Words of advice to the US State Department re Venezuela
By Aleksander Boyd
London 30.04.05 | Condoleezza Rice's, US Secretary of State, recent trip to Latin America has to be read in the appropriate context. The current trend in South America seems to be one of deep distrust with anything North American; that is to say no matter how good, if good, the US administration's intentions are vis-a-vis the region these are outplayed by the inbred sentiment of rejection that poor and gullible Latinos, for the most part, share in that respect. Secretary Rice met also with some members of the Brazilian Executive. In a recent meeting in Washington Jose Dirceu allegedly said to Rice regarding arms buildup by the Venezuelan president "Chavez does not listen to me. I have already told him to stop this". Again one must pause and analyse within the correct framework the words of Dirceu.
Brazil in the region
Let us not fool ourselves: Brazil is to South America what the USA is to the north; i.e. the biggest power, the rich neighbour, the one whose voice is heard the clearest when it comes to any sort of agreements, in sum the imperialist state of the South. With nearly half of the continent's extension under their control, 170 million citizens and its economy placed among the world's ten biggest (second in the Americas, second in the developing world after China) Brazil is in no weak position when it comes to negotiation and it would be stupid to think that Brazilian politicians would permit for US' interests in the region take preference over their own. Thus the correct answer of Secretary Rice to Dirceu's remarks should have been "whatever Dirceu..." for it is rather obvious that he was lying through his teeth. How so? Well, is it any secret that Brazil has also sold military planes to Chavez, contributing in no small part to the arms buildup? The expansion plans of Petrobras should also be considered. Sources in Ecuador report that Lucio Gutierrez's brother was quite busy forging energy deals with Lula (whilst the former was showing the finger to international energy conglomerates), whose actions to protect his Ecuadoran associate came surprisingly pronto. Chavez's PDVSA has signed 'agreements' with Petrobras that will only benefit the Brazilians for PDVSA is in such disarray that it is simply impossible for the company to conduct any profitable business, let alone new ventures, as all indexes demonstrate.
Venezuela and Cuba
Apart from Chavez and perhaps a handful of his closest collaborators, no Venezuelan knew, back in 1998 when he was first elected, that the man was hell bent in converting the country into a Cuban replica. Some polls show that the rejection that Venezuelans have for the Cuban 'model of governance' is even greater than the antagonism towards the opposition, the USA, Chavez, etc. Cuba, after 46 years under the communist boot, is a pariah state in the extended definition of the term; its people living in such pauperisation, the failure of its economy so evident that only an ignorant radical fundamentalist desperate to follow in the footsteps of Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez that is, can wish to implement said model in a 'democratic' country. Obviously he believes that in this day and age his 'presidency' will last 40 years for his goal to be accomplished. However the combination of political ascendancy of Castro over small men and Chavez's fat checkbook is wreaking havoc in the region. For starters they count on the unconditional allegiance of the FARC. More so now that Venezuela could provide up to 100.000 Kalashnikovs and the desperately needed ammunition to the Colombian narcoguerrillas.
Some analysts have ventured into saying that what is taking place is not the Cubanization of Venezuela but the Venezuelanization of Cuba. To be frank I believe that's nonsensical for, if recent history is of any value, Castro has not been mimicking Chavez but the other way around. Cuba has not had any referenda to recall Castro nor has he relaxed stiff measures against the political opposition. Conversely Chavez and his lackeys have violated constitutional and democratic precepts in ways unforeseen in the last 46 years. But the icing on the cake has to be the new economic alliance between Cuba, a bankrupt state, and Venezuela, an oil rich state. In what ways, lest of course the mastering of totalitarian tactics, can Venezuela profit from Cuba? The answer is in none. Cuba's debt to Venezuela has already surpassed the $2 billion mark and in case the aggravation for the country was not sufficiently damaging now PDVSA is to open an office in Cuba to manage its Caribbean operations and conduct offshore exploration activities. How ironic: a company incapable of maintaining output in its own backyard seeking to conduct offshore exploration, an area totally alien to PDVSA's activities. It remains to be seen how will Petrobras profit from the Castro-Chavez energy alliance...
Colombia and the USA
Ergo we have a border, that of Venezuela and Colombia, disputed by at least six armies. On the Venezuelan side the axis Venezuela-Cuba-Farc-ELN; on the Colombian side the USA-Colombia and the AUC. The Venezuelan side has the empathy, if detached at this stage, of very many people throughout the continent. Fuelled by fiery neofascism and unending funds from oil and drugs, the Venezuelan side prospects don't look that bad at all. After all, factoring out US military and financial support, Uribe seems to be pretty much on his own. It is a deeply worrying scenario should one consider that US involvement and actions are conditioned by the political decisions of committees of bipartisan nature, of which one of the parties, read Democrats, appears to be infatuated with Castro or Chavez or both. It is still unclear for us South Americans how far down the road to strenghten weak democracies is the USA willing to go. For the most part of the last five years US involvement in the region, apart from Colombia, has been erratic or simply non existent and the time to pay the consequences of having neglected an area that has characterized itself for being particularly unstable has come.
Any sensible person that has ever set foot in one of these multilateral bodies (UN, EU, OAS, etc.) knows that to expect solutions to political crises of any sort from them is equal to see a herd of cattle flying. The OAS did not condemn the rigging of the recall referendum last August in Venezuela, even though former Secretary Gaviria admitted to the cameras that not him, nor Jimmy Carter, nor any of the members of either of the observation teams (OAS', Carter Center's) were allowed into the central tallying room of the National Electoral Council prior to the announcement of the results. Gossip has it that Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel and Cuban intelligence have got some rather alarming information about Mr Gaviria's sexual preferences and that was put to good use to silence any concerns that he might have had with respect to the fraud committed. The OAS then appointed another impeccable beacon of morals, Miguel Angel Rodriguez who had to resign to go face justice in his country. Nowadays the dilemma among the useless bureaucrats is to elect a new Secretary General. Chavez, by now an expert in how to buy consciences through his 'misiones', has destined large amounts of money and promises to very lucrative oil deals to OAS representatives of backwater nations of Central/South America and the Caribbean. Hence Mission OAS, much like those that were implemented to galvanize his 'electoral win' last August, is in full swing and, insofar as blocking the election of a candidate that could jeopardize in any fashion his continental project, has been a success. Ecuador should be extremely wary of the OAS for they are up to no good.
My advice to the Bush administration
I know this sounds a bit rich and pretentious but I believe that US policies vis-a-vis Venezuela need to change and I am even prepared to offer some words of advice in the hope that they will at least be read. Firstly, stop immediately the microphone diplomacy. By the same token ignore completely the endless verbal diarrhea of Hugo Chavez. Clowns ought to be treated as such. Secondly, make sure your support to Colombia's Uribe does not falter. There shall be presidential elections in 2006 and Chavez-Castro are already working towards Uribe's electoral defeat. Also be aware of those Kalashnikovs that will surely find their way to FARC's hands. Thirdly, watch out for Evo Morales, the Ortegas, Lopez Obrador and other such elements. Fourthly, try to capitalise on Ecuador's recent upheaval and help install a sound and stable democracy. Fifthly, continue ostracizing Fidel Castro at every available opportunity and do the same with Hugo Chavez. This is a point that merits extra comments. Most Europeans, as well as American Democrats, are of the opinion that appeasement is the perfect card to deal with dictators. Let me tell you that every time such a stance prevails over decisive action, rather than solving anything you are prolongating the suffering of very many people. Castro and Chavez are two individuals that have entire nations hostage, think about that and also about the fact that they they have had no qualms in killing their own merely for political reasons. Sixthly, look out for allies and partners that share your democratic, political and financial premises and give them support and tribunes to voice their concerns. It is primordial that this is followed through for, as you will agree, me talking about Venezuelan matters does not have the same effect as an American politician doing it. My opinions, as a Venezuelan citizen, carry equal weight as those of chavistas. One has to be confident that those who form the core constituency of Chavez, for reasons of poverty and misery, would rather live in an American type of society than in a Cuban one. Use immigration figures to the USA and to Cuba to destroy any counter arguments. Seventhly, let the locals do the job. Your involvement has to be restricted to intelligence and strategy; operations need to be performed by local actors. Eighthly, make sure Chavez's 'Mission OAS' fails. Ninthly, tell Democrats to go make a living in Cuba or in Venezuela as normal citizens, perhaps then they will understand how wrong they are. Tenthly, expose the propaganda agents of Venezuela to destroy whatever credibility they may have; if I did it so can you.
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