This is a source for analysis, interviews, and commentary on security in Latin America. Herein you will find rumors, the results of off the record interviews, and information you'll not find in international or United States news media.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Lula's Meddling, Chavez's deals, and a Regional Military proposal on the way...

This is number 15/2006. Votes for October's monthly survey have been tallied. The top two topics voted were the Mara Salvatrucha street gangs, which came in second with 27% and the FARC's international network, which came in fist with 33%. Over the next two weeks, we will prepare a detailed report on the FARC's international networks, including interviews, maps, and other graphics. I will announce its publication on the website and via this newsletter. Next week, I will post the new topics for the November survey, including the Mara Salvatrucha street gang topic, as it came in second this month.

In this edition:

Brazilian president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva visited Venezuela the week of 13 November to sign some energy agreements and inaugurate a bridge between the two countries that has recently completed construction. Interestingly, Lula's implicit backing of Hugo Chavez weeks ahead of Venezuela’s presidential elections raised alarm in Brazil over Lula’s apparent "meddling" in Venezuelan affairs. Up until now, Chavez has been the only state leader denounced for meddling in another country's elections.

Lula's timing was planned. He would prefer to see Chavez remain as Venezuela's president, as he knows Chavez's leadership in Venezuela does not threaten Brazil. It also keeps the United State’s presence in South America off balance, another geopolitical factor that works in Lula's favor.

Meanwhile, US President George Bush has quietly waived a long-standing prohibition on International Military Education and Training Program for countries around the world, including numerous Latin American countries. Venezuelan and Chinese military influence in the region likely has Pentagon leaders worried. It will be interesting to see if the US uses these training programs to increase military-military ties in South America in a move to counter-act Chavez's regional military movements.

Brazil has also made an interesting announcement. On 15 November, Brazil's military advisory group, the Nucleus of Strategic Matters began drafting a proposal for the creation of a South American military force, using NATO as a model. Chavez, Morales, and Kirchner will likely sign on to such a proposal, which looks like a play by Brazil to get back on top of the regional geopolitical game. I expect Lula to focus more on seizing regional leadership now that he's past the elections and has washed his hands clean (well mostly) of past corruption scandals.

Meanwhile, Venezuela has signed a memorandum of understanding with Syria and Iran to build a refinery in Syria. Venezuela has also recently signed a bundle of new agreements with China, bringing the two countries closer together.

Finally, Brazil has announced it will resume construction on its Angra 3 nuclear reactor. We're still waiting to see how the international nuclear watch dog, the IAEA, reacts.

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