Thursday, November 27, 2008

Colombians Rebuke Hugo Chavez at the Polls. What the FARC?

Columbia’s President, Fidel Castro wannabe Hugo Chavez has been spanked at the polls by his own people in local elections across Venezuela. According to the Wall Street Journal,

“Mr. Chávez suffered an electoral setback Sunday. Chávez opponents won control of five states and the Caracas district, up from two states in previous elections, putting more than half the population under opposition rule”

It is easy to look at a colourful figure like Hugo Chavez and forget that he has a country no run with a multitude of problems. Seeing Hugo Chavez face a domestic electorate and viewing him through their eyes is critical in gaining an understanding his behavior on the international stage

In looking at the world stage, I assign labels to “good guys” and “bad guys”. People abroad don’t always see things my way. I once took a taxi ride with a man from Soviet Georgia who was Jewish. He had gone straight from Georgia to the US. He had glowing things to say about Stalin, how good he was for the economy and how great he made the USSR. I was in shock to hear his take on Stalin until I found out that Stalin treated his native Republic and its Jews completely differently from how he treated people from other Republics in the USSR. I later found out that my taxi driver was not an oddity at all.

My next shock was being jolted from my case of Gorbophilia (uncritical admiration of Mikhail Gorbatchev) by Soviet emigres who blasted him for destroying the Soviet Union. When I heard how people’s savings and pensions were rendered worthless by inflation and how ethnic and social unrest was fracturing Soviet society, In viewing the economic fallout of communism’s fall, it became far easier to understand the opinions of Gorbatchev’s critics.

I find that my understanding of countries that I read about is immeasurably deepened by moments when I am caught between hotly held and diametrically opposed opinions. Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal provided me with such a moment by showing me a side of Hugo Chavez with which I was unfamiliar.

I had always thought that Chavez aspired to make Venezuela a regional superpower with himself as its demagogic centerpiece. It seemed like he wanted to fill the shoes of Fidel Castro without turning his country into the vassal state that Cuba became.

The Wall Street Journal article describes Hugo Chavez as not only admiring and assisting FARC rebels in neighbouring Columbia but actually surrendering Venezuelan soveriegnty to the neighbouring guerilla group.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “This sweltering market town on Venezuela’s southwestern frontier has its own mayor, council and police force. It also has a parallel government of sorts — a group of Communist guerrillas from the neighboring country of Colombia.

Earlier this year, a squad from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, took over the Doña Pancha bar in this town 70 miles from the border with Colombia. The uniformed guerrillas cut the music and told customers they were in the area to support the government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and settle local disputes, according to a local priest.

Now, the priest says, the foreign fighters have been seen setting up impromptu road checks, meting out justice to petty thieves and extorting businessmen.”

It is clear that ‘proletarian internationalism has taken on a totally new meaning in the conceptual universe of Hugo Chavez who has repeatedly met and corresponded with FARC rebels from neighbouring Colombia. This has been proven in numerous e-mails captured from a high ranking FARC rebel Raul Reyes, who was killed by Columbian troops in a raid on his rebel camp in Ecuador.. The Wall Street Journal

summarises some of the intercepted e- mails as follows.

In the Jan. 18 email, a FARC secretariat member writes to the full body and mentions some of the issues to be taken up at a proposed meeting with President Chavez. Among the issues: an alliance against the U.S., keeping FARC units in Venezuela, such as the 10th and 45th fronts, which are kidnapping and extorting ranchers in Venezuela under control, and pushing Mr. Chavez for a $250 million loan.

In the Nov. 12 email, Ivan Marquez, the FARC’s representative in Venezuela reports to the late Manuel Marulanda, the FARC’s legendary chief, on a meeting with President Chavez. Among the points he mentions is that Mr. Chavez has approved a loan for what Colombian officials believe is $300 million “without blinking.” Mr. Chavez has named then Interior Minister Ramon Rodriguez Chacin to act as liason with the guerrillas. Among the first orders of business is to set up a meeting with two Australian arms dealers. Mr. Chavez also gives the orders to set up medical and rest facilities for the FARC along the Venezuelan border.

In any indictment for treason, e-mails such as these would be critical evidence. It is not hard to understand the disgust of many Venezuelans with Hugo Chavez.

Most Americans would be furious if Mexican or Canadian troops moved into their town and declared their mission to be one of support for America’s president and his party. This is precisely what has happened in Venezuela. To maintain his personal control, Hugo Chavez has in effect surrendered increments of Venezuelan sovereignty.

Sharply voiced anti Americanism is a staple of Latin American politics. A desire to have a political and cultural identity that is independent of America has been a staple of Latin American politics for decades. This does not and has not precluded strategic collaboration on matters of mutual benefit.

Hugo Chavez is outspoken in his admiration of Fidel Castro. Castro is most noted not only for the ruthlessness of his dictatorship but also for making Cuba a supplicant client state of the former Soviet Union, defying geographic obstacles in doing so. Chavez has attempted valiantly to emulate his role model in constructing a totalitarian state. Recent setbacks in local elections across Venezuela show that he has not yet succeeded at this.

With the possible exception of China, there is no viable superpower for Chavez to turn to in contending with the US. His only alternative has been the pitiful piecemeal sale of Venezuelan sovereignty to armed dope dealers who have incorporated communist insignias into the marketing of their drug shipments. Chavez has not entered into an alliance not with international communism to the contrary, he has sold out to the most aggressive and lawless outpost of laissez faire capitalism, Colombia’s narco terrorists. From one hand, he facilitates the selling of cheap heating oil in America to poor families. From the other hand he helps push drugs that are killing children from the same poor families. Meanwhile, the condition of the Venezuelan poor continues to worsen under his unwieldy and self serving state run enterprises.

Hugo Chavez has failed to persuade the people of Venezuela that he is their champion. The same old tired ideas spill like rolls of fat from beneath his flashy verbiage. He is one more paper tiger set ablaze by the light of public understanding. The Venezuelan people get it. Do we? Sphere: Related Content

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