Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Is Greg Craig driving US Latin America policy?

The Wall Street Journal

Is Greg Craig driving U.S. Latin America policy?

By MARY ANASTASIA O’GRADY

Former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya returned to his country on Friday, traveling by SUV from Nicaragua to a small border town. It was his first time back in Honduras since he was arrested and deported on June 28 for violating the constitution.

Mr. Zelaya appeared somewhat disappointed that his theatrical re-entry did not provoke a shoot-out. A few hours later he jumped back into Nicaragua where Sandinista President Daniel Ortega has given him shelter.

If Mr. Zelaya keeps this up, the crisis could drag on. But however the standoff is resolved, it is likely to be remembered as a defining moment for U.S. Latin America policy under Barack Obama.

Mr. Zelaya had means, motive and opportunity to destroy the country’s democratic institutions and was moving to do so. If he succeeded, he could have consolidated power in the manner of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and turned the country into a police state. Mr. Obama’s insistence that Mr. Zelaya be restored to power has strengthened the image of an arrogant and patronizing Uncle Sam disconnected from the region’s reality.

Hondurans might be more amenable to an Obama democracy lecture if the U.S. showed any interest in standing up to Mr. Chávez and his antidemocratic allies or any grasp of the dangers they present. Instead, since taking office in January the American president has embraced the region’s bad actors only to be subsequently embarrassed by revelations that his new “friends” are actually enemies of liberty and peace.

The weirdness started with the April Summit of the Americas in Trinidad, when Mr. Obama practically high-fived Mr. Chávez like they were long lost soul mates. The administration’s spin was that tension in the region was caused by George W. Bush. The charming Mr. Obama would change all that, and from there U.S. influence would rise again. Mr. Chávez didn’t get the memo. On July 19, the Washington Post reported that a new Government Accountability Office report finds “that corruption at high levels of President Hugo Chavez’s government, and state aid to Colombia’s drug-trafficking guerrillas, have made Venezuela a major launching pad for cocaine bound for the United States and Europe.” Now Mr. Chávez says he will overthrow the Honduran government.
Mr. Obama called Ecuador’s Rafael Correa in early June to “congratulate” him on his recent re-election, and according to a White House spokesman, “express his desire to deepen our bilateral relationship and to maintain an ongoing dialogue that can ensure a productive relationship based on mutual respect.” This made Mr. Obama look uninformed again since Mr. Correa’s disrespect for U.S. interests is legendary.
On June 22, I reported in this column that Colombian military intelligence had evidence the Correa government is a supporter of the Colombian rebel group FARC. A furious Mr. Correa jumped in front of television cameras to issue a threat to sue The Wall Street Journal. “We are fed up with their lies,” he warned.

The Americas in the News
Get the latest information in Spanish from The Wall Street Journal’s Americas page.

He couldn’t know that the Associated Press would release a video days later of a rebel reading a letter from the FARC’s deceased leader about “compromising” documents that talk of the FARC’s financial support for Mr. Correa’s 2006 presidential campaign and “agreements” with Correa envoys. Reporting on the news, the Spanish daily El Pais wrote that “various emails from the computers of [FARC honcho] Raúl Reyes tell about the delivery of $100,000 to the Correa campaign team. What is new is that a high-ranking leader of the guerrillas verbally acknowledges the contribution.” Mr. Correa denies FARC connections and says it is a “setup.” No word yet on whether he plans to sue all the other newspapers that subsequently reported the story.

Having established that making nice with the region’s troublemakers is a priority, Mr. Obama now wants Mr. Zelaya—who was endorsed by the FARC last week—reinstated. If Honduras does not comply, the U.S. is threatening to freeze assets and revoke the visas of interim government officials.

Some Washington watchers figure this bizarre stance is due to the fact that Mr. Obama is relying heavily on White House Counsel Gregory Craig for advice on Latin America.

Mr. Craig was the lawyer for Fidel Castro—er, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, the father of Elian Gonzalez—during Bill Clinton’s 2000 repatriation to Cuba of the seven-year-old. During the presidential campaign when Mr. Craig was advising Mr. Obama, the far-left Council on Hemispheric Affairs endorsed Mr. Craig as “the right man to revive deeply flawed U.S.-Latin America relations.” In other words, to pull policy left.

There is plenty of speculation that Mr. Obama is making policy off of Mr. Craig’s “expertise.” It is not too much to believe. Indeed, if all policy is now being run out of the White House, as many observers contend, then the views of the White House counsel may explain a lot.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Case Honduras: To Mr. Barack Obama and Mrs. Hillary Clinton

Logo Recivex


Resistencia Civil de Venezolanos en el Exterior addresses
the President and Secretary of State of the United States of America,
Mr. Barack Obama and Mrs. Hillary Clinton

With all due respect for said citizens, who hold the highest offices in the admired Northern country, we would like to express our astonishment regarding the position their government has taken in the case of the Honduran crisis.

As citizens who believe in the principles of a participatory democracy and in the values that constitute the foundation of a nation, we are of the opinion that Manuel Zelaya, the ousted president of Honduras, violated the Honduran Constitution by disregarding the decisions made by his country’s institutions concerning his actions, which were against that established by Law, and disrespected the Armed Forces constitutional mandate. Additionally, he allowed the intromission of the governments of Venezuela and Nicaragua in affairs that belong solely to the sovereignty of the Honduran nation.

When the United States of America punishes with all their might the new Honduran government, they are simultaneously sending the wrong message to the world, they are saying: “Obey dictators like Chavez, now you know what will happen to those countries that defend their rightful Constitution”.

We are Resistencia Civil de Venezolanos en el Exterior, we are RECIVEX

RECIVEX - Civil Resistance of Venezuelans Overseas is a non- profit organization, conformed by Venezuelan volunteers, with representation in different cities around the world. Our mission is to develop, to execute and to promote initiatives destined to fortify the collective and individual exercise of the fundamental rights of the citizens of our nation. Our main tasks is to inform the international community on the Venezuelan reality, with special emphasis in those matters and circumstances that threaten or violate the democratic principles in our country. Registered in the state of Connecticut, USA.

RECIVEX strives for a democratic, harmonious Venezuela living in justice and liberty.

311 Eastern Street • E 1005 New Haven, CT 06513 • 203-4690434 •
recivex@gmail.com


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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Why defend the rule of law in Honduras but not in Venezuela

The Washington Post, Editorial -
Friday, July 24, 2009

Why defend the rule of law in Honduras but not in Venezuela?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/23/AR2009072303003.html?nav=hcmoduletmv

LATIN AMERICAN diplomats remain preoccupied with the political crisisin Honduras, which has been teetering between a negotiated solutionthat would conditionally restore ousted President Manuel Zelaya tooffice and an escalation of conflict that would play into the hands ofanti-democratic forces around the region. While the drama drags on,those forces continue to advance in other countries, unremarked on bysome of the same governments that rushed to condemn Mr. Zelaya'souster. So it's worth reporting on a meeting that took place Tuesday at the Organization of American States headquarters in Washington between OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza and three elected Venezuelanleaders who, like Mr. Zelaya, have been deprived of their powers and threatened with criminal prosecution.

The three are Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma and the governors of twostates, Pablo Pérez of Zulia and César Pérez Vivas of Tachira. All three won election in November, along with several other opposition leaders. But since then, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has used decrees, a rubber-stamp parliament and a politically compromised legal system to strip the officials of control over key services and infrastructure.

Mr. Insulza, a Chilean socialist who has been flamboyant in his defense of Mr. Zelaya, listened to the Venezuelans' account. But the OAS leader insisted that there was nothing he could do about Mr.Chávez's actions, even under the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which was adopted by all 34 active OAS members in 2001. This month, Mr.Insulza helped spur the OAS to suspend Honduras on the grounds that it had violated the charter. But in the case of Mr. Chávez's stripping power from the governors and mayors, Mr. Insulza said, "I can't say whether it is bad or good." His authority, he said, is limited to"trying to establish bridges between the parties."

That is not how Mr. Insulza handled the case of Honduras, of course. Far from promoting dialogue, the secretary general refused to negotiate r even speak with the president elected by the Honduran National Congress to replace Mr. Zelaya. Instead he joined in a Venezuelan-orchestrated attempt to force Mr. Zelaya's return that, predictably, led to violence. Now, with an attempted mediation by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias stalled, Mr. Zelaya is again threatening to enter the country without an agreement. Don't expect the OAS chief to dissuade him.

Still, Mr. Insulza has a point. The weakness of the Democratic Charter is that it protects presidents from undemocratic assault but does not readily allow OAS intervention in cases where the executive himself is responsible for violating the constitutional order -- as Mr.Zelaya did before his ouster. The Honduras crisis provides an opportunity for the Obama administration to seek changes in those rules. If the administration is to depend on organizations such as the OAS to advance its policies in Latin America, it must push it to counter attacks on democracy whenever and wherever they occur.

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Is silence consent? The Obama administrations engagement policy is convenient for Hugo Chavez's lates crackdown

“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people- but the silence over that by the good people.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. (American Baptist Minister and Civil-Rights Leader. 1929-1968)
Is Silence Consent? The Obama administration's 'engagement' policy is convenient for Hugo Chávez's latest crackdown.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

WHILE THE United States and Venezuela's neighbors silently stand by, Hugo Chávez's campaign to destroy his remaining domestic opposition continues. On Thursday night state intelligence police raided the Caracas offices of Guillermo Zuloaga, the president of the country's last independent broadcast network, Globovision. They claimed to be looking for evidence of irregularities in the car dealership that Mr. Zuloaga also runs. In fact this was a thinly disguised escalation of an attack that Mr. Chávez launched this month against Globovision. The channel has been officially accused of "inciting panic," based on its accurate reporting of a mild May 4 earthquake in Caracas; under the regime's draconian media control law it could be shut down. Few doubt that that is Mr. Chávez's intent: Two years ago he revoked the license of the country's most popular television network after a similarly trumped-up campaign.

To recap: In February Mr. Chávez eliminated the limit on his tenure as president after a one-sided referendum campaign that included ugly attacks on Venezuela's Jewish community. Since then he has imprisoned or orchestrated investigations against most of the country's leading opposition figures, including three of the five opposition governors elected last year. The elected mayor of Maracaibo, who was the leading opposition candidate when Mr. Chávez last ran for president, was granted asylum in Peru last month after authorities sought his arrest on dubious tax charges. The National Assembly, controlled by Mr. Chávez, is considering legislation that would eliminate collective bargaining and replace independent trade unions with "worker's councils" controlled by the ruling party. Another new law would eliminate foreign financing for independent non-government groups.

This is hardly the first time that a Latin American caudillo has tried to eliminate peaceful opponents: Mr. Chávez is following a path well worn by the likes of Juan Perón and Alberto Fujimori -- not to mention his mentor, Fidel Castro. But this may be the first time that the United States has watched the systematic destruction of a Latin American democracy in silence. As Mr. Chávez has implemented the "third phase" of his self-styled revolution, the Obama administration has persisted with the policy of quiet engagement that the president promised before taking office.

"We need to find a space in which we can actually have a conversation, and we need to find ways to enhance our levels of confidence," Assistant Secretary of State Thomas A. Shannon Jr. said two weeks ago, echoing earlier remarks by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. We have no objection to dialogue with Mr. Chávez. But isn't it time to start talking about preserving independent television stations, opposition political leaders, trade unions and human rights groups -- before it is too late?

© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Courting Mr Chavez, The Obama administration seeks to please strongman by ignoring his crakdown on domestic opposition

If you don't know Manual Rosales left Venezuela to Peru, because Chavez wants to put him in jail, without having a fair court case.
vdebate reporter
Courting Mr. Chávez
The Obama administration seeks to please a strongman by ignoring his crackdown on domestic opposition.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

ONE OF Venezuela's most important politicians was granted asylum in Peru this week. Manuel Rosales, a former state governor who challenged Hugo Chávez in the 2006 presidential election and won election as mayor of Maracaibo last fall, fled the country to avoid imprisonment. He was being prosecuted on dubious corruption charges; the investigation began only after Mr. Chávez shouted on television that "I'm going to put you in jail, Rosales!" Mr. Rosales is one of at least seven major Chávez opponents, including three of the five opposition state governors, who have been imprisoned or subjected to criminal or tax investigations during the past two months.

It is reasonable to ask how the Obama administration is reacting to this major new campaign against what remains of Venezuela's democracy, especially given the president's friendly handshake with Mr. Chávez at the Summit of the Americas two weeks ago. The answer: It isn't. The administration has maintained a deliberate silence about the persecution of the elected politicians, a dissident former defense minister and a leading journalist. Meanwhile, the State Department is lauding what it calls the "positive development" in U.S.-Venezuelan relations: Mr. Chávez's offer to exchange ambassadors. "We buy a lot of their oil," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week. "Let's see if we can begin to turn that relationship."

Ms. Clinton seems to believe that Mr. Chávez's escalating domestic repression shouldn't be an impediment to better relations with the United States -- an attitude in keeping with her already-stated views about such nations as China, Egypt and Turkey. She pointed out in her congressional testimony that Venezuela has been developing close relations with Iran, and that "it's a serious matter if any country in our hemisphere falls under the sway of Iran or someone else who is inimicable to our interests."

"Let's try to see whether there is any opportunity to move President Chávez away from the influences" of Iran and others, she proposed.

That's certainly a worthy goal -- and we have no objection to Mr. Obama's handshake with Mr. Chávez. The administration's strategy -- to open up a constructive dialogue with Venezuela and avoid being cast as Mr. Chávez's Yanqui foil -- is reasonable; it is also the same strategy as was tried, unsuccessfully, by the previous two administrations. What doesn't make sense is to deliberately ignore steps by Mr. Chávez to consolidate an autocracy. In so doing, the administration encourages Latin American governments that have shrunk from confronting the Venezuelan strongman to continue in their own silence. It sends pro-Chávez governments in countries such as Bolivia and Nicaragua the message that they can persecute their own domestic opponents with impunity. And it makes it more rather than less likely that Venezuela, with the help of Iran and Russia, will become a threat to the United States.

Peru's democratic government is to be congratulated for its decision to offer Mr. Rosales

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Otto Reich: Obama’s Encounter With Chavez Damaged U.S. Foreign Policy

I agree with Otto Reich
vdebate Reporter
Otto Reich: Obama’s Encounter With Chavez Damaged U.S. Foreign Policy
Monday, April 20, 2009 1:27
PM
By: Jim Meyers
Article Font Size
Former U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela Otto Reich tells Newsmax that Hugo Chavez is calling President Barack Obama’s “hobnobbing” with the Venezuelan leader the “greatest triumph in Venezuelan diplomacy ever.”
Reich, who also served as a special envoy and diplomat under President Reagan and both Presidents Bush, said it was an embarrassing mistake for Obama to be photographed accepting an America-bashing book from the Venezuelan strongman.
Newsmax.TV’s Ashley Martella noted that photographs snapped at the weekend’s Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago showed Obama hobknobbing with Chavez, shaking hands, and smiling with the Venezuelan, and asked for his take on that.

“I think it’s very unfortunate. I don’t think President Obama really understands, perhaps out of lack of experience in international affairs, the importance of symbolism,” said Reich, who was policy adviser on Latin America for John McCain’s presidential campaign.

“You don’t go around slapping the back of a foreign dictator, a would-be dictator in the case of Chavez, who has done everything in his power to undermine U.S. interests in the region and who calls himself an enemy of the United States.”

Martella asked whether people will “misinterpret” those photos.
Reich responded that the pictures certainly are being misinterpreted in Venezuela “despite what President Obama wishes. I think he probably realizes now that he made a mistake.
“But in Venezuela Hugo Chavez said last night this is the greatest triumph in Venezuelan diplomacy ever. Because what he is trying to do is to portray this as an endorsement of his policies, which is calls 21st century socialism but which is really just retread 20th-century fascism.”

Chavez is seeking to “portray this warm handshake, and a slap on the back which came later, as an endorsement of Chavez, which I’m sure President Obama did not intend,” Reich said.
“That is the way it is being portrayed not only in Venezuela but in the rest of the continent, all of Latin America.”

Martella referred to photos of Chavez giving Obama an anti-American book entitled “Open Veins of Latin America,” which Obama accepted and posed with for the cameras, and asked whether that was a mistake on Obama’s part.

“Absolutely it was a mistake,” Reich declared.
“It was also frankly a mistake by the staff. They should have prevented that.
“I worked for three presidents. I don’t think that would have happened with President Reagan or either one of the President Bushes. They should not have put President Obama in that embarrassing situation because this is very much an anti-U.S. book. Anti-Europe as well.
“It’s a book that’s about 30 years old, written by a far-left Latin American, a very unknown author. And now Chavez has put this book on top of, I’m told, the Amazon sales list.”
Reich, who was born in Cuba, was asked to comment on assertions from opponents of the trade embargo with Cuba that hurting the Cuban people is counter-productive.
“Hurting the Cuban people is counterproductive, and that’s why we should do everything we can to see a regime change in Cuba,” Reich said.
“The Cuban people have been hurt by 50 years of Marxist-Leninist dictatorship. It’s not the U.S. embargo that has hurt the Cuban people. Castro can trade with 175 countries in the world. It’s only the United States that doesn’t trade with him directly.
“In fact we are the single largest provider of food to Cuba. We provided $700 million in food to Cuba last year, more than anybody else — in fact more than the next several countries combined.
“So the United States is not hurting Cuba. What’s hurting Cuba is the Castro dictatorship — the last military dictatorship in this hemisphere.”
[Editor's Note: Watch former Ambassador Otto Reich discuss Venezuela, Cuba and Obama’s foreign policy - Go Here Now]
© 2009 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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Empower democracy, rein in tyrants

Empower democracy, rein in tyrants
BY ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN
www.ros-lehtinen.house.gov
Sunday marked the conclusion of the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago. This meeting could have offered a valuable opportunity to stand up to the region's despotic leaders who claim that their radical visions -- rather than the voice of the people -- should usher in a new age in our hemisphere. It could have offered an opportunity to move forward on further agreements toward the realization of the Free Trade Area of the Americas. But that was not to be.
With U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton set to appear before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on Wednesday, it is critical that we press for the United States to advance a vigorous agenda that reflects America's long standing commitment to freedom and democracy as the bedrock of our policy in Latin America.
Democratic institutions in the hemisphere are under increasing assault from internal and external actors. Nicaragua's November municipal elections were widely recognized as illegitimate. In Venezuela, President Hugo Chávez has moved beyond attacks on property rights and freedom of press to an explicit and concerted campaign against his opposition. Bolivia and Ecuador have resumed their baseless accusations against the United States and continue to advance their authoritarian agendas.
Preying on the anti-American and anti-democratic sentiment promoted by the regimes of these countries, a realignment is taking place with rogue regimes such as Iran and Cuba. Using Chávez as his personal broker, Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has joined forces with several of the above-mentioned countries to denounce U.S. democratic standards and threaten regional security objectives.
This planned assault on core democratic values and free market principles continued at the summit. Even responsible nations failed to counter the paltry moral equivalency arguments raised by repressive leaders and their enablers.
In fact, the summit discussions remind me of the farcical Durban 2 Conference taking place this week in Geneva. These forums have been hijacked by repressors, tyrants and regime leaders who deprecate democratic principles and ideals.
Several countries in the region used the summit to advocate, not for the rights of the Cuban people, but for the Cuban regime's undeserved return to the inter-American system. But the United States must not allow the picture of this hemisphere to be painted by those who despise liberty, nor by those who wish and work to do us harm. Rather, we must stand up for freedom and make support for our democratic allies the central tenet of our policy in the Western Hemisphere.
Security issues throughout the region are having a direct impact on the ability of responsible nations to advance democratic principles. From narcotrafficking to organized crime, Islamic radicals to the FARC in Colombia, and the influence of tyrannical regimes from Iran to Syria, the hemisphere is in critical need of a comprehensive model of partnership and responsibility that binds leaders to the obligations outlined in the Inter-American Democratic Charter and other such accords.
The United States must not falter in our expectation that countries we work with adhere to these values. Programs like the Millennium Challenge Corporation Compacts should be leveraged to ensure Americans are getting a return on our investments in the hemisphere.
In the aftermath of the summit, it will be up to Secretary Clinton to implement the U.S. agenda and up to the Congress to decide where taxpayer funds are most needed. With great economic challenges at home, we must ensure that our resources are focused on strengthening, supporting and empowering our democratic allies, rather than wasted on efforts that only benefit tyrants and oppressors.
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, is the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Obama, Hillary and Chavez

Chavez told Obama= I want to be your friend.
But what about Venezuelans Humans Rights?
What about fair elections in Venezuela?
What about Chavez changing laws in Venezuela and his dictatorship?







Hillary and Chavez

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Help Rescue Venezuelan Political Prisoners, from Chavez Government.

Summit of the Americas 2009:
Attention: Presidents


Help Rescue Venezuelan Political Prisoners, from Chavez Government.

The Chavez Government controls the criminal justice in Venezuela . It has brought false criminal charges against over 45 political targets, violating their rights by:

  • Character assassination.
  • Fabricating criminal charges/evidence.
  • Torturing /bribing witnesses.
  • Breaching privacy/confidentiality.
  • Appointing/controlling judges.
  • Groundless pre-trial incarceration and denial of bail.
  • Harassing attorneys


Notable cases:
Ivan Simonovis, Lazaro Forero and Henry Vivas: Police deputies on duty during the April 11, 2002, events that briefly removed Chavez from power. Convicted of homicide.
Francisco Uson: Retired General resigned as Secretary of Finance during April 11, 2002, events. Convicted of revealing military secrets.
Otto Gebauer: Air Force Captain ordered to transport Chavez to provisional detainment during April 11, 2002, events. Convicted of kidnapping the president.
Otoniel, Rolando and Juan Guevara: Police officers convicted of murdering a District Attorney based on paid false testimony.
Nixon Moreno : College student who led youth opposition movement. Accused of attempted sexual assault against a policewoman. Granted asylum by the Vatican .
Humberto Quintero: Lt. Colonel who captured and returned FARC leader to Colombian government. Convicted of treason.
Felipe Rodriguez: General who spoke out against Chavez and led others to follow. Convicted of military rebellion.
Jose “Maraco” Dacre: Citizen who assisted student movement. Accused of public insurgence.

FOREING GOVERNMENTS CAN HELP BY CONDITIONING DISCUSSIONS WITH THE CHAVEZ GOVERNMENT ON RESTORATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE RULE OF LAW IN VENEZUELA .


The following NGOs have sponsored this message:
Foro Penal Venezolano
Fundación para el Debido Proceso - http://www.fundepro.com.ve/
Nueva Conciencia Nacional
Fundación Justicia Libre - http://www.fundacionjusticialibre.com/
Compromiso Ciudadano a.c.
Control Ciudadano para la Seguridad, la Defensa y la Fuerza Armada Nacional
http://www.controlciudadano.org/
Venezuela Awareness Foundation - http://www.venezuelaawareness.org/
Movimiento 2D - http://www.movimiento2d.org/

Victimas Venezolanas de Violencia de Estado (VIVE)

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

The beginning of the end is setting in for Hugo Chavez

Closing In On Hugo Chávez


The beginning of the end is setting in for Hugo Chávez.

The authoritarian Venezuelan president is holding a referendum tomorrow on a constitutional change that would allow him to run for president indefinitely. Pollsters say Chávez leads slightly, but the election ismostly irrelevant. Barring an oil miracle, the former army paratrooperis slowly being undone by his economic mismanagement and corruption, like any of a number of populist strongmen before him.

Oil prices may recover somewhat from their current lows of around $40 a barrel, but not soon and not anywhere near the more than $80 a barrel thatChávez needs to stave off a major currency devaluation that would stoke rampaging inflation and food shortages. His is a chronicle of a political death foretold, an old story that ended in most of LatinAmerica in the 1980s but that Chávez and too many Venezuelans chose tore visit.

There is a lesson here for the new Obama administration. It should not engage Chávez in public quarreling and certainly should not work privately against him inside Venezuela. Both approaches are afool's errands, ones that leftover Cold War warriors foisted on GeorgeW. Bush during his first term. The clever Chávez verbally made Bush into a laughing stock south of the border and badly damaged hemispheric trust in the United States when the Bush administration seemed to endorse a 2002 coup against Chávez that failed.

Obama should merely ignore Chávez and let Venezuelans take care of him. Much is made of how Chávez is a troublemaker who has enlisted Bolivia, Ecuador,Nicaragua, Honduras and Cuba in an anti-American leftist alliance. Whocares? None of these small countries is a threat or wants to be. Thereis no Soviet Union to use them as a platform, and Chinese dabbling in the hemisphere is purely commercial.

History is also a guide. Two Venezuelan dictators in the past century made similar constitutional changes to be reelected, and both were overthrown a year later -- the last one in 1958, beginning the democratic cycle that led to Chávez. In 10 years as president, however, Chávez has been a poster boy for"illiberal democracy," using majority votes, mostly from the poor and uneducated, to gut the country's Congress and courts, shut down independent media, and nationalize many industries.

Chávez lost asimilar referendum 14 months ago. For this coming vote, he has resorted to 1930s fascist tactics of fomenting insecurity -- and then rising inthe polls. His supporters have thrown tear-gas bombs at the homes of opponents (and even at the Vatican mission), attacked demonstrators, and singled out opposition student leaders as Jewish, creating aclimate in which a synagogue was desecrated two weeks ago. Now Chávez campaigns as the alternative to this chaos.

To be sure, Chávez has some genuine support. He has halved the rate of extreme poverty ina country that has long been badly run and cursed by the popularirresponsibility common to so many oil countries. With oil largess,Chávez built schools and hospitals for the poor and led the country ina consumption boom. But crime and corruption boomed, too, and he built nothing economically sustainable.

As Christopher Sabatini of the Americas Society in New York says: "The global economy is passing Chávez by, and sadly for him and all the leftists who saw in him an antidote to globalization, their Bolivarian dreams are about to end with the collapse of the one source of their power: oil."

Inflation in Venezuela is running at 31 percent, by far the highest in Latin America, and is expected to hit 45 percent this year. The official exchange rate is 2.15 bolivares to the dollar, but the black market is at more than 5 bolivares, a gap so large that the government will have no choice but to devalue the currency, which will cause local prices to rise still more. The government has enough reserves for the next year to continue subsidizing food prices, but that has caused food shortages. And the government is so far behind on payments to oil contractors that many have stopped working, cutting back production from the goose that lays the golden eggs. Oil accounts for 95 percentof Venezuela's exports.

This is a familiar picture. It has led to chaos and coups in Latin America. Chávez's opponents, many of them young, say they want to defeat him fairly in the next elections, scheduled in 2012. They may not have the luxury of his lasting thatlong.

Edward Schumacher-Matos is syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group. His e-mail address is edward.schumachermatos@yahoo.com


Saturday, February 14, 2009; A19
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/13/AR2009021302727.html?sub=AR

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Los Angeles Times. Venezuela tolerates FARC rebels in border region, residents say

Obama is right, Chavez support the Colombian terrorist group:"FARC"
vdebate reporter
From the Los Angeles Times
Venezuela tolerates FARC rebels in border region, residents say
Indigenous communities in northwestern Zulia state complain that Colombian rebels are encroaching on their towns, taking their land and supplies and eroding their culture.
By Chris Kraul

January 21, 2009

Reporting from Tocuco, Venezuela — Members of Colombia's largest rebel group live openly on or near several Indian reservations in western Venezuela with at least the tacit approval of President Hugo Chavez, indigenous leaders here charge.

Although the border area has long absorbed Colombian refugees fleeing decades of war, members of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia have become visible as never before in the last two or three years, buying supplies, looking for medical assistance and forging relationships with indigenous women, said Venezuelan Congressman Arcadio Montiel, a Wayuu Indian.

Leaders of several Indian communities clustered around this town in a wild rain forest area that forms the border with Colombia told The Times over the weekend that the FARC's presence is harming their culture and youth.

"They have replaced the caciques, or chiefs, as authority figures and so who do the youths now want to emulate? The rebels," said Javier Armato, a Yupa Indian who is a former Zulia state deputy and onetime Chavez supporter.

During his 10 years in office, socialist Chavez, a fierce critic of the United States, has often expressed admiration and affinity for the FARC. In 2007, Chavez said his country shared a border not with Colombia, but with territory controlled by the FARC.

Chavez has toned down his pro-FARC rhetoric since March, when Colombian officials said data from a laptop recovered in a raid on a rebel camp in Ecuador indicated that the Venezuelan leader may have had contact with FARC leaders, even offering them material support. Chavez denied any such contact.

"Chavez sees the rebels as a line of defense in the event of U.S. interference or a civil war," said Montiel, another former Chavista who broke with the president over the presence of the FARC in his home state, Zulia, and joined splinter party Podemos. He was interviewed last week in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital.

Montiel and several community leaders say the FARC operates camps in the Perija Mountains to the west, where they say the rebels rest and recruit and train Venezuelan Indian youths.

In an interview last year, Chavez political advisor Alberto Muller Rojas acknowledged the presence of Colombian rebels, saying that Venezuela has been a safe haven for more than 1 million Colombians fleeing war over the last several decades.

Muller Rojas said the rebels are more Colombia's responsibility than Venezuela's, as long as they don't harm residents.

But Indian leaders here say the rebels are slowly corrupting their cultures with arms, drugs and values that are anathema to their ways. They are also slowly taking control of Indian lands by squatting and by marrying indigenous women

On many Saturdays, rebel mule trains descend from the rugged Perija Mountains through the two dozen Indian communities that surround this town, indigenous leaders said.

After parking their mules in foothill pastures, the rebels continue on by bus into Machiques, the nearest big city, to make telephone calls, run business errands and go to a market, they said. The supplies are taken back up into the mountains.

At other times, they suddenly appear at doorways, seeking food, clothing or medicines.

"They don't pay for anything, it's always for 'solidarity. ' But you can't say no to them. Nor can you complain about them to others, because someone might inform on you," said one indigenous leader, who requested anonymity because of security concerns.

One reason more rebels are visible in Venezuela is the much more aggressive pursuit by Colombian armed forces under President Alvaro Uribe. But Montiel said it's also because the rebels are here at the "pleasure" of Chavez.

An official at the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees in Machiques, which provides help to 800 Colombians registered as refugees, said that nobody from his office has had direct contact with Colombian rebels, but that he has received an increasing number of complaints from Indians over the last two years.

Some in the government insist that the supposed rebels are actually displaced Colombian civilians. But all indigenous leaders interviewed here last weekend disputed that.

"Everyone in the area knows who the displaced are because they register with the U.N. Believe me, the people we see are FARC. How do we know? Because they identify themselves as such," said one local leader, who like others interviewed declined to give his name for fear of reprisal

A Roman Catholic priest in the region says the rebels' presence has brought acts of terrorism. "I can't talk to you about them because they'll kill me," said the priest, who also requested anonymity for security reasons.

Although there is a National Guard post 20 miles southeast of here, leaders say the Venezuelan armed forces make no effort to monitor or control the rebels' presence, said Armato, who has had to live in the state capital, Maracaibo, since he first denounced the rebels several years ago.

There is a general climate of insecurity in the border area, with the Chavez government blaming it on Colombian paramilitary forces who cross the border to chase the rebels, while ranchers say the rebels are responsible for a recent wave of kidnappings

"Instead of making friends with the guerrillas, Chavez should be defending the diversity and plurality of the nation," Montiel said.

chris.kraul@ latimes.com

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

How should Obama approach relations with Venezuela?

"Chavez is an extremely active enemy of the US and its democratic values and principles, which for many years he has managed to disguise using the unpopular President Bush as his cover"
Diego Arria
How Should Obama Approach Relations With Venezuela ?

Q: Barack Obama received warm wishes from Latin American leaders after his election as US president on November 4. Venezuela was among the countries sending congratulatory messages, expressing a desire for "new relations between our countries." Should Obama work for rapprochement with Venezuela ? What hazards should Obama avoid in his approach to Venezuela ? What would be the effects of more cordial relations between the two countries?

A: Board Comment: Diego Arria: "When the price of oil was above $130 a barrel, Chavez proclaimed that 'Obama represented the empire that had to be terminated.' Since prices dipped below $60 he has toned down his language, expressing the need for 'a normalization of relations.' What would normalization mean for Chavez? To have free rein to continue to promote subversive activities throughout the region, and to trample the rights of the Venezuelan people suffering the actions of a militarized, authoritarian regime. President Obama should not make the mistake of continuing to believe that it is possible to 'bridge the gap that divide us.'
Chavez is an extremely active enemy of the US and its democratic values and principles, which for many years he has managed to disguise using the unpopular President Bush as his cover. The US authorities know that Chavez has been the most important ally of the narcoterrorist forces of Colombia , which for years kept American citizens as hostages, and that he has turned Venezuela into a sanctuary of all kinds of unsavory and dangerous characters from around the globe. For Chavez to have the US as an enemy is fundamental to his political grandstanding both nationally and internationally. Without it he would be fighting his own shadow and forced to face the reality that after bringing in $800 billion during his mandate he has managed to bring Venezuela close to a collapse. He needs to blame 'the empire' to hide the incompetence and corruption of his regime."

Diego Arria is a member of the Advisor board, Director of the Columbus Group and former Permanent Representative of Venezuela at the United Nations.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Barack Obama taps Joe Biden for VP

I am happy to see that Obama's administration knows who is Chavez.
vdebate reporter
What effect does Joe Biden’s supposed vice presidential candidacy have for Latin America and the Caribbean? A search through Biden’s official website provides some clues:
Biden claims to have “the bully pulpit of the Drug Caucus” to fight against illegal drug use and illegal trafficking. He said that he was “a strong advocate” for the comprehensive aid package known as Plan Colombia and has “exerted pressure” on the Mexican government to combat trafficking.
In a June 2007 statement, Biden backed debate on a bipartisan immigration reform bill since the “immigration system is broken and we have an obligation to work on it until we fix it.” (That bill would eventually be defeated).
Took to the floor in 2006 to recognize “ten extraordinary women” as part of International Women’s Day; one of them was Mexican actress/producer Salma Hayek.
Pointed out “China’s growing soft power in Asia, Africa, and Latin America” during a May hearing on the growing global role of China.
After Raul Castro took over the Cuban presidency, Biden issued a statement calling for the trade embargo against the island to stay while also advocating the loosening of travel restrictions.
In a 2006 speech, Biden warned about the “Axis of Oil” which includes several countries he believed were a “grave danger” to the U.S. including Venezuela.
In addition, the very resourceful ontheissues.org lists several of Biden’s viewpoints on foreign policy including his 1995 vote to strengthen the trade embargo against Cuba and his resolution condemning Venezuela for pulling RCTV’s broadcast license.
Assuming that the reports are true over an Obama/Biden ticket, what do you think about it?

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Friday, November 7, 2008

Obama's Challenge

--November 5, 2008
Barack Obama has been elected president of the United States by a large majority in the Electoral College. The Democrats have dramatically increased their control of Congress, increasing the number of seats they hold in the House of Representatives and moving close to the point where — with a few Republican defections — they can have veto-proof control of the Senate. Given the age of some Supreme Court justices, Obama might well have the opportunity to appoint at least one and possibly two new justices. He will begin as one of the most powerful presidents in a long while.
Truly extraordinary were the celebrations held around the world upon Obama’s victory. They affirm the global expectations Obama has raised — and reveal that the United States must be more important to Europeans than the latter like to admit. (We can’t imagine late-night vigils in the United States over a French election.)
Obama is an extraordinary rhetorician, and as Aristotle pointed out, rhetoric is one of the foundations of political power. Rhetoric has raised him to the presidency, along with the tremendous unpopularity of his predecessor and a financial crisis that took a tied campaign and gave Obama a lead he carefully nurtured to victory. So, as with all politicians, his victory was a matter of rhetoric and, according to Machiavelli, luck. Obama had both, but now the question is whether he has Machiavelli’s virtue in full by possessing the ability to exercise power. This last element is what governing is about, and it is what will determine if his presidency succeeds.
Embedded in his tremendous victory is a single weakness: Obama won the popular vote by a fairly narrow margin, about 52 percent of the vote. That means that almost as many people voted against him as voted for him.
Obama’s Agenda vs. Expanding His Base
U.S. President George W. Bush demonstrated that the inability to understand the uses and limits of power can crush a presidency very quickly. The enormous enthusiasm of Obama’s followers could conceal how he — like Bush — is governing a deeply, and nearly evenly, divided country. Obama’s first test will be simple: Can he maintain the devotion of his followers while increasing his political base? Or will he believe, as Bush and Cheney did, that he can govern without concern for the other half of the country because he controls the presidency and Congress, as Bush and Cheney did in 2001? Presidents are elected by electoral votes, but they govern through public support.
Obama and his supporters will say there is no danger of a repeat of Bush — who believed he could carry out his agenda and build his political base at the same time, but couldn’t. Building a political base requires modifying one’s agenda. But when you start modifying your agenda, when you become pragmatic, you start to lose your supporters. If Obama had won with 60 percent of the popular vote, this would not be as pressing a question. But he barely won by more than Bush in 2004. Now, we will find out if Obama is as skillful a president as he was a candidate.

Obama will soon face the problem of beginning to disappoint people all over the world, a problem built into his job. The first disappointments will be minor. There are thousands of people hoping for appointments, some to Cabinet positions, others to the White House, others to federal agencies. Many will get something, but few will get as much as they hoped for. Some will feel betrayed and become bitter. During the transition process, the disappointed office seeker — an institution in American politics — will start leaking on background to whatever reporters are available. This will strike a small, discordant note; creating no serious problems, but serving as a harbinger of things to come.
Later, Obama will be sworn in. He will give a memorable, perhaps historic speech at his inauguration. There will be great expectations about him in the country and around the world. He will enjoy the traditional presidential honeymoon, during which all but his bitterest enemies will give him the benefit of the doubt. The press initially will adore him, but will begin writing stories about all the positions he hasn’t filled, the mistakes he made in the vetting process and so on. And then, sometime in March or April, things will get interesting.
Iran and a U.S. Withdrawal From Iraq
Obama has promised to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq, where he does not intend to leave any residual force. If he follows that course, he will open the door for the Iranians. Iran’s primary national security interest is containing or dominating Iraq, with which Iran fought a long war. If the United States remains in Iraq, the Iranians will be forced to accept a neutral government in Iraq. A U.S. withdrawal will pave the way for the Iranians to use Iraqi proxies to create, at a minimum, an Iraqi government more heavily influenced by Iran.
Apart from upsetting Sunni and Kurdish allies of the United States in Iraq, the Iranian ascendancy in Iraq will disturb some major American allies — particularly the Saudis, who fear Iranian power. The United States can’t afford a scenario under which Iranian power is projected into the Saudi oil fields. While that might be an unlikely scenario, it carries catastrophic consequences. The Jordanians and possibly the Turks, also American allies, will pressure Obama not simply to withdraw. And, of course, the Israelis will want the United States to remain in place to block Iranian expansion. Resisting a coalition of Saudis and Israelis will not be easy.
This will be the point where Obama’s pledge to talk to the Iranians will become crucial. If he simply withdraws from Iraq without a solid understanding with Iran, the entire American coalition in the region will come apart. Obama has pledged to build coalitions, something that will be difficult in the Middle East if he withdraws from Iraq without ironclad Iranian guarantees. He therefore will talk to the Iranians. But what can Obama offer the Iranians that would induce them to forego their primary national security interest? It is difficult to imagine a U.S.-Iranian deal that is both mutually beneficial and enforceable.
Obama will then be forced to make a decision. He can withdraw from Iraq and suffer the geopolitical consequences while coming under fire from the substantial political right in the United States that he needs at least in part to bring into his coalition. Or, he can retain some force in Iraq, thereby disappointing his supporters. If he is clumsy, he could wind up under attack from the right for negotiating with the Iranians and from his own supporters for not withdrawing all U.S. forces from Iraq. His skills in foreign policy and domestic politics will be tested on this core question, and he undoubtedly will disappoint many.
The Afghan Dilemma
Obama will need to address Afghanistan next. He has said that this is the real war, and that he will ask U.S. allies to join him in the effort. This means he will go to the Europeans and NATO, as he has said he will do. The Europeans are delighted with Obama’s victory because they feel Obama will consult them and stop making demands of them. But demands are precisely what he will bring the Europeans. In particular, he will want the Europeans to provide more forces for Afghanistan.
Many European countries will be inclined to provide some support, if for no other reason than to show that they are prepared to work with Obama. But European public opinion is not about to support a major deployment in Afghanistan, and the Europeans don’t have the force to deploy there anyway. In fact, as the global financial crisis begins to have a more dire impact in Europe than in the United States, many European countries are actively reducing their deployments in Afghanistan to save money. Expanding operations is the last thing on European minds.
Obama’s Afghan solution of building a coalition centered on the Europeans will thus meet a divided Europe with little inclination to send troops and with few troops to send in any event. That will force him into a confrontation with the Europeans in spring 2009, and then into a decision. The United States and its allies collectively lack the force to stabilize Afghanistan and defeat the Taliban. They certainly lack the force to make a significant move into Pakistan — something Obama has floated on several occasions that might be a good idea if force were in fact available.
He will have to make a hard decision on Afghanistan. Obama can continue the war as it is currently being fought, without hope of anything but a long holding action, but this risks defining his presidency around a hopeless war. He can choose to withdraw, in effect reinstating the Taliban, going back on his commitment and drawing heavy fire from the right. Or he can do what we have suggested is the inevitable outcome, namely, negotiate — and reach a political accord — with the Taliban. Unlike Bush, however, withdrawal or negotiation with the Taliban will increase the pressure on Obama from the right. And if this is coupled with a decision to delay withdrawal from Iraq, Obama’s own supporters will become restive. His 52 percent Election Day support could deteriorate with remarkable speed.
The Russian Question
At the same time, Obama will face the Russian question. The morning after Obama’s election, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev announced that Russia was deploying missiles in its European exclave of Kaliningrad in response to the U.S. deployment of ballistic missile defense systems in Poland. Obama opposed the Russians on their August intervention in Georgia, but he has never enunciated a clear Russia policy. We expect Ukraine will have shifted its political alignment toward Russia, and Moscow will be rapidly moving to create a sphere of influence before Obama can bring his attention — and U.S. power — to bear.
Obama will again turn to the Europeans to create a coalition to resist the Russians. But the Europeans will again be divided. The Germans can’t afford to alienate the Russians because of German energy dependence on Russia and because Germany does not want to fight another Cold War. The British and French may be more inclined to address the question, but certainly not to the point of resurrecting NATO as a major military force. The Russians will be prepared to talk, and will want to talk a great deal, all the while pursuing their own national interest of increasing their power in what they call their “near abroad.”
Obama will have many options on domestic policy given his majorities in Congress. But his Achilles’ heel, as it was for Bush and for many presidents, will be foreign policy. He has made what appear to be three guarantees. First, he will withdraw from Iraq. Second, he will focus on Afghanistan. Third, he will oppose Russian expansionism. To deliver on the first promise, he must deal with the Iranians. To deliver on the second, he must deal with the Taliban. To deliver on the third, he must deal with the Europeans.
Global Finance and the European Problem
The Europeans will pose another critical problem, as they want a second Bretton Woods agreement. Some European states appear to desire a set of international regulations for the financial system. There are three problems with this.
First, unless Obama wants to change course dramatically, the U.S. and European positions differ over the degree to which governments will regulate interbank transactions. The Europeans want much more intrusion than the Americans. They are far less averse to direct government controls than the Americans have been. Obama has the power to shift American policy, but doing that will make it harder to expand his base.
Second, the creation of an international regulatory body that has authority over American banks would create a system where U.S. financial management was subordinated to European financial management.
And third, the Europeans themselves have no common understanding of things. Obama could thus quickly be drawn into complex EU policy issues that could tie his hands in the United States. These could quickly turn into painful negotiations, in which Obama’s allure to the Europeans will evaporate.
One of the foundations of Obama’s foreign policy — and one of the reasons the Europeans have celebrated his election — was the perception that Obama is prepared to work closely with the Europeans. He is in fact prepared to do so, but his problem will be the same one Bush had: The Europeans are in no position to give the things that Obama will need from them — namely, troops, a revived NATO to confront the Russians and a global financial system that doesn’t subordinate American financial authority to an international bureaucracy.
The Hard Road Ahead
Like any politician, Obama will face the challenge of having made a set of promises that are not mutually supportive. Much of his challenge boils down to problems that he needs to solve and that he wants European help on, but the Europeans are not prepared to provide the type and amount of help he needs. This, plus the fact that a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq requires an agreement with Iran — something hard to imagine without a continued U.S. presence in Iraq — gives Obama a difficult road to move on.
As with all American presidents (who face midterm elections with astonishing speed), Obama’s foreign policy moves will be framed by his political support. Institutionally, he will be powerful. In terms of popular support, he begins knowing that almost half the country voted against him, and that he must increase his base. He must exploit the honeymoon period, when his support will expand, to bring another 5 percent or 10 percent of the public into his coalition. These people voted against him; now he needs to convince them to support him. But these are precisely the people who would regard talks with the Taliban or Iran with deep distrust. And if negotiations with the Iranians cause him to keep forces in Iraq, he will alienate his base without necessarily winning over his opponents.
And there is always the unknown. There could be a terrorist attack, the Russians could start pressuring the Baltic states, the Mexican situation could deteriorate. The unknown by definition cannot be anticipated. And many foreign leaders know it takes an administration months to settle in, something some will try to take advantage of. On top of that, there is now nearly a three-month window in which the old president is not yet out and the new president not yet in.
Obama must deal with extraordinarily difficult foreign policy issues in the context of an alliance failing not because of rough behavior among friends but because the allies’ interests have diverged. He must deal with this in the context of foreign policy positions difficult to sustain and reconcile, all against the backdrop of almost half an electorate that voted against him versus supporters who have enormous hopes vested in him. Obama knows all of this, of course, as he indicated in his victory speech.
We will now find out if Obama understands the exercise of political power as well as he understands the pursuit of that power. You really can’t know that until after the fact. There is no reason to think he can’t finesse these problems. Doing so will take cunning, trickery and the ability to make his supporters forget the promises he made while keeping their support. It will also require the ability to make some of his opponents embrace him despite the path he will have to take. In other words, he will have to be cunning and ruthless without appearing to be cunning and ruthless. That’s what successful presidents do.
In the meantime, he should enjoy the transition. It’s frequently the best part of a presidency.

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Chavez tension with U.S. to remain despiste Obama win

Chavez tension with U.S. to remain despite Obama win
Fri Nov 7, 2008 1:24pm EST
By Frank Jack Daniel - Analysis
CARACAS (Reuters) - With the passing of the Bush era, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will lose his favorite enemy and sparring partner. But clashes with the United States will persist even with Barack Obama in the White House.
Ties between the superpower and one of its biggest oil suppliers have deteriorated for years and are at a low after Chavez -- in an expletive-laced speech -- expelled the U.S. ambassador in September and Washington followed suit.
In the short term, tensions should ease as Chavez has pledged to return an ambassador once Obama assumes the U.S. presidency in January and George W. Bush, in the Venezuelan's words, "creeps out the back door" of the White House.
But the thaw may not last long.
With strong ties to Cuba, Iran and Russia, Venezuela's socialist leader bases much of his political message on countering U.S. hegemony.
U.S. officials initially hailed a short 2002 coup against Chavez and he says the CIA was involved in the putsch.
Since then, he has inflated the threat of U.S. plots against him to shore up popularity at home, and he never tired of lambasting Bush for his "imperial" wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, or calling him the devil, a donkey and a drunkard.
Regardless of who governs in Washington, the deterioration in relations could persist as potential flashpoints over oil, drugs, nuclear power and terrorism remain.
"We hope he tunes into the frequency of the world and convinces the U.S. hawks it is impossible to dominate the planet," Chavez said of Obama this week.
But the man who calls ex-Cuban leader Fidel Castro his mentor warned supporters: "Let's not kid ourselves too much."
After Obama takes office, ties can be expected to improve as the influence fades of Washington hardliners who lobbied for sanctions against Venezuela in clashes with Chavez over everything from oil prices to democracy.
TALKS WITH OBAMA?
Chavez, himself of mixed African and indigenous descent, says he wants better ties and would accept an offer of "respectful" talks from Obama, who he calls "the black man."
But his friendship with U.S. adversaries and his professed aim to develop nuclear energy for civilian use will be hard for American officials to ignore.
Chavez is a keen ally of a resurgent Moscow looking to expand its influence in the Western Hemisphere. In a few weeks, Russian warships will evoke the Cold War by powering into the Caribbean for joint exercises with Venezuela.
Chavez also lobbies hard for OPEC to push up oil prices, highlighting his clash of interests with Americans. Democrats and Republicans alike say he does too little to stop drug-trafficking and question his ties to Colombian rebels.
Obama, welcomed by many Latin Americans, may try to use the goodwill he has with leaders in the region to counter anti-American feelings that Chavez has successfully channeled.
"The U.S. will gain credibility with other countries who are worried about the confrontational antics of leaders such as Chavez," said Arturo Valenzuela, an external adviser to the Obama campaign and a former aide to President Bill Clinton.
"There will be a far greater ability for the U.S. to say 'Let's work together' to push back Chavez's interventionism and bullying tactics. Knee-jerk anti-Americanism will lose ground."
Such attempts would create new tensions with Chavez. They are also unlikely to prosper because, although many leaders disagree with Chavez's style, the spirit of Latin American cooperation free from U.S. pressure is valued in the region.
The Bush administration labeled him an autocrat.
Chavez even rewrote Venezuela's military doctrine to focus on an "asymmetric" war with America. With Obama, it will be harder to convince supporters a U.S. attack is imminent.
"Bush was Chavez's best campaign manager," said retired Gen. Alberto Muller Rojas, a Chavez political party leader.
(Additional reporting by Enrique Andres Pretel in Caracas and Anthony Boadle in Washington, Editing by Saul Hudson and David Storey)

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