Sunday, February 13, 2005

Venezuela to take the next slot in the axis of evil?

President Chavez is learning from his counterpart in North Korea, it appears. Yesterday he branded the US a "Terrorist State" after the Bush administration expressed serious concerns over recent deals to buy weapons from Russia. The Bush administration is worried that some of the 100,000 small arms that Venezuela is buying from Russia might end up in the hands of Colombian guerrillas.

Carlos Alberto Montaner asks whether war is possible in the next few years between Venezuela and Colombia, or between Venezuela and some other Latin American state. He wonders, for example, why Chavez wants a fleet of Mig airplanes, which are not very useful for the guerrilla-type conflicts that Venezuela is likely to face, but rather for wars with neighboring states. The US was rather blunt on its policy. "We shoot migs down" said a spokesman.

Chavez doesn't seem too worried. He sent a peculiar message to Condoleeza Rice after she blasted Venezuela at her confirmation hearings.

Meanwhile, Brazil's Lula has taken a very peculiar approach toward all this. After failing to resolve the recent stand-off between Venezuela and Colombia (which Castro actually resolved), he seems to have decided: "well, if you can't beat'em, join'em" and is now trying to sell combat airplanes to Chavez.

This all seems to be the stuff of Banana Republics, and on the surface might be comic, but it seems to me that, unfortunately, Mr Chavez's rantings are quite serious indeed. His desire to make the region in his image could bring some nasty times ahead for the Andean region, and if Lula wants to stick his head in the sand he is just making things worse.

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