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Venezuela's Hugo Chavez: Hero or Troublemaker?

September 16, 2003

You can hardly blame President Hugo Chavez for the poor economy in Venezuela (editorial, Sept. 12). Chavez's opponents, the rich businessmen, oil barons and landowners, are the culprits; in other words, the Spanish, not the Indians whom Chavez has been trying to help. Those opposed to his policies called for the debilitating strike that stopped oil production as well as all other production in the country and caused the economy to collapse.

They tried a coup, supported by the Bush administration. The strike didn't get rid of him, so now they want to recall him, blaming him for their economic woes. Chavez's real problem was that his economic policies were working in 2001. And he refused the efforts of the international banks to "globalize" his nation. They, along with the Bush administration, could not let him succeed.

Donna Kapche

Fountain Valley

*

Your editorial highlights some of the misery that Chavez has brought to the people of Venezuela. However, it neglected to mention that Chavez's close ties to the communist states of China and Cuba have helped to destabilize his South American neighbors. During a visit to Venezuela by Chinese President Jiang Zemin in 2001, Jiang and Chavez signed an arms deal that has flooded Latin America with Chinese weapons. Beijing stationed several hundred military advisors in Venezuela while Chavez supported destabilization efforts in Bolivia and Ecuador.

In 2002, Chavez resumed subsidized oil shipments to Fidel Castro, costing the Venezuelan people millions of dollars in the midst of a financial meltdown. Chavez has recruited more than 600 Cuban "doctors" and "teachers" to help in a literacy campaign administered by the Venezuelan military. United States intelligence has characterized the campaign as an "indoctrination" program, and Switzerland blocked a small-arms export contract amid concerns that Venezuela and Cuba were conspiring to divert the weapons to Marxist rebels in Colombia. Chavez's oppressive regime undermines the stability of South America. While Chavez sponsors insurgency campaigns throughout the region, the people of Venezuela continue to suffer.

Christopher J.

DesBarres

Research Associate

National Defense Council

Alexandria, Va.

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