While Correa was talking about “coordinating” strategy with Venezuela, for the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Colombia, Venezuela went ahead tonight and announced that the relations had been normalized and the embassies would be reopened, which left the President of Ecuador once again holding Chavez’ bag for about the third time this week. The truth is that the obvious winner was the President of the Dominican Republic Leonel Hernandez, who appeared to handle things quite elegantly, even if his influence was not decisive. Uribe also seemed to come out ahead, as he never backed down from his right to defeat the FARC into oblivion.
Meanwhile, as some naive members of the foreign press were suggesting this was a triumph for Chavez’s diplomatic abilities, some were not as simplistic, suggesting a number of possibilities for the sudden turn of events on Friday afternoon at the Group of Rio Summit. Clearly, the suggestion that Chavez defused the crisis seemd somewhat abusrd as he seemd to eb the only one that ignited it. Among the favorites being mentioned about Caracas:
—Uribe did indeed have more information that was revealed in public, showing Chavez’ and Correa’s involvement in the affair, including information on Minister Larrea’s close ties to the FARc that Correa did not know. An agreement was reched not to reveal the evidence.
—Fidel Castro intervened, telling Chavez a conflict with Colombia was a lose-lose proposition for him, diverting attention from his internal problems and creating the risk that in the end he would be the loser anyway, further driving down his popularity. (The surprise visi to Cuba is taken both as evidence in favor and against of this theory)
—Despites Chavez’ intention to raise nationalistic spirits with the crisis, polls indicate that this was not the case. At least two polls, one public, indicate 90% rejection levels for an armed conflict with Colombia, 70% rejection levels for the FARC, 70% rejection levels for closing the border with Colombia and one poll shows a 66% majority do not believe Chavez when he says the FARC holds no Venezuelan hostages.
—Chavez negotiated with Uribe via OAS General Secretary Insulza cooling the conflict off, as long as Uribe agreed not to take the case to the international Penal Court.
I still place my bets on the first option. Uribe seemed to sure of himself and his position, even as te discussions were quite heated and in the end all he did was apologize and suggest he would not do it again, but he held fast to the fact that Colombia has a right to resolve the conflicts how it sees fit within ts borders. And he is clearly doing it.
Chavez asked Marulanda to release Ingrid Betancourt, which he now needs in terms of credibility. However, the FARC are clearly on the run as so many of its leaders have been killed an their communications problems increase as they do not know if this is what is giving them away.
Meanwhile, Chavez’ PSUV party was holding elections today, using Government resources and few visible lines. Not even 10% of the supposed 5 million members of the party seemed to have participated.
Maybe they were still walking back from the border…