Apr 09

  • Brazilian Defense Minister Nelson Jobim is to sign a new defense agreement with the United States at the Pentagon on Monday. The agreement includes no bases or permanent U.S. military presence, but will streamline future cooperation. Colombian Trade Minister Luis Guillermo Plata joked that Venezuela might shut off its trade with Brazil in retaliation, as it did after Colombia signed a defense agreement with the United States – one which did include use of military bases – last October. After signing the accord with Brazil, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is to travel next week to Colombia, Peru and Barbados.
  • In a big upcoming arms purchase, Brazil appears likely to buy Rafale high-tech fighter jets from France, instead of F-18s made by U.S. aerospace company Boeing. The deciding factor: France is willing to allow more technology transfer to Brazil.
  • Two Colombian presidential candidates, both popular former mayors and neither a part of President Álvaro Uribe’s coalition, decided to merge their candidacy this week. Antanas Mockus and running mate Sergio Fajardo now appear in second place in a poll published Friday.
  • Colombian Defense Minister Gabriel Silva says to forget about peace talks with the FARC until the group is militarily defeated. Silva’s predecessor, frontrunning presidential candidate Juan Manuel Santos, says the door is open to dialogue, but only if the FARC demonstrate “good faith and stop being terrorists.”
  • The U.S. House of Representatives is considering a resolution (H.Res. 1224) calling on Colombia to fulfill its obligations to protect indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, and to aid the internally displaced. See a statement from the Washington Office on Latin America and a suggested action from the Latin America Working Group.
  • As Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin speculated that his country might sell Venezuela US$5 billion worth of weapons, the State Department questioned Venezuela’s need for these arms and expressed concern that they could end up elsewhere in the hemisphere. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s response: “Don’t be stupid, Yankees.”
  • Czech playwright and ex-president Vaclav Havel published a column condemning the arrest of Venezuelan opposition politician Oswaldo Álvarez Paz, “because it demonstrates just how far President Hugo Chávez’s regime is willing to stray from democratic norms.” The New York Times ran a harrowing account of María Lourdes Afiuni, a Venezuelan judge who, after issuing a ruling that displeased President Chávez, was jailed in a cell near more than 20 inmates whom she had sentenced. She is still there.
  • Bolivia held mayoral and gubernatorial elections last Sunday. President Evo Morales’ MAS party performed well, but not as strongly as expected. Morales called for an investigation of electoral authorities in regions where the MAS lost. Good analyses from Miguel Centellas and the Andean Information Network.
  • In Chile, the Group of Relatives of the Detained Disappeared (AFDD) put out a statement questioning some of President Sebastián Piñera’s appointments and statements for their “authoritarian overtones.”
  • In Peru, six artisanal miners have died after clashes with police. The miners were protesting government efforts to restrict unregulated gold mining. Human Rights Watch called for an investigation of the incident.
  • The publisher of the Mexican magazine Proceso has come under fire for paying a clandestine visit to top narcotrafficker Ismael Zambada, having his picture taken with him and giving him a softball interview.
  • In my considered opinion, the second episode of “Isla Presidencial” is funnier than the first.