Chavez wants war

12. 8. 2009 / Fabiano Golgo

Chavez needs a war to cover up Venezuela's problems

"I call on the people and the armed forces, let's go, ready for combat!"

What does a government in trouble often do to dissipate popular discontent? They find a foreign enemy. Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez ordered its army Monday to prepare for conflict, accusing neighbor Colombia of making an incursion into its territory.

A Czech version of this article is HERE

The Iranians decided to prosecute British and French citizens, among others, to imply that the recent public protests against their presidential election results were incited by foreigners. As Czechs can well remember, if there was dissidence, then foreign imperialists should be behind it. The word imperialist is widely used by Chavez as well, because there is an instinctual fear of those from "other tribes" codified in all of us -- a mechanism of defense developed in thousands of years in the wild. An imperialist country is a country that may swallow us, subjugate us under them. They versus us, a very effective manipulation of our instincts. Scapegoating has always been an effective way of achieving group solidarity.

With a charismatic Barack Obama in the White House, Chavez needed to divert his words of hate elsewhere, because even the Venezuelan people fell into the spell of the first black American president. So Colombia became his main Pharmakos, the target of his words` firing squad.

The truth behind it all is simpler: inflation is about where it was 10 years ago, ending 2008 at 31.4 percent. Prices rose by as much as 50 percent for food. With the economy of his country in shambles, helplessly dependent on the exports of petroleum, because Venezuela's economy is not well developed in many other areas, his only way to keep discontent ashore is to put the spotlight elsewhere. Venezuela depends on oil for about 90 percent of its exports, and oil revenues make up almost 50 percent of its budget.

In a sign that public finances are under stress, in January Chavez took $12 billion of the Central Bank's $42 billion of reserves to keep his literacy and health programs.

Arriving in Ecuador for the Unasur (Union of South American Nations) summit the day after the alleged incursion, Chavez told reporters: "The winds of war are beginning to blow... I am not going to allow them to do to Venezuela what they did to Ecuador", a reference to a 2008 Colombian raid on a guerrilla camp in Ecuadoran territory.

In contrast, through democratic and non-socialistic means, about 22 million people have been lifted out of poverty during Brazil's President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva`s administration, thanks to robust economic growth and government stipends for poor families. That is more than twice the population of neighboring Bolivia. As president, the once-radical Lula has been governing as a moderate, disappointing the far left of his own party and the now increasingly left wing continent's leaders.

Chavez, on the other hand, is a military man. His education and young adult life were spent around military thinking. He needs a war to fulfill his vocation. He is a man who dedicated his life to the Army, who tried to take over the government of his country through a coup d'Etat and has practiced and exercised his fighting skills with words, by attacking anyone who comes across his way, from the King of Spain to Obama.

In Quito, where all South American presidents (with the exception of Colombia's Alvaro Uribe, whose country cut diplomatic relations with Ecuador) are meeting in that regional summit, Chavez broke the constructive atmosphere by yelling in a speech that the "Yankees" are already commanding Colombian armed forces. "The threat against us is growing. I call on the people and the armed forces, let's go, ready for combat!"

Chavez ordered the purchase of arms from Russia to defend his country against a possible U.S. attack. And we know that when a man buys a toy, it is not for decoration, he has to use it...

Colombia denies that its troops entered Venezuelan territory and the Brazilian military observation satellite does not show any signs of it.

The 10 year agreement between Colombia and the U.S. brings the troop levels to 1,400. Their official mission is to help fight narcotics, considering Colombia is on the top of cocaine production in the Americas. Uribe went on a seven-country tour of South America this week seeking to calm skeptical neighbors about his proposal to have more American bases in his country.

Of course nobody doubts that the American bases could be used in case of Venezuela deciding to spread its socialistic dream to its neighbours by force. But many people welcome this initiative, because they fear what seems to be Chavez' plans for a communist continent. Chavez is fighting imperialism, although he himself is an imperialist, directly helping to finance and ideologically influence the governments of Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay and even Central America's Honduras and El Salvador.

During the Unasur summit, Lula and Argentinian president Cristina Kirchner asked the Venezuelan and Ecuadorian presidents to not go ahead with a motion of official protest against Colombia's plans to let American bases to expand (they have been there for decades, anyway). Lula said it was not the appropriate event for such a discussion, asking for the issue to be part of a future meeting, dealing with security in South America. Cristina Kirchner offered Argentina as the place for it, calling her country neutral on the matter. Lula thinks that Obama should be invited, so he can explain America's plans in Colombia.

All this belligerent rhetoric has an obvious reason: Venezuela has not gotten better economically because of a decade of Chavez supposed socialistic policies. Chavez' current mandate ends in 2013. But he has said that the third phase of his Bolivarian Revolution is set to last until 2019. There was an increase of two-and-a-half times (to 15,000) the number of murders since Chavez took office, making Venezuela one of the world's most violent countries. One can buy cocaine under daylight even right at the main street of Caracas.

Nevertheless, it is true that free health centers have spread through poor areas and that he set up small food markets with subsidised prices. In such markets, though, one cannot find much. Venezuelans have to struggle to find toilette paper, rice, wheat flour, milk, eggs and meat. And, we should note, contrary to Cuba, which claims that such empty shelves` reality comes from the American embargo, Venezuela can get those products from anywhere. The problem is less that the country would not have the funds to acquire what is missing, but the widespread corruption of Chavez` government and allies. Dictatorial or one-man-centered governments always bring about deep corruption from its smaller members, like public servants and the police. A sense of higher power spread by an all-present leader is the main impulse, like in George W. Bush's days in power. As was many times mentioned in the American press, after the publication of the horrendous photos of abuse by American military personnel against prisoners in Abu Ghraib, even without a direct order from the president he could be considered co-responsible over the torture and humiliation of enemies, because he created the climate of "us versus them". Bush lowered America's enemies from human beings to unworthy human lives. Chavez is doing the same, just that the terrorists are those who criticize his government, as we can see with the armed attacks promoted by his allies against television stations, the non-aligned radio stations and newspapers.

Chavez is seen by badly informed leftists or anti-Americanists the world over as a hero. But the president of Venezuela cannot be respected or accepted, much less hailed, by anyone who cares about freedom. He is a populist dictator, who is in power using the fear mongering used by his former nemesis, Bush. According to specialists, Venezuela is going to run out of money for Chavez' social programs by late 2010. Then what? Obviously then he needs a war to blame the economic difficulties on.


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