No honor among thieves
Reuters reports that the Chavez hostage rescue chopper team have "limped" home empty handed. While I'm not sure Chavez's political fiasco had any effect on the flying qualities of the helicopters, this is what the Reuters report says.
Venezuelan helicopters chugged home empty from Colombia on Thursday after a failed mission to pick up hostages held by Marxist guerrillas, a new defeat for President Hugo Chavez who is still smarting from a tough year. The four helicopters marked with Red Cross symbols flew back to Venezuela from the Colombian town of Villavicencio without the hostages they had left to collect from a jungle region.
He sent helicopters and foreign envoys into Colombia with much fanfare last week to pick up Consuelo Gonzalez, Clara Rojas and her young son Emmanuel, who was born in captivity about four years ago, his father a guerrilla fighter. ...
But the plan collapsed on Monday, leaving Chavez exposed to criticism he had trusted the rebels too much. "President Chavez is having a very difficult time," said Eduardo Gamarra, a Latin America expert at Florida International University. "He may have compromised his own credibility and the FARC may have taken him for a ride.
Chavez's tendency to hog the spotlight may have undermined whatever chances he had of pulling off a deal. For one thing it turned the hostage release question into a zero-sum game with Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe. By dealing directly with FARC and threatening to succeed where the Colombian President could not, Chavez created a situation where Uribe would lose if he won.
But what of FARC? It claims that it will still attempt to release the hostages in a situation which would not expose their fighters to compromise, as would have been the case with Chavez's heliborne circus. The Reuters report continues. "The FARC, a four-decade old peasant army now funded by cocaine production, says it will still try and slip through army cordons to free the hostages. Chavez has vowed to plan a new, lower-profile release."
My guess is that Chavez can still effect the hostages release. But it will cost him -- and cost him more than he had bargained for. By snubbing Chavez's helicopter extravaganza, the FARC has essentially raised the ransom for release. That's why they're giving him another shot. Chavez's only chance to win through will be to pay the cocaine-fueled revolutionary army (is that an oxymoron or candidness?) through the nose, no pun intended.