Sábado, 24 de Julho de 2010

Warming up a freezing South America

By Pedro Seabra

 

Venezuela has cut ties with Colombia ... again. The reason? Colombia finally presented to the OEA evidence that allegedly showed 1,500 FARC elements, hiding in the Venezuelan jungle, under the harmless auspices of the Chávez government. Significant as it may be, this apparently extreme political measure – usually a sign of an impeding deeper crisis – has long lost its desired effect, especially in this particular region.

Indeed, from Colombian incursions on Ecuadorian soil to U.S. military bases agreements, inflamed call to arms and personal animosities, both countries have pretty much exhausted the “crisis rhetoric textbook” to its last breath, during the past two years. Elevated tensions have therefore always been a constant in the bilateral daily life.

As Michael Shifter points out, “this is vintage Chávez, and vintage Uribe, playing out their last act together”. No one really believes this latest episode could result in an open conflict. Although Chávez could definitely use the boost in social support, both countries now understand that they have much to lose if they choose to go down that road. The $7 billion slashed trade that resulted from the previous “severe crisis” will surely be taken into consideration.

Ultimately, this latest spat will fall on Uribe’s successor, Juan Manuel Santos – who will only take office on August 7 – to resolve. However, hopes that he will take on a more conciliatory tone towards its frequently-enraged neighbour are bound to be dashed by a good dose of realism. Chávez’s grip is fuelled by crises and unfortunately, Colombia is just over the border.

 

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