José E. Serrano

U.S. Congressman José E. Serrano criticized U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s statements made during the Secretary’s recent visit to Paraguay.

According to the Paraguayan daily ABC, Rumsfeld told President Nicanor Duarte "in diplomatic terms, the U.S. has the perception that [Venezuelan President] Chavez is a destabilizing factor for emerging democracies in South America."

Rumsfeld said that the governments of Cuba and Venezuela have been involved in Bolivia in "unhelpful ways," suggesting that the recent political unrest in Bolivia was not a genuine local rebellion but instigated by outsiders.

Congressman Serrano called Rumsfeld’s comments "baseless".

"Secretary Rumsfeld is following the careless and dangerous line that this administration has always held on Cuba, though now they have added Venezuela to their equation" said Serrano.

"For the past five decades we blamed Cuba every time impoverished people in Latin America were upset with their governments and did something about it. Now the formula is that Cuba and Venezuela are to blame," he said.

"When will we realize that it is these people’s unmet needs at the root of their discontent, and not the agitation of other nations? The real causes of these uprisings are problems like hunger, lack of employment and inadequate educational opportunities. If this administration is serious about stemming discontent in Latin America and around the world, the solution is to respect our Latin American neighbors and to provide social and economic aid to the people. The administration’s ’solution’ of blanket condemnations and skewed trade agreements will never work," the lawmaker added.

Serrano asked the Bush Administration to stop the attacks on Venezuela. "The truth of the matter is that the Bush Administration is unhappy that the people of Venezuela democratically elected a president who does not pledge full allegiance to American interests. Therefore they cannot resist attacking President Hugo Chavez every chance they get and blaming him for every development in the region that they dislike. Again, it is time for these false statements and innuendos to stop," he said.

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is in a three-day tour of Latin America in an attempt to counteract the growing influence in Latin America of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, whom the U.S. government describes as "a negative force". This is Rumsfeld’s third trip to Latin America in just 10 months.