Here are a few highlights of news and analysis from this part of the world:
President Hugo Chávez’s health continues to raise uncertainty and speculation, as he remains in delicate condition in Cuba following a December 10th surgery. CNN outlines the likely scenarios and debates on constitutional interpretation regarding inauguration requirements. Chávez is expected to remain in Cuba on Thursday, January 10–the date specified in the Venezuelan constitution for the presidential inauguration. The opposition (including Venezuela’s Catholic Church leadership) insists that if Chávez is not present for the inauguration on Jan 10, new elections must be held. This issue has been the focus of reporting on Venezuela for several weeks; see the LA Times and BBC News. Chávez’ supporters have taken to the streets to show support, including a new wave of political street art. Both sides are calling for demonstrations in Caracas on Thursday.
The latest step in Bolivia’s dance toward economic development is the opening of the first state-run lithium plant at the edge of the Uyuni salt flat. See this LA Times article, which references this scholarly article about Bolivian resource nationalism (it’s on my reading list).
Bolivia’s counter-narcotics efforts are a subject of interest in the days leading up to the nation’s anticipated re-entry as a signer of the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. (Bolivia renounced the convention in mid-2011 after U.S.-led opposition to its proposed amendment to de-criminalize coca leaf chewing; Bolivia will re-accede with a reservation allowing for traditional use of coca.) See this NY Times piece and this detailed analysis of Bolivia’s drug control efforts from the Andean Information Network and Washington Office on Latin America.