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.