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BY MARIÁN LEŠKO

"The Venezuela clue"

The eyebrow-raising foreign visits of the Slovak prime minister were defended in an eyebrow-raising manner by Smer party MP Boris Zala, who told us we should watch to see if they "brought us any benefit".

The eyebrow-raising foreign visits of the Slovak prime minister were defended in an eyebrow-raising manner by Smer party MP Boris Zala, who told us we should watch to see if they "brought us any benefit". He defended Fico's impending visit to Venezuela, which cannot bring us anything given that trade turnover between the two countries is $1.5 million annually, with rhetorical questions: Why shouldn't the PM go to Venezuela? What's wrong with that country? For the head of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee this was a display of ignorance as consummate as Fico's arrogance in planning the trip in the first place.

Politicians in democratic countries do not ask what is "wrong" with other countries, because they know the answer. In this case it is Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who at the beginning of his new term declared his intention to build "socialism in the 21st century". The nature of this socialism is clear from the fact he has already announced he will nationalize the energy and telecoms sectors. He also wants to take away the independence of the central bank, because "if we are charting a course for socialism, no one should be allowed to get in the way". He has enacted laws to bring the media under his control, and revoked the license of those he couldn't control, such as the RC-TV channel.

President Chavez wants to use petrodollars to build a socialist state, but not just any socialist state. As he said in Minsk at a meeting with Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, he sees Belarus as "a model of the kind of socialist state we are building in Venezuela". And it is not just the Venezuelan political opposition that is asking where all of this is heading but also the famous Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Lhosa. "Chavez is heading towards dictatorship," said this independent observer. If it doesn't bother Fico, the leader of a NATO-member state, that his potential host is snuggling up to the Iranian president or that he has elevated anti-Americanism to the level of a state ideology, then he should certainly be bothered by other things, such as Chavez' anti-Semitism (according to the Simon Wiesenthal Centre) and his support for the ETA Basque terrorists, to whom he gave Venezuelan citizenship when Spain asked for them to be extradited.

If the prime minister visits Venezuela despite who is in power there and despite what he is doing, then that is a serious matter. But if he is just going there because people are telling him he shouldn't, then the situation is far, far worse.


- Sme, January 16

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