Pubdate: Mon, 17 Aug 2009
Source: Wall Street Journal (US)
Copyright: 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Author: Mary Anastasia O'Grady
Bookmark: (Opinion)


Why Is the Obama Administration Trying to Help Hugo Chavez?

Hugo Chavez took a break last week from lobbying Washington on behalf 
of deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya to travel to Quito, 
Ecuador, for a meeting of South American heads of state.

There he launched a virulent assault on the U.S. military, reiterated 
his commitment to spreading revolution in the region, and threatened 
the continent with war. Mr. Zelaya was by his side.

The Venezuelan's tirade against the U.S. and its ally Colombia raised 
the question yet again of what the U.S. could possibly be thinking in 
pushing Honduras to reinstate Mr. Zelaya. He was removed from office 
by the Honduran Congress in June because he violated the country's 
constitution and willfully incited mob violence.

But that's not the only thing that made him unpopular at home. He 
also had become an important ally of Mr. Chavez and was quite 
obviously being coached to copy the Chavez power grab in Venezuela by 
undermining Honduras's institutional checks and balances.

If Honduras has been able to neutralize Mr. Chavez, it's something to 
celebrate. A Chavez-style takeover of institutions in Bolivia, 
Ecuador and Nicaragua has quashed political pluralism, free speech 
and minority rights in those countries. There is now a heavy presence 
of Cuban state intelligence throughout the Venezuelan empire. Mr. 
Zelaya literally has become a fellow traveler of Mr. Chavez, leaving 
no doubts about the course he would put Honduras on if given the chance.

Among the theories making the rounds about Mr. Obama's motivations in 
trying to force Honduras to take Mr. Zelaya back, there is the 
hypothesis that this administration is tacking hard to the left. Mr. 
Obama has expressed the same views on Honduras as Sen. John Kerry 
(D., Mass.), who holds that the interim government must be forced to 
reinstate Mr. Zelaya and who has, over more than two decades in 
office, consistently allied himself with socialist causes in Latin 
America. The Americas in the News

As a U.S. senator, Mr. Kerry has the luxury of treating Latin America 
like his playground, as Democrats have done for decades, foisting on 
it ideas that Americans reject. Venezuelans still recall how 
Connecticut's Chris Dodd played the role of chief ChA vez cheerleader 
in the Senate while the strongman was consolidating power.

But Mr. Obama is the president and commander in chief, and millions 
of people in this hemisphere are counting on the U.S. to stand up to 
Venezuelan aggression. Playing footsie under the table with Mr. 
Chavez on Honduras while the Venezuelan is threatening the peace 
isn't going to fly in a hemisphere that prefers liberty over tyranny.

Both Colombian and U.S. officials allege that the Venezuelan National 
Guard and high-ranking members of Mr. Chavez's government are in 
cahoots with criminal enterprises that run drugs in South America. 
The evidence suggests an alliance between the terrorist Revolutionary 
Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) - the largest exporter of cocaine 
from that country - and members of Mr. Chavez's cabinet. There is 
also evidence in documents and video captured from the FARC that the 
rebels have influence at high levels of the Ecuadoran government.

The cocaine business is a big revenue raiser for the terrorist 
organization and for its business partners on the continent. This is 
why Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has agreed to allow U.S. 
drug-surveillance planes to use Colombian military bases.

In Quito, Mr. Chavez flew into a rage about that agreement. "The U.S. 
is the most warlike government in the world," he told his South 
American peers and Mr. Zelaya. "The Yankee military pays no mind to 
its president," he said, artfully exempting Barack Obama from blame. 
"In Colombia [the U.S. military] has immunity. They can rape women, 
they can kill and they can destroy in every direction. You can't do 
anything to them. It's horrible."

The military-bases agreement is far more limited than what Mr. Chavez 
claimed, but he wasn't about to miss an opportunity to ratchet up the 
tension. "The winds of war are starting to blow," he warned.

His counterparts didn't buy it. Colombia was not condemned in Quito, 
largely because key members of the group didn't want their own 
sovereign decisions subject to continental review. But Mr. Chavez is 
not going away. He has pledged to continue with efforts to 
destabilize surviving democracies.

Honduras remains a target. Argentina is also in his sights. In an 
interview with the Argentine daily La Nacian, he spoke of his 
alliance with Argentina's President Cristina Kirchner. "We are going 
to work to reinforce the Caracas-Buenos Aires axis, which is a 
central axis," Mr. Chavez said. "Like the Caracas-Quito axis, the 
Caracas-Buenos Aires axis is fundamental for the integration."

The U.S. war on drugs has been a colossal failure because of the 
large cocaine market in the U.S. The tragedy - beyond the violence it 
creates - is that criminal enterprises, flourishing because of U.S. 
customers, wreak havoc on frail institutions. That's bad enough. But 
the Obama administration pours salt in that gaping wound by refusing 
to support the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement our ally has asked 
for, and now by backing Mr. Chavez's Honduran pawn.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake