November 11, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Ibero-American summit discord

Regional summit meetings are supposed to be occasions for smoothing over relations between neighboring countries, but such was not the case at the Ibero-American summit in Santiago, Chile last week.

As usual, Hugo Chavez is gleefully grabbing the international limelight in a diplomatic row between Venezuela and Spain. He had called the former prime minister of Spain, Jose Maria Aznar, a fascist, to which King Juan Carlos told Mr Chavez to "shut up." Chavez upped the trash-talk ante by asking the king if he knew in advance about the attempted coup against Chavez in 2002, noting that Spain's ambassador met with the usurper Pedro Carmona before the armed forces rallied to Chavez's defense and arrested Carmona. The king's actions were widely applauded back home in Spain, but he probably wishes he had stayed out of the shouting match with the Clown from Caracas. To his credit, Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (a leftist who has said nice things about Chavez) affirmed that his predecessor was duly elected and represented the people of Spain. See BBC.

Last week Chavez met with a representative of Colombian rebel leader Manuel Marulanda in Caracas, with the objective of arranging an exchange of prisoners. The most famous hostage of the rebels is Ingrid Betancourt, who ran for president several years ago. Surprisingly, the Colombian government approved this meeting. With the holiday season fast approaching, such a humanitarian gesture would garner public goodwill for both the government of Colombia and the FARC guerrillas. See BBC.

Once again, Argentina and Uruguay are mad at each other because of the foreign-owned paper mill that is being built on the Uruguayan side of the Uruguay River, which divides the two countries. Argentine people have gathered in large demonstrations after Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez issued his approval for the mill to start operations. The decision seemed timed to coincide with the summit, and could be considered somewhat provocative. See BBC.

And finally, some smart aleck hacked into the Web site of the President of Chile last week, putting a Peruvian flag and the words "Viva Peru!" and an expletive on it. Chileans had to close the site for a day before they could get it fixed and upgrade their security. See Tensions between Peru and Chile rose earlier this year over the issue of maritime territorial rights; see August 15.

"Ouro preto" in Brazil

That means "black gold" in Portuguese. Brazilian scientists announced the discovery of a major undersea oil field off the coast of Brazil, and the preliminary estimates are that Brazil could rank as one of the top petroleum exporters in the world within 20 years. It all depends on whether they will solve the technological challenge of deep-see drilling, which would probably require foreign (U.S.) investment participation, which would be hard for the nationalistic Brazilians to swallow. See