Foreign policy has been the weakest link of the 8-year Uribe administration, which has achieved little and lost a lot on several areas ranging from economics to human rights. Nonetheless, one of the most surprising mistakes of the current administration has been its offer to sell electricity to Venezuela.
Since early December, Venezuela has faced a severe energy crisis due to a collapsed generation system and a drought that depleted water to critical levels in the Guri Dam, which is responsible for 70% of energy consumed by Venezuelans. The electricity shortages have affected areas throughout the country, with the notable exception of Caracas, stronghold of the chavismo forces.
As Venezuela finds itself in a difficult position, unable to supply current electricity demand, the Colombian energy minister, Hernan Martinez Torres, proposed selling electricity to Venezuela. “Last time they suspended the purchase of energy from Colombia because it was expensive. But, if they are interested, we are willing to do it now”, said Martinez in a meeting with reporters last Sunday.
It did not take 24 hours for the Venezuelan government to rudely turn down Colombia´s proposal. The Venezuelan Vice President Elias Jaua said that his country´s government was “busy and working to re-establish the electricity service.” But then, in a sudden turn of events, Ali Rodriguez, Venezuela’s electricity minister, was open to the Colombia’s offer, stating “If there is any offer by Colombia, we will study it.”
Indeed, it is quite disturbing and somewhat puzzling that Colombia still tries to pursue such a good-neighbor policy, with a country that has consistently been working against our national interests.
Chavez’s personal attacks on Uribe, the implicit ideological and military support to terrorists, and the ongoing payment delay for Colombian exports, among others, are crystal-clear reasons why Colombia should not pursue such a “carrots and more carrots” policy.
Carrots and more carrots is not the right path to achieving a successful understanding with Venezuela, as the ideological differences between the two countries and the expansionary vision of Chavez are not going to be overcome with such amicable offers. But it will affect our long term strategic interests.
And the Uribe administration should understand that selling electricity to Venezuela will help Chavez to solve in the short term one of the gravest issues he has faced since taking over government. The timing of the electricity shortages will indeed affect his party in these year´s elections, as more Venezuelans come to realize where their country is heading.
It is in Colombia´s national interest that there is a change in the Palacio de Miraflores and, therefore, Uribe should maintain a neutral stance on the current issues affecting Venezuela. Selling electricity to Venezuela will just empower Chavez with his supporters and weaken Colombia´s strategic interests.
Author Luis J. Rodríguez is CEO of e-Bursatil.com.co, a website focused on Colombia’s financial market