Daily Telegraph UK: Venezuela vows to help Castro repel US 'lord of war'

Campaign News | Tuesday, 23 August 2005

Conservative daily reports on Chavez speech in Havana

By Francis Harris in Washington

(Filed: 23/08/2005)


President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has launched a blistering tirade against the United States, describing President George W Bush as the "lord of war".

Mr Chavez also pledged to send troops to the aid of President Fidel Castro if Washington ever dared to order an invasion of Cuba.

He sat beside Dr Castro following a summit meeting in western Cuba, as the two men used a six-hour live broadcast on Sunday night to set out their plans for the region and to condemn Washington's foreign policy.

Mr Chavez, apparently responding to accusations by Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, that he was funding anti-democratic movements in Latin America, hit back, saying: "The grand destroyer of the world and the greatest threat ? is represented by US imperialism.

"The truth is that they [the Bush administration] are the great destabilisers in the region." He defended his close ties with Dr Castro, whose latest crackdown led to the arrest of scores of opponents for discussing a post-authoritarian Cuba, and hailed almost half a century of communist rule on the island.

"People have asked me how I can support Fidel if he's a dictator. But Cuba doesn't have a dictatorship? It's a revolutionary democracy," he said. "We will do everything possible to avoid imperialist aggression, but if it occurs to some madman, he will find some young men ? defending the independence and sovereignty of this land."

In the meantime, Cuba and Venezuela have found numerous non-military schemes to confound the Americans. The two leaders recently launched Telesur, a regional satellite station which Rght-wing US critics have branded "Latin America's al-Jazeera".

Cuba has been given substantial quantities of cheap oil by Caracas and, in return, has dispatched a fifth of its doctors to Venezuela's poorer neighbourhoods. Mr Chavez will travel on today to Jamaica, where he will sign a deal providing cheap oil to the island.

US officials believe that Venezuela is seeking to buy influence in the region. Mr Rumsfeld and others have also accused the Venezuelans of funding anti-democratic and populist movements in fragile democracies such as Bolivia.

Otto Reich, a former senior foreign policy official in the Bush administration, has accused Mr Chavez of aiding Left-wing guerrillas in Colombia and of offering support to Iran over its nuclear programme.

Mr Chavez came to power through the ballot box in 1998 and was re-elected in 2000. A year ago, he won a referendum endorsing his rule.

He spent two years in jail in the early 1990s after being arrested for leading a 1992 coup attempt.

Since taking office, he has styled himself a Robin Hood-like figure - taking money from the rich and handing it to the poor. Many of his initiatives are aimed at improving the lives of impoverished slum dwellers. But critics say the use of communist-style command economics has actually worsened the condition of the poor, and that selling cheap oil is robbing Venezuela of badly needed wealth.

Venezuela, Cuba reject US charges of destabilizing Latin America

Havana 21 Aug: Cuban leader Fidel Castro and visiting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez refuted on Sunday US accusations that their governments exercised a destabilizing influence in Latin America.

During a special broadcast of Chavez' weekly radio and television show, "Hello Mr. President," from Cuba's western Pinar del Rio province, the two leaders dismissed the US charges.

It is the United States that "represents the greatest threat weighing on the world," Chavez said.

He stressed that Venezuela and Cuba want peace, but if "an imperialist aggression" happens, the two countries will join hands to defend Cuba's independence and sovereignty.

During the program, Castro scoffed at the US charges. According to the understanding of the United States, the Cuban leader said, "we cannot make a student study because that would be destabilizing," and "we cannot invite patients to get medical care because that is destabilizing."

The Venezuelan leader traveled to Cuba Saturday to attend the graduation of 1,600 medical students from across Latin America who had studied here for free.

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld last week accused Venezuela and Cuba of trying to destablizing Bolivia, where indigenous revolts have overthrown two presidents in two years.


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