Chavez flip-flops again as he asks the FARC to release all hostages and give up their armed fight

June 9, 2008

In yet another flip-flop and about face in policy, Hugo Chavez called
today for the FARC guerrillas to give up their fight after forty years
of death and destruction in Colombia. Chavez’ statement represent a
remarkable shift in policy by  the Venezuelan President who enraged
many in the region, including Colombia’s Government, by asking last
Fall that the FARC be recognized as a “legitimate insurgent force”.
Moreover, the Venezuelan President called on the FARC to give up all of
the hostages in their hands in exchange for…

Nothing.

After months of trying to negotiate that the Colombian Government clear
an area of that country for the rebels in exchange for a handful of
hostages.

This represents a remarkable about face which closes Chavez’ attempt to
get recognition by negotiating with the FARC the release of the
hostages, which in the end turned out to be not only a gigantic
failure, but seems to have been used by the Colombian Government to
track down and destroy the main leaders of the guerilla movement, as
barely three of the hostages have been released and Ingrid Betancourt
remains in captivity.

For Chavez it is a risky call, likely driven by the content of Reyes’
computer. Risky, because the FARC seems to be in disarray and it is
likely that it will be difficult to achieve a consensus on Chavez’
request. But he could come out of all this smelling better if
Betancourt is finally liberated.

Chavez involved himself in the FARC/hostage negotiations thinking that
it may lead to the Nobel Peace Prize, but he underestimated Uribe’s
understanding of the FARC and his determination to destroy the group.
Meanwhile, the FARC has always had a convergent but parallel agenda to
Chavez and never trusted him completely instead using him for their own
purposes. This led to many failures and few rewards for Chavez as Uribe
stood back and used the extra noise surrounding Chavez’ negotiations to
track down the FARC leaders.

The flip flop represents the fourth one in one week, as Chavez seems to
be using polls and Reyes’ computers to redefine himself in surprising
fashion. As Pedro Mario Burelli said, Chavez seems to be running away
at full speed from Hugo Chavez in a sign that he is worried about his
standing, both nationally and internationally.

Internationally, it is hard to believe that the information in Reyes
computer will not come out to tell us the true story of Chavez’ tight
realtionship with the FARC. Nationally, it may hold back Chavez in
terms of what Bills he may enact under the umbrella of the Enabling
Bill that expires in mid July. Most likely, Chavez will look for the
National Assembly to extend that Law, so that he can use it to push his personal political project after the November elections.

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