July 8, 2005 [LINK]

Bolivia plans new elections

The Bolivian congress voted 80-27 on Tuesday to hold new national elections in December and hold a constitutional referendum next July, in an effort to stave off insurrection and save what's left of their democracy. The fact that the terms of incumbent congresspersons will be shorted by a year and a half, contrary to what the constitution provides for, obviously counts for much less than preserving social peace. The opposition consists mainly of dirt-poor Indian miners and peasants who are led (and paid) by coca growers. Your drug dollars at work! In mid-June U.N. envoy Jose Antonio Ocampo met with new president Eduardo Rodriguez in an effort to bolster the new government and the country's shaky democratic institutions. That will take a lot of dollars and a lot of luck.

Cabinet shakeup in Brazil

President "Lula" da Silva has named a new labor minister as part of a cabinet shuffle that he hopes will lay to rest the wave of corruption charges leveled against his government. It is noteworthy that da Silva, as well as Mexico's Vicente Fox, were present at the G-8 Summit in Scotland. That seems to represent an effort by the "elite eight" to reach out to the middle-level powers of the Third World. That's a noble gesture, but it does little more than dilute the already-weak common interests that might make the G-8 an efficient agent of global action.

Postage stamp outrage in Mexico

Who writes letters or collects stamps anymore? Besides me, I mean. Well, somebody must, because a set of commemorative stamps in Mexico featuring caricatures of African folks has sparked anger in the U.S. black community again. The small black minority in Mexico has expressed displeasure as well. Cultural standards are much different in Latin America, however. The sort of Uncle Tom imagery that no one here would even dream of showing in public is accepted as normal south of the Rio Grande. Perhaps that will start to change as a result of globalization.

Colombia-Ecuador tensions

There has been a lot of controversy in Colombia lately about vigilante militias, and whether they should be prosecuted for murders. The war against FARC guerrilla-terrorists has now spread south to the border with Ecuador, and the government of President Uribe has complained to Ecuador that it's not doing enough to control the guerrillas who take sanctuary on the Ecuador side. As if the fragile government of Ecuador is even in much of a position to do anything about it...