Caracas, Venezuela, September 3, 2005—Yesterday, via a communiqué from the Foreign Ministry, Venezuela made its offer of fuel and humanitarian aid to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed the Embassy of the United States that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela had offered Louisiana Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco immediate aid in the form of $1 million and 120 specialists in First Aid and search and rescue, part of the “Simon Bolivar” Humanitarian Response Team. Both would be made available in immediate fashion through the CITGO Corporation, a subsidiary of the Venezuelan state oil company, PDVSA.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roger Noriega, confirmed that the Bush administration received the offer and welcomes it, but still needs to see if Venezuelan aid workers can be accommodated. Noriega said, though, that the aid does not signal a change in the tense relationship between the U.S. and Venezuela.
In an interview with Voice of America (VOA), Noriega said, “We accept the offer in the spirit in which it's been offered, but I don't really see it as any kind of dramatic change.” “I think it's in part a public relations effort on his part. But we have to take in the context as part of a cycle where some positive things are said, and then some negative, unhelpful things are said. So if it's a public relations effort, we'll take the donation but I don't think it necessarily signifies a change in attitude on President Chavez' part,” said Noriega.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez criticized the Bush administration very strongly on Friday, saying that the U.S. reacted much too slowly to the impending catastrophe in New Orleans. “That government had no evacuation plan ... it is incredible, the first power in the world ... that is so involved in Iraq ... and it left its own population adrift!” said Chavez. "That man ... that man is the 'king of vacations’ ... he sat at his ranch in Texas and said nothing ... did nothing ... yes, he told people 'you have to flee' but he didn’t say how ... what a cowboy, what a cowboy mentality,” he added.
Below is the text of the Diplomatic Note:
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs extends its greetings to the Honorable Embassy of the United States of America in the opportunity to express its deepest condolences for the disaster resulting from Hurricane Katrina, that which has affected vast regions of the southern United States, notably the states of Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi, and caused a terrible loss of human life and incalculable material damages.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs would like to express to the Honorable Embassy of the United States its deepest feelings of solidarity with the families of the victims, who during these difficult times face a difficult situation and the loss of loved ones and possessions. The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela would like to reiterate the offer made by President Hugo Chavez Frias of fuel and humanitarian aid to help alleviate the consequences of this disaster, especially during a time when the crisis is aggravated by damages to oil installations in the Gulf of Mexico and the southern United States.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs would like to communicate to the Honorable Embassy of the United States that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has offered the Governor of the State of Louisiana, Ms. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, immediate aid of $1 million; 120 specialists in First Aid and search and rescue, part of the “Simon Bolivar” Humanitarian Response Team, an internationally recognized disaster relief unit; two mobile hospitals with a capacity of 150 people each at a time; ten water purification stations; eight electric generators, each with a capacity of 850 kilowatts; 20 tons of drinking water; 50 tons of canned food; and 5,000 blankets. The offer will be made available in immediate fashion, should the Government of the United States choose to accept it, through the CITGO Corporation.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs takes the opportunity to reiterate to the Honorable Embassy of the United States of America its considerations of the highest esteem and regard.
Caracas, August 31, 2005