July 22, 2006 [LINK]

MERCOSUR welcomes Chavez

Hugo Chavez addressed the seven other heads of state at the summit meeting of MERCOSUR members in Cordoba, Argentina, on Friday. There was much talk of addressing social inequalities, but the anti-American rhetoric was apparently subdued. His pal Fidel Castro showed up, which would have been unthinkable five or six years ago when conservatives still dominated in South America. See CNN.com.

Electoral uncertainty in Mexico

After nearly three weeks, the election in Mexico has not yet been resolved definitively. It took longer than that in the United States after the November 2000 elections, so there is no reason to panic yet. In spite of losing candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's call for mass protests to back up demands a more favorable recount, Mexico remains more or less peaceful for the moment. Catholic bishops have asked for calm, and called for week of prayer for "reconciliation, understanding and peace." See CNN.com. On Thursday, the Electrical Workers Union took some wind out of AMLO's sail, affirming that the presidential elections were in fact clean.

Economic fragility in Bolivia

Financial anaylysts in the IMF have warned that Bolivia's economy would be in serious jeopardy unless the government of Evo Morales does something to encourage private investment, soon. See CNN.com. I would agree with the IMF -- in this case, at least -- that Bolivia needs reforms aimed at promoting social equity, but that does not mean that a "movement toward socialism" (the name of Morales' party) is required. Beyond that, officials in the IMF (and World Bank) must surely realize that the possibility of widespread non-cooperation in economic policy by Latin American governments would signify that virtually all the multilateral aid and stabilization efforts since the 1982 debt crisis would be rendered futile. Sovereign nations cannot be coaxed into doing what is in their own interest, and even though free trade is generally in the interests of the vast majority of people in rich and poor countries alike, there are circumstances in which the interests of the North and South diverge. This may be such a case, and we have to consider a substantial reducation in IMF/World Bank funding efforts. As for Morales himself, he has been acting a bit more adventurous and radical than I had anticipated, caught up in enthusiasm for Hugo Chavez's revolution, perhaps, but his style of governance is about as hesitant and ambiguous as I had expected.