Welcome to the Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean. Haiti continues to be the top story, but in Venezuela Hugo Chavez is now closing RCTV permanently, continuing to consolidate his power. Seven students from Universidad Santa María (USM), a private university in the state of Anzoátegui (northeastern Venezuela), were injured after the police broke up a demonstration outside the campus.
Univision’s Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Rep. Xavier Becerra regarding President’s Obama’s 1st year (link in Spanish)
New Twist in Argentine Currency Fight
More on the free healthcare: Twenty-Six Cuban Mental Patients Dead
Pepe’s deal with Zelaya
RCTV international cut-off
During the past two weeks, just before and after the earthquake outside Port-au-Prince, the following happened: Chávez was forced to devalue the Venezuelan currency, and impose and then revoke massive power cuts in the Venezuelan capital as the country reeled from recession, double-digit inflation and the possible collapse of the national power grid. In Honduras, a seven-month crisis triggered by the attempt of a Chávez client to rupture the constitutional order quietly ended with a deal that will send him into exile even as a democratically elected moderate is sworn in as president.
Last but not least, a presidential election in Chile, the region’s most successful economy, produced the first victory by a right-wing candidate since dictator Augusto Pinochet was forced from office two decades ago. Sebastián Piñera, the industrialist and champion of free markets who won, has already done something that no leader from Chile or most other Latin American nations has been willing to do in recent years: stand up to Chávez.
Piñera was only stating the obvious — but it was more than his Socialist predecessor, Michelle Bachelet, or Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has been willing to say openly. That silence hamstrung the Bush and the Obama administrations, which felt, rightly or wrongly, that they should not be alone in pointing out Chávez’s assault on democracy. Piñera has now provided Washington an opportunity to raise its voice about Venezuelan human rights violations.
He has done it at a moment when Chávez is already reeling from diplomatic blows. Honduras is one. Though the country is tiny, the power struggle between its established political elite and Chávez acolyte Manuel Zelaya turned into a regional battle between supporters and opponents of the Chávez left — with Brazil and other leftist democracies straddling the middle.
The outcome is a victory for the United States, which was virtually the only country that backed the democratic election that broke the impasse. Honduras is the end of Chávez’s crusade to export his revolution to other countries. Bolivia and Nicaragua will remain his only sure allies. Brazil’s Lula, whose tolerance of Chávez has tarnished his bid to become a global statesman, will leave office at the end of this year; polls show his party’s nominee trailing a more conservative candidate.
Haiti only deepens Chávez’s hole. As the world watches, the United States is directing a massive humanitarian operation, and Haitians are literally cheering the arrival of U.S. Marines. Chávez has no way to reconcile those images with his central propaganda message to Latin Americans, which is that the United States is an “empire” and an evil force in the region.
The week’s posts and podcasts:
Bill for Haiti czar? 15 Minutes on Latin America
Hope among the ruins: the @USNSComfort VIDEO
Just what Haiti needs: John Edwards
Zeyala to go, Nancy rejects the Bill, and other roundup items with VIDEO
Anti-Americanism and the Haiti earthquake: 15 Minutes on Latin America
Post re-edited for omitted items.
Please note there will be no podcast tomorrow due to an appointment change.