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A gift horse for New Jersey

By A. M. Mora y Leon, The American Thinker

October 12th, 2004 - Hugo Chavez's left wing, Castroite Venezuelan government has proposed to give to New Jersey an island, formerly used by the Venezuelan state oil company, for use as a bald eagle preserve.

What red-blooded American would turn down a bald eagle preserve? You would have to be downright unpatriotic to question such a politically symbolic gift. Wouldn’t you?

Perhaps not.

This whole grand proposal could be the product of the Venezuela Information Office. The Venezuelan government funds this registered foreign agency as a public relations arm in the United States. Despite Chavez’s leftward leanings, Venezuela remains critically dependent on the United States, and must do all it can to escape the wrath of the Colossus of the North.

The Venezuela Information Office is packed with former Global Exchange (the folks behind “fair trade coffee”) save-the-earth hippies-turned-Hugo Chavez-spinmeisters who were last seen putting out warm and fuzzy ads about how Venezuela is using its oil earnings to turn housemaids into social workers.

Or, it might be the hand of Lumina Strategies, another Global Exchange-seeded Bay Area PR firm that contracts for the Chavez government. Because the mentality is clear as mountain spring water.

In the minds of people like these, wouldn't it be great public relations for the dictator Hugo Chavez to be seen by Americans as a benign, meltingly concerned "el presidente" who, deep down, cares about the U.S. environment? (Since the American government under George Bush supposedly doesn't?) It would be just the right thing to attract the support of rich leftwing matrons to Chavez, who can be swayed by these symbolic gestures.

Global Exchange is a product of the San Francisco Bay Area, founded by all-purpose leftist Medea Benjamin, best-known recently for the “Code Pink” demonstrators who mildly disrupted the Republican National Convention a few nights in a row, unfurling signs, yelling, and stripping down to pink garments.

The whole “nature preserve” land grab scam is immensely popular on the left. Ted Turner has enormous landholdings in Argentina, and Bolinas-based Esprit-founder Susie Tompkins' ex-husband bought a huge chunk of Chile to turn into an undeveloped nature preserve. Or more like it, his big rich-man's exclusive zoo. But given the state of the Venezuelan environment, it's pretty foreign to Venezuelan government policy.

In Caracas, the Venezuelans view this New Jersey offer with undisguised disgust. "Save New Jersey, destroy Lake Maracaibo, how is that for a campaign slogan?" a correspondent writes.

This Chavez gift looks like a scheme to force upon the New Jersey government a particular kind of coerced land use - after they pay the toxic cleanup bill. In reality, the island is nothing more than a contaminated industrial site.

The tough, practical, street-smart, no-illusions-about-their-ugly-state New Jersey officials quickly rejected the scheme. And more to the point, they realize that Venezuela is growing ever more politically untouchable. Being from New Jersey, they don't want to get involved.

"Mostly what we're getting from CITGO (Petroleum Corp.) is a contaminated tank farm and a paved area," Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bradley Campbell said.

Just the thing for bald eagles.

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