Reuter's Pascal Fletcher on the soon to be ex-colonel

Jose G. Perez jgperez at
Thu Feb 7 14:47:13 MST 2002

[Remember this is Pascal Fletcher trying to write "objectively". So while
the charges about tyranny abound, the only place elections are mentioned in
where Fletcher talks about Chávez's popularity having declined "since he won
an election in 1998." Fletcher doesn't want to remember that Chávez and his
supporters have won a half-dozen MORE elections and plebiscites since them,
including Chávez's own re-election.

[Fletcher doesn't explain how what he describes as a "surprise outburst"
could have been carried live nartionwide on radio and TV. Perhaps he thinks
most of his readers are too stupid to notice the contradiction.

[As for Soto, Fletcher does let it slip that this was one of  Carlos Andrés
Perez's operatives in the Armed Forces who had been passed over for
promotion and currently had NO command despite being a full-bird colonel.]

*  *  *

Venezuela officer urges 'tyrant' Chavez to resign

     By Pascal Fletcher

     CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - In a daring act of
defiance, a Venezuelan air force colonel Thursday accused
President Hugo Chavez of ruling like a tyrant and urged him to
     'The president has to go. He has to resign and call
elections to leave this country in the hands of a democracy, of
a civilian,' air force Col. Pedro Luis Soto told reporters
after fiercely criticizing Chavez at a public conference.
     Soto's surprise outburst was broadcast by several
television and radio stations. It followed a speech late
Wednesday by the president, himself a former paratrooper, in
which he rebuffed U.S. criticism of his leftist government and
denied allegations by opponents that he was a communist.
     'What we are facing is a tyrant government,' Soto, dressed
in his dark blue air force uniform, told reporters after an
unscheduled speech to a seminar on media freedoms organized by
media outlets. His speech was greeted with applause and chants
of 'freedom, freedom.'
     The officer's public criticism dealt a further blow to the
image of the left-wing president, who is accused by opponents
of trying to install a Cuban-style leftist, authoritarian
regime in Venezuela, the world's No. 4 oil exporter.
     Soto said his words, in which he called on all Venezuelans
to defend their democratic freedoms, represented the 'feeling
and voice' of 75 percent of Venezuela's armed forces.
     But Venezuela's armed forces head, Gen. Lucas Rincon, a
close ally of Chavez, was quick to contradict Soto. 'He is
speaking for himself alone. He is not the voice of the armed
forces,' Rincon told Venezuelan television.
     Rincon added Soto had broken military discipline and would
be expected to present himself to military authorities.

     Soto said he expected to be dismissed for insubordination.
'Never mind. Maybe I'll set up a newspaper kiosk in a corner of
Caracas. But at least I'll be free,' he said.
     Since taking office three years ago, Chavez, a former
paratroop officer and coup plotter, has insisted the country's
armed forces are fully behind him. He has repeatedly ruled out
any possibility of a coup against him.
     Opinion polls show Chavez's popularity has fallen sharply
since he won an election in 1998, six years after failing to
take power in a botched coup attempt, which was put down by the
armed forces loyal to then-President Carlos Andres Perez.
     Globovision television said Soto had previously served as
an aide-de-camp to President Perez. In 2000, he lodged a
complaint with superiors after being passed over for promotion
to general and currently had no command role.
     Chavez, who has pledged to introduce a self-proclaimed
'revolution' in his oil-rich nation, has come under fierce
criticism from business and labor opponents, the Catholic
Church, the opposition-dominated media and, more recently, the
United States, the country's main oil market.
     On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell criticized
the Venezuelan leader's ideas on democracy, his fraternizing
with U.S. enemies like Cuba and Iraq and his questioning of
President Bush' war on terrorism.
     In an uncharacteristically conciliatory speech late
Wednesday, Chavez indirectly responded to Powell's remarks,
insisting his government was democratic and did not support
     But he firmly defended his internal and foreign policies
'because this is a sovereign and independent nation.'

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