Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
Listening to the statements of Venezuelan and Peruvian leaders over the past few days, you'd think you were in a schoolyard filled with whiny Kindergartners. What's passed for diplomacy between the two nations in recent weeks is nothing more than a competition of creative name-calling and petty retaliation.
Over the weekend, Peru recalled its ambassador to Venezuela in protest of what it claimed was Hugo Chavez's interference in Peruvian politics. Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo had been upset by Chavez's flagrant support of the left-leaning candidate Ollanta Humala in Peru's recent presidential election. Chavez claimed he would cut off diplomatic ties with Peru if Alan Garcia, Humala's conservative opponent, were elected.
Garcia responded by calling Chavez, and Bolivia's Evo Morales "history's losers," and accused them of acting like spoiled children. Chavez's Information Minister shot back that Garcia is nothing but a "office boy" for George W. Bush, and that he was probably looking to the White House for future employment after Peru's national elections in July. Next, Toledo attacked Chavez for shamelessness, criticizing the U.S. while simultaneoulsy getting rich off U.S. petro dolars. Chavez then stated that Toledo and Garcia were "crocodiles form the same swamp." Toledo has warned that if Venezuela continues its barrage of insults, he will expel their ambassador from Lima.
Needless to say, this sort of back-and-forth is damaging to both countries. Toledo's accusation that Chavez meddled in Peru's electoral politics is well-founded. Yet one questions why Toledo even bothers commenting on it. His man, Alan Garcia, is the favorite to win Peru's July's elections, regardless of Chavez's interference. He only risks damaging an otherwise decent presidential record with this puerile behavior.
Whether Chavez chooses to follow through on his threats of cutting ties with the country, should Garcia prevail, remains another story altogether.