With its banks and multinational corporations, Miami is often called the capital of Latin America. But it's also the chaotic waiting room for the loony bin that starts just south of our sunny shores.
This year is no exception. From a pair of unbalanced leaders to an island nation stripped of its own constitution, Latin America has gift wrapped for us another year of corruption, coups d'état, and bizarre headlines.
So sprinkle some nutmeg on that mojito, saddle up next to your plastic tree, and read a very Latino Christmas tale of the region's five lowest moments of 2010.
5. Hugo Chávez tweets like a tweenager:
N'er has a New Times list on Latin America failed to mention the Venezuelan president. Like a Latino Old Faithful, Chávez can be relied upon to erupt several times a day until the sun collapses onto itself and the human race is sucked into a bottomless vortex. Even then, the universe will be treated to 9-hour broadcasts of Aló Presidente bouncing back and forth between the cosmos.
Chávez took his antics to a new level this summer. In July, he had the 200-year-old remains of Simón Bolívar disinterred and examined on the hunch that the Latin American independence hero was murdered. He then tweeted about the event like a tweenager catching sight of Justin Beiber's roasted chestnuts: "My God, my God... my Christ, our Christ... I confess we have cried, we have sworn. I tell them: This glorious skeleton must be Bolívar because you can feel his presence. My God." But perhaps Bolívar's ghost wasn't too pleased: Chávez suffered setbacks in a congressional election this fall.
4. Mega(death) Combination Takes Control of Suriname:
Sandwiched between Guyana and French Guiana, Suriname is the ginger stepchild of Latin America. But it popped its freckled face from underneath the stairs this summer when former military strongman Desi Bouterse and his Mega Combination party won a supermajority in parliament. Bouterse first seized control of Suriname in a 1980 coup, five years after the country won independence from the Netherlands. He has been accused of killing political opponents during the coup, and a Dutch court sentenced him to 11 years in prison for drug trafficking in 1999. He ignored the sentence.
3. Kirchner Collapse:
It's been a tough year for the Kirchners. First, current Argentine president Cristina Kirchner lost her husband, ex-president Nestor, to a heart attack in October. A month later, WikiLeaks unearthed a diplomatic cable from U.S. Secretary of State questioning Cristina's state of mind:
HOW IS CRISTINA FERNANDEZ DE KIRCHNER MANAGING HER NERVES AND ANXIETY? HOW DOES STRESS AFFECT HER BEHAVIOR TOWARD ADVISORS AND/OR HER DECISIONMAKING? WHAT STEPS DOES CRISTINA FERNANDEZ DE KIRCHNER OR HER ADVISERS/HANDLERS, TAKE IN HELPING HER DEAL WITH STRESS? IS SHE TAKING ANY MEDICATIONS? UNDER WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES IS SHE BEST ABLE TO HANDLE STRESSES? HOW DO CRISTINA FERNANDEZ DE KIRCHNER,S EMOTIONS AFFECT HER DECISIONMAKING AND HOW DOES SHE CALM DOWN WHEN DISTRESSED?
2. Uribe Exposed:
Like the ying to Chávez's yang, Álvaro Uribe is often credited with steering Colombia out of its dark days of guerrilla war and civil unrest. But the ex-prez has some dirty secrets of his own, it seems. This week a Spanish court opened an investigation into Uribe for illegally wiretapping Spanish NGOs working in Colombia. Uribe has also been accused of spying on Colombian legislators, judges, and opposition leaders. His head of the secret police, Jorge Noguera, has also been accused of involvement in the murder of three union activists.
1. Neo-Colonialism in the Caribbean:
Half of America is still in a tizzy about Obama supposedly bending the Bill of Rights over a picnic table by passing his healthcare reform. Just imagine if the constitution were actually violated. Well, that's just what happened in the island nation chain of Turks and Caicos. Technically still a part of the United Kingdom, T&C suffered the humiliation of having its constitution suspended and elected leaders dismissed in 2009 after a British investigation into political corruption. To add insult to injury, this summer officials in the U.K. had to bail out the completely broke island and suspend new elections until at least 2012.
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