August 17, 2005 [LINK]
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is making his third trip to Latin America in the past year. The purpose is to improve relations with Latin American democracies, reverse the trend toward political instability, and fight terrorism and drug trafficking. In Paraguay, where he was met with a small group of anti-U.S. protesters, he questioned the involvement of Cuba and Venezuela in Bolivia's recent turmoil, urging neighboring countries to act in support of Bolivia's imperiled democracy. Paraguay seldom makes news headlines, but its thinly-guarded border with Argentina and Brazil has long been plagued with large-scale smuggling of drugs and sundry contraband goods, and Middle East terrorist groups such as Hamas are said to be getting funding from this illicit traffic. Today Rumsfeld is visiting Peru, where President Toledo has reversed his decision to name a political ally to the post of foreign minister, which led to the resignation of the cabinet. Toledo's government is is no position to undertake any major policy initiatives at the moment. Rumsfeld's visits are a good sign that the United States is attentive to the overlooked zone of instability in the southern hemisphere, but a visit by President Bush would accomplish much more.
At least 100 people died, and only a few survived, when a boat from Ecuador carrying passengers in the cargo hold sank in rough seas off the coast of Colombia. They were apparently headed toward the United States.