A Forum for Opinions on News, Politics, and Life
April 16th, 2011
By Dan Miller
Good for Chávez, good for Colombia, good for Obama; bad for Makled, bad for freedom in Latin America and bad for the United States.
In a PJ Tatler article, Bryan Preston reported that Colombian President Santos had accepted Venezuelan President Chávez’ request that narcotics king Walid Makled (a Venezuelan citizen of Syrian descent) be extradited to Venezuela and that the United States had dropped the ball. True, but President Obama is not accustomed to playing ball with our allies unless it’s hardball. If the Obama Administration had accepted the Colombian offer last fall to extradite Makled to the United States he would probably now be in the United States awaiting trial and talking like crazy to save whatever of his skin he could. President Obama might have had to play a little bit of hardball with el Presidente Chávez, but since he is a dictator and is not our ally that’s very difficult.
Bryan also noted that Makled’s
information could change the world’s perception of Venezuela, from a developing socialist country to a narcostate similar to Manuel Noriega’s Panama, but with Islamic terrorism overlayed as an additional threat.
I am not sure that the change isn’t already happening, despite President Obama. As a bit of a side note, Noriega was hated in Panamá while he was here (I live in Panamá, but only for the past eight years or so) and he still is hated. Many people were murdered and/or lost their property because of him. One small but significant indication is that there are now many public and private buildings in Panamá named after Omar Torrijos, the nominal boss of Noriega whom Noriega may (or possibly may not) have arranged to have killed in an aircraft “accident” in order to assume all of the reins of government. There are no such buildings named after Noriega.
Balbina Herrera is closely associated with former military strongman Manuel Antonio Noriega, who has been in a US prison since 1989, convicted of money laundering and drug trafficking. The people who spent years protesting against Noriega calling for a return to democracy were called “civilistas” and at one point Balbina Herrera declared that all civilistas should basically be shot on sight (“civilista visto, civilasta muerto“). Although that was more than 20 years ago, today Panamanians who are old enough to remember link Balbina Herrera closely with Noriega and the fear his reign of terror inspired.
Ricardo Martinelli, a conservative businessman, won handily, soundly defeating Herrera. Since then, the PRD has pretty much withered and died. In the immediately preceding presidential election, PRD candidate Martin Torrijos, the bastard (but fully supported and acknowledged) son of Omar Torrijos, had won a clear victory to become the President; his campaign posters had usually portrayed Papa Omar wearing his campaign hat, smoking a cigar and looking down through the mists from heaven above at his beloved son. Aside from the rather radical labor unions, generally thought to be Chávez supported, and various hangers on, the name of Chávez is very rarely spoken here with any respect.
Is Chávez’ Venezuela viewed throughout Latin America simply as a benign and developing socialist country? Probably by enough in Nicaragua for Daniel Ortega to get another term as president, Nicaraguan constitutional term limits notwithstanding, by partisans of ex-President Zelaya in Honduras and in a few other countries heavily dependent on Venezuela. Cuba? Not so much; Venezuela is generally considered a colony of Cuba. Chávez’ aura seems gradually to be fading as the Venezuelan economy and quality of life in general there continue to crash. At least I hope so. Brazil is rapidly becoming the ascendant power in South America, perhaps followed closely by Colombia.
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