Leftists gain in Mexico
In elections held last Sunday, former Acapulco Mayor Zeferino Torreblanca, of the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), won the governorship in the Pacific coast state of Guerrero, thus ending 76 years of rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party. Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, also of the PRD, announced he will run for president in next year's elections, even though he may be charged with disobeying a court order related to a land deal. He claims he is being persecuted by political opponents.
U.S.-Mexican relations have deteriorated further in recent months, as American politicians have demanded tighter policing of the border and more rigorous enforcement of immigration laws. Rep. J. D. Hayworth (R-AZ) criticized the Mexican government for publishing a comic-illustrated booklet that gives practical advice to people who are trying to cross the border into the U.S. In response, Mexico's ambassador to the U.S., Carlos Icaza, insisted in early January that his country does encourage people to respect the law, saying the booklet was misinterpreted.
On a brighter note, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Tony Garza (a Tex-Mex friend of President Bush) just became engaged to Maria Asuncion Aramburuzabala. (Try saying that three times!) She is one of the richest women in Mexico, controlling the "Modelo" brewery, maker of Corona beer. They are both in their early 40s, and she has two children from an earlier marriage. It will take a lot more than a fairy tale wedding to repair U.S.-Mexican relations, however.
A flood of arms in Venezuela
The government rejected criticism by the United States over the decision to purchase Russian helicopters and small arms. Since the quantity of rifles (100,000) exceeds the number of regular army soldiers, it is feared that President Hugo Chavez intends to supply guerrilla movements in Colombia. Chavez and President Uribe of Colombia are scheduled to meet this week to ease tensions along their mutual border. At least 60 people have died in floods around Caracas and nearby mountain villages during the past few days. Chavez appeared at some of the relief centers to show his concern for the victims.
Five people were killed during "gang turf wars" waged by inmates at Lurigancho prison last week. In Peru and much of Latin America, there usually aren't enough guards to control what goes on inside prisons.
Eight people were killed in a prison uprising near the city of Cordoba during visiting hours on Thursday; police regained control on Friday.
Floods, scandals in Costa Rica
Much of the eastern part of the country was hit hard by heavy flooding in mid-January, causing damage to some national parks. President Abel Pacheco, who is 71, was hospitalized after suffering chest pains, but it does not appear serious. Former President Jose Maria Figueres (who served from 1994 to 1998) refused to return to Costa Rica to face charges of embezzling state funds. He currently lives in Switzerland, and the Costa Rican government is threatening to have him arrested by Interpol agents. This comes only a few months after former President Miguel Angel Rodriguez was obliged to resign as secretary general of the OAS after it was revealed that he had taken bribes from the Spanish telephone company Alcatel in 2001.