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In Defense of Hugo Chavez

Letter to the Editor
The Washington Post
Wednesday, March 23, 2005; Page A14


The profile of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ["Chavez Casts Himself as the Anti-Bush," front page, March 15] inaccurately portrayed his administration as a threat to the United States.

Mr. Chavez has spearheaded an initiative to strengthen regional economic integration in Latin America, pushing for the development of Telesur, a Latin American news channel, and Petrosur, a strategic energy coalition of the region's main oil-producing countries. Reaching out to Libya, Iran, China, India and France is a way to open new markets for Venezuelan products and develop alliances with nontraditional commercial partners.

Venezuela's vibrant democracy promotes literacy, health care, the provision of and respect for basic social and human rights, and the political and social inclusion of all Venezuelans, particularly minorities and women.

Mr. Chavez is striving to reduce poverty and create sustainable development through the expansion of global business opportunities for Venezuela to push our country ahead for years to come.

BERNARDO ALVAREZ HERRERA
Ambassador
Embassy of Venezuela
Washington

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Kevin Sullivan's front-page profile of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez was reasonably accurate in its portrayal of Mr. Chavez's anti-Bush stance, but it did not explain the role U.S. policy has played in fostering this attitude.

The United States has spent millions of dollars supporting Mr. Chavez's opposition via the so-called National Endowment for Democracy. When a military coup briefly toppled Mr. Chavez in 2002 (and moved to dissolve the assembly and the Supreme Court), the United States blamed Chavez. If Mr. Chavez is anti-Bush, the feeling is mutual.

It's not surprising that the United States is so anti-Chavez: He is a populist leader who is working to address the severe social inequities of Venezuela by redistributing wealth, negotiating higher oil royalties and reforming land distribution. This is bad for the oligarchy and potentially bad for American corporations.

SETH WENGER
Athens, Ga.

 
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