Brazil Central Bank cuts GDP growth forecast

AFP | DECEMBER 20, 2012

Brazil’s Central Bank on Thursday cut its GDP growth forecast for 2012 from 1.6 percent to 1 per cent, confirming a marked slowdown in Latin America’s biggest economy.

In September, the Bank had already revised its forecast downward from 2.5 percent to 1.6 percent.

Thursday, the bank also revised its inflation estimate for 2012 to 5.7 percent, up from 5.2 percent. The new projection is well above the official target of 4.5 percent.

Market analysts have been predicting 1.5 percent GDP growth for Brazil this year, a projection similar to one by the International Monetary Fund in October.

The IMF also expects Brazil to fare worse than its partners in the BRICS bloc of emerging powers, predicting 7.8 percent growth for China, 4.9 percent for India, 3.7 percent for Russia and 2.6 percent for South Africa.

Brazil’s economy grew just 0.6 percent in the third quarter of 2012 compared with the previous three months, signaling a weaker than anticipated recovery, the Brazilian statistics office said late last month.

The economy lost steam last year due to the global slowdown, with GDP growth at 2.7 percent, down from a sizzling 7.5 percent in 2010.

Massive Cyber Attack on Banks Happening Across Western World

$2.5 Billion Siphoned From Financial Institutions So Far

By MAC SLAVO | SHTFPLAN.com | JUNE 27, 2012

Leading cyber security firm McAfee has issued a startling breaking news report that indicates the U.S., European and Latin American financial systems are under a massive financial attacks that have digitally siphoned some $2.5 billion from thousands of accounts from various financial institutions.

According to McAfee, the attacks are ongoing and international law enforcement agencies are currently working to shut them down:

McAfee and Guardian Analytics have uncovered a highly sophisticated, global financial services fraud campaign that has reached the American banking system. As this research study goes to press, we are working actively with international law enforcement organizations to shut down these attacks.

Unlike standard SpyEye and Zeus attacks that typically feature live (manual) interventions, we have discovered at least a dozen groups now using server-side components and heavy automation. The fraudsters’ objective in these attacks is to siphon large amounts from high balance accounts, hence
the name chosen for this research: Operation High Roller.

With no human participation required, each attack moves quickly and scales neatly. This operation combines an insider level of understanding of banking transaction systems with both custom and off the shelf malicious code and appears to be worthy of the term “organized crime.”

This study found 60 servers processing thousands of attempted thefts from high-value commercial accounts and some high net worth individuals. As the attack shifted emphasis from consumers to businesses, mule business accounts allowed attempted transfers averaging in the thousands of Euros, with some transfers as high as €100,000 (US$130,000).

Three distinct attack strategies have emerged as the targets have expanded from the European Union, to Latin America, to the United States.

Debunking the popular wisdom that only big banks are affected, the research documents attacks at every class of financial institution: credit union, large global bank, and regional bank. So far, we estimate the criminals have attempted at least €60 million (US$78 million) in fraudulent transfers from accounts at 60 or more financial institutions (FIs). If all of the attempted fraud campaigns were as successful as the Netherlands example we describe in this report, the total attempted fraud could be as high as €2 billion.

Source: Dissecting Operation High Roller

Video News Report “Biggest cyber bank robbery in history” from Sky News via The Daily Sheeple:

For the last week the Royal Bank of Scotland has been plagued with problems that have made it impossible for its 12 million customers to access cash via ATM’s, maintain their accounts online or to even withdraw money at their local bank branches. Though the issues affecting RBS may be unrelated, they have alarmed many observers as indicators of problems within the European financial and banking systems. Silver Doctors suggests the attack discovered by McAfee may be to blame for the issues experienced by RBS:

Sky News is reporting that McAfee Virus has uncovered a series of financial attacks on US, UK, and Euro-zone banks with individual transfers of over €100,000 being reported.

Is this an extension of RBS’ NatWest’s complete banking system melt-down/ cash account rehypothecation, which is now in its 8th day?

Our thoughts are this is either an Iranian ‘Stuxnet’ retaliation, or a false-flag banking system lock up by the Western Central Banks themselves on which they can conveniently pin the blame for an imminent derivatives induced contagion and banking collapse.

Source: Silver Doctors via SGT Report

Governments have needed a pretext to tighten banking regulations and gain even more authority over the individual movement of capital. Whether real or a false flag, this cyber attack may very well give them the ammunition they need to take complete control of the internet.

Hat tip Silver Doctors, SGT Report, The Daily Sheeple

US Military wants Drones over Latin America

LATINO VOICES | JUNE 14, 2012

The U.S. Military is looking to relocate some of their predator drones, sending some to South and Central America, according to a new article in Wired Magazine.

As US forces come home from Afghanistan, the US military seems to have a surplus of predator drones — remotely operated unmanned aircraft vehicles often used to carry out attacks and intelligence gathering missions. Drones previously used in Afghanistan will be given to “operational missions by previously undeserved” commands, including those in the Pacific and in Southern America, according to Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Norton Schwartz. While the exact number of drones, which will be sent to Latin America remains unknown, the implications of their presence remain hotly contested.

Some question whether their presence in the region is even necessary or whether they will be effective in thwarting drug traffickers. Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations told Wired Magazine that while the drones could help with spy missions in South America, there is no good reason to use their attack capabilities.

“There is no strategic rationale for the United States to be responding to the flow of drugs from Latin America with the tactical use of kinetic force against drug planes or boats you happen to be able to find, ” he said. Furthermore, Zenko noted that the drones might be better used for United Nations peacekeeping operations in regions like Southern Sudan.  “3,800 troops deployed right now for an [area] of 2,100 kilometers, with poor roads that wash out in the rainy season,” Zenko told Wired Magazine. “The deployment of these [spy] capabilities, and associated logistics and training infrastructure, would make a huge difference.”

Just days after the announcement that drone presence will be increased in Latin America, the Pew Research Center released a study suggesting that the Obama administration’s use of unmanned drone strikes to kill terror suspects is widely opposed around the world. On Wednesday, Pew reported that in 17 out of 21 countries surveyed, “more than half of the people disapproved of U.S. drone attacks targeting extremist leaders and groups in nations such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia,” according to The Associated Press. But a majority of Americans, 62 percent, approve the increased drone strikes.

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Latin American Countries want Cuba free of Sanctions

By ANDREW CAWTHORNE | REUTERS | APRIL 16, 2012

Unprecedented Latin American opposition to U.S. sanctions on Cuba left President Barack Obama isolated at a summit on Sunday and illustrated Washington’s declining influence in a region being aggressively courted by China.

Unlike the rock-star status he enjoyed at the 2009 Summit of the Americas after taking office, Obama has had a bruising time at the two-day meeting in Colombia of some 30 heads of state.

Sixteen U.S. security personnel were caught in an embarrassing prostitution scandal before Obama arrived, Brazil and others have bashed Obama over U.S. monetary policy and he has been on the defensive over Cuba and calls to legalize drugs.

Due to the hostile U.S. and Canadian line on communist-run Cuba, the heads of state failed to produce a final declaration as the summit fizzled out on Sunday afternoon.

“There was no declaration because there was no consensus,” said Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. He bristled at suggestions the summit had been a failure, however, saying the exchange of different views was a sign of democratic health.

For the first time, conservative-led U.S. allies like Mexico and Colombia are throwing their weight behind the traditional demand of leftist governments that Cuba be invited to the next Summit of the Americas.

Cuba was kicked out of the Organization of American States (OAS) a few years after Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution and has been kept out of its summits due mainly to U.S. opposition.

But Latin American leaders are increasingly militant in opposing both Cuba’s exclusion and the 50-year-old U.S. trade embargo on the Caribbean island.

“The isolation, the embargo, the indifference, looking the other way, have been ineffective,” Santos said. “I hope Cuba is at the next summit in three years.”

Santos, a major U.S. ally in the region who has relied on Washington for financial and military help to fight guerrillas and drug traffickers, has become vocal about Cuba’s inclusion even though he also advocates for democratic reform by Havana.

CLINTON PARTIES IN “CAFE HAVANA”

In an ironic twist to the debate, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went dancing in the early hours of Sunday at a Cartagena bar called Cafe Havana, where Cuban music is played.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, who has insisted without success that Washington recognize its claim to the Falkland Islands controlled by Britain, was one of several presidents who left the summit well before its official closure.

She missed a verbal gaffe by Obama, who referred to the “Maldives” instead of the “Malvinas” when using the name Latin Americans give to the disputed islands.

The leftist ALBA bloc of nations – including Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua and some Caribbean nations – said they will not attend future summits without Cuba’s presence.

“It’s not a favor anyone would be doing to Cuba. It’s a right they’ve had taken away from them,” Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said from Managua.

Although there were widespread hopes for a rapprochement with Cuba under Obama when he took office, Washington has done little beyond ease some travel restrictions. It insists Cuba must first make changes, including the release of political prisoners.

Obama told a news conference after the summit he was “puzzled” that nations that had themselves emerged from authoritarian rule would overlook that in Cuba.

“I and the American people will welcome a time when the Cuban people have the freedom to live their lives, choose their leaders and fully participate in this global economy and international institutions. We haven’t gotten there yet,” he said.

Obama urged Cuba to look at political and economic transformations in Colombia, Brazil and Chile for inspiration.

PROSTITUTION SCANDAL

The prostitution saga was a big embarrassment for Obama and a blow to the prestige of his Secret Service, the agency that provides security for U.S. presidents. It was the talk of the town in the historic Caribbean coastal city of Cartagena.

Eleven Secret Service agents were sent home and five military servicemen grounded after trying to take prostitutes back to their hotel the day before Obama arrived.

Obama said in general his security personnel did an extraordinary job under stressful circumstances but he would be annoyed if the allegations were proven by an investigation.

“We represent the people of the United States and when we travel to another country I expect them to observe the highest standards,” Obama said of the reports. “If it turns out that some of the allegations that have been made in the press are confirmed, then of course I will be angry.”

A local policeman told Reuters the affair came to a head when hotel staff tried to register a prostitute at the front desk but agents refused and waved their ID cards.

Locals were unimpressed and upset at the negative headlines.

“Someone who’s charged with looking after the security of the most important president in the world cannot commit the mistake of getting mixed up with a prostitute,” said Cartagena tourist guide Rodolfo Galvis, 60.

“This has damaged the image of the Secret Service, not Colombia.”

The divisive end to the summit added to strain on the U.S.-dominated system of hemispheric diplomacy that was built around the OAS but is struggling to adapt to changes in the region.

“I’m not sure the next summit will even be possible,” said Carlos Gaviria, a Colombian politician and former presidential candidate.

Perceived U.S. neglect of Latin America has allowed China to move strongly into the region and become the leading trade partner of Brazil and various other nations.

Regional economic powerhouse Brazil has led criticism at the summit of U.S. and other rich nations’ expansionist monetary policy that is sending a flood of funds into developing nations, forcing up local currencies and hurting competitiveness.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff called it a “monetary tsunami” that Latin American nations had the right to defend themselves from.

Cheering the mood a bit, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced that a U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement will come into force in the middle of May.

With a presidential election looming, Obama had portrayed his visit to the summit as a way to generate jobs at home by boosting trade with Latin America.

Venezuela will not recognize World Bank ruling in Exxon case

by Daniel Wallis
Reuters
January 8, 2012

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday that his country would not recognize any ruling by a World Bank tribunal in a multibillion-dollar arbitration case with Exxon Mobil Corp.

Exxon took Venezuela to the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes, or ICSID, seeking as much as $12 billion in compensation after Chavez ordered the nationalization of the Cerro Negro oil project in 2007.

“I tell you now: we will not recognize any decision by ICSID,” Chavez said during a televised speech. He has repeatedly accused the U.S. oil major of using unfair deals in the past to “rob” the South American OPEC member of its resources.

“They are immoral … How much could they steal in 50 years? Who would dare launch this madness without any foundation? They wanted $12 billion. From where, compadre?” he said.

“We are not going to bow before imperialism and its tentacles, understand that … They are trying the impossible: to get us to pay them. We are not going to pay them anything.”

An Exxon spokesman said the company had no comment.

Some interpreted the president’s remarks as meaning Venezuela would reject rulings in any of about 20 other cases that it faces before the World Bank’s tribunal, all triggered by a wave of state takeovers in recent years.

They include separate multibillion-dollar proceedings brought by another U.S. oil major, ConocoPhillips.

But two statements issued later, by Venezuela’s Petroleum and Mining Ministry and by its state oil company PDVSA, only referred to Chavez saying the nation would refuse to recognize a verdict in the Exxon case.

Last week another arbitration panel, of the International Chamber of Commerce, awarded Exxon $908 million in a separate case relating to the Cerro Negro nationalization, turning attention to the ongoing World Bank proceedings.

RESOURCE NATIONALISM

On Saturday, Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez told Reuters he did not expect a verdict in Exxon’s World Bank case before the end of this year.

It is due to start being argued in February, Exxon says.

Both cases have been closely watched by the industry for precedents in future disputes between companies and producing states, which have increasingly sought a greater share of oil revenue as prices soar and new reserves become tougher to find.

For years, Venezuela’s socialist leader has accused foreign oil companies of plundering the nation’s reserves, but has also maintained close ties with many of them.

Lawyers consulted by Reuters said the ICC decision only covered a commercial dispute between Exxon and state oil company PDVSA over earnings Exxon lost as a result of the takeover.

Exxon says the World Bank case is for compensation for its assets, and experts say it could yield a larger award.

The government has insisted Exxon receive only slightly more than the $750 million it said is invested in the project. Last September, Venezuela offered to settle for $1 billion.

For years, Chavez has confronted oil companies with tax hikes and contract changes aimed at increasing revenue from the industry to fund state-led anti-poverty development programs.

Venezuela’s push to boost control over its oil industry has been followed by similar efforts in other producing nations. Critics say it has scared investors away from the South American OPEC member and left crude production stagnant.

But some oil companies have remained eager to invest in Venezuela’s Orinoco extra heavy oil belt, which is considered one of the world’s largest mostly untapped reserves of crude.

U.S. major Chevron and Spain’s Repsol both signed deals in 2010 for new multibillion-dollar projects there.