Chavez tells los Yanquis to go to !@#$% hell

While everyone has been dissecting whether Obama called Palin a pig, or whether Palin insulted Obama’s community organizing, we’ve missed some rather massive mud-flinging in the United States’ backyard. Last night, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez told the United States to "Go to hell a hundred times." In front of an applauding crowd, he yelled "We ...

By , International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.

While everyone has been dissecting whether Obama called Palin a pig, or whether Palin insulted Obama's community organizing, we've missed some rather massive mud-flinging in the United States' backyard.

Last night, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez told the United States to "Go to hell a hundred times." In front of an applauding crowd, he yelled "We have had enough of so much s**t from you, s**t Yankees!" as he expelled the U.S. ambassador, giving him just 72 hours to leave. Watch him here:

I know: Chávez has always been something of a loose cannon (he enjoys calling President George W. Bush a donkey, the devil, and other colorful names). But to think this is nothing more than his usual Yankee-bashing would be a mistake. Minor crisis would be a better interpretation.

While everyone has been dissecting whether Obama called Palin a pig, or whether Palin insulted Obama’s community organizing, we’ve missed some rather massive mud-flinging in the United States’ backyard.

Last night, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez told the United States to "Go to hell a hundred times." In front of an applauding crowd, he yelled "We have had enough of so much s**t from you, s**t Yankees!" as he expelled the U.S. ambassador, giving him just 72 hours to leave. Watch him here:

I know: Chávez has always been something of a loose cannon (he enjoys calling President George W. Bush a donkey, the devil, and other colorful names). But to think this is nothing more than his usual Yankee-bashing would be a mistake. Minor crisis would be a better interpretation.

The Venezuelan strongman’s outburst comes after his neighbor and left-wing soulmate Evo Morales expelled the U.S. ambassador earlier this week, accusing him of backing conservative opposition movements  now protesting in the streets. The United States in turn kicked out Bolivia’s ambassador.

Bolivia is in far more trouble than just having a few picketers on the street. Morales has proposed drastic energy and government reforms, to be voted upon in December, that would consolidate his power and allow him to redistribute agricultural land. Protesters, demanding a greater autonomy from the government in the natural gas industry, have shut down much of the country and dozens have been killed in street fighting. Perhaps emboldened by joint exercises with Russia, Chávez promised to militarily intervene if his buddy Morales is lifted from power.

But the U.S. government is in no mood for such funny business. Not only has the State Department sent the Venezuelan ambassador packing, but the Treasury Department today called out Venezuelan officials for helping the cocaine-trafficking rebel group FARC in neighboring Colombia.

"Today’s designation exposes two senior Venezuelan government officials and one former official who armed, abetted, and funded the FARC, even as it terrorized and kidnapped innocents," said Adam J. Szubin, director of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, in a toughly worded press release. Interpol accusations that Venezuela — and even Chávez himself — aided the FARC first surfaced this summer after Colombia got its hands on a FARC laptop, but this is the first time the U.S. government has formally charged any Venezuelan officials.

No doubt Chávez has a response up his sleeve.

Elizabeth Dickinson is International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.

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