|Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez inaugurates Venezuela’s 3,200th Bolivarian School in the city of San Juan de los Morros.|
Caracas, May 7 2004.- Earlier this Friday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez inaugurated the nation’s 3,200th Bolivarian School in the city of San Juan de los Morros. Addressing a large crowd of supporters, the Venezuelan leader reiterated his government’s firm stance against any potential international intervention from the United States, as has been requested by some political sectors opposed to his administration.
Chávez signaled out Venezuelan media baron and billionaire Gustavo Cisneros as a Mafioso who continues to conspire and lead the campaign against his democratically elected government.
On Monday, Mr. Cisneros addressed Roger Noriega, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs at a Council of the Americas Conference in Washington, DC and argued that freedom of expression was under attack in Venezuela by wrongly claiming that the Law of Responsibility in Radio and Televisión had been approved by Venezuelan lawmakers. The proposed Law, which has been in discussion at the National Assembly for more than two years, is used by the opposition to claim that the Chavez government wants to control the press. Cisneros specifically requested Noriega articulate how the United States could intervene to ensure a free press and democratic rule of law would be upheld in Venezuela.
Although Noriega refused to specifically address the alleged passage of this new Law, which in fact has not yet come up for discussion in the National Assembly, the official did state that the U.S. government was following the situation in Venezuela, “very, very closely” and hoped for other nations in the region to “put pressure on the Venezuelan government to be accountable for its actions.”
No to international intervention
This Friday, President Chávez affirmed that Venezuela would defend itself against any international invasion, specifically making a comparison to the U.S. military intervention in Iraq. “When the Bush administration decided to invade Iraq, we said one year ago that it was a major error and the Middle East was at the point of transforming into a hell, because the people there have dignity… And if they pretend to do the same with Venezuela, we will defend our dignity…this is a free country, we will never be slaves again…”
On Wednesday evening, democratic candidate for the U.S. presidency, John Kerry, claimed that the Chávez administration was on the road to becoming a dictatorship, in an interview given on the Univisión network, a company majority owned by Cisneros in the U.S.
Bush to blame for high oil prices
The Venezuelan head of state proclaimed the current $40 per barrel price of oil a result of Bush’s foreign policy and confirmed that his administration has always considered $30 per barrel to be a “fair price.” “The Bush administration thought they could send in their tanks to take over the oil in Iraq, but they haven’t been able to do that…and the conflict is extending into other territories…”
In a loaded speech, President Chávez also reiterated that the Bush administration is “…responsible for the coup d’etat in April 2002 in Venezuela, because the Venezuelan opposition would not have gone on that adventure if they hadn’t been encouraged by Washington…” He further stated that the oil industry lock-out and sabotage during December 2002 “was also directed by Washington and the world must know it, the Venezuelan people must know it.”
“We are a free and sovereign nation”
The Venezuelan President expressed his anger at the private media for attempting to manipulate the tragic fire in Fort Mara, Maracaibo that has resulted in the loss of two soldiers’ lives and caused injuries to six others. He condemned the media for “playing with the pain of the families” and for broadcasting the declarations of an army deserter who the government claims is saying “lies.” The incident at Fort Mara, which occurred in early April 2004, is currently under investigation, but the opposition and private media in Venezuela have been using the tragedy to lash out against the government by claiming pro-Chávez military forces “burned” the soldiers. The investigation has shown no evidence of an intentional act on the part of the government and no credible evidence has been offered to support such claims.
President Chávez blamed the media tycoon Gustavo Cisneros, owner of the Venevisión and Univision TV networks, for leading the media campaign that is attempting to distort the Fort Mara fire. “He is a true Mafioso, he led the coup on April 11 and the day will come when a judicial body will follow the Constitution and incarcerate a Mafioso like him.”
He further condemned those Venezuelans who “conspire from abroad against their own country, requesting international intervention,” and made clear that an international intervention that comes with guns and cannons will be met with the same because “Venezuela is a free and sovereign nation.”
In a bold statement, the Venezuelan leader dismissed the possibility of the Democratic Charter of the Organization of American States (“OAS”) being applied to Venezuela, as the opposition has requested, and proclaimed that the “first country to which the Democratic Charter should be applied is the United States, because they have violated it.”
The Chávez administration hopes to build 3,500 new Bolivarian Schools this year. According to the President, today’s event, inaugurating the 3,200th school, demonstrated that “above all, Venezuela continues to triumph.” “We are opening the path that new generations will continue.”