[Marxism] Chavez seeks allies

Louis Proyect 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. 
economy.

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 
those allegations.

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 
occasion.

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."

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