Hugo Chavez and Colombia: Tempest in a Totuma?

President Hugo Chavez said during his nationally televised “Alo Presidente” show on 8 November that the “principal mission” of Venezuela’s armed forces, militia and people is to “prepare for war” with Colombia. However, it came as no surprise when Chavez retracted his threats almost immediately, saying he had been misquoted by the news media.

Did Chavez realize belatedly that he had committed a huge political mistake? Or did someone in the Bolivarian revolution yank the president’s chain?

Chavez is the undisputed “Comandante-in-Jefe” of the Bolivarian revolution. But this revolution is a hugely profitable criminal enterprise for Bolibourgeois “entrepreneurs,” and war with Colombia certainly would be bad for their many Bolivarian “negocios.”

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez indicated that he considers Chavez’s clarification as signaling that bilateral tensions have eased. But Uribe isn’t willing to let bygones be bygones.

On 12 November Colombia’s Ambassador to the UN lodged a formal complaint against the government of Venezuela with Thomas Mayr-Harting, president of the Security Council.

Colombia’s government has lodged three complaints against the Chavez regime:

*President Chavez’s threat to “use force” against Colombia is a “flagrant violation” of the UN Charter and threatens peace in Latin America.

*The Chavez government has officially refused to explain the murders of at least eight Colombian citizens in Venezuelan territory during the past month.

*Venezuela without cause or justification has restricted the entry of Colombian products into Venezuela.

Colombia probably will lodge a similar grievance at the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, DC.

Separately, Colombia already has lodged a complaint against Venezuela at the World Trade Organization (WTO), charging that the Chavez regime has illegally imposed trade barriers against Colombian goods.

Uribe’s decision to complain about the Chavez regime’s unlawful and threatening behavior towards Colombia can be expected to cause a new spike in tensions only days after Chavez appeared to retract/moderate his language.

But if President Chavez responds with a new barrage of undiplomatic and menacing rhetoric, the negative fallout could get worse for him – or perhaps not.

Chavez over-stepped by a country mile when he threatened Colombia with a war. But does it matter?

Chavez has been interfering with complete impunity for years in other Latin American countries, including Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay, Uruguay, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and most recently in Honduras.

Chavez’s longtime strategic/political alliance with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is also well-documented and widely known.

The US and Colombian governments have shared intelligence with other Latin American countries that describes the extent of the Chavez regime’s political and criminal partnership with the FARC.

Thanks to Chavez, Iran’s intelligence services and Iranian-backed terrorist groups like Hezbollah have established an expanding presence in Venezuela, Bolivia and other countries in the region.

In Venezuela, Chavez over the past nearly 11 years has systematically destroyed the rule of law, democratic institutions, economic and individual liberties, private property rights, and freedom of speech. The regime has criminally prosecuted over 2,000 Venezuelans for political reasons.

Chavez has divided Venezuela’s society, deliberately fostering class divisions and hatreds, and fueling an explosion in lethal criminal violence without parallel anywhere else in Latin America, and perhaps the world. The government stopped publishing crime statistics over a year ago. But NGO’s knowledgeable about crime and violence in Venezuela forecast that over 19,500 people will be murdered in 2009, up about 5,000 murders compared with the roughly 14,400 homicides reported for 2008.

But the US government has never made any real effort to curb/contain Chavez. Instead, US policymakers during the Clinton and Bush administrations, and now in the Obama administration, appear to have serious misconceptions/misperceptions about Chavez – or perhaps they just don’t care.

A Venezuelan friend familiar with the ways of Washington, DC tells Caracas Gringo that “disinterest and ignorance are fighting for dominance” in the Obama administration’s Latin America foreign policy, “and both are winning.” Ouch!

The OAS hasn’t done anything either, though supposedly it has a legal instrument: the Democratic Charter signed in Lima the morning of 11 September, 2001. Chavez neutralized the OAS years ago with cash and oil giveaways, buying the silence/support of allegedly “democratic” states in the Caribbean and Latin America while he destroyed Venezuelan democracy, partnered openly with narco-terrorist groups like the FARC, and actively tried to destabilize other democracies in the region.

(One could argue that the beneficiaries of Chavez’s largesse have made a Faustian pact, because someday the debts they have piled up with Caracas will come due. But assuming for this analysis that these debtors decide to default some day, what will the Chavez regime do? Sue the debtor states? Start a war? Or accept payment in beans and bananas over the next 20-30 years?)

Chavez (Fidel) made a fool of former OAS Secretary General Cesar Gaviria during the presidential recall referendum of August 2004. It also appears that current OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza, who was amazingly undiplomatic and incompetent in the Honduras crisis, dances to the tune played by Chavez.

If the US administration and the OAS continue to tiptoe around the threat to regional security that Chavez has become, who’s left with any capacity to rein in the worst excesses of the great Bolivarian leader?

Brazil? Not a chance.

Will the UN Security Council take any action? The Chavez regime has declared it will “debate” its differences with Colombia in any multilateral venue, so at the very least, we can look forward over the coming weeks to more incendiary Bolivarian rhetoric, baseless accusations, and factually incorrect arguments.

About Caracas Gringo

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One Response to Hugo Chavez and Colombia: Tempest in a Totuma?

  1. Martin says:

    How many times now has he had this dance with Uribe? The more Chavez cries ‘wolf’ the less he is believed. But it is a bit different to the parable. Chavez here is the wolf. There is no other; of course not Colombia or the United States, which continues to ignore him, I believe out of a rather curious process of self-serving denial. Admitting that they had a fearsome enemy just across the water in their own hemisphere would be just too much for any administration right now to deal with. If Chavez was the only game in town, as Castro was in the 60’s, it would be a different matter. But with all the other varied festering sores across the world nowadays to face up to, this one can be put off….Trouble is, Chavez just keeps upping the ante, and sooner or later some spark may be set alight. Possibly it may be by Chavez himself, with some Falklands-like adventure out of desparation, but just as likely it will be something more indirect that he has tampered with (Honduras is one recent example, but how about a terror attack in Lat Am by Hezbollah abetted by him?). There is no knowing the how, the why or the when, but the problem is no one is preparing for it.

    Like

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