Bush Urges 'Regional Stability,' Liberty; Isolate Chavez for Venezuela's Sake, He Says
Byline: Kelly Hearn, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
BUENOS AIRES - The United States is asking Argentina to support its efforts to isolate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and protect civil liberties in Venezuela.
On Tuesday, President Bush spent 20 minutes on the telephone with Argentine President Nestor Kirchner, in part to ask for his help in fostering "regional stability."
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met yesterday with her Argentine counterpart, Foreign Minister Rafael Bielsa.
"The United States has been concerned about the developments in Venezuela and of Venezuela in terms of its neighbors. ... We think all countries in the region need to be supportive of democracy and need to call attention to these problems with democracy there," U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said yesterday.
He said the United States is concerned about Venezuela's recent arms purchases and its "destabilizing role in the region."
"These things are matters of concern to the United States, but they're also matters of concern to other people in the region," he said.
Yesterday's State Department meeting comes after Mr. Chavez this week signed a deal to buy military patrol vessels and transport planes from Spain.
U.S. officials have cast Mr. Chavez as a democratically elected but authoritarian leader bent on destabilizing the region.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld recently said Russian-made weapons being sought by Venezuela could migrate to Colombia's largest Marxist rebel group.
"I can't understand why Venezuela needs 100,000 AK-47s," Mr. …