Now for the bad news. Two weeks ago, the mainstream media were chasing after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on her whirlwind debutante tour of Europe, commenting on her elegant ensembles and disarming smile. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez was accusing the United States of trying to assassinate him.Chavez is a bad guy and he needs attention,
This week, the potentates of the press were mused over President Bush's efforts to melt the iciest of 'Old European' hearts. But within four hours of Florida, Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega -- still the head of the communist-inspired Sandinista Party -- was endorsing Chavez' call for the creation of a "Bolivarian Army" -- comprised of soldiers from "like minded nations" throughout Latin America. Such an armed force would "protect these countries" from "U.S. imperialism."
Compared to Russia's intent to supply the radicals in Tehran with nuclear material and know-how, the rabid babble emanating from our back yard may seem a minor annoyance -- kind of like the neighbor's dog barking in the night. And it would be just about as threatening, but for one thing: The radicals to our south have found a wealthy new benefactor, the revolutionary Chavez.
With his new-found oil wealth, Chavez has offered to arm the new "Bolivarian Army" with weapons from communist China and, of all places, Iran. In a little-noticed speech this week at the Organization for American States (OAS), Ali Rodriguez, the Venezuelan foreign minister, denounced the United States and echoed Chavez' claims that the Bush administration has authorized the assassination of the Venezuelan president.
According to sources in Nicaragua, Chavez is using his fortune to finance Sandinista chieftain Daniel Ortega's political ambitions. One frustrated member of the legislature in Managua told me that "Chavez is Ortega's 'numero uno' financial benefactor."
Meanwhile, Alvaro Uribe, the pro-American president of Colombia, is increasingly concerned about the military support and sanctuary that the Chavez regime is offering to FARC narco-terrorists. Thus far, all of these concerns seem to have fallen on deaf ears in Washington.
...As one retired intelligence officer, an expert on Latin America, told me this week, "If they think they have a problem with illegal immigration today, wait until the Castro-Chavez-Ortega 'Axis of Evil' gets done destabilizing this hemisphere."
History ought to be an indicator of what's happening. When Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba, more than 20 percent of the island's population fled. Between 1979, when the Sandinistas marched into Managua, and 1990, when they were finally voted out of power, nearly 25 percent of Nicaragua's population became refugees. Ignoring the realities of what's happening today in Latin America invites a tidal wave of refugees fleeing north.
In the 1980s, the threat to our south originated with Soviet-inspired and financed communism. Castro's minions aided and abetted the effort -- as did most of the Soviet satellites. Today, it's coming from a virulently anti-American, well-financed regime in Caracas -- but it is no less of a threat to the United States or to other democracies in the region.