August 3, 2006
During his trip to Africa, Hugo Chavez signed an agreement on energy with President Amadou Toure of Mali, but the details were not disclosed. Presumably, it involves bargain prices for petroleum, such as the special deal reached with Castro's Cuba. Mali has potential oil reserves, however, so there may be some exploration work involved in this agreement. Chavez emphasized that integration with Africa was necessary to resist "imperialism." He then went to Benin and signed an agreement with President Yayi Boni by which Venezuela will invest surplus petroleum funds in that country. Chavez was recently quoted as declaring, "Imperialists belong to an inferior class of human beings or even sub-animals because they dropped an atomic bomb on a city and bombed Hanoi." (El Universal of Caracas) He hopes these diplomatic initiatives will win him (or his country) a rotating seat on the U.N. Security Council for the next two years, but such off-the-wall rhetoric makes that prospect less likely.
As promised, new President Alan Garcia is following through with his austerity measures, eliminating the office of the First Lady. Members of Congress belonging to the opposition parties deny reports that they are resisting Garcia's proposed cut in congressional salaries, clearly being on the defensive. Essentially, the pay cut (already in effect for the executive branch officials) is a gesture aimed at restoring credibility among Peruvians who remember what Garcia did the last time he was president. Garcia's APRA and Ollanta Humala's Union for Peru (which is now firmly allied with the Nationalist Party) are engaged in an intense struggle to make deals with smaller parties, divvying up congressional committee assignments. (El Comercio)