Thursday, January 25, 2007

From The Slush Pile
No, that's not a comment on the weather. It's the slush pile of paper and software boxes and manuals and correspondence hanging fire on my desk. What has floated to the top today, like a light, loafy relative of Mr. Hankey. Did you really need to click that link? Oh fer lack of pop culture knowledge! Anyway, the poo that popped is a clipping I took form the newspaper late last October. It's an AP story so it's fecal heritage is well earned. The headline: "Security council voting continues - Oil generosity keeps countries faithful to Chavez."
I'll give you the lede to set up the situation since I've let so much time pass since clipping this: "Voting resumes today to fill a two-year term on the U.N. Security Council with Venezuela's fading hopes buttressed by a number of countries that have benefited from President Hugo Chavez' (sic) oil-funded largesse." The US was supporting Guatemala against Venezuela for the position. The point of the article is to list a number of projects the Venezuelan government is putting up money for which is endearing Central and South American governments to Herr Chavez. The leading example is a "state-of-the-art transplant unit" at a Uruguayan hospital for which the Venzies are ponying up $20 million. This, according to the article, is why "(o)ne of the Chavez backers may be Uruguay." Get that? May be. Pure conjecture on the part of the AP reporter presented as factual reporting. Not anything new for the AP but let's look at a few more projects.
$260 million financing for Jamaican highway repaving, $12 million for housing as well as asphalt, fuel storage tanks and university housing for Dominica in a deal that sees Venezuelan help with airport construction to "boost tourism." Yeah. Because tourists come to tiny nations because their airports are just spectacular. Sorry. Can't help the snark sometimes.
Now, the Uruguayans didn't get just the money for the transplant unit but since their leftist president Tabare Vazquez was elected in March 2005, they got some $400 million from Chavez. And this is what the AP wants us to believe may be buying Uruguayan loyalty to Chavez. And it may for all I know. I don't begrudge Venezuela's fuehrer giving as much aid as he wants. What fries me about this is first, the editorializing of the AP in a news story. Secondly, it reads like a propaganda piece for Venezuela with all the good works that are being done on its dime. And finally, what's even more germane to the story is the single mention that "(t)he United States, for its part, has allocated more than $3 billion in aid to Latin American and the Caribbean in the last two years though there is no evidence that recipients have been pressured to vote for Guatemala."
(strangulated invective) The US gives massive amounts of money, multiples of what Venezuela gives and doesn't put any pressure on the beggar nations to act in concert with us. And, apparently, many act against us. Chavez, on the other hand, spreads his pesos around to buy the fealty of the beggar nations. And, per the article, seems to get it.
The United States seems to be uniquely crippled in the world that any time we are giving aid, it is never conditioned on the recipient showing any form of gratitude that matters. But a tin-horn dictator who is destroying his own country's infrastructure to get the money to buy foreign influence gets the votes of the recipients of his gifts. It's not right either way. Time for the US to re-think foreign aid. And I say this as the son of a US Foreign Service officer.

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