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Bachelet and Chavez

By Daniel Duquenal

06.10.06 - Chile now not so new president has been accumulating problems since she reached office. Not having been elected with as many votes after one would have expected considering she followed the very successful Lagos administration, she soon got entangled with a large student protest that she does not seemed to have handled very well. Other problems followed. Even Prensa Latina, the sycophantic Cuban press agency, reports that in polls she dropped to 45%. And, coincidentally, Bloomberg today reports that Chile growth is slowing down.

Well, her latest move will not help her much either. After weeks and weeks of supposed hesitation Bachelet today announced that, after all, she would support Chavez bid for a UN security council seat. Her reasons? According to Prensa Latina (and it is worth quoting):

The president highlighted some aspects she used to back up her decision in favor of Venezuela like regional support and how complicated it will be for Chile not to join the consensus in an arena where only Colombia and Peru will not join.

Now, before I analyze this let me say that the perspective of the UN receiving Chavez in the security council delights me. Note, I say Chavez, not Venezuela as it is Chavez who wants that seat so bad that he is willing to bankrupt Venezuela if necessary to get that seat. If the UN is stupid enough to let Chavez in, the better for us as they will know in the flesh all the vulgarity that we have been subjected to for the last 8 years. They got a warning a few days ago, let the show begin and watch the UN sink in utter uselessness.

Back to Bachelet. Her reasons prove beyond any doubt that she does not have the leadership required for her position. If her old school leftist ideas push her to vote for Chavez fine. But she should have shut up, call her ambassador and issue the instruction discreetly. The vote is secret; she really does not need to announce the vote of Chile. That is what a real leader would have done to dodge a silly issue.

But it gets worse: by pointing out that "only" Peru and Colombia will break the consensus it becomes even more damaging for the future role of Chile. A simple math calculation shows that South America has 10 Latin countries. It would be the same if Chavez gets 7 or 8 votes. But Chile small but significant leadership goes down the drain in the process while Colombia, and even more Peru appear to strike an independent pose, more in the interests of their country than in those of Chavez. Because make no mistake, Chile and Bachelet are bowing to Chavez bullying tactics and will gain nothing from that move. Chavez has long proved that he is an ingrate, and any kiss to Bachelet today can become a stream of insults if it suits him.

There is also another victim along the way: OAS secretary Insulza. It has been rumored for only too long that he owed his election to Chavez. Even if some say that in private he does not like Chavez (which I personally doubt) that Chile might appear to return Chavez’s favor for Insulza anointment will only diminish Insulza's stature, his ability to maneuver in ANY crisis involving Venezuela.

I cannot see any redeeming value for Chile in Bachelet decision. Even if she does that hoping that the rest of the world votes against Chavez, an hypocrite move to begin with, she will not gain anything. Only one country is going to benefit of the result, paradoxically no matter whether Chavez gets his seat. Peru has announced a few days ago that it would be best if both Guatemala and Venezuela withdraw their quest for the coveted seat, an initiative that observers like me were hoping would come from Chile!!!!! But coming from Peru it allows Peru to assume a new found leadership in LatAm!!! While the Chilean one goes down the drain: Chile has announced that it will be a follower and the two countries that lead the side that Bachelet termed “consensus”, as of now, will be Brazil and Venezuela. Amazing! Chile surrendered its leadership for nothing in return as the Chilean OAS secretary loses a few feathers along the way.

And it is not over: the locale of the announcement seems to indicate that she is facing a growing division within her coalition. In fact, she might seem to want to increase it. Dangerous game that could break the consensus of Chile which has made a successful come back from the bitterest dictatorship in LatAm history. In fact, she is just paving the road for the right to come back in triumph in a little bit more than three years. I hope that Foxley, the Christian Democrat foreign minister has the good idea of resigning on this move, for the sake of Chile, and his C.D. party who will be swept away by a right wing victory.

Ah! If Soledad Alvear had been the chosen “concertación” candidate!

Note: the links are all in English. For the Mercurio more complete story in Spanish, go here.

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