Chavez has expelled the US ambassador to Venezuela
Tensions mounting in Latin America - Chavez has expelled the US ambassador to Venezuela
by Julie Webb-Pullman
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez yesterday gave the US ambassador to Venezuela, Patrick Duddy, 72 hours to leave Venezuelan soil, and has withdrawn Venezuela's Ambassador to the US, Bernardo Álvarez. Announcing the measures in Puerto Cabello yesterday, Chavez said "Relations with the country of the north are being revised."
The action has been taken in solidarity with Bolivia, and in protest at coup attempts and destabilisation efforts by US-backed interests. Bolivia on Wednesday expelled US Ambassador Phillip Goldberg for fanning the protests in Bolivia's east, to which the US responded by expelling Bolivia's Ambassador, Gustavo Guzman.
At least eight people were killed in Bolivia on Thursday as continuing violent anti-government protests disrupted the natural gas industry.
According to a government official, a massacre in the remote Amazon region of Pando left seven farmers and one opposition government employee dead.
"We're talking about a real massacre and the person responsible is the Pando governor," said Deputy Minister of Social Movements Sacha Llorenti.
Brazil, Bolivia's biggest foreign investor and which receives 50% of its natural gas needs from that country, has also weighed in, saying it will not accept any attempt to overthrow Morales.
"We won't tolerate a rupture in the constitutional order of Bolivia," Marco Aurelio Garcia, foreign policy advisor to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, told reporters.
The Bolivian army is increasing its presence at natural gas fields and border crossings with Brazil after protesters this week blew up pipelines and stormed a pumping station, cutting natural gas imports to Argentina and temporarily halving exports to Brazil.
Bolivia's ambassador to Brazil, Rene Dorfler, said the Bolivian government is now considering imposing martial law.
In a speech in La Paz, President Morales is reported as saying they have been patient and prudent, and they are going to hang in there "...but patience has a limit."
It is increasingly feared that the United States is planning a full-scale intervention in the region, given increased destabilisation activity in Bolivia and Venezuela, and internet advertisements for project managers for USAID funded 'transition to democracy' programmes in Venezuela and Cuba. A downward-spiralling US economy has traditionally been turned around by waging war, and the proposed withdrawal of 8000 troops from Iraq combined with the re-establishment of the U.S. 4th Fleet* lead many to believe that Latin America, particularly the leftist governments of Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, will be the next front.
*The 4th Fleet was originally established during the second world war, and dis-established in 1950. The force newly-established in April 2008 will be responsible for U.S. Navy ships, aircraft and submarines operating in the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) area of focus, which encompasses the Caribbean, and Central and South America and the surrounding waters. http://www.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=36606