Monday, August 10, 2009

UNASUR in Quito: another Chavez defeat?

So Correa assumed office today with a 40% approval rating, a ten points loss since his reelection, with an intractable conflict with Colombia, economic troubles, a break in his coalition, a dollarized economy that limits his populism and more. The only think he could come up with was a promise of more radicalization of his government and an attack on the local media. Let's not call it a regime yet, as we must give it the benefit of the doubt that a genuine new constitution will be put to work in Ecuador. But considering the history of the country we can already start wondering whether Correa will finish his term...

But I digress, the real news was UNASUR.

As we were all expecting yesterday, ALBA et al were going to try to gang up on Uribe. They tried but they did not succeed, even though Chavez broke protocol (imagine that!) and went on a speech on the "winds of war". In the end the UNASUR summit, the wanna-be NATO cum OAS for South America, failed to produce the Colombian condemnation that Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador sought so desperately. And I use the word "desperate" deliberately.

Not only that but president Lula said that dialog should be long and extensive, that the US should be included and that folks should be willing to hear hard truths. I guess that last part was meant for Chavez more than for the US and Uribe, you know....
"People will have to listen to hard truths, on the contrary UNASUR risks becoming a club of pals encircled by enemies from everywhere" [My translation]
Preliminary conclusions:

1) Uribe's tour last week seems to have been way more successful than anticipated, at least by Chavez

2) Chavez convenient (imagined?) Colombian invasion of yesterday did not help his cause. Nor did his drama queen speech. He did not get anything he wanted at Quito except a song a dance that evening by Correa's supporters.

3) Lula is taking seriously UNASUR and as yours truly told you, Lula knows that without Colombia, the second army of the subcontinent in number and quite likely the number one in readiness, UNASUR is meaningless. You can bet that he will do his utmost to force Colombia and Chavez to reach some understanding

4) Last but not necessarily least though it is too early to tell, the absence of Uribe and his foreign minister (Colombia only sent a vice minister) does not seem to have hurt him much. Within a very few weeks a new summit will be held possibly in Argentina where these questions will be discussed. On that respect the show of Chavez at Quito probably helped immensely Uribe: the BBC reports that at declaration time all presidents looked ill at ease. Chavez needs to learn that at international meeting serious heads of state are not keen to gang up on the absent unless the absent is a totally rogue regime which is very far from being the case of Colombia. Or put it in a more pedestrian way, Chavez needs to learn that international summits are not managed like a bully would manage the school yard or a boot camp.

But not is smooth sailing for Uribe, far from it. He gained a nice respite but he still has lots of work to do. At least now Chavez will be less of a pain in the neck, confined to cheap vociferation from Caracas.

Meanwhile it is not getting any better for Chavez in Honduras even though he paraded Zelaya in Quito all day long. Obama is now on the record saying that Chavez attitude in Honduras is an hypocrisy. Here are his words:
"The same critics who say that the United States has not intervened enough in Honduras are the same people who say that we're always intervening and the Yankees need to get out of Latin America"

"If these critics think that it's appropriate for us to suddenly act in ways that in every other context they consider inappropriate, then I think what that indicates is that maybe there's some hypocrisy involved in their -- their approach to U.S.-Latin American relations"

Canadian Prime Minster Stephen Harper supported the statements made by Mr. Obama, suggesting that "If I were an American, I would be really fed up with this kind of hypocrisy."

"You know, the United States is accused of meddling except when it's accused of not meddling," Harper said.

Now observe that Harper is a "right wing" politician and Obama a "left wing", at least in the reductionist mind of some and yet Harper came with this strong support. That is what is expected from true allies, from statesmen that are able to look a little bit further than what plays at home. It also seems that Obama paused briefly before using the H word. I love it....

Definitely, yet another rotten day for Chavez....


-The end-

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