US says has "inoculation" strategy to curb Chavez
By Saul Hudson
02/17/06 -- WASHINGTON ( Reuters ) - Washington wants to curb
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's anti-American influence by
lobbying allies to try to expose any anti-democratic policies,
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Thursday.
The United States has tried different strategies to counter
Chavez, ranging from confronting him to ducking a fight.
In what she termed an "inoculation" strategy, Rice said she had
sought support from Europe and other Latin American nations to
highlight U.S. charges that the populist Chavez abuses his power
to target political opponents and business leaders.
"The international community has just got to be much more active
in supporting and defending the Venezuelan people," Rice told a
She said she had urged governments to go public with criticism
of a treason trial against leaders of a movement, Sumate, that
failed to oust Chavez in a recall referendum. "This kangaroo
trial of Sumate is a disgrace," she said.
And she urged labor movements to back striking workers.
Speaking late on Thursday night, Chavez questioned what he
called the confused signals in Washington's policy toward
Caracas and dismissed attempts by Rice to isolate his government
in the world's No. 5 oil exporter.
"She's calling foreign ministers, she's called Spain, she has
called Brazil, good friends of ours, and Austria, to warn them
about Venezuela, to form a block against Venezuela," Chavez told
reporters outside Miraflores Presidential Palace.
"What could be more aggressive? All we can do is resist this
imperialist abuse and defeat it," he said.
Flush with revenues from high-priced oil exports and allied with
Cuba, Chavez has thrived, is popular in Latin America and has
come to symbolize much of the anti-American sentiment in a
region that has increasingly opposed U.S. economic policies.
That regional popularity has undercut Rice's efforts to use
neighboring nations to curb Chavez, who has used strengthened
ties with leftist governments to reject America's free trade
ambitions for the hemisphere.
His outspoken criticism of the Bush administration has also
angered some U.S. lawmakers.
Rep. Dan Burton, an Indiana Republican, and influential player
on U.S. policy toward Latin America, said Chavez may give $50
million to the Palestinian group Hamas, which the United States
considers a terrorist organization.
Venezuelan Foreign Ministry officials were not available to
comment on those remarks.
Such a move would further strain deteriorating ties between the
United States and one of its top oil suppliers after the
countries each expelled diplomats this year in a dispute over
alleged U.S. espionage.
Chavez has said the United States wants to put sanctions on
Venezuela for being a state sponsor of terrorism.
(Additional reporting by Patrick Markey in Caracas)
© Reuters 2006.
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