Caracas , Venezuela, September 6, 2006—Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez accused US Southern Command General John Bantz Craddock of trying to destabilise Venezuela, yesterday, after Craddock said that Arab terrorists were training in the country.
Bantz Craddock made the comments in an interview with the Colombian magazine Poder (Power). He said that there was, “significant evidence of extremist contacts the full length of the northern range of the Andes [near the Colombian border], and without a doubt they exist in Margarita [Venezuelan Island in the Caribbean Sea].”
Chávez, at the Presidential Palace with a delegation from Belarus, responded saying that the accusations were made without any evidence to back them up and that it was part of a, “permanent aggression, aggression that we can’t reject or underestimate, because, simply, these declarations come almost everyday from the Department of State and from Southern Command, these continuous provocations against us, form part of the strategy to set in motion destabilisation scenarios or to try to justify any type of aggression against out country.”
He added that the US government was in partnership with the Venezuelan elite to destabilise the election through actions such as Craddock’s remarks and through funding opposition groups.
This is not the first time the US General has made remarks about Venezuela. In March he said its government was a “destabilising influence” in the region due to its activity in the international arena.
US Southern Command is the section of the US military responsible for an area starting at the southern border of Mexico down to the southern tip of South America. It also includes the Caribbean. Its naval forces were involved in a major exercise in the Caribbean Sea in April of this year which raised voices saying it was designed to intimidate Venezuela and Cuba.
Coincidently, the reaction of the Venezuelan President comes after a similar exchange with Deborah McCarthy, the spokesman for Venezuelan Affairs at the State Department. Last week she inquired as to what role Venezuela intends to play in post-Castro Cuba. “In Cuba a transition has started and we have clearly signalled to the Venezuelan government that that process must occur on the premise that the Cuban people choose their government, once Castro’s life, already too long, ends,” said McCarthy.
Chávez described her comments regarding Castro’s death as “heartless” and said they were part of the “degeneration of US imperialism”, “Nobody knows who’ll die first, Fidel Castro, Mister Devil [Bush], Hugo Chávez or Deborah McCarthy, only God knows that…”, he said.
Chávez visited Castro last Thursday on his way back from visiting the Middle and Far East. He said Cuba’s president is recovering well. “It surprised me the speed of his recovery. And well, we ask god and science, and he himself who has great will, that he continues getting better.”
Chavez supporters have accused the US government of continuously interfering in the internal affairs of Venezuela since Chávez came to power. The brief overthrow of Chávez in a coup in 2002 was widely believed to have had support from the CIA. This pales in comparison to Cuba, however. There have been literally hundreds of attempts on Castro’s life in the last 40 years.