Mérida, February 7, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com) — The administration of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is part of a “small group of radical populist governments” that run counter to the “dominant trend” toward democracy in Latin America with a “competing vision that appeals to many of the region’s poor,” according to the Annual Threat Assessment of the United States Intelligence Community. Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell reported that Venezuela’s “continued regional activism” pushes an anti-U.S. message on other Latin American nations, sometimes financially.
"Inspired and supported by Venezuela and Cuba, leaders in Bolivia, Nicaragua and -more tentatively- Ecuador are pursuing agendas that undercut checks and balances on presidential power, seek lengthy presidential terms, weaken media and civil liberties, and emphasize economic nationalism at the expense of market-based approaches," McConnell testified before the U.S. Congress on February 5th.
Carlos Escarrá, the Vice President of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Venezuelan National Assembly, called many aspects of the testimony “false, dishonest, and injurious.” He brought attention to the fact that the United States has invaded and kidnapped the presidents of Latin American countries and supported the April 2002 coup against President Hugo Chávez.
“Venezuela, on the other hand, in compliance with articles 152 and 153 of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, has full respect for the sovereignty of other states,” Escarrá asserted.
McConnell predicted that the Chávez administration will “generously finance” the presidential campaign of the Farabundo Martí Front for National Liberation (FMLN) in El Salvador in the elections set for March 2009. Salvadoran President Antonio Saca said this act of “interference” would be “unacceptable”.
FMLN candidate Mauricio Funes denied plans to receive funds from Venezuela and claims that his party proposed a campaign finance control law in the congress four years ago, but “the rightist parties have not wanted to pass that law.”
Another problem highlighted by the intelligence director is “the determination of the Cuban leadership to ignore outside pressure to carry out significant economic reforms,” which is “reinforced” by Venezuela`s support for its “key ideological ally.”
The report also expressed concern about the “rapport” that Chávez has built up with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Nicaraguan President Carlos Ortega, both of whom have been rivals of the United States since the 1980s. Venezuela and Nicaragua recently proposed a joint military force for Latin America, and inaugurated a corn processing plant intended to combat food shortages, facilitated by a technology transfer from Iran.
Venezuela’s National Assembly defended its policies, stating, “we believe in a multipolar world, where among equals we can construct a distinct humanity.”
President Chávez is “incapable of meddling with other countries,” Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa chimed in supportively, praising Chávez’s “sincere desire to help” and a firm commitment to Latin American integration and solidarity.
McConnell further criticized the Venezuelan government’s “lack of antidrug cooperation,” accusing Venezuela of facilitating the flow of drugs in the past three years.
The Director of the Venezuelan National Antidrug Office (ONA), Colonel Néstor Reverol, called U.S. claims that Venezuela is trafficking drugs “irresponsible, baseless, and aimed at creating a biased negative opinion at the national and international level.” Reverol called attention to the fact that for the third consecutive year, Venezuela ranks third in drug confiscation worldwide, according to the United Nations World Drug Report from 2007.
The Venezuelan National Assembly accused the United States government of carrying out a prolonged destabilization campaign in Venezuela, claiming that “the United States government is behind every lackey of the opposition that is pursuing a distorted campaign about what is happening in Venezuela.” This follows Chávez’s allegation in late January that “the US empire is creating conditions to generate an armed conflict between Colombia and Venezuela.”
“I can guarantee that the United States government has no intention, no plan and absolutely no expectation of invading, attacking or interfering in the affairs of any other country in the region,” responded U.S. Embassador to Colombia William Brownfield, who is the former U.S. Embassador to Venezuela.
McConnell suggested public opinion may be shifting against Chávez, whose “leadership ambitions are likely to encounter growing opposition as time passes.” The intelligence director added that the narrow electoral defeat of the proposed constitutional reform referendum last December was a “major psychological boost” to Chávez`s middle class opposition, but high oil prices will allow Chávez to maintain significant support from his base and “continue co-opting some members of the economic elite who are profiting from the consumer-led boom.”
2007 public opinion polls conducted by the independent Venezuelan polling firm Datanalisis showed 64.7% approval of Hugo Chávez´s presidency. In Latin America-wide polls by the Chilean non-profit NGO Latinobarometro, Venezuela ranked second only to Uruguay in public satisfaction with democracy in their country.