Jose SocratesWhen the Portuguese Parliament failed to pass an austerity bill on March 23, the country’s Prime Minister, Jose Socrates, resigned. That move leaves Portugal leaderless for at least two months while facing a significant financial crisis: it must refinance nearly $13 billion of short-term debt by June. Investors have already pushed interest rates on Portugal’s sovereign 10-year debt to almost 8 percent, while credit-rating agencies Fitch and Standard & Poor’s both downgraded that debt’s quality on March 24.

LibyaThe Obama administration’s UN-backed military intervention against Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi is aiding al-Qaeda, which, according to media reports citing high-level commanders in the terror group and Libyan rebel leaders, is deeply tied to the revolution. When the dust settles, the anti-American Islamic extremists could easily emerge as the new rulers of that nation, or at least a part of it. And al-Qaeda is already reportedly grabbing up advanced military weaponry there.

As a means to increase government revenues, which the government says will help reduce the nation’s ever-expanding federal deficit, the Department of Homeland Security is looking into a proposed change to border crossing policies that would force Canadians looking to visit the United States, arriving via air or sea, to pay more for the privilege.

Central AmericaThe almost unrestrained drug trafficking in Mexico has pushed violent drug wars deeper into Central America, as drugs are funneled through small countries ill-equipped to handle the squeeze of traffickers using their shores, ports, and jungles for smuggling. The New York Times reported on March 23 that, even though traffickers have used Central American points for stopovers since the 70’s, “crackdowns on criminal organizations in Mexico and Colombia [and the Caribbean] have increasingly brought the powerful drug syndicates here [Honduras].” The seven tiny countries are now no longer just “stopovers” but territory coveted by cartels, and the scenes of escalating drug violence.

Socialist Venezuelan “President” Hugo Chavez prompted ridicule and concern about his well being after suggesting in a speech that “capitalism” and “imperialism” may have ended life on Mars, adding the possible demise of Martian civilization to a long list of ills the revolutionary leader blames on free markets.