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Guidelines for Containing Chavez and Ortega

By Scott Sullivan

03.10.05 | Today’s Washington Post editorial calls upon the US to help rescue Nicaragua from subversion by Daniel Ortega and Hugo Chavez (“Nicaragua’s Creeping Coup”). Most importantly, the editorial points out that only a minority of 20% of Nicaraguans favor the regime that Ortega and Chavez intend to impose. If Ortega and Chavez are unchecked in Nicaragua, which so far is the case, look for them to try to impose minority regimes in Bolivia and Ecuador, possibly even Argentina. By now, the alarm bells should be sounding in the OAS, Brazil, and the US.

Here are some guidelines for the US in containing/rolling back the new “evil Empire” in Latin America.

-- Any US plan must be regional in scope. Chavez is posing a threat in several countries, not just Venezuela.

-- Don’t rely on FTAA to carry the day. The FTAA is too slow acting to make a difference in the short run. Those countries threatened by Chavez must be supported now.

-- As the Post editorial suggests, rely on people power, “inside and outside the polls.” Support for the opposition in certain countries (Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia) is of critical importance. Early engagement is far preferable to engagement at a later date in less favorable circumstances.

-- Rely first on the OAS, then Brazil, and then Colombia as a principal partner. Assume good will from China, but put markers down so that China understands the direction of US policy.

-- Be optimistic. Chavez has two major weaknesses that can be exploited. First, he lacks popular support for regional adventurism. Second, he lacks reliable allies. Iran and Cuba may abandon him, and China and Brazil may oppose him.

-- Finally, do not ignore Latin America in favor of Iraq. Failure in Latin America will erode US gains in Iraq, and vice versa.

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