Chávez Spat with Uribe Damages Colombia’s Democratic Left

Chávez Spat with Uribe Damages Colombia’s Democratic Left

BOGOTÁ, Colombia -- If there is any beneficiary of the recent breakdown of Hugo Chávez's mediation for a Colombian hostage exchange, it may well be the Venezuelan president himself. He was able to use Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, the man who revoked his mediation mandate, as a foil for his populist rhetoric. Ever the able opportunist, Chávez thereby distracted from internal problems by manufacturing an external enemy -- though he still could not win Venezuela's recent constitutional reform referendum.

In Colombia, however, the scenario resulting from this presidential spat is bleak: primarily for the hostages who look set to remain indefinitely in the jungle, but also for a whole range of other actors, including the country's democratic left.

For decades, leftists competing for public office in Colombia have had to prove their separation from the violence of the FARC. Chávez's mediation in the hostage situation briefly offered them the chance to turn the tables: to show that, while the Right may successfully wage wars, only the left can humanize -- and potentially end -- them. Instead, when his mediation mandate was revoked, Chávez responded with a furious outburst, calling Uribe a liar and "a pawn of the [American] Empire." Such antics have merely served to tar Colombia's democratic left with a second brush -- that of irresponsible Bolivarianism.

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