Lost in all the shuffle and noise of the grand Granda conflict are two very significants aspects of the crisis that I think are worth mentioning, because they have not been noted in general and deserve to be noted:
–Terrorism and the FARC: Despite all of the charges and countercharges, accusations and cries, the truth is that to this day and moment the Chavez Government has not explicitly come out against terrorism, or that it is distancing itself from the FARC or other subversive Colombian groups or that it will go after any known terrorist in Venezuela. In fact, the opposite is exactly the case. Yesterday, at Chavez’ pro-sovereignty rally, thousands of posters, paid by the Government itself, expressed their sympathy for captured terrorist Rodrigo Granda, the Foreign Minister and international fund raiser for the FARC. Similarly, the Vice President dismissed the information supplied by Colombia as useless, rather than given it the serious attention and careful investigation it deserves.
This is in fact not new. From day one of his Government Chavez has had an extremely ambivalent relationship with the FARC and other guerrilla groups. The day of his inauguration in 1999, Chavez left some people speechless by essentially saying that his Government equally recognized the FARC and the Colombian Government, to the astonishment of Colombian president Pastrana who was present in the audience.
Chavez’ reaction to the September 11th. attack was similarly ambiguous. While his supporters, led by Lina Ron, burned that day the American flag at Bolivar square in downtown Caracas, Chavez maintained a surprising silence for almost two days, finally condemning the attacks, but never saying a word about the protests by his supporters. Reportedly, the delay by Chavez in making a statement and its mildness was considered too “soft” by the US Government, forcing Chavez to issue a new statement a few days later with much stronger wording.
Thus, to this day and to the world, the Chavez administration has defended itself from the accusations of FARC members living in Venezuela, but has yet to clearly state what is its position with respect to the FARC and the fight against terrorism.
–Economic Boycott: It is perhaps ironic and remarkable that Chavez, faced with the Granda crisis, should resort to threats of economic sanctions against Colombia rather than simply threatening with breaking diplomatic relations with our neighbor. Ironic, because an economic boycott is at its root a capitalist tool, which would otherwise be severely criticized by the same Chavez Government if used by anyone else. Remarkable, because for decades, leftist groups throughout Latin America, including Chavez and his supporters, and the world have severely criticized the economic blockade of Cuba by the United States.
It is thus inconsistent and a reflection of Chavez’ bully nature that he has now resorted in his usual inconsistent fashion, to the same methods that he has so sharply criticized in the past. Trade with Colombia benefits that country more than Venezuela today. In the last six years, many multinational companies have moved their regional headquarters and manufacturing centers to that country, Colombia has a much stronger manufacturing base and oil related products are smuggled regularly through the border to take advantage of the heavily subsidized petroleum based products in Venezuela. (Gasoline is 20 US$ cents a gallon at the official exchange rate in Venezuela)
There was no need to use or threaten to use the economic weapon, more so by the man who is supposed to care so much about the “people” of Latin America and uses any opportunity to call for some sort of unified Latin American economic and political zone. Even if Colombia benefits more from trade between the two countries, the border between the two countries has a thriving economic activity thanks to the exchange across the border. Shutting it down, would only hurt the same poor people that Chavez always says he cares so much about.
Amazingly enough, these two issues have barely been mentioned by the laconic and almost invisible Venezuelan political opposition. It is at times like this when opposition politicians may stake a claim to some leadership by exposing the true face of the Bolivarian revolution and its autocratic leader.