Category Archives: Opinion

COHA – Russia Turns to the South for Military and Economic Alliances

This analysis was prepared by Walter Walle, Research Associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.

Russian – Latin American relations are relatively warm these days, especially when it comes to a number of seemingly left-leaning countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia. Nonetheless, Washington’s indifference to these countries may have pushed these governments further into Moscow’s diplomatic embrace. The United States appears to have calculatedly severed any sort of close relations with these left-leaning nations, and has been prone to criticize them with the same degree of careless indifference as it has of Russia itself.

In addition, these resident dynamics have provided the region with a growing autonomy; as Argentinean president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner aptly stated, “the world has changed, Latin America is nobody’s backyard.”[1] This represents a full shift from Cold War politics, when the U.S. supported authoritarian regimes throughout the region in order to act as a firewall to contain Soviet influence within the hemisphere. In fact, much of the ever-growing presence of Russia in Latin America is due to Moscow’s aspirations to return to global preeminence, coinciding with Washington’s increasingly unsympathetic view toward a number of these left-leaning Latin American countries. Notably, Russia has been able to exert its influence on an expanding agenda of mostly military and energy issues through a series of existing ties, as well as through allying itself with Central American nations to fight ever-changing drug trafficking trends. As the U.S. has curtailed military and economic assistance to some emerging countries in Latin America, Russia emerged as a pivotal ally for some and a preferred alternative for others.

Colombia and Venezuela, A Proxy Conflict?

With Russia’s new relationships with leftist Latin American governments and the U.S.’ increasingly aimless presence in the region, one can discern a growing interaction among regional actors. In fact, this new direction seems to be reminiscent of a slow return to a Cold War modus operandi. As Carácas modernizes its army with Russian technology[2], Bogota is likewise being buttressed by the U.S., with its “Plan Colombia” (an international initiative to fight drug trafficking), and other countries like Israel[3] and Spain[4]. While both Venezuela and Colombia claim that they have decided to arm themselves for legitimate motives (Colombia as part of the U.S. “Plan Colombia” to combat drug trafficking and Venezuela for defensive purposes against a purported U.S. threat), this growing tension should not be taken lightly. In 2008, the Vice-president of Colombia, Francisco Santos Calderón, asked his Russian counterpart to halt arms sales to Venezuela in exchange for military and economic cooperation.[5] Furthermore, Colombian and U.S. officials have charged Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez of arming the Colombian guerrilla group, the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), an insurgent group that represents a persistent disruptive factor between several Latin American countries. However, in what appeared to be part of an ongoing effort to restore relations between these two countries, in April of 2011 Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, stated that the FARC was no longer operating out of Venezuela[6] , which represented a very conciliatory posture on Bogota’s part.

Russia’s Main Clients

Aside from Venezuela and Colombia, other important regional players in Russian-Latin American relations include Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador and Peru, among others. In November 2009, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa signed far-reaching pacts with Moscow regarding cooperation on security and defense, even though Ecuador’s constitution “forbids taking on foreign debt for arm purchases,”[7] In addition, with the help of Moscow, the Andean nation hopes to develop nuclear technology to meet a portion of its energy needs. Coupled with President Correa, in April 2010, Bolivian President Evo Morales asked then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to promote a greater Russian presence in the Southern Hemisphere.[8]

Exemplary of this, Bolivia, like Venezuela and Ecuador, also has also invested in Russian technology; for example, the Russian aerospace company Ilyushin plans to build a regional maintenance center for its Antonov An-148 model in Bolivia.[9] Furthermore, Moscow approved a 100 million USD credit line for La Paz in order to purchase a variety of military equipment, such as helicopters to combat drug trafficking,[10] and a new presidential aircraft to replace the seriously-outdated American model from the 1970s that Morales currently utilizes.[11] However, it seems that negotiations between La Paz and Moscow regarding the war against illicit drugs have stalled: Without explanation, Bolivia signed deals with the U.S. and Brazil in March of 2012, and has demonstrated a willingness to do the same with Colombia.[12] Nonetheless, at the upcoming G20 summit in June, Russia intends to propose a new strategy to combat drug trafficking[13] in an apparent attempt to reassert its influence in Latin America. Similarly, Brazil has stated its hope to modernize its armed forces with Russian technology. In 2008 the two nations signed a contract whereby both countries will cooperate in building a fifth generation jet fighter as well as new satellite launch vehicles.[14] However, some are skeptical regarding the sought-after agreement, because Russia “may limit the transfer of technology for the fighter jets,” Peru too has followed analogous steps as Bolivia and Brazil. The Inca nation bought Russian military technology as well; such as Mi 35 helicopters to deploy against drug trafficking and to combat the insurgency.[15]

In addition to military cooperation, energy cooperation has been pursued by Russia and Latin America. For instance, much of Venezuela’s credit, which enables it to flex its military muscle, has come from Chávez welcoming Russian oil companies to drill in Venezuelan oil fields.[16] Moreover, Argentina has expressed an interest in securing Russian cooperation for the construction of two nuclear power stations, each costing around 4.5 billion USD. [17]  Meanwhile Brazil has signed cooperation agreements with Russia to aid in the development of nuclear energy capacity;[18] likewise there could be assistance between the two countries to process Uranium and construct nuclear reactors. Finally, Russia’s longtime ally, Cuba, is now looking to Moscow for help in pursuing oil exploration and development prospects. Furthermore, under the terms of signed agreements between La Habana and Moscow, cooperation will allow for “mining, agriculture, transportation, tourism, banking…”[19]

Moscow’s Approach to the Drug War & Judicial Ties

Additionally, Moscow seeks opportunities to scout links with Central American nations to fight drug trafficking.[20] In contrast to American planned initiatives, like Plan Colombia or the Mérida Initiative for Mexico, aimed at combating the trafficking of drugs through military means, Russia has proposed the “Rainbow-3”, a plan to manage the drug trade through development and job creation. Notably, Rainbow-3 would raise the drug issue to a new level of international involvement, through the UN Security Council. Viktor Ivanov, director of the Russian Federal Drug Control Service, has criticized the U.S. approach for not focusing on “the elimination of the social causes of drug production, such as unemployment and poverty.”[21] Furthermore, the Russian plan will provide special training and custom-tailored courses for the police forces of Central American countries at no cost to their governments.

In a similar fashion, Russia wants to establish judicial cooperation with Latin American and Caribbean countries; such ties will focus on the crackdown of “narco-trafficking, organized crime, trafficking in arms, organs, and persons, corruption at the state and private level, and against kidnapping of kids and airplanes and ships,”[22]  The fundamental premise will be to enhance justice through a series of exchanges of methodologies and legislative acts linking the region and Russia. On the other hand, it is difficult to predict how effective such cooperation will be achieved through uproar cooperation models when both Russia and a number of Latin American and Caribbean nations are not particularly known for having the best transparency levels involving corruption practices.

A Pseudo-Cold War Policy

Quite clearly, Russia’s interest in Latin America is escalating. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, argued in his article, “The New Stage of Development of Russian-Latin American Relations,” that there is great attractiveness in establishing bilateral relations, especially when three of the top twenty emerging economies -Mexico, Brazil and Argentina- are in Latin America.[23]  Lavrov has also stated that the Russian Federation has an interest in joining the Inter-American Development Bank, perhaps a move to better accommodate Russian interests in the region, while at the same time neutralizing American influence.

Demonstrably, Russia has been developing cooperative relationships with prominent organizational bodies of the region, such as the OAS (Organization of American States), and has ratified visa-free travel agreements with countries like Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Chile, and Argentina. In his article, Lavrov argues that Russia’s intention behind quests for partnerships is the establishment of non-ideologized relationships with Latin American countries, relationships that could be of mutual benefit to all parties involved.

However, the Russian stance on Latin America ultimately may be cause for apprehension. The establishment of bilateral, cordial relations between Russia and Latin American countries could evolve to a proxy, neo-Cold War scenario. If the situation in the regions worsens, some countries would be funded and supported by the U.S., while others, including several members of Latin America’s “New Left”, would become the major beneficiaries of Moscow. An analogy of such practice is the Georgia – Russia crisis that surfaced in August of 2008. During this brief war, the U.S. sent military aid to Georgia[24] on warships to territory Russia considers its “backyard” (i.e. the Caucasus and the Black Sea), infuriating Moscow. A month after the conflict erupted, ostensibly in retaliation, Russia sent two Tu-160 bombers to conduct military exercises with Washington’s least favorite nation in Latin America: Venezuela[25]. More importantly, in November of 2008 Moscow conducted war games with Caracas, in which a small Russian fleet was sent to the Caribbean to participate in joint naval maneuvers with the Venezuelan navy.[26] This was a powerful symbolic act: as it was the first time that Russian warships had visited the Caribbean since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

In the wake of the post-Georgia conflict, such joint military maneuvers between Russia and Venezuela were revitalized, and helped to build up the tensions between Washington and Moscow, sending strong signals of a Cold War revival. Furthermore, in the aftermath of the declarations of independence by the breakaway regions of Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Venezuela[27] and Nicaragua[28] were alone among Latin American countries in recognizing the independence of the new republics.


Without a doubt, Russia’s alliances in Latin America are part of a greater geopolitical game. Yet, it should not be forgotten why there is so much resentment within the region against the U.S. Perhaps, the displeasure is the consequence of decades of U.S. intervention in Latin American affairs in order to maintain strategic interests. Russia has been accused by numerous editorial writers of possessing too much leverage over Latin American; it is understandable, if not forgivable, that Washington perceives Russian-Latin American relations as incursions into the U.S.’ vicinity of interest, no matter how archaic such thinking may be. Inarguably, Russia has “bought” the interest of Latin American governments that are not totally committed to Washington’s policies; it has furnished the region with investments in energy infrastructure, strengthened military capabilities, and provided means to combat drug trafficking.

However, it is important to observe that Russia is not the only country that is vying to extend its influence over the region. The European Union, China, Taiwan and Iran have all demonstrated an interest in economic and political opportunities and partnerships, as well as diplomatic alliances gestating in the region. But Cold War rhetoric will still continue to resonate; both with Russia’s influence in Latin America and the U.S.’ presence in the Caucasus. Under this dogmatic hangover, Washington will always be suspicious of its longtime rival’s actions, in Latin America or elsewhere; even if Russia’s intentions in engaging Latin American governments are wholeheartedly innocent. By archaically viewing this region as America’s backyard, à la the Monroe Doctrine, the U.S. fails to properly conceptualize the depth of Russian involvement in Latin America, mis-characterizing it as a strategic threat, while in reality this may not be the case.

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PJ Media – From Lima to La Paz

eru and Bolivia are neighboring Andean countries that have long been associated with poverty, drug trafficking, ethnic tensions, and political upheaval. Both experienced hyperinflation in the 1980s, and both saw presidents resign from office in the 2000s. Both nations also have abundant mineral wealth, giving them tremendous economic potential. Yet in recent years, their trajectories have diverged quite radically. Simply put: Peru has become more like Chile, while Bolivia has become more like Chávez.

Indeed, the Peruvian business climate has become increasingly friendly to private investment, while the Bolivian business climate has become increasingly hostile to it. Peru has strengthened the foundations of its democracy, while Bolivia has moved toward populist autocracy. As a result, Peru is now considered a rising star among developing economies, while Bolivia is considered a mini-Venezuela.

In the World Bank’s 2012 Ease of Doing Business Index, Peru is second only to Chile among Latin American and Caribbean nations, ranking 41st overall, while Bolivia ranks a lowly 153rd, trailing such dictatorial countries as Iran, Tajikistan, Algeria, Gambia, and Burkina Faso. The only Latin American and Caribbean states that place lower than Bolivia are Suriname, Haiti, and Venezuela.

Again, it’s important to remember that Bolivia is blessed with massive natural resources, including huge natural-gas reserves. But plentiful resources don’t translate into favorable conditions for investment. In its 2012 survey of political risk in 25 of the world’s leading mining countries, the consulting firm Samuel Dolbear ranks Bolivia as the second-riskiest for mining investment — even riskier than Kazakhstan and the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. Only Russia places lower. Peru, by comparison, ranks (along with Ghana) as the ninth-safest destination, and its total score is more than twice as high as Bolivia’s, not to mention 20 percent higher than Argentina’s.

Peru’s strong showing in the Samuel Dolbear and World Bank surveys can be attributed in large part to the stabilizing, free-market economic policies adopted by Presidents Alejandro Toledo (2001–06) and Alan García (2006–11). Thanks to their efforts, a country once ravaged by hyperinflation and chronic economic disasters now has low inflation and a healthy banking sector. Its economy grew at Chinese levels in 2007 (8.9 percent) and 2008 (9.8 percent), maintained positive growth (0.9 percent) during the global financial crisis in 2009, and then roared back to 8.8 percent growth in 2010.

In January of that year, the Christian Science Monitor declared, “Peru has matured politically to the point where analysts — and investors — are beginning to talk about another regional powerhouse creeping up alongside Brazil.” As Peru-based journalist Simeon Tegel points out, “No Latin American or Caribbean economy grew more than Peru during the decade to 2011, with an average annual GDP increase of around 5.75 percent.” Peruvian growth slowed to 6.9 percent in 2011, and it is expected to be 5.5 percent this year — but that will be the fastest growth rate in the region, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Not only has economic growth been torrid, it has led to major gains for the Peruvian poor, along with a sense that the country’s deeply entrenched social problems are finally being fixed. “Something extraordinary is happening in Peru,”writes Mexican author Enrique Krauze, noting that the absolute national poverty rate has fallen from 53 percent to 31 percent over the last decade. “We’re a China in miniature,” Peruvian intellectual Alfredo Barnechea told Krauze.

Speaking of the Asian giant, it has been critical to Peru’s recent growth spurt: China now receives about 15 percent of all Peruvian exports and is the country’s biggest trading partner. China and Peru signed a formal free-trade agreement (FTA) in 2009, and bilateral trade increased by 46 percent in the twelve months after the FTA took effect. During the first quarter of 2012, Peruvian exports to China were up by 17 percent over the same period a year earlier. While China trade has made Peru a much richer country, it has also made Peru more vulnerable to a Chinese economic slowdown. Yet Peru still boasts sound fundamentals and enjoys greater stability than in years past.

The same cannot be said of Bolivia, which in the latest World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index ranks 136th (out of 142 countries and territories) for goods-market efficiency and 140th for labor-market efficiency. It remains the poorest nation in South America, although that didn’t stop President Evo Morales, a Hugo Chávez disciple, from buying a $39 million presidential plane and a $300 million Chinese satellite. Since 2006, the year Morales took office, Bolivia’s ranking in the Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal Index of Economic Freedom has plummeted from 67th to 146th. Peru ranks 42nd in the 2012 index, up from 63rd in 2006.

One of the first big economic decisions Morales made in 2006 was to nationalize Bolivia’s natural-gas industry. The results were sadly predictable. “We have shrinking reserves,” the president of the Bolivian Chamber of Hydrocarbons told theFinancial Times in August 2010. “This is not due to geological reasons, but because there have not been any significant investments in the past five years.” In fact, despite its vast natural endowment, Bolivia has become a net importer of hydrocarbons.

Is Bolivia (population: 10 million) a much smaller nation than Peru (29 million)? Yes. Does it suffer the disadvantage of being a landlocked country, whereas Peru sports a 1,500-mile coastline along the Pacific Ocean? Sure. But their divergent fortunes are chiefly a result of the disparate quality of policymaking in Lima and La Paz. Morales has governed in the mold of Chávez. His current Peruvian counterpart, President Ollanta Humala, a onetime radical who took office last July, has thus far governed like his two immediate predecessors, García and Toledo, both free-market centrists. Humala now realizes that the Chávez model is a path to economic and political ruin. If only Morales would take that lesson to heart.

(You can read this article in Spanish here.)

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Asia-Latin America Relations


Asia moves closer to Latin America



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We often think of globalisation as a modern phenomenon, but Asia and Latin America were vibrant trading partners nearly five centuries ago. Spanish trading galleons sailed regularly across the Pacific Ocean between Manila and Acapulco, trading spices and silk from India and China for silver from vast mines in Mexico and Peru. The ties between what was known as the East Indies and the West Indies were deep and profitable.


Today, we are witnessing an intensification of those historic East-West ties. Since 2000, trade between Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean has been growing at an annual average rate of 20%, reaching about US$430 billion last year. China is now Latin America’s second-most important trading partner, fast gaining on traditional US dominance.


Foreign direct investment flows between the two regions have also surged during the last decade, driven largely by firms from China, Japan and South Korea on the Asian side and Brazil and Mexico on the Latin American side.


In just eight years, 18 free trade agreements have been implemented between economies in the two regions, with four more signed and another eight under negotiation.


There are two reasons for this interconnectivity. First, world growth, particularly in developed economies, has remained sluggish while Asian and Latin American economies are experiencing much higher growth. Second, specialisation has occurred according to comparative advantage, with Asia exporting manufactured products in return for commodities such as mineral, energy and agricultural resources from Latin America.


This dynamic trading and investment relationship has helped the Latin American region post average growth of about 5% over the past decade, with Asia recording nearly 7% growth. Indeed, rapid trade- and investment-led growth in Asia and Latin America, as well as between them, has helped reduce acute poverty and will propel large sections of populations to middle-class status in the next decade or so.


Indeed, Asia and Latin America today are two vital engines of growth on which the rest of the world’s economies increasingly depend.


A ground-breaking study being published this week by the Asian Development Bank Institute and the Inter-American Development Bank provides a revealing glimpse into this dynamic new partnership.


The report outlines not only the vast potential for further deepening of economic ties but, perhaps more importantly, it describes the many opportunities to share development knowledge and experiences that could help both regions manage their growth in a way that maximises social equity and minimises environmental impact. Latin America has much to learn from Asia’s world-class education systems, high level of science and technology sophistication, outward-oriented policies that led to the formation of regional supply chains, public-private sector partnerships and regional financial cooperation initiatives such as the Chiang Mai Initiative.


Asia could benefit from studying Latin America’s experiences in poverty reduction and social safety net policies, agricultural productivity practices and the promotion of sustainable cities.


As our regions pursue greater trade and investment, there will be barriers to overcome. Asia is not only China, India and Japan, just as Latin America is not only Brazil, Mexico and Argentina. Trade and investment can be broadened in scope and geography.


Better connectivity is needed. Combining physical cross-border infrastructure with overall logistics and trade facilitation _ the so-called “soft infrastructure” _ will support market-led cross-regional integration.


National regulations and standards need to be conducive to greater private sector investment, particularly in high-value-added products, services and technologies. The two regions need to move the current “commodity-for-manufacturing” pattern of trade and investment to the next level.


Finally, a combination of outward-oriented development strategies, business-friendly climates and continuous investment in human capital will help sustain the progress both Asia and Latin America have achieved thus far.


To ensure cross-regional knowledge-sharing has the greatest impact, the ADB and the IDB have established a South-South cooperation agreement to help their members deal with complex issues such as regional integration, infrastructure, renewable energy, climate change, institutional development and social policy.


As presidents of the leading development financing institutions in the two regions, we are this year attending each other’s annual meetings for the first time to drive home the importance of this deepening relationship, which goes far beyond simply boosting trade and investment.


As partners, we have a shared stake in sustainable growth that will protect our natural resources and environment, maximise each region’s comparative advantage and promote equitable social development.


Some of us call this the “Decade of Latin America and the Caribbean”. Others refer to the times we are living as the “Asian Century”. We believe that if we work together, both regions will share in an era of progress and prosperity that the captains of those long-ago galleons could only begin to imagine.

Documentary: The War on Democracy (2007)

The War on Democracy (2007) is a documentary directed by Christopher Martin and John Pilger about the negative impact of US involvement in Latin America. The documentary is available at YouTube and also in DVD. 

A courtesy from South America Now.

Argentina’s Nationalistic Propaganda

For the occasion of this year’s Olimpic games, to be held in London, Argentina’s Olimpic Games add invokes imagery about the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War. The add affirms Argentine sovereignty over the islands and the country’s determination to have its territory back. Very intertaining!

AQ – Thirty Years Later: The Importance of the Malvinas

APRIL 2, 2012



Today marks the 30-year anniversary of the start of the 74-day Malvinas War. Although control of the islands is often seen as an issue of national pride, the Malvinas (known as the Falklands outside of Latin America) are also important geostrategic and economic assets.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, rhetoric over the islands’ status has yet again escalated in the lead up to Argentina and the United Kingdom marking the hostilities and the 900 soldiers (including three islanders) who died during the conflict.

The Malvinas are two small islands of 4,405 square miles (11,400 square kilometers) a mere 403 miles (650 kilometers) from the Argentine mainland. They remain sparsely populated—about 2,500 islanders in addition to 1,700 British military and civilian personnel at the Mount Pleasant military base. But after the 1982 war the United Kingdom invested $90 million in infrastructure and granted the islanders citizenship. Today, the Malvinas has one of the highest per-capita GDPs in the world ($52,000)—higher than that of Britain ($40,000) and Argentina ($11,000).

Diplomatically, Argentina, in 1965, successfully argued before the United Nations Committee for Decolonization that the dispute be framed in terms of a bilateral conflict over territorial integrity rather than the islanders’ self-determination. The definingResolution 2065 states that the islanders’ “interests”—rather than their desires—are to be taken into account. The ambiguous diplomatic language made clear that self-determination was not the principle for the conflict and opened up room for intermediate solutions.

Future UN resolutions have asked the United Kingdom to sit with Argentina and negotiate a bilateral solution to the dispute. At times it has done so and in different points in the past 50 years it has seemed like a breakthrough was possible, only to fall through. Lately, however, the United Kingdom has argued—in contrast to UN precedent on the issue—that the islanders should be at the table. Still, in the past decade there has been no dialogue at all.

The result is continued chest-thumping on the issue without progress to an eventual solution. Some of the rhetoric has been borderline nonsensical, as when UK Prime Minister David Cameron during a session of the House of Commons accused Argentina of “colonialism” over its sovereignty claim.

Fanning populist-nationalist sentiment helps both Cameron and Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner distract from problems at home. Both are reining in government spending and slashing social services. Kirchner, in addition, has installed tight currency controls and severely restricted imports. As history shows, nationalism is a great tool for diverting public attention from other problems at home.

But the stakes are high and go beyond boosting the leaders’ popularity.

For one, islands are strategically important, especially as cash-strapped global navies, including the United Kingdom, seek permanent outposts for refueling or as a springboard for projecting power.  With the rise in global piracy, islands are a critical asset for guaranteeing the security of navigational routes and international trade. Other nations recognize this as well: Denmark and Canada are currently disputing Hans Island (located between Canada’s Ellesmere Island and Greenland) while Japan seeks to recover four of the Kuril Islands (a chain located north of the Japanese island of Hokkaido and south of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula) from Russian control. Like the Malvinas, both are long-standing disputes.

The exploitation of natural resources is another important factor. Fishing licenses granted in the disputed waters bring $58 million to the islands’ coffer. Oil and access to Antarctica are two other critical issues. Currently, Desire Petroleum, Argos Resources, Rockhopper Exploration, Borders and Southern Petroleum, and Falkland Oil & Gas Limited are drilling in waters under dispute. So far only Rockhopper has announced a find: a field that could hold 1.086 billion barrels of oil. But their discovery is hampered by the fact that the exploration is questionable by international law and that South American nations support the Argentine claim and deny port access to Malvinas-bound shipping. The remoteness of the discovery further complicates recovery efforts.

Antarctica, on the other hand, is governed by the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) with its secretariat in Buenos Aires. The ATS freezes sovereignty claims, maintains the Antarctic as a scientific preserve and bans military activity. This treaty makes Antarctica different from the Arctic, which has no such international regime. Thanks to the treaty, Antarctica has traditionally been an area of open cooperation between countries, even among Argentina and the United Kingdom. At the same time, however, Argentine and British claims over the continent overlap, and it is not clear whether the treaty could withstand an eventual scramble for resources.

What is certain is that a negotiated solution is in the best interest of all the parties involved. The islanders need Argentina as a partner in the exploitation of the area’s resources. Only then can companies be assured they will not face legal obstacles and international sanctions. Only then can exploitation take place in a context that protects and preserves one of the world’s last pristine oceans. The United Kingdom, a nation facing an economic crisis as well as a worldwide shift in the distribution of power, cannot afford to continue ignoring an emerging global player such as Argentina.

Today the most important items on the international agenda are food security, innovation, natural resources and energy, nuclear non-proliferation, global warming, and the struggle against terrorism. Argentina will increasingly play a larger global role in each of these issues: it is the largest per-capita commodity producer; it is home to the highest number of biotech firms in Latin America; it exports nuclear reactors, launches satellites into space and is a member of every international agreement that controls the spread of nuclear weapons; it possesses vast untapped mineral reserves, including the third largest reserve of shale gas and lithium in the world;  it is one of 10 countries that house 60 percent of the world’s biodiversity. Argentina will grow in stature and influence as will other emerging nations such as Mexico, Indonesia, Brazil, South Korea, Colombia, India, and China—all of which support a negotiated resolution to the Malvinas issue.

Does the United Kingdom want to be seen, in the twenty-first century, as a colonial power by these and other nations?

Perhaps most worrisome is that the islanders, a very small group of people with a powerful lobby, are preventing two important countries from resuming the fruitful and friendly relationship they have traditionally enjoyed. They promote tension in the South Atlantic by encouraging resource development in an area that the UN has stressed is in dispute. This situation complicates investment and trade for both the United Kingdom and Argentina. The continuation of the status quo is of no good to anyone and should be a matter of concern, not of pride.

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PJ Media – The Mullahs in the Americas


Has the danger of Iranian activity in Latin America been exaggerated? It seems odd that serious analysts are asking such a question, given Tehran’s 32-year record of sponsoring terrorism, killing Americans, aiding rogue dictators, and undermining democracy across the globe. But since many commentators are now arguing that Iran’s hemispheric threat has been overblown, it’s worth reviewing a few basic facts.

In October, we learned that Iranian agents had been plotting with Mexican gangsters to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington at a D.C. restaurant. The foiled scheme spoke volumes about Tehran’s capacity for lethal aggression, not to mention its disregard for the most basic norms of international behavior. As Iran expert Reuel Marc Gerecht said at the time, the assassination plan indicated that the regime “is becoming more dangerous, not less, as it ages.”

But let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the Saudi plot was an aberration, and that Iran generally has no intention of using its Latin American connections to launch terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. Even under that excessively optimistic scenario, Tehran’s hemispheric activity would still be a major concern, for three reasons.

Second: Whether or not Iranian proxies eventually target the U.S. homeland, the growth of Tehran’s hemispheric footprint has unquestionably provided a boon to terrorist groups. Four years ago, Treasury announced that the Venezuelan government had been “employing and providing safe harbor to Hezbollah facilitators and fundraisers.” The Chávez regime also has extensive links to Colombian narco-terrorists (the FARC), links that were documented in a 2011report by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. As Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens has written, “Hezbollah’s ties to Latin American drug traffickers serve as a major source of funding for its operations world-wide.” Last summer, Peru’s former military chief of staff told the Jerusalem Post that Iranian organizations were collaborating with other terror groups in South America. A few months ago, the Washington Post confirmed that Tehran has stocked its (growing number of) embassies and diplomatic missions in Latin America with members of the paramilitaryQuds Force, which was allegedly responsible for the Saudi assassination plot.

We don’t have to speculate about Iran’s willingness to carry out a terror attack in a Latin American country. Two decades ago, in March 1992, Tehran orchestrated a Hezbollah bombing at the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29. Then, in July 1994, Iranian agents conspired with Hezbollah to bomb a Jewish community center in the Argentine capital, killing 85. So you can understand why Latin American governments are deeply concerned about Iran’s burgeoning regional presence in general and its alliance with Chávez in particular. Memories of the Buenos Aires atrocities are still relatively fresh.

Third: The Iranian push into Latin America has already damaged regional stability and exacerbated geopolitical tensions. For example, it has augmented the enormous Venezuelan military buildup, which is being financed mainly by Russia and is threatening to unleash a regional arms race. Last spring, the German newspaper Die Welt reported that the Iranians were constructing rocket bases in Venezuela. Earlier this month, according to the U.S. News & World Report blogDOTMIL, the head of U.S. Southern Command, Gen. Douglas Fraser, told reporters that Tehran is also hoping to build military drones for Caracas — specifically, “fairly limited-capacity” unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). “I would put it in the Scan Eagle class of UAV,” said General Fraser. It was just a few years ago that Chávez was sending thousands of troops to the Colombian border and talking of a possible war. Imagine how much more aggressive his regime might be with sophisticated Iranian weaponry.

Speaking of aggression, many commentators still assume that Iran would be wary of conducting terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. But is that really a safe assumption? As Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a Senate committee in late January, the Saudi assassination plot suggests that “some Iranian officials — probably including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei — have changed their calculus and are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States in response to real or perceived U.S. actions that threaten the regime.” We might also observe that Iran and Venezuela were recentlyaccused of considering cyber-attacks against the United States.

On March 7, Vice President Joe Biden told CNN en Español that “Iran will not be able to pose a hemispheric threat to the United States.” Indeed, Biden offered a “guarantee” that this would not happen. We can only hope the Obama administration reinforces that guarantee, not with more words but with a robust strategy for countering Iranian activity in Latin America.

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