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Bush Dumb. Chavez Smart.
Categories: Politics

Chavez is one of the very few people who give me hope for the world.

MANAGUA, Nicaragua, Oct. 2 — The commander of United States military activities in Latin America said Monday that Venezuela under President Hugo Chávez had become a destabilizing force, and that other countries in the Western hemisphere shared that concern.

The commander, Gen. Bantz J. Craddock of the Army, said, “What I have heard in the last few months is more concern by more countries� about an increase in Venezuela’s purchase of weapons, especially small arms.

United States officials said Venezuela had used its oil wealth to undermine democratic forces in other Latin American countries. “There’s a factor here that is destabilizing,� General Craddock said.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and General Craddock were in Managua for a meeting of defense ministers from more than 30 countries in the hemisphere.

In recent months, Venezuela has bought AK-47 assault rifles and military helicopters from Russia and patrol boats from Spain.

General Craddock said he did not know the reason for the purchases. “I don’t have much military-to-military contact with Venezuela,� he said.

Asked about Venezuela’s recent call to form a military coalition in opposition to the United States, General Craddock said, “I don’t see any traction� for the proposal.

Delegates from Brazil and other countries said they “did not see a rationale or need� for such a coalition, General Craddock said.

On Sunday, President Chávez said he had received warnings that the United States might be plotting to assassinate him. General Craddock responded: “That’s mindless. That’s far out. It’s way over the top.�

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