Hugo Chavez vs. America
By Dale Hurd | CBN News Sr. Reporter
CBN.com – CARACAS, Venezuela - [Editor's note: the video in the original article is worth watching]. His name is Hugo Chavez. He is the president of oil-rich Venezuela. Mr. Chavez has decided that America is his enemy, so he is building up his army. He has forged an alliance with Fidel Castro, and many think he is going to make trouble for the United States.
Chavez believes he is in a fight with the devil. But the devil that Chavez fights does not reside in Hell. Chavez believes that the devil resides in Washington.
Chavez has actually been on a collision course with Washington for years. But for the most part, Washington was not paying attention. It is now.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld toured South America recently, trying to fight back against Chavez’ growing influence, but Washington’s concern comes very late in the game, and now a new Cuban-Venezuelan alliance, bankrolled by oil profits, threatens to create a block of anti-American states across Latin America
But Washington's concern has been too little too late, and now some fear that a new Cuban-Venezuelan alliance has a plan to create a new block of Leftist-run, anti-American states across Central and South America.
Internally, Chavez has already rewritten the constitution, stacked the courts and begun throwing political opponents into jail. And some say he is now looking beyond Venezuela's borders. With billions of dollars in oil profits, Chavez is buying advanced Russian fighter planes and helicopters, dramatically increasing the size of his armed forces and integrating it with Cuba's.
Meanwhile, Chavez laughs all the way to the bank. He sits atop one of the largest oil reserves in the world. Venezuela owns CITGO. And as America's fourth largest oil supplier, he believes he has the U.S. by the throat. And he just might.
Chavez calls this revolution "Bolivarian," named after the South American liberator, Simon Bolivar. But for his opponents, this revolution has been anything but liberating.
Maria-Corina Machado, opposition leader and mother of three, faces prison time for simply taking grant money from the National Endowment for Democracy, a program of the United States Congress.
"This is a country where anyone who dares to think and speak differently from the government,” said Machado, “is seen as an enemy."
Machado's group Sumate used the money to educate citizens in democracy. But the Chavez government accused Machado of plotting with the U.S. to overthrow it.
Machado commented, "I have three kids and I tell my kids that their mom could go to jail because of conspiracy, treason to my country, rebellion. These are the kinds of charges put against us."
Opposition figure Enrique Capriles has already spent four months in jail. He told CBN News that he was only released because the street protests over his jail sentence had become an embarrassment to the government.
And at the TV channel Globovision, TV talk show host Leopoldo Castillo has had to learn to keep his acid tongue in check. There is a new censorship law against insulting President Chavez.
Castillo remarked, "David Letterman, every day, in tonight's show, he makes fun of President Bush. Nothing happens. Here, with a new law, if you make fun of the president, of the senior officer of the Supreme Court, of any minister, you can go to jail.”
But if you travel to the barrios of Caracas, you hear a different story. Because here you get the feeling that Chavez is the revenge of the poor on a society that before never seemed to care about them. Many living in grinding poverty believe Venezuela's brand of corrupt capitalism is the reason they are poor. Chavez means hope. Here, he is no dictator.
This Chavista, or follower of Chavez, says he hopes Chavez rules forever. What they say in the USA is a lie," he says, "because Chavez is not a dictator. Chavez is a president who has decided to govern on behalf of the poor."
Last year, Chavez spent four billion dollars in oil profits on social programs, like a sewing co-op, which also includes political indoctrination every morning. State money also funds neighborhood food programs.
Young Chavistas, we were told, "belong to the revolution." And if this is starting to sound to you like Cuba, that's just what a lot of Venezuelans have been thinking, too.
Adolfo Taylhardat should know. He used to be Venezuela's ambassador to Cuba.
Taylhardat said, "…So I'm very much familiar with the internal situation in Cuba. And what I see is that Chavez slowly has been introducing all the elements of the Cuban regime, Cuban system into Venezuela. He wants to make Venezuela be as similar to Cuba as possible. And he wants to present Venezuela as a victim of U.S. imperialism."
In this typical diatribe, Chavez compared capitalism to Count Dracula, Frankenstein, Jack the Ripper and the Boston Strangler, but then added that Capitalists are much worse than those monsters.
Not a single poor person we talked to, no matter how much love they expressed for Chavez, said they wanted Venezuela to turn into Cuba. But that is the direction the country is headed.
Chavez has kicked out American military advisors and brought in Cuban officers. We interviewed a former Venezuelan Army officer, now seeking political asylum in the United States.
Speaking by phone from the Krome Detention Center in Miami, Lieutenant Jose Colina told us, "I was present in meetings in which members of the Cuban government were trying to change the ideology and indoctrinate officials of the Venezuelan Armed Forces, especially those of the National Guard. Without a doubt they were pointing out that we had to fight imperialism, capitalism and its top representative, the United States -- which is also the main cause of poverty and misery in Latin America."
In the barrios of Caracas we met a Cuban doctor, one of thousands of Cubans who now operate low-cost medical clinics for the poor. He said his was not a political mission, but a humanitarian one.
Chavez has been called the "anti-Bush." He has embraced virtually every enemy of the United States, past and present, from Saddam Hussein to Moammar Khaddafy to the Taliban and Iran.
An important early advisor to Chavez was an Argentine Holocaust-denier named Norberto Ceresole.
Ceresole believed that Latin America must forge alliances with Arab nations to fight against the United States and what Ceresole called "the Jewish financial mafia." And a few months ago, Chavez played a major role in the first South American-Arab Summit in Brazil, which attacked both the United States and Israel as the chief enemies of Latin America.
And although his government repeatedly denies it, a large body of evidence suggests that Chavez is harboring and supporting the FARC guerillas of neighboring Colombia, one of the largest and most dangerous terrorist organizations in the world.
Chavez calls the United States the world's greatest menace and says he simply wishes to be left alone to do his work. But there is a growing fear that Chavez is preparing to export his Bolivarian revolution to his neighbors. Why else would he need 100,000 recently purchased Russian AK-47s? Why announce plans to increase the size of the army reserves from 50,000 to 1.5 million? Why the ties to guerilla movements?
Chavez says the arms buildup is defensive. His opponents disagree. Taylhardat says, "He wants to do now what Castro failed to do in the 60s, when he sent out Che Guevarra to export the Cuban revolution to the rest of the continent."
Chavez said, "The U.S. administration is behind the opposition in Venezuela, and Mr. George Bush has a black hat, black horse and black flag. He is the main instigator and the main planner of all the movements that have attacked us."
Chavez says the U.S. is plotting to have him killed, and he says if that happens, oil shipments to the U.S. will stop. It is a strange relationship between business partners. But get used to it. Hugo Chavez remains the most popular politician in Venezuela. And he shows no sign of going away.
He states, "I bet a dollar to Mr. Bush to see who will last longer, him there in the White House or this Venezuelan, Hugo Chavez, here in the Miraflores Palace. Let's see who lasts longer, Mr. Bush."
In his fight with America, Chavez intends to be the last man standing.
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