BY CHRISTIANO KERRILA
The increasingly radical Venezuelan government headed by President Hugo Chavez is continuing its international diplomatic "offensive" against US imperialism in both its military and economic manifestations.
This offensive began when Chavez reaffirmed Venezuela's commitment to maintaining OPEC oil production quotas. Venezuela is the world's fifth-largest petroleum exporting country. The Venezuelan government also became a leader of the G77, a large grouping of poor countries aiming for independent economic and social development.
The Chavez government sharply criticised the US attack on Afghanistan n 2001, calling it "fighting terror with terror". According to left-wing US Latin America analyst James Petras in a June 2002 article on the Rebellion web site, Venezuelan government officials were told by their US counterparts that Chavez "would pay a high price for the critical position that he took — and that future generations of Venezuelans would pay a high price".
Although Washington has its hands full with its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is also preparing the ground to move more aggressively against Venezuela. For example, the US government has allocated $US700 million in 2003 alone for the Plan Andes — an extension of Plan Colombia. The objective of this plan is to militarise the pro-US governments in the Andean region, a hotbed of radical social movements.
According to the August 23 Petroleum World, during a visit to Colombia, US war secretary Donald Rumsfeld, noted: "In this region we know there are terrorists, there are hostage-takers, there are drug traffickers. Sometimes it's the same people doing all three things. And it poses a very serious threat."
According to Forrest Hylton of the Zmag web site, at the inauguration ceremony of President Nicanor Duarte in Paraguay on August 15, on the initiative of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, all the presidents of the South American republics, except Chavez, signed a declaration pledging support for the "war on drugs and terror" — Washington's political cover for using the Colombian military forces to defeat the social movements and armed resistance in the Andean region.
Chavez not only denounced the pact but has also purged all US military influence from the Venezuelan military and banned the US military from using Venezuelan airspace in its imperial adventures.
The US rulers are fully aware of the threat to their business interests posed by the revolutionary process occurring in Venezuela and, along with the Colombian government, claim there are links between the Venezuelan government and "terrorist" guerrilla movements in Colombia — an alleged link that Washington could use to extend the "war on terror" into a war for regime change in Venezuela.
According to the August 23 Petroleum World, General Richard Myers, head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, compared Venezuela to Syria and Iran, which Washington alleges allowed "weapons or fighters" to cross their borders into Iraq after the US had invaded that country. "I think there's more to learn with respect to Venezuela, and we're going to have to continue to explore that", Myers said.
Chavez has also become increasingly critical of the US-designed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) agreement, calling for an alternative model of economic integration of Latin America (Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas) that isn't based upon neoliberalism and would precede any collective Latin American trade negotiations with the US.
According to August 17 Vheadline.com news web site, during his most recent visit to Argentina — which included meetings with Argentine President Nestor Kirchner, the famous human rights group Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo and a visit to a public salute of Che Guevara — Chavez called for a continental referendum on the question of whether South American countries should pay their external debt "or invest the money in health and education".
Chavez told a Buenos Aires press conference: "Latin American governments must exorcise the devil of neoliberalism and savage capitalism, which has produced wealth for the minority and poverty for the majority."
The Venezuelan government also made a trade agreement with the Argentine government, under which Venezuela will exchange oil for Argentine beef and wheat.
Chavez is refusing to deal with the Washington-based International Monetary Fund while it insists on designing economic policies for Venezuela that favour of US business interests at the expense of Venezuelan economic development.
The Venezuelan government is seeking to develop direct relations with social movements in other Latin America countries. Thus, according to Alex Contreras Baspineiro in a September 6 Narco News bulletin, when the Chavez government handed over deeds for land recently to landless rural workers it invited representatives from landless rural workers' movements in Honduras, Ecuador and Brazil to attend the land reform ceremonies.
Most recently, on the eve of the World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting in Cancun, Mexico, the Venezuelan government publicly denounced the WTO-supervised trade system as unfair to poor countries. According to a September 5 CNN report, Venezuela "declared war on what it called an unfair world trade system and urged developing nations not to subscribe to any new agreements at upcoming global trade talks".
Venezuela's chief trade negotiator, Victor Alvarez, has promised to "be taking the fight to inside the WTO" because "it's clear who are the winners and losers of today's world trade system". He also challenged the "pro-market fundamentalism" of the United States and has presented a 10-point declaration denouncing the hypocrisy of "free trade" and is preparing to rally as many underdeveloped nations to its stance as it can — thus taking a similar position to most of the protesters outside the WTO meeting.
From Green Left Weekly, September 17, 2003.
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