February 23, 2005

Venezuela the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter and a key member of OPEC, may be the most logical target for oil-hungry U.S.. President Hugo Chávez has been a thorn in Bush's butt and the attempts to replace Chávez are reminiscent of past tried-and-true methods used in South America during the Reagan years when Negroponte was in South America.

It was pretty common for the U.S. to get involved in South American revolutions during the 70's/80's and John Neegroponte, was central to the active backing of the Contra rebels. As he actively supported the government's "Death Squads" that were responsible for killing thousands of innocent people. Negroponte served as ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985, when the intense conflict in Central America drew the attention of the Reagan administration. They feared that leftist rebels were making headway in Central America. Reagan assigned Negroponte to support the Contra rebels in their efforts to overthrow Nicaragua's left-wing Sandinista government.

In neighboring Guatemala, a U.S.-supported government battled left-wing rebels with U.S. trained paramilitary squads, In El Salvador; U.S.-trained army squads hunted down leftist rebels in offensives that often killed more innocent civilians than rebels. Peter Kornbluh, a senior analyst at the National Security Archives in Washington, said declassified documents on the Iran-Contra scandal showed that Negroponte was involved in arming the Contras. Kornbluh also said the documents showed that Negroponte helped clear the way for a secret agreement. The United States would provide CIA money to Honduran army generals, additional military and economic aid to the country. In exchange, Honduras agreed to allow the Contras to continue operating on Honduran soil. Tomas Borge, former interior minister for the Sandinista regime and a current leader of the Sandinista opposition party, said Negroponte "is the most efficient and ideal representative for the Bush administration's primitive international security policy." The impending attack on Chávez looks like it is going by the same playbook with the same playmaker.

*Failed Coup*

Chávez was overthrown in a coup in 2002. The Bush administration has tried to distance itself from the coup but non-the-less they immediately endorsed the new government under businessman Pedro Carmona. Bush greeted his ouster Friday by saying Chávez had brought it on himself.

The coup went dramatically off the tracks after 48 hours. Chávez was returned to power and even beat a recall referendum by The National Electoral Council in August 2004 after his opponents had collected enough signatures, which are required by the Venezuelan Constitution to force a vote. Venezuela is the only country in Latin America where a sitting president can be forced to resign in this way.

A leading Venezuelan prosecutor investigating the 2002 coup attempt against President Hugo Chávez was killed in a car bomb attack in Caracas shortly before he was scheduled to bring charges against 400 people who participated in the coup. Danilo Anderson, 38, was driving to his home in the capital on a Thursday night when his Jeep exploded via a remote-controlled bomb. The U.S. denied any involvement.

Officials at the Organization of American States and other diplomatic sources asserted that *the US administration was not only aware the coup was about to take place, but had actually approved it*.

Venezuelans who had plotted the coup, including Carmona were received at the White House by Otto Reich Bush's key policy-maker for Latin America several months prior to the overthrow and continued until a couple of weeks before the coup.

*Condi's Saber is rattling*

Chávez recently received notable mention from Condi Rice who said "We are very concerned about a democratically elected leader who governs in an il-liberal way," she said. "And some of the steps that have been taken, with the media, against the opposition, I think are really very deeply troubling."

It must have been embarrassing for the U.S. when Libya awarded its annual Moammar Gadhafi human rights prize to Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez for resisting "imperialism" and being a champion of the poor.

*U.S. is a major customer*

The United States is the largest importer of Venezuelan oil; purchasing at least 65 percent of the Venezuelan oil exports. In fact, Venezuela overtook Saudi Arabia as the top exporter of petroleum to the U.S. in first five months of 1995. From January to May 1995, Venezuela exported 1.43 million barrels per day of petroleum to the United States Venezuela plans to increase output by 1.5-mil barrels per day over the next five years.

*Enter China.*

In December 2004, President Chávez met with Hu Jintao, in Beijing to discuss a new bilateral agreement regarding access to Venezuela’s energy market. Chávez pushed the agreement because, in his words, “this is what is needed in the world in order to break with unilateralism.” Caracas will help Beijing with additions to China’s strategic oil reserves in exchange for Chinese investment in Venezuela’s agricultural sector and the development of fifteen currently shut down oil fields. Venezuela is now studying a pipeline across Panama that would give it access to Pacific ports. This may begin a global energy shift in which China will benefit by helping to meet its growing energy demands with Latin American gas and oil.

*Enter Iran.*

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei met Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez me recently and stated that Iranian is not afraid of the political and verbal threats of arrogant powers. The meeting between these two nations may signal new bilateral cooperation.

The Ali Khamenei went on to say that the Iranian and Venezuelan nations should be strengthened through economic and intellectual development so that the United States and other major powers cannot challenge them.

Chávez was in Argentina on a one-day visit, right after attending the World Social Forum in Brazil where he blasted U.S. free trade initiatives in the Americas. He said he is taking the initiative to enhance business relations with China and Iran among other countries to reduce Venezuela's dependence on the United States.

*Brazil's new alliance with Chávez*

Venezuela seems to be bracing itself for an inevitable attack by the United States. Mr. Chávez and his Brazilian counterpart, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, have not only signed agreements establishing a strategic, economic and military alliance between the nations. It is to buy as many as 24 Super Tucano multipurpose combat aircraft from the giant Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Empresa Brasileira de Aeronáutica, known as Embraer. The deal would be worth $170 million, according to the Brazilian newspaper O Globo.

*Enter Russia*

Venezuela, which is enjoying a windfall from high world oil prices, plans to buy large amounts of arms from Russia, leftist President Hugo Chávez said after talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Venezuela is also evaluating MiG-29s as possible replacements for its aging F-16s. The U.S. has dragged its feet with requested spare parts for its older American jets.

*Euros and trade*

Just to make things even more interesting, Venezuelan is also considering a move to replace the US$ with the Euro. Venezuela has already decided to barter oil with thirteen other Latin American countries thereby avoiding any use of American dollars for goods and services.

*America's Conservative media gets involved*

Conservative news magazine U.S. News and World Report posted a story on October 6, 2003, which stated that Middle Eastern terrorist groups are operating support cells in Venezuela. It stated that dozens of U.S. and Latin American sources confirm the terrorist activity. The article stated it had learned that thousands of Venezuelan identity documents are being distributed to foreigners from Syria, Pakistan, Egypt, and Lebanon. The story goes on to state that Venezuela has long denied providing aid to the Colombian guerrilla groups. (Note: The CIA used similar arguments to back a 1973 coup against Chile's socialist President Salvador Allende.)

Director of National Intelligence Negroponte knows how to throw a party; he proved that in Nicaragua where he left thousands of dead in his wake. His new position will make him more dangerous than ever.

Now that the Conservative media is getting into the act, how soon will Condi start discussing sanctions? My guess is that "dirty bombs" and terrorists will be associated with Chávez . Can you say "Donde estan los dirty bombos y terroristas"?

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