Venezuela-U.S. Military Cooperation Indefinitely Suspended

May 7, 2005

Last week, the Venezuelan government announced the termination of bilateral military exchanges with the U.S. and informed U.S. military officers in Venezuela to leave the country.

In announcing this decision Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez said that the U.S. officers "were waging a campaign in the Venezuelan military -- making comments, talking to Venezuelan soldiers, criticizing the president of Venezuela," Chávez affirmed, adding "all exchanges with US officers are suspended until who knows when. There will be no more combined operations, nothing like that."

Before last week's announcement, there were 5 U.S. officers in Venezuela, three in Fort Tiuna, located in Caracas, as well as one officer stationed in the Libertador Air Force Base and one in the Sucre Air Base, both of which are located in the industrial city of Maracay.

Venezuela's decision is part of its ongoing struggle to defend its sovereignty and independence in the face of continuing U.S. pressure and threats. In 2002 the U.S. helped sponsor an attempted coup against the elected government and this year, spokespersons in the Bush administration have repeatedly targeted Venezuela for "regime change."

President Chávez described the U.S. military presence in Venezuela as "an organ of the CIA in the heart of Fort Tiuna, conspiring against the government."

He also reiterated the possible scenario of a U.S. invasion, saying that recent events have heightened these suspicions. Chávez spoke of the US military buildup in Panama prior to the 1991 invasion in which over 3,000 Panamanians died, explaining that the increase in US military personnel was part of Washington's strategy to "justify" the violation of Panamanian sovereignty. On one occasion conflicts erupted between Panamanian and U.S. soldiers, which was then used as a pretext for U.S. intervention.