by the El Reportero news services
President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa celebrated his first 100 days in office on March 10, just before President George W Bush arrived. Bush’s visit did not, as we argue inside, settle whether Mexico’s foreign policy will be aimed at appeasing the US or championing Latin America. The attractions of a Latin Americanist policy are clear from the enthusiasm in Mexico for the Chilean president Michelle Bachelet.
Domestically, Calderón’s big initiative in the first 100 days has been the offensives against the drug trade, now running, with little apparent success, in nine of the country’s 32 states. Economically, Calderón has got both his budget through congress and an important pension reform. He has also started to explain why a fiscal reform is essential now that oil production, and reserves, are falling.
Kirchner picks fight with U.S. and Argentine judiciary
It was an eventful week for President Néstor Kirchner and one that could potentially have a defining influence on October’s presidential elections. Firstly, his government was involved in a diplomatic spat with the US for granting Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez permission to address a rally attacking George W Bush while the US President was in Uruguay. Kirchner’s wife, Senator Cristina Fernández, meanwhile, was boosting her profile and cementing the government’s foreign-policy priorities by visiting Ecuador and Venezuela. Secondly, Roberto Lavagna, the main threat to either Kirchner or Fernández winning the elections, at last sealed his alliance with one faction of the Unión Cívica Radical (UCR) and is now trying to unite dissident Peronists. Finally, Kirchner became embroiled in a power clash with the judiciary which, for once, stood its ground.
Brazil wins the race to US$1 trillion
Brazil became the region’s first US$1trillion economy at the end of March when the official statistics agency, Ibge, revised its calculations for the country’s GDP. The revision, which was further flattered by the strength of the Real against the dollar, means that the Brazilian economy is now about 20 percent bigger than the Mexican economy. As Brazil’s population is nearing 180m, while Mexico’s is about 105m, GDP per capita figures still favour Mexico. Both economies are still lagging the US, whose output is 12 times Brazil’s and whose GDP per capita is almost seven times that of Brazil.
REGION: Cracks starting to show in Alba?
The US ambassador to Bolivia, Philip Greenberg, praised President Evo Morales on 29 March for his efforts to reduce coca cultivation and judged Morales’s call for more eradication in the Yungas region to be a “good sign”. Morales’s departure from his usual criticism of coca eradication signals a newly conciliatory approach to the US, and suggests that Bolivia is pulling away from the unyielding hostility to the US that President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela advocates. Last week Morales told coca growers in the Yungas region to “honour international commitments” to coca crop reduction, despite previous announcements that he wanted to increase the area permitted for legal coca cultivation from 12,000 to 20,000 hectares.
U.S. intelligence chiefs see no major security threat from Latin Am
Latin America poses no major threats to the national security of the US – at least according to the latest annual threat assessments presented to the US Congress by the director of national intelligence and the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Indeed the only clearly defined threats are the possibility that Colombia’s Farc guerrillas may continue to target US interests and nationals, and that Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez will persist in his effort to ‘neutralise’ US influence in the region.