United States and Venezuela: 2001-2008
Prior to the Cold War, “US policy had aimed at keeping major powers from attaining strategic positions that might threaten US security” (Leogrande, p. 355, 2007). This led to Dollar Diplomacy of President Taft, and the justification of intervention on behalf of the fear of Communism. The end of the Cold War resulted in the United States emerging as the sole power of the world, leaving no other country willing, or able, to contest US influence in Latin America. The focus in the region shifted towards promotion of democracy, as the United States was no longer in fear of security threats (Leogrande, p. 357, 2007). In relation with Venezuela, however, the United States demonstrated a weak democratic ideology, allowing economic ventures to take precedence as Venezuela grew increasingly resistant to US hegemony. President Bush took office, pledging to prioritize Latin America, declaring, ‘The best foreign policy starts at home … We’ve got to have good relations in the hemisphere,’ promoting a policy of ‘freedom and free markets’ (Leogrande, p. 358, 2007). This pledge lasted less than a year, however, as the attacks on September 11, 2001 took precedence, subsequently leading to the deterioration of relations with Latin America. Bush turned Latin American foreign policy over to the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, as he and his national security team channeled their attention to the budding War on Terror. The bilateral relations were continually strained, however, US relations with Venezuela were especially tense (“Global”). Socialist Hugo Chávez was elected president of Venezuela in 1998, marking the collapse of the country’s party system. He made it clear that revolutionary changes were in store, and has since been notorious for verbally berating the United States- strongly opposing neoliberalism and globalization, including free trade and capitalism (Farrell, p. 1, 2010). “Chávez was one of the few world leaders to verbally criticize the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan” following the September 11th attacks, and refused assistance from the United States during a national emergency due to flooding (Domínguez, p. 219, 2010).
Tensions rose to a head during a failed coup attempt in April of 2002. Chávez’s reforms of Venezuela were spreading discontentment throughout the upper class, and in 2001 angry military officers and business leaders sought US support of a coup to overthrow the government (Leogrande, p. 371, 2007). United States officials state that they neither supported nor opposed the coup, however, funding, as well as moral support, was sent to the opposition, nearing $1 million in Bush’s first year. On April 11th, 2002, Chávez was denounced as anti-democratic and was arrested; Pedro Carmona was then made president. While Chávez was held in custody at a military base, “White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer indicated that the United States looked forward to working with the transitional government, giving off the impression that the administration had welcomed, even supported, Chávez’s forced departure” (Lapper, p. 21, 2006). Fearing social unrest and bloody battles within the armed forces, Chávez was reinstated. Despite investigations showing that the US had played no role in the coup, the Bush administration failed to quell the impression that it had planned the attempt. Just eight months later, the opposition organized a strike to shut down the petroleum industry, rallying for the resignation of Chávez and new elections. Chávez refused, and, once again, the opposition sought to overthrow him militarily. There was no criticism heard from the Bush administration, however, there was increased funds to the opposition forces (Leogrande, p. 374, 2007). Following the failed resignation attempt, the opposition then gathered signatures for a recall, held in August of 2004. Chávez won overwhelmingly, and as a result relations between the United States and...
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