March 5, 2008

The Eudomarian Republic of Venezuela

"Como vaya viniendo, vamos viendo..."
Eudomar Santos, character in the legendary 1990s soap opera Por Estas Calles
Katy says: Venezuelan President Chávez recently announced that he was deploying thousands of soldiers to the border after Colombia bombed a FARC base in Ecuadorian territory. His government also announced the land border would be closed to all traffic, and expelled all Colombian Embassy officials while it announced it was bringing home all personnel from the Venezuelan Embassy in Colombia.

It remains to be seen whether all these announcements are part of an actual policy and consistent with some established policy goal. It's not clear what objectives Venezuela is pursuing with this unilateral action, or how long all this is going to last. The reason given so far, "to ward off a possible Colombian attack," has little to do with what has actually transpired, which differs from what has been announced.

Take the military mobilizations. Reports abound in Caracas that this is all a bluff. General Baduel said yesterday that it was all part of a "reality show" and a "media event." Stories from Caracas and the Pentagon hint that troop movement has been minimal, and that the little there is was put on just for show since, the story goes, the Venezuelan army does not have the plan, the logistics nor the operational capacity to mobilize thousands of soldiers to its border in three days.

In the meantime, Interior Minister Rodríguez Chacín blasts local media for reporting the troop movements, threatening to charge them with treason. Apparently the Minister thinks that the media should shut up about the movement of tanks in heavily populated areas during broad daylight.

Perhaps the Minister should ask himself why Chávez announced the troop mobilizations on national TV if they were, in fact, supposed to be secret. Perhaps they should have declared some sort of media blackout to prevent this sort of thing from getting out. Perhaps they should ask themselves if it's reasonable to allege the Colombian army, an institution with the technology to identify guerrilla camps inside Ecuador and pinpoint an attack, an institution aided by the technology of the US government, is relying on Globovisión to know where Venezuelan troops are headed.

But it's all just a show.

There is an undeniable whiff of improvisation in everything the government is doing. The Foreign Ministry, for example, is acting like a teenage child, making up responses on the hoof to the Colombian government's serious allegations like, well, like a country that doesn't need diplomacy and brains because it has oil.

One of MinPop Maduro's most embarassing responses was his claim that $300 million was simply too much money, suggesting it would take four rooms the size of the National Assembly to store that amount of cash. Maduro thinks this shows that the Colombian allegation of Chávez's financing of the FARC was a lie. Apparently the Minister thinks the whole world operates in cash.

Sounds like the kind of reasoning you overhear on a bus. "En la parada por favor!"

The Agriculture Minister announces the borders have shut down, which is akin to the Environment Minister announcing troop deployments (come to think of it, we may live to see the day). Meanwhile, people in the border say that, while traffic has slowed, it has not closed completely. Today, Chavez's burly Defense Minister said that he has received no orders to close the border.

No policy details are offered, no clear goals are set out, no end date is provided, no two spokespeople can agree. It's all dependent on Chávez's next whim. It's all improvised, it's all a show, unless... well, unless things change.

Como vaya viniendo, vamos viendo.

PS.- The legendary Zapata hits a homerun with his latest cartoon. Thanks to loyal reader Juantxon for pointing it out to us.