Vice-President Warns Of A New Conspiracy Against Venezuela’s Government

Venezuela’s Vice-President Rangel warned that conspirators in the opposition are preparing for a repeat of the ultimately unsuccessful 2002 coup and that the recent attacks on the state oil company are a part of this plan.

Caracas, Venezuela, May 19, 2005—Vice-President José Vicente Rangel advised Venezuela’s opposition to dedicate themselves to civic and democratic work, today, suggesting they would do better attempting to garner votes than “continuing to conspire” against the Constitutional government.  “There are a few irresponsible politicians from the fourth, the third, the second, and the first Republics,” involved in a new conspiracy to topple the Venezuelan government, alleged Rangel, in reference to earlier epochs in Venezuelan history.

Rangel assured that there are no soldiers prepared to launch a second coup, however.  Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez was briefly toppled in April, 2002 when an alliance of military, business, labor, and media elites took power.  The coup didn’t last, though, and Chávez was restored to power by an outpouring of popular support and the largely junior military officers that had remained loyal to him.

But Rangel is concerned. “There remain those irresponsible nuts that are thinking that the solution is a fourth-republic-style adventure,” said the Vice-President this morning in Monagas.  “There are those that think that this government is stupid,” said Rangel, “but we have learned the lessons of the coup, of the oil sabotage in 2002.  We will not be surprised [again], this is a message for those who know what I am saying and to whom I am referring,” he added cryptically.

The alleged conspiracy swirls around recent attacks against the government’s administration of the state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA).  There is a “second insurrectional assault,” on PDVSA in the works, Rangel warned.  The government is guarding PDVSA closely based on intelligence warning of the conspiracy, the Vice-President added.

PDVSA has born the brunt of a recent opposition offensive alleging mismanagement and corruption.  The National Assembly (AN) is currently investigating any possible irregularities, but government officials say the real reason for the opposition’s attacks have more to do with the State’s continuing reassertion of national sovereignty over the oil sector than anything else.  Venezuela has raised royalties and forced renegotiations for the terms of oil contracts with transnational oil firms over the past few months.  PDVSA’s continued financing of social programs in the country has engendered repeated criticism from opposition leaders who say the oil company should stick to oil and leave education and health care to the government.

According to Rangel, there are those who continue to pursue a policy “completely divorced from reality,” and he pleaded with them not to embark on a new “adventure.”  Venezuelan security forces are perfectly detecting these conspiracies, said Rangel.  “If they try anything, they will be defeated.”

Despite these ominous warnings, Rangel maintained that the situation in Venezuelan barracks is completely normal, “the same as the whole country,” he said.  Venezuela presents an example of institutional stability mirrored by few others in Latin America, he added.