BOGOTA (AFP) – The United States knew about an abortive coup against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 2002, and may even have taken part, former US president Jimmy Carter has told a Colombian newspaper.
"I think there is no doubt that in 2002, the United States had at the very least full knowledge about the coup, and could even have been directly involved," Carter said in an interview with El Tiempo published Sunday.
The former US leader said it is understandable that Chavez continues to blame the United States for the failed overthrow attempt.
The Venezuelan president, considered a bulwark of leftism in Latin America, was overthrown by a civilian-military junta for about 48 hours in April 2002, before returning to power.
Then-president George W. Bush denied any US involvement in the abortive coup and called on Chavez, a fierce US critic, to "learn a lesson" from the attempted overthrow.
Carter told El Tiempo that he believed Chavez was elected in a "fair" vote in 1999, had carried out necessary reforms for Venezuela and ensured that "those who are traditionally excluded are able to get a larger share of the national wealth."
But he also said he was worried by the Venezuelan leader's drift towards "authoritarianism."
He added that he felt Chavez's popularity at home and his influence abroad had been "diminished."
Carter said US President Barack Obama had told him he would eventually like to have normal relations with Venezuela.
"But he (Chavez) has made this almost impossible," Carter said, adding that "international relations would be better if he would stop his attacks and insults against the United States."
From the interview:
Speaking of Venezuela, what do you think of Hugo Chávez?
I know him well. The Carter Center has been involved in four or five elections, some of which were very difficult. I would say that every election result was basically consistent with the will of the people. So I saw it as consistent with the past.
Chavez came ahead in an honest election with almost 60 or 62 percent of the vote. That said, I think his popularity in his country had decreased and that its influence has declined in other nations. But I see him as someone who brought, maybe, a necessary transformation to Venezuela, letting those formerly excluded have more equal participation in the national wealth.
That did him well in past years, particularly when he was flooded with oil resources. Now that those have fallen, I am increasingly concerned about Chavez's inclination to consolidate all political power increseangly in his own office and away from the influence of an independent judiciary, which is necessary, and sometimes autonomous bodies within the administration, apart from the legislature that he controls almost completely now.
It isn't all his fault, because I think the political opposition has been badly advised as when it boycotted the parliamentary elections. But I don't think there's any doubt. Personally, I was disappointed to see him distance himself from what I think was a fair and honest chance that was the result of legitimate elections, to an increasing domination on his part that led him to have a more authoritarian government.
What about his criticism of the United States?
In that case I also have mixed emotions. I think there is no doubt that in 2002, the United States had at the very least full knowledge about the coup, and could even have been directly involved in the coup. So he has a legitimate claim against U.S. Now we have a different president than we had then and Chavez has also changed.
What I think is that both Venezuela and Chavez, as international relations, would be better if he stopped his attacks and insults against U.S. that, to me, are increasingly fortuitous in nature, and unjustified. I know, because I had long talks with President Obama, that he you would like to have normal relations, friendly as well as social, commercial and diplomatic relations with Venezuela. But he (Chávez) makes it almost impossible. We made mistakes in the past, and ao did Venezuelan officials.
SOURCE #2 (full interview in Spanish)
Not gonna lie, I hate Chávez but I could see this being true.
OBS.: Mods and everybody, I translated the interview with Google Translator and then fixed whatever sounded too weird but a lot might have slipped (I'm tired and I speak Portuguese, not Spanish). Let me know if you read something that doesn't make any sense.