Many are asking what the US Government would do if Venezuela attacked Colombia. The candidates have come out in favor of the country.
If Venezuela attacks Colombia, what would the US do? Would they back the Colombian government? Send troops to Cúcuta? These are the questions that many people are asking, to the extent that it raises the temperature of the crisis between Caracas and Quito, on one side, and Bogotá, on the other.
It's not easy to answer this question. To begin with, the US government's reaction has been very well moderated. On Monday, in Washington, the Vice Spokesperson of the State Department, Tom Casey, was frugal with his words. When he was asked if the government of Colombia (who a great ally of the US in Latin America) can count on North American support in the case of an attack, Casey preferred to underline that the solution to the crisis would happen through dialogue between Colombia and Ecuador in a forum such as the Organization of American States.
A bad omen? Perhaps not. Washing has opted for not contesting the words of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, in order to not give him any importance -- this is what Professor Joseph Nye, ex-director of the John F. Kennedy school of Government at Harvard, told this magazine.
It's clear that the US/Colombian relation has been consolidated since 1998 when they began to design Plan Colombia, the means through which more than 700 million dollars will go to Colombia from Washington, in order to help the country. This has converted Colombia into the principle receiver of American help in the western hemisphere.
Michael Shifter, one of the most well known investigators of Latin America, tells Semana that, in case of a Venezuelan aggression against Colombia, Washington "would help the Colombian government." However, Shifter, Vice President of Inter-American Dialogue, the most prestigious Washington-based think tank on Latin American subjects, ruled out a Venezuelan military incursion. "I see it very improbable that someone like this would come to happen -- an attack by Chávez would be a suicide for him and would fortify international public opinion in favor of President Álvaro Uribe."
For Shifter, the attitude of Chávez can be explained by his fall in popularity. And, the solution to this mess, he says, requires "the participation of Brazil, a country respected by Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador, who should assert its position of regional power."
"What is happening in the Andes is a huge mistrust. In Bogotá they don't understand how, faced with the death of a leader of Farc, they can react in this form in Caracas and Quito. And in Quito, they don't understand how it happened that Colombia entered Ecuador to kill a guerrilla fighter," said Shifter.
Aside from this, another question is that if in the case of being attacked by Venezuela, would the Colombian government be able to defend itself with more than 120 helicopters and more than 20 planes that they have received from the US for the anti-drug fight, in accordance with Plan Colombia. The answer is not clear. At the beginning of August, 2003, the North American ambassador, William Wood, indicated to the minister of Defense, Martha Lucía Ramírez that, after the September 11th attacks, this military equipment could also be utilized in the fight against international terrorist organizations, under the steadfast approval of Washington. Where the problem arises is that if the US government comes to consider the Venezuelan government as supports of Farc, that is a terrorist group according to the State Department. Because, then, the Venezuelan government would also be considered a terrorist organization.
On the other hand, if the US government was frugal with words on Monday, it wasn't the same with the candidates Clinton and Obama. They both fall on the side of Colombia. On Monday, Obama spread a communication in which he said: "The people of Colombia has suffered for more than four decades at the hands of a brutal terrorist insurgence, and the government of Colombia has all of the right to defend itself against Farc. This means: The presidents of Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela have the responsibility of assuring that those events don't cause control to be lost -- and they must resolve any dispute through diplomacy and with the help of international actors."
A few minutes later, Hillary sent a communication in which she spoke out of the nonsense of Chávez. "The order of Hugo Chávez to send 10 battalions to the Colombian border is dangerous. The Colombian state has the right to defend itself from drug trafficking terrorist organizations that have kidnapped innocent civilians, including American citizens. By supporting Farc, Chávez is openly aligning with the terrorists that threaten Colombian democracy, along with the peace and stability of the region."
The support of Uribe not only came from democratic candidates. John McCain, the virtual candidate for the republican part, also declared his support for Colombia in the riff-raff with Venezuela and Ecuador. "I hope that the tension relaxes and that President Chávez calls back the troops from the borders. I want to reiterate my friendship with the Colombian government. This country is a vital ally of the United States. Farc are a front-line organization. I have visited Colombia various times, and have talked with family members of kidnapped people. I hope that Plan Colombia continues, and I trust that the US Congress approves the free trade treaty with Colombia," McCain indicated Monday in Arizona.