Venezuela Rejects Negroponte’s “Concerns” Over its Democracy

The Venezuelan government issued a statement yesterday rejecting comments made by a senior U.S. official, John Negroponte, who called Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez “a threat to democracy” in Latin America.

By Pablo Navarrete –
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Caracas, January 31, 2006 (— The Venezuelan government issued a statement yesterday rejecting comments made by a senior U.S. official, John Negroponte, who called Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez “a threat to democracy” in Latin America.

Earlier this month U.S. President George W. Bush nominated Negroponte, currently director of National Intelligence under the Bush administration, for the position of deputy Secretary of State, an appointment subject to confirmation by the U.S. Senate. At his Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing yesterday Negroponte said, "I do not think [Chavez] has been a constructive force in the hemisphere," adding that he thought “[Chavez’s] behavior is threatening to democracies in the region," according to AP.

The Venezuelan government’s response, issued through a Ministry of Foreign Relations (MRE) press release, stated that “Mr. Negroponte represents a real threat to peace and democracy,” in Latin America. “It is not credible to anybody in the hemisphere that [the U.S. government] is considering a new policy for Latin America when it assigns individuals such as Mr. Negroponte,” it added.

In reference to the period (1981-1985) that Negroponte served as U.S. Ambassador to Honduras, the MRE press release said, “Latin America has the worst memories of this individual when he was an instrument of genocidal and imperialist policies in Central America."

Negroponte is widely known to have been complicit with human rights abuses perpetrated by the Honduran military that he worked closely with during his tenure in Honduras. Declassified State Department documents show that Negroponte played a leading role in supporting the U.S. government funded terrorist organization, the Contras, to violently undermine the democratically elected Sandinista government in Nicaragua while he was US Ambassador to Honduras.

Earlier this month the Washington D.C.-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) released a statement saying that Negroponte’s involvement in Central American “dirty wars” of the 1980s should “fundamentally disqualify him for any job in public service.” It added that U.S. policy on Venezuela was likely to harden after Negroponte’s confirmation to the State Department. 

U.S. President Bush echoed Negroponte’s comments today telling TV channel Fox News he was “concerned about Venezuelans, about decreasing democratic institutions, as well as about the efforts at nationalization that could take place or not," according to AFP.

These latest exchanges between the U.S. and Venezuelan governments come in the wake of last Thursday’s warning by President Chavez to U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela, William Brownfield, that he risked being expelled from the country if he continued ''meddling in Venezuela's affairs.” Chavez’s remarks came in response to comments made by Brownfield the day before regarding the proposed re-nationalization of key industries such as the telecommunications company CANTV and the electricity companies, announced earlier this month. CANTV’s largest minority shareholder is New York-based Verizon Communications, while Electricidad de Caracas is owned by Arlington, Virginia-based AES Corp.

Relations between Venezuela and the U.S. have steadily deteriorated since President Bush came to power in 2001. In April 2002 the Bush administration supported a military coup against the Chavez government that was overturned 48 hours later. Since then the U.S. government has repeatedly accused Chavez of undermining democracy in Venezuela and in the region. The Bush administration continues to fund opposition groups in Venezuela, with $9 million granted in 2006 alone.

Meanwhile, Chavez has been emphatic about the need to oppose U.S. imperialism and considers the U.S. government to be one of the greatest dangers to human survival.

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