[Expresso, Portugal]



El País, Spain

U.S. Cables Show Brazil Warned Chavez 'Not to Play' with U.S. 'Fire'


"One emissary Lula sent to Caracas was his chief-of-staff José Dirceu, who reportedly warned Chavez about the advisability of 'playing with fire.' It doesn’t appear that Lula's suggestion had any effect, as the Venezuelan leader continued to attack the United States on all fronts."


By Juan Jesus Aznarez


Translated By Paula van de Werken


December 21, 2010


Spain - El País - Original Article (Spanish)

President Hugo Chavez after calling President George W. Bush 'El Diablo,' or in English, 'the Devil,' at the 61st session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 20, 2006.

U.N. VIDEO: Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez addresses the opening of the 61st session of the U.N. General Assembly, Sept. 20, 2006, 00:23:50RealVideo

Madrid: Since his first inauguration as president, the incendiary rhetoric of Hugo Chavez has not only aggravated the United States, the main recipient of his invective, but Brazil as well. Through private messages asking Chavez to show more restraint, Brazil President Lula da Silva has sought to calm the virulence of the Bolivarian's discourse. One emissary Lula sent to Caracas was his chief-of-staff José Dirceu, who reportedly warned Chavez about the advisability of “playing with fire.” Dirceu confirmed this himself in an interview with U.S. Ambassador to Brasilia John Danilovich. There is no way to tell if Dirceu was really that cutting in his remarks to Chavez, or if the talk was just the fulfillment of a promise intended to placate the United States, which was apparently irritated by Brasilia's silence in the face of the paratrooper ex-lieutenant's verbal excesses.


[Editor's Note: This article is based on a U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks].


It doesn’t appear that Lula's suggestion had any effect, as the Venezuelan leader continued to attack the United States on all fronts, and frequently includes in his remarks Columbia's [former] President Álvaro Uribe, Washington's ally in a region where Chavez wants to consolidate his influence. A year after his first meeting with U.S. diplomats, his insults of George W. Bush were terrible: “donkey [ass],” “alcoholic” and “murderer” were just a few of the epithets he voiced in public [see video below]. A State Department report filed by Ambassador Danilovich in April 2005 relates that Lula’s key adviser traveled to Caracas with the permission of the president, “delivering a forceful message that Chavez should end his provocative rhetoric and concentrate on the domestic problems of his country.”




The U.S. ambassador told Dirceu that Washington policy in this regard was not to respond to Chavez, so as to prevent him from having any excuses and make it easier for him to demonstrate his true nature, “i.e.: to let him hang himself.”


The clashes between Chavez and the United States were particularly intense when the Venezuelan president concluded that the 2002 "oil coup," which almost forced him from power, was promoted by Washington during secret meetings with the opposition. “Chavez' provocations against the U.S. harm the national interests of Venezuela and are of concern to Brazil and its neighbors,” wrote the U.S. diplomat.  



[Editor's Note: The 2002 coup attempt against Chavez is sometimes referred as the "oil coup, because it occurred after Chávez had passed a number of controversial laws in November 2001, and attempted to strengthen government control over the state oil company, PDVSA.]


Dirceu promised to inform Chavez that it "isn't only the U.S. government and U.S. elites that feel hostile toward him - American business executives and even the 'man in the street' now view Venezuela as a problem for the U.S. Dirceu will stress to Chavez that such a tense situation with American society cannot possibly benefit him or his country."


However, the U.S. ambassador emphasized to Lula’s chief adviser that in his opinion, the “strategic alliance” between Lula and Chavez and the "apparent reluctance of Lula and regional leaders to openly refute or criticize Chavez's most outrageous comments can lead some observers to assume that Brazil and others tacitly agree with Chavez's views and that Chavez is the alliance's de facto spokesman.”


Presidents Chavez and Lula: Friendly advice be ignored?



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The position of Cuba was also touched on at the meeting. According to Dirceu, despite the excellent relations between Venezuela and Cuba, regional tension doesn't interest Havana. Under the contrary, “Cuba's internal problems are so profound and its economy so fragile that Castro's regime desperately needs a calm regional environment to attempt to deal with these issues and to try to attract more foreign investment. Dirceu reiterated what he said in his meetings in Washington, in the sense that if the government of the United States would permit trade and private contacts with Cuba, the Caribbean island, “would be unrecognizable in five years.”


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