by Tomás Andino Mancía
As for President Hugo Chávez, we can reject the hypothesis that he was taken by surprise, like a naïve dove, by the cold and calculating Colombian president, since Chávez has confirmed in his statements that he has been making efforts for some time, and that he will continue making them, to advocate Honduras’ return to the OAS.
If it was intentional and in mutual agreement with President Santos, one might think that this step had some motives of a progressive nature, at least on the part of the Venezuelan, considering the undisputed course of solidarity with President Zelaya and then with the Honduran Resistance the Bolivarian government has followed. But although I have looked for these progressive motives, I can’t find them anywhere. On the contrary, the available information points in the opposite direction:
1) The entire purpose of the process is to attain the return of Honduras into the OAS and to re-establish business with the dictatorship through PetroCaribe, which will benefit only the golpista regime and not the Honduran Resistance, as we saw in earlier paragraphs;
2) The political direction that President Chávez took is diametrically opposed to that chosen in the FNRP National Assembly last February 26 when it decided to opt for a self-convoked constituent assembly with the goal of removing golpismo from power, not strengthening it; and
3) No coordinating organ of the Honduran Resistance was informed beforehand of the maneuver while, on the other hand, the golpistas were well informed and taken into account in the operation.
If what President Chávez wanted was to help the Honduran people and to aid in the rebuilding of democracy in Honduras, the first thing he should have done was to consult with the Popular Resistance, through the National Coordinator, who in turn should have consulted with internal bodies of the organization to reach a joint decision on the process, and not to impose one from outside as a fait accompli.
He did precisely the contrary: he came to an understanding first with President Santos, a strategic ally of the United States, then between the two of them they reached an understanding with the government of Porfirio Lobo, offering him business with PetroCaribe, and afterward, according to public statements by the FNRP Coordinator General, they consulted Manuel Zelaya Rosales about the plan in a simple telephone call. Not even to mention the coordinating organs of the FNRP and the base of the Resistance, who learned about it through international news releases.
It is painful to say so but the available evidence points in the direction of the Bolivarian government deciding to reach an understanding with our enemy, the golpista regime, as well as strengthening it economically, based on interests that are not those of our people. I don’t see how there can be any benefit of the doubt here.
What is the logic of this political conduct by President Chávez? What interests lie at the bottom of this conduct? The following is a hypothesis based on the study of the context and of a few antecedents.
Economic reasons for the Venezuelan turn toward Colombia
Colombia and Venezuela broke diplomatic and commercial relations in July of 2010 after then president of Colombia Álvaro Uribe had accused Venezuela before the OAS of supporting the FARC and ELN guerrillas at a time when he was developing an offensive to disperse them. Previous to that, there had already been a tense atmosphere because of the Colombian military incursion that destroyed a FARC encampment in Ecuador and because of the signing in October, 2009, of an agreement with the Untied States authorizing the construction of seven military bases on Colombian territory.
The severing of relations resulted in a difficult economic situation for the bourgeoisies of both countries since Colombian exports to Venezuela fell from seven billion dollars in 2008 to 1.5 billion in 2009, in addition to the non-payment for commercial transactions to Colombia amounting to almost 800 million dollars and the suspension of important petroleum and seaports infrastructure projects that turn out to be strategic for the Venezuelan economy, like the contruction of several oil pipelines and a canal with an outlet to the Pacific Ocean, to be used for commerce with South American and Asian countries. At the same time, Colombia was planning similar projects directed toward the Caribbean to benefit its oligarchy.
To the preceding it must be added that the Venezuelan economy suffered serious problems in 2010 because of the fall in petroleum prices, the consequences of the international financial crisis, an energy crisis caused by drought, the nationalization of 12 banking institutions and by corruption.
Similarly, ALBA as a project of integration of politically similar countries seems to have shrunk in prominence since 2010 in view of the emergence of UNASUR, a broader framework for integration that involves not only countries with ideolgically progressive identities (as in ALBA) but a larger number of countries, including regimes on the right like Colombia, and center-left regimes, like Brazil, leading it. At the same time, important political events influenced ALBA countries to turn their sights more toward domestic political interests than toward the outside, as had been happening since 2004. These political events were on the one hand the constant threats of coups d’état in Bolivia and Ecuador, as well as the coup carried out in Honduras, the advance of the rightist opposition in Venezuela in 2010 and a series of natural disasters in several countries.
In this setting, important political developments took place in Colombia and Venezuela. In the case of Colombia, the industrial and commercial bourgeoisie displaced from power the landowning sector represented by Uribe, characterized by a confrontational and militaristic practice and discourse that rendered unattainable the reopening of commercial relations and capitalist integration; Juan Manuel Santos therefore ascended to the presidency, a rightist businessman who, as was said, had been minister of defense, although with a “conciliatory” and pragmatic discourse, given to an easing of relations with Venezuela, as befitted the new times. Since then, Santos has developed an agenda of broadening relations with other countries that has led him to very intense international diplomatic activity.
For its part, the Venezuelan government chose to prioritize its integrationist relations with Colombia, even above the process of integration it had been practicing within ALBA. Shortly after President Santos took power in August, 2010, there was a reopening of diplomatic and commercial relations and the initiation of a process of integration for the resumption of projects that had been shelved and even for mixed Colombian-Venezuelan investments.
Political turn toward collaboration with rightist regimes
The Venezuelan government feels so pressured by the military siege the empire has laid around it, with its seven bases in the neighboring country, and by the necessity for a stable economic relation with its Colombian counterpart, that it is prepared to take actions that would have been unthinkable for it in the past. One expression of this willingness for conciliation with the right is its eagerness to demonstrate to Colombia, to the OAS and to the world that it backs elections and does not export armed struggle.
Along these lines, the government of Hugo Chávez has shown itself prepared to collaborate ever more with its Colombian counterpart in political repression of the insurgent left. Beginning in the year 2010, both countries signed a “security” agreement by which they made a commitment to capture leftist militants, or “subversives,” on both sides of the border. In this way, combatants of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) and the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) of that same country are taken prisoner on Venezuelan soil and then turned over to nothing less than the most repressive government in America, where prison, torture or death awaits them.
You can agree with these movements’ choice of armed struggle or disagree, but there is no valid justification for capturing political activists of the left who are doing no harm to Venezuela and turning them over to a fascist government like that of Colombia.
This is a demonstration of the success of the United States policy of baring its teeth by means of its bases, the coups d’état and the reactivation of its Fourth Fleet.
I don’t doubt that NATO’s military incursion into Libya and more recently into the Ivory Coast have deepened this pacifying course of the Bolivarian government and the best proof of that is the ease with which the Colombian government recruited Chávez for this “normalizing” task in Honduras.
The motives of the US State Department
But Colombia and Venezuela are only playing the game invented by the United States Department of States. What is this game?
In the context of Latin America, Honduras is not a country of great economic importance but it does have a political and integrationist significance. It is the only Latin American country where there was a coup d’état that could not be reversed and where there is a popular movement that wavers between an insurrectional and an electoral path. Therefore, in a regional context in which coups d’état are on the United States’ agenda, Honduras becomes a dangerous example because its levels of mobilization have inspired other social movements of the world.
For the empire, it is important that the Honduran case be a model of conversion of a popular resistance into an electoral movement that in the end consolidates the oligarchic state. It is important for them to establish a precedent that there can be a coup d’état that can be legiltimized after one or two years through an electoral process in which the resistance is incorporated as an opposition, distancing the specter of revolution.
On an economic level, Honduras has three borders with neighboring countries and despite our economic weakness, it is hardly possible to speak of successful Central American integration, of an FTA and a Plan Mesoamérica (earlier, the Plan Puebla Panamá) without our country.
In terms of the preceding, the incorporation of Honduras into the OAS, as well as into SICA (Sistema de Integración Centroamericana), which has already been achieved, is key and for this purpose the US State Department has brought together a range of forces, from the ultra-right Colombian (Santos) and the center-left Salvadoran (Funes), to achieve that purpose, with no need to damage themselves as happened in negotiations for the San José pact.
But that strategy cannot work without persuading the Resistance to collaborate. And the most influential international actor who can have credibility with the Resistance and with Manuel Zelaya Rosales himself is none other than the Latin American leader who at other times acted as our principal ally, President Hugo Chávez; now willing to cooperate with dictator Porfirio Lobo Sosa in “normalizing” the Honduran crisis – including the yields he might receive from sales he might make in Honduras with PetroCaribe – even if the project of refounding the country, which we of the Resistance propose, is lost.
An essential correction
Until the facts tell us otherwise, everything indicates that President Chávez has been dragged into this shameful role by the marriage that now joins him with one of the most reactionary and repressive regimes in America.
He does not realize that by opposing the insurgent forces or acting as a fireman against the insurrectionary processes of Latin America, hand in hand with the Colombian regime, he is in the long run weakening his own Bolivarian project.
It is our desire that President Chávez make a correction while he still has time to do so, considering the path he followed before, which was consistent with the interests of the Popular Resistance.
But failing that correction, we as a sovereign people have the power not to lend ourselves to the effort, which will benefit only the enemies of change in Honduras, and to continue the course defined by our “Campesinos Mártires del Aguán” National Assembly for the Refounding of our country.
Tags: Colombia, conciliation, cou d'etat, Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular, Honduras, Hugo Chavez, Juan Manuel Santos, Organiztion of American States, Petrocaribe, Porfirio Lobo, US State Department, Venezuela