United States–Venezuela relations
United States–Venezuela relations are the bilateral relations between the United States of America and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Relations have traditionally been characterized by an important trade and investment relationship and cooperation in combating the production and transit of illegal drugs. Relations were strong under conservative governments in Venezuela, like that of Rafael Caldera. However, tensions increased after the socialist President Hugo Chávez assumed elected office in 1999. Tensions between the countries increased after Venezuela accused the administration of George W. Bush of supporting the Venezuelan failed coup attempt in 2002 against Chavez, an accusation that was partly retracted later. Venezuela broke off diplomatic relations with the U.S. in September 2008 in solidarity with Bolivia after a U.S. ambassador was accused of cooperating with violent anti-government groups in that country, though relations were reestablished under President Barack Obama in June 2009. In February 2014, the Venezuelan government ordered three American diplomats to leave the country on charges of promoting violence.
- 1 The Roosevelt Corollary and Dollar Diplomacy
- 2 Jimenez Regime (April 1953-December 1958)
- 3 Presidency of Hugo Chávez
- 3.1 United States interference allegations
- 3.2 Economic relations
- 3.3 Opposition to U.S. foreign policy
- 3.4 Personal disputes
- 3.5 Response to Pat Robertson assassination calls
- 3.6 Relations with Cuba and Iran
- 3.7 Organization of American States
- 3.8 Hurricane Katrina
- 3.9 Relations breakdown
- 4 Presidency of Nicolás Maduro
- 5 United States–Venezuela views
- 6 SICOFAA
- 7 Images
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
The Roosevelt Corollary and Dollar Diplomacy
The Venezuela Crisis of 1902–03 saw a naval blockade of several months imposed against Venezuela by Britain, Germany and Italy over President Cipriano Castro's refusal to pay foreign debts and damages suffered by European citizens in a recent Venezuelan civil war. Castro assumed that the United States' Monroe Doctrine would see that the U.S. prevent European military intervention, but at the time the U.S. saw the Doctrine as concerning European seizure of territory, rather than intervention per se. Though U.S. Secretary of State, Elihu Root, characterized Castro as a "crazy brute" or a "monkey", President Theodore Roosevelt was concerned with the prospects of penetration into the region by Germany. With Castro failing to back down under U.S. pressure and increasingly negative British and American press reactions to the affair, the blockading nations agreed to a compromise, but maintained the blockade during negotiations over the details. This incident was a major driver of the Roosevelt Corollary and the subsequent U.S. Big Stick policy and Dollar Diplomacy in Latin America.
When American diplomat, Herbert Wolcott Bowen, returned to Venezuela in January 1904, he noticed Venezuela seemed more peaceful and secure. Castro would reassure Bowen that the United States and Venezuela were experiencing a strong relationship. However, after the Castro regime delayed fulfilling the agreements which ended the Venezuelan crisis of 1902–03, Bowen lost confidence. This would eventually lead to the Castro regime's economic policy angering the United States, France, and the Netherlands. This would play a crucial role in the Dutch–Venezuelan crisis of 1908.
Jimenez Regime (April 1953-December 1958)
Under the rule of the Dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez, the Venezuelan economy experienced a boom, born from Venezuela's great oil wealth. During this prosperity, foreign investment, particularly from American oil companies, grew along with the support from the Jimenez Regime. The staunchly anti-communist regime allowed and supported the exploitation of the country's natural resources by the American oil industry, as a portion of the profits made its way from companies like Mobil and Exxon to the personal coffers of Perez Jimenez. For his support of these American companies, he received the Legion of Merit from the U.S. Government in 1954.
At the same time, United States intelligence agencies collaborated with Perez's Seguridad Nacional to silence communist voices in Venezuela. The Seguridad Nacional, headed by Pedro Estrada, disappeared and tortured thousands of Venezuelans, both in its headquarters in Caracas and in a confinement camp on Guasina Island in the jungles of the Orinoco. When a coup overthrew Jimenez, more than 400 prisoners were found in the basement of the headquarters of the Seguridad Nacional.
Presidency of Hugo Chávez
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After Hugo Chávez was first elected President of Venezuela by a landslide in 1998, the South American country began to reassert sovereignty over its oil reserves. This action challenged the comfortable position held by U.S. economic interests for the better part of a century. The Chávez administration overturned the privatization of the state-owned oil company PDVSA, raising royalties for foreign firms and eventually doubling the country's GDP. Those oil revenues were used to fund social programs aimed at fostering human development in areas such as health, education, employment, housing, technology, culture, pensions, and access to safe drinking water.
Chávez's public friendship and significant trade relationship with Cuba and Fidel Castro undermined the U.S. policy of isolating Cuba; moreover, on Chavez's initiative, long-running ties between the U.S. and Venezuelan militaries were severed. During Venezuela's presidency of OPEC in 2000, Chávez made a ten-day tour of OPEC countries. In the process, he became the first head of state to meet Saddam Hussein since the Gulf War. The visit was controversial both in the U.S., although, Chávez did respect the ban on international flights to and from Iraq as he drove from his previous stop in Iran.
United States interference allegations
In April 2002, 18 people died in an antigovernment protest in Venezuela, which resulted in Chavez’ removal from power while an interim government led. After returning to power, Chávez claimed that a plane with U.S. registration numbers had visited and been berthed at Venezuela's Orchila Island airbase, where Chávez had been held captive. On May 14, 2002, Chávez alleged that he had definitive proof of U.S. military involvement in April's coup. He claimed that during the coup, Venezuelan radar images had indicated the presence of U.S. military naval vessels and aircraft in Venezuelan waters and airspace. The Guardian published a claim by Wayne Madsen– a writer (at the time) for left-wing publications and a former Navy analyst and critic of the George W. Bush administration– alleging U.S. Navy involvement. U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd, D-CT, requested an investigation of concerns that Washington appeared to condone the removal of Mr Chavez, which found that "U.S. officials acted appropriately and did nothing to encourage an April coup against Venezuela's president" nor did they provide any naval logistical support. CIA documents indicate that the Bush administration knew about a plot weeks before the April 2002 military coup. They cite a document dated April 6, 2002, which says: "dissident military factions...are stepping up efforts to organize a coup against President Chavez, possibly as early as this month. According to William Brownfield, ambassador to Venezuela, the U.S. embassy in Venezuela warned Chávez about a coup plot in April 2002. Further, the United States Department of State and the investigation by the Office of the Inspector General found no evidence that "U.S. assistance programs in Venezuela, including those funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), were inconsistent with U.S. law or policy" or ". . . directly contributed, or was intended to contribute, to [the coup d'état]."
Chávez also claimed, during the coup's immediate aftermath, that the U.S. was still seeking his overthrow. On October 6, 2002, he stated that he had foiled a new coup plot, and on 20 October 2002, he stated that he had barely escaped an assassination attempt while returning from a trip to Europe. However, his administration failed to investigate or present conclusive evidence to that effect. During that period, the US Ambassador to Venezuela warned the Chávez administration of two potential assassination plots.
Venezuela expelled US naval commander, John Correa, in January 2006. The Venezuelan government claimed Correa, an attaché at the US embassy, had been collecting information from low-ranking Venezuelan military officers. Chavez claimed he had infiltrated the US embassy and found evidence of Correa's spying. The US declared these claims "baseless" and responded by expelling Jeny Figueredo, the chief aid to the Venezuelan ambassador, to the US. Chavez promoted Figueredo to Deputy Foreign Minister to Europe.
Hugo Chávez repeatedly alleged that the US had a plan, entitled Plan Balboa, to invade Venezuela. In an interview with Ted Koppel, Chavez stated "I have evidence that there are plans to invade Venezuela. Furthermore, we have documentation: how many bombers to overfly Venezuela on the day of the invasion, how many trans-Atlantic carriers, how many aircraft carriers..." Neither President Chavez nor officials of his administration ever presented such evidence. The US denies the allegations, claiming that Plan Balboa is a military simulation carried out by Spain.
On February 20, 2005, Chávez reported that the U.S. had plans to have him assassinated; he stated that any such attempt would result in an immediate cessation of U.S.-bound Venezuelan petroleum shipments.
Chávez's socialist ideology and the tensions between the Venezuelan and the United States governments had little impact on economic relations between the two countries. On September 15, 2005, President Bush designated Venezuela as a country that has "failed demonstrably during the previous 12 months to adhere to their obligations under international counternarcotics agreements." However, at the same time, the President waived the economic sanctions that would normally accompany such a designation, because they would have curtailed his government's assistance for democracy programs in Venezuela. In 2006, the United States remained Venezuela's most important trading partner for both oil exports and general imports – bilateral trade expanded 36% during that year As of 2007, the U.S. imported more than $40 billion in oil from Venezuela and the trade between the countries topped $50 billion despite the tumultuous relationship between the two.
With rising oil prices and Venezuela’s oil exports accounting for the bulk of trade, bilateral trade between the US and Venezuela surged, with US companies and the Venezuelan government benefiting. Nonetheless, since May 2006, the Department of State, pursuant to Section 40A of the Arms Export Control Act, has prohibited the sale of defense articles and services to Venezuela because of lack of cooperation on anti-terrorism efforts.
Opposition to U.S. foreign policy
Since the start of the George W. Bush administration in 2001, Chávez was highly critical of U.S. economic and foreign policy; he has critiqued U.S. policy with regards to Iraq, Haiti, Kosovo the Free Trade Area of the Americas, and other areas. Chávez also denounced the U.S.-backed ouster of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004. In a speech at the United Nations General Assembly, Chávez said that Bush promoted "a false democracy of the elite" and a "democracy of bombs".
Chávez's public friendship and significant trade relationship with Cuba and Fidel Castro undermined the U.S. policy of isolating Cuba; moreover, on Chavez's initiative, long-running ties between the U.S. and Venezuelan militaries were also severed. Chávez's stance as an OPEC price hawk has also raised the price of petroleum for American consumers, as Venezuela pushed OPEC producers towards lower production ceilings, with the resultant price settling around $25 a barrel prior to 2004. During Venezuela's holding of the OPEC presidency in 2000, Chávez made a ten-day tour of OPEC countries. In the process, he became the first head of state to meet Saddam Hussein since the Gulf War. The visit was controversial both in Venezuela and in the US, although Chávez did respect the ban on international flights to and from Iraq (he drove from Iran, his previous stop).
The Bush administration consistently opposed Chávez's policies. Although it did not immediately recognize the Carmona government upon its installation during the 2002 attempted coup, it had funded groups behind the coup, speedily acknowledged the new government and seemed to hope it would last. The U.S. government called Chávez a "negative force" in the region, and sought support from among Venezuela's neighbors to isolate Chávez diplomatically and economically. One notable instance occurred at the 2005 meeting of the Organization of American States. A U.S. resolution to add a mechanism to monitor the nature of American democracies was widely seen as an attempt at diplomatically isolating both Chávez and the Venezuelan government. The failure of the resolution was seen by analysts as politically significant, evidencing widespread support in Latin America for Chávez, his policies, and his views.
The U.S. also opposed and lobbied against numerous Venezuelan arms purchases made under Chávez. This includes a purchase of some 100,000 rifles from Russia, which Donald Rumsfeld implied would be passed on to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and the purchase of aircraft from Brazil. The U.S. has also warned Israel to not carry through on a deal to upgrade Venezuela's aging fleet of F-16s, and has similarly pressured Spain. In August 2005, Chávez rescinded the rights of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents to operate in Venezuelan territory, territorial airspace, and territorial waters. While U.S. State Department officials stated that the DEA agents' presence was intended to stem cocaine traffic from Colombia, Chávez argued that there was reason to believe the DEA agents were gathering intelligence for a clandestine assassination targeting him, with the ultimate aim of ending the Bolivarian Revolution.
When a Marxist insurgency picked up speed in Colombia in the early 2000s, Chavez chose not to support the U.S. in its backing of the Colombian government. Instead, Chavez declared Venezuela to be neutral in the dispute, yet another action that irritated American officials and tensed up relations between the two nations. The border between Venezuela and Colombia was one of the most dangerous borders in Latin America at the time, because of Colombia's war spilling over to Venezuela.
Chávez dared the U.S. on 14 March 2008 to put Venezuela on a list of countries accused of supporting terrorism, calling it one more attempt by Washington, D.C. to undermine him for political reasons.
Chávez's anti-U.S. rhetoric sometimes touched the personal: in response to the ouster of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004, Chávez called U.S. President George W. Bush a pendejo ("jerk" or "dumbass"); in a later speech, he made similar remarks regarding Condoleezza Rice. President Barack Obama called Chávez "a force that has interrupted progress in the region". In a 2006 speech at the UN he referred to Bush as "the Devil" while speaking at the same podium the US president had used the previous day claiming that "it still smells of sulphur". He later commented that Barack Obama "shared the same stench".
During his weekly address Aló Presidente of 18 March 2006, Chávez responded to a US White House report which characterized him as a "demagogue who uses Venezuela's oil wealth to destabilize democracy in the region". During the address Chávez rhetorically called George W. Bush "a donkey." He repeated it several times adding "eres un cobarde ... eres un asesino, un genocida ... eres un borracho" (you are a coward ... you are an assassin, a mass-murderer ... you are a drunk). Chávez said Bush was "a sick man" and "an alcoholic".
Response to Pat Robertson assassination calls
After prominent US evangelical, Pat Robertson's ,on-air call for Chavez to be assassinated in August 2005, the Chávez administration reported that it would more closely scrutinize and curtail foreign evangelical missionary activity in Venezuela. Chávez himself denounced Robertson's call as a harbinger of a coming U.S. intervention to remove him from office. Chávez reported that Robertson, member of the secretive and elite Council for National Policy (CNP) — of which George Bush, Grover Norquist, and other prominent neoconservative Bush administration insiders were also known members or associates — was, along with other CNP members, guilty of "international terrorism". Robertson subsequently apologized for his remarks, which were criticised by Ted Haggard of the U.S.-based National Association of Evangelicals. Haggard was concerned about the effects Roberson's remarks would have on US corporate and evangelical missionaries' interests in Venezuela.
Relations with Cuba and Iran
Chávez's warm friendship with former Cuban president Fidel Castro, in addition to Venezuela's significant and expanding economic, social, and aid relationships with Cuba, undermined the U.S. policy objective seeking to isolate the island. President Chávez consolidated diplomatic relations with Iran, including defending its right to civilian nuclear power.
Organization of American States
At the 2005 meeting of the Organization of American States, a United States resolution to add a mechanism to monitor the nature of democracies was widely seen as a move to isolate Venezuela. The failure of the resolution was seen as politically significant, expressing Latin American support for Chávez.
After Hurricane Katrina battered the United States' Gulf coast in late 2005, the Chávez administration offered aid to the region. Chávez offered tons of food, water, and a million barrels of extra petroleum to the U.S. He has also proposed to sell, at a significant discount, as many as 66,000 barrels (10,500 m3) of fuel oil to poor communities that were hit by the hurricane and offered mobile hospital units, medical specialists, and electrical generators. According to activist Jesse Jackson, the Bush administration declined the Venezuelan offer. However, United States Ambassador to Venezuela, William Brownfield welcomed the offer of fuel assistance to the region, calling it "a generous offer" and saying "when we are talking about one-to-five million dollars, that is real money. I want to recognize that and say, 'thank you.'"
In November 2005, following negotiations by leading US politicians for the US' largest fuel distributors to offer discounts to the less well-off, officials in Massachusetts signed an agreement with Venezuela. The agreement aims to provide heating oil at a 40% discount to low-income families through Citgo, a subsidiary of PDVSA and the only company to respond to the politicians' request. Chávez stated that such gestures comprise "a strong oil card to play on the geopolitical stage" and that "it is a card that we are going to play with toughness against the toughest country in the world, the United States."
In September 2008, following retaliatory measures in support of Bolivia, Chavez expelled the U.S. ambassador Patrick Duddy. Chavez labeled Duddy persona non grata after accusing him of aiding a conspiracy against his government — a charge Duddy consequently denied.
Despite allegedly waning of Hugo Chavez's aggressive foreign policy due to the sharp drop in oil in the last quarter of 2008, hostility with America continued. "American Corners," (AC) a partnership between the Public Affairs sections of U.S. Embassies worldwide and their host institutions, was said to be an interference in Venezuela. In their book, Imperial Spiderweb: Encyclopedia of Interference and Subversion, Eva Golinger and Frenchman, Riman Mingus, warned that it was one of Washington's secret forms of propaganda, Golinger denouncing AC to the Venezuelan National Assembly as virtual consulates, which are not formally sponsored by the US government, but by an organization, association, school, library or local institution. Additionally, they have not only functioned as a launch pad for a psychological war, but also sought to subvert and violate diplomatic rules. The AC's were alleged to be closely supervised by the State Department. Golinger has been described by many as pro-Chavez.
In January 2009, Chavez announced an investigation into the US Chargé d'Affairs, John Caulfield, who is the leading US diplomat after Duddy's expulsion. He contended that Caulfield had possibly met with opposition Venezuelans in exile in Puerto Rico; an official spokeswoman from the United States said Caulfield was there for a wedding. Chavez used the occasion to accuse "the empire" of using Puerto Rico as a base for actions against him and Latin America. He referred to Puerto Rico as a "gringo colony" and that one day the island would be liberated.
Presidency of Barack Obama
During the 2008 U.S. election, Chávez declared that he had no preference between Barack Obama and John McCain stating "the two candidates for the US presidency attack us equally, they attack us defending the interests of the empire". After Obama had won the election, Venezuela's foreign minister labeled the outcome a historic moment in international relations and added that the American people had chosen a "new brand" of diplomacy. When Chavez was asked if the previously expelled ambassadors for each country would return, he replied "everything has its time." However, at a rally the evening before the November 4 elections where Chávez was supporting his own candidates Chávez echoed a sentiment by Lula of Brazil and Morales of Bolivia, referencing the change happening in Latin America seemed to be taking place in the US. He expressed hope that he would meet with Obama as soon as possible. However, on March 22, 2009, Chávez called Obama "ignorant" and claimed Obama "has the same stench as Bush", after the US accused Venezuela of supporting the insurgent Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Chávez was offended after Obama said that he had "been a force that has interrupted progress in the region", resulting in his decision to put Venezuela's new ambassador to the United States on hold.
On September 10, 2009, Chávez gave a speech at the Peoples' Friendship University of Russia in Moscow declaring that "in all history, there was never a government more terrorist than that of the US empire. That's the greatest terrorists in the world history”, he added, referring to the U.S. "The Yankee empire will fall. It's already falling, and will disappear from the face of the Earth, and it's going to happen this century."
On December 20, 2011, Chávez called Obama "A clown, an embarrassment, and a shame to Black People" after Obama criticized Venezuela’s ties with Iran and Cuba.
Venezuela and the United States have not had ambassadors in each other's capitals since 2010. Shortly before the 2012 US presidential elections, Chávez announced that if he could vote in the election, he would vote for Obama. In 2013, before Hugo Chavez died, Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro expelled two U.S. military attaches from the country, saying they were plotting against Venezuela by attempting to recruit Venezuelan military personnel to destabilize Venezuela and suggested they caused Chavez's cancer. The Obama Administration rejected the allegations and responded by expelling two Venezuelan diplomats.
On October 1, 2013, the U.S ordered three Venezuelan diplomats out of the country in response to the Venezuelan government's decision to expel three U.S. officials from Venezuela.
On February 16, 2014, President Maduro announced he had ordered another three U.S. consular officials leave the country, accusing them of conspiring against the government and aiding opposition protests. Madurai described the U.S. statements that claimed to be concerned with rising tensions, and protests and warned against Venezuela's possible arrest of the country's opposition leader as "unacceptable" and "insolent." He said "I don't take orders from anyone in the world." On February 25, 2014, the United States responded by expelling three additional Venezuelan diplomats from the country.
On May 28, 2014, the United States House of Representatives passed the Venezuelan Human Rights and Democracy Protection Act (H.R. 4587; 113th Congress), a bill that would apply economic sanctions against Venezuelan officials who were involved in the mistreatment of protestors during the 2014 Venezuelan protests.
In December 2014, the US Congress passed Senate 2142 (the “Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014”)
Allegations of U.S. Involvement in Chavez' death
In December 2011, Chávez already under treatment for cancer and wondered out loud: “would it be so strange that they’ve invented the technology to spread cancer and we won’t know about it for 50 years?” The Venezuelan president was speaking one day after Argentina’s leftist president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, announced she had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. This was after three other prominent leftist Latin America leaders had been diagnosed with cancer: Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff; former Paraguayan president, Fernando Lugo, and the former Brazilian leader, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The Guardian newspaper’s Venezuela expert, Rory Carroll, has glibly categorized serious charges that Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chavez Frias was assassinated by a United States-produced bio-weapon as being in the same league with "conspiracy theorists who wonder about aliens at Roswell and NASA faking the moon landings". A number of Venezuelan officials believe a hostile party covertly introduced an aggressive form of cancer into the 58-year-old president.
Presidency of Nicolás Maduro
On March 9, 2015, the United States President, Barack Obama, signed and issued a presidential order declaring Venezuela a "threat to its national security" and ordered sanctions against seven Venezuelan officials. Venezuelan President, Nicolás Maduro, denounced the sanctions as an attempt to topple his socialist government. Washington said that the sanctions targeted individuals who were involved in the violation of Venezuelans' human rights, saying that "we are deeply concerned by the Venezuelan government's efforts to escalate intimidation of its political opponents".
The move was widely denounced by other Latin American countries. The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States issued a statement criticizing Washington’s “unilateral coercive measures against International Law.” The Secretary-General of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), Ernesto Samper, said that the body rejects “any attempt at internal or external interference that attempts to disrupt the democratic process in Venezuela.”
Following the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, the Venezuelan government gifted $500,000 toward Donald Trump's inauguration on January 20, 2017. On April 20, 2017 the Venezuelan Government however seized the General Motors Plant in Zulia state, causing the plant to close operations.
On August 11, 2017 President Trump said that he is “not going to rule out a military option” to confront the autocratic government of Nicolás Maduro and the deepening crisis in Venezuela. Venezuela’s Defense Minister, Vladimir Padrino López, immediately criticized Trump for his statement, calling it “an act of supreme extremism” and “an act of madness.” The Venezuelan communications minister, Ernesto Villegas, said Trump’s words amounted to “an unprecedented threat to national sovereignty.” President Maduro's son, Nicolás Maduro Guerra, stated during the 5th Constituent Assembly of Venezuela session that if the United States were to attack Venezuela, "the rifles would arrive in New York, Mr. Trump, we would arrive and take the White House".
United States–Venezuela views
Despite the continually strained ties between the two governments, 82% of Venezuelans viewed the U.S. positively in 2002, though this view declined down to 62% in 2014 (per the Pew Research Global Attitudes Project). The Gallup Global Leadership Report indicates that as of 2013, 35% of Venezuelans approve of United States' global leadership, and 35% disapprove. The Spring 2017 Global Attitudes Survey by Pew Research Center found that 35% of the Venezuelan population views the United States unfavorable and 47% view it favorably.”
In 1960, the UNITAS naval exercises and in-port training involving several countries in North, South and Central America were conducted for the first time in Venezuelan territorial waters in support of the Cold war U.S. policy. Venezuela is an active member of SICOFAA.
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