Today I woke up planning to write about something hilarious or philosophical, instead, I am going to write about something that is more fundamental, something that actually needs to be known. I’ll write about something that, I think, concerns at least all Latin American countries.
Today Mr. President (Hugo Chavez) received Diego Armando Maradonna (the Argentinean soccer coach, and a very good soccer player of his time) in our country. During the reception ceremony, Chávez mentioned the news that he had “forgotten” to mention (because Chávez doesn’t consults, he informs) to the rest of his government: From that moment on, Venezuela was breaking all diplomatic relations with the Colombian Government. Of course, that news didn’t impress any Venezuelan for all of us are used to see our president breaking up diplomatic relations with more than one country (Israel, for example) with and without valid reasons. The question today was: why is he doing it again? It happens that today the Colombian government showed at the Organization of American States (OAS) enough proofs to confirm the presence of Colombian rebels in Venezuela.
I’ve been waiting for this moment for SO long. Someone had to do something about this situation. The Marxist rebel group FARC, and the ELN (National Liberation Army) have always been present in Venezuela. However, because of a cocktail of reasons that I will explain further, its presence in our country is being growing to the extent that there is not a single state in here that is not negatively affected directly or indirectly by their presence. The Venezuelan borders are NOT protected against rebel groups or drogue dealing, or any kind of illegal action. Venezuelan rivers are the highways of the rebels and everyone sees, but none says anything (I don’t want to condemn the witnesses for they also have valid reasons not to talk, like fear?), or I should say: None listens!
Many of you might not have any background on this theme. I’ll explain to you (somehow shortly, although I encourage you to continue the research on your own) what the FARC and ELN are, and how all this problem has developed, in Venezuela. FARC and ELN were both founded in the 1960s. In 1963, students, Catholic radicals, and left-wing intellectuals hoping to emulate Fidel Castro’s communist revolution in Cuba founded ELN. FARC (The Colombian Revolutionary Army) is a Marxist rebel group formed in 1965, bringing together communist militants and peasant self-defense groups. It is important to know that although both rebel groups share almost the same ideology, the FARC and ELN do not like each other; and not to ignore the fact that it’s been 40 years since the 60’s and the ideology of a war that started as a revolution (with many valid reasons to exist) has vanished with the years. Now there is, from my perspective, a powerful word that describes both of these rebel groups’ interests: Business. The principles are simple: If you want to fight a war, you need money; and when money becomes abundant, then the original aims of the war stop being as important as they seemed to be at the beginning. Every rebel group of the world needs money, do the words “blood diamonds” tell you something?
The Colombian rebel groups got their money just like the Italian mafia gets its money. From its origins, the FARC asked landowners for a monthly payment for their “protection” (from whom? From the same rebel groups, of course). The years passed by and, as the rebels began to move towards the cities; they started asking businessman for the same monthly payment. If someone didn’t pay the bill, they kidnapped him/her or someone that they loved, until the bill was paid. Up to now I’ve been talking about Colombia, but just for the records, in 1971 the first man was kidnapped by the FARC, in Venezuela. So since the 70’s we’ve been suffering the consequences of the Colombian civil war. Now it is important to know that the wealthiest business in Colombia is an Illegal one, I’ll give you a clue word: Cocaine. The drug dealers in Colombia have proved that they can make more money in a year than the rest of Colombians together. In some years, their output has been greater than the Colombian GDP.
Just as the rest of businesses in the Colombian territory where the guerrilla ruled (and rules), the drug dealers in Colombia also pay their quota to the rebel groups, to both ELN and FARC (there are declarations coming from the FARC admitting this, and saying that although they do receive drug dealers’ money, they don’t support the Cocaine market). But regardless of their support to drug dealers, the FARC and ELN’s ideology seems to have died long time ago and they’ve become the flag of drug dealers and massive terrorism.
This was the background of the problem, in a nutshell. The reality at the present is the following: Since the Colombian government (for good and bad) developed its relations with the USA, it has had success fighting both the ELN and FARC to the extent that today we can say that most of the Colombian territory is actually governed by the Colombian government instead of the Rebel groups (as it used to be). As the security in Colombia increased in the past years, the one in Venezuela has been decreasing dramatically (to the extent that nowadays Caracas, the capital, has been placed in between the 10 most dangerous cities of the world. And it’s been there since 2008). This, together with the fact that our president doesn’t support the past (and twice) Colombian president (Alvaro Uribe) have made of Venezuela the funnel of the Colombian rebel groups. You might not know that (as a good economically centralized country that focuses its production in oil) Venezuela imports almost all its goods. Oh well… apparently we’ve started to import also our ills, like a war that doesn’t belong to us.
157 Venezuelans were kidnapped by June 30th, 2010*. Don’t let yourself believe 100% in any statistics on Venezuela. I don’t fully believe in them whether they come from the government, private statistic groups or the opposition. However, I believe in the people from the towns that I visit every summer since I was a little kid, and tell me stories of their own. I believe in some of my relatives that own farms and are also obligated to pay a bill to both ELN and FARC, and I believe in my uncle who was threatened with being kidnapped last year and had to stop going to his own farm in order to protect himself and his family. It is an everyday reality that there are a lot of Venezuelans that have to deal with Colombian rebel groups every day.
Now, is the Venezuelan government secretly supporting these rebel groups? I cannot say so, because I don’t have that information in my hands. However, I can say that there’s nothing that is being done to ameliorate this situation. Silence and inaction can be as dangerous as a government supporting rebel groups within its own borders. And silence and the lack of actions are not voluntary all the time (although most of the time they are), they can also be the result of the lack of power. This is the big irony of the Venezuelan government: it seems to be invincible, but it has no power at all. Chávez owns the constitution and he changes it whenever he wants, but what is that in a country where there is no longer a law that is not broken? This is pure anarchy, the State of Nature that Hobbes was talking about, the consequence of another failed State. So whether Chavez admits it or not, he governs the capital (and not even all of it) and he “represents” us in the international arena… the rest of our country can be fairly compared to the old Middle West in the USA.
My biggest concern, however, is not the fact that we broke diplomatic relations with Colombia. I’m concerned with how people in Venezuela are taking the news. The government, as it was expected, took Colombian actions as a direct offense, which is kind of funny because Colombia did not go to the OAS to accuse the Venezuelan government but to ask for cooperation to attack the problem. Venezuelans, at least in Caracas (where I live) are looking into the wrong direction. They are not listening carefully enough. Most of the Venezuelans that I’ve talked to (which are not many for the news are from today) are looking at the consequences of the breaking of diplomatic relations between our country and Colombia, some of them are focused in the war between Chávez and Uribe, and many are talking about how Colombia is right or wrong to accuse the Venezuelan government of supporting rebel groups. A lot of Venezuelans are missing the whole point, the warning! We’re being invaded by rebel groups (and I assume logically that we’ve been also invaded by drug dealers) and now it’s so obvious that even other countries are realizing it. Venezuelan main squares should be falling like the Trojan walls with the voices of Venezuelans demanding its government to do something about this problem, to face the reality, to govern! But instead of that, there is silence. Venezuelan voices are tired. And that silence feels heavy on the air, it’s suffocating us. It’s killing us. Literally.
Cartoon taken from The Economist website, and it represents Chavez holding hands with the new Colombian President (Santos) and Uribe (the last Colombian president) in the middle.