The United States was “openly behind” the attempted coup against Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, and those participating in the rebellion were “selling out to the United States,” according to official Cuban sources.
The remarks were made at a mass rally prior to Chavez’s return to power. Coup leaders stated that Chavez had resigned and was replaced by Pedro Carmona, a respected business leader, but Carmona resigned after one day in office following large pro-Chavez demonstrations. Some estimates of the number of participants in the demonstrations reached as high as 200,000.
Cuba also claimed that most of those killed during the anti-Chavez demonstrations leading up to the coup attempt were actually Chavez supporters. No evidence for the claim was given.
The remarks were carried by Radio Havana Cuba, the official broadcasting service of the Cuban government.
Referring to the large number of those demonstrating for his return, Chavez paraphrased one of Christ’s statements in the New Testament upon his return to power. “Give to God what is God’s, to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to the people what is the people’s,” Chavez said, according to a report from the Italian news daily, La Stampa.
Deep divisions, however, remain in Venezuelan society.
Chavez is an admirer and close friend of Cuban President Fidel Castro, and of Castro’s communist model of government and society. Many in Venezuela fear the imposition of a Marxist state in their country, while Castro has praised the constitution Chavez promoted in Venezuela as “the most progressive in the world.”
Since his first election to the presidency in 1998, Chavez has developed close cooperation between Venezuela and Cuba, especially evident in an exchange agreement of oil for medical and sports expertise. Cuba receives approximately 160 thousand barrels of oil per day in exchange for Cuban medical personnel and sports expertise sent to Venezuela.
Venezuela also assisted Cuba in developing its own petroleum industry.
The policies fostered by the Chavez government have caused concern that Venezuela is becoming another Marxist state, as well as a determined opponent of the United States.
Carlos Molina Tamayo, vice admiral of the Venezuelan navy, recently condemned Chavez for abandoning Venezuela’s traditional friends, seeking links with Cuba, and “other communist countries,” according to the Italian news daily Corriere della Sera.
In addition to praising the unabashedly Marxist Castro, Chavez also indirectly aids the ELN, a communist guerrilla group operating in Colombia, Venezuela’s neighbor to the west.
Chavez’s policy of welcoming ELN representatives to Caracas, purportedly for goodwill mediation of the conflict, has caused hostility among various factions in Venezuela and “infuriated” Colombian president Andres Pastrana, according to a recent Corriere della Sera report.
While the reappearance of Chavez is good news to Cuba, it is an unfavorable development for the U.S. economy.
During his presidency, Chavez has consistently been an enthusiastic advocate of a firmly united OPEC oil-pricing policy, capable of maintaining stable, high prices for producing states.
Venezuela, the world’s fourth largest oil supplier, is of major importance to the United States. The fall of Chavez and replacement with individuals friendly to the U.S. could have substantially reduced U.S. dependence on Middle Eastern oil, replacing it with Venezuelan oil at a stable, reliable price.
During the early hours of the coup, the French news daily Le Figaro commented that “the object of the new responsible parties” in Venezuela is to “become the prime source” of oil for the United States
Juan Carlos Sosa, an oil consultant in Caracas, stated that “we [Venezuela] must increase our share of the U.S. market,” and that the supposed fall of Chavez meant that “we will be in a good position to arrive [at this goal].”
The coup against Chavez also caused concern that the entire pricing structure of OPEC would be undercut. The fall of Chavez would have added to “the lack of discipline” of the oil cartel, according to Nordine Ait-Laoussine, former energy minister of Algeria, and currently president of the Geneva-based energy consulting firm Nalcosa, as quoted in Le Figaro.
Venezuela will also be renamed for the second time in less than a week.
Chavez, an admirer of the 19th century Latin American revolutionary leader Simon Bolivar, is seeking to follow Bolivar’s idea of uniting all of Latin America into one nation.
As an early step toward the fulfillment of the goal, Chavez changed the name of his country from the Republic of Venezuela to the “Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,” indicating the eventual goal of one united Latin America.
Both Chavez and Castro have advocated the union of Latin America into a single union — dominated by Marxist theory — which would stand in opposition to its wealthy neighbor to the north, the United States.
Among Carmona’s first acts was to return the nation to its former name.
With the reinstatement of Chavez, that step will now be reversed, and Venezuela will again become the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.