In case you were wondering what U.S. military forces are doing in Haiti, allow Hugo Chávez to explain: “I read that 3,000 soldiers are arriving, Marines armed as if they were going to war,” the Venezuelan leader said Sunday on his national TV show. “They are occupying Haiti undercover.”
It gets worse. Chávez has also accused the U.S. military of causing the Haitian earthquake by testing a weapon. Really. We’ve come to expect such risible comments from Chávez, but that doesn’t make them any less outrageous.
Given the deteriorating situation in Venezuela, the buffoonish autocrat should be more humble. His country has been rationing water, electricity, and health care services. Its government finances are a mess, its public health system is falling apart, its physical infrastructure is crumbling, its capital city (Caracas) is the most dangerous in Latin America, and its inflation rate is surging. (Morgan Stanley projects that Venezuelan inflation will hit 45 percent this year. That would be its highest level in 14 years.)
Chávez has always been more concerned with cultivating his ideological allies abroad than with tackling Venezuela’s domestic economic troubles (which own disastrous policies created). He is now planning to visit Nicaragua and give $130 million to his close friend Daniel Ortega, another radical leftist who is busy trying to turn his own country into a mini-Venezuela. The money will reportedly be spent on agribusiness. However, considering Chávez’s track record of announcing grand investments that never materialize, not to mention Venezuela’s shaky finances, Ortega may ultimately be disappointed.
Jaime Daremblum, who served as Costa Rica’s ambassador to the United States from 1998 to 2004, is director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the Hudson Institute.