Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Nicaragua On Brink of Crisis

Nicaragua’s Supreme Court decided that Former President Arnordo Aleman can serve his 20-year sentence from home and move freely in Managua.

The Nicaraguan Government said the decision was “engineered” by Aleman’s political allies. The US government also reacted angrily.

Sandinistas and Aleman’s allies control Congress and the Supreme Court and have successfully undermined Bolaño’s power. Indeed, Congress recently appointed the justices responsible for the decision and voted a resolution limiting presidential powers.

This is looking like the beginning of the end for American friendly president Ernesto Bolaños.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Autumn 2006, a Scenario

Evo Morales is heading a constitutional assembly. A failed right wing coup led the country to chaos. He seized the opportunity. Assembly members are considering defining Bolivia a socialist country.

Honeymoon in Mexico. Just inaugurated President Lopez Obrador has a popularity of 85%. He is talking less like the “centrist” who won the elections. Lopez Obrador wants NAFTA workers to have the right to work in any member country. If it doesn’t happen Mexico can always tax maquilas or make public demonstrations at the border: “Millions of Mexicans could march and there will be no fence anymore”.

Uribe managed to amend the constitution and won the presidency with a solid 72%. Colombian Guerrillas and Narcos have gone urban. They are blowing buildings and targeting civilians. The government is trying to demonstrate a FARC Al Qaeda link.

Chavez is ready for another electoral landslide. He is the de facto leader of the “axis of good” that now includes Lopez Obrador. The oil barrel is trading in the eighties.

Guatemala has unilaterally resigned to CAFTA and Nicaragua may go the same way.

Lula is having a second chance. His popularity is back to the low sixties. He is slowly abandoning his orthodox policies and going populist. Brazil and Venezuela are cooking a military alliance.

Kirchner’s popularity is falling and the radical left is gaining space. Piqueteros demonstrations affect every corner of the country.

American support to the Irak war has faded to a pitiful 30%.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Wining America’s Hearts and Minds

Chavez is about to launch a pre-emptive strike against America. He wants to hit where it hurts: hearts and minds.

Citgo is to sell discounted gas to Americans living in deprived areas, says a Venezuelan newspaper. The company is to identify outlets based in impoverished communities and give a 30% discount.

Let’s face it. It’s a brilliant move. Business-wise Citgo will increase sales and gain in reputation. Politically it will make Bush look incapable: “Chavez actually does something to control energy prices but our own oil-man can’t”.

With this flamboyant move Chavez could neutralize a giant and achieve it’s objective: more power for the revolution, whatever that means.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Are the States Ready for a Third Front?

Chavez has been talking of war for a long while. He has created a personal army of "a million civil voluntaries" and is training them to wage an "asimetric" war.

Was it Che Guevara who said "Let's create one, two, three Vietnams"?

Perhaps Chavez actually expects to deploy the reserve. Perhaps he means to confront the US.

The US can win any battle but not a war. Irak and Afganistan fronts have been opened for too long. The country doesn't look ready for a third small front.

Rumsfeld's agenda during his recent surprise visit to Peru and Paraguay was purely militar. He spoke about regional unstability and met with military officers. The Voice of Castro -better know as Granma newspaper- speculates that Rumsfeld was closing deals on military bases.

Then you have all the media coverage. Robertson's nostalgic 007 dream, Rumsfeld's candid talk, the energy crisis. It all looks like a first act.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Can a Republican Senator Close a Deal with Venezuela Chavez?

In December of 1999 Venezuela experienced a natural tragedy that killed thousands and left millionaire loses. The country was cough off guard. Foreign help was badly needed. The US rushed to offer help but Chavez refused it. It was the first of many anti-American gestures to come like calling President Bush “jerk” or laughing at “Condolence” Rice's sexuality. If Chavez didn’t accept American help when in need, why would he take it now?

Republican Senator Arlen Specter is of other view.

He recently paid a discreet visit to the oil-rich country and met with the oil and home affairs ministers. A local newspaper quotes him expressing US interest in investing billions of dollars in the oil industry. Yes, billions of dollars.

The energy crisis is so bad that the US may be cooking a bilionaire deal with regional archrival Chavez.

But it is Chavez who calls the shots here. He owns the largest oil reserves in the hemisphere and the world is starving for oil. China, for instance has deep pockets and is oil hungry.

And let's no forget that he didn't take US help when in need.

Venezuela oil is a high risk investment. Chavez's current attitude against oil companies includes military riots and retroactive taxing.

If the US pugs the plug nothing will happen. But iff Chavez does, well, that is another story.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Lula’s Apology

For the first time in my lifetime I see a Latin American President apologizing in public.

Where I come from an apology is suppose to mean political suicide.
But, is it really so?
Hard to say: no Latin American President has apologized before.

I hope Lula's apology is not interpreted as political weakness. I think of Brazil as a mature democracy. Lula is proving me right with this precedent. Instead of apologizing, Lula could have doubled the minimum wage taking advantage of an ongoing parliamentary vote. But he decided for the difficult path.

Lula's presidency has surpassed all expectations in economical terms. And with this apology he could gain political substance.

It is obvious that the apology is a strategy to be re-elected. And it can even be considered a desperate move, the last way out. But that doesn't mean there is no room for atonement in Brazil.

After all during his time in office Lula has proven to be a capable president.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Is Kirchner Defaulting Again?

The Argentine press says that tomorrow’s informal agenda for the Chavez-Kirchner meeting in Buenos Aires includes a conversation about the upcoming Mar de Plata Presidential Summit. Apparently the Argentine President is to ask Chavez to behave during the fourth meeting of the Americas and not to use it as a platform to provoke the US and embarrass Bush in person.
Two things to consider:
-Chavez invested US$ 300 million in Argetine debt and he wants to see a return. There is not such a thing as a free lunch.
-A few years ago Chavez’s political mentor, Fidel Castro, embarrassed President Fox by making public a private conversation about his presence in a similar summit. There is nothing refraining Chavez from doing something in that line.
Whatever the outcome of tomorrow’s conversation the IV Summit of the Americas is promising a lot more entertainment than the famous Mar del Plata Festival.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

For Chavez The DEA is a Branch of the CIA

There was one area in which Venezuela kept a relatively collaborative approach with the US Government: drug enforcement. Not any more. President Chavez said that he will not longer co-operate with DEA operations in Venezuela because they were only a cover up for US spying operations: "The DEA was using the fight against drug trafficking as a mask, to support drug trafficking, to carry out intelligence in Venezuela against the government"… "Under those circumstances we have decided to make a clean break with those accord," Mr. Chavez said to the BBC.
After this formal separation Venezuela has all the elements to become a services and logistics hub for the drug cartels: weak institutions, uncontrolled financial services, an ideal geographical situation and perhaps a more needed blind government.

Mexico Has Only Room for One Caudillo

Subcomandante Marcos returned after four years of silence in what the press has interpreted as an attempt to gain “a political role for the [Zapatista] rebels before the election next July”. He said that the Zapatistas, whatever that means, won’t support any political party and in particular Manuel Lopez Obrador, the populist former major of Mexico city. “He [Lopez Obrador] is a traitor who won’t go back to his socialist past”, Subcomandante Marcos said. This move should hit badly Lopez Obrador’s radical base. Lopez Obrador is the current presidential font runner. Could Subcomandante Marcos be considering throwing his hat, I mean mask, to the ring? In any case, expect more old fashion sabotage in the coming weeks and pay attention to the next opinion polls.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Ecuador’s Solidarity Costs US$ 300 Million

Bad news for those who think that money can’t buy it all. The market valued Ecuador’s solidarity in US$ $300 million. Accidental President Alfredo Palacio has been struggling to explain local media the reasons behind a recent “strategic alliance” with Venezuela. The fact is that Venezuela committed to buy US$ 300 million of Ecuadorial debt and also offered to refine Ecuadorian oil at preferred prices.
Chavez’s generosity has gained him friends in Argentina, Brazil and most of the Caribbean.

Mexican Society Snubs Dahasi

It’s official, President Fox can be declared a political corpse and his infamous First Lady Marta Sahagún, the undertaker. Still doubtful? Then check the list of attendants to the latest show staged by “Marta”, an auction of her own elegant dresses organized to quell a political controversy.
Only a handful of people showed at the event and the bid raised a pitiful 4% of an expected total of 300.000 Mexico pesos.
“Marta” donated 36 outfits to a Mexico City-based cancer foundation as a response to criticism over the Government money she has spent in clothing as First Lady. Two women senators accused her of wasting taxpayer’s money in design cloth. She responded with this act of bravado that ended up in embarrassment. As usual, the actual casualty of the First Lady excesses was President Fox.