March 8, 2008


Ricochet in the Andes: The fallout from Colombia’s recent military strike may cause the downfall of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez (Roger F. Noriega Friday, March 7, 2008, The American)

Along with about two dozen of his FARC comrades, Reyes was sleeping comfortably in a well-established rebel camp in Ecuador’s Sucumbíos Province, less than two miles outside of Colombian territory. Colombian ground troops recovered Reyes’s body and several laptop computers containing a wealth of information about FARC logistics, operations, and financing.

In the past, this sort of border incursion has been met with angry rebukes by authorities in Quito and contrite explanations from Bogotá. However, Ecuador does not have the capability or the political will to eliminate the narcoterrorist camps within its borders, and Colombian security forces concluded they had no choice but to strike when a high-value target like Reyes came into their crosshairs. Only the worst kind of hothead would suggest that the two countries go to war over a dead thug.

Enter Hugo Chávez. [...]

Chávez was furious that one of his collaborators, with whom he had spoken by telephone days just before, was killed so efficiently and so suddenly. Published reports that Colombian intelligence services located Reyes by triangulating the signal from a phone call with the verbose Venezuelan president must have left Chávez, well, speechless.

Lieutenant Colonel Chávez—who served in Venezuela’s military until he mounted a failed coup attempt against a democratically elected government in 1992—ordered tanks and troops toward the Colombian border. Colombian commanders have not responded in kind. They probably realize that Venezuela’s politicized and corrupt military has little chance of punching through dense jungle, climbing over mountainous terrain, or slogging through marshes along the border.

But Colombia did launch a devastating diplomatic offensive, publishing documents discovered in the hard drives of Reyes’s computers that allude to Chávez’s commitment to donate weapons and $300 million to the FARC. The documents cite a meeting between Reyes (a man wanted by Interpol) and Ecuador’s security minister, as well as an alleged offer by the Ecuadoreans to assign FARC-friendly military personnel to the border. No wonder Reyes was sleeping so soundly that morning. [...]

As for Chávez, his saber-rattling is choking vital two-way trade with Colombia, despite the fact that the Venezuelan people have been rioting for months over the scarcity of basic staples. Indeed, Lieutenant Colonel Chávez may be the only military leader in history to attack his own supply lines.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 8, 2008 7:12 AM
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