Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Threats and bluffs

A close ally of President Uribe has said that if the U.S. does not pass a free trade agreement, then Colombia will withdraw from Plan Colombia and possibly move closer to Canada and the European Union. Uribe himself said he would not accept being treated like a pariah, and "take that message back to your Congress” (i.e. “put that in your pipe and smoke it!”).

This brings to mind Hugo Chávez’s multiple threats to stop exporting oil to the U.S. Other countries don’t have the refining capacity for Venezuela’s heavy crude, so he cannot carry out that threat, at least not for years. He has announced plans to sell off U.S. refineries and build new ones across Latin America, but then again he announces all kinds of plans.

In short, neither Uribe nor Chávez can currently afford to take the actions they’re discussing (though global demand for oil gives Chávez the better chance). On the other hand, they are examples of a new assertiveness in Latin America, even with U.S. allies like Colombia. The gaping void that characterizes U.S. policy toward Latin America is fostering greater efforts to pull away, even if it can’t be achieved quickly.


Steven Taylor 1:49 PM  

You are quite correct: there is no way that the Colombians will stop taking US assistance in the drug war. The notion that Canada (!) and the Europeans will pony up anywhere near the same amount of cash is, if you will excuse the phrase, a pipe dream.

Further, the strategy for the Uribe administration is to take the US money and attempt to get more funds from Europe.

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