Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said this week that the world should stop calling Colombia’s Marxist guerrillas terrorists. The remarks came days after FARC rebels released two Colombian politicians. The Bush administration brushed off Chavez’s request, noting that the group was still holding three Americans and many other kidnap victims. (AFP via Google)
What the commentators said
Now we know what the rebels wanted in exchange for the “propaganda coup” they handed Chavez, who brokered the hostages’ release, said The Washington Post in an editorial (free registration). It was encouraging that Latin American leaders rushed to denounce Chavez for openly endorsing “an organization of kidnappers and drug traffickers in a neighboring, democratic country.”
This “explicit endorsement” of a group with so much blood on its hands was “shocking,” even from a wild card like Chavez, said Gustavo Coronel in Human Events. The FARC (the Spanish acronym for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) have killed more than 100,000 Colombians, “most of them civilians,” in more than two decades of anti-government violence. Chavez’s neighbors in Colombia won’t take such an insult lightly.
There’s a reason Chavez is “vilified in the media and hated by those in power,” said Mark Weisbrot in the Kansas City Star. He’s not a dictator. “Venezuelans have repeatedly elected Chavez for the same reasons that Americans are voting for Barack Obama—they see him as representing hope and change in a region that needs both.”