April 12, 2006 [LINK]

Counting votes in Peru

With 88 percent of the votes counted, Humala has 31.0 percent, Garcia has 24.4 percent, and Flores has 23.3 percent. Only eight percent of the overseas votes have been counted, however, and the lead of Flores among expatriate Peruvians has climbed to 72 percent. APRA is seeking to nullify ballots cast in several overseas cities, including New York, Miami, Milan, and others. Jorge del Castillo charged that campaign activities on behalf of Lourdes Flores were taking place right outside voting places, contrary to law. Of course, it is difficult to enforce Peruvian law in other countries. Whoever wins second place, Humala says he will not be part of any political alliance in the second round election campaign. See CNN.com and El Comerico of Peru (in Spanish).

While the votes were being counted, President Alejandro Toledo traveled to Washington to witness the signing of the free trade treaty with the United States. Peru's minister of foreign trade and tourism, Alfredo Ferrero, and the U.S. special trade representative, Rob Portman, signed the document. If either Humala or Garcia takes office on July 28, however, the agreement might end up being nullified. Both men are strongly against free trade with the United States.

Spanish arm sale to Venezuela

In spite of U.S. objections, the government of Spain is going ahead with the sale of ten military transport planes and eight patrol boats to Venezuela. The deal is worth $2 billion, the biggest military sale in Spain's history; negotiations on it began in November. The CASA CN-235 planes normally contain U.S.-made parts, but because of U.S. restrictions on sale of military technology to hostile countries, the Spanish company EADS-Casa will have to find substitute parts from some other supplier. See CNN.com. It is hard to remember the last time that a country that was recently a close ally of the United States took such an abrupt turn and began providing strategic assets to a country that is an avowed enemy. One can only imagine the consternation in the State Department, and the icy personal relationships with the diplomatic representatives of Spain in Washington.