Women and Jobless Armed by Chavez to Resist “US Invasion”


Richard Moore


Women and jobless armed by Chavez to resist 'US invasion'
By Andrew Buncombe in Washington
Published: 09 April 2006

The President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, is recruiting and training a 
people's militia to help lead a "war of resistance" against what he 
claims is the threat of a US invasion. Housewives, students, 
construction workers and the unemployed are being recruited for the 
country's Territorial Guard. The first training sessions with 
firearms have already taken place.
"I can assure you right away that also in this battle we will defeat 
the US empire," Mr Chavez said in a speech last week. A former army 
officer who turned to politics after his attempt at a coup in 1992 
failed, he has raised the spectre of a US invasion so often that 
Washington's ambassador, William Brownfield, put it on record last 
year that "the United States has never invaded ... and will never 
invade Venezuela".
Though Venezuela is a major supplier of oil to the US, relations 
between the Bush administration and Mr Chavez, a strident critic of 
Washington-backed free-market policies, remain fraught. As a result, 
he has become a hero for many left-wing Latin Americans opposed to 
the US.
They point out that Washington has a long history of supporting 
rebels seeking to overthrow democratically-elected leftist 
governments in Latin America. More recently, the Bush administration 
supported business leaders who forced out Haiti's elected leader, 
Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
In 2002, senior White House officials held meetings with opponents of 
Chavez who orchestrated a short-lived coup. Washington quickly 
welcomed the new government, only for Mr Chavez to overturn the coup 
within 48 hours. In 2004, it was revealed that the US Congress-funded 
National Endowment for Democracy had dispensed $1m to groups seeking 
a national vote of no confidence against Mr Chavez.
Analysts believe the real motivation behind the militia is to protect 
against a possible uprising by elements of the Venezuelan armed 
forces - sections of which supported the 2002 coup. "The only 
conventional army likely to threaten Chavez is Venezuela's own," Sam 
Logan, a long-term Latin America observer, wrote in a recent analysis 
for the International Relations and Security Network.
Larry Birns, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, said: 
"This militia is there to protect the revolution. There is no 
prospect of the US invading Venezuela, but there is every prospect of 
it ceaselessly looking for factions within the Venezuelan military 
and hoping to induce ... elements to rise up."
Mr Chavez, who was first elected in 1998 and won a no-confidence 
referendum in 2004 with three-fifths of the vote, is loathed by 
Venezuela's wealthy éliteas much as he is loved by the poor. He has 
spent millions of dollars from oil revenues on free health care and 
education in the barrios. His presidency has seen improvements in 
health indicators and in literacy.
Against this are signs of increasing authoritarianism. Human Rights 
Watch has accused Mr Chavez of undermining judicial independence by 
packing the Supreme Court with his supporters, and of stifling the 
rights of the media to criticise his administration.

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