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Sunday, August 27, 2006

COLUMN: THREE SCENARIOS FOR LATIN AMERICA

GUAYAQUIL, Ecuador -- Latin America's political map is likely to change over the next three months, after the upcoming elections in Ecuador and Nicaragua: It will either show a newly expanded radical leftist bloc led by oil-rich Venezuela or a new critical mass of free-market democracies. Read the entire column with the 3 scenarios here. Which way do YOU think the region will go? I'm interested in your comments. POST SCRIPTUM: I will be on vacation this week. I'll be back next week (If I can control myself and keep from making blog entries in the meantime.)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

COLUMN: FROM WHAT I SAW, ECUADOR IS GOING (FURTHER?) DOWNHILL

GUAYAQUIL, Ecuador -- When I flew here this week to moderate Ecuador's first presidential debate in two decades, I thought that most candidates had learned something from this country's experience of chronic political chaos and would offer constructive ideas to build a stable democracy. How wrong I was! I started my questions to the five leading candidates for the Oct. 15 election on the issue of political instability, because Ecuador has had seven presidents over the past 10 years, and 5 economy ministers over the past 15 months. Guess what they answered? Read the full column here. I'm interested in your comments.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

COLUMN: DOES VENEZUELA'S OPPOSITION LEADER HAVE A CHANCE TO WIN?

Although his chances of beating President Hugo Chávez in Venezuela's Dec. 3 presidential elections are very slim, opposition unity candidate Manuel Rosales has launched his campaign with an unusually smart slogan: ''Ni el imperio, ni el barbudo!'' (Neither the [U.S.] empire, nor the [Cuban] bearded one!) Judging from what Rosales told me in a long telephone interview, he will hit Chávez where the Venezuelan comandante is most vulnerable: his penchant for giving away billions of dollars to foreign countries, while nearly half of the Venezuelan people live in poverty. Read the entire column here.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

COLUMN: LULA IS LIKELY TO WIN IN BRAZIL, BUT THEN WHAT?

With elections in South America's largest country less than six weeks away, there is a virtual consensus among U.S. Brazil watchers that leftist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will be easily reelected, and that in his second term he will move further to the center. Read the entire column here, to find out what we can expect from a Lula II presidency.

Monday, August 14, 2006

WE TOLD YOU SO: MEXICO'S CALDERON MAKES NICE WITH CASTRO

In our July 16 column, where we interviewed Mexico's conservative candidate Felipe Calderon, we told you that Calderon - who won the official count of Mexico's July 2 elections - is likely to shelve his previous criticism of Fidel Castro, and try to make nice with him, as a possible prelude to offering the Mexican foreign ministry to the opposition PRI party. Well, it's happening. Today, news agencies report that Calderon has sent a nice get-well letter to Castro. Read the wire story (in Spanish) in the comments section.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

COLUMN: LATIN AMERICA STEPS UP ANTI-ISRAELI RHETORIC

BUENOS AIRES -- One of the things that struck me the most during visits to Argentina and other Latin American countries in recent weeks was the growing anti-Israeli sentiment -- and the simultaneous tolerance of Hezbollah terrorism -- in many parts of the region. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez recently compared Israel's attacks on Hezbollah terrorists to Adolf Hitler's planned killings of millions of civilians in World War II. Read the entire column here.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

COLUMN: INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY IN NO HURRY TO SEEK DEMOCRACY IN CUBA

BUENOS AIRES -- Watching the latest events in Cuba from this part of the world, one gets the sense that the international community -- perhaps including the United States -- will be in no great hurry to seek a rapid transition to democracy on the island. While many countries say they would like to see an economic and political opening in Cuba, most governments may be more dominated by fear of chaotic change than motivated by the desire for democracy in Cuba. Find out why, reading the entire column here.

Monday, August 07, 2006

COLUMN: 5 RECOMMENDATIONS TO BUSH ON CUBA

President Bush must have a clear plan to react to ailing Cuban dictator Fidel Castro's decission to cede power to his brother, Raúl. Here are five key recommendations: First, lay low. Whatever you say, don't make aggressive statements that would help the Cuban regime perpetuate the myth that Cuba is facing an imminent U.S. invasion and that Cuban exiles are intent on descending on Havana to reclaim their properties. Read the entire column here.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

COLUMN: HOSTILE U.S. WORDS PLAY INTO CASTRO'S HANDS

If there was any question that the Bush administration and Cuban exile leaders should avoid aggressive statements following Cuban dictator Fidel Castro's apparent decision to hand over power to his brother Raúl, an hourlong conversation with one of Cuba's leading dissidents removed any doubts. Read the full column on what dissident Oswaldo Paya told me, and my conclusions, here.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

COLUMN: WILL CASTRO COME BACK AS A CEREMONIAL HEAD OF STATE?

There are three possible scenarios about ailing Cuban dictator Fidel Castro's apparent decision to temporarily hand over power to his younger brother Raúl, two of which may lead to a lengthy withdrawal from at least some of the absolute powers he has held for nearly five decades. If and when he comes back, Castro could become - at least in title - a ceremonial head of state. Read the full column here.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

FIDEL CASTRO'S (TEMPORARY?) GOOD-BYE

There are three possibilities about Fidel Castro's apparent decision to hand over power to his brother Raul in order to undergo an intestinal surgery: 1) The Cuban regime's statement tells the truth, and Fidel Castro will be back in a few months, re-taking control of the government; 2) Castro is totally incapacitated, perhaps dead, and that's why he didn't appear on tv himself to read the statement delegating power to his brother; 3) Castro threw a trial balloon, to see whether anybody in his inner circle makes a wrong move and get rid of potential reformists who won't respect his wishes. Which do you think is the case? More later.