The US media is not paying much attention to the growing crisis between Venezuela and Colombia, presumably because it would detract from the excitement of the Clinton wedding. Both countries have moved troops up to the border and are only an “accident” removed from shooting at each other. It would be the first actual war in the Western Hemisphere since Ecuador and Peru faced off some years back.
But the interesting subplot is how the US is involved because of Colombia’s status as client state and surrogate for Washington in the Andes region. Two weeks ago, Colombia produced evidence at an Organization of American States meeting tying Venezuela to support of Colombian terrorist groups. The Chavez government’s support of FARC in particular has been well documented for several years, but everyone is leery of getting too confrontational with oil producer Venezuela lest another gas price shock be unleashed. So one has to wonder at the timing of the Colombian revelation, three weeks before President Alvaro Uribe is due to be replaced by his former defense minister, who has pledged that the restoration of good relations with Caracas will be a prime objective of his new government. Uribe is clearly trying to get one last jab in against Chavez, whom he hates, and Chavez is describing the entire crisis as a by product of Yankee imperialism. He has threatened to cut off all oil bound for the US.
Washington reportedly begged Colombia not to go to the OAS with the information on Chavez and the terrorists, but Uribe refused to back down. So the United States is at the mercy of the behavior of a client state that is of little or no importance. It does something stupid or provocative and the US gets bundled into the crisis, like it or not. It is the inherent danger in having too many commitments around the world, most of which do not matter a bit and can become real liabilities in the blink of an eye. One might note in passing that the US military presence in Colombia, which has been a red flag waved in Chavez’ face, is part of the war on drugs, a war that Washington has been losing for thirty years, even longer than the wars currently being lost in Iraq and Afghanistan.