On April 13, the Colombian senate approved a resolution proposed by Senator Enrique Gomez Hurtado that condemns the “dictatorial regime” of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias and calls for the Organization of American States to apply the Interamerican Democratic Charter to Venezuela.
According to Article 21 of the Charter: “In the event of an unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime that seriously impairs the democratic order in a member state, any member state or the Secretary General may request the immediate convocation of the Permanent Council to undertake a collective assessment of the situation and to take such decisions as it deems appropriate.”
What is meant by “such decisions” is not specified in the Charter, but it is generally accepted to include all actions up to and including military intervention by OAS states, including the United States.
Immediate responses to the Colombian senate resolution from both the Colombian and Venezuelan governments were swift in coming. Two official responses were released by Colombian governmental bodies.
The first response came from Colombia’s Delegation to the Andean Parliament, which stated that the views expressed by the Colombian senate are not necessarily those of the Colombian government and people, and that the decision to invoke the Democratic Charter is in the hands of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez. Then, in a paragraph that is edited out of most news reports, the Colombian Delegation calls upon the Venezuelan government to find an “exit” to their situation, which is a more mildly worded version of the Colombian senate resolution that they supposedly condemned. This response was hardly reassuring to the Chavez government.
A second response came from the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Relations, which repeated the same points made by the Colombian Andean Parliament Delegation, but left out the overt criticism of Venezuela leveled by the first communication.
This communication met with a more favorable response from various representatives of the Chavez government (among them Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs (MRE) Jesus Arnaldo Perez and Venezuelan OAS Ambassador Jorge Valero), and these representatives consider the Colombian senate resolution to be null and void.
One fact that is overlooked by Chavez government representatives in their responses is that only one OAS member state needs to make a request to invoke the Democratic Charter in order for the OAS Permanent Council to consider the request … it takes a two thirds vote of the OAS General Assembly to suspend a member state from the OAS, which is considered the ultimate sanction.
The most notable Venezuelan response to the Colombian resolution came from Jose Vicente Rangel, Executive Vice President of Venezuela, who made the astute observation, “Senator Gomez Hurtado’s proposal has as its bases the United States government’s campaign against Venezuela and the geo-strategic development of Plan Colombia.”
Rangel’s statement also makes note of the fact that the original Spanish version of Proposition 249 is written in bad Spanish, with misspellings and grammatical errors that are uncharacteristic of the normally high standards of Colombian jurisprudence. Rangel proposes that the proposition could have been “inspired and edited by the Venezuelan coup leaders in exile in Bogota, Pedro Carmona [exiled FEDECAMARAS president] and […] Daniel Romero, spokesman of the de facto government the 12th of April .”
However, others take a more sinister view…
Some Colombian social and political leaders [Temor por guerra entre Colombia y Venezuela, New Colombian News Agency] point to the recent presence in Colombia of US Congressman Lincoln Diaz Balart … cheerleader for the right-wing Cuban exile community in Florida … as possibly having an influence in the drafting of this document.
Venezuelan National Assembly (AN) deputy Tarek William Saab characterized the Colombian resolution as a “vile pamphlet” which, besides being poorly written, appears as though it could have originally been written in English by the US State Department.
When asked by the Venezuelan press about the resolution, US Ambassador to Venezuela Charles S. Shapiro is quoted as saying “I don’t have an appreciation at this time of the agreement approved by the Colombian Senate … the idea that this resolution from the Colombian parliament has anything to do with the United States is untrue.”
Hollow words, coming from the US Ambassador who was implicated by taped police radio conversations in the April 11, 2002 massacre at Llaguno Bridge during the early hours of the coup.
What could be behind the Colombian senate resolution?
Many point to US policy in Colombia under the program Plan Colombia. Even mainstream Latin American history books (e.g. A History of Latin America, by Keen and Haynes, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 2004) state that Plan Colombia is not so much about US anti-drug policy as it is about securing the Colombian oil industry that had been under attack by leftist guerrillas. Besides outsourcing the task of taking back control of guerrilla-controlled areas to paramilitary death squads responsible for the slaughter of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of innocents, and providing juicy multimillion dollar contracts to US companies such as Monsanto and DynCorp, there have been few visible accomplishments for Plan Colombia.
It is not inconceivable that part of Plan Colombia would be to destabilize and overthrow the Chavez government and install puppet leaders to make US access to Venezuelan petroleum resources easier and cheaper.
Perhaps it is to this end that the Colombian government has purchased forty AMX-30 tanks from Spain with US assistance. And, knowing how US covert operations have been conducted in the past, it is quite possible that the US has great interest in testing and observing how much support the Chavez government has by, for instance, sending its surrogates to attack the hospital in Monagas State and watching the community response. This could also extend to observing the Venezuelan diplomatic response to the (intentional?) provocation produced by the Colombian senate resolution.
Is a US-backed invasion of Venezuela by Colombia imminent?
Perhaps. The one person who has remained conspicuously silent on this issue is Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who holds the keys to this situation.
The Venezuelan National Assembly passed a resolution on April 15 condemning the Colombian senate resolution. Among other things, the resolution calls upon President Uribe to “speak to the issue of this anti-Venezuelan agreement.”
We are all waiting for President Uribe’s response…