November 29, 2007
Perhaps Hugo Chavez's path to absolute power won't be as easy as he thought. Several leftist leaders who used to be allied with him now realize that he is on the verge of becoming a dictator and no longer has much need for their support. Accordingly, some of them have joined the (mostly) conservative opposition, trying to persuade Venezuelans to vote "no" in the referendum that will be held on Sunday. The governor of the coastal state of Sucre, Ramon Martinez, says the proposed constitutional revision would amount to a coup d'etat. The recent "defection" of retired General Raul Baduel, another ex-supporter, was another big setback for Chavez, who accuses his opponents of collaborating with the Bush administration. See Washington Post. It is hard to imagine that Chavez would admit electoral defeat, so the question is whether the vote will be close enough to prompt his minions to tamper with the vote count.
Protests continue against President Evo Morales's push for constitutional changes that would follow in the authoritarian footsteps of Hugo Chavez. Four people were killed over the weekend, and banks and various businesses around the country closed in a peaceful "strike" yesterday. The leader of the opposition in the eastern city of Santa Cruz, Branko Marinkovic, announced that a hunger strike will begin next week. Morales responded by blaming the strike on defenders of "the neoliberal model that has done so much harm to the country." His support is strongest in the cities of Cochabamba and La Paz, the capital. See BBC. Ah yes, those "evil capitalists"...
Fifteen years after their leader Abimael Guzman was captured, the threat from the terrorist-rebels in Peru continues in a sporadic fashion. Epifanio Espiritu Acosta, one of the few remaining Shining Path guerrilla leaders, was killed in Aucayacu, in central Peru. Interior Minister Luis Alva Castro (whom I once interviewed) said the security forces are now "very close to Artemio [and] getting closer". Rebels in Peru can finance their operations through the drug trade, and are therefore less likely to depend on help from trouble-makers like Hugo Chavez. See BBC.