The biggest exporter of unmanned aerial vehicles, which are fast becoming essential to governments worldwide for both military and civilian uses, isn’t the United States, China or other major power. The big winner in this booming global market is Israel. And that creates a lot of geopolitical complications, for the obvious reasons. Thanks to massive budget cuts and tanking economies, many Western governments, especially in Europe and the United States, are slashing defense spending and eliminating big-ticket weapons systems.
China and the United States are also encountering a more confident and more unified Latin America. It is a region that has sought autonomy in its own affairs by way of rising blocs such as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, MERCOSUR, and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), among others. Brazil, Latin America’s largest economy, also seeks a prominent role the region with large investments in research and development and the introduction of social programs to revamp the middle class.
The Chinese company, HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co. Ltd., is working with the Nicaraguan government on a massive canal project experts say could take 11 years to finish, cost $40 billion and require digging about 130 miles (200 kilometers) of waterway.
Canal proponents say the waterway could create 40,000 construction jobs and essentially double the per-capita gross domestic product of Nicaragua, one of the poorest countries in Latin America. The government plans to grant the Chinese company a concession for 100 years.
Colombia’s defense ministry later this month will sign a cooperation agreement with NATO, in hopes of joining the international military alliance, President Juan Manuel Santos said Saturday.
“In June, NATO will sign an agreement with the Colombian government, with the Defense Ministry, to start a process of rapprochement and cooperation, with an eye toward also joining that organization,” Santos said at a military promotion ceremony.
Over the past five years, Chinese businesses have been expanding their footprint in Latin America in a number of ways, beginning with enhanced trade to ensure a steady supply of bulk commodities such as oil, copper and soybeans. At this year’s Boao Forum for Asia, for the first time a Latin American sub-forum was created that included the participation of several heads of state from the region.
Walking around the Uyuni salt flats, all you see is a dry and crusty white nothingness stretching to the horizon. But underneath this almost-lunar landscape in Bolivia’s Andean plateau is half the world’s lithium – the lightest metal on the planet, used in the batteries that drive a host of modern gadgetry and a potential power source for electric vehicles. Now Bolivia is cashing in on the value to be added to this precious resource, with the opening of the country’s first lithium processing plant.
Surveillance State: Ecuador Implements “World’s First” Countrywide Facial- and Voice-Recognition System
Ecuador has installed a nationwide system that lets government officials ID “several million” people by their voices and faces, Slate reported. If an Ecuadorian agency taps a phone line, for example, it is now able to match the voices in a call with a database of “voiceprints” of known criminals, suspects and persons of interest. The voice system is 97 percent accurate, says the system’s maker, SpeechPro
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and a new generation of drug gangs (known locally as “Bacrims”) are increasingly turning to gold mining to finance their terrorist acts, reveals a report released Thursday by political risk firm Exclusive Analysis.
“FARC and drug gang involvement in gold mining increases extortion and property damage risks, particularly in Antioquia and Putumayo,” said Carlos Caicedo, head of Latin America forecasting. The expert says that funds coming from mining operations are now the main income source for the revolutionary groups.
What happened in the ME is that we also supported dictators – we supported Mubarak, we supported the Saudi royal family which is a very totalitarian Government, we supported the King of Jordan…Iran. And so through their support of these dictators they were able to suppress any pro-democracy movement that might be inclined to nationalize, their fear was that some of these countries would elect a pro-democratic government that would want to nationalize their oil industry.
The world’s markets may believe that the worst of the financial crisis in Europe is over after three turbulent years, but those people who control the purse strings of the world’s businesses are not breathing any easier. An annual survey of finance directors from global business consultancy BDO finds that the crisis over too much government debt in Europe remains one of their key concerns — so much so that Greece is considered a riskier place to invest and set up business in than war-torn Syria.
This is the new reality: in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia, the United States must expect that its diplomats will not enjoy protection in societies wracked by political instability and the birth pangs of transition into new forms of government. This problem is by no means exclusive to these areas of conflict. Even Mexican drug cartels have no fear of shooting at diplomatic cars. As Trombly pointed out, the ability of the State Department to advocate for US interests will be compromised if effective measures are not taken.
Monday marks a significant anniversary in recent economic history for it was on this day in 1982 that Mexico announced a moratorium on its international debts. The default marked the start of what became known as the third world debt crisis.
Three decades later that crisis is now the first world debt crisis. For Mexico read Greece. For American, British and Japanese banks recycling the 1970s windfall profits of oil producers to sub-prime Latin American governments read US and European banks pumping out cheap credit to sub-prime mortgage holders.
The Appropriations Committee of the United States House of Representatives wants to give Colombia’s security forces US$18.6 million next year to train soldiers and police from third countries. That recommendation comes from non-binding language [PDF] accompanying the 2013 Foreign Aid bill, approved last Thursday by the House Appropriations Committee. The language in the legislation states: The Committee recommends US$18,600,000 to support the efforts of the government of Colombia to provide training and technical assistance to partners in the [Latin America] region and around the world.
A year ago this month, Bolivian President Evo Morales inaugurated the College for Defense of the Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas (ALBA) with a speech in which he called for the expulsion of U.S. intelligence agencies, a new military doctrine based on “asymmetrical war” against “imperialism” and the “abolition” of the U.N. Security Council. He also attacked the press, calling CNN a “tool of capitalism”,
ALBA is a Venezuelan-led association of anti-U.S. governments which also includes Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and some Caribbean island states dependent on Venezuelan oil subsidies. The fledgling alliance has been given little importance by U.S. intelligence analysts, who tend to dismiss it as a purely ideological entity.
The Iraqi resistance nicknamed him “Al-Shaitan” (the devil) and put a hefty bounty on his head. In the United States, he has been decorated as a hero. Newspapers there call him the “deadliest sniper in U.S. history.” During his various missions as a Navy SEAL he officially killed 150 people. The Texan himself counts his kills at 255.
These days, however, 37-year-old Chris Kyle is too busy running his own business to add to his “legendary” kill count. In 2009, after completing his military service – with full honors – he founded Craft International, a company that offers private military and security services and specializes in training sharpshooters.
Boasting $3.2 trillion in foreign currency reserves, China has created a new fund aimed at financing takeover bids abroad. The fund also seeks to boost China’s currency in global financial markets.
In its drive to step up overseas investment, the Chinese government has set up a new fund worth 12 billion yuan ($1.9 billion), Shanghai International Group said in a statement Friday.
Shanghai International said it was responsible for running the fund, describing it as China’s “biggest ever fund of its kind.”
What if they threw a giant party for the Americas and didn’t invite the United States or Canada? That’s what Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is doing with a two-day, 33-nation summit starting Friday, welcoming nations from Brazil to Jamaica in what he hopes will be a grand alliance to counter U.S. influence.
Many presidents have less sweeping goals in mind, seeing the new Community of Latin American and Caribbean States mainly as a forum for resolving regional conflicts, building closer ties and promoting economic development.
Yet the bloc’s creation is also a sign that for many countries, the United States is no longer seen as an essential diplomatic player in regional affairs.
Thousands of people still toil in forced labor in Brazil, despite government attempts to curtail the practice, the International Labour Organization said in a new report.
Since 1995, more than 40,000 people have been rescued from forced labor, citing field reports from the poor, rural areas in the country’s northeast and interviews with 121 people who were released between 2006 to 2007.
The workers were found to be mostly black males who grew up in poverty, began working as children and had little formal education, said the ILO report.
The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), a research arm of the US intelligence community, is sponsoring the work under the Open Source Indicators (OSI) programme. The three-year project, with an unspecified budget, is designed to gather digital data from a range of sources, from traffic webcams to television to Twitter. The goal, according to IARPA, is to provide the intelligence community with predictions of social and political events that can “beat the news”.
Initially, the OSI project will focus on Latin America, which has abundant publicly available data and offers a convenient test bed for researchers’ models.
80 interchangeable digital panels project live video feeds from 450 cameras and three helicopters, plus a dizzying array of tricked-out Google Maps of schools and hospitals, car accidents with real-time traffic to the nearest hospital, and close to 10,000 GPS-tracked buses and ambulances. There are temperature, wind, humidity, and air quality maps. Heat maps of dengue fever outbreaks. Crisis-mode maps of high-risk landslide zones. On one map, graphic simulations predict tomorrow’s weather within a 150-mile radius.
Rio de Janeiro, the second largest city in one of the world’s fastest-emerging economies, has created a survellience system that makes Big Brother live up to its name.
Roger Noriega, one of various Iran-Contra relics recycled into subsequent US administrations, served under the Bush II regime as US ambassador to the OAS and then as assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs. The Iran-Contra portion of his curriculum vitae suggests that he has already had considerable experience with a different sort of caudillo-mullah axis, according to which profits from arms sales to the axis’ latter half went to benefit supporters of right-wing dictatorships in Nicaragua.
The meeting of finance ministers from the Union of South American Nations, to take place Aug. 10-11 in Buenos Aires, was organized at the urging of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. The gathering will allow governments to coordinate action to deal with shared problems including “speculative” capital inflows that are fueling a rally in their currencies, Santos said at a July 28 summit of regional leaders.