The revolution has stepped on the gas regionally.
In global crisis there are many potential opportunities to expand and deepen the Caracas/Havana-led Bolivarian revolution throughout Latin America.
The new administration of US President Barack Obama is distracted by other seemingly more immediate and dangerous threats globally than the Bolivarian revolution.
Consider these developments since the 15 February referendum in Venezuela:
*Referendum victory in hand, President Hugo Chavez jetted to Havana on 20 February accompanied by Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro and Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez for meetings with Raul and Fidel Castro where “strengthening” bilateral relations was discussed.
*At the same time, reports surfaced that the Chavez regime will “import” thousands of Cuban “peasants” to farm the Orinoco River basin, with 50% of whatever is grown shipped to Cuba. There already are over 50,000 Cubans in Venezuela, by some accounts; but Chavez wants to bring thousands more to Venezuela at a time when millions of Venezuelans need decent jobs.
*Meanwhile, Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa orders the expulsion of a second US diplomat for allegedly “interfering” in the country’s internal affairs. A few days later, Correa charges that a conspiracy is under way to falsely link his government to derug trafficking and the FARC ahead of elections.
*In Bolivia, President Evo Morales charges that the CIA “infiltrated” state-owned YPFB and caused the corruption scandal which forced the resignation of the oil company’s president. Morales now is also pushing a constitutional reform allowing indefinite presidential re-election.
*And in Colombia, former President and OAS Secretary General Cesar Gaviria charges that President Alvaro Uribe Velez is cut from the same dictatorial, power-crazed cloth as President Chavez – which is a scurrilous lie, but Gaviria has been deep in Fidel’s pocket for at least a decade.
*Separately, Colombian military intelligence says the FARC is changing tactics, and now plans to wage 4G urban warfare with bomb attacks, targeted assassinations and snipers. This signals a potential new phase in the Colombian civil conflict, with the FARC deploying very small units of trained operatives to urban areas in a strategic and tactical shift which the Colombian armed forces could have a difficult time adapting to rapidly.
These developments may be far apart geographically, but they are related to each other geopolitically.
Chavez was clear about his political priorities on 15 February after the CNE declared him the winner of the referendum: The revolution will “consolidate” in 2009 and “deepen” starting in 2010.
Venezuela’s economy will suffer an immense crisis in 2009, but that’s secondary to Chavez’s primary goal of accelerating his revolutionary agenda. Besides Chavez already is blaming the global economic downturn that began in the United States for the “very difficult” times Venezuela will face this year.
And while Chavez consolidates his power in Venezuela, the Caracas/Havana strategic command center is also determined to consolidate the revolution in Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, etc.
There’s no time to waste. Fidel is fading, but Chavez just won an extended political lease on life which has neutralized everyone who thought the president was a lame duck because of the Bolivarian constitution’s term limits.
Now is the perfect time to step on the revolutionary gas pedal, accelerating the process regionally amid global economic turmoil and local social discontent which can be blamed on the always-convenient imperialist Yanqui scapegoat.
The US State Department won’t do anything. In fact, the State Department is so addled and misinformed about Latin America that it officially congratulated Chavez for his “democratic” referendum victory.
The public diplomacy crisis at State is very old, predating Hillary Clinton and Obama by several administrations. But under Clinton and Obama things at State probably will get much worse very quickly.
The OAS won’t do anything either. Chavez effectively neutralized a majority of its members years ago with cheap oil, and its current Secretary General, Jose Miguel Insulza, is significantly more pathetic and ineffectual in the job than Gaviria ever was.
Those who think the global economic recession and Venezuela’s imminent economic crisis will slow down Chavez even for a second simply do not grasp the nature of this revolutionary beast.
The revolution, by explicit definition, can never slow down. It’s analogous to riding a tiger 24/7.
Venezuela’s opposition dinosaurs can blabber all they want about developing effective national messages, strategies and tactics to capture the public’s support and contain Chavez.
But it isn’t going to happen. Chavez gives no quarter, takes no prisoners, dialogues with no one.
And if Venezuela’s opposition cannot get its act together, it can’t be expected that the regional defenders of democracy coming under more intense combined internal/external assault from the revolution will do any better in terms of opposing the designs of the Caracas/Havana axis of evil.