Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Changing the Balance of Power
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has won the Argentine presidency with 44.5% of the vote and almost double the amount of her closet opponent. The 54-year old senator was a shoe-in for the presidency and has now become Argentina's first woman president elected by the voters. The second place candidate who won 23% of the vote, was also a woman: Elisa Carrio, a former lawmaker and conservative. Cristina is a close ally of Venezuela and President Hugo Chavez and will likely continue to strengthen relations between the two nations. Argentina has been one of Venezuela's best friends in the process of Latin America integration and cooperation, and has leaned on Venezuela to help lessen its own dependency on the United States and its international financial institution, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Cristina will likely accompany her husband, current President Nestor Kirchner, on a visit to Caracas next week for the signing of the agreement to formalize the creation of the Banco del Sur (Bank of the South), an initiative proposed by President Chavez and widely lauded throughout Latin America as an alternative to the exploitative loan policies of the USA, World Bank and IMF. Heads of state from Bolivia, Ecuador, Brasil and Colombia will probably attend the event on November 3rd in Venezuela as well. Cristina will be sworn in as the President of Argentina on December 10th of this year.
Could this be a sign that finally power is shifting into more feminine hands? Last year Chileans elected Michelle Bachelet as the first woman president in that South American nation. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was elected last year as the first president of an African nation, Liberia. Other countries, like the Philippines have head women presidents on several occasions (current president Gloria Arroyo, previously Corazon Aquino in the late 1980s), and Nicaragua, Panama, Sri Lanka, Germany, Ireland, Finland, Guyana, Latvia and Iceland have also all had women presidents during the past several decades. Ecuador's new president, Rafael Correa, has named women to some of the most important cabinet positions, such as security and defense, and women foreign ministers are now a common sight for most nations. Is the US next?
(I'm not expressing support here for Hillary Clinton, particularly because her key strategist, Mark Penn, is one of the owners of Penn, Schoen & Berland, the polling firm that worked with opposition group Súmate to try and fraudulently contaiminate and/or discredit the recall referendum against President Chavez, and she has met with opposition leaders from Venezuela and endorsed anti-Chavez resolutions in Congress. But, whether or not the US will finally elect a woman president is a very important consideration).
On the note of changing power balances, we are almost ready here in Venezuela to kick off the campaign for the referendum on constitutional reform that will be held this coming December 2nd. The National Assembly is (supposedly) debating today the final articles that will be reformed, and then the entire package will be sent on to the National Elections Council for review and then made public so the campaign can start. In any case, both sides long ago began campaigning for and against the reform. Opposition marches led by student groups trained by the Serbian group OTPOR started up again last week and got violent, though only minor incidents were reported. The pro-reform folks are calling for a major march in Caracas with President Chavez on Sunday, November 4th.
Right now, it's still not 100% clear as to what all the proposed reforms will include. Some major changes include reducing the voting age to 16 and recognizing the rights and traditions of afro-venezuelans, as well as a ban on all discrimination for reasons of gender and sexuality. Venezuela may very well soon have the first constitution in the world that recognizes the rights of homosexuals and transgendered peoples.
The new US Ambassador here in Caracas, Patrick Duddy, was received personally by President Chavez last night in Miraflores Palace, in a ceremony to recognize and accept his "credentials" as the diplomatic representative of the US in Venezuela. Duddy was previously the Assistant sub-secretary of State for South America and the Caribbean, and has held prior posts in La Paz, Bolivia, Sao Paulo, Brasil and other locations in the hemisphere. He holds a Master's Degree in National Security Strategy from the National War College in the US and appears to be an expert in economic sabotage and subversion strategies. From Charles Shapiro to William Brownfield, each time a new US ambassador comes on board in Venezuela, the situation between the two nations only deteriorates. We will be on the look-out for what Duddy has in mind....