US boots Venezuelan ambassador
The US Sept. 12 announced it will expel the Venezuelan ambassador, and declared that Venezuela's top two intelligence officials have supported "narco-terrorist activities" in the region. The Treasury Department accused the intelligence officials of aiding Colombia's FARC, "even as it terrorized and kidnapped innocents." In response, Venezuela's Exterior Minister Nicolás Maduro said in a statement that "Venezuela has decided to submit its entire relations with the United States to an intense review process."
The Treasury Department accused Venezuela's military intelligence chief Gen. Hugo Carvajal of protecting FARC drug shipments through the country. The Department also said that Gen. Henry Rangel Silva, director of the DISIP (Intelligence and Prevention Services Directorate), "materially assisted" the FARC's drug trafficking activities and pushed for greater cooperation between the Venezuelan government and the rebels. The Department also named a third official, Ramón Rodríguez Chacín, who resigned as interior minister this week, as the Venezuelan government's main weapons contact for the FARC. (NYT, Sept. 13)
The day after the US announcement, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez observed military exercises with planes dropping bombs and commandos resisting a mock invasion. The maneuvers in southern Bolívar state featured Russian-made Sukhoi fighter jets, ground troops, patrol boats and helicopters that fired rockets at targets. Chávez wore fatigues and a red beret as he observed the exercises from the shore of a lake. An announcer on state TV said troops from a fictional "red country" were fighting a mock "war of resistance" against the invading force of a "blue country." (AP, Sept. 13)
See our last post on Venezuela.