by the El Reportero news services
BRAZIL - Despite official denials, Brazil’s relations with neighbouring Venezuela and Bolivia have soured in the past month. The courteous manners of Presidents Lula da Silva, Hugo Chávez and Evo Morales during the first ever South American energy summit in mid-April did little to hide growing political differences. Indeed, behind the scenes, the Brazilian government sent a tough message to Venezuela and Bolivia, reasserting Brazil’s leadership in the region.
Government compares narcos to al-Qaida
MEXICO: Genaro García Luna, the security minister, said on 25 April that drug gangs were imitating al-Qaida, an Islamic terrorist organisation. García Luna was speaking on the eve of today’s testimony by the defence minister, Guillermo Galván Galván, to congress. The government has launched offensives against the narcos in nine of Mexico’s 32 states, but these offensives have, so far, achieved little: the murder rate in the states where the government has deployed 30,000 troops is up by about 40% so far this year.
Experts: U.S. spies are often in the dark on Cuba
WASHINGTON – American spies don’t know much about what’s happening in Havana as Fidel Castro appears to be growing more active. U.S. reports that he has cancer increasingly seem off the mark, questioning just how much American spies know.
Regardless of having so many sophisticated spy satellites,\the U.S. intelligence community is now too shellshocked from past intelligence setbacks on Cuba and the Iraq weapons of mass destruction debacle to aggressively spy on the island, some Cuba observers say.
“Washington, as a result, is now largely ignorant of what is happening within the inner circles in Havana as Cuba undergoes a transfer of power from Castro to his brother Raul,” according to several people familiar with U.S. intelligence on the island, reported the McClatchy Newspapers.
The U.S. intelligence community’s current assessment is that Castro is more ill than Havana is admitting, and that change in Cuba is unlikely in the near term, though a power struggle is possible further down the road.
But nearly a dozen people knowledgeable about U.S. intelligence on Cuba – who all spoke only on condition of anonymity to discuss classified materials – painted a mixed picture of the capability to spy on Cuba.
N.Y. mayor explores Mexico for anti-poverty ideas
MEXICO CITY - New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg got a firsthand look Tuesday April 24, at an anti-poverty program that gives cash grants to poor Mexican families for keeping their children in school and providing regular medical care, looking for tips he might adopt back home.
Mexico’s Oportunidades program has been lauded as a model because it focuses on breaking the cycle of poverty by investing in long-term development.
Bloomberg, who has started a similar pilot program, Opportunity NYC, to help New Yorkers break the cycle of poverty, said he was looking for ways to enhance it.
Oportunidades began operating in poor rural regions in 1997 under the name of Progresa. It later expanded to cities.
The program gives families cash grants to help pay for their children’s schooling and to compensate for what the children would have earned if they were taken out of school and put to work, the traditional option in poor regions of Mexico.
Oportunidades also provides basic health care, including preventive services, for entire families as well as cash to buy food.
(Associated Press and McClatchy Newspapers contributed to this article.)