When bombs blasted the Spanish Embassy and the Colombian
Consulate in Caracas last week, Venezuelan officials denounced the
attacks. They issued a flurry of statements insisting that affairs
between Venezuela and the two nations hadn't been damaged.
But that wasn't saying much. Venezuela's foreign relations
weren't very good to begin with. The powerful explosive devices
dramatically punctuated the discord that exists between Venezuela
and other countries, both in South America and overseas.
Because of his autocratic leanings, Venezuelan President Hugo
Chavez fell out of favor with the international community long ago.
More recently, the international community appears to have fallen
out of favor with Mr. Chavez.
"Chavez is willing to sever ties to the international community,"
says Miguel Diaz, a senior analyst at the Center for Strategic and
International Studies in Washington.
In recent weeks, diplomatic noises coming from foreign capitals
rose a notch with the detention of Carlos Fernandez, head of
Venezuela's largest business-owners organization and a key leader of
the 2-1/2-month general strike aimed at ousting Chavez that fizzled
in early February. Cesar Gaviria, secretary-general of the
Organization of American States (OAS); Spain's Foreign Minister Ana
Palacios; and US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher all
protested the arrest.
Chavez, in turn, blasted the governments of Spain and the US for
"meddling" in Venezuela's affairs. He was so incensed that he
threatened to break off diplomatic ties with Colombia, whose foreign
minister the week before accused Chavez of meeting with Colombian
Two days later, both Colombia and Spain saw their diplomatic
compounds in Caracas shattered by bombs; five people were injured.
The US Embassy, citing a credible threat of an attack, closed down
for a day. Leaflets found at the crime scenes warned American
Ambassador Charles Shapiro, the OAS, the CIA, and anyone else who
would listen that "the revolution doesn't need your selfish
intervention." The Venezuelan government denies that its
sympathizers were behind the blasts, but the fliers echoed Chavez's
position: other countries involved are not to interfere in
Venezuela's internal affairs.
"The only pressure he really feels and responds to is that coming
from Venezuelans themselves to remove him from power," says Mr.
Diaz. "Once that disappeared, there was really little that could
From the beginning of his administration in 1998, Chavez raised
eyebrows in foreign capitals by paying official visits to Muammar
Qaddafi in Libya and Saddam Hussein in Iraq. While Venezuela's
president has remained formally within the law, his opponents see
his rewriting of the Constitution, his reshuffling of the supreme
court, his crackdown on the media and, most recently, his jailing of
political enemies as antidemocratic measures. …