Fear of ever-rising oil prices and OPEC's growing anti-American sentiment, must alert our State Department and government that there is a clear and present danger to our national security within our own hemisphere. A leading politician in Spain just labeled it "A haven for terrorists."
This is revealed in a person ultimately more dangerous to us than Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab Zarqawi, Ayman al-Zawahiri, or any other terrorist operating out of the Middle East. What person represents such a grave threat to our well being? Hugo Chavez, "leader" of Venezuela.
As Karen Hughes joins Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to seek inroads into the Arab world, they, and those committed to securing the United States, must not lose sight of the evil coiled and ready to strike in our very back yard.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell is an incredible person who has served our nation with great distinction. That said, with regard to Mr. Chavez and the threat he represents to the U.S., Mr. Powell fell victim to the career apologists of socialism and tyranny within the State Department.
Miss Rice, who enjoys full White House backing, must wall off such apologists.
Mr. Chavez may be many things. But legitimate leader of Venezuela, he is not. Any fair and rational reading of the August 2004 recall referendum in that country to oust him by popular demand would clearly show Mr. Chavez stole the election. In so doing, he basically installed himself as dictator for life of that oil-rich nation. Tragically, "fair" and "rational" were two words ignored not only by our own State Department but by former President Jimmy Carter as well.
Right after the August recall referendum, the Powell State Department certified Mr. Chavez's stolen election. Tragic. But what Mr. Carter did was much worse. Mr. Carter and his CarterCenter were in Venezuela for the August recall referendum as "election monitors." During and after that referendum, Mr. Carter was witness to the opposition, its American polling company and independent media outlets all declaring the vote running about 2-1 in favor of ousting Mr. Chavez. However, when the votes were actually "counted," Mr. Chavez somehow won by that same 2-1 margin.
Why would our State Department and Jimmy Carter legitimize such a stolen election? For our State Department, it was a combination of three factors. First, fear Mr. Chavez might stop the oil flow to our nation. Second, fear that if the opposition were declared the winner, a full-scale civil war would erupt. And third, and most disturbing, the influence of career diplomats in the State Department who sympathize with Mr. Chavez and his socialist version of utopia.
For Jimmy Carter, it was also three factors. First, and most sad, are his desperate attempts to stay relevant in a world that has not only passed him by but proven his policies wrong. Next, are his sympathetic feelings toward Mr. Chavez and his "populist" diatribes. And finally, he wants to remain a thorn in the side of President Bush and the Bush doctrine.
Regardless, with these endorsements, Mr. Carter and our State Department have not only disgraced themselves but put our nation more at risk. The reasoning for this is simple. By the very definitions used by the U.S. government, Hugo Chavez is a terrorist, and a sponsor of terrorism. Worse, he is now "president" of a country that on any given day is the No. 1 to No. 4 supplier of oil and gasoline to the United States.
What acts define Mr. Chavez as a terrorist? Since first coming to power in 1998, Mr. Chavez has openly courted and met with terrorist leaders from around the world. He just hosted the mullahs of Iran and joined them in denouncing the United States. His mentor for life and role model is Cuba's Fidel Castro. He has imported thousands of Cuban intelligence agents to spy on and terrorize his own people. He openly supports, harbors, and bankrolls the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) of Colombia. He is trying to destabilize the presidency of U.S. ally Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. He bankrolls and exports terrorism throughout Latin America. He has welcomed al Qaeda operatives into Venezuela and given them refuge. And finally, he has named President Bush and the United States as the sworn enemies of his "revolution."
In President Bush's first term, his State Department let him down by ignoring or marginalizing the tremendous threat posed by Mr. Chavez. Let's hope that with Condoleezza Rice and Karen Hughes on board, the taxpayer-funded State Department will better serve the president and our citizens.
Hugo Chavez is the most immediate, closest, ultimate danger to our well-being. It's well past time we acknowledge that.
Douglas MacKinnon was press secretary to former Sen. Bob Dole and is a former White House and Pentagon official. He is married to a native of Venezuela and has often traveled there.