Thursday, January 19, 2006

Jan 19/06 - On our expectations for Chile's new President: is good governance an exportable commodity?

PMBComment: as I was about to post a commentary on the true meaning of Chile’s election, and the more than obvious contrast it poses to the much heralded – and wretched – resurgence of the populist left in Latin America, I came across today’s editorial from Investor’s Business Daily. IAB is a financial markets publication that overtime has proven to have a real feel for what is real and what is make-belief in Latin politics. This quality, notably absent in some mainstream editorial rooms, is key when comparing Chile – which as real as real comes, to Chávez’s brew – which is putrid smoke, and conked out mirrors.

One would only hope that Ms. Bachelet, praised by many for her sharp intellect and stubborn resilience, will understand that as the new leader of “the brightest star in Latin America”, her new responsibility extends to promoting the values and example of good policies and good governance to the region. Our expectation is that a proven record, if well packaged and sold, will be a better export commodity that uncouth and already-failed populism.

For sure this recommendation will demand a certain level of activism not commonly associated with typically demure Chileans, but Ms. Bachelet, like Germany’s new Chancellor Ms. Merkel, with their common East German experience, know all too well the impact of failed dogmas and the all-too-real consequences of disheveled neighborhoods. PMB

Investor’s Business Daily

Issues & Insights

Chile's Bright Election

Posted 1/18/2006

Latin America: Contrary to worries about a regional swing leftward, the election in Chile of socialist Michelle Bachelet as president is far better news for the U.S. than for the region's anti-democratic left.

We've seen Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Bolivia's Evo Morales fall all over themselves to immediately claim Chile as a new member of their anti-U.S. orbit. It's just not true.

On Wednesday, for example, Chile announced interest in studying free trade with two more nations — Malaysia and Thailand — extending its broad international presence, something that's anathema to the two Castroites.

What's more, the Bush administration was among the first to congratulate Chile's people and new president, an old friend and trading partner.

What they and those on the right who fear a "dangerous swing to the left" miss is that Chile's voters weren't electing 1960s-style radicals. They were voting to stay a course that's made their country the brightest star in Latin America.

Chile leads the region in economic growth and, equally important, shows how well a two-coalition democracy works.

Bachelet, encouragingly, vowed to keep Chile's economy "vibrant" and, unlike Chavez, declared a sincere intent to work with her political opponents.

Sunday's election was not a reaction against capitalism and what the far left vaguely calls "neoliberalism." It was a fourth term for the center-left coalition that has served the country responsibly since 1990.

If winners like this can be called left wing, consider the fact that Chilean leaders are known for their free-trade pacts with the U.S., China and Europe, their fiscal prudence and their caution in extending social welfare benefits.

Under their leadership, Chile has the highest budget surplus in Latin America, amounting to 4.5% of its $103 billion GDP. It's kept government intrusion minimal, the private sector alive and the economy growing at a respectable 6.3% rate in 2005.

And unlike its neighbors, it has a 25% investment-to-GDP ratio, showing voters' belief in the future.

Unemployment is still a socialistic 8%, but it tops other countries in the region, and with severe poverty reduced to 19%, one of every 16 Chileans have moved to the middle class since 1995.

The center-left government has pragmatically retained Chile's popular private pension plan launched in 1981 under its historic enemy, Gen. Augusto Pinochet, and now vows to improve it.

The Bachelet coalition's program is so mainstream that its conservative rival, led by Sebastian Pinera, had trouble distinguishing its own program from the Bachelet team's, signaling a broad consensus about free markets.

What's possibly most significant to many in Latin America is not Chile's leftward drift, but its clean election, executed swiftly and fairly. That won't be lost on the region's voters, who are stuck in deeply flawed leftist regimes with ruined institutions and power concentrated at the edge of dictatorships, as in Venezuela.

For those voters, the sight of a left-leaning government that respects its opposition, opens itself to the world, refuses to drive its private sector to ruin and doesn't leave in a hail of bullets is a real alternative. That spells trouble for anti-democrats like Chavez. Castro must know this; his congratulations were absent.

Chile's a very different left democracy than the one Chavez and Morales think they are hailing. And one that's like the one represented in the U.S.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Jan 17/06 - On "The origins of the Great War of 2007 - and how it could have been prevented"

PMBComment: this sobering article by Harvard's Niall Ferguson should be read carefully. Like in any game of Monopoly, at some point one of the losers runs out of patience and kicks the board, or simply walks away fuming and plotting, fearing nothing worse that his current predicament. The combination of factors highlighted in Professor Ferguson’s article is in plain view; the rhetoric is hard to avoid, the scenario is convincingly weaved…but what must one do? In my opinion, it is time for the elected democratic leaders of the world – not to mention the self appointed opinion makers - to stop deriving cheap pleasure from kicking the current administration in Washington. Current risks morph into future crisis when political bickering and myopia blinds and bounds all the key actors that should be focused on constructive and preemptive collaboration. If in the past you could have blamed wars on miscommunication, or faulty information, one could hardly use that excuse today in this hyper connected world of ours. While it is too early to get a verdict on the saneness of invading Iraq, it is not impossible to anticipate the harsh judgment of history if we fail to understand that the future is not the monopoly of today’s rulers but the common destination of more than 6 billion people. PMB

Note: I avoided above any direct mention to my usual suspect, but feel free as your read Ferguson’s piece to interject the lunatic ranting of Mr. Chávez, or the senile blood dreams of a decrepit Caribbean dinosaur, and you got yourselves a few more players for whatever game they want us all to play.

The origins of the Great War of 2007 - and how it could have been prevented

By Niall Ferguson*

(Filed: 15/01/2006)

Are we living through the origins of the next world war? Certainly, it is easy to imagine how a future historian might deal with the next phase of events in the Middle East:

With every passing year after the turn of the century, the instability of the Gulf region grew. By the beginning of 2006, nearly all the combustible ingredients for a conflict - far bigger in its scale and scope than the wars of 1991 or 2003 - were in place.

The first underlying cause of the war was the increase in the region's relative importance as a source of petroleum. On the one hand, the rest of the world's oil reserves were being rapidly exhausted. On the other, the breakneck growth of the Asian economies had caused a huge surge in global demand for energy. It is hard to believe today, but for most of the 1990s the price of oil had averaged less than $20 a barrel.

A second precondition of war was demographic. While European fertility had fallen below the natural replacement rate in the 1970s, the decline in the Islamic world had been much slower. By the late 1990s the fertility rate in the eight Muslim countries to the south and east of the European Union was two and half times higher than the European figure.

This tendency was especially pronounced in Iran, where the social conservatism of the 1979 Revolution – which had lowered the age of marriage and prohibited contraception - combined with the high mortality of the Iran-Iraq War and the subsequent baby boom to produce, by the first decade of the new century, a quite extraordinary surplus of young men. More than two fifths of the population of Iran in 1995 had been aged 14 or younger. This was the generation that was ready to fight in 2007.

This not only gave Islamic societies a youthful energy that contrasted markedly with the slothful senescence of Europe. It also signified a profound shift in the balance of world population. In 1950, there had three times as many people in Britain as in Iran. By 1995, the population of Iran had overtaken that of Britain and was forecast to be 50 per cent higher by 2050. Yet people in the West struggled to grasp the implications of this shift. Subliminally, they still thought of the Middle East as a region they could lord it over, as they had in the mid-20th century.

The third and perhaps most important precondition for war was cultural. Since 1979, not just Iran but the greater part of the Muslim world had been swept by a wave of religious fervour, the very opposite of the process of secularisation that was emptying Europe's churches.

Although few countries followed Iran down the road to full-blown theocracy, there was a transformation in politics everywhere. From Morocco to Pakistan, the feudal dynasties or military strongmen who had dominated Islamic politics since the 1950s came under intense pressure from religious radicals.

The ideological cocktail that produced 'Islamism' was as potent as either of the extreme ideologies the West had produced in the previous century, communism and fascism. Islamism was anti-Western, anti-capitalist and anti-Semitic. A seminal moment was the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's intemperate attack on Israel in December 2005, when he called the Holocaust a 'myth'. The state of Israel was a 'disgraceful blot', he had previously declared, to be wiped 'off the map'.

Prior to 2007, the Islamists had seen no alternative but to wage war against their enemies by means of terrorism. From the Gaza to Manhattan, the hero of 2001 was the suicide bomber. Yet Ahmadinejad, a veteran of the Iran-Iraq War, craved a more serious weapon than strapped-on explosives. His decision to accelerate Iran's nuclear weapons programme was intended to give Iran the kind of power North Korea already wielded in East Asia: the power to defy the United States; the power to obliterate America's closest regional ally.

Under different circumstances, it would not have been difficult to thwart Ahmadinejad's ambitions. The Israelis had shown themselves capable of pre-emptive air strikes against Iraq's nuclear facilities in 1981. Similar strikes against Iran's were urged on President Bush by neo-conservative commentators throughout 2006. The United States, they argued, was perfectly placed to carry out such strikes. It had the bases in neighbouring Iraq and Afghanistan. It had the intelligence proving Iran's contravention of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

But the President was advised by his Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, to opt instead for diplomacy. Not just European opinion but American opinion was strongly opposed to an attack on Iran. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 had been discredited by the failure to find the weapons of mass destruction Saddam Hussein had supposedly possessed and by the failure of the US-led coalition to quell a bloody insurgency.

Americans did not want to increase their military commitments overseas; they wanted to reduce them. Europeans did not want to hear that Iran was about to build its own WMD. Even if Ahmad-inejad had broadcast a nuclear test live on CNN, liberals would have said it was a CIA con-trick.

So history repeated itself. As in the 1930s, an anti-Semitic demagogue broke his country's treaty obligations and armed for war. Having first tried appeasement, offering the Iranians economic incentives to desist, the West appealed to international agencies - the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations Security Council. Thanks to China's veto, however, the UN produced nothing but empty resolutions and ineffectual sanctions, like the exclusion of Iran from the 2006 World Cup finals.

Only one man might have stiffened President Bush’s resolve in the crisis: not Tony Blair, he had wrecked his domestic credibility over Iraq and was in any case on the point of retirement - Ariel Sharon. Yet he had been struck down by a stroke as the Iranian crisis came to a head. With Israel leaderless, Ahmadinejad had a free hand.

As in the 1930s, too, the West fell back on wishful thinking. Perhaps, some said, Ahmadinejad was only sabre-rattling because his domestic position was so weak. Perhaps his political rivals in the Iranian clergy were on the point of getting rid of him. In that case, the last thing the West should do was to take a tough line; that would only bolster Ahmadinejad by inflaming Iranian popular feeling. So in Washington and in London people crossed their fingers, hoping for the deus ex machina of a home-grown regime change in Teheran.

This gave the Iranians all the time they needed to produce weapons-grade enriched uranium at Natanz. The dream of nuclear non-proliferation, already interrupted by Israel, Pakistan and India, was definitively shattered. Now Teheran had a nuclear missile pointed at Tel-Aviv. And the new Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu had a missile pointed right back at Teheran.

The optimists argued that the Cuban Missile Crisis would replay itself in the Middle East. Both sides would threaten war - and then both sides would blink. That was Secretary Rice's hope - indeed, her prayer - as she shuttled between the capitals. But it was not to be.

The devastating nuclear exchange of August 2007 represented not only the failure of diplomacy; it marked the end of the oil age. Some even said it marked the twilight of the West. Certainly, that was one way of interpreting the subsequent spread of the conflict as Iraq's Shi'ite population overran the remaining American bases in their country and the Chinese threatened to intervene on the side of Teheran.

Yet the historian is bound to ask whether or not the true significance of the 2007-2011 war was to vindicate the Bush administration's original principle of pre-emption. For, if that principle had been adhered to in 2006, Iran's nuclear bid might have been thwarted at minimal cost. And the Great Gulf War might never have happened.

• Niall Ferguson is Laurence A. Tisch Professor of

History at Harvard University

© Niall Ferguson, 2006

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Monday, January 16, 2006

Jan 15/06 - Un simple sermón que desnudo a un enmarañado régimen

Homilía del Cardenal Rosalio Castillo Lara

Misa Solemne de la Divina Pastora

Barquisimeto, Capital del Estado Lara, 14 de Enero de 2006

Hoy, no sólo Barquisimeto y el estado Lara, sino toda Venezuela se ha hecho presente en esta millonaria manifestación de amor y devoción a la Divina Pastora de Santa Rosa.

Hace 270 años que la Divina Providencia, en sus misteriosos planes, quiso cambiar la estatua de la Inmaculada Concepción que había sido encargada a España por otra de la Divina Pastora que, desde entonces, apacienta amorosamente su grey larense.

La figura del pastor, de honda raigambre bíblica, la escogió Nuestro Señor Jesucristo para describir de modo real e incisivo el cuidado solícito y salvífico que tenía por sus discípulos y seguidores, y que sus colaboradores deberíamos imitar en el cuidado de los fieles cristianos. Jesucristo se define "el Buen Pastor", que conoce a sus ovejas y ellas lo conocen y siguen su voz.

El Buen Pastor lleva sus ovejas a fértiles y abundantes pastizales y, si una se extravía por cañadas oscuras, la busca hasta encontrarla, y, si es necesario, se la carga sobre los hombros hasta llevarla al redil. Está dispuesto a dar la vida por sus ovejas.

El título de pastor bien puede aplicársele a la Santísima Virgen María, por ser Madre del Buen Pastor y por haber recibido, al pie de la cruz, la misión de ser Madre de todos los cristianos.

La Virgen asume esa función pastoril con maternal ternura y gran propiedad.

Bien podemos decir que se desvive por sus ovejas; vela por ellas, las sigue, se interesa por sus necesidades y trata de aliviar sus dolores. La gran popularidad y la gran devoción que la Divina Pastora ha suscitado entre los larenses es una comprobación de los favores que hace continuamente a sus fieles.

Hoy se conmemoran los 150 años de una milagrosa intervención de la Divina Pastora a favor de sus fieles barquisimetanos. En 1856 una terrible epidemia de cólera azotaba cruelmente a los habitantes de esta ciudad. Eran muchos los que caían gravemente enfermos y morían bajo el terrible flagelo, sin que se les pudiera encontrar eficaz remedio, ni se vislumbraba un cercano fin a la epidemia. Ante esa tragedia, el Pbro. José Macario Yépez, muy apreciado por la colectividad, que había construido la iglesia de la Inmaculada Concepción, de la cual era párroco, propició una visita de la Divina Pastora desde el pueblo de Santa Rosa hasta Barquisimeto.

La procesión concluyó en la iglesia de la Concepción, donde se celebró la Sagrada Eucaristía. En la conmovedora homilía, el Padre Yépez se ofreció como víctima propiciatoria para que cesase la epidemia. La Virgen aceptó la ofrenda y la epidemia desapareció. Desde entonces en recuerdo y agradecimiento por el favor especial de la Divina Pastora se realiza la hermosa procesión que, cada año, reúne más devotos y cosecha más gracias recibidas.

La Santísima Virgen, por su función misma de Madre y Pastora, sigue con maternal solicitud a sus fieles devotos, los cuida y defiende, aleja de ellos los peligros y busca su salvación. Este es un momento favorable para pedirle gracias a la Divina Pastora.

Ella está dispuesta a ayudarnos. Cada uno tiene sus problemas personales y estará pensando qué favor pedirle a la Virgen: la curación de un enfermo, la solución de un problema familiar, o cualquier otro. En esta solemne ocasión deseo proponerles que todos juntos le pidamos fervorosamente a la Divina Pastora que salve a Venezuela.

Nos encontramos en una situación de extrema gravedad como muy pocas en nuestra historia.

Un gobierno elegido democráticamente hace siete años ha perdido su rumbo democrático y presenta visos de dictadura, donde todos los poderes están prácticamente en manos de una sola persona que los ejerce arbitraria y despóticamente; no para procurar el mayor bien de la nación, sino para un torcido y anacrónico proyecto político: el de implantar en Venezuela un régimen desastroso como el que Fidel Castro, a costa de tantas vidas humanas y del progreso de su nación, ha impuesto a Cuba.

Los siete años de gobierno ofrecen abundantes muestras de cómo será el futuro de Venezuela si este régimen se perpetúa. Los principios fundamentales de la democracia son ignorados o violados. Los derechos humanos se ven frecuentemente menoscabados. La libertad de expresión es restringida y amenazada con disposiciones legales para lograr la autocensura. La disidencia, apenas tolerada, es, en muchos casos, perseguida. Los tribunales sentencian injusticias en nombre de la ley; hay varias decenas de prisioneros políticos, mientras la delincuencia común aumenta y ofrece un trágico saldo de más de diez mil homicidios por año. La corrupción, -que se había propuesto eliminar radicalmente-, se multiplica ante el silencio y la inactividad complaciente del Contralor General de la República hasta producir varios miles de nuevos ricos millonarios. Al mismo tiempo crece la pobreza, abunda el desempleo, trágica situación que las llamadas Misiones logran apenas disimular. El odio sembrado, tenaz e irresponsablemente, amenaza hacer de los venezolanos entre sí irreconciliables enemigos y lleva la división y enfrentamiento hasta en el seno mismo de las familias.

Para colmo, el Consejo Nacional Electoral, espurio en su origen y fraudulento en su actuación, ha quitado a casi la totalidad de los venezolanos toda confianza en votos y elecciones.

Por otra parte, el altísimo precio del petróleo que permitiría solucionar muchos problemas está siendo utilizado a través de ultra millonarios regalos para obtener de otras naciones una incierta fidelidad política, mientras en Venezuela se siente dolorosamente la falta de intervenciones y trabajos para acondicionar los hospitales desprovistos de lo necesario, de reparar las vías de comunicación, las calles de las ciudades, la construcción de viviendas y centros educativos, etc...

Estas breves pinceladas no tienen la intención de ofrecer una exhaustiva información que no encontraría aquí su lugar ni el momento apropiado, sino la de ayudar a tomar conciencia de una gravísima situación que bien puede compararse con la epidemia de peste que hace 150 años motivó la intervención milagrosa de la Divina Pastora.

Ante la triste situación que vivimos y ante el peligro de que, si el pueblo venezolano no toma conciencia de su gravedad y no se pronuncia categóricamente a favor de la democracia y la libertad, nos encontraremos sometidos a una dictadura de tipo marxista, vamos a pedirle, todos unidos, a la Divina Pastora:

"¡Virgen Santísima, que en nuestra historia has manifestado muchas veces tu benevolencia y cariño por este pueblo, te pedimos que no nos abandones en este momento!".

Nuestro Señor Jesucristo ha querido, quizás, darnos una dura lección por nuestras infidelidades, por no haber sabido aprovechar los dones que nos dio de una naturaleza tan fértil y rica, de una población inteligente, trabajadora y generosa, y por no haber ayudado debidamente a los más necesitados y no haber vivido limpiamente nuestra fe cristiana.

Apóyanos, dulce Divina Pastora, a aprender la lección y danos a todos la claridad de la mente para conocer y evitar el peligro, y la fuerza para superar democráticamente este momento difícil. Consíguenos el don de la paz, de la reconciliación, de la conversión y danos la alegría de la recuperada libertad.

Así sea.

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Sunday, January 15, 2006

Jan 14/06 - On a must read article about the destruction of Venezuelan democracy

For full story visit

PMBComment: this article sets the standard for anyone trying to understand and willing to comment on what has been going on in Venezuela over the past 7 years. Journalists, academics, public officials and pundits of this-or-that tendency, can ignore this seminal piece at their own peril. Hugo Chávez's systematic destruction of the institutional framework of Venezuelan society is exposed to a degree that must shame those who have defended him as a democrat just because he has been able to rig a number of shaddy-and getting-shaddier elections. PMB

Note: if you have trouble accesing the article or subscribing to the magazine please let me know and I will try to help:

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Jan 11/05 - On easy access to Venezuela's airports...for drug traffickers!

PMBComments: the Committee on Foreign Relations of the U.S. Senate has released an insightful and information-filed staffer’s trip report to Colombia. The trip was taken by Carl Meacham at the request of the Committee to evaluate all aspects of Plan Colombia. While the report focuses on activities within Colombia, it touches briefly – and graphically - upon the latest information on the role Venezuela is playing in the international narcotics trade. While there have been a number of reports in the press of increased production in Venezuela, one of the charts in this report – see above - substantiate increased air activity from Venezuela towards Hispaniola (Haiti/Dom. Republic) - well know intermediate step for drug flowing into the U.S.

While it might be hard for common folks to leave Venezuela because of the imminent collapse of a key bridge in the Caracas-La Guaira highway, but there seems to be little, or no, impediment for thugs to move their wares out of Venezuela. Could it be that revolutionaries are better export promoters than engineers? PMB

Note: To read the brief report cited: ‘‘PLAN COLOMBIA’’: ELEMENTS FOR SUCCESS, please go to the following links:

Part 1
Part 2

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Jan 05/06 - On a brutish puppeteer and his makeshift puppets

"It might not be the axis of evil or of good, but surely one of demagogues"

(PMB: but, is there any doubt demagoguery is evil?)

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Monday, January 02, 2006

Jan 02/06 - On US - Latin America relations: trouble ahead? For whom?

PMBComment: before posting my first comment for the New Year – an outlook for Venezuela in the first half of 2006 - I came across this article by Jackson Diehl, editorial columnist from the Washington Post, who makes some very good points of what 2006 is likely to bring for US - Latin America affairs.

I suspect this blog will feature a good numbers of posts on the same matter in a year in which Hugo Chávez - enfant terrible of the Americas - MUST regain his domestic mandate por las buenas, o por las malas, if he is to remain the inspiration - and sugar-daddy - of the populist left in a sub-region that is courting with sustainable global irrelevance and a new round of popular disappointment with gleeful abandon. PMB

The Washington Post

Our Latin Conundrum

By Jackson Diehl
Monday, January 2, 2006; A13

Here's a sad but safe new year's prediction: U.S. relations with Latin America, which plunged to their lowest point in decades in 2005, will get still worse in 2006.

The year ended with a string of reverses. In a regional summit in Mar del Plata, Argentina, in November, President Bush was jeered by demonstrators and taunted by Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, who aspires to make Latin America anti-American and anti-democratic. He was seconded by Argentina's Nestor Kirchner, who in the past few weeks has moved from the hemisphere's camp of moderate democratic leftists toward Chavez's "revolutionary" embrace.

Then came the Chavez-backed victory in Bolivia of Evo Morales, a former llama herder and coca farmer who describes himself as Washington's "nightmare." Lacking any coherent policies of his own, Morales will probably take instruction from Chavez, Kirchner and Fidel Castro -- who at age 79 must believe he is finally seeing the emergence of the totalitarian bloc he and Che Guevara tried and failed to create in the 1960s.

Morales's victory sets the stage for a year in which leftist populists will be competing for power in elections across the region, including in Peru, Nicaragua and Mexico. All three are among the shrinking cadre of U.S. allies; outgoing Mexican President Vicente Fox uniquely stood up to Chavez during and after Mar del Plata. By the end of this year a Morales imitator could be president of Peru, Daniel Ortega and his Sandinista movement could once again control Nicaragua, and Mexico could be led by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a socialist who has never visited the United States.

There are other scenarios: Center-right candidates could still win in Mexico and Peru, and one might unseat Brazil's leftist president. But that's not what Bush administration officials are anticipating. "This is a wave that has not peaked," one recently told me.

Thanks to Mar del Plata, Bush is at least aware of the problem. On his return he ordered a high-level review of U.S. policy in the region. A subsequent meeting of senior officials from the departments of State, Defense, Treasury and other agencies generated a handful of new ideas. For example, Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, who helped defuse a political crisis in Nicaragua in October, proposed an initiative to deepen U.S. engagement with countries in Central America as they implement the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

Treasury spoke of working more closely with Brazil on its financial stability. There was talk of an energy initiative, perhaps in conjunction with Canada, to compete with Chavez's aggressive program of providing cheap oil to countries in the Caribbean and elsewhere.

There is still, however, no broader strategy for containing Chavez's political and economic offensive, which now includes a regional television network and an energy consortium. Some officials predict the appeal of the caudillo will fizzle and his support in Venezuela will collapse when he proves unable to deliver on the soaring expectations he has created. But Chavez will be cushioned by high oil prices for the foreseeable future.

Moreover, the positive steps the administration is planning are likely to be negated by the American policies that Latin Americans are most focused on: immigration and aid. In both cases the United States is preparing to punish its friends. Mexicans are outraged by the administration's support for tougher border controls and its failure to press reforms that would legalize guest workers. Salvadorans in the United States, including thousands in Washington, may lose their right to remain here and work under "temporary protection status"; sources tell me the administration has made a decision in principle not to renew it when it expires next fall.

Meanwhile, both Mexico and Chile may be excluded from U.S. aid programs this year because of their ratification of the treaty creating the International Criminal Court and their failure to sign bilateral treaties with Washington exempting U.S. citizens from it. A law mandating an aid cutoff in those circumstances provides for exemptions; Kirchner in Argentina inherited one. But administration ideologues have insisted on punishing friendly Latin nations that want to maintain a military alliance with the United States. Chile, which is purchasing U.S. F-16s, may not be able to get Pentagon training for its pilots if, as expected, it ratifies the treaty in the coming weeks.

All these developments may not matter much in the long run. Latin America poses no serious threat to U.S. security. Chavez and his populist followers will fail to create sustainable prosperity, as they have throughout Latin history. The same democracies that are giving leftists a chance to rule, if preserved, will oust them when they fail. In the short term, however, much of Latin America is going to be an unfriendly place for liberal ideas and free markets -- and with them the United States.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy 2006!!

May the New Year bring to Venezuela - and its true friends - the peace which we all deserve, the liberty which is our hard earned right, and the just prosperity that can ensure both for years to come.


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