Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Selling Uranium to Chavez...LPP Update News...24/7...

From Colombia Reports:

Colombia's leftist guerrilla group FARC was interested in selling uranium to the Venezuelan government in 2008, according to emails found on computers from the FARC's late leader Raul Reyes.

A previously unknown email from Reyes to the ex-head of the FARC's 48th Front, "Edgar Tovar," published by Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional, read; "another issue is that of uranium. There is a man who supplies me with the explosive materials that we prepare, and his name is Belisario, and he lives in Bogota; he's a friend of 'Jorge 40;' he sent me samples and the specifications and offered to sell each kilo at $2.5 million and that they deliver and we look at whom we will sell to, and that shall be the business with a government... they have 50 kilos ready and can sell a lot more; they have direct contact with those that have the product."

That message from February 16, 2008 agrees with another between Reyes and FARC commander, "Ivan Marquez," over the amount of uranium discussed. Reyes stressed the importance of selling the metal saying, "on these sides they offer 50 kilos of uranium with the possibility of acquiring more amounts... It occurs to me that 'Angel' might have an interest in this product for their friends from distant lands. I hope to discuss this topic with the man."

According to an analysis of these letters by the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), "Angel" is a pseudonym that is associated with Venezuela, and the man "who might have an interest" in the product would be none other than Venezuela's President, Hugo Chavez.
Capitol Hill Cubans 

Cuban oil project fuels US anxieties

The Scarabeo 9 rig  
Cuba hopes the Scarabeo 9 rig will help to expand its oil industry

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A massive $750m (£473m) Chinese-built oil rig, the Scarabeo 9, is due to arrive in Cuba before the end of the year, to begin drilling a series of exploratory wells.
A whole range of international oil companies from Spain, Norway, Russia, India, Vietnam, Malaysia, Canada, Angola, Venezuela, and China - but not the US - are lining up to hire the rig and search for what are believed to be substantial oil deposits.
"We will drill several wells next year and I'm sure we will have discoveries. It is not a matter of if we have oil, it is a matter of when we are going to start producing," Rafael Tenreiro, head of exploration for the Cuban state-owned oil company Cupet, confidently predicts.
The Spanish company Repsol will be the first to drill, with an exploratory well in extremely deep water just 50 miles (80km) off the coast of Florida.
Be prepared It has sent alarm bells ringing in the United States because if there were an accident, the ocean currents would push any oil spill onto Florida's beaches and the Everglades.
Yet under the US trade embargo, neither American firms nor the Coast Guard could come to Cuba's assistance or provide much needed equipment such as booms, pumps, skimmers and oil dispersant systems.
The Cubans would need to turn to the Norwegians, British or Brazilians for help.
"In the event of a disaster we are talking a response time in terms of equipment of four to six weeks as opposed to 36 or 48 hours. This is a serious impediment," warned Lee Hunt, president of the Texas-based International Association of Drilling Contractors.
Mr Hunt was part of a team of oil industry and environmental experts who were given permission by the Obama administration to visit Cuba to discuss safety issues with the authorities in Havana.
Leading the group was William Reilly, a former head of the US Environmental Protection Agency and co-author of the government report into last year's BP oil disaster.
He was impressed with Cuba's awareness of the risks and knowledge of the latest international safety measures.

Start Quote

The decaying Cuban regime is desperately reaching out for an economic lifeline”
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Anti-Castro US Congresswoman
The explosion and blow-out aboard BP's Deepwater Horizon rig off the coast of Louisiana killed 11 people and spilled 5m barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. It was one of the worst environmental disasters ever to hit the Gulf Coast.
It took 85 days to cap the well head, which was 5,500 feet beneath the surface. The Scarabeo 9 will be drilling in even deeper water.
After his talks with Cuban officials, William Reilly said he found them serious about safety and aware of international best practice but lacking in experience.
He wants to see the US co-operate with Cuba on safety issues and ease the embargo to allow US companies to assist in case of an emergency.
"It is profoundly in the interests of the United States to prepare the Cubans as best we can to ensure that we are protected in the case of a spill. We need to make it 'Key West safe'."
But Florida's powerful Cuban-American lobby has other ideas and with the 2012 presidential election looming, Barack Obama is in a difficult position.
Oil windfall? The anti-Castro groups want the administration to take action to halt the drilling altogether and not just for safety reasons.
A major oil find would make this communist-run Caribbean island financially independent for the first time since the revolution in 1959.
For more than half a century Cuba has been dependent on the largesse of its ideological allies. First it was subsidised by the Soviet Union, then more recently Venezuela and, to a lesser extent, China.
Cuba has long produced some oil from a series of small onshore and coastal deposits.
Nodding donkey at an oil field in Cuba Cuba already has a small domestic oil industry
Tourists going from Havana to the beach resort of Varadero drive past several kilometres of nodding donkeys and the occasional Chinese or Canadian drilling rig.
Cuba currently produces about 53,000 barrels of oil a day but still needs to import about 100,000 barrels, mainly from Venezuela.
Its deep territorial waters, though, lie on the same geological strata as oil rich Mexico and the US Gulf.
Estimates on just how much offshore oil Cuba is sitting on vary. A US Geological Survey estimate suggests 4.6bn barrels, the Cubans say 20bn.
Even the most conservative estimate would make Cuba a net oil exporter. A large find would provide untold riches.
It is one of the US-based anti-Castro lobby's worst nightmares.
"The decaying Cuban regime is desperately reaching out for an economic lifeline, and it appears to have found a willing partner in Repsol to come to its rescue," Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Cuban-born Republican and Chairwoman of the influential House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement recently.
The Florida Congresswoman and a group of 33 other legislators, both Republican and Democrat, wrote to Repsol warning the company that the drilling could subject the company to "criminal and civil liability in US courts".
Repsol responded saying that its exploratory wells complied with all current US legislation covering the embargo as well as all safety regulations.
A Havana street If oil exploration goes well, Cuba could meet its energy needs and become a net exporter
It has also agreed to allow US officials to conduct a safety inspection of the Chinese rig before it enters Cuban waters.
Under the embargo it is limited to just 10% American technology.
The rig was fitted in Singapore and the one piece of US equipment which was installed was the blow-out preventer.
It was the failure of BP's blow-out preventer which was at the heart of that disaster.
According to Lee Hunt, the Scarabeo 9 is a state of the art deep-water rig and there are six similar platforms built at the same Chinese shipyard currently operating in US waters.
For the moment environmental concerns appear to be taking precedence over politics.
The government will take up Repsol's offer to inspect Scarabeo 9 and a limited number of licences have been issued to US clean-up operators to enter Cuban waters and assist in the event of a spill.
But the arguments are far from over as environmentalists are pushing for greater co-operation while Cuban-American groups are looking at ways to place legal and legislative hurdles in the way.

Haiti gov't plane makes emergency landing in Cuba

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — A plane carrying 19 Haitian government officials on their way to Cuba to prepare for a presidential visit made an emergency landing Tuesday in the central Cuban city of Camaguey.
The turbo prop plane, which was en route to Havana, had a problem with its air conditioning wiring and landed as a safety precaution, said Damian Merlo, a spokesman for Haitian President Michel Martelly. There were no injuries.
The plane was chartered through Aerolineas Mas, based in the Dominican Republic, to carry Haitian officials to Cuba to prepare for this week's three-day visit by Martelly, his first since he took office in May.
It was the second aviation scare in recent days for Haitian officials. A helicopter carrying the prime minister and two other Cabinet members made an emergency landing in Port-au-Prince on Saturday.
(This version CORRECTS Corrects headline and first paragraph to say that Camaguey is in central Cuba. Also corrects spelling of Aerolineas Mas.)

Activists: 70 killed in Syria in 1 day

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian activists say a wave of violence has killed more than 70 people in Syria in one day.
The activists say many of those killed on Monday are Syrian soldiers who came under attack by army defectors in the southern province of Daraa.
And in the restive city of Homs, the city morgue has received 19 corpses, all of them with bullet wounds.
President Bashar Assad's regime has been trying to crush an uprising for the past eight months, but the movement has not abated. The U.N. estimates the regime's military crackdown on dissent has killed 3,500 people so far.
The latest death toll comes from the Local Coordination Committees, an activist coalition, morgue figures and the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
BEIRUT (AP) — A wave of violence killed more than 50 people in Syria in one day, many of them Syrian soldiers who came under attack from army defectors, activists said Tuesday.
The unrest across the country is escalating as President Bashar Assad comes under mounting pressure — not only from the West but from his Arab neighbors, as well.
The U.N. estimates the regime's military crackdown on dissent has killed 3,500 people in the past eight months. November is shaping up to be the bloodiest month of the uprising, with more than 250 Syrian civilians killed so far, activists say.
Although activists say the uprising has remained largely peaceful, with street protesters calling for the regime's downfall, an armed insurgency also has developed in recent months targeting Assad's military and security forces.
A resident near the town of Khirbet Ghazaleh in Daraa province said he heard more than four hours of intense gunfire. He asked that his name not be used for fear of government reprisals.
Another witness, who is an activist in the area, said he counted the bodies of 12 people, believed to be civilians killed by security forces' fire.
"I saw two army armored personnel carriers, totally burnt," he told The Associated Press by telephone. He also asked for anonymity out of fear for his safety.
The activist coalition called the Local Coordination Committees group identified at least 50 people who were killed on Monday. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights documented 69 deaths, and said 34 of them are soldiers.
The latest violence appeared focused in the southern province of Daraa. Discrepancies in figures of those killed and injured are common, because the Syrian government has prevented independent reporting and barred most foreign journalists. Details gathered by activist groups and witnesses are key channels of information.
Assad is facing the most severe isolation of his family's four-decade rule in Syria. On Monday, Jordan's King Abdullah II said Assad should step down for the good of his country, the first Arab leader to publicly make such a call.
In the hours after the king's comments were broadcast, three protesters scaled the fence at Jordan's embassy in Damascus and ripped down the Jordanian flag. Jordan's Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Kayed said no one entered the embassy and there were no injuries.
Syria's crackdown has brought international condemnation, but Damascus generally has been spared broad reproach in the Arab world. That changed Saturday, with a near-unanimous vote by the 22-member Arab League to suspend Syria.
Earlier Monday, Syria struck back at its international critics, branding an Arab League decision to suspend its membership as "shameful and malicious" and accusing other Arabs of conspiring with the West to undermine the regime.
The sharp rebuke suggests Damascus fears the United States and its allies might use the rare Arab consensus to press for tougher sanctions at the United Nations.
Assad says extremists pushing a foreign agenda to destabilize Syria are behind the unrest, not true reform-seekers aiming to open the country's autocratic political system.

Cuba accuses US of sneaky Wi-Fi imperialism

America blocks, and yet pays for, Cuban surfing
The Cuban government has accused America of supporting the illicit Wi-Fi networks which are proliferating in the country, despite Americans also preventing proper internet access reaching the island.
The official government mouthpiece, Granma*, translated by the AFP, reports the arrest of several unnamed individuals who have apparently been installing wireless networks without legal authorisation. The paper also accuses the United States of funding the installations, and providing the equipment too.
Internet access is tightly controlled in Cuba, not least 'cos the ongoing US embargo prevents the country tapping into the undersea cables which snake past the island. Satellite access is getting cheaper, but is still restricted, and controlled, by the government, so locals often resort to illicit installations which are advertised freely to their relatives in Florida.
Granma reckons it has exposed CIA funding of satellite installations, reporting that the dishes are disguised as surf boards and that the CIA has also provided Wi-Fi hotspots so connections can be shared with the neighbours.

Image from a "recreation" of a CIA operation staged by Grana
Full text here...


Schedule for Havana International Jazz Festival Announced


Analysis: Israelis doubt world will stop Iran's nuclear quest

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - The latest report by U.N. inspectors has hardened suspicions that Iran is seeking nuclear arms capability, but Israeli experts have little confidence that international action will deny the Islamic Republic the means to make a bomb.
The pessimism sounded by academics, retired generals and statesmen on the consequences of last week's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) findings contrasted with how Israel and the United States responded in public -- with pledges to use the report to rally support for stiffer sanctions against Iran.
Nor did the conference on Monday at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) hear confident predictions that Israel or its allies would attack Iran.
"Can this (IAEA) report create a new basis for increasing the pressure on Iran? There is no good reason for being optimistic," said Ephraim Kam, INSS deputy director and a former Israeli military intelligence colonel.
"Iran wants a bomb, or at least the capacity to make a bomb, and is willing to pay the price."
Iran denied the IAEA allegations that it appeared to have worked on designing an atomic bomb and may still be conducting secret research. Tehran says its nuclear program is peaceful, mainly to generate electricity to meet its growing energy needs.
Israel, widely thought to have the Middle East's only atomic arsenal, views Iran as the greatest threat to its existence.
Several speakers agreed that Tehran was unlikely to be deterred by more sanctions, even if these materialize from a divided U.N. Security Council amid fears of Iran's influence over oil markets at time of global economic turmoil.
Underlining the problems in getting a new U.N. resolution, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying on Monday that Moscow opposed tightening the screws on Iran.
"We consider the sanctions track on Iran to have been exhausted," Lavrov said, according to Interfax news agency.
W. Pal Sidhu of New York University's Center on International Cooperation told the Tel Aviv conference: "I think we have reached a limit in terms of sanctions," adding that Iran had "a complete (nuclear) fuel cycle that is unlikely to be stopped only with outside technical sanctions."
Sidhu said Iran's distant, dispersed and defended facilities "may well be a bridge too far" for Israel's armed forces and that the United States would be loath to launch its own preemptive strikes without Security Council approval.
Sidhu and Zvi Bar'el, a university lecturer and analyst for Israel's liberal Haaretz daily, saw in the faceoff with Iran a chance for dialogue -- perhaps on a long-proposed accord ridding the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction.
Israel and the United States have said a WMD-free zone would require full Iranian and Arab recognition of the Jewish state.
Robert Silverman, political counselor at the U.S. embassy, said neither Washington nor Israel had renounced the military option but that "clearly what we're talking about right now is ratcheting up sanctions and pressure through international engagement."
In Jerusalem, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman sounded optimistic about the efficacy of punitive diplomacy.
"So far the international community has imposed sanctions on Iran only on 30 percent of areas where it could be possible," he told an Israeli parliamentary panel, according to a spokesman. "Even if the Western world would impose sanctions without China and Russia, it would be enough to strangle Iran."
Yet even such a Western expansion of sanctions might not be forthcoming without a "smoking gun" -- incontrovertible proof of Iran building a bomb, such as an announcement from Tehran, a controlled atomic blast or the expulsion of U.N. inspectors.
Ephraim Asculai, a 40-year veteran of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission and of the IAEA, said Iran might defy world scrutiny by pursuing "nuclear breakout" in secret or gathering all the components for a warhead without actually making it.
"The big problem is: would we know about it if Iran decided to break out and not tell anyone?" said Asculai, who estimated that the Iranians could have enough uranium for a nuclear device in a year, should they recalibrate their enrichment centrifuges.
While Israel welcomed the IAEA report, some of its officials groused at what they called the slow work of the Vienna-based agency, even as Iran forges on with sensitive nuclear work.
"In their cautious way they would probably send more inspectors to check and recheck," Asculai said. "And meanwhile the Iranians would accomplish a lot."
Kam said he believed Israel could manage a unilateral strike on "three or four" Iranian nuclear sites, but described this as unlikely given its reliance on its strategic U.S. ally.
President Barack Obama's administration, trying to extract troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, is wary of starting another war in the Muslim world.
"If the Americans will not give Israel a green light, or at least what we call a 'yellow light', then Israel will not be able to attack," Kam said.
Giora Eiland, a former Israeli general and national security adviser, said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government had "a year, maybe two" to decide, given Iran's nuclear progress.
"And if you don't make a decision, you make a decision" to leave Iran to its course, Eiland said. "Two terrible choices. I believe the international community will fail to reach a solution on the Iranian case, so such a dilemma will be real."
For now, those seeking to hobble, if not halt, Iran may have to make do with covert attacks such as cyberwarfare or sabotage.
"Will these things be accorded new legitimacy in light of the difficulty of nuclear diplomacy through negotiations?" said INSS arms control expert Emily Landau.