If the frequency of elections in Venezuela were the sole criterion of judgment, the country might be said to be suffering from an "overdose of democracy" - as Paraguay's president, Nicanor Duarte, put it in mid-March 2007 (in what was intended as a compliment). But if the definition of democratic rule includes the checks and balances provided by the separation of powers, Hugo Chávez's government fails to qualify.
First elected in 1998, and re-elected for a second time in December 2006 for a fresh, six-year term, the former army officer used to boast that his 1999 constitution increased from three to five the independent branches of government.
2 April 2007 marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the beginning of the Falklands/Malvinas conflict. With the exception of 3,000 Falkland Islanders, 40 million Argentines and some thousands of Britons, arguably the rest of the world continues to be bemused by the whole issue. What is it exactly that we are remembering this week and for the duration of the seventy-four-day war: a tragic and unnecessary conflict, the justified redemption of national territory, a violation of international law by an illegitimate government, the cleansing of a "dirty war" by a "just war"?
For someone born after the Beatles split up, I have surprisingly clear memories of the Falklands/Malvinas war, which started on 2 April 1982 when Argentina's military dictator Leopoldo Galtieri seized the islands, and ended seventy-four days later with the humiliating surrender of the Argentinean forces.
The great Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, who had been raised to admire gauchos and English gentlemen in equal measure, was gravely aggrieved by the sight of his two favourite nations at war in the south Atlantic. "Two bald men fighting over a comb", was his bitter putdown.
Hugo Chávez's operatic pursuit of a political "corpse" up and down the Americas provided the principal drama, but the most telling signs of the United States's radically reduced influence in its own landmass came in a more discreet fashion.
Twenty years and the death or disappearance of tens of thousands were necessary for the Mexican state to seriously consider the challenge launched by organised crime networks that were capable of imposing their law in 40% of Mexican territory. In January 2007 a war, whose outcomes are uncertain, was unleashed against them.
Mexico has a 3,000-kilometre border with a power avid for narcotics. The emergence of keen entrepreneurs willing to feed the gluttony was logical; thus were born the cartels whose feats are immortalised in the Mexican narcocorridos. Two decades ago, in 1987, then president Miguel de la Madrid identified drug-dealing as the main threat to national security. They were resounding words empty of content. Four years later, in 1991, I had a conversation with then attorney-general Enrique Álvarez del Castillo, who minimised the problem and boasted about the enormous strength of the Mexican state. This suicidal listlessness has been the norm and set the stage for the growth of criminality, and the foundation of territorial enclaves which the forces of security were forbidden to enter.