March 16, 2006
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner expressed concern about the fact that China is taking the place of the United States in some Latin American countries, as far as military training. This is a truly ominous trend, from the perspective of U.S. foreign policy, at least. "At issue is a U.S. law that mandates an end to military training in countries that refuse to exempt U.S. citizens overseas from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court." See CNN.com.
That law is no doubt the precipitating factor behind this trend, but there is more to it. Ever since the Reagan Era, protests against the School of the Americas and its successor, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (which has either drastically curtailed its activities or else shut down completely, from what I can tell) have seriously damaged U.S. relations with Latin American armed forces. Politics hates a void as much as Nature does, so it is only natural that a rival geopolitical force would fill the void created by our absence.
President Alfredo Palacios appealed for calm as protests against the pending free trade negotiations have resumed after a brief respite. The interior minister resigned after failing to quell the disturbance. The The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador began blockading roads on Monday. See CNN.com. The rise of indigenous / Indian political power over the last ten years has revolutionized politics in Ecuador. Last week oil workers staged a protest strike, voicing the same general grievances.
Michelle Bachelet was inaugurated as president of Chile on Sunday, pledging "development for everyone, equally" as her government's first priority. Her first major official act was to decree automatic free medical care to all Chilean people over the age of 60. See Washington Post. This breathtakingly generous new entitlement rivals the social safety nets in the European welfare states. Can a country that is still Third World in many respects sustain such a program without ruining the economic success they have enjoyed until now?
At the World Baseball Championship last week, there was a confrontation in Hiram Bithorn Stadium (San Juan, Puerto Rico) when a Cuban official objected to the protest sign held up by a fan: "Abajo con Fidel!" (Down with Fidel!) See CNN.com.
Wedding bells may soon ring in the Santiago academy for corrections officers where ex-president of Peru Alberto Fujimori remains incarcerated. He announced that will get married to his girlfriend, Satomi Kataoka, before the upcoming elections on April 9, in an apparent attempt to bolster his party's candidates, most notably Martha Chavez. Ms. Kataoka is the owner of several luxury-class Japanese hotels, and is campaigning for Fujimori in Lima. See CNN.com. He became estranged from his first wife, Susana Higuchi, just before I went to Peru for the first time in 1994. She created quite a scandal, accusing him of various misdeeds, and even organized a political party to run against her husband.