>– Don’t Come for Tea, Argentina: Chavez Defends the Falklands from British “Colonialism,” Puts Down Queen Elizabeth II
– Reds Have Fun in the Sun: Raul Castro Breaks Up Shouting Match between Hugo Chavez and Alvaro Uribe
– Spanish Judge: Venezuelan Government Conspired with FARC and ETA to Bump Off Uribe, Chavezista Official Chief FARC-ETA Liaison
On February 26 Russia hailed the creation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CLACS), the fruition of a super-summit in Cancun that on February 22 and 23 brought together members of the Rio Group–which includes Cuba–the Union of South American Nations, and the Caribbean Community. The Russian Foreign Ministry gushed in a communiqué:
The new structure, added to other regional and multilateral mechanisms, will contribute to increased cooperation among the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. The decision reflects Latin America’s growing aspirations for closer political cooperation and coordination to give its countries a bigger role in world affairs. The new organization can be an important factor for the formation of a multipolar [anti-USA] world order. Russia is ready to undertake cooperation and political dialogue with it to strengthen the equilibrium of international relations.
After nearly 20 years of paying very little attention to Latin America, Moscow is anxious to drive a wedge between the USA and the largely leftist regimes to its south, even as it re-establishes Cold War-era political-military-economic linkages with Cuba and Nicaragua, and new “communists on the bloc” like Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia.
In November 2008 the Soviet strategists dispatched figurehead president Dmitry Medvedev to Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, and Cuba. While visiting Caracas, Medvedev suggested that Russia is looking into the possibility of joining the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), which would certain expand Soviet influence in “America’s backyard.” Moscow is already propping up ALBA states through its participation in a joint Russian-Venezuelan bank. Medvedev will make a repeat visit to the Western Hemisphere this year. Then President Vladimir Putin, now prime minister, also visited Cuba in 2000.
Over the last two years, a parade of pan-handling leftist leaders from the region has made its way to Moscow. These supplicants include Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, who makes at least one pilgrimage to Russia each year; Cuba’s Raul Castro, Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, Bolivia’s Evo Morales, and Argentina’s Cristina Kirchner. Moscow will roll out the red carpet (pun intended) for Guatemala’s Alvaro Colom this month.
Everyone was invited to the Cancun super-summit except the USA, Canada, Honduras, and the United Kingdom. The nations of the Western Hemisphere elected not to invite delegates from Washington and Ottawa because together these two capitals are perceived as embodying “US/North American imperialism.” The leftist regimes that dominate the region apparently concluded that because the USA and Canada already exert influence via the Organization of American States (OAS) their participation in CLACS is unwanted.
Honduras’ duly elected president Porfirio Lobo was not invited because only some countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have extended recognition to the new government there.
Lastly, no one from Britain was invited because all of the attendees at the summit agreed that London should relinquish its claims of sovereignty over the Falklands Islands and the adjacent archipelagos of South Georgia and South Sandwich. In fact, Venezuela’s big-mouth communist dictator Hugo Chavez, who has choice words for just about anyone he doesn’t like, had some choice words for Queen Elizabeth II:
Look, England, how long are you going to be in Las Malvinas? Queen of England, I’m talking to you. The time for empires is over, haven’t you noticed? Return the Malvinas to the Argentine people. The English are still threatening Argentina. Things have changed. We are no longer in 1982. If conflict breaks out, be sure Argentina will not be alone like it was back then. Why do the English speak of democracy but still have a Queen?
The British monarch, who is also head of state for a number of countries in the Western Hemisphere, has reigned since 1952.
In 2007 Chavez threatened to attack the Royal Navy if Argentina and Britain once again come to blows over the latter’s South Atlantic Overseas Territory, otherwise known as the Islas Malvinas. For its part Argentina recently imposed a somewhat ineffective blockade in the sea lanes between South America and the Falklands. At stake in the region are offshore oil reserves that British company Desire Petroleum tapped into with its Ocean Guardian drilling rig on February 22.
Not surprisingly, during a private luncheon in Cancun for the visiting national leaders a shouting match erupted between Chavez and his arch-nemesis Alvaro Uribe, Colombia’s president. In an exclusive interview with CNN en Español’s Carmen Aristegui, Chavez offered his version of the headline-grabbing incident:
What I did was respond. [Uribe] could not stand my reasoning and exploded. He said harsh things, I said harsh things, and then Raul Castro came and [summit host Felipe] Calderon [Mexico’s president] came and we sat down and talked, and continued. He [Uribe] accused me of enforcing an economic embargo on many Colombian goods, which is not true.
I think that if the table hadn’t been there as an obstacle, and our friends weren’t sitting right there, that President Uribe physically would’ve attacked me. If this unfortunate incident served as catharsis for Uribe, and he can sleep well tonight because he told me what he wanted to tell me, then may he sleep peacefully. I am willing to speak with him, just like we have talked about a million times.
Major newspapers in Colombia, Argentina, and Spain reported that Uribe told Chavez to “be a man,” while the Venezuelan leader told his Colombian counterpart to “go to hell.” Chavez confirmed the details of the exchange to CNN’s Aristegui. In the same interview, Chavez denied that the new Latin American-Caribbean super-bloc would compete with the Washington-led OAS. “I think that it will be in addition to the OAS, and that the OAS will disappear in the future,” Chavez opined hopefully. Chavez and Uribe are pictured above.
Following Chavez’s dust-up with Uribe, a Spanish judge accused Venezuelan officials of plotting with rebel groups to assassinate the Colombian president. On March 1 Spanish National Court Judge Eloy Velasco charged that Caracas has been acting as an intermediary between Euzkadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), the Basque separatist group, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Spanish officials ordered that 12 alleged guerrillas of ETA and FARC stand trial for conspiracy to commit murder and conduct terrorist acts. “There is evidence … showing the cooperation of the Venezuelan government in the illegal collaboration between FARC and ETA,” according to the indictment.
According to Judge Velasco’s 26-page report, as many as six ETA members traveled to Venezuela to train FARC members how to incorporate C4 explosives in cell phone bombs. In at least one instance, the Venezuelan military may have been present for demolitions training. The report also alleges that ETA members may have traveled through Venezuela en route to FARC training camps in Colombia. A Venezuelan agriculture ministry official, identified as Arturo Cubillas Fontan, is believed to be the ETA’s “ringleader” in Latin America and the liaison with FARC. Cubillas Fontan serves as security chief for a Venezuelan government agency called the National Land Institute, which coordinates Chavez’s land redistribution program. The Chavezista regime denies everything. Of course.
So, will Caracas make the US State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism? Last October Florida Representative Connie Mack, ranking Republican in the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, introduced a bill calling on the White House to add Venezuela to the list because of its support for Iran, Hezbollah, and FARC. “United States law clearly states that a state sponsor of terrorism is one that repeatedly provides support to acts of international terrorism,” Mack contended at the time, adding: “Hugo Chavez has done so and is a clear threat to our hemisphere.”
On Tuesday Ray Walser of the Heritage Foundation insisted that the Spanish report reinforced the case for President Barack Hussein Obama to place Venezuela outside the pale of “civilized nations.” This past January, in a detailed report on the subject, Walser called Obama’s view that Venezuela is not a threat to US national security “dangerous.” In view of the Russian, Belarusian, Chinese, and Vietnamese troops that will visit Venezuela next month for an independence day march-past, we concur.