February 16, 2007
Now here is an ironic twist: The government of Venezuela is heightening security measures at its oil installations after Al Qaeda called on its members to attack countries that supply petroleum to the United States. CNN.com quotes one of Hugo Chavez's military advisers, Luis Cabrera, as saying that it was illogical that "al Qaeda, which is against North American imperialism, would go against a state that is fighting, though in a different way, against that hegemony."
Translation: "Hey, Al Qaeda! We thought you guys were on our side!"
Of course, it is also possible that these statements are merely part of a disinformation campaign, as Venezuela tries to rebut criticism for its march toward dictatorship, as well as its intervention in other countries' politics, as in Bolivia or the CITGO reduced-price fuel oil program in the U.S.
Panamanian President Martin Torrijos visited the White House today, and agreed to seek a free trade agreement with the United States. Given the obstructionist posture of the Democratic majority in the U.S. Congress, however, the prospects for such an agreement being ratified are far from certain. See CNN.com. Torrijos is the son of a former left-wing authoritarian leader, Gen. Omar Torrijos, but he has opted for a moderate course since his inauguration in September 2004.
UPDATE: President Bush will travel to Latin America from March 8 to 14, visiting Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico. I'm a bit surprised he omitted Chile, which is a big success story for capitalism and democracy. Hat tip to Los Blogueros (in Spanish), who is/are not necessarily pleased by the President's outreach to our southern friends: "¡¡¡Preparen las protestas!!!"