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21-Jan-12 World View: France May Withdraw Early From Afghanistan After Soldiers' Deaths

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com.

  • Los Zetas cartel the most powerful in Mexico
  • Cuba makes plan to drill for oil in the Gulf of Mexico
  • U.S. seeks Russia’s explanation on Syria-bound weapons ship
  • Thailand recognizes a Palestinian state
  • Another nail-biting weekend as Greece bailout talks hit snag
  • The Baltic Dry Index may be crashing
  • France may withdraw early from Afghanistan after soldiers’ deaths

Los Zetas cartel the most powerful in Mexico


The drug cartels have carved up their pieces of Mexico as illustrated in this map. Los Zetas' territory is the red colored areas on the map. (Justice in Mexico Center)
The drug cartels have carved up their pieces of Mexico as illustrated in this map. Los Zetas’ territory is the red colored areas on the map. (Justice in Mexico Center)

A new report and graphic shows that the deadly drug cartel Los Zetas controls criminal activity, drug trafficking, and extortion in over half of Mexico’s territory. The report was obtained by the U.S. National Association of Chiefs of Police yesterday. The map shows that Los Zetas, which is led by Heriberto Lazcano, alias “El Lazca,” controls most of Mexico’s southern regions as well as the Gulf of Mexico. The Sinaloa Cartel comes in a close second behind Los Zetas. The Sinaloa cartel primarily conducts its activities in northern regions. Law Enforcement Examiner

Cuba makes plan to drill for oil in the Gulf of Mexico

The Spanish company Repsol will begin exploratory drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico, using a Chinese-built offshore oil drilling platform that has just arrived in Cuban waters. The island has exclusive rights to 43,000 square miles of “Caribbean Economic Zone” seabed off its coast, which has been parceled into 59 blocks and leased to various oil companies interested in prospecting those areas. According to a study by the US Geological Survey (USGS), the Cuban reserves in the Gulf region amount to 4.6 billion barrels of oil, 10 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 0.9 billion barrels of liquid natural gas. The oil drilling platform has been inspected by American technicians to verify that it doesn’t violate the U.S. economic embargo — namely, to verify that less than 10 percent of the rig’s components are US-made. Havana Times

U.S. seeks Russia’s explanation on Syria-bound weapons ship

The Dept. of State is seeking explanations from Russia over a ship that apparently delivered Russian weapons to Syria, breaching existing sanctions on Syria. The ship was briefly inspected when it docked in Cyprus, but customs officials were prevented from examining four containers of cargo. Cypriot media said the ship was carrying from 35 to 60 tons of ammunition and explosives meant for the Syrian Defense Ministry. The Russians left Cyprus claiming that they weren’t going to Syria, but they showed up in Syria’s port of Targus the next day. Ria Novosti

Thailand recognizes a Palestinian state

Thailand has “officially recognized the state of Palestine and officially informed all permanent and observer missions to the United Nations in New York of this development,” according to a Thai official on Friday. Thailand recognized the state along the lines that existed before the 1967 Six-Day War. Thailand’s announcement brought to 131 the number of countries that recognize a Palestinian state. Bangkok Post

Another nail-biting weekend as Greece bailout talks hit snag

It’s interesting to watch analysts on TV say that a final deal on Greece’s bond haircut is only hours away, and hear the same thing hour after hour and day after day. But as of Friday evening, there was no agreement on the “Private Sector Involvement Plan” (PSI+) that determines how much money private investors will get when Greece defaults on its March 20 bond payment. The amount of money will depend on the interest rates of the “coupon payments” that the bondholders collect every year, and the investors are demanding more than the Greeks are willing to pay. However, they have discovered a brand new way to kick the can down the road. Instead of using a fixed interest rate, they’re going to use “step up” bond coupons with interest rates that are low at first, and increase as time goes on. Anyway, Monday is supposedly the new deadline for getting a deal done, and they’ll probably want to get it done by early evening Sunday ET, before the Asian markets open on Monday morning. Kathimerini

The Baltic Dry Index may be crashing


Baltic Dry Index - one year
Baltic Dry Index – one year

In late 2008, when worldwide trade and transportation almost came to a standstill, one sign of the situation was a 95% crash in the Baltic Dry Index (BDI). The Baltic Dry Index is a measure of shipping costs for cargoes in “capesize” vessels — vessels that are too large to fit through the Suez or Panama canals, and so must go around the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn. These vessels transport the huge cargoes of copper, iron ore and other commodities. In 2008, the crash was caused by a precipitous drop in demand from China, which reversed in 2009 thanks to China’s huge quantitative easing program. One factor in the current fall might be that more capesize ships have come online, increasing supply. However, it’s more likely that Chinese demand is falling sharply again, as the exports have been falling for several months, and the housing bubble began to implode in October. Wall Street Daily

France may withdraw early from Afghanistan after soldiers’ deaths

France’s president Nicolas Sarkozy is suspending its training of Afghan soldiers and French troops may pull out of Afghanistan completely, ahead of the planned 2013 date. The announcement came after four French soldiers were killed and 16 wounded, 8 of them seriously, when an Afghan soldier they were training opened fire on them on Friday morning. “The French army stands side by side with its allies but we can’t accept that a single one of our soldiers be killed by our allies,” Sarkozy said. There are about 3,800 French troops in Afghanistan, with 400 having pulled out since last October. Eighty-two French troops have died in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. With a presidential election approaching, France’s participation in Afghanistan is a campaign issue, as many French oppose the Afghan war. Radio France Internationale

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