A Risky bet: Hugo Chávez overloads his "Latin American Axis of Evil" to start Alvaro Uribe

The flaming early stages of the conflict between Venezuela and Colombia and the emergence of Suriname in the theatre of operations. Understanding the Venezuelan president's strategy.

24 de Agosto de 2010
The South American geopolitical landscape adds a disrupting new element: the Chavism has now found another acolyte in the new president of the former Dutch colony, Desi Bouterse. Surely, Queen Beatrix will not feel mostly comfortable in these last years of her life, at seeing that this sort of backyard of the Netherlands called Suriname now falls under the spell of Bolivarian Hugo Chávez Frías. It is very likely that the rise to power in Paramaribo of Desiré Delano Bouterse –a self-proclaimed admirer of Chavism- will lead to some debate within the former colonial powers and this discussion will probably be focused on how the former colonies or protectorates are later attracted by the gravitational force of unfriendly nations, once the first world leaves them by themselves. Something similar happened with the Caribbean nation of Grenada until 1983, when the Pentagon decided to step in and remove the puppet regime responding to Fidel Castro, which had been installed there in what seemed to be an inattention of the only superpower remaining today. In Suriname, Desi Bouterse, a 64-year-old veteran and coup leader who, to round off a profuse background, has a criminal record for drug trafficking, a despicable business which also involves one of his children, has just taken office. In December 1982, the now Surinamese president was accused of being the ideologue of the slaughter of fifteen opposition political activists. A Dutch court convicted him of drug trafficking in absentia but Bouterse was never extradited to Europe to serve such sentence, as he always managed to be linked to the central government in Paramaribo and according to the laws of his country, citizens must not be surrendered upon request by foreign courts. In a last desperate attempt to ensure an extra bit of impunity, the new president of Suriname exchanged praise with Bolivarian Hugo Chávez Frías in the international media and press. Since the circle has narrowed again on this character as Europe hits the roof requesting his extradition, his only way out seems to consist in embracing the principles of the Bolivarian Revolution. This way, the small former Dutch colony appears on the map again, but not supporting the healthiest alternatives. Indeed, Chávez has already replied to the request of the Surinamese dictator, now elected president: Caracas has offered him political support and who knows what else. The Bolivarian leader has been scattering his ideas before the international press that “imperialism" is distressed due to the electoral triumph of his new ally. Not surprisingly, leftish and revolutionary media have already begun the out-and-out defence of Desi Bouterse against what they call "attacks from former imperial powers like the Netherlands" and the "Yankees". In taking this position, they argue the falsehood of the charges for murder of opponents and illegal drug trade placed against the former dictator. They also state that "the courts of Suriname have never tried Bouterse". The chavezcandangas and the keyboard guerrillas at and Indymedia seem to forget that the former Netherlands colony is nothing but a fledged Banana Republic. The dynamics of this South American geopolitics node becomes interesting as the disputes between the Venezuelan and Colombian governments reach a dangerous stage. Hugo Chávez keeps threatening the Colombians with an armed conflict that Venezuela cannot afford technically or logistically. If the Venezuelan president urged his soldiers to act, analysts would start to wonder whether this could firstly result in an internecine civil war, where the Venezuelan armed forces themselves, dissatisfied with the regime, would intend to kick out the former paratrooper so as to avoid a greater evil to the country. Above all, one should bear in mind that those citizens who live in the major urban centres in Venezuela have to put up with scheduled power cuts, recurrent interruptions in water service, shortage of commodities, and political persecution and repression in the Cuban Guevarist fashion at its best. Hugo Chávez Frías’s solution to his unpopularity problems consists of recruiting allies to the sub-continental order, so as to show President Alvaro Uribe that he could shake Colombia with the prospect of an asymmetric war launched on several fronts, namely: * Imploding the daily lives of the Colombians, by means of a series of bombings by members of FARC and ELN (National Liberation Army - pro-Cuban and suburbanly called "Elenos"), not only on public buildings but also on the energy infrastructure of oil pipelines and refineries. * Distracting the Colombian military resources with possible attacks originated in neighbouring Ecuador, where President Rafael Correa has claimed to be an apparently steadfast ally to the revolutionary Chavism. * Using the rainforests of countries such as Guyana, Suriname and Ecuador as a sanctuary for FARC guerrilla. A basic aspect when it comes to sustaining a strategy of guerrilla warfare over time. In this regard, and since long before Desi Bouterse was elected in Suriname, the intelligence agencies of the United States of America have covered the pages of manuals consulted by officials and diplomats of the Foreign Service of the Department of State, in connection with the growth of South American cocaine traffic from the ports of the former Netherlands colony to Europe. At the same time, certain areas of Paramaribo have become obligatory barter spots where mean-eyed guerrillas and drug traffickers of all sorts exchange weapons for drugs, right in front of the negligent authorities. The U.S. ambassador to Suriname, John Nay, and the military attaché at the embassy, Lt. Col. Waymon Jackson, will surely be quite busy in the future. Washington is also looking closely on Guyana. And no wonder the Southern Command produces tons of paperwork in the American embassies of these two nations located in the north of South America. At the same time, Alvaro Uribe has shown he can move swiftly in the thorny field of relations with his contentious neighbours. Supported by American technology and money, the Colombian armed forces, highly professional and with proven experience in the fight against drug trafficking, have compiled irrefutable data that bluntly reveal the links between guerrilla and power in Caracas. Although Uribe has been compiling detailed reports in this regard, this information is only disclosed gradually, cornering the Chavism in a move that will give them no other choice but to retreat or bet double or nothing. The risk is huge for Chávez, and much of it originates from his incomplete analysis of a possible non-intervention position on the part of Washington. The Venezuelan president reckons the United States would not take part in a conflict, as the North has always been so dependent on his oil. But the latest figures show that Venezuela, once the second largest supplier of crude oil to North America, is now in the fourth place. Obama may belong to the Democratic Party, but he is not stupid: in return for the Republican support in Congress aiming at social reforms, the latter have demanded extreme severity on Bolivarianism. Marital arguments between Democrat and Republican congressmen are nothing but a soap opera that obese northern viewers enjoy as they ingest tons of burgers and popcorn. Eventually, what really matters is not departing from the foreign policy course of action that the White House has been developing over the past three decades. But the truth is that Hugo Chávez Frías’s mistakes do not end up in the Washington political intriguing environment. The Bolivarian president has opted for the support that his partners Rafael Correa and Evo Morales would give him. But it should come as no surprise that, at least the Ecuadorian, has mysteriously remained silent. He might have received a call from the North with a handful of recommendations about what should or should not be done. In the guerrilla front, this strategy may not be the most convenient. If the FARC-ELN duo embarked on the all or nothing Chavez’s proposal, the move could be fatal for them, since the guerrilla -now reduced to its minimum expression- would scatter during military action and leave the jungle. The Colombians could end up crushing them like ants, one by one. Consequently, Uribe would be exalted as a national hero, and, hand in hand with President-elect Santos, extend his political influence for much longer. The rumour that Brazilian Lula da Silva would support Colombia in the event of a conflict is not a minor detail. Brasilia could even benefit from a situation in which the jungle borders could be cleared of annoying guerrilla which takes advantage of the thick of these rainforests to set up camp and plan attacks. Meanwhile, Hugo Chávez Frías, always in the habit of promoting diplomatic and military activity during his television programmes, has given the most conclusive evidence of his awkwardness when declaring the break off with Colombia, accompanied by fallen-from-grace football star Diego Armando Maradona. In Argentina, this episode, in appearance amusing, will have consequences. On the basis of his political proximity to Kirchnerism he has given strong support to Chavism, not only on behalf of the Argentine Government but also of the Argentine Football Association (AFA) headed by Julio Grondona. Many could conclude that the Argentine government strongly supports Chavez's crusade in detriment of their neighbour Colombia, so the initiative of former President Néstor Carlos Kirchner to mediate the conflict could only result in resounding laughter. And finally, wouldn’t the head of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, be then entitled to severely reprimand recalcitrant Julio Grondona for the inconvenience of getting the football of the Pampas involved in an issue related to a dangerous international conflict? After all, the ideologue of the operation to extend the contract of the Argentine team’s coach was the president of AFA himself. Although it may sound like a truism, it is worth remembering: anything is possible in the Argentina of Kirchner. By Matías E. Ruiz, Editor, El Ojo Digital. e-Mail: Twitter: Translated into English by Annie Arregui (e-Mail:
By Matías E. Ruiz, Editor,