Archive for November 2010
The Venezuelan news media has played up critical remarks about President Hugo Chavez and his narco-gangster revolution that were made yesterday in Washington, D.C. by US Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).
The Bolivarian misogynist-in-chief may (or not) choose to hurl back some insults and threats.
But let’s not jump the gun.
Representative Ros-Lehtinen has not actually been elected chairwoman of the House Committee on International Relations yet.
Moreover, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) is more senior than Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. I’m told that Smith hankers for the chairmanship.
But if I could vote, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen would be my first choice to chair the committee.
Rep. Smith is very strong on issues like human rights, pro-life and Haiti.
But Ms. Ros-Lehtinen is much stronger on hemispheric security issues, particularly relating to Venezuela, Cuba, Colombia and, increasingly, Mexico – because much of what’s happening today in Mexico can be traced directly to the Chavez/Castro/FARC narco-alliance.
Assuming that Ms. Ros-Lehtinen is elected to the committee chairmanship that she has been working to achieve for 21 years, what might we expect, substantively?
1)More hearings on the multi-layered narco-terrorist links between the Chavez regime, the Castros, the FARC and ELN, ETA and Islamist terrorist groups.
2)More official reports and studies on the above issues by entities like the Congressional Research service.
3)More pressure on the Obama administration’s top Latin Americanists – chiefly Dan Restrepo at the White House and Arturo Valenzuela at the State Department – to produce for Congress whatever intelligence the current US administration possesses about the Chavez regime’s criminal enterprises.
Hint: The US administration has mountains of evidence against Chavez and his narco-gangster generals, but Restrepo particularly has worked tirelessly to keep this damning intelligence out of the public domain.
Certainly, there will be resistance from the executive branch if Ms. Ros-Lehtinen exercises her constitutional oversight authority to find out what the Obama administration knows about Chavez, and how long it has known..
But Restrepo and his White House bosses won’t willingly reveal that the chief reason that the Obama administration has been AWOL on Venezuela is that Restrepo has done everything in his power to keep a lid on the Bolivarian Pandora’s Box.
Valenzuela, by temperament a conciliator and negotiator, will walk a fine mid-line in his public dealings with the Republican-controlled International Relations Committee.
But getting real facts out of Valenzuela in open committee hearings will be analogous to extracting wisdom teeth through the rectum.
Valenzuela can be expected to seek closed hearings because he doesn’t want to make political waves for himself if he embarrasses any higher-ups in the Obama administration by revealing that the current administration really doesn’t have any policy or strategy for managing/containing Chavez.
4)There is a strong probability that Ms. Ros-Lehtinen could sponsor bills that aim to apply the recently toughened Iran Sanctions Act against the Chavez regime.
However, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen should abandon the naïve notion that other Latin American democracies will join a US-led initiative to build a geopolitical corral around Chavez and his gangsters. The previous US administration tried to do this and failed miserably.
Colombia is an unconditional ally of the US – up to a point. President Juan Manuel Santos will do everything he can to further strengthen Colombia’s good relations with the US.
But Santos will conduct an independent foreign policy when it comes to dealing with the Chavez regime next door.
Santos won’t hitch Colombia’s foreign policy wagon to Washington because, let’s face it, the Gringos have shown repeatedly that they are not completely reliable allies of Colombia.
The US always will place its strategic interests ahead of Colombia’s when it comes to dealing with Chavez, as it should rightly do.
The region’s other democracies won’t play US hardball against Venezuela because they have nothing to gain and much to lose by picking a public fight with the Chavez regime.
Fighting publicly with Chavez is like engaging in a pissing contest with a rabid skunk. The winners surely will wind up stinking as badly as the skunk.
Besides, in these times it’s considered bad form in Latin America, even among the staunchest democracies, to play openly on the US team.
Their view is that the persistent problems between the US and Chavez are none of the region’s business.
There’s also the issue of ‘cuanto hay pa’ mi.”
Basically, what do the region’s democracies stand to gain by climbing aboard an anti-Chavez wagon owned and steered by the US?
In a word, “nada.”
The reality might be different if the US government had a credible reputation of keeping its economic and other pledges to Latin America.
But facts are facts.
The US doesn’t keep its promises to Latin America and doesn’t fulfill its rhetorical commitments to the region.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me a hundred times, shame on me.
That said, I’d love to see Ms. Ros-Lehtinen elected chairwoman of the International Relations Committee, which is long overdue for a chairperson who knows the region extraordinarily well and who has the “cojones” to challenge thugs like Chavez.
Walid Makled could be a powerful geopolitical chip for President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia.
Santos confirmed this week that he promised President Hugo Chavez that he would ship Makled to Venezuela.
But he qualified that promise: Colombia’s high court decides these matters, and normally it takes 12-18 months to issue a final decision in an extradition case, Santos said.
Chavez is impatient by nature. Chavez wants Makled immediately, basically to silence him.
Makled already has inflicted damage while sitting in his maximum-security cell, where he is allowed to speak with reporters.
Makled could give dozens of interviews over the next 12-18 months. This is an unacceptable situation for Chavez.
Some commentators have suggested that Santos could leverage Makled to obtain for Colombia its long-overdue free trade agreement with the United States.
Makled could be worth billions of dollars in fresh US military support for Colombia in its ongoing war against the FARC and ELN, they add.
But Santos and his senior ministers and advisers aren’t naïve.
They know that the US won’t finally give Colombia its long-promised free trade agreement in exchange for Makled.
Washington has been a no-show on trade with Colombia more times than Santos has fingers on both hands.
US President Barack Obama’s administration has no interest in a trade deal with Colombia or any other Latin American/Caribbean states.
The Democrat-controlled US Senate and Republican-controlled House of representatives also have no real interest in Latin America.
Of course, the Obama administration and (some) Republican leaders continue to insist that they really do want a free trade agreement with Colombia.
But Santos knows this is BS rhetoric, “saludos a la bandera.”
It’s very likely that Makled has been wheeling and dealing with his Colombian jailers since his arrest in Cucuta last August.
Colombian intelligence already has seen some of Makled’s aces and hole cards, certainly enough to determine his value and credibility.
Makled isn’t stupid, so he likely has not handed over everything in his Pandora’s Box of documented Bolivarian narco-wrongdoing.
But US intelligence and counter-drug agencies (CIA, Justice, DEA) also likely have been granted some direct access to Makled, or else have received some of the intelligence provided by Makled to Colombian interrogators.
Also, the US government already had substantial evidence that Makled was (or is) a multi-ton trafficker.
Makled for years exported at least 10 metric tons of cocaine per month to the US, according to one report.
That’s a lot of blow: 120 metric tons per year is over half the total volume of cocaine that supposedly is exported via Venezuela each year.
But Santos certainly is conscious that if he ships Makled to the US, two things will occur:
*The US may prosecute and jail Makled forever, but the US won’t take any other actions that could benefit Colombia; i.e. no free trade agreement, no fresh billions of dollars in aid.
*If Chavez doesn’t get Makled, recently improving Colombia-Venezuela relations will blow up again, and this certainly could inflict economic damage and aggravate insecurity in Colombia.
The Gringos will be pissed off if they don’t get Makled.
But the Santos government doesn’t want renewed tensions with Chavez in Caracas.
Santos wants to collect hundreds of millions of dollars that Venezuela owes to Colombian exporters.
Santos also wants a resumption of Venezuelan gasoline and diesel exports to Colombia’s border states, stronger cross-border energy ties, and renewed Colombian non-oil exports to Venezuela.
Santos also wants more cooperation from Venezuela in terms of keeping FARC and ELN militants out of Venezuelan territory.
Santos also could win some points with some Colombian leftist politicians/voters if he sends Makled to Venezuela instead of the US.
Many Colombians aren’t fond of my generally over-bearing Gringo compatriots and would appreciate/support a show of independence by Santos vs. the Gringos.
But all these possible bennies for Colombia’s economy, and for Santos politically, could be dismissed by Chavez if Makled isn’t sent soon to Venezuela.
Chavez and his gangster generals need Makled now.
The Chavez regime’s narco-capos in uniform need to know the extent of the “evidence” that Makled allegedly has against them in order to manufacture an effective cover-up and identify potentially weak flanks in their midst.
Yes, weak flanks.
Chavez and Walid’s 40 gangster generals aren’t monolithic in terms of their “compadrazgo” with each other.
These 40 gangster generals, and who knows how many more that Makled hasn’t named yet, all operate their own separate rackets.
Each general has his own “testaferros” (i.e. front-men and straw cutouts) through which their ill-gotten profits are channeled.
Certainly there are some loose associations between some of these uniformed mobsters.
After all, “todos comen juntos” so that internal peace can be maintained.
Their universe is in balance when everyone gets their cut.
At least some the top capos like Henry Rangel Silva and “El Pollo” Carvajal likely even “break bread” at the same corrupt table.
But history teaches that gangsters never trust each other anywhere in the world.
Two examples: John Gotti became the head of the New York-based Gambino crime family by whacking Paul Castellano. The now defunct Cali cocaine cartel in 1993 helped Colombia’s government track down and kill the now defunct Medellin cocaine cartel’s leader, Pablo Escobar, so that Cali could gain control of some three-quarters of the Colombian cocaine industry for a very brief time.
Walid’s 40 generals may profess undying friendship, loyalty and “compadrazgo” to each other whenever some of them decant a bottle of scotch together. They also may sing hosannas to the Bolivarian Revolution.
But these guys would kill and/or rat each other out in a nanosecond to preserve their own individual hides. They would turn against Chavez too, if they felt that treason could be their salvation.
But Chavez is the revolution’s brand, so the 40 generals will swear fealty unto death to Chavez – until the brand is irreparably damaged.
But I don’t see anyone flipping before the 2012 presidential elections. There’s still too much corrupt wealth to be accumulated.
It appears that Walid will be coming home soon.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has confirmed that he personally promised President Hugo Chavez that Walid Makled would be extradited to Venezuela instead of the United States.
Makled warned in another interview with Casto Ocando, the Miami Herald reporter who now writes for El Nacional, that he is taking precautions to preserve his life by distributing to numerous friends his documented evidence against dozens of Bolivarian regime military and civilian satraps.
Makled threatens that if anything happens to him (i.e. if he gets whacked), his “evidence” against the bad guys will see the light of day.
Makled is a fool.
Immediately that Makled is returned to Venezuela he likely will be jailed in total isolation at Sebin (formerly Disip) or DGIM (military intelligence).
Makled almost certainly will be interrogated very aggressively by his Bolivarian jailers, whose chief concern will be locating and confiscating all of the evidence that Makled claims to possess.
If Makled doesn’t spill the beans, it’s certain that he will be tortured with electricity, water boarding, drugs and even beatings where the pain is excruciating but the bruises don’t show.
Aggressive interrogations are the bread and butter of Sebin, DGIM, CICPC and other “law enforcement” entities in Venezuela.
In Venezuela there’s no such thing as Miranda rights or human rights when the Bolivarian security establishment gets its claws into your flesh.
Makled will sing like a flock of canaries to his Bolivarian jailers. But they won’t be looking for evidence to prosecute any of Makled’s military and political business associates.
Makled will be forced to talk so that an effective, permanent cover-up can be put in place.
It’s public record that many officials in Bolivarian military, security and intelligence entities are actively engaged in drug trafficking, kidnapping and money laundering.
This isn’t idle speculation. My “compadre” – a Colonel in the Bolivarian army – looks for kidnapped people “extra-officially” in Venezuela.
He tells me that of the nearly 30 abductions that he has worked since 2005, at least 25 involved individuals on active duty with Sebin (ex-Disip), DIM, the National Guard, CICPC, PoliCaracas, the Metropolitan Police and other police agencies.
The majority of the express kidnappings carried out in the Greater Caracas Area involve the active participation of law enforcement officials, he adds.
Perhaps Chavez will surprise everyone and leverage Makled to hang dozens of corrupt generals and admirals.
However, that’s an unlikely scenario given that Chavez today is ascending General Henry Rangel Silva to the rank of general-in-chief, with four “soles.”
Chavez wants to remain in power, and he needs uniformed gangsters like Rangel Silva to extend the longevity of his failed revolution.
Chavez also lacks the “cojones” to take down the gangster generals that surround him.
Chavez talks a mean fight, but the possibility that he might suffer a scratch makes him faint with fright.
The US government certainly will protest Makled’s extradition to Venezuela instead of the US.
The US Attorney for the Southern District of New York and the DEA administrator certainly will be disappointed.
This duo was counting on a “Big Trial” and a conviction of the “king among drug kingpins” to further their careers and increase their annual budgets. If you doubt this, Google the DEA’s official budget request for 2011.
Also to be expected are complaints from some quarters that Santos has “betrayed” the US and threats that US-Colombia relations will be harmed.
Roger Noriega recently penned an article hinting that there could be unpleasant repercussions for Colombia if Makled is sent to Venezuela instead of the US.
But perhaps the Colombian high court will decide that Makled should be extradited to the US instead of Venezuela.
President Santos then could argue that, legally, the issue is out of his presidential hands.
“Hugo my new best friend,” Santos might say apologetically by telephone to Chavez, “I really did everything in my power to keep my personal promise to you, but Colombia’s judiciary is independent and I cannot illegally ignore a court ruling. Colombia is a democracy where the separation of powers and the rule of law are inviolable.”
But, personally, I’d bet on Makled returning to Caracas very soon.
Colombia’s high court in recent months ruled that the US-Colombia base use agreement and the US-Colombia extradition treaty are both illegal/unconstitutional.
Legal sources in Caracas and Bogota also agree that the Chavez government has a stronger legal claim for Makled than the US has.
Walid Makled Garcia, the Syrian- or Lebanese-born “empresario” described by the US Attorney in New York as “a king among drug kingpins,” is irrelevant.
The Makled case has received a great deal of news coverage so including gory details here is unnecessary.
If Makled is extradited by Colombia to the United States he will spend the rest of his life in a maximum security US federal prison, regardless of how much “documented evidence” he provides the US government about drug traffking in Venezuela.
If Makled is extradited to Venezuela instead, he will disappear because President Hugo Chavez wants him gone. Like Ricardo Fernandez Barrueco and other disgraced Bolibankers, Makled will be jailed indefinitely in Sebin’s “tombs” or perhaps even physically erased.
There won’t be the relative comfort – and freedom – of a federal witness protection program for Makled in the US or in Venezuela.
Regardless of how Colombia’s Supreme Court eventually rules, Walid is FUBAR.
But here’s the point: It matters not where Makled ultimately goes because in the end absolutely nothing will happen to any of the principals.
The US government might make a lot of noise about Makled, but it won’t take any other action against the Chavez government. Not with personalities like Dan Restrepo and Arturo Valenzuela calling the shots on Venezuela in the Obama administration. And forget about the new Republican committee chairs in the next House of Representatives; they’re all bark, no bite.
The Organization of American States won’t do anything either. “Das Panzer” Insulza shilled for Chavez in Honduras but in the end got dumped and dissed by Chavez anyway. The OAS Ambassadors mainly are collecting hefty pay checks in US dollars, attending official “receptions” where booze and high-price canapés flow liberally, and generally living the life of Riley in DC.
Unasur? LOOOOOOL. Unasur’s members fall under thee broad groups: those who pimp Chavez for all the goodies they can get (Kirchner), the lapdogs (Morales, Correa), and the see-hear-speak no evils (Lula).
Spain? More pimps (Zapatero and Moratinos, until he was sacked for a witless Trinity who claims there are no political prisoners in Venezuela; to paraphrase Cher, how can a woman be so dumb?).
Venezuela’s armed forces? Nope. The generals and admirals running the show are, without any exceptions that I can think of right now, corrupt. A few claim to be true Bolivarian revolutionaries, but they’re only in it for the money and they’d do whatever it takes to keep Chavez perpetually in power (because Hugo is the brand that keeps their thieving, drug trafficking, terrorist coddling asses out of prison).
The Venezuelan people? Venezuelans certainly are enraged after 12 years of Chavez’s ruinous regime, but the “bravo pueblo” is AWOL if not extinct. Vigilante justice is spreading in many barrios, but out in the streets people of both genders and all ages are routinely savaged on a daily basis and NO ONE intervenes to save them. Everyone goes about his or her own business and ignores the armed robbery or mugging or assault going down a few meters away from them.
The political opposition? LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL. In case any readers didn’t notice, Elias Jaua today chaired the first meeting of the new Federal Council of government that Chavez created by law so that he can completely ignore the existing constitutional branches of government. The oppo thinks it’s going to have a real impact in the new National Assembly, applying the legislative brakes to the Chavez regime and the gangsters that keep “Mico Mandante” in Miraflores. Good luck with that notion, amigos.
So what changes with Makled’s awesome allegations, then?
Nothing, zilch, zero.