Sunday, September 9, 2012

Hugo Chavez for Colombia?

Chavez works a crowd.
With just under a month to go before the presidential election in Venezuela, socialist Pres. Hugo Chavez is ahead, but his conservative challenger Henrique Capriles appears to be closing the gap.

Colombia's predictable preference is Capriles. After all, during Chavez's 13 years in power, Colombia and Venezuela have had several confrontations and even talked of war. Chavez has also allegedly supported Colombia's guerrillas, and clearly expressed sympathy for them. Chavez also loves to satanize the United States government, Bogotá's close ally.

Chavez's aggressive personality and statist economic policies have also contributed to commercial crisis, which have meant huge losses for Colombian businesses.

But Chavez has also served as an important intermediary between Colombia's government and its leftist guerrillas. And now that the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas are starting  preliminary peace talks, Chavez's government may play a key role.

The talks are to be held in Cuba, a close Venezuelan ally, and in Norway. The two foreign 'guarantor' governments are conservative Chile, close to the Colombian government, and Venezuela, undoubtedly the foreign government which the FARC most trust.

Chavez is ahead in most polls heading towards the Oct. 7 elections, and he's harnessed the government and state-controlled economy to ensure his reelection. So, the smart money has got to be on him.

But if Chavez WERE to lose - and to recognize the results - it would deprive the FARC of a key supporter in the long term, but in the short term could deal a severe blow to Colombia's delicate peace process.

Which Venezuelan candidate are they cheering for in the Palacio de Nariño?

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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