Welcome to the Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Nicaragua now hangs in the balance—and there is a lot at stake. Mr. Chávez wants a permanent, reliable ally in Central America. He hoped that would be Honduras. Now his chips are on Nicaragua, with the goal of making the Sandinista paradise part of the 21st-century Bolivarian utopia. Cuba, with its long history of repression, is a valuable partner in this effort. Its armed forces and elite guards are already working with the Chávez government as noted in a press conference last week by retired Venezuelan Gen. Antonio Rivero. Specifically he complained of “courses in sniper training in which Cuban professionals participate.”
If Mr. Ortega gets tenure in Nicaragua you can bet he will be eager to promote the values of his close allies, Cuba and Venezuela, on the isthmus in exchange for their help in holding onto power. Iran will also want to join the cause. An unclassified report from the Pentagon released this month says that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force “maintains operational capabilities around the world” and “recent years have witnessed an increased presence in Latin America, particularly Venezuela.” Mr. Ortega re-established diplomatic relations with Iran after his election in 2006.
But Mr. Ortega’s term is up in January 2012, and according to Article 147 of the constitution he is barred from running for president again. For three years he tried to get Congress to change that. He failed. So in October he went to Nicaragua’s Supreme Court alleging that since congressmen can be re-elected, he’s the victim of discrimination.
The Sandinista judges on the court’s constitutional panel waited until the opposition judges had gone home for the day, called in three Sandinista judges from other court panels as alternates and held a vote. The court ruled the prohibition on re-election “inapplicable.” Mr. Ortega promptly declared himself a candidate for 2011.
Even so, the wannabe dictator still has a problem: He is unlikely to win a fair election. That’s why he wants to hand-pick the electoral council, which is charged with ensuring a level playing field and is up for renewal in June. And that’s why he is locked in mortal combat with Congress.
Via Katie, Photo Essay: 15 Stunning South America Pics by David Shepherd.
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