Hugo Chavez is currently conducting a political and financial “blitzkrieg” in countries such as Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Bolivia, Paraguay, Costa Rica, Peru and Colombia. So far, country responses to his aggressive efforts have been rather languid, with the exception of Honduras, where a rapid civic and military reaction has checked the progress of his offensive.
The case of the Honduras “coup” is already well known. Former President Zelaya attempted a coup, conducting an illegal referendum to change the constitution to allow for indefinite presidential re-elections, a change that Chavez had already imposed on the Venezuelan people. Chavez promoted this action by lending him logistical and financial support. After being ousted, Zelaya remained wholly dependent on Chavez’s money and aircraft support for his every move in the hemisphere.
In Nicaragua, members of the Supreme Court aligned with President Daniel Ortega met to “nullify” article 147 of the existing constitution that forbids the presidential re-election. Alejandro Serrano, a former president of the court has called this action a “vulgar coup,” adding “They are manipulating the constitution and the rule of law in an unthinkable way, since the Supreme Court does not have the authority to declare the constitution unconstitutional.”
This action confirms the claims of those who say that both the Honduran and the Nicaraguan initiatives respond to a concerted strategy promoted by Hugo Chavez, to install fascist-socialist, authoritarian regimes in as many countries of the hemisphere as possible. The Organization of American States has yet to say a word about the Nicaraguan coup while it continues to debate aimlessly about Honduras.
In Panama, the Minister of Government and Justice, Jose Raul Mulino, was surprised to find members of the Venezuelan embassy giving lectures throughout the country in which the so-called Bolivarian revolution of Chavez is presented as the solution for Panama. When asked about these actions the Venezuelan Ambassador to Panama, Jorge Luis Duran, claimed that they had “a right to inform the Panamanian population about the positive results of the Chavez revolution.”
Some 50 pro-Chavez groups have been established already in Panama and this has caught the attention of the new president of the country, Ricardo Martinelli, who is a firm opponent of Chavez. The Venezuelan ambassador is being called to the Ministry of Foreign Relations to explain is actions. Former Panamanian vice-president Guillermo Ford called these actions by the Chavez embassy “disrespectful and interventionist.”
In Bolivia, Chavez has been financing the presidential campaign of Evo Morales and is openly intervening in the internal affairs of that country. While in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba he defended the recent acquisition of weapons and aircraft by impoverished Bolivia, accusing the Paraguayan critics of these acquisitions of “plotting to oust [Paraguayan] President Fernando Lugo”.
In Costa Rica the government of Hugo Chavez has already installed a so-called “Peace Base”, designed to counter the agreement on military cooperation between Colombia and the U.S. The reaction of the Costa Rican government has been slow. The Minister of the Presidency, Rodrigo Arias, has said that this could represent an intervention of the Venezuelan regime in Costa Rican life and has asked for an investigation, while President Oscar Arias has said “Venezuela has nothing to teach us Costa Ricans about peace.” Similar bases have already been installed by Venezuela in Cuba and Nicaragua.
In Peru, Venezuela has promoted the installation of ALBA houses, which essentially transmit propaganda in favor of the socialist movement led by Chavez. The Peruvian government has complained mildly and is just starting to investigate the money transfers made by the Venezuelan regime to Ollanta Humala, the leftist presidential candidate defeated by current President Alan Garcia.
In Colombia, the political activity of the Chavez regime is most intense in connection with the FARC, the terrorist guerrilla group that receives his logistical and financial support. Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba, a friend of, and occasional spokesperson for, the FARC, is one of the frequent visitors to the Venezuelan presidential palace and is rumored to receive significant financial aid from the Venezuelan government to help in her activities against Colombian democracy.
None of these activities have received any attention from the Organization of American States, OAS, since its secretary general, Jose Miguel Insulza, is strongly biased in favor of the ideology promoted by Chavez. Insulza is actively seeking re-election as leader of this organization.
The attitude of the United States in connection with the Chavez’s “blitzkrieg” has been passive, even as Chavez has extended his initiatives to the U.S. academic world, Washington think tanks, Hollywood and, even, the U.S. Congress, where he is making modest but clear inroads. The U.S.government continues to define the ousting of former Honduran President Zelaya as a “military coup,” in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary that includes a report by the U.S. Congress.
The hemisphere ignores the Chavez’s threat at its peril.