Venezuelans Line Up to Buy SIMADI US Dollars

Currency Controls Relaxed, but Black Market Continues to Thrive

EspañolOn February 25, a stream of curious and doubtful clients entered through the doors of Italcambio, one of Venezuela’s main currency exchanges, in downtown Caracas. They looked around for the line, a habit learned by Venezuelans through their daily ordeals in supermarkets and pharmacies to get basic products.


For 12 years, currency exchanges have done little more than send remittances abroad, constrained by government exchange rates. (Reportero24)

Such wariness wasn’t exactly unfounded. Most Venezuelans have barely set foot in a currency exchange for 12 years: the government’s harsh currency controls enacted in 2003 have made it nearly impossible to get foreign currency through official means.

Up until February 18, one could only get US dollars through a painfully bureaucratic banking procedure — most just resorted to the black market. But with the new SIMADI exchange tier, Venezuelans can once again secure foreign cash in certain exchanges, stores, and banks authorized by the government.

[Read more…]

US Drone Sales Abroad: Piloting a Tricky Course

Green Light for Sales to Allies Will Keep US Ahead of Proliferation Curve

Español A February 17 US State Department press release lays out the details of a new policy for the export of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), popularly known as drones. This is a watershed moment for Washington, which has hitherto maintained strict controls over the sale of US drones, especially those capable of fielding any sort of armament.

Until now, drone exports have been limited almost exclusively to reconnaissance UAVs, and were managed on a case-by-case basis. This new regulation, however, will enable US drone producers such as General Atomics (manufacturer of the MQ 1 Predator and MQ 9 Reaper) to begin exporting both armed and unarmed variants to countries approved by the US government.


The easing of drone sales abroad will help the US manage proliferation of new technology. (Wikimedia)

Exporters will no longer be forced to plead their case with the Pentagon and State Department officials, who have consistently refused to grant the sale of “advanced military hardware.”

Although the new policy has only been in effect for little more than a week, US defense manufacturers are confident that it will enable them to increase their market share in an industry currently dominated by Israel and China.

[Read more…]

Salvador Allende, Evo Morales, and “Genuine Socialists”

Bolivian President Would Eat His Words If He Knew Marxist's Racist Views

Morales, como muchos chilenos, se sorprendería de ciertas ideas de Salvador Allende con respecto a los indígenas (Flickr)

Bolivian President Evo Morales would be surprised at Salvador Allende’s views on Chile’s indigenous peoples. (Flickr)

EspañolBy Víctor Farías

Bolivian President Evo Morales was right on the money recently, when he railed that in Chile today “there are no genuine socialists.” Still less, he suggested, was there any socialist leader in the neighboring country that “hadn’t made a deal with the class enemy.”

But Morales, and many Chileans, would be very surprised to read documents attesting to the ideological convictions of senior figures in President Salvador Allende’s Popular Unity (UP) government, to whom the Bolivian premier attributes “loyalty and coherence.”

One is the speech given by Allende before his party’s National Assembly on January 8, 1971. The comrade presidente took to the podium to denounce the violent and illegal land occupations by the Mapuche as a betrayal of the UP’s Agrarian Reform program, and “favoring the enemy.” He asked for understanding for the indigenous activists, but the reasons he gives for doing so are completely reprehensible.

[Read more…]

Chilean Entrepreneurs Must Know Thy Enemy

Speak Up Now or Kiss the Favorable Market Goodbye

Sebastián Dávalos, son of President Michele Bachelet, was forced to resign as sociocultural director amid allegations of influence peddling.

Sebastián Dávalos, son of President Michelle Bachelet, was forced to resign as sociocultural director amid allegations of influence peddling. (@Cooperativa)

EspañolThe recent “Nueragate” scandal has generated a great deal of public outrage and distrust within Chile. President Michelle Bachelet’s son, Sebastián Dávalos, and his wife, Natalia Compagnon, allegedly received a CHL$6.5 billion (US$10 million) loan in exchange for political influence.

Curiously, Natalia Compagnon’s company received this hefty loan even though it only possessed slightly under $10,000 in capital. Dávalos resigned from his sociocultural director position shortly after the news broke.

Chile may be a model for the rest of Latin America to follow, but it is not completely exempt from the populism that has afflicted the region since its independence from Spain. The peddling of influence, vote buying, intimidation, cronyism, and demagoguery have all been fixtures of the Latin-American political experience for nearly two centuries.

Chile is, unfortunately, no exception, and this could be a sneak preview of the populist future that is to come.

[Read more…]

Price Volatility No Match for Bitcoin’s Potential

Fluctuations Have Little Bearing on Pertinent Transfers, Remittances

Bitcoin can reach places where traditional payment systems are unavailable or blocked

Bitcoin can reach places where traditional payment systems are unavailable or blocked. (Flickr)

EnglishBitcoin and its underlying blockchain technology have been out on the market for six years. Given all the potential, it’s still early days.

No one knows for sure how successful bitcoin will be: it could be supplanted by superior technology, remain limited to certain groups and niches, become the world’s financial clearing system, or descend to the masses as an everyday currency. Bitcoin is so versatile it could find a place in many sectors beyond money and finance. [Read more…]

Paris Hilton, Naomi Campbell Dine with Despotism in Cuba

Regime Love for Yankee Millionaires

EspañolBy Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Paris Hilton, de visita en la fábrica de habanos "Montecristo" durante su visita a Cuba. (Instagram)

Paris Hilton visited the renowned Montecristo cigar producer during her trip to Havana, Cuba. (Instagram)

Where will US millionaires rush to as soon as they can reconquer Cuba economically? Where do they go now when they sneak through the embargo’s cracks?

The answer is so simple, it may very well disappoint us. Millionaires are like that: ordinary and predictable, their heaps of money notwithstanding. Yankee millionaires will go where they have always been: where they can flirt with power and rub shoulders with the powerful.

Money rules. Freedom for the Cuban people can wait another 56 years.

[Read more…]

Castro’s Demands Do Not Pass Go

Mad Dash to Embrace Military Dictatorship Ignores Predictable Consequences

EspañolEditor’s note: José Azel presented his original testimony, “What Would Cuba Do?” to the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs on February 26. Watch the full video of the hearing at the bottom of this article, with Azel at 27:58.

Mr. chairman, ranking member, distinguished members of the committee, I am honored to have this opportunity to share my analysis on the US national security implications of the administration’s new Cuba policy, and I commend you on calling this hearing on what is often a misunderstood threat to our national interests.

Last year, when the New York Times editorial board and others intensified their campaign for a unilateral-unconditional change in US-Cuba policy, I published an essay titled: WWCD; that is, What Would Castro Do if the United States were to unilaterally and unconditionally end economic sanctions?

[Read more…]

Venezuela’s Night of the Long Knives

Maduro's Regime Is Stronger than Ever: It Eliminates Opponents at Will

EspañolVenezuela’s Ramo Verde military prison has become a symbol of oppression, a dungeon for freedom. It’s no exaggeration to say that democracy has been kidnapped and thrown in Ramo Verde.

Just like the infamous Rotunda in the days of Venezuelan dictator Juan Vicente Gómez, or South Africa’s Robben Island where Nelson Mandela served the greater part of his 27-year sentence, today the prison facility is used as a cage for anyone who dares raise their voice against the creeping tyranny seeking to cement its grip over Venezuela.

On Thursday, February 19, the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN) arbitrarily arrested Caracas Metropolitan Mayor Antonio Ledezma, to later send him to Ramo Verde. He joins opposition leader Leopoldo López, among others.

Dozens of officers subjected the elected official to physical and verbal abuse as they dragged him from his office, as if he were a common criminal. Ledezma was kidnapped without a warrant and without ceremony.

El secuestro de Antonio Ledezma, alcalde de Caracas, no es un hecho que sorprenda, sino que responde a lógica del Gobierno de Nicolás Maduro.

The kidnap of Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma isn’t surprising: it fits the authoritarian logic of President Nicolás Maduro. (Diario Crítico)

[Read more…]

10 Ways to Get Latin America Out of Poverty

Steps to Release a Fountain of Untapped Potential

Español José Piñera once said, “Latin America is not poor, it is impoverished.” Truer words have never been spoken, especially by a man that played a pivotal role in the Chilean Miracle, one of the most successful economic turnarounds in the 20th century. But this success doesn’t need to be confined to just Chile: it can be transported to just about anywhere in the region. Latin America is oozing with potential.

Unfortunately, populist governments have shackled this potential through burdensome regulation and government overreach. Here are 10 ways Latin America can get back on its feet and defeat poverty once and for all.

1. Rule of Law

Often taken for granted, rule of law is the bedrock of a free society. (Wikimedia)

Often taken for granted, rule of law is the bedrock of a free society. (Wikimedia)

An institution that is often taken for granted by many westerners, rule of law has been the bedrock of western civilization since the signing of the Magna Carta 800 years ago.

This entails limited government, an independent judiciary, respect for private property, and the enforcement of contracts. Ultimately, laws govern societies, not the whims of politicians.

[Read more…]

Xenophobia Not Welcome in Panama

Political Cheap Shots at Foreigners Will Backfire, Kill Investment

EspañolSeveral things about Panama worry me, but nothing like the inflamed debate nowadays about immigrants and the role of foreign residents in the country. Nationalist and populist legislators’ rants have been rightfully called xenophobic in local media, and have become dangerous fodder for economic and social conflicts.

Panama’s National Assembly is currently studying Bill 62, which modifies portions of the National Migration Service law. It would do away with the Crisol de Razas program (Melting Pot of Races), which allows for the legalization of unauthorized immigrants who have resided in the country for over a year or overstayed their permitted entry.

It is true that the Crisol de Razas policy doesn’t attempt to plan for the needs of the internal labor market, by filtering people on the basis of profession or career path, but the reform has nothing to do with this alleged shortcoming.

[Read more…]