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As U.S. steps up attacks

Chávez presses ahead with social gains in Venezuela

Published Feb 7, 2006 9:36 PM

The U.S. government has intensified its war of words against the Bolivarian government of Venezuela. Recently, the Bush administration made one of its more outlandish attacks on President Hugo Chávez when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld likened Chávez to Hitler.

According to Rumsfeld, “He’s a person who was elected legally just as Adolf Hitler was elected legally and then consolidated power and now is, of course, working with Fidel Castro and Mr. Morales and others.” Evo Morales was elected in December as Bolivia’s first Indigenous president with 54 percent of the vote.

Rumsfeld’s slanderous attack on three of this hemisphere’s most ardent anti-imperialist leaders came on the same day that Venezuela announced the expulsion of U.S. Navy Commander John Correa. The Venezuelan government says it has evidence Correa passed classified information from a renegade faction of the Venezuelan military to the Pentagon.

Chávez offered a firm rebuke to Washington’s meddling by promising “the imperial government of the United States that if their military attaches in Venezuela continue to do what this commander has been doing, they will be detained, and the next step would be to withdraw the whole so-called military mission of the United States.”

The United States retaliated the following day by expelling Jeny Figueredo Frias, chief of staff to Venezuela’s ambassador. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack admitted that the expulsion of Figueredo was simply “tit-for-tat.” The State Department has not claimed or provided evidence to suggest she was involved in any unlawful activities.

The day after the United States launched its most recent verbal volley, the United Nations presented Chávez with its 2005 International Jose Marti prize. The prize is awarded for promoting Latin American and Caribbean unity. Chávez, a close ally of socialist Cuba’s Fidel Castro, has laid out a vision for a Latin America independent of U.S domination.

The prize was handed out in Cuba, where many Latin Americans are studying medicine for free. Hundreds of thousands of participants gathered in the Plaza of the Revolution denounced Rumsfeld’s remarks as Chávez accepted the award. Chávez has promised to donate the award money to Bolivia’s social programs.

The Venezuelan government has repeatedly offered assistance to workers and poor people living inside the United States. A number of U.S. cities and states recently entered into agreements to receive low-cost heating oil from Venezuela. Despite these attempts at cooperation, the Bush administration and its allies have continued to work to overthrow the Chavez government.

Rightwing televangelist Pat Robertson repeated his call to assassinate Chávez on a recent edition of Fox’s Hannity & Colmes. Robertson was forced to apologize for making similar comments in August on his Christian “news” show, The 700 Club. When asked by co-host Alan Colmes if his comments canceled his earlier apology, Robertson laughed and acknowledged that he was taking back his apology. Robertson is an extreme right-wing Christian and a strong supporter of the Bush administration, who recently blamed Israeli leader Ariel Sharon’s stroke on his orders to withdraw from Gaza.

Chávez has asked his country’s permission to procure more arms in light of the constant threats emanating from Washington. Speaking at a rally in Caracas, Chávez warned that Venezuela needs a million well-equipped men and women to protect the country against what he termed “the imperialist, genocidal, fascist attitude of the U.S. president [which] has no limits”.

Life improved for poor Venezuelans

On Feb. 6, Chávez officially inaugurated his campaign for reelection to a second six-year term. The campaign will focus on strengthening the revolutionary and Bolivarian process in Venezuela. Over the past week the government has announced new social programs aimed at improving the condition of Venezuela’s poor and oppressed.

Chávez recently announced a 15-percent increase in the minimum wage and the introduction of a $200 a month stipend to poor homemakers. The stipend is a huge advance for women’s rights as it recognizes that household work, which women were traditionally confined to prior to the Bolivarian government, is an economic activity that generates wealth.

Chávez also announced on his weekly television program, “Alo Presidente,” that $449 million will be spent revamping the National Public Healthcare system under the guidance of Cuban doctors and advisors.

The example set by Chávez and the revolutionary Bolivarian process is a threat to the legitimacy of the United States’ corporate neoliberal model. While this example fuels the belligerence of the Bush administration and its allies, it is also the impetus for Chávez’s reelection campaign and holds great promise for the future of Venezuelans and all Latin Americans.