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John Craddock

In an interview with the Miami daily El Nuevo Herald, General John Craddock, the head of the U.S. Southern Command, warned of the malice of “radical populism” and “transnational threats” in Latin America and singled out Venezuela’s influence among its neighbors as “generating a destabilizing situation that represents a danger for the hemisphere.”

Venezuela’s Minister of Communication and Information responded that Venezuela’s government believes that the U.S. government is a destabilizing force in the world.

Echoing previous previous comments made by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Craddock contended that the “threat to democracy in Venezuela” is very real. Democracy “is being changed in Venezuela in order to eliminate the separation of powers, the process of control and equilibrium. I believe that there is a danger for Venezuela’s neighbors if this process is exported, and if they are trying to influence their neighbors or other countries in the region, this can become a destabilizing situation that would not be of help for the region... I believe that the neighbors tend to be concerned.”

The interview with Craddock took place hours after he presided over the graduation ceremony of twenty-two Latin America officers in the Institute for Cooperation for Hemispheric Security (WHISEC), previously known as the School for the Americas, located in Fort Benning, Georgia. The School for the Americas trained many of the most brutal military units in Latin America, which have been responsible for tens of thousands of murders, disappearances, torture, and rapes.

Venezuela’s Minister of Communication and Information Andrés Izarra dismissed Craddock’s comments as a continuation of the “same song that has been repeated in the U.S. Department of State and that this policy has produced so many failures recently.” Izarra said that it is U.S. foreign policies that are the “most destabilizing in the world,” because of its invasions of countries and for violating their human rights.

General Jorge Luis García Carneiro, the Venezuelan Defense Minister also commented on the interview, affirming that Venezuela no longer pays heed to these types of comments because, “this has been the policy of the Bush Administration.”

As head of the U.S. Southern Command, Gen. Craddock is in charge of all U.S. Armed Forces military and intelligence operations in Latin America. With “very few exceptions,” such as Cuba and Venezuela, the General affirmed, the Southern Command maintains good relations with their Latin American counterparts. Highlighting the relationship with Central America and Brazil as “magnificent”

and “excellent” respectively, Craddock stated that “the greater the contact, the more opportunity we will have to learn how they operate, and more opportunity there will be that they understand how we operate, how we educate and train our military forces.”