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|Hugo Chavez and the US||| Print ||
Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem
Answer to a Question
We do know that Latin America is in the backyard of the United States and that the Monroe Doctrine is still in force and it includes the two Americas. However, it seems that some of Latin America’s rulers are hostile towards America. They even challenge her and condemn her hegemony and arrogance. Those rulers are spearheaded by Hugo Chavez, who gave the US Ambassador to Caracas 72 hours to leave his country, in a show of solidarity with a similar move undertaken by the Bolivian President Evo Morales. Hence, does Hugo Chavez effectively work towards frustrating the US influence in Latin America and towards luring her leaders? Is he working towards resisting the US meddling in Latin American affairs? Is Hugo Chavez acting independently to protect the acquisitions of his country; or is he sponsored and backed by other forces? Is he an American agent, just like all the other rulers of Latin America or has he succeeded in slipping away from America’s dominion and influence? Could we have the reality of the Venezuelan president, his actions and his policies in Venezuela and in the other countries of Latin America clarified?
The Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez was back in the limelight. In a move in support of the Bolivian president, Evo Morales, who two days before the declaration of Chavez, expelled its U.S. ambassador on claims that the envoy was interfering in the domestic affairs of Bolivia, the Venezuelan leader said that he was expelling the American ambassador, giving him 72 hours to leave the country.
Morales, the Trade Union leader, is the first of Bolivia’s indigenous people to be elected as president of the country. The Bolivian leader who describes himself as being the “nightmare of the Bush administration”, has accused the American ambassador of inciting the separatist acts in Bolivia by supporting four of the leaders of the territories opposed to Morales in order to depose him because of his plan, which aims at giving the majority, composed of Bolivia’s indigenous people, more political powers, dividing the vast plantations and conducting a new distribution of lands among the poor people. This plan gave rise to strong opposition in the northern and eastern provinces of the country which are striving to get more independence from the central government in La Paz and looking for a more significant quota of the energy resources. On the 15th of September 2008, an ad hoc summit of the Union of 12 South American Nations (UNASUR) was held in Santiago, the capital of Chile, to discuss the Bolivian crisis caused by these explosive events. The UNASUR member states confirmed their support to Morales’ government regarding the crisis his country is facing due to the conflict with its antagonists. The leaders of the nine states which took part in the summit assured that ‘They wouldn’t recognise any of the situations arising from a civil coup or a breach of the constitutional system which may jeopardize the unity of the Republic of Bolivia’. They also underlined the necessity to set up a committee which would be coordinated by Chile, currently the head of the Union, in order to participate in the negotiations between Morales and his opponents.
Prior to the UNASUR summit, Hugo Chavez attacked America saying "Go to hell, Yankees! We are a dignified people. Go to hell 100 times." He also recalled his ambassador to Washington. "When there is a new government in the United States, a government that respects the people of Latin America, we’ll send an ambassador", Mr. Chavez said. "We want to be free whatever the circumstances and at any price", he added. On the other hand, Chavez threatened to cut off Venezuela's oil supply to the United States if his country was subject to an attack from Washington. He also pledged that he would support his Bolivian peer, Evo Morales, in the event of a coup against him. Supported by left-wing leaders and the majority of the citizens who have suffered for forty years from anarchy and corruption prevailing under the rule of both the Christian Democratic Party and the Democratic Socialist party, Chavez was elected president of Venezuela in December 1998. Since then he has become the most popular leader in Latin America which has been during the last years labelled with his name. What probably made Chavez more popular was the antagonism he has shown towards the United States from the beginning and his call for the creation of the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean (ALBA), which is an accord signed by Castro and Chavez in Havana on December 14th, 2004 with the aim to establish a union at the Latin American level, thus providing a counterweight to the U.S-sponsored Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTA). In support of this project, Chavez said on March 2nd, 2005: "We have to invent the new socialism for the 21st century. Capitalism is not a sustainable model of development". This declaration came after the announcement made in February of the same year by the U.S. secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, stating: "the influence exercised by Venezuela threatens the stability of Latin America"
Now, the main question is: Has the United States already lost or is about to lose its political weight and economic power in Latin America and is it really becoming afraid of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia?
Apparently, it seems that America is involved in a conflict with Chavez and Morales and that the two leaders are trying to besiege U.S. influence on the continent. However, in reality this is just a show, part of the American schemes. The politician should always bear in mind that the whole American continent is under the U.S. influence in accordance with the Monroe Doctrine which stipulates that no state, except the United States, shall interfere and even act freely on the continent. Hence, Latin America is still the backyard of the United States despite the attacks of some leaders and their political and economic rebellion towards America. As for the role played by Hugo Chavez or other new left-wing leaders in Latin America toward American policy and schemes, it can be summarized in the following:
1 - There is no doubt that leaders of the Latin American states which raise the socialist flag find great popular support in their opposition to the United States, and America is looking for this. In a continent with vast natural and human resources, people still suffer from misery and poverty, a situation not really different from the one in the third world. Thus, when the United States imposes on them conventions and unequal economic and political situations, for instance the monopoly of the American firms on the natural resources or the support provided to remove totalitarian ruling regimes, no support is found among those people. What is more, the way the United States acts may aggravate the antagonism towards it. The presence of great states on the continent such as Cuba, Venezuela, Chile and Bolivia, where the socialist trend is prevailing under the leadership of presidents coming from leftist bases belonging to the people and implementing rules meeting the expectations of the local population, may therefore calm down the vehement rage toward the American policy spreading over the American continent and the rest of the world states, notably since 9/11.
Since then, Latin America has become the second priority for America and its foreign policy, preoccupied by combating Islam, the so called terrorism, waging wars against Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the settlement of the Palestinian issue. Thus, it is of a paramount importance for America that the Latin American entity capable of filling the gaps and being the model expected by those opposed to US policy, represents the unbeliever left and not Islam. This is not only the case in South America but in the world as a whole, particularly in the Arab world. In this context, one should understand the nature of the visits of Hugo Chavez to the Arab world as well as the nature of the relations between Venezuela and Iran, and even those between Venezuela and Russia, particularly since Chavez has recognised the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and called for military exercises with Russia’s navy.
Another proof is the reaction of the opponents of the American policy all around the Arab region. They are all praising the bravery of Chavez and call for forging an alliance with the Latin American left-wing rather than turning to Islam. The leader of Hamas, Khaled Mashaal, for instance, has lauded Hugo Chavez in his speeches more than once as if he was a Companion of the Prophet (saw). Moreover, driven by his ideological deviation and political boldness, he asked the Arabs and Muslims to follow the model of Venezuela which, in his opinion, has understood that the world is no longer unipolar since the recent events in Georgia.
2 - Since he has come to power in Venezuela, a number of the most reliable agents of the United States in the Caribbean and Central America regions have joined the ranks of Chavez. To this end, he has been providing low oil loans and food assistance reaching millions of dollars which is equal to what America spends for this purpose. Chavez has appeared as a U.S. antagonist and on an equal footing with it as he is one of the biggest donors even for Washington’s advocates who welcome his financial aid to settle their countries’ swelling invoices of energy and food imports. If we were to scrutinize, we would notice that Chavez plays a leading role in maintaining the stability of the region in the short and medium-term for the U.S. interest. That is to say he shoulders a heavy responsibility instead of America through alleviating the U.S. economic burdens within its backyard. Beyond the socialist slogans and hollow threats made by Chavez and Morales from time to time, there is reality. Actually, Chavez created this year a fund with a value estimated at $450 million to face the rise in food prices in the region, an amount that competes with the amount allocated in 2008 to the countries of the region by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) which is estimated at $500 million. On the other hand, Guatemala, one of the countries of Central America that has signed a free-trade agreement with the United States, is now getting oil loans from Venezuela. As for Oscar Arias, President of Costa Rica and another U.S. agent, he has asked Venezuela for funding despite his criticism toward Hugo Chavez in the past.
Furthermore, Venezuela is spending its wealth in widening an airport and a tank to store fuel in the Dominican Republic in addition to some energy generators in Nicaragua while Jamaica uses the money coming from Venezuela to back an airline company. On the other hand, Venezuela offered loans estimated at billions of dollars to countries that purchase its oil through an alliance called Petrocaribe. The payment system allows for 18 member states to pay 70% of their imports on 1% interest. The Petrocaribe agreement, which allows some nations to buy oil on market value but with low interest rate loans, has provided since 2007 a financing estimated at $1.2 billion which is equal to the amount of the simplified loans offered by the Inter-American Development Bank during the same period.
What is more, Venezuela has provided oil and fuel for Cuba since 2001 with low prices and today Cuba receives more than 90 thousand barrels per day which enables the island to survive despite decades of economic embargo by the United States.
In 2006, Chavez settled the debts of Argentina and the Ecuador by paying millions of dollars with the aim of alleviating the Western pressures on the two states. Lately, Chavez could after all persuade Honduras to join the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean (ALBA), created as an alternative to the U.S. suggestion of establishing a free-trade zone.
America certainly succeeded in August 2006 in forcing poor Central American States to sign the convention on the establishment of a free-trade zone known as the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), which provides for the suppression of the trade barriers between the United States and six countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and The Dominican Republic. Nevertheless, this convention has no real economic value especially as the U.S. exports to this region do not exceed 2% of its total annual exports. This is the reason why the big South American states such as Brazil and Argentina pulled back from the negotiations. Today, the utmost expected by the Latin American states in dealing with the United States is that the latter smoothes its immigration policy and modifies its policy towards agriculture by reducing the barriers hindering exports of food products in the region and alleviating tariffs and quotas imposed on the essential goods. Hence, through the establishment of such a free zone, the American administration intends to affirm its sovereignty and control over the people of the region, to uphold the American values there and support pro-America liberal regimes to put an end to the growing anti-American popular trend in Latin America.
However, Latin America no longer has confidence in the American policies particularly after the failure of the so-called American liberal reforms within the countries of the region between the eighties and nineties which were designed to improve the standards of living and provide new job opportunities for the overwhelming majority of the people of the poor states of Central and South America. Thus, the Bush administration is now unable to offer anything else for the people of Latin America. Leaders such Hugo Chavez intervene, who receives $25 billion annually from oil revenues which are spent to keep Caribbean and Latin American states within the vital sphere of the United States. In addition to that, the American growing oil need is still and will be for a long time dependent on this region as Venezuela is the 3rd largest U.S. oil supplier (after Canada and Saudi Arabia), and Mexico is the 4th largest whereas Columbia is in 7th place.
As such, while Chavez uses his country’s natural resources to help poor countries in the region, the Bush administration is resorting to the carrot and the stick policy, threats and rhetoric to the Latin America and Caribbean states. Thus, the American policy is the one which provides the solid background enabling America’s men such as Chaves, Morales and Castro to act. Besides, other leaders of the left who serve the American strategic interests which aims at keeping the Caribbean and Latin America states among America’s numerous reserves which it pillages whenever it wants to.
9th Thil Qi’dah 1429h