January 19, 2008 [LINK / comment]

Renewed Peru-Chile tensions

The Chilean ambassador to Peru was recalled for consultations as the long-simmering dispute over maritime territorial rights has intensified once again. The hostile gesture was in response to Peru's request that the World Court resolve the issue, which Chile considers a closed matter. The fundamental issue seems trivial: whether the line demarcating the two countries' respective Exclusive Economic Zones should be perpendicular to the coastline (roughly 45 degrees) or straight east-west. The stakes are more than mere prestige, however, because the waters off the Pacific coast of South America abound in fish, a major economic resource for both countries. This controversy flared up most recently last August, about the same time that a major earthquake hit Peru. See BBC.

For me there are two major questions: Whether Peru can demonstrate that a loophole exists in the previous treaties on this subject, and whether there is any evidence that Peru's President Alan Garcia is trying to take advantage of this dispute for domestic political purposes. If this were 20 years ago, when he was brash and young, that wouldn't surprise me at all, but he seems to be acting much more maturely and responsibly this time around, and it would contradict other elements of his foreign policy.

FARC lets hostages go free

It was too late for Christmas, but the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) rebels did in fact release a number of high-profile hostages ten days ago, including [Clara Rojas, an aide to] former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt. She and other ex-captives thanked Hugo Chavez for his efforts. See Washington Post and BBC. Well, it's about time those vicious brutes did something humane. Perhaps now they can begin a serious peace dialogue. (Hey, anything's possible.) As for Chavez's boasting of his influence and praise for the FARC movement as a "true army," leftist blogger Randy Paul writes that Chavez "manages to make himself look like an ass again." As if Chavez might not be an ass...