Assassination games

Like many dictators, President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela sees assassination plots all around him. Every month or so he comes out with a newly discovered one that was foiled just in time.  As with other strongmen, it's a useful tool for shoring up his base of 'revolutionary defenders' and maybe hauling a dissident or two off to jail. Best of all, Chavez can Blame Bush.
 
But the ridiculousness of his game was made vivid to me by an encounter I had with the office of the president of Chavez's next—door neighbor, Alvaro Uribe of Colombia. In his country, there are no phony plots to kill him, only real ones.
 
I called his press office earlier this week to get an exact figure on how many times his enemies, who are various Marxist narcoterrorists, have tried to kill him. Not a nice question to ask anyone, but I needed to know. Google showed that media reports say anywhere from 13 to 18.  Uribe has had many close calls. His father was killed by these narcoterrorists, his tough anti—drug trade actions have brought prosperity to Colombia for the first time in years, and alone among Latin America's presidents, he can boast some popularity instead of public cynicism.

The drug dealers knew who he was and that he intended to smash them, which is why they threatened the campaign period  and vowed to machinegun even voters lining up at the polls if they dared cast any ballot at all, which after all, could have been for Uribe. Colombia's brave voters defied the killers and voted in Uribe. The terrorists responded by trying to murder the president on his innauguration day. He's no ordinary Colombian president. And they're trying to kill him.
 
For the Colombian officials, the prospect of losing this indispensable effective president is no casual topic of enemy 'plots.' For them, it's all real. A spokesman for President Uribe returned my call quickly and was very serious in pleading with me not to speculate about the Colombian president's security arrangements, for an item I was writing about: innovations in bulletproof clothing and whether President Uribe was a client for such products. How many times had they tried to kill him? Is it 13? I asked. "It's a state secret," President Uribe's spokesman told me.
 
All of which makes Venezuela's Marxist president Chavez's loud public spouting of claims of enemy plots look pretty cheap.

So why does Chavez announce a new death plot every few months while President Uribe keeps his death plots a state secret?

I think it has most to do with who their respective enemies are. President Uribe's enemies are cold—blooded killers.  Bombs, guns and suspects are rounded up with each close call. The secrecy of how many plots have been foiled is to keep the morale of the people intact and leave potential assassins in the dark as to how easy it might be to try to kill the president.

Chavez, on the other hand, is looking at something very different. His so—called enemies  are people who oppose him through the peaceful street demonstrations and the ballot box.  There are no narcoterrorists looking for him, there's no exploded ordnance or other evidence to hide from the cameras. There's certainly no people's morale to preserve, either, by this loose assassination talk. Chavez's empty 'plots' amount to accusations and ultimately threats to intimidate opponents.
 
For Uribe, it's war. For Chavez, it's a political game.

Like many dictators, President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela sees assassination plots all around him. Every month or so he comes out with a newly discovered one that was foiled just in time.  As with other strongmen, it's a useful tool for shoring up his base of 'revolutionary defenders' and maybe hauling a dissident or two off to jail. Best of all, Chavez can Blame Bush.
 
But the ridiculousness of his game was made vivid to me by an encounter I had with the office of the president of Chavez's next—door neighbor, Alvaro Uribe of Colombia. In his country, there are no phony plots to kill him, only real ones.
 
I called his press office earlier this week to get an exact figure on how many times his enemies, who are various Marxist narcoterrorists, have tried to kill him. Not a nice question to ask anyone, but I needed to know. Google showed that media reports say anywhere from 13 to 18.  Uribe has had many close calls. His father was killed by these narcoterrorists, his tough anti—drug trade actions have brought prosperity to Colombia for the first time in years, and alone among Latin America's presidents, he can boast some popularity instead of public cynicism.

The drug dealers knew who he was and that he intended to smash them, which is why they threatened the campaign period  and vowed to machinegun even voters lining up at the polls if they dared cast any ballot at all, which after all, could have been for Uribe. Colombia's brave voters defied the killers and voted in Uribe. The terrorists responded by trying to murder the president on his innauguration day. He's no ordinary Colombian president. And they're trying to kill him.
 
For the Colombian officials, the prospect of losing this indispensable effective president is no casual topic of enemy 'plots.' For them, it's all real. A spokesman for President Uribe returned my call quickly and was very serious in pleading with me not to speculate about the Colombian president's security arrangements, for an item I was writing about: innovations in bulletproof clothing and whether President Uribe was a client for such products. How many times had they tried to kill him? Is it 13? I asked. "It's a state secret," President Uribe's spokesman told me.
 
All of which makes Venezuela's Marxist president Chavez's loud public spouting of claims of enemy plots look pretty cheap.

So why does Chavez announce a new death plot every few months while President Uribe keeps his death plots a state secret?

I think it has most to do with who their respective enemies are. President Uribe's enemies are cold—blooded killers.  Bombs, guns and suspects are rounded up with each close call. The secrecy of how many plots have been foiled is to keep the morale of the people intact and leave potential assassins in the dark as to how easy it might be to try to kill the president.

Chavez, on the other hand, is looking at something very different. His so—called enemies  are people who oppose him through the peaceful street demonstrations and the ballot box.  There are no narcoterrorists looking for him, there's no exploded ordnance or other evidence to hide from the cameras. There's certainly no people's morale to preserve, either, by this loose assassination talk. Chavez's empty 'plots' amount to accusations and ultimately threats to intimidate opponents.
 
For Uribe, it's war. For Chavez, it's a political game.