Venezuela ends military exchange programme with the United States

During his weekly Alo Presidente broadcast Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez gave an explanation of the reasons for the suspension of the bilateral military exchange programme with the United States. According to Chavez, US military advisors “were carrying out their own campaign within the military institution and this cannot be allowed”. He added that they were “talking ill of the [Venezuelan] president to our boys”, which is something that goes against the country’s stability and sovereignty.

Hugo Chavez also argued that this measure was also taken in order to protect the physical integrity of US military personnel. He reminded the audience that in the build up to the US invasion of Panama, a number of US military personnel were attacked in the streets. It was later found out that these attacks had been carried out by the US intelligence services in order to prepare a “justification” for the invasion.

Last year, Venezuela had also suspended the military mission that the US had kept within Fuerte Tiuna, the main military garrison in the capital. Chavez accused the US officers of being CIA agents and there is suspicion that they participated in the failed military coup against Chavez on April 11, 2002. The first place Chavez was taken after being deposed by reactionary military officers was precisely the Fuerte Tiuna barracks.

In the same programme Chavez explained that the desperation of the US in relation to Venezuela is because of its oil. The “United States want to continue to get hold of that oil, but it is now ours (…) and it is being used for the welfare of all Venezuelans, and not of a privileged minority” he added.

A video of the US organised Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba in 1961 was shown during the weekly programme. President Chavez said that a similar strategy had been planned in relation to the 100 Colombian paramilitaries arrested on a ranch in El Hatillo, near the capital Caracas, in May 2004. Chavez also announced that a US military officer had been found taking pictures of the Command of the Armoured Army Brigade in Maracay, and a number of US citizens, who later identified themselves as journalists, had been found taking pictures of the El Palito refinery in Moron. He warned that “if any officer of the US military repeats these kind of activities again, they are going to be arrested and tried in Venezuela.”

To combat these threats, Chavez argued, it is necessary to organise the reserve forces of the army, which he wants to increase to 2 million people, and to “strengthen the mobilisation of the people … to defend the country in any circumstance”

Since the beginning of the year, the US administration and media have stepped up a belligerent campaign against Venezuela. The democratically elected government of Hugo Chavez has been accused of everything from linking up with North Korea, supplying arms to the Colombian FARC guerrillas, funding the “subversive” MAS in Bolivia, forming an axis of evil with Cuba’s Castro, starting an arms race in Latin America, to harbouring Al-Qaeda terrorists.

On March 13, an article in the Financial Times quoted US Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Western Hemisphere, Roger Pardo-Maurer, who accused Chavez of “picking on the countries whose social fabric is the weakest. In some cases, it’s downright subversion.” This is in fact the key to the belligerent attitude of the US. Translated into plain English, what Roger Pardo-Maurer is saying is that the Venezuelan revolution is seen as an example by the workers and peasants throughout Latin America. The policies of privatisation, de-regulation, the opening up of markets, and the free trade agreements pursued by Washington in the whole of Latin America for the last two decades have plunged these countries into deep economic crises. The number of poor and unemployed have gone up, while multinational companies have plundered these countries’ natural resources.

The policies of the Chavez government of opposing privatization, using large amounts of the country’s oil revenues, his stance against the policies of US imperialism and the Free Trade Area of the Americas, are obviously seen as an alternative. Furthermore the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela has proven that the diktats of Washington can be defied and that the attempts of the oligarchy and imperialism to put an end to this defiance can be overcome through mass mobilisation. Venezuela is indeed a very “dangerous” example from the point of view of the White House. For them, anything that threatens the rule of big business is “downright subversion”.

Many in the current US administration know a lot about “subversion”. Rogelio “Roger” Pardo-Maurer himself was the political officer in the Washington office of the Nicaraguan contras from 1986 to 1989. Other prominent figures in the US administration are also well versed in “subversion”, having been involved in the counter-insurgency operations in Central America in the 1980s (Elliot Abrams, Otto Reich, John Negroponte, Roger Noriega, etc). Several of them also met the Venezuelan April 2002 coup organizers in Washington in the weeks prior to the “subversive” ousting of Chavez. As for “picking on weak countries” Roger Pardo-Maurer, Otto Reich, and other US officials, intervened directly in El Salvador last year to prevent a victory of the left-wing FMLN in the elections. They hinted that this would put at risk the remittances of Salvadorian immigrants in the US (one of the country’s main sources of income). The FMLN lost the election by a very small margin.

President Chavez and the Bolivarian revolutionary movement are right to take measures to defend themselves from the threat of intervention by the US. To act in any other way, taking into account the long history of US participating in the crushing of revolutionary movements in Latin America, would be downright irresponsible.

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