Hugo “Daddy Warbucks” Chavez went to Mar del Plata to preside over the anti-summit, bury ALCA the free trade agreement of the Americas and become leader of the Third World.
With another one of his magnanimous offers, Hugo Warbucks offered a
“modest” US$ 10 billion of our money to promote the anti-Alca, a sort
of trade agreement, not-for profit and without the US.
while Chavez relished his triumph in presiding over the marchers, the
fact was that there was little of Summit at the anti-Summit with Chavez
being the only one of the Presidents that participated in it, sitting
next to former soccer star and more recent drug addict Diego Maradona
(below left) and many of the usual suspects,
question was where were the rest, the Ortega’s and all of the other
leftwing leaders and aspiring leaders of the Continent? In hiding? What
where they afraid of? Argentina’s
President Kirchner failed to show up, Fidel was not invited and sent
eternal leftwing music icon Silvio Rodriguez to represent him and Lula
Da Silva knows better than risk the well being of his people.
Chavez could care less, shouting “Homeland or death”, praising Che
Guevara, using swear words generously and trying to charm the 38,000
present with his enfant terrible attitude. Simultaneously, they staged their own march in Caracas, using the same signs exported to Argentina,
as the dummy below has the same sign as the dummy above did.
Today the local Chavista paper called Vea noted the march and called
Alca “dead” as shown below:
Unfortunately, Chavez may pay the price for all of this. The world was actually watching this time around (Venezuelans were forced to watch as all radio and TV stations were forced to show the whole event) as CNN showed the end of the event and the subsequent riots,
US flag burnings and violent confrontations by over a thousand
protesters, leaving the implied image that Chavez was the leader that
brought them there to riot. This, together with Chavez’ insults towards
the US president clearly did not sit well with the same Western press
that Chavez and his media consultants and spinners have been carefully
cultivating and manipulating for the last few years. Even his “friend”
Jimmy Carter expressed his dismay
at Chavez’ actions, saying it was “completely unjustified” for Chavez
to do this and saying he knew that Chavez was a difficult person from
his own experience. (Spanish version here)
The Chavez bashing had actually started a day earlier
when Ted Koppel in Nightline decided to set the record straight and
said that Chavez had used his program as a launch pad for the
propagation of lies. Two months ago Chavez made the charges that the US had a plan called “Balboa” to invade Venezuela in Koppel’s program and promised to send partial proof of the documents that Venezuela had “discovered” on the issue. Koppel concluded “After many requests over the last two months, we have received nothing”. Koppel also clarified that there was a “Balboa” in military war games between the US and Spain.
it continued last night as one TV station after another referred to the
Venezuelan President in negative terms. In fact, none of them was even
careful enough to note that Chavez only participated in the peaceful
part of the protest rally, but blurred over the distinction. It went
even further today when a group of Republican Congressmen called Chavez a clown, leaving aside the usual respect that US Congressmen and Senators have shown for our President.
question is whether this sequence of events from Koppel, through Carter
to the US Congressmen was spontaneous or not. We are sure it wasn’t, we
think this was all carefully orchestrated by the US spin doctors to begin putting Chavez in a bad light. And I think they won this round.
And then there is ALCA, the free trade treaty that the US is proposing for the Americas
to compete with the European Union. ALCA was a non-issue for the
Argentinean summit, because its success depends on the success of the
upcoming WTO talks, as pointed out by the Brazilian Foreign Minister
even before the Summit began and reiterated by the OAS Secretary
Insulza, who kept giving interviews saying progress would be difficult
without the WTO talks first.
Chavez and his advisers knew this and Vice-President Rangel called ALCA a corpse in an advanced state of decomposition. Meanwhile Chavez kept saying
he had to come to bury ALCA and promote ALBA for which he offered US$
10 billion as Venezuela’s contribution, money that could certainly be
used to reduce poverty in his own land, but Chavez is certainly too
busy giving it away elsewhere, spending it in foolish state ventures
and wasting it subsidies where corruption takes big chinks of the
money. He no longer seems to relish the role of leader of Venezuela he wants something bigger and he appears to want it now.
Reaction was swift by the US and its partners (part of the same strategy?) as Mexican President Fox quickly went on the offensive and called for the members of Mercosur (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Venezuela)
to stop blocking the free trade agreement and threatening to leave them
out of the pact if they continued their strategy. In fact, Fox called
for a resolution on the issue before the end of the summit and that
ALCA be included in the declaration, basically creating a standoff in the declaration being completed. The President of El Salvador also defended
ALCA saying they had not come to bury it and he was sure 80% of it
would be functioning within two years. In the end 29 countries
signed for Alca and the Mercosur and Venezuela said the
conditions are not there for it. But they will be. As the other 29
countries press for it, the mercosur countries will join the fray.
And while Chavez tried to spin it
as a victory, the truth is that ALCA may not be in the form that even
Chavez’s partners in Mercosur want it, but they all want it and want to
be part of it. Few countries have the luxury of Venezuela
which sells mostly basic commodities and few finished products. Most of
those countries want to diversify exports and need better access to the
US market and that is why they will join ALCA eventually no matter what Chávez says or wants. If Venezuela does not, it will be another step for our country to be closer to being Africa than America.
there was no burial of the free trade agreement, but we did see the
beginning of a definite media offensive against the Venezuelan
President led by the US.
Bush did not expect much from the Mar de Plata meeting, but Chavez
thought he would score a victory, but he didn’t. Chavez belived the
final declaration will not have the word ALCA in it, but the it did
with the majority of the countries favoring it. By making it an issue,
he may have lost the battle and
lost part of the large effort he has made in making the international
media love him.
Next year the WTO meeting will take place and that will lead to ALCA being joined by most Latin American countries.
Where Venezuela will be in all of this, is anybody’s guess.