Brownfield’s barrio gambit: what really lies behind it?

NOW the truth comes out!

The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry has issued a statement condemning acts of violence against US Ambassador William Brownfield on Friday.

Acting Minister Alcides Rondon confirms that Venezuelan Ambassador in Washington, Bernardo Alvarez has received a formal complaint from State Department sub- secretary, Nicholas Burns, alleging inappropriate protection on the part of Venezuelan security forces.


Burns states that Venezuela’s domestic security agencies are fully informed of Brownfield’s official program and failed in their duty.

The Ambassador was pelted with eggs and harassed by motorcyclists during a visit to a Caracas barrio to donate baseball equipment.

The State Department has threatened to restrict Ambassador Alvarez’s movements outside the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington in retaliation.

Rondon affirms his government’s resolve to honor its international obligations, such as the Vienna Convention but says Brownfield’s visit to Coche was ill-advised since there is a controversy regarding control of said sports ground.

Rondon also doubts that the State Department will restrict the Venezuelan Ambassador’s movements.

The Ministry has also questioned the US Embassy’s treatment of Venezuela’s State Political & Security Police (DISIP) units that protect the Embassy. On February 10, a unit was withdrawn from the Embassy entrance and since then has remained on the outer protection circle.

“The Ambassador accepted the measure at the behest of his security chief … since then, the Ambassador’s agenda is unknown to our security organs.”

Rondon insists that given the country’s political situation there are places where some people are not welcome … “I’m certain that the Mayor or DISIP would have advised against the visit at that particular moment.”

But of course, Brownfield chose to disregard any such advice, assuming he was even receiving it; he could very well have instructed his staff to ignore anything coming from the Venezuelan authorities. One might wonder why, if, unlike me, one hadn’t been paying attention lately. But here’s what’s really going on:

Right now, Venezuela is marking the 4th anniversary of the coup of 2002, which nearly resulted in the murder of President Chavez. The coup lasted from April 11 to 13; Chavez returned to the presidential palace, Miraflores, soon after the coup plotters were surrounded and forced to surrender. It was cooperation between civilians and loyal army soldiers that brought him back; the loyalty of the army, in particular, was what saved his life. They had orders from the US-backed putschist dictator, Pedro Carmona, to “rub him out”, but they knew that their own lives would be worth nothing if they carried those orders out; a solid majority of the population was behind Chavez. Two US military men were directing operations at Venezuelan military headquarters in Fuerte Tiuna around the time Carmona gave the orders to suspend all democratic institutions in Venezuela. And most incriminatingly, the US ambassador at the time, Charles Shapiro, was seen leaving a consultation all huggy-kissy with Carmona himself, so there is no WAY he could not have known–or not placed the US State Dept.’s seal of approval on it all.

The fact is, any BushCo-appointed ambassador to Venezuela will be less a fair-minded diplomat than a loyal dog (of the pit-bull variety; see for example Otto Reich). BushCo is extremely hostile to Chavez; this is no secret. And the people of the poor barrios of Caracas have certainly not forgotten the part a US ambassador played in the coup of 2002, so there is no reason why such a lame effort to buy their sympathy would succeed.

The US embassy’s refusal of DISIP protection and/or its ignoring DISIP’s (and the mayor’s) advice to stay out of the barrios therefore plays into the desire of BushCo to paint itself as a benevolent martyr facing down a bunch of uncivilized third-world ingrates, and to portray Chavez as a dangerous dictator who refuses to protect foreign diplomats. Absolute nonsense, of course, when you consider the fact that the Canadian ambassador is still entirely safe, has not had her movements in any way restricted, and has had nothing bad to say about local authorities, even after the recent murders of three Canadian/Venezuelan kids and their driver by kidnappers who held them for ransom. The opposition is trying to use THAT particular tragedy against Chavez, over the request of the boys’ own mother, to all parties, not to do such a thing. (Report on that here, in Spanish, with video.) Not only that, but they’ve apparently taken to attacking cars at random themselves (report here, also in Spanish, with several incriminating videos!)

You have to wonder who the real third-world ingrates in Venezuela are…so far as I can see, they’re the sort of people that are always begging Washington to come “liberate” them from the evil “dictator” Chavez. That sort, interestingly enough, lives not in poor barrios but in well-to-do gated communities. One really wonders what they’re so afraid of, since they haven’t exactly been cast into poverty themselves, nor have their liberties (including the “right” to thuggishly molest random motorists) been in any way curtailed by the “dictator” they never miss a chance, however contrived, to denounce…

By contrast, the most I’ve seen in the news about Canada/Venezuela relations since that incident is stuff like this little item, in which it’s announced that Air Canada is hoping to make daily flights between Caracas and Toronto by 2007. Doesn’t sound like they’ve been frightened away; quite the opposite. With jet fuel prices as high as they are, this announcement strikes me as a quiet vote of confidence in the Chavez presidency and the improvements made to life in Venezuela since he came into office. (So does this recent article, in which Ambassador Wielgosz visits–and praises!–the Mision Mercal stores and community kitchens that help keep barrio residents affordably and nutritiously fed.)

So it seems Canadian diplomats are safe in Caracas. But then again, Caracas is also safe from the depredations of Canadian diplomats! There’s nothing to even suggest the Canadian embassy being involved in any anti-Chavez plots. Big surprise there, eh: Our government isn’t BushCo. And our diplomats, so far as I know, really ARE diplomats–and not covert agents of a foreign policy based on anti-democratic disruption.

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