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Dangerous Anti-Americanism Next Door (re: Venezuela, President Hugo Cha'vez )
Miami Herald | October 4, 2001 | David Paulin

Posted on 10/05/2001 6:20:22 AM PDT by Stand Watch Listen

Chávez has allied himself with Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro and Moammar Gadhafi.

By David Paulin

The rabid anti-Americanism that drove fanatical terrorists to attack the United States can be found a lot closer to home than the Middle East. In Venezuela, President Hugo Chávez has made anti-Americanism a cornerstone of his foreign policy since taking office in 1999, and he has of- fered a ``smile and wink'' to terrorists.

Chávez, a left-leaning nationalist, has allied himself with Cuba's Fidel Castro, Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Libya's Moammar Gadhafi. These countries may end up having played a role in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Some of Chávez's actions have been bizarre. Not long after taking office, he wrote a fawning letter of solidarity to Venezuelan-born terrorist ``Carlos the Jackal,'' now in a French prison. Chávez apparently identified with Carlos as a fellow ``revolutionary.''

Chávez also has alarmed neighboring Colombia with his sympathetic attitude for that nation's murderous Marxist narco-guerrillas, whose members admitted murdering in 1999 three U.S. citizens who had worked as activists for indigenous Colombians. Their bodies were dumped across the border in Venezuela.

Chávez now is under increasing criticism at home for his chummy relationships with terrorist nations. Most Venezuelans do not support the anti-Americanism spewed by Chávez and other government officials.

He would not be a problem if Venezuela were not sitting on the biggest oil reserves outside of the Middle East. This OPEC member is a top oil supplier to the United States. Its state oil company has billions of dollars of re- fineries in the United States, along with a network of Citgo stations.

Chávez has promised a steady supply of oil in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, and he has denounced terrorism. But he has yet to distance himself from his past conduct.

There are methods to Chávez's madness. Believing that U.S. hegemony is bad for the world, he has sought to develop a military and economic alliance to balance that influence. He frequently lashes out against ``savage neo-liberalism'' and globalization. He has gleefully opposed the United States in the United Nations.

A former paratrooper, Chávez, who led an aborted and disorganized coup attempt in 1992, regards himself as a ``revolutionary'' in the mold of 1960s-era Marxist guerrillas, some of whom now serve in his administration.

He campaigned for office on an anti-establishment platform, promising to clean up corruption, eliminate ``savage capitalism'' and share the nation's oil wealth with the poor.

His anti-American tirades became increasingly apparent as he consolidated his power, rewrote the constitution and even renamed the country Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, after South American independence hero Simón Bolívar.

Even as oil prices have soared, filling Venezuela's coffers with billions of petrodollars, the country's economic fortunes have suffered. About 80 percent of 23 million Venezuelans remain impoverished, but Chávez has been spending inordinate time traveling abroad, undertaking trips to China, the Middle East, and Cuba. He plans to visit Argelia and several European countries on Oct. 8-24.

Ostensibly, Chávez's travels have been to drum up business for Venezuela, but he has been just as eager to talk about his ``revolutionary'' views and the need for Third World solidarity against the United States. He has said that Venezuela would sail in the same ``sea of happiness'' as Cuba. In China, he declared himself a ``Maoist.''

Chávez recently ended a long-standing military agreement with the United States and is developing ties with China for military supplies. His anti-Americanism and fondness for terrorists regimes co-exists, incongruously, with his fondness for U.S. popular culture and desire for U.S. investment and respect.

The Clinton and Bush administrations have played along with Chávez, believing that it has been better not to make waves because of Venezuela's importance as an oil supplier.

What makes Chávez tick? My theory is that Venezuela suffers from some of the same cultural ``complexes'' found in Middle East countries that ought to be doing better. These complexes are based less on U.S. policies than on resentment over U.S. culture and success.

As one Venezuelan sociologist once told me: ``Venezuelans have an inferiority complex, like the guy who should have made it, but didn't. They think they are the best in the world, although they can't explain why their government is so corrupt and inept; it's always somebody else's fault, not their own.''

The United States has not publicly accused Chávez of directly harboring terrorists. However, observers suspect that he took an active role in hiding disgraced ex-Peruvian spymaster Vladimiro Montesinos, who stands accused of gun running, bribery and murder in his own country, where he now is imprisoned.

Venezuelan authorities picked up Montesinos earlier this year, just when Peruvian agents, with the help of U.S. intelligence, were ready to do the job. It's thought that Chávez owed Montesinos many political favors.

Bush has said that the United States will not distinguish between terrorists and nations that protect them. Given Chávez's antics, and his sympathy for terrorists and their governments, the Bush administration ought to find a better way of dealing with Chávez -- just as soon as the United States and its allies are no longer embroiled in the Middle East.

David Paulin, a journalist, was based in Venezuela during the years that Chávez rose to power.

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events

1 posted on 10/05/2001 6:20:22 AM PDT by Stand Watch Listen
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To: Stand Watch Listen
Venezuela needs a hero like General Augusto Pinochet. Chavez must go; and I mean, 'go to hell'(literally).
2 posted on 10/05/2001 6:24:16 AM PDT by gedeon3
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