Venezuela's charismatic and kooky leftist leader Hugo Chavez was in Buenos Aires over the weekend. His visit coincided with Bush's visit to Uruguay, just an hour across the river by ferry.
Chavez's two-hour speech at a stadium with 20,000 people, along with the attendant protests and rock-throwing, got an insane amount of media coverage. I mean, seriously. You would think Bono was visiting.
An unscientific poll published in Clarín asked people who they would rather have visit the country, Bush or Chavez. Between the two, I'm sure you can guess who won. But the winner by far was "neither." Heh.
Let us now turn our attention to Uruguay:
Uruguay is very much Canada to Argentina's United States. The two countries are generally friendly and at times virtually indistinguishable neighbors, with Uruguay destined to be forever overshadowed by the Goliath that is Buenos Aires and the rest of Argentina.
Tabaré Vazquez, Uruguay's president, is an oncologist who still practices part time. Under his leadership, the country banned smoking in all enclosed public spaces.
For the last year or two, relations between Uruguay and Argentina have been inflamed by Uruguay's building of paper mills on the border between the two countries.
Now back to Argentina:
Argentine outrage at the environmental impact of these paper mills reeks of hypocrisy given the pollution here, including a fetid river on the south side of this city and drinking water in the Province of Buenos Aires that was found to be contaminated by a nearby nuclear power plant. Mmm. . . . nucleary.
In his visit here, Chavez spoke in a solidly middle-class neighborhood about half an hour's walk from my apartment. The Latin American political geek in me would have loved to attend. Alas, there was a decided anti-American bent (the event was dubbed an "anti-imperialist" gathering) and one rock to the head can ruin your whole weekend.
Back when Fidel Castro was alive, I also missed the chance to hear him speak when he visited here. It was initially billed as an engagement for a limited audience. But of course the crowds were such that the floodgates were opened and anyone who wanted to hear him speak was able to. Not that I found out about this until the next day in the newspaper, of course.
- Hugo Chavez visited here and got a lot of media attention.
- A thoroughly mediocre throw-away joke was made about Bono.
- A newspaper published a poll.
- Uruguay is a country.
- The president of Uruguay is an oncologist.
- Argentina is very upset about potential pollution from paper mills being built in Uruguay, but hasn't done a damn thing to clean up some really frightening pollution at home.
- I almost heard an interesting and arguably historic Latin American leader speak, but in the end I didn't. This has happened before.