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Venezuela: International News Review, April 14-15, 2004

By Alexandra Beech,

During a recent lunch at the House of Representatives in Washington, I noticed two women holding heaps of meat and cheese next to me in the cafeteria line.

“Are you on Atkins,” I asked.

“We’re sort of doing Atkins,” one responded shyly.

All of America is “sort of doing Atkins”. The low-carb zeal has replaced the low-fat fervor.

While America measures its carbohydrate grams, one man a mere continent away bellows against the United States government with hatred and conviction. He calls President Bush a murderer, and blames the US for launching “The Fourth World War.” As American soldiers die in Iraq, fighting for what they believe is a better future for that country and its neighbors, he salutes the Iraqi insurgents who are killing them.

Reuters reports that “Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez blamed President Bush on Tuesday for violence in Iraq and sent a message of support to Iraqis who he said were battling the U.S. ‘imperialist aggressor.’” Speaking to “thousands of cheering supporters in Caracas on the anniversary of a 2002 coup that briefly ousted him, “ Chavez “said a surge in fighting between U.S. troops and Iraqi insurgents, the bloodiest combat since Saddam Hussein's fall, was shedding ‘innocent blood...’”

Reuters characterizes the speech as “one of his fiercest attacks against Bush.” While there is no doubt that Chavez attacked the American president, it is important to note that he also expressed rage at the United States in general. The following are excepts of his speech:

- The North American empire began to articulate the mechanisms of domination to impose an economic, political, and immoral model. The pretense to dominate the continent isn’t new. In the 19th century, here in Lima, Simon Bolivar confronted the imperialist pretense...the Monroe doctrine, America for the Americans... from Washington they called ...Bolivar the Dangerous Crazy One from the South. They tried to kill him on many occasions....

- Simon Bolivar once said...what kind of brothers are these in the North? They don’t recognize our sovereignty...Bolivar wrote a prophesy...The United States of America seem destined to plague the Americas with misery in the name of liberty. That has come to be, sadly. So, it is not a new pretense of the elite of the United States to impose their will.

- On one occasion, the elite used the excuse of the struggle against terrorism to destroy peoples, like they did in Guatemala, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and other brother countries. They overthrew our friend Allende, they launched terror against Chile, to overthrow that dignified president who preferred to die before lowering his head…that is where April 11 [his brief ouster] in Venezuela is framed…which they call the Fourth World War, Afghanistan, Iraq, Cuba, Haiti. Look at what happened in Haiti and one must see, as Christ said, hypocritical pharisees, the elites are full of hypocrites.

- The US government declared war on the world practically, and launched a threat to those peoples and governments which are not aligned with its interests…said that those who are not with the US are against them. We are not kneeling nor are we against them.

- Mr. Bush has employees in the country. Mister – you are wasting money. How many Bolivarian schools could be built and how many people could be aided with that money? [referring to NED funds for opposition groups and parties in Venezuela]

Another interesting question would be how many Bolivarian schools could be built and how many people could be aided with the $1 million dollars that the Venezuelan government forks over yearly to the Washington law firm Patton Boggs for a cosmetic make-over in the empire’s capital.

In addition, Chavez expressed disdain at international organizations, including the IMF, the OAS, the United Nations, and human rights organizations.

“One asks then, from here, where we must confront and face the religious and Catholic elite, the human rights commissions, the OAS, the Inter-American Press Society, which go around declaring that my government is dictatorial, that there is no freedom of the press, before the kidnapping of Aristide, one asks, where is the OAS? The United Nations? Which don’t say anything. Where are the international organizations, which claim to defend democracy?”

Reuters reports that “U.S. officials have dismissed Chavez's anti-U.S. rhetoric as an attempt to distract attention from the opposition bid to try to vote him out this year through a referendum.” Chavez’s greatest achievement thus far has been to buy time, creating more distractions than a nanny trying to feed a child with ADD. One respected analyst wrote me yesterday: “One of the objectives of Chavez, if he can’t avoid the referendum, is that it takes place after August 19.”

Losing the referendum after August 19 would place the country in the hands of Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel, a former presidential candidate who seems just as hungry for power as his boss. The Associated Press reports that “Venezuela's vice president dismissed as illegal Tuesday a Supreme Court chamber's order that election authorities accept more than 870,000 disputed signatures on a petition for a recall referendum against President Hugo Chavez.” In addition, “Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel said only the constitutional chamber should rule on referendum matters.” In other words, any chamber that would rule in the government’s favor.

On a regional level, Colombian Senator Enrique Gómez Hurtado introduced a bill in the Colombian Senate asking the Organization of American States to invoke the Inter-American Democratic Charter against the Venezuelan government, “avoiding with that the definitive installation of a dictatorship...” In addition, the resolution calls on the Colombian government to demand a recall effort, “given that the Venezuelan Society has met the constitutional and legal requirements for the realization of a presidential recall referendum”. The document asks “democratic governments and institutions in America and the world in support the Venezuelan people...”

Chavez’s strategy to remain in power, whether by force or folly, seems to be failing. “Support for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez slid 8 percentage points from October, El Universal reported, citing a poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Researching Inc.” reports Bloomberg News. “The poll of 1,000 Venezuelans surveyed during March found that those approving of the president fell to 36 percent, down from 44 percent in October, when the last sample was taken. Those not approving of Chavez rose to 60 percent from 51 percent. The margin of error wasn't given.” The reason that the government is fighting to block the constitutional recall referendum is simple. “Sixty-two percent said they would vote in a recall over Chavez.”

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