Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Chavez calls Dubya "The Devil" -- here's the real reason why

One of the quirks about diplomacy is that one isn't allowed to shoot the messenger. The messenger must also be given free passage to where he or she wants to express his or her country's official position even if it's totally at discord with that of the host.

There are at least two examples I am aware of where it gets even trickier, as the destination is actually a third country or a supranational territory. One, of course, is the Vatican City State. Despite a European Union ban on several world leaders, Italy still had to let those dictators into Rome last year because they had official business -- namely, attending the funeral of John Paul II -- and it was Italy's duty to give safe passage to the Holy See.

The other is the UN Headquarters in Manhattan. It's technically not part of the United States (although, if a crime is committed there, it is presumed US law will be applied). So George W Bush has been forced to allow at least two very unsavoury characters into the US so they could make their addresses to the General Assembly. Mamoud Amedinejad of Iran had his turn last night, and kept protesting through lying teeth he doesn't want nuclear weapons. Sure ... when you're sitting on a 400 year supply of oil and natural gas? He did have a point about the hypocrisy of the Permanent Five who have nuclear weapons, along with Israel, North Korea, India and Pakistan. But that's as far as it goes.

Today, Bush's Public Enemy #2, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, had his turn. He really ripped into the Bush Administration, saying the rostrum at the General Assembly still smelled rotten from Dubya's "stench" and even called him the Devil. What's really going on here has little to do with his animosity towards the White House -- he'd hate any American President, Democratic or Republican.

The real issue -- which also explains why Citgo (owned by the Venezuelan government) is running a record-breaking number of ads on US television right now, although they don't say it up front -- is that Venezuela is fighting for a seat at the UN Security Council, the one assigned to a Latin American country, for the next two years. The US has made no secret of the fact it much prefers Guatemala, which has sat on the Council 4 times during the last 60 years. (Canada also supports Guatemala but for totally different reasons, which the Harper Government will not elaborate on.) Venezuela has never been given a card to the Big Dance even once. (Incidentally, three countries -- South Africa, Italy and Belgium -- have won their regional seats for the next two years unopposed; the other contest for the Asian seat is between Nepal and Indonesia.)

Fortunately, it's the General Assembly and not the Security Council who gets to pick the 10 non-permanent members. Much as I don't like Chavez, I'm kind of hoping in a morbid way Venezuela wins. That way, Chavez doesn't even have to run for re-election as his country's President this fall: He could simply appoint himself Ambassador to the UN, move to Central Park West and be in Bush's face for the rest of the latters's Administration. Meanwhile, Hugo can run his country from abroad via a patsy -- and the best part would be, his residence, limosine and person would be off limits at all times. He'd be untouchable.

Diplomatic immunity. It's one of those funny things. It allows dictators to roam around and mouth off with impunity. It also allows one of the few free areas of free speech where the government -- or the corporate MSM -- otherwise suppresses it. The US can complain all it wants; the fact remains Chavez is seen as someone who's standing up to America's long standing "Big Stick" approach to ruling the Americas. If Harper actually stood up to the Americans once in a while, as even Mulroney did with Reagan and Bush Sr on occasion during the 80s and early 90s, he might be a much more appropriate counterbalance than Chavez. As it is, we're stuck.

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