United States–Venezuela relations

United States-Venezuela relations have traditionally been close, characterized by an important trade and investment relationship and cooperation in combating the production and transit of illegal drugs. Recently, there has been tension between the two countries since the election of Presidents Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and George W. Bush of the United States.

The Roosevelt Corollary and Dollar Diplomacy

When the government under Cipriano Castro was no longer able to placate the demands of European bankers in 1902, naval forces from Great Britain, Italy, and Germany erected a blockade along the Venezuelan coast and even fired upon coastal fortifications. Though United States Secretary of State Elihu Root characterized Castro as a "a crazy brute," President Roosevelt was concerned with the prospects of penetration into the region by the German Empire. Roosevelt threatened military action against the European powers, who retreated and later negotiated with Castro. This incident was a major stimulus behind the Roosevelt Corollary and the subsequent U.S. policy of Dollar Diplomacy in Latin America.

During the presidency of Juan Vicente Gómez, petroleum was discovered under Lake Maracaibo. Gómez managed to deflate Venezuela's staggering debt by granting concessions to foreign oil companies, which won him the support of the United States and the European powers. The growth of the domestic oil industry strengthened the economic ties between the U.S. and Venezuela.

Hugo Chávez presidency

Since Hugo Chávez was elected President of Venezuela, the long-standing close diplomatic relationship between Venezuela and the United States have progressively worsened. Chávez's public friendship and significant trade relationship with Cuba and Fidel Castro have undermined the U.S. policy of isolating Cuba, and long-running ties between the U.S. and Venezuelan militaries were severed on Chávez's initiative. Chávez's stance as an OPEC price hawk has raised the price of oil for the United States, as Venezuela pushed OPEC producers towards a higher price, around $25 a barrel.Fact|date=February 2007 During Venezuela's presidency of OPEC in 2000, Chávez made a ten-day tour of OPEC countries, in the process becoming the first head of state to meet Saddam Hussein since the Gulf War. The visit was controversial at home and in the US, although Chávez did respect the ban on international flights to and from Iraq (he drove from Iran, his previous stop). [ [http://archives.cnn.com/2000/WORLD/meast/08/10/iraq.chavez.02/ CNN.com - Chavez's tour of OPEC nations arrives in Baghdad - August 10, 2000 ] ]

Allegations of U.S. covert actions against Chávez government

The United States recognized the government of Pedro Carmona during the 2002 coup attempt which briefly overthrew Chávez. 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 Madsenndash a writer (at the time) for left-wing publications and a former Navy analyst and critic of the George W. Bush administrationndash alleging U.S. Navy involvement. ["Campbell, Duncan". ("The Guardian", 29 April 2006). [http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,706802,00.html American navy 'helped Venezuelan coup'] . Retrieved 21 Jun 2006] ] U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd, D-CT, requested an investigation of concerns that Washington appeared to condone the removal of Mr Chavez, ["BBC News", (14 May 2002). [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/1988213.stm US investigates Venezuela coup role] . Retrieved 21 Jun 2006.] cite journal
month=May 10
title=Venezuela's Chavez Says United States Must Explain Reaction To Coup
journal=Associated Press
] which subsequently 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. U.S. Embassy, Caracas, Venezuela. [http://embajadausa.org.ve/wwwh1927.html State Dept. Issues Report on U.S. Actions During Venezuelan Coup: (Inspector General finds U.S. officials acted properly during coup).] Accessed 26 May 2006.] U.S. Department of State and Office of Inspector General. [http://oig.state.gov/documents/organization/13682.pdf A Review of U.S. Policy toward Venezuela, November 2001 - April 2002.] Accessed 26 May 2006.] According to "Democracy Now!", CIA documents indicate that the Bush administration knew about a plot weeks before the April 2002 military coup. They cite a document dated 6 April 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."Márquez Humberto". (IPS March 9 2006) [http://www.ipsnews.net/interna.asp?idnews=27799 "Statements Indicate Chávez May Indeed Be in Somebody's Crosshairs".] Accessed 21 Jun 2006.] 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] ."CIA Documents Show Bush Knew of 2002 Coup in Venezuela. [http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=04/11/29/1448220 Democracy Now Monday, November 29th, 2004] Accessed 15 August 2006.]

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 October 20, 2002, he stated that he had barely escaped an assassination attempt while returning from a trip to Europe. During that period, the US Ambassador to Venezuela warned the Chávez administration of two potential assassination plots."Márquez Humberto". (IPS March 9 2006) [http://www.ipsnews.net/interna.asp?idnews=27799 Statements Indicate Chávez May Indeed Be in Somebody's Crosshairs] . Retrieved 21 Jun 2006] ]

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. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4706588.stm BBC NEWS | Americas | Chavez promotes expelled diplomat ] ]

Hugo Chávez has repeatedly alleged that the US has a plan to invade Venezuela, a plan called Operation Balboa. The US denies the allegations claiming that Plan Balboa is a military simulation carried out by Spain. [ [http://usinfo.state.gov/media/Archive/2006/Jan/26-757568.html "Plan Balboa" Not a U.S. Plan To Invade Venezuela] ]

Personal disputes

Chávez's anti-U.S. rhetoric has 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" ("dimwit"); in a later speech, he made similar remarks regarding Condoleezza Rice. The U.S. has called Chávez a "negative force" in the region, and has tried to gain support from Venezuela's neighbors in isolating Chávez. [http://www.stabroeknews.com/index.pl/article?id=19157088] In 2006, Chávez called Bush "the devil" when addressing the United Nations General Assembly.

Economic relations

Chávez's socialist ideology and the tensions between the Venezuelan and the United States governments have had little impact on economic relations between the two countries. 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 [ [http://www.newyorker.com/talk/content/articles/070108ta_talk_surowiecki "Synergy with the Devil"] , James Surowiecki, "The New Yorker", January 8 2006.]

With rising oil prices and Venezuela’s oil exports accounting for the bulk of trade, bilateral trade between the US and Venezuela is surging, with US companies and the Venezuelan government benefiting. [ [http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/16/world/americas/16venezuela.html?_r=1&oref=slogin For Venezuela, as Distaste for U.S. Grows, So Does Trade - New York Times ] ]


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.Fact|date=February 2007


Venezuela is an active member of SICOFAA.


See also

*United States and South and Central America

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