(8 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
Oh, this just keeps getting better and better:
CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Thursday expelled the U.S. ambassador from the oil-exporting country in an escalating battle between Washington and Latin America’s left-wing leaders.
“Go to hell, s— yankees, we are a dignified people, go to hell 100 times,” Chavez shouted at a political rally to thousands of roaring supporters.
Chavez, who calls ex-Cuban leader Fidel Castro his mentor, also repeated a threat he has made often to cut off Venezuela’s oil supply to the United States.
Chavez’s latest tantrum comes not from any direct provocation, but out of solidarity with Bolivia, which earlier expelled its own US ambassador whom it accused of supporting guerrilla violence. However, it is unsure whether the US ambassador had any diplomatic immunity though.
Take one guess what the attackers hit in Bolivia:
A pipeline in the southern state of Tarija that carries natural gas was attacked and cut yesterday, disrupting supplies to Brazil, the biggest consumer of Bolivian gas. Clashes between protesters and police across much of the “half moon” region, as the country’s eastern provinces are known, left as many as four people dead, EFE reported.
A major gas pipeline just happens to get mysteriously whacked during President Evo Morales negotiations with local governments over energy tax receipts.
Hmm. Sound like any crowd we know?
“Nice pipeline ya got there Evo. Shame if anything should happen to it.”
“Now, about those taxes…”
Beats a horse’s head in the bed any day.
Depressingly enough, this latest piece of sunny news may be only a precursor to much worse problems with our Latin American neighbors, as the US government continues its aggressive policy of sabotaging and undermining leftist governments in the region:
Jose Miguel Insulza, Secretary-General of the Organization of American States, said Sept. 10 that he was “profoundly worried” about the violence in Bolivia.
After four of Bolivia’s nine provinces approved referendums this year calling for greater autonomy from the central government, Morales backed a recall referendum on Aug. 10 that left both him and his main opponents, including Santa Cruz Governor Ruben Costas, in office. Afterwards, Morales promised a national vote on a new constitution in January.
The dispute between the central government and regional leaders has racial as well as economic overtones. The opposition, based in the eastern lowlands, draws more support from a wealthier, European-descended population than Morales, a western Bolivian of indigenous Aymara descent who took office in 2006.
“Both sides are entrenched in this dispute,” said Lopez. “There’s so much tension and repressed aggression in Bolivia right now.”
For his part, Chavez claims he’s ready for anything:
“If they overthrow Evo, if they kill him, let the Bolivian coup mongers know that they’ll be giving me a green light to support any armed movement in Bolivia,” Chavez said today in comments broadcast by state television.
But hey, no problemo. Hurricane Hugo is just some loud mouth, tin horn dictator with no real muscle, right?
Chavez frequently calls the United States an aggressive empire and has aligned himself with Russia. This week he allowed two Russian long range bombers to land in Venezuela and Moscow is also sending warships for naval exercises later this year in its first such move since the Cold War.
Update: Well, that didn’t take long:
The Bush administration has expelled the Bolivian ambassador, a day after President Evo Morales threw the U.S. ambassador out of the South American country.
“In response to the unwarranted action and in accordance with the Vienna Convention, we have officially informed the government of Bolivia of our decision to declare Ambassador Gustavo Guzman persona non grata,” a State Department spokesperson said.
Yesterday’s expulsion of U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg “followed the Bolivian Government’s failure on September 9 to address security threats to U.S. counternarcotics operations in the Chapare, which caused the withdrawal of DEA personnel,” the department said in a separate statement..
An interesting little caveat there inserted by the DEA. Seems as if the agency is still miffed at the forceout of its agents from the Chapare region of Bolivia. Could this have been another catalyst for this week’s orchestrated unrest?
Some background. Morales gets most of his support from poor campesinos whose only real option for eking out a living is to grow coca. The farmers hate the Americans for interfering, and it appears that in recent months Morales, a former coca grower himself, may have been stoking these resentments in an effort to get the US to bug out.
From the NYT (8/28):
Two months ago a mob of 20,000 protesters marched to the gates of the American Embassy, clashing with the police and threatening to burn the building down, prompting the State Department to temporarily recall Ambassador Philip S. Goldberg in protest. After the episode, Mr. Morales praised the demonstrators.
“Evo Morales simply cannot accede to U.S. demands after being democratically elected by a large mass of angry and hungry Indian peasants who see no real alternatives for themselves and their children,” said Bruce Bagley, an expert on Andean drug policies at the University of Miami.
Of course, Morales’ motives for kicking out the Yanquis are not just economic.
Radical parts of Mr. Morales’s political base, instrumental in bringing him to power, are chafing at American anti-coca policies, especially here in the Chapare, where coca growers expelled American aid workers last month amid claims that they were conspiring to topple Mr. Morales’s government.
Looks as if the DEA may have been setting up its own little private, right wing army in the middle of Bolivia.
“We depend on the Americans for everything: our bonuses, our training, our vehicles, even our boots,” Lt. Col. José Germán Cuevas, the commander of a Bolivian special forces unit that hunts down cocaine traffickers, said at a military base here in central Bolivia.
With Vietnam-era Huey helicopters donated by the United States swirling above the base and dozens of Bolivian officers who have been trained alongside the Green Berets at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Ga., Bolivia ranks among the most muddled fronts of the Andean drug war.
Gee, a neo-Contra army like that could really come in handy should any unfortunate pipeline incidents or provincial uprisings just happen to be ‘necessary’.
It’s going to be interesting to see what happens in the next few weeks. Morales has made some bold moves in trying to boot the Americans, and the Bushies do not appear to be going quietly (as if). Stay tuned.
Oh, and we certainly can’t forget about Hugo.
The US State Department announced Friday it has informed Venezuela’s ambassador to Washington that “he will be expelled” in retaliation for the expulsion of the US envoy to Caracas.
The move was announced after the US Treasury said Friday it was freezing any US assets of two senior Venezuelan officials and a former official after accusing them of aiding Colombian rebels involved in drug trafficking.
Amazing how the War on Drugs can be used as a pretext for just about anything, don’t you think?
(H/T to davidseth for the links to today’s developments.)