The flight to Teheran and the flight to madness

1 The weekly rant

This Friday Hugo declared in one breath his support for terrorist Carlos the Jackal, Iranian madman Ahmadinejad and Zimbabwe's long-time dictator Mugabe and he expressed his belief Idi Amin of Uganda may have not been so bad as the West says. The Guardian's journalist Rory Carrol and bloggers Quico and Daniel already reported on that. Their articles are worth reading.

The declaration took place during Hugo's call for a V Socialist International (his party is excluded from the IV Socialist International). This is not the first time Hugo has expressed sympathies for those characters, but one can say he tried really hard this time to attract the attention. He added he did not care "what they say tomorrow in Europe". He was just short from shouting to the cameras "did you hear me?".

2 The flight to Ahmadinejad's land

Today there is an interesting article (Spanish) in El PaĆ­s about the flights from Venezuela to Iran. The article confirms what I kept hearing from people working at the airport: there is no control of who or what gets into that plane (an Airbus A320). The aircraft has 286 seats and yet it always flies half empty (or half-full if you are a chavista). Even so, most people (about 100) get off in Damascus, Syria, and only 40 to 60 go on to Iran. Passengers are mostly Venezuelan state employees, Iranian businessmen and Syrian-Venezuelans. Each flight costs at least €340000 and it is a big loss for the Venezuelan state.

3 The flight to Mali

El Nacional reported also that the Venezuelan plane that crashed in Mali after having transported cocaine (cocaine leaves traces) was a 727. That is a middle-size plane for transporting people, but a huge one if its use is drug trafficking only. The newspaper said the police had caught a couple of men (Mali citizens) trying to get away with parts of the wreckage. It is not clear whether they were just stealing those parts or they wanted to erase some evidence.

4 What is going on?

4.1 The flight to Mali

Very little is clear at this stage and from what I take (based mostly on Le Journal du Mali) I doubt the Mali government is going to be very cooperative in telling us more about that plane. We will have to wait and see what Interpol says.

4.2 The Iran flight

Is it just a political symbol? Or are they transporting something, something perhaps coming from around La Esmeralda, in the state of Amazonas? Is there something going to Teheran that is also going to Northern Mali?

4.3 Hugo's ranting

Is it just Hugo's normal cry for attention? Even if it were "only that", Hugo's ever louder calls for attention need to be accompanied by some acts and those acts are becoming more dangerous by the day, whether they are closing borders, blowing up bridges, moving troops or announcing preparations for a war. He thinks he needs to move closer and closer to Ahmadinejad. Initially he said he is for Iran's use of nuclear energy for peaceful goals, he then joked about helping Iran to build the bomb and now he calls for the right of Iran to have nuclear weapons.

5 Learning from history

There is something we may learn from the times when Idi Amin was ruling in Uganda. Many historians think Amin's shows that caught so much the international attention, his autoproclamation as "conqueror of the British empire" and his clownish speeches were in part aimed at diverting attention from the increasing violation of human rights and mismanagement in his country. Of course, there were also Amin's very real support for terrorists like those who hijacked Air France 139.

Venezuela has not reached by any means the levels of Uganda in the seventies but still, we should not let things deteriorate. We need to have a double approach:

- make it impossible for Hugo to divert anyone's attention from Venezuela's internal problems and
- disinflate his threats to the international community in a peaceful and democratic way. It will be hard, but it is the only way.

6 What to do

Venezuela's internal problems should be solved by Venezuelans alone. Now, Venezuelans could use some open, general support. This support should not be USAID support or anything else the extreme left wants to see happening to say Hugo is just defending Venezuela against imperialism. It should be above all an open call from all democratic movements in the World, from centre, right and left to denounce violations of human rights in Venezuela. It should be the discussion about sending well-trained international observers to Venezuela. It should be pressure to such countries as Brazil and Argentina, which right now prefer to see Venezuela's economy and civil liberties collapse and gain more clout in South America and more business deals from an isolated Hugo.

The international community should denounce what the Venezuelan government is doing at home: harassing the opposition, sabotaging the very little powers of local governments that are not with his party, preparing a big gerrymandering action for next year, diverting money from all ministries to a presidential blackbox. At the same time the World needs to keep an eye on what is happening in the Amazonas, in the Iran-Venezuelan cooperation, on the Mali and Guinea connections.

The challenge is how to tackle Hugo without repeating the eternal cat and mouse game Iranians are playing with the West or falling into Hugo's provocation and at the same time not letting Hugo help terrorists.

Hugo wants to portray Venezuela as the new Iraq about to be invaded by the USA. The Venezuelan opposition needs to show it can outsmart him. It needs to convince more and more nibs not to be afraid, not to be complacent. It needs to denounce corruption and human right violations and above all it needs to present a better plan for sustainable development and social growth. It needs to present that plan in the areas so hard to reach, in the countryside, in the areas where chavista thugs threaten all with their weapons. The united opposition, left, centre and right, all democrats can desmantle Hugo's schemes if it does not let the movement be taken by some extremists and if it works above all with the goal of building a better Venezuela for all Venezuelans.