Friday, March 11, 2005

Interesting, but unlikely

So, if the U.S. is going to go after Chávez, they're going to let him know beforehand?
VENEZUELA: Statements Indicate Chávez May Indeed Be in Somebody's Crosshairs

CARACAS, Mar 9 (IPS) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has repeatedly claimed that the U.S. government has plans to assassinate him and thus trigger chaos that would allow it to intervene militarily and take control of the South American country's huge oil reserves.

Now, recent statements by the top U.S. official in Venezuela appear to back up his fears of a plot against his life.

In an interview last weekend with the Peruvian newspaper El Comercio, Venezuelan Vice President José Vicente Rangel reported that former U.S. Ambassador Charles Shapiro had warned him of the possibility of an attempt on Chávez's life.

Shapiro, who served as ambassador to Venezuela from 2001 to 2004, ”did not go into details, but felt he was obliged to share this information with us, for legal reasons,” Rangel added.

In the mid-1970s, Washington officially prohibited the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from planning or participating in assassination attempts against foreign leaders.

On Tuesday, the current U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, William Brownfield, admitted that "Vice President Rangel is telling the truth. On two occasions, Ambassador Shapiro informed the Venezuelan authorities of actions against the current administration." Brownfield did not clarify the origin of these actions.

"The first time was in April 2002, when he spoke to the (Venezuelan) president about the possibilities of a coup," said Brownfield.

On Apr. 11, 2002, Chávez was ousted in a short-lived coup, and business leader Pedro Carmona was named de facto president. But just two days later, Chávez was restored to power by loyal factions of the military, backed by massive popular demonstrations.

"The other time was in September or October, when (Shapiro) spoke with Vice President Rangel about a possible assassination attempt," said Brownsfield, who added that in both cases, the former ambassador was acting as required by U.S. law.

In January, Cuban President Fidel Castro, a staunch Chávez ally, also warned of plans to kill the Venezuelan leader.

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