Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Condi in Brazil

What's going on here? Last week, the Equadorians threw out their president, Lucio Gutierrez. He's accused of various things, including now, murder - in that he ordered his guards to fire on protestors. (Not mentioned here, I note.)

The Equadorians want him to stand trial there. Instead he took refuge in the Brazilian embassy and has been granted asylum in Brazil. Apparently he's now here in Brasilia, hiding in the military zone. In Equador the people are furious, and out protesting against Lula on the streets. Meanwhile there's an official request for his extradition.

So how come? A corrupt president is kicked out of power by his own government, with popular support. Yet Brazil gives him the Ronnie Biggs treatment rather than just hand him back?

One theory : the Brazilian national oil company, Petrobras has interests in Equador although it's hard to see how this move is currying favour with the new government. My politically aware friends inform me it's, naturally, tied up with the Gutierrez's support for the US's Plan Columbia.

Notice how the story is being spun as Condi arrives. That in a time of "concern" about democracy in Latin America, Brazil is a beacon of stability.

No. Remember that the times when democracy was really in trouble in Latin America : when Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay all had dictatorships - they were all pro-US, and US-supported, right-wing military groups.

This, in contrast, is time when a number of Latin American countries are voting for left-wing, non-US sympathetic leaders (Venezuela's Chavez is the most extreme example, but Argentina's Kirchner has also distanced himself. And Uruguay just voted their first left-wing president ever.) As the BBC points out, that doesn't translate (much) into much real action. The region is highly dependent on good economic relations with the US.

Nevertheless, Lula, the first ever president from the "Worker's Party" is making like Tony Blair and looking more and more like the moderate the US can do business with.

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