Hugo Chavez is looking for attention again.
The Venezuelan president is known for his frequent politically charged outbursts, which in the past have included calling George W. Bush “the devil” and touting socialism as the true path to economic success.
Since President Barack Obama’s election, Chavez has taken a much warmer attitude toward the United States. Still, his most recent comments in a speech to international socialist politicians last week show that, ideologically, the two nations remain very far apart.
According to the BBC, Chavez lauded Venezuelan Ilich Ramirez Sanchez — nicknamed “Carlos the Jackal” — as a “revolutionary fighter.” Sanchez was the mastermind of a series of terrorist activities in the 1970s, which included deadly bombings, assassinations and hostage situations. He is currently serving a life sentence in France, where he was jailed in 1994 for killing two French intelligence officers and an alleged informer.
Chavez is obviously not worried about enraging the French, despite the fact that French companies buy significant amounts of Venezuelan oil every year.
Granted, Chavez doesn’t need to worry too much about the consequences of his words — mainly because there won’t be any. As one of largest petroleum exporters in the world, Venezuela has an economic stronghold over every country that depends upon it for energy resources.
Whether they like Chavez or not, Western leaders are going to have to maintain diplomatic ties with Caracas; after all, we’re not really in any position to go overthrowing any more unfriendly dictators.
This is yet another example of the detriments of relying on foreign oil. It compels us to keep silent.
But Chavez’s enthusiasm for dictators and political dissidents is not to be contained. In the speech, he went on to hail President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe as a brother and he bestowed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran with the same fraternal moniker.
Since Mugabe’s election in Zimbabwe, another kingpin in the foreign oil tug of war, that country has fallen into a cycle of corruption, economic stagnation and national bankruptcy. The AIDS epidemic, drought and food crisis in recent years have left Mugabe’s government with one of the worst track records in modern history.
One would think that this is hardly the type of individual with whom a leader should claim national brotherhood.
And who could forget Ahmadinejad’s recent speech at the United Nations, which lambasted capitalism and ran the gamut of controversial issues, from critiques of American foreign policy to the conflict in Palestine?
For someone who claims to want to repair relations with the United States, Chavez certainly hasn’t thought his friendships through.
At least there was some logic to the Ahmadinejad reference. The two countries share membership in Organization of Petroleum Supporting Countries, and Chavez has some interest in vocalizing a commitment to positive relations.
Chavez has always shown himself to be bombastic, and many times, foreign policy simply comes down to the individual’s personality.
Nevertheless, he did mention that he realized his comments would not be well received in Europe, particularly on the issue of Carlos the Jackal. It seems as if he can’t miss a chance to irk Western capitalists.
If the United States needed one more reason to end foreign oil dependence, it has found one in the self-aggrandizing Venezuelan leader.
Chavez knows he can say what he wants, without consequences or repercussions. At the end of the day, oil speaks louder than words.
Rosaleen O’Sullivan is a junior majoring in English and international relations. Her column, “Global Grind,” runs Mondays.