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Venezuela and Bolivia: The Sin of Hugo and Evo

By Roberto Giusti | El Universal

Caracas, 9 June 2005 | While the Organization of American States was holding one of its more tumultuous meetings in recent decades, highlighted by the confrontation between the US and Venezuela, the political crisis in Bolivia continued —and continues— without there being any end in sight.

The relationship between Hugo Chávez and the leader of the coca growers from Chapare, Evo Morales, has been so close, so near and so effusive during the last few years that, while the Venezuelan president went so far as to state, toward the end of 2004, that Morales was "the most important leader" in Bolivia and was cut out to be president of his country, in turn the Quechua Indian has spared no opportunity to express his admiration for the person who acts as his political mentor, defining himself as a Bolivarian militant wishing to “liberate the Latin American peoples” from imperialist domination.

The ideological affinity and the sameness of their political purposes, bonded over the past few years and shared with Fidel Castro and former guerrilla leaders of the left throughout the continent, such as the Salvadoran Shafik Nada, turn out to be so evident that nobody can deny them. Therefore, how can Venezuelan foreign minister Rodríguez Araque “indignantly” reject the accusations by the head of US diplomacy for Latin America, Roger Noriega, who holds Chávez responsible for the role played in the Bolivian crisis?

Well, very hardly because protests concerning Chavista intervention in the internal affairs of "the Liberator's favorite daughter" go back to the times of the presidency of Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, who denounced that Chávez was behind the disturbances that culminated in his fall from power. But since that time the accusations have flowed unceasingly, one of them by the also former president, Jorge Quiroga, who in December of last year wrote a letter to Chávez, after the latter had anointed Morales as the next president of Bolivia, advising him that "the political future of my country is the responsibility of us Bolivians alone” and admonishing him that "the relations among countries and their governments cannot become contaminated by expressions and actions that border on meddling.”

Then there were imputations such as those by Otto Reich, former United States Undersecretary of State, who in a recent press article reported that a military attaché at the Venezuelan embassy in La Paz was caught under surprise by that country’s authorities with a briefcase full of money intended for subversive activities by the MAS. Also, there was speculation about the role possibly played by the Venezuelan Miguel Quintero, who worked with José Vicente Rangel at the foreign office, as a go-between and provider of funds for indigenist groups in Ecuador and Bolivia. But going beyond the denouncements, it is a certainty that the script followed by Evo Morales is similar, in its method and objectives, to the strategy for seizing and exercising power used by his Venezuelan mentor. Morales, resting on a political and social base supported by peasants, miners and inhabitants of the poorest zones in the cities of the Altiplano, has persisted in a systematically subversive and destabilizing action that succeeded in bringing down two presidents under the banners of national sovereignty, the vindication of claims by the indigenous population, the nationalization of gas and petroleum, the outlet to the sea, anti-imperialism, anti-globalization and anti-neoliberalism.

After the departure of Sánchez de Lozada was accomplished, they spoiled the intentions by his successor, Carlos Mesa, of pacifying the country, controlling separatist attempts and carrying on until elections. His last attempt was that of subscribing to what had been one of Morales's fundamental proposals, the election of a National Constituent Assembly, which finally floundered, because that is to be the next step in Morales's strategy in his advance toward the Presidency, in a political deployment with characteristics not unlike those of Chávez. Only the created expectations, the state of chaos, the threat of civil war and Morales's extremely high rate of rejection (59%) will make the last stretch of his road to the Presidency very difficult and now it will be his turn to taste a little of the same bitter chocolate he administered to Mesa and Sánchez.

Translation by W.K.

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