My wife, Teresa, and I arrived in sunny 30°C Montevideo on February 18, the weekend that the parliamentarians of the newly elected government of President Tabare Vazquez were sworn in. It was the first avowedly leftist government in South America to have won a clear electoral and parliamentary majority. Twenty-five years ago, many of its members were languishing in political prisons. It is hard to seize the scope of such a historical political change in a week and even harder to cover it in a few paragraphs, but for the benefit of those who had to stay behind in sub-zero Ottawa in February I shall try to set out the context and summarize my impressions.
My wife and I spent the first two weeks of February in Bolivia, visiting family and friends and taking in the Carnival celebrations that, while less known than those in Rio de Janeiro -- are among the most exuberant expressions of popular culture in Latin America. Our visit also gave us an opportunity to observe at first hand the political effervescence that had led the country to the brink of near-anarchy -- the meltdown of effective national government...
Governments have for twenty years tilted at the windmill of climate change. Until last year, these annual extravaganzas in exotic locations could claim some forward movement. At Copenhagen last December, however, reality finally bit, but not after having loosed all kinds of opportunists who have hitched their pet causes to that of climate change, including an increasing number of officials in Canada and elsewhere whose careers are now tied to the vain hope that the earth’s climate is a matter of a government policy. It has become firmly embedded among bureaucrats as the official, perceived, authoritative position. Hubris anyone?
Recent reports on the trial in Guatemala City of octogenarian ex-dictator, General Efrain Rios Montt, evoked memories of my posting there which began just as Rios Montt seized power in 1982. My posting lasted only two years, which was about six months longer than the general managed to stay in office. The court found him guilty of genocide against the Ixil Indians and sentenced him to 80 years in prison but an appeal succeeded in mandating a partial retrial on procedural grounds.
Yesterday, Fidel Castro wrote a column entitled "Reflections of Compañero Fidel" (Newsmax.com of February 22, 2008) and this has made me reflect on Fidel's un-suspected and un-expected influence on my own views and life. I will not bother with well known and documented episodes like the Bay of Pigs, or the Missile Crisis, or even the Iran-Contra affairs, but rather tell about facts and conjectures related to my consultant's life.
Two Central American nations, El Salvador and Costa Rica , held first-round balloting this Sunday to choose new presidents. The good news is that voters had real choices among candidates offering a variety of visions for their countries, and the electoral machinery appears to have operated transparently. The worrisome news is in El Salvador, where a candidate closely associated with international organized crime has a slight advantage heading into the run-off.
Those concerned that the control over North American television programming once exercised by the old, traditional broadcast networks might be reduced by the proliferation of the new, strictly cable, networks may rest easy.
Many Ottawans wintering in the South have discovered the joys of the Spring House and/or Garden Tours offering a more intimate glimpse of life in the upper social reaches of several Southern cities. Most of these tours take place in late March or early April when the azalea and wisteria blooms are at their height, with a few, later-blooming camellias still left and Canadians homeward-bound. They invariable include private homes, not just those establishments normally accessible to casual visitors.