Research: Commentary

U.S.-Venezuelan Relations

February 10, 2006 | Letter

By Wayne Smith

In her February 10 article on increasingly tense relations between the United States and Venezuela, Pamela Constable quotes Otto Reich as saying that: “We didn’t start this,“ and that Chavez was responsible for provoking U.S. hostility.

Really? All Chavez’s fault? It takes real chutzpah on Reich’s part to say so, given that he was the Assistant Secretary of State at the time of the April 2002 coup which unseated Chavez for a couple of days – before the Venezuelan people massively demanded his return to power. Prior to the coup, Reich had met several times in Washington with Pedro Carmona, who was declared President by the military plotters and with others who were involved in the coup. And in addition to these meetings, there is now abundant other evidence that the Bush administration actively encouraged the coup. On the same day in April of 2002 that Carmona was appointed (however briefly) to the presidency, Reich summoned Latin American ambassadors to his office to announce that the U.S. would support the Carmona government.

Unfortunately for Otto Reich and for the coup plotters in Caracas, the Venezuelan people did not want Pedro Carmona. They poured into the streets to demand his ouster and within hours, he was out. They wanted Hugo Chavez, as they had demonstrated in 1998, when he won the presidency with 56.2% of the vote, in 2000, when he won again with 59% of the vote, and in the recall referendum of 2004 pushed by the opposition (and behind the scenes by the Bush administration) with nearly 60% of the vote.

Reich says any initiative for improving relations would have to come from the Venezuelan side, but against this background of long-standing U.S. hostility and efforts to bring him down, it seems more logical that the handed extended to invite dialogue might better be that of the U.S.

(Unpublished)

CIP in the Press