U.S. Intelligence Director Negroponte Slams Venezuela

Negroponte accused the Chavez government of spending millions on an extravagant foriegn policy and of suffocating democracy in Venezuela. Venezuelan officials reacted by pointing out that Negroponte is one of the shadiest characters in the Bush administration.

Caracas, Venezuela, March 02 2006—Venezuelan Vice President José Vicente Rangel responded to CIA Director John Negroponte’s criticisms of Venezuela, saying they were, “another aggression” against Venezuela. 

At a presentation to the US senate on Tuesday, Negroponte said Chavez, “is spending hundreds of millions, if not more, for his very extravagant foreign policy.” The Venezuelan government was also failing to help the poor, said Negroponte.

The CIA Director said if Chavez wins the December Presidential elections he will “suffocate” democracy in the country. Negroponte made these comments in a speech that was otherwise focused on Iraq.

The Venezuelan Vice-president responded strongly to Negropone’s remarks, saying they, “reflect a victory for the hawks in US policy.” Rangel also suggested the Pentagon was trying to make an atmosphere more suitable for intervention in the region.

Rangel denied Venezuela was not helping the poor. Venezuela’s achievements in helping the poor are an, “unquestionable success that is noted all over the world,” the Vice President said.

Rangel personally attacked the CIA Director and his past record. Negroponte had been involved in drug trafficking and human rights violations in Honduras in the 1980s and is, “a shady character,” said Rangel. 

The Venezuealan Justice Minsiter Jesse Chacon supported Rangel’s statement by saying the US government had no moral grounds to criticise Venezuela. Chacon added, “But if there is someone who has less moral grounds than the US it is Mr. Negroponte.”

Ricardo Lagos, the outgoing Chilean President said it was a, “mistake to demonize Hugo Chavez.” Lagos said Chavez is, “a man with a great charisma who has his own way to fight against poverty.” 

The US ambassador William Brownfield said that the US expressing its opinion, “is not necessarily a provocation.” Brownfield said he hoped that Venezuela and the US could have, “a less polemical and rhetorical dialogue so that we may reach agreements.”

Relations between the two countries have been poor since the US was implicated in the 2002 coup to overthrow Chavez’s democratically elected government. They reached a new low point recently when both countries expelled members of each others embassies from their countries.

On February 16 there was a meeting between Bernardo Alvarez, Venezuela’s Ambassador to the U.S., with Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon, which was supposed to mend relations between the two countries.

Within a day, though, US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice called Chavez’s Venezuela the greatest threat to democracy in the Western Hemisphere and for the need for it to be isolated. Negropontes comments should only worsen relations further.