For the last few days, I’ve been wanting to write something about the news from the region Charletta and I recently left. Today my teammates in Colombia released Border Tensions: A Prayer Request. This statement puts things a lot better then I could have. It also notes some details that I hadn’t heard, such as the claim by the Ecuadorian government that FARC commander Reyes was in “advanced stages of negotiations” with the Ecuadorian government for further hostage releases when he was killed.
I have to admit that I didn’t really shed any tears when I heard about the death of Reyes. Under his leadership the FARC has massacred indigenous people, farmers and North American activists and committed many terrorist acts. They’ve built a drug trafficking empire and lost any credibility as a positive force for change in the region. They’ve become a criminal enterprise acting with a thin veneer of ideology and in the process caused untold damage to Colombia’s authentic movements for social change. But the CPT release is a good reminder that this bombing represents a continued shift on the part of the Colombian government “to deal with the national conflict in a military framework rather than building on civil and diplomatic attempts.”
The team’s statement also mentions the “saber-rattling by neighbors in the region”. I’d like to look at that saber rattling a little more closely. Specifically, the war-mongering coming from the party that was not directly involved in the incident, Chavez. In the fall of 2006 I went to Venezuela on my honeymoon and wrote four posts here (1, 2, 3, 4) documenting some of the reactions we heard to Chavez from people we met along the way. At the time we saw that there were a lot of good things going on in Venezuela, but it was also clear that Chavez’s leadership was problematic. While we were there he made his famous Bush-is-the-devil speech that boosted Chomsky to #1 on Amazon. It was a stunt that brought up conflicted response for me. While it was great to have Chomsky get some exposure, Chavez was clearly setting a polarizing and divisive course for himself and his country.
Fast forward to this year. The US and Uribe has been making allegations about complicity between Venezuela and the FARC for some time, but I read these claims from a credible international source for the first time in early February, when the Observer (the Guardian’s Sunday edition) published Revealed: Chávez role in cocaine trail to Europe. It’s a disturbing account of direct cooperation between the Venezuelan military and the FARC. Given the stance of the Guardian and the Observer, one can hardly call it a right wing smear job. We have to take the article’s claims seriously.
Watching Chavez handle the Colombian bombing of Ecuador this week has used up the last benefit of the doubt I was willing to give Chavez. His escalation of the Ecuador/Colombia dispute have moved him in my mind from the category of good leader who makes unfortunate mistakes to leader who is clearly choosing the wrong path despite some good things he may say or do along the way. I think it’s important for those of us who resonate with his talk economic and standing up to US led corporate imperialism, to be clear about the limits of our support. His alleged collaboration with the FARC, outspoken support for them and now military escalation on their behalf crosses that line for me.