(Este post en español aquí)
It was typical Hugo Chavez, caught red handed providing Swedish rocket launchers to the FARC guerrillas, he reacts by attempting to distract locally, throwing a temper tantrum, faking being mad at Colombia for “making up” the story and decides to “freeze” for the nth. time relations between the two countries. I really have not counted, but how many times has Chavez thrown these type of tantrums, acting like an unruly little kid (or a madman, you choose) and threatening to upset relations with the country’s second most important trading partner.
The amazing thing is that it should really be the other way around, it was the Venezuelan President who was caught threatening Colombians, because so far there has been no explanations as to how the rocket launchers happened to appear at the FARC camp. It is Venezuela that has some explaining to do in this matter, Sweden’s Government does not allow in its contracts for Venezuela to sell or export the weapons and they were after all under the care of the Venezuelan military (No smirks allowed!). Thus, it is Colombia that has the right to be outraged as the Venezuelan Government through negligence or on purpose, allowed weapons to fall in the hands of the FARC that could be used against the citizens of that country.
But one does not manage diplomatic relations a la Chavez, throwing temper tantrums, otherwise most of the the civilized world would have ended relations with most of its neighbors over petty bickering and jealousies. Instead Chavez freezes relations and in his immense ignorance on economic matters, threatens to substitute Colombian imports and irresponsibly threatens to nationalize Colombian companies in Venezuela. Just because you don’t mess with Hugo Chavez, even if it was him that actually messed with you.
And his threat to “substitute” Colombian imports just shows the Hugocentric view of the economy as well as his ignorance on economic matters. It is not Hugo that imports products from Colombia. It its hundreds of Colombian companies that have taken advantage of Chavez’ destruction of Venezuela’s manufacturing sector in the last ten years, filling the void by setting up local subsidiaries and plants. This has been accompanied by national and multinationals moving to the more friendly business environment of Colombia and exporting form there. Thus, Chavez, facing the possibility of shortages already, is between a rock and a hard place, in that it will not be so easy to substitute Colombian imports and nationalizing Colombian companies in Venezuela is as harebrained as you can get, as most of them have a very strong dependence to the home office in Colombia, without which they could not produce much.
But “Yo no fui” (It wasn’t me) Chavez does not fool anyone anymore. Everyone, both here and abroad, knows what he is about. He wants to be the tough guy, but always backs down when push comes to shove or Fidel tells him to do it. By tonight, Fidel will be advising his parody to cool it off, as the world still remembers his threats to go to Honduras with Zelaya (which Fidel stopped) as well as the sordid images of Maduro reliving his days as a driver, taking Zelaya to the border.
And once again, Hugo’s temper tantrums distracts him him from the real problem at hand of solving the problems for the average Venezuelan. Neither poverty, nor crime nor the well being of the poor Venezuelan has improved in ten years of sordid and verbose rule by Hugo Chavez, despite the largest windfall in the country’s history. As the economy runs into trouble, all Hugo can think is how to reign in Honduras, fight Colombia and pick a fight with Obama, now that old GW is no longer in the picture.
The problem is his credibility both home and abroad is going down and he does not seem to have the mind or will to deal with either. He still wants to to be the enfant terrible of Latin America, but most people are realizing that he is becoming the short-fused temper baby of the region.
Interestingly, in the upcoming days we should see more and more of the evidence from Colombia and Sweden, which once again will show what a spoiled brat Chavez has become, forcing him to either back down from his threats today or to really deliver on them, in which case it will be his Government and the people that he claims to love that would be hurt. Given his rush to be the top dog in this fight, expect him to back down, sooner rather later, and change course, as his has done so many times in the last ten years.