January 4, 2006 [LINK]

Venezuela pledges aid to Bolivia

Even before President-elect Evo Morales has been inaugurated, he has reached an agreement with Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez by which Venezuela will transfer cash and petroleum fuel for the benefit of poor Bolivians. Morales' first stop on his world tour was Cuba, and Chavez called the three leftist leaders "an axis of good." See CNN.com. Morales is now in Spain, visiting Prime Minister Zapatero, a Socialist who sympathizes with Morales' radical reform agenda. See BBC.

Zapatistas adopt peaceful means

Zapatista rebel leader Marcos, who had been a fugitive from the law for years, is now particpating in open politics. He received a warm welcome during a "campaign stop" in Palenque, near one of Mexico's finest Mayan ruins. See Miami Herald (collaboration with El Universal, in English). Although this is a clear step toward more peaceful style of politics, it also represents the underlying tide of left-wing populist politics that is affecting several countries in South America. It remains to be seen whether the leftist leaders are fully committed to abiding by democratic, constitutional norms. Meanwhile, drug-related violence continues in Nuevo Laredo and other towns along the Rio Grande.

Peru seeks Fujimori's extradition

The request by the Peruvian government that Chile hand over former President Alberto Fujimori to stand trial in Peru, was widely anticipated, really just a formality. See CNN.com. It will be interesting to see if Chile's outgoing leftist government of Ricardo Lagos takes this opportunity to build relations with Peru, which have deteriorated in recent months. He and his likely successor, Michelle Bachelet, have no love lost for Fujimori, a right-wing authoritarian who is often compared to Pinochet.

Brazil prison riot

About 200 visitors to a prison in the Brazilian state of Rondonia, located on the edge of the Amazon jungle, were freed after spending five days as hostages of inmates last week. The riot was to back up the prisoners' demands that their leader, Ednildo Paula Souza, be returned to the Urso Branco (White Bear) penitentiary, which is reputedly among the most violent of Brazil's prisons. He had escaped from that prison two weeks earlier, was caught, and then transfered to a different prison. See CNN.com.

Haiti still turbulent

Two officials of the Organization of American States who had been kidnapped in Haiti were freed, along with the wife of one of them. For the third or fourth time, the elections there have been postponed because the security situation is still so poor that it is impossible to distribute ballots to all polling places on time. No word on when the new election day will be. See BBC.