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Remove Military From Venezuelan Politics, OAS Tells "feisty" Chavez ^ | Apr 17, 2002 - 2:29 PM ET | Jude Webber, Reuters

Posted on 04/17/2002 12:19:23 PM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, chastened and promising change after his dramatic two-day ouster in a coup, must start by kicking the military out of politics to restore his democratic credibility, Latin America's top diplomat said on Wednesday.

Cesar Gaviria, secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), told reporters he saw no risk of a new coup like the one that swept Chavez out last Friday after a huge anti-government protest when 17 people died, but warned: "There is a risk ... social unrest will come again soon."

Indeed, opposition leaders, unconvinced that the feisty former paratrooper whom critics say wants to install a Cuban-style regime in the world's No. 4 oil exporter has any intention of changing his autocratic ways, promised as much.

"As long as Chavez remains in power, we will continue the protests," Henry Ramos, president of Accion Democratica, one of Venezuela's main opposition parties, told Reuters.

The coup collapsed in a counter-rebellion by loyal troops who reinstated Chavez on Sunday after a mass pro-government rally in which 46 died. Chavez' term runs to 2006.

"This tradition that has been established in Venezuela in the last few years that military officers are important protagonists in politics ... is very unhealthy," Gaviria said.

The coup plotters are under arrest but uniforms still loom large in Venezuela. Chavez has promoted many comrades and put ministries and key institutions in the hands of officers.

Without urgent change, Gaviria said "it's going to be very difficult to preserve democracy in Venezuela."

Gaviria, who met Chavez, opposition and Church leaders and other groups in Caracas, will report back to the OAS in Washington on Thursday.

The body could suggest it sponsors multi-party negotiations to hammer out ways of strengthening democratic institutions, as it did after Peru's former President Alberto Fujimori's controversial 2000 election win.

Chavez must now reconcile a fractured society in which 80 percent live in poverty and where his impulsive, heavy-handed style put him on collision course with the Church, media, labor groups and workers at state oil group, Petroleos de Venezuela.


Venezuela's National Assembly, dominated by Chavez supporters, began a debate into last week's flip flop coup and counter-rebellion -- but the gulf between the government and opposition appeared as wide as ever in heated debate.

Opponents pinned the blame for last week's chaos firmly on Chavez, but Defense Minister Jose Vicente Rangel told Univision television they were being "very irrational" in their continued calls for Chavez to quit, and they should change too.

With a society polarized into a few "haves" living in luxury who want Chavez out and a vast majority of "have-nots", many living in squalid shanty towns from where he draws his core support, Chavez has acknowledged he must make changes.

But he has yet to spell them out and Gaviria said he was surprised many were already behaving "like nothing happened."

Although some, like Jose Mafud, a 33-year-old retailer, saw Chavez "stronger than ever" now, other Venezuelans saw trouble brewing. "Chavez is getting worse. I'll only be happy if he goes," said one man, who gave his name only as Rocco.

Meanwhile, conspiracy theories swirled. The United States, which is Venezuela's main foreign oil customer but has given Chavez' return a lukewarm reception, confirmed it spoke to the businessman installed as president as the coup was under way.

But Washington denied it had any hand in the plot. Rangel said the coup plot was hatched a year ago but gave no details.

Nevertheless, Gaviria agreed with Venezuela's Cardinal Ignacio Velazco that the coup taught Chavez a lesson.

"I think Chavez will solve some of the conflicts with some sectors of society that he has had through his three years in government," he said.

He said the Roman Catholic Church -- whose leaders Chavez once called a "tumor on the nation" -- could act as mediators ahead to defuse still simmering tensions.

Chavez and the cardinal he formerly branded a political enemy appeared to have buried the hatchet. The pair prayed together on the Caribbean island where Chavez was shunted during the coup and both men apologized to each other.

Pope John Paul appealed for peace and for Venezuela to "leave behind the temptation of revenge and violence."

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; Front Page News; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: communism; latinamericalist; terrorism
JANUARY 2002 - Venezuela's Chavez Steps up Verbal Attacks On Church-- Calls It a "Tumor" for the Country's "Revolution" ***CARACAS, Venezuela, ( Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez assailed the country´s Catholic bishops, accusing them of not "walking in the way of God" because they do not openly support the political leader´s "revolution." ….In past months, Chávez has tried, unsuccessfully, to establish a Church loyal to his government (similar to that in China), separated from the bishops, with priests and former priests who subscribe to his Marxist ideology.

His criticisms against the Church grew harsher after 80,000 protesters marched last Wednesday in Caracas in opposition to his government. This was the largest protest against the 3-year-old Chávez government. As a result, the president has sped up the militarization of his regime with the appointment of Ramón Rodríguez Chacín as Interior Minister. Chacín was a navy captain who took part in the failed 1992 coup organized by Chávez himself.

The appointment followed soon after the suspension of Vice President Adina Bastidas, who was replaced by Diosdado Cabello, a retired colonel who also took part in the failed coup against democracy. Four other military men of the unsuccessful coup are now in the Cabinet. At least 50 soldiers occupy midlevel posts in government, the diplomatic corps and state-run enterprises. ***

January 2002- Opposition lawmakers attacked by supporters of Venezuela's President Chavez****CARACAS, Venezuela -- Dozens of supporters of President Hugo Chavez attacked opposition lawmakers trying to leaving Venezuela's legislature following a marathon session late Saturday. ….Supporters of the president, known as "chavistas," attacked the legislators -- shoving, hitting and in some cases throwing rocks -- after a nine-hour session that ended with a Chavez ally's re-election as president of the National Assembly. Chavez called the violence a "warning" to the opposition "and its absurd and evil intention" of trying to destabilize his government. He threatened to deploy supporters on "every street corner" to "defend the revolution," as the leftist leader refers to his policies.***

February 2002 - Chavez Tries Charm to Disarm Critics (Russian and Cuban security advisers in Venezuela) ***The official said he was also concerned at the growing role of Russian and Cuban security advisers in Venezuela. Egui Bastidas said he had experienced "the direct participation and the attempts at indoctrination by the Russian and Cuban intelligence services, who have direct and virtually unlimited access within the Helicoide (DISIP's headquarters building)." The official's lawyer, former DISIP Secretary-General Joaquin Chaffardet, said around 100 members of the Cuban intelligence services are currently operating in Venezuela. The new allegations would, if proven, further strain the already difficult relationship between the United States and Venezuela.***

March 2002- Chavez's image taken off altars *** Lately, Chavez declared himself a member of a charismatic congregation, thus allegedly belonging to his country's fastest-growing branch of Christianity. But then he angered the country's National Catholic Bishops Conference by communing at a Mass organized by a priest of pro-Communist leanings.***

April 2002 Chavistas: Venezuelan street toughs "Comandante" Lina Ron, who considers herself a modern version of "Tania," a woman who fought alongside Cuban revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara, says she is a willing martyr for Chavez's cause. She was arrested after leading a violent pro-Chavez counter-protest against demonstrating university students………. In recent months, the 42-year-old Ron has organized and led street marches - called "countermarches" here - to stop or intimidate demonstrations by civilians and a disorganized opposition to Chavez.

Two December marches to Miraflores, the presidential palace, were stopped by Ron's "countermarches." A February march to the National Assembly to commemorate Venezuelan democracy was similarly met - and diverted - by a countermarch. Ron and her followers burned a U.S. flag in Caracas' central Plaza Bolivar just after the September terrorist attacks in the United States. The anti-Washington demonstration appalled many Venezuelans.

More recently, Ron's followers threatened journalists at El Nacional newspaper in Caracas. Chavez has called Ron a political prisoner. "We salute Lina Ron, a female soldier who deserves the respect of all Venezuelans," he said recently.*** (More at LINK)

U.S. Cautioned Leader of Plot Against Chávez***On Capitol Hill, Democrats voiced concern that the administration meetings with anti-Chávez leaders might undercut Washington's credibility as the region's main advocate for democracy.

"I'm very concerned about what message it sends about our support for democracy there and around the world," said Senator Tom Daschle, the Democratic majority leader. "I think that we've got to be supportive of democratic principles even when they choose to elect people we don't like."

In some ways, the back-and-forth between administration officials and Democrats recalled the suspicion and bitter policy battles over Central America and Cuba during the Reagan administration. The administration's foreign policy team is dominated by anti-Castro hard-liners, who fought those policy battles, and they are running afoul of familiar antagonists including Senator Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat who has long specialized in Latin American affairs.

Mr. Dodd expressed dismay that the administration had been slow to criticize Mr. Chávez's ouster. Administration officials erroneously reported on Friday that Mr. Chávez had resigned and said his antidemocratic behavior was responsible for his undoing. Only after Mr. Chávez had been restored on Saturday did the administration support a resolution at the Organization of American States condemning the interruption of democratic rule.

"While all the details of the attempted coup in Venezuela are not yet known, what is clear is that the vast majority of governments in the hemisphere lived up to their responsibilities under the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and denounced the unconstitutional efforts to take power from a government which had been freely elected," Mr. Dodd said.

Mr. Reich, who is a Cuban exile, warned Congressional aides that there was more at stake in Venezuela than the success or failure of Mr. Chávez. American officials accuse Mr. Chávez of meddling with the historically independent state oil company, providing haven to Colombian guerrillas and bailing out Cuba with preferential rates on oil.

In the closed door briefing, Mr. Reich said the administration had received reports that "foreign paramilitary forces" suspected to be Cubans were involved in the bloody suppression of anti-Chávez demonstrators, in which at least 14 people were killed, a Congressional official said today.

Mr. Reich, who declined to be interviewed today, offered no evidence for his assertion, the official said. ***

FARC: A Terrorist Regime waiting in the Wings-- Hugo Chavez's involvement.

MORE: Hugo Chavez - Venezuela

1 posted on 04/17/2002 12:19:23 PM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: All
Who's in charge of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez or Fidel Castro?

Fidel Castro - Cuba

2 posted on 04/17/2002 12:21:45 PM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
Two party politics? The First Division and the Second Division?
3 posted on 04/17/2002 12:24:38 PM PDT by Doctor Stochastic
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Hugo Chavez, left, is embraced by Fidel Castro in this Dec. 14, 1994 , file photo at the University of Havana, Cuba, during Chavez's visit to Cuba at Castro's invitation. Chavez, whose self-proclaimed mission was to fulfill the dreams of 19th century independence fighter Simon Bolivar of a free and unified South America, was Friday ousted at age 47. (AP Photo/CP, Jose Goitia, File)
4 posted on 04/17/2002 12:24:40 PM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: Doctor Stochastic
Chavez learned, in order for him to rule, he needs the army at his side.
5 posted on 04/17/2002 12:25:41 PM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: All
Cuban celebrate Venezuelan president's return to power, term his victory his nation's 'Bay of Pigs' *** A delegation of Cuban sports officials also traveled to Venezuela on Tuesday to visit with some of the more 600 Cuban sports technicians, physicians, physical therapists and other specialists working there.***
6 posted on 04/17/2002 12:52:59 PM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: *Latin_America_list
index bump
7 posted on 04/17/2002 1:01:27 PM PDT by Fish out of Water
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To: Fish out of Water
What's really happening in Venezuela***To that effect an invasion of Cuban "workers" replaced many Venezuelan workers (leaving Venezuelans unemployed), started mingling in internal affairs, and introduced communist indoctrination. This indoctrination extends from children in elementary school through to university.

Cuba sent additional "teachers" and "doctors" to help in the proselytizing. And China -- notorious for violations of human rights and unfriendliness to America - also sent "workers" to help Chavez's regime.

As Castro did in Cuba after 1959, the armed forces of Venezuela were reorganized by putting Chavez's cronies in charge of all important positions in the military. And as in Cuba, promotions became conditional on political beliefs. Cuban military advisers and intelligence operatives descended on Venezuela to help organize the repressive apparatus necessary to keep the new dictator in place.

The so-called "Cubanization" of Venezuela was well underway when, on June 10, 2001, Chavez, following Castro's example and guidelines, created paramilitary battalions to repress and intimidate his political adversaries. While in Cuba they are called "Rapid Response Brigades" Chavez called his "Bolivarian Circles."***

8 posted on 04/17/2002 1:19:38 PM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
Reuters use of euphemisms constantly astounds. Chavez= "feisty?" How about 'power-mad' or 'megalomanical?' These seem more appropriate.

If Reuters was writing a story on Lenin today, they would probably describe him as "feisty" too.
9 posted on 04/17/2002 3:08:32 PM PDT by bourbon
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To: bourbon
I know. The worst one they use - and they use it often - is "firebrand." They just can't bring themselves to label him
a communist. I guess they believe they've covered that base by saying Castro is his mentor and closest ally.
10 posted on 04/18/2002 1:19:03 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
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