[Marxism] Chavez seeks allies
lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Mar 15 07:28:18 MST 2005
Chavez Casts Himself as the Anti-Bush
With Oil on His Side, Venezuelan Seeks Allies Against U.S.
By Kevin Sullivan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, March 15, 2005; Page A01
CARACAS, Venezuela -- President Hugo Chavez has recently accused President
Bush of plotting to assassinate him, made suggestive comments about
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, visited Fidel Castro in Cuba, bashed
the United States on the al-Jazeera television network and traveled to
Libya to receive an award from Moammar Gaddafi.
Such bluster and anti-American showmanship are nothing new from the fiery
former paratrooper. But concern in Washington has been rising as Chavez has
worked feverishly in recent months to match his words with deeds.
Since threatening to cut off oil shipments to the United States, which buys
1.5 million barrels a day from Venezuela, Chavez has been traveling the
globe looking for new markets and allies to unite against "the imperialist
power." He recently signed energy deals with France, India and China, which
is searching for new sources of oil to power its industrial expansion.
Chavez also has made a series of arms purchases, including one for military
helicopters from Russia.
And on Friday, Chavez hosted President Mohammad Khatami of Iran, a nation
that has a secretive nuclear program and has been labeled by Bush as part
of an "axis of evil."
"Iran has every right . . . to develop atomic energy and to continue its
research in that area," Chavez said at a joint appearance with Khatami.
"All over the world, there is a clamor for equality . . . and profound
rejection of the imperialist desires of the U.S. government. Faced with the
threat of the U.S. government against our brother people in Iran, count on
us for all our support."
Gerver Torres, a former Venezuelan government minister who now runs a
private development agency, said such statements illustrate one of Chavez's
key goals. "His main motivation now is to do everything he possibly can to
negatively affect the United States, Bush in particular," Torres said. "He
is trying to bring together all the enemies of the United States. He
believes the United States is the devil."
While U.S. analysts said they doubt Chavez could afford to severely cut
shipments to the United States, which buys 60 percent of Venezuela's oil
exports, they are still paying careful attention to his statements. Sen.
Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) has asked the Government Accountability Office to
study how a sharp decrease in Venezuelan oil imports might affect the U.S.
Although Chavez has suggested he would "use oil" to fight American power,
other Venezuelan officials have expressed a far more businesslike view of
the relationship. In an interview, Andres Izarra, Chavez's information
minister, said Venezuela had no plans to stop selling oil to the United
States, which he called "our natural energy market."
The government says it produces 3.1 million barrels a day of oil, but
independent analysts put the figure closer to 2.6 million. Izarra said the
country aimed to boost its oil production to about 5 million barrels a day
in the next five years, so there would be plenty of oil to serve both the
United States and new customers, such as China and India.
Still, Chavez's comments and actions, including the purchase of a
substantial amount of foreign arms, have drawn sharp criticism from U.S.
officials. In her Senate confirmation hearings in January, Rice called
Chavez a "negative force in the region."
Chavez's arms purchases from Russia, including 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles,
have also drawn protests from the State Department. He has bought military
aircraft from Brazil and announced plans to buy radar equipment from China.
In a recent televised speech, Chavez described the arms purchases and a
plan to increase army reserve troops as "an honorable answer to President
Bush's intention of being the master of the world."
Chavez is the most vocal and visible symbol of a rising tide of
anti-American sentiment in Latin America. Leaders in the region are
increasingly disillusioned because a decade or more of the Washington
prescription -- democracy and free-market economics -- has failed to
alleviate poverty and economic inequality.
Six Latin American nations, most recently Uruguay, now have presidents
whose views clash, in varying degrees, with Washington's. Another
politician with sharp anti-Washington views, Mexico City Mayor Andres
Manuel Lopez Obrador, is the early favorite in next year's presidential
election, which could bring the trend to the banks of the Rio Grande.
After soundly defeating his domestic opposition in a recall referendum
last August, and flush with soaring profits from record-high global oil
prices, Chavez has increasingly been making deals with countries in Latin
America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, positioning himself as something
of an anti-Bush.
In a recent interview on al-Jazeera, Chavez called for developing nations
to unite against U.S. political and economic policies. "What can we do
regarding the imperialist power of the United States? We have no choice but
to unite," he said. Venezuela's energy alliances with nations such as Cuba,
which receives cheap oil, are an example of how "we use oil in our war
against neoliberalism," he said.
Or, as he put it on another occasion, "We have invaded the United States,
but with our oil."
Izarra, in the interview, accused the United States of "systematic attacks
and aggressions" against Chavez, repeating allegations that the United
States was involved in a failed 2002 coup against Chavez and a crippling
2002-03 oil strike. Rice and other U.S. officials have repeatedly denied
Chavez has saved some of his most biting sarcasm for Rice, whom he refers
to as "Condolencia," which means "condolence." In speeches, he has called
her "pathetic" and illiterate and made oblique sexual references to her. "I
cannot marry Condolencia, because I am much too busy," he said in a recent
speech. "I have been told that she dreams about me," he said on another
Chavez asserted on television last month that Castro had warned him that
Bush was planning an assassination attempt. U.S. officials called this
ridiculous. But Chavez said that if he were killed, the United States "can
forget Venezuelan oil," threatening to cut off the fourth-largest source of
U.S. oil imports. Chavez's government has begun exploring the sale of parts
of Citgo, the Venezuela-owned retailer in the United States.
Many here say they believe Chavez dreams of the day he can cut off the
United States and sell to countries he considers more friendly. Chavez
visited Beijing in December and signed trade deals for oil and gas
exploration, farm support and construction. He even reached agreement with
Chinese leaders to launch a telecommunications satellite.
When Chavez visited India last week, the two countries signed an energy
cooperation agreement and Chavez said Venezuela wanted to become a "secure,
long-term" petroleum supplier to India. On his way home, Chavez stopped in
Paris and reached agreement with President Jacques Chirac for more French
investment in the Venezuelan oil industry.
Some of the gasoline that Venezuela ships to the United States comes from
El Palito, a refinery about 200 miles west of Caracas. People who live next
to the refinery in a little cluster of brightly colored beachfront homes
said they did not believe Chavez would ever cut off exports to the United
States. But in a country bitterly divided over Chavez's rule, they agreed
on little else.
"He's destroying the country," said Carlos Rodriguez, a shopkeeper. "Oil
prices are higher than ever, but there's more poverty and more crime. Then
he flies off to other countries and offers them things he doesn't offer to us."
But a few yards away on the beach, Jaime Mendez, a fisherman, said: "We are
all with Chavez because he helps the humble people. He doesn't want
problems with the United States. He is just trying to do things, but they
won't let him work."
More information about the Marxism