November 28, 2009 [LINK / comment]

Peru-Chile espionage dispute

Just as the recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit was about to convene two weeks ago, Peruvian President Alan Garcia left Singapore and returned to Lima because a Peruvian air force officer was arrested on charges of spying for Chile. See Chile's foreign ministry quickly denied the charges of espionage, and Chile's President Michelle Bachelet called Garcia's remarks about the matter "offensive." See BBC. Once again, the neighboring countries are mad at each other, but this time the charges involve a possible crime that may carry the death penalty. In the late 1970s a Peruvian military officer was executed after having been convicted of spying for Chile. It could happen again.

This week, President Alan Garcia said that Chile's offer to "study" the incident was far short of what would be expected of a democratic government. He then declared that Peru's ambassador in Santiago, Carlos Pareja, will remain in Lima indefinitely; it may take several weeks before the matter is cleared up. See La Republica (in Spanish).

This incident is especially unfortunate since Peru hosted the APEC summit meeting last year. Soon after that summit, in December, a Peruvian general was dismissed for having uttered inflammatory remarks directed at Chile. Unlike Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia, the foreign policy of Peru at present is not aggressive or hostile. Peru's economy is doing better than most other countries in South America, and it would have nothing to gain by creating a crisis. Based on circumstances, it would appear more likely that the espionage charges are valid.

Hondurans set to vote

In Honduras, the elections scheduled for tomorrow are going ahead, even though the compromise under which exiled president Manuel Zelaya would be restored to power fell through. (See Nov 13.) This may call into question the legitimacy of the vote, as Brazil and other countries align themselves with Hugo Chavez in supporting the demands of Zelaya. An editorial in today's Washington Post praised the Obama administration for "rejecting their attempt to nullify Honduras's democratic vote." It's too bad Obama sided with Zelaya early on, needlessly prolonging the conflict. With a heavy presence of international observers, there is no reason to suspect that the election results will not be fair.