What is there in May air that brings out the combativeness in Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez?

In less than two weeks, Venezuela’s strident, socialist leader has finished nationalizing his nation’s steel industry, given the green light for new purchases of Chinese and Russian-made arms, and denounced German Chancellor Angela Merkel as an heir of Hitler after she criticized Chávez’s oil-driven “socialism of the 21st century.” Furthermore, Chávez accused Colombia of plotting to start a war with Venezuela in order to draw the U.S. into intervening in his country.

Last week Interpol’s long-awaited forensic review of computers previously belonging to the second in command of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) ended. The head of Interpol affirmed the computers, captured on March 1, showed no evidence of alteration or tampering by the Colombian government.

Reams of documents recovered from the guerrilla base camp provide a detailed look inside the minds of Latin America’s oldest, most deadly guerrilla/terrorist organization. Today, in democratic Latin America, the secretive FARC commands an army of 10,000, protects coca fields and cocaine labs for cash and holds hundred of hostages, including three Americans, for exchange or ransom.

There is no doubt that Chávez is engaged in a dangerous association with the terrorist and narcotic-trafficking organization in an attempt to undermine the elected, pro-U.S. government of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. To advance his populist-socialist agenda, Chávez plays freely with political fire.

Chávez is an increasing liability to peace and stability in the Western Hemisphere. His belligerent and erratic behavior deserves public condemnation at home and abroad. The Bush administration still hopes to employ some final leverage against Chávez, urging him, in the words of Assistant Secretary for the Western Hemisphere Tom Shannon, “to commit itself to using its relationship with the FARC to promote peace or … explain why members of its government are conspiring against a democratic neighbor.”

Patience with Chávez is increasingly in short supply and those inclined to press for some form of sanctions against him and/or his country will gain ground if he does not mend his ways soon.