01.04.2011 0

Obama’s Appeasement to the South

Hillary Clinton and Hugo Chavez

By Bill Wilson

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made headlines on January 3rd when she met with Hugo Chavez, a photo-op coup for the Venezuela dictator that recently expelled U.S. envoy Larry Miller for allegedly being “disrespectful”.

In reality, Palmer was voicing U.S. concerns that Columbian drug cartels are being financed by Venezuela. Now, Clinton has been reduced to meeting with the despot and either objecting to his despotism — in a respectful way, of course — or worse, not at all.

Of course actions speak much louder than words. Merely denying, however, the visa of the Venezuelan diplomat and then meeting to shake hands hardly begins to deal with the growing dangers posed by authoritarianism to the region.

Little more than a year has passed since the U.S. Senate confirmed Arturo Valenzuela to the post of Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. At the time, Americans for Limited Government objected to the appointment because of Valenzuela’s incredibly weak record defending liberty in the region.

Valenzuela has argued for “dialogue and an opening towards Cuba,” defended Venezuela’s cracking down on press freedom while serving at Freedom House, and sat on the advisory board of Americas Watch with George Soros, a group that supported reinstating Manuel Zelaya to power in Honduras. We argued that Valenzuela’s background indicated a very weak policy by the U.S. to defending free nations in Latin America from the Marxist regimes that seek to overthrow them.

Now, a year later, history has proven that view.

On October 21st, 2010, Nicaragua invaded and to date occupies Calero Island in the San Juan River belonging to U.S. ally, Costa Rica. The communist dictatorship absurdly claimed that Google Maps showed the territory belonged to them, and seized the island. Since then, the Sandinistas have claimed that an 1858 treaty and an International Court of Justice ruling justify their presence. They have also claimed they are dredging the river and needed to put their equipment on the island, and that they are simultaneously fighting drug trafficking. None of these claims put the island in Nicaraguan territory.

In fact, according to the official maps of both countries, the land has always been Costa Rican. It is in fact an illegal invasion by Nicaragua of Costa Rica, an historically peaceful country which has no standing military.

Unfortunately for the people of Nicaragua who yearn to be free from Marxist rule, Assistant Secretary of State Valenzuela does not appear to be equipped with either the capability or the will to do anything about it.

Instead, within a week after the invasion began, Valenzuela went to Nicaragua to meet with Ortega to discuss “bilateral cooperation in democratic governance” according to Reuters, where the two shook hands. No condemnation of the invasion was mentioned in the press report.

As noted by a December 26th, 2010, editorial by the Washington Post, “Soft on Nicaragua,” the U.S. has failed to respond and “has not condemned the Nicaraguan land grab. In fact, the State Department has yet to say anything about the matter”. But perhaps this is all a part of Barack Obama’s grand strategy to not condemn as a means of achieving concessions.

Of course, at some point, appeasement begins to look like approval. The silence has been inexcusable, but the statement by U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua Robert Callahan that the communist state was now a candidate for U.S. foreign aid via the Millennium Challenge Corporation is an insult. And Valenzuela’s handshake with Ortega a week after the invasion began is a crime against liberty.

Making matters worse, Nicaraguan dictator Daniel Ortega has stacked that country’s Supreme Court simply so it could rule he is eligible to run for reelection — even though he is term-limited by the constitution. Clearly, Ortega has taken a page from Manuel Zelaya, who attempted a similar coup in Honduras to stay in power for life. Moreover, the Sandinistas have seen fit to “reprint” the Nicaraguan constitution to allow term-limited officials, including Supreme Court justices and election magistrates, to stay in power indefinitely, undoubtedly to solidify Ortega’s hold on power. This is the same regime responsible for the murder of thousands of Nicaraguans in the 1980’s as it waged its revolution.

Weakness invites aggression, and it is clear that the ineptitude of the Obama Administration has not gone unheeded in the region. In the last week of the year, Chavez expelled U.S. envoy Palmer for his comments about Venezuela’s proxy war against U.S. ally Columbia. Columbia, like Costa Rica, is in danger from these insurgent forces seeking to topple freedom in the region.

Venezuela has unsurprisingly refused to condemn the Nicaraguan invasion of Costa Rica in the Organization of American States, and itself has a horrendous record of suppressing opposition in its country. Chavez has made himself dictator-for-life and has eliminated privately-run press organizations.

And Barack Obama has done nothing, and his stooge, Valenzuela, since being appointed to his post continues to project a weak U.S. posture in the region. That won’t be changing any time soon, and certainly not in time to save nations like Nicaragua from once again falling into the grips of an authoritarian regime.

Freedom will not long endure in the Americas without U.S. leadership, and under the Obama Administration, Central and South America are becoming less free.

Hopefully, the incoming House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and her counterparts in the U.S. Senate will immediately conduct in-depth hearings so that Assistant Secretary of State Valenzuela can explain in detail the weak appeasement policies of the Obama Administration in Central and South America. He needs to answer for Hillary’s handshake — and his own.

Bill Wilson is the President of Americans for Limited Government.

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