One of the under-reported parts of Condi Rice’s confirmation testimony was the grilling she received on Venezuela by Lincoln Chafee (R-RI). What’s up with Venezuela you ask? Well, it seems the Bushies are none too happy about the democratically elected President Hugo Chavez and see his government as a threat.
A threat? How can that be? It’s just a country in South America… no WMDs, has never invaded anyone else… so what’s the deal?
They have oil. And lots of it.
In fact, they are the 5th largest oil producer in the world and provide the US with about 15% of their imports.
[Chavez told] Washington to not “even think about trying something similar in Venezuela,” referring to what he claims was Washington’s orchestrated coup against former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February, 2004. Should the U.S. follow this course, he optimistically observed that Venezuela “has enough allies on this continent to start a 100-year war,” and that “U.S. citizens could forget about ever getting Venezuelan oil.”
In fact, they said they may suspend shipments to the US in the event of a conflict. And what drives the US economy? Yup, oil. So you can see how this is deeply disturbing to the oilmen in the White House.
But it doesn’t end there. Chavez has also visited Castro in Cuba twice in late 2004 for secret meetings. Why you may ask… well, it seems Cuba has discovered oil as well, reserves with approx. 100 million barrels, just off shore. This is not good news for Washington. It may just be me, but I don’t think Castro will be rushing to supply the US…
And then there’s that pesky socialism that Latin America seems to like. Chavez was instrumental in setting up a new company, PetroCaribe, to offset high oil prices by distributing crude and refined oil products to the Caribbean at lower prices than other dealers in the area.
Now most people would be cognizant of this and try to play nice (you know, the guy was elected by the Venezuelan people and it is their oil after all)… but that ain’t the Bush way… seems the US feels they have a right to Venezuelan oil.
Enter Chafee and Rice. When asked if she could find anything good to say about the Venezuelan government of Chavez (after Chafee pointed out repeatedly that it was disrespectful to the Venezuelan people who had elected him to continue with the hard stance), Rice couldn’t do it.
She reserved some of her harshest language, not for China or Russia, but for President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, whose government she said had “not been constructive” because of his tough tactics against the news media and the opposition.
“Is it possible for you to say something positive about the Chávez administration?” Mr. Chafee asked, apparently taken aback at the toughness of her words.
When Ms. Rice said “it’s pretty hard, Senator, to find something positive”.
China has no such reservations and has been quite active on the international scene after the invasion of Iraq. Experts anticipate they will surpass the US in oil consumption by 2030. They are signing deals all over the world to undercut the US and shore up their own supply (including with Canada)…
The Great Game moves on… and Washington is behind.