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Hugo Chavez bluffs about US Assistant Secretary of State's visit to Venezuela

By Aleksander Boyd

London 24.04.06 | In yesterday's dominical TV show president Hugo Chavez informed that US Assistant Secretary of State Tom Shannon would be visiting Venezuela in the first days of May. President Chavez commented in favourable terms about the visit, that would have been announced to Venezuela's Foreign Affairs office. As it happen, with most things coming from the presidential mouth, his announcement has got no basis in reality, or more bluntly, it is simply not true.

Last month I was visiting Washington and so was, interestingly enough, Mari Pili Hernandez, Venezuela's Vice-Minister for Foreign Relations with North America, who was, for the first time, received by Secretary Shannon. Like in any small city, gossip runs wild in Washington, and so does information and the subject of so called private meetings makes it to the public domain sooner or later.

Hence, curious about Chavez's breaking news and unable to confirm it, I made some phone calls to check whether or not Shannon, or the State Department, had relayed such information to Venezuela's Foreign Office and, more importantly, whether such visit had been discussed, and arranged, with Vice-Minister Hernandez during her meeting last month. I asked Brian Penn, in the press office of the US Embassy in Caracas. Penn stated that no such visit was brought up by any of the parties during the encounter, nor is it true that Shannon has scheduled a trip to Venezuela in May.

The findings did not surprise me in the least. However I wonder, why would Chavez make such an announcement? What are his intentions with this? Does he want Shannon, or any other official, to publicly deny the visit so that he, and his media, could spin it as an unamicable impasse with his regime? Or is he laying the ground for the damning electoral and human rights reports about Venezuela to be published this week?

In any case, Chavez is up to no good. To lead public opinion to believe something that is false, also called propaganda, to then retaliate is one of Chavez's trademarks. Beware.

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