This is number 13/2006. We are four days from the second-round of the Brazilian presidential elections, and Lula has a 22 point lead over Alckmin. People here in Brazil are already celebrating or crying. Daniel Ortegea, the former Sandanista leader in Nicaragua, will likely be the next president of that country. In Venezuela, polls report Hugo Chavez is 35 points ahead of his opponent Manuel Rosales.
In this edition:
The Brazilian National Intelligence Service (ABIN) has begun the internal selection process to send spies to Venezuela and Bolivia. A classified order made by the president initiated this process, and a daily here made it public. The ABIN office confirmed the news. Until now, Brazil had maintained ABIN agents in Washington, Key West, and Buenos Aires. The presence of Brazilian spies in Venezuela and Bolivia may be the first of a series of geopolitical moves made by Brazil to exert its influence over her neighbors.
As Chavez sprints the campaign trail, two unexploded bombs were found outside the US Embassy in Caracas on 23 October. A moto-taxi driver alerted local police after giving a ride to a guy with a large duffle bag. Inside the bag were Hezbollah pamphlets and a student ID card. Local authorities consider the suspect "demented". And that was that. It's unclear if the story was buried or just a non-starter. Once again flimsy evidence has surfaced that Hezbollah is operating in Venezuela. US Southern Command is convinced of the terrorist organization's presence on Margarita Island, just north of Venezuela, but concrete evidence has not yet surfaced in the public domain. Stay tuned...
Meanwhile, eight tons of cocaine were found off the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean off the Ecuadorian coast. Three Costa Ricans were arrested. This is the second cocaine bust involving Costa Ricans this month. On 9 October a Costa Rican vessel was intercepted with 3.5 tons of cocaine aboard. The eight-ton bust is the largest single seizure I am aware of in Latin America.
At the United Nations, Venezuela has announced it's willing to pass the baton to Bolivia, and Evo Morales has accepted. I don't think Bolivia has a very good chance of winning a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, but if it does, I imagine we will soon have more evidence of the deepening ties between Venezuela and Bolivia.
Finally, another bomb exploded in Bogota on 19 October. President Alvaro Uribe immediately blamed the FARC, but it is not clear if the FARC actually planted the bomb. Calling off hostage-exchange talks with the FARC, Uribe said the only way to free the hostages the FARC has been holding for years is with the Colombian military.
As a high-delegation of US officials hold meetings in Bogota today, 25 October, and tomorrow, Colombia's Foreign Minister is holding talks with Ecuador and Venezuela to share intelligence the Colombian government has that high-level FARC operatives are currently in the eastern jungles of Ecuador and the remote border lands between Venezuela and Colombia.
If Chavez remains in office, and Ecuadorian presidential candidate Rafael Correa - a known Chavez sympathizer - becomes Ecuador's next president, Colombia will have two neighbors that are tacit FARC supporters. The harder Uribe squeezes the FARC in Colombia, the more likely they are to displace their presence into Ecuador and Venezuela, not to mention Panama and Brazil.