|Venezuela's Chavez during his weekly television program, this time from Carabobo state.|
Caracas, Venezuela. April 11, 2005—Yesterday, during his weekly television program Aló Presidente, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez accused the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) of engaging in military maneuvers against Venezuela. Chavez said that there were “war exercises that NATO is practicing…and do you know what their objective is? Venezuela." He said these war exercises were called "Operation Balboa."
This week's edition of Alo Presidente coincided with the third anniversary of the two-day coup that briefly overthrew Chavez, disbanded Congress, the Constitution and the Judiciary and declared Pedro Carmona as "interim president." Chavez, who was detained in several military bases for 47 hours, was restored to power due to the mobilization of his supporters, the support of loyal military officers, luck, and the authoritarian actions of the interim government.
According to Chavez, these attempts to destabilize and topple his government "will continue because they are putting it into the head of military officers of NATO that Venezuela is the objective…that the enemy is Venezuela."
Citing the example of the April, 2002 coup attempt, Chavez explained that Venezuela is the target of imperialism because its petroleum reserves are among the largest in the world. Although the Venezuelan President recognized that "some people say this war is in Chavez's sick mind," he affirmed that personal experience has proven otherwise. Chavez recounted that when he was being held in a military base during the coup attempt, the "order was to kill me and this order came from Washington."
Chavez blamed this obsession with petroleum on developed countries, in particular, the United States. He then affirmed that petroleum prices would not go down. "Petroleum at fifty dollars a barrel is a fair price…now do we want it to reach one hundred dollars? No. But yes, it should stay at fifty dollars…the world must know that this is a good that has a determined value," he stated.
|Communication and Information Minister Andres Izarra|
Anything Is Possible
In an interview with Televen yesterday Communications and Information Minister Andres Izarra acknowledged that although the possibility of US military intervention in Venezuela was remote, it would be "irresponsible" to rule out any scenarios. He cited the invasion of Iraq as an example of the Bush administration’s erratic and unjust politics. "The U.S. invaded Iraq without any reason, based on lies, saying that there were weapons of mass destruction that they never found" he noted.
Izarra interprets the slew of declarations made by White House spokespeople over the past few months to be conclusive evidence of "wanting to isolate Venezuela, of wanting to paint us as a negative force in the region; in short, there is a foreign policy directed to this purpose."
Izarra recognized Venezuela's importance in terms of trade with the US, noting that in addition to supplying the US with 1.5 million barrels of oil daily, bilateral trade between the US and Venezuela is greater than bilateral trade between the US and countries "such as Colombia and Chile who have free trade agreements."
Instead of giving Venezuela the respect it merits, the Minister contends, the Bush administration supported the April, 2002 coup d'état as well as other "destabilization handiwork". "Venezuela does not deserve the treatment that the [United States] has given us. We demand greater respect for our sovereignty and no interference in our internal affairs," Izarra affirmed. He then emphatically declared that "the entire region would take up arms if the US militarily intervenes in Venezuela."
During a press conference in Bogota, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard B. Myers dismissed accusations that the US would invade or attack Venezuela, maintaining that "nothing is farther from reality."
"Someone is inventing stories. There is absolutely no truth associated with commentaries of this type," the General reiterated.
After being decorating by Colombian Defense Minister Jorge Alberto Uribe, Myers affirmed that the US wants all countries in the region to cooperate in the fight against "narco-terrorism". "This means that all of the countries in the region will fight against a common enemy. We can not have countries disrupting this stability in ways that are not useful for combating this threat that affects all of us."
When asked to explain what constitutes the difference between an internal Mexican matter and an internal Venezuelan matter during a State Department press conference this morning, State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher refused to respond, repeating "I am not going to comment on it," and, "same question, I'm sorry."
Commenting on the Mexican Congress's decision to strip Mexico City Mayor and presidential front runner Andrés Manuel López Obrador of his legal immunity, thus opening doors to a legal process that will most likely prevent him from running in Mexico’s July, 2006 presidential elections, a reporter expressed his reservations as to whether or not this verdict was democratic.
After affirming that the US is "very concerned about democracy," Boucher was pressed to compare the Mexican and Venezuelan cases and explain why the preventing a strong presidential contender from running in Mexico is an internal matter, but actions of Venezuela’s Chavez government are fair game for U.S. officials to comment on.Boucher refused to respond to the journalist’s question about the Mexican Congress’s decision, saying, "My view is this is an internal matter for the Mexican Government and that's where I'm going to stick.”