February 2, 2008
Overall, there hasn't been a lot of big news in Latin America for the past month, even though tensions remain high in various countries. In Bolivia as well as Ecuador, the presidents (Evo Morales and Rafael Correa, respectively) are still pushing hard to revamp their countries' constitutions in the mold of Venezuela. Today's Washington Post reported that in Bolivia, indigenous groups are anticipating getting the right to administer justice according to local community standards. That would entail, among other things, holding trials and meting out punishment without due process, in effect legitimizing vigilante justice. This is the country where, in 1946, then-president Villaroel was deposed by a mass uprising and then hanged in the Plaza de Portillo, next to the presidential palace. Mob rule in action...
In Venezuela, of course, President-for-life Hugo Chavez is still making anti-imperialist noises, but his words seem to have less impact all the time. (He wouldn't let a little thing like losing a referendum get him off his stride.) Perhaps the "red fever" sweeping the region is finally starting to cool off.
At Tech Central Station Daily, Raphael C. Rosen (link via InstaPundit) casts doubt on the purported menace posed by the Left, arguing that populism and resentment of incompetence are the primary factors that: "Politics throughout Latin America does not reduce to laminated right-wing or left-wing labels." There's probably some truth to that, but it's not unique to this situation. Throughout modern history, leftist leaders have drawn mass support from people who are motivated more by vague discontent with the status quo than any particular affinity to socialist ideology.
I can't help but notice that the same sort of dynamic exists in the United States right now. The possible election of Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton in November would not signify a national tilt to the left so much as a protest against the failure of (supposedly) conservative leaders to tackle the major problems we all face.
A jetliner with 150 passengers made a crash landing in a swamp amidst the jungles of northeastern Bolivia yesterday, because of bad weather and mechanical problems. All those aboard survived, though many of them were injured. The plane was an aging Boeing 727 operated by Lloyd Aero Boliviano. See BBC. It might have been the very same plane I was on 22 years ago...
A leading Colombian drug trafficker was found dead in Merida, Venezuela, apparently at the hand of his own men. Wilber Varela was in effect the successor to Pablo Escobar. See BBC.