Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Feb 7/07 | On Isolation as the Way to Contain a Man and Save a Region

Advice for Summit organizers: keep the bikini, remove the coupster.

PMBComment: A few weeks ago, Hugo Chávez taunted Condi Rice: "Hi Condoleezza, how are you? You've forgotten about me, my little girl," he said (see below). Today, in Capitol Hill, Dr. Rice made a rare and frank statement (see below) about Venezuela that will draw the customary ire from the provocateur in Caracas and maybe elicit the tired criticism from the shameless apologists in “leftist-anti-dictatorship” led Brasilia, BA and Santiago. The truth of the matter is that Dr. Rice is 100% correct and the future of ALL Venezuelans is dire to say the least. In the months to come, those who have the will, or the option, to leave the country will do so reluctantly, at a great cost to the country, since Venezuela was for centuries a place that attracted and nurtured people not the other way around. Those who remain, the vast majority of the poor included, will continue to suffer the consequences of a wrecking-ball government that still counts on the unforgivable complicity of many governments in the region who fill their precious time unearthing the skeletons from the past while ignoring militarism and fascism in their midst.

The bombastic insults that President-for-Life-Wannabe Chávez will hurl at Secretary Rice – so what’s new from Caracas? - will probably not intimidate her or her team - as has been the case with others in the region in the recent past, but they should prove beyond any doubt that a confrontation with the US is the end all of Venezuela’s reckless foreign policy. In this regard, the time has come for the real democrats in the world to isolate this hazard to democracy in Venezuela and nuisance to prosperity in the region.

For willingly ridding himself of all remnants of democratic legitimacy Mr. Chávez must earn the cold shoulder and lose the welcome mat of civilized leaders and countries in the world. Those who understand that democracy is a prerequisite for freedom and that freedom is a prerequisite for prosperity should not play idiotic games or sign amoral deals with this crass man and his utterly corrupt regime. For years the unrepentant coupster in Caracas has used his international access and dealings as a source of legitimacy in order to undermine Venezuela’s democratic institutions and practices and to corner his many opponents. ISOLATE CHAVEZ NOW or millions of Latin Americans will fall into the evil spell of policies and antics that are certain only to enshrine poverty and render representative democracy a laughing matter. Venezuelans of all walks of life provided a lifeline to countless democrats from all over the region in the dark ages of autocratic military rule; facing the same threat, we now solicit effective solidarity. PMB

Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2007 12:05 a.m. EST

Condoleezza Rice: Hugo Chavez 'Destroying' Venezuela

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Wednesday she believed Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was destroying his country economically and politically.

Venezuela's Congress on January 31 granted Chavez powers to rule by decree for 18 months as he tries to force through nationalizations key to his self-styled leftist revolution.

"I believe there is an assault on democracy in Venezuela and I believe that there are significant human rights issues in Venezuela," Rice told lawmakers at a congressional hearing. "I do believe that the president of Venezuela is really, really destroying his own country, economically, politically."

Venezuela is the fourth largest oil exporter to the United States and Washington, which has been at odds with Chavez for years, has criticized his plans to nationalize his country's oil and utility assets.

The Venezuelan leader is known for his fiery anti-U.S. rhetoric and is a close ally of Cuban President Fidel Castro.

Despite her comments Rice said she wanted to avoid getting into "a rhetorical contest" with Chavez. She said the United States has traditionally had good relations with Venezuela and would like to have them in the future.

Venezuela has vowed to strip some of the world's biggest oil companies of controlling stakes in oil projects of the country's Orinoco Belt by May 1.

The pledge, which affects firms such as Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Conoco Phillips, Statoil and BP Plc, forms a vital part of the nationalizations at the heart of his revolution in Venezuela.

The White House said that any U.S. firms affected by nationalizations must be compensated fairly.

© Reuters 2007.

Chavez Calls Sec. Rice "My Little Girl"

Last Update: Jan 22, 2007 7:15 AM

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Sunday called the U.S. secretary of state "my little girl" and told Washington to "go to hell" after it questioned his plan to seek special powers to legislate by decree.

Chavez, a Cuba ally re-elected by a landslide in December, this month launched a campaign to consolidate power by nationalizing key industries, seeking expanded executive powers and pushing for unlimited presidential re-election.

A State Department spokesman on Friday described Chavez's proposal to allow presidents to rule by decree as "a bit odd" in a democracy.

"That is a sacrosanct legal authority of Venezuela. Go to hell, gringos! Go home! Go home!" Chavez said during his weekly Sunday broadcast. "We're free here, and every day we'll be more free."

Chavez also took on U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has described Chavez as a "negative force" in the region.

"Hi Condoleezza, how are you? You've forgotten about me, my little girl," said Chavez, who last year called President George W. Bush "the devil" during a U.N. speech.

Venezuela's legislature this week is expected to give its final approval to the Enabling Law that would grant Chavez 18 months to decree legislation.


The former soldier has said he would use the expanded powers to end the autonomy of the nation's central bank, create a national police force and boost state control over the nation's oil industry, which provides around 11 percent of U.S. oil imports.

State Department spokesman Tom Casey on Friday said the legislation by decree proposal was "a sovereign right of Venezuela but certainly ... a bit odd in terms of a democratic system."

Chavez also plans to alter the nation's constitution, rewritten in 1999 following a campaign Chavez himself led, to boost state control over the economy and remove a two-term limit for presidents.

He said he additionally plans to create new luxury taxes and raise Venezuela's rock-bottom gasoline prices -- currently around 13 cents per gallon -- and use the proceeds to finance community development groups.

Chavez in 2001 decreed a package of 40 laws that paved the way for a sweeping land reform measure and higher taxes for oil companies. The move galvanized the country's fledgling opposition, which accused Chavez of authoritarianism and staged a botched coup six months later.

The government says previous Venezuelan administrations used the Enabling Law, though opposition leaders say they reserved the law for emergency measures rather than divisive reforms.

Chavez frequently describes the United States as a decadent empire and has promised to roll back Washington's influence in Latin America.

The United States has criticized his close relationship with U.S. foes including Cuba, Iran and Syria, charging he has used the nation's oil wealth to meddle in the affairs of neighboring countries.

Photo Copyright Getty Images

Copyright 2006 Reuters.

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