This Sunday, Hugo Chavez recaptured the reins of power in Venezuela, winning a landslide presidential victory and revealing how anti-Americanism can be exploited on our southern front. Claiming “his real opponent” as the “imperialist government of the United States,” Chavez blasted his centrist challenger Manuel Rosales as nothing more than “an American puppet.” With 61.3 percent of the vote to Rosales’ 38.4 percent, Chavez solidified his hold over Venezuela for the next six years, claiming to have once again thwarted American power and struck a blow for “justice” – a boast seconded by Iran, which declared Chavez’s win as a victory against the United States.
For many Americans, Chavez’s hatred of America and his now infamous slander of President Bush as “the Devil” before the UN General Assembly in New York came as a shock. But Chavez has made it abundantly clear, time and again: he envisions himself as a peoples’ champion putting into motion a design to “finish off the U.S. empire” altogether, as he announced this July alongside Islamist ally, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Chavez’s romance with the Iran theocracy is the continuation of a disturbing trend where he has expressly embraced two of the most significant terror regimes on stringently anti-U.S. grounds. Earlier this year, he conducted his well-publicized relationship with Ahmadinejad as an act of defiance for any Western attempts to curb the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions. And, in his recent trip to Syria, he announced his steadfast friendship with Bashar Assad as a means to denounce the U.S. and criticize Israel’s “war crimes.”
While many dismiss his extravagant showmanship, Chavez’s strategy has begun to ricochet far beyond oil-rich Venezuela and succeeded in building regional and international alliances based on anti-U.S. sentiment, striking fears that the Axis of Evil will ally itself with a growing nexus of socialist power in our southern hemisphere.
Under the tutelage of presently ailing Fidel Castro, the Venezuelan president appears to be on the verge of achieving what Castro and his chief executioner Che Guevara failed to do some 50 years ago.
Bolivia’s Evo Morales was first to follow Chavez’s lead. Winning election in December of 2005 and proposing stringent restrictions on the press some two months later, Morales seeks to ape Chavez’s previous autocratic, socialist “reforms” in Venezuela by nationalizing Bolivia’s oil industry and attempting to rewrite its constitution, a move that may be tearing the country in two.
Last month, two more countries fell under leftist sway. Most recently, leftist economist Rafael Correa won election in Ecuador. And, largely bankrolled by Chavez, Daniel Ortega, the infamous Sandinista leader, was swept back into power in Nicaragua. Even Mexico’s bitter divide surrounding its recent elections has led to an uneasy “peace” where leftists provoke violence and refuse to recognize the conservative President Calderon.
More troubling still, Chavez actively pursues bolstering his military might, and Russia and China are reinforcing his ambitions. As various press outlets have reported, “Venezuela recently closed deals with Russia worth roughly US$3 billion (euro2.4 billion) for 24 Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets, 53 military helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles. Venezuela is also obtaining a license for the first Kalashnikov rifle factory in Latin America.”
In addition to this, “Venezuela will soon install Chinese-made radar and an advanced air-defense system equipped with anti-aircraft missiles capable of shooting down approaching enemy warplanes.” Chavez has also outlined plans to “increase the size of the army reserves from 50,000 to 1.5 million.” In a country of 25 million, this increase is sizable indeed.
While U.S. Army Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, chief of U.S. Southern Command, and other officials recently downplayed the prospect of “the creation of an anti-U.S. military coalition with other leftist countries in the region,” Chavez’s strategy of “cooperation” draws a new division bell between America and its enemies, extending beyond the Atlantic to one of the most unstable and anti-Western regions in the world.
Chavez’s financing of terror is also a subject of much speculation. As high-level military defectors claim, “Chavez gave $1 million to al-Qaida shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the United States.” In addition to this, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-TX, accuses Chavez of “providing identification documents to individuals from other parts of Latin America and from countries overseas that can be used to facilitate entry into the U.S. in a seemingly legal manner.”
The difficulty for America in addressing Chavez’s bid to “finish off the U.S. empire” lies in his now total control of the oil wealth of Venezuela, the world’s fifth richest exporter of oil and the fourth largest supplier to America itself. It is this oil-power with which Chavez mocks this country, vilifying Americans as “cynical, hypocritical, [and] full of […] imperial hypocrisy,” even while offering New York’s poor discounted oil in a supposed humanitarian gesture of compassion and fraternity.
As President Bush recognized in his last State of the Union address, we cannot continue to fund the countries that most want us destroyed. With this, combating Chavez and his ilk comprises more than just a military option. It forces us to reconsider our oil addiction and, once again, to test our ingenuity in the face of our enemies. It is a lesson we are learning in the Middle East and will continue to face until we have freed ourselves of our dependency on those who seek our destruction.
Click Here to support Frontpagemag.com.