Reporters on the Job

Hugo Buzz: Staff writer Sara Miller Llana says that she is in Colombia at the moment – but everyone is talking about Hugo Chávez's loss in his bid to change Venezuela's Constitution to end presidential term limits and declare a socialist state (see story).

"Many people are surprised," says Sara. In the countryside this past weekend, Sara found people glued to the TV as Chávez gave his final rally speech. "People here tend to be against him, and recently there was a major fallout between Colombian president Alvaro Uribe and Chávez. There's a lot at stake in the relationship."

Sara notes that the opining stopped for nothing: Even on Sunday, when I was at a church, the pastor gave an entire sermon about Chávez. It's has almost felt as if I were in Venezuela – that's how much people have cared about the topic."

New Mood in Russia: While correspondent Fred Weir was on the street talking to average Russians Tuesday, the day it was announced that Vladimir Putin's United Russia party had won a two-thirds majority in parliament, he was struck by how palpable the rising Russian mistrust of foreigners has become (see story). It was difficult to convince people to talk with him once they learned he worked for an American newspaper, Fred says, and one woman actually told the woman he was speaking with not to talk to him. "There is a mood of suspicion of foreigners and their intentions," Fred says, "and much of it is being whipped up by Putin and his campaign.."

Fred says that during the Soviet years, this mistrust of outsiders was understandable. In the 1990s, though, greater openness swept across Russia, and average people were eager to communicate with outsiders. Now, Fred says, the rising power of Mr. Putin is showing its influence.

– Amelia Newcomb

Deputy World editor

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