Thursday, July 05, 2007

Colombia fights back, and it is only starting

There was an election today in Colombia and the FARC lost by landslide. In every major city of Colombia hundreds thousands of people, all in white shirts went out to demand that the FARC stops violence, that it surrenders the bodies of the 11 provincial legislators who had been held as hostages for FIVE years and who were killed by the FARC. The FARC tried to pin the deaths on a military operation but so far it seems that there is only the FARC to be blamed for these deaths. It is known that the FARC hostage guards have orders to kill the hostages if they try to escape or if some authority were to stand a chance to free them.

Amazingly, part of the reason of the march is to reject the preposterous FARC demand that the bodies will only be returned to the grieving families if Uribe's government gives up control of some areas, demilitarization being an euphemism for FARC ruled areas where they can indoctrinate and recruit in peace poor peasants to be sent elsewhere in Colombia. Thus the FARC can keep perpetuating and drug lords can keep planting coca and laboratories to process cocaine. Oh yes, the paramilitary AUC are also involved in the lucrative drug trafficking, but that should not detract from the fact that the FARC has long been financing their "liberation" activities in part through drug trafficking, now made easy by the friendly Venezuelan government. That today the interior ministry of Venezuela, Pedro Carroña, claims again that his cops are increasing the volume of seized drugs does not mean he is telling us if it is due to a more efficient security system or to an increased drug passage through Venezuela.

Today images coming from Colombia were truly impressive. Medellin, Cali, Cartagena, Baranquilla, Bogota held at the same time immense rallies, even if it was a working day. I suppose that some activities were also held in minor centers but these news have not reached Venezuela. The fact of the matter is that the FARC has suffered a major PR set back and today's millions are the harbinger of a country becoming more resolute in confronting the FARC. The BBC in Spanish has a link with some pictures but Colombian newspapers tomorrow will surely have better material. By the way the BBC does not dare to pronounce the word million, probably still having a romantic look at the FARC, but the Colombian police reports 3.5 million in total for the 4 largest cities of Colombia.

And what has been Venezuela reaction after the announced murder of 11 Colombian hostages? Nothing until today, and just some declaration at the exit from our independence day ceremonies by our foreign minister Maduro. That is right, Venezuela had to wait for a week until finally it had some form of public, but informal, declaration. Everyday the sympathies of chavismo for the FARC are harder and harder to hide. Oh yes, there are regular declarations for peace in Colombia but whenever Venezuela is pressed on the FARC it dodges the issue with a lame "it is an internal issue of Colombia" while at the same time interfering with any other government that dares to express a slight dissension with Chavez. Colombia has to be the only government that chavismo "does not declare on". I mean, as a neighboring country I understand the prudence. But considering the track record of Chavez with other countries, the ambiguity in Colombia is at best hypocrisy.

But I am afraid that Colombia has more to fear from Venezuela than the ambiguity of whomever serves Chavez at Casa Amarilla. Venezuela is running ahead with its weapon purchases, and most of them from Russia now as apparently no one else is either willing to sell, or is deemed worthy enough of chavismo. Apparently the 5 submarines deal will go ahead, and will be accompanied by a variety of ships and tanks, in addition to the planes and helicopters and hundred of thousand of KAL already here. The question of why all these weapons is becoming more and more pressing.

Anyone able to read a map knows perfectly well that strategically there is only one border from where war could come from, or started against: it is the Colombian border. Brazil is too far, a single route that never ends through a deep jungle is all that links it to Venezuela. And even if the border is crossed it would still be hundreds of miles until the XXI century bandeirantes could reach any real Venezuelan objective. Besides, has not Brazil grown a huge trade balance in its favor with Venezuela? Why conquer it when you can buy it?

Trinidad and Guyana? Gimme a break!

The US? It is becoming everyday less dependent on Venezuelan oil, which probably suits it fine as Venezuelan oil production is going down anyway according to any serious observer. Besides the US does not need to invade Venezuela: a blockade will be enough since we must import 60% of our food. A percentage that seems to be increasing yearly as Chavez remains in office. Oh yes, the subs!!! Well, if they are good enough they might sink a couple of US ships before they are sunk themselves. The US will send old ships first, with as little crew as possible and that will be all that it takes to starve Venezuela.

So, why the arms build up? A fear of Colombia invasion? True, Colombia could well seize Zulia and this one could well accept going to Colombia if Chavez creates his life long dictatorship. But will the world accept such a land grab? Will even the US accept Colombia to grab Zulia? This would create such a regional instability that it is not worth it. That is, as long as Chavez keeps pumping oil, even to sell to the Chinese.

No, one reason is becoming clearer as days go by: the target of the Venezuelan weapon build up is probably nothing else but Colombia. It could be either to counter a US-Colombo invasion or to promote a Venezuelan invasion to Colombia. The beauty of this last scheme is that a strong Venezuelan army does not need to invade Colombia, it just needs to threaten to do so UNLESS Colombia gives favorable terms to the FARC, terms that will eventually result with the FARC taking control of Bogota. And then Chavez thinks that the FARC will follow its leadership. We are talking here a post Uribe period.

For a while with the AUC/paramilitary scandal it seemed that Uribe was weakening and the FARC might have thought about putting renewed pressure on his government. But today huge rallies in Colombia reveal that Uribe has still a few good days ahead of him. Maybe even Venezuela was surprised and decided at the last minute to finally send a condolence message, when it realized that the assassination of 11 legislators was a major FARC blunder. That is fine after all, Venezuela needs at least two more years to strengthen its army and shut down Chavez internal opposition once and for all. Then as Uribe prepares to leave office, the time of danger will come. Before 2011?

-The end-

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