By James Petras
In contrast to Chavez policy of handing over leftist and guerrilla exiles to a rightist authoritarian regime, President Allende of Chile (1970-73) joined a delegation that welcomed armed fighters fleeing persecution in Bolivia and Argentina and offered them asylum. For many years, especially in the 1980’s, Mexico, under center-right regimes, openly recognized the rights of asylum for guerrilla and leftist refugees from Central America – El Salvador and Guatemala. Revolutionary Cuba, for decades, offered asylum and medical treatment to leftist and guerrilla refugees from Latin American dictatorships and rejected demands for their extradition. Even as late as 2006, when the Cuban government was pursuing friendly relations with Colombia and when its then Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque expressed his deep reservations regarding the FARC in conversations with the author, Cuba refused to extradite guerrillas to their home countries where they would be tortured and abused. One day before he left office in 2011, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva denied Italy’s request to extradite Cesare Battisti, a former Italian guerrilla. As one Brazilian judge said –and Chavez should have listened: ”At stake here is national sovereignty. It is as simple as that”.
No one would criticize Chavez efforts to lessen border tensions by developing better diplomatic relations with Colombia and to expand trade and investment flows between the two countries. What is unacceptable is to describe the murderous Colombian regime as a “friend” of the Venezuela people and a partner in peace and democracy, while thousands of pro-democracy political prisoners rot in TB-infested Colombian prisons for years on trumped-up charges. Under Santos, civilian activists continue to be murdered almost every day. The most recent killing was yesterday (June 9,2011): Ana Fabricia Cordoba, a leader of community-based displaced peasants, was murdered by the Colombian armed forces. Chavez’ embrace of the Santos narco-presidency goes beyond the requirements for maintaining proper diplomatic and trade relations. His collaboration with the Colombian intelligence, military and secret police agencies in hunting down and deporting Leftists (without due process!) smacks of complicity in dictatorial repression and serves to alienate the most consequential supporters of the Bolivarian transformation in Venezuela.
Chavez’ role in legitimizing of the Honduran coup-regime, without any consideration for the popular movements’ demands for justice, is a clear capitulation to the Santos – Obama agenda. This line of action places Venezuela’s ‘state’ interests over the rights of the popular mass movements in Honduras. Chavez’ collaboration with Santos on policing leftists and undermining popular struggles in Honduras raises serious questions about Venezuela’s claims of revolutionary solidarity [This is consistent with Chavez' support of the butchers Gaddafi and Assad!]. It certainly sows deep distrust about Chavez future relations with popular movements who might be engaged in struggle with one of Chavez’s center-right diplomatic and economic partners.
What is particularly troubling is that most democratic and even center-left regimes do not sacrifice the mass social movements on the altar of “security” when they normalize relations with an adversary. Certainly the Right, especially the US, protects its former clients, allies, exiled right-wing oligarch and even admitted terrorists from extradition requests issued by Venezuela, Cuba and Argentina. Mass murders and bombers of civilian airplanes manage to live comfortably in Florida. Why Venezuela submits to the Right-wing demands of the Colombians, while complaining about the US protecting terrorists guilty of crimes in Venezuela, can only be explained by Chavez ideological shift to the Right, making Venezuela more vulnerable to pressure for greater concessions in the future.
Chavez is no longer interested in the support from the radical left: His definition of state policy revolves around securing the ‘stability’ of Bolivarian socialism in one country, even if it means sacrificing Colombian militants to a police state and pro-democracy movements in Honduras to an illegitimate US-imposed regime.
History provides mixed lessons. Stalin’s deals with Hitler were a strategic disaster for the Soviet people: Once the Fascists got what they wanted they turned around and invaded Russia. Chavez has so far not received any ‘reciprocal’ confidence-building concession from Santos military machine. Even in terms of narrowly defined ‘state interests’, he has sacrificed loyal allies for empty promises. The US imperial state is Santos primary ally and military provider. China sacrificed international solidarity for a pact with the US, a policy that led to unregulated capitalist exploitation and deep social injustices....."