Friday, July 11, 2008

Colombia, FARC, Chavez

Chávez, on Defensive After FARC Losses, Agrees to Host Uribe

Presidente Uribe is on a winning streak.

Mr. Uribe, fresh from his government's daring rescue last week of hostages held by the country's Communist guerrillas, is expected to capitalize on the success to pressure Mr. Chávez to stop his support of the rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. The pair will meet at an oil-refinery town in Venezuela.

Not just that they did it, but how the Colombian armed forces liberated the hostages gives Uribe a strong hand; surely Chavez must feel some embarrassment.

Relations between the leaders have at times been very rocky since Mr. Uribe took office in 2002, but since November, when Mr. Uribe cut Mr. Chávez out of negotiations to free hostages held by the FARC, Mr. Chávez has unloaded often on his neighbor. He has called Mr. Uribe everything from a "lackey" of President Bush to a "mafioso" who heads a "narco-paramilitary" government.

But Hugo does not embarrass easily: for he to charge Uribe as a a narco-paramilitary or mafioso takes some cojones, considering his own record and his allies. But, politics is that way.

I think Chávez is completely spooked by these two extremely successful operations," says Michael Shifter, an analyst at the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue. "The operation to free Ingrid was called 'check,' after the chess move. Chávez has effectively been checkmated."

I would not count Chavez out just yet. He's in check, but not checkmate. He's wily, smart, and capable.

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