In Afghanistan two weeks ago Hamid Karzai went along, against his better judgment, with an Italian demand that he free some Taliban prisoners in order to secure the release of Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo. The Europeans, the Italians in particular, have a history of coddling hostage-takers with cash payments. Shortly after that deal was cut, two French aid workeers were seized as well as a dozen or so Afghans. The Taliban wanted two senior leaders released into exchange for Mastrogiacomo’s translator, Ajmal Naqshbandi. Friday, Karzai said enough. He was sorry he had done it and he won’t make the same mistake again.
Naqshbandi was beheaded Sunday. This was a criminal and tragic act. But his blood is not on Karzai’s hands. It is on the hands of the Taliban with whom we and the Afghan government are at war. And it is on the hands of the Italians who insisted on a deal to save one journalist. The Taliban is now upping the ante, threatening to behead four Afghan medical workers. And if the French aid workers are murdered, their families may want to take that up with the Italian government as well.
Former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori’s been trying to escape justice for years now, and he’s hiding in Chile, but Peruvian authorities are worried that he may flee again to Japan, even when Japan supposedly kicked him out two years ago.
Fujimori, who came to power under democratic elections, has the “distinction” of being the only Latin American president to submit his resignation by fax after fleeing the country.
The WSJ had an article on Monday on Ecuador’s current constitutional crisis, Sharp Left Turn in Ecuador (by subscription only), where president Rafael Correa is following Hugo’s pattern:
To get the ball rolling on the new constitution, Mr. Correa has decreed a national referendum on whether the country wants to elect a constituent assembly with “full powers”. A “yes” vote would mean that the assembly would not only be charged with drafting the new law, but also be given authority to dissolve Congress, remake the courts and end term limits for the president.
Mr. Correa’s opponents feel certain that he is following the road mapped by Mr. Chavez, whose power grab rested mainly on a constitutional rewrite that allowed him to destroy competing institutions designed to act as checks on his power.
Expect more of the same if Hugo continues to export his Bolivarian revolution.
Speaking of Chavez, Miguel has a post on fudged statistics on highway deaths, and one on CANTV and Electricidad de Caracas and the end of an era. Investor’s Business Daily explains how Chavez Blows Venezuela’s Fortune
Venezuela’s state oil company is a mess. Revenue in 2006 came to $101 billion, down 26% from the year before, and profit was only $4.8 billion. The poor results were due in part to the $13 billion of investment money that Chavez diverted to handouts for the poor. It is estimated that the company needs to be spending at least $3 billion a year on infrastructural maintenance and capital improvements.
Chavez is also giving away at least 100,000 barrels a day to Cuba, something the ruling Castro brothers sell on the open market at their own profit, draining Venezuela’s finances further.
The biggest reason for the decline in exports is falling production, the inevitable result of a long string of broken contracts and private-property expropriations. The investment that’s been chased out is not being replaced, not even by other state oil companies that Chavez claims to favor. Investment from U.S. companies has fallen more than 90%.
Mora speculates on the You Tube revolution
Mexican president Felipe Calderon is achieving reforms, says the Economist, among them the first structural reform of the pension system in decades:
The pension reform raises the retirement age and phases in individual savings accounts, matching a similar reform of private-sector pensions approved a decade ago. It aims to restore solvency to a system that is already in deficit, even though Mexico is still a demographically young country.
The speed of its passage—it was debated for a week in the Chamber of Deputies and just two days in the Senate—points to careful backroom preparation by Mr Calderón’s advisers.
The Economist also has an article on the Falklands, Their island story
Update Sigmund Carl and Alfred has a most interesting post on immigration that you must read.
que ves fantasmas en las noches de trasluz,
y oyes el canto perfumado del azul
Vete de mi.
No te detengas a mirar las ramas muertas del rosal
que se marchitan sin dar flor
mira el paisaje del amor
que es la razon para sonar y amar
Yo, que ya he luchado contra toda la maldad
tengo las manos tan desechas de apretar
que no te puedo sujetar
Vete de mi
Sera en tu vida lo mejor, de la neblina del ayer
cuando me llegues a olvidar
como es mejor el verso aquel
que no podemos recordar.
Songs like that don’t even need candlelight to be romantic.