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Chavez’ Spectre

By Abel Gilbert | El Periódico

[Allies Chavez and Morales talking last February. Credit AFP]

• The United States suspects that the president of Venezuela is promoting rebellions in other countries of Latin America.
• Peru, Argentina and Brazil appear restless concerning the scope of the Bolivian crisis.

Buenos Aires, 15 April 2005 | The words “security” and “danger” are never innocent, much less coming from the lips of the CIA, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, or any other person within the US circles of power. In the midst of the Bolivian crisis, in some Latin American foreign offices again there were heard echoes of a language believed to be long forgotten. A while ago, the director of the CIA, Porter Goss, said to the US Senate Armed Forces Committee that Latin America is a “focus of potential instability.”

Goss believes that in Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru and Venezuela “some problem” may arise which will alter the apparent calm of recent decades. “And now Bolivia,” he added. According to Goss, the Bush Administration “can not allow” a region “to turn into a backwater of violent and autistic states".

Morales’ Shadow

Different from what occurred in the 60’s, the "danger" does not emanate just from Cuba. The greatest “threat” now centers on the Venezuela of Hugo Chávez, whose hand Goss believes to be behind Evo Morales. “Chávez is using influence and resources backed by the clout of his petroleum to introduce into other countries his conflictive style of doing politics,” stated to the British “Financial Times” Roger Pardo, the Pentagon’s Adjunct Undersecretary for Hemispheric Affairs.

The Commander of the US Army Southern Command, General James Hill, was even bolder. “It is well established that Chavéz gave money to Morales,” he affirmed. Peruvian president, Alejandro Toledo, made his own contribution to that analysis asserting that Morales gives an incentive in his country to indigenous and nationalistic rebellions using unsuspected resources. "That is rubbish. All I have is an excellent relationship with Chávez, as I have with the presidents of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. Furthermore, they are the ones who are financing the extreme right and putting the democratic process in danger,” responded Morales.

During his recent tour through Argentina and Brazil, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld did not miss the opportunity to make oblique reference to the supposedly invisible axis which links Venezuela and Bolivia. Meanwhile, Rice expressed to the "Washington Post" a subtle restlessness concerning the plight of Latin America. The Secretary of State has detected a "terrain ripe for populism," leavened by “demagogic” politics which place an accent on “differences of class.” For Brazil, as well as Argentina, the Bolivian situation is worrisome for several reasons. Petrobras, the Brazilian state firm, is the owner of a certain percentage of the Bolivian market in hydrocarbons. The prospect of Morales collecting a 50% royalty from enterprises of that sector deserves the same rejection as occurred in the case of Repsol.

Argentina, which to a certain extent depends on Bolivian gas, also does not see with good eyes the radicalization of the conflict.

Imagined Hypotheses

Buenos Aires and Brasilia began to ask themselves what would happen if Morales were to arrive at the helm of power. At their foreign offices—which played an important role in the resolution of the Bolivian revolt of 2003—it is feared that in this country there will occur the same thing as in Haiti, where first the US intervened, and then later, the UN arrived with a fundamentally Latin American contingent.

To start with, towards the end of March, Bush called Argentine president Néstor Kirchner to “congratulate him” for Buenos Aires’ contribution to the “democratic stability” in Bolivia and for the role played by the Argentine military in the UN peacekeeping force in Haiti. In passing, he made some remark about the perceived Venezuelan "aggressiveness".

Translation by W.K.

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