Thursday, February 28, 2013

BLOUIN:Medvedev misses a spot on Latin America visit

Medvedev misses a spot on Latin America visit
W. Alex Sanchez
Blouin Beat: Politics
February 26, 2013
Originally published:

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev concluded on Monday a brief Latin American tour in which he visited Cuba and Brazil. The trip occurred without any great fanfare. Nevertheless, it served to remind Latin America that Russia has not forgotten the Western Hemisphere, even though the region is hardly a top priority for the Kremlin.
Medvedev’s first stop was in Brazil, where he met with President Dilma Rousseff and hawked Russian military technology to the Brazilian government. For several years now, Brasilia has been carrying out ambitious modernization programs, which have included a partnership with France to build four Scorpene submarines and an interest in acquiring German KMW Gepard anti-aircraft tanks. Regarding Russian weaponry, the Brazilian military is considering purchasing Pantsir-S1 missiles.
Besides arms sales, Russia’s aim seems to be directed toward increasing trade with Brazil. After meeting with President Rousseff, Medvedev hinted that he would like trade between their countries to reach $10 billion. A theme that continued during the next — and final — stop on the Russian prime minister’s tour: Cuba. He met with President Raul Castro on the eve of his surprise retirement announcement as well as with Raul’s grey-eminence brother. Medvedev also signed 10 bilateral agreements with Havana to improve trade and intergovernmental relations. (According to RIA Novosti, Russia and Cuba’s bilateral trade “totaled a mere $194.9 million for 11 months of 2012.”)
It seems clear that Medvedev’s mini-trip was meant to serve as a reminder to Latin America that Russia is still interested in being a trading partner. The timing makes sense: the region stands on the verge of some historic political and economic shifts — and as global interest in its regional trade has been heating up. Medvedev’s visit came shortly after a summit between the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the European Union. The E.U., in spite of the financial woes of several of its member states, is focused on portraying itself as a potential trading partner with various Latin American states (such as Brazil, Mexico, Peru and Chile) that are enjoying years of economic growth. In addition, China has a growing presence in the Caribbean, as exemplified by over $3 billion USD it is investing to build a hotel resort (called Baha Mar) in the Bahamas. Moreover, leaders of the Arab world and South America held a summit in October 2012 to discuss potential interregional trade relations. Moscow, it seems clear, does not wish to fall behind.
Admittedly, Medvedev’s quick tour is less significant now that he is no longer president. But that does not mean it is bereft of meaning. As interesting as it is to see which countries he visited, it is also enlightening to note the countries that he did not — or rather one in particular. That would be Venezuela, which has been a staunch Russian ally for over a decade. The recently re-elected Hugo Chavez has spent billions of oil dollars on Russian military equipment; Venezuela is one of the few nations other than Russia that has recognized the separatist Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states after a 2008 war between Russia and Georgia. In spite of these pro-Moscow initiatives, Medvedev did not even briefly stop in Caracas to check on the ailing Chavez. The likely reason? Uncertainty regarding the future of the Venezuelan government: Chavez’s survival is an open question and there is widespread speculation regarding possible factions forming within the upper echelons of Venezuelan leadership, potentially lining up behind Vice President Nicolas Maduro, National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello or even the country’s military. Should elections occur, there is also the possibility (albeit a small one) of an opposition candidate such as Henrique Capriles coming into power. A visit to Caracas would have meant effectively taking Chavez’s or his proxies’ side in the likely upcoming shift in Venezuela’s domestic politics — a situation that Moscow probably wants to avoid given of the tidy business Russia would lose out on should it guess wrong.

Monday, February 25, 2013

VOXXI: Wikileaks publishes new documents about Peru and Bolivia

Wikileaks publishes new documents about Peru and Bolivia
W. Alejandro Sanchez

February 25, 2013
Originally published:

Wikileaks, an international organization known for publishing confidential information such as classified government documents, recently put online thousands of new documents. These include a plethora of e-mails from STRATFOR, a global intelligence consultancy, regarding Latin American governments and issues. We will discuss some of the most interesting STRATFOR statements relating to Peru and Bolivia that have been discovered so far.

Articles released by Wikileaks about Peru

Peruvian President Ollanta Humala was heavily critiqued on a number of communiqués. One correspondence accuses him of being unable to make decisions by himself and of being influenced by his wife, Nadine Heredia, a supposed Marxist. These accusations are not new considering Humala has been consistently criticized by Peruvian opposition figures who consider him a radical leftist and believe his political decisions are too influenced by the First Lady. During the 2011 presidential campaign, he was often accused of being a Peruvian-version of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who publicly supported Humala as a candidate
Prior to his election, Humala was known to show sympathy for leftist ideologies. However, he has considerably softened his ideas. In May 2011 he admitted that he had been too “radical” during the 2006 elections and that “if politicians don’t change, then they don’t help.” In fact, he has maintained pro-free trade and pro-investment postures since coming to power, which has allowed Peru to maintain promising economic growth. For example, in November 2012 the Peruvian president traveled to France, Spain and Portugal to seek financial investment from these European nations. Moreover, under Humala, Peru became a member of the Alliance of the Pacific, a group of nations (which include Mexico, Colombia and Chile), that embrace liberal economic- initiatives.
In addition, the Peruvian head of state has maintained good relations with the United States. For instance, President-elect Humala traveled to Washington in July 2011 to meet with President Barack Obama. Moreover, the Peruvian media has speculated that the U.S. may assist Peru in building a new military base in the VRAE , an Andean region where narco guerrillas operate.
More problem for Humala is that the STRATFOR emails also discuss how Alexis Humala, one of the President’s brothers, posed as a special presidential envoy when he travelled to Russia in 2011 (this incident was reported by the Peruvian media). The Russian government made an offer to the President’s brother, allowing Moscow to supply Peru with military equipment in exchange for natural resources. This has brought a new scandal to Lima, given that Alexis is not a government negotiator.
Sadly, President Humala’s image has been undermined by the controversial, and sometimes violent, deeds of his family members. Another brother, Antauro, is currently in prison for orchestrating a failed military coup in Andahuaylas in January 2005. Several police officers were killed in a standoff between Antauro and his followers against government forces.
To what extent the President was aware of his brother’s Alexis’ actions in Moscow still remains unclear. In any case, the level to which Humala’s family is involved in the country’s political affairs is more worrisome than the age-old accusations of the President being a Marxist.

Articles released by Wikileaks about Bolivia

evooo Wikileaks publishes new documents about Peru and Bolivia
Bolivia’s President Evo Morales, left, and his Prime Minister David Choquehuanca. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Regarding Bolivia,  a STRATFOR analyst, in 2010 e-mail, described President Evo Morales as a “fourth grade educated, narco-trafficking, murderous thug […] He is NOT the messiah and genius that everyone touts him to be.” This email came in response to the baffling declarations made by Morales during a conference where he said that consuming hormone-injected chicken causes baldness and homosexuality.
Regardless of the absurdity of the Bolivian president’s statement, the STRATFOR email is a particularly vicious characterization of the Bolivian head of state. Nevertheless, the analyst’s opinion can be used to summarize the tense relations between Morales and Washington ever since he came to power. The accusation that Morales is involved in narco-trafficking stems from events, such as when he kicked out not only the U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia, Philip Goldberg, but also the DEA, in 2008.  In another polemic move, Bolivia withdrew from the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs in 2011. (Bolivia returned to the convention in early 2013, but with “a new reservation allowing for the traditional uses of the coca leaf”).
Meanwhile, in an August 16, 2011 email, a STRATFOR analyst questioned whether some Peruvian citizens detained in Bolivia were members of the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) as the Bolivian government claimed. Sendero is a Peruvian terrorist movement that originated in the early 1980s and has become heavily involved in drug trafficking in order to finance its operations.  The aforementioned email was likely referring to the arrest of four Peruvians in early August 2011, who were accused of attempting to recruit Bolivians to join Shining Path.
In reality, the Peruvian insurgent group is particularly weak, especially after the capture of its last leader, known as Artemio, in February 2012. Hence, it is debatable how much of a presence Peruvian insurgents have in Bolivia; at most, Shining Path could aim to have a small cell operating there to increase ties with local drug trafficking cartels. Nevertheless, the fact remains that Bolivia is one of the major producers of cocaine in the world, and its corrupt local officials, weak security forces and unmonitored borders have allowed for international criminal entities to have a growing presence in the country. Even if Shining Path is not particularly active in Bolivia, an obvious concern is that other criminal networks, originating from Mexico, Colombia or Brazil, may successfully carry out operations in that country.


Wikileaks has made thousands of new confidential documents available that address Latin American affairs. For example, some documents show STRATFOR’s suspicions that Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the leader of the dreaded Sinaloa Cartel, may be hiding in Guatemala. Nevertheless, other emails reveal facts that regional analysts and experts already knew. If anything, some emails show that assumptions and stereotypes are still alive, such as claiming that Peru’s President Humala may be a Marxist in spite of his numerous pro-capitalist initiatives. Regarding  Bolivia’s Morales, his ludicrous statements (such as linking chickens with homosexuality) and his still tense relations with the U.S. as well as his posture on the growth of coca mean that critiques regarding his policies to fight drug trafficking will continue.

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Thursday, February 21, 2013


Presidente Peruano Ollanta Humala viaja a la Antartida: Un Breve Analsis Geopolitico
W. Alex Sanchez
COHA Spanish Blog
Council on Hemispheric Affairs
Febrero 21, 2013
Originally published:

A principios de febrero el Presidente Ollanta Humala visitó la base científica peruana, Machu Picchu, ubicada en la Antártida. Aunque este viaje fue criticado por grupos de oposición en Perú, el viaje del mandatario fue apropiado. Debido al calentamiento global y al cambio climático, los polos, que antes eran los lugares menos visitados y conocidos del planeta, ahora son parte de una batalla geopolítica entre diferentes poderes mundiales.
Como es conocido, el derretimiento de los glaciares en el Ártico ha creado una nueva competencia geopolítica por parte de países como Estados Unidos, Rusia, Canadá y países del norte europeo (como Islandia y Noruega). En cuanto a la Antártida, su proximidad geográfica a Sudamérica significa que varios países de la región tienen intereses (científicos y para expandir su control territorial) y presencia humana en esta zona. Por ende, es importante para Perú tener una presencia más reconocida en la Antártida, lo cual ocurrirá si, después de la visita presidencial, el Estado peruano proporciona un mayor apoyo logístico, científico y tecnológico a su base—entiéndase que Humala es el primer presidente peruano que visita el continente blanco. [1]
El Perú y la Antártida
Durante su estadía en el continente helado, el mandatario peruano participó en una ceremonia para conmemorar los 25 años de la primera misión peruana al continente antártico. La presente campaña peruana a la región se ha denominado ANTAR XXI y tiene como atractivo la participación del Buque de Investigación Científica (BIC) Humboldt. [2] La última vez que el Humboldt tomó parte en una expedición científica fue en el 2007, y, por ende, hubo mucha emoción en Perú cuando éste volvió a la actividad. La cuenta de Flickr del gobierno peruano tiene una pequeña galería que muestra varias fotos del viaje de Ollanta (para visitar la galería, haga un click aquí). [3]
Sin embargo, el viaje del presidente Ollanta fue criticado en Perú. La oposición política le ha reclamado al mandatario mayor transparencia en conexión con el presupuesto y las cuentas del viaje. [4] Una razón para estas críticas es que el viaje de Ollanta coincidió con fuertes lluvias en Arequipa, las cuales azotaron la ciudad peruana al sur del país. La tempestad causó mucha destrucción y varios políticos opositores de Ollanta dijeron que el presidente debería estar en el país, dirigiendo la reconstrucción de Arequipa, en vez de estar en la Antártida.
Ciertamente, el viaje de Ollanta ocurrió en un mal momento debido a los incidentes climáticos en el sur de Perú. Pero, para ser honestos, el gobierno peruano no es sólo el presidente. También hay vicepresidentes, ministros y entidades estatales, como el Instituto de Defensa Civil, creadas con el objetivo de manejar una crisis climática como la que ocurrió en Arequipa. Es decir, el viaje del presidente al extremo sur del mundo debía haber ocurrido tarde o temprano.
Una Presencia Internacional en el Continente Blanco
Aparte de Perú, varios países latinoamericanos también tienen presencia en la región. Por ejemplo, Chile tiene varias bases, incluso las llamadas Profesor Julio Escudero y Capitán Arturo Prat. A la vez, el gobierno chileno se ha mostrado particularmente ambicioso en expandir su control en el continente blanco. En el 2007, Santiago declaró su soberanía sobre un territorio de la Antártida que pertenece al Reino Unido. [5] Más recientemente, en enero de 2012, el presidente chileno Sebastián Piñera visitó las bases chilenas en la región, y anunció que se construirá una nueva base (la quinta chilena) en King George Island. [6]
Argentina también tiene más de una docena de bases (entre permanentes y temporales) en la Antártida. [7] Sin embargo, las ambiciones argentinas para esa región fueron puestas en riesgo luego que el rompehielos ARA Almirante Irizar sufrió un incendio desastroso en el 2007. [8] Debido a esta tragedia, el buque ya no ha podido tomar parte de varias expediciones científicas. Otro trágico incendio sucedió en la base brasileña, llamada Comandante Ferraz. [9] El siniestro ocurrió en febrero del 2012 y mató a dos oficiales de la armada de Brasil, además de destruir alrededor de 70% de la base. [10]
Fuente: Associated Press / Daily Mail (UK)
Fuente: Associated Press / Daily Mail (UK)
En cuanto a Uruguay, el país tiene la base Artigas. [11] Además, los gobiernos de Uruguay y México están promoviendo la cooperación científica para investigar juntos la Antártida. [12] También cabe mencionar que el presidente uruguayo José Mujica visitó las bases de Uruguay y Chile en el 2012, acompañado por el presidente chileno. [13]
Finalmente, es importante mencionar que varios países afuera de Sudamérica tienen bases e intereses en controlar más de la Antártida. Por ejemplo, el Reino Unido tiene un histórico interés en conocer mejor esta región helada. En enero de 2012, el buque británico HMS Protector llegó a las bases científicas de Uruguay y Argentina. [14] En noviembre de 2012, se firmó un convenio bilateral para promover la cooperación científica entre el Reino Unido y Chile. [15] Además, el 19 de febrero de 2013 la embajada británica en Washington DC, EE.UU. tuvo un evento titulado “History on Ice: The 2014 Adventure to complete Sir Ernest Shackleton’s expedition across Antarctica” (Historia Sobre Hielo: La aventura del 2014 para completar la expedición de Sir Ernest Shackleton por la Antártida). La charla habló de cómo unos científicos británicos recrearán la expedición de Shackleton para conmemorar su aniversario centenario—el autor de este evento asistió a dicho evento en la embajada británica.
En otras palabras, al igual de lo que está ocurriendo en el polo norte del planeta, varios países tienen un interés cada vez más creciente en la Antártida y, por lo tanto, el viaje del Presidente Ollanta a la región no fue sólo un capricho personal sino una forma de afirmar el deseo antártico de Perú, algo que se volverá más importante en el futuro. Es claro que varios países van a querer incrementar su presencia y su control de este territorio, y es importante para Lima no quedarse atrás. Mas expediciones científicas, lo que significaría una presencia humana más constante, ayudarán a Lima a demostrar que debe ser consultada en cualquier discusión sobre el futuro del continente blanco.
El viaje del presidente peruano sirvió para que Perú incremente su presencia en el continente blanco. Ya que varios líderes latinoamericanos han demostrado un fuerte interés por la Antártida. Es importante que Perú no se quede afuera de esta creciente competencia geopolítica en el polo sur.
W. Alejandro Sanchez, Research Fellow en el Consejo de Asuntos Hemisféricos
Ésta es una contribución gratuita producida por el Consejo de Asuntos Hemisféricos. Si desea republiarla, por favor ponga nuestra información institucional. Los derechos exclusivos pueden ser negociados.
Si desea obtener más información sobre los asuntos interamericanos, les sugerimos que visite la página de Latin News, haciendo un clic aquí.
[1]  ”Ollanta Humala, primer presidente peruano que visita la Antártida.” Russia Today. February 9, 2013.
[2]  ”El Perú recobra presencia en la Antártida con regreso del BIC Humboldt.” La Republica (Perú). December 19, 2012.
[3]  ”Ceremonia de conmemoración por 25 años de Primera Expedición del Perú a la Antártida fue encabezada por el presidente Ollanta Humala.” Gobierno de la Republica del Perú. Flickr (Cuenta oficial).
[4] “Congreso exigirá cuentas por viaje familiar de Ollanta Humala a la Antártida.” Perú 21 (Perú).  Febrero 12, 2013.
[5]  ”Chile repeats own Antarctic claim.” BBC. October 17, 2007.
[6] “Chile expands Antarctica presence.”  UPI. Security Industry. January 23, 2013.
[7]  Bases Antárticas Argentinas. Direccion Nacional del Antártico. Instituto Antártico Argentino.
[8] “Admiten retrasos en la reparación del rompehielos Irizar.” Diario La Prensa (Argentina). Actualidad. Enero 23, 2013.
[9]  Jorge Castañeda Bermudez. “Incendio en la estación brasileña Comandante Ferraz en la Antártida.” Starmedia. Febrero 26, 2012.
[10]  Gerard Aziakou. “Loss of Antactic base deals Brazil a major blow.” AFP. February 26, 2012.
[11] Instituto Antártico Uruguayo.
[13] “Mujica viaja a la Antártida.”  El Observador (Uruguay). Enero 4, 2012.
[14] “HMS Protector reaches Antarctica, visits Uruguayan and Argentine bases.” Mercopress. January 26, 2012.
[15] “News Story – British Antarctic Survey and Chilean Antarctic Institute sign agreement to strengthen science cooperation.” British Antarctic Survey. November 19, 2012.