On Thursday, July 22, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez decided to put the border with Colombia on maximum military alert, after Colombian president Alvaro Uribe made accusations that Venezuela was harbouring FARC guerrillas and demanded an “international commission of enquiry”.
President Chávez also announced that Venezuela was breaking off diplomatic links with Colombia and gave Colombian diplomats 72 hours to leave the country.
The whole presentation of the Colombian ambassador the meeting of the OEA (Organization of American States) in Washington on Thursday was farcical. He presented pictures and satellite maps which were supposed to prove the presence of FARC and ELN guerrilla leaders in Venezuelan territory, as well as the existence of FARC and ELN camps inside Venezuela.
He claimed that these images had obtained from the computer of Raul Reyes, the FARC leader killed during an illegal incursion of Colombian troops in Ecuadorean territory in March 2008. Already at that time, a report from Interpol made it clear that no proper computer forensic methods had been used in handling the seized computer and that its contents had been changed between its seizure on March 1 and March 3 when its contents were made public. In other words, this “proof” is as good as the “proof” that there were Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.
“There is no evidence, not a single piece of proof, of where those photographs were taken”, responded Venezuelan ambassador to the OAS Roy Chaderton. He added that the Venezuelan army had verified and thoroughly inspected the locations and coordinates provided by the Uribe administration on Thursday and had found none of the alleged “terrorist sites”, “camps” or “guerilla presence” claimed by Colombia.
Furthermore, one asks, why has the Colombian government waited for more than two years to release this “information”? Some are saying that one of the reasons could be that Uribe is about to hand over power to Santos who is said by some to be a more “reasonable” president who wishes to build “good relations” with Venezuela. This, however, is an illusion. Santos was Uribe’s defence minister and was the spokesperson for many earlier provocations against Venezuela. We should be under no illusion that he will be any better than Uribe when it comes to his internal and external policies.
It is reasonable to suppose that this latest provocation from the Uribe government, just a few days before it has to hand over power to its successor and former Defence Minister Santos, is linked to a wider campaign against Venezuela in the run up to the very important September 26 National Assembly elections.
On June 3rd, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched a public attack on Venezuela, saying that its “leaders have tried to silence independent voices that seek to hold that government accountable”, while announcing additional funding for NGOs operating in countries where democracy is allegedly “under threat”.
At the beginning of July, Cardinal Jorge Urosa, the archbishop of Caracas, lashed out against Chavez saying that he was leading the country towards a “Marxist-communist dictatorship” based on a “foreign model” copied from the former Soviet Union, and that he had a “violent, exclusive totalitarian tendency.” The Cardinal conveniently forgot that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church (and the Cardinal himself) participated and openly supported the April 2002 coup against the democratically elected president. Some democratic credentials!
There have also been tensions around the presence of US military aircraft in the Dutch island of Curaçao, just off the Venezuelan coast, which Venezuela has on several occasions accused of having violated her own airspace. To this we have to add the recent deployment of US troops in Costa Rica, a country which has no army. On July 1, the Costa Rican government authorized the presence of 46 US war ships and 7,000 marines into its territory.
National Assembly elections
It is clear that every time the Venezuelan people are called to elections or referenda, a carefully orchestrated campaign is immediately put in place. This campaign includes media manipulation, diplomatic pressure and attacks, attempts to brand the Venezuelan revolution as a dictatorship, or linking it to “terrorism” and narco-trafficking etc. It also involves economic sabotage, attempts to create chaos and disruption in Venezuela itself, etc. These are the “democratic” methods of the Venezuelan oligarchy and imperialism, and Colombia is a key player in these plans.
Washington is very selective in its condemnations of human rights violations. Under the government of Uribe, Colombia has accumulated an appalling record of human rights violations, including the assassination of trade unionists and social activists, kidnapping, torture, etc. Recently a mass grave containing more than 2,000 bodies from the dirty war was discovered in Macarena, the largest ever found in Latin America. Human rights organizations fear that many of those might be “false positives”, i.e. ordinary people who were killed by the army and branded “insurgents” in order to boost the “successes” in the war against the guerrillas, and so that soldiers and officers could be rewarded.
However, despite the recent victory at the polls by Uribe’s successor, Santos, the Colombian ruling class is facing a growing militancy of the trade union, peasant and indigenous movements. During the celebration of 200 years of independence, social and indigenous organizations organized a march and mass assembly (cabildo abierto) in Bogotá, with more than 25,000 participating.
The right wing government of Uribe signed a deal with the US, allowing its military full access to 7 key strategic basis in Colombia, as well as full access to the country’s civilian infrastructure. US military personnel in Colombia are also immune from prosecution. The call to send “international observers” to the Colombian-Venezuelan border is therefore an outright provocation, to which President Chavez has responded with the necessary firmness.
As one might expect, Washington rushed to back up Uribe’s allegations, which had been prepared in the US in any case. State Department spokesman, P. J. Crowley called the dispute unfortunate and said it was a “petulant response by Venezuela to cut off relations with Colombia.” “Venezuela has clear responsibilities,” he said. “Colombia has put forward serious charges. They deserve to be investigated.”
Not surprisingly, this provocation received the full support of the Venezuelan counter-revolutionary opposition. In a joint press conference, the “United Platform for Democracy” (MUD) supported Colombia’s allegations and attacked Chavez’s “irresponsible foreign policy”.
Meanwhile, there has been a lot of talk of taking this dispute to the forthcoming UNASUR summit. The Brazilian government has already tried to pour water on the flames. “We don’t want to favour Venezuela or Colombia. We’re after an agreement and it would be excellent if we had distension signals before Santos takes office”, said Marco Aurelio García, president Lula’s foreign affairs advisor. He also insisted that he thought that the dispute would be resolved quickly “once Santos takes office”. But how can the dispute between revolution and counter-revolution be solved with diplomatic niceties?
Defend the Venezuelan revolution!
Faced with this attack, Chavez responded correctly by putting the military in alert and by calling on the people to mobilize and remain in alert. He has also threatened to close the border and to cut off oil supply to the US if the conflict escalates into military action.
As we have already reported, the newly formed Bolivarian National Militia is a step towards the arming of the people to defend the revolution and an intervention force would be faced by an armed people. This initiative needs to be strengthened and widened, so that there are units of the Militia in every factory, in every quarter, every peasant community, to defend the revolution against capitalism and imperialism.
If the US were foolish enough to launch a military attack on Venezuela through the agency of Colombia, this could have revolutionary implications throughout the continent. We predict that the day after any such action there would be no US embassy left standing in the whole of Latin America.
In order to defend the Venezuelan revolution is necessary to mobilize international solidarity, not only in the American continent, but also worldwide. At the same time, in Venezuela, the revolution needs to be completed with the expropriation of the oligarchy, the owners of banks, industry and the land, so that the Venezuelan working people can mobilize the full potential of the economy through a democratic socialist plan of production.
If the Revolution is faced with war, it cannot afford to be naïve and leave vital lines of supply and economic power in the hands of the enemy. The Venezuelan capitalist class has shown once and again that, faced with revolution, they will not hesitate to use all means at their disposal, including assassination, military coups and economic sabotage, in order to defend their power, wealth and privileges.
The counterrevolutionary Venezuelan bourgeoisie has shown repeatedly that in any serious conflict they would side with the foreign enemy and imperialism. The expropriation and nationalization under workers’ control of their properties is a matter of survival and self-preservation for the Venezuelan revolution.
Finally, it is important to make an internationalist appeal to the people of Colombia. Many times, the oligarchy in Latin America has led the people of one country against the people of another; in order to defend their power and divert the attention of the masses from their real problems to the “foreign enemy”. The only way to achieve Latin American unity is through socialist revolution spreading to the whole continent and beyond.
Defend the Venezuelan revolution! Arm the people through workers’ and peasants’ militias! Expropriate the property of the oligarchy and imperialism! For the unity of the people of Venezuela and Colombia! For a Socialist Federation of Latin America and the Caribbean!