Hugo Chavez is at it again, sticking his thumb into the eye of the overbearing United States of America. And, true to imperial historical form, the US is playing the outraged hemispherical nanny and blustering back.
Chavez is currently playing a round of the game my-enemy's-enemy-is-my-friend and hosting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad  in Caracas. The Iranian president is on a tour of friendly leftist regimes in Latin America, while the leaders of our great nation whistle and look at the ceiling when Israeli agents murder Iranian scientists in broad daylight.
Ahmadinejad welcomed by Chavez, and General Henry Rangel Silva by unknown
Fighting cancer , a chemo-bloated but grinning Chavez greeted an equally grinning Ahmadinejad at the Mireflores Palace in Caracas. At a press conference Palace under a painting of Simon Bolivar they made jokes about nuclear bombs and the imperialist giant to the north so obviously worried about remaining top dog in the world.
"Despite those arrogant people who do not wish us to be together, we will unite forever," Ahmadinejad told Chavez.
Referring to an area near the palace, Chavez replied, "That hill will open up and a big atomic bomb will come out. The imperialist spokesmen say Ahmadinejad and I are going into the Miraflores basement now to set our sights on Washington and launch cannons and missiles." He and Ahmadinejad both laughed.
If that isn't enough to pique imperialist leaders, President Chavez had earlier announced the appointment of his loyal pal General Henry Rangel Silva  as national Defense Minister. Rangel was formerly head of the nation's intelligence services and was a member of the failed but famous 1992 coup led by Hugo that brought him to prominence. This worried his opponents, since Rangel is a really tough guy who doesn't always play by the rules.
The United States insists General Rangel has connections to drug traffickers and has worked with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. This kind of charge should not surprise anyone, since the US supply-focused Drug War is a corrupt and baroque debacle in which virtually everyone in power in the region can be connected somehow with drug traffickers. We're now at the point it's hard to distinguish from the Drug War and the War On Terror. In fact, the US willfully blurs the lines. If US militarist leaders doesn't like you, you're easily placed into one of them.
To show how this works, the right's beloved President Ronald Reagan can glibly but accurately be linked with drug traffickers. During Reagan's beloved Contra War there were many documented cases of pilots and other mercenaries running guns down to the brave Contras in Nicaragua and returning to the US -- why fly back empty? -- with bales of marijuana and cocaine. One pilot even testified to Congress about being ordered to land a C-123 with pot at Homestead AFB in South Florida. Just like on the street corners of our inner cities in America, in Latin America, the Drug War follows all the capitalist rules of supply and demand and the beloved free market.
The fact is, Drug War aside, the various nations of South America and Central America are paying less and less imperial fealty to the United States. Our lion's roar is less fearsome than it was at the beginning of the 20th century, for example, when the imperialism began in earnest with the Spanish-American War. A nation like Brazil is now approaching first-world economic status, so while it did not put Ahmadinejad on its invite list this trip, it's looking at the US as more of an equal. The Iranian president is only visiting the nation's most hostile to the US giant.
The trend toward independence in Latin America has been going on for over a decade. The exception to the rule is the US client state of Colombia, a well-financed fortress nation friendly to the American right sitting on the north coast of South America right next to Venezuela. Colombia has it's own issues with drugs on both the political left and right. Lately, the FARC rebels have been significantly checked in by the Colombian military.
With Cuba under Raul Castro working to moderate its image and slowly injecting free enterprise into its system, Venezuela has become the vanguard for anti-US rhetoric and posturing. Tensions between it and Colombia are significant. Both nations feel the need to firm up their security forces, and as far as Colombia goes, the US is delighted to help with programs like Plan Colombia that pump into Colombia billions of US tax dollars and -- our specialty -- sophisticated weaponry.
The US, of course, would like to see Hugo Chavez disappear. He's a brilliant politician and has survived as president  since 1999. He is to face re-election this year. His party controls the Supreme Court, the legislature and all federal bureaucracies. An opposition candidate for president is running close in polls. Opponents are scared that if Hugo loses the election, the army under Senor Rangel will take over the nation.
The US already showed its sneaky but nefarious hand in a 2002 coup attempt to overthrow Hugo that failed. The Obama administration also behaved quite shamefully in the 2009 successful coup in Honduras, in which US elements either helped arrange it or, at best, stood back and knowingly let it happen without as much as a peep of concern.
The real question is will Hugo Chavez make it to the election in October this year? One doctor who treated him in the past said his cancer was in the pelvic area and was "very aggressive." Another said he had two years to live max. Chavez claims he's cancer free. He reportedly passed up on treatment in Brazil because it would mean public disclosure of his disease. Other reports say he has been taking lowered doses of chemo in order to be able to govern. A replacement candidate for the theatrical Hugo would likely not have the popularity he is able to muster. It's a fact, Hugo Chavez is fearless and an amazing survivor. So stay tuned.
Meanwhile, the vultures in Caracas and Washington are waiting.