We pray for their continued survival and a successful rescue.
We pray for their continued survival and a successful rescue.
This article in Monday's New York Times regarding Lula and Chavez, the presidents of Brazil and Venezuela, respectively, raises some interesting questions and makes a compelling comparison between the pragmatic Lula and the bombastic Chavez.
Chavez is in need of an antagonist, constantly in need of an antagonist. Chavez apparently needs attention. Chavez apparently needs to be perceived as the big man. Chavez certainly appears to be enamored of his own grandeza, armed with vast quantities of oil.
By contrast, Lula's approach is best embodied in his own words:
“We are not trying to find a leader in Latin America,” he said in the September interview. “We don’t need a leader. I am not worried about being the leader of anything. What I want is to govern my country well.”
Towards whom will history be kinder? Time will, quite literally tell. I think it's clear who will effect enduring change: the man with more concern about addressing the needs of most of the citizens of his entire country, not the man who believes his mission is as the second coming of Simon Bolivar.
These should be worth your attention:
Argentinean President Nestor Kirchner has authorized current and former officials to reveal state secrets if called to testify in trials related to Argentina's Dirty War in the 1970's and early 1980's. Good news: this will remove one more barrier to the truth.
Andres Oppenheimer has a bizarre account of events surrounding Manuel Noriega's downfall.
Some good news for Brazil nut trees (castanha do Para in Portuguese) and, as in the case of protections extended to rubber trees in the past, good news for the Amazon.
Is a close adviser of Evo Morales wanted in Peru for allegations of terrorism in the 1990's? it certainly appears so:
A Peruvian man described as a shadowy member of Bolivian President Evo Morales' inner circle is wanted on terrorism charges in Peru, a Peruvian prosecutor confirmed Friday.
The wanted man, Walter Chávez, 40, has an office on the third floor of Bolivia's presidential palace, near Morales', and was a major advisor during Morales' 2005 campaign for president, say political insiders in Bolivia.
''He has a lot of influence with Evo,'' political analyst Cayetano Llobet said by telephone from La Paz on Friday. ``Everybody knows he's very close to Evo.''
Chávez, in a telephone interview from his office at the Palacio Quemado, told The Miami Herald that no one has ever found proof that he was a terrorist, and he downplayed his influence with Morales.
''I collaborate with Evo,'' Chávez said. ``I help write speeches, and sometimes Evo asks me for my opinion about something with the press or something going on abroad.''
It will be interesting to see where this leads.
I'm dipping into Boz's territory, but I want to call your attention to a couple of opinion polls regarding Latin America.
Cubans, while satisfied with their health care and educational opportunities, seem satisfied with litle else:
Cubans in Havana and Santiago are largely dissatisfied with their personal freedom. Only one in four (25%) say they are satisfied with their “freedom to choose what to do with [their] life.” This is far lower than the average of 80 percent in the rest of urban Latin America. It is also the lowest percentage among the more than 100 countries polled on this question, according to Gallup, ranking below impoverished and politically unstable countries such as Ethiopia (30% satisfied) and Zimbabwe (32%).
Only a third (34%) say they are able to use their talent as much as they would like compared to two-thirds (66%) of other urban Latin Americans. And only half (53%) answer affirmatively when asked if they were able to choose “how you spent your day yesterday,” compared with an average of 75 percent in other Latin American cities.
Moreover, few Cubans believe they are able to improve their lives. Only a third (31%) say they currently have a “plan, idea or invention in mind to improve [their] standard of living” and less than half (42%) say people in their country can “get ahead by working hard.” In the rest of urban Latin America, 46 percent say they have ways to get ahead and 77 percent think people in their country can get ahead through hard work.
Cubans also score relatively low on other indicators of personal well being: 56 percent say they are “proud of something” done the previous day (72% other urban Latin Americans), 63 percent say they experienced enjoyment the previous day (79% other urban Latin Americans) and 62 percent say they laughed or smiled (82% other urban Latin Americans).
Who can blame them?
Another poll deals with the general political attitudes in Latin America. This poll defies easy answers. For example, while Panamanians consider themselves to be the furthest left-leaning of the nation's surveyed, Panama also gives George Bush his highest ratings in Latin America?!?
Overall, Hugo Chavez and George Bush were given among the lowest ratings in the region. Only Peruvian President Alan Garcia and Fidel Castro were rated worse. Interesting.
I'm fighting a cold, but I did want to call your attention to a few things.
Good God, they're even losing the military!
Justice continues to march on in Argentina.
As much as Felipe Calderon likened AMLO to Hugo Chavez during last year's campaign, he sures seems interested in getting Mexico back into Chavez's good graces.
I had the pleasure of meeting Michael Berube about eighteen months ago and was pleased to discover that his in person persona was just as charming and funny as his blog posts. I'm going to miss his blog, but I hope he'll come over and share his wit and wisdom here.
Kevin Hayden is packing it in and I understand why, although I'm deeply sorry to see him go. I posted several times at The American Street and understand his fatigue. Working full time and having to maintain quality writing is draining on a regular basis. There's been more than a few times when I feel like I'm just phoning it in. Kevin, if you ever feel the urge, please let me know and I'll be happy to have you post here.
Freedom of the press is essential to a democracy, even when the press opposes the leadership. Perhaps someday Hugo Chavez will realize that.
Corruption in Chile is apparently not limited to Augusto Pinochet.
Kidnapping and murders are still rampant in Haiti, only now it isn't political.
In Colombia, the continued murder of AUC members - apparently by their own - shows that their organizational culture is dominated more by omerta than by anything else. There's a phrase for that: criminal enterprise.
The difficulties of justice marching on in Argentina are well covered here. This is the guy I think most deserving of punishment:
In 1977, Alfredo Astíz, a former naval intelligence officer, infiltrated the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo group, founded to lobby for information on missing people, by pretending to be searching for his missing brother. His information led to several women being rounded up and killed, including the founder of the Mothers, Azucena Villaflor, and two French nuns, Léonie Duquet and Alice Domon.
How effective can the First Family's security be if the president's daughter has her purse snatched from underneath her table in Buenos Aires?
Castro's regime tries to scam Peer Music out of its fair share of royalties for Cuban songwriters from the 1930's. Nobody apparently wins.
Of all the many things for which I have to be thankful, one is the ongoing march towards justice in Chile:
As prosecutors race against the biological clock to bring 90-year old Augusto Pinochet to justice, the former dictator is facing a slew of court proceedings on both human rights and financial fronts.
Pinochet now spends his time between house arrest and seclusion in a rich Santiago suburb, with his family and attorneys portraying him as senile and unfit to stand trial on any of the many charges he faces.
Victims of the Pinochet regime, however, have been steadfast in their battle for justice, arguing that he is sane and able to stand trial, and that a guilty verdict is a needed step for national reconciliation. Many fear that the atrocities that occurred under the regime will be forgotten by history if Pinochet is not found guilty before his death.
The former army general, who turns 91 on Saturday, ruled Chile from 1973-1990 and has never faced a definitive trial for the more than 3,000 deaths and disappearances that occurred under his regime, often attributing what he calls ''excesses'' to subordinate officials.
Have a lousy birthday mi general. Have a great Thanksgiving everyone!
When the person killed or seriously injured is the breadwinner, the families of these victims are often forced into poverty. The cumulative cost to the Latin American and Caribbean region is about 1 percent of our gross domestic product, or more than $20 billion a year.
World Bank statistics show that in 2000, the Latin American and Caribbean region had the highest average rate of road traffic deaths per capita in the world: We lose about 122,000 lives every year. And for every person who dies, 20 to 50 are seriously injured. If we do not take strong and effective measures, this number is sure to rise markedly.
Since Mercia and I have been together, I would estimate that at least five of her family members and five of her friends in Brazil have been killed in vehicular accidents. Some of the major problems in Brazil in my thoroughly inexpert opinion are as follows:
The volume of bus and truck traffic on bad roads only exacerbates the situation. From a personal standpoint, I nearly got added to the statistics. In December 2001, I was flying to Belo Horizonte and being met at the airport by one of Mercia's cousins. The plan was for us to nap for a few hours and leave at one a.m. to drive to Mercia's hometown for her parents 50th wedding anniversary. The cousin's wife was driving at about 2:30 a.m. and apparently fell asleep at the wheel as we are awakened by the high grass whacking the windshield as we found ourselves in the vegetation on the other side of the road. I was informed that this was not unusual. Our only saving grace was the absence of traffic at that time of day.
In 2002, Snopes, the famous Urban Legends Reference Page, published this article regarding an allegation that, when discussing the ethnic diversity of Brazil at a meeting in November 2001 with Brazil's president, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, President Bush asked Cardoso the following question:
"Do you have blacks, too?"
Even I didn't put too much credence in that. I couldn't believe Bush was that ignorant.
I have been reading President Cardoso's autobiography and apparently at least at that time President Bush was that ignorant. I call your attention to page 260 and Cardoso's contemporaneous account of the meeting:
Bush had recently been to a mosque in Washington to show his support for the Islamic community. I congratulated him for the gesture.
"We can't confuse religion with terrorism," I commented. "Our world is a world of diversity. In Brazil we have 10 million Arabs, and they are overwhelmingly peaceful."
Bush nodded. "It sounds like you've got a real diverse country down there."
"Oh yes," I said. "We are truly a melting pot." I told him about all the immigration Brazil had from Italy, Germany, Ukraine, Japan and so on. "we also have one of the world's largest populations of blacks, you know."
"Do you have blacks in Brazil?" Bush asked.
At that point [Condolezza] Rice chimed in. "Of course, Mister President," she said, and we quickly changed the subject to other matters.
Cardoso has a great deal of credibility with me. I see no reason for him to fabricate such an instance. I guess I misoverestimated the president.
By the way, I e-mailed the snopes site and they responded promptly with a note thanking me for the update.
UPDATE: Mércia reminded me that in June of 2002 we were at a party and met a Brazilian diplomat who related the story to us. I was skeptical, but he told me that Cardoso himself told him the story. Doesn't necessarily make it true, but it's interesting.