Chavez, Colombia and Brazil

Update: It appears Chavez has calmed down on this count and made up with the Colombians. Answered prayer.

A friend emailed to ask:

If Chavez succeeds and he starts a war with Colombia and talks Ecuador into helping, how will that affect Brazil?

Here was my answer, plus some:

President Lula, as the leader and founder of the socialist Worker’s Party, is a big friend of Chavez, but my guess is he’ll try to play the statesman for peace. I would hope Lula has enough sense to know it’d be a losing game to egg on a conflict. For all his bluster, he knows which side the economy’s bread is buttered on.

Brazilians like diplomacy, have a long history of it (a la Ruy Barbosa), and like to think of themselves as a peaceful people. So Lula will probably put, if he hasn’t already, the national machinery into the diplomatic mode.

If a war starts, it will affect Brazil more politically than anything else. Brazil is self-sufficient in petroleum, so it doesn’t need Venezuela for that. As far as trade is concerned, the U.S. is Brazil’s largest market. One site gives these figures:

The European Community absorbs almost 26 percent of Brazilian exports, North America around 22 percent (the U.S. is the largest individual trading partner), Asia absorbs 16 percent, MERCOSUL 14 percent, rest of ALADI 10 percent, Middle East 4 percent, and the remaining exports are distributed over a variety of smaller markets.

The disputants in Chavez’s equation make up a small percentage of Brazil’s trade. So Brazil should not be adversely affected economically if some conflict were to occur.

In physical terms, most Brazilians live within 100 miles of the Atlantic coast. Any conflict would be far from the major population centers and would have no impact on day-to-day routine.

In politics and international relations, of course, anything can happen. Especially when it comes to volatile and unpredictable heads of state like Hugo Chavez. But we feel confident that this will not be a moment of immediate concern. The concern is, however, for those lives hurt by terrorist activity and government incentive of such illegal and immoral actions.

My response is not a foray into politics or economics, but ameager attempt to assess for concerned friends how a possibleconflict involving Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador might affect us and our work here.

Of course, the assessment for those in the countries involved will be very different.

We pray the Lord will cause the heads of government to work toward peace.

J. Randal Matheny

Be pithy.

What do you think?