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Venezuela's Chávez Urges End to Colombian Insurgency

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout: Debate & Discussion' started by Invisible Fan, Jun 10, 2008.

  1. Invisible Fan

    Invisible Fan Contributing Member

    Dec 5, 2001
    Likes Received:
    In Sharp Reversal, Guerrillas Are Asked To Release Hostages
    June 9, 2008; Page A6

    In a surprising turnaround, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez urged Colombian guerrillas to free hundreds of hostages, put down their weapons and end their almost 50-year campaign to overthrow Colombia's government and install a communist regime.

    Speaking on his weekly television program, Mr. Chávez, who has been a public ally of the 9,000-strong Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, said the group's efforts to overthrow Colombia's democratically elected government were unjustified. "The guerrilla war is history," Mr. Chávez said.

    The president has been lobbying friendly governments to grant de facto democratic diplomatic recognition to the FARC. "At this moment in Latin America, an armed guerrilla movement is out of place."

    He urged the FARC, which funds itself mainly through drug trafficking and kidnapping for ransom, to free the estimated 700 hostages it holds.

    It remains to be seen whether Mr. Chávez will back up his words by ending the financial and military support he appears to have been giving the rebels, or ending attempts to win them diplomatic recognition.

    Until recently, Mr. Chávez has played an active, controversial role in attempting the release of about 40 of the hostages, including three American defense contractors, Colombian soldiers and policemen, and political figures.
    Getty Images
    Some FARC members surrender their weapons Friday to the Colombian Army in Medellin, amid a series of setbacks for the guerilla group.

    "The time has come to free all of the hostages you have," Mr. Chávez said, addressing Alfonso Cano, the FARC's new leader. "It would be a great, humanitarian gesture. In exchange for nothing."

    The FARC has relied heavily on Mr. Chavez's political and economic support in its war against the government of President Alvaro Uribe. If Mr. Chávez does not reverse course yet again, the guerrillas, in disarray, may be forced to seek peace talks with the Colombian government.

    At the least, Mr. Chávez's statements should improve strained relations with Colombia, with which Venezuela has a $6 billion-a-year trade.

    The FARC has not seemed eager to negotiate. In a statement posted on a pro-FARC Web site Sunday and dated June 5, before Mr. Chávez's speech, Ivan Marquez, a FARC leader and liaison with Mr. Chávez, said the guerrillas' "strategic objective is the taking of power for the people."

    Mr. Chávez's about face is the latest in a string of blows to the FARC, Latin America's oldest and largest insurgency. Last month, the FARC confirmed their iconic leader, Manuel Marulanda, 78, had died March 26 of a heart attack.

    The worst blow appears to have been a Colombian cross-border military strike in Ecuador that killed Raul Reyes, the FARC's No. 2, on March 1.

    Following Mr. Reyes's death, Colombian police found a trove of intelligence in the guerrilla's computers that appeared to implicate Mr. Chávez in efforts to provide money, arms and political support. To a lesser extent, the computer files underlined surprising links between the FARC and President Rafael Correa of Ecuador, a close ally of Mr. Chávez. Both men denied the reports and said the computer evidence had been faked. Last month, Interpol, the international police organization, said it had verified there had been no tampering with the computer information.

    In the U.S., the computer files brought calls from Republican legislators to put Venezuela on the short list of states that sponsor terrorism. But such action appeared improbable, given that Venezuela is a top oil producer and a U.S. sanction would play havoc in already convulsed oil markets.

    Still, Mr. Chávez's turnaround may have been prompted by the sheer volume of evidence in the computers implicating him and some of his closest collaborators in actively aiding a group that is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union.

    It also is likely that domestic political considerations figured in Mr. Chávez's decision. His financial support of governments and left-wing groups outside Venezuela is deeply unpopular among his own people. Even with oil prices at record highs, Mr. Chávez's popularity has been slipping because of economic mismanagement by his administration, including shortages of staples.

    Eroding support also may have prompted his withdrawal Saturday of a new intelligence law, which, among other things, would have forced judges to cooperate with the country's intelligence services.

    In yet another development, Colombian authorities said they have arrested two Venezuelans, including a member of the country's National Guard, with 40,000 rounds of AK-47 automatic-rifle ammunition they allegedly planned to sell to the FARC.

    Recently, Venezuela has gone on an arms-buying spree, including the purchase of 100,000 AK-47s and contracting with Russia to manufacture ammunition for the Kalashnikovs in Venezuela. Colombian authorities expressed worry that the AK-47s, the guerrillas' weapon of choice, and the ammunition would find their way into guerrilla hands.
  2. weslinder

    weslinder Contributing Member

    Jun 27, 2006
    Likes Received:
    Way outdated insider information (old enough to share):

    PDVSA plans to build a pipeline across Colombia to supply China with oil. Chavez was backing FARC, not because he expected them to win, but to get concessions from the Uribe government to let him build the pipeline and protect it once it was built. I don't know that they got those concessions, but that's what I suspect.
  3. Dubious

    Dubious Contributing Member

    Jun 18, 2001
    Likes Received:
    That's freaking hilarious!

    Makes sense though because as much as Hugo wants to villify the US, he really doesn't have any other market for his heavy oil without a pipeline to the Pacific. I don't think the Panama Canal is large enough for modern tankers.

    Panama Canal
    The United States is the primary country of origin and destination for all commodities transiting through the Panama Canal, however, it is not a significant route for U.S. petroleum imports. The Panama Canal is an important route connecting the Pacific Ocean with the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. According to the Panama Canal Authority, 0.5 million bbl/d of crude and petroleum products were transported through the canal in 2006. However, the relevance of the Panama Canal to the global oil trade has diminished, as many modern tankers are too large to travel through the canal. Some oil tankers, such as ultra-large crude carriers (ULCC), can be nearly five times larger than the maximum capacity of the canal. The largest vessel that can transit the Panama Canal is known as a PANAMAX-size vessel (ships ranging from 50,000 – 80,000 dead weight tons in size and no wider than 108 ft.)


    All politics are economic.

    #3 Dubious, Jun 10, 2008
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2008

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