Friday, September 9, 2011

PMBComment | Exposing Bolivarian Criminal Inc. four guys at a time

The following is reaction from Harvard University Internationalist Pedro Mario Burelli to the Wall Street Journal report U.S. Sanctions Venezuela Officials, Citing Drug Ties

PMBComment | The WSJ reports on the long awaited (i.e. long delayed) designation by the US Treasury Department of four key members of Hugo Chávez's innermost circle as kingpins (Read press release). This action was deliberately held back for more than two years by a White House clueless as to how to deal with rouge states - and their dangerous leaders. It is unclear why the White House finally gave the green light on this matter, but it is obvious that its "let's be nice" approach has failed everywhere they tried it.

The descent of Venezuela into full fledged criminal-statehood has accelerated in broad daylight, with the likes of President Obama turning a blind eye and President Lula (in and out of power) pimping for Caracas. Mr. Obama's NSC team has been particularly careless in assessing the real consequences for the US - and the whole Western Hemisphere - of such massive criminal state blossoming two hours south of Miami. Bolivarian Venezuela has essentially erected a neon welcome sign that reads "Open for Criminal Activity 24/7: Impunity Guaranteed". All those around the world in search of a safe haven, a fake passport, a laundromat for ill gotten funds, excellent quality cocaine or untraceable weapons, take comfort in the welcome mat provided by the Chávez regime. Some in the president's own family and visible members of his inner circle - civilian and military - have turned out to be doting partners.

A recent and extraordinarily documented report by the well-respected International Crisis Group paints a picture that upends the wishful thinking of many in the region. Below a small snippet for the report titled 'Violance and Politics in Venezuela'.

Violence and corruption have been facilitated by a steady process of institutional erosion that has become particularly manifest in the justice system and the security forces. While impunity levels soar, highly dysfunctional and abusive police have endangered citizen security. Heavily politicised, the armed forces are increasingly seen as part of the problem, enmeshed with organised crime and pressed by the president to commit themselves to the partisan defence of his “revolution”. The creation, arming and training of pro-governmental militias further increase the danger that political differences may ultimately be settled outside the constitutional framework, through deadly force.

Having taken so long to get to this point, will the Obama administration stop here? Will regional leaders continue to talk about 'new best friends'? If there is a lesson from the Libyan rapprochement fiasco it is that bad guys (usually mentally deranged) only get badder (crazier) with time. Sitting on evidence to see if criminals change their mind is not only futile but irresponsible. The fact that Venezuela does not have an easy fix does not mean it is not a real mess - waiting to get messier as the ICG concludes. As such we should expect less naive political calculation and more serious prosecution of crimes for which there are mountain loads of evidence. These four designations are significant, but why are so many still allowed to rummage unexposed? When will the master of it all - cancer notwithstanding - be presented to the world for what he is? PMB

Maru Angarita
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