It's certainly touching to see this week's UN forum on disarmament being hijacked by Hugo Chavez and Alvaro Uribe's race to the looney bin. As if the breaking of international law, followed by threats of more international law-breaking weren't nutty enough, now the Uribe administration is claiming that FARC guerillas have been planning to build dirty bombs for detonation within Colombian territory.
While I'm pleased to report that this latest episode of fearmongering absurdity did not issue from the lips of our own dear leader, I'm aghast at the prospect that our Colombian allies have resurrected the use of patent nonsense in their chest-thumping matches with Mr. Chavez.
A dirty bomb? I mean, really.
Not as widely reported (probably because it seems mundanely quaint next to stories about nuclear warfare) is news that Mr. Uribe plans to file claims against Mr. Chavez in the International Criminal Court for funding his FARC buddies across the border. Fair enough, but why now? Economic ties between the guerillas and Chavez have long been presumed and accused.
What's also not being addressed is the fact that any ruptures in trade between the warring siblings will be temporary. Neither side can afford to break off their increasing economic interdependence. Recent oil deals between the two sealed their mutually determined fate with an expensive black goo.
Nevertheless, if Simon Romero of The New York Times took a moment to put on his reporter's cap, he might find reason to suggest that all these goings-on have their roots in the state politics playing out in Colombia. (You know I have to holler at my boy). While John Mearsheimer and his realist henchmen might argue otherwise, domestic politics contribute directly to foreign policy decision-making in Caracas and Bogota. As I suggested on this site over the summer, recent negotiations between the Colombian state and their insurgent foes scattered throughout the jungle increasingly stand to benefit Piedad Cordoba, the Colombian Senator with ties to both Chavez and the FARC. While the FARC has been increasingly brought back into the political fold with the guiding hands of Cordoba and Chavez, Uribe looks irrelevant and weak.
Romeo's piece over the weekend on Cordoba pointedly highlights the fact, labeling "the woman with the turban" Colombia's Public Enemy Number One. One scratches their head, then, when one considers that Romero's formidable skills as an investigative reporter-not to mention his standing as all-around smarty pants when it comes to Latin America-did not lead him to connect two and two together. Could it be that Colombia's audacious violation of Ecuador's sovereignty was ill-considered political machismo on the part of a government increasingly labelled impotent?
Regardless, Colombian motivations do not excuse Chavez's flirtation with madness. If he's serious about making something of his Bolivarian revolution, Hurricane Hugo needs to get a grip on reality, and stop using Colombia as a battleground for rhetorical proxy wars with the maniacs running Washington. That crew will soon join the unemplyed masses, and Venezeula-US relations will necessarily change (no matter of who takes over the Oval Office). The tone of this new relationship will be determined in large measure by Chavez himself. But he doesn't need to wait until January 2009. The president of Venezuela can start sending signals to DC right now that he's ready, willing, and able to act as the regional leader he professes to be. Otherwise he'll go down as nothing more than the latest in a long line of Latin American caudillos.