The Venezuela-Colombian border crisis should have been a fantastic opportunity to put the Venezuelan narco-regime on notice. Instead it serves as show case on how the appeasement policies of Obama and Santos are sinking fast.
The crisis was an absolutely artificial creation of the Venezuelan regime, increasingly taxed by its faults. As polls plummet for the regime when crucial elections are scheduled for December 6, this one has done all what it can to sabotage them. One offensive was to go straight ahead and jail major opposition figures, bar from running other, gerrymander further the districts, increase censorship and try to bankrupt the scant remaining free press. Elections? Sure! Just try to campaign! However it was an uphill battle to regain the favor of its electors, the only real way to win elections. Since the economy has tanked there is only one option left to rekindle the love of the chavista voter: chauvinistic nationalism, redundancy intended.
First there was a renewed anti US anti Obama drive. This one floundered when Havana and Washington started real talks and petered out at the recent OAS general assembly when Maduro got to see Obama without cameras for a brief moment, long enough for Obama to talk him down.
It seems thus that the "millions" of anti Obama signatures "freely collected" and validated without scruples by the "electoral authorities" were not enough to raise polls for a durable hold. So Maduro sought a conflict with Guyana over maritime and territorial claims. The only result of that came with a further loss of the Venezuelan case; and that the supposedly meek supporters of Venezuela in CARICOM went Guyana way without batting an eyelash. Isolation is thy name, Maduro.
Having been defeated in the imaginary northern border with the US of A and the Eastern border of Guyana there were only two borders left. The one in the South with Brazil is far and dicey although it seems the regime will try something. But the Western border with Colombia was ripe with existing excuses, or fertile grounds to plant new ones.
There are all sorts of theories on how the pretext came about. Some say that it all started from a rivalry between two narco-gangs in Venezuela, the one of the "Soles" and the one of "Guajira", both pointed out as being at least partially controlled by different wings of the army. Others say that it was a mere rivalry between gangs controlling the heavy contraband system towards Colombia, courtesy of the artificially deflated prices of Venezuelan goods. Others advance that it was a way to get rid of Tachira governor rumored to be in talks with "transition" proposals. Some even go as far as saying the whole show is just to put pressure on Santos who may extradite to the US compromising witnesses of the narco-regime in Caracas. None of these pretexts exclude the others, by the way.
Clearly, something as crazed as that, with damning images of human rights abuses as Colombians in Venezuela are rudely expelled when not leaving in a hurry motu proprio, should have been a bonus, a golden opportunity for Colombian and US diplomacy to read a writ to Venezuela. Unfortunately the errors of Santos and Obama policies toward Venezuela's regime are now paid, most likely under Cuban direction. Which have been these mistakes?
Obama's mistakes come from opening to Cuba without proper reciprocity. Thinking that making the first step toward a totalitarian regime will bring concessions is a mistake that the West should have learned once and for all in 1938 while drinking beer in Munich. Certainly I approved of Obama's initiatives since everything else tried before by the US has failed; more by lack of will than actual vices or virtues of any legislation. But one thing is to approve the initial gesture, another thing is to approve the mechanism chosen. The result is that as soon as Cuba realized that the big bucks were not coming fast the Castro's regime started increasing repression and moving its pieces elsewhere. Extortion is the natural state for these people and that Obama and Kerry thought it would be different this time around is simply bedeviling.
The second mistake was sending Shannon to discuss with Maduro and Cabello without anything in exchange. Or so it seems so far. True, it is supposed that the release of half a dozen of political prisoners would be a result of that, along the call for elections which was suspiciously delayed. But the released prisoners are under house arrest and suffer all sorts of impediments while elections can be cancelled even on election day. The real result of these "negotiations" is that thug in chief, Diosdado Cabello, pointed out by many as a drug capo, feels vindicated and now indispensable. So as any good thug would do he has increased his attacks on people who dare criticize him, has decided to bankrupt once and for all the remaining free newspapers, and more. So much for Shannon effectiveness.
Colombia's president, Santos, mistakes started 5 years ago when he "befriended Chavez". It has been downhill since. Chavez under a reprieve as Uribe's parting shot was exposing all FARC training camp inside Venezuela, played nice and stroked Santos ego in that he could indeed bring the FARC to serious negotiations after having been the Uribe's defense minister in charge of blowing them out. Which he nearly did, by the way and may have been able to complete had he wanted to. Under the excuse that Venezuela's role was crucial to the eventual success of Havana's Santos-FARC talks, the Santos administration made all sorts of concessions to the Venezuelan regime, most despicably by handing over to Caracas drug kingpins and political exiles.
Sure enough the FARC is playing Santos through and though. Its first success was to force Santos into a difficult reelection. This conservative, liberal right president has had to ally himself to the fading left of Colombia to get reelected and thus he has unnecessarily promoted its recovery. After reelection the FARC has become even more belligerent, and now it is trying to use the border crisis offering itself as the best guarantor against contraband and the alleged paramilitary infiltration inside Venezuela, as if Venezuela was not the main promoter of paramilitary groups like the colectivos, pranes .....
How can Santos and his ever more idiotic looking foreign minister Holguin whose appeasing smiles and seduction to Maduro are now blowing up to her face have lost the political coup offered to them on a silver tray?
First, the delayed response. Uribe was promptly at the border with Venezuela while Holguin sought a "meeting" with the Venezuelan foreign minister, the insufferable hack sister of Caracas mayor and inventor of all electoral frauds. While Holguin was giving Rodriguez a propaganda platform to accuse Colombia in its own country, the images of Colombians wading the river Tachira with their scarce belongings made front pages.
Santos waited for a week to go to the border and this late in the game he had to go populist and offer all sorts of goodies to calm down the natives. But it was too late, Colombian public opinion was united, and not around Santos. Even ex president Gaviria questioned the participation of Colombia to fakes like UNASUR who clearly do not wish to offend whatsoever the susceptibility of Maduro and co. To add insult to injury Maduro kept giving fake handouts in Venezuela, declared falsely that scarcity was over thanks to his policies in Tachira, threatened to push the border blockade all along the Venezuelan border and flew to Vietnam. Cabello on his own decided to stir a little bit of trouble with the Brazil border attacking garimpeiros as if did not know they had been creating ecological devastation since Chavez came to office!
I think that we are assisting to the undoing of Obama and Santos foreign schemes. I, for one, dearly hope that this is all part of a master plan to muzzle once and for all the rogue regimes of Havana and Caracas. But I am not holding my breath whatsoever.
Luckily for Santos and Obama, they do not have to worry about reelection anymore. Others will sort out the debris.