Saturday, August 20, 2005

“Here we are different” 

While I’m on the subject of the U.S. here is a little update on something that happened last week. U.S. Senator Arlen Specter traveled to Venezuela to meet with various Venezuelan officials. While there he wanted to meet with President Chavez directly in order to discuss the recent dispute over Venezuela ending its cooperation with the U.S Drug Enforcement Agency and the possibility for increased U.S. investment in the Venezuelan oil industry.

So on Thursday Senator Specter, along with the U.S. ambassador to Venezuela William Brownfield, went to the Presidential Palace, Miraflores. Although Chavez kept them waiting for a little while he received them both in his office. According to the newspaper Ultimas Noticias the first words uttered by Chavez were directed at Brownfield: “Notice, here we are different”.

This was an allusion to the fact that Chavez was willing to meet with a prominent U.S. politician and the U.S. ambassador, while the Venezuelan ambassador in the U.S., Bernardo Alvarez, had never been received by the U.S. President or even the Secretary of State. According to Ultimas Noticias Brownfield didn’t have a response and said nothing.

Now, the first thing is why would Bernardo Alvarez WANT to meet with either Bush or Rice? In all likely hood he doesn’t. After all they don’t share much of a worldview and so would have very little to talk about.

But this does show a couple of things. First, the Venezuelan opposition has always asserted that it is Chavez who is responsible for the poor relationship between the two countries. It is true that he has called Bush and Rice some bad names. But, given how quick they were to applaud his overthrow a few years ago (if not directly orchestrate it) do you really expect Chavez to have a lot of respect for them? After all, it's not as if Bush and Rice have ever even apologized for what they did. But more to the point, to have a good relationship there has to be communication. And the only one who has an open door is Chavez. He meets with any U.S. official or politician who requests it. Doubtless, he would meet with Bush himself if such a meeting was requested. So in point of fact, it is the U.S. that is responsible for the chill between the two, with its open support for those trying to unseat Chavez, its refusal to engage the Venezuelan government, and its overblown rhetoric (in fact this past week a US official had this to say about Chavez: “A guy who seemed like a comic figure a year ago is turning into a real strategic menace”.

Second, its seems like we are starting to see a rather disconcerting pattern here. The U.S. insists that Afghanistan turn over alleged terrorist immediately yet drags its feet on turning over terrorists to Venezuela; it expects others to be subject to international law but demands it be exempt from an International Criminal Court; and now it likes to have direct access to the Venezuelan government while not reciprocating by giving Venezuela access to U.S. officials. Its getting harder and harder not to come to the conclusion that the U.S. has double standards.

Its unlikely this situation will change anytime soon. Chavez is a very open and magnanimous person. It is very unlikely he would ever refuse to meet with U.S. officials. He is indeed very different, and much bigger, than the people running the U.S. government.


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