The September 20 United Nations speech by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, in which he slammed US imperialism and referred to US President George Bush as the devil, has led to a fresh outburst of attacks on Venezuela from the US government and media.
Even the convenience store chain 7-Eleven got in on the act, claiming to have cancelled a contract with the Venezuelan-owned, US-based petrol distribution company Citgo in protest. However, Citgo's CEO Felix Rodriguez explained that two months previously Citgo had let its contract with 7-Eleven expire, according to a September 28 Venezuelanalysis.com article.
While the US corporate media and politicians from both the Republicans and Democrats were having a field day slamming Chavez for having the gall to use harsh and undiplomatic language in front of the UN General Assembly, Venezuela's foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, was detained and stripped of his documents as he attempted to board a flight back to Venezuela on September 23 following the UN General Assembly meeting.
Maduro claims he was threatened, pushed and yelled at, and that he refused attempts to be strip searched. Venezuelanalysis.com reported on September 23 that he was only released after UN officials came to his aid.
Maduro claims that when he revealed his official position the hostility of the authorities got worse. At a press conference following the incident, Maduro denounced it as a violation of international law. On the attempt to strip search him and others in his entourage, Maduro said: "They would have to get us out of this airport dead, if they had tried to touch us." The Venezuelan government attacked the actions as part of a campaign of hostility by the US government directly tied to Chavez's speech, and has filed an official letter of complaint with the US embassy in Caracas.
The US government has issued an apology for the incident, but it denies it was part of a deliberate campaign to target Venezuela. US ambassador to the UN John Bolton dismissed the whole incident as "Venezuelan street theatre", according to a September 28 Venezuelanalysis.com article. According to the International Action Center, Venezuelan general-consul in Chicago Martin Sanchez was also searched at LaGuardia airport.
During the controversy over Chavez's speech, the corporate media routinely referred to Chavez as "anti-American". However, during his trip to New York, Chavez, who is leading a revolutionary process in Venezuela that aims to use the nation's oil wealth both for the Venezuelan poor and to help unite the Third World against US domination, revealed by his actions that this is not the case.
Chavez has always insisted he is opposed to the US government and elite, but not to the US people. Speaking at Harlem's Mount Olivet Baptist Church on September 22, Chavez put his money where his mouth is, announcing his government would more than double its provision of cheap heating oil to the US poor for the coming winter. This program distributed 40 million gallons of heating oil in the US last winter at a 40% discount.
With Venezuela's presidential elections scheduled for December 3, and polls showing Chavez set to win comfortably, the Venezuelan government has claimed that the US has plans to attempt to destabilise the elections. Chavez has made a number of references to a plot by the US government to assassinate him.
The International Herald Tribune reported on September 30 that Chavez had claimed that an assassination attempt on him had been foiled a few months previously. Chavez said the attempt took place in the state of Zulia, which is controlled by the opposition-aligned Governor Manuel Rosales, Chavez's main opponent in the coming elections. Chavez claimed that snipers from the Zulia police force came "within a hair's breath" of assassinating him, and that they had since fled to Colombia.
Heinz Dieterich, who works as a consultant for the Chavez government, wrote in an October 4 opinion piece on the Axis of Logic website that the US government would order Chavez's assassination before the presidential elections in order to prevent him being reelected for another seven years.