Always impulsively anti-American, Venezuela’s authoritarian populist President Hugo Chavez is once more attempting to cast himself as the victim of campaign of lies and calumnies conducted by the Obama Administration.
In another act of bullhorn diplomacy, Chavez announced on August 8 that Larry Palmer, U.S. ambassador- designate to Venezuela, “disqualified himself as ambassador. He disqualified himself by breaking all the norms of diplomacy by attacking us, and even the Armed Forces.”
Chavez continued: “The best thing that the U.S. government can do is to seek another nominee to be considered, but we cannot receive him [Palmer]; it’s impossible for us to do so and the first to understand this has to be the U.S. government.”
The source of the allegedly disqualifying actions by Palmer, who is yet to be confirmed by the full Senate, was a series of answers to written questions sent to the State Department following Palmer’s confirmation hearing on July 27.
With regard the state of Venezuelan military, Palmer answered, “morale is reported to be considerably low” because of politically-motivated appointments.” Given Chavez’s penchant for politicizing all aspects of life in Venezuela, this is nothing new.
On Cuba-Venezuela security ties, Palmer is reported to have said, ” am concerned that Cuba’s influence within the Venezuelan military will grow.” Again, Palmer modestly echoed very strong statements made by Antonio Rivero, a former general in the Venezuelan military, who said “We are at the mercy of meddling in areas of national security by a Cuban regime, which wants Chávez to remain in power because Chávez gives them oil.” “The Cuban advisers are there to exert pressure,” added Rivero, “and they often claim to speak on the president’s behalf as if they were his emissaries.”
Regarding Venezuela’s support for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Palmer said: “I am keenly aware of the clear ties between members of the Venezuelan government and Colombian guerillas.”
This statement merely repeated the findings of the latest State Department Country Report on Terrorism: “On December 4 , President Chavez promoted Hugo Carvajal Barrios and Henry de Jesus Rangel Silva to the rank of Venezuelan Major General, a three-star equivalent. Both Carvajal and Rangel had been designated Drug Kingpins by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in 2008 for materially assisting the narcotics trafficking activities of the FARC. Carvajal remained in his position as head of the Directorate of Military Intelligence. Rangel Silva was named Commander of the Guyana Strategic Military Region in August.”
In short, Palmer is being singled out for Chávez’s wrath because he repeated what is increasingly common knowledge in Washington, i.e. Chavez is a security and terror threat to the U.S. To have done otherwise while answering question posed by the Senate would have been to engage in outright lying. According to Chávez, however, any emissary who speaks the truth is automatically disqualified from becoming Ambassador to Venezuela.
For now, the State Department announced it is holding its ground on Palmer’s nomination.
Should Chávez persist in rejecting Palmer’s ambassadorship, it will represent another gratuitous insult to the U.S. and the Obama Administration. It will also be time to send Venezuela’s Ambassador and vocal Chavista Bernardo Álvarez packing along with the rest of his diplomatic team.