“Well at least we’re not a rogue state! [like you know who]” The Buenos Aires Times was trying to feel better about themselves, comparing Argentina favorably to its raunchy new Mercosur partner, Venezuela.
Hugo Chavez was back in Buenos Aires signing his “cows for oil” agreement (guess who was providing the cows). He was also looking to buy out Shell’s non-profitable retail operation in Argentina (at 20 cents on the dollar), an offer later refused by Shell who insist that a presence, even an unprofitable presence, in Argentina is better than no presence at all. The Buenos Aires English-speaking daily is a somewhat conservative mini broad-sheet. Its limited news coverage is supplemented by extensive stock listings and contains advertisements for expensive real-estate and English-language schools. I guess the writer just likes to feel superior or is there a hint of resentment at it’s bullish new partner’s economic advantages in the energy business?
To Chavez comments like these, if he is even made aware of them, are like water off a duck’s back. Survivor of two attempts at his presidency in his first term, Hugo Chavez is hardly unaware of his rogue state image and is cheekily proud of his notoriety. Coming from a Mercusor partner like Argentina such comments could be considered unfortunate and divisive. One is reminded of British commentary on their partners in the early days of the European Union.
In comparison with Argentina, how is Venezuela exactly a rogue state? From a financial standpoint the government finances of Venezuela are in an enviable position in comparison with Argentina. Indeed international concern was recently expressed that the Venezuelan national oil company may be paying down too much of its international debt (a curious criticism indeed!).
Possibly the comment referred to recent news that the head of the Colombian FARC insurrection group was ‘arrested’ in Caracas. Accusations of being a harbinger of international terrorism were quickly made but Mr. Rodrigo Granda had visited many countries and if there was an illegality involved then it was the Colombian government that was at fault. Rodrigo Granda was bundled into a car by foreign agents with the help of moonlighting special-branch Venezuelan police officers. The kidnappers then drove him in the trunk of a vehicle from Caracas to the border with Columbia where he was promptly arrested. If it is the opinion of the Buenos Aires Times that this makes Venezuela a rogue state, then how, might one ask, would they describe the conduct of the Columbians?
While the BA Times could hardly be accused of being a mouthpiece of popular Argentine President, Mr. Kirchner. Perhaps Argentina should be looking to their rich Mercosur friends for help? These are difficulty times for Argentina and crucial times for the formation of Mercosur. When suffering under the burden of US$2.5 Billion in un-annual adjustable foreign debt repayments you need all the help that you can get?
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