An End to Interventionism in Venezuela

News Abroad
tags: Hugo Chavez, Venezuala

Mr. Kozloff is the author of Hugo Chavez: Oil, Politics, and the Challenge to the United States (2006) and a writer for the History News Service.

With the Dec. 3 presidential election in oil-rich Venezuela, the time has come for an overhaul of the Bush administration's catastrophic policy in that South American country. The U.S. channeling of millions of dollars to Venezuelan organizations, many of which are critical of President Hugo Chavez's regime, is hugely destabilizing and will foster great acrimony and distrust between the two nations.

U.S. meddling has stirred up resentment left over from April 2002 when Chavez was briefly overthrown in a coup. Prior to the coup, U.S. policymakers met with the plotters and funneled money to the opposition through the U.S. taxpayer-funded National Endowment for Democracy.

Chavez has accused his electoral opponent, Manuel Rosales, the governor of the western state of Zulia, of fostering a separatist movement, together with "Mr. Danger" (Chavez's name for President Bush).

The Venezuelan attorney general has initiated an investigation to determine whether one right-wing organization is guilty of treason. The group, Rumbo Propio ("Our Own Path"), has placed banners in oil-rich Zulia state advocating regional separation.

Rosales is a right-wing politician who signed the infamous "Carmona Decree," dissolving Venezuela's democratic institutions during the 2002 coup. He has been criticized by Chavez officials for not condemning Rumbio Propio and its calls for Zulia secession.

The United States, according to Chavez, is encouraging unrest so as to benefit from the state's significant oil resources. Government officials have also claimed that U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield met with members of Rumbo Propio to encourage secession.

Indeed, the United States has long played a prominent political and economic role in Zulia and throughout Venezuela. In 1926, the USS Niagara arrived in Zulia, and the U.S. consul requested that U.S. sailors be allowed to celebrate there. When an officer attached to the Niagara requested permission to fly over Zulia for the celebration, the states president, Perez Soto, grew suspicious.

Reports reached him that the real reason for the flight was to take aerial photographs. Perez Soto disallowed the disembarking of the crew and refused to authorize the flight. He believed the Unites States wanted to station the Niagara in Venezuelan waters "as a kind of sentinel of North American interests."

U.S. meddling in the current election smacks of earlier American gunboat diplomacy. In addition to aiding the opposition, U.S. officials have developed ties to individual politicians. The Venezuelan attorney general says Brownfield had a close relationship to Rosales and frequently traveled to Zulia. If Chavez is right and the Bush administration is encouraging secession, this cynical American strategy will most likely anger Chavez's most determined followers in Zulia.

The president's support in Zulia state is not insignificant. In recent years, the Bolivarian Circles, pro-Chavez grassroots groups that lobby the Venezuelan government for economic support, have expanded. According to Umberto Silvio Beltran, Zulia regional coordinator of the Bolivarian Circles, there are approximately 180,000 people involved in Circles in Zulia.

Chavez has good reason to believe the United States was involved in the 2002 coup. He has thus far presented no concrete proof of U.S. meddling in Zulia, but he is justifiably paranoid about American intentions.

What is most needed now is a less interventionist policy in Venezuela for the long term. The Democrats, having retaken Congress, could not only cut funding to the Venezuelan opposition but also hold hearings concerning the April 2002 coup. Such moves might ameliorate strained relations with Venezuela.

Such a conciliatory policy is sorely needed. Since the presidential term in Venezuela lasts six years, Chavez will be a force to be reckoned with. It is time for liberal Democrats in the House and Senate to stand up to the Bush administration and foreign policy hawks in their own party and restore a sense of rationality in our Venezuela policy.


This piece was distributed for non-exclusive use by the History News Service, an informal syndicate of professional historians who seek to improve the public's understanding of current events by setting these events in their historical contexts. The article may be republished as long as both the author and the History News Service are clearly credited.

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More Comments:

DeWayne Edward Benson - 12/12/2006

As a Christian, I have also been vocal about not only the underhanded deception of our government concerning Venezeula, but also from a radical element that claims to be part of our Christian church.
I am hoping leaders of the Christian church soon wake up, before condition in America duplicate the Peruvians who stumped for an elected dictator Alberto Fujimori. Lately in fact I have begun wondering if these radical (Christians) understand what they read in the Bible.

Robert Murphy - 12/10/2006

[i][b]italics & bold[[/i][/b]

To any of you who did open this comment, sorry for wasting your time! ;-)


Arnold Shcherban - 12/8/2006

You misinterpreted the point I was making: almost the same one you made in your response!
But thanks for consideration.

Oscar Chamberlain - 12/5/2006

You seem to think that we are wise enough to choose for other people. We're not. Nor was that why we intervened in Nicaragua. We did not intervene to improve the lives of Nicaraguans. Right or wrong, we intervened purely out of perceived self interest.

So don't go looking back at the Cold War to show American humanity. Our choices to intervene--or not to intervene--were always made on our leaderhip's perception of American self-interest or personal (that is, political) self-interest. Sometimes, a moral argument could be made as well, but that was never the driving force.

I think it is moral not to mess with Venezuela. I also think it's in our nation's best interest to let that nation prosper or decline on the basis of its own actions.

Arnold Shcherban - 12/4/2006

The Sandinista would have been winning
every single election since 1980s, if
the the dirty hands of the US policy-makers were as busy as now with MidEast. The same can be said about the victories of the Left in many other regions of the world, including
Ukraine, Georgia, former Yugoslavia,
in Africa, and Asia.