June 3, 2005
Peasants in Bolivia have launched yet another round of protests and roadblocks that have paralyzed the capital La Paz and much of the country. The protesters' stated aim is to force the government to nationalize all the oil and natural gas deposits, but it is basically a bid for power by the coca-grower's party led by Evo Morales, "Movement Toward Socialism." Along with Ecuador, Bolivia is in the forefront of a troubling trend toward reliance upon violent mass mobilizations to effect policy change in Latin America, signalling deep disillusion with democratic procedures. There are signs that the Bolivian armed forces are losing patience with the inability of civilian leaders to maintain order. Today President Carlos Mesa spoke to the nation, announcing the convocation of a national assembly to deal with the energy issue, and a referendum to be held in October. If he's still in office by then, that is. It is virtually certain that any such policy concessions will only whet the opposition's appetite for more power. See cnn.com
Last month there were many news reports in Peru about increased tensions with Chile, nominally over the issue of airline ownership, but at the root of it is the old grudge over Chile's conquest of Peruvian land in the 19th Century. Ex-(and future?) president Alan Garcia called the controversy with Chile a mere "smokescreen" concocted by the hapless Toledo government to deflect attention from its own scandals. President Toledo met with Chilean presdient Ricardo Lagos at a summit meeting of Arab and Latin American heads of state in Brazil. Chile is less concerned with diplomatic tensions right now than with resolving its own terrible political wounds stemming from the dirty war of the 1970s. Several retired military officers from the Pinochet dictatorship may stand trial, but Pinochet himself will probably not be held accountable as long as he is alive.
A one-year old girl in Peru who was born with her legs fused together -- "mermaid's syndrome" -- underwent surgery yesterday to correct the defect. The operation was broadcast live on national television, raising complaints about medical ethics. It was deemed a success, but further corrective surgery will be required.
Antonio Villaraigosa, recently elected to be mayor of Los Angeles said Wednesday that Mexico will play an important role in shaping his policies. Last week he criticized Governor Schwarzenegger and said the border with Mexico should be seen as an opportunity, not as a threat. See El Universal Online (in Spanish), via newsmax.com.
We are at the beginning of an era in which, instead of closing borders like Governor Schwarzenegger said, we should see it as an opportunity. ... I propose to turn this city into the Venice of the 21st Century, into the city of promise.
He also favors a "more humane" immigration policy and opposes the use of the L.A.P.D. as an arm of the border patrol. Venice, of course, was an independent city-state during the Renaissance. Interesting model to emulate...