Global Policy Forum

US Should Mend Relations with Venezuela—Senators

January 10, 2005

The United States should build on its mutually reliant energy ties with oil supplier Venezuela and seek better cooperation with President Hugo Chavez to fight terrorism and drug-trafficking, three U.S. senators said on Monday. Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat; Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida and Rhode Island Republican Lincoln Chafee said after talks with Chavez in Caracas they wanted to see Washington turn a new page in its relations with his populist government.

Chavez, a fiery nationalist first elected in 1998, often attacks U.S. policies as "imperialist" and has accused President Bush of trying to overthrow him. Washington denies this. But U.S. officials have sharply criticized Chavez's close alliance with Cuba's Communist President, Fidel Castro, and have said his self-styled "revolution" could be eroding democracy in Venezuela, the fourth biggest provider of oil to the United States.

"This is a very, very, very important bilateral relationship. ... We're here to see if we can't move this in a better direction," Dodd, a senior member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told a news conference. Dodd said Chavez had demonstrated he was Venezuela's legitimate, democratically elected president by winning a national referendum on his rule in August. The referendum was demanded by opponents, who portray him as a dictator.

Nelson, who has criticized Chavez as a potential enemy of U.S. interests, said Venezuela's role as a U.S. energy supplier was "a mutual economic relationship that needs to continue." But he added: "We need a better relationship on terrorism (and) against drug-trafficking."

Chavez, who condemned the U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, has rejected U.S and Colombian accusations that his government gives shelter to leftist Colombian rebels who trade in drugs and are considered terrorists by Washington. "We discussed this at length today. ... What President Chavez has told us is that there is a new cooperation with the Colombian government in not allowing the FARC (rebels) sanctuary," Nelson said. But he added: "Let's see if the words translate into action."

The senators said they would recommend to Condoleezza Rice, Bush's nominee to be his new Secretary of State, that she take steps to improve ties with the Chavez government. "I'm hoping she'll try something new," Dodd said. He added he had asked Chavez to allow the U.S. Peace Corps to help his government combat poverty in Venezuela. The three U.S. senators were also due to visit Paraguay, Argentina and Peru.

More Information on Empire?
More General Analysis on Economic Expansion


FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.