Saturday, January 28, 2006

Say Yes to Coca, Not to Cocaine

That may be the tagline chosen by the brand new Bolivian Drug Tzar, Felipe Caceres, to promote his unorthodox policies.

Felipe Caceres is a contradiction, a Coca planter in charge of eradicating illegal drugs. His take on Coca is difficult to understand: To increase production for medicinal and ceremonial purposes, while decreasing production and use of cocaine.

To be fair, Washington’s anti drug policy is also based on contradictions. The focus on production eradication has backfired as an incentive for production itself: The more difficult an illegal drug is to obtain, the higher the margin.

Bolivia’s policy may not be that preposterous. There are precedents, like the one of poppy, a plant grown in controlled environments to produce opium based medicines. Indeed, this move could actually be a good thing, if it forces Washington to reconsider it’s anti-drug strategy.

However, beyond the drug war, there is something very telling about this peculiar appointment and Evo Morales's mind. This move heralds a radical politician, willing to take the initiative and surprise the enemy, like his mentor Hugo Chavez.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Girl Power

If we are to believe a recent survey released by CPI, a Peruvian polling company, then conservative candidate Lourdes Flores is poised to become the second ever female president in South America, following the footsteps of Chilean President elect Michel Bachelet.

Flores' vote intention is of 28.8 %, 10 % ahead of nationalist leader Ollanta Humala who records a 18.2 percent. In the event of a runoff Flores would beat Humala 53 to 27%.

Previous surveys showed a statistical tie between Flores and Humala. Elections are scheduled for 09 April.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

A Bad Reputation

W has one thing in common with his hemispheric archrivals Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro, a bad reputation in Spain. A recent survey by Spanish “Centro de Investigaciones Sociologicas” asked more than 3000 Spaniards about global leaders. W got the worse mark with 2.15 out of 10; Castro got 2.37; and Chavez 3.12.

On the other hand Kofi Anan got the best mark with 5.97, followed by Brazil’s Lula with 5.14.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Temporary Modesty

When President Chavez first took over the presidency, seven years ago, he promised to wave his salary and to donate a presidential house, La Guzmania, to the poor. “I can’t live like a king among paupers,” he said. Seven years later he has gained a reputation for his lavish lifestyle. He wears hand made shirts and posh watches, and only flies is his brand new A319 valued in US$60 m, socialist class of course. Indeed only in 2004 the Venezuelan President spent more than US$ 100K in laundry.

Now Evo Morales is showing to follow the footsteps of his mentor. He is so modest that he will only move to the presidential house under one condition, to have flatmates. The chosen ones are the presidents of all parliamentary chambers and the vice president, all of them single mates. By sharing the house they will be able to work round the clock 24 hours per day.

The question is not if this is a good or a bad idea, the question is how long will his modesty last?

Saturday, January 21, 2006

A Latin NATO

At a Presidential summit in Brasilia, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez made a proposal to his Argentine and Brazilian counterparts: The creation of a South American Defense Council, a South American NATO.

After the summit,however, Brazilian Minister of Foreign Relations, Celso Amorim, played down Venezuela's sugestion and denied any military alliance in the making .

Chavez has accused the US of planning to invade Venezuela. A military alliance with would difficult such a move. Analysts consider Chavez’s obsession with an American invasion as rhetorical. Chavez, they argue, wants to use Anti-Americanism like Castro, as a convenient pawn. Lula and Kirchner are not playing the same game, but they may change their minds: Kirchner has already resorted to anti-Americanism and Lula is craving for popularity before running for a secod term.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Bulletproof Fashion

The latest trend in Latin American presidential fashion? Miguel Caballero’s anti-bullet cloth. Caballero's line of high-security cloth is proving popular among Latin American leaders. In an interview to the British daily The Guardian, the Colombian designer reported a yearly increase in sales from US$3 million in 2004 to US$7 million in 2005.

Customers include Colombia´s President Alvaro Uribe and Venezuela’s President, Hugo Chávez-Frias, who just ordered 50 items ranging from cotton vests to raincoats for his cabinet members. Indeed, Chavez's trademark red guayabera has the Caballero label.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Humala Gains Momentum

A Peruvian poll shows nationalist candidate Ollanta Humala from National Peruvian Party (PNP) ahead of the 09 April presidential election. Second in the race is Lourdes Flores (National Unity). The survey was published in El Comercio, a daily newspaper, and produced by Apoyo firm. Here are the numbers:

Ollanta Humala 28%
Lourdes Flores 25%
Alan Garcí­a 15%

Retired Lt. Col. Ollanta Humala has been openly supported by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. His victory would boost the rising wave of leftist populism currently hitting Latin America.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Flying Socialist Class

Bolivia’s President Elect Evo Morales is quickly changing habits.

A Venezuelan columnist revealed that the Anti-Capitalist leader flew to Spain and France in a Citgo corporation jet.

The airplane, a Falcon 200EX with American plate N-977-CP, was graciously lent by Citgo’s de facto chairman and Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez-Frías.

It’s so good to be a socialist President. You fly for free in big-oil-company jets and on top of that, you get your own complimentary security service.

Indeed, Chavez’s generosity knows no limits. He also provided Morales with an armed security force to escort him all the way to Spain. Spanish authorities where dismayed when they met the armed escorts in Madrid. The bodyguards where allowed to enter the country under two conditions, no weapons and no accompanying Morales.

Monday, January 09, 2006


Mexico started the countdown to the Presidential elections scheduled for July. Former Mexico City Major, Manuel López-Obrador became the first candidate to formalize his participation in the presidential race this past Sunday.

López-Obrador is feared by the business community and the US government. He has been characterized as a leftist-populist who may renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), block foreign investments in energy and establish a heavily regulated economy.

The latest surveys give him a 4% lead. Government party candidate Felipe Calderón is in the third place after Roberto Madrazo, from the Revolutionary Institutional
Party that governed Mexico for 70 years.

Losing Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Venezuela to the left is a big problem to the US. Losing Mexico would be a tragedy.

Record Breaking

Lula’s orthodox approach to the economy is paying back.

Brazil closed the 2005 with record breaking trade figures. Exports, imports and the year’s surplus reached new highs.The country reported a surplus of US$44.7 billion for 2005, a year over year increase of 33%. Exports rose by 22% to US$118.3 billion in spite of local currency revaluation.

The Brazilian Government expects 2006 to also bring double digit growth in trade figures. That if it sticks to its current economic policy and doesn't fall into the temptation of populism in an electoral year.

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Bodyguards

That Hugo Chavez is Evo Morale’s mentor comes to no surprise. Hugo Chavez and perennial dictator Fidel Castro have groomed Morales for long time, and Chavez has invested million of Venezuelan petrodollars in the Bolivian leader. But Chavez´s protectorate of Evo Morales is showing to be a bit obsessive. After their last summit in Venezuela he provided Morales with a complimentary armed security force to escort him all the way to Spain.

Spanish authorities where dismayed when they met the armed guard in Madrid. The bodyguards where allowed to enter Spain under two conditions, no weapons and no accompanying Morales.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Is it Malvinas or Falkland?

If you are Argentine you call them Malvinas, if you are British you know this group of islands as the Falkland. In any case the Argentine government has the Malvinas in the agenda. Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana published an op-ed in the Argentine newspaper Pagina 12 arguing his case for their recovery. He basically wants the English government to sit in the negotiation table twenty years after the war Argentina lost.

Britain had occupied and administered the islands since 1833 and had consistently rejected Argentina's territorial claims. In 1982 Argentina invaded the islands starting a war that produced close to a thousand casualties and returned control of the territory to Britain. The total population of the islands is of roughly three thousand people.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Who is Humala?

A guest of honor attended the first formal meeting between Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez Frias and his political ally, Bolivia’s President Elect Evo Morales, his name is Ollanta Humala, the Peruvian candidate currently leading the presidential race scheduled for 09 April.

Morales and Chavez openly celebrated Ollanta's presence and predicted an electoral landslide in Peru that would strengthen their regional alliance.

Humala has a lot in common with Chavez. He ran a failed military rebellion against then President Alberto Fujimori and is running a nationalistic, anti-market, anti-American campaign.

Ollanta Humala is Chavez's latest investment and a potential member for the regional leftist presidential club. Ollanta Humala is Peru's next president.