someone shut chavez up

Posted on March 5, 2008

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Will someone please ask Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez to shut up, sit down and stop stoking tensions in South America?

Perhaps the Spanish king, Juan Carlos, would do us all a favor again and help to put Chavez in his place.

The mad man of Venezuelan is off his meds, raving and frothing at the mouth once again. But this time, other Latin American countries are finding themselves, unfortunately and reluctantly, on his side.

Though his neighbor and rival Colombia had not invaded his country’s territory nor did the incident have anything to do with Venezuela, Chavez has been railing at Colombia for entering Ecuadorian territory in a daring raid to kill one of the leaders of terrorist group, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Over the weekend, Colombian forces went into the jungle camp bordering Ecuador and Colombia, where FARC guerillas were hiding. It was an incursion a few kilometers in Ecuadorian territory, where Colombian forces were believed to have killed FARC’s number two leader, Raul Reyes, along with other rebels.

Chavez has since been escalating tensions. Besides a war of words, he has been amassing thousands of troops at his country’s border with Colombia. Venezuela has also recalled its ambassador from Bogata, expelled Colombia’s ambassador to Caracas, and closed the border between both countries.

His outburst holds bigger calculations than just upsetting Colombia. He is hoping to stoke more anti-US feelings in the region, as Colombia is a staunch US ally, and to stir up passions to sway Latin American opinion to his side. It would also be his revenge on Colombia for giving him the role of intermediary to negotiate hostage release with the FARC, but a role that Colombia stripped off him quickly.

Chavez looks like he is winning the public relations part of things, as most of the countries of the Organization of American States (OAS) had denounced Colombia’s incursion into Ecuadorian territory as a violation of Ecuador’s sovereignty.

Privately though, these countries might feel that Colombia’s move was justified as an action to defend the country against the criminal actions of FARC, which traffics drugs and kidnaps foreigners and politicians to fund its anti-government army. The OAS might end their action at just a condemnation of Colombia and leave it at that, seeing how they are also turned off by Chavez’s insistence on interfering in an issue that should be strictly between Colombia and Ecuador.

Though there is no love lost between the White House and Chavez, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino made a valid point when she said, “We do think it’s curious that a country such as Venezuela would be raising a spectre of military action against a country who was defending itself against terrorism. That says a lot about Venezuela.”

But the OAS also needs to condemn Chavez’s glorification of FARC’s leaders and their unsavory tactics, along with his constant undermining of the Colombian government. Over the weekend, Chavez had called for a minute of silence during his television broadcast to honor downed rebel Reyes and portrayed the FARC as brave heroes seeking to overturn the elites in Colombia. This has given Chavez opponents ammunition to question his judgment. “Chavez is effectively supporting narcoterrorists who take refuge in Venezuela and Ecuador while saying a democratically elected leader of Colombia cannot fight back,” Diego Arria, a former Venezuelan ambassador to the United Nations and a vocal critic of Chavez, told the New York Times.

News had also emerged that Chavez had actually given FARC some $300 million in funds, and the FARC had been trying to purchase uranium to make a dirty bomb.

In the meantime, Colombian president Alvaro Uribe has been keeping a cool head and refused to let the irrationality of Chavez’s sable-rattling affect him. Uribe also pledged not to be swept up in the rhetoric or be drawn into an open war with his neighbors.

Shut up, listen and learn, Chavez.

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