This past two days have been full of the insults sent to Tony Blair by Chavez after this one suggested that Venezuela might want to play by international rules. There are two ways to look at these news: the Chavez circus or the real reasons why Tony Blair took such a step. The circus might be more fun but does not interest me. Yet I must briefly describe the set up before going into the really interesting part.
Tony Blair, Prime Minister of the UK, had certainly no need to tell Venezuela to start playing by international rules. Besides, some even question whether the US and the UK could even utter such things after happily invading Iraq. But this is for a totally different blog. Here I’ll only bother reporting the government reaction. First Chavez insulted Blair by sending him to a place with sexual connotations: el z/c/sipote. Naively translated as “Hell” by El Universal. Today he went one step further demanding that the UK restitutes the Falklands to Argentina (making historical mistakes, but heck, he knows nothing). One could shut him up fast by reminding him that he might want to see into ways to recover our Guyana portion that he gave up, for all practical purposes; but since he is an ignorant preaching to ignorants anything goes.
To show further how ignorant and incompetent is the new revolutionary personal at the Venezuelan foreign office, the rebuttal emitted today by the vice minister, Pavel Rondon, is an exercise in irrelevance and basic ignorance on how other countries operate.
The over reacting of Chavez being discussed enough, the burning question is why would Tony Blair expose himself to the vulgarity of Chavez? Because you can be sure of one thing, this was no mere mistake at Question Time in Westminster. You do not get to be a three terms Prime Minister in the UK if you do not know exactly what and why you say anything at any time. You need to go to Thatcher or Wilson to find as good or better than Blair.
This was a warning by the European Union that Chavez is starting to bother them. And this was done in spite of the significant interests of Paris and Madrid in Venezuela. What Tony Blair expressed is what is discussed behind closed doors in Brussels among ALL members; and more than likely represent a consensus opinion. I would go even as far as saying that Blair volunteered to utter this very first warning to Chavez since he is already in cahoots with Bush and has less to risk than others with Chavez.
And why is Europe starting to get upset with Chavez?
Well, to start with there is that electoral report of last December. European observers seem to have been particularly incensed about the Tascon/Maisanta list. This list which rates citizens according to their political leanings is used widely to decide who gets what from the government, creating in practice second class citizens. In a continent that fought savage world wars, genocides and totalitarianisms of all stripes, this type of initiative is a NO-NO.
A now perhaps even more pressing issue is the Iran nuclear energy question that is too close to home for comfort, literally. Iran can soon do simple nuclear missiles that could reach Europe before they are able to reach the US. And the avowed wish to erase Israel of the map by the Mullahs and their new underling president is something that Europeans simply cannot stand for. Endorsing Teheran so readily was a major mistake for Chavez. There are even rumors that the problems with expulsion of missionaries of the Amazon or the new mining laws are a way to control better the area and hide Uranium prospecting activities (it does not help that the Iran Venezuela joint ventures are busts but are settled in Guyana).
Furthermore even the European countries with heavy interests in Venezuela are starting to hurt. The French are upset that their contracts are harder and harder to renew in spite of all the graces and smiles of their embassy to chavismo (a subject already addressed in this blog with utter disgust at the French complacency with Chavez). When Total started paying twice as many taxes as expected and when Chavez started blackmailing Chirac into pretending to be his good pal so as to sign new contracts he might have gone a tad too far.
But even Spain might start having second thoughts. The planes sale to Venezuela not only got stuck when the US refused to allow US technology to be used, but the pro Chavez socialists Spaniards started to realize that their Venezuelan interests might not be anymore protected than those of the complacent French. Furthermore, this US Spain difficulty could compromise the wished for US trade. Let’s face it; the US is a much bigger market for Spain than Venezuela. And to top it off, the abuses committed against some Spanish nationals whose property was illegally seized in Yaracuy (among other places) has forced Chavez lover Moratinos, the Spanish foreign minister, to announce that it will defend his citizens interests in Venezuela. A first for ill advised Zapaterismo who might finally be getting the idea on what Chavez is really about.
So, when you follow the dots, is it that surprising that Blair did say what he said? I think not. I also think that chavismo might have missed the boat completely. Unless it got the point really well and has decided to send Europe and the rest of the world to el zipote. After all if you are contemplating illegal and illegitimate elections to stay into office until 2030, why bother with foreign nosy observers? We’ll see.