Chavez offers oil, seeks arms
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has directed that CITGO, a subsidiary of Venezuela government oil firm, begin selling heating oil at a discount to poor neighborhoods in New York and Massachusetts. The transparent bid to divide Americans and undermine President Bush was well received by some of the early recipients, and Rev. Jesse Jackson praised the "noble" initiative. See Washington Post, and the corporate press release accessed via CITGO.com. Curiously, Boston and the Bronx have been targeted for this program, which may be the one thing that can finally overcome the hatred between fans of the Yankees and Red Sox. Perhaps they should put a portrait of Chavez atop the famous CITGO sign that looms beyond the "Green Monster" wall in Fenway Park!
Not content to posture as a benevolent despot, Chavez is intent on building up Venezuela's military force, ostensibly to bolster its defenses against an imagined invasion by the gringos. He is going ahead with plans to acquire modern arms manufactured in Spain, whose Socialist prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez, Zapatero has warm relations with Chavez. "Spain plans to sell $1.56 billion of equipment to Venezuela, including four coastal patrol ships, four corvettes, 10 C-295 transport planes and two maritime surveillance planes." See CNN.com.
UPDATE: Venezuelan blogger Pedro Mario Burelli has some thoughts about what Hugo is up to, especially the Kennedy connection to CITGO. Teddy gives new meaning to the phrase "Big Oil"! Now I know why that sign near Fenway park is so prominent. (link via Chris Green)
Flap over Bolivian elections
Meanwhile, the busy-body Chavez and his government have continued to meddle in the internal affairs of Bolivia, which has become even more unstable in recent months. The Bolivian foreign ministry summoned Venezuelan diplomat Azael Galero after he compared Jorge Quiroga, a candidate in the elections set for next month, to Pontius Pilate. Chavez openly backs the left-wing Evo Morales, whom he joined at the anti-U.S. protests during the Summit of the Americas in Argentina. See BBC.com
Pinochet under house arrest
After many months of suspense, Chilean authorities have formally charged former dictator Augusto Pinochet with embezzlement and money laundering, apparently based on revelations of his dealings with the Washington-based Riggs Bank. He just celebrated his 90th birthday under house arrest. However, there are as yet no charges against him on human rights grounds, and many former victims of Pinochet, and their families, are angered by this. See BBC.com.
The Honduran elections are only two days away, and the two leading contenders -- Porfirio Lobo Sosa (National Party) and Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales (Liberal Party) -- are apparently matched fairly evenly. Both are considered moderate conservatives. See BBC.com
Haiti's first-round election has been postponed again, until January 4. The second round is scheduled for February 15.