Further to this trend I was pointing out a few weeks ago, now we see that el presidente Rafael Correa won reelection in Ecuador, the first such repeat in three decades.  So the people must like him.  A close associate of president-for-life hopeful Hugo Chávez, Correa is seeking a constitutional amendment that will set him up to be president until 2017.  Meanwhile he continues to refuse to pay his country's bills to outside suppliers whom he deems illegitimate, threatens to give foreign firms the boot, tightens his grip on the oil and mining industries, the central bank, and the media.  A sure recipe for continued volatility.  The next few years should be anything but dull.  For his part, Correa hopes for high oil prices to keep his bank account sufficiently robust to permit him to pursue his strategy of chasing away every investor that otherwise may just help the country develop a viable economy.

Now on to Panama, where national elections are due to take place this coming Sunday (May 3).  The opinion polls say whatever the candidates want them to say, so this one will have to wait for the only poll that counts.  The ruling party PRD seems to be waning in overall popularity, but it has the opportunity to hold on to either the legislature or the presidency.  During a recent visit I was told by a cabbie that there is equal dislike for both of the leading candidates, so the winner may represent the lesser of two evils.  That said, the opposition candidate Ricardo Martinelli represents a change from business as usual, and certainly, as the former chairman of the board of the Panama Canal Authority, he understands the importance of that single biggest money machine in the isthmus. 

Coming as it does during the initial talks about ratification of the US-Panama Free Trade Agreement, the election results will provide teams on either side of the debate with sufficient supporting material to feed the merits of their arguments for months.


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