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A Latin Crisis By: Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, January 05, 2006

We are facing a crisis in South America of which few Americans are aware. In 2004-2005, aided by useful idiots such as Jimmy Carter and self-anointed EU poll watchers, Hugo Chavez was able to steal a fraudulent recall election in Venezuela and solidify his hold on the petroleum giant. Within months he moved to expel US military advisors and has placed phenomenally large weapons orders with the Russians. Look for 50 MiG-29s to appear soon, as well as more than 100,000 small arms destined to arm the narco-terrorists in neighboring Colombia. Politically, Chavez has moved to jail, execute, or intimidate the democratic opposition so that he can consolidate power. Now he has an emulator in Bolivia, who has also taken advantage of the democratic process to gain power.

In Bolivia, long time labor agitator and avowed communist “Evo” Morales assumed the presidency. With yet another skewed election in Latin America, some observers worry that major countries in the region are falling away from democracy. Left-leaning, somewhat anti-American politicians have surfaced in Brazil and Argentina, and the Ortega boys, perennial favorites of the American bubble-headed left, are resurging in Nicaragua. These countries are not unique; they reflect a centuries-old pattern of social and political unrest resulting from essentially animistic indigenous cultures that had charismatic, Inquisitional Catholicism imposed upon them. Consequently, they have been wracked by decade-long internal conflict that makes acceptance of democracy difficult.

Mexico and the Philippines are just two examples of the difficulty in transitioning from an authoritative, colonial, military-religious government to a government by the people. In both these countries, political authority has traditionally rested with an informal but well-recognized collection of “special” families who accept the burden of government as a birthright. Of course, along with the unlimited wealth that comes from having position and authority, rampant corruption means that they devolve into oppression and advantage regardless of initial good intentions. Consequently, the scents of revolution, Molotov cocktails and gun-power are present at every election, and voter fraud and violence runs wild on the streets.

Bolivia, sadly, has mirrored these models. In recent years, elections have been fought out on the avenues long after the formal voting process is complete. The divided social strata of the older, “Spanish” families, who are the traditional rulers, from the peasant Indians is also a constant issue. The gulf between the two is wide and impassable. And this was a thorny social issue that Morales has been quick to exploit.

For the first time in modern history, one of the self-styled Bolivian “oppressed” has gained power. A mineworker, labor agitator, and friend of the coca producers, Morales is little more than an opportunistic street thug. But those words could have described Hitler, Stalin, and Fidel also. By all accounts, Morales is highly charismatic, inflammatory, street-smart, and plays well to the mob. He describes Chavez and Castro as his “role models” and spews anti-American venom whenever he gets close to a microphone. He actively promotes coca production as a legitimate means of revenue and is eager to stick a thumb in America’s eye by expanding ties to the cartels and the communist-leaning narco-terrorists groups.

Despite initial promises to the contrary, Morales has taken steps to expel American influence in Bolivia, especially in regard to anti-drug activities. Expect that all DEA influence will cease. Look for him to emulate his mentor, Hugo Chavez in nearby Venezuela, and toss out all American advisors to the Bolivian military. He will likely cease training his officers at American institutions such as the School of the Americas and begin sending them to Cuba or China for training. One of the first steps any Latin dictator takes in consolidating power is to purge the military of any pro-democratic elements.

What we are seeing happen in Latin America is an aberration of the democratic process. Some will take it as a failure of democracy, but it is not. It is a prostitution of democracy in the same manner that Hitler and Mussolini abused it. In Bolivia, the process will become, as it has in Venezuela, a “one man, one vote, one time,” a tragedy that will usher in a communist dictator.

Given normal circumstances, American could accept, albeit through clenched teeth, a Bolivia that is communist ruled. We did it for decades with Albania and Bulgaria. What is disturbing about the situation – other than the gross human rights abuses that are certain to erupt – is that Chavez is sitting on vast quantities of oil, and Morales controls similarly huge amounts of raw material for cocaine and heroin. And both are keen on using their resources paradoxically as both a source of revenue from the US and a way of destabilizing the giant to the north. It is not enough for Bolivia to have hurt itself internally but it compounds its troubles by declaring hostility to America. This can only be to the ultimate disadvantage of all concerned, not least the gleeful mobs who brought Morales in with naïve expectations of a new utopia.

The rogue regimes in Iran and North Korea only serve to exacerbate an already unpleasant situation. Iran is only be interested in peddling WMD and North Korea in providing rockets to carry warheads to neighboring targets. The Korean Taepodong-class missile, what the Iranians call Shahab-3, is capable of hitting targets throughout the hemisphere.

Anti-American ideologies, similar to politics, make for odd bedfellows. At least to us they seem odd. They seem to get along famously. We ought to be savvy enough to grasp that our enemies will seek every opportunity to make common cause against us. For this reason 2006 is likely to be an annus horribilus in South America. After all, if North Korea and Iran are feeling the heat, what better strategy than to take the war to America’s doorstep?

Unlike wine and cheese, bad news does not age well. It is critical for present and future US security that we devote energy to these issues in Latin America. It may be too late to salvage Chavez’s Venezuela or Morales’ Bolivia, but we have other friends in the region: Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, and Chile to name a few that could use our moral assistance and more. And we have a vulnerable Panama Canal, now under Chinese management, sitting next to an overly ambitious dictator who wishes only harm for America.

We must act positively before the situation deteriorates further. It is time to think about invoking Monroe Doctrine proscriptions regarding Iranian and North Korean intrusions into this hemisphere. And in this age of far-reaching missiles with WMD warheads, all options, including military, must remain on the table.

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Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu has been an Army Green Beret lieutenant colonel, as well as a writer, popular speaker, business executive and farmer. His most recent book is Separated at Birth, about North and South Korea. He returned recently from an embed with soldiers in Iraq and has launched a web site called Support American Soldiers to assist traveling soldiers.

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