U.S. Policy Toward Venezuela: Playing With Oil, Playing With Trade, Playing With Fire
Radical right-wing Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson took the future of U.S. diplomacy in South America into his own hands Monday night when he urged the U.S. government to assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. In a widely viewed broadcast of his television show, The 700 Club, Robertson characterized Chávez as a “terrific danger” to U.S. interests abroad and accused him of turning Venezuela into “a launching pad for Communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent.” Robertson’s comments devolved from baseless to inflammatory when he blatantly called for the Venezuelan leader’s assassination, urging, “We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability.”
The Bush administration has denied that it plans to assassinate Chávez, but it is quite clear that the U.S. hopes to topple Venezuela’s democratically-elected leader. In fact, Robertson’s incendiary language mimicked the equally irresponsible rhetoric directed at Chávez by Secretary of State Rice, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and even President Bush himself, who have accused the Venezuelan leader of “destabilizing” other Latin American countries. Unsurprisingly, none of the administration’s charges have been backed up by even a sliver of credible evidence.
It is possible that Washington hopes to use its unsubstantiated allegations to prepare the groundwork for another attempted coup of Chávez, just as it utilized false claims that he stole the 1998 presidential election to help hatch the failed attempt to overthrow the Venezuelan president in 2002. Such anti-Chávez odium on behalf of the U.S. administration does not reflect legitimate derelictions on Chávez’s part. Instead, it represents Washington’s distaste for his friendship with Cuban leader Fidel Castro, which has absorbed 95 percent of the attention that the U.S. addresses to Latin America. It also echoes the Bush administration’s discomfort with the Venezuelan president’s vision to make the region less hospitable to multinational corporations, create difficulties for international lending institutions such as the IMF, open Latin American crude oil reserves to new clients like China, discard the U.S.-backed FTAA in favor of MERCOSUR and apply the brakes to the U.S.’ neo-liberal development model.
Further revealing the Bush administration’s subversive agenda in Venezuela, Congress recently passed legislation to ensure that slanted U.S. media broadcasts – such as Robertson’s crackpot commentary – infiltrate Venezuela’s airwaves. Though the State Department has disassociated itself from Robertson’s unfounded and outrageous comments, the Bush administration’s unsavory track record in Venezuela betrays its agreement with his arrogant perspective. It will take more than a few quick words at a State Department press briefing to subdue the fires of anti-American sentiment that gave rise to Chávez’s widespread popularity and have isolated the U.S. from the rest of the western hemisphere.