Saturday, July 24, 2010

Colombia and Venezuela

Sara Miller Llana at the Christian Science Monitor looks at the Colombia-Venezuela dispute, and particularly at how it might affect President-elect Juan Manuel Santos:


President-elect Santos has indicated a willingness to forge a warmer relationship with Chávez, but this latest rift will set back those aspirations, says Carlos Romero, a political analyst at the Central University of Venezuela in Caracas. “The real loser here is Santos,” he says.
Mr. Romero agrees with Shifter that with Uribe out of office, there is hope of a stronger relationship. Even Chávez on Thursday indicated some willingness to put tensions behind. "Hopefully [Santos will] understand that leftist and right-wing governments can live together," Chávez was quoted saying.
“Colombia and Venezuela have different allies, but they are neighbors,” Mr. Romero says. “Unfortunately, Santos faces more obstacles now.”


I must say I disagree.  A more plausible argument is that Alvaro Uribe is doing this on purpose right before he leaves office, thus leaving Santos in the position of making nice with Hugo Chávez from a position of strength. Santos has already made a point of talking diplomatically, and thus far seems much less antagonistic than Uribe with regard to Venezuela.  Uribe will take all the heat, and Santos can calm things down.

Update: My idea is so good that Boz wrote about it a week ago.

15 comments:

boz 11:51 AM  

I made a similar argument last week. Uribe is doing Santos a favor by bringing this up now and leaving the new president a chance to improve relations with this info in the public. I think the idea that there is some huge rift between Santos and Uribe is just misplaced gossip.

nysoulcontrolla 1:13 PM  

whata joke uribe is,its already been established that colombian rightwing paramilitaries dump bodies by the hundreds on venezuelas side of the border...all these paramilitary blocks so called former auc troops are ties to uribe and his henchmen political cronies including his cousin himself ,not to mention uribe has had ties to pablo escobar himself and the medellin cartel according to us intelligence as far back as early 90's...uribe is awarmonger fascist and santos his lapdog wich attacked sovereign ecuador withoutt provocation..if colombias regime argument is they can attack neighboring countries because the might allow farc to operate within them,then all nations surrounding colombia can use same argument and attack it since uribes boys(rightwing militaries)are working and operating out of whole region working with drug cartels...uribe is bushs whore,hes just toting wash pukes scripts...

mcentellas 1:19 PM  

I think that's a very interesting argument. Not sure if it's deliberate cooperation between Uribe/Santos, but it hardly matters. I'm also curious to see how this plays out w/in a Venezuelan regime that is today much weaker than it was a year or two ago.

Greg Weeks 4:33 PM  

Boz, oops! I guess you read my mind a week ago...

Miguel, it is interesting to speculate but I suppose it will always just be speculation.

boz 7:29 PM  

No problem and thanks for the link. Great minds....

I've been by how strong the Uribe-Santos split rumors have been. I actually don't think this was a deliberate plan on the part of the two of them, just both acting in their self-interest and having it work out well that their interests blended.

Justin Delacour 2:16 PM  

A more plausible argument is that Alvaro Uribe is doing this on purpose right before he leaves office, thus leaving Santos in the position of making nice with Hugo Chávez from a position of strength.

If the Colombian government thinks that accusations of FARC ties are a convenient method of strengthening its bargaining position vis-a-vis Venezuela's government, there will be no end in sight to the bilateral flare-ups. The Colombian approach is a rather ham-fisted approach to "diplomacy" that carries with it obvious dangers. The recurring accusation may be convenient for a U.S. foreign policy establishment that has an obvious interest in dividing the region, but it doesn't bode well for the people of region.

Boli-Nica 4:48 PM  


If the Colombian government thinks that accusations of FARC ties are a convenient method of strengthening its bargaining position vis-a-vis Venezuela's government, there will be no end in sight to the bilateral flare-ups. The Colombian approach is a rather ham-fisted approach to "diplomacy" that carries with it obvious dangers.


"ham-fisted"? lol......

In the first place, it is not very "diplomatic" or neighborly to have FARC camps inside Venezuela.

Methinks the "hints" given to Chavez - including location coordinates and pictures, offered him a way out. He could quietly ask them to leave, or make a big production of firing some military commanders responsible for the areas where the camps are. What Correa did, when shown proof people in his government were in contact with the FARC.

In the end, the Colombians don't feel too cool about Ivan Marquez and the rest of his friends, having pig roasts and partying with "Boliviarian friends" in Venezuelan farms.

Justin Delacour 9:08 PM  

In the first place, it is not very "diplomatic" or neighborly to have FARC camps inside Venezuela.

A little more political maturity might lead you to take Uribe's claims with a grain of salt.

The problem for your side has always been that neither you, nor Boz, nor anyone else around here has ever offered a coherent explanation as to what the motive behind Chavez's supposed support for the FARC would be.

Prior to November 2007, Hugo Chavez's relations with the Colombian government had been essentially cordial (with the exception of a short flare-up at the beginning of 2005). Uribe invited Chavez to broker hostage negotiations with the FARC in September 2007.

So here's how the convoluted logic of your argument goes. Uribe --who was on good enough terms with Chavez to negotiate the construction of a binational pipeline with him, to have the Venezuelan leader go so far as to call Uribe his "brother," and to have Chavez serve as a mediator in hostage negotiations with the FARC as late as November of 2007-- suddenly "discovers" some incriminating laptops just in time for the Colombian government to go on a diplomatic offensive against Ecuador and Venezuela in the wake of Uribe's bombing of Ecuadorian territory. So suddenly --only six months after Uribe had invited Chavez to serve as a mediator in hostage negotiations with the FARC-- the newfangled story became that Chavez and the FARC were ideological brethren with intimate military and economic ties.

Now, explain to me this, Boli-Nica. If Chavez was so chummy with the FARC, why would Uribe negotiate the construction of a pipeline with Chavez and invite Chavez to serve as a mediator in hostage negotiations with the FARC as late as September of 2007?

Please explain to me what interest Chavez has in providing the United States with a pretext to step up its hostility towards Venezuela? Not even the Cubans would think to run the risk of inviting the wrath of Uncle Sam by aiding another country's guerrillas in a post-Cold War era in which the Soviet umbrella is a relic of history. There is simply no geo-political logic to your argument. Why would Venezuela's president make such a perilous bet, with no prospect of winning anything in light of the fact that the FARC hasn't been within striking distance of achieving power for several years and has negligible popular support in Colombia? What's the logic?

Here's what I think. I think Colombia and Venezuela's relations went sour when Chavez started taking his mediator role seriously and talking about negotiating for peace, which was way beyond what Uribe bargained for but was also the primary interest of Chavez and his fellow Colombian negotiator Piedad Cordoba. While Uribe was only half-heartedly interested in the most limited sort of negotiation (over hostages), Chavez has had a long-standing interest in helping resolve the conflict so as to remove the pretext for U.S. intervention in the region. The problem for Uribe was that Chavez's overtures were putting greater international pressure on him to negotiate seriously at the very moment when Uribe was poised to deal major military blows to the FARC. In other words, the interests of Chavez and Uribe would become fundamentally incompatible once Chavez called for peace negotiations. Since Chavez's efforts at mediation were therefore creating problems for Uribe, the best way Uribe could find to neutralize Chavez was to trump up a whole smorgasbord of outlandish charges against him and to thereby sully the image of Chavez in the international community. In other words, the whole purpose of the laptop ruse was to remove Chavez from any mediary role.

Marcin 5:19 PM  

Chavez has had a long-standing interest in helping resolve the conflict so as to remove the pretext for U.S. intervention in the region. The problem for Uribe was that Chavez's overtures were putting greater international pressure on him to negotiate seriously at the very moment when Uribe was poised to deal major military blows to the FARC.

Nice story...

But first of all, you suggest that as late as 2007, when US interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan already were disasters, Chavez truly believed that american intervention in the region was possible - that's questionable. Secondly, you imply that US intervention-to-be to fight FARC would be a significant threat to Chavez - that's also questionable. Thirdly, according to you Uribe didn't want to negotiate for real because he wanted to have some spectacular military success. One doesn't exlude the other. Once Uribe won some new territories from FARC he would be in a far better position to continue negotations.

You point out that others lack geopolitical maturity but you seem to forget about it yourself.

Justin Delacour 6:15 PM  

But first of all, you suggest that as late as 2007, when US interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan already were disasters, Chavez truly believed that american intervention in the region was possible - that's questionable.

Firstly, the intervention is already there. It comes in the form of Plan Colombia. Secondly, there has already been an explicit statement from a U.S. official that the new U.S.-Colombia bases in Colombian territory could be used for military purposes against Venezuela. Thirdly, the resurrection of the U.S. Fourth Fleet in the Caribbean was clearly brought about for the purpose of flexing U.S. muscle in the face of Venezuela. There is no other explanation for it.

Thus, Chavez has every reason to feel threatened by the United States.

Secondly, you imply that US intervention-to-be to fight FARC would be a significant threat to Chavez - that's also questionable.

Once again, the U.S. is already intervening by proxy, through massive U.S. military assistance to Colombia. As anyone with any knowledge of the region knows, the U.S. military has a major advisory role in Colombia.

Thirdly, according to you Uribe didn't want to negotiate for real because he wanted to have some spectacular military success. One doesn't exlude the other.

It's true that military strategies don't preclude negotiations, but Uribe has shown no intention to negotiate and has repeatedly stated that he has no desire for a negotiated settlement. Uribe halted Chavez's role as a mediator with the FARC when he saw that Chavez was beginning to make peace proposals. That's not to say that Uribe wouldn't be open to negotiating if he thought he could achieve his objectives at the bargaining table, but the fact of the matter is that Uribe clearly saw Chavez's peace proposals at the time as an obstacle to his objectives.

Thus, the abstract point you make is of no practical relevance to the discussion.

Once Uribe won some new territories from FARC he would be in a far better position to continue negotations.

But that's not what happened, so the point is mute. It's true that Uribe is in a better position to negotiate now than he was in 2002, but he still shows no intention to negotiate and, even if he were to do so, he would still feel threatened by any mediator role for Chavez because he would fear that such a mediator would weaken his own position at the bargaining table.

The bottom line remains that nobody here has ever offered a coherent explanation as to what the motive behind Chavez's supposed military assistance to the FARC would be.

Boli-Nica 9:52 PM  


The bottom line remains that nobody here has ever offered a coherent explanation as to what the motive behind Chavez's supposed military assistance to the FARC would be.


Because of his stupid ideological worldview, where the FARC are "brother Boliviarian revolutionaries" fighting the "good fight" against "US Imperialism".

Anyone following Dietrich's ramblings seriously is an idiot. And Chavez does.

Justin Delacour 1:58 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Justin Delacour 2:02 AM  

Because of his stupid ideological worldview, where the FARC are "brother Boliviarian revolutionaries" fighting the "good fight" against "US Imperialism".

The point is incoherent. Statesmen don't have the luxury of blindly following abstract ideologies. Chavez --like any other leader-- must consider what he and his political allies have to gain from any given foreign policy. The problem, once again, is that you're incapable of explaining how Chavez would think he has something to gain from aiding the FARC. In other words, you can't explain what interest Chavez has in providing the United States with a pretext to step up its hostility towards Venezuela. If not even the Cubans think to run the risk of inviting the wrath of Uncle Sam by aiding another country's guerrillas in the post-Cold War era, how does it make any sense to speculate that Chavez has an interest in inviting these sorts of problems?

There is simply no geo-political logic to the argument that Chavez would choose a battle in which he has no prospect of winning anything. Given that the FARC hasn't been within striking distance of achieving power for several years and has negligible popular support in Colombia, the notion that Chavez would have any interest in aiding them just doesn't make sense.

Boli-Nica 4:27 PM  


The point is incoherent. Statesmen don't have the luxury of blindly following abstract ideologies.


LOL.."Statesmen" don't "talk" to dead people like Simon Bolivar.

And speaking of dead people and "abstract ideologies", statesmen (and sane people) don't hero-worship that old mummy Fidel, or even less prop up his failed ideology with billions of wasted dollars.

Come to think of it, anyone claiming that Socialism of "21st Century" type might work is way off the chain crazy. Actually spending billions on such nonsense is not only crazy, but pretty stupid.

People who do things that are crazy and stupid, are perfectly capable of supporting a bunch of Communist insurgents.

Justin Delacour 4:07 AM  

Allow me to just repeat what is already obvious, Boli-Nica. You are incapable of coherently explaining how Chavez would think that he and his allies have something to gain from aiding the FARC. Until you are able to replace ideologically-charged hysterics with some sort of coherent analysis on the subject, I'm not sure what the point of the discussion is.

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