Saturday, August 29, 2009

UNASUR at Bariloche: the score card

No big winner, but some clear losers. [UPDATED]

The biggest loser is the ALBA group of groupies. As a political organization they failed in Honduras and now they failed to sway UNASUR. Considering that with the next two years coming elections the balance within UNASUR can turn out to be openly unfavorable we can say that the ALBA is in serious need to rethink itself. The worse part for them: that Chavez was quieter than in previous days while Correa and Evo were unleashed on Colombia. We know who is the boss at ALBA, in case any one had doubts.

The second loser, Lula. His outburst during the meeting as to interventions being too long and that he had more important things to attend is not a sign of strength as some seem to interpret: it is a sign of defeat. If UNASUR has come to be a bitter recrimination meeting place it is only the fault of Lula who has been too indulgent for too long with Chavez. Having allowed Chavez for so long to occupy center stage at the expense of Brazil has now become a problem as Brazil is the only country that can control Chavez, at least in such summits. If UNASUR tanks because of Chavez crazed ambitions it will be for Lula to cry over it. UPDATE: two articles from Spain detail how much of a hard time Lula had in avoiding the Bariloche event to turn into a disaster. Accordingly Chavez was planning to announce the final break up with Colombia and it took Lula strong arm twisting to stop him. It was also borderline for Uribe to leave altogether and send UNASUR packing. El Pais and El Mundo.

The ones that did not count. Uruguay's Tabare by principle cannot accept any foreign base anywhere. But by focusing on Colombia rather than Chavez offering Russians bases he lost any credibility and became mere background noise. Paraguay's Lugo, the father of the nation, has annulled himself with the first paternity suit. And Argentina Kirchner could have actually amoutned to something, for example when she went to get Uribe who did not want to appear in the group photo. But her lousy preparation for the summit, and her lack of substance were just too obvious and she annulled herself whatever good she might have done.

The surprise guest. Peru's Alan Garcia, who came out of his voluntary international discretion to ridicule Chavez in the most unassailable way. Managed the feat of supporting Uribe without appearing at all as a groupie.

The surprise winner. Chile's Bachelet. The only one with Uribe that really made sense, that was prepared. The only one to bring forth real concrete and possible ideas. The only one not to lose her temper or look silly at a given time (shares that characteristic with Surinam's president). She got today a good start for her future international career once she leaves La Moneda next year.

The winner by default. Uribe of course. By default because he was not there to win but to avoid defeat; and by avoiding defeat he was already going to look good. But he did better than avoiding defeat, managing to corner, as much as cornering is possible in such arenas, Chavez and Correa (he did not waste time on Evo). Uribe showed command of his dossier, the talent to leave Chavez without arguments or replies (never speechless as Chavez by now has managed the skill of filling silence with sound no matter what). He did not lose his temper and avoided ridicule though at time his insistence on details was not productive. In short, with Bachelet, he was the ony one who seemed to be not only a statesman, but to be intellectually prepared to be a president.

The loser by default. Chavez. This time his oratory skills did not save him. As I wrote yesterday this was a meeting for nerds with their well thought and prepared dossier. Improvisation this time around was not possible, and the level of preparation Chavez would have required to fight back Uribe he cannot get from the nullity that surrounds him, people like Maduro. He is not a total loser because his defeat at Bariloche today was not total, and at any rate would have little effect at home where we have more pressing concerns. But his defeat is much graver than one might suspect because Uribe showed to the world how one defeats Chavez, by confronting him, by holding ground, by not letting him get away with anything. A strategy I am sure will be followed by others in future summits... Still Chavez managed to avoid total defeat by remaining calmer than usual, by not ranting as much as he did these past few weeks. He had the intelligence for once to control himself some.

-The end-

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