Hugo Chávez Isn't 'Paranoid' to Fear the U.S. Marines
fear of U.S. intervention in Venezuela cannot be dismissed as pure paranoia, particularly
after the failed coup d'état in 2002. To ignore this would be to deny the long
history of U.S. military intervention in Latin America."
In Colombia, Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez is often branded as crazy and unpredictable. I don't want
to get into that debate. However, I think that in the case of the so-called U.S.
bases in Colombia, President Chavez' response was extremely predictable. And given
this predictability, the Colombian government's complaints regarding Chavez'
reaction surprise me.
I'd like to
clarify at the outset that I'm no fan of Chavez. I deeply dislike his
his bellicosity and
his interventionist spirit. Moreover, I believe along with the vast majority of
Colombians, that he collaborates with Colombian guerillas, which are partly
responsible for the horrible tragedy we have experienced in recent decades.
However, a country cannot choose
its neighbors or the rulers thereof. Nor can it move. So when you have a major difficulty
with a neighboring country, one has to decide whether to address it through diplomacy
so as to minimize it as much as possible, or opt for other measures, even if they
may exacerbate the conflict.
In its agreement on the “U.S.
bases,” the Colombian government - which hopes to strengthen its relationship with
the United States - also accepted the exacerbation of its conflict with Chavez.
As expected, he reacted harshly.
Since the beginning of his reign,
Chavez has lost no opportunity to demonstrate his animosity toward Washington: sparing
no insult against U.S. leaders, he has established relations with its worst
enemies - many of which are recognized human rights violators - and in many
ways he has interfered in the domestic affairs of other countries in the region
in order to export his political model.
Because of this, his fear of U.S.
intervention in Venezuela cannot be dismissed as pure paranoia, particularly
after the failed
coup d'état in 2002. To ignore this would be to deny the long history of U.S.
military intervention in Latin America.
Some say that
with Obama, a U.S. military intervention in the region is unlikely. I agree
with that. But we can't forget that Chavez's messianic style compels him to govern
Venezuela indefinitely. Besides, Obama isn't the first U.S. president to try
and establish a new relationship with Latin America. Franklin Delano Roosevelt
and Jimmy Carter did as well. And they were succeeded by presidents who had no qualms
about sending their Marines into the region.
The Colombian government says
that the agreement doesn't contemplate a North American base in Colombia and in
no way alters the cooperative relationship that already exists between Colombia
and the United States. Likewise, it says that Venezuela has also signed several
agreements with countries of dubious repute and that the U.S. wouldn't need
bases in Colombia to intervene in Venezuela.
I'm not really interested in
establishing whether the Colombian government's assertions are true or accurate.
The important thing is that, quite predictably, the Venezuelan government
believes that the agreement on the bases constitutes a threat to its sovereignty
and has responded accordingly.
The truth is that up to now, the
folly of the two governments has led to a collapse of trade between the two
countries - trade that's very important for Colombia. Let's hope that there is
still enough rationality to prevent a military clash between us. It would be a conflict
contrary to the desire for peace of both Colombians and Venezuelans. This would
be a complete disaster that neither of our two peoples could forgive.
*Juan Fernando Jaramillo
is a professor at the National University and a member of the Center for the
Study of Law, Justice and Society - DeJuSticia– (www.dejusticia.org).
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