is the neighborhood bully, always with a vulgar comment on his
lips, capable of disfiguring the face of his poor wife (now his
former wife) with his fists and making obscene gestures from the
podium. The proper way to deal with a person of that ilk is to
walk clear across the room when he shows up at a conference, lest
he pulls a knife out of his sock.
the broadside against Fox was triggered by the humiliating failure
of Chávez's petro-diplomacy at the Mar del Plata summit.
For years, Chávez tried to seduce the countries of the
Caribbean and Central America, granting them advantages when they
purchased crude oil. The objective of that conditioned solidarity
was to recruit those poor nations into his anti-Yankee and neo-populist
crusade, but his plans were dashed at the recent summit in Argentina.
tried to crush the FTAA and free trade, Fox stood up to him and
placed on the table the list of 29 Latin American and Caribbean
countries that were not willing to be dragged into the abyss by
the bilious Venezuelan. Only four other countries sided, without
much conviction, with Chávez's Bolivarian ravings, and
one of them, Brazil, might not do it for much longer. Lula, Brazil's
president, also is up to the eyebrows with his bizarre neighbor,
and that antipathy appears to be mutual and growing.
For his part,
and beyond an understandable revulsion that has to do with good
taste, Fox has powerful reasons to detest Chávez: Accorjding
to published reports in Mexico, Mexican intelligence has detected
that Venezuela is sending money to Andrés Manuel López
Obrador, presidential candidate of the Democratic Revolutionary
Party (PRD), and even weapons to the guerrillas of the Popular
sources also say that the Venezuelan Embassy lavishly finances
the ''Bolivarian Circles'' that proliferate in the public universities
and are dedicated to fomenting the cult of Hugo Chávez
and the collectivist vocation of Mexico's Paleolithic Left.
ruling class react with indignation to these intrusions by Hugo
Chávez?'' I ask a diplomat. He answers, somewhat mournfully:
''In Mexico, nationalism coexists with malinchismo. Many
Mexicans prefer to blame Fox for Chávez's attacks. They
hate the victim.'' Malinche was the Indian woman who joined Hernán
Cortés, and later one of his captains, and served as interpreter.
She was a key figure in the Spanish conquest of Mexico.
lamentable anecdote we deduce an old lesson that nations usually
ignore: It is not possible to maintain the same type of relationship
with respectful and sensible countries as with quarrelsome governments.
Belligerent governments spend enormous sums recruiting supporters
beyond their borders for the purpose of punishing the governments
and societies with which they're in some kind of conflict.
is repeated in every Ibero-American nation. When President Fox,
in accordance with his country's new democratic policy, directed
Mexico's delegate at the United Nations to vote with the countries
that wanted an investigation of the violation of human rights
in Cuba, Castro's response was to broadcast recordings of private
conversations between him and the Mexican president and to spout
an all-too-familiar stream of insults that were immediately reproduced
by the Cuban press.
In the same
manner, President Néstor Kirchner of Argentina is certain
that the first time he confronts Castro he'll be besieged by mobs
known as ''picketeers'' and other rabble-rousers who are fed by
the Cuban Embassy in Buenos Aires.
should be obvious: The only way to maintain reasonable relations
with quarrelsome states is to let them know, sharply, that any
intrusion in a country's internal affairs, or any attempt to create
a local base of support, will be punished with an immediate break
I doubt that such a thing will happen, especially in Latin America,
where the most frequent reaction to events of this nature is either
bewilderment or defenselessness.