Latin America: Georgia plays by the rules of Abkhazia, by Levon Galustian
Strange metamorphoses have occurred in some Georgian politicians. Lately, a sudden interest by Georgia in Latin American countries had awoken, and we fail to understand the actual reason – whether it is the anomalously hot summer, or whether it is political conjuncture. Having replaced bad temper with mercy, absolutely unexpected statements have recently appeared in the lexicon of official representatives of Tbilisi. For instance Georgiy Baramidze, vice-prime minister of Georgia, made a statement of such a kind: “The issue of mutual relations with Latin America became for Georgia especially important after the August war in South Ossetia and the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia by one of the region’s countries - Venezuela.” This statement appeared in the mass media at the very same time that President Saakashvili was paying a visit to Colombia. Until recently though, one could hardly have conceded this kind of statement possible, let alone the visit itself. Georgian politicians without bothering to hide their fastidiousness expressed their attitude towards Latin America countries. Many of them, without shunning, awarded local politicians with various offensive epithets. This kind of irritability from Tbilisi is easily explained. Up to now, there are already two countries of Latin America which have established diplomatic relations with the former Georgian autonomies of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Although Nicaragua was the first one to recognize Abkhazia, Caracas had become precisely the one to be chosen as an assassin for Georgian delegation accusations. Competing in eloquence, Georgian politicians didn’t leave anything aside while making Venezuela and its president the subject of their mockery.
Gigi Tsereteli, vice-speaker of the Parliament of Georgia, succeeded in obloquy more than others. “Venezuela is a country with no democracy, where dictatorship is the only regime to be practiced”. That was only the beginning: in an absurd and explicit manner the Georgian government declared the illegitimacy of the decision made by the “dictatorship” of Venezuela about the fact of its recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, expressing confidence that after carrying out “fair and democratic elections” new leaders of Venezuela would cancel the decision. It appears that Saakashvili is not fully familiar with the history of his motherland. Furthermore, he didn’t witness the processes that took place in the country, which is not surprising, considering the fact that Saakashvili left Georgia at a very young age. But the real facts show us that the recent history of Georgia doesn’t contain any example of fair and democratic elections: not a single president of Georgia has come to power by democratic election, but only as the result of political plots and “rose revolutions”, with confidence in the Georgian peoples’ support.
Thus, a reasonable question arises – why representatives of “super democratic” Georgia needed to condescend to such a retrograde country as Venezuela and make such statements? Actually, it’s pretty clear indeed. The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has the right to be considered the leader among the countries of the region. Venezuela is known for its highly developed economy and high standard of living. And most importantly, Caracas is considered an undeniable authority by its neighbors. Tbilisi’s negative attitude towards Venezuela results from its blind fear that the republic will try to convince its allies to follow its example and recognize Abkhazia. The chances of development of such a scenario are good. The matter concerns not only the loyal position of Caracas towards Sukhum. The diplomacy of the young Caucasian republic is making vast steps in promoting ideas of an independent Abkhazia. Besides, Latin America became one of the priorities in the foreign policy of Sukhum. Members of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Maxim Gunjia himself, in contrast to their Georgian counterparts who candidly ignore Latin America countries, have been actively visiting the capitals of Central and South American countries. Furthermore, they have always been warmly welcomed there. Official Sukhum has not once claimed its desire to develop relations with Cuba, Chili, Argentina, and other countries. Most likely it is them who sooner or later would join the list of countries who officially recognized Abkhazia. As for the pioneers of this process – Nicaragua and Venezuela - Sukhum has not only established diplomatic relations with them, but is also interested in building up trade and economic cooperation.
In the middle of July an official delegation from Abkhazia, headed by Sergey Bagapsh, visited both Nicaragua and Venezuela. As a result of negotiations with Daniel Ortega and Hugo Chávez, dozens of documents were signed. But what is even more important is that during the talks in Managua and Caracas words of support and encouragement were addressed to the Sukhum delegation. Such authoritative politicians as Ortega and Chávez took responsibility for promoting a project among neighboring countries for the further advancement of independent Abkhazia. The first official Abkhazian government visit to Latin America in history was considered to be very productive by a number of experts. Looking back at the success of the Abkhazian delegation in Latin America, Saakashvili also equipped himself for a long voyage and flew over to Colombia to the inauguration of the recently elected President. This visit more closely resembled a clumsy attempt to repeat the Abkhazian success. But, apparently, the Georgian leader failed to even come close. While visiting Latin America, Abkhazia established and strengthened diplomatic ties directly with leaders of the host countries, whereas Georgia acted solely from consideration of strengthening its relations with the United States, because “Colombia is one of the closest countries of Latin America to the USA ” – as explained by David Darchiashvili, Chairman of the Parliament Committee on the Integration of Georgia.
While in Bogotá, Saakashvili made a statement which can be easily considered as sensational. The President of Georgia, who heretofore had never left the bounds of Europe and the USA, and always praised the western way of life, had sung the praises of Colombia. “It’s a very important country. It was a great pleasure to come here”. Regarding pleasure, the President of Georgia most likely hadn’t lied. Is there anyone who never dreamt of traveling, replacing their domestic atmosphere by an exotic one? In particular, after the August war in South Ossetia Mikhail Saakashvili is no longer a welcome guest in Brussels or Washington. His Western colleagues have long since been aware of what this politician represents. While accusing Hugo Chávez of dictatorship behind his back, Saakashvili himself is a “happy owner” of dictatorship qualities. One wouldn’t need to dig deep for examples: the facts are on the surface – remember the prescribed events in South Ossetia two years ago? This voyage of Saakashvili was aimed at winning the support of Latin Americans. The major breakthrough of the Abkhazian delegation in Latin America still gives no rest to Tbilisi. But one detail of no small importance is missing here. Moreover, a priori it guaranteed success to the official delegation of Abkhazia during their July visit to Nicaragua and Venezuela. They were welcomed by a number of countries, whose authority had been never doubted. Colombia can’t brag about anything. Not only does it have a damaged reputation among its neighbors, but frankly it is also treated depreciatingly by the overwhelming majority of countries in the region. Colombia is respected by literally no one mainly because Bogotá conducts a pro-American policy. In that case, Saakashvili’s visit to Colombia might play into the hands of official Sukhum and bring unexpected political dividends. Two factors might bring about a parade of recognitions from the other countries of Latin America, the ones that haven’t made up their minds regarding the recognition of Abkhazia issue. These are their hostility towards Colombia, and Georgia’s intention to develop partnership relations with this aforementioned country. Once, in August 2008, Saakashvili’s reckless scheme yielded fruit when Abkhazia’s centuries-old dream to build an independent sovereign state of their own was fulfilled. Again it’s August and again Saakashvili makes a present to Sukhum. (Maybe this habit will turn into a tradition, who knows?) In fact, the point is that Saakashvili’s voyage might strengthen the position of Abkhazia in the region.
By the way, Temur Yakobashvili, Georgian State Minister on Reintegration, commenting on the visit of the Abkhazian delegation to Nicaragua and Venezuela, said the following: “Most likely, the visit of the puppet regime concerned a desire to familiarize themselves with the Samba”. Well, this kind of sarcasm from a Georgian official is inappropriate. One should remember, in the context of the visit to these countries, that a number of agreements were signed, including an agreement about cooperation in the cultural sphere. It would be great if the people of Abkhazia learned to dance the Samba, whereas Latin Americans could learn a fiery dance with daggers. Yakobashvili’s irony would be justified if Sergey Bagapsh alone had set off for Aruba island, as Saakashvili had done. It’s common knowledge that this island is famous for its “certain sort of relaxation”. One wouldn’t want to know what in particular the President of Georgia was busy with in Aruba. This is clear anyway – establishing intimate relationships.