February 21, 2006 [LINK]

Chavez: cry of the loon

Hugo Chavez's latest verbal outburst -- a childish taunt to Condoleezza Rice (see CNN.com) -- simply does not merit repeating; doing so would only encourage him. It fits the recent pattern, making it clear that he is either a borderline mental case or wants us to think that he is. There is something familiar about his clownish posturing, and I just realized which historical leader Chavez reminds me of: Benito Mussolini, Il Duce. The same vain boasting and silly faces, pandering to the uneducated masses while dragging his country down to ruins. Apologists for such farcical despots always have some lame excuse in terms of practical action: "He made sure the trains ran on time" or "He provides food and health care to the poor people." It must be terribly embarrassing and depressing for educated Venezuelans. If Hugo were not an elected head of state, I would put him in the unmentionable wacko category. Nevertheless, I remain convinced that the United States must back off and avoid doing anything that would provide Chavez with an excuse to call us imperialists. Keeping tabs on any contacts between his regime and terrorist groups, via passive espionage, should be the extent of our intervention in Venezuela.

Peruvian rebel leader killed

One of the few leaders of the Sendero Luminoso ("Shining Path") terrorist movement who remains at large was killed by Peruvian police on Sunday. Hector Aponte, a.k.a "Comrade Clay," was killed in the Huallaga Valley, the main coca-producing region of Peru. He led the rebel unit that had killed eight police in December. It is believed that a about 150 rebels are operating under "Comrade Artemio" in the jungles around Tingo Maria, and about 300 are further south, in the Apurimac and Ene river valleys. That area is close to Ayacucho, the original "heartland" of the Senderistas. (See map of Peru.) See CNN.com. I see no signs that the terrorist remnants in Peru are gathering significant momentum, but their activities are cause for some worry nonetheless.

It so happens that Jacqueline is in Peru right now, visiting her family and old friends. Unlike our hurried "touristy" vacation to Peru two years ago, when we went to Cuzco and Machu Picchu, this time she is going to relax.

Web site touchups

I have turned my Web site enhancement attention to the Latin America section. I have made some organizational and aesthetic changes, and updating the chronologies on the country pages comes next.