Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Senator Wants Improved Venezuela Relations

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Senator Wants Improved Venezuela Relations

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Aug 19, 6:53 PM (ET)

*** Ny Note: Wanting and having better relations is two very different things.  What is this neo-con admin. willing to do or rather, willing to stop doing in order to have better relations?  That is the issue at hand.
--- Kevin

WASHINGTON (AP) - A Republican senator asked Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Friday to lower his rhetoric against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to help win Venezuela's support for combating illegal narcotics.

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa. who met this week with Chavez, reminded Rumsfeld in a letter that the United States needs Venezuela's help for effective action against drug trafficking in South America.

"In this context," the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman wrote, "it may well be helpful to, at least, have a moratorium on adverse comments on Venezuela."

Pentagon officials said the letter had not been received by late Friday and refused immediate comment.

Rumsfeld and other members of the Bush administration have been linking Chavez with Cuban President Fidel Castro as destabilizing troublemakers in teetering Latin American democracies. En route home from visits this week to Paraguay and Peru, Rumsfeld told reporters Thursday that "there certainly is evidence that both Cuba and Venezuela have been involved in the situation in Bolivia in unhelpful ways."

Specter's letter, distributed by his office, referred to comments in a speech, but the remark to reporters was the extent of his Venezuela references Thursday. He has been blunter in the past, however.

The senator also has been visiting Latin American countries to discuss drug and immigration questions. He met with Chavez on Wednesday and talked about Venezuelan accusations that U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents were spying on the government, and the Venezuelan government's decision to suspend cooperation with the DEA, among other things.

In the letter, Specter told Rumsfeld he had detected "a window of opportunity at this time to resolve the disagreement on drug-interdiction policies."

In fact, he said, the meeting led to an agreement between U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield and Venezuelan Interior Minister Jesse Chacon to meet next week to try to resolve the acrimony between the DEA and Venezuelan narcotics officials.

"I suggest it may be very helpful to U.S. efforts to secure Venezuela's cooperation in our joint attack on drug interdiction if the rhetoric would be reduced," Specter wrote.

Chavez was elected in 1998 largely on the votes of Venezuela's poor. He is up for re-election next year, and recent polls suggest he enjoys about 70 percent support.


Associated Press writers Kimberly Hefling and John J. Lumpkin contributed to this report.

On the Net:

Drug Enforcement Administration: http://www.dea.gov

CIA Factbook on Venezuela: http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ve.html


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