Tuesday, January 20, 2015

VOXXI: Will Obama mention Cuba in State of the Union speech?

"Will Obama Mention Cuba in State of the Union speech?"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
January 20, 2015
Originally published: http://voxxi.com/2015/01/cuba-obama-state-of-the-union/
President Obama will deliver his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, and, unlike previous years, there is expectation regarding whether the future of U.S.-Latin America relations will be addressed or simply overlooked.
The address comes days after lifting several sanctions against Cuba, hence it will be interesting to see if the U.S. head of state will pressure the now Republican-controlled Congress to consider lifting the decades-old embargo as well.
(Some) Sanctions Lifted
This past Friday, January 15, the U.S. Department of Treasury announced that, following President Obama’s historic December 17 speech, a revised Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) and Export Administration Regulations (EAR) will be published, reflecting the changes in Washington’s new policy towards the Caribbean island.
While U.S. citizens still cannot travel to Cuba freely, the December 17 announcement offers more alternatives to travel to the Caribbean island. For example, U.S. citizens can now go for “professional research and professional meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions,” among other reasons.
Moreover, the Treasury Department has announced, “travelers will now be allowed to use U.S. credit and debit cards in Cuba.” This is quite a significant development, as it will permit visitors to spend more money in Cuba without having to exchange it for the local currency first.
As for bringing Cuban goods into the country, the new policy states “U.S. travelers to Cuba will be allowed to import up to $400 worth of goods acquired in Cuba for personal use. This includes no more than $100 of alcohol or tobacco products.” Considering that cigars and rum are Cuban trademarks, even a relatively small amount like $100 USD still allows for plenty of cigars and bottles of liquor to be brought back to the United States.
Nevertheless, while these are important developments, the state-controlled Cuban media has highlighted that large segments of the embargo remain in place. For example, the newspaper Juventud Rebelde published an op-ed on January 17, which stresses how “open tourism” is still prohibited, as well as a ban on imports and exports (with few exceptions) between the two countries.
Concerns Regarding the Cuban Government
Predictably, Republican lawmakers have critiqued the President’s initiatives – case in point, Senator (and Republican presidential hopeful) Marco Rubio has declared that “I’m going to continue to oppose the … Obama-Paul foreign policy on Cuba because I know it won’t lead to freedom and liberty for the Cuban people, which is my sole interest here.” (Rubio meant Senator Rand Paul, who has supported the White House’s new policy).
Moreover, the debate on the new U.S.-Cuba relations and its effects on the island is not only taking place in Washington. The Cuban digital newspaper 14ymedio, run by the renowned Cuban opposition blogger Yoani Sanchez, published a commentary on January 16 about what renewed relations may mean for the Cuban Government in the long run. Specifically, the article was concerned that the country’s economy will be transformed into “state-run capitalism, controlled by an authoritarian political-military elite” with ties to U.S. capital.
The difference here is that Senator Rubio is in favor of maintaining the embargo, while even Cuban critics of the Castro regime want the embargo to be lifted, though the latter also want renewed U.S.-Cuba relations to go hand in hand with changes in the Cuban government.
So far, the Cuban Government has complied with U.S. requests, including releasing the U.S. citizen Alan Gross and 53 political prisoners. Nevertheless, a valid concern is whether the powers-that-be in Havana plan to remain in power even as relations with Washington improve.
The island is scheduled to hold municipal elections in April (over 14 thousand spots are up for grabs); this will be the first major test of the Cuban government in the post-agreement era to showcase that it is willing to allow opposition voices in its decision-making bodies.
Negotiations and Internal Politics
U.S.-Cuba relations are going through a very important momentum as, apart from more relaxed travel and commercial policies, diplomatic initiatives are increasing. At the time of this writing, Senator Patrick Leahy (VT-D) is leading a congressional delegation on a three-day trip to the Caribbean state.
Moreover, this upcoming January 21-22, Roberta Jacobson, the Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, will lead another delegation to Cuba to discuss migration issues as well as the reestablishment of diplomatic ties.
Given these high-ranking delegations traveling to Cuba, and the fact that U.S.-Cuba relations have been widely discussed by the global media since the December announcement, it will be interesting to see if President Obama maintains his current momentum by mentioning Cuba in his upcoming State of the Union address.
The recently freed Gross will attend the event, so the President could mention him as segue to asking congress to discuss the future of the embargo.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Interview: Drone Zone: CNN, Border Patrol Waste & Rhinos

"Drone Zone: CNN, Border Patrol Waste & Rhinos"
By: Alyona Minkovski
HuffPost Live
Originally aired January 15, 2015
(I appear at 10min35sec)
Original link: http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/segment/this-week-in-drone-news-with-alyonamink/54b55975fe344445720000a7

VOXXI: Haiti: Uruguay is withdrawing troops from UN mission

"Haiti: Uruguay is withdrawing troops from UN Mission"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
January 18, 2015
Originally published: http://voxxi.com/2015/01/haiti-uruguay-leave-minustah/

Fallout continues in the wake of President Michel Martelly’s decision to dissolve Haiti’s parliament.
On Thursday, January 15, the Uruguayan government announced that in response to his controversial decision, the South American nation will withdraw its troops from the UN mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH.
While Uruguay is not the main contributor of troops to MINUSTAH, this decision highlights the fatigue and frustration that the international community is experiencing, as Haiti is unable to emerge from its constant domestic crises.
Haiti’s latest crisis stems from President Martelly and opposition parties’ inability to negotiate a new electoral law.
The BBC explains that the electoral schedule has become stagnant as “mid-term Senate elections had been originally due in May 2012, while local polls are three years behind schedule.”
How far this situation will deteriorate remains to be seen, as ongoing violent protests in the Caribbean state call for the president’s resignation. Violent overthrows are commonplace throughout Haitian history. Most recently, President Jean Bertrand Aristide was overthrown in 2004 (allegedly via a U.S.-sponsored coup).
It was precisely the 2004 crisis that prompted the Brazil-led United Nations mission in Haiti. The mission’s mandate is renewed annually, as supporters argue that MINUSTAH has helped rebuild and stabilize the country. However, critics, including the Haitian population, argue that the UN mission has violated human rights over the years and hurt the country more than it has helped.
Discussing the successes and shortcomings of MINUSTAH is beyond the scope of this article due to its complexity. Suffice it to say, the peacekeepers have generally tried to improve the situation in the country since 2004. Moreover, when the deadly January 2010 earthquake struck,MINUSTAH was the spearhead of first responders.
However, the UN mission has certainly had its faults. Most prominent is the widespread belief that Southeast Asian peacekeepers introduced cholera into the nation around October 2010. Over 9,000 Haitians have died since the outbreak began, and around 1,500 victims and family members recently tried to sue the UN (unsuccessfully).
Montevideo’s Decision
Uruguay was not a major donor of troops, but its contribution was nonetheless significant.
According to MINUSTAH, as of December 31, 2014, the mission had a total of 7,213 total uniformed personnel, not including civilians, of which 595 were from Uruguay. This is not even half of the total of Brazil’s contribution (1,378 troops and police). Nevertheless, Uruguay’s departure means that MINUSTAH will lose a significant portion of its “blue helmets.”
But whether Uruguay can leave Haiti with its head held high is another matter. The tiny South American nation has contributed hundreds of troops to MINUSTAH and it was very active during the relief and reconstruction effort after the earthquake. For example, around 800 Uruguayan peacekeepers were in Haiti at the time, and Montevideo sent additional emergency personnel, water purifiers, and electricity generators.
On the other hand, Uruguayan peacekeepers have been at the center of accusations over human rights abuses. Case in point, in 2011, several Uruguayan soldiers were accused of raping a young Haitian man. The troops were sent back to Uruguay and in 2013, four Uruguayan naval personnel were sentenced to two years and a month in prison. The sentence has been condemned as barely a slap on the wrist.
Moreover, there is the question of what the country will lose by leaving MINUSTAH. Certainly the government, armed forces, and families will be happy that hundreds of Uruguayan military personnel are coming home. However, there will also be financial repercussions. The Uruguayan newspaper El Observador has declared the country will lose some $18 million USD that it received annually from the UN for participating in MINUSTAH.
In addition, there is the question of professional pride. MINUSTAH was a complex mission from the start, and while the presence and activities of Uruguayan peacekeepers was well intentioned, the 2011 rape incident will become a dark mark on the Uruguayan military’s record of peacekeeping operations.
Finally, there is the question of whether Uruguay’s decision will open the door for other countries to leave MINUSTAH. As previously mentioned, there is a feeling of frustration among participating nations, due to the mission’s controversial origins and severe accusations of human rights abuses. Additionally, 11 years since MINUSTAH’s inception, the country remains plagued by internal issues.
Uruguay is not the only country reducing its presence in Haiti. Brazil, which has been the most significant contributor of troops and leadership to MINUSTAH, began a modest reduction of its personnel contribution in 2013.
MINUSTAH’s mandate is up for renewal in October and if Haiti’s political woes continue and other nations withdraw, we could be on the verge of witnessing this mission’s twilight.

Monday, January 12, 2015


"Lift Off: Drone Usage In Latin America Takes Flight"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
Council on Hemispheric Affairs - Report
January 12, 2015
Available: http://www.coha.org/lift-off-drone-usage-in-latin-america-takes-flight/

2014 could be remembered as the year when drone usage, both for military and civilian purposes, decisively took off throughout Latin America. The cherry on top of the proverbial cake was the recent decision by the South American Nations Union (UNASUR) to create a regionally-built drone. While this initiative may need a few years to materialize, it is nonetheless important as it stresses how increasingly widespread drone usage will become throughout the region in the near future.
South America Coming Together
Defense Ministry representatives from the twelve UNASUR members (all South American states) met in mid-December 2014 in Salvador, Brazil to discuss the manufacturing of an UNASUR drone. The gathering decided to support the regional construction of a drone, which should help internal security operations carried out by member states and will also serve as a confidence-building mechanism. Since a complete design concept has not been signed off yet, as the UNASUR drone is barely at the “discussion” phase, there are no specific details available. Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that during the meeting in Brazil, South American officials decided that the drone must have sensors and electronic components that adapt to quick climate changes, it must be able to operate at long ranges, and the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) must have the ability to smoothly transfer guide controls from one installation to another.[i]
While UNASUR coordination is important, we should not assume that the design phase, much less the manufacturing, will begin anytime soon. History proves that although Latin American governments come together for ambitious initiatives, they tend to occur at a snail’s pace. The UNASUR drone is not the first time that the regional agency has come together to build an aircraft as a sort of challenge of its military technology capabilities and as a confidence building mechanism. In fact, UNASUR is already building a regional military training aircraft.
UNASUR’s ambitious project to construct an aircraft was originally announced around May 2013, but, according to recent reports, the prototype will only be finished by 2016.[ii] Argentina has taken the lead in this project as the aircraft’s design will follow that of the Argentine military aircraft IA-73, which is being constructed by the country’s Fábrica Argentina de Aviones. All UNASUR members are supposed to be involved in the project, either by helping to construct the aircraft or by serving as observers. Nevertheless, while the region is no stranger to manufacturing military aircrafts (the Tucano, constructed by Brazil’s EMBRAER comes to mind) the prototype of UNASUR-1, as the UNASUR plane will be called, will require at least one more year before it is finished.[iii] While smaller in size than an aircraft, a construction of a drone is much more technologically challenging, especially as domestic drone programs in South America are not as developed as other countries that manufacture these apparatus (i.e. the U.S. or Israel).
Finally, it is worth stating that other regions are similarly coming together to construct drones: seven European nations (France, Germany and Spain among them) have announced their intention to create a consortium to construct a “euro drone” by 2020.[iv]Certainly a number of European industries already manufacture drones, like the Swedish CybAero AB, but the goal is to construct a UAV to promote cooperation and confidence between several states, resulting in a state-of-the-art vehicle that other countries will want to purchase.[v]
As for the UNASUR drone, much needs to be clarified before an accurate timetable can be provided regarding construction schedules. It makes sense that Brazil may take a lead in this endeavor, as it already produces drones, but other countries, including Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru, can provide technological expertise due totheir own production and usage of drones.[vi] However, while creating a UNASUR drone generally makes sense, the timetable of the UNASUR-1 plane serves as an example that one should not assume that even the most positive and sound initiatives will become a reality anytime soon.
Domestic Programs Grow
UNASUR’s project aside, Latin American countries continue to be interested in developing their own drones and have significantly expanded these programs in 2014. The most notable success came from Colombia, as the local weapons company, the Corporación Industrial Aeronáutica Colombiana (CINAC) unveiled the Iris, the South American nation’s first home-built drone this past year. The drone can reach a height of eight thousand feet, it can also travel as far as 100 kilometers and it features optic sensors and the Flir HD image system.[vii] For the time being, the Iris will be used by the Colombian armed forces for patrol missions, but the goal seems to be that it eventually will be exported. The Iris was showcased during the recently-ended UNVEX America 2014, a weapons fair that took place in Colombia, as a way for the country to demonstrate its emerging industrial military complex.
Foto: Carlos E. Hernández/INFODEFENSA.COM
Foto: Carlos E. Hernández/INFODEFENSA.COM
Meanwhile, the Peruvian Air Force (FAP) will team up with the South Korean company Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd (KAI) to manufacture a new drone. KAI has sold a number of KT-1P military training aircraft to the FAP, hence there is already a history of joint cooperation between the two entities.[viii] As part of the agreement between KAI and the FAP over the transfer of the KT technology, the Korean company will provide technological expertise for the Peruvian Air Force’s Centro de Desarrollo de Proyectos (CEDEP, Center for Developing Projects) to manufacture a drone that can fly up to 24 hours and take thermal and night-time images. The goal would be to utilize this drone for surveillance operations in the Valley of the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro Rivers (VRAEM) where the remnants of the narco-terrorist organization Shining Path operates.[ix] It should be remembered that the Peruvian Air Force already has developed several drone prototypes, but it appears that the UAV constructed in partnership with KAI will be actively used in real operations.[x]
Regarding Venezuela, not much is clear about its current drone program. Reports dating back to 2012 say that Iran and Russia were providing technological expertise so that the South American country can construct its own drones.[xi] The Venezuelan Air Force has at least two drone projects. One of them is Arpía, which is based on the Mohajer 2 drone (produced by Iran), while the other is called Gavilán.[xii] Unfortunately, reliable information about the current operational status of both drones is difficult to come by.
Ultimately, the possibility that Latin American drones will be exported to other countries and be competitive with American, Israeli or European UAVs is actually not a far-fetched scenario. Just this past August, it was reported that Brazil had exported its first drone, a FT-100 Horus, to an undisclosed African nation.[xiii] Israeli or American drones may be more advanced, but developing nations may choose to buy an efficient, but cheaper, “knock off” version, which could give Latin American drone exports an edge in the near future.
Drone Imports Will Continue in 2015
Latin American domestic drone programs may be cementing a position for themselves in the market, but they will take a couple of more years before they can be mass manufactured. Hence, Latin American nations will continue to import drones for the foreseeable future. Countries like Israel and the U.S. are obviously the major drone exporters to the region, but on occasion there have been disconcerting rumors about drone-deals with some unlikely suppliers.
Case in point, in late 2014 the Mexican media speculated that the Mexican government was planning to purchase drones from Iran.[xiv] The reasoning was that Mexico City wanted to improve ties with Tehran, and also needed more drones to combat drug trafficking. Nevertheless, the Mexican government categorically denied this report. It would have been a bizarre development if Mexico had indeed purchased drones from Iran, a country which has been at odds with the U.S., Mexico’s strategic ally, for decades. For the record Iran does produce drones, and it has helped Venezuela with its own drone program, but it is unlikely that Mexico would jeopardize its close security relations with Washington for a few UAVs.[xv]
As for less-controversial initiatives, the U.S. aerospace company Boeing has declared its intention to increase drone sales to Colombia. The Colombian Air Force is currently the sole operator in the region of Boeing’s Scaneagle and Nighteagle, which are utilized for internal security operations against drug-trafficking and counterinsurgency. Hence, it is logical to assume that the Colombian government would want to continue using drones that its personnel know how to operate. Moreover, this past October, Boeing’s Vice President for the Americas, Roberto Valla, explained that the company aims to sell more drones to the Colombian Navy, while Brazil and Chile, which operate Israeli drones, also seem to be interested in purchasing Boeing’s products.[xvi]
Apart from Boeing, another company aspiring to sell drones to Latin America is Aerovironment, which produces the Raven and Puma, which are already operated by the Colombian armed forces.[xvii]Countries like Chile, Mexico and Peru are apparently interested in purchasing them. Additionally, the Swedish firm Unmanned System Groups (USG), showcased its F-330 drone to the Uruguayan armed forces in late 2014.[xviii] However, a deal between USG and Montevideo has yet to be signed, though this could occur soon as the Uruguayan Army appears to be interested in acquiring them in order to support Uruguayan peacekeepers in Africa.[xix]Additionally, Israeli Aerospace Industries has declared that it may reach a deal in 2015 with the Mexican Air Force.[xx]
In other words, there are several contracts that could be signed within the coming months, which will mean that we will see Latin American militaries utilize an increasing number drones in the near future.
Civilian Drone
Finally, it is important to stress that drones are not only used for military purposes, they can also be used for a multitude of civilian activities. In this case, the usage of drones has become fairly widespread in the region. Case in point, drones have been used for archaeological purposes in the Amazonas region of northern Peru.[xxi] Archaeologists are interested in using drones as they can help create a 3D model of an archaeological dig by providing a “bird’s eye view.”[xxii]
Foto: Wilfredo Sandoval  - El Comercio (Peru)
Foto: Wilfredo Sandoval – El Comercio (Peru)
Latin American journalists are also using drones. For example, in 2013 the Peruvian newspaper El Comercio launched such a device from a rooftop in order to tape a fire in downtown Lima.[xxiii]Because the blaze was between high-rise buildings, it was too dangerous for helicopters to fly close, but a UAV does not have that problem. Likewise, a drone was also used by the Guatemalan newspaper Nuestro Diario to obtain exclusive aerial shots of a deadly fire that hit the Guatemalan market known as La Terminal in March 2014.[xxiv]
On the issue of journalists using drones, there is one case already of these activities that has sparked controversy. In El Salvador, a drone was flown over the wall around a police station to photograph the disgraced former President Francisco Flores, who has been arrested.[xxv] This incident prompted a debate in the Central American nation for the drafting of laws regarding what is permissible when it comes to the usage of drones for civilian purposes. Some countries, like Brazil, have passed legislation about how civilians can utilize drones, and we can expect these legislations to proliferate in the near future, particularly if incidents akin to the one in El Salvador become commonplace.[xxvi]
As 2015 begins, Latin America is on the edge of becoming an even more frequent user of unmanned aerial vehicles. While local drone manufacturing took a great step forward with Colombia’s Iris prototype and UNASUR’s decision to construct a bloc-drone, for the immediate future, drones will continue to be imported. In an analysis about the 2014 UNVEX American weapons fair in Colombia, the renowned Spanish defense news agency Infodefensa.comexplained that regional militaries and police agencies are relying on drones for real-time ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) in order to crack down on sources of insecurity, which in Latin America includes anything from street-level criminals to drug cartels and insurgent movements. Moreover, regional governments and security agencies are keen to utilize drones because they reduce the risk of human losses and logistical costs.  One would expect that losing a drone would also carry less political costs as this less problematic than when a warplane or a helicopter, with people inside, is shot down.[xxvii]
In a November commentary for the International Security Network, drone-expert Ulrike Franke, a DPhil candidate in International Relations at the University of Oxford, highlights how some 76 countries are currently known to operate drones. She argues that, “greater transparency also decreases the likelihood of dangerous misunderstandings” and that “some argue that the proliferation of unarmed drones could eventually lead states to pursue armed ones. While there may be some truth to this, it also points to what most would consider the real problem: the international proliferation of armed drones.”[xxviii]
When it comes to Latin America, we are indeed witnessing an expansion of unarmed military drones, as most states from Mexico to Argentina either have UAVs or are considering purchasing them. Then again, we should not assume that we will see swarms of drones flying over Latin America in the near future; the number will probably remain few in comparison to the U.S., and the will UAVs will be focused on internal security operations, particularly to combat drug trafficking and insurgency in isolated areas. Furthermore, the fact that a regional bloc like UNASUR wants to cooperate in constructing a drone can be looked upon as a good example of drone technology being utilized as a confidence-building mechanism.
On the topic of armed drones, as this author has discussed in a 2013 report for the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, “Drones in Latin America,” [PDF available] no Latin American nation currently has armed drones and it is highly unlikely that countries which possess them, like the U.S. and Israel, will want to sell armed drones to Latin America anytime in the near future.[xxix] Latin American countries could certainly attempt to construct armed drones, but given that unarmed drones are still at the prototype/first-generation level, this is unrealistic to occur in the foreseeable future.
Finally, the recent analysis “Do Drones Have A Future” by Paul Scharre, a fellow and Director of the 20YY Warfare Initiative at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) should be acknowledged. The commentary, published on the website War On The Rocks, discusses the future of drone usage by the U.S. military.[xxx] Scharre explains how “the obstacles to getting where each of the [U.S. military] services needs to be go beyond a lack of funding, however. While unmanned aircraft have been embraced for niche roles like reconnaissance, parts of the military resist their incorporation into core mission areas.”[xxxi]When it comes to Latin American security agencies, this researcher has yet to find cases of military officers being against drone usage. If anything, Latin American militaries, like Colombia and Peru, are eager to utilize drones because of the decisive advantage against drug trafficking and criminal entities the technology can provide. If anything, the U.S. military’s reliance on drones in Afghanistan and Iraq has made Latin American security institutions believe that drones can be a game changer when it comes to their own internal security challenges.
Across Latin America, 2014 was truly the year that intensified interest within the region to pursue drone technology for both state security and civilian purposes.
By: W. Alejandro Sanchez, Senior Research Fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs
Lead Editor: Larry Birns, COHA Director
Please accept this article as a free contribution from COHA, but if re-posting, please afford authorial and institutional attribution. Exclusive rights can be negotiated. For additional news and analysis on Latin America, please go to: LatinNews.com and Rights Action.
Featured image copyright by: Gunnery Sergeant Shannon Arledge of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing
From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_Insitu_ScanEagle#mediaviewer/File:ScanEagle_UAV_catapult_launcher_2005-04-16.jpg

[i] “Sudamérica define los requisitos de su futura aeronave no tripulada.” Infodefensa.com. December 15, 2014.http://www.infodefensa.com/latam/2014/12/15/noticia-miembros-unasur-definen-requisitos-futura-aeronave-tripulada.html
[ii] “Unasur tiene casi listo prototipo de avión militar de entrenamiento.” Americaeconomia.com May, 17, 2013. http://www.americaeconomia.com/politica-sociedad/politica/unasur-tiene-casi-listo-prototipo-de-avion-militar-de-entrenamiento
[iii]“’Unasur 1′, se llamará el avión de entrenamiento de este organismo.” Caracol Radio. August 15, 2014.http://www.caracol.com.co/noticias/actualidad/unasur-1-se-llamara-el-avion-de-entrenamiento-de-este-organismo/20140815/nota/2369214.aspx . W. Alejandro Sanchez. “Embraer: Brazilian Military Giant Becoming a Global Arms Merchant” Council on Hemispheric Affairs. Report. September 1, 2009.http://www.coha.org/embraer-brazilian-military-industry-becoming-a-global-arms-merchant/
[iv] Andrew Rettman. “Seven EU states create military drone ‘club.’” EUObserver. November 20, 2013. https://euobserver.com/defence/122167
[v] Wolfgang Heller. “Swedish UAV ready for lift-off.” Robohub.org. January 10, 2013.http://robohub.org/swedish-uav-ready-for-lift-off-2/
[vi]Angelo Young. “Brazil Exports First Military Drone: Flight Technologies FT-100 Horus Heads To Unnamed African Country.” International Business Times. August 4, 2014.http://www.ibtimes.com/brazil-exports-first-military-drone-flight-technologies-ft-100-horus-heads-unnamed-african-1647774
[vii] “Colombia presenta su primera aeronave ART en UNVEX América 2014.” Infodefensa.com. October 31, 2014.http://www.infodefensa.com/latam/2014/10/31/noticia-xxxcolombia-presenta-primer-unvex-america.html
[viii] “KAI’s two basic trainers delivered to Peru.” Yonhap News Agency. October 22, 2014.http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/business/2014/10/22/12/0501000000AEN20141022002400320F.html
[ix]“ La Fuerza Aérea del Perú desarrollará un UAV de combate.” Infodefensa.com. August 20, 2014. http://www.infodefensa.com/latam/2014/08/20/noticia-fuerza-aerea-desarrollara-drone-combate.html
[x] “Conozca los drones peruanos, aviones no tripulados fabricados en Perú.” Peru.com. July 12, 2014. http://peru.com/2012/07/12/actualidad/mi-ciudad/conozca-drones-peruanos-aviones-no-tripulados-fabricados-peru-noticia-74726
[xi] Brian Ellsworth. “Venezuela says building drones with Iran’s help.” Reuters. June 14, 2013. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/14/us-venezuela-iran-drone-idUSBRE85D14N20120614
[xii] “CAVIM avanza en el desarrollo del vehiculo aereo no tripulado Gavilan.” Venezuelan Defensa. July 20, 2013. http://www.venezueladefensa.com/2013/07/cavim-avanza-en-el-desarrollo-del.html – Also see “Venezuela inicio la operación de los UAV Arpia.” Taringa.net. http://www.taringa.net/posts/noticias/16813475/Venezuela-inicio-la-operacion-de-los-UAV-Arpia.html
[xiii] Angelo Young. “Brazil Exports First Military Drone: Flight Technologies FT-100 Horus Heads To Unnamed African Country.” International Business Times. August 4, 2014. http://www.ibtimes.com/brazil-exports-first-military-drone-flight-technologies-ft-100-horus-heads-unnamed-african-1647774
[xiv] “Niegan en México que el país vaya a comprar drones a Irán.” Infodefensa.com. December 19, 2014.http://www.infodefensa.com/latam/2014/12/19/noticia-mexico-habria-negado-compra-vehiculos-aereos-tripulados.html
[xv] “Iran tests suicide drone in military drill.”Al Arabiya News. News. Middle East. The Associated Press. December 27, 2014. http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2014/12/27/Iran-tests-suicide-drone-in-military-drill.html
[xvi] Erich Saumeth. “Colombia, único usuario latinoamericano de drones Scaneagle y Nighteagle de Boeing.” Infodefensa.com. October 31, 2014.http://www.infodefensa.com/latam/2014/10/31/noticia-colombia-unico-usuario-latinoamericano-drones-scaneagle-nighteagle-boeing.html
[xvii] “Colombia, Perú, México y Chile, entre los países con mayor interés en adquirir UAV Raven y Puma.” Infodefensa.com. October 31, 2014.http://www.infodefensa.com/latam/2014/10/31/noticia-colombia-mexico-chile-entre-paises-mayor-interes-adquirir-raven.html
[xviii]“El Ejército del Uruguay avanza en el proceso de adquisición de UAV.” Infodenfesa.com. October 7, 2014.http://www.infodefensa.com/latam/2014/10/07/noticia-ejercito-uruguay-avanza-proceso-adquisicion.html
[xix] Juan Pablo de Marco. “Los drones comienzan a despegar en Uruguay.” El Pais. December 14, 2013. http://www.elpais.com.uy/vida-actual/drones-comienzan-despegar-uruguay.html
[xx] “IAI prepara un gran desembarco en México para el año 2015.” Infodefensa.com. November 3, 2014.
[xxi]W. Alejandro Sanchez. “Peru uses drones for archaeological projects.” Peru This Week. July 21, 2014. http://www.peruthisweek.com/news-peru-uses-drones-for-archeological-projects-103444
[xxii] W. Alejandro Sanchez. “Peru uses drones for archaeological projects.” Peru This Week. July 21, 2014. http://www.peruthisweek.com/news-peru-uses-drones-for-archeological-projects-103444
[xxiii] “Incendio en el Cercado de Lima: 25 familias perdieron sus casas.” El Comercio. Lima. December 5, 2013. http://elcomercio.pe/lima/sucesos/incendio-cercado-lima-25-familias-perdieron-sus-casas-noticia-1668937
[xxiv]“Imágenes aéreas – incendio en Mercado La Terminal.” Nuestro Diario. YouTube. Uploaded March 25, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qtQ6awRkGU
[xxv] A. Lopez. “El Salvador adelanta la regulación de los vuelos de UAV.” Infodefensa.com. November 9, 2014.http://www.infodefensa.com/latam/2014/11/09/noticia-salvador-adelanta-elaboracion-especial-regular.html
[xxvi] John Otis. “Brazil lead way on global commercial drone boom.”Global Post. January 6, 2013.http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/brazil/130104/brazil-commercial-drones-uavs-coming-soon?page=0,1
[xxvii] Eric Saumeth Cadavid. “UNVEX América 2014: drones como actores de cambio en América Latina.” Infodefensa.com. Perspectivas. November 11, 2014.http://www.infodefensa.com/latam/2014/11/12/opinion-unvex-america-drones-actores-cambio-america-latina.php
[xxviii] Ulrike Franke. “Drone Proliferation: A Cause for Concern?” International Security Network. November 13, 2014. http://www.isn.ethz.ch/Digital-Library/Articles/Detail/?ots591=4888caa0-b3db-1461-98b9-e20e7b9c13d4&lng=en&id=185404
[xxix] W. Alejandro Sanchez. “Drones In Latin America.” Council on Hemispheric Affairs. Report. January 12, 2014. http://www.coha.org/coha-report-drones-in-latin-america/
[xxx] Paul Scharre. “Do Drones Have a Future”? War On The Rocks. October 7, 2014.http://warontherocks.com/2014/10/do-drones-have-a-future/
[xxxi] Paul Scharre. “Do Drones Have a Future”? War On The Rocks. October 7, 2014.http://warontherocks.com/2014/10/do-drones-have-a-future/

Sunday, January 4, 2015

VOXXI: 2014: A good year for Latin America’s film industry?

"2014: A Good Year for Latin America's Film Industry?"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
January 4, 2015

Originally published: https://voxxi.com/2015/01/good-year-latin-americas-film-industry/

Latin America’s film industry had an interesting 12 months, with both hits and misses. No film company in the region can spend anywhere close to one of Hollywood’s summer blockbusters, but there were several new Latin American films this year with promising successes.
While Latin American films sporadically make a big splash in the U.S. market (The Motorcycle Diaries is a rare example), that does not mean that they cannot be highly profitable at home.
2014 productions
The departing year will end with some important milestones regarding Latin American films. Case in point is the Venezuelan mega-production about the South American hero Simon Bolivar. ‘The Liberator’ was very well received in Venezuela, it was also released in the U.S. and has made the short list for Best Foreign Language Film for the 2015 Oscars.
Meanwhile Cuba made headlines by producing ‘Meñique,’ its first animated 3D film. The movie was produced with help from a Spanish production company and did well for a kids-oriented film. (The Cuban songwriter Silvio Rodríguez wrote four original songs for the film).
As for Peruvian films, the most successful domestic production was ‘A Los 40,’ a comedy which revolves around a high school reunion. The second highest grossest film “hecho en Peru” was a suspense thriller entitled ‘Secreto Matusita.’
Additionally, the highlight of the Mexican film industry this year was ‘La Dictadura Perfecta,’ a controversial political satire of current President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration. The film opened on Friday, October 16, with a strong 1.7 million tickets sold on its debut. Nevertheless, there was one disappointment: ‘La Hija de Moctezuma,’ a comedy starring the renowned actress Maria Elena Velasco (aka La India Maria), which did not perform well upon its domestic release.
It is important to stress that Latin American countries are producing more films than ever before. For example, while it did not have any major domestic blockbusters, Colombia produced 28 films this year. According to the country’s Ministry of Culture, since 2010, Colombia has screened a total of 96 domestically-made films and 2014 set a record regarding how many movies were produced.
What do consumers want?
Certainly, apart from counting how many movies were made, it is important to know how many people went to see domestically-made movies.
Around 3.8 million tickets were sold for all Peruvian films screened this year, and ‘A Los 40,’ took the lion’s share with some 1.7 million viewers. In second place came ‘Secreto Matusita,’ with around 510 thousand. This would be a poor attendance record for a Hollywood production but they are fairly high for the Andean nation. In fact, ‘A Los 40’ is now the second highest grossing Peruvian film ever.
Nevertheless, in spite of a successful couple of movies, attendance has actually decreased: 4 million people saw Peruvian films in the past year, in comparison to only 3.8 million in 2014. A similar situation is occurring in Mexico: between January and October of this year, some 202 million tickets were sold for 516 movies, both domestic and foreign. This a drastic decrease to the 257 million tickets sold during the same period last year for when even fewer movies, 475, had been screened.
The question then becomes how will Latin American film producers, directors and script writers adapt to make their movies more competitive in the local market. One option is to make them more “Hollywood-esque:” with a focus on action, special effects, cheap jokes and simple plots instead of substance. It comes as no surprise, thus, that sequels are already being produced for ‘Asu Mare,’ the highest grossing Peruvian film ever, as well as ‘Cementerio General,’ a Peruvian successful horror film. Both movies came out in 2013 and while commercially successful, they did not have particularly intriguing plots.
Moreover, it is true that Latin American film industries are attempting to attract Hollywood productions to their countries. This would help local actors, directors and technicians learn from their more experienced American counterparts, and would also be a major boost to the local economy. One example of this is Colombia, which passed a law in 2012 that provides financial incentives to foreign directors if they film in that country.
Nevertheless, a concern regarding these initiatives is that future Latin American films will resemble Hollywood films and loose some of the Latin American style of directing, plots and themes.
It is unlikely that this will happen, at least not in the near future, as domestic films are still well received by the general Latin American population, though obviously not in the numbers that local film industries would like. Mexican actress Monica Huerta, who starred in 2014’s ‘El Crimen del Cacaro Gumaro,’ argues that “Mexican [film] productions are exciting and give diversity to the [film industry.]

Hopefully in 2015 more audiences will choose to watch domestically made films throughout the region instead of endless Hollywood sequels.