Autocrat, totalitarian, Bolivarian reactionary. Now Hugo Chavez aims to add another descriptor to his storied list of accomplishments:
Hugo Chavez, action hero commando!
(Chuck Norris Unapproved!)
Clad in fatigues and a red beret, Chavez sent two helicopters to Villavicencio, Colombia, to fetch three hostages of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia. To make the weekend’s mission truly a leftist epic, Oliver Stone and his cameras went along for the ride. “There are some good Americans,” Stone told Chavez, purportedly referring to himself. “That’s why I’m here.”
After all, an action hero has to have a hot director — in addition to Chavez’s notorious supporting cast of Hollywood sheeple from Danny Glover to Sean Penn and Kevin Spacey.
“They are playing a political game, the FARC and Chavez,” Daniel Linsker of Control Risks, a London-based risk consulting firm, told Bloomberg on Saturday as Chavez’s copters hadn’t yet been given coordinates by the FARC as to where to land. “Any hostage releases in the past have not involved Chavez; they simply release them near the Red Cross and that’s that. This is going to get milked for all it can.”
Understatement of the year. Chavez dubbed the mission “Operation Emmanuel,” after a 3-year-old boy born in captivity (the daddy reportedly being one of the guerrillas) to Clara Rojas, a vice-presidential candidate captured jeeping in FARC territory in 2002.
The key with Chavez is to always read between the lines. He doesn’t give poor Americans discounted heating oil out of the goodness of his heart; he does it to curry favor with left-wing Americans and to make Bush look bad. He doesn’t hold elections on his constitutional “reforms” to embrace democracy; he does it to draw out opposition figures and organizations to keep in mind for later crackdowns.
He doesn’t constantly drop Jesus’ name to bring people closer to God; he does it because he fears Catholic Church influence and considers himself the reigning deity. He doesn’t open dozens of brand-new newspapers to educate the populace about local and world events; he does it to supplant the independent publications that are being squeezed to death, even forced to stop printing as he keeps them from getting newsprint.
Chavez hailed his hostage-rescue mission as “a first step to open a door toward the path for Colombia to have peace soon.” Baloney. It’s actually a first step to reasserting his influence after his grand election failure while simultaneously trying to make U.S. ally and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe look useless. According to Bloomberg, the Chavez government accredited more than 300 reporters beyond those normally in Venezuela for the event. After all, the revolutionary action hero needs Clark Kent to spread the word.
But Chavez’s key ulterior motive likely rests with extending a hand to the leftist guerrillas who could serve his cause for continental domination.
Rewind to 2000, when FARC leader Olga Marin, for example, spoke at Venezuela’s National Assembly and thanked the Venezuelan government for its “support.” A June 2000 video leaked by unhappy members of the Venezuelan military showed FARC and Venezuelan officers meeting and cooperating.
In 2004, FARC commander Ricardo Granda was captured by mercenaries living openly in Caracas and taken back to Colombia. As Chavez cried that the capture was a violation of Venezuela’s sovereignty, the FARC said Granda was in Caracas for a conference “at the invitation of Bolivarian organizations based in Venezuela, with the approval of (Venezuelan) government authorities.”
“If the U.S. war hawks used Colombia as a platform to invade the friendly Venezuelan people, the FARC would voice their strongest rejection and offer their unconditional support to the Bolivarian process,” said Raul Reyes, spokesman for the terror group, in a February 2006 interview.
And conservative Uribe is a holdout in both Chavez’s and FARC’s Marxist revolutions. Chavez would shed no tears if something would happen to Uribe or his government.
“That’s why I say it before the world, as long as President Uribe is president of Colombia, I won’t have any kind of relation with him, or with the government of Colombia. I cannot do it,” Chavez said at the end of November, cutting ties with Colombia after Uribe told him to butt his showboating nose out of the hostage mediations. In return, Uribe accused Chavez of orchestrating an “expansionist project” in Latin America.
Chavez’s hostage-rescue farce may give Stone’s cameras some dramatic footage of the Venezuelan leader’s finest method acting, but it’s what happens behind the scenes that should concern us.
“Our government has the respect not just of the FARC but of the ELN (another Marxist Colombian rebel group) and of many other factions in the world,” Chavez boasted Friday from an airbase runway.
And in return for that love — and shared ideology — the FARC is likely getting a lot more than just respect from Chavez.
Bridget Johnson is a columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News.