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Venezuela is a subsidiary of Cuba

El Universal's Roberto Giusti interviews Otto Reich

16.07.05 | The black beast of Cuban dirty war laboratories, charged with any and all evils and crimes, including involvement in the events of April 11, 2002 in Venezuela. Otto Reich rules out these charges evenly and lashes out at the "subsidiary" relation of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez with Cuban ruler Fidel Castro. According to former US Assistant Secretary of State Otto Reich, there is fear in the western hemisphere owing to the Venezuelan arms race and warns that the weapons could be used first "against neighbours".

Released from the bureaucratic log, the former US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs and US Ambassador to Caracas, born in Havana, talks freely about Venezuela and the "candidate to dictator" ruling it.

Q: President Chávez said that he would receive US invaders with missiles and machine guns. Are there really any plans for an invasion of US troops to Venezuela?

A: The United States has the least of intentions of doing it. Such an issue is not even mentioned, at least until my leaving from government a year ago. Chávez' stance just shows that he has become but a representation of Fidel Castro, who for 46 years has alleged US imminent invasion.

Q: But Cuba was indeed invaded.

A: In 1961, a group of Cubans did it. If the US had taken the action, Castro would not be in office. Chávez mirrors the tactics of keeping people in a state of panic, arguing about an imminent war, to distract them from the inconveniences caused by the economic system he seeks to impose.

Q: If the case is one of distraction tactics, what are the rifles, planes and choppers for, as well as the creation of militias?

A: This is just a replica of Cuba. Based on the alleged US invasion, which never materialized, Castro militarized the whole people to the extent that it became the highest militarized country in the world. When a given country is ruled by somebody with psychological problems, sooner or later that nation will be militarized and the weapons and army need to be used. Castro used them in Africa, the Middle East, and Central America (Nicaragua.) In Colombia, Cuban troops took part with Colombian guerrillas in abduction, murder and bank robbery. In this context, the hemisphere is in fear of the Venezuelan arms race.

Q: Against who and with what purpose do you think Venezuela would use those weapons?

A: This should be asked to Chávez. However, much imagination is not needed to realize that quite possibly they would be used against Venezuelan neighbors. Fidel Castro has no immediate neighbors, as Cuba is an island. However, hundreds of Cuban troops were deployed in Grenada to help Maurice Bishop remain in power. Castro intervenes militarily, but by subversive indirect means, otherwise foreign countries, including the United States, could retaliate.

Q: You speak of invasions to neighboring countries; do you refer only to Colombia or beyond?

A: Not necessarily invading, but interfering. Now the key question here is; what for? Does Venezuela need a stockpile of weapons, considering there is no danger of a US invasion?

Q: You wrote an article for a US magazine in which you disclosed that a Venezuelan military attaché was seen giving money to political groups.

A: It was found that he was giving money to Bolivian military, police and political parties.

Q: Can you attest to it?

A: The then Bolivian president Sánchez de Lozada just declared that Hugo Chávez had interfered in his country in this way.

Q: If Chavez is seeking to interfere in Bolivia's internal affairs and possibly is already doing so in Ecuador, and considering the links that he has with Castro and the Colombian guerrillas; wouldn't it be understandable that the US intervenes in order to neutralize the threat to the geopolitic stability in the region?

A: There are mechanisms that have not even been tried. First of all the claims made need be documented. During the first years of the Chavez administration the presidents of Colombia, Bolivia and Ecuador informed that efforts to support indigenous radical movements by members of the Venezuelan government had been detected. And when I say indigenous I'm not referring to ethnic groups but to subversive elements. Chavez then backed off and changed upon realisation that his techniques were being detected. Nowadays his antics are more sophisticated and are conducted by the foremost subversive authority in the region, i.e. Fidel Castro.

Q: You call Venezuela a Cuban colony.

A: Colony is one term used. I have made reference to "branch office" and "subsidiary." It is clear that Chávez has put many of his country assets at Fidel Castro's disposition. This is the case of Venezuela's oil.

Q: If the US looked unruffled by the events in Cuba after the 1962 missile crisis, why is it taking a similar stance with Venezuela, as it treads along the same way?

A: US citizens note that all of these discussions about internal affairs in Latin America end with a single question; what is the US going to do? For my part, I ask myself; what are Venezuelans and citizens of neighboring countries going to do if a dictatorship takes hold of the country?

Q: What can an unarmed citizenship do against a government that, as Chavez stated, is "armed to the teeth"?

A: Well there there are the examples of Western Europe, not only those that took place 15 years ago, but that of Ukraine, where the government had the force and tried to rig the elections. The people took to the streets which attracted the focus of the world upon what was happening. A fraud was also perpetrated in Venezuela, not only the 15th of August (recall referendum) for that was only the date in which an electoral rigging operation that had been implemented months before concluded.

Q: In any case people in many countries want to know; why the US didn't ask itself what would the Iraqis do to liberate themselves from Saddam Hussein, but invaded instead? Same applies to Afghanistan.

A: The situations were completely different. The Afghan government was giving safe haven to Al Qaida. There was a casus belli there. Eighteen (18) UN resolutions were ignored by Saddam Hussein. Then, due to the impotence of the UN, the US decided to enforce the said resolutions, together with 40 other countries. Now I don't want to imply that Venezuelan issues are exempt from creating reactions on the part of the international community, starting with the OAS.

Q: Considering the position taken by the OAS in Nicaragua, with an ongoing coup and nothing being done, is that not a background that defines future potential undertakings of the OAS vis-a-vis Venezuela?

A: (OAS) Secretary-General Insulza should be given more time. I am acquainted with him and know he is a sound person. He was in Nicaragua and Haiti, where institutional crises are very serious. But I think that sooner or later he will pay attention to Venezuela.

Q: Is it not true that the OAS confirmed Chavez's democratic credentials, after the endorsement that Cesar Gaviria gave to the results of the recall referendum, and on that basis he became the leader of the anti-American movement of the region judging by the support given to his proposals in the latest meeting at Fort Lauderdale?

A: The OAS has not got a good record of performance in confronting dictators and, without a doubt, it has lacked the political courage to do so. It remains to be seen what capacity the hemispheric body has to deal with this political war being fought by old and new demagogues.

Q: Who are they?

A: For instance in Nicaragua, under legal guises there is an ongoing constitutional coup, promoted by two failed and corrupt caudillos: Daniel Ortega and Arnoldo Alemán, the latter under house arrest and the former guilty of many crimes committed during his dictatorship. The two have joined to seize the democratically elected president's power. One has to see whether the OAS reacts to these new challenges being posed by aspiring dictators, be them old, as Ortega and Alemán, or new as Chavez. And you are right; in gatherings as the one in Fort Lauderdale certain countries rejoice by flying the flag of anti-Americanism and in occasions they adopt positions that go against their own interest solely to oppose the US. For that reason I couldn't convince my boss, Colin Powell, to assist to the General Assembly in 2.000.

Q: To what reasons do you attribute that regional anti-America feeling?

A: It is very easy to blame the US for internal problems. Corruption did not come from the north, nor did the abuses of power or the model of governance that keeps 60% of the population in poverty.

Q: That's not the criteria of many LatAm leaders.

A: It so happens that some demagogue politicians blame the US to elude their own responsibilities. Other, perhaps with good intentions, try to get US help thinking that our resources are infinite. But it isn't like that for the country is involved in all of the world's problems. Iraq's war is costing us more than $100.000 billion per year. I wish we could spend part of that money in Latin America.

Q: But you don't.

A: I tried and funds destined to the region increased. But then one sees many presidents, such as Alemán, who received huge amounts and stole them. It is that type of behaviour which leads the US to think "let them resolve their problems". Unfortunately that stance is a luxury we can't afford for the instability in the region affects us.

Q: Whilst Chavez threatens to cut the oil supply, the US keeps buying and financing his government that, according to you, is advancing towards dictatorship.

A: And what do you suggest; that we stop buying Venezuelan oil?

Q: Aren't there ethic considerations and democratic norms whose violation could trigger a rupture of diplomatic relations?

A: Hugo Chavez is the only one who has threatened of breaking relations. He has every right to do so and effectively he said that he can suspend oil exports to the USA. Oil is, besides a commercial issue, a matter of convenience for both countries, however let us not forget that Venezuela provides us with 7% of our energy needs whereas 70% of Venezuela's exports go to the US market. Thus it is not a symmetrical relationship. Should Chavez carry out his threat, which I doubt, this will affect Venezuela much more than the US.

Translated by Conchita Delgado [Additions by Alek Boyd]

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