Because, from a Venezuelan point of view, what we see on our Western border is a racketeering mob given carte blanche to do its worst.
As Juan Carlos Zapata shows vividly in his under-rated, under-read book on his hometown, Guasdualito, nothing moves in Apure State without FARC’s say-so. You don’t get a job without FARC’s blessing. You don’t stay un-kidnapped without kicking up some money to FARC. You know full well that, in case of a problem, the civilian authorities won’t be able to help you.
Yet, far from combatting the armed groups running these extortion rackets, the Venezuelan government abets their criminality. Chávez has shown again and again that he’s no more interested in cracking down on the choros in Perijá than he is in cracking down on the choros in Petare. That’s the message we should be hammering away on.
The Venezuelan side of the border is the New Caguan: FARCistan redux.
The opposition needs to abstract itself from the international aspect of this issue and lean on the domestic angle: Chávez has basically ceded sovereignty over part of the country to a bunch of racketeers who, como si fuera poco, are knee-deep in the drug trade.
Our response to Colombia’s allegations, to be properly Venezolanista, needs to blast the collusion between the Chávez government and the massive criminal gangs running a sprawling set of rackets on the border. Those are our constituents, those are the people suffering from Chávez’s collusion, it’s their interests we need to champion.
Because what we’re seeing more and more is the Venezuelanization of the Colombian guerrilla. Unable to operate on their side of the border, and facing numerous opportunities for very profitable activities on ours, FARC is slowly morphing into FARV. And why wouldn’t they? Venezuelan farmers are easier to kidnap, Venezuelan ranchers easier to extort, Venezuelan army officers are more cooperative, Venezuelan civilian officers easier to pay off. It’s an altogether much friendlier operating environment. It just adds up.
Colombia’s allegations give the opposition a great chance to press the government on these issues. For us, this isn’t about Colombia. This isn’t about Washington or OAS or the UN or the Corte Celestial. This is about Hugo Chávez actively protecting the azotes de barrio in Guasdualito.