December 19, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Regional strife in Bolivia

Protests against the proposed new constitution in Bolivia are growing again, as the departments (provinces) of Santa Cruz, Tarija, Pando, and Beni are demanding autonomy from the central government. Those are the states with higher incomes levels, mainly reflecting their natural resources such as natural gas. Hunger strikes and petition drives are among the tactics employed by the dissenters. The country is teetering on the brink of dissolution, and yet President Evo Morales seems unperturbed in his campaign to take control on behalf of the Indian population -- and presumably the coca leaf traffickers whose cause he has espoused. See Washington Post and BBC.

Home for the holidays?

In Colombia, the FARC rebels are dangling the prospect of a hostage release as a public relations gesture for the holidays. Venezuela's Hugo Chavez is doing his best to stay involved, contrary to the express wish of President Uribe, and the rebels (drug-running thugs, basically) are clearly looking to him for protection and international legitimacy. The most famous hostage, Ingrid Betancourt, recently sent a letter to her mother as "proof of life," and the daughter is quite weary of being a captive since 2002. See Washington Post. Speaking of which, I highly recommend the movie Proof of Life, starring Russell Crowe; see Internet Movie Database. It is gripping and very realistic portrayal of the hostage-taking "industry" in Latin America.