Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Mar 04/08 | Mr. Chavez's Plan A in Motion: A Truly B&W Affair

Hugo and FARC's Ivan Marquez: Till death do them apart?

PMBComment: many in the world and most within Venezuela's rudderless opposition have claimed that Hugo Chavez is overreaching as a way to distract attention from his ever spiraling domestic troubles. I beg to disagree. What we are witnessing is the accelerated and sloppy execution of Lt. Col. Chavez's Plan A. Fearing that time is no longer on his side, Mr. Chavez, with the help of such bizarre and clueless allies as Mr. Sarkozy, has set into motion the last stage of his grand design. Readers of this commentaries will recognize that over the years I have alerted to the fact that Uribe's head had a reserved place above Mr. Chavez mantelpiece.

The Bolivarian revolution would not be truly Bolivarian if it were not expansive and if it lacked a foreign enemy to justify it. The empire this time is not Spain but the US and it happens to be be as stuck in Colombia as it is in those other terrorist hotbeds Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Chavez is taking advantage of a fully justified raid on derelict Ecuador to go on the offensive. If he does not move fast now he might end up cornered by the type of evidence Colombia, the US and others have always had but had failed to expose publicly. Now that they have the excuse of a few laptops that somehow survived the bombardment of Mr. Reyes command center, the cat is out of the bag and the President many in the world "tolerated" due to the fact that he was "democratically" elected has been exposed as the dangerous fomenter of trouble and funder of terrorist we have always accused him of being.

How will this crisis end? Badly. Mr. Chavez as a mediocre mid-level military officer does not respond well to political incentives o disincentives. His world is black or white. A negotiation is perceived as a defeat and therefore unacceptable. He has now played his final card - move the troops and threaten war - and it points to chaos. His military is so divided that it might precipitate his exit without obvious replacement. The composition of forces and the deep entrenchment of foreign and criminal elements in Venezuela does not bode well for the future governability of Venezuela. This is a foretold ending, one which many in the region, including the Colombians themselves, had chosen to ignore. The OAS, weakened by years of complacency, will try to intervene but it is too late and frightened and formulaic diplomats are no match for the deeds and consequences of the man they have carelessly ignored over the years. PMB

Note: below a good editorial from today's Wall Street Journal


Chávez's 'War' Drums
March 4, 2008

Colombia's military scored a major antiterror victory this weekend by killing the second in command of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and 16 other FARC guerrillas. Venezuelan President and FARC ally Hugo Chávez has reacted by threatening war against Bogotá. But the real news is that the raid produced a laptop computer belonging to the expired comandante that reveals some of Mr. Chávez's secrets.

The raid that killed FARC big Raúl Reyes shocked the terrorists because it happened in Ecuador -- about a mile across the border from Colombia. The guerrillas are used to operating inside Colombia, only to escape to safe havens in Ecuador and Venezuela when Colombia's military is in hot pursuit. This time Colombian officers kept going, and for legitimate reasons of self-defense. (We doubt the U.S. would stop its troops at the border if terrorists were bombing sites in Texas from havens in Mexico.)

Mr. Chávez rushed to insist that Ecuador's sovereignty had been violated, even before Ecuador did. On his weekly television show on Sunday, the Venezuelan bully called the death of Reyes a "cowardly assassination" and observed a moment of silence. He closed the Venezuelan embassy in Bogotá, ordered 10 battalions with tanks to the Colombian border, and warned of war if the Colombian army staged a similar raid inside Venezuela.

Such a conventional war isn't likely. Colombia today has a superior military force, thanks in part to Mr. Chávez's purge of his own officer corp as a way to minimize risks of a coup d'etat against him. The war bluster is especially phony because Mr. Chavez is already waging his own guerrilla campaign against Colombia through his support for the FARC. The FARC's "foreign minister," Rodrigo Granda, was nabbed three years ago by bounty hunters in Caracas, where he was living comfortably, and a former Venezuelan military officer told us years ago that the army was instructed not to pursue the FARC in the Venezuelan jungle.

What may really have upset Mr. Chávez is the capture of Reyes's laptop. According to Colombia's top police official, General Oscar Naranjo, the computer contains evidence supporting the claim that the FARC is working with Mr. Chávez. General Naranjo said Monday that Reyes's laptop records showed that Venezuela may have paid $300 million to the FARC in exchange for its recent release of six civilian hostages. Mr. Chávez had spun those releases as a triumph of his personal mediation.

General Naranjo said the laptop also contains documents showing that the FARC was seeking to buy 50 kilos of uranium, and the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo has reported that the records revealed the sale of 700 kilograms of cocaine valued at $1.5 million. The general added that the military found a thank-you note from Mr. Chávez to the FARC for some $150,000 that the rebels had sent him when he was in prison for his attempted coup d'etat in 1992.

Ecuador, an ally of Mr. Chávez, was slow to express outrage at the Colombian raid but eventually came around. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said that the rebels were "bombed and massacred as they slept, using precision technology." He is right about that -- which is why the FARC's friends are so angry.

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