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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. However after the election of Presidents Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and George W. Bush of the United States and particularly after the Venezuelan failed coup attempt in 2002 against Chavez, tensions between the countries escalated, reaching a low in September 2008 when Venezuela broke off diplomatic relations with the US. Relations showed signs of improvement in 2009 with the election of the new US President Barack Obama, including the re-establishment of diplomatic relations in June 2009.

United States – Venezuela relations
United States   Venezuela
Map indicating location of USA and Venezuela
     United States      Venezuela


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


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After Hugo Chávez was elected President of Venezuela, the long-standing close diplomatic relationship between Venezuela and the United States progressively worsened. Chávez's public friendship and significant trade relationship with Cuba and Fidel Castro 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 raised the price of oil for the United States, as Venezuela pushed OPEC producers towards a higher price, around $25 a barrel.[citation needed] 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).[1]

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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] On May 14, 2002, Chávez alleged that he had definitive proof of U.S. military involvement in April's coup.[citation needed] 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 Madsen– a writer (at the time) for left-wing publications and a former Navy analyst and critic of the George W. Bush administration– alleging U.S. Navy involvement.[2] U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd, D-CT, requested an investigation of concerns that Washington appeared to condone the removal of Mr Chavez,[3][4] 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.[5][6] 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."[citation needed] According to William Brownfield, ambassador to Venezuela, the U.S. embassy in Venezuela warned Chávez about a coup plot in April 2002.[7] 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]."[5][8]

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, however his administration failed to investigate or present conclusive evidence to that effect. During that period, the US Ambassador to Venezuela warned the Chávez administration of two potential assassination plots.[7]

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.[9]

Hugo Chávez has repeatedly alleged that the US has a plan to invade Venezuela, a plan called Plan Balboa. In interview with Ted Koppel, Chavez stated "I have evidence that there are plans to invade Venezuela. Furthermore, we have documentation: how many bombers to overfly Venezuela on the day of the invasion, how many trans-Atlantic carriers, how many aircraft carriers..."[10] Neither President Chavez nor officials of his administration ever presented such evidence. The US denies the allegations, claiming that Plan Balboa is a military simulation carried out by Spain. [11]

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 ("jerk" or "dumbass"); 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. [2] In the 2006 Chávez speech at the UN he called Bush "the devil".

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. On 15 September 2005, President Bush designated Venezuela as a country that has failed demonstrably during the previous 12 months to adhere to their obligations under international counternarcotics agreements. However, at the same time, the President waived the economic sanctions that would normally accompany such a designation, because they would have curtailed his government's assistance for democracy programs in Venezuela.[12] 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[13]

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.[14] Nonetheless, since May 2006, the Department of State that, pursuant to Section 40A of the Arms Export Control Act, has prohibited the sale of defense articles and services to Venezuela because of lack of cooperation on anti-terrorism efforts.[15]

Opposition to U.S. foreign policy

Since the start of the George W. Bush administration in 2001 , Chávez has been highly critical of U.S. economic and foreign policy; he has critiqued U.S. policy with regards to Iraq, Haiti, Kosovo the Free Trade Area of the Americas, and other areas. Chávez has also denounced the U.S.-backed ouster of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004. In a speech at the United Nations General Assembly, Chávez said that Bush promoted "a false democracy of the elite" and a "democracy of bombs".[16]

Chávez's public friendship and significant trade relationship with Cuba and former Cuban President Fidel Castro have undermined the U.S. policy of isolating Cuba. Longstanding ties between the U.S. and Venezuelan militaries were also severed on Chávez's initiative. Chávez's stance as an OPEC price hawk has also raised the price of petroleum for American consumers, as Venezuela pushed OPEC producers towards lower production ceilings, with the resultant price settling around $25 a barrel prior to 2004. During Venezuela's holding of the OPEC presidency 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 Persian 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).[17]

The Bush administration has consistently opposed Chávez's policies, and although it did not immediately recognize the Carmona government upon its installation during the 2002 attempted coup, it had funded groups behind the coup, speedily acknowledged the new government and seemed to hope it would last. The U.S. government has called Chávez a "negative force" in the region, and has sought support from among Venezuela's neighbors to isolate Chávez diplomatically and economically. One notable instance occurred at the 2005 meeting of the Organization of American States, a U.S. resolution to add a mechanism to monitor the nature of American democracies was widely seen as an attempt at diplomatically isolating both Chávez and the Venezuelan government. The failure of the resolution was seen by analysts as politically significant, evidencing widespread support in Latin America for Chávez, his policies, and his views.

The U.S. has also opposed and lobbied against numerous Venezuelan arms purchases made under Chávez, including a purchase of some 100,000 rifles from Russia, which Donald Rumsfeld implied would be passed on to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and the purchase of aircraft from Brazil. The U.S. has also warned Israel to not carry through on a deal to upgrade Venezuela's aging fleet of F-16s, and has similarly pressured Spain. In August 2005, Chávez rescinded the rights of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents to operate in Venezuelan territory, territorial airspace, and territorial waters. While U.S. State Department officials stated that the DEA agents' presence was intended to stem cocaine traffic from Colombia, Chávez argued that there was reason to believe the DEA agents were gathering intelligence for a clandestine assassination targeting him, with the ultimate aim of ending the Bolivarian Revolution.

Chávez dared the U.S. on March 14, 2008 to put Venezuela on a list of countries accused of supporting terrorism, calling it one more attempt by Washington, D.C. to undermine him for political reasons.[18]

Personal disputes

The U.S. has called Chávez a "negative force" in the region, and requested support from Venezuela's neighbors in isolating Chávez. 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 ("dumbass"); in a later speech, he made disparaging personal remarks regarding Condoleezza Rice.[19][20][21]

During his weekly address Aló Presidente of 18 March 2006, Chávez responded to a US White House report which characterized him as a "demagogue who uses Venezuela's oil wealth to destabilize democracy in the region". During the address Chávez rhetorically called George W. Bush "a donkey." He repeated it several times adding "eres un cobarde ... eres un asesino, un genocida ... eres un borracho" (you are a coward ... you are an assassin, a mass-murderer ... you are a drunk).[22] In September 2006 at the UN General Assembly, Chávez called Bush "the devil".[16] A day later, as he was promising to double the amount of oil discounts to poor Americans in Harlem, Chávez said Bush was "a sick man" and "an alcoholic".[23]

Once again, in November 2008, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Nicolas Maduro, questioned the conviction of a Venezuelan businessman in a Miami court as being part of a political operation by President Bush to undercut the independence of the country. He said "These people are political prisoners of the U.S. This delinquent named Antonini has ended up being a hero for ultra right-wing political parties." Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson was said to have been pressured by the convicted Franklin Duran to conceal the source of the money he was carrying in a suitcase said to be used to fund an Argentine election campaign.[24]

Response to assassination calls

After prominent US evangelical Pat Robertson's on-air call for Chavez to be assassinated in August 2005, the Chávez administration reported that it would more closely scrutinize and curtail foreign evangelical missionary activity in Venezuela. Chávez himself denounced Robertson's call as a harbinger of a coming U.S. intervention to remove him from office. Chávez reported that Robertson, member of the secretive and elite Council for National Policy (CNP) — of which George Bush, Grover Norquist, and other prominent neoconservative Bush administration insiders are also known members or associates — was, along with other CNP members,[citation needed] guilty of "international terrorism". Robertson subsequently apologized for his remarks, which were criticised by Ted Haggard of the U.S.-based National Association of Evangelicals. Haggard was concerned about the effects Roberson's remarks would have on US corporate and evangelical missionaries' interests in Venezuela.

Putative coups and invasions

Chávez accuses the United States government of planning an invasion, codenamed "Plan Balboa". Chávez's own warm friendship with former Cuban president Fidel Castro, in addition to Venezuela's now significant and expanding economic, social, and aid relationships with Cuba, have undermined the U.S. policy objective seeking to isolate the island. Longstanding military, intelligence, and counter-narcotics ties between the U.S. and Venezuela were severed on Chávez's initiative.[25] Despite OPEC duties, the visit was controversial at home and in the US. Ever since, President Chávez has consolidated diplomatic relations with Iran, including defending its right to civilian nuclear power.

The United States enabled and quickly acknowledged but did not formally recognize the de facto government of Pedro Carmona during the 2002 coup attempt which briefly overthrew Chávez. On 20 February 2005, Chávez reported that the U.S. had plans to have him assassinated; he stated that any such attempt would result in an immediate cessation of U.S.-bound Venezuelan petroleum shipments.[26]


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.[citation needed]

Hurricane Katrina

After Hurricane Katrina battered the United States' Gulf coast in late 2005 , the Chávez administration was the first foreign government to offer aid to its "North American brothers". Chávez offered tons of food, water, and a million barrels of extra petroleum to the U.S. He has also proposed to sell, at a significant discount, as many as 66,000 barrels (10,500 m3) of fuel oil to poor communities that were hit by the hurricane, and offered mobile hospital units, medical specialists, and electrical generators. Despite the well-publicised shortcomings of their own relief effort, the Bush administration declined the Venezuelan offer.[27]

Following a plea by leading US politicians for the US' largest fuel distributors to offer discounts to the less well-off, in November 2005, officials in Massachusetts signed an agreement with Venezuela to provide heating oil at a 40% discount to low income families through Citgo, a subsidiary of PDVSA and the only company to respond to the politicians' request.[28] Chávez has stated that such gestures comprise "a strong oil card to play on the geopolitical stage" and that "[i]t is a card that we are going to play with toughness against the toughest country in the world, the United States."[29]

Low ebb

In September 2008, following retaliatory measures in support of Bolivia, Chavez expelled the U.S. ambassador Patrick Duddy labeling him persona non grata after accusing him of aiding a conspiracy against his government — a charge Duddy consequently denied.[30]

Despite allegedly waning of Hugo Chavez's aggressive foreign policy due to the sharp drop in oil in the last quarter of 2008, hostility with America continued. "American Corners," (AC) a partnership between the Public Affairs sections of U.S. Embassies worldwide and their host institutions, was said to be an interference in Venezuela. The U.S.-Venezuelan Eva Golinger and the Frenchman Roman Mingus, in their book, Imperial Spiderweb: Encyclopedia of Interference and Subversion, warned that it was one of Washington's secret forms of propaganda. Golinger denounced AC to the Venezuelan National Assembly saying that conspiracy and political propaganda is elaborated in "American Corners," as well as funding for opposition organizations. They identified AC as virtual consulates which are not formally sponsored by the US government but by an organization, association, school, library or local institution, which have not only functioned as a launch pad for a psychological war but also sought to subvert and violate diplomatic rules. The AC's were alleged to be closely supervised by the State Department.[31]

Recently Chavez announced an investigation into the US Chargé d'Affairs, John Caulfield, who is the leading US diplomat after Duddy's expulsion. He contended that Caulfield possibly had met with opposition Venezuelans in exile in Puerto Rico; an official spokeswoman from the United States said Caulfield was there for a wedding. Chavez used the occasion to accuse "the empire" of using Puerto Rico as a base for actions against him and Latin America. He referred to Puerto Rico as a "gringo colony" and that one day the island would be liberated.[32]

Presidency of Barack Obama

Following the 2008 U.S. election of Barack Obama, Venezuela's foreign minister labeled the outcome a historic moment in international relations, and added that the American people had chosen a "new brand" of diplomacy. Asked if the previously expelled ambassadors for each country would return, he replied "everything has its time."[citation needed] However at a rally the evening before the November 4 elections where Chavez was supporting his own candidates Chavez echoed a sentiment by Lula of Brazil and Morales of Bolivia where the change happening in Latin America seemed to be taking place in the US. He expressed hope that he would meet with Obama as soon as possible.[30] However, on March 22, 2009 Chavez called Obama "ignorant" and, according the Washington Post, he also claimed Obama "has the same stench as Bush, this was in response to Obama stating that Chavez has assisted Colombia's biggest guerrilla movement."[33] Chavez, feeling that Obama violated his honor by naming him an "obstacle to progress" in the Latin American Region, has decided to put his new ambassador to the United States on hold.[34]

Obama and Chavez struck a warm tone at the Summit of the Americas on April 17, 2009. Chavez expressed his wish to become Obama's friend.[35][36] Relations showed signs of improvement in 2009 with the election of the new US President Barack Obama, including the re-establishment of diplomatic relations in June 2009.[37]

On September 10, 2009 Chavez gave a speech at the Peoples' Friendship University in Moscow where he called the American government "the greatest terrorist in world history", adding that "[t]he Yankee empire will fall. It's already falling, It will disappear from the face of the earth, and it's going to happen this century." [38]


Venezuela is an active member of SICOFAA.

Accusations of producing the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti

On January 18, 2010 the television channel ViVe, communication organ of the Venezuelan government (es:Govierno Bolivariano de Venezuela) published a note accusing United States of America of producing the earthquake as a series of experimental earthquakes. The note also links US navy to an earthquake that hit the city of Eureka, California as well as the earthquake in Sichuan, China, May 12 of 2008. The note claims that these earthquakes were produced by a combination of explosions and technology developed within the HAARP.[39][40]

See also


  1. ^ - Chavez's tour of OPEC nations arrives in Baghdad - August 10, 2000
  2. ^ Campbell, Duncan (29 April 2006). "American navy 'helped Venezuelan coup'". The Guardian.,3604,706802,00.html. Retrieved 21 Jun 2006. 
  3. ^ "US investigates Venezuela coup role". BBC News. 14 May 2002. Retrieved 21 Jun 2006. 
  4. ^ "Venezuela's Chavez Says United States Must Explain Reaction To Coup". Associated Press. May 10 2002. 
  5. ^ a b U.S. Embassy, Caracas, Venezuela. 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.
  6. ^ U.S. Department of State and Office of Inspector General. A Review of U.S. Policy toward Venezuela, November 2001 - April 2002. Accessed 26 May 2006.
  7. ^ a b Márquez Humberto. (IPS March 9, 2006) "Statements Indicate Chávez May Indeed Be in Somebody's Crosshairs". Accessed 21 Jun 2006.
  8. ^ CIA Documents Show Bush Knew of 2002 Coup in Venezuela. Democracy Now Monday, November 29th, 2004 Accessed 15 August 2006.
  9. ^ BBC NEWS | Americas | Chavez promotes expelled diplomat
  10. ^ ABC News (16 September 2005). "Transcript: Hugo Chavez Interview". ABC News. Retrieved 2009-03-01. 
  11. ^ "Plan Balboa" Not a U.S. Plan To Invade Venezuela
  12. ^ Sullivan, Mark P. (1 August 2008) "Venezuela: Political Conditions and U.S. Policy" United States Congressional Research Service, page 35
  13. ^ "Synergy with the Devil", James Surowiecki, The New Yorker, January 8, 2006.
  14. ^ For Venezuela, as Distaste for U.S. Grows, So Does Trade - New York Times
  15. ^ Sullivan, Mark P. (1 August 2008) "Venezuela: Political Conditions and U.S. Policy" United States Congressional Research Service, page 1, 37
  16. ^ a b Chavez tells UN Bush is 'devil'
  17. ^ Chavez's tour of OPEC nations arrives in Baghdad, Venezuelan president first head of state to visit Hussein in 10 years. CNN (10 Aug 2000). Accessed 1 July 2006.
  18. ^ Venezuela dares U.S. to put it on terror list CNN (14 Mar 2008). Accessed 14 March 2008.
  19. ^ Ministerio de Comunicación e Información (1999), "Marcha Defensa de la Soberanía", Government of Venezuela,, retrieved February 15, 2006 .
  20. ^ Diehl, J (2005), "Chavez's Censorship: Where 'Disrespect' Can Land You in Jail", The Washington Post,, retrieved January 26, 2006 .
  21. ^ People's Daily (2004), "Chavez calls Condoleezza Rice an 'illiterate' following sharp criticism", People's Daily,, retrieved February 15, 2006 .
  22. ^ Telegraph. Bush a donkey and drunkard, says Chavez. Accessed 23 May 2006.
  23. ^ Chavez Boosts Heating Oil Program for U.S. Poor; Goes After Bush Again
  24. ^
  25. ^ Rohter, Larry. "Paratrooper Politics: A special report; A Combative Leader Shapes Venezuela to a Leftist Vision", The New York Times, July 28, 2000. (The allegation that Chávez "once called Saddam Hussein 'a brother'" has been reported in a number of media sources. This allegation originated with the Associated Press (Fred Pals, "Chávez Pushes for OPEC Unity", Associated Press Online, 5 August 2000), but is apparently a misinterpretation of Chávez's reference to OPEC leaders, just prior to his 2000 tour of OPEC countries, as "our Arab brothers".)
  26. ^ Chavez says US plans to kill him. BBC News (21 Feb 2005). Accessed 1 July 2006.
  27. ^ Martin, Jorge. (In Defense of Marxism, 02 Sep 2005). "While Bush prevaricates, Venezuela offers help to US poor". Retrieved 05 November 2005.
  28. ^ BBC News. (BBC, 23 Nov 2005). "Venezuela gives US cheap oil deal". Retrieved 23 November 2005.
  29. ^ Blum, Justin (Washington Post, 22 Nov 2005). "Chavez Pushes Petro-Diplomacy". Retrieved 29 November 2005.
  30. ^ a b
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^ Venezuelanalysis, 26 June 2009, Venezuelan and the United States Re-Establish Relations and Ambassadors
  38. ^
  39. ^ Web-site of the ViVe television chain, information organ of the Venezuelan government. [1]
  40. ^ ABC news

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