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José Vicente Rangel

Venezuela’s Vice-President José Vicente Rangel said yesterday that the Bush Administration is isolating itself with regard to Latin America. “The one who is receiving solidarity is President Hugo Chavez,” said Rangel to journalists, following a ceremony in honor of Venezuelan folk singer Ali Primera. US government officials had repeatedly argued in the past few weeks that Venezuela had isolated itself from other countries in Latin America.

Rangel made his comments in response to questions about US-Venezuelan relations following the resolution of the crisis between Colombia and Venezuela over the “Granda Affair,” which had involved Colombian officials’ bribing of Venezuelan security forces to kidnap a Colombian guerilla leader.

According to Rangel, “One of the factors that most influenced the heightened tensions between the two countries, when relations were developing normally, was the bald-faced, open, flagrant interference of the Bush government in this situation. I believe this was a factor of disturbance that facilitated that forces interested in confronting Colombia and Venezuela would come to the fore.”

Rangel also responded to the comments of State Department Sub-Secretary Robert Zoellick, who had repeated Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s comment that the Chavez government is a “negative force” in Latin America. Rangel said, “The great danger today in the world and in the region is the United States. ... The U.S. thinks that the Chavez government is a danger, when it is they that are the danger for the world. This is a phenomenon of psychological projection.”With regard to the accusation that Venezuela is engaging in an arms race with Colombia, Rangel said that the Colombian Defense Minister “recently said in Europe that Colombia does not believe that Venezuela is engaging in any arms race.”

As for the US State Department’s concern that the 100,000 Russian made AK-47 assault rifles might fall into the hands of the Colombian guerrilla or other irregular troops, Rangel said that the Venezuelan government guarantees “totally and fully that under no circumstances would these weapons go to any criminal or any terrorist in the world.” Foreign Minister Ali Rodriguez made similar comments following the meeting between Venezuela’s President Chavez and Colombia’s President Uribe. He said that U.S. interference “was a very discordant note at a moment in which the problem was very acute - concretely the declaration of the U.S. Ambassador to Colombia.” The U.S. Ambassador to Colombia had said early on in the crisis that the U.S. supported Colombia’s position 100%.

“It remains clearly demonstrated that Venezuela does not harbor terrorists”

Following a meeting of Chavez’s Cabinet yesterday, where the meeting between Chavez and Uribe was discussed, Minister of Communication and Information Andrés Izarra said that in relation to the supposed encampments of Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela, “we communicated to President Uribe that the different coordinates where they are supposedly settled have been examined point by point.” However, he said, no encampments were found in any of these. Some had schools, others were inaccessible, and one was even located in Colombian territory.

According to Izarra, “it remains clearly demonstrated, once more, that Venezuela does not harbor any type of terrorist, nor cover up any irregular troops, of whatever side: guerilla, paramilitary, or narco-trafficker.”