Venezuela in Washington's Sights
by Salim Lamrani
www.zmag.org, March 11, 2006
Washington's hostile policy towards the
government of Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez gains increasingly
worrying momentum. In a recent document, the Pentagon called the
"resurgence of authoritarian and populist movement in some
countries like Venezuela [a] source of political and economic
instability". Such a statement is even more worrying, since
the US Defence Department hardly ever cites countries in its strategic
study (Quarterly Defence Review), published every four years;
that department only limits itself to address general tendencies
_Some days before, US Defence Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld, had compared Hugo Chavez to Hitler before Washington's
National Press Club: "In Venezuela, we have Chavez, who possesses
lots of money that stem from oil. He was legally elected, as Hitler
was. Then, he has consolidated his power and is now working along
Fidel Castro, Mister Morales and others ", he said. .
"We have seen how some populist leaders have attracted the
people in those countries, as well as elections such as that of
Evo Morales in Bolivia, which are clearly worrying" he concluded
_Venezuela's response was not long awaited.
Vice-president José Vicente Rangel strongly condemned Rumsfeld
aggressive statements: "We are not willing to passively accept
that our government  be attacked with impunity by people who
are fully disqualified from the political, moral and ethical points
of view, as the gang of the US Hitler, George Bush " .
_In the same direction, the director of
intelligence services John Negroponte, accused Venezuela of "launching
a militant foreign policy in Latin America, which includes the
supply of oil at preferential prices in exchange for allies".
At the same time, he stigmatized the international TV channel
Telesur, whose role is that of breaking the CNN supremacy in the
continent. He told a senate committee that "Venezuela is
the main challenge to security in the hemisphere" and that
Washington's priority is to block at any price the re-election
of Hugo Chavez in December, 2006. At last, he threatened Bolivia,
which "continues to give ambiguous signs about its intentions"
_"The militant foreign policy"
advocated by John Negroponte refers to Venezuela's solidarity
cooperation, which allows many poor nations in the region to purchase
fuel at preferential tariffs. The Prime Minister of Grenada, Keith
Mitchell, signed an energy cooperation agreement with President
Hugo Chávez, which stipulates the supply of 1,000 barrels
of oil daily with a 50 percent discount over the market price.
Venezuela has also send a group of military and civil engineers
to Grenada in order to repair schools damaged by hurricanes. The
integration model promoted by the Bolivarian Alternative for the
Americas (ALBA), fully contrary to the ultra-liberal and destruction-oriented
Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), has strongly irritated
the White House ._In the face of open threats by the Bush administration,
Venezuela has decided to reinforce its defence capacity by purchasing
fighter aircrafts in Spain. But, Washington has prohibited the
José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero government to sell Venezuela
the military equipment, outfitted with US technology, since the
total sale calculated in 2 billion dollars could "contribute
to the destabilization of Latin America", according to Sean
McCormack, spokesperson of the US State Department . Also in
that same direction, Brazil rejected the US prohibition by stating
that it would proceed to sell 20 planes to Venezuela .
_According to Washington, the sale of
weapons to Venezuela would imply the risk of regional destabilization.
McCormark explains that the "concerns focus on what we consider
an exaggerated militarization of Venezuela" .
_Meanwhile, the US company Lockheed Martin
has just released several F-16 planes to Chile and it expects
to send another eight of those planes to that country this year.
Chile now possesses the most modern aircraft fleet in Latin America
with that posing no inconvenience for the Bush administration,
which is only obsessed about the progressive reforms undertaken
by Caracas .
_Along with the significant purchase of
necessary weapons for the defence of his nation (100,000 infantry
guns and 15 helicopters purchased in Russia), President Chávez
has decided to create an army with one million volunteers in order
to face an eventual US military invasion of Venezuela. The Bolivarian
government has decided to follow the Cuban example in terms of
its preparation for war. "Why did the gringos invade half
of the world except Cuba? In Cuba all the people [are ready] and
trained to defend each corner of their national territory and
the Cuban Revolution", said Chávez .
_The United States have also launched
a campaign of espionage and promotion of internal subversion by
using its embassy in Caracas, with the aim of destabilizing the
country, which has increasingly experienced social advancements
achieved by the Chávez government. "Some low-ranking
officers used to provide the Pentagon with information",
said the Venezuelan Vice-president. US military attaché
John Correa, who had made contact with those officers to conspire
against Venezuelan authorities, was expelled from the country
. As to the Venezuelan military, they were all tried for having
cooperated with a foreign power .
_In retaliation, Washington declared Jenny
Figueredo Frias, head of the cabinet of Venezuelan ambassador
to Washington Bernardo Alvarez, person non grata and, at the same
time, admitted that it was an arbitrary measure: "This decision
is in response to the expelling by Venezuela of Commander John
Correa, naval attaché at the US embassy in Caracas",
said the spokesperson of the US State Department .
_Tony Blair, a loyal and unconditional
ally of the Bush administration proved his full subordination
to Washington during a weekly session of the British Parliament.
Labor party parliamentarian Colin Burgon faced the Prime Minister:
"I am sure that your share the satisfaction many labor party
lawmakers feel about the left-oriented shift of Latin America
[with the coming to power of ] governments that fight for the
interests of the majority and not for the interests of a minority".
Later, he asked Blair: "Would you agree that it would be
bad for us to admit that our policy towards those countries, especially
nations like Venezuela, be drawn up by the rightist republican
agenda of the US government?" .
_In a surprising way, Anthony Blair replied:
"Up to certain extent", in an attempt to justify his
statement by affirming that it was "important that the Venezuelan
government should understand that if it wants the respect of the
international community, it must abide by the rules of the international
community". Evidently, we have to understand that "international
community" here means "the United States", whose
"rules" must be enforced with no discussion at all.
For Prime Minister Blair, the sovereignty of Britain ends where
US interests begin ._Washington's concern is currently based
on Hugo Chávez, since he symbolizes Latin America's political
renovation by using national resources in the benefit of less
favoured social classes. The Venezuelan government has just approved
an impressive salary increase for public officials, which ranges
from + 34 percent to + 61,8 percent and that stands for a 47 percent
average increase. The Venezuelan government also raised minimum
salaries for private employees up to 15 percent. Since the year
2000, the minimum salary in Venezuela has been raised each year
from 20 to 30 percent. All the population has been benefited with
incomes stemming from the country's economic growth, which went
up to 9,4 percent in 2005 .
_In contrast, in France, the fifth World
power with a highly praised social model, the salaries of public
officials was only raised by 1 percent in 2005. Private sector
wages registered a 0,6 percent increase in real terms (2,8 percent
increase minus 2,2 percent inflation). "21st Century socialism",
promoted by President Chávez is not to be applied soon
in France, where the government has undertaken a merciless anti-social
policy since 2002 .
_In the same way, one billion bolivares
(Venezuelan currency) was destined to the "Barrio Adentro
III" mission, a government-led free-of-charge and universal
medical program. The money will allow the purchase of 30,932 medical
equipment (ambulances and others). The fund, which stems from
an oil surplus, is directly invested in the social sector .
_The only-of-its-kind public health system
developed in Venezuela thanks, among other factors to the assistance
given by 15,000 Cuban doctors, has allowed for 163 million medical
consultations; that is, 8 consultations per person. The "Barrio
Adentro I" mission has saved 31,186 lives thanks to the setting
up of 1,012 popular medical offices in the poorest regions, which
will be joined by another 20, 359 similar facilities. The "Barrio
Adentro II" mission has created 100 integral diagnosis centers,
which provide comprehensive medical assistance; while another
500 similar centres are being built throughout the country. At
last, with the implementation of the "Miracle Mission"
led by Cuba, more than 176,000 Venezuelans who had lost their
sight as a consequence of cataracts, were submitted to free-of-charge
eye surgery by Cuban specialists .
_Unemployment has continued to decrease
in Venezuela from 13,2 percent in June 2005 down to 11,4 percent
in December that year. The efficient government policy has allowed
367,199 people to find a job .
_UNESCO recognized the outstanding social
achievements of the Bolivarian Revolution by awarding President
Hugo Chávez the José Martí International
Prize. The distinction stresses the efforts made by Chávez
in favour of Latin American and Caribbean unity, as well as the
preservation of regional identities, traditions and cultures .
In effect, Venezuela provides its neighbors with oil at preferential
tariffs, as well as some US zones, such as Vermont, Maine and
Rhode Island. Inhabitants of those regions, abadonmed by the Bush
administration, will be able to purchase fuel at 40-percent subsidized
tariffs by Venezuela's Citgo subsidiary. "That will translate
into the saving of some million dollars for the people of Vermont",
said Erin Campbell, spokesman of Vermont .
_On February 6, the Bush administration
released its budget project for 2007, which includes significant
increase in funds for the defence, internal security and foreign
affairs. The US defence budget surpasses all records with a total
of 439,3 billion dollars; that translates into a 6,9-percent rise
respect to last year. At the same time, the budgets dedicated
to health, justice, education and other sectors were drastically
decreased. For instance, 141 social programs will undergo reductions
or be interrupted. A 65-billion-dollar reduction is expected to
affect the Medicare program, which provides medical attention
to the elderly or physically impaired people. Pensions are also
be deeply affected. Two contrary models of society face each other,
the one in Caracas and the other in Washington. In the first the
wellbeing of the population is at the center of the national program,
while in the other, the development of the military industrial
complex continues to be the absolute prioritiy .
_While the Bush administration is willing
to do just about anything in order to avoid a new electoral victory
by Hugo Chávez on December 3, 2006, Venezuela continues
to implement reforms aimed at further improving the standard of
living of the population. Its prestige in the continent is proportionally
direct to the twilight of US influence in the region. The reason
for that is quite simple: while Venezuela has destined 28 billion
dollars in terms of external assistance for its neighbors for
a seven-year term-an annual average of 3,6 billion dollars-, the
United States has announced a massive decrease of its contribution
for the year 2007, with a 28,5-percent fall in the assistance
for the development of Latin America and the Caribbean, a 10-percent
fall in medical assistance and an 11-pecent decrease of its financial
contribution to the Organization of American States (OAS). Messages
also opposed each other in this area: Caracas contributes 3,6
billion dollars annually as part of its assistance for Latin America,
while Washington expects to decrease its 1,2 billion-dollar economic
_The Bolivarian government successfully
challenges the neo-liberal doctrine, which is unsustainable in
social, economic and political terms and that explains the anger
of the White House. Despite several aggressions and threats coming
from the U.S., President Chávez launched signs of opening
to Washington by saying: "If they change that attitude, we
will respond in the same way. Everything can be improved if they
show respect for our sovereignty, respect for our decisions".
However, is not very probable that reason and dialog lie in the
heart of the belligerent Bush administration