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Arlen Specter Is a Cheap Date for Venezuela's Dictator

From OpinionJournal's Political Diary

23.08.05 | Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is buying MiGs from Russia and stockpiling AK-47s that intelligence reports suggest are meant for his paramilitary sympathizers at home and around the region. Using his oil wealth and what he's learned from Fidel Castro, he is actively funding anti-Americanism all over Latin America and working to destabilize legitimate governments. He makes no secret of his cozy relationship with Iran's mullahs and China's military men.

But never mind all that. Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter wants the U.S. to make nice with the bully so that we can fight the "war on drugs" together.

Donald Rumsfeld was in Peru and Paraguay last week trying to drum up regional support to isolate the Venezuelan strongman. If the U.S. is to confront Chavez's aggression, it has to counter claims that Washington is merely pushing its own hegemony. The best way to do that is by engaging Latins who care about preserving the region's frail democracies, such as Bolivia's, in which organized civil disturbances recently forced the resignation of two successive presidents. The Rumsfeld aim is to strengthen the region's representative governments. On Thursday he reportedly told the press: "There certainly is evidence that both Cuba and Venezuela have been involved in the situation in Bolivia in unhelpful ways.''

That upset Mr. Specter, who wrote the defense secretary a letter scolding him on the grounds that the U.S. and Venezuela are in a difficult moment with respect to interdiction efforts in the drug war. Not surprisingly, Mr. Specter sees himself as the hero of an effort to patch things up, claiming that his own visit last week with President Chavez had "produced an agreement between our Ambassador and Venezuela's Minister of the Interior, who had not previously had any contact, to meet early next week to try to resolve those differences between DEA and the Venezuelan narcotics officials." Therefore, opined the senator, "It may well be helpful to, at least, have a moratorium on adverse comments on Venezuela."

Using that logic, it would have been better for the U.S. to make nice with the Taliban, as long as it promised to have coffee with the DEA once a week.

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