Venezuela: Chavez counterattacks - 24 December, 2002

The Government is very close to win the oil battle.

In what has been announced as a Government victory of the Venezuelan people, the Armed Forces detained the striking crew of a tanker and moved the gasoline-laden vessel toward port Saturday as the opposition strikes against President Hugo Chavez enter into its fourth week. After the good news became known, a smiling Chavez expressed that country's oil industry "was bringing back to life."
The opposition, in turn, denounced the Government used a Cuban crew to drive back the tanker to the Capital. A source at the Cuban Embassy in Caracas, speaking on condition of anonymity, denied the claim to AP, calling it a ``lie.'' State TV said Venezuelans were piloting the ship.

Opposition comments about Cubans taking part in the Venezuelan oil industry are an unnecessary provocation or, what is worse, an open call for the US intervention in the conflict. Venezuela is the US main oil supplier; therefore, it is not difficult to imagine how could respond Washington if Cuba is handling oil exports.

Washington has always been very sensitive to demands from the Latin American elite. There are many examples of this in the recent history of the region: Chile 1973, Argentina 1976, Nicaragua 1980, Panama 1989, Colombia 2000, etc. In those cases, the White House intervened; sometimes openly, through military actions and sometimes through hidden secret operations. Of course, results were never positive and casualties could be counted in hundred of thousands. 

Chavez's rivals, a strange coalition of company owners, trade unions and some NGO's, often accuse the President of being too close to communist Cuba. They insist, in an attempt to obtain US favour, on a supposed plan of Chavez to make of Venezuela a "Castro-communist Republic". This is pure irresponsibility, unless they are looking for bloodshed in Venezuela. Here, Chavez's position looks very much responsible, saying that this is merely an "internal conflict" and therefore no other powers should get involved.

After the victory over the rebel tanker, Chavez is in better position to counterattack the oil shortage, reduce tension levels and advance towards the reactivation of the main local industry. Opposition, in turn, pulled off demonstrations to analyse future actions as probably, the oil battle is lost.

Hernan Etchaleco

Photo (AP): President Hugo Chavez smiles after announcing victory over rebel tanker

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Author`s name Margarita Kicherova