Date: Fri, 18 Oct 2002 15:28:59 -0700 (PDT) |
below are two articles on venezuela, the US, iraq &
what flows between them: oil. one thing that is
noticeably absent from the second article is that what
it describes is a significant departure from the US
government's attitude toward venezuela back in april.
the second article says "the Bush Administration is
now warning trigger-happy Venezuelan generals that it
won't recognize any unconstitutional overthrow of
Chavez," but fails to mention that 6 months ago the
white house publicly expressed its approval of the
coup. nor is it mentioned that the coup occurred
right around the time of iraq's month-long oil
embargo. in support of my claim that the "war on
iraq" has nothing to do with WMD and everything to do
with OIL, i would add:
america needs a regime change.
Venezuela, the world's fifth biggest oil producer and major supplier to the US, will not support an Arab oil blockade in response to military action against Iraq.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez told BBC News Online during a visit to London that Arab producers would have to work within the Organisation of Petroleum Export Countries (Opec).
"We cannot endorse any oil embargo, we cannot use oil as a political weapon and Opec should be fully aware of this," Mr Chavez said.
"Oil is a strategic resource so you cannot use it so people won't have heating, electricity, air transportation because then we will be damaging people, the economy and society as a whole," he said.
Venezuela weakened the Arab oil embargo in 1973 by filling the gap with its own reserves.
Libya and Iraq have been the main proponents of an Arab oil embargo, while Iran has said it would consider one because of Israeli actions against Palestinians.
It is considered unlikely that Saudi Arabia would join.
Mr Chavez added that the resolution of the Iraqi issue must first exhaust "all the diplomatic solutions, all the political solutions" and that the aggressors must accept the blame for destabilising the oil market.
"In that case we agree with China, Russia and France, Mexico and many other countries who want to resort first to peaceful means and avoid further wars," Mr Chavez said.
"Now, in case it is impossible to prevent this war, the large (oil) consumers cannot blame Opec if the price goes beyond $28, because if they attack Iraq there will be a destabilisation of the markets and Middle East," he said.
Former Saudi Arabian oil minister Sheik Yemani has already warned that oil could hit $100 per barrel if there was a wider Middle Eastern conflict.
The assurance of Venezuelan supply will come as a relief to the US, which has had a tense relationship with the leftist, former paratrooper, who was elected President in 1998 and again in 2000.
Despite guaranteeing supply, Venezuelan trade unions and business groups are calling for Mr Chavez's resignation, claiming he is not capable of managing the country's economy.
About 70% of Venezuela's export revenues and 40% of government revenues come from oil.
The opposition set a deadline of last Wednesday for him to resign, which he did not, and have now called for a 12-hour national strike for Monday.
"They are oblivious to the democratic means and resorting to blackmail," Mr Chavez said.
"Now it is clear that a legitimate president, which I am, cannot pay attention to this blackmail," said the twice elected president.
Business leaders, trade unionists and military officers overthrew Mr Chavez in April in a short-lived coup during a similar strike.
He was restored to office after a mass uprising of Venezuelans in protest against the coup.
On Wednesday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is supposed to answer hundreds of thousands of opponents who marched through Caracas last week and gave him an ultimatum: either resign, call an early referendum on your presidency, or face a massive general business and labor strike this month. But Chavez, whose radical left-wing demagoguery has violently polarized the oil-rich nation, can probably afford to ignore the call — and not just because most of Venezuela's poor, who make up 80% of the population, are on his side. Chavez has another, albeit unlikely ally for the moment: George W. Bush.
Before the U.S. began moving toward war with Iraq this past summer, Bush and Chavez were hardly amigos. In fact, Chavez lost any chance of winning a chummy nickname from Bush two years ago when, during a visit to Iraq, he called Saddam Hussein "my brother." Chavez's red beret — the symbol of his "revolution," which he wears with the Yanqui-baiting swagger of Che Guevara — didn't help. Nor does the way Chavez taunts his U.S.-friendly opposition, which nearly toppled him last April in a coup, an uprising Chavez supporters accuse the Bush Administration of covertly encouraging (a charge the White House denies). "My opponents are like worn-out athletes who have to shoot dope to stay in the race," Chavez said as 200,000 of his worshipping fans marched through Caracas recently. So what common ground could Chavez and Bush possibly find?
Oil, of course. Chavez, 47, controls the hemisphere's largest reserves, which are often touted as America's long-term relief from Middle East oil dependence. And with his economy staring into an Argentine-style abyss, he needs to sell more of it — especially since the financial crisis has his military enemies itching to stage another coup. (During last week's march, Vice Adm. Alvaro Martin Fossa, the nation's second most powerful military figure, resigned in protest of Chavez's government.) The U.S., meanwhile, bracing for the possibility of petro-market chaos if it invades Iraq, needs more reliable supplies.
As a result, officials inside Chavez's government say it's more than coincidence that he hasn't made a peep about Saddam in months, or that he backed Bush's recent U.N. speech condemning the Iraqi leader. In fact, the insurrection Chavez faced last spring--which he frequently likens to a terrorist attack--has made him more supportive, he says, of the war on terrorism. "I revere the U.S. as the nation of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King," he says now. "I want Americans to know that our revolution is about their ideals." For its part, the Bush Administration is now warning trigger-happy Venezuelan generals that it won't recognize any unconstitutional overthrow of Chavez. The White House "wouldn't be doing that if it hadn't decided that we have to deal with this guy," says a U.S. official in Latin America. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Roy Chaderton Matos, concurs: "Our channels of communication [with the U.S.] are suddenly multiplying now." So much so that Venezuela, which already exports 1.54 million bbl. a day to the U.S., has just begun negotiating a 20-year oil-delivery deal with Washington and just opened its vast natural gas fields to about $4 billion worth of U.S. and foreign investment. Still, the U.S. does not expect an easy partnership with Chavez, who as a paratrooper colonel led an abortive coup himself 10 years ago. The April uprising did sober him into dumping the inept socialists he had put in charge of Venezuela's state oil monopoly — and who had been lavishing heavily subsidized oil shipments on Chavez's buddy, Cuba's communist President Fidel Castro.
But Chavez is still a reminder of the late Nobel author Octavio Paz's lament that Latin America's revolutions are inevitably "squandered in violent agitation." His 1998 landslide election overthrew one of the world's most rotten political systems, but he seems incorrigibly wedded to a bellicose and autocratic style that many fear could eventually evolve into a left-wing dictatorship like Cuba's. Chavez recently threatened to seize businesses that close for whole days to protest his erratic government. His neighborhood organizations, the Bolivarian Circles, do aid the poor, but they sometimes morph into armed gangs like the ones caught on videotape shooting at opposition civilians just before the coup. And though a recent Venezuelan Supreme Court ruling that exonerated the military officers who led last April's coup was dubious, it's hard to image that Lincoln — or Simon Bolivar, the 19th-century "Liberator" of South America who is Chavez's demigod hero — would have approved of his virulent campaign to remove the justices. "Venezuela is sitting on a barrel of gunpowder," warns Carlos Ortega, who is head of the nation's largest labor union but has become one of Chavez's fiercest opponents. "People can't take this anymore."
Yet polls say Chavez, whose term ends in 2007, would win a referendum on his presidency, which, under Venezuela's new constitution, he is not required to call until next August. The impoverished masses who march for him, and who had little if no voice in pre-Chavez Venezuela, are the key to his resilience, just as Brazil's exasperated poor, fed up with the unfulfilled promises of a decade of capitalist reforms in Latin America, are likely to vote Workers Party candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva into the presidency next week. "The oligarchs in this country just want to demonize Chavez because he's giving our class the chance to participate in the economic and political life of Venezuela for once," said Yosmari Guevara, 29, a bakery owner in one of Caracas's most squalid slums. She notes that under Chavez's new bank program for micro-businesses, she has received low-interest credit for the first time.
During the two days Chavez was in military custody in April, local TV aired scenes of the nation's venal political elite romping in the Miraflores presidential palace, cocktails in hand, as if it were a country club again. It reminded many Venezuelans of what they elected Chavez to throw out in 1Images like that explain so many Venezuelans still support Chavez. And as long as the oil flows, the U.S. can apparently live with him too — and the beret.
last updated: 10.18.2002