December 27, 2008
The former president (and current "first husband") of Argentina, Nestor Kirchner, is being investigated for corrupt financial relationships with Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela. Among the questionable deals are a 2004 agreement under which Venezuelan petroleum was exchanged for Argentine manufactured goods; $90 million in government funds are missing. There are many other suspicious transactions, however. BBC. Last January, a businessman was indicted in a federal court in Miami, charged in a plot to funnel $800,000 in illicit campaign contributions to President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who went on to win handily in the October 2007 election. The probe was begun after a complaint lodged by Elisa Carrio, the runner-up candidate. She is the leader of the left-wing "Civic Coalition."
It's rather remarkable that the probe has reached this far, even though it directly implicates the sitting president in major wrongdoing. Very few Latin American countries have a judiciary that is truly independent of the executive branch, which is a major reason why corruption is so widespread in the region.
The government of Bolivia announced a few days ago that a plot to assassinate President Evo Morales had been uncovered. It's certainly possible, given the intense hatred he has engendered through the course of his "revolution," but it could just as well be much ado about nothing, a ruse by the government to distract attention from other troubles. See CNN.com.
I have begun a long-overdue maintenance chore, reformatting and updating the Latin America country background information pages, beginning with Argentina and Bolivia. The other 18 pages have already been reformatted, but the chronologies on them are not yet updated. That should be completed within the next ten days or so.