Updated! I was commenting on my last post that the replies of Ambassador designate to Venezuela, Larry Palmer, to Senator Lugar were rather interesting. In them, among other pearls, he discussed the lack of morale of the Venezuelan army, the Cuban influence, the inability of Chavez to make real his threat of cutting oil supply to Venezuela and other such. I read them as mild mannered since I am living at ground zero and thus all what Palmer said is true and in fact much worse than what his diplomatic language implied. But of course the reality to which I should have been more sensible is that no ambassador can ever express itself on internal matters of the country he is sent to, the more so that he has not set foot in that country yet.
Sure enough today Venezuela was duly upset and sent nothing less than the defense ministry to reply, proving indirectly that whatever Palmer said did hit bull's eye somewhere. The retort from State was that it shared the worries of Larry Palmer. Yeah, right, as if they were not the ones who coached him before the hearings..... You can read a tidbit in English here from CNN as the news obviously does not rate very high in the Google news page on US foreign policy.
Clearly here we have a significant political snafu or move. Or both....
One hypothesis is that the questions to Palmer were not supposed to be made public, at least not yet, not until he had reached Caracas. If we have a leak from the US Senate foreign committee then it might be due to the desire to downgrade at least for the time being the nature of the US representation to Caracas.
But then again State came to support Palmer without obvious strains between Lugar and State. Are we in front of a concerted policy to have Chavez reject Palmer as an ambassador to Venezuela forcing Obama to name another one, a process that would last at least until next year to confirm?
I am not the fly on the wall to be able to tell you exactly what kind of game is being played right now between GOP and Dems, Senate and State, over what to do about Chavez, but I must admit that it would make sense for the US not to have an ambassador in Caracas for a while without needing to break relations with the US. Why do I say that you may ask?
First, the ludicrous but ever useful racial card. Larry Palmer is an African American, and a very dark one at that. With a US president and a US ambassador as African Americans that would put Chavez racial stupid games in check, the more so if he refuses to receive Palmer. I know, I know, we are in the XXI century but do not forget that Chavez has not quite left the XIX century yet, he does not think PC like we do and the State Department should not waste such an opportunity to annoy Chavez.
But another much more acceptable explanation is that simply the US is tired of being the convenient punching ball for Chavez insecurities and decided that no ambassador should be subjected to the torture of representing the US in today's Venezuela. By having Palmer talk too much, relations are not broken, information keeps flowing to the embassy since there is nothing that a good chargé d'affaires cannot manage. And in time of economic crisis you save the pay check of an ambassador that would be useless anyway as no high member of the Chavez administration would dare to talk to Palmer without the express order from Chavez himself. Thus the US is leaving to Chavez the option to receive an ambassador while taking the opportunity to tell the world how bad things are getting inside Venezuela and that they do not really care for an ambassador there. Twisted but more productive than what you may think because the humiliated party will not be Palmer who might be already be breathing easier while he is shelving his plans to pack his suitcases to Caracas. Chavez is the one that will be upset.
And NO, this does not mean that the US is planning an invasion to Venezuela and wants to protect his ambassador: the embassy is there, a huge one at that with plenty of US personnel processing hundreds and hundreds of visa petitions a week. I should know as I had to renew my visa recently and spent a total of 4 hours until I finally got to the interview windows, after maybe 300 people went ahead of me. Funny how a country whose president is always blaming the US for the evils of the world is still having huge lines of people trying to get in... At any rate, too many interests still in Venezuela, too many US citizens still here to even consider a bombing raid somewhere and thus a putative need to withdraw the ambassador before he is taken as hostage or something.
PS: sorry about the stupid pun of the title, I could not resist.
UPDATE: If you understand Spanish watch today's declaration by the minister of defense and observe how the poor guy thinks he is contradicting Palmer's words at the hearings when in fact he is almost confirming everything. A new landmark in pathetic chavistas. But dangerous with their guns anyway....