Venezuelan warns of
Speech points to growing friction with
San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Ali Rodriguez warned Friday that the Bush
administration may be plotting to overthrow his country's leftist
leader, Hugo Chavez, in what he called a throwback to Washington's long
history of gunboat diplomacy in Latin America.
In a speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Franciso, Rodriguez added
fuel to the burning dispute between the White House and Chavez, saying
U.S. officials' recent criticisms of the Venezuelan president were
"ignorant" and "arrogant."
"There have been lots of attacks against Venezuela from the United
States recently, and we have lots of prior experience with this sort of
thing," Rodriquez said, citing successful CIA-influenced overthrows of
leftist leaders in Guatemala in 1955, the Dominican Republic in 1965 and
Chile in 1973.
Rodriguez, one of Chavez's closest advisers, has been the main
strategist behind Venezuela's push to rally other leading oil exporters
to cut production and jack up world oil prices. A Marxist guerrilla in
the 1960s, Rodriquez later became secretary-general of the Organization
of Petroleum Exporting Countries, as well as Venezuela's oil minister
and president of its state'owned oil monopoly, Petroleos de Venezuela,
In the escalating rhetoric between Caracas and Washington, Chavez warned
in a radio address Sunday of a U.S. assassination plot and threatened to
stop supplying oil to the United States if it makes an attempt on his
Condoleezza Rice, in her Senate confirmation hearings lst month to
become Secretary of State, said the United States "cannot remain
indifferent to what Venezuela is doing beyond its borders," referring
primarily to Chavez's close relations with Cuba and his support for
leftist movements in the region.
Yet Rodriguez's visit to the Bay Area illustrated how Venezuela, as the
fourth-largest source of imported oil to the United States, has clout no
other Latin American nation can match.
Rodriguez spent Thursday negotiating with officials at Chevron-Texaco's
headquarters in San Ramon. At the Commonwealth Club, he was accompanied
by Ali Moshiri, managing director of Chevron-Texaco's Latin American
division. The oil giant is a multi-billion-dollar investor in
Venezuela, producing large quantities of oil and building two huge
plants to produce liquefied natural gas for the U.S. markets.
"Strategically, Venezuela is very important. We believe it has the
potential to provide 35 percent of U.S. energy, in oil and natural gas,"
Moshiri said after Rodriguez's speech, adding, "Venezuela has been
treating the private sector very well."
Chavez survived a recall vote in August with 59 percent of the vote, and
his treasury receives $30 billion annually in oil revenues.
"The United States hasn't faced anything like Chavez for a very long
time," said Riordan Roett, director of the Western Hemisphere program at
Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies in
Roett described the divisions between Washington and Caracas as the Bush
administration's "idological distaste" for Chavez and the Venezuelan's
"grandiose ideas" of uniting Latin America under a nationalist,
"We thought populist leftist leaders were buried in history," Roett
said, "but the United States and the hemisphere are faced with the most
truculent and ambitious leader in decades, and he is likely to grow more
After a visit to Moscow in December, Chavez angered the Bush
administration by announcing that he was purchasing guns and warplanes.
The White House protested to the Kremlin, and U.S. officials warned that
the arms could be sent to the leftist guerillas in neighboring
26 February 2005
1800 Cedar Street
Berkeley, California 94703
Telephone: (510) 841-4106
noon til six, Monday thru Saturday