Jim Kouri
February 19, 2006
Rice empties both barrels on Venezuela's Chavez
By Jim Kouri

The Venezuelan president viewed by the Bush Administration as a communist madman got some choice words from the US Secretary of State.

Making her sharpest criticisms yet about Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, Condoleezza Rice said that Venezuela and Cuba are ''sidekicks'' of Iran and dangers to Latin American democracies. And she gave new details of a US diplomatic campaign to contain Chávez. Recently, a member of the Iranian parliament visited Cuba for meetings with his counterparts. The meetings between the Iranians and Cubans and Venezuelans bring to mind the axiom "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

Rice told the members of the House International Relations Committee that there was a need to convince Chavez that there ''a united front against some of the things that Venezuela gets involved in." Rice also made reference to suspicions that Venezuela was linked to a recent political crisis in Nicaragua.

''Frankly, one of the problems that we face is that you have a bit of a relationship, or quite a relationship, between Cuba and Venezuela . . . which I think is a particular danger to the region,'' Rice said.

She pointed out that Cuba, Venezuela and Syria were the only countries that voted against reporting Iran to the UN Security Council over its nuclear program.

Rice said the United States succeeded in bringing together a broad coalition on the nuclear issue, "with the exception of Iran's sidekicks Syria, Venezuela . . . and Cuba.''

Chavez, who claims he is leading a 21st century socialist revolution, has repeatedly alleged that President Bush supported a failed 2002 coup against him and is trying to overthrow or kill him. The State Department denies this accusation, calling it preposterous.

Delusions of grandeur in this volatile leader is creating concerns due to his one precious commodity — oil. As with leftists in the US and Europe, Chavez often makes outlandish statements hoping something will gain traction. His almost constant verbal attacks on America are the recognized strategy of most repressive dictators — to keep the focus off what they are doing.

The Bush administration in recent days appears to have gone on a full-scale offensive. Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld likened Chavez's rise to power through democratic means to the election of Adolf Hitler in Germany, while the Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte described Venezuela's ties with Iran and North Korea as a threat to US interests.

In the last month, Chavez evicted US missionaries from Venezuela as well as a military attache to the US embassy. He claimed the attache was a spy working with Venezuela's military officers who oppose him.

During Rice's House testimony, Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN) asked her about Chavez allegedly planning to donate $50 million to the Palestinian organization Hamas.

"It's a known terrorist organization, and I'd just like to know what the administration is going to do, and is doing, to deal with President Chávez,'' he asked.

Rice responded by saying that ''I think it's fair to say that one of the biggest problems we face in that regard are the policies of Venezuela, which, as you rightly say, are attempting to influence neighbors away from democratic processes.''

As an example, she cited recent political upheavals in Nicaragua, where the pro-U.S. President Enrique Bolańos barely survived a possible impeachment.

Rice also testified about her concerns for the leaders of Sumate, an electoral grassroots group that helped organize a recall referendum on Chavez, who are facing conspiracy charges of receiving American financing and are due to go on trial soon for what many believe are trumped up charges.

''This kangaroo trial of Súmate is a disgrace,'' she said.

As with his counterpart socialists in the United States, Chavez quickly shot back from this hip almost immediately. He warned on late Friday that he could cut off oil supplies to the United States, if Washington continues to destabilize his government.

"The U.S. government must know that if it crosses the line it won't be getting Venezuelan oil," Chavez said in Caracas.

"I have to say that I've begun taking steps on the matter, but I won't tell you what they are," he said. Sounds like one of Senator John Kerry's secret plans he kept talking about in 2004.

© Jim Kouri

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Jim Kouri

Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police... (more)

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