Rightist Campaign a Threat to Venezuela's Chavez Regime. (and in Other News)

Article excerpt

The campaign to unseat socialist Venezualan President Hugo Chavez -- supported by local business interests and Washington -- continues to esciate, owing largely to the U.S.'s war on terrorism and its commercial ventures in Central Asia.

On November 5 to 7, the U.S. National Security Agency, Pentagon and State Department convened a two-day meeting on U.S. policy toward Venezuela. The cataiyst for the November meeting was a comment by Chavez in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. While Chavez sharply condemned the attacks, he questioned the value of bombing Afghanistan, calling it "fighting terrorism with terrorism.

The outcome of the meeting was a requirement that Venezuela "unequivocally" condemn terrorism, including any government the Bush administration defines as "terrorist." This is said to include both Cuba, with which Venezuela has extensive trade relations, and rebel groups in Colombia, toward which Chavez has been publicly sympathetic.

Since then, several members of the U.S. government have come out against the Chavez government, including the State Department's specialist on Latin America, Peter Romero, who has accused the Chavez government of supporting terrorism in Colombia, Bolivia and Ecuador.

On February 5, U.S. Secretary of State Cohn Powell, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, expressed worry about Chavez's views on democracy stating, "We have been concerned with some of the actions of [Chavez] and his understanding of what a democratic system is all about. …