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The Temptations of Chávez

By Alexandre Adler | La Chronique - Le Figaro

11 May 2005 | The inventors of chaos theory were poets, precisely because they were great mathematicians. Thus, to them we owe the finally famous metaphor, according to which the fluttering of the wings of a butterfly in one part of the world can cause a hurricane on the other side of the planet. Behind this admirable comparison, one must understand that there are complex causalities at work in nature, whereby apparently negligible objects can of their own strength, if introduced into overwhelming mechanisms, have effects incomparable to their own original importance.

International relations are full of examples of this type. As, for example, the operation, at the beginning just a political matter, carried out by the president of the Italian Council, Antonio Giolitti, aiming, after settlement of the Moroccan affair, to give his country a bit of prestige and a window onto the southern Mediterranean, in other words the Italian attack on Libya in 1911, was at the start a very limited affair. But the swift defeat of the Ottoman army by the Italians, in a totally peripheral and well-forgotten province of Constantinople, immediately made patent the weakness of the new Young Turks who had sprung from the liberal revolution of 1908. It would not take a year for the Christian powers of the Balkans to imitate the Italian example, it would not take two years for these same powers to sink their beautiful teeth into the booty to be shared after the fall of Salonica and it would not take three years for the assassination at Sarajevo to happen, as the ultimate consequence of the recovered contentiousness of the Russo Serbian axis and the abysmal life created by an ultimate collapse of the Ottoman Empire that the quite harmless calculations of Italian domestic policy had in fact precipitated.

In Latin America we are currently on the eve of a situation of this kind, but one begins to imagine metaphors less poetic and more brutal to express here the same catastrophe theory, for example, that the sudden snap of a primate’s jaw can cause a volcanic eruption. The primate or the gorilla, likely recognized already, is the apprentice dictator of Venezuela, Chávez; and the volcanic eruption is, evidently for the first time in its history, a confrontation generalized throughout the continent, one of whose consequences will be new tensions in the markets for oil and raw materials, and the other, the most elaborate preparation for unprecedented geopolitical tensions between China and the United States.

We have, indeed, three contradictory movements that combine somewhere in the Caribbean semicircle between Mexico City and Caracas, and which can lead to greater crisis: first, there is the overture, that is to say, the Cuban succession crisis; second, there is Mexico’s passing the test of party alternation; third, there is the progressive conversion of Chinese economic strategy and its search for an oil-producing autarchy.

Agatha Christie enjoyed saying that our sins cast long shadows. Because Cuba had progressively become an organic component of the Soviet Empire, the same oppositions over there emerged in Poland, Bulgaria or East Germany: a reform-minded police and military allied to a KGB-turned-Gorbachovian looking for the way to reforms while the traditional party apparatus stood opposed. But, far from Moscow, it was the party and Fidel Castro who prevailed.

Through a prodigious geographical expansion of this contradiction, we find again today, in the heart of South America, the two tendencies in growing opposition. A great friend of the Cuban secret service refined by Castro, which secured for him, following plastic surgery, his return to the country: The strongman of the Workers' Party of Brazil, José Dirceu, embodies this reconciliation with the liberal modernity that some time ago cost the life of General Ochoa in Havana; Chávez, on the contrary, and his populist allies of the Andean Arc, from the Colombian communist hostage-takers to the narco-rioters of Peru, Bolivia and now Ecuador, etc., is a perfect representation of the violent flight forward embarked upon by the Castro brothers starting in 1988.

Venezuela, flooded with Cuban physicians, police agents, and sports coaches, has thus become the privileged battleground for the Stalinist wing of the Castro dictatorship. The Argentine guru and self-proclaimed anti-Semite, Norberto Ceresole, who inspired Chavismo at its beginning, essentially a pro-Islamist, is now replaced by a German Stalinist by the name of Heinz Dietrich who works hand in hand with the men in Havana to smother what is left of democracy in Venezuela. However, Venezuelan troubles cannot be limited to "Bolivarian” territory.

The power of Chavez’s propaganda, like that of Perón’s in former times, resonates over a circle of power which goes through Colombia and Central America and reaches Mexico. Everywhere the left, which is powerful, is already divided according to the same ideological lines. In Colombia there is the new trade unionist mayor of Bogotá, Lucho Garzón, up against the leadership of the FARC insurrectionists; in Nicaragua, there is division among the Sandinistas, and in Mexico there will inevitably be the redefinition which the leader of the left, López Obrador, will create during his presidential campaign in one direction or the other. For this reason alone, the Venezuelan matter has ceased be quaint.

The temptation of Chávez to unleash an armed conflict with neighboring Colombia so as to regain control of the army and totally crush civil society is perfectly inscribed in this project. Unfortunately this is where the Chinese factor intervenes: Exactly as the Soviet Union not long ago devised its implantation in Cuba as an appropriate response to the existence of West Berlin in the heart of its empire, the China of tomorrow, manifestly fallen prey to an autarchic fever which could grow brutally worse with the exhaustion that one can already foresee coming from a model of development founded on exports alone, could decide whether Chávez and his militarized Venezuela might be the right answer to the Japanese-American strategy of fortifying Taiwan.

Already Chávez envisions not selling any petroleum to the United States and wagering all his exports on the Chinese market, and China has just recently helped Castro to revalue his national currency. At any given moment, these tensions originating from very different horizons and calculations could converge. That is what we call a the mathematical sense of the term, of course.

Translation by W.K.

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