- Transparency International released its 2010 corruption index. It ranks Communist Cuba – the most corrupt government in the entire Western Hemisphere – in the same bucket with Colombia and less corrupt than democratic Honduras or Mexico. This is not the first time TI investigators do this. They seem to have a soft spot for Cuba. It does a disservice to folks that rely on the index, taints the credibility of the report, and as someone who has travelled and worked extensively in the Western Hemisphere – I can attest that the country placements are just plain wrong. Then again, the United States is in position twenty – I should have stopped reading there.
- Last week the U.S. Treasury Department, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) released new Civil Penalties and Enforcement Information. This tranche included violations of sanctions involving Belarus, Burma, and of course, the Sudan. There were no Cuba violations on the list. No surprise there.
- OFAC also announced that 37 front companies in Germany, Malta, and Cyprus were added to U.S. government watch lists for being owned or controlled by, or acting on behalf of, the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL). IRISL was added to U.S. watch lists in September 2008 for providing logistical services to the arm Iranian military involved in overseeing Iran’s ballistic missile program. IRISL’s designation has been especially challenging for the European shipping industry that also happens to engage in transactions with U.S. companies. It is only likely going to get a lot more complicated after the November 2, 2010 elections if the Republicans win control of the House, Senate, or both.
- Talking mid-term elections, Foreign Policy magazine published a list and story of the 10 Republicans poised to become the lead foreign policy power brokers. The list includes several export controls, economic sanctions, and foreign assistance hawks in both the House and the Senate.
- Rare earth metal stories kept surfacing last week. This go around, China gave the United States ‘assurances‘ that it would continue export, and not hoard, these precious commodities. The Chinese seem to be enjoying Western groveling. And controlling more than 90 percent of the known global supply of rare earth booty, China can do so. At least for now. Yet another reason to start exploiting exploring the National Arctic Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
- A Marsh Aviation executive were indicted on Arms Export Control Act charges for selling equipment to the Venezuelan air force. According to the Justice Department, employees of the Arizona-based company engaged in a conspiracy to export T-76 engines designed for the OV-10 Bronco, a light armed reconnaissance aircraft suited for counterinsurgency missions. Just one of the many things Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez would need to continue his campaign against Colombia by supporting the terrorist group FARC.
Finally in Mexico, a second video message has surfaced in something more reminiscent of a tactic used in recent years by radical Muslim terrorist groups (see screen shot at left). In the video, a civilian is surrounded by hooded and armed drug cartel members. At gunpoint, the kidnapped attorney says that he is a member of the drug cartel and the link to his sister, the former prosecutor from the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Regrettably, these type of video confessions have become a common place in Mexico. Mexican officials have told the media that they are investigating the claims. Think about it. Things have become so dire in Mexico that government officials are investigating allegations made by persons held at gunpoint by terrorists. During the last four years, more than 30,000 people have died as a result of the ongoing battle between the cartels and the Mexican government.