UPDATED. Do not count me in those who think the latest initiative of Uribe in bringing Venezuela to account for its harboring of FARC terrorists inside its borders is the sure sign of a rift between Uribe and his protege president elect Santos. The OAS session to deal with the accusations will be held next Thursday and one would think that sparks will fly. But thinking that this is the main show would also be a mistake.
Today Colombia marked in grand pomp its own bicentennial, in a much better prepared way, more meaningful than whatever Chavez did on the run last April 19. Since there has to be a military parade, Colombia did one, dignified, complete, of a victorious and proud army, not the circus of the corrupted army that Venezuela now has. In addition the event was Colombia wide, with concerts everywhere and other cultural and historical activities, not like in Venezuela where everything was limited to a quick repainting of a few streets and an over-dimensioned and over-ridicule parade.
If I bring this to collation it is because both Uribe and Santos are the creators of that mood in Colombia, where investments boom, where the world economic crisis is now a memory, now that trust in a better future has come. Thinking that the extraordinary work that these two men have done could be undone on a mere FARC-Venezuela caprice is ridiculous. Uribe started the process but when Santos finally became his minister, he is the one that directed "operacion jaque" and the end of Reyes in Ecuador. Tuesday's Uribe speech included an additional parting attack on Chavez even if his name was not mentioned. What was mentioned was that Colombia and Venezuela are now on such distant economic systems that the implication is that any meaningful rapprochement is illusory at best.
I suspect that this was the objective of Uribe all along, to bring down to earth Santos's followers still in the euphoria of his magnificent electoral win. This is not about an Uribe being pissed that his Medvedev would not work out as planned. To begin with in a presidential system there is no room for any Medvedev like character: when Uribe leaves the Casa de Nariño in a couple of weeks he is simply going to be gone. Period. Santos will be in charge and any power Uribe has could only come because Santos gives it to him or because Uribe manages to wrestle control of Congress. No way around.
I do not like conspiracy theories but I am willing to consider that the whole spat of recent days was probably planned a long time ago, when Santos was still a candidate. Uribe could not have offered for successor a strong man like Santos without seeing eye to eye with him on the basics. And a successful team like they did implies enough complicity that by now they probably do not need to talk to understand what the other one really thinks, each allowing "their people" and journalists run mad with the ball. The usual feeding frenzy that accompanies changes in the crown....
To understand better you must need to understand what are Colombia's real priorities. These are economic: an FTA with the US, and FTA with whomever they can, and an economic growth of at least 5% average for at least a decade. This, and only this will finally once and for all kill the FARC and ELN narco-guerillas. In front of such ambitious programs what does the commerce with Venezuela mean? The more so that Venezuela is promised to sink further and further the longer Chavez remains in office. Heck! Trade with Ecuador could even overtake current trade with Venezuela if Santos makes peace with Correa! I think that people still give too much credit to Chavez power. True, he has the power to be a major annoyance but for all practical purpose he really is not anymore a threat to Colombia, certainly less of a threat himself than that of the FARC he protects.
So why is Uribe reviving the issue of FARC chiefs ensconced inside Venezuela, something that we have known for a decade now!!!
I think that Uribe is deliberately trying to look like the bad guy, the one that wants war with Chavez, the one that sabotaged an eventual visit of Chavez for Santos inauguration. And Santos plays along, pretending that this is the beginning of a rift between them.
Uribe does not risk much: his place in history is secure and whatever he does these days will be quickly forgotten by the Colombian people. But he gets a lot of what is missing from his rule. Santos, a hawk if any, will be perceived as a dove. His first visit to the U.S. will advance the so much desired FTA as truly no one will have excuses now that Uribe is gone and that the U.S. needs all the friends it can get this side of the world.
Santos gets the perfect excuse not to have to receive Chavez, someone he surely loathes deeply and with whom he probably is tempted to wash his hands after greeting him. And yet he looks good since he invited Chavez until Uribe sabotaged the visit! Since the dispute with Venezuela can only be solved if Chavez stops supporting the FARC, something that will not happen in the conceivable future, Santos gets to blame Uribe for the impasse for at least a few months, probably for more than a year if he manages things well. This allows for Santos to preserve his grand coalition for at least half of his term since managing the difficult relationship with Venezuela left by Uribe will be a priority and thus a unifying force now that the government cannot count anymore on a strong FARC as a scarecrow. As for the people at the Colombo-Venezuelan border, well, Santos will be able now to tell them that he tried but Uribe screwed it so that they should be patient for a while until he can solve the situation. And this assuming that this electorate were to be anti Santos, something dubious since he showed some of his strongest margins of victory in border states!
I do not know whether I am right, but if I am then Uribe is in fact giving a fabulous present for Santos to start!
This is not to say that the OAS show of Thursday will be a masquerade: it will be real! But do not expect the OAS to condemn Venezuela, not even Uribe in his wildest dreams hopes for such a just measure. No, this is the start of the diplomatic official downfall of Venezuela. What will be interesting is to see what countries do, which side they go with. A few months ago no one would have dared to side openly against Venezuela, if anything to avoid the verbal abuse coming from Chavez. But now that Colombia dares it will be much easier for many countries to do so, the more so that already Chile arrives with a grievance after its senators were insulted by chavismo. Surprises are not to be ruled out as Peru, Panama, the US, Canada and even an island or two in the Caribbean could express vocally their displeasure with Venezuela. The key moment here is how much will Brazil will come to the bat to defend Venezuela. It will, but the key here is with what conviction. You may even expect a more muted Argentina than usual as the current corruption scandal of the parallel embassy in Caracas is causing many a head ache for the Kirchners.
It is becoming interesting. On one hand the Uribe government announces that it is not seeking sanctions against Venezuela, merely that the OAS help solve the situation (monitoring Venezuela? forcing Chavez to cooperate in removing FARC camps inside our borders? Dream on!)
And on the other hand, the Ecuador ambassador to the OAS resigned because his government wanted him to stop the convocation to the Thursday meeting. He was quickly replaced in the chair by the Salvador ambassador who had no problem in calling for the reunion.
What to make of this?
First, the Colombian attitude is probably strategic, understanding that there is no mood to condemn Venezuela, justifiably because the story is old an there is no new reason to push it forward again. However, this could also mean that having put pressure on the OAS by releasing some of that pressure Colombia might expect more support, if anything out of gratitude by avoiding a big unpleasant confrontation that no one wants, maybe including Chavez.
Second, at least in Salvador and Ecuador in spite of leftist rhetoric there are still serious diplomats. Something missing for already a few years in Venezuela where diplomats are expected to be mere mouthpieces of Chavez idiocy du jour.