March 6, 2006
In countries in which obeying the law is the exception not the rule, the mere act of challenging the legality of an abrupt change of government (or even coup d'etat) is considered subversive. That is the situation in Ecuador, where former President Lucio Gutierrez was just set free by a judge after almost five months of incarceration. He was removed from office by Congress last April after a brief period of street violence that escalated into an insurrection, [and was jailed in October as punishment for having disputed the procedure by which he was removed from office]. See CNN.com. Ironically, he led an insurrection in 1997, and was then elected president, following in the footsteps of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. To the surprise of many people, he began cooperating with the United States after his inauguration. The leftist Democratic Alliance suspects that the (conservative) Social Christian Party led by former president Leon Febres Cordero was behind his release from jail, according to El Comercio of Quito. Interim President Palacio, who will serve until a new president is elected in October, just returned from a visit to the United States.
Workers have resumed digging through the rubble of the collapsed coal mine in northern Mexico where 65 miners died two weeks ago. They had to stop for a couple days because of toxic gas emissions. Miners and steel workers in Mexico used the opportunity of public attention to go on strike as a protest against poor safety conditions. There are complicating factors, however. The Labor Department in Mexico recognized a dissident union leader who is challenging the leadership of the old union boss. Most unions is Mexico are as corrupt as the government and business, part of the decrepit "corporatist" socio-economic system put in place in the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920). See CNN.com. Ironically, many if not most workers in Mexico remain opposed to NAFTA even though it includes provisions to improve labor and environmental standards in their country.
There was more gripping testimony on Capitol Hill last week about recent incursions by Mexican drug runners and (possibly) rogue soldiers or police officers on the southern U.S. border. It was cablecast on C-SPAN, but somehow, it didn't get as much coverage in the mainstream media as I would have expected. Is someone trying to hush this up?
Oscar Arias, who served as president from 1986 to 1990, has been declared the winner of the presidential election in Costa Rica. Losing candidate Ottón Solís pledged to carry out his campaign promises in the role of opposition leader, in a spirit of dialogue and respect. See Tico Times. Solís had opposed CAFTA, so this outcome is a good sign for free trade in the hemisphere. As in Honduras, however, the general public in Costa Rica is leery of free trade agreements with the United States, fearing economic dislocation, which raises awkward questions about the relationship between free trade and democracy.