Sunday, July 13, 2008

Latin America Round Up

A few things I've spotted over the last week. I've tried to avoid the barrage of coverage on Betancourt - don't want to overdo it on this admittedly very welcome story, although I should say that one of the first people she thanked upon her release was Hugo Chavez.

Strike waves in Honduras, Peru, and Mexico. But Peru's President thinks it's all down to the outside agitators who are trying to bring him down. Others are asking whether Peru's economic model working for the poor?

Things seem to be getting very hot in Ecuador's citizen's revolution as the state seizes TV stations and over 200 companies. The FT reports on some of the economic problems the country is facing, including the resignation of the finance minister. The government is threatening/promising to go further. "The mass confiscation was cheered by most Ecuadoreans, many of whom demand jail sentences to bank owners", bloody communists.

The Huffington Post raises questions about the US relationship with Mexico's torturers.

Whilst it seems Uribe has kissed and made up with Chavez, despite Ecuador's continued reluctance. Meanwhile the Farc have denounced its own members who betrayed them to allow the hostages to go free. The View from Steeltown asks whether we are seeing the end of Farc. More from Latin America News Review on Colombia.

V from S also reports that things seem to look hopeful for the electoral left in El Salvador.

Now, did John McCain literally put the boot into a leading Sandinista in the eighties? A spokesperson says it doesn't matter "Decades have passed since then and he wanted to make the point that over the years he has seen Sen. McCain mature into an individual who is not only spirited and tenacious but also thoughtful and levelheaded," by not thumping people whilst on diplomatic missions anymore.

In Chile they're going nuclear in more ways than one.

Firstly there's the power stations, but then there's the protests against market reforms in education. 150 were arrested as teachers and students demonstrated against the new education bill (right). This comes over concerns that Bachelet, the country's first woman President (and who has argued that Ingrid Betancourt should be given the Nobel Peace Prize), may lose next year's election to right wing billionaire, Sebastian Pinera, which would be the first time the "right" had been in power in Chile for 18 years.

Whilst Chavez is busy buying Russian tanks the New Statesman argues that his time could be running out if he can't get the programme back on the road. But others say the Venezuelan economy is going from strength to strength, which is crucial in my view.

However, it's probably not helpful when nearly 300 opposition candidates for the upcoming local elections are barred from standing. I don't think the left would tolerate this behaviour if it was directed at them, but it seems to be remaining silent when its conducted by one of their own. Annoying.

I'm not the greatest fan of President Lula of Brazil but on his recent trip to Vietnam he did say that "The Vietnamese can be proud of being the people that defeated the French and the Americans in the same century. That says a lot about who the Vietnamese people are and how resilient they are." Credit where it's due I say.

Meanwhile the US has resumed military operations in the region with the redeployment of the IV Fleet. So maybe Lula will have a chance to emulate his Vietnamese heroes sooner than he thought. Will this help repair the diplomatic rift between the US and Bolivia? No. It wont.

Of course there's the news that Bolivia has rediscovered Che Guevara's final diaries, which unsurprisingly has done nothing to prevent the UK tightening immigration from "risky" countries including Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Looking to Cuba it appears that Raul Castro is preparing the people for economic problems ahead which may "slow reform", plans include raising retirement age by five years "from 60 to 65 and for women from 55 to 60". They've already doubled rice production after concerns about rising price of food.

It's a shame to see state sponsored homophobia re-emerge in Cuba as Permanent Revolution informs us that Havana's first ever gay pride march has been banned. There's also an interesting piece in the Washington Post about how the mob won and lost Cuba.

Anyway, I'm sure that's enough reading to be getting on with. Ta ta.

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