Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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The Consolidation of Bolivarian Authoritarianism and Terrorist Ties
As Jackson Diehl writes in today's Washington Post, Hugo Chávez's version of the Bolivarian Revolution is in a deep crisis.

He is enough of a crisis that his pulled force RCTV off the air for refusing to carrying his endless and inane speeches en toto, even though they take hours of air time. Not that there is even the appearance now of freedom of the press, but the price to Chávez's already-sullied international image will be high.

However, I am not sure I share Diehl's optimism that the system is on its way to collapse. It would be in a normal world, but given Chávez's clear willingness to profit from the expanding cocaine trade through Venezuela, he has more of an economic slush fund to draw that could allow him to limp along and keep a deeply inefficient system running.

More evidence of Chávez's ties to terrorist groups is now in hand. The FARC and much smaller (though still declared Marxist) ELN (Ejército de Liberación Nacional - Army of National Liberation) have reached a ceasefire in order to stop killing each others' troops in the field.

The three meeting to reach an agreement of the two designated terrorist organizations were held in Venezuelan territory to discuss a truce, and were ultimately sign an agreement to jointly confront the Colombian government

Among the points discussed were how to bring the ELN more fully into the FARC's primary umbrella front group, the Movimiento Continental Bolivariano. The MCB publicly held its most recent plenary session in Caracas in December, and named senior FARC commander Alfonso Cano to its directorate.

How to the FARC and ELN support themselves? Primarily through drug trafficking (FARC) and kidnapping and extortion of foreign companies (ELN). Now, Chávez, in return for the safe haven and state support he provides, is able to reap part of the profits these terrorist groups generate.

So, in an ideal world, Chávez would be finished. But he may not be. Perhaps the most important thing, as Diehl noticed, is the growing willingness of other South American leaders to take on Chávez's authoritarism publicly. Like the cancer of not wanting to publicly hold accountable the "Big Men" of Africa (see Mugabe et al), the Latin American democratic nations have tolerated the abuses of Chávez, Ortega, Morales and Correa with an amazing bout of silence and moral cowardice.

Chile's new president Sebastián Piñera, has publicly called out the authoritarian regimes and stated his position that Chile does not view their regimes as the future of the hemisphere. Colombia, Peru, Panama and Honduras have to truck with the Bolivarians and Ecuador seems to be backing away from the once vice-like union with Venezuela.

Ultimately, taking away his international stature will hurt Chávez more than his economic crisis. He has a slush fund for his economy but not for the growing willingness to confront his thuggish regime.
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