U.S. Outburst at OAS Meeting: Chavez and the Bolivian Crisis
After all, Washington had just received a stunning rebuke from the other countries around the table against its proposal to create mechanisms for foreign meddling in the affairs of other countries (read: Venezuela), and Bolivian President Carlos Mesa had just offered his resignation in the face of a massive popular movement to nationalize the Bolivian gas industry.
Noriega, not used to losing gracefully, simply blew his top, spitting loudly that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is to blame for Bolivia's crisis.
Noriega has a point, but not in the way he thinks he has it... Check out this account in Oligarch's Daily, er, The Miami Herald:
As Bolivia drifted toward political chaos Tuesday, Washington's top diplomat form Latin America hinted that Venezuela's leftist President Hugo Chávez was somehow responsible for the worsening situation.
"Chávez' profile in Bolivia has been very apparent from the beginning,'' Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega said in response to a question about Chavez' influence on the turmoil in Bolivia.
''His record is apparent and speaks for itself,'' Noriega told reporters atthe Organization of American States's general assembly in Fort Lauderdale. He adding that the situation "was worrisome.''
Noriega had no hard facts to back up his claim - something even the staunchly anti-Chávez Herald acknowledged - and Venezuela issued an effective rebuttal (quoted, here, below the fold), but I can translate for you what Noriega was really trying to say: Noriega is angry that the Bolivian Armed Forces has refused to violently put down the demonstrators, and he blames that on the example Chávez has set for a pro-people, non-repressive, military in Venezuela... which has more and more admirers among military brass in other countries.
The Herald continued:
In reply, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Alí Rodríguez ''indignantly'' denied allegations circulated by U.S. officials for several months that his government has provided financial assistance to one of the leaders of the Bolivian opposition, Evo Morales.
Asked about Noriega's comments, Rodríguez said, ''It seems that he [Noriega] goes around seeking to throw fuel on the fire'' and added that diplomats should try to put out fires, not fuel their flames.
''The problems in Bolivia are problems that belong to Bolivia and it is up to the Bolivians to solve them,'' Rodríguez said. ''Venezuela is scrupulously respectful of the sovereignty of all countries.'' Bolivian government officials and Western diplomats in the region have told the Herald that while the allegations of Chávez financial aid to Morales are widespread, there's been no hard evidence to support the charges.
In a combined wire from the French and German press agencies, Mexico's daily La Jornada filled in the blanks this morning.
Under fire to provide proof of Noriega's bombastic claim, the U.S. Department of State put out a statement later in the day:
At the end of the afternoon, the State Department distributed press releases to justify its accusation. Among them was an interview published by the conservative Argentine daily La Nación last May 16, titled: "Evo Morales: We Want to Join with Fidel and Chávez."
They also distributed wire reports that announced that Morales had invited Chavez to Bolivia, or that (Morales' Movement Toward Socialism party backed President Chavez."
These are hardly proofs of anything, not like, say, Julio Mamani Conde's report yesterday about the United States' meddling role in Bolivian affairs this week... And certainly not on the scale of the hard evidence, based on the U.S. government's own unclassified documents, that the U.S. had directly meddled fomenting unrest in Venezuela!
That said, I think Roger Noriega has a point, although his logic is convoluted. Let me explain:
According to well placed sources in La Paz, yesterday, prior to the resignation of Bolivia's president, heir apparent to the Bolivian throne, Congressional leader Hormando Vaca Diez, had gone to Bolivia's military brass with a plan already written for how the military will declare martial law and ruthlessly stamp out the social movements when Vaca Diez becomes president. (Who wrote that plan, Mr. Noriega?).
But the Bolivian generals told Vaca Diez to pound sand: They said, according to our sources, that they were tired of being the villains of history, causing coup after coup, massacring their own people. (This - and perhaps copious amounts of alcohol - explains Vaca Diez's crestfallen voice during his Monday night press conference, heard around the world via Radio Erbol.)
US Ambassador Roger Noriega is red-faced angry that the Bolivian military won't get to work assassinating Evo Morales, Felipe Quispe, Oscar Olivera, the entire city of El Alto, and Authentic Journalists who are covering the story. And Noriega blames Chavez!
Noriega blames Chavez because Chavez - a military soldier admired by many just like him across the hemisphere - has set the gold standard of how to put an Armed Forces to work on behalf of the people instead of against them. And simply by surviving the coup attempts against him, and by continuing his kinder-gentler non-repressive military model, Chavez has showed by example that Latin American military organizations need not be repressors as they have historically been.
That is why, kind readers, Noriega and Washington blame Chavez: not because of any evidence of direct involvement, but because the Bolivian military is balking (so far) at murdering its own people. Damn Chavez! Let one Latin American president reform his military and before ya know it, others are gonna wanna do the same! And then democracy breaks out all over the place, and what is a decaying Empire to do?