Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Mesa in Bolivia, Rice in Florida and the hand of Chavez everywhere

For a change tonight let's visit foreign news.

Mesa resigns in Bolivia

This will of course be the most important news of the day even if it happens almost at day's end. The resignation of Bolivia's president (still reversible?) will open the door for chaos in Bolivia if people do not watch out. All the stirrings of Chavez from Venezuela might start a major civil war in Bolivia (as if he cared, anyway). Because indeed, Chavez does hold some responsibility in the coming tragedy of Bolivia, from his subsidies to Morales to his uncalled speeches on the Bolivia Chile centennial grudge.

Discussing Bolivia is extremely complex. Suffice to say for now that the Bolivian "altiplano" long suffering and long exploited natives want now to benefit from the oil and gas of the Santa Cruz province, the newcomer and the booming area of Bolivia. There was a time where Bolivia fought for the Chaco in a bloody XX century war. Paraguay won but no oil was found in the Chaco. Had Bolivia been more patient it would have realized that the oil was already at home. Meanwhile Santa Cruz grew in the recent decades to become the granary of Bolivia and the pole of industrialization.

The locals do not want to take orders come from La Paz for which there is not even a real good road to connect with. Santa Cruz looks to Brazil and Mercosur. La Paz looks at its navel. Santa Cruz thinks local initiative (even if only for the local oligarchy), decentralization. La Paz is afraid to fall into the hands of radical leaders that exploit the justified resentment of their followers. Whoever wins in La Paz will only try to control Santa Cruz and get as much money as possible from there to buy off peace from El Alto.

The conditions are nearly ideal for a civil war and a break up of the country. But of course that has never stopped our own fearless EL Supremo from probably secretly wondering whether he could run in Bolivian elections, the only country wearing the name of his idol.

A day at the beach with the OAS

Well, I am sure that some of the attendees of the OAS meeting in Fort Lauderdale will be going for a quick dip at the local beaches.

But while some go to the beaches some are doing hard work. From the Chavez side, still stung by the smiles of President Bush at Maria Corina Machado, it was damage control time. Indeed the first priority of Ali Rodriguez was to block the approval of the establishment of a democracy watch structure at the OAS. Indeed, the proposal had a last name: Chavez. The allusion was so direct that the OAS members, too many of them enjoying a slice of oil business, could not have the stomach to approve it this time. But that it was discussed and postponed for further meetings as a permanent agenda item of sorts is certainly not a victory for Chavez and could come back anytime at the top of the agenda. There was an item that was even more face losing for Chavez: his proposal to equate social justice with democracy was relegated to the very end of the agenda. Obviously people know better: silly cooked up schemes such as this one which equates democrat with populist are not helping Chavez overcome his growing isolation. All in all not a very good summit for Venezuela who gets any help it can get from countries who themselves have probably a few skeletons in their own democracy closets.

On the other side of the street, namely at the hotel where Secretary Rice is staying, Maria Corina Machado is getting a friendly 20 minutes meeting.


This time it is Ms. Rice who is showing some leg


Let's not doubt that this was a strong follow up of Bush recent reception. As a policy of state, the US has decided to encourage pro democracy groups of the civil society, no matter what a few might scream. The message is clear for both sides: "We will support only democratic ways in Venezuela. You, Chavez, better behave and let your opponents breathe and do their job. We know that your electoral system is bogus and you better clean up your act. You, opponents, get your act together and we will back you as far as we can in a legal and democratic way. Only people who work hard like Maria will be considered".

But Secretary Rice did hear from Venezuela from more than the Sumate leader. The Human Rights Watch also included the Venezuelan deterioration of Human Rights in its report over the general troubles in Latin America. Now there is no doubt at all, Ms. Rice publicly knows of Venezuela's problems. The irony is that now probably Ali Rodriguez dreads a meeting with Ms. Rice where he will have a lot of explaining to do before he can present his case.

I will like to express my personal satisfaction at the OAS receiving now many ONG to state their case. I think it will increase their effectiveness and demonstrates best which are the ones that have things to hide. Venezuela, curiously no?, was very vocally opposed at receiving any ONG. Talk about "democracia participativa y protagonica". Where else better to participate and hold front stage than at the OAS? Perhaps that explains how some pro Chavez ONG showed up in South Florida after all...

Some other OAS meeting footnotes

To conclude in no particular order.

Bush message to the OAS had Venezuela written all over. The US proposals, as Oppenheimer points out, might have been good but suffered from being proposed by the US which suffers from congenital mistrust in Latin America (not surprisingly, unfortunately).

For those not attending the Venezuela business meetings, Carlos Alberto Montaner gave them a very sobering and even pessimistic reading of the future of Venezuela in their morning local Miami newspaper. Unfortunately I cannot argue much with him as I am only too aware of the destructive rift that Chavez has inflicted on Venezuela (Bolivianizing it?). A quote deserves to be posted:
The disappearance of Chavez's government, if it occurs as a consequence of the disaster ahead, will not be the end of the problem, however. His stay at Miraflores palace will leave a ruinous aftermath that will haunt Venezuelans for at least three generations. The destruction of the economic sector won't be repaired for a long time. But the most dangerous damage will be felt in the field of human relations.

Well, three generations might be an exaggeration, but we will have lost one generation for sure, to add with the one lost since Luis Herrera.

Jackson Diehl is fast becoming a close Washington Venezuela watcher. He clearly was enthused with Maria Corina Machado in Washington DC, without stopping him from seeing what is going on really around Latin America.

But even the governments that secretly share Bush's anxieties [on Chavez] resist standing up on their own -- partly out of deference to the region's tradition of nonintervention, partly because of their disgruntlement with Bush's first-term policies and partly because they covet a slice of Chavez's growing pile of petrodollars.

He is another one that "gets it" on Venezuela. They are adding up and I cannot remember when was the last time that Chavez, milions and all, got a major newspaper columnist on his side.

To leave with a different note. Many have complained about the picture of MCM with Bush and will complain about her picture with secretary Rice. So I will leave the thoughtfull reader with a picture taken in Cuba a few days ago when the Venezuelan Vice president was visiting. Which of all of the pictures posted in this blog recently is the biggest affront to Human Rights and Dignity? Opinions might vary, but I will advise people to think about it before they blurt out their opinion.



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PS: Added later. Miguel debunks really well the words of Venezuela's foreign minister in Fort Lauderdale. Bless his heart, he has more patience than I do with dealing with the bolibananarian nonsense.

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