March 6, 2007
President Bush is packing his bags for a trip to Latin America, at a moment when his political prestige is under attack once again, thanks to the Walter Reed scandal. Will he be welcomed? Today's Washington Post previewed the five-nation itinerary (Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico), highlighting the credibility gap Bush faces in the region. He deeply wants Latin Americans to know that he really cares about their impoverished condition, but in the real world of socio-politics, it is extremely difficult to win the trust of people with a much lower economic status. It's also too bad he doesn't get more credit for his "open-borders" immigration policy. It probably raised more people's hopes than it satisfied, creating even more envy and anxiety.
The Post also had an interesting article on Fernando Araujo, a former hostage in Colombia who managed to escape from the FARC guerrillas in January after six years in captivity. (Wow!) He has just been named foreign minister by President Uribe, who is desperately trying to shift attention from the recent scandals implicating some of his conservative political allies with the right-wing drug-tainted militias. The U.S. Congress will expect further concrete actions by the Colombian government if they are to get the needed money for the anti-narcotics program in the coming year. Bush will find himself in an awkward position when he visits Bogota.
The political battle between President Evo Morales and the political establishment in Bolivia is hindering recovery efforts as the flood waters recede in the norther jungle province of Beni. Morales has visited the affected area twice without bothering to consult with local officials, and Gov. Ernesto Suarez, a conservative, is angry. See CNN.com.
Also, the Post had a front-page background story on the growing influence of rural women in Bolivia, focusing on the sprawling slum of El Alto on the outskirts of La Paz. The article is in the context of a massive ongoing demographic shift from the countryside to the cities in much of the Third World.