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Topic: Latin America (Read 14089 times)
China's growing presence in Central America
Reply #100 on:
July 01, 2013, 04:59:29 PM »
China's growing economic activity and diplomatic involvement in Central America show Beijing strengthening its ties with the region, despite the United States' historical dominance there. The current presence of the Chinese government and corporations is relatively small, and Chinese strategy in Central America does not immediately threaten U.S. economic and political power in those countries. In the long term, however, China intends to use steadily increasing trade and investment to obtain access to Central America's emerging markets and gain political allies.
China's strategy in Latin America seeks to fulfill three principal interests: securing resources abroad to maintain domestic economic growth, encouraging nations to recognize China instead of Taiwan and opening new markets for Chinese goods. For example, these objectives define the Chinese relationship with Venezuela. China has invested billions of dollars in joint ventures for oil extraction and maintained political recognition from Venezuela, while its trade relations with that country have flourished.
Central America's relationship with China differs from this because of its relative resource scarcity and deeply rooted political and economic connections to the United States. This lack of energy or mineral resources has led Chinese firms and diplomats to focus more on bilateral trade and political recognition.
The favorable geographic characteristics of the narrow Central American isthmus separating the Pacific and Atlantic oceans also stoked interest from Chinese representatives, among others, in constructing an alternate transit route to the Panama Canal. A proposed canal in Nicaragua, which has been envisioned for more than a century, would connect Nicaragua's Caribbean and Pacific coasts. In June, the Nicaraguan legislature approved a $40 billion proposal by a Hong Kong-based company to construct it. The company's owner said construction would begin in 2014 and end in 2020. The planned canal would be 286 kilometers (178 miles) long and allow ships displacing 400,000 tons to pass. Private Chinese companies have also expressed interest in studying the feasibility of proposed railroads between the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Honduras and Colombia as alternatives to shipping cargo through the Panama Canal.
Despite reports of China's involvement in significant infrastructure projects, recognition of China and expanded trade remain the dominant issues in its relationship with Central America. China increased its trade with the region and obtained political recognition from Costa Rica by providing states with public works and economic incentives. In 2007, for example, China incentivized Costa Rica to expel Taiwanese diplomats and recognize China by offering the country a $130 million aid package and purchasing $300 million in Costa Rican bonds. Central America's relative poverty and lack of infrastructure make recognition of China a lucrative decision for regional leaders seeking financial aid. China has also increased its economic presence in Central American states more than Taiwan has, with China's exports to all nations there outpacing those of Taiwan. Costa Rica remains the only regional country to date that recognizes China, but Honduras previously expressed interest in reversing its recognition of Taiwan.
The United States' historical control of the area remains a barrier to any significant inroads by the Chinese. Central America's proximity to the world's largest importing market and U.S. political and military interventions in the region have ensured U.S. dominance.
Central America's proximity to the strategically important Gulf of Mexico makes it critical for the United States to ensure that no foreign competitor dominates that region. Central America also has traditionally acted as a buffer between the United States and any threats. During the first half of the 20th century, the United States secured Central American countries against internal political instability by conducting frequent military interventions to end conflicts and install U.S.-allied governments. After World War II, both the United States and the Soviet Union vied for ideological and material influence in the region. The result of these American efforts was its uncontested dominance of Central America and sensitivity toward potential threats from the region.
This U.S. authority discourages significant Chinese involvement in Central America. Any Chinese investment in significant infrastructure works, such as the proposed Nicaragua canal, could raise long-term political concerns in Washington. The entrenched U.S. influence in Central American political and economic systems makes such ambitious Chinese interaction with those states unlikely. Central America remains a valuable zone for U.S. strategic interests, which means Chinese influence there will likely remain focused on economic issues and modest political gains.
Read more: China's Growing Presence in Central America | Stratfor
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Gang truce looking fragile
Reply #101 on:
July 14, 2013, 11:23:38 PM »
El Salvador's Fragile Gang Truce and Threats to Regional Peace
July 12, 2013 | 0515 Print Text Size
An 18th Street gang member takes part in an event to surrender weapons March 9 in El Salvador. (JOSE CABEZAS/AFP/Getty Images)
A steadily increasing tempo of homicides throughout El Salvador in June and July could portend an end to a fragile truce between the country's two main criminal gangs, Mara Salvatrucha and Calle 18. In the year after the cease-fire took effect in March 2012, the country's murder rate -- which was then the second highest in the world after Honduras -- was reportedly cut in half. The apparent success of the truce, which was backed by the Roman Catholic Church and the Organization of American States, encouraged the Guatemalan and Honduran governments to consider striking armistice deals with gangs in their countries in hopes of similarly reducing murder rates. However, the recent surge in Salvadoran gang violence may weaken support for such crime reduction initiatives. If the tenuous peace in El Salvador indeed collapses, a rare opportunity to reduce violent criminal activity may be lost in Central America.
The recent increase in homicides in El Salvador was punctuated by a spike at the beginning of July, when 103 people were reportedly murdered in one week. There have also been indications that Salvadoran gangs may be preparing for a future conflict, with reports suggesting that some gang members have continued acquiring firearms during the truce for later use.
According to local media, the increased violence may stem from when, in late May, El Salvador's newly appointed security minister, Ricardo Perdomo, withdrew from imprisoned gang leaders certain privileges, such as the right to call news conferences, that were allegedly part of the peace deal. Raul Mijango, a former guerrilla and lawmaker who helped broker the truce, said the killings increased because the jailed leaders have lost control over lower-ranking members on the streets. Whatever caused the violence, it appears to have alarmed Salvadoran officials, with Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes summoning Mijango to an emergency meeting on July 4.
The Rise of Central America's Gangs
Though Mara Salvatrucha and Calle 18 are present throughout North and Central America, they do not operate as monolithic entities. The gangs are organized into regional cliques, each with control of their own territory, and only loosely connected at national and international levels through financial ties and cultural identifiers.
The two major gangs, along with several smaller criminal groups, have undermined security severely in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras since the early 1990s, when Salvadoran immigrants who had founded the gangs in Los Angeles were deported. Mara Salvatrucha and Calle 18 then swelled in size -- with combined membership reaching an estimated 27,000 members in El Salvador and 100,000 throughout Central America by 2011, according to Salvadoran police estimates -- and became involved in a range of criminal enterprises, including human trafficking, drug trafficking, arms smuggling and extortion. The subsequent rise in murders, and the gangs' control of entire urban neighborhoods, turned gang-related criminality into a major political challenge for Central American governments.
The Evolution of Mexico's Cartels
As small, resource-poor countries that historically have lacked strong institutions, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras were particularly affected, and the region's expanding role as a trafficking corridor for South American cocaine exacerbated their problems. The drug trade fueled dramatic rises in crime in each country, eroding the governments' control over large areas of territory and preventing them from providing even minimal levels of security to their citizens. Crime became a major domestic and foreign policy issue for regional leaders, and the alleged involvement of the gangs in international drug trafficking networks controlled by Mexican cartels has made Central American security a concern for the United States.
Negotiations and Challenges to Peace
In search of a viable way to stem the violence, El Salvador's ruling Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front became open to striking a deal with Mara Salvatrucha and Calle 18, despite misgivings from conservative political opponents. Mijango began negotiations with the alleged approval of former Security Minister David Munguia Payes in late 2011 or early 2012. In exchange for a promise to stop the killing, government representatives reportedly agreed to transfer high-ranking gang members out of a maximum-security prison and provide financial incentives, among other rumored concessions. While the exact details of agreements remain unclear, the government apparently made similar offers to both gangs.
The initial success of the cease-fire attracted attention from gangs and religious leaders in neighboring Honduras, where jailed gang leaders indicated their willingness to reach a similar deal with the government. The Organization of American States suggested recently that a peace agreement could be reached with Guatemalan gangs by the end of 2013. But the collapse of Salvadoran truce would endanger these initiatives and possibly deny regional governments a similar means of reducing violence, regardless of what has caused the recent wave of killings.
Government leaders in all three countries -- particularly those from conservative or opposition parties that typically oppose bargaining with criminal groups -- would likely undermine future peacemaking attempts, since such leaders would consider more truces politically risky and potentially expensive. The United States, which Central American governments rely on heavily for security funding, also does not support negotiations with the gangs.
Still, there is some hope that the decentralized leadership structures of the gangs will make them willing to negotiate even if the current truce fails. Since individual cliques often operate in isolation from one another, the end of the Salvadoran cease-fire would not necessarily impact the decisions of gang leaders in Honduras or Guatemala. The concessions that could be gained in the deal may prove tempting enough to keep such groups at the negotiating table.
Read more: El Salvador's Fragile Gang Truce and Threats to Regional Peace | Stratfor
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Chinese canal through Nicaragua?
Reply #102 on:
July 16, 2013, 12:45:36 PM »
Reply #103 on:
November 25, 2013, 11:05:42 AM »
Kerry kills Monroe Doctrine
Reply #104 on:
November 27, 2013, 07:08:40 PM »
Stratfor: Panama Canal
Reply #105 on:
January 27, 2014, 09:08:47 AM »
Panama Canal Expansion: The Dangers of Long-Term Delays
January 27, 2014 | 0518 Print Text Size
Significant delays to the Panama Canal expansion project are increasingly likely as negotiations between the multinational construction consortium, Spanish financiers and Panamanian authorities drag out. The Grupo Unidos Por el Canal consortium is threatening to stop work at the end of January after already extending the previous deadline past Jan. 20. According to the Panamanian Dispute Adjudication Board, which is arbitrating the negotiations over who will cover cost overruns, a work stoppage could mean that the canal will not be completed until as late as 2020.
Because the project has been delayed once already, from an estimated completion date of 2014 to mid-2015, a postponement of a year or so would be well within the bounds of previous setbacks. How long it is delayed now will be determined by several factors, including whether the project will need a new consortium of builders and financial backers; such decisions will be shaped by ongoing negotiations between the principal stakeholders. The duration of any holdup itself will be critical in determining whether the ongoing dispute is geopolitically significant. A delay of a year or less is unlikely to have major consequences. On the other hand, a five-year delay could strain regional ports and transportation infrastructure, particularly as the United States continues to emerge from its economic downturn.
The expansion project will enable significantly larger bulk and container ships to pass through the canal. In essence, it will improve connectivity between Asia and the eastern coasts of North America and South America by making an all-water route accessible to a wider range of ships. The U.S. Gulf Coast and trade ports in the Caribbean stand to benefit the most from the increased shipping volumes of larger ships. East coast ports that have the capacity to handle new, larger Panamax ships will be in direct competition with west coast ports and interior transportation lines for trade traffic.
These effects will be seen regardless of the timeline of the project's completion, but depending on the length of the delay, different elements of infrastructure -- particularly port and railway industries -- and their associated companies will be affected in different ways.
Ports in the Western Hemisphere are watching the ongoing negotiations with much anticipation. Ship designs are always changing to maximize efficiency, but at this point it appears that the canal improvements will permit ships that can carry up to three times as much containerized cargo as the current Panamax ships. The maximum bulk cargo weight of standard vessels is expected to increase by roughly 50 percent, to around 120,000 metric tons. This increased capacity will give ports the opportunity to handle greater cargo volumes and generate additional revenue.
But to be ready to do that, ports will have to be modified to receive the larger post-Panamax ships, requiring hundreds of millions of dollars worth of upgrades. New Panamax ships -- with significantly larger hulls and displacement -- draw much more water than current Panamax ships. This means that ports will need to have channels and berths at least 15 meters deep. For many locations, this will require significant dredging. This is particularly true of Gulf coast ports such as Houston, which tend to be relatively shallow, but even east coast ports will have to deepen their channels and berths. For example, the Port of New York and New Jersey began dredging key channels to depths of 15 meters in 2005. The New York and New Jersey Port Authority is also raising the Bayonne Bridge by 19.5 meters to allow enough air clearance for larger tankers entering the port. The project is taking place without disrupting traffic and is expected to cost $1.29 billion.
Other ports in the Western Hemisphere have already invested or are preparing to invest in the improvements necessary to receive increasingly large ships. These include Norfolk, Va., and Savannah, Ga.; Kingston, Jamaica; Cartagena and Buenaventura in Colombia; and Suape and Santos in Brazil. These are long-term investments designed to keep the ports relevant and competitive in a global climate in which ships are becoming larger each year, regardless of the status of the Panama Canal.
For the ports that are set to complete their expansions by the mid-2015 Panama Canal benchmark, the delay could mean a longer timeframe for recouping upgrade costs. But these are large infrastructure projects requiring enormous efforts and financing. As such, they are subject to their own delays, and a hold in the completion of the canal expansion may give some of these ports more breathing room and time to complete their own improvements before the canal upgrade affects regional trade dynamics. Longer delays to increased trade volume would likely create serious financial implications for a great number of ports.
A shorter delay, however, will provide a reprieve for west coast ports in North America that are likely to become slightly less competitive once high-volume all-water routes to the east coast become viable. This is a potential boon for inland railways that transport goods from west coast ports to east coast consumers, which could see higher-than-expected demand if the expansion is delayed. The prospect of the eventual completion of the canal would reduce incentives for substantial additional infrastructure investment, meaning that a long delay of five or more years would leave North America reliant upon existing infrastructure. As the U.S. continues to recover economically, additional imports could begin to seriously strain existing infrastructure at west coast ports and railways if the Panama route does not open. South American ports, for the most part, serve localized markets and are unlikely to see these kinds of distributed risks.
A longer delay to the canal becoming fully operational would also substantially impact liquefied natural gas exports from the Gulf Coast to Asian consumer markets. Whereas the current canal is too small for most liquefied natural gas tankers, the new canal dimensions are big enough to fit the majority of the tankers currently in operation. As a result of the boom in natural gas production in the United States, the first liquefied natural gas export facility at Sabine Pass, La., is expect to come online in 2016. The majority of the export contracts being signed by prospective liquefied natural gas exporters are with Asian countries. Therefore, being able to go through the Panama Canal would be substantially more efficient than having to go around the capes of South America or Africa. Expanded capacity at the Panama Canal will also be a boon for exporters of oil derivatives on the U.S. Gulf coast.
The investment boom in Western Hemispheric ports -- as a result of the planned expansion as well as the gradual enlargement of ships in the global fleet -- has introduced a multitude of variables that will affect the eventual outcomes of the canal. Every port in North America hopes to improve its competitiveness to secure a larger share of the anticipated uplift in maritime trade. The individual financial profiles of seaports will determine their resilience in the face of a delayed Panama Canal upgrade. Looking at the maritime distribution system as a whole, however, it becomes clear that while a short delay will have a limited impact globally, a long delay could put serious stress on existing North American infrastructure.
Read more: Panama Canal Expansion: The Dangers of Long-Term Delays | Stratfor
Re: Stratfor: Panama Canal
Reply #106 on:
January 27, 2014, 10:54:28 AM »
IIRC, we used to own and manage a canal there.
Re: Latin America
Reply #107 on:
January 27, 2014, 02:06:51 PM »
Colonialism is over. The French and the Brits used own Suez. For that matter England used to own a big chunk of North America as did the Russians, the French, the Spanish, and the Dutch,. If you want to go back to biblical times just look at present day Middle East. There needs to be a statute of limitation on absentee ownership.
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