Venezuela Crisis Complicates Iraq Situation
From page 2 of an article in the NYTimes, 11 January 2003:
"This is an incredibly important moment in Venezuelan history," a senior State Department official said. "Things are happening now that are going to affect Venezuela for decades: its energy relationship with the United States, the structure of PDVSA, the integrity and credibility of its democratic institutions — all of these things are at stake."
But many Latin American experts say the administration's efforts have been too little, too late. They contend that the Bush administration, distracted by Iraq, allowed Venezuela's problems to fester.
Others say the administration committed two blunders last year that have hurt its credibility with Mr. Chávez and other Latin American leaders: in April, by appearing to endorse an attempted coup against the Chávez government, and in December by briefly joining the opposition's call for early elections.
In addition, the State Department's Latin America desk has been leaderless through much of the strike. The last assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, Otto J. Reich, was reassigned in November after his temporary appointment expired. The White House intends to nominate Roger F. Noriega, the representative to the Organization of American States, to replace him.
"There is no one at the wheel here," asserted Moisés Naím, the Venezuelan who is the editor of Foreign Policy magazine.