Buenos Aires (CNSNews.com) - Despite having lost his attempt to rewrite Venezuela's constitution to strengthen his grip on the oil-rich country, President Hugo Chavez shows little sign of easing off on his anti-American rhetoric.
On a recent edition of his weekly radio and television show, Chavez urged his regional allies to line up against "the empire" -- his standard term for the United States.
"Nicaragua, Bolivia, Cuba, Venezuela and now Dominica should form a joint defense strategy, and to unite our air force, army, navy, National Guard, cooperation forces, intelligence agencies, because the enemy is the same -- the empire," he said.
Close ally and fellow leftist, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a guest on Chavez' show, declared that a U.S.-armed assault against Venezuela would be deemed an attack on the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean.
"Touching Venezuela is setting the region on fire," Venezuela's ABN news agency quoted Ortega as saying. "No one will stand still."
Chavez frequently airs the theory that Washington is plotting against him.
"Despite not having conventional or unconventional capabilities to defeat the U.S. directly, Chavez remains a serious threat to the United States," Timothy M. Snyder, a fellow at the Graduate Department of Defense and Strategic Studies at Missouri State University, said in a recent analysis.
"By expanding his influence in the region, and now the wider world, Chavez is steadily compromising U.S. security and primacy," Snyder argued.
He said the U.S. could present a regional alternative to Chavez if it "even partially returns its focus" to Latin America.
"Many leaders in the region have dislike Chavez and his revolutionary rhetoric, but cannot turn down his investment in their debts and his discounted energy prices," Snyder said.
According to Prof. Norberto Emmerich, political and foreign affairs specialist at the Universidad de Belgrano in Buenos Aires, the U.S. government is concerned about Chavez, "not for his concrete politics, but because of his leadership and rhetoric."
Emmerich told Cybercast News Service he foresees a calm 2008 in U.S.-Venezuela relations, on the grounds that "the Republican administration does not have any more strength to push Chavez."
He predicted that come 2009, a possible Democratic administration in Washington would make life difficult for Chavez and his "21st century socialism."
"Latin Americans will be reminded how ambitious the American expansionist dream can be during a Democrat administration ... and then Chavist Venezuela will have to defend itself with more than populist rhetoric speeches."
During a visit to Colombia in January, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen voiced concern about Chavez' regional role.
"I think that from the perspective of what Mr. Chavez has done militarily in recent years in his acquisition -- both those he's made and those stakes he's making for the future, [of] high performance airplanes, modern submarines -- the degree that those capabilities come into the theatre, they certainly are of great concern not just to Colombia ... but to the region and, in fact, very much to the U.S."
Mullen said the impact of such military acquisitions and the associated Chavez rhetoric would not help to ensure "a prosperous, stable, peaceful region."
In a letter to U.S. lawmakers last week, Venezuelan Ambassador to the U.S. Bernardo Alvarez Herrera acknowledged "the difficulties in the relationship" between the two countries, adding that he "would like to reiterate Venezuela's willingness to re-engage on matters of mutual interest and concern."
He accused some administration officials of lacking "the will to re-engage."
State Department spokesman Tom Casey told a press briefing that the government's "focus in the region is on a positive agenda that features things like free trade and economic development, not on any kind of wild conspiracy theories."
"There's certainly no truth to any statements that we wish anything but goodwill towards the Venezuelan people and wish to have anything more than a positive relationship with its government," he added.
Blow for Chavez as Voters Reject Constitutional Changes (Dec. 3, 2007)
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