Friday, July 23, 2010

Venezuela Breaks Relations (and what else is new?)

Venezuelan Pres. Hugo Chávez has broken all relations with Colombia - just as we knew would happen.

Colombia had presented evidence in the Organization of American States that Colombian guerrillas have been camping out quite comfortably on Venezuelan soil. Of course, that was something we all knew anyway. While working as a journalist, border-area residents told me personally some years ago about this situation.

Colombia's evidence isn't bulletproof - but it certainly looks strong. Strong enough to justify investigation by Venezuela, rather than just an angry and self-righteous slamming of the door. For me, this episode has shades of the South Korea-North Korea dispute over the recent sinking of the South's naval vessel by the North. Here, too, you have a self-described leftist/revolutionary government using military measures against a democracy, if a troubled one. Venezuela's economy is shrinking, it's got the worst inflation in the region and people can't find basic foodstuffs in stores. Chávez's response has been to repress the independent media and look for enemies to rant and rage against: the 'Empire' (read: United States) and its supposed stand-in, Colombia.

In this case, Chávez made his self-righteous speech about dignity accompanied by the one-time drug addicted Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona, a man who tattooed communist revolutionary Che Guevara on his shoulder but still sucked his fortune up his nose. Maradona, a role model whose example has undoubtedly ruined the lives of countless kids who admired 'el crack' argentino and concluded that cocaine (and crack) were no obstacle to fame and stardom. (This isn't supposed to be a post about Maradona, but the guy's ego, hypocrisy and selfishness do say something about the morality of the crowd Chávez hangs with.)

What will happen now? Venezuela will investigate the claimed guerrilla sites after giving the guerrillas ample time to leave and then declare that the guerrillas were never there.

Once new Colombian Pres. Manuel Santos takes office, the two leaders will give each other a second chance. After all, neither country's economy can afford a permanent suspension of trade.

Written by Mike Ceaser of Bogotá Bike Tours

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