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, August 16, 2007

Hitting the highlights after a long absence

This is number 6/2007. My apologies for the long absence. We are back. I will endeavor to produce this newsletter once a month at the very least. Since March, I have been working with a European company, Riskline, covering political risk and security in the region. We also have a developing blog. It has been time consuming but rewarding work! My own website, where you may find commentary and analysis on politics, security, and energy in the region, has been updated (mostly) as of this posting.

In this edition:

So many items are worth mention. I will try to cover the highlights here and get into more detail in future posts.

The Brazilian president's response to the worst aircraft accident in Brazilian history was dismal at best. The country suffers from a significant lack of infrastructure development, and the bureaucracy that supervises commercial aviation in Brazil is complicated and stuffed with political appointees. Many have little to no experience with matters of aviation security.

In Argentina, a couple recent scandals, one involving US$ 800,000 illegally brought to Argentina by a Venezuelan businessman on a private jet chartered by the Argentine national energy company, have tainted president Nestor Kirchner's popularity a little. But they seem to have not affected his wife's campaign for president. Elections are set for October. All expect Kirchner's wife to win, which means little by way of a chance in governance or economic policy - not a good sign for the country's long term growth and stability.

In Ecuador and Bolivia, presidents Rafael Correa and Evo Morales continue to push forward with a Constituent Assembly to rewrite the country's constitution, re-founding it to reflect the needs of the poor. In Bolivia, the process has been met with widespread protests, some for others against the government. Lately, Evo's left flank has become rankled over their perception of his soft stance on reform, a trend that might force Morales into the middle of protests from the both ends of the Bolivian political spectrum. In Ecuador, Correa remains popular but he has only just begun the process.

Venezuela's Hugo Chavez continues to push forward with Socialist reforms at home while purchasing support abroad. He has encountered significant resistance in trying to reform Venezuela's political system under one party, and a string of corruption scandals pointing at Venezuelan energy company PDVSA have begun to attract negative attention at the domestic level. The latest scandal involving the Venezuelan businessman in Argentina has also chilled relations between the two countries. To save face, Kirchner is demanding that Chavez investigate the corruption on his end, but that would force Chavez to face the ugly truth about corruption in his country. It's a stand off, but Kirchner will grow quiet soon. After all, it was Chavez who was just in Argentina to buy yet another US$ 500 million in Argentine government bonds.

In Guatemala, presidential and congressional elections set for September have grown ugly. Over 50 people have been killed in a string of events that points to the close involvement of organized crime in the Guatemalan political field. Financial support of municipal and departmental candidates will ensure a leap forward for organized crime in terms of controlling Guatemalan politicians. The future for this Central American country does not look good. I suspect it will become a much more violent place in the very near future.

Meanwhile, presidents George W. Bush and Felipe Calderon of Mexico are expected to announce the latest developments of a closely guarded plan for the two countries to cooperate in the latest front for Washington's War on Drugs. It has become hard to ignore the violence along the US-Mexico border. And since Calderon has come into office (December 2006), he has proven his determination to take the fight to his country's criminals, a posture that has earned him some respect in Washington. There are many challenges ahead for a US-Mexico plan, but both sides are seriously talking and Mexican security is on President Bush's agenda - something that never happened during the administration of Vicente Fox.

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