Chavez accuses US of planning to assassinate him

Campaign News | Tuesday, 22 February 2005

If I am killed, Bush will be to blame, says Venezuelan leader

Caracas, Feb 21 (Prensa Latina) Venezuela?s President Hugo Chavez accused the US government of planning his assassination and backing continued aggressions against that country.

"If anything ever happens to me, the name of the person responsible is US President George Bush. I will not hide or lock myself up to say it to the world," President Chavez stated.

He recalled several top US officials have recently made all sorts of statements against him and the country, calling them "a negative force on the continent and a threat to regional countries and world peace."

The president noted Washington could be planning to wipe him out because in spite of the failed US coup d? etat and economic sabotage, his country?s Bolivarian Project is successfully carrying out social programs.

"The time of the cowards is approaching its end, and consciousness is being awakened all over the world. Imperialism can no longer keep people asleep," he stressed.

"Despite pressures and blackmail attempts, US leaders will not isolate Venezuela from its neighbor countries. I will spend every second of my life on the battlefront, no matter what happens," Chavez sustained.{508243B3-9C48-4D02-A4F5-B0E5BBA9DBF5}&language=EN

Fidel warns of danger to Chavez

HAVANA Feb. 13 - Fidel Castro warned that the life of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is in danger, and said the blame would fall on the United States if his close friend and ally is killed.

Fidel's remarks came during a six-hour speech that lasted until 4 am Saturday and closed an international globalization conference in Havana attended by hundreds of economists from all over the world.

"If Chavez is assassinated, the responsibility will lie entirely with the president of the United States," Fidel said, noting that President Bush has encouraged Chavez's opponents in the past.

The Cuban leader said Chavez's "Bolivarian revolution" threatens the interests of powerful people who tried to oust him with a short-lived coup in 2002 and several political campaigns against him.

An eventual attempt to kill Chavez would aim to halt the changes happening in the South American nation, Fidel said - the same way the United States and others tried to eliminate him as he turned Cuba into a socialist country.

"With me they've already lost their time, this has become too advanced," the 78-year-old said of the Cuban revolution. "But that (the situation in Venezuela) is in a crucial stage."

Countless assassination plots against Fidel and his closest advisers have been disclosed throughout the more than four decades of his rule.

Chavez on Saturday thanked the Cuban leader for his remarks.

"Thank you Fidel, it is true there are rumours, it is true there is information," he said while visiting areas affected by heavy rains outside Caracas.

"They are not going to succeed, my dear friend, you will see they will not," added the 50-year-old. "I will become an old man, like you."

Ties between Chavez and the Bush administration soured after Washington's initial endorsement of a 2002 coup that briefly ousted Chavez.

Chavez has repeatedly accused American officials of working to undermine his government and of seeking to derail efforts at regional integration, charges which Washington has denied.

The close relationship between Castro and Chavez has irked Washington. Venezuela provides much of Cuba's oil on favorable terms, and Cuba has sent thousands of health care workers, teachers and sports trainers to poor neighborhoods in Venezuela.

While Fidel devoted much of his speech to Chavez, he also said that after a decade of crisis Cuba's economy was finally stable, and that the centralized economic system was here to stay.

"Cuba is well," he said. "We have become more and more revolutionary, we have achieved many things."

Fidel said the Cuban state was rising from the ashes of its post-Soviet economic crash with greater control over its economy and help from China and Venezuela.

"The state is rising again like the phoenix," Fidel said.

For two years Cuba has been steadily centralizing control again over state companies by scaling back the autonomy allowed during the deep crisis that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.

It has also introduced foreign exchange controls, eliminated the US dollar as legal tender, increased regulation of foreign companies and curbed private enterprise in a return to a classic command economy that is 90 percent state-owned.

The centralization of state company operations will save Cuba between $500 million and $1 billion, Fidel said.

"We had to establish the most rigorous exchange controls," he said, complaining that previously 3,000 managers had authority to buy and sell, or run up hard currency debt.

Since the beginning of the year, all foreign exchange and its Cuban equivalent, the convertible peso, must be turned into a single account controlled by the Central Bank, which enhanced its grip on the purse strings of the cash-strapped state's finances.

Cuba will double its production of nickel and cobalt over the next four years thanks to Chinese investment and the increase in output by its joint venture with Canada's Sherritt International, the Cuban leader said.

Nickel, the Caribbean island's top export, will earn Cuba at least $800 million in gross revenues, or $500 million in net terms, Castro said. Cuba has the world's third largest nickel reserves and its industry is producing at capacity of around 75,000 tons a year from three processing plants.

China's state-owned Minmetals Corp. signed an agreement in November to invest $500 million in a joint-venture that aims to produce 68,000 tons of ferro-nickel per year. Fidel called China the "new engine" of economic growth.

Cuba's tourism industry, the island's top foreign currency earner that brought in $2 billion last year, has cut its costs to 60 to 80 US cents on the dollar of gross income.

Fidel thanked Venezuela's leftist President Hugo Chavez, his closest foreign ally, for generous assistance in shipping vital supplies of Venezuelan oil, officially 53,000 barrels a day, on preferential terms.

The number of Cuban doctors, dentists and teachers sent to Venezuela in part-payment for the oil will increase from 20,000 at present to 30,000 by the end of the year, he said.

Fidel said "the sun vanished from the horizon" when the Soviet Union collapsed. The demise of the Soviet bloc deprived Cuba of billions of dollars in subsidies, mainly through cheap oil supplies in return for overpriced sugar.

The Cuban economy shrank by 40 percent between 1990-1993 and has not fully recovered to pre-crisis output. Cuba reluctantly legalized the dollar, opened up Cuba to foreign investment and tourism, and allowed private entrepreneurs in food, transport and other services the state could not cater for.

Fidel expressed his dislike of private business in his speech to 1,400 economists at an anti-globalization conference,

He attacked private jitney cab drivers who ply the streets of Havana in 1950-era American cars, expalining that while they grew rich by charging exorbitant fares they still enjoyed free medical care and low rents that all Cubans regardless of income enjoy.

"We privatized as little as possible," Castro said, as he claimed victory for the survival of Cuban socialism.

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