The U.S. Ambassadors to Bolivia and Venezuela have been expelled this week from South America. An act of political immaturity on the part of these two South American countries, we should respond, in kind, and with clarity of purpose. In other words, we should provide exit papers for their Ambassadors in Washington, DC and begin to restrict U.S. foreign assistance to these countries. U.S. taxpayers need not foot the bill for South American shenanigans. And, by some indications, this incident may spread to other countries in the region, including Central America.
These two leader are populist heroes, in their own minds. These expulsions are symbolic, done for domestic and regional consumption for short-term political gain. And, in the end, the only people who will suffer from these political missteps will be the Venezuelans and Bolivians, not the United States. Rather than work to strengthen freedom, democracy, and the economy, these leaders have been doing the opposite. They are leading from the rear-view mirror with outdated, statist, and undemocratic models that will make problems worse for the people in these two failing states.
With regards to relations with the U.S., they work against everything good neighbors strive towards in the Americas including free markets, anti-terrorism, eradicating illegal drugs, and other things of mutual interest. Venezuela and Bolivia, led by Cuban Communist Party advisors, use the Organization of American States (OAS) to block progress advancing freedom. With sometimes tacit support from OAS leadership, they have turned the OAS mechanisms against democracies such as Colombia. By turning their backs on U.S. assistance to combat illegal drugs or terrorism, they have cast their lot with the enemies of freedom.
Unfortunately, it is not just Bolivia and Venezuela that are playing this game of who can be the most anti-American. Rafael Correa in Ecuador has based his entire political career on beating up the U.S. His latest political “masterpiece” includes refusing to renew a lease between our two governments to operate a drug interdiction facility in Manta, Ecuador. Bolivia’s anti-Americanism has grown even more pointed in recent weeks as the political opposition to his socialist agenda has turned more powerful and, unfortunately, at times violent.
In Nicaragua, the former dictator turned president Daniel Ortega has been more subtle in his anti-American diatribes, but that has started to change during the past few months. This week, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez cancelled a trip to Managua because Ortega expressed solidarity with the separatist provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Not to mention Nicaragua’s very cozy relationship with states sponsors of terrorism Iran and Cuba.
With the presence of the Russian military this week in Venezuela for military exercises, some commentators argue that a new Cold War is in the offing. I disagree. From a strategic standpoint, Russia has little use for Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, or Nicaragua. None of these countries give Russia what Cuba offered the Soviet Union for so many years. The Russian may exact some strategic value from “friendlies” in the region, but Hugo Chavez is a charlatan, Fidel Castro, with all of his warts, was not. But there are a lot more minuses than pluses for the Russians.
While this does not mean we ignore Russian adventurism in the Western Hemisphere, we should be more concerned about the spread of radical Islamofacism in the Americas or Chinese investments in key ports and facilities including, for starters, our facility in Manta, Ecuador. Assisting our staunch ally Colombia bring an end to FARC terror, supported by Venezuela, is also more important than chasing Cold War ghost stories or suppositions. Also, developing a more comprehensive non-proliferation policy for the region would be more in order that what the Bolivarian Axis nations want, attention.
With regards to Venezuela and Bolivia political antics, we should sever diplomatic relations with these two countries. Until our Ambassador is reinstated, the Congress should also review and begin to cut all foreign assistance with Bolivia (there is little, if any, going to Venezuela). Why trade with Europe when it will be more efficient to trade with the U.S.? ATPDEA for Bolivia should also be eliminated. If they were not cooperating with us before, why should U.S. taxpayers be required to foot the program? These political missteps will only turn away not only U.S. investors, but other foreign investors as well. All around, they are only hurting themselves.
Until the U.S. takes a firm stand against anti-American populism, petrodemocracy funded by Venezuela, and supported by Cuban Communist Party advisors, shall continue to cause problems throughout the hemisphere. The Russians see an opportunity to test the regional waters and ascertain if a more formal relationship with Cuba, not Venezuela, would be tolerated by the U.S.
As far as Venezuela, Bolivia, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the rest of the Bolivarian gang, the cold and hard reality is that the laws of economics and politics, in the end, show that they need us more than we need them. Yet despite our ideological differences, the U.S. has been a good neighbor during the past few years. Our patience has its limits and we must not allow a handful of countries to destabilize an entire region as they pursue quioxtic agendas.
If the OAS is unable or unwilling to control this matter, it is up to the U.S. to do so, alone if necessary.