Monday, February 14, 2011

Chavez and Uribe do lunch

It had been a tough morning. The heat had blasted down on his beret as he had addressed the crowd. But he had held forth. His nation would host a summit in 2011, he had declared proudly, and his people would commemorate the realization of the Bolivarian themes of Latin American solidarity in the birthplace of the "Great Liberator.” He had denounced the Organization of American States, and rightly so, and even showed a bit of support for his Argentine brethren fighting British drilling in the Malvinas.

Now, for some lunch. Hugo Chavez pulled up his chair at the table. He glared across at his eating companions. There sat Alvaro Uribe, his long-standing foe, on one side. He was getting tired of Uribe, to put it mildly. The two had already bickered this morning; Chavez was pretty sure they'd have some sort of argument during lunch, too.

Chavez smirked as Rafael Correa, Ecuador's president, sat down opposite him. Leftie-lite, he thought. You may be part of my movement, but you, sir, have nothing on me. Uribe bombs a rebel camp in your country and the best you can do is cry for help? Launch long-winded investigations? Fight back for your people next time! (And quit protesting too much about those money-laundering allegations, man. Just stay quiet, and the storm will pass.)

What's that? A mouse? Something nudged Chavez's right elbow. The Venezuelan looked down; it wasn't a mouse. It was little Evo.

Ah, Evo Morales. Chavez's little boy from Bolivia. He was so wonderfully idealistic sometimes. But so annoying, too. Eh, well, at least he was loyal. All morning, he'd been parroting Chavez's speeches, and praising Cuba to boot. So what if he's diminutive, loves his coca and is totally deluded about his perceived influence over the people of Los Altos, Chavez thought; at least he makes a good sidekick.

Enter Felipe Calderon, stage right. Chavez got up. He gave his Mexican counterpart a big bear hug.

So tempting. So damn tempting. He could have crushed him like an ant just then. He could have put the Mexican Left out of its misery and crushed that conservative right then and there. Then he wouldn't have had to pay all that money to the pendejos in the PRD just so they can lose an election. Ah, coulda, woulda, shoulda, Chavez thought.

Lunch was served, and they all talked a bit of nonsense. Chavez was bored. This diplomatic stuff had never interested him much; he'd rather be hanging out with Naomi, or smoking a nice cigar and shooting the shit with Fidel.

Calderon was droning on and on. He kept bringing up the need to talk, to discuss, to share ideas within the region. Correa agreed quietly and with a bit of reservation. At one point, Raul Castro hobbled into the room and sat at the table, but no one really paid attention. Chavez missed Fidel.


Uribe was talking. Chavez kept looking at the waitress, not hearing a thing.

"NNANANNNANNot happy…"

Chavez couldn't ignore him any longer. Uribe was mumbling, quietly. Why couldn't he just blurt it out like a man? Chavez leaned over, and listened more closely. Uribe was lamenting Venezuela's economic embargo on Colombia, calling it unhelpful and inconsistent with the region's economic interests. Whine, whine, whine.

Chavez listened. He held his tongue. He thought of his mother, how she had always told him to think before he spoke, to count to ten, to listen to other people before responding. To be patient.

He couldn't do it. This guy had tried to kill him! He had sent his assassins to kill him, and here was Chavez, being polite and diplomatic, the better man, sitting next to him at lunch and listening to him whine about economic sanctions? Are you kidding? Are you out of your mind?

Chavez stood up, red in the face. He accused Uribe point blank. The assassins. You sent them. You sent them to kill me.

"You can go to hell," yelled Chavez “I am leaving!”

With that, he turned to go. But Uribe had to get one more word in.

“Don’t be a coward and leave just to insult me from a distance,” he yelled.

Right, that's it. Chavez strutted over to the Colombian. Uribe stood up.

He was bigger than Chavez thought. Not a brute, obviously, but quicker than Chavez on his feet. The two exchanged words. They both swore furiously. Chavez edged forward; Uribe quickly moved his elbows up to block him.

Raul Castro stepped between the two. Come on guys, basta, he pleaded. He didn't have time for these shenanigans. He was getting old, he was quite weary. He couldn't waste his time watching two grownups, leaders of their respective nations, duke it out like a pair of schoolboys.

They backed away from each other. Chavez adjusted his beret. Uribe hunched over to pick up his glasses. He picked them up and gave them a wipe.

Outside of the dining room, Venezuelan security officials ran toward the door to help their president. Mexican security guards blocked them; a scuffle ensued.

NOTE: This is an account of a lunch attended by Uribe and Chavez in Cancun, described in one of the Wikileaks cables. I thought it'd be fun to write it up, and took some liberties in doing so; please read it as a piece of creative writing. Still, quite a bit of it is accurate according to the cable's description.

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