Recent events in the South American country of Venezuela are disturbing, or at least should be to all clear-thinking people.
While the Venezuelan regime of strong-man Hugo Chavez is systematically acquiring absolute power by nationalizing that country's industries and resources and silencing their free media outlets, Mr. Chavez himself is forging relationships with totalitarian dictators who routinely call for the demise of the United States. To dismiss this tin-pot dictator as a clown in a post September 11, 2001, world could be a fatal mistake.
The sometimes violent protests in the streets of Caracas by outraged students, intellectuals and free thinkers came in the wake of the Chavez regime closing of a popular opposition television station critical of Mr. Chavez's government. Radio Caracas Television was replaced with state-run programming as the Venezuelan ministry overseeing media licensing clamped down on CNN and the last opposition-owned media outlet in Venezuela, Globovision.
Mr. Chavez's attack on the free press in Venezuela is but the most recent encroachment on the free market in that country.
In May, Mr. Chavez nationalized the last privately owned oil fields in the Orinoco River basin. While the seizure affected U.S. oil companies ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp., Britain's BP PLC, France's Total SA and Norway's Statoil ASA were also compromised.
On May 3, Mr. Chavez gave a speech forecasting nationalization of the country's banks and its largest steel-producing company. In an indication he had no plans of throttling-down his advance toward a pure socialistic state, Mr. Chavez said, "Private banks have to give priority to financing the industrial sectors of Venezuela at low cost. ... If banks don't agree with this, it's better that they go, that they turn over the banks to me, that we nationalize them and get all the banks to work for the development of the country and not to speculate and produce huge profits." Mr. Chavez left the world wondering whether this confiscation of private financial institutions — which would include all the assets held within — would include foreign banks.
Earlier this year, Mr. Chavez moved to nationalize the utility and telecommunications industries of Venezuela. "All of that which was privatized, let it be nationalized," he said. "The nation should recover its ownership of strategic sectors."
It would seem Hugo Chavez is Fidel Castro's star pupil, having learned how to absorb already developed resources, industries built from the ground up and financial investments that literally constructed the infrastructure that his totalitarian crusade now calls "the people's."
All this would almost certainly be just another thorn in the side of free nations everywhere if it weren't for Mr. Chavez's consistent anti-American rhetoric and the alliances he is forging around the world.
He has allied himself with fellow South American socialists, or progressives, Rafael Correra of Ecuador, Evo Morales of Bolivia, Nicanor Duarte Frutos of Paraguay and has formed a personal tie with Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
One reason these relationships are so disturbing is that intelligence sources, police organizations and former militia members report Hezbollah has set up operations within the rural regions known as South America's Tri-Border Area. This area is between Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina and borders Venezuela and Bolivia. All these countries face the common enterprise of narco-terrorism.
Many terrorist organizations — among them the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) — facilitate the trafficking of narcotics and the laundering of money derived from that enterprise. Hezbollah, the Iranian-created and -supported terror organization that until September 11, 2001, had killed more Americans than any other terrorist organization, derives funding from these illicit activities as well. These funds are, in turn, used to wage war against U.S. and Coalition Forces in the Middle East and for clandestine training of future terrorist operatives in their jihad against the West.
It should be pointed out that Hezbollah, Hamas and al Qaeda are all coordinating to affect jihad in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Asia and South America. Further, many Western intelligence agencies report al Qaeda nuclear whiz-kid Adnan el Shukrijumah has been spotted throughout South America, the United States and Canada.
Mara Salvatruchas (MS or MS-13), the ultra-violent drug gang which originated in El Salvador, and has a commanding presence in the United States, also interacts with the South American drug gangs and terrorist organizations. They have grown from being an effective street gang to a full-fledged paramilitary organization, complete with training, resources and international relationships with some of the world's most dangerous organizations.
It shouldn't take another September 11-type attack for relationships between MS-13 and South American drug and terrorist organizations such as FARC and ELN and Islamist terror groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas and al Qaeda and Hugo Chavez's relationships with South American socialist leaders and Iran's Mr. Ahmadinejad to sound alarms in every Western intelligence and law enforcement agency around the world.
This pathway to terrorism should be identified as a major concern and the "dots" connected before the world bears witness to a crude yet efficient nuclear attack on a major American city.
The U.S. government would be wise to embrace a 21st century version of the Monroe Doctrine, discouraging and thwarting international relationships in the Western Hemisphere derived from a mutual ideology of hate, conquest, totalitarianism and anti-Americanism. While utilization of such a doctrine wouldn't be a cure-all, it would certainly be a good place to start.
But, to do this, the U.S. government — and all freedom-loving nations with the intestinal fortitude to do the right thing — would have to rise above the politically partisan infighting long enough to give a damn about the survival of the Free World. That would require putting good government before politics, something that is not happening today.
Not doing so this time could result in a subservient existence for our children and our children's children. I would hope even the most partisan among us would be averse to that.
Managing editor for the New Media Journal and executive director of the Basics Project, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, research and education initiative.