US Tries Isolation Tactics on Venezuela

Washington’s anti-Chavez rhetoric has been escalating since the "Granda affair," which it tried to exploit to maximum effect in order to create a rift between Venezuela and Colombia.

By Stuart Munckton - Green Left Weekly
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“We are very concerned about a democratically elected leader who governs in an illiberal way”, intoned US Secretary of State-designate Condeleeza Rice addressing a January 18 Senate foreign relations committee. Rice was referring to Venezuela's radical left-wing President Hugo Chavez.

It would be hard to describe Chavez as anything other than democratically elected: pro-Chavez forces have won nine national elections in the last six years. What Rice objects to is that Chavez is leading a popular revolutionary process inside Venezuela, known as the Bolivarian revolution, that is attempting to redistribute wealth and political power to the 80% of Venezuelans living in poverty.

From Rice’s view, what makes matters far worse is that Chavez is urging other Latin American countries to follow Venezuela’s example, and attempting to unite the continent in fighting off US imperialist exploitation and dominance.

Rice claimed Venezuela under Chavez was a “negative force in the region” and has “not been constructive”. She stated the US has to “be vigilant” in regard to what she claimed was Venezuela's meddling in the internal affairs of other nations.

Washington’s anti-Chavez rhetoric has been escalating since the pro-US government of Colombia, which shares a large border with Venezuela, bribed Venezuelan security officers to kidnap Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) leader Rodrigo Granda, who at the time was not officially listed by the Colombian government as wanted, from Caracas on December 13. Granda, the FARC’s de-facto foreign minister, has travelled freely for years.

The FARC has been waging a decades-long guerrilla insurgency against the Colombian government, which has one of the worst human rights records in the world. Relations between Colombia and Venezuela have long been volatile and Colombia has repeatedly accused Chavez of assisting the FARC, an allegation Venezuela denies.

Given that the Colombian government initially denied that Granda was kidnapped from Venezuelan soil, Caracas proceeded cautiously until, on January 6, announcing that Venezuelan investigations had confirmed that Granda was taken from Caracas with the aid of rogue Venezuelan officers — this was confirmed by Colombia on January 12.

Chavez immediately recalled Venezuela's ambassador from Colombia and suspended all commercial ties until Colombia offered an apology. Chavez denounced Colombia's actions and requested an apology for what he considered a serious violation of Venezuela's sovereignty.

However, Chavez also referred publicly to Colombian President Alvaro Uribe as a friend, and offered to hold one-on-one talks to resolve the issue.

In contrast, the US, which Chavez accused of orchestrating the incident, moved straight away to pour fuel on the fire. When Colombia refused to back down, the US ambassador in Bogata released a statement insisting that the kidnapping was a legitimate part of the “war on terror”.

The US State Department, in a statement released on January 25 that denied involvement in the kidnapping, demanded the Chavez government explain how Granda was able to live in Venezuela for over a year. Venezuela responded by pointing out that, as the dispute was between Colombia and Venezuela, they were under no obligation to explain anything to Washington.

Venezuela Analysis reported on January 23 that the US government, in a clear attempt to derail Chavez’s attempts for Latin American unity, sent a letter to South American nations asking them to apply diplomatic pressure on Venezuela for its allegedly soft stance on terrorism. However, the Andean Community responded with a request for the US to stay out of the dispute. Even former Colombian ambassador to Venezuela, German Bular Escobar, stated that US comments were not helpful, according to a January 27 Venezuela Analysis article.

In Venezuela, hundreds of thousands of people marched through Caracas on January 23 calling for respect for Venezuelan sovereignty.

Despite the attempts of Washington to use the kidnapping of Granda as a weapon against Chavez and the Bolivarian revolution, there is hope for an end to the dispute. The Colombian government released a statement on January 28 saying it was willing to review its actions in the Granda kidnapping to see if it had “inconvenienced” Venezuela. Uribe also agreed to Venezuela’s request for a one-on-one meeting. A meeting to discuss the crisis between Uribe and Chavez was set for February 3.*

From Green Left Weekly, February 9, 2005.

Editors' note: The meeting has been potponed due to the Colombian President falling sick shortly before the scheduled meeting with Chavez.

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