Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Clinton Approved Honduran Coup

So claims Stephen Kinzer, and I doubt it will be a topic of conversation at the convention or in Kaine's speech.

"Hard choices in Honduras" by Stephen Kinzer   March 30, 2016

The Berta Caceres killing brings into sharp focus the horror that has been inflicted on Honduras since an American-approved coup there seven years ago. Because the American who approved that coup was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, it also shadows — or should shadow — the American presidential campaign.

You can scroll my file to see how much attention -- or lack thereof -- the Globe has given it.

Many countries in the world are suffering the effects of American intervention. Those effects are vivid in places like Iraq and Libya, where most people lived reasonably secure lives before the United States attacked and unleashed the forces of terror and anarchy. Invasions and missile attacks, however, are not the only ways to shatter societies. In Honduras, we did it without firing a shot.

Honduras has been the quintessence of a banana republic — dominated by American fruit growers — for more than a century. Nonetheless, life in Honduras was relatively tranquil until the 1980s when the United States turned it into a military platform for our Contra war against the Sandinista government in neighboring Nicaragua. We bolstered the Honduran military, which supported our policy, and turned a blind eye when it kidnapped and murdered dozens of human rights campaigners, labor leaders, and other dissidents.

He doesn't mention Iran-Contra.

That propelled Honduras into a vertiginous spiral. The next step down came with the forced return from the United States of young Honduran men who had grown up as refugees in Los Angeles. They brought gang culture to Honduras, which now has one of the world’s highest murder rates.

Honduras has, nonetheless, held regular elections. The winner in 2006 was Manuel Zelaya of the Liberal Party, which American leaders have always viewed as unfriendly. Americans deposed a Liberal president in 1911 after he chose to borrow money from European instead of American banks. The next Liberal to take power was deposed in 1963 after proposing a land reform law that would have affected interests of the United Fruit Co. Zelaya suffered the same fate.

He made the same mistake as did Saddam and later Khadafy.

Powerful Hondurans were repelled by Zelaya’s advocacy of populist reforms like subsidies for small farmers and increased minimum wages. Some in Washington disliked to him because of his ties to President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, who was then a hot-button bogeyman. On the night of June 28, 2009, after Zelaya proposed a referendum to change the Honduran constitution, soldiers stormed his residence, captured him, and put him on a plane out of the country — in his pajamas.

This coup was a throwback to the bad old days when Central American generals deposed elected civilians at will. Nearly every country in the hemisphere condemned it. A resolution was introduced at the Organization of American States demanding the “immediate, secure, and unconditional” return of President Zelaya. The United States blocked it. 

Which, strangely enough, happen to be the good new days.

Republicans in Congress proclaimed the coup a victory for freedom. A handful of them even flew to Honduras to embrace the country’s new leaders. Secretary of State Clinton sided with them. She approved a new election in which the deposed president was not allowed to run. Her goal, as she wrote in her memoir, was to “render the question of Zelaya moot.”

Honduras was in bad shape before the coup, but it has become far worse. It is corruptly governed, plagued by violence, and servile to rapacious foreign corporations. Honduras continues to receive generous military aid from the United States, but that does little to resolve the social catastrophe Americans helped create.

Happens to every nation where the U.S. overthrows a government.

The destruction of Iraq, Libya, and other countries where the United States has intervened plays out every day on our front pages.

It does? 

Not on the Globe's, and I should know.

In other countries, like Honduras, the effects of our intervention are largely unreported.

It's unreported in a lot of places, even where it is reported.

By accepting the 2009 coup in Honduras, we rid ourselves of a leader we didn’t like because he seemed too socialistic — even though he led a miserably poor country that could not possibly threaten us. Once he was deposed, we lost interest in Honduras. That helped create a situation in which a brave woman could be murdered for defending her country’s environment and native people.

Whose we?

It should not take a murder like this to focus our attention on the effects of our intervention in Honduras. Now that it has happened, it should make us pause. The lesson is clear: When we interfere in a country’s domestic politics, we often create as much of a mess as we do when we bomb or invade....



"Relatives question immigrant’s death in jail" by Maria Sacchetti Globe Staff  April 12, 2016

Relatives of a 27-year-old Honduran immigrant who died in federal custody Sunday are disputing reports that he committed suicide and are calling for a full investigation into his death.

Jose Francisco Escaño, a construction worker with two sisters in Boston, was in a Florida jail awaiting sentencing for criminal immigration charges. He had recently pleaded guilty in federal court to illegally returning to the United States after having been deported four times.

He shouldn't have come back, and this is another failure of this government. 

They claim to be looking out for and working on behalf of the illegal. They are here to provide cheap, compliant labor (citizens don't want construction jobs apparently), and then they basically torture them once they get into the prison-industrial system. I know it wasn't in the "American Dream" the politicians hand out, but that's they way it is when you get here.

That being said, I'm not one of the global trade experts that set up the whole $y$tem to foment farmers leaving fields for cities and beyond. That's the NWO crowd, and it should in no way cast attention aside from the fact that here is another dead soul.

The Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office, which was holding Escaño in Milton, Fla., for the US government, said its internal affairs department is investigating the death as a suicide.

“That’s where the indicators were at the beginning,” said Sergeant Rich Aloy, the sheriff’s spokesman. “But because it’s under investigation, we don’t know where it’s going to lead at this point.”

May not lead anywhere.

A family spokeswoman, Claudia Pacheco, who rushed to Escaño’s side with his sisters Ana and Carla last week, said a nurse at the hospital told them he had hanged himself with a jacket. But relatives provided photographs they say cast doubt on that theory, including cuts on one hand, swelling on another, and other injuries.

Thomas Keith, Escaño’s federal public defender, said they had spoken in recent weeks and he seemed fine.

Relatives and lawyers said Escaño came to America from one of the most violent countries in the world to build a better life and help his parents in Honduras. He most recently lived in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., but spoke often with his sisters in Boston and his 3-year-old son in Tennessee. 

And they are an ally. WTF?

He had a few arrests for nonviolent offenses, including in January for driving without a license in Florida. Records allege he provided false identification and authorities turned him over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Makes sense, him being here illegally and all.

Immigration offenses are typically civil violations, but he was prosecuted criminally twice for illegally crossing the border.

His family’s lawyer in Boston, Talia Barrales, said Escaño had weathered detention before and was looking forward to returning to Honduras.

On Tuesday, his sisters donated his organs, a gesture Pacheco said reflected Escaño’s generous spirit. He often sent money to his parents and son. Among his things, they found loving cards from his son and Bible verses.

“He was a very sweet man,” Pacheco said....

May he rest in peace.


Related: Obama in South America  

I think he skipped Honduras, but you will have to check.

Also see: Is US-Funded Destabilization in Latin America Now Paying Off?

It sure seems to be based on the results of elections and certain other events.



"Ex-Argentine president in court in central bank fraud probe" Associated Press  April 14, 2016

BUENOS AIRES — Former Argentine president Cristina Fernandez said Wednesday that she was the victim of political persecution after appearing before a local judge in a state fraud investigation.

Thousands of supporters who had gathered outside the courthouse cheered as Fernandez was ushered inside with her lawyer for closed-door questioning. They cheered again when she came out a short time later after presenting a written statement that said: ‘‘Only via an exercise in an abuse of judicial power was this case able to go forward.’’

Judge Claudio Bonadio had called Fernandez to testify about her alleged role in the central bank’s decision to sell dollars on the futures market at an artificially low price in the months before leaving office in December. At the time, there was a large gap between the official rate of the peso against the dollar and the rate on the booming black market.

Fernandez has denied any wrongdoing, saying that the transaction did not cause losses to the central bank.



"Argentina on Monday returned to global bond markets for the first time in 15 years. The South American country announced a $10 billion to $15 billion bond issue. The proceeds will help pay a small group of holdout creditors who refused debt restructurings after Argentina suffered its worst economic crisis and defaulted on $100 billion of bonds in 2001. Former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez refused to negotiate with the creditors, often calling them ‘‘vultures.’’ But President Mauricio Macri (right) campaigned last year on promises to boost the continent’s second-largest economy by putting an end to the longstanding debt dispute. The recent repayment deal broke an impasse that had warded off investors and kept Argentina on the margins of international credit markets, forcing it to print more money that stoked one of the world’s highest inflation rates. The new offering is expected to be priced Tuesday."

"After 15 years, Argentina returns to bond markets" by Carolina Millan Bloomberg News  April 20, 2016

BUENOS AIRES — After 15 years of being shut out of global credit markets, Argentina is returning with a bang.

The country boosted the size of its planned bond sale to $16.5 billion on Tuesday and lowered its target interest rate for the 10-year notes it’s issuing after marketing the deal to investors, said a person familiar with the matter.

The 7.5 percent proposed yield for the 10-year bond would be less than similarly rated securities pay. A sale of that size is poised to set a single-day record for a developing country and mark an end to a chapter of international isolation that followed Argentina’s $95 billion default in 2001.

Raising the funds would be the biggest victory yet for President Mauricio Macri, who took office in December, vowing to end unpredictable economic policies and reach a settlement with holdout creditors who sued the country after its default. About $10 billion of the proceeds from the bond sale will go toward repaying hedge funds and other investors, led by billionaire Paul Singer, who reached an accord with Argentina in February.

“I remember the 2001 default, so to see Argentina once again coming back to the capital markets, it’ll be impressive,” said Ray Zucaro, chief investment officer at RVX Asset Management in Miami, who put in orders for 10- and 30-year bonds from the new sale and has been covering Argentina for 18 years. “For old-timers, it certainly warms the heart to see the return of such a great country in the market.”

I can't believe that is true of everyone, and what I can't understand is why the Argentinians -- after finally escaping debt slavery after 15 years -- would seek to return to it.

Investors have put in bids for $60 billion of bonds, Finance Minister Alfonso Prat-Gay told reporters Tuesday. More than 340 investors attended meetings with government officials last week in Boston, London, New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, Prat-Gay said.

“The cherry on top of the cake for the work of four months will be announced today,” Prat-Gay said. “For a country that is still in default, it’s truly impressive that we’ve gone from darkness to the possibility of reconnecting with the world.”

Isolation from international markets cost the economy $120 billion and meant the country lost out on 2 million new jobs that otherwise would have been created, he said last week.

How can they even know that? 

It's just B$ propaganda that they throw out there, these lying economic $hits.

Argentina is selling $2.75 billion of three-year bonds to yield 6.25 percent, $4.5 billion of five-year bonds at 6.875 percent, $6.5 billion of 10-year bonds at 7.5 percent, and $2.75 billion of 30-year bonds at 8 percent, according to the person, who asked not to be identified because the information was private.

The sale had initially been put at $10 billion to $15 billion, with 10-year notes paying a yield of as high as 8 percent.

The average yields on notes due in about 10 years that share the securities’ B- rating from Standard & Poor’s is 8.89 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“The Argentina deal offers a unique opportunity to get access to one of the brightest spots in emerging markets,” Stuart Sclater-Booth, a money manager at Stone Harbor Investment Partners, said in an e-mail. “The success of this deal is good for the whole asset class.”

The bonds the country is planning to sell rose by as much as 3 cents in the so-called gray market, where investors can trade before the debt has officially been sold. The 30-year bonds traded at about 3 cents above par, while 10-year notes were about 2 cents above par, according to Jorge Piedrahita, chief executive at Torino Capital in New York, and Russ Dallen, a managing partner at Latinvest in Miami.

Argentina’s existing bonds due in 2033 gained 1.32 cents to 127.02 cents on the dollar as of 3:43 p.m. in Buenos Aires, reaching a record high.

Without the ability to tap overseas debt markets, former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner drained central bank reserves to pay off hard-currency debt and printed money to fund government spending, fueling inflation that analysts estimated at about 25 percent. As the value of the peso eroded, capital flight surged — leading to years of strict currency controls that stifled economic growth and foreign investment.

That's a different kind of $hot for a different kind of war, and I'm starting to believe in political per$ecution in Argentina.

Macri has removed capital controls, dropped most export tariffs, cut government subsidies, and overhauled the national statistics agency. Rating companies have upgraded their opinions on the country’s debt and sent yields of existing bonds to record lows.

I'm wondering how long it will take the Argentinians to realize maybe this was a mistake.


"Argentina spurs a junk-bond spree" by Lyubov Pronina Bloomberg News  April 20, 2016

LONDON — Argentina’s blockbuster $16.5 billion bond sale is opening up the floodgates for junk-rated issuers in developing countries.

The Latin American country’s return to global capital markets for the first time since its 2001 default brought high-yield issuance from emerging markets to $18 billion this week, and money managers from Aviva Investors to Bluebay Asset Management are predicting the deluge isn’t over.

Speculative-grade borrowers in the developing world are seizing on yields near three-year lows as accommodative central bank policies embolden risk appetite, creating what Goldman Sachs Group is calling the best financing conditions for emerging markets since 2012.

Then everyone should be happy, huh?

Lebanon, the most-indebted Arab nation, raised $1 billion Tuesday, and Georgian Oil & Gas Corp. JSC sold $250 million of five-year notes. Mol Nyrt. of Hungary was preparing its first Eurobond sale since 2012.

“The scale of the book in Argentina will certainly alert issuers to what appears to be a deep underlying demand for high-yielding assets,” said Aaron Grehan, a London-based fund manager who helps oversee $4.5 billion in emerging-market debt at Aviva Investors and bid for Argentinian bonds. “As an issuer there is an obvious attraction to coming at the current time.”

Demand was so high for Argentina’s four-part offering that the government, shut out of global capital markets for 15 years by legal disputes with creditors, was able to narrow initial guidance on the 10-year debt by 50 basis points to 7.5 percent. Investors placed bids for almost $69 billion, according to Finance Minister figures.

Almost simultaneously, Lebanon, whose economy is reeling from the influx of more than a million Syrian refugees, marketed debt due in eight and 15 years at 6.65 percent and 7 percent.

“For other high-yield issuers it would have been risky, and potentially expensive, to try to come to market ahead of that landmark deal” from Argentina, said Graham Stock, head of emerging-market research at Bluebay Asset Management, which oversees $60 billion of fixed-income investments. With the “new, liquid, high-yield emerging-market benchmark, there are a lot of issuers who will look to get their fund-raising done quickly,” he said.

Emerging-market issuance started picking up in March as the European Central Bank expanded stimulus and the Federal Reserve signaled it wouldn’t rush to raise interest rates.

Investors seeking refuge from negative yields from Europe to Japan helped push the average rate on the Bloomberg US Dollar High Yield Emerging Market Sovereign Bond Index down 1.2 percentage points from a six-month high in February to 6.28 percent on Wednesday.

JPMorgan Chase & Co., the third-biggest manager of emerging-market bond sales this year, in March raised its forecast for 2016 sovereign sales by 64 percent to $100 billion.

One of the drivers of the swell of issuance will be oil powerhouses looking to plug deepening holes in their budgets resulting from oil’s 60 percent plunge since the start of 2014. 

Do you see who is buying uno all the debt, and who will receive taxpayer-financed debt interest payments before the principle is paid of at the end? 

That means taxpayers and citizens, instead of spending X for services, are spending X + debt.

It's a great $y$tem for those who hold the debt; not so much for those paying the usury.

Abu Dhabi, which holds about 6 percent of the world’s proven crude reserves, is sounding out investors over plans for its first international sale in more than seven years, while Saudi Arabia wants to tap debt markets for the first time ever. Both Gulf Arab borrowers hold investment-grade ratings.

Argentina “will certainly make other issuers look at coming out with new deals,” said Angelo Rossetto, a trader at GMSA Investments Ltd. in London, who bid for Argentine bonds and is looking at Mol, the Hungarian energy group.

The turnaround may prove fragile, according to Sergey Dergachev, a senior money manager who helps oversee about $13 billion of assets at Union Investment Privatfonds GmbH in Frankfurt. Risks to China’s economic health, the direction of oil prices, and the potential for a hawkish turn in Fed rhetoric “are ironically not on radar screens of investors,” he said.

The issues “that keep me awake at night can change risk sentiment in emerging-market debt markets very quickly,” said Dergachev, who bid for Argentina’s bonds.

For now, the window for sales is wide open. The extra yield investors demand to hold developing-country bonds rather than US Treasuries fell to 388 on Wednesday, the lowest since November, according to JPMorgan indexes.

As long as you can keep the scheme going one more month, day, hour, minute....


I can see why Fernandez may be worried about a court case:

"Argentine court sentences ex-dictator for Operation Condor" by Debora Rey Associated Press  May 28, 2016

BUENOS AIRES — Argentina’s last dictator and 14 other former military officials have been sentenced to prison for human rights crimes, marking the first time a court has ruled that Operation Condor was a criminal conspiracy to kidnap and forcibly disappear people across international borders.

But, but, but, governments are never behind conspiracies!

30 years later we would get renditions and enhanced interrogations.

The covert operation was launched in the 1970s by six South American dictatorships that used their secret police networks in a coordinated effort to track down their opponents abroad and eliminate them. Many leftist dissidents had sought refuge in neighboring countries and elsewhere.

I'm wondering if my CIA pre$$ will hang out it's limited laundry and admit its role in organizing such a thing.

An Argentine federal court sentenced former junta leader Reynaldo Bignone, 88, to 20 years in prison on Friday for being part of an illicit association, kidnapping, and abusing his powers in the forced disappearance of more than 100 people.

The former general who ruled Argentina in 1982-1983 is already serving life sentences for multiple human rights violations during the 1976-1983 dictatorship.

At the time they were a U.S. ally.

In the landmark trial, which lasted three years, 14 other former military officials received prison sentences of eight to 25 years for criminal association, kidnapping, and torture.

I always wonder when we are going to have them here, and have even proposed a timetable to a certain degree. Bushes would be up first if Trump wins.

They include Uruguayan army colonel Manuel Cordero Piacentini, who allegedly tortured prisoners inside Automotores Orletti, the Buenos Aires repair shop where many captured leftists were interrogated under orders from their home countries. 

It's enough to make you cry.

Two of the accused were found not guilty.

The sentences are seen as a milestone because they mark the first time a court has proved that Operation Condor was an international criminal conspiracy carried out by the US-backed regimes in Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay.

‘‘Operation Condor affected my life, my family,’’ Chilean Laura Elgueta said outside the courtroom. Her brother, Luis, had taken refuge in Buenos Aires from General Augusto Pinochet’s forces, only to be forcibly disappeared in Buenos Aires in 1976 as part of the operation.

‘‘This trial is very meaningful because it’s the first time that a court is ruling against this sinister Condor plan,’’ she said.

The investigation was launched in the 1990s when an amnesty law still protected many of the accused. Argentina’s Supreme Court overturned the amnesty in 2005 at the urging of then-President Nestor Kirchner.

He was Fernandez's husband, and kind of a national hero who died young(?).

‘‘Forty years after Operation Condor was formally founded, and 16 years after the judicial investigation began, this trial produced valuable contributions to knowledge of the truth about the era of state terrorism and this regional criminal network,’’ said the Buenos Aires-based Center for Legal and Social Studies, which is part of the legal team representing plaintiffs in the case.

During the case, several defendants either died or were removed from the judicial process. Since the bodies of many victims have never been found, Argentine prosecutors argued that the crime of covering up their deaths continues today, and that statutory time limits don’t apply.

They may never be found because about 1,000 of them were tossed out of planes over the ocean.

The victims included Maria Claudia Irureta Goyena, the daughter-in-law of Argentine poet Juan Gelman, who was pregnant when she was kidnapped and held for months inside Automotores Orletti before an Argentine air force plane took her to Uruguay. She gave birth there, and then was disappeared. Decades passed before her daughter, Macarena Gelman, discovered her own true identity.

A key piece of evidence in the case was a declassified FBI agent’s cable, sent in 1976, that described in detail the conspiracy to share intelligence and eliminate leftists across South America.

Operation Condor was launched in November 1975 by Pinochet who enlisted other dictators in South America.

But the covert program went much further: the US government later determined that Chilean agents involved in Condor killed the country’s former ambassador — Orlando Letelier — and a US citizen — Ronni Moffitt — in Washington in September 1976. Operation Condor’s agents also tracked other exiles across Europe in efforts to eliminate them.




Now that Morales has been denied another term the coverage has gotten lost in the jungle:

"Two Mass. men say they have found long-lost ‘black boxes’ in Bolivia" by Astead W. Herndon Globe Staff  June 06, 2016

For two Massachusetts men, what began as a fascination with missing planes and their data recorders a year ago ended with a trip to Bolivia, a potentially ground-breaking discovery, and a flash of Internet fame.

About a year ago, while he researched the vanished 2014 Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, Somerville resident Dan Futrell learned something. Since 1965, crash investigators have failed to recover flight data and cockpit voice recorders — often referred to as “black boxes” — from almost 20 crashed aircraft, including both planes that crashed into the New York City’s Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001.

But it was another flight that caught Futrell’s eye: Eastern Air Lines Flight 980, which took off from Paraguay for Miami in 1985 but crashed on Mount Illimani in western Bolivia. Crash investigators have long suspected that the plane’s debris landed in a spot that was nearly inaccessible.

Challenge accepted, Futrell said in his blog....

Ah, music to my ears.


Only took them about a year to discover them.



Impeachment was the tool used here:

"Brazil’s anti-impeachment protesters block highways at rush hour" The Washington Post News Service  April 28, 2016

NITEROI, Brazil — Demonstrators protesting the impeachment process threatening Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff occupied dozens of highways in major cities during rush hour Thursday morning, causing long backups. Organizers claimed that 30 highways in nine Brazilian states were blocked.

It was a taste of the civil disruption that the president’s supporters threaten if, as seems likely, the Senate decides to suspend her and stage an impeachment trial in a vote next month.

An overwhelming majority of lawmakers in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Brazil’s National Congress, have already voted in favor of Rousseff’s impeachment on charges that she manipulated government accounts.

In Sao Paulo, a dozen major highways were blocked by red-shirted protesters. Local television reported traffic chaos in South America’s biggest city. Roadblocks were also reported in Recife, Belo Horizonte, Curitiba, Fortaleza, Porto Alegre, and the capital, Brasilia.


It's already looking like a CIA cookie-cutter job.

"The new speaker of Brazil’s lower house of Congress on Monday annulled the vote to impeach President Dilma Rousseff, creating even greater tumult amid the power struggle gripping Latin America’s largest country. The action stunned the country just two days before the Senate is preparing to vote on whether to remove Rousseff from office and put her on trial. Rousseff is facing accusations that she borrowed money from state banks to plug budget holes, masking the depths of Brazil’s economic troubles in order to bolster her reelection prospects. “Dilma’s government was on its death bed, so anything like this that creates a mess could be positive for her,” said Thiago de Aragão, a political risk consultant in the capital, Brasília. “Nothing is settled right now,” da Aragão said."

Then he himself was suspended.

"In a stunning twist in the effort to impeach President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, the new speaker of the lower house of Congress has changed his mind — less than 24 hours after announcing that he would try to annul his chamber’s decision to impeach her. Brazilians awoke Tuesday to the news of the sudden about-face by the speaker, Waldir Maranhão, who Monday was widely ridiculed and threatened with expulsion from his Progressive Party for trying to upend the impeachment process. The head-spinning change was only the latest development in a political crisis that has mesmerized and bewildered Latin America’s most populous nation.The practical significance of the decision is that it improves the chances Rousseff will be ousted soon, clearing the way for her to be replaced by Vice President Michel Temer. The circuslike atmosphere in Brazil’s Congress — which has recently been marked by shouting matches, protests inside the chamber, and lawmakers spitting on one another — has provoked ire across the country. “Anyone who still lives with the idea that institutions are functioning is either a cynic or blind,” said Josias de Souza, a prominent columnist."

And the Olympics were still months away.

"Debate on Brazil’s president future slogs on into the night" by Jenny Barchfield and Peter Prengaman Associated Press  May 12, 2016

BRASILIA — Several thousand pro- and anti-government impeachers gathered outside the Senate, each group kept on opposite sides of a wall erected down the middle of the lawn. Small but intense clashes broke out between police and Rousseff supporters, with police using pepper spray and protesters throwing firecrackers at police lines.

On the other side of the wall, a Carnival-esque spirit reigned, with pro-impeachment demonstrators sipping cans of beer while decked out in the yellow and green colors of the Brazilian flag.

So where did Rouseff go wrong, and it can't be the bitching about the NSA surveillance from years ago.

While the impeachment measure was based on allegations that Brazil’s first female president broke fiscal laws, the process morphed into something of a referendum on Rousseff and her handling of the country over the past six years.

Brazil is mired in the worst economic downturn in decades and a sprawling corruption scandal centered on the state-run Petrobras oil company has soured the national mood, even as the country gears up to host South America’s first Olympic Games in August.

When the impeachment was first floated just over a year ago, it seemed but a remote possibility. But the process snowballed, apparently unstoppably.

Polls have said a majority of Brazilians support Rousseff’s impeachment, though they also suggest the public is wary about those in the line of succession to take her place.

Temer has been implicated in the Petrobras corruption scheme, as has Renan Calheiros, the Senate head who is now No. 2 in the line of succession.

Moving on up, huh?

Former House speaker Eduardo Cunha, who had been second in line, was suspended from office this month over allegations of obstruction of justice and corruption.

The whole ruling cla$$ is corrupt!

Rousseff has vehemently denied her administration’s financial sleight-of-hand moves constituted a crime and argued that such maneuvers were used by prior presidents without repercussions.

It's what they are calling a judicial coup.

She has stressed that unlike many of those who have pushed for impeachment, she does not face any allegations of personal corruption.

The impeachment process, Rousseff says,
amounts to a ‘‘coup’’ aimed at undoing social programs that have lifted an estimated 35 million Brazilians out of grinding poverty. 

And yet there are still so many in grinding poverty -- as a new Olympic village and stadiums are constructed!

Temer, of the centrist Democratic Movement Party, denies Rousseff’s claims that he would dismantle the popular social programs. Temer insists he actually would expand them, though he has also signaled that fiscal rigor is needed to dig Brazil out of the current hole. 

Gotta pay the bankers!

Rousseff, a former Marxist guerrilla who was incarcerated and tortured under Brazil’s 1964-1981 military dictatorship, was the hand-picked successor to her once wildly popular mentor, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. After handily winning the race to succeed him in 2010, she surfed his wave of popularity while the economy continued to prosper, but her approval ratings plummeted in step with the economy. She eked out a victory in the 2014 election, with 51 percent of the vote. 

The U.S. never liked her, and wasn't able to steal the 2014 vote from her.

To make matters worse, just as prices for commodities that are the lifeblood of Brazil’s economy started tumbling, investigators began uncovering the multibillion-dollar kickback scheme at Petrobras.

While those ensnared in the scandal come from across the political spectrum, many of the people implicated are top officials in Rousseff’s party, and that tarnished her reputation.

Rousseff ‘‘is the one who is having to pay for everything,’’ said Senator Telmario Mota de Oliveira, who argued the country’s problems shouldn’t be all pinned on the president.

The continuing probe has led to the conviction of dozens of the country’s elite, from politicians to the former president of Odebrecht, a major construction firm. 

I'm envious.

Rousseff’s prickly manner and her perceived reticence to work with legislators have also been blamed for alienating possible allies. Rousseff, however, has suggested that sexism in the male-dominated Congress has played a role in the impeachment.

The Senate action came after the lower house voted 367-137 last month in favor of impeachment, an anti-Rousseff verdict so resounding that many Brazilians believed it would influence the Senate.

If the impeachment passed in the Senate, Calheiros said Rousseff would be notified Thursday, with Temer taking over at that point.

Temer has already put together much of his Cabinet, winning kudos from the market for his choice of an orthodox former banker to the key post of finance minister

And who would he be? 

I guess Brazil won't be carrying a torch for the Palestinians as they were before this happened.

This is the second impeachment to shake Brazil in a quarter century. In 1992, impeachment proceedings were opened against Fernando Collor de Mello, Brazil’s first democratically elected president after more than two decades of military rule. Facing allegations of corruption, Collor ended up resigning before the conclusion of his impeachment trial in the Senate. Rousseff has repeatedly pledged not to resign.


"Brazil’s Senate suspends president, who’ll face impeachment" y Jenny Barchfield Associated Press  May 12, 2016

BRASILIA — Brazil’s Senate voted to impeach President Dilma Rousseff as acting leader Michel Temer called for unity, promising to improve the economy and support a big corruption probe at state oil company Petrobras.

Speaking to several thousand supporters as she left the Planalto presidential palace, the nation’s first female president said the allegations against her are nothing more than a red herring, part of a ‘‘coup’’ orchestrated by power-hungry foes.

‘‘I am the victim of a great injustice,’’ she said, adding, ‘‘I fought my whole life and I'm going to keep fighting.’’

Temer, a 75-year-old career politician who many call the ‘‘butler’’ for his subdued manner, struck a conciliatory note in his first words to the nation Thursday afternoon.

‘‘Now is not a moment for celebrations, but rather for profound reflection,’’ he said, adding that reducing unemployment was a top government priority.

Temer also mentioned the upcoming Olympics, slated for August in Rio de Janeiro.

‘‘We won’t again soon have another opportunity like this one,’’ he said, adding that it was a chance to showcase Brazil as a ‘‘serious country.’’

Rousseff has repeatedly said she would fight against her removal, but hasn’t said how, and most avenues have already been closed off.

The Senate has 180 days to conduct a trial and decide whether Rousseff should be permanently removed from office — in which case Temer would serve out the remainder of her term, which ends in December 2018.

Some of her supporters have promised a campaign of protests and strikes that could complicate the efforts of Temer to govern. 

I wonder if it will be reported up here.

Impeachment supporters contend Temer, a career politician and constitutional expert who has published a collection of poetry, is the best hope for reversing Brazil’s economic collapse.

Temer has promised to cut spending and privatize many sectors controlled by the state. But he has also repeatedly denied Rousseff’s allegations he intends to dismantle the popular social programs that helped the Workers’ Party lift an estimated 35 million people out of poverty during its 13 years in power.

The markets reacted positively to news of Rousseff’s impeachment, and the Brazilian currency, the real, continued its recent rebound from a precipitous fall against the dollar over the past year.

The market manipulation and rebound against the dollar shows you higher forces at work.

When the impeachment measure was introduced last year in Congress, it was generally viewed as a longshot.

As late as February, experts were predicting it wouldn’t even make it out of committee in the lower Chamber of Deputies.

But its champion, former House Speaker Eduardo Cunha, outmaneuvered the government at every turn, and the process built momentum with each of Cunha’s successful maneuvers. Cunha was suspended last week over allegations of corruption and obstruction of justice.

Cunha's Karma?

Making matters worse for Rousseff, the massive graft scheme uncovered at Brazil’s state-run Petrobras oil company revealed deep-seated corruption that cut across the political spectrum, ensnaring top officials from the Workers’ Party and the opposition alike as well as some of the country’s top businessmen.

Then why is it all on her shoulders?

‘‘Dilma is a bad president and waiting until 2018 was a horrible option,’’ said cab driver Alessandro Novais in Rio de Janeiro, minutes after the Senate vote. ‘‘I don’t think Temer will be much better, but at least we can try something different to overcome the crisis.’’

He's worse than her, dude.

While polls have said a majority of Brazilians supported impeaching Rousseff, they also suggest the public is wary about those in the line to take her place.

Temer has been implicated in the Petrobras corruption scheme as has Renan Calheiros, the Senate head who is now number two in the line of succession....

Looks pretty $elf-$erving, doesn't it?


What a circus, as they look to suppress evidence of shady sales.

"Pall hangs over Brazil’s presidential palace as Rousseff prepares for trial" by Simon Romero New York Times  June 07, 2016

BRASÍLIA — It was not supposed to be like this. Brazil was hoping to celebrate its triumphs in the run-up to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, not play host to a jaw-dropping spectacle of political dysfunction.

Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s first female president, was supposed to be preparing to greet world leaders, not enduring the humiliation of an impeachment battle that has her political life hanging by a thread.

“These parasites,” is what she called her rivals trying to impeach her, many of whom are facing their own scandals.

For now, she is still surrounded by the trappings of luxury in the palace designed by Oscar Niemeyer: the battalion of servants serving tiny cups of coffee, the heated pool in a well-manicured garden, the modernist masterpieces by Emiliano Di Cavalcanti and Alfredo Volpi hanging on the walls.

But the futuristic palace feels less like a lavish manor these days than a bunker, and yet she has relished a few unexpected glimmers of hope.

The interim government led by Michel Temer, the vice president who took over the nation last month after breaking with Rousseff, has suffered a series of embarrassing blunders since legislators suspended her.

First, one of Temer’s top allies stepped down as planning minister after a secret recording emerged late last month. On it, an aide laid out how their party — the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, or PMDB — had pursued Rousseff’s ouster in order to thwart the investigation into the colossal graft scheme surrounding Brazil’s national oil company, Petrobras.

Then, the new transparency minister — essentially Temer’s anticorruption czar — resigned after another recording seemed to show that he had also tried to stymie the Petrobras inquiry.

Beyond that, Temer, 75, a lawyer who speaks an archaic Portuguese that flummoxes his countrymen, decided not to name any women or Afro-Brazilians to his Cabinet. His choices opened him to withering criticism in a country where more than half of the people define themselves as black or mixed race, and where women feature prominently in the halls of Congress, the Supreme Court, and the executive suites of large corporations.

“It’s a provisional government of rich white men,” Rousseff, a self-described leftist who was an operative in an urban guerrilla group in her youth, said about the administration of her adversary. “I never thought that I would see in Brazil a government as conservative as this one.”

Rousseff and her allies hope that the recent blows to Temer’s legitimacy can tilt the impeachment vote to her favor. She pointed out that all she needs is a handful of senators to change their votes for her to be reinstated as president.

Still, for every misstep by her adversaries, Rousseff and her own top confidants have also found themselves caught off guard by new revelations in federal graft inquiries, reflecting the challenges that her Workers’ Party faces in its ambition to win her impeachment trial.

Rousseff remains rare among major political figures in that she has not been accused of stealing for personal gain. Instead, she faces charges of manipulating the budget in order to hide the depths of Brazil’s economic woes.

Then all U.S. presidents should be impeached.

But a former Petrobras executive has also testified that Rousseff lied about her knowledge of a bribery-fueled refinery deal when she was the chairwoman of the company’s board. She denies the claim.

Our guys send us to war based on them.

Potentially even more damaging, the Brazilian magazine Isto É reported in recent days that a construction magnate testified that Rousseff negotiated an illegal $3.5 million donation for her 2014 reelection campaign.

Rousseff rejected the account, calling it a “slanderous” part of a news media campaign attacking her “personal honor.” But together with other developments — her campaign strategist and the former treasurer of the Workers’ Party are among Rousseff’s allies already in jail on graft charges — the reports have further eroded her credibility.

Josias de Souza, a prominent political columnist, described the latest revelations tarnishing the camps of both Rousseff and Temer as “a classic power struggle between criminal factions” taking place before a recession-weary society.

Despite such grim assessments, Rousseff is avidly preparing her defense.

Senate leaders said on Monday that the impeachment trial was expected to conclude sometime in early August, potentially producing embarrassing street protests as the Olympic Games get underway....

I'm sure they will come up with something to prevent that from happening.


If I was smarter I'd have seen the signs:

"Civil liberties, online and off" by Robert Muggah and Nathan B. Thompson   April 27, 2016

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil’s fiendishly complicated political and economic crises are sending the country into a tailspin. Ongoing investigations into corruption have reached the highest echelons of government and business, showing no sign of letting up. No one knows what will happen next, though the impeachment of the president, Dilma Rousseff, looks increasingly likely. One thing is clear, however: The scandals could do permanent damage to Brazilian civil liberties online and off.

Brazilians caught a glimpse of what is at stake last month. One of the country’s most respected federal judges dropped a bombshell after releasing wiretaps of private conversations between Rousseff and her mentor, former President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva. The questionable manner in which the wiretaps were conducted — including tapping citizens not under investigation — prompted warnings from Supreme Court judges and the Attorney General that he’d gone too far.

We’ve seen this storyline before. Activist Brazilian judges and hard-line prosecutors have made a habit of seizing private encrypted data from suspects. Some of them have gone after social media companies, infringing on the rights of literally millions of people. And it is not just the judiciary and law enforcement who are piling on. Draconian surveillance legislation is accumulating in the country’s legislature. Alongside China, India, and Russia, Brazil is turning into a key front in the fight for digital liberty and a bellwether of what’s to come around the world.

Brazil’s muzzling of Internet freedoms is taking place far from the global headlines. The latest controversy flared up in the unlikeliest of places, the northeastern state of Sergipe. There, Marcel Maia Montalvão, a judge from the dusty town of Lagarto, requested WhatsApp to hand over data belonging to suspected drug traffickers. WhatsApp refused to comply, racking up millions of dollars in fines. A company spokesperson said that it couldn’t hand over the requested data even if it wanted to.

This is not the first time that activist Brazilian judges have taken on WhatsApp. Last December a magistrate from São Bernardo do Campo in São Paulo ordered national telcom operators to block access to WhatsApp for 48 hours, due to the company’s unwillingness to hand over private data. A second judge overturned the decision but only after inconveniencing more than 100 million Brazilian users. This came as a shock to WhatsApp, which was acquired by Facebook in 2014 and today has more than 1 billion users worldwide. Brazilians use the app because of its reputation as a secure communications platform, but also because it is an affordable alternative to exorbitant cell phone fees.

And the WhatsApp saga extends even further back. In February 2015, another judge from Brazil’s Piauí state requested that WhatsApp be blocked for not assisting in an ongoing pedophilia case. Other companies like Apple and Google have had run-ins with Brazilian law enforcement. In 2012, for example, Google Brazil’s director general was detained for the crime of “disobedience,” having failed to take down YouTube videos that allegedly slandered a mayoral candidate.

Meanwhile, back in Sergipe, Judge Montalvão took measures into his own hands. He had Diego Dzodan, Facebook’s most senior executive in Latin America, taken into custody on his way to work. Dzodan spent the night in jail before being released. Facebook described the actions of the presiding judge as “extreme” and “disproportionate.” WhatsApp reminded the authorities that because their app uses end-to-end encryption, the requested data is simply not theirs to give.

These judicial measures are not occurring in a vacuum. They are unintentionally bolstering efforts by right-wing politicians to pass the so-called “Big Spy Bill.” For months, Brazil’s Congress has deliberated over legislation to roll back key provisions of the country’s landmark digital rights framework, known as the Marco Civil da Internet, passed in 2014. The proposed law would require citizens to register personal details when accessing websites and make it easier for public figures to sue for libel for online comments they consider defamatory.

Complicating matters, Brazil’s Parliamentary Commission on Cybercrime just issued its final report,  which proposes seven new bills for 2016. The Commission’s recommendations emphasize increased digital surveillance and censorship rather than measures to prevent and prosecute cybercrime. One proposal would require Internet service providers to divulge personal information linked to a user’s IP address when requested by the police or public prosecutor without a judicial order; another would give judges the power to block online services or apps. The Commission is scheduled to vote today on whether to send the draft legislation for debate in the full lower house. If passed, these initiatives will amplify the Brazilian government’s power to surveil the Internet.

The lines are drawn. On one side are multinational tech companies aligned with civil liberties groups who are defending open expression and rights to privacy. On the other are Brazil’s justice and law enforcement authorities and politicians seeking to expand the state’s surveillance and investigative capabilities. What’s missing is a sense of proportionality. The central debate between the two sides should be how to balance the legitimate needs of the criminal justice system with citizens’ personal freedoms, online and off.

This fight for digital sovereignty is hardly confined to Brazil. There are strong parallels between the case in Sergipe and the dispute between Apple and the FBI over accessing the smart phone files of a San Bernardino terrorist. President Obama even waded into the debate in favor of law enforcement’s prerogative to access encrypted content on mobile devices. Unlike Brazil’s Congress, however, some US lawmakers are challenging the Department of Justice’s interpretation of what is permissible under the law, as evidenced in a recent grilling of FBI director James Comey by the House Judiciary Committee.

Yet American officials are also reportedly weighing legal strategies against WhatsApp, as are mobile operators in Brazil, which have been studying legal and economic mechanisms for disrupting use of WhatsApp, including judicial action against the company, according to Reuters.

Indeed, the rash of judicial injunctions, detentions and legislative proposals around social media in Latin America’s largest democracy are hardly isolated incidents. Rather, they are part of a broader, systematic strategy to crack down on Internet freedoms in the country. It’s a battle playing out across the globe. Brazil is simply one of the front lines.


What of the Olympics?

"Weeks before Olympics, Rio worries about rising crime" by Dom Phillips Washington Post  June 09, 2016

RIO DE JANEIRO — Two months before Rio hosts the Olympics, a much-vaunted ‘‘pacification’’ program in the city’s favelas appears to be crumbling, and a wave of violent crime is causing anguish among city residents, and last month the gang rape of a 16-year-old girl in a Rio favela made headlines in Brazil and around the world.

Authorities insist that the Olympic Games will be safe, but even the Rio state security secretary, José Beltrame, acknowledged problems with the growth in crime, which he blamed on a severe recession and a financial crisis in the state government. ‘‘Without any doubt, the situation got worse in the last four months,’’ he said in an interview.

Between this, Zika, and the polluted water, the whole thing is looking like a disaster waiting to happen.

In 2008, a year before it clinched the Olympics, Rio state launched a “pacification” program in favelas long dominated by violent drug gangs. Police bases were set up in metal shipping containers — 38 favelas have them. Under the plan, the state would provide community policing, and federal and municipal bodies would supply improved transportation, education, and other services.

But the Prazeres favela offers a glimpse of how the program has fallen short of its ambitions.

The neighborhood got its police base in 2011. Foreigners began flocking to monthly hip- hop parties here. The community sits just above Santa Teresa, a colorful colonial neighborhood that is a magnet for tourists because of its bars, hostels, and five-star hotel. Santa Teresa is within walking distance of the marina where Olympic sailing races will be staged.

But these days, the hip-hop parties in Prazeres are on hold. Two Spanish Olympic sailors and a coach were recently mugged at gunpoint on a Santa Teresa street. A bar and a pizzeria were held up by armed gangs. When a reporter visited another nearby favela, Fallet, he saw what appeared to be armed gang members guarding a street.

Police bases in favelas are increasingly coming under attack as the drug gangs get bolder.

‘‘In the beginning the community believed the [pacification] project was coming to benefit everyone,’’ said Eliza Brandão, 55, president of the Prazeres residents’ association. Residents hoped for better public services, but they never arrived, she said. ‘‘People lost confidence in the process,’’ she said.

Where did all the money go?

Residents say that the rise in crime is linked to Brazil’s economic recession, its worst since the 1930s.

‘‘People are desperate. We have a failing economy, nothing for these communities, no opportunities,’’ said Theresa Williamson, founder of a nonprofit group called Catalytic Communities that works in favelas.

Your future, Americans?

To compound the situation, Rio’s state government is broke and has slashed police budgets by a third. The state relies heavily on tax revenues from offshore oil fields, revenues that have been decimated by the tumbling global price of oil.

Short on supplies, morale, and at times even ammunition, police stationed in Rio favelas such as this one are increasingly confined to their bases, one officer said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment.

‘‘Before, they used to do patrols, talking to residents, working out conflicts,’’ Brandão said. ‘‘I think they gave up.’’

Beltrame, the state security official, said he had been forced to cut overtime hours for hundreds of officers.

Budgets for fuel and food have been reduced — at one police station in central Rio, residents have been donating stationery and toilet paper.

‘‘I have never faced a crisis like this,’’ said Beltrame, who has been in his job nine years.

Authorities nonetheless pledge that tourists will be safe during the Olympics. More than 300,000 visitors are expected for the Games, which begin Aug. 5....


They need help:

"Amid cuts, Rio police ask for handouts ahead of Olympics" by Jenny Barchfield Associated Press  June 29, 2016

RIO DE JANEIRO — Just weeks ahead of the Olympic Games, police helicopters are grounded, patrol cars are parked, and Rio de Janeiro’s security forces are so pressed for funds that some have to beg for donations of pens, cleaning supplies, and even toilet paper, fueling worries about safety at the world’s premier sporting event.

They are as bad as Venezuela (see below later in this post).

Brazil is suffering the worst recession in decades and Rio’s acting governor declared a state of financial disaster this month, largely to bolster spending on security as the world’s spotlight turns to the city.

‘‘How are people going to feel protected in a city without security,’’ Governor Francisco Dornelles told Rio’s O Globo newspaper. ‘‘We can have a great Olympics, but if some steps aren’t taken, it can be a big failure.’’

Rio state has slashed budgets across the board, including that of the police. Helicopters have been grounded and more than half of the civil police’s fleet of cars has been idled in a bid to save on gas. Even officers’ paychecks have been delayed.

Angry civil police officers staged a strike Monday, with one contingent greeting visitors at Rio’s international airport with a sign reading, in English, ‘‘Welcome to Hell. Police and firefighters don’t get paid; Whoever comes to Rio de Janeiro will not be safe.’’


The cuts have led to ‘‘a very big crisis in . . . the self-esteem of the policemen,’’ said Ilona Szabo, executive director of the Instituto Igarape, a Rio-based security and social issues think tank.

Even so, she said the sheer number of officers on the streets should help avoid a major security breech at Olympic sites and in Rio’s beachfront neighborhoods.

Olympic officials insist Rio’s fiscal problems won’t affect security for the Games.

Some 85,000 police and soldiers — roughly twice the security contingent at the London Olympics — are to be deployed during the Aug. 5-21 Games, which are expected to draw an estimated 350,000 to 500,000 foreigners to a city of 12 million people where armed muggings, stray bullets, and turf wars between heavily armed drug gangs are routine.

The recession that saw Brazil’s economy shrink by 4 percent last year has taken a particularly tough toll on Rio. During the boom years, the state awarded billions in tax exemptions to companies ranging from industrial giants to small-scale jewelry dealers, nightclubs, restaurants, and love hotels. Tax revenues sunk further with the fall of oil prices that fund much of the state’s budget.

Local newspapers recently reported that the balance in state coffers had dwindled at one point to around $10,000. The salaries of some state workers are being paid in installments and some retirees are now receiving their pensions months late.

The governor declared a state of financial disaster last week that paved the way for $860 million in emergency aid from the federal government. The funds are earmarked for Olympic security — fanning hopes that the situation of Rio’s beleaguered police may improve.

In the meantime, donations continue to provide a lifeline for some police stations.

It's the same everywhere you go!

Maria Thereza Sombra, an 81-year-old former teacher who heads the neighborhood association in Rio’s tony Morro da Viuva area, said her neighborhood association turned to local residents for help. ‘‘Now’s the time for us all to unite.’’

The association papered buildings with appeals for donations: paper towels, paper clips, pens and even toilet paper.

‘‘Some people grumbled. They said, ‘I already pay taxes, so why should I have to go into my pocket again for this?’ And I say, ‘If you get carjacked and you need an incident report for your insurance and the cops can’t print it, are you going to be worried about your taxes then?’ ’’ Sombra asked.

Civil Police Chief Fernando Veloso declined multiple requests for an interview. He was quoted in a recent interview in O Globo as saying, ‘‘We’re at the limit of our operational capacity, and I can’t discard the possibility of a collapse.’’

Beth Penna Pereira, a psychologist from Rio’s high-end Leblon neighborhood, experienced the cuts first hand when her purse was stolen at a neighborhood bakery. When she went to the local precinct to report the incident she left empty-handed.

“ ‘We don’t have paper for the incident report. None of the printers are working. . . . We haven’t received any supplies for a while,’ ” she recalled the officer saying.

‘‘I’m feeling more insecure, more unprotected, more helpless,’’ she said....


"‘Welcome to hell’: Violence rocks Rio a month before Olympics" by Dom Phillips Washington Post   July 05, 2016

RIO DE JANEIRO — A month before Rio de Janeiro hosts South America’s first Olympic Games, two cellphone videos have brought home the grim reality of rising violence in the city’s teeming favelas.

The violence is deepening anguish and anger among residents, and it comes at a time when Rio’s state government is broke and has slashed police budgets by a third.

The complex of favelas was pacified by police and military after a battle in 2010, a high-stake operation carried live on TV. The ‘‘pacification’’ policy was initiated in 2008 to bring peace to communities dominated for decades by violent drug gangs, and armed police bases have since been installed in 38 of Rio’s favelas.

Didn't work in Vietnam, either.

But peace has been hard to come by, and residents block streets and throw rocks at the officers....

I can hear children crying.


RelatedCrime casts shadow on Rio Olympics

How could things get any worse?

"Brazil arrests 10 said to be plotting attack on Olympics" by Simon Romero New York Times  July 21, 2016


Thanks, I needed a good laugh!

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian authorities arrested 10 members of an Islamist militant group that was organizing terror attacks, officials announced Thursday, raising tension around the country two weeks before the start of the Olympic Games.

In a statement, the Federal Police said the suspects belonged to a group called the Defenders of Shariah. Agents from an antiterrorism unit are investigating the group’s activities in the several states, including Rio de Janeiro, where the games will take place.

The arrests were announced at a time when the Brazilian authorities are coming under scrutiny over security preparations for the Olympics.

This will take attention of the scrutiny and have everyone saying good job!

Responding to the truck massacre last week in France, Brazil’s sports minister, Leonardo Picciani, told reporters Wednesday that “the government is absolutely convinced that the games will be safe.”

Me, too. False flag artists aren't going to ruin their fun.

Brazil’s justice minister, Alexandre de Moraes, said Thursday that Brazil’s main intelligence agency, known as ABIN, was working with foreign intelligence services and the Federal Police, an investigative force in Brazil that is similar to the FBI.

Officials said the people arrested had communicated with one another via WhatsApp and Telegram, two mobile messaging services. Moraes said the suspects had been taken into custody “when they went from basic commentaries about the Islamic State to preparatory acts.”

Still, Moraes emphasized the group’s embryonic nature, saying ‘‘they were complete amateurs and ill-prepared’’ to actually launch an attack. ‘‘A few days ago they said they should start practicing martial arts, for example.’’

Pathetic Brazilian patsies!

He said its members had been seeking to buy weapons in Paraguay, including an AK-47 rifle, but that no such arms acquisitions were confirmed.

“This is a disorganized cell,” Moraes said, who described all those arrested as Brazilian citizens. He said that intercepted messages showed members of the group celebrating the recent attacks in Orlando and Nice.

Moraes did not provide more details about what kind of attack the group was planning, but he said officials had to act “because of the proximity of the Olympics.”

Marcos Josegrei da Silva, the federal judge overseeing the case, said Thursday that the suspects ranged in age from 20 to 40, and that they communicated with each other using code names in Arabic even though none appeared to have Arab ancestry.

The bloggers care right. These staged and scripted psyops have become cobbled together crapola by some third-rate corporate propagandist or marketer.

“It’s hard to call them terrorists,” da Silva said. “But even though they don’t have a very solid organization, the arrests are warranted from a legal point of view.”

Then don't.

One of the suspects, identified in Brazilian media reports as Vitor Barbosa Magalhães, 23, converted to Islam several years ago and lived in the city of Guarulhos in São Paulo state’s metropolitan area, where he works in his father’s car repair shop.

Magalhães’s wife told reporters he had traveled to Egypt in 2012 to study Arabic and Islam. After returning to Brazil, he gave classes in Arabic over YouTube and maintained a WhatsApp group to discuss Islam, she said. 

Left a nice little trail for the NSA, huh?

Concern has been increasing here over the potential for terrorist attacks around the Olympics, with police bomb-detonation squads responding to various reports of bags left in public areas (no explosive devices have been found). These fears are relatively new in Brazil, a country that has largely been spared the kind of large-scale attacks that have horrified Europe, the Middle East, the United States, and many other parts of the world.

Ah, the days of wide-eyed innocence and full fear from years back. Nice to see a new generation get experience the psyop mind-f*** for themselves.

Brazilian officials have also said they were enhancing security measures following a report by SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist websites, saying that a group calling itself Ansar al-Khilafah Brazil had proclaimed allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State.

You can see this is all BS now, and how many times has Baghdadi been exhumed now?

The arrests on Thursday marked a turning point in the way Brazil’s government generally discusses terrorism threats. For more than a decade, and especially after the Sept. 11 attacks, Brazilian intelligence officials have been monitoring individuals suspected of links to terrorism.

During that time, however, “Brazilian government officials kept saying publicly that no credible evidence exists that people who live inside Brazil have links to terrorism,” said Marcos Ferreira, a scholar focusing on terrorism in South America at the Federal University of Paraíba.

At the same time, other experts voiced caution as to whether the suspects would have put a plot into motion.

“Initially, these arrests seem very fragile,” said Rodrigo Monteiro, a security specialist at the Federal Fluminense University in Rio. “We need to wait a bit for the government to define the threat in a better way.”

On Thursday, the justice minister, Moraes, said that violent crime remained the priority ahead of the Olympics. Despite gun control measures, Rio is still awash in weapons, with drug gangs wielding control over parts of the city. The authorities have begun deploying tens of thousands of troops to bolster security in Rio.

“The biggest concern is still crime,” Moraes said.

But this did get your mind of that, didn't it?


RelatedBrazil arrests new suspect in alleged Olympics terror plot

won't be watching any Olympics this year.



Somebody pull a HAARP string?

Powerful tremor kills at least 28 in Ecuador
Earthquake in Ecuador kills at least 272
Death toll from Ecuador quake rises to 413

"The final toll could surpass casualties from earthquakes in Chile and Peru in the past decade. Among the survivors, the situation was growing increasingly tense. While humanitarian aid has been pouring in from around the world, distribution is slow. In Manta on Wednesday, residents waited for hours under the tropical midday sun for water and food supplies. The army kept control behind fenced barricades. Meanwhile, scenes of mourning multiplied along Ecuador’s Pacific coastline as people began burying loved ones." 

Ecuador one of the last anti-U.S. leftist regimes left down there and a big oil producer. Hmmm.

"The death count from Ecuador’s worst earthquake in a decade rose to at least 577 on Thursday even as the country was facing another grim toll: a long and costly reconstruction effort likely to cost billions. President Rafael Correa announced Wednesday night that he would raise sales taxes and put a one-time levy on millionaires to help pay for reconstruction. The damage from the 7.8-magnitude quake adds to already heavy economic hardships being felt in the OPEC nation because of the collapse in world oil prices. Even before the quake, Ecuador was bracing for a bout of austerity. Rescuers continued to comb through the rubble."

"Ecuador’s struggle continues, a month after quake" by Gonzalo Solano and Dolores Ochoa Associated Press  May 17, 2016

PEDERNALES, Ecuador — A month after a devastating earthquake flattened the Ecuadoran beach town of Pedernales, people are still living in tarp shelters and schools remain closed. Just a third of the rubble has been swept from the streets.

Some of those whose homes were wrecked survive by scavenging through the debris and panhandling. And some go hungry.

Officials deployed a giant flag over the town Monday to commemorate those who died in the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that killed 660 and initially left tens of thousands homeless.

Aid poured in from around the world, but officials say more than 7,000 people remain without a home.

Ecuador was already struggling economically before the disaster. President Rafael Correa has hiked taxes to fund the recovery but says it will take years to rebuild the beach towns and tourist hubs leveled by the quake.

He urged the country to keep its spirits up Monday.

‘‘The pain is immense, but the hope is greater,’’ he wrote on Twitter, adding that the country had proved its mettle in the face of the tragedy.

The situation is much better than it was a month ago. International workers are working with the government to set up hundreds of temporary schools and living spaces, and victims are getting psychological and medical services.

But more than 100,000 children remain out of school, according to a report released Monday by the United Nations Children’s Fund, which said it had not received the donations it needs to attend to the disaster.

In Pedernales, residents are living much of their lives outside. On Saturday, a family prepared a pig to eat on a mat in the sand in the midst of makeshift shelters. People set clothes to dry on the roofs of their tents, and had their hair cut in barber’s chairs set up on the street.

Estrella Vera, 62, was worried the government may try to resettle her and her 10 children in another town father from the coast.

‘‘We are a fishing community. We need to stay here and rebuild our town however we can manage,’’ she said.


Two days later....

"Two powerful earthquakes jolted Ecuador on Wednesday, causing one death and injuring dozens. Neither quake appeared to have caused serious damage but the government decided to cancel school nationwide."

May God have mercy on them.



"With Fujimori polarizing Peru vote, eyes on runner-up race" by Franklin Briceno Associated Press  April 10, 2016

LIMA — The daughter of jailed former president Alberto Fujimori was emerging as the winner of the first round of voting in Peru’s presidential election, according to preliminary official results. Keiko Fujimori will likely face a former World Bank economist in a June runoff.

With 20 percent of the ballots counted, Fujimori has 38 percent of the votes cast in Sunday’s election. Investor-favorite Pedro Kuczynski has just under 26 percent while leftist congresswoman Veronika Mendoza is in third with 16 percent.

Full results may not be available until Monday, but two nationwide quick counts by polling firms indicated Kuczynski would beat Mendoza for the right to face off with Fujimori in June. Such counts have been reliable indicators in previous Peruvian elections.

Fujimori had led opinion polls for months but faces a competitive runoff scenario because half of Peruvians surveyed said they will never vote for anyone associated with her father. Alberto Fujimori, who governed from 1990 to 2000, is serving a 25-year sentence for authorizing death squads and corruption.

While he beat back the guerrillas, a few holdouts remain. On Saturday, suspected Shining Path rebels killed five soldiers and two drivers on their way to a polling place in a mountain town, army officials said.

In a bid to project a more moderate image, the center-right Keiko Fujimori promised not to pardon her father if elected.

Maritza Sacsara, one of the many rural voters who cast votes for Fujimori in the Quecha-speaking village of Iquicha, called her ‘‘a born leader’’ and credited the candidate with campaigning fiercely in small towns and villages often ignored by Peruvian politicians.

In the campaign’s final weeks, Fujimori’s opponents took to city streets by the thousands to warn against what they said would be a return of authoritarian rule if Fujimori became president.

Adding bitterness to the election, two candidates, including Fujimori’s strongest rival, were barred from the race by Peru’s electoral tribunal for campaign violations or technicalities, decisions questioned by the Organization of American States.

Of Fujimori’s two main challengers still in the race, Mendoza represents the biggest shift from the status quo under President Ollanta Humala, who was prevented by the constitution from seeking a second, consecutive term. An admirer of the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, Mendoza fell out with Humala’s government over its crackdown on anti-mining protesters.

While corruption scandals and economic stress sparked by the end of the commodities boom have pushed much of South America to the right, as evidenced by the defeat of leftist candidates in Argentina and Venezuela, polls have said that more than half of Peruvians are clamoring for more state intervention in the economy — the sort of policy Mendoza favors.

And she finished third, huh?

She vowed to radically change the pro-business economic model that propelled record growth over the past decade. She said she would ramp up government spending and reduce Peru’s dependence on the extraction of natural resources that she says degrades the environment. Peru is among the world’s top three silver producers.

Kuczynski tried to position himself as the candidate of the center, saying he would avoid the dangers of the two ‘‘extremes.’’ But the 77-year-old investor favorite was dogged by his service to past governments and Peruvians’ preference for outsider candidates.

How much you want to bet he is declared the winner?

Three of Peru’s last four presidents had never run for any office before being elected.

Further undermining Peruvians’ faith in their democracy was the last-minute decision by electoral authorities to expel two candidates from the race. Both were kicked out on technical grounds and the timing of the decision, a month before voting, has fueled speculation Keiko Fujimori or another candidate may have been pulling the strings.

Also up for grabs on Sunday are all 130 seats in Peru’s congress. Voting is mandatory.


‘‘Peru is on the threshold of becoming a narco-state,’’ the 77-year-old candidate, Pedro Pablo Kaczynski, a former World Bank economist, told supporters at his closing campaign rally in Lima. The reference wasn’t just to her father’s well-known ties to corruption, organized crime, and death squads, for which he’s serving a 25-year jail sentence, but an attempt to draw attention to a string of scandals that have hobbled Keiko Fujimori, daughter of imprisoned former president Alberto Fujimori, in the final stretch. Most notable was a report that one of her big fund-raisers and the secretary general of her party are the targets of a US Drug Enforcement Administration investigation. Peru is the world’s largest producer of cocaine. Her running mate, Jose Chlimper, a Cabinet member at the end of Alberto Fujimori’s government, is also in hot water for orchestrating the broadcast of a doctored audiotape in an attempt to clear the name of the party boss. At the same time, she’s vowed to bring back the ‘‘iron hand’’ style of government for which many still revere the elder Fujimori, who is credited with taming Maoist Shining Path rebels as well as the country’s hyperinflation. Instead of rebels, Keiko Fujimori is promising to wield an iron fist against crime, a top voter concern. Among her proposals: Build jails in high-altitude prisons in the Andes to punish and isolate dangerous criminals. She’s also trying to cast her rival, the son of a Jewish-Polish immigrant who is married to an American and spent decades in business outside Peru, as part of the white elite establishment that has traditionally overlooked the needs of the poor. Regardless of who wins, Keiko Fujimori has already reshaped Peru’s political landscape. In April, her Popular Force party won 73 of 130 seats in the unicameral Congress, setting Fujimori up to be the first president since her father in the 1990s to govern with a legislative majority. Her detractors say that’s a risk to Peru’s already weak system of checks and balances."

What a Hobson's Choice!

Looks like the Peruvians had the same problem as Americans re: Clinton and Trump. 

"As Peruvians nervously awaited results still trickling in from remote parts of the Andean nation, the pollsters have a track record of accuracy. The most notable was a report that one of her big fundraisers and the secretary general of her party was the target of a US Drug Enforcement Administration investigation."

Must be the only place on earth where they are accurate, and they are telling us the former World Bank economist is the winner.

What a zoo is Peru:

From circus to sanctuary — 33 lions to be airlifted from Peru

"33 rescued lions arrive in South Africa in airlift" by Stuart Graham Associated Press  April 30, 2016

JOHANNESBURG — The lions will be placed in quarantine in enclosures at the 12,355-acre Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in Vaalwater in northern South Africa, started three years ago by a single mother and her teenage daughter.

Many of the lions were never allowed to have direct physical contact with other lions and have never been together without a fence or a cage separating them.

Because of their poor physical state, the lions will never be able to hunt again and will have to be given food and water for the rest of their lives. Emoya will feed the cats with game meat, which it buys in bulk.

The enclosures will be fitted with drinking pools, platforms, and toys to ensure the lions don’t become bored and will be steadily expanded as they become familiar with their new life, said Savannah Heuser, who started Emoya with her mother.

Emoya, in an area with a mix of habitats including mountainous regions, rolling grasslands, forests, cliff caves, and river gorges, has a strict nonbreeding policy, Heuser said.

Female lions may receive contraceptive medications so they can remain with their mates, while males may undergo vasectomies to make sure that no lions are bred in captivity.

Emoya was opened in 2012. The sanctuary’s first cat, a lion rescued from Cairo called Chanel, arrived in June 2013. The sanctuary is currently home to eight big cats....


There they can join the monkeys in the South African zoo.

"Zimbabwe is trying to sell off its wildlife" Washington Post  May 07, 2016

First, they sold their elephants to China. Now, the Zimbabwe government has placed an ad in its state-run newspaper asking members of the public — at least those who have the money and space — to buy some more of the country’s wild animals.

The reason is a devastating, relentless El Nino-induced drought that has left as many as 4 million Zimbabweans in need of food aid and ravaged the country’s natural resources, decimating crops and drying up water sources. At least 16,500 cattle have died. 

You can decide for yourself whether that has gotten its due reporting by the media and if said media is racist.

Zimbabwe is home to 10 national parks, one of which claimed Cecil the lion, a beloved black mane lion that was killed by a US dentist last year. The parks, filled with giraffe, buffalo, zebra, lion, cheetah, and elephants, draw both tourists and poachers.

Last year, the Zimbabwean government drew scrutiny and the ire of conservationists when it began selling elephants to China. The sale, government officials admitted, would reduce the booming elephant population but also raise money so the country could buy things like antipoaching and surveillance technology.

Officials told CNN the money from this sale would be used to benefit the animals, and the reduced number of wildlife would unburden grasslands and water resources until the next rainy season.

“We hope the funds will be used to buy food and secure water facilities for distressed animals,” environment, water, and climate minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri told CNN.

The ad, placed by the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, called on members of the public “with the capacity to acquire and manage wildlife” to step forward and apply, according to news reports.

The parks authority indicated that it intends to sell the animals to private wildlife reserves, according to CNN, but it didn’t specify which animal breeds were for sale, how many would be sold, or for how much.

When the country sold dozens of elephants to China, conservationists predicted the animals could go for prices as high as $50,000 each.

Reuters reported that the Hwange National Park houses about 54,000 of Zimbabwe’s 80,000 elephants, more than four times the number of elephants that park should hold.



"In Zimbabwe, a relentless El Nino-induced drought has left as many as four million people in need of food aid and ravished the country’s natural resources, decimating crops and drying up water sources. At least 16,500 cattle have died. Last year, the Zimbabwean government drew scrutiny and the ire of conservationists when it began selling elephants to China. The sale, government officials admitted, would reduce the booming elephant population but also raise money. Officials said the reduced number of wildlife would unburden grasslands and water resources until the next rainy season."

It IS a different article, and at least quail are thriving!

I'm now going to duck out and return to Peru:

"Woman allegedly arrives in US with $1.2m in fake bills" by Milton J. Valencia Globe Staff  July 12, 2016

Alejandrina Elsa Quispe Ramirez had allegedly told authorities she was traveling to Shriners Hospital for Children in Boston, so that her son could be treated for burn wounds. But what she had planned, according to the Secret Service, was actually something sinister.

A tip had come from the Peruvian National Police: A woman and her two sons would be traveling to the United States on July 11 carrying a significant amount of US dollars in their luggage, concealed in thread cones, the type of string or yarn spindles used in sewing machines. The Secret Service had recently seized counterfeit US dollars smuggled from Peru in similar fashion. 

They didn't come from the Fed printing pre$$ is all.

Secret Service agents confirmed that Ramirez, 47, had been planning to travel on a Cabo Airlines flight to Logan International Airport with two sons, after a quick stop in Panama. The flight was scheduled to arrive in Boston at 6:08 p.m. Monday.

Ramirez, according to a federal affidavit, told immigration officials in a visa application that she was traveling to get treatment for her 17-year-old son, whose visa photo showed severe burns on his face. Shriners officials told the Secret Service that the boy had been treated there in the past, but did not have another appointment scheduled until November.

When Ramirez and her sons arrived at Logan, authorities found dozens of spindles wrapped in clothing inside their luggage. A Secret Service agent inserted a GPS tracking device into each of the three pieces of luggage.

Authorities then watched as Ramirez and her sons took a taxi to Somerville, where they met a fourth person, and walked two blocks to a waiting Mazda sport utility vehicle with Pennsylvania license plates driven by another man. Authorities believe it was an attempt to evade law enforcement detection.

Authorities stopped the Mazda and searched the luggage. In the three bags, authorities said they found $1,212,200 in counterfeit $100 notes.

Ramirez made a brief appearance in federal court in Boston Tuesday, charged with dealing in counterfeit obligations or securities and smuggling goods into the United States. Authorities said her sons would not be charged.

Ramirez’s lawyer would not comment Tuesday. She faces up to 20 years in prison on each charge if convicted. A detention hearing is scheduled for Thursday.




"Protests as Venezuela embraces 2-day workweek to save power" by Hannah Dreier Associated Press  April 28, 2016

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan cities cleaned up from a night of looting and fiery protests Wednesday as government offices closed their doors for the rest of the week in the face of a worsening energy crisis that is causing daily blackouts.

This is part of the attempted overthrow in Venezuela, and what the U.S. government is doing is what they did to Chileabout 45 years ago: making the economy scream.

The socialist administration began imposing a four-hour daily blackout around the country this week to save power. Then on Tuesday, President Nicolas Maduro announced that millions of officials will now work only Monday and Tuesday.

Angry residents in darkened towns around the country took to the streets Tuesday night, setting up flaming barricades and raiding shops for bread and other scarce food.

On Wednesday, hundreds of police fanned out around the western city of Maracaibo after a night of looting on darkened streets. Venezuela is among the world’s most violent countries, and crime generally spikes here when the lights go out.

The administration says the water level behind the nation’s largest dam has fallen to near its minimum operating level because of a severe drought. Experts say lack of planning and maintenance is also to blame.

Caracas is being spared from the rolling blackouts, and has not seen violent protests. Some here complain that the country is starting to resemble the dystopian series ‘‘The Hunger Games,’’ in which districts suffer for the benefit of the heartless capital city.

As people become more desperate in outlying states, politicians in Caracas are appealing for calm after scoring a small victory that will allow them to begin the effort to recall Maduro.

So it's another BRAZIL, isn't it?

Venezuela’s electoral authority on Tuesday delivered the petition sheets the opposition needs to collect signatures for a formal petition drive. Some in the opposition had believed that the government would never hand those sheets over.

Opposition leaders held a rally to launch the start of the recall drive Wednesday as many institutional buildings downtown remained closed.

Retired Environmental Ministry worker Edgar Diera sat on the steps of the Justice Ministry, making doomsday predictions to people who showed up only to find the doors locked.

‘‘A country needs its workers to show up,’’ he said, shaking a newspaper at a snarl of cars in front of a broken traffic light. ‘‘This place is in ruins.’’

People working for the state, the country’s largest employer, will be paid for the days they’re sent home. Some have been using their Fridays off to wait in lines to buy groceries and other goods. Others have been going home to watch TV and run the air conditioning, leading critics to say the furlough is not an effective energy-saving measure.

There’s also the question of the jobs they will be leaving undone.

‘‘The measure will paralyze Venezuela’s public administration, further hampering the state’s ability to function,’’ said Diego Moya-Ocampos, an analyst with the London-based consulting firm IHS Global Insight.


"Venezuela rejects move to recall president" Associated Press  May 17, 2016

CARACAS — Venezuela’s government on Monday rejected a petition to launch a recall referendum on President Nicolas Maduro, two days after he threatened to take over idle factories and jail their owners.

Maduro said Saturday that he might take the actions under an emergency decree that gave him expanded powers in the face of Venezuela’s deep economic crisis.

Opposition leaders have warned the embattled leader that if he tries to block a recall referendum, the society could ‘‘explode.’’

Venezuela’s economic crisis has become so severe that it has raised fears of a government collapse. It is suffering from multiple financial woes, including rampant inflation and low prices for oil, the cornerstone of its economy.

Opposition politicians two weeks ago began the recall process by submitting a petition they said was signed by 1.85 million people.

But Vice President Aristobulo Isturiz ruled out a referendum, the BBC said Monday. He said the opposition had “acted too late, had done it wrong, and had committed fraud.”

Some lawmakers had said they were not hopeful that the referendum would be held because the National Electoral Council is made up of government loyalists. In addition, for the referendum to be successful, an equal or greater number of voters than those who elected Maduro would have to approve removing him.

Speaking to supporters in Caracas on Saturday, Maduro ordered ‘‘all actions to recover the production apparatus, which is being paralyzed by the bourgeoisie.’’ He also said businesspeople who ‘‘sabotage the country’’ by halting production at their plants are at risk of being ‘‘put in handcuffs.’’

Last month the country’s largest food and beverage distributor, Empresas Polar, shut down its last operating beer plant. It says it has been unable to access hard currency to buy raw materials. Maduro accuses Polar and others of trying to destabilize the financially stricken country by exacerbating shortages of goods from foodstuffs to medicines to toilet paper.

Demonstrations were held in the capital Saturday for and against a bid to recall the president. Maduro opponents demanded that the National Electoral Council rule on the validity of the signatures collected in favor of the referendum and allow it to move forward.


Thus the capital flight continues:

"Tire maker Bridgestone is selling its business in Venezuela after six decades in the country, the latest blue chip company to abandon the country as a result of runaway inflation and strict currency controls. Bridgestone Americas said it is selling its Venezuela assets to Grupo Corimon, a local industrialist. The Nashville-based company joins Halliburton, Ford Motor, and Procter & Gamble in slowing or abandoning their investments in Venezuela. Also Monday, sugar has become so scarce in Venezuela that Coca-Cola Co. said it will no longer make sugar-sweetened beverages there."

Also seeMaker of Kleenex and Huggies pulls out of Venezuela amid economic Woes

Try getting a flight out:

"Venezuela has for years seen airlines reduce capacity to the South American country as they struggle to repatriate revenue. Now, two airlines are calling it quits altogether. Latam Airlines Group, Latin America’s largest carrier, said Monday that it would cut all flights to Caracas by August. A day earlier, Deutsche Lufthansa said it would suspend its three weekly flights to Venezuela next month “until further notice.” The German airline’s spokesman, Andreas Bartels, pointed to the challenge of repatriating revenue from Venezuela and a sharp dropoff in ticket demand, especially among business travelers. The nation is mired in its third year of a deep recession. Carriers have struggled for years to transfer back profits from Venezuela, leaving billions trapped in bolivars, the local currency. Latam also highlighted economic conditions. “The companies of the Latam group consider Venezuela to be a relevant market and will work to reestablish operations as soon as global conditions permit,” the company said. Lufthansa and Latam join American Airlines, which announced in March that it was canceling its Caracas-New York route, just three months after reinstating it, because of low demand. Venezuela’s economy is projected by the International Monetary Fund to contract by 8 percent in 2016, with the average rate of inflation expected to surge to almost 500 percent."

"Venezuelan asylum requests skyrocket as crisis deepens" Associated Press  June 16, 2016

CARACAS — The number of Venezuelans seeking asylum in the United States has soared as the oil-dependent economy crashes and more of the middle-class flees.

Yes, I would open the doors for them.

The most recent data from the US government’s Citizenship and Immigration Services show that in March 2016, Venezuelans climbed to second place among nationalities submitting asylum requests, with 1,345 applications during that month. Only citizens of China made more requests, 1,441 of the total 10,345 submitted that month.

The South American country first cracked the top 10 asylum-seeking nations in February 2014 when a bloody, monthslong street protest movement seeking to oust the socialist administration kicked off. But back then, amid the widespread jailing and harassment of opponents of President Nicolas Maduro, fewer than 100 Venezuelans per month sought asylum.

The number of applicants has accelerated sharply since December 2015, when the opposition scored a landslide victory in congressional elections, giving hope to many that it could disrupt 17 years of socialist rule. Instead, more and more Venezuelans are choosing to leave as an economic crisis marked by triple-digit inflation pulverizes salaries and widespread food and medicine shortages makes life unbearable for many.

All being driven by U.S. policy because they don't like the government.

The asylum requests in March surpass the number of applications received in all of 2013, according to Julio Henriquez, director of the Boston-based nonprofit Refugee Freedom Program, which drew attention to the data in a report Thursday. It also is more than the total number of Venezuelans granted asylum in 2014. The vast majority are middle-class Venezuelans who don’t qualify for refugee status reserved for those seeking to escape political persecution, he said.

Still, given mounting hardships at home, increasing numbers of Venezuelans are willing to take advantage of a more-than-two-year delay for their application to be processed to obtain work authorization and seek short-term employment even if it means being eventually deported.



"We are watching an entire nation collapse right in front of our eyes.  As you read this article, there are severe shortages of just about anything you can imagine in Venezuela.  That includes food, toilet paper, medicine, electricity and even Coca-Cola.  All over the country, people are standing in extremely long lines for hours on end just hoping that they will be able to purchase some provisions for their hungry families.  At times when there hasn’t been anything for the people that have waited in those long lines, full-blown riots have broken out.  All of this is happening even though Venezuela has not been hit by a war, a major natural disaster, a terror attack, an EMP burst or any other type of significant “black swan” event.  When debt spirals out of control, currency manipulation goes too far and government interference reaches ridiculous extremes, this is what can happen to an economy.  The following are 8 lessons that we can learn from the epic economic meltdown in Venezuela…


Good thing help is on the way!

Time to head back north:



"Few public works projects have captured the world’s imagination like the Panama Canal, but as Panama readies for its launch party on June 26...."

The drugs were being brought in as I typed.

"Panama betting canal’s expansion will pay off in trade" by Juan Zamorano Associated Press  June 27, 2016

PANAMA CITY — Thousands of Panamanians who began gathering before dawn to witness the inauguration of the canal’s expansion waved the national flag as the band struck up a tune.

Nearly two years late because of construction delays and labor strife, the $5.25 billion project formally launched with the transit of the 158-foot-wide, 984-foot-long, Chinese-owned container ship. It’s one of the modern class of mega-vessels that will now be able to use the canal.

With 30,000 people and eight foreign heads of state attending the daylong festivities, officials are bullish; however, the party comes amid a lull in global shipping because of the drop in oil prices, an economic slowdown in China, which is the canal’s second-largest customer, and other factors that have hit the waterway’s traffic and income.

While authorities expect increasing commerce between Asia and ports on the US East Coast, doubts remain that not all those ports are ready to handle the huge New Panamex-class cargo ships....


It's the ‘‘route that unites the world.’’

Boston’s shipping terminal may get a lot bigger 

The trend toward using larger ships is in part related to the Panama Canal expansion.

Here is something to read while you are sitting in the dock:

"Bribery and corruption came to the fore last month with the so-called Panama Papers scandal, in which documents leaked from a Panamanian law firm showed how some of the world’s wealthiest people channeled billions into offshore accounts, raising questions about tax evasion and money laundering...."

It was described as the ‘‘biggest leak ever,’’ and as soon as I saw the bigger picture regarding who is behind and funding the ICIJ, I shut off the light

It's the usual suspects and enemies that are being embarrassed. We know why Iceland's prime minister was a target after what they did to their looting bankers. Everyone can see they are a U.S. plot. The reason they dropped Cameron's name is because he called for the Brexit vote and needed to be removed. No skirting around it. At least he will be getting help hunting down the  hackers.

Call me crazy if you will, but that WaPo pos is about as far-fetched as the Wasserman hack. Looks like a false charge to me and another pre$$ failure. It's a big Red Cross right in front of you.

Of course, the top haven for tax cheats. Expect more government agencies to adopt photo and biometric identification systems (thank God people never switch photos for fakes), and your driver's license photo will be sent straight to the FBI. You really get the “feeling its a game,” because that's exactly what is the "leak." Pre$$ isn't getting all upset like they did during Climategate, and the Panamanians view it as a badge of honor

In ‘Panama Papers,’ other countries’ corruption entwines with ours 

I still don't $ee "ours," but my leaders have vowed to end offshore tax evasion and financial corruption (what names do you see? I know which ones I did not: Israelis or Amerikans)

I see the divorces of the wealthy in there, and some names that were left out before the coverage was dropped, no joke (not that anyone is laughing).

Now the source is claiming he has money problemPFFFFT!

Where Are the Other 10 Million Panama Papers?

It's not brain surgery.



They have problems:

"Bondholders offer plan to help Puerto Rico out of debt crisis" by Brian Chappatta Bloomberg News  April 06, 2016

Investors holding almost $5 billion of Puerto Rico general-obligation bonds have released a plan to provide debt relief to the island.

The bondholders would agree to defer principal repayments for five years through a consensual exchange offer, saving the commonwealth $1.9 billion over the period, according to the proposal. It also stipulates issuing $750 million of new general obligations at a 7 percent interest rate to avoid a default on an $805 million general-obligation payment on July 1.

The investor proposal comes after the Puerto Rico Senate passed a bill calling for a moratorium on a wide range of debt payments, including general-obligation bonds, through January 2017. The $13 billion of securities are guaranteed by the island’s constitution.

“What the bondholders are doing seems to at least be a more productive step than what Puerto Rico is trying to do,” said Dan Solender, who manages $18 billion of state and local debt, including commonwealth securities, as head of municipals at Lord Abbett & Co. in Jersey City.

“This consensual process avoids a July 1 default, which would irreparably harm Puerto Rico’s economy, hurt millions of American citizens who live on the island, and impair Puerto Rico’s access to markets and its ability to finance essential services,” Andy Rosenberg, a lawyer at Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton and Garrison, who represents the bondholder group, said in a statement. He represents a group of general-obligation bondholders in their negotiations with Puerto Rico and other creditor groups.

The terms proposed by investors include enacting a statutory lien on general-fund revenue, similar to measures in Rhode Island and California. They would also require Puerto Rico to resume deposits into an escrow account at a New York bank to pay debt service on general obligations.

The $750 million size for the new deal could be revised based on funding needs, according to the proposal....


Take a good look, Argentina. This is you in a few years.

"Moratorium brings uncertainty in Puerto Rico debt crisis" by Brian Chappatta, Michelle Kaske and Steven T. Dennis Bloomberg News  April 07, 2016

Puerto Rico risked upending months-long efforts on Wall Street and in Washington to address the commonwealth’s fiscal crisis by authorizing the government to halt payments on a wide swath of its $70 billion debt.

Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla signed a moratorium bill Wednesday, just hours after it won final passage in the legislature. It gives him authority to suspend payments through January 2017 on general-obligation bonds, sales-tax securities, and debt from the island’s Government Development Bank and other public agencies. A default on those obligations would be a first for Puerto Rico.

“This legislation provides us with the tools to address the highest priority of needs — providing essential services to our people — without fear of retribution,” Garcia Padilla said Wednesday in a statement.

You would think so, but not in AmeriKa, not anymore.

The decision marks an escalation of Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis and complicates talks with creditors and US lawmakers. “Lawmakers have acted precipitously by allowing the governor to unilaterally impose debt payment moratoriums,” Stephen Spencer, managing director at Houlihan Lokey, an adviser to Prepa bondholders, said in a statement. He said the law may violate the terms of the negotiated agreement, which is “cast into a state of uncertainty.”

Garcia Padilla has long-held that Puerto Rico can’t continue to pay creditors on time — even those holding constitutionally-guaranteed securities — while still providing essential services to its 3.5 million residents. He welcomed the proposed federal legislation, but said “the price is too high” in how much control it would give the United States over the commonwealth, and previously threatened to call for a moratorium if a deal with investors couldn’t be reached.

Non-constitutionally protected bond payments could be suspended immediately under the island’s law, while those backed by the constitution could be halted starting July 1, when Puerto Rico owes $805 million on its general obligations. It also prevents creditors from suing the commonwealth for defaulting through January 2017, the same as the moratorium period.

The step underscores the need for action in Congress, where lawmakers are waiting for legislation to emerge from the House, said US Senator John Cornyn, the Republican majority whip.

“We’re talking more and more about it,” he said. “I think people are realizing that something is going to have to be done sooner rather than later, but I think we’re waiting for the House to show us what they will support.”

Senator Orrin Hatch, the Republican head of the finance committee, said it would be harmful for Puerto Rico to stop paying investors outright. “That would be a disastrous thing for them to do,” he said. “I think secured creditors should be secured. They ought to be treated very fairly.”

You can $ee for whom the U.S. $enate works.


"Puerto Rico unveils new restructuring deal as cash dwindles" by Michelle Kaske Bloomberg News  April 12, 2016

NEW YORK — Puerto Rico reduced the amount of potential losses for creditors in a revised debt-restructuring proposal as island officials seek to accelerate negotiations while the commonwealth moves closer to default and Congress considers oversight of its finances.

Congre$$ional oversight? 

After the budget messes they have made in Washington?

Puerto Rico and its advisers made public details of the offer first presented in March. General obligation and sales-tax bondholders would recover more of their investments under the latest plan. It would reduce the commonwealth’s $49.3 billion of tax-supported debt to between $32.6 billion and $37.4 billion, a smaller reduction than the cut to $26.5 billion in its earlier plan.

That might not be enough relief for Puerto Rico as the island struggles to grow its economy and improve its finances, said Matt Dalton, chief executive officer of Rye Brook, New York-based Belle Haven Investments, which oversees $4.2 billion of municipal bonds, including commonwealth securities.

“Nothing’s changed and without a drastic reduction of the debt service that Puerto Rico is under, I don’t know how they’re going to climb out of their hole,” Dalton said. “I still worry there’s still a long road ahead even if they did come to some agreement.”

Puerto Rico and its agencies racked up $70 billion of debt after borrowing for years to pay its bills. Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla in June 2105 said the island was unable to repay all of its obligations on time and in full.

Two agencies have missed debt payments since then and its Government Development Bank owes $422 million May 1. The commonwealth and its agencies face a $2 billion debt payment July 1.

The revised plan increases to $1.85 billion from $1.7 billion the amount Puerto Rico will spend on annual debt-service.

Puerto Rico’s revised proposal offers a 74 percent recovery on general obligations and commonwealth-backed debt, up from 72 percent in its first plan that it unveiled Feb. 1. Sales-tax bonds, called Cofinas by their Spanish acronym, would recover 57 percent, up from 49 percent.

It also replaces “growth bonds” included in the commonwealth’s first proposal, with capital-appreciation bonds, which delay interest payments until the debt mature. Growth bonds, by comparison, would only repay if Puerto Rico’s revenue exceeds certain projections.

The commonwealth would allocate $2.4 billion to its pensions in the first five years of the plan. Puerto Rico’s largest pension system’s assets were less than one percent of the $30.2 billion it owes current and future retirees, as of June 2014.

“A sustainable solution cannot place the burden on one stakeholder group alone, and we have the moral and legal obligation to protect the health, safety and well-being of our citizens,” Victor Suarez, Puerto Rico’s secretary of state, said in a statement. “These are the priorities we must balance while working to reach an agreement that will put Puerto Rico back on the path to prosperity.”

Puerto Rico residents who hold commonwealth securities would be repaid last.

The revised proposal offers those on-island investors a return of full principal beginning in 2065 and ending 2069. They would receive a reduced 2 percent interest rate starting in 2017.

Garcia Padilla last week signed into law a debt-moratorium bill that allows him to suspend payments on all of the island’s debt through January 2017.

He declared Saturday an emergency period for the Development Bank to preserve its dwindling cash, but declined to place a moratorium on the bank’s debt.

Puerto Rico’s latest offer gives a 36 percent recovery rate on GDB bonds.


"House GOP struggles to find consensus on aid to Puerto Rico" by Mary Clare Jalonick Associated Press  April 13, 2016

WASHINGTON — House Republicans have abruptly canceled a committee vote on a plan to help Puerto Rico deal with its $70 billion debt in the face of conservative opposition.

A vote on the bill had been scheduled for Thursday.

Obama administration officials warned at a hearing Wednesday that the island is facing financial collapse if Congress doesn’t step in. Republicans agree on the urgency of the matter, but have faced opposition from within their own caucus.

Legislation released by the House Natural Resources Committee this week would create a control board and allow the board to facilitate some court-ordered debt restructuring, though it would not give the island the broad bankruptcy authority its officials had sought.

Several Republicans had objected to the debt restructuring, saying it’s a bad precedent.

House Republicans on Wednesday struggled to rally support for the control board.

‘‘Unfortunately, because the situation has gotten so dire, broad reforms are required now,’’ said the committee’s chairman, Utah Republican Rob Bishop.

In drafting the proposal, GOP lawmakers have tried to satisfy Puerto Rico’s government, creditors, and conservative members of their caucus. Democrats and Puerto Rican officials have worried that the new board would have too much power, prompting echoes of colonialism. At the same time, some conservatives have objected to the debt restructuring.

Hoping to bring fellow Republicans aboard, Speaker Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, quickly endorsed the legislation.

‘‘Congress has a constitutional and financial responsibility to bring order to the chaos that is unfolding in the US territory — chaos that could soon wreak havoc on the American bond market,’’ Ryan said.

It's AmeriKa's Greece!

Committee Republicans said a strong control board is necessary to get the island’s economy back on track. But they said when introducing the latest draft that they were aiming to avoid a colonialist approach.

Isn't that how the U.S. government acquired Puerto Rico?

The committee consulted with Anthony Williams, who as District of Columbia mayor worked with a similar control board in the late 1990s. At a hearing, Williams said ‘‘many of the principles that made DC’s board successful are also key elements of the Puerto Rican oversight legislation.’’

An earlier draft introduced by the committee in March met objections from all sides.

The new version would increase the size of the control board to seven seats from five, with the two added members picked by the minority party in the House and Senate — a clear enticement to Democrats who have opposed the bill. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California said the earlier version of the bill would exert ‘‘undue and undemocratic control’’ over Puerto Rico.

Late Tuesday, Pelosi said still more work needed to be done ‘‘to improve the makeup and scope of the board.’’

In an attempt to satisfy conservatives, the new draft would give creditors more of a say on debt plans, allowing them a preliminary vote on whether they wanted to voluntarily restructure debt.

The House Republican Study Committee, a group of about 170 conservatives, had expressed concerns about the debt restructuring provisions in the first draft, throwing the bill’s future in doubt. Texas Republican Bill Flores, the group’s leader, said members ‘‘are encouraged that there appear to be some improvements.’’

Still, several Republicans on the panel expressed concern at the hearing about the debt restructuring, making the outcome of Thursday’s committee vote unclear.

‘‘I believe we’re going down a slippery slope here,’’ said Representative Jeff Duncan, Republican of South Carolina.

Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s nonvoting representative in Congress, praised Bishop and the sponsor of the bill, Representative Sean Duffy, Republican of Wisconsin, for eliminating language that would have allowed the board to issue some rules and regulations as if it were Puerto Rico’s government.

Puerto Rico has been mired in economic stagnation for a decade. The financial problems worsened as a result of setbacks in the wider US economy, and government spending in Puerto Rico continued unchecked as borrowing covered increasing deficits.

Related: Xmas in July

Treasury Department official Antonio Weiss said prompt action was needed because Puerto Rico is in distress. But he said the administration is concerned that allowing creditors to vote on debt restructuring could delay the process.

The White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, said the administration is confident a solution can be reached, but added that the creditors ‘‘are almost by definition rich and powerful people who have a clear financial interest in getting a deal that reflects their financial interest and not the interest of the 3.5 million people living in Puerto Rico.’’

That's our $y$tem!

Earnest added, ‘‘Overcoming that dynamic is something that will be challenging for Congress to do.’’


I always turn to the Globe for answers:

"Congress must act to give Puerto Rico relief" April 26, 2016

All is NOT well in the commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Its government is an overleveraged basket case whose woes are starting to compound and take a very human toll: Hospitals are having their power cut and wards closed. The CDC predicts that 1 in 5 residents will contract the Zika virus within a year. Pensions aren’t being paid out to the elderly, and growing numbers of its young and able residents are leaving for the mainland.

In the face of this emergency, Congress has done the one thing at which excels these days: nothing. House Majority leader Kevin McCarthy conceded Tuesday that Congress would not act to help the island before May 1, when a $422 million bond payment is due. San Juan says it doesn’t have the money to pay, nor the $2 billion more that’s due two months later on July 1. In all, the Caribbean territory is saddled with a $70 billion debt burden.

After months of negotiations, delays, and a missed deadline, a proposed bill — named Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act, ironically spelling PROMESA — is still opposed by both sides of the aisle. But failure to act now only increases the odds that the island will need a federal bailout later.

Puerto Rico may not be a state, but its 3.5 million residents are still American citizens. They fully deserve governments — both in Washington and San Juan — that function in a timely and responsible manner. Both have abdicated their responsibilities.

The Puerto Rico economy, which has been in recession for a decade, keeps crumbling. The island’s residents continue to leave at an alarming rate, gutting the tax base. Between 2010 and 2015, the population in Puerto Rico’s capital city and its largest metro area, San Juan, decreased by 10 percent — that’s about 40,000 people who left. Overall, Puerto Rico’s population has declined 9 percent in the past 16 years. The territorial government has been incapable of making cuts to reflect its shrinking size and is now running up unsustainable debt.

PROMESA offers several pragmatic steps to set a path for recovery that should remain in the new version of the bill that emerges from current negotiations. These include: a federal control board to oversee Puerto Rico’s finances, albeit one that recognizes Puerto Rico’s sovereignty in at least some way; and granting the island the tools needed to restructure some of its debt under court supervision. It must also allow shelter for Puerto Rico in the form of a temporary legal stay on creditors’ lawsuits. Even though an oversight board is feared because it would virtually amount to receivership, 71 percent of Puerto Rico residents support it, according to a recent poll.

House Republicans — and the dark money groups funding a major ad campaign — maintain the legislation essentially constitutes a bailout. Yet the legislation involves no taxpayer money. Instead, it allows Puerto Rico to write off some of its debt, just as troubled municipalities can turn to bankruptcy courts for relief. And by failing to intervene now, Congress is likely setting taxpayers up to pay the bill once the island’s economy goes under completely. Another objection from some GOP lawmakers that this opens the door for states to restructure their debts in a similar fashion is likewise misguided. The bill is carefully crafted to apply only to Puerto Rico.

Certain provisions would also be a tough pill for the Puerto Rican government to swallow, but officials there have neglected to enact some structural reforms to forestall the crisis. These include consolidating municipal agencies and towns, and reducing operations in the executive branch.

Despite missing the May deadline, House leadership is now expressing confidence a bill can be moved before July. But Congress is running out of time. Inaction will only translate into even higher costs down the road. The fate of these Americans cannot continue to be a victim of government intransigence when practical solutions are within reach.



"Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla said Sunday that Puerto Rico’s government will not make a $420 million bond payment due Monday, following a failure to negotiate a solution to the island’s public debt crisis. Garcia Padilla, by executive order, suspended payments on debt owed by the Government Development Bank, a default that’s likely to prompt lawsuits from creditors and could limit the island’s access to capital markets. Congress has so far been unable to pass a debt restructuring bill for Puerto Rico. ‘‘Let me be very clear, this was a painful decision,’’ Garcia Padilla said in a speech. ‘‘We would have preferred to have had a legal framework to restructure our debts in an orderly manner.’’ He said the government can’t make the payment without sacrificing basic necessities for 3.5 million residents, including keeping schools and public hospitals open. ‘‘We will continue working to try to reach a consensual solution with our creditors,’’ he said. The governor had been warning since last year that the island’s overall public debt of more than $70 billion is unpayable. Puerto Rico has been suffering through more than a decade of economic decline. Garcia Padilla’s predecessors and the legislature borrowed heavily to cover deficits. Creditors have accused the government of exaggerating the crisis to avoid upcoming payments, such as $780 million due July 1 that includes general obligation bonds, which are guaranteed by the constitution."

I didn't know you could wipe out debt with executive order. 

Hey, Obummer, wanna sign this before you leave?

"Treasury Secretary hopes to jump-start help for Puerto Rico" by Mary Clare Jalonick Associated Press  May 10, 2016

SAN JUAN — Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew got a first-hand look at the humanitarian impact of Puerto Rico’s $70 billion debt crisis, touring an elementary school struggling with limited electricity and a hospital unable to provide some basic services to infants.

‘‘It can only get worse,’’ Lew told reporters as he toured Eleanor Roosevelt Elementary School in San Juan with Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla.

The Obama administration hopes to jump-start congressional efforts to aid the US territory, and Lew’s one-day trip focused attention on how the 3.5 million residents of the island are struggling with the worsening financial situation. Puerto Ricans are US citizens.

At a brief news conference after a private tour of San Juan’s Centro Medico hospital, Lew said Puerto Rico’s problems were a human crisis as well as financial. He said infants who needed dialysis were unable to get it, and children could only get cancer medicine if it were paid for in advance with cash.

Lew said he didn’t think there was a member of Congress who would find those conditions acceptable.

‘‘What I have gotten to see first-hand is there is a growing crisis in Puerto Rico,’’ Lew said. ‘‘It’s something you can see and feel as you talk to people.’’

House Republicans are expected to announce new legislation this week to create a control board to help manage the island’s financial obligations and oversee some debt restructuring. It would be the third draft of the House bill, which has come under fire from some conservatives who worry it would set a precedent for financially ailing states.

In a kindergarten classroom, a teacher showed Lew and Garcia evidence of termites in the walls. The school has problems with electricity, and teachers said they were unable to use laptops and televisions because they cause the power to go out.

In a fourth-grade classroom, the fan was broken on a hot day. A science teacher told Lew that she doesn’t have a lab for the children to do experiments.

‘‘You all keep doing your work and we’ll keep doing our work to help you,’’ Lew told the children.


Garcia said that Puerto Rico is not asking for a bailout and has not been offered one. ‘‘If Congress does not act, then we will need a bailout, and it will be very expensive to US taxpayers,’’ he said.

Since when does he care about the U.S. taxpayer?


Got the deal done, though!

"Congress, White House strike rescue deal for Puerto Rico" by Mary Clare Jalonick Associated Press  May 20, 2016

WASHINGTON — House Republicans and Democrats reached a rare, election-year deal with the White House to try to rescue Puerto Rico from $70 billion in debt as millions of Americans in the cash-strapped US territory struggle with the loss of basic services.

A revised House bill introduced late Wednesday would create a board to help manage the territory’s financial obligations and restructure some debt. Negotiations between the Obama administration and House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office helped finalize the legislation.

It is a ‘‘fair, but tough bipartisan compromise,’’ Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said.

Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, said the legislation would avoid an eventual taxpayer bailout.

In this election year!

Puerto Rico, mired in a decadelong recession, already has missed several payments to creditors. A $2 billion installment, the largest yet, is due July 1.

The island’s businesses have shuttered, schools lack sufficient resources like electricity, and some hospitals are limiting treatment or drugs. Puerto Rico’s governor used a state of emergency this week to protect one public agency from lawsuits.

Further complicating Puerto Rico’s outlook is the Zika virus, which has hit the territory of 3.5 million people hard. More than 700 cases have been reported; Zika can cause severe birth defects.

Like US states, Puerto Rico cannot declare bankruptcy. The legislation would allow the control board to oversee negotiations with creditors and the courts over reducing some debt.

The compromise ‘‘achieved a restructuring process that can work,’’ House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said.

A vote could happen next week in the Natural Resources Committee. The panel’s chairman, Representative Rob Bishop of Utah, had to cancel a vote last month amid objections from both parties.

Since then, Bishop and Ryan have worked to win over conservatives who worry the rescue might set a precedent for financially-ailing states. Democrats, too, had to be persuaded the control board wouldn’t be too powerful and debt restructuring too difficult.

Some of the House’s most conservative Republicans appear willing to support the deal. Representative Raul Labrador, an Idaho Republican who is also a native Puerto Rican and member of the fiscally conservative Freedom Caucus, spoke favorably of the effort.

‘‘What I have seen so far, I believe this is a good bill that will get a majority of Republican support and will actually go through both houses of Congress,’’ Labrador said, stopping short of a full endorsement.

In a nod to Democrats, the final bill also removes a provision that would have transferred federal land on the nearby island of Vieques to Puerto Rico’s government. But Puerto Rico would be allowed to temporarily lower federal minimum wage requirements for some workers, which Democrats have opposed.

That's the island where the U.S. military conducts war exercises.

Still, Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla said the bill still isn’t ‘‘consistent with our country’s basic democratic principles.’’ He wants a less powerful board that can’t fully control the island’s finances.

Under the legislation, the control board would require Puerto Rico to create a fiscal plan. That includes directing the territory to provide adequate funds for public pensions, which the government has underfunded by more than $40 billion.

Where has all the money gone?

The Obama administration has pushed to make pensions a priority. That has creditors worried they would take a back seat to pension obligations. Bishop says the control board is designed to ensure all are paid.

While supportive, Lew’s statement said: ‘‘Congress must stand firm and resist calls from financial interests to undermine this effort every step of the way — in committee, on the House floor, and in the Senate.’’

Others were less positive. Dan Holler, Heritage Action for America’s spokesman, said the conservative group is ‘‘very skeptical’’ that the bill is now more conservative.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, looking ahead to the territory’s June primary, said the legislation favors Wall Street over the island’s people.

You expected something else coming out of Congress?

‘‘We must stop treating Puerto Rico like a colony and start treating the people of Puerto Rico with the respect and dignity that they deserve,’’ Sanders said.

More than 200,000 people have left Puerto Rico in the past five years, as the island’s financial problems worsened after setbacks in the wider US economy.

We have been told we have been in recovery for the last 7 years. WTF?

‘‘I hope every member of Congress will bear in mind that the collapse of the bill could mean the collapse of Puerto Rico’s government,’’ Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s representative in Congress, said....

Looks like they have already.


"House passes bill to help ease Puerto Rico’s debt" by Mary Clare Jalonick Associated Press  June 10, 2016

WASHINGTON — The strong bipartisan vote was 297-127 for the legislation that would create a financial control board and allow restructuring of some of Puerto Rico’s $70 billion debt. The measure heads to the Senate just three weeks before the territory must make a $2 billion payment in a rare display of bipartisanship.

There is biparti$an$hip when it comes to banks, the war machine, and Israel. That's about it.

‘‘The Puerto Rican people are our fellow Americans. They pay our taxes, they fight in our wars. We cannot allow this to happen,’’ House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, said in imploring lawmakers, especially reluctant conservatives in the GOP caucus, to back the bill during debate.

The legislation would allow the seven-member control board to oversee negotiations with creditors and the courts over reducing some debt. It does not provide any taxpayer funds to reduce that debt.

It would also require the territory to create a fiscal plan. Among other requirements, the plan would have to provide ‘‘adequate’’ funds for public pensions, which the government has underfunded by more than $40 billion.

Hours before the vote, the White House strongly endorsed the bill, saying that failing to act could result in an ‘‘economic and humanitarian crisis’’ in the US territory beyond what the island is already facing.

Puerto Rico has missed several payments to creditors and faces the $2 billion installment on July 1. A lengthy recession has forced businesses to close, driven up the unemployment rate, and sparked an exodus of hundreds of thousands of people to the US mainland. Some schools on the island lack proper electricity and some hospitals have said they can’t provide adequate drugs or care.

The island’s only active air ambulance company announced this week that it has suspended its services.

‘‘It is regrettable we have reached this point, but it is reality,’’ said Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s representative in Congress.

Despite leadership support, the measure faced opposition from some in the ranks of both parties, as some bondholders, unions, and Puerto Rican officials have lobbied against it. Some conservatives said it would cheat bondholders, while some Democrats argued the control board has colonial overtones.

Democrats and labor unions have also opposed a provision in the bill that would allow the Puerto Rican government to temporarily lower the minimum wage for some younger workers. A Democratic amendment that would have deleted that provision was rejected, 225-196. 

So bankers and the wealthy can get paid instead!

Still, minority leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said the bill will provide the people of Puerto Rico with the tools they need to overcome the crisis and move forward.

‘‘Today, more than 3 million of our fellow American citizens in Puerto Rico are facing a fiscal and public debt emergency that threatens their economy, their communities, and their families,’’ Pelosi said.

In a push to get the bill passed, Obama summoned House Democrats with ties to Puerto Rico to a meeting in the Oval Office on Wednesday, including supporters and opponents of the measure.

Ahead of the vote, some bondholder groups tried to pick off conservatives with the argument that the bill is unfair to creditors and tantamount to a bailout for the territory.

Some conservatives strongly opposed the bill, expressing concern that it could set a precedent for financially-strapped states.

‘‘If Congress is willing to undermine a territory’s constitutionally-guaranteed bonds today, there is every reason to believe it would be willing to undermine a state’s guarantee tomorrow,’’ said Representative Tom McClintock (R-Calif.).

Others are supporting it. Idaho Representative Raul Labrador, a Republican born in Puerto Rico who is a member of the House Freedom Caucus, helped negotiate the legislation and has worked to sell it to colleagues.

Representative Sean Duffy of Wisconsin, a Republican who sponsored the bill, fought back against the idea that the legislation is a bailout of any sort.

‘‘The bottom line is, this bill doesn’t spend any taxpayer money bailing anybody out,’’ Duffy said.

The Senate has not yet acted, but senators said this week that they are watching the House vote. Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican, said it’s likely the Senate will take up the House version.


Also see:

Puerto Rico clears first hurdle with committee vote
Puerto Rico official says debt jeopardizes essential services
High court rules against Puerto Rico in debt case

The decision means the US commonwealth must wait for Congress to pass debt-relief legislation that would address its fiscal woes.

Good thing Puerto Rico is not part of the U.S. (wink).

Free Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico debt bill sent to Obama

Democrats were against it, but it passed on a bipartisan 68-30 vote in a big win for Clinton.

Man arrested at Leominster hotel in 2014 Puerto Rico murder

They have bigger problems now:

Puerto Rico may see hundreds of Zika birth defects

They have already started passing out the abortion pills.



"Desperate relatives gathered outside a petrochemical plant Thursday hoping for news about loved ones still unaccounted for a day after an explosion killed at least 13 workers. Officials said 18 workers had been reported missing. Shoving broke out as people unsuccessfully tried to force their way into the installation in Coatzacoalcos on Mexico’s southern Gulf coast. Some shouted at marines and soldiers who were called in to guard the facility, and they threw rocks at a white government SUV." 

The death toll could rise where a sharp chemical smell still hung in the air, but the Globe fanned it out rather quickly. 

"Investigators Say Mexico Has Thwarted Efforts to Solve Students’ Disappearance" by Azam Ahmed New York Times  April 23, 2016

MEXICO CITY — An international panel of criminal investigators brought to Mexico to probe the disappearance of 43 students says it cannot solve the case because of a sustained campaign of harassment, stonewalling, and intimidation against it.

The investigators say they have endured carefully orchestrated attacks in the Mexican news media, a refusal by the government to turn over documents or grant interviews with essential figures, and even a retaliatory criminal investigation into one of the officials who appointed them.

The pressure on the investigators — described by four of the five panel members in an interview with The New York Times — undermines promises by the Mexican government to fully cooperate and uncover what happened to the students, in what is believed to be one of the worst human rights abuses in the country’s recent memory.

Hundreds of thousands flooded the streets to protest the disappearances, sending President Enrique Peña Nieto’s approval ratings plummeting and contradicting his effort to depict Mexico as a progressive nation ready to assume its place on the world stage. Instead, the case exposed the impunity tearing at the seams of the rule of law.

He was just up here visiting Obama last week, and the Globe had not a word about it.

The international investigators say their job is far from complete. But they will leave Mexico in the coming days nonetheless — pushed out, they say, by a government many suspect of covering up what happened on the night in September 2014 when the 43 college students were abducted by the police and never seen or heard from again.

No, no, no, governments don't do that!

By contrast, the Mexican government says it has cooperated with the experts, completing the vast majority of their information requests, while it is still processing the rest.

For the families of the missing, young men training to be teachers in the impoverished stretches of rural Mexico, the experts’ departure will be devastating. All along, they have refused to believe the government’s version of events — that their children, who were in the city of Iguala as part of a protest, were kidnapped by local police officers working for powerful criminal gangs, then killed and incinerated in the garbage dump of a nearby town. In its version of the story, the government never gave a clear motive for the attack.

For many Mexicans, the case represents something far greater than 43 people: It is a window onto the tens of thousands of others who have also disappeared during the nation’s decade-long drug war, and the anguish visited on their families. Caught between cartel violence and a government either unwilling or unable to help, they are victims twice.

I'm sure Obama brought it up as his government works with certain drug gangs fast and furious.

The arrival of the international experts inspired hope and a shot at closure, if only vicariously, for those who suffer their losses quietly on the margins of Mexican society. In an exceptional gesture, Mexico granted foreigners permission to conduct a true investigation. Their departure will be a bitter one.

“This is something that will probably haunt us for a long time,” said Francisco Cox, a Chilean human rights lawyer and another member of the group of experts. “But it didn’t make sense to stay here, because in a certain way it’s giving legitimacy to something deep inside you know isn’t right.”

Although the group’s final report will be issued Sunday morning, the case is far from solved. The remains of only one of the 43 have been found and identified; the rest are still missing.

Another question is how high the collusion between the drug gangs and the government goes. Although the Mexican government’s own investigation focused on the complicity of the local authorities, the expert panel uncovered evidence that state and federal officials and even military personnel were present on the night of the students’ disappearance.

“It was clear in the government’s investigation and the official account that there was an intention to keep this case at a municipal level, in terms of responsibility,” said Carlos Beristain, another expert in the investigation. “But we revealed the presence of state and federal agents at the crime scenes, and furthermore, that their participation implied responsibility.”

The Mexican government insists that the parting of ways with the international experts will be amicable. The experts were not forced out, according to the government. They ran out of time.

That's what the government was playing for.

For some, the inevitable conclusion is that the government simply does not want the case solved....



Also seeEvidence points to torture of suspects in Mexican students’ case

Government made mulch out of them.

"In Mexico’s missing students case, suspects allege torture" by Mark Stevenson Associated Press  May 10, 2016

MEXICO CITY — Within weeks of the September 2014 disappearance of 43 college students, Mexican authorities had rounded up scores of suspects and announced they had solved the case.

At a news conference, prosecutors showed video of drug gang members confessing to taking the students from police, then slaughtering them and incinerating the bodies at a junkyard and dumping the evidence in a river.

Two independent, international teams of experts subsequently cast doubt on the official investigation. Now, the government case has suffered another blow: accusations of torture.

In previously unseen court documents obtained by The Associated Press, 10 of the suspects described a chillingly similar script: first the questions, then the punches, electric shocks, and partial asphyxiations with plastic bags; then, finally, the threats to kill their loved ones unless they confessed to stories that backed up the government’s line.

That's how all governments seem to behave.

Some said they were given planted evidence or prefabricated stories to support the government’s conclusions.

Medical reports published last month by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission appear to confirm the allegations of torture. Of the 10 case files obtained by the AP, the group reviewed five, and it found credible evidence of torture in all of them.

‘‘They were giving me electric shocks in the testicles and all over my body,’’ one of the suspects, Patricio Reyes Landa, a gang member who was detained a month after the students vanished, told a judge in July, according to the documents. ‘‘All this time, it was about 2½ hours, I was blindfolded and they were hitting me.’’

‘‘A person came up and took off my blindfold and showed me a photo of my family — my two daughters, my wife and my brother,’’ he said. ‘‘He said if I didn’t do everything they told me to, they were going to rape my daughters. . . . I told them I was going to do everything they asked.’’

So would you and I.

Reyes Landa’s testimony is crucial to the government case because he was among the first to confess to killing the students and burning their bodies at a dump in the town of Cocula, before their charred remains were tossed in the nearby San Juan River. Apart from those confessions and a single bone fragment that was linked through DNA testing to one of the students, the prosecution has almost no other evidence.

Under Mexican law, a confession obtained by torture is not admissible in court.

‘‘If the confessions are tossed out and there is no other evidence, basically there is no case,’’ said Denise Gonzalez, a specialist in human rights and international law at Mexico’s Ibero-American University.

The widely held belief that Mexican security forces routinely use torture in drug crime investigations was reinforced by video of an unrelated case circulated on social media last month. It showed a female soldier and a federal police officer interrogating a young woman while they smothered her with a plastic bag until she nearly passed out. The army confirmed the authenticity of the footage, which it said occurred during a massive February 2015 troop deployment to combat drug cartels.

In the case of the missing students, the torture allegations involve federal police or government troops who arrested the suspects on suspicion of ties to the notoriously violent Guerreros Unidos drug cartel. Prosecutors say gang members killed the students after they were handed over by local police who had arrested them in the city of Iguala.

Medical reports among the documents seen by the AP support the torture allegations.

One, by prosecution doctors who examined Reyes Landa two months after he was detained, said he had bruises, scrapes, scabs, and ‘‘lesions made by a pointed object, similar to those caused by the application of electric devices to his abdomen and thighs.’’

Just as chilling are claims by alleged Guerreros Unidos gang leader Sidronio Casarrubias, who said a detective with the prosecutors’ office abused him for hours after his arrest in February 2015.

‘‘This man here was one of the first to torture me,’’ Casarrubias said, according to the documents as he pointed to the detective, Gabriel Valle Campos.

‘‘He sat on my stomach and asphyxiated me with black plastic bags. And he raped me with a metal object,’’ Casarrubias said. ‘‘He threatened to torture my family, my children, the same way he was doing to me.’’

Eber Betanzos, an assistant prosecutor who is overseeing the government’s case, said he could not comment on the allegations of torture, adding that it’s up to judges to evaluate a battery of psychological and physical assessments undertaken by some 90 suspects who claim they were tortured. A total of 136 suspects were arrested, charged and are undergoing trials, a process that can take years.

Betanzos said 32 of the cases have enough evidence to start criminal investigations, mostly involving accusations of torture ‘‘against arresting agents other than the prosecutors’ office’’ — meaning federal police or government troops.

He said the attorney general’s office has opened nine investigations so far, mostly involving ‘‘injuries that leave marks,’’ including bruises and abrasions.


"Body count points to a Mexican military out of control" by Azam Ahmed New York Times  May 26, 2016

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s armed forces are exceptionally efficient killers — stacking up bodies at extraordinary rates.

Trained by the U.S.

Mexican authorities say the nation’s soldiers are simply better trained and more skilled than the cartels they battle. But experts who study the issue say Mexico’s kill rate is practically unheard-of, arguing that the numbers reveal something more ominous.

“They are summary executions,” said Paul Chevigny, a retired New York University professor who pioneered the study of lethality among armed forces.

The statistics, which the government stopped reporting in early 2014, offer a rare, unguarded glimpse into the role the Mexican military has assumed in the war against organized crime. In the last decade, as the nation’s soldiers and marines have been forced onto the front lines, human rights abuses surged.

And yet the military remains largely untouched, protected by a government loath to crack down on the only force able to take on the fight. Little has been done to investigate the thousands of accusations of torture, forced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings that have mounted since former President Felipe Calderón began his nation’s drug war a decade ago.

Of the 4,000 complaints of torture that the attorney general’s office has reviewed since 2006, only 15 have resulted in convictions.

“Not only is torture generalized in Mexico, but it is also surrounded by impunity,” said Juan E. Méndez, the UN special rapporteur on torture. “If the government knows it is frequent and you still don’t get any prosecutions, and the ones you do prosecute usually wind up going nowhere, the blame lies with the state.” 

Looks like AmeriKa and its policing problem, doesn't it?

The Mexican armed forces did not respond to interview requests. But General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, the defense secretary, has publicly defended the military, saying it is the only institution confronting organized crime — and winning.

“We are in the streets because society is demanding us to be there,” Cienfuegos told the Mexican newspaper Milenio this month.

About 3,000 people were killed by the military from 2007 to 2012, while 158 soldiers died. Some critics call the killings a form of pragmatism: In Mexico, where fewer than 2 percent of murder cases are successfully prosecuted, the armed forces kill their enemies because they cannot rely on the shaky legal system.

Waves of pressure have crashed over the government. In March, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights condemned Mexico’s human rights record, including extrajudicial executions, building on an earlier UN report that described torture as widespread.

The government says it takes human rights seriously, passing legislation to counter abuse, protect victims, and allow soldiers to be tried in civilian courts. It says it has a new human rights program within the military and notes that under the current president, complaints against the military have dropped sharply.

“Every report of a human rights violation is worrisome,” the government said. “But also these isolated cases do not reflect the general state of human rights in the country.”

But while complaints of torture against the armed forces have fallen since 2011 — coinciding with an overall reduction in the number of troops deployed across Mexico — the lethality of their encounters did not decline, according to the data released through early 2014.

The unique relationship between the military and the government dates back more than 70 years, to the period after the country emerged from civil war. To maintain stability, historians say, the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party reached a pact with the armed forces: In exchange for near total autonomy, the military would not interfere in politics.

Unlike many nations in Latin America, Mexico has never suffered a coup. And though the government long starved its armed forces of funding, they were protected from scrutiny.

That protection became vital after 2006, when the military was forced onto the streets to battle the cartels and violence soared. As complaints of abuses emerged in record numbers, the government did little to take the military to task.

Then the military stopped publishing its statistics on killings two years ago. Without such data, experts say, it is hard to know how violent the war against organized crime has become.

And Obama's government has made nary a peep about it!


RelatedCourt absolves soldiers in suspects’ killing

You expected a different result did you?

"Mexican general gets 52 years for torturing, killing man" by Mark Stevenson Associated Press  April 29, 2016

MEXICO CITY — A judge has sentenced a general in the Mexican army to 52½ years in prison for ordering the torture of a suspect, then having his body burned, Mexico’s federal judiciary council said Thursday.

The sentence was among the longest ever against a senior army officer.

The council said the conviction came in a 2008 case in the northern state of Chihuahua. The judge also ordered the army to publicly apologize, clear the victim’s name, and pay his family damages.

The judge did not release the general’s name in the public case record. But the case number on the docket was the same as one linked in local media reports to General Manuel Moreno Avina, who formerly commanded an army unit in the town of Ojinaga, across the border from Presidio, Texas.

Troops under the general’s command detained a suspect in a soldier’s death and tortured him for hours with electric shocks until he died. They then took the man’s body to a ranch and burned it.

Seems to be standard operating procedure for them.

The man was detained just after midnight July 25, 2008. According to the council, the court found that soldiers ‘‘tied him up and watered him down in order to apply electric shocks on his body, in order to obtain information about the death of a soldier.’’

‘‘They prolonged the torture until 9 a.m. that day, which caused the man to die despite attempts to revive him, quite possibly as a result of ventricular fibrillation and a heart attack brought on as an effect of the electric shocks,’’ the council said.

‘‘Under direct orders from the guilty party, the victim’s body was loaded aboard a vehicle and taken to a ranch, where it was secretly burned,’’ it added.

Moreno Avina and more than 20 soldiers who were under his command had been charged with torture, homicide, drug trafficking and other crimes. It is unclear how many have been sentenced.

Mexican army officers have been sentenced before for corruption or aiding drug traffickers but seldom for torture and seldom for such long sentences.

That just about says it all.



"A Mexican law enforcement official said the prime suspect in the killings of 11 family members is a man who apparently sought revenge after one of the victims reported that he raped her and he was jailed. The official said authorities believe multiple attackers shot the woman and her family, including two girls. The killers also slashed a male victim believed to be the woman’s partner, and may have tried to decapitate him. The official spoke on condition of anonymity. Prosecutors said late Friday that two suspects are being sought in the Thursday night murders in San Jose el Mirador."

"Gunmen in Acapulco attack police at headquarters, hotel" Associated Press  April 26, 2016

ACAPULCO, Mexico — Armed men launched near-simultaneous assaults on police in the Pacific resort of Acapulco, leaving one attacker dead and an officer wounded and terrifying residents in what has become one of the world’s deadliest cities.

Are you sure it wasn't a lone gunman like up here?

The attacks Sunday night targeted local federal police headquarters in a beachside tourist quarter and a hotel across town where many of its agents are lodged.

The city’s coastal boulevard was temporarily closed because of the firefight, and restaurants, bars, and stores sealed their doors with customers inside to avoid getting caught up in the violence.

Two security officials said an attacker was killed and his body recovered in a vehicle that was left behind, while an officer was wounded in the leg. They were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Guerrero state Attorney General Javier Olea told journalists the attacks may have been a response to recent detentions of drug cartel leaders, but did not give more details.

However, one of the security officials said a theory links the violence to the capture hours earlier of the suspected local leader of a group working for the cartel of the Beltran Leyva brothers.

The U.S. government favors -- or did -- the Sinaloa cartel, much like Bulger and the Italians


Also seeMexico: 3 Police Officers Shot Dead While Eating at Market

Time to get hungry:

"The movement to legalize pot gains speed in the Americas" by Joshua Partlow Washington Post  April 23, 2016

Was for it until recently. The foot-dragging by the government regarding medical and the money behind recreation has turned me against it all. Let the sick suffer.

MEXICO CITY — With a swipe of his pen last week, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto proposed that Mexican citizens could legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana.

The day before, Canada’s health minister stood at a United Nations podium and announced that her country would introduce new federal legislation to make cannabis legal by next year.

Already, people are free to smoke marijuana in four US states and the District of Columbia, and medical marijuana is allowed in almost half the country. Uruguay has fully legalized weed for sale. And a large chunk of South and Central America, including Brazil, Peru, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Costa Rica, has made marijuana more available in varying ways, whether it is for medicinal or recreational use.

No wonder they are all going left!

In the shift toward legalization of marijuana, the Americas have emerged as a leader. This is a remarkable shift for a region that includes some of the world’s leading producers of marijuana, coca, and opium poppy, and where the US government has spearheaded a decades-long campaign against cultivation of the substances.

‘‘It’s undeniable that the terms of the debate about drugs are changing in Mexico and in the world,’’ Peña Nieto said during a speech Thursday announcing his new legislative proposal. ‘‘Fortunately, a new world consensus is gradually emerging in favor of reform.’’

For many Mexicans, the prospect of such reform seemed unimaginable just a few years back. Using illegal drugs has long been taboo in this conservative, predominantly Catholic country — as is true in many other Latin American nations. Drug-trafficking groups have inflicted horrific violence on the country, with an estimated 100,000 people dying in the past decade as the cartels have battled for control of shipping lanes to the United States. Polls have shown that a majority of Mexicans oppose legalizing drugs, fearing it would increase addictions and crime.

To have a Mexican president come out publicly in favor of loosening drug laws struck many people as historic.

‘‘This was the breaking point,’’ said Jorge Díaz Cuervo, a Mexican economist and politician who recently published a book on the prospect of legalizing marijuana. ‘‘There is now a before and after.’’

Is this what initiated the wave of electoral and judicial coups documented above?

Peña Nieto’s initiative would make it legal for anyone to own up to 28 grams of marijuana — or one ounce — as long as it was intended for personal use. It would also permit the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes and make it easier to free prisoners who are being held on minor drug charges. The move came after five public forums held across Mexico this year to solicit public opinion and expert testimony on the prospect of changing drug laws.

I'll pass, thanks.


Look at the cloud it leaves behind.

‘‘Mexicans have been angered by several corruption scandals and worried about a sluggish economy, and they showed their frustration at the ballot box,’’ said Andrew Selee, a Mexico expert at the Wilson Center think tank in Washington."

That's what you get for not toking!

As for the hard stuff:

"Convicted drug lord Joaquin ‘‘El Chapo’’ Guzman, who twice pulled off brazen jailbreaks, was abruptly transferred to a prison in northern Mexico on Saturday. Lawyers for Guzman, who was recaptured in January, have appealed his extradition to the United States. The Sinaloa cartel boss was moved from Mexico City to a prison in Ciudad Juarez, which is across from El Paso, Texas (AP)."

U.S. double-crossed him!

Judge in Mexico says ‘El Chapo’ extradition to US may proceed
Another Mexican judge OK’s extradition of ‘El Chapo’ to US
Mexico OKs extradition of drug lord ‘El Chapo’ Guzman to US
Mexico’s ‘El Chapo’ likely to be prosecuted in Brooklyn

He won't be spilling any secrets there!

Released Mexican drug lord trying to get back into business

He may be trying to muscle in on the Sinaloa cartel (U.S. obviously still an ally), and thus he is now on the run:

4/21: "A nearly half-mile-long tunnel leading from Mexico to San Diego was discovered and more than a ton of cocaine and seven tons of marijuana was seized, the US attorney’s office said Wednesday. Six people were arrested. The tunnel extends 300 yards from a house in Tijuana, Mexico, to the border and then 500 yards on the US side to a fenced lot in a San Diego industrial area. The tunnel was equipped with a rail system, ventilation, lights, and a large elevator, officials said. The exit on the US side is about 3 feet wide and was covered by a trash bin. The San Diego-Tijuana region is popular because its clay-like soil is relatively easy to dig with shovels and pneumatic tools, and both sides of the border have warehouses that provide cover for trucks and heavy equipment."

Now they are moving it by foot through Colombia and the war is almost over.



"Truth and justice for Haiti" April 04, 2016

Victims of Haiti’s raging cholera epidemic got a glimmer of good news recently when a class-action lawsuit seeking recompense from the United Nations for its role in spreading the disease finally got a hearing in a New York courtroom. The three judges on the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit panel asked tough questions of both sides — the US government is representing the United Nations — and fortunately seemed determined to focus less on diplomatic protocol and more on the hard reality outside the courtroom walls.

And it’s a hard reality, indeed. New evidence collected by Doctors Without Borders suggests that deaths from the epidemic that devastated Haiti after the 2010 earthquake could be much higher than the 9,200 toll recorded so far. The study, in the March edition of the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, found that the surveillance systems in place at the onset of the epidemic weren’t adequate to provide “accurate and timely information.” In four communities, the study found, house-to-house surveys recorded nearly three times more cholera deaths in the first months after the outbreak began. That’s troubling news for a fragile country.

The lawsuit was brought by advocates because most scientists believe that a UN peacekeeping force brought the disease with them when they arrived to help the country rebuild after the quake. The often-fatal scourge is still burning through the population; some 770,000 Haitians have been sickened since late 2010. 

That to me sounds like a likely cover story now. I think the U.N. took the blame for it being dumped and disseminated on an island that hadn't know it for more than 50 years. It's not like conditions were great all those years regarding water, and Haitians were clean. 

As for the motives for introduction or who, well, I'll leave that to you. Here you have a devastated population after some stroked a HAARP(?) near Haiti, a flood of aid dollars that disappeared in the hands of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush (appointed by Obama to be $tewrds, remember?) other than a nice hotel for Bill and Hill to stay at when Bill is getting some extra pootie after a flight on Epstein's jets.

What breaks my heart further is the pre$$ coverage is a one-dater here, maybe there. It's not a drumbeat like the wars or whatever agenda needs pushing at a given time. Almost makes you think the supremacist pre$$ is racist.

The United Nations, citing immunity to claims of damage, has stonewalled and never acknowledged responsibility. There are reassuring signs that the international community is shaking off its torpor on the issue; at a meeting of the Security Council last month, New Zealand called on the United Nations to support those afflicted and to ensure that Haiti’s new government is not left alone with the consequences. Malaysia urged the UN secretariat to work with victims on possible compensation. According to Richard Knox of NPR, the United Nations has spent about $140 million on cholera control in Haiti — not nearly enough to make a dent in the epidemic. Even the United Nations’ own specially appointed experts reported to the body’s Human Rights Council that efforts to wipe out the disease have not taken hold, and recommended a commission on truth, justice, and redress for cholera victims.

Haitians haven't had good luck when it comes to the U.N. (or U.S., for that matter. Surely Haitians recognize the name Aristide from the where are they now file?)

This stirring of support is heartening, but US lawmakers and government agencies like the State Department should push for formation of such a commission now. They have a moral duty to lead the way, not follow — outside the courtroom walls.

Oh, I'm sure the Haitians are thirsting for a commission to study it.


There was once a day when I would have been heartened by such a thing, but that was like five years ago.

RelatedState Dept. should demand UN take responsibility in Haiti

Conservative estimates have shown as many as 10,000 deaths from the disease, from a total of almost 800,000 infected.

That means it could be much more, and the glimmer of hope quickly faded.

Globe cares more about this:

"Con man drugged, robbed older men with money, DA says" by Maria Cramer Globe Staff  May 09, 2016

The man woke up in his Back Bay apartment in a daze. The last thing he remembered was sharing a few drinks the night before with a younger man he had met online. Trim and in his 40s, the younger man said his name was Bryan Young and claimed to be a wealthy European.

Now, Young was gone. And so were many of the man’s most valuable belongings: four paintings, including a 1938 portrait by R.H. Ives Gammell worth $13,500; silver salt-and-pepper shakers; designer ties and luggage; and a $12,000 Swiss watch with a crocodile-skin strap.

Including other pieces of jewelry, silver, crystal, and a laptop computer, Young had made off with $60,000 worth of the victim’s possessions, according to a Boston police report.

The victim, who was then in his mid-60s, reported the April 2, 2013, theft to police, who determined he had been drugged. But there was no easy way to track down Young, who had given his victim a false name and was able to elude authorities for nearly three years and victimize at least two other men.

Police caught a break recently, when the Back Bay victim told them he believed he had learned Young’s true identity: Riccardo D’Orsainville, a Haitian national who emigrated legally in 1980 and who has a string of convictions for theft including a 2014 federal conviction for stealing from a Veterans Affairs program.

Late Friday afternoon, Suffolk prosecutors obtained indictments against D’Orsainville, now 50, on one count of kidnapping, three counts of poisoning, larceny over $250, and receiving stolen property.

Police said D’Orsainville contacted one of the victims through Silver Daddies, a website for older gay men looking for sexual partners. He met the other two victims at a bar. In each case, D’Orsainville was dressed sharply and spoke in an elegant accent that sounded European.

Had Rabbi Starr gone there the whole thing could have been avoided.

The victims brought him to their homes, had a few drinks, and passed out. All three men woke up to find they had artwork and designer neckties stolen from them. In one case, prosecutors said, he stole a tuxedo. One man woke up with his hands tied behind his back.

Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said the indictments were the result of a long investigation by prosecutors and Boston police. He praised the victims for immediately contacting police.

“When victims come forward and witnesses share information, we build better, stronger cases,” Conley said.

Frank Fernandez, a Boston defense attorney, represented D’Orsainville in Boston Municipal Court, where prosecutors first charged him in February with larceny in the case of the Back Bay victim.

“I’m not ready to make any kind of statement . . . on his behalf,” Fernandez said. “I need to speak with him first.”

Fernandez said D’Orsainville has qualified for a court-appointed lawyer and is expected to receive new counsel as his case moves through Superior Court.

D’Orsainville, whose last job is listed at Home Depot, has been held at Nashua Street Jail in lieu of $250,000 since his February arraignment. He has pleaded not guilty.

In federal court records, D’Orsainville is described as an artist, poet, and writer of greeting cards who has a master’s degree in visual fine arts. One of his previous lawyers said he struggled to come out as a gay man because he was raised in an intolerant family.

“He reacted to that by turning inward, becoming extremely isolated, not having friends, not being able to relate to people, and only being able to relate . . . by creating some kind of façade,” his lawyer, Jennifer C. Pucci, told a federal court judge during a 2014 sentencing.

He looked pretty outward going to me, and even if that is true, is it supposed to justify drugging people against their will and robbing them?

D’Orsainville also has a history of fraud that goes back to the mid-1990s....

Oh, well, hey, who doesn't?


"US officials tried to deport convicted con man" by Milton J. Valencia Globe Staff  May 11, 2016

Years before a Haitian national and convicted con man allegedly drugged several men and robbed them of pricey personal belongings in 2013, federal authorities had sought the man’s deportation to his homeland based on his history of fraud convictions.

But in spite of his criminal record, federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers never returned Riccardo D’Orsainville to Haiti. According to court records, D’Orsainville was not deported because he is gay and could have been subjected to what his lawyer called “serious institutionalized discrimination in that country.”


“It’s because of the situation in Haiti. So, he has been granted this relief . . . which is extraordinary, to stay in the United States,” a federal prosecutor, Maxim Grinberg, argued during a 2014 sentencing hearing in federal court in Boston, according to transcripts of the hearing. “He had the ability to stay and make a living, an honest living, but to him . . . it was a game,” Grinberg said.

“I feel like the system, the courts, immigration, they didn’t do their job. There was just no way this guy should have been able to stay in our country victimizing people,” said Frank B. Pomposelli Jr., who was chief of the vascular surgery unit at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center when D’Orsainville used Pomposelli’s credit card and racked up more than $50,000 in charges.

One of the men who was drugged and had his belongings stolen was also upset that D’Orsainville was allowed to stay in the country.

“If we ever could get him deported it would be the best thing that ever happened so he wouldn’t do this to anybody else in this country,” the man said. “He has violated the trust of our government that allowed him to stay because he was seeking relief of a persecution. Instead, he’s abusing the system itself. He doesn’t deserve protection.”

A spokesman for ICE, citing privacy laws, would only say that his agency has dealt with D’Orsainville previously and will probably seek his deportation based on the new charges.

This government cares more about his privacy than yours.

The Boston Globe reported in a series of stories in 2012 and 2013 that immigration officials have released thousands of convicted criminals — some convicted of violent crimes — back to their communities because they could not be returned to their home countries, for a variety of diplomatic and humanitarian reasons. Often, the immigrants commit new crimes.

Yeah, they won awards for it -- like much of the stuff put out by the pre$$ -- here we are 3-4 years later and there has been no improvement, it's still status quo. That I'm sick of, folks. I've seen this damn movie before!!

Authorities said D’Orsainville, 50, drugged men at their homes on three occasions in spring 2013, after meeting them on an Internet dating site, or at a bar, under a false identity. He then made off with expensive clothing, jewelry, and artwork worth tens of thousands of dollars.

Authorities said they found several of the stolen items at D’Orsainville’s Norwood home after his arrest earlier this year.

Police said they were able to identify D’Orsainville as a suspect after receiving a tip from one of the victims. The victim had been speaking with an acquaintance who said the description of the thief sounded similar to the man responsible for stealing from a Veterans Affairs program. In that case, D’Orsainville was sentenced to 21 months in prison and was released in January 2015.

D’Orsainville was also sentenced in 2001 to a year in federal prison for embezzling more than $111,000 from New England Medical Center. He was also convicted in state court in 1996 of credit card fraud.

In most cases, D’Orsainville posed as an artist, poet, and writer from a wealthy European family. Pomposelli recalled him as well-dressed, even charming. He befriended everyone at his office.

He's a regular Eddie Ferrel!

It took Pomposelli years to straighten out the fraud on his credit card. He said he worked closely with local police officers and investigators but was shocked that authorities had not deported D’Orsainville.

Well, it's not like he raped children or anything.

“The guy is a career criminal, he just keeps doing it again, and again, and again,” he said. “I just hope the courts realize this guy can’t be put back on the streets.”


Also seeCon man faces charges of drugging, stealing from older gay men

It's ground-breaking stuff, and what say you?

The other half of island: 

Dominican voters head to polls facing an array of choices
Dominican leader nears reelection
Woman wanted in 2007 Dartmouth case found in Dominican Republic
2007 beating suspect found in Dominican Republic is held without bail

I'm surprised they didn't find her dead.

At midnight in the Caribbean who knows what you will see.

Next stop, Havana:



"Cuba finds it hard to dampen afterglow of Obama visit" by Michael Weissenstein Associated Press  April 30, 2016

HAVANA — Police shunted everyone onto side streets as a sleek black helicopter filmed scenes for the eighth installment of ‘‘Fast and Furious,’’ the multi-billion-dollar car-chase and bank-robbery franchise. The promenade was deserted but Lazaro Martinez said he didn’t mind.

Shouldn't they have made that in Mexico?

‘‘I never thought I was going to see a Hollywood production passing right in front of my eyes,’’ he said. ‘‘This is the start of what Obama said in Cuba. Step by step, we’re seeing the change. If Obama hadn’t come to Cuba, this never would have happened.’’

Once you see the tax subsidy you will be wishing you hadn't.

More than a month after ordinary Cubans jubilantly welcomed President Obama to Havana, the communist government is finding it hard to dampen the afterglow.

Not for long.

On the morning of March 22, Obama declared from the stage of the Grand Theater in Old Havana that ‘‘I have come here to bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas.’’ Calling for freedom of speech and democratic elections, Obama told Cubans live on state television that ‘‘it is time for us to look forward to the future together.’’

The next day, President Raul Castro watched a baseball game with Obama and cordially saw him off at the airport. Then after days of official silence, the Cuban government began to take a harder line.

Fidel Castro, who handed power to his brother in 2008, wrote a 1,500-word editorial on the front pages of the state-run press advising the man he sarcastically called ‘‘Brother Obama’’ to ‘‘not try to develop theories about Cuban politics.’’

‘‘We don’t need the empire to give us any charity,’’ he wrote.

Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez was blunter, telling Communist Party members on April 19 that Obama’s visit was ‘‘a deep attack on our political ideas, our history, our culture, and our symbols.’’

Cuba’s public sphere appeared to getting chillier.

But few people interviewed around the capital this week showed signs of accepting government arguments that Obama was simply the expertly packaged spokesman for US corporate interests that want to economically recolonize Cuba.

‘‘The response that’s been given is the government’s, not the people’s,’’ said Barbara Ugarte, who runs a small shop selling party supplies in Central Havana.

She watched Obama speak live on March 22 and said she welcomed his words as a sign that things might be changing in a country where entrepreneurs like her find it hair-pullingly frustrating to run a business.

She doesn't know him like I do.

A month of tough government talk has alienated her from Cuba’s leaders more than from Obama, she said.

I do know that feeling.

‘‘With this government, I don’t think there are going to be big changes,’’ she said. ‘‘I don’t think they want to open. They want to tighten down. We’re still very closed.’’

‘‘They don’t let you sell, they don’t let you get a license to import. We aren’t changing.’’

Other people were more optimistic, saying the government’s actions since Obama’s visit show that it remains open to normalization with the United States even as it warns its people that Washington remains a threat. 

How can they be a threat? They making' movies!

Last Thursday, the government lowered the prices of basic items like chicken and cooking oil denominated in convertible pesos, a currency 25 times stronger that the Cuban peso that the majority of workers earn. The move made some highly priced goods slightly more affordable.

A day later, Cuba dropped a decades-old ban on Cubans traveling by cruise ships, with a prohibition on private boat travel to be dropped at an unspecified future date.

For Yolanda Mauri, a 26-year-old computer programmer, it all feeds a mood of post-Obama optimism that has her hoping to start a family and find a well-paying job in Cuba rather than emigrating like so many of her friends.

‘‘Two years ago, one couldn’t imagine even 30 percent of the things that have happened,’’ she said. ‘‘There’s an optimistic mood. It’s obvious.’’

She said she disagreed with the government’s vision of Obama’s visit as an attack.

That's good sign, right?

‘‘That’s going against the whole process of normalization,’’ she said. ‘‘I’m not going to try to get closer to you and maintain the perspective that you’re still my enemy. That’s the traditional discourse of the past.’’

Yeah, I read a Globe every day.

Events on the ground are making it harder for Cuba’s leaders to portray the United States and global capitalism as dire threats to the island’s most dearly held values.

On Sunday, May 1, Cuba holds nationwide marches celebrating International Workers’ Day. Twenty-four hours later, the first US cruise ship in more than a half-century arrives in Havana, heralding what is expected to become a new era of mass US travel when regularly scheduled flights begin as early as this summer....

After waiting in line, they canceled the flight.

Better call a cab.


Their SHIP has COME IN -- literally!

"Passengers set sail on Sunday from Miami on a historic cruise to Cuba. Carnival Corp.’s 704-passenger Adonia left at 4:24 p.m., bound for Havana. Carnival’s Cuba cruises will visit Havana, Cienfuegos, and Santiago de Cuba. Cuba loosened its policy banning Cuban-born people from arriving by sea, a rule that threatened to prevent the cruises from restarting after decades without them. Carnival had planned to bar Cuban-born passengers, but Cuban-Americans in Miami filed a discrimination lawsuit. The company said it would sail to Cuba only if the policy was changed, which Cuba did April 22. The Adonia will cruise every other week to Cuba. Bookings start at $1,800 per person and feature cultural and educational activities. Restarting cruises was part of the Obama administration’s plan after a Dec. 17, 2014, decision to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba and move toward normalization."

They were cheering crowds , and it is a ‘‘tremendously important step.’’ 


"Vin Diesel, Chanel spark a fast and furious debate in Cuba" by Michael Weissenstein Associated Press  May 21, 2016

HAVANA — It seemed as if the world of global commerce and entertainment had finally landed on Cuba with full force.

Many Cubans were exuberant. Avid consumers of US culture in pirated TV and films, they welcomed the sight of movie stars in a country that often feels cut off from the outside world. Many said they were hopeful that the millions spent on the productions would improve life for those who haven’t yet benefited from the post-detente surge in tourism.

But people’s personal offense at being held far from the events began translating into skepticism about whether Cuba’s new status would help improve their lives.

The public backlash began the day after....

Took all of three weeks.


I know about being kept away from your home, and wait until you see how much money the government paid for them to be there.

Fidel Castro gives rare speech, says he’ll die soon
Vermont Little League team heads to Cuba to play ball
O’Bryant students get up-close lesson in Cuban ingenuity
Cuba opens bulk-buying stores

Almost home now....



"Bin-busting global wheat supplies signal price rout isn’t over" by Jen Skerritt and Megan Durisin Bloomberg News  July 11, 2016

WINNIPEG, Man. — Canada’s wheat farmers still have more than a month before they start the bulk of this season’s grain harvest, but they’re already worried about where to store a bumper crop.

The big crop in Canada, one of the world’s top shippers, is adding to the outlook for a ballooning wheat glut. The US Department of Agriculture already forecasts that global stockpiles will reach a record before North America’s 2017 harvest.

Beneficial weather boosted the outlook for yields across the Canadian Prairies. The potential for near-record output means farmers are stocking up on grain bags to store wheat on the ground amid expecting bins and silos to be overflowing.

“There’s such a demand because the crop looks so big this year,” said Bruce Nordick, a sales manager at Grain Bags Canada. He estimated that sales volume is the biggest he’s ever seen for this time in the season in the 10 years that he’s been selling equipment. “We’re leaps and bounds ahead compared to last year and even 2013,” when farmers collected a record harvest, he said by telephone from Humboldt, Sask.

Globally, “we had next to ideal conditions for wheat yields it seems, and we’ve been posting some very big numbers,” said Gillian Rutherford, who helps oversee about $12 billion as a commodities portfolio manager at Pacific Investment Management Co. in Newport Beach, Calif.....


Also see: Suncor resumes oil-sands operations

That failed to light a spark under me, and I'm sorry there is nothing more about Canada in my Globe.

That's enough of a knuckle sandwich today. Time to go eat.

NDU: Unfair advantage

Also seeAn ugly summer for science: Turmoil rocks Canadian research community