Venezuelans rally against U.S. meddling

CARACAS – The streets of Venezuela’s capital were a sea of red on Sunday, Feb. 29, as hundreds of thousands of pro-Chávez supporters demonstrated their anger at U.S. intervention in Venezuelan affairs.

After President Hugo Chávez announced the discovery of substantial U.S. support for the notoriously undemocratic opposition in Venezuela two weeks ago on his weekly television and radio show, “Hello Mr. President,” Venezuelans have been in an uproar, demanding the U.S. stop intervening in Venezuela’s domestic affairs.

Recently declassified documents available for public viewing on the Internet (at www.venezuelafoia.info) evidence millions of dollars of financing by the U.S. government to various sectors of the Venezuelan opposition.

President Chávez addressed hundreds of thousands of his supporters on Sunday afternoon, insisting that the Bush administration respect Venezuela’s democracy and his presidency.

“Mr. George W. Bush is in the White House as a result of electoral fraud committed against the people of the United States … he is not even the legitimate president of the U.S. because he stole the elections,” proclaimed Chávez as the crowd applauded and expressed its approval.

The Venezuelan leader called on his constituents to respect the people of the United States and he urged U.S. citizens to “demand their government respect neighboring nations and peoples in the Americas.”

Chávez spoke directly about the important relationship Venezuela shares with the United States, economically and socially, and specifically pointed out that Venezuela has key interests and investments in the U.S.

“We have strong interests in the United States which include … eight refineries that employ thousands and thousands of North Americans,” he reminded the crowd as he also assured them that if the U.S. were to embargo these Venezuelan companies, the same could happen in Venezuela to U.S. interests.

Much of Chávez’s charged speech was prompted by the documents made public by a U.S. non-profit organization, the Venezuela Solidarity Committee, which provide hard evidence of millions of dollars awarded by the U.S. Department of State to the National Endowment for Democracy to dispense on Venezuela-related projects. The documents, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act in the U.S., provide Chávez with proof of U.S. participation in the coup d’etat against his government in April 2002 and the continuing destabilization campaign that is wrecking havoc on Venezuela’s social welfare.

Last week, President Chávez blamed Bush for the multiple assassinations that resulted from the failed 2002 coup and demanded that Bush answer for those deaths and the devastation caused to Venezuelan society and economy by the coup and the subsequent oil industry sabotage in winter 2003 that was also privately supported and financed by the U.S. government.

The documents available on the Internet show a meticulously planned financing venture of opposition groups that penetrate all angles of Venezuela society, including the legal system, the legislature, civil society groups, the military, the police forces, the education sector and the agricultural sector, amongst others.

President Chávez made clear that he will not hesitate to break off oil sales to the U.S. if the intervention persists, which served as a clear warning to the U.S. that Venezuela will not stand for any U.S. meddling in its affairs, whether it is covert, financial or military action.

The big Sunday march occurred after the National Elections Council (NEC) announced last week that 1.4 million signatures obtained in November 2003 by the opposition in a petition drive for a recall referendum against Chávez’s mandate will be set aside and reviewed for fraud. If those signatures are to be held invalid, the opposition will not have obtained the necessary 2.4 million signatures needed for a recall referendum. Many opposition leaders have announced they will reject a decision by the NEC holding the signatures invalid and will resort to other methods of removing Chávez from his democratically-elected office.

The opposition held small demonstrations in Caracas on Feb. 27-28 in which two people were killed and dozens injured as violent scuffles broke out. Several pockets of opposition groups also confronted Chávez supporters and National Guard members during Sunday’s march.

(As of press time the NEC decided that the opposition lacked enough signatures to force a recall. An additional 876,016 signatures may be valid if citizens confirm they signed the petition. – Editor)

Reprinted with permission from www.venezuelanalysis.com.