In what is the clearest evidence to date that Chavez is losing control of the political situation, or of himself, during his state of the union message he demanded that the Colombian government recognize the FARC as a genuine fighting force (long video here in Spanish). He put it as a condition for the frayed relations between Venezuela and Colombia to improve. He also added that all governments of the Americas and Europe that have the FARC listed as a terrorist organization should un-list it because "it is all just a mere pressure from the US".
Of course the Colombian government was speedy in its reply, and a precise and direct one, explaining in detail why the FARC is a terrorist group, and why it has been a terrorist group for quite a while under many Colombian presidents, and US presidents as the case might be. The Spanish text of the communique can be red here, directly from the web page of the Colombian presidency. (1)
I am not going to insult the intelligence of the readers of this blog who know full well that the FARC is a terrorists group. Besides, I illustrated the horrors of the FARC ransom business in the preceding post. Not only that, as Chavez was making his ignoble speech today, one of the two hostages freed yesterday was telling us that male hostages of the FARC are kept in shackles round the clock, when not in cages. Instead let's try to see what hides behind the whole political disaster.
First, some of the actual words of Chavez
"The FARC and ELN are not terrorist groups; they are armies, real armies that occupy a space in Colombia. We have to acknowledge the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces and the National Liberation Army. They are insurgent forces that have a Bolivarian and political project that is respected here."
You read it right, Chavez has officially thrown his support behind the FARC, he supports their goals and find perfectly fine that an armed group makes war on a democratic government which is making serious efforts to become more democratic and improve the lot of the people. If the FARC had democratic convictions they would have at least a political arm running as a serious electoral contender. It does not, its objective is simply the overthrown of whoever rules at the Casa de Nariño to create a FARC dictatorship. That Chavez considers this a Bolivarian ideal simply blows the mind, goes against all what Bolivar said, wrote, tried.
Is it really worthwhile reading other parts of the speech? Should we even bother commenting the standing ovation that the monochromatic National Assembly, a minority in the country since Decemebr 2, gave to Chavez words?
Probably we are at a very revealing moment. First, chavismo in full acknowledges publicly that it despises democracy. We knew it of course and we all knew that the democratic fake discourse would only last as long as the support of the people lasted. Flush with cash and a revenge discourse that support held until December 2. Now, chavismo realizes that it needs to reevaluate its strategy and for this it is gaining some time by pretending to be a nicer and more concerned government. We also know as of today that this also was a lie, as we expected. The words of the interior minister Rodriguez Chacin yesterday greeting and encouraging the FARC guerilla, or even his words today at a press conference where he compared the hostage and blackmail system of the FARC as a legitimate taxation system tells us volumes about the nature of the man, and those that he serves.
But it also betrays an exhausted revolution, short of ideas, short of worthwhile individuals. A Chavez suddenly forced to govern the country, forced to look to Venezuela instead of his foreign agenda is suddenly in more disarray than what we suspected. Thus this fuite en avant, this escape forward by creating an open conflict with Colombia if necessary. It is when rogues and rabid dogs are cornered that they become really dangerous. We might thus be witnessing the first spasms of the end of the bolivarian revolution and suspect that it might be bloodier than what we were afraid it would be. However perhaps it might bring the end closer as some of the folks publicly applauding today Chavez might be getting really worried about a president that went out of his established text to improvise an ultimatum to Colombia.
PS: added later. I just heard the Clara Rojas first press conference. Certain journalist (VTV; Noticias de lo Ultimo) tried to bring the talk closer to political topics, in particular trying to make her support Chavez or condemn Uribe for allegedly delaying the liberation. She did not fall for it. Then someone asked her about Chavez words today as described above, that the FARC were not terrorist. She refused to reply directly but she still said that as the FARC kept hostages they were committing crimes against humanity. In other words, it was a very elegant way to say that yes, the FARC was shit, but not directly to Chavez face as he is the one freeing her right now and still paying her hotel bill at the Melia. Chavez should not count on her much in the future.
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1) The French ambassador in Bogota declared that the terrorist FARC status in Europe was taken unanimously and could only be removed unanimously, which shows how ignorant Chavez is on democratic mechanisms elsewhere. The terrorist status is not something just handed because a US bureaucrat says so. Chavez seems unable to understand that the rest of the world does not operate how he operates himself at Miraflores.