Friday 26 April 2013

Stephen Harper has always been a robot, and Justin Trudeau was never a math teacher

Justin: Math is way more dramatic
The pissing match between the Conservative Part of Canada, led by a cyborg name Stephen Harper, and the Liberal Party of Canada, led by a ponce named Justin Trudeau, has revealed, if you’ll allow the oxymoron, the profound shallowness of both leaders.

The Conservative Party came out the gate after Trudeau’s coronation as Liberal leader with an attack ad showing the dauphin bowing and prancing as he removes his shirt. Poor form, given that Trudeau was doing the striptease as part of a charity fundraiser for the Canadian Liver Foundation.

Venezuela’s Argo moment

Tracy doesn't fit the profile (Photo: family handout)
Yesterday Venezuelan authorities arrested Timothy Hallett Tracy, a US citizen and aspiring documentary film-maker, accusing him of being part of a master plot to foment a right-wing revolt.

Tracy, 35, had been active in the film business in California, having worked as a consultant and producer. He has been in Venezuela since last year, and had been detained twice by Venezuela’s intelligence police before his arrest at the international airport in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas.

Tensions are high in Venezuela. President Nicolás Maduro, who succeeded the late Hugo Chávez, narrowly defeated the opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski in an election held April 14. Capriles has said he was robbed of victory, and is challenging the vote. During post-election rioting at least seven people were killed and many more injured.

Monday 22 April 2013

Meteorite falls near Toluca, followed by a minor earthquake in Mexico City

Over Toluca
At 8:05 pm local time on April 21 residents of Toluca, México – a city about 45 minutes west of Mexico City – saw a “luminous body” falling in the sky.

Eleven minutes later, an earthquake registering 5.8 on the Richter scale hit Mexico City.

The coincident events created a flurry of activity on social media, with #MeteoritoToluca trending on Twitter.

Sunday 21 April 2013

SNC-Lavalin could now be on the hook for “moral damages” to Cynthia Vanier

SNC-Lavalin's image refresh. Yikes!
As soon as Cynthia Vanier was arrested on November 10th, 2011, in Mexico City, she was at a disadvantage. Accused of being the mastermind of a complex plot to smuggle Saadi Gaddafi, the third son of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, from war-torn North Africa to Mexico, she was expected to defend herself from behind bars.

She was supposed to do this in a foreign country, in a language she did not understand, and in a highly politicized and possibly corrupt environment.

From the beginning, Vanier quarterbacked her game-plan with the help of her husband Pierre – always at her side, and an effective advocate. From Mexico the Vaniers made a strategic decision: focus on the legal route and play defense with the media. The rules were strict and, at times, arbitrary.

There were to be no interviews from jail, unless Vanier needed to call the CBC’s As It Happens. A media strategy, including press releases, was rumoured, but never occurred. Journalists were offered candy or starved.

Saturday 20 April 2013

Cynthia Vanier arrives in Toronto

Vanier arrived on the evening of Saturday, April 20, at
Toronto's Pearson International Airport
Cynthia Vanier, the Canadian mediator held in Mexico for 18 months as the accused “ringleader” of a plot to bring Saadi Gaddafi, former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s playboy third son, from war-torn North Africa to Mexico, has arrived safely in Toronto, Canada.

Vanier had been released before dawn on Friday, April 19, and sent to an immigration holding facility to work out the details of her formal deportation.

Her co-accused, Gabriela (Gabby) de Cueto, was released at the same time and is now in the United States. A third accused, Danish national Pierre Flensborg, is expected to be deported from Mexico to Copenhagen on Sunday. A fourth accused, the Mexican  Jose Luis Kennedy Prieto, remains in prison.

Cynthia Vanier: linking up the emails in the Mexican evidence and the RCMP search warrant of SNC-Lavalin’s offices

The emails put Vanier at the centre of the alleged conspiracy
On Friday, January 11 of this year an RCMP search warrant was unsealed. The warrant had been used to gain access to the offices of the Canadian engineering giant SNC-Lavalin back in April, 2012. The big news upon its release was the $160 million in kickbacks that SNC-Lavalin was alleged to have paid Saadi Gaddafi, the third son of the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

But also in the partly redacted affidavit were alleged emails between SNC-Lavalin executive Stephane Roy and Cynthia Vanier, the Canadian mediator who spent 18 months in prison in Mexico facing charges that she conspired to smuggle the younger Gaddafi to Mexico.

Friday 19 April 2013

Gabriela de Cueto on US soil as Cynthia Vanier awaits deportation

Gabby de Cueto
At approximately 4:30 p.m. Pacific time on Friday, April 19, Gabriela (Gabby) de Cueto, the Mexican-American woman detained for 18 months in Mexico for having allegedly plotted to smuggle Saadi Gaddafi to Mexico, entered US airspace.

By 10:30 p.m. La politica had heard that Ms. de Cueto, who does not have US citizenship but who calls San Diego home, had arrived at a secure location State-side.

La politica had been hearing for over a week that Ms. de Cueto and her co-accused, the Canadian Cynthia Vanier, were to be released from their prison cells in Chetumal, Mexico. That happened just before dawn on Friday, April 19.

However, the narratives surrounding the circumstances of the releases were divergent.

Cynthia Vanier release echoes Cassez case

Vanier in hospital in Chetumal, October 14, 2012 (La politica)
Cynthia Vanier’s release from her prison cell in Chetumal, Mexico, has come about as a result of a protracted legal battle in which she had challenged the basis for her arrest.

An initial finding had not been in her favour, but this most recent decision, which does not reflect on her guilt or innocence with regard to an alleged plot to smuggle Saadi Gaddafi to Mexico in 2011, concluded that there were enough procedural snafus to make her detention illegal.

These circumstances, though wildly differing in detail to the Florence Cassez case, nonetheless echoed the circumstances surrounding the release of the French national, who had been convicted of kidnapping, but was later released when it was determined that the process of evidence collection was so profoundly corrupted it was impossible for her to receive a fair trial.

Vanier, who was arrested early in November 2011 along with three others, had argued that lack of consular and legal access and the flimsiness of the evidence – much of it from anonymous sources that could not be verified, or from questionable sources that could not be cross-examined – made the case against her untenable.

Now, a Supreme Court Tribunal has agreed, and Vanier, along with her co-accused Gabriela de Cueto, has been released. A third man, Pierre Flensborg, is also expected to be released. The fate of the fourth, a Mexican national, is unknown.

La politica has been following this case closely and had deliberately held back on some reporting as the release date neared. This story is still breaking: we will soon be in a position to report extensively on the circumstances behind the release.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

For related stories see also:

April 20, 2013: Gabriela de Cueto on US soil as Cynthia Vanier awaits deportation

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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Thursday 18 April 2013

U.S. researcher dies on Colima volcano in western Mexico

The volcano has been more active of late
An American volcanologist has died on the slopes of volcano Fuego de Colima, in western Mexico, where he had been conducting investigations into the explosive activity of the crater.

The body of Kelby Hicks, aged 30, was found Wednesday morning at a temporary monitoring station set up on the volcano by the University of Colima.  The cause of death appears to have been the rupture of a coronary artery.

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Have Veracruz officials "gone rogue" in pursuit of Proceso journalist?

Martínez Pérez: beaten and strangled 
 in Xalapa, Veracruz on April 28, 2012
The Mexican weekly news magazine Proceso, known for being one of the last bastions of hard-hitting investigative reporting in this violence-plagued country, is reporting that one of its journalists, Jorge Carrasco Araizaga, has become the subject of a government-sponsored campaign in the State of Veracruz to threaten his personal security.

Carrasco Araizaga, who has reported extensively on the death of fellow Proceso correspondent Regina Martínez Pérez, who was also active in Veracruz, is allegedly the subject of an intimidation campaign among former and present state officials, including those within the Attorney General’s office.

According to Proceso, the plan was hatched in the Las Ánimas neighbourhood in the state capital of  Xalapa, and included an effort to use state and national databases to determine Carrasco Araizaga’s whereabouts. This was allegedly an ambitious plan that involved dispatching government agents from Veracruz to Mexico City and the states of México, Morelos and Querétaro, in order to gather information on the journalist.

Mural newspaper attacked in Guadalajara, Mexico

Not much damage (Source: Mural)
Two grenades were thrown at the offices of Mural newspaper in Guadalajara, Mexico, in the early hours of Wednesday, April 17, causing some property damage but no injuries or loss of life. As of this posting the perpetrators have not been found.

The attack occurred around 3:30 am local time at the newspaper’s offices in the municipality of Zapopan, which is part of the greater Guadalajara area in the state of Jalisco. The two explosions appear to have occurred only seconds apart.

Mural, which is part of the Reforma Group, stated that this is the first attack against it in 14 years. The damage from the attack was not observed until guards inspected the exterior of the property at 6 am.

One bomb exploded on Mariano Otero avenue, next to the front door of the newspaper, and another on Lopez Mateos near the newspaper’s parking lot. These were not powerful devices – the first created a one inch deep hole in a wall.

Intimidation is a possible purpose of the attack, although with no one claiming responsibility and it is uncertain what the specific intention was.

México is one of the world's most dangerous countries for journalists, with about eighty journalists killed since 2000.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

For related stories see:

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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Monday 8 April 2013

Spike in threats reported after Tahoe Resources receives mining licence for Escobal project in Guatemala

Location of Escobal mine (source:
Vancouver-headquartered Tahoe Resources has received the final mining license for its Escobal silver deposit in southeast Guatemala. The company has indicated that it is fully funded to complete preparation and move toward commercial production in 2014.

The stock jumped 10% on the news, pushing the company’s market capitalization to $2.7 billion. However, Ellen Moore of the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala also stated that “since the licence was issued on Wednesday (April 3) there has been a spike in threats against vocal mine opponents.”