Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Tempers Flare in South America

Bush Surrogate Stirs the Pot

When you think about it, this item's appearance on the news was just a matter of time. From the BBC:
Colombia Calls for Chavez Charges

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe says he will ask the International Criminal Court to bring genocide charges against President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

He accused Mr Chavez of sponsoring and financing Colombian Farc rebels. Venezuela denies the charge.

Colombian officials say a laptop found during a raid on a Farc camp held files indicating Venezuela gave Farc $300m.

Colombian forces entered Ecuador to raid the camp, provoking furious protests and a diplomatic crisis.
Since this story hasn't exactly been at the top of the headlines, let's look at a bit of background information. First, the fact that Colombia, "entered Ecuador to raid the camp, provoking furious protests and a diplomatic crisis."

A similar incident occurred in Dec., 2004 when Rodrigo Granda Escobar, a Colombian rebel/Farc diplomat was allegedly "arrested" in the town of Cúcuta near the Venezuelan border. I say allegedly and arrested is in quotes because, as it turned out, Señor Granda was actually abducted in Caracas Venezuela with the help of Venezuelan and American officials. And as it turned out, he was abducted by bounty hunters paid by the Columbians. This led to quite a diplomatic crisis between the two countries. Venezuela recalled their ambassador from Bogota and suspended all diplomatic and trade links in January, 2005. The tensions were eventually resolved through the intervention Cuba's Fidel Castro and the leaders of Peru and Brazil, but at one point, according to Chavez, there was a risk of war between the two countries.

Before I go further, let me acknowledge the BBC's news website for their related links feature that allowed me to put together the preceding paragraph. It was really, really useful.

The raid that resulted in the supposed laptop capture also resulted in the death of Farc leader Raúl Reyes, who it appears had taken over Señor Granda's role as their ambassador to friendly governments. As in the case of Señor Granda, Colombian forces ignored the sovereignty of a neighboring country to get their man.
Venezuela and Ecuador have broken off ties with Colombia and moved troops to the Colombian border.

Saturday's incursion by Colombian forces into Ecuador saw the killing of senior Farc commander Raul Reyes, and 16 others.

Colombian Vice-President Francisco Santos, speaking earlier at a disarmament conference in Geneva, said evidence of plans to make a dirty bomb - a bomb using radioactive material - was also found on the computer.
Once again, I am indebted to the BBC for this profile of Señor Uribe, from which comes this excerpt:
The president also faces the challenge of completing the demobilisation of the estimated 30,000 paramilitary fighters.

Human rights groups say the government has been too lenient with the paramilitaries, many of whom received an amnesty despite committing abuses, including massacres, forced displacements and disappearances.

Mr Uribe is President Bush's staunchest ally in Latin America and Washington will be closely following the efforts to stamp out the huge illegal drugs trade, which has so far produced very mixed results.

Colombia is still the world's main producer of cocaine despite the government's attempts to eradicate drug crops, boosted by more than $3bn in aid from the US through Plan Colombia.
Compare that to this 2006 profile of Hugo Chavez from TIME magazine, surprising in its frank criticism of George Bush:
The rise of Venezuela's left-wing President, Hugo Chavez, is a lesson in what can happen when the U.S. disses an entire continent. After 9/11, when most Latin American nations refused to endorse the U.S. invasion of Iraq, President Bush testily turned his back on the region—but not before he was widely accused of backing a failed 2002 coup against Chavez, Bush's loudest critic south of the border. Washington denies the charge, but the perception of U.S. bullying won Chavez international sympathy.
Clearly another 'heckuva job' by Bu$hCo™ in foreign relations. Most of South America fears and hates the USA.

Okay, enough with the background. Let's move on to all the red flags and alarms that should go off in reading all this information. In bullet form,
Alvaro Irube:
  • Is a staunch ally of the Bush administration
  • Has received $3BILLION in aid from Bu$hCo™ to fight the war on drugs
  • is apparently using that money instead to fight Farc
  • has a large paramilitary force who are literally getting away with murder
  • has intruded on the sovereignty of two neighboring countries
  • has already been caught lying regarding Farc and Venezuela
  • has brought two of his neighbors to the brink of war
  • is accusing Chavez and Venezuela of trying to make a dirty bomb
Hugo Chavez:
  • Has been demonized by the US as a Marxist
  • Has been the victim of at least one attempt by the US to oust him from power
  • Holds common cause with Farc in his desire to see a more equitable distribution of wealth in South America
  • Is sitting on the Western Hemisphere's largest oil reserves
A year ago pResident Bush refused to speak Hugo Chavez's name on a tour of South America. This year it looks like he's using his surrogate to create a reason for the US to go to war with Venezuela. Such a war would make the Dick Cheneys of the world very happy indeed. I can see it putting the price of oil above $200/bbl overnight.

The truly frightening thing is, for such a plan to work Bush will have to still be in office well past January of next year. I can't imagine how he would arrange that, but it's not as if he hasn't meticulously put the tools in place. Just sayin'.


Hugo Chavez should watch his back, because the aggressive interpretation of the Monroe Doctrine preferred by Republican administrations has led to, among other things, the ouster of Guatemala's Jacobo Arbenz in the '50s and the assassination of Chile's Salvador Allende during the Nixon administration.

Maybe Alvaro Irube should be watching his back too. If he's not worried about the way the US turned on Saddam Hussein, a monster of their own creation, he should at least be familiar with another story from much closer to home. See the resume of Manuel Noriega, the most famous graduate of the School of the Americas
UPDATE: This video from Reuters explains how Colombia's incursion into Ecuador has dashed hopes for a negotiated release of 12 FARC hostages, including French-Colombian Ingrid Betancourt.

I also have this to post, hat-tip to Ellie in comments:
From Venezuelanalysis.com:
In surveying US press coverage of the recent tensions between Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela one might come to the conclusion that Colombia has become the victim of the wrath of its' evil next door neighbor, Hugo Chavez. Once again, the media spin machine has been turned against Venezuela, bypassing a contextual analysis of the situation for a simplistic story line. With headlines such as, "Chavez Picks a New Fight" (Business Week March 4, 2008) the story perpetuates the US government's claims that Venezuela is a destabilizing force in the region while ignoring the alarming actions perpetrated by the Colombian government.
A quick review of responses from other countries would in fact show that the US government's assessment is deeply flawed and out of step with international opinion. President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, proclaimed, "A situation of this nature undoubtedly warrants an explanation from Colombia to the people of Ecuador, the President of Ecuador and the rest of the region". The governments of Paraguay, Peru, and Argentina have all released similar statements of disapproval with Colombia's actions.

Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner expressed despair at the killing of his government's primary contact in negotiating the release of former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, who also holds French nationality. Referring to the killing of FARC second-in-command Raul Reyes, he asserted, "It is bad news that the man we were talking to, with whom we had contacts, has been killed."

Information Clearing House has MORE.

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