Diplomatic flap in Bolivia
Today is Bolivia's national holiday, and folks down there are celebrating the 180th anniversary of their independence from Spain. The country is in very shaky conditions since the uprising that induced former President Carlos Mesa to resign in June, but the good news is that tensions have eased slightly, averting an armed rebellion or civil war. One sign of the extreme fragility of the government is that the finance minister resigned just because he suggested that Evo Morales, head of the coca-lobby "Movement Toward Socialism," is tied to Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. This would not surprise any impartial observer of either Bolivia or Venezuela. Analysts in Bolivia warn that the special elections later this year will result in a fragmented, ineffective government unless some of the political parties can join forces and present consolidated lists of candidates for the national assembly.
Violence in Mexico worsens
The U.S. Consulate in Nuevo Laredo, across the Rio Grande from Laredo, Texas, had to be closed for several days because violence perpetrated by drug lords had made it too dangerous. Policemen were abducted and later released by gangs in Acapulco. Automatic weapons, hand grenades, and even rocket launchers are being used, suggesting that the narcoterrorist threat that has plagued South America for two decades is already on our own doorstep. The dire warnings of Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) and Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) about the need to make our southern border more secure cannot be ignored much longer. Inasmuch as one of the principle objectives of NAFTA was to expand economic opportunities in Mexico, obviating the need for a "Berlin wall" along the Mexican frontier, the broader question is what can be done to restart the process of economic liberalization that has stalled in Mexico.
Central America earthquake
A small earthquake (6.3 Richter scale) rattled southern Nicaragua and northwestern Costa Rica before dawn Wednesday. Damage was minor. I was trevelling in those areas earlier this year.