Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Zapatero and weapons in Venezuela

Well, the visit of Zapatero et al. in what was supposed to be a "new (unholy) alliance" between Spain Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela produced enough hot air, if no real results (well, Zapatero did get a few contracts, his payoffs from endorsing Chavez).

Gossips about the bungled organization of such a summit have been circulating. From a friend in the foreign ministry, it is due in large part that the people with experience in such things are relegated on the side while new amateurish bolivarianos have been put in charge. Nothing wrong with that except that the new people have basically no practical knowledge on how to organize such events. For example the microphones were put one at the wrong time, apparently as eager beavers were trying to show the glories of El Supremo as much as possible and nobody was around to tell them that on occasion reunions are private.... But the people with experience come from the cursed past, and yet keep cashing their pay check while relegated in some back office. Ah! Venezuelan labor laws! Even the glorious revolution flounders on them!

But Zapatero business deals have drawn quite an irate response at home as Chavez is providing good fodder for the Spanish opposition. Rajoy condemned the arms deal in unambiguous terms whereas we found amusingly the socialist party spokesperson defending mercantile policies instead of peace in the area. Meanwhile those who decided among the Venezuelan opposition to meet with Zapatero delivered a very critical note reminding that Spaniard socialist are supposed to be peaceniks and not practicers of "realpolitik" (sic). This coming from socialist MAS is rather ironic, and if socialist Zapatero thought he would obtain the consent of AD and MAS to allow MVR into the "internationale socialiste", well, he will be disappointed. Zapatero might have been a little bit more fixed about the local mood if he were to read Michael Rowan latest, simply titled Nazism. One wonders about the motivation of a Spanish government bent on legitimizing the chavista regime when they should know much better from their experience with Franco.

But Zapatero cannot claim lack of knowledge. The previous Spanish ambassador left quite a dossier, I am sure. And the arm deals of Chavez are being noticed as totally inappropriate for the Venezuelan military. We could start discussing the purchase of outdated rifles (in English), outdated perhaps but strangely compatible with the weapons used presently by Colombian guerrillas. This was certainly enough for the US to protest directly to Spain its sale of weapons to Venezuela. I am certainly aware that the US is protesting in part because, well, they are not the ones selling the said weapons. Still, the apparently clearly worded note to Spain seems rather unusual in diplomatic terms and probably signifies that Zapatero is quite far from being received at the White House. It will be interesting to observe how the role of Spain will evolve within Europe as Zapatero is outdoing the French in "autonomy" with even less results than these ones. Will Venezuela become to Spain what Iraq has been to France?

Zapatero also would be well advised to look at a recent study by El Universal summarized in English by Veneconomy. Why would a country suddenly buy so many weapons when its poverty rates keep climbing as the price of oil keeps going up? Not very socialist if you ask me, Mr. Zapatero. But it seems that Zapatero is an amateur, just as the people who organized the little party to receive him in Puerto Ordaz.

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