Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:35 pm
The first country to come forth with disaster assistance for New Orleans was Venezuela. Oil, food, and medical aid were offered just after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.
I report this because there still is a reservoir of friendship in Venezuela for Americans, despite Pat Robertson’s call for assassination of Venezuela President Hugo Chavez and the attempts by the Bush government to try to overthrow Chavez twice.
This is in part because Venezuela has a long- term relationship with Americans. They also own CITGO.
Notwithstanding, Venezuela was off my radar screen until I became curious with how our media treated Venezuela.
What surprised me was both the stupidity and ineffectiveness of Mr. Bush’s attempts to overthrow the democratically elected government of Venezuela. Like our failed Cuban policy, America’s meddling has only made Chavez stronger.
The difference, of course, is that Venezuela supplies us with 17 percent of our oil. We can do without Cuban cigars and sugar.
The question is: should the United States spend tax dollars to overthrow a duly elected foreign government? Should we try to destabilize the Chavez government? And, lastly, is it in our self-interest to do this, regardless of the illegality of such acts?
As business people, we need to look closely into such policies; policies that I believe have a heavy ideological taint, especially when they negatively impact our businesses through higher energy costs.
Is it any wonder that Chavez has been driven to get new markets? China now has contracts to explore and drill for oil. A jointly built $ 2.5 billion refinery will be built in Brazil. Thirteen Caribbean countries as well as Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Ecuador and Cuba are new markets for Chavez. And he is expanding his tanker fleet from 21 to 58 ships. He is increasing his cash flow with a hike in taxes on operating agreement (50 percent from 32 percent) and an increase in royalties to 16.7 percent from 1 percent. Moreover, he is involved in a dispute over $4 billion dollars in avoided taxes for overproduction by oil companies.
And Chavez’s policies have been successful. Nineteen Latin American foreign ministers recently condemned Pat Roberson’s call to assassinate Chavez and asked for a criminal investigation. The White House’s silence has been deafening, making many wonder if they supported the idea.
Ask yourself: why would the United States want to destabilize Chavez and his country, a prime supplier of our energy needs? Is Mr. Bush trying to stop popular reforms in Venezuela? Or has he created a policy that will benefit his own supporters – independent oil and gas producers, part of his base of financial support?
But whatever the reason is, we need to quickly reverse our negative approach before it is too late.
Mr. Bush may not like the ideology of Chavez or his populist approach to health care, land reform and education, but that is the business of the people of Venezuela who have elected Chavez twice.
Perhaps Mr. Bush should heed the words of the philosopher Maimonides who said: "I will conquer my enemies by making them my friends."
Bob Chernow is a Milwaukee businessman.