Foreign Affairs

Bachelet Keeps Close Ties to Chávez

Insiders report that the reason the White House and State Department devote so much energy to molly-coddling Chilean Socialist President Michelle Bachelet is to give her no pretext for falling into the arms of Caribbean clown prince Hugo Chávez.

Good grief. Don’t those Bush people know anything? (Alas, given their fickleness in foreign affairs, the answer would appear to be “no.”)

Bachelet has been a Socialist all of her life. For those who equate socialism with, say, Tony Blair, it will be useful to point out that the party she joined back in the early 1970s had far more in common with the murderous villainies of Mao Zedong than it did with the effete Socialist parties of Europe.

Although she patently chomps at the bit to embrace Chávez — and, indeed, allowed him to kiss her at two international conferences last year — such limited restraint as she demonstrates has nothing to do with what the U.S. thinks or does not think of her, and everything to do with the dominant party in her leftist government coalition: the Christian Democrats. It was Christian Democrat truculence — and nothing else — that caused her to back off from her determination to give Chile’s valuable vote to Chávez in his lavish campaign to occupy the Latin American seat in the U.N. Security Council.

How effective is the U.S. policy of appeasement?

In April, motor mouth Chávez launched one of his typical, insult-infested attacks, this time aimed at the Chilean Senate for its temerity to approve a resolution criticizing his silencing of the leading television outlet in Venezuela. Insults notwithstanding, a few days later, Bachelet went ahead with a planned trip to Venezuela (for an energy conference), vowing to reprimand Chávez in their private meeting. At said private meeting, she not only stayed twice the time budgeted for it but also signed an agreement with him that had been opposed by her finance, mining and foreign ministers, paving the way for up to $800 million in investment by Chile’s smallish State Oil Company in Venezuela’s giant state oil monopoly. The investment would be for exploration in Venezuela’s Orinoco Tar Belt, which Chávez had just taken over (i.e., stolen) from half a dozen foreign investors. She also entered into an agreement with him for an item that wasn’t even on the agenda, pledging that Chile’s state television network would carry the programming of a new Latin American TV “news” network Chávez was launching.

Well, then, if not willing to do Washington’s unspoken bidding, surely she thinks kindly of the country where she spent a grammar school year (at a Prince George’s County, Maryland, public school).

True, she has friends in the U.S. Bill Clinton, for example, spoke highly of her when she was a presidential candidate. And Hillary Clinton hosted a major bash for her during her first presidential visit to Washington in 2006. Recently, she shared the platform in Santiago with Al Gore.

And George Bush?

Chile’s leading newsmagazine recently featured a report on Bachelet’s private and confidential secretary, Claudia Hernández. The article included a photograph of Hernández seated at her desk. On the desk sat a large coffee mug with Edvard Munch’s celebrated, gruesome drawing, The Scream. Above the image: “Bush.” Below it: “Again?”
Hernández came out of the radical left wing of the Socialist Party, so her hostility to Bush would come as no great surprise. (But then, Bachelet came out of the same radical wing.) What is surprising is that she would advertise that hostility to the President of a country with which Chile has allegedly friendly relations, and do so in an office right next door to that of the president of Chile. Nor, as the article made plain, is there much doubt that Bachelet has seen the offending cup, since she regularly strolls in and out of that office, and so, at the very minimum, tolerates this diplomatic abomination.

Good grief. Don’t those Bush people know anything? 


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