Peru-U.S. free trade advances
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Peru-U.S. free trade agreement by a vote of 285-132 today, as many Democrats joined the Republicans. According to the Washington Post, "The accord with Peru would eliminate duties immediately on some 80 percent of U.S. industrial exports and two-thirds of farm exports. It could increase American exports by $1 billion a year." This was a gratifying gesture of friendship to Latin America at a time when antipathy toward immigrants by some Americans is stirring up resentment toward the U.S. in some countries. Indeed, anyone who is concerned about illegal immigration in this country should be happy that we are taking measures that will reduce the incentive for people to cross our border illegally in search of work. Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) argued in favor of free trade, saying that "Latin America is at a crossroads." Either we work to enhance economic opportunities for Latin American people, or the influence of Hugo Chavez becomes stronger. Of the Democrats who voted in favor of the measure, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said "I don't want this party to be viewed as an anti-trade party." It may take several more weeks before the Senate takes up the matter, however.
Colom wins in Guatemala
Alvaro Colom, a moderate left businessman, won the presidential election in Guatemala on Sunday. This was two months after the first round election in which no candidate received a majority. Colom pledged to fight police corruption and expand social services during his campaign, while the conservative candidate, former general Otto Perez Molina, emphasized cracking down on crime. Guatemala remains one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere, a reflection of the enduring class and ethnic divisions. See BBC.
VP geography flub
Vice President Dick Cheney recently talked about the menace of Hugo Chavez, saying that the people of Peru (!) don't really support him. Chavez is actually the president of Venezuela. What-ever! See BBC.