Monday, February 28, 2005

Feb 28/05 - State Department Report on Human Rights in Venezuela

Link to a must read report:


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Sunday, February 27, 2005

Feb 27/05 - Sobre la nueva ofensiva del regimen contra los medios internacionales

PMBComentario: Carlos Blanco, politólogo y juicioso comentarista, da
certeramente en el blanco en esta columna donde toca el tema de la
rabieta del Ministro de "Información" del régimen. Hace unos días el
joven Ministro Izarra, que una vez trabajo para CNN y quien se
preciaba durante su tiempo de Consejero de Prensa en la Embajada
bolivariana en D.C. de su dominio de varios idiomas y sus relaciones
con la prensa, mando al infierno a todos los periodistas extranjeros y
dio por finalizada - sin logro evidente - sus gestiones de "lobby" con
medios extranjeros.

Al seguir reportando y editorializando estos últimos sobre una
realidad cada vez mas palpable y patética, lo único que le queda al
gobierno es apuntar a una conspiración global en su contra movida por
George W. Bush como antesala para esa muy anunciada y ¿deseada?
invasión por parte del "imperio" que justifica la teoría y procura de
la guerra asimétrica.

Lo que preocupa de la gritería medio maricona y completamente
sicofantita de Izarra es que al no ser despedido ipso facto por su
jefe "Viva Chávez" confirma, como apunta Blanco, que entramos en una
nueva etapa de esta fea autocracia. Al mandar al penthouse de Satanás
a quienes hasta anteayer intentaban conquistar directa e indirectamente
por medio de vehículos costosos como Patton Boggs, the Venezuelan
Information Office y empresas impúdicas como ChevronTexaco, lo que nos
queda es esperar la aplicación de mas medidas de presión para
silenciar, o expulsar, a los corresponsales extranjeros. Una vez hecho
esto seguramente disminuirá la corrupción, la ineficiencia y demás
crímenes de estado. Como en versiones anteriores de la MISMA película,
la culpa es siempre de quien reporta y no de quien delinque. PMB

Nota: escribo esto desde Rusia, y sin acentos. Esto es culpa de Bill
Gates y Toshiba, fabricante de laptop ajeno donde no encuentro como
acentuar mis palabras. ¿Serán también parte de la conspiración?


OPINION
Viaje al centro del infierno

Carlos Blanco

La reciente rabieta del joven Izarra, según la cual ya no iba a
intentar explicar nada a los corresponsales extranjeros y a la prensa
internacional, es, con cierto matiz de inmadurez, el anuncio de la
intensa confrontación que se avizora.

Dijo el emisario que "ya basta el protocolo con la prensa que
envenena. Yo desde aquí los mando al infierno".

Se podría decir que al funcionario se le fueron los tiempos; la
vocería del poder suele producir inmensos trastornos en figuras que,
de antiguo, han podido ser mesurados ciudadanos.

Es más grave esta alferecía cuando se trata de un gobierno
autocrático; en este caso, la vocería es casi como la sustitución de
la Voz del Altísimo. En las democracias, esa función nunca tiene
sentido protagónico; es una manera institucional de hablar; y el
carácter, nombre y cédula de identidad del funcionario importan poco.

En las autocracias, el vocero es un sosia del voceado y genera cierta
intimidad con el caudillo, pues éste suele preocuparse por el tono,
los sonsonetes y cadencias de lo que otros dicen en su nombre. Siendo
así, resulta que es el propio Comandante el que ha procedido a enviar
a la prensa a cobijarse en los predios de Belcebú.

Argumenta Izarra que hay que ponerle coto a la prensa internacional y
sus "lacayos locales". Como se observa, el régimen no estima que la
crítica que se produce dentro del país es producto de la observación y
deliberación de los medios de comunicación nacionales. Es decir, la
opinión adversa es inducida desde afuera. La ridiculez de estas
afirmaciones no debe conducir, sin embargo, a ignorar el profundo
desprecio que el vocero tiene hacia sus propios colegas. No; no pueden
ser sus opiniones, informaciones o análisis propios, autónomos. Si
éstos son adversos al Gobierno nada más lógico que pensar que el
veneno viene de afuera. Por sí mismos no serían capaces de producir
tan mala opinión. Mayor desprecio hacia los periodistas y medios
venezolanos no puede haber.

Sin embargo, hay cosas más graves en la pataleta ministerial. Dice el
interfecto que "estamos cansados de enviarles cartas, de reunirnos con
ustedes, de decirles que están descontextualizando, mintiendo,
manipulando y tergiversando. Ya basta de hacerles lobby para
explicarles lo que aquí pasa". Esto sencillamente equivale a una
confesión. Cuando un gobierno manda cartas, mensajes, pide reuniones,
hace gestiones hacia los medios de comunicación a los que acusa de
mentir, manipular y tergiversar, lo hace para intentar cambiar la
línea informativa de las empresas y de los periodistas que en estas
laboran. Hay dos elementos gravísimos en la confesión del colérico
ministro: la primera, consiste en asumir que son los burócratas
gubernamentales los que tienen la potestad de decidir quién dice la
verdad y quién no; la segunda, se refiere a que el régimen asume el
derecho de presionar para que los medios de comunicación digan cosas
diferentes a la que los periodistas observan y analizan.

Necesitaban una "prueba" de la conspiración "mediática" de Estados
Unidos. Nada más apropiado que arremeter contra el corresponsal
británico Phil Gunson, que escribe en varios diarios de EEUU. Sus
reportajes serían la demostración de la conspiración internacional. Y
cuando el periodista Gunson, de manera muy calmada, le dice al
ministro que acusa sin pruebas; exactamente de la manera que el mismo
Izarra dice que hace Washington, entonces este se indigna y adquiere
tono de prócer. Por eso concluyó su intervención en la que anuncia la
ruptura con los medios, con la proclama que dice: "Míster gringo, ten
la seguridad que te vamos a volver a derrotar (...) porque trabajamos
con la verdad, tenemos moral y sobre todo algo muy especial, un líder
que nos une y nos inspira el comandante Chávez. Imperio de EEUU desde
aquí le gritamos, no pasarán. Viva Chávez". Se notará que casi le
declara la guerra mundial a Bush y de paso se guinda sin atenuantes de
los abalorios presiden ciales.

No es sólo una competencia por el mecate que muchos tiemplan a la vez
y cuyo tirón sólo padece el comandante. Es más que eso. Se hace
evidente que la inmensa cantidad de dinero que se emplea no puede
evitar que la prensa internacional advierta el proceso de liquidación
de las libertades en Venezuela. Junto a esto, se hace claro que la
promesa del "Nuevo Orden Comunicacional" es una oferta de mayor
represión, cárcel, juicios e intimidaciones contra los periodistas
nacionales.

Prensa libre y autocracia militar no pueden convivir; a la larga, una
de las dos desaparece. ¿Cuál será en Venezuela?



carlosblancog@cantv.net


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Friday, February 25, 2005

Feb 25/05 - On the differnces between post mao China and the Bolivarian "revolution"...thanks to Andres Oppenheimer

PMBComment: when one read the impression China had on Andres, one can only wonder what it was that Chavez’s meant when he said “I have always been a Maoist”. China today is the antithesis of what the Bolivarian Revolution espouses and aspires to. Anyone willing to guess where Mao’s picture will finally hang? In Hugo Chavez’s jail cell is my guess. PMB

THE OPPENHEIMER REPORT | China's development dwarfs Latin America's

BEIJING -- I came to the People's Republic of China for a 10-day visit
to find out how Latin America could best compete with this
economically booming country. It took me about 30 seconds to know the
answer: Unless it undertakes dramatic reforms, it can't.

From the minute one lands in Beijing, even before one has a chance to
be stunned by the capitalist fever that is gripping this country, the
monumental dimensions of Beijing's newly remodeled,
38-million-passengers-a-year airport shocks even the most skeptical
visitor.

My plane pulled in at Gate 305 -- an eye-opener for someone used to
arriving at Gate B-7 of Miami International Airport, which has only
107 gates. But that was only the first surprise.

On the way to my hotel, I saw more high-rise construction cranes than
I've ever seen anywhere, let alone in Latin America. There are 5,000
high-rise construction sites in the Chinese capital today -- so many,
that the latest joke making the rounds here says you should never
blink while in this city, because you could miss a new building's
inauguration.

PRESTIGIOUS NAMES

At street level of some of the ultra-modern skyscrapers, there are
dealerships of Rolls Royce, Maseratti, Lamborghini, Mercedes-Benz, BMW
and Audi, next to Rolex, Armani and Louis Vuitton stores.

I asked my taxi driver to stop in front of some of these car
dealerships, convinced that they were representative offices to sell
jet engines or tractors to the Chinese government. But no: They were
selling luxury cars to rich Chinese. Last year, Mercedes-Benz sold
12,000 cars in China, BMW 16,000 and Audi about 70,000, the
government-run China Daily reported recently, with obvious pride.

China's average 9 percent a year economic growth since it began its
economic opening 25 years ago is producing a rapidly growing wealthy
elite and an expanding middle class, lifting about 250 million people
from poverty. If economic growth continues, China's middle class will
double by the year 2020, to about 40 percent of the population.

And it shows on the streets, from the glitzy Changan Boulevard to
working-class districts.

While 80 percent of China's 1.3 billion population lives in misery in
the countryside, city-dwellers in Beijing, Shanghai and other big
cities are better dressed than in most world capitals, thanks in part
to a thriving black market of pirated brand goods. The Chinese have
replaced the Mao uniform with the imitation Armani suit.

What is China doing that Latin America has failed to do? I asked every
Chinese official and foreign diplomat or businessperson I met here. I
heard many answers, but they all boiled down to one thing: China has
become competitive in the world race for investments and exports,
while Latin America has not.

One striking example: I read in Asian newspapers that Venezuelan
President Hugo Chávez's government had closed down that country's 80
McDonald's restaurants for three days because of alleged tax law
violations, while Chávez was denouncing ''savage [U.S.] imperialism''
during a visit to Argentina. Just shortly before, China's official
media had triumphantly announced that the board of directors of
McDonald's would visit Beijing, meet with top government officials and
announce that the company would expand its current 600 stores in China
to 1,000 by next year.

In a world where developing countries compete for a limited pool of
private investments, China is clobbering Latin America: The $54
billion in foreign direct investments it got last year amounted to
about $5 billion more than what all 32 Latin American countries got
together, according to United Nations figures. Less than a decade ago,
Latin America was way ahead.

While Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela are benefiting from soaring raw
material exports to China, companies here are displacing Latin
American exporters from the much more lucrative global market of
finished goods. Mexico, for instance, has lost significant market
share in the United States to China.

Contrary to the generalized belief that multinationals are descending
on China just to benefit from its cheap labor -- the often slavelike
conditions condoned by the Communist Party in the name of economic
progress -- several U.S. business people told me that they had moved
here instead because of China's production quality.

One U.S. executive I met in Beijing told me his company had moved from
Mexico because its Chinese partners, unlike the Mexicans, reinvested
most of their profits in their companies and produced increasingly
better goods. Another one I met in Shanghai told me this country's
love affair with the market economy is making people work harder, and
better.

The fact is, multinational companies are bullish about China because
-- ironically -- this communist country is embracing capitalism with a
passion. To an outsider, the Chinese government's proclaimed
''socialist market economy'' is a face-saving rhetorical gimmick, or a
good way of justifying an economic opening without giving up its
one-party totalitarian rule.

In an interview at his office, Zhou Xi-an, deputy director of China's
powerful National Development and Reform Commission, told me that 30
percent of China's economy is still in state hands, 10 percent is in
collective hands and 60 percent is in ''nonpublic'' hands, China's
euphemism for the private sector.

''The private sector has become the main driving force for economic
development, and the major source of employment,'' Zhou told me.

Recalling a figure I had read recently, I asked, is it true that you
will privatize another 100,000 state-owned companies within the next
five years? ''No. The figure will be much higher,'' the official
responded, matter-of-factly.

DIFFERENT MODELS

Jiang Shixue, a top academic of the Institute of Latin American
Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a think tank for
the Chinese government, told me he has recently completed a book
comparing the development of East Asia and Latin America, and
concluded, among other things, that ''the outward model'' pursued by
East Asia for the past several decades ``is superior to the
inward-looking model.''

''Theories should be updated from time to time,'' Jiang told me. ``The
dependency theory [of blaming U.S. imperialism] was very popular in
the 1960s, but now we can see that it has become outdated.''

My conclusions: China is in the midst of a capitalist revolution.
Granted, many things could go bad in China. The country's 800 million
poverty-ridden peasants may rise up in anger over the growing gap
between rich and poor, or the fragile Chinese banking system may
collapse, taking the country down with it.

And even if there is no such calamity, it's dubious that the second
generation of today's Chinese capitalists will be as willing to work
as hard as their parents. But in the short term, unless Latin America
takes drastic steps to open up its economy and become more
competitive, China will widen its lead.

COMING THURSDAY: What is China after in Latin America? Several things:
access to raw materials to reduce its dependency on the United States
and the Middle East; South-South political alliances to counter U.S.
influence, and a backup route to export duty-free to the United States
if Washington puts restrictions on Chinese goods.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

© 2005
Herald.com and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.
http://www.miami.com


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Thursday, February 24, 2005

Feb 24/05- Peggy Noonan tries her hand at blogging...fine result

PEGGY NOONAN

I'll Link to That


Hunter Thompson, Larry Summers, Hillary, Condi and the Internet's patron saint.

Thursday, February 24, 2005 12:01 a.m.

This week, an homage de blog. Or would that be homage du blog? James
Taranto will know. It's good to have an editor, especially one I would
characterize as a nonintrusive stickler. He always knows my topic,
doesn't know my view, corrects my spelling and grammar. [De? Du? It's
all Greek to me!--ed.]

Today I post thoughts blog-style. There is, however, a theme. Find it.

Hunter Thompson, RIP. Tom Wolfe, a genius, goes over the top in his
praise of Thompson. Wolfe and Thompson were of the same journalistic
generation, and we are all chauvinists for our era. But Hunter
Thompson was not Mark Twain, who was a genius, nor was he the great
comic voice of America in the 20th century.

He was a reporter/diarist who helped create a new journalistic form,
to which 30 years ago he gave the even then embarrassingly corny name
"gonzo journalism." It was highly personal, eccentric, with the writer
at the center of the story, and it had its moments, the best of which
was "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," which had a different sound, a
different attitude, and a whiff of anarchy that seemed liberating.

In time Thompson's swashbuckling came to seem joyless, aggressive and
half dead. What he thought fed his gift (drugs, alcohol) killed it. He
must have been very scared to get tanked like that to write. The empty
page, the blank screen, is scary. But so is a mortgage. So is the
stillness of a courtroom before you make the closing argument. And so
is a broken leg that needs fixing fast. We all have jobs. You take a
bad turn when you start to think your next work must be marked by
genius because you are a genius. Thompson's death is an occasion not
for inspiration or celebration but compassion. Not pity, but a sense
of universal idiocy, and sympathy.

The Larry Summers story continues. What choice does it have? It could
end, but its authors would have to have the good sense to put a period
in and change the subject.

Tuesday he faced an angry faculty gathering where "his ears were
pinned back," as one reporter said. Summers now seems to be saying he
made a mistake in airing the idea of gender-related differences in the
interests and aptitudes of scholars. But here is what he may be
forgetting, for people under pressure often lose track of their lack
of culpability: Summers did nothing wrong. He thought aloud about an
interesting question in a colorful and un-defended way. That's what
universities are for.

His mistake was stepping on the real third rail in American cultural
politics. It's not Social Security. It is attempting to reconcile the
indisputable equality of all people with their differentness. The left
thinks if we're all equal we're all alike. Others say we're all equal
but God made us different, too, and maybe he did that to keep things
interesting, and maybe he did it because each human group is meant to
reflect an aspect of his nature. Our differentness is meant to teach
us his infinite variety and complexity. It's all about God.

But what the Summers story most illustrates is that American
universities now seem like Medieval cloisters. They're like a cloister
without the messy God part. Old monks of leftism walk their hallowed
halls in hooded robes, chanting to themselves. Young nuns of leftist
deconstructionism, pale as orchids, walk along wringing their hands,
listening to their gloomy music. They become hysterical at the
antichrist of a new idea, the instrusion of the reconsideration of
settled matter. Get thee behind me, Summers.

These monks and nuns are the worst of both worlds, frightened and so
ferocious, antique and so aggressive. Will they exorcise Summers from
their midst? Stay tuned. But cheers to the Ivy League students who
refuse to be impressed by these relics.

Hillary. Forget her prepared speeches, put aside her moderate
statements on Iraq and abortion. This is how you know she's running
for president in 2008. Ten days ago a reporter interviewed her in the
halls of the Senate (another kind of cloister) and asked if she
planned to run for president. She did not say, "I'm too busy serving
the people of New York to think about the future." She did not say,
"Oh, I already have a heckuva lot on my plate." She said, "I have more
than I can say grace over right now."

I have more than I can say grace over right now. What a wonderfully
premeditated ad lib for the Age of Red State Dominance. I suggested a
few weeks ago that Mrs. Clinton was about to get very, very religious.
But her words came across as pious and smarmy, like Tammy Faye with a
law degree. Maybe she still thinks in stereotypes; maybe she thinks
that's what little Christian ladies talk like while they stay home
baking cookies. Whatever, it was almost as good as her saying, "I'm
running, is this not obvious to even the slowest of you?"

Condi Rice. The new secretary of state has been doing something both
different in public and, I suspect, not without meaning. When she
meets with the leader of another country and poses for the handshake
photo-op she never looks at the leader. She always looks at the
journalists witnessing the event instead. She gives them her warmest,
most connected smiles.

Then, when the picture taking is over, she turns to the foreign leader
with a more neutral look, makes eye contact and chats. I don't think
this is an accident. I suspect it is the administration's way of
finally fighting back against 50 years of embarrassing and
compromising pictures of American leaders meeting with leaders such as
this, this and this. The Bush White House doesn't want those pictures.
They may be inconvenient down the road. And so administration members
on meeting foreign leaders give all their jolly warmth to the moment,
as it were, and not the man. Interesting. And Rice is not alone.

The patron saint of the Internet. St. Isidore of Seville, inventor of
the encyclopedia, is said to be the leading contender for the title,
but I hope he doesn't get it. The obvious patron saint of the internet
is St. Joseph Cupertino. St. Joseph was a great man of the 17th
century, and is my second favorite saint.

Many saints were deeply intelligent, and some were geniuses, but St.
Joseph Cupertino, God bless him, was a bit of an idiot. Great saints
like Teresa of Avila (my favorite: her common sense had a kind of
genius to it) wrote books. St. Joseph Cupertino couldn't even read
them. He had a low IQ. He was accepted to the priesthood only when a
small miracle occurred: His big final test question dealt with the one
part of the Bible he'd managed to fully memorize.

What was so special about St. Joseph? His intellectual dullness left
him modest; the fact that no one seems ever to have loved him left him
not angry but humble; the violence inflicted on him by others left him
sympathetic to their frustrations. He thought nothing of himself, and
God knew. He loved God with pure and complete ardor, and God knew that
too. And God filled him with what most others could not be filled with
because they were so full of themselves, and that was love. God poured
so much love into St. Joseph that he was lit with it, floated with it.
It literally left him airborne.

St. Joseph would pray, and then have visions, and soon he would begin
to float. He would come to and find himself in the top of a tree and
climb down with great embarrassment. It angered his superiors--who is
this idiot to be so filled with love? Smarter people deserved visions!
They also resented the fact that the local peasants began to follow
him, for they and not the monks and nuns could see something special,
the man was a saint. (He was: he'd be sent out to beg for food for the
monastery and wind up giving the poor peasants his shoes and cloak
instead. One cold winter day he came back naked.) Instead of wearing
his shoes, the peasants saved them as relics.

Animals too seemed to understand St. Joseph. They felt the love within
him like a mighty vibration. Maybe it was the exact opposite of an
earthquake vibration dogs are said to feel. They didn't run from him
but to him, and were quiet when they were with him, and put their
heads on his knee. Birds would follow him. He'd tell them to shoo but
they wouldn't, and he'd laugh. They flew all around his head. He died
in obscurity after finally having been assigned never to leave his
cell. The best essay on him is in "Saints for Sinners" by Alban
Goodier.

Why is St. Joseph Cupertino the obvious patron saint of the Internet?
Because he flew through the air, lifted by truth. Because no
establishment could keep him down. Because he empowered common people.
Because they in fact saw his power before the elites of the time did.
And because it could not be an accident that the center of the
invention of the Internet, ground zero of Silicon Valley, is
Cupertino, Calif., named for the saint centuries ago.

Was God in this? Of course. Does God do such things for no reason? He
does not. Has the church recognized St. Joseph Cupertino as patron
saint of the Internet? No. But the church was always slow to give him
his due. If you want to tell the pope that St. Joseph should be patron
saint, you can reach him at
john_paul_II@vatican.va.

Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and
author of "A Heart, a Cross, and a Flag" (Wall Street Journal
Books/Simon & Schuster), a collection of post-Sept. 11 columns, which
you can buy from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears
Thursdays.


Copyright © 2005 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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Sunday, February 20, 2005

Feb 20/05 - On a paranoid need to seek confrontation with the US

PMBComment: Andy Grove, founder and former CEO of Intel, wrote a book
called "Only the paranoid survive", Hugo Chavez probably never read
it, but he understands that a confrontation with Bush gives him a
bigger pulpit and a wider safety net. By painting himself in the role
of potential victim and martyr, he hopes to neuter and shame the US.
This worn ploy has worked for decades for his mentor Fidel Castro. In
order for it to be successful again, one would have to assume that the
Bush administration is indeed impermeable to the lessons of history.
Anyone taking bets? PMB

www.venezuelanalysis.com (pro-government Web site)

"U.S. is Preparing New Aggressions"
Venezuela's Chavez Accuses U.S. Government of Considering his Assassination

Sunday, Feb 20, 2005 Print format

By: Cleto A. Sojo -
Venezuelanalysis.com

Caracas, Venezuela. Feb 20, 2004 (
Venezuelanalaysis.com).- Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez denounced that the U.S. government is preparing
"new aggressions" against him and against the Venezuelan people.
"Before the world, before our people, before the Latin American
people, and before the people of North America, for whom we have
respect, I accuse the government of the United States of continuing
their aggressions against Venezuela," he said during his weekly live
TV show.

"The U.S. government has crashed in Venezuela, and will continue to
crash as many times as they want," Chavez said in reference to alleged
past attempts by the U.S. to remove him from power.

The mercurial Venezuelan leader has repeatedly accused the U.S.
government of trying to oust him. Scattered evidence has linked the
U.S. government to the 2002 coup d'etat against Chavez, and the U.S.
financed opposition groups in Venezuela through the National Endowment
for Democracy. Last August, twice-elected Chavez won a referendum on
his rule, which was largely organized by groups that receive funds
from the U.S. government.

The U.S. government publicly criticizes the democratically-elected
leader, accusing him of undermining democracy. CIA Director Porter
Goss recently said that Chavez "is consolidating his power by using
technically legal tactics to target his opponents and meddling in the
region."

"Assassination an option"

Chavez explicitly said that the U.S. government is considering his
assassination as one of the options to get rid of him. "They know they
cannot stage a coup d'etat, they know that there is no Pinochet here
because we have generals, commanders and soldiers who are patriots,
and who will not bend their knees before the U.S. empire, they know
that there is a people with conscience which they will not be able to
confuse through the media they control." he said.

"They know that the latest polls give Chavez a 70% approval rating.
They know that in the upcoming 2006 elections, Chavez is
undefeatable," he continued.

"They failed with the coup, with the economic sabotage... they know
the Bolivarian project advances victorious in the social arena, they
know the impact of the missions (social programs), they know how the
economy is growing, that we are recovering our economic sovereignty,
and they know that Venezuela is a world power when it comes to oil and
gas. They know all that," he added.

"U.S. failed to isolate Venezuela"

The leftist president cited the resolution of the recent diplomatic
crisis with Colombia over the kidnapping of a Colombian guerrilla
leader, as an example of the U.S. failure to isolate Venezuela in the
region. The U.S. asked several Latin American countries to pressure
Chavez during the dispute, a request that was either ignored or
rejected. "The U.S. was left alone once again... They should know that
in spite of their pressures and their attempts at blackmailing, they
will not be able to isolate Venezuela from our sister countries in
Latin America and the Caribbean, they will not be able to isolate us,"
Chavez said.

Chavez hinted at a continent-wide rebellion in case he is
assassinated. "As a group of Latin American workers and indigenous
leaders told me recently, 'if something happens to you, we, who are
making an effort here to push our forces through democratic channels,
will assume that those rules no longer apply.'" Chavez assured Bush
that he did not wish for that to happen, for President Bush's own good
and for the good of the U.S. population. "But [if that happens] the
flame will not only arise in Venezuela, but throughout the peoples of
the Americas, so think about it twice comrade Bush," he said.

The leader said that "U.S. imperialism would bite the dust" in case of
an invasion to Venezuela. "Mr. Bush and his advisors think that by
killing Chavez, there will be a popular rebellion, the Marines will
come, the Venezuela people will give up, and the Venezuelan Armed
Forces will accept the invasion. They are wrong on that," he said.

Venezuela says it is buying Super Tucano propeller planes from Brazil
to patrol its jungle and its borders, where Colombian insurgents
frequently operate.


Counting on revenues from high oil prices and an explosive economic
growth, the Venezuelan government recently approved the purchase of 40
helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles from Russia, and some
propeller-powered "Tucano" light attack planes from Brazil, a move
that has been seen as a preparation against a possible attack or
attempts at destabilizing Venezuela. The recent killings of Venezuelan
soldiers during confrontations with Colombian irregular forces,
frequent kidnappings near the Colombian border, the discovery of a
Colombian paramilitary camp in Caracas, have been cited by the
government as a justification for the arms purchase to renew
Venezuela's aging military equipment.

Chavez also threatened with the interruption of the flow of oil to the
U.S. in case he is assassinated. "If these perverse plans succeed, Mr.
Bush can forget about Venezuelan oil... Forget about it Mr. Bush," he
said. "Here in Venezuela, either there is fatherland for all, or there
is no fatherland for anybody."

Preparing the terrain

He accused the U.S. government of preparing the terrain for a possible
intervention in Venezuela. "As anyone who studies the behavior of the
U.S. empire during the last century discovers a common factor; every
time the U.S. are going to attack someone, they don't do it right
away, they start by preparing the terrain of their internal public
opinion, one of the things that worries them the most. Look at the
example of Iraq; there was a campaign against Saddam Hussein, accusing
him of having chemical weapons, accusing him of being a menace, by
presenting evidence that resulted to be false, to justify the
aggression. That way, when the launch the attack, they obtain the
support of a big part of their internal public opinion. Almost all
media in the country support them... they look for allies in Europe,
from the U.N., they start preparing the terrain, and their current
aggression are part of this campaign."

U.S. right-leaning news network Fox News, recently ran a series titled
"The Iron Fist of Hugo Chavez," in which Chavez is portrayed as a
dictator who uses violence to stay in power, and invests the country's
oil revenue in weapons, instead of helping the poor. U.S. media
frequently refer to Chavez as a "strong-man," in spite of his multiple
electoral victories certified by foreign observers.

Chavez went on to enumerate recent comments by U.S. officials
characterizing him as a menace, which he and other officials describe
as an intervention in the internal affairs of Venezuela. Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice, Assistant Secretary of State for Western
Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega, Deputy Secretary of State Robert
Zoellick, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Marc
Grossman, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and CIA director Porter Goss,
have made public statements criticizing Chavez.

He said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is trying to
personalize the conflict. "They do not address the Venezuelan
government, but just Hugo Chavez, in order to personalize the
conflict. She said that Hugo Chavez is a threat for the continent, for
democracy and for peace," Chavez added.

"Instability would only come from Washington"

With regard to CIA Director Goss' recent characterization of Venezuela
as a "potentially unstable country in 2005," Chavez said that given
the economic growth of Venezuela, which economy expanded by 17.3% in
2004, any instability that may occur is being planned by Washington.
"He [Goss] acknowledged that the Venezuelan president is consolidating
his power by using technically legal tactics to target his opponents
and meddling in the region."

According to Chavez, two years ago Bush, using the excuse of fighting
terror, gave the CIA once again a green light to kill anybody
"wherever, and whenever, like Agent 007, even world leaders who are
considered a threat," he said.

"Don't make the mistake Mr. Bush, of ordering my assassination,
because you will regret it. Be assured that this people will make you
regret it. Not only this people, but many others around the world,
because the time of cowards is over, Mr. Bush, because in this era we
are living, peoples are rising everywhere, and there is no imperialism
however powerful they are or believe they are, that could stop the
awakening of the peoples that is occurring at the beginning of the
21st century," he added.

The Venezuelan leader has criticized U.S. military interventions
throughout the world, and its alleged lack of commitment to policies
that would prevent radical environmental changes. Today he went on to
say that U.S. government advisers and planners are "not only planning
the death of the world, but are executing it. They are killing the
world, our world, and our grandchildren's world ," he said.

U.S. policy towards Latin America has been the focus of criticisms by
some analysts and politicians. U.S. Democratic Senator Christopher J.
Dodd recently hinted that the Bush administration was unnecessarily
straining bilateral relations with Venezuela. At the confirmation
hearing of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Dodd urged her to
take a more moderate tone with Chavez "This is an important
relationship, it's important in the hemisphere. We need to work at
it," Dodd said. Rice had said that the government of Venezuela is a
negative force in the region.

Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee hinted at Secretary Rice that it
might be hypocritical for the U.S. to treat some undemocratic leaders
such as Pakistan's Musharraf with respect, while offending
democratically elected ones such as Chavez. He highlighted Chavez's
recent victory at a recall referendum. Chafee told Rice, "It seems to
me to say derogatory things about him may be disrespectful to him, but
also to the Venezuelan people." Rice denied making derogatory comments
about Chavez, who in turn has called her "illiterate" when it comes to
knowing about Venezuela. "They have spoken," Chafee said in reference
to the Venezuelan people and the recall referendum.

Some observers characterize the current U.S. policy towards as
misguided, and too centered on Cuba. Roger Noriega, and former special
envoy to Latin America Otto Reich, have been accused of giving the
U.S. a bad image in Latin America with their aggressive foreign
policy.

Venezuela's Foreign Relations Minister, Ali Rodriguez, recently said
that Venezuela wants to improve relations with the U.S. "In order to
be able to maintain a constructive relationship, it is absolutely
necessary and imperative to respect the sovereignty and the right to
self-determination of other countries," Rodriguez said.


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Friday, February 18, 2005

Feb 18/05 - On Ali Rodriguez's desire to address the OAS

PMBComentario: ¿De que hablara el "Comandante Fausto" al Consejo Permanente extraordinario que hizo convocar para la próxima semana?

Me imagino que usa la excusa de una intervención en la OEA para hablar con gente en Washington del tema petrolero (recuerden que fue Presidente de PDVSA y de la OPEP, además de guerrillero en los 60 y canciller hoy en día). Se comenta insistentemente en la ciudad que tanto Patton Boggs como Collier & Shannon, lobbystas respectivamente del gobierno y de PDVSA, le han informado al gobierno que de tanta habladera de pendejadas por el mundo la gente de Washington decidió hacer algo para destetarse del petróleo venezolano. La semana pasada, Ali Moshiri, Presidente de ChevronTexaco para América Latina, hizo una ronda por Washington en nombre del Gobierno (de quien es favorita esta empresa) explicando y asegurando - a quien quisiera oírlo - que Venezuela no tiene intención alguna de cortar el suministro petrolero y mucho menos sustituir a EE.UU. por China como mercado principal. Es obvio que la acción del Senador Lugar les mando un claro mensaje a los irresponsables en Caracas de que se pasaron y ya basta de tanta amenaza. De hecho creo sorpresa y pánico la carta que envío el poderoso Senador al General Accountability Office solicitando un estudio completo sobre el suministro petrolero de Venezuela. Obviamente la revolución - roja - de Chávez es "bonita" solo si tiene como vestirse de verde dólar.

Ahora, como para ir a la capital del "imperio terrorista" ha tenido que usar el "cover" de una presentación al Consejo Permanente de la OEA hay que asumir que dirá algo ahí. Imagino que será menos gritón e insultante que los cancilleres anteriores - hombres que carecían de la seguridad, madurez y soltura de Rodríguez -pero si dejara claro que están siendo objeto de una persecución implacable de los EE.UU. y quizás repita que si algo le ocurre a Chávez es culpa de George W. Bush. Ya Fidel Castro, amigo y entrenador de Rodrigues desde los 60 adelanto esta versión "cubanoide" de la realidad. Pero ojala que haya algo mas interesante, pues el Sub-secretario Zoellick ya se encargo de desenmascarar la estrategia al decir que "Chávez busca convertir esto en una lucha entre David y Goliat"...distracción que por patética y trillada no merece mas comentario. PMB


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Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Feb 16/05 - On the chances that Chavez's US apologists - COHA - might be proven right by a clumsy State Departmeny

PMBComment: convoluted indeed…but it does contain a small splattering of half-truths*. With the underlying problem between Colombia & Venezuela brushed conveniently under the carpet, it might be time to inquire who authorized Ambassador Woods to jump the gun – supporting Uribe on round one of this reality-show-cum-soap-opera - to play the part the Chavez administration sought him to play. My guess is that once again Ambassadors Noriega and Shapiro proved Senators Lugar and Dodd right when they beg, and beg, for a change of leadership in the Western Hemisphere Bureau. While I can be accused of bias because of constant run-ons with these “civil servants”, I think it is highly unlikely that so many informed people in, and out of, Washington have reached the same conclusion for unfair reasons. It pains me to agree with COHA on anything, but it would really be a pity if they were to start being right one day PMB

PS: on the matter of Cuba’s role in this whole imbroglio, I find it very interesting that only El Tiempo has elaborated on this, while the Colombian Foreign Minister was lavish in details and praise about the role played by Peru’s Foreign Minister. Having said this, Cuba certainly had legitimate self-interest in helping extricate its “sugar-daddy” from a situation in which he was caught with both hands in the cookie jar.

Council On Hemispheric Affairs

Venezuela-Colombia Crisis: Where was Washington?

February 16th, 2005

By: Gabriel Espinosa-Gonzalez—COHA

Bush Administration Should be Embarrassed as Brazil, Peru and Cuba Help Broker Compromise while U.S. Policymakers, led by Noriega, try to whip Colombia into a Frenzy

• Washington’s Latin America policy continues to be afflicted by a severe case of short-sighted tunnel vision that makes it unlikely that the many ruptures with hemispheric nations that developed in Bush’s first term will be mended during his second term.

• U.S. policymakers’ failed attempts at isolating Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez from the rest of Latin America as a result of a diplomatic crisis between Venezuela and Colombia—which was resolved on February 15—sullies Washington’s already tarnished image and constitutes a serious misappraisal of the prevailing diplomatic atmosphere throughout the region.

• The total dearth of effective and positive U.S. diplomacy during the crisis allowed regional players Brazil, Peru and Cuba to showcase their commitment toward greater unity and stability within Latin America.

Havana’s role in helping to mediate the crisis further embarrasses a Bush administration that rarely misses an opportunity to portray the Castro regime as an obstructionist to regional peace, but the facts prove differently.

• The severity of the now mended crisis between Venezuela and Colombia can be attributed to the fact that it concerned two issues of utmost importance for each country’s respective president: Chávez’s mobilization around the issue of national sovereignty on the one hand, and the integrity of President Alvaro Uribe’s war of attrition against guerrilla forces operating in his country on the other.

• Ultimately, diplomatic assistance provided by other Latin American governments, in conjunction with bilateral economic pressures, encouraged both sides to arrive at a resolution yesterday in which Caracas agreed to resume bilateral trade and economic projects and both governments committed themselves to cooperate on border security issues in such a way as to guarantee that “sovereignty is not affected.”

The Bush administration’s counterproductive and unfortunately predictable response to the severe diplomatic crisis that erupted in January between Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and his Colombian counterpart, Alvaro Uribe, reaffirms that Latin America’s leadership cannot count upon Washington to serve as a stabilizing, mature and positive force in the region. The Bush administration’s decision to unequivocally and enthusiastically side with Bogotá, even before the details of the dispute could fully be examined, and its call for other Latin America leaders to join it in isolating Chávez—many of whom see Washington, not Caracas, as their main regional nemesis—was transparently Machiavellian in its intent. The administration’s demarche also was grossly unsuccessful since it subsequently went unheeded. Instead, Brazil, Peru and Cuba demonstrated their ability to serve as productive mediators, helping resolve the crisis and enhancing their image as peacemakers at the expense of Washington’s reputation. As a result, Latin America was made all the more aware that its neighbor to the north cannot be viewed as anything but a unilateralist intent on maximizing every opportunity to advance its own self-interests rather than the good of the region. The destructive manner in which Washington played its hand once again showed how unprepared State Department Assistant Secretary Roger Noriega is to contribute to a constructive and non-ideological projection of U.S. policy in Latin America and provide effective leadership to the Bureau of Inter-American affairs.

Granda Affair
The abduction in Caracas and later delivery to Colombia of Rodrigo Granda of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) on December 13, which precipitated the diplomatic row between Venezuela and Colombia, led officials from both neighboring countries to swap charges with the other regarding violation of national sovereignty on the one hand, and neglect of and even collusion with guerrilla activities on the other. Despite Colombian Minister of Defense Jorge Alberto Uribe’s insistence that Granada’s apprehension was “accomplished exclusively by our operatives and in Colombian territory,” it soon became clear that the facts did not conform to that rendition of the story.

When it finally was established that Granda’s capture in Caracas was a result of collaboration between Colombian security officials and a number of renegade Venezuelan national guardsmen and policemen serving as bounty hunters without the instruction of their superiors, Chávez responded forcefully. Speaking on his weekly radio address on January 9, he characterized the apprehension as a clear violation of Venezuelan sovereignty and later demanded an apology from President Uribe and a thorough investigation of the matter. Bogotá, after reluctantly admitting on January 12 that it indeed had paid for Granda’s capture, responded in kind by rehashing allegations of complicity between Caracas and the leftist FARC, while justifying the abduction on the basis of its fight against international terrorism. A vicious cycle of recriminating exchanges ensued, reaching a boiling point on January 14 when, after already calling back his ambassador to Bogotá, Chávez raised the stakes by suspending all commercial ties with its neighbor to the west. The Venezuelan president claimed that regardless of intent, it was completely unjustifiable for high-ranking Colombian officials to attempt to “instigate Venezuelan officials to commit a crime…that they attempt to buy Venezuelan soldiers so that they sell out their nation.” At this point, there was good reason to fear that the two neighbors had reached an impasse and things could only get worse.

A Wasted Opportunity
With the dispute between Venezuela and Colombia escalating to a level far beyond that of a simple diplomatic spat, the Bush administration had a unique opportunity to begin to make amends for its mostly unilateral, arrogant and, at best, neglectful first-term Latin America policy. With Chávez and Uribe—respectively the Bush administration’s nemesis and staunchest ally in the region—involved in a serious confrontation that appeared to require third-party mediation, Washington should have offered to help broker an agreement between the two countries rather than pour vinegar on an open wound. A conciliatory policy, as previously followed by U.S. ambassador to Caracas William Brownfield, could have proved highly beneficial for the Bush administration’s stained reputation, as it would have exhibited a newfound willingness on its part to serve as a constructive force in the region at a time when a new generation of left-of-center leaders in Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Uruguay had come to the fore. Moreover they demonstrated themselves to be inherently wary of Washington’s meddlesome tactics and more reluctant than their predecessors to cooperate blindly on any issue that the hemispheric superpower identifies as being of emerging importance.

Furthermore, such a move would have entailed very little political cost because regardless of how the dispute was eventually resolved, Washington would have been able to interpret its role in the matter as consonant with its overall commitment to Colombia’s fight against “terrorism.” Had U.S.-mediated talks proved fruitless, the strategy would nevertheless have allowed the White House to appease some members of Congress, among them Senate Foreign Relations Committee members Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), Christopher Dodd (D-CT) and Bill Nelson (D-FL), who on one occasion or another had voiced their concerns about Washington’s deteriorating relations with Caracas, one of the U.S.’s largest suppliers of foreign oil. Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), the committee’s chairman, also has expressed his broad concern with current U.S. regional policy, indirectly criticizing the Bush administration and expressing his hope that newly appointed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has “people in the department [State Department Bureau for Western Hemisphere Affairs] who are on top of the situation.” This can only be interpreted as a slap in the face of Assistant Noriega, a political extremist whose policy initiatives more often than not reflect the views of Miami’s hard-right expatriate community, rather than more diplomatically oriented moderates in either the U.S. or Latin America.

Attempts Fall Flat
Old habits are always difficult to shed, and all the more so when the administration in power does not take kindly to constructive criticism or often admit and move to redress past mistakes. Instead of steering a course toward mutually beneficial and potentially a more successful diplomacy, the Bush administration’s policymakers reverted to their customary hard line, viewing Caracas’ dispute with Bogotá as just one more opportunity to further their goal of isolating Chávez within Latin America. One can argue, though, that considering Venezuela’s increased contact and collaboration with regional governments, it is Washington that in fact has ended up being isolated in Latin America. That the U.S. had a favorite in the dispute was undeniable, but on January 15, U.S. Ambassador to Bogotá William Wood issued a posturing statement expressing his government’s “100 percent” support for Colombia’s position, even after it had been revealed that Uribe’s government paid for Granda’s capture in Venezuela. With this Washington became the first and along with El Salvador the only hemispheric government to publicly disavow a position of neutrality. In recent years El Salvador’s conservative government has proved itself a loyal sycophant of Washington, siding with the minority of Latin American governments on two especially noteworthy occasions: supporting the Bush administration during the Iraqi invasion and earlier in its decision to recognize the short-lived government that undemocratically unseated Chávez in 2002.

What transpired next was a concerted effort led by Noriega to attempt to line-up the rest of the region on Washington’s side. This grave miscalculation presupposed two things: that Washington’s voice commanded utmost respect in Latin America and that the region’s governments, especially those aspiring to position themselves as influential actors, did not have a big stake in wanting to see the dispute between Venezuela and Colombia successfully mediated. Both theses turned out to be false, and thus the diplomatic communiqué sent by Washington urging Brasilia, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Mexico City and others to pressure Chávez to yield to Bogotá’s demands was either ignored or repudiated on a de facto basis.

Noriega, in essence, implicitly admitted to his diplomatic miscalculation when in a February 4 interview on the publicly-funded U.S. overseas’ radio network, Voice of America, he lamented the fact that certain Latin American governments had decided to adopt an attitude independent of Washington (appropriately enough for the Bush administration’s low expectations for its diplomacy in the region, the day before this interview it was announced that Noriega would remain at his post during Bush’s second term). The Assistant Secretary blithely referred to these governments’ unwillingness to be party to Washington’s self-righteous confrontation with Chávez in a sanguine way, categorizing it as “a sort of fatigue among the countries in the hemisphere” that he hoped would soon pass. He promised to continue his Cold War-era inspired campaign, adding that Washington might even seek to invoke the “Democracy” charter of the Organization of American States, which calls for collective sanctions against presidents who seek to become de facto dictators, against Chávez. In broad terms, the Bush administration’s Latin America policy, as characterized by this particular case, is and will most likely continue to be afflicted by a severe case of tunnel vision that will work against better inter-American relations as well as the possibility of arriving at some sort of consensus on other hemispheric issues identified as critical to U.S. interests, such as drug trafficking, security and free trade. Simply put, the Noriega era has been a disaster for sound U.S.-Latin American ties, which at some point may go beyond repair.

Latin American Initiative
With Washington’s contribution to placating the Venezuela–Colombia dispute consisting almost solely of barbs directed at President Chávez, other Latin American governments rose to the occasion. As Ambassador Wood and State Department spokesman Richard Boucher spoke of the need to pressure Caracas and Secretary Rice referred to Chávez as a “negative force” in her Senate confirmation hearing, the governments of Peru and Mexico were the first to emphasize the need for Venezuela and Colombia to maintain open channels of communication. Peru, which currently holds the presidency of the Andean Community of Nations (CAN), to which both countries belong, played a particularly instrumental role in bringing Chávez and Uribe closer to a settlement and to yesterday’s face-to-face meeting, which originally was scheduled for February 3. Once the dispute had virtually been resolved, Uribe thanked Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo and his Foreign Minister, Manual Rodríguez, for their “efficient and intelligent mediating role.” Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva also offered his government’s assistance and took advantage of a previously scheduled meeting with Uribe in the Colombian city of Leticia on January 9 to help relieve some of the hostility between Colombia and Venezuela. Lula, whose ideological posture originally was very similar to that of Chávez’, nevertheless maintains close ties with both countries’ presidents. Moreover, since assuming the Brazilian presidency in 2003, he has led a campaign for his nation to become a greater regional player, an aspiration that undoubtedly influenced his words and actions in this case, and his decision to sell aircraft to Venezuela. The deal has not yet been finalized but Caracas will likely purchase up to two dozen Super Tucano training and light combat planes from Brasilia. And although the agreement has raised fears of a future arms race between Venezuela and Colombia, the fact that Chávez is purchasing the equipment from a friend and a burgeoning partner of Washington makes it difficult for the U.S. to loudly voice its concern over the sale. In fact, the deal in effect erects a defensive barrier around Venezuela because Washington is hardly looking for a fight with Brasilia, and even Noriega would not try to bully Brazil as if it were a Caribbean mini-state.

Perhaps most surprising of all was Cuba’s role in mediating the crisis, as first reported by the Colombian daily El Tiempo. According to the article, President Uribe himself reached out to Fidel Castro for assistance as the situation appeared to be spiraling out of control. Castro responded by dispatching his foreign minister, Felipe Pérez Roque, to Caracas on January 19 to meet with Chávez. After being apprised of the situation and of the Venezuelan president’s willingness to reach an agreement – provided that Bogotá would agree to a thorough investigation of Granda’s capture – Pérez Roque returned to Havana and that same night Castro and Uribe had a long conversation in which the basic outlines of a compromise began to be discerned. Following a meeting with Cuba’s Assistant Foreign Minister, Abelardo Romero, and discussions with key Colombian businessmen who were increasingly worried over the financial consequences of Venezuela’s decision to suspend trade with Colombia, Uribe personally wrote a letter agreeing to some of Chávez’s demands while stipulating that his concerns ultimately lie with the Colombian people. The details of the compromise were later worked out by the foreign ministers of both countries at the CAN summit held in Lima on January 27. The following day, Colombia’s ministry of foreign affairs released a statement announcing the “the incident [between the two countries] has been overcome” and that Chávez and Uribe would meet in Caracas on February 3 to consummate the agreement – although the encounter was subsequently postponed to February 15 after Uribe fell ill.

Uribe, careful not to embarrass Washington but at the same time trying to seve his own country’s authentic national interests, which are far from identical to those of the U.S., has kept Castro’s prominent role in the negotiations mostly under wraps, although he is known to be grateful for it. Chávez, of course, held no such qualms and on January 30, while participating in the World Social Forum in Brazil, thanked Cuba, Brazil and Peru for their assistance in resolving his country’s dispute with Colombia, referring to its leaders as “worried friends.” Castro’s decision to help mediate, though, was not based solely on altruistic intentions. In fact, not only does the manner in which the dispute was ultimately resolved provide the Cuban strongman with an honored place to hang his diplomatic hat, but more importantly, it also benefits Castro that Chávez, his closest hemispheric ally, has been able to maintain constructive relations with the rest of the region and come out of the incident with increased prestige. In any event, Havana’s success must be seen as Washington’s failure.

Two Bulls Stand Down
To understand why the recent crisis between Venezuela and Colombia mushroomed into the most intense diplomatic dispute between the two neighbors in decades, one must first understand that it was primarily a confrontation between two men with very strong convictions and the wherewithal to defend them. Because the Granda affair dealt with two issues that both Chávez and Uribe consider as being of paramount importance to their respective nations and their hold on power, the dispute was able to escalate far beyond that of the usual diplomatic spat. Both presidents, despite subscribing to diametrically opposed ideological positions, share many similarities: both lead highly personalistic governments whose popular mandate is based on the fact that a majority of their constituents perceive them as strong and willful leaders who operate in ways that distinguish them from their predecessors.

This feeling is especially evident in Venezuela, where Chávez is hailed by a poor majority that virtually had been ignored by a long line of centrist leaders who were content to govern according to the interests of the country’s elite and at a price of wanton corruption. Chávez’s rhetoric, therefore, is laced with heavy nationalistic and populist overtones and guarantees to reaffirm Venezuelan sovereignty and equality for all of its citizens in the face of “foreign and domestic aggression.” On the other hand, Uribe has confronted Colombia’s decades-long conflict with both right- and left-wing guerrilla groups with an aggressiveness that places him in stark contrast with his somewhat disgraced, if high-minded predecessor, Andrés Pastrana. Pastrana, who adopted a more conciliatory—his critics would claim weak—stance against the insurgency. Uribe, on the other hand, has consistently increased and expanded his country’s military budget and size, demonstrating his commitment to challenge the guerrilla forces head on regardless of the consequences or level of casualties.

The Granda affair served to highlight abiding and contentious issues on both sides of the border, which to an extent precluded them from adopting a more conciliatory and proactive approach to resolving the ensuing crisis. Such a position could have allowed each leader to be perceived as weak and could potentially have risked undermining some of their sources of support. This reality exacerbated a situation that normally could have been resolved through the type of open face-to-face discussions that, in the months preceding Granda’s capture, had led to a noticeable improvement in Venezuela–Colombia bilateral relations. Following yesterday’s meeting between Chávez and Uribe, the latter acknowledged as much, stating that when future disagreements arise the approach should be “prudent” with “more direct communication” and less yellow journalism.

In the end, foreign mediation helped to induce both Caracas and Bogotá to reach a diplomatic agreement that in reality they were anxious to achieve all along, with vital economic factors undoubtedly exerting pressure for a timely settlement. Venezuela is Colombia’s second largest trading partner ($2.5 billion in bilateral trade) and Chávez’s decision to suspend commercial ties placed a heavy burden on the latter’s economy. As of January 29, for example, five large coal producing corporations that operate in the Colombian state of Santander estimated their losses resulting from the disagreement at $1.7 million. Furthermore, the dispute threatened to derail a number of critical commercial agreements vital to bringing about Chávez’s economic platform, foremost among them the building of a $120 million, 92-mile pipeline from Venezuela’s oil rich Maracaibo region to Colombia’s Pacific coast, which is mainly designed to satisfy China’s expanding demand for oil and to diversify Caracas’ dependence on the US market. The rupture over Granda resulted in an economic burden that neither country was willing to bear in the long run and served as a strong incentive for both sides to reach a compromise as soon as possible. Following the February 15 meeting, Caracas and Bogotá have now resumed normalized diplomatic and economic ties. Left unanswered is why throughout the ordeal Washington was content to remain caviling from the sidelines, offering little hope that an improvement in relations with some of its more recalcitrant hemispheric neighbors would be forthcoming or even particularly desired.

This analysis was prepared by Gabriel Espinosa-Gonzalez, COHA Research Fellow.

February 16, 2005

Original source / relevant link:
Council On Hemispheric Affairs


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Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Feb 15/05 - On the Confirmation of Robert Zoellick: Latin America related excerpts

PMBComment: earlier this week I sent you my commentary on Robert Zoellick’s confirmation hearing in the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Below you will find the critical passages – from the unofficial transcript - referring to Latin America in general and Venezuela in particular. This exchange occurred towards the end of the hearing and it involved the now confirmed Deputy Secretary of State and Senators Lugar (R-Ind) and Dodd (D-Conn). It makes for good reading for those interested in the matter (assume you all are in this group!) and no additional commentary is necessary. At the end of the extract, I have included Senator’s Lugar opening statement which is a good synopsis of Zoellick’s career for those not familiar with it. PMB

HEARING OF THE SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE

SUBJECT: NOMINATION OF ROBERT ZOELLICK TO BE DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE

CHAIRED BY: SENATOR RICHARD LUGAR (R-IN)

419 DIRKSEN SENATE OFFICE BUILDING, WASHINGTON, D.C.

9:32 A.M. EST, TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2005

…..at around 11:50 A.M.

SEN. LUGAR: Senator Dodd, I think you have another question.

SEN. DODD: Yes, thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I appreciate your spending an extra couple of minutes. …..

….having just spent a few days in Nicaragua and Peru and Paraguay, you know, these are countries also accounting, to some degree, on Millennium Challenge Account support and assistance. I just wanted to pick up -- and I raised the issue of the foreign trade stuff and the Darfur issue but, obviously, as you know we've worked closely over the years on Latin American issue. The Free Trade Area of the Americas -- I don't know if this was raised with you at all or not -- I know CAFTA was. But I would hope, and you could give me some quick answers here, if you can. I know you've done a good job in negotiating these agreements. We need to get these agreements up here fairly soon. You and I both know what happens when you delay this process. The closer you get to Election Day, the reality is it gets harder and harder for these agreements to work. And so my hope would be that there'd be a sense of urgency about moving these items up. You wait a long time on this -- you get into this next fall some time, then the possibility of getting these very important agreements to be considered by the Senate are going to be remote, or get more remote.

So I wonder if you might give us some sense at all if you have at this point of when you think these matters may move along.

AMB. ZOELLICK: Well, first, Senator, I want to thank you for your support. I remember as we start the negotiations with Central America I called you, knowing of your strong interest in this, and I think we probably both feel that in addition to the economic opportunity given the suffering in that region and the lack of democracy, to finally have a moment where you have democracies with the Dominican Republic sort of struggling together is a moment you don't want to lose, so we have these cycles sort of we ignore, and then it goes downhill again. And as you and I know, there's difficulties in some of those countries, particularly Nicaragua, at present.

SEN. DODD: You bet.

AMB. ZOELLICK: I met just yesterday with the Guatemalan vice president. There is an issue that we need to remedy with Guatemala relative to the agreement they're trying to remedy I hope this month. I have separately talked to Chairman Grassley and Senator Baucus and Chairman Thomas about willingness to schedule hearings rather quickly. And I think there is a willingness to do that -- maybe next month. The timing of the actual legislation will obviously depend on talking to the leadership in both the House and the Senate and see when they can bring this up because, as you know, under the trade promotion authority it comes up under an automatic timeframe.

But, Senator, I'll give you 100 percent assurance I feel very strongly about trying to get these agreements done. It's very important for the economy of these countries, it's very important for democracy, and it's an important signal to the overall hemisphere, because we're, to follow on, we're negotiating -- we're very close with Panama on a free trade agreement; we're making headway with Colombia, Peru and Ecuador, and I know you visited a number of those countries. So frankly in terms of sending a signal to the region about the United States' commitment -- this is one of the points of Senator Obama -- a lot of what they want is just to be able to trade with us. For goodness' sakes, it helps us to be able to do that. So I'm pushing for quick attention. And I would just say that also in terms of working with my colleagues at the White House, we're now focusing the business, the agricultural communities and others that are supportive of this.

SEN. DODD: And I hope you would as well, in conjunction with this -- and I mentioned earlier the question of these offset agreements and so forth -- there is a significant job loss that's occurring in the manufacturing sector in this country, and our concerns are that we're not being as strong about some of the highly developed countries that take advantage of us and the drain that's occurring in those areas. The message in both areas I think could be tremendously helpful.

Let me mention as well if I can very quickly the -- and, again, I know Senator Nelson raised this with you. But Latin America generally. I know that President Bush has a fairly good relationship with President Lula. I think he has worked to establish a relationship with some of these other presidents. There's trends. Most of these governments in Latin America, with the exception of Uribe in Colombia, are center-left governments. And if we don't work more closely and these governments don't succeed -- politically and economically -- the answer is not to the right, it's further to the left. You're watching that in a number of countries already. And I hope that -- I know the problems obviously we deal with, with Iran and North Korea, and certainly Iraq take a lot of attention -- reduction has been talked about here, China is tremendously important -- I just hope that we will -- you know the area fairly well. You've spent a lot of time working on these trade arrangements. You know the conditions these people are living under, what's going on in Argentina, what's happened in Nicaragua, what's going on in Colombia, Venezuela obviously. There's a tremendous need. You're going to have 660 million people living south of the Rio Grande in a very short order, not including obviously the populations of this country and Canada to the north. And if we don't create more opportunity there, then these democracies who have taken such pride in the emergence of them over the last decade or so are going to collapse. There's no doubt in my mind that will happen. And so it really does require -- we need good people to head up these divisions within the department, and good quality people. And you've got some wonderful people to choose from to serve in these posts to really make a difference.

And on the matter of Chavez in Venezuela, again, I am very worried. The Chinese are all over Latin America. There were there in Argentina, they were there in Paraguay, in Brazil. They have tremendous need for natural resources, for food, and for energy. And they're offering tremendous prices to be able to have tremendous -- much more than we're talking about. And if we're not careful in how we deal with Venezuela, we could find ourselves in a situation where 13 percent of our petroleum reserves are going to be heading elsewhere. And I know there's concerns about President Chavez, but we need to have some sense of apportionality about how we deal with this and put it in context, or we can find ourselves in deep economic trouble ourselves. So I urge you to see if we can't calm things down here and begin to explore some avenues in how we reach some accommodation to work with elected governments here. And whether we like everything they do or not, it's going to be important that we try and establish those relationships. And I -- you have the experience, you have the background, you know these people, you know these players, Bob, so we're looking to you for some leadership in these areas. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SEN. LUGAR: Thank you very much, Senator Dodd. Let me just follow through while you're here on the Venezuela point, because mention was made about that earlier. You commented, Ambassador Zoellick, that oil was fungible and in the event that Venezuela does not ship oil to us, it's shipping it somewhere else, and somewhere else in the world oil might be available to us. In the short run this might be true. This is a point to be pursued perhaps in another hearing dealing really with energy and our foreign policy. But my concern at least in initiating some inquiries about this is that the Chinese and India have been very aggressive, and properly so in terms of their own national security, in attempting to pin down the very last reserves any place on earth right now -- in the former Soviet Union, in Latin America, anywhere else. With the thought which perhaps is not shared in our country, but I'm concerned about it, that the amount of oil available on this earth does have its limits, and the price mechanism may in fact ration that supply in due course as it becomes less and less available to us. But that would have very detrimental effects upon the bottom line of most of us in this country, whether we're heating our homes or our businesses or what have you. In essence, the certainty of supply of our friends in Latin America is of the essence, and our assistance to them so that they may be able to supply more, so long as we have this independence upon foreign oil. Now, I'm one, and you have been another I think who have advocated less dependence upon foreign oil, and that is certainly an avenue to be pursued. But the fact is in our country we have not been pursuing this nearly as vigorously as some of us would like to see. And while that is the case, we have some foreign policy problems. And I think Senator Dodd's point is well taken, without getting into a discussion, President Chavez and the relationship during the hearings for Dr. Rice, now Secretary Rice. Venezuela arose, as you perhaps saw in the record, several times, because members of our committee have been visiting that country, as well as others. And as a result, why this is something we'll want to pursue some more, but I just for the record indicate sort of a notion that this is important to many of our members.

AMB. ZOELLICK: Chairman, if you and Senator Dodd have a minute, I'd be pleased to give you a view of how I see the context of this, but it's up to you. I know you're --

SEN. LUGAR: Yes, please do.

AMB. ZOELLICK: Because I think -- and I did read closely the transcript, and I know from some of our conversations, one of the problems I see is there's always the issue du jour. So whether it be the Venezuelan oil or whether their rifles or so on and so forth. And at least in thinking about the region, I think one has to look in a little bit deeper context of what I think is going on, because I think one of the things that's going on is that one of the problems in Latin America is that sort of the upward mobility of many indigenous and poor people have been basically kept out of the system, because it's been corrupt, it's been oligarchic. It's basically rigged against the poor. And what I think we're seeing now is that the people who are on the margin of the traditional society -- the indigenous people, the poor -- are using some of the democratic openings, and they're saying, Look, I want my share. I want my piece of this. And I think it is critically important -- and I hope to work with you to do this -- the U.S. should be identifying with those people. We are a society that challenges the status quo, we favor openness, we favor the types of change.

Now, we can't do it for them, okay? And so part of this will be what combinations of trade agreements, what combinations of our democratic support, microlending -- a lot of it is creating the legal infrastructure, if people don't have basic property rights. I mean, De Soto thesis and other aspects of this. And so I think there's ways we can help.

Now, bringing this to Chavez, I think what you're seeing happening throughout the region is there's a new Pied Piper of populism that's going on, so I would -- whether -- I don't look at it, Senator, as left to right, because the first person to do this was Fujimori. Okay? So I don't know, is he right or left Peru? And the same with, you know I think, with Chavez. And I think it's a very dangerous course for these countries. You saw what eventually it did to Peru. And I think, coming back to where we need to go with this, is that -- and I know Senator Dodd and Senator Lugar both were key parts of this -- you know the history in this region of resisting foreign intrusion and the Calvo doctrine. So what we did in 1991 with the Santiago Declaration in 2001 about protecting democracy in the region is a huge step. The problem is it's basically oriented towards the old threat of coups. It's not oriented towards what we're now seeing, which is a creeping authoritarianism. Sure, you win the election, but you do away with your opponents, you do away with the press, you do away with the rule of law, you pack the courts.

I think one of the challenges -- and I'd be pleased to talk with you further about your thoughts of this is that we need to work with the OAS and some of these other parties to try to say, Look, if we mean what we say about democracy and we want to try to help some of these people, we have to try to set some standards on this. Now, the reason I partly make this point is that I personally believe that Chavez sort of feeds off confrontation, and you know he wants to set this up as David and Goliath. And my own view is that what we can do effectively with him -- is we shouldn't be afraid to say when he's taking away liberties -- not at all -- and we should stand for that. But at the same time, we also need to stand for some of the people that created the resentments that he has been tapping, because frankly the Venezuelan governments of the past, whatever their party, they didn't serve the people. So part of what we need to do with the assistance that we have, with trade, with other programs, with exchanges -- I talked to Senator Alexander about maybe creating something new in this -- is that we need to be able to get ourselves associated with what we truly believe, which is helping those poor people have a chance. And so that's at least -- I, you know, wanted to give you some preliminary thinking about how I would approach the problem, but I think in the meantime we also shouldn't fool ourselves. You know, Chavez has done some terrible things, and we should say that. And, in the meantime, we should try to help those, frankly -- I'm sure you visited Colombia -- I've been there three times recently -- is that, who are frankly doing a very impressive job. And I'll say, chairman, there were some questions about Uribe did, that I went in the hearing with Secretary Rice, I went back and checked -- they haven't occurred in terms of blocking his opposition and things like that. So make some of those areas work -- Central America, Colombia, Chile -- and then expand it, and then frankly try to get some others to work with us to say if we believe in democracy we've got to stop creeping authoritarianism too.

So I apologize for going on, but I know the senator has -- both of you have the strong interest in this. And I just want to give you the context at least in which I would be approaching these issues.

SEN. LUGAR: I think we appreciate very much your taking this time. That was a very important statement, I believe, and one which we have a lot of common feeling and ability to work together. But I appreciate especially the thought we need to identify with the poor who are outside the spectrum, because whether it is the countries you mention, or even Bolivia comes to mind as a dramatic case in which a good number of people who are outside the pale of government could create extraordinary dilemmas for governments at all, and even if this is not at the forefront of the interests of the press or some in even this committee, why it's important to those who are following Latin America, and the senator from Connecticut has been the foremost among the members of this committee for a long time in doing that.

SEN. DODD: Mr. Chairman, I thank you. Well, I can't thank you enough for that statement. That's the most encouraging statement I've heard about Latin America in a long, long time, and I'm really heartened to hear you say what you did, and I look forward to working with you on this as well, and I certainly don't disagree that where people do things we disagree with we ought not be shy. We get the legitimacy of saying that if we're doing both. That's all you're doing. Then it becomes -- it doesn't work, you know? And Chavez shows up in Brazil, and a hundred thousand people turn out to see him. And he gets a stronger welcome than the president of the country does -- a nation he's visiting. You get some idea of what's occurring in the region, and so it's an important signal.

…cont

SEN. LUGAR: Thank you, Senator Dodd. Let me just mention also the mention of Hernando de Soto. I would add Vargas Llosa, people that are meaningful to you, meaningful to all of us, having addressed some of these issues. And it is good that their thinking permeates the atmosphere and comes back.

…end of references to LA, please contact me if you are interested in the entire transcript of this hearing.

Senator Richard Lugar’s opening remarks:

SEN. LUGAR: (Gavel.) This hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is called to order.

The committee meets today to consider the nomination of Robert Zoellick to be deputy secretary of State. Ambassador Zoellick has served the last four years as President Bush's United States trade representative. He has a distinguished career as a public servant having worked in high positions in the Treasury Department, the White House, and the State Department during several administrations. He has also excelled in the private sector, having served as executive vice president of Fannie Mae.

American credibility in the world, progress in the war on terrorism, and our relationship with our allies will be greatly influenced by the effectiveness of the State Department in the coming years. The department functions best when it has the benefit of a talented and experienced deputy secretary who is trusted by the president, the secretary of State and the Congress. Ambassador Zoellick is highly qualified to meet this challenge. He will bring to his new job not only the experience in international affairs which he has gained as our trade representative, but also intimate working knowledge of his new responsibility at the State Department.

Under the first President Bush, Ambassador Zoellick served as undersecretary of State for Economic and Agricultural Affairs, as well as counselor to Secretary of State James Baker. During that time, he played a major role in many important developments across the globe. He was a senior official at the Two-Plus-Four talks, which helped bring about German unification. He was the lead State Department official involved in launching the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum. He played an important role in the State Department's efforts to bring peace to El Salvador and to Nicaragua.

Ambassador Zoellick has also displayed an excellent capacity to work with Congress. In 1991, he, along with other officials from the first Bush administration, spent many hours briefing Congress on what was then called fast track authority to enable the president to negotiate trade agreements. However, years later, as the U.S. trade representative, he served as one of the point men in an effort to renew fast track authority. His tireless efforts helped win approval of what we now call Trade Promotion Authority, one of the most important victories of President Bush's first term.

I'm pleased to note that he has worked also with Congress to expand the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which I introduced, and to pass the Vietnam Trade Agreement, and the free trade agreement with Jordan.

The committee expects that Ambassador Zoellick will bring to the deputy secretary's job the same energy and hard work he has devoted to his role as our chief trade negotiator. In four years, he's successfully negotiated free trade agreements with Singapore, Chile, Australia, Morocco and Bahrain, as well as CAFTA, a free trade pack with five Central American countries and the Dominican Republic. He started trade talks with Thailand, Panama, the Andean countries, and the South African Customs Union. He has worked with Congress to get many of the completed agreements enacted into law. He did all this while overseeing the launch of the current Doha round of multilateral trade talks involving 144 countries.

The issues involved in the Doha Round, particularly the goal of changing the current worldwide system of agricultural subsidies, are very significant, but also very sensitive for the United States, the European Union, and developing countries. Ambassador Zoellick has done an excellent job of handling a difficult, and often contentious assignment.

During the last four years, the Foreign Relations Committee has enjoyed a close relationship with Deputy Secretary of State Armitage, who has been a good friend to the Congress, and appeared before us many times. He testified on many of the most critical policy topics, including Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. We counted on him for enumerable consultations and he took personal interest in committee initiatives, including our efforts to strengthen the State Department's post-conflict stabilization and reconstruction capabilities, and to improve nonproliferation programs. We are eager to establish a similar relationship with Ambassador Zoellick, and I am confident we will do so.

Ambassador Zoellick, we welcome you to the committee, we look forward to a dialogue that will illuminate your thoughts on the direction of the United States foreign policy, the management of the State Department, and many other topics.


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