Hugo Chavez craves attention, and what best to get everybody's attention than to announce to the military and civil militias to prepare for war with Colombia? Especially when it may distract from the power outages, water rationing, a recession, 30% inflation and a huge crime rate?
Chavez used his weekly marathon program, Aló Presidente - which has to be broadcast by all licensed TV and radio stations in the country - to make the announcement,
“Generals of the armed forces, the best way to avoid a war is to prepare for one,” Chavez said in comments on state television during his weekly “Alo Presidente” program. “Colombia handed over their country and is now another state of the union. Don’t make the mistake of attacking: Venezuela is willing to do anything.”While he was at it, he ordered 15,000 troops to the Colombian border.
Chavez is upset about the US-Colombia agreement through which the US Air Force and Navy will have more access to Colombian military bases for U.S. drug surveillance flights. He says he believes the US is preparing to attack Venezuela, and that the thought is keeping him awake at night. Chavez buddy, Bolivian president Evo Morales, didn't take long to side with Chavez and talked about calling a meeting of countries allied to Chavez to discuss the matter:
Morales said the meeting would aim to advance military and security cooperation among Alba’s member countries, including Cuba, Ecuador and Nicaragua.Not quite what you could consider military powerhouses, even if you consider that Russia is helping Cuba modernize its military.
Tthe reaction in Venezuela was not agreeable to Chavez's statement. Venezuelans oppose a conflict with Colombia by a margin of 4 to1. Venezuelan journalist Marianella Salazar scorned Chavez's insomnia and advised him to get a teddy bear.
Today Chavez attempted to soften his earlier statement, and claims that he was misquoted by the media: "Us, the Venezuelan military, are pacifists, and we prepare for war to ensure peace, that's what I said on Sunday."
At least until the next time Chavez needs a distraction from the chaotic domestic situation he has created.