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OIL Invasion Imminent? (Rumsfeld Piques over Venezuela's AK-47 Imports)

"I can't imagine why Venezuela needs 100,000 AK-47s . . . " fumes Donald Rumsfeld.

Gee whiz, Rummy - after 3 coup attempts, and with their hands on the spigot of one-fifth the U.S. imported crude supply, I wonder why on Earth Chávez would need 'em either . . .
US warns on Venezuela weapons plans

By Raymond Colitt in Brasília
Published: March 23 2005 18:57 | Last updated: March 24 2005 00:15

The US on Wednesday stepped up its pressure against Venezuela's weapons procurement programme warning that it threatened to destabilise the region.

Comments by Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, during a visit to Brazil, were the strongest indicator yet of growing concern in Washington about the planned acquisition of large quantities of firearms from Russia by President Hugo Chávez's leftwing government in Venezuela.

"I can't imagine why Venezuela needs 100,000 AK-47s, I can't imagine what is going to happen to 100,000 AK-47s," Mr Rumsfeld said before meeting Brazil's President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. "I personally hope the [delivery] doesn't happen...if it did, it wouldn't be good for the hemisphere."

Earlier this month, US officials said they feared the weapons could end up in the hands of leftwing guerrillas such as the Farc in Colombia. Some Chávez critics even speculated they could end up with leftwing groups in Bolivia and elsewhere in the region.

The tension threatens to put strain on the relationship between Washington and one of its top oil suppliers. The United States is the biggest consumer of oil from Venezuela, the world's fifth largest oil exporter.

Increasingly frustrated with Mr Chávez's fiery anti-US rhetoric and suspecting contacts with "destabilising forces" in the region, Washington is turning to Brazil as a moderator.

"We wish Chávez would listen more to Lula," said a top-level aide accompanying Mr Rumsfeld on a tour of South America.

"Our two countries are looking at ways to work together more closely to confront the anti-social threats from organised crime, gangs, drug-traffickers hostage-takers, and terrorists," Mr Rumsfeld added.

Mr Lula da Silva, who has a cordial relationship with Mr Chávez, is to participate in a summit between the Colombian and Venezuelan heads of state and José Luiz Zapatero, Spain's prime minister, in Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela, on Tuesday.

Mr Rumsfeld's trip to Brazil, which included a visit to the satellite-based Amazon surveillance system in Manaus, is part of growing perception in Washington that the leftleaning Lula da Silva admistration is an ally in tackling of instability in the region. Previous US concerns, such as Brazil's uranium enrichment programme, appear to have put to one side.

"Brazil's role in the region is well seen in Washington. Dealing with Venezuela and pursuing regional leadership is in our and their interest," said Rubens Barbosa, a former Brazilian ambassador to the US.

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Venezuela Criticizes Rumsfeld Remarks 26.Mar.2005 09:48

United Press International

Thursday 24 March 2005

Caracas, Venezuela - Venezuelan officials criticized remarks by the US defense secretary regarding their efforts to improve the country's defenses, El Nacional reported Thursday.Calling Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld a "lord of war," Vice President Jose Rangel said his remarks were "inspired by his goal of getting involved in the internal politics of other nations and violating our [Venezuela's] sovereignty."

During a visit to Brazil Wednesday, Rumsfeld expressed concern about President Hugo Chavez's recent decision to bolster Venezuela's defenses by purchasing aircraft and arms from Russia.Venezuela is set to receive a reported 100,000 AK-47 assault rifles in the coming months."I can't imagine what's going to happen to 100,000 AK-47s.I can't imagine why Venezuela needs 100,000 AK-47s.I just hope that, personally hope, that it doesn't happen," he said."I can't imagine that if it did happen, that it would be good for the hemisphere."

The Bush administration has been ratcheting up its pressure on Chavez in recent weeks, hitting him with repeated verbal volleys in accusing him of trying to destabilize the region by supporting leftist movements throughout South America - most notably the Marxist guerillas in neighboring Colombia.


My Turn: An Updated Doctrine

By David Noon
The Juneau Empire
Friday 25 March 2005

As the chattering classes prematurely credit the United States with fostering democracy in the Middle East, they have ignored the old habits of empire that continue to fester in our own hemisphere. Amid the fuss over ANWR and steroids, the Washington Post reported recently that Hugo Chávez, the twice-elected president of Venezuela, has renewed cause to look over his shoulder.

Evidently, a former CIA operative told a Spanish-language news program in Miami that the United States may be considering "military measures" to induce political change in Venezuela. It could, Felix Rodriguez surmised, "do it with a military strike, with a plane," drawing comparisons with the attempted assassination of Libya's Mohamar Khadafi in 1986. Rodriguez, an old friend of the Bush family, knows how these things go; the Cuban exile trained right-wing terrorists in El Salvador during the cold war and ran the illegal operation to arm the contra squads in Nicaragua under Ronald Reagan.

Chávez survived a spring 2002 coup that was enthusiastically supported if not directly assisted by the United States, and he has never shrouded his feelings toward the current administration. He recently castigated Condoleezza Rice as an "illiterate" whom he regards as unfit for marriage. Rice, for her part, describes Chávez as a "negative force in the region," while administration officials have been less than discrete in formulating a strategy of Venezuelan containment and eventual "regime change."

Never mind the rhetoric of democracy and human rights, which is typically reserved to scold the uncooperative (Venezuela) rather than the compliant (Colombia). Venezuela possesses immense oil resources, upon which the United States depends for 15 percent of its imports. (Indeed, US imports from Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador exceed those drawn from the Middle East.) Chávez, to the unyielding fury of Washington, maintains good relations with Fidel Castro and has become the key figure in a bloc of rogue Latin American nations whose heresies include increased public spending on education and health care - a clear rejection of the pro-privatization consensus urged by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Whether or not the assassination rumors are plausible, the conceptual legacy of US-Latin American relations is worth recalling in an era of preventive war and celebrations of national virtue. In 1823, President James Monroe announced that the United States would view as "unfriendly" any European interference with Latin America. A spectral assertion with no standing in international law, the Monroe Doctrine was more valuable as myth than policy. It distinguished the corrupt, Old World nations of Europe - mired in superstition, monarchy and sin - from the Western Hemisphere, a wholly exceptional world where reason and republican virtue reigned supreme, and where the United States enjoyed special providence.

By 1904, the United States had stripped the carcass of the Spanish Empire, adding (officially or informally) the Philippines, Cuba, and Puerto Rico to its roster of possessions. With a renewed and strikingly familiar imperial confidence, Theodore Roosevelt expanded the Monroe Doctrine, converting it from a fable of hemispheric virtue into a blunt declaration of national power. His "Roosevelt Corollary" insisted that Latin American nations abide by certain norms of "civilization" or face the wrath of el Norte. Nations acting with "reasonable efficiency and decency," Roosevelt explained, need not worry. Yet "chronic wrongdoing," however defined, could require "the exercise of an international police power." No Latin American nation ever formally acknowledged the Monroe Doctrine, though most of them, Haiti, Mexico, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Chile, Colombia, and Argentina among them, have known its effects.

As I occasionally suggest to my students, we live in a nation that has globalized the Monroe Doctrine, with consequent disregard - to say nothing of its outright disdain - for the discomforts of international law. But while the Monroe Doctrine has been updated for the new millennium (and our new Middle Eastern "backyard"), the old claims upon Latin America still apply, a reminder of virtue's limits. So while the United States continues to insist that it will only support legal, democratic means to dispose of Hugo Chávez, more traditional scenarios - rooted, of course, in the virtuous pursuit of stability and order - are not difficult to imagine.


David Noon is an assistant professor of history at the University of Alaska Southeast.