Thursday, September 18, 2008
How Do You Say "Axis of Evil" in Spanish?
For the record, it's "eje del mal."
We are all now very familiar with the aptly-named triple threat posed by Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. But there's another gathering storm closer to home and the media only feigns interest. Cuba's old news. And Venezuela's rants against colonialism and America have reached the level of parody. But recently Bolivia has stepped up and is trying to play with the big boys.
On September 11th, President Evo Morales declared the US ambassador "persona non grata" after accusing him of aiding and abetting pro-autonomy opposition groups. Chavez's BFF thought it was a good time to kick out America's representative just as anti-Morales Bolivians made it known that they are not too happy about his leftist reforms. (You'd be upset too if the government confiscated your land and gave it those it deemed more worthy.)
Meanwhile, some of Bolivia's indigenous and poor are backing Evo by marching on the American Embassy, burning the American flag, and burning effigies of opposition governors. I wonder how quick they would be to damn America if the US Consulate suddenly started handing out visas. At any rate, America replied in kind and the Bolivian ambassador will no longer be sitting pretty in Turtle Bay. And this week, Evo complained that the US was blackmailing Bolivia by accusing him of not doing enough to fight narcotrafficking. And so it goes.
This growing tension should be viewed in light of four other interesting happenings in Latin America. First, Chavez kicked out the American ambassador in solidarity with his socialist comrade Morales and recalled his own from the US. Second, Russia recently sold two dozen Sukhoi fighter jets to Venezuela and the two countries are planning a joint naval exercise in November. Third, the NY Sun has been reporting that along with Chavez banning the activity of Christian missionaries because they are allegedly American spies, Shiite imams are indoctrinating a growing number of indigenous Venezuelans. "Intelligence sources [say] that newly converted Muslim recruits from Venezuela are receiving military training from Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. A Western source recently spoke to the Los Angeles Times of a 'strategic partnership between Iran and Venezuela,' saying Hezbollah is moving 'people and things' into the Americas." And, fourth but undoubtedly not last, the US Treasury Department this past June froze the assets of two Venezuelans after designating them as fundraisers for Hezbollah.
So there you have it -- in one corner, the US and my home country, Colombia, and in the other, Chavez, Castro and Evo. And joining the red team, Iran and Russia. I guess it is a small world after all.