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Re Venezuela: Open Letter to Secretary Roger Noriega

By Alexandra Beech

Roger Francisco Noriega

Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs

U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street NW

Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Noriega,

As a US citizen, I was shocked and offended by recent remarks made by President Hugo Chavez at a rally of his supporters in Venezuela. Addressing a group of students, Mr. Chavez called the US government a “devil” which “needed to be destroyed”.

I question why the US government does not respond more pro-actively to an open threat of this nature.

Being called a “devil” to be “destroyed” is nothing new for the United States. The Ayatollah Khomeini, who orchestrated the Islamic Revolution in 1979 of Iran, employed the same rhetoric as Mr. Chavez: “we will destroy these agents of foreign powers with the same fist that destroyed the Shah's regime.”

The Ayatollah’s hateful words incited one of the worst memories of that decade: the hostage crisis.

Former President Jimmy Carter, who has played in active role in the resolution of Venezuela’s crisis, struck a deal in 1981 that produced the release of the American hostages a few minutes before Ronald Reagan was inaugurated: "It is and from now on will be the policy of the United States not to intervene, directly or indirectly, politically or militarily, in Iran's internal affairs."

That policy, wrote Michael Reed in the Wall Street Journal on October 24, 2002, has produced tragic consequences. “While we're dithering, Iran-sponsored terrorists have assassinated Americans, and Iran is actively meddling in internal American affairs by funding advocates of ‘better relations’ between the two countries.”

Apparently, the United States is exercising the same “benign neglect” policy towards the Chavez government. As Chavez spews anti-American sentiment at home, his government funds the Venezuelan Information Office in Washington and efforts by the lobby firm Patton Boggs to improve relations between Venezuela and the United States. When questioned about Mr. Chavez’s earlier anti-American remarks at home, Venezuelan Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez blithely said that the hate-inducing message was meant for “domestic consumption”, and not for a North American audience.

As Chavez has become more vitriolic against his biggest oil customer, effigies of American leaders have surfaced at his rallies. One American business organization received hateful e-mails.

To believe that Chavez’s words will not incite violence against Americans is short-sighted. Hate breeds hateful actions, and no one misunderstands charismatic leaders more than impressionable young people. Who can forget the images of young men burning the American flag in Iran as American hostages pleaded for their lives? It was youth that the Ayatollah Khomeini incited with his speeches. Every despot, including Adolph Hitler, has indoctrinated young people, because despots know that they are easier to manipulate than older members of society. Eventually these young people grow up and determine their country’s destiny.

Do we want America’s youth to grow up in a hemisphere which hates them? Do we want them to be exposed to acts of hatred and violence, simply because one mediocre leader today is desperate for power?

We need to protect America’s future today, not when a crisis surfaces.

During your esteemable career, you have received various awards, including the “Grand Master of the Order of the Sun” for your “support for the democratic transition and promotion of human rights” in Peru and the “Order of Jose de Marcoleta” for your “actions to preserve and defend democracy” in Nicaragua, among others. As a Venezuelan American, I now call on you to defend Venezuela’s democracy by asking our government to take actions to defend itself from Mr. Chavez’s violent call to arms.

I call on the US State Department to question Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez Herrera about Mr. Chavez’s recent comments. If you require a videotape of his speech, I can provide it. While a threat to the United States government is an issue that the UN Security Council should address, our government could begin by demanding an explanation. In addition, Ambassador Charles Shapiro should be called to Washington for a consultation. Mr. Chavez’s comments constitute a threat to the security and safety of American citizens. In addition, the US Government should consider declaring Ambassador Alvarez Herrera a "Persona Non Grata". Finally, given how Mr. Chavez is using oil revenues to buy votes, the US government should consider reducing Venezuela’s oil imports to a minimum while he continues his anti-American crusade. Mr. Chavez cannot benefit and destroy at the same time.

Thank you for serving my country, and for taking the time to read this letter. I hope that you take action on this matter soon.


M. Alexandra Beech

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