Cross-posted from Daily Kos

Boy, when it rains it pours!  First we get DeLay imploding over ethics and Terri Schiavo, then Frist goes hara-kiri on national tv in company of James Dobson, while the big boy himself continues to self-destruct on Social Security.

In the meantime, good news continues to come in from Latin America.  Yesterday, Vicente Fox had to back down from his attempt to fix the 2006 presidential elections, virtually guaranteeing that the next president of Mexico will be the center-leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (see my diary yesterday for some details on that development).

Today’s good news also involves the Mexican president, arguably Bush’s closest ally in Latin America.  The NYTimes is reporting on the front page of its web edition that Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez has withdrawn his name from consideration for the post of Secretary General of the Organization of American States.

More on the flip…
The Times reports that the OAS ministers had been deadlocked between the US-backed Derbez and the Chilean Interior Minister Jose Miguel Insulza through five ballots.  Condi Rice, currently in Santiago, Chile as part of her broader Latin American tour, had held discussions with a number of Latin diplomats attempting to break the deadlock.  The US now claims that either candidate would make a fine Secretary General, and Derbez claims that he withdrew in the interests of Latin American unity.

It’s worth remembering here that Chile was one of the heroic countries on the UN Security Council that refused to give Bush authorization for the Iraq war.  President Ricardo Lagos, the first Socialist president of Chile since the overthrow of Salvador Allende in 1973, took a principled stand against wars of aggression and simply rejected all of Bush’s arguments to go to war.

The Chilean press (Spanish language link), meanwhile, reports this story as an unabashed victory for their country’s diplomatic position.  Chilean Foreign Minister Ignacio Walker is quoted in the daily newspaper La Tercera saying that “our position remains what it has always been: we are looking for a consensus behind Jose Miguel Insulza.”

Furthermore, La Tercera reports that Derbez had proposed that both candidates should have withdrawn if they had again tied.  Walker said Derbez’s position was “respectable” even though everything indicated that “by Monday we expect a consensus to develop around Insulza.”

In a photo op upon his arrival in Chile, Derbez had responded to a shouted question of whether he would step down from his candidacy by saying “I hope he steps down first,” and then clarifying that he meant that as a joke.

A little background on Insulza.  During the Allende years, he was aligned with one of the more radical factions of the Socialist Party, then fled into exile in Mexico and Italy.  He moved substantially to the right while in exile, and upon his return to Chile he took on a leadership role in the most conservative of the three main Socialist Party factions.  Insulza favored allying with the center-right Christian Democrats to pursue a peaceful transition to democracy, and he was one of many very vocal Socialists arguing for the continued exclusion of the Chilean Communist Party from the political sphere.

He became Minister of the Interior in the first post-dictatorial government in the early 1990s, and worked hard to establish good relations between the civilian government and the essentially autonomous Armed Forces.  Although this moderate approach drew hostile reactions from the left, it seems to have paid off in the long run.  Chile has largely avoided social disruption in its gradual transition to democracy, and in recent years the Armed Forces have finally begun to cooperate in substantive ways with judicial investigations into human rights violations during the military regime.  Some Chileans still argue that justice delayed is justice denied; others, however, have gratefully proclaimed that it’s better late than never.

In Chile, Insulza is known as “El Guaton,” a reference to his ample pot belly (“guata” is belly in Chilean Spanish, and the “on” on the end is a superlative).  He is a pretty hefty guy, and in some ways, both physically and in management style, resembles Dick Cheney.  That is, he’s an effective administrator who gets done what he wants to get done.  I don’t think he’s as authoritarian as Cheney, though he is somewhat secretive, but he is definitely on the progressive side of the aisle — just barely.

The upshot, though, is that Bush was denied yet another a foreign policy objective, and a truly independent voice will be leading the critically important OAS over the next few years.  This is truly good news from the South.

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