Monday, June 13, 2005

The Bolivarian foreign policy of Venezuela

It is greatly amusing to observe how Venezuela is attempting to forge a Foreign Policy for the glorious revolution. Not that its aim is unclear: the goals of the foreign service are now to promote the glory of the revolutionary leader, and plant wherever possible the seeds for future bolivarian movements: "bolivarian circles" are sponsored wherever they can find a few souls willing to deal with the hodgepodge of chavismo ideas whose only common denominator is "death to the US", more or less virulently expressed. These circles are incredibly useful to make up quickly a claque whenever a stupendous bolivarian leader is in town. And, if needed, the embassy or consulate personnel is required to go fast make bulk. Oh yes! There is talk of social justice, redistribution, "democracia participativa and protagonica" which at this hour nobody is really quite sure how this work except that so far we see only a few participate and only one protagonist. But I digress.

A few days ago we were treated to a El Nacional article describing us how a training program at the foreign ministry was supposed to prepare new diplomatic leaders in three weeks. I kid you not. Interestingly this program was lead by Izarra senior, the father of Izarra the communication minister, who after a love in, love out relationship with Chavez has found a way back on the payroll by becoming the ideological lead of the foreign ministry: vice minister for the areas of the world where Venezuela has the least business to do. This seems to leave him with plenty of time on his hands which he uses to create and promote the new image of the foreign service personnel whose main attribute must be devotion to El Supremo. We assume that they will still require them to be able to write at least in Spanish.

But the foreign ministry is going further. A new law is going to pass soon to allow the bolivarian leadership to bypass the career vocation of the foreign service which normally should be removed from the political fray, at the service of Venezuela only. The days where Venezuela interests were first are gone. The problem is that they cannot fire career public servants who do their job just because at a personal level they do not think El Supremo is hot stuff. So, in the purest populist and demagogic manner, it seems that the numbers of public servants will be increased as much as needed. The older ones? Well, they can shuffle papers waiting for their retirement as their experience cannot be trusted even to translate information to the new ones coming in who in some cases barely can put two sentences together. Meritocracy? Not!

For the reader that thinks this blogger has lost it, a quote from declarations of Delcy Rodriguez, vice minister for Europe (and interestingly the sister of infamous Rodriguez of the CNE)
"This is a foreign office that is going to grow and it will do so proportionately with its restructuring. If we have 5 vice ministers, well, I suppose that we will grow fivefold"
Just like her big brother growing chavismo votes? The cynicism of some chavistas is quite something to behold!

Now, the reader might wonder whether Venezuela is getting something out of a naked attempt at close political control of the foreign service when the rule of civilized countries is to make it bipartisan. The reader might even want to know if El Supremo is getting something, really. Well, so far it does not seem so.

Slap at the OAS

The last OAS meeting was overall a defeat for Venezuela. It avoided the worst which was a clumsy attempt by the US to modify the OAS charter to "monitor" democracy. Venezuela's communication minister Izarra claims this to be a great success for Venezuela's diplomacy when in fact this initiative failed more by the error of the US, its ill timing (1) and the desire of grown up countries like Brazil not to be exposed to such type of observation. Venezuela in fact had nothing to do with that US failure and should not take credit for it(2); in fact, Venezuela should realize that it is doing Brazil (and other) dirty work.

Actually, one could say that the only country to lose as much or even more than the US in Fort Lauderdale was Venezuela who failed to satisfy its real obsession, to stop NGO like SUMATE from attending the meeting and expose Venezuelan civil rights problems. In fact, the foreign ministry probably helped set up ad hoc NGO out of nothing to send them and counter SUMATE arguments. Seasoned politicians certainly saw through that decoy, in particular when they heard the envoys to Fort Lauderdale use in the same paragraph "democracia participativa y protagonica" twice, as seen on TV. And all of them using that slogan whenever possible, as seen on TV too. This is not obscure diplomatese, this is just garbage, and an insulting one to the intelligence of attendees. Will these "NGOers" get an appointment at the Foreign Office once the new law passes?

Insult in Ecuador

A surprising hit came from Ecuador new government. Herreria, the government secretary declared:
The Bolivarian project of Hugo Chavez is a horrible project which comes lose from Venezuela, goes through Colombia, through Ecuador where it destabilized the country's institutions,[...], reaches Peru and peaks in Bolivia which can be the fuse to set on fire the region
Quite clear, isn't it? Venezuela was not amused and protested irately (and not very diplomatically, by the way). But what would Caracas expect? Alberto Garrido had yesterday an extremely comprehensive review of Venezuela, or rather Chavez foreign policy goals. And reading it, for those who can read Spanish, cannot be good news for anyone holding office in Latin America these days, not even Lula. And forget about Foggy Bottom smiling on that!

Bolivian accusations

So, trying to counter attack himself, perhaps considering the failures of the foreign ministry to prop his world leader status up, Chavez decided yesterday to blame all of Bolivia's trouble on the US, the BBC dutifully reporting it. Even this fearless blogger acknowledges that the complexity of Bolivia should bring anyone to discuss this topic with the outmost care. But Chavez forges ahead, irresponsibly. After all Bolivia is in the news so Chavez gets to shine some and distract from problems at home such as PDVSA corruption or OAS failures.

There is no pretending that Evo Morales does not get support from Venezuela: he has traveled too often to Havana and Caracas; he has been vaunted publicly too often; it is commonly assumed that financial help has been sent to his movement. However, what is a fatal flaw of Chavez there is to put all of his eggs with Morales, apparently even asking him to accept the recent truce. Evo Morales is far from being the one and only leader in Bolivia indigenous movements. Felipe Quispe has not been invited too often to Caracas. This is a very dangerous leader who is on record as not been afraid to enter civil war in Bolivia, who despises Morales even as he must make common front with him and grants interviews under a Chavez portrait. This is a petard that can blow on Chavez face real bad. Bolivia is not a one leader country like Venezuela, and a good foreign service could point out that to El Supremo, if this one were inclined to listen, of course......

It is a complex world and Chavez needs a professional foreign office. But he is building a militant one that will only ensure more and more trouble and less and less efficiency on the international front. But after all, the only thing that Chavez wants is for people to talk of him all the time. He has learned long ago that there is no such thing as bad publicity in show business.

--- --- --- ---

1) this rather worthy initiative by the US to make adherence to democracy more than lip service to elections should have been undertaken as a long term project and not as an obvious anti Chavez measure. In the best of times it would have required at least a couple of years to work its way through the intricacies of relationships within the Americas. But the State Department is suffering of years of neglect as to Latin America and Secretary Rice cannot be expected to change all of this in a few months. As chavismo is becoming more of a concern, some at State thought that trying to rush such an initiative would put pressure on Chavez. It did, but perhaps at the cost of delaying discussion of the initiative for a while. It is quite possible that Secretary Rice, whose own role at the OAS meeting was more stellar than her employees in spite of her "I must return to the United States", might use their blunders there to look for more qualified personnel for Latin America affairs. Which of course could be further bad news for Chavez.

2) some examples of the silly spin that Venezuela is trying to put on the OAS meeting, with cartoon, and with the Foreign minister declarations, very unbecoming if his goal is to improve US Venezuela relations. And this from the magazine that pretends to offer impartial analysis from the chavista side, Temas. And then some complain of bloggers...

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