Oliver North

WASHINGTON, DC -- Now for the bad news. Two weeks ago, the mainstream media were chasing after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on her whirlwind debutante tour of Europe, commenting on her elegant ensembles and disarming smile. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez was accusing the United States of trying to assassinate him.

 This week, the potentates of the press were mused over President Bush's efforts to melt the iciest of 'Old European' hearts. But within four hours of Florida, Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega -- still the head of the communist-inspired Sandinista Party -- was endorsing Chavez' call for the creation of a "Bolivarian Army" -- comprised of soldiers from "like minded nations" throughout Latin America. Such an armed force would "protect these countries" from "U.S. imperialism."
Compared to Russia's intent to supply the radicals in Tehran with nuclear material and know-how, the rabid babble emanating from our back yard may seem a minor annoyance -- kind of like the neighbor's dog barking in the night. And it would be just about as threatening, but for one thing: The radicals to our south have found a wealthy new benefactor, the revolutionary Chavez.

 With oil selling at near record prices, the elected Venezuelan head of state, and new darling of the radical left, is rolling in American petro-dollars. While the Bush administration has been preoccupied by its "New European Initiative," Chavez -- often seen sporting his Castro-style uniform -- has been taking every advantage of the distraction. And, apparently, he is willing to put his money where his mouth is.

 With his new-found oil wealth, Chavez has offered to arm the new "Bolivarian Army" with weapons from communist China and, of all places, Iran. In a little-noticed speech this week at the Organization for American States (OAS), Ali Rodriguez, the Venezuelan foreign minister, denounced the United States and echoed Chavez' claims that the Bush administration has authorized the assassination of the Venezuelan president.

 According to sources in Nicaragua, Chavez is using his fortune to finance Sandinista chieftain Daniel Ortega's political ambitions. One frustrated member of the legislature in Managua told me that "Chavez is Ortega's 'numero uno' financial benefactor."

 Meanwhile, Alvaro Uribe, the pro-American president of Colombia, is increasingly concerned about the military support and sanctuary that the Chavez regime is offering to FARC narco-terrorists. Thus far, all of these concerns seem to have fallen on deaf ears in Washington.

Oliver North

Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.