September 28, 2006

"Though President Chavez maintains in excess of 50 percent support, only 16 percent of Venezuelans agree with his confrontational style with the US"

In this excellent introduction to the politics of Chavez's US-bashing, Vinod Sreeharsha skillfully brings gringo readers up to date...

A taste:
While many Americans may have heard President Chavez's extreme rhetoric for the first time last week, William Brownsfield, the U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela, carries a list with him of all the accusations President Chavez has leveled at the United States. The tally exceeds 30, including blame for deadly floods, a local bus driver strike that never occurred and the bombing of a regional Electoral Committee office.

One often-repeated claim of Chavez's is that the United States is about to invade Venezuela. Following the 2005 U.N. General Assembly session, President Chavez, while interviewed on "Nightline," cited as evidence documents referring to an Operation Balboa. But Balboa turned out to be a war-game exercise run by Spain. The original documents were not even in English.

Venezuelan Frieda Lopez, when asked if she supports her president, says, "For now, but my problem is economic." Assessing the threat of a U.S. invasion, she says that, "It is not credible."

If economic relations with the United States were to rupture, President Chavez's supporters would be among the most directly impacted. Many of their social programs are funded directly by oil revenue, and the United States still accounts for 50 percent of Venezuela's oil exports, according to Veneconomia, a Venezuelan economic consultancy.

And Che Guevara T-shirts notwithstanding, Chavez supporters depend on U.S. products as commerce between the two countries has skyrocketed in recent years.

Eduardo Garcia lives in Petare, one of Caracas's largest barrios. When he looks around his neighborhood, Garcia says, he sees many Motorola cell phones and GE televisions. Garcia says his Chavista neighbors, like all good Venezuelans, "like to buy things, especially imported products."

Garcia is positive about the Chavez government. "I like the change it is generating," he says. When asked if he fears a U.S. military invasion, he laughs. "No, you really think the U.S. will invade Venezuela?"
Better yet, read the whole thing...