TCS Daily


Venezuela's Worrisome Export: Revolution

By Melana Zyla Vickers - November 9, 2005 12:00 AM

Over the weekend, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela once again asserted his place as the world's leading anti-globalization protester, hurling insults at George Bush and calling for the defeat of the Free Trade Area of the Americas.

If all there was to the Venezuelan president was his backward socialist views, Chavez wouldn't be such a problem. He'd just be a hypocrite whose government enriches itself on highly globalized, state-controlled oil revenues, while he denies the region's privately owned businesses the same opportunity.

The trouble is, Chavez is about much more than hypocrisy. He's become an exporter of revolution, a socialist authoritarian with a Fidel Castro-style agenda to destabilize the region and with oil dollars to finance his ambitions.

Consider how his government takes advantage of Venezuela's oil wealth. When an American driver fills up at the local Citgo station, those gas dollars go from American wallets into Chavez's governing pockets -- after all, his government controls Citgo. From Venezuelan coffers, the money goes to fund leftist narco-insurgencies in Colombia, Ecuador, and other Latin American countries -- insurgencies the U.S. soldiers and U.S. taxpayers have expended great resources to tamp down.

Leftist guerrillas from eight Latin American countries have received training at Venezuelan military bases this year, according to an Ecuadorian intelligence report revealed in a Quito newspaper earlier this month. El Presidente Chavez of course denies the charges. But his recent vows to create a regional, anti-American leftist front, his alliance with Fidel Castro's Cuba, his rising military expenditures and persistent reports that weapons disappear from the Venezuelan military into the hands of regional leftist rebels, make the charges all the more believable.

The Ecuadorian newspaper, El Comercio, wrote that since 2001, a 200-man leftist "liberation army" has been operating in Ecuador and that some of the men received training in Venezuela. In a follow-up story this month, the Miami Herald wrote that the intelligence report says the Venezuelans provided a month-long training course for guerrillas from Peru, Bolivia, Chile Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Colombia and Venezuela.

Hugo Chavez, a leader who has abused his original democratic election by rolling back civil rights and press freedom in the country, is fast asserting his place as a socialist imperialist of the Soviet model. Not only is he meddling in his neighbors' backyards, he has threatened to nationalize British petroleum interests and other foreign businesses in Venezuela. In the U.S., meanwhile, he has been trying the old Castro-ite techniques of wooing the American Left in Chicago's inner city and other blighted areas, offering free Venezuelan medical services. The supposed charity often comes with aggressive rhetoric opposing the U.S. government.

What's the U.S. to do about Chavez, who is essentially a less-senile Castro with a bigger country and petrodollars to burn? For a start, Chavez's meddlesome ways need to be exposed, as they were a tiny bit with the Miami Herald story. It's a mystery why Washington's politicians and pundits aren't condemning Chavez more aggressively.

Close attention needs to be paid to Chavez's actions in Latin America. Instability in that neighborhood, fueled by drug-running guerrillas, can only bring a return to the deadly, difficult days of the 1980s, in which Latin American populations were worn down and impoverished by constant insurgent warfare, assassinations, and other such terror, and the Americas as a whole, including the U.S., were awash in refugees.

Venezuela is no Soviet Union, to be sure. But even pipsqueak Cuba managed to mess around with Grenada and other states. The fact that Hugo Chavez is bent on spreading leftist revolution throughout a region that is only beginning to get on its democratic feet, and that Chavez sits at the helm of an oil-rich country, is cause for alarm.

It's time to call Hugo Chavez on his aggressive, unilateral, destabilizing foreign policy, and even to punish him for it.

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