Friday, March 16, 2007

Titulares de las Americas

Though we consider this blog as an “English-language forum” sometimes the English-language media does not reveal all the important news occurring in the Americas. Hence, here are several news stories making the rounds in the Spanish-language Latin American press:

* Clarin & Diario Hoy (Argentina): A pair of articles on soccer from Argentina. First, a suspect was arrested in the murder of a 15-year-old boy who was caught up in a quarrel between fans of rival soccer clubs. In addition, soccer legend Diego Maradona publicly denounced rumors that he had died in an auto accident earlier this week. ”I’m more alive than ever,” said Maradona in a radio interview earlier today.

* Diario ABC Color Digital (Paraguay): Statistics from Brazilian energy firm Electrobras show that Paraguay receives more revenue than Brazil from the Itaipú hydroelectric plant. The Itaipú power plant is located along a section of the Paraná River between both countries and each share the plant’s operation.

* El Comercio (Peru): Former presidential candidate Lourdes Flores will run again in 2011 said a leader of Peru’s Popular Christian Party. Felipe Osterling denied that she was a “political cadaver” and assured that she would have a solid chance of winning the presidency.

* El Mercurio (Chile): Problems continue with the public transportation system in Chile’s capital; this time, bus operators are complaining that buses are too slow and that’s causing an abundance of delays.

* El Universal (Venezuela): A court ordered the halt to the government’s planned expropriation of the golf courses at the Caracas Country Club. The court’s decision deemed the government's actions as “intimidation” where they overstepped their legal bounds.

* El Vocero de Puerto Rico: Anti-war group Madres Contra la Guerra (Mothers Against the War) revealed that an alarming number of U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq suffer mental and psychological problems. “Madres Contra la Guerra has had to intervene on several occasions to prevent cases of domestic violence and obtain health services for soldiers,” admitted the group’s spokesperson.

* La Hora (Ecuador): President Rafael Correa instituted emergency measures towards improving the country’s educational system. An additional $125 million will be invested in infrastructural improvements and meals for students.

* La Jornada (Mexico): The country’s Chamber of Deputies is split between supporters and detractors of a comprehensive reform bill backed by President Felipe Calderon. If approved, the bill- known by the Spanish acronym ISSSTE- would modify the pension plans of hundreds of thousands of Mexicans and would bring changes to the Social Security system.

* La Tribuna (Honduras): Police captured one of Interpol’s most wanted fugitives- a 30-year-old alleged gang leader who had escaped from prison eight months ago.

* La Nación (Costa Rica): A congressional advisor assured that at least 38 votes are needed in the legislature to ratify Costa Rica’s entry into the CAFTA free trade pact. The advisor’s report was signaled by a change in the legislature’s quorum, and her news was welcomed by politicians opposed to the free trade plan.

* La Razón (Bolivia): An immigration operation at eight European airports resulted in the detention of hundreds of illegal immigrants from the Americas including almost 900 Bolivians. “Most travelers were deported because they did not have the correct documents to justify their entry into Europe” asserted a senior European immigration official.

* RCN (Colombia): Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba compared President Alvaro Uribe to Chilean ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet. “I believe there are plenty of similarities between Pinochet’s government and Uribe’s. All roads to paramilitarism go through Uribe,” said Cordoba during a radio interview Friday morning.

Image- Fisica y Sociedad

Dubya south of the border – the aftermath according to “Esteban Colberto”

As is to be expected there is a ton of analysis on the aftermath of U.S. President George W. Bush’s trip to Latin America. However, we’ll defer the last word to a segment from last night’s episode of “The Colbert Report” where host/”pundit” Stephen Colbert engages in an argument with his Hispanic alter ego- Esteban Colberto (image). Watch and laugh to this video while Colberto compares the president’s promises to “a whore from Juarez” (a bit insensitive, maybe?) and praises Latin America’s newfound ties to China.

In the words of Jonathan Swift, “satire is a sort of glass wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but their own; which is the chief reason for that kind reception it meets with in the world, and that so very few are offended with it.”

Links- AlterNet, TIME, Bay Area Indymedia, Political Affairs, International Herald Tribune, Comedy Central, The Latin Americanist

Image- Comedy Central

U.N. report: Colombian army kills civilians

A U.N. report released yesterday launched very serious accusations against Colombia’s policy of internal security; chiefly, that Colombia’s armed forces have killed civilians who were falsely labeled as leftist insurgents. According to the Associated Press' coverage:

“In many cases, the victims were falsely presented as leftist rebels killed in combat, crime scene evidence was tampered with and the investigation was led by the military's questioned criminal justice system.

The report said such killings with ‘characteristics of extrajudicial executions do not appear to be isolated incidents’ and may have been prompted partly by the government's use of combat deaths as a benchmark to measure success against leftist insurgents”.

The Colombian government responded in a brief communiqué asserting that they have worked hard to “guarantee the protection of human rights” though the report asserted that in recent years the government has ignored the links between the armed forces and illegal armed groups.

It is in that light that Washington Post columnist Marcela Sanchez wrote in her latest column that any further U.S. aid to Colombia ought to emphasize “justice and the rule of law” instead of increased militarization. Sanchez noted the importance of bolstering Colombia’s justice system in light of the demobilization process with paramilitary groups and tee increase in extrajudicial murders. She concludes that:

“So far the Bush administration has only paid lip service to the idea of shifting the balance between hard and soft aid. Its budget request for fiscal year 2008 is practically a carbon copy of past requests, with the majority of funds (more than $367 million) still going to drug interdiction and eradication.

Yet, with Democrats now the majority on Capitol Hill, Bush's opportunity to make the shift has never been better. The president himself seemed to recognize the importance of such a shift when, during his stop in Bogota, he said: 'The best way to heal (Colombia's) wounds is for people to see fair, independent justice being delivered.' There is no question that Colombia presents itself as the easy case for Bush's newfound goodwill diplomacy. “

Links- ABC News, El Tiempo, RCN, Arizona Daily Star

Image- Common Dreams

Pregnant Jamaican beauty queen quits crown

Sara Lawrence- Miss Jamaica World 2006- gave up her crown after violating pageant rules by becoming pregnant. Lawrence may have had to give up her crown should she chosen to have an abortion, yet she was steadfast in her decision to eventually give birth:

“I relinquish my position as Miss Jamaica World 2006, having taken a deeply personal decision to face up to my responsibilities as one who expects to become a mother later this year. I believe that it is my moral obligation to do what I believe to be ethically correct and will follow what I believe to be right.”

Pageant organizers released a statement expressing sympathy with Lawrence’s decision but were deeply disappointed with her getting pregnant in the first place.

Links- CNN, Jamaica Gleaner, Miss Jamaica World

Image- Go-Jamaica

Loose lips sink Chilean ambassador to Venezuela

Chile’s government ordered their ambassador to Venezuela to return home due to remarks made during a TV interview. Claudio Huepe (image) told Telesur about a private conversation he had with President Michelle Bachelet over Venezuela’s bid for a seat on the U.N. Security Council (UNSC):

"I had a chance to talk with her (Bachelet) about this topic in January. Earlier, I had voiced my opinion as ambassador, which was wrong, and my opinion was that Chile should support Venezuela. The President (Bachelet) told me: 'Look, I had the same intention too, but a series of circumstances emerged later on that prevented me from voting that way and I had to refrain from voting."

Ultimately, Chile did not support Venezuela’s campaign and Panama was elected to the UNSC after much debate and haggling by Venezuela and the U.S.

Links- El Universal, CNN, People’s Daily Online, The Latin Americanist

Image- Mercopress

Telenovela in Argentina helps “Dirty War” victim identify her biological background

Sometimes telenovelas can do more than serve as innocent escapism or disguised as educational programming for children. In the case of an Argentine woman a telenovela helped reveal her true identity.

Rebeca Celina- who was a mere eight-months-old when she was separated from her parents in the midst of Argentina's "Dirty War"- had her photograph used in an airing of the hit telenovela “Montecristo” last year. “Montecristo” used real photographs of babies and children; in doing so, a viewer tipped a local human rights group to Celina’s biological family.

“Montecristo” has increased awareness around he country on the delicate issue of children being split from their families during the “Dirty War”. The telenovela has been adapted elsewhere (i.e. Mexico), yet without the deep social impact of the Argentine version.

Links- International Herald Tribune, The Latin Americanist, Telefe, Terra Argentina, Pagina 12, TV Azteca

Image- todo Argentina (1980s march by the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo asking the government to clarify the whereabouts of “disappeared” children)

Daily headlines: March 16, 2007

* The head of Cuba’s National Assembly said that Fidel Castro could return as the island’s leader next year.

* Peru’s government admitted to paying over $300,000 to a U.S. legal firm in order to lobby for a free trade deal.

* Mexico, Paraguay, and Chile have shown interest in purchasing several outdated warplanes from Taiwan.

* A Honduras hospital was shut down when a deadly bacteria strain killed six newborns in two days.

* Venezuela estimates that its planned takeover of foreign oil projects in the Orinoco basin will be completed within the next six months.

* The World Bank approved nearly $200 million in loans designed for “poverty reduction efforts” in Colombia.

Links- Guardian UK, Living in Peru, CNN, MarketWatch, Monsters & Critics, People’s Daily Online

Image- Sergei Cartoons

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Termites plague U. de Chile soccer squad

Chilean soccer team Universidad de Chile just cannot catch a break even though they are one of the country’s most popular and historically successful teams. Late last year the team was bankrupt and ownership was transferred into an administrator’s hands, and their coach was fired on Tuesday after the team scored only one goal this season.

As if that were not enough, their latest match against O’Higgins was suspended due to damage caused to O’Higgins' stadium by termites. The damage was extensive enough to leave El Teniente stadium out of commission until May and supporters of “La U” wondering when their bad luck will end.

Perhaps they can take solace in being the cause of a stage riot during a rock concert.

Links- Wikipedia, Reuters, ESPN Soccernet, The Latin Americanist

Image- Brands of the World

Argentina: Interpol goes after bombing suspects

Interpol is considering issuing international arrest warrants at the end of the month to six former Iranian authorities accused of masterminding the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center. An Interpol press release details that:

“After considering written submissions and oral presentations from both countries’ NCBs, the Executive Committee decided to endorse and adopt the conclusions of the report prepared by Interpol’s Office of Legal Affairs that Red Notices should be issued for the following six individuals: Imad Fayez Mughniyah, Ali Fallahijan, Mohsen Rabbani, Ahmad Reza Asghari, Ahmad Vahidi and Mohsen Rezai.”

Interpol’s decision stopped short of issuing a “Red Notice” against former Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani. Iran’s’ government has steadfastly refused being implicated in the bombing which killed eighty-five people.

Links-, BBC News, Interpol, The Latin Americanist

Image- Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

Report: Latinos less likely to use Internet

A report published by the Pew Hispanic Center concluded that Latinos in the U.S. are amongst the least likely ethnic groups to use the Internet. Language and educational background made a huge difference according to the report:

“78% of Latinos who are English-dominant and 76% of bilingual Latinos use the internet, compared with 32% of Spanish-dominant Hispanic adults.

89% of Latinos who have a college degree, 70% of Latinos who completed high school, and 31% of Latinos who did not complete high school go online.”

So what does this all mean? David Wellisch- founder of America Online Latino- says that tech companies need to be more active in reaching out to Latinos such as offering payment plans similar to those for cell phones. Yet the educational gap amongst Latinos is worrying and brings to mind whether policy changes via No Child Left Behind have been unsuccessful.

(Hat tip- Hispanic Tips).

Links- Hispanic Tips, Kansas City Star, The Latin Americanist, Pew Hispanic Center

Image- Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Mexico City may expand abortion law

Legislators in Mexico City are considering a proposal that would permit abortions during the first trimester of pregnancy. Currently the law only allows for abortions under extreme circumstances, though proponents of the bill say that their proposal would help impoverished women:

“Restrictions force women to seek abortions outside the law. While wealthier women travel to the United States for the procedure, poorer women must remain in Mexico and have back-street operations, supporters said.”

As is to be expected, conservative groups such as the Roman Catholic Church are up in arms over the measure and have called on “people of all faiths to take to the streets to defend life”.

Links- El Universal, Guardian UK, Indian Catholic

Image- Planned Parenthood

Daily headlines: March 15, 2007

* “I’m a Chiquita banana and I’m here to say ‘I’ve helped finance Colombian terrorists today.”

* Costa Rican bloggers expressed their displeasure at the local media who virtually ignored an anti-free trade protest on February 28th.

* An estimated $200 million in cocaine was seized in a joint anti-drug operation between the U.S. and Panama.

* The Dominican Republic plans to establish closer diplomatic ties to Pakistan by opening an embassy in Islamabad.

* Quote of the day from an Army reservist from Puerto Rico who just returned from a stint in Iraq: "It was more dangerous this time, and it got scary at times, but thanks to God we were able to make it back."

Links- VivirLatino, Global Voices Online, Reuters AlertNet, The Latin Americanist, Dominican Today, CNN


Dubya south of the border – Back to the Old House

While at the ruins of Uxmal in Mexico, U.S. President George W. Bush must be worried that Guatemalan Mayans will cross the border to cleanse the site of “evil spirits”. (Link via VivirLatino and image via International Herald Tribune).

Note: English-language links are in bold, while Spanish-language links are italicized.

* U.S. President George W. Bush concluded his tour of Latin America yesterday after having spent time in Mexico. Bush emphasized that he would make immigration reform a priority after Mexican president Felipe Calderon took him to task for supposedly ignoring Mexico since 9/11. Bush said that:
“A good migration law will help both economies and will help the security of both countries. If people can come into our country, for example, on a temporary basis to work, doing jobs Americans aren't doing, they won't have to sneak across the border.”
Though Calderon was pleased with Bush’s gesture, Calderon reiterated his opposition to erecting a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border and emphasized that job creation is the true solution to combat booming immigration across the border.

*Aside from immigration, Calderon told Bush that he would not nationalize state-run oil company PEMEX (much to Bush’s chagrin), while Bush told Calderon that he would not push for a renegotiation of NAFTA with Mexico (much to Calderon’s chagrin).

* Much like in other countries that Bush visited, thousands of protestors took to the streets in Mexico. In Mexico City, hundreds of demonstrators rioted outside the U.S. embassy (link to video here) leading to a chaotic situation with several police officers injured and the false arrest of alleged protest leaders. Meanwhile, other protestors marched in front of Bush’s hotel in Mérida chanting that he was a “murderer”.

* Bush’s reception with Guatemala’s president on Monday was not as chummy as with Calderon. Guatemalan President Oscar Berger expressed his deep disappointment at U.S. immigration policy, especially in light of last week’s raids in Massachusetts. Witness the following exchange between both heads of state:
“’The United States will enforce our law,’ Bush said. ‘It's against the law to hire somebody who's in our country illegally.’

Responded Berger: ‘The Guatemalan people would have preferred a more clear and positive response - no more deportations.’”
Bush and Berger (sounds like the name of a law firm, huh?) did agree with the need to have a strong counternarcotics policy.

* Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez came to the end of his own parallel tour with a visit to Haiti where he was received by the country’s government and thousands of supporters who chanted "Long live Chavez, down with Bush!" Chavez worked out deals where Venezuela’s’ state-run bank will provide Haiti with $20 million for commercial projects and a $1 billion aid fund was established between the governments of Haiti, Venezuela, and Cuba.

* Before traveling to Haiti, Chavez was in Jamaica where both countries signed a deal that would permit Venezuela to build a liquefied gas plant on the island. Chavez also urged Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to enter a Venezuelan-led trade bloc designed to counter the U.S.-backed Free Trade Area of the Americas.

And now a few odds and ends from Bush’s and Chavez’ trips:

* Chavez admitted that he has no personal animosity against George W. Bush though he called him the “representative of the cruelest, most terrible, most cynical, most murderous empire that has existed in all of history.” Chavez couldn’t help to boast that his tour was a rousing success that signaled a “convincing knockout” against Bush.

* Anti-immigrant pundit Lou Dobbs heaped plenty of praise on Mexican president Felipe Calderon. But before you start thinking we live in some sort of bizarro world Dobbs’ praise of Calderon stems from his desire to combat violence and corruption caused by the drug trade, not immigration.

* Global Voices Online clues us in to the views of two opposing bloggers on the tours by Bush and Chavez. Judge for yourself which side you’re on.

* Council on Foreign Relations fellow Julia E. Swieg gives an incisive interview as to her views on Bush’s trip- a failure in that little was accomplished but Bush’s change in rhetoric may have been a watershed moment.

* Hard-hitting journalism from Newsweek- what George W. Bush’s body language during his tour tells us.

* Scooter Libby’s indictment. The shoddy conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The push for (Mexican-American) Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resign. Do you really think President Bush is glad to return “back to the old house” in Washington?

Links- Foreign Policy Passport, CBS News, The Latin Americanist, Guardian UK, Milenio, El Universal (Mexico),, BBC News, Latina Lista, International Herald Tribune, Wilmington Star, El Periodico, Reuters AlertNet, Houston Chronicle, El Universal (Venezuela), Jamaica Observer, Ireland On-line, La Nacion, Global Voices Online, CNN, Council on Foreign Relations, MSNBC, Andrew Sullivan,

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Cuban gov’t gives mixed signals to the U.S.

It’s hard to tell what the Cuban government is trying to say about its relations with the U.S. since its views seem to swing to and fro like a pendulum. On Monday, Raul Castro made a veiled treat to the U.S. by cautioning against the “high cost” of invading Cuba. “If anyone attacks us, we're ready to pay any price necessary, but the price paid by the invaders of our country would be much higher,” said Raul Castro during a speech to the island’s army.

Yet also on Monday Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said that he would like “normal and respectful relations with the United States.” Perez Roque also commented that he would be ready for bilateral talks with the U.S. at anytime.

However, representatives for both Cuba and the U.S. accused each other of hypocrisy during a meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council earlier today. The U.S. delegate blamed Cuba for being selective in its cooperation with a U.N. team investigating human rights abuses. In response, the Cuban repetitive accused the U.S. of permitting terrorist activities by the Cuban exile groups in Miami who engage in a “war and hatred against Cuba.”

So ultimately which side are we to believe?

Links- People’s Daily Online, Caribbean Net News, International Herald Tribune

Image- flickr

Follow-up: Bolivian drug raid seems to refute State Dep’t report

The Bolivian government’s response to an unfavorable review of their anti-drug policy by the U.S. has been to carry out a major counternarcotics operation. Approximately 550 pounds of drugs were seized by Bolivian authorities in the province of Potosi.

Meanwhile, a group advocating changes to
U.S. counternarcotics policy wrote an article refuting the claims made by the Department of State’s International Narcotics Strategy Report. According to the Andean Information Network:
“The U.S. needs to move away from old and ineffective yardsticks to measure drug control, such as yearly coca cultivation statistics and eradication figures… Furthermore the Morales administration has followed through with its promise to step up interdiction and has shown impressive results. Coca farmers now cooperate with anti-drug police to denounce maceration pits and traffickers”.
On the other hand, the possibility of changing Bolivia’s coat of arms to include coca leaves may not be giving a very convincing impression.

Links- People’s Daily Online, The Latin Americanist, Reuters, Andean Information Network, Department of State

Image- (Bolivian president Evo Morales holding up a coca leaf during a speech given at the U.N. last year)

Timber bill may hurt economies in Honduras and Peru

The economies of Peru and Honduras may be hurt by a proposal to cut down on the illegal timber trade which currently being considered by Congress in the U.S. Though nearly a third of the world’s hardwood lumber and plywood come from environmentally fragile areas such as the Peruvian Amazon, proponents of the bill argue that illegal timber is costing U.S. wood firms nearly $1 billion a year.

Links- Guardian UK, ABC News

Image- The Goldman Environmental Prize (Illegal logging operation in Honduras)

Argies top FIFA soccer rankings for the first time

Argentina is the world’s top soccer nation according to the latest rankings released today by the sport’s governing body- FIFA. “Los albicelestes” reached the peak for the first time since the rankings were created in 1993 and leapfrogged over World Cup winner Italy and soccer giant Brazil.

Other countries from the Americas in the top 30 of the FIFA rankings include Mexico (21), Ecuador (24), Uruguay (26), Paraguay (29), and the U.S. (30).

Links- Bloomberg, FOX Sports, The Latin Americanist, El Día, USA TODAY

Image- (“Gauchito”, the mascot of the 1978 World cup hosted by Argentina)

Ecuador: violence erupts as fired congressmen try to return to their previous posts

Twenty former legislators tried to storm their way into Ecuador’s Congress building (image) which led to some violent outbursts and even a drive-by shooting. "We are in a dictatorship!" shouted one of the legislators who were fired by President Rafael Correa due to the debate over a constitutional referendum to be held next month. Opposition politicians have planned the creation of a parallel Congress, thus deepening Ecuador’s political crisis.

Links- Prensa Latina, International Herald Tribune, The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg

Image- BBC News

Daily headlines: March 14, 2007

* Support for Chilean president Michelle Bachelet (image) has gone up despite problems with Santiago’s public transit system and accusations of censorship.

* “A more balanced distribution of resources and prosperity is an essential requirement to raise the levels of security for all in the region,” observed Organization of American States Secretary General José Miguel Insulza during a speech on Monday.

* Taking a cue from a Brazilian anti-Bush protestor, a Chilean woman clad only in body paint protested a border dispute between Chile and Peru.

* The president of Spanish telecom group Telefonica emphasized that Latin America will be crucial for the company’s sales to continue growing this year.

* Brazilian stocks dropped by over 3% yesterday based on anxiety over a slumping U.S. economy.

* Trade between China and Cuba nearly doubled in 2006 to the tune of $1.8 billion.

* In soccer action over the weekend, Chile’s Colo Colo continued its perfect record after seven games while Uruguayan giant Nacional languishes near the bottom of the table after a shock loss to Miramar Misones.

Links- Angus Reid Consultants, The Latin Americanist, Caribbean Net News, Brazzil Magazine, Living in Peru, Reuters, Guardian UK

Image- BBC News

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Chilean gov’t accused of censorship against TV documentary

Chile’s government has been accused of censorship when they decided to suspend a documentary series on the 19th century War of the Pacific that was supposed to air this week. The government’s actions were “inexcusable” according to one key opposition politician, though Foreign Minister Alejandro Foxley repeatedly denied that the government put any pressure on state-run TVN.

Links- Journal Peru, Wikipedia, La Nacion, BBC News


Gabo becomes peacemaker, while “para-politics” scandal continues

Colombian president Alvaro Uribe claimed that famed author Gabriel Garcia Marquez has been serving as a mediator in peace negotiations between the government and Colombia’s second-largest rebel group. Uribe gave no details as how exactly “Gabo” is participating in the negotiations though according to Reuters:

“Some analysts said the government may see the author's close friendship with Cuban leader Fidel Castro and his standing in Colombia as a way to bolster talks.”

Meanwhile, the “para-politics” scandal keeps widening as the days go by; this time the governor of Magdalena province gave himself in to authorities this morning after an arrest warrant was issued. Trino Luna has been accused of working with right-wing paramilitary groups to come into power in 2003 and he joins a growing number of politicians accused of underhanded dealings with the paramilitaries.

Links- eCanadaNow, BBC News, CNN, The Latin Americanist, El Tiempo, Reuters AlertNet

Image- VivirLatino (Gabriel Garcia Marquez along with Cuban singer-songwriter Pablo Milanes)

Dubya south of the border – Analysis and opinion

The U.S. and Guatemalan president met on Monday to discuss issues like free trade and immigration. (Image via BBC News ).

While U.S. President George W. Bush continues his tour of Latin America, let’s take a brief look at five opinion articles written over the past few days.

* Bush’s tour of the Americas may be the beginning of a less confrontational stance towards the region, says columnist Marcela Sanchez.So far the Bush administration as not only taken a harsh stance against countries that don’t agree with him but U.S. policies have led to “devastating” relations with the Americas.Yet Sanchez goes on to note that:
"The fact that this is Bush's eighth trip to the region shows that the United States has not been disengaged from Latin America, but that its engagement has taken the wrong approach…The Bush administration is borrowing a page from the Clinton years to counter anti-Americanism abroad. Back in the late 1990s when globalization had generated so much bitterness toward the United States that McDonald's restaurants were being attacked in France, Felix G. Rohatyn, the U.S. ambassador at the time, sent diplomats out from the embassy in Paris to make themselves available to the French people. The initial goal wasn't to change minds, Rohatyn told me recently, but "to have an exchange of views" and to articulate the logic behind U.S. policy”.
* Guardian UK commentator Michael Lisman points out the importance of improving educational standards in order to allow free trade to flourish in the region. Skilled workers are necessary for free trade to work, and, therefore, requires an educated population. Lisman notes that:
“A good start would be committing some of DR-CAFTA's $40 million in earmarked funds for trade readiness and institution-building towards education and training programs. Participating governments should also renew their commitments to relevant teacher training and develop national education standards. As crucial as it is, education also needs government guarantees that free trade and increased privatization will not cause educational policy to be sold to the highest bidder”.
* An editorial in Britain’s The Daily Telegraph reminds readers of the importance of Bush’s trip. The editorial notes how vital a biofuel agreement with Brazil is; though it seems to take the disingenuous view that as long as Bush makes a good impression in Mexico and brazil then the trip will have been worth it:
“In São Paulo, Mr. Bush has the chance to deepen an already good relationship with a country whose economy, along with that of Mexico, the President's last stop, dwarfs all others in Latin America. That alone could make the tour worthwhile.”
* Fareed Zakaria would staunchly disagree with The Daily Telegraph’s article in that it is too little to late, and that Bush has very little to gain on his trip. He Bush administration squandered the “forward movement” seen by his previous four predecessors and now has very little leeway in the region:
“When Bush had enormous room to maneuver in 2001, when loaded with political capital in 2002 and 2003, he embarked on a series of ideological exercises that severely diminished American influence and prestige. Now, battered by failure, he has moved toward more-sensible policies—not just in Latin America, but in North Korea and even the Middle East. But the president is now walking alone, with few supporters at home or abroad, and little capital that he can draw on to execute any of his new approaches. In region after region, on issue after issue, that might well be the recurring theme of George W. Bush's foreign policy in his final 22 months.”
* Lastly, Cragg Hines from the Houston Chronicle observes that Bush’s trip aims to counter Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez no matter how much the Bush administration denies it. While Chavez goes on his own tour at the same time as Bush’s and both leaders are highly unpopular, Hines argues that Bush has far less to gain than Chavez. Hines concludes with the following:

“At least in its policy outline, the Bush trip seeks to broaden the agenda. In Brazil, for instance, Bush and Lula will focus on alternative energy, especially Brazil's success in converting sugar cane into ethanol.

A sustained emphasis on such points would mark a major shift in how the United States deals with Latin America.”

Links- La Tercera, Monsters & Critics, CNN, Washington Post, Guardian UK, The Daily Telegraph, MSNBC, Houston Chronicle