Brazil’s Congress Back to Its US Parrot Role to Deride Chavez

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Some legislative figures in Brazilian capital BrasÀ­lia, who at times apparently confuse their country with Honduras when it comes to a well-ripened capacity for corruption and other banana republic antics, may have now turned from selling their votes on pending legislation to more esoteric political matters.

This is because their venality has become a target for public opprobrium from Brazilians in all walks of life. It was this kind of behavior that appeared to originally inspire Hugo Chavez to famously describe, in a perhaps impolitic manner, some members of Brazil's upper house as being Washington's "parrots."

Now those legislators seem to have contracted to carry out some further good works on Washington's behalf by attempting to block Venezuela's prospects of being voted into the Mercosur trade pact.

According to Latin News, several Brazilian brave hearts, such as Senator Heráclito Fortes and Congressman Raul Jungmann, have belittled Chavez's humanitarian role after the latter had accepted Colombian President Alvaro Uribe's invitation to act as an intermediate in trying to obtain the release of hostages held by the leftist Colombian guerrillas, the FARC.

Jungmann, who heads Brasí­lia's lower house's Foreign Relation's Committee, accused Chavez of "self promotion" and asserted that the Venezuelan effort had no interest in saving "the lives of the hostages," while Fortes dismissed Chavez's labors as little better than another example of his "pyrotechnic" initiatives.

They did this by ridiculing the Venezuelan president's sincerity and well-intended bona fides in seeking an early release of the hostages.

If Chavez is guilty of anything, it was that he overestimated Uribe's personal stability and that before the Colombian leader had preemptively dumped the Venezuela president, he had repeatedly sabotaged the Venezuelan leader's hostage release efforts.

Washington understandably has been anxious to score points against the despised Hugo Chavez by depreciating what it saw as his offish role in seeking to unsuccessfully gain the release of hostages caught up in the bitter Colombian conflict.

But the mystery remains what was in it for Bogotá to play such a spoiler's role – why did Uribe, by ridiculing Chavez's release efforts, do something which on the surface did so little for Colombia as well as his own increasingly precarious domestic political standing?

It was obvious that President Uribe, who certainly is no marplot, was looking for a fight when he preemptively revoked Hugo Chávez's local credentials to potentially negotiate a hostage swap. If so, this represented an abrupt change of styles.

Soon after taking office in 2002, Uribe admirably had fought for autonomy from U.S. dominance in order to maintain a constructive and engaged relationship with his counterpart in neighboring Venezuela, and both leaders worked to contain major crisis situations – be it the abduction of a high FARC official from Caracas or an alleged Colombian-related plot to assassinate Chavez – that could have severely poisoned their ties.

No matter how grating or provocative was the divisive incident, both sides always have managed to draw back from the brink. This included such incidents as the aforementioned abduction and later extradition to the U.S. of the senior FARC official by some local bounty hunters in the pay of Colombian intelligence agents, as well as efforts by the then U.S. ambassador to Bogotá to try to pressure Uribe to seek a confrontation vis-í -vis Venezuela over several bilateral issues.

Uribe's original decision to work through Chavez on the hostage had prospects of paying off because there was every reason to believe that Chavez was close to achieving some success with FARC's senior leadership over the deeply troubling hostage issue which was costing Uribe popularity plunges back in Bogotá.

While the poor taste of Jungmann and Fortes reflects their destined meretricious foot-note role in the affair involving Venezuela, and innocent political prisoners, their conduct also sadly provides tangible proof of the banality of so many of Brazil's elected public figures and the great country's widely noted lack of decisive leadership on a national level.

This analysis was prepared by COHA Staff. The Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) – www.coha.org – is a think tank established in 1975 to discuss and promote inter-American relationship. Email: coha@coha.org.

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