Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Chavez's Masterstroke

Chavez was looking erratic after Mar del Plata. His diplomatic badmouthing was excessive: calling Fox “Empire’s pet” and Bush a “genocide” was, to say the least, unnecessary.

His last move, however, is simply a public relations masterstroke:

Chavez is selling cheap oil to the US.

Yes, I wrote exactly that:

Venezuelan oil is to be sold at preferential prices to the US.

Massachusetts State and Venezuela signed a deal to ensure that low-income homes from the State can buy Venezuela’s heating oil with a 40% discount.

So President Chavez is helping the American poor to cope with high-energy prices during winter, whereas President Bush hasn’t done anything to bring the oil price down.

W’s popularity is to get a hit while Chavez’s image in the States becomes the one of a Robin Hood.

And there is more. A similar deal is being cooked to sell cheap oil to low-income Bronx resident.

They recently published a survey in Guatemala measuring Bush’s popularity against Chavez’s in the Central American country. Bush won by a little edge. My guess is that if they do the same survey in Massachusetts Chavez would win the vote, and not exactly by a little edge.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Is Mexico Back to Its Senses?

If the Mexican elections were to happen today, neo-populist candidate Manuel Lopez Obrador would win by a narrow marging.

The leftist club would get the biggest Latin American prize: Mexico.

What a club: Archetypal-dictator Fidel Castro, Retro-narco-sandinista Carlos Ortega sitting together with Neo-populists Lula da Silva, Hugo Chavez and Néstor Kirchner in the board of directors.

The good news is that the Mexican elections are scheduled for mid-2006 and, if we are to believe a recently published survey, Lopez-Obrador is quickly losing ground.

These are Consulta Mitofsky's numbers:
-Lopez-Obrador fell to 29.5% from 37.9% in August, losing almost 10% in two months.
-Roberto Madrazo, the Institutional Revolutionary Party is second with 25.7%.
-Felipe Calderón from ruling National Action Party is at 24.4%.

Lopez-Obrador’s fall look promising. Perhaps the Mexican, unlike other neighbors, have learned populism is always for worse.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Best Defense is a Good Offense

Since President Chavez got to power, about seven years ago, he has always been in the offense. This strategy has paid its dividends. There is virtually no Venezuelan
institution Chavez doesn’t control.

And what works at home, he seems to think, also works abroad. He has had feuds with Colombia, Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago and the US, and so far, they have all resulted in more territory for the revolution.

This explains his aggressive stance against Mexico. The best defense is a good offense and besides, President Fox’s party looks beatable by the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD) candidate Manuel Lopez Obrador.

If Lopez Obrador wins the presidential race they will soon reinstate Ambassadors and celebrate a new alliance.


Mexico keeps on pushing for the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) despite Mercosur’s opposition.

Economy Secretary Sergio Garcia de Alba Adalpe said the Mexican administration will continue lobbying on behalf of the FTAA. After all, he reckons, the main reason why
Mercosur has opposed the continental free trade area is the US agricultural subsidies and not Chavez’s ideological rhetoric.


Mar del Plata Presidential Summit split the continent in two groups, the pro-Americans led by Mexico, and the leftist, led by Venezuela and Argentina.

The leftist front has been more assertive.

Chavez’s and Kirchner’s shows in Mar del Plata were aggressive and, judging from the reactions (a sudden exit by Bush and a diplomatic impasse between Venezuela and
Mexico), are causing effect.

Expect the leftist to keep on the offensive.

Kirchner is paying a visit to Chavez this week. They will likely spend time in the situational room planning the next move.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Guilt Trip

Former US President Jimmy Carter worked hard to neutralize fraud accusations after Venezuela’s presidential recall referendum of August 2004. The endorsement of the electoral process by the Carter Center was critical to reassure the international community at the time.

You could say that Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez owes him the presidency, or at least, that he made it easier for Chavez to stay in power.

Now the one who Carter is trying to neutralize is President Chavez himself.

Chavez has become a major antagonist of the US to the point of personally leading an anti-American rally during the ongoing Summit of the Americas in Argentina.

“The personal attacks on the President and the condemnations of America by Hugo Chavez are unjustified and uncalled for” Carter said in an interview.

Raise ravens and they will peck your eyes, says the Spanish proverb.