The Cipher Brief discussed the political dynamics of Brazil with Phil Chicola, a former Chargé d'Affaires to Brazil from 2005 to 2006. Chicola discussed the country’s political and economic crises and offered his thoughts on what western companies can do to manage uncertainty in the near-term.  The Cipher Brief: President ...

Optimism is in short supply here in Brazil and for good reason. Consumer confidence is at its lowest level in 10 years; both inflation and unemployment are increasing, and debt as a percentage of household income is approaching 50% -- perhaps not surprising when the annual interest rates on most ...

The current fiscal crisis in Brazil is the result of a long period of economic mismanagement by the Workers Party (PT).  Beginning in 2003 with the inauguration of President “Lula” da Silva, the government enjoyed a massive increase in revenues created by the demand from China for the country’s raw ...

President Barack Obama continues to pave the way for improved U.S.-Cuban relations, as changes to U.S. travel to and business with Cuba took effect on Monday. The revisions made to the Cuban Asset Control Regulations (CACR) and Export Administration Regulations (EAR) will ease U.S. sanctions on Cuba related to travel, ...

Having begun transforming its energy sector, the Mexican government is learning the ups and downs of opening its oil resources to foreign companies.  In July, Mexico held its first round of bidding on oil blocks made available to foreign companies.  The auction followed radical changes to the nation’s constitution enacted ...

Being abducted by gunmen, held for weeks or months in horrific conditions and then forced to pay colossal sums to be freed has been the grim reality for thousands of Mexicans in recent years. But finally, after kidnappings reached a record level in Mexico in 2013, the administration of President ...

The Cipher Brief spoke with retired DEA agent Michael Vigil to discuss the security situation in Mexico. Vigil, who served as DEA’s Chief of International Operations, offered his thoughts on the kidnapping threat.  The Cipher Brief: Can you speak a little about the security situation in Mexico and the various ...

Being abducted by gunmen, held for weeks or months in horrific conditions and then forced to pay colossal sums to be freed has been the grim reality for thousands of Mexicans in recent years. But finally, after kidnappings reached a record level in Mexico in 2013, the administration of President ...

The Cipher Brief spoke with Francisco Quiñones, the founder of Arcis International, a security, risk management, and crisis response consultancy based in Washington, DC.  Quinones, a kidnapping and ransom (K&R) expert, discussed the work his company does to ensure the safe return of kidnapping victims. The Cipher Brief:  Can you ...

The security of U.S. borders has become one of the key issues in the U.S. Presidential race.  Some of the Republican candidates support building a fence along the border with Mexico to stop illegal immigrants, drug smugglers and possibly even terrorists from entering the country. General John Kelly worries that ...

One of the most controversial companies operating globally may be Uber, and it came under attack most recently on Tuesday in Rio de Janeiro, where the city council voted to ban unregulated ride-sharing services.  Mayor Eduardo Paes now has 15 days to decide whether to approve and sign the vote ...

In 1915, the British poet Thomas Hardy wrote a short masterpiece about the sinking of Titanic, which had occurred several years earlier. He describes the long string of separate events by which both the ship and the iceberg are formed – one in a shipyard and the other in the ...

The convergence of ruthless terrorist networks and greedy criminal underworld operatives can pose unique and dangerous challenges. It offers terrorists access to human resources and skillsets that can enhance their operational capabilities, while it offers criminals new sources of profit and political rationalization. But convergence also entails risks for both terrorist ...

The Cipher Brief spoke with the DEA's former Chief of International Operations, Mike Vigil to discuss the threat of convergence. The Cipher Brief: Convergence is the idea that unrelated adversaries —for example, drug dealers and terrorists — could find common cause and cooperate and share resources. Do you think convergence ...

Violent crime is rising in Brazil and, if past trends hold true, that could be bad for the business community during a time when the Brazilian economy is already suffering. Last Thursday night, Sao Paulo, the largest city in Brazil, saw the deadliest of six massacres this year.  At least ...

On July 20th, the U.S. and Cuba exchanged diplomatic notes and opened embassies in their respective capitals.  This “normalization” was a big step for relations between the two countries, but the U.S.-Cuban relationship remains far from normal.  There are four key points that must be addressed to reach this normalized ...

Last week, The Cipher Brief sat down with Jaime Suchlicki, the Director of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami, to discuss the impact of the recent changes to U.S.-Cuba relations.  His primary advice to U.S. businesses:  “caveat emptor," which Professor Suchlicki translated as "beware ...

Last week, The Cipher Brief sat down with Kirby Jones, the President of Alamar Associates, a company that has consulted on trade and business with Cuba since 1974, to discuss how U.S. businesses can take advantage of the recent changes to U.S.-Cuba relations.  He believes that the U.S. attempts to ...

Progress on the creation of a new relationship between the United States and Cuba has been remarkably brisk over the past eight months, but, at the same time, American companies are, with some specific exceptions, still not able to do actual business in Cuba or invest. The trade and investment ...

Today, the United States reopens its embassy in Havana, Cuba and formally re-establishes diplomatic relations.  The embassy will primarily perform standard functions such as issuing visas and facilitating dialogue between the two countries.  The U.S. government has also eased travel restrictions, allowing Americans to travel to Cuba provided they meet one of 12 ...