Friday, July 29, 2011

Changes to Cuba Policy Under Attack

Despite the fact that President Obama has threatened to veto any bill which reverses his easing of travel restrictions to Cuba, The Miami Herald reports that a recent attempt by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) to do just that has a very good chance at gaining Congressional approval. From the Herald:

The Florida Republican’s proposal was initially given little chance of becoming law, especially after President Barack Obama last week vowed to veto it if it reached the White House for his signature. 
But as the bill’s possible paths through Capitol Hill became clearer, even some of its critics now say they believe the measure stands a reasonable chance of making it past Congress and even the White House.
“Although we appreciate the president’s veto threat, there is no question that this misguided legislation, due to the way it’s been placed in a [Treasury] appropriations bill, has a good chance,” said former Democratic congressional candidate Joe Garcia.
 If passed, the bill would return travel restrictions to Cuba back to their status under President Bush. Non-Cuban Americans would find it much more difficult to visit the island, and even Cuban-Americans would only be allowed to make a trip to Cuba  once every three years for “family reunifications.” Additionally, the bill would limit the individuals who are considered eligible to send remittances, as well as cap them at $1,200 per year.

Frankly, considering that 67 percent of the Cuban American community voiced support for the removal of removal of all restrictions on travel to Cuba in 2009, it seems odd that such a move is even on the table. But because the current debt ceiling debate is consuming much of Obama’s political capital, it also appears increasingly unlikely that he will act on his veto threat and risk being slammed by opponents for “defunding the Treasury.”

News Briefs

·         Cuba celebrated the July 26 anniversary of the 1953 attack on the Moncada barracks earlier this week, and as the New York Times reports, Raul Castro took a back seat role in the ceremony for the second time in two years, leaving Vice President José Ramón Machado Ventura to lead the commemoration ceremony.

·         The Sacramento Bee reported yesterday that the number of undocumented immigrants seeking employment in California has reached a new low. As Mexican consul general, Carlos González Gutiérrez notes,"It's now easier to buy homes on credit, find a job and access higher education in Mexico. We have become a middle-class country."

·         The L.A. Times has published the fourth installment of Richard Marosi’s series on the Sinaloa Cartel in the U.S. The latest article highlights “Operation Imperial Emperor,” a 2007 crackdown on the cartel’s cocaine shipments throughout the country.

·         The Trans Border Institute has released its monthly analysis on Mexico’s drug violence. According to the report, drug-related homicides are on track to exceed 2010 levels. So far this year, the figure is 20 percent higher than last year.

·         Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that Mexican cartels are broadening their criminal portfolios, becoming increasingly involved in human trafficking and forced prostitution, which is made easier by a lack of strong penalties for these crimes. According to Rosi Orozco, a congresswoman in Mexico and sponsor of a proposed law against human trafficking, “If narcotics traffickers are caught, they go to high-security prisons, but with the trafficking of women, they have found absolute impunity.”

·         The Foreign Policy blog confirms what Colombia analysts have been saying for months: FARC operations are on the rise in Colombia. In the first six months of 2011, the group undertook some 1,115 "military actions,” which is a 10 percent increase from the same period last year.

·         Colombia Reports has published new photos of the ELN’s central command, which local media outlets say were stored on a laptop seized in a raid on July 4. Another document found on the computer allegedly proposed that the group adopt an “attitude of dialogue” with the Colombian government.

·         The L.A. Times reports that Guatemala elections are “heating up,” but because former first lady Sandra Torres has had her candidacy declared illegal by two different courts in the country, it is unlikely that she’ll be much of an opponent for Gen. Otto Perez Molina, who is currently leading the polls by nearly 30 points.

·         InSight’s Steven Dudley has written a withering critique of the Obama administration’s new drug strategy, arguing that the “strategy” presents little in the way of actual policy changes relating to reducing the availability of weapons domestically or strengthening criminal justice systems in the region.

·          Peru’s new president, Olanta Humala, took office yesterday after delivering an inauguration speech geared at addressing the country’s poor. As AP reports, the leader has promised to make the one in three Peruvians who live in poverty a main focus of his administration, saying “Peru's peasants and the poor in the countryside in general will be the priority." According to El Comercio yesterday’s ceremony was marked by something of a controversy, as Humala swore to defend the 1979 constitution, not the one passed in 1993  by the Fujimori administration, which is currently in effect.

·         Bloomberg and The Guardian report that Chavez’s chemotherapy will indeed take its toll on his hair, with the Venezuelan president expected to be completely bald in a few weeks. Although Chavez has made a point to present himself as being back to his usual lively self, this development may take a toll on his image in the lead up to the 2012 elections.

·         La Razon reports that the Bolivian Congress has passed a law which the opposition says will put 67 percent of radio outlets in the country under state ownership, and allows for the government to spy on phone calls for matters of state security.