Chavez stirs trouble in Venezuela
President-for-life Hugo Chavez has been raising tensions in Venezuela in recent weeks. During the July 5 (!) Independence Day speech, he accused the United States of plotting to topple his regime, citing the discovery of documents with plans for "Operation Balboa." He is milking the Bush administration's clumsy response to the coup attempt against him in April 2002, stoking xenophobic paranoia. Flush with petro-dollars, he seems to be flexing his muscles in a bid for a more prominent international role. He has hinted at cutting off oil shipments to the U.S., which buys over 60 percent of Venezuela's exports, but it is unlikely his country could survive long without oil revenues, so it's probably an empty threat. Venezuelan police forces are not cooperating in anti-narcotics efforts in recent months, and tensions with neighboring Colombia, whose guerrilla movements have received implicit support from Chavez, remain high. A Venezuelan Foreign Ministry Official said the U.S. could instantly repair relations merely by showing her government "respect." See Washington Post. Yesterday he lashed out at Cardinal Rosalio Castillo Lara for having labeled him a dictator. See CNN.com. The real question is whether his rhetorical expressions of sympathy for Islamo-fascist terrorists has been matched by any concrete support or providing safe haven. The lack of much recent news on this front could be interpreted either way.
Web site updates
I have reformatted all of the country pages and topical background pages in the Latin America section of this Web site. The chronologies on each country page are being condensed, sifting out the less significant "chaff." Some of those entries with commentaries will be retroactively moved to the Archives section, in standard blog format. There is one new page that will be very useful as a reference source: Presidential chronology, which lists the heads of state for all twenty countries since 1980, color-coded according to political leaning.