Below is an important discussion article by Dieter Misgeld, answering John Riddell's "Freedom for Joaquin Perez Becerra" (firstname.lastname@example.org), circulated earlier to this list.
These two contributions reflect some of the many views among solidarity activists not only on Becerra's defense but also on the changing relationship between Venezuela, Colombia, and the North American imperialist powers.
By Dieter Misgeld
May 19, 2011
I am very much in agreement with the vast majority of the arguments developed by John in this article, as well as those which he relies on as stated by Luis Bilbao and Socialist Alliance.
Obviously it is very important to take a strong position in defense of Joaquin Perez Becerra's rights and those of all the political prisoners treated cruelly by the Colombian regime and its allies.
I very much value John's drawing attention to the Canadian government's active acquiescence in these practices and its misguided and servile listing of the armed Colombian insurgencies( FARC and ELN) as "terrorist" organizations , giving their "Anti Americanism " as a reason.
Nevertheless I have doubts regarding the integrity and astuteness of the actions engaged in by the Venezuelan government in the Perez B. case.
They are these:
1. Even if handing Perez Becerra over to Colombian intelligence and police was meant to avoid a trap, to avoid jeopardizing the initial negotiations for setting up CELAC, the new Latin American organisation, this does NOT justify, under any circumstance, breaking international agreements, spreading malicious and thoughtless comments , treating Mr. Perez B. rudely and forcing his abduction with violence, not permitting the representative of the Swedish government to speak with his/her citizen, and to repress and slander criticism of these actions within Venezuela and from among members of the Bolivarian movement.. Consider the following:
2. Chavez assumes personal responsibility for this action, and suggests, in one statement, that as he delivered a terrorist to Cuba( the one responsible for blowing up a Cuban plane many years ago, killing 80 or more persons in the plane) , so he now handed another over to Colombia. He avoided referring to P. Becerra as a terrorist, but left implied that this is what he meant (see article in Spanish by Heinz Dieterich, in
4. The Colombian insurgency cannot give up its arms and look for a political solution, as long as the Colombian government, army, paramilitary organizations, and the US government and military work toward total defeat and destruction of it- which is what they are doing and what Santos says he is doing.
It is dishonest and self-serving on Chavez' part to lecture the insurgency and tell them that they must look for a political solution. Yes, if he were to assume responsibility for mediating in the conflict- rather than wanting to be on the winning side, i.e. the Colombian government's and the US, in the end. For, "objectively', that is what his position comes to.
5. Clarity about the ethics involved is important: one does not willingly surrender an
avowed critic of a malicious counterinsurgency regime, of which one does not approve, in order to further apparently larger political projects. Betrayal is never justified , no matter how lofty the purpose. And that is what many people now fear in Latin America, especially people of the Left: that Chavez and the Bolivarian project in Venezuela can no longer be trusted.
6. Honduras: I am not ready yet to regard this as a victory for Venezuelan diplomacy. If it is or becomes one, it may very well turn out to be Pyrrhic. And the poor and dispossessed will once again be abandoned to their terrible fate, for the sake of some sort of political/diplomatic arrangement. For the return of Zelaya does not guarantee major social change, as has been noted by the section of the resistance which is not primarily concerned with his return and the face-saving restitution of constitutional government. Should the latter be the result then Santos' Diplomacy could claim victory, as it likely will. But that remains to be seen.
7. Finally, We should be vigilant critics of the Bolivarian government and Chavez, They need criticism from and by the Left. Especially as they do not like it and fear it. They must be taught to learn to live with it and take it seriously.
I value John Riddell's determination to turn the criticism in the direction where most of it belongs, the Colombian government.
Nevertheless, we may not let Chavez and his government off the hook. It is not good for them nor for us, to become preoccupied with strategy and tactics , rather than to remain utterly clear about fundamental ethical principles. For as this clarity is lost, socialist projects deteriorate and are contaminated by the "Machiavellian" reasoning which has always accompanied politics.