Quico says: The Case of the Swedish Bazookas makes it clear that something very odd is happening in the bonkers-at-the-best-of-times world of chavista foreign policy. The Venezuelan government is no longer in the business of providing explanations, half-assed apologies, or even the odd preposterous-but-face-saving denial in the face of incontrovertible evidence of meddling in its neighbors’ affairs. More and more, its response is based on simple force: back off!
To this day, I’m not really clear if the official Venezuelan line is that the Venezuelan-owned Saab Bofors AT4s found in the hands of the FARC got to Colombia before Chávez came into office, or that they got to Colombia after Chávez took office but it was all the deed of some rogue officer and had nothing to do with government policy, or that it’s all a big lie and the FARC never had Venezuelan bazookas and this whole story is all just a Colombo-Swedish conspiracy set up in Langley, or that Aliens from the planet Opsidion 5 telepathically transported the AT4s out of a Venezuelan armory and into the Colombian jungle as part of some intergalactic practical joke.
Each of those might be considered an account of what happened. Not all of them, needless to say, can be considered equally convincing. But each, in its own way, could be taken as an explanation.
The problem isn’t that we never got a good explanation, it’s that we never got an explanation at all.
They can’t even say they were blindsided by the revelation. Yesterday, Casa de Nariño – Colombia’s Miraflores – announced that, as long as 8 weeks ago, they had disclosed to the Venezuelan government that Venezuelan AT4 rocket launchers had been found in FARC’s posession. That means that Jane’s public disclosure of the find could not have caught Venezuelan diplomats unaware.
So, if I’m getting this right, Casa Amarilla – Venezuela’s foreign office – had two months to think up some excuse, some sort of justification, any kind of marginally-coherent discourse about the find, but they just sort of never got around to it. Which kind of reminds me of that old afroman song…
I was gonna justify those AT4s, but then I got high
I could’ve lied and patched things up with Colombia, but I got high
Now I’m recalling ambassadors, and I know why
Because I got high
Because I got high
Because I got high
Nowhere in the Venezuelan response have I seen any direct mention of the AT4s themselves, which is odd considering they’re at the center of the crisis.
The closest we’ve gotten is Chávez’s oblique suggestion that anyone could stamp any serial number on the side of any gun. Leaving aside the fact that the Swedish government is not likely to be drawn into this controversy if indeed the serial numbers were fake – something that could easily be verified – if the weapons found in Colombia have adulterated serial numbers, the Venezuelan military should have no trouble producing the original weapons with the serial numbers matching those the Colombians reported to Saab Bofors. Logically, if the weapons found in Colombia aren’t really Venezuelan, the original AT4s should still be under Venezuelan control, right?
Show me the bazookas!
In the event, Chávez won’t get pressed into that discussion cuz he knows he got caught. Which is why his response is basically a tsunami of bile, a rapid fire succession of threats and insults that manage to escalate the crisis without ever offering any kind of account – sane or otherwise – for how it is that high-tech Venezuelan military hardware ended up in the hands of a terrorist organization.
It’s genuinely baffling. Once you get over the shock, though, you have to surmise that the very explanation-less-ness carries a message here. It’s an implicit admission rolled into a contempt-filled refusal to be held accountable all snugly tied up in the threat to cause a major diplomatic/economic crisis in Colombia if such delicate accusations are ever aired again.
It makes for a worryingly Kim Jong Il-ish diplomatic crouch. Chávez appears ready to simply start cranking up the crazy as a way of getting his opponents to back off.
This time, the threats were strictly economic. Next time?
Hat tip: Lorenzo Albano. You saw it first, man.