The Guardian 16 March, 2005

US digs its claws into Venezuela

Lidice Valenzuela

Recent speeches by officials in George W Bush's government indicate that a sordid operation is being planned against Venezuela and its President, Hugo Chávez. It seems that Washington is convinced that a coup d'état against the Bolivarian leader — who is supported by a great majority of the people and military — is inconceivable.

Chávez is a new thorn in the side of the United States, which also failed in its attempts to overthrow the Cuban Revolution and its leader, Fidel Castro, against whom many unsuccessful assassination attempts have been made.

Just as successive US administrations have attempted to overthrow the Cuban Revolution for the last 46 years, current White House plans for Latin America have moved on to the overthrow of the Bolivarian Revolution and the example that it, too, represents for the rest of Latin America.

The only problem is that Cuba and Venezuela are not alone. Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay have joined the new political era, and important progressive or leftist political movements exist in other countries, such as Bolivia and Ecuador.

That is to say, the so-called Lord of War does not have everyone in Latin America on his side, despite the fact that more than a few governments depend on the US for survival, given the brutal debt slavery to which they have been subjected via the northern nation's neoliberal economic policies.

Only a short while ago, President Chávez condemned US plans to assassinate him, given that it knows — he pointed out — that there is no possibility for a coup to occur, and if it did, it would be orchestrated and led by the US administration itself.

It is known that the failed plan against Chávez in April 2002 was devised and organised by the US embassy in Caracas; it failed when the people returned their president to Miraflores Palace less than 72 hours after he was kidnapped by a counter-revolutionary faction of hostile elements.

"The main person responsible for any attempt on my life, successful or not, would be US President George W Bush", affirmed the leader on his radio-television broadcast Aló, presidente.

The President warned about recent and threatening speeches by high-ranking officials in Bush's right-wing administration, including Condoleezza Rice, the new Secretary of State, who referred to Venezuela as a "negative influential force" in the Latin American arena.

In a similar tone, Roger Noriega, US Undersecretary of State for Latin America, announced on Spanish-language CNN on February 13 that the acquisition by Caracas of 100,000 AK-47 assault rifles and 40 Russian helicopters was a source of concern for US partners in the Americas and for the Venezuelan people.

Several leaders of the Bolivarian Revolution objected to such accusations, affirming that Venezuela is not engaged in an arms race, much less against the US, and pointing out that Washington refuses to sell the country spare parts for F-16 combat planes, resulting in the purchase of MiG planes in Russia and Tucán fighters in Brazil.

Venezuelan Vice President José Vicente Rangel also rejected those who tried to minimise the president's accusations, and said that nobody could demand proof of the likelihood of assassination, and that the Venezuelan government had no intentions of presenting Chávez' corpse as evidence of a conspiracy.

Likewise, Andrés Izarra, Venezuela's minister of communication and information, warned about the misinformation campaign launched against his country with the support of international media as well as domestic newspapers, with the aim of destabilising the government.

Izarra warned that the US media is spreading false information and making unfounded accusations against the Chávez government. He said that it has been concluded that there is a campaign or dirty war against the Bolivarian Revolution, and asserted that 84 percent of news sources on Venezuela in the United States are mouthpieces for opposition parties and only 16 percent are government sources.

The Minister gave the example of a news series by the Fox television network called The Iron Fist of Hugo Chávez, while newspapers such as The Washington Post, The Washington Times and The Miami Herald are promoting lies against Venezuela to justify — he emphasised — an intervention in the country.

To eliminate any doubt, The Washington Post published an article saying that the White House will soon embark on a campaign in Latin America, in which it will urge friendly countries to reconsider their relations with Chávez and declare themselves against his "authoritarian and anti-democratic" rule, attributing the statements to a high-ranking, unidentified White House official.


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