Chavez Roils Mexico's Presidential Race ; the Presidents of Venezuela and Mexico Trade Barbs, and Pull Their Ambassadors
Danna Harman writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor
First, there was the name-calling: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called his Mexican counterpart an American "puppy dog" after President Vicente Fox defended a US plan for a free-trade zone last week.
Mr. Chavez led several other Latin American leaders at the Summit of the Americas in Argentina in proclaiming the idea dead. Chavez taunted that Mr. Fox was "bleeding from his wound."
Then Mexico ordered the Venezuelan ambassador to pack his bags and prepare to be expelled unless Chavez apologized. Chavez refused. Instead, he warned: "Don't mess with me, sir, or you will get stung."
Within a week, the spat escalated into a full-fledged diplomatic crisis. Both leaders recalled their ambassadors on Monday. Now, the bilateral dispute has been picked up by a Mexican politician to try to score points against Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the front- runner in next year's Mexican presidential elections.
The election will pit Roberto Madrazo, the Institutional Revolutionary Party's candidate, against Lopez Obrador and Felipe Calderon, the nominee of Fox's National Action Party. Lopez Obrador has been leading both Madrazo and Calderon in public- opinion polls by at least 10 points for close to a year. "There are clear similarities between Chavez and Lopez Obrador," Mr. Madrazo said Monday. "I see authoritarianism in them both."
Lopez Obrador's populist, leftist appeal and the socialist-style handout programs he instituted as mayor of Mexico City have led some to compare him to Chavez, who is a fan of Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
Madrazo said that Lopez Obrador and Chavez did not respect the rule of law and that foreign investors would shun Mexico if Lopez Obrador came to power. …