|Venezuelan Vice President José Vicente Rangel.|
Caracas, Venezuela, March 3, 2005—The U.S. government “is completely out of control with regard to Venezuela,” said Venezuela’s Vice-President José Vicente Rangel today, in response to the latest statements by State Department Sub-Secretary for the Western Hemisphere, Roger Noriega. Noriega, during a U.S. Senate Committee hearing had said that the Bush administration would launch a campaign to “increase awareness among Venezuela’s neighbors of President Chavez’s destabilizing acts with the expectation that they will join us in defending regional stability, security, and prosperity.”
In what appears to be a further escalation or at least continuation of the diplomatic confrontation between the U.S. and Venezuela, Noriega added that the Bush administration is concerned that, “Chavez’s very personal agenda may undermine democratic institutions at home and among his neighbors.” Specifically, Noriega mentioned, Chavez’s “efforts to concentrate power at home, his suspect relationship with destabilizing forces in the region, and his plans for arms purchases,” as the main causes for concern.
The response from the Chavez administration did not take long, especially since many Venezuelan newspapers opened their front page with Noriega’s announcement that the U.S. was engaged in a campaign to “increase awareness” about Venezuela among other Latin American countries. Vice-President Rangel said, “It is time to issue a call—if they want some sort of advice—that they reflect on this chain of stupidities which they are getting involved in.”
“To speak of destabilizing acts [of the Chavez government] is to consider the extraordinary meetings between Presidents Chavez, Lula, Kirchner, Tabaré Vasquez, Lagos, and Uribe as destabilizing,” added Rangel, in reference to the numerous meetings and agreements Chavez has recently signed with the governments of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, and Colombia.
The chairman of the foreign relations committee of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Saul Ortega, also added his objection to this newest State Department statement, saying, “This is a confession that the U.S. will pressure Venezuela’s neighboring countries so that it might find political results related with their imperialist position. The hawks have definitely taken over the State Department and have assumed a war-like position.”
Ortega also announced that Venezuela would send a delegation of Venezuelan lawmakers to the US to meet with members of the U.S. Congress to discuss relations between the two countries.
During the testimony at the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Noreiga also said that the Bush administration would continue to support “democratic elements” in Venezuela, so that these “can continue to maintain the political space to which they are entitled.”According to investigations conducted by the Brooklyn civil rights lawyer Eva Golinger and the activist Jeremy Bigwood, US government funded agencies such as the National Endowment for Democracy and US AID (Agency for International Development) have provided over $5 million per year to opposition groups in Venezuela since 1999.