nations share about the redeployment of the US Fourth Fleet has to do with two factors: (1) the failure of
the early 1990s attempt to institutionalize a hemispheric defense and security regime, and, (2) the
apparently enduring phenomenon of the “left turn” and its social, economic, and political expressions.
          Neither of these two factors should be understood in absolute terms. Quite the opposite, they are
both so diverse and complex that the possibility of reversals in the future cannot be ignored. In other
words, US hegemonic push in the Western Hemisphere has not come to an end, and the electoral
comeback of rightist forces is not impossible. But, both the 1990s failure to institutionalize a hemispheric
defense and security regime and the “left turn” in South America are tangible proof that the post-Cold
War order has created serious limitations in terms of expectations.
          Nevertheless, the disenchantment of the 1990s has brought back some of the Cold War ghosts, and
especially the suspicion of renewed US involvement in South American internal affairs and a widespread
hostility to American imperialism. The recent US-Russian tension has sparked fears of a “new” Cold War
in the Western Hemisphere, as Venezuela seems to consider the emerging Russia as a counter-balancing
factor to the perceived US power play to the South. Regardless of the real intentions of Russia, Caracas
has opened the possibility for Russian battleships to navigate where the US Fourth Fleet now is present.
Conclusion: The Rationale of a Regional “Shield”
          In all, even if the US Fourth Fleet’s novel mission of “humanitarian assistance” during natural
disasters is a serious initiative aimed at reassuring South Americans of the United States’ good intentions,
it still is a move within Washington’s logic of a global power projection. This global projection of power
                                                                                                             9
has already defined and confirmed a policy of primacy in the world, the aim of which is to prevent the
emergence of any regional power. In Latin America, however, the United States has historically looked
for a hegemonic presence, and the long series of direct intervention and support for military takeovers is
still more relevant to Latin Americans than any explanation the US SouthCom can put forth.
        Chávez and Morales perceive US hegemony as a threat. Venezuela’s leader, therefore, sees in the
emergence of Russia the opportunity to forge an anti-US military alliance as a guarantee for Venezuela’s
national security. At the same time however, Chávez did not hide his interest to start a dialogue with the
Obama administration.
        Despite their concerns regarding the redeployment of the US Fourth Fleet, Brazil, Argentina,
Chile and other South American countries do not wish to risk the regionalization of another global
tension. Since the return of democracy in the 1980s, formerly rival, if not enemy, South American
countries have defined their relations as a “security community,” and are eager to secure the region as a
“zone of peace.” This “zone of peace” however is sometimes shaken by the internal crisis of a country,
which can have a “spill-over” effect on the rest. The most recent examples are the Colombia-Ecuador
tensions in March that followed the assassination of the FARC guerrilla leader by Colombia on
Ecuadorian territory, and the separatist threat in Bolivia that in September escalated to deadly clashes
between the government and the opposition. In both cases, South American countries showed a clear
political will to deal with the challenges and avoid any extra-regional interference. Any revival of the
Cold War, in its classical or “new” forms of power projection, can simply become a potential invitation
for intervention by the US Fourth Fleet, which few desire.
        This has not been the panorama that Brazil, the emerging power in the region, had in mind when
the Lula government decided to launch a historically unprecedented and ambitious plan to reorganize its
defense sector, which foresees a drastic increase of the defense budget from 1.5 percent to 2.7 percent of
the GDP and includes the construction of a nuclear submarine. The plan is conceived as a common
regional “shield” of defense, as well as a broad development project, as Minister Mangabeira Unger
characterizes it. Indeed, Brazil simultaneously proposed the creation of the South American Defense
Council (CSD), which was approved at a meeting of the UNASUR countries in Santiago, Chile in
September 2008. If it overcomes tremendous political and technical obstacles, the CSD could strengthen
the idea of a regional “shield.”
        Concerning the re-deployment of the Fourth Fleet, the rationale of the regional “shield” does not
specifically aim at countering the US move. It aims at strengthening South America’s defense and
security to prevent foreign interference targeting the region. With the prospect of a global financial
collapse and the advent of a deeply turbulent context in world politics, protectionist policies are gaining
importance. Overall, therefore, the redeployment of the US Fourth Fleet has strengthened the protectionist
instinct in South America, as no country is willing to give any credibility to alleged good intentions in a
move that is by essence a power projection.

GUANTANAMO

10. Obama Says Early Closing Of Prison Camp Unlikely
Source: Miami Herald                                                                   01/12/2009
By Carol Rosenberg
        President-elect Barack Obama warned Sunday -- on the seventh anniversary of the opening of the
war-on-terrorism prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba -- that he likely would not make good on his
campaign pledge to close it during his first 100 days in office.
        He spoke in an ABC News interview as demonstrators across the globe donned trademark orange
jumpsuits to condemn the prison camps -- from downtown Prague in the Czech Republic, where critics
knelt behind chicken wire, to Miami Beach, where protesters paraded past brunch crowds on Lincoln
Road.
                                                                                                     10
        ''Obama: Keep Your Promise. Close Guantánamo,'' read a sign carried by several demonstrators,
another curiosity amid the open-air Sunday diners and farmers' market crowds.
        At one point, the 20 or so protesters trotted past a lone man standing vigil beneath a giant cross
and declaring, ''Jesus Saves. Believe or Perish,'' as concertgoers streamed into a matinee performance of
the New World Symphony.
SEVENTH ANNIVERSARY
        Sunday marked seven years to the day that the first 20 detainees arrived at the U.S. Navy base in
southeast Cuba in an airlift from Afghanistan. The base became the showcase center for an ''enemy
combatant'' policy that triggered international condemnation.
        In Cuba, U.S. military spokesmen said last week that 30 of the 250 captives from 31 nations were
engaging in a hunger strike to protest their indefinite detention. Ten percent of the terrorism suspects were
being force-fed, the military said.
        ''I think it's going to take some time,'' Obama told George Stephanopoulos on ABC's This Week.
He said administration legal teams were consulting with ``our national security apparatus as we speak to
help design exactly what we need to do.''
        Obama reiterated his campaign pledge to close the camps as ``part of our broader national security
strategy, because we will send a message to the world that we are serious about our values.''
        Critics complain that the Bush administration has denied to war-on-terrorism captives, from Cuba
to Afghanistan and also on U.S. soil, meaningful opportunities to contest their indefinite detention. The
Pentagon says it houses its post-9/11 detainees humanely and in the spirit of the Geneva Conventions.
`THE CHALLENGE'
        Obama warned that closing the prison camps is ``more difficult than I think a lot of people realize.
Part of the challenge that you have is that you have a bunch of folks that have been detained, many of
whom may be very dangerous, who have not been put on trial or have not gone through some
adjudication.
        ``And some of the evidence against them may be tainted, even though it's true.''
ACHIEVING A BALANCE
        Obama described the challenge confronting his administration as balancing the rule of law and
Anglo-American justice while not releasing people ``who are intent on blowing us up.''
        About two dozen protesters from as far away as Palm Beach County took part in Sunday's march
in Miami Beach, organized by Amnesty International.
        Demonstrators distributed leaflets on Lincoln Road that called for closure in the first 100 days.
        ''It's important now to keep on being the voice for these issues,'' said Wendy Bourgault, 46, of
Pompano Beach, who said she supported Obama.
        She said she dropped her sons off at Sunday catechism class and for the first time donned a
symbolic orange jumpsuit, like those that some prisoners at Guantánamo wear, because she believed that
if her sons were arrested somewhere, ``they would deserve a fair day in court, too.''
MILITARY COMMISSIONS
        Of the 250 men detained at Guantánamo, 19 face charges at the special Military Commissions that
the Bush White House championed as an alternative to traditional military or criminal trials.
        Obama has said he prefers federal trials or courts martial to the commissions, but has not yet
indicated whether he will stop the war court -- which is scheduled to stage its next trial Jan. 26, less than a
week after he takes office.
        ''We get lost in the idea that only people who are bad get put in jail,'' Bourgault said. ``But
everyone deserves a day in court.''
OTHER PROTESTS
        Her protest was mirrored across Europe, including outside the U.S. Embassy in London, where
demonstrators added shackles to their attire, and opposite the U.S. Embassy in Lima, where protesters
added spooky white masks -- and a banner declaring, ``Close Guantánamo!''

                                                                                                            11
         Lincoln Road's lunchtime crowds noted the demonstration with bewilderment. ''Look! Escaped
convicts,'' one teenager shouted as the sign-carrying protest wound past the German beer garden.
         ''Keep torturing!'' a man shouted after demonstrators handed him an Amnesty International leaflet
titled ``Countering Terror with Justice.''
         The Pentagon's Sunday spokesman did not return a call and e-mail seeking an anniversary
comment.

11. Yemen Frees Bin Laden Driver After Jail Term Ends
Source: Reuters                                                                                 01/12/2009
        SANAA (Reuters) - Yemen has freed Osama bin Laden's former driver after he served out his
prison term following his return home from the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in November, his lawyer
said on Sunday.
        "Salim Hamdan was released on Thursday to live with his family in Sanaa," attorney Khaled al-
Ansi told Reuters. He said Hamdan had signed a pledge not to commit any violent acts.
        An Interior Ministry official confirmed the release of Hamdan, who was convicted in a United
States court on terrorism charges and sent back to Yemen by the U.S.
        In the first U.S. war crimes trial since World War Two, Hamdan was convicted in August of
providing personal services in support of terrorism by driving and guarding bin Laden, leader of al Qaeda.
        Hamdan was sentenced to 66 months in prison but given credit for time served at Guantanamo.
His term was to end by December 31. and the Pentagon said the remainder would be served in Yemen.
        Hamdan, who is about 40, acknowledged he was part of bin Laden's motor pool in Afghanistan
but said he took the job because he needed the $200 monthly salary and did not know or support his
employer's aims.
        He was the first prisoner convicted in a full trial of the widely-criticized tribunals set up by the
administration of President George W. Bush and the U.S. Congress.
        The tribunals were established to try non-Americans on terrorism charges outside civilian and
military courts at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
        About 100 of the 250 prisoners remaining at Guantanamo are from Yemen, bin Laden's ancestral
home. Yemen, a poor Arab state seen in the West as a militant stronghold, joined the U.S.-led anti-terror
war after the September 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. cities.
        The Guantanamo tribunals have been condemned by human rights groups and U.S. scholars who
say they were rigged to convict by allowing evidence obtained through coercion, hearsay and torture and
retroactive laws.
        (Reporting by Mohammed Sudam; writing by Firouz Sedarat. Editing by Sophie Hares)

12. Guantanamo Bay Prison
Source: Sunday Monitor – Kampala                                                              01/11/2009
By Edgar R. Batte
        As one of his first acts when he takes office on Tuesday 20 January this year, US President-elect
Barack Obama will be closing Guantanamo Bay, one of the world’s most notorious detention centres
found on the shores of Guantanamo Bay in Cuba - which he described during his campaigns as a “sad
chapter in American history”.
        This is believed to be a positive move that would create a global wave of diplomatic and popular
goodwill to improve America’s murky reputation.
        Reports indicate that as of June this year, there had been at least four suicides and hundreds of
suicide attempts in Guantanamo owing to the torturous acts at the maximum prison; where an exact
number of suicidal culprits is inaccessible since such information is treated as classified.

                                                                                                         12
         The detainment areas consist of three camps in the base- Camp Delta (which includes Camp
Echo), Camp Iguana, and Camp X-Ray (which has been closed). In August 2003, at least 29 inmates of
Camp Delta had attempted suicide in protest.
         In 2008, a hidden-camera-video was released of an interrogation between Canadian Security
Intelligence Service, a CIA officer, and Omar Khadr, a youth held in Guantanamo Bay, in which the
prisoner repeatedly seemed to utter “kill me, kill me, kill me”.
         The US Supreme Court has several times rebuked the Bush administration for its handling of the
detainees. The New York Times and other newspapers are critical of the camp. Columnist Thomas
Friedman urged George W. Bush to “just shut it down”, calling Camp Delta “...worse than an
embarrassment”.
         Thus, closing the prison, which is on a part of Cuba leased to the US, will be viewed as a means to
bringing to an end one of the most poisonous legacies of the Bush administration, while sending a signal
that the “war on terror” is under more enlightened management.
         One of the allegations at the camp is the abuse of the religion of the detainees, and prisoners
released from the camp have alleged that abuse of religion includes flushing the Quran down the toilet,
defacing it, writing comments and remarks on it, tearing pages out of it and denying detainees a copy of
the holy book.
         According to a June 21, 2005, New York Times opinion article, on July 29, 2004, an FBI agent
was quoted as saying, “On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained
hand and foot in a fatal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they had urinated or
defecated on themselves and had been left there for 18, 24 hours or more.”
         The US government has in the past denied all of the above charges, but on May 9, 2004, The
Washington Post publicised classified documents that showed the Pentagon’s approval of using sleep
deprivation, exposure to heat and cold, bright lights, and loud music during interrogations at Guantanamo.
The book Inside the Wire by Erik Saar and Viveca Novak also reveals the abuse of prisoners. Saar, a
former U.S. soldier, repeats allegations that a female interrogator taunted prisoners sexually and in one
instance wiped what seemed to be her menstrual blood onto a detainee.
         However, the traumatising character of Guantanamo isn’t limited to prisoners; the guards at the
notorious prison have also suffered as “overlooked victims”, as The Guardian quotes a psychiatrist who
has treated some of them.
         In some cases, a tour of duty at the camp has made guards suicidal and prompted a variety of
psychiatric symptoms, from depression and insomnia to flashbacks. A guard’s testimony also provides a
harrowing insight into the treatment of prisoners.
         Professor John Smith, a retired US Air Force captain, treated a patient who was a guard at the
camp. Smith’s patient reported that he found conditions at the camp extremely disturbing. For example, in
the first month two detainees and two prison guards committed suicide.
         The taunts of prisoners and the things his superiors required him to do to them had a severe
psychological impact on him. “He was called upon to bring detainees to certain places and see that they
were handcuffed in particularly painful and difficult positions, usually naked, in anticipation of their
interrogation,” said Smith.
         On occasion he was told to make prisoners kneel, naked and handcuffed, on sharp stones. Some of
the techniques used by interrogators resulted in detainees defecating, urinating, vomiting and screaming.
When he returned to the US, the guard was suffering from panic attacks, insomnia, nightmares, flashbacks
and depression.
         The Independent, a British compact newspaper, reports that the controversy over the US-run
detention centre at Guantanamo Bay is to erupt anew with confirmation by the Pentagon that a new,
permanent prison will open in the Cuban enclave in the next few weeks.
         Camp 6, a state-of-the-art maximum-security jail built by a Halliburton subsidiary, will be able to
hold 200 prisoners. This development will refuel the controversy about the jail, which still holds prisoners
from President George Bush’s “war on terror”.
                                                                                                           13
      The new facility is reported to be modelled on a jail in Lenawee County, Michigan. Commander
Durand said Camp 6 will have better recreation and exercise amenities for detainees and integrated
medical care.

13. Yemen Releases Osama Bin Laden's Former Driver
Source: Associated Press                                                                  01/10/2009
By Ahmed Al-Haj
        SAN'A, Yemen (AP) — The lawyer for Osama bin Laden's former driver says his client has been
released from a Yemeni prison after serving out his sentence.
        Lawyer Khaled Al-Anas says Salim Hamdan was released Friday.
        A Yemeni Interior Ministry official has confirmed the release but says it happened Saturday. He
spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
        The reason for the discrepancy was not clear.
        A U.S. military tribunal convicted Hamdan in August of aiding al-Qaida and sentenced him to 5
1/2 years in prison. He had already served five years and a month at Guantanamo Bay prison at the time.
        The U.S. transferred Hamdan to his home country Yemen at the end of 2008 to serve out the rest
of his sentence.

OTHER AOF RELATED ARTICLES

BRAZIL

14. Brazil To Boost Slumping Bolivian Gas Imports
Source: Associated Press                                                                   01/10/2009
By Marco Sibaja
        Energy Minister Edison Lobao announced Friday that Brazil would increase natural gas imports
from Bolivia, reversing course on plans to economize on natural gas while cheap hydroelectric power is
available from swollen rivers and reservoirs.
        Heavy rains have pummeled Brazil since November, pushing dams to full capacity but also killing
more than 150 people and leaving thousands homeless.
        Brazil, Latin America's largest economy, has slashed its daily imports of Bolivian gas by one-third
to 19 million cubic meters (670 million cubic feet) in recent weeks. Bolivia, South America's poorest
nation, says the move could cost it $600 million in lost revenue by April.
        Previously, Brazil announced plans to shutter power plants that run on natural gas from Bolivia
and rely more on hydropower from dozens of dams that will be flooded through the end of the rainy
season in late April.
        But after a Friday meeting with a Bolivian delegation headed by Planning Minister Carlos
Villegas, Brazil changed course.
        "We have reached a satisfactory solution," Villegas told reporters. "Starting tomorrow there will
be a significant increase in the amount of Bolivian gas purchased by Brazil."
        Just how significant, he would not say.
        Lobao said that he received information from state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA
indicating that the operational needs of two thermoelectric plants required increased imports of Bolivian
gas.
        A new contract signed by both countries' presidents in February 2007 requires Brazil to buy
between 19 million and 31 million cubic meters of gas per day at a fixed price. Brazil is widely expected
to seek price cuts.

                                                                                                        14
        President Evo Morales nationalized Bolivia's energy industry in 2006, requiring foreign oil
companies including Petroleo Brasileiro to forfeit majority stakes they bought in Bolivian oil and gas
fields and refineries.
        Brazil and Argentina have squabbled over access to Bolivian energy supplies, which both
countries needed to fuel their rapidly growing economies.
        But the global crisis has since slowed growth in both nations, and Brazil has developed domestic
supplies of oil and alternative energy.
        Bolivia in 2007 exported $2 billion worth of natural gas, its largest export. Brazil is its main gas
customer.

COLOMBIA

15. Colombia Indians Face Down Violence
Rebels, drug traffickers and soldiers may battle around them and encroach on their lands, but tribes hold
on to their peaceful ways to solve conflicts.
Source: Los Angeles Times                                                                     01/11/2009
By Chris Kraul
         Reporting from Jambalo, Colombia — After word spread across this Indian reservation that seven
people had been kidnapped by leftist rebels, the community's unarmed "indigenous guard" sprang into
action.
         Within minutes, hundreds of men, women and children were out on roads and pathways searching
for the hostages, communicating by radio, cellphone and shouts. Many held lanterns that, as the search
continued after nightfall, made the rescue party seem an eerily glowing centipede snaking up and down
hillsides.
         Soon, the guards had found the hostages. The rebels were holding them in a school, which was
quickly surrounded by hundreds of Indians, who, lanterns held high, kept a silent vigil. A guerrilla leader
threatened violence and shot his weapon into the air, but no one budged.
         After a brief standoff, the unarmed Indians secured the hostages' release.
         The incident in November was a dramatic example of how many of Colombia's 92 indigenous
communities use a common front and an almost Gandhian stance of nonviolence to coexist with, and
sometimes prevail over, the rebels, drug traffickers, paramilitary fighters and government soldiers who for
decades have battled one another in the country.
         "We forbid violence. All we have is the power to convene," Rodrigo Dagua, leader of the Jambalo
tribe, said as he held the so-called staff of command, a ceremonial rod that confers authority on its holder.
"It's what keeps us alive."
         The peaceful approach doesn't always work for Colombia's indigenous people, who number about
1.4 million, or 3% of the population.
         For the last decade, the Wayuu tribe in northeastern Colombia has suffered murder and extortion
at the hands of paramilitary bands who covet the Caribbean coastline bordering their reservation. Indians
in Putumayo state's Sibundoy Valley have been chased off their ancestral lands to make way for coca
plantations.
         In October, an Indian marcher here in Cauca state in Colombia's southwest was shot and killed by
police as he took part in a protest against the government's failure to deliver 45,000 acres to local tribes as
promised in a 1991 land reform plan. Cauca's 18 indigenous communities had declared a minga, or
collective movement, and had shut down the Panamerican Highway.
         Tensions in Cauca rose last month after soldiers killed Edwin Legarda, the husband of minga
leader Aida Quilcue of the neighboring Totoro reservation. The military said the shooting at a checkpoint
a few miles north of here was an accident. The Indians and some human rights groups contend that it was
a criminal attack and an effort to silence Quilcue.
                                                                                                             15
         But nonviolence remains the watchword for how the indigenous deal with the outside world, as
shown by the foiled kidnapping by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, in
November.
         The kidnapping victims included four consultants from the state capital, Popayan, who had driven
up to this isolated town in Colombia's central mountain range to assist Jambalo leaders with
administrative and bookkeeping matters.
         The consultants were returning to Popayan with three locals when half a dozen guerrillas stopped
their van and took them all hostage. The kidnappers and their captives began marching east up a rugged
mountainside toward an area where FARC leaders are known to hide out.
         One of the victims managed to make a cellphone call to Jambalo leaders, who ordered out the
indigenous guards, a 360-member phalanx of mostly young leaders whose job is to spread the alarm at
times of crisis and to organize a community response.
         Guard leader Fermin Jembuel said the kidnappings violated a tacit decades-long agreement with
the FARC that the rebels leave Jambalo alone in exchange for the community's neutrality in the FARC's
quarrel with the government.
         "We have 36 villages on the reservation, and all were activated under our emergency plan,"
Jembuel said. "Checkpoints were set up on every road and path."
         After the hostages were released, the guerrillas were allowed to flee. All except for one: a member
of the Jambalo community who was a FARC collaborator. In a subsequent trial, he was banished from the
reservation for 15 years as punishment, said Dagua, the tribe's leader.
         "The level of organization and commitment that the communities have, and how much they resist
all external threats to their land, is a clear example of strength," said Mario Murillo, a Hofstra University
professor who is writing a book on Colombia's indigenous communities.
         "But it also points up the challenges they face, surrounded as they are by forces that pose a severe
threat."
         It was hardly the first time the Jambalo tribe has had to look down the rifle barrels of armed
groups encroaching on its domain. Several years ago, tribe members destroyed five "kitchens" set up by
drug traffickers on their land to process cocaine. More recently, they repeatedly have escorted army
patrols off their 1,500-acre reservation.
         "The army offers to come and deal with the FARC and the traffickers, but we don't want them
involved," Dagua said, adding that the presence of armed groups would only ignite a cycle of violence.
"We'll take care of our problems our way."

16. Drug Lord Gunned Down In Hospital
Source: Wall Street Journal                                                                 01/10/2009
By Thomas Catan
        MADRID -- Convicted Colombian drug lord Leonidas Vargas was shot to death in his Spanish
hospital bed on Thursday as he awaited trial on international narcotics trafficking charges.
        Spanish authorities said that at least one masked gunman burst into the drug baron's room at
Madrid's Doce de Octubre hospital and fired four shots in an apparently professional hit job. Local media
reported that the gun had been fitted with a silencer and that another man witnessed the assassination from
an adjacent bed.
        Mr. Vargas was arrested in Madrid in July 2006 holding a fake Venezuelan passport. The 59-year-
old was in the hospital being treated for lung problems while awaiting trial for allegedly smuggling
cocaine hidden in a cargo of pineapples.
        Mr. Vargas was a top lieutenant to Pablo Escobar, the notorious former head of the Medellin
cartel. After Mr. Escobar was killed by Colombian police in 1993 in a U.S.-backed operation, Mr. Vargas
allegedly went on to head the Caqueta drug cartel in southern Colombia.

                                                                                                          16
        In 1995, he was sentenced in Colombia to 26 years in jail for illicit enrichment related to drug
trafficking, murder and illegal gun running, but was released seven years later for good behavior.
        Mr. Vargas courted controversy during his spell in a Colombian prison by recording an album of
Mexican-style "ranchera" songs. The album cover depicted the drug baron wearing a white cowboy hat
and clutching his prison cell bars.
        He was also accused of ordering an unsuccessful assassination attempt on former Colombian
presidential candidate, Horacio Serpa, from his prison cell.
        Mr. Vargas survived an earlier apparent assassination attempt in 1997, when a bomb exploded in
the prison where he was being held.

COSTA RICA

17. Death Toll Rises To 16 From Costa Rica Quake
Source: Associated Press                                                                       01/11/2009
By Kent Gilbert
         VARA BLANCA DE ALAJUELA, Costa Rica – Searchers found more bodies Saturday in a
restaurant buried under fallen earth, bringing the death toll to 16 as helicopters ferried residents and
tourists out of a quake-stricken region in Costa Rica, the Red Cross said.
         The 6.1-magnitude earthquake caused a hillside to collapse near the town of Vara Blanca de
Alajuela on Thursday, damaging 6 miles (10 kms) of road and sending rocks and earth tumbling down on
passing cars. Many of the dead were trapped inside vehicles, while others were found inside a small
restaurant, Red Cross officials said.
         Rescuers were using trained dogs and heavy machinery to search through the rubble, but Red
Cross spokesman Freddy Roman said hope of finding survivors was diminishing.
         Roman said three bodies were found inside the restaurant on Saturday, raising the confirmed death
toll to 16. Witnesses said at least 3 other people had been seen at the eatery before the quake hit this area
north of Costa Rica's capital, San Jose.
         "This is very hard. God has taken him away, but we hope to get his body back to give him a
Christian burial," said Jose Zamora, whose brother Francisco is believed to be among those killed at the
restaurant.
         One of the bodies recovered was tentatively identified as an 11-year-old boy.
         Trained dogs signaled that more bodies were still buried underneath the landslide, including four
people presumably inside their vehicles.
         Juan Bautista Quesada, 66, was at his house in Vara Blanca when the quake struck.
         "The house was swinging like a hammock," Quesada said. "It wasn't until it was over that I saw
there was blood on the floor ... and I saw I had wounds on my head and shoulder from where the roof had
fallen on me."
         Argentine tourist Silvana Lopez was driving in a rented car with her family.
         "Suddenly the road disappeared in front of us and behind us," Lopez said. She took refuge along
with several other people in a nearby field where they spent the night.
         The National Emergency Committee said helicopters had flown at least 250 people, including
tourists, the wounded and the elderly, out of the region — a mountainous area with few access roads,
most of which were blocked by landslides.
         Roman said about 45 people were still isolated in cut-off areas, and 1,378 people had sought
refuge in shelters.
         The U.S. Geological Survey said the temblor was centered 22 miles (35 kilometers) northwest of
San Jose, near the Poas Volcano National Park.


                                                                                                          17
18. Death Toll Rises To 9 From Costa Rica Quake
Source: Associated Press                                                                     01/10/2009
By Marianela Jimenez
        SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – Helicopters plucked tourists from destroyed, mountaintop resorts as the
death toll from Costa Rica's magnitude-6.1 earthquake rose to at least 9 victims, the Red Cross said
Friday.
        Dozens more remained missing as survivors reported seeing people buried by landslides.
        "I watched as the earth took my aunt and my cousins ... I watched them be buried," Miguel Angel
Marin told Channel 7 news.
        The quake shook the Central American nation Thursday afternoon, collapsing homes, unleashing
massive landslides, and trapping hundreds of people in damaged mountain towns.
        Red Cross spokeswoman Fiorella Vilca said the dead include 7- and 11-year-old sisters buried in a
landslide, a 12-year-old girl whose home was crushed by falling earth, two men found dead in San Pedro
de Poas, and three bodies found in a battered truck near the Angel waterfall popular with tourists. Another
victim died of a heart attack in the capital, San Jose.
        On Friday, rescue officials reached nearly 500 people trapped in the hardest hit zone — a
mountainous area with few access roads, most of which were blocked by landslides.
        "We are trying to evacuate these areas as soon as possible," Red Cross spokesman Freddy Roman
said.
        Many residents of the area are small farmers who raise livestock or grow strawberries and
ornamental plants. The region has also seen increased tourism in recent years.
        Allan Flores, head of the Costa Rican Tourism Institute, told Channel 7 that about 200 Costa
Rican and foreign tourists were trapped at the La Paz Waterfall Gardens hotel, a luxury eco-resort in Vara
Blanca.
        He said no tourists at the hotel appeared to be injured. Those who could hike out were being led to
rescue vehicles, while the rest were being airlifted back to the capital.
        Local media reported that the resort suffered severe damage in the quake and visitors had to sleep
outside.
        When a helicopter from Channel 7 flew over the hotel early Friday, before the rescue effort began,
a woman shouted in English: "We want to get out of this place!"
        Phone calls to the resort went unanswered.
        At least three of the deaths were at the waterfalls near the resort.
        A Belgian tourist told Channel 7 that she was on a lookout platform near the falls with her
husband and his two young children when the quake suddenly collapsed the structure and they fell 20
yards (20 meters).
        They survived with only minor injures.
        There were also reports of cars being buried by landslides and widespread destruction in the
remote town of Cinchona.
        Resident Manuel Cambronero told Channel 7 by phone that Cinchona was destroyed.
        "The only thing left is the field where we plant strawberries," he said. "It gives me chills just
remembering it, because the mountains moved and all the homes collapsed on the ground."
        The U.S. Geological Survey said the temblor was centered 22 miles (35 kilometers) northwest of
San Jose, near the Poas Volcano National Park.

CUBA

19. Rio Group Gives A `Comfort Zone'
Source: Miami Herald                                                                      01/12/2009
                                                                                                        18
By Anthony P. Maingot
         In our very South Florida preoccupation with Fidel and Raúl Castro's leadership in Cuba, we often
overlook some events that point to developments that go beyond Cuba and the United States. One such
development was the admission of Cuba to the Rio Group in mid-November.
         Established in 1986, this Group is not to be confused with the Rio Treaty of 1947, which has been,
if not completely dominated, at least predominantly influenced by the United States.
         This Group is a strictly Latin American and Caribbean organization. Unfortunately, some of the
analysts who are much read in South Florida either dismiss or disregard Cuba's entry into the Rio Group.
         Jorge Castañeda, former Mexican foreign minister, calls it an ''ad hoc'' grouping with Latin
American countries befriending Cuba ''out of conviction or opportunism'' (Wall Street Journal, Dec. 26,
2008), while Carlos Alberto Montaner completely disregards Latin American opinion and argues that the
United States should accept nothing short of a Costa Rican type democracy from Raúl Castro. These
analysts completely miss the critical significance of the admission of Cuba to the Rio Group:
         • First, it demonstrates the willingness and capacity of all the Latin American states (without
exception) to act in concert to resist U.S. policy. The many declarations of the Rio Group say nothing
about ''democracy'' but rather demand adherence to the principles of nonproliferation of weapons of mass
destruction (WMD) and the promotion of confidence-building through collective security.
         While it was Mexico's conservative president, Felipe Calderón who sponsored Cuba's entry, he
was carrying out a recommendation of the Group's 2004 meeting in Rio that called for ``further dialogue
with Cuba.''
Building on the visits to Cuba by all the major nations of Latin America, the 2008 decision to admit Cuba
was predictable. In this, the Latin American process shows some similarity with the European Union's
approach to negotiation with Cuba.
         • Second, continuous focus on U.S. actions and ignoring the role of Brazil in this process is a
major mistake. Keep in mind that Brazil is one of the ''BRICs'' (Brazil, Russia, India and China) that
together constitute a formidable bloc. While the world is projected to grow by 0.6 percent, according to
Goldman Sachs figures, the BRICs will grow by 4.7 percent. Brazil is the only one of these without
nuclear weapons -- even though as a state it is in considerably better shape than Russia in terms of
economic and population growth. There is much speculation that a President Barack Obama will bring
these and other surging nations (known as the G-20) to the table long dominated by the G-7 industrial
nations.
         • Third, while Cuba is far from qualifying to be one of the G-20, by pulling it into this new
international dynamic, the Rio Group provides Cuba with an association much wider, stronger and
durable than that promised by President Hugo Chávez's ALBA -- the Bolivarian Alternative for the
Americas. As such, even acknowledging that in the final analysis U.S.-Cuban rapproachement will have
to be bilateral, the Rio Group provides any U.S. president a negotiating ''comfort zone'' which is not to be
trivialized. While not perfectly analogous, Brazil and Chile's role in Haiti (called for by the 2004 meeting
of the Rio Group) offers an example of what might be possible.
         The difference is that in Cuba no military presence would be considered -- or possible; it would
entail use of ''soft power'' skills of which Brazil with its ''pragmatismo responsavel'' is the acknowledged
hemispheric master. The new U.S. administration has an opportunity to refocus the ``Cuba problem,''
confident in having solid allies stretching from Mexico to Argentina.
         Anthony P. Maingot is professor emeritus of sociology at Florida International University.

20. Chavez: Castro Unlikely To Appear In Public Again
Source: Associated Press                                                         01/12/2009
By Christopher Toothaker
       CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Sunday it is unlikely that ailing
former Cuban leader Fidel Castro will ever appear in public again.
                                                                                                 19
        "That Fidel in his uniform who walked the streets and towns late at night, hugging the people,
won't return," Chavez said during his Sunday television and radio program. "That will remain in
memories."
        He did not discuss the 82-year-old Castro's current medical condition or say why he thought
Castro would not return to the public stage.
        Chavez has continued to meet occasionally with his friend Castro in private since the former
Cuban leader underwent emergency intestinal surgery about 2 1/2 years ago. Castro was last seen in
public on July 26, 2006, at a celebration in eastern Cuba.
        Since then, Cuban authorities have periodically released photos and videos of Castro meeting with
Chavez and other foreign leaders.
        Fidel has ceded power to his younger brother Raul Castro, but continues to write essays published
in official Cuban media.
        Chavez, who says he is steering Venezuela toward socialism, fondly recalled the last time he and
Castro appeared in public together during a trip to Argentina in July 2006.
        "He walked to the door of the plane and we hugged. My God. I didn't think it would be the last
time."
        "Fidel will live forever, beyond the physical life," Chavez said Sunday.
        Since taking office in 1999, Chavez has forged strong ties with Cuba. Venezuela ships 190,000
barrels of crude oil a day to the communist-led island at preferential rates while Cuba has sent thousands
of doctors and sports trainers to Venezuela.

21. Is Obama Factor Behind Flurry Of Cuba Trips?
Source: Miami Herald                                                                         01/11/2009
By Andres Oppenheimer
        T he sudden flurry of Latin American presidents' visits to Cuba, breaking decades of diplomatic
ostracism of the Cuban dictatorship, makes me wonder whether we are witnessing a total surrender of the
region's commitment to democracy, or a worthy collective offensive to help bring about a political
opening on the island.
        Which one is it?
        Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet are
scheduled to make official visits to Havana over the next few weeks, shortly after similar trips by the
presidents of Ecuador and Panama, and after a trip last year by the president of Brazil. Mexican President
Felipe Calderón is expected to travel to the island later this year.
        Judging from what I heard from interviews with senior Latin American officials and Cuban
opposition leaders on the island, here are some of the reasons behind the visits:
        • The Obama factor: The Cuban government has successfully convinced Latin American
governments that U.S. President-elect Barack Obama will lift the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba, noting that
Latin American countries would look very bad in front of their own people if Washington were to
normalize relations with the island ahead of Cuba's own Latin American neighbors.
        (For the record, Obama has repeatedly stated that he will lift President George W. Bush's 2004
measures tightening travel and restrictions on remittances but will not lift the embargo, barring major
political changes on the island.)
        • The Chávez factor: Venezuela's narcissist-Leninist President Hugo Chávez, who finances many
Latin American countries through oil subsidies and bond purchases and is a frequent flier to Cuba, has
long been asking his colleagues in the region to visit Havana and give the Cuban regime a much-needed
domestic propaganda boost.
        • The domestic front factor: Many of the visiting leaders are using the excuse of the takeover of
Gen. Raúl Castro -- Fidel's brother -- as new president to visit the island for their own domestic reasons.
DIVERTING ATTENTION
                                                                                                           20
        Argentina's Fernández de Kirchner is spending much of her time abroad in an effort to divert
domestic attention from her government's growing unpopularity. Over the next two months, in addition to
her visit to Cuba, Fernández de Kirchner is scheduled to visit Venezuela, Spain, Portugal, India and South
Korea.
        Mexico's Calderón, a staunch defender of democratic freedoms before he took office, is
increasingly caving in to the Cuban regime's whims in an apparent effort to placate opposition legislators
in Mexico's Congress.
        Chile's Bachelet wants to become the first Chilean president to visit the island in more than three
decades. She will ostensibly make the trip to dedicate Cuba's annual book fair, which will focus on Chile
this year.
        A well-placed Chilean official told me that, while Bachelet will use the opportunity to try ''to open
up spaces'' in Cuba, she won't meet with members of Cuba's opposition. Asked why, he said there are
many ways in which countries seek to press for democratic changes and that this official visit will not be
the appropriate one.
        Cuban dissidents on the island note that whenever Fidel Castro or his brother has visited Latin
American countries for presidential summits or state visits, they have publicly met with opposition
leaders. Why can't Latin American presidents do the same in Cuba? they ask.
        And isn't it ironic, they ask, that Bachelet will dedicate a book fair in which thousands of books --
including many by Chilean writers, like Jorge Edwards -- are banned?
        What's worse, Cuba's police late last week detained at least four members of the Cuban Transition
Agenda, a peaceful opposition group that had asked for meetings with Fernández de Kirchner and
Bachelet. The pro-democracy activists were asked to sign affidavits that they will not get anywhere near
the foreign dignitaries, the group said.
        ''Argentina's president should remember that she has said that she defends human rights,''
Vladimiro Roque, one of the Agenda's leaders, told me in a telephone interview from Havana. ``The only
thing these visits do is help legitimize a dictatorship.''
THEY SHOULD GO
        My opinion: I'm not against Latin American presidents -- or any others -- visiting a totalitarian
country like Cuba. On the contrary, they should go and do what democratic presidents are supposed to do:
Meet with the government and with civil society, including opposition leaders, like democratic presidents
do every day around the world.
        Not doing it legitimizes a military dictatorship and sets a terrible precedent for the region. Today,
it's Cuba. Tomorrow, it can be any of the visiting presidents' countries.

22. 50 Years Later, Who Wins And Who Loses
Source: Washington Post                                                                      01/11/2009
By Ann Louise Bardach
        On New Year's Day, Fidel Castro and his brother Raul celebrated their golden anniversary --
marking a half-century since they brought revolution to Cuba. On Jan. 20, Barack Obama will become the
44th president of the United States. But to the Castros, who have struck out the previous 10 occupants of
the Oval Office, he will simply be the 11th batter to step up to the plate.
        In 2009, the 50-year, high-stakes showdown between Washington and Havana is likely to
culminate not in a final glorious duel but in resignation born of fatigue. And there will be indisputable
winners and losers -- mostly losers -- as the Obama administration wades into the troubled waters of the
U.S.-Cuba relationship. Here's a look at who ends up where.
WINNERS
        Fidel Castro. He's the Cuban Marathon Man, refusing to surrender, retreat or die. Mortally ill with
intestinal disease, he hasn't been seen in public since July 26, 2006. His illnesses and botched surgeries
would have felled any other mortal, but through sheer grit and vengeance, he lives on.
                                                                                                           21
         Raul Castro. While Fidel remains the wizard behind the curtain, Raul is front and center as Cuba's
new head of state, and it will be under his watch that the five-decade U.S. embargo enters its death spiral.
Right off, Obama has promised to lift the Bush administration's restrictions, imposed in 2004, on Cuban
Americans traveling and sending money to the island. Next on the agenda will be allowing more
Americans to visit and leaving it up to the Cubans to be the heavies in keeping troublesome exiles and
pesky reporters like me away.
         Although the Obama administration is neither able nor inclined to rescind the embargo entirely, it
can encourage its allies in Congress to begin the process of dismantling it. With a new Brookings poll
showing an unprecedented majority (55 percent) of Cuban Americans opposing continuation of the
embargo, and 79 percent viewing it critically, the administration will have the wind in its sails to act.
         Russia and China. These two U.S. rivals have the entree to reestablish a beachhead and, no doubt,
a listening post in our backyard. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Chinese leader Hu Jintao have
both been feted in Havana recently, and all manner of trade deals are in the works.
LOSERS
         The anti-Castro cottage industry. The eight years of the Bush presidency were the golden goose
for a cadre of ideologically hardline entrepreneurs and their organizations. Although most exiles are
motivated by genuine conviction and human rights concerns, a segment has also benefited richly from the
protracted antagonism between the United States and Cuba. In 2008 alone, the U.S. Agency for
International Development (USAID) and the State Department doled out a whopping $45 million of
taxpayer largess to groups charged with fostering democracy in Cuba, such as the Center for a Free Cuba
and the International Republican Institute.
         Among the losers here is Felipe Sixto, a former special assistant to President Bush and the White
House's liaison to exile leaders, who could now be looking at a stretch in the pokey. Sixto was forced to
resign last March amid allegations that he had stolen nearly $600,000 of USAID grant money while chief
of staff at the Center for a Free Cuba and during his later stint at the White House. In late November,
Sixto was charged with stealing from a federally funded program, and on Dec. 19, he pleaded guilty and
repaid $644,884.60 to the center, which had reported the theft.
         There was more startling news in a 2008 report by the Cuban American National Foundation
(CANF), the largest exile organization in the country, which has moved to the political center from its
former perch on the right. According to the report, just 17 percent of the funds given to exile groups
between 1996 and 2006 actually made it to the island. The other 83 percent was spent on salaries, travel
and administrative expenses.
         Last summer, USAID intermittently halted some of its funding for Cuba programs while it
investigated the embezzlement at the Center for a Free Cuba and suspicious credit-card spending at the
Miami-based Grupo de Apoyo a la Democracia (Support Group for Democracy), two leading
beneficiaries of government funds. But according to a 2008 report from the Government Accountability
Office (GAO), USAID renewed payments of the frozen funds to both in September. That means that the
Grupo de Apoyo has hauled in about $10.9 million since 2000, according to the GAO and USAID, while
about $7.2 million has been doled out to the Center for a Free Cuba since 2005.
         Although the Bush administration has requested another $20 million to fund Cuba programs for
2009, the Obama team will presumably slow the gravy train or review its contents and recipients.
Radio and Television Marti. The International Broadcasting Bureau spends around $35 million in
taxpayer funds annually on these two stations, which transmit Spanish-language broadcasts to Cuba. In
2006 and 2007, the GAO found all manner of funny business at the Martis, which have received roughly
half a billion dollars over the past 20 years. Known in Miami as "botellas" -- slang for pork-barrel
sinecures -- the stations have long operated as gift baskets for Miami's political elite. For a period, the
fathers of Miami Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart, who
champion funding for the stations, had their own shows on Radio Marti.
         Because the Cuban government jams both stations' transmissions, Congress approved $10 million
in 2006 to buy TV Marti its own airplane from which to beam its signal. Nevertheless, according to recent
                                                                                                            22
studies, listener- and viewership have declined as the Martis' programming has become progressively
more shrill since their 1996 move from Washington to Miami. Cubans are keen for uncensored news of
the world and their country, but they get all the screeds they need homegrown.
         The 2007 GAO report found that the Martis had awarded more than $1 million in contracts to
Miami's TV Azteca and Radio Mambi, renowned for its deep bench of anti-Castro bloviators, to aid
transmission, bypassing federal contract-bidding procedures. More dubiously and perhaps in
contravention of the Marti charter, the two stations have been running Marti's programming locally.
         Bets are on that Obama's team will compel the Martis to professionalize their content and their
bidding practices. They may also choose to bring the stations back under the umbrella of the Voice of
America, to keep a closer eye and ear on them.
         Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart. The Miami Republican does most of the heavy lifting and horse-trading
in Congress to ensure that anti-Castro programs are amply funded. He has been a lifelong satellite around
Planet Fidel: The two share a birthday, and Diaz-Balart is Castro's nephew by marriage, his most ardent
foe and his would-be successor. As George W. Bush's quarterback, Diaz-Balart has dictated virtually all
policy and staffing regarding Cuba. That will not be the case come Jan. 20.
         The Cuban Liberty Council. This fiercely hard-line organization will no longer be arranging the
place settings at the White House on Cuban Independence Day. Replacing it will be the CANF and the
Cuba Study Group, an exile organization led by conservative but pragmatic Cuban-American
businessmen.
         The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is likely to see its Cuban
sails trimmed. OFAC's chief mandate is to enforce sanctions against countries harboring terrorists. But a
2007 government study found that 61 percent of the office's investigations since 2000 had been aimed at
just one target: Cuba. Between 2000 and 2005, OFAC penalties for violations of the Cuban embargo
represented more than 70 percent of all the penalties the office imposed. In 2004, a congressional hearing
revealed that tax dollars earmarked for the war on terrorism were spent on tracking unauthorized travelers
to Cuba. At the hearing, OFAC acknowledged that it had just four employees searching for the funds of
Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, as opposed to more than 20 full-time investigators charged with
hunting down suspected violators of the embargo. American taxpayers had picked up the tab for OFAC's
prosecution of a 75-year-old grandmother from San Diego who took a bicycling trip to Cuba, an Indiana
teacher who delivered Bibles and the son of missionaries who traveled to the island to spread his parents'
ashes at the site of the church they'd founded 50 years before.
         Luis Posada Carriles. The new year isn't looking especially bright for the fugitive bomber and
would-be Castro assassin, who has enjoyed safe haven in Miami for the past year. The Obama Justice
Department might actually move on the evidence collected by the FBI and a federal grand jury -- seated
for almost three years at a cost of millions of dollars -- reportedly tying Posada to a string of bombings in
Cuba in 1997.
         Carlos Valenciaga. Fidel Castro's secretary and longtime faithful aide, who solemnly announced
Castro's health crisis on television in 2006, has fallen out of favor -- and out of a job.
         La Revolucion. Although a significant deposit of oil was discovered last year in Cuban waters, the
country, one of the world's last Marxist outposts, is still struggling to pay its bills. And until dividends
begin to trickle down to the kitchen table, the island will continue to hemorrhage young people, who have
despaired of seeing promised reforms. An estimated 80,000 Cubans -- many of the country's best and
brightest -- have left for the United States since 2005.
         That's why Havana's premier dissident blogger, Yoani Sanchez, thinks that the revolution itself
falls into the loser category. "Revolutions don't last half a century," she wrote in a December posting.
"They always expire, trying to make themselves eternal. . . . Nothing will manage to raise it from the
tomb and bring it back to life. Let it rest in peace."
         Ann Louise Bardach is the author of "Cuba Confidential" and the forthcoming "Without Fidel: A
Death Foretold in Miami, Washington and Havana."

                                                                                                           23
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

23. Brazil's Embraer Sells Military Aircraft To Domrep
Source: Associated Press                                                                   01/10/2009
        SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) — Brazilian aircraft maker Embraer says it has sold eight Super
Tucano light attack planes to the Dominican Republic.
        Empresa Brasileira de Aeronautica SA says the aircraft will be used by the Dominican Republic's
air force in border patrol and anti-drug operations.
        A company statement issued Friday to announce the deal did not reveal its value.
        Embraer sold 12 of the turboprop planes to Chile for pilot training last August. The company is
the world's fourth-largest plane maker,

24. Brazil's Embraer Sells 8 Planes To Dominican Republic Military
Source: Latin American Herald Tribune                                                      01/10/2009
        SAO PAULO -- Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer comfirmed Friday the sale of eight Super
Tucano combat airplanes to the government of the Dominican Republic.
        In a communique, Embraer said that the aircraft will be used by the Dominican air force on
"internal-security and border-patrol missions in an operational scenario of its war on drugs."
        Of the 144 Super Tucanos sold by Embraer since 2003, the Brazilian air force acquired 63 and the
Colombian air force 25, while Chile purchased a dozen in 2008.
        The Super Tucano, a turbo-prop multi-purpose aircraft, can carry a wide array of both
conventional and smart weapons
        Embraer describes it as the world's only mass-production plane capable of carrying out advanced
training missions and nighttime surveillance.

25. Dominican Republic Buys 8 Planes From Embraer
Source: Reuters                                                                               01/09/2009
        SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazil's Embraer has sold eight Super Tucano light-attack aircraft to the
Dominican Republic, the world's third-largest commercial jet maker said on Friday.
        The company, which gave no value for the deal, said in a statement that the Caribbean country's
air force would use the aircraft in border patrol and anti-drug trafficking operations.
        Embraer last year sold 12 of the turbo-prop planes to the Chilean air force. The Colombian air
force already has 25 Super Tucanos in its fleet, and Ecuador has also expressed interest in buying the
planes for its military.
        Embraer Chief Executive Frederico Curado said in December that he expected aircraft orders to
decline in 2009 as credit dries up because of the global financial crisis.
        In November, the company cut its jet delivery forecast for 2009 to 270 jets from a previous
estimate of 315 to 350.
        Embraer, short for Empresa Brasileira de Aeronautica, is the world's leading producer of regional
jets seating up to 120 passengers. It also makes luxury business jets and military aircraft. (Reporting by
Stuart Grudgings, Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

ECUADOR

26. Ecuador Pays Brazil To Resolve Diplomatic Spat
Source: Associated Press                                                                  01/12/2009
                                                                                                        24
By Alan Clendenning
        Ecuador has quietly made overdue payments to Brazil on a loan for the construction of a
controversial hydroelectric project, possibly ending a monthslong diplomatic dispute, Brazil's foreign
ministry said Saturday.
        The payments on the $246.9 million loan were made on Thursday, the foreign ministry said in a
statement. As a result, Brazil will now send back its ambassador to the Ecuadorean capital of Quito next
week.
        But the carefully worded statement also warned that Brazil "will continue to closely observe the
evolution of its economic and financial relations with Ecuador."
        Ambassador Antonino Marques Porto was called home in late November after Ecuadorean
President Rafael Correa said his country would not pay the loan to Brazil's National Development Bank
because of allegations of shoddy work.
        Ecuador also expelled executives of Rio de Janeiro-based construction company Norberto
Odebrecht SA last month because of allegedly faulty work on the San Francisco hydroelectric plant,
considered key for Ecuador's future energy needs.
        The dispute prompted heated exchanges between the two nations, and Brazilian Foreign Minister
Celso Amorim angered Ecuador when he said last month that the nation had "shot itself in the foot."
        In testimony before Congress in December, Amorim said Ecuador could suffer severe
consequences for suspending loan payments, stating that Brazil is among the few sources of loans left for
Ecuador because of the global credit crunch. Ecuador is projecting a $1.5 billion deficit in 2009 because
of low oil prices and has defaulted recently on some of its general foreign debt.
        Officials have suggested that the dispute could put other joint projects at risk, including a land-
and-river trade route that Correa wants to establish to link Brazil's Amazon rain forest to Ecuador's Pacific
coast.
        Such infrastructure projects integrating Brazil with neighboring nations usually receive heavy
funding from Brazil, which has Latin America's largest economy and much deeper state financing
resources than most of the continent's other nations.
        Correa said last month that the dispute with Brazil centered on "about $80 million, which is the
capitalization of interest, which is illegal."

HONDURAS

27. Honduran Guard Fires Gun At US Drug Aid Ceremony
Source: Associated Press                                                                   01/10/2009
        TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – A new U.S. drug aid package has been received with a bang in
Honduras.
        A police officer guarding the signing ceremony accidentally fired his gun before it began,
frightening the growing crowd.
        No one was injured. U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens was present when the gun went off, but
President Manuel Zelaya had not yet arrived.
        Friday's ceremony marked Honduras' formal acceptance of the Merida Initiative aid package,
which sets aside more than $1 billion in training and equipment for Mexico, Central America, Haiti and
the Dominican Republic.
        Smugglers move at least 100 tons of cocaine through Honduran territory each year. The drugs
originate in Colombia but are headed for the U.S. market.

NICARAGUA

                                                                                                          25
28. Second Coming Of The Sandinistas Turns Sour
Two years ago Daniel Ortega swept back to power amid heady hopes for a return of the idealism which
powered Nicaragua's revolution in the 1980s. But the president's authoritarianism and accusations of
election rigging have led to fears that he is becoming just another Latin-American dictator
Source: The Observer – (UK)                                                                  01/11/2009
        There's a lot of love and harmony in Managua these days. You tend to hear it first: the upbeat
religious hymns designed to put a spring in the step. Then you see a man with a moustache beaming down
from a giant billboard with a message in bright yellow letters urging peace, reconciliation and love. Lots
of love. The background is pastel pink.
        Clustered beneath the numerous billboards you find gatherings of people holding Nicaraguan flags
and wearing white T-shirts proclaiming goodwill to all. Some wave the flags and dance to the music
booming from loudspeakers. Most stand motionless and gaze blankly at traffic. Ernest Zapata, 46, has
holes in his shoes, gaps in his teeth and indifference in his voice. "Why am I here?" He points to a tray of
fizzy drinks and buns: lunch.
        Sebastián Andino, 56, a burly flag-waver in a baseball cap who seems to be in charge, steps in.
"This is a campaign against hate. We are, you know, harmonisers." Like other teams across the capital,
this group, mostly jobless and impoverished, had been at its post since 4am and would stay until sunset.
Andino briefly galvanises his troops into action. Their arms whirr, flags billow.
        Something odd is happening in Nicaragua. Two years ago today Daniel Ortega was a newly
minted president starting his term at the helm of a Sandinista government. The one-time Marxist
revolutionary had swept back to power promising social democracy, inclusiveness and a fight against
poverty. It was a heady moment. A movement which had inspired leftwingers all over the world in the
1980s had been given another chance to transform this impoverished, tropical strip of Central America.
        But the ubiquitous gaudy billboards with a smiling Ortega cut a surreal spectacle last week.
Managua's mood is black, not pink. A political crisis has convulsed Nicaragua and spread fear, loathing
and division. Rival groups have mounted blockades, clashed in the streets and torched government
offices. Opposition parties have shut down the national assembly and refused to pass a budget.
International donors have slashed aid and business confidence has collapsed. The real purpose of the
government-funded "harmonisers", it is widely believed, is to give police a pretext to block demonstrators
from main junctions, part of a strategy to stifle dissent.
        "The country is paralysed, we are in crisis," said Carlos Fernando Chamorro, a leading
commentator and government critic. The proximate cause is fallout from local elections in November,
which the Sandinistas allegedly rigged, sparking dire warnings that Nicaragua is headed back towards
dictatorship.
        The risk is not civil war - Nicaragua remains one of the safest countries in Central America - but
that authoritarianism will replace democracy and the economy will nosedive: a grim way to mark the
revolution's 30th anniversary. "The Sandinistas are closer to Don Corleone's Mafia than a political party,"
said Sofía Montenegro, an outspoken feminist whose women's rights NGO was raided by police. "And
Ortega is closer to Robert Mugabe or Papa Doc than any other Latin American leader. His vision is
completely totalitarian."
        The election, said by critics to be the most blatant fraud since the Somoza dynasty rigged a 1947
poll, capped a tumultuous year which put Nicaragua back in the limelight. Ortega has been accused of
persecuting revered revolutionary figures-turned-critics, notably the poet Ernesto Cardenal. Intellectuals
and former sympathisers, such as Noam Chomsky, Salman Rushdie and José Saramago, retaliated with
public rebukes. "Once more a revolution has been betrayed from within," lamented the Portuguese Nobel
laureate.
        How has it come to this? How is it that a country which suffered so much, came so far and
inspired so many has edged back to the abyss? The principal cause resides inside the ringfenced walls of


                                                                                                         26
the first family's compound in Montoya Street. Here Ortega and his wife, Rosario Murillo, his chief of
staff, head of press and de facto deputy president, live, work and plot.
         They are a formidable, if bizarre, double act. One an old-school underground revolutionary and
ideologue, the other a poet and new age guru who mixes astral charts with Catholic fundamentalism and
political strategy. Murillo devised the all-pink poster campaign as well as the emphasis on love and
linking her husband's work to God's work. "She is our Sarah Palin," groaned Montenegro.
         One theory for the alleged election fraud is that Ortega did not want Murillo, his campaign
manager, to lose face. Another is that the president, haunted by the fact he squeaked into office, was
impatient for a thumping mandate on a par with those of other leftwing leaders such as Bolivia's Evo
Morales and Venezuela's Hugo Chávez.
         Whatever the reason, for Dora María Téllez, a legendary former Sandinista guerrilla, it was a
tragedy. "The dream we had in the 1980s was transcendental, but now we are on the path to a new
dictatorship. The Sandinista party has become a political machine for the Ortega family's power." Téllez
knows something about tyranny. In 1978, as a young medical student, she led a raid on the national palace
which took 2,000 government officials hostage, a key moment in the revolution, and later led the brigade
that took León, the first city to fall to the Sandinistas.
         Téllez, a health minister in the first elected Sandinista administration, staged a hunger strike last
year to protest at the banning of her party, a breakaway Sandinista group, from the elections. The
Sandinistas went on to claim 105 of the 146 municipalities, including Managua, the most important and
controversial. "They already control all the institutions and now they have stolen an election," she said.
"There are no guarantees left."
         In the run-up to the poll, the Sandinista-controlled electoral authority banned the breakaway
Sandinistas and another small party, citing technical reasons, and excluded heavyweight foreign and
domestic election observers. The opposition claimed voter rolls were manipulated and ballot results were
changed, obliging the electoral authority to issue only partial results. In some wards there were reportedly
more Sandinista votes than voters. The Organisation of American States, a pan-regional body, was among
those to express concern. There are signs that the uproar may unite Nicaragua's opposition and sink
Ortega's hopes of amending the constitution to run again.
         Foreign donors, who supply about 40% of the national budget, have slashed aid in protest. The US
suspended $64m in anti-poverty relief and European governments cut an estimated $90m. With coffee
prices falling and Venezuelan aid imperilled by dwindling oil revenues, Ortega's government reportedly
has been forced to take $60m from foreign reserves. "You look at the numbers and it's clear things are
going to get a lot worse," said a western diplomat.
         Neoconservatives in the US have been unable to conceal their glee that Ortega, their 1980s foe,
has lost his sheen even for much of the left. Richard Sanders, deputy head of mission at the fortress-like
US embassy in Managua, said: "Democracy is under a great deal of stress here. Observers say the
elections did not reflect the views of Nicaraguan voters. It is quite disturbing. It is not a good sign of
where the country is going."
         Fraud or not, Nicaragua is no police state. There are no death squads, no midnight knocks on the
door. Privately owned newspapers and TV stations openly assail the president. Sit on a bus and you hear
people volubly and fearlessly exchanging political opinions. Opposition parties control many
municipalities and most national assembly seats. The army and police retain some autonomy and are
models of restraint compared to their colleagues in Guatemala and El Salvador.
         "And they say we are making a dictatorship, ha!" scoffed Valdrack Jaentschke, the deputy foreign
minister. "All that you are witnessing here is the fracturing of a right-wing elite." The elections were not
"100% perfect", he said without elaborating, but the popular will was respected. Opposition protests
reflected nothing more than sour grapes and jostling for position. "If there was this big fraud, tell me this:
where are the big protests?" Political clashes have been sporadic and left at most a few dozen injured. No
one has died.

                                                                                                           27
          Is there a revolution in Nicaragua? The government says its administration is the second phase of
the radical process which blazed into history 30 years ago. Others are scornful. "The revolution of the
1980s doesn't exist. It's a phantasm," said Sergio Ramírez, a writer who served as vice-president under
Ortega in the 1980s but later broke away.
          Ortega may no longer cite Marx, but his detractors have dusted off the quote that history repeats
itself, first as tragedy, second as farce. The story began, however, as fairy tale. In July 1979 Sandinista
guerrillas against the odds overthrew four decades of brutal kleptocracy by the US-backed Somoza
dynasty, a delirious victory. "They appeared scrawny, heroic, unbelievably young," wrote journalist Alma
Guillermoprieto. "They embodied the best of everything that three and a half million people who were
used to seeing their nation treated as a fourth-rate banana republic might dream of."
          Leftwingers flocked from all over the world to help harvest coffee, build schools and be inspired
by a government that promoted women's rights, literacy and social justice. Events turned when the
Reagan administration, alarmed by Managua's tilt to Moscow, sponsored a bloody and ruinous
insurrection by Contra rebels which ended in stalemate. For many it was an immoral and illegal
intervention by an overweening superpower, a harbinger of today's Iraq. The Sandinistas' credibility was
damaged by presiding over hyperinflation and a draft. Exhausted voters, fearing fresh US-backed
mayhem, ousted them in a 1990 election, a shocking, unexpected result which reduced many to tears. The
revolution was over.
          Three centre-right governments ruled from 1990 to 2006. The economy stabilised, combatants
were demobilised and democracy took root. But corruption blossomed and the poor were forgotten. Jobs
were scarce and most people scrabbled on less than $2 a day. Ortega lost consecutive presidential
elections and was accused of raping his stepdaughter, Zoilamérica Narváez, since she was 11. He denied
it and no trial took place because a court decided the statute of limitations applied. But his reputation was
shredded, although Murillo stood by her husband.
          The comandante clawed back influence through Sandinista municipalities, courts and trade unions
and by forging a "pacto" with President Arnoldo Alemán, a convicted embezzler, which kept the "fat one"
out of prison in exchange for favours, not least lowering the threshold for victory in presidential elections.
In the November 2006 election Ortega won just under 38% of the vote, his lowest ever margin, but
prevailed over a divided opposition. Daniel was back.
          "We all gave him the benefit of the doubt and said let's work with him. We were excited," said one
western aid official. Europe, the US, the World Bank and IMF kept money flowing and the new president
obtained additional funds from Chávez. The government abolished school fees, sent medical teams to
remote areas and introduced social programmes to give credits, seeds and farm animals to the rural poor.
According to Jaentschke, chronic malnutrition, illiteracy and maternal mortality were reduced. "So
beautiful! All the people sharing and working together. It has been like waking up from a nightmare," said
Gladys Manzanares, 60, a sweatshop union organiser. Sceptics, however, say social programmes are
meagre, unsustainable and politicised. "Peanuts, and quickly eaten," said one aid agency official.
          At La Chureca there is not even that. Managua's rubbish dump, home to hundreds of families, is
home to scenes not even Dickens would conjure up. Infants, teenagers and adults scavenge on a sea of fly-
infested refuse, clawing with blackened hands for scraps, plastic, wood, anything edible and sellable.
Their eyes sting from the smoke of perpetually burning fires, their lungs wheeze, and they despair. "There
is nowhere else to go," said Sarah Des Socorro, 20, wizened and looking twice her age. Like many, she is
illiterate and has received no help from the Sandinistas or previous governments.
          Former "internacionalistas", foreign sympathisers who were also known as "sandalistas" for their
open-toed footwear, are left with a dilemma. Do they follow Rushdie and Chomsky in denouncing Ortega
and the current Sandinista government or stay true to the party? On blogs and in person the debate has
turned nasty, with some accusing former comrades of being turncoats, apologists, CIA sellouts and worse.
"Do we think the Ortega government is perfect? No," wrote Chuck Kaufman, national co-ordinator of the
US-based Nicaragua Network. "We have criticised violent excesses of Sandinista supporters during the
recent electoral process. And we have cautioned that monitoring foreign funding of NGOs not be used as
                                                                                                            28
an excuse to persecute women's rights groups." Unlike many solidarity groups, however, Kaufman will
not turn his back on the flawed Second Coming of the Sandinistas. "Do we think [it] is better than another
rightwing, neoliberal government beholden to US masters? Absolutely."

29. Presidential Decree Worsens Crisis
Analysts claim Ortega is trampling the Constitution
Source: Nica Times                                                                           01/10/2009
By Tim Rogers
         President Daniel Ortega's 11th-hour attempt to reform the 2008 budget by presidential decree is
being likened to a “technical coup d'etat ” against the Nicaraguan Constitution, according to analysts and
opposition political leaders.
         Constitutional analyst Carlos Tünnermann says that Ortega's efforts to mandate a $30 million
budget reform represents the usurpation of powers that are clearly assigned to the legislature.
         “Article 112 of the Constitution gives the National Assembly the responsibility to pass and reform
the budget,” Tünnermann said. “The president can pass administrative decrees, but not legislative
decrees.”
         According to paragraph three of Article 112 of the Constitution, “All modifications to the Budget
of the Republic that require an increase or decrease in credits, a decrease in income or transfers between
institutions, requires the approval of the National Assembly.”
         Last October, Ortega presented the National Assembly with his proposed law for the 2008 budget
reform and repeatedly urged lawmakers to pass it as a priority. But when the legislature was paralyzed in
protest of vote fraud following the Nov. 9 municipal elections, Ortega's budget-reform proposal got stuck
in the National Assembly's stack of unfinished work for 2008 (NT, Dec. 24).
         That's when Ortega tried to take the issue into his own hands by decreeing his reforms into law in
the final hours of 2008. In a Dec. 29 speech, Ortega accused opposition lawmakers of being
“antidemocratic” and “dictatorial,” and then issued presidential decree 78-2008, which orders the Finance
Ministry to “legalize” the president's unapproved budget reforms. The next day, Finance Minister Alberto
Guevara, an enthusiastic defender of Ortega, called a press conference with Sandinista media outlets to
announce his compliance with the president's order.
         Analysts say that Guevara's adherence to the “illegal decree” essentially makes him “an
accomplice” to Ortega's violation of the Constitution.
         Veteran political observer Alejandro Serrano said the presidential decree was “absolutely
unconstitutional” and that Guevara's compliance has only served to “infect the budget with illegality.”
         Opposition lawmakers, although on year-end recess, also spoke out against Ortega's decree.
Liberal Party lawmaker Wilfredo Navarro, vice president of the National Assembly, wrote a letter of
protest to Ortega Dec. 29, noting that the budget decree wasn't the first time that Ortega has infringed
upon the legislature's authority in recent weeks.
         Navarro noted that Ortega's two previous presidential decrees – one of which attempted to
legitimize the Nov. 9 municipal elections and the other which authorized the entrance into Nicaragua of
Russian naval forces in late December – were also in clear violation of his presidential authorities.
         “President Ortega, nobody, not even you as president of the republic, is above the law,” Navarro
wrote in his letter to Ortega. “With your actions you are breaking the principle of the division of powers,
which is an essential pillar of democracy. You are not a king to say ‘the state is me.'”
         Navarro went on say that the president's questionable decrees reflect the Ortega administration's
“dream of absolute totalitarianism.”
By Hook Or By Crook?
         Though the National Assembly doesn't return from recess until today – Jan. 9 – the crisis that
paralyzed the government at the end of 2008 continued to worsen during the year-end break.

                                                                                                         29
         Political analysts consulted by The Nica Times this week agreed that Ortega's 11th-hour budget
decree has “deepened the crisis” of governability in Nicaragua.
         Yet not everyone is in agreement about how Nicaragua can best get out of the mess.
         Carlos Tünnermann thinks that the crisis can be resolved institutionally by addressing the root of
the problem: the Nov. 9 municipal elections, which were widely considered fraudulent. The analyst notes
that the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), which announced its final vote tallies last November, still
hasn't fulfilled its legal obligation to issue a full and detailed report of all the vote-count results from the
individual voting stations.
         Until that information is provided, the allegations of fraud and missing votes will continue to
discredit the results, paralyze the government and hurt the economy in the form of suspended aid from
foreign donors.
         “At the bottom of the country's institutional and economic crisis is the electoral fraud on Nov. 9,
and the political will to maintain that fraud at all costs,” Tünnermann said.
         However, the analyst added, the crisis could be resolved institutionally if the CSE and the ruling
Sandinista Front agree to conduct a transparent and credible recount to put an end to the election fiasco.
         Alejandro Serrano, meanwhile, said he thinks the constitutional and institutional crisis has become
so severe that the only way out now will be through a political negotiation among powerbrokers that goes
above and beyond the law, such as the pact formed between Ortega and then-President Enrique Bolaños
in October, 2005.
         During the political crisis of 2005, which the United States likened to a “creeping coup” against
the Bolaños administration after opposition lawmakers passed questionable constitutional reforms to strip
the president of authorities, Ortega and Bolaños met behind closed doors to hatch a political solution
called the “Ley Marco” (NT, Oct. 14, 2005).
         Though legal analysts blasted the Ley Marco as a flagrant violation of the Constitution, it did
provide a basic – albeit temporary – political solution for the governability crisis.
         Serrano says he thinks the situation in Nicaragua has become too serious for the country's weak
institutions to resolve alone, and that a similar political pact will be needed once again.
         “We have established a precedent of violating the Constitution as a way of saving it,” Serrano told
The Nica Times.
         Regardless of whether the solution is institutional or political, the situation here, analysts agree, is
not healthy for the country's fragile democracy.
         “We are living in a totally irregular situation here,” Tünnermann said. “We are getting to a
situation where we have a de-facto government.”

PANAMA

30. Panama Mogul Extends Lead In Election Race - Poll
Source: Reuters                                                                              01/12/2009
        PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - Supermarket tycoon Ricardo Martinelli has extended his lead in the
race for Panama's presidency in May, as crime and high inflation weigh on the government-backed
favorite, a poll showed on Sunday.
        The poll, conducted by local firm Unimer and published in La Prensa newspaper, said 43.1 percent
of voters planned to vote for Martinelli and 25.4 percent for ruling party candidate Balbina Herrera.
        Center-right candidate Juan Carlos Varela was ranked third with 14.9 percent.
        Martinelli, a white-haired multimillionaire who owns a supermarket chain, sits on the board of one
of the country's top banks and was once a Panama Canal government minister.
        His 18-point lead is up from 5 percentage points in a poll released at the start of December.


                                                                                                              30
       Support for Herrera, a former housing minister once linked to former military strongman Gen.
Manuel Noriega, has fallen as voters grow frustrated with the high cost of living and rising drug gang
violence.
       Under President Martin Torrijos, economic growth has been among the fastest in Latin America,
driven by construction, investment and expanding U.S.-Asia trade through the canal.
       But high consumer prices are erasing some of those gains and violence linked to Colombian and
Mexican drug gangs in Panama is increasing.
       Data was collected from 1,210 people across Panama from Jan. 2 to 5. The margin of error was 2.8
percentage points, La Prensa said. (Reporting by Andrew Beatty; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

PERU

31. Military: Peru And Chile Attempt To Improve Relations
Source: Living in Peru                                                                        01/11/2009
By Israel Ruiz
        In an effort to get closer to Chile and work out differences between the two countries, Peru has put
a series of gestures into motion to improve bilateral relations amid a legal battle over the limits of Pacific
sea borders, reported La Tercera newspaper in Chile.
        According to EFE news agency, the fragile relationship between the two countries deteriorated
near the end of 2008 after controversial "anti-Chilean" statements were made by Edwin Donayre, a former
military commander for Peru's army.
        To ease the situation, Peru has taken the first steps to work on improving its relationship with its
southern neighbor, affirmed La Tercera.
        Among these efforts was a commitment made by Otto Guibovich, the new commander of Peru's
army, who promised the military would never intervene in political matters again.
        In addition, the head of Chile's army, Oscar Izurieta had a private meeting with Guibovich on a
Chilean military base in Arica.
        Local media affirmed the meeting had served to bring Peru and Chile's military closer together and
to strengthen the relationship between Alan Garcia and Michelle Bachelet's administrations.

32. Peru Transfers Jailed American For Treatment
Source: Associated Press                                                                        01/10/2009
         LIMA, Peru – Peruvian authorities have moved jailed New Yorker Lori Berenson to a capital
prison to treat a chronic back ailment that could complicate her five-month-old pregnancy.
         Prison spokeswoman Janet Sanchez says prison facilities and doctors in Lima are better equipped
to treat herniated disks in Berenson's back. Her pregnancy is not in immediate danger.
         Berenson arrived at the Lima prison Friday after traveling by bus from the northern province of
Cajamarca.
         Sanchez would not say whether the transfer is permanent.
         The 39-year-old American, who married a member of the Tupac Amaru guerrilla group whom she
met in jail, is serving 20 years for collaborating with leftist rebels in the 1990s. She is scheduled for
release in 2015.

33. Peru Moves Berenson To Lima Jail For Pregnancy Care
Source: Reuters                                                                              01/10/2009
By Dana Ford

                                                                                                           31
         LIMA (Reuters) - Lori Berenson, a U.S. citizen serving a 20-year sentence in Peru for aiding
leftist guerrillas, arrived in Lima on Friday after years in remote prisons to get health care during a
complicated pregnancy.
         Berenson, 39, is five months pregnant. Authorities worried about her age and a back problem
transferred her from a prison in Cajamarca, in the north, to one in Peru's capital, where she will stay until
her baby is born.
         Surrounded by police and reporters, Berenson was shuffled into a justice department building in
the city's center, where officials said she will undergo a health examination before being moved to the
Santa Monica women's prison.
         "She has come from Cajamarca because she has health problems and because of her pregnancy," a
government official said.
         Berenson has been in jail for more than 13 years, many of them high in the Andes mountains.
         She was arrested in 1995 on charges of being a leader of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary
Movement, or MRTA, a leftist insurgency that was active in Peru in the 1980s and 1990s.
         A military judge jailed her for life, but under pressure from the United States, a civilian court
retried her and sentenced her to 20 years. She could be paroled next year.
         Berenson married former inmate Anibal Apari in 2003. In Peru, inmates are allowed conjugal
visits and women who give birth in prison can keep their children with them for the first few years.
         (Additional reporting by Teresa Cespedes; Editing by Terry Wade and Doina Chiacu)

34. Peru Naval Officers Arrested For Illegal Wiretaps
Source: Associated Press                                                                     01/10/2009
By Carla Salazar
        In another twist to Peru's oil-kickback scandal, police have arrested five people for allegedly
recording the telephone conversations that revealed the scheme.
        Attorney General Gladys Echaiz on Thursday announced the arrest of two active and three retired
naval officers who ran a private security company that allegedly ran a black market wiretapping service.
A civilian woman who worked at the company, Business Track SAC, was also arrested.
        President Alan Garcia, who lost seven cabinet members in the scandal, ranted against illegal
wiretappers Friday, calling them "conspirators against democracy."
        "If we want to banish these cursed wiretappers from Peru, if we want to expel these peddlers and
conspirators against democracy, we need good education and we are going to build it here," Garcia said at
a ceremony launching a program to fund Peru's schools.
        The naval officers allegedly intercepted telephone conversations in which lobbyists and public
officials discussed kickbacks for steering government oil contracts to Norway's Discover Petroleum. The
calls were aired publicly in October.
        Echaiz said the arrests were "preliminary," and the state attorney's office will announce the results
of its ongoing investigation in the coming weeks.
        The scandal prompted Garcia to accept the resignation of his entire Cabinet and cancel Discover's
contracts in the worst political crisis of his two-year presidency. Ten of the 17 ministers were later
reinstated. But three ex-ministers - including Garcia's one-time, right-hand man, Jorge Del Castillo - are
under congressional investigation.
        The justice department is reviewing corruption and influence-trafficking charges against 14 others,
including several lobbyists, top state oil executives and the president of Discover Petroleum.
        Investigators have not revealed if Business Track was hired to tap the lobbyists' telephone lines or
who fed the tapes to the news media.
        Jailed lobbyist Romulo Leon testified to the state attorney's office that Business Track sold the
tapes to Petro-Tech Peruana S.A., a company competing with Discover Petroleum for contracts in a
September public auction, Leon's lawyer told RPP radio Friday.
                                                                                                           32
        Petro-Tech has repeatedly rejected links to the wiretaps but acknowledged Friday that it hired
Business Track in 2006 to audit its computer security systems.
        Peru's state oil company and several city governments are also listed as clients on Business Track's
Web site.
        Defense Minister Antero Flores-Araoz said the military does not condone illegal espionage and
that the active officers, who work in counterintelligence, will be expelled if convicted on the charges. He
said Friday that the retired officers left the navy eight years ago.
        Business Track offers "information security" services and equipment, according to its Web site,
including the detection of wiretaps on telephone lines, cell phone service blockers, polygraph test
equipment and voice distorters.

35. No Crisis For Arms Purchases
Source: Inter Press Service                                                                  01/09/1009
By Ángel Páez
        LIMA (IPS) - The global economic crisis apparently has not affected the Peruvian government’s
plan to modernise the armed forces, which is to cost 650 million dollars from here to 2011.
        The Peruvian army recently signed a 25 million dollar contract with Russia’s state arms exporter
Rosoboronexport for 244 Kornet long-range anti-tank missiles to replace the Soviet-made Malyutka
missiles acquired by Peru’s military dictatorship in the 1970s.
        Defence Ministry and army sources confirmed to IPS that a 48 million dollar purchase of another
244 Spike long-range anti-tank missiles, super-modern weapons manufactured by the Israel-based Rafael
Advanced Systems, has also been approved, but not signed.
        But the army’s decision to purchase two different kinds of the same weapon, the Russian-made
Kornet and the Israeli Spike -- the second of which costs nearly double -- drew the attention of the
Comptroller General’s Office.
        Although army specialists recommended the purchase of just one kind of long-range anti-tank
missile, controversial former army chief General Edwin Donayre (2007-2008) insisted that the Spike
missiles should be considered because Chile has them.
        (Relations between Chile and Peru have been marred by a 120-year dispute dating back to the
1879-1883 War of the Pacific, in which Chile defeated Peru and Bolivia and annexed the former Peruvian
province of Tarapacá and the former Bolivian province of Antofagasta.)
        Donayre even invited representatives of Rafael Advanced Systems to give the joint chiefs of staff
an exhibition on the Spike missiles, a privilege that no other firm enjoyed. He also posed for photos
holding a Spike missile launcher on his shoulder at a fair that he organised at the army commander’s
headquarters.
        "We asked the military institutions for complete information on the procurement processes,"
sources at the Comptroller General’s Office told IPS. "When it comes to oversight and monitoring, secrets
are never justified.
        "Experience has shown us that where something has been kept secret, we must intervene, for
prevention purposes. The recent past has made it clear to us that there is corruption in secret purchases,"
the sources said.
        The official web site (http://www.mef.gob.pe/DGPM/snipnet.php) of the National Public
Investment System (SNIP), an Economy Ministry agency that evaluates public spending projects, should
provide details of state spending and a description of goods and services to be purchased or hired, but
omits information on armed forces procurements.
        The Defence Ministry sources argued that, at the request of the armed forces, which invoked
national security, no information is provided on purchases by the army, the navy or the air force.
        Ironically, to justify keeping military purchases secret, the Defence Ministry cited the Law on
Transparency and Access to Public Information, which stipulates that public bodies must account for their
                                                                                                           33
actions, especially in the case of procurements, but has a clause that allows for exceptions based on
"national security concerns."
        However, the Comptroller-General’s Office has informed the Defence Ministry that what is kept
secret in such cases are the details of what is being purchased, not the procurement process itself.
        The regime of Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) took advantage of state secrecy laws to conceal the
purchase of more than 1.5 billion dollars in military equipment.
        In the last few months, the government of Alan García has taken steps to facilitate military
purchases. For example, the central bank granted the Defence Ministry a 258 million dollar loan, and
SNIP authorised the purchase and contracting of nearly 452 million dollars in goods and services by the
armed forces.
        "The purchase of the Kornet and Spike missiles is a response to the acquisition of Leopard II tanks
by Chile," army sources told IPS. "Here in Peru we don’t have a budget as big as that of our southern
neighbour, to make such large purchases."
        However, SNIP approved a 157 million dollar purchase to replace T-55 Soviet-made tanks with T-
72M1 tanks, expected to be carried out before García’s term ends in July 2011.
        According to the army sources, short and long-range anti-tank missiles are to be acquired this
year, along with 10,000 assault rifles, a satellite communications system, and artillery and air defence
equipment.
        The navy plans to complete the purchase of eight Sea King helicopters, two used Italian frigates,
and four Newport class tank landing ships, for a total of 110 million dollars.
        In the case of the air force, the governments of Peru and Russia signed an agreement in November
for the installation of a technical centre in Lima for the maintenance and overhaul of Russian helicopters
like the Mi-8, Mi-17 and Mi-26.
        This year, the process of upgrading the air force’s MiG-29 planes will begin, and the possibility of
purchasing Sukhoi-27 planes will be studied.

VENEZUELA

36. Foreign Agent In Cash Case Seeks Leniency
Source: Miami Herald                                                                         01/12/2009
By Jay Weaver
        A rich businessman convicted of working as an illegal Venezuelan agent in the United States says
he should be sent to prison for no more than three years, asserting that the judge in the case said he and
his co-defendants had done no harm to this country.
        Franklin Duran, who will be sentenced Monday, was the only defendant among five Latin
American men indicted in 2007 to fight charges at trial that they had come to South Florida to cover up a
hemispheric political scandal.
        The men were charged with working on behalf of Venezuela's spy agency to silence a colleague
who had been caught with a suitcase stuffed with $800,000. Prosecutors say the money was a gift from
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavéz to Argentina's new president.
        In November, a federal jury found Duran, 41, guilty of conspiring and operating as an illegal
foreign agent who failed to register with the U.S. government -- a pair of offenses that carry up to 15
years in prison.
        Three of his co-conspirators -- including a former business partner who testified against him --
pleaded guilty and received terms of 15 to 34 months.
A fifth defendant is a fugitive.
        But prosecutors say Duran, who owns a Key Biscayne home, led the coverup effort to curry favor
with a Venezuelan government that had granted millions of dollars in public contracts to him and ex-
partner Carlos Kauffmann in exchange for huge kickbacks.
                                                                                                           34
        In court papers, Duran's attorney, Ed Shohat, asserted that U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard
acknowledged that the group's mission had not entailed spying on the U.S. government, obtaining state
secrets or gathering information about the South Florida community for Venezuela.
        ''The fact that Duran's conduct in this case was never intended to cause any damage to any national
interest of the United States . . . is an important factor to consider not only on its own, but also in
comparison to other cases,'' Shohat argued.
        The lawyer said that virtually every foreign-agent case prosecuted in the United States has dealt
with espionage, subversive activities or the gathering of information on the United States or a group in
this country. He said the judge should consider the sentences in those cases in determining punishment for
his client.
        The sentence will be entirely up to Lenard, because there are no statutory sentencing guidelines
that apply to Duran's offense. The government has not indicated its recommended sentence.
Among the recent cases that Shohat cited in court papers:
        • Former Florida International University professor Carlos Alvarez was sentenced to five years
after pleading guilty to charges that he conspired to operate as a Cuban agent by gathering information
about Miami's exile community for the Castro government.
        • Cuban René González was sentenced to 15 years after he was convicted of conspiring and acting
as a secret agent for the Castro government, including participating with others to infiltrate the military's
Southern Command and exile groups such as Brothers to the Rescue. González was one of the so-called
Cuban Five spies, some of whom were linked to the 1996 shoot-down of two Brothers planes, which
killed four men.
        • Chicago community newspaper publisher Khaled Dumeisi was sentenced to almost four years in
prison for acting as an illegal agent for the late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein by spying on Iraqi
dissidents in the United States. He was convicted of failing to register as an agent of the Iraqi government,
conspiring to do so, lying to an immigration officer about his ties to Iraq, and lying to a grand jury.
        • U.S.-Iraqi businessman Samir Vincent received three years' probation and a $300,000 fine after
he pleaded guilty to acting as an unregistered agent of the Hussein government by bribing a United
Nations official to avoid sanctions under the Iraqi oil embargo.


37. Dictatorship For Dummies
Source: Wall Street Journal                                                                   01/12/2009
By Mary Anastasia O'Grady
         Optimists have long theorized that Venezuela's Hugo Chávez would meet his Waterloo with the
burst of the petroleum bubble. But with oil prices down some 75% from their highs last year and the
jackboot of the regime still firmly planted on the nation's neck, that theory requires revisiting.
         It is true that popular discontent with chavismo has been rising as oil prices have been falling. The
disillusionment is even likely to increase in the months ahead as the economy swoons. But having used
the boom years to consolidate power and destroy all institutional checks and balances, Mr. Chávez has
little incentive to return the country to political pluralism even if most Venezuelans are sick of his
tyranny. If anything, he is apt to become more aggressive and dangerous as the bloom comes off his
revolutionary rose in 2009 and he feels more threatened.
         Certainly "elections" can't be expected to matter much. Mr. Chávez now controls the entire
electoral process, from voter rolls to tallying totals after the polls have closed. Under enormous public
pressure he accepted defeat in his 2007 bid for constitutional reforms designed to make him president for
life. But so what? That loss allowed him to maintain the guise of democracy, and now he has decided that
there will be another referendum on the same question in February. Presumably Venezuela will repeat this
exercise until the right answer is produced.

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        All police states hold "elections." But they also specialize in combining the state's monopoly use
of force with a monopoly in economic power and information control. Together these three weapons
easily quash dissent. Venezuela is a prime example.
        The Venezuelan government is now a military government. Mr. Chávez purged the armed forces
leadership in 2002 and replaced fired officers with those loyal to his socialist cause. Like their
counterparts in Cuba, these elevated comandantes are well compensated. Lack of transparency makes it
impossible to know just how much they get paid for their loyalty, but it is safe to say that they have not
been left out of the oil fiesta that compliant chavistas have enjoyed over the past decade. Even if the
resource pool shrinks this year, neither their importance nor their rewards are likely to diminish.
Mr. Chávez has also taken over the Metropolitan Police in Caracas, imported Cuban intelligence agents,
and armed his own Bolivarian militias, whose job it is to act as neighborhood enforcers. Should
Venezuelans decide that they are tired of one-man rule, chavismo has enough weapons on hand to
convince them otherwise.
        Yet the art of dictatorship has been greatly refined since Stalin killed millions of his own people.
Modern tyrants understand that there are many ways to manipulate their subjects and most do not require
the use of force.
        One measure that Mr. Chávez relies on heavily is control of the narrative. In government schools
children are indoctrinated in Bolivarian thought. Meanwhile the state has stripped the media of its
independence and now dominates all free television in the country. This allows the government to
marinate the poor in Mr. Chávez's antimarket dogma. His captive audiences are told repeatedly that
hardship of every sort -- including headline inflation of 31% last year -- is the result of profit makers,
middlemen and consumerism.
        The Orwellian screen is also used to stir up nationalist sentiment against foreign devils, like the
U.S., Colombia and Israel. The audience has witnessed violence in Gaza through the lens of Hamas, and
last week Mr. Chávez made a show of expelling the Israeli ambassador from Caracas.
        Investments in revolution around South America may have to be pared back as revenues drop. But
outreach to Iran and Syria is likely to continue since those relations may serve as a source of financing
Mr. Chávez's military buildup. In December, the Italian daily La Stampa reported that it has seen evidence
of a pact between Caracas and Tehran in which Iran uses Venezuelan aircraft for arms trafficking and
Venezuela gets military aid in return. This month Turkish officials intercepted an Iranian shipment bound
for Venezuela that reportedly contained materials for making explosives.
        Despite all this, the most effective police-state tool remains Mr. Chávez's control over the
economy. The state freely expropriates whatever it wants -- a shopping center in Caracas is Mr. Chávez's
latest announced taking -- and economic freedom is dead. Moreover, the state has imposed strict capital
controls, making saving or trading in hard currency impossible. Analysts are predicting another large
devaluation of the bolivar in the not-too-distant future. The private sector has been wiped out, except for
those who have thrown in their lot with the tyrant.
        The drop in oil revenues may impoverish the state, but the opposition is even poorer. Organizing a
rebellion against a less-rich Chávez remains a formidable task.

38. Chavez Says To Expel US Diplomat If Political Interfering Proven
Chavez was briefly ousted in a 2002 coup the United States initially "welcomed" and which Chavez says
was organized with help from Washington.
Source: Reuters                                                                          01/12/2009
       Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warned on Saturday he would expel a U.S. diplomat he said
may have advised opposition leaders on how win a vote on whether the leftist can run for re-election.
       Chavez, who last year expelled Venezuela's U.S. ambassador, said the unidentified official would
be thrown out if evidence showed he had taken part in a meeting he said was held in Puerto Rico.

                                                                                                         36
        "If this is proven, I will throw him out of the country for interfering in Venezuela's internal
affairs," Chavez said during a television broadcast.
        Chavez was briefly ousted in a 2002 coup the United States initially "welcomed" and which
Chavez says was organized with help from Washington. The United States denies seeking to oust Chavez.
        Chavez has called a referendum to change the constitution and allow him to run for re-election in
2012. Under current rules, the socialist leader will have to step down in 2013. The referendum is expected
in February. He lost a similar vote in 2007.
        The president said he possessed reports that showed U.S. advisers had met with opposition
politicians to discuss how to defeat the referendum proposal. He said he was investigating reports an
official from the U.S. Embassy in Caracas attended the meeting.
        In a September speech, Chavez told U.S. Ambassador Patrick Duddy to leave the country in a
dispute over Washington's role in anti-government protests in Bolivia, a leftist ally of Venezuela.
        This week, Chavez expelled the Israeli ambassador in protest over the offensive in Gaza, which he
described as a Palestinian holocaust.

39. Chavez Says US Heating Oil Program Never Suspended
Source: Associated Press                                                                     01/11/2009
By Rachel Jones
        CARACAS, Venezuela – President Hugo Chavez said Saturday that Venezuela's program to
provide heating oil to poor American families was never halted, despite concerns that deliveries might be
interrupted.
        Venezuela's Citgo Petroleum Corp. had to make a public announcement that the aid would
continue after its partner nonprofit group said Citgo stopped the free fuel shipments because of the world
economic crisis.
        "They are speculating on all sides that Venezuela has suspended its program of cooperation with
the poor of the United States," Chavez said. "No, it was never suspended."
        Chavez did not address whether oil shipments were ever interrupted.
        Boston-based Citizens Energy Corp. — a charity organization run by Joseph Kennedy, the eldest
son of late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy — on Monday alerted households benefiting from the four-year-old
program that oil shipments were in doubt.
        At a news conference, however, Kennedy said Citgo made it clear the decision was not a
cancellation of the program. "But at the end of the day, the tankers are not going to be in front of this
building," he said.
        Citgo Chief Executive Alejandro Granado later said in Boston that the company had found a way
to continue paying for oil shipments.
        On Saturday, Chavez poked fun at analysts who said he was cutting the assistance to make
relations difficult with President-elect Barack Obama, saying they made him laugh.
        "They build this analysis on a lie," he said.

40. Venezuela's Chavez Investigates US Official
Source: Associated Press                                                                     01/11/2009
By Rachel Jones
        CARACAS, Venezuela – President Hugo Chavez said Saturday he may expel a top U.S. Embassy
official for allegedly plotting against his government from Puerto Rico.
        Venezuela's socialist leader said he has information that leaders of the political opposition were
meeting with U.S. advisers in Puerto Rico to discuss how to prevent a referendum on term limits from
passing.

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        "I'm investigating the possible presence of a U.S. Embassy official in Caracas at this meeting,"
said Chavez, without naming the official. "If I confirm it, I will throw him out of the country.
        The referendum — which may take place as early as February — could allow Chavez to run for
re-election indefinitely.
        Embassy spokeswoman Robin Holzhauer said the mission's Charge d'Affaires in Caracas, John
Caulfield, recently visited Puerto Rico for a wedding. Caulfield is the Embassy's top envoy following
Chavez's expulsion of U.S. ambassador Patrick Duddy in September.
        "He wasn't there for any sort of clandestine meeting," she said. "The trip had no relation to anyone
or anything in Venezuela."
        Chavez said the purported meeting is "one more demonstration of how the empire uses Puerto
Rico as a base to conspire against the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean."
        "One day, Puerto Rico needs to be liberated," he said.
        Chavez expelled Duddy in solidarity with Bolivia, which also booted its U.S. ambassador,
accusing him of aiding violent protests. The U.S. denied the allegations.
        Last week, Chavez ordered Israeli Ambassador Shlomo Cohen to leave the country along with
embassy personnel to protest Israel's offensive against Hamas in Gaza.

41. Venezuela Faces Racing Inflation, Slowing Growth
Source: Associated Press                                                                    01/10/2009
By Fabiola Sanchez
         Analysts predict Venezuela's economy is headed for a worse year than the government admits, as
falling oil prices stall growth and inflation soars in the import-dependent country.
         Venezuela saw growth of 4.8 percent in 2008 - down nearly half from 8.4 percent in 2007 - as its
economy began to cool after expanding rapidly for years and as prices plummeted for the country's top
export, oil.
         Finance Minister Ali Rodriguez is forecasting 6 percent growth for 2009, but the U.N. Economic
Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean predicts a 3 percent expansion.
         OPEC-mandated cuts in oil output are contributing to the slowdown and could slow growth to as
little as 1 percent, said economist Jose Guerra, a professor at Venezuela's Central University and a former
Central Bank official.
         Inflation has meanwhile soared to 30.9 percent, the highest in Latin America, and prices in
Caracas are climbing at their quickest pace in 12 years. The Finance Ministry expects 15 percent inflation
in 2009, but economists say prices will more likely climb by 28 percent to 35 percent. The Central Bank
raised interest rates once last year to try to slow the surge.
         Oil accounts for 94 percent of Venezuelan exports and nearly half its federal budget, and falling
crude prices are pinching the public spending that fueled the country's recent boom.
         President Hugo Chavez vows to continue oil-funded social programs, including subsidized food
and cash benefits for single mothers. But lawmakers assumed $60-a-barrel oil prices when drafting this
year's budget, and now face a likely shortfall that may force cuts or deficit spending.
         Yet even as growth slows, inflation persists in Venezuela's heavily regulated and import-reliant
economy, where price gains are slashing buying power.
         Falling oil prices, which have slowed inflation in countries across Latin America, may in fact
accelerate price gains in Venezuela, former Central Bank director Domingo Maza Zavala said.
         Venezuela uses the dollars it earns from oil to buy foreign goods, and a sharp drop in oil earnings
is reducing the amount of dollars available for imports - potentially causing scattered shortages and
pushing inflation as high as 35 percent this year, Maza Zavala said.
         Chavez should battle price gains by reining in government spending on nonessentials, while taking
other measures to boost production and growth, he added.

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       The government has already started saving dollars for imports by cutting the amount that
Venezuelan travelers can spend abroad on their credit cards from $5,000 to $2,500 a year.
       The government is preparing an economic package to battle the downturn, but has no plans for
new taxes or a currency devaluation, Rodriguez said this week.
       Some analysts expect Chavez to eventually make painful cutbacks, but doubt he will announce
such measures until after a referendum on abolishing presidential term limits, expected in February. If he
wins, Chavez would be able to run again in 2012 and beyond.

42. Il-76 Transports Give Chavez Power Across Latin America
Source: United Press International                                                              01/09/2009
By Martin Sieff - UPI Senior News Analyst
          WASHINGTON (UPI) -- It isn't easy to build reliable heavy military air transport aircraft, or
military air lifters. Currently only the United States and Russia have mastered the job, and the European
aircraft industry, led by Germany and France, is trying to join them. But other nations have been forced to
take different routes.
          Venezuela is buying Ilyushin Il-76s from Russia. They are reliable, old jet-powered military air
transports, and Caracas is purchasing them as part of a gigantic $4.4 billion military procurement program
that will make its armed forces by far the most powerful in Latin America.
          As UPI contributor John Sweeney has pointed out, the U.S. State Department thwarted
Venezuela's plans to buy Spanish military air transports in 2006. But Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
then turned to Russia and bought instead 10 Ilyushin Il-76Es -- NATO designation Candid -- troop/cargo
transports and two Ilyushin Il-78s -- NATO designation Midas -- in-flight tankers with the capacity to
refuel three aircraft simultaneously.
          These transport aircraft are scheduled to be being delivered now in a move to be completed by the
end of this year, Sweeney reported, citing Venezuelan defense procurement officials as his sources.
          The Il-76 purchase is especially strategically significant because it is clearly a major offensive
weapons acquisition. Venezuela currently does not have any allies in the Western Hemisphere that require
a rapid major airlift capability.
          The only nation that conceivably might fit this bill is Cuba, and however much Venezuela boosts
its airlift power, it could not conceivably reinforce Cuba in any war scenario without its air lifters being
shot down by the U.S. Air Force. Supporting Cuba would give Venezuela no strategic advantage anyway,
and it would only ensure the wrath of the American people and the U.S. government.
          But where Venezuela's expanding military airlift capability would make much more sense would
be in flying in hundreds, even thousands of its own troops to provide support for friendly governments --
as, for example, in Bolivia -- that were threatened by popular protests from their own people.
          This airlift capacity also could be used to threaten or just potentially pressure neighboring
countries such as Colombia. But they also could be used in the future to fly large forces rapidly into
countries where revolutionary movements or military juntas hostile to the United States had seized power,
in order to ensure they could retain control before either the United States or elements in the countries in
question could rally against the revolutionary or military coup forces that had just taken over.
          Venezuela will have Latin America's largest armed forces in terms of firepower by 2013, if the
country's oil revenues remain high in the coming years, Sweeney noted.
          Major questions, of course, remain over the Il-76 purchases. The Venezuelan armed forces have
no experience in maintenance of such aircraft. The aircraft could rapidly decay and many of them could
become inoperable.
          That has been a common phenomenon in Third World countries that have bought huge quantities
of weapons from the Soviet Union, China or other nations over the past half-century but then found they
lacked sufficient engineers, flight mechanics and general standards of maintenance in their armed forces
to keep the aircraft, ground transportation, tanks or other equipment running smoothly.
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        In that case, Chavez could risk suffering the fate of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser in the
1950s and 1960s. He bought gigantic amounts of weapons and military equipment from Czechoslovakia
and the Soviet Union, only to lose most of it in three disastrously bungled wars against Israel in 1956,
1967 and the lesser-known War of Attrition in 1969-1970.
        Nevertheless, Chavez is now presiding over a military buildup and power projection capability for
thousands of miles beyond Venezuela's borders far in excess of anything any previous Latin American
leader hostile to the United States, including Fidel Castro, has ever dreamed of having. And as the great
U.S. naval historian and theoretician Adm. Alfred Thayer Mahan famously pointed out, the fact of what
he called "fleets in being" automatically transformed the strategic equations and calculations of powers in
any time. That applies as much to the military airlift fleet that Chavez has bought "off the shelf" from
Russia as much as it did to the German, British and U.S. navies of 100 years ago.




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