December 8, 2006 [LINK / comment]

Triumphant Chavez goes on tour

Fresh from his reelection victory, Hugo Chavez met with President da Silva in Brasilia to discuss his grand proposal to build a natural gas pipeline from Venezuela through Brazil to Argentina. (Many environmentalists warn that it would cause grave ecological harm.) Da Silva gave Chavez a warm embrace, probably to please his leftist constituents. Chavez rebuffed the overture of U.S. ambassador Brown, saying that bilateral relations could only be improved if the United States were to end the war in Iraq, among other things. Chavez then made a brief stop in Argentina, and finally headed to Bolivia, where a South American summit began today in Cochabamba. See

As the weather in the United States turns frigid, I have noticed that Venezuelan-owned CITGO is putting on more television advertisements offering 40 percent heating oil discounts to poor people.

Shifts in Latin America, 2006

In preparation for an article I am writing on the leftward shift in Latin American politics during the past few years, I prepared the following table that summarizes what happened at the ballot box this year. The entries in the "Election month" column are links to the respective blog posts that gave the fullest analysis of that particular election. Note, however, that in some cases the final results were not announced until several weeks later.

Country Election month Prior president New (or reelected) president
Chile Jan. Lagos Bachelet
Haiti Feb. Alexandre Preval
Costa Rica Feb. # Pacheco Arias
Colombia May Uribe Uribe
Peru June Toledo Garcia
Mexico July # Fox Calderon
Brazil Oct. da Silva da Silva
Nicaragua Nov. Bolaños Ortega
Ecuador Nov. Palacio Correa
Venezuela Dec. Chavez Chavez
# : Very close election, with prolonged recount.

As you can see, there were clear leftward shifts in Haiti, Peru, Nicaragua, and Ecuador. (Red means left-wing, and blue means right-wing.) In addition, Evo Morales (Bolivia) and Manuel Zelaya (Honduras) were inaugurated as president of their respective countries in January, having won elections late last year. They are both left of center, replacing center-right presidents, but Zelaya is a moderate who favors free trade.

Ventanilla wetlands

In March 2004 Jacqueline and I visited the Ventanilla wetlands, known as "Los humedales de Ventanilla" in Spanish. To my delight, I finally found a Web page devoted to that precious ecological preserve, at That tract of land is under severe pressure from the sprawling, uncontrolled residential development nearby. (See my photo.)