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Randinho's Latin America Briefing: 2003-09-30

Winds of Change.NET Regional Briefings run on Tuesdays & Wednesdays, and sometimes Fridays too. This Regional Briefing focuses on Latin America, courtesy of Randy Paul of Beautiful Horizons. TOP TOPICS * The Venezuelan Electoral Council rejects the Chavez recall signatures, while Chavez himself continues to unravel and the opposition girds for another recall effort. * JK: Brazilian police have arrested an "important member" of Colombia's biggest guerrilla group (FARC) who was involved in a major drug-trafficking operation in Brazil, as well as an alleged accomplice who may be Canadian. The Brazilians have concluded that FARC is probably trying to revive the Cali Drug Cartel. Today's Topics Include: More Chavez irrationality; 11,000 child soldiers in Colombia; Colombia President Uribe's unwise amnesty; Washington's divided response; OV-10 plane downed near Venezuelan border; British hostage's tale of escape; Lula's Brazil sells out, embraces Cuba; Bolivia cutting of its wallet to spite its neighbour.
Venezuela * JK: Whoa! terrorist connections to the Middle East. Not good. But not surprising, either, given Chavez's known links with Colombia's FARC. (P.S. Thanks for the link, Glenn!) * Chavez demonstrates further Captain Queeg-like traits when he decides to Suspend oil sales to the Dominican Republic, claiming coup plotters are affiliated with a Dominican company. * Chavez also accuses former Venezuelan President Carlos Andre Perez (a notoriously corrupt and discredited politician) of plotting against him and seeks to put an end to pot-banging protests against his rule. Meanwhile, Venezuela becomes an even more divided nation. Colombia * More than 11,000 children are reported to be fighting for armed groups in Colombia, according to a September 18 report by Human Rights Watch. 80% of the children under belong to one of the two left-wing guerrilla groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) or the National Liberation Army (ELN), while the others are being recruited by the right-wing United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). The State Department has put all three groups on its list of foreign terrorist organizations. * JK: An OV-10 Bronco plane being piloted by a Costa Rican working for DynCorp was shot down over northeast Colombia near the Venezuelan border, killing the pilot. Looks like a standard CIA setup to me. Now, the kicker: there are hints that it may have been deliberately attacked by Venezuelan authorities. If true, that's a whole new level of escalation. CNN has a different report. * Colombian President Alvaro Uribe plans to implement an impunity amnesty program for the right-wing paramilitaries such as the AUC and initially seems to get Washington's approval. * A week later, however, after the media, the US Congress and human rights NGOs got a hold of the story, the White House is much less sanguine about the plan. Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont was prepared to offer another caution. "Colombia has a long history of impunity," warning the Bush administration that "the United States should not support a policy of leniency for those who gave orders to commit atrocities." By Wednesday 56 members of the U.S. Congress had sent a letter to Uribe expressing "doubts" about his government's willing to prosecute paramilitary leaders. * Uribe's plan is a truly bad idea that will reward indicted alleged drug dealers and murderer's and has already led to some allegations of paramilitaries seizing land and businesses in advance of the anticipated impunity amnesty. One can only hope that with enough convincing, he'll give it up. * JK: Fox has a piece on 3 U.S. military contractors being held hostage by the narco-Marxist FARC guerillas. * Hostage Taking is very popular in Colombia. British traveler Matthew Scott tells of his 12-day jungle escape from FARC hostage takers. His companions weren't so lucky. Brazil * Brazil's President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva visits Cuba and in advance of his trip when asked by the dissidents in Cuba and those outside Cuba if he will meet with the dissidents, responded that "I don't give opinions about the internal political conditions of other countries." Well, I guess that begs the question of his efforts in the Friends of Venezuela group earlier this year. Let's be candid: his comments are pure weasel words, made all the worse coming from someone who, like the dissidents in Cuba, was once imprisoned for the non-violent expression of his beliefs. * Here's the real reason for his silence: "Presiding over the signing of $200 million in new business deals in Cuba by private Brazilian enterprises, the Cuban leader put his arm around President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as they talked about future trade between their nations." So despite all the posturing, Lula's just the sort of capitalist after all who will put money above justice. Bolivia * Bolivia has the second largest reserves of natural gas in South America, and this desperately poor country could use the revenues from exporting this gas. But the citizens seem squarely against this. * The understandable reason has to do with several privatization efforts that have been very unsuccessful, including an attempt in Cochabamba to privatize the water supply which led some people to accuse the Bechtel Corp. of trying to buy the rain. The less understandable reason has to do with Bolivia's loss of its seacoast to Chile in the War of the Pacific. The less costly route for the pipeline would take it through Chile. I understand the concerns about privatization, but the Chile issue is self-defeating. One hopes that cooler heads will prevail. Bolivia could really use the money from this. The next installment of Randinho's Latin America Briefing will be October 28. Meanwhile, regular updates concerning Latin American events can be found at Beautiful Horizons.


The Devil's Excrement is a far better blog than beautiful horizons.

About Venezuela and only about Venezuela it may be. My interests and concerns are a little broader, however, and my focus is significantly different, so your comparison - without specifics - may be an apples and oranges comparison.

On the other hand, I got an e-mail from Francisco Toro, the author of the now discontinued blog, Caracas Chronicles, (linked to on the Dev'l's Excrement links) a few months ago thanking me for my nuanced view of the situation in Venezuela. Go figure!

There's room enough for everyone here. The whole point of the Regional Briefing is to link to other information sources and blogs - and TDE is a very good one for Venezuela. No doubt we'll see their URLs in future briefing installments... and probably on Randy's blog, too.

Now, if only we could find a Colombian blogger...

All these blogs are doing something quite unique and very good in my opinion: trying to convey a detailed message about a part of the world that only gets superficial coverage in the world press. Thanks to those that like my blog, I only do Venezuela because the story is so complex and intrincate to begin with, that sometimes even I do not understand what is going on or why. Imagine trying to explain it to the world! Good luck to you all and happy blogging!


Thank you, that is exactly why I started my blog. This is from my about page:

There is a dearth of information about Latin America and the Caribbean in most of the media in the United States and it's really a shame. Most of the attention in the media usually arises from crises: natural disasters, coups, and other political shenanigans.

What I would like to do is share some of my experiences in travel and exposure to the culture and politics of this region. I'd like to focus on the arts (especially Brazilian music), the environment, human rights and issues of development and justice. I do not purport to be an expert, but I have a pretty good knowledge of the history, politics and culture of the region as well as the difficult relationship that much of Latin America has with the USA. I speak, read and write Portuguese fairly fluently and am relatively competent in Spanish.

If I can make people unfamiliar with Latin America think about that part of the world some more, especially free of the stereotypes, I'll feel that my work is entirely worthwhile.

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