Answer: they both want to punish Colombia.

Venezuela’s authoritarian, anti-American President Chavez claims Colombia threatens his national security, runs around too much with the “Empire,” [the U.S.], and will one day provoke a war with Venezuela. For these reasons, he aims to punish Colombia by cutting off trade and undermining economic security in Colombia and Venezuela. Being the economic kingpin of Venezuela, he can make it happen.

Chavez’s latest attack on Colombia and President Uribe comes just as the U.S. and Colombia move toward agreement on how to operate regular U.S. counter-narcotics surveillance from airfields in Colombia.

As usual, Chavez sounds the anti-American, anti-Colombian alarm to distract attention from his recent intervention in Honduras, from arms shipments to the narco-terrorists of the FARC, and expanding ties of military intimacy with Iran and Russia.

One would assume that in light of Chavez’ brazen efforts to scarce, punish, and otherwise intimate Colombia, and thwart our anti-drug strategy, the U.S. Congress might demonstrate heightened interest in Colombia’s security and prosperity and pass the free trade agreement. Such a logical step would alleviate the blackmail pressure Chavez is applying on his neighbor. It would show a vote of confidence in Colombia’s pro-U.S. stance. One might add that as Chavez embraces the Ayatollahs of Iran; Colombia has committed to sending a military contingent to Afghanistan to assist NATO.

Sadly, this is not the case. With its views blinkered by big Labor, Congress is far more intent on joining — wittingly and not – with Chavez in his efforts to punish 45 million Colombians by blocking legitimate bilateral trade avenues and demanding perfection rather than improvements on human rights and trade union issues.

From Catepillar’s home in Peoria to Midwestern cattle raisers, there is a strong call to pass a measure that will bring down Colombia’s tariff walls and create export jobs. Remember, Colombia’s goods presently enter the U.S. duty-free.

Chavez is banking on Congress to keep on stiff-arming Colombia when it returns in September. Let’s hope he is wrong!