February 10, 2006 [LINK]

Mixed messages from Chavez

Hugo Chavez continues to raise hell in Venezuela, trying desperately to get the world to take him seriously. Yesterday, he called heaped insults upon Prime Minister Tony Blair, who had criticized Chavez in Parliament this week, and called on Great Britain to hand over control of the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands to Argentina. He also repeated his past derisive denunciations of President Bush, calling him a "nut case" for -- he says -- planning to invade Iran and Venezuela. Earlier this week, he ordered American missionaries to leave the remote Indian villages where they were working, accusing them of "espionage." See CNN.com. On the same day, however, Venezuela's ambassador in Washington, Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez Herrera, expressed a desire to maintain "mature and rational relations" and to continue trade ties. See Washington Post. Such ritualistic defiant posturing is normal for many Third World governments, but in Venezuela's case the rhetoric is really getting out of hand. The problem is that people grow weary of harsh talk with no action to back it up, and there is a temptation to escalate tensions just to maintain the public's attention. Unless cooler heads prevail, this practice either leads to an unintended international crisis, or else a humiliating retreat.

Votes counted in Haiti

The ballots are slowly being tabulated in Haiti, and the lead of the presumed victor, Rene Preval, is narrowing. If he receives less than 50 percent of the total, there will be a runoff election on March 19. See CNN.com.