Thursday, April 26, 2012

Uribe to Campaign Against Chavez


It seems that even after leaving office, Colombian ex-President Alvaro Uribe has held on to his famous grudge against Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. Citing an El Tiempo article (which doesn’t appear to be online), El Universal reports that the former Colombian leader will attempt to influence the upcoming elections in Venezuela this October.  

Uribe is allegedly planning on campaigning against Chavez in a series of rallies to be held in three Colombian cities on the border with Venezuela: Maicao, Cucuta and Arauca. The campaign will likely have only a symbolic effect on elections, as the number of Venezuelans living on the Colombian side of the border is relatively small. While no hard figures on the number of Venezuelans living in Colombia are available, some estimates put the total at no more than 40,000, an almost negligible number considering the size of the Venezuelan electorate.

If anything, the rallies may actually hurt opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski. The Chavez administration has occasionally portrayed him as a tool of Uribe, claiming that the former Colombian leader is building a region-wide front of politicians in opposition to Chavez.  While the election will likely mostly focus on the economy and security, a particularly inflammatory anti-Chavez campaign by Uribe could play into this narrative.

Whatever the effect of the rallies, they are a clear indicator that the sour relationship between the two leaders hasn’t improved with time. Tensions have been high between them since Uribe began to accuse Venezuela of harboring FARC guerrillas in the mid-2000s, and famously came to a head in 2010 when the two engaged in a shouting match at a summit designed to promote regional cooperation.

News Briefs

·         In the first visit to Brazil by a US defense secretary in seven years, Leon Panetta yesterday pushed Brazil to purchase $4 billion worth of fighter jets, reports the New York Times. As the AP notes, he praised Brazil’s emergence as a world power and characterized the deal as part of a deepening partnership between the two countries.

·         The LA Times’ World Now Blog highlights outgoing Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s efforts to take credit for the dramatic reduction in migrants to the US. Although Calderon claims the drop is due to increased development in Mexico, experts believe it has much more to do with the slow economic recovery in the US.

·         The AP has an interesting piece on a land conflict in Mexico’s largest urban park, Guadalajara’s Bosque de la Primavera. Officials have been battling a fire in the park since last weekend, and believe it was set by squatters seeking to take over park land, although the article also notes that real estate companies in the area have an interest in clearing land for development.  

·         Chile’s student movement held a massive march yesterday, with organizers reporting that more than 50,000 participated, according to El Ciudadano. The BBC points out that President Sebastian Pinera announced new measures to reform education on Wednesday, but these have been rejected by the movement.

·         A week after former Venezuelan Supreme Court Justice Eladio Aponte accused the Chavez government of asking him to manipulate rulings last week, alleged Venezuelan drug kingpin Walid Makled has claimed that he personally paid Aponte thousands of dollars.

·         The Wall Street Journal with a look at Chavez’s trademark use of Twitter to communicate with his supporters.

·         After 15 hours of debate, the Argentine Senate has voted to approve President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s controversial plan to nationalize the YPF oil company. The BBC notes that the move is extremely popular in the country, and the bill will now go to the country’s lower house.

·         The Washington Post covers the effect that the move has had on the oil market, and outlines concerns over the move could having a negative impact on investment in the country.

·         Cuban-American Senator (and Mitt Romney’s potential running mate) Marco Rubio had an op-ed in yesterday’s LA Times in which he advocates a much more aggressive US policy towards Latin America based on promoting democracy, free trade, security and US energy interests.

·         CNN reports on the creative means by which Cuban artists are finding support online, mostly through a crowd-funding website called Yagruma.org