Storm gathers, says Semana

Behind you.

Semana has a story up about “The 10 plagues afflicting ChA?vez.” It’s mostly predictable (inflation, student protests, cabinet shake-ups), and I think my favorite part was the illustration, but overall it’s a good review of the confluence of bad news he’s having to deal with at this particular moment.

One particular point stuck out. Point number three, I believe:

Several facts indicate that the Venezuelan president is becoming isolated in the region:

Chile elected right-leaning businessman PiA�era as president. Honduras is now led by conservative Porfirio Lobo, after the coup that brought down Manuel Zelaya, an ally of the Venezuelan president. Rafael Correa, president of Ecuador, has distanced himself from the Venezuelan government after reestablishing relations with Colombia; the Kirchner government in Argentina continues to lose popularity, and in Brazil, despite the popularity of Ignacio Lula, the favorite for October’s elections is JosA� Serra, an opposition leader.

I would add also that Panama recently elected a businessman as president, and in Costa Rica, another pro-business “libertarian” candidate is running even with the ruling party’s center-left candidate. Now, one has to be careful about these Latin America political wind stories. The electorates in countries like Panama and Chile have almost nothing to do with each other, and I think a lot of North American media connect the dots with a little too much gusto.

That said, one could probably make the argument that the region is experiencing one of those natural undulations of the democratic process, wherein the public gets exhausted with one side of the spectrum and decides to try something new. If that’s the case, we might expect a shift in Venezuela as well during this year’s legislative elections, and indeed, the Semana article mentions that recent polls put ChA?vez’ approval rating at an all-time low of 46.2%.

Of course, for the shift to be peaceful, the ChA?vez administration would have to respect the democratic will of the people, which it did not do when it lost several key governorships in 2008. Instead, ChA?vez responded by gutting their budgets and their autonomy. With his steady attacks on independent media, it appears rather likely that ChA?vez won’t go down without a fight.

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  5. Venezuela: Still on the brink
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