Down South

Bizarre account of proceedings by Isabel Hilton in today’s Guardian, drawing a contrast between the behaviour of Rafael Correa and Hugo Chávez:

Internationally, when the Organisation of American States (OAS) meeting convened to address the crisis, Chávez found he had little credibility. The contrast between his handling of the crisis and that of Rafael Correa, the leftwing president of Ecuador, whose territory was violated, could not have been more marked. When Uribe called Correa to express his regret that Colombian troops had been forced to violate Ecuador’s sovereignty in “hot pursuit” of a Farc group that had attacked them, Correa listened calmly. Only five hours later, after verifying the facts, did he release a statement that made it clear that Uribe’s account was a tissue of lies. There had been no attack on the Colombian troops. The Colombians had launched an airborne attack on Ecuadorian territory while the guerrilla camp slept. Those who did not die in the assault were executed.

Despite Correa’s leftwing credentials there is little love lost between him and Chávez, and Correa set about marking out the contrast, building diplomatic support in Latin America’s capitals where neither Uribe nor Chávez enjoy favour. At the OAS meeting, Correa won a multinational investigation of the incident that will certainly strengthen his position at the expense of Uribe, even as the statesmanlike quality of response raises his credibility vis-a-vis Chávez. Correa also claimed that he too was involved in negotiating hostage releases, a claim that has surprised others with knowledge of the negotiations.

Here is an excerpt from a joint press conference by Chávez and Correa yesterday. You don’t have to speak Spanish to judge for yourself whether ‘no love lost’ is an accurate description of the relationship. Contrary to what Isabel Hilton says about Correa listening calmly, Correa himself admits that, through lack of experience, he was gullible enough to believe immediately the claims made to him by Uribe (about how the Colombian troops had entered Ecuadorean territory in hot pursuit), even though, in his conversations with Chávez immediately after the fact, Chávez had expressed his suspicions that there may be some form of deception going on.

There’s lots more there that I don’t have time to comment on now, but my favourite piece of this footage -which rather flies in the face of everything Hilton is saying above- is when Chávez says ‘I think he’s a liar, and I think he’s a psychopath’, and Correa nods in firm agreement. (Chávez then says that after he and Uribe go through the International Criminal Court (in reference to Uribe’s declaration that he would report Chávez to the ICC on charges of genocide and Chávez’s promise to respond in kind), they should both attend a psychiatrist to see who gets a clean bill of health)

More fun here, where, at the Grupo del Rio summit today, after Uribe accuses Correa of taking money from the FARC for his electoral campaign, Correa comes out and accuses Uribe to his face of being a liar. “How difficult it is to believe someone who has lied so many times”. He then goes on to say that he will ask the Ecuadorean opposition to set up a commission to investigate it, and holds up his hands, and declares “these hands have no blood on them” (unlike Uribe, presumably).

So, in summary: Correa defers to Chávez’s better judgement on these matters, then proceeds to wipe the floor with Uribe, leaving Urioe looking like a total if unaccomplished liar and a complete bell-end. Shorter summary: Chávez wins.

Sure while we’re at it, if only for the topicality of the title, why not have a butcher’s at Oliver Kamm’s piece (Will Hugo be Victor?) on these matters in the same paper.

Amid the threats and military deployments in the Andes of the last few days, one fact may surprise the preconceptions of Cif readers. The United States has been scrupulously trying to lower the temperature and urging a diplomatic resolution.

So says a man whose knowledge of Latin America, if I recall correctly a recent appearance of his on Newsnight, does not extend to pronouncing ‘Chávez’ properly. His ‘fact’ sure as hell surprised me, since this:

According to Colombian officials, US intelligence was key to Saturday’s attack inside Ecuador, allowing Colombia to pinpoint the location of Raul Reyes by tracking a satellite telephone he occasionally used.

at least kinda sorta means that the US contributed to heightening the temperature in the first place. There is also this:

“We firmly oppose any acts of aggression that could destabilize the region,” Bush said in Washington, singling out “the provocative maneuvers by the regime in Venezuela.”

Which, translated, means ‘we firmly support any acts of aggression that could destabilize the region in a fashion that is favourable to our interests’.

Supporting the violation of the territorial sovereignty of another state, war crimes and so on are par for the course with the US, which has a knack of developing exceptions on its own terms to written agreements to which it is a signatory. In this case, it’s the Charter of the OAS:

No State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State. The foregoing principle prohibits not only armed force but also any other form of interference or attempted threat against the personality of the State or against its political, economic, and cultural elements.

It feels rather nerdish and obvious to point such things out, since expecting the US government to honour international agreements is a bit like expecting your dog to be able to distinguish between BBC1 and ITV. That brings me to a more general problem I’ve been having of late, on which, hopefully, I will elaborate in another post. For the moment, good night and good luck. I was going to add a video of Ecuador by Sash, but it is even worse than I remember it.

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4 Responses to “Down South”


  1. 1 Oliver Kamm March 8, 2008 at 10:44 am

    “… if I recall correctly a recent appearance of his on Newsnight…”

    You appear to be suffering from some form of dementia. I’ve never mentioned Hugo Chávez on Newsnight, either in the discussion with George Galloway that you’re alluding to (and which is on Youtube) or on any other occasion.

  2. 2 Hugh Green March 8, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    Thanks for pointing this out. Unfortunately, no-one’s perfect. My error, demented or not, was to recall a BBC appearance and assume it was Newsnight, when in fact, it was Hearts and Minds on BBC Northern Ireland. Apologies.

  3. 3 Hugh Green March 8, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    One other thing. After re-reading what I wrote in the original post, I feel I ought to add, for clarity, that I don’t think correct pronunciation is of itself a good indicator of what one knows about a given subject, and to imply otherwise, as I fear I may have done in the way I introduced you and your article, though this was not my intention, would be unfair.

  4. 4 dav March 8, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    Greg Palast has had a little look into the magical laptop story…

    “the one and only mention of the alleged $300 million from Chavez:

    “… With relation to the 300, which from now on we will call “dossier,” efforts are now going forward at the instructions of the boss to the cojo [slang term for ‘cripple’], which I will explain in a separate note. Let’s call the boss Ángel, and the cripple Ernesto.””

    http://www.gregpalast.com/300-million-from-chavez-to-farc-a-fake/#more-1976

    You can presumably treat Kamm’s silence on your debunking of his assertion as assent.


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