Roger Noriega, the US Sub-Secretary of State to Latina America, declared last February 13, on CNN en español, that "it is worrisome to our associates in the Americas and also to the Venezuelan people," that the Venezuelan government of president Hugo Chávez will aquire 100,000 AK-47 assult rifles and 40 helicopters from Russia. He added that the "rearmament of Venezuela is very worrying." Already in January, the new Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, had accused Hugo Chávez of being "a destabilizing influence in Latin America." Even President Bush, in December 2004, insisted that this purchase of weapons "should raise concerns among Venezuelans."
Venezuela, one of the main suppliers of oil to the U.S., has denied entering into an arms race and has pointed out that Caracas is contemplating buying Russian Mig and Brazilian Toucan airplanes precisely because Washington refuses to sell Venezuela replacement parts for their F-16 fighters.
But his new verbal offensive only confirms US willingness to harass President Chávez. His clear electoral victory in the recall referendum of August 15, 2004 has demonstrated he has the support of the people. This was again demonstrated in regional elections of October. No dirty maneuver – not even the failed coup of April 2002, supported by Washington – has been able to halt the project of social transformation, in a framework of democracy and liberty, that has been launched by Hugo Chávez. His personal success at the Social Forum in Porto Alegre, where more than 15,000 enthusiastic young people praised his speech, has transformed him into an honored figure of the entire Latin American left.
This is more than sufficient reason for the raptors of Washington to intensify their pressure against him. Although they have not put Venezuela among the "six bastions of world tyranny," it appears to be first on the waiting list. And although they still haven’t dared to use against Caracas the now habitual argument of possessing "weapons of mass destruction," we can see how they are trying to convert, through an offensive propaganda campaign, a purchase of 100,000 rifles into a "danger to the security of the hemisphere…"
One must be afraid that the next phase will be a crime of State, the murder of Hugo Chávez. Venezuelan Vice-President José Vicente Rangel has exhibited photographs demonstrating the existence in Homestead, Florida, of a paramilitary training camp readying for incursions into Venezuela with no harassment from US authorities. Some of these terrorists are already working in Venezuelan territory. Proof of this: May 2nd of last year, on the outskirts of Caracas, a group of 91 Colombian paramilitares, linked to the CIA and whose principal objective was to kill Chavez, was detained. The leader of the group, José Ernesto Ayala Amado "Commander Lucas" confessed that their mission included "cutting Chavez’s head off."
The ranks of the opposition promote this type of assassination. On July 25, 2004, at the height of tension surrounding the recall referendum, former-president Carlos Andrés Pérez, in an interview published in Caracas newspaper El Nacional, did not hesitate to confess: “I am working to overthrow Chávez. Violence will allow us to take him out. Chávez must die like a dog.”
In an October 25th, 2004 broadcast on Miami TV's Channel 22, opponent Orlando Urdaneta, gave direct orders of action to his comrades: "The only solution for Venezuela is to eliminate Chavez: one person with a rifle and a telescopic sight, and it’s done."
The recent assassination of Attorney General Danilo Anderson makes clear this is not just idle talk. The fact that raptors the size of George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice and Roger Noriega have begun again, in turn, to make threats is an unmistakable sign that the project to kill Chávez is in motion. It is time to denounce this plan in order to dissuade them from carrying it out. If not, through the open veins of Latin America, rivers of blood will run once again.
Ignacio Ramonet is editor of Le Monde Diplomatique
Translated by Dawn Gable