Call me a cynic, but the photo to the left doesn't pull at my heartstrings and make me hopeful about the future of Latin America. As long as Hugo Chavez is in the picture, we all have lots to worry about.
Following the Colombian government's decision to send troops past the Ecuadorian border last week to raid a camp set up the FARC rebel group, Venezuela's dictator used the situation to cry foul and ignite fears of Yankee imperialism in the region. Ecuador and Venezuela immediately halted diplomatic relations with Colombia, and Chavez threatened to bring Colombia's economy to its knees. After a crippling military assualt, of course.
Politics being the wishy-washy affair that they are in Latin America, war was conveniently averted this past Friday thanks to an agreement signed in the Dominican Republic between Colombia, Ecuador and Veneuzela. Colombia apologized for violating its neighbor's sovereignty, Venezuela beamed for yet another photo opp.
A collective sigh of relief is drowning out concerns over the influence that Hugo Chavez is wielding in the affairs of one of Latin America's strongest democracies. And it's not just the obvious headline-ready stuff that Chavez is trying to snatch from the administration of Alvaro Uribe either. Aside from hostage negotiations with the FARC, Chavez' government has not been able to counter claims that it supports the rebel group with arms and money.
Support for the FARC by Venezuela, friend of Cuba and Iran, has given the group new vigor. The U.S. and Europe's insatiable demand for cocaine have also kept terrorism in Colombia alive and well.
For now, however, the enemy seems to be playing nice. One day Chavez is ordering troops to the borders with Colombia, the next he's hugging their president and flying to Havana with a rogue Colombian senator to talk about hostage negotiations.
I've said it once and I'll say it again: Chavez' "ability" to "reason" with the terrorists only speaks to his role as one of the group's financiers and moral supporters. For that reason, upon the release of all of the FARC hostages, he should be tried for war crimes and executed. And I suspect that is going to be the course of action Colombia is going to pursue.