July 25, 2006
The leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is still contesting the July 2 election, urging his supporters to engage in peaceful resistance. His Party of Democratic Revolution claims that 1.6 million votes were arbitrarily added to or subtracted from the official vote tallies, backing up their demands for a complete recount of all ballot boxes. "AMLO" is pushing (apparent) winner Felipe Calderon to agree to such a recount, but the decision is up to the Electoral Tribunal, which is not supposed to yield to such political pressure. See El Universal (in English). So far, no major independent observers have questioned the electoral tally, but the possibility of a prolonged dispute could put the Mexican economy in big trouble. In the era of NAFTA, that could cause serious harm to the U.S. economy.
In the Outlook section of Sunday's Washington Post, Jorge Castañeda put Mexico's uncertain condition in appropriate context, reminding us that this was only the fourth truly competitive democratic election in the nation's history. In his mind, accepting AMLO's claim of electoral fraud would undermine the country's institutions, but he thinks that a partial recount would help allay doubts among AMLO's supporters. The former leftist academician and diplomat is clearly worried by AMLO's affinity to Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, showing his true (non-democratic) colors by refusing to accept the decision by the electoral authorities and waging the political battle in the streets. As he notes, Mexicans are still getting used to the idea of peaceful transitions of power. Calderon has already made gestures of conciliation with the other parties as he prepares to lead Mexico as of December 1, and the big question now is whether AMLO can be persuaded that he would benefit by respecting the nation's insititutions, as opposed to relying upon mass mobilization to get his way.
Fresh from his triumphant debut at the MERCOSR summit in Argentina, Hugo Chavez has embarked on another world tour, focusing his attention on countries that remain under the shadow of authoritarianism. In Belarus he met with President Alexander Lukashenko, widely regarded as a despotic stooge of Moscow, and signed some bilateral cooperation agreements. Today he is visiting Volgograd, once called Stalingrad, where the Red Army defeated the German invaders in the winter of 1942-1943. In Moscow, he is expected to sign additional agreements to acquire weapons from Russia, including 30 Sukhoi-30 fighter jets. After that, he heads to Qatar, Iran, Vietnam and Mali, trying to gain support for becoming a member of the U.S. Security Council for the 2007-2008 term. See BBC. Chavez is sparing no effort to anger and annoy the United States whenever possible, and there is frankly not much we can do about it but wait for the bad consequences of his agenda to become obvious to everyone. It will be costly for the United States to contain Chavez over the long run via diplomatic, economic, and intelligence means, and hopefully this will force Americans to rethink their (often-paternalistic or neglectful) approach to relations with Latin America and the Third World.
Nationalist sentiment is on the rise in Honduras, as activists staged a protest against a law passed in 1998 that allows up to 34 percent of properties to be owned by foreign interests. For some reason, the Catholic Church has taken a leading role in the controversy: Bishop Monsignor Luis Alonso Santos said, "We do not want foreign capital that destroys our territory." See BBC. So why are they protesting eight years after the law was passed? And why not simply rally popular movements to hold foreign corporations accountable for upholding environmental standards, rather than just rejecting them outright? Honduras is very poor and is in desperate need of foreign investment. It sounds to me like someone is instigating the unrest; perhaps someone in Venezuela with a lot of surplus petrodollars...